Sexual power(116 Posts)
I think the problem with it is, that it became the only power women had. So it made it ridiculously important. Being able to snag a good husband so you wouldn't starve etc. I'd like to think that nowadays, it is simply one facet of a woman's power, in the way that sexual magnetism is for a man. I certainly don't feel defined by it. I remember well, though, the feeling of being 16 and realising that boys were persuing me. I have never had a negative sexual experience, though, so to me that time seemed quite innocent and fun.
Catherine Hakim has written a book about this called (I think) honey money. I have lots of reasons why I disagree with this but so as not to bore you all can i simply give you two
1) For me becoming sexually attractive was not good for me emotionally or professionally. Professionally i would either be letched at and not taken seriously or ignored as the nicer one did not know how to cope with talking to a women they found attractive in a platonic way. I think its better now but when i started in my job (academic) there were very very few women around. It is only now that I feel comfortable with my colleagues.
2) This sexual power thing is (to me) purely a result of the lack of female power in other areas and the socially constructed sexual deficit. Women are taught that sex is a favour to be bestowed on men and when they have less power in the labour market or in the household they will use it to protect themselves
There are lots of problems with it.
I think the first is that I don't think that lots of young women do feel sexually powerful. I very much disliked the sexual attention I received between the ages of 13-25. In my experience, many young men are as nervous (as are many young women) about approaching potential partners and attempting to start a relationship with them, so the process of initiating that is often quite unsexual. The main form of sexual attention is unwanted attention from older men, which is intimidating and did not make me feel attractive. In fact, I thought it must mean they perceived me as ugly, because otherwise why would they think a young woman like me would be interested in someone so much older. I also think that it is the cumulative effect of the constant interest from old men.
I think it leads to a lot of problems for young women - low self esteem, eating disorders, development of an inauthentic sexuality or no real sexuality at al, self harm etc.
I think the problem I have with ideas of sexual 'power' is that for me, it's something that should only be used with people you actually want to have sex with. I have absolutely no problem with the idea that women enjoy sex, can take control in the bedroom, etc. I'm a confident person, I think I'm attractive and I can't say that I haven't used that 'power' in the past to my advantage.
BUT... I think if you use your sexual energy on people for things other than sex, you're turning yourself into a commodity, and effectually making yourself into an object of desire for someone who you don't desire yourself. And I think this is, in a way, denying yourself the ability to impress people in other ways, with your personality or whatever. I'm not explaining myself very well here, sorry. I agree with witch's points above, too. Becoming a sexual being can lead to a lot of aggro from men (although it absolutely shouldn't) and I think commoditising (is that even a word?) your sexuality will just make this even worse.
I think maybe because, in an equal world, men would have just as much sexual power as women (I refuse to believe I'm the only women in the world who's ever turned into a blibbling idiot in front of a sexy man ... am I?! ).
But in present society, some men exploit power sexually, and that makes me uncomfortable with the idea of it. It's the same with any kind of power - if you're just appreciating it in a neutral way, like looking at the waves on the beach, it's fantastic. But it has the potential for people to use it to hurt others, so it becomes scary by association some of the time.
I do think it's important for both men and women to be in control of their sexuality - which is I think where a lot of the problems come from, eg. those milly mentions, where women are not really able to develop control. It is really hard for some teenagers to feel they're not being pushed around by peer pressure, I think.
Also, when I was a teenager I suppose I did feel kind of powerful, knowing the effect I could have on men. But at the same time, whenever I used that so-called 'power' I would feel awful afterwards, like I'd been used. It took me a while to realise that sex is a million times better when you enter into it as an equal with your partner, and when I was younger that simply wasn't happening. Sure, I had the 'power' to turn them on but they had the upper hand in every other way.
I'm not sure what we mean by sexual power - it could mean the power to make other people attracted to us or it could mean the power to get people to pander to our sexual desires.
Unethical as it is, I would certainly feel I had more sexual power if the roles of men and women were reversed and men were the ones who had to put lots of time and effort in to looking attractive and behaving in ways that appealed to women.
I wouldn't want men to be as sexualised as women are, because I know I would find it difficult to treat men as fully human if they did so, which is why I find it hard to believe when men say that sexualised images of women have no impact on how they treat 'real' women. They must all be better people than I would be if the situation was reversed.
Reality, I think the idea that you can separate people finding each other sexually attractive from the rest of the things that make somebody generally attractive quite difficult. There are probably hundreds of women that an individual man would find sexually attractive, but it is a whole load of things beyond that which mark the woman he gets into a relationship with as unique and romantically desirable.
Obviously it is great fun to get attention and get free drinks, but I would rather have been on the other side of that bargain (well ideally I'd rather we had equality). I would feel more sexually powerful if, as a young women, there were lots of desirable men dressed up to the nines who I could chat to and buy drinks for.
I am never really sure on these threads and similar ones if I am just odd. I have never found the overwhelming majority of men attractive because the way they behave is unattractive. So I have never been in the position of having lots of lovely men to choose from. It was more of a needle in a haystack situation for me.
I agree that my life has been made easier because I looked a certain way, but that is about responses from both men and women based on an aesthetic appeal rather than always a sexual one. In a similar way that studies have shown that young children that have a certain look are deemed as cleverer by their teachers and more popular by their peers.
Damn, I wrote a reply and lost it.
I think I know what you mean reality, about your DH. And I think it's a natural thing, isn't it, for sexual attraction to be part of what makes you feel special and strong as part of a couple. But I think for me, that is not necessarily the same as (though hard to differentiate in practice from) the dynamic of flirting with people I don't know well, especially as a teenager.
Flirting is great and it is about power play. In an equal world, this would be fine. But because our society has all these expectations and pressures about men and women and sex, it's already a charged situation. And for some people, maybe especially for teenagers, it is not easy to know how to resolve all the conflicting messages you get about who has the power and who has the control in a given situation. That to me makes it difficult.
I have always found it very had to untangle when I genuinely had control, and when the other person/people would suddenly act as if me having control was part of a game and they were going back to reality now, where I didn't have control.
MillyR, I'm with you on that - I very rarely find men attractive. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of men I've properly fancied in the last three years. I think I just have very high standards
V. interesting point LRD. The sort of interaction that involves 'erotic capital' is very confusing, as opposed to more normal professional/social interactions where both sides know where they are. I never know how I should behave/what the rules are and as a result it becomes very stressful.
I think it's an important discussion though - the last thing we want is to put all the sexual stuff to one side (which seems to be what feminists get accused of).
I remember so well that surge, around 16, but it wasn't of power at all.
to me, then, it was completely mutual. I remember vividly watching a boy I fancied in a football match, taking his top off and feeling all tingly at the sight of him. The same way I remember my brothers' friends staring at me in a bikini.
I think teen girls want sex as much as boys, and therefore there is no "power" aspect, but clearly that is just from my own perspective.
I still can feel a bit dizzy when I see a handsome semi naked man .
but I know that books say women are not visually stimulated, so I may just be weird.
In my experience the main problem is when social crosses over into professional - it's much harder for women to say 'no, I'm not interested' in a professional environment when it affects their working life. The worst is professional interactions which subtly depend on the woman being attractive/behaving in a particular flirty way.
Like Milly and treacle I very rarely find men sexually attractive (and frankly I'm not at the top of anyone's list either) so socially it's been less of an issue.
Hmm, well there is no doubt that at some stage in development, women-and men- become aware of fact that they have sexual power, however, the problem with people capitalising upon that power combined with development of no other forms of power, is usually trouble for the individual.
Eventually, that power will fade and if the person who has that power has developed no other ways of feeling 'powerful' then they are in for a miserable life. So, the point seems to me that each individual should have a duty to themselves to develop other parts of their personaity.
Feminism may agree with this, it may not, but it just seems like common sense to me. Nobody can remain beautiful and sexy forever.
But, yes, men and women each have sexual power over other men and women and it is ridiculous to deny it.
I wouldn't call it power.
It's not power. It's just attraction.
MRA's talk a lot about women's sexual power, implying that the fact that some men want to fuck women and can't, gives women real power, just as good as being president of the USA or running a global corporation or being paid the same wage for doing the same job as a man, or being taken seriously as a full human being.
Well I don't feel powerful when I suspect that some men want to fuck me. Yes it's nice if the feeling's mutual (even if you know it'll never happen) but it's not power. It's a boost to self confidence, cheerfulness, etc., but it ain't power.
When I hear the words "sexual power" I think of men's power to rape women and to have that rape be defined as not rape. That's real sexual power IMO.
Great post HerBe.
I was just going to say the IME when I was a teenager and started going out and drinking etc there were so so many gorgeous blokes and so little time. I usually got the one I wanted but it was all a bit... I don't know. Shallow? It didn't make me feel powerful. It just made me feel like I had a choice and which one would I choose. And - I know. When men who I didn't find attractive gave me attention it annoyed me, frankly. I was interested in the ones I was interested in, I didn't want some unattractive random holding me up!
So for me being sexually attractive didn't make me feel powerful, it made me feel irritated, a lot of the time. Because a lot of the time I wanted blokes to piss off and leave me alone and they wouldn't GRRRRRRRR.
I have never understood the thing of getting an ego-boost when men want to buy you drinks etc even if they're mingers. Most of my friends do. I have never understood what is flattering about a man you don't fancy wanting you. I wanted men I did fancy to want me - that was the good bit
Also really hot men have the same effect on women so I don't think it has much to do with "women's sexual power" and more to do with some people's sex appeal.
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