Hetero-Patriarchal Socialization of Women’s Inequality, Violence

Women face many dangers (specially sexual danger) till today because of hetero-patriarchal structure and socialization in every society. Women’s sexuality is embedded and experienced to the service of the state, power regimes and commodification in the media.

Carole Vance (1984) shared that ‘the threat of male violence is not the only source of sexual danger. Sexuality activates a host of intra-psychic anxieties; fear of merging with another, the blurring of body boundaries and the sense of self that occurs in the tangle of parts and sensation, with attendant fears of dissolution and self-annihilation.’

Female sexuality has two aspects- cohesive, power, danger and fear are one and another aspect is the realm of ecstasy, desire, intimacy, mutuality and pleasure. Women’s sexuality and embodied agency are potentially under the control of the hetero-patriarchal logic. Michel Foucault opined that ‘the body is not simply a passive surface, inscribed by socialization and history and guided by a cognitive realm of knowledge and awareness. The body is the site of a pre-cognitive communication between the subject and the world’. It receives social and environmental signals and the active means of response to those messages. It is further due to hetero-patriarchal socialization.

The patriarchal script attempts to present women as passive victims. Positioning women as weak or damaged subject gives renewed legitimacy to patriarchally motivated discourses of control and protection. We talk about women’s sexual agency in experiential, political, social and symbolic terms. It portrays and articulates female lived experience. But we have no capacity to exist and change our situation. We do not think new horizons of possibilities around sexual safety, choice, autonomy and pleasure. It has been practiced that first experience of sexualities would not treat as violation and negation, but as joyful and pleasurable mode of agency. Our sexualities are often experienced and aligned so closely to these complex and contradictory emotions which are both so intimate and at the same time public in their framing by social rules, values and harm. Women are not allowed to express freely of their sexual experience because it might elude male control. The socialization process is that hetero-sexual male as head of the family is in-charge of his wife, children and sisters, and the whole of society is built upon family model. Thus, the male householder is in control of all including the bodies and sexuality of those in his household. Therefore, women are confined to one household. Without which the symbolic and existential stability of household structure is threatened. In traditional as well as modern patriarchal family, desire of the male head tries to control other desires in the household and society. When that desire is threatened or undermined by another that is the outside of the dominant libidinal economy.

Therefore, we observe that female sexual agency and pleasure became an important means for patriarchal reproduction and continuity to reassert itself. It is because patriarchal cultures understand and anticipate the fundamentality of women’s erotic desire and pleasure in human reproduction. Each time we focus only on violation and neglect to narrate the fundamentality of female erotic desire. Women’s sexual pleasure does not erase or negate our quest for social justice, equity, economic rights, political access and participation. Patriarchal culture tries to muffle, circumscribe and reduce to passivity through litany of violations and intrusions.

There should need a new way of constituting female sexuality to overcome victimhood and violation as foundational. Through this new foundation we might turn the patriarchal sexual lens from the primacy of women’s quest for erotic fulfillment and joy as springboard for demanding and creating a safer space. Attitude towards female sexuality should be turned from patriarchal power (unsettle) with its fear about unruly autonomous female desire and action. There is needed a change of patriarchal culture’s hostility towards women’s sexual agency. It would reduce confrontation in women’s daily lives. There is need of the primacy to the sexual danger script. That script could be configured, re-experienced and re-channeled differently.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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