What women want VI

Written by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.

So far we’ve had five "What women want" posts. We learned that, in short, women want to be understood, supported, and desired. Okay, so.

We women can make our partners' lives a little easier by meeting them halfway on some of this stuff. To that end, I want to spend just one post dispensing some homespun advice about, you know, how to be happy and stuff. Maybe none of this will be new to you, but we can all use occasional reminders about how to be a person in a world that dismisses personhood.


Stop, just stop, reading the mainstream glossy magazines and following influencers who have a culturally sanctioned body type and also seem to travel every week of the year. The primary function of those things is to make you feel bad about yourself so that you buy the stuff their advertisers paid them to advertise. I'm absolutely certain that advertisers insist they present a dangerous and unachievable image of women so that we feel a need to buy their products because we're so deeply flawed and disgusting.

So just stop.

Similarly, only watch music videos, awards shows, etc. with a highly critical eye, recognizing the extent to which the images are designed to destroy women's power by making us small, fragile, incurious, anti-intellectual sexual objects or cold, sexless, neurotic brain-boxes or shrews.

Value your sexuality as it is, not as someone tells you it "should" be. Women vary from each other tremendously, so hearing about other women's experiences will only tell you how varied we are, not what "normal" is. There is no normal. There is only "healthy," and healthy just means pain- and infection-free plus content. You're free to explore your sexuality, to play with it, to try stuff and not judge the outcome. If something isn't right, let it go and move on to the next thing. If something is right, remember it for next time!

Practice living inside your body. Your body is the one and only thing you're guaranteed to have your whole life. It's your home for the duration of your stay on Earth. Unlike what both traditional religion and new agey nonsense would have you believe, there is no "mind-body connection," that phrase implies there are three things: a mind, a body and something that connects them. That's all wrong. There's just one thing, there is only the embodied mind. Living inside your body is merely the practice of living inside yourself. Which is good for you, I promise.

And finally, listen to your instincts. Tuning out pop culture and living inside your body will make this a lot easier because you're quieting the extraneous noise and attending to your own inner life. The quiet voice inside you, the voice under the fear and panic, under the learned self-doubt and the need to be right, under the need to be good, the need to be in control, under all those defenses, you'll find your core voice, speaking truth to you, quietly, steadily, if you only listen.

I hate it when I get preachy, and god knows I'm no ideal role model. I pout at my fat in the mirror some mornings. Sometimes I try to give other people what they want even if it means ignoring my own needs and desires. Worst of all, I put up barriers between me and the world for fear that someone will discover that I am as flawed as everyone else. As if the barriers themselves weren't a dead giveaway. I know. But I need the reminders as much as anyone else does, and so periodically, I preach.

But maybe if we all picked one of these things to practice for just a month or just a week or just one day, maybe we could contribute a little bit to making the world a saner, safer, sexier, more beautiful world.

I pick living inside my body. Maybe just for today, or maybe into tomorrow. We'll see how we go. You wanna pick something?

(And FYI, men can try some of these things too; it's not just women who benefit from being people rather than consumers and sex objects.)

More "What women want:"
Part I
Part II

Part III

Part IV
Part V
Part VII

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