Slaves To Sex: On Feminism & Sexuality
Editor’s Note: Few women have such a thorough understanding of the history of feminism as Caitie Hlushak. I am THRILLED to have her share her thoughts on what it has meant for women in 2011 and how we handle our sexuality because of it. It’s a punch in the face, and a reminder that we are worth so much more than we know. I encourage you to read this attentively – and more than once. – Lauren
Our great-great-grandmothers dreamed of seeing their daughters and granddaughters stand side by side with men; equal in dignity, respect and achievement. Our culture tells us that the Women’s Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement and the Sexual Revolution unlocked our cages and set us free to be man’s equal. But have we really achieved such equality?
These past hundred years did a lot for us as women. Newly enfranchised, we rose to the top of every profession and academic field available. We receive more diplomas then our male counterparts and outperform them at work. We don’t need help lifting boxes, opening doors or starting world-changing organizations.
As women, it seems we’ve reached the heights of equality. But, what’s really happened is that our prisons were simply relocated. Chained no longer to husbands and children, we are slaves to sexuality.
As Twenty-First Century women, we are oversexed and underdressed from the time we are tall enough to walk (toddler bikini’s and MTV’s Skins, anyone?). Abstinence and modest attire oppress; the girls who choose that lifestyle must hide their purity or accept being high school outcasts. Nothing less than skimpy, sexy and skinny gets noticed, and nothing is worse than going unnoticed.
Walk into the junior’s department and you’ll stumble into a lingerie shop; sweet 16 has lost its sweetness. Look at the time, money and effort women devote to looking like the perfect image they cannot afford to not be. Get in line, sweetheart, if you have an eating disorder—and while you’re waiting absorb these tips on making your sexual relationships last through the second hookup.
Where is a woman’s right to choose to be more than the sum of the sexual pleasure she gives?
The Porn industry is quickly becoming one of the most lucrative industries in the world, along with human trafficking (sexual and labor) and illegal sales of drugs and arms. Our culture verbally condemns sex trafficking but physically consent to it by indulging in easy-access porn and consummating one-night stands with strangers. The idea of a woman is now hardly more than a sexual object of satisfaction. Instead of broadening our horizons with our own careers, our own 401Ks, our own pursuits of income equality, we have accepted our prison bedrooms and vowed to be better performers and hung large signs that read “Will Trade Sex for Attention.”
But casual sex is freedom from restraint, some cry. It is consummating our freedom from oppressive husbands and forced motherhood. We have the freedom and the legal right to choose our own destinies.
But are we really free?
On some level we are. A woman’s right to choose is a brand new freedom and idea. Easy access to contraceptives and no-questions-asked abortions allows us to take off our pants at a moments notice because we don’t need to make sure that each man is provider. Our identity and value in our families and society used to be tied intrinsically to our production and rearing of multiple (male) children. In this last century, however, the ability to chose a pregnancy became a right as birth-control technology and the realization of our independent rights became more solid. The feminist movement unlocked the front door and let us leave our husbands’ homes to venture on career paths and to carve out respectable identities based on our own achievements. For the first time in history, a woman can be more than her ability to produce children and to iron pants.
Easy access to abortion makes it easier for men and women to have sex without the natural consequences and responsibilities: babies, families, relationships. But the easy access we have all enjoyed to legal contraceptives and abortions in the United States has led to easier and easier access to our bodies. How is that what once cost men flowers, dinner, and a verbal pledge to a lifetime commitment now only requires a look and a nod to the bathroom at the back of the airplane?
We don’t even ask for verbal affirmation anymore. Love-making has been reduced to what we can do with our hands, and our mouths, and our bodies. Sex has lost its sacred dangerousness, and women have lost their esteem and value.
Historically, women have been the moral gatekeepers of society. Now, many of us are raped, sexually abused, or endlessly harassed by the time we reach our early 20’s. Our fractured beings are unable to keep society’s moral gate shut, so it is a sexual free for all whether we want it to be or not. The mindset of abuse is so pervasive in our culture that even women who have never been abused walk with a limp, because we no longer know what unbroken sexuality is like.
“The Most dangerous place for African-Americans is in the Womb.” This slogan appeared for a few days on a billboard on an obscure corner in New York City’s Soho neighborhood. The billboard was part of a campaign funded by Life Always, a Texas group whose Board of Directors includes pastors Stephen Broden and Derek McCoy (both successful, black men), Abby Johnson (former director of Planned Parenthood who resigned in 2009), and Brian Follet (founder of Life Foundation). Many commenters argue that this billboard is offensive and racist. But, if we only focus on the use of race, we risk ignoring the central message of this billboard.
It was designed to be a provocative image of an even more provocative fact; that roughly 50% of all pregnancies end in abortion. These statistics clearly reflect a culture that craves sex but does not want any children. The fulfillment of this desire is impossible; no birth control works that well. Sex and babies are like up and down; forever linked in a consequential relationship. Easy access to abortions decreased the cost of sexual intercourse and increased access to the female body.
Why is there so much sex for its own sake? Because nobody looks at a woman as more than her ability to enlist ecstatic shudders from a man. There is nothing special about being a woman anymore. Our emotions are mocked, our intelligence judged, our bodies appraised and our sexual skills advertised and rated.
In the Feminist movement, we sought to compete with the men on their own turf. In doing so, we conceded our gifts and powers to the subjugation of men and have lost our own sense of being.
What must we do to recover our dignity? We must stop judging ourselves by our girlfriends and movie stars. We must not be skinny or trade our bodies for attention. We must stop seeking to beat the men and engage them respectfully as peers.
We must be ourselves at all costs–no one else can give what you alone can give. We must believe in our selves and our individuality.
I once heard sexy described as simply being comfortable in your own skin–we must be sexy like that. We must not stop doing our hair and fixing our makeup and caring about our appearances. We must not stop pursing careers and the passions of our hearts and being highly successful in whatever we do. Those things we must continue. In continuing to be free in ourselves, we allow and encourage others to be free in their own beings. We are Women. Sacred creators of life.
Our right to choose must come before the pregnancy, before the reach for contraceptives and before that first, sweet kiss. Our right to choose must come when we look in the mirror and remember that we are more than the next hook up, more than our sexuality, our bodies, and our achievements. We were once allowed to be only wives and mothers, but now we parade as half-naked slaves–blindfolded and chained to mere carnal pleasures.
O beautiful woman, pick up your dignity. Become more than a low-cost sex toy.
Claim the right to choose how your body is spent..
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