security for promiscuity: how anti-discrimination legislation is failing women
Despite 102 International Women’s Days, the sexual revolution, and countless contraceptives in a girl’s favour, heterosexual women are still vilified for their sexuality. On this year’s International Women’s Day, Julia Gillard addressed what she no doubt thought were the big issues in women’s rights today: violence, education, gender pay gaps and human trafficking. While the Prime Minister’s sentiment to abolish these horrendous problems was more than valid, she seemingly forgot about that persistent and pestering double standard of promiscuity. The Prime Minister has discussed our need for freedoms but has ignored her own right not to be called a slut (and let’s face it, with all the abuse hurled at Gillard she’s bound to have encountered that one on occasion).
Social media is now an added tool for the denigration of women actively pursuing their own pleasure. Much of the undesirable comment on female promiscuity comes in the rhetoric of memes, with countless abusive Facebook pages and websites allowing the sharing of content. It is indeed a scary time to be a chick who loves dick. But of course many women who seek conquests to fulfil their desires are confident and resilient. One of the biggest potential harms of these memes is the discouragement of young women to engage their own sex drive for fear of shame.
Perhaps the obvious reason for Gillard’s haziness is the legislation that makes discrimination based on biological sex unlawful in the workplace. The various incarnations and amendments of the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 most nobly save women from unfair practices in the workplace, and chivalrously deem illegal the unwanted advances from the black knight, better known as Balding Brian from Accounts.
While there are many situations where these Acts prove useful and empowering, they ultimately reinforce the stereotype of women as victims. It insists that women are virtuous, chaste, want only to go about their business unharmed and be loving mothers (here’s to you, pregnancy clauses). While a homosexual woman’s right to f**k without question is protected from vilification under these laws, both in the workplace and on the street, somehow a heterosexual woman’s own desires are not yet on the same level.
This is perplexing considering Australians flocked around their televisions when US series Sex and the City – a show that glorifies promiscuous women – first aired at the turn of the millennium. This is perplexing considering that countless articles have followed the rise of E. L. James’s best seller 50 Shades of Grey, which titillated frustrated housewives with tales of sadomasochism. If we want to get scientific here, a French study found that just over four fifths of the ladies in L’hexagone sought pleasure through pornography. So why is it that when a woman chooses to imitate art in life by engaging her own libido is she not emancipated from chastisement by our laws?
Our legislators should follow the lead of the judiciary. Last December, a public servant won a lawsuit against the government insurance agency Comcare who refused to pay her workers compensation as her injury occurred during sex. Apparently, Comcare did not condone her hotel room hanky-panky when off-duty on her business trip. It took five years to reach the Federal Court, which finally found in her favour. But Comcare has speculated they could take it to the final hurdle of the High Court.
On the 102nd Women’s Day, Julia Gillard spoke of her dream of a world ‘[w]here every girl is born with freedom in her heart and has the chance to grow old with that freedom.’And yet, Australian women – especially Gillard’s staff – are still not free to have sex without social reprimand.