Sex can be fun and empowering. However, some of us – especially women – are judged for enjoying sex. Others are shamed, harassed, or even bullied for how we express our sexuality. This shaming takes many forms, such as being called a “slut” or having rumors spread about us.
But, hello?! The fact is that sex is enjoyable! And everyone should be able to express their sexuality and desire to have sex (or not) without shame.
So, how can we shut down sex shamers and shift our own and others’ thinking?
#1 School yourself
Native women have been hyper (over) sexualized by white settlers from the git. And these “old” ideas still circulate in U.S. culture today. Just think about the Disney cartoon, Pocahantas. Not only was Pocahantas drawn to look like America’s next top model, but the plot suggests that she and John Smith (an English colonist) were lovers. Eh hem… that’s 100% fake news. The truth is that Pocahantas was only 12 years old, and John Smith essentially kidnapped her. Ew. Nothing about that is sexy or romantic, but ideas like these about Native women’s sexuality float around in our media and impact how we think and feel about ourselves today.
So what can we do? A good place to start is schooling yourself about history and Native appropriation. You can also be a thoughtful consumer of media (i.e. question the things you read, see and hear). Learn more about how false representations of Native people can impact our thinking here.
Shutting down shamers
As Native women, we can reclaim our bodies and how we think about ourselves. Part of this is learning to shut down sex shamers.
If you feel safe (and have the time and energy), here’s how you can shut down sex shamers:
- Don’t accept sex-shaming from your community
If your friends or family talk negatively about people (including celebrities) because they like to have sex or post sexy pictures online, call them out on it. A perfect phrase to say? “Her body, her rules.”
- Remind them that it isn’t the 1950s
The standard women were held to in the 1950s was to be prim and proper. A lot has changed since then, and the world we live in now is much more progressive. Remind sex shamers that you are a worthwhile and valuable woman regardless of your sexuality and how you express it.
- Ask them if your sexual behavior is hurting them in some way
Most of the time, sex shamers are insecure. They may even feel jealous of another woman’s confidence. If you’re sex-shamed, simply ask, “is my behavior hurting you somehow?” This might leave the shamer surprised and not entirely sure how to answer.
The world is not a perfect place
Sometimes we feel humiliated, embarrassed, or ashamed of our sexuality. This is understandable. The world is not a perfect place. There are harmful portrayals of Native women in our society and being judged for who we are can make us feel bad about ourselves.
Consider these tips for boosting your self-esteem.
Finally, make sure you talk to a trusted adult or supportive friend if someone is harassing or bullying you about your sexuality (or anything else). Allowing others to help us carry our burdens can make the load feel lighter. Plus, others often have valuable ideas to consider when dealing with a bully. So, share your experience!
To learn about effective communication and feeling good about yourself, check out these resources:
- More Tips for Communicating Effectively
- Talk About It
- Resolving an Argument or Disagreement
Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.