And now, an interjection from a sex-positive feminist

When I usually encounter a “sex-positive” on the internet, they are about as far from being feminists as humanly possible. I submit for your evidence: Bang-Bros (don’t worry, it’s just a wikipedia link).

Occasionally, I actually stumble upon an actual feminist, not someone who is posing as one to write off their nasty exploitive shit as art, who submits that they are “sex-positive”.

Via Feministe, KaeLyn’s Feminist Porn: Sex, Consent, and Getting Off. I was pleasantly surprised. No overt anti-feminist sentiments were expressed. No glaring logical holes were presented. The comment thread, quite long at this point, is mostly civil.

Nevertheless, the post bothered me. Not in the way that inspires me to hurt inanimate objects, but in the way that I felt that the work of my feminist icons and my own opinions were being unintentionally misunderstood and discarded.

I find it most constructive to refer to the actual post for my analysis. KaeLyn starts her prose with:

Feminism has a love/hate relationship with sex.

How so? I have yet to meet a feminist that isn’t a parody of the word that actually loathes mutual sexual satisfaction between various amount of people of various genders and non-genders. I simply have an issue with how that mutually consensual contact may be expressed in fashions that I feel have more to do with social convention and gender roles than reciprocal respect and genuine want. I don’t hate sex, and I surmise that even the most strident of radical feminists doesn’t either. Merely, most of us don’t consider some forms of popularly considered “sex” sex at all. Where the average Joe sees a particular act as sex (for example, having sex with a sleeping girlfriend), I might see rape. That doesn’t mean I hate sex, that means I hate rape and rapists. Also, there is a bunch of sexual expressions that are not rape in the legal/criminal sense, but I feel would not be possible outside of the pressures of a patriarchal society. Again, that is not a hatred of sex. Also, I have yet to find any sort of feminist that truly hates sex. It would probably be prudent of KaeLyn to reference a “feminist” that she assumes hates sex, so that I am not puzzled as to what she is referring to.

I once spent an evening at a hole-in-the-wall strip club with a 20-something friend fiercely debating her anti-pornography/anti-prostitution position. We spent half an hour of that night talking with a dancer, a young single mom and the only woman-of-color on the floor. She said it was better than working at a grocery store; she made more money and didn’t have to pay for day care. How could I blame her? It was niave and classist for us to engage her in this conversation, but I was in college and didn’t know how stupid I was being.

How is it naïve and classist to want to know the justifications and thoughts of a stripper? I think it’s actually quite insulting to assume that the acts and works of a stripper are beyond question, or that engaging a stripper in conversation about her work, in so long as she is willing to talk, is demeaning. No human is ever beyond question, period. Of course, there is a right and wrong way to do everything. Simply discussing stripping with a stripper with the goal of understanding her is fine, in so long as she is willing to talk. Denigrating her lifestyle, however, would be sexist and classist.

Furthermore, is it naïve or stupid of me to wish that there were no women in the world that would have to pick between a minimum wage job and sex work? I strongly feel that true agency is not found between a rock and a hard place.

In the 60’s and 70’s, Andrea Dworkin led a brilliant fight to expose and illuminate rape culture and end violence against women. Her analysis of the gender binary, pornography, and theories of penetrative sex as a patriarchal act is at the titillating center of a lively and necessary conversation in the feminist community. I also believe the work of Dworkin and her peers has contributed to the division of lesbian and heterosexual feminists, persecution and demoralization of sex work and sex workers, exclusion of transfolk from feminist spaces, and a whole lot of personal feminist guilt. But I gotta’ give kudos to Dworkin for putting rape culture on the map and, there are many awesome, inspiring, fabulous feminist leaders I admire who also happen to be card-carrying members of the anti-prostitution camp including Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan.

How and why has Dworkin divided lesbians and heterosexual feminists? I consider myself a member of the “not heterosexual” category, and I don’t feel ostracized and neglected by feminism. That mainly is because feminism is concerned with gender roles, and those are most often expressed in the relationships between two people of the opposite gender identity. Also, it might have something to do with the fact that heterosexuals are the majority of the population, and their experiences are more shaped by social norms and more common to come across. That is not to say that feminism never touches lesbianism, bisexuality, or any other deviancies from the gender binary. For example, the Beyond Masculinity project touched on the these issues from the perspective of genetic males.

Also, I have never heard of feminists persecuting and demoralizing sex workers. We criticize sex work, true, but that’s because the conditions of every facet of the industry are so heinous that ignoring them would be tantamount to malicious neglect. If we truly want to fight against rape and sexism, I feel that we ought to look at the parts of our economy that are responsible for the most paid rape, infidelity, murder, abuse, disenfranchisement, child exploitation, and objectification. Simply wringing our hands about how much housework an upper-class woman does in comparison to her husband is a worthy discussion, but the seriousness of that issue pales in comparison to things like how the legal system ignores violence against sex workers but defends those that profit the most off of sex work, namely pimps, pornographers, and people like Hugh Hefner. All of the above, I might add, are idolized by popular culture while sex workers are vilified or objectified.

Furthermore, since when has Dworkin said anything nasty about transsfolk? The draft of her civil rights ordinance that characterized pornography as “the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words” states that the use of men, children, and transsexuals in the above context is also relevant. I recall, although I cannot locate a direct quote, that in Woman Hating she stated something to the effect that transfolk wouldn’t exist if we lived in a completely unsexist world, although that doesn’t mean that they don’t live in a state of emergency and deserve full state funding for any and all medical procedures. By that, I gather that without a patriarchy, gender really doesn’t matter much at all. In fact, gender will be as unremarkable as having grey or green eyes. Thus, if we change our gender, it would have very little effect on how people perceive us, much like wearing colored contacts or having your irises tattooed a different color. I do not interpret these as anti-transsexual sentiments.

All that said, a reproductive justice framework, in my mind, calls for the full rights of sex workers and a liberation of sexuality that goes beyond mainstream pornography and sex work. Don’t women, and all people, have the right to control their bodies, access their sexual desires, and to enjoy safe and consensual sexual pleasure?

Ironically, I completely agree with the above statement, but I draw completely different conclusions from it than those that KaeLyn expresses.

And while the porn and sex/adult industry is currently geared towards men and definitely objectifies women, forgets women’s pleasure, and supports an oppressive rape culture, I see a bigger solution than attempting to censor or criminalize sex. Like abortion, homosexuality, and other social issues that have been labeled “deviant” and make people uncomfortable, sex work and the sex trade will always go on, even if pushed underground. And legalization and support of sex work can open the door to helping the sex/adult industry become safer and healthier for sex workers and a more welcoming and affirming place for feminists and all people.

KaeLyn’s initial reaction to the sex/adult industries are completely correct. Then, she errs. Radical feminists want to criminalize acts and depictions of rape and objectification, not sex. Abortion and homosexuality are not fraught with the same ethically wrong abuses as the sex industry. Pornography, stripping, and prostitution are not true depictions of sexuality and sex any more so than two actors in a sex scene are actually having sex. Some radical feminists don’t even want to criminalize those things, but they would like a strong stigma to be attached to them and demand to increase for actual depictions of true desire and sexuality. My feeling is that the aforementioned is impossible in our current society because of the gender binary and roles. Patriarchy is still alive and well, and it is still best expressed through sex, and reinforced through orgasm. In a true “chicken or the egg” dilemma, the sexist sentiments of society demand demeaning sexist porn, and then the porn further warps and twists definitions of sexuality. This theory is correct, simply because the instances of non-objectifying porn are extremely rare. If I rented the 100 most popular porn videos, and magically brought them to life, I would have 100 sexual situations that I would wish to have no part of. I submit that those that remain pro-porn have an extremely romanticized and erroneous view of our sex industry, of the demand that fuels it, and the conditions that allow it to flourish and proliferate.

It is right, however, to assume that it will go on as normal if it is illegal. However, legalizing it will hardly make those that sell objectifying disgusting smut easier to catch. Simply, our justice system is very concerned with the First Amendment and “innocent until proven guilty”. Without suspicion of a crime, no investigation will take place. Our justice system is totally inept when it comes to combating things like child pornography, rape, human trafficking, and prostitution while those acts are illegal. Imagine how little will get done once the justice system has to have reasonable doubt of abuse, not just prostitution, before they break into a massage parlor that is holding women in sexual slavery. The justice system is not concerned, at all, with the plight of sex workers. The link I provided above to the man that received only a day in jail for killing a prostitute should make that abundantly clear. Donald Trump hires an underage nude model, offers an extremely transparent excuse, and receives no penalty. A Dallas strip club makes a 12-year old runaway perform in exchange for board, and is still open for business. These acts are blatantly illegal, exploitive, and foul, and still the justice system does nothing. Giving those that profit off the sex industry even more legal room to operate will hardly solve the problem. Ever since the Netherlands legalized prostitution, 80% of prostitutes are foreigners, and 70% have no papers, suggesting that they are trafficked. In contrast, once Sweden criminalized buying sex while legalizing selling sex and provided extensive exit programs for sex workers, demand for prostitutes has fallen, the number of prostitutes has fallen, and human trafficking has decreased at a rate unsurpassed by the usually ineffective anti-trafficking measures.

Making the demand for sex work legal will not magically transform the sex industries overnight into a feminist paradise. We should know better. The people who fuel and profit off of these industries the most are bigots, liars, criminals, traffickers, abusive pimps, cheating johns, pedophiles, and woman-haters. Simply put, the average john, porn-viewer, and strip club regular is not an up-standing member of the community. These are not curious people wanting to learn more about their sexuality (a ludicrous assumption, because there is very little in porn, prostitution, and stripping that has anything to do with real sexuality), these are people that, at best, are capable of completely divorcing the sensation of sexual arousal from respect and emotion. At worst, they are addicts to exploitation and degradation, constantly demanding more and more extreme porn until they glean sexual pleasure from rape, murder, children, abuse, and the most vile and inhuman acts.

I, and others in the pro-sex camp like Pat Califia and Betty Dodson, believe in a society that truly values gender justice, where women can make free and safe choices about sex and sexuality, be free from abuse and assault, and have available to them the same frank and authentic access to their sexual selves that Western culture affords men from the day they pop out of the womb.

Again, what would really help women make “free and save choices about sex and sexuality” is a society in which female sexuality is not defined by catering to the pleasures of her viewer. This is an evitable part of any economic exchange: by the very act of someone paying me to do something, it is assumed that the act itself is not pleasurable enough for me to do it without pay. A choice between minimum wage and stripping is not a choice that men have to make, so why should women? Also, a culture of men that masturbate to images of women that cannot and will not say no (or if they do, in the case of rape porn, they are forced anyway) is hardly going to convince anyone of anything other than the assumption that women are sexual property, open and welcoming to the male gaze, and always perpetually sexually available. These attitudes absolutely fuel the rape culture. In fact, I cannot think of a single man I have every slept with, who later admitted that he views porn, who seemed to have a good working knowledge of anything but what he wanted in bed and what he assumed I wanted by watching a bunch of smut. On the contrary, my best lover was a virgin who thought pornography was disgusting. We explored what we both liked without any preconceived notions of what sex ought to look like and what “real men” could get their women to do in bed.

Of course, it is more complicated then just embracing porn. I, obviously, do not condone human trafficking or sexual slavery. I do believe that legalizing sex work will help regulate and prosecute human trafficking and sexual slavery and will create human rights for sex workers. I do not believe that all pornography should be legal. Porn or sex work that involves minors, animals, killing of people or animals, and rape should be criminalized to the fullest extent of the law. I do think that pornography that include consensual sex between adults, including rape fantasy, incest taboo, BDSM, and other “kinky” sex should be legal and can be deconstructed and even embraced by feminist pedagogy.

Like I explained above, all evidence points towards the fact that legalizing the demand for the sex industry allows the most heinous of exploitations, while criminalizing it has proven to be the most successful policy. That is not to say, however, that the legality or illegality of sex work fuels exploitation. My theory is that neither matter much. What does matter is the simple fact that the justice system does not give a damn about the abuse of sex workers, even when such abuses are illegal. Legalizing sex work will only give them another excuse to fail to uphold the laws or put forth no effort in criminal investigations, and provide even more opportunities for pornographers, pimps, and johns to slip out of any charge brought against them.

KaeLyn’s portrayal of “consensual” sex in this context is extremely limited. In a patriarchy, like I said, all sex acts lie along a continuum of non-consent. To simply group all sex acts into black and white categories of “consensual” and “non-consensual” is far too simplistic. In order to have such a sharp divide, the law would have to define consent in such a way that all acts could therefore be categorized easily and efficiently. As I have explained in a prior post about rape trails, the legal definition of consent is currently so easily manipulated that more women wind up shamed and alienated by rape trials than rapists wind up behind bars. This is because the law will say that consent is the difference between “yes” and NO. But that no has to be firmly and repeatedly stated. Oh, and there have to be bruises all over her body. Don’t forget the signed witness statements of ten other people. They’re only good witnesses if they are sober though.

Does anyone see the problem here? If rape porn is legal, how the hell is someone going to prove non-consent? If a woman will lose her only source of income and be popularly recognized as a prostitute or porn star, why the fuck would she come forward? If every sexual act she has ever done in her entire life is opened for scrutiny, why would she even bother? In fact, how could a prostitute living barely above the poverty line go after her upper-class pimp, or a single mother porn star working three jobs pay her legal fees?

The answer is that they cannot. If normal women cannot make rape charges stick, well, what hope do porn stars, prostitutes, and strippers have? Our legal system is so hopelessly fucked that our entire society would have to be re-ordered to deal with the legal demands of a regulated healthy sex industry. In so long as sexism, misogyny, and violence are demanded by the masturbating public, does anyone even for a second believe that this is possible?

So theories and pontificating aside, let’s add reality to the mix. The reality of what women, even feminists, find pleasurable is not always politically correct. Sexuality is not neat and clean. I have talked to many feminist women who struggle to balance what really happens behind closed doors and what they feel the bedroom politics of a “good feminist” should be. Enjoying BDSM, strap-on sex and sex toys, genderplay, rape and incest taboo, mainstream pornography, and other “deviant” sexual taboos with a consensual partner does not make a person a “bad feminist” or a hypocrite. To the contrary, feminism is what gave me permission to love sex, with myself and with others, to embrace my sexual orientation, and find out what turns me on. Pro-sex feminism argues that recognizing the role of fantasy in sexual arousal and coming out of shame about sexual desires opens the door to a more frank and honest discussion about women’s bodies, consent, and safer sex. And that leads to better, safer sex that encourages communication and complete, enthusiastic consent to sex that is fulfilling and healthy. How is that not feminist?

Of course sexuality isn’t always “neat and clean”. If you masturbate to objectification, rape, or children enough you’re going to want to objectify your sexual partners, rape some people, and have sex with children. In fact, you’ll think this is perfectly normal. Take, for instance, the state of rape law today. Many people persist with the bizarre notion that is it perfectly normal for a man who sees a drunk attractive woman in a miniskirt to rape her. In fact, it’s her fault that she got raped, because men are incapable of controlling their penises. Some people even go so far as to say that men who rape children are normal because she wanted his approval and dressed like a whore. The social definition of rape, consent, and sexual desire is so fucked up by the legacy of thousands of years of treating women like sexual property that the idea that the average person knows the difference between non-consent and consent without careful introspection is, frankly, extremely optimistic and dangerous.

My thoughts are that if you genuinely cannot get off without your rape role-playing and heavy BDSM you have serious issues. Sex is exciting enough with normal varieties like different positions and toys, why the hell does everyone have to add this undercurrent of submission/domination and objectification to get off? I personally have absolutely no desire to treat someone I respect or love as a masturbatory object, and I don’t think that I could have a relationship with someone who does. You know, variety is the spice of life, but if all that gets the blood pounding is images and acts of objectification, exploitation, pain, and abuse, then please stay far far away from me. The notion that things like rape fantasies and heavy BDSM are feminist is bizarre. I cannot think of anything less feminist than the use of someone’s submission, pain, and abuse to orgasm. At the very least, these acts are neutral. At most, they’re criminal.

Of course, feminism did give me the agency to “find out what turns me on”, but it also, to a great extent, showed me what does not. What does not turn me on, in any way or form, is violence, abuse, and exploitation. Feminism gave me the voice to say “fuck you and your porn, you’re not getting that dick anywhere near my ass”, and the knowledge to figure out it’s better to want someone than to do what someone else wants because you want them to want you.

I also reject the use of “pro-sex feminist”. All feminists are pro-sex and pro-women. Nothing is more “pro-sex” than telling people that want to define me in terms of what they want me to do and be to fuck off. What KaeLyn is implying is that I am “anti-sex”. Which would be false, being that I love a little genital friction like any other human being. What I don’t like is rape and exploitation. Thus, I do not like stripping, porn, and prostitution. I am capable of separating porn stars from pornographers, johns from hookers, and viewers from strippers. I follow the money and power. Who ever has it, and gets the most of it, is probably responsible for the disgusting state of the sex industry. Thus, I’m quite capable of not vilifying a woman that chooses between minimum wage and stripping, but wanting to drag the mutilated body of someone who goes on sex vacations through Thailand to fuck toddlers through the streets.

Frankly, discussion of why we get turned on by the things we do is healthy. After I was raped by a boyfriend, I had fantasies of someone tying me up and telling me I was a “sheath for his cock”. I really don’t consider that a healthy expression of my sexuality. Shame when it comes to sexual deviancy is healthy. It’s what keeps a potential pedophile away from real children. Not all sex acts are equal. Just because it feels good doesn’t mean it’s moral. Seriously, do I even have to state something so obvious?

What would really lead to better safer sex is a society in which men don’t assume women want exactly what they want because they masturbate to nothing but paid performances. A society in which I am not assumed to be perpetually sexually available by a culture of viewers who see image after image of women that never ever say no. A legal system that locks away rapists and abusers instead of vilifying their victims. A society in which I discovered what I wanted sexually before I discovered what I had to be for people to want me.

Underneath her prose, KaeLyn lists various porn sites that are owned by women, open to many kinds of beauty, pro-feminist, or trans-accepting.

I clicked on many of them, I didn’t find really much of anything I could get off with. Mainly, because the majority of the sites still featured women for men to look at. They didn’t even have the decency to have many woman that I would like to look at. I saw fetishizations of the menstrual cycle, hairy women, transsexuals, “alternative” women, feet, and vegans. But all of these lifestyles weren’t respected for being genuine political statements, they were just another gimmick to wank to. That’s the difference between someone who understands my anger and opinions and wants to do some serious introspection and research themselves, and someone that sees my anger, thinks its hot, and wants to fuck me without ever thinking about the words and feelings that I express.

That’s not feminism, it’s the fetizishation of feminism. If I wanted people to want to fuck me because I’m a feminist, I wouldn’t be a feminist all! In this society, nothing is more disgusting than an opinionated cynical woman who doesn’t shave her legs, doesn’t give a shit about her weight, and is not impressed by your love of anal sex. What would really be a true expression of sexuality is someone who understands my message, understands me, respects me, and wants me because he/she likes me for who I am and what I think. A very shallow and hollow sentiment would be someone who still doesn’t give a shit about what I say, but thinks my hairy legs are hot, and thinks my mouth could be put to better use than talking about rape at a Take Back the Night rally.

Also, the sentiment that a few women-friendly (or at the least, not insulting) porn sites are enough to combat the massive demand and supply of really disgusting abusive shit is silly. That’s like Michael Jordan and Bill Cosby going to Africa and telling all the Africans that being white is not an advantage in this world, because look at all they accomplished!

Assuming that a stripper wouldn’t want to be a stripper if she was offered a chance in her life to be a high-paid lawyer isn’t insulting, it’s realistic. I feel that the entire ideology of sex-positive feminism is built upon an overly optimistic view of the sex industry and its customers, an invented “anti-sex” opponent, and the unwillingness to face the facts that pleasure and exploitation are not incompatible, and never have been. Furthermore, until we look inside ourselves and at others and say to them, “you do not have the right to demand exploitive sex, have exploitive sex, pay for exploitive sex, or fuel the demand for exploitive sex”, then we’re never going to even dent the rape culture.

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Posted on August 1, 2008, in Babies and Boners, Beauty Ideal, Feminism, Penis Brain, Porn Nation, Priviledge, Prostitution. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. rageagainstthemanchine.com

    This post rules.

  2. Thanks a bunch. I’m glad it didn’t come off as repetitive and overly wordy.

  3. the bewilderness

    While I can understand a woman taking the menz word, up to a point, for what feminism is, it is this statement:
    “And while the porn and sex/adult industry is currently geared towards men and definitely objectifies women, forgets women’s pleasure, and supports an oppressive rape culture,…”
    right there, where I expect them to have a light bulb moment, that just never seems to happen.

    How exactly do you blow right by that. Well yeah, women are being abused and tortured by men and other men really like to watch women be raped and beaten, but….what?
    WTF?

  4. rageagainstthemanchine.com

    Yeah, I’m with The B. I usually use “While…” to do away with phenomena that exhibit tiny and usually irrelevant deviations from the idea presented in the independent clause/main part of the sentence, not to completely dismiss 65 things that totally outweigh the idea in the independent clause.

  5. I stayed away from pointing it out in the main post to maintain a more positive tone, but the structure of that sentence brought to mind many conversations that began with the phrase, “I’m a feminist, but…”

  6. Do you know why people say you’re anti-sex?

    It can be easily read in what you yourself have already said.

    You say you don’t hate sex, you only hate rape. But you also say that in your mind, all sex exists in a state of no-consent, ergo, all sex is rape.

    Therefore, you yourself have basically stated that you hate sex.

    So, people assuming you hate sex isn’t really a far reach, since you’ve said it yourself.

  7. D –

    I have stated (see above), that the legal/social definition of rape does not mean “non-consent”. While all sex takes place in a situation (society) that is non-consensual, it is not always rape, both in how I define the word and how the justice system does.

  8. This is a truly amazing post. Thank you. xxx

  9. While all sex takes place in a situation (society) that is non-consensual, it is not always rape, both in how I define the word and how the justice system does.

    In the entry I refer to, you clearly stated that you believe all heterosexual sex is rape.

    So, clarify for me: Does that mean you hate all heterosexual sex?

    I’m trying to actually figure out where you stand here.

    If it doesn’t mean you hate all sex, does it just mean you only hate heterosexual sex? If all acts of heterosexual sex are rape, and you only hate rape, that’s the conclusion I draw from those statements.

  10. All acts of sex (especially heterosexual sex) are acts of rape. Except the rapist is society and the victim is you and me.

    A legal rape is between a rapist (individual) and a person.

    The agent changes, but the nonconsent stays the same.

  11. Thank you for finally answering, though I admit I’m something of a bit more confused by the answer than I was by the initial question.

    Why especially heterosexual sex? So, if it’s an act of rape, both parties in the sex act are being raped?

    You’ll forgive me if I absolutely don’t understand your meaning. It’s not as though society steps in and forces two people to have sex, where neither party is willing…gah. I can’t reason it out.

    Care to elucidate?

  12. The aspect of nonconsent comes in because of the gender binary and society-mandated gender roles. There are “rules” and images of what heterosexual sex is supposed to look like throughout our culture, and heterosexual contacts are thus more influenced by these images than “deviant” sexualities such as lesbianism and homosexuality, which does not really have a gender script or image to live up to. This idea of what sex ought to be, and what gender roles are (what should a man do in bed? What should a woman?) influences us to act in ways contrary to our nature, or in ways that we would not act if society did not school us in these roles from the time we were very young children. I imagine that every instance of heteosexual sex is colored by these subconscious roles, and even homosexual sex is touched, albeit not as much.

    We act in this fashion in the most private thing we will ever do in our lives completely non-consenually. Neither you nor I made these rules that have been acted out for generations on naught but religious ideas, social norms, and antiquated ideas of gender (which is more fluid than binary).

    If I had to say where people are being “raped”, I would respond every day of our lives, because the gender binary is enforced upon us in most actions. Nevertheless, it is ironic that the most intimate of interactions is actually more influenced by society than something simple like washing your hands. Thus, the act of coitus shows these gender binary acts more so than any other human action.

    As to whether society “forces people to have sex”, the answer is yes and no. Perhaps many men would not be as promiscuous if the “conquest” was not valued. Perhaps many women would not have sex with someone they really aren’t that attracted to if it was not expected in a certain time in a relationship or part of “marital duties”. It’s not simple to look at every act of sex and separate them out into “rape” and “not rape”. Our justice system, working off the very narrow definition of rape (twisted often to defend stupid “he said she said” scenarios) has proven that it is completely incompetent. How should we trust ourselves to know what true consent is like?

    My opinion and thought is that true consent can only happen outside of gender expectations. Since gender expectations are universal and complete, true consent really never happens in this society.

    You know, I need to find a few other posts that people have made on the subject which are far more eloquent than mine.

  13. For an idea of what I think legal rape is, I’d look at Biting Beaver’s Rapist Checklist (or at least what I think it should be, but it isn’t). Rule of thumb: if you do everything in your power to make sure that your partner is under no threats, no altering substances or circumstances, and no physical or emotional force, then you personally are not a rapist.

    I really need to make up a better FAQ on this issue, because I bet somewhere down the line someone will ask me again, and I’d rather just point them to a post, ya know? Not that I am angry or anything at you for asking, I actually quite prefer that you ask rather than someone assumes or throws a tantrum.

  14. How should we trust ourselves to know what true consent is like?

    Well, I would say if you meet a person, and want to have sex with them, and they want to have sex with you, then that would be consent, right? You aren’t doing it because you feel you have to, or they feel they have to, it’s because both parties equally, mutually wish to engage in sex.

    I admit to being somewhat overall confused though. Are you saying that heterosexual sex is colored by gender roles simply because society says straight men should have sex with women? Do you imply that were it not for these roles, people would be exclusively bisexual? Or is that completely off base? I might be shooting in the dark with that, to be honest.

    Not that I am angry or anything at you for asking, I actually quite prefer that you ask rather than someone assumes or throws a tantrum.

    Well, I’m asking because yours is not a widely held viewpoint, and I required clarification. Which, not to be rude, I’m still not quite understanding, in general.

    For an idea of what I think legal rape is, I’d look at Biting Beaver’s Rapist Checklist (or at least what I think it should be, but it isn’t).

    I’ve seen hers before, and I’m not a terribly huge fan of her checklist, and her ideas, because she openly admits hating men, and in general, her ideas are very sexist in my eyes.

    It assumes that the only person who might coerce another into sex is a man, convincing a woman, etcetera. It’s fair, from a halfway point, but not entirely. Does that make sense?

    (Also because of her now-infamous situation, which everyone within a 5 mile radius of an internet-capable PC heard about)

    I say this not as a “what about the men?” or whatever, but simply because a lot of more extreme or radical feminists refuse to acknowledge that women are just as capable of rape as men.

    I speak that from the experience of not really liking sex, and being coerced, nagged, harassed, begged, and such into the act, by women, when I wasn’t at all interested in doing it.

  15. Well, I would say if you meet a person, and want to have sex with them, and they want to have sex with you, then that would be consent, right?

    That is consent towards the other person. So when the sex act takes place, person X is not raping person Y to the best of both person X and person Y’s knowledge. But that is as close to true consent as we can get. This sex act will still take place in a world of gender binaries and norms, and so true consent cannot be gained. However, this is not the responsibility or fault of either person at this point.

    Are you saying that heterosexual sex is colored by gender roles simply because society says straight men should have sex with women?

    This and more. It not only says that to be a man, you should have sex with only women (and consequentially, if you are a woman the only kind of sex that is real involves a penis), but it also supplies a set of expectations and norms for each person to act out and emulate. These roles are less defined in gay culture simply because images and expectations of gay sex are not as common and expectations of gender roles by each person is mostly the same because the two are the same gender.

    Do you imply that were it not for these roles, people would be exclusively bisexual?

    My highly dissatisfying answer is that I don’t know. If gender was fluid and there wasn’t just a erroneously mutually exclusive set of gender X and gender Y, then I imagine that what is now “homosexuality” would be much more common. In fact, the definition of homosexuality and heterosexuality would be moot, because the identifiers male verses female would be determined by genetic chance rather than social norms and not really mean much of anything. But that is not to say that there would not exist people who would rather have sex with people with a certain appendage and who would not have sex with people without that appendage. Afterall, procreation would still have to take place between a genetic XX and a genetic XY (although many people exist that are XXX or XXY or XYY or XXXX, but most of them are unfortunately sterile). But those genetic codes wouldn’t mean anything other than this appendage or that appendage. Kind of like the difference between blue and green eyes. I can say that I like blue eyes more than green eyes in a partner, which doesn’t make me wrong. In a world without a gender binary and gender roles, people would be able to say that I prefer this appendage, but not that appendage, and it would be as inconsequential as choosing a favorite color.

    I can’t label that “bisexuality” because that looks nothing like what is now currently bisexuality.

    Because she openly admits hating men, and in general, her ideas are very sexist in my eyes.

    I don’t agree with everything she says either, but in her case, I do think that some of her wariness of men is warranted. Regardless, I think the rape checklist is handy, because I really can’t find any glaring faults with it. I think it’s pretty accurate myself.

    I say this not as a “what about the men?” or whatever, but simply because a lot of more extreme or radical feminists refuse to acknowledge that women are just as capable of rape as men.

    I speak that from the experience of not really liking sex, and being coerced, nagged, harassed, begged, and such into the act, by women, when I wasn’t at all interested in doing it.

    Women are physically less able to rape men, and have less social incentive to do so, but I don’t doubt that it does happen, and that it is a pressing and persistent problem that is underreported. And yes, if a man is begged and coerced and nagged into sex with a woman when he is not interested and not attracted, that is an act of rape. But the fact that men are raped does not diminish the fact that women are raped too, and that the instances of man on woman rape are more common (especially in places where women are more or less considered property) and more likely to result in serious injury. There is no “rape seriousness” continuum of who is suffering more, because rape of any set of circumstances is really horrible. Nevertheless, as a society, male on female rape is much more persistent and prevalent. So when feminists mock the “what about the menz” comments, it is not that we do not think that acts of rape against a male by either a male or female (actually, the first is more common, and that has its own set of issues) are not serious, but that the persistent specter of male against female or male against male (where in the male is the rapist) are shockingly common, and that pointing out that men can be raped by women in such conversations as a means of diminishing the seriousness of the issue does not help and is offensive.

  16. I can’t label that “bisexuality” because that looks nothing like what is now currently bisexuality.

    Well, I’d have to disagree to an extent, because with or without gender binaries, the majority of men simply aren’t attracted to other men. It’s not even that it’s not societally unacceptable for straight men to be with other men, it’s more that when it comes right down it, there’s no sexual attraction there.

    I don’t think, even in a world like you envision, that selecting a partner based on sex would be as inconsequential as selecting one based on hair or eye color. You can prefer blue eyes, but that doesn’t mean you refuse to date anyone with green. In the world you describe, I still wouldn’t have any sort of sexual or romantic contact with men.

    (Am I making sense here? I’m typing this up between bouts of doing other things, so it may come off as a bit disjointed.)

    Regardless, I think the rape checklist is handy, because I really can’t find any glaring faults with it. I think it’s pretty accurate myself.

    I mean simply, her list doesn’t acknowledge women, which is a bit offensive to me.

    What I read from her list, is if a woman is drunk, and a man has sex with her, he’s a rapist, if she gets him drunk, and has sex with him, he’s still a rapist, even if it was her idea, and he only agreed because he was drunk.

    And yes, pointing out that men can be raped by women too can be construed as offensive, but when one mentions it from experience, it’s not intended as such, and in fact, that person is usually offended by the assumption that it doesn’t happen, (or in some cases) that it’s “not a big deal”, as I’ve been told before.

    There’s only been one woman that I’ve had sex with that I did it because I wanted to, not because I was guilted into feeling obligated to. So, issues that always say men are the only ones who coerce sort of upset me.

  17. The majority of men simply aren’t attracted to other men.

    My theory on that is that what is “male” is a social construct. Most of what is considered “male” is “not female”. Thus, what is female is attractive, and what is not female is abhorrent. If all that gender was was a difference in size, proportions, and appendages, I really do think that interactions not considered “heterosexual” would be more common place. Also, a large part of being male is being an active agent in sex, which is defined as someone who penetrates. If that was erased, along with the stigma towards homosexuality, I don’t think that there would be quite so many people who could absolutely say that they are only attracted to genetic men or women (and I pointed out that this line is blurred, there are plenty of people who aren’t XY or XX and who are, but don’t define themselves by that distinction).

    I know the premise of not being able to say that you are attracted only to one sort of people, no matter the circumstances, is quite alarming. However, in a society in which gender norms are enforced with threats of alienation and scorn, it is not illogical to say that part of my identity that I think are “me” are actually more the result of socialization than my natural personality. Does that make sense? I am not saying that in this society, you are not straight. I am saying that in an imaginary society without gender norms, I don’t think any of us is capable of determining what sexuality we would be simply because present ideas of sex, gender, and coitus are so hopelessly muddled up. It is funny, in my opinion, that non-determination is so much harder to explain than absolutism.

    I mean simply, her list doesn’t acknowledge women, which is a bit offensive to me.

    Male on female rape is the most common rape offense in this society, so writing a “rape checklist” from that perspective is not something that is really offensive rather than just simply taking into account statistics and the limitation of gender pronouns. What really seems to be the problem with the checklist, in my opinion, is gendered pronouns. If there were no such thing as gendered pronouns, or there was a satisfactory nongendered third-person singular pronoun, and she wrote the checklist from that perspective, that issue wouldn’t exist.

    What I read from her list, is if a woman is drunk, and a man has sex with her, he’s a rapist, if she gets him drunk, and has sex with him, he’s still a rapist, even if it was her idea, and he only agreed because he was drunk.

    Ah, the drunk issue. My idea is that unless you have consented before you drink to sex, it’s non-consensual. But only if the other person is awake and aware enough to realize that sex is taking place while drunk, and if they do not resist and actively participate. Really, the line between consent and non-consent with drugs and alcohol is so messed up that my general opinion is that drinking and fucking is about as stupid as drinking and driving. Just don’t do it. Afterall, if rape was defined the way it should be, I suppose that people would be so cautious of becoming a rapist (that, and they would never desire non-consensual anyways) that drinking and fucking would be generally accepted as a bad idea (for both women and men). Although, that is not to say that drinking in and of itself is a bad idea. If person X gets/is drunk and person Z comes along and rapes them, person X was exercising their right to drink alcohol, while Z is a rapist and a criminal.

    So, issues that always say men are the only ones who coerce sort of upset me.

    Statistically, it does seem that men, on the whole, have coerced more than women. Which lines up fairly neatly with gender norms. That doesn’t mean that women can’t coerce, and that men can’t be coerced. But because of social norms, that is less common than the other way around. And not all acts of sex are possible because one party coerced the other one, which means that not all men coerce and not all women are capable of being coerced, or that only men coerce. Absolutes on this issue are offensive, true, but generalities are just statistical facts caused by gender norms. And if you’re not coercing, you really don’t have anything to worry about. In fact, if you aren’t coercing, there are a bunch of asshole men out there making women wary of men in general. My point is that men who don’t coerce should save their ire and hate and reproach for men who do and give them a bad name, rather than women who are justifiably wary of men.

    Which is to say that whether or not what feminists say is offensive or not, if there isn’t a huge gaping hole in their logic (and there generally isn’t, most of our assumptions come from gender norms which are very easy to observe), it’s much more productive to say, “geez, I really hate the shithead or shitheads or attitudes that made these women wary of men” rather than saying “you hate men, you stupid bitch”. Because those shitheads and those attitudes absolutely exist, which is why feminists get really frustrated when a nay-sayer in a feminist space refuses to acknowledge that even the basis of their assumptions is correct. That’s like saying that a black person who feels victimized by white culture is wrong whilst ignoring that the basis of this feeling is factual, not the product of paranoia.

  18. My theory on that is that what is “male” is a social construct. Most of what is considered “male” is “not female”. Thus, what is female is attractive, and what is not female is abhorrent.

    This is where I still have to disagree. I can look at a thousand pictures of males, and find no interest or appreciation of form. I can look at a thousand pictures of females, and find interest. I think it has far less to do with gender binaries, and more to do with the fact that when it all comes down to it, we’re animals, same as my cats.

    I don’t think society determines what my cats, or people’s dogs, or fish, or alligators or whatever, have sex with, so while society might force some homosexuals to act out heterosexual acts out of fear of breaking away from what’s expected, I don’t think it dictates the act as much as you’re implying.

    I don’t find women sexually attractive because someone told me that’s what men should find attractive. I found them attractive long before my parents gave me the sex talk, before I even knew what ‘sex’ was. I just knew my body wanted something to do with them, even though it didn’t know what it was yet.

    Male on female rape is the most common rape offense in this society, so writing a “rape checklist” from that perspective is not something that is really offensive rather than just simply taking into account statistics and the limitation of gender pronouns.

    Well, as feminists have told men, being offensive through inattention or generalization is still being offensive, you know?

    Ah, the drunk issue. My idea is that unless you have consented before you drink to sex, it’s non-consensual. But only if the other person is awake and aware enough to realize that sex is taking place while drunk, and if they do not resist and actively participate.

    I agree, but from her list, she does not. She specifically outlines drunk male-sober female as “male is rapist”.

    I’ve been talked into sex while I was drunk and she wasn’t, and had I been sober, I most likely would not have had said sex. By her list, I’d still be the rapist of the situation, so you can see why I take umbrage at it.

    Absolutes on this issue are offensive, true, but generalities are just statistical facts caused by gender norms.

    Oh, I’m aware, but it just seems with a lot of feminists, that generalizations about women are horrific and unacceptable, but generalizations about men are fine, and not a real big problem.

    It just seems a lot of them forget that hey, a few of us have some form of feelings, too, and we can still be offended and hurt by things someone says.

    My point is that men who don’t coerce should save their ire and hate and reproach for men who do and give them a bad name, rather than women who are justifiably wary of men.

    I tried the inverse of that argument once, (not about coercion, but something else) and was told that if men have a problem with a lot of women doing something, that it’s not other women’s place to be angry at those women giving them a bad name.

    A lot of the issue I take, is when various double standards seem to be applied.

    I mean, I could say men on the whole are justifiably wary of being used for their finances by women, because, studying gender norms, this happens a lot, and I’d be called all manner of nasty names, yelled at, and told to shut up. Or told I hate women. Even though, you yourself just said telling someone they hate said gender isn’t constructive, when one should just say “geez, I really hate the shitheads or attitudes that made these men wary of women”.

    Or, women with bad experiences with men, whom are justifiably wary, are told it’s okay to be wary, me, with numerous bad experiences with women, I’ve been told that it’s misogynist and wrong of me to be wary.

    See my point? It just seems like what’s good for the goose, in this case, is unacceptable for the gander.

    It’s difficult to reason through.

  19. I think it has far less to do with gender binaries, and more to do with the fact that when it all comes down to it, we’re animals, same as my cats.

    Actually, less like your cats and more like Bonobo monkeys, which are the closest living relative to humans. They seem to have sex with both genders, with the only “taboo” paring being that between a mother and son. Their social structure is also female-dominated. There are plenty of examples of animals that engage in homosexual activity regularly.

    Well, as feminists have told men, being offensive through inattention or generalization is still being offensive, you know?

    Bitingbeaver is a female rape survivor, so I gather she was writing from that perspective. Also, recall the lack of english non-gendered third-person pronouns.

    By her list, I’d still be the rapist of the situation, so you can see why I take umbrage at it.

    I’m not Bitingbeaver, so I don’t presume to know what she would think of your situation. All I know is that most of the list is accurate.

    Oh, I’m aware, but it just seems with a lot of feminists, that generalizations about women are horrific and unacceptable, but generalizations about men are fine, and not a real big problem.

    The generalizations I make are things that I gather from media (if I say that this movie makes all men look like hyper-sexual morons, I don’t mean that all men are that, just that the movie portrays them that way) or from statistics (men are more likely to rape than women). Those aren’t unfounded opinions. If someone makes unfounded generalizations without the aid of statistics or the first-person experience of a limited subject group (such as I feel comfortable in saying that the incidence of being a drunken loser at my university is higher than elsewhere in the state because I am a student at my university), then those are erroneous. I don’t presume to speak for everyone, but I take pains to keep erroneous assumptions out of my writings, being a philosophy major.

    It just seems a lot of them forget that hey, a few of us have some form of feelings, too, and we can still be offended and hurt by things someone says.

    If I said, “men rape more than women” and you took offense, and you’re not a rapist, I’d scratch my head. If you said “women kill their children more than men do” (and they do), I wouldn’t take offense because I don’t kill any children. See? Men and women are not monolithic groups. Just because more women do something, or most women do something (if you can prove it, I’ll agree, but I might discuss why and whether or not that action is immoral per say), then that doesn’t mean necessarily that I do that action. But if there was some reality in which one in three women ran around killing people’s children, my anger would be directed not towards people who keep their children from me, but those other women that are being criminal.

    I mean, I could say men on the whole are justifiably wary of being used for their finances by women, because, studying gender norms, this happens a lot, and I’d be called all manner of nasty names, yelled at, and told to shut up.

    If you just got out of relationship where some woman was using you for your money, yeah, I would respect that you are wary of women. However, a lot of the “gold digger”
    stereotype is just that: a stereotype. For instance, there are families out there in which the husband makes all the money but the wife sits around and does nothing. But that kind of lifestyle is completely unavailable to the majority of the population, and I’d say that many households are now double-income. Even if they aren’t, the woman might stay at home and do things like clean, run errands, and take care of the kids. That is unpaid labor. I’m just saying that if you clumped together all the men in the world who raped women, and all the women in the world who sat on their ass all day and mooched off their husband, I would bet good money that the first group would outnumber the second ten-to-one if not more. However, if the individual recently got of a bad situation in which the woman was genuinely a gold-digger, yeah, his wariness is warranted. But statistically, the chances of a random man on the street being a rapist is much higher than a woman being a gold-digger (for all the reasons I listed above), making one a social problem and the other a stereotype (unless, again, you just experienced it). Also, which is undeniably a worse crime: sitting on your ass and doing nothing or raping someone? And if I came across a man that had just been raped or swindled out of money by a woman, I would hate her for impeding his trust in our relationship. Look how easy that is.

    Or, women with bad experiences with men, whom are justifiably wary, are told it’s okay to be wary, me, with numerous bad experiences with women, I’ve been told that it’s misogynist and wrong of me to be wary.

    If you live in a major metropolitan area, turn on the news. You will find dozens and dozens of reports of the most disgusting of criminals doing things like killing, beating, and raping people. At least where I live, the majority of those criminals are men, and the majority of the domestic violence and sexual violence victims are women. And if you are a woman, and something like rape happens, it’s statistically probable (almost inevitable) that your rapist will never see the inside of a courtroom, and if he does, will get off, and if he doesn’t, he’ll serve less than eleven months in jail. There is every reason in the world for a woman to assume the worst of a random man, especially if he displays sexual interest in her when she doesn’t reciprocate, and especially if he will not take a hint. Ask your female friends this quesiton: if you were on a date with a man in semi-shady part of town, alone, and he drove you there, would you be a bit nervous or cautious of him? Now ask the same question of your male friends; I’d be 100% sure that the answer will be very different.

    Women fear men. Because they’re likely stronger, because they’re more likely to kill and beat and rape and steal, because women are more likely to be raped, because we can’t run fast in nice clothes, heels, and a push-up bra. And that fear is completely rational in this reality. If I went out, right now, and got really really wasted all by myself in a nicer part of town, walked home alone, and got raped, someone would blame me for not being cautious. I cannot do the things men do because I am a woman. Does that suck? You bet. That’s why I’m feminist, because this shit has got to stop.

  20. Actually, less like your cats and more like Bonobo monkeys, which are the closest living relative to humans.

    Oh, you know what I meant. I simply meant humans try to act separate from animals, or better than them, and when it comes right down to it, we’re not.

    They seem to have sex with both genders, with the only “taboo” paring being that between a mother and son. Their social structure is also female-dominated. There are plenty of examples of animals that engage in homosexual activity regularly.

    Well, dogs hump male dogs and such, too, but given a choice, the majority of the time, male dogs will take a female. Same with pretty much all other animals. Also, much like our society, the amount of hetero activity is greater than homo.

    I’m not sure why you mentioned the female dominated society part, unless you were attempting to infer that that is what you’d prefer for ours, which, is a whole other discussion (and frankly, not any more preferable than a male dominated one.)

    However, a lot of the “gold digger”
    stereotype is just that: a stereotype. For instance, there are families out there in which the husband makes all the money but the wife sits around and does nothing. But that kind of lifestyle is completely unavailable to the majority of the population, and I’d say that many households are now double-income. Even if they aren’t, the woman might stay at home and do things like clean, run errands, and take care of the kids. That is unpaid labor.

    Well, a lot of the “violent jerk” stereotype is just a stereotype, too. Yes, many are double-income, but we don’t have to look at JUST households, or married couples. It’s especially a problem for unmarried men casually or seriously dating.

    Besides, a person can still have their own job and be a gold digger. It just comes from not spending your own money, and placing unreasonable demands on someone else’s.

    Clean/care for kids/etcetera, is really, if you think about it, not unpaid labor. That stay-at-home enjoys food, electricity, a warm bed, tv, internet, hot water, various other amenities, all of which she isn’t paying one cent into. So, it’s a quid pro quo situation, she’s being adequately compensated for what she’s doing at home.

    Because, honestly, were that not the situation, she’d still need/want all the things she’s taking advantage of, only she’d have to earn the money to get them, and work just as much, just to have the things she’s currently not paying for.

    I think it balances out, and honestly, I envy the one who gets to stay at home. Because, let’s be serious, cleaning isn’t something that needs to be done more than once a week, unless you’re a freakish slob.

    I don’t even have to do it that much, personally. The most I do is regular vacuuming (cat hair) and litterbox patrol.

    If you just got out of relationship where some woman was using you for your money, yeah, I would respect that you are wary of women

    How about an endless sequence of them? (And worse)

    Women fear men. Because they’re likely stronger, because they’re more likely to kill and beat and rape and steal

    Still, it’s a lot to assume that because a rapist is more likely to be male, that a male is likely to be a rapist.

    Does that make sense? It’s senseless to malign an entire gender based on statistics you’ve seen on TV.

    Most rapists are men. Does that mean most men are rapists? No, not by far.

    If I went out, right now, and got really really wasted all by myself in a nicer part of town, walked home alone, and got raped, someone would blame me for not being cautious. I cannot do the things men do because I am a woman. Does that suck? You bet.

    See, though, thing is: If I went out, got wasted, and walked home alone… There’s a much higher chance that I’ll be the victim of a violent crime than you.

    Men are statistically vastly more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than women.

    Also, out of my own opinion and such..and back to the animal thing:

    Do the males have fights for dominance? Yes. So, why, when our own human males do the same thing, and fight each other for dominance (schoolyard fighting, etcetera) is it considered to be caused by “dangerous gender norms and gender socialisation”, and the like? We’re still animals, no matter how intelligent we are. Pretending we aren’t isn’t going to be helpful. Nor will it change that those impulses are always going to be there.

    Does the animal social group care if one male rapes a female? No. Do they care if he kills her mate, then takes her? No.

    Humanity cares, because of sentience/sapience, but this brings us to my main point:

    Feminism won’t stop human impulses, unless you hope that feminism will collar and control males (and females).

    When it comes right down to it, people that can’t have something, want it, and have that slight twitch, are going to take it.

    They’ll rob someone, they’ll kill someone, they’ll rape someone.

    I don’t believe any amount of equality or anything else will stop these impulses, because they’re still there after millions of years of evolution. Look at animals: If you’re strong enough to take it, it’s yours. That’s how a great deal of animal societies work.

    Yes, the majority of humans don’t steal, rape, or kill, because we do have measures of self control, but I just don’t believe you can socialize out the animal impulses from all humankind, because we’re not machines.

    I’m sure you’ll think a lot of that sounds very fatalist, and you might call me a pessimist, but, a pessimist is what an optimist calls a realist.

    Also, I apologize for digressing all over the place. I have a real problem with tangents.

  21. Thanks, Jenn. Excellent post. I will link to it. :)

  22. […]I just read this today: Radical feminist Jenn has done a wonderful job with her critique of a pro-“feminist porn” article. Go read it![…]

  23. Such a great article, Jenn! :)

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