About a week ago, I had an article -- "Unwanted Arousal & Sexual Shame"
-- published on elephantjournal.com
To summarize my piece briefly: I argue that no matter WHAT makes us tick sexually
-- even if our fantasies are dark and downbeat, even violent and socially taboo
-- it's OKAY
, so long as we take responsibility for our actions. There's an entire subculture (BDSM
: Bondage, Domination, Submission, and Sadomasochism
) built around playing with power dynamics and pushing/experimenting with all sorts of physical and psycho-sexual boundaries.
The article is centered on encouraging readers to embrace the shadow side of their sexuality
-- to find safe, healthy, ethically sound ways to channel and explore their darker primal yearnings, as opposed to repressing them.
I also discuss my personal story
-- the deep guilt and shame I've experienced as a result of feeling aroused by images/descriptions of women's erotic humiliation and sexual debasement
. As I say in the piece: Please bear in mind that I identify as a feminist -- talk about cognitive dissonance!
One reader made a thoughtful, interesting comment that *really* started turning my mind's wheels in rotation: I... appreciate this post. It's an authentic take on a taboo topic, and most importantly (to me), I completely relate. That being said, it really only touches the surface of an area of human experience which... encompasses a complex array of important issues, includ[ing] a legacy of misogyny, sexual violence, oppression, and female suffering. I do understand the author's emphasis on purging shame from our proclivities in the bedroom, and I believe it is a significant message to spread and support. I just think it bares saying that... I've come to believe that there is a correlation between our shadowy sexual fantasies and our shadowy sexual history steeped in a culture of rape. While I'm no longer sure whether I can, or should bother trying to alter my own sexuality, I would like to empower a future wherein our children don't grow into adults whose sexual identity is inextricably tied to a cultural message which correlates female sexual worth with dehumanized objectivity.
I 100% agree.
I accept that what I described above has been known to turn my proverbial crank. [I'm not alone here. Look at the way 50 Shades of Grey
(which I have *LOTS* of opinions about... but that's a topic I'll address in another post) has blown up!] In fact, I've come to own it as an integral part of my sexual identity.
However, I also recognize that these sexual cravings didn't exactly come out of nowhere. Their origins are, at least in part, rooted firmly in a social structure that enforces female subordination and, as the commenter above stated, promotes female suffering.
This has worked its way into my mind and body, coming to dictate what I want, how I feel,
and to an extent, the way I interact with men
Granted, this a more extreme example of how our culture has impacted one particular woman's [meaning my]
view on what it means to be a female, objectified. But the media manages to creep into our consciousness every day, manipulating the way men and women relate to one another in ways that are far more subtle.
In Miss Representation
(the 2011 documentary in which director, Jennifer Siebler Newsom, "explores the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America, and challenges the media's limited portrayal of what it means to be a powerful woman"), Jane Fonda says, "Media creates consciousness, and if what gets put out there that creates our consciousness is determined by men, we’re not going to make any progress."
Please don't get me wrong. I don't believe that men are the enemy.
In fact, I believe that most men are equal victims of the media's predatory agenda.
Many women, myself included, see our ability to turn men on
and please men sexually
as a source of pride, empowerment, and self-worth
. Many women, myself included, would love
to hear men describe them as hot, sexy,
or amazing in bed. But if a society founded on male domination/female subordination colors what men come to expect from women sexually, then who's really in the driver's seat?
Take a look at any given issue of Cosmo
. Do the editors give a flying rat's ass about women's authentic sexual fulfillment? My best guess: Absolutely not. Our "seductive, feminine wiles" -- our ways of controlling men and their bodies
(i.e. waxed pubic hair, sexy lingerie, the ability to perform the "perfect" strip tease, give the "perfect" blowjob, or otherwise be a man's fantasy-blow-up-doll-come-to-life) -- may not be a reflection on our sexual self-possession, but a reflection on how we've been brainwashed to cater to the male gaze
It's time that we take a good, discerning look at how misogyny often underlies the context in which women feel sexually empowered
. Ladies and gentlemen -- what are your thoughts on the subject? Are changes in order? If so, what can we do to make these changes?