There are pre-existing ideas in society of how sexuality is defined for both men and women. For the man, casual sex is an instinct. After all, they are wild beasts with naturally ravenous appetites for a lot of sex with a lot of women, right? For women, there is an established dichotomy: the girl you take home to mom and the girl you take home for the night. These stigmas fail to acknowledge the complexities of human sexuality and now, more than ever, people are torn on how to receive sexuality, particularly in women.
A woman’s sexuality is as complicated as a man’s sexuality. We need to accept that to truly empower women.
It used to be simple: Men loved sex and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Promiscuity in men was chalked up to the old saying, “boys will be boys.” Women were virtuous and waited for the right guy to come along, for casual sex, or “hooking up” anymore. Pappas added that the viewpoints are actually a lot more complicated than that, yet still comes to this conclusion that it is widely accepted. A recent study she cites from researchers at North Caroline State University surveyed college students about several scenarios involving relations between men and women.
The results showed that alcohol or “a moment of wild spontaneity” were reasons women engaged in casual sex. This does not show that female hooking up bears no judgment, it merely exemplifies that a woman’s sexuality is still defined on a man’s terms.
“One of the effects of recent media has been the conflation of sexual liberation with sexual objectification,” said Dr. Margaux Cowden, assistant professor of the women’s studies program. “So now we see a lot of ideas like the idea that ‘Girls Gone Wild’ is a form of feminism.”
Even at Temple, it is not uncommon to see guys and girls casually hooking up at off-campus parties. But while both the guy and girl have engaged in the casual sex, only one ends up becoming the victim of nasty gossip. On certain gossip sites, students can be seen badmouthing women who are supposedly promiscuous, while the men inquire about which girls are the easiest to get in bed.
We may be more aware that casual sex is prevalent, even in women, but that doesn’t mean we have come to accept women’s sexualities on the same level as men’s. We accept that women can indeed hook up, but we put a cap on how often they can do so. Once you’ve crossed a fine line, you’ve now entered “slut territory.”
In fact, the only female character in the media who comes to mind as being accepted, even praised, for her sexual liberation is Samantha Jones of “Sex and the City,” portrayed by Kim Cattrall. Her character is successful, professional, beautiful, sexually liberated, secure in her sexuality and extremely rare. While not every woman can be a Samantha, it is important that society relays the message that it is a possibility and it is OK.
“Being able to self-determine your sexuality is impossible in a culture that won’t talk openly about sexuality,” Cowden said. “So until we have a really open public conversation happening about sexuality and safe sex, about valuing one’s body, it’s going to be impossible to have real self-determined sexuality.”
Once we start accepting that a woman’s sexuality is as complicated as a man’s, we will be able to genuinely empower women to embrace their sexuality, be it mild or intense. For the time being, we are still unfortunately judgmental in our approach to women who “hook up.”
Maryline Dossou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.