The sexuality of women has persistently undergone vehement scrutiny within the United States. Throughout the history of our nation, women have been stripped of their opportunities, reputations and self-worth, and have fallen victim to physical retribution, criminalization and, sometimes, even death as a product of being deemed sexually deviant.
During the Victorian era, white males fabricated the notion that women were passionless, a term that equated femininity with an innate lack of desire for sex apart from the desire for procreation. Consequently, any woman who deviated from this conviction jeopardized their perceived value as a human being. Meanwhile, men freely appeased their sexual inclinations in premarital or extramarital affairs. This, however, was considered socially acceptable due to the paramount belief that males were inherently lustful — to put it plainly, boys will be boys.
Today, although we acknowledge both men and women as sexual entities, there still exists a strikingly similar double standard of sexuality that is far from being broken. To be a male in the modern-day United States means to possess the liberty to participate in sexual activity without risk of social sacrifice. Dissimilarly, to be a woman means to be tormented and defined by engagement in sex, or lack thereof.
In addition to this, women are quick to be labeled with terminology that denotes their sexuality, often suggesting promiscuity. Despite this, there fails to be a word for men such as “slut” or “whore” that holds similarly negative connotations. Instead, terms like “womanizer’ or “philanderer” are equalized with charm and power. Regardless of the obscurity of a particular woman’s sexual history, appearance is pivotal in how she will be perceived sexually.
We live in a world that not only encourages women to look sexually appealing, but also teaches them that their attractiveness corresponds with their self-worth. Nevertheless, when women are sexually active they are at risk of malicious talk and censure. It is important to keep in mind that making judgements about a woman’s sexual engagement based on appearance is not only impossible in terms of accuracy, but highly offensive. To add to that, what any person does with their body, regardless of gender, is a private matter that should not be critiqued.
The first step toward breaking the double standard of sexuality is consciousness. Notice the injustice in our society and media — I’m sure you’ve seen countless headlines policing the attire and sex appeal of female celebrities, but what about men? The second step is to actively combat the prevalence of sexism. The basic human function of sex takes two, so why judge one gender and not the other? Do your part and refrain from using words like “slut” that are utterly demeaning. It’s 2016, and it’s time to for women to be treated as equals.
Sophia San Filippo is a junior majoring in English.