Is the modern woman really free to explore her sexuality?
It’s more than okay to be a girl and have casual sex with different people
‘I am a single, 20 year old man who explores his sexuality through casual sex.’
This statement is unlikely to receive a lot of mainstream criticism.
‘I am a single, 20 year old woman who explores her sexuality through casual sex.’
Here’s where the contention lies. Stigmatism around casual sex only seems to arise when those partaking in it are female. Growing up in south-west London, among a lad culture of affluence, taught me that boys were rewarded by their peers for sexual exploits, whereas I could never receive this affirmation. Having casual sex with a boy meant if I dared to take my curiosities elsewhere, I would risk having the label ‘slut’ on my forehead amongst the male community.
Once I left school and prepared to go to university, I became tired of this trend and began to defend myself against such labels. I found myself in a comfortable position amongst my male friends to discuss our respective ‘conquests’, with their relative appreciation of my lifestyle and knowledge of my ability to become aggressive when on the defence.
These kinds of relationships should be able to work – and some of them do – but they are not without their struggles. Our society’s ingrained prejudices of womanhood have a knack of recurring in the minds of our men.
Recently, a male friend made a comment that if I came to visit him at Oxford, I could stay with one of his friends (whom I have never met). When this proposition was met with my confusion he explained, “he’s a boy, you like those.” He meant it as a joke but it is an example of the kind of behaviour I experience for trying to be “one of the lads”, even though I lack the genitalia. My friend meant no harm by the comment, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t frustrating or demoralising.
Assuming that I have a high number of male sexual partners does not mean I want to have sex with all males. I like having sex. I enjoy exploring my sexuality and I should not be criticised for it just because I’m female. It’s disgustingly unfair that my lifestyle of casual sex is often met with jokes and criticism by my male counterparts, when those with almost identical lifestyles get by with a pat on the back.
I know it’s a consequence of the inequality women face on a daily basis, but it is something that men around me can address with feasibility.
The troubles we face do not just originate from ‘lads’.
Before returning to university for my second year I visited my local sexual health clinic to ensure everything was spick ‘n’ span. After all, being promiscuous doesn’t mean I’m lazy about my sexual health. I was surprised upon arrival that for the first time I was given a male doctor to discuss the reasons for my visit. After a couple of judgmental sighs and repetition of the question ‘Are these regular partners?’, I was subjected to an invasive vaginal exam while a nurse took notes.
Afterwards, I was beckoned back into the doctor’s office for further discussion of my sex life.
He asked me what medication I was taking (something irrelevant to a sexual health check-up) and suggested I tone down my ‘chaotic sex life’ and attend a family planning group, as he kindly pointed out that’s where I’m headed ‘at the rate you’re going’. A couple of weeks later he rang to ‘check-up’ and asked if I’d calmed down yet.
Male friends with the same number of sexual partners did not have this experience.
It’s reassuring to know that, when I want to be proactive about my sexual health, I will always receive unbiased, non-judgemental, professional advice. How can women be expected to protect themselves in an environment that judges them for exploring their sexuality?
My number of sexual partners does not dictate my worth or indicate my emotional instability. My lack of a boyfriend does not make me intense or wary of commitment. Nobody is being hurt and no relationships have been affected. If men start treating women with the same respect, perhaps the modern woman will be able to explore her sexuality in a safe, comfortable environment that is free of criticism and stigma.
Until then, we will have to keep defending ourselves.