WOMEN AND SEXUALITY [NAME OF STUDENT] [NAME OF SUBJECT] Introduction Modern 21st century American society boasts itself as one which provides opportunities for all no matter what race, gender or any other social categories you belong to. Indeed, one of its more prominent features is its acknowledgement of women’s right to self-determination…
This was not always the case, however, as strict notions of sexual norms pervaded society since time immemorial. It was only recently, in the late 19th century, that the right to sexual freedom emerged and gained momentum thru the efforts of activists who risk the scorn of a morally-rigid society. This paper will explore and analyze how events in the 19th to the 20th century caused American society to break its traditional norms and beliefs regarding women’s right to sexual freedom. The Path to Sexuality Prior to the events concerning sexual freedom in the 19th century, America considered women as fragile beings belonging only to the home. Any tendencies for extracurricular sexual thoughts were repressed, generally frowned upon and considered as unnatural. Homosexuality, prostitution or any form of sexual determination by women is conceived as impure. The concept of ownership of one’s own body for women was basically unheard of in a highly patriarchal 19th century American society. Women were expected to be pure, pious, chaste and capable in domestic affairs. American society cherished the notions of morality where women were expected to have sex only with their husbands while it was acceptable for men to have multiple partners. They were also expected to stay with their husbands even if an affair is uncovered as divorce was not made available to them. Any woman who has sexual contact with another aside from her husband was considered as ruined or fallen. There were cases where girls who had lost their virginity due to rape had been humiliated and casted out of their communities because of engaging pre-marital sex (Forman, 12-14). Sexuality for women had legal and moral repercussions as opposed to men whose sexual activities were highly unrestricted. This social norm was to be greatly challenged thru the activism of Victoria Woodhull, the first ever woman who ran for the United States presidency. Woodhull spoke frankly about the shackles women were expected to endure such as loveless marriages and limitations on who to have sexual relationship (Athey, 15-19). According to her, this should not be the case as: ‘To woman, by nature, belongs the right of sexual determination.…When woman rises from sexual slavery to sexual freedom, into the ownership and control of her sexual organs, and man is obliged to respect this freedom, then will this instinct become pure and holy; then will woman be raised from the iniquity and morbidness in which she now wallows for existence, and the intensity and glory of her functions be increased a hundred-fold’. (Athey, 16) Woodhull, and so many others until now, challenge this notion as it implicitly depict women as lower than men as the latter is not bound by such restrictions. On Prostitution Selling a woman’s body for sexual pleasure is touted to be the oldest profession in the world yet it is also one of the most prosecuted acts due to pervading notions of immorality and inappropriateness. Religious inclinations considered the body as a sacred vessel and prostitution is believed to be an outright violation of moral doctrines as it deviates from the notion of marriage and procreation. Prostitution was a taboo never to be tolerated. The problem, however, is that women who engage in this trade bore the brunt of the stigma. From biblical ...
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