Oh … HELL No

25 Oct

When I started this blog, I swore to myself that I would not spend my time picking fights with radical feminists. The real enemy is the patriarchy, no? And mostly, I’ve kept to that, with a few exceptions.

But I just read something on I Blame the Patriarchy that made me say “oh … HELL no!” and well, what is a blog for if not to share those “oh … HELL no!” moments with the world?

From I Blame the Patriarchy:

Today’s feminist, empowered by all those articles on vibrators in Bust magazine, chooses choices of her own free will. These choices mirror her own unique sartorial, sexual, and philosophical personality. That these unique choices happen to align precisely with standard male porn fantasies, and that they are therefore rewarded with positive attention, is purely coincidental.

Note the smug sarcasm dripping from this passage? “Oh how adorable” reads the subtext. “You think you’re making a choice for yourself, but really, you’re just kidding yourself, girls. You’re doing what they want you to do!” Or: “aww, look at it wear a miniskirt! It thinks it’s feminists!”

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I really believe that one of the things that made me repress my submissive leanings for so long was the fear that, by acting them out, or even just admitting them to myself, I was giving Patriarchy what it wanted. I was playing into its game.

But now that seems so silly to me. Partly because who the hell really cares what I do sexually with a partner of my choosing? But also because, well, so what if my sexual identity and fantasies happen to complement the sexual identities and fantasies of some or even many men? I mean, assuming she’s right (which is a big assumption, but whatever): I’m a heterosexual woman – isn’t it a good thing for my sexual fantasies to complement those of the very people I prefer to have sex with? Doesn’t this mean better sex for everyone?

I think this, right here, is why I have never really felt comfortable identifying as a radical of any kind. Because this is what happens to most of the radicals I’ve known (and I’ve known a lot): they take these, often correct, ideas about the collective forces that are harming society (whether it’s deeply ingrained sexism or out-of-control capitalism) and they make it personal.

And that’s what Jill is doing here. She’s not just saying that sex-positive feminism plays into what patriarchy wants – she’s saying this plays into what men want. And that’s supposed to invalidate it. Because one can only be a true feminist if one is making men unhappy, I suppose.

Incidentally, this post seems to be an oblique reference to a post by Holly at Pervocracy, which in turn was a reference to an extremely frustrating thread on one of my favorite time-wasting sites, Metafilter. Something that came up in the thread on Metafilter, and that Jill seems to be implying here, is that sex-positive feminists are unreflective about the complexities of gender and sex and that we’re resistant to be challenged on these complexities.

Now, obviously, I don’t speak for all sex-positive feminists. I do think there is some truth to that assertion, sometimes. But I think even reading a few posts on my blog will show that I have certainly not spent too little time thinking about the complexities of gender expectations and how they relate to my sexuality.

But you know what? All that thought is only so helpful. Honestly, I will openly concur that my submissive sexuality has been at least partially shaped by my gender socialization. No shit. Does that mean I should go back to ignoring it? Just lock it away?

Oh … HELL no.

12 Responses to “Oh … HELL No”

  1. Lily October 25, 2011 at 1:28 PM #

    Yeah…I struggled with this too. Some mornings I’d wake up sure that Gloria Steinem herself was gonna come and yank my NOW card.

    But you know what? Let ’em. Sisterhood is powerful, but not nearly as powerful as a great sex life. If they want to kick me out of the feminist club, well, fine.

    • feministsub October 25, 2011 at 1:53 PM #

      Ha, I love that. And seriously, anyone who would judge us for our honest desires is no sister, right?

      (Love your blog, by the way.)

  2. theramblingfeminist October 25, 2011 at 5:12 PM #

    LOL, that quote.

    Wait, I’m sorry… so I’m not allowed to find my own sexual pleasure because some perv somewhere on the other side of the computer likes watching other women please themselves?

    Yeah, NO.

  3. Stabbity October 25, 2011 at 6:24 PM #

    People are jerks 😦 Here I thought the point of feminism was to give women choices, not to come up with shiny reasons to tell them they’re doing everything wrong.

    The idea that submissive women are too stupid to understand their own sexuality and are just doing what they think they’re supposed to want drives me crazy, and I’m not even submissive. I suppose that because some men like dominant women, my sexuality must only be a performance to make them happy, not an actual need of my own.

    • feministsub October 27, 2011 at 8:06 AM #

      I suppose that because some men like dominant women, my sexuality must only be a performance to make them happy, not an actual need of my own.

      This is something that radical feminists often completely overlook, too. That a LOT of men fantasize about dominant women.

      And yeah, so much of the radical feminist critique of sex-positive feminism seems to be that it’s a performance for men. Which is just so maddening and leaves absolutely no room for women to have their own sexual fantasies and expression.

  4. DrHarmonix October 27, 2011 at 6:47 AM #

    Another thing that Jill’s comment ignores is that this aligning with “standard male porn fantasies” that she finds objectionable will – when done with a responsible male – come after substantive discussion about enthusiastic consent and both hard and soft limits, typically to a greater degree than whatever vanilla sex she finds politically unobjectionable.

    A still more important point is that it will also typically occur in a context in which previously-given consent is withdrawable *at any time* via a safeword. Vanilla sex could use more of that influence, frankly.

    Finally, as a feminist hetero male dom who still struggles with guilt about some of this, if she thinks M/f power play is a universally unambiguous happy funtime with no self-examination on the part of the guys, she’s kidding herself, perhaps willfully.

    • RogueBambi October 31, 2011 at 10:41 AM #

      Finally, as a feminist hetero male dom who still struggles with guilt about some of this, if she thinks M/f power play is a universally unambiguous happy funtime with no self-examination on the part of the guys, she’s kidding herself, perhaps willfully.

      Exactly. It’s not like every kinky man (into anything) is a complete psychopath. Because that’s what their afraid of, right? Of men who actually think every woman will find *this thing* pleasurable without negotiation, without consent and obviously without an agency of their own.

      I could never take on the responsibility of hurting someone and recognizing their limit when they hit it. I could never take as much into consideration as Wonderboy does when he plays with me. Emotional yeah, but also history, trauma, my weak spots, my inabilities to say no or to safeword or negotiate in a certain point.

      I thought the whole point (well… the *other* point) of feminism was that men were capable adults responsible for what they do. Where’d that go? Why am I, as a submissive woman, suddenly responsible for the cultural and societal screw ups concerning women’s sexuality and also, oh I don’t know, all men’s actions? What – I can’t give myself permission to have sex that gets me off in the off chance that someone (who has not already made up their mind one way or another seeing the way world is) might take it for real?

      I give up.

  5. K December 3, 2011 at 8:51 AM #

    Wonderful..thank you for sharing your thoughts about this. You give voice to a lot of the jumbled thoughts in my head and I appreciate it.

  6. Mari December 5, 2011 at 1:28 PM #

    Feminism sometimes is so close-minded and artificial in some ways.

    The thing is, at the same time as we want to change people’s minds, we were already raised in a world that taught us to be a certain way, and that is many times irreversible. It is hard to say whether anything is in our mind due to patriarchalism, but if it is, force yourself to deny something you need is so harmful. If you are a feminist who thinks kink is wrong, but also wants it, I think it’s best to respect your wish and hope for the next generation not to want it, once it’ll grow on better values from your point of view.

    What I mean is: you won’t succeed on being the perfect. You won’t succeed on being the perfect feminist, who washed out all patriarchalism, without washing out an (unfortunate) whole part of you. So, if you need some patriarchal stuff that doesn’t harm anyone, why deny it? Like the author said, sex-life is a private matter.

    I’m not saying kink is necessarily a patriarchal thing, I’m just saying feminists should stop trying to be perfect. That from a feminist who has never (yet) tried BDSM. But I think some things are for the next generation to experience naturally, rather than we trying to force it into ourselves. If BDSM is supposed to disappear, it will. If not, it’s also ok. I personally think that variety will always exist in society. Cheers from Brazil, great post.

    • feministsub December 12, 2011 at 6:45 PM #

      Thanks! I like your perspective a lot. I do think feminists are too hard on ourselves – as women in general often are.


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