Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about sex.
Not as much about doing it, as much as about NOT doing it. As feminists, we often address the societal pressures surrounding sex and the importance placed on women being sexual objects. There IS a lot of pressure to have sex, it’s everywhere and it seems like “everybody’s doing it”. But, there is also a lot of pressure NOT to do it. Especially for young women, we are taught all the time how to say no. Sex is a commodity, and women are the keepers of it. We are in charge of the “no” in order to stay pure. This is because men (who are the only people women have sex with, because we are all straight) are sex driven maniacs who can’t control their urges and need to push us to have sex and we must say no in order to maintain our virginity, which is essentially our self-worth, so that we don’t become damaged goods. Obviously.
Recently, I came across an article on the subject in the Trentonian called “Orgasm or I Do?” about how the push for young women to say no to sex until marriage isn’t making them NOT have sex, it’s just making them get married earlier. Is this really what the religious right is pushing for? These people are basically threatening young people that the natural, sexual desires they feel towards their partner will put their eternal life in danger if they act on them. So, if you have sex with the man you love, you’re responsible for him burning in fiery hell. Good job. How fucked up is that? Let me be clear, when I say the religious right I’m not referring to individual religious people. I grew up in a religious (Catholic) household and I know that my mother wanted me to wait to have sex until it was with someone I loved and cared about. But if I came home at 19 and announced I intended to get married so that I could have sex in order to avoid “sexual sinning”, I’m fairly confident she would have bought the condoms for me… well not literally but you get the point.
This may be an unpopular sentiment morally, but just looking at the decision to have sex versus the decision to get married, getting married is a WAY bigger deal. Marriage is a legally binding contract. There’s a lot of benefits to being married but there are also a lot of hurdles to jump through if you decide to divorce. And considering that marrying young is one of the biggest indicators for what couples will get divorced, this is really something that should be thought through before such a lofty commitment is decided on just to have sex. The choice to have sex has it’s own possible consequences as well (the possibility for pregnancy in hetero couples, as well as the risk of STIs all around, just to name a couple) but with responsible use of safer sex and/or birth control practices, these risks are minimized. Not to mention, these risks don’t magically go away with a ring on your finger!
The decision of whether or not to have sex is often not an easy one, especially for young women being bombarded with all of the different messages. If you don’t have sex, you’re a prude and probably weird and so no one wants to bone you anyway, but if you do it you’re a slut and clearly going to hell. The best advice for talking to young women about sex is not only telling them how to say no so that they don’t feel pressured by their partners to do something that they don’t want to do, but also encourage them that when they’re ready, it’s okay to say yes. If we continue to encourage women that there’s no ding ding without the wedding ring (thanks, Robin Hood Men in Tights!) we just end up hurting them more in the long run.
Cross Posted at http://community.feministing.com/2009/08/orgasm-or-i-do.html