No, not really, because that’s absurd. Pro-porn types regularly respond to my arguments that porn hurts women with the claim that, sure, participating in the production of porn or producing porn might not be a feminist act, but neither are things like taking a shower, eating breakfast, or driving to work.
There’s a problem here, captain. The assumption is that any action one takes is either feminist or neutral, but there seems to be something missing, no? I say there are three ways you can divide acts up when it comes to their feministiness: feminist, neutral, and anti-feminist. Volunteering for a women’s shelter is a feminist act, writing a blog about some dickish and misogynistic thing you’ve seen is a feminist act, kicking an anti-American in the ass is a feminist act, telling your boyfriend that you are or aren’t into some sex act and expecting him to respect your feelings (i.e., not guilt trip you about it or threaten to look elsewhere) is a feminist act. All of these things qualify as feminist acts because they contribute to the aggregate growth of the social acceptance of the idea that women are human beings and deserve to be treated like human beings.
The piss I just took, however, was not a feminist act. It was a neutral one (even though I was thinking about this post as I did it). Brushing your teeth is a neutral act, doing the Kid ‘n’ Play is a neutral act. Fuck, smoking angel dust — as far as feminism is concerned — is a neutral act. Neutral acts do not add to or detract from the progress of women’s liberation.
But participating (by choice) in the production of anti-woman propaganda (misogynistic porn) is not a neutral act, it’s an anti-feminist one. It directly contradicts the message of feminism, which is — at a minimum — that women are human beings who deserve to be treated with the same dignity men expect to be treated with.
When it comes to personal sexual encounters, it’s a bit harder to say whether one’s actions can be considered neutral, feminist, or anti-feminist. I’d say that the vast majority of people think that their personal sex lives consist of a string of neutral acts. I don’t really care to argue about that, as long as those people aren’t telling me that my sex life is lame or that I’m sexually repressed because I’m not into whatever they’re into (thus mimicking the behavior of phallocrats who would shame us into acquiescence with cries of “frigid!”). When they do, however, I’d say they’ve crossed into anti-feminist territory (and have left the realm of the private), as they are using their sexual preferences to pressure other women to conform to some kind of subjective sexual “ideal.”
I spend plenty of my time on this blog talking shit about this or that sex act as it is depicted in porn, and on discussing what it means that previously fringe sex acts have been mainstreamed as a result of their appearance in porn. Is that the same as deploying my sexual preferences to pressure other people into adhering to my “ideal” form of sexuality? No, for a few reasons. First, I don’t have an idealized vision of human sexuality that extends beyond the vague expectation that people will respect and acknowledge their partners’ humanity (but that’s a really big expectation and one that’s rarely met). Second, I don’t particularly care what any individual chooses to do in their spare time unless they try to piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining (i.e., tell me that they think it’s a feminist act to “take one in the face”). I admit that I’m skeptical that men can engage in certain activities without the intent of degrading their partners, and that I think that intent matters, but no one needs me to approve of their sexual activities, do they? I’m not here to convince a woman who is into (insert contentious sex act) to stop being into it, I’m here to talk to people who aren’t sure where they stand, to discuss things with people who have misgivings about the influence of misogyny on human sexuality, and to try to figure out what “healthy sexuality” might mean when we live in a misogynistic world.
So, let’s talk about what makes for a feminist act in one’s private sexual life, and whether an individual’s private sexual activities can ever be considered anti-feminist (assuming it’s consensual).