Sluts!

28 Jul

I suppose anyone who has ever read anything I’ve ever written, ever, will know that I’m not in the practice of calling people sluts or telling women to be ashamed of their sexuality or sexual behaviors. Good on those of you that applies to. But there are a lot of people in the world, it seems, who seem to think that radical feminists are all about shaming women for their sexual activities.

You see, there are a lot of people in the world that don’t know the difference between calling attention to the fact that the sex industry is inherently misogynistic and calling sex workers (or anyone else) sluts. Or they pretend not to know the difference because it benefits them and makes their ludicrous arguments seem like they have a gram or so more merit.

As a joke, I’m going to pretend that people who accuse radical feminists of slut-shaming really believe that’s what we’re up to and explain to them why they’re mistaken.

I’ve written before about the idea of women (or anyone, for that matter) calling other women sluts. I’m not for it. You see, I’m a feminist. That means that I want women to be treated like human beings rather than like caricatures, which means I’d like for us to have the opportunity to define our identities for ourselves rather than choosing to be a) a slut, or b) wife material. I don’t want my or any other woman’s identity defined by our sexual availability to men. When men have sex with a lot of people, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things because men are human beings. There is more to men, our cultural assumptions tell us, than their sexual practices (unless they’re gay, which makes them more like women than men). But women, our cultural assumptions tell us, are either whores or prudes, and that’s about all that matters.

Sounds like a socially-constructed gender role to me. Guess what radical feminists are totally opposed to?

As a woman who isn’t a virgin, I’ve been called a slut before. It’s shitty, it sucks, it’s uncool, it reduces the person it’s aimed at from a human being to a worthless piece of trash. Slut-shaming is one of the chief ways that women attempt to compete with each other for male approval in a patriarchy that defines women’s worth by their physical attractiveness and limits their ability to distinguish themselves by other means. As such, it’s a divide-and-conquer tool, and I don’t try to use the master’s tools to tear down his house because that shit doesn’t work.

I want women to have sexual freedom. I want us to get to decide who we want to have sex with, when we want to do it, how it should happen, and how often it should happen. I don’t want anyone coming and telling women that they can’t or shouldn’t do something that they want to do. Sex is private, our desires are unique, and no buttinskis should be coming around to tell us what we should desire to do in our private sex lives.

And even when sex becomes public and commodified, I’m not here to tell the sex worker to quit doing what she does, nor am I telling her she ought to be ashamed of herself. Like I’ve said before, we all find our own ways to make living in a patriarchy tolerable, and I’m not at this to judge other people’s choices. Knowing as I do that a lot of women face a pretty shitty set of options in this here oppressive society of ours, I won’t tell a sex worker that she’s selling us out to The Man. However, I will ask anyone who claims stripping, porn, and other forms of prostitution are empowering whence they derive their empowerfulness, and whether that empowerfulness remains once the transaction has been concluded.

Are women who engage in the business of catering to men’s fantasies exercising their own sexuality? That’s a tough question. I mean, we’re conditioned from such a young age to believe that female sexuality consists of catering to male sexuality that maybe it is for some people. Still, I would tend to argue that, since they’re being paid to fulfill a desire that comes out of someone else’s psyche, sex workers are exercising very little of their own sexuality and almost no real power (though they are exercising what agency they have within a patriarchal system). I’m open to discussing that with anyone whose experiences it doesn’t mesh with.

As for plain ol’ promiscuity and general Girls-Gone-Wild-esque behavior, I’d ask a similar question: do flashing one’s boobs, handing out blowjobs, and having sex with random dudes equal sexual empowerment for women? I know that there are women who genuinely enjoy doing such things, but I wonder where the enjoyment comes from. I’m not going to tell anyone where their sexual desires stem from, but I would like to ask people to consider the question for themselves, and tell me whether I’m full of shit for supposing that women who do enjoy such things like them because they’ve been bombarded with the idea that female sexual enjoyment should be dependent on the ability to arouse men.

You see that? I’m asking other human beings to think about some of the issues involved in the realm of human sexuality. Raising theoretical ethical issues with the sex industry and its impact on women’s lives and asking women to consider some of the more tangled cultural aspects of female sexuality does not equate with calling women sluts for engaging in this or that sexual activity.

So, how could anyone possibly accuse me of slut-shaming?

Ah, maybe because I ask people to consider the wider implications of their actions? Reducing that to slut-shaming is dishonest and provides a pretty lame foundation from which to engage with my arguments (if that’s even the intent, which I doubt). Human sexuality is a complex subject, and this argument is much more sophisticated than simplistic bullshit conceptions of sexuality like the Madonna/whore complex can account for. Let’s give it the respect and intellectual honesty it deserves, hmm?

Alright, enough about sex for today.


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44 Responses to “Sluts!”

  1. Friction July 28, 2008 at 11:14 AM #

    Thank you for writing this. I’m a sex worker and guess what, it IS possible for me to still be a radical feminist. I do it for the money and it is not lost on me that my “value” in this business is based soley on my looks (youth) and willingness to pander to men’s sexist fantasies. I recently wrote a list of my conflicted feelings about sex work if you’re interested: http://www.emiliedice.com/blog/?p=282

  2. L July 28, 2008 at 4:21 PM #

    Sex-pozzers will say that they’ve already considered this, already thought through it all, already examined their sexualities, and this is what conclusion they came to after all that thought. There’s no way to know how much critical self-reflection they’ve actually done, but they often refuse to do more, and they call this request by radfems to continue examining slut-shaming or shaming in general. This is where I get stuck, and this is why I don’t talk about this issue — on my own or with sex-pos feminists — anymore. What is there after considering these things? I ask because I’m frustrated with this conversation never, ever going anywhere except “Think!” and “I did, you shaming radfem!”

  3. Konservo July 28, 2008 at 10:40 PM #

    “Slut-shaming”?

    Uh… doesn’t the concept of “slut” already contain negative connotations? and, therefore, don’t those who accuse others of “slut-shaming” dub the individual being “shamed” a “slut”?

    Isn’t, according to those who use the term, “slut-shaming,” by definition, merely calling it like it is?

    Let’s look at an analogy. If I say that company X makes widgets of sub-standard quality, I would be inconsistent if I chastised individuals who pointed out how and in what way company X’s widgets are sub-standard.

    The more I think about this the more absurd it all is!

    What the slut-shamer-shamers are doing is saying “Hey! Don’t call this slut a slut!”

    If the slut-shamer-shamers had a genuine concern one would think that they could express this concern without calling someone a slut.

    Y’know?

  4. Djiril July 28, 2008 at 11:58 PM #

    “I ask because I’m frustrated with this conversation never, ever going anywhere except “Think!” and “I did, you shaming radfem!””
    Well, when you tell someone to “think,” you are implying that they have not done so already, and it can be hard not to go on the defensive when someone writes out a long condescending post telling you to “think” about a subject which you have agonized over for a long time before coming to a conclusion.
    If you want answers, try phrasing your concerns in the form of questions rather than commands.

  5. Djiril July 29, 2008 at 12:15 AM #

    On “slut shaming”:
    “Slut,” the way it is normally used is a word I have no use for. It is a sexist insult used to specifically shame a woman for being sexual, something that I, and probably most other sex positive feminists (heck, probably a lot of radical feminists as well), do not think is a bad thing.

    More to the point, it is a word that sums up an idea that has been used throughout history to limit what women can do, sexual or not.
    “She only wants to leave the house/go off on her own/work a traditionally male job so she can meet men and have sex with them!”

    So basically, the word “slut” does not actually imply any behavior I think is bad, but it is instantly recognizable as an insult towards women exhibiting said behavior. Feminists who refer to “slut shaming,” are basically saying “there is nothing wrong with this woman’s behavior, but she is being shamed for it and that is wrong!”

  6. pisaquaririse July 29, 2008 at 1:01 AM #

    “That means that I want women to be treated like human beings rather than like caricatures,”

    Yes.
    But see that doesn’t apply to radical feminists who can be called, right wingers, or fundies or fascists over and over and over again.
    Double standards abound.

  7. Trin July 29, 2008 at 2:54 AM #

    “Sex-pozzers will say that they’ve already considered this, already thought through it all, already examined their sexualities, and this is what conclusion they came to after all that thought. There’s no way to know how much critical self-reflection they’ve actually done, but they often refuse to do more, and they call this request by radfems to continue examining slut-shaming or shaming in general.”

    Fro the other side: Yes, L is right on in general here. I think that there is a presumption that anyone who has the opinions we have has not examined. This gets very, very old, and many of us do not engage it because no matter what we say, it’s assumed we never did any “examining” because our minds have not changed. (Or, as in my case, because after a whole lot of “examining” we actually changed our minds BACK to what we opined before we knew about the critiques.)

    If we say this, though, that we have actually examined and still don’t agree, or even that we’ve come to the stronger viewpoint that the whole stress on “examination” is pointless, we get written off.

    Shrug.

    Yeah, I’ve examined my desires. I’ve also examined what it was like to be in groups that got more and more culty and weird about what Twoo Feminism demanded, and watched shit like this happen before and now happen again, and really, I feel my considering has led me to a sensible opinion.

    Of course we should always continue to think things over, but… “consider the implications” as a cover for “I think you haven’t thought about it?” (which, does, in fact, sound like what you’re doing here… as thoughtful and respectful as I think you generally are.)

    Not a fan.

  8. pload July 29, 2008 at 4:25 AM #

    real quick because I’ve got an early flight tomorrow morning.

    I think there is an essential difference between the views of ‘sex-pos’ feminists and ‘non-sex-pos’ feminists (for lack of a better time). It is the difference between seeking individual freedom and communal freedom. I don’t think that ‘sex-pos’ feminists haven’t considered the broader questions that you’re posing. I think they have, but have come to different conclusions than you.

    I’ve met few ‘sex-pos’ feminists who would argue that sex work is a globally liberating activity. They will usually argue it is personally liberating activity. For most people, concrete personal gain is more important a nebulous global gain. In other words, it is not that they haven’t considered your point of view, they’ve just rejected it in favor of something that they feel is personally beneficial, not just financially, but in terms of them being more of a person.

  9. Trin July 29, 2008 at 5:00 AM #

    Pload, I think you’re… sort of right, there, but saying it in a way that isn’t useful. Yes, I feel that paying attention to “women” as a large amorphous blob of people doesn’t really work for me any more. But I think that’s less because I see everything through an individualistic lens out of inclination and more because I tried to look at things through a group-oriented lens and it really didn’t work. How on earth does one make sense of something like pornography or sex work through a totalizing lens? You can’t, not when for some women these things are horrible, for some they’re a mixed bag, and for a very few they’re good.

    I just… I tried to say to myself that certain theories for certain had it right when they said “well, most people doing this are horribly exploited.” But I was never convinced. And when I started actually listening to people who actually know people on the mean streets and all — and I mean ON them, not “I left and suddenly saw the light”, I mean the people really there right now needing support from us rather than theoryfying — it sure seemed to me like more people were interested in material aid than in theories about global effects. So I gave being driven by that global, what does this do for big W Women, up.

    And that more than “I Puffy Heart Individualism” is driving me. Who are you listening to? Whose situation are you talking about? If you’re grouping people together, where’s the data supporting your doing this, the data saying this is most people’s experience and EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY the data saying this is what they need, this is what they can use? When someone like Ren or Ernest talks I listen not just because I usually like what they have to say but because they live this shit. They do the work. They do the activism.

    So when someone tells me they’re lying or too privileged or one side of the story: Okay, where are the other stories? With, you know, details, not just “Ninety Percent”? Where’s the rebuttals from Farley’s camp when people wonder why her shit’s not peer reviewed? It exasperates me.

    So yeah. I’m an individualist. But that’s not because, yeah yeah, feels good, whoa whoa whoa, check out my tits. That’s because in order to make the grouping statements they have to be grounded in something… and usually, even when they’re theories formulated by really fucking smart people, I don’t see any ground that actually holds. So I’d rather listen to real people about what it is to be in porn or to be a domme or a prostitute or whatever — and about what they need to have good lives — than to theories I’m not sure have a steady foundation.

  10. L July 29, 2008 at 5:09 AM #

    Touche, Djiril. I apologize for the imperatives, and I see your point. I was summing up the discussion as I see it rather than reiterating an actual conversation that I would have with a sex-pos feminist, but I understand how what I said is problematic. I just wonder, frustratedly, what, if anything, comes next since this discussion obviously doesn’t ever, ever go anywhere.

  11. Jen July 29, 2008 at 5:13 AM #

    The only thing that detracts from the awesomeness of this post is the fact that you are inspired to make ones like these over and over and over again. I want to find the source of this straw-man radical feminist and shake it until it dies.

  12. Dizzy July 29, 2008 at 5:27 AM #

    If personally beneficial = contribution to the pervasive global notion that women were made for the purpose of fucking or feeding you, then personally beneficial = not feminist.

  13. syndicalist702 July 29, 2008 at 1:12 PM #

    Question:

    Does empowerment necessarily constitute freedom?

  14. Holly July 29, 2008 at 3:15 PM #

    Fabulous post! It’s incredibly difficult to get thoughts out the right way concerning this topic, I’ve found. As a feminist who believes sex is a fucking fabulous part of life, but also is a bit iffy when it comes to the whole sex industry thing and personally believe it’s made up of misogynist, money hungry, sexist assholes who will put women through anything and say anything to get them to open their legs so they can film it. I believe women deserve better, that they shouldn’t succumb to a world of obvious violence, “acting,” and a “career” that holds no opportunities to move up. No matter how much money you make, you’re still doing the same thing and you are still feeding into the global, perverse, sexist, anti-woman world men get off to.

  15. Trin July 29, 2008 at 4:49 PM #

    “Does empowerment necessarily constitute freedom?”

    Syndicalist: Personally, I have no idea. I think part of the problem is that it’s notoriously difficult to nail down the meaning of “empowerment.” It’s difficult to tell whether it means “I feel more confident, so this is good for me” or “I have more social mobility” or “My social class is less exploited” or… WHAT, really.

    I think the thing that people get into a tizzy over is that, well, feeling confident for a minute isn’t necessarily having a better life. And there are some people who talk like these things are exactly the same, and it’s really annoying. (And very annoying to have it said of you that you think this, because that’s supposedly “what sex positives think” for some reason.) The media is particularly sloppy about this.

    Thing is, though, that *sometimes* that confidence *can* be a catalyst in someone’s life. Sometimes it can change how you see yourself. Sometimes it can make you show up to yourself as more powerful — more in control of your own destiny. And sometimes, when that happens, people become inspired to get rid of bad influences and relationships. And that can really mean a lot to a person. So when some people say “this is empowering,” I think that’s what they have in mind.

    And while I don’t think that is, or is any kind of groundwork for, widespread political change, I also don’t think it’s totally meaningless either. I don’t like the dichotomy that suggests that either “it’s empowering” — which seems to be taken to mean that it magically erases sexism just by existing, somehow — or “it’s not” — which supposedly means it couldn’t possibly have any positive effect, however small, on anybody anywhere.

    Also, on that word, I think this post is brilliant.

  16. Konservo July 29, 2008 at 5:55 PM #

    So basically, the word “slut” does not actually imply any behavior I think is bad, but it is instantly recognizable as an insult towards women exhibiting said behavior. Feminists who refer to “slut shaming,” are basically saying “there is nothing wrong with this woman’s behavior, but she is being shamed for it and that is wrong!”

    Djiril,

    Hmmm… so do some feminists use the term in the same manner as some blacks use “the n-word”? That is, do you use the term “slut” in other contexts as well?

    Does empowerment necessarily constitute freedom?

    syndicalist702,

    Not even close. On the one hand, a slave or criminal who as been forced into captivity lacks the power needed to escape her master or exonerate her good name. So it is not uncommon for one to lack both power and freedom. However, power, or “empowerment” can not be identified with freedom.

    This is a complicated matter to examine from the principles alone and the discussion will usually show that “freedom,” in reality, is not quite the concept that we preconceive it to be (some will even abandon freedom as if it were a fairy-tale in favor of determinism). That said, a short example might suffice for the time being in lieu of a longer, more complex and certainly more contentious analysis of the concept of freedom.

    “Power” by definition means something like “capability” or “strength/skill.” The prefix “em” is actually a form of the Latin prefix “in” meaning “on, in, into, to put on, to put in, to put into.” “Empower,” therefore, is giving (or putting) a capability, strength or a strength, or skill or a skill into some one or some thing. “Empowerment” would then be something like “the state of having been bestowed or invested with some capability, strength or skill previously absent.” Now, when the guards unlock the handcuffs of a prisoner, that is empowerment, for now she is capable of moving her arms, she can stretch and use her muscles more efficiently so her physical strength has increased too, compared with her prior state of being. But it’s clear that the prisoner, though empowered, is far from being “free.”

    This may seem like an absurd argument (perhaps the trivial “empowerment” of being released from handcuffs (if you even consider that “empowerment” at all) is not really sufficient for one to be truly “empowered”), but if that is the case, then, short of the impossibility of omnipotence, how much power is sufficient, and even if one has been empowered to that degree can we still not find examples of her actions being coerced or having unwanted duties and responsibilities (which restrict her actions or prevent her from using her time as she would choose) imposed upon her?

  17. syndicalist702 July 29, 2008 at 5:56 PM #

    Trin – Then it could be said that what is empowering to a particular individual is not necessarily good for all feminists or feminism as a movement? This is something I have trouble grasping, certainly not to malign sex workers. I can see how doing the master’s work can be empowering to an individual (i.e. boosting confidence), but how is that benefiting the advancement of the idea that women are human just like us men, rather than just an object? I’m certainly no authority by any means, but I can’t wrap my head around the concept when I hear/read about someone who makes themselves complicit in their own objectification -and- calls it an act that will somehow assert their human-ness to someone who clearly sees them as less than human.

    I beg your pardon, but that dynamic confounds the shit out of me. One thing I won’t do is shame anyone, but I do question their behavior. I’m allowed to do that, right?

  18. Trin July 29, 2008 at 8:22 PM #

    Syndicalist,

    I don’t agree with you that it’s “doing the master’s work,” so I’m not comfortable with your framing here. I don’t think we’re at the point in this debate where everyone’s in agreement about what “the master’s work” is — and, honestly, the whole personification of patriarchy strikes me as wrong in the first place. Patriarchy is not uniform. It doesn’t have a codified set of rules. It frequently contradicts itself — for example, on the one hand requiring women to be endlessly eager for sex with men, and on the other, requiring that their modesty, purity, and gatekeeping rein in the raging bull of men’s libido. These contradictions themselves are often doubly oppressive, which is a part of what most sex-positive feminists have in mind when we get angry that someone has told us for the fiftieth time to “examine” what makes us come.

    I don’t see “make themselves complicit in their own objectification” as a useful way of looking at this. I see that as a way to turn one’s nose up at people and call them stupid. I see thinking of things that way as refusing to listen to them. So long as that kind of theory is the playing field on which the discussion is assumed to take place, the discussion is an unfair one.

  19. syndicalist702 July 29, 2008 at 8:37 PM #

    Trin – Okay, then how do you look at it?

  20. Genevieve July 29, 2008 at 9:53 PM #

    Uh… doesn’t the concept of “slut” already contain negative connotations? and, therefore, don’t those who accuse others of “slut-shaming” dub the individual being “shamed” a “slut”?
    Isn’t, according to those who use the term, “slut-shaming,” by definition, merely calling it like it is?

    In a word, Konservo: No.

  21. manhatingparty July 29, 2008 at 10:45 PM #

    Hey, I just wanted to step in and say that this blog is amazing, as are you. I’ll be spending the next few weeks going through every one of your posts (which is usually what happens when I find a good blog). Thanks for speaking out.

  22. Djiril July 29, 2008 at 10:48 PM #

    Djiril,

    Hmmm… so do some feminists use the term in the same manner as some blacks use “the n-word”? That is, do you use the term “slut” in other contexts as well?
    I have heard women who may or may not identify as feminists use it in this manner.
    I personally do not use it this way because I’m not sure how I would explain the fact using it when I tend to dress fairly modestly and am not sexually active.
    My identification as a sex positive feminist is partly a way of rejecting the patriarchal “good girl” label despite the fact that I don’t often outwardly fit my society’s view of a “bad girl” either. It is my way of saying that I do not look down on women who are more outwardly sexual than me and am not going to dismiss their viewpoints out of hand or constantly question whether they really know their own minds.

  23. Nine Deuce July 29, 2008 at 11:07 PM #

    Dizzy – Exactly.

  24. Konservo July 30, 2008 at 12:09 AM #

    Genevieve,

    The post you linked to seems to reinforce what I was saying, namely, that words like “slut” have negative connotations. As you only mention the word “slut” once in that post (to be specific, you only mention it in the title), I understand your argument against the use of the term “whore” as applicable to “slut” as well. You explain:

    Because as loose as the definition of whore seems to be to most people, I have every right to take these statements as a personal insult against my character.

    And therefore, the word is just a way to punish women either for choosing their own sexuality or for being taken advantage of by people in power.

    And as such, I have every right to feel angered by it.

    It seems to me if those statements are personal insults then they have a negative connotation in that context, i.e., the context of describing a woman who takes “charge of [her] own situation with regards to [her] sex life, with regards to who [she dates] and when [she] was dating.”

    Djiril,

    Cool, thanks for responding. You say:

    It is my way of saying that I do not look down on women who are more outwardly sexual than me and am not going to dismiss their viewpoints out of hand or constantly question whether they really know their own minds.

    I can respect that, and per your response earlier regarding the your personal view of the term, I should have phrased that question differently.

    Nine-Deuce,

    You say:

    Slut-shaming is one of the chief ways that women attempt to compete with each other for male approval in a patriarchy that defines women’s worth by their physical attractiveness and limits their ability to distinguish themselves by other means.

    If this is so then one could argue that slut-shamer-shaming is just another device that can be used in the competition.* Slut-shamer-shaming is the synthesis of the thesis of the so-called “slut” and the anti-thesis which is held by the so-called “slut-shamer.”

    *Provided that we are still joking and the accuser’s complaints are taken to be made in earnest.

  25. Alexa July 30, 2008 at 1:20 AM #

    Still, I would tend to argue that, since they’re being paid to fulfill a desire that comes out of someone else’s psyche, sex workers are exercising very little of their own sexuality and almost no real power

    Once again, someone who’s never been involved in the sex industry is making pronouncements about those of us who are/have been.

    Unless and until you’ve been in my position, you don’t have a legitimate basis for characterizing it as anything. You’ve never been in my position to understand the power dynamic, so you literally have no rational basis upon which to make such an assertion.

    Do we just lose that power the instant we accept payment for it? Or do you assert that, even as a willing, unpaid partner who fulfills a desire that comes out of our partner’s psyche we’re also “exercising very little of [our] own sexuality and almost no real power”?

  26. pload July 30, 2008 at 3:04 AM #

    again, quickly since now I need to go to bed. I really need to find more time to write.

    Trin, there is a clear difference between Ren’s stance, which is that speaks for herself and no one else, and Nine’s stance, which is that she speaks for Women as a larger unit. It doesn’t mean that Nine is wrong. Doesn’t mean she is right either. gah, wish I had more time to write.

  27. Nine Deuce July 30, 2008 at 4:27 AM #

    I don’t speak for women as a larger unit, but I am trying to figure out a way to advance the cause of women as a larger unit rather than a way to get by as an individual.

  28. Trin July 30, 2008 at 5:48 AM #

    Trin, there is a clear difference between Ren’s stance, which is that speaks for herself and no one else, and Nine’s stance, which is that she speaks for Women as a larger unit. It doesn’t mean that Nine is wrong. Doesn’t mean she is right either. gah, wish I had more time to write.

    Not disagreeing, just trying to say that I think the whole “THESE are individualists and THOSE are not” is, well, a good broad picture of the divide, but not nearly nuanced enough. As long as we’re just shouting at one another:

    “What, do you think you’re John Wayne or something?”
    “Maybe I am, but at least I’m not THE BORG!”

    …no conversation is taking place.

  29. Mary Sunshine July 31, 2008 at 5:22 PM #

    Hi,

    Where can I join the manhatingparty? :-D

    Males invented and benefit from the word slut.

  30. Jen August 1, 2008 at 10:26 PM #

    Just FYI, I found this semi-hilarious sex-positive post at Feministe. I think I’m going to do a post on it, because it is one of the better written posts, and the comment thread below it was actually quite civil, believe it or not. Just thought I’d bring it to your attention, if you haven’t already seen it, as someone who posts a lot on sex-positivism.

  31. Nate TMG August 23, 2008 at 3:40 AM #

    I’ve seen a lot of discussions like this, and it seems like they always go in circles. I don’t know if we’ll have a clearer answer to the question until we see what happens when the societal attitudes actually do change. And perhaps we’ll need to know some additional neuroscience too.

    What I CAN say is this: As a man I would derive a great deal of sexual enjoyment from knowing that what I am doing is making a woman horny. Does my sexual enjoyment depend upon it? No, of course not. But I still think that I would enjoy being, for example, a male stripper. And I like the idea that a woman might want me so badly she’d pay money to have sex with me. That turns me on! Whether I would dare actually be a male prostitute for women I don’t know, but it’s definitely something I fantasize about.

    And as a man I haven’t been bombarded with media telling me my sexual enjoyment should be dependent on my ability to arouse a woman–quite the opposite in fact! Society says the woman is supposed to exist to please me (although in the West that is finally beginning to change). So wherever I got this idea from, it wasn’t from our patriarchal society.

    So what I’m wondering is this: If I can like the idea of fulfilling the sexual fantasies of women even though society hasn’t put this idea into my head, I have to wonder if there may be women out there who would feel similarly, regardless of what society tells them they should feel. Can the brains of men and women really be wired that differently that no woman on earth feels this way? Somehow I doubt that.

    We get off on getting other people off. I think it’s in our genes.

  32. Nine Deuce August 23, 2008 at 4:43 AM #

    What you’re talking about is power, not sex. Knowing that someone wants to have sex with one so badly that they’d be willing to pay money to do so means the one taking the money has some sort of (temporary or otherwise) power over the one paying the money. Sure we all like to be desired, but when that morphs into a desire for power, that’s a problem. And when we live in a society in which women have limited sources of power, when one of our only sources of power is the ability to arouse desire, that’s also a problem. I am saying that within a system in which women’s value is determined by whether men want to fuck them, calling sexual manipulation an empowering feminist act is problematic. When the act is over, the woman goes back to being relatively powerless, and the dude is out a few bucks. Where’s the major social change?

  33. Nate TMG August 23, 2008 at 6:42 AM #

    I guess what I’m objecting to is the assumption that porn is _always_ degrading to the actors. (And why are the male porn stars and prostitutes never mentioned in these discussions? They exist too.) Some people are genuinely into that sort of thing, and in that case I see nothing wrong with it.

    My secular world view does not count sex as “sacred” in any way–it is simply another human activity. I agree that much of porn as it exists today is degrading to women, but I don’t see porn as inherently degrading to anyone–that is, degrading just by virtue of it’s being pornography. It is assumed that selling sex always counts as exploitation, and I don’t believe that it does.

    There is occasionally that rare gem in pornography that portrays sex for the passionate act of love and desire that it is while at the same time greatly arousing the viewer (and almost invariably it’s porn that is self-produced by amateurs). Is such porn feminism? No. But then neither is eating, sleeping, gardening, building a sand castle, or a multitude of other things humans do.

  34. Nine Deuce August 23, 2008 at 6:18 PM #

    Read my porn series.

  35. Catwings September 18, 2008 at 5:50 AM #

    Once again I’m sure I’m a little late to comment, but I did just recently stumble across this space full of free flowing ideas and I’m still catching up a bit.

    “However, I will ask anyone who claims stripping, porn, and other forms of prostitution are empowering whence they derive their empowerfulness, and whether that empowrfulness remains once the transaction has been concluded.”

    One of my best friends has worked as an escort. With her, I’ve discussed her reasonings and feelings about what she did. Her opinion was along the lines of “If he’s stupid enough to pay me X amount of money for this, I’m sure as hell going to take advantage of it.”
    She derived empowerment from taking advantage of the kind of people who let her get away with such a thing.

    She was catering to male sexuality but the considerable amount of money she was making justified it to her. In a sense she was taking advantage of the system and found gratification in allowing her clients tendencies to cost them money, she finds it almost comical.

    I know for a fact she didn’t receive personal enjoyment from it other than her love for manipulating people for money. I believe she (for the most part) detatched her own sexuality from their gratification.

    I’ve taken part in activism for various causes which I feel strongly about and I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are not open to change. I highly doubt that the type of man she catered to would change his view of women if she (or anyone) cared enough to take a different approach with these men.

    That’s like trying to convince someone who raises beef cattle for a living to go vegan. Unless he can see immediate personal gratification from it, it’s not going to happen.

    I certainly believe there are people who can change but for the most part, discussing the finer points of feminism with these men isn’t going to sway them. I’ve heard her say “They’re going to dish out cash to someone, why not let it be me?” Sounds like a hopeless perspective but truthfully some people just don’t care about making a difference. They’re more concerned with making money than “the major social change.” They’re quite content with taking advantage of the way things are. (I’m not saying one choice is right or wrong.)

    As a side note I feel I should state I do not claim to be a feminist, nor am I incredibly familiar with the movement (or the apparent sub-movements or sub-classifications?)

    So far I am finding the use of feminist terminology to be somewhat self-defeating and tiresome. (Let’s label ourselves in an attempt to stop being labeled?) And it’s interesting that feminism seems to be so closely intertwined with semantics. ;) Enough with the arguing about what kind of feminist one is and more with the getting things accomplished.

    That said, I find the issues and subject matter compelling. I’m reading and learning, so please excuse the ignorance for now.

  36. GowanusGuy December 12, 2008 at 1:40 PM #

    92: you try too hard.

    • Nine Deuce December 12, 2008 at 4:49 PM #

      What does that even mean? Would you recommend that I act like an idiot who has no ability to understand others’ viewpoints?

  37. Imaginary September 28, 2009 at 1:55 AM #

    I feel kind of bad. I used to call people sluts. I mean, usually men, because I thought that if men slept around a lot they were going to get funny diseases and that tickles me. “Ha ha!’ I’d say ‘You slut, you got fungus all on your dick. You should scrape that off and live in a cave, you failure at life!”

    When I called girls “sluts” I felt bad. All the girl “sluts” I met I knew they were abused and I’d read that sometimes abused people will sleep around to get attention. So I thought they were sluts because they felt really icky inside. I don’t know what exactly this story means, but I didn’t call them sluts out of maliciousness. Oh well. I’m sorry anyway.

  38. lizor April 4, 2010 at 9:20 AM #

    I know I keep bringing up this book, but Gilligan’s Birth of Pleasure gives a very useful analysis of the implications of Patriarchy, which she defines as:

    “… an anthropological term, describing families and cultures that are headed by fathers. It is a hierarchy or priesthood in which a father or some fathers control access to truth or power or God or knowledge – to salvation in whatever form it takes. As such, patriarchy is an order of domination, privileging some men over others and subordinating women. But in dividing men from men and from women, in splitting fathers from mothers and daughters and sons, patriarchy also creates a rift in the psyche, dividing everyone from parts of themselves. ” (P.7)

    She discusses how, within this structure, women are reduced to images and thus their humanity erased. She writes:

    “Anger and envy among women is inescapable in a world where one woman is seen as replacing another. If one woman can replace another, then neither woman is loved.” (P.139)

    The whole question of slut-shaming is a tough one for me. As a woman who is generally too busy to fuck around much with my hair and makeup and shoes that hurt, I do feel threatened at the prospect of being discarded or erased and replaced by someone who is playing the role of a 2-d pleasure-giver and ego-stroker for men. It’s a sort of fight-or-flight response and yeah, sure it’s an indicator of my own insecurity. I readily admit that.

    The other thing about all of this rationalism is that many of us, myself included, are rape/incest survivors working through PTSD/trauma. In my case I was raped by a pornographer (I was just a vulnerable 15-year-old at a party, not one of his “models”) and anyone who is presenting themselves as something that resembles his models brings back that experience of having someone shit on my soul and then throw me in the trash. I feel like I am fighting for my life and it’s hard to hold on to my rationality under those circumstances. I do OK for the most part, but it takes an awful lot of effort.

    Anyhow, these thoughts may not be the most coherent as I have a lot of raw emotion stuck to this topic. I am just saying that the whole question of “slut-shaming” runs extremely deep, for some of us to the very core of our identity and survival.

    ND writes: “I want women to have sexual freedom. I want us to get to decide who we want to have sex with, when we want to do it, how it should happen, and how often it should happen. I don’t want anyone coming and telling women that they can’t or shouldn’t do something that they want to do. Sex is private, our desires are unique, and no buttinskis should be coming around to tell us what we should desire to do in our private sex lives.”

    I could not agree more. I will admit, however, that when my het male partner is approached by someone far far closer to the Bratz Doll “ideal” with the promise to massage his ego, never challenge him – certainly with suggestions that he examine his possible complicity with the patriarchy – in short, someone who, in a nutshell, offers the personal equivalent of one of those no-brainer packaged vacations, logically, I don’t believe there’s a threat because I know my guy is not about that. Instinctively, however, I feel threatened.

    I would like this to not be the case, but at this point in history, sadly, it is.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What is “slut-shaming”? « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog - April 3, 2010

    [...] The first thing to realize when talking about women slut-shaming each other is that infighting among oppressed groups is a necessary part for keeping those groups oppressed; ergo women are encouraged, through internalized sexism, to distrust each other and fight for male approval. In other words: Slut-shaming is one of the chief ways that women attempt to compete with each other for male approval in a patriarchy that defines women’s worth by their physical attractiveness and limits their ability to distinguish themselves by other means. [Nine Deuce (Rage Against the Man-chine): Sluts!.] [...]

  2. Good Girls, Bad Girls: Double Standards and Slut-Shaming | Good Vibrations Magazine - March 26, 2011

    [...] engage in the practice more than men. Nine Deuce (Rage Against The Man-chine) wrote in her blog, Sluts: “Slut-shaming is one of the chief ways that women attempt to compete with each other for male [...]

  3. Slut-Shaming « Mediamakers, You Fail - November 25, 2011

    [...] First of all, why slut-shame? Slut-shaming is one of the chief ways that women attempt to compete with each other for male approval in a patriarchy that defines women’s worth by their physical attractiveness and limits their ability to distinguish themselves by other means. (source) [...]

  4. Female Competition | Opinion | Lip Magazine - November 26, 2011

    [...] Deuce over at Rage Against the Man-chine wrote that “Slut-shaming is one of the chief ways that women attempt to compete with each other for male [...]

  5. A World Without Men | Francis James Franklin (Alina Meridon) - June 15, 2013

    […] In a world without men, such gender divisions would become irrelevant. There wouldn’t be so much pressure on women to be passive, pretty, perfect princesses waiting to be chosen by a man. That same pressure that makes shaming such an effective weapon for controlling women. Nine Deuce (Rage Against the Man-chine) says it better: […]

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