Women are taught both explicitly and implicitly that their worlds revolve around men. Even the origin story of Adam and Eve in the Bible tells a story about how Adam was created first and that Eve was developed from his rib. There are many aspects of the Bible that are used as tools to further perpetuate patriarchy as oppression that I could discuss. But this story in particular, as it is taught and believed by many to be the start of humanity, is a classic example of how women are discredited and seen as mere extensions of men. When women are later described as the ones who give birth and life to others, they are treated more like incubates than they are as individuals. Religious teachings, societal impressions, traditional gender roles, and a multitude of other factors enforce the idea that women are supposed to pleasure men and to bear children for men. Girls are raised by their families and taught by their peers that it is natural and expected to experience attraction to boys. Popularity is gained by being the object of affection of boys. Girls are pressured to have crushes on boys and to modify themselves and their behaviors in order to capture their attention. This pressure is so ingrained in our culture and in our conversation with adolescence that many would never consider it to be harmful or oppressive.
In my experience as a young queer woman, I did not initially question this system. I followed the script, selected boys to call my crushes, attempted to win their affection and attention, and experienced subsequent frustration with myself when it never seemed to click. When the idea of being romantic with boys made me feel physically ill, I assumed that something was innately wrong with me. A lack of education on queer identities, little exposure to other adolescent queer experiences, and the script that I was pressured to follow led to a confusing and disorienting existence. This “otherness” is something that terrified many of us because it was something that we identified with.
Without sexual liberation, there is a lack of understanding, and in turn a misunderstanding of one’s identity and a sense of dysphoria. Society sexualizes young girls, but refuses to give them a broad and inclusive sex education or autonomy of their own bodies and control over their identity expression. If we focused less on young women as objects and instead treated them as human beings with developing identities, there would be less confusion and harm as a result.