Written by Katherine Copas
Gone are the days when society pressured women to wear long skirts and corsets, but the ladies of today are still bound to old-fashioned ideas about sexual freedom. Women and men both have carnal instincts, so logically, if sex is natural and desired, both should be able to partake in the activity without facing social stigma. How then has it become a societal norm for women to be considered pure and nonsexual beings? Rigid, socially constructed ideals still limit women’s freedom to decide what they can do with their bodies.
Who holds the power in society, and how do they make such strict rules? Mostly the media and various patriarchists in power create the societal rules that genders must abide by. However, recent celebrities like Beyoncé have been speaking out against such stereotypes. Since giving birth last year Beyoncé has been leading by example by breaking motherhood norms. In her February Esquire interview she stated:
“Equality is a myth, and for some reason everyone accepts that women don’t make as much money as men do. I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let’s face it; money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.”
Articles like this remind us that society creates a climate that restricts women’s sexual freedom. The definition of freedom embodies being able to determine one’s own actions; hence women have been denied liberties that men have not. Women face pressures that alter their behavior, and since women have been forced to mold to this restrictive form, they have internalized this idea that they cannot be sexual beings. Women still feel that they cannot do what they please with their own bodies, and if they do, society will punish them with ostracism and a bad reputation.
In a Feministing.com article, Australian feminists Nina Funnell and Dannielle Miller argue that the media only portrays girls who are “wild” and out of control, and these portrayals go along with negative titles that shame the girls. More than this, freedom itself becomes something dangerous – something equated with “wildness” in women, something that therefore must be controlled.
The media is not the only perpetrator of negative stigma; women’s own parents instill anti-sexual ideas into their daughters. Some parents perpetuate the idea that without chastity and purity a girl is no longer desirable, so young women constrain themselves even if they would rather be sexually free. The rule-makers of society often claim that women want and choose to be chaste and nonsexual.
In another article by Feministing.com blogger Samhita, Atlantic national correspondent Hanna Rosin articulates that some young women actually prefer casual hook-ups because “it gives them the freedom to be themselves.” From a young age, young women are socialized to care about their reputation, and if they do anything to damage their self-image, they have forfeited certain privileges (i.e. good jobs, good husbands, invitations to parties).
Will every woman want to be a part of this casual sex culture? Of course not, and they do not have to be. Forcing women into sexualities that they do not want is wrong for many reasons. Women deserve the choice to be anywhere on the sexuality continuum. Gaining sexual freedom can bolster other fights that women face and can help pave the way to true gender equality.
Katherine is a sophomore at Ohio University studying economics and sociology. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineLCo or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via Lip