Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Sex Life is None of Your Business!!! Or is it?

Social Norms and Sexual Norms

What women do with their privates is no one else’s business and it doesn’t harm anyone as long as the sex is consensual and safe right? I disagree. I think some people are oblivious to the fact that there are sexual norms (it’s intro social psychology and sociology). Sometimes these people even propose that basically anything sexual is normal as long as it’s consensual. They don’t realize that they are establishing the new sexual norm of ‘anything goes and everything is okay’ and that there is something ‘abnormal’ about you if you think otherwise.
“Social Norms are the expectations about how people should act. Usually social norms are created by having the same sort of certain behaviors among social group members. Also, there are usually negative consequences when someone violates a social norm…Norms do serve a purpose, as they allow people to expect the events that will occur in a particular setting. This allows people to prepare themselves for being in that situation. Uncertainty is a big source of psychological stress. Norms allow us to reduce the uncertainty that we might otherwise feel in a situation, or leading up to a situation if we knew nothing about how that situation would unfold.”(source; also see Wikipedia definition)
In other words, once a norm for promiscuity is set, both men and women will come to expect it and many will conform to it. In the past it was only men and promiscuous women saying sex was fun, it’s no big deal etc. and it was easier to say no because they advocated out of self-interest. You see, saying it’s okay to be promiscuous, women should not be judged or shamed, and that some women enjoy the activity with no ill effects is one thing. But when an ideological group, Third Wave feminists, state sleeping around is empowered, that it helps women figure out what they like in bed, or it shows they are not repressed by the patriarchy, then that’s a different story. It’s associating promiscuity with positive things that many women want because they want to be empowered, satisfied with sex, and not slaves to men. When Third Wave feminists (who some women identify with, respect, and trust are looking out for their best interests) imply that being promiscuous has these benefits, women may start questioning themselves and start sleeping around against their better judgement. Some women assume that feminists are not advocating sexual practices for ideological self-interest while disregarding the affect these practices have on individual women–they just want what’s best for you right?  ”"Feminism is not the freedom to act like a dickhead,”…”These women are individualists, not feminists” (source). They don’t care that hold outs may experience prude-shaming by women implying that they are repressed, frigid, too uptight, too old fashioned, insecure, not giving their bodies what they want, missing out, not free thinkers, something is wrong with them, or they won’t be able to keep a man (similar to the things men say to coerce women into having sex..hmmm).
For example, if most women sleep with men on the first date then that becomes the norm, and men will pressure other women to “be normal” and have sex on the the first date. This in turn will confirm and perpetuate the norm. Feminists supporting promiscuity makes it that much harder to hold out. Personally, I’m more concerned about protecting abstainers from pressure than about hurting the feelings (i.e., shaming or judging) of people who knew the risks, ignored the warnings, and went full steam ahead anyway. “Norms can be self-perpetuating, as once they are established they will often continue, even when those who established them have long since left the situation” (source). So if promiscuous women get married (maybe even by lying to their husbands about their sex number), get old, or stop dating, then other single women are left with the norm! Future generations will suffer because of other women’s actions and many young girls are already caving to the pressure.
The following articles, “Has the Price of Sex Bottomed Out” and Feminism Produced Price Drop for Sex, Price Hike for Commitment discuss the work of social psychologists who study the “sex economy”. What women do in the bedroom becomes known by other men and women and this effects the sex economy–what men and women have to do in order to get sex. In the past, men would have to commit to women in order to get sex. Now they don’t have to go on a date or even buy a lady a drink. This lowers men’s motivation to have monogamous relationships or marriage because they don’t need to do those things to get sex anymore. This is fine for women who want to be single but lousy for those who want relationships and marriage. People discuss their sex lives and people observe what others do and this affects the sex economy and sexual norms. Remember, every man you sleep with knows what you did so it’s not a secret! You can not dictate what the norms are and it doesn’t matter if they are right, wrong, fair, or unfair! A norm is established by having most people do something. The only way to change a norm is to change people’s behaviour or by convincing them that certain behaviours are not as common as they believe. Norms can be based on inaccurate estimations (e.g., maybe not as many people are hooking up as you think).

Male Identification

“Understanding where sexual norms come from, or more specifically, who drives them, often provides an explanation for why they are the way they are. Usually, social/cultural constructs are made by people in power, typically white, middle/upper class heterosexual men” (source). Makes you wonder why feminists are supporting the same promiscuity that is supported by many men for women they don’t plan to marry. Maybe these feminists are male identified?
Male identified:  aspects of society and personal attributes that are highly valued are associated with men, while devalued attributes and social activities are associated with women. There is a sense of threat to the social structure of patriarchies when these gendered associations are destabilized–and the response in patriarchy is to increase the level of control, often by exerting control over women (as well as groups who are devalued by virtue of race, ethnicity, sexuality, or class; source).”
 That’s confusing! Who is male identified really? The women who reject anything feminine and are always trying to do what men do, even when those behaviors are negative? If many men want promiscuous women (prior to finding someone non-promiscuous for marriage) then isn’t encouraging women to give in to that pressure actually supporting the patriarchy? How is encouraging women to use men for their bodies, the same way men use women for their bodies, not supporting the patriarchy? Are woman male identified if they support old fashioned behaviours that they think are beneficial or even protective to women? If a woman thinks being promiscuous is being like a man and wants to protect women from STDs, unwanted pregnancies, psychological damage, shaming etc. then is she supporting the patriarchy or against it? Due to feminism the latter women are called brainwashed tools of patriarchy while the former are supported as progressive, liberated, ideal modern women.

Raunch Culture and Feminism

I think this all boils down to opposition to raunch feminism. This is that part of modern Third Wave feminism that condones women wearing next to nothing, getting huge tattoos, going topless, porn, stripping, prostitution, drinking till you are black out drunk, smoking, doing drugs, cursing, fighting, and sleeping around because those things are personal choices and we are supposed to celebrate that women are free to make these choices. YAY! In their eyes women drinking, smoking, doing drugs, getting huge tattoos, and other things men used to do much more than women is somehow empowering and not male identification. Somehow they think women wearing next to nothing on the street, in magazines, in movies, and on TV is not giving men exactly what they want at the expense of women. Somehow their negating marriage and monogamous relationships, in favor of women providing men with sex on demand and raising babies alone, is not giving men what they want at the expense of women. All of us opposed to these behaviours are dismissed as religious zealots, right wing nut jobs who want women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, or sexually repressed, slut-shaming, mean girls.

Here’s a thought, if you think women are so great why don’t you encourage men to BE MORE LIKE WOMEN! Why are you not encouraging men to stop pressuring starlets to pose half naked in the videos and magazines they create? Why not tell men they should be drinking, doing drugs, and smoking less since women do it less and we live longer due to fewer health problems? Why not encourage men to commit less crime and get into fewer fights because women don’t do these things so they are less likely to go to jail? Why not tell men to value relationships over promiscuity, see women as more than sex objects, and look forward to marriage the way women do? Of course there will be a push back from men (e.g., Men’s Rights groups) who don’t want to change but there are also men who are pushing back against raunch culture! These behaviours have negative consequences for women AND men so why not discourage them in everyone if you want equality and care about women AND men. Or are you so male identified that you can find no wrong with men’s behaviour and will only love yourself if you are exactly like the stereotypical male?


Do I think sex norms can change? Yes I do. People tried to change it with chastity ring programs. Also, schools in the U.S. encouraged abstinence (I think they should have taught safer sex too). There are also religious groups and people who will never support raunch culture. I think that studies like the ones reported on Hooking Up Smart will also help in correcting false beliefs about the prevalence of raunchy behaviours and promiscuity. It will be a hard fight but there will always be people opposed to this sort of thing, there just seems to be fewer right now. It is also a big problem with the media that seems to support raunch culture. Having sex immediately after a first kiss, no matter the location, especially while drunk, is also becoming the norm in movies and on TV. It is condoned and normalized and this influences people. Plus, people lie! Women lie about how many partners they have had to men and other women, even though they say they are not ashamed of sleeping around and there is nothing wrong with it. Men lie about what other women have done with them in bed and how quickly women slept with them in order to convince new women to do what they want.
Also, a final word about men because we can’t blame women for something without also blaming men now can we? (sarcasm). If men would stop caring about how many sex partners women have then this whole problem would be decreased! If men considered  women with 50 partners, former porn stars, or former prostitutes to be girlfriend/wife material and no difference from women with 10 partners or less, then this problem would be reduced. Then, women who want to be girlfriends/wives would not worry about the affect sex would have on their chances for long-term relationships or marriage. If high quality men don’t mind marrying women who they know are promiscuous then the sex norm against marrying promiscuous women would change. So I suggest that instead of feminists supporting promiscuity they should focus on convincing men that promiscuous women make good wives and girlfriends and that there is something wrong with men if they are uncomfortable with that. Make them think that they are repressed and insecure instead of the women who don’t like casual sex. Unfortunately, this will not entirely eliminate the problem because there would still be women who are uncomfortable having sex with men they don’t know well, men who don’t care about them, or when they don’t have a monogamous relationship.
What other women do in bed is your business if the men you meet are holding these women up as examples of what is “normal” and pressuring you to be normal. I also think feminists are misusing their power. They should stick to the idea that all women should be respected and protected instead of holding up promiscuous women, strippers, porn stars, and prostitutes as examples of empowered women who are accepting and celebrating their sexual freedom in a healthy way. These women are the new sexual role models competing with the old fashioned feminine role model. These women have influence and even if they don’t know it, even if they don’t want it, they are influencing the sex norms in society.

Related Articles:

Based on a Center for Disease Control 2007 study of 6,237 adults, aged 20 to 59, American men have an average of 7 sex partners in their lifetime and women have an average of 4! 29% of men and 9% of women report having more than 15 partners. 46% of Black men and 13% of Black women had 15 or more partners in a lifetime which is more than other groups. However, this is based on data collected more than a decade ago from 1999 to 2002, and this is the most recent data I could find. (source)
EXCELLENT Hooking up smart articles: (many are based on research)


  1. This is a WONDERFUL well thought out piece! It truly causes women to have to take a look at the power they hold in so many ways when it comes to sex and how much of a difference we can make for ourselves and the betterment of all women, if we simply THOUGHT about our actions.

    I will come back later to point out things I really liked int he article.

  2. Yes, this was a well articulated article on the pitfalls of the "sexual liberation" movement, and how it is actually not empowering at all, and how in the long run such behaviours make life harder not only for those women, if they should choose to "settle down," but also for other women for whom casual sex has no appeal. Lowered expectations in the realm of "courtship" have decayed overall, and this is extremely evident in the "black community."

    I also saw, that your thoughts were rudely ripped apart and characterised as "judging" by commenters who wished to embrace a lifestyle that would not work to their advantage, and do not want to feel bad about making that choice. The "judgment" of course is your criticism of the casual sex norms that women are being told to embrace, under the mantra of "empowerment.". You aren't allowed to criticize the actions of others, especially when it works not only to their detriment, but to yours as well, right? Because being a c*m dumpster for men (because that is what you are when they don't care about you, yet you are having sex with them) is empowering. Hmmm.

  3. Hi Robynne,

    Thank you so much for your comment and for perfectly summarizing the ideas many people have about courtship today. You know that I see things the same way I do on the issue and there are plenty of mainstream and popular bloggers who think the same things :)

  4. Hi Elegance

    I am a casual reader of the Beyond Black and White Website, and I recently read two of the three blog posts that you have written I enjoyed reading both of them even if I didn't agree with everything. But I thoroughly this blog post and I hope you continue writing about going against social norms because it is important for Black women to realize that we all have choices and that those choices have consequences. It's truly a shame that expressing your personal values and opinions would be a source of such venom on the BB&W site. I hope that you continue to blog on BB&W and if you don't I am happy I found your site. I looked at your tumblr page, and I enjoyed all the pictures that you posted, it was great to see Black women in such a positive light. Also, after seeing your inspirational quotes, I took a composition note book and started to write them down so that I can always be inspired. Keep up your great work.


  5. No wonder these girls are so loud about being slut shamed O_o these people in the post/comments sound like they rack up sex partners like pieces of candy, just something to be given out: