The idea of sex is everywhere: society's obsession with sex has led to a culture of overshare that leads many women to wonder if they can ever measure up to so-called normal they're faced with.
And though they are thankful for the ability to be sexually liberated, many women, while open to the sexualized culture around them, find themselves feeling inadequate and unable to keep up. Kate Spicer of the Times of London explores this phenomenon, noting that "what is clear is that women find the cultural environment a gigantic cause for performance anxiety."
"We appear to be living in a golden age of female sexual awareness and fulfilment, doing anything and everything on top of what our sexually naive mothers and grandmothers apparently did out of duty or for a washing machine," Spicer writes. Yet that golden age has produced a great deal of confusion, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness for many women who feel that they can't possibly measure up to the idea of female sexuality that is being put forth by the media. Everything from oral sex skills to pubic hair grooming to getting a post-pregnancy body back in shape, celebrity style has become commercialized, as Dr. Petra Boynton notes: "Sex has become mandatory, competitive and commercialised. Vested commercial interests suggest it could be great, if only you had their product."
Sex, therefore, takes on a feeling of obligation: not only do women feel the need to groom, perform, and look a certain way, they're self-esteem takes a hit as well, as they feel a need to tie their self-worth into their sexual performance. If women aren't having sex, Boynton argues, they feel it is because they are not keeping up with the commercialized images of what a woman should be, and that "sex as a status symbol" "sets up the idea that sex only happens in really pricey knickers. It excludes women. It's an elitist model from which women without money or a certain body shape are excluded."
Spicer argues that women are encouraged to feel comfortable talking about sex, but only if it relates to the commercialized values: sexy lingerie, pubic hair grooming, vibrators, etc. The actual dynamics of sex, including masturbation and the vagina, are often brushed aside in favor of the "sexier" more sellable aspects of sexuality. As Boynton tells Spicer, she was invited onto a British television show to discuss sex, but only in certain contexts: "They wanted to do something about empowering women [sexually]. I said: ‘Let's talk about the clitoris.'" They didn't like that, "but they were having a pole-dancer on". No wonder we're paranoid. You can't bang on about female self-esteem being the root of all sexual happiness, if everything in culture takes a big pop at it."
Are Women Sexually Liberated, Or Just Confused? [Times of London]