Popular culture and the society in which we live is rife with comments and widely held beliefs surrounding women, particularly when it comes to ways in which women and sex are meant to interact. From the judgement surrounding women for ‘putting out‘ on the first date to the hushed tones of women talking about their periods, there is a censorship that pervades the discourse around sex and bodies for women. As we move into the new decade this discourse is something that must be fort against and changed so that instead of whispering about whatever we want, we can talk freely without fear, shame, or ridicule.
Body positivity is a campaign that has been fort for many years in the media and also in private lives leading to more people than ever owning their body and feeling comfortable in the skin they have. This doesn’t negate the fact that there are still many that struggle with their image, especially in an image-based society where many, men and women alike, are bombarded with the perfect image, however the conversation of body positivity is very much present in society and culture. Whilst this is a big step and a big improvement for many, young and old, that learn to change the thoughts that plague them when they look in the mirror for whatever reason, it has taken time and still has a long way to go. The same cannot be said for sex positivity…
Feminism, in all its waves, have propagated an idea of female equality and autonomy over their body which has been related to, especially during second-wave feminism, sex and the implications of sex. The feminist movement is the perfect place to start the mission of sex positivity, and many that partake in this movement have already begun trying to change the conversation but are met, like many women always are, with a particularly disgusted look.
There has never been a moment where, during a conversation about sex or my body (periods, hormones, whatever it may be), someone hasn’t looked round or made a face indicative of the fact that I shouldn’t be talking about it… If I wanted to talk about it, it must be in hushed tones and in private quarters. Openness and honesty is something many strive for when it comes to talking about topics in everyday life so why can that not extend to women talking about sex?
This censorship is definitely gendered, and the boyish locker-room chat that men partake in is a trope that still persists. It is far more acceptable for men to talk about who they have conquered, because that always how they talk about sleeping with women, but as soon as women speak about sleeping with men, be that one or more, they face judgement and the label of being a slag. Surely it is no one’s business who women are sleeping with (so long as it isn’t ruining relationships) and there should be no fear for taking charge of your sex life. If it was anything else – health care, food shopping, personal hygiene – that we were taking charge of then no one would bat an eye but why should we keep our sex lives under wraps?
It isn’t just because seeing women shouting about what they get up to between the sheets would solve all issues in life, it’s more about what can be gained from opening up a conversation between women and amongst men and how this can help to educate people. Any conversation about sex and our bodies that is done in a healthy and informed way cannot do anything other than help women learn through shared experiences.
Education around sex is something that is severely lacking, especially in the younger ages, and it’s only when you learn through trial and error over many years that you feel as though you know whats happening and what to do. However the interim of this learning period isn’t always smooth sailing… There can often be issues about the safety of sex and also the insecurity about our bodies, but imagine if there was more conversation between women or in the education system (for younger adults) around how to have safer sex or that bodies are not to be compared, and how that can benefit women going forward.
There is no way to change the past or to fix the education that was lacking in our lives but instead we can start talking. By imploring all women to start a conversation and not censor yourself, whether you’re talking about sexual behaviour, the frustration of periods, or the intimate details of your body, we can open up a new discourse and a safe space for women to learn. The more conversations that pop up between groups of women the sooner this will become normal – the dream is to have sex positivity conversations be as normal as talking about the weekly shop.
This isn’t anything new; I’m not the first to be encouraging sex positive conversations, but I hope to be propagating the conversation. To any and all women reading this, of any age, start moving towards a sex positive lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be as open as talking about the intimacies of your sexual behaviour, but ask questions of your female friends, find advice for things you need help with, have the conversations you would want to without fear.
Society has made progress by opening up a discourse of body positivity, the next step is sex positivity and though there is a space for male sex positivity, I don’t disregard that, this is for the women. Women have been silenced for too long for too many reasons and the time has come to stop that oppression, to start talking, and to change the discourse. In doing this, women are keeping the waves of feminism moving so that in years to come we are to thank for changing the conversation.