Female sexuality a complex spectrum not to be dichotomized

By Julia Carpey / Columnist

As a self-proclaimed third-wave feminist, I often find myself caught between the two extremes of the feminist movement as it pertains to sex, not particularly fitting in either section.

In the case of college campuses, I’m not the type of woman who feminists would peg as someone who is pining for a relationship, who came to college for her “Mrs.” degree and goes out on the prowl every weekend, thinking as I embark on each drunken adventure: “Tonight’s the night — the night I’m going to find my boyfriend!” I mock those girls. I scoff at their mindsets, although I applaud their unwavering determination. I feel sorry for their jaded perceptions, lack of liberation and eagerness to have their self-worth defined by another human being.

On the other hand, I don’t define myself in the other group: a group stereotypically categorized by the aversion to or “fear” of relationships, the group whose weekends read of promiscuity — a group labeled as “sluts.”

Much like we’re facing a culture of feminists who believe that if a woman is a stay-at-home-mom, setting the work of feminists generations before her back by 20 years, we are facing a similar culture of high-horsed, shit-talking feminists who believe that there are only two subsets of women who interact with men in college. Some women do not necessarily want to be in a serious, emotionally laden relationship, while those same women might not necessarily want to sleep with a different guy every weekend. This middle-group, per se, might just simply want consistent sex and company void of ambiguity that comes with a different person every weekend, and void of long-term commitment. 

One of the pillars of feminism — and for that matter, progress — is accepting everybody’s ability to choose and, by default, respecting that choice, regardless of whether or not we agree with it. 

I’m not going to stand on my soapbox and tell you that slut-shaming is a horrid, patriarchal, masochistic aspect of society that’s been here since the dawn of time and needs to be eradicated. We all know that. 

I’m also not going to stand on the neighboring soapbox and tell you that being in a relationship is a sure-fire way to feel secure and loved. I’m sure we can all infer this point or have learned it from experience. 

I will, however, stand on my soapbox over here and proceed to defend the middleman or middlewoman. For years, women in college have felt silenced by their fears of labels. Either you’re labeled as provocative if you openly enjoy sex and are not ready to settle into a relationship, or you’re viewed as desperate and one-track-minded if you’re looking for security and an emotional connection.

This is not to say that sex is completely void of emotional connections. Biologically, at least the slightest bit of emotions become involved in the process of enjoying sex for everybody. My point is, occasionally you might not be interested in a relationship in which emotional connections are just as essential as the sexual connection. Sometimes you just need to scratch an itch.

Women have been doing this for years — it’s just not widely discussed over brunch. Our reasons for not entering serious relationships are as plentiful as any man’s reasons, yet it’s not only accepted, but applauded, for men to simply have consistent sex. Meanwhile, women are patronized and made to feel shameful for simply liking and pursuing the same exact thing.

While various factors come into play as to why our society views the sexual gender gap this way, perhaps part of it is because of a lack of examples openly set for us. As Sandra Mims Rowe writes in “The Edge of Change,” the likelihood of the promotion of women in the workplace depends on “whether there is positive encouragement in the workplace and the presence of successful role models.” 

While this is pointedly in reference to professional women, nearly the same could be said for women and their relationships with sex both on and off the college campus. There have always been role models for people who are seen as provacative and those girls eager to pair up. But there have not been a group of role models for the women in between. 

Women can maybe look at a small group of women in the 1960s and early ’70s, but no one of particular relevance to us today, and no one without the title “hippie” somewhere in their Wikipedia page. 

So maybe we will be the next generation’s role models — the girls who break the labels to say in a 1969 vein with 2014 realism: “I am taking control of my sexuality, my body and what I want in and out of bed.” Because ladies — and gentlemen — the liberation and ownership of women’s sexuality are just as vital as demanding what we want and deserve in the workforce.

Write Julia at [email protected].