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On Being Female and Sexual Agency

Many woman still have no sexual agency inside their own culture.

There is a new buzz term in sex education land, and it's called “Sexual Agency.” When people talk about any kind of personal “agency,” they are referring to an individual's ability to act in a way that accomplishes his or her goals. To have agency in any corner of your life is to have the capacity to behave or act in a way that will bring you the outcome or results that you desire.

When we talk about “Sexual Agency,” we may be talking about a complex group of rights, knowledge, skills, personal authority and/or abilities.

Sexual Agency can include:

The ability to give consent to participating in or declining a sexual activity and having your desires honored.

The right to choosing how you define your sexuality, such as: gay, straight, bi-sexual, asexual.

The right to choose your gender, such as: male or female or anything along the gender spectrum.

The ability to choose whether or not you want to engage sexually with a specific person, or in a specific place or even the time.

The ability to choose safer sex practices or birth control.

The ability to stop right in the middle of ANY sexual activity. Sexual agency includes your right to change your mind in the middle of any sexual encounter or act. Even if you said yes in the beginning. Your “No” can happen at any time.

When we talk to women of any age about having sexual desires and how to fulfill them, understanding how to negotiate sexual agency within herself, with her partners and even in the medical system is crucial.

We are still living in a world where young girls are pledging away their sexual agency to their fathers, in a world where a woman has no sexual agency inside her own culture, religion or family. Where women are still making sexual choices based on the needs of their partners outside of their own desires.

Where a woman’s sexuality and desires are still judged and shamed. And taking it deeper still, there is this underlying misogynistic behavior, where society tends to characterize women in emotional states as "crazy." You know, “She doesn't know her own mind.”

This is used as a way of deflecting a woman's true expression of her feelings and desires, It's a misuse of the term, and it's a way of dismissing a woman's feelings, creating distrust in a woman's authentic experience, and point of views. And it's a covert way of diminishing a woman's power of her own sexual agency.

It is astonishing to me, that good people are still throwing "crazy" around as a way of dismissing and diminishing a woman's voice — and taking away her sexual agency by making her “suspect.”

Supporting women to believe in their power and have the ability to act on behalf of their own sexual needs, desires, and wishes is supporting women to have “sexual agency.”

Women continue to internalize the sociocultural assumptions that grant their male partners' sexual needs over their own. Understanding this pattern of behavior is empowering to women as they negotiate their sexual agency with health care providers, lovers, and life partners.

Each woman is capable of making and enforcing decisions about her own sex life.

You can say "yes" or "no," and make choices that may not make your partner comfortable. Only you get to define your sexuality by the choices that you make.

You are not defined by the stories or the perceptions of others. Understand that power is "Sexual Agency." It belongs to you.

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Would you like to know more about Pamela Madsen's sexuality practice for women and her Back to The Body Retreats? Please visit here.

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