Friday, March 31, 2023

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Claiming Female Virility for Lesbians

I was 37 years old when it dawned on me that women don’t have a word to claim our own sexual power and strength. I’m full of life and vital energy, and I pulsate with the charge of health and ability. In conversation with my good friend, I tried to put a word to the feeling and life force we described. Virile slid out of my mouth and my friend was quick to point out, “I don’t want to be manly!”

Energetic, vigorous, robust, masterful, forceful, possessing a strong sex drive. I possess these traits, and I cannot be the first person to notice that women have these ‘virile’ qualities too. I know the way two women loving women go after each other with absolute gusto and, let me tell you, it’s certainly not weak or refined. 

If masculine men are virile, what is the equivalent in women? The only adjective that is equal in expression is effeminate, and that meaning certainly does not convey power or strength. Fuck that. Did I emphasize my disgust enough? Because, truly, fuck that. I should refrain from swearing in this piece because I want it to be taken seriously, as a serious topic of discussion and consideration. How else do I fully encompass my rage and frustration, though, that women have spent most of history being regarded as weak, anti-sexual, non-agent beings? Even now that we have been pushed into a grotesque hyper-sexualized culture, women haven’t gained our own word for virility. Without a word to describe ourselves, can we fully conceptualize our own strength?

There are many terms related specifically to fertility of females, but not sexual appetite. The importance in our female bodies has always been placed on our ability to procreate but never in our capacity to feel pleasure. Across a broad spectrum of ideologies, it is preached that men need sex just as much as they need air to breath. It’s just a part of maleness, they’ll tell you. Women — meh, do we even care if she likes sex or not? 

Men and women were created with the same capacity for sexual desire. We’re not members of a different species, and we have the same hardwiring to enjoy sexual pleasure. If women didn’t have the same drive to mate, our species would have perished due to an inability to produce enough offspring. Sex isn’t all about the rudimentary science of the process, but without this basis, none of us would exist. Simply put, women get off too. A lot. And lesbians, with our capacity to have endless amounts of sex without the possibility of accidental pregnancy, know this better than most.

Women are socialized to be small. This socially required diminutiveness is emphatic in its goals: that we remain delicate, soft and weak. This is not a new realization and women have been bumping up against and fighting our way out of this box for centuries. The exclusion of a female equivalent to the word virile keeps us fenced in within the bounds of smallness. Robust women who are full of sexual strength and vital life force are a threat to weak men. Men who lack these qualities prefer women to keep a low profile so they aren’t made to feel threatened in their own lack. 

Lesbians have pushed this boundary through our entire existence (in short, forever.) There are examples of gender non-conforming women in all decades — pushing past the role allowed for them in that carved out space of smallness. Already outsiders, we tend to resist this socialization as unnecessary to our survival. We aren’t trying to play the game that already exists, we are changing the rules of the game so we can contribute our own elements. Gender non-conformity is as much about attitude, behavior, and lifestyle as it is about looks. This rebellion against staying soft and weak has manifested in a myriad of ways: short haircuts, clothing choices that aren’t traditionally feminine, trade school careers, finding acceptance in sports, etc. The list is much longer. And let’s not confuse virility with masculinity or butchness. Women across the spectrum of presentation from masculine to feminine can show the sort of vigor we call virility when it appears in men.

Lesbian women benefit from a uniquely Sapphic circumstance: the possibility of getting pregnant through our sexual activity does not exist. This adjoins itself with the stereotype that we are extremely lustful, and it rings true from where I sit. Lesbians have a lot of sex, and if they aren’t having a lot of sex, they’re trying to have a lot of sex. Take a peek at the recent lesbian reality tv series Tampa Baes, and it’s easy to see this vein within lesbian popular culture. Hop onto TikTok and the sheer volume of lesbians talking about and joking about sex might blow your mind. Lesbians are lusting and we aren’t shy about it. We have a lot of sex in a lot of different ways and take great joy in our sexual virility.

Masculine leaning lesbians do not own these qualities. Dominant femmes are known for a strong strain of their own virility too. The stamina and charge of a virile nature is not limited to a specific appearance or personality. I will speculate that many women own this energy, and I’m ready to claim it for us all. 

Many lesbians, and many straight women have overcome sexual trauma and have had to battle their own demons to reclaim their sexual enjoyment. Denying them their rightful ownership of the strong sexual virility they have worked to repossess is downright criminal. What a gift it is to be so committed to your own happiness and vitality, that you allow this deep healing that brings you back into your body in the most primary cathartic of ways? Let these women, myself included, claim this power now.

Do you know what lust is? It is the absolute zeal for life and unabridged enjoyment of all the senses. Lust is a leaning into the sensual nature of life that we were born to experience. Lust is the richness that exists in the visceral power of our humanity. Lust is who we are unedited, when we allow ourselves to just be. Lust is the electricity of being fully alive — it is a victory, it is a triumph. Women who lust with all the passion and intensity usually reserved for men are a victory, they are a triumph.

Living with gusto, sexually charged, able and strong. We aren’t going to hide behind a demure facade where it’s unbecoming to celebrate our sexual vitality and aliveness anymore. These traits exists within us and have since time immemorial. We are claiming them now. We are energetic, vigorous, robust, masterful, forceful, with a strong sex drive. We are women and we are virile too. Female virility has entered the chat. 

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