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Hetero-patriarchal socialization of women’s inequality: Violence and moral censure

By Harasankar Adhikari 

Because of the hetero-patriarchal structure and socialization in every society, women face many dangers (especially sexual dangers) even today. Women’s sexuality is embedded and experienced at the service of the state, power regimes, and commodification in the media.
Carole Vance (1984) shared that ‘the threat of male violence is not the only source of sexual dangers. Sexuality activates a host of intra-psychic anxieties; fear of merging with another, the blurring of body boundaries, and the sense of self that occurs in the tangle of parts and sensations, with attendant fears of dissolution and self-annihilation.’
Female sexuality has two aspects: cohesiveness, power, danger, and fear are one, and another aspect is the realm of ecstasy, desire, intimacy, mutuality, and pleasure. Women’s sexuality and embodied agency are potentially under the control of hetero-patriarchal logic. Michel Foucault opined that ‘the body is not simply a passive surface, inscribed by socialization and history and guided by a cognitive realm of knowledge and awareness. The body is the site of a pre-cognitive communication between the subject and the world’. It receives social and environmental signals and uses active means of response to those messages. It is further due to hetero-patriarchal socialization.
The patriarchal script attempts to present women as passive victims. Positioning women as weak or damaged subjects gives renewed legitimacy to patriarchally motivated discourses of control and protection. We talk about women’s sexual agency in experiential, political, social, and symbolic terms. It portrays and articulates female lived experience. But we have no capacity to exist and change our situation. We do not see new horizons of possibilities around sexual safety, choice, autonomy, or pleasure. It has been practiced that the first experience of sexualities should not be treated as a violation and negation, but as a joyful and pleasurable mode of agency. Our sexualities are often experienced and aligned so closely with these complex and contradictory emotions, which are both so intimate and at the same time public in their framing by social rules, values, and harm. Women are not allowed to freely express their sexual experience because it might elude male control. The socialization process is that a heterosexual male as head of the family is in-charge of his wife, children, and sisters, and the whole of society is built upon the family model. Thus, the male householder is in control of all, including the bodies and sexuality of those in his household. Therefore, women are confined to one household. Without which the symbolic and existential stability of household structure is threatened. In traditional as well as modern patriarchal families, desire of the male head tries to control other desires in the household and society. When that desire is threatened or undermined by another, that is outside the dominant libidinal economy.
Therefore, we observe that female sexual agency and pleasure become important means for patriarchal reproduction and continuity to reassert themselves. It is because patriarchal cultures understand and anticipate the fundamentality of women’s erotic desire and pleasure in human reproduction. Each time, we focus only on violations and neglect to narrate the fundamentality of female erotic desire. Women's sexual pleasure does not negate or overshadow our pursuit of social justice, equity, economic rights, political access, and participation. Patriarchal culture tries to muffle, circumscribe, and reduce people to passivity through a litany of violations and intrusions.
There should be a new way of constituting female sexuality to overcome victimhood and violation as foundational concepts. Through this new foundation, we might turn the patriarchal sexual lens away from the primacy of women’s quest for erotic fulfillment and joy and use it as a springboard for demanding and creating a safer space. Attitudes towards female sexuality should be turned away from patriarchal power with its fear of unruly autonomous female desire and action. There is a need for a change in patriarchal culture’s hostility towards women’s sexual agency. It would reduce confrontation in women’s daily lives. There is a need for primacy in the sexual danger script. That script could be configured, re-experienced, and re-channeled differently.



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