I just took a feminist piss.

10 Jun

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).

119 Responses to “I just took a feminist piss.”

  1. Orlando C June 10, 2009 at 7:39 PM #

    Come on, 9/2, this is a little hard to take. In round numbers, you have titled an entire series of lengthy articles “your sex life is lame.” You have then gone on in those articles to tell people that they were sexually (socially?) repressed because they weren’t into whatever you’re into. You have re-iterated over and over again that you think that people’s private sexual activities are, indeed, anti-feminist. So this seems disingenuous, and feels a whole lot like baiting.

    All the same, I will take a shot at it: I would consider as anti-feminist any private activity, sexual or otherwise, that impairs the self-direction of the women directly involved in that activity. Insofar as the activity has secondary effects on a broader sphere of women, I would consider it anti-feminist if it impairs their self-direction in a consistent and foreseeable way. Though in this latter case, I would say that the anti-feminist actors are not simply the original people (or person), but also the mechanisms that transmit the damage to the non-private sphere.

    • Nine Deuce June 10, 2009 at 7:48 PM #

      Nope, I didn’t say people’s personal lives are anti-feminist, I’ve said I think that misogyny creeps into our private lives whether we want it to or not. Engaging in something privately does not make it anti-feminist unless the influence of the act extends outward (I almost conceded in the post that I don’t think private sex acts can be anti-feminist in most cases, if one takes my definition of an anti-feminist act to be one that affects the general progress of women’s liberation.

  2. Orlando C June 10, 2009 at 8:10 PM #

    Well, I am not going to quibble about how to characterize your earlier positions, since they are a matter of record.

    I think we both agree that a potential problem area is the private sex act that, as you say, “extends outwards” to influence non-immediate participants. The M/f BDSM situation is one possibility, but the single woman jerking off to a private fantasy of Brad Pitt is another possibility. In either case, we can imagine that the sex act is neutral, but we can also imagine that it could extend an outward influence which hurts women.

    E.g., the woman masturbating then confesses her Brad Pitt fantasy to her little sister, who picks up the impression that female eroticism should be based on images of miscreant, devil-may-care, violent masculinity. This is anti-feminist, yes?

    But it also seems like it is within her rights as a human being to express her truth, and even to express it without having to dress it up in caution tape. You, 9/2, are certainly not a poster girl for carefully moderating your speech acts. Why should anyone be? It is human to admit that we have a crush on Brad Pitt (or whatever), and it is quite possible that doing so is bad for the feminist project, at least in the short run.

  3. Polly Styrene June 10, 2009 at 8:24 PM #

    This actually is a good question.

    If you engage in a sex act and it is entirely private can it be anti feminist? (sorry I went for a job interview today and that is my classic, I need thinking time tactic, repeat the question slowly)

    Well yes, if there is another woman/women involved and it is oppressive to her/them. But then you’d have to decide what oppressive is of course……

    Of course “not anti feminist” isn’t the same thing as feminist. Which I think is where the confusion often arises. What is annoying is the “a woman somewhere enjoys doing it and it is therefore feminist argument” I really enjoy sitting in front of a roaring coal fire, but that’s in no way feminist.

  4. Laurel June 10, 2009 at 8:37 PM #

    Um, no argument here….(-:

  5. RenegadeEvolution June 10, 2009 at 9:49 PM #

    If a woman is engaging in an activity that she does not want to do or is not some expression of her own sexual desire I would say it is unfortunate, and not very “feminist”.

    • Nine Deuce June 10, 2009 at 10:01 PM #

      Yes, of course. I suppose I need to clarify that.

  6. syndicalist702 June 11, 2009 at 2:17 AM #

    These last two posts, and the comments, are quite thought-provoking.

    Thanks, to all of you.

  7. Polly Styrene June 11, 2009 at 6:20 AM #

    I do have genuine difficulties though, with *what is oppressive* It’s not an easy or obvious line to draw. Which is why I avoided drawing it.

    If eg, I were to meet a woman who really enjoys being spanked/handcuffed, and specifically wants me to do it is it anti feminist of me to go along with that? When no actual physical injury is caused, and a lot of women find those activities sexually arousing?

    Well if so, a lot of women I know have anti feminist sexual practices.

    NB Orlando, with your “masturbating to images of Brad Pitt scenario” if the little sister in question was a child (as opposed to say 16) i’d say the older woman was definitely being abusive.

  8. Aileen Wuornos June 11, 2009 at 6:41 AM #

    Slightly off topic but I think pissing could be a feminist act if you’re doing it standing up. Which is entirely possible for women and a great way to exercise your pc muscles.

    ‘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,’

    Definitely.

  9. Polly Styrene June 11, 2009 at 7:47 AM #

    Got it in one I’d say AW. (However I’ve already had the feminist pissing debate. It’s not necessarily feminist, but it would be bloody useful outdoors).

    • Aileen Wuornos June 15, 2009 at 4:03 AM #

      It’s fucking awesome for getting shitfaced, don’t want to wait for the ladies loos? Fuck it, I’ll take the urinal! Camping, the beach, gigs, confusing innocent bystanders, confusing police who then don’t do shit because they’re amazed…. the list is never ending ;)

      Not to mention I could probably crack a walnut with my vagina now…

  10. Mary June 11, 2009 at 8:07 AM #

    If we allow men to think they are degrading us in private sex even though we aren’t feeling degraded and the act doesn’t appear degrading, wouldn’t this be anti-feminist because the men will go on thinking it’s OK to degrade all the other women in their lives?

  11. Orlando C June 11, 2009 at 12:06 PM #

    > Orlando, with your “masturbating to images of Brad Pitt scenario” if the little sister in question was a child (as opposed to say 16) i’d say the older woman was definitely being abusive.

    Definitely abusive? To who?

    Because the suggestion is that if there are two sisters, let’s say 15 and 17, and the 15-year old wants to know what the 17-year-old fantasizes about…which is in no way an unusual question….the older sibling is supposed to censor themselves for the benefit of the general public interest.

    In reality, if such conversations take place with any kind of intimacy and respect, the imperative to be open and sincere with a sibling is much more real than the abstract imperative to avoid saying something that might, in a convuluted way, hurt society at large.

    I don’t know what else to say. I am trying to consider the psychic ramifications of growing up while saying that it’s OK to fantasize about Brad Pitt as long as you never tell anyone. This sounds like a recipie for everyone being in the closet about everything all the time. It is not my impression that that has ever been healthy, or even feasible.

  12. bonobobabe June 11, 2009 at 2:55 PM #

    I don’t think a sex act has to radiate outwards or whatever in order to be non-feminist. It could affect no one except the woman who engages in it to be non-feminist.

    If you give into any sex act, b/c the consequences of saying no are worse than just going ahead and doing it, that’s anti-feminist.

    If you consent to a sex act after a period of systematic brainwashing to get you to think it’s your idea, that’s anti-feminist.

    If you engage in a sex act that a reasonable person would agree is degrading or humilating, whether or not you do (this one is tricky, I know, and relates to the abovementioned brainwashing), then it’s anti-feminist.

    ALSO…I want to state for the record that I am not implying that the female in question is the primary responsible party for these sex acts. They are anti-feminist sex acts, but she may feel that she, in fact, has no choice but to consent. It doesn’t make them feminist or neutral, but although the sex acts are anti-feminist, it doesn’t mean she necessarily is as free as a man would be to walk away.

  13. Orlando C June 11, 2009 at 4:24 PM #

    BBB-

    I agree with your first two examples, but I think the third example is very problematic. For two reasons.

    First, the notion that there is some “reasonable person” standard for whether or not a sex act is degrading seems implausible. Is this standard intercultural? Transhistorical? Is there some mechanism to change it? Until relatively recently, oral sex was considered degrading in most Western cultures, but is it still? Does a reasonable person think it’s degrading to perform oral sex?

    Second–and more importantly–we are talking about sex acts that “affect no one except the woman who engages in it” (and, I presume you meant to say, their lover). I have this odd image, then, of two people sitting in bed, who would both really love to get each other off, in private, but “aren’t allowed to” because it will violate your Reasonable Person degradation test.

    What is your advice to that couple, honestly? Should they both go into therapy to re-educate themselves about their desire to have kinky sex? What if after a few years of therapy, she still wants to give the dude a blow job? Would it be OK then, would it be processed and examined and certified? Who gets to be on the certification committee?

    • Jenn June 11, 2009 at 7:34 PM #

      Oh come on. This isn’t exactly rocket science. I know that most men think that oral sex is degrading because “suck my dick” is the go-to insult of a generation. I know that cumming on someone’s face is degrading because I’ve seen it acted out in porn amidst positions, violence, and verbal insults that imply degradation while men recoil at the prospect of getting another man’s cum on them.

      We only need to set up “certification committees” if we’re totally unable to do cultural critiques. And if critically second-guessing the meaning of cultural norms isn’t your thing, I think you’re on the wrong blog.

  14. Orlando C June 11, 2009 at 9:04 PM #

    Sorry Jenn, I know this is not rocket science, I am just hoping to gain clarity on the position here, since I find this blog often becomes a debate with both sides using sarcasm, so it’s hard to walk away with a clear sense of what people actually believe.

    You seem to be suggesting that a woman performing fellatio on a man is, in our culture, reasonably understood to be degrading (being an insult, etc.), and therefore (following BBB’s analysis) is an inherently anti-feminist sex act, even in case where no one else is involved. Is that right?

    • Aileen Wuornos June 15, 2009 at 4:08 AM #

      But how can oral sex have no one else involved?

      You’re going to need two people minimum for it, unless you’re super flexible and then MAYBE it wouldn’t count (although, I’d personally be curious as to how one found out about that ability.)

  15. Polly Styrene June 11, 2009 at 9:28 PM #

    Well you’re assuming it IS ok to fantasise about Brad Pitt Orlando C. But there is a difference between someone answering their younger sister’s question about who they think is attractive and going into detail about it….in a too much information way. Also though the ‘age of consent’ is an arbitary barrier, it’s there for a reason. To protect children/young people from adult exploitation. Would you accept a (straight) 17 year old brother talking about his masturbatory fantasies to his 15 year old sister?

  16. antiprincess June 11, 2009 at 10:02 PM #

    If you engage in a sex act that a reasonable person would agree is degrading or humilating, whether or not you do (this one is tricky, I know, and relates to the abovementioned brainwashing), then it’s anti-feminist.

    yeah, how do you determine “reasonable”?

    it sounds like you’re saying that if one does not believe that random-sex-act is degrading, one is not a reasonable person because one has been brainwashed. (you know, despite everything else one may be reasonable about, i.e., holding a job, having stable relationships with people, managing to meet social or financial or other obligations, performing civic duties, whatever behavior is assumed to be “reasonable”.)

    if we start off with the idea that men find certain sex acts degrading (and perpetrate them on women in order to express misogyny), and we then state that any reasonable person would also find these sex acts degrading, then are we not granting that men have established the standard of reasonability?

    • Delilah Wood June 15, 2009 at 6:54 PM #

      OMG this this this.

      To add to this: I so rarely see people expressing the idea that when two consenting, self-aware adults take an act that is supposed to be degrading and do it together in a loving context, that this is a subversion of the dominant paradigm (no pun intended).

      Not to mention my continual and usual contention that however a woman chooses to express her sexuality, when it is her choice, is okay inasmuch as it causes her no harm either in the act itself or in the remainder of her life.

      How, I keep wondering, can it possibly be feminist to suggest that because patriarchy exists, women can’t be trusted to manage their own agency and ability to consent? And if we don’t trust women not to be acquiescing because society tells her to, or not to be “brainwashed” into acts that she couldn’t possibly really enjoy…then whom do we trust to make those determinations?

      Why should what a woman wants sexually be determined by whether or not said act has or has not been popularized and presented as degrading in mainstream porn?

  17. bonobobabe June 11, 2009 at 10:54 PM #

    Second–and more importantly–we are talking about sex acts that “affect no one except the woman who engages in it” (and, I presume you meant to say, their lover). I have this odd image, then, of two people sitting in bed, who would both really love to get each other off, in private, but “aren’t allowed to” because it will violate your Reasonable Person degradation test.

    They can do whatever they want in the bedroom. They just can’t call it feminist. That’s all.

    I’m growing my hair long, b/c I want to wear it in a bun and braid it. I realize that I am upholding a patriarchal standard of femininity by doing that. I realize that I will be given more privilege as well. I’m not doing it for those reasons. I’m doing it b/c I want to braid and bun my hair, and I want to forego hair salons, which is easier with long hair, b/c I can cut it myself or have a friend cut it. And as a primitivist, I like the idea of long hair as well. However, I’m not going to argue that it’s a feminist act to grow my hair long. I’m choosing to do a non-feminist thing just b/c I wanna. But it ain’t feminist.

    • Orlando C June 12, 2009 at 1:16 AM #

      “They can do whatever they want in the bedroom. They just can’t call it feminist. That’s all. ”

      Sorry, BBB, but you are moving the goalposts. What you said, quite specifically, in your ealier post was that the sex acts we are discussing are ANTI-feminist, not simply non-feminist. As 9/2 spelled out in the original post, these are clearly distinct categories.

  18. Orlando C June 11, 2009 at 11:48 PM #

    Fridge logic, here….

    If we know that fellatio is degrading because “suck my dick” is an insult, what of all the other sexual insults? What about “kiss my ass,” or “wank me,” or “fuck you” or, as it gets rendered in many langauges, “go get fucked?”

    What about the constant, constant notion that anal sex degrades the recipient? Are gay men participating in their own degradation by having anal sex even though “sodomite” is an insult?

    I think this doesn’t do justice to the context of speech acts, and it gives way too much cultural authority to the jerks over by the water cooler in middle school.

    • Jenn June 12, 2009 at 1:59 AM #

      It’s RadFem Theory 101 that most sexual acts have been interpreted by the patriarchal culture we live in to be degrading, by definition or by popular conception, to all participants except for the penetrating male. I’m sure there’s some helpful blog post somewhere about it. I’d give you a link, but I’m not one to encourage laziness.

      The cultural meaning of sex is much differentially applied to gays and lesbians, who are degraded simply by the fact that they betray the heteronormative absolute. And yes, penetrative sex, or being the “bottom” of a gay or lesbian sex act, is typically interpreted to be a degrading. This isn’t a feature of gay culture, it’s a transference of heterosexual values unto gay sexuality. Sex, by the cultural definition, requires someone to be degraded/penetrated by definition, or it’s not considered sex at all. A ton of people think that lesbians don’t have sex and are, in fact, virgins if they never have sex with men (as if a penis is the sole requirement of sexual activity) or if they don’t use a prop to bring a phallus into the bedroom. This, again, is Gay Theory (especially Feminist Lesbian theory) 101, which I don’t feel that I need to qualify or point you to helpful sources. Do it yourself.

      So we live in a culture in which all sex acts are degrading because penetration requires the penetrator to degrade the penetrated. If there’s no penetration, it’s not considered sex at all. Again, basic stuff.

      But what separates heterosexual PIV intercourse from cumming on a woman’s face is that the first act can be mutually pleasurable through direct stimulus, while the second act is only considered at all, or enjoyed, through second hand pleasure, cultural scripts, and the pervasive influences of misogynistic porn. This has been pointed out up thread by others, so I feel like beating dead horse when I say it.

      Also, in a related note, the tendency of the pro-sex (like there is such thing as anti-sex) people commenting on here to compare their various causes and arguments to gay sexuality never fails to piss me off. This living breathing queer doesn’t like it when people who don’t even get Feminism try to use gay oppression for their detached little hypothetical analogies. That shit is personal, and waving it around like an argumentative bludgeon is fundamentally disrespectful, alienating, and a pretty nasty display of heterosexual priviledge.

      If you can’t even define your own damn straight sexuality without pissing all over mine, don’t even bother.

      • Orlando C June 12, 2009 at 2:23 AM #

        Jenn, I’m not sure your assumptions about my sexuality or level of background reading, or what is or is not personal for me….will do much to further this discussion.

        I am quite aware of the framework that penetrative sex acts inherently degrade the penetratee, etc., etc., but it isn’t clear to me that this is what we mean when we refer to a “reasonable person” test.

        On the one hand, the test could ask whether or not the reasonable person thinks that performing sex act X is, subjectively, degrading.

        On the other hand, the test could ask whether or not the reasonable person thinks that performing sex act X is viewed as subjectively degrading by a bunch of other people, who are, as per our examples, not actually present.

        This latter test seems to be what is implied here, and I think it is a very odd test. If I, or you, or anyone, masturbates, a reasonable person might conclude that millions of people find this act degrading and sinful, and would be personally offended in the counterfactual case that they were present. But this seems an odd and non-liberating standard to apply to a private act.

        • Gorgias June 15, 2009 at 5:45 PM #

          A reasonable person would realize that no sex act is inherently degrading, but that is degradation is determined by the context and intentions of the people engaging in it.

          • Delilah Wood June 15, 2009 at 7:07 PM #

            THANK YOU.

            How difficult is this to understand?

            And if we take as written the Feminist/Queer Theory 101 stuff outlined above, then how does it not become automatically anti-feminist for a women to engage in penetrative sex at all? Are we going to let heteronormative patriarchal culture define the discourse of what it is and is not okay to do in the bedroom?

      • Charlie June 12, 2009 at 5:12 PM #

        “Also, in a related note, the tendency of the pro-sex (like there is such thing as anti-sex) people commenting on…”

        Um, actually, there are lots of people who are anti-sex. Catholicism’s sex= original sin and the belief that life-long abstinence makes one better than those who have sex is a pretty glaring example. And the idea that sex qua sex pollutes, damages, or otherwise causes harm is still around. Abstinence-only sex education rings a bell, doesn’t it?

        Historically, most Euro-derived and -influenced cultures have gotten around this by allowing certain things to validate sex. Until the early 20th century, the only option was procreation within monogamous heterosexual marriage. Over the last century or so, we’ve seen that shift to include love or a relationship. We’ve also seen shifts away from sex = intercourse and any other sexual contact is bad to “foreplay” is allowed if it leads to intercourse to a somewhat wider definition of what allowable sex is. And I doubt that I need to elaborate on how we continue to have a heteronormative phallocentric definition, but it has shifted somewhat, at least in some places.

        Nevertheless, the source of all this is still the sex = bad. Yes, there are still many, many people who are anti-sex. Ask any sex therapist and they’ll tell you lots of stories about that.

        One of the things that I suspect is going on in our current cultural shifts is that we’ve gone from the model of “all sex is bad” to the model of “anything goes.” While this sort of reactivity is common in many situations, I think it’s still problematic. When people rebel by deliberately breaking all of the rules, they’re just as trapped by those rules as the person who feels compelled to comply with all of them.

        My observation is that many people do exactly that for a while, sometimes going back and forth between rebellion and compliance in a binge-purge cycle, until the (sometimes) find the middle ground. My hope is that we’ll eventually figure out how to do that on a cultural level, but I’m not holding my breath.

        • Jenn June 13, 2009 at 5:00 PM #

          Very few people are truly anti-sex without the general population thinking they’re nuts. Most people who are “anti-sex” are just anti- anything that isn’t straight, missionary, between married people, and for the purposes of creating more fundie babies.

          So we’re not really talking about sexual repression. It’s just more oppression in that the only sexuality that bigots except is the sexuality of a dude that gets it up for his wife, bones her in the missionary position, and then creates more extreme right spawn.

      • Gorgias June 15, 2009 at 5:43 PM #

        And this living, breathing, queer kinkster is pretty pissed at the ever so wise vanilla queers papering over his experience by claiming that the two can never ever be compared. My experience indicates that the two have quite a bit in common.

        Many in the queer community would like to forget that the modern practice of BDSM owes much to queer culture. When they do so, they are guilty of setting up a new power structure in which “normal” sexual practices are privileged and the freaks are left out. As are you. The vanilla queers may find themselves in some pervert suburbia, slowly being engulfed into the society’s definition of “normal,” but that’s cold comfort to those of us who remain outside the mainstream’s approval.

  19. bonobobabe June 12, 2009 at 2:34 AM #

    Sorry, BBB, but you are moving the goalposts. What you said, quite specifically, in your ealier post was that the sex acts we are discussing are ANTI-feminist, not simply non-feminist.

    OK, Mr. Language Police. You’re right. But that doesn’t change my point. My point is, two people can do whatever they want in the bedroom. Even if it’s anti-feminist.

    The problem is people want to do whatever they want in the bedroom, but they also want a free pass. They want what they do to be considered “good” or “neutral.” But if you’re doing something degrading, it’s bad. It’s anti-feminist. But you can still do it. You just have to come to terms with it. You can’t just decide something is OK or perfectly fine so that you don’t feel about it. Maybe there’s a reason you feel bad about it. People justify lots of stuff.

  20. Orlando C June 12, 2009 at 2:50 AM #

    OK, fine, this seems like movement forward. We have an act in the bedroom, the (presumably two) people are cool with it, and don’t find it degrading, but it is degrading according to some objective standard. It doesn’t affect anyone else. But it is bad and anti-feminist.

    What does that mean? If it doesn’t affect anyone else, it can’t hurt anyone else, and if it can’t hurt anyone else, it can’t hurt the feminist project.

    So is it anti-feminist in the abstract? Or because of a just-so story about the motives of the people involved? What makes something that has no ill effects “bad”?

  21. Sarah June 12, 2009 at 1:31 PM #

    But what separates heterosexual PIV intercourse from cumming on a woman’s face is that the first act can be mutually pleasurable through direct stimulus, while the second act is only considered at all, or enjoyed, through second hand pleasure, cultural scripts, and the pervasive influences of misogynistic porn. This has been pointed out up thread by others, so I feel like beating dead horse when I say it.

    One could say very similar things about cunnilingus. Does the person performing it get any direct stimulus? No.

    I don’t really care for the idea that you prop yourself up to be the sex police, able to define which is and is not acceptable to perform.

    If you can’t even define your own damn straight sexuality without pissing all over mine, don’t even bother.

    I’ve read your blog. YOU can’t even “define your own damn sexuality”.

    You’ve gone from “I like men and women”, to “I’m a big lesbian” to talking about what you find attractive in men, back to bi, back to lesbian, and around the circle again.

    All it amounts to is you basically saying “any sex but lesbian sex is inherently anti-feminist and DON’T DO IT”.

    But if you’re doing something degrading, it’s bad. It’s anti-feminist.

    I don’t consider you the authority on telling me what is or is not degrading (to me), nor do I find you at all in the right by telling me “If you don’t agree with me, that just means you’re brainwashed”.

    That’s a load of horseshit.

    • Nine Deuce June 12, 2009 at 3:41 PM #

      I’m not going to speak for Jenn, but you know that there is a difference between cunnilingus and ejaculating on someone’s face. People’s mouths are erogenous zones, and therefore provide people performing cunnilingus with stimulation that does not occur in the other situation. And besides, many women’s anatomy is set up in such a way that they require cunnilingus to orgasm. Men don’t physiologically need to ejaculate on anyone’s face.

      • Orlando C June 12, 2009 at 4:39 PM #

        ND-
        I think what is troublesome about this whole line of argument is that it seems to reduce sexual ethics to a series of orgasm tableaus, some good, some bad, based on functionalist/naturalist arguments. There is no room here for the notion that considerate people could negotiate the boundaries of these acts.

        And–while I know you object to this line of reasoning–at a merely discursive level it really does strongly resemble a set of arguments against (male) homosexuality: that the anus is not an erogenous zone, only the penetrating party could enjoy anal sex, etc.

        Again, I don’t make that comparison to compare the history of homophobia to your position on degrading sex. I bring it up because the arguments are comparable, and last time around, we recognized that it was wrong. And why it was wrong: policing private sex acts between consenting adults is patronizing at best, repressive at worst, and has no place in a liberation movement.

        • Nine Deuce June 12, 2009 at 5:58 PM #

          There is a difference between policing and examining/critiquing.

          • Orlando C June 12, 2009 at 6:18 PM #

            Agreed, but insistently examaning/critiquing other people’s private lives resembles policing; it is in fact an aspect of policing: surveillance. And you have strongly implied, many times, that X would not occur if people really examined it for theselves. This sets up a fairly transparent equation that the intent of “examination” is to eliminate certain actions. Which is policing.

          • Charlie June 12, 2009 at 6:24 PM #

            I agree with that. And at the same time, when an examination/critique uses shaming language, the line between the two begins to blur. Given how often and to what degree shame is used to police sexuality, if one doesn’t want to be the sex police, then I think it’s important to use mindful speech and to be aware of the impact of shaming language, even when it’s unintentional.

            Please note- I’m not saying that your intention is to shame people. I’m only pointing out that critiquing/policing isn’t a clear-cut distinction.

      • Sarah June 14, 2009 at 5:29 PM #

        I’m not going to speak for Jenn, but you know that there is a difference between cunnilingus and ejaculating on someone’s face. People’s mouths are erogenous zones, and therefore provide people performing cunnilingus with stimulation that does not occur in the other situation.

        Oh, that’s a load. I don’t receive any sexual stimulation from giving head, and I’m pretty sure men don’t either.

        You might receive mental stimulation from doing something that turns your partner on, but I wouldn’t consider the mouth an erogenous zone. You aren’t going to get a kissing orgasm.

        It’s a fair comparison. You just don’t want it to be, because it takes something (I assume) you consider to be a “feminist” or “empowering” act, and classes it the same as one you don’t.

        And besides, many women’s anatomy is set up in such a way that they require cunnilingus to orgasm.

        Neg. Hands work too. No one MUST HAVE oral in order to orgasm.

    • Jenn June 13, 2009 at 5:02 PM #

      You’ve gone from “I like men and women”, to “I’m a big lesbian” to talking about what you find attractive in men, back to bi, back to lesbian, and around the circle again.

      And I’m the sexuality police? Shut your damn mouth bigot. Sorry I can’t sufficiently define my icky sexuality for your straight sensibilities. Would you like a side of STFU with your priviledge?

      • Orlando C June 14, 2009 at 1:03 AM #

        Jenn-

        Perhaps you know Sarah from another context, but if not, this would be the second time you’ve made an assumption about someone else’s sexuality on this thread. It seems germane that in both cases, you rely on this assumption in order to make a silencing claim: that the other person ought not to speak to you.

        I guess I want to caution you–and also Sarah–against that kind of logic. Very often, no doubt, you can draw accurate conclusions about people’s identity based solely on their opinions. But routinely using those assumptions to ignore what people are saying is, in effect, to cut yourself off permanently from new perspectives and new ideas.

        Surely no one should have to submit a resume in order to ask a question.

      • Sarah June 14, 2009 at 5:26 PM #

        And exactly how am I being a bigot? I’m pointing out it’s a little odd to call yourself a “lesbian”, and talk about people defining their sexuality, when you can’t even seem to define your own.

        You often strike me as someone who adapts what she calls herself in order to “fit in” with certain crowds.

        • Orlando C June 14, 2009 at 7:53 PM #

          Sarah, those are personal attacks. They might or might not be valid, they might or might not piss Jenn off, if that’s your goal, but they’re really not going to move the conversation forward, and 9/2 does have a “Don’t be an asshole” policy, even if it seems to be honored mainly in the breach.

        • Gorgias June 15, 2009 at 5:52 PM #

          I’d just like to concur with Orlando and say that I think you’re stepping over the line with this line of argument, Sarah. It’s a pretty assholish thing to do and not particularly persuasive

  22. antiprincess June 12, 2009 at 2:26 PM #

    But if you’re doing something degrading, it’s bad. It’s anti-feminist. But you can still do it. You just have to come to terms with it. You can’t just decide something is OK or perfectly fine so that you don’t feel about it. Maybe there’s a reason you feel bad about it. People justify lots of stuff.

    degrading to whom?

  23. undercover punk June 12, 2009 at 6:48 PM #

    I’m a lesbian, right? Believe me, there are PLENTY of homophobic sites on the web where I could go and get into heated arguments about the morality of my sexual practices. I could get some people—including myself—very, very upset. But I don’t. I do not consider it to be a constructive or therapeutic use of my time to DEFEND my choices against people who don’t know me at all, who are not trying to attack me personally (they don’t even know of my existence), and are abstractly criticizing a behavior that I happen to engage in. Many of these homophobic people even allege to be representing the Word of the Lord! Which is, IMHO, the most offensive part about it. Yet, I refuse to engage.

    So my question is this: if you think the radical feminist examination of sexual behaviors here on RATM is so OPPRESSIVE, why do you come here? I sincerely do not understand.

    • Orlando C June 12, 2009 at 7:25 PM #

      I didn’t say I thought the radical feminist examination of sexual behviors is oppressive. No one on this thread has said that, IIRC.

      ND invited us to discuss “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)” and that’s what we’re doing.

      I understand completely that you don’t want to engage homophobic sites, but I would imagine that you see that as a personal choice–you aren’t saying that no lesbian should ever engage homophobic sites, or that no person should ever engage in discussion with someone who they partially disagree with. Are you?

      • undercover punk June 13, 2009 at 11:04 PM #

        No, I’m not. Nine Deuce invited you. Fair enough.

    • Gorgias June 15, 2009 at 5:53 PM #

      Sunlight is the best disinfectant. We can’t expect to change minds unless we engage.

      • Undercover Punk June 15, 2009 at 8:16 PM #

        I agree that we change minds one at a time, through civil discussion. I read a lot of comments in a lot of places where people seem to get very exasperated with each other and even say quite mean things, though they willingly participate in the exchange–or even initiate the hostility! I suppose it was silly of me to expect any of the conflict-a-holics to answer.

        • Gorgias June 18, 2009 at 1:03 AM #

          I’ll say also that I tend to post more on here because, at bottom, feminists and non-mainstream sexualities are natural allies. We have more shared values than we have dissonances.

          To me, bukkake-critical, BDSM-critical, or what-have-you feminists are much similar to African Americans who just can’t quite make the leap of empathy to realizing there’s at least a kernel of truth in the gay movement’s comparison. I think that there’s a natural tendency in people of all oppressed groups to realize that their interests are best served by making common cause.

          In other words, from my perspective you’re am apostate from the true creed of tolerance, and I’ve got a much better shot at convincing an apostate than I do someone coming from a completely different mindset.

  24. Polly Styrene June 14, 2009 at 10:04 AM #

    Very few people are truly anti-sex without the general population thinking they’re nuts

    I disagree. Most people are only ‘pro sex’ in that they approve of certain types of sex taking place in certain sanctioned situations. So while a lot of people may be pro sex’ if we’re talking about say certain kinds of heterosexual sex in a ‘committed’ romantic relationship (or even certain types of lesbian sex taking place in committed romantic relationships) most people have ideas of ‘good sex’ and ‘bad sex’.

    I’d also say the majority of the population are uncomfortable with the idea of aut0nomous female sexuality. The double standard is alive and well.

    Having said that: the cunnilingus/bukkake comparision is risible. How many women fantasise about having a man ejaculate in their face? Some, maybe I’ve never carried out a poll. But very, very few I’d wager. So I should think the vast majority of women who are having spunk in their face are doing so unwillingly and under pressure (and I believe it’s quite a lot these days). And THAT’s the humiliating/degrading bit. Having someone carry out a sex act you don’t want to happen.

    • Nine Deuce June 14, 2009 at 3:57 PM #

      I have a feeling there’s no disagreement there. I’m thinking she meant that people think you’re crazy if you’re anti-sex in the sense that you’re not interested in the normative, male-centered heterosexual narrative of what sex is. But I’m not speaking for anyone.

    • Orlando C June 14, 2009 at 4:15 PM #

      The cunnilingus/bukkake comparison up there was a response to the suggestion that we can test the degradation value of a sex act based on who gets directly physically stimulated. I think this is a bad test for lots of reasons, but it is also quite a different test from “whose fantasy is this?” In fact, they can often be mutually exclusive. A man who is into orgasm denial might be manipulatively imposing a fantasy on their lover of not being physically stimulated. So we can’t apply both these tests simultaneously.

      I think it would really further this conversation if someone who believes that there are objective or at least generalizable tests for degradation could submit at least one sex act which they believe is not degrading.

    • Gorgias June 15, 2009 at 6:00 PM #

      I agree with the criteria for humiliation or degradation being carrying out a sex act you don’t want to happen. While critiques of particular sex practices that are often coerced may be important, it’s equally important to not marginalize those who legitimately do enjoy those sex acts that many are pressured into. It would be pretty easy for someone who did enjoy facials to come away from this post, or an expanded one on the evils of bukkake, to conclude that she was a fallen woman, enjoying sex acts that no reasonable (see where that leads?) person would, and coming away with quite a bit of shame for her sexual attractions. I think we can all agree that that’s pretty damn antifeminist.

      Since the distinguishing factor is the willingness of the individual to do the act, and not the act itself, it’s more useful to focus on the aspect of coercion rather than the fact that the coercion is disproportionately used on behalf of certain actions. I am sure we are all aware that by far the most common coerced sex act is standard PIV heterosexual sex. A greater proportion of facial may or may not be coerced- but I think that the focus on such sex acts (and more importantly, imputing the problem to the act itself as opposed to the exercise of coercion), seems to be textbook vanilla privilege.

  25. Polly Styrene June 14, 2009 at 8:32 PM #

    Oh, that’s a load. I don’t receive any sexual stimulation from giving head, and I’m pretty sure men don’t either

    A lot of people do find giving someone oral sex erotic. In any permutation. I’ve just yet to meet a women who has a thing for bukkake. I’m not saying such women don’t exist, I’m saying I’ve never met one. Whereas I have met women who enjoy fellatio. And cunnilingus. More the latter than the former I’d say, but that’s the circles I tend to mix in.

    Orlando, I would agree that there is no such thing as an inherently degrading sex act. The degrading bit comes from the intent of the people involved. And if you insist your partner performs a sex act that you know they hate, I’d say your intentions weren’t good.

    • Orlando C June 15, 2009 at 1:07 AM #

      For sure. I think the real life question isn’t pressuring someone into doing something they hate…obviously that’s bad news. It’s when someone wants their lover to get them off in such-and-such a way, and their lover isn’t totally enthused about, but willingly agrees to do so for reasons beyond their immediate sexual gratification. Reciprocity, in other words.

      Coming in off the street to a conversation like this, it would be easy to get the impression that many people are arguing against any kind of non-immediate sexual reciprocity. A radical feminist woman (it seems) can’t make love in order to be generous to their lover, or to deepen their emotional connection, or to exchange the fulfillment of their individual desires, or to explore a possibility and compare notes. They can only make love, in a feminist way, if they immediately get an orgasm in a RP-approved non-degrading manner.

      I think this is silly; it has almost nothing to do with the way that actual couples actually use sexuality. Which is why I want a specific example of what kind of sex is non-degradation-approved.

      • Polly Styrene June 15, 2009 at 7:13 AM #

        Yup the problem with that kind of thing, (mutual reciprocity, I’ll do something I’m not keen on if you do something you’re not keen on) from what I hear of heterosexual relationships, is it almost never happens.

        What happens I hear is women fake orgasms and act sexxayy to convince men they’re not shit in bed.

        The problem with ‘making love to be generous to your lover’, is that it only works if the power balance is equal. And in society power tends to be skewed in favour of men. That’s where the radical feminist bit comes in.

        Lesbian lovemaking can be unsatisfactory as well of course, but lesbians have a better idea of when someone’s faking. And personally, if I knew someone hated some act I considered to be fairly important no matter what it was I’d go and look for someone else.

        • Nine Deuce June 15, 2009 at 7:29 AM #

          I think you just came up on something key: if there was some act I really liked and my partner hated, even if the partner was willing to do it, I don’t think it’d be all that cool. I mean, doesn’t the partner hating what’s going on ruin the party? It should, and that’s what worries me when men are pressuring women to perform acts they’re not interested in/have an aversion to. (I know, I know, there are other dynamics, but I’m talking about what’s most common.) What is it that allows someone to enjoy an act with a partner who is obviously not enjoying it? I know, the answer is obvious, but I’d still like to see what people have to say.

          • Orlando C June 15, 2009 at 11:45 AM #

            PS, there are probably somewhere well over four billion heterosexuals, of all races, classes, ideologies, and so forth. I think it is silly to typify what happens in all those relationships based on “what you hear.”
            I agree that the concept of reciprocity is problematic in a context of power inequality, but that is always our context, thus far historically. And yet we have developed elaborate notions of reciprocity that are not just shell games. To simply reject this is to discard almost everything that is not fucked up about humanity.
            And I agree, ND, that there is a continuum between doing something you hate under duress and doing something you aren’t sure about under mild pressure. You write:

            “[It] worries me when men are pressuring women to perform acts they’re not interested in/have an aversion to. (I know, I know, there are other dynamics, but I’m talking about what’s most common.)”

            Why do you think this is the most common version of [heterosexual] sex? Or, rather, where do you think that’s the most common version of heterosexual sex? Are we just talking about porn, or well-educated 20-year-olds, or Irish couples who have been married for 15+ years, or what?

            Moreover, in the bulk of this thread, you seem to be saying that certain acts are inherently anti-feminist even if no one is pressuring anyone into them. This doesn’t seem consistent with your caveat about “other dynamics.” So again, I want to know: can you describe a heterosexual sex act that isn’t anti-feminist, so we have something to work with?

            • Nine Deuce June 15, 2009 at 7:41 PM #

              I didn’t say any act is inherently anti-feminist, but that I remain skeptical that certain acts can ever occur without the intent to degrade (which would make them anti-feminist). I’m not down on any side of this completely (save for a few specific acts, such as have been discussed), which is why I want to have this discussion.

              As for the most common dynamic thing, I meant that it’s more often a man pressuring a woman to do something she doesn’t want to do rather than a woman pressuring a man, a woman pressuring a woman, a man pressuring a man, etc., which I think shows something about our social power structure. It’s fairly basic and obvious, but I thought it stood mentioning.

              As for a hetero sex act that isn’t anti-feminist, I’d say the people involved both ought to be enthusiastic participants, they both ought to be aware of why they want to do what they’re doing, and they ought to be able to trust that their partner respects their humanity in every sense. I find it hard to believe that one could create such a context surrounding “taking one in the face.” In the context I describe, sex acts ought to be considered neutral. I think refusing a sex act one isn’t comfortable with can be a feminist act if the act is intended to degrade. But is there such a thing as a feminist sex act? I don’t know. I doubt it, but I’m willing to listen.

              • Orlando C June 16, 2009 at 4:55 PM #

                “As for a hetero sex act that isn’t anti-feminist, I’d say the people involved both ought to be enthusiastic participants, they both ought to be aware of why they want to do what they’re doing, and they ought to be able to trust that their partner respects their humanity in every sense.”

                Thanks. Yes. That.

                And you go on to say that you don’t think [a woman] getting semen on her face could ever fit those criteria, and I can visualize a bunch of other scenarios I expect you would have a similar reaction to. I’m not questioning those sentiments. But what happens when they’re challenged?

                Let’s say someone says “Well I like doing thus-and-such nasty thing, but I think I’m aware of why I have those desires, I’ve examined them, my partner and I are both enthusiastic about it, and my partner and I trust each other and respect each other’s humanity. So I don’t think this is anti-feminist sex.”

                At this point, you and our speaker disagree. But whose problem is it? Is the onus on them to substantiate their claim that they are not anti-feminists, or is the onus on you, 4.5, to show that they are anti-feminists?

                • Nine Deuce June 16, 2009 at 5:00 PM #

                  I don’t know that I’m interested in proving to anyone that their activities are anti-feminist, but I do have a problem with someone calling the scenario you described feminist or telling me I’m anti-feminist for thinking there might be a problem.

                  • Orlando C June 16, 2009 at 5:59 PM #

                    “I don’t know that I’m interested in proving to anyone that their activities are anti-feminist…”

                    9/2, you are an internet pundit who devotes a substantial amount of your public discourse to saying that various activities are anti-feminist. If you don’t think that’s what you’re doing, then how would you describe it?

                    “I do have a problem with someone calling the scenario you described feminist…”

                    Again, as you pointed out in the OP, there are three options here. I described a situation where someone is claiming that their sex is “not anti-feminist.” I am still skeptical that there is any major argument out there that such-and-such is “feminist sex;” until I see some evidence, I think that’s a straw man. Or straw woman. But definitely straw.

                    • Nine Deuce June 16, 2009 at 6:06 PM #

                      See Sarah and Alexandria Erin. They’re basically saying that they, by engaging in these acts, are more feminist than I am for questioning them. They’ve both accused me of “reverse-patriarchy” or some such nonsense, and Alexandria Erin even suggested that because I question certain acts/desires, I’m doing more harm than good to the cause of women’s liberation on balance. They’re basically saying that sexual freedom is essential to feminism (which I don’t disagree with), but it’s funny to me that “sexual freedom” ends up looking a lot like porn.

                      And don’t pretend there’s no one calling stripping, doing porn, this-or-that sex act, etc. empowering and feminist. I’m not saying everyone here is doing so (though I think Ren has come close in a sense in discussions I’ve had with her at her place — she asked me if it was beneficial to the cause for women to be assertive about what they want, which I do think is good, but which I think gets more complicated when what they want results in problems for other women, which I think porn does; that said, I don’t think that she’d make the claim that making porn is feminist), but it does go on A LOT. Diablo Cody comes to mind.

                    • Orlando C June 16, 2009 at 7:26 PM #

                      I don’t know how to reply properly, ’cause we’re so far over on the margin of screen. But.

                      9/2, you’re pointing me to Alexandra Erin and Sarah as examples of people who describe their unspeakable sex acts as feminist.

                      In the first place, with all due respect to AE and S, who the hell are they? Are they major spokespeople for some movement of kinky feminists? Are they nearly as prominent voices on the internet as, let’s say, Nine Deuce is? Because it would seem odd to lavish something like 20 articles bashing the opinions of two people who happen to comment on your website.

                      But more to the point, I can’t actually find AE or S saying that they think their sex is a bold feminist act. Maybe they are, but I can’t find it, and I don’t see you linking me to it.

                      What I do see is them saying that it’s anti-feminist to criticize their sex lives, and–whether or not we agree–these are clearly different concepts. A gay man who is running a bakery is not neccesarily engaging claiming to engage in a “queer baking act.” Even if someone runs an editorial denoucing his perverted ways, and he responds that they’re anti-gay. Right? These are distinct realms.

                    • Nine Deuce June 16, 2009 at 7:29 PM #

                      They have both stated, as have many others, that their participation in a sex act that they like is a feminist act because it bucks patriarchal norms. I agree that women enjoying sex is threatening to patriarchy, and I’m all for women reclaiming their sexuality, but that doesn’t mean that every time a woman willingly fucks someone she’s kicking the Man in the balls. It seems these two would disagree. They make no distinction between slut-shaming and feminist analysis of the politics of sex, and that’s what I find so rude and dishonest.

                      And they don’t much matter (at least to me), but they are representative of a stance taken by many more mainstream voices than my own. See my update to that last comment.

                    • Orlando C June 16, 2009 at 8:28 PM #

                      OK, you’re referencing Ren[agade Evolution], who I believe does some sort of sex work, and Diablo Cody, who strips. But 9/2……those are not private acts. The reason that Ren and DC make a claim that their sexual activities are feminist is precisely because they occur in public fora.

                      I have no opinion on that, really.

                      As you have set forth the question, we are concerned with private sex acts. And I still am not hearing an example of people claiming that their private sex acts are pro-feminist.

                    • Nine Deuce June 16, 2009 at 8:31 PM #

                      I addressed that in discussing Alexandria Erin, Sarah, and the commenters on my BDSM series.

                    • Orlando C June 16, 2009 at 8:51 PM #

                      So essentially what you are saying is that you have written a large number of articles (20?) in order to countervene the massive cultural influence of random people like me who comment on your articles?

                      That doesn’t make sense.

                      Look, it is old news that your writing irks people (like me) whose sexual desires you find politically objectionable. But I hope you have the integrity to state that our desires, and our private lives, are distinct entities from the implies discourse of pornography. Because it would appear that you cannot cite pornographers talking about how feminist bukkake is.

                      (And, Ren, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry to throw you under the train here, but I am trying to work with 9/2 one step at a time.)

                    • RenegadeEvolution June 17, 2009 at 3:17 AM #

                      Only I never said the following:

                      “that their participation in a sex act that they like is a feminist act because it bucks patriarchal norms”

                      Ever.

                      Make sure you have the right name attached to whatever body is meeting the Union Pacific at high noon.

                    • Nine Deuce June 17, 2009 at 3:53 AM #

                      I didn’t say you said that, I said other people have. The bit about you was separate and in parentheses.

                    • Orlando C June 17, 2009 at 12:28 PM #

                      Yes, my apologies, Ren, I confused speakers. My tortured point is that insofar as you are a “stripper/fetish-nude model/sex-worker type,” a portion of your sexual activity isn’t private in the way that way that we’ve been discussing.

                      But this leaves us back at square one, Nine Deuce. Nobody you’ve brought up who has any discursive power seems to espouse the position that their private kinky sex act is positively feminist. All anyone is saying is that it might be anti-feminist to attack women’s sexuality.

                      I don’t doubt that you can find someone who is in fact saying this, but let’s actually find them, rather than argue about a hypothetical position that no one here seems to hold.

                    • antiprincess June 17, 2009 at 9:10 PM #

                      I don’t understand why everyone confuses you with me, Ren.

                      yes, I think it’s positively feminist to engage in sex you like, even if the type of sex you like looks non-, un-, or anti-feminist.

                      I said it a couple-a-three years ago, haven’t changed my mind yet. don’t plan to. just wanted to set the record, er, straight.

                    • RenegadeEvolution June 17, 2009 at 10:20 PM #

                      AP: Because we’re both short??

                    • Orlando C June 18, 2009 at 2:05 AM #

                      Yay! Now we’re bona fide. At only 108 comments, we actually have someone making the claim that 9/2 describes in the OP.

                      AP, is there any chance you could describe how you think a private sex act can be feminist? I don’t mean not-anti-feminist, or an excercise of women’s rights, I mean, like, does this private sex act further the project of women’s liberation and obliterating the patriarchy?

                    • antiprincess June 18, 2009 at 10:06 PM #

                      heh. any sex act a woman does because she wants to is feminist, because the act of honoring authentic and unregulated female desire is furthering women’s liberation and obliterating the, er, patriarchy, sure. The idea that women can even have a desire of their own is feminist enough. What the specifics of that desire are don’t really concern me.

                      my logic (if it can be called that) goes a little something like this – for personhood to exist, desire must exist. And feminism something something radical notion something something women are people blah blah blah.

                      for me, if you are not a PERSON, you can’t formulate a DESIRE. if your DESIRES are stereotyped, discounted, ignored, assumed to not even exist, etc., you are not a PERSON.

                      HOWEVER – many people are convinced that women’s desire is poisoned (completely or partially) by The Patriarchy, and can never be authentic. So we argue.

                      I’m not a super-smart PhD candidate like Nine Deuce, so I’m pretty sure my comment is rambly and not coherent. I’m chasing a toddler while at work, so my attention is divided. I apologize for that.

                      BTW, I’m not even sure The Patriarchy is true or real by Dworkin’s definition of true and real. so I don’t put as much stock in blaming it as some do. anyway, that’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.

                    • Orlando C June 19, 2009 at 2:53 AM #

                      Thanks, AP. While I agree with you (give or take semantics), I think there’s an important distinction to be made between you’re saying and what 9/2 is positing as an antithesis.

                      You seem to be saying that women can claim as feminist any sex act they can claim as coming from their “authentic and unregulated desire.” Which could be kissing and holding hands, or that nasty, nightmare-inducing thing with raisins and Pez dispensers.

                      But the argument, as I understand it, that 9/2 is describing is that women claim particular exotic sex acts as feminist because of their exotic nature. That is, they are claiming that kinky sex (etc.) is more feminist that all that neutral sex everyone else is having. I don’t hear you saying that(?)

                      And don’t apologize for your lack of a PhD, please, god, or I’ll have to make my whole life one long act of contrition for how little education I have…

          • Undercover Punk June 15, 2009 at 1:54 PM #

            The ubiquitous eroticism of power.

            Pornography.

            Sex-for-sale.

            These all contribute to a me-first! approach to sex & sexuality that disregards, or views as secondary, the other party’s pleasure. It’s not feminist.

          • isme June 15, 2009 at 2:37 PM #

            Well…that would depend on how the person weighed it, I suppose. Nothing is perfect, you just have to decided whether something is, or is not worth putting up with. Compromise is something we all have to do.

            If the intent is to degrade, and the person wanting to do it is pressuring the other into it, then I’d definately say it’s not worth putting up with. Now, as much as I don’t want to offend the exceptions, I’d say that bukkake generally exists solely for that purpose, and almost everyone who says that they aren’t like that is lying…though, of course, people will claim to be in the minority who aren’t like that, whether they are or not.

            On comparing bukkake to cunnilingus…a large number of insults come to mind describing someone who performs oral sex on a male, but not all that many describing someone who performs oral sex on a female.

      • Polly Styrene June 15, 2009 at 7:17 AM #

        Also

        A radical feminist woman (it seems) can’t make love in order to be generous to their lover, or to deepen their emotional connection, or to exchange the fulfillment of their individual desires, or to explore a possibility and compare notes. The can only make love, in a feminist way, if they immediately get an orgasm in a RP-approved non-degrading manner.

        Is just bullshit. And nobody has actually said that as far as I can see. Cunnilingus doesn’t give you an orgasm by itself. But several people (including me) have just pointed out that it can be a pleasurable and erotic act. What is being argued against, at least in my case, is doing stuff you don’t want to do and/or find degrading.

        • RenegadeEvolution June 15, 2009 at 11:23 AM #

          “What is being argued against, at least in my case, is doing stuff you don’t want to do and/or find degrading.”

          This.

        • Orlando C June 15, 2009 at 12:00 PM #

          I think it’s a pretty close summary of what’s been said so far.

          Jenn wrote:

          “what separates heterosexual PIV intercourse from cumming on a woman’s face is that the first act can be mutually pleasurable through direct stimulus, while the second act is only considered at all, or enjoyed, through second hand pleasure, [etc.]”

          Sarah applied that distinction to cunnilingus, saying that it, too, only provides indirect pleasure. ND refutes this, not by making an argument about consent, social context, relational sexuality, or the like, but by saying:

          “People’s mouths are erogenous zones, and therefore provide people performing cunnilingus with stimulation that does not occur in the other situation. And besides, many women’s anatomy is set up in such a way that they require cunnilingus to orgasm.”

          PS, you’ve suggested what I think is a much more useful test–that the person performing cunnilingus fantasizes about that act, and enjoys it mentally (regardless of whether or not they have an orgasm right then and there, yah?)

          And I am trying to suggest that it can also be valid for someone to perform a sex act for non-sexual reasons.

          • cub June 18, 2009 at 11:41 PM #

            for money?

            • Orlando C June 19, 2009 at 9:01 PM #

              Sure, for money.

              Or to express gratitude, or generosity, or solidarity, or to quell an argument, or to cheer someone up, or any other honest and forthright motive. I don’t think sex is a special category of human activity where motivations need an extra special gold star.

  26. redmegaera June 15, 2009 at 3:08 AM #

    When has upholding the public/private dichotomy ever benefited the most vulnerable people in our society: women and children? The public/private dichotomy, reinforced in the law and public policy of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault has sheilded men from scrutiny and faciliate gendered violence since the year zero. Feminist campaigns around domestic violence in the 1970s were predicated on delegitimizing it by uncovering its patriarchal bias. It’s as though two decades of feminist political and legal philosophy just vanished into thin air.

    “Sex” has never been private. As Andrea Dworkin writes “Any act so controlled by the state, proscribed and prescribed in detail, cannot be private…The society and its police (including priests in religious states) have had too much to do with establishing the terms of the act itself: not just what people do and do not do; but also what people know, how consciousness and self-consciousness are formed, how acts are valued and devalued, how both the license to do and the stigma against doing are then expressed in actual sexual behaviour, dread, and longing.” This sounds like an argument for sexual libertarianism, right? Well it’s not.

    Patriarchal religion and the state are not the only political apparatuses that regulate sex. In the West a laissez-faire approach to sexuality, in which the primary regulative apparatus is the mass media and sex industries rather than the state, has come to predominate. The fact that most us get our daily dose of misogyny from billboards rather than Bibles does not make us any less indoctrinated. That some of us “choose” not to buy, switch on or get off does not make market-defined sexuality any less pervasive. Until the Reformation, most women could neither read nor understand the Bible but no-one in their right mind would suggest that Christianity didn’t have a profound influence on sexual mores in Europe.

    In a patriarchal society sexuality is still defined primarily through homosocial relationships: relationships between men.It is defined through heterosexual men’s sexual storytelling, collective use of pornography, strippers and prostituted and non-prostituted women. It is defined through men’s collective control and/or ownership of the media and most of the world’s major corporations. It is defined through “old boys” networks, professional sports, sexualized racism, homophobia, lesbophobia, high-end fashion, Playboy centrefolds and gay-bashing. It is defined by men through more social practices and patriarchal institutions than I can count.

    In a patriarchal society distinguishing between feminist and non-feminist sexual acts is going to be a process fraught with difficulties. The best I can do is to make a concerted and constant effort to choose against patriarchy. This is difficult, impossible to perfect and requires a lot of self-examination but it’s the best I can do.

    • Undercover Punk June 15, 2009 at 1:41 PM #

      redmegaera, you ROCK my world! TELL IT!! Market-defined sexuality!!! YES! Yes!! Yessss! Insisting that sexual acts remain private does NOT contribute to female liberation. Nor does abstract discussion of sexual practices require *anyone* to confess (defend) that *they* participate in such practices—it only becomes PERSONAL when individuals choose to make it so by inserting them*selves* into the critique.
      Btw, I vote that you should re-post this beauty over at your place…which I can’t seem to link to from here….?

    • Orlando C June 15, 2009 at 7:11 PM #

      RM-

      “When has upholding the public/private dichotomy ever benefited the most vulnerable people in our society: women and children?”

      Well, at the risk of misreading the question, what about Roe v. Wade, in which the decision rests largely on an abstract privacy claim? What about the redaction of rape victims names in media accounts–when it happens–again a privacy question?

      I am not sure exactly what prescriptive position you are arguing for qua privacy, but it seems a little premature to throw it out.

      • Undercover Punk June 15, 2009 at 8:44 PM #

        Orlando C, finding an exception to a Rule is not evidence that the Rule does not exist or has no power. There are exceptions to EVERY Rule.

        Your examples of female “privacy” were hard won only after *considerable female bloodshed* and the grudging concession of Patriarchy to magnanimously grant such women “freedoms” (ha!). We’re expected to be eternally grateful for that “liberty” and are constantly terrorized with the threat that it will taken away (see Dr. Tiller). Griswold (birth control) rests on a similar abstraction of “privacy.” Coincidence? No. Is abortion accessible? No. Is rape less prevalent or less humiliating thanks to the media redaction? No.

        redmegaera’s point, as I understand it (though I do not wish to speak for her), is that MEN/masculinity/male-owned social institutions continue to define sex and sexuality. Therefore, insisting that sex acts are PERSONAL, PRIVATE, non-political, and above reproach does not contribute to women’s liberation. For decades, even centuries, most women didn’t even know what orgasms WERE, let alone how to have them! That is, until women started talking about and uncovering what previously seemed so impolite! to discuss: the secret realm of a man’s house, bedroom, and the way that he treats “his” woman.

        That’s why I said, redmegaera, AMEN Sister!

        • Orlando C June 15, 2009 at 9:58 PM #

          Well, RM asked “When has upholding the public/private dichotomy ever benefited the most vulnerable people in our society: women and children?” and I gave two examples.

          I don’t think that the legalization of abortion was a trivial gain for feminism. It’s not my role to tell anyone what they should be grateful for, but from a historical POV, it seems pretty clear that this was an instance when a privacy-rights discourse was used to win a key feminist victory.

          More to the point, though: RM seems to be writing about a notion of enforced and male-delineated privacy: don’t ask me what I do to my wife. Bad news, of course. But what we have been discussing in this thread is optional and mutual privacy: don’t tell us what to do in our bedroom unless we ask you to.

    • thebeardedlady November 6, 2009 at 11:48 AM #

      What a brilliant critique. Thank you so much. I appreciate it when someone writes so clearly and cuts through all the crap.

  27. Polly Styrene June 15, 2009 at 6:50 PM #

    “mutually pleasurable” to me means something completely different from ‘results in immediate orgasm’. Or even necessarily results in orgasm at all. However though it is indeed possible to take pleasure in giving someone else pleasure, it’s nice to get it back as well. At some point, somewhere down the line. Or there’s not much mutuality going on.

    There may be four billion heterosexual people, but the thing about generalisations is that they need to be general. And exceptions prove the rule. And what seems to be the rule is that a lot of women are losing out in heterosexual sex. Now if 30 per cent of heterosexual women say they ‘rarely or never’ have orgasms, I say there’s something wrong with this picture.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/17/science/17orga.html?pagewanted=2

    • Orlando C June 15, 2009 at 10:05 PM #

      “the thing about generalisations is that they need to be general. And exceptions prove the rule.”

      Oh, come on, PS, you don’t believe that. That’s the logic of racists and homophobes and bigots. Try again.

      Using your proxy indicator…30% of het women aren’t having orgasms….then yes, we live in a hugely fucked up patriarchal society. No one disagrees. But your generalization that mutual reciprocity “almost never happens” in heterosexual relationships is still off by an order of magnitude.

  28. Polly Styrene June 15, 2009 at 7:00 PM #

    PS, you’ve suggested what I think is a much more useful test–that the person performing cunnilingus fantasizes about that act, and enjoys it mentally (regardless of whether or not they have an orgasm right then and there, yah

    No what I’m suggesting is that people it arousing physically. Not necessarily so that they come while they’re doing it (though some people may, have you never had an orgasm during an erotic dream Orlando?), but that they actually get off on it. Yes that’s the result of psychological as well as direct physical stimulus to the genitals, but so is most sexual arousal. Brain and body are linked. That’s why we find some visual images arousing.

    • Orlando C June 15, 2009 at 7:42 PM #

      Right, I think we’re talking about the same thing. If both partners are getting off, no matter where their ‘erogenous zones’ are located, I think we can agree the sex act is mutually fulfilling, and that’s a pretty long stride, in my opinion, towards saying that it isn’t anti-feminist. (Though I realize that several people here would disagree, I think 9/2 included.)

      I also think a sex act can be mutually fulfilling if it fulfills non-sexual needs for one (or both) partners. To use an odd but solid example, a het couple trying to get pregnant might have sex when they’re both completely exhausted, or a lesbian couple trying to get pregnant might both be really squicked out by oral-med syringes, but it’s still mutually fulfilling sex. We aren’t going to say “Feminists shouldn’t use turkey basters, ’cause its degrading and they don’t stimulate your clitoris.”

  29. redmegaera June 16, 2009 at 1:55 AM #

    Thanks Undercover Punk, I think you’ve represented my position pretty accurately. I’ll try and get an edited and expanded version up on my blog A.S.A.P.

    With regards to Roe vs. Wade, I can’t comment authoratatively on that decision because I’m neither a legal scholar nor an American and I’m not sufficiently familiar with all the details of the case. What I will say is that some feminist legal scholars, such as Catharine A. MacKinnon and Frances Olsen have criticized the choice to pursue the right to abortion under the law of privacy on the grounds that it reinforces and, in some cases, enhances the power of men to dominate women. Roe vs. Wade may have benefited some women with respect to being able terminate a pregnancy but the end doesn’t always justify the means. In any case, from what little I know about the United States legal system, it hasn’t had much success in securing these rights for most women.

    Most feminist arguments for abortion have rested on a woman’s right to control her body, not privacy. Robin Morgan has a great quote. She writes: “If I had to name one quality as the genius of patriarchy, it would be compartmentalization, the capacity for institutionalizing disconnection.” This applies equally to the patriarchal disregard for the organic interdepedence between mother and foetus and the commodification of women’s reproductive system as it does to the public/private dichotomy. But now I’m getting off track. Bascially I don’t believe abortion has ever been private, even in those countries where it has been legalized and/or decriminalized. I don’t think that framing women’s rights in terms of the right to privacy is ever very helpful within a patriarchal society.

    As I wrote in my original post, my main objection is to the overnight rehabilitation by certain feminists of the public/private dichotomy after it has been so lucidly and intelligently critiqued by feminist political and legal philosophers. If we agree about the fundamental concept of “patriarchy” then there can be no distinction between “enforced and male-delineated privacy” and any other. Under patriarchy there’s always a man in bed with you (and I’m not just talking about your sexual partner). To exempt “private” sexual acts from political analysis is politically regressive and smacks of essentialism. Sexual pleasure should not be used to mystify inequality. It might be difficult to imagine what a politically progressive sexuality would entail but I’d think it’s worth the effort anyway.

    Basically…what Undercover Punk said!

    • Charlie June 16, 2009 at 1:35 PM #

      This sparked a question for me and perhaps someone here can suggest a direction for some research/reading.

      My understanding is that the modern concept of private/public developed as part of the evolution of the European middle class. Before that, 99+% of the population simply didn’t have the economic resources to support the distinction between public & private, especially since most labor took place within or near the home and everyone knew what others were doing. Once the middle class took shape and men started to work outside the home, the concept of the public sphere/private sphere had an opportunity to gain a foothold and we had the formation of the idea of the “rough and tumble battle” of the business world where men were expected to adopt a cutthroat approach to other men and the “supportive & nurturing” home where women were expected to support their men and help them recharge for the next day’s battle.

      That’s been my understanding of how this separation developed, but how does that click for others? I’m not sure how much of that is accurate and if anyone has suggestions for reading on the topic, I’d love to hear them.

      Assuming that this is more or less accurate, what about the differences in culture? Although there’s effectively no part of the world that isn’t affected by European- and US-derived cultural patterns, not all cultures make the same public/private distinction. Of course, I’m not suggesting that that means that they aren’t male-dominated cultures, but if, as redmegaera quotes, “compartmentalization, the capacity for institutionalizing disconnection” is the “the genius of patriarchy,” what happens in cultures that have a different approach to the concept of private? How does that shift things and does that offer ways to approach this from a political or a strategic perspective?

      This is a topic that I’d love to do some further reading on and I’d appreciate any pointers.

      Thanks.

  30. Polly Styrene June 16, 2009 at 6:15 AM #

    Orlando, I recently looked at pay figures for my organisation and in the very bottom pay bands, on average women earn more than men for doing the same job. In all the other higher pay bands, men on average earn more than woman. So overall the pay gap is in favour of men.

    Like I said you can’t have a non general generalisation. What I am saying isn’t that in 100% of cases the power balance in heteresexual relationships (and in society at large) is in favour of men, but in the the majority of cases it is.

    That isn’t saying reciprocity is impossible. Just that it’s less likely. And I have to base opinion of heterosexual relationships on what I hear, because I’m extremely reluctant to carry out field work.

  31. Orlando C June 16, 2009 at 12:15 PM #

    RM-
    I’m not a lawyer or legal scholar either, but I have had the opportunity to help develop strategy for legal campaigns related to women’s privacy. For instance, a battleground issue in the US these days is whether or not the police should have warrantless access to medical records, including (just for instance) prescriptions for contraceptives.

    The decision to pursue a privacy strategy in these cases, and in Roe v. Wade, I’m sure, was in large part instrumental: privacy is a relatively well-established legal concept, whereas the right to “control one’s body” isn’t at all. (re: suicide, drug use, etc.) Privacy is also widely understood by a public that hasn’t read MacKinnon and Olsen, and–if they did–would not give a hoot about such nuanced theoretical critiques.

    As I understand it, the other primary argument being considered for legalizing abortion in the U.S. was based on property rights. Hayek, for instance, outlines a property model of fetuses (and infants, I think) in which all women, as capitalists, have the right to an abortion, the right to buy and sell their ovaries on eBay, to sell shares or options on their fetus, etc. I, for one, am glad that we didn’t go that route. But I am not seeing the evidence that a privacy-rights strategy for abortion was so harmful to women that “the ends don’t justify the means.” How many women are dying every year because of this ‘rehabilitation’ of privacy rights in spite of Olsen’s theoeretical concerns? To me, the argument smacks of academic privilege.

    PS- Generalizations have their place, sure. But the example you cited to back up your generalization doesn’t work…if our test is who gets to come, and you’re saying that 70% of het women get to come, then the generalization is that they all do, not that it “almost never happens.”

    I don’t think the orgasm count is what we’re really talking about–although it occasionally seems to be used in here as some be-all end-all test. But….it was your go-to example, and I think it’s worth asking why you are equating “70%” with “almost never” in your mind.

    • Undercover Punk June 16, 2009 at 5:53 PM #

      Well, I am a lawyer. I’m not sure what you intend by alleging that one would not be concerned with theoretical nuances if they had read certain authors.

      In regard to defining female freedoms as “privacy rights,” the ends justify the means only to the extent that women *were* granted the right to legal abortions. I agree that necessity combined with legal precedent are the reasons for relying on that argument. The problem with using this justification, however, as I’m sure you are aware, is that it too easily allows for EROSION of the alleged right (to privacy). See parental consent, waiting periods, federal gag rules tied to funding, etc. Whenever the government decides that it has an overriding interest in violating said privacy, it can. And will. And does.

      It’s kind of alarmist to suggest that the property justification would allow women to sell their fetuses on eBay! (Btw, you can’t sell living things on eBay–not even the skins of endangered species!) Or that women would parcel off shares of their children for profit. The male-dominated Supreme Court can decree any rule they want, with any stipulation they want.

      Ideally, the notion that men have a right to a woman’s body or the choices she makes about it would cease to exist (even in memory). Ideally, the act of abortion would be so firmly embedded in our sense of Full Humanity, that it would cease to be questioned. By anyone. Ever. But if it were, the question should be posed *only* to other humans for whom the realities of reproduction are NOT an abstraction (as they are for men).

      • Orlando C June 16, 2009 at 7:17 PM #

        Yes, and there was no eBay when Hayek was writing, either, but that it is, in effect, what he was saying….

        UP, you’re a lawyer. Why should an abortion-rights argument grounded in human-rights discourse have any more stability than one grounded in privacy theory? We’ve just spent had nearly a decade of an administration that didn’t even recognize habeas corpus. Sure, the right to privacy is politically vulnerable, but so are all rights.

        “I’m not sure what you intend by alleging that one would not be concerned with theoretical nuances if they had read certain authors.”

        Sorry, I was unclear. My sense of most social movements is that the elaborate theoretical work developed–largely–within privileged academic communities remains irrelevant to most of the population unless it gets translated, and usually re-argued, in a more accessible forum. RM seems to be almost suggesting that the tangible gains of Roe v. Wade weren’t worth the abstract sins of relying on a patriarchal construct of privacy. I think it would have be very, very, hard to explain that position to a non-academically-privileged woman who needs an abortion.

        • Undercover Punk June 16, 2009 at 8:22 PM #

          Yes, all “rights” are vulnerable to social interpretation. And clearly, the “right to privacy” has been an especially successful target for erosion.
          ***********************
          That’s not what I understood RM to be saying. However, to your point, I would like to offer an analogy to homosexuality. Gay people have been able to gain social and legal progress by insisting that sexuality is essential; it is innate, biological, from God, cannot be changed. As a lesbian, *I* benefit from the increased social “tolerance” and related civil rights this argument has won us. At the same time, I do NOT believe that sexuality is biologically determined and immutable. Yet now that homosexuals have convinced the public that we “just can’t help it,” ALL sexuality and sexual proclivities are above challenge. You know, men “just can’t help” the uncontrollable urge to rape! All of us, we “just can’t help it.” It’s not actually helpful (to female liberation). Thus, the theoretical justification for equality ends up biting back.

          Nevertheless, I agree: more often than not the underlying rationale for legal “rights” is irrelevant to the average person. But sometimes the law is supported by BAD reasoning. Or it just doesn’t make much sense–even to the trained mind (like why infrared technology is an unconstitutionally invasive means of gathering incriminating evidence, but sniffing dogs are not!?!?!).

          In the case of abortion and other reproductive rights, I find the state-defined support for their legality to be particularly tenuous. That’s all.

          • Orlando C June 16, 2009 at 9:29 PM #

            Oh, agreed, though I certainly can’t think of an example where het rapists cited queer essentiallism in their defense, as you suggest.

            Within [that crowd of legal advocacy where I’ve done my time] I’m usually the one arguing against privacy-rights strategies. Not that I don’t believe in privacy in concept, I just think it’s useless to try to legislate privacy rights on the shifting sands of the internet. But in fact, I’m suspicious of all “rights” discourse.

            I would rather the argument were framed in the opposite direction: why does the state have any business legislating what we do with our bodies?

            • Undercover Punk June 16, 2009 at 11:14 PM #

              Well, keep your eyes & ears open for signs of the sex/uality essentialism backlash– I’m terrified of the potential consequences.

            • redmegaera June 16, 2009 at 11:45 PM #

              Orlando C, one can criticize the decision to pursue the abortion right under the law of privacy without trivializing the positive outcomes of Roe vs. Wade for women. Like I said, I’m not writing from a U.S. context, but an Australian one and the argument for the decriminalization of abortion in the state of Victoria where I live has, to my knowledge, never involved claims to either property or privacy laws. I won’t write any more about this. It’s not central to the point that I was trying to make and I don’t know enough about the U.S. context.

              The charge of “academic privilege”really rankles. It’s like saying that theory is a luxury for women- because ready-made malestream theory has served us so well. To paraphrase MacKinnon, the notion of “academic privilege” is far too often used as a club to invalidate criticism of established ways of looking at things. It’s a way of telling uppity subordinates to get back into their box. The “common sense view” too often disguises mechanisms of dominance and control so why should we just dumbly accept it? Why should we castigate women in the academy for daring to challenge it? New theories of concepts such as the public/private dichotomy are essential to feminism because they help us make new realities. I’m not an “equality” feminist or a liberal feminist. I’m a radical feminist. Being grateful for patriarchal concessions isn’t really my bag.

              My larger point was that the public/private dichotomy is a fiction the has largely been deployed in the interests of men and to the detriment of women and children. “Sex” is not and has never been private and maintaining this fiction within the context of sexual politics is unhelpfull and politically regressive.

              • Orlando C June 17, 2009 at 12:07 AM #

                Since I haven’t done the whole higher education thing, and have spent years watching a wide range of radical viewpoints be invalidated because nobody got tenure writing about them, you’ll forgive me if I’m a little slow to recognize that the concept of “academic privilege” is reactionary.

                I agree that the P/P dichotomy largely serves men, but within a patriarchy, we can say that of almost anything. Within patriarchy, zucchini largely serves men, but that doesn’t make it regressive in and of itself. The comparable arguments are that under capitalism, ____ primarily benefits the rich. Insert almost anything there, and it’s still true, but it doesn’t mean that ____ is regressive.

                We in the US are pursuing, among other things, a privacy-rights-based concept that the police should not have access to a woman’s medical records without a warrant. How would you propose that we do that without a privacy discourse?

                • redmegaera June 17, 2009 at 1:10 AM #

                  Orlando C, the problem with “academic privilege” is that it’s used selectively. When it comes to debates about subordinate groups it’s used as a club to invalidate criticism of established ways of looking at things. It’s the kind of weapon that camouflages the privilege of the person who weilds it. The establishment is not denounced; those who denounce it are castigated for luxuriating in their “academic privilege”. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist, just that it’s a rhetorical device that I’ve learnt to be suspicious of.

                  Comparing the public/private dichtomy with zucchini is not a valid comparison. The public/private dichotomy is an abstract idea that has come to be embodied in the material institutions and social relations that shape everyday life. A zucchini is a kind of green, edible squash. I personally use it to make a great vegan moussaka.

                  Reinstating the public/private dichotomy is regressive because it implies that public and private acts are of a different order, that private acts occur in a distinct, discrete sphere and should not be subject to the same kind of political analysis as public acts. I believe this distinction is a fiction. The public/private dichotomy is a (typically gendered) way of negotiating power relationships. That’s what I’m addressing. It’s not that I think the concept of privacy has no value, it’s just that I think it’s used to mystify power relationships. In the context of this discussion about whether one’s sexual acts should be the subject of political analysis I think it’s irrelevant and obfuscates the ways in which private desires are shaped by the broader society.

                  • Orlando C June 17, 2009 at 1:35 AM #

                    Let me assure you that when I talk about academic privilege I’m not using it selectively–I gots a bone to pick with all y’all.

                    And, OK, I am in favor of moussaka, and I agree that the concept of privacy is not always a useful one. (Locally, I find that a privacy/secrecy distinction is valuable, although that’s a whole other conversation.)

                    I do think it is relevant to this discussion, though. Sex acts join with a relatively small number of other human activities in that they can plausibly be “contained” to the immediate participants, having no foreseeable effects on anyone else. It is certainly this causal understanding that people are referencing when they speak of such acts ‘private,’ in contrast to pornography or blogging, which is, by the same token, ‘public.’

                    Whether or not those are our choice of terms, they are valid distinctions to make in this conversation.

  32. RenegadeEvolution June 17, 2009 at 6:04 AM #

    ND: I was more pointing that out to Orlando. I stand by that I think it is good for women to express what they want sexually. What they want sexually may very well not stand up to feminist analysis or whatever, but I still think women expressing that is a definate step forward. I also think it is very unrealistic to assume all women are going to like the same things and feel the same way about them…but any time a woman says “I like and want to do” or “I don’t like and will not do”…well, I think that is moving forward.

  33. Raye June 18, 2009 at 1:56 AM #

    I “make” my boyfriend cum in his own face every few weeks or so. To him, this sex act is very degrading, but we both enjoy it a lot. This is to say that, though I’m not one of those women who enjoy the sex act you’re railing against, ND, I know men and women who do enjoy it, and they enjoy it exactly because it feels degrading. Some of us think this is fucked up—some of us certainly question where we fit into the proper moral order of things (you seem to have the answer to that one already).

    So, I find it really discomforting, insulting, and yes I would say anti-feminist, to hear your shaming, damning evaluation of the kind of sex that a) gets my boyfriend off and b) gets me off and c) gets off plenty of women on the receiving end BECAUSE it’s degrading. It may be transgressive, it may be “part of the patriarchy,” (which sounds like “boogie man” after a while you know) but even if it was neither of those things it would still be degrading and it would still be an enjoyable sex act. Must we condemn it?

    • cub October 25, 2009 at 10:29 PM #

      um… based on your enjoyment of degradation, i would think you would be aroused right now for having been shamed on the internet–no?

      i think you should thank Mistress 9-2, or get ready for more punishment:)

  34. Amanda October 22, 2009 at 9:12 PM #

    For the record, I didn’t bother reading most of the comments.

    I consider myself to be a feminist and a switch (bdsm sub/dom as I choose). The way you are speaking, it sounds as if you think any act with a female submissive is anti-feminist, but I disagree. With my male partner, I enjoy being dominated. I like being bound, I like being chastised and “humiliated”. But, in turn, he likes to be dominated by me. Ie, getting spanked, me dressing him up in drag ect.

    In what way is this anti-feminist? Of course there are going to be woman who put themselves in abusive situtations and call it bdsm. Of course there are going to be males who take bdsm as a chance to truly degrade and use women. But these people are not the majority. Most bdsm relationships stem from communication with your partner pertaining to your wants and limits and your needs. If a woman gets off on getting smacked, that does not make it anti-feminist. If she doesn’t actually enjoy it and does it to please her partner/is forced into it, that is anti-feminist.

    Basically, I think your whole little write-up is counter-productive to an EQUAL RIGHTS society. What one chooses to do as a consenting adult is not pertinent to some arbitrary battle of male chauvinism. Just because someone enjoys being degraded in the bedroom (or in porn) does not mean they would stand for it in a real-life setting.

    If ANYONE, male, female, or other raised their hand to me outside of a sexual situation, you better believe that I would not just take it. That is assault and not a consensual act. I think your view points are skewed and unfair, labeling those who are for your general cause as anti-feminists.

    I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but most people who look at porn/bdsm as “degrading” or “inhumane”/whatever are either religious or have been abused and, to me, are not fully capable of forming fair opinions on the matter. Perhaps you should look a little more closely at why you think the way you do instead of unthinkly polluting peoples’ minds and giving them a bias, not allowing them to come to their own conclusions. Because whether I like it or not, there are probably a lot of young women who stumble across articles like this because they believe in the ideals of feminism and are confronted with this hypocritical and self-conflicted bullshit that you’ve posted on the internet for all to see.

    • Nine Deuce October 22, 2009 at 9:22 PM #

      I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but most people who look at porn/bdsm as “degrading” or “inhumane”/whatever are either religious or have been abused and, to me, are not fully capable of forming fair opinions on the matter. Perhaps you should look a little more closely at why you think the way you do instead of unthinkly polluting peoples’ minds and giving them a bias, not allowing them to come to their own conclusions. Because whether I like it or not, there are probably a lot of young women who stumble across articles like this because they believe in the ideals of feminism and are confronted with this hypocritical and self-conflicted bullshit that you’ve posted on the internet for all to see.

      Wow. You are the feminist and I’m not?

    • berryblade October 23, 2009 at 2:28 AM #

      “Of course there are going to be woman who put themselves in abusive situtations and call it bdsm.”

      Put themselves in abusive situations? PUT THEMSELVES IN ABUSIVE SITUATIONS?

      This statement here, imho totally errodes any “feminist” argument you might put forward. NO ONE “puts themself” in an abusive situation. Oy-vey.

      ” Just because someone enjoys being degraded in the bedroom (or in porn) does not mean they would stand for it in a real-life setting.”

      So the bedroom insn’t real life? Somehow when you walk over the threshold of a bedroom door you are magically transported to fairy unicorn happy donut land where everything happens in a vacuum.
      Oh yeah, and the women and men in porn? They’re real people too. Every time you see a woman getting beaten, abused, fucked or what ever in any pornographic recording – it happened to a living, breathing, pissing, shitting, food consuming HUMAN BEING. Or does the land behind the video camera link up to the magical Narnia of the bedroom? I fucking doubt it. I’m calling bullshit.

      “If ANYONE, male, female, or other raised their hand to me outside of a sexual situation, you better believe that I would not just take it.”

      And from here, I can really tell that you have probably never been in an abusive situation, raped, beaten by a spouse or anything like that. Before my rapes and abusive relationships came by I used to say some stupid shit like that too.
      It’s.Not.That.Simple.

      “I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but most people who look at porn/bdsm as “degrading” or “inhumane”/whatever are either religious or have been abused and, to me, are not fully capable of forming fair opinions on the matter.”

      But really I suppose in your mind my opinions and personal experiences on the matter (and countless other women and childrens) don’t really mean diddly squat because I’ve been through XYZ therefore I am biased. Yeah, that makes sense.

      I’ll just go back to my post-traumatic-ass therapy and bitchin’ valium prescription.
      Pfft.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. When did we decide the public/private dichotomy was worth rehabilitating? « redmegaera - June 16, 2009

    […] Punk suggested that I post this on my blog. It was written in response to the discussion about this post on Nine Deuce’s blog yesterday. It is an objection to the  rehabilitation by certain […]

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