Monday, October 09, 2006

Once more into the breach

A post at Feministe ("Protect Yourselves, Ladies"), mocking the ever-mockable Dawn Eden, unexpectedly inspired me to write the following.


...but, see, it’s this sort of remark, (from the comments at the Eden site)

Women used to have a civilizing effect on men. Now feminists wallow in the pig sty right along with the men.

And they call this “liberation”.

…that makes me eyeball feminists who talk about “Raunch Culture” (for example) with the same sort of disapproving tones, or even the general emphasis on Woman-as-eternally-abused/exploited-Sex Class rather cynically: where have we heard this one, again?

Because y’know, that whole “women must civilize men” does creep into certain strains of feminism as well, most notably what’s been called “cultural feminism.” This is from whence the notion that women are inherently more moral/peaceful/less aggressive/less likely to be “perverted” than men; or at least so well socially trained as to make no effective difference, and, the implication is, in some ways this is a good thing. (hence things like the womens’ anti-nuke camp in Greenham in the early 80’s; goodly chunks of the anti-porn/prostitution movement; and a few other things). Here in reactionary right-wing land you hear the “this is a good thing” more overtly; it gets more muddled on the left, because most of us understand that no, actually, this isn’t terrifically helpful, ultimately; and yet, bunch of mixed messages that haven’t really been quite sorted out.

It all stems from Victorianism: (white, middle-class and up) woman as “angel in the house.” It’s related to the Industrial Revolution, the uneasy admixture of the then-new concepts of evolution with the Calvinist Christianity we’d/they’d already been steeped in, and a kind of “undoing” of the earlier form of misogyny: “women are MORE likely to be aggressive, MORE savage, man’s undoing; and thus need to be controlled.”

As we see, one theme doesn’t cancel out the other; what happens is, now more than ever, perhaps, the “bad woman” (dirty, beastlike), drags men down instead of elevating them) is still there; she just gets “split” and personified in certain demographics. Lower-class women. Black women. “Fallen” women (i.e. whores and sluts). And so on.

And of course first-wave feminism is very much connected to this notion that women are the civilizing, moral, even -Christian- influence; you get Temperance connected to both suffrage and the early abolitionists (after a certain point there is a split between black civil rights advocates and the white feminists/suffragists, which regrettable echoes down even to today).

Somewhere between then and the second wave you get all kinds of other shit thrown in the cultural mix as well: now you have a post-War world which looks very VERY different from the one that came before; you also have the models of communist/socialist activism (workers of the world, unite! is a bit far afield from Carrie Nation). You have of course the Sexual Revolution and the hippies. Gay Lib. The resurrection of the civil rights movement. And so on, and so on, and so on.

But, and this is where the whole “examination of roots” thing comes in, those earlier influences never quite completely go away, either. They just comingle, sometimes merging relatively easily, sometimes sitting, again, rather uneasily with each other.

Anyway, this is a good part of -why- i am (yes, here is the Eternal Subject) a “sex-positive” feminist, with all the various connotations that that has for at least some people. Among other things. Well, why I won’t decry “raunch culture” and so forth, or at least not for i think the same reasons a lot of people do (and the reasons i do are the same problems i have with advanced corporate capitalism in general; thus, don’t really care to single out “raunch” or anything of the sort). It's not about, "oh, I rilly like my lippy and my blowjobs and my comfortably lowered consciousness, lemme 'lone." And it’s not just about "choice"; we ALL have ideological roots in that Enlightenment notion of individuality; there IS no feminism -or- leftieism as we know it, pretty much, without the Enlightenment, and yup, “individual choice, freedom, yadda” is a big part of it. Inevitably. It’s in the template. For better and for worse, and yes, there are good arguments to be made about the Enlightenment’s limitations.

But the trouble is there are only (thus far) so many other models and influences to draw upon besides the Enlightenment; and, further, most of us don’t do it at all consciously. Well, on the left, one way out of it is to base it on one of the collectivist socioeconomic models we’re familiar with this past century or so.

But the other, especially wrt feminism, especially wrt American feminism, it’s back to that whole “woman as civilizing influence” business.

And the dirty little secret about -that- one is, there are BENEFITS to buying into this mindset as well as drawbacks. For some people, anyway. Yeah, virgin/angel in the house versus whore/slut, again, no one wins, sure…but in fact the “angel” is -not- on equal footing with the “slut;” there is a one-up power dynamic there as well. White/black. Lady/slattern. Classy/trashy. Good girl/-whore.- Old as the hills, that one, of course, even before the most familiar Victorian incarnation that I’m talking about.

But, and my point is: actually, there is a reason that people say things like, f’r example to i dunno someone who’s ranting about “sexbots” and how women really need to pull it together and stop tottering around on those high heels, they’re “making the rest of us look bad,” to folks like Dawn Eden here. It’s not that they are the SAME, obviously; there are different other influences and philosophies going on as well.

But, but. But there are also common roots here. And when you call your own movement “radical,” you’d better be looking at -all- your roots. I’m saying: here’s one that’s been a big old blind spot.

The -other- part is, again: the secret benefits of being the “moral” sex.

And here’s the thing: the rightwingers like the ones on Dawn Eden are much MUCH clearer about this than some of us are. That’s WHY they’re drawn to Dawn Eden’s take instead of I don’t know Sheila Jeffreys’. They make no bones about it at all: yes! we LIKE being the “angel in the house!” I mean! It’s being an angel! Who wouldn’t rather be an angel than a slattern?”

My argument is, that sentiment may be a lot more incoherent and murked up with other stuff ’round these parts, but it’s often still there, in fact.

So I’m not gonna trash my “trashy” sisters. At all. Not for being sluts, not for being “sexbots,” not for “gee, if only we could all stop wearing these degrading heels/whatever at once, then by Goddess, the world might finally split open and then we could get on with bringing about a Better World.”

Because it isn’t gonna work that way.

radical,” as such, isn’t.

Keep looking. Keep exploring. And, maybe, in the process: more kindness.


Veronica said...

Both sides of the Eternal Debate are calling themselves radical, last time I checked--something about a Sex Radical carnival here recently.

Here's the thing:

1.) It's NOT radical to tell women power lies in being sexually muted--the MAN, the establishment, the Evil Colonizing White Capitalist Bone-Grinding System, the Patriarchy, the goddamned television, the CULTURE, etc all tell women it's their job to be sexually muted or bad, bad things will happen to them.

2.) It's NOT radical to tell women power lies in being sexy--the MAN, the establishment, the Evil Colonizing White Capitalist Bone-Grinding System, the Patriarchy, the goddamned television, the CULTURE, etc all tell women it's their job to be sexually appealing or bad, bad things will happen to them.

Damned if you do. Damned if you don't. Women can't win. That's why feminism is one of my favoritest things ever! 'Cause it's needed! The world is designed to make us crazy, and then to hold Being Crazy against us.

So, once again, I identify as a "Some of y'all are driving up the fucking wall, but it sure beats being a Concerned Woman for America" Feminist. And, the Eternal Subjecters can (and probably will) argue about WHICH version of "radical" wins the Radical Olympics for the rest of eternity. I will eat cookies and watch.

You can have some cookies, too, though.

Zan said...

Please, I've got a hard enough time keeping myself civil. I'm not in it to make someone /else/ civil too. And really, how insulting is that to men? I mean, come on. The level it reduces them too is ridiculus and yet, it also gives them an easy out for every fucking thing they do. Oh, I'm sorry. I'm just a man. My dick made me do it! Ha.

How about this for radical? Deal with your own shit. Male or female, handle it yourself, don't look to someone else to 'keep you in line.' Geez. What happen to pride?

petitpoussin said...

I feel like you just told me the name of some obscure actor in a film that I've been trying to remember all day. I've always felt uncomfortable about the Greenham camp, but felt that it would be 'anti-feminist' to say so. The 'angel in the house' is still a powerful archetype - even if it's acceptable now for her to turn her domestic prowess into a multimillion dollar industry, a la Martha. (And that's not really new, either.) Even think about the 'whore with a heart of gold' - deep down, she wants to be a loving wife and have kids, right? But Teh Sex is a barrier to that life.

This post better go in the sexpos carnival. Paging BL and Anthony Kennerson...

belledame222 said...

actually veronica, as petitpoussin just alluded to, it's sex positive/sex radical. Some of us actually take issue with the "radical" moniker; hence the hyphen.

But the other thing is, and i do hope this will be clear as the carnival progresses, it's -not- just about "telling" WOMEN to be *sexy.* It's about EVERYONE -owning- their sexuality--whatever that truly is. That's a huge-ass project in itself. It's not all Playboy and pole dancing. Never has been.

And yes, absolutely, damned if you do, damned if you don't.

What -I'm- hoping for is a way out of the "tastes great! less filling!" false dilemma altogether. anyway that's been my journey overall, and not just erotically, although i make no bones that eroticism is a key part of that journey; it means more than most people think it means, does "eros." Which is ALSO, at least as far as i'm concerned, part of the point of this moniker, this carnival.

But back to damned if you do/damned if you don't: i liked this Gloria Anzaldua quote, in another context, but apt, I think:

"But it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white conventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence. The counterstance refutes the dominant culture’s views and beliefs, and, for this, it is proudly defiant. All reaction is limited by, and dependent on, what it is reacting against. Because the counterstance stems from a problem with authority–outer as well as inner–it’s a step towards liberation from cultural domination. But it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. or perhaps we will decide to disengage from the dominant culture, write it off altogether as a lost cause, and cross the border into a wholly new and seperate territory. Or we might go another route. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react."

belledame222 said...

anyway, -my- goal at least is not to get into endless shouting matches with the Dworkin contingent; been there, done that, got the (Playboy-logo'd) t-shirt -and- Birkenstocks. I've got my own thing; people can follow it, or not.

but thank you for the cookies. What kind of cookies?

belledame222 said...

>How about this for radical? Deal with your own shit.


which of course, i feel compelled to add, does -not- mean, why yes, in fact, man IS an island, and woman, too. and the walrus! goo coo ca choo.

it means, how you say, in part at least:

"Know thyself."

whatever the hell method you need to do it, but goddamit, -do- it already. Take the inward dive. Otherwise it'll end up played out on the public stage, just as it's been, again and again and again, and you'll never know why, and it'll never get solved.

(and yes, that, too, is a journey, not something with a clearly defined stopping place).

belledame222 said...

anyhoo, back to "radical" for a mo'; my own issues, as i've said, are simply that the word itself makes me cringe, 'cause on account of, as i think your post here suggests, veronica, it automatically connotes More Extreme Than Thou, Goddamit!!

which gets tiresome -real- fast. no matter who's doing it. and no, i won't deny that there are folks in the sex-rad/pos camp who do this, too. i don't find them sinister or nothin', generally, as i gather sometimes the more radical folks that are the Hatfields to their (our? shrug) McCoys do. they just: can irk.

but i also respect other people who want to keep the moniker "sex radical"--hell, i do for a number of "radical feminists" as well, i think they walk their talk, even if i don't agree with them on a bunch of stuff--because they are using "radical" in the (to me) best sense: trying to get at the root of the problem.

For me i guess, in general, once you decide you've FOUND the root and stopping now y punto, then, oops! probably no longer radical. (which is where the rigidity and posturing and all the typically annoying stuff that the word connotes come in)

because there are always more layers. Journey, not a goal.

that's -my- kind of radicalism.

belledame222 said...

"More Extreme Than Thou" and/or "I Have Found The One True Way, you poor unenlightened suckers," I meant to add.

belledame222 said...

pp: coincidentally, i wandered by Natalie Bennett's place just now (Philobiblon), and she was just talking about Greenham, i forget which other book she was alluding to. something that sounded a lot more positive about the experience than the West, from what little i saw of the description.

tekanji said...

I'm actually one of those people who uses "raunch culture" disapprovingly. I've always read Levy as using it not to condemn sexuality, but rather to talk about a phenomenon of cultural pressure to conform to one specific kind of sexual expression. I talk about how it's part of a sex-negative culture here (focusing on the clothing aspect, though it can apply to other arenas, too).

belledame222 said...

yeah, I get the "tastes great, less filling" thing, too, sure. and I did read Levy's book, or well about three quarters of it. I thought it was..there were parts that i thought were interesting, but ultimately it was pretty shallow analysis, i thought. and offensive in some places. and...well. let's put it this way; i didn't care for the anthropological tone she had in the East Village sections; particularly when it becamse clear that actually her anthropology would've been more toward the "hetlez" contingent. that would've been an analysis i'd have been more interested in.

but per "raunch," you know, I just think: how is this substantially differentiated from corporate, alienated latter-day culture in general?

and, as Bitch Lab keeps pointing out: where's the class analysis in all of this? because i seem to recall any hint of any such is glaringly absent in the Levy book;

and, well, here's the thing:

there've always, or longtime, been these attitudes more or less toward the "raunchy," the "trashy," the "slutty." as well as the "good, the pure, etc."

the virgin-madonna/whore thing, sure.

it is probably worth at least noting in a neutral way (if there is such a thing) that yes, possibly for the first time in (our?) remembered history, the "whore" archetype is in -some ways- for -some people- actually getting the upper hand, pressure-wise, as opposed to the millenia where the "virgin/madonna" was the default, period.

But what does it all mean, dear?

I mean, yes: simply shifting from one pole to the other isn't much or any of an improvement, that's so.

But is that really all that's happening here? or all that's going on in the criticism of "raunch culture?"

I don't think so. I think for a start, old habits die hard. Real hard; and as we've seen, there are many many situations where an old-as-the-hills expression of classism or racism or even sexism or some other institutionalized awfulness can be given a glossy thin coat of feminist slap and called good.

So, the anti-camp's argument is that this -is- what's happening with the "raunch, empowerful," yadda. They are the ones who are tearing themselves free; the pro's are deluding themselves. Tastes great! less filling! as you say.

but from my POV it's not that simple. not just because i'm all YAY RAUNCH! and thus on the "tastes great!" side, i don't think.

but because, see, in the virgin/whore dichotomy? What isn't being talked about? Traditionally? It's -not- an equal (non, even) choice. Yah, they both suck; -but the virgin-madonna has higher status than the whore.-

Even as, oh say, both stereotyped traditional masculinity and femininity are stifling and oppressive; but no one's arguing, mind, that the benefits-drawbacks ratio is the -same-, there.

I mean, basic tenet of feminism, hell, observation 101: in the great con game that is the System, the men may have a shit deal -also-; but on the whole? They still get more incentive to stay where they are. More power-over.

And what -I- am saying is, that is -also true in the dynamic between women who fall roughly into the virgin archetype and the ones who get marked with the scarlet letter.-

Some are more equal than others. Still, yes.

There's a reason why they call 'em "good girls" and "bad girls."

From a "privilege" standpoint, okay, tell me: who's got more? The good girl? or the bad girl? Sure, there are reasons why some people would opt for the outlaw role; but no mistake, it IS an outlaw role. same as any other outsider, short-end of the stick. not so romantic, no, at the end of the day; sometimes "bad" actually really -isn't- admired, just means pretty much what it connotes, in the eyes of, well, pretty much most people. At best the "fallen women" get to be poor poor things who deserve our compassion, not our hate (sound familiar?) It's just Christian charity, that, really.

And old habits die hard. Counterculture (which of course included the sexual revolution) notwithstanding. particularly in the wake of the massive reactionary backlash to the counterculture, which has been making inroads for decades now.

And so here's the thing: the whore/slut, I think, can be considered as a category to herself. It is NOT true that all women are whores in the eyes of the patriarchy, much as some feminists would apparently like to believe for whatever reason.

There is further to fall.

Some are more equal than others.

Which, as you know, even the you would THINK way more obviously true in the case of, y'know, black women, poor women, other women who're subject to some -other- form of oppression as well, well HELLO in that case some are more equal than others;

and yet as you've seen in much of the radical/liberal/whatever the hell it is feminist 'sphere, even that keeps getting called into question. "gender trumps race," blah.

But there -is- a difference, "class" woman is -not- monolithic Class Woman, and -that goes for the slut thing as well.-

Still, I would say, yes. Pole dancing classes, sports corsets, "hetlez chic" and all.

and, and. there is, still, and this has been partly BL's point, a connection between the "slut" and the more obvious forms of being less-privileged. Class, race. Partly it's been a question of the working class, the darker-skinned, they get tag-you're-it with the "slut" half of the binary while the white lady gets to play angel in the house.

and even when it's not so obviously stark, the threat of "slut" is always brandished over the head of women who might get out of line somehow, much as "faggot" is for men.

Because it represents, still, a loss of status. In many ways.

And you know: when thingie makes fun of the "sexbots" in their skyscraper heels and short minis, i think: and where is this mockery at the women in their severe navy business suits? and is it a coincidence that this is a upper-middle class woman making fun of at least -images- of what's -always' been considered, well, "trashy" (as in: poor, among other thigns), to the enthusiastic approval of a number of (often) working-class and poor women who desperately DESPERATELY need not to -fall.-

yeah it's got a feminist gloss, but. substantially different from what goes on in more right wing circles? really?

and: is "sexbot" actually no more loaded than "prude?" Really?


anyway, i wrote more on the connection between class and the slut/slattern/sexbot, among other things, here, if you've an interest:

belledame222 said...

...but so, yeah; the argument i think BL has been making, and she's right, is that a -lot- (perhaps not all) of this hooha over "Raunch Culture" is in fact expressive of a deep class anxiety: well, goddam, there goes the neighborhood.

because BEFORE, see, we or many of us could ignore all the -really- "trashy" stuff; that was for, well, other people;

but now, everywhere! "pornified!" celebrities! heiresses! my god, what are things coming to?...

and you know, that question can be asked and it might be neither "eep, i'm a prude" -or- "I Care deeply about the well-being of all women, really."

just, a reflexive sort of:


not -me.-

honestly, i get the fury all this shit brings up for a lot of women who've been on the receiving end of sexism, abuse, and so on, and do connect it to the "you must be pornified for my pleasure" thing;

but i -also- think, y'know, in a way this is roughly equivalent to the whole rightwing macho panic about the "emasculization" of our society. Again: it's really about a loss in status. The definitions that were once so clear--good girl/bad girl, man/woman, real man/sissy--are becoming eroded, and -that- is frigging terrifying, because it means nothing is secure, -least of all one's own fragile grip on the bits of privilege one does have.-

"Whatever else, at least I'm not a ___."

That's an important role, you know, the at-least-I'm-not. They're more formal about it in, say, India, traditionally. Untouchables.

And that role's been taken by a lot of people in our culture, of course. "At least I'm not a nigger." "At least I'm not a faggot." "At least I'm not on welfare; I'm not TRASH." "At least I'm not homeless." "At least I'm not a junkie." And: "At least I'M NOT A WHORE."

Apparently this is still really important to people, this last distinction. Too. Even, or maybe even especially to, I am moreand more coming to the conclusion, in the case of -good feminists.- (radical, liberal, "sex-positive," even, and otherwise).

belledame222 said...

i meant to say, tekanji: and i did read your post, back when you'd posted it, also.

belledame222 said..., but, yeah. In the vein of "confronting our shit;" I am skeptical, you know, of the "we must eradicate pornstitution" angle (which i know was not yours, tekanji). not just because i'm all, YAY, SEX FOR MONEY! i mean, that's been a separate post and will be again.

just, i wonder, you know, how deeply a lot of people--a lot of -women- --a lot of -feminists- --have examined their -need- for the pornstitutes and sexbots to stick around.

I mean, maybe that is a clue, you know, as to one reason why some of them seem -determined- to -stay- marginalized, these radical anti-pornsters; are quite candid that this is an unwinnable war but remain endlessly dedicated to the cause anyway.

it's like any other endless battle, really. What would you do with yourself if the Foe were finally vanquished?

and what pray tell would some people do for sport if it weren't for the continued existence of mockable sexbots and brainwashed patriarchy fuckers, tottering around on their heels, giving blowjobs, and other contemptable, pitiable, scoldable such things?

tekanji said...

It's not like I disagree with your analysis. I think the place that I differ from you and BL is that I think that -- especially if the problems with Levy's analysis could be followed up on and addressed -- there is a useful way to employ the term "raunch culture" in examining (and combatting) sex negative culture.

and: is "sexbot" actually no more loaded than "prude?" Really?

I don't see a difference either. They're both abbhorent words used to punish women for making choices that the person using the word doesn't like.

I think that's another thing, though; from what you've said one of the running themes is that "raunch culture" is being used by certain feminists (I never know the right term to use for that stance...) to attack the women who conform to that culture.

Do I think that women who find being sexual entertainment for men do so in a vacuum? Well, no, and I think there's room for examination of it in regards to a greater culture. But, then, the slut-shamers are also not happening in a vacuum and need to be examined as well.

As for privilege, I'd agree that the "virgin" in this "virgin/whore" dichotomy of modesty culture vs. raunch culture is privileged in general society. But, like I said in my post, there's a common thread: controlling women through a male gaze.

And, I mean, part of it is that raunch culture is personal to me. I've grown up with the messages from both kinds of cultures pouring in, but I think a big reason raunch culture gets my goat so bad is because I do fit better into the "whore" category, but raunch culture prevents me from being able to freely express myself without men trying to co-opt my sexuality for their own pleasure. And I'm not talking appreciation here; I'm talking about them feeling entitled to my body (telling me, "show your tits!", grabbing my ass, etc).

Which isn't really that different from women in non-sexual life I suppose. But that's a rant for another day.

belledame222 said...

>there is a useful way to employ the term "raunch culture" in examining (and combatting) sex negative culture.>

I think i see what you mean; i guess i'm wondering why you think we need the term. Because it's already popular? But see, the other thing is that it's become a right-wing talking point as well. I'd just as soon try to recenter a bit. hopefully in a catchy way, sure, but...

anyway, i think that the key thing is, as veronica and you say, all else aside, yes there is this "damned if you do, damned if you don't" double-bind, and maybe we ought to go back to that as a way of reconnecting. because, putting the deeper analysis aside, perhaps, in corporate "dance puppet" terms, it really has become a battle of "tastes great! " "less filling!"

"shallow choice feminists!" "reactionary second-wavers!"

or what you will.

belledame222 said...

>because I do fit better into the "whore" category, but raunch culture prevents me from being able to freely express myself without men trying to co-opt my sexuality for their own pleasure. And I'm not talking appreciation here; I'm talking about them feeling entitled to my body (telling me, "show your tits!", grabbing my ass, etc).>

and i guess for me -that- oh-so-maddening part comes back to: agency. it's MY body. not the menz, not my more righteous-than-thou sisters'. MINE. and not just my body but even more important: MY feelings, MY perceptions, MY -inner life.-

the way to get out of the "objectification" trap, it seems to me, is to INSIST on being a SUBJECT.

-I- don't want to give a blowjob or wear high heels ever again. -I- want to be a freak and sell it on the weekend. -I- want to become a Carmelite nun. -I- want to get tattoo'd from head to foot and shave my head and join a polyamorous pansexual collective. -I- want to get married in white and have kids and stay home and take care of them.

-I- do.

I, woman.

yes yes. we can analyze -why- we want what we do till we're blue in the face, and probably should. subject to cultural influences, pressures, yadda, yadda, no shit sherlock, no woman is an island, don't even know if we -should- be, but sure, deconstruct the areas which any or some of us find toxic. absotively.

but at the end of the day? it still boils down to: you pays your money and, yup, okay, annoyingness of the term notwithstanding, make your choice.

But it's not about CONSUMER choice;

it is about AGENCY. VOICE.

yeah, i think i need to crack open the Simone du Beauvoir again pretty soon.

Amber said...

But the other thing is, and i do hope this will be clear as the carnival progresses, it's -not- just about "telling" WOMEN to be *sexy.* It's about EVERYONE -owning- their sexuality--whatever that truly is. That's a huge-ass project in itself. It's not all Playboy and pole dancing. Never has been.

THANK YOU for repeating this yet again, and very clearly. I don't understand why this is so difficult to grasp. THIS is what sex-positive is about for me. I get frustrated and exasperated because it's like, how many more times and ways do I have to repeat myself?? What, exactly, is not clear??

Oh that's right - there's everyone else's shit to take into account.

I guess. But I mean, at a certain point, can't people just grasp this very simple concept??

Argh!!! Frustration! *headdesk*

Veronica said...

(I think it ate my comment. If not, then please delete one of these. Sorry.)


I didn't say that Sex Positive or Sex Radical people were telling women to be sexy. I said "It's NOT radical to tell women power lies in being sexy..."

Leeeeetle different.

Actualize your authentic sexual self as much as you want and give it a heaping helping of Academic Justification if that tickles your fancy, and I'll applaud your efforts, for real. It's not that I think people getting their groove on in the way that they want is a bad thing. But explain to me how someone's sex life is going to deter domestic violence, or improve maternity leave policy, or close the wage gap, or put a woman in the White House?

Or, is that question too classist of me?

Ya know what? I said that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired about all this, and the cookies are oatmeal raisin. Though, sugar cookies can be arranged upon request.

belledame222 said...

what, no chocolate?

yeah, always demanding.

sorry if i misunderstood, then.

i guess there are a couple of ways to answer that: simplest one is:

It isn't. In itself. But then, it was never -supposed- to, annoying as fuck as the whole recent "it's all about abortion; sexual freedom IS freedom" crapola was, especially in the light of the recent context; hi, thanks very much for cementing in peoples' minds what both 'sex positive' AND mainstream white feminism is "really" all about, nice going, ass.


but anyway: no, I don't expect a visit to Toys in Babeland, a Body Electric workshop, or even activism for sex worker's rights (which of course can include such not particularly "sexy" things as health care and unionization) to, as you say, help get us maternity leave;

but then neither will activism for maternity leave help with what those other things address. As I think Arwen said in a different context: I don't expect my toaster to iron my clothes.

as for a woman president, tangentially: i dunno if i even count that as one of my main goals, tbh. i mean, hi, Maggie Thatcher: yeah, that worked out real well.

and nothing's supposed to be all things to all people. well, anyway -i- never thought so..

and yeah, i dunno, per classist; i am assuming that you asked g-m-r? she seems to be the expert on such things...

well, if you scroll down to the Dorothy Allison quotes i posted, for her it's very much -connected- to her acute awareness of how class and sexuality -and- abuse (yes, i do think sex-pos is, has been one route to sexual -healing- for a number of people, including sexually abused; DA counts herself as one i rather think).

belledame222 said...

anyway, I guess for me it's like this: I see, for me, feminism, sex-pos, and queer/lgbt...uh, ness..all inextricably interconnected and intertwined. at the same time, i can tease them out into separate if often overlapping strands, each important, none sufficient on its own. and of course there are many sub-focuses within each as well. which, and if some people want to dedicate their lives to any one thing, you know, follow your passion.

but it is terrifically annoying to see people on both sides of these thrashes act as though -nothing else mattered-, sure. no argument here. -i- get into thrashes with them (i got better...) because i can't resist the dwama; certainly intellectually i'd never have said "this is sufficient" or even "this must be central" (i.e. for everyone). What on earth would be the point of that?

Veronica said...

but it is terrifically annoying to see people on both sides of these thrashes act as though -nothing else mattered-, sure.

I think that's why I get so easily frustrated with these conversations. 'Cause really, I do understand that a LOT of what's done in the Sex Positive sphere is important shit, particularly on a personal scale. But, fucking christ... mixing politics and therapy... that's what drives me batshit--because when you're using ideology as therapy it's not just politics anymore. It's intimate & personal, and consequently it pulls in people's ISSUES and INVISIBLE WOUNDS and you don't know what you're poking at when you hit certain buttons--and then people freak out. And, that works on both sides of the Eternal Debate, really. When you listen to some of the more vocal rad fems, Holy Mother of God, the shit they describe...

So many of us are just... injured. And, injured people are rarely cool, calm, and collected.

Which ties back into what I was saying at the begginning--that society as a whole is designed to drive us fucking batshit. But, is it a good idea to use our political ideology as group therapy? Especially, when it starts to alienate people who might be better off and more effective as allies?

certainly intellectually i'd never have said "this is sufficient" or even "this must be central" (i.e. for everyone). What on earth would be the point of that?

I know that you never did. I think I'm ranting in your space, 'cause I'm obnoxious and have misdirected my irritation. For that, I apologize.

And, for the record, I don't see why increased protection for sex workers wouldn't include better family leave. I've known a lot of dancers with small children.

My list wasn't meant as the end all, be all shortlist of feminist aims. I just occasionally want to shout, "OKAY, CAN WE STOP TALKING ABOUT SEX FOR A MINUTE AND ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING!?"

And, you get to bear the brunt of my frustration and thwarted wrath. Eek. Chocolate is fine. Demand away.

belledame222 said...

>I know that you never did. I think I'm ranting in your space, 'cause I'm obnoxious and have misdirected my irritation. For that, I apologize.

Nothin' to apologize for. No prob.

>But, fucking christ... mixing politics and therapy... that's what drives me batshit--because when you're using ideology as therapy it's not just politics anymore. It's intimate & personal, and consequently it pulls in people's ISSUES and INVISIBLE WOUNDS and you don't know what you're poking at when you hit certain buttons--and then people freak out..>

Oh, Jesus--you are singing my song, here. I mean, that was EXACTLY my problem with the whole bloody Random Bird debacle (in particular), or any number of the damn TF wank sessions: hello, make up your frigging minds what this is supposed to be. A formal "debate?" But it isn't that. consciousness raising session? But it isn't that. Serious sociocultural critical analysis? AIn't that either, no way no how. A sensitive group therapy session that touches on political ramifications of all this incredibly painful stuff? It sure as fuck isn't that. This is a gang bang (RB in particular). Nonconsensual at that. Yeah: Some People: Own Your Own Shit, finally? Oh, no, you can't be bothered. Terrific. And we see this again and again and again. Yah: majorly irresponsible.

Because, hello, there are any number of ways of going about this, and as long as you set out the terms of what kind of discussion it's going to be and stick to them, -then- -maybe- you can have a discussion about all this. If you mostly want to, say, dissect images in the media, maybe even including porn and so forth, sure, there's a way in which to do this that doesn't especially trip anyone's triggers. Stay away from personal shit. Look at any number of contemporary academic writings on this kind of thing.

If you want to I don't know argue about the relative merits of the Swedish model versus decriminalization (for prostitution), yah, there's probably a way to do that that doesn't get either icky or completely exasperating: if you're responsible. Statistics, okay, theory, okay, this article, that study, okay...Of course, when real live sex workers come in and say, hi, i would like to talk as a subject here, not as the convenient object everyone is using me as (ironically) for your -debate-, then, bloody don't heap abuse on their heads or argue as though you have a better idea of what they're talking about than they do because you read something on the Internets and your Dad used to work across the street from tranvestite prostitutes and everyone knows what (all) men think of (all) women and there is no differentiation between any of all this, my issues are your issues, i am the walrus, goo goo ca choo. Whorephobia? What a terrible thing to say! We're just EXAMINING. That means we examine and you are the examined: that is revolutionary (or some shit, depending on who, i can't be bothered honestly). And oh yeah: sure, if you're against it because you were in the business and had an absolutely shit time, then that needs to be taken into account also, but of course then we do start veering into, as you say, triggering places, which leads me into my next point:

it sure would be swell if Some People, especially those who -aren't- speaking out of personal experience, could, in the course of one of these supposed "debates" or "critiques," or "examinations," resist their urge to throw out the most "shocking," degrading, dramatic language and imagery they can dredge up in order to make their point; it is the equivalent of Operation Rescue doing their schtick. It shuts discussion down; it trips peoples' triggers, ironically, often including the very people you were probably hoping to convince. And hey, sometimes works, too (my god, that's awful, i can't even think about this shit anymore); but goddam, that's disingenuous. What is it you're trying to work out here, -really?-

Finally, yes, there are ways in which to go into very personal stuff; but goddam, you'd better know what you're doing, if you're gonna open that can of worms. -First- principle, though, whether it's gonna take the form of politically-aimed consciousness raising or group therapy or somewhere in between: -speak from the I, and stick to it like crazy.- Do NOT tell other people what THEIR experiences mean; this will pour salt in freshly opened wounds. Guaran-fucking-teed. Do not invalidate what other people are saying, no matter how strongly it presses your own buttons; if that happens, you say,

"This is really pushing my buttons, and I feel ____., and (maybe) I need to step back for a second here."

...or maybe, you know, there are ways in which to deal with those incredibly difficult moments also, work through them; but that really -is- getting into group therapy territory, and frankly, this is really 101 shit i am talking about here; if (apparently) so many people can't even seem to understand this much without extreme difficulty (hi! you and I are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PEOPLE, each with our VERY OWN set of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions), then maybe better just back the fuck off at that point for now. -That- much, people ought to frigging be able to learn to do (both knowing when to do it themselves and hear when another person is going into the danger zone); if they can't, they have no business opening up this shit at all. Save it for the therapist. Really. And if you don't have one, maybe time to get one. Or your friends, assuming they're willing to deal with it (acting out, blaming and storming and meltdown). These are strangers on the Internets; you are acting as though on the one hand they are your most intimate confidantes and on the other like they don't even -exist- as real live separate individuals. Very bad.

Especially, do not tell people what they SHOULD do; do not heap more shame upon their heads. Do not JUDGE. Yes, that's right. Not now. Not here. If you can't manage that then again, you have no business opening this shit up. Learn to shut the hell up and listen; that is the -minimum- standard requirement.

And the way to make it a conversation as opposed to simple monologues is, "What you're saying is reminding me of my own experience in that...(blah blah blah)." That's the -basics.-

And even those rudiments i don't think are nearly enough to possibly make anything so intimate possible in somewhere like a huge heavily trafficked space like IBTP or frigging Pandagon, even if the host -were- remotely responsible. (although i know some people do get value out of Feministe discussions that venture into more personal territory). But: you have no idea who's reading, trolls can jump in at any moment, and unless you're constantly monitoring and vigilantly enforcing the terms you've set up...and even then.

I do think that such intimate discussions are possible and even potentially valuable, online: but they tend to work much much better in smaller spaces. and private; especially now we know that hello, what you say can be ganked and -used- by a blogger with thousands of unsympathetic readers for her very own purposes.

The other possibility is what Bitch PhD. did: make it personal, but keep it on a much more superfiicial, and yes 'positive" level: I like such and such, I don't like such and so. That worked because she set up the rules from the beginning and made sure people stuck to them. And yes, such discussions are also useful, and frankly i think if people had more of 'em some people would be less likely to feel the need to relieve whatever shadowy needs they have by endlessly poring over other peoples' traumas and the porn that -horrifies- them so. But, again, the bottom line was the same: speak from the I; do not tell other people what their experience is; do not judge. Because even in a relatively "light" setting like that, there is a difference between, "oh, me, I don't like that at all" or "huh, I never even thought of that" and "you do WHAT? well, that's disgusting." much less ffs "that's unfeminist;" hello, you have now just shifted the terms of the discussion, -again.- Frankly.

And, of course, if one finds such discussions too disturbing to deal with, for whatever reason, well, no one is putting a gun to one's head and making them read them. That's fine. What isn't fine is coming in and going "how DARE you talk about such things when blahblahblah my pain some other hypothetical Woman's pain finish your fish there are penguins starving in Antarctica." Again: at -best-, this tends to act as an effective wet blanket, and yes, that, too, pushes peoples' tender spots. It is a constant source of UTTER annoyance to me that even people who (supposedly, although frankly they don't stick to this very well either) understand about being sensitive around abuse defined as such, still think it's perfectly all right to mock or act disgusted with other peoples' sexual predilections; yes, that too can be a very big fucking deal; and if some people can't understand THAT then they ALSO have no business opening up this shit.


so, short version: i agree.

and yes, actual activism (who? what? huh??) would be a refreshing change. Too.

Some places do do this better than others--I keep meaning to read more at Feministing, at minimum they do keep links to actual organizations that, like, Do Something, and i think sometimes call alerts for actions. but yah, the places that most drive me up the fucking wall, liberal or radical or whatever, are also the ones that tend to act as though 'Net wankage was both Deadly Fucking Serious and, what's yer problem? It's just the Internets! It's a GAME, as per suits their convenience. fuck OFF.

Amber said...

I think this last comment should be reposted as a separate blog post. :)

belledame222 said...

thanks. i know i did post pretty much this at least once before, but it was all entangled with a bunch of other stuff and maybe it's just one of those cases where timing or at least repetition makes the difference between people really tweaking it and not. so, okay.

Veronica said...

'Net wankage was both Deadly Fucking Serious and, what's yer problem? It's just the Internets!

Yeah, there's a reason it's so easy to make fun of bloggers...