The readings and materials this week had a common theme of ways in which women are victimized, such as how women are labeled based on sexuality or virginity or how women become victims of sexual violence. Although it is not only who are victimized in this way, I noticed it was a theme that came up a lot. In our society, women are unfortunately victims of sexual labels, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and several other horrible things, but I really don’t know where this stems from. However, after thinking about it and reading different perspectives this week, I’ve begun to formulate ideas. I’m starting to think all of this sexual violence and labeling toward women begins at a very young age, before we even understand the implications of our actions.

I’ve never really thought back on my experience with sexual education in middle school until I revisited the topic this week. I don’t remember much about my earliest education on sex, but I do remember the conversations revolving around abstinence. I do not believe sexual education based on abstinence is how children should first learn about sex. Besides the fact that approaching sexual education in this way just doesn’t work, as “…Abstinence-only education has been linked to higher teen pregnancy rates and found to have no impact on preventing teens from having sex”, it simply isn’t an appropriate way to introduce children to the various topics of sexuality (Oliver 2015). Approaching sexual education from the “abstinence-only” angle is extremely one-sided. Unfortunately, topics like choice and consent are far less focused on, which I believe is part of why sexual violence, taunting and pressure begin in middle school and high school. I attached a short clip from one of my favorite movies Mean Girls, and although it is from a movie, it is just about as real and one-sided as some of the lessons students are taught in sexual education.  In his Sex Education video, John Oliver describes how this type of sexual education leaves children unprepared, especially because a lot of what these children are taught isn’t even medically sound. I believe many school systems unfortunately send their students to high school and college with a very one-sided, inaccurate sexual education, and this can ultimately lead to sexual violence and pressure.

Unfortunately, many young people first learn about sex from pornography. In her TedTalk, Olivia Tarplin taught an excellent description of how mainstream porn depicts women sexually. In this video, Tarplin quoted Dylan Ryan who once stated, “It seemed as if sex was happening to these women rather than with them…” (Tarplin 2015). This made me think that unfortunately, because this mainstream pornography is an early form of sexual education for many, viewers’ first belief is that sex is for the man. Many times, women are portrayed as just an object in pornography. In addition, the male porn stars as well as the male viewers are really the ones the pornography is for. Tarplin’s description of how mainstream porn depicts women as sexual objects for men supports my idea that this sexual labeling and violence towards women begins early, before we even realize it is happening.

As Jessica Valenti stated in The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, “…Virgin is almost always synonymous with woman…”, which explains why so many young women are labeled based on if they have had sex or not (Valenti 21). Unfortunately, this “virgin” label is often used to describe teenage girls. In addition, if a girl is not a “virgin”, peers are likely to label her with other harmful, foul terms. A girl’s choice to have sex is just that – a choice. It should not lead to a single label that defines who the girl is. I believe that the use of the word “virgin” or any terms suggesting the complete opposite are far too often used as labels, especially with teenagers.

These examples are only a few of the many ways that women are labeled and victimized sexually. As I stated before, I do not believe that women are the only victims, and there are plenty of examples of other genders facing very similar issues in this week’s readings. However, the idea that women are commonly victimized sexually really made me think about where it all begins. After thinking it through and gathering some examples, I really do believe it all begins early in life, before we even notice it.

References:

TedX Talks. 2015. “Feminist Porn: Shifting Our Sexual Culture| Olivia Tarplin| TedxJerseyCity.” YouTube Website (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x38-iHvUqLY).

vagab0nd2, 2009. “Sex Ed. – Mean Girls. YouTube website (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpCvnBrjAhQ).

Valenti, Jessica. 2009. The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women. Berkeley: Seal Press. (Selections)

Zeilinger, Julie. 2015. “John Oliver, Laverne Cox and Nick Offerman Just Gave Us the Sex Ed Psa America Needs,”  Identities.Mic.  (http://mic.com/articles/123634/john-oliver-laverne-cox-and-nick-offerman-just-gave-us-the-sex-ed-psa-america-needs#.bZ5fKEmvn).

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