Sexy But Not Sexual

The following is a research paper written by a UCF communications student, and friend of the blog:

In western-culture the scene of the boy who wants more and the girl who resists sexual temptation is unfamiliar to none.  Whether its a couple of high school kids at the prom, a couple of college students at a fraternity party, or an adult couple at a cocktail lounge, we always assume the man has a plan to get the woman to have sex, and the woman has a plan to avoid this.  Even Wood (2005) states as a fact that men are more likely to want sex early in a relationship than women are.  Furthermore when she explores the development of hook-ups desire for sexual intercourse is not among the factors she cites as contributing to this behavior.  Woman are uniformly thought to have less desire for sex than men.  While the statistics about how early women are likely to introduce sex into the relationship as opposed to men speak for themselves, I disagree with the idea that this is due to a lack of desire, or a stronger need for emotional connection.  It is my belief that women are are slower to act on their impulses due to the pressures placed on them by societies that villainize female sexuality while praising virginity, and that these values stem from patriarchal religious traditions.  Christianity shames the sexual desire of women by exhaulting virginity.  From this point modern society idealizes the virgin to such an extent that her lack of sexual behavior makes her sexy.  To pose as the warning to those who stray from this norm, our society also engages in slut-shaming.  Thus women are hesitant to introduce sex into relationships because they are taught that their virginity and purity are attractive and that acting on their sexual desires makes them less appealing.
Regardless of our individual religious beliefs, Christianity plays an enormous role in our society.  It influences our public policy and is the overarching structure of our morality as a nation.  This religion teaches that mankind was made to leave paradise due to Eve’s rebellion against God’s instructions, and her position of subservience to man is a result of her transgression.  Weber (1987) connect that to the Christian view of women’s sexuality:

[The woman] is warned that she is, by nature, Eve–that by being a woman she inherits insidious power allied with the evil one, which, if not subdued by submission and obedience to her father or husband, could contaminate and finally destroy humanity. However, if she renounces her fundamental Eve-like nature and embraces a life either of obedient virginity or submissive motherhood, she can save not only herself but also the fathers, husbands, and sons she serves. She becomes like Mary, immaculately conceived and safely sexless.

Christianity leaves room for only two kinds of good women, those who abstain from sex entirely, and those have sex solely to create children.  There is no room for sexual activity just for pleasure in this scene, and people who adhere to this religion act accordingly.  In their 2011 study Essizoglu et al found that the more committed women were to their faith, the less likely they were to masturbate or be sexually experienced.  In a society that identifies itself as 76% Christian, surely these ideals will effect how we view women’s sexuality, and how she views her own desire for sex, and they have evolved into what our society now values in women.

The archetype of the Madonna, virginal and sexless, evolved into something else over time in our society.  Virginity is still a desirable trait, but not exciting enough for popular culture.  Instead we have developed an icon that is “sexy” but not “sexual.”  This came to our attentions very rapidly in the late 1990’s with a number of pop stars who Levande (2008) called simultaneously “innocent” and “slutty.”  Girls like Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson became very popular and had very sexual images, which were oddly paired with virginity pledges.  Though these two things may have seemed to counteract each other, it became clear that it was actually their virginity that made them sexy.  These messages from pop culture teach women not to engage in sexual conduct because it is the very fact that they are not having sex which makes them sexually desirable.

As if the modern young woman wasn’t under enough pressure not to have sex, the other-hand of idealizing virginity is there to keep them in line, slut-shaming.  The slut is the archetype that evolved from the rebellious Eve.  Any woman who is suspected of engaging in sexual conduct too easily or too frequently is labeled a slut.  Johnson (2002) observed that “by turning one girl into the slut among them, the kids try to reassure themselves that they are on the right side of fate: they are good while she is evil.”  Often times the girl in a social group who’s deemed a slut is not even sexually active.  But the ridicule and judgement she receives serves as a warning to women who might otherwise consider giving in to their desires.

Men are more likely to introduce sex into a relationship before women do because they are not discouraged by society or their peers.  While a boy might gain a reputation for himself based on his exploits, he would be very unlikely to undergo the kind of villianization that results from slut-shaming.  Women are as biologically and physically driven to sexual activity as men.  However the fear of being outcast, and the praise of self-denial is strong enough to sway her from acting on those drives.  I believe that women do not have sex earlier in a relationship, not because they don’t want to, but because they are pressured by a societal structure born of Christian beliefs not to.

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~ by prettyprogressive on 07/06/2011.

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