Guest Post – On the social construction of sex

02/16/2010 at 8:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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[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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  1. I do feel that as a 24 year old married woman, full time educator, and part time graduate student, I should be well in tune with my sexuality. Instead, I’m a woman who cannot have traditional intercourse with her lover. I admit, that before I can change the minds of others, I must first change my view of sexuality. It’s a work in progress.

    Thanks for an insightful post.

  2. your friends all telling you that sex is easy, and simple, and you should be having it.

    I don’t suppose this was aimed at me exactly, but it’s something I need to keep hearing.

    I can physically have and even enjoy sex, but the emotional fallout afterwards, for complicated gender-related reasons, is more than I can handle. And I keep having fights with people who mean well, I’m sure they do, but they keep asking me why I think I don’t deserve good sex, why I would repress my sexual nature by being celibate, and it gets so tiring trying to get through those conversations.

    I guess what I’m saying is thanks for this.

  3. I’ve been reflecting lately on how interested I was in sex before I really had developed a desire for it. I started out thinking I could lean toward lesbianism (when I was a teenager), but in adulthood have found myself attracted to men in a way that I didn’t feel as a teen. I also would never have come up with putting a penis in a vagina on my own; I never noticed my vagina until I started learning about periods. As far as I can tell, someone told me when I was a kid not to touch that, and I listened.

  4. […] reminder: I am looking for Guest Posters. Did you see Brie’s guest post this week? I want to hear more perspectives on the themes dealt with here at Feminists with Female […]

  5. I think I’ve always had a pretty healthy sex drive. In high school while many of my friends were in relationship but not having sex, as remarkable as that may seem, I was just waiting to be in a relationship so that I could have sex without the social stigma attached to it. I was ready, but no one was ready with me I guess. I remember one situation that I got myself into in which I was headed to prom with a certain boy yet he had been sleeping with another girl. I know I probably should have been angry about this, but I wasn’t, I think I’ve always had a different opinion about what is appropriate sex than my peers. Because we were all getting ready to graduate no one was looking for a relationship since we were all heading far away. I remember trying to convince him that while neither he nor I wanted an emotional relationship, we were friends and a physical relationship would have been fine with me. Needless to say he was against this idea, probably assuming that as a girl I would have a hard time making the distinction. But I think I have always mentally separated sex from love. To me sex is something that you do because you want to, and it feels good (or should), and is a healthy part of being a human being. This was all pre vulvodynia diagnosis mind you. and love well love is something that I know nothing about. I know I want sex, I don’t know if I want love.
    basically I have spent a long time trying to grapple with the social construction of sex and my own views, opinions and beliefs on the matter. These are colored by my own personal experiences and I think as each year goes by that I am not in a relationship, the distinction between sex and love becomes greater and greater

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