On 'sex-positivity' and misunderstandings

The Pervocracy published a post on Friday, intended to set all us feminist critics of ‘sex-positive’ discourse, language, and arguments straight. According to the author, who, strangely, avoids referencing anyone or using any specific quotes to back up many of her claims, argues that feminists who critique ‘sex-positivity’ A) don’t understand what the term ‘sex-positive’ means, and B) generally are just hating on women “who wear high heels and shave their legs and…giggle and… act all flirty and give blowjobs…” We are, apparently, “disgusted” by these women and therefore we are not only “obnoxious, elitist, sexist, and counterproductive,” but our criticisms are straight up wrong.

This is a common rebuttal made by those who identify as ‘sex-positive.’ Charlie Glickman, in response to Robert Jensen’s critiques of the language and discourse of ‘sex-positivity’ also claims that Jensen just doesn’t understand it. Like Glickman, Pervocracy’s key point is that “Most critics of sex-positive feminism have not bothered to figure out what sex-positivity is.”

Glickman argues that ‘sex-positivity’ is “the idea that the only relevant measure of a particular sexual act, practice, or desire is how the consent, pleasure, and well-being of the participants are cared for.” And, yeah, I think we ‘get’ that. And we don’t agree. At all. We think it is much more complicated then individuals simply saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (though of course consent is a key part of sex, assuming that our intent is not to rape).  Where the ‘sex-positivity’ defenders seem to get off track is in this ‘judgement’ discourse. In the obsessive need to make all representations and manifestations of sex and ‘sexiness’ about individuals, the point that feminists are making is completely missed. That is that this isn’t all about individuals and that your sexuality has been influenced by a myriad of factors, all which have been shaped by patriarchy. This is not about whether or not you, as an individual, feel ‘judged.’

When we look at the arguments made in response to feminist critics, it becomes very clear, to me, who is ‘not getting it’. As I mentioned earlier, those who use the language of ‘sex-positivity’ tend to talk a lot about feminists ‘shaming’ or ‘judging’ their sexualities, which immediately frames the debate in individual terms, isolated from any greater ideology or impact. But in terms of your individual, private, sex life, is it really fair to say that, for example, pornography is something that is individual and private? Or would it be fair to say that pornography is a cultural, social phenomenon that exists as it does today within a particular framework of domination, subordination, sexism, and violence?

I think we could all agree that pornography has influenced our perceptions of women and of men, of femininity and masculinity and, of course, of sex and sexuality, as a society, as well as individuals. Turning this into a conversation about individual likes and dislikes completely misses the point. Whether or not you feel ashamed about your use of pornography or of rape fantasies, well, that could perhaps be examined further, rather than starting an entire discourse or movement specifically around your desire to feel ‘ok’ about this aspect of your sexuality as well as, then, forcing everyone else around you to tell you that it is ‘ok’ or ‘perfectly normal’. Seeing as we live in a rape culture, it might be fair to say that, culturally, you are pretty ‘normal’ if your sexuality exists based on domination/subordination and on objectifying female bodies, anyway.

In terms of the piece at Pervocracy, I suppose it makes sense that we have not been provided with references or concrete examples of these supposed feminists who are ‘disgusted’ by women who shave their legs because, really, that’s not what the arguments are about. While I think there are many, many arguments that are critical of the way in which females are supposed to present femininity, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the argument boils down to disgust.

If we were actually making the argument that women who shave their legs and give blow jobs are ‘disgusting,’ the ‘sex-positive’ crew would have something going for them, because that, on its own, is a pretty shitty argument. But it isn’t nearly as simple as that.

So, for the purposes of clarity, I’d just like to point out that I, as someone who thinks that the term ‘sex-positive’ is bunko and that those who attack feminism and feminists based on the argument that they are ‘sex-negative’ are delusional, shave my legs and give blow jobs.

I don’t engage in these practices as feminist or as revolutionary acts, because they are not, but rather, as something that I do on occasion as part of my life as a heterosexual woman living in this world. I am not dedicated to these practices to the point that I would defend them, but they happen, in my life, it’s true. Do I think I am disgusting? Not so much. Do I also believe that women shouldn’t have to shave their legs or give blow jobs in order to be viewed as ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ women? Yep. Do I think that the fact that women are expected to pretend that they don’t have any body hair in order to be viewed as real women who aren’t disgusting (and I’d like to point out that, if we actually look at who it is that thinks women or women’s bodies are disgusting, I think it’s safe to say that it isn’t feminists) is something that exists because of patriarchy? Yep. Do I think women should be obligated to give blow jobs to men in heterosexual relationships in order to maintain their relationship? No. Fuck no. But I don’t think that women who have sex with men, wear high heels, shave their legs, or flirt are disgusting. I think they exist within the constructs of a heterosexist culture and I think we learn behaviour. It’s hard to unlearn that behaviour.

Sexy? Disgusting? Patriarchy!

I wore heels every day for years. Now I tend to avoid them. Because heels are painful and ridiculous and because I like walking places and I also like my ankles and knees and back. I don’t hate myself for wearing heels or think that I was ‘disgusting’. I think that, at the time, I felt like I had to wear heels in order to appear attractive. That’s how this all works! Women learn that in order to count, they have to be sexually appealing to men.

Though Holly Pervocracy says: “It’s hard to find a piece that isn’t dripping with disgusted descriptions of women who wear high heels and shave their legs and…giggle and…act all flirty and give blowjobs,” there are strangely no references provided. I have the feeling this is because most critiques are far more comprehensive than the author claims.

Pervocracy then goes on to critique a good little piece posted over on XOJane about ‘choice feminism,’ saying:

 

“Here’s a bit from the XOJane article:

So you should go ahead and do things that are patriarchy-approved, if you want to. Buy new nail polish! Care about celebrities! Have a giant wedding! Wear a thong in your hair! Put your picture on the Internet! Look good according to particular patriarchal ideas of what looks good! Be flattered when men wolf whistle at you, literally or metaphorically! Whatever aspects of being a “Hot Chick” work for you, enjoy them. Maybe except the hair thong. But don’t fool yourself that you’re doing so of your own unconstrained free will.

That’s right; women who are sexy are victims of mind control. You can tell by looking at them.  There’s no way a woman can choose to wear nail polish or care about celebrities.  I know I’ve been harsh on femininity myself at times (mostly I’m just harsh at the idea of me being feminine), but this goes beyond criticism of femininity.  This is a claim that femininity is a symptom of Borg assimilation.”

 

So I don’t know. I read the XOJane article, and I’m preeeetty sure that what the author was arguing wasn’t that women are “victims of mind control.” Never mind that this particular article hardly makes an argument against presentations of femininity.

I’ve written about this issue of ‘choice’ as insta-feminism before, and the argument is not that women are stupid and brainwashed, but rather that the way we act, look, and behave exist within a context of patriarchy and is always influenced by the context of our surroundings. To pretend that the choices you make somehow exist inside a bubble of your own making is either disingenuous or delusional. The fact that this context exists does not make those who have learned from that context ‘disgusting’ or products of “Borg assimilation,” it makes us human beings who live here in the now. And it makes the patriarchy powerful. So, let’s recap: women aren’t stupid, patriarchy is an insidious asshole. The more aware of this we are, the better equipped we are to challenge it.

Simply because this is where we live (in the West, in a capitalist-patriarchal system), it does not mean that we must follow along blindly. In fact, once we recognize that we are indeed part of a larger culture and that we, as individuals, are impacted and learn from the systems and ideologies which surround us, it makes it much easier to challenge and critique both the ideologies, as well as our own behaviours as they manifest themselves within this context.

Critiquing things like high heels, body hair removal, heterosexual sex as we’ve defined it in this culture is not the same as “judging women by their sexuality,” because, you know what? High heels have absolutely nothing to do with your sexuality. They are shoes. Which have been fetishized. Primarily because they restrict women’s ability to move and make them appear more fuckable and less mobile (which, of course, also makes them appear more fuckable).

Pervocracy goes on to say that: “It’s also, implicitly, a claim that women who reject femininity aren’t  influenced by patriarchy, which is even more unfortunate. ” PLEASE SHOW ME WHERE. Please. Show me where the feminists are all sitting around pretending that their actions and lives haven’t been influenced by patriarchy. SHOW. ME.

No matter how radical the feminist, I don’t believe that it is common to argue that we, as individuals, whether or not we’ve rejected high heels, leg-shaving, or blow jobs, are somehow free from this system and that it hasn’t influenced our worldview. That the moment we put on a pair of flats we suddenly escaped the male gaze or that we entered into some kind of feminist utopia because we threw out our razors. I mean, isn’t the whole point of feminism to stop pretending as though patriarchy doesn’t exist and impact our lives in a rather all-encompassing way? And then challenge that?

All of this leads up to the key point for Pervocracy, which is that: “it’s impossible for women to be accepted as human beings if we aren’t accepted as sexual beings.” Well, the problem is, of course, that women, in our society are often only viewed as sexual beings. Not whole beings, but things we use for sexual pleasure. Things that specifically exist as sexual objects. To have sex with. Or fantasize about having sex with. We don’t get to just be human beings. Because we have breasts. And therefore we must be gawked at or yelled at or harassed. Because our bodies exist for men. That’s why they’re there. How could we not be sexualized?? We have female body parts! And female body parts, as we’ve learned from porn, are too be looked at or ejaculated on to.

The problem here is that, in our society, we don’t get to choose. We don’t get to choose whether we are looked at or objectified or sexualized. It happens to us whether or not we shave, or wear high heels, or give blow jobs. That is the problem.

So it’s not that, as Pervocracy claims, “women’s dignity is contingent on our not being too sexy,” it’s that women don’t get to choose dignity. Because men always have the power to view us and treat us as sexual objects. Regardless of how “dignified” we are or we think we are.

Wouldn’t it be great if women could “be sexual and also other things.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything we did didn’t have to be sexualized. How is it that, somehow, jobs that are typically viewed as positions occupied by women, such as teachers, nurses, and secretaries, have been turned into porny fetishes and sexy halloween costumes? How is it that, in order to have a ‘healthy’ (hetero)sexual relationship there must be PIV and blow jobs? Why is it that breast-feeding in public is an issue? Women feeding babies?? WITH THEIR BOOBS?? But breasts are only for men to masturbate to! *mind explodes*

The argument feminists make around ‘sex-positive’ discourse is that, often, it refuses to question anything that has to do with sex. This means that, for example, pornography can’t be criticized, because porn is about sex. And sex is good. And it’s about me not you. Same goes for prostitution. Criticize the purchase of women’s bodies? Well, you’re criticizing somebody’s ‘sexual freedom’ (whether or not that individual’s ‘sexual freedom’ imposes on another individual’s or group’s freedom is left out of this conversation) and you can’t do that!

So we hear you. You like sex. Some of us also like sex. That does not mean that everything anyone does in a male-dominated culture, that is somehow related to the way in which sex and sexuality have been constructed within said culture is free from critique. And that critique does not equal ‘sex-negativity’, in fact it is just the opposite. Critiques of the way in which sex and sexuality are represented in our culture come from a desire for a world in which we actually get to choose whether or not we want to be sexual, whether or not we want to have sex, how we define ‘sex’, and yes, even whether or not we want to give blow jobs. It comes from a desire to live in a world where we don’t have to be sexual or sexualized.

While Pervocracy thinks that “having the sex life that’s right for you is an important part of being a self-actualized person,” I think that having a sex life that exists outside a pornified culture wherein women are presented as bodies to ejaculate onto is an important part of…um…living in a free society. I also think that choosing not to have a sex life, because believe it or not, not everyone in the entire world enjoys sex (or enjoys sex in the way in which we’ve decided that sex happens), should be an option. And, at this point, that isn’t really part of the deal.

Feminists aren’t attacking people who like sex. They are critical of the way in which sex and sexiness have been defined. Our perceptions of what ‘sexy’ is and what sex is have been, largely, defined by a male-dominated culture. ‘Sexiness’ is a male construct. It is something that is done for men. That is not the same thing as “refusing to see a woman as a powerful individual because she’s sexy” or “treat[ing] sexy women with disgust and pity.”

Yes! I believe that some individuals like rape fantasies. Do you think that could have anything at all to do with the fact that we’ve sexualized rape in this culture? I also believe that many individuals like porn (I would even go so far as to say that we, as a culture, ‘like’ porn). You are not alone, you who are turned on by porn! But do you truly believe that your love of, for example, fake boobs and shaved genitalia is something that you were born with? That, because you are turned on by dominating women, that this is just something that happened? Out of thin air? And therefore someone needs to fulfill your fantasies for you because god forbid you not be able to ejaculate whenever you feel the urge?

The point is not: ‘sex is bad’ or ‘women who like sex are bad’ or even ‘women who like to feel attractive to men are bad’ – the point is that the way in which we think we should have sex/be sexy/exist as human beings is very much a construct of living in a violent and inequitable culture, which is all very much a part of the way in which we understand ‘sex’ and ‘sexiness’ and even humanity.

 

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com Boner Killer

    “High heels have absolutely nothing to do with your sexuality. They are shoes. Which have been fetishized. Primarily because they restrict women’s ability to move and make them appear more fuckable and less mobile (which, of course, also makes them appear more fuckable).” so much effing truth here. Seriously. The capitalist mindset has really become normalized…ugh

    • Mike Martlet

      I wonder how many men actually perceive high heels in the way that you perceive them. There are some men who perceive them in the way that you state, but having been brought up by three women who wore heels most of the time and having observed their destructive power first hand, I cannot see them as anything other than symbols of female physical and therefore sexual power. The stiletto heeled shoe or boot is perhaps the ultimate example of this, being capable of killing people if needs be! The women I knew as a child completed their everyday comittments without hinderance and it was they who ruled the roost with the men in the family doing their bidding.

      It is of course easy to dismiss my experience as unrepresentative but a quick search of the internet will show otherwise! There are hoards of men who see such heels as implements of destruction and castration. Men respect that which can do them harm. So along with raising height, leg length, changing posture to emphasise breasts and buttocks, and putting the body upon tiptoes as if in running, you have this added message that she has the ability to destroy those males who do not satisfy her expectations.

      So here we are again, it’s all back to the male gaze! Well if you want to breed it is. Because if the other 50% of the human race don’t find you attractive, then your genes are going nowhere! Yes you can still contribute to society and hope for recognition that way alone, but for all but a very very few of us if we don’t breed we might as well have never existed.

      So hasn’t the male blueprint for good breeding stock locked in the male mind changed in millions of years? Yes, for some of us, we want you to be intelligent too and to be our equals.

      • Meghan Murphy

        High heels restrict movement and are physically harmful to women who wear them. How on earth does that equate to female ‘power’? The fact that you can tell that heels sexualize women but then can’t connect the fact that women must wear sexualized clothing in order to be perceived as ‘powerful’ (in any case, it isn’t real power, even if individuals feel temporarily ‘powerful) is strange.

  • http://kmlgl.wordpress.com Komal

    Awesome article.

  • ned

    Meghan, I don’t know how on earth you manage to keep posting such great critiques of sex-positive feminism so consistently and relentlessly day in and day out. Bravo. You’re a hero. Your critiques are spot-on and this post was no exception.

  • kathy

    I agree this is an awesome piece! I too am awed by how prolific *and good* you are!

  • Alex M.

    Wow Meghan, AMAZING article!

  • http://www.almostclever.wordpress.com RootedInBeing

    Whewww!!! Blew me away with this one!! LOVE everything you had to say.

  • David Duriesmith

    Another killer article. Amazingly clear on such a complicated issue.

  • Milly

    Thanks Meghan. Such clear, brilliant writing.

  • Kelsey

    Oh jeez. I checked out this blogger’s many, many posts in the category “Twisty Faster is fucking insane” and was buried in an avalanche of WRONG. Meghan, hopefully YOU’LL be lucky enough to have quotes from your essays isolated from their context to make you look ridiculous, too! Maybe she’ll even tack on a couple offhand comments about what a crazy dumbass you are! Stellar!

    Even though the entire world is patting sex-positive feminists on the back, they still feel the need to whine about how maligned they are by the tiny fraction of us that aren’t buying what they’re selling, even if they have to build straw-men to do it.

  • http://clarissethorn.com/blog Clarisse Thorn

    There’s a long thread about Holly Pervocracy’s post over on Feministe; that’s how I got here.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been trying to forge a sex-positive feminist perspective that coherently takes what’s good about previous sex-positive feminist thought and grapples with these (and similar) critiques. Here are some of the posts and articles I’ve written over the course of doing that:

    Towards My Personal Sex-Positive 101 — I would especially like feedback on this if you have time to give it.

    (old post) Liberal, Sex-Positive Sex Education: What’s Missing

    A Unified Theory of Orgasm

    I’m Not Your Sex-Crazy Nympho Dreamgirl

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Clarisse. I haven’t read all of these yet but am working on it.

      I might start this conversation by saying that, even before we get into what ‘sex-positive feminism’ means, I think that this language is super problematic in and of itself. As I responded to Charlie, it sets up a false binary – as though there are sex-negative feminists…

      • jenny heineman

        The false binary is in your definition of feminism– ideologies to which you subscribe– and everything else, which, in your mind, is decidedly anti-feminist. Using right-wing tactics of repetition and misinformation (If I say sex positive feminism doesn’t exist over and over… Or if I put it in quotes, IE “sex positive,” people will simply rewrite history!) is shameful as both a blogger and self-described feminist.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Sigh. I’m afraid I don’t know what you are referring to when you say: “The false binary is in your definition of feminism– ideologies to which you subscribe…” Feel free to provide examples, otherwise I’m not quite sure what to respond to or what you are responding to.

          Accusing me of “right-wing tactics” is never going to work. I’m starting to feel as though maybe this is, in part, due to the way in which some Americans have come to understand the right and the left, which is, not at all.

          The truth is that I do spend an inordinate amount of energy, as do many abolitionists, correcting misinformation and misunderstandings about our arguments and ideology. After a certain point it begins to feel like we are being “misunderstood” intentionally. Could this be a tactic? Right or left, I don’t know, but it sure is a good way to avoid getting anywhere.

          Sex-positivity does exist in feminism, but it isn’t in the pro-porn/prostitution lobby. It is in the challenge feminists present to a misogynist view of women, sex, and sexuality. The word becomes meaningless because, in that regard, all feminism is “sex-positive”. That said, this language can be alienating to women who don’t like/want sex or are asexual. It really is, simply, unecessary and is, mostly, used in a manipulative way (to sell misogyny as empowering).

  • stephen m

    Well done! Clear and concise. Thanks

  • Joy

    In terms of how we express our sexuality or have sex, I don’t think it’s easy or even possible to separate what might be patriarchal influences from what we “truly” want out of sex. Our culture is about a lot more than violence and patriarchy anyway; there’s a myriad other influences shaping everything we think and do. That’s unavoidable and natural. I question how much it really matters anyway since to me, what we do in the bedroom, or in the bedroom of our minds so to speak, has nothing to do with how we live the rest of our lives.

    For example, you imply that rape fantasies are problematic, but sexual domination can be a major turn-on, and in fact it’s a common one for both genders. I’m not at all convinced it has anything to do with violence or the patriarchy or “rape culture.” I’m an intelligent, strong and active feminist – a prominent one actually – and I don’t just have rape fantasies, I ask my lovers to ‘fake rape’ me – to overpower me, have rough sex with me, make me do whatever they want. It’s thrilling and exciting and I love it. I also demand – and get – respect and admiration from my lovers for who I am and what I do in the rest of my life. One has nothing to do with the other and I experience no conflict. The key things that allow this to happen in such a positive way are my consent, agency and trust in my partners.

    I think you have not adequately responded to the “Sex Pozzie” piece – her main point was that to attribute women’s sexual behaviour/desires to the patriarchy was to disrespect and deny their agency. But since all our sexual desires and fetishes are probably influenced to some degree by the wider culture at large (not just patriarchy), it’s disingenuous to imply that this removes our agency. (That’s like saying we don’t really choose to eat meat because we’ve been bamboozled by the meat industry. But most people really enjoy eating meat regardless.) It’s also not logical to blame only the bad elements of our culture for influencing us, or even assume that domination/submission or ‘symbolic’ violence in sexual behaviour comes from patriarchal influences, or solely from them. It might have biological roots, after all. And if it works for you sexually, there’s nothing wrong with it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi Joy,

      I don’t just argue that ‘rape fantasies’ are problematic, I argue that rape fantasies exist because we live in a culture that sexualizes rape. I understand that “sexual domination can be a major turn-on” and don’t dispute that, I also fully believe that you identify as feminist (actually, you identify as ‘prominent feminist’! I’m not quite sure how one becomes ‘prominent feminist’ vs ‘regular feminist’ but that is besides the point) and ask your lovers to ‘fake rape’ you. But if you think that you don’t have these fantasies specifically because of patriarchy, a culture that sexualizes violence against women, and porn, you are living in a fantasy world. Yes! Consent is key. But that doesn’t magically erase all the other factors which have defined ‘sex’ and our ‘sexualities’.

      Pervocracy’s ‘main point’ was, as I write in the first paragraph: “feminists who critique ‘sex-positivity’ A) don’t understand what the term ‘sex-positive’ means, and B) generally are just hating on women “who wear high heels and shave their legs and…giggle and… act all flirty and give blowjobs…” We are, apparently, “disgusted” by these women and therefore we are not only “obnoxious, elitist, sexist, and counterproductive,” but our criticisms are straight up wrong.” Her point was that we are confused. My point is that we are not confused. My point is also that we don’t hate ‘sexy’ ladies.

      Unfortunately for us, ‘the culture at large’ IS a patriarchal one, whether or not you have some level of agency within it does not change that.

      • Joy

        Thanks Meghan, but I don’t agree. I think you’ve missed the point I was trying to make, so please allow me to clarify and expand. I don’t think you can say that “rape fantasies exist because we live in a culture that sexualizes rape.” Or that “if you think that you don’t have these fantasies specifically because of patriarchy, a culture that sexualizes violence against women, and porn, you are living in a fantasy world.”

        Rape is violence, with the woman completely disempowered and not consenting. Rape fantasies are a completely different thing, because the woman is in control. I said that the enjoyment of my ‘fake-rape’ experience rests on consent, agency, and trust in my partner. Those things are completely antithetical to what happens in rape! I would suggest that despite the language we’re using, rape fantasies actually have little or nothing to do with actual rape, and probably not much do with the patriarchy either. Women don’t want to be raped, obviously!! So to imply that they’ve absorbed patriarchal ‘rape culture’ messages fails as an explanation for why rape fantasies are so common. It’s also disrespectful of their agency. If a lot of women have rape fantasies, we shouldn’t assume they are victims of some sort, as that’s patronizing and dismissive. The frequency of rape fantasies should alert you to the possibility that something else entirely is going on here.

        I believe I have a better explanation. Generally speaking, women are smaller than men and less muscular, which is called sexual dimorphism. Although one could interpret that with some alarm in terms of the harm men can do to women, I think it primarily – and properly – serves as a sexual attractor. Most men prefer women who are physically shorter, smaller and weaker than them, and most women prefer men who are physically taller, bigger and stronger than them. Once a couple has a basic attraction or liking – and we’re moving into consent and trust here – it’s a small step to a woman enjoying being ‘taken’ by her man, and her man enjoying doing the taking. So I think there’s some kind of natural biological basis to this. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from the patriarchy at all. You’re assuming that association without evidence. You’re equating actual rape with rape fantasies when they are completely different things.

        • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

          Joy, the more you talk, the more obvious it becomes that you are a dude.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Did the ‘prominent feminist’ comment clue you in?

          • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

            Actually, it was the biological determinist bullshit and “Most men prefer women who are physically shorter, smaller and weaker than them, and most women prefer men who are physically taller, bigger and stronger than them. ”

            This is not just a matter of feminism 101, this is incredibly dangerous thinking that has brought harm to billions of women all over the world, throughout history. To say something like this is grounds for having your feminist card revoked, seriously!

          • Meghan Murphy

            I know approximately zero feminists who would describe themselves as ‘prominent feminists’. Most certainly not the ones who are actually ‘prominent’.

          • http://oolong.co.uk/ Fergus

            Sorry, I’m genuinely slightly unclear here. Are you saying that most women DON’T prefer men who are physically taller, bigger and stronger than them? Or that most men don’t prefer women who are shorter, smaller and weaker than them? Or that these are things that should people should not be thinking, whether they’re true or not?

          • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

            Oh and when he put rape culture in quotes, that was a big giveaway that he wasn’t just some naive sex-pozzie.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Joy. I am not arguing that rape fantasies and rape are the same thing. Though I am arguing that they are connected. We live in a rape culture, rape is sexualized. When we see, for example, a ‘fake rape’ onscreen in a pornography, that could be construed as merely a fantasy BUT this plays a part in, again, making rape ‘sexy’. The things that men masturbate to impact the things that turn them on. So when we watch porn that sexualizes rape or dominance, that means that rape or dominance becomes a real life ‘fantasy’. How does this impact women in real life? You are trying to separate rape culture from actual rape. Which is completely purposeless and detrimental in terms of looking at WHY women are raped – why it is ‘ok’ in our culture to rape women, en masse.

          Regarding your point about women ‘enjoying being taken by her man’, well, basically what you’re doing is justifying rape and male dominance. So I’m not quite sure where to go from there…

          • Decius

            I have never encountered anybody except you you has made the claim that it is ‘ok’ in our culture to rape women. That includes two people who have been arrested for a total of two rapes and one sexual assault on a minor, with at least two convictions. I’ve talked with a convicted drug dealer who thought that there was nothing immoral about selling drugs, and with many people who thought that there was nothing wrong with shoplifting; they consistently admit to their crimes and treat me as wrong for judging them in part based on their prior actions. The rapists, however, deny that they committed the acts that they have been accused/convicted of.

            Where have you encountered the the belief that “It is ‘ok’ in our culture to rape women, en masse.”?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Hmmm. You are so right, Decius. I totally think / said that it is ok to rape women. Go troll somewhere else please.

          • Decius

            From your prior comment, in context “You are trying to separate rape culture from actual rape. Which is completely purposeless and detrimental in terms of looking at WHY women are raped – why it is ‘ok’ in our culture to rape women, en masse.”

            I made the observation that not even known rapists claim to hold the belief that you generalized to ‘our culture’. My culture can legitimize several forms of murder, blame victims for being victimized, and glamorize most forms of violence, but I’ve never seen or heard anything that indicates that nonconsensual violence, or the nonconsensual threat of violence, may be part of sex.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yeah. You’d think that if we, as a culture, as a world, weren’t ‘ok’ with rape, in wouldn’t happen, in the thousands, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

          • Milly

            Sometimes I wonder why men bother with the “rape is a terrible crime”, ” no one condones rape” lines when the evidence in rape statistics and rape culture is clearly contradictory. But of course patriarchs want to protect “their” women from the wrong sort of man raping them.

            Similarly, you could say that “everyone knows that stealing is wrong, no one condones theft” and yet in a capitalist society white collar criminals are propped up again and again. It all depends on who’s doing the stealing.

            It’s the powerful who get to name the crime and use the law to protect their power and “possessions”.

        • ned

          “So I think there’s some kind of natural biological basis to this.”

          This is the kind of nonsense that is usually called the naturalistic fallacy. Of course sexual coercion behaviors are found in other primate species that demonstrate some degree of sexual dimorphism. That is because physical size is the basis for social dominance hierarchies in the animal world. But, so what? Do human beings simply imitate or copy other behaviors in the animal world? Is human civilization even remotely inspired by animal behaviors? I would argue that human civilization has, from the start, been an attempt by humanity to transcend various biological and ecological constraints and to engage, on an extremely massive scale unheard of elsewhere in the animal kingdom, in what’s called niche construction — shaping our environments to suit our interests and goals and development as a species.

          And make no mistake about it: human beings are in many ways different from other animals. In addition to our ability to alter our environments on massive scales, we have a very complex kind of moral thinking and behavior that is not found in any other animal species on the planet. “Biology” or “nature” are amoral — we are not. If we were a biologically determined species incapable of making moral decisions, apart from never even dreaming up feminism, we would never dream up any kind of egalitarianism whatsoever and would be happy to stick with the kinds of dominance hierarchies found in the animal kingdom based on things like physical size and physical force.

          If this is the kind of reasoning you tend to apply to understand things like rape fantasies, you’ll also have no trouble, I presume, in being A-OK with the eroticization of any power dynamic, be it racial, class-based, ability-based, or whatever. Keep going down the slippery slope of the naturalistic fallacy, and you can throw out the possibility of equality as an ideal altogether.

          So please, take your biological determinism BS elsewhere. Biology and evolutionary theory are already moving in more sophisticated directions and dynamical forms of analysis anyway, and sound moral reasoning has nothing to do with what exists or doesn’t exist in nature. To make a sound moral case for rape fantasies you would have to argue that rape fantasies promote the intellectual, emotional, moral and political flourishing of human beings, particularly women — good luck with that.

          • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

            I want to frame this comment and put it on my wall! I was too angry to properly explain the problems with biological determinism, but I wouldn’t have been able to come close to the perfection of yours.

        • ned

          P.S. Men who are not attracted to strong, muscular women who work out regularly — and yes, strength/weight training has officially become a gender-neutral activity to a large extent, even in mainstream culture — have issues. You have to be an awfully insecure person to seek out and encourage physical weakness in your partner.

        • Aggódó állampolgár

          You did not just bring up biological determinism. Nevertheless there’s hope for you. When rape is finally erased from the world with all existing power structures of dominance and submission and sex will not be equated with an ejaculating penis then you’ll be allowed to have your rape fantasies without outright criticism because no one will be literally really hurt in the real world (not your fantasies) by the notions they inherently carry. But the simple fact that you don’t see how the phrase “taken by her man” is a construct of male dominance suggest you don’t actually know what you’re doing on this site except if you’re genuinely trying to educate yourself. Ha. Ha. Anyway, hope you brought a book, gonna be a long wait.

    • Komal

      Joy, your comment is pure fail.

  • Rachelle

    So brilliant. Thank you.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com Boner Killer

    “For example, you imply that rape fantasies are problematic, but sexual domination can be a major turn-on, and in fact it’s a common one for both genders. I’m not at all convinced it has anything to do with violence or the patriarchy or “rape culture.”

    Well, where else would it come from? Are humans born naturally inclined to fall into hierarchical power struggles, or could it that those power struggles have been historically normalized and sexualized? We must critique all things we do, particularly when it involves getting off on oppression, violence and inequality. we live in a culture where every blockbuster shows a woman being raped or murdered – they are “sexy” and normalized. Everything, including our past of intense colonialism, plays a role in why some will get off on power – It definitely is not above critique. Certainly it should not be for feminists when we are dealing with a very real and very dangerous rape-culture.

    • Meghan Murphy

      This is precisely (one) of the problem(s) with ‘sex-positive’ discourse. An individual’s ‘agency’ trumps social factors/impacts. ‘Well it turns me on!’ is the only argument. Of course it turns you on! We learn what to be turned on by. Men learn to be turned on by sexist pornography. Does this make it ok? No. Is everything justifiable because of an erection? No. I’m not saying that women don’t have rape fantasies or that they don’t all play out porny scenarios or act like women act in porn (some women, I should say) – I’m not saying that some women aren’t turned on by all these things – but does the conversation end there? Why must we be turned on by domination? We, as a culture, have also normalized breast implants and vaginoplasty – does that make these things awesome? No. Why can’t we challenge anything that is categorized as a ‘turn on’ – I mean, some men are turned on by sexism. In fact LOTS of men are turned on by sexism. Is that ok? I mean, it makes all feminist discourse kind of useless if our reply to sexism or sexist things is ‘but I like it.’

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com Boner Killer

    “I don’t just argue that ‘rape fantasies’ are problematic, I argue that rape fantasies exist because we live in a culture that sexualizes rape. I understand that “sexual domination can be a major turn-on” and don’t dispute that, I also fully believe that you identify as feminist (actually, you identify as ‘prominent feminist’! I’m not quite sure how one becomes ‘prominent feminist’ vs ‘regular feminist’ but that is besides the point) and ask your lovers to ‘fake rape’ you. But if you think that you don’t have these fantasies specifically because of patriarchy, a culture that sexualizes violence against women, and porn, you are living in a fantasy world. Yes! Consent is key. But that doesn’t magically erase all the other factors which have defined ‘sex’ and our ‘sexualities’.”

    Spot on here, Meghan!

    I’d love to know what a “prominent feminist” means – sounds like a class-label to me…

  • http://www.charlieglickman.com Charlie

    I think you’re oversimplifying what it is that I’m saying.

    We think it is much more complicated then individuals simply saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ I 100% agree with that. It’s true that some people only talk about consent, which I think is a problem since a) there are lots of reasons that consent isn’t as clear cut as they often make it sound and b) consent is shaped by the possibilities that people can envision, which is certainly influenced by what they think is acceptable or available to them. From what I’ve read of your blog, I think we’re in some agreement around that- consent is important and it’s not the whole picture.

    But that’s where I think we diverge. You seem to imply that consent is all that matters to me, but you leave out the issue well-being. For example, the fact that someone has a particular fantasy is not, in my view, necessarily inherently problematic, but it’s also not inherently positive, either. If their fantasy stems from negative beliefs about themselves, or from the internalization of messages that tell them that this is what they have to do to be sexy, or from messages that tell them that these are the only forms of sexuality that are available to them due to their gender or sexual orientation, or from patriarchal messages about sex, then I would suggest that those aren’t likely to be supportive of their well-being. And actually, I suspect that you and I are in some agreement around that, too. In my view, encouraging and supporting people as they explore where their fantasies come from and whether they support or hinder their well-being is both a sex-positive and a feminist act.

    At the same time, I also think that there are many reasons for any given fantasy. It’s easy to say that “this message creates this fantasy”, but even when that’s true for most people, it isn’t true for everyone. As Bader points out in Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, the stories may seem superficially similar, and you have to dig a little deeper to discover what the actual roots and motivations behind them are. From my experience as a sex educator, I can attest to that.

    I certainly see the ways in which people struggle with messages about sex that get in the way of their well-being. In fact, I’m willing to wager that I see many of those patterns more closely that you are likely to, since I work directly with people around their sexual concerns and challenges. That’s why I locate well-being as central to the question of assessing a sexual practice or act. So I suggest to you that you’re mischaracterizing my message when, even after you quote me as saying that ‘the idea that the only relevant measure of a particular sexual act, practice, or desire is how the consent, pleasure, and well-being of the participants are cared for.” You still make it sound as if consent is the only piece that I consider important, or that I’m saying that people’s likes or dislikes is the only important thing. There’s much more to it than that.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi Charlie,

      Thanks for contributing to this conversation.

      You are right that I completely oversimplified your argument, which is much more complex than Pervocracy’s or, as you say here, simply ‘yes or no’. This post was meant primarily as a response to Pervocracy’s post than yours – that said, I do feel that there is a need to respond to, as I write here, the argument that we, or in your case, Jensen, simply isn’t getting it. I get it and Jensen gets it. And we just don’t agree. I don’t agree with the language ‘sex-positive feminist’ as it sets up a false binary. I believe Jensen argues the same thing. The problem with fantasy, in my opinion, is that, within sex-positive discourse, pornography is often described as simply a fantasy and simply about sex and sexuality. But it’s not just a fantasy. It is about real things happening to real people and it has a real impact on many other people outside the actual screen / besides the actors.

      You are right that we are in agreement about several things, including your point that, obviously consent is important but is not nearly the whole picture and that sexuality, under patriarchy does not necessarily support the well-being of women. But when you talk about ‘well-being’ it, again, sounds very individualistic to me. How do you decide where and when ‘well-being’ begins and ends? And how does, for example, pornography and prostitution contribute to the well-being of women at large, even if it, according to some, benefits individual women?

      • http://www.charlieglickman.com Charlie

        Thank you for acknowledging that. I appreciate it a lot. Coincidentally, I wrote this on exactly that question.

        I think that this is where things get really interesting. If we can begin by agreeing that X supports some peoples’ well-being and hinders other peoples’ (where X can be anything- porn, BDSM, anal sex, marriage, monogamy, open relationships, or anything else), then we can look at things like how many people it supports versus how many people it harms. We can look at the conditions that maximize the former and/or minimize the latter. We can look at the ways in which people navigate that. But we can’t do any of that if we claim that everyone’s experience is the same. I find that attitude to be just as problematic when people say that X is amazing & wonderful & everyone should do it as when people say that X is harmful & damaging & nobody should do it.

        That doesn’t mean that we should always allow X- it just means that we need to be able to acknowledge those different experiences as part of the discussion and as part of our decision-making process. And we need to use language that reflects that, both because it helps us remember that such diversity exists and lets other people know that we’re making room for them. Once we do that, we have a space in which those questions can be put on the table.

        I’m not going to decide where anyone else’s well-being begins and ends. I think that’s part of the problem- too many people are making those decisions about other other folks. I’m totally up for having a conversation about it and asking you (or anyone else) where the boundaries of yours are, or talking about where mine are. And I’m interesting in looking at the patterns that exists among groups of people. But it would be arrogant of me to decide where well-being resides for anyone else and I won’t do that.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I think that we’re missing each other a little. Again, this isn’t about my personal boundaries are or interrupting an individual’s agency. I don’t think ‘diversity’ accurately describes the various ways in which sex work industries impact women and shape the way in which we view women (and men) as a whole. Everyone does not experience porn in the same way and everyone’s rape fantasies aren’t the same, but, in some way it shapes culture, society, and sexuality. ‘Well-bring’ in the context you discuss it, seems to make everything about individuals and I think that erases context. I mean, how are you defining ‘harm’ and ‘support’? In what way does pornography support anyone?

          Just to be clear, I appreciate you engaging in this conversation and am not throwing out everything you say, at all. But I do have issues with the language you use and, as I mentioned, the language of ‘sex-positivity’ in and of itself.

          • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100002185461543 Andrew Pari

            Philosophically, it may be that this is the end of the conversation. I hope not and I look forward to what Charlie says.
            However, taking the element of personal responsibility to the point of thinking that I have control over what other people/groups do undermines the very concept OF the individual. I think this is the frustration of all ideologies that seek societal change. The eventual hope, paradoxically, is to convince everyone INDIVIDUALLY of what the societal/group good is.
            I see most of these discussions/debates boiling down to a philosophical belief in either the individualistic or socialist viewpoint. What is “best for me” and each person is responsible for what is best for them. OR we must all make decisions with our eyes clearly on what is best for all.
            It is easier to understand that if I film a movie where the actor is raped, that I may be directly participating in a problematic situation versus watching that movie where my responsibility seems far more removed. The easiest of all is to understand that, regardless of what I am exposed to in the wider culture, harming another person is always wrong.
            I don’t know if I’m being clear, though I hope my point comes across.

          • http://www.charlieglickman.com Charlie

            I suppose it depends on which kind of pornography you mean. Do you mean all sexually explicit media meant for erotic consumption? Or are there kinds that are acceptable or even positive, and others that are negative in their impact? If the latter, what is your criteria for making that distinction?

            I ask because I’m guessing that if I answer your question while using a different definition than you use, we’ll keep missing each other. So please tell me what you mean when you ask “In what way does pornography support anyone? “

          • Meghan Murphy

            No, I don’t mean all sexually explicit material meant for erotic consumption. I mean, like, what comes up when you google ‘porn’. And I mean what most men watch when they watch porn. I would argue that the vast majority of this pornography is sexist and degrading towards women. I don’t have a problem with erotic imagery or nudity or sexually explicit material, per se – though much of it is porny, of course, nudity in and of itself is not, of course, pornographic.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com Boner Killer

    “An individual’s ‘agency’ trumps social factors/impacts. ‘Well it turns me on!’ is the only argument.”

    Exactly. Some people are “turned on” by a variety of things that are learned and socially created. Since when did our sexuality form in vacuums, anyway? As if having rape fantasies doesn’t have to do with the fact that we have an epidemic of rape in our world and that rape is often sexualized and even normalized…rape fantasies aren’t innate notions that women just are “naturally” inclined towards.

  • Omnia Vanitas

    “I mean, it makes all feminist discourse kind of useless if our reply to sexism or sexist things is ‘but I like it.’” Wow. That hit the nail on the head.

  • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

    “Well, the problem is, of course, that women, in our society are often only viewed as sexual beings.”

    I’m… pretty sure Holly would say that, no, in our society women are often only viewed as sexual objects. To be a sexual being would imply that women have sexual agency, and society in general promotes the notion that women should have no more intrinsic interest in sex for sex’s sake than a peach should have an interest in being picked and eaten or an iPod should have an interest in being purchased and played.

    In this regard she’s obviously in sync with almost all major schools of feminism.

    I’m pretty sure she’d also say that in our society women are almost never viewed as sexual beings. Furthermore when they are society generally responds with extremely negative terms such as “damaged,” “wild,” “brazen,” “naive,” “out of control,” “reckless.” Rightly or wrongly, to the extent she sees certain branches of feminism as “negative” it’s because they add terms such as “subjugated,” “accommodationist,” and “pornified” to the litany of negative terms.

    This distinction of society vastly preferring women as objects rather than beings is pretty critical to Holly. And again, rightly or wrongly, she’s really resistant to the social preference that women should be sufficiently alienated from their sexuality that they can choose how they express it. And that, given the ability to choose how to express it they should choose to express it in ways that are either advantageous to them personally (mainstream society) or advantageous to women as a class and to themselves as members of that class (some branches of feminism.) It’s the notion that women should use their sexuality or allow themselves to be used rather than experience it on their own terms and for their own corporeal enjoyment that seems to bug her.

    And rightly or wrongly (last time I’ll say that) she critiques certain proponents of radical feminism with the exact same bitterness she brings to her critiques of Cosmopolitan magazine.

    figleaf

    (Note: I’m pretty sure she’d say these things in part because she’s said these things both on her blog, in correspondence, and in face-to-face conversations we had back when she lived in the same city I do.)

    figleaf

    • Jicky

      It’s the notion that women should use their sexuality or allow themselves to be used rather than experience it on their own terms and for their own corporeal enjoyment that seems to bug her.

      People who genuinely believe this don’t support prostitution and pornography like both you and Holly do.

      To say men think of women as objects lacks necessary nuance. Women are objectified because most of the fun for men seems to be in the knowing de-humanization of women (and racial minorities) because they are human. Women’s humanity is obvious, which is why men have to spend massive energies forcing unnatural rape cultures onto everyone. Pornography titles and advertisements make references to women’s humiliation a lot more than they actually talk about sex.

      No one makes shaved dogs get on stages to spread their legs and display their genitals because dogs can’t contextualize the situation or connect the johns who subsequently abuse them with performing the leg-spreading act, not like how women can and do.

      Men coercing women to participate in their own dehumanization (for money, popularity, safety, whatevs) is a million times more satisfying for male supremacists than violent rape. Some pimps rule by brutality, but most prefer the emotional satisfaction of being “players” who use deception and manipulation to get complete ownership of a woman’s body, mind and soul. There’s no challenge in dominating objects.

      • http://womononajourney.wordpress.com womononajourney

        “Men coercing women to participate in their own dehumanization (for money, popularity, safety, whatevs) is a million times more satisfying for male supremacists than violent rape.”

        This is absolutely brilliant!

        And this too:

        “No one makes shaved dogs get on stages to spread their legs and display their genitals because dogs can’t contextualize the situation or connect the johns who subsequently abuse them with performing the leg-spreading act, not like how women can and do.”

        The more a woman says she chose to be in the sex industry the more men are aroused.It should be pointed out that even the very few women who talk about choosing ‘sex-as-work’, mention economic coercion, although perhaps not outright poverty.

  • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

    Darn it all. I meant to say “[for that reason] she critiques certain proponents of radical feminism with the exact same bitterness she brings to her critiques of Cosmopolitan magazine.”

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com Boner Killer

    figleaf nailed it simply ” in our society women are often only viewed as sexual objects.”

    exactly, exactly, exactly!

  • Milly

    “There’s no challenge in dominating objects.” That’s a powerful observation, Jicky. And depressingly true.

  • Sean

    Amazing article, had an argument the other day with people who classified themselves as ‘sex positive’and they didn’t even understand what most actual feminism is really about. This article is going straight on the facebook wall of my feminist collective. Amazing analysis

  • TJ_Rowe

    I love how you take Holly’s arguments against slut-shaming and declare them rediculous because feminists don’t say those things. Sex-positive feminism isn’t sex-positive in opposition to some ‘sex-negative feminism’ but is in opposition to sex-negative society – you know, the same patriarchial society that thinks that female sexuality is for pleasing men, and punishes women for being queer, kinky, and outspoken about their desires.

    Have you never heard parents or grandparents disuading their children from interacting with ‘bad girls’ and sluts, and rage at the thought of anyone in their family cohabiting without marriage? Never heard of anyone judged to be ‘unrapeable’ because she had casual sex that one time or wore a short skirt or was seen flirting in public? How about the catagorisation of women by men into ‘women you’d marry’ or ‘women you’d fuck’?

    Slut-shaming is a real thing that causes harm and even death (by suicide or angry family members) for far too many women, and seeing someone deriding the concept on a feminist blog just to score points is making me feel a little ill.

    “Well, the problem is, of course, that women, in our society are often only viewed as sexual beings. Not whole beings, but things we use for sexual pleasure. Things that specifically exist as sexual objects. To have sex with. Or fantasize about having sex with. We don’t get to just be human beings.”

    Which is exactly why our sexual agency is something to make noise about and celebrate, because that what you just described there is a lynchpin of patriarchy. The only type of opinion about sex that we’re ‘allowed’ to have, according to the patriarchy is ‘ooh, if you want!’ It’s only when women’s sexual agency is actually considered to be A Thing that exists and that we possess that we can say ‘I want sex’ or ‘I don’t want sex’. Because currently, our state of ‘wanting it’ is pretty damn irrelevent to society.

    And, back to the differing views of discussion thing, is there something wrong with talking about individuals, and building anecdata? Pretty much every women will experience the patriarchy differently, with different social pressures (there’s a lot of discussion of that on the feministe thread that Clarrise linked), and talking about those individual experiences is worthwhile. No-one is trying to stop you from talking about societal pressure, but far too often radfem critiques of social pressure segue into discussions of ‘those women, with their make-up and heels and flirting with boys and COLLUDING WITH THE PATRIARCHY, it’s so sad’ – it even happened on the feministe thread, from what I remember, and it happens at IBTP all the time – and of course ‘those women’ want to talk amongst themselves about why those aspects of femininity draw them.

    Also, I’m pretty disgusted with the ‘Joy, the more you talk, the more obvious it becomes that you are a dude.’ comment that you agreed with in comments. Because the only reason that a person could have for disagreeing with you is being disconnected from the feministical hivemind by virtue of maleness, am I right? Sure, Joy overgeneralised with her ‘most’, but a lot of people aren’t used to being precise when they discuss what turns them on in relation to what turns other people on. Joy was pretty clearly talking about what attracts her (and presumably what attracts the sorts of men that she clicks with sexually), but making an over-broad generalisation (a lot of people assume their wants to be ‘normal’, whether or not ‘normal’ is a real thing in context, especially when it comes to thing that aren’t discussed very often, like, say, sex, and so generalise further than might be accurate) does not a ‘dude’ make.

    • Meghan Murphy

      But in saying ‘sex-positive feminism’ it implies that there is another, opposing feminism. i.e. sex-negative feminism. Also, Holly’s argument is, indeed, that feminists are disgusting by flirtatious, ‘sexy’, women who give blow jobs. Which is simply not true.

      Re: points – What ‘points’ am I winning here? Wait, am I winning? Is this a game? Please do fill me in on this ‘point’ system. I just had no idea we were keeping score!

      Re: Joy. Dude or not, normalizing rape as some kind biological imperative and introducing yourself as ‘prominent feminist’, as though, therefore, your comments should hold more weight than others, is bound to be met with skepticism.

      • http://www.thedirtynormal.com/2012/03/25/anti-sex-positive-feminism/ Emily

        VERY late to the party here, but… there IS sex negative feminism – anything by Andrea Dworkin, just for a start. “All sex is rape,” remember? That’s sex negative, LIKE WOAH.

        Anyway, I really appreciated your post, as the clearest statement of anti-sex-positive feminism that I could find. I wrote a blog post about it (link above), and now I see that figleaf and I (hi figleaf!) zeroed in on the same issue, that being a sexual being is not the same as (and in some ways in contradiction of) being a sexual object.

        But I think there’s a deeper issue of how much anti-sex-positive feminists think sex positive feminists know about how fucked up the world is, like we’re living in some kind of daydream about patriarchy not existing. Which isn’t at all true. We are – or at least *I* am – sex positive because we envision a world where change is possible, that by building sex positive spaces in the world, we can begin to grow a population that is unchained from the grand narrative. I think.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Hi Emily,

          Sorry for the delay in posting your comment. It ended up in the spam folder for some reason.

          Just so you’re aware, Dworkin isn’t “sex negative” – there is no such thing as sex negative. And she has never, ever said that all sex is rape. I really wish folks would stop perpetuating that myth and actually read her work.

    • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

      Since when do women have sexual agency? I agree, that is something to celebrate about. Be sure to leave me a message when it happens!

      I don’t think Joy a dude for disagreeing. If that was the case, then wouldn’t I think every sex-positive is a dude? Why am I not accusing Holly of being a dude? I sure as hell disagree with her, but I think she’s a woman. Why is it okay for Joy to make DANGEROUS “generalizations” that are an integral piece of rape culture and patriarchy, have harmed billions of women throughout history? She was clearly talking about MEN IN GENERAL, not just men she was attracted to. How would that even be relevant to the source of rape fantasies? She was trying to imply that there is a biological basis for rape fantasies, Christ! Do you not understand how biological determinist arguments like this create the foundation for subjugation of women? Do you not understand how RAPISTS use these arguments to justify raping women? She said that men want “weaker” women. She said that this is the natural order of things. Is this really how a woman speaks? I can’t say I know any feminists who would describe women in such ways. I do know it’s the way a lot of anti-feminist men speak, however. I’m just connecting the dots that you unfortunately cannot or do not want to.

      • TJ_Rowe

        How do we not have sexual agency? We still have things that we prefer or dislike; even though there are pretty strong pressures to deny our agency, or to prevent us from discovering it, it’s still there.

        • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

          What you are discovering is not agency, it is turn-ons and turn-offs. To begin to have sexual agency, women would have to have our “no”s respected each and every time. There could be no rape. That is not the world we live in.

        • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

          describing*

    • http://womononajourney.wordpress.com womononajourney

      I’m confused why “sexual agency” for women should be our number one priority when we’re living under systematic male terrorism. Can women truly have sexual freedom in a society where 1 out of 3 of us are raped? If not, why not focus on ending male violence rather than on promoting “sexual agency” under patriarchy.

      • TJ_Rowe

        It doesn’t need to be your number one priority. We don’t need to be a hivemind that all works on the same thing. Th

        Though I do believe that telling men ‘no, seriously, if she wants sex with you then she will tell you so, because sex is a thing that women do actually want sometimes rather than something that you need to ‘convince’ them to let you have’ (urgh, yuck, urgh!) does help fight rape culture. Because one of the things that helps ‘reasonable’ men collude with rape culture is the widespread belief that women, as a hivemind, do/don’t want sex (do/don’t depending on the circles the particular men run in – both messages exist in different places), and that we aren’t bothered about any particular act on its own merit.

        It might be overly hopeful to believe that most men as individuals are thoughtful and non-evil, but peer pressure does work, and if men are expected to be thoughtful and non-evil by us and by each other, they might start acting like it more.

  • TJ_Rowe

    No, it implies that the focus of that branch of feminism is promoting sex-positivity in the here-and-now. It is feminism that is explicitly sex-positive, that actively works against the cultural perception of sex as something dirty-bad-wrong.

    And there are people who wave the feminist banner who look down on other women for wearing heels or earrings or makeup, wanting male companionship, reading English instead of Maths, or other things that they see as ‘letting the side down’. I’m glad that you’ve not had to deal with it, because it is incredibly frustrating to be told that to be worth anything as a woman, you have to be as like a man as possible.

    If not to score imagnary points, why are you denying the reality of slut-shaming? To set up the rest of your essay with a basis in ‘those sex pozzies and how They Are Wrong’?

    Re: Joy, again, she was explicitly decoupling ‘rape-fantasy’ and ‘consentual non-consent’ senarios from actual rape, and telling you that she is attracted to dominant men in a BDSM sense, and that so are other (sexually) submissive women (who are presumably the types of other women that she might have shared anecdata with, resulting oin overly broad generalisations). I’m not denying that she explained herself clumsily, especially in trying to rationalise her desires, but she was explicitly talking about rape-fantasy rather than rape.

    And there’s skepticism, and then there’s denying someone’s voice and gender because you don’t like what they have to say.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Joy has a voice and is free to use it. I have a voice and am free to use it to point out when people are faking prestige in order to place themselves as someone whose words, as I mentioned earlier, deserve more weight than others. When we write things like: “Most men prefer women who are physically shorter, smaller and weaker than them, and most women prefer men who are physically taller, bigger and stronger than them. Once a couple has a basic attraction or liking – and we’re moving into consent and trust here – it’s a small step to a woman enjoying being ‘taken’ by her man, and her man enjoying doing the taking. So I think there’s some kind of natural biological basis to this,” I believe we are moving beyond fantasy and into justification.

      There is no such thing as ‘sex-positivity’. It is a silly and meaningless term and, as I’ve also already said, sets up a false dichotomy.

      Being critical of presentations of femininity is different than being ‘disgusted’ by women who flirt.

    • Jicky

      Sex-positive is a useless phrase for combatting rape culture. Men like sex. It’s women they hate.

      I wish sex-positive feminists would stop foolishly thinking that sex has a negative image problem that needs their help. I’m a woman-positive feminist, which is to say I am a feminist, no backhanded epithets denoting non-frigidity required.

      • Meghan Murphy

        @Jicky
        Yep. Exactly. As if sex has a bad rep as far as men are concerned.
        I’m a feminist. I don’t need to explain whether or whether or not I like sex as part of that identity. Not trying to be popular over here….

      • kurukurushoujo

        Men like sex. It’s women they hate.

        1+

        Not to mention that sex was never stigmatized to the point where it was considered best for everyone to never have it. The question always revolved around who was allowed or tolerated to have the sex which was deemed to be appropriate.

    • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

      1. Meghan never said slut-shaming doesn’t exist.
      2. Not wearing high heels does not equal being like a man.
      3. She did not decouple rape fantasies and rape. She gave a pretty weak, and then antifeminist, explicitly misogynist argument (THAT IS THE THOUGHT PROCESS OF RAPISTS) but by no means did she “explicity decouple” them.
      4. Why do you presume those are the only women she talks to? Why would that excuse it?

      Why are you trying so hard to justify her comments? Seriously. Oh, and Joy never mentioned BDSM, not that that would give it a free pass. You just made a bunch of very specific presumptions about her life, friendship circles, sexuality, etc. And you know what else TJ? I think you’re a dude too! Tell me I’m wrong, please.

    • ned

      TJ_Rowe: You’re doing the quintessential thing that most liberal doods do because it serves their interest: going on and on about slut-shaming without problematizing the phenomenon in the context of patriarchy. Sluts exist because women are sexually subordinated to men in patriarchy in general and are expected to remain sexually available to men all the time. A slut is just an exaggerated version of what a WOMAN is under patriarchy. Here is probably my favorite blog post explaining this:
      http://kmlgl.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/why-i-do-not-support-slutwalk/

      If we lived in gender-egalitarian societies, forget slut-shaming — *sluts* would not exist. Period. And THAT is what radical feminism focuses on: the core problem, of which slut-shaming is just a side-effect or a symptom.

      Finally, I’m sure some of the language used here has alienated you as a man or come across as a bit unfair. And while I grant that that may be the case, frankly, in the grand scheme of things, where males have systemic male privilege, so freaking what? You’ll get over your annoyance and go back to living with male privilege, while women go back to being bombarded with messages from society telling them to subordinate themselves to the male sexual imagination. It’s hard for me to muster up sympathy for your alienation because if you actually questioned your privilege you’d realize that some of the frustrated remarks being expressed by the radical feminists in this discussion thread are coming from an extremely well-reasoned position that seeks to fight for women’s dignity, a dignity that is constantly being wrested from them on a systemic scale. Please get with the program.

      • TJ_Rowe

        …Again with the ‘you must be a dude’ stuff? I’m sure my aching uterus would love some of that pain-free male privilege, but that’s not exactly going to happen. Not without giving up the probably-more-weighty apparent-cis-privilege, anyway. My opinions are also thought through, I assure you.

        Society says that it’s men’s sexual agency that matters, and that women are supposed to ‘please their man’ (and, of course, that they’re supposed to have a man in the first place) – I know that. I’ve lived that too. When I say that that recognising women’s sexual agency is important, it’s a statement in direct opposition to that – if women’s agency is important too, then it’s not all about the men. You can see how that helps, right?

        Not everyone can campaign for all causes at once. I choose to advocate for equality in intimate relationships, because the personal is political and it’s a sphere that I feel that I can make a difference in, even if it’s only teaspoons of difference.

        The archetypical ‘sluts’, women who enjoy sex, and have lots of it, sometimes with many partners and in unusual ways, will always exist. What I want is for the word to descibe them to not be degrogagory, or for there to be no need to set them apart from other women, and for men to not have an easy way to insult a woman by hinting that she might get up to that sort of thing. Idealistic? Maybe. Especially given that male society doesn’t understand that ‘a number of guys that gets larger over time’ doesn’t mean ‘a number of guys approaching infinity and so tending to include the particular guy speculating’. I’ve been working on that by talking to people, and I do think that the message is spreading.

        • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

          “Not everyone can campaign for all causes at once. I choose to advocate for equality in intimate relationships, because the personal is political and it’s a sphere that I feel that I can make a difference in, even if it’s only teaspoons of difference.”

          Hey, what a coincidence, that’s also my main cause! I don’t think you’re doing a very good job of helping us out though, TJ, and you sound a little naive. You leap to the defense of men and other anti-feminists way too quickly.

          It’s just unfortunate that women’s agency seems to be most important when defending sexual ideas that parallel patriarchy and rape culture’s exactly. The way you, and sex-positives describe sexual agency, does in fact seem to be all about the men.

        • ned

          TJ, I may have gotten the wrong impression that you had stated you were a guy above. If you aren’t a guy, my apologies for misinterpreting/misreading. I wasn’t trying to silence your gender just because you’re expressing the views you are. It’s just that your views tend to be pretty typical of liberal men (e.g. notice the high male turnout at the SlutWalks, but the abysmal male turnout at protests against violence against women in the sex industry — that’s what I’m talking about).

          Anyway, it doesn’t look like people like you and people like me are interested in the same thing. I’m not interested in focusing on the slut-shaming stuff, since that to me is not the core issue, it’s just a side effect of women’s sexual subordination and objectification. Liberal men and liberal feminists tend to focus on that because of the individualism of their overall worldviews. I’m interested in systemic issues surrounding women’s subordination. You’ve actually not addressed my core point at all re: the fact that sluts would not exist in nonpatriarchal societies, and the contention I’m making that a slut is really just an exaggeration of what is meant by “woman” in patriarchal societies. The exaggeration isn’t liked because it threatens to reveal the inherent indignity with which women in general are viewed by men in such societies. That is the radical feminist framework, and you’re completely side-stepping it.

          • Tao

            Yes, we should consider the intent vs. the outcome. They want to be seen as sexual beings with agency, but instead be collectively objectified as sexual scenery in the male gaze and the media (the male gaze on steroids).

  • marv wheale

    We should be wary of appealing to the laws of nature when rationalizing our behaviour in general not just our sexual performance. It is presumptuous to claim that complex aspects of human conduct (including rape fantasies) are socially and biologically caused without questioning the nature of biology. Why do we assume that if inherent drives are steering our desires and actions then they are justified? Also nature is not as immutable as commomly thought. Evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins says that human organisms may be inclined by evolution to act in very harmful ways but should rail against these dispositions which can be changed over time. For example, it is often said that male sovereignty, war, colonialism, capitalism and speciesism are instinctive in humans, or should I say men since they created these institutions. These powers or conquering mentalities have certainly dominated history for eons. Many of us believe they are not inevitable regardless if they are in our blood or not.

    When it comes to sex there is an uncritical blelief among many that it is natural and wonderful as long as it is not determined by patriachal influences and non-consent. Sexual fantasies of domination and subjugation (rape) are often viewed in this way. In this mindset if I deem that my choices are not shaped by gender inequality or other social factors but by inborn or learned agency then they must be efficacious. By comparison, if a black person (living before, during or after slavery) had a fanciful notion of being subdued by a white slave holder would that make it something acceptable or favourable even if this desire existed completely free of social conditiong (however unlikely). Should we rejoice if a worker boasted of pining for subservience to her employer since she thought her labour was not really being exploited by capitalism? Would we want to affirm these cravings as something positive whether they are innate or not? Similarly, what worthwhile gain could be won by entertaining the thought of rape or acting it out in our personal lives just for a thrill?

    The unquestioned desire for and practice of eating animals by humans is another illustration of my point. Just because animals taste delicious doesn’t mean we should devour them or “visualize” doing so. We may have these yearnings but we should resist them because they violate equality rights. Primal longings don’t usually know what is best. We have to use equality based discernment to keep our urges from controlling our lives, others and promoting injustice. If you really believe in the authority of nature then why not emphasize nature’s capacity for choosing equality over inequality instead. There is no one true nature. It has numerous and contradictory manifestations which can be interpreted in many ways in relation to behaviour. To separate them from our androcentric social environment is impossible anyway and sure folly. Better to pursue a hermeneutic of biology that advocates equality desires and structures than to choose regressive and damaging envisages and simulations. Regrettaby this important nuance is lost on many sex positive (natural) people. They can’t overcome the idea that “nature made me do it”, and are therefore unable to develop an alternative imagination. Yet the picture I am trying to paint is hidden in plain sight. It is a portrait of liberation not of liberal enslavement.

    Speaking of emancipating flights of fancy, I have recurring ones every night while alone in bed. I conjure up a social milieu where sex and sexuality are not hyper-valued but in fact are treated with relative indifference. In their place platonic friendships of equality dominate the landscape of life,. We are not men and women but human beings in my trance. I also have visions of human animals respecting nonhuman animals, not as dinner or sideshows. Now those apparitions are worth having no matter how unachieveable. I’ll keep striving to realize them anyway (along with other companions) because the profound joy of a possible egalitarian future infinitely surpasses the hollow and insufferable pleasures of sex crusaders (and speciesists) in our present reality

  • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

    I’m quite surprised to see such an influx of feminist-minded men onto this blog. Where have you guys been hiding?

    • marv wheale

      I apologize for the dereliction of my duties. Thank you kindly for calling me a “feminist-minded” man. I consider that an honour.

    • ned

      LOL, if you’re counting me among the feminist-minded men, sadly, I’m a lady (whose nickname is misleadingly “ned”), but I seem to have no trouble finding profeminist male allies in academia … see for instance the work of Peter Glick that I’ve commented about below.

      • http://othersideofporn.wordpress.com/ No Sugarcoating

        Oh, how embarrassing. My apologies!

  • ned

    Meghan, once again: bravo for spending all this energy in refuting superficial brands of feminism that don’t even address, let alone attack, the roots of women’s oppression. I don’t personally have the time to do this sort of thing at present, and mostly read your blog from time to time as a silent lurker, but sometimes, seeing the kinds of comments that people have left in this thread, I’m compelled to jump in when the fallacious and illogical thinking reaches fever pitch. I applaud your patience.

  • Komal

    No Sugarcoating, if you’re referring to ‘ned’ as a feminist-minded man, you should know that she is in fact a woman and my girlfriend! Men are usually not this enlightened, lol.

  • ned

    This is just a side note, Meghan, but re-reading TJ_Rowe’s comments above is reminding me of the theory of ambivalent sexism that Peter Glick has come up with in collaboration with Susan Fiske. I’m studying it these days, and I have to say, there are many, many points of agreement with radical feminism in it, backed up by empirical data from social psychology. Some basics:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambivalent_sexism

    Peter Glick’s work shows that when you have this unique combination of male dominance combined with male-female interdependence in the context of heterosexuality, overturning some of these systemic issues of women’s oppression becomes pretty difficult. Note that in dealing with class-based or race-based oppression, the same kind of interdependence across privilege lines rooted in sexuality and intimate relationships never arises — this is unique to gender-based oppression due to the fact that the sexes do engage in relationships with one another despite patriarchy. In my opinion, Glick’s empirical work utterly vindicates radical feminism’s focus on sexual politics.

    I highly recommend a book Peter Glick wrote with Laurie Redman, “The Social Psychology of Gender: How Power and Intimacy Shape Gender Relations” (The Guilford Press, 2008). Chapter 2, entitled “Dominance and Interdependence”, is an absolute must-read. Anybody wanting a copy of this chapter in PDF format can e-mail me at geeky (dot) elf (at) gmail (dot) com, and I’ll happily send it along.

  • joy

    For the record, funfemmy, third-wavey sex-poz Joy who’s been commenting here is not the same as hairy manhating survivor/abolitionist radfem-anarchist Joy (eg, me) who’s commented here before.

    Since I’ve been Joy for the past twenty-five years, and I think I was the first Joy here as well (although I could be wrong), I’m going to keep posting under my own name and will trust people to deduce which Joy is which by the content of our respective commentary.

    Just wanted to clear that one up.

    • Meghan Murphy

      We know you, joy!

      • joy

        Thanks, Meghan! I guess there was a mixup among people who know me (on the internet and in real life) when they saw her comments here and thought I had completely lost my radical edge/gone out of my flippin’ mind.

        For the benefit of future readers: that’s what third-wave discourse looks and sounds like to radical people. Evidence of a total loss of touch with reality, and indication of a probable need to stage an intervention.

      • joy

        Also, for the record: many people seem to go out of their way to verbally counteract and renounce the negative stereotypes written about in the article, but I’m not going to. In fact, I kinda embody some of them, at least to a degree:

        1. I don’t like blow jobs at all. On a personal level, I hate the way they feel against the back of my throat. (Most men these days aren’t satisfied unless they can ‘deep throat’ or ‘face fuck’, which hurts no matter how much ‘training’ I gave myself or how much I dissociated during my own ‘sex-positive’ days.)
        On a personal and political level, I hate the way men look at me when I’m performing (key word: performing) blow jobs. I hate the way men treat me during the act, the way they often take it as a free pass to do things that hurt me because I have my mouth full and can’t object (and so they can claim they “didn’t understand” or “didn’t hear” me if I scream or cry). I hate the fact that men can demand a blow job when I’m unwilling to have vaginal intercourse.
        I know blow jobs make men feel good, for so many reasons both physical and political, but they make me feel terrible (physically, mentally, emotionally, and politically), so I won’t do them. I think more women should feel free to refuse to give blow jobs. Hey, men openly refuse to give cunnilingus because they think “[vulvas] are ugly”, and they’re proud of it; I think women have a much better case for refusing blow jobs, so why are we so unwilling to own it?

        2. I don’t like high heels. On a personal level, they are uncomfortable and limit my mobility. On a political level, high heels aren’t meant to be comfortable (the only reason women think they are is because they get used to wearing them, and being comfortable in them is a source of pride and social currency [“I’m a real woman, I can walk in heels and it doesn’t even hurt!”]) — they are meant to hobble women, and over time they actually do cause crippling damage to tarsals, metatarsals, and muscle groups that can significantly impair a woman’s ability to walk. They are therefore meant to limit a woman’s mobility, both while she is wearing them and after she takes them off.
        I personally stomp around in hobnailed boots or moccasins all the time. And it honestly confuses me when women opt for devices that cause pain and loss of mobility. Flat shoes, like granny boots and moccasins, are considered fashionable in some circles — there’s no excuse!

        3. Flirting is unnatural behavior. Personally, I wasn’t socialized into it, so it feels unreal when I do it. Politically, it infantilizes women and therefore automatically invalidates everything they have to say. It always makes me confused and sad when I’m hanging out with a woman who is looking at me straight on and speaking normally, maybe laughing loudly and showing her teeth, maybe taking her voice to a lower register … until a man enters the conversation (or even room), whereby the woman starts tilting her head, batting her eyelashes, giggling with her hand over her mouth, raising her voice an octave, using childlike phrases … That kind of thing only appeals to men because they (are socialized to?) see women as intellectual inferiors who are constantly willing to amend their behavior to appeal to men. I don’t have any interest in that, and don’t know why anyone would be.

        4. As far as giggling: we all giggle, I think. So do men. When it becomes a habit of appeasement through infantilization, though, it becomes contrived and confusing.

        5. I think shopping was mentioned in there? Like the wearing of high heels, shopping is a capitalist imposed desire, not an innate behavior. It’s perfectly okay, and in fact very politically viable, to oppose shopping. Especially as long as women make 75% of the money men do for the exact same work, and are expected to spend as much of that money as possible to make themselves perpetually attractive by heteronormative and consumerist standards.

        I really just wonder why these are considered bad, negative, unacceptable things. Much as third-wavers might disagree, disliking blow jobs or shoes or unnatural sets of behavior (and wondering why more women don’t join us in our opposition) doesn’t make us prudes, or evil shrews, or antiwoman assholes. It just means we’re politically aware and opposed to patriarchy. And I’m going to own that proudly. The third wave can call me and women like me “ugly”, “prudish”, “insane”, “sex-negative” “[expletives]” all they like.

        PS: I also strongly oppose biological determinism.

        • jenny heineman

          PS- If you routinely run into men who don’t give a damn that you’re crying while giving head; if watching your girlfriends raise their voices an octave when a man enters the room is something of a pattern for you; if you consistently come across acquaintances who justify capitalistic shopping habits, perhaps the problem is not “funfemmy, third-wavey sex-poz” feminists, but the people you surround yourself with and/or your clouded, inflated sense of “radicalism.”

          On a separate but related note, harassing other women does not make you a “radfem,” or “edgy,” it makes you a bitch, and not in that funfemmy reclamation kinda way.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Nice one, Jenny. Insulting, name-calling, ad-hominem attacks…CLEARLY it is Joy who is doing the harassing and you who are the TRUE REAL-LIFE FEMINIST TRUTH-TELLER. Keep up the good work, sister.

  • M

    I think a line needs to be drawn between “sexual being” and “sex object.”

  • Me

    What a great article and so many good comments!

    I really don’t get the sex-positive critiques of feminism at all. It seems like a false binary as you said, but on the other hand some people seem to insist on it. It makes me ask don’t people know the stuff regular guys get off on or don’t they care? How about the front page of tnaflix or redtube? Is there something positive about that? Seriously? Guys know that’s what porn is, they like it, it’s huge and it needs to be stopped.

    As a teen and young adult I “educated” myself for years masturbating to porn and it took four or five years in a loving relationship to find that I’ve changed a lot for the better. I don’t understand how people could honestly be unsure about the effect porn is having on guys. Callousness? Disregard for the “partner’s” feelings and basic humanity? Difficulties connecting emotionally? Mechanical sex, no, make that ejaculation? Being a typical porn consumer very much fucked me up and I don’t personally know of anyone for whom it would’ve been much different or shaped them for the better. To the contrary, some guys eventually get over it and become better.

    I went to a porn site after several years and found that it was just disgusting, just plain brutal violence and abuse and young flinching girls and nothing erotic about it, the same stuff I’d masturbated to years before. Wife and I really had to make a serious effort for me to change and even then it took years to see a basic level change in me. “All” I had to do was to tune in to my wife and myself and do nothing that felt forced or “driven” for years, as she did. I like sex much more now. I know how I feel about it, and I have an actual gut feeling of disgust when it comes to porn that I developed quite “accidentally.” And I see young guys all the time asking the same kinds of questions I asked myself, if their budding hateful attitudes toward women are okay and to be encouraged and by far most men will tell them yes.

  • Pingback: BDSM is Violence Against Women « Liberation Collective()

  • Candy

    According to sex-positive feminism, I should be accepting sexual practices like this:
    http://humiliatethem.tumblr.com/
    as just another variant of expression.

    You have got to be kidding me.

    • Me

      Couldn’t look at the pictures, but the FAQ had this, lol:

      “Are you a man or a woman?

      Neither. I consider myself to be agender, because I don’t believe in the institution of gender. I am male, and I am attracted to female bodies. But humiliation of any human being is more important to me than their gender—I fantasize about humiliating another man, even though I’m not gay.”

      • Candy

        While I’ve butted heads with a few individuals on this site about sexuality, it’s mind-boggling to me that anyone would accept this as healthy sexual expression. In fact, it’s truly repeating the same Judeo-Christian, puritanical values infiltrated into modern society in shaming another person…for their sexuality! Not only does it encourage shaming (notice how she’s a “worthless” whore, again perpetuating that the women society has deemed “whores” are not worth respecting, even out of pure human decency), it shows lack of character.

        Sex is just another activity we participate in. If I was in a sports team and made a disparaging remark about a member of the opposite team, that would demonstrate poor sportsmanship. If I called a woman a dumb whore on the street for rebuffing my advances, that would show a lack of morale. If I desired to call a woman a worthless whore and treat her like virtual trash, this would substantiate that I had my own inner conflicts and hate.

        We don’t truly make any free choices. What you watch and do in life will influence your attitudes, even the attitudes you try to keep stealthily locked away. Psychology, whether or not you have your own hesitations about certain theories, has shown a link between personality/emotional states and fantasies. Not all surprising considering normal everyday daydreams and fantasies are directly related to what we experience during the day. I think some feminists need to throw this “anything goes” stance in the bin.

        • Me

          I sometimes find it helpful to think of the things I do or experience in the waking life as if they were a dream. I ask myself if this happened in a dream, what meaning would I see in it and what could I learn?

          It’s interesting that any and all porn becomes a nightmare if I think of it as a dream. Even the “good” kind, in some ways especially the “good” kind. I also have loving dreams and ecstatic dreams and no porn could be like that.

          I’m not trying to suggest any kind of fixed, psychological interpretation of porn as a dream. I believe dreams are best understood by the dreamers themselves through their own experience, by actively searching for their meaning, which can change over time. I am suggesting that all porn would become nightmares with whatever meaning and transformative power those nightmares might have in each case. I am also suggesting that dreams are a real and very important part of our lives, which is to say they’re not only subconscious messages or a reliving of daily or past events.

          I can’t but think that some people reenact their dreams in the waking life, which doesn’t seem wise, because dreams often speak in metaphor, and I can’t simply reimpose a metaphor from a dream on my waking life and expect it to work. I can take a lesson from a dream and find a way to bring that into my waking life. Sometimes I can bring across an emotion or some idea for an action, but usually it doesn’t translate exactly. Still, I did at first find a way to cry in dreams before I was able to bring that over in essentially the same form, and dreams have also been central as I’ve opened up to explore my childhood. There are some things there I only have body memories for, and assigning meaning to them has primarily come in dreams. Just a thought.

  • CJ

    To be honest, it sounds like both feminists who say they are sex-positive and…not sex-positive, are really arguing the same thing for the most part. They both want women to be able to choose their sex lives (or to not have sex) freely. It’s just that sex-positive feminism is more of an immediate thing, focused on dealing with sex in our current society, as it is right now, while everyone who is going with what is said here is focused on the long term goals. I mean, it is true that what someone finds attractive is based on society, but for the moment, people will still have sex, and people should not be shamed for that as long as it’s consensual. I am assuming both sides agree with that.

    Somewhat nitpicky argument: I don’t think the comment on Pervocracy about women having the right to be sexual beings was meant in the way you interpreted it. I’d assume he (to clarify for the pronoun switch, Holly is now Cliff and prefers male pronouns) is saying that women should have their own sexual desires respected. That’s different from sexualization, where someone else views someone as sexual regardless of their wishes. Really, viewing women as sexual beings would more refer to respecting their choices when it comes to sex and acknowledging that women do have fantasies. I doubt that few feminists would argue that, but there are some rad fems who seem to imply otherwise, and that seems to be more who the Pervocracy article is aimed at.

    Now, for the BDSM, which as far as I can tell is the main issue here:
    What about gay men who are into BDSM? Or straight dommes? Or people who have had some interest in these things since they were young? I haven’t heard a whole lot about it in terms of dominance and submission, but I know a lot of sadists and masochists remember being that way since they were very young. I’d have to say that not all of these people are interested in BDSM due to society’s influence. If they are, I’d say the issue involves glamorization of violence regardless of gender.

    Really, the assumption that all women are submissive in these situations is what bothers me. Especially when it comes to masochism (though not necessarily submission), I’ve heard that it’s split pretty equally between men and women. I do acknowledge that there are more male doms than female dommes, but that doesn’t entirely excuse how often anti-BDSM feminists entirely ignore people who are not straight couples where the man is the dominant one. While I know quite a lot of people who fit into that category, I also know a lot who don’t (including myself, who’s non-binary and with a preference for masochistic men and dom(me)s of whatever gender, thank you very much).