Feminism | Posted by Beatrice M on 04/9/2014

Are We Sexually Equal?

Women have made great strides towards social, political and economic equality in the past decades, but where do we stand in terms of sexual equality? Humans are sexual creatures who all want to explore our sexuality, but society undeniably still influences many women and men to view sex differently.

While medical advancements, like the invention of the pill, have radically transformed women’s sexual autonomy, there are still a number of cultural forces that suppress women’s sexuality. Women are still sexually exploited in the media and there are still societal pressures that encourage us to think of men as overly sexual creatures and women as demure and untouchable. Rigid purity standards and sexual double standards continue to demonize women for having sex and women also still face greater repercussions for sexual activity: they are usually more harshly judged for having sex and labeled “sluts” while men are “studs” and patted on the back for the same act.

These cultural realities could explain the findings of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, who analyzed data from three different studies and found that men and women had very different regrets about their sexual pasts. Men tended to regret the sexual experiences they didn’t have, while women usually regretted the experiences they did have. The most common regrets women had were losing their virginity to the wrong partner (24 percent of respondents), cheating on a partner (23 percent), and moving too fast sexually (20 percent). While, the most common regrets for men were failing to initiate a sexual experience (27 percent of respondents), not being more sexually adventurous in their youth (23 percent), and not being more sexually adventurous when they were single (19 percent).

It seems to me that changes in women’s sexual practices over the past couple of decades may not be due to gains in true equality, but rather because women are changing the way they enjoy their sexual experiences to conform to men’s standards, while men aren’t changing at all. Women may finally able to have more sexual partners generally, but sex is still linked to regret and other negative emotions and outcomes for women. Society encourages men to experience sex in a positive way while it condemns women for enjoying the same pleasure.

Though these stereotypes and beliefs may still be present, feminists have been working to change them and have made and continue to make significant advances. As women continue to speak out against sexual double standards and try to explore what sexual pleasure and fulfillment really means to us, true sexual equality becomes closer to being reality.

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