Sexual Autonomy (A Request to Fellow Feminists)

Lately, I've been reading a lot- on the FBomb and elsewhere- about the "conflict" between promiscuity, "self-respect," and feminism. I won't pretend that it hasn't disturbed me. My first though is always a knee-jerk, "We have more important things to worry about than how we handle our own personal sexualities!"

When I read feminists expressing what I see as a very self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude regarding "overly sexual," "promiscuous" women and how they are "hurting the feminist movement" (don't they have any self-respect?! Why can't they put on some goddamn underwear?! They are objectifying themselves, and giving the patriarchy permission to objectify womenkind!) I literally cringe at the control-freakiness of it all. But I likewise cringe when feminists write of the "self-empowerment" of pole-dancing, participating in orgies, giving blow jobs, and on and on and on (you have to liberate yourself! Ditch that puritanical second-wave shit! Women are sexual beings too, and we can be just as horny, if not more so, than guys!)- you may like it, love it, get an insane amount of pleasure from it, but don't try to tell me that you are somehow liberating your "sisters" in sexual bondage.

To put all my cards on the table, I think of myself as an intrinsically sexual human being. This is not at all to say that I'm terribly sexually active, just that I am very aware of the sexual drives behind my creativity and passions. I'm bisexual, which I interpret to mean that I fall for the person, not *just* the body. I fall for the whole person- mind, body and soul. Although I can identify strangers and acquaintances as aesthetically beautiful, I can't identify "sexiness" or "hotness" until I feel I know them. I don't dress and groom myself to be "sexy"- I try to make myself aesthetically attractive according to my own standards. For me, sexuality is a very real, very volatile, but very personal thing.

So the thing is, I wouldn't live my life and sexuality according to either of the extremes described above, but neither do I condemn them: sexuality is a personal thing. That's what feminism is about- the right to live our lives as we see fit. Choice. You can be the proverbial virgin, or you can be the proverbial whore, or you can be one or more of the millions of options in between. And you can "own" those labels or bitterly reject them, or you can twist them around to fit the way you fit in your own personal world. Don't try to parse and dictate the way other women live out their sexual lives, because that is not important. And the way that feminists bitterly debate proper "feminist" sexual behavior drives me nuts, because it seems to me that it's a symptom, an internalization, of the way the patriarchy has tried to keep women under control by parsing and dictating their sexuality.

So I guess this is a request to all the feminists who actually want to make a difference in the way women are treated and perceived, mindset of this society, this world: No matter your personal choices- no matter how disgusted or how abhorrent you find other womens' personal sex lives to be, don't bash them for doing something you wouldn't. Stand up for their right to freedom of choice, their freedom of sexuality. Practice what you preach, ditch the litmus tests, and work for what you know will actually make a difference.

More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Feminism, LGBTQIA
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Sexuality, Reproductive rights, Discrimination, Identity



Katherine C
Sign up for our Newsletter

Learn more about topics like these by signing up for Women’s Media Center’s newsletter.