My brand is empowering women and the men who love them, so I was naturally drawn to a study published in the Journal of Sex that suggested empowered women have less sex than women who are dominated by men. The study was done at Johns Hopkins University, which is a school that has an outstanding academic record for students and faculty alike. With all studies, it depends where they are done, and in this case the subjects were in Africa. Researchers surveyed women from six African countries and the results showed the more dominant the women (in Africa dominant means they can choose their own shampoo, toothpaste, and shoes), the less physical intimacy they shared with their partners. The study was really testing the decisions that a woman could make on her own instead of asking her husband. The findings showed that more dominant and assertive women had approximately 100 times less sex.
Some women may be discouraged with this news, but I am elated! Research has shown that the more empowered women become, the more cautious they are with engaging in sex. Men, on the other hand, take more chances and engage in riskier sexual encounters when they feel better about themselves. In Africa, for women to have sex frequently and submissively is a death sentence. It makes sense that if women feel good about themselves, they will be pickier and decide to use appropriate protection. The HIV prevalence rate in these countries is anywhere from 5% to 14%. In some African nations, it is more likely a woman will have an increased chance of getting HIV after marriage. This is not true in the United States.
Do empowered women have less sex with their husbands in the United States? Like all things, we have to define “empowered.” I describe empowered as being educated, aware, and knowledgeable about your body, emotions, and sexuality. I believe the more that girls/women focus on their interests instead of gaining the security of a boy/man, the more likely they will be able to be a loving, equal partner who can co-lead a family and offer stability within the marriage. Raising children and working at a healthy marriage takes two people. Women who are unsatisfied with their role make their partner’s life miserable. Blaming your partner because you aren’t knowledgeable about your body and what makes it feel good is unfair and irresponsible. Women who feel good about their bodies have better (frequency is not measure of better) sex in their marriage because they feel equal to their partner and understand the health benefits of sex.
Children who grow up with a strong mom who is gentle but also firm, knowledgeable about her body, open to teaching them about theirs, and direct with her expression of feeling (without being insensitive to theirs) grow up respecting women and understanding their value. Many families are lacking these empowered women mentors though, so how do we teach girls/women to be assertive without being insensitive to others feelings? How do we teach them that they don’t need a boyfriend, but an interest to pursue in life? How do we teach them to understand and know their body so magazine ads and other media sources cannot turn them into women who hate their bodies and feel totally disconnected from them? It begins with teaching them to honor themselves enough and to explore their options. Here are a few other suggestions to help empower women so they can make wise choices with sexual partners.
1. Quit focusing on abstinence and instead focus on helping girls decide what they want to do with their lives. Empowered girls who feel better about themselves make better choices with securing a partner.
2. The focus should be on being your best self, not a magazine photo of an airbrushed beauty. I recently did a story on HLN that depicted moms of beauty pageant toddlers now giving their young toddlers “pixie sticks” to eat so they would behave perkier. This is not empowerment, no matter what the moms say.
3. Focus on how you talk to your daughter’s other parent. Are you disrespectful of him? Moms teach daughters (and sons) how to talk to their dad (and future men). Respect your child’s other parent because empowered women respect men.
4. Never tell your daughter that she shouldn’t feel the way she does. A feeling is never right or wrong; it just is. Validate her feelings even if you don’t agree…she has a right to how she feels.
Empowering women, daughters, or anyone doesn’t mean you become their best friend. No gender is more or less than the other, as we need both men and women. Empowering women doesn’t mean “de-powering” men. When you are someone who empowers others, you believe in encouraging, educating, and being a mentor. Empowerment like most things begins at home. –Mary Jo Rapini
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Tags: Empowering Women, Sex, HIV, Marriage, Relationships