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  • Writer's pictureHistory Retold Project

Sexual Liberation

By Sherry Long

From ages as young as twelve, society feeds girls an incessant narrative of sexual liberation: to be bold and brazen in their clothing choices, to engage in hookup culture, and to contribute to content subscription services that are almost exclusively aimed at men. Social media tells young women that promiscuity automatically equals power and that they should embrace what the 60s and 70s told them they could not do. In contrast to the traditionalist constraints put on female autonomy even fifty years ago, being sexually liberated seems like a utopia of empowerment and a clear signal of progression. However, these actions, under the guise of freedom, are just another effort to bolster the patriarchy. Under a watchful male eye, any form of sexual liberation is just another patriarchal instrument and will never be empowering. Perhaps the allure of sexual liberation lies in its ownership; It has almost always solely belonged to men. Men weren’t expected to be monogamous, yet a woman who wasn’t was seen as vindictive and cruel; Male dress codes have been historically lax, while there are endless restrictions placed on female bodies; society has consistently punished women for what men could easily get away with doing. However, understand that because the power dynamic between men and women is so skewed, trying to claim products of male privilege is like mopping the floor while the hole in the ceiling continues to leak; women play a subversive role and thus our wants and desires will always be subverted. Margaret Atwood put it best: “Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it's all a male fantasy: that you're strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it.” It’s not that sexual liberation intrinsically leads to objectification, but rather, it’s a symptom of the pervasive, all-encompassing nature of a male-led society. As a result, as a woman, you cannot successfully claim sexual liberation as a display of power until the institution of patriarchy is fundamentally shifted.

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