Wednesday, August 09, 2006

In Defense Of Abstaining Because Of Irrational Sexual Hang Ups


Certainly, I think it's unfortunate if a woman remains abstinent because she has irrational hang-ups imposed on her by the culture, but I do not assume that every abstinent woman is abstinent because of irrational hang-ups.
This sentence reminded me of several comments I've heard elsewhere in the blogosphere about sex as liberation from oppression. The implication (possibly unintended) is that women are allowed to abstain but only for the right reasons and a sexual hang up isn't one of those acceptable reasons.

Personally, I don't think it's unfortunate, or even unwise, for someone with hang ups to abstain from sex. Simply having sex does nothing to remove sexual hang ups and may compound the person's sex-related problems. This can be just as true if someone has an irrational compulsion to have sex.

What I found in my own life was what I labeled as irrational hang ups were actually quite rational, but appeared irrational because of the disconnect between cause and effect.

Some of these seemingly irrational hang ups came from memories that were too painful to bring to the surface. Other irrational hang ups came from external messages that I'd internalized without question or without realizing I'd been given a biased message. Like the idea that a woman must be lacking something vital if men aren't tripping over each other trying to have sex with her.

Another one of these is that sex, willing or unwilling, is always the girl's responsibility and that it's only natural for boys and men to take whatever they can get -- as long as they only target girls and women. Even the possibility of targeting men -- as if they were no better than women -- is an unforgiveable sin. Yet in rape cases, the girl must either be a liar or she did something that led to her own rape. So guilty or innocent the man should be seen as the victim of a female's machinations.

Internalizing the idea of rapist as the helpless victim is enough to seriously mess with a rape victim's head when it comes to any type of sex.

When the sources of these compulsions and hang ups are brought into full view their flaws can begin to show. Attempted rape isn't the sincerest form of male flattery. Being overlooked by men on the hunt for immediate sex says nothing about a girl's or woman's value, sexual or otherwise.

Many bad situations that I lived through related to sex and relationships very likely would have been avoided if I'd been able to deal with the source of my hang ups before choosing to have sex or giving in to pressure to have sex. I certainly would have recognized when men were trying to exploit the damage that another man had done to me. I would have recognized the exploitation in, "It's not like you're a virgin who has to wait to have sex."

Speaking of internalized messages, that brings me to the study that found a correlation between music and sexual activity in teens.


Whether it's hip-hop, rap, pop or rock, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found.

Songs depicting men as "sex-driven studs," women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.

Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.

By itself this makes no sense. Music doesn't make teens have sex, but tolerance or even acceptance of music that sends a certain type of message about sex can influence behavior or reactions to other people's behavior.
Warnings are more likely to go up if exploitive behavior directed at you hasn't been normalized in some way. And it may be easier to rationalize exploitive behavior if you believe every boy and man treats women and girls this way.

Speaking of sexual messages, there's an article on the founder of Girls Gone Wild in the LA Times
But the women are changing, Francis tells me, and that makes him sad. In the beginning, when "Girls Gone Wild" cameramen first popped up in clubs, the women who revealed themselves seemed innocent—surprised, even, by their own spontaneity. Now that the brand is so pervasive, the women who participate increasingly appear to be calculating exhibitionists, hoping that an appearance on a video might catapult them to Paris Hilton-like fame. And Francis is getting a bit old for spring break. He says he's tiring of the eternal vacation. "It's really the worst thing, in my mind," he says, comparing it to a trade show or a convention. "It's fun for everybody else but me. I just get hounded by kids. It was more fun not being famous on spring break."
Yeah, yeah. Pull out the violins.

Apparently, it's so much more fun to be the one intent on exploiting others' hang ups and compulsions for personal gain than it is to be someone facing others who are hoping to exchange exploitation for exploitation.
Since there are so many people eager to exploit others sexually, abstaining when there's a push to be sexually active should never be assumed to be a bad thing. Every girl (and boy) has the right to say no -- whether it's to a particular person or to sexual activity in general.

All reasons for abstaining should be respected.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:34 AM   1 comments links to this post


At September 07, 2006 2:15 PM, Anonymous Erin C. said...

I don't think I've ever seen this stated in so many words before. It's a really important point.


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