I imagine I am much like other girls trying to feel their way into becoming a woman.
I used to envision thongs and heels but it never made any sense. I uncomfortably bunched my white Fruit of the Loom panties over my hips in jeans cut for a tomboy, wanting to keep the car engine oil under my fingernails leftover from working with my father. These were my trademarks; the smell of cookies and dirt and cornrows because hair just wasn’t worth my time.
Sexy was a word that I never allowed my mouth to form. But sexy is quickly followed by puberty, that awkward stage where the body of a woman and the mind of a girl meet. First experiences with discomfort are often seen through the eyes of men, or boys. Yet, we allow the male’s gaze to define female sexuality. It is within this light where we distinguish what it means to be a sensual human being. This occurs for numerous reasons, primarily due to the perception we have of “the ideal woman”. In fact, the “ideal model”, which is perpetuated by both men and women, further refines the lines between curvaceous and thin, audacious and reserved, licentious and romantic.
Women are regularly seen as different from men in the ways they express themselves sexually. Based solely on past generations, women have been assigned the role of wife and mother: two roles that restrict sexual freedom and exploration, requiring a level of docility and modesty. This was not something I aspired to be as a young girl. Instead, thanks to my peers and elders alike, I learned to place myself in a box, which allowed me to retain labels of respectability, appropriateness, and purity. Woman was not a title that I wanted to claim, not if it equated to suppressing individualism or the freedom to learn the meaning of actual female sexuality.
I, like many women I know, challenged this view on female sexuality. I decided that, because being a sexual woman was taboo, I would become that woman. Hip hugging skirts and tops with so little fabric that they could hardly be called shirts, these were my weapons of rebellion. I wanted to show that I could be the intelligent, vibrant scholar alongside the wild, and a free spirited insurgent. I was determined to prove that women were beyond the boxes set out for them. By refining the status quo, I found power in whether or not I chose to be daring and break out of what was understood as the ideal in every sense.
I can not pinpoint the moment when this perspective will potentially solve the problem of “the ideal woman”. I can not prove what can not be defined. We are women when we claim our bodies and ourselves as we are. The word ‘woman’ has multiple layers and meanings that is different for each individual. Sexuality fits into that multifaceted, ever-changing nature. Beautiful, powerful, graceful bright, talented women are individuals who choose to openly express their sexuality, or not. Women embrace their sensual nature as a part of themselves, as human beings. Women can be mothers and wives, sisters and daughter, but we can also be so much more.
My womanhood was never intertwined with white Fruit of the Looms or high heels. What I should have been taught as a young girl was that — by being my own muse — I was my truest compass and that I couldn’t do anything to make myself more of a woman. I am a woman when I love my naked face and when I am blessed with an unexpected perfect eyeliner day. I am a woman when I have sex with the person I love, or with someone I just met, or when I choose to not have sex at all. I am a woman when I’m afraid to touch my own body and when I decided that I have never seen anything more divine than myself. I am a woman because I embrace myself as such, a human being acting on the world in my own magnificent and exceptional ways.
By Skylar Wilson