“You seem like a freak.” I’m not sure exactly what it was that made a guy I’d just met tell me this. Maybe it was that I’d said I was a sex and relationships writer, which quickly escalated into a conversation about sex. I didn’t disclose many details of my sex life, other than that I masturbated and considered my own pleasure at least as important as my partner’s. Apparently, these things made me “freaky.”
It’s a word we often use to describe women who are openly into sex. You rarely hear it used to describe a man, unless perhaps he has an unusual kink. Masturbating regularly and caring about one’s own pleasure would not be enough to earn a man that label.
Dictionary.com defines “freak” as "any abnormal phenomenon or product or unusual object; anomaly; aberration." In other words, it’s someone who is abnormal. The label “freak” for a women who is openly sexual reflects the idea that female sexuality is abnormal — that just by wanting and liking sex, we are being deviant. This ties closely to the notion that women being sexual is not what nature intended and is therefore wrong. So, even when it’s not used as an insult, the word “freak” ends up policing women’s sexuality. We’re expected to be demure, passive, receptive, and “feminine,” and anything else is considered weird or “freaky.”
When we use the word “freaky,” we also create a false binary between normal women and sexual women, which renders a huge proposition of women abnormal. We reinforce the stereotype that men are sexually voracious and designed to pursue while women’s role is to be the passive gatekeepers, politely accepting or rejecting men’s advances.
Ultimately, this view contributes to rape culture. It puts men and women on unequal footing. If women don’t have many sexual desires, then they can’t always say “yes.” And if they can’t always say “yes,” they can’t always say “no.” There’s no distinction between sex and rape in a world where women have to be talked into sex.
The policing of women’s sexuality that gets them labeled “freaky” also contributes to the overall control of women under patriarchy. "There is a notion as old as the patriarchy that a woman who is sexual is dangerous," sex educator Kenna Cook tells Bustle.
"Rather than stigmatizing openly sexual women by calling them “freaks,” we should help destigmatize them by acting like it’s no big deal."
"If a women's sexuality can be controlled, so can all of her decisions," she says. "A woman who is sexually free is dangerous for the patriarchy's status quo that keeps anything label female or feminine as weak. A sexually empowered woman is too powerful — and therefore she is a 'freak' by patriarchal society's standards. This can be seen in medical procedures of the past — claiming that the only way to cure a woman's lustful 'hysteria' was to give her a hysterectomy. It can also be seen in the glorification of sexual violence against women in film, normalization of rape culture, and proliferation of slut-shaming."
I kind of get where the guy who called me “freaky” was coming from. It’s not common for a woman to openly talk about her sexual desires or masturbation routine. But it should be. And we shouldn’t take this lack of discussion around women’s sexual desire to mean it does not exist.
Rather than stigmatizing openly sexual women by calling them “freaks,” we should help destigmatize them by acting like it’s no big deal. If you want to give a woman props for talking about her sex life, keep the conversation going by sharing your own experience or observations. The best we can do is encourage discussion about sex, which means acknowledging that those who express their sexuality are just like the rest or us, not “freaks.”