What do you think about female dominance

Female sexuality - The corset is gone - the taboos remain

Reading time: 20 minutes

We haven't been sitting for five minutes - and it's getting loud. Two journalists, three young women and a man are sitting in the living room of a shared flat in Zurich. Coffee and cake are on the table and a big topic in the room: female sexuality. Let's talk about sex.

She wants what he wants

Let's talk about sex: This sentence also precedes the recently published book “The ruled gender” by the Hamburg psychologist and family therapist Sandra Konrad. In it she gives bitter testimony to the state of heterosexual female sexuality.

The sexual self-determination of women is a mirage. Equal rights in the bedroom? A modern myth. The sexual freedom of women consists in wanting what the man wants - these are the conclusions of Sandra Konrad, who spoke to around 70 women about their sex lives.

Your theses are pointedly worded, provocative and also hit the middle of the #metoo debate. They trigger correspondingly violent reactions: In the comment columns under an interview, Link opens in a new window, some say they are “right from A to Z”, while on the other side “pseudofeminism” and “flirtation” are among the more harmless formulations.

"Women tend to back off"

On the other hand, the four people in their mid-twenties who we invited to talk about the topic react surprisingly calmly: André, Carmen, Claire and Muriel.

Discuss it:

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  • André (24) is a prospective history and geography teacher. For the association “Achtung Liebe”, Link opens in a new window, he visits school classes and talks to young people about sexuality.
  • Carmen (27) heads communications in an SME, is a musician and former media spokesperson for aktivistin.ch, the link will open in a new window.
  • Claire (27) studied philosophy, literature and gender studies in Zurich and Berlin. She is currently working on her doctoral thesis.
  • Muriel (22) is studying media and communication and doing an internship as a political campaigner.

What connects them: They belong to the generation that was born decades after the beginning of the sexual revolution. And they deal with the topic of female self-determination - activist, academic, political or educational.

SRF: Is your sexual self-determination as bad as Sandra Konrad describes it?

Claire: I ask myself: what does self-determined mean? One shouldn't rush to deny women self-determination. But I think women are more likely to accommodate the wishes of the other person and give up. Of course, many men do that too - but as a woman you are conditioned more to do so.

Many men and women reproduce stereotypical images.
Author: AndréStudent to become a teacher

Carmen: That doesn't just apply to sexuality.

Claire: But it works right down to sexuality.

André: There is certainly a lot of sex that is not too good, you just "take care of" it. That's a shame, but it also applies to men. If, as a man, you can't come and have sex, you're a wimp. Many men and women reproduce stereotypical images for no apparent reason.

Carmen: A friend of mine thought for a long time that her role in sex was that her partner was doing well. It only became clear to her later that this could be mutual.

Which is why we have to say yes

The case for the author Sandra Konrad is clear: what we live privately is determined by society. And society is shaped by the male gaze. According to the author, women have not emancipated themselves sexually in the past few decades, but have simply adjusted their sex life to that of men.

Book reference

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Sandra Konrad: «The controlled gender. Why she wants what he wants », Piper Verlag, 2017.

Konrad speaks in a calm voice, but her sentences are correct. "Today the new woman appears like the man," says the psychologist in an interview: "She should be able to separate sex and feelings neatly." Today's ideal is no longer the passive, reserved woman, but the sexually active woman: independent, open-minded and ready to go along with anything.

Terror of yes

That has little to do with self-determination, explains Konrad. Rather, it is precisely the sex life of young women that is subject to a “terror of yes”. “The big taboo of the present is not to live out your own sexuality as a woman. But to say no and set limits. "

Own needs are often disregarded. Many of the young women with whom she spoke told her about sexual practices that were opposed to them and that they did engage in. Not to fathom your own pleasure in it. But to satisfy the partner's desire and to be rated well.

"Being sexy is more important than being pleasurable," Konrad sums up.

"It takes a lot of self-confidence"

Carmen says during an interview in Zurich that she has no problem setting limits. She sees a different picture when she follows the discussion about “a no is a no”.

SRF: It falls it so hard to say no in intimate relationships?

André: An important point is self-confidence. I speak for the association Achtung Liebe, Link opens in a new window with school classes - and I have the impression that young women often cannot insist on their no. It's similar with boys. But it can end much more traumatic for women if they can't communicate that they don't want something.

Muriel: Women are pressed much more into the role of suffering. They are told: "You are there so that other people are happy." Applied to sex, this means that we later understand as a man if we do not like a situation.

In bed you don't have an intellectual porch.
Author: CarmenCommunication Manager

Claire: I myself never had any problem saying: That's okay, that's not. Am I living a totally exotic sexuality?

Carmen: When we talk like that, everything quickly becomes mental - in bed you don't have this intellectual arch. You rely on your feelings. But you have to learn this trust.

Muriel: You can also get pleasure from something that you cannot physically benefit from. You don't have sex alone - you have sex with another person.

André: I can't relax myself if my partner doesn't relax. I try to respond to the other person.

Muriel (laughing): Or you are putting pressure on your partner to act better.

Carmen: Oh yes - I think every woman has faked orgasms.

André: Make no mistake about it: men too. It's actually pretty easy with a condom. You don't want to be seen as an idiot who doesn't come.

Claire: In earnest? I see it differently. If it doesn't happen, it won't happen. Kind of sad that so many are playing it.

André: It doesn't have to be sad. If it is clear in the relationship that someone is worried about missing orgasms, pretending to have an orgasm can reduce stress. If you don't feel like it for a long time, that's problematic. But if you just can't come - well.

When we talk about sex, taboos abound.
Author: MurielStudent and campaigner

Claire: The scary thing is that you can't talk about it!

Carmen: But the terms for it are often missing. How do you even talk about it?

Muriel: When we talk about sex, taboos abound. It starts with the female body. There are many more words for penis than for vagina.

Carmen: And many people around me don't know the difference between vulva and vagina.

Claire: Even if the words are there, not everyone knows the same: It makes me want, I find it beautiful. That brings us back to trust. To talk about it, you need trust in the other person. And in yourself.

Much demanded, little achieved

Talking freely about sexuality - no problem for four young people in 2018. Fifty years ago this was not something that could be taken for granted.

The 68ers swept through the Swiss bedrooms as a breath of fresh air. The fact that women liberate themselves from bourgeois sexual morality was the linchpin of the women's movement in the 1960s and 1970s, says Andrea Maihofer, Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Basel.

Bras were burned and the morally tight corset stripped off. Women who lived their sexuality autonomously became publicly visible. Andrea Maihofer was a teenager at the time and remembers: "One imagined that a free society also had to be a sexually liberated one."

What freedoms has the sexual revolution actually brought to the 21st century? “It's amazing how much has changed only minimally,” says gender researcher Andrea Maihofer.

A lot has happened formally, but little has happened in the mind. As far as the sexuality of women and men is concerned, conventional role models and myths would persist in public - in the media, in the cinema or in advertising -: "Sexuality has commercialized rather than liberated itself."

Perception of the sexes

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According to a recent Swiss study, men and women do not differ greatly when it comes to how many partners they sleep with on average in their life (6 for women and 7 for men) and the importance they attach to sex (68 percent of women and 84 percent of men it is important to very important). Nevertheless, women are perceived as the sexually less active sex - both by men and women.

Overshot the target

The psychologist Sandra Konrad goes one step further: "The sexual revolution not only brought new freedoms, but also new norms and constraints."

According to Konrad, she overshot her goal: For many women, she has led to over-sexualization. Sex is seen as an achievement, the female body as a commodity.

“Sexual freedom has become an image product for women,” says Konrad, “a status symbol that one proudly carries around”. Freedom is confused with self-determination. Everything is an expression of it: from scantily clad pop stars to intimate shaves and accepting a man's name at the wedding. "Even submission is celebrated as the highest peak of emancipation."

"No woman likes to admit that"

A harsh analysis - but one that is more likely to trigger a shrug than outrage in the Zurich group.

SRF: Do you have the impression that you are living in an oversexualized society?

Carmen: I come from the advertising industry - women are still decoration in advertising.

Women are still a decoration in advertising.
Author: CarmenCommunication Manager

André: The pictures are very simple for both sexes. No fat man advertises Armani underwear. A former friend who had a very beautiful body told me how bad it was for her to follow fitness models on Instagram: still rounder fudlis, even more beautiful breasts and flatter bellies. Anyone who says they have not been influenced by ideals is lying. It doesn't really matter whether you are aware of it.

Carmen: I would like to be able to say: I feel really good in my body and I don't care about beauty standards. But it's not like that. My partner can tell me a thousand times how beautiful he thinks I am - I can't shake it off.

Muriel: It never stops because we are born into these standards. But if you become aware of it, you get ahead.

Claire: That there are ideals that affect one's own privacy: no woman likes to admit that. Because it is ashamed and painful. Especially when you say: I'm self-determined.

Much half-knowledge about female pleasure

For the biologist Daniel Haag-Wackernagel from the University of Basel, the main cause of misconception about the sexual experience of women is different: a lack of knowledge about the female arousal system.

Whether school books, specialist literature or anatomical models: "There is no representation of the female excitation system on the market today that is correct."

The evolutionary biologist, who is working on a book on female sexuality, says that many textbooks in recent years lack an adequate representation of the clitoris.

Many do not even know about the female arousal system that "it is about the same size as that of the man". Such knowledge about the female body is essential so that women can take responsibility for their own lust.

There are historical reasons why the anatomy of women is still incomplete. Even in antiquity, people knew very well about female sexuality, says Haag-Wackernagel: "But at the beginning of the last century the idea of ​​lust focused exclusively on men."

Female lust disappeared from textbooks - and was pathologized. Masturbation is fatal, and hysteria is caused by the womb: what sounds absurd today were common assumptions at the beginning of the 20th century.

Likewise, that a “mature” orgasm can only be achieved through vaginal penetration and not through stimulation of the clitoris. Although surveys show that most women do not experience a vaginal orgasm, the stereotype persists to this day.

"No clue!"

The idea that a woman can only reach climax through a man: This is exactly why there is so much hype about the G-spot, says Claire with a laugh.

SRF: What about knowing about female pleasure?

André: Many women have surprisingly little idea about their own bodies. The fact that the clitoris is only the tip of the iceberg, that the clitoris is an organ that runs under the skin and encompasses the entire vulva - many men and women have no clue of that.

Female pleasure is completely sub-themed.
Author: ClairePhilosophy PhD student

Carmen: I didn't know such things for a long time. And yes, that is fatal. You have the feeling that you know a lot because you see so many sexualized images. But as far as the female orgasm is concerned - there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Claire: Speaking of pictures, in most coming-of-age films, boys masturbate. But there are only a few scenes where girls do that. Female pleasure is completely sub-themed! Especially those that are not always geared towards someone.

Carmen: I think “Sex & the City” was the first time you saw a woman satisfy herself.

Muriel: I was informed very early by my mother and therefore never had the feeling during puberty: this is how my body has to be, so and so I have to be in sexuality. Or I knew the feeling, but knew: It is wrong.

School was never about pleasure, always about risks.
Author: CarmenCommunication Manager

Carmen: The education at school was always about protection: from sexually transmitted diseases, from pregnancy, from assaults. I was taught that I can say no.

But what I missed completely is that I can also say "Oh yes!" may say. It was never about pleasure, always about risks: you are to blame if something happens.

Claire: Different forms of desire were never discussed in school. Instead, a very precise idea of ​​what sex is and must contain is passed on, totally heteronormative. And that haunted my head for a long time.

Carmen: Penetration equals sex - that is still the public opinion.

Claire: As a teen, you and your first boyfriend or girlfriend simply copy the adults. Before the process begins, you ask yourself: What do I find beautiful? What is my wish

André: As a teen, you see everything except what adults are doing in the bedroom. The first time the replay suddenly doesn't work anymore: You only know sex from films or have seen porn and think: That's how it works.

When I was 14 my mom discovered my internet history. She only said two things: not every man has an eight-inch penis, and not every woman is clean-shaven underneath.

Bring light into the dark

Much half-knowledge, many clichés: Is female sexuality today still a “dark continent”, as the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud called it - a social taboo zone about the topography of which we know little and hardly dare to speak?

There are some indications that this continent is currently being re-measured.By authors who write relaxed about female pleasure, network activists who creatively pick up smooth body images or pages like OMGyes, Link opens in a new window that promise women solid instructions for orgasm.

To determine for yourself what your sexuality should look like: For many, this does not seem to be a “Fata Morgana”, but a vision that can be shaped and lived.

Half a century after the sexual revolution, the concern for equal and free sexuality is being carried on. Contemporary feminism does not only take place on the street, in parliaments or academic back rooms, but also online - and therefore globally.

Anyone who hears «feminist» no longer necessarily thinks of the cliché of the prudish man hater - but perhaps of Beyoncé.

The other side of the coin: the sheer amount of sexual border violations and assaults that are publicly named in the #metoo train. They show a different picture. The experience of gender-specific inequality still seems to be part of the everyday life of countless women - and some men too.

"In intimate relationships there may be sexuality on an equal footing," says Sandra Konrad. “In public, however, women are often sexualized. Everyday sexism is still widespread today and sexual violence is still being played down. " That shows the #metoo debate.

But it also gives cause for hope. If it is taboo today to openly name borders, then this hashtag is the strongest counter-thesis. "Women notice: What they found normal, such as being touched on the buttocks without being asked, is simply wrong."

The gender researcher Andrea Maihofer also finds the debate “extremely exciting”: “Because it starts again at the points that were central 50 years ago. For a while we hardly talked about equal sexuality - today the topic is being renegotiated again. That could be a step towards more real equality. "

She hopes that as a result, a new self-confidence will assert itself in the everyday life of women: "That they no longer define themselves primarily through being desired, but pursue their own desires."

That women know what they want and say it - that is also what Sandra Konrad has in mind: “For me, sexual self-determination would be achieved if women were free to say yes, but also no. And be neither embarrassed nor punished for it. "

"It doesn't have to be the same, but just"

SRF: What would have to happen in your eyes to make us feel more sexually self-determined?

André: We need to think about how we talk about sexuality. For example, about our swear words: So far, men have been wimpy and have too little sex, women are sluts and have too much sex. He who is weak is a pussy.

Muriel: In my ideal world, it would not matter what you have between your legs and whether you identify with it. I think the way to get there is through absolute equality.

In my ideal world, it wouldn't matter what you got between your legs.
Author: MurielStudent and campaigner

Carmen: For me, equality is a utopia. Justice is much more realistic. It doesn't have to be the same - it has to be fair.

Claire: We should train the imagination - from an early age. Because our idea of ​​desire, gender and sex is far too one-dimensional. It should be clear to everyone: I have a right to my own wishes and can express them. Without exception.

Broadcast: SRF 1 Kulturplatz, February 28, 2018, 10:25 p.m.