How Beliefs About Desirability Keep You From Owning Your Sexuality

From the moment we are born, we are taught what it means to have a body, what it means to be a woman or a man or neither, what it means to have (or not have) sexual desires, what our attraction (or lack of attraction) to another human being means and so on.

We're taught these things by our families, our friends, our media, our schools, our cultures and our governments. Some of these teachings become beliefs that we unconsciously hold to help us navigate our lives.

Let's bring them to the surface and name the beliefs that prevent us from owning who we are, creating intimate connections with those around us and getting free.

 

This week, we taught our webinar on 5 Patriarchal Beliefs That Keep You From Owning Your Sexuality, and we're going to be sharing each belief with you in separate blog posts. Let's dive in!

First let’s define what we mean when we say patriarchy. We define it as:

a gender-based system of oppression that shows up in every area of society (political, social, and mental system) that perpetuates myths of male dominance and gender norms and expectations and binaries. It uses misogyny and our ideas of what it means to be “masculine” to accumulate and maintain power. (This definition is inspired by the article, Buddhists & Ethical Misconduct: We All Have Patriarchy Work to Do)

 

In our first two blog posts, we talked about how gender socialization and heteronormativity, two constructs of the patriarchy, keep us from owning our sexuality (or asexuality). Then we talked about how much shame there is attached to sex and sexuality, and how healing this shame is a key pathway to feeling free in our bodies and sexuality (whatever that may be). In this blog post, we'll explore the last two patriarchal beliefs that keep us from owning our sexuality that center around desirability and intimacy. 

 

One of the main beliefs we internalize from patriarchy that keeps us from owning our sexuality is

Your level of desirability dictates your worth

 

We place value on the people, traits and characteristics that we deem desirable. As mentioned during the second belief about heteronormativity and desirability, we have been programmed to find White, able-bodied, cis, fit/thin folks who have money and fit neatly into an expression of gender binary attractiveness. We have been taught to find certain people more desirable than others, and this is for a reason. Finding certain people more desirable than others upholds the patriarchy, White supremacy, and other systems of oppression.  

An important example of this is with disabled folx. Disabled folx aren’t seen as sexual beings or desirable. Disabled people aren’t even seen as fully human, especially if they have a visible disability. Because disabled folx aren’t seen as desirable, that adds another layer on why they aren’t worth time, energy, and support. This is true for other marginalized folx as well.

A big part of what we're taught about our desirability is that we have to be sexual, and we are not given the permission to not want to have sex with anyone at all. We don’t have to be sexual. Asexuality is perfectly valid, and your sexuality or desirability does not define your worth.

 

We encourage you to write some of this programming down. Who do you see as desirable and who do you not see as desirable? Who have you been taught to see as desirable and who have you been taught to not desire? How does this programming of desirability show up in you?

 

 

Another Patriarchal belief that keeps us from owning our sexuality is

Sexuality is the only pathway to intimacy

 

What we are desire deep down is connection. We’re taught to gain intimacy through sex. This belief teaches us to have an aversion to other forms of being intimate with each other because we think sex is THE way to have intimacy with one another.

If we use sex as the main way to gain intimacy, then we aren’t ever going to experience true intimacy. We can feel disappointed or hurt and like we are losing that connection if our partner is not in the mood or says no to sex. Our sexuality, sex drive, and preference can change, and we can’t rely on others to satisfy our sexuality. We don’t owe other people sex or sexuality. Others don’t owe us sex or sexuality. We are really going to miss out on true intimacy with one another if we think sex is the only way to it.

Intimacy isn’t inherently sexual. It’s about your closeness to another person. Holding hands or making eye contact with someone who is not your significant other or romantic partner is an example of intimacy. Non-sexual touch is a necessary and healing form of intimacy. In the U.S., we are detached from physical touch, especially men who rely on touch from women and are deprived from having non-sexual touch with other men since society discourages men to be affectionate with one another. 

The belief that sex is the main or only way to intimacy leaves out people who identify as asexual or who don’t want to have sex because of trauma or for whatever reason. It’s okay to not want to have sex. Sex isn’t the goal, but knowing your body, owning your body, and having space to explore your sexuality and own it is.

 

How do you define intimacy? Do you only define it in sexual contexts? How can we learn to cultivate intimacy in non-sexual ways? What does it mean to have intimacy with yourself?

 

 

Want to unlearn and heal from these beliefs that keep you from fully owning your sexuality (or asexuality)? Join us at our upcoming workshop on Exploring Sexuality and Patriarchy. We'll be going even deeper into how patriarchy is connected to accessing our power and freedom within our bodies and desire. (Go here to learn more)

 

How Shame Keeps Us From Owning Our Sexuality

From the moment we are born, we are taught what it means to have a body, what it means to be a woman or a man or neither, what it means to have (or not have) sexual desires, what our attraction (or lack of attraction) to another human being means and so on.

We're taught these things by our families, our friends, our media, our schools, our cultures and our governments. Some of these teachings become beliefs that we unconsciously hold to help us navigate our lives.

Let's bring them to the surface and name the beliefs that prevent us from owning who we are, creating intimate connections with those around us and getting free.

 

This week, we taught our webinar on 5 Patriarchal Beliefs That Keep You From Owning Your Sexuality, and we're going to be sharing each belief with you in separate blog posts. Let's dive in!

First let’s define what we mean when we say patriarchy. We define it as:

a gender-based system of oppression that shows up in every area of society (political, social, and mental system) that perpetuates myths of male dominance and gender norms and expectations and binaries. It uses misogyny and our ideas of what it means to be “masculine” to accumulate and maintain power. (This definition is inspired by the article, Buddhists & Ethical Misconduct: We All Have Patriarchy Work to Do)

 

In our first two blog posts, we talked about how gender socialization and heteronormativity, two constructs of the patriarchy, keep us from owning our sexuality (or asexuality).

Another major belief from patriarchy that affects our relationship to our sexuality is: 

Sex is shameful

 

There is a lot of shame of our bodies and sexualities. For women, in particular, we are taught to be a virgin, not to be a slut, and if we like to have a lot of sex or sex with a lot of different people, then we are shamed. Men are taught to have high sex drives and always be “on” and if they aren’t, then they aren’t a “real man”.  Men get shamed for not getting hard or not being in the mood or being attracted to another man, which goes back to gender socialization and heteronormativity. These beliefs are so seeped into our culture.

The patriarchy teaches women not to say "no" (to be a “good girl”), and it teaches men, in particular, to not respect a woman’s "no". If a woman rejects a man, then he is seen as and may feel like he is not “masculine” enough. We are taught that gender is part of our personhood, so when men, for example, are told that they aren’t man enough for “getting laid” or not taking no for an answer when it comes to having sex with women, they aren’t seen fully human, and they may not feel fully human as a result. Men are dehumanized too when they are taught that their personhood is directly tied to acting like a “man”, dominating women, and feeling entitled to women’s bodies. Women are dehumanized when they are taught that their personhood is directly tied to how sexually desirable and available they and their bodies are.

Another part of this socialization for men, as an example, is that you’re not truly valid, as a man, unless you’re having sex with a cis women, which perpetuates transphobia.

 

Thus, when cis men are attracted to trans women or trans folks, they may feel shame or be shamed. We can see how shame in a myriad of ways connects back to gender and heteronormativity. 

 

One of the most deep seated beliefs we have in society is that you shouldn’t charge or pay for sex. We encourage you to think about this for a minute. We tend to think of sex workers and sex work as shameful, that it’s dirty or not feminist (and a lot of other stereotypes that get perpetuated in the media and our culture).

 

We need to ask ourselves why we believe that it’s shameful to charge or pay for sex.

 

This shame stems from the belief that sex work is not real work, and because of this shame, sex workers are dehumanized. There is a lot of shame for people who pay for sex work as well. Cis men, in particular, are taught that sex should just be available to them, thus there is shame for them if they choose to pay for sex. When feminists decide to punish clients who pay for sex work, they are preserving that shame.

 

Another common way we teach that sex is shameful is by believing that children should not have sex education. We don’t make space for children to explore or learn about their bodies and their natural feelings that show up in their bodies as they’re growing into fully formed adults. We think that if we make space for this, then it’s going to encourage deviant activity in children, thus sex is seen as shameful, dirty, something to hide. Children do have sexual feelings and those feelings are natural. When children are only taught abstinence, we deny their natural sexual desires.

 

We can’t fully own our sexuality or asexuality when we are ashamed of it or when we are shaming others for not fitting into gender and sexuality norms. 

What were the messages that the adults around you growing up gave you about sex and sexuality that may have invoked shame?

 

Want to unlearn and heal from these beliefs that keep you from fully owning your sexuality (or asexuality)? Join us at our upcoming workshop on Exploring Sexuality and Patriarchy. We'll be going even deeper into how patriarchy is connected to accessing our power and freedom within our bodies and desire. (Go here to learn more)

 

How Our Beliefs About Heteronormativity Keep Us From Owning Our Sexuality

From the moment we are born, we are taught what it means to have a body, what it means to be a woman or a man or neither, what it means to have (or not have) sexual desires, what our attraction (or lack of attraction) to another human being means and so on.

We're taught these things by our families, our friends, our media, our schools, our cultures and our governments. Some of these teachings become beliefs that we unconsciously hold to help us navigate our lives.

Let's bring them to the surface and name the beliefs that prevent us from owning who we are, creating intimate connections with those around us and getting free.

This week, we taught our webinar on 5 Patriarchal Beliefs That Keep You From Owning Your Sexuality, and we're going to be sharing each belief with you in separate blog posts. Let's dive in!

First, let’s define what we mean when we say "patriarchy".

Patriarchy is a gender-based system of oppression that shows up in every area of society (political, social, and mental system) that perpetuates myths of male dominance and gender norms and expectations and binaries. It uses misogyny and our ideas of what it means to be “masculine” to accumulate and maintain power. (This definition is inspired by the article, Buddhists & Ethical Misconduct: We All Have Patriarchy Work to Do)

Patriarchy affects and influences people of all genders and sexualities. Cisgender, heterosexual women aren't the only ones who receive messages from the patriarchy that keep them from owning their sexuality. These messages also affect cisgender, heterosexual men and those who identify as a gender non-conforming, non-binary, trans, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, queer, etc. (For more on how gender impacts our sexuality check out our previous blog post here).

One of the major beliefs that patriarchy teaches us is:

Heterosexuality is the default.

 

A majority of the world has been taught that heterosexuality is the norm – that we are heterosexual until proven otherwise. We've each grown up in a very heteronormative society where we assume that others and ourselves are hetero until we choose to explore or question differently. And if we find that our sexuality or attraction doesn't align with heterosexuality, we might think we are wrong or not normal.

If we are taught that heterosexuality is the norm, how do we even know what our sexuality is?

 

This heteronormativity can and does shut us off, sexually, from our bodies. All humans to some extent want to fit in and connect to our community because that’s what we thrive off of, and being taught that we aren’t normal, whether it’s explicit or under the radar, can have us shut down this part of ourself and be disconnected from our desire.

What if we were brought up given the space to explore our sexuality without being told that we’re probably heterosexual? What if we were given the space to just be and explore however we are inclined, however we desire?

 

We have a cultural belief in our society that sexuality is stagnant, fixed, inflexible, and can’t change over time, and if it does, then it’s a phase. Also, we tend to think that we can assume what other people want, what they need, and what their sexual identity is. For example, when we tell bisexual people that they are confused. Even those of us who are bisexual can and do internalize this belief and assume that we might be confused or that others are either gay or straight (fitting into a binary).

Through patriarchy and heteronormativity, we have been taught to find certain people attractive (cis, able-bodied, muscular, tall men or thin, able-bodied, pretty blonde women, for example). There’s a belief that our attraction is not influenced by bias or oppression (race, class, gender binary, ability, etc) when it is influenced by it greatly. The people we are attracted to is influenced by the oppressions that are present in the world right now (which we will get get into more in when we talk about our fourth patriarchal belief around desirability-stay tuned!).

We want to leave you with some questions to reflect on:

Who is it that you are attracted to and what has influenced that attraction?

If you were given the space to just BE (in your body), what would your desire say? 

 

Want to unlearn and heal from these beliefs that keep you from fully owning your sexuality (or asexuality)? Join us at our upcoming workshop on Exploring Sexuality and Patriarchy. We'll be going even deeper into how patriarchy is connected to accessing our power and freedom within our bodies and desire.

How Our Beliefs About Gender Keep Us From Owning Our Sexuality

From the moment we are born, we are taught what it means to have a body, what it means to be a woman or a man or neither, what it means to have (or not have) sexual desires, what our attraction (or lack of attraction) to another human being means and so on.

We're taught these things by our families, our friends, our media, our schools, our cultures and our governments. Some of these teachings become beliefs that we unconsciously hold to help us navigate our lives.

Let's bring them to the surface and name the beliefs that prevent us from owning who we are, creating intimate connections with those around us and getting free.

 

This week, we taught our webinar on 5 Patriarchal Beliefs That Keep You From Owning Your Sexuality, and we're going to be sharing each belief with you in separate blog posts. Let's dive in!

 

First let’s define what we mean when we say patriarchy. We define it as:

a gender-based system of oppression that shows up in every area of society (political, social, and mental system) that perpetuates myths of male dominance and gender norms and expectations and binaries. It uses misogyny and our ideas of what it means to be “masculine” to accumulate and maintain power. (This definition is inspired by the article, Buddhists & Ethical Misconduct: We All Have Patriarchy Work to Do)

 

Patriarchy affects and influences all genders and sexualities. It’s not just women who receive messages from the patriarchy that keep them from owning their sexuality (or asexuality), it is men as well and those who don’t identify as a woman or a man, which gets us into our first belief.

 

Because of my gender, I have to approach my sexuality in a certain way

 

We are socialized to be one of two genders: a girl or boy (woman or man). Because of this socialization, girls and boys are taught different things about sex and sexuality, and what sex and sexuality means. We have internalized different messages about our sexuality based on our gender. Gender socialization gets in the way of owning our sexuality because we feel like we have to be or act a certain way, sexually, based on gender, that may not be in alignment with our true desire or our true self.

 

With the gender you were raised to be, what were some messages that you received about sex and sexuality?

 

Also, there is a common belief that gender and sexuality are the same thing, and while they are connected, gender and sexuality are not the same. Both gender and sexuality are social constructs that mean different things. Often times, we might be talking about gender, but someone else will think that we’re talking about being gay. Sexuality is hard to define, but it is more about whom/what you’re attracted to or what you desire. Gender is even harder to define , but is more about how you identify with the gender (a girl/boy) that you've been socialized as, and how you express that identity. Society has taught us that gender and sexuality exist in a binary (like woman/man or hetero/gay), but both gender and sexuality are spectrums.

We think we can assume someone’s sexuality based on how they are expressing their gender. For example, if we see someone we perceive to be a boy and they are wearing a dress, we might assume that they are gay. The “dress”, however, is more a marker of gender than it is of sexuality. That “boy" is expressing gender, not necessarily their sexuality.

 

When we stop assuming someone’s sexuality based on their gender expression, we give them room to be however they identify, and the same goes for ourselves-we give ourselves more room to explore what we want and be who we are.

 

One of the common ways we’ve been socialized in relation to gender that gets in the way of us truly owning our sexuality is that girls/women are taught that they don’t own their pleasure and bodies. Cis (someone who aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth) men are taught that they are entitled to girls/women’s bodies and to receiving pleasure from them, which perpetuates rape culture and a culture that lacks consent. When women and femmes are taught that they don’t own their pleasure, that someone else (a man) does, then they do not own their sexuality. When men are taught that they are entitled to women’s bodies, then they are perpetuating a culture that disrespects and dehumanizes a woman’s right to own her body and sexuality.

 

Based on our perceived gender identity, we are taught different things about what it means to be a certain gender.

 

We have been taught all of these ideas and social norms about what it means to be human. We take on some of these messages in childhood, as adolescents, and even as adults. These beliefs we have internalized aren’t necessarily conscious; most of them are unconscious that we are trying to bring to consciousness. The more we bring them to light, the more we can get in touch with who we really are, and what our desires and sexuality are.

We want to leave with with this reflection question:

 

Have you felt like you have had to approach sexuality in a certain way because of your gender (because of the gender that was assigned to you)? What were the messages you received in relation to your gender and sexuality?

 

Want to unlearn and heal from these beliefs that keep you from fully owning your sexuality (or asexuality)? Join us at our upcoming workshop on Exploring Sexuality and Patriarchy. We'll be going even deeper into how patriarchy is connected to accessing our power and freedom within our bodies and desire. (Go here to learn more)