When we think of women and sex we often don’t immediately think of the holy trinity: a vagina, a clitoris and an orgasm.
Most people think of a penis in a vagina.
This is because female sexuality is largely viewed through a male perspective in our society, meaning the woman is seen objectively. Men are seen as sexually active beings with their own sexual desires, whereas women are seen as only having the desire to please men. Sexual desire is a double edged sword for women; if they enjoy sex they are labeled as a “slut”, but if they don’t want sex they’re a “prude” and a “man-hater.”
In the popular 2012 movie “Pitch Perfect,” Stacie (Alexis Knapp), a character defined by her sexual nature, justifies her active sex life saying “he’s a hunter” when referring to her vagina. It’s a visible pop-culture example of the idea men are the only gender capable of having active sex lives. Stacie’s only justification for embracing her sexuality is to describe what makes her female as male.
Sex can often be about a power dynamic as it is used to dominate and assert power over others.
“What is called sexuality is the dynamic of control by which male dominance … eroticizes and thus defines man and woman, gender identity and sexual pleasure,” radical feminist Catharine A. Mackinnon wrote in her article “Sexuality,” where she discusses the sexual objectification of women in Western society.
In heterosexual relations, the “end” of sex is considered to be when the man ejaculates. Men control how the experience progresses and when activities change during sex from arousal to foreplay to penetration to climax to completion.
“Whatever it takes to make a penis shudder and stiffen with the experience of its potency is what sexuality means culturally,”Mackinnon said in reference to arousal.
With easy access to the internet and the media, sex is portrayed through how men see it in pop culture and pornography. Sexually curious teenagers see sex through a computer screen before they ever experience it for themselves, so they approach their sexual lives with expectations found in porn.
“[Pornography] constructs women as things for sexual use and constructs its consumers to desperately want women, to desperately want possession and cruelty and dehumanization,” Mackinnon wrote when talking about how oppression blooms from pornography.
In pornography, women are depicted as a set of orifices for a penis instead of a person having sex as well, which takes their humanity away from them.
Rape is another way sexuality is used to overpower and oppress women, both individually and socially.
Individually, the person who was sexually assaulted loses all power during the crime. They must then somehow heal and feel powerful again as they live with what has happened to them. Socially, women as a whole live with the fear and knowledge that they have a one-in-five chance of being raped in their lifetime.
In another scene of “Pitch Perfect,” when the new members are learning the traditional dance routine the Barden Bellas perform, Stacie keeps reverting to “sexy” dancing, almost as if she can’t help but dance like that and touch herself. This uncontrolled desire plays into rape culture.
Rapists will sometimes justify their actions, saying they couldn’t control their sexual desires. When Stacie dances in a way that “needs” to be sexual, and considering the fact that she sees her sexual side as masculine, she is supporting their argument that uncontrollable male sexuality is a valid excuse for rape.
“The male sexual role… centers on aggressive intrusion on those with less power,” Mackinnon wrote.
Female sexuality is seen through men now, but viewing situations from a different perspective gives us more understanding. I doubt Stacie from “Pitch Perfect” was meant to portray the oppression of women’s sexuality in society, but if her actions are seen from a feminist perspective, she is a representation of how men see the women and their sexuality.
“Feminist theory becomes a project of analyzing [a] situation in order to face it for what it is, in order to change it,” Mackinnon wrote.
Not every individual views women and sex this way, but society as a whole has for generations. If it is acknowledged that women and sex should be seen independently of the desires of men, changes can be made to society and new generations will not think that it is normal to view female sexuality as the desire to please men. Women will be taught to accept their sexuality as their own without the need to think of it in terms of their partner.