A fashion trend at Pride had me and a friend talking. The colorful display that gay men don made me realize in this discussion how sexually-repressed women still are.

A straight male friend attended a Pride party that Sunday before the parade and was educated on the system for knowing what certain gay men want. For instance, one man at the party was wearing a red necklace with a lock and asked my friend if he knew why it was red.

“It means that I’m into fisting,” was his follow-up, making my friend’s brows rise.

My first thought was how efficient this was. This man knew what he was into, was happy to let others know immediately, and in doing so was able to sift out sexual partners that he was likely not compatible with.

My second thought was how different this was from what a woman is trained to be in regards to her sexuality.

Women are taught that sex is a bad thing, and that she shouldn’t explore this part of her being until the right man comes along and shows her what to do. She waits to be asked out, told she should never call a boy, and has to experience an elaborate proposal from him before she can get married. Hell, even in some wedding ceremonies you have someone giving her away for her to enter marriage. And in cases of sexual assault, the first question is usually what the women did or what she was wearing as if women are always responsible for their own pain.

Of course, most of us outgrow that ideology, but it’s a slow build. Even lesbians are affected since most of us didn’t start out dating women. And even when we are in relationships with other women there is always the ignorant question, “So, who’s the man in the relationship?” as if not having some kind of male influence is offensive.

I’m all about female empowerment, but if you want to make real change you have to nip the problem at its source. It’s not enough to tell a woman as an adult to shake off all she’s known and encourage her to be a badass at the office, at home, or in bed. Her internal dialogue at that point has already been established to let her know there are limits to what she should do.

I’m encouraged by our efforts to teach kids to be more accepting of people of different colors, nationalities, religions, and sexual orientations. We are evolving in the way we relate to each other, but we still need to encourage youth to be more accepting of themselves and the power they have in their own lives.

Our society has a long way to go in our comfort with sex. It has a longer way to go in allowing women to be sexual and remain independent and powerful. This man at Pride knows what he wants and used his attire to communicate that. If a woman had the same necklace on and made the same comment, she would not be looked at the same or with any respect. By men or women. Both gay and straight.

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