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See her, Hear them. Defining "Womanhood"

We spoke to Demi (Now Dee) Whitnell- the founder and presenter of the podcast and social media account Soft Limit which is all about discussing hush hush topics which shouldn't be so... well hush hush! Demi is a BA English graduate from London, writer, poet, creator and sex educator...and a plant Mum! We asked Demi a few questions and they have shared with us a brand new blog "See her, Hear them". Enjoy!

Womanhood to me is something I have had to craft myself. The definition I was given as a child is something I have had to rewire myself to disbelief. Womanhood to me, means that I am whole with or without a partner. I am not someones 'other half' because that means I am not whole on my own when in fact, I am. I am not defined by my ability to find a husband or have a child, I am not defined by my level of attractiveness. I am defined by what I choose to define myself with. I am a woman and I am whole.

What do you think inspired your passion in becoming a sex educator?

I was bullied for many years as a teen for exploring my sexuality and interest sex in a greater depth than my peers. I knew about BDSM and hardcore scenes before anyone my age and because of that, I was labelled 'Freak', 'Perverted', 'a sex pest'. No other girl my age was as outspoken about sex as I was which made the girls turn against me. Instead of allowing myself to be consumed by these labels as I matured, I dedicated my time to educating myself on the things I enjoyed, I weaponized my interests so that I could retaliate if anyone was misinformed about my desires and wished to throw insults my way. Now, I wish to arm other young individuals who may feel alienated for their sexual desires or experiences.

What does the ideal world look like, for womxn?

It is one we create. Not only do we need to rewire the stereotypes that society forces upon us or the laws/social norms with restrict us such as lower pay rates or the pink tax, we need to rewire our own thoughts towards women. We need to stop analyzing one another and ourselves through the eyes of society, we need to come together as one unite to deconstruct the world as we know it.

What message would you give to younger self about the world as it is now?

As time goes on, the world does get scarier. New fears arise, disasters happen, chaos and heartbreak will always be part of the journey but it is how you react and arm yourself for these moments that make a difference. Educate yourself. Knowledge is one of the most powerful tools you can have and more often than not, it's completely free. Do not define yourself by your partner, you are more than enough on your own. One day, you will become a strong female, sex educating voice which will help others who are in the place you currently are in. Growth is important, it can be painful but it is needed.

I have commented on this matter before but since my last piece via my own blog, I have experienced it in a more direct manner and in a much more heightened way since deciding to pursue a career in sex education.

As someone who is open about sex and wants nothing more than for others to be open for sexual discussions, it can come as a real blow when people, specifically in my case men, feel that I am ‘easy’ because I speak freely about all things sex.Being hit with backlash from family or friends who do not believe that sex is a common place conversation to have with afternoon tea or see sex education as a long-term career, is extremely difficult, especially from the people you hold dearest. However, the most uncomfortable experiences I have been through are when men use my openness to slide into my DM’s and with the climb of my Podcast Soft Limit, I am becoming more of a target. The stigma about women who speak openly and apologetically about sex is a reason less women wish to do so. Being seen as a ‘tart’ or promiscuous is damaging and ironic when our goal is to debunk those negative connotations which surround sex which surprisingly are thrown towards women sex educators.

In my experience, men have noticed my investment in BDSM culture, specifically with my dissertation on BDSM representation in mass media, and have taken that as a free-pass to flirt but why? What is it about the openness of discussing sexual explorations which do not stand practices that give men the impression that I am single and/or willing to engage with them? Another questions why does flirting become sexual harassment specifically online? With online flirting, it is easy to overstep the boundary of flirting and there is a belief that if a woman is outwardly stating her interest in sex (either for her own pleasure for her education/ a career) or her single-hood, men pounce. The idea that women who are comfortable with their sexuality are sex hungry derives from the concept of female hysteria, a psychoanalysis theory exclaiming that the lack of sexual enjoyment turns a woman mad. Sexual thoughts was seen to be a symptom, if a women was outwardly open about sex either in discussion or engagement, then she was considered to be ill with the female sickness. Core female sexual acts were seen as symptoms of this disease such as discharge and masturbation. Before Freud, the common treatment for female hysteria was massaging of the genitals, doctors taking advantage of women and in some cases, raping them in the name of medicine.

Why is this important? Well the stigma of women being mentally ill for discussing sex or engaging in sex stands at the core of the negative connotations of women in the 21st century discussing sex. Furthermore, the treatment seems to be for a man to have his way sexually and this seems to be repeating itself in today’s society, the belief that if a woman is open about sex, she must either need sexual pleasure or want it. This concept, either internal or external in our sexual education or society needs to be corrected. Female sexual educators do not educate others on safe sexual exploration in an attempt to get laid just like female sex workers do not want to sleep with everyone! It seems that if women put themselves in the spotlight for being associated with sex, they cannot escape either negative connotations or sexism/flirting from unwanted individuals.

The other side of the coin is women who speak openly about sex and their own sexual experiences being seen as unladylike and in turn, receive negative connotation from the other side of the spectrum. Celebrities such as Amy Schumer receive tons of negative backlash from doing skits that her fellow male comedians do and in some cases, in a very sexist and misogynist manner, however when similar jokes are said from a woman, they seem to flop. A study done in 2000 by Wingood and DiClemente stated that men have more sexual freedom then women, from physical sexual acts to number of sexual partners to careers and discussion on sex. There is a double standard in the ways of sex; young boys are free to discuss their sexual explorations with friends and receive more sexual education on masturbation whilst girls keep their masturbation exploration private, even stating that they do not do it and receive no education on it. Therefore, there is no winning. Too much sexual discussion means you will receive unwanted flirting and sexual harassment or you will be seen as unladylike.

With my podcast taking off, men have used this as gate way to flirt by using the disguise of asking for advice. These can include talking about their own body-parts or challenging my beliefs/posts in order to strike conversation which then will lead to a conversation I personally do not wish to have. Women who put themselves out there as sex educators, also endanger themselves to not only criticism but to these concepts of being 'easy' or 'fuck-able'. Apparently, a woman cannot discuss sex without offering it on the table.

As I have said previously, just because my mind is open does not mean my legs are! Discussing sex is not an invitation for sexual engagement and it also does not mean that I am sex hungry. Girls need to receive more sex education and be encouraged to discuss sex openly as boys do, education must consider the negative connotations which surround female sex and right the wrongs. This does not discredit female sex educators because I am one of them, rather this is highlighting the difficulties we face in the world of sex education. Patriarchal beliefs, sexism, objectification, racism, homophobia, transphobia seems to be part of the package of becoming a public sex speaker and we must tackle those negative energies with our kinky sexual ones. We are strong women.

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