Society, double standards, and sexual expression

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There remains a social double standard when it comes to men, women and expression of personal sexuality.

Media is the biggest factor in social constructions and expressions of sexuality. If we take a look at music we easily see this double standard.

It is a common appearance to see women portrayed as backdrops or playthings in music videos and spoken of in extremely derogatory terms within the music itself. This is seen commonly within the R&B and hip-hop music scenes.

The images we witness on the television screen undoubtedly affect how we treat each other, thus negative images about women and their sexuality perpetuate this societal issue.

It is often seen within popular culture and music that a man may be referred to as a “pimp” in positive terms. The origination of the word pimp is far from positive. It dates back to the 17th century and meant then, as it does now, a male person who arranges for sexual intercourse between a client, also known as a “John” and a prostitute. The verb “to pimp” is known to mean variations of the following: dressing seductively, dress up elegantly, to exploit. The dictionary definition of a pimp is literally a “despicable person.”

Despite the negative and disturbing history and meaning behind the word “pimp” it has taken on a positive, desired social meaning in recent decades. The verb “to pimp” means making over something or someone into a more flashy and decorated version of itself. It is also used to describe men in favorable ways. It may be used when speaking of a good-looking man or one who does well in relationships with women. “Pimp” is also used to describe a lavish and impressive lifestyle.

The exact opposite is true of words used to describe the women who work for pimps, or just women in general. Slurs like “whore,” “slut” and “bitch” are commonly used in society, even shockingly used by a woman to describe another woman. One would hope that a fellow woman would understand the weight those words carry.

In Jay-Z’s song “99 Problems” he lists off things that are problems in his life but insists “a bitch ain’t one,” not “a girl ain’t one.”

Another side in this social construct is clothing and how each gender chooses to present itself to society. Media teaches women to use their bodies and clothing in order to attract male attention. Instead of attracting a man to their intelligence, society and media tells us we women must simply be “hot but dumb” for lack of better words.

Laura Brotherson, author and relationship expert, coined the term “The Good Girl Syndrome” to explain a phenomenon where women are told that to enjoy sexual acts is dirty and a sin. A young lady can be brought up with such a strict view on sexuality that once she is in a committed, monogamous relationship she is unable to let go of the thought that sex is bad and enjoy a healthy sexual relationship. Instead of being given appropriate and healthy views of sexual intercourse, it is twisted into something sinful.

When it comes down to young girls and boys it is seen that more often than not young boys learn more about sex through their friends and media than their female counterparts. Young adults are coming of age in a hyper-sexualized society that embraces male sexuality and sexual expression through pornography, masturbation, casual sexual partnerships (“friends with benefits”) and objectification of women. Thus, we have a generation of sexual “empowered” and educated men–remember, educated through media–and a generation of women who are confused about their sexuality.

Instead of damning our young girls for embracing and simply showing their sexuality, society must understand that women are sexual creatures, and it is more than healthy to understand that women, too, have a sex drive. Women and men need to understand that a natural sexual expression is paramount for healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors.

This attitude needs to start with how women speak, act and interact with each other. Women tend to judge each other the harshest, using negative and derogatory terms in casual conversation with and about each other, but if women start to tear down the walls of prejudice the rest of society would follow suit.

Society is a reflection of media and media is a reflection of society. If society starts to make a turnaround in attitudes about sexuality, sexual expressions and gender, this double standard will begin to fade from media.

The less this double standard is seen in media, the less it will be seen in society. It is a vicious cycle that must end, and it starts with society. And we are society. The status quo cannot continue to stand if we are to have a sexually liberated society, especially when it comes to women. It takes two to tango, two to engage in sexual acts but only one to break the social construct.

It only takes one person to start a revolution. If one person with a strong voice within society or the media takes a stand against this double standard, we will surely see a turning of the tides.

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