Despite all the progression in the world, women’s sexuality and womanhood are still shaped by the reproductive choices and circumstances in her life (using she/her they/their pronouns interchangeably).
The way many women see themselves as sexual people is based on the roles they assume in life. Whether a woman gives birth or not, her sexuality is still shaped based on reproductive results. How come? Let's take a look
It is a common view, that if they give birth, then automatically they lose their sexuality; because in our society motherhood does not go along with sexuality - “You are a mother now”.
On the other hand, if she doesn't give birth, then something is wrong and we question her womanhood and sexuality altogether. Therefore, a woman's sexuality is still very dependent on reproductive factors.
By default many of us have a belief is that all women should want to be mothers and that every woman is fertile. If any of these are the opposite of “truth”, culturally we see it as if there is something sexually wrong and inadequate about this woman; they are incomplete.
Motherhood still represents the ultimate goal and realization of a woman's existence. In some religions, infertility is considered to be punishment for spiritual or moral transgressions. These shaming messages impact the self-perceptions of women and can instill feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and failure in being a woman as a whole. This can impact their behavior, choices, and overall well-being.
Therefore, womanhood, motherhood, and sexuality are combined into one existence, despite infertility or a voluntary choice to be childless. Consequently, some women can lose their connection to raw sexuality just because they do not feel like they fit into the standard formula of womanhood. Feeling guilty of not being able to bear kids biologically, can cause feelings of not deserving pleasure or that there is no purpose for sexual experiences. It might become a very empty and dark experience, with the risk to lead to other mental health challenges.
In addition to the feelings of “not fitting in or not belonging”, there is more pain in discomfort when it comes to sexual identity and infertility. There is grief that comes with infertility or the physical inability to give birth, and this can have a major impact on a woman's sexuality and her perception of her womanhood. It can also come from an experience of miscarriage or abortion. The voice inside says, “you are not woman enough, because you cannot carry a baby”. This not-woman-enough voice can be very strong, and for some women, it can impact their overall pleasure and sexual desire.
Couples who are trying to have biological children can also run into additional sexual challenges. While trying hard to get pregnant, a couple's sexual relationship turns from love-making to baby-making. The focus of pleasure and enjoyment turns into creating results. For some couples, it takes years to recover their intimacy after “working hard on making babies”. In addition, some women struggle with finding intimacy with themselves as well, after experiencing medical procedures and boundary violations when it comes to their bodies and fertility procedures. Healing, patience, and love are needed to support women in getting their sexual selves back. Reconnection with one's own body and especially with certain body parts is a big part of sexual empowerment and ownership that one deserves to have after this journey.
It is crucial for us to stop assuming that every woman is fertile and that every woman wants or is physically able to give birth or have children. It’s also important to stop connecting a womb or a vagina to motherhood, instead of giving ciswomen, transwomen, and nonbinary people permission to define their womanhood and sexuality individually. There is freedom in having your own definition and going by your own authentic view and understanding of the world. It is a freedom that everyone deserves to have. Otherwise, there is no true reproductive choice, and there is no individual right to choose. We need inclusive sexual definitions, paradigms, and mindsets that comprehend the full range of women’s experiences.
For all professionals working with women, it is important to help them to construct their own identities and sexual identities irrespective of reproductive choices or circumstances they may have. Separating bearing children from womanhood and sexuality. Helping them to see that the purpose of their body can be more than giving birth. Helping them to explore ways and paths to their sexuality, eroticism, and pleasure. Validating different forms that sexuality and creativity can take in life, beyond maternity. If as a professional you are having a hard time seeing it, the invitation is to check on your own beliefs and repressions around women’s sexuality and the centrality of biological motherhood.
In summary, every woman deserves and has a right to choose her sexual freedom and comfort. Women who choose to give birth will be sexual and feel empowered to experience erotica and pleasure if they desire it. Women who choose not to have children, should also be able to feel free and experience femininity, womanhood, and sexuality separately from trying to reproduce. We need to help all women identify themselves as powerful, sexual, and vital without children. Because everyone is whole and complete as we are.
If you are experiencing a feeling of being incomplete or not good enough, please reach out for support to other powerful women who will help you to see your worth. Despite your choices or circumstances, you have a unique path and a journey that belongs to you. Gifts that only you have can be shared with the world, but only in a rhythm that is authentic to you.