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Adult Dating for Women 'a New Sexuality in a Post-Feminist World?

Whether you agree or not that a lap-dancer is the one with the power, or believe that porn for women is not simply white-washing the bigger issue, one thing is for sure, women are shaking off the shame attached to female sexuality.

21st century media debates on feminist issues are currently concentrating on denouncing so-called 'have-it-all' women. Having reaped the rewards of their mothers' campaigns in the sexual revolution of the 60's, it seems that women are now being trounced and divided into one of two categories: the good mother/non-careerist or the bad mother/high-flyer. It's no small matter that women are still being judged on their reproductive capabilities and how well it fits into the pro-social model of nurturer. But, while few women would deny the stress that 'having it all' can bring, they also acknowledge the inequality of labour division within and outside of the home that is the root of such stress. The fundamental right to equal opportunities remains regardless and is a battle still being fought.  

So what of female sexuality in our mothers' daughter's generation? It's old news that the contraceptive pill allowed women unprecedented sexual freedom. But, as with the workplace/homelife polemic, women have been denigrated and castigated over the choices they make under the banner of sexual liberation, if those choices haven't sat neatly within the traditional view of female sexuality. 'Nice women don't' might be a clich' but its implicit negative judgement is still active in the world nonetheless.  

However, despite this, some women are choosing to assert their sexuality in traditionally male arena's, challenging 20th century feminist arguments that women are simply being exploited if they work in the sex industry, for example.  

So what of this new post-feminist stance that the sex industry can provide the opportunity for women to assert sexual power and control? Instead of victim-hood and exploitation, many are arguing that it is a reclamation of the feminine, a ground-breaking triumph against the stigma attached to female sexuality in the male dominated sphere. Whether you agree or not that a lap-dancer is the one with the power, or believe that porn for women is not simply white-washing the bigger issue, one thing is for sure, women are shaking off the shame attached to female sexuality.  

One area where this is evident, perhaps more so than any other, is the internet. It would be fair to acknowledge that the proliferation of porn on the worldwide web caters in the main to men, and the long-running discussions on whether it is exploitative are absolutely valid. But, it would be absurd to believe that the female of the species only harbours a desire for procreational, matrimonial, mission-position sex; with increasing openness to a once-secret underworld of sexual desire, women are asserting their sexual needs and getting them satisfied online.  

Able to enjoy explicit material if they choose, women are also opting to step outside of voyeuristic surfing and get active: there are growing numbers of online dating sites that cater specifically to the 'adult' market. As the booming business of online dating flourishes, pockets of niche sites are appearing that aid the acceptance of a new sexual culture for women. The usual etiquette of dating is set aside with a liberating honesty of what women might be seeking. If you want to explore your desire to dominate, you can. If you want to meet someone who loves your super-size body, there are dedicated sites. In fact, whatever the preference or particular sexual practice, both men and women are openly advertising to meet like-minded individuals without any stigma attached. 

Take the fetish scene for example. Women are meeting partners and forming friendships with other women in the fetish scene to the extent that lunches are organised under a 'vanilla' dress-code; everyday wear in everyday places.  

No-one is saying that the sexual revolution has stopped revolving. There remains a need to debate and challenge issues that adversely affect women, as evidenced by the current media attention on women who work and have families. Some might even say that the old cause of feminism has gone astray. But, in this post-feminist world, women are without doubt asserting their sexuality in unprecedented ways, coming out of the closet and unashamedly doing it for themselves.

Claire Gaskin is a social researcher who previously worked in the counselling field and now runs a dating website for people interested in the fetish scene.

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