Ruth C. White Ph.D.

Culture in Mind

A Sexual Manifesto for Women

Proclamations of power

Posted Dec 15, 2017

In the current climate of #MeToo and the never-ending list of men who have been accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape, it is clear that there is a cultural shift with regards to women feeling empowered to come forth and tell their stories, many of which are decades old. And while many men are denying some of the accusations, there are also many men who have owned their bad behavior and a few who have apologized for causing women pain and harm. There have been a wide range of responses including opinion pieces, investigative reports, resignations, legal charges, and court hearings, as well as everything from erasing actors from movie projects to lost elections.

The litany of reports have also made it clear that women of all ages have been taught - whether through cultural transmission or specifically from their parents - to feel afraid to stand up to the sexual advances of men with whom they do not want to engage. This fear has led women to have a range of psychological and emotional responses, including shame, anger, guilt, anxiety, and depression

As someone who spent many years as a sexual health educator - in roles from research, to writing, to the delivery of programs - I am hyper aware of the unhealthy messages about sexuality that pervade our culture. 

In response, I have developed a sexual manifesto for women. It is not the first, and it wont be the last of such statements, and it does not imply that I think women are to blame but it is important that we as women own our sexuality and our power.

I wanted to 'crowd-source' this document, and so I sent out a call on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to get contributions from women. I did not expect to have such a low response, with only a handful of women sending in ideas. However, I 'sourced' these statements from reading lots of reports of women, and listening to the women in my own life, studying the research, and reflecting back on my own sexual experience.

This post is a conversation starter, among women, among parents and children, and among men. It is my hope that through this and other efforts, the next generation of girls and women exercise the power they own to have the happiest and heathiest of sexual lives.

So in dedication to my daughter and to women of all ages, here are some statements of our sexual power, our sexual agency and our sexual expectations. 

  1. My body, my terms
  2. I will be respected.
  3. I do not 'owe' sex to anyone.
  4. I am free to say 'no' to anything I don't want to do.
  5. I am free to say 'yes' to anything I want to do.
  6. I will have sex with who I want, when I want, where I want, and how I want, with any consenting partner.
  7. Sex will be fun.
  8. Sex will give me pleasure.
  9. I will protect myself from sexually transmitted infections.
  10. I will not fake my consent or pleasure to please anyone but myself.
  11. 'No' is polite.
  12. 'No' is a complete sentence.
  13. My silence is not my consent.
  14. If you need to silence me, coerce me, or threaten me, then you DID NOT get my consent.
  15. I will tell anyone I choose about any physical violations or threats against me.
  16. I will feel no shame or guilt about my sexual choices freely made.
  17. I owe no one any explanations about my sexual choices or preferences.
  18. My body, my terms.
  19. I will be respected.

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