Even if you believe pre-marital sex to be immoral for religious reasons, there is no denying that women in particular are treated cruelly for falling short of this standard. I have had a hard time convincing moderate, conservative, and religious Ghanaian women to shun a sexual double standard that praises men for sex, yet degrades women for exerting sexual agency. I have failed in part because my personality does not appeal to the sensibilities of many Ghanaian women.Striving to emulate a British Victorian construct of a “lady”, many Ghanaian women abhor women feminists such as myself. They say we are crude, vulgar, and that no man will marry us. Even with justice on our minds, a well “trained” Ghanaian woman will refuse to listen to the content of feminist messages as the presentation of such a message is not dressed with “lady-like” language. If women find our reputation so distasteful that they refrain from listening to well thought-out arguments on women’s liberation, it feels as if the sexists are winning.
Nonetheless, this essay is not about me and my sordid relationship with many Ghanaian women online. It is the first of a series of “open letters” aimed at Ghanaian women clarifying infamous feminist positions. It is about sexual liberation and its central message. A major misconception is that sexual liberation only seeks to encourage women to have sex. In reality, sexual liberation seeks to remove sexist insults and devaluation to better allow women to make individual sexual choices without shame, disrespect, dehumanization, or men’s control. Whether you want to abstain, sleep with the entire block, or somewhere in between, the choice and power is yours. It is your body and no one should insult you for the sexual choices you make, just because you are a woman.
Sexist Metaphors Used To Argue Against Women’s Sexual Liberation Rob Women of Dignity
It is often the case that men that seek to enforce a sexual double standard, utilize silly metaphors. The central message of these metaphors is that women who explore their sexuality outside the confines of marriage are “used” and thus possess less value. Interestingly, this same logic is not applied to men. The metaphors themselves rarely conceptualize women as autonomous, rational, people capable of making choices. These metaphors often maintain men’s status as people, yet reduce women to cows, apples, cars, and other non-human objects or animals incapable of self-determination.
Exhibit A: In this metaphor:
man= person purchasing car
A car is used to represent a woman, yet the person buying the car, the representation of a man, is still human.
man= person eating/biting the apple
In this metaphor, an apple is used to represent a woman, yet the person eating the apple causing the supposed “decay”, the representation of a man, is still human.
sex = milk
man = farmer/person purchasing cow
In this metaphor, a cow up for purchase is used to represent a woman, sex is milk, yet the purchaser, the representation of a man, is still human.
So why is it relevant that metaphors that seek to argue against women having sexual liberties, continue to use purchasable commodities to symbolize women, while men are symbolized as autonomous humans?
- Dehumanization: These metaphors demonstrate how sexists think, and the ease with which women are dehumanized. In the mind of sexists, men and women do not share equal dignity, and as such women are often reduced to objects while men remain human.
- Objectification: These metaphors illustrate that many men view women as their possession. Whether it is a cow, or a car, or an apple, women are represented as commodities that men purchase and own, rather than equal human life partners.
- Sexual Illiteracy: These metaphors also demonstrate sexual illiteracy. Contrast to popular opinion, sex does not taint, widen, or spoil a woman or her vagina. Frankly it is insulting to give penises so much power, that we falsely think that penile-vaginal penetration drastically changes a woman’s physical or spiritual essence, while men stay intact.
It is clear then, that the harm of women’s sexual repression is not just the inability to live a fulfilled life filled with sexual exploration. The harm of women’s sexual repression is also the dehumanizing, objectifying ideas about women that accompany the rationale of sexual repression. These sexist ideas about women are widely circulated and ingrained within our collective social conscience.
Your Greatest Achievements In Life Will Have Little To Do With Your Sex Life
Do you know about Harriet Tubman’s body count? Yaa Asantewaa’s sexual history? Are you aware of how many people Ama Ata Aidoo has bedded? No.
No you’re not, because it is irrelevant to their accomplishments as social revolutionaries. It is ridiculous to use a woman’s sexual life as a basis for determining worth and respect. It is even more ridiculous to use a woman’s sex life to determine morality, as morality is inherently about increasing or reducing human suffering. It is better to focus on the ways that women improve society, every single day.
Once you are buried six feet under, your legacy will be about what you have done for this world, not who you have done in this world.
Thus I continue to push for sexual liberation. Not only because I want women to live fully fulfilled lives that do not require marriage for sexual pleasure, but also because I want women to transcend genitalia based politics. I want women to understand that our worth in this world has little to do with who we sleep with, and everything to do with how we treat others, what politics we hold, our intellectual capabilities, and most importantly how we maximize our human capital as citizens for a better Ghana.
Sexual liberation is about dignity. When society allows men sexual exploration and attacks women who do the same, men are positioned in a superior social standing to women. Essentially, because men are given rights and liberties that women are denied, women are robbed of equal social standing with men. Which in turn, robs women of dignity. Especially with the use of dehumanizing metaphors.
Furthermore, sexual liberation is about dignity because women have so much to offer this world. And for women’s worth to be reduced to what we sexually do with our genitalia is beyond demeaning. So Yes sexual liberation is essential to restore women’s dignity, because honestly we are more than our sex lives.