Looking Past the Male Gaze
Women have been sexually silenced for too long

Looking Past the Male Gaze

Sex is one of the pinnacle points of human existence. 

Maybe because the goal of every living organism is to procreate, maybe because the drive to have sex is etched into our DNA, or maybe because it simply feels good, sex is everywhere. This is especially true for humans, who have developed in a way where sex is now not only a means to survive, but a recreational activity. 

When does sex enter our lives? At 16 in your parents old car? The night of your marriage? Somewhere in-between? The grooming process actually begins well before any of that. In childhood you come across pictures on the internet, in movies, and in books. Your friends tell you secrets about what they think sex is. There is nothing wrong with being curious about one’s sexuality at a young age. It is a natural progression of growing up. What is not natural are the preconcieved notions of what sex should look like, versus the actual reality of it.

Women’s rights movements date way back to 1848, when the Women’s Suffrage Movement roughly began. Women from many walks of life demanded the recognition of their oppression. This led to the petition to give women the right to vote at the turn of the century, eventually being granted in 1919 by James R. Mann. During the late 1960’s, a time of colossal political and social change, women once again stood up and fought for social equality with the Women’s Liberation Movement. Now, in 2019, women are still fighting for their rights. Our right to equal pay, equal rights, equal representation in the world is still often denied us. 

How does sex relate to the Women’s Rights Movement that began 170 years ago? In lots of ways, the most important being the fault in our society that has prevented women’s true freedom for centuriespatriarchy. 

What is patriarchy? It’s not just a buzz word used by millenials to throw the blame onto men. Patriarchy, by definition, is a social system where men hold primary power. It should be agreed on by now that our social system, as well as most others in the world, are patriarchal. Not only do men hold most positions of power and privilege, but they often control the paths history has taken. War, the economy, presidential elections, and sex. Yes, sex. If men have told us the right way to spend our money and lead a nation, they have also told us how we should have sex. 

Women have been taught to cover themselves, to never expose too much to the male gaze. This expectation has played a part in the oppression of female sexuality. If we aren’t supposed to show our bodies, how would we know how to express them? 

Men have always been vocal and expressive of sexual desire and pleasure, whereas women have often been silenced. Think about the Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo Dicaprio. Though the movie is placed in a very specific time and place, almost all interactions with female characters are centered around sex. Sex and sexual desire. Sexual desire tailored to their male counterparts. This happens over and over again right under our noses. Even in movies like the Avengers series where, within the team of six heroes, the only woman is dressed in an all-black leather-looking body suit to show off her figure. Would a woman saving the world really want to do it stuck in a skin tight bodycon suit? No. It is no wonder the discourse of heterosexual intercourse caters to male fantasy, because it is all we ever see. 

The sexual desires of men have traditionally taken precedence over the voices of women.

Male sexuality is portrayed everywhere: In movies, magazines, the news, porn, even in the classroom. Early exposure to sexist media unknowingly plants the precedent into young girls minds that they have to be submissive to men. Women, having always had a lack of representation, are expected to follow the sexual trends of men. Though the penis is glamorized and powerful, the clitoris is often laughed off as some mystery that women talk about. Why is this? Why is a man’s pleasure indulged, while a woman’s is seen as a joke? 

It all ties back into the same argument of the struggle of women’s empowerment. These problems are not new, just displaced. In today’s world, women have made leaps and bounds compared to the first protests hundreds of years ago. It is now becoming acceptable to talk about sex, sexual experiences, desires, mishaps, and everything in between. More and more women are standing up to address the elephant in the room of where the clitoris actually is, or better put, what real female sexuality is like. More recently, media has served as a platform for women to be vocal. Spaces such as podcasts, TV shows, music, magazines, and social media have been a tool to help leverage the crippling oppression of a life lived in the shadow of a penis. 

I’d like to stop and clarify that these problems shouldn’t be blamed on all men. The trends and power dynamics of our society have been in place for hundreds of years, if not thousands. We can’t help what we have been taught and how we were raised, but we can help what we do with it. Patriarchy isn’t a one size fits all word-bomb to justify all things unfair for women. It is a noun to explain a society’s gender-based power dynamics. Just how men can’t help being raised with gender-based privilege, women can’t help being encouraged through their lives to remain tight-lipped on their inner lives.

It is with this combination of variables that we can see a world in which female sexual desires and needs are often suppressed. Heterosexual sex often becomes one-sided since, though a woman is involved, the act itself has a tendency to be driven by the male’s desires first.  Sex is often not about the pleasure that a woman feels, but the completion of a man’s orgasm. Is this because female orgams isn’t necessary in order to become pregnant, so the importance of it has been forgotten? How can we change our societies views on female sexual desire and needs? 

To start, it is time to open the floor to women to be able to talk about sex comfortably without judgment. If men get to talk about themselves and their wants why shouldn’t women? By lifting the stigma off female pleasure, women can begin to explore themselves, their desires, and what great, amazing sex looks like through a female body. If women feel comfortable and excited about sex, then the act itself will be better for all partners involved. 

What do women really like? This is a question men have asked for generations. It is time to explore the beauty and potential of a woman’s body. With this, we hope to enter a new era of sexual equality: an agreement between men and women to respect and cater to each of their bodies, being both very different and similar. It may be a man’s world for now, but women have so much more to offer that hasn’t even been explored yet.

Photo Illustration by Jenna Gagnon

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