In the 1960’s the women’s right movement coincided with the sexual revolution, leaving my generation and the subsequent generations to enjoy more freedom to dress as we choose, dance with abandon, and in general no longer be held to constraints that we must be covered head to toe and speak only when spoken to.
Pioneering women broke further taboos: Barbra Streisand wearing a see-through pantsuit to the Oscars, Madonna dancing on stage in a bra and garter belt, and play-boy bunnies becoming mainstream icons. Since then there has also been a steady loosening of what’s considered sexual vs. sensual and where the line is between being an empowered woman that chooses to be scantily clad (Cher, Madonna) and an unclassy tramp who shows off her body for National attention (Anna Nicole Smith, Kim Kardashian).
That classy vs. slutty line is so blurred now, it’s hard to teach our girls the difference between being comfortable with their bodies and in their desire to be attractive, with knowing what is too much and what sends the wrong signal. My gym has several TV screens always mounted on the wall and yesterday I watched the current music videos channel as I was on a treadmill. I saw back-to-back videos (at yeast 5) where the singer was a young women (in both pop and country music genres) who paraded around in lingerie, employing stripper moves as they danced and writhed around in very sexually suggestive positions, all the while singing about love and/or betrayal.
As these are all current and popular performers, I realized these videos are telling young girls that is what is sexy, this is what boys want. Of course, ask any real man (even a high school boy if his head’s on straight) and they’ll say that type of girl is not at all who they want as a girlfriend, but they sure do like lusting over them just them same. So sadly, mixed signals abound, and what we’re left with is a large populous of girls and women displaying their bodies as nothing but devices for sex, not even realizing that many of our pop-culture icons have a brain in their head and are using their musical talents to build business empires (Rhianna, Beyonce, and even Miley Cirus).
If you feel my blog today is a bit “soap-boxy” well I’m preparing my daughter to enter sixth grade. I’ve heard my share of horror stories about girls being coerced to perform oral sex on boys as early as 5th grade, and my stomach spins, and even the age-old spin the bottle has evolved to be heading into a dark closet for an imposed 5 minutes of making-out. I feel it is imperative that I prepare her to understand the confusing hormonal impulses that are going to rear their ugly head for the next several years of her schooling, and paramount to that preparation is that I help her to understand the deference between been attractive vs. sexual. That’s very difficult with all the images around her saying this is what is normal and right.
Essentially today’s post is food for thought for all of you and hopefully we can open a mass dialogue as to how to not go backwards in women’s rights and sexual liberation, but not to keep going so far that we can have a president who says it’s okay to “grab women by the pussy.” Oops, guess we’re already that far gone!
Raising a young girl I feel a huge responsibility to educate her on what it means to be a woman, and most importantly to have confidence and good self-esteem about her body and her femininity. What I find to be the most confusing aspect of woman-hood to 90% of girls and women that I meet these days, is the misunderstanding of sex vs. love. Making things all the more convoluted is the rampant and massive porn and sex industry sending mixed messages to both genders about what it is to be a woman.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting on any prudish soapbox here. I have no issue with porn or strip clubs, as long as the women involved are first and foremost women, not girls, and secondly that they are participating with their own free will.
My issue is that girls AND boys are being fed blatantly wrong images about love, sex, bodies, nudity, and how a woman wants to be treated and should be treated. The old cliché that men want a refined, soft-spoken woman in the kitchen, and a whore in the bedroom still exists for many a young man.
Merchandise like “Bratz” dolls (see picture above) and suggestive clothing is marketed to girls as young as 8 and establishes early-on the misdirection that sexiness can only be achieved by wearing revealing clothes, stripper high-heels, and posing with your lips pursed-poutly. Furthermore, men and the media spoon feeds our little girls the misnomer that sexiness (which is actually often sluttiness) is necessary for you to be attractive enough to get a man.
I am a first generation product of the women’s sexual revolution and I appreciate the strides we have made as women to be able to have birth control that we control, that we can have sex out of wedlock without shame, and even speak up about our sexual needs and likes. BUT, I had to learn the hard way the difference between sex and love, lust and caring, as did many of my peers. I feel now it is imperative that we compound the strides made by women of the 60’s and 70’s and start speaking much more frankly with our daughters and sons.
We must explain to them the differences and nuances between love and sex. We must advise them when and how it’s okay to have sex vs. “making love.” We must teach our daughters to understand that their bodies have an affect and power over boys that neither gender can understand in the teen years, and that said power must be respected and not wielded blindly, stupidly, or just because boyfriend or peer pressure tells them that it’s okay become sexually active. We must also teach the boys that no really does mean no, even if you’re half way into the act, and that one should NEVER take advantage of a girl who is mentally impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Lastly, we have to explain to all young children and teens that women who chose to parade around with their breasts or bums revealed are not the examples we should strive for. There is a time and place for women to be dressed in lingerie (or not dressed at all), and walking around in public is not it. (Again I’m not trying to pick on strips clubs or their patrons.) Young adults need to understand that surgically enhanced breasts and stiletto heels can send the message “I’m ready to be your sex-toy” and if you choose to dress that way, then you have to expect that you’ll be treated as nothing but a sexual object. Most importantly we must emphasize that being desired sexually is okay under the right conditions, but that those conditions are very specific and when the lines are blurred so is the treatment of women and thus their self-esteem is eroded.
I know today’s blog is intense and not necessarily fitness focused, but I am passionate about all areas of life being in balance and I have so many friends and clients that are grown women and men who are still confused about sex and love, so today this is what spewed out of my brain. Think about it. Share your thoughts with me – and then get your self to the gym for a little brain-clearing exercise!