Does sex = power?
A few weeks back we explored beauty as the ultimate power tool. A new (but closely related) question we’ve been thinking about—is sex, in fact, the ultimate power tool? Like beauty, sex is a form of power “given” to women (over men) in unequal measures. We are largely viewed as the “gatekeepers” of sex, whereas men are socialized to be in constant pursuit of sex. Often, the language we use to describe sex makes it seem like a commodity or as something that can be given and taken. For example, we accept and commonly use harmful messaging like “losing your virginity” all the time as an early entry point into sex. Let’s dig into this a bit.
It’s widely agreed that the term “virginity” is harmful, stemming from its focus on heteronormativity and its antiquated association with religious conservatism. There’s so much wrong with this term. For starters, it historically casts shame upon those who lose (or don’t lose) their “virginity.” But for today’s purposes, I want to focus on how the language of “losing” your virginity insinuates that you’re giving something away. That “something” is virtue and purity in the eyes of the patriarchy, and when you “lose” those things, you lose power.
This hierarchy makes literally no sense to me. Virginity, for example, is a social construct that both condemns and encourages sexual experiences. It celebrates sex through the male gaze, but questions women’s ownership of their power in the bedroom (or wherever you like doing it). It’s a constant double standard where everyone loses. Why? Because it further drives home the idea that women are the “gatekeepers” of sex that pleases men, ultimately diminishing their own pleasure. It reinforces the idea that women don’t want sex as much as men, and when they do have sex, they’re expected to act like porn stars. But what if women do want sex as much or more than men? (They do.) And how does queer sex fit into this narrative? What about sex when it is actually a powerful commodity, like in sex work?
It’s amazing to me how taboo sex still is when the whole world wants it and the existence of the human species relies on it to continue. Entire movements and cultures have developed around encouraging violence against women for withholding sex. Incels, for example, are people (typically young men) who consider themselves unable to attract women sexually so they take to online communities to plot violence against women instead. (TW) This comes back to the idea of sex as something that can acceptably be taken from women, by men, against their consent and in tandem with violence. It’s worth noting that conflict-related sexual violence increases in times of war. I wrote my whole university thesis on gender and sexual-based violence in regions of conflict, often perpetuated by aid workers, creating entire sex industries in its wake.
There are so many nuances to this sex as power discussion. I hope you’ll join me in starting some of these conversations in Diem. So far, we’ve talked about things like open relationships, normalizing the taboo of sexual wellness and barriers to female pleasure in our live, recorded conversations. Is there a topic you want us to cover going forward? Let us know.
Every day is women’s day in Diem but tomorrow we’ve got an extra special series of #IWDiem conversations happening in celebration. Kicking off with a warm up from Kirsty Godso today and rolling into Hustle Crew’s Abadesi Osunsade, Looni’s Chelsea Leyland, The Bedside’s Tatiana Fogt, Sabia Wade aka. The Black Doula, Career Coach Pia Stanchina, Author Sarah Levy & Dating Podcaster Liana Pavane tomorrow.
What we’re reading…
🇺🇦 Women forced Ukraine to welcome them into the military. Russian attacks in 2014 prompted civilians to fight alongside soldiers—and push for equal opportunities among their ranks. (Slate)
👀 Was the pandemic a missed opportunity for women? Optimists might say that the pandemic presented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to confront the flaws in American workplaces and safety nets. (Politico)
💗 Becoming a woman without her. Writer Becky Miller constructs a sense of self — and femininity — in her mother’s absence.
👏 What does it mean to come together as Asian American women? This group is seeking an answer.
CATCH UP on knowledge that went live last week including Ladies Get Paid Claire Wasserman’s pep talk on leveling up at work, Jaclyn Johnson’s advice on owning your ambition, Amy Lee’s 101 on botox or Mahasin Phillips and Josefina Bashout on sexual wellness. All in the Diem app via App Store or Google Play. You can’t say we don’t make you nice things!
Who we’re Dieming with this week…
To “Diem with” someone means to candidly exchange knowledge. Here’s a selection of knowledge going live (in the Diem app) this week.
Prioritizing your energy with Kirsty Godso. Going live 10am PST | 1pm EST | 6pm GMT today. Listen here.
Aging gracefully + cosmetic surgery: Can we do both? with Dr. Maryam Zamani. Going live 11am PST | 2pm EST today. Listen here.
MARCH 8TH #IWDiem conversations on good sex, reproductive health, going for gold in life, how to negotiate like a pro, birth equity, big life choices and how to date yourself. All going live tomorrow.
Learn from a celebrity matchmaker with Carmelia Ray. Going live WEDNESDAY 12pm EST. Listen here.
Pursuing a career in STEM with engineer Lindah Vivah. Going live WEDNESDAY 5.30PM EST. Listen here.
The rise of tech’s titans and how they shaped modern society with author & tech journalist, Laurie Segall. Going live THURSDAY 12PM EST. Listen here.
Building an audio porn empire with Quinn’s Caroline Spiegel. THURSDAY 1PM EST. Listen here.
How to achieve grassroots community growth with Marianna Martinelli. SUNDAY 4.30PM EST. Listen here.
See you in Diem tomorrow!
PS. If you’re enjoying what you’re learning in Diem, we’d love if you could give us an App Store rating.