We are Far From a Sex-positive Society if We Keep Dubbing Women ‘Vanilla’

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Isn’t it ironic how we live in a society that worked on its sex positivity by replacing it with “vanilla-shaming”?

stop hating on vanilla sex

Finally, kink-shaming has been deemed out of fashion and is frowned upon. It seems vanilla-shaming is taking its place.

After decades of feminists advocating equal rights for women, sex is changing. Fictional characters like Anastasia Grey (“50 Shades of Grey”) and Samantha Jones (“Sex in the City”) boldly display their sexual desires. It has changed how we perceive women in society today. And it’s fabulous.

Today’s women are more confident sexually than ever. It’s just a shame it is being used to tear other females down by a society that puts women into two categories; adventurous and good in bed, or vanilla and bad in bed. Both are complete myths, but I will break that down…

Using Samantha Jones as an example, women in the first category are outspoken and bold when discussing one’s sexuality, often have a male’s ego, and tend to be kinky. The second group of women is more focused on their interests and have different boundaries. That does not make them ‘vanilla’, nor should it be used to put their self-confidence down.

Personaly, I am a Samantha Jones type, so I haven’t been vanilla-shamed. However, I have experienced kinkshaming, and slutshaming.

Jones, the character on HBO’s June 1998 series, was the first to be openly sexually adventurous. As many of us, she helped me to feel confident in my ability to have sex. 

Samantha proved that it was perfectly normal and acceptable for a woman to possess her sexual energy and nature.

Now, 30 years later, the female population is slowly becoming a sea full of Samanthas. Together they are closing the gap on the orgasm and ending patriarchy.

This means that women now freely talk about their sexual desires, more than ever before in history. Openly, too.

These conversations are becoming more common in Britain, where women can be heard engaging in empowering and curious conversation with each other about everything from what role-play costumes were ordered to who masturbated over the weekend.

The Tate Britain website states that these discussions were far from common in the 1960s.

It was in 1957 that the contraceptive pill was first introduced. This made casual sex easier and safer.

Prior to this, it was much more difficult for women to explore their sexuality than it was for men. Women feared getting pregnant and abortions weren’t something that could be done easily.

So, conversations between a man and a woman about sex were not very common. 

The 1957 Wolfenden Report was the first to recommend the decriminalisation and legalization of homosexuality. It was actually only then that it was recommended. In that year, both divorce and abortion became more easily accessible. Thus, leading to the decade gaining the nickname ‘the Swinging Sixties’. 

From the 1970s through 2021, feminists have continued to fight for women’s rights to their bodies. Feminism has one message: Women and all people should be equal.

Feminism has crushed the idea that sex and masturbation are just for men’s enjoyment, and thankfully so.

In 2021, we are now facing the era of ‘vanilla sex’ – and it is no surprise that women are being targeted with this new taunt.

Compared to the 19th century, where women could enjoy romantic, passionate, or dubbed today ‘vanilla’ sex, they are now expected to perform like porn stars. If they don’t, they’re classed as ‘frigid’ or ‘boring’.

If you didn’t know, as it is a semi-new term, Urban Dictionary defines the act of vanilla sex as being “boring, uninventive, plain”.

This problem was caused, in my opinion, by women talking openly about their sexual desires. It was inevitable that it led to the comparison of women and the putting them up against one another. This has been repeated throughout history. 

Any woman who has fewer sexual desires than the norm is made fun of and shamed.

We have gone from a society that hated women being vulgar (thus years of silence and sitting quietly under the patriarchy) to men being frustrated if their wives won’t suddenly perform the Gawk Gawk 3,000.

Women can’t win, as usual!

Let me be clear, I didn’t know there was a problem. It was something I hadn’t considered. My circle of friends and I are all very kinky so vanilla is a term I was aware of but not conscious of its potential impact.

This was until I met a distant friend for dinner. It is difficult to schedule a meeting with them. After years of texting and short catch-ups, it was finally time to sit down in a restaurant and have lengthy conversations about the pandemic.

I am two decades older than you and more wise than you. We are still very close but we are also very different people. Particularly sexually.

I enjoy chatting about sex. If you’re interested in learning how to have anal, I can show you all the tricks if you need.

My friend finds it uncomfortable when subjects are brought up. I have always wondered why, but she was respectful of my privacy. However, I didn’t question the fact that sex talk made her squirm. She could have traumas she doesn’t want to discuss. It is only brought up if she does. This she has never done.

After ten years of friendship, it was while she was chowing down on a pasta salad that I heard the words: “Can I ask you something about sex?”

I grabbed my glass and smiled as I sipped.

As she looked at me in dismay, I reminded him that she was safe and would not be judged.

Pulling a sheepish grin, she continued by telling me how her ex had called her ‘vanilla’ in the bedroom. She said that she didn’t want to have sex with anyone new because it had broken her spirits.

I asked her if she felt insecure about sex. She said no.

“I mean, I don’t like to talk about sex because compared to others, I think I’m quite boring in bed,” I could see the words hurt her to even say. But it had answered my burning question, and I wondered how many others don’t talk about sex because they’re fearful of being perceived as ‘vanilla’.

She detailed how all her life, she’s 47, all her partners had similar sexual interests to her, and thus, the sex was out of this world. She found partners who were compatible with her.

The most recent ex didn’t, and instead of kindly suggesting some fun things to try or getting to know what turns her into a wild animal in the sack, he cruelly dubbed her ‘boring’. He left her confidence to go with it.

Now, this once sexually confident and private woman has become a shell. And she’s not alone.

Dr. Laura Vowels, principal researcher and therapist at Blueheart – a digital sex therapy app – agrees that the term “Vanilla” ruins our sex-positivity mission.

Vowels said: “Labelling certain types of sex in this way feeds into self-doubts about sexual abilities.”

“For women who enjoy ‘vanilla’ sex, the negative connotations around the term can induce shame. This idea can be damaging to their own self-confidence and sexual confidence.”

“It’s vital that women feel supported to express themselves freely and authentically when it comes to sexual experiences, as for so many years women have been shamed for simply enjoying sex.”

“Now, terms like this make them feel bad about the kind of sex they’re having. Making people feel as if their preferences are not valid, or accepted within society, can create a range of problems, from trust issues or a lack of body positivity to suppressing the wider discussion of sex within society.”

Vowel predicts that we will not be a sex positive society if the word vanilla is used with negative and derogatory connotations.

“Humiliating those that enjoy ‘vanilla’ sex goes against the movement of encouraging sexual empowerment, sex positivity and women’s confidence,” she said. “This attitude encourages people to think that it’s okay to shame someone else’s preferences, which steers society away from becoming more sex-positive.”

Rebecca Lockwood, a Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Hypnosis, Time Line Therapy, Positive Psychology & Breakthrough Coach Trainer, explained how the term ‘vanilla’ can affect those directed at and how to brush the insult off.

Lockwood pointed out that “vanilla sex is required however we describe it, it’s part of relationships no matter how people perceive it,” as it is not always possible to have adventurous sex all the time. It is, despite porn’s claims to the contrary.

“If an individual has some wrapped up unwanted emotion around sex, then they may perceive this as being bad,” Lockwood said.

The expert continued: “If there are already some negative feelings around the way you view sex and the emotions you have around it, then this is going to determine to determine how self-conscious you generally are.

“When we create perceptions in our minds of how we are, how we should be and our place in the world, we then project this out into the world, which leads to our behaviours.”

“When we have these perceptions, they are linked to our feelings and the way we move our bodies.”

Lockwood said that people who lack confidence in sex can feel less open to trying new things. She says this is because “they may feel more self-conscious and worry about what the other person thinks of them.”

In conclusion, Lockwood suggests upping your self-love and reminding yourself that “everything starts with the way we think about ourselves and from that will determine how we feel about outside influences”.

It is your opinion that really matters. Being kind to yourself and reminding you you’re just fine and accept yourself is the key.

Everybody has different tastes in the bedroom. There’s no such thing as ‘being bad in bed’, but there is such a thing as having sex with the wrong people, in my humble opinion. And that’s coming from someone who likes to be seriously dominated behind closed doors. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t shame someone for not aligning with my sexual interests. I just wouldn’t hook up with them as they wouldn’t enjoy it either.

There’s no reason you should tear someone else’s sexual confidence down. It can take years to build, and only seconds to destroy.

If you are sexually curious, you should not try to force your partner into changing their consent terms.

It is possible to have mature and thoughtful conversations about the things you want to do. It is not okay to force your partner, or any other person in your life, into consent.

My friend and I were having dinner together again when I asked her whether her ex-husband’s cruel words made it easy for her to perform the acts she didn’t want.

Nodding, she recalled how she did attempt two things she did not want to, hoping that he would see her as a “fantasy” and thus, their relationship would remain.

This made her feel worse about herself and caused her psychical pain. She was then left in tears when he left.

Most tragically, I wish I could say my friend is the only woman experiencing or has experienced this, but she’s not. We all have. It doesn’t matter if it is vanilla or slutshaming.  

While there are no statistics yet to back up the fact the term ‘vanilla sex’ is hindering women’s confidence, enough forums are heaving with women torn apart after being dubbed ‘boring in bed’ to prove there is a problem.

We as a society must remember that Anastasia Greys, Samantha Joneses, and Anastasia Greys both are necessary and empowering. But the Charlotte Yorks, who are setting their boundaries, are just as confident and sexy and inspirational.

If you prefer holding hands in missionary than have the life pounded out of you tied up, that’s fine. It’s okay. It does not make you ‘boring’ or ‘vanilla’ in bed.

This is true even if you are trying to save your virginity and marry. You are not ‘frigid’, ‘dull’ or any of the vile taunts thrown your way.

It is okay to have boundaries in your bedroom. You must, however, have boundaries in your bedroom. 

Someone who tries to shame you because of your sexual desires may be insecure or trying to manipulate the consent of your partner.

The term ‘vanilla’ has shamed women and continued to silence us for long enough.

It’s time we, the Samantha Joneses of the world, hold men and other women to account in regards to sex-shaming.

After all, the orgasm gap is still wide open, and it’s sex-shaming keeping it that way…

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