Is Sexual Freedom Good for Women?

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…that’s the question Margaret Talbot is asking in The New Yorker this week, on the heels of the Republican birth control controversy and Lena Dunham’s much-hyped new HBO show, “Girls,” which follows the exploits, sexual and otherwise, of 20-something female college grads in New York City.

According to Talbot,

“When people talk about the sexual “revolution,” they can make the changes in sexual mores seem more intentional than they were, more like a strategically planned uprising with a neat manifesto. In some ways, it was: the feminist movement did call for, and then achieve, greater sexual freedom for women, and access to birth control and abortion as rights. But unintended consequences, and particularly economic forces, have played perhaps an even bigger role in arranging the new sexual landscape…” 

Basically, she argues that, sure, women get to have more sex without stigma now. But the types of sex, and the conditions of having sex, are still determined by forces beyond their control (men, capitalism, etc.). The article also makes the point that sexual freedom has been far more damaging to lower economic classes than to the middle and upper class.

In my opinion, the issue isn’t that we have too much sexual freedom, but rather that there’s still a lack of it. When it comes to sex, women are still palpably not in charge. Merely being allowed to have sex without (too much) judgement from society isn’t enough.  If women really had the exact same sexual freedoms as men, there would be no worry about pornography dictating how men expect women to behave in bed. Women wouldn’t feel pressure to have sex to keep a guy’s interest. If women wanted to spend $315 a year waxing, it would be solely because of their personal preference, and not because they fear sexual rejection by not adhering to what has become the dominant aesthetic. And pop culture would swing around and start depicting women as sexual beings, not merely sexual objects.

It’s great that women can feel free to have sex when they choose, it just still doesn’t seem that women are on the same sexual footing as men. Unfortunately, too much sexual freedom isn’t a problem we’ve come close to having yet.