Misconceptions surround sexual repression. And both women and men can be confused.
Some women feel insulted if anyone suggests they might be repressed.
And conversations with guys have made me realize that plenty of them think that repression means, “I really want to have sex with you but I’m going to consciously repress the idea.”
Repression isn’t quite like that. Read the rest of this entry
Women’s right to contraception has been challenged by Catholic Bishops and members of Congress who voted on a “Blunt Amendment” allowing employers to deny healthcare, like contraception, that they deem immoral. (The amendment was defeated in the U.S. Senate by a mere three votes!)
What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex… she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills and she agrees that Obama should provide them, or the Pope.
If Rush is so vexed at supporting other people’s sex lives, why doesn’t he tackle insurance-covered Viagra too?
By attacking Ms. Fluke as a slut, Limbaugh reveals that he – and other right-wingers — are not concerned with shielding Catholic Bishops’ conscience. No. They seek to control women’s sexuality.
But if Rush can’t limit it, at least he wants to watch (another sort of control). Even as he claims to uphold “conservative values,” he rants:
If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.
Since when were “traditional family values” pro-porn?
Rush is all about silencing women: Be afraid of slut-shaming. Be very afraid!
Men can speak out. And Viagra-infused men can enjoy sexuality. But women must not.
Bishops, and employers more generally, must be free to follow their conscience. But women must follow the conscience of Bishops and their employers.
Conservatives claim to guard individual freedom.
Apparently, women aren’t actual people. They don’t count.
Why do right-wingers hate sex? And why don’t they want the rest of us to get any? Okay, not all of them. Newt Gingrich, for instance, seems to be a fan. But what he likes isn’t something he’d necessarily want anyone else to do.
Rick Santorum is the reigning sex-hating champ – unless it leads to procreation, of course. He once warned that Satan was using sensuality to attack America and he disagrees with the Supreme Court decision to allow birth control. As columnist Maureen Dowd explains,
(Santorum) believes that America’s soul wounds include men and women having sex for reasons other than procreation, people involved in same-sex relationships, women using contraception… (He feels) contraception is “not O.K. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
Actually, those who lack contraception but don’t want pregnancy could still do anal and oral. Or, men could simply ejaculate on woman’s faces. So a lack of contraception may only encourage sodomy and other “perversities.”
And then there’s Santorum spokesperson, Foster Friess, who insists:
Back in my day, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees.
Or, conservative columnist Ross Douthat helpfully explains, “Monogamy, not chemicals or latex, is the main line of defense against unwanted pregnancies.”
So if a married couple only want two kids, how often should they have sex sans chemicals or latex?
Or how about this guy who responded to a post I wrote saying women should be able to follow their conscience on birth control, and not be bullied by Catholic Bishops:
Where’s the discussion of men’s responsibility to do what they can to control their own passions? Are men just dogs who cannot control themselves?
And does all this repression make the right-wing sex drive reemerge in creepy ways? One bill sought to force women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds via vaginal probe. Democratic Delegate Lionell Spruill says this is tantamount to rape: inserting objects into vaginas without consent. Women’s advocates say the procedure is meant to shame women, which is similar to a motive of rapists: degrade the victim.
But why so anti-sex?
Are these just church-going folk who’ve been warned against sexuality their whole lives?
Some worry uncontrolled passions will harm the social fabric: children bearing children… unwanted babies. But that’s what contraception is for. As conservative columnist David Brooks admits, despite more sexually liberal attitudes, teen pregnancy rates are down, abortion is down, and crime is down. “There are problems with the social fabric,” he says, “but they no longer have to do with the sexual revolution.”
Others think right-wingers simply cling to clarity and order, and crave control (a common bent among extreme conservatives). And indeed, some may feel a sense of power in controlling women’s bodies. They may gain a sense of control by reigning in the flesh and wild sexuality of themselves and others. And, they can gain a sense of clarity and structure by seeing women and men as different, each in their separate spheres with men on top and women below, barefoot, pregnant, and obeying men.
By Dania Jafar
Islam represses women’s sexuality, right? Think again.
We all see Muslim women draped in head-to-toe burqas, or read about 10-year-olds being married off to 50-year-old men, or cringe at women being stoned for adultery or knifed to death by family members in “honor killings” for such crimes as fornication or being with a man without a chaperone – or for being raped. (The stain of sexual impurity must be removed from the family, it is thought.) In some parts of North Africa and the Middle East women’s genitals are ritually cut or removed in the name of Islam.
In such a world, whose sexuality wouldn’t be repressed?
But nothing you just read has anything to do with Islam. All of the above are cultural practices that are not approved in the Quran.
Unfortunately, a lack of understanding has created mistaken beliefs about women and sexuality in Islam, says scholar and feminist Pınar İlkkaracan. And the confusion exists among Muslim and non-Muslim, alike. As she explains (paraphrased):
The classical figh texts of early Islam’s legal jurisprudence kept with their patriarchal societies and ignored the gender equality of the Quran. Today, many on the religious right claim that customary practices that subjugate women are Islamic, and use them to control women and their sexuality. This has led to an incorrect portrayal of scripture both in Muslim societies and in the West.
What does the Quran say? Women have the right to consent to marriage. But ten-year-old girls are not old enough to understand and give consent, so they should not be given to older men. Holy Scripture says that adulterers (male and female) should be lashed, not stoned. But there must be four witnesses, otherwise a woman’s word must be accepted. And genital cutting was practiced long before Islam arose. There’s nothing about it in the Quran.
Even veiling is largely misunderstood. The scripture declares, “Say to the believing women that they guard their private parts, and reveal not their outward adornment and let them cast their veils over their bosoms (24:30-31).”
This scripture simply advises modesty. But what is considered modest varies from place to place. That is cultural. There is nothing in the Quran about full body covering. Or even about veiling your hair.
And covering can be viewed as a good thing with women seen as precious gems, shielded from the unpleasant stares of strangers. Covering can also be experienced as a positive affirmation of devotion to God.
Additionally, Islam stresses the equal status of a man and woman and by no means deems one less than the other. The attitude of the Quran and Muslim scholars bear witness to “the fact that woman is, at least, as vital to life as man himself, and that she is not inferior to him nor is she one of the lower species,” according to Hammuda Abdul-Ati, PH.D. This is also demonstrated in the first word of the Quran, “Iqra,” which commands all humans to search for, and equip themselves with knowledge. God doesn’t differentiate between man and woman and tells us that both are of equal importance.
In contradiction to popular belief, Islam takes a positive approach to women’s sexuality. It affirms their sexual desire and right to its fulfillment in a responsible way, after marriage.
Consider these quotes from the great mufti ‘Sheikh Ahmad Kutty’:
Now coming to mutual obligations of spouses, it is lucidly and beautifully expressed in the following verses: And cohabit with them on terms of utmost decency and fairness (An-Nisa’ 4: 19); And they (women) have rights similar to those of men in fairness (Al-Baqarah 2: 228).
According to the Qur’an, the purpose of marriage is to attain sukun (tranquility and peace; see for instance verses 30:21; 7:189), which can never be achieved through impulsive sexual fulfillment unless it is accompanied by mutual love, affection, caring, and sharing, which are all part and parcel of a fulfilling and productive marriage relationship.
In Islam, man and woman in general, as well as husband and wife in particular, are equal partners; just as a husband has needs to which a wife is expected to be responsive, a wife also has needs to which a husband should be responsive. To be successful, marriage must be based on mutual reciprocity and consensual relationship.
Yes, Islam sees women’s sexuality as beautiful, natural, and fulfilling.
Responses to my post asking why women like sex less than men included:
- Says who?
- I think it’s the opposite – I think women like it more
- I don’t think anyone can know who likes sex better
Or as one man put it,
The overwhelming majority of men and women get their attitudes and desires for sex primarily through the natural, healthy desire to have sex… Women are equal to men and thus capable of every form of behavior that men engage in.
To which I respond: no and yes.
Women are certainly capable of enjoying sex immensely. Given their capacity for multiple orgasm, perhaps more. In some societies women are highly orgasmic and take pleasure in engaging in sex with great frequency, as did Tahitian and American Indian women before contact with Europeans.
But highly orgasmic American women? Not so much. Forty-three percent suffer from sexual dysfunction.
While the experience of orgasm is similar for women and men, women are less likely to have one. Sociologist Michael Kimmel surveyed college students on their most recent hookup (where actual sex may or may not have occurred). Only 44% of the men reported having an orgasm. Bad enough. But only 19% of the women did.
Expanding beyond hookups, an Indiana University survey found that 91% of men had an orgasm the last time they had sex but only 64% of women did. And only 58% of women in their 20s had an orgasm in their last encounter.
And orgasm seems to correlate with sexual enjoyment with 66% of women saying they enjoyed sex “extremely” or “quite a bit” while 83% of men did.
Modern American women also have a weaker sex drive, compared with men, with more than one quarter of young women feeling only weak desire according to the Archives of Internal Medicine. Research at the University of Chicago found that 32% of women
(but only 15 -17% of men) have low libidos.
Not surprisingly, 40% of men say they would like to have more sex than they do now, but
only 28% of women feel the same way.
Men don’t want to believe that women are less likely than them to enjoy sex. And women feel insulted if anyone suggests as much.
As I said, women are certainly capable of having great sex. But the extent to which they actually do depends on factors other than just what nature brings them. Repression plays a role as women get labeled sluts and ho’s for indulging. Sexual objectification can leave women more focused on how they look than how they feel. And male dominance takes a toll when it takes the form of rape, incest and child sexual abuse. I’ll explore all this is greater depth in future posts.
Women and men must both deal with a prudish society. But women must also contend with sexism. Still, many think our society has no negative effect. Maybe that’s why we don’t do anything to create change.
“After I’ve just gotten laid, the first thing I think about is that I can’t wait to tell my crew who I just did. Omigod, they’re not going to believe I just did Kristy. They’ll all be high-fiving me.”
Guys routinely celebrate having sex. The messages they give each other pretty much translate to, “Sex is great! And more is better!”
But what do women hear?
After anticipating “high-fives” for his sexual success, the young man above adds: “And Kristy? She’ll probably ask me not to tell anyone, to protect her reputation.”
Men and women receive very different messages about sex.
In fact, the term “hookup” is deliberately ambiguous. It can mean anything from kissing to intercourse. So if a guy says he hooked up, he’s hoping other guys think he went “all the way.” But if a girl hooks up, she hopes her friends hear, “I kissed him.”
At one northeastern college, men returning to the fraternities after a night at the dorms are said to be strolling the Walk of Fame. But women returning to the dorms from a frat are taking the Walk of Shame.
A few years back a fraternity at Dartmouth published the names of all of the women the brothers had had sex with, making disparaging comments about them.
Is sex something to avoid? Something dirty? Or something to pursue with a vengeance? It all depends on whether you’re male of female.
When it comes to sex, men are celebrated but women risk punishment.
Many think sexual repression is not a problem in our society – that these notions never reach the subconscious. Yet women can come to turn off sexual feeling, whether they realize it or not. Not feeling can be safer.
Sex therapist, Lonnie Barbach, says that highly repressive societies create women who have difficulty climaxing, while women in non-repressive societies have regular and satisfactory orgasms.
In 1972, when women were more penalized than they are today, a Playboy Foundation survey found that more than half of single women under age 25 found their first sexual experience neutral or unpleasant. Only 20% found sex highly pleasurable.
Things may not be as bad today. Indiana University’s recently released sex survey found that 58% of women in their 20s had had an orgasm the last time they had sex. But when that compares with 96% of their male counterparts, we see the tell-tale signs of continuing repression.
But really, should we be surprised?
Men who slut-shame don’t seem too worried that women won’t enjoy sex with them. After watching sex-craved porn stars, and thinking that accurately reflects women’s sexuality, perhaps they assume women can’t help but come back for more. No matter what.
Some will interpret my observation that men are more sex-positive and more promiscuous as prescribing male behavior to everyone. As one reader put it, “But I don’t want to run around like a tart!”
Actually, I want to have a conversation about the positives and negatives of so-called men’s and women’s ways of doing sex. It is certainly not better to treat people like currency – the more you bang the higher your status. But what can women learn from men, and what can men learn from women?