Feminist Theories on Sexuality

Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
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Feminist theorists Camille Paglia and Foucault give opposing views on the topic of women and their sexuality as they addressed topics such as homosexuality and pornography as ways of expressing sexual desires and the role a woman plays in society in reference to her sexuality. Camille Paglia, a graduate of the University of Arts in Philadelphia, America, has strong feminist views in relation to women’s sexual preferences. Paglia is a bi-sexual female, who came from an Italian, Catholic household with an overprotective and strict family.

While watching an interview with Paglia, she stated that through her years growing up, as a girl she was expected to follow certain rules and was (like many girls) led to think in a certain manner for situations such as rape, prostitution and sexual desires. Paglia was opposed to this, as was seen in her countless numbers of affairs which she had with women, despite being married to a man. This shows that Camille Paglia is pro-homosexuality. She allowed herself to explore and believed that the dignity and freedom of women could not be gained through the overprotective barriers parents and society puts up.

By her supporting lesbianism, it also shows her strong views on her personality and disregard for what society thinks of her. Another point Paglia brought up was that women are never straight forward when it comes to sexual desires. She made reference to this when she discussed the numerous reports on accused rape. Paglia said that many women are provocative, and send wrong “signals” to guys. They are the cause of the accused “rape”, yet they are quick to blame the man who simply acts on the woman’s actions.

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Women report cases of rape for simple hand contact, which is mostly due to the woman’s lead. Women need to express their desires and not feel ashamed of it. Paglia says that women want sex as much as man, whether with a female or male, they should be upfront. Camille also discussed women in pornography. Many women see pornography as a disgrace and disrespectful view towards a woman and her body through these videos, pictures and other forms of porn; however Camille believes that a woman should have the right to portray herself and her sexual desires through any source of media and angle she wants.

A woman has full rights to her body and sexual desires and should not be stopped from expressing it. She is against modern feminism because she believes that women have a right to these things, and that women need to stop blaming men and become self reliant, independent and accept that they are differences between men and women that cannot be changed. Women also have pornographic minds, and whilst other feminists will be opposed to women expressing themselves and being involved in prostitution and pornography, she disagrees.

Throughout an interview with Camille, she made it very clear that she was pro-pornography, as she mentioned this numerous times to emphasized that women need to be strong on their desires and not be judged on their preferences. (female-female; male-female; male-male). This proves her point that women must be able to accept who they are and have the ability to show it, and not be restricted because of gender barriers and expectations of society. The role of women and their sexual preferences and desires are based on the current situations in society.

This point is shown through the theories by Foucault. Through history, culture determined how sexuality was originated. Foucault believed that as time progresses, the idea of lesbianism and bi-sexual relations are growing. These desires are only present because of the new cultures and society that is present now. For example, in the 1800s, women were not allowed to choose their own mates or express their sexuality, and this is still present even now in the 21st century in some areas. The change in this tradition only occurred through time and what was seen as the new norm and custom in the society.

The episteme of society determined the sexual desires and preferences in a particular era and the way they think. (Episteme is the way a specific culture approaches the world). Foucault believes that as society transitions, their thoughts and views also change due to the ideology itself shifting. Another point Foucault made was related to sex and women’s role in sex. Sex is seen as a social construct that is constructed through the exercise of power relations. Sexual nature is produced through society.

Foucault stated that before, in previous generations, there was never a big focus on sex, whereas now, the desire for sex is increasing and will continue to increase in years to come. The world is culturally constituted and the body is seen materially through the eyes of man. Men use women for sex, and whilst women may think they are equal, men view them as sex objects. Feminists, as mentioned previously, deny having sexual tendencies and sexual preferences, and unlike Camille Paglia, who believes this is false, Foucault agrees with this statement.

He relates this statement to his theory that sexual tendencies and desires are based on society’s ideology, rather than natural desires. Like Paglia, Foucault mentioned the role of women through pornography as well. However his views differed from Camille’s as he believes that pornography is an invention by man used to de-humanize women and socially constructs her oppression. He does not believe that women have a desire to produce porn, but instead they are manipulated into thinking that is what they want and they only please men, rather than expressing themselves and pleasing their own self.

Foucault’s approach to a woman’s sexuality is based on the views of society and the manipulation in each era, mostly endorsed by man upon women. Camille Paglia believes that men and women have natural qualities and that they should not base their choices on what men demand of them, but on what their desire is whereas Foucault believes a woman’s sexuality is determined on society and the manipulation of men on women in reference to sex and sexual activities and preferences. I agree with Camille Paglia’s theory that women are different from men and must become their own individual, independent and free from reliance on man.

A woman must take charge of her body and her sexual desires and not be expected to pretend that they are not naturally inclined towards sex. Camille expresses a pro-pornography mind and I agree that a woman should not be degraded for expressing her desires through pictures, videos or sex itself. Women should be allowed to freely express themselves without being restricted and judged by society and men. Also, as Camille Paglia stated, men should not be blamed for everything, and women should stand up for themselves and show everyone what they want.

Camille is also pro-prostitution. A woman has full rights to her body and only a woman can determine what she wants to do with her body. A woman has the right to participate in any sexual act she desires, because it is only her decision. Women are categorized, according to Paglia, as having more emotional and sexual desires than men, but are not able to show it. Paglia’s point of this categorization is to show that women do not express their sexual desires freely because they are not allowed to show it.

Whether it is true or not, I agree that a woman should have the freedom of being able to share their “wants” and “needs” without having to feel ashamed or self-conscious. Paglia says that the only way for this to happen, is if women begin to stop waiting, and start acting on becoming independent and taking personal responsibility, without blaming other people for your problems or your limitations. Feminist theories on sexuality show the rights of a woman in their ability to express and have sexual desires and preferences, and how they portray these elements.

On one hand, Camille Paglia argues that women should take the initiative to become independent and not rely on man, and be free to express their natural sexual desires. On the other hand, Foucault believes that men control women, and a woman’s sexuality is determined on the stage of society and the transitions in the ideology of the culture and society. The both theorists contrast each other in theories in their views on a woman’s sex life. The belief that men construct society is supported by Foucault and opposed by Paglia.

Homosexuality is supported by both theorists in different ways. Foucault believes it is due to the transitions in society, where as Paglia believes that it is due to natural inclinations. Their different approaches to women’s sexuality were well analyzed and represent the two different views from feminists. Feminist theories on sexuality vary according to the theorist, and each person has a different view on whether a woman has a right to express her sexuality or whether certain acts are frowned upon when done by a woman because of a woman’s expectations and stereotype.

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Feminist Theories on Sexuality. (2017, May 30). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/feminist-theories-sexuality/

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