Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Female Chauvinist Pigs

I recall a book I read a few months ago by Ariel Levy, “Female Chauvinist Pigs”. She discusses the idea that there is a new idea of an “empowered” woman who is not only not afraid to take her clothes off or be sexually risqué, but also women who go to strip clubs with their boyfriends to look at other women taking their clothes off. Somehow all of this proves that a woman is not meek or prudish—it’s a statement of “confidence”. Levy questions this idea, and doubts that this is really any kind of feminism or empowerment. I think I would agree with her.

You might think that I’m a bit of a prude. I suppose I would say “yes” and “no” to that. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a woman wanting to be attractive, nothing wrong with the very real fact that heterosexual men like to look at women as a matter of course, and that women like to be looked at. There’s also nothing wrong with women being attracted to women, or men to men—when one gets past our external identities, all men and women are both Shiva-Shakti (i.e., have male and female qualities). Sexual fantasies, of any and all kinds, are very normal. However, I also cannot get sexually involved with someone just for the sake of having sex—there needs to be a deeper attraction, a sense of friendliness and compatibility as well. This is my “hang-up”, if you will.

I think I have been always concerned with the idea of “objectifying” women. Certainly attractiveness to the other person does play a role in “love” relationships, but the idea that your worth is judged by your face and your body type is nothing less than de-humanizing. At best, it has little to do with love. What is love? Something based on trust and respect, in the context of human relationships. How do you respect someone who is just a sex object to you?

Levy talks about teenagers and the current environment of sex education. Sex is everywhere in the media, but the current line of thinking is that teenagers should be taught abstinence, rather than being introduced to concepts like birth control. Levy does ask what I consider to be the all-important question—why are we not equating sex with love? The message teens get is that to really be special or of value, they need to be sexy—but they shouldn’t have sex because it’s bad. Sex isn’t bad—it’s the separation of sex from love that can be bad, and lead to so much emotional damage.
Teenagers, however, are dealing with that great tsunami called “hormones”. Trying to stop that tsunami by just standing in front of it and saying “no” is ludicrous—you’ll be drowned instantly or lucky if you survive it. Some are disciplined enough to be abstinent (whatever that means), but one needs to face the reality of this use it as an opportunity to talk about what’s right about sexuality and sexual feelings, as well as the reality of the potential consequences.

This strict dichotomy between sexuality as raunchy and a stiff, controlling morality can’t possibly cause anything but a schizophrenia in the soul. How can anyone possibly learn to love someone else in this kind of environment? It is interesting that married couples no longer are in the majority in this country. If you have been broken in this way, how can you possibly love someone once that initial lust is gone?

The dichotomy has to disappear, and the only way to heal it is to accept whatever it is you feel without guilt, while learning respect for others and yourself.

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