A Reserved Feminist

**Those of you who are regular readers will know I have nothing against feminism.  I make jokes sometimes but I also have four sisters and was raised in a family that was very firm on everyone, all people are equal.  This is just a story and some thoughts about a particular individual and situation.**

As this relationship with Stephanie winds to its inevitable end (I’m seeing her tomorrow, break up time), I find myself reflecting on relationships and life.  I’ve been remembering the great loves and losses, the good times and the bad, what really worked for me and what didn’t.

During this reflection I came to think about one of my first relationships.

In high school I started dating Anne (not to be confused with Ann St. Vincent, that was later).  The story of the relationship is interesting, I’ve written about it previously (Anne pt 1, Anne pt 2).  I’m not going into all the details, you can read the previous posts if you want that, but I’ll give a quick summary.  

I’d known her for years but one or the other of us was usually dating someone else.  She was smart, talented, and attractive, if a bit shy and reserved.  In our Senior year of High School we were both single and started dating.  Neither of us were virgins but we were still young enough to not really know what we were doing yet. Over the next year we’d change that.  She ended up going to University in a different state, we tried the long distance thing but it didn’t work out.

Anyway, this post isn’t about any of that, it’s about sexuality and her version of feminism.

I knew Anne was a feminist when we met, pretty much everybody in our little high school clique was a mix of grunge-hippy-feminist (hey, it was the early 90’s), but she was a bit more outspoken about it than most of us were.  She was very, very… opinionated.  I’m struggling to find the right word.  Some might have called her a feminazi but I don’t like that term.

The feminism wasn’t a problem for me, I grew up in a house with four sisters and a mom that wore the pants.  No big deal.  In fact, it was fun at times because I love playing devil’s advocate and we were both smart enough to have good conversations about it.

Anyway, on to the edgy bits.

When Anne and I first got intimate (look at me hedging words), I quickly realized that she had the biggest bush I’d ever seen.  I mean, this tiny girl (she was a ballerina) looked like she had an afro wig between her legs.

Before anyone sends me hate mail, it’s her body and I had no problem with how she chose to groom herself.  However, I did bring this up with her because it was literally in the way of me giving her pleasure.  Trying to go down on her was like searching the jungle for treasure.  She doesn’t want to trim, that’s fine, I just wanted her to know that there might be a practical reason for trimming, not an aesthetic one.

Her answer didn’t really surprise me.  She never trimmed her arm pits, legs, or groin because she shouldn’t have to change her body for a man.  She blamed society and media for putting pressure on women and giving men an unreasonable expectation of what women should look like.

Cool, I had no problem with any of that, I agreed with most of it.  If it was a big deal to her, and she didn’t mind a little fumbling when I was down there, no problem.  Moving on.

Anne was just as interested in sex as I was, she was up for just about anything.  However, she was very reserved during the actual sex, barely moved or made a noise.  At the time I didn’t think much of it, I didn’t have much to compare it to.  We were together long enough that I learned how to read her reactions, how to give her orgasms, but it was difficult because it was like she consciously held back.

Things ended later on and I never really thought much about all of this, but this week as I reflected I saw things a little differently.  With a little time, distance, and less hormonal sex drive, it’s a really different picture.

Anne was quiet, always wore loose clothes, kind of baggy, she didn’t trim her body hair, she was reserved in bed…  I think in her head a warped sense of feminism really limited her.  I think she was so worried about NOT being seen as a sexual object that it hurt her ability to enjoy her sexuality.  Like her body, her sexiness, her enjoyment in bed were bad things somehow, playing into some sexist stereotype she wanted no part of.

It’s kind of sad in a way.  At the time I thought she was happy, had a good family, was going to have all this success in life.  Yet, in hindsight, she was so uncomfortable in her own body.  I don’t blame feminism, I think that was just the face that she put on her personal issues.  Also looking back, I think there were some things going on with her family, maybe her mother, that were the underlying issue.  I wish I had realized it at the time, I would have done more to try and bring her out of that shell.

The good news is that I found Anne on social media last year.  For the previous ten years she’d been invisible, no one knew where she’d gone, what she’d done, she could have been dead and no one in our home town would have known.  But a recent search turned her up on Twitter, those ten years have been good to her.  She lives in a different country, has died her hair a rainbow of colors and has a huge smile in her profile photo.  I might not have been the one to help her, but it seems she’s found her own answers.


11 thoughts on “A Reserved Feminist

  1. This is such an interesting story and you can see the evolution of feminism even in the last 20 years as now it seems to be all about embracing female sexuality opposed to back then when it was almost a bad thing. I think you did the best job at supporting her views, I really don’t think you could’ve done more, she had to find her way herself and I’m glad now she has. Great post!

    • It’s just strange to me that I was so blind to it at the time. I don’t think there would have been much I could have done differently but still. Glad you liked it. 🙂

  2. Johnny – I had a conversation with someone recently that this post reminded me of. He wrote his masters thesis on feminism so I figure he knew what he was talking about… He was lamenting that with all the focus we have on things like Anne talked about, and you wisely surmise, there is little discourse that promotes / allows women to say YES and embrace their sexuality and ability for choice. It’s been ratting around in my head since I heard that – and your post made it real.

    • Yeah, her version of feminism was less about providing freedom and more about judging others and replacing one set of guidelines with another. It was like the fundamentalist Christian version of feminism. There are other versions though that I’ve seen over the years that are far more positive.

  3. Reading this story I wonder how much her reserve had to with being young and the times. I think it can take awhile for women to become comfortable with their bodies and sexuality and trying out new things. Also the grunge era had a different ethos stylistically then what followed. I remember my first boyfriend during the nineties wanted me to wear makeup, sexy lingerie and shave my pussy and it just felt bizarre to me. I associated all that with something fake at the time. Of course now I love to play around with all that stuff

    • I’m sure it was a combination of things, certainly age played a role. I don’t think any of us were quite comfortable in our own bodies at that point. Thankfully, it seems she’s grown a lot over the years and looks a lot happier now.

  4. Hmmmm….I don’t know if her warped sensed of feminism was playing such a huge part of who she was…I kind of think it was because she was just young…I sure have come a LOONG way in my sex life over the past 20 years. Not everyone has that natural ability to be happy with who they are and it takes time to learn and grow and appreciate what beauty they do have. I think there could be a variety of reasons why a woman wears baggy clothes and is reserved in bed. I think there’s more to the story of being a sexual object or not. As I was reading, I was wondering what she looks like now, and I’m glad it looks like she found happiness. And I bet ya anything, if you ran into her, she would not only be fun in bed but her bush might be a little trimmed too =)

    I know you hope you and Stephanie can be friends, and I’ve done that before with a past boyfriend, but ultimately I think for someone to move on, there needs to be time and distance between two people so they both can learn to be happy again without the other person around.

    p.s. I enjoyed this post

    • I’m sure youth played a large role, ‘feminism’ was just the… scapegoat? That’s not quite the word I’m looking for. It was a combination of things, I’m sure. For as strong as she was in a lot of ways, I think she was a lot less self confident than I thought at the time. That’s why it was so nice to see the changes in her recent photos.

      As for the Stephanie situation, it probably won’t be pretty. She’s a cool chick, it’d be nice if we could be friends, but I know how infrequently that works out. We’ll see.

      • Yeah, not scapegoat but maybe she used feminism to protect herself at that time….she wanted to appear strong and confident but because of age and like you said, what was possibly going on with her family, she really wasn’t strong…But true inner strength takes time for most people to aquire….

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