Carnal Daisies Saturday, May 22 2010 

Being a woman has many stigmas attached to it. However, being a woman that is comfortable in her sexuality and not afraid of that is an entirely different matter altogether. Or is it? For hundreds of years women have been the center of all things soft and sensual, and at the same time persecuted for being too sensual. It should not be seen as socially acceptable for only a man to enjoy sex, and yet, that is currently the social norm. Women and men should be held at the same standard because there is not one person on Earth that can truly say what is and what is not sexually permissible. Celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Madonna, TLC, Christina Aguilera, and Lady Gaga, have all independently caused stirs in the media when being vocal about sex or being a sex symbol. Women, as human beings have the right to expression and the right to live through that expression, sexual or otherwise.

Being a woman is only a part of a larger picture. According to Mary G. Dietz, “Gender is absorbed into a mixture of identifications” and “woven of many different stands” including “color, class, ethnicity, culture, sexual identity, sexuality, etc” (Dietz 411). Which means that these strands are present in all human beings, therefore, if a man is able to be open about his sexuality, as well should a woman. The key for all women is the want to discover “common threads which connect the diverse experiences of women” in a common unity (Dietz 405). In “Estrogen, Desire, and Puberty,” Natalie Angier’s words give insight to being a girl and eventually a woman: Girls can imagine futures for each other, with outrageous careers and a string of extraordinary lovers, because it is easier to be generous to another than to yourself, but imagining greatness for a friend makes it thinkable for yourself…(23). In other words, girls and women are not to think about pleasure for themselves, but to have hope for others because it would appear more socially appropriate. However, what is socially appropriate has often changed from times before World War I to presently.

Sexuality has varied from before World War I to presently. In 1872, Victoria Woodhull declared herself a contender for the United States presidency. However, Ms. Woodhull was ahead of her time and publicly proclaimed the “philosophy of free love” (Strom 114). Strom also states that: Emma Goldman… was frequently arrested for her incendiary speeches, and socialist Charlotte Perkins Gilman echoed early reformers’ belief that women should choose sexual partners on the basis of mutual love and desire… Goldman insisted that the institution [marriage] was inherently stifling for both women and men (114). At this time, marriages were not necessarily built on the idea of love, but more on security. Women would have large families and due to society’s belief that women were not truly supposed to have their own opinions, the women in question often remained faceless, or without identity as to who they were. However, as Strom notes, during the 1900’s, with surprising thanks to Freud and his psychoanalytic theory, a rather large change occurred: A new sexual sensibility… divorced sex from reproduction and emphasized sexual pleasure for its own sake for both women and men, overthrowing some of the Victorian constraints of the past (200). This was controversial because it was expected of women to be naive in their sexuality, and to not truly acknowledge it.

Unfortunately, women who are comfortable in their sexuality have unintentionally brought with them baggage created by other people—baggage in the form of words. As Feona Attwood notes in “Sluts and Riot Grrrls: Female Identity and Sexual Agency,” “By the twentieth century it [‘slut’] had become ‘a widespread term of abuse’ for women who did not ‘accept the double standards of society’” (233). These double standards being it was acceptable for a man to openly bed whomever he chose and a woman was immediately degraded for participating in similar acts. In “The Pleasure Principle,” a New York Times article written by Patricia Leigh Brown and Carol Pogash, an interviewee, Ms. Daedone states, “In our culture, women have been conditioned to have closed sexuality and open feelings, and men to have open sexuality and closed feelings. There’s this whole area of resistance and shame.” For men, emotion and intimacy do not seem to go hand-in-hand, and for some, intimacy is not included in sexual activities between men and women, or even same sex partners. In the 1968, a bra-burning occurred, and a year later, a feminist group known as Redstockings made this comment regarding female sexuality and the financial oppression: We are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor. We are considered inferior beings, whose only purpose is to enhance men’s lives. Our humanity is denied. Our prescribed behavior is enforced by the threat of violence (Strom 296). Women are sometimes seen as a means to an end—furthering the family line for instance. For some men, like Henry VIII, women were just that; not to be appreciated, but to be used for their bodies. But if a woman were to enjoy having sex, she would be called a whore or other choice terms. On the other hand, a good deal of woman have begun to stand up against the people who use these words as derogatory, and have transformed them into words of empowerment for the very woman that enjoys sex.

However, in recent years, the term ‘slut’ has taken on a new meaning—one that all women can take to heart. She is “‘a woman who takes her pleasure as a man does… without guilt or remorse’, one of the ‘sex-warriors, the independent owner-operators who bring great honor to our gender’” (235). Almost as if saying, “‘Yeah, I’m a slut. My body belongs to me. I sleep with who I want… I’m not your property’” (236). This is empowering because girls will learn from various kinds of women: fake women, real women, women in between (Angier 22). Girls should learn at a young age that they are beautiful no matter what and understand that as they mature, their sexuality will bloom and become a huge part of who they are and what they are about. Strom notes that “Modern-day women had often struggled for the freedom to explore their own sexuality and sexual pleasure,” however restrictions repress the ability to do so with the idea that “women who wished to avoid rape should stay home; if they went out at night or to the ‘wrong places,’ or wore the wrong clothing, they were often said to ‘deserve’ whatever they got” (298). No one deserves to have someone’s pleasure forced upon them, and to say that only shows how little society thinks of women.

In Natalie Angier’s essay, the author remarks that, Experience, after all, is a trustworthier friend than intuition. How many times do you have to encounter a man who reminds you of your cold, aloof, angry, hypercritical, and infinitely alluring father before you can recognize the phenotype in your sleep and know enough to keep your eyes and nose and hormones far, far away (20). The answer probably being once is enough. Hormones have not only a great deal to do with the attraction between individuals, but also the amounts of fat women and men have on their bodies. Angier states that women have a 27% average of fat, while men have approximately 15% (21). Due to ever-changing levels, women sometimes have more or less fat on their body. Society is constantly unsure how to handle this which leaves many females asking: Is there something wrong with me? Being comfortable in her body is part of a woman’s sexuality and if society is consistently questioning what amount of fat is attractive on females, then she needs to transcend society’s ideas and form her own. The New York Times interviewee, Ms. Daedone notes: “In our culture, admitting our bodies matter is almost an admission of failure. I don’t think women will really experience freedom until they own their sexuality.”

Women have every right in their world to express their sexuality. Being a women who is comfortable in her sexuality means that “‘you can be a bombshell and wear black panties and still be really smart’” (Attwood 239). Enjoying sex does not mean he/she is unintelligent and self-righteous—if anything, men and women should enjoy sex because it is not just for reproduction, but pleasure. If sex is supposed to be an intimate bond between people, a battle between men and women as to who is superior defeats the purpose and ultimately goes on to cause continual issues in social environments. Behind closed doors, women are just as likely as a man to ask for or demand sex—it does not make it better or worse, it just is. It is no body’s right to deprive “women of knowledge about their own bodies” (Strom 298). As Angier states, “The world needs your wild, pounding, dreaming heart” (23).


Works Cited

Angier, Natalie. “Estrogen, Desire, and Puberty.” Inquiry: Questioning, Reading, Writing. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Edward M. White, and Shane Borrowman. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River:    Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. 14-23.

Attwood, Feona “Sluts and Riot Grrrls: Female Identity and Sexual Agency.” Journal of Gender Studies 16.3 (2007): 233-247. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 4 Dec. 2009.

Brown, Patricia Leigh and Pogash, Carol.  “The Pleasure Principle.” New York Times  15  Mar. 2009, Late Edition (East Coast): New York Times, ProQuest. Web.  29 Nov. 2009.

Dietz, Mary G. “Current Controversies in Feminist Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science    6.1 (2003): 399-431. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 4 Dec. 2009.

Strom, Sharon Hartman. Women’s Rights (Major Issues in American History). New York: Greenwood, 2003.