Dating is hard. That's absolute. But dating while being a sexually liberated woman? The only thing harder than that is your grandpa amped up on Viagra. I know this because I myself am a self-proclaimed sexually liberated woman and I've considered changing all of my dating profile photos to a large scarlet 'A' for the better part of five years. I mean, if nothing else, that might spare me from having disingenuous conversations forced to spark from a series of "WYD" messages.
My relationship with men has always been made complicated by the fact that I enjoy sex, sex talk, and to add a little razzle dazzle I went and made a career of it—complicating things that much more. The equation seems off, right?
I know but here's the hard truth (for the fellas reading): men like it when a woman is sexual on their terms, not her own.
You know how the old saying goes, "lady in the street, freak in the streets"... except when they're cat-calling you, of course. We live in this cultural narrative that if a woman is speaking, acting, or dressing sexually by choice, she's tarnished, disgraceful, and therefore not to be touched—we live in the patriarchy.
Us women, the sexual ones, are an afterthought for relationships and at the top of the list for hook-ups.
In fact, men are quick to open up to us about all the freaky, kinky little things they want to do but are timid men of the missionary when it's time to please their full-time girl. Men who are working on "celibacy" with their partner hit your DM to be slutted out in order to maintain the idea that their girlfriends, wives, and lovers are virginal, innocent, and unlike us. To show that their significant other is deserving of the respect we're far too uncouth to garner.
These respectable women don't talk about sex and they don't express pleasure to the world outside of their men and tight circles. And that's fine but so is being sexual and when we're sexualized, it's a dangerous rabbit hole for all women. After all, it is the floodgate to "pick-mes" and rape culture.
The Difference Between Being Sexual vs. Being Sexualized
Feminist Authur Farida D. speaks briefly about this on Instagram and more in-depth in her book, Rants of a Rebel Arab Feminist. She breaks down the dichotomy of being sexual vs. being sexualized, highlighting the danger of being sexualized for being sexual. She maintains that the danger of playing to this patriarchal view that women who inner-stand their sexuality without fear are whores—making inhumanity and violence justifiable.
She unearths the ways in which one creates more shame, while the other empowers and I think it's important for each of us to understand this. Both women and men alike have the ability to perpetuate patriarchy, and playing into the virgin/whore dichotomy does just that.
Furthermore, being sexual is a mood for some and a personality trait for others, either way it serves to coexist with other valid, human traits and moods.
Unpacking The Dangers Of Sexualizing Women
Yet, when women are being sexualized, men are more often than not dismissive and/or obtuse in regards to our feelings or thoughts. Our feelings are diminished as if being decidedly sexual reduces our ability to feel and understand/display a range of emotions. This type of sexualization implies that sexual women are incapable of range and perpetuates the dichotomy between the whore and the virgin good girl trope. Which, no surprise there, as society has a bad habit of trying to box women into monolithic labels.
We see this often with the typical asexualizing that comes with motherhood (outside of the M.I.L.F.)—once women step into imperious roles such as mom and wife, it seems difficult for them to find their way into any other roles. They're no longer responsive to adjectives that may have described them prior to motherhood.
But, I digress.
On Normalizing Respecting Sexual Women & Dismantling Patriarchal Views On Sexuality
Let me take a step back and point out that deducing sexual women to just that and removing their humanity by ignoring their emotions is the very same thing that sex traffickers used to justify their wonton raping of Black enslaved women. They were too wild and animal-like to have emotions. They just wanted to be fucked and thus these white traffickers were doing the world and these women a favor. However, we happen to know that rapists don't need a reason to rape and sexually assault women. We know that women have been raped while wearing everything under the son, from burkas to string bikinis.
Sadly, sexualizing one woman is a continued threat to all women as it upholds the tenants of rape culture — the tenants that don't hold rapist accountable. It places the responsibility squarely on women and leaves unhinged men blameless.
Hell, it perpetuates the antiquated notion (mentioned above) that men are unable to control themselves and "unhinged", thus it is up to the wholesome, godly women to close the moral gap. As a man, you might take time to unpack your feelings around sexuality as a whole. Pause, and ask yourself where these antiquated beliefs come from and think further back than your mother. Who taught you what a "lady" was? How do your thoughts around sexually liberated women work with or against your feelings around your own power dynamics? Journal about the things that are coming up for you.
I think introspection is the first step to checking the privilege attached to patriarchy in order to get past this notion that one can only respect women who they are romantically attracted to. Or your mother.
Sexualizing women, whether sexual or not, has major implications that range from the erasure of the erotic to hyper-surveilance and policing of women and their bodies.
We deserve to live in a world where we're free to exist as our most comfortable selves, yet we're still bound to colonial ideals that imply women are merely property.
Featured Image by Giphy