BY GABBIE MARCUCCIO
There is a clear struggle to empower young women amid a culture that has shamed them for centuries for one of the most basic aspects of a woman: her sexuality. The rise of the #MeToo and global feminist movements have brought issues of gender inequality to the forefront of politics and social justice. These movements have also made way for increased discussion surrounding the empowerment of women through embracing their sexuality. This includes first teaching girls to be comfortable in their own sexuality, followed by normalizing healthy sexuality in modern culture. The goal is to support a new generation of girls who view their sexuality as a positive and integral part of who they are.
The first step in promoting healthy female sexuality is teaching girls that their sexuality is normal and something that they should be comfortable with. Parents can support this by paying attention to the messages they send regarding presentation and clothing. When a mother tells her teenage daughter not to go out in a crop top because it will present the wrong image or attract the wrong attention, she is already enforcing the notion that a girl’s image is attached to her body, and that she is wrong for the opinions of others. Although she means to protect her daughter from the potential dangers of the world, she is reinforcing the negativity surrounding female sexuality, and sending the message that ‘respectable’ and ‘sexual’ are mutually exclusive terms.
In addition, accurately defining sexuality, accompanied by scientifically backed information, helps to promote healthy female sexuality. Sexuality must be understood as more than just what is presented on magazine covers or in commercials, as it instead encompasses a woman’s relationship with her body and herself as a woman. Encouraging girls to respect their bodies’ functionality, and embracing the idea that their bodies are deserving of kindness, are both healthy ways to express sexuality. Self-love involves overcoming the stigma surrounding female bodies so that girls feel they have the freedom to be their most authentic selves. There needs to be an increased availability of information, as well as a space for women to actively learn about and explore their sexuality without fear of judgement. If women themselves understood that their bodies are normal, then they would no longer be feeding into the negativity surrounding their sexuality. By becoming confident and comfortable in their sexuality, women are already doing half the work in lifting the stigma.
The second step in promoting healthy female sexuality is normalizing it in society, to the point where it isn’t shamed or objectified. Societal misconceptions as a whole contribute to the stigma surrounding female sexuality because they do not distinguish between sexuality and being a sex object. When a man asks why “being looked upon as a sexual object is so far down on a woman’s list,” he is not understanding that the issue is when object is attached to sexual. The distinction must be made so as not to raise another generation of girls who believe that their sexuality makes them an object, which is both an unhealthy and incorrect portrayal.
Furthermore, when a man asserts that the problem lies in women being unable to accept their own sexuality, he overlooks the mixed messages that society sends regarding sexuality. When some girls’ figures are praised or normalized while others are oversexualized, there is not a clear message on the acceptability of sexuality. Instead, if all bodies were celebrated as healthy and normal, then it wouldn’t even be a question of whether a woman’s sexuality was acceptable or not.
It just would be.