Sex, Conflict, and the Self-Fashioned Woman

A reader recently requested that I write a post on unwanted, or unwelcome, male attention, including sexual advances, and to position that issue in relation to my understanding of femininity. A challenge. I thought about it for a few days. Maybe a little too hard, actually, because I almost scrapped the idea and wrote an entirely different post. Yet, I continued to feel I should address the challenge presented to me. It wasn’t until I was heading home from work yesterday afternoon, while thinking about something unrelated, that I realized exactly what it was I needed to say. And it’s no different from anything I’ve already said. (How terribly anticlimactic.)

As my posts on this blog have progressed—particularly my forays into eroticism and my attempts to self-define femininity—I noticed that, at some point, I began to be guided by a more totalizing vision of the feminine, of womanhood, or of an essence that acts for me, as a kind of ideal. A self-created, or self-fashioned, woman. A future self, perhaps. The more I delve into the complexities of female eroticism, the more firmly she takes root in my imagination and the better I am able to fashion her on the page. I think about who she is, how she is, how she conducts her relationships, handles difficult situations, and navigates life’s challenges. It is with her in mind that I write this post. As I craft my ideal, I craft myself. Or, I allow her to create me. Of all of the approaches I could’ve taken to this topic (most of them well-worn), I decided that being guided by my own self-created vision was best.

white lace fan

Here is how I believe my ideal woman—the paradigm of my own self-creation—would handle unwanted attention and unwelcome sexual advances:

She would understand, first, that the vast majority of the unwanted attention she’ll ever receive won’t come from sexual predators. It will come from otherwise well-intentioned men who don’t quite know how to treat her. It is true that some men won’t value her sexuality like they should—that some of them suffer from a character weakness, or fear, that it would take something much greater than her to fix. It is also true that there is a world of difference between a bonafide sexual predator or harasser and the average man who is, maybe, flirting a little too hard. She would know better than to demonize the latter by treating him like he’s the former. Because to do so would also weaken her.

She would take the initiative in showing men who she is, what she desires, and how she deserves to be treated. She would know herself. She would have made the effort to develop confidence in her sexuality, a confidence that can only come from exploring the facets of her erotic life: her body, her desires, her fantasies, the behaviors that make her feel sexy, powerful, vibrant, expansive, content. She would know that her interactions with men—sexual or otherwise—will be riddled with obstacles, apprehension, and misunderstanding if she cannot be herself fully and allow men to be comfortable enough to be themselves around her.

She would never settle for an existence rooted in her grievances but would define and elevate herself instead. If she believed that men didn’t understand or value her sexuality as they should, then she would do the most audacious thing it was in her power to do: she would become the version of femininity she wanted them to see. And, that’s how she would teach them that femininity can be confident, sexy, and unafraid.

Under no circumstances would she make herself helpless. She wouldn’t allow herself to get swept away in a torrent of rabid emotion. Nor would she pour all of her energy into blaming the other person (because she would understand that also renders her helpless). She would assert herself. She wouldn’t wait around for men to change their opinions of her or place demands on them that they can’t possibly fulfill. In the way she acted, in the way she walked, in the way she talked, she would demonstrate her worth. That would be the image she projected to the world. She wouldn’t wait for someone else to free her. She would be an example. She would do it herself.

38 thoughts on “Sex, Conflict, and the Self-Fashioned Woman

  1. Food tucked away for slow consumption: “she would become the version of femininity she wanted them to see. And, that’s how she would teach them that femininity can be confident, sexy, and unafraid.” Also, you said before that you aren’t the creator of the graphics. Will you please share with the creator of the graphics how much I enjoy them? The woman on the fan is beautiful, aesthetically and conceptually!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I actually used her to create the cover for The Vixen Diaries (thank you for following), as well. I love this designer’s work, and I think it’s really helped me create just the right aesthetic around the blog. Her images are available for purchase on Depositphotos. If you ever feel like perusing her collection, I’d be happy to give you more info.

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  2. Harassment is an objectification. I’ve never been a woman but I think my openness has allowed a strange role-playing for the pent up objectification felt previously by women. Where the prey becomes the predator. I don’t judge. Well, I try not too. Mating, is a bit of a game though isn’t it? If you’re not mating like myself these problems are nil. Haha. Sorry.

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    1. Haha. Yeah, harassment is a negative kind of objectification, but from my perspective, not all objectification is negative (I think I’m echoing Camille Paglia here.). Putting oneself voluntarily on display with a goal of being admired is also a kind of objectification. One that we hope will have desirable outcomes. Unfortunately, we often get the bad along with the good. And yeah, it’s a game for sure. Lol I’d rather roll the dice. It’s not all bad out there 😉

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      1. I agree. I think if Harvey Weinstein was a Brad Pitt or George Clooney what would come of that fiasco? Power has many forms and with that not so much great responsibility as just, more blame. Harvey does have more in common with Louis CK and it all comes down too. Objectifying comes in twos. A Clooney or a Pitt has a different set of rules than a Harvey or a Louis. We can agree there and I’m sure its hard for the beautiful that might be equally smart but cannot gain acceptance for it. The current culture actually only celebrates people that are attractive, or extremely brilliant. Even then, a Stephen Hawking could not date an Angelina Jolie. Se la vie. The social politics of private people and their social cultural norms.

        Ahh. Dice. I love, love. Much different than like, sexual gratification, or romance. Love is. The feeling across worlds that someone’s soul wants you.

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      2. I very much agree that physical attractiveness and other forms of cultural capital dictate a lot of the rules we live by. Objectification is double-edged.

        “The feeling across worlds that someone’s soul wants you.” Perfect. Dice are so…deliciously unpredictable.

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      3. Let’s take an artist’s approach. We know the thing. We’ve defined it. Now. We smash it to bits. You can be a sexually charged female. I can be a male of the lowest caste and not super attractive. We can work together when our paths cross but respect that imaginary social boundary. A universal rule cannot apply but neither can doing, nothing. That’s how worlds coexist. Gravity pushes them closer but never touching. I cannot be apart of your world. So. I exist in mine.

        I used to be in love once. I was in the military and gone for a year at a time. When, I was almost home we’d have the same dreams.

        So, mating and harassment and conflict go together because they are unwanted advances for mating. The complexity comes from total denial of sexual desire and neutering everyone for being human. I agree. A person’s sexuality is personal until it is on display then, the rules are quite different. We go to bars and nightclubs to specifically be harassed. Sex is great if I was into it I’d go there. But, we should not govern the whole world with bar culture which it seems is happening.

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      4. You know, the relationship between being sexually charged and being physically attractive interests me. (It’s also part of a post I am working on and hope to publish in the next day or so.) To me, there are two kinds of “sexually charged” a woman can be: one comes from the inside—a vibrancy, a confidence that is controlled, the kind that “glows,” if you will; the other comes from the outside—revealing clothing, overdone makeup, in-your-face “sex,” which either makes up for what’s on the inside or is a perverted expression of it. Perhaps an expression of a series of emotions and desires that are poorly understood by the person. My question is: can being sexy on the inside—derived from an artistic, more self-created approach to one’s sexual identity/inner erotic life—make a person appear sexier on the outside? In the way of developing a certain je ne sais quoi, a confidence, a shine? I think so. Enough to transcend social boundaries? No. But the existence of different worlds isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. (Sometimes it is negative, and sometimes it isn’t.)

        I agree with you about the larger sphere of dating being like bar culture. Trashy. Base. Exploitative of both sexes. I don’t think we know how to embrace sexuality in a healthy way. It’s a cultural thing, kind of like our relationship with food. A complete rejection of sensuality and all the perversions that manifest as a result.

        Similar dreams? Interesting. Didn’t Jung say something about that kind of phenomenon?

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Agreed. Not all attractive are taking advantage sexually. But, attraction even the lesser known physical kind is sexual. The glow. I have noticed it before. It would be great if confidence, attraction, being sexy could work together. They can. Just needs a good education to teach the masses to look and appreciate WHY women are, gorgeous. The association does not mean anything is due. Appreciation is not a transaction and I think that’s a big problem with how beauty works now. I find you attractive, you owe me something.

        Maybe that’s the stem of the other kinds of sexy? Women gave up the fight for inner beauty and resort to short skirts and fighting cat calls. It’s all a game.

        I think Michelle Pfeiffer was my first crush. In the ghetto, you repeatedly watch the movie Scarface. I don’t really know why. Haha. I just thought she was, pretty. So. Yeah. It shows without showing skin.

        I agree the current sexual and dating rituals are, gross.

        Jung had a lot of things right. Love. Changes you to fit that person. Men may take advantage but it can be quite beautiful sharing that consciousness.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I agree that’s something we need to be taught. Women most of all. We have given up the fight. How can we expect men to treat us the way we want to be treated if we can’t show them who we are and what we deserve? If we throw our own sexuality away, how can we expect others to value it? You are right about the transactional elements of dating, feeling “owed,” etc doesn’t lead anywhere good.

        Richard Gere was my first celebrity crush. I wanted to be Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,” minus the hooker part.

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      7. Maybe it would be good as a story. Then later adapted to fill in the gaps.

        It does take a bunch of these paths to see an improvement in women’s sexual and personal confidence. Just like one seed will not yield a field of crops. There’s a few bloggers on WordPress that speak about women’s issues. Beauty Beyond Bones and Dr. Martina Feyazrhakmoninov. It is a complex issue because of public bias.

        Richard Gere. Always the gentleman. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I think I follow those blogs, actually. Nice to see varied approaches to a complex set of issues. Eroticism is the most interesting to me. Self-creation, too. It’s kind of a hobby of mine. 🙃

        Richard Gere…he aged so well, too. A timeless gentlemen.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Eroticism is. It’s been a long time for that. I think that’s where I miss some of your points. I don’t know. I’d like to say I’m waiting but I’d be lying. I’m not even looking. It is important though. A healthy physical expression. Do you think if we were more accepting of lgbtq that we would be more open to accept, eroticism?

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      10. That’s a good question. If we were more accepting of a broader range of sexual expression, maybe so. But, to me, eroticism is about more than just sex, or even carnal desires. It’s sexual, but it’s also imaginative. Creative expression of a greater life force maybe. (I think Jung was right about that, too.)

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      11. Reminds me of the playfulness in Jeaux d’enfants. It didn’t look erotic, it was the playfulness of early love. Eroticism and love may be pillars of good relationships.
        Haha. I just realized I have a lot of similarities with Richard Gere’s character minus the billions. “My ex wife is now in Long island, in my ex home, with my ex dog. My ex girlfriend Jessica is moving out of my apartment as we speak.” He hates his dad. I hate my dad. I haven’t talked to my family in 22 years.

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      12. So. I think we circled back to the original idea. Can eroticism be displayed in confidence as a single person? I have a friend or male friends that have women constantly around them. Like, a damn harem. They say it’s great. I usually ride my motorcycle and leave early. I read male apes keep women in groups to increase fertility. Maybe. There’s a connection and if there’s one I don’t see why women can’t do the same. Eroticism is an ever changing standard it seems. I may be too old to conform to this current transformation of that mating behavior. Which leaves my search for love, in the dust, I suppose. Oh well. Sometimes the treasures we seek are not our own. It does seem like it would have a positive impact for women.

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      13. Oh, there’s no doubt some men give off an air of attractiveness—like sex just comes out of their pores. I suppose, in some ways, that’s no different than what I asked initially. Yet, I think the processes involved in producing that sexual charge are different. In women, it’s a cultivation, a nurturing, an education process. Y’all seem a great deal simpler and more straightforward. I appreciate that. And I find the difference attractive.

        I can’t conform to what this generation is doing, either. And I don’t think I’d want to. I’m a little more old school in my thinking. For better or worse, a hopeless romantic…Richard Gere, “Pretty Woman,” the whole thing…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. David Hartman and Diane Zimberoff have a paper about the Hero’s Journey. It includes many of the things we mentioned between pages 35 to 50. Using the concepts of Greek myths and overcoming what is really male or female. Could be useful to you.

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      1. Everything is pretty new to me. I start with old buddhist dharmas and try to see what modern approaches have occurred. I’m pretty boring. 😂

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      2. I found Google Scholar during the #nodapl protests. One of my drawings was used in a VICE channel project. I did some stuff for the Flint Water dispute. Bernie Sanders liked it. It freaked me out so I deleted it. Haha. Artistic expression is, temporary. I made a few books. Google Scholar just helps connect the dots.

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      3. I really liked the Hartman paper. Thank you again for the suggestion. The segment you mentioned helped me clarify some of my thoughts on a post I hope to publish this week. The rest of it was extremely interesting, too, though. A quick observation—I feel as though I keep encountering “confidence” described as a “masculine” trait (and I know it can be easy to get bogged down by terminology here, by dividing up the world according to the masculine and feminine); but it irks me a little. I think of confidence as being more neutral. Maybe it doesn’t matter. The framework of the “hero’s” journey was insightful, too. I haven’t read Rank’s book on the subject, although I now think I should. I like the way he writes, anyway.

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      4. I noticed that too. There didn’t seem to be a study he was implying just a cultural default. Ha. Okay let’s get lost for a second. There was a paper and I forget the author that read a bunch of papers for the whole year. To imply that scholars have trouble not being biased toward their “bubble.” Suburban, white, and middle class. I bring it up because, its the wall for your work. I noticed it in myself when talking about eroticism, there was so much I didn’t know. Just, because its like a fingerprint and I think that’s what makes everyone’s sexual identity so unique. We don’t talk about it but we kind of learn by doing. It’s okay to be irked. We should all be irked because those masculine and feminine concepts are old standards for our American culture.

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      5. You know, you’re right that a lot of scholars are caught in their “suburban, white, middle class bubble,” but you know what? It also seems to me that many scholars have now swung too far in the other direction, and they want to omit the perspectives of white men altogether, which also bothers me. I’ve been taught by people who plant that kind of intentional bias in their coursework, too, and it incensed me, if only because I felt I was being disrespected as a student. I should be able to entertain a variety of perspectives and decide for myself what I think. We all should.

        The same rules should apply to the processes of sexual (or erotic) self-discovery, too, if only because it is so highly individualized. And the sciences do fall short in their endeavors to name and classify these aspects of the human experience. That’s part of the reason we need art and literature.

        And being a dandy is quite admirable, by the way. 🙂

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      6. I agree that one shouldn’t deafen their voice to amplify the current perception of minorities not being heard. I mean. I’m Native but there are few “professional academic” people that identify as Native. My aunt was an academic and even she just kinda, pretended to be white. Haha. If there is cause for prejudice the effect is an over abundance of guilt. Usually, out of compassion but not from the culprits of original bias. We share what we’re given but don’t fight for new opportunities. Although. I am seeing new arguments forming and it is all very exciting for us in the lower classes. Sometimes we’re hated and other days well, we’re hated. Haha. I can see that about you trying to find the line that best fits for your arguments which are solid because they do identify those single sided university pitfalls. Those Stepford Wives models would have to be addressed and won over to make a lasting impact toward female self discovery.

        I do have a short story. I was in Nashville for a bit working at a factory. I was walking around and found Jack White’s recording studio. There was a line so I just hung out. Talked to the guys in front of me. The door opened and we walked in. One of Jack White’s producers looked at me as we entered the studio and the guys picked up their equipment. Asked me if I was in the band. I looked at him and said I thought this had a record store too. I guess. I fit in well with, hipsters but I’ve always worked for a living.

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      7. Yes, I am trying to find a line for an argument that doesn’t conform to popular viewpoints. But, I’d rather navigate that terrain than just take what’s being offered. I’ll figure it out and hopefully make something of it beyond just this. Lol and if not, then I’ve done something positive for myself. Maybe that’s what matters anyway.

        You know, I was thinking about that while I was reading the Hartman piece. Why some of us feel the need to go against culture and create our own reality. It doesn’t feel like a choice, but a matter of survival. American culture is tiring. The Stepford Wives model is worn out. So is the third wave feminist model. I’m over it. All of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. You do get more with honey.

        When you’re imprisoned you create a fake reality. A coping mechanism I suppose. Then, you’re released to fewer opportunities. Some kind of further punishment or to keep the prisons employed through recidivism. I was a tax write-off for being Native and a prisoner.

        To be female though, it’s a kind of prison unless there’s some college or post grad stuff. If not, there’s marriage. It’s good to question things. Ideas.


      9. I know someone that has uh. All these cool degrees and likes arguing. Hmm. She kind of, hates me. But, she might be able to help you. Email me at my email on my about page.. I’ll give you her email. Not fishy at all. Haha

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Biology besides social norms might be the origins for masculine and feminine definitions. Although. It doesn’t translate well to psychology. I like art, it’s for dandies and I’m very straight.

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