Guest Post – On the social construction of sex02/16/2010 at 8:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
Tags: emotions, female sexual dysfunction, Feminism, FSD, guest post, language, media, relationships, sex, sexual health, social construction, vulvodynia
[Dear internet, we have a guest poster today! The following has been written by Brie. She maintains her own blog over at My Vaj-Jay is Broken.]
So K has graciously allowed me to be a guest poster. This has taken a little bit of time to create due to the fact that I am a graduate student who barely has time to catch up on her schoolwork. But at long last I am taking a short break in order to write some things down. At first I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to write about. I will admit that my own blog My Vaj-Jay is Broken can sometimes be a bit of a venting arena, but I think there are a few posts that have been about more than just my personal feelings on the subject.
What I would like to address in this post is along the line of the social construction of sex. I came across this notion as I was reading through an article for my graduate studies classes. That particular day it got me thinking about my own personal sexual health and how I judge myself against what is presented as the norm for individuals. You know when people teach you about peer pressure when you are like 15 and it’s supposed to be like “hey don’t do drugs because of peer pressure” well it’s kinda like that but you’re all grown up and supposed to be totally past it and instead of a few friends passing you a joint it’s movies, and tv, and commercials, and magazines, and radio, and your parents (cause they just want you to have babies already), and your friends all telling you that sex is easy, and simple, and you should be having it. Well as many of you readers are aware it’s not that simple, in fact it’s really really hard.
It’s the whole of society that leads you to believe that sex is the most natural act on the face of the planet. I mean that’s what the last 40 years have been about right, free love and the sexual revolution and all that. In the US, our society in particular has constructed this one-size-fits all version of what sex should be, and if you don’t fit that size then it becomes a dysfunction. Now, I personally don’t like using that word, I tend to refer to it as a condition but that doesn’t really sound much better does it. In this society if you are 25 years old and a “virgin” (again not a fan of that word) then there is something wrong with you. And getting back to the pressure aspect of it, being 25 living with a sexual problem is a whole lot of pressure. Pressure to keep up an image other than what the truth is. I can count on one hand the number of potential relationships I have been upfront about this with, and in my case none of them went past that moment. That’s a lot of pressure. To keep up this facade that you are like every other girl, that you’re not having sex is normal because its too early in the relationship, when everyone around is jumping straight into things, and then falling in love for years after. A lot of pressure.
Then there is the right of passage aspect of sex. For boys it generally comes much earlier but it’s still there for women. In many cases it is assumed that when you have sex you have transitioned from being a child to being an adult. A fully fledged woman who has harnessed her sexuality fully. So where exactly does that leave the rest of us who are 22, 25, 30, 40 and still unable to have old fashioned sex. Many women will argue that they are just as sexually alive and awake and a woman who is having pleasurable sex. For me it’s a little different. I haven’t found that sexy yet, not really. I can get dressed up with my make-up and heels and feel sexy for a night, but I wake up the next morning having lost that feeling. For me this is hard, you are taught growing up that sex is what grown-ups do, and that when you’re a grown-up you can too. Women who exude confidence have figured out how to navigate through this social construction, I personally am still hacking through the forest so to speak.
There have been small steps taken to change the assumption that all women have the same sex life. But they are small steps. Whenever I talk to a friend about my sex-life or lack-there-of they are confused and don’t really understand. We have short 20 minute specials in the middle of the day, or on newscasts that only a select few are made aware of. Half of the specials that I have seen in the last few months I only knew about because the National Vulvodynia Association emailed me about them. And any attempt by network shows to highlight these problems, while appreciated, never quite get it right. ABC has tried, on a few occasions, to show women dealing with sexual dysfunction but the diagnosis and treatment happen so quickly it paints a false picture of the realities of the condition. We can’t expect miracles overnight I guess.
The point I am trying to make is that while medical research is all well and good we cannot forget about the social constructions that remain part of our culture. Until we change the way we view sexuality (again) finding a cure will only be half the battle. We must be aware of the expectations and pressures we place on women who are suffering from FSD and try and change these views to incorporate a more wide-ranging definition of sex.
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