The Radical Notion

Encouraging women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians

Terminology (or, This Isn’t Sex), Pt. 2 February 27, 2010

Terminology (or, This Isn’t Sex), Pt. 1 found here.

Note: I briefly had this post under password protection, as it dealt with some personal/intimate details and feelings. If you read the post and have strong opinions on whether or not it should be publicly published, please drop me a line in the comments (I can delete your comment after if you want).

[trigger warning]

This is a continuation of the sentiments expressed in the other day’s post, Terminology (or, This Isn’t Sex). In it, I describe how when I was younger, I assumed pretty much any sexual media to be “sex-positive” and empowering, as some sort of “take that!” to the social conservative, decidedly sex-negative movement. I conflated objectification and rape apologism with empowerment and sexual freedom and agency, in part because none of the former words were in my vocabulary at the time. I discussed how the lack of feminist terminology in popular discourse, or the misunderstanding of same, leads to the phenomenon of all criticism of pornography, etc. being labeled as prudish and anachronistic, and had I realized that at least some of the criticism was based on ideas I would actually agreed with, I would have come to certain realizations much earlier.

Today, I’m going to discuss more thoughts about sex I had at that age and how they were influenced by popular culture and education, so this is your fair warning to leave if it’s something you’d rather not hear about (Hi, Mommy!).

When I was a teenager, one of the paramount themes in representations and discussions of relationships was sexual intimacy (shocker, I know). I was lucky enough not to be in an area of the country or religion where abstinence-only sex education or purity pledges abound, but the impressions I got were still mixed, at best. In discussions with health teachers, other adults, friends, and of course almost all popular media, the following messages were disseminated:

  • Teenage boys are the horniest creatures on the planet. They are perpetually masturbating, or thinking about it, and this is both completely acceptable and very funny. In almost no situation can a teenage boy control his sex drive, whether this means becoming aroused at an inappropriate times or trying to “get” sexual activity from a hesitant (female) partner.
  • Teenage girls are boy-crazy, but any sexual contact with said boys is a result of peer pressure. The vast majority of girls don’t masturbate, which is why any discussion of it is both rare and considered much more”shocking”. Teenage girls can’t control their emotions and fall hopelessly in love with boys at the drop of a hat, which leaves them vulnerable to being “made” to do something they’d rather not (have sex). This is not a funny thing in the same way that boys humping apple pies is, but the girls aren’t pitied very much either, because as the possessors of a lower libido they are the Designated Kill Switch for any teenage sexual activity, which is universally considered to be bad unless we’re just talking about boys having sex with nameless figures, in which case it’s cool and funny. Any girl who fails to properly control her boy’s sexual urges is to be blamed and shamed; any indication that she might have actually invited or (gasp!) wanted said sexual activity should lead to even more blaming and shaming. The terms “fast”, “loose”, “easy”, “whore”, and “slut” should be employed whenever describing a girl that someone thinks might have wanted sex, or had sex, or been “made” to have sex, and are universally acknowledged as the worst things a girl could ever be.

People were not entirely without sympathy for the female half of the population, though. We also received frequent admonitions and instructions on how and why we should “resist” our potential boyfriends’ inevitable (and inevitably unwelcome) sexual advances. I remember distinct moments in health class, for example, where we all discussed what we would say if our boyfriend told us “you would [have sex] if you loved me” – the proper response was “if you loved me, you wouldn’t make me”. A boy who is trying to have sex with a girl who doesn’t want to (pretty much all sexual activity was assumed to fall into this category) is inconsiderate and not a nice person, and it might even be good for you two to have a Serious Discussion About Your Feelings, but breaking up with a boy who was pressuring you into sex was a last resort (don’t want to be a prude! And all boys are gonna do it anyway, so do you really want to be alone?). (more…)

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