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Sexual Double Standards....
Sexual Double Standards....
I grew up in the Madonna era. She came onto the scene was I was around 11 years old. I literally grew up watching her change the sexual standards of America. She redefined what it meant to be sexually liberated, and I was grateful for it. However, maybe I was the only one who lived in a home where you sang "like a virgin" at the age of 13. As a child, I was thrilled to have born a girl.
I received the "you should wait" version of sex ed in middle school, but I was already savvy enough to realize that it didn't seem to be having any effect on teen pregnancy. I also noticed what seemed like an overemphasis on sexual diseases and that the school seemed to be using scare tactics to teach us about AIDS. Something was a little fishy. I had gotten my first hint of the sexual double standard, but I ignored it.
In high school, it seemed everyone was dating. Dating and having sex. Or at least "everything but." Was I the only one who wasn't having sex or playing around? It certainly seemed like it. The girls in my age group seemingly hadn't been sucked in by the sexual double standard.
I "lost" my virginity at the age of 18. I had felt like the last virgin on earth. My virginity was a weight around my neck. It was annoying. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I engaged in sexual activity and "lost" my virginity. I went to college 8 months later and was shocked to discover how many girls were "waiting for that someone special." What was going on?
Maybe we should blame magazines like 17. I recall the "virginity pledge" and even at age 13 or 14 I thought that it was unrealistic to ask me to promise something about the next 10 or 15 years of my life. I read plenty of articles that warned about how much I would be disrespected if I slept with a boy. That a boy would "test" me by trying to sleep with me, and that not sleeping with him would signify that I had passed the test. I may have bought into it for awhile, but by the end of high school, I knew it was crap.
Perhaps these so-called "virgins" specialized in that magic "everything but." According to a statistic I read recently, of the people who signed the virginity pledges, half broke it, and of the other half, about 40% admitted to oral sex and heavy petting. According to Bill Clinton, oral sex isn't really sex. And I'll grant that the number of partners I admit to having had "sex" with is only the number of people I've experienced penetration or the equivalent to. As a culture, we've always fooled ourselves that everything but still leaves you a "pure" virgin.
But I still have to ask myself, why build up the first experience? In most cases, the first time is much less than any of us hoped for, especially for women. Beyond that, from a very pragmatic point of view, I've had good chemistry with someone in a friends/dating kind of way and hated their style in bed. How much would it suck to be stuck in a marriage and find out that you're not sexually compatible?
Why is it still only women whose virginity is prized? I never hear a minister or priest talking about the man keeping himself pure. We still expect that a man needs to "sow his wild oats," but that a woman is best kept waiting for her husband.
Women are taught to worry about other's opinions of them, with regard to their sexual behavior. And for good reason. The first and most effective way to discredit a woman is to attack her sexuality. Look at Marie Antionette, who was discredited among rumors of having sexual relations with everyone from her husband's courtiers to her 9 year old son. Catherine the Great will forever be associated with a horse's dick, because of people eager to take her out of power. More recently, look at Monica Lewinsky, who was (granted) a young 22 year old who had an affair with the President, and when the scandal hit was accused of being a nympho. Or, in the Kobe Bryant case, there are attempts to call his accuser a slut to make it look acceptable that he her. In Italy, within the past 20 years, a woman who wore jeans was considered to be asking for . In France (and I'll verify this with personal experience) a woman walking alone is considered to be looking for sex. Women are constantly being scrutinized for sexual propriety (and impropriety). Christina became "X-tina" after a "dirty" video that showed little more than most male rapper's videos…the only difference being she was in the front of the video rather than the back.
No matter how self confident you are, and how "liberated" you think you are, the sexual double standard will still affect you. After those times when I've slept with a guy on the first date, my initial thought the next morning is "my God, what is he going to think of me? Will he think I do this all the time?" I've been socially conditioned to look down on girls who sleep with men on the first date, even as I've done it myself.
I don't have the answer to the question "how do I throw off conditioning?" To a large degree, I have yet to myself. Yes, I'm sexually liberated. Yes, I have learned to separate sex and lovemaking. Yes, I can handle a purely physical relationship. But I also know better than to publicly admit to the number of lovers I've actually had. I might as well pin a scarlet "A" to my chest, than do that.
As a teacher, I also feel very vulnerable to this standard of propriety. I could never admit to writing erotica. I could never admit to half of the things I think about. I'm not even really comfortable in putting a rainbow anything on my car. Allowing people to know things about my personal life gives them power over me. As a teacher, I feel as though I must maintain a certain level of decorum at all times. I don't even feel comfortable walking out of my house in clubwear out of fear that a parent would see me. Although I feel particularly affected by this double standard, I'm sure that many other women share my concerns.
I think it's sad that we live in a society that on one hand dangles the female form before us like some sort of trophy, and on the other hand punishes women for enjoying that same body. And while I don't think my critique will accomplish anything, I feel that it's important to be yet another dissenting voice criticizing the sexual double standard.