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Women's Internalized Oppression: Undermining Your Own Sexuality

By Dr. Marty Klein Expert
 
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"Slut!"

Like children telling stories about a scary old man, women criticize each other's sexuality - from a safe distance.

"Slut!"

It's hit and run.

"Slut" is what women call a woman who is "too" sexual. It's someone who can enjoy sex without being in love. Someone who admits she enjoys sex more than a woman "should." In other words, it's a woman who can enjoy sex the way only men are supposed to be able to.

"Look at her, all over him. Is she even wearing a bra? God, anyone can tell what's on her mind...what is she, a nympho?"

But there are costs to this sisterly vigilance. Aware that others will be judging them, it makes women wonder if they're withholding their sexuality "enough." Or it makes them proud that they do. Either way, it says that repressing yourself is an important part of sexuality and relationships. And that's a destructive idea.

Women are caught in a historical collision between the sexual values of the past and future. Religion, the media and our families are sending out contradictory messages about sexuality that are driving women crazy.

Consider: Today's woman is supposed to be sexy, but not too sexy. She's supposed to be responsive enough to validate her partner, but not too aggressive or hard to please. Sexual, but not lusty. Not frigid, but not quite red hot. Her sexuality should express love, not lust.

In short, she has to be sexual in just the right way, regardless of her actual feelings or needs. To conform, to be an acceptable female, women have to carefully modulate, and therefore undermine, their own sexuality.

Monitoring, labeling and criticizing other women are only a few of the many ways that women sabotage their own sexuality. Let's look at several others; do you have a voice in your head saying these or similar self-destructive things?

* "Distrust lust; keep your privates private."

"My mother taught me not to dress too sexy," says one dynamic woman I know, "because I shouldn't attract too much attention." For years she followed this code, even as an adult.

Add a Comment113 Comments

bryony1

The way to embrace your sexuality is to indulge it, with the caveat to take safety precautions. I certainly indulged mine from a very young age until I was 48, and then I basically lost interest in sex and have never regained it and don't miss it. Maybe enough was enough.

Of course, I think it was easier in those days, except when I was very young; the political climate then was much like now and people did talk trash about me, although I've never cared what people said about me. Later in the '60s that disapproval ended, especially here in San Francisco.

Other people's opinions, whether women's or men's, never stopped me. By the time I was an adult, no one dared say anything to me, and if they said anything behind my back it didn't affect me. I encourage other women to be the same.

June 26, 2010 - 12:54am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

This is great text, really made me thinking...

June 25, 2010 - 12:25pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Number one- you can enjoy sex without being in a relationship just fine. Just respect hygiene rules, be safe, be smart, be discreet for pete's sake. No one says it's wrong to love having sex when you're not in love. Nothing's wrong with being laid!
Personally, I use the term "slut" (yes everyone says it) to describe women(or girls, or teenagers) with little or no self respect. These are girls who take pride in calling THEMSELVES these things, who like sleeping with anyone- dirty or clean- just for kicks and giggles. They sleep with people to end friendships with people they don't like anymore, they betray and hurt people on purpose. These are sluts. People on a pole, not sluts. People with their asses hanging out of their pants (maybe need a reality check) but not sluts.

i'm a 17 year old girl, and this is what I think.
Respect yourself, your partners, yours and their health, and yours and their right to privacy- and you aren't a slut.

You're a sexual deviant.

June 22, 2010 - 2:54am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

This is a horrible attempt to justify being a slut with feminism. I'm sad that people agree and support this. -_- A slut is NOT a woman who can enjoy sex without being in love, that's not negative at all, and rarely do I ever see that looked down upon. The only time women like that are called sluts is in high school. In fact, me and my current boyfriend started out acquaintances with a relationship no further than sex a couple times a week. No, a true slut is a woman who wears near-illegal next to nothing clothes based on promiscuity who are willing to have sex with married or taken men or multiple partners within a short period of time. I think the poster and supporters of this article know next to nothing about sexual health and the modern definition of a slut. Its important to be sexually healthy, now I'm not saying everyone needs to be in a long term relationship to have sex. Nonono. Even relationships based purely on sex have the potential to be healthy. Its -sluts- who sleep without knowing the others past sex life. Not just once either, but with multiple partners. (Whether in the same time frame or not.) I'm sure every right minded individual can see this is a bad idea.
This article would be okay if you were speaking up for women being called sluts that ARE NOT sluts, or women sleeping out of long term relationships or wedlock or any such thing. But to simply stick up for sleeping around...
And you compare it with a male. "Men do this, so we can too." Do we praise men for such things? "Oh you slept with me and then with my best friend. Its NATURAL. Its OK." Does this happen? Using that attitude is bad for any scenario. "They got away with dealing drugs, so I can too!"
Also! For someone who is against generalizations and labeling a group (Sluts in your case, which for some reason you think is any sexually open woman.) you are very hypocritical. Despite what anti-man thoughts and ethics you have, not all men sleep around. In fact, many men find the idea gross. Sleeping with a sexually clean and healthy woman is far more intriguing to them then sleeping with several different promiscuous ladies whose sexual health is questionable.
This is how AIDS became such a big deal; promiscuity.
I wish people would think about such things before being for a cause.

~Michelle, 18, TX

May 25, 2010 - 6:06pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Why is this not written by a woman??? Thanks, but we - women- do not need men to tell us it's OK to be sexual and excited and loud and beautiful...

May 23, 2010 - 6:57am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Hey, worked through all that and yeah... all well and good until you come up to men who get offended if you make suggestions, don't want to be bothered taking the time, lack imagination or curiosity... or basically don't care what YOU want as long as they are happy campers. Back to square one in the ladies cheerful sex department.

April 22, 2010 - 2:35am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

live and let live

March 23, 2010 - 5:38pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I think,and I truly know,where is truly lowe there haven't sex,and vise versa

March 21, 2010 - 3:33pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Wow, generalize much? Even if I agreed with much of your article (which I don't), I would have become much less offended reading it if you had chosen to use other words than "like most women", "you probably", and "virtually no one". While I think that some of your point was fair enough (that women should feel comfortable with their sexuality as it is on their own terms), this was mostly lost in your assumptions about how most women feel, behave, and think, which seems to reflect some kind of bias in your own interpretations of the your relationships with various women in your life.

March 18, 2010 - 11:41am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Anyone who thought this article was thought-provoking should definitly look into "Lip Service" by Kate Fillion. Warning; this book will make you think! About almost every aspect of the myth of 'True Femininity' from our relationships with other women both personal and prefessional, to owning up to the fact that every woman owns her own sexuality (and that there is an enormous difference between 'unwanted' and 'unavoidable' sex and NOBODY seems to care about it!! This is a pet hatred of mine) to being responsible when her own machinations go awry (That is NOT repeat NOT an argument of the "Oh she deserved it" variety, machinations occur outside the arena of sexuality you know!). This is not a book to read if you cherish the semi-divine idea of femininity, if however like me you're sick to the back teeth of trying to reach the impossible standards of other people (insert; 'other women' here) and just want to enjoy your short time while you're here, then this is the book for you.
just prepare to the chargrined at the embarrassing memories....

March 18, 2010 - 10:56am
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