Some Thoughts about Sexual Empowerment

Anyone who knows me knows I’m no fan of abstinence only propaganda bullshit and all of its disturbing features and results. I think I’ve written enough about it to make my point. But there’s another thing I want to talk about that might not seem as true to my often-stated convictions as you might expect.

It has to do with the new double standard, which is kind of a spinoff of the old one. The basic one is obvious “He’s a Player, She’s a skank.” We know it all. But the new double standard is the one celebrated and adored by the Joe Francises of the world: Sexual Objectification of women= Sexual Empowerment for women. The idea that things like Girls Gone Wild is empowering to women. Yeah. Safe to say, it’s not. But there’s obviously enough liquor in the world to make enough girls think that for an hour or two, and it’s championed by pretty much every advertiser and campaign that’s used women’s bodies to promote or sell their schtick (I’m looking at you, PETA).

I’m not interested in telling anyone what to do with their lives or anything. But this new double standard is troubling, not just because it gives a bunch of exploitative pornographers more bullshit to lurch out of their mouths and fools some women into becoming objects for the pleasure and entertainment for men. It also presents a disturbing picture of how we view sexuality, and indeed, what it means to be “sexually empowered” for women.

Do you need to be sexually active and happy about it to be empowered? Do you need to be “ready” to have sex? Do you need to experiment  sexually? Do you need to be comfortable when experimenting? Or is it something else.

I’m a young woman a month away from reaching the age of consent. So these thoughts about being a sexually empowered young woman have been occurring to me.


I’m not going to mention my sexual state, because that’s nobody’s
business. I’m not ashamed or afraid, I merely think nobody outside of
those I at least know personally really want or need to know. But the
point is, I’m not ashamed. I’ve never been ashamed of who I am
sex-wise, and I’m not afraid to be open about sex in general. I go to a
Catholic School, and while I don’t ever seek out excuses to speak
frankly on the subject, I do speak about it openly when the subject
turns to that. And I do speak openly then. I’ve said point blank to
classmates that I think the Clitoris is God’s gift to women. I’ve told
dirty jokes, I’ve talked about sex and my views on it, I’ve talked
about rape. It’s no secret to anyone at school that I’m a feminist, and
a few times I’ve had people stop me because they noticed that I’m
carrying a book with the title, in big letters, SLUT!
(written by the amazing Leora Tanenbaum, if you haven’t read it, check
it out, that book will blow you away) or something of that nature on
the cover. I don’t force the subject or continue it when people don’t
seem very receptive, and if I say something that makes people feel too
uncomfortable, I’ll joke about it. On our question packet in our
Abstinence-only sex class, there was a question about what could help
kids to embrace their sexual identities without engaging in pre-marital
sex and I wrote, without hesitation “masturbation.”

I’m not trying to show off, and in fact, some people find me pretty
quiet, but they know if a subject regarding feminism, politics, social
issues, sexuality, books, rock, or hockey comes up, I have something(s)
to say.

And I don’t feel embarrassed when I talk about these things. Not
with boys, not with girls. I am always eager to share something I think
a friend or classmate will respond to in a positive manner. Sometimes,
though, I forget that not everyone is as easy with this stuff as I am,
and I go to far (though I never try to ask them about what they do
themselves, I don’t bring up personal stuff, just issues in  general).
And I wonder why, why are people, both sexually active and non-sexually
active, are so embarrassed. Is it because still, even in this day and
age, with such a pornified culture, we still are uncomfortable with
ourselves sexually?

And I think, right there, is what sexual empowerment really means.
Being comfortable and open about sex and our sexual selves. Not having
to be active, not having to flash or use vulgar language or be
explicit, but just feel comfortable enough that we’re not afraid to
express our feelings about such subjects, and not be embarrassed when
someone else talks about it. I’m not talking about liking it when
people breach a barrier of propriety, I mean not feeling personally
embarrassed when someone does. Just say, “That’s too far” and not feel
ashamed or angry towards people who talk about sex. Not feel awkward to
think and talk about sex ourselves, not afraid to look up the
information we need or take safety measures regarding sex, like buying
condoms or birth control, or going to the Doctor about certain things.
Does being sexually empowered meaning being sexually active,
expressive, aggressive, etc? Or does it simply mean not being afraid or
ashamed to be?

I consider myself a sexually empowered young woman, and I don’t owe
that to the fact that I have a dirty mouth or anything I’ve done
sexually. I owe it to not being afraid of doing and saying those things.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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