Patriarchal Sex

By Julia Stonehouse

When people talk about heterosexual intercourse, they use the vocabulary of patriarchal control. Men say they “made” a woman come, or that she “responded” to him. And if she didn’t “respond,” it’s her own fault because she’s “frigid.” Meanwhile, we talk about men’s “performance,” and women fake orgasm so he can feel he “performed” well.  Yes, honey, you were great. His ego is put before her sexual pleasure. There’s nothing feminist about any of this.

Man and Woman by Pierre Bonnard 1900.jpg

I was having a conversation with an oh-so-hip hipster about men generally taking control of the thrust of intercourse and he said “Well, that’s right. If a man doesn’t have control in sex he’ll lose his erection, not ejaculate, and there’ll be no more children. The human race will come to an end.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

We’ve grown up in a culture that considers patriarchal sex ‘normal,’ and porn reflects that normality. In other words, we’re stuck in our cultural pattern and think that’s what sex is. But human sex occurs on a spectrum. At one end, people behave like animals in the field, and copy that way of doing intercourse. And at the other end of the spectrum there’s Tantra, where a couple sit facing each other, his penis in her vagina, look into each other’s eyes, make no movements whatsoever, and wait for the kundalini to rise. The aim is spiritual knowledge, not muscular contractions at 0.8 second intervals.

Tantra is an intellectual understanding – a science and philosophy rather than a sexual practice - and the difficulty with Tantric sex is that both participants have to shake off their egos and see themselves as the divine couple, Shiva and Shakti. As soon as they attribute the fantastic experience to themselves, they’ve lost the point, because Tantra isn’t about someone being “good” at sex, it’s about tapping into a universal sexual energy. If ego is allowed into the situation, the bubble bursts, and nothing happens.

Anyhow, my point is this: there’s a lot of bad heterosexual intercourse going on because men have control of it. And men hate anyone to question the rhythm of their thrust in intercourse. It shoots an arrow right to the centre of their being. It’s worse than making a negative comment about their body, or face, or intellect or, even, penis. Rhythm is everything. If you don’t believe me, try it. Take control yourself. If his erection collapses, if tears rolls down his cheeks, if he gets angry, or accuses you of being a sex maniac, don’t be surprised. The rhythm of intercourse is the last bastion of patriarchal control, and men want to keep hold of it.

Some couples oscillate at the same rate – they have the same desires as far as fast and slow is concerned. Fine, good for you. But most couples have to come to an understanding about what works for them, and when. Otherwise, the man takes control rather like a conductor of an orchestra, moving the woman to this position or that, to the left or right, on top or bottom, and deciding what’s going on, and when. This might work for you, for a while, but ultimately it can get boring. And, dare I say it, you might feel used.

If a man puts his hand on your head and pushes you towards his groin, he’s conducting the proceedings and you’re being played. But you’re not a violin, you’re a conductor too, so you decide what’s going to happen, and say “no” if you want to. We’ve learned from feminism that it’s women who have to step up and claim their rights; while men, collectively if not individually, have resisted change all the way. So don’t expect a man to voluntarily modify the only sex behaviour he’s ever known, the patriarchal way, to one of sexual equality. He probably doesn’t even know what that is. It’s up to you to establish equality between the sheets. Nobody can do it for you.


Casual hook-up sex is no place to have a discussion about the patriarchal sex paradigm, so don’t expect too much there. And why do it anyway? Bad sex doesn’t improve self-esteem or alleviate loneliness and hook-up sex can be bad, especially for the woman. Ask yourself, “is it worth it?”

Sexual liberation isn’t about having lots of sex. It’s about having the sex you want, and that’s quite another thing.  

The author of the Kama Sutra, Vãtsyãyana, said over 1,500 years ago “As variety is necessary in love, so love is to be produced by variety.” Ancient Indian texts on sexuality recognised that each person is a rich kaleidoscopic mixture of characters. At different times, even in the same day, a man can take on eight different roles. Likewise, the woman can be wife, sister, heroine, virgin, mistress, whore, priestess, and mother. They say all these aspects of the personality are there to be expressed, not suppressed, because when people live boxed in one role they get bored.

With sexual variety just a swipe away, it’s never been more important to keep that variety alive within the context of a single relationship. So don’t be afraid of expressing your whore, mistress, or priestess. Find your eight roles and, because a relationship is just that – relative – it will at the same time show your partner that he has eight roles too.

This isn’t about stopping your man from straying; it’s about you coming out from that passive, submissive, compliant, patriarchal paradigm and finding your true complex self.