Good girls don’t.

Amanda, who has never been accused of knowing when to quit, has opened up the sex-positive feminist debate again, with a post about what she considers to be very revealing language on the part of a self-identified sex-radical feminist:

Feminists are just like any other women, with a range of sexual desires and practices from doggy-style to bukkake, and it’d be a shame for us to hold back in a misguided attempt to live up to the legacies of Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem. We can choose to be celibate or to have someone come on our face. Having a full range of sexual options should be a high-priority feminist goal.

I suspect that this woman is arguing against what she perceives as two different prohibitions here. On the one hand, there’s the idea that celibacy cannot be empowering or coexist with a full and feminist life; on the other, that certain sexual practices are by definition demeaning. Maybe I’m being charitable; maybe she’s representing these as extremes of “asexual” and “sexual” rather than two feminist arguments as described by their opponents.

Even if that’s true, Amanda is absolutely right to be annoyed by the two possibilities as presented, particularly since they’re the only two that make it into the writer’s thesis statement:

The full range of sexual options, from her examples provided, appear to vary from sporting a patriarchy-approved purity ring to sex acts that are about men humiliating women. Awesome. I feel so empowered. I hate to sound like a sex-hating strawfeminist, but when coming up with a bona fide full range of options, I’d like to at least imagine that there’s women who aren’t religious nuts or sexually submissive might enjoy. And not to sound like a man-hater, but it seems a little more fair if the range of options involves women who are dominating as well as men who are. She does include examples of men who like to be humiliated in bed, too, but otherwise, despite her claims to sexual radicalism, she avoids the larger issue of whose sexuality is actually considered a threat in this society—you know, the non-submissive sluts of the world.

In response to a commenter, she says this:

PR, wow. I couldn’t have been clearer. If you love getting your ass whupped in the bedroom, go with Jesus. But it would be nice if there’s room for those of us who don’t have a need for a woman to be in a submissive/humiliating position for sex to occur to also get to be included in the “full range”. The “full range” she allows is one where women are submissive or don’t fuck at all.

I’d say that people whose Sexual Political Correctness that says that I have to love getting spanked or have semen shot into my eye in order to be sexually “radical” are the ones who need to fucking open their minds.

I would also point out that this conflation is beloved of anti-sex misogynists, e.g. Doris Dawn. That philosophy works the equation from the other end, but sex and degradation are still inextricable for women. The only way a woman can be sexual is to accept sexual humiliation. Sex is inherently demeaning to women. Female desire outside of marriage involves being used by men; female sexual desire within marriage involves being used by men. So her phrasing is regressive in more ways than one.


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55 comments for “Good girls don’t.

  1. Jay Stang
    July 17, 2006 at 9:25 pm

    Why can’t she have her choice? Are you going to dictate to her what is an acceptable expression of feminist sexuality?

    If she wants to have someone come on her face, that should be her prerogative.

  2. July 17, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    I think you’ve all completely misread Rachel. I don’t know her that well, but given the context of the earlier blow job war, to which she was replying, she was specifically talking about so called ‘submissive’ sex for a reason.

    furthermore, and this has little to do with what rachel was discussing, as much as Amanda might want it to be the case, a lot of the so called culturally submissive activities she disccuses are simply *not* experienced by people as submissive. People are not social dopes upon which culture writes its messages, while we passively suck them up. It’s just the silliest and most naive way of looking at the world — for a leftist.

  3. July 17, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    I’m feminist and enjoy being submissive in bed. Some of this probably has to do with being sexually abused as a child, and feeling ashamed of myself. Some of it also has to do with the fact that my body responds to some positions better than others. Some of it has to do with the fact that I’m a domineering loud-mouth in most areas of life, and tend to run out of steam by the time I’m in bed, and hence want Boyfriend to run the show.

    But, an interesting caveat to all this has to do with the fact that I’m like the girl in the song, who “only comes when she’s on top.” Which ultimately leads me to believe that it’s more than just a dominant/submissive dichotomy and trying to classify one’s own sexual practices in this light gets confusing after a while.

  4. July 17, 2006 at 11:32 pm

    Whose dictating anything, Jay? Who’s denying her the choice? No one. So kindly put the strawman away, already.

  5. zuzu
    July 17, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    Damn you, piny! You’ve made me think of the version of “Good Girls Don’t” on Chipmunk Punk.

    And I just know you’re not old enough to truly appreciate that.

  6. July 17, 2006 at 11:50 pm

    As I just wrote on my blog, what is acutely disturbing is that anyone would interpret Rachel — a feminist — as thinking that the only range of sexuality women were interested in was sub-sex (so-called).

    Really? Why? why go there? This is assuming, really, that Rachel is just plain stupid. Do you honestly think that she thinks that the only range of sexuality is submissive sex.

    Of course not. Without bothering to read her other articles at the VV, it should have occured to someone that Rachel simply didn’t do the best job in that one sentence. Because if you read the other setences, where she talks about men who want to be dominated, then logically there have to be women who want to dominat and, thus, these are activities in the range of women’s sexual desires.

    Obviously, Rachel is not such an airhead that she thinks women don’t like dominating men.

    And the idea that anyone would say this, without all kinds of explanations, just doesn’t make any sense. It’s a hugely controversial statement — as we can see.’

    Thus, it seems to me that the wise thing to do would be to give her the benefit of the doubt and read a lot more carefully. And then may be read some of her other stuff.

    I can understand why the misinterpretation but I can’t understand why there wasn’t more of a benefit of the doubt given to Rachel before leaping to conclusions that are simply not warranted by Rachels’ larger body of work.

  7. piny
    July 18, 2006 at 12:56 am

    As I just wrote on my blog, what is acutely disturbing is that anyone would interpret Rachel — a feminist — as thinking that the only range of sexuality women were interested in was sub-sex (so-called).

    I don’t think that this is what either I or Amanda is arguing.

  8. KnifeGhost
    July 18, 2006 at 2:37 am

    But, an interesting caveat to all this has to do with the fact that I’m like the girl in the song, who “only comes when she’s on top.”

    I want to say that’s Pulp, but I don’t think it is. I definitely know the song, but I can’t place it.

    I suspect that this woman is arguing against what she perceives as two different prohibitions here. On the one hand, there’s the idea that celibacy cannot be empowering or coexist with a full and feminist life; on the other, that certain sexual practices are by definition demeaning. Maybe I’m being charitable; maybe she’s representing these as extremes of “asexual” and “sexual” rather than two feminist arguments as described by their opponents.

    Bitch|Lab, I read that passage as piny giving Rachel the benefit of the doubt, then going on to address another way that could be read, rather than a direct criticism of Rachel’s position.

  9. July 18, 2006 at 3:45 am

    I’m cross posting this from my comment at Pandagon…

    I believe there’s the wider society to react to, and that as feminists we are in a dialogue with that society. So I have no problem with questioning or analyzing my sex life based on those dynamics.

    On the other hand, I think that it’s easy to forget that sometimes, one’s “in-group” – however non-dominant that may be – has great and striking emotive power. In discussions such as these, I think we have to remember that for many feminists, the opinion of other feminists is going to be emotionally more powerful than the outgrouped Republicans denying us agency – even if the real world political effects are more devestating.

    The sub-society of feminists have more social power for other feminists because we give a shit about their opinions: we’re ingrouping against a tough world. I care far more about analysis in Pandagon than in Playboy, even if Amanda’s not making Hefner’s numbers. So it doesn’t utterly surprise me that someone may react to Twisty, or to her commenters, as something to discuss; I’d say in most of my feminist discussions, fellatio is more of an issue than cunnilingus, and gets a lot more analysis (and yes, flak).

    Anyway: it’s the Trekkie Uniform – greater society may think these people are dorks, but the ingrouping need to wear a really COOL uniform overrides the societal ideation that you’re a totally nutjob. Even when the cast of Star Trek makes fun of you.

    SO: all I’m saying is there is reason that someone might be defensive of her submission. In the greater context of society, submission is the norm, but I’ve not really seen it to be the norm in ingrouped feminist discussions.

    Anyway, I’m not a submissive: but there have been other issues in which I have felt defensive or hurt, and maybe worried about being kicked out of the “cool” group of wicked bad-ass feminists.

  10. July 18, 2006 at 6:18 am

    I thought Rachel’s reason for choosing that somewhat cartoonish “range” was obvious enough in the context of the article: She’s responding to a particular kind of critique–one she identifies with Ariel Levy and others–so she picked an example that’s responsive to that critique. If she were directing her argument at, say, Jerry Falwell, maybe it’d make sense to defend dominant women. But that’s not what the people she’s responding to primarily have a problem with. If she doesn’t feel the need to make a strong case for dominant sex roles for women in her Village Voice column, maybe it’s because she think’s it would be clearly otiose in that context. It’s the same reason people writing columns in defense of “free speech” don’t usually have to devote space to our fundamental right to chat about the weather and sitcoms at the water cooler. And I think Amanda unintentionally shows how well chosen Rachel’s example was: For all her “go with Jesus” protestations, Amanda’s post just drips with contempt for sexual tastes she regards as degrading.

  11. raging red
    July 18, 2006 at 6:37 am

    I want to say that’s Pulp, but I don’t think it is. I definitely know the song, but I can’t place it.

    The song is Laid, by the group James.

  12. Lya Kahlo
    July 18, 2006 at 7:23 am

    “For all her “go with Jesus” protestations, Amanda’s post just drips with contempt for sexual tastes she regards as degrading.”

    Agreed. Which is exactly what Rachel’s article is speaking against. Amanda doesn’t have to like everything and doesn’t have to do the things she considers degrading. Other women get off on it and shouldn’t be made to feel inferior, or like they’re betraying feminist ideals because they enjoy it.

  13. July 18, 2006 at 7:24 am

    Sex is inherently demeaning to women.

    Piny, I must apologize because I need clarification on this: are you saying this as a statement of your own opinion, or are you quoting someone else’s philosophy?

    Because sex is not inherently demeaning to women.

  14. July 18, 2006 at 8:16 am

    Piny, I must apologize because I need clarification on this: are you saying this as a statement of your own opinion, or are you quoting someone else’s philosophy?

    I believe piny was referencing the philosophy that sex outside of marriage is sinful, not his own.

  15. raging red
    July 18, 2006 at 8:59 am

    How do people get “drips with contempt for sexual tastes she regards as degrading” from this?

    Real feminist sexual radicalism should be about more than defending women who participate in sexual activities that reenact male dominance, though I think there’s plenty of room to defend women who get off on that. Defend them, that is. But defending sexual submissives is different from avoiding examination of different desires, where they come from and what they might mean, all from the fear that someone will think you’re judging them. But the main thing should be agitating for an actual range of options, including all the ones besides those that are automatically about women being under male control.

  16. Thomas
    July 18, 2006 at 9:18 am

    “For all her “go with Jesus” protestations, Amanda’s post just drips with contempt for sexual tastes she regards as degrading.”

    I’m pretty sensitive to anti-BDSM biases, and in the years I’ve been reading her, Amanda has shown no animosity to BDSM, including female-submissive BDSM. She is not telling women not to be sexually submissive.

  17. July 18, 2006 at 9:57 am

    I think you’ve all completely misread Rachel. I don’t know her that well, but given the context of the earlier blow job war, to which she was replying, she was specifically talking about so called ’submissive’ sex for a reason.

    What Bitch|Lab said. I find it difficult to believe that so many otherwise intelliegent people have completely abandoned their critical reading/thinking skills wrt RKB’s article. What is going on here??

  18. July 18, 2006 at 10:15 am

    Piny:

    I don’t think that this is what either I or Amanda is arguing.

    I don’t think this is what you are arguing, but Amanda’s argument is a little different from yours. She starts off with her snide “I Really Like Being Submissive” remark and then goes on to write this:

    The full range of sexual options, from her examples provided, appear to vary from sporting a patriarchy-approved purity ring to sex acts that are about men humiliating women. Awesome. I feel so empowered.

    The seems to indicate to me that Amanda’s reading of the article is pretty similar to how Bitch | Lab represented it. I read your comments over at Pandagon and you seem to really have a much nuanced understanding of submissive sex than Amanda does in her piece. Not that Amanda doesn’t have a more nuanced understanding, because I know that she does, but rather that she seemed to ignore it for some reason when blogging this article.

  19. Q Grrl
    July 18, 2006 at 11:10 am

    “Because sex is not inherently demeaning to women. ”

    Well, I’ll say it.

    Heterosexual sex as performed in a culture that is actively working to deny women safe and legal means to birth control and abortion is inherently demeaning to women. In a culture where the onus is on women to seek out birth control, while the range of available options is narrowing, where places like South Dakota view rape and incest on a continuum of normative sexual experiences for women/girls, heterosexual intercourse, no matter what the flava, is demeaning to women.

    The focus should not be on what the acts “mean” on a personal/intimate level to women who engage in them; it shouldn’t be on whether they are consensual, or ultimately pleasurable. The focus should be on the difference that society places on the acts when women engage in them vs. when men engage in them. Men who are willing to ejaculate inside a woman but who aren’t concomittantly fighting against the current restrictive fundamentalist approach and legislation of reproductive choice for women are, in fact, actively expressing how heterosexual sex is demeaning to women. A specific sex act that outwardly appears demeaning might not have the same internal meaning for the woman engaging in it. But yet that act cannot be separated from the man’s interpretation of that act within the context of socially approved sexual mores for women. Nor can it be separated from the socially approved roles of women outside of the bedroom. That act, even if it is personally liberating for the individual woman, falls inside the context of limited access to abortion, primary responsibility for all/any birth control, expectations of who will be the primary caregiver to any resulting children, etc. This may not go through the minds of the women involved in any particular act — but it is the social expectation that we drill into boys and men, and ultimately, inherently even, men know this and act on this knowledge when engaged in sexual activity with women. This isn’t the aberration. The normative view taught to boys and men is that sex, while a natural perogative for them, is inherently degrading to women, no matter how much women enjoy it, no matter how much women want it, and no matter if the act is performed out of love, joy, rage, or domination.

    It isn’t the sex act that counts; it’s the cultural agency to determine the meaning of the act for all “women” and how that meaning plays out across the social/cultural spectrum of women’s roles and women’s identities as a class. If “woman” means those people who are either assumed to be submissive or who are socially encouraged/expected to be submissive, then individual acts that are simultaneously submissive and enlightening for an individual women are aberrations or anomolies and the class of people called “women” and the class of people called “men” both know this. It is what they have been taught.

    So, when feminists critique claims that submissive or degrading sex are liberating for individual women, they are criticizing that woman’s knowledge of liberation, not her choice of sex. Fuck however you want, enjoy the hell out of it; just don’t confuse your interpretation of your fucking with how the class of men interpret your fuck. They’re starting with the premise that vanilla sex is degrading (Virgin/Whore); they’re hardly going to see the liberation embedded in actively seeking submissive or demeaning sex.

    And if they don’t see it, if as a class they don’t see it, then what weight does individual liberation hold?

  20. July 18, 2006 at 11:15 am

    Men who are willing to ejaculate inside a woman but who aren’t concomittantly fighting against the current restrictive fundamentalist approach and legislation of reproductive choice for women are, in fact, actively expressing how heterosexual sex is demeaning to women.

    Okay, I can get behind that. So, do we put the focus on dealing with the asshole men in this scenario, and/or the political climate in which reproductive rights are restricted; OR do we put the focus on pointing the finger at women who like certain types of sex, and shaming them?

  21. July 18, 2006 at 11:16 am

    Sorry for the double post… I got too eager with my clickin’ finger.

    And if they don’t see it, if as a class they don’t see it, then what weight does individual liberation hold?

    It’s like Molly Holzschlag recently said… “It’s about fixing the microcosm in order to heal the macrocosm.” I absolutely agree with that philosophy.

  22. Q Grrl
    July 18, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    So, do we put the focus on dealing with the asshole men in this scenario, and/or the political climate in which reproductive rights are restricted; OR do we put the focus on pointing the finger at women who like certain types of sex, and shaming them?

    It is my belief that the asshole men and the political climate are the same; and that the women who like certain types of sex and the political climate are the same; and that the feminists pointing fingers and the political climate are the same.

    We can’t separate ourselves out so distinctly. Feminism, asshole men, fundamentalist politics — we’re all the same culture; we’re all reacting to the same stimulus, just with different outcomes in mind. Is critique of other women’s sexual choices “shaming”? And if so how? If a woman claims that a demeaning or degrading sex act is liberating for her, then how is it possible that a feminist can shame her, but the man engaging in the sex act with her can’t? The act is either liberating or it isn’t, no? Or does it only become a grey area when feminist criticism is aimed its way?

    I personally think we have to do all things: work to change the political climate; address asshole men/women; critique the notion that individual choice is liberating for all women.

    And that’s a fine line. I can easily look at choice that I’ve made that were motivated by my individual needs and sense of liberations/enlightenment and I can see how they *have* worked to the larger advantage of a class of people. Specifically I think of my early days coming out of the closet and how the individual choices I made then have a direct influence on the relative ease that young queers have these days in coming out.

    But then those choices were an act wholly transgressive of the dominant paradigm, acting against and across societal expectations for me as a dyke. If instead I chose to remain closeted, got married to a man and bore his children, but had illicit affairs with women on the side, my affairs might feel personally transgressive and liberating, but would not have moved my actions outside the social meaning of “heterosexual woman”. My being a dyke would be rendered null; its meaning circumscribed by “heterosexual”.

  23. Q Grrl
    July 18, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    eh, my grammar sucks today. Sorry folks.

  24. piny
    July 18, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    But then those choices were an act wholly transgressive of the dominant paradigm, acting against and across societal expectations for me as a dyke. If instead I chose to remain closeted, got married to a man and bore his children, but had illicit affairs with women on the side, my affairs might feel personally transgressive and liberating, but would not have moved my actions outside the social meaning of “heterosexual woman”. My being a dyke would be rendered null; its meaning circumscribed by “heterosexual”.

    For me, this analogy is a difficult one to fit into this conversation because it involves you hiding your real desires for the sake of convention. It’s useful for pointing out the difference between personally liberating (in a limited sense, anyway) and potentially liberating to other people. I think a better example might be a straight or bisexual woman happily partnered to a man. She’s enjoying herself and making a choice based on her desires, but her desires do not conflict with the desires society wants her to have and do not force society to challenge its understanding of human sexuality. And then, of course, there are publically-straight women who are either closeted or unable to figure out what they really want.

  25. piny
    July 18, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    eh, my grammar sucks today. Sorry folks.

    Because if there’s anything we don’t cotton to here on the internets, it’s poor grammar.

  26. July 18, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    Q Grrl,

    I don’t see how your example of coming out of the closet vs. getting married/having kids/etc. while having an affair w/ a woman on the side is at all comparable to the issue of women, sex, and shaming.

    You came out of the closet because you were being true to yourself. If you had conformed to heteronormative societal expectations, you would not be behaving in a way that is true to who you really are.

    This is not in opposition to what I’ve been arguing all along, and I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to grasp. My point, the concise version? Be true to yourself. Do what’s right for you.

    For some women, being true to oneself means embracing one’s various sexual proclivities, whether or not they conform to anyone else’s standards of what’s “right.” In the example you provided of your own experience, the societal standard for women is to get married and have kids; you said “fuck that, I’m doing what’s right for me.” By that same token, some women hear the standard (coming from wherever/whomever), “Good feminists don’t like [insert controversial sex act here].” They look within themselves and say, “But, but, but… I am a feminist, and I like [insert controversial sex act here].” And instead of conforming to the standard, they do what’s right for them.

    See? There’s no suggestion here that you, or anyone, has to think every sex act that any woman might like is awesome and fun and liberating. It’s simply about acknowledging that for some women out there, [insert controversial sex act here] can be awesome and fun and liberating. Denying women their agency in claiming what they like smacks of sexism and condescension to me.

  27. Q Grrl
    July 18, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    It’s actually my glasses, not my typing or grammar. But I don’t want anyone to know that I’m such a geek that when my glasses are bent I can’t see the computer screen a foot away from my face.

    Just call me coke-bottle Q. *grumble*

  28. Q Grrl
    July 18, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    See? There’s no suggestion here that you, or anyone, has to think every sex act that any woman might like is awesome and fun and liberating. It’s simply about acknowledging that for some women out there, [insert controversial sex act here] can be awesome and fun and liberating. Denying women their agency in claiming what they like smacks of sexism and condescension to me.

    Yet feminists aren’t the one’s denying women this agency. That’s the point I’m trying to make. Most likely it’s the male partners of heterosexual women that are doing this.

    I think women should be true to themselves. I certainly am. And I most certainly engage in sexual activities that wreck havoc on my feminist beliefs and ethics. But I don’t try to kid myself that they don’t. I don’t try to kid myself that what works for me sexually, on a highly intimate and personal level, is liberating to the class concept of women. Feeling personally liberated is not the same as securing social equality for women. But you know, it is valuable. I’m not trying to say it isn’t. I just personally feel that it gets mistaken for something more revolutionary and transgressive.

    My example was probably weak. It’s the best example I have, in my life, of having made a personal choice that did have huge political ramifications. Well at least it’s the best *legal* example; the others must remain unnamed. :p

    One of my points/thoughts though is that we, as feminists and women, need to be able to critique personal choice and the current, almost pop-cultural, view that personal choice is transgressive and progressive. That’s what the 2nd wave feminists meant by “the personal is political”. They didn’t mean that because it makes us *feel* a certain way that the dominant paradigm will agree wtih us; they meant that the dominant paradigm has its grips in the most intimate and personal of the choices we make. And that we should be aware of this.

  29. July 18, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    I don’t try to kid myself that what works for me sexually, on a highly intimate and personal level, is liberating to the class concept of women.

    I never suggested otherwise. I never said anything about [X] being liberating to the class concept of women (which is a concept I’m not totally sold on, but that’s a topic for another time).

    And, it’s not (some) feminists denying women agency? How about this kicker from witchy-woo: “If you’re pro-pornography or pro-prostitution you are NOT a feminist. These institutions are the props of patriarchy and have nothing to do with women’s self determination, ergo they are NOT feminist.” Wow. Thanks for telling me what I am and what I’m not. She obviously knows myself better than I do.

  30. Q Grrl
    July 18, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    You talked about women claiming agency in “what they like.” I don’t think that feminists establishing boundaries of what falls acceptably within feminist politics is denying agency. If you are actively supporting patriarchal structures that harm and degrade women, how do we deny you agency if we point out that this is not feminist?

    I mean think about it. You’re asking that your personal choice, what you are erroneously calling your agency, trump the bulk of feminist politics. What gives with that?

  31. July 18, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    “How do people get ‘drips with contempt for sexual tastes she regards as degrading’ from this?”

    By recognizing it as an empty “to be sure” caveat used only as a preface to the suggestion that women who get off on submissive sex are brainwashed and in need of psychoanalysis? (Let’s turn it around, shall we? “Of course, we should defend the right of women to take on dominant sexual roles, but that shouldn’t stop us from inquiring into what kind of insidious programming could implant such a desire…”) She even makes a point of clarifying that she’s talking about defending the *people* as opposed to the desire or practice. Love the sinner, hate the sin, I suppose?

  32. July 18, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    I don’t think that feminists establishing boundaries of what falls acceptably within feminist politics is denying agency. If you are actively supporting patriarchal structures that harm and degrade women, how do we deny you agency if we point out that this is not feminist?

    Sounds an awful lot to me like fundamentalist Christians drawing a line in the sand of what counts as sufficiently Christian, and what’s “un-Christian” behavior.

    Any wonder, then, that people who don’t fit within their rigid guidelines feel more than a tiny bit insulted at the insinuation that even though they have a personal relationship with God and are devoted to being Christians, they’ve been told theyre not good enough? Or, worse yet, “Oh, hon, sure, you can still be a Christian… but you’d better be aware that a lot of what you do/believe is in opposition to Christianity!”

    (Personally I’m not much for religion, but it’s just an example.)

    Furthermore, not everyone belives that these things you claim “harm and degrade” women do that across the board. I think it’s pretty disingenuous to suggest, “[X] harms and degrades women. That’s it. All or nothing. No room for argument.” Binary worldview much?

  33. raging red
    July 18, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    She even makes a point of clarifying that she’s talking about defending the *people* as opposed to the desire or practice. Love the sinner, hate the sin, I suppose?

    Exactly! If a feminist critiques prostitution, she shouldn’t attack the women who engage in it, she should attack the culture that gave rise to prostitution and continues to perpetuate it. If a feminist critiques the choice of being a stay-at-home-mom, she shouldn’t attack the women who decide to be SAHMs, she should examine the context of that choice and the negative ramifications of choosing to be a SAHM.

    Having ones choices subjected to intense criticism feels uncomfortable, to be sure. I for one appreciate seeing some of the choices I make in my life subjected to criticism by feminists. If I feel myself getting really defensive, I think hard about why.

  34. Q Grrl
    July 18, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    Furthermore, not everyone belives that these things you claim “harm and degrade” women do that across the board. I think it’s pretty disingenuous to suggest, “[X] harms and degrades women. That’s it. All or nothing. No room for argument.” Binary worldview much?

    Well, I think it’s *your* binary worldview, so yes. You seem to be confusing the use of such things as class analysis as to mean “must apply to each and every woman who does X,Y,Z”. If that were the case, feminism would be as easy as a good hippie naval gazing.

    If a substantial amount of the women who engage in X,Y, or Z are harmed or degraded, I don’t think it is at all disengenuous to make a political and theoretical claim that women, as a class, are harmed by these things. You seem to want a pretty open ended politics, at least open ended enough so that the coping mechanisms that you use, the choices that you make, the borderline actions you engage in can fall within a rubric of feminist politics. You want feminism for *you*; you want it as a label that positions you socially. You’re willing to compare feminists establishing political boundaries to fundamentalist Christians — a comparison that is frought with dubious assignations of covert politics and repressive belief systems.

    All so you can fuck comfortably.

    Or am I really missing the boat here?

  35. July 18, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Q Grrl,

    You want feminism for *you*; you want it as a label that positions you socially.

    Really? I can’t imagine why I’d do that. Who benefits, and how/why? This goes back to Bitch|Lab’s question about the benefits of being a feminist. To the whole thing, my response is a big Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

    Can’t you see why people start to turn their ears off and get more than a little pissed when you spend most of a comment talking about what I want, what I do, and what I think? In fact, you don’t know the first thing about what I do. As to what I think, all you know is what I’ve offered here – and of course that is subject to your own interpretation.

  36. July 18, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    To clarify, in case that sounded too defensive (why being “defensive” is bad continues to elude me, but we’ll discuss that another time) –

    In your comment, you did at one point say, “You seem to want…” – I’ll give you that. But the rest of it felt pretty accusatory and preachy.

  37. Q Grrl
    July 18, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    Hmm. I still think it’s a matter of interpretation.

    I feel you want me to take into account your individual concerns because you seem to have problems with a class based analysis, and then you don’t want me to reference you specifically and you want me to go back to talking about women generally.

    But I also believe that is how the majority of these discussions play out. Some folks seem to use one type of analysis, some others, a different one. So while I mean one thing, and use specific language in discourse, my language trips me up in your interpretation of it. You logically go into thinking that I mean you, you specifically, all that you do, think, eat, fuck, when I think that I’m talking about class analysis, which I logically think sidesteps the issue of accusations and preaching.

    IOW, I agree with a great deal of what you’re saying. I’m using your words to highlight things that I see. I don’t think there is a strict right or wrong here. I do think there are tools that are more useful than others.

  38. July 18, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    Well, I guess this gets back to The Big Question… is there, or should there be, one grand unified feminist theory?

  39. Q Grrl
    July 18, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    Well no. ’cause then what would we bicker about? :)

  40. July 18, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    There’s more than one Amber on Feministe! Uh oh.

  41. July 18, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Yeah, that has confused me before, too. ;) I had to do a double-take and think, “Wait a minute… I don’t remember writing that!”

  42. Azelie
    July 18, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    This whole thing brings me to something that I started to write a comment about but never posted because it got too long and the thread is somewhat old – that is, that any movement has to draw boundaries somehow. There have to be things that clearly mark someone as having serious enough differences with the mainstream of a movement that they effectively aren’t in it, or else our goals and interests get so fuzzy that we don’t have a coherent agenda. You can clearly have goals at odds with being in the movement due to one or two really important disagreements, or because of an accumulation of small ones. Obviously, drawing these boundaries to tightly and alienating people who really should be able to identify with the group is no good, either. Feminism has an especially difficult tightrope to walk here, because we do want women to be able to make choices that help them to be who they are, but at the same time, we have to be able to question the basis for those choices, and we can’t say that anything anyone wants to do can be interpreted as being feminist. I also tend to think that focusing on things that are mostly private is less fruitful than concentrating on more public things, but recognize that even these categories are problematic (sex is mostly private, but sexuality has public expressions, without even getting into policy issues like reproductive choice). But we have to be able to talk about what we disagree about, and to prioritize things that are fruitful for hashing out and drawing boundaries and also figuring out in which areas we might be better off taking a more laissez-faire approach. Any thoughts?

  43. Mickey
    July 19, 2006 at 2:12 am

    Hold on here…..

    There is a distinct difference between setting up fundamental boundries of who and what feminism and feminist theory should surround and drawing a line in the sand saying “if you let Mark come on your face you are not a radical feminist bad ass”? Of course the personal is political, but there is a line, no?

    Isn’t the entire point of feminism or any revolutionary movement about ultimately getting to a point of freedom. Sex is an extremely complex event emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. Taking supposed submissive sex positions can be a powerful position, depending on the woman, and depending on the situation. There is no one size fits all feminism. Making political assertions based solely on an individuals sex positions seems like the narrowminded thinking revolutionary politics fight to overcome.

    If being a powerful, willful, bad ass feminist does not embolden a woman enough to march for reproductive rights, scream about the social injustices around the world that women face, or take a cum shot to the face, all with no apologies…… what is the point?

    Silly me, I thought the whole point was take no prisoners freedom……

  44. Q Grrl
    July 19, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Making political assertions based solely on an individuals sex positions seems like the narrowminded thinking revolutionary politics fight to overcome.

    Well then, that has to go for both sides doesn’t it? If that premise holds, then women cannot claim that their sex acts are liberating and empowering in a political vein. They can only claim it on a personal level — which is what I’ve been critiquing all along.

  45. Mickey
    July 19, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    I wasn’t claiming that every time a “submissive” sex act is done that it is empowering, liberating, and blazing a trail toward ending the oppression of women. My point was that it does not always necesarrily mean a step backwards in a political vein. We should not be shaming women into worrying about whether or not their doggystyle sets the movement back.

    If a substantial amount of the women who engage in X,Y, or Z are harmed or degraded, I don’t think it is at all disengenuous to make a political and theoretical claim that women, as a class, are harmed by these things.

    Are we really sure? Who decides what is and is not humiliating? Is there a really clear indication that women with semen on their face truly are degraded and humuilated, or is that an outside perception being projected onto a diverse group of people?

    Of course there are boundries about what constitutes feminist activity. But I think Azelie is right, trying to condemn and shame women for what kind of sex they have in private is not a fruitful use of feminist theory.

  46. Q Grrl
    July 19, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Who’s condeming and shaming? That’s really strong language and very little evidence that this is what I’m talking about at all. Way to miss my points.

  47. Mickey
    July 19, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    to tell someone that the private intinmate acts they participate in is ultimately degrading and harmful to women as a class……… is condeming and shaming to people who consider themselves feminist. And actually, my comments were not wholly directed towards you and your reference to my missing your points. But are you telling me this wasn’t meant to shame and condemn?

    You seem to want a pretty open ended politics, at least open ended enough so that the coping mechanisms that you use, the choices that you make, the borderline actions you engage in can fall within a rubric of feminist politics. You want feminism for *you*; you want it as a label that positions you socially. You’re willing to compare feminists establishing political boundaries to fundamentalist Christians — a comparison that is frought with dubious assignations of covert politics and repressive belief systems.

    All so you can fuck comfortably.

    Seems to me like you are condeming her, as if her politics just aren’t quite revolutionary enough because she thinks some wiggle room in feminist politics is essential for inclusion?

  48. Q Grrl
    July 20, 2006 at 9:51 am

    Yet she’s the one that compared feminists to fundamentalist Christians. If I’m condemning her, what is it I’m condemning her from? Inclusion? Well no. I’m criticizing an act and an attitude; how is that condemning? The claim is being layed out there that these acts *are* empowering. I’m questioning that empowerment, what that empowerment means, especially what it means to feminism as a politic.

    If that’s condemnation, then it stands to reason that the act is not, in fact, empowering. If it can’t stand up to feminist criticism, how is it going to stand up to men’ deeply entrenched misogyny and allegiance to patriarchy?

  49. Mickey
    July 20, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    Your comments are topsy turvy…..one minute your all for personal choice, but in the next breath you say how women as a class are harmed by these things. Which is it? I too am not so convinced that certain “controversial” sex acts can be empowering on more than an invididual level…..but I am also not convinced that the acts themselves are the problem so much as the interpretation of these acts through the male gaze. However, my problem with your comments is not mostly with point of view…. its your tone.

    And it seems to me that the poster was not comparing feminism to fundamentalist Christianity……. as so much as she was saying that when it comes to what I call the shouting and pointing (who are you to tell her what kind of feminist she is? who are you to tell her where her politics lay because she doesnt think the line is so clear on the particular subject?)……it starts to look like fundamentalist Christianity. Comments made to shame you and put you in your place…….and what one calls feminist critique and politcal boundry drawing…… another calls exclusionary radicalism. After all, im sure fundamentalist Christians consider it to just be boundry drawing and helpful critique as well.

  50. Q Grrl
    July 20, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    my tone?

    tone?

    Lordy.

    Yes, do what you want to do on a personal level, just don’t fool yourself that it is revolutionary or empowering to anyone but you. How is that topsy turvy? Seems pretty basic to me.

    But my tone? Mutter, mutter, mutter. Do you want me to be angry? Concillitory? Sad? Humorous?

    I think I’ve been very conscientious about respecting myriad angles to this question. I do happen to believe very strongly in my position though? Do you have problems with assertiveness in women? I’m just not seeing how my tone (tone?) is an issue here.

    I think you need a new reading filter.

  51. Mickey
    July 20, 2006 at 6:07 pm

    Do I have problems with assertiveness in women? In short…. No. Be strong in your position without attacking someone as if they aren’t feminist enough. The accusatory tone is the one that Im am taking an issue with.

  52. Q Grrl
    July 21, 2006 at 10:03 am

    Where have I said someone wasn’t “feminist enough”? I don’t think you’ll find that in what I wrote here. Nor the accusatory tone. I think you’re projecting, to be honest. Plesae re-read what I wrote; I’ve not said those things. Nor implied them.

  53. Mickey
    July 21, 2006 at 11:22 am

    I have read and reread. It was definitely implied in several of your comments (#34 and #37)…….maybe your intended meaning, and use of the word “you” was not meant to be acusatory ……but it is still finger pointing and soap box preachy. I am not projecting…..it is very implied

  54. Q Grrl
    July 21, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    You’ve got really low standards of debate. Both of those posts were pretty open ended and concilliatory. I was trying to find common ground.

  55. Mickey
    July 21, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    Trying to find common ground? I have really low standards of debate? Seems like you are the one with the problem with disagreement because you then attack personally…….and I see that I wasn’t the first to call you accusatory and preachy. This is not fruitful exchange at this point between you and I, you are spoiling for a fight and that is not why I initially posted. I’ve made my points, you are now left to stew, preach, and condemn on your own.

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