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Women's Internalized Oppression: Undermining Your Own Sexuality

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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

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

If you're a woman and you don't have these major problems, you should "make" it occur to you that you may not be able to understand what Dr. Klein had been writing about.

I have never cried reading an article, but I can't stop crying after reading this. I've always had conflicts because my mom told me sex is a beautiful thing, but always tried to keep my skirt level below my knees (school uniform), while everyone else's was above. She wasn't religious, she was probably, without any bad intention, trying to protect my ass to show when I was playing in the school garden; but it was all going the other way than she thought.

Now I am the woman described in the article above. When I show too much affection, they think I'm in love. If I'm in love, men humiliate me and think they've turned into god. When I show little affection, I feel that I'm cheating myself and men think I'm stone-hearted. I always have to be worked on so that they don't think I'm a slut.

I'm depressed and I can't leave that behind.

August 29, 2009 - 3:30pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

This article didn't do anything for me... first of all I don't like the "all women" approach, like we are one big group that are alike.. we're not, so please say "some women" in the future.
I love sex and think everybody should live out their sexuality, but sadly a lot of people use sex as a validation on their own worth. And casual sex should be about lust, not validation. A lot of girls (and men) measure their value on their "sexual appeal". I always say I would never get a boyfriend with no self esteem cause I think he would be a lot more prone to stray..cause he'd need the validation... After my experience, people who are secure and happy, live out their sexuality, but they don't just sleep with anyone ;)

-"At some level, every girl tries to be like mom. " every girl..... strong statement here...

August 24, 2009 - 3:27am

I do not agree with your definition of a slut. To me, a slut is a man or woman who has a relationship with a person who is committed to someone else and the slut totally disregards the relationship. If neither person is in an exclusive relationship then have at it. This comment is coming from a lady married for forty years.
Thanks,
Kate

August 14, 2009 - 5:47am
(reply to Kate)

That is how I feel about it, as well. I have seen women who were dressed extremely sexy and still did not seem like sluts. I have also seen women dressed very conservatively, who have been sluts. Your definition is one I certainly agree with, not Dr. Klein's.

September 12, 2009 - 6:10pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Kate)

i feel the same way. the only women i call sluts are those who use their sexuality to seduce husbands and boyfriends. sluts are the cheaters as well as the cheatees.
a woman who expresses her sexuality with multiple partners, and there is no deception involved, is what i consider promiscuous. not slutty.

August 21, 2009 - 10:17am

Thank you to everyone who has posted a thought-provoking or insightful response to the "taboo" topic of sexuality...this has been very interesting to read and follow!

Please remember proper "netiquette", and to use respectful language meant to encourage all opinions and even include differing conclusions from research or personal experience, without the use of inflammatory language attacking a person (or group of people).

thank you,
Alison B
Moderator

August 13, 2009 - 2:29pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Sex is fun and it's free. Have it when you want and with who you want. Anyone with hangups around it can go jump off a bridge.

August 13, 2009 - 10:06am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I am a man who does not [sleep] around and I do not like women who does it either. Sex is supposed to be something more than entertainment in my opinion. It is supposed to be a way to show you care deeply for a person too. And if you can't stop doing it all the time with whoever, like a little kid who just can't stop eating candy. If you do I lose all interest in you.

August 11, 2009 - 12:08pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

So you get all your candy from the same person? Or do you just not eat candy now that you're "grown up?" You limit your candy consumption because it is bad for your body, not because you are socially obligated to not eat candy.

I find your analogy nebulous and contradictory. You are saying that having sex out of a serious relationship is immature and a way to show someone that you care for them. Are you suggesting that sex should be used purely as a means of showing love? That you should not enjoy sex unless it is with a significant other?

September 12, 2009 - 3:07pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

Wow, this was a great article but i'm glad to say i had a supportive amazing mother who taught me about the positives of empowered female sexuality early on. I wish we could have honest conversations like this with young womyn in schools, before they become colonized by the unattainable 'sexual ideals' that eventually trample them.

August 9, 2009 - 7:24am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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