Empowerment through Sexuality: Yes or No?
That kind of power isn’t all that positive.
When you think of women using their sexuality as a form of command, some examples that come to mind are likely Nicki Minaj or Beyonce: women who show off their curves in an unapologetic and dominant manner. But these displays only further perpetuate the idolization of one very specific body type: curvy yet tight.
This body type certainly isn’t what the other 99 percent of women see in the mirror, and finding a fierce sense of sexual empowerment becomes a bit more difficult when one has a size 12 lower back that looks sort of like the surface of the moon when put in a Yonceesque leotard. “Well,” says the size 12 woman, “looks like I’m just not that powerful after all.”
Why should this ever be the deciding factor of a woman’s status? Being a powerful woman absolutely entails embracing your body, but it means embracing it the way it is. It doesn’t mean embracing Amber Rose’s or Beyonce’s body.
Being powerful also means embracing one’s creativity, knowledge, interests, and desires. It means working really, really hard at all of these things to become a happy, fulfilled person by one’s own standards.
The fact that a celebrity wears nipple pasties and a g-string in her Instagram photos doesn’t make her a feminist. It makes her a woman who probably went to unreasonable measures to get her body looking a way that media deems sexy and then running with that. That kind of power isn’t all that positive.
Women should absolutely, 100 percent, do whatever the heck they want to with their bodies. Really. They should wear nipple pasties and g-strings and walk down Colfax at 11 a.m. if that strikes their fancy, and not one human being has the right to tell her not to.
However, to take women from media like Amber Rose and deem the menial fact that she shows off her body as empowerment only further skews real women’s view of what being powerful really is.
Empowerment is not a zero-sum game.
The current faces of sexual empowerment are women like Amber Rose, Nicki Minaj, and Beyoncé. These are women who have repeatedly and publicly claimed ownership of their bodies and their sex lives. They speak to bodies that exist on their own terms and for their own pleasure, first and foremost.
The words of these great women also take on greater meaning when their race is taken into account as part of the dialogue: These are black women, laying claim to bodies that publicly were never really considered their own.
Attached to the factor of race in their discourse, these are also women whose bodies aren’t model thin—their bodies are obviously black. It’s of the utmost importance to note that by raising themselves up, they aren’t demonizing any other type of body. Empowerment is not a zero-sum game; spreading confidence for yourself and people like you does not detract from another’s empowerment.
These are women who also claim their own power outside of their bodies. Beyoncé sings of being a “Bill Gates in the making” on her most recent single and Nicki constantly reminds her female fans not to dumb themselves down for boys. For them, their bodies and their sexualities are only one avenue of many to bring themselves up. It’s disingenuous to state that these women are only focusing on female sexual empowerment.
We are drawn to the idea of sexual empowerment as a society because of our constant narratives of women as sexual objects. So, then, when subjectivity is reclaimed, generations of preconceived ideas and connotations are disrupted and we get a glimpse at a new era of possibilities. Here, we see women’s sexual empowerment not as the only tool available but as one of the most potent ones to affect a change.