February 24, 2024

Reading Between The Sheets: The Illusion of Sexual Equality in The Bedroom

Woman’s liberation and feminist movements have done a lot for woman’s rights, thus addressing the power imbalance between men and women. However there is at least one area, which in my opinion, still encapsulates the great power vacuum between men and women, and that is in the bedroom. What about the pill, contraception, the social acceptance of child birth out of wed-lock, abortion and casual sex; surely I’m missing something? No I am not. The apparent freedom women possess, to have sex with whomever they want and whenever they want is just that: an illusionary freedom, not a real one. Women are told by state and the media that they have never had it so good, they have all this freedom that they never had even thirty years ago, and that we should be grateful and thankful for this; a hundred years ago women didn’t even had the vote. Well girls, lift up your skirts and rejoice for this is the modern era of sexual equality!

In the bedroom, women perceive that they are on equal footing with men, but this is façade. Women are expected to behave in a sexual manner and to want sex; this is evident from the way women are portrayed in the mainstream media and filters down from the media into the consciousness of everyday people, subtly objectifying women as objects of sexual desire and pleasure. This sexualisation of women not only re-enforces male objectification of women, but also normalizes it in the minds of both genders.

If a woman goes back to a male friend’s loft apartment after a hazy night out and he wants to have sex with her, does he expect it or desire it? Often a man takes it as a given that if a woman comes back to his apartment she will then be having sex with him, or least engaging in some sexual activity; what else would she be doing there? This is a discriminatory way to think because if one looks at the situation from this male-centered perspective and ignores the woman’s actual intentions, wishes, and motivations, at best this perspective places an expectation of sex upon her and, at its worst, an obligation. It is common place for a woman to find herself in a situation at the end of a night with a man, an acquaintance, a friend, a date, someone she’s just met, etc… where the man is expecting her to have sex with him, but she doesn’t want to. What had she ought to do? Say ‘no thanks’ and walk away, leaving the fella feeling a little disappointed- tail hanging between his legs? I find entertaining this option amusing since it is probably the least realistic outcome. In the real world the man will most likely try to persuade her that this is not the case and that she actually does want to have sex with him, she just didn’t realize it yet, but in ten or thirty minutes time she will be gagging for it! All one has to do is be persistent. Is this really legitimate behaviour? It’s perfectly normal behaviour which goes mainly without questioning; if a woman has been persuaded into consenting to sex, can this be considered a true autonomous choice? Why is it considered normal and legitimate for men to talk a women into to having sex? But surely if she really doesn’t want to have sex, she’ll just keep on saying no; she wouldn’t change her mind. Again this male orientated  way to look at things ignores the pressure placed on a woman to say yes not only by the man in the situation but also by society, a society in which women are presumed to be having lots of sex and told that they should want to have lots of sex. Sometimes it takes a more confident, self-assured and stronger woman to say no than it does to say yes. The point I’m trying to make is that in the bedroom, the imbalance of power between men and woman still exists with women pressurised into compliance.

Women are lead to believe they have freedom in the bedroom, but it’s simply an illusion; real sexual equality in the bedroom doesn’t come from more women having more sex but from more men listening to  and respecting a woman when she says no the first time. When this situation arises, where a woman knows she only has to say ‘no thank you’ once,  we’ll be on the way to real sexual equality.

11 Comments on Reading Between The Sheets: The Illusion of Sexual Equality in The Bedroom

  1. If a woman goes back to a man’s apartment after kissing him, fondling him it would be sill to expect him not to expect sex. God forbid that a woman might actually ENJOY having random sex. As a man, IME woman play coy and make a man ask/work for sex not because they women dont want it but because they fear that if they give in too easily they will be labelled a ‘slut’. This is not the fault of men. Decent men know and accept that women love sex and will sleep with as many if not more partners than the average man – that’s normal and healthy. It is often the women themselves that enforce this ridiculous code of sluttiness. If the woman does feel pressured into sex then that is obviously a bad thing. But the fault is not with ‘men’ and the solution does not lie in blaming everything on a guys. The solution is for our society to finally accept that sex is a normal good thing and get rid of the ridiculous policing of vaginas and let women be freer. And that is the responsibility of men and women. Honestly, I cant believe this is what spouted in the name of Feminism these days, still playing the victim, still playing the poor innocent in the face of masculine oppression – grow up for Gods sake

  2. I’m sure a lot of men would argue that the act that the women are saying no in the first place is a sign that they are the ones holding all the power. I think there will always be an unavoidable inequality, but this is not something I think men are to blame for. In my opinion, it’s just nature that creates it and society that maintains it (well, the media). The fact that a women has a womb and has to face any mis-haps she may have, hands on. Unlike a man who can (not saying he will) walk away (in the sense it is not his body that is being forced to deal with any consequences). I think you touch on some very good points, but I am rather against the whole feminism thing as I do think men get it a bit hard at times, when really it’s not anyone’s fault that there are obvious biological differences between genders. I think the problems women face tend to stem from the fact that they are the ones who have to worry about contraception or else face a life changing decision. Men get to perceive sex, in their mind, as a fairly hassle free event. So they obviously look upon it with a lighter mind than women do. (Not all of them, but there is definitely going to be a difference between someone worrying about the consequences of their own body over someone else’s – especially in less committed relationships or encounters). Great article – very interesting to read. I love a debate :]

  3. Equality it seems to me can only be achieved by communication…and I think we all agree that there is a little work to be done here. For sure avoiding the kinds of situations were either party feels pressure to play their gender role (be that everything from not splitting the bill to pushing an initial ‘no’) should be on the responsibility of both the man and woman. To me it seems a rather extreme generalization to claim that freedom for women in the bedroom is an illusion. Perhaps you could claim this for those suffering hermeneutic injustice (both on the male side as well as the woman) but for all those men and women who are thankfully more enlightened freedom in the bedroom is totally possible. Our larger social gender roles can only be modified through this kind of individual exercise of freedom and in this sense I am not to sure the above comment and the article are really in disagreement.
    Although I would say that I’d prefer to see a picture of a face if we are worried about objectification of women 🙂

  4. Apologies in advance for the rant!

    Interesting article, and I agree with the basic premise: women should not be pressured into sex. In my opinion, pressuring a woman into sex, is akin to rape. If I am going to have sex with a woman, she must not merely say ‘no’, but must also be positive about it. Consent isn’t established by merely not saying no, it can also be established by positively affirming to something. I think that rings true in the context of sexual relations quite strongly. So I strongly agree with you on this point. But yet, I have some disagreements.

    With regards to your second paragraph,if you’re suggesting a link between sexualisation of women and the normalising of rape culture, then I disagree. I don’t think the issue lies within the sexualisation of women nor the objectification. I might sound controversial in saying this, but I honestly don’t believe that portraying women – in *some* contexts I must stress- as sexual objects has a negative effect on society. Images of scantily clad women in music videos or pornography can’t be attributed as a source of the normalisation of rape culture. Most contemporary studies haven’t established a necessary link between pornography/sexualisation of women and sexual violence towards them. Indeed, in countries where a more conservative attitude is adopted towards sexuality, the levels of reported sexual assaults and rapes are much higher. But in places like Egypt, where sexual assaults in public are particularly high, there is not much sexualisation of women in the media. Therefore, I think the normalisation of rape culture stems not from media influence, but rather from traditionally held sexist values that are remnant in our culture. Sexualisation has nothing to do with it.

    “But surely if she really doesn’t want to have sex, she’ll just keep on saying no; she wouldn’t change her mind. Again this male orientated way to look at things ignores the pressure placed on a woman to say yes not only by the man in the situation but also by society, a society in which women are presumed to be having lots of sex and told that they should want to have lots of sex”

    I agree. Society does ignore the pressure placed on women to have sex which can borderline on negating consent. But I don’t know if society presumes women are having lots of sex or should have lots of sex. Remember, women are often tarnished as being sluts for having sex outside of a relationship context.

    But I also want to respond to ASDF’s above comment as I think it is flawed and lacks an understanding.

    “If a woman goes back to a man’s apartment after kissing him, fondling him it would be sill to expect him not to expect sex.”

    I hope I’m not reading too deeply in what you’re saying, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you’re surely missing the point. I do think that sometimes one’s behaviour can create an expectation of something, but to lead onto ergo an implicit obligation that they must have sex is nonsensical. A person only consents to what they want, not the expectation of others. For example, if I consent to allowing my friend to stay over at my house for a day and he ends up staying a week without me explicitly permitting him, wouldn’t he be taking the piss? Why? It’s because I only allowed him to stay that day- not take the whole nine yards.

    “If the woman does feel pressured into sex then that is obviously a bad thing. But the fault is not with ‘men’ and the solution does not lie in blaming everything on a guys.”

    Men’s attitude does need to be changed if they are the ones doing the pressuring and the one’s who pressure are at fault. I agree with you that women also do a lot of ‘slut-shaming’ and both women/men hold old fashioned views of women’s sexuality. But that still doesn’t negate the fact that we shouldn’t try to prevent women from being pressured by men into sex. And it’s odd how you acknowledge that a man pressuring a woman into sex is a bad thing, but then deny that it is the fault of the man or attitudes with men. Don’t you see a causal link?
    And please, that whole “women play coy” thing not because they don’t want sex but are fearful of being labelled a slut is pretty weak. I agree with you that some women might not want to have sex because of ‘slut-shaming’, but a) it’s an old fashioned generalisation; and b) if she’s apprehensive about sex, then don’t try and unduly pressure her for the reasons I said in my reply to Becca. There’s a difference between flirting and pressure. Flirting to get someone in bed is fine. Pressuring them? Not so good.

    Although I do agree with you that society needs to accept that women can have sex with a random stranger and that it can be a good thing. If it’s consensual sex, then I really don’t see the objection to a woman/man being promiscuous as long as they use protection.

  5. well from a females point of view, where does Becca refer to “If a woman goes back to a man’s apartment after kissing him, fondling him it would be sill to expect him not to expect sex.” – she doesn’t.

    I have had many experiences where i haven’t even made eye contact with a male and they believed it was ok for them to grab my bum, stroke my waist and even pull me away from my friends to dance with them – this is unacceptable. In which on occasion i rightly tell them and there response being, time of month love or are you dike?
    no i am straight – i like men – but i would like a real man. a man that knows how to treat females, one that looks you in the eye when they talk to you, take a interest in what you have to say and first of all asks for your name. and gets to know you without expecting the right to be able to touch.
    and yes i am a female so i do have lady days. however just because i’ve asked you to stay away from me, not to touch me again. this does not mean i am on a lady day.

    In referring to saying no to sex in which from reading the comments above it seams to be because females don’t wish to branded sluts. yes i do agree there are many slutty girls/ women who will drop there knickers for a glass of wine and a chat up line. i am not like that, however that is there choice, and this is mine. – if i kiss a guy, it will be someone i like and have feelings for, someone who i am seeing / dating. and if i have sex it will be me committing to that man, and i would have to be in a relationship with them.

    In referring to going back to males flat, house, residents etc. this does not mean a thing. i have gone back to many male friends homes and not wanted anything besides a chat / catch up. what is the difference between a female going back to there female home after a night out to a males. there is none, trust me as soon as girls get in a room together we don’t start getting of with each other, we talk, have a giggle, make plans for what we will do next week / for the summer.

    maybe there is just a general miss understanding on the sexes, and who wants what, how about you just follow simple rules, if you want no strings attached sex,
    A- go and pay for it
    B- be straight with your attentions if the girl is up for it she will grab her coat, if shes not she will tell you where to go and you go.
    just don’t expect it, everyone is made up differently and have different views, but there does seam to be large amount of respect missing from the male population in there 20s, i know there are good guys out there, its just the bad boys tarnish the reputation of all you boys. i expose just don’t pre-judge

    ASDF- i hope i never come into contact with you, your views and how you view women are why this blog was written. and how the good guys have got a bad name for themselves.

    i myself am a fan of Beccas blogs – i am not a feminist and nor am i liberal but i can see her points and views in which apply to many females. some of which could be your mothers, sisters, cousins, friends even your daughters.

  6. Interesting conversation. However, I do think we live in the age of Camille Paglia. Feminism has been turned upside down. She has opened Pandora’s box for us. Why not be a slut? Why not a bitch? This is pure female sexual power at its greatest. This is the quickest way to a males heart-through the penis. Let’s not be naive here, what is wrong with the expectation of a one-night stand? If this is not a woman’s expectation then she should let it be known.
    Unfortunately the attempt for a woman to be both pure and impure, virgin and extremely flirtatious invites unwanted transgressions. She should be aware of this and stop crying victim. After all, it is her own power she is trying to escape.

  7. It’s always good to hear different thoughts and opinions of controversial topic. Thanks to all of those who left a mature comment, it made interesting reading. I just want to clarify what I am arguing for and what I am not arguing for in the above article because I feel that it has been misinterpreted slightly.
    By feminism I mean equal power relations between men and women.
    Next I go onto to explore whether this exists or not in the bedroom, in particular with reference to casual sex.
    I say that women have more choice, because of changing social attitudes, they have comparatively have sex freely without fear of moral stigma or getting pregnant. This I presume to be a good thing. However I make the point that from more choice, more power does not necessarily follow and I try to question how much of a choice women really do have with regards to their sexual life and whether a certain ideal had been enforced upon them, a new ideal, which they are expected to live up to. I’m assessing whether women have real autonomy in the bedroom.
    I want to make clear that this is not a man hating article. I like men, and if you have interpreted my article in that way this was not the impression I was intending to give. I suggest as Mark has pointed out that the state and sate ideological apparatus, such as the mainstream media influence people (a gender neutral word) into believing certain things or ideologies. I suggest that the state and its ideological apparatuses tend to portray women as sexual objects; normalising in the minds of BOTH men and women and creating expectations about women in the minds of both genders. Men then expect women to want to have lots of causal sex, and women then think that they ought to. Mark argues that have made a mistake, he suggests that historical and cultural facts are the main case of this and not as I have suggested the state and media.
    I then proceed to talk about the pressure women can find exerted on them when alone with a man who wants, and expects them to sleep with him. I argue that real equality, a balance of power between men and women, will exist when this general pressure and these exceptions no longer exist.

    Some side thoughts:
    I make no moral judgements about causal sex; I’m completely neutral on that point. I am most defiantly not arguing for chastity belts, and if you think that you have completely missed the point of my article.
    Women can sometimes get blamed for ‘leading a man on’, ie. kissing/flirting and then not wanting to sleep with him. I hate this phrase, there is a distinction to be drawn between kissing and sex, and one doesn’t necessarily follow the other and nor should anyone expect it to.

  8. I like the article, and I like the point. The promotion of feminine sexuality is good, but the message is interpreted differently depending on the recipient. Society and the media do have a heavy influence on how people, in general, behave. Stereotypes are created by ignorance, some times fear, but mostly a lack of knowledge. However these do govern expectations and judgements, which in turn dictate how an individual will react and behave in a certain situation.
    The fact of the matter is sex is there for a biological reason – to produce offspring. Majority of other species have females that come into season and that is when the male will not leave them alone, however the female can usually hurt the male enough for him to back off. Human females ‘come into season’ monthly, studies have identified that around ovulation women do tend to dress more provocatively, they’ll pay more attention to their hair, make up, the way they walk and talk, etc. Not giving it 100% conscious thought, routines that tend to happen automatically, but with the sole intention of making themselves look damn sexy. In the animal kingdom, similar behaviours would indicate to the male that the female is indeed keen. Humans do have the option of displaying this whenever they want, especially with the technology of today, human females are able to dress themselves any which way they like, usually reflecting their mood and attitude of the day. As a result the distinction between ‘off season’ and ‘on season’ is blurred for some men. Automatically assuming a woman will have sex with them that night, based on where they are, how they’re dressed and how they’re behaving, is a fail on their behalf, IF they do that. Human brains are capable of complex thought, the fact a male can visualise having sex with a girl, surely he can visualise her turning him down?
    But this again depends on his attitude and behaviour of that moment.
    Humans are one of few animals that have sex for pleasure. This should be something to celebrate and enjoy without any negativity. But in reality it isn’t like that and there is negativity, one that I think will take a few more centuries to disappear!

    (As a side note, it’s the males in most species that are the most extravagant looking, but it is the females in humans. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if men followed this pattern also????)

  9. I completely agree with this article. I think the fact that women now have so much more freedom is clearly a good thing but this along with the media, has also created the view that women want to have a lot of promiscuous sex and that they are highly sexual objects. Setting aside the effect this has on men for a moment, it places a great deal of pressure on the woman herself as she may believe in order to live up to the socially accepted norm it would be wrong not to want to have sex when placed in the position to do so. This in tandem with the fact some men (not all) may be feeling the same thing about the woman means that the situation described in the article is unfortunately prevalent within society. Clearly this is not true of all women but I think the article raises a very relevant point and there is still a long way to go for feminism. I would also like to mention that it makes me very sad that any woman today is willing to declare that she is not a feminist as this shows how distorted the word has become and how still today, we are attributing negative connotations to the belief that women can be equal to men. Surely anyone, female or male who is fair and just, must agree that both sexes should have equal political, economic and social rights which is in essence, what feminism stands for.

  10. I think It’s just about doing what you feel comfortable with at any one point, and making it clearly known, and of course men absolutely need to be listening well without asking for a repeat. Expectations make no sense to me . Sex/love making is an ongoing communication where only reality “what is actually going on” counts, and not ideas, mind games or expectations. Things are real only if you are focused “in the moment”. Sometimes you can be in the middle of it all and for whatever reason be turned off and want to stop (this in my opinion can happen easier in a non-committed relationship with someone you don’t know well) ; so what? it is your right and your partner’s only decent choice is to accept. No one owes anyone sex at any point or under any circumstance. Sex is a totally private matter and if someone decides to make themselves vulnerable to social pressure – for or against- it is no one else’s fault but their own. Have the courage to be yourself and stand for yourself even if someone dares to have an opinion on YOUR private life and what you do with YOUR body.

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