I guess that I’d better kick this bad girl off (figuratively speaking, of course) with some basics.
Having been well versed in the worldview of the Left for much of my lifetime — having gone from traditional liberal Democrat to damn near Marxist to my presentINdependent Libertarian Socialist beliefs in the span of 20 years time, I’ve seen quite a few sectarian battles in my day….and a lot of them dealing with the issue of sexuality and what should be the Left’s general attitude towards sexual expression. Being just as much a proponent of sexual liberation and the basic right of sexual self-determination and free sexual expression amongst consensual adults, as well as a sometime consumer of explicit sexual material and media, I’ve also seen how explosive the issues of sexuality and feminism can be when they clash with some variants of classical feminism, which puts the sexual exploitation of women by the "patriarchy" as the fundamental root of all oppression of all women.
Now, I tend to agree in major part with both beliefs: I support the full agenda of sexual liberation and free sexual expression, as well as the total decriminalization of the free consumption of sex work media such as pornography and prostitution (mostly because I believe that open and fully legal sex trading can be regulated to insure both safer work conditions and better experiences for both the workers and their clients. Yet, I also strongly believe just as strongly and passionately in the fundamental program of women’s equality, including the right of women to make free and informed personal decisions about their own bodies without censure and without harm, and with the full respect for the concerns and feelings of others.
I would think that the two were totally compatable, and went hand-in-hand with each other, and that sexual liberation is perfectly consistent with feminism and Leftist advocacy. I would think that, and still do…unfortunately, there are certain elements on the fringes of the Left in general and feminism in particular who really do have a BIG problem with overtly (or even casually) sexual women calling themselves feminists and Leftists; or anyone even defending the right to free sexual choice. And these days, they seem to be making a hell of a lot of ground and inroads on progressive political opinion…with the usual results.
The pet peeve
du joir of today is the relationship of those of us who call ourselves "sex-positive feminists" or "pro-sex feminists" (actually, I prefer the term "sex radical") to the overall Left/feminist movement….and the ongoing attempts by a group of antipornography feminists using the language of the Left to isolate, marginalize, and basically wipe us off the face of the earth. (I use the first person "us" in this,. BTW, because I make no apologies and no illusions about placing myself in the "pro-sex" Leftist side; my mentors growing up were people like Wilhelm Reich (his more eccentric theories about "orgone theory" and sexual repression being the center of all oppression aside), Emma Goldman, Victoria Woodhull in the early era; to present day sex-poz (and quite sexy) thinkers like
Dr. Betty Dodson,
Dr. Carol Queen,
Dr. Susan Block, and my own special Goddess,
Nina Hartley, who originally turned me to the basics that one can be a Lefitst and a feminist and still be unambiguously pro-sex, pro-lust, pro-choice, and pro-equality..and work to create a more sensual erotic medium.)
Ever since our President-Select decided to reward his Religious Right base with another Meese Commission-type juhad against sexual expression not fitting the standards of reproductive procreative marriage, there has been sort of a countervailing revival of the type of antipornography feminist activism made famous by the duo icons of (now deceased) writer/essayist Andrea Dworkin and her partner in sexual fascism Professor Catherine MacKinnon (still alive and essaying). It was this duo that drafted the original proposal to declare sexually explicit material a violation of civil rights for women due to its allegedly harmful effects on women; and to use lawsuits and peer pressure to wipe out any form of sexual expression deemed harmful or "degrading" to women.
The most benelovent variant of this theory states that by expressing "male sexual control" of women through appealing to their base fantasies about pleasure, porn, prostitution, and so called "pro-sex" advocacy directly contribute to a climate of male sexual domination of women and a repression of an essentially natural female sexuality which apparantly is…well, not male-dominated. The worse variants actually remove even that pretense of subtleness: Men who masturbate ot images of women having sex and loving it are prima facie oppressors of women who only wish to use and rape them for their own selfish and deadly pleasure..and any woman who even tolerates them is a traitor to feminism, if not all womanhood, and should be immediately run out of the "sisterhood". And of course, any progressive man who questions antiporn theory for its parallels with traditional conservative restrictions and its tactical alliances with the Far Right is immediately dubbed a "right-wing libertarian" who masturbates and ejaculates on the bodies of dead women and children; or an enabler of rape and murder.
In the course of promoting these views, the more extreme and loudest of the antiporn "left" feminists tend to bestow the worst stereotypes upon advocates of "sex-positive" feminism…basically, they are either White elitists who use off "people of color" for their own selfish pleasure, or posers who inject evil" male values" into the women’s movement. The ideal world for these "cultural feminists" is one where essential "female values" — including some restrictive ideas about sex — become the norm which overwhelms the evil patriarchy. When these "feminists" inject their vitriol into the overall debate on sexuality amongst feminists, the results can be explosive…and ultimately divisive.
Such is now the case with a debate that is now swirling and flaming over at my colleague
Bitch Lab’s Queer Dewd’s blog today over
posts that the hostess (who is a serious feminist/Leftist who is generally "pro-sex" with some qualifications) entered about the myths and misconceptions that were being spread over exactly what "sex-positive feminism" really means….and doesn’t. Here’s a brilliant excerpt from Ms. Bitch’s
Seriously. I’d just like to have some examples. As much as I criticize Biting Beaver, I do not get the idea that she doesn’t like sex or that she thinks women naturally have a low sex-drive. Radical cultural feminists hardly seem to me to be interested in claiming that women have low sex drives. Andrea Dworkin clearly gets passion and sexuality.
Similarly, I do not get the idea from
that all they are are interested in having sex constantly. As much as they’d like? Sure.
(Ok. I take that back, I can picture Annalee wanting to have an orgasm contest, as long as she was with a a voluptuous, blonde lap dancer.)
But that’s all they’re about? I don’t get that sense at all.
These are all fascinating women who have all kinds of things going on in their lives: work, knitting, baking pies, music, friends, drinking, writing, blogging, teaching, speaking, families, cupcakes. So, they couldn’t have sex constantly anyway, could they?
They don’t seem to hold women to any particular standard. I also don’t see how they expect that women should have “libidos like men’s.” Maybe I’m wrong. I’m sure they’ll correct me if I am. (ADD: Susie actually wrote something the other day criticizing the insistence by BigPharma that men
pop viagara in order to be forever a stud-horndog
. So, while it sounds as if this post will be about both sides, it’s not really. It’s an argument against a sex positive feminism that just doesn’t exist. If it does, I saw no quote from or links to any women who exemplify this point of view (or even the other one,that of the “prude”).
Biting Beaver, incidentally, refers to a blog team of a radical lesbian feminist and a male friend who promote antiporn feminism and basically dismiss most forms of lesbianism (including girl-girl sex and public bisexuality in mainstream porn) as "male identified" and thus totally wrong. An example of their madness can be found
[More on this later..gotta run for a bit. Hang on..it does get better.]