Hero or Harlot? A Look at the Sexually Liberated Woman

To feminists, there have always been two different, but equally strong opinions about women who have multiple sex partners: To some, she’s a bold, open and sexually liberated beacon of feminism but to others she’s a failure–demeaning herself by becoming nothing but an objectified sexual object.

The relationship between sex and feminism is rather complex. Popular culture has played an important role in shaping this argument by reflecting and changing society’s views on women and sexuality.

There used to be a time when women with multiple sex partners were considered “immoral.” Today it is almost just as acceptable for a woman as it is for a man to have multiple sex partners. Hard-won economic freedom, easy and affordable access to birth control, and a number of other factors, have had a direct impact on the discussion of women and their sexuality. This discussion of a woman’s sexualtiy has been hijacked by popular culture with both good and bad implications. Television shows like “Sex and the City” and “Friends,” as well as pop icons like Madonna and Lady Gaga made have brought the sexually liberated woman into the mainstream in a positive way. One woman said, “‘Sex and the City’ is a liberating series where women can embrace their sexual sides without having to wear the label of ‘slut’ or ‘whore.’”

But it can also be said that the mainstream media had caused an over-sexualization of women. Another woman countered the “Sex and the City” argument with, “A closer look at these women shows that not only do they advocate a double standard favorable to men but a lower standard for women.” She goes on to explain that Big betrays Carrie and marries a younger woman, but then later gets a divorce to reunite with Carrie. Even though Big betrayed Carrie he’s still a “good catch” while his ex-wife has become “used goods.”

Some also attribute the ongoing demise of women’s liberation to pornography, which is accessible from nearly any place at any time. Pornography also seems to have distorted mens’ views of sex and sexual conduct, which leads to the objectification argument. Objectification is defined as, “the viewing of people solely as de-personalised objects of desire instead of as individuals with complex personalities.”

Many feminists complain that there is now too much pressure on a woman to behave a certain way. As women, our choices are no longer about fulfilling our own needs but rather to fulfill certain expectations about how women must behave because of the unrealistic portrayal of the female and sex acts in porn.

Sexual objectification is a serious issue, but it really should have nothing to do with women and their sexuality. A woman should be able to have multiple sexual partners and do certain sexual things because she wants to, not because she’s pressured by men, porn or even friends. Women should not be objectified for a conscious choice, but if she’s pressured, the same number of sex partners can become an instance of objectification.

Sex between consenting adults is supposed to be fun, sensual and pleasurable.. It’s supposed to feel good both physically and emotionally. Young women need to feel empowered at a young age to love themselves and to believe in themselves. A strong sense of self worth can fight any kind of external pressure. It also gives us freedom from within to make the choices that we want to.

For centuries women have been told what to do and how to behave. Any semblance of choice was made under fear and pressure from society, religion and family. Today, we finally have the right to live life the way we want. Millennial women can finally choose, by themselves. We must ensure that we respect, exercise and continue to fight for the hard fought freedom we have and to empower each other.

Veena Rao I am an opinionated person and love talking about books, politics and feminism. I believe that we make a difference just by being aware.

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2 Responses to “Hero or Harlot? A Look at the Sexually Liberated Woman”

  1. Zach M

    Men have traditionally held women to a higher moral standard than themselves and traditionally women have accepted this task. Now, *girls just want to have fun* and the playing field is totally changed . Millennial gals have tired of this two faced responsibility and having thrown themselves off that pesky pedestal and into the abyss of male carnality now behave more like lionesses than ladies. I think it’s just great that women are now sexually liberated. It’s the crass manner in which they go crowing about it that makes me feel a little queazy. Is the privacy and modesty of the past with its tincture of romance and grace worth supporting when so much easy fun and pleasure would be lost? I think that’s a pretty good question. Is the temptation of what is at hand so great that contemplation of a different approach is meaningless? I was disappointed that you found no place for love in your article as the best sex is build around mutual love and in it there are no heroes but lovers.

    You talk of the demise of women’s liberation relating to the availability of pornography. Porn has been around forever and dudes have always had a *distorted* view of what is acceptable sexually. Pushing the envelope so to speak. Now it may not be fair but isn’t the limit actually found in what gals are willing to accept as opposed to what guys desire? Perhaps the endpoint of all this will be when a man enters a room and the well sated women all lower their voices, improve their posture, neatly brush back their hair, and tell their friends to watch their language as a man is present.


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