Inspiring Change marks the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, which is Saturday, March 8. Subsequently, I found myself talking to a friend and trying to figure how this could relate to sex culture. Women’s equality has come far socially and politically, but there is also room for growth when it comes to concepts of sexualization.
In the U.S. there seems to be two dueling ideals, which women are expected to internalize: a hypersexualized women and a women who abides by the myth of purity. On one end of the spectrum, we are constantly barraged by ads, articles and TV shows that feature overly sexualized images of women and girls – naked, photoshopped and portraying something that is actually quite orgasmic. They suggest that a woman’s power comes from her being “sexy” 24/7. On the other hand, girls grow up shrouded by the myth that they must be pure, because those who are sexually active are sluts and whores and do not deserve the respect of other women and especially that of men.
This Aston Martin ad embodies both ideals: This women is considered as less because she is “used,” but it’s okay because she is hot.
The hypersexualization of America is commonplace in the world. Many places consider the nude (at a beach, in art, etc…) as casual, natural and a choice for comfort. However, nudity in the States is directly associated with sexuality, partially because of the media surrounding us – media that only portrays the naked form as a perfectly coiffed, made-up sexual object. More often than not the women pictured are women who are hailed as powerful and successful, and we are taught that being sexy is important, because it is the way to achieve power without being “bitchy” or domineering. So, what happens on those days that we aren’t, or at least don’t feel, perfectly sexy according to the terms of society?
As women, our morality is often measured in terms of our perceived sexuality. How often do you read, see or hear bits and pieces on how morality lies in saving ourselves for marriage? That our self-worth is based in chastity and the only way to achieve good ethics is to maintain a sense of purity? Think about it: There are so many terms for girls with a sexual prowess: Slut, whore, skank, tramp, floozy… but, there are just a single few, with much more neutral connation, that apply to men. We are trained to be embarrassed and coy when it comes to anything concerning sex. Apparently our ability to see ourselves as deserving of love and respect also has a carnal basis.
“It’s been echoed to teens over and over again … we have no morals, no dreams, and no future. But I know I am not a part of that same generation. In fact, millions of teenagers are finding out the same thing about themselves. … We have morals and are standing up for what we believe in. … Because of that I am saving sex for marriage.” – Kimberly Gloudemans, Miss California Teen USA 1997
The mold is getting increasingly narrow and what happens when we can’t fit it? This is where there a change is needed! This mold is creates a problem for our sex life, and for the larger sex culture. It seems as if any imperfection is cause for self-deprecating behavior in the bedroom, and we our all guilty of these behaviors at some point or another. Consider the girl who has been sexually liberal as of late. She feels obliged to take a break in fear of the reputation of a slut. Worse, she may feel she doesn’t deserve the respect or love! Then, consider the girl who, I don’t know, hasn’t shaved lately, or showered yet today, maybe she is having a bad hair day. She often will refrain or shy away from sex because she also doesn’t believe she deserves sex, to feel sexy, that day. She also feels that she needs to be perfectly put together when she sees her partner.
There is no room for error, and this lack of wiggle room places immense pressure on women in sexual engagements and in the world at large. Society seems to suggest that unless she is perfect, she does not command respect socially or sexually. This chips away at confidence, which is essentially for a fulfilling sex and/or love life. It is extremely important that we realize that the world has placed these two ideals, sparring in the forefront of culture, but they cannot make us feel lesser! Confidence and “sexiness” comes from within, and we cannot let mass media negatively affect our sexuality!