Sex is Normal is a series of photos that mock puritanical conceptions of what is and isn’t ok for women to enjoy during sex. Words and photography by Elaina Ransford, artistic direction and gorgeous face by Timothy Heller.
In the first season of Girls, Shoshanna (a virgin) quotes a sex advice book to her friends, which says that you should never let a man fuck you from behind, because it’s degrading. Jessa, however, is appalled by this advice, saying, “What if I want to feel like I have udders?! This woman doesn’t care about what I want!”
There’s an ongoing argument about what is and isn’t “degrading” to women in bed. One camp believes that are certain sex acts that any self-respecting woman (i.e. the non-whore) would never want or allow in bed. The counter-argument, however, is that it’s perfectly normal and admirable for a woman to seek out any type of sex she pleases—even the kind where she’s treated like a whore. This photo series celebrates that sentiment. It showcases how classically taboo or “degrading” hetero sex acts can be—and for many women certainly are—incredibly erotic and pleasurable.
1. Tea Bagging
As Samantha said, on Sex and the City, “Just breathe through your nose.”
2. Blow Job
In The Gift of Girls, Chloe Thurlow says, “A really good blowjob confirms some primal nostalgia. It puts the world in balance… Your boyfriend’s penis is not an awkward string of spaghetti that has to be scooped up and sucked down. The Emperor of China once asked Lao-tzu: How should I rule the kingdom? To which Lao-tzu replied: Rule the kingdom as you would cook a small fish. A really good blowjob is the same. Be delicate, careful, perceptive. Tickle the pale-skinned cap with your tongue. Run the tip into the groove, push down on the g-spot with your lips or teeth or both – don’t bite, you’re not eating a chocolate brazil nut, just awaken the pleasure zone with tender pressure.”
3. Doggy Style
In her latest book, Maggie Nelson writes “In current ‘grrrl’ culture, I’ve noted the ascendancy of the phrase ‘I need X like I need a dick in my ass.’ Meaning, of course, that X is precisely what you don’t need (dick in my ass = hole in my head = fish with a bicycle, and so on). I’m all for girls feeling empowered to reject sexual practices that they don’t enjoy, and God knows many straight boys are all too happy to stick it in any hole, even one that hurts. But I worry that such expressions only underscore the ‘ongoing absence of a discourse of female anal eroticism.’” Basically. don’t knock it ’till you try it!
4. Golden Shower
As any lover of Sex and the City remembers, Carrie’s picture-perfect politician boyfriend asks her to pee on him. This taboo (and yet pervasive?) act was so hilariously abhorrent to her, that, after they break up, she ends up revenge mocking him for it in her column. When couples’ perversions don’t match up, the one with the more normative desires ends up with the power to criticize the other, or to find a “reason” for the desire—e.g. “he likes to be choked because he was abused as a child,” or whatever. Bit sometimes, desire is just desire. And sometimes it’s fun to play along with a partner’s deviant erotic fantasies.
A few months ago I had my most adventurous sexual partner tell me he wanted to piss on me. I took me so long to respond to the text, that he then said “jk,” clearly feeling the shame of a taboo sexual desire. Unlike Carrie, I didn’t think he was a freak for wanting this. I only wondered if the pleasure it would give him would be worth participating in an act I’d never considered doing before. I never found out, because my moment of silence had reawakened his deep seated shame over his dom-y tendencies, and he never brought it up again. But now I feel like my apprehension caused me to mis a potentially fun opportunity!
5. Foot Fetish
There’s a pleasure in giving pleasure. Even when couples don’t have what Maggie Nelson terms “matching perversions,” it can be gratifying to have your partner fulfill your fetish fantasy, and vice versa.
6. Paper Bagging
In middle school, another girl called me a “butterface.” It was extremely hurtful, so it’s no wonder that it took me a while to understand the pleasure in face play. Whether it’s being blindfolded, gagged, or having a guy cum on my face, for years I didn’t realize that these acts are just as pleasurable (if not more pleasurable) for me as they are for my partner. Good sex can be gross, ugly and sticky.
7: Dick Slapped
Often, when I’m horny, I crave a large dick on my face, in my mouth, in my hair. The phallus is disconnected from the male body, and becomes simply a member that I want to possess with the most powerful part of my own body: my face. When I have sex dreams, and sometimes even when I masturbate, I can get off to the thought of a dick alone. Different people fetishize different parts of the body or sexual acts, and for me it’s the phallus.
8: Pearl Necklace
My current boyfriend told me that I’m the first girl who’s allowed him to cum on her face. I felt special, but also bummed that I was apparently unique in finding this gratifying, rather than degrading. In the same way that tasting your own cum on your partner’s lips is a super turn-on, watching someone climax on your own body is, to me, one of the ultimate ways to finish sex.
Elaina and Timothy are both genius/misunderstood artists living life broke in LA.