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Challenging Sexism: Changing perceptions on Female Sexuality

Web series BKChat sparked a hot debate about female sexuality, we explore the controversy.

11th Dec 2016

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‘She said she only f*cked like 4 or 5 n*ggas so you know you gotta multiply by 3’– J Cole

Following the release of popular urban series BKChat’s fourth episode titled: ‘Don't Ask Me How Many People I've Slept With!" there has been a big debate online about female sexuality. A ‘Body Count’ is a slang term referring to the number of people a person has slept with and it was thrown around a lot during this controversial episode. A crude term but one that seems to hold a lot of significance when it comes to modern sex and relationships as revealed in the BKChat discussion, but what the show highlighted was that the standards for men and women are perceived very differently – in fact, there’s a problematic double standard which needs to be addressed.

A hard hitting show, that has sparked virility because of its honesty and relatability, BKChat is a new web series in which two groups, one of five guys and one of five girls sit on opposite sides of the room and discuss some of the biggest topics affecting youth culture. One of them is inevitably sex – it can be an uncomfortable topic but in the series they talk about it honestly and openly, discussing it from their personal experiences. For the audience, the divide in the room isn’t just experienced visually through the seating arrangements but also in the difference in mentality and attitudes between the men and women; with the guys being unanimously decided that it is okay for a man to sleep around, perhaps even honourable, but if a woman behaves in the same manner she is deemed less attractive.

Since the sexual liberation movement of the 70s, 2016 is probably the time when society has been most comfortable about talking openly about sex. Particularly among the younger generation, the idea of casual sex has become less taboo, widely accepted and perhaps even encouraged in some places like in university. Coming from a mildly religious background, I was always taught that sex was more than a physical thing and that it was spiritual connection that one should be cautious with – I was always told that it is an activity between two loving people. Basically, something intimate that shouldn’t be shared with just anyone. Despite not sharing the popular views of this generation, I have never judged those who have engaged in casual sex and have challenged myself to question the relatively traditional views I’ve been brought up with and why they are important to me. However, whether it is because of the religious base or the patriarchal society we live in some misogyny has always crept in when it comes to the idea of women and sex.

Looking into this further, you begin to realise that throughout history society’s views on sex are blatantly sexist. Whether it is religious institutions which have encouraged wives to submit to their husbands or the scientific community which previously did not believe that the female orgasm even existed (look it up), views on women and sex have always been damaged by the male gaze. Despite improving attitudes towards women and sexual liberation there is still one hypocritical view which needs to be explained: why is it more socially acceptable for men to sleep around but not women?

Wifey Material?

Some argue from a quasi-evolutionary perspective, that men are the hunters or providers and therefore we should accept that they are the ones who desire more sex, others argue that it is unladylike for a woman to be so openly sexually liberated. What I found interesting in the BKChat discussion is the differentiation that all of the men made between a wife and girls they just sleep with. We see the same thing in hip hop when rappers refer to video girls as hoes but their wives and mothers who they respect as women. And that is the key differentiation here – respect. They did not feel comfortable with the idea that their wife – the woman they see as the most precious and who they have the most respect for had slept around in her past. This I could totally relate to and it is down to each individual man’s preference of how many people their wives had been with. The term wife is seen as a concept rather than a real human being with thoughts, feelings and a past - an ideal woman. Ultimately, in reality the wife that a man idolises about can be very different to the woman he ends up marrying. Some would argue that the past is the past but I can see why this was important to all the men. What I didn’t agree with is that all of the men then said that they would prefer if their wives at least had a little experience in the bedroom. What’s striking about this double standard here is that the woman can never win. Either she’s been around too much or if she hasn’t slept around she’s not experienced enough. When we universalise this logic we quickly realise that numbers are arbitrary and we are playing a game in the bounds of male insecurity.

Another tenuous argument one of the men made to excuse the hypocrisy in the way in which we view male and female sexuality is that when a man sleeps with a woman there doesn’t have to be an emotional attachment but when a woman sleeps with a man there is always an emotional attachment. Whilst I agree that in general, women are definitely more in touch with their emotions that can’t be said for every single woman; especially if they’re single. One of the women actually agreed that men and women are psychologically and physically different but to use it as an excuse for the hypocrisy is intellectually lazy. Either as a society we reach a point and say casual sex is acceptable, whether your male or female, or better yet we say that men and women should only really have sex with people they feel an intimate connection with and try and keep the numbers low. I also think the standards are subjective, as a 19-year-old the preferred body count you’d want for your potential girlfriend may be fairly low – say 2 or 3 – but by the time you’re 30 and have realised the realities of life that number could increase. This was highlighted by one of the older guys in the conversation who accepted that the standard was different for him because he was dating in an older age pool. He also accepted that his body count was far too high for him to judge any potential mate.

There’s also the maturity aspect to it as well, I would imagine a lot of grown men would be willing to look past the past and be with a woman if they genuinely loved her; however younger guys may not be as willing to compromise. One thing everyone was unanimous about, regardless of age, was the issue of knowing the people a potential partner has slept with in the past – that’s just a recipe for awkwardness.

Speaking to some of my female friends I was intrigued to find that some of them held the double standard view too. The idea of girls judging other girls was not surprising but I did wonder where this was coming from. Had society’s patriarchal views infused into them or is there something intrinsically wrong with a woman having many sexual partners? Ultimately, it seems to vary between different ages and backgrounds but a lot of them said that if they were attracted to a guy, they wouldn’t even ask for his body count because they expect it to be a high enough number to turn them off. Wow, men are really expected to act like dogs in the bedroom.

Will It Ever Change?

I doubt that this double standard will change soon but it’s good that people are starting to call the hypocrisy for what it is. Ultimately, it probably won’t matter as we’re human beings and will most likely lie when asked about our number of sexual partners anyway. However, what we have to recognise is that all women want is the same freedoms extended to men. In an ideal world the same judgement extended to girls for sleeping around would be extended to guys – either we condemn both sexes jointly or accept we’ve reached a new age of sexual liberation in which men and women should be held to the same standard.

Check out the series which caused all the controversy below:

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