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Women's Internalized Oppression: Undermining Your Own Sexuality

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Only if you're 'swept away' by romance, alcohol, lies or love."

This attitude subverts female sexuality by disowning a woman's ability to turn herself on, to choose how excited to get and to direct the course of a sexual encounter.

As sociologist Carol Cassell notes in her book, "Swept Away," female sexuality is generally considered more acceptable when women are seduced, romanced or misled, because they can't be blamed for what they can't control. If women are swept away, they can have sexual pleasure without having to confront their own desires or self-image. And as a result, many women place themselves in frustrating situations over and over again. These include not having sex when they want it and having sex when they don't.

"Romance" is the social institution that enables both genders to create a socially-approved sexual experience. It's the ritual pageant through which we pretend that sex exists outside the bounds of normal life. Everyone says that relationships should be "honest," but there is little honesty in romance.

Another side of this belief also makes it the man's problem if a woman is dissatisfied: "He just didn't sweep me away the way I need." Naturally, men resent this about women. As my car mechanic once complained, "They don't turn themselves on, you have to do it; half the time they criticize you for manipulating them, the other half they criticize you for not doing it enough."

* "Sexy? Only certain people and certain bodies - and you're not either."

If you speak to enough women on the subject, it becomes clear that breasts come in only two sizes: too big and too small. Very few women are happy with their bodies.

And very few women think they're sexy; this even includes many of the small number who feel sexy. They often know that their mates desire them, but they frequently deny that it's because they're "sexy." "My wife," says one frustrated colleague, "believes I think she's sexy mainly because I love her." Most women have a fixed image of what a "sexy woman" is - and it rarely includes themselves.

That image usually isn't anyone we know; in fact, it usually isn't people at all.

Add a Comment113 Comments

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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