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)