This is a website that WE are building together. If you have a question there is no answer to on this site, send it here!

For Teachers & Professionals

For Teachers & Professionals

Feminism and Sexual education

It is difficult to understand where one should start to frame the discourse of feminism and how it intersects with sexuality. There has been a time in which women advocated for financial as well as emotional independence from men. Being independent included all areas such as economical, psychological and relational independence. Men had thus started to accuse them of deviance, frigidity or insanity. Margaret Sanger was among those who saw that if women were to gain equality they must first gain control over their own bodies. One of her early pamphlets asked the question: 'Should a woman enjoy sexual intercourse?' and responded: 'Yes, she should'. Although this happened one century ago, we would be fooled to think that this doesn’t still affect us. We would be fooled to think that hundreds of years up until being concentrated on Freud’s work, wouldn’t affect us. It is necessary to understand the fundamental symbolic generalizations, shared values and commitments to knowledge and beliefs that make up the paradigm which dominates thinking about women's sexuality. 

1. Blessed mothers or whores

Women's sexuality has always been denied. Women were the keepers of the morals, makers of the family, and upholders of the faith. At the same time, the other face was that of damned whores who tempted men and caused them to stray. This has been built on a set of male assumptions regarding the centrality of women's role in reproduction as the predominant feature of her sexuality as well as her lack of status as an independent person. Chastity and monogamy served the male purpose of assuring paternity. We can say that women's biology and sexuality were constrained to serve a social end. Who wants sex and what sort of? This is answered by “the ideology of male sexual needs”. This is expressed in the conviction that penile-vaginal intercourses are the best route for female orgasm, following the Freudian theory that women's mature sexuality is vaginally located.

2. A wrong sexology

There has been the tendency to make women feel guilty about their bodies, to prompt feelings of inadequacy and generally to undermine and degrade women, while male sexuality is also believed to be highly responsive to visual images. As a result, men are seen as being unable to control their sexual urges, which focus totally on erection and penetration. On the other hand, women are still believed to be less interested in sex, less responsive to visual images and more 'turned on' by tactile experience. Passivity and submission are still valued in women. If a woman doesn’t conform to this rule, the risk is that she is seen as a ‘slut’. There is also a bias prompting women toward relationships and childbearing.

The impact of schools on young people

Our conditioning, the way we are socialized, makes it difficult to challenge these assumptions. How does this affect young people? 

The girls talked in terms of feeling they were pressured into sex. And if they did, they found their names bandied about in a most unfortunate manner the next day at school. (Oakley et al., 1984).

The feelings about and consequences of sexuality are still very different for girls and boys. 

Does the school have a role in perpetuating the dominant values of society? Yes. Education expresses both explicitly and implicitly the wider culture of a society. Schools provide not only a common language and methods of approaching common problems, but also an agreement on which questions are to be addressed. In the case of girls, schooling perpetuates the sexual division of labour and while some young women can transcend their socialization, the vast majority absorb the definitions offered by the school, which perpetuates the rigid sex stereotypes of skills and activities.

Sexism has also been shown the implicit sexism of children's books and texts. It is also presented in the role models proposed in class: the role models presented to young women compound their perception that women hold a lesser place in the world. 

In spite of the fact that the majority of teachers claim that they are against sex discrimination and that they do not engage in such practices, teachers of either sex are more likely to know the names of and personal details about the boys than the girls, they apply different standards of behaviour (e.g.. in dress) to girls and boys, and they have different expectations of the girls and the boys in their classes. Bright girls may avoid success because, in line with societal attitudes, they find it difficult to reconcile the characteristics of ambition, competence, intelligence and success with the female stereotype. 

Thus, sexual education programs should aim at:

1. The clarification of values;

2. The development of tolerance and respect for others;

3. Gaining communication and interpersonal skills;

4. Developing a sense of self-worth or positive self-esteem;

5. The development of decision-making skills;

6. The integration of human sexuality as a positive dimension of self.

Sex programs, as well as class activities, should aim to change eventual sexism and heterosexism.

REFERENCES

Szirom, T. (2017). Teaching gender?: Sex education and sexual stereotypes. Routledge.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Share the knowledge!

More For Teachers & Professionals Q&A

For Teachers

Addressing Young Women's Sexual Health in a Non-Judgmental Way

Read More
For Teachers

6 Topics that are not usually covered in Sexual education

Read More
For Teachers

Multiple Sclerosis and Sexuality

Read More
For Teachers

Facilitators for Patient-centered Communication with Adolescents – part 2

Read More
For Teachers

PEARLS model to talk about Sexuality

Read More
For Teachers

Time management to address Sexual concerns

Read More

This is a website that WE are building together. If you have a question there is no answer to on this site, send it here!