We’re Not Sex-Dolls

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When, in the middle of a conversation, my friend dropped that he thought that women could never enjoy sex as much as men, I thought he couldn’t actually be serious. It seemed so ridiculous to me that I assumed he was joking. As consenting adults why would a whole group systematically be unable to enjoy the act as much as the other? I mean, both sex organs are instruments of both giving and receiving pleasure. It’s not mutually exclusive. Both have clusters of sensitive nerves for receiving pleasure, and have shapes and textures for giving pleasure.

He and I were unable to conclude our discussion at the time, but I’ve continued to mull over and deconstruct his statement since then. It’s a concept that I just really don’t understand. Maybe it is that he had such a wonderfully erotic experience that he just couldn’t imagine anyone feeling as much pleasure as he did. But then again, that doesn’t excuse him for putting all females on the less-than list when it comes to sex. Does it come from Ego? That “I am the most important person in this act”, or that “the enjoyment of sex is made exclusively for me”. Perhaps that is the case, since he often likes to interpret Christian elements in that sort of way—that Eve/Women came from and for Adam/Men.

Or is it disdain for the person on the receiving end of the act? You come across this a lot in homophobia and the idea of what “makes you gay”. There seems to be more disgust and judgment leveled at men being penetrated, whether orally or anally, versus those being on the dominant side. Think of the “joking” insult of “suck my dick” when said to another man. The person saying it is not (usually) purporting themselves to homosexuality but is using this statement to belittle and emasculate the other person. (Serious Sex-Positive Side Note: People need to stop encouraging the view that oral is disgusting and degrading. Please.) He, personally, might be coming from something like that. As an upright heterosexual Christian male, he can’t even condescend to imagine what it is like being on the receiving end of intercourse.

I keep coming back to his Christian background for a reason. As someone who grew up in a very conservative Christian household, I have experienced how it can greatly shape and distort your perspectives. No, not everything Christianity teaches is bad, but there are a lot of things that skew priorities. Christianity is (as a whole—let’s not even get started on differing denominations) a religion focused on tradition (even if it has a varying and complex history), the patriarchy (it’s generally accepted that women should not be congregational leaders based on such passages as 1 Corinthians 14:34-351 and 1 Timothy 2:11-122), and biased morality. I say biased because it always seems that certain groups are judged more harshly than others. There are those whose very identities are seen as invalid and taboo (i.e. homosexuals and trans* people). And then you have the privileged, cis heterosexual white men, who are seen as complex beings who can stray but be forgiven, while you have girls being taught that their primary value is in being pure and chaste, who are taught to even restrict their thoughts. It is likely that this view had some impact on my friend. In the American suburbs he grew up around the concept of good modest Christian girls, and at college in Africa he was around the idea of good modest Muslim women.

Religions just seem to have this obsession with pure virginal females, who don’t even think about doing the dirty (heaven forbid!). For me, that idea is pretty scary. It has this even more sinister misogyny than the idea of “I know she wants it”, but instead “I know she doesn’t want it and I don’t care.” Not that I think my friend is a rapist. He is a very thoughtful and caring person generally. I do think, however, that he is also a victim of conditioning by religion and social institutions, which leave room for misogyny and a whole bunch of other messes.

It’s not only religion that has an obsession with purity, but a large part of human society. Innocence is something to be admired and protected. Women and children are to be cared for, looked after and sheltered despite their own desires. I’m not saying that we, as people, should not want to protect others, but that this way of thinking often leads to dismissing the wishes of the very people you are proclaiming to help. Think of the concept of “wanting it all”. It usually isn’t that women want it all (although, what is really wrong with that?) but that they want more than just the very narrow role that is given to them. But, like the response given in the 80’s, it’s the men and the “well meaning been-there-done-that” women who say that they know what is best despite what you want. And seriously. Some women want to both have a job and have a family? Don’t they know that only men are capable of doing that? Ridiculous. (Check out this analysis on social climate’s affect on media)

In many patriarchy-based religions women are expected to defer to ay male, particularly their religious leader, father and husband. It’s not just in religion, though. This aversion to female agency is seen all over. Women are often slut-shamed when they have sex with multiple partners even though that is more often accepted when it is a man sleeping with multiple women. Whether it is the childfree being dismissed and told that she will “change her mind”, or having their physical bodies controlled through being denied access to family planning product, or fathers being the defining factors in what their daughters wear, or “giving away” the bride, or women’s voices and opinions being dismissed because they are “too emotional”, we see women being treated as if they can’t think for or even represent themselves. It’s society (the patriarchy) telling the female population that it doesn’t care what you know to be best for you because THEY know what is best already.

I got a bit sidetracked there (not that it isn’t true), so let’s get back to the good stuff—sex! The world seems to have women placed in two main categories, 1) ladies, and 2) whores. You can pretty much see this wherever you look (particularly in pop culture tropes). Once a woman acts on her sexual agency usually she moves to the category of whore, with some exceptions, of course. Such as when a sacrifice is made, like a girl giving her committed boyfriend her virginity, although still super frowned upon in Christian circles. This concept may not really be addressed by American society, which considers itself to be fairly progressive, but it is all pretty ingrained.

It’s not sex, per se, that society has such an issue with, but female sexual agency. It is more normal in Hollywood movies and the like to showcase rape, coercion and violence than it is to show a woman making a conscious choice to get down with someone she fancies without first being “won” (not even getting into honest portrayals of homosexual relationships). So, no, I don’t think there is any one cause that neuters women’s sexual desires in the eyes of others. It’s many parts that make up our, and my friend’s, culture. It’s society that thinks the wants, needs and desires of women are secondary. Hopefully we speak up when we hear people talk like my friend did, and hopefully these sort of views will go extinct.

1 “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

2 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

*** I feel like I should add a disclaimer, that no, not everyone enjoys sex, no one is the same, and not everyone likes the same things. Some people are asexual. Some people only get off through exterior stimulation. Some people need more intense scenarios. I don’t want to discredit anyone’s personal experiences and autonomy in this post. What I do want to encourage is to listen and communicate with your partner (woah!), to challenge what society may tell you is normal, and to consider that maybe if someone chooses to have sex with you that their pleasure is just as important as yours (just maybe)!

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Reaching Intersectionality

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We are all so different and perhaps it is our differences that should really unite us. The fact that we are all diverse should bring us together instead of pushing us apart. It’s usually our sameness that brings people together because there is comfort, understanding and safety there. But the fact that we are all unique is a sort of a similarity, isn’t it? The fact that no one can look the exact same and have the exact same experiences and the exact same background and the exact same trajectory should open the gateway for empathy.

However, even when looking for differences I’ve found that I’m often looking for differences outside of myself, not in me. Such as, in High School I wasn’t necessarily looking for people that challenged aspects of myself, I was looking for people that challenged the exterior structure. I bonded with people very different from myself in many ways because we still shared something. We were all discontent with the institutions we were in (school, religion, family…).

How awesome would this cast have been for The Breakfast Club? Awesome.

How awesome would this cast have been for The Breakfast Club? Awesome.

I think it is so easy to label people as “others” because we feel comfortable with the familiar and hold onto things, which establish and support what we see as “right” and “normal” in ourselves. People generally don’t seek out perspectives that challenge their views, but support them. Which I think is pretty sad. Where is the growth in that? Where is the evolution of the mind and thought?

I may encourage us to break out of this status quo, but I am definitely not exempt from it. Looking at my media and news intake, it is fairly clear what my political and social inclinations are. I choose my sources and topics based on what is most important to me. (So, a lot of stuff on feminism, equality, fairness, social justice, cultural awareness…). I am not usually reading things by authors who, in my opinion, are ignorant or who purport things that I consider wrong. But in doing so I am limiting my own dialogue. I am not learning to deconstruct other people’s arguments or to reevaluate my own. I find that I am dismissing their words instead of challenging them. By doing this I am keeping myself in a separate bubble and compartmentalizing.

Because of that when I write I end up not speaking to the people who I really want to affect, the people I think need to change their minds. Instead I am just talking to the people I already have an affinity with, the people who already agree (at least partially) with what I am saying. That is definitely a weakness.

This is something that is a huge problem in US politics today. How I see it is that there aren’t feminist Republicans because the whole political scene is an extreme bipartisan split with the whole mindset of “Us vs. Them” instead of actually being able to have an intelligent conversation and then compromise. The two parties have become caricatures of what they stand for (which makes them even more disconnected from the needs of their constituents and pretty useless). People often seem to see other people’s political views, or even basic needs, as threatening their own. So you have this strange combative fight for survival when it isn’t even necessary. There are female republicans but they all seem to hate feminism and feminist liberals who all seem to think republican females are hypocrites in terms of choice, healthcare, and opportunities. Of course, that is a very simplistic way of putting it, but it shows how these politicians are being exaggerated representations. That is something we really don’t need—particularly when it comes to our legislature.

It’s this whole thing of erasing people with whom you disagree. If you dismiss people’s ideas and what they stand for, you are dismissing them. If you never learn about the struggles of others then, in your mind, they do not exist. Think of it as if you are ignoring what is going on in the rest of the world. You are not going to run straight smack into it because you have that privilege, so you will never be forced to acknowledge it. Or, like people who say that they don’t “see color,” it is both trivializing a current issue and erasing the identity of others.

I’m not saying anything new here. It’s all about empathy and education, as I’ve already gone on about in my last post (and will continue to in the future). I will just end here with this excerpt from Zara Bennett in Dear Feminists: I’m One of You! Please Don’t Save Me discussing ignorance and dismissal and how it directly affects global feminism:

“Excluding a feminist or denying her feminist identity on the basis of her cultural affiliations is akin to rejecting the idea that a man can be a feminist. It creates divides that shouldn’t exist because the key role feminism plays in our lives is one of intersectionality; no two people share exactly the same experiences, and it is these distinctions that allow us to identify problems within our social institutions. These very same distinctions also help us find solutions to those problems, so instead of arguing over whose view is best, we should instead be focusing on how various perspectives can be used to further our understanding of oppressive constructs in our different societies.

Women from non-Western cultures do not need to be saved. When I go out wearing shalwar kameez, it is not a cry for help; it’s just as self-expressive as blue hair or a tongue piercing. It is a statement that I am proud of where I come from. I do not have to compromise my feminist identity with my cultural affiliations. If we could all just talk to and educate one another before assuming that different perspectives are automatically conflicting, I believe we would open a lot more doors for one another.”

(can anyone help with the source?)

(can anyone help with the source?)

In Response to: Does Feminism Have a Class Issue? (Belated Post)

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A day late but here it is! Which is probably not the best way to start off my posts, but I have lots of excuses as to why I was unable to put up a blog yesterday, I promise (just give me a little longer to concoct some better ones). Let’s all just agree to pretend it is still Monday, okay? Thanks.

This post was inspired to continue the conversation about class and feminism. So, do I think that (mainstream) Feminism has a class issue? Yes definitely! (Read the Curve article for some economic insight on this subject.)

I think it’s more that people find it difficult to completely see outside themselves even when they are trying. A lot of that is just ignorance. We don’t actually know the everyday problems and struggles that others face because the evidence is not right in front of our faces. That is a HUGE issue and really not a good excuse anymore with the plethora of information at our fingertips that the Internet provides. Yet we are still completely unaware of problems that are just outside of our peripheral vision.

As a white, middle-class, cis female, there are a lot of trials I have never had to know and most likely never will. I grew up in a community that I could fall back on should something go wrong, and a family who had the financial stability to support me when I worked for little pay when I moved back home in my early 20’s. I am privileged and blessed that the majority of my personal feminist fight deals with principles, definitions, and details, and not fighting for survival. But that is not the case for everyone, just those who have the loudest and most accessible voices in American feminism at the moment.

There are many things that the privileged have access to that others don’t. Education, healthcare (usually), respect, birth control, affordable childcare, recognition, safety… And, like with affordable childcare, it’s not just about having convenience, but having the opportunity to improve your situation. If you can’t afford childcare, how will you have time to work to improve your station? How will you have the chance to further your education? How will you have the chance to take the “equal opportunity” supposedly guaranteed by law?

It is very important for all of us to realize not just how the Civil Rights movement will help ourselves individually, but even more so how it will improve the lives of those who have a more pressing need. We ought not be complacent in our ignorance or only focused on egotistic goals. A lot of this is the idea of solidarity. But you can’t have that if you don’t even know the very real issues others face.

So get out there and educate yourself! Practice empathy! Imagine people complexly!

Here are a few places to start:

– Intro to the concept of the Poverty Trap

– On how “I don’t see race” is an excuse that erases identity

Cultural Sensitivity

– On trans-feminism (read ALL of them!): Natalie Reed

Transnational Feminism