How Feminism Can Help Your Sex Life

Article excerpt

When feminists began identifying the gender dynamics that stifled them in their intimate relationships, it opened the door for sweeping changes in the realms of dating, sex and love. As a result, many of the social limitations that hinged on outmoded gender roles have been altered significantly over the past 50 years. Yet the rules about how to create and sustain romantic relationships have largely remained stagnant.

Recognizing a neglected niche, two contemporary authors have entered the uncharted waters of feminist self-help in order to help women find sexual satisfaction and fulfilling relationships. Outdated; Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life by Fern inis ting's S am hita Mukhopadhyay examines archaic notions that remain embedded in modern romance and explains why media depictions of relationships lag behind the times. In What You Really, Really Want: The Smart Girls Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety, Jaclyn Friedman tackles the myths and realities of female sexuality while providing activities that guide readers through a process of sexual s elf- discovery.

HERIZONS: Why did you decide to write a self-help book for young women?

SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: Feminism has done an incredible job of articulating all the different places where women experience inequality, and there is a set barometer of what is and is not sexism that is great for political interventions, developing legislation and policy, and academic work. But creating the tools for how to use feminism in your daily life, especially in your interpersonal life, is a different project than creating feminist analysis. That particular nuts-and-bolts piece of feminism hasn't been prioritized, and there is a gap in the knowledge of how to apply feminism to your personal life in a way that takes into account how patriarchy functions and also how we function as individuals. We need to find ways to be in intimate relationships and deal with all these complicated politics, too.

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: I'm not a huge consumer of self-help books, but there have been a few that really influenced me, like The Artist s Way, The Courage to Heal, and My Gender Workbook. These books gave me a framework that could actually be helpful. The way the idea for What You Really, Really Want came to me was actually very simple. A question was repeatedly asked during the tour for my last book, Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, that basically went like this: "I love what you're talking about, and I love enthusiastic consent. But how do I figure out what I want to say yes to?" In trying to answer this question again and again, I realized that I know a lot of answers to that question and that I know a lot of others who can answer that question, but I wasn't able to answer it in five minutes. So, this book is really a framework to help readers find the answer for themselves in a culture that sends incredibly mixed messages about women and sexuality.

How does your identity as a feminist inform the ideas in your book?

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: A lot of my work has to do with slut- shaming and sexual violence, which is stuff I've experienced in my own life. A lot of mainstream culture has adopted faux- feminist language and imagery and sold it to us as "liberation," when in fact it is just the status quo. I'm thinking about how the riot girl slogan "grrrl power" became the slogan of the Spice Girls, but those two things are so different. It's confusing to talk about the difference between our individual right to express our sexuality however we want to, as long as we're not hurting anybody, and what is sold to us as sexual empowerment. There is a difference between sexuality and sexualization, and my book is a tool in the work to dismantle sexualization, which can happen if enough of us develop a strong, healthy sense of our authentic sexuality.

SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: A big myth in the media is that feminism killed romance because traditional ideas of romance rely on an antiquated sense of relationships and gender differences - such as that men are in charge or should be the primary breadwinner in a marriage. …