Life

This study proves society still gets so much wrong about female sexuality

Posted by
Chloe Gray
Published

The conversation surrounding women and sex is undoubtedly progressing. Activists are shouting about the orgasm gapfemale masturbation and how to be a feminist and watch porn. The conversation around consent is beginning to be taken seriously thanks to Times Up and #MeToo. And books, TV and podcasts are starting to discuss female desire.

But things aren’t changing fast enough. Not only are sex ‘trends’ like strangling putting women’s lives at risk, but judges in court have even expressed that they believe men have a ‘right’ to sex. Now, a new study has made these rampantly sexist attitudes towards sex even more clear. 

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End Violence Against Women, a coalition of women’s services wanting to end gender-based violence, found that, when discussing hetrosexual relationships, people still believe in dangerous stereotypes when it comes to sex and sexuality. This includes what men and women want, what they’re entitled to, and surprising beliefs about desire.

For example, the group found 57% of people think women are more likely to “go along with sex to keep their partner happy”. This is an illustration of how society at large might not believe sex is for women’s pleasure; instead it’s something done to us that we have to endure.

Female sexuality: what we still get wrong

The study also raised huge concerns about consent: 11% think a woman decides when sex is finished, over a third think that it will be the man who decides, and 38% think both decide. 

Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, put it best, saying: “If we have a society thinking it’s fair enough for a man to pester a woman to have sex because he ‘needs’ it, that women are less likely to enjoy sex, that women’s orgasms are more difficult to achieve, that it’s routine for women to go along with sex for someone else’s sake, while still putting all the responsibility on women for preventing and ‘gatekeeping’ sex – rather than on the man for seeking consent and also working towards enjoyable experiences for both – then at best our aspirations are poor, and at worst we create a set of ready made excuses for sexual assault.”

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With only 58% of 18-24 year olds believing both partners are as likely to enjoy themselves in heterosexual sex (rising to 73% for the general population), perhaps the real problem is with sex education. At best, the lessons we have about sex in this country can be uncomfortable and focused just on the mechanics of sex. But sex education also needs to teach young people about needs, wants, enjoyment, consent and safety. If it doesn’t, concerning beliefs about sex will keep being passed down to future generations. 

The sexual revolution was at the forefront of the second wave of feminism in the 60s, so the fact that we are still fighting for it six decades later is shocking. Sexual equality is a cornerstone of gender equality, and reports like this remind us how far we still have to go. 

Images: Unsplash, Getty

Want to learn more about female sexuality? Read these books…

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More Orgasms Please by The Hotbed Collective
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Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Sex-Power-Money-by-Sara-Pascoe
Sex, Power, Money by Sara Pascoe
Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski