I have two women’s groups right now and in both of them I am struck by how much difficulty surrounds the topic of desire. I hear women talk about how hard it is to give to themselves, and how hard it can be to receive.
What is it that creates these blockages around desire and receiving?
If you look at the natural world, it’s clear that we’re not born with them. A baby has no compunction about crying when it needs something, or surrendering to the bliss of closeness and sensation in a pair of loving arms. Dogs bark in unapologetic joy when they’re out chasing balls with their favorite humans; a cat never feels bad or guilty for soliciting cuddles and strokes (and they’ll definitely tell you if you’re doing it wrong).
So what makes it hard for us adult people to ask for what we want?
After teaching a women’s sexuality weekend in Napa earlier this month, my team and I took the day off, made a decadent brunch and luxuriated in sitting on the deck, enjoying the food and the beautiful morning. One of my team members commented on the fact that I had served orange juice in fancy wine glasses. She said she loved that little touch and that growing up, her family had made fun of her for always liking the “fancy” thing, and they would tease her about it until she learned to stop asking.
If you can remember similar moments in your own family, or if you’ve ever had someone ask you accusingly, “Why do you want that?” or “That’s nice you can give that to yourself. I wish I could do that” – then you know what I’m talking about: the microaggressions about desire.
They happen all the time: in passive-aggressive comments about other people, in socially sanctioned phrases like “You just want to have your cake and eat it too,” and in judgments about how others spend their time, money or energy doing things that bring THEM joy but that are perceived as selfish or indulgent.
And they are especially charged when it comes to sex. Just as “That’s not normal” is the battle cry of the sexual oppressor, “That’s too much” and “You shouldn’t want that” are the rant of the sexually unhappy and undeserving. The desire police are out en force.
These little comments that aren’t invited or necessary create an environment that encourages us not to take up space, not to acknowledge our own desires and not to want what we damn well want. And if you’re holding back from the little things—like serving yourself orange juice in a wineglass just because it makes you happy—then ask yourself how that same thing holds you back from going for the things you REALLY want, especially in the vulnerable territory of sex and relationships.
Why do we put each other down about desire? When did desire become the thing that proves a person’s low worth?