Lately, though not limited to my own recent experiences, the topic of what is okay and not okay in terms of female sexuality has become increasingly common in my circle of friends. I recall a certain circumstance where a ‘quack quack’ (the pyramid origami questionnaire of yester years) begged the question ‘What’s your number?’.
Now I’d like to think myself and my female only coworkers as generally emotionally mature- and in terms of politics, quite progressive. And when writing this question, I didn’t have any other intention than my own curiosity and a desire to know where I sat on the spectrum of sexual liberation.
This is a desire I feel a lot of woman are curious about. And your opinion, like my own, is likely based on two things – current social media’s encouragement of female sexual progression and your own upbringing (of which mine was still somewhat conservative – on the feminist front). Phew, it’s enough to leave one quite confused. On one hand the liberal in you is going ‘A woman can do what she wants with her own body’, and the other is going ‘But too many partners, makes you a slut.. Right?’. But what IS too many? And where does that leave the feminist pleasing equilibrium? Is there one?
My coworkers numbers varied between 5 to 35, all of us within our early to late 20s. And, though I consider myself quite progressive, I found myself a little shocked at ’35’. I also found myself involuntarily labeling ‘5’ a bit prudish for a 22 year old. However I chastised myself for thinking this way and later on this exercise made me think where I, as a millennial born in 1994, thought the line existed, and why I felt ashamed at either of my first judgments at the lower or higher numbers. I felt pressure, yes, to sing praise that a woman can have however many partners she likes, and I also felt pressure to tell the girl that 5 didn’t mean that she was a conservative prude. But moreover I felt the tension of the whole group to do the same things, seeing through their proclamations that 35 was okay and so was 5.
So what does sexual liberation mean as a woman in 2016? Where does the line between being sexually progressive and promiscuous exist- and does it exist at all?
These are questions the fifth wave feminist generation faces. Tasked with paving the way for future generations when it comes to body acceptance and defining what it means to be a modern, sexually liberated woman- while being born in a time where one still feels the pressures of patriarchal hangover mentalities.
‘A lady in the streets and a freak in the bed’- Ludacris may have been onto something. Though I highly doubt he was talking about the paradox of the average 20 something’s sex life and resulting body image.
To explore this question I have to get personal about my own opinions and why they are the way they are so I admit in advance that certain statements may be quite debatable- because they are definitely opinion and therefore experience-based. They are not fact. But I hope to establish a point that most of my peers can agree on, and perhaps halt (or encourage us to rethink) this self-defeating tendency to slut-shame and demean each other, while paradoxically reaffirming to each other, statements of sexual liberation like ‘girl power’ and ‘Yass queen’.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that our attitudes may very well shape the future female generation’s, and come to slowly define the generally accepted, meaning of sexual liberation. Let me start off with saying that at the bottom line it’s most important to put out there that we don’t actually have a say at all in defining any individual woman’s sexual limitations.
That is where the need for female sexual liberation comes in. The only question is, where are your own lines and what has shaped them to be so? And it really all comes down to what you yourself are comfortable with.
I feel with anything, if a woman is self-motivated in her actions, without intimidation or persuasion affecting her decision, then she is acting in a way that she herself feels liberated. The need for a line comes when she is no longer making decisions from a safe and self-empowered place. To put it in simpler terms, when she starts having sex because she doesn’t feel powerful enough to say no or that she has the autonomy to refuse a man who harasses her, when she sleeps with someone to fill her own emotional need for validation (and other various psychological issues that tend to affect one’s sexual choices), when it starts becoming self-harming (putting herself in dangerous situations or not using protection).
However, neither of the aforementioned makes her a ‘slut’. And that’s where your social responsibility comes in to not limit her right to define her own idea of what sexual liberation means, so long as it does not disrespect yours. And to receive the right to define what sexual liberation means to you, in return.