Etiology of a Sex-Positive SmackDog (A Response to ‘Da Bitch)

OK….since K over at Bitch|Lab asked me for it; I decided to post it here.

The original question that Miz B asked was simply this: What made you into a “sex positive feminist” or got you interested in “sex positive feminist” theory??

I thought that a mere response via her comments would not be respectful of the question, so I’ve decided to elaborate more as a general post here.

For me, it started as a college student…..I was mostly your traditional Black liberal who was just shaking off the crumbs of a conservative Catholic upbringing (both my parents were devout to the point of making us attend Cathecism and getting Communion…though personally I saw it as more of a diversion from my main love of music and band).  I was more of the loner type who simply loved to read…so while other students would hit the clubs when they weren’t hitting the books; I’d be at the college library stocking up on books on political theory.  The fact that I was a severe loner also helped in that rather than harrass women to get laid, I would simply internalize my sexual fantasies into thoughts of powerful, intellegent women who would seduce me, rather than the other way around.  That particular fetish tended to reenforce my basic bias towards the more independent, sexually assertive, yet politically progressive woman that became my own particular sort of fetish, if you will.

Naturally, being a progressive man with a working dick and an active erotic imagination (if mostly avoiding “playing the field” in real life due to shyness (and a speech impediment) tended to lead me to support the type of social liberalism and feminism that supported both women’s autonomy and equality AND her basic right to be whatever she wanted to be sexually….and to admire (and secretly lust after) those who took the risk of being openly sexual beings. Unfortunately for me, my sexual and intellectual self-discovery happened to take place exactly when antiporn feminism and its “cultural feminist” stepparent theory was becoming the rage amongst the general Left/liberal intellegensia; it was then that I got my first bitter taste of the likes of Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. Shelia Jeffreys, Kathleen Barry, Diana E. H. Russell, and the rest of the porn-busting feminist posse. 

Their concept of reducing sex to innate male rapicity/female passivity and their demonization of sexual desire as innately evil and destructive was such a radical departure from everything I had thought feminism (especially the more liberal branch of feminism) to be. Particually galling to me was their incessant bashing and guilt-tripping of progressive (that is, Left/liberal) men as basically only favoring women’s equality as a ruse to get into their panties. Not that the thought of getting into certain women’s panties didn’t come to my mind on occasion, of course, but the notion that to even think of a woman with sexual intent in private while respecting her full freedom and consent amounted to the equivalent of rape (mentally, if not physically) simply struck me as as best foolish and misconstruction of our individual motives and desire…and, at worst, outright sexist, sex-hating fascism parrotting the Christian Right.

All seemed lost….until four women came along and finally set me right.

The first was Gayle Rubin, who offered up a long serial essay called “Thinking Sex” in Carole Vance’s anthology Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality which attempted to define and develop a distinct progressive theory of sexuality and erotic justice that combined a liberationist and expansive view of positive sexual discovery with a legitimate and honest empathy with the dangers of sexual exploration in a conservative culture. Her willingness to treat sexuality (not just women’s sexuality, but sexuality) as a positive force and a ground for neutral study rather than just  something to be condemned was very much refreshing and somewhat radical for my ears and eyes.

The second woman was Susie Bright…who at that time had just founded On Our Backs magazine as a counterweight to the radicallesbian belief that lesbians should neuter their sexuality to meet a narrow, restrictive, “woman-friendly” model.  Her mastery of studying sexual culture from a liberatory POV, as well as her perspective as an old-school radical of the 60s and 70s on how social movements often ignore the intimate issues of sexuality and sexual desire to their peril, greatly enlightened me on my own political transformation.

Another influence was Dr. Carol Queen…she was the first one to introduce me to the diversity of queer theory and the vision of what a truly “sex-positive” culture would be like; and her experience as an actual sex worker and sex educator gave some intellectual ballast to my base beliefs.

But all those women pale in comparison to one special woman who would completely blow away every last pretension I had about intellegent sexual progressive women.

Two words will suffice here:  Nina.  Hartley.

Why this one particular woman???  I’ll tell you in Part II of this post, coming up.

(Sorry to make this a two-parter..but gotta run for family business.)

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Etiology of a Sex-Positive SmackDog (A Response to ‘Da Bitch)

  1. Nice one.
    The shy het male is one character often overlooked by feminist discourse, and yet there’s quite a lot of us ! And it’s quite clear what fantasies this leads to : the strong sexually assertive woman.
    Even when you’re not that shy, it’s still quite nice to be hit on every now and then.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Anthony.

    And yes, I think ilestre is quite right: there’s so much emphasis on Man as the Dominator, whether in mainstream reflexively upholding-of-this culture or in certain strains of feminism denouncing it, that i think people tend to forget that a lot of (straight) men simply might be -terrified.- and that yes indeed, a lot of straight men are very very attracted to the notion of -strong,- sexy women, whether dominant in a D/s sense or otherwise.

    but you know, i am always bemused by how the anti-BDSM rants just about inevitably seem to overlook the little fact that professional dommes -by far- outnumber pro-subs.

    yeah, they claim it’s all part of the same yadda yadda, it’s still all about the man; but even aside from that, you’d think it was like all Story of O/Gorean fantasy all the time, listening to some people…

    but even aside from that (formal D/s), Anthony, you mention “goddess” and that -really- interests me.

    i think that that is a big part of all of this, you know: the absence of a strong female archetype (sorry to get all academic here, but) in our culture.

    or, well, you were raised Catholic, A, and there you have Mary, but it’s a very specific kind of female archetype: the Virgin/Madonna: there is no acceptable ccounterpart who actually gets to be -sexual-.

    and then in mainstream Protestant-dominated culture, you don’t even have that much. Father-Son, y punto.

    but it’s one of the things that attracted me to paganism, if not -the- main thing: the mother godess(es) is/are -sexual.- The Empress. Inanna. The maiden, the crone, also. Lilith. Baubo. Cybele (the original femdom, perhaps). and so on. and there’s room for a male sexuality that isn’t all wrapped up in “patriarchy” as well: the Green Man, Dionysus, Adonis, etc.

    anyway, it’s funny, I sort of relate in some ways (and in others not at all, obviously), but: the fact that women are socialized, by and large, the way they/we are means that anyone who’s sexually attracted to ’em has to figure out a way in which to make the first move, by and large. That is socially expected of men in this culture, of course.

    but if you’re a woman socialized in this culture and you’re into other women, well, you have a couple of things working against you (particularly if you, too, are shy): well, one, more obviously, you’re not supposed to be doing this at all;

    but even when you do get past that hurdle (homophobia/coming out 101), there is the additional problem of: 1) you yourself are not socialized at all in how to do this, the get the number, make the move, close the deal, yadda, and 2) unlike when you were dating men, -neither are the prospective dates, for the most part.-

    which is why or part of why, i suspect, that the butch-femme thing is as persistent as it is: butch (traditional expressions thereof at least) is one acceptable way to get around this, what’s been referred to as the “lesbian sheep” problem.

    http://www.polyamory.org/~howard/Poetry/lesbian_sheep.html

    btw, Anthony, do you know Lady Aster? she’s a TG pro-sub and a formidably smart libertarian (more or less); she also runs a couple of salons, i think, to discuss matters political and sexual. i just joined one of ’em, the more libertarian one.

    http://www.escortblogs.net/ladyaster.htm

    (she doesn’t update very often).

    also, Midori, a prominent former pro-domme who mostly is into education now: also extremely smart, raised by feminists, brings a decidedly intellectual slant to her sexuality, i’d say (also lots of fun).

    http://fetishdiva.com/

  3. Thanks, Belle.

    I should note, though, that my “worship” of women like Nina doesn’t go quite that far as towards D/s; my use of the word “goddess” is strictly metaphoric, not literal.

    I am just as fascinated by the pagan religions and how they do allow their deities to be sexual beings, perhaps that’s why later more “traditional” religions had to wipe them out in order to impose their more conservative brand of sexuality.

    Fetish Diva Midori I have heard of; I remember her addressing a conference on pornography back in 1998 (I wasn’t there, but I saw the transcript). She is indeed quite smart as well as sexy…though her brand of extreme fetish and D/s is beyond my particular tastes. Lady Aster, though, I haven’t heard of; maybe I should check her out, ehhh???

    Anthony

  4. Sure, I got that you yourself weren’t into either D/s nor capital-g Goddessing; just, i think for those who are, they’re often coming from similar impulses, at least in part.

    and yes, Lady Aster’s well worth checking out. doesn’t seem to update her blog much these days, but what she does have to say, always really interesting.

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