Something that men often claim for themselves. Something that is defined as a male right, male privilege. Men should be promiscuous, they should look around at other women and girls, even when married or in a relationship. They should show off about their multiple sexual partners and expect congratulations when they are able to 'get' many women. They should catcall women and demonstrate their male virility through the sexual degradation of women on the street.
Well, at least this is how it has been explained to me by the many men I've met around the world.
But the thing is, if women do all of the above, they are not congratulated. They are not told, well done. They are instead criticised, they are told that they are whores.
And why is that?
Why are men entitled to sexual freedom, and women are not?
Why should women be punished and socially shamed when they engage in the same behavior, that men themselves engage in?
This type of gender based discriminatory behavior is global. Throughout the world social and cultural structures and norms allow men to have multiple sexual partners while at the same time condemn and socially shame any woman thought to be sexually promiscuous. In many cases, violence, rape and harassment are justified against women who are thought to be 'too sexual'.
Because women who are perceived to be 'promiscous', or sexual in any way, are treated as if they have less value, or simply no value at all.
A woman who has 'no value', can then be harassed, violated, disrespected.
How many of us have heard of someone blaming a woman for being raped because of the way she was dressed? How many of us have heard of a woman being asked what she was wearing when she has complained about sexual harassment?
As if men have the right to degrade and disrespect women just because in some way she has 'made' herself look attractive. As if it's his right to be sexually aggressive and should she get in his way with her attractiveness, she should just understand, that he is going to attack her.
In certain cases this control over women's sexual behavior is extreme. Throughout the Middle East, South Asia and some parts of the Caucuses, honor killings are prevalent. An honor killing comes from the idea that a woman should be a virgin before she is married and any perceived sexual transgression would result in shame being brought to her family. The only way to restore the honor to the family, is to kill her. There are cases where even when a woman is simply suspected of engaging in sexual behavior, she has been killed.
On one trip to Northern Iraq, I was told by a Kurdish Iraqi man, that a young women in his village had been killed, just because she had been seen talking to a man on the street.
I have repeatedly been told that the general perception in this part of the world is that all western women are whores. I've also heard that Russian women are whores, Ukrainian women too. In fact, I think the perception is more or less that any woman who has freedom to choose their clothes, their sexual partners or who has any freedom at all, are whores. 'You can do whatever you want with a western woman,' I have been told.
The endless sexual harassment that I have experienced as I have travelled through these parts of the world is evidence of how these men think that they can treat a woman who has freedoms.
Freedoms that they claim for themselves.
I wonder how many men think that they should 'expect' to be harassed? How many men think that if they go to a night club they should 'expect' to be raped? How many men have been threatened with sexual harassment for 'wearing such short shorts,' or have been asked 'well what were you wearing,' when they have complained about sexual assault?
I wonder what they would do if they were?
In Argentina, I met with a lawyer working to stop the sexual trafficking of women and girls. He said, 'we won't stop seeing violence against women and girls until they have the same sexual rights as men.'
I couldn't agree more.
This shaming of women and girls needs to stop. Because as long as men have sexual freedom and women do not, extreme harm towards women and girls will continue to be justified on the basis that women have 'behaved in a sexual way.'
Women and girls should be allowed the same rights to sexual freedom, as men allow themselves.