Hey Ladies! Last Spring semester I stepped out of my science course comfort zone and took a Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies class. For our final assignment, we wrote about what ‘zine’ (a creative, sort-of, mini magazine for bringing awareness) we could create. I really enjoyed the course and I thought my final essay went well with what Beauty and Brains has been talking about for the week. So, for this week’s blog, here’s a few excerpts from my zine essay on sexual repression: My Zine inspiration comes from Peggy Orenstein’s TED Talk “What young women believe about their own sexual pleasure” where she interviews 15-20 year old girls about their experiences. Orenstein expounds upon womens’ repressed nature and introduces the topic of entitlement to pleasure. According to her research, she found that “while young girls may feel entitled to engage in sexual behavior, they don’t necessarily feel entitled to enjoy it”. Where does this contradiction come from? Lack of power, stemming from lack of knowledge. Perfectly depicted when an interviewee who previously described herself as smart and strong considered her encounters to be “not especially reciprocal and not especially enjoyable”. When asked why, she commented on the perception of girls as “docile creatures who don’t express our wants and needs” and admitted that although she was smart and strong “no one told her that that smart, strong image applies to sex.” Not recognizing the transferability of her power cost her the full enjoyment of sex. The part of Orenstein’s talk that really got me, though, is when she cited psychologist Sara McClelland whose work showed that “young women were more likely than young men to use their partner’s pleasure as a measure of their satisfaction”. This idea specifically prompted one of my blog post where I wrote, “The fact that women have subconsciously placed their own sexual pleasure as contingent on their partner's only serves to prove that women are consistenly denied the space within the realm of sex to fully experience/ explore their own desires.” I found an article of hers (Sara McClelland) where she discusses the theory of Intimate Justice, a framework which correlates experiences of inequality with how a person assesses the quality of their sexual experiences. McClelland basically equates the impact of social conditions to how deserving of sexual satisfaction someone feels. She brings up multiple extended theories to intimate justice, the most pertinent one being social comparison which asserts that individuals rely on social cues to determine their satisfaction. I believe this is the theory that explains why girls may use their partner's satisfaction to dictate their own. I find this to be the perfect opportunity to shed some light on the hypersexualization of young Black girls and how it can impact their sexuality, even well into adulthood. In a report published by the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality they found evidence of Black girls being perceived as less innocent and more adult-like than their white counterparts- and with that, that they know more about sex. Founded in racism and reinforced by caricatures like the Jezebel, Black children as early as 5 years of age are shaped to be sexually promiscuous, thus eliciting stricter rules and consequences. Growing up, I remember how quick even our elders were to call little Black girls “fast”, for almost anything. Our behavior has always been heavily policed: who we talk to, what we wear, even in front of family members. Throughout high school I felt like I was receiving detention write ups almost every dress down day for the same things the white girls would wear. Any interaction of sexual caliber was/is framed as us contributing to and validating this misjudgement… so God forbid anyone find out. My zine will examine the two directions I’ve seen this take women down: either they retreat, tirelessly attempting not to fall into this category, at their expense or they internalize it, feeding into the stereotypes out of rebellion. Another crucial element to the zine is the inclusion of diagrams depicting the female anatomy. While dissecting the matter of why girls grow up so out of touch with their sense of pleasure, Orenstein concluded that a ‘psychological clitoridectomy’ had been performed on young girls. She believes that this process can be traced back as far as learning and naming body parts in childhood and reinforced through sexual education. The basis of her argument is that boys are taught about their sexual reproduction and pleasure through erection and ejactulation talk, whereas there is no mention of the vulva or clitoris for women, not even a proper diagram display, which in turn, creates the narrative that sex isn’t for them. If this is their belief, of course they don’t fight for or even know what to ask for in regards to their pleasure. The purpose of the zine is to address the underlying reason for women’s stifled desires but also to encourage them to counteract the feeling that they need to stifle them in the first place. As women, sex comes with double standards, withheld information, and many misconceptions, which makes necessary personal research and sharing of experiences. Conversations surrounding these topics becoming more normalized are how perceptions around sex are changed, and autonomy created. These are just excerpts from the essay, so there’s information missing and connections not being made, but I’m happy to share the full version with anyone interested.