The history of desire begins with the new question that emerged after the sexual liberation of 1960’s: What do women want?
Women having desire, and focus on what women wanted in their sexual lives was a new problem, a new question coming from the place of women choosing their own participation and choices in sexuality. Masters and Johnson began as a result of fertility studies, the role of women prior to the sexual revolution was to be the carrier of life, producing babies in families. It was a new perspective and a new area of concern to have as a focus: what women want sexually. Worthy to the barefoot frontrunners, the focus to of the studies focused on female pleasure illuminated choices and integrity around the subject of female sexuality. The value of women had been related to their productivity as child bearers, and mates to their partners. The new day was about a realm of satisfaction around sexuality expressed in the choices available to women today.
David Buss, Ph.D and Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D, Head of the Sexual Psychological Lab at the University of Texas at Austin in 2010 developed through their work and offered a further perspective on “Why Women Want Sex Today?” Forty years after the feminist movement, what we know is, women do not need to marry to have a family. Adoption is available to single parents; partnerless conception is a medically sound alternative to becoming a partnered biological parent. The structure of family has shifted over the years to accommodate these changes. The need for the contract of marriage for women has also responded to these changes; women marry and birth children later in their lives, and do not require marriage to have a family. They have their own 401K’s, Affordable Healthcare Insurance availability which they can acquire on their own. A majority of the college graduates are women and they represent the highest number of Ph.D’s in recent years. So for the Meston-Buss study,the question was a significant one. Why do women want sex and how do they experience their sexual roles today. The Buss-Meston research reported that 32% of women 18-24 years of age, single and married reported little interest in sex. 33% of the women of all ages single and married reported little interest in sex. 37% of the 50-60 year old women reported little interest in sex.
Irony prevails when women born before the 1970’s had little power over their sexual choices that sex or the lack of it suggests that freedom to be sexual also allows not to be. The lack of sex was not a problem for the couples that they studied. They reported that the decline in sexual activity was a loss to their relationship. Rather than the lack of interest and activity in sex being a negative, the couples reported satisfaction in their lives with each other.
To that point , A study by Erik Jassen at the Kinsey Institute in 2010 added in his study that if one side of the couple is not in agreement with the other in terms of sexual desire, that does have a negative impact on the relationship. There was a time when sex was only allowed if you were married to the opposite sex; if your partner was not interested or was absent from you, you did without sex. Jassen’s study suggests negotiation by women around their sexuality is another new advance resulting from the sexual liberation of the past fifty years.
Practice of sex a positive
Why is this subject important? Barefoot Frontrunners takes the position that once women were free to choose how to express their sexuality and with whom, sex falls into a response by women to honoring their own desire, not obligation or compensation or qualification for being a woman or being in a relationship. Sex has its place, and coming from a place of want and desire, authentic expression is the agenda. In fact, the role of women around sex also changed the measure of sex for men as we discuss. Dr. Oz and most authorities on the subject of the importance of sex in relationship express that sexual activity is healthy throughout all ages of life, and increases vitality and longevity. Choice may be the mark of a culture demonstrating the level of how free women feel to express their sexuality on their own terms.
True liberation could be measured in the freedom women have to express their desire around sexuality as part of the process of identity honoring their own choices of the conditions and content of their sexual expression, and personal power to determine their roles in or out of the family structure, and in the world they encounter through their participation. It could be said that modern feminism is seen in the choices available to them.
There are women in many places in the world where the criteria for sexuality falls within the realm of no choice: from entitlement to sex by their partners, to obligation due to social perceptions of the role of women, to the woman’s value being attached to procreation and availability of sex for their husbands.
For these women, choices are made for them at birth or at age ten about the use of their bodies and sexuality around gratification and pleasure is not on the table of awareness or practice. In an Indian village last week, NPR had a story about a town council that punished a woman who wanted to marry outside her social level by having the whole tribe of men rape her. These stories are painful to hear but a reminder that women and their ability to choose their lives, sexually and otherwise, is a recent fifty year old consequence of those who worked hard for change in rights and privileges for women.
Recognizing how recent the developments have been that allow women to choose their destiny, their paths as sexual beings as well as every other significant choice is important. It’s good to be reminded that harsh judgement and punishment,-including stoning, bride burning are sanctioned by both men and women in some cultures. There are many parts of the world where women are enslaved by their sexuality.
The new day, the new context of who women are began in the early feminist movements e will discuss, but sexual liberation in the 70’s provided the practice and conversation about choice and gratification, dignity and respect for women. Female sexuality is a fresh opening of discovery and self knowledge at all ages that are recognized as a source of well being and self expression that is the new order of the new day for women.