Neutrality, No Longer Pure
A friend tells me that she loves a poem called Quinceañera and that I will too because the s sounds make it sound sensual. I read the poem while shoving a burrito into my mouth, salsa dripping its way down to my thighs, bare in my shorts. She is right. I love the poem. I love the poem because it centers around a girl. I love the poem because she was right when she said that the s sounds contribute to the overall factor of this girl becoming a woman. I want to drown myself in s sounds.
Quinceañera, a word that requires tongue. The narrator is 15 and she is full and she is herself, not a symbol of womanhood or femininity or anything at all, not a vagina for some pretentious 45 year old male to envision himself within; she is sensual for her own pleasure. A woman who washes blood from her sheets on those days when that fucking menstrual blood somehow crawls down the crack of your ass and to the tops of your thighs, digging its way into white cotton, no longer pure.
When I fuck myself, I touch myself deeply, two fingers pushing past hair and dry skin. Today is no different. I like the way that I become something beyond my own control.
I think about the girl that I fuck, about the way that she’ll touch her breasts for me if I ask her to. I think about how sometimes she doesn’t want to, and that’s okay, because she’ll let me touch them for her.
We watched porn together, and this becomes a fond memory; I think of her touching herself while I touched myself, think of the way that I had to balance the laptop we shared on my thigh with my left hand while fucking myself with my right. We laughed at my struggles, and our laughter mingled with moans, and the ceiling fan overhead brought cold chills to the parts of us beyond the blanket.
I come quickly, always faster alone. I find it easier to surrender myself to the ugliness of orgasm when in solitude. I read once that women find it harder to orgasm during sex because we are taught to view ourselves in body parts – a thigh raked with stretch marks trembling, a cellulite-cupped ass cheek being thrust forward in the air, lips curled back over teeth, sweat beading in laugh lines.
Orgasm is the only time that I surrender.
In Feminist Philosophy we talk about the personal as political. We talk about black children being murdered by police officers, and black people fearing for their children. We talk about women called overdramatic for being grateful for anti-date rape drug nail polish when half of their friends have been raped. We talk about lesbians and how being a lesbian may have absolutely nothing to do with men, may be impossible to define, may not need to be defined just so a bunch of straight people feel more comfortable with the idea of vaginas (or whatever else) touching.
In this class I am anxious, am sit-on-the-edge-of-my-seat, am I-qualify-for-way-too-many-of-these. If I raise my hand, I will not shut up. If I don’t raise my hand now, I never will. White girls talk about it being unfair that they get ripped off by mechanics. Straight boys say that all opinions are valid. There are arguments. People move forward.
The blood in my chest is going to war with my veins. It wants to paint the objective people in the crowd with red, wants to teach them what it means to bleed, to hear gay, black, woman and feel a wad of cotton shoved down your throat with each term talked about as if they are just terms, just abstract, not my lived experience.
Sometimes vaginas touch each other. Sometimes one woman places her tongue against the erect clitoris of the other’s. Sometimes one finger slams into a vagina from behind; sometimes there are two fingers, or three. Sometimes there are teeth on shoulders. Sometimes there is something almost lyrical about the suction of sweaty breasts linking and being torn apart by friction. It is a kiss of skin.
When I tell my mom that I’m hooking up with a girl, I am 20 and my mom is 46 and we are in the kitchen in the house I grew up in. My small white mother stands on the opposite side of the counter; I sit in the chair at the kitchen table where I always have. I read the entire Harry Potter series in this chair. I read a book about sexual health in this chair. My mother laughed at the way that the condoms were all wearing smiley faces.
Now, she stares into the box of double chocolate fudge cake mix like it holds all of the answers. I have just told her the only answer she needs, but she needs more, needs double chocolate fudge to say this will be fine in a year but chocolate fudge can only fill your teeth and protect you from speaking, so my mother just keeps stirring, and I swing my feet in my chair even though I’m too old and too tall for that; my toes scrape the uneven wood floor my parents put in and I let myself cry.
I am 21 and my girlfriend and I are in a small bar in North Carolina, her home town and where I go to school. We are kissing and 50% of me is aware of the red blue green lights flashing on her pale, freckled skin, but 50% of me is aware of the boys who line the wall and watch; did you know that women are murdered for loving other women? Did you know that it’s even worse if you’re not white? Did you know that it’s even worse if you’re not thin?
I kiss the beautiful girl that I fuck and I thank god that she’s white and thin and I watch the colored lights reflecting on her skin, keep my eyes open, keep my eyes on the boys who watch, relieved in a sick sort of way that they seem pleasured rather than inflamed, are fucked up enough to assume that we kiss on their behalf.
I let my beer-soaked mouth consume hers and pretend that we are safe.
My girlfriend and I are in Annapolis, Maryland, and we are walking the harbor. She has never been to Maryland, so I am giving her a tour of my home’s capitol. We are surrounded by wealthy people staring at boats. We have just eaten ice cream. The air is cool, and the back of her hand brushes mine as we walk.
We are taking a selfie in front of the water. A woman approaches. Her cardigan makes her seem like a mother; it is a thick fabric, woven in an obvious way. She feels like warmth and JC Penney. I don’t fear her.
She says, would you like me to take a picture of you two? We look at each other, smile; I say, yes please; my southern girlfriend says, yes, m’am. We stand close, smile big. The woman nods.
Thank you, we say, and the woman walks off. I look at my girlfriend.
She says, that never would have happened where I live.
I nod, watch the woman walking away, notice two girls following behind her, one marked as our photographer’s daughter by her hair loose ringlets, pointed chin; the two girls walk closely, hips bumping, hands locked tight as if nothing—not fear not politics not murder rates not hate crimes not cool Annapolis wind—could separate their palms.
I don’t realize that I’m afraid to kiss a girl until I leave my hookup’s apartment and she walks me outside and kisses me in her acid-haze and a boy walks by and I am one thousand percent convinced that we will be murdered within the minute. He does not flinch, but I do, feel my lips twitch against my hookup’s. The air is hot and sticky and she is covered in a layer of sweat, grinning at me, eyes wide and sleepy at the same time. I say I’ll see her later and I walk the five minutes to my own house with my phone ready and my keys out.
My first girlfriend and I are together in Los Angeles for three months and we only engage in a public display of affection once, dancing in a dark bar that only lets me in because I’m hot and almost 21. I assume that this means that she is ashamed of me because everyone in West Hollywood and half of the people who live off of Sunset like we do are gay. I never say anything about it; I watch her hand as she cups a mug of coffee, watch her lips as she blows the steam away, whipped cream moving with it. I am jealous of her mug, jealous of the whipped cream for getting to hold her breath. At home, we fuck violently, her hair in my hands and her face between my thighs. In public, we walk a foot apart, no part of us brushing.
In the record store, straight men flirt with me, and she stays on the other side of the aisle. Disconnected.
I don’t understand this until my second girlfriend, the woman I fall for when I’m 21 and no longer in Los Angeles but in North Carolina, says, I never know when I’m allowed to hold your hand.
I am late to a meeting for my internship because my girlfriend was ill the night before and I was taking care of her. One of my coworkers emails me, says, is your girlfriend okay?
The other sees me at work the following day, says, I hope everything was okay with your friend.
I sink into the soft cushion of my office chair, tell her everything is fine, thanks, think about the difference between people, wonder if they can taste the scent of their words as well as I can, wonder if you have to kiss a girl to be able to taste closely enough to know it, that scent, that scent that says, I Support You I Promise I’d Just Rather Not Know.
My dad calls, asks how I am. When I say I broke up with my girlfriend, he says he hopes that I’m okay.
Two weeks later, when he calls again, I say I’m back with her. He says, who?
In the spring of my junior year of college, I am called conceited and overdramatic for writing a poem about fucking a girl and making her come. The comments say, orgasm isn’t like this. They say, I don’t think you get to make this such a big deal. They say, this is pornographic.
I think about clits and the way that they rub. I think about sweat, hair, cellulite, pimples where no one things that they are supposed to be but where they always are, fleshy stomachs tumbling together. I think about the way it feels to get a girl off.
I continue writing about getting girls off.
Over dinner, a friend and fellow writer asks me what types of writing count as feminist. I wipe burrito juice from my skin and tell her that I like anything that goes beyond some dude jerking off and calling it art. We cringe, because we can see it: a fist, rapidly tugging; mouth open, air sucked through gritted teeth; semen splattered against the wall, white and thick, art.
About the author:
Rachel Charlene Lewis studies creative writing at Elon University in North Carolina. She writes almost exclusively about women who are/want to be/were once in love. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Vagabond City Literary Journal, the nonfiction editor of Colonnades Literary and Art Journal, and a co-founder of The Fem.