Thursday, June 08, 2006

What's Wrong with Being a Sexual Object?

Well folks I am in North Carolina right now doing some research with my co-author. We have been having wonderful conversations, particulary on the issue of building, supporting, and encouraging healthy sexuality in women. She is working on a manuscript that points out that being a sexual being is often a vibrant and healthy part of being a woman. One of the challenges for modern feminists is find a way to articulate why being a sexual object--that is an embodied sexual being who is inspired by the desire of another--is not necessarily an exploitative relation.

I will be thinking alot about this for the next couple of days. But in the meantime, what has come out of our conversations this morning is the profound awareness that we both have of the failures in our culture (American) to encourage women to possess their sexuality and see it as delightful and pleasurable part of experience. This of course does not mean to say we are concerned with teaching young girls to be more sexually promiscuous--which is already a problematic concept. But rather, the issue is helping young women feel empowered by their sexuality and help them recognize that their sexuality is not someone elses' right. Women can in fact say "yes" to sex, as well as say "no." Unfortunately, saying "yes" is a fraught experience since it is intertwined with cultural messages that the desiring woman is a slut or sex crazed.

There are little cultural representations of women who are desirous and who take delight in their sexuality that don't ultimately tie this behavior to the need for male approval. So while I am thinking more about this topic. I am interested in hearing what you think. Are there representations of female sexuality--wherein the woman takes delight in her body and the pleasures therein--that empower women to enjoy sex without all the anxiety that comes from fearing their sexuality will be used to degrade them or is the only aspect of their identity valued? I am restricting my thinking here to heterosexuality since it seems to me that queer theory has done a much better job of thinking about the "yes" than feminist theory has.