Raise your hand if, at least once in your life, you heard someone presuming women’s sexual desires, maybe with an annoying and condescending tone.
We all know how difficult it is for women to find a balance between the research of a tampon in the bag and an uncomfortable bra: dealing also with people’s inappropriate comments about our intimacy does not make life any easier.
It’s time to face it: women’s sexual life is on everyone’s lips but in no one’s mind.
Sex has always been something we do not really speak and discuss openly, whether it is with our family, friends, or with the doctor.
Gen Z and young folks seem to know better their way around it, but the problem appears to be with millennials: for those who needs an update about the generational thing, people born between 1980 and 1997. We need to talk about sex openly if we want to be able to cope with stereotypes. A study showed that sex can affects positively mental health, especially in times of pandemics and craziness, but that does not mean it is always a piece of cake, and especially that is a cake everyone likes. But how can we live our sexual life without feeling judged for our actions and thoughts?
Mainstream media and Hollywood seem to be able to describe women just as “fifty shades of perversion” or “fifty flavors of cupcakes for the Sunday dinner”, no middle way: having been proposed by media for the last 50 years only role models with nobody in between Carrie Bradshaw and Jessica Fletcher, we are constantly trying not to feel inadequate in our everyday life.
This uncomfortable dualism, however, is still extremely radicalised, finding its strength in education: 89% of primary schools in Ireland are under the patronage of the Catholic Church, protector of Saint Virginity and punisher of unholy taboos.
These interdictions which encompass sexuality for sure do not help a healthy relationship with intimacy: the embarrassment around what we like in bed, with or without someone else with us, is still so embedded in society that only mentioning the word “vibrator” can make some people run away.
The good news is that nowadays things are starting to change: also thanks to many social media activists, women are becoming more and more conscious of their right to be sexual subjects, not objects.
Different and new realities are finally coming to the surface more frequently: mothers newly single exploring a new dating and sexual reality, fluid sexualities, ladies ready to start discovering their bodies through masturbation… How many variables can we actually find in the sexual world and that cannot be merely confined to strict definitions? We asked AnnaChiara Gelardi, Emergency Midwife in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital, one of the biggest women’s hospitals in Ireland, with an 8-year experience in women’s wellbeing and sexual health.
“Women are still scared of fully living their sexuality, almost afraid of their bodies. The roots might be found in the education received and cultural background, but for sure it negatively affected their freedom and their self-image”. In regards to the distorted sexualisation of women in media, Midwife Gelardi argues that women “don’t feel represented: there is the image of the mother without any sexual interest or the maneater… what about the reality in the middle?”
A specific mention is done regarding pornography and the distortion it can provide of bodies and sexualities: a study published in 2010 reports that it can have a negative impact on women’s identities. Gelardi underlines that “porn is entertainment, it is not educational at all. It tends to reinforce the stereotype of women as sexually subjected, not to mention the absurd body images it provides as the norm”. She continues: “Women are starting now to approach differently sexuality, let’s give them the opportunity to do it without pressures or judgment”.
One example mentioned by our expert is the will then explore our body and sexuality with the use of sex toys: especially following the pandemic, it increased by 26% worldwide, underlining how “more and more women are now asking about sex toys and how to use them safely, both with the partner or alone. It is all part of a rediscovery of our bodies”. Moreover, Gelardi claims, “more sexual professionals
are now spreading awareness about a much opener sexuality”, and continues “sexual orientation, for example, is now massively explored in people around their 30s, still with some difficulties related to education, sometimes, but it is a huge improvement for sexual freedom”.
When asked atout a study showing a decreased sexual engagement of Millennials, compared to previous generations, the Midwife reports many reasons for that: “more awareness of STIs, unplanned pregnancy, but also elements such as the lack of libido and more difficulties in meeting people”. Focusing especially on this last element, it has been underlined how “a pandemic has not helped at all social and intimate relationships. Covid forced us all to stay home with ourselves, and so also to think about what we really want from a partner, occasional or not”.
Furthermore “nowadays, despite the return to a sort of normality, the dynamics to meet new possible sexual or romantic partners are very variable”. The use of apps, such as Tinder and Bumble, is increased in the last few years, with now over 300 million people using them worldwide to find the love of a life or a night. However, related to dating apps, it is also important to remark how they can actually be like a box of chocolates, you never know what flavor you might find: if you are lucky you find the love of your life, or even only of a night could be a good compromise, but if you are not that fortunate, the option might be a night you could have spent better at home watching a movie.
In conclusion, ladies, always remember you are not alone in this. Whether you decide to have (not) sex once per year, one per week, or once per hour, there is nothing wrong with that: listen to your body, be free to be whoever you want, and remember that sexuality can change, the same we all do.
If you want to know more about sexuality and its world, stay tuned: next week we are going to talk about orgasm, sex toys like bondage sex toys and its secrets!