When Does Being Sexually Uptight Turn out to be Harmful?


Is the US the world’s most uptight nation relating to intercourse? Possibly not essentially the most, however definitely amongst them. For instance, the US has extra legal guidelines regulating sexual conduct than all European international locations mixed. US prudishness is so extreme as to be lethal. To finish sexual violence and harassment towards ladies, one thing has to alter.

Is America the World’s Most Uptight Nation When It Involves Intercourse?

Lower than half of ladies and boys within the US have acquired the HPV vaccinations that may defend them from lethal cancers. Why? As a result of HPV is a sexually transmitted an infection (STI), and discussing teen sexual exercise is taboo. Many docs refuse to suggest the vaccine as a result of they’re uncomfortable discussing STIs.

Associated to this prudishness is the view that girls’s our bodies are purely sexual and due to this fact all feminine nudity is provocative and shameful. Even public breastfeeding makes most Individuals uncomfortable as a result of a girl’s breast is uncovered.

This prudishness about ladies’s our bodies claims to be “defending” ladies. At its coronary heart, nonetheless, it’s about energy relatively than intercourse. The “safety” it gives is each seductive and insidious. Seductive, as a result of many ladies discover it comforting to think about that males are defending them from hazard, even strangers similar to legislators—insidious in its implications.

Whom can we defend? Kids and adults who’re too younger, inexperienced, weak, or incompetent to guard themselves. Placing a traditional grownup lady into this class disempowers her, guaranteeing that another person can dictate essentially the most intimate circumstances of her life: how she clothes, the place she will go alone, whether or not she has closing authority over her personal physique.

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Prudishness additionally justifies a perceived division between “good” and “unhealthy” ladies. The previous are modest, compliant and “coated up.” The latter, daring, proud, and impartial. That separation buttresses males’s sense that they will deal with “unhealthy” ladies badly. As a result of the ladies are “on the market,” they are often objectified, attacked, harassed, groped. The result’s evident, because the tidal wave of sexual violence and harassment stories continues to develop.

Regardless of broad recognition of this public well being epidemic and devoted efforts to finish sexual violence and harassment, few packages have been profitable. The issue is that they’re combating an uphill battle towards the prevailing social mores described above. If males are inherently extra highly effective than ladies and might outline “good” and “unhealthy” ladies, the one method to finish sexual assault and harassment is to persuade males they need to not assault ladies. In any other case, the one possibility is to mitigate the impression by convincing bystanders to intervene, or coaching ladies to defend themselves.

We want a totally new method. Let’s think about societies with two placing cultural variations from the US. These cultures maintain that girls are equal to males and that girls, from teenhood, ought to have full management over their very own our bodies.

Take into account the Kreung society of the beautiful Ratanakiri (“Mountain of Jewels”) Province in Cambodia. The Kreung consider that wholesome, loving marriages require ladies who’re robust, confident, and have self-confidence about their sexuality. Mother and father assist every teen daughter obtain this state by giving her a room of her personal. She will be able to invite a boy she likes to spend the evening in her room. There, she makes all the foundations and reigns supreme. Will they speak the evening away? Sleep? Cuddle? Have intercourse? She alone decides. On this utterly safe area, she is free to discover her personal sexuality, to find what pleases her. When she says, “No,” he obeys immediately, with out argument or unhealthy emotions. A boy who flouts this rule faces extreme penalties from your complete neighborhood, as do his mother and father.

Take one other attention-grabbing group, the Vanatinai, a small island society off New Guinea. There, ladies and men are equal in all main points of life: decision-making, ritual practices, non secular energy, property holdings, and sexual exercise. By working onerous to achieve items and giving them away by means of ritual generosity, anybody of any intercourse can turn into one of many authoritative and influential leaders referred to as “gia”. Everyone seems to be free to interact in intercourse earlier than marriage, to finish a wedding, and to marry as usually as, and with whomever, she or he needs.

The consequence? Divorce is uncommon in these societies; sexual violence just about unknown.

The Takeaway

Sexual violence and harassment are rooted within the very foundations of tradition. It isn’t sufficient to inform males they need to not indulge, or bystanders that they need to intervene, or ladies that they need to defend themselves. Ending sexual violence and harassment requires a elementary shift in cultural attitudes and values, starting with equality between ladies and men, and girls’s full management over their very own our bodies. This transformation contains ending the putative “safety” of ladies—together with legal guidelines to limit abortion, to control ladies’s apparel in methods which might be totally different from these for males, or different social and authorized constraints that declare to “defend” however really disempower and diminish ladies. Solely such primary cultural and authorized modifications will make it doable to finish sexual violence and harassment towards ladies.


Cdc.gov. (2017). Sexual Violence: Prevention Methods. [online] Accessible right here.

Lepowsky, M. (1993). Fruit of the motherland. New York: Columbia College Press.

Mullin, E. The Most cancers Vaccine That Too Many Individuals Ignore. (2017). MIT Expertise Overview, 120 (6), pp.16-17.

Muong, V. (2014). ‘Love huts’ of Ratanakiri minorities: Is a convention quietly slipping away?. The Phnom Penh Put up.

Procida, R. and Simon, R. (2007). World views on social points. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books.

This visitor article initially appeared on the award-winning well being and science weblog and brain-themed neighborhood, BrainBlogger: The Risks of American Sexual Prudishness.

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