Friday, June 23, 2006
As there is no shortage of persuasive essays on the subject (both pro and con), may I suggest that we leave the fiery rhetoric for another thread, and choose instead to focus on ways in which we can feel more comfortable talking to each other and learn to respect each other.
to that end, I promise not to call antiporn feminists "prudes", either individually or as a class. In return, I'd like it if nobody was called delusional, perverted, or a tool of the patriarchy.
So, the question is: How can sexpositive feminists and antiporn feminists learn to respect each other and work together to achieve a world in which sexuality is valued and celebrated?*
You don't have to justify yourself or explain why you identify as one or the other. If your reasons are good enough for you, they're good enough for me.
Can we do this with no yelling or punking or pwning or scorn or contempt?
This should be interesting. Well, I hope it will be interesting. Maybe without the nastiness there will be nothing to say. I guess that remains to be seen.
*I use the terms "sex-positive" and "antiporn" for lack of better terms, really. I think it's how the opposing sides self-define. If you feel I'm in error, please speak up. If anyone has less limiting or more accurate words to use, let me know. Please understand that I'm not deliberately trying to be disrespectful or obfuscating or biased, but if you feel disrespected, confused, or insulted, I'm open to discuss that. I'm not trying to say that all antiporn women are sex-negative, or that all sex-positive women are pro-porn.
I guess I'd just like to see an invitation for conversation and unity from either side that didn't include an attack or ugly characterization. I think women on both sides of the issue feel 'yelled at', and that's not helping anyone!
Here you go - your invitation. :)
>But, if you strip the BJ blow-up of its sexuality, and make it only, Can women work with men to end women’s oppression?– then you strip the discussion of both a reinactment and demonstration of sexual wounding, and strip it of the general discussion about sexual wounding, under the Patriarchy. And the wounds, and discussion of them, are important to both the discussion, and radical feminist theory (as well as any feminist theory), don’t you think?
I think this was some of the largely undiscussed subtext of the BJ affair, and fueled some of its acceleration.>
iow: yes it *is* about sex...and it also isn't.
Anyway I think it would be great to talk about this notion of "sexual wounds" in a judgment-free way, if that's at all possible.
Like, from the original IBTP thread, I seem to recall at least one response saying something like,
"Oh, thank God, I thought I was the only one who didn't like them."
...which, in itself, that's perfectly legit, and makes total sense. And if that were how it was presented:
"I hate blowjobs. But everywhere I go it seems like there's pressure to perform them. And my boyfriend thinks he's entitled to them, apparently, and I don't know how to say "I don't like doing this" without feeling like some kind of prude or something. Doesn't that strike anyone else as being sexist? Does anyone else think it's kind of "ew," or is it just me?"
...that would be completely valuable, imo.
I worry that we won't have anything to say to each other. I worry that both sides will point and laugh. I worry that I'm exposing myself to total nonconsensual humiliation.
but what's a blog for? ;)
I'm gonna have to get a brand new thinking cap for this...
Honestly, in some cases, as per some of the comments on the original BJ threads, not to mention the instigation, I don't think "sex-negative" is off the mark. There was a real visceral disgust there.
I realize that porn is a separate question.
I think creating a "safe space" in which to talk about sexuality, always speaking from the "I," would be invaluable. Maybe just put the labels on hold; anyone who wants to talk, can. But no "you are..."; no critique of anyone *else's* sexuality. Just talking and listening.
I dislike the implications inherent in both labels. I find them divisive and little short of destructive. It makes me wonder who thought of them and why.
Whatever. We do need more accurate terms of reference that are less 'accusatory'; that more accurately reflect the diversity of thought.
I'm anti-porn. I don't mind being labelled as such for the sake of shorthand. I'm not a prude, nor am I anti sex. I don't see porn as sex in any form that's recognisable or acceptable to me. I see porn as the sexualisation of male power and control of women/children - the sexualised aspect of patriarchy, if you like. I see porn as the sexualualised commodification of women and children - the sexualised aspect of patriarchal capitalism. This is why I'm anti porn. It's dehumanising.
But I guess you already know all that.
From my point of view, I don't think I could work with anyone who doesn't have a problem with the sexualised commodification of women and children. I don't believe the so-called sex pos feminists could either.
I admit, there's a lot I don't understand about the philosophy of sex-posism. I don't understand why anyone needs to know about my sexual orientation or performance. I don't understand the need to publicise my proclivities and activities within my intimate relationships. All I've understood from sex-positives is 'anything goes' and it actually doesn't, from where I sit.
I understand that what occurs within intimate relationships has repercussions - the personal is political, after all. And that what happens within intimate relationships is often (usually?) dictated by the mores of the time.
As a feminist I want an end to patriarchal control of everything - including intimacy. I want a visceral disgust of any patriarchally promoted sexual practice to just be accepted and not termed 'sex-negative' because I don't believe patriarchy promotes positive sexual experiences for anyone - male or female - let alone the individual.
Am I being clear or do you think I'm rambling?
I have a sense that the water is already so muddy it's difficult to see where I am. I'll stop here and visit again later.
I would love that. But, am I too jaded? 'Cause I wonder if that will ever actually happen.
I know I lash out at radfems sometimes, but I do it because I feel attacked and invalidated by the accusatory generalizations they make. Maybe that's no excuse, but whatever - it's certainly an explanation. If everyone could just start from a place of "this is what I think, this is what I've found to be true in my life, and here is why" and "Here are my personal experiences with X" then we might be able to have some actual dialogue.
That's not what sex-positive has meant to me, if by "anything goes" you mean "no ethics."
"Consenting adults" is always a key phrase ime.
I understand there is a point of contention over what constitutes "consent" in (adult) porn and sex work, and perhaps in some other areas as well. I have my own views about that, but maybe, since that's been hashed out a lot, it'd be better to not go there at the moment.
"Sex-positive" to me goes hand in hand with feminism, because *a key part of what people have been referring to as "patriarchy" is sex-negativity.*
That is: for men *and* women, although clearly it's a lot harder on the women, as always.
>I want a visceral disgust of any patriarchally promoted sexual practice to just be accepted
Okay, look. We just saw a big display of visceral disgust all over the BJ wars. I mean, it's hard to get more viscerally-disgusted sounding than some of the descriptions and language some of the women were using--toward other women, btw.
I know how it felt to be on the receiving end of that last time we had one of those on IBTP--the kink wars. It felt like shit. It felt shaming and horrible. It took me right back to a very old place.
Whereas a number of the activities I think you 'd describe as "patriarchal," I've participated in them: I felt wonderful. I felt *healed.* It's like night and day. And no, it's not every woman's experience; but mine counts, dammit.
There is nothing particularly feminist about instilling yet more disgust at anything sexual, imo. We've all got plenty of that already. Disgust. Shame. Fear. Misery. Guilt. Tell me, how is that helpful? How did that recent blow-up help anybody? Seriously.
> don't understand why anyone needs to know about my sexual orientation or performance. I don't understand the need to publicise my proclivities and activities within my intimate relationships.>
It's like this--and I say this primarily out of not just the recent business on the feminist boards, but out of my whole childhood and adolescence growing up queer where that option wasn't even on the table: it's about speaking your (one's, my) truth. It's about not being ashamed. It's about not letting anyone else make me feel dirty and degraded. It's about not disappearing.
The one and possibly the only thing that I would agree with W-W about is the need for both sides of the Feminist Sex Wars debate to better define their philosophies and beliefs, and to allow for nuances of differences in belief among the vast diaspora of women and men. Of course, not all radical feminists are as vehemetly anti-porn, or as supportive of a restrictive model of sexual behavior, as the more eloquent and activist wing of antiporn feminism is...and not all sexual liberals or radicals are as progressive or radical in other aspects of their political thought as the most prominent sex radicals are. Obviously, both extremes have to acknowledge the world outside our own coccoons that is much more vast and diverse than we can even imagine.
Having said that, allow me to counter W-W by asserting the basis for my own views as a "pro-porn" male feminist sex radical, using W-W's own assertions of her own antiporn feminist beliefs as a background.
I'm anti-porn. I don't mind being labelled as such for the sake of shorthand. I'm not a prude, nor am I anti sex. I don't see porn as sex in any form that's recognisable or acceptable to me. I see porn as the sexualisation of male power and control of women/children - the sexualised aspect of patriarchy, if you like. I see porn as the sexualualised commodification of women and children - the sexualised aspect of patriarchal capitalism. This is why I'm anti porn. It's dehumanising.[/W-W]
Well...I can agree to a point with the fact that porn can indeed get dehumanizing, and in some limited cases, reenforce the particularly "patriarchial" viewpoint W-W rails against. However, that is not only not all there is in sexually explicit material; it is not even the half of it. Most porn is simply depictions of typical consensual sex acts between consenting adults; and a great deal of porn/erotica (and I include in that written as well as visual) actually depicts adults engaged in intimate, erotic, loving, life-affiming, and positive lovemaking. Unless you are one to believe that ALL sex acts, even those with explicit consent and mutual respect and mutual pleasure, are essentially tainted by "patriarchy" and thusly innately reactionary, it is simply breathtaking to make such an overgeneralization of all human sexual activity. The main difference between the "pro-sex" radicals and the antiporn feminists is that the former has the capability of trusting the willfull consent and the ability of adult women and men to make their own decisions about their sexual feelings while working to bring more progressive values into the medium of erotica. This has nothing to do with an individual's personal sexual tastes; it is about the acceptance of diversity and free will in a society that is increasing distrustful of both.
BTW...on the subject of antiporn activists being tagged as "anti-sex" or "prudes": Some critics may be tempted to use those epithets in the heat of passion; but I certainly don't; in my mind, personal sexual tastes or differences don't matter. Being a sex radical is NOT about promoting any particular sexual practice as innately superior or inferior, nor is it about saying that having more orgasms or better sex makes you superior or inferior to anyone else. It is simply about the acceptance of sexual diversity and allowing informed adult human beings the freedom and resources to examine and challenge their own sexual boundaries with the full respect for and consent of other equal human beings.
On the other hand, the base philosophy of antiporn feminism that sex should be reduced to its barest essentials and that only sex acts outside of the "patriarchy" should be encouraged (which would pretty much discourage most consensual sex acts practiced by most humans) is indeed, in my view, so overly restrictive and so ultimately reactionary in its negative attitude towards men and women negotiating their own desires, that it does come pretty close to (even if unwittingly) becoming as "anti-sex" as the conventional views of the Christian Right. It is that philosophy, not any personal proclivities, that sex radicals are challenging; it has nothing to do with your personal feelings.
[More to come later]
Anthony's has an entirely different agenda - he comes at it from a whole different perspective/worldview (the harms are so much less for people like him).
I'll bow out. Gracefully!
I think there's so little understood about sexuality because there's been so much shutting down, even of simple, neutral conversation--everything's always so charged, so loaded with baggage, personal and political. Erotic energy can be used for so many things, in so many ways. It can be a rollicking good time, for sure; but it can also be much more than that; which is why I think there's been so much emphasis on repressing it from authoritarian institutions. This weekend's workshop for instance (all women) is focused on "journeying," the workshop leader's particular take, elements of shamanism and Tantra as well as yer basic physical work.
Bodywork in general has been a huge part of my development. Erotic bodywork is part of it but not all of it.
One of the biggest legacies of what people have been calling "patriarchy," imo, and one of the most damaging, is the notion of the mind-body split. It plays out in a number of ways and across ideologies; it's one of those semiconscious cultural things that (I think) needs to be "examined."
The problem here is not that I am a man (I'd think that if I was a woman, you'd still have an issue with my beliefs); the issue is that I basically disagree with your beliefs...and I thought that I was respectful enough to state my reasons peacefully. As I said in the beginning, I don't represent anyone but myself.
Yes, perhaps I do have an agenda....it is to defend my personal beliefs as a feminist male supporter against the slander thrown out by your side of the debate. I don't claim to represent ALL men or even all feminists or even all sex radical men, but I do think that your viewpoint as stated tends to distort and misrepresent our positions.
I'm so sorry if my presence as a man so disturbs you...but, nevertheless, we are as much a part of this debate as you are...and we aren't going away any time soon. I guess that we will just have to adjust to each other, will we?
My apologies for disturbing this debate, AP..but I just had to speak out. A real dialogue between rival positions must first begin with mutual respect of each other..and as of right now I find nothing of the sort in store.
With that, I'll move on.
What part of Anthony's post did you find disrespectful or argumentative?
I'd ask Witchy why she feels uncomfortable with Anthony's participation but she's gone. I hope she reconsiders.
Remember, this is not the place for convincing. If anyone's arguments were working, we'd all feel the same way about it.
This doesn't mean I dislike Anthony or don't want him to participate. And I hope that by accepting Anthony that doesn't mean I reject Witchy. I think both (in fact all) voices are necessary.
@ jean - I'm not sure there's a false dichotomy - maybe in concept but not in action. We all sure fight a lot. I don't think it's just because we all like to hear ourselves talk.
I believe that I will use my own blog to do my "countering" from henceforth.
I think we say what we say because we feel how we feel, and it would be wrong to say that one can only feel a certain way or be excluded from the conversation.
Surely you can tell whether your comments are on point or not. You're a smart guy. I trust you.
So - what can be done to turn down the heat in this discussion?
What terms can we use that don't cast aspersions on each other?
Until we know that, maybe there's no way we can have a discussion.
I've been a feminist since 1971, and have almost always just referred to myself as a feminist with no descriptive prefix. If I have to use one I call myself a radical, because most of my ideas are rooted in the radicalism of the 70s, where we started exposing and challenging the deep structure of the patriarchy. My feminism -- both academically and in life -- has always been about looking at the origins and questioning the status quo. That, to me, is the essence of radfem.
To a lot of younger people radfem apparently means Andrea Dworkin and nothing but Andrea Dworkin, and to even younger people now making feminist contacts on the internet, it means anti-pornstitution a la Biting Beaver. Which makes things rather awkward! People hear that I'm radfem and automatically ascribe to me a bundle of beliefs that are not mine.
And this isn't just me; I suspect a lot of us middle-aged feminists are getting misunderstood. Twisty, for example, is lionized as some kind of RadFem Queen, but how many of her followers realize that she favors the decriminalization of prostitution and opposes restrictions on pornography (except the criminal stuff, like child porn, etc.)?
And I'm not sure the labels are working for the sex-positives either. What does it mean to be pro-porn? Does it mean you think the Hugh Hefner empire is great? Or does it mean that you think homemade lesbian porn is great? To me, you see, those are very different things.
Yeah, labels aren't terribly helpful. Honestly, I'd never particularly claimed I was "pro-porn" before encountering all the anti-stuff; it just wasn't really high on my register. Sex-positive, yes; but that means a bunch of different things. Mostly to me it means (yes, tautology alert, but): "not sex-negative." And as we've seen with the recent BJ blowup, it's apparently not true that nobody out there who's calling herself a feminist has a problem with anything besides porn, prostitution, and maybe BDSM.
w-w mentioned "visceral disgust" and I did see a lot of that, and I have to say it really bothers me. Well, it bothers me insofar as I've felt it directed toward me and mine; and by extension when I see other people (i.e. the blowjob thing) who're in the position I once was; I identify, and it makes my stomach hurt.
Sexual shaming is a huge big deal, and although I have said, because it's true, that my identity as a sexual minority gives me a certain perspective on all this that I might not have had had I been htero vanilla, I also believe that hetero vanilla folks (male and female) are suceptible to sexual shaming, on the whole. Because it's built into the culture, a few years' worth of pole dancing classes or Internets pr0n notwithstanding. It's one hell of a lot older than the recent "pornstitution" that people keep talking about, is my thing, and it's certainly not gone away. And that *is* patriarchy if anything is.
Because sexual repression is about more than being a "prude." It can be and has been a wicked effective method of control.
--well, that's turning into thesis type stuff, so I'll save that for my own blog. (damn, it's actually rather difficult to stay in the personal realm, in fact).
anyway, I dunno. I'd kind of really not talk about porn, for a while, personally; because if nothing else it sort of gets away from personal experience (unless one wants to talk about one's personal experience with porn, I suppose). Likewise, I'd be happy to hear from anyone who wants to talk about her/his own experience as a sex worker, for good or for ill; personally (antip, your blog, your discussion guidelines), I'd just as soon avoid getting into talking about it as a political issue, for now.
what I do know is this: well, first of all, finding books by authors like Susie Bright and Betty Dodson was like being able to breathe again; years' worth of internalized homophobia and all kinds of conflicting, confused messages, not to mention a dearth of *real* information, had left me miserable and beside myself.
i don't take that lightly, available information. people fought hard and suffered a lot of slings and arrows; the BJ shitstorm is like a tiny little taste of the toxic crap that's been hurled at people who've been standing up and saying--simply--look, I want to talk about sex, what people do, how to do it, why we do it, without moralizing.
I try to let people alone and let them do their own thing, especially on their own blogs.
See? Wasn't that easy?
No, seriously, here's what I mean:
Feminism is a big tent and people disagree. Some people are fixated on abuses in prostitution, some people are working on their own sexual liberation, some people are fed up with men, some people want to work with men, etc., etc., etc. We all know that, right? Unless we stay in our tiny tiny little inner circles of best friends, we're not going to find other feminists who agree with us about everything.
The way that works on the blogosphere, for me, is that I simply don't fight with people about their own deals. Or at least I try not to. I respect that each person has got her version of feminism and I might not agree with all of it. And I don't expect everything she says or does to conform to what I need or what I'm looking for from feminism.
That's true right across the board. I like Twisty, but I don't agree with her about men or hetero sex. I would never in a million years go to Twisty's to celebrate my sexuality, you know? The lady is not interested. She's got her hilarious writing and over-the-top radfem Molotov cocktails, and that's her thing. It's cool. I don't need her feminism to match mine.
I like belledame, but I will probably never quite get her sexy thing (too square -- sorry!), and I'm not lesbian and not into BDSM. But that's cool. She can talk about sex from a completely different angle from mine, and that's her deal. If it's stuff that makes me uncomfortable, I'll just stay out of the conversation. I don't need her feminism to match mine.
The couple of feminist bloggers who really, really rub me the wrong way -- I just stay away. That solves that!
Here's my thing, my *other* thing: I hadn't actually been to Twisty's for quite some time, except to log in and say damn, I'm sorry, when I heard about her health news. It's a bit difficult to avoid joining the pileup when it's on *dozens and dozens* of blogs that one reads, I found.
we don't all need to understand each other on all counts, no, that's quite right. and thanks, i like you too, VS.
For the record, though: my main problem with what Twisty did here is not that she said that (sexact x) is icky, of itself; nor yet that her ideology differs from mine. And I could be wrong, but I suspect that ultimately that's not a lot of other peoples' real problem either; or not all of it.
I mean: there's ideology. There's personal taste. There are personal "triggers," which can turn a discussion of taste into something more loaded, yes. And then, besides all that, there are ethics.
I just really don't love the whole here, cheer me up, let's play a game; and then, oh, actually, the game wasn't so much that we play a lighthearted game of the dozens, but rather that i invite you to share personal shit and then turn around and mock you viciously for doing it. Not on. In my opinion.
I think BL had a post somewhere about "reintegrative shaming" versus shaming simply for the sake of me up, you down. I actually see a big part of this brouhaha as not only about the sex buttons (which is there, don't get me wrong), but an attempt at identifying a breach of a heretofore unspoken social contract, and at a sort of reintegrative shaming.
thing is, you can only be reintegrated if you're interested in integrating in the first place.
And no, I don't have to read her anymore (again, still), no one has to read anyone they don't want to, big tent, let's move on, okay. Okay.
but my thing is, at least: there are certain core principles i believe in, even if i'm not always naming them; and ultimately those don't have much to do with sexuality or even feminism at all.
anyway, as per letting people do their thing on their own blogs: I think most people *were* doing that. at any rate I have not posted on IBTP since popping in to say "sorry about your health" last week. so, you know, goes both ways, that. T can slag whatever and whomever she wants on her own blog; anyone else can do the same on theirs.
Here's what I don't understand, okay. Perhaps in the same way that you, VS, don't understand why people read blogs that piss them off;
me, I don't understand: if certain sexualities are distasteful or disgusting to one, why would one keep bringing it up and bringing it up and bringing it up? especially if one were really all about the live and let live?
I mean, the notion of "examining one's shit" kept coming up in the BJ thrash and in similar ones. Even putting aside my annoyance at the free and easy way a lot of people tell someone *else* to examine *their* shit; just in general, I can't help thinking:
as long is one is asking "why" (personal taste), wouldn't it make at least as much sense to figure out why one is repulsed by such and so at least as much as why one *likes* something?
because, a theme I kept noticing within those thrashes was just the opposite (at least one post in so many words, or close to it): roughly, it's best not to defend anything one likes until one has thoroughly picked apart one's reasons for liking it.
which, even divorcing that from a sexual context, just strikes me as, well, kind of fucked.
and perhaps unconsciously derived from patriarchal/what-you-will influences.
because I can see the argument against "if it feels good, do it," all by itself, no ethical framework at all (which is sort of what I saw w-w as arguing against).
but the main reason "if it feels good, do it" arose in the first place was because it was in opposition to the -far- more dominant (patriarchal, sure) dictate that "if it feels good, *don't* do it."
Don't trust yourself. Don't trust your senses. Your body is weak and disgusting and will betray you; look to higher things.
and given a choice between the two, I have to say, I'll go with the former.
fortunately it's not either-or.
That's ground that's not yet been covered in this discussion and I'm sad to see it once again be missed.
belledame, I understand your reaction to the BJ thing. I just want to say there is more than one way to interpret Twisty's behavior. I read her first post as an invitation to play blame-the-patriarchy, not to share deep personal feelings. And I read her second post as an emotional response to the very ugly attacks on her personally (for doing what she wanted to do on her own blog). If I had interpreted her behavior as you did, I would probably be rather disgusted myself.
But my thing about "letting people do their own thing" was more than just staying away from people's blogs. I meant just letting people be the kind of feminists they want to be. Okay, let's take the BJ shitstorm as an example of the dynamic I want to explore. (And disclaimer: I personally think BJs are fine, and if we were having THAT debate I would probably be more on the classic "do what you like" sex-positive side.)
What happened was Twisty did her Twisty thing, 'let's blame the patriarchy for something.' Some asshole commenters on that thread got on their high horses and started telling other women that they were tools of the patriarchy. Which was bogus, but still -- we're talking about some commenters on one thread.
The shitstorm that ensued was not on the radfem blogs at all. As far as I can tell, the radfem bloggers were mostly quiet or put up ameliorating posts. But on the sex-pos blogs, Twisty and all her radfem friends were damned to hell and back. Ugly, ugly name calling, fuck-you-bitch calling -- you wanna talk about shaming? You wanna talk about brickbats and sectarian violence? As far as I can tell, it was almost all from sex-positive bloggers at radfems. And all from a few comments made by a few commenters on Twisty's blog.
My point is that I think there are errors of self-righteousness on both sides. Some anti-pornstitution feminists are absolutely insufferable, I agree -- and I stay away from their blogs. I think they're pinheads. But some sex-positive feminists are also really quite full of shit, to be blunt. It's not the sex-positivism that bothers me; I actually think a lot of the sex-positive stuff is wonderful (and is very much line with the sexual liberation we old radical bags were espousing in the 70s). The full-of-shit part is the anti-radfem cliqueishness, etc.
As for your question about why people keep bringing things up: I've been wondering that myself. I read a wide cross-section of feminist blogs, about equally sex-positive, radfem, and middle of the road liberal (whatever that means). And I tell you, in all honesty, the single most popular topic that keeps coming up on sex-positive blogs is "what's wrong with radical feminists?" Radfem bloggers generally don't return the favor -- it's rare on the blogs I visit for anybody to even talk about sex positivism or critique it. But jesus -- there are some sex-pos blogs that are like 24/7 radfem critique central. I keep thinking: don't you have any projects you'd like to accomplish? Did you become a feminist so you could spend all your time criticizing other branches of feminism?
Now, your experience of the blogosphere is probably wildly different. But it can be useful to hear other's perspectives (it is for me), and so I'm emboldened to offer mine. That really is what I've perceived. I like sex-positive feminism -- Pandagon is probably my favorite blog overall, and Trish Wilson is a true blogfriend to me -- so I'm not prejudiced against the material. I think my perception of anti-radfem cliquishenss on certain sex-positive blogs is accurate.
The reason I'm offering this up is as a corrective to the predominant narrative here that sex positive feminsits are the ones under attack. I read blogs from both sides, as I said, and it really doesn't look like that to me.
I think that "sexpos" bloggers look like they're attacking radfem bloggers because they feel like much of the edifice of the radfem theory itself has been construed as an attack on them. Let's take this, for instance:
"Against politics, not people." In a world where feminists (especially radfem!) have declared that the personal is political, can you see the irony in that?
So radfems can afford to ignore sexpos feminists because part of their theory was designed that way. Sexpos feminsts, therefore, find themselves spluttering with anger and some of the very ideas.
I can't argue with that.
I also can't argue with what mandos just said. Yeah, and while I realize that not all radfems share the anti-TG thing, there are a few prominent bloggers and a few still-influential "real world" writers/activists (Sheila Jeffries, Janice Raymond) who do. And Raymond in particular has a *lot* to answer for imo. that shit goes well beyond "said mean things, hurt feelings." Honestly, few things make me more incensed than the sheer blindness from already-marginalized people--*my* people, feminists, *lesbian* feminists--in turning around and scapegoating (for that is what Raymond did) people who are even more marginalized than they/we are. Nasty, vile shit.
besides that, yes, again: my irritation at the widespread apparent conflation of "the personal is political" with "*my* personal is THE political." (except without copping to it as such).
They might not use the phrase, but certainly I see a steady stream of critiques--sometimes to the point of bashing--of practices which commonly are taken up under the general banner of sex-positive precisely because they're pretty damn marginalized already in the wide world. BDSM, yes; sex work and sex workers); polyamory; lots of typical "femme" accoutrements (is "sexbot" really substantially different from "bimbo?" is it in fact any less sexist?); and now apparently the good ol' fashioned blowjob.
ultimately i expect a lot of this can come down to "she started it!" and maybe it's not that helpful, as such.
just, in general: we most of us, I expect, tend to notice what affects us directly more readily.
Question: do you see this on a number of radfem blogs, or mostly on the one which Shall Not Be Named?
As for the good old-fashioned BJ, I thought Amanda's take on Twisty was pretty accurate, really. I mean I think she did an excellent job of deconstructing exactly what Twisty was doing (beyond giving people something to talk about). It's not about saying "you shouldn't give blowjobs" (which was the chant certain commenters took up); it was more a provocation to ask ourselves how much of this behavior was shaped by sexist expectations. You can think that's a useful exercise or not, but I believe it's a profound error to misconstrue a rhetorical device designed to provoke analysis as instead an attempt at shaming or coercion. I felt comfortable with it because we (straight women) are not a sexually marginalized group, and the blowjob is a celebrated aspect of mainstream sexuality. So I thought Twisty was safe in staying away from ground that would be sensitive to a vulnerable community (like the BDSM folks). Boy, was I wrong!
Other feminists critiquing some of this may hit a (quite legitimate) sore spot.
I posted these because the debate was getting nasty, and I dearly wanted to really hear the arguments, not the ad hom stuff. I wasn't sure this would work, but it did. The debate became extremely civil, and people on both sides eventually felt safe enough to post what they really thought about deep issues of sex and commerce, and so on.
from the prostitution threads at my place (http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/?cat=29):
I’ve decided that I need to establish some ground rules for this discussion...
What I would like to do in these threads is explore various approaches to prostitution, from both anti-prostitution feminists and pro-prostitution feminists. I want both sex-positive feminists and anti-pornstitution radical feminists to feel welcome here. But the only way that’s going to happen is if everyone feels that their views will be given a respectful hearing and that they themselves will not be subjected to ad hominem attacks.
That means I don’t want to see radfem anti-pornstitution feminists attacked as being self-righteous man-hating puritans who are just out to control other people’s sex lives. I don’t want to see sex-positive feminists attacked as being selfish hedonists who are just out for their own gratification at the expense of others’ suffering. Unfortunately, there’s such a history of antagonism that it’s amazingly difficult to have a discussion around the issues without this kind of mud getting thrown. People who might wish to comment in this thread are not doing so because they don’t want to be slimed.
So, though I’m not usually the Moderation Queen, I’ve decided to establish rules of engagement for these threads:
1. Assume that each person is arguing from a genuinely pro-woman feminist stance.
2. Do not impugn each other’s motives. If you can’t see how someone else’s idea will help women, then ask, or very politely express your doubts. Perhaps the other person isn’t seeing the whole picture? Perhaps she hasn’t thought of aspects you are aware of? Don’t instead imply that the other person doesn’t really want to help women and is just on a personal power/gratification trip, yadeyadeyade. Just don’t.
3. Accommodate each other’s rhetoric. Radical feminists often speak in general terms of class analysis: “Men” do this, “women” do that. Sex-positive feminists often speak in personal terms: “what about my liberty?” We know that, so let’s not get bogged down in it. Radfems are not essentialists who are unaware of personal variation, and sex-positives are not navel-gazers who are unaware that the patriarchy exists. Just take each other’s language in stride and move on.
4. If all else fails, assume that the other person has the brains of Einstein and the integrity of Nelson Mandela, even if she doesn’t see things quite your way.
i've seen "pornography" defined many times by anti-porn feminists who then go on to show why they are anti-it. i don't think there is a lack of clarity on that.
however i've never really seen or understood what "sex-positive" actually means, other than "i'm not sex-negative". and as i've never seen a definition of what "sex-negative" is either, i'm not sure what to make of the label. all i see is a group of people defining me and people who feel like me as "negative", and then defining themselves in opposition to us. does that make sense? its hard not to be offended by that.
so before we go getting rid of labels, which i think would be fantastic if it were possible, can someone please explain what "sex-positive" actually means please? because i dont understand - ive always taken it as an insult, am i wrong?
and, antiprincess, i dont want to go through anthonys post explaining why it was insulting, i think that if we can get through this whole discussion it will become obvious, and i dont want to distract from this discussion to argue with anthony. i hope thats ok?
i think that the main difference between the antiporn radfems and the sex positives is that the APRFs try to understand "consent" in terms of society, history, and all pressures brought down on us by these, whereas the SPs seem to define everything in terms of "individual choice", right here right now, outside of all external pressure.
is that how others of you see the division? or am i way off?
i used to be "sex positive", way before i started to learn about feminism. but my own SP-ism was a reaction to both my cultural conditioning and to my own personal history as an abused kid. basically, my own SP-ity was all acting out, and i was traumatised by it even as i 'enjoyed' it. i use the inverted commas around 'enjoyed' because i didnt really enjoy it, i was totally insatiable, nothing was hard enough or intense enough, i could never reach that point of actual enjoyment. i was in it for the punishment, not for the enjoyment.
and i know that not every SP person is the same as i was, but those are the eyes i look through. and back then i wouldve told you how brilliant it all was, because it was all part of the act. how can we tell between the SPs that are in it for the enjoyment and those who are in it for punishment? i used my sex life as a form of self harm, surely i cant have been the only one, so how can we recognise others who are doing the same?
hope all that made sense.
On at least several other radfem blogs. Also thinking of the activism and primary focus of Dworkin, MacKinnon, and a lot of what went into the original Sex Wars.
the thing is, as BL has pointed out, if one posits that the primary oppression is of men over women, *and* that the primary way of manifesting this oppression is through sexuality (women are the "sex class,") then it's sort of not surprising that one *would* see a lot of impugning of specific acts, heavy emphasis on others' sexuality, and so forth.
What I really keep seeing, over and over again, is--
-- well, VS, I hear you when you say this:
> Accommodate each other’s rhetoric. Radical feminists often speak in general terms of class analysis: “Men” do this, “women” do that. Sex-positive feminists often speak in personal terms: “what about my liberty?” We know that, so let’s not get bogged down in it. Radfems are not essentialists who are unaware of personal variation, and sex-positives are not navel-gazers who are unaware that the patriarchy exists. Just take each other’s language in stride and move on.>
Here's the thing, or my thing.
Someone--including in this recent blow-up, but this wasn't the first time I've seen it happen, says
"Men do blahblah," or "women don't really like blee," or "Suchandso is bad for women."
Some third-waver/sex-pos/what have you will come back with
"Well, I'm a woman, and I do like blahblah," or "blahblah has been good for me, personally."
So far, maybe a question of semantics. But then there's the question of how does the first speaker respond.
Like you, VS, will respond with something like, as I've seen you do,
Obviously there are *some women* who are an exception to this (i.e. the prostitution debate); but that still doesn't make the glaring reality of all these other women go away, and that's worth talking about, don't you think?
...which is totally legit, great, even, imo.
There are other people--not necessarily radfem, I am thinking of one woman in particular who's expressed antiporn, anti-BDSM sentiments but doesn't ID as radical as far as I know--who've really gotten it when I've said something to the effect of,
When you say "all women," it makes me feel erased, like my voice doesn't count,
and came back with, that was not my intention, to make you feel erased. I don't like that feeling either (and I have felt that way myself at the hands of 'sex-positive' id'd people)
...which, pronouns and language aside, to me means that we've connected at some level; there's a dialogue going on.
What's happened at least as often, though, ime, (including, but not limited to at T's spot/from T herself, which in turn includes but is not limited to this recent blow-up) is something like this:
"Blahblah is bad for women, and/or no woman likes blahblah, not *really*. Here are some graphic and viscerally disgusting/outrageous examples to illustrate my point."
"Okay, I have to speak up here. I'm a woman, I like blahblah, and your example there doesn't sound at all like my experience. Here's mine, for illustration."
"You're brainwashed, you poor thing. Why don't you really take a good long look at yourself? and then you will See"
"Look, do what you want, but -don't tell me- that blahblah is feminist/good for Women/empowering."
"(regarding I-speaker's recounted experience) Oh, gag me, shudder, ew, disgusting, no one wants to hear *that.*"
...or nothing at all.
So, you know, I am thinking: it's not just a question of semantics here, in a lot of cases.
v: I think that's a part of it in some cases, at least; that's a start. At least I think that's how a lot of people see it, and it's more or less true depending on who one's talking to/about. (Some people are more across-the-board libertarian than others, for instance).
But, well, personally, I do not see choices as existing outside of all external pressures.
My beef is this: I don't appreciate it when someone *else* effectively puts herself in the position of authority over me/other women/speakers, albeit implicitly.
Because there's something really patronizing about the way in which a lot of women have been going,
Well, why don't you *really examine* -why- you like blahblah
...because it suggests rather strongly that the other woman must not have considered any of this. When in fact, ime, that's not the case at all.
you know, I keep coming back to "I statements," and it's not just a third-waver thing; it's a group therapy thing. and it also comes back to "the problem of speaking for."
Sure, by all means, as far as I'm concerned, talk about what you see as the sociological meaning of act blahblah.
But there is a big grey area between
"Let us examine the possible sociopolitical meaning(s) of blahblah in an historical context, drawing on both personal experiences and observations of the culture"
"You don't see things the way I do; you poor thing, you just must not be Enlightened yet. Read some more theory and all will be clear."
there is, I'd say, the suggestion that the woman exhorting her sister to re-examine *why* she really likes blahblah (even if sister has just explained it from her POV rather eloquently) does *not* have the power to exert "external pressure" in her own right; but instead is simply acting as I don't know a corrective? a mirror? something.
I think this was a major point in the recent blow-up; Arwen articulated it best, perhaps. Roughly:
just because feminist X doesn't maybe exert much pressure in the "real world" (ie laws, making media, etc). that does not mean she cannot and does not exert tremendous pressure among her peers/sisters.
sex positive feminist thought -- and the word first came from Gayle Rubin -- had little to do with porn. it was a critique of the way that the larger society and feminist thought, itself, had reinscribed patterns of discrimination and worse against sexual minorities and dissidents.
Those who are or who are sympathetic to the atter radfem position (the one Alice Echols criticizes in Daring to Be bad) made popular by Dworkin, MacKinnon, Griffin, Morgan, etc. typically refuse to address that and, as such, I find the discussions problematic.
It is a rhetorical tactic, I think, designed to attack porn and prostitution and align sex positive feminist thought with those issues, as if sex positive feminsts are uncritical of porn. it is quite evident that many published sexpos are not uncritical.
but you wouldn't know it and the disavowal is irritating.
I completely agree -- and frequently find that my back gets up with all the superficial and really simplistic claims about freedom and agency are raised by people who see themselves as sexpos.
I suspect that is a commitment to liberal feminist understandings of freedom and agency and not at all similar or in line with Gayle Rubin and others socialists who object to the radfem line.
In other words, sexpos transcends political thought since it emerged in response to and rejection of a strand of feminist thought. Upon close inspection, the resons for this opposition are diverse -- but they can still be outlined fairly well in terms of examining basic concepts such as freedom, autonomy, political practice, etc.
And, I could n't possible participate in a conversation that sees Labeling as the problem. Since that is a labeling move in and of itself where those who label are deemed -- voila! -- part of the problem.
“Sex positive feminism involves a disparate group of people who share one thing in common: a rejection of universalizing claims about women’s (and men’s) sexuality such that one’s sexual practices — whether you hate sex, wank off to donkey porn, ride your cowboy or cowgirl and put her/him away wet, are asexual, like to dress up like Superman and leap off the top of the dresser on to your partner below  — do not prove or disprove your feminist street cred.”
thing is - this is just feminism, isn't it? i thought all feminists rejected "universalising claims about women's sexuality"?
i still cant get past the idea that by labelling one group of feminists as "sex positive", you automatically create a group who are, by default, "sex negative". what does that mean? which feminists are sex negative?
Excerpt from Dr. Carol Queen, "Sex Radical Politics, Sex-Positive Feminism, and Whore Stigma" in "Whores and Other Feminists" (ed. Jill Nagle)
Sex Radical, Sex-Positive
Sex radicalism means to me that I am automatically on the side of the minority sexual viewpoint or behavior; because our culture carefully and narrowly circumscribes what is acceptable, much of the sexual world gets left on the wrong side of the fence. Sex radicalism also means that when I hear the voices of those who have been left out of the discussion, I choose to believe what they tell me about their own lives, even if it contradicts some “expert’s” opinion; it also means that I maintain my own sexual integrity, if not cultural popularity, when I follow my own desires and trust where they lead.
Sex radicalism is also profoundly feminist, and with good reason. While many men are oppressed (in reality or potentially) for their sexual desires and practices, women are encouraged to never explore or experience sexual feelings in the first place. We are supposed to exist sexually within a (married, monogamous) relationship with a man, or else not at all. When we do step across the boundaries of compulsory heterosexuality and “good girl” propriety, we are often treated viciously. Women need each other’s support (although we do not always get it) to navigate the rough waters of living nontraditional sexual lives. Mainstream feminists learned this lesson from lesbians, who would not withdraw their demand for support from feminist organizations and institutions; it has not, however, extrapolated what it has learned to women elsewhere on the sexual fringe.
Upon further exploring sex radical thought, I learned the concept of “sex-negativity”, which most of us in this erotically benighted culture drink in along with our mother’s milk. I learned that there is indeed a community of people who are sex-positive, who don’t denigrate, medicalize, or demonize any form of sexual expression that is not nonconsensual. In our general society – where sex is sniggered at, commodified, and guiltily, surreptitiously engaged in – being outspokenly sex-positive is sex radical indeed; for even those of us who love sex are usually encouraged to find someone else’s preferred sexual expression abhorrent.
[The full essay available at:
Satisfactory enough for 'ya, v and Violet??
I had thought so, too; but, v, did you see the recent BJ debacle?
and before that, I had seen less over forms of similar shit, so.
Anthony...dude. I like Carol Queen, too, and I agree with a lot of your views, you know, but honestly, your tone here's putting even me off. I can only imagine how it'd sound to me if I *didn't* agree with a lot of your views.
just a data point.
anthony - that all seems a bit outdated to me. ive been encouraged to be doing sex in various forms for practically my whole life. being called 'virgin' or 'frigid' was far worse during my school time than being a 'slut' which could make a girl pretty damn popular, invites to parties, etc.
maybe its a US thing, you do have those born again virgins and other bizarre folks over there. here 9 year old girls proudly state that their chosen future career is Page Three girl. marriage guidance counsellors recommend porn or bdsm games. having as much sex as possible is the name of the game, monogamy is seriously out of fashion and not doing it at all is considered the worst thing in the world, ever.
the definition you've put up here is not a minority viewpoint. maybe it was, but thats not true now. at least, it isnt true in the uk.
That to me is the key point. I'm sex-positive; I'm also a feminist. I use both in conjunction because ime it is possible to be feminist without being especially sex-positive; it is also possible to be sex-positive without being especially feminist. Nonetheless they do naturally go together from my view, yes.
>I completely agree -- and frequently find that my back gets up with all the superficial and really simplistic claims about freedom and agency are raised by people who see themselves as sexpos.
I suspect that is a commitment to liberal feminist understandings of freedom and agency and not at all similar or in line with Gayle Rubin and others socialists who object to the radfem line.
In other words, sexpos transcends political thought since it emerged in response to and rejection of a strand of feminist thought. Upon close inspection, the resons for this opposition are diverse -- but they can still be outlined fairly well in terms of examining basic concepts such as freedom, autonomy, political practice, etc.>
I'd agree with this, and also posit that in some cases it's not even liberal feminism per se but libertarianism, which can be right-wing as well as left-wing.
You know, it makes sense to me to examine the ways in which older ideas influence current theories, if one wants to talk about rigorous examination.
So I think-maybe- the critique of certain radfem ideas/theorists is not so much that the radfems are more sex-negative than anyone else; it's that culturally we're all prone to sex-negativity, and it can bleed over into new structures, same as happens with any ideology, radical or otherwise.
Wrt sex-positivism, what I see a lot of, or at any rate what I see as one of the more legit critiques, is that it -can- (especially in I think more "mainstream" expressions, these days) dovetail with this (also inherited) notion of, I almost want to say, "survival of the fittest." At any rate there was, I think, a whiff of this in R. Mildred's rant wrt the BJ thing; that is, I was with her with the rantage at being "spoken for," having been, ironically, just as annoyed from the other direction (feeling that similar blowups were heteronormative and making me feel like my voice was being overriden)...but could really see where an abuse survivor could read that and go, whoa. WHOA.
the other thing that's worth digging into, I think, is where expressions of "sex-pos" and the notion of "choice" meet advanced capitalism.
Yeah, I'm glad you bring that up, because I've been thinking about that a lot. you and w-w are both British, right?
and mandos is Canadian.
personally: yeah. The very real threat of encroaching theocracy, and the fact that sexual repression is one of the lynchpins upon which most authoritarianisms and particularly American Christian fundamentalism turns, is a very big part of what fuels my fears here, why my hackles go up so quickly whenever I hear allies, or potential allies, talking in ways which remind me of Them, even obliquely. And in some cases, it's been more than obliquely.
well, I think this is another reason why knowing where we're all coming from personally, at least somewhat, helps in these discussions. because of course there are several things going on here, and they intersect but aren't synonymous, and it's difficult to disentangle the whole mess. One is the question of hard-and-fast "real world consequences"--i.e. Lily Law. The other, which is I suspect a goodly bit more than half of the heat that's fuelling a lot of these talks on all sides, is what dharma referred to as "sexual wounding."
thing is, I suspect for a lot of us, on all sides of this, old wounds stay open a long time, even if it *looks* like "hey, you can live however you want now, what's your problem?"
yeah, my best friend is Irish, now living over here, and he says pretty much the same thing.
in my more bitter moments I sometimes think, wrt neighbors across the pond: well, yeah we have more fucked-up religious shit (at least homegown Christian variety) over here; y'all had the good sense to kick their asses out, and they ended up here! thanks...
but, well, more seriously, that's a whole nother six-pack of worms.
That has been exactly my problem with the term sex-positive, and my antipathy was compounded by the fact that for a long time sex-positivism for me basically meant people like Nina Hartley (who really do imply that other feminists are sex-negative). My attitude towards sex-positivism has softened a great deal just in the past six months through investigating a variety of feminists who identify as sex-positive. I've discovered that sex-pos, like radfem, includes a multitude of voices -- quite a few of whom I agree with almost completely.
thing is - this is just feminism, isn't it? i thought all feminists rejected "universalising claims about women's sexuality"?
That's been my reaction to sex-pos as well: "geez, isn't that just basic feminism?" I think mostly it is. But as belledame points out, it isn't part of every feminist's worldview. And there is a place for a feminism that is specifically focused on sexual liberation.
By the same token, when radfems (like me) define our focus as being on fundamental social analysis of gender issues, some sex positives reply, "geez, isn't THAT just basic feminism?" But actually it's not -- traditionally that was not part of liberal feminism, and today some sex positives show a distinct aversion to systemic analysis. I continue to believe there is a place for a feminism that is specifically focused on a systemic approach to understanding society and gender -- which is how I define radical feminism.
One point to be gleaned from all this, perhaps, is that current labels are widely misunderstood, even within the feminist community. I've been guilty of misunderstanding sex positivism, and I know to my endless annoyance that a lot of people misunderstand radical feminism, as well as its subset, anti-pornstitution feminism.
I am not opposed to labels in principle; properly applied, they are invaluable to intellectual discourse. But I wonder if the current feminist labels in use are not as much obfuscatory as revealing.
I won't bother any of you anymore for this thread..I see that I'm even alienating those who are kinda with me.
I guess that's just the man in me.
belledamme - whats "lily law"? and what is "sexual wounding" - is that the shaming you're talking about?
my mate was using the computer this weekend and I have only now checked back at this thread.
I have a lot of catching up to do, obviously.
"sexual wounding" was dharmadyke's phrase, but I took it to mean pretty much the same as what I'd meant by sexual shaming.
Thanks for hosting this discussion. It can't be easy!
I can't engage all the points in this huge thread, but I would say that, from my observations on various blogs, I think sex positive and antiporn feminists see basically the same set of problems, but have different ideas about the causes of those problems, and completely different ideas about how those problems should be solved.
One big problem in my view is that feminism has generally failed to make it possible to women to speak openly and safely about their desires and sexual practices without feelings of shame and guilt and fear of ridicule and disgust. Much of the bj hoohaa demonstrated this failure and I think this is what sex positive feminism has been partly responding to.
Ever since we started Mind the Gap, most of the women in the group have been demanding spaces, separated from men, where they can talk about these issues. They have also said repeatedly that they don't want the discussions to be framed with any particular feminist theory. They just want the space to talk without fear.
So, I have concluded that with regard to female sexuality, desire and sexual practices, feminism still has an awful lot of work to do.
yes, exactly. So much shaming and mockery going on.
Do they ever stop and consider how they feel when it's used on them?
Or is it that they *did* have their mind changed about something through someone else's shaming, and now see this as a good thing? Or what?
There wasn't anything new in them...they were just duplicates.
Sorry once again for the confusion.
i want to echo something someone (i think violet) said earlier - i havent seen much personal shaming of sp feminists sex lives on the radfem blogs i visit. but i do feel that there are some quite nasty and personal attacks from the sp side onto the radfems, one radfem in particular i see attacked pretty regularly, and its one who is quite respected and cared for by others of us. she has survived a lot of abuse, and making personal attacks on her in the way i've seen done silences others of us out here who understand where she is coming from.
im not saying you have to agree with her, or any of us, but theres a big difference between a critique of a position and the personal attacks that have been happening.
i have also heard it alluded to that it is somehow stupid or wrong to develop politics from experiences of abuse, but i dont see why it is any less important than a politics developed from experience of pleasure. i do sometimes feel that abuse survivors, particularly abuse survivors with related mental/emotional problems, are dismissed as mental and irrelevant when we're discussing sex, like we're completely tainted and therefore can't have an opinion on the subject. i feel that we're dismissed this way in the mainstream and its horrible seeing it being done by other women feminists too.
i hear sex positive feminists when you say you feel patronised, and id like it to be recognised that i feel patronised too, like im being told that all i need is a good fuck and ill see the error of my ways.
i've been there done that and im still trying to get over it. i dont need that sort of pressure from other feminists.
in generally left circles when a woman comes out as anti sex work she is almost always accused of being anti sex worker, racist, middle class, and in fact just plain anti sex.
what is that if its not shaming? its also making huge assumptions, because lots of women who hold an anti sex work position have been involved in some way with sex work, or have worked with sex workers in a support capacity. and in no way does anti sex work equate with anti sex.
this always does my head in, its a tactic designed to spread misinformation and to unfairly discredit those of us who hold an anti sex work position by lying about us.
> i do sometimes feel that abuse survivors, particularly abuse survivors with related mental/emotional problems, are dismissed as mental and irrelevant when we're discussing sex, like we're completely tainted and therefore can't have an opinion on the subject>
Personally, I don't dismiss people because of abuse experiences. I know a lot of people on the sex-pos/pro-sex-work/kink side who are also survivors, and who get it in the neck from *that* end (oh, clearly you're only into such and so because you've been abused). Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Like I said, I thought R. Mildred's midrant swipe at abuse survivors was Not Helpful, and I can definitely see where that would set
That said, I am also aware that I personally have been flaming quite a lot about at least one person who happens to also be an abuse survivor. If you want to tell me that the flaming is/was gratuitous and unhelpful and nasty, well, I can't argue with that, honestly. I will just say this: that my exasperation with said person's online persona is primarily with what I frankly see as gross misrepresentation of a number of things that are close to my core, not to mention what I find a troubling tendency in a direction that would support authoritarianism; and, particularly, a posting style that may well be due to PTSD, among other possibilities, but regardless manages to push a lot of my buttons from my own experiences with emotionally abusive people (who may well also have diagnosable illnesses, but it doesn't change their effect on people). I feel very badly for this person's abuse experiences, and honestly think she's done a lot of people a lot of good in sharing them.
What I have a problem with in terms of her politics is, I see a tendency to extrapolate from her own experiences to the rest of the world; which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing (we all do it to some extent). However in this instance, I see a real...I want to say, blurring of boundaries, which is another thing that pushes my buttons wicked fierce. And it's not just her (she?) who does this; one doesn't have to be a survivor of phsyical/sexual abuse to do this (although I think any form of abuse, which is after all a big boundary invasion, can leave the survivor with rather blurry boundaries). It's a big part of what's been bothering me about the "No woman likes x; blahblah is bad for women" business.
As far as shaming from the other end: well, again, I refer to the BJ debacle chez IBTP, as well as the earlier ones involving BDSM (which was a good part of what set me off wrt that particular blogsite in the first place). But I mean, just for an example: the use of the term "sexbot" (which was mild compared to some of the crap that came out later, but has been a constant staple there if not also elsewhere). I just don't see it as substantially different from "bimbo," honestly.
Or, you know, stuff like,
"Any woman that would wear (high fetish heeled) shoes like this belongs in a home" (another T quote). I mean, what is that? Critique? Or just plain mockery? Yeah, maybe "no big deal;" (or maybe it is); but is that really substantially different from what they do over at "Go fug yourself?" I mean, at least at GFY they're not particularly claiming to be doing what they do in the name of feminism, you know?
and then again, now, all the shit from some regulars about how degrading it is for a woman to "have a cock hanging out of her mouth," how disgusting anal sex is...
I mean, it's one thing to say you find something personally disgusting; this really felt to me like something else. Something old and kind of savage.
I agree that that would be and is incredibly patronizing, and infuriating.
ftr, my and many peoples' definition of "sex positive" absolutely makes room for the possibility of celibacy and/or asexuality (monogamous traditional marriage, whatever is right for you). I know that there are people styling themselves sex-pos who do make it sound as though a good round of orgasms will fix everything, and it's really smarmy and infuriating. (of course they, too, are extrapolating from their own experiences). That said, I have not generally experienced online the notion that, oh I don't know, say, *all* women could or should enjoy oral sex if they'd just give it the old college try. Or that blahblah is categorically (i.e. for everyone) "empowering." Just mainly, "*I* find it empowering;" but then people respond as though they had said "it *is* (categorically) empowering." I mean, I see this all the time; and it's kind of doing my head in.
I guess my own main thing is: "own your shit," as much as possible, anyway. or try to.
Because with some people, you know, I think there's a lot of acting out going on; and I feel like me and mine bear the brunt of it sometimes.
and then my other thing is: I think politics (of whatever ilk) are great, but they aren't a substitute for therapy (of whatever ilk). and sometimes I get the impression that the one is being used as the other. and I don't just mean from the anti-porn side either. (and I certainly don't mean to suggest that that is the *only* reason why one might be against porn and sex work, or what have you).
"Even for those of us with backgrounds as political activists who thought we had some handle on sexual anxiety and its variations in this society, the revelations of shame, fear, and guilt that occurred after the Barnard Sex Scandal and the period of public controversy that was its aftermath--since labeled the Sex Wars--were simply overwhelming. The women who kept tlaking and working as publicly identified sex radicals, or pro-sex feminists, began to engage in an expansive conversation that was in no way safe but was powerfully revealing. Most of it reminded me of the discussions we had held in the Lesbian Sex Mafia [NY-based leatherdyke group], and convinced me that very few people in our society believe themselves normal, think that their sexual desire and behavior is like anyone else's. Women talked about years of celibacy, self-hatred, rejection, and abandonment by lovers, helplessness after rape or incest, social censure and street violence, family ostracism, and--overridingly--the fear of what our desires might mean. I went through a period of involuntary withdrawal in my relationships that took me right back to when I was first working out my response to childhood incest. It became impossible to let anyone, no matter how trusted, touch me in an imtimate way, and for almost a year I became almost completely nonorgasmic. There was a kind of painful irony in being such a publicly reocgnized sex radical who could not have sex, and who dared not acknowledge that condition until it was past.
I thought a lot about the early discussions in the Lesbian Sex Mafia as time passed. In spite of all we had done to set up the group to avoid judgments and to provide unqualified support for diversity, there had still been a depressingly persistent need for people to be reassured that they were not sick or crazy or dangerous to those they loved. The strength of the group had been the strength of consciousness raising itself, that frank revelation of the common personal experience and the lies that are uncovered when we show ourselves as vulnerable and human creatures, both needy and hopeful. We had worked at turning our fears and experiences into a source of insight rather than confusion. That we could feel any measure of safety while being so vulnerable had been a constant source of energy and power. Every forbidden thought that was spoken enriched us. Every terrible desire that we shared suddenly assumed human dimension, and our meetings had been full of warmth and laughter. I watched a similar thing begin to happen with post-Barnard organizing and the creation of F.A.C.T.--the Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce. We wanted to talk truth about sex, wanted to understand without fear of censure, and most of all, we wanted to know that our lives were neither a betrayal of our beliefs nor a collusion with all we had fought to change in this society. None of us became antifeminists, though many of us were accused of being that, and all of us share the conviction that sexuality is not a distraction but a vital issue in any political organizing. For me, the struggle came down to an inner demand that I again look at sexual fear from my own perspective, without giving in to the impulse to hide, deny, or wall off desire myself.
...Gried should not be where we have to start when we talk of sex. But the idea of a life in which rage, physical fear, or emotional terror prevents even the impetus of desire--that is the image that haunts the discussion for me. The thought that we could all be forced to live isolated in our own bodies, never safe enough to risk ourselves in naked intimacy with others, rides me like an old nightmare from my childhood: a dream of silence, cold hands, and suspicious eyes. It was a nightmare I used to believe was common to all lesbians, but one I thought had grown less powerful in our everyday lives. It was the fear behind our politics, a unifying and radicalizing perception that we did not need to voiec because we all knew it so well. The experience of having the meaning of our love and desire for women twisted, misused, or totally denied seemed to me central and basic to feminism in the same way that our politics itself was supposed to rest in the actual lived experience of women who must name for themselves their needs, hopes, and desires. But I never wanted fear to be the only impulse behind political action. As deeply as I wanted safety and freedom, I wanted desire, hope, and joy. What, after all, was the worth of one without the other?...
And abuse survivors just need a 'good fuck' to set them straight...
Me? I'm just totally hacked off with my world being forced to revolve around the penii (is that a word? whatever...). Bolleaux (for the sake of controversy) to that.
You know what I think? I think 'sex positivism' was a term coined (way back when) by a man (or a pimp or a pornographer) somewhere in order to create divisions amongst feminists.
There is nothing about readfeminism that is sex-negative - sex-exploitation negative, yes, sex-negative, no.
This makes no sense to anglophones, at least, so the right plural is "penises". Kind of like the way the right plural of "octopus" is "octopodes", but that makes no sense in English (it's a Greek third declension noun), so it should be "octopuses". Never, however, "octopi".
Brought to you by your local pedant...
Really not, no.
I have ended up for real in the Bad Commenters Box at BB's, because (as I see it) I became too persistent for that site in attempting to find the right way to express my problem with this concept. In a nutshell, I actually agree with some of the basic outlines of the theory that BB is propounding. But I think that because of the expansive notion of objectification, the theory significantly overreaches---in ways that its proponents---especially, alas, BB---don't see.
To me the "sex-positive" moniker is a reaction to the overreach of that theory.
I mean, you have the Earth First! types of people who believe, from the name, that the environment is a priority in itself. And then you have more "mainstream" anthropocentric environmentalists who worry, "What will happen to my children if the environment goes bad?"
So you have radical feminists who have as their one and major goal, the liberation of women---as a justification in itself, almost. I mean, we even have a very strident blogger called Feminist First who clearly expresses the need to divorce herself from other concerns. (I'd link to the article but she's temporarily taken her blog down). And then we have people like BD and AP who seem to be saying, "Yes, but what are we being liberated FOR?" And part of their answer is pleasure.
Doesn't directly connect to my point about objectification, but it did strike me when I thought of it...
"we have people like BD and AP who seem to be saying, "Yes, but what are we being liberated FOR?" And part of their answer is pleasure."
i think i've seen belledamme talk about this before, the idea of having to wait until "after the revolution" for pleasure.
the thing is, i don't believe radfems are suggesting that at all. however any of us do or dont get our kicks, noone is outlawing pleasure whatsoever.
i do wonder, if anyone is in the position i was where pleasure cannot be reached without dehumanisation or pain - well isnt there something really wrong with that? pleasure should be achievable without 'kink'. kink should be like the cherry on top, not the whole cake, an optional extra not to everyones taste, and noones entire enjoyment is based on having it.
a huge part of the problem for me is that in my culture kink = sex. anything that falls short of it is boring, not good enough. there was pressure on me at twelve to be into all sorts of things, i saw my first porn movie at twelve and it was a movie completely based around anal sex. maybe im wrong and not every young girl is going through this stuff, but i see insurance ads with women dressed in head to toe latex. 'kink' has become mainstream in so many ways that afaic these days it could be considered 'kinky' to have monogamous respectful sex with a regular partner rather than fucking a couple of guys you cant name in the toilets of some club.
i just think everyone needs to move into the present a bit, i feel sometimes like we're talking about porn or bdsm like its being practiced by some small group of well adjusted feminist adults somewhere rather than invading popular culture so far even my kids cartoons and toys are affected by it.
for me there is too much emphasis on a minority of people achieving liberated pleasure while the great majority of us are bullied into tagging along.
I am sorry that you feel that way, Witchy. I'm pretty sure that's not what the Dorothy Allisons of the world had in mind. It's certainly not what I have in mind.
As far as the pernicious infection of mainstream media with kink, what I find is that kink imagery is used as a sort of visual shorthand to signify "naughty/sexy/cool/hip". So what you're getting is a really dumbed-down version, designed for maximum visual impact and divorced from its real meaning.
Almost none of the depictions of kink in media focus on deep, complicated, nuanced relationships or mutually satisfying experiences. it's all "whip me, beat me, make me write bad checks! isn't this naughty fun!"
But such images sell.
As I was walking to work today I was thinking on your comment, Witchy, and I was put in mind of the "Lethal Weapon" and "Dirty Harry" movies. Police officers as depicted in those films make for really exciting, dramatic and revenue-generating media frenzies (which trickle down all over children's television and children's culture). But such depictions are not even close to the reality of the daily lives of law enforcement officials.
What I'm saying is, there's a difference between what is real in the daily lives of kinky people (in their vast variety) and what is exaggerated and caricatured for mass media consumption.
that was a quote from me rather than ww, but i take all your points anyway.
and im not suggesting for one second that the media representation is rea. i know its a plastic one dimensional capitalist version.
but it is pervasive to the point where it is impossible to escape. it creates and reinforces pressure on all of us to fit in, to be cool, whatever. it warps the way we approach our own sex lives and our partners. it doesnt allow for those of us who dont want to participate. it takes away our voices.
i wouldnt blame sp feminists for all this at all, please dont think i am. im just trying to put these things into the discussion so you have some idea of where im coming from, the things that i am thinking about. im sorry if some of it doesnt seem to tie together very well, but thats what im trying to get through this discussion with you, a better understanding of how all this works and fits together.
i wish we could have a more private and multi voiced multi topic discussion than this thread.
OMG! I am sorry. that will teach me to post without benefit of coffee. no excuse.
No wonder you feel oppressed by it.
Angered, insulted, worried? you bet.
I can easily - maybe too easily - dismiss it all as trite, fake, unrealistic, stupid, not at all an accurate representation.
What really bends my brain into a pretzel knot is that - totally unbeknownst to me - what I always experienced as the behavior of sexual minorities (like myself) is being presented as The Oppressive Norm, to which we must all conform or perish of loneliness.
So I have learned something.
i think there are real conflicts in the way ive been brought up with this stuff. like my own family was quite traditional when i was very young, mum was a housewife, dad beat us all up, that sort of thing. and this was the seventies and eighties, so meanwhile in pop culture the sexual revolution had apparently happened and things were changing at this huge rate.
and by the time i was a teen the entire world seemed to be rebelling against 'boring sex' or being a virgin until marriage or other old fashioned ideas. and rebelling meant going totally the other way, doing it as much as possible and in as many ways as possible and with as many partners as possible.
and that was just as oppressive as the opposite had been, for me.
i hope im not offending you ap because honestly thats not my intention.
i guess i feel like most people are pretty "anything goes". even if its just "anything goes" in private with a long term partner.
well, and see, that right there, those have also come up. What's private? Why does it have to be a long-term partner?
>the thing is, i don't believe radfems are suggesting that at all. however any of us do or dont get our kicks, noone is outlawing pleasure whatsoever. >
Specifically I have seen T suggest what looked to me pretty much like exactly that. Not the outlawing part, no. But the notion that a genuinely liberated sexuality is something that could only exist in a non-patriarchal society..whatever that actually looks like, and however we actually get there.
>i just think everyone needs to move into the present a bit, i feel sometimes like we're talking about porn or bdsm like its being practiced by some small group of well adjusted feminist adults somewhere rather than invading popular culture so far even my kids cartoons and toys are affected by it.>
I think this is where corporatism comes in, you know. "Sex sells;" but is the problem the sexuality, or the "profit uber alles" mentality?
But I see a lot more clearly where some of the kink-uncool people might be coming from.
It's just funny (ha-ha funny, not strange-funny or ironic-funny) that someone might feel outnumbered by people like me, like there are legions of queer kinky freaks out there establishing the "new normal".
I've lived most of my life thinking that being kinky queer is not normal, is considered freakish and sick and wrong and anomalous, even in a community where women's sexual experience is valued and respected.
It blows my mind that there's another perspective on that.
I fear that in admitting that I'm leaving myself open to all manner of (probably well-deserved)derision. but there ya go. Another Opportunity For Growth.
I dunno about every young girl. That was certainly very very far from my own experience. I grew up in the SoCal 'burbs during the 80's. No Internet. "I Want Your Sex" was a big scandal. "Gay"="AIDS" for most people. all the books I found having to do with "gay" or "lesbian" seemed to end with someone being traigically raped or killed (can I just say how annoyed I was when I found out Sandra Scoppettone, who wrote several of these "teen" books, actually is a lesbian? I guess she did the best she could with what she had...) School's sex ed was perfunctory and anatomical (these days it's probably worse, with the heavy push for "abstinence only"). There were no gay bookstores in my neighborhood, no gay bars; I was not the kind of girl who would take the car and just peel of to L.A. to find whatever she could find. No one was openly gay in my high school; there were no gay/straight alliances. Sex and dating had rules; this was okay, that wasn't okay, everything reified around some dreary male-female dyad. I felt like an alien. The occasional "art-house" movie, not to mention the "anything goes" ads in the back of the L.A. Weekly--although I didn't know it at the time, I think those were like little windows on a bigger world, where I could exist and breathe, where I wasn't a freak.
(how old are you, v, can I ask?)
and i have to agree that as far as lesbian women go, theres still fuck all over here that would give anyone reason to believe that lesbians even exist. i saw an article recently about that that ill try and find again.
gay men on the other hand, get a lot of airtime. obviously again many of the fictional characters are stereotypes but there have also been fairly realistic loving gay male couples on soaps and celebrated gay male singers etc for as long as i can remember.
women fucking each other - well thats pretty normal. women loving each other - not so much. naked women touching each others soapy tits on the front of non age rated mens magazines at the ground level of my local supremarket, thats not an out of the ordinary thing to see. but thats not lesbianism, and i think that in terms of love and partnership it is still pretty taboo tbh.
i think i understand you both more now. i havent got it for ages why the sex positive feminists would feel like they were a minority group, i didnt really understand why you've been feeling shamed belledamme. i think im starting to understand now.
i dont know anything about the "sex wars" ive seen mentioned. i think that im missing a part of the puzzle there. also i think the lack of religion in my background makes it difficult for me to understand yours.
as for nipples - well breastfeeding in public is still not encouraged. i seem to remember when i was younger the porn mags used to have Xs on nipples on the cover.
but page three has nipples. when i was still pretty young, maybe 9/10, samantha fox was one of my 'heroes', she was a singer on top of the pops and she was bubbly and cute. she was also a page three girl whose dad sent a picture of her to the paper when she was 16 or 17 to show them what great tits she had, thats how she got her job.
do you have page three over there?
I'm mulling over how I want to address this.
Thing is--well, as antip was getting at, I think: for those of us who are at least somewhat kink-oriented, "dehumanisation" and "pain" really aren't what they look like from the outside. "Pain" itself could be a whole topic--for many (I won't say all) of us, it's -not- pain as suffering or endurance. A lot of people don't even use the word "pain;" rather "sensation play" or sometimes "percussion play." Not just semantics; it really is a different experience.
And I totally get why someone who's suffered physical abuse and isn't particularly wired kinky would have a really hard time seeing this as anything but oppressive. As antip points out, though--there's a *lot* of misunderstanding.
I'm trying to think of the best analogy for a non-kinky person. Have you ever had, for example, a sports massage? Or danced at a rave or something until your sides ached and your legs were rubbery and you're starting to get a bit "high" off the rhythm and the movement? Eaten chili peppers for fun? It's kind of like that. The "pain" aspect, anyway--and some people are into the sensation part without being particularly interested in role-playing or power exchange (and for others, it's just the opposite). Fetish is yet another thing, and worth a topic in itself (many of us have got 'em to one degree or another; some are just more culturally sanctioned than others. Silky hair or clothing textures="normal;" rubber panties or feet, somewhat less so).
As per the power and/or roleplaying part--in general, I tend to think of BDSM as erotic theatre, playtime, you know. It's not for everyone, and some people take it more seriously than others, but damn, from my experience at least, it can open up so much.
and I hear you when you point out that some people may be more well-adjusted than others; I certainly wouldn't try to claim that no one calling themselves kinky or using these techniques is abusive or unstable or simply doing it unconsciously as a cover for something else.
(Midori's "Wild Side Sex" has a number of chapters on the emotional aspects of all this, including a really useful one called "Wrong reasons to do SM").
I just don't really want to put myself in the position of going, well, it's okay for *me*, but in general it should probably be curbed as Those Other People might misuse it. for example. All you can do is establish community norms and protocols and put out better and more education. Which on the whole I feel the kink communities have been fairly good about.
and as others have mentioned, the whole "negotiation" concept is really terrific, and would be completely useful in vanilla relationships--hell, evena lot of nonsexual contexts--as well. Antip's mention of the Antioch rules--that's pretty much what's done in most BDSM transactions already.
mostly I think, god, the number one thing would be to teach women (everyone, really) that their "no" means "no," that their "yes" means "yes," how to live, to be at home in our own minds and bodies. ("Going away" is a really big part of being a survivor, I think; and it's not limited to physical or sexual abuse, although that would tend to exacerbate that, no doubt).
and yeah, we still have the same split between "breasts for sexxxy purposes in okeyfine, breasts for actually feeding your kid--ew," I think. we're just even more conservative about the whole thing.
i hear what you're saying about rules or guidelines and i think you're right that we could all learn from that.
my experience of bdsm sex was not as part of any community. its just as isolated het "anything goes except no" sort of sex.
within a community do people who cross boundaries get called out? how are they dealt with? or do you find because the rules are understood people dont tend to cross them?
i would love to have grown up with someone who told me this and then supported me in it.
i completely agree with you that as far as sex goes thats the most important thing right there, that everyone *owns* themselves, and that we should all respect each others boundaries.
There are cults of personality and sacred cows within local BDSM communities and in larger communities, naked emperors and entrenched bureaucracies just the same as any other community.
Further, not everyone interprets ideas of consent and boundaries the same way, leading to all sorts of unpleasantness at times.
In my experience, people who make public calling-out statements are treated much as any other whistle-blowers, for good or ill.
It is, however, possible to get a bad reputation as being unsafe to play with, which I have seen to be more damaging than a public calling-out.
Of course, Belledame's mileage will probably vary.
my experience of bdsm sex was not as part of any community. its just as isolated het "anything goes except no" sort of sex.
holy crap! that sounds terrible! I'm very sorry you had to go through that.
theres so much i dont know and dont understand on this. its obviously a helluva lot more complicated than i thought it was.
>holy crap! that sounds terrible! I'm very sorry you had to go through that.>
Me, too. Fuck.
I think my raising was such that I had pretty good boundaries about any sort of physical touch (always erring heavily on the side of "no.") I do feel--this is a big thing for me, actually--like my boundaries were invaded in subtler, mostly nonphysical ways, both from societal internalized homophobia and from family-of-origin stuff that...I'll maybe get into some other time. Subtler, but still damaging, I'd say.
anyway, I got a lot of that learning out of the "sex-positive" movement, or at least the aspects I glommed onto.
btw, although I don't ID as a survivor, personally I got a lot out of a book by Staci Haines called "The Survivor's Guide to Sex."
and even more so from the DVD that came out later, "Healing Sex"--if nothing else for the exercises having to do with establishing boundaries and negotiations, communication with oneself and with others.
can we continue as before?
Yup, exactly, here, too. maybe even more so because of the RR.
but I have been saying/thinking this for a while; that there is a certain "tastes great! less filling" nature to these talks, because the truth is the really pernicious thing is that it's *both at once.* What we have right now is a really thin layer of superficially "anything goes" "freedom; below it is still millenia's worth of sex-negative and misogynistic acculturation. And I think that advanced capitalism is both the impetus for the freedom, which isn't *entirely* superficial, it's a thin window--but it also creates new strictures.
I mean, v, I think maybe part of what you're alluding to is the dehumanizing nature of modern life in general. And I can see where what people have been calling "pornification" might be part of it--but to me it'd be a symptom, and a very small one at that, of a much bigger cause, or causes.
the disappearance of the "commons," for example, of public space in general; the personhood of corporations (in the U.S. at least); the way not just sex and love but -everything- seems to have a price tag on it...the reification of money, I want to say.
I get that; honestly wasn't expressing pity, but empathy, at least in a parallel sort of way.
does that make sense?
and what you say here:
the truth is the really pernicious thing is that it's *both at once.* What we have right now is a really thin layer of superficially "anything goes" "freedom; below it is still millenia's worth of sex-negative and misogynistic acculturation.
hits the nail on the head for me.
Maybe I don't watch enough television, but I haven't noticed BDSM and kink all over the place. I did notice that, when I taught a course on soc of the media a few years back, I did what I always do: grab the fashion season issues of Voque so we could all read the advertisements. And I mean read as in interpret -- and teach each other to read them, too.
That was back in 98 and the whole issue seemed devoted to images of BDSM. Men being dominated mainly. That was the year that Absolut ran a campaign featuring the bottle as deep purpose corset.
When I do turn on the TV, I guess I just don't see BDSM or kink in the mainstream media. The people in sitcoms dont' really seem to have anything around their homes or offices signifying BDSM, do they?
And toys -- is this a ref to Bratz dolls?
I dunno. I'm unclear. If any doll sold in the public is, by its very nature, a problem for women since none of them reflect who we are in our diversity, then what's the issue with the doll?
there are women in head to toe pvc doing cartwheels on insurance ads on daytime tv. its just bizarre. how on earth does that sell insurance?
maybe i should make some sort of record of what i see in a day, or a week. maybe that would help show what im talking about?
and that was a genuine suggestion, i read it back and it sounded like it might have been sarcy.
Did I say that? don't remember.
>but i always felt like it was part of me that i had no right to. and i think thats quite important, its not like my time or my labour, its my body. and i dont think my body is sacred, but id like to think its mine.
does that make sense?>
I was kind of getting at some of all this in the objectification posts, btw, or trying to.
i think i saw you say something along the lines of: when radfems talk about how prostitution is different than other forms of labour they are saying that the vagina is sacred.
it may not have been you and thats certainly not the exact words used, its the gist i got. and i understand how someone could think thats what is going on. but i dont think my vagina is sacred, but i do feel differently about prostitution than i do about, say, working in a call centre or a warehouse.
I mean--to me, it's all about context. And obviously the physical act of sex, particularly penetrative sex, lends a context all by itself, yes. Even stripping away whether it was abusive or not, or notions of gender: existentially, it's kind of profound, and disturbing, when you think about it. "the two-backed beast." Someone else *inside* of you. (or, you are *inside* another person). Sure.
At the same time, I think: well, you could say many of the same things about eating, in a way. Something we all or most of us take for granted, often treat as a lighthearted subject, but: really, when you stop and think about it. life eating life. even if it's vegetable life.
("this is my body, take, eat...")
And then, too, the act of preparing food can be very personal, intimate, even sacred; the ritual of breaking bread traditionally is/was a very big deal. Nowadays you can spend your whole life being fed by anonymous strangers, from cans, alone...
See sort of what I'm driving at?
More on track, maybe: I think that particularly if one feels that one's body is something one had no right to, and particularly that part, then hell yeah: it makes total sense that one would feel that would be important to keep sacred, not for sale.
And it's pretty damn widespread that women in particular do not feel that their body, especially their/our genitals, belong to them/us. Yes.
It's not totally universal, though, is the thing. And: sometimes someone might hold something *else* as the sacred thing she wants to keep back.
Like, consider: someone reads your private journal and broadcasts it all over the Internet. Physical? No. A violation? Hell yes.
In terms of making a living: well, for instance, my pagan mentor/teacher has a very firm ethic that she, and by extension anyone she teaches, will not teach the Craft for money. I once asked her specifically: she did say that given a choice, she'd sooner perform sexual acts for money than that.
so, there is also the question of: can one make a living from a calling or vocation without selling out?
Like I say, though, I know people who are bodyworkers, sexual and otherwise, who do consider it a calling, more in line with healing than with entertainment per se. And, you know, there's a big grey area.
Like, my mom, she loves having her feet massaged--but only by her family. She felt very strongly that she did not want to get it done by a stranger, when I offered to buy her a spa package for a birthday or something; it was too personal. clearly not everyone feels that way, though.
and then legally, at least in the U.S. (depending where you are, of course): massage is fine, unless you include the genitals and anus. then it's prostitution. It doesn't make any sense to me, that in particular.
In all of which, of course, the notion that your body is first and foremost *your own* does tend to kind of get lost, yes.
im sorry about misrepresenting your pov a few posts back, that was pretty careless.
and i also remember a bit further up i said:
i guess i feel like most people are pretty "anything goes". even if its just "anything goes" in private with a long term partner.
and i wanted to explain that that means what it says, really - i know het couples who are monogamous and keep their sex lives to themselves for the most part, but within those boundaries anything goes. they dont consider thesmelves kinky at all, its just 'normal', keeping a relationship 'interesting' as the problem pages might say.
i know what you're saying, but do you see radfems as saying that? because ive seen a lot of criticisms of monogamy and marriage, not to mention heterosexuality, from radical feminists.
i think i might be misunderstanding you here - thats not what youre saying is it?
but I do see a number of radfem critiques of this practice or that one that sound to me as though the tacit assumption is that the default is hetero monogamy. which frustrates me at times.
I will have to catch up on all the comments soon (stupid real life, getting in the way of blog reading!) but for now I just wanted to say that I saw this comment from BD and I think it sums up the current cultural climate (in the U.S. at least) perfectly:
the truth is the really pernicious thing is that it's *both at once.* What we have right now is a really thin layer of superficially "anything goes" "freedom; below it is still millenia's worth of sex-negative and misogynistic acculturation.
I've been trying to say something like that for a while now but was never able to articulate it that succintly.
(I suspect it mostly comes down to good old fear of contagion, myself; there's something unfortunate and deeply rooted about the hangup that "our" stuff might have someone else's cooties all over it. Thus we sidestep neatly any possibility of squick with Your Maidenhood Is A Sacred Gift For One Special Man - never mind that cocks are just as effective cootie vectors as anything else, they just don't break open after you've used 'em once, and then you get into the issue of Female As Vessel Of Contagion and I've really gone on long enough.)
*The most hardcore geeks, of course, get two of everything - one to take out and play with and one to keep in "collectible" condition. Not that anyone has the option of a second hymen. (I understand Jesus will give you a new one if you agree to be His special friend, but as He's not on record as caring much about that kind of thing in His lifetime, I have to suspect He's more likely to have other priorities.)
I guess you haven't heard of the highly disturbing hymen reconstruction surgery.
Yup. I think you also see this at play in the fetishization of "innocence."
it's about contagion; it's also about, oh, i don't know, some sort of yearning toward the transcendent gone haywire. been around for millenia, that.
i wonder to what degree that's being done by wealthy first-generation immigrant or student-visa women from highly conservative backgrounds--you know, sowed their wild oats, but are now preparing to go back to the bosom of the family and culture and get married to some guy who'll be expecting the unopened package.
I remember a story about a group of women (in earlier Islamic times) asking a male religious teacher why they couldn't have multiple husbands while technically, their husbands could have multiple wives (this utilitarian concession is abused in modern day). He asked them each to bring him a cup of water. Then he asked them each to pour the water into a bowl. Then he asked them to take back their cup of water.
That is the reason for virginity fetishism. Especially since it was believed in many quarters that the first man who had sex with a woman, well, all subsequent children would be part his, even by other men.
(No, I think I had actually heard of it, and mercifully erased the memory. I probably oughtn't pass judgment, I suppose; mostly I just can't decide if it feels like a means of reclamation or another way to avoid owning your shit. Not for me to decide, anyway; but I still get the wiggins.)
Mandos, it may bear pointing out that I'm using "contagion" in the magic(k)al sense as well as the literal. I certainly take your point that paternity hangups are a factor, but I don't buy that it's the only thing in play.
"Contagion" in the magical sense is the belief that things once in contact are always in contact and continue to influence each other. It's one of the foundations of working sympathetic magic (e.g., weaving a strand of your beloved's hair into your knitting to bind them to you), but also something so deap-seated in human consciousness that we call on it all the time; it's the thing behind the joke of never washing the hand that your favorite celebrity shook. It may not be "rational," but it doesn't have to be to work on people's minds - we tend to feel very strongly, unless we make a real effort not to, that the people who touched (played with, used, longingly fondled) our Stuff are still somehow present long after doing so.