Originally posted on Elephant Journal
I’m talking about our desire.
We women aren’t taught very nice things about our desire. Actually, we are taught not to trust it, that it’s dangerous, and that following it will not serve us well.
We are taught to suppress our desire for love and deep emotional connection so that we don't fall into the stereotype of the woman who wants more from a man than he wants to give her. We are taught to suppress our desire for food since a voracious appetite often isn’t seen as a feminine quality. And we are taught to suppress our desire for sex because, according to our popular culture, a woman who succumbs to her desire for sex hands over her chips and gives up her power.
It’s no wonder we don’t let men see the full extent of our desire.
In the early stages of developing my practice as a relationship and sexuality coach, my focus was on dismantling my own conditioning and untangling my own knots around relationships and sexuality so that I could guide others in doing the same. As such, when I see clients stuck in a spot I was once stuck, I often share relevant parts of my story so that they may refer to it as a road map. Since I speak with a lot of women who tell me they don’t have much of a relationship with their desire, I’ll share my experience in that location with the hope that it will be helpful as a guide.
For most of my life, sexual desire was something that “happened to me”. I had picked up the belief that freely admitting my desire for sex meant giving up my power and, like many women, I responded to that belief by 1.) Suppressing my desire, and 2.) Disassociating from feeling it at all.
When enough women suppress or disassociate from our desire, a sense of scarcity is created and our sex becomes a commodity. Men seem to want sex more than women do but women are the ones holding the key to the gate, a gate which we are taught to guard and protect. As such, we learn to live as the "desired” and rarely ever as the “desiring”. It becomes absolutely normal to have no strong sense of whether we want to enter his gate when our attention is constantly wrapped up in whether or not to let him through our own gate. And even when we do have our own desire, there’s no urgency to express it because we can almost certainly count on him to express his first since that’s the unspoken agreement we operate by as a culture.
I played right into this agreement. As long as I knew a man was interested in me, I rarely ever experienced the desire for sex originating from my body strongly enough to compel me to act on it. Don’t get me wrong… I felt desire. Feeling a man's desire for me could inspire my desire for him, but without his desire leading, I was usually disconnected from feeling my own.
I learned to get by accepting and enjoying what came to me, like a flame attracting moths. But by allowing others’ desire to lead me, I experienced my desire only faintly and didn’t place much importance in it. As a result, the nuance, the intricacy of my desire never mattered all that much.
That is, until I got to feel what it was like on the other end of the equation. I had begun dating a man whose sex was more of a commodity than mine was. He got more attention from women than I got from men. He didn’t come easily. He didn’t chase me. And I still wanted him... badly. For the first time in my life, I was not a flame attracting and settling for whichever moths flew my way. This time I was a moth and I began to learn what it felt like to be compelled toward a flame.
I began to feel what it was like to have my own desire.
In order for anything to happen with this man, I had to be the one who initiated most often. At first I interpreted this as a lack of interest on his part and I was hurt and frustrated. I whined and complained and became angry. “How could he treat me this way?” But my thrashing wouldn’t move him. Instead, he taught me how to get what I wanted with him. He said, “Let me feel your desire. I’ll come if I’m truly called… not by your sense of entitlement, but by your true desire”.
It wasn’t easy but I began to let him feel it. And once I did, I began to notice that every time I expressed any sort of desire, he would meet my desire. If I told him I wanted to go to dinner, he was game for it. If I told him I wanted to take our relationship deeper, he would make more room in his heart for me. I began to notice that when I really wanted something, my desire had a lot of power to move him. He would actually stop what he was doing and magnetize to me if I let him feel how much I wanted him. And if I wasn't feeling very much desire, he couldn't be moved. What we did or didn't do depended pretty much exclusively on what I wanted and how willing I was to ask for it. It was dreadful but it was also amazing because I was becoming, for the first time in my life, a woman whose desire actually mattered.
What I learned is that while it's terrifying to take that much responsibility for the desire in a relationship, there’s nothing more empowering. I think a lot of women go through life operating under conditioning telling us that having the desire in a relationship originate from us means somehow we are not a good woman, not a prize, not valuable enough. We are taught to believe that our worth is dependent on how persistently a man pursues us, how intently he desires our sex. We are even taught that we ought to withhold our desire, hide it, make him jump through a few hoops before we ever let on that we have it.
It’s sad, really. Many of us never get the chance to see the power we have to move him with our desire... to see just how influential it is. To see our desire inspire his desire. And we never get to experience what men experience – That in the possibility of rejection, of getting it wrong, and in doing it anyway despite those risks, there is immense freedom and power. Freedom to express our full selves through our desire, and power to magnetize him to us simply because our desire is magnetizing.