Sexual Repression of Women in Patriarchial Societies

Sexuality is not an entity that exists in isolation from a host of other essential aspects of life. Sexuality is only one part of the human reproductive process that begins with physical attraction or arranged relationships. The sex act, gestation, pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing have proven to be the most complex, deadly, debilitating and life restricting activities for women. Men are in no better position, since they have little or no control over whether their offspring are even theirs, let alone whether the offspring will live to an age where they can carry on with the plans that fathers have for their children. Men are burdened with expectations of providing for their families and for future generations.

As a result, it has been far easier to control women (often with the voluntary support of the women) than it has been to control men in sexual activities. Having a stable home, a steady source of protection and sustenance, and a set of coherent rules for who is responsible for the well being of whom benefits childbearing and child rearing women.There is also aging and the changing physical structure of the female body after childbirth that contributes to changes in sexuality that have nothing to do with social systems.

In the past, women had to bear as many children as they could carry or care for. When civilizations stabilized, the death rate of all humans from disease, human and animal attack, war and accident called for having as many children as possible (while not dying in the process) in order to insure that at least a few of the children lived to carry on the work of farms, industry, war, and families. It was also the natural order of things that children have a better chance of being born healthy and without defects when the mother and father were as young as teenagers or very young adults.

In this sense, it is as much the support and acquiescence of women that serves to develop the values, rules, mores, and laws of a patriarchal society as it is the force and power that is exerted by the men. In fact, extremely deviant and oppressive societies eventually collapse from the social instability and insanity of uncontrolled abuse and physical violence toward women.

In patriarchal societies, the men hold the political, religious, social, legal and commercial power, and women are seen as being in service, rather than being participating members of society. The power is then passed down to the male descendants, with the oldest male being the primary inheritor of title, land, role, power and money. Female children are then regarded as useless, as servants or as chattel to be used in negotiating marriages that will combine and stabilize the wealth and power of two families.

In that sense, it is highly important that girls remain virgins until in order to insure that no one else can be the father of their children and that they have a higher value in negotiating the best arranged marriage. In other senses, the less attractive females are subjected to even more ostracism and pressure to have no sexuality at all, because sex in women is viewed as being for reproduction within the formal arrangements of marriage, and not for pleasure. As a result, whether unmarried women are destined for marriage or not, or whether they are attractive or not, their sexual urges are repressed with enforcement that can go so far in some deviant societies to the point of the most brutal and sadistic forms of execution. Worse, some societies practice genital mutilation in order to insure that women have no sexual pleasure at all.

In modern, well developed and completely democratic societies, women have political and social stability, the right to choose their partners, and the right to use birth control. But there are still the natural processes of human sexual behavior that occur. Women who want children will naturally want to have established and secure relationships with men who offer the best chances of healthy, attractive offspring; who offer the best options for social and financial stability; and who will care for them when the children are at their most needy stages of life.

The old patriarchal social norms that favor older men and younger women are now being challenged by older women who are in relationships with much younger men. Also, the law prohibits sexual relations for any minor children and permanently sanctions any older individual who preys on younger females and males.

As a result, the traditional patriarchal systems which had enormous legal and political enforcement mechanisms are shut down or are being challenged as deviant and undesirable. But there is still a large segment of women who prefer the traditional social and religious lifestyles, and who voluntarily attempt to repress (or who give the public impression of repression) in order to successfully participate in traditional roles. This indicates that both voluntary and imposed sexual repression of women is a part of natural human life, regardless of the type of social order that is established.


Donna M. Hughes, “Men Create The Demand; Women Are The Supply”, Nov 2000