Photo: 123rf

What usually comes to mind when you see a selfie of a woman in a bikini? The first thing you’ll notice is probably her face and body. And then you might think about where the picture was taken. Or if you can find a similar bikini online.

But do you ever think about the fact that she’s doing as she pleases with her body? That, in unashamedly putting her body on display, she’s demonstrating sexual freedom?

When we take ownership of our sexuality, we empower ourselves. We show the world we have full control over our choices, and feel free to break away from traditional expectations of how women should dress and behave.

But in order for you to own your sexuality, it can be helpful to know what’s standing in your way (and how to overcome it).

 

Female empowerment vs Judgement

Photo: 123rf

While an empowered woman in this day and age can, for example, dress however she wants, it can still lead to negative consequences.

“Women may see their sexuality as empowering, [but] many men still feel intimidated by sexually-confident women,” says Dr Joel Gwynne from NIE, NTU, who teaches courses on feminism and has published research on gender and popular culture.

This can make life harder for us. It’s nothing new, though. Throughout history, our sexuality has been a mystery to men, and their response has been to medicalise and control it.

There was female hysteria, a once-common “medical condition” that was believed to happen only to women. “Symptoms” included sexual desire – as if that isn’t one of the most natural things – and the “tendency to cause trouble”.

An orgasm was usually prescribed as a “cure”. In fact, the vibrator was invented to relieve doctors, whose fingers were frequently cramped from treating patients “suffering” from hysteria.

Sexual pleasure for its own sake wasn’t the point – for women, sex used to be about how we can use our bodies to bring pleasure to men or bear children. While we’re generally no longer expected to keep our sexuality under wraps, it’s clear we still have some way to go as a society. Exhibit A: