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.