Listening to a conversation on a bus

I eavesdrop. In enclosed public spaces, I listen to microcosms: the funny, the tragic, the absurdly mundane snippets of the life of people I will never know. It is strangely intimate, learning small details of the psyche of strangers.

I rarely let on that I am an unwanted guest in the conversation. Once or twice, perhaps: passing on helpful information–tourists baffled at the intricacies of the Tube; a person puzzling over the year of the Great Fire Of London. They nod and return to their conversation, as though I were never there. It made very little difference, my interjection.

Yesterday, I sat on a bus. Behind me were three girls, no more than sixteen years old.

They were talking about sex, and I listened.

Two were having sex; one was not, and inquisitively probed for information about the act of sex.

It was heartbreaking. All three of these young women viewed sex as something that was done to them by men.

“Did you let him do you up the arse?” the inquisitive girl asked.

“Yeah. I mean, it’s disgusting and it hurts but he likes it,” her friend replied.

It illustrated neatly the horrifying idea that women do not desire, they are just “sexualised”.

It was horrible to hear. I wanted to intervene.

I wanted to tell them that if you are grossed out by something and do not enjoy it, it is perfectly all right to communicate this. I wanted to tell them that an orgasm is more than just a loud porny moan, that it is your whole body tuning in to your cunt. I wanted to tell them that sex is absolutely fucking awesome.

I wondered where they had learned about sex. Nadine Dorries was clearly wrong. Sex education  is still not like a finishing school for how to host a delightful, mutually-satisying orgy, apparently. Had the young women been taught to sayabstain, at best, they would have only delayed having horrible sex for a few years.

I never learned sex was supposed to be fun for me at school. My parents alluded the notion to me, and I stuck my fingers in my ears because it was kind of minging to hear my mum talk about sex when I was eleven. In fact, I learned it from a Judy Blume book.

I wondered if the young women on the bus had ever read Forever. I doubted it.

I considered speaking up. I began to formulate my words. I knew that bellowing “SEX IS NICE AND PLEASURE IS GOOD FOR YOU” was generally considered inappropriate and would have probably failed to change the hearts and minds of the  young women.

I missed my chance.

They girls got off.

They got off the bus. It was apparent from their conversation there was no other form of getting off.

I had failed.

And I write this now: this message will never reach those young women on the bus. I wish I had blurted out to them.

Perhaps the idea would have germinated.

They deserve better than being trapped inside a set of beliefs that denies them pleasure. We all do.

So to the girls on the bus, to all girls on the bus: enjoy sex. It’s fine. It’s fucking lovely.

6 thoughts on “Listening to a conversation on a bus”

  1. Great blog Zoe! I have to say, I don’t blame you for hesitating. It’s hard to convey all that sex can be, on the bus, in five minutes, to surly teenagers. Maybe you could prepare some pop up cards for next time 😉

  2. some people don’t want their sex to be ‘lovely’. It’s not like tea and cake. And some people expect to be ‘done to’- that is an aspect of a submissive sexuality.

    I am glad you didn’t intervene as there is not much worse I can think of in this realm for a teenager than being lectured about sex by smug older women.

    I am sure they will work everything out for themselves.

  3. I think you are being incredibly judgemental about some young women you did not even meet but overheard on a bus.

    Like I said before. I am glad they missed out on your ‘advice’. I am sure they will be fine. Or not. But they will live their lives.

    Submitting is not always lovely for me. Isn’t that a matter of individuals’ experiences?

  4. I think this is sad too. When I was young our first knowledge about sex was gleaned from the torn up bits of porno mags that seemed to be scattered throughout the woods wherever we went, and then when we started to actually do it it was through experimentation; if we did things that girls liked, they would let us do it again.

    These days with the internet, kids find out about sex in full HD, watching sterile contrived acts that seem to bear no real relationship to how normal people actually enjoy themselves.

    I think this poses a real dilemma as on one hand we shouldn’t allow the internet to be censored but on the other we shouldn’t let our youth be hoodwinked into thinking that sex needs to be done like that.

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