On Desperation

The great thing about analyzing and repeating a word over and over again is that it becomes meaningless.

I want to talk about being called “desperate.”

Women are sold a lie about sex. The lie is that our sexuality is dangerous to ourselves and to others. Girls are taught — in public schools, no less! — that our job is to say no. We’re taught that our most important responsibility in life is to gate-keep access to sex, and that our failure to do so will be deadly. We'll catch diseases, die in childbirth, be cast out, etc. Women internalize from a young age that our desire, our pleasure, our human impulse to want and need, will ruin us. We are taught that our value is in protecting ourselves from ourselves. Our value is in denying what we want, in being malnourished for satisfaction.

I’ve been called a lot of shaming names during my life: whore, slut, trash, bitch, psycho. They really stuck with me when I was a teenager. The one that hurt the most was “desperate.” It implies weakness, a brokenness, a pathetic hunger for more than you deserve. The accusation is that I’m desperate for love, for attention, for validation, and that I’m using sex to fill whatever void is in my soul. It hits a nerve with me, even now, because to be a young woman is to desperately want to be taken seriously.

We’re taught to be forever craving more, and then we’re called desperate when we break out of that mold and pursue a healthy sex life. We’re taught that we are less than, and we’re called desperate when we ask for just a little bit more.

I’m about to turn 27, and I’m embracing desperation. I’m desperate for a world where young girls aren’t taught to hate their sexuality. I’m desperate for a world with equitable access to sexual health information and reproductive healthcare, including safe and legal abortion. I’m desperate for a world where women, transgender and nonbinary people are treated as whole, powerful and equal citizens. I’m desperate for a world where our needs and ambitions aren’t treated as divisive wedge issues.

This world is desperate for a culture where sex isn’t tied to shame, danger and misinformation. This world is ready for a new relationship with desire where we’re taught to talk to each other, not deny or evade or judge.

I want to explore what I was so desperate for in my teens and early twenties. Because I was desperate: for attention, for love, and most of all, for respect. I was desperate for someone to see me as I saw myself: a worthy, powerful young woman who would change everything.

The great thing about analyzing and repeating a word over and over again is that it becomes meaningless. It becomes whatever you want it to mean. 

I was petrified of being dismissed as desperate, when what I actually was… was demanding. I was demanding what I deserved.