In thinking about the myriad of attitudes we’ve held about women and their sexuality, it is difficult for me to know where to begin. But as I recently finished reading Comics for Choice (I’ll be reviewing that next week) and I’m leaning into the power of my third pregnancy, attitudes about women’s sexuality is something that I think is really important to talk about during Women’s History Month.
When it comes right down to it, we don’t really seem to know how to talk about sex or sexuality. We clutch our collective pearls when we see “girls gone wild” and talk about how these young women don’t fully understand the repercussions of their actions and clearly don’t respect their own bodies. When we hear about purity balls we talk about how creepy it is for girls as young as six to be pledging their virginity to their dads and wonder how they’re ever going to find their way to bodily autonomy. We ignore the fact that nobody seems to have a solid working definition of what virginity means in practical terms.
Ultimately, it seems that our notions of female sexuality are tied up in the notion that not doing something (something that ultimately keeps our species alive) until a certain point (marriage) makes you a better person than someone who does the something before that certain point. That you are good, moral, deserving of all the good things if you keep your body secret from yourself and other. I’m not here to say that waiting to engage in any kind of sexual activity (that means more than just our heteronormative notion of what sex is) until you are ready (and ready might mean marriage) is something to be sneezed at. But it’s also not something to be scorned.
In American culture, our notions of female sexuality still look a lot like our notions about property and that needs to stop. We need to, and I believe are capable of, talking about sexuality in a holistic and nuanced way that gives our young men and women power to themselves and not to anyone else.