Saturday, 24 August 2013

The greatest myth of all: Female Sexual Passivity

Sex, the subject on everyone's (ahem) lips...

I just read this article in Stylist magazine (a little base in some of the arguments, but in general makes some good points). The writer is at pains to point out that women do indeed like sex, and to uphold the lie that female sexuality is passive and male sexuality is active simply gives power to men, and takes it from women.  Moreover she assumes that this differentiation only reminds women their place in society is the opposite of men's and therefore will never be equal.

Then I read a male right of reply, which was written by what appears to be, a very nice bloke, who was keen to stress that not all men walk around with their knuckles grazing the floor, expecting a woman to lie back and think of England.

It got me a thinkin'. I am certain that the age old stereotypes that a man who sleeps around is a stud and a woman who does the same is a slut - are still prevalent today. I've even been in conversations with women friends who have remarked about other women 'getting around' or the like - judging them for their sexual choices. We have been conditioned to do so: nice girls keep their legs together in the hope their chastity will reward them a husband and bad girls get on with the business of opening their legs. Isn't that what we were sold?

At a young age I remember cartwheeling at the boy across the road's house - my T-shirt kept falling upwards to reveal my pre-pubescent chest (a skateboard was similar), and yet I was told off my the boy's mother. She never explained why - and I remember being confused - after all I was wearing shorts, it's not like he could see my knickers! Yet, her son could wee in the bushes - his penis partially hidden, because boys can and girls simply cannot.

As I grew up - this gender divide continued: the boys at school would get drunk at parties and kiss the pretty girls. At one such event I was kissed - and then they proclaimed the boy who did so my 'victim.' Fair enough, I was still in the ugly ducking phase of my looks, but this was unnecessarily cruel to a teenage girl, already riddled with insecurities. It never occurred to me to fight back and argue against them - as girls, you put up, you shut up.

Later working on a TV travel show, my male co presenter was allowed to make wanking jokes, even miming having sex with the female producer and all of this was accepted - virtually encouraged. Then I piped up with a little story of reaching out of my room naked to get a paper and the hotel door banging shut leaving me naked in a corridor - I laughed and was met with stony silence. They looked at me with barely disguised disgust. How one earth did I let THAT happen? Even though co-presenter had helpfully answered his door and handed me a robe without looking - they still were unimpressed. Was I that type of girl? One rule for me, one for him.

Working at a cable channel as the showbiz reporter in the late 90s, it was the norm to hit Davy's bar in Canary Wharf on a Friday. The sports boys and news lads would bray at the bar, encouraging the women to get out their chests, clearly unable to see the difference between women on the channel who read the weather in their bikinis, or presented such shows as 'painted ladies' - naked and those who wanted to report stories for a living. Even so, how dare they bray at ANY woman, regardless of how she earns her money - be it clothed or unclothed. What gave them the right to humiliate and degrade a woman for kicks? Was any of this reported, or frowned upon? Of course not! One of the four bosses there never once looked me in the eyes - he was too busy staring at my chest. And what could I do about it? The man was blatant and yet I had to take this... I did notice that if a woman tried to give it back to this group of 'men' - that she was labelled a ballbreaker, a bitch, a lesbian. Because nice girls took this abuse as a form of attention. Girls who stood up to them were clearly not 'real women.'

Not to generalise, but I think certain men can fear women's sexuality - and their honesty regarding it. Nice girls, don't talk about sex. I look back on my own sexual history and more than anything else I am so grateful to my first love - my first lover - for initiating me into a sexual relationship, without scarring me in any way. This imprinted upon me - made me less insecure about my body, made me more confident about my transition to womanhood. It made me one thing most of all - unashamed. I felt loved, protected and adored. Perhaps that is why I think how a woman's virginity passes, is important: NOT because it should be cherished like some holy grail for Mr Right - some bargaining tool in the quest for social acceptance, but because it is crucial that your early sexual experiences do not tarnish you, or make you feel uncomfortable.

Does it take shows like Sex and The City or Girls to show us that women can like sex - and we don't have to be married or in a relationship to do so? That we also don't need judgement, least of all from fellow women? That until we can applaud women for having the sex lives that they want - with who they want, we will always be the lesser of the sexes?

Women as a rule have been cornered into the role of mother/home maker/nurturer - and perhaps Mother Nature had the greatest hand in this. Any woman who deviates from this is greeted with suspicion. Women who have ambition are bitches, who remain single are spinsters, who sleep with a number of partners are sluts... etc. etc.

As the Stylist article states: Author and journalist Daniel Bergner’s new book What Do Women Want? explores recent studies about female sexual desire. What conclusions did his research draw? That women may be much more predisposed to find monogamy boring, to be sexually voracious and sexually predatory, than men.

Yet we are fed the myth that men want sex and it our job to withhold it (in and out of marriage) or at the very least use it as a weapon/reward. Who ever told us that sex should ever be used for anything other than enjoyment between two (or more if you fancy it) consenting adults?

Two single friends in the last week announced to me that they are desperate to have sex. Their singledom was fine, they just needed to get laid. After all, they individually reasoned, women have needs. Yes, yes they do. And that is totally fine. We don't need men to unleash our sexuality - it is always there. Let's debunk this scandalous myth, that women should be passive - and celebrate women who are brave enough to make no apologies for who they are and what they want.


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