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