Women Are More Responsive To Repression

OPINIONS_slut_martin_original_original_original_mediumWomen’s sexuality is more hushed-up and punished in our culture:

  • Sexual women are still called “sluts” and “ho’s”
  • Parents — especially fathers — are more open about sexuality with their sons. In fact, dad may brag about his son’s sexual prowess but not his daughter’s
  • Viagra is openly advertised but products aiding women’s sexuality are not
  • Ever seen a movie about girls trying to lose their virginity?
  • The fear of sexual violence — or actually experiencing it — makes sexuality seem fearful to women and girls
  • And be careful girls, or you may get f’d or screwed

AND women’s sexuality is more responsive to punishment.


“Don’t touch yourself!” What’s different for girls and boys?

If mom tells you, “Don’t touch yourself!” what’s different for girls and boys?

Since a penis is large and obvious, boys will certainly discover it.

And even if boys don’t purposely explore their bodies, they will still have wet dreams because they need regular ejaculations to create fresh sperm. So they can’t help but get clued in to how their bodies work.

Girls won’t necessarily discover their clitoris. And many don’t. For years. Or ever.

And, the mechanics of orgasm are less mysterious for men: basic friction works just fine. Girls must figure out what sorts of touch work, and where.

So girls need both the discovery and the practice in a way that men don’t.

Men’s sex drive tends to be constantly high

Also, women’s sex drive seems to peak at ovulation, whereas men’s sex drive tends to be constantly high. That extra “practice” may reinforce men’s sexual interest, making it more resistant to repression.

Sexuality educator, Dr. Emily Nagoski, discusses why girls and women are more affected by repression in her book Come As You Are. Imagine fraternal twins who are as similar as different-sex siblings can be. After “Frankie” is born he notices how his penis grows, and how it feels good — and he links erections with what’s happening in his environment. But his sister, Franny, doesn’t have such obvious physical responses. Instead, her brain starts linking “sexually relevant content” to social and emotional context instead of genital response.

The world gives “him” much more stimulus

Plus, if he is a heterosexual male he’s surrounded by much more stimulus to get him going.

sexy billboardWhether on billboards, TV ads, Dancing With The Stars, Olympic ice skating, or professional football, women are half-dressed and men are fully-clothed. The camera hones in on women’s breasts and butts and ignores men. Sure, we are seeing more hot men these days thanks to Channing Tatum and Ryan Gosling. But “People’s Sexiest Man” has a long tradition of showing lots of faces and loose T-shirts and few bods.

Even women’s and men’s everyday clothing show off women’s bodies much more.

The male body isn’t fetishized

Plus, no part of the male body is fetishized.

Cultural fetishes (like breast and butt fetishes) are created by:

  1. selectively hiding and revealing — creating tension
  2. labeling something sexy and then saying, “Don’t look!” — creating tension
  3. culturally obsessing over the body part

The excitement that T&A creates seems natural yet tribal men don’t get into a tizzy over tribal women’s breasts and butts.

As a result, western men stare at breasts and butts, but what are women supposed to look at?

The perfect storm

In the end:

Women’s sexuality is both more ignored and more punished.

AND women are more affected by the repression.

The perfect repressive storm.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 18, 2016, in feminism, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. That’s not the case anymore. In major cities noone is repressing women’s sexuality anymore. On the contrary, women’s sexuality is celebrated nowadays. Women can freely admit they are watching lesbian porn and experimenting and having sex with women and noone is going to ludicrated them.
    All movies and music videos are about women’s sexuality.
    On the other hand gay men’s sexuality is still very repressed. Noone wants to acknowledge that men can be bisexual.
    How many movies with bisexual male characters are there?
    Compare that number with the number of bisexual females and lesbians characters.
    How many studies and researches have been conducted about males sexuality and male bisexuality?
    Compare that to the number of females sexuality studies.

    Nowadays gay and bisexual men’s sexuality is repressed whereas female sexuality is celebrated

    • Then how do you explain the fact that almost half of women experience sexual dysfunction: Low or no interest in sex, painful sex, difficulty climaxing.

      You don’t find those symptoms in non-repressive cultures.

      My students live in the progressive San Francisco Bay area and all of them have witnessed slut-shaming. One of my students was taken out of school and put on 24/7 suicide watch because she had been so harmed by it. Another young woman who lives a few miles away from me did kill her self after being slut-shamed.

      I’ll be writing more about this later but here are comments from two of my students:

      My parents always told me never to have sex. They constantly told me that if I ever had sex I’d be shamed and I’d end up a teen mom. After awhile, sex started to seem taboo. At the same time girls in middle school called me names and slut-shamed me simply because I had a boyfriend. It all took a toll on me. Whenever I felt sexual desire I started telling myself that I was “dirty,” so I tried to get those dirty thoughts and feelings out of my mind. Now I’m an adult and I think about things differently but my sexual desire has plummeted.

      As I was growing up and came across something arousing I simply ignored it and slowly it became a pattern because I felt extremely guilty and “dirty” about the feeling. I’ve learned to repress the sensation to the point where, even though I’m still very young, my sexual libido isn’t much there. I’m relieved to know it’s not just me, it’s socially constructed and something I’ve learned.

      And here’s more on the topic:
      My experience parallels the woman below who, in turn, relates to yet another woman’s experience, in a piece she wrote for Patheos:

      “I suppressed most of my sexual urges.” YES. Hell yes, I did. “I was more or less asexual.” YES. I didn’t have a sexual thought, didn’t have a sexual fantasy, didn’t have a sex drive. I’d suppressed these things out of existence.

      Sex-Negative Societies & Non-Orgasmic Women
      Repression Shutting Down Sexuality
      Religion Shutting Down Sexuality

      • I don’t know about the US but nowhere in europe there’s such a thing. Women can exhitib their sexuality freely and noone is going to judge them. Casual sex or hookups, european men don’t criticize women. Straight women can admit watching lesbian porn, going to see female strippers and having sex with women, in matter of fact straight women are more vocal now expressing their attraction to other women and noone is going to judge them

      • You are right that I am talking about American women. Things might be different in Europe, And I haven’t studied those women very much.

  2. This article was so accurate and straight forward, it made my blood boil. Growing up with an older brother, it was obvious to see that my parents were raising us differently. Even though we are just 15 months apart, my older brother is allowed to be home alone with his girlfriend or curled up on the couch with her. The sad part is that I can’t even lay my head on my boyfriend’s shoulder without my parents making unneccessary comment or statement about how I’m too “forward” or “easy”. They try so hard to sugar coat it and manipulate me into thinking that there are hard “do’s and “dont’s” for being a girl. I am old enough and mature enough to be aware of my body and how I want to represent it. What puzzles me is that they are not aware of how raising children so differently consists of only negative effects that hinders them from truly discovering themselves and their bodies. We are constricted to such a small list of qualities and characteristics at such a young age.

    • I think your parents do that because they have internalized society– Or at least a subculture–meaning that society is unconsciously in their own heads. So they unthinkingly repeat the pattern. The first step is recognizing that the pattern actually doesn’t make much sense. But it can be hard to get that point across.

  3. As for the double standard when it comes to information about drugs to help with your sex life, we all know about Viagra but women who suddenly lose their sex drive because of age-related hormonal changes or because of a mood disorder often don’t get the right information about a drug that can increase libido and sexual response in women: the anti-depressant Welbutrin. I found this out by accident because I take it for anxiety. I went from being sexually dead inside (and not even caring if anything changed) to a libido higher than it was when I was in my 30s. I noticed a difference in two days – no joke – but your mileage may vary. But the weird thing is, maybe because of the double standard, it’s not prescribed to help women with low libido. It’s only prescribed for depression or anxiety with fatigue.

  4. Being a women can be very hard we usually are always stereotyped by what we like and don’t like what we do and say and even dress. if we like sex the we are sluts, if we dress a certain way we are called ho’s, if we don’t talk or talk to defend our self’s we are stuck up. And most importantly when people address these type of subjects why is the response different when its about the male figure, why does everything have to be fine to them the experimenting and bragging also including parents mostly dads bragging about there sons sexual life more than there daughter’s. Men where teach and still are being teach on how its normal for male to have a better and higher level in sexuality when women can be put down for it and become victim of insults, society is not making sense and has no equality toward men and women something has to change.

  5. Can you provide me with a link or better explain the “mens sex drive tends to be constantly high” part. What is the measure for comparison there? Is it constantly as high as women’s is at its peak during ovulation or do men maintain a stable level, whereas women’s goes from a stable level to sudden peak during ovulation?

    • Two references:
      Sexuality educator, Dr. Emily Nagoski, discusses why girls and women are more affected by repression in her book Come As You Are.

      Also Lisa Diamond, Sexual Fluidity

      And yes, you are correct with your guess: men’s sex drive is constantly high; women’s peaks at ovulation

      Some people have justified women being the gate keeper, and punished for not controlling men’s sexuality, because women’s sex drive is lower. But that ends up being a complete disaster. Women are much more likely to completely lose interest in sex when they are punished for their sexual desire. And that really hurts both women’s potential for pleasure, and men’s enjoyment of sex — most men want to be with women who are enjoying sex. AND, the wonderful potential for sexual bonding that relationships offer is damaged when women lose interest in sex.

      And it’s not the real reason for the double standard, anyway.

      The sexual double standard that punishes women and congratulates man is tied to patriarchy, And trying to keep women down: shaming them and making them feel underprivileged/inferior. You don’t find double standards in non-patriarchal cultures. I wrote about the real reason here:
      How’s The Double Standard Make Sense? https://broadblogs.com/2016/04/13/hows-the-double-standard-make-sense/

  6. This honestly just pisses me off. In a good way, of course 🙂 Because it’s all bull. We get the short end of the stick when it comes to freedom with our bodies, education about our bodies, and it seems that specific parts of our bodies are used to sell things because that’s all the seems to matter. Thank you for this and all your other posts that bring this stuff up, no one ever wants to talk about it.

  7. Growing up I felt like I wasn’t really aware of a women’s sexuality because my parents repressed that. A girl was supposed to only stick to her studies and never think about boys. It is really crazy because reading this post makes so much sense. Women are often told not to be sexual and not to masturbate for instance but its okay for men to do all these things. Men have always been more inclined to having an open sexual drive. In my household woman who had a boyfriend or were seeing more than one guy she would be slut shamed. Slut shaming has even happened to me just because I was seeing someone. It’s crazy how culture differs on what they think. In my culture seeing more than one guy was almost like a sin. Also people tend to spread rumors making things completely out of the ordinary. But men in my culture who had more than one woman and were sexually active, well that was normal because “men are supposed to do that”. I just don’t like how men and women are seen differently in society when it comes to their sexual drive and how they do it.

  8. Nice and warm greetings from Poland

  9. Most (read almost all) women find is shameful to speak of their body, physical desire, orgasm. I know women who even after 10 years of their marriage have seldom or never experienced orgasm, they just don’t have the idea!! How painful is that!

    A gender-equal society is my dream, too, and of millions of women..I wonder if it will ever come true… 😦

  10. The article is really interesting for me. As a girl grown up in China, the traditional education taught me that girls were not supposed to talk about their sexual lives. Moreover, girls who lost their virginities at a young age were defined as “immoral or unconventional”. I always felt that women in China were suffering because of the inequality and unfair treatments. Why men are proud to talk about how many girls they had sex before? Why boys are okay to talk about the length of their dicks? Why the masturbation is natural for men whereas some people believe it is abnormal for women? I considered about those questions a lot. Many people believe Chinese girls are conservative, in fact, it’s just they are afraid to talk, to express, to share about the “secrets of sex” which, as a fact, makes me feel sympathetic and despair. The article is so true that women would be more responsive to repression. In the United States, although the inequality still exists, many people are trying to break the traditional minds. I hope that one day, in my country, women will have the courage to express as much as men can.

  11. It all boils down to patriarchy exercising dominance and control, and the commercial compulsion of a market economy seeking objectification to signify dominance and commoditisation aimed at raking in the moolah. Earlier, only the female anatomy was commoditised, which subsequently extended also to male sexuality. Differentiation in upbringing of girls and boys may prevail for a little longer, till such time matriarchy starts to assert itself, to at least create a balance of power, if not to tilt the scale the other way, as it obtained in matriarchal societies of yore.

  12. Samantha Hartman

    The masculine culture we live in seeks to retain power and influence over what is often considered the weaker half – women. Men’s sexuality is not condemned as it is considered natural as well as a means to execute their masculinity. On the other hand, women are expected to be pious and virtuous – without carnal desires. This dynamic creates a society that allows men to operate relatively freely with their bodies, while women are constantly under scrutiny as they toe the line between decency and indecency. This article discusses the idea of women’s bodies being fetishized, a trend that defines women’s value and perception of themselves from an early age and as they develop. The psychological effects these have stress women to value themselves on their physical qualities as opposed to the same qualities that men use to determine their value, such as intelligence and social status.

  13. Trang-Thuy Mai

    Growing up as the only daughter to my dad made me connect to this topic. With just us in the California and the rest of the family in Vietnam, my father has raised me in his over-protective care. Currently living in a house with my cousin and being the oldest child in the house made it more natural for me to be the one that is responsible for all the chores. Even now my family is more forgiving if my boy cousin has his girlfriend in his room, but if I brought my boyfriend in my room then it’s not allowed. I believe that the reason for this due to women’s sexuality is view differently than a men’s sexuality.

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