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)