NO SHAME!!! Amina and Angelica Talk About Sex
By Amina Castronovo & Angelica Puzio
In their second episode of Everyone’s a Little Bit Gay, Angelica and Amina discuss the ups and downs of growing in their sexuality as young women. They analyze the ways that their families and society have conditioned them into expressing their sexual desires and how to break free of the bonds of traditional femininity.
This is Amina Castronovo and Angelica Puzio, back with our second episode of Everyone’s a Little Bit Gay!!! Today we are talking about the expression of female teenage sexuality and the intersection between femininity and race.
So basically, we’re talking about sex. To our one fan, we hope you like this.
AP: So I had some questions for Amina. Here we go:
What is the dominant or mainstream view of teenage girl sexuality? What is missing from this view?
AC: I’d say the mainstream view is that teenage girls can only engage in sexual acts if they feel emotionally intimate with another person (usually a male). If they do engage in such a way, then it “must” be because they are being taken advantage of or don’t understand the “true meaning” of sex.
AP: Yeah, I think my answer is similar here. For me, the culture of growing up was that sex brings shame, especially on the girl. The messages I got as a teenager were that girls could be ruined by sex (and like you said, usually women and man interaction)–the same kind of narrative that “deflowering” or “losing virginity implies. It’s taken years and still takes time and active resistance to outgrow that messaging. My friends and I have updated our terminology – whenever we talk about anything regarding virginity, we’ve changed it to “when was your sexual debut?” It feels so much more positive and queer-affirming!
How did you learn about sex and sexuality? What messages did you receive from those sources?
AC: I had “sex ed” in fifth grade, but they never taught us about sexuality or masturbation. It was strictly heterosexual sex, safety, and periods. In seventh grade, there was a little more detail on sexuality, but at that point the cat was out of the bag, so it wasn’t that helpful. So the only ideas I had surrounding sex were from movies and tv shows where there was a makeout/semi-sex scene (love actually- I definitely didn’t make my friend watch that scene during a sleepover in fifth grade!). Fifth grade was when I started thinking about kissing people, and then in the end of sixth grade/seventh grade, I started thinking more seriously about sex, but again, it was only as a way to be intimate with someone, not as a normal human experience/need/desire.
AP: I went to a religious middle school, so sex ed was about abstinence and sensationalized warnings about STDs and pregnancy. My mom and I had “the talk” about sex, but it completely skipped over talking about women’s pleasure: how it happens, how to get it, how to ask for it, how exciting it is. What was implicitly being communicated to me was that sex was something a man did to you, not something you participated in mutually.
In what ways are white women portrayed in dialogues about sex, and is this different from women of color?
AC: White women definitely grow up having expectations of sounding “correct” in bed and always looking socially beautiful in bed. They are also expected to perform on their partner first and enjoy whatever their partner wants. Additionally, they usually do not have any idea of what their needs/desires are, and if they do, they are expected to be silent about it. In contrast, women of color are viewed as objects but in another way, much less delicate or stereotypically “feminine” and more as “guilty pleasures” that perhaps have more sexuality but no intimacy. ***This is just my perspective, and obviously I can never know how it is to be a woman of color, so I am not setting any absolutes here.
AP: My experience is also as a white woman, but that really rings true for me as well. The main stereotype about white femininity, that these women are passive (which, by the, way is a huge way of how racism is upheld through white women’s passiveness), is also thought to take place in sex. To an extent, all women are taught that you should be sexy but not inherently sexual, but women of color are especially eroticized and exoticized. I think this is a different and awful form of how patriarchy robs different women of pleasure and feeling safe in their sexuality.
Amina and I have been discussing the many ways that teenage girls are taught to feel shame around sexuality. Part of that shame comes from silence on the topic and a lack of discussion between adult women and teenage girls. As a result, we made a podcast that goes into these issues so other girls, particularly other bisexual and pansexual girls like us, might learn from our dialogue. The following is an excerpt from the script for our podcast. The audio goes into greater detail about our experiences and delves into additional questions not discussed here.
Amina is a junior in high school in Manhattan. She is a Field Advisor for Our Climate, a core member of the DOE’s Sustainability Youth Leadership Council, a member of the Climate and Resilience Education Task Force’s Youth Steering Committee, and a co-leader of her school’s environmental club. Amina is also a lobby lead with New York Youth Climate Leaders and part of New York Renews’ Media Strike Team. She is a mentee at Girls Write Now, and she has been published in multiple publications. Amina has started an internship with Councilman Mark Levine’s campaign for Manhattan Borough President.
Angelica Puzio is a doctoral candidate at NYU, where she studies how gender and race stereotypes shape the world around us. She uses qualitative and quantitative data to investigate how stereotypes affect children and adolescents; her studies show that resisting patriarchy and white supremacy leads to healthier development. Angelica teaches Psychology of Gender at Brooklyn College. Her research has been featured in the Economist and HuffPost.