You’re in your university union, the speakers are blaring The Pussycat Dolls or something equally 2000s. You have a beer in your hand and your friend is sitting next to you resting his hand on your thigh, talking about a girl he ‘pumped’ the night before. You laugh and nod along, slightly uncomfortable, but willing to go through some discomfort to be considered one of the ‘lads’. It seems like he trusts you, you’re considered one of the cool girls. The kind of girl that is ‘pretty’ and quirky, but passive enough to be tolerated. The air is sticky and tight; beer fumes develop an air borne disease, eating away at your self-esteem until you can register nothing but him not so surreptitiously staring at your tits. He radiates a male energy that is sexual, vibrant, and dominant. You wish you could secrete that type of energy without being labeled a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’. In this situation, the dynamic between male and female becomes apparent; gender identity dictates the extent of our sexual expression, or suppression.
I have always considered myself a sexually liberated person; I am comfortable with my sexuality and with my vagina. The situation I just described was back in 2010 when I was seventeen, when I didn’t question sexism or objectification as much as I do now. I was unknowingly a cog in the social machine of inequality and tradition; I was the vehicle through which sexism could travel, I had relented to an existence based on the male gaze, the male pleasure, despite the fact that I have always identified as a feminist.
Growing up it becomes obvious that men are taught to be open and experimental with their bodies and genitalia – loud, assertive and aggressive. Women are taught to be seen and not heard, to be passive and sexually submissive. In my life, I have seen too many women abused, discriminated against and shamed because of decisions they have made over their own bodies. Whether it’s having frequent sex, getting an abortion, taking birth control or simply refusing to dress the body in a way that appeals to or appeases the male gaze. Even now my Spelling and Grammar check is being very critical and patriarchal: ‘Passive Voice (consider revising)’, it’s like my MacBook is a misogynist, suggesting a title for a critical essay on femininity. This is a tad dramatic, but you get the point and so this raises the question: why are we still stuck in an antiquated society where a woman has to choose between being a virgin and being a whore?
It’s the old Madonna vs. Eve complex, that women have two choices: to be an obedient wife with no sexual agency, or to be a prostitute who exercises her sexual freedom but in a way that is thought to be immoral and undesirable. Too many men are afraid of women’s inherent sexual power over them, so it’s easier to put us into one of two categories so that our sexuality is easier to control and abuse. This is why a woman is openly considered a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’ if they are sexually free with their body and men are not. For heterosexual relationships, studies show that men are skeptical of entering a relationship with a woman who has had more than 10 sexual partners. I find the idea of reducing a human being to their sexual encounters and allowing sex to determine a person’s future relationships completely ridiculous, especially when it’s unlikely that a woman would judge a potential male partner in the same way.
This is why I think more women should be open about how much sex they have and shouldn’t be afraid of coming across as sexually experienced or sexually dominant, this would allow us to overcome and thus eradicate slut shaming. If we choose to refuse the Patriarchal Bullshit, it’s beneficial for both men and woman. Men will no longer feel pressured to maintain the façade of being ‘tough’ and ‘macho’ and having their lives navigated by the desires of their penis, and women will no longer have to censor themselves, their sexual needs or sexual pleasures. I’m not saying running into your local bar in nothing but your (actually quite expensive) Boux Avenue lingerie with a massive dildo shouting ‘I LOVE COCK’ is necessarily the answer (especially if you might love vagina, or both), but being open and unshameable is important when it comes to safe, consensual sex and how women and women’s bodies are treated.
So next time you embark on a ‘walk of shame’ I suggest you rename it ‘the glide of pride’. This is as sassy and flamboyant as it sounds, make it impossible to be shamed, make it impossible to be censored. Take out your birth control pills and throw them up into the air like confetti. If a guy tries perving on you on the subway, hump the air aggressively around him until he feels uncomfortable by your sexual dominance and leaves. Make the world your sexual oyster and celebrate your sexual liberation. We can be the virgin and the whore; we can have our cake and eat it, we can be whatever the fuck we want.
Mina is a student studying Scottish Literature/Comparative Literature at the University of Glasgow. Her work has been previously featured in Qmunicate, The Skinny, Scotcampus, Glasgow Guardian, KettleMag, Glasgow University Magazine, Frowning and TYCI. Mina is a hardcore feminist, freelance writer and founder of FTP Magazine.
Originally published in the ‘Sex’ Issue of Glasgow University Magazine.