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Why We Need To Talk About Women And Sexuality 



By Kate Harveston

It’s time we have a serious talk about women’s sexuality in society. There’s plenty of talk about why women should or shouldn’t shave, wear makeup or not, wear heels or not or choose a cup over pads. The deeper conversation about women’s sexuality is still being knocked around the proverbial bush.

Take a look at a recent, striking tweet posted by Twitter user XicanaRebel, which she has translated from a protest poster in Spanish:


            “Menstruation is the only blood that is not born from violence, yet it’s the one that disgusts you the most.”


Source: Twitter


There are 114,880 retweets and 220,307 likes and counting. Reading the tweet feed, there are many comments that all human bodies make gross substances, such as through a runny nose or urination, even pointing out how menstrual blood is a mix of “tissue, blood and mucus.”

So, no biggie, ladies — many men and women seem to be saying, but there are those who tell women their bodies are “nasty” and “gross” for its ability to give life.


Source: Twitter


Yeah, no biggie. Go talk to your mothers about that, guys.

Unfortunately, it’s not only men who do this. Mothers, too, who grew up with unhealthy relationships with their bodies, must struggle against the cultural ideas that their bodies — and their daughter’s bodies — are somehow unclean.

Go Deeper: Let’s Talk About Women’s Sexuality

There are many discussions about the gender politics of women's fake pockets or how contouring makes some women feel like their natural beauty doesn’t matter, while it’s an art for others. Are the fashion and beauty industries advancing with women or holding them back?

There are many sides to the conversation when it comes to women’s beauty, with their own valid points, but when you peel back the layers, it comes down to women’s sexuality. Speakers quote statistics on domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, but it's only in the last couple of years that we're talking about what real consent means.

There is also what young women — and yes, men, too — believe about their personal sexual pleasure, and more often than not, consent and wearing a rubber is the end point.

What about a woman’s entitlement and capacity for sexual pleasure? Many women say they have the power to orgasm deeply, but scientists still think aspects of a woman’s orgasm are a myth, without much research to back it up. For them, there are more important topics to cover — No biggie, right?

Like people have their opinions, they have their entitlement to pleasure, meaning this: women must know they have the right to enjoy sex, be that with a partner or by herself.

Instead of focusing on what gives them pleasure, women are often over-considerate of their partners: waxing, shaving, putting on restrictive corsets and lathering up the makeup because it’s what you do. Nearly three-fourths of women remove pubic hair. Many say they do it for themselves, but when winter comes, how often could that be true?

For women, what part of shaving the genital is their own, and why isn’t all of it their own? Do women accept it because they want to or because it’s trending? Every woman has a right and a need to enjoy her skin, the gift of her body, without having to do all the things a woman “has” to do to “be pretty.”

Society needs to let women find what they need for themselves, but there’s a long way to go — women of all generations struggling with an inherited and conflicted self-image.

Women, Young and Old, Need to Enjoy the Gift of Their Body

While young women are raised by strong mothers, these mothers are often dealing with their own struggles with post-baby weight, staying on trend, aging and all the topics society tells them they should worry about or feel shameful about. And when moms find the natural processes of their bodies disgusting, you can bet their daughters will, too.

Every generation, children watch their mothers struggle with self-image on unconscious levels. As they grow up, they watch their friends try to come into their own and find out what a woman’s sexuality means for them, sometimes with little to no guidance because it’s considered an “awkward” topic.

Fortunately, young girls are now seeing more types of bodies represented in the media with less Photoshop, but only in small increments gauged by some invisible “acceptable” standard and often only when there’s public outcry.

Society is slowly evolving. Women’s health may finally be prioritized over beauty: France recently passed a law, one of the first of its kind, to make sure that "excessively thin" models are medically well to walk the catwalk.

Ovulation and intercourse are taught biologically in classes, but what about how it feels to be a woman when you become one? Women are taught two different things — that their bodies are both sacred and icky. You can bear life, but for nearly half the month, you feel horrible, and those symptoms are often downplayed by medical professionals — the truth is that period pain can be like having a heart attack.

The disgust society has for women’s bodies is becoming a problem: More women are getting cosmetic genital surgery, from teens to women in their sixties. When women are given a narrow view of what their genitals are supposed to look like, it does harm. As of 2009, a medical textbook in the U.S. included its first chapter on plastic genital surgery for women.

What You Can Do to Help Make a Change

Women’s sexuality is a topic that is glazed over far too much in the media and scientific realm. And I’m not talking about sexuality as the sexual appeal of women — we all know the media covers that plenty.

I’m talking about women’s biological processes. For example, why aren’t there more studies being done on the female orgasm? Men can now have Viagra literally delivered to their doorsteps, while some women still can’t figure out how to even get themselves to climax on their own, let alone with a partner. How can we fix this?

Believe it or not, there are leaders in the field making great strides. Meredith Chivers, director of the Sexuality and Gender Lab at Queen’s University, reports the fascinating progress her group is making, and encourages the public to share any and all information on this subject. She hopes that if the public knows that scientists are studying female sexuality, it will send a message.

Additionally, interested advocates can and should browse around online and get involved in some of the movements that are out there. Sites like Our Bodies Ourselves offer a wealth of information on how to become involved, with movements ranging from simply contacting representatives, to working together to create films and advocacy groups for the advancement of the cause.

Other movements, such as the My Body Back Project, work specifically with sexual assault victims to discuss sexuality and ways to reclaim their sexual comfort after surviving an attack. Supporting and spreading the word about groups like this will help them continue to function, as well as potentially reach the people who need them.

The issues related to women’s sexual liberation run beyond if you prefer light or heavy makeup, heels or no heels. The conversation about women’s sexuality needs to go under the makeup, about why women still feel the need to keep their feelings hidden, their sexuality hidden — and undiscovered.

Shaming our bodies, or even flat-out ignoring them, is counterproductive. It’s up to the culture of women — moms of daughters — to start the conversation.