What does sexual sovereignty mean? According to Merriam Webster, sovereignty means freedom from external control or controlling influence. That translates to autonomy, freedom, independence, liberty and self-governance of our own bodies and sexuality.
Why is this important? Because not so very long ago, women did not have sovereignty over their bodies, their sexuality, and their lives.
When women were “property”
Just a few short generations ago, women were the property of men. And in many cultures this is still very much the case. First, the father, then the husband. Or, in more sinister cases, some other kind of ownership. And it’s not just women, either, though that’s primarily what I’m addressing in this article.
And it’s not always obvious or overt. For example, women who were not allowed an education and were unable to support themselves financially, setting up a dependence on their husbands. Often in cases like this, women had to, in essence, “trade” obedience to their husbands in order to survive, to be provided for. To refuse their husband’s sexual advances might lead to any number of consequences ranging from emotional abuse and coercion to divorce and abandonment without support.
Think back to your grandmother or great grandmother. She may very well have been in this situation. I’m not implying here that men are evil or bad. Men are generally raised and conditioned to be the head of the household and the provider to the family, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. However, it does set up a power dynamic that’s usually operating below everyone’s awareness. It casts women in the role of the “weaker” sex and sets up unconscious trade agreements.
Sexual sovereignty – are we there yet?
These cultural dynamics have been changing slowly over the past 60 or 70 years, but we still have a long way to go. Even in the US, we still have men making rules about what women can and can’t do with their bodies, especially with regard to reproduction. This reality of legislating women’s bodies and choices is a particularly overt example of an outdated patriarchal system hanging on for dear life.
Here in the US and many other countries, women are claiming their sovereignty; their autonomy over their bodies, their sexuality, and their capacity to choose what is right for their lives. This isn’t feminism. This is a basic human right that we must reclaim and are reclaiming from eons of having our innate feminine power controlled and contained.
So how do we do this? What’s the secret? There are actually several secrets, and I’m going to give them to you here.
We all carry the patriarchy within us, and it’s up to us as individuals to come to terms with that idea and to be willing to look inside of ourselves to recognize and uproot outmoded beliefs and unconscious motivations. This is more commonly known as “shadow work” and it’s the path to true wholeness. When we make friends with and accept and love the parts of ourselves that make us cringe, the parts we want nothing to do with, we are on the way to becoming truly integrated beings.
We look at the ways we are keeping ourselves in victim roles. The simplest way to do this is to witness your thoughts and the words you use and begin to shift them toward taking full responsibility for the reality you create. Even saying something as seemingly innocuous as “I have to…” implies that you are a victim and that you are not at choice. While it may not “seem” like we are always at choice, we are. You always choose how you react in any given situation. As you notice, you can choose different words, such as “I want to,” I choose to,” or better yet, “I get to.”
We notice when we don’t stand up for ourselves and speak our truth. Most women have been raised and conditioned to be people pleasers, and I believe this is, in part, a result of the power dynamics I discussed earlier. We’ve learned and been shown how to tell people what we think they want to hear in order to keep the peace, to avoid confrontation, and to keep ourselves “safe.” Time to start shaking that off by noticing where we people-please and finding the courage to be real. It’s a process, believe me, but it will take you toward sexual sovereignty.
We come to terms with our true needs and desires in sexual relationships and we find ways to express them. This one can be very tricky, because of the inherent shame we’ve been indoctrinated into around sexuality. It’s often way easier to do what’s expected of us and not ever have to talk about it. I’ve heard so many stories recently from women who are having recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other reproductive issues that effectively shut down their sex lives. Their body forces them to say no so they can recover their health. These issues are a cry for help from our bodies, demanding that we take care of them and giving us a painful demand to set boundaries.
I found myself in an interesting situation not that long ago that relates to this. As I approached menopause, my formerly healthy libido plummeted. After my breast cancer experience and the impact that had on my hormones, it plummeted further. But I didn’t want to change my sexual relationship with my husband, even though I was experiencing painful intercourse and minimal desire.
I’ve never had a UTI in my life, but I could feel one coming on, and it woke me right up. With all the tools I have at my disposal, I went straight to my body and my yoni and told her I would change my behavior immediately. If you’re not familiar with the word “yoni,” it’s the sacred word for vulva. I put myself on pomegranate juice and sent all my healing energy to my pelvic region. The UTI never fully manifested, much to my relief. I talked to my husband and came clean. He was not thrilled that I hadn’t been previously forthcoming, but he was very supportive and we chose new pathways for physical intimacy that work much better for me.
Make friends with your yoni. Talk to her. She has a voice, powerful wisdom, and quite often, strong opinions. She will guide you in choosing intimate partners and if you ask her, she’ll let you know what she needs and wants. This may sound strange, but give it a try. Find a quiet place to be and close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Settle into your body. Place a hand gently and lightly over your pubic mound. Ask her if she is willing to communicate with you. And then, listen. She may not be on speaking terms with you at first, but stay with it. Come back again and again and invite her to share her needs with you. The answers may come as words, images, feelings, sensations, or in some other way. Follow her guidance and form an ongoing relationship with her. It will benefit you for the rest of your life.
Cultivating sexual sovereignty is a process and I realize that none of these secrets are particularly fast, easy fixes. We are waking up from thousands of years of collective sleep and while it’s well underway, it requires diligence, commitment, and consistency. And I promise you, it’s totally worth it!
A big part of sexual sovereignty is being willing to do your sexual healing work, to clear out the trauma passed down though the generations of your lineage. We offer ways to do so that are safe, simple, somatic, and sacred. Please check out our Events page for upcoming opportunities to accelerate your sovereignty.
Please add to the sexual sovereignty conversation in the comments below. What are your secrets for claiming your sexual sovereignty? We are all in this together.
Love & blessings, Amrita