Women get a lot of mixed messages when it comes to sexuality. On one hand, shows like Broad City, Insecure, Girls, and more depict frank portrayals of the joys, pitfalls, and complications of women’s sexuality, and encourage women to be open about their needs and desires. On the other hand, women are literally getting killed for turning down men’s advances. It’s no wonder we have conflicting feelings about being seen as sexually confident.
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The shame and stigma surrounding women’s sexuality actually affects the choices they make around having safe sex. According to Trojan’s new Trust Yourself survey, 97 percent of women think it’s socially acceptable for men to carry condoms, while just 79 percent think it’s socially acceptable for women to do so. Women also said they were embarrassed to talk to their partner about condoms (54 percent), and that body image affects their sexual decisions (70 percent).
At a panel hosted by Trojan last night in downtown New York City, Dr. Logan Levkoff sat down with Insecure actress Amanda Seales, model and designer Nadia Aboulhosn, and safe sex advocate Alba Alvarado to talk about women’s sexual health, confidence, and how we can empower women to listen to themselves when they make sexual choices. Beforehand, ELLE.com sat down with Seales to talk about the issues, and why men sometimes need to sit down and shut up.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get involved in Trojan’s #TrustYourself campaign?
Trojan came to me because they wanted somebody who was outspoken, and who could bring some humor and levity to a conversation that easily becomes very heavy. Because it should—it’s a heavy conversation, don’t get it twisted. But sometimes humor is able to help ease strong messages into small minds. So that’s something I’ve made the mandate of my humor and my brand, and anywhere that I can do that in a place that’s going to bring information and education to people, I want to be a part of that. So when Trojan said they were doing this, and that it was about women and owning their sexual health, I was like, count me in.
Was there a specific experience in your life that made you realize women’s sexual confidence was an issue, or made you passionate about it?
Any woman who’s ever had sex has dealt with this. Literally I don’t know any example. If you haven’t dealt with this, it’s like, kudos! Lucky for you! I came up in hip-hop as well, which often times the lyrics can be misogynistic, and can be very objectifying of women, and you can take on those images and those lyrics to yourself and it does create insecurities. It does create questions about your own sexual confidence. Because I think a lot of women put all the weight in the hands of men in terms of being the aggressor, in terms of taking care of contraception. And we are changing as women. A lot of things are going to change along with that, and part of that is our responsibility and having accountability for our choices, and not having to feel like we have to be at the behest of men’s choices. Even moves in the sexual space. I know a lot of women who have literally slept with somebody just because they were like, ‘I just didn’t want to make them feel bad.’
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That’s such a common experience! You think, ‘Well, it’d be awkward to leave now.’
Right! And it’s because we live in a patriarchal society that’s said we have to lean toward letting men lead in that situation. Your sexual confidence isn’t just about having the confidence to say, ‘Hey, have you been tested?’ or ‘Yeah, I’m not sleeping with you without a condom.’ It’s also about having the confidence to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t really doing it for me. I’m not a hole. I’m a human.’
So much of that, too, is that it’s dangerous to reject men, and women are afraid of the consequences.
We’re more concerned with preserving men’s egos oftentimes than protecting our own bodies. Which is what patriarchy is. Our bodies are not as important, far too often. So what Trojan is doing is encouraging women to rise up and be strong and solid in the protection of their bodies. Love is a beautiful thing, but love doesn’t cure gonorrhea.