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Sexual Agency: The Gender Politics of Campus Sex

Introduction

Sexual agency is the ability to make decisions freely in situations that involve a sexual context. In particular, it is the choice of whether one wants to engage in sexual activity, how they want to do it, and whether or when they want to stop it or avoid it altogether. A person exercises their agency when they have the technical ability to do so and use it to make choices. As such, while there may be no legal barriers to the practice of sexual agency, it is typically regulated through social norms, which are often biased.

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The recent development of hook-up culture demonstrates the differences that gender norms have instituted for males’ and females’ agency. Men are expected to seek sex over relationships, and the accumulation of a large number of partners is a mark of success for them. Meanwhile, women have to be concerned about safe sex and protect their reputation, leading to a low number of partners. If a member of either gender does not adhere to these standards, they will be shunned and possibly ostracized. However, a sexually inactive male will not meet as much negativity as a sexually active female.

This perception is the result of an enduring narrative that emphasizes masculinity at the expense of women. Men are free to pursue pleasure through sex or other means, and an experienced male is seen as more desirable. Meanwhile, inexperience is promoted among women, which enables men to take the lead and exercise their agency while women allow them to do as they want. These conflicting narratives of sexuality lead to the creation of a disparity between genders that suppresses the sexual agency of women.

The Gender Politics of Campus Sex

Kalish’s claim that the gender politics of campus sex have not changed much is motivated by the lack of change in the overall dynamics. While sexual attitudes, in general, have become less restricted, with women entering the hook-up culture on their terms, the prevailing narrative still expects women to handle most of the responsibility. Many still feel that they have to accommodate men who hold no such obligation towards them. Men expect women to be on birth control if they are willing to hook up, and men decide whether repeated encounters constitute a relationship.

Women are still the ones who search to establish a lasting partnership, as opposed to men, who have to be convinced to commit and otherwise seek sex with no consequences. Kalish describes women who would engage in actively unpleasant acts out of the belief that they would make their partners like them more. Many women consider sexuality to be for men and derive pleasure from their satisfaction. As such, while the number of sexual encounters has grown, their fundamental contents have not. Women are still at a disadvantage for many of the same reasons as before.

With that said, there are some rare instances where members of both sexes seek to challenge the established status quo. Kalish mentions two categories of men, one of which prefers to abstain from attempting sexual encounters until they are confident that their female partner wants them. The other does not engage in sex at all to advance the intimacy of the relationship. Moreover, some women are negotiating mechanisms that put them on a level playing field through various means. Overall, the sexual agency landscape is changing in ways that challenge the established narrative, though the process is slow.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, April 7). Sexual Agency: The Gender Politics of Campus Sex. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/sexual-agency-the-gender-politics-of-campus-sex/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, April 7). Sexual Agency: The Gender Politics of Campus Sex. https://studycorgi.com/sexual-agency-the-gender-politics-of-campus-sex/

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StudyCorgi. "Sexual Agency: The Gender Politics of Campus Sex." April 7, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/sexual-agency-the-gender-politics-of-campus-sex/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Sexual Agency: The Gender Politics of Campus Sex." April 7, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/sexual-agency-the-gender-politics-of-campus-sex/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Sexual Agency: The Gender Politics of Campus Sex'. 7 April.

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