Circlusion: Meet Penetration's Other Half
I open up for you. I welcome you in. I want you.
I have prepared for you, for us—for me. Come closer!
I’m in charge for now. I’ll be your host, so let go as I usher you in: Pull you, grab you, squeeze you. When you get close, I slide onto you; wrap myself around you.
As we move together can you feel me clamp onto you? How I nuzzle and brace you? Pull you, envelope, cloak, and cradle you? Do you sense my gentle clutches? The tugs and nudges, the more forceful squeezes? Look at how I lift my hips to meet you. How I roll like waves that crash against you.
Even when I’m still, do you notice how I hold you? Hold space for you?
As I release you to retreat — as we cocoon intertwined while our breathing slows — how would you describe this scene that unfolded?
Did I just get fucked?
Fucking—to fuck — insinuates that one does something to someone else, while the other has something done to them: One is fucking. The other gets fucked. One is penetrating. The other gets penetrated. The word fuck is said to be the most versatile in the English language. And while that may be true, I personally believe it to be overused; lacking at best. It fails to acknowledge the deliberate and engaged actions that go into the role of receiving in sex.
When we host someone in our home, we actively receive our guests. When a friend has had a hard day and we swaddle them in our arms, we actively receive them in a hug. This is also true for actions that don’t involve others; we open our mouths to ingest a bite of chocolate cake. If we’re active when inviting somebody into our homes, we must be active, inviting, and holding them in our bodies.
Circlusion is a term proposed by writer Bini Adamczak in 2016 as an antonym to the term penetration — one that shifts the framing of sexual power and politics — and I’m on a personal mission to normalize this concept and establish it as part of our daily language.
On that note, I will tell you exactly what happened in the scene above: I just circluded you.
Well, you fucked me too—circluding you, fucking me, etc—because, active and passive are mutually dependent. The two roles are also interchangeable.
While penetration insinuates pushing into something, circlusion means pushing or sliding something onto something else. And, since the actions are reliant on each other, one can’t happen without the other, circlusion emphasizes the value of both parts acting in harmony with each other.
Circlusion gives agency to the person on the receiving end of penetration — whether this happens with a vagina, an anus, a hand, penis, dildo, or another toy or object — the one penetrating is simultaneously being circluded, and vice versa.
If you think about it, this is quite similar to how feminism isn’t about devaluing men, but about wanting equality. And, while circlusion may be a new term, often filed under the feminist-tag, it’s far from a new idea.
Back in Babylon, the sacred prostitute Ishtar was worshipped as the Great Goddess Har; the Mother of Harlots. The word hor, which forms the roots of whore, meant cave or womb, and harlot meant womb of light. Throughout Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Egypt, and Ancient Greece, sacred prostitutes (priestesses) were empowered women with the ability to heal.
Holding high spiritual authority, she was in charge and would nourish with divine sexuality. It was a common rite that men returning from battle would visit the temples to have the war taken out of them.
It’s clear who holds the power in these interactions, while there’s little to no mention of the penetrator’s participation, to me, the holy harlot is a symbol of circlusion.
It was Patriarchy that established the concept of the Virgin Mother — a woman denied pleasure and agency — a mere receptacle. What’s less disempowering than getting impregnated, not only without a chance to derive pleasure from the ordeal but without prior consent. This is, per definition, rape.
In the case of Mother Mary, we’ve labelled it “immaculate conception”, imprinting the idea that a chaste woman is purer; worthier, more reputable, and more divine.
With patriarchy’s purity culture and the Madonna-whore dichotomy, women were robbed of sexual agency and power. Thus, the act of penetrating came to connote power, and being penetrated became synonymous with disempowerment.
Circlusion is a word of action, giving value to the other—equally significant—part of the equation. It does this by recognizing activities such as opening up, pulling, embracing, surrounding, cloaking, cradling, nuzzling and bracing as autonomous, and, far more significant than existing as a passive vessel.
In circlusion, I take back my power; return to ancient times when the womb was an energetic, multidimensional portal between two worlds. Here, I get to reconstruct my own temple, decide who I allow in, and how we spend our time there.