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Sexual Equality: Is There Any Such Thing?

By Matt B.

The "sexual revolution", with its emphasis on sexual gratification, the "Civil Rights Movement", with its emphasis on justice and freedom and the "Women's Movement", with its emphasis on equality, all seemed to herald a new day in which female-male relationships would be characterized by "Liberty, equality and intimacy", to modify the French slogan.

I have been disappointed that the Women's Movement seems not to have addressed itself to creating a vision of equality and consequent sexual harmony. but rather has been focusing on male abuse of women - brutality, harassment, and non support (where children are involved). Also feminists seem consistently to criticize men for their supposed unwillingness to "commit". Moreover, as I see it, the movement has generally taken the position that "Women's Issues" belong to women and has made little or no effort to join with Justice - and equality-loving men on the road to sexual equality.

Under the traditional sexual "double standard" men have been relatively free. They have been indoctrinated as boys to own. admire and enjoy their physical maleness and so develop sexual experience. They have never been taught that their sexuality depended in any sense on female approval. Women, on the other hand. have been indoctrinated to believe that their sexuality was not something to enjoy but rather a somewhat untidy aspect of themselves, to be endured for enjoyment by husbands and for procreation. The non-sexuality of the "good woman," (i.e. her chastity) was regarded as both a moral virtue; and a bargaining chip in the acquisition of a husband. Upon marriage her sexuality belonged to her husband. Her status as a wife depended upon his approval. whether he admired her sexual immaturity or encouraged her in domestic sexual sophistication. An unmarried woman with sexual experience (sometimes even through rape) was considered a "bad woman". Moreover, the culture required a certain number of "bad" women - prostitutes, lower class women victimized by men and adulteresses - for men to have sexual fun with. Adultery on the part of men was taken for granted: on the part of woman it was a serious crime. Men could celebrate sexuality and appreciate it as a joyful gift of nature, regardless of who their sexual partners were. Women, however, could not afford the luxury of generic sexual celebration. To do so would risk their social reputations and their economic security. For them sexuality became more a matter of pleasing one man and making themselves special to him. Men and women were thus unequal in sexual freedom, unequal in sexual self-identity and unequal in moral value. The Women's Movement, in its concern for sexuality, has had the choice between encouraging women to behave sexually more like men or encouraging men to behave more like women. The former option would encourage much greater sexual self appreciation on woman's part and constitutes a clear rejection of the sexual double standard. The latter option would encourage men to give up their sexual freedom and become sexually exclusive. I believe the Women's Movement has straddled this issue. Certainly women have been encouraged to own and enjoy their sexuality more, including indulging in masturbation and lesbianism. They have been more willing to indulge in premarital sex and to cohabit with men without marriage. In these respects' women are becoming more like men. On the other hand, in my view, most women are still dependent on men's approval for their own self-approval and are fearful of being considered sexually "bad". Women ( and men) still condemn "promiscuous" women, though they do not have a similar standard for men. In this respect women are holding onto their traditional non-equalitarian sexual status. Women these days are intensely critical of men as insensitive, uncaring and unwilling to commit. "Commitment" in this context usually means sexual exclusiveness. In this instance they are seeking sexual equality in the form of attempting to make men behave as women have traditionally behaved.

I believe most men these days find women's needs and wants confusing. Many women still want men to treat them in the chivalrous manner which had its roots in a very non-equalitarian sexual orientation. At the same time they want to compete with and control men in a wide variety of human activities. Many men are finding that, however much they may sympathize intellectually with women's current needs, often their bodies do not respond sexually to certain female attitudes. Few women these days can accept a male's sexual non-response with equanimity. Part of them still wants to be the alluring sex-object. Rather than seek to develop a mutual understanding with a man as to what sex is about, they are more likely to attempt old-fashioned manipulation. The man's reaction is likely to be simply to move on and try with another partner.

Personally I think there is such a thing as sexual equality, but not on the strictly sexual level. On that level there are obvious physical differences, making the concept of equality as irrelevant as asking if apples are equal to oranges. In temperament and attitudes both men and women vary widely and there is a great overlapping of traits. Here again the attempt to talk in terms of equality is fruitless. Sexual equality exists when males and females are equally valued as human beings by the members of both sexes. Culturally, sexual equality may be judged by the extent to which males and females are equal under the law and show mutual respect for each other's right to self actualization. However, basically sexual equality is a personal inner feeling, characterized by a person's feeling whole inside himself or herself and treating others as his or her equal. Nobody has to wait for the millennium for sexual equality. This is one of the major values I believe Family Synergy stands for.

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