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Female Sexuality: In Need of Another Revolution

30 October 2008 9,067 Views 6 Comments author: Isabelle M.

How does a modern, 21st century woman deal with sexuality? More importantly, how does society as a whole deal with female sexuality? Looking back in history, it’s one of the most complex, confusing and, at times, frustrating issues our gender has had to deal with. Throughout history, the female form has been associated with fertility (the “mother” figure) and love (Venus/Aphrodite) yet human traits like chastity and modesty have traditionally been attributed to women. Female sexuality has been worshipped in an abstract form, but shied away from in reality. Good girls save themselves for marriage. Good girls do not sleep around. Good girls do not behave like sexual predators, for that is the domain of the male. Like my friend once remarked: “The difference between a slut and a stud is only two letters and they’re contained in the prefix fe-.” Good girls, in other words, do not embrace and enjoy one of mankind’s most primal instincts. But history moves on and society evolves. A couple of sexual revolutions, a feminist movement or two and a turn of the millennium further and we’ve come a long way. But the question is: Have we come far enough?

Every human has the same basic, biological needs. Food, shelter, companionship, intimacy. Yet sex, one of the more overwhelming human needs, has always been a cultural issue and humans have always judged it by different standards. By a religious standard, sex is to be saved exclusively for marriage and exists for the purpose of procreation. Granted, Christianity has mellowed in modern times although the Church’s stance on birth protection is still old-fashioned.  But there are other religions where the female is still expected to be a virgin on her wedding night and adultery is punishable by stoning. Inconceivable by Western standards, there are still cultures that use religion as an excuse to perform clitoral removal surgery on young women to prevent them from enjoying sex.  By a male standard, female sexuality has often been submissive to male sexuality; not surprising when there are still cultures where the female is submissive to the male in all aspects and not just sexually.

By other standards that women have fought long and hard to change. It is happening, but slowly, and the situation is even more complicated by the fact that there isn’t one standard, there are dozens that all shape and influence how we look at female sexuality. What’s even more confusing is that even feminists can’t agree amongst themselves on a single unifying standard.

© Maxim UK

© Maxim UK

Women should embrace their bodies and feel secure in their femininity. Our gender should be something to be proud of. Yet, a large group of feminists condemns the portrayal of females in many popular media as either “flaunting their sexuality” or “catering to male wish fulfillment”. Can it never be simply a case of a woman who has accepted all aspects of her womanhood? Why is it that when Eva Mendes is pictured in Maxim dressed only in lingerie it’s “male wish fulfillment” while her altogether more risqué pictorial in an issue of the Italian Vogue, in which she featured topless and indulging in a bit of foot fetish, is considered art? Is it because Maxim and Vogue cater to different audiences?  In the current internet age, every image is almost immediately obtainable so why do we still distinguish between a Maxim and a Vogue?

© Vogue Italy

© Vogue Italy

Why is that people apply such negative terms as ‘slut’ and ‘bimbo’ to a Carmen Electra, but give me funny looks when I apply those same terms to notorious womanizers like (in his time) Warren Beatty? Will we always have to live with these double standards?

Hopefully, there will come a time when women can embrace their own sexuality and be judged by no standards than the ones they apply to themselves. Until that time comes, I can only say that yes, we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

Edited by Kiera Chapman

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