In the midst of the social fight against the norms that support the patriarchy, it’s only right that we discuss everything that has been stigmatized and an overall uncomfortable conversation- yes that’s right, sex.
For various reasons, women have always been shamed for embracing their feminity and sexuality. Regardless of where the prejudice is coming from, to this day, the name-calling still remains; girls are either sluts, whores, hoes or they belong to the streets…the list goes on.
We can’t seem to catch a break, can we? Why is that?
Let’s look at the root of most problems – religion. One may even go as far as to refer to it as society’s backbone. Many struggles to separate religion from issues we face as a society, whether it be politics or what rights women are supposed to have when it comes to their health.
Many religions and cultures enforce gender roles and who women should aspire to be in society. For instance, Jesus’ mother, Mary, is perceived to the epitome of purity and innocence and many Christians believe that women should aspire to be on her level.
Girls are taught to reject any thoughts of sex before marriage because it’s a sacred act between a wife and husband. Many go as far as having Purity Balls -where a girl pledges her virginity to her father, and in return, she receives a purity ring. To be honest, after reading a novel in the sixth grade, I badly wanted one and my friends were on board too!
However, I am now aware of how peculiar the concept is.
Moreover, if you’ve seen Jane the Virgin, you’ll see her grandmother telling her that s*x before marriage would be like crumpling a flower; it will never return to what it was, beautiful and white.
That brings us to the term deflowering, which means to lose your virginity. Throughout history, many checked to see if a young girl or woman had hers intact by feeling for her hymen. This, of course, is a very flawed method because a hymen can and will break without penetrative sex; especially if one participates in any of the following: cycling, horseback riding, gymnastics, using tampons or masturbation.
This also means that not everyone is going to bleed during their first time. If you do/did, it simply means that your vagina did not lubricate itself adequately (which can be a sign of stress and anxiety), or is the sex is fast and rough. Furthermore, not everyone is born with a hymen, and just like the appendix, it doesn’t have a known function.
Perhaps now we can relax about the whole virginity thing, right? After all, it’s only a social construct…and the word itself just makes the conversation so intimidating for some. Sex is more than just penetration; there’s oral, sodomy and many, many other ways to do it.
Because of the archaic views on sex, people tend to feel sexual guilt after their first time.
Religion, with a doubt, is a contributing factor. After years of conditioning, one is more than likely to feel like they’ve been caught stealing from the cookie jar by their higher power.
The vast majority of us are taught to believe that sex is bad. For a very long, I felt uncomfortable thinking and saying the word itself.
”A toddler may be scolded for handling his genitals, a 6-year-old may be given rigid rules concerning nudity and a 10-year-old’s sexual questions may be met with embarrassed silence,” according to Dr Byrne.
”A teenager may be harangued about the perils of petting and a tarnished reputation.”
There is a solution of course. If sexual shame is to be ingrained onto our brains, then sex education should be too. There should be knowledge and an understanding of sex if the goal is to have people engage in sex in a healthy fashion. Sex education should be just as important as any other subject on your schedule.
Parents should be able to converse with their children about topics like sex, and children should be able to reach out to their parents as well. About anything. Let’s be real, regardless of what type of (African) parents you have or how close you are…some conversations are just not going to flow as easily because they’re on that Taboo Subjects shelf.
Let’s not forget about the lack of equality between sons and daughters. The double standards just do the most. How long are we going to fuel this idea of women being born to serve, be chaste and amount to nothing else compared to our male counterparts?
We cannot deny that things have changed over the years, but we all know that some of these ideals have not changed at all. Women are not allowed to own their sexuality in peace. Look at the incessant namecalling. Are there people still waiting for marriage? Yes. However, the society we live in calls them prudes for not wanting to have sex. We can never win. The patriarchy will never be satisfied.
Word of advice? Learn to be less judgmental, let people find comfort in themselves! Worry about your own sexuality and yours only. Moreover, when the time comes, educate your children -should you ever have any- on things they shouldn’t be ignorant or in the dark about. It’s uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be.
Written by Theresa Ntswaki. She writes in her capacity.