Alix Boraks, charming author of the sex blog Milkshake and Honey, wrote in with this testimony about the ’90s and sexuality:
Full disclosure: I was born in 1991. My firsthand experience of the ‘90s was confined to not understanding what Alanis was so upset about, trying on my cousin’s combat boots, and attempting to peek when my mom covered my eyes during that episode of Growing Pains when Mike takes a life drawing class. I missed out on the first round, but I still proudly identify as a ‘90s woman because of my heavily ‘90s adolescence.
When I turned twelve, I discovered third-wave feminism and Nirvana at roughly the same time. Like any new convert, I overdid it at first. I don’t think In Utero left my portable CD player once during seventh grade; I tried valiantly to read several thick feminist tomes that mostly went over my head and left me with just the barest of basics, which I clung to most excitably. I read Kurt Cobain’s published journals and followed the trails he drew to riot grrrl, to punk, to silvery strands of pro-woman thought.
Let me reiterate: I was twelve. I had no business sneaking peeks at the Lisa Diaries on Nerve when my parents were at work, or having even a poor understanding of what a “zipless fuck” was. But these women taught my young, nearly uncomprehending self a huge and valuable lesson. They taught me that it was okay to be big, even if it meant being a little brutal. It was okay to let my body do some thinking for itself, rather than carefully reining it in at all times, the way women are taught to do. I didn’t understand everything that my body was starting to feel; you don’t, at twelve. I understood that I was meant to be embarrassed by it. The tight-lipped way that my mother had delivered the Sex Talk had made that perfectly clear. Luckily, the big, beautiful, messy women of the ‘90s stripped that embarrassment off my tender young skin before it was too late.
Sure, great thought is the most important spurring force of revolution, but great images aren’t far behind, and the ‘90s are so special to me because of how central women were to its most exciting images. I’m thinking of Kathleen Hanna, scowling off to the side, with the word ‘SLUT’ scrawled across her little round belly. I’m thinking of Donita Sparks and the famous bloody tampon. Women weren’t just intellectual revolutionaries robbed of their own wild sexuality, the way people often thought (and still think) of feminists. Women got to be sexy, and girly, and yet forceful and intimidating. The way I write about sex is drawn from the well of ‘90s womanhood: there’s sex, sure, and there’s lots of it, but what I hope there is above anything is that je ne sais quoi that made the ‘90s woman such a force to be reckoned with. I want to convey equal parts baby doll dress and combat boots. My sexuality owes so much to the women of the ‘90s, because without them, I’d be ashamed and sneaking around.