8 Ways Sexual Inequality Affects Your Sex Life

Today is International Women’s Day! What this means is that not only should we be celebrating women, each and every one of them, but we should take the Pledge of Parity, which is this year’s theme, and take a stand in ensuring equality. Gender inequality is everywhere, even in the bedroom, so in recognizing this to be fact you can embrace your sexuality and reclaim it in a society that far too often shames women for being sexual beings.

In honor of International Women’s Day, sex toy brand LELO asked several sex experts to expand on this sexual inequality and how to even things out in the bedroom. There’s no denying that our sex lives are affected by this disparity and in realizing this by examining not just society’s attitudes but our own attitudes about it, women can, ideally, buck social norms and live their lives, both in and out of bed, without shame or fear of labels. In other words, what’s the equivalent word to “slut” for men? Oh, it doesn’t exist — that’s a prime example of inequality right there.

Still perplexed a bit on the subject? Here are eight ways sexual inequality affects your sex life.

1. Our Culture Makes Allowances For Men’s Sexuality But Not For Women

As Lorrae Bradbury, founder and CEO of Slutty Girl Problems told LELO, our culture has made it socially acceptable for men to be sexual beings, “while women are expected to be more submissive.” A woman who owns her sexuality and — god forbid — acts on it, gets a labelled a “slut” or “whore.” Men don’t have that problem; they get a high-five for being sexual and owning it.

2. Archaic Traditions Still Exist

From a standpoint of tradition, men are “supposed” to be sexual and in charge of their sexuality. It’s their “job” to want to have sex and pursue it. In contrast, women don’t have that luxury thanks to those traditions (that should really be lit on fire and burned down). “Female sexual agency is discouraged and disempowered, and women are ‘supposed’ to be receptive, non-assertive, and not like sex too much,” sex and relationship expert Reid Mihalko told LELO.

3. Society Puts Too Many Constraints On Women's Sexuality

One of the most interesting aspects to come out the discussion the experts had with LELO is that women are sort of caged when it comes to what they’re “allowed” in regards to sex. Society wants women to be sexy, but not too sexy, because then they can fall into the “slut” category. Women are also expected to be skilled and confident, but not too experienced because, again, that’s when the slut-shaming begins. Men, on the other hand, aren’t subjected to such rules. They actually have no rules at all surrounding their sexuality. Talk about massive sexual inequality.

4. Women Don’t Have Enough Sexually Empowered Role Models

I do respect the fact that Kim Kardashian is open with her sexuality. I respect the fact that she posts nude photos of herself and really embraces that she’s a sexual being and truly loves her body. Every time Kardashian does this she's sending an extremely important message.

But the problem is every time she does post a — gasp! — "risqué" photo, the Internet goes after her as if she’s committed a heinous crime. In the way the Internet responds to her behavior it can make other women, women who could step up to the plate and be great role models for sexual empowerment, steer clear of dealing with such hate. It’s stifling and closes the door on the potential for other women who might want to teach younger and future generations that being sexually empowered is a wonderful thing.

5. Not Enough Research Or Education Has Been Devoted To Understanding Women’s Sexuality

While science has long examined the penis and men’s sexual arousal, there hasn’t been enough research on the female sexuality and arousal. To prove just how deep this sexual inequality runs, it’s wasn’t until the 1990s that researchers administered the first internal MRI study to examine the clitoris — the hub of the women’s sexuality — and it wasn’t until 2009 that a sonography was used to show how the clitoris responds during sexual activities.

Takeaway? Female sexuality is extremely complicated and complex, but it tends to be put on the back burner in comparison to the attention men’s sexuality gets.

6. A Drug For Sexual Dysfunction Just Arrived On The Market

Still need further proof of the sexual inequality? Take the the Viagra situation. In March 1998, the FDA approved Viagra to help men with sexual dysfunction. But it wasn’t until last year that Addyi was approved to help women with their own sexual dysfunction. There’s definitely something wrong with that picture.

7. Society Still Thinks Women Have A Lower Sexual Desire Than Men

Ugh. I hate this thinking, but it’s still out there and I don’t even know why, but I digress. According to sex and relationship coach Jacqueline Hellyer, “there’s an assumption that women intrinsically have lower desire. I’ve even read scientific papers that take that as implicit assumption. It’s so ingrained in our society.”

Case in point: A Cosmo article from 1973 said that only men have sexual fantasies. Granted that was 1973, but it actually wasn’t that long ago and it was also during a time of the sexual revolution and second-wave of feminism, so come on!

8. But Things Are Changing

While sexual inequality can’t be denied, on a positive note, things are changing. Conversations about sex toys are being had more openly (thanks, Babeland!), some mainstream porn is catering to women’s preferences, and we’re in the midst of a sex positive revolution. So that’s something, but if we’re to be honest, it’s not still not enough.

We still have a lot of work to do and that’s why International Women’s Day exists, to remind us to keep fighting the good fight, on all fronts, when it comes to gender equality.

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