Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Postscript to all that:

Just back to the Eternal Thrash for a second (i.e. "sex-positive feminism" and its discontents), the thing that gets me, over and over again, is how much of a disconnect there is between the notion (shared by certain Manly Men and certain radfems alike, oddly enough) that Men Are Lustful Beasts who've created the patriarchy largely, apparently, because they just love fucking so much; and the reality as I see it. Namely: that in fact if anything the "speed seduction" guides, Andrew Dice Clay and his descendents, misogynistic "mainstream" porn, etc. etc., are in fact reflective of a deep fear, shame, and/or disgust toward the body erotic, not just women per se, (as revealed rather more um nakedly than usual in the below-linked).

I mean, for me at least, what always gets me first about all of that stuff isn't that it's "shocking" or even its hatefulness (although the hatefulness is a REAL PROBLEM, yes), but that it's, well, really dull. And lame. And, finally, kind of sad. Painfully so, in fact. Timid, snickering double-entendres; clumsy, ill-timed and ill-judged gropings toward connection; repetitive, unimaginative fantasies. Relatives of Bontsha the Silent, too cowed and stunted, finally, to recognize love and abundance and sensuality even if it were handed to them. Overgrown little boys telling each other stories to keep their fear of the dark at bay. Sad.

Which doesn't preclude getting angry at the harm done by such folk to real live people on the way, of course.


jean said...

The real danger that I see is that nobody, of course (well nobody I've ever talked to) actually believes the shadowy cabal theory of patriarchy, not when you put it as such, but do grossly and casually anthropomorphize it, so that the effect is the same. Overgrown little boys. Oh, that's too easy. I could write thousands upon thousands of words about that. And totally make an analogy about pigtail pulling and why Susan didn't get invited to Camille's slumber party.

lost clown said...

I don't know any rad fems saying that. Could you point out who said that and where please?

Jean said...

@lc: I don't know if you're directing that towards my comment or the post, but if it's at my comment, as I said, I don't think anybody actually says that. I've never seen that, and have certainly never talked to anybody that actually believed it. But sometimes, and I get this from what belledame is saying (and she can tell me I'm fos if I totally missed this) is that there is some personification going on.

EL said...

I always had a similar feeling - if patriarchy's cause was men and how very confident and powerful they felt, why are so many of its artifacts intent on making men look so very very pathetic?

Again, it doesn't mean that it isn't deeply harmful.

belledame222 said...

Yah. I also don't know a redfem who says in so many words that the patriarchy was conceived out of a love of fucking, per se; but it is hard not to conclude, reading some people, that there is, after all, an essential difference between men and women; and that this difference has to do with...well, what? if not hormones and the icky drives? I mean: where does aggression come from, is my question?

The thing is, if, as Dworkin says, (the bottom line):

"Sexism is the foundation on which all tyranny is built. Every social form of hierarchy and abuse is modeled on male-over-female domination."

then: well, why so? Dworkin repeatedly says specifically in one way or another that it's societal training that instills a patriarchal mindset (which I agree with). but: why? Pure chance? Or?

then she also says (for example):

"sex and murder are fused in the male consciousness, so that the one without the imminent possibility of the other is unthinkable and impossible..." (from a speech before WAVPM, "Pornography and Grief")

This is going a tad afield, but: unthinkable and impossible to whom, exactly? And in any case, assuming this is true, again: why? Note that she here puts it in the *male* consciousness, not the "patriarchal" consciousness, so there certainly does seem to be some essentialism at work here.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is it that domination and aggresssion have become sexualized? Or is there indeed something about male sexuality--and more specifically, fucking--that *inevitably* leads to patriarchy (oppression, violation)? Or is it something else entirely?

Personally I think the relationship between sex and aggression is...complicated. But I do think Wilhelm Reich, problematic as some of his shit is, was onto something when he suggested that it is in fact sexual *repression* that leads to that energy being expressed in other, less healthy ways.

Or, okay, my eyebrow quirks a bit at stuff like this, from Twisty:

Advocates of sex obsession--by whom I mean the entirety of the male population, as well as that new crop of saucy gals who believe that orgasm “empowers” them-- hype the idea that copulation is as essential to human health as pizza pie....

Yeah. Natural like a fox! The sex = health equation is a load of dicksmoke.

The biological imperative argument may support the occasional reproductive boink, but it hardly makes the case for nonstop hottt sexxx as the loftiest pinnacle of human endeavor. As far as procreation is concerned, sex is superfluous. Neither is it required for orgasm, or even intimacy. Nor is it the founding principle of love. Sex has not become society’s governing motif just because it’s “natural.”

Nope, the global sex fetish, once you cut through all the crap about bonding and fulfilling biological destinies and making a gift of your genes to posterity--Nature could give a fig for you and your genes--is an entirely arbitrary construct used for control and ritual domination. It’s a culture virus, the egoist conceit of--that’s right--patriarchy.

Sex as the ultimate human raison d’être is, in fact, a cornerstone of the male supremacist agenda. After all, men seem to be the only ones afflicted with this overarching need to copulate.

...But no woman needs sex. She may like it, and because of that she may want it from time to time, but if there were no patriarchy--by which I mean, if she were not a member of the sex class--her submission to ritual domination would remain, like the whipped cream on a mocha frappuccino at Starbucks, entirely optional...


I, well, disagree with this. A lot. I note that this passage comes from a rant against the move to pathologize asexuality. Which in itself, I agree with: sure, asexuality, valid, not necessarily pathological. On an individual level, at least. But the argument here seems to be both deriding the notion that the urge to "copulate" is all about reproduction (only, or mainly), and at the same time seems to accept that this is so.

the thing is, and I think Dworkin et al are actually more sophisticated about this in some ways, or at least are headed in that direction: the erotic drive can be channelled in a *lot* of ways, and sexual expression has any number of functions besides reproduction or even "intimacy" (emotional bonding).

belledame222 said...

jean: it took me this long to pick up on Susan and Camille. snerk.

now I am picturing Camille Paglia as Cartman having a birthday bash, dictating to everyone exactly which present to get and throwing a tantrum when someone gives him something that isn't on his list...

jean said...

Camille as ought to send that Parker and Stone.

Let the photoshopping begin!

jean said...

Wait a minute...was that an actual episode? I haven't watched SP since the second season. Damn! I miss all the good stuff.

belledame222 said...

Yeh, it was. I think it was the one where the AntiChrist Damien joins their class, and turns Kenny into a duck-billed platypus.

anyway I'm still enjoying that image.

"I Am The Cosmos! Screw you guys, I'M GOING HOME!"

jean said...

Oh, why do I vaguely remember the platypus and Damien but not Camille? Argh...

No orb, only a spher said...

Alice Echols, a radical feminist herself, examines thinkers from Firestone to Valerie Solanis to Dworkin, arguing that this is the defining feature of their thought. It's either biological or social, but either way, when the differences are social, they began as biological/genetic imperatives and the institutions which uphold them are so pervasive that they are resistant to change.

overviews can be found in books by:

Alison Jaggar (also on Horowitz's worst prof's list, so obviously worth looking at!) Femnist Politics and Human Nature.

Rosemarie Tong (which is really just a reader's digest version of above)

linda Nicholson, The Second Wave (anthology)

Linda Alcoff, Cultural Feminism and Post-structualist Feminism (an article but I'm not going to take time to look up details)

Alice Echols,Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-1975

Most of the above can also be found online, at women's studies course web sites where profs have helpfully provided lecture notes for these books.

Bitch | Lab said...

@ EL

you know, radfems -- at least in the books -- do think that it was started by men: out of their desire to control women's sex. sometimes, they'll talk about it as a fear of women's power, especially in goddess stuff.

sometimes, they'll talk about it as based in men's violence (Susan Brownmillier) against women.

Other times, they'll posit it as a desire by a man to control surplus value (wealth). control women's sexuality, then control who fucks her and thus no one can have claim to your wealth.


So, it's not a plot or cabal, but rooted in social relations and/or biology/genetics. but always, there is a separation of genders where men are a class -- just as twisty says == women dominate women as a class.

she's drawing on early radfem's use of marxist theory: capitalist class over working class. for the radfems, the mistake was to think it was just wealth. rather, the first motive was that men saw themselves as alike as a group and, thus, different from women.

radfems attribute the fact of men looking hideous to something akin to what marxist say: patriarchy produces its own contradictions. it also needs to reinforce itself by making _some_ men out to be pathetic. by defining real masculinity against the pathetic variants, you also keep men inline. since, as TF even says on her about page, the entire hierarchy from the most powerful man right on down to the least powerful can be explained by patriarchy.

in that sense, it's trying to be like marxist theory in that it explains why, for example, Soros is a millionaire who needs capitalism to survive to be one, but gives money, seemingly, to help undermine it. Or why one faction of the capitalist class lobbies government to help it in its wars over wealth with another faction.

my probs with radfem are:

that it bases its explanation on a source of domination of one class by another in biology that suggest there were and may in fact remain, two different human natures, men's and women's.

that it has no explanation for social change ---> and it's there that TF revealed in her answer to nubian that, in practice, even in extraordinarily well written, entertaining, and persuasive agitprop, it's all for naught:

nothing ever changes. becasue, if it does, it will only mean that you've been co-opted by the patriarchy.

this is a dominant theme in social theories that ultimately rely on a force outside of the social and human for social change to happen. Thus, it is so throughly structualist, that human agency dissappears altogether.

Which also fits nicely with TF latest post on why no one discusses the rapes of nuns in India.

The fact is, we are specs of flyshit on the ass of a jackall in the ultimate scheme of things. from there, TF espouses the classic evolutionary perspective: there is no god, there is no purpose to evolution which cares naught for humankind. we'll be extinct and the universe will keep on.

I agree with the last bit, but I don't agree that the struggle for creating a just society is worthless.

like belledame, i might just end up posting this on my blog. :) i just get carried away and i can't stop typing long enough to open another browser window.

belledame222 said...

oh, jean: not Camille! Cartman having the b'day party. sorry!

I think Camille parodying is a little too subtle for Trey & Parker's sights, somehow, you know...

no orb: thanks for the rundown, will go a-spelunking for some of that later. I did have a couple of Shulamith Firestone quotes in mind as well, but lost track of them.

...started to write a reply, but it's now long enough for its own post.

slip't by B/L, heh

belledame222 said...

B/L: yeah, it was the "nothing ever changes" business that I was groping toward with the "radical" post below. This is somewhat separate from (and larger than) the problems I have with the notion of women as "the sex class," at least as filtered through (say) Twisty's view.

Interesting that you start to get into greater notions of "so what does it all Mean, dear?" (wrt evolution and the notion of an "outside force.")

I think about that stuff--well, not so much evolution per se, but the erm metaphysical aspect--all the time.

I was starting to examine parts of "1984" because there's a sort of Cliff's Notes version of Reichian theory in there, about the way authoritarians (of any ideological stripe, rightwingers constant irritating attempts to turn Orwell into some sort of anti-Commie spokesperson notwithstanding) need to police sexuality because it's a keystone of control.

So, one could buy this and still buy the patriarchy, as I do, at least in a sense--certainly the variant I'm most familiar with, monotheistic "Judeo-Christian," heavy on the Calvinism and later Victoriansm--but this is where it parts ways from the classic radfem position, and certainly from (sorry to keep using her, but I've read a fair amount of her stuff, at least) Twisty's: the "global sex fetish" is *not* a byproduct of the "patriarchy." Certain expressions of it are indirectly related to it, yes, in that the shadowy underbelly of "mainstream" values tends to surface in porn (for example).

But ultimately it comes down to, as Orwell puts it:

>There was a direct intimate connexion between chastity and political orthodoxy. For how could the fear, the hatred, and the lunatic credulity which the Party needed in its members be kept at the right pitch, except by bottling down some powerful instinct and using it as a driving force? <

That, it seems to me, is 1) accurate and 2) goes beyond stuff like who penetrates whom, physically (although the symbolism of that is important, sure).

It's funny, because Orwell is about the last person who would ever be described as spiritual; and yet I do think what runs throughout his work is a real grappling with how to find spirit--maybe say "vitality," the "lifeforce"--in a deadened, mechanized world. "1984" is interesting because it gets at the heart of authoritarianism: it's not (just) about killing and oppressing people physically, or about satisfying the Party's own base needs. It is rather a form of soul murder.

More to say on that, but I have to think on it a while.

figleaf said...

Wow, Belledame.

I followed a link from Amber Rhea and was going to agree with your point that "Slam, bam, thank you mam" sex is far more about disquiet or resentment of sexuality than enjoyment of it. (Compare it to people leaning over the sink, wuffing food out of the box to get dining over with as quickly and tidily as possible and ask if that implies a healthy relationship to food.)

The comments here are incredible. Glad I found your site.

Take care,