Monday, November 11, 2013

Female Sexuality and Empowerment (Your ass is showing.)

I got all inspired to write a blog on self-esteem, power, and female sexuality (and its expression) back when the whole Miley Cyrus thing happened at the VMAs. Not to talk about the event itself, but to talk about the conversations that happened after Sinead O’Conner’s barrage of open letters and then Amanda Palmer’s blog in response to Sinead’s first letter.

I wanted to talk about the comments people made in response to those responses.
I wanted to talk about the atrocious blog from a guy who likes, prefers, women with low self-esteem (because strong women are just so not vulnerable and don’t make him feel like a man).
I wanted to talk about power, and what it means to own it or to take it back.
I wanted to talk about what women taking back sexual power means and what it means for men to be in their own power.
I wanted to talk about what being “female” means and what being “male” means and how that’s not so easy, is it?
I wanted to talk about what seems to be a broken dialogue because I look at all this and just see scared people lashing out against other scared people.
I see big, influential people wielding more influence than they are willing to take responsibility for.
I see puppet strings and I see strings cut.
I see myself, at 13 years old, and I wonder what words like “self-esteem,” phrases like “your body is a temple” would mean to her.
I see myself, now, as a woman in her 20s, and I don’t have an answer to: “what’s the right way for a woman to express her sexuality?” (I know there isn't a “right” way, but the fact it’s still such a highly talked about and DEBATED subject indicates that this isn't over even if the answer is there.)
I don’t have answers to: “When is nudity exploitation, when is it not?” and “When is sexuality exploitation and when is it not?”

Discerning is hard, arguing is easy; I wonder if this debate is messy because we have to continue putting female sexuality in a box in this discussion (what is it/how is it and how should it be expressed/what does it mean), when by its nature, female sexuality (and sexuality in general) is extremely fluid and hard to pin down.

Two questions about sexuality and power keep coming back to me. If women try and take back their personal power by owning their sexuality rather than letting it be owned, what does that look like? And how do we tell the difference?

But when I ask those questions, more keep coming. What does male sexual power mean in this day and age? And whether it’s just women, just men, or some combination of both, is there a way to respect the human beings represented by such a powerful force?

I think this goes beyond slut-shaming because that argument, at its surface, is easy. “Look, she has no self-respect,” “Look, she is comfortable with her body.” Where’s the line? Is there one? Who holds the power? Who’s being exploited? Is anyone being exploited? What is appropriate? What lessons will my 13 year old learn if she sees this? My question is: what lessons will any of us learn if we don’t talk about what we see, read, watch, think, feel or do?

If we ask individual women: “What does ‘my body is a temple’ mean to you?” what answer will we find? I’m betting we’ll find a huge spectrum, but I don’t know what that spectrum is.

The big reason why I took so long to write this should be obvious. There are so many question that I don’t even know where to begin. It’s overwhelming, and while I could sit here, pick a place to start, and start dissecting all the information, I would never post the blog because I would be writing it for the rest of my life. And right now I don’t want to debate or argue; I want to share and listen. So I’m going to change the conversation.

I don’t want this one to be just me talking at you; I want this to be a dialogue. Not just from women or those typified as women, but anybody, however they choose to describe themselves, their gender, their sexuality.

Can people be strong and vulnerable at the same time? If no, why? If yes, can you give a story, an example, experience, or even some thoughts on what that looks like?

What does that look like for women to take back their personal power by owning their sexuality? And how do we tell the difference between empowerment and dis-empowerment?

(If something else provoked a thought, go with that!)

If you are comfortable enough to post a response on the blog I would love for you to share. If someone posts a comment you want to respond to, respond away (but please be respectful and considerate). Feel free to post anonymously or if you prefer to share privately and have other ways of contacting me directly, go for it. I will not post anything without permission.

Be honest and be bold. Much love, and we’ll pick this up again soon!

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