This is the 5th post in a 5 part series on sex mis-education

Doesn’t Sex Only in Marriage Oppress Women?

Some claim that purity and fidelity are based solely on protecting men’s property rights over their women. Though this is an exaggeration, there is some truth to the assertion that traditional morality is linked to male exploitation of women.

Certainly there has been a double standard; chastity has almost universally been enforced for women but not for men. Boys and men have often been free to indulge themselves at the cost of girls and women. But it has been mostly women who have paid the price for pre-marital sex through stigma and punishments, as well as pregnancies and other burdens.

The injustice needs to be corrected, but that is a separate issue from the value of the moral code. Sex within the context of marriage is protective for both men and women, as well as families. Monogamous sexual relationships represent two people’s commitment to each other to develop a deeper and longer lasting love. This is not oppression.

To Claim or Reject the Double Standard

It is even more foolish for women to claim the “right” to the shallow pleasures of hookups, and seek to join men in exploiting their partners and using sex for domination. This amounts to abandoning the double standard in favor of a lower standard for both genders. Instead of passing on feminine strengths to men, this means women are trying to inherit men’s typical weakness—the tendency to separate the body from the heart, and sex from responsibility and true love.

Further, the permissive standard has hardly been liberating to women. Women are now expected to want many sexual partners and men treat them as one of their many conquests. The result is that women learn to deny their natural instincts of self-protection. Women carry the greater burden of the consequences of sex outside of a secure relationship.

Sexually transmitted infections ravage girls and women more than men, and of course unwanted pregnancy and abortion belong only to one gender. It’s ironic that the double standard still prevails in the “safer sex” world too; women are expected to have protection.

The Unfairness of Sex Without Responsibility

The double standard extends in other directions too. Women are unfairly expected to still be “feminine”—soft, yielding and undemanding—while at the same time being sexually independent and self-sufficient. To meet this demand, girls and women have to suppress their more relational and monogamous inclinations. This is often unsuccessful; studies confirm that even women who have no qualms about sex outside of marriage desire far fewer partners than comparable men do.

It is commonly the women partners who end up in the awkward position of trying to negotiate commitment in the midst of a physically intimate relationship. Worse, they are often already pseudo-wives, living together with a man, offering domestic services and ready sex while having none of the emotional and material security of marriage.

And time is notoriously crueler to women. Many find out too late that they traded playing “house” with various partners for the ability to experience real marriage and motherhood. Committed partnership becomes a more elusive goal for women after a certain age; male peers often prefer more attractive younger women and can readily marry them. In addition, after age 28 or so, female fertility begins to decline rapidly. This is not the case for men.

One Standard for Both Genders

The absolute sex standard applies to both men and women equally. Males degrade themselves through misdirected sexuality as much as women do. Obviously, men cannot be rewarded for promiscuity while women are judged. Nor can female sexual desire or capacity be denied.

Many Religious traditions insist on monogamy, and in both the Jewish and Christian scriptures, husbands have just as much duty to sexually satisfy their wives as vice versa.

Men and women may not be the same in sexual desire or response. Intrinsic gender strengths and weaknesses need consideration.

This is reflected in the traditional codes of male and female honor: Men agree not to use their superior physical strength to take advantage of women, nor to exploit the female susceptibility to promises of love and security. While women agree not to use against men their vulnerability to visual arousal and emotional manipulation. This is also the chief rationale behind the traditions of marriage.

In this way, the original standard protects both men and women from mutual exploitation, and use of the opposite sex as an emotional crutch, pawn or object of revenge. As such, it creates trust and represents real power, freedom and independence for women as well as men.

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