The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word sexual freedom is the ability to exercise power and autonomy over my body and what I choose to do with it. Having an intrinsic understanding that my sexual desires are natural and breaking out of the tyranny of feeling shameful and dirty for being a sexual being. Ultimately, it’s owning the responsibility of being well acquainted and intimate with my body enough to know what gratifies me sexually and not putting my sexual gratification in the hands of someone else. In my opinion, cultivating sexual freedom is about the most positive thing that anyone can do for themselves.
My obsession with cultivating sexual freedom was inspired by my own personal experiences in which I felt like I lost my sexual power as a woman which didn’t sit quite well with me. From succumbing to losing my virginity to an older guy because I felt I was placed in a situation where I couldn’t say no, to being shamed sexually by the boy I loved and ultimately to never experiencing any sexual gratification, I developed an irresistible urge to stand up for myself and claim my sexual power. So in my opinion, sexual freedom equates sexual power as it all boils down to developing your own sexual identity and deciding best, what works for you sexually!
I wouldn’t say sexual freedom has evolved much from past generations. Having been born and bred in Lesotho, I got exposed to the Sesotho proverb that says “A man is like a pumpkin vine, he spreads all over. A woman is like a cabbage, she stays in one place” from a very tender age. Rachel Kellogg, AIDS Free Program Officer, JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. in her 2016 study on “Tackling Gender-Based Violence in Lesotho through Changing Community Norms” was quoted saying “This cultural image of the wandering man and the stalwart woman helps explain the country’s gender inequalities. I would like to borrow her words and say “This cultural image of the wandering man and the stalwart woman has led to sexual freedom being understood differently for men and women and sexual freedom for men being more acceptable in society while any form of sexual expression by women is frowned upon.
This idea is still deeply rooted in society to date. An example of this can be seen in a case where the fabric of society is weaved in such a way that it feels entitled to police what women can and cannot wear. Women are frequently met with shameful nasty remarks by people in the streets while they roam certain parts of the city(Maseru) for wearing clothes that reveal certain parts of their body while men can move freely without covering the upper part of their body. This goes to show that women, to date, still live within the tyranny of not being able to exercise autonomy over their body without feeling shameful or eccentric for it.
Society is as fragile and impressionable as a child who comes into the world completely oblivious and takes on their parents’ identity. Since society today still embodies this concept due to its initial coding or impression, we have to go back in history and reprogram it completely by introducing different concepts to it. I want the older generation to understand that women are sexual beings as much as men are and thus should be granted a right to express their sexuality in a manner that gratifies them. To say that men want sex more than women is distorted. In an article on WebMD, Louanne Cole Weston, Ph.D. stated “When people wrote in about the discrepancy of frequency and desire [for sex], about 40% of the time it was men wanting less.” Irwin Goldstein, M.D., director of sexual medicine at San Diego’s Alvarado Hospital and editor in chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine further stated to WebMD that one in five men have a low libido, and “almost 30% of women say they have more interest in sex than their partner has.”
I believe this reprogramming is essential for next generations to have different conversations on sexual freedom.