How Do You Learn What You Do Not Know, When You Do Not Know You Don’t Know It

My friend, Mike Mulberry, sent me an article earlier this week and wanted to know what I thought about it. I read it and of course, had lots of thoughts. It then becomes a process of how to sort through those thoughts and what to do with them.

I agree with much of what the article says. I disagree with Mary Gaitskill that she caused her own rape, but I do not know her complete story or why exactly she feels that way.

There is no lemon law on sex and just because it was not good absolutely does not mean it was rape. And there should be a buyer beware clause.

Women do not need to be governed. We have our own agency and we can make choices, all kinds of choices, about our bodies, where we live, with whom we live, our careers. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Where I get uncomfortable, is where we learn it. Many women I know have absolutely no idea how to ask for or negotiate for what they like in a sexual encounter. The Puritanical view of women society holds onto with a death grip still wants women to have sex with only one man. That implies that she should not have a good idea of what she likes, unless her one partner is willing to try new things.

Jennifer’s last post talked about not being able to un-know what you already know. The other side of that coin, is how do you learn what you don’t know? And how do you know you don’t know it?

Experience is often the best answer. So, again, I’m kind of backed into a corner. Women who are sexually experienced are often associated with words I don’t like to use. I’m sure you can imagine a few of them. They are not positive, uplifting words. They are denigrating and dehumanizing.

Women need to move to the point of self-actualization. We need to be agents of our own sexuality. We have to learn to come out of the shadow of a past that denigrates women for standing on their own and coming into their own.

But how in the world do we do that?

I think we have to hope. We have to read. We have to stop our friends when we hear them using those derogatory words. We have to stop ourselves from saying and thinking them.

As we change how we speak and understand sexual beings, we also have to teach boys and young girls to respect themselves and respect others. It is my experience that people who respect themselves do not need to rape other people or hurt them in any way to feel confident about their own beings.

There used to be a skit on Saturday Night Live in which Stuart Smalley recited positive affirmations to himself in the mirror. It was funny because it was so ridiculous, but I always found it helpful because, secretly, deep down, I needed affirmation. I think many of us could use a little bit.

The iniquity we feel begins with us, and spills over to others around us, just as if we are in a good place and feel good about ourselves, that attitude carries over to those around us as well.

Becoming the agent of your own sexuality takes a lot of work. So does taking responsibility for your own actions. But I believe two things. You are worth it and you can do it. As you make a better you, that in turn makes a better me. As we change and grow, we encourage others to do the same. And we know what better feels like. We learn and grow and speak out for others who aren’t yet ready to do that. We ask them to be better people and to behave better. We ask lawmakers to write better, more efficient laws. Or we get involved in politics and help to write laws that make sense and benefit larger groups of people.

It is all a process of learning and knowing. Change will not happen overnight. There is no smooth, seamless transition to something better. Changing yourself is the first step. Hoping for better and working toward it is the next. It is hard to say to friends, “Don’t call that woman a slut.” It is even harder not to say it in your own head, but change starts with each of us and we can all achieve it, even if it’s just one step at a time.


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