Female sexual liberation makes strides in media

Pendulum swings between progression and regression within movement


Creative Commons Photo Courtesy of Rocbeyonce

Beyoncé, a supporter of female sexual liberation, performs at Wembley Stadium on July 3, 2016. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Brigid McCarthy

“Well, if you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have you’re a slut. It’s a trap. You want to but you can’t, and when you do you wish you didn’t, right?” Allison Reynolds said in the 1985 film “The Breakfast Club.” It was a truth for teenage girls and their sex lives in the 1980s, and it still rings true in modern high school settings today.

In a scientific study titled “The Sexual Double Standard and Adolescent Peer Acceptance, researchers in the sociology department of Pennsylvania State University found that a double standard exists between the sexual behavior and habits of teenage boys and girls. Responses in the study suggested that women are generally judged more harshly than men for being sex-positive, especially in a school setting.  

According to data collected by the study, women who are more sexually active or promiscuous in high school are more likely to be marginalized and judged by their peers. The study found that boys, however, gain status and popularity when they have relations with girls. The more sexual partners a high school girl has, the less she is accepted by her peers. The more sexual partners a teenage boy has in high school, the more he is accepted by his peers.  

A movement for women’s sexual liberation started in the 1960s. At the time, it was a radical idea that women, like men, enjoyed sex and had the same needs men did. In some ways, we are still conforming to the sexual stereotypes that existed almost six decades ago, without quite realizing it.

Still, the movement progressed significantly since its birth. An example of this progression is shown through the shifts in media aimed towards women.

In the 1990s, Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider released their book “The Rules: Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right.” The book consisted of ways women should go about attracting men. Rules in the book included  “Don’t Talk to a Man First,” “Let Him Take the Lead” and “No More than Casual Kissing on the First Date.”

Today, these rules are well forgotten. Huffington Post publishes articles like “5 Reasons Why More Women Should Make The First Move,” while The Washington Post headlines “Go ahead, ladies, make the first move”. Articles like this represent the media that have the power to counter double standards between the sexes.

Though double standards still exist between women and men’s sexuality, a new wave of progressive media rejects these standards. If the end goal is for men and women alike to engage in safe, consensual sex without fear of judgement, we must focus on creating more content like this, and act accordingly.