Sexual Empowement - Buzz Words or Depth of Humanity?

At the Coed Coffee Chat discussion I facilitated last week, we discussed whether we thought “empowerment” was needed for people in the realm of sex and sexuality, and what the word means in this context. Although I was the only female present to make the discussing “coed,” I was very pleased with the variety of perspectives represented and sense of humor each participant brought to the table.

We started with what we thought sexual empowerment meant. Different themes emerged:

  • Being in charge
  • Loving yourself
  • Safety and security
  • Giving and receiving respect
  • Recognizing choices and making healthy ones
  • Having access to contraception
  • Knowing what you want and voicing that
  • Caring as much about your feelings and pleasures as your partner’s
  • Breaking the norm

But this all begged the question – why are we discussing this unless we believe that women and men are “disempowered” around sex and sexuality? Is that the case or are we just getting wrapped up in pop psychology and new age buzz words?

We started discussing how scripted and performance-oriented sex can be, and defined through mainstream idealized media images, pornography, and assumptions around what it is to a “good” sexual male or sexual female. I think the “breaking the norm” definition of empowerment is so compelling, because this is where we realize that we have choices, can be open to expressing our needs, desires, and sexuality in new ways, and be truly present with the moment and/or our partner. It takes a lot of confidence and trust to be able to break norms around sexual behavior, because we can have so many insecurities and fears tied up in our ability to attract and perform and just to be liked. This gets to the core of our desires as humans for connection and is ripe for growth and exploration. It can be scary – but it can be damn empowering too.

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego

Consciousness Raising in Female Sexuality

I received a wonderful email today from a viewer. She wrote about the idea of consciousness-raising, and how she uses In the Den with Dr. Jenn for her own personal growth. I like the concept of consciousness-raising, and first heard about this as an undergrad learning about the feminist movement of the 1970s. Through gathering, learning, expressing, and implementing, groups of women would challenge their beliefs systems for personal and societal growth. Below are parts of the email I received:

Dr. Jenn,
I subscribed to your podcast at least a year ago. I just wanted to tell
you how much it has meant to me. You are wonderful! You are "out there" saying things that are so important to be in discussion in our society (and so important to me too). In fact, when I first downloaded the podcast I kept a journal of reflections regarding your ideas, statements, and the information you presented. It was like a consciousness raising for me. I watched your podcast like a class! I really like your tone and topics. Many of the podcasts concern things I have thought or read about before but not thought through enough to have integrated them into my life. The reflection journal helps me in that way. I enjoy the format of your show. It is a safe place to have these conversations, as you say each time. I am so grateful for your blend of fun and academic tone. Our society seems to put women into a box and not let them out. I live in Oklahoma and the stereotypes seem more narrow here. Did you know you were a role model? I bet you did. =0)

It means so much to me to receive emails like this! I'm actually creating a workbook to be used as a guide for self-learning and exploration with the podcast show, and I love that this viewer has already taken that into her own hands by creating a consciousness-raising journal. We are always hearing and learning new information, but unless we take the time to reflect on how it impacts us at a deep level and what we want to do with that knowledge, it may just go in one ear and out the other. This is a great example of a woman taking the bull by the horns in terms of her own self-education and sexual empowerment - I love it!

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego