7 Subtle Ways Women Are Shamed For Their Sexuality On A Daily Basis
There's nothing wrong with any woman's sexuality. Full stop. There's no right or wrong way to look, sound, or act in bed. There's no right or wrong number or type of people to sleep with. There's no right or wrong sexual act to be into. Unfortunately, society teaches us otherwise. Women are taught to feel ashamed of their sexuality before they even start having sex. They're taught that there's something wrong with the appearance, smell, or taste of their genitals; with the size of their sex drive; with the content of their sexual fantasies. And by teaching women this, what we're really teaching them is that they are the inferior gender.
"We’re told of tales of princesses and damsels growing up," sex educator Lola Jean tells Bustle. "How a kiss from their true love breaks the curse and they lived happily ever after. This notion may be slightly outdated, yet still pervasive in modern society. It’s the madonna/whore complex. It is slut-shaming. It is the belief that a woman should only engage in her sexual desires when she is in love, or when there is an emotional connection."
This view of women as the purer, less desirous sex still serves to demean them every day. Here are some subtle ways women are constantly shamed for their sexuality that need to stop ASAP.
1. Scented Vagina Products
The industry around vaginal self-care is booming and exploitive, with vaginal wipes, washes, deodorants, you name it, teaching women that the natural smell of their vulvas is unpleasant. These products aren't necessary, and many are actually unhealthy. Your partner should appreciate your body in its natural state, or at least take responsibility for their own preferences if they don't.
2. Porn Conventions
Mainstream porn gives off the impression that every woman should have tiny labia, be super loud, and orgasm through intercourse. If those things don't all apply to you — i.e., if you're among the majority of women — you're made to feel abnormal when in fact, you're perfectly average. There's nothing wrong with porn-star sex in of itself, but there are so many other body types and ways of having sex out there, and they're not shameful.
3. Sex Toy Myths
Between learning that vibrators will desensitize you and that they'll be a threat to their partners, women are made to feel ashamed just for masturbating with sex toys. "Why is it that whenever there is something geared toward female sexuality, there automatically has to be something wrong with them?" Alexis Thomas, sex educator and owner of the sex-positive shop Taboo Tabou, tells Bustle. "Rarely do we question men watching porn or whether masturbating damages their penis. Women masturbating is a beautiful thing and amazing for a person as well as a relationship."
4. "Sex Positions That Guarantee Her Orgasm" Articles
The internet is flooded with articles that claim to "guarantee" a woman's orgasm or provide the most amazing orgasms, when in reality, there's no intercourse position that can do this for the majority of women. Only a quarter of women orgasm through penetration. Reading these articles can make women feel like something's wrong with them if their orgasms aren't "guaranteed" by any position. We should be teaching people to provide clitoral stimulation if they want to guarantee an orgasm.
5. The Concept Of Virginity
Women, more so than men, are labeled "virgins" if they haven't had sex and viewed as less pure or innocent once they have. This not only places undue importance on penis-in-vagina sex above all other acts but also contributes to the view that women's worth is based on their sexuality. It makes women feel ashamed of themselves simply for wanting sex and worthless for acting on that desire. Virginity is not a real thing; it's only a concept, and we each get to define that concept for ourselves, including if that means not subscribing to it at all.
6. Pseudoscience Used To Justify Gender Roles
So-called experts who use "science" to "prove" that women are from Venus while men are from Mars inadvertently shame women who venture into Mars territory. When we talk about how men are biologically programmed to be more sexual or more visual or more dominant, we imply that women who are as sexual or visual or dominant as men are abnormal. Most of these supposed differences are attributable to socialization or do not even exist. Women who behave "like men" are normal women.
7. Stereotypes About Women Being "Complicated"
The idea that men are simple and easy to please while women are just impossible has pervaded every area of our lives, including our sex lives. We get taught that while pleasing a man just requires a bit of genital stimulation, pleasing a woman requires an exhausting combination of mood-setting, personal charm, and top-notch sex skills. We learn that female orgasms are so elusive and unreliable that women cannot expect them, ignoring the fact that 95 percent of women orgasm easily when they masturbate and 90 percent orgasm when they receive oral and manual sex. The result is that women feel like they're burdening their partners if they want equal pleasure, all while they're expected to please men effortlessly.
Society will make you feel ashamed of literally every aspect of your sexuality, but having a fulfilling sex life that's true to who you are is an essential part of a woman's emotional health. Don't let anyone shame you for pursuing that.