The right for women to escape the passive sexual role obliged of them by culture – the imperative to do so in the cause of women’s liberation – is at the heart of Greer’s demands in her 1970 manifesto, The Female Eunuch.
In Australia, married women could not apply for passports without their husband’s approval until 1983. Britain did not make marital rape illegal until 1991.
But what has happened in the intervening decades is that sexual freedom has become another realm of women’s experience for patriarchy to conquer. As soon as older feminists had won sexual liberation, patriarchy reframed it as sexual availability for men.
The flipside to the destigmatisation of sex for women has been a sense of patriarchal entitlement to sex with women, which is why the painful conversation about consent in our new era of “freedom” must be confronted. One in 10 women, as opposed to one in 70 men, report they’ve been coerced into sex, the vast majority by an intimate partner.
And ubiquitous female sexualisation has manifested a reality in which young women find themselves in unwittingly sexualised situations all the time. Young women are right to feel that destigmatised sex has enhanced their traditional patriarchal status as sex objects, not liberated them from it.