On Sexual Liberation and Feminism

On my previous post, April asked a question in the comments and as I was typing my response, I realized that it was so long that it deserved it’s own post.

April asks: “…there was a professional psychiatrist in the audience who said that many women have taken the term feminism and turned it into something it’s not. She said that they use feminism as an excuse to be promiscuous when in reality feminism is about the social, political and economical equality of women.

Based on everything I’ve ever learned about the feminist movement, the psychiatrists description of feminism is what I had always thought. However, I can see how there was always a social double standard with men being able to sleep with as many people as they wanted and never being looked down upon, yet a woman doing the same thing was a whore, slut, scum of the earth, etc. So I can see how the social aspect of the psychiatrists definition of feminism comes into play.

But still, to me, a woman being able to be sexually liberated and feminism are not the same. It seems as though they are to you, or am I wrong? And if they are, could you please explain why? “

Feminism means different things to different people. And while a person who is sexually liberated may not consider themselves a feminist, I think that sexual liberation is truly a feminist act. So while sexual liberation and feminism are not the same thing, sexual liberation is a part of feminism and the feminist movement, especially the more modern feminist movement.

Feminism, to me, is about women taking control of their lives, their bodies, and their decisions. It is about choice, both making a choice and having a choice. It is about having a voice and being able to speak up for yourself, assert yourself, and ask for what you want.

So, in that vein, a woman who is sexually liberated breaks the traditional gender role that women are usually assigned sexually: traditionally, women were not supposed to talk about sex and were assumed not to enjoy sex. They weren’t supposed sleep around and great value was placed on virginity and purity.

By a woman asserting herself as a sexual being, someone who enjoys sex, and someone who has sex on her terms and not on anyone else’s, she is taking control of her body and her decisions. She is choosing to act how she wants to act. And she is asking for, and getting, what she wants. And a huge part of feminism, to me, means doing just that.

It also breaks from the typical patriarchal view of women and sex and women as (non)sexual beings and helps bring change to the traditional way that women’s sexuality is viewed by our society. 

I hope that I articulated that well. Does anyone else see it differently? Care to add or expound on what I have said (Aviva, maybe?)
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  1. April
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    You did articulate that very well.

    I didn't mention in the my last comment that the psychiatrist went on to say that women who claim that they're sexually liberating themselves as a part of the feminist movement have deep rooted psychological issues. Some women may have been molested as children, raped, had a poor relationship with their parents, or have been through severe psychological distress. She said that these type of women have very poor self esteem and lack self confidence.

    I do not agree with what she said as a whole. I do believe that there are *some* women who sleep around because of the reasons she said. Then there are other women, like you, who are educated and secure and know what they're doing.

    I believe that like you said, there are traditional gender roles that obviously, in my opinion, don't have much of a place in today's society. But we need to start educating teens on safe sex and not make it so taboo.

    Anyway, great post!! I couldn't think of a better person to answer the question than you. =)

  2. Apollo Unchained
    Posted November 29, 2008 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    You both have wonderful things to say on this.

    I would say that the essence of any sexual politics, including feminism, is sexual activity itself (including reproduction). No, these aren't always the most visible aspect (e.g. electing Hillary president is not about having sex in any obvious way), but I think they are causal in creating the necessary conditions for sexual equality and liberation.

    More specifically, sexual and reproductive liberation strike at the heart of the patriarchal norm. Without doing so, to speak of "equal opportunity" is to speak of a Jim Crow "separate but equal" apartheid.

    Of course one consequence of this liberation is that it brings fear, rage and trembling to the hearts of fucking mormons and islamists and some christians and jews as well. Some Hindus too. I don't know about buddhists. The dangers of reactionary backlash are real and it will take commitment and sacrifice to see that this backlash is contained and doesn't get worse.

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