Deborah Tolman’s Adolescent Girls’ Sexuality brings to light the idea of sexual subjectivity, or a young woman’s sense of self as a sexual person who is entitled to have sexual feelings and make active decisions about sexual behavior. Being sexual subjects requires young ladies to have more agency with their sexuality–to be active agents in the choices they are making. It also requires that these young women have sexual well-being, including sexual and reproductive health, comfort with one’s body, feelings and desires, and awareness of and having the freedom to act upon sexual desires.
A double standard is “a rule or principle that is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups” (dictionary.com). I completely hate that there is a double standard especially when it comes to genders. Excuse my language but it is bullshit knowing that guys can do one thing and when girls then do it they get scolded or shamed. For our group project, my partners and I looked at gender double standards and there are a good amount. Clearly most people know about the double standards against women more than they do men.
Adolescence is a difficult time for everyone. All young people struggle to find themselves and to define their identity. However, while adolescent females struggle to develop their sexuality and identity in a society where they are expected to sexy but not to have sexual feelings of their own, or rather they are supposed to be sexual objects but not sexual subjects (Tolman 153-158), males also face many difficulties because they are very restricted by a need to protect their masculinity by never appearing too feminine or weak. If boys lapse or deviate from the social standards, they risk becoming a target for unrelenting homophobic harassment. In order to avoid this, most young boys work very hard to convince others of their heterosexuality at all costs.
To many people, sex has everything to do with Kim Kardashian. Kim Kardashian rose to fame after her sex tape Continue reading
Racial hierarchies around the world consistently rank “whiteness” as more valuable and other races as less valuable. Being able to “pass” for white, which is a fluid commodity rather than a set racial identity, oftentimes opens up spaces of privilege while being perceived as “not white” in conjunction with being an immigrant, can be very limiting and harmful. For immigrant women particularly, racial hierarchies, in which whiteness is often valued and being “other” is restrictive, greatly influence their social experiences in the countries to which they immigrate. This racial phenomenon looks very different in different regions. In the United States for instance, Asian males, who in some parts of the world, are seen as white, are not viewed as “white enough”. As a consequence of being viewed as lower ranking in the hierarchy of male bodies, according to Kong, their bodies are desexualized, making it difficult for them to thrive and express their sexuality in this culture.
At Mad Donna’s, a restaurant in Nashville, you have the opportunity to wine, dine, and listen to drag queens rant as they randomly shout out numbers. You get to play drag bingo.
Young girls in our society face a troublesome contradiction: we are expected to be sexual, desirable subjects of the male gaze, yet encouraged to behave as “good” girls by society’s terms. This is a seemingly never-ending challenge that girls and young women must maneuver from puberty well into adulthood. Too often having to stop and ask, how can we be sexual without being sexualized?
Following the Women’s Liberation Movement of 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, women have been encouraged to embrace their freedoms. However, I think that it is very paradoxical that the same society telling women that we should be all that we can be is the same society that has continually placed so many restrictions on what we can be, who we can be, or how we can be. Society has dictated to women that we must act in accordance to its rules to maintain the heteronormative world in which we inhabit and by doing so, has placed limitations on the livelihood of women. This can be seen in several realms of everyday life including the social aspect. Furthermore, an aspect of women’s social lives that is greatly affected by society’s regulation is their sexual lives.
In her article “Adolescent girls’ sexuality: the more it changes, the more it stays the same” Deborah Tolman defines sexual subjectivity as “having a sense of oneself as a sexual person who is entitled to have sexual feelings and to make active decisions about sexual behavior.” While this idea may seem “common sense,” a deeper look into today’s society reveals that sexual subjectivity is only granted to certain individuals. In her artictle, Tolman makes the argument that society should teach women to have desires, not to be desired. As adolescents, girls are taught that there are “good” girls and “bad” girls. The creation of such parallels with and enforces the belief that “good” girls are considered “normal” while “bad” girls are considered “deviant.” Good girls are defined as girls who behave in agreement with and conforms to society’s heterocentric standards in which women are characterized as straight, docile, and abstinent. “Bad” girls are characterized by their rebellious behavior which may include engaging in premarital sex, having several sexual partners, or engaging in what is considered homosexual behavior. Thus, instead of learning to be sexual, women are taught to be sexy, or as Tolman would put it, women are sexually socialized by society and miss the opportunity to experience sexual socialization on their own terms. To combat these issues, Tolman suggests that society begins to think about the development of sexual well-being as essential during adolescence in hopes that it will foster across our lifetimes. All in all, women should learn to define both what and who they consider desirous, for society teaches us that the right way to be sexual is to be a feminine woman who participates in intercourse with a masculine man.
An interesting point in Tolman’s article comes when she writes “Tackling demands for masculinity in boys that have harmful consequences for girls as well … will be part of the task of articulating and securing sexual rights for teenage girl” (Tolman 157). This statement tells us that as a result of not being able to express sexual subjectivity or experience sexual socialization, women are sexually objectified as props for men and their desires; this aligns perfectly with the idea that women are taught to be desirous and sexy. Seeing as how “sex is about male dominance and female subordination,” (Barber 45) it is easy to see how this is an example of a power based relationship. Sometimes, men think that as men, it is their God-given right to have sex with women when in actuality, that is not the case. Though society does not explicitly come out and tell men that they are entitled to every woman, I think that it would be safe to make the assumption that because society does teach men to view women as subordinate and sexual objects, men grow to view women as just that- a subordinate object. Sometimes, this can result in very violent and sometimes fatal events occurring.
According to the Rape,Abuse, and Incest National Network, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Another alarming statistic is that 9 out of 10 rape victims are females. So, what does this say about rape? I think that these statistics definitely suggest that there is indeed a correlation between rape and gender. As Dr. Chapman stated in class, bodies who are read as female are more susceptible to being raped. In my opinion, all of the issues mentioned by Tolman, including sexual objectification,sexual socialization, heteronormativity, and sexual subjectivity, play a part in exacerbating this newfound rape culture.
Rape culture as we know it is described as a culture in which “people are surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.” Many times, rapes are justified using heteronormative logic. For instance, the concept of “slut-shaming” which is used to describe the act of making a person, especially a woman, feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors, circumstances or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, or that which may be considered to be contrary to natural or religious law. The concept of slut-shaming parallels with the “good girl” “bad girl” argument that Tolman makes in her article. If a girl is considered “bad,” society will more readily blame her for that rape and excuse the behavior of the man using the logic that it is just in the nature of men to be hypersexual. Because it is in men’s nature to be hypersexual, society teaches women that we should “protect” ourselves. For instance, women should not wear short/tight clothing, for that may arouse a man. If women wear “revealing” clothing, then they are, in so many words, asking to be raped. This is an example of how society inhibits women’s ability to experience sexual subjectivity.
While Tolman’s article was very intriguing, I do believe that Tolman left out some important issues. I think that it would have been interesting to compare the differences in the development of girls’ sexualities from different racial backgrounds. For instance, I believe that society views certain female bodies (black) as more sexual. This then raises the question that if these black women’s rights as a sexual being are violated, will those rights be protected or will their rights be denied because society views them as hypersexual? Does the law protect, in the case of rape, all women’s sexual rights equally or are the sexual rights of certain women more important than others’?
Hair and shaving in general helps define gender norms. Society says that women should have long hair on their head but should have hair nowhere else. It reinforces the idea that women should be innocent and pure, just like a child. Society wants women to express their sexuality but not act upon it. Women are supposed to be innocent yet seductive at the same time. They are supposed to be sexual objects rather than sexual subjects. The “good girl” ideal is brought up in “Adolescent Girls’ Sexuality”; “if girls want to be considered good, nice or even normal, adolescent girls are not (really) supposed to have sexual feelings of their own”(p.154). Young girls bodies are supposed to be viewed upon as desirable, yet not engage in their own desires. To keep this sexual image up, girls turn to shaving their legs. Shaving is just another way of society expecting women to change their outward appearance to make their bodies easier to identity. Shaving adds target these beliefs by showing women with long flowing hair shaving their legs in very seductive ways. Long hair is a defining characteristic that is used to show which gender you associate with. Women with short hair are sometimes seen as elderly or a “dyke”. Short hair has become less of a stereotype due to a trend in famous actresses cutting their hair off.
While on women lack of body hair shows femininity, on men it is the opposite. The gender norms for men say to be hairy is to show their masculinity. As it talked about in “Sexualizing Asian Male Bodies”, hairless bodies are seen to be feminine, homosexual or asexual. The desexualizing of Asian men is due to their “softness” The importance correlation between body and masculinity are clear. To be masculine every part of your body needs to match expectations. Just like females the amount of hair that is on your body is how people judge what sex you are. Men with long hair on their head and no hair on their legs are viewed as homosexual because society places people in binaries based on gender, sex and sexuality. Due to society connecting sexuality to masculinity, once act can cause men to be seen as homosexual. If men aren’t explicitly masculine, they are right away viewed as the opposite of that, which is feminine .