September 18, 2020

Vibrant feminism. If there is no pleasure, it is not our revolution

Ana Requena Aguilar (Madrid, 1984) is a journalist. She was part of the founding team of in 2012, the medium in which she has worked since then and which currently works as chief gender editor. She is the author of several specialized essays. ‘Vibrant feminism. If there is no pleasure, it is not our revolution ‘is her latest book, from which we reproduce the introduction.

Introduction: the suitcase

This book begins with a suitcase. It is purple, medium, 67 by 46.5 centimeters, I don’t know how deep. I purposely bought it for this trip. It is August and I have decided to go to Paris for eight days, alone and without the expectation of having much company in the city. I am 34 years old, but in just four months, in the middle of Madrid’s autumn, I will be 35. In one of the books I have read recently they say that it is the age of grief, and the truth is that at this moment it seems like a definition very successful. I have tickets and a reservation for an apartment in Montmartre, but I am missing a suitcase. I walk around Madrid when I see it in the shop window: purple and, therefore, perfect. I fill it with clothes and books and, inside the toiletry bag, I put my little travel vibrator. It is also purple.

Paris turns out to be just what I needed. It gives me air and space. I am alone with myself for a long time and that, for a mother of a child who has not yet turned four years old, is an almost strange substance that you taste as if you were about to ingest a hallucinogen. I masturbate a lot, I masturbate a lot. I masturbate when I wake up, or before I go to bed.

I masturbate on the sofa in the living room, which overlooks the Sacré-Cœur. I masturbate at any unexpected time of the day, when I come back from strolling along the Boulevard Saint Germain, when I feel that I am bored or while the macaroni is cooking, when I am writing and I need a break or when I think about sex and my body overflows. The little elongated purple vibrator takes its place on the bedside table, resists my blows, one battery is enough to keep humming. I am a mother, yes, and I am alone on a trip and I do not miss and masturbate and wish to have sex; I imagine lovers above me, below me, behind me, in front of me. I am the epitome of sin, of what is wrong, of what does not fit in a woman, at least in the good woman that one day they invented and that is there, in the depths, to confront our little liberations.

On the last day, I don’t quite know how, I end up at a party next to the Saint-Martin canal in which people shake and dance and some people end up taking off their clothes. We are in a wine bar, we have closed the door and we play loud music while the owners open bottles and serve us glasses without asking. I have masturbated that day, that’s for sure, I masturbate every day with my little vibrator, but I still want more. I don’t know almost anyone, but hands and kisses are shared generously and with no questions other than the assent of those who give and receive. So I dance and lean in and let my body and its fluids drain.

The next morning I pack my suitcase and get ready to catch a flight with a hangover. It doesn’t matter because I feel euphoric, on the verge of exploding, it is one of those times when my body seems to me like a sensual instrument that can also vibrate and emit melodies. On the plane I take my place – the window, thank goodness – and lean my head against the fuselage. Two and a half hours later, in front of a baggage belt at the Madrid-Barajas airport, I wait for my suitcase. And I wait and wait and wait. The tape does not move and those of us who have gathered there begin to lose patience. Half an hour passes and then another. The rumors begin. “It seems they are going through a suitcase with something suspicious,” I hear next to me. Then an idea comes to mind, it suddenly appears to me, like those little light bulbs in cartoons. But it can’t be, is it really that? I think of my vibrator, my little friend, in the toiletry bag. Will it be turned on in the middle of the flight? Is that the security problem that has us there waiting? The answer is yes.

Not long after my suitcase arrives. Violet, almost new, with a security numeric lock… and vibrant.

“Put on the face of an empowered woman, put on the face of an empowered woman, you are a feminist,” I say to myself as I pick her up and raffle off the other passengers. So I leave Barajas between suspicious glances with a large purple suitcase and almost new that does not stop vibrating and with the confidence in myself fighting against 34 years of stereotypes. Feminism messes everything up, I think, even airport security. Also what you thought you learned about yourself.

On the way home my suitcase continues to vibrate, the battery must be long-lasting. I think of the shame, or maybe it was modesty, that I felt at the airport. It adds to other embarrassments, other trials, which, if I remember, date back to my adolescence or even earlier. What do you do sitting with your legs spread instead of being collected, like the ladies. What are you doing going out with that short skirt, then don’t complain. What are you doing reciting a Bukowski poem out loud in the middle of your sophomore high school literature class – “and my stiff cock went into the miracle” – when at seventeen the hormones are better seen in them and Bukowski still looks like a offender. What are you doing having sex on “the first date”. What do you do sending risque photos without your recipient ever asking you to. What are you doing saying “not like this”, “eat my pussy”, “give me more”. What do you do wishing and making it known that you want. What do you do asking and proposing instead of shutting up, waiting, playing hard, don’t go so easily to give what they want. What does a mother do traveling alone and masturbating like crazy. What do you do writing without waiting for them to write to you. What are you doing showing yourself sexual and hoping that others will not see only one wolf. What do you do wanting a wild but also careful sex. What do you do thinking that there may be other ways to love each other and to fuck. What do you do behaving like this and hoping that later they love you, appreciate you, answer your messages, see you.

Feminism is a way of being in the world. And it is right there, I think, between the collective and the individual, between being and the desire to be even better, where feminism has made me feel subject and has been giving me weapons that I continue to use as I can.

Somehow, I tell myself, sex and desire have always been there, cutting through our identity as women to qualify us, divide us, harm us, discipline us, control us. Somehow they have managed to make us feel ashamed or modest, that the weight of judgments and fear – not to be believed, to not be wanted, not to be loved – crushes our autonomy, our expression. They have made our bodies feel like hostile places to control, to hate and to try to change, always to no avail. That we pretend orgasms to please, so as not to have “problems”, that we tame our desire in order to appear desirable to others. They have made the pleasures for us secondary actors and guilt the main course, except when it comes to the enjoyment of others.

One afternoon, in the mirror of my room in Paris, I look at myself and I like myself. I like my body, but, beyond that physical image that I see, I like to feel desiring, perhaps freer than ever and yet with so many stigmata still hurting me, some digging deep into my stomach. But at least now, I tell myself, I am a subject, never an object again, although it may be too risky to pronounce “never.” I remember then that phrase by Simone de Beavouir, which I went to see in the cemetery during my stay, which says that feminism is a way of living individually and fighting collectively. I also remember that feminism is a way of being in the world. And it is right there, I think, between the collective and the individual, between being and the desire to be even better, where feminism has made me feel subject and has been giving me weapons that I continue to use as I can.

I share the anecdote of the suitcase with a couple of people who love me and I tell them that maybe I will write about it and about everything it has suggested to me. Kind, you invite me not to. I am a serious journalist, they tell me.

From that moment until just this one in which I write I have not stopped wondering what the hell my pleasure and my sexuality have to do with my seriousness or with my professionalism, with my qualities, with my suitability for something, with my “value”. It is patriarchy, friends, who put all these concepts in a shaker and stirred to turn sex and pleasure into a weapon, one more, with which to discipline us. So I open a Word file and start this book to continue fighting the battle of feminism, a feminism of pleasure and enjoyment where, always, the personal is political.

I get home and drop the suitcase, which seems exhausted from so much enjoyment. I open it and in my toiletry bag I find that little vibrator that doesn’t stop moving. I turn it off and put a warning on my mobile: buy batteries. At the end of the day, while I have a beer and a pincho of tortilla to celebrate my return to Madrid, I draw advice and a conclusion from all this experience. The advice: remove the battery from your sex toys before taking a plane, you will save battery and avoid anti-terrorist alarms. The conclusion: “If I cannot dance, it is not my revolution,” said Emma Goldman; I say that if we cannot desire and enjoy without being penalized, it is not our revolution.


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