Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

“10 Things Guys Crave in Bed”

“His #1 Sex Fantasy”

“His Best Sex Ever”

These headlines, taken from past issues of Cosmopolitan Magazine, all have one thing in common: each focus on “him” and what “he” wants out of sex. For a women’s magazine, that’s an awful lot of attention given to men’s needs. As I explored the idea of women’s sexuality more and more, I realized that this issue is much larger than an offensive Cosmo cover. In fact, sex in general is societally defined by male needs and desires, and women are expected to meet them. Women are held to impossible standards of having enough sex to be considered desirable (mostly by men), and not enough to be considered “too easy.” And that, dear readers, is pretty ridiculous.

75 Sex Moves Men Crave on Cosmopolitan Cover - They Never Had The Balls To Tell Their Exes

While we have made improvements in women’s sexual freedom over the last few decades, we’ve come to a standstill with regards to one particularly judgmental double standard: men who are sexually active are considered to be studs, while women who are sexually active are considered to be sluts. This tired trope is thankfully becoming less and less common, but the underlying idea still permeates our culture. Even the words we use to define sexually active men have more positive connotations than the words we use to describe women. In addition, the words used to describe men promote sexual autonomy and domination (stud, womanizer, player, etc.), whereas the words for women are either passive or imply disgust (slut, whore, easy, etc.).

Sexual desire and sexual activity are human urges, yet men are encouraged to feel and talk about those urges, while women are encouraged to suppress them (but not too much!). Because, of course, women can’t have too much sex lest they be labeled a slut, but also must have enough sex to avoid the label of “prude” or “tease.” The character of Allison from The Breakfast Club sums up the issue nicely:

Women are also responsible for the sexual satisfaction of their partner in a way that men are not. There are numerous examples of articles written on “how to please your man,” contributing to the idea the women have sex for the pleasure of men. Focusing on your partner is not inherently a negative, however the disproportionate amount that women are expected to focus on their partners is problematic. Women are supposed to take care of the sexual needs of a relationship, including having sex with their partners, even when they don’t feel like it.

We have a long way to go with regards to sexual equality for men and women, but the first step is recognizing the problem in the first place. I encourage everyone to check out the women’s section of the magazine rack next time you’re in the grocery store. How many articles are men-focused rather than self-focused? Let’s start noticing the problematic representations of women’s sexuality, and then let’s demand more. If we do, I look forward to the next Cosmo cover reading “MY Best Sex Ever.”

6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

  1. I am so glad to see that you wrote about this. So often I hear about guys talking about sex with girls, and just thinking about the words they use to say having sex (screw, fuck, etc) it sounds horrible. So many guys talk about girls as objects that they can use to have sex, and that is absolutely disgusting. A women’s purpose is NOT to sexually please men, and the fact that these guys seem so entitled to this is ridiculous!!


    1. Thanks, @thewanderingotter! The words used to have sex are absolutely based in violence and allow for the objectification of women by describing their contribution to sex in the passive tone (e.g. men “tap that” and women “get the D”). I love that you brought up the idea of objectification, and I think that the continuous objectification of women through the patriarchy is a permanent roadblock that gets in the way of women’s sexual autonomy.


  2. There is an incredible need for this topic to be discussed – and I am so glad you did! We see this issue of sexual relations meant to please men taking place especially in pornography, as scenes often end with the male ejaculating. What about the female’s pleasure? Sex literally stops once the male gets there, as if that is the complete and sole purpose for sexual relations.

    Since many individuals self-teach themselves about sexual relations through the pornography industry (as sexual education in schools often does not teach about sexual intercourse in a productive way – that is a story for another day), individuals often set themselves up for a male-centered view of sex. There are so many other beautiful ways to engage in sexual relations between two humans, but we often see the same one getting repeated over, and over, and over again. Women deserve to experience pleasure too!


    1. Thanks for bringing this up, @superhuman4! Lack of comprehensive sex education in schools is a huge issue within itself, but when it is replaced by the porn industry, it’s extremely problematic in terms of women’s (and men’s) sexuality. The majority of the porn industry is created for men’s pleasure and often, as you said, features the objectification of women and the male orgasm without an equivalent for the female. While there is such a thing as female-centered porn (porn made specifically for women that is not as objectifying), that still leaves the issue of a lack of education. Additionally, even the best educational systems teach the basics about contraceptive, but nothing about pleasure and how to treat one another. Very interesting stuff!


  3. I totally agree with @superhuman4! Women do deserve to experience pleasure too! I am so for this post, you literally talked about things that pass through my mind everyday.

    Also, I just read the book “He’s a stud, she’s a slut and 49 other double standards every woman should know” by Jessica Valenti. I think you would really like it!


  4. Thanks for your comment, @rosehasathorn! I linked an excerpt from Jessica Valenti’s book in my post, it made me super excited to read the whole thing! Women’s pleasure (and specifically women talking about pleasure) is often equated with being a “slut”…such a frustrating double standard.


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