Hello, Friend!

Welcome to our February 2020 newsletter!

Let’s begin with a moment of reflection.

At MySexBio, we believe that sex education and empowerment is a vehicle for peace, and that one of the best tools to find that empowerment is reflection.

So, take a moment before we jump into this month’s theme to sit with yourself. Consider the ways you feel you fit into society’s stereotypical categories of gender. Consider the ways you don’t. Consider how the parts of yourself may have been formed and how they came into play when you began exploring your own sexuality.

Feel free to write down what comes to mind, or just sit with these thoughts for a moment.

Now, let’s jump into it.

How is gender bias established?

As Katy Butler (co-founder of Gender Inclusive Classrooms) put it, “Young students naturally want to sort, label and categorize... From pink and blue aisles in the toy stores to hair length and gender, children have already noticed and internalized patterns.

And those gendered patterns are all around them.

A publication from Colorado State University shows how toy advertisements are one of the best examples of this gender divide.

The most common words that came up in toy advertisements primarily marketed to young girls were: 

love, fun, magic, girl, style, babies, friendship, party and snow. Those marketed to young boys used the words: battle, power, heroes, beat, launch, rides, stealth and ultimate.

We can see, even in just this one study, the ways the world around us is trying to tell us who we are and what we are supposed to become. For a girl to cross the line into “battle” and “power” would not fit into these established categories and could therefore introduce risk of misunderstanding and ridicule.

These initial gender boundaries (which completely disregard those who are gender expansive) stick with us throughout our lives.


The intersection of gender bias and sexuality

“For a long time I allowed gender bias to shape how I performed my gender expression in the world and in the bedroom. I was performing hyper femininity so that I could be ‘sexy enough.’ It took a lot of introspection to come to a place where I can free myself from hyper femininity and just be Autumn.”
– Autumn Morris, of Speaking of Sex.

When we are told how we must express ourselves to the world that, of course, impacts the way you express your sexual self.

According to a 2016 study from the International Journal of Community Based Nursing and Midwifery, “traditional gender norms conflict with women’s capability in expressing sexual desires.”

Why is this?

Well, for one, women are not expected to be assertive in many communities. They are not expected to command a sexual situation, nor are they empowered to do so.

In addition, they are not given the resources and support they require to care for and have ownership over their sexual wellness.

It was found that doctors and nurses prescribe less pain medication to women after a surgical procedure than they do to men and are more likely to be told that symptoms they are experiencing are psychosomatic or emotionally-influenced (Pagàn, 2018).

But let’s not forget that classic double standard: A man has tons of sex and he is revered, while a woman doing the same is criticized for her promiscuity. (Meanwhile, both men and women who do not have sex may be looked down upon, though often for different reasons.)

In addition, it’s more expected for femme people to play the submissive role in a sexual encounter and more masculine people to act as the dominant. Anything else could be considered kinky.

The list of these expectations could go on indefinitely.


Are you a top or a bottom?

Questions like this give us a glimpse into the genderization of the sex vocabulary, positions and dynamics in our society - even in same sex relationships.

In 2014, Michelle Marie John et al. conducted qualitative interviews with 34 young gay men in regards to their sexual behavior and online dating habits. “For some participants,” they wrote, “the terms top and bottom referred to highly gendered identities.”

One participant explained, “what I’ve heard is that the bottom is the more feminine actor of the relationship, and the top is the more masculine actor of the relationship… The perception of masculine or feminine comes from the fact that, in a straight relationship, the male penetrates and the woman is the one being penetrated.”

In this way, not only is there a link to gender in sex positions, but also a link to power. The masculine position is traditionally thought of as the more powerful one.


But what does this mean for me?

You may be thinking, yeah, I get it - but there’s nothing we can do about something so deeply rooted in our language and cultures. But there is!

According to one of our expert partners Dr. Jordin Wiggins (the Pleasure Collective): 

People need to be given the space, the freedom and support to really reflect on their sex lives and break down the barriers (cultural, education, religious, belief systems, shame and guilt) that have been holding them back from growing into their sexual selves to find out what would make them sexually satisfied, filled with desire and actively pursuing good sex.”

There are many ways to counteract gender bias.

In the classroom:

“The first step is to become aware,” Katy Butler told us. “It can be as simple as having a colleague observe you and jot down your language, or how often you call on a certain gender. Once we reflect on our own teaching and open ourselves up to learning, then the real work can begin… Sharing stories with characters of all gender identities and with all kinds of family structures, helps push back and has students look at systems more critically.

“As research has shown, suicide rates are much higher for trans and gender expansive children. Having just one supportive adult at home or school can help reduce these rates.”

In the language we use:

Sex Consultant Nicole Buratti explains how, “in a perfect world, female sexuality will be more accepted. Women will talk more openly about their desires and their sexual escapades. Offering real sex education to our younger generations is a start. Sex ed is more than how to put a condom on a banana. It is time we start talking more openly with our children about their sexuality.

The first step today in overcoming the bias is to start talking more openly about our sex lives.
In the way we care for ourselves: 
Sexual self-reflection is a good place to start with this. Utilizing our writing prompts (featured in each newsletter and a few times a month on our Instagram). In doing so, we can begin to understand who we are and what makes up our sexual self. 
Autumn Morris told us of her experience with this process:
“I am bisexual, so I believed I had to be super feminine for the men I involved myself with, but super masculine for the women I involved myself with. But I was tired of changing who I was all the time. I just wanted to be me and not have to perform a gender bias based on heteronormativity. So I dropped that and allowed myself the space to find who I was and be that for people of all genders.
“I’ve dealt with men who weren’t okay with me being successful or making more money, etc. They were stuck in the mindset that success and provision was the ‘man’s job'. That mindset of theirs invalidated my success and alienated me. I had to learn that their opinions on gender roles were not fact and that I needed to let that go and continue to be who I am regardless.

For Citra Benazir – author of Pleasure Girls – it was a bit different:
“My father is a feminist. He raised me to be powerful and independent, so I would never need anything from anyone. In my household there were no biases, no stereotypes. I was the football-playing, hip-hop loving daughter. Outside, in school, I was a tortured, bullied, violated non-girl who played football, listened to hip-hop, wore hoodies and Air Jordan sneakers who beat boys in running tournaments.
Biases came crashing into me and my identity starting from mid-middle school until I graduated from high school. Which was exactly the time I got back to Indonesia, after spending a childhood in Kyiv, Ukraine. I realized that I was doing the opposite of the girls in my class. How they dressed, how they behaved but also how they were spoken to, how they were approached, how they were dismissed. I didn’t want that.
I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t break down barriers or rise from the ashes that quickly. It actually broke me, blurred my identity, tormented my whole way of life and belief system, I was weak, I was stripped down and 2013 when I graduated highschool I decided to leave for college in the States by myself, I zoomed out took a good view of myself and I didn’t like what I saw. So, I zoomed in within myself and started over, putting forth again the lessons my dad had taught me, all the positivity before biases and stereotypes were forced onto me.”

Consider, if you are not already there, what it will take to help you reach this place, where you are free to shed the expectations of others and embrace your full sexual self. We each have a different path to this place, but getting there is possible for all of us. What is the story YOU want to tell?
This kind of self-reflection can be immensely powerful and should be a part of your regular self-care practice.
Not doing so, is doing yourself a misjustice.

Writing Prompt

What are 10 changes can I make to my daily routine, my mindset, my language/vocab, etc. to move away from genderization and the biases it creates?

This voluntary monthly prompt invites you to explore your sexual biography. 
Tips on exploring this:
Set aside 20 minutes with your phone on silent and relax yourself in a comfortable space with a pen and paper. Go slow. Start with what comes to mind from your first read of the prompt. Continue writing your stream of consciousness. 

Researching Our Sexual Biographies

Do you feel that gender bias has played a role in shaping YOUR sexuality?
Yes           No

Each month we ask a question in support of our leading mission at My Sex Bio. As we grow we plan to help fund and supply research for sex education. The results of these questions may be shared on social media as well as the following month’s newsletter. These results will also help curate relevant content for our readers, like you, moving forward. Responses are voluntary and anonymous. 

Mantra of the Month:

“The time I spend with my body are the golden hours of my week.”

– Citra Benazir (@thearticbenazir)

Thank you for your support, Patreon Community!

Janet Coderre

Want to join our Patreon Community and support a sexually-empowered future? Click here!
—The MY SEX BIO Team
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