In our world, “sex” means fucking. It means a man inserting his penis into a woman’s vagina until he ejaculates. After the man ejaculates, the sex is finished. Anything that precedes the man putting his penis into the woman’s vagina is referred to as “foreplay” and anything that happens after the man has ejaculated and is no longer physically able to penetrate the woman with his penis, is “afterplay.” So, for women, “having sex” is being vaginally penetrated by a man’s penis. Women are expected to “have sex” – or PIV – throughout most of their lives and aren’t really offered any alternatives. If they want to be in a relationship with a man, that man is going to expect sex and PIV is sex.
It is in this context that girls grow up so… let’s talk about sex.
All women are born into a culture in which heterosexuality is expected and culturally mandated with PIV as a perceived natural inevitability. Girls are groomed for PIV from the second they open their eyes. If you’re born with a vagina you can put money on the fact that, at some point in your life, men are going to try to get you to let them put their penis inside it. This is true whether you’re a Black woman or a white woman, whether you’re rich or poor, whether you’re lesbian or heterosexual, whether you live in the global north or the global south.
acquiesce consent to a man’s request to penetrate you with his penis you “had sex” with that man.
If a man requests that you allow him to penetrate you with his penis and you withhold your consent then the law (in most cases) says he should refrain. If the man sees that you are withholding consent but then inserts his penis into your vagina anyway, this becomes a crime which we call rape.
Rape and sex are both PIV. Sex is PIV that a woman has
acquiesced consented to and rape is PIV that a woman has actively refused. If a man is accused of rape, he can use the defence of ‘no, this was actually consensual sex,’ or ‘I didn’t see that she didn’t consent. How was I to know not to fuck her if she did not alert me to the fact that she didn’t want to be fucked?
Some radical feminists outright state that all heterosexual intercourse is rape. Some radical feminists disagree and say that statement lacks nuance. A lot of heterosexual feminists say they feel personally insulted by the statement “all intercourse is rape” because they have had personal experience of PIV they wanted and PIV they didn’t want and have processed those experiences as different from each other. I understand that. It makes me uncomfortable too. The whole subject of PIV makes me uncomfortable. I endured it for more than ten years of my life until I discovered radical feminism, read FCM’s Intercourse Series, had my mind blown and quit it. I feel like it’s impossible to get a sense of clarity about PIV and what it does to your psyche until you stop doing it and this is because of the trauma bonding that FCM talks about. Women who are still engaging in heterosexual relationships feel particularly uncomfortable with the suggestion that all intercourse is rape because it means acknowledging firstly that the man you share your bed with is a rapist and secondly, that you possess virtually no social power or bodily autonomy. These are hard things to face.
Another thing that’s hard for women to accept is that we do not own our sexualities. There is not a woman alive today who has an authentic sexuality of her own. All women have been groomed to be penis receptacles in a cultural narrative of man-meets-woman-man-puts-penis-in-woman’s-vagina. We are told we like putting things in our vaginas, especially penises, and that’s about the end of it.
If a girl is lucky enough to receive any sex education, she will be taught the biological basics. She’ll learn that men have penises and testicles and produce sperm and women have vaginas and uterii and produce ova. She’ll learn that when a man and a woman have sex, the man inserts his penis into the woman’s vagina until he ejaculates. She’ll learn that the semen in the ejaculate will render her vulnerable to pregnancy so she will have to protect herself by using a hormonal or a barrier contraceptive. Hormonal contraception is preferable because barrier methods such as condoms, while safer for women, apparently reduce sensation for men which is obviously a no-no. It’s much better that a woman take a pill every day for her entire reproductive lifespan, or get a painful injection every 12 weeks, or have a copper rod inserted into her uterus, or a silicone rod implanted into her arm. She probably won’t learn that 3 out of 4 women never orgasm from vaginal intercourse. She almost definitely won’t learn how women do achieve orgasm. She’ll learn her place as a receptacle.
The American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimates that 3 out of 4 women experience pain during intercourse. For some women the pain is temporary or intermittent and for others it is chronic and long-term. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong yet when women seek medical assistance for pain during intercourse, they are almost invariably given advice or medication or even surgery that will aid them in continuing to have intercourse. The American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology advises women who experience burning pain after intercourse to just wrap some ice in a towel and apply it to your vulva. No big deal. You can also take preventative action like a painkiller before bed!
acquiescing consenting to all this shit because they literally do not know any different. Until I discovered radical feminism, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could refuse.
There’s another way to look at PIV without couching it in the problematic language of consent.
Rape is when a man uses his penis as a weapon against a woman or girl against her will.
Sex is when a man uses his penis as a weapon against a woman or girl with her consent.
PIV can be justified as ‘always rape’ because it always involves the weaponization of the penis against a woman on a girl. The woman may ‘enjoy’ the sensation of having a penis inside her but she wouldn’t be the first woman in the world to eroticize her own subordination as a means of coping with it. Men know that every single time they stick their dicks in a woman, they’re putting her at risk of pregnancy. They know that pregnancy can kill women. They know that if they cause a pregnancy to occur they can walk away at any time with no major social consequences. They know what kind of harm’s way they’re putting us in but they really like ejaculating inside us so they do it anyway.
The thing with PIV is that, much like BDSM, it doesn’t really matter how much you like it and how free you think your choice is when you make it; the activity in itself is inherently harmful. It’s a form of assault. Whether or not you acquiesce to the assault or ‘want’ the assault doesn’t change the nature of the assault.
It’s not a coincidence that PIV is considered the primary human sex act. Let’s face it – men can achieve orgasm with ease. Whether they’re sticking their dicks in women, children, animals, Land Rovers, ambulances, shoes, couches, vacuum cleaners, bicycles, drinks trollies, or their own balled up fists, men make sure they have orgasms. Yet it’s the act of reproductive mating they’ve chosen as the most desirable despite the risks involved for women. The act that carries the greatest risk for women and offers the smallest reward. The act that puts women in a constant state of reproductive vulnerability.
It isn’t possible to categorically state that all heterosexual intercourse is not rape when what men do to express “love” for women (sex/PIV) is the same as what they do to express contempt for women (rape/PIV).