The Wednesday Weigh-In: sex, lies, and no scales necessary

Happy Humpy Day yall. You know what it is. It’s time for your Wednesday Weigh-In!!

No silly, not that kind of weigh in! This is more like an open thread where we can “weigh in” on stuff. You already know my opinion on everything from the withdrawal method to yo momma jokes, but now we’re flipping the script. Comments have been so incredibly insightful on the site lately, so I really can’t wait for you all to drop some knowledge. For the first installment of the Wednesday Weigh-In, opine on this:

What’s the most honest thing you can say about sex?

If you’d like, you can also say whether or not you identify as feminist. I’m curious about this topic because sex– and attitudes around it– seem to be really closely tied to public discussion of feminism these days, and I wonder if there’s something of a consensus among us, or if there as many viewpoints as there are feminists on this thread. Also, well, I’m just kinda curious. Sex is something that people can experience so differently and personally, yet it occupies so much of the public consciousness in bizarrely disfigured and sometimes disingenuous ways. I’d love to hear more about other people’s truthful impressions and experiences.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • nazza

    First, I do identify as feminist. The most honest thing I can say about sex? To me, I’d say that no one starts out especially skilled at the practice, but experience is a great teacher. This contradicts a notion, based on pop culture, that I was supposed to instantly know what I was doing and in so doing display my flawless conception of male virility. Boy was I wrong.

  • lina

    Sex is a frightening thing. Even after your first time. There’s this very problematic aspect of sex called STD’s or sometimes STI’s depending on who you talk to. And sex quickly becomes very unsexy if you’re head is off wondering if that very sexy man who is making love to you might be giving you something or other. So then you have to have the conversation, which is scary in itself, but ultimately tends to breed an nice little sense intimacy, comfort, relief, empowerment. And that’s all good, I suppose. But sometimes, I wish you could just hook up with someone without all that. And some people do. But I have found that I cannot. The STD fear just perks up its head and really kills the moment.

  • Summer Vega

    “With great power comes great responsibility”
    Sex is awesome. Awesome in its power, awesome in its beauty, awesome in its sensation. Sex will literally make people stop in their tracks. Sex can cure headaches, give you energy, and make you healthier. Of course anything with such awesome power can be misused but when we are responsible Sex is awesome.

  • Dan Maftei

    Most honest thing I can say about sex is that I like it.

    Second most honest thing I can say about sex isn’t about sex, but perceptions of sex. Culturally, there is a STRONG binary between “giving it” and “taking it” (and maybe a small part of this attitude is nature, not nurture) My girlfriend put it beautifully, a big problem with insults like “get on your knees,” “take it bitch!” and similar ones, is that the person “taking it” loses agency. Not only that, but the very idea of “taking it” is insulting! How utterly ridiculous. Sucking cock is insulting, taking it up the ass is insulting, getting pounded is insulting… not only that, but I’ve noticed among guys that they feel like sex is 100% the guys’ responsibility, not that they do most of the work, but that they do ALL of the work, which again robs agency from the person they’re doing it with. Talking to some of these straight guys, I have to wonder what they think about when doing it. Do they enjoy that it’s a living, breathing, intelligent being next to them in bed? Or is it just some rag doll that opened her legs at the magic words?

    One symptom of this attitude, as well as other attitudes preventing women from taking control of their sexuality, is that sex becomes a method by which a guy can orgasm without his hand, and screw it if the woman doesn’t orgasm. I understand that, by virtue of the clitoris being mostly hidden, penetration is not enough for many women. But it seems clear to me that if women were to take control of the sex as much as the men, from the moment they started masturbating and exploring their bodies to the moment they start doing it, more women would orgasm, and enjoy sex. I can say myself that being ridden only really works if I position myself in such a way that my dick doesn’t get too bent in an awkward position. I imagine that similarly, communication and agency from my partner is the best way for them to orgasm.

    Basically, it’s clear to me that the best sex happens when both parties put effort into it. I like pounding soft flesh; I like being ridden; I like it when we use momentum to slam into each other; I’m open to and think I’d enjoy having my girlfriend peg me. How silly it is, this notion that sex is something just for guys, done by guys, for the guys’ pleasure.

    Finally, am I the only one who finds it a little weird that–and I am surmising here–most sex starts and ends with the guys’ horniness and his cumming? I’ve had sex once where I made my partner orgasm, then stopped. It wasn’t the end of the world. And it’s something that I am sure millions of girls and women have to deal with.

    I am a 23-year old het male, lost my virginity in a way awkward encounter at 17, from my first kiss to my first fuck in yay 15 minutes, didn’t do it again until I was 22 with my now-girlfriend. We do it every time we meet up, which is around 3-4 times a week. Once in a while we do it twice in one day.

  • aLynn

    The most honest thing I can say about sex is to be honest about sex! Talk about it! Talk DURING it. Communication, communication, communication.

    I am a feminist, as is my partner and we are in a long term extremely monogamous relationship. I do not believe that it’s impossible to have a fulfilling sexual relationship with one person for many, many years. It’s all about open, honest communication and a genuine willingness to hear your partner.

  • Emily

    I am a feminist, and the most honest thing I can say about sex is quite simple in statement but complex in understanding: SEX IS A BASIC HUMAN NEED.

    It is not bad.
    It is needed to be healthy.
    We teach our children how to meet their other basic needs, we should teach them about sex.
    We should be able to talk about sex in the open with EVERYONE it’s not embarrassing or gross it’s NATURAL and IMPORTANT. Yes your parents have sex and that’s awesome because that’s how you got here; show some respect and don’t call it disgusting! Don’t shame individuals for seeking to attain basic physiological needs and give everyone the same access to do so safely and responsibly!

    • Emily

      I’d hesitate to call sex “needed to be healthy”. Does this mean that asexual people are unhealthy? It is easy to forget about those who are asexual or to view it as a choice. Sex is a lot of things: fun, weird, awkward, exciting whathaveyou but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a definite requirement for an individual to be healthy.

      • unequivocal

        I think it’s probably reasonable to say that “sex is viewed as a basic human need for the majority of people.” Much like “emotional intimacy,” and “touch,” and “feeling like what you do makes a difference,” are considered basic needs for most (though certainly not all) people, sex is generally viewed as a prerequisite for happiness for the majority of people. That doesn’t mean that people who don’t feel that way are wrong or unhealthy, just that their experience and needs are atypical.

        • Emily

          Yes of course, but once people start saying “it’s a prereq for the happiness of the majority of people” then others will start saying it is for all people. People who are asexual vary: some are gray, some want emotional intimacy, touch in some fashion, etc.

          Just because they do not have sexual attraction to other people obviously doesn’t make them unhealthy (as you noted). But how about this: just because gay men and women are not the majority, are they atypical? We never discuss them as such. It’s just interesting.

  • Alex

    I do identify as a feminist, and apart from what other people have said so far, here is what I have to say: Sex is FUNNY. At least it can be, in my experience, if you’re doing it with someone you love and trust. I mean, if you can’t laugh at sex, what can you laugh at? Things often go wrong–you fall off the bed, there are limbs in awkward places, there are strange noises, stuff gets knocked over, and so on. At times like these, you can’t let yourself take sex too seriously. It’s just funny. Also fun.

    • r0cksteady00

      THIS so much. it is funny and a little awkward sometimes…but having a sense of humor definitely helps!

    • Allison

      That was one of the best pieces of advice I got about being able to tell whether or not you’re ready, or if you should be sleeping with someone – if you’re not comfortable laughing with them when awkward stuff happens, you’re probably not ready to be sleeping with them.

  • Melissa Lynnette

    The most honest thing that I can say about sex (and I say this like I would say to any daughters I might have or if my 7 month old niece ever comes to me one day and asks me) is this: Sex should always, ALWAYS, be as much about you as it is about whoever you are participating in it with. Even if you’re just participating in sex with a toy or your hand (those things should be clean lol).
    Because even if you are just having sex because you wanted to have sex because sex is damn fun and that guy or girl is damn cute, when it’s over and they’re gone, you’ll still be there with you. So don’t think it’s about someone who won’t, or sometimes won’t be able to be there, with you when everything is said and done. Please. Because then you might not come away from your experiences with sex knowing that it’s wonderful and exciting and delicious.
    I would also say that I’m not saying this to scare anyone, of course. I’m saying that to encourage you. When you can insert yourself into your own sexual story, then I feel you can take more responsibility for it. You’re not awkward about condom use or birth control methods when your own sexual personhood matters. You know where you stand with a man (I say man because that has been my own experience) when you’re not only having sex because he wants to. You can be open about your stance on abortion before the situation even arises, you can insist on a condom, you can make it clear that you want to be exclusive sexually, you can make it clear that you don’t want to be exclusive sexually, you can roll your eyes at people who call you a whore because they think you’re supposed to be meek or something silly like that, you can support your friends when they’re uncertain of what to do and you can simply enjoy sex. It feels good for a reason, dammit! The clitoris has no purpose whatsoever other than sexual pleasure. Think about that!

    Okay, I’m pretty sure I won’t say all that to my kids. Somewhere in there they’ll get squicked out and run away from their oversharing mother.

  • Kaitlyn

    The most honest thing I can say about sex? I wish it were as easy for me to orgasm as it is for my boyfriend. I feel cheated on by biology. In addition, I’m tired of hearing I’m trying hard enough (from media, etc.) when I don’t orgasm. I’m want to orgasm. I’m trying. Fortunately, I have a loving and honest relationship with my boyfriend (we’re both feminists), and that certainly improves our sex life.

  • Lisa

    The most honest thing I can say about sex as a feminist: it ain’t like the movies! Much like what one of the previous post-ers said – arms flailing, funny noises, etc. – more importantly, a man doesn’t just lie on top of you and BOOM! I am like the majority of women who cannot orgasm through penetration alone. Yes, penetration is very nice – but sorry, it won’t make the bells and whistles go off. Women’s bodies are much more complex than that :)

    • Dan Maftei

      I’ll second the funny noises & awkward positions comments. It helps to remember we’re just monkeys, and sometimes we have to get into monkey positions. :D

  • Lloyd Sheridan

    I am a feminist, and the most honest thing I can say about sex is that I used to love it, but I’m sick of having to teach each new partner I have what consent means. Consent is something that could, and should be covered in school, but clearly it’s not. I would love to get back into a space where I can enjoy myself, and I can’t wait until I don’t have to spend the first 2 months of a relationship teaching my partner about the basics consent.

    The other most honest thing I can say about sex is that I identify as bi, but I totally don’t get the point of intercourse, aside from for conceiving children.

  • Matt

    I would say that I identify as an Egalitarian Feminist.

    The most honest thing I can say about sex…

    It is at “best” a biological “tool” and at “worst” a biological “toy.” In either circumstance sex has the repercussions of “mis-use” that are associated with “tools.” One can use it to build families, experiences, and/or just for fun, but no matter what, there is an inescapable amount of risk. The risk can only be minimized. It can never be removed entirely. I guess that is the price we pay for something as unique, “intimate,” and viscerally satisfying as sex.

  • cat

    In all honesty, sometimes I dislike the way that Feministing authors write about sex. It seems as though all consensual sex is super great, but as other commenters have said, it can be scary. There are consequences of sex. Sex is not always safe or fun, and sometimes you do regret it, even after you consent, and even if you do all the safe sex things you’re meant to do. Sometimes you end up with hurt feelings. Sometimes sex is wonderful and I’d agree with those who’ve said sex is funny.

    I know it isn’t meant this way, but I feel I’m ignored on this site as a woman who reserves sex solely for people she trusts or loves. I’d like to be able to celebrate that too.

    • Alex

      You’re not alone! I’ve only had sex with two people and one of them is my fiance–we’ve been together for five years and we’re in it for the long haul. I can’t even imagine having sex with someone I’ve just met or don’t know that well. (I mean, more power to people who engage in casual sex or random hook-ups if that’s what they enjoy, but it just doesn’t make sense for me personally.)

      That being said, sex can indeed be scary, even with consent and condoms. The other person I had sex with was my boyfriend when I was sixteen. I was the one who initiated sex for the first time, because I felt like I needed to prove to myself that I really loved him. I didn’t really want to have sex with him, I wanted some piece of proof I could hold up to myself, proof that I really did love him, whenever I doubted that I should stay with him. (I must’ve been out of my feminist mind at the time.) That was what scared me, I think, more than the actual sex…though that was scary too…

      So, yes, in answer to your comment…there are lots of women (and men, including my fiance) who reserve sex only for people they trust and love, and that is because sex can be scary and hurt your feelings.

    • Kate

      I broke up with my first bf about 6 months ago. We are still ‘friends’ and hang out, though that may no longer be the case since I recently tried to ask that we get back together.

      The most honest thing I can say? I asked because I miss having sex (and attendant sexual intimacy, not just PIV).

      Why? Because I am afraid I will never trust another person enough to have sex with them.

      I would not be able to enjoy casual sex, because I would not be able to let go of anxieties I have about strangers. I don’t know if this is something that may change.

      Is it wrong that it breaks my heart to think that happy sexy times are over for me?

  • r0cksteady00

    the most honest thing i can say about sex is….

    i don’t want to have it as much as:
    a) lots of other women i know; and
    b) my boyfriend

    i wish i could be more interested in it, and i definitely do want it sometimes. in addition, i also find it difficult to talk to my boyfriend about sex (he’s so open to talking about everything and anything to do with sex and…i just don’t want to for some reason). i like teaching people sex ed (which i have done in the past for an internship and hope to do for a career), but there’s something about me and sex that doesn’t really jive on a personal level….

  • Véronique

    I am a feminist (although sometimes a politically incorrect one). The most honest thing I can say about sex is that I really like when it’s even just OK, and it blows my mind when it’s great. I love kissing, intimacy, touching, sharing, giving, and taking. I love two bodies naked together. And yes, I can laugh about it sometimes. Sometimes you try things that just don’t work, and it’s great if your partner is on the same wavelength. But when it all works, it makes me weep for joy, buzz all over, and feel amazingly content.

  • Karalyn Zemene

    I definitely consider myself a feminist.
    The most honest thing I can say about sex is that it has both surprised and dismayed me how hard it has been to overcome my mental barriers… to enjoying anal sex. I really, really enjoy the feelings I get with anal play but even after lots of time spent with a loving and committed partner, who is happy to do anything that will get me off, I often feel guilty about enjoying anal. It’s bad. It’s dirty. It’s something women aren’t supposed to like, something men only force them into to degrade them. (as demonstrated in the Yale frat scandal –

    It surprises me that I have this hangup that I didn’t realize that I had and it saddens me that something I really get a lot of pleasure from is complicated and lessened by the mores of the world I live in.

    And then I think about the women out there who have the same feelings about ANY kind of sex…

  • Renee

    The most honest thing I can say about sex is that I wish it were less of an issue, somewhere on the level of taking vitamins. If you do, great, if you don’t that’s ok too, but because of it’s social impact it’s not a private matter, its a very public issue. I wish we could all just be ’sexual’ without having to label the variations within–’hetero’ ’homo’ ’bi’ ’a’ ’pan’ and myriad others. I think this would go a long way to destigmatizing and pathologizing numerous sexual practices, behaviors, and attitudes that are totally normal.

  • Andrea

    At 22 years old, I think the most honest thing I can say about sex personally is that I had found sex isn’t solely about the act itself. I unfortunately have found that other things factor in and I just hate it. Stress and health conditions have changed my sex life in ways I hadn’t imagined it would. I guess I mean to say that I want it, but I am no longer feeling it.

  • Heidi

    I am a sex positive feminist, and I’m ALWAYS honest about sex. I have no trouble at all taking about sex to anybody, and that includes my mother, my boyfriend, my friends…anyone, everyone. I also love talking about sex or sexual politics. If I’m present, the conversation will always end up being steered in that direction. My friends call me their “sex guru”. I’m the one they come to for advice, from relationships to sexual positions to birth control to info about STIs. I can also honestly say I am not monogamous, and that I do not believe that sex is something sacred or special, or that anyone should be either proud for having little sex/few partners, or ashamed of having a lot of sex/a lot of partners. Sex is sex is sex….it irritates me that it’s so politicized, so feared, so exalted, so controversial. Sex is as natural as air, water, wind, and earth. It means different things to different people, yet everyone thinks the meaning they take from it is the only correct one- and that’s just silly. I want people to live and let live, have the sex they like and let others have the sex they like without judgment.

  • glitterary

    I think the most honest thing I can say about sex is: it has been, and continues to be, difficult for me to come to terms with the ways in which I want and use it. And it should be easier.

    I spent my first five sexually active years in long, serious, monogamous relationships and couldn’t countenance the idea of hooking up with someone casually; despite considering myself (as I still do) a sex-positive feminist, part of me still clung to the virgin/whore dichotomy where I thought that sure, if other women wanted to sleep around, that was cool! that’s their choice, and their right! but not me, because then I’d be a slut.

    Learning to really apply (feminist) values I’d thought about and really believed, rather than simply internalised from a sexist culture, to my sex life was a bit of a struggle but I’m much more comfortable weighing up what I actually want against what I’m supposed to want now.

    I’m a lot more open about sexuality than a lot of my friends and some of the people I’ve slept with, so if I still have to stop and think about what sex means to me, and justify my feelings on wanting sex, I think it’s likely a lot of people haven’t made themselves comfortable with their sexual wants and needs yet. There is far to much social pressure around sex to make that kind of introspection easy, and that sucks. Everyone should be encouraged to think about what they really want, not what they’re meant to conform to.

  • Caitlin

    I do identify as a feminist. I am also speaking from a heterosexual, cisgender perspective because it is what I know and am capable of speaking to.

    The most honest things that I can say about sex are that no one is good at it when they start, but practice makes you a whole lot better. The “First Time” is incessantly glammed up in pop culture, but for individuals who are lucky enough to have a good first sexual experience it is a combination of awkward and endearing rather than godlike and transformative.

    Some people have sex for reproduction, some for love, some for orgasms and some for a combination of all three. There is no better or worse reason for having sex, its something that we have been engineered to do as a species much like breathing and eating. Sex is a fairly common physical process, but a highly complicated emotional process in terms of how it impacts relationships.

    It is much harder for a woman in our society to say that she has sex for orgrasms-sake than it is for a man. Women who admit to enjoying sex mainly for the sake of orgasms are usually placed in the “whore category” which strips them of their agency rather than allowing them to own their truths. Men can also be stripped of their agency and identity when they do not meet the guidelines that society has set them such as enjoying sex and desiring to have more than one sexual partner.

    Sex always becomes tied up in questions of monogamy. Married men are not allowed to admit that they don’t enjoy monogamy, while single men are expected to pursue multiple sexual partners. Women are never allowed to admit that they are not interested in monogamy because this immediately raises fears, among the crazies, that this will signal the dissolution of the family structure and the end of the species.

    Final truth, monogamy works for some people and not for others regardless of gender lines and sex is fun provided that you can maintain your own agency and live your truth.

    • Suzy

      I disagree that the first time is glammed up in pop culture. For girls it is made to seem painful and scary and awkward. But mine was not because I was sure of myself and knew I wanted to do it and physically and emotionally was ready. It felt like I had been doing it my whole life. All the motions came naturally. It was as perfect as I wanted it to be and more. I don’t relate to the awkwardness people are talking about. Why is it so taboo to say that sex is instinctual? Sure, we’re not born knowing anything, but it seems to me that sex is up there with breathing when it comes to automaticity.

  • Alex

    Hi Lori,

    If you haven’t checked it out already, I would highly recommend the sex-positive blog “25 Things about My Sexuality” for detailed, nuanced, and incredibly honest opinions about sex from a wide range of individuals.

  • Aydan

    I’m a feminist, and the most honest thing I can say about sex is that… it doesn’t really interest me.

    And I’m afraid that means I’m going to be alone for longer than I want to be alone.