Philosopher Svenja Flaßpöhler argues for more female desire in her newly published book “The Potent Woman”, positioning herself as an antagonist of the #metoo movement. That’s a shame, because that way, we miss yet another chance to talk about the sexually self-determined woman.
Several weeks ago, I was delighted by a quote I came across: “A potent woman is one who has discarded patriarchal thought patterns. One who has her own desires. And isn’t limited to be a mirror of male desire and to affirm him in his grandiosity. Instead of degrading male sexuality, she upgrades her own.”
The quote is from philosopher Svenja Flaßpöhler’s just published essay “The Potent Woman”. Flaßpöhler has been attacked by feminists for the book, for in it, she positions herself as an antagonist of the #metoo movement. Which, according to Flaßpöhler, continues to uphold the patriarchal narrative of the woman as victim of aggressive male sexuality. Flaßpöhler argues for a more forward definition of femininity: women must grasp and live their own potency, instead of persisting in a passive position of accusation. She misses the active woman, the seductress, she sees in #metoo “a conspicuous absence of female desire”.
I find it questionable to accuse women who speak about their experiences of sexual violence of a lack of their own sexual activity. It also misjudges the scale of the #metoo discourse. The point is to make sexual violence visible as structural and as a means of maintaining power. I read the fact that the protagonists of that discourse have stated and indicted this as a gesture of empowerment and success in the fight for sexual self-determination.
Still, I remain delighted nonetheless, for Flaßpöhler places someone who often seems unnamable at the center of the discussion: the sexually active woman. A woman and her potency. A woman who recognizes her potential and reaches it. Flaßpöhler writes: “The potent woman is neither reality nor unreachable ideal. She is a possibility. Why don’t we go for it?”
Good question. I think about it every day. It is my daily work to support people of all genders on the path to their full sexual potency. And I work with my own female potency. That is welcome to be interpreted very openly and imaginatively, that’s probably the closest to the truth. I am a sex worker and offer one-on-one sessions, workshops, and coaching for sexuality, BDSM, and bondage, for all genders. I specialize in working with women.
The women who come to me are potent. They pay money to pave the way for a time slot that is dedicated exclusively to their own desire. They take up space, in which I am there to fulfill their wishes. It’s extraordinary, but also not free of the history inscribed in their bodies.
When women visit me who, after 25 years of marriage, are experiencing orgasm with a person besides themselves for the first time, if in fact they ever had one; when women come to me who apologize for having gained weight; when women come to me who don’t even know what gives them pleasure, because they have been tending to their (usually male) counterpart’s sexuality since puberty; when women don’t know their own anatomy and have never touched their vulva, because self-love was never part of the curriculum at school or at home, then I know: there’s room for improvement.
But women also come to me after whom I’ve needed to go to the orthopedist for tennis elbow because they repeatedly squirted on my hand or lower arm. Women come who know exactly how and how often they come and what they need in order to, and simply find in me another flight of fancy on their sexual horizon – and I’m allowed to sweat, tie them up, or be of service to them in other ways.
Nymphomaniacs who need more than one fuck to even warm up are not a male fantasy. Women who actually live their sexuality are frightening, in the best possible sense. Women who are sexually self-determined are independent. Very scary. For many. For men and women.
Flaßpöhler postulates that “no means no” isn’t the epitome of female sexual emancipation. That’s true. But where does the fear of a woman’s spirited “yes” come from?
I ask out of existential interest. As a sex worker, I know that I’m picking a fight with more cultural taboos by publicly saying “yes” to sex (with men and women) than if I would refuse, modestly or confrontationally. A woman who says yes, to sex, to her desire and her pleasure, and for no one other than herself, is unthinkable for many. It can be easily seen in recent legislation, for instance.
Since July of last year, the so-called “Law for the ‘Protection’ of Prostitutes” has come into effect. In reality, the law aims to marginalize and endanger the existence of sex workers. Ever since the implementation of mandatory registration for prostitutes, who counts as a sex worker is legally defined. Even sexual acts for non-cash exchanges such as gifts, accommodation, or other material perks count as prostitution. Regularity doesn’t matter. Even a one-time sexual act for “pocket money”, dinner or jewelry is legally considered prostitution. And formally requires registration as a “sex worker” with the authorities – including one’s full name and disclosure of all personal data. Germany once again has a file on loose (female) subjects: Germany’s whores have been collected.
But the fight against whores is always also against promiscuous women. There is a history of that. Now, even legally there is no recognizable difference between a “slut” and a “whore”. At least, when women are moving within a heterosexually codified initiation culture, in which men are still expected to make the first move, including the appropriate courtship behavior in the sense of jewelry or presents. Welcome to 2018. It is not a good time for a sexually potent woman who is simply bored of the monogamous long-term couple relationship.
Flaßpöhler is declared as showing a lack of solidarity because she urges women to take more responsibility for situations that they perceive as invasive, uncomfortable, or as simply not desired. In plain language: express themselves and set boundaries, charmingly – or not. What kind of feminist would I be if I didn’t think that women were able to do that?
Sex, and take it from a professional, is not safe business. Sex is actually pretty dangerous and sometimes extreme or messy. Becoming vulnerable, intimate, showing your self, isn’t safe at all. Expressing the desire for more closeness and being able to live with the fact that the desire isn’t reciprocated, is destabilizing for almost everyone.
Intimate contact blurs boundaries, and that’s what should happen, that’s one of the things that makes it blissful. There still isn’t any education, any culture of dealing with the question of how this process can happen joyfully. The heterosexual context has its old and boring codes. At the cost of endlessly reproducing antiquated roles, everyone repeats them in order to feel themselves on familiar terrain. Women too, by the way.
Developing something new is work. My impression is that all the ideological debates end where my life begins: practical experience. Part of that is speaking about the potent woman. It questions our order, that’s why you can’t do it completely without friction.
Sexual communication is my job. Successful sexual dialogs are the goal of my work, “yes” is its foundation. I know from many years of experience how strenuous that can be. It has not only confronted me with doubtlessly patriarchal structures, but has also made me deeply question my own behavior. I have also needed to ask myself in the course of sexual approaches: how assimilated am I? Can I still feel myself? How often do I smile, in order not to ruin the mood, and do I find myself in a situation afterwards that I didn’t want?
Too often have I hesitantly faced the decision of taking the next step to change a situation that wasn’t going according to my wishes. The reasons for my hesitation: deeply inscribed in my body. But by whom? Who vaccinates beings like us who are socialized as female so early, that we want to please in a sexual dialogue instead of express ourselves? Too unfamiliar, strenuous, not feminine, fear, no feeling – and yet possible. Good news! Sexual communication can be learned. To feel, to reveal, and to say what I want is juicy. Empathy and respect are hot. Consent is sexy! I learned it and generously pass that knowledge along. Sex work was my boot camp for the good life in the patriarchy.
Thanks David Bloom for translation!
Foto: André Wunstorf Thanks!
Read the full article in German here