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(sex)uality: values, sex, and the right to choose

When you write about a woman’s right to feel empowered sexually, you certainly get to have some great conversations. People from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of values want to engage in the conversation. My views and opinions on things can be radically different from others; I do, after all, publicly discuss masturbation and how great it is.

A lot of the time, I think my intentions can be misinterpreted though. The idea that I am encouraging “sexual empowerment” conjures up an idea for some that I am giving a big thumbs down to conservative values in favour of sex mania. So I want to address this, discussing differences in values and what that means for empowerment.

For me, empowerment for women, in every aspect of life, involves choice. The choice of career, the choice of who to vote for, the choice of who we surround ourselves with. I am passionate about the decisions that we make being based on reflection and personal values rather than the values that others impose on us.

The double bind that we sometimes find ourselves trapped in as women is that we are required to be as sexualised as possible whilst avoiding the label of slut. No one wins in this. This doesn’t just negatively affect those women who want to engage in pre-martial sex and talk publicly about vibrators. Women who value waiting for marriage and see love as the most important ingredient in sex are just as pressured.

When I started high school, I was shocked at the level of sexual knowledge my fellow year eighters had. Gossip was rife about who was doing what with whom. For a while, it was scandalous but soon enough engagement in sexual activity became a teenage rite of passage. As much as there was pressure from adults to abstain there was a feeling that if you weren’t sexually active you would be left behind socially. And this idea that women should be sexualised, and fast, can be found everywhere in our current day society.

It takes a strong woman to stand against that social and societal pressure and I want to acknowledge that. As much as equality for women is about fighting for a women’s right to have sex without getting stoned to death, it is also about a woman’s right to only have sex after she is deeply in love or married without feeling judged as a prude. It is about women choosing their values over the expectations of society. Whether your values are conservative or liberal, religious or secular, nobody has the right to tell you what you should be doing with your body.

I encourage everyone to take the time to really look at their values regarding their sexuality. Do you feel the way you do about sex because of you or because of the views of your friends and family? You are just as likely to be encountering pressure to behave hyper-sexually, perhaps when you aren’t ready, as much as you will feel pressure to behave in a manner considered chaste. These decisions are yours. They don’t belong to your family or friends.

What do you need to feel comfortable with your decisions regarding sex? If you are unsure of what you want, talk to people who you respect about it. You have the right, but also the responsibility to make sexual choices that keep you emotionally and physically safe. Keeping yourself safe and empowered involves assessing sexuality in terms of your spirituality and your ethical boundaries.

At the same time, it is our responsibility to support the sexual choices that other women make. Wouldn’t it be a hell of a lot easier to be true to your sexual values if you didn’t feel so darn judged from every side? When asking for the respect to make our own decisions, let’s give that same respect to others.

I tell you who I DO want to give the big thumbs down to, people who want to judge your actions one way or the other. Feel sexually empowered by making decisions for you. No one has the right to an opinion on what you do or don’t do in the bedroom.

To the strong women in my life who make decisions for yourselves, you have my complete respect and love. You are my definition of empowerment.

(Image credit: 1.)

2 thoughts on “(sex)uality: values, sex, and the right to choose

  1. This is such a great post!

    I just wanted to reiterate especially that the right to not have sex and to not be interested in sex at all. As someone who identifies as asexual and probably aromantic, I’ve had feminists say to me that I’m just reinforcing patriarchal ideas about women’s sexuality as something that should be oppressed, because I actually don’t want to have sex with anyone and don’t see how sex would be empowering to me. And because I don’t see sex as something central to the human experience – which always ticks off a few people who say that sex is a need just as much as food and water are!

  2. Thanks Jo. I am really glad that you are open and honest about what sex and sexuality is for you. For me, talking about sex is a great way of starting conversations that help us be honest about who we are with ourselves and with others. It is the skills that I think translate into all aspects of one’s life that I really enjoy; honesty, self reflection and fun.

    Thanks again, and if you want to have a more in depth conversation, email me at saraforwomen@gmail.com

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