This rather sweet photo flashed by on my FB news feed today. It’s dead cute, and the list that accompanied it was mostly good things. I cringed a little at the “Pray and be a spiritual leader” bit, but that’s my rampant atheism talking.
There was one entry that didn’t sit well with me though. It reads:
2. You will set the tone
for the sexual relationship,
so don’t take something away from her
that you can’t give back.
What makes a male the one ‘setting the tone’ for a sexual relationship? Why do we assume that he’s taking something away from a female he sleeps with? If it’s referring to virginity (as I suspect it is) then it’s pushing an unhealthy fetishization of female virginity, plus it doles out a side serving of male dominance.
This way of thinking can reduce a woman’s value to her status as a virgin, and it’s a source of a lot of guilt for many brought up to believe in this value.
By framing sez as ‘taking something from her’, it erases the concept of a woman’s choice entirely. The idea that men ‘take something’ from women when they have sex, or that a woman gives him something when she allows him to have her virginity, is disempowering for women that do not hold sex as something sacred and holy, but rather something to be enjoyed. Sex shouldn’t be thought of in terms of giving and taking, but in terms of mutual enjoyment.
As for ‘setting the tone’? Being male should not automatically make you sexually dominant – and to say so disempowers men who cannot or do not want to be dominant, as well as women who want to be treated as equal to men.
The more we allow gendered thinking to dominate public discourse about sexuality, the more we allow and even support inequality, and it helps support the rape culture we should be fighting. Sex is not a man’s domain to rule. It’s a mutual thing.