The Pervocracy nails it on misguided critiques of sex-positive feminism

I really like a recent post from the sex-positive feminist blogger Holly Pervocracy, and I’m about to link to it. But before I do that, I want to note that in part of the post, Holly explicitly goes after a radical feminist blogger named Twisty Faster, who blogs over at I Blame The Patriarchy. (Holly’s entire post isn’t about Twisty, but part of it is.)

I have personally drawn a lot of insight from radical feminism, although I often disagree with radical feminists. And so, while I too feel frustrated and angry and hurt by misguided radical feminist attacks on sex-positive feminists, and while I agree with most of the points that Holly makes in her post … I just want to make it absolutely clear that I, Clarisse Thorn, notwithstanding being one of those evil “sex-pozzies”, respect radical feminism as a movement, and I respect Twisty Faster as a blogger. I have learned a lot from radical feminists, and I hope that we can find ways to make our disagreements productive.

So anyways, here’s Holly’s post. I struggled to figure out what to snip, because Holly says so much good stuff. I settled for snipping this:

Criticism of sex-positive feminism is often sexist.

A lot of criticism of sex-positive feminism is really criticism of sexy women. It’s hard to find a piece that isn’t dripping with disgusted descriptions of women who wear high heels and shave their legs and then they giggle and they act all flirty and give blowjobs, oh my God. And it’s hard for me to see the difference between this and plain old slut-shaming. It always seems undercut with the implication that sexy women aren’t just unfeminist, they’re icky.

If you treat sexy women with disgust and pity, you’re not protecting their rights; you’re just gleefully participating in their public humiliation. (You’re also often attacking them on a subject that’s highly intertwined with culture, class, age, and even body shape. Not everyone who looks “sexy” to you is doing it on purpose, much less doing it to serve the patriarchy.)

And you’re falling into the old sexist trap of judging women by their sexuality. A woman being sexy doesn’t make women part of “the sex class”; refusing to see a woman as a powerful individual because she’s sexy absolutely does. It says that her sexiness speaks louder than her actual voice, that who she is sexually tells you everything you need to know about who she is as a person. It’s hard to get more sexist than that. At least “Playboy” publishes little interview blurbs with their sex objects.

Sex still matters.

So these are all reasons that people who think it’s okay to call me a stupid cock-sucking bimbo under the guise of “feminism” are poopyheads. But what’s my reason for remaining a cock-sucking bimbo? Why do I think sexual freedom is important to feminism?

Well, for the long answer, see this entire blog. But for the short answer: because it’s impossible for women to be accepted as human beings if we aren’t accepted as sexual beings. If women’s dignity is contingent on our not being too sexy, we’re never going to have dignity. We have to accustom ourselves to the idea that someone can be highly sexual, publicly sexual, sexual in a way that we would totally never do ourselves because whoa… and still have dignity.

If there’s a secret motive to my making my sexuality public, it’s that I want to show someone can be sexual and also other things. I want to show that I can be sexual and also funny and interesting; I want to show that I can be sexual and also ornery and argumentative; I want to show that I can be sexual and also save lives and get colds and play with guinea pigs.

Finally, part of making life better is about making sex better. I don’t just talk about sex to say “HEY EVERYBODY I’M INTO SEX”; I talk about it in terms of promoting enthusiastic consent, promoting body acceptance, promoting the idea of finding out and coming to terms with your own sexual desires. I think having the sex life that’s right for you is an important part of being a self-actualized person. And I’m not going to avoid these discussions just because someone might think they’re titillating.

Awesome work, Holly. Read her post, please read it all.

Relatedly: A while back, I attempted to write a sex-positive feminist 101. It’s a work in progress and comments are always welcome.

265 comments for “The Pervocracy nails it on misguided critiques of sex-positive feminism

  1. October 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Great post! I wonder if there is a way to respectfully disagree with sex positive feminism without it being sexist and judgmental. I’m still young and still learning to ropes when it comes to feminism, although I feel like I have learned about from various websites and blogs, but I will continue to learn for some time. I used to slut shame. I used to think that sex was strictly meant only for relationships of couples who are in love and intend to marry, because that is what my own standards are for myself after having many negative experiences with casual sex. But I have learned that sex is not that way for everyone and I can’t expect it to be. Now I still feel the right to have an opinion about those who are having unsafe sex because it can lead to the spread of stds and unwanted children, and that is something that affects all of us so of course that should be a concern to people. But if they are having safe sex, then they have the right to do whatever they want.

  2. October 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Ashley: Now I still feel the right to have an opinion about those who are having unsafe sex because it can lead to the spread of stds and unwanted children, and that is something that affects all of us so of course that should be a concern to people. But if they are having safe sex, then they have the right to do whatever they want.

    Well, you have the right to your opinion no matter what – whether or not people agree with you or whether that opinion reflects sexism does not counter your right to have it. You use the terms “safe” and “unsafe” sex, but you might want to consider how complex those ideas are – there are many ways to be more or less safe in terms of one’s own and one’s partners’ physical health, mental health, personal integrity, etc. And personally, I don’t know too many sex-positive activists who advocate for STIs. There are also ways to support harm reduction without stigmatizing people’s sexuality.

  3. SallyStrange
    October 22, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Yes, listen to Jadey, Ashley. As it turns out, societies that are less judgmental about sex are also more open about information regarding sex. And the best way to prevent the spread of STD’s is not to shame people about sex, but to give them all the information they need to know what risks they are okay with taking with their own body.

    I think your automatic conflation of sexual behavior and STD risk is a hangover from your slut-shaming days. Slut-shamers often justify their bad behavior by claiming that they’re trying to protect people’s health, but there’s nothing less healthy than making people feel ashamed of a natural human urge as powerful as sexuality.

  4. October 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I love sex and I struggle often with the line where women can be regarded as sexy with sex being a part of our identity in a normal (as in “being the norm”), healthy fashion and on the other hand not wanting to be seen for only that. I was surprised to see that I am mostly in agreement with Holly’s definition of sex-positive feminism, but as I won’t call myself a radical feminist for the issues cited above, I also won’t call myself a sex positive feminist. It seems that it’s too often used to silence and shame those of us who level critiques at the sex industry.

  5. saurus
    October 22, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Ashley:
    Great post! I wonder if there is a way to respectfully disagree with sex positive feminism without it being sexist and judgmental.

    Well, I respectfully disagree with sex-positive feminism, albeit not for the same reasons.

    – usually means sex act-positive not sexuality-positive; i.e., often keys having sex as positive, but whether sex is a good thing or a bad thing can really vary from person to person; for some people having sex is not positive nor “healthy”

    – sometimes ignorant of how sex positivity not only fails to be immune to rape culture, but can also propagate it’s own unique little rape culture

    – often stigmatizes and/or pathologizes people who are asexual, celibate, not that enthusiastic about sex, “modest” etc as prudes, “missing out”, “broken”, internalizing sexism, etc

    – I find some sex-positive feminists cannot go through five seconds without talking about sex acts, and then looking at people challengingly like “I dare you to blush!”

    – often there’s an emphasis on sex as “fun” and “play” which can make people feel shitty if their experience is not light or does not involve laughing or whatever

    – for all the “hurray boundaries”, in some sex-positive communities there’s a subtle pressure to push your boundaries because doing more somehow makes you cooler / more liberal

    – for being apparently “sex positive” I have had some truly awful experiences with sex positive feminists who violated my privacy, “pitied” me for not wanting to participate in certain acts, were irresponsible when it came to the emotional side of sex, etc

    This is not to say that all sex-positive feminists are like this (duh) or that all of these traits are unique to sex-positive feminists and don’t appear in the general population (duh), but rather that there are certain critiques one can make of sex-positive feminism and how it plays out that aren’t sexist.

    That said, the unfair and unquestionably sexist critique mentioned in the OP doesn’t strike me entirely as being about sex-positive feminism so much as a critique of femme, which I think is part of a larger problem in which unless you’re doing exactly the opposite of whatever the mainstream dominant sociocultural thing is, you’re colluding or whatever. We need to liberate ourselves from acting according to Their terms.

  6. Heidi
    October 22, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    here is why feminism needs the “sex-pozzie” (ugh):

    do you want The Powers That Be to determine how it’s “appropriate” for women to be sexual? do you want “the Patriarchy” to decide for you what “normal” sexual behavior is? or do you want to claim your own sexual identity for your own self?

    sixty or so years ago, The Man decided what was “normal” sexual behavior. we see how well that worked out. Lesbians in insane asylums, women criminalized for sexual expression, yeah, I’d love a return to the good old days…

    it means something when a woman defines her sexual being for her own self – however she defines it. I went around in circles for a couple-a-three years trying to stick up for the “sex-pozzies”, cuz I am one. see here: http://feet2thefire.blogspot.com/2007/12/expansion-of-comment-from-couple-of.html
    it didn’t work. I gave up.

  7. tinfoil hattie
    October 22, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Holly, you must have never actually read Twisty Faster’s blog if you maintain thinks Twisty (or people who comment there) spend time “slut-shaming” women and calling them “cock-sucking bimbos.”

    Pretending that radical feminism = “hates sex” sets up a bullshit straw argument that allows self-titled “sex pozzies” to blame other women, rather than patriarchy, for the indisputable fact that women are the sex class.

    Plenty of radical feminists enjoy all manner of sexual activity. We also know that whatever sexual experience we have is unquestionably influenced by patriarchy and its ever-shifting expectations of women. However, radical feminism does not require enjoyment of sexual activity as a prerequisite to feminism.

  8. EG
    October 22, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    saurus: Well, I respectfully disagree with sex-positive feminism, albeit not for the same reasons.

    – usually means sex act-positive not sexuality-positive; i.e., often keys having sex as positive, but whether sex is a good thing or a bad thing can really vary from person to person; for some people having sex is not positive nor “healthy”

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have serious problems with sex-positive feminism as it has been represented and enacted by sex-positive feminist friends of mine and by writers whose work I have read. This is one of them. I would also point out that even when it does mean “sexuality-positive”–sexuality is not always positive for all of us. I have not always, or even mostly, or even mainly, experienced sexuality as positive; it has not always, or mostly, or mainly functioned positively for me. It has often been a source of anxiety, discomfort, self-destructive behavior, and irritation. Being told that I should experience it as a positive has always felt like a profound erasure of my sexuality in particular, and of what can not infrequently happen to female sexuality under conditions of sexism and patriarchy in general.

    – often stigmatizes and/or pathologizes people who are asexual, celibate, not that enthusiastic about sex, “modest” etc as prudes, “missing out”, “broken”, internalizing sexism, etc

    Yes. Even for the many women who are not asexual, there are lots and lots of reasons for a woman in our culture to not be that enthusiastic about sex, or to be anxious or trepidacious about it, and there is enough shaming about that coming from the larger culture that I don’t need to deal with it in feminism as well.

    – I find some sex-positive feminists cannot go through five seconds without talking about sex acts, and then looking at people challengingly like “I dare you to blush!”

    Right? Like, I’m happy you’re sexually content and pleased. That’s nice for you. However, you are not my lover or my best friend, so I do not necessarily want to hear about it in any kind of detail when we are casually hanging out. I have experienced sex-positive feminists really not getting that this is a boundary violation, and even if they thought I should get over my “hang-ups,” that did not mean that my hang-ups, their origin, their significance, and how best to “get over” them were up for discussion. (To be fair, it is not only sex-positive feminists who do this; I have had the same experiences with my grandfather.)

    – often there’s an emphasis on sex as “fun” and “play” which can make people feel shitty if their experience is not light or does not involve laughing or whatever

    Yep. My sexual experiences have been positive about half the time, I’d say, with significantly less than half of those qualifying as fun, wonderful times that I think of fondly. Yes, yes, I’m doing it wrong. Fine, I get it. But what that means is that the term “sex-positive” does not speak to my experiences at all, and that I have found that the discourse around it does not leave room to talk about aspects of sex that are not positive, not fun, and not comfortable.

    Sex-positive feminism pissed me off and alienated me so thoroughly for a while, despite the fact that I broadly agree with its goals, that I went around referring to myself as a sex-negative feminist.

    That’s actually one of my other problems with it. By naming themselves “sex-positive” feminists, its proponents cannot help implying that the default feminism is sex-negative, and I have two problems with that. 1) It’s buying into a deeply anti-feminist trope about feminism and ignoring a lot of feminist history, and 2) it feels like a shaming technique, akin to the one used by people calling themselves “pro-life.” We’re supposed to be all “oh, sex-positive, of course I want to be that, I wouldn’t want to be lumped in with those jerks who think sex is a bad thing.” Well, fuck that noise. In a great deal of my experience, especially my early experiences, sex has been a bad thing, and it too often feels to me that sex-positive feminism/feminists don’t want to hear about/deal with that.

  9. veganrampage
    October 22, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Wild misrepresentation of “I Blame the Patriarchy.” Please come and read it. If anyone actually called women those names there hell there would be to pay.

    Enjoyed the thoughtful comments. Thanks.

  10. October 23, 2011 at 12:36 am

    EG and Saurus said it much better than I could!! Very much agree.

  11. October 23, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Re: mischaracterizing “I Blame The Patriarchy”. For the record, I don’t think the part of Holly’s post that I quoted here is about IBTP? I could be wrong (Holly is welcome to come over and correct me if I am).

  12. October 23, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Re: saurus and EG and others,

    I personally have experienced the same dynamics you describe. At this point, I guess I tend to think of them as “patriarchy colonizing sex-positive feminism” or “outliers” or “community issues” rather than “sex-positive specific issues”. As such, I work really hard to address those issues head-on in my writing and make space for those different perspectives, so as to separate out those dynamics from sex-positive feminism. I’d be interested to know about your feelings on the sex-positive feminist 101 that I wrote and linked in the original post.

  13. Emily
    October 23, 2011 at 12:54 am

    A lot of criticism of sex-positive feminism is really criticism of sexy women. It’s hard to find a piece that isn’t dripping with disgusted descriptions of women who wear high heels and shave their legs and then they giggle and they act all flirty and give blowjobs, oh my God.

    Am I the only one who’s bothered by this unexamined conflation of “being sexy” and “wearing high heels, shaving, etc”? Aren’t there other ways to be sexy? If this is sex-positivity, it seems very narrow in terms of choosing things to be positive about.

  14. Matt
    October 23, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Sex positivism in general, and not just the feminist brand has a lot of problems. I think one huge issue is the huge problem with dichotomy in our language. I want to avoid a derail, but I have to lay a baseline for the way I, personally, conceive of thoughts and humans. I do not believe that people are agents. People are objects, in the way that computers are objects. They are just objects running on complex algorithms. Human language in general is like a lower order programming language. If binary is a basic language, then you have turing complete languages like brainfuck, which are one order higher. Brain fuck has I think 8 commands, as opposed to pure binary. You can have the same commands in binary as in brainfuck, but its harder to write and understand. I guess the exact analogy is not too important. Every spoken language works like a separate low level language, although they correlate with each other alot. Ideologies function as a higher level language, in our case 1 level higher. So feminism is a system of concepts/ideas based on, in this case, English. The thing is that English is not the best lower level language, to run Feminism on. You can force, and obviously we do, but in many cases because our lower level language, which feminism is “coded” in, is so problematic, anachronistic, patriarchal, it produces thought structures which when viewed alone seem to be good, but when integrated with other such structures have problems. In our case it is a conception of sexual behavior conflicting written in FEMINISM, which is based on EnGliSh, conflicting with a basic EnGliSh syntax structure, `dichotomy`.
    There are a couple of essays written about the connotations of the words positive and negative not being synonyms but what you might call relatonyms with good and bad. If I am writing a program script/code and I don’t document it properly, other people, and possibly I myself, will not understand what I meant.

    I would like to suggest the term, or in our analogy higher level language, sex-acceptance feminism as the new standard, because although I am sure there could be syntax conflicts, I feel like it more accurately conveys the message, without resorting to a specialty definition, such as we might have to do with negative and positive, that sex positive feminism wishes to present.

    I feel as though more modern “sex positive” feminists(because I have experienced a lot of older SPFs who literally mean positive, fun, do it all day liberation) want to convey an idea that we should accept that people have different libidos, that people desire different acts and contexts for sex, and so forth, as opposed to the idea that some sex is good, more is better, we will all be happy if we do it more, and so forth.

    I know a lot of people who identify as a certain ideology, not just feminists, but liberals, atheists, socialists, really hate language deconstruction, and I know this was a long post, and possibly I didn’t present my analogy perfectly, and it will confuse some people who aren’t semi knowledgeable about programming, but I really believe that we could solve a lot of problems on the front end, if we had a more “debugged” terminology, and if everyone was aware of the powerful effect that our language has on our ideas.

    I do believe some years back a group of linguists and sociologists did a pretty intensive bit of research saying that what language a person is primary in, literally shapes their world view. It is super difficult for some cultures to conceive of certain ideas because of the basic structures and syntax of their language.

  15. October 23, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Emily: Am I the only one who’s bothered by this unexamined conflation of “being sexy” and “wearing high heels, shaving, etc”? Aren’t there other ways to be sexy? If this is sex-positivity, it seems very narrow in terms of choosing things to be positive about.

    I certainly wouldn’t limit “being sexy” to “wearing high heels, shaving, etc” … and I would be absolutely shocked if Holly did. I think you’re misreading what she said … at no point did she limit sexiness to those behaviors. I mean, towards the end of what I quoted, she even explicitly talks about promoting body acceptance.

    I think her point is that women who do happen to meet those stereotypical conceptions of sexiness are often attacked for those behaviors by people who claim to be feminist. And I think she’s right.

  16. Emily
    October 23, 2011 at 1:22 am

    I think her point is that women who do happen to meet those stereotypical conceptions of sexiness are often attacked for those behaviors by people who claim to be feminist. And I think she’s right.

    Her first sentence is: “A lot of criticism of sex-positive feminism is really criticism of sexy women.” But she doesn’t mean that critics of sex-positive feminism are down on hot women in three piece suits and colorful ties, or women who are lounging around their beds in sweatshirts and sweatpants and can’t be bothered to comb their hair at the moment because they’re too busy having lots of sex.

    What she means, it seems to me, is this: “A lot of criticism of sex-positive feminism is really criticism of women who are stereotypically sexy in ways that are approved of by wider society and often imposed on other women unwillingly.”

    So yes, I agree with that. I agree that the patriarchy being pro-X isn’t sufficient reason to be anti-X. But we have to find room both to support women’s choices (that I-choose-my-choice feminism again) and to try to create a society where a woman can be actively, openly, recognizably sexual without actually having to worry about how she looks or what she’s wearing. I’m not sure that Holly’s conflation of sexual freedom with stereotypical sexiness is helping that latter goal.

  17. karak86
    October 23, 2011 at 1:54 am

    I always think there’s something a bit silly about someone saying to me, “ARE YOU AWARE that when you put on makeup you are conforming to patriarchal standards?!?!”

    Of course I am, silly. That’s why I’m doing it.

    I wear makeup because it’s a shortcut for communication, and manipulation. It allows me to make a carefully selected statement about who I am and how people should treat me, and yes, my makeup is designed to make myself look harmless, disingenuous, and weak (along with the rest of my wardrobe) because that’s where the power is and I enjoy having power. If corsets or bound feet were all the rage, I’d probably be on board with that too, and then taking my broken body to the local suffragette meeting.

    I’ve never quite understood why I should give up the power I have (as Twisty seems to think) or only use it for good (as Holly does). That’s a patriarchy constructed choice: “Oh, if you want this MALE power, this MALE gift to be sexual/not wear makeup/vote/be safe in public HERE’S what you must first GIVE UP–the weakass power the Patriarchy has already given you as a conciliatory prize!”

    Um, I’m sorry, life isn’t Sailor Moon, where I chuck my old abilities in the trash.

    This is where MRAs come in. Oh, how they rage that women get to vote and get free drinks from men at bars! How DARE they want both!

  18. bpbetsy
    October 23, 2011 at 2:29 am

    “But for the short answer: because it’s impossible for women to be accepted as human beings if we aren’t accepted as sexual beings. If women’s dignity is contingent on our not being too sexy, we’re never going to have dignity.”

    I have a hunch that the IBTP position on this would be that it is impossible for women to be accepted as human beings/have dignity in the patriarchy no matter what, regardless of our behavior. In the patriarchy, women as less-then-human is the only template. There is no “opting out” of the sex class. Twisty might also point out that after the feminist revolution there won’t be such thing as “too sexy.”

  19. SallyStrange
    October 23, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Hmmm….

    Most critics of sex-positive feminism have not bothered to figure out what sex-positivity is.
    It’s not the giggling, hair-twirling exclamation of “it’s feminist to be sexayyy!” It’s really not. I’m not going to defend that strawman. (I also think it’s funny how often I get accused of being a Hooters-girl-bot, when I’m about the least Hooters-looking-person ever.)

    Nor is it the demand that everyone be sexy or have sex. Nor is it the claim that everything that involves sex is beyond criticism. Nor is it the suggestion that sex will fix all the problems of feminism.

    Instead, sex-positivity is the belief that sex and sexiness are… okay. It’s the belief that people shouldn’t be judged by the sex they have. It’s the belief that consent matters and social norms do not. It’s the belief that porn and erotica are valid media of expression (not that the current porn industry is hunky-dory, cause it’s not) and that sex work ought to be just work (not that it currently is). It’s the belief that neither “slut” nor “prude” should be an insult. It’s the belief that every sexual and gender identity is valid.

    Yup, Holly really does nail it. Folks should take the advice of actually reading her article first.

  20. Claire K.
    October 23, 2011 at 2:46 am

    Saurus’s comment is excellent, and mostly sums up my thoughts on sex-positive feminism as well. When I first heard the term “sex-positive” I thought it had to apply to me –after all, I’m a lesbian and naturally oppose the “sex-is-sinful” dogma. But I can’t help but feel that radical feminist spaces are much more accepting of my sexuality than are sex-positive spaces. Part of the problem is that sex-positive feminists always seem to be reacting to radical feminists, and radical feminists are usually reacting to normative forms of heterosexuality. As a result, sex-positive writings usually say more about how normative forms of heterosexuality can be empowering than about how damaging it is when that sexuality is forced on people or how empowering non-normative sexualities can be. That is, they support those sorts of conversation in theory, but in practice there’s no need to talk about it because they’re in agreement with radical feminists on those points so the rad-fems already have it covered. What this comes to in practice is that anytime someone tries to bring up old feminist saws like how the majority of women don’t orgasm from PIV intercourse alone, a bunch of sex-positive feminists jump in to relate, in graphic detail, how much they looooove PIV intercourse. There’s nothing wrong with loving PIV intercourse, but given that the dominant culture already accepts (and enforces) that as the only acceptable form of sexuality, I don’t think it really needs defending, and especially not defending with such enthusiasm that it drowns out conversations about alternatives. Very often the defense of normative practices becomes so large a part of the discussion that I just don’t feel there’s room for the voices of sexual minorities. It’s difficult to explain this because I know that’s not the way sex-positivism is supposed to work in theory, so I know a lot of people will probably read this and think, “But that’s not what sex-positive feminism is about at all.” It’s not, and yet somehow things seem to play out this way very often. In contrast, radical feminism frequently puts lesbians on a pedestal. Rad-fem views of lesbians aren’t always accurate –there’s the unfortunately mistaken idea that lesbians can’t get STDs, and that domestic violence doesn’t exist among lesbians– but overall the admiration of lesbians among rad-fems makes it easier to talk about actual lesbian experiences, compared to the silencing invisibility in sex-positive spaces. Again, I know people aren’t deliberately shutting lesbians out, I just wanted to explain that this has been my experience with sex-positive feminism. I hope that advocates of sex-positivism will take this as constructive criticism and work harder to include lesbians (and asexuals, who seem to be left out even more) instead of insisting that I must be biased or imagining things.

    One other brief point of critique on how sex-positive feminism treats lesbians: I do actually see lesbians mentioned occasionally, but always as a tool to promote other interests. For instance, “censorship harms queer porn more than straight porn, therefore we shouldn’t support censorship” (coming from someone whose main interest is supporting straight porn). Even when the statements are supportable in themselves, it stings that lesbians are only included when we’re useful to a het agenda.

    My favorite point Saurus made was that sex-positivism subtly urges violation of boundaries. This is my biggest problem with the movement. When I first discovered the feminist blogosphere –which was my first introduction to feminism at all, really– I found the idea of “enthusiastic consent” compelling and comforting. Now it seems as if enthusiastic consent is falling out of favor. It’s no longer an absolute requirement, it’s something you have to balance with being “GGG,” because after all you can’t know if you like something before you’ve tried it. And if your partner refuses to try something, apparently you should determine whether they really object to it or only kind-of object to it, and in the latter case try to bring them around. (I’m thinking specifically of some recent threads here on Feministe.) I don’t want a feminism that isn’t 100% sure it opposes rape and sexual coercion.

  21. DoublyLinkedLists
    October 23, 2011 at 2:56 am

    Matt, you make it clear in your comment that you haven’t studied much computing theory. It is a basic tenet of computing theory that there are a set of problems that are undecidable by computers, but many of these are problems that humans can solve because our brains are more powerful than computers in the range of problems that we can solve. Therefore human language is more powerful and complex than programming language, and I see very little use in trying to standardize thought and language as though everyone’s experience can be described in an algorithmic formulaic way.

    The problem with the idea that humans are objects that run algorithms is that its false. We are much more powerful than any set of algorithms. This is a provable statement based on theory of algorithms. You should look into it. It’s my favorite part of computer science.

  22. Claire K.
    October 23, 2011 at 2:59 am

    @karak86: one problem with using the limited powers we have, which neither liberal feminism nor radical feminism seems to address, is that when we use those powers it’s generally other women we’re getting one over on, not the patriarchy. For instance, if conforming to normative beauty standards helps you get a job, it’s probably not because your new employer was so charmed he chose you over a man (the man will still beat out the compliant woman, all else being equal), but because he chose you over women who were less compliant, either for reasons they couldn’t control (being the wrong race, having a visible disability, or being trans and either unwilling or unable to “pass”) or because they just didn’t make that devil’s bargain.

    Also, addendum to my first comment: I know I don’t speak for all lesbians. These were my experiences, I don’t mean to erase the experiences of lesbians who identify as sex-positive.

  23. bpbetsy
    October 23, 2011 at 3:02 am

    Claire K. – So true, and you have articulated several things that I believe but didn’t know how to express.

    I wish the enthusiastic consent part was still considered an absolute requirement. Previous feministe threads have made it clear that enthusiastic consent need not apply to sex work, for instance. (Which is hugely disturbing to me as a sex worker).

  24. October 23, 2011 at 3:02 am

    No, Emily, that’s not her first sentence. That’s the first sentence of the part that I snipped. Read the whole post that I linked. SallyStrange already snipped another part of it that’s relevant, but just read the whole thing before you make assertions about what Holly is saying.

  25. October 23, 2011 at 3:05 am

    bpbetsy:
    Claire K. – So true, and you have articulated several things that I believe but didn’t know how to express.

    I wish the enthusiastic consent part was still considered an absolute requirement. Previous feministe threads have made it clear that enthusiastic consent need not apply to sex work, for instance. (Which is hugely disturbing to me as a sex worker).

    I believe that the commenters who said things like this also are sex workers? So what does it mean if a sex worker doesn’t believe that the “enthusiastic consent” standard covers her (or his, or hir) consensual experiences? I understand that you have a particular experience of sex work, but it seems that some other sex workers don’t feel included by the enthusiastic consent standard. How can we try to bridge that gap?

    I say this as someone who loves the idea of “enthusiastic consent” — I want to make sure that it covers useful and inclusive ground.

  26. October 23, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Re: violation of boundaries, I have specifically written against this tendency and plan to do more of it in the future. I see it as a place where, again, patriarchy basically colonized sex-positive feminism and I think it’s really important for sex-positive feminists to speak against it.

    See for example my old post on what’s missing from sex-positive sex education. See also my more recent piece, I’m Not Your Sex-Crazy Nympho Dreamgirl. See also my very recent piece on anorgasmia in which I stated: “I don’t like seeing sex-positive feminism equated with making oneself freely sexually available. Exploring sexuality does not mean you have to ignore your warning bells.”

    And again, I’d really be grateful if the people who are articulating critiques about sex-positive feminism in this thread could read my 101 and offer feedback if you feel that it takes the wrong tack on any of this stuff.

  27. llama
    October 23, 2011 at 3:45 am

    @Matt, at risk of adding to the derail

    Nearly everywhere in your post you confuse the concepts of syntax and semantics. I see where you are trying to go with it and would suggest a better comparison is between different programing paradigms.

    Take for instance how naturally expressed the concept of recursion has always been when employing a functional language (say LISP) yet some procedural languages of the same era say (FORTRAN77) did not support recursion (of course it could be implemented in rather awkward ways). In the same way it isn’t so much that English is not expressive it is more the preconceptions that come with it that are the issue.

    The converse can be true too, check out this humorous page http://www.willamette.edu/~fruehr/haskell/evolution.html showing how past experience can shape how you might use a programming language.

    Luckily English can be modified without some standards group having a meeting. So Feminist thinkers have spent decades successfully morphing English into something more useful for their needs.

  28. Drahill
    October 23, 2011 at 3:59 am

    Claire K.: I found the idea of “enthusiastic consent” compelling and comforting. Now it seems as if enthusiastic consent is falling out of favor. It’s no longer an absolute requirement, it’s something you have to balance with being “GGG,” because after all you can’t know if you like something before you’ve tried it. And if your partner refuses to try something, apparently you should determine whether they really object to it or only kind-of object to it, and in the latter case try to bring them around. (I’m thinking specifically of some recent threads here on Feministe.) I don’t want a feminism that isn’t 100% sure it opposes rape and sexual coercion.

    Personally, for me, I see boundaries as not negotiable, but the reasons for them can be critically examined. The example that springs to mind is anal sex. Lots of people do not engage in anal sex for a wide variety of reasons – and they have every right in the world to decline. However, I have met a good number of people whose primary reason for not having anal sex is because, in their words, “it is gay.” And this, frankly, is a misconception, not true, and the basis of a lot of unfounded fears about LGBT folks. If I challenge them on that assumption (like pointing out that oral sex is popular among LGBT folks too, but straight people don’t shy away from that, or that straight people do anal too), I don’t believe I am violating or pushing their boundaries. I do think I’m challenging the misconceptions that their boundaries rest on. If such misconceptions are clarified and then, they still don’t want something like anal sex, then cool. But I see no reason why the underlying reasons for boundaries can’t be questioned or challenged when those boundaries are founded in homophobia, fear, or innacuracy.

    And, honestly? I don’t really think asking a partner WHY they say no to certain act is pushing the boundaries. I think it CAN be a violating question (based on stuff like tone and intent when its asked). But an honest inquiry? I think that can help flesh out the times when – and yes, they do happen! – a partner isn’t closed off to the idea, but has some reservations, or wants part of the idea but not another, ect. If we can’t ask questions, we can’t communicate. and isn’t communication supposed to be the bedrock of healthy sexuality?

  29. Computer Soldier Porygon
    October 23, 2011 at 4:07 am

    tinfoil hattie:
    Holly, you must have never actually read Twisty Faster’s blog if you maintain thinks Twisty (or people who comment there) spend time “slut-shaming” women and calling them “cock-sucking bimbos.”

    Pretty sure Holly’s read a good bit of Twisty – Twisty’s even written about her.

    “American women overwhelmingly are invested to an enormous degree in patriarchy, and, like Holly, have no wish to confront the many ways in which this investment dehumanizes them. They would rather shoot the messenger. So they imagine that radical feminists hate them for wearing lipstick, or that we want them to castrate their husbands in their sleep, or that we want to turn them into dykes, or that we aspire to outlaw sex. And that all these things that they imagine we are makes us paternalistic Nazi sex cops who view all women as “brainwashed.” They all seem to be saying,”I don’t know if patriarchy even exists, but if it does, it doesn’t affect me, so fuck you.””

  30. October 23, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Mmm, I read several radical-feminism blogs and I am familiar with the ideas behind it. Saying it’s somehow sex-negative is… weird.
    I don’t agree on many account with radical feminism but this particular line… it has something to say and the reasons to be said.

    Twisty is mainly opposing the notion “SEXY IS EMPOWERING”, not sex and sexual per se. That’s how I see it.
    Another blog I follow is Rage against the man-chine and it’s quite interesting. I urge you to check it out.

  31. llama
    October 23, 2011 at 4:21 am

    I vacillate between agreeing with sex-positive feminists and radical feminists. I want to believe in choice but have concerns about the negative effects this might have on other women.

    I look at the problem as a mathematical control problem: some choices give unintentional positive feedback into a system which is not woman friendly. Once we accept that choice should be available then the problem is how to decouple this feedback mechanism.

    But when the choice taken looks like some gender stereotype,
    I have absolutely no idea how this can be achieved. I would love to know the answer.

  32. October 23, 2011 at 5:51 am

    The post that Holly was commenting on didn’t seem that off to me though- it was just stating a truth: our choices are not made in a vacuum.

    The giggling, hair-twirling empty headed “choice feminist” that some radicals criticize may be a strawman to some of us here, but I am not convinced that there aren’t many women who’ve adopted the “ideals of feminism” without actually really examining anything. I certainly believe that there are many women who have not thought much further “if I choose it, it’s empowering!” Think- Beyonce’s “Run the World” video. I honestly believe that type of thinking is really common, and that that is the kind of thing that some radicals are talking about re: “choice feminism”.

    Now, on the other hand, there are definitely a few people in the radical feminist movement that espouse the view that no heterosexual sex can be truly “consensual”, and all that. And there are certainly sex-negative radicals. My response to their type of thinking is if you’re going to say women don’t have agency in that area, I could agree- but then I’d say there’s no such thing as free will or agency for *anyone*, because we’re all affected by society. And I just don’t know how practically useful that is as a concept. Where do you go from there? No one has any agency. Okay, umm? So? Making choices is useless? We should all just sit back on watch the world go by? Clearly that’s not a helpful model of thinking in regard to making positive change in the world.

    But, as I said, the post Holly linked didn’t seem completely like one of those posts, but don’t know the poster’s history or anything like that. In any case, I think we all just need to examine and be aware of what influences our choices, and try to make the decisions that we feel are the best and most beneficial.

  33. Amelia ze lurker
    October 23, 2011 at 5:56 am

    All of you guys defending Twisty, have you read Holly’s “Twisty is Fucking Insane” series? Because she says some really indefensible stuff there. Look, I know that Holly’s bringing it all together, so it’s more condensed than it is on the actual IBTP blog, but it’s not like she’s taking it out of context, either.

  34. Amelia ze lurker
    October 23, 2011 at 6:00 am

    P.S. Disclaimer regarding the ableism of “fucking insane,” which Holly points out and I forgot to mention.

  35. October 23, 2011 at 6:07 am

    For instance, if conforming to normative beauty standards helps you get a job, it’s probably not because your new employer was so charmed he chose you over a man (the man will still beat out the compliant woman, all else being equal), but because he chose you over women who were less compliant, either for reasons they couldn’t control (being the wrong race, having a visible disability, or being trans and either unwilling or unable to “pass”) or because they just didn’t make that devil’s bargain.

    Actually, the overwhelming majority of people make some sort of “devil’s bargain” when they enter the workforce – and keep making it throughout their lives, whether they are aware of it or not. In particular, very few people get hired for white-collar jobs simply on the basis of being “the best candidate.”

  36. October 23, 2011 at 6:52 am

    @Amelia

    [TW for ableism]

    Just checking her out series now. I’m familiar with IBTP, and the only one who comes out badly in “Twisty Faster is Fucking Insane” series, so far, is Holly. And I’m a sex-work positive, heavier-into-BDSM-than-probably-Holly feminist type.

    I’d rather read a million heavily emphasized points of oppression from Twisty then read about “how sexism isn’t THAT big of a deal” ‘n’ stuff or how we should be “moderate”. Fuuuuuck that.

    Also, Holly is clearly misinterpreting stuff like “the Patriarchy *wants* you to be sexified, etc.” as “well obviously women don’t like sex or BDSM, no doy, blah blah blah, gender essentialism”.

    The whole point of the meaning behind “your preferences being shaped by your experiences and environment” is that you CAN *ACTUALLY* LIKE something, while simultaneously being oppressed by it. That’s how fucked up the whole system is! Weeeeeee! There is no way to know what you would or would not like if we grew up in some gender neutral Utopia.

    Which, as I said in my post above, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t like sex or BDSM or whatever, but just be aware that you’re opinions weren’t formed in a vacuum.

  37. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 7:20 am

    I maintain that Holly has NOT actually read IBTP, at least not with any objectivity. That she regards Twisty as “insane” speaks volumes.

    Analyzing patriarchy and hammering home the facts about women’s oppression is not irrational. Pretending that we do not live under patriarchy, or that we uphold patriarchy’s standards because we “choose” to do so, is irrational.
    No woman makes her choices in a vacuum. And I fail to see how wearing makeup that makes one look “harmless, disingenuous, and weak,” as karak86 commented above, gives one “power.” Over whom, exactly? More to the point, why the need for “power,” unless we are living in a patriarchy that places white het males at the very top, and women at the bottom, in the sex class.

  38. Gretchen
    October 23, 2011 at 7:40 am

    tinfoil hattie:
    Plenty of radical feminists enjoy all manner of sexual activity. We also know that whatever sexual experience we have is unquestionably influenced by patriarchy and its ever-shifting expectations of women. However, radical feminism does not require enjoyment of sexual activity as a prerequisite to feminism.

    the-r-evolution:
    Just checking her out series now. I’m familiar with IBTP, and the only one who comes out badly in “Twisty Faster is Fucking Insane” series, so far, is Holly.

    I’d rather read a million heavily emphasized points of oppression from Twisty then read about “how sexism isn’t THAT big of a deal” ‘n’ stuff or how we should be “moderate”. Fuuuuuck that.
    ….
    Also, Holly is clearly misinterpreting stuff like “the Patriarchy *wants* you to be sexified, etc.” as “well obviously women don’t like sex or BDSM, no doy, blah blah blah, gender essentialism”.

    The whole point of the meaning behind “your preferences being shaped by your experiences and environment” is that you CAN *ACTUALLY* LIKE something, while simultaneously being oppressed by it. That’s how fucked up the whole system is! Weeeeeee! There is no way to know what you would or would not like if we grew up in some gender neutral Utopia.

    All this! Thank you tinfoil hattie and the-r-evolution, I was just getting geared up to have a wee rant and you both just covered it for me.

    I frequently check out IBTP and had a read through Holly’s TWIFI posts and, well, although I don’t always agree with Twisty, Holly’s critique and commentary of Twisty’s posts made me feel genuinely uncomfortable.

    I guess I lean more to the radical side of feminism and what was interesting in the TWIFI posts was that while arguing against Twisty’s erasure of different sexual desires and women’s agency within them/performing them, Holly seemed to be exhibiting an equally high level of erasure of women who feel very uncomfortable with various sexual desires because of their context within patriarchy. Such as this quote from Holly when discussing ‘appropriate’ terms for genitalia:

    “Fuck am I supposed to call it, lady? “Vulva” is a detached, ugly, medical-Latin word; “pussy” is indisputably English and ground-level and kind of cute. Degrading? Acting like a woman’s anatomy is too sacred, obscure, or disgusting to describe in ordinary language is degrading.”

    Um, no. I don’t feel my genitalia is too sacred to be described in ordinary language. “Pussy” is used in various contexts that make me feel extremely uncomfortable and it isn’t any less ‘ordinary’ than vulva, again these words don’t exist in a vacuum and I don’t think anyone who doesn’t like using them is ascribing unique snowflake status to their junk. Not being comfortable with certain words does not make anyone sex-negative, and it is this sort of commentary that makes me feel very detached from sex-positive feminism. Oh and this:

    Erin O’Rourke:
    It seems that it’s too often used to silence and shame those of us who level critiques at the sex industry.

  39. October 23, 2011 at 7:40 am

    And I fail to see how wearing makeup that makes one look “harmless, disingenuous, and weak,” as karak86 commented above, gives one “power.”

    Make-up is just another type of mask, i.e. it’s part of a performance. People will perform a certain look for a variety of reasons – “power” is just shorthand for a variety of outcomes, I believe.

  40. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 8:04 am

    @Natalia, I still fail to see the connection between makeup/masks and how women are empowered by same.

  41. matlun
    October 23, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Amelia ze lurker:
    All of you guys defending Twisty, have you read Holly’s “Twisty is Fucking Insane” series? Because she says some really indefensible stuff there. Look, I know that Holly’s bringing it all together, so it’s more condensed than it is on the actual IBTP blog, but it’s not like she’s taking it out of context, either.

    I just checked out this series, and I agree with you. Twisty appears to be not only anti sex but also anti science.

    tinfoil hattie: Analyzing patriarchy and hammering home the facts about women’s oppression is not irrational.

    It is if you do not analyze patriarchy rationally or correctly.

  42. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Please, enlighten me. How does Twisty analyze patriarchy “incorrectly”?

    As for Twisty being anti-science: my guffaws are waking my entire household.

  43. Anonymouse
    October 23, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I never agree with Twisty, but the way Holly goes about her critique of IBTP just smacks of “I choose my choice.” I don’t agree with radical feminist analysis of sex and sexuality, but I have to agree with critiques of sex-positive feminism advanced by commenters here, particularly the idea that sex-positive analysis erases those who don’t have positive experiences with sex. I feel that, when faced with someone who is describing sexual experience that has not been positive, sex positive feminism is more likely to interrogate that person’s experiences and ask them to explore why they aren’t “empowered” by sex than to interrogate social/cultural forces (patriarchy, if you will) at play. Also, the label “sex-positive feminism” sets out the binary wherein just “feminism” is then sex-negative, thus reinforcing stereotypes of feminism and feminists as anti-sex.

    Ultimately, I find both radical feminist and sex-positive conceptions of sexuality too reductive and restrictive to be useful. Really broadly speaking, radical feminism focuses on structures/institutions to the exclusion of agency and sex-positive feminism focuses on agency to the exclusion of analysis of institutions and power structures. So it’s either “patriarchy shapes all” or “you have to get with the empowerment through sex acts program.” I should say that this applies to how radfem/sex-pos dynamic plays out on the Internet.

  44. October 23, 2011 at 9:27 am

    @Natalia, I still fail to see the connection between makeup/masks and how women are empowered by same.

    It depends. Everyone participates in a performance of one kind of another, I don’t think one can safely say that “this is where the connection lies” for most individuals. A big part of my personal desire to wear make-up has to do with not allowing random people to see my “true face” – that stuff is reserved for people I am close to, it sets up a barrier that makes me more comfortable in my daily life beyond the home, which is truly empowering for someone who deals with anxiety – but I can’t say how typical this is. Have you ever read Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock”? He makes a convincing case for the performance of femininity being closely tied to the reason why people throughout history have worn war-paint. Of course it’s satire, but Pope, I think, hit on something interesting.

  45. matlun
    October 23, 2011 at 9:28 am

    @tinfoil hattie: Since I disagree with radical feminism in general, I do believe that the analysis is incorrect, but I expect we would disagree about this. My point was more generally that the statement “Analyzing patriarchy and hammering home the facts about women’s oppression is not irrational.” is not necessarily true. It depends on the specifics of the analysis in question.

    The anti science reference was based on the Twisty quote: “Alas, this is why I prefer to hold up women’s intuition, which is actually a rational scientific tool of reasoning, over dude science any day. That doesn’t mean science is bad, it means that woman’s intuition is often far superior.” and the post this statement came from.

  46. saurus
    October 23, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Clarisse, regarding your 101, there are some things that speak to my experience and other parts that don’t. When we get into sex as joyful (which is something I’m not sure I’m eligible for) or the merits of Yes Means Yes (which I feel very complicated about, due to both some of the content in it and what went down with a bunch of radical women of color regarding it) I feel sort of iffy.

    Mostly, though, I would love to see stuff like asexuality specifically addressed, and I’d love to see it acknowledged that sometimes sex-positive people will traumatize you, and sometimes your sex-positivity won’t prevent you – or may even facilitate you – in traumatizing someone else, and it’s not just a fairyland of happy consensual screwing. We’re all still figuring it out.

    Of course, I cast anything labeled “sex positive” with a bit of a jaundiced eye because I find that label itself so wrong. I guess I’m sex neutral, and see sex positive as directly reactionary to sex-negative which is a big chunk of what makes it susceptible to the crap I listed above.

    At this point, I guess I tend to think of them as “patriarchy colonizing sex-positive feminism” or “outliers” or “community issues” rather than “sex-positive specific issues”.

    I’m so weary of hearing this. I don’t blame you, but I’m just so weary of it. Like, “If you were doing feminism right, you wouldn’t do that!” or “If you were doing capitalism right, you wouldn’t do that!” or “If you were doing sex-positive feminism right, you wouldn’t do that!”

    At some point I feel like we have to stop blaming everything on patriarchy – or whatever – “infiltrating” our movement or seeing these issues as “bad apples”, and start recognizing that these issues exist because that’s the house we built for ourselves. They are symptom, or product, not outlier or fluke.

    Mainstream feminism isn’t just racist because some racist people “infected it” or because some bad apples are “doing feminism wrong”, it’s also racist because it’s been specifically designed for white women no matter how hard it pretends otherwise. And sex-positive feminism doesn’t just have the problems it does because some people are “doing it wrong” or letting the sex-negative world colonize it, it also has these problems because there are some real structural issues with how it’s set up. By all means, it does some things right. But not everything. And as with polyamory, sometimes I feel like members are more eager to put on a “it’s so amazing! it works so well!” show for cynics and critics than investigating why sometimes it’s not so amazing or doesn’t work so well.

    I guess I don’t know why everyone is so eager to believe that our early attempts at building a completely alternative system are so likely to be right. It seems obvious to me, both theoretically and from first-hand experience that we’re going to have a lot of screw ups.

    I want to be clear that this isn’t about you particularly, of whom I feel good fuzzy things, and of course not all sex-positive feminists are going to act a certain way.

    Ultimately, I have issues with sex positive feminism not because of ideological differences – I used to count myself among them! – but because virtually every single sex positive feminist I’ve encountered offline has fucked up in a huge way when they encountered my sexuality, and I don’t think “bad apples” explains that. To give you some idea, that ranges from expressing pity for my partner because I didn’t want to do group sex, to trying to “fix” my “hangups” mid-interaction (gee, thanks!) by “playfully” ordering me to do a particular act, to directly assaulting me. Also, for awhile I was sort of asexual, and it helped me realize how almost every sex-positive text is really alienating when you’re in that particular boat.

  47. Matt
    October 23, 2011 at 9:56 am

    It was pretty late, and I was trying to win this TAO tournament game and I was short on caffeine. There are problems that computers can’t solve. Currently. Also algorithm was perhaps not the best word. Perhaps it would be better to say that everyone’s experience can be described by math, although the amount of time to break it all down would be super long. I am not really trying to standardize anything though, just relate to how a lot of problems in higher level conceptualization are a product of the limitations of English.

    DoublyLinkedLists:
    Matt, you make it clear in your comment that you haven’t studied much computing theory. It is a basic tenet of computing theory that there are a set of problems that are undecidable by computers, but many of these are problems that humans can solve because our brains are more powerful than computers in the range of problems that we can solve. Therefore human language is more powerful and complex than programming language, and I see very little use in trying to standardize thought and language as though everyone’s experience can be described in an algorithmic formulaic way.

    The problem with the idea that humans are objects that run algorithms is that its false. We are much more powerful than any set of algorithms. This is a provable statement based on theory of algorithms. You should look into it. It’s my favorite part of computer science.

  48. Matt
    October 23, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Yes it is quite possible that I used the wrong word. Syntax is arrangement and semantics is meaning.
    However, you cannot just modify English that way, and sex pos vs sex neg is a clear of example of where the language hasn’t been modified.
    You are right though, another major problem is preconceptions.
    Further a lot of modification is similar to modifications for say, physics. Sure in the discipline people know what someone means by this or that, but a regular person could be confused as hell.
    Sex positive is also a great example of this, it really does imply sex negative, a person on first seeing it is indeed likely to view it as being pro sex, more of it, more kinds of it etc. So even if people well versed in it understand that its not really like that, although in a lot of cases it is like that, or rather people identifying as sex pos act that way, its pretty confusing.

    llama:
    @Matt, at risk of adding to the derail
    Nearly everywhere in your post you confuse the concepts of syntax and semantics. I see where you are trying to go with it and would suggest a better comparison is between different programing paradigms.
    Take for instance how naturally expressed the concept of recursion has always been when employing a functional language (say LISP) yet some procedural languages of the same era say (FORTRAN77) did not support recursion (of course it could be implemented in rather awkward ways).In the same way it isn’t so much that English is not expressive it is more the preconceptions that come with it that are the issue.
    The converse can be true too, check out this humorous page http://www.willamette.edu/~fruehr/haskell/evolution.html showing how past experience can shape how you might use a programming language.
    Luckily English can be modified without some standards group having a meeting. So Feminist thinkers have spent decades successfully morphing English into something more useful for their needs.

  49. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Clarisse Thorn:
    Re: saurus and EG and others,

    I personally have experienced the same dynamics you describe.At this point, I guess I tend to think of them as “patriarchy colonizing sex-positive feminism” or “outliers” or “community issues” rather than “sex-positive specific issues”.As such, I work really hard to address those issues head-on in my writing and make space for those different perspectives, so as to separate out those dynamics from sex-positive feminism.

    I understand your desire to separate those dynamics from sex-positive feminism and so to refer to it by a specific term (“patriarchy-colonized sex-positive feminism” or another), but I’m afraid that I don’t find that a satisfying answer. It reads very much to me like a “no true scotsman” answer–“That is not true sex-positive feminism, because sex-positive feminism wouldn’t/shouldn’t do that.” It may be so that s-p feminism wouldn’t or shouldn’t do that, or that it’s the result of s-p feminism taking on aspects of the patriarchal society in which it is being developed, but the fact remains that this is how sex-positive feminism is experienced by what seems like a significant chunk of people (I have no idea about minorities and majorities), and that, in my experience, it is experienced this way by precisely the chunk of people it claims to be wanting to reach out to. That is to say, the people I know who are most comfortable with sex-positive feminism are the people I know who are already comfortable with sex to begin with and whose sexual experiences are mainly positive.

    I understand and identify with your desire not to include these problems as part of your movement, because to you it seems to be so much more, but they are real problems with the movement on the ground, both how it is practiced and how it is written about, and I think that unless s-p feminism/feminists accept that and talk explicitly about ways to counter those tendencies within their movement, and how to address s-p feminists who encourage or practice these bad practices, the movement is going to go on alienating a certain chunk of people.

    It may well be too late for it to reach me. I confess that I don’t know very well whether or not or how you address those issues in your writing, because as a result of the problems I have with s-p feminism, I tend to avoid reading essays written by self-identified s-p feminists about sex, as I find that at best, they don’t speak to my experiences, and at worst, they are openly dismissive. I would read an essay by a s-p feminist that was specifically addressing these issues (and said so in the title) because it would be nice to see that going on, but since I specifically don’t bother to read s-p blogs, I wouldn’t necessarily know about it. Maybe you could do a post on this blog about how s-p feminists can and should speak about and deal with negative sexual experiences with respect?

    I’d be interested to know about your feelings on the sex-positive feminist 101 that I wrote and linked in the original post.

    I think it’s a fine piece, as far as it goes, but I don’t see that it addresses any of the concerns that saurus or I have. You do write that all forms of sexuality are accepted and all experiences of sexuality valid, but to be honest, I’ve seen s-p feminist essays make those claims before, and it has always come off as lip service to me, because when push comes to shove, it seems like certain forms of sexuality are more acceptable and certain kids of experiences more valid than others.

    It also doesn’t address the problems I have with what is suggested by the term “sex-positive feminism.” I didn’t read through all the comments, because there are a lot of them (congrats! genuinely.), but at least one long one was saying something along the lines of “you’ve got to remember the context in which sex-positive feminism was developed, in reaction to sex-negative, or second-wave feminism.”

    That is a profoundly simplistic, anti-feminist, and flattened misunderstanding and mischaracterization of second-wave feminism, and it is precisely why I dislike the term “sex-positive” and how s-p feminism has positioned itself within feminist discourse. It contradicts the experiences of every single woman I have ever met who was born in the 1950s and lived through second-wave feminism–part of its liberation for them was feminism’s acknowledgment of and making space to talk about female sexual desire, for men and for women. It contradicts writings that have come out of second-wave feminism. It presents second-wave feminism as a monolithic whole with respect to its analysis of sex and desire, when in fact those issues were loci of significant debate. And…really? The people who fought for birth control, the people who sought to break the unnecessary tie between heterosexual sexual activity and unwanted pregnancy so that women could explore their sexuality without fear or stigma were sex-negative. Tell it to Ellen Willis, or Cynthia Heimel, or hell, tell it to my mother. And that’s not even touching on the radical views on female sexuality presented by even earlier feminists, like Emma Goldman and Alexandra Kollontai.

    I know that you are not responsible for your commenters, and it’s entirely likely that since I was just skimming your comments, you took this particular one to task for precisely the kind of mischaracterization I’m discussing. But it’s a view I’ve seen represented and/or implied before by s-p feminists, and I find it…offensive, obnoxious, and very off-putting (lots of “o” words!).

    I’d like to see more done to counter it. I’d like to see s-p feminist essays specifically about the long roots that positive, liberatory visions of female sexuality have in the movement. And as above, it’s entirely possible that this has been going on, but that, since I was so put off by the movement some years back, I just haven’t been reading them. So again, maybe a post on this website?

  50. Onymous
    October 23, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Don’t have a whole lot to add because Claire K.@20 and saurus@5 have said basically everything I wanted to. Particularly the unease with the GGG/boundries thing.

    And thank you saurus for “sex-act positive vs sexuality positive” I’ve been trying to put that dichotomy into words for months.

  51. October 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I think it is interesting that Holly defines “sexy” as someone who shaves and wears high heels. I think radfems are simply saying that sexy is not just defined by patriarchal agreements of what is sexy. Not shaving and not dressing “glam” can still be sexy also, and so what I really see is Holly categorizing “sexy women” from “non sexy women” which is really quite an old patriarchal twist that makes women want to stay away from “those ugly women.”

    To reduce radical feminism to that is really quite ignorant. It is playing into the same old game.

    That snippet you posted is really quite ridiculous, if you ask me. I wear high heels and I dress sexy, do I think radfems judge me because of it? Well, maybe, because it is a way that we perform beauty for men. I think instead of being offended we could actually learn a lot from each other.

    But let’s not get foolish and say “WE are the sexy ones and they are jealous” because that is basically what this snippet sounds like, and that is so far from the truth it is comical. Let’s look at the root of the criticism. Do we know what the root of the criticism is? If not, then we need to pick up some books instead of making false and misguided assumptions.

    Just my two cents.

    Thanks,

    Sarah @ almostclever.wordpress.com

  52. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 10:27 am

    “Vulva” is a detached, ugly, medical-Latin word

    Jeez, she said that? I love the word “vulva.” It’s beautiful! What’s ugly about it? Also, I love Latin! Latinate words are beautiful! And it has a lovely etymology. Way to generalize from your own completely subjective preferences, Holly.

    I agree with saurus when she describes herself as “sex-neutral.” Sex can be good, sex can be bad, I don’t think that it’s inherently either. It can be liberatory, it can be oppressive, and again, I don’t think it’s inherently either. Like most other human activities.

  53. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Twisty mocks roundly the idea of women’s intuition, and I surmise a comment by her to the contrary is either mocking “dudely” instincts, or serving as pure irony.

    As for “patriarchy shapes all,” I have no argument with that statement. We have lived under patriarchy for thousands of years, so it’s pretty much without counter-argument.

  54. KB
    October 23, 2011 at 10:38 am

    @EG : Yeah, about the vulva comment. It’s probably not a good idea to characterize someone based on some post they made a long time ago. I love holly and twisty both, and (on some unrelated note) I don’t find it constructive to fight fire with fire.

  55. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Excellent analysis, EG & saurus. Thank you.

  56. Caisara
    October 23, 2011 at 10:42 am

    As far as I can tell, Holly’s post is just one big Strawfeminist. I could go on for hours picking it apart the other logical fallacies stemming from it, but really, why waste my time?

  57. Alara Rogers
    October 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

    The anti science reference was based on the Twisty quote: “Alas, this is why I prefer to hold up women’s intuition, which is actually a rational scientific tool of reasoning, over dude science any day. That doesn’t mean science is bad, it means that woman’s intuition is often far superior.” and the post this statement came from.

    Depending on exactly what’s being talked about, this may not express an anti-science bias so much as an anti-bad-science bias.

    Science is performed by humans, and humans don’t do anything in a vacuum devoid of bias. Because physics and math and chemistry don’t have a lot to do with gender or anything humans are biased about, those disciplines tend to be pretty straightforward, but as soon as you start turning science on the study of humans, or anything like humans — biology, psychology, all of the social sciences — you introduce a *huge* area of potential bias that science has not been as good at interrogating and challenging as it could, theoretically, be.

    “Dude science” came up with the idea that mothers being cold and unloving to their children caused autism; “women’s intuition” has always suggested that this is wrong. On the other hand, when “dude science” came up with the idea that vaccines caused autism, “women’s intuition” ran with it and is now keeping the idea alive even after “dude science” has thoroughly debunked it. Intuition, by itself, is not a means of knowing *anything*, but it can be a means of saying “uh, this idea that you came up with is probably wrong, and I can’t prove that, but maybe you should look at your data again?” It was, after all, “dude science” that ended up proving that human babies need love to survive, something that “women’s intuition” always knew… *after* we’d gone through a period of “dude science” believing that human babies need, at most, a firm handshake on occasion.

    Intuition is the unconscious process of taking all of your life experience and everything you’ve read and everything you’ve seen and heard, throwing it into a black box processor and coming out with an answer. It is *highly* susceptible to bias, but because all humans have it and no one needs training to use it, there are no barriers to its use and thus less systematic bias of the type caused by excluding entire categories of people from the ability to perform science. Science, in *theory*, is much stronger than intuition because it relies not just on what one person knows, but on empirical testing; however, science can suffer from horrifying biases by ensuring that the only people who do science already share certain ideas and attitudes, and thus no one who does science checks that bias. That being said, science *has* the ability to uncover and cancel out its own biases, and intuition does not. Women’s entrance into the sciences of biology, psychology and anthropology was nothing short of revolutionary in terms of removing certain persistent biases and actually examining the failures of “dude science.”

    Also, feminism, like all sociological philosophies, *is* a science. Intuition is a black box; if it gives you the wrong answer, no one else can explain to you *why* it gave you the wrong answer, because neither you nor anyone else has insight into why it gave you that answer. Only science has the ability to examine itself. But, because science is performed by humans with biases, science *doesn’t* always examine itself… which is how you can go performing medical studies on humans for nearly a hundred years before figuring out that maybe you should not be studying male bodies to figure out the effects of things on female bodies.

  58. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

    It was, after all, “dude science” that ended up proving that human babies need love to survive, something that “women’s intuition” always knew… *after* we’d gone through a period of “dude science” believing that human babies need, at most, a firm handshake on occasion.

    So, on this topic, which I know is a tangent, a few years ago my cousin gave birth to her wonderful daughter. I went to visit her and adore the baby, and started leafing through the informational leaflets she’d received at the hospital. One of them was extolling the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with your child and how much better it was for your baby to cuddle the baby with skin-to-skin contact. I found this really interesting, because I’d certainly heard the idea advanced before, mostly in the context of cuddling pre-term babies. I assumed that the “better” was referring to “skin to skin” as compared to cuddling your baby while clothed.

    And then I saw an asterisk next to the word “better,” so I looked down at the bottom of the page to read the footnote, which said (not exactly these words, but as close as I can remember) “In studies that compared infant progress, infants that received regular skin-to-skin contact with their mothers did X% [where X is some massively high number] better than babies whose mothers simply made eye contact.”

    Oh, really? Human infants thrive much better when they are cuddled than when they are just looked at? Thank God we have scientists! How else could we possibly have known that babies do better when picked up and cuddled than they do just by being waved at? Who thought of this ridiculous study? How did it get funding? What the fuck, science?

  59. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 11:03 am

    And thanks, hattie. (Sorry I forgot to say thank you in my last post–I got carried away by the ridiculousness of the study!)

  60. machina
    October 23, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Are there any examples of the kinds of arguments made that make some people here feel marginalised?

  61. Matt
    October 23, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Funniest thing I have heard all day. I’m just overly in love with sarcasm, I guess.

    EG: So, on this topic, which I know is a tangent, a few years ago my cousin gave birth to her wonderful daughter.I went to visit her and adore the baby, and started leafing through the informational leaflets she’d received at the hospital.One of them was extolling the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with your child and how much better it was for your baby to cuddle the baby with skin-to-skin contact.I found this really interesting, because I’d certainly heard the idea advanced before, mostly in the context of cuddling pre-term babies.I assumed that the “better” was referring to “skin to skin” as compared to cuddling your baby while clothed.

    And then I saw an asterisk next to the word “better,” so I looked down at the bottom of the page to read the footnote, which said (not exactly these words, but as close as I can remember) “In studies that compared infant progress, infants that received regular skin-to-skin contact with their mothers did X% [where X is some massively high number] better than babies whose mothers simply made eye contact.”

    Oh, really?Human infants thrive much better when they are cuddled than when they are just looked at?Thank God we have scientists!How else could we possibly have known that babies do better when picked up and cuddled than they do just by being waved at?Who thought of this ridiculous study?How did it get funding?What the fuck, science?

  62. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 11:32 am

    @Alara, Twisty ridicules “women’s” intuition as some sort of super-special magical power women have. It’s one of our concolation prizes for not having equal rights.

  63. matlun
    October 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

    @Alara Rogers: That is totally backwards. Intuition is far, far more biased than the scientific process which is in fact designed to filter out bias. Science is imperfect but it is the best game in town for finding truth.
    Just consider all the annoying “facts” that people “just know” about sex differences. Intuition and gut feeling is not a good way of finding truth. And that is true even if you have a feminist outlook.

    I was referencing this 2010 post.
    BUT I actually mis-attributed the quote. It was from a comment to the post and not the post itself. Since Holly actually wrote that in the introduction of her post (part of the TFIFI series) it was 100% my mistake.

    As to the “anti science” accusation, the post itself is bad enough. (This post was apparently also the subject of more commentary at the time)

  64. piny
    October 23, 2011 at 11:34 am

    What a lovely discussion for a Sunday!

    I think that people in both broadly-defined groups engage in shaming and deny shaming via the no-true-us fallacy. I know that Twisty’s arguments are more subtle, but her commenters are sometimes reactionary. She posted about anal sex being trendy for misogynistic reasons, and then one of the first commenters out the gate said that, yeah, damn straight, I’ve always thought anal sex is unnatural. That hole is not for penetration! Like, that happened:

    …you can be DAMN sure I would never consent to a guy putting it up my ass! Sorry, that’s just too disgusting. I know more than enough about human anatomy & physiology to know that the anus was designed as an exit, NOT an entrance; therefore, anal sex violates that rule completely. You are far more likely to contract all sorts of nasty diseases (some of which are lethal) from this practice than any other sexual practice, just because of the difference between the anal mucosa and that of the mouth or vagina– the former is delicate and far more prone to small, often invisible tears that can serve as an easy portal for infection; the others are tougher and more resilient, so you’re less likely to cause tissue damage in the course of usual activity.

    http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2007/07/15/anal-is-the-new-third-base/#comment-81338

    (Tell me more, Mr. Dobson….)

    It does happen. It doesn’t mean that radical feminist arguments are bad; it doesn’t mean that radical feminists hate sex; it doesn’t mean that radical feminists hate women. But saurus’s excellent arguments about our imperfect world-building apply to both sides. We’re all dealing with shame around many aspects of sexuality, and it’s a problem in all discussions. I mean, being put on a pedestal isn’t actually better than being tossed into the gutter. Ask your foremothers.

    And also, TRANSPHOBIA. Okay? TRANSPHOBIA. Transphobia on Twisty’s goddamn blog, too, up until pretty goddamn recently. You want an example of how some radical feminists threw themselves onto the wrong side of history? How they shamed a group of women, effectively denied that they were women, and then spent decades telling those women that they were sick dangerous fakes who loved to suck the cock of the Man? And excusing over and over and over and fucking over again the massive amount of violence, sexual violence, humiliation, and private and institutional cruelty those women suffered? TRANSPHOBIA. And I know that this is not true of all or even most radical feminists, but hey: no true scotsman is no true defense, so: TRANSPHOBIA. That also happened.

  65. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    machina:
    Are there any examples of the kinds of arguments made that make some people here feel marginalised?

    I can’t link to or call any up, unfortunately, as I stopped paying attention to sex-positive feminism years ago, for just the reasons I described, so they’re not fresh in my mind. But in general, the rhetoric that sexuality [read always] is positive, that sex is [read always] wonderful, that the [read only] reason not to want sex is to be joyless, that by default feminists who don’t proclaim themselves “sex-positive” are anti-sex–they’re all alienating. It’s not so much any one argument as it is the assumptions of the rhetoric.

  66. Azalea
    October 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    karak86:
    I always think there’s something a bit silly about someone saying to me, “ARE YOU AWARE that when you put on makeup you are conforming to patriarchal standards?!?!”

    Of course I am, silly. That’s why I’m doing it.

    I wear makeup because it’s a shortcut for communication, and manipulation. It allows me to make a carefully selected statement about who I am and how people should treat me, and yes, my makeup is designed to make myself look harmless, disingenuous, and weak (along with the rest of my wardrobe) because that’s where the power is and I enjoy having power. If corsets or bound feet were all the rage, I’d probably be on board with that too, and then taking my broken body to the local suffragette meeting.

    I’ve never quite understood why I should give up the power I have (as Twisty seems to think) or only use it for good (as Holly does). That’s a patriarchy constructed choice: “Oh, if you want this MALE power, this MALE gift to be sexual/not wear makeup/vote/be safe in public HERE’S what you must first GIVE UP–the weakass power the Patriarchy has already given you as a conciliatory prize!”

    Um, I’m sorry, life isn’t Sailor Moon, where I chuck my old abilities in the trash.

    This is where MRAs come in. Oh, how they rage that women get to vote and get free drinks from men at bars! How DARE they want both!

    I was going to go along the same lines. Male power is not limited to laws skewed in their favor, an attractive male can be with lots of people and get away with things and have people gravitate towards him who would ignore him and not want much to do with him if he had the same personality but looked differently. That power EXISTS with attractive women too. Why should we not ever use that to our advantage while we demand and when we get it enjoyequal legal rights? Why must it be either you reject femme because men and the patriarchy love it so much or you embrace feminism, why cant both happen? Why must a woman either hate sex or want to have it all the time? Why cant she decide for herself what her sexality is and be *happy* with what it is for HER?

  67. Bushfire
    October 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Tinfoil Hattie, you rock!

    Twisty is not transphobic herself, but she allows transphobic commenters to comment because she doesn’t care about moderating her blog. So you could see this as transphobic, because these comments should be deleted, but it’s not coming from her, she’s just not doing enough to prevent it from showing up in the comments.

  68. Kaz
    October 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Wow, anytime I want to say something saurus and EG beat me to it. So, er, chalk up a third voice to the “if these people aren’t part of your movement then do something about them” camp.

    Okay. My problems with sex-positive feminism…

    In part, it’s that shaming and marginalising women who don’t want to have sex or don’t want to have sex in the way sex-pos people think they should is way too common and way too accepted. Not wanting to have sex, not wanting to have sex for some time, not wanting to have sex without emotional commitment – all of those will often get dismissed as being repressed, religious, having internalised misogyny, wtfever. Or the health concern trolling. As an example: About two years ago, asexuality was brought up on Feministing. The responses were… not good. (Full disclaimer: I’m in the comments under the name Zailyn. Also, the threading appears to be borked now.) There’s other explicit stuff, but another big problem is…

    Underlying assumptions that are anti-asexual or anti-certain attitudes about sex. “Everyone wants sex” is one, “aiming for people to have more sex is a good thing” is another, and here’s a big one that crops up all over the place: “In patriarchy, women are expected not to have sex/not to want to have sex.” This is frequently what “sex-negative” boils down to, and I am sorry but it is *bullshit*. It is bullshit because if it were true, asexual women would experience no oppression-related problems due to their sexuality and ahahahahaha good joke there! (E.g. think on this: how does the patriarchy view a married woman who refuses to have sex with her husband?) What patriarchy says about sex and sexuality for women doesn’t boil to anything nearly that simple. And pretending it does is, I think, where a lot of anti-asexual attitudes come from – people assume that we must be the “ideal”, so we can’t possibly have any problems and maybe we’re even actively participating in oppression. I have seen such incredible rage and backlash when we try to talk about asexual oppression, and I think this is the root of a lot of it.

    (this is also a reason I really hate “sex-positive” as a term, because I think boiling it down to “positive” vs “negative” really perpetuates these attitudes. I use “sex-nonjudgemental” for my own attitudes, because I think it sums up what I want and what I’m working against much more accurately.)

    But even if people avoid those underlying assumptions, even if they say they’re asexual-friendly, too often it’s essentially lip service.

    Something I frequently end up doing on blogs I’m thinking of following is run a search for “asexual”, to check whether I can consider this person an ally or not. I usually end up with nothing coming up at all. In fact, I generally end up with nothing if I’m lucky. If I’m unlucky, I run into a whole host of posts using asexual as a negative stereotype (“that character is so asexual!” “disabled women are stereotyped as asexual!” etc.). Once in a blue moon I’ll find, like, one post going “omg asexuals! they exist!” and then nothing. Or a few blogs take to adding a clause “except for asexuals!” in their posts about sex! we all like it! let’s talk about that! and apart from that… nothing.

    What I essentially never, ever see outside the asexual community is people actually engaging with our issues. Stuff like: creating a workable model of consent for asexual people, since a lot of asexuals would probably fail the enthusiasm test but would be kind of hacked off if you tell them they’re unable to consent to sex at all – denial of agency much? Especially when some of them are out having sex. Or engaging with the whole topic of asexuals having sex and mixed-orientation relationships in a way that doesn’t demonise the asexual partner (a while back here on Feministe, I remember calling out a comment that said all those people were manipulators and abusive, and Dan Savage has something of a track record on this topic. Somehow this gets us hatred like little else). Or addressing how certain common attitudes about sex and sexuality can be very harmful to asexual people (I can draw a direct line from “everyone wants sex!” to an unwanted and traumatising sexual encounter in my teens, where I couldn’t say “no” because I’d been so thoroughly indoctrinated into sex! it is good! it is awesome! therefore you are enjoying this even if your body claims otherwise!). Or engaging with certain awesome conversations about the romance/friendship dichotomy and commitment and intimacy that have been happening in the asexual community. Or just writing their posts about sex and sexuality in a way so that they have any relevance for asexual people. Or-

    At the end of the day, sex-positive feminism feels both hostile and useless to me, and as if even the ones who don’t actively think me being asexual is a tragedy/think I’m not actually asexual but [insert bingo card argument here]/hate me don’t care to give more than a nod to people like me and our problems. Individual sex-positive feminists may do better at this (ex: a while back there was a post by Heather on Scarleteen about asexual-inclusive sex ed which I thought was awesome), but overall there is extremely little for me in this movement and I hope you understand why at one point I just went “okay, I’ve had enough and it’s clear you don’t want me here anyway so I’ll just let myself out.”

  69. Kristen J.
    October 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Eneya: Twisty is mainly opposing the notion “SEXY IS EMPOWERING”, not sex and sexual per se.

    To riff off this comment.

    This is (one of the many things I find completely fucked up and *anti-sex* about radical feminism. Sexy can be empowering.

    I know we don’t dig this deep around here, but the reality is that different people experience the patriarchy differently. The kyriarchy is useful, but it doesn’t explore with specificity how individuals may internalize one message from the powers that be differently than another person – all things being equal. And with the all the contradictory instructions women get is it really any wonder that some feel more oppressed one precept while another feels more oppressed by its opposite.

    Yes, the kyriarchy sends the message that women are only useful for sex.

    Yes, the kyriarchy sends the message that women’s sexuality is not independent of male desire.

    Yes, the kyriarchy sends the message that only “bad” women enjoy sex.

    The kyriarchy sends us lots of messages. If someone is focused on undermining the first message, they may not realize that people fighting message two and three are still fighting the kyriarchal norms.

    Its like the shaved legs thing. Most USian women experience kyriarchal oppression to shave their legs – so for them…letting their hair grow is a stand against that norm. I grew up in a community where the first time I shaved my legs I was called a whore. We experience the patriarchy differently.

    Everytime I hear a someone criticize women for shaving their legs, I cringe because it reinforces in my mind that people seem compelled to universalize their experience and force their perspective on to others.

    Which brings me back to my solution to this continuing kurfuffle (and the mommy wars and the body altering wars and the…). Criticize the institutions, the messages, the norms but don’t criticize the decisions women make. Because here in the real world women make decisions based on a great deal more than a single person’s perspective on the patriarchy.

  70. October 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I sympathize with most of the critiques of sex-positive feminism as a movement that I’m hearing, and I thank people for bringing their voices to the table.

    At the same time, a lot of the “I’m not sex-positive because [insert various reasons it doesn’t stack up here] and frankly I don’t think the movement could ever pull me in again, sorry,” -type statements remind me of things that I hear from people who don’t identify as feminist. Which is, you know, totally fine. I anticipate that lots of people won’t identify with movements that I consider important, whether feminism itself or sex-positive feminism.

    The reason I identify as feminist AND the reason I identify as sex-positive is that I’m trying to claim the terms in ways that DON’T recall the bad experiences I’ve had with sex-positive feminists or sex-positive feminism. I’ve done plenty of critique within the movement and I’m sure I’ll do more. I work really hard to push back against the negative forces and community issues that I perceive within sex-positive feminism (and feminism at large). But I can’t fix the movement alone.

    If you don’t like sex-positive feminism or won’t read sex-positive feminist work or feel alienated from the whole movement as a result of sex-positive feminism, then that is obviously fine, and it is your call to deal with that in whatever way you want to. But there are also sex-positive feminists like me who are trying to work against these problems and bring a broader perspective to the whole thing. For example, on the asexuality topic, I would have screened the upcoming asexuality documentary at my sex-positive film series if the documentary had been available (but it’s not). I haven’t blogged explicitly about asexuality on my main blog (though I did link to a few resources when I was blogging for Time Out Chicago) … but for years I have consistently and specifically included “not having sex” as a reasonable approach to sex in my workshops, events, and definitions of sex-positive feminism.

    I’m not asking for cookies. I do the work I do because I think it’s important and rewarding in itself, and I’m lucky that I have the privilege to do that. But I am just saying that there are people like me who work really hard to do this — to bridge gaps, to accept and understand critique, to be inclusive and to build a better mousetrap (ugh, I wish there was a good vegan analogy for that). And I understand that we can’t be considered to represent sex-positive feminism. But we are part of it, and I keep getting the feeling in this thread that we’re basically dismissed and erased, notwithstanding all the “but SOME sex-positive feminists are okay” side notes.

  71. DoublyLinkedLists
    October 23, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    @Azalea

    I’m almost 100% sure that the answer to all of your questions is “because patriarchy”. Radical Feminists are tired of being blamed for that just because they recognize it.

  72. annak
    October 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I just think women are still pressured to be sexy in a very small narrow his-pleasure-first way – sexy is about wearing high heels and makeup! Sexy is about giving blowjobs and anal sex! Sexy is about following Cosmo and Dan Savage’s tips to please your man and being GGG and if you don’t want to then we feel soooo sorry for you you poor frigid broken thing. And there’s no space to carve out your own authentic sexuality, it’s just about saying yes to whatever the mainstream patriarchal culture thinks is sexy and loving it or else you hate sex. I don’t think we need to reject these things entirely, but I am suspicious when women say they choose to do everything that conforms to male porn fantasy and never ask for anything that doesn’t and this is their true, authentic sexuality and how dare you say it might be shaped by patriarchy.

    You can shave your legs, watch porn, etc if you want to, but for every woman who would love doing so even in Feminist Utopia, there are plenty of women who just do it because that’s the only way our culture allows women to be sexual. And cheering on this “choice” and slamming any analysis of it is not really feminist.

  73. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    But we are part of it, and I keep getting the feeling in this thread that we’re basically dismissed and erased

    I hear that, Clarisse. But you are not the face that sex-positive feminism has presented to me. That was not under my control. I was hanging around feminist websites and in a feminist women’s college; I was reading feminist books and articles; I have/had feminist friends. I was not uninformed or just skimming the surface of feminism, and this is how sex-positive feminism presented itself. I’m glad you’re working to change that, but you feeling dismissed and erased is not something I’m responsible for. It’s something that the s-p feminist movement has done.

  74. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Some readers here are mistaking “power” for “getting attention.”
    It isn’t powerful to get away with shit because you comply with patriarchal requirements. If women were viewed as fully human, we wouldn’t need disguises, masks, “sex-positivity,” or any such other crap to get by.

    As far as Twisty being transphobic: absolutely not. She nearly shut down the blog several months ago over hateful trans-related comments.

    With regards to anal sex, it does not make one a bad feminist to note that one finds the idea of having a penis in one’s anus utterly unappealing, any more than it is bad feminism to be asexual, or lesbian, and thus have no interest in penises whatsoever.

    Nor is it un-feminist to point out that all the “fun” and popularitty around anal sex in recent years is largely porn-driven. Otherwise, het men would be clamoring to be on the receiving end of said wacky, sex-positive fun.

  75. igglanova
    October 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    saurus: I find some sex-positive feminists cannot go through five seconds without talking about sex acts, and then looking at people challengingly like “I dare you to blush!”

    I’d like to riff off of this quickly before I head out. I find this sort of problem whenever I’m involved with a group of people with a degree of counter-cultural identity – there’s always this irritating element of gainsmanship, whereby a few individuals constantly try to beef up their social capital by declaring how far outside the mainstream they are. I see it in geeky circles, anti-O circles (hello again, call-out culture!), queer groups, sex-positive groups, music snobs, what have you. It’s all very vain and exhausting, but I feel better when I can identify the childishness at the centre of it, anyway.

    This is just to point out that this problem isn’t exclusive to sex-positivity by any means. Rather, it seems to be one of those frustrating quirks of human nature that we probably will not be able to get rid of anytime soon.

  76. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Allso, @piny: here at feministe, it HAPPENS that dudes come here and say all sorts of crap. That shit happens!

    … and?

  77. October 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    And also, as always, I would like to see more emphasis on how exactly we can deal with these issues.

  78. Computer Soldier Porygon
    October 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    tinfoil hattie: If women were viewed as fully human, we wouldn’t need disguises, masks, “sex-positivity,” or any such other crap to get by.

    Sex-positivity isn’t artifice, though?

  79. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Golly, Bushfire, thanks!

  80. Valerie2
    October 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    To Saurus: You’ve summed it up pretty well. I really relate to the bit about sex-positives having to talk about their sex lives all the time.
    I came onto this blog this morning to see if anyone had written a story about the Indian girls that had a re-naming ceremony but got the sex talk instead. Sex really is one of the most over-baked subjects there is. And if they wanted to write about it, they should start with, “Jackhammer PIV sex, what is it doing to your soul and cervix?” That story might actually do some good.

    Hopefully someone will write about these Indian girls later this week.
    Off to another blog.

  81. October 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Kaz: here’s a big one that crops up all over the place: “In patriarchy, women are expected not to have sex/not to want to have sex.” This is frequently what “sex-negative” boils down to, and I am sorry but it is *bullshit*. It is bullshit because if it were true, asexual women would experience no oppression-related problems due to their sexuality and ahahahahaha good joke there! (E.g. think on this: how does the patriarchy view a married woman who refuses to have sex with her husband?)

    I think you misunderstand the patriarchal message, because perhaps you’re trying to apply logic where in fact there is no logic other than “you can never win”: women in a patriarchy are expected to *not want* sex or to *not enjoy* sex, but they are expected to *be readily available* for sex. On a man’s terms, of course (queer women or asexual women are believed not to exist, or to simply be women who need to be brought to heel).

    Simply declining sex if you don’t desire it is not part of the patriarchal game plan. IOW, you don’t get to be female and opt out of sex unless there’s something *wrong* with you. You may hate it, but by gum, if some man wants you to do it, you will.

  82. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Clarisse Thorn:
    And also, as always, I would like to see more emphasis on how exactly we can deal with these issues.

    Honestly, Clarisse, I don’t think that particular problem is one of mine. I’ve dealt with it by rejecting the rhetoric of sex-positive feminism and educating myself about the variety of analyses and attitudes the parts of the feminist movement that do not identify itself as “sex-positive” have brought to sex. If sex-positive feminists are concerned about these problems, then they need to figure out solutions. Not me.

    That said, I think I did say that I would be interested in reading pieces written by sex-positive feminists about how sex-positive feminists can think and talk about negative sexual experiences, the women who have them, and their impact on female sexuality in a respectful, thoughtful way. I’d like to see pieces in which sex-positive feminists discuss their movement’s relationship to earlier strands of feminist thought with a more nuanced take than “We think sex is good and those bad second-wave feminists didn’t.” And if you and s-p feminists like you want these pieces to reach feminists who have been put off by the rhetoric of sex-positivity, you need to place them in blogs/sites/magazines that such feminists would read, not keep them on your own blog, which is avowedly sex-positive.

  83. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Sex really is one of the most over-baked subjects there is.

    This I disagree with. Sex is one of the primary loci at which men have subjugated women under patriarchy and continue to do so. I think that discussions and analyses of sex are absolutely essential to feminism.

  84. Computer Soldier Porygon
    October 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Valerie2:
    To Saurus: You’ve summed it up pretty well. I really relate to the bit about sex-positives having to talk about their sex lives all the time.

    Why is this a problem, though? I mean, if it’s a put-on or MORE KINKY THAN THOU peacock-fest, I see why it would be irritating – but a lot of this reads as ‘people should just shut up about their sex lives.’

  85. October 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    EG: Honestly, Clarisse, I don’t think that particular problem is one of mine.I’ve dealt with it by rejecting the rhetoric of sex-positive feminism and educating myself about the variety of analyses and attitudes the parts of the feminist movement that do not identify itself as “sex-positive” have brought to sex.If sex-positive feminists are concerned about these problems, then they need to figure out solutions.Not me.

    That said, I think I did say that I would be interested in reading pieces written by sex-positive feminists about how sex-positive feminists can think and talk about negative sexual experiences, the women who have them, and their impact on female sexuality in a respectful, thoughtful way.I’d like to see pieces in which sex-positive feminists discuss their movement’s relationship to earlier strands of feminist thought with a more nuanced take than “We think sex is good and those bad second-wave feminists didn’t.”And if you and s-p feminists like you want these pieces to reach feminists who have been put off by the rhetoric of sex-positivity, you need to place them in blogs/sites/magazines that such feminists would read, not keep them on your own blog, which is avowedly sex-positive.

    I don’t have infinite power to put my ideas wherever I want and recontextualize them into infinite combinations. I’ve had to put in a ridiculous amount of work just to be able to reach the audiences I currently reach.

    I guess I should make the point of my last two comments explicit: If your goal is to help me with my efforts to make these things better, then I need more than “this is bad” and “you should do X, Y, and Z!” where X, Y and Z are actually extremely complicated tasks. You’re criticizing us for not putting our work in front of different audiences, but what exactly do you think I’ve been working towards for the past several years? Of course I post in sex-positive venues — those are the places that will have me!

    If your goal is just to critique, then fine, nothing wrong with that. I do it all the time. Keep doing it, in fact. I’m just saying that for me, the conversation so far feels frustratingly unhelpful, and I don’t really see any reason to engage the critiques of sex-positivity that I’m seeing here given that I have already written about them multiple times, engaged them in multiple venues, and am apparently being ignored in those efforts.

    * edited for clarity

  86. October 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    @Clarisse

    Okay, you say you want to put a better face on sex-positive feminism, right? But then you’re here linking to Holly who I think is a really, really terrible example of it.

    And as I said, I lean *heavily* to the side of sex-positive feminism. Which is pretty much the major reason that I don’t identify as a radical feminist.

    So I can understand wanting to try and change sex-positive feminism from within (and make it more self-examining, and less “I choose my choice!” or less shaming of women that don’t enjoy sex)- I just think that by choosing to highlight Holly’s work, you’re doing it a disservice rather than helping out.

  87. Onymous
    October 23, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    And I understand that we can’t be considered to represent sex-positive feminism. But we are part of it, and I keep getting the feeling in this thread that we’re basically dismissed and erased, notwithstanding all the “but SOME sex-positive feminists are okay” side notes.

    Here’s the super frustrating bit:

    Most/many/some/me-at-the-very-least feel that we’re being dismissed and erased, the version we get is “not that there’s anything wrong with no sex”

    not as much in this thread obviously.

    But its the same sort of thing; buried somewhere in a thread or article about how perfect sex is some fundamental right we get a couple side notes from posters. Unfortunately disclaimers don’t make any one feel more included.

  88. October 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    If women were viewed as fully human, we wouldn’t need disguises, masks, “sex-positivity,” or any such other crap to get by.

    You’re conflating a number of issues here, but – disguises and masks are not strictly a female thing. Men do not come out of the womb wearing business suits, for example.

    The real problem is – men have more disguises readily available to them. They have more freedom to reject certain trappings and rituals. The male experience is the default – it is human, women are “additions” to men in that regard, in almost every culture. It’s always, or almost always, about how men view women – rarely is it vice versa.

    But to say that men exist in pure harmony with nature, or whatever, while women are the ones solely saddled with complying to artificial cultural norms is to wildly miss the point.

  89. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Clarisse Thorn: I don’t have infinite power to put my ideas wherever I want and recontextualize them into infinite combinations.I’ve had to put in a ridiculous amount of work just to be able to reach the audiences I currently reach.

    Well, no doubt. Work is hard, feminism is hard, life is hard. But if this battle is up to you single-handedly, within s-p feminism, then you’ve already lost, and you might as well stop. If you’re a lone reasonable voice, that doesn’t give me any confidence at all in this aspect of the movement. And if you’re not, then surely you can understand that the “you” there is meant collectively, not individually.

    I guess I should make the point of my last two comments explicit: If your goal is to help me with my efforts to make these things better, then I need more than “this is bad” and “you should do X, Y, and Z!”Especially if X, Y and Z are actually extremely complicated tasks.

    Then I’m not sure what you’re looking for. You’ve positioned yourself as the person trying to make s-p feminism better, so I assumed you wanted to know what you and others like you within s-p feminism could do. As you said about yourself, I have a ridiculous amount of work do on my own stuff, and s-p feminism isn’t a priority for me. So if you were hoping for a response along the lines of “I’ll do X, Y, and Z,” then I will have to disappoint you. I don’t see much reason to put in that kind of effort for an off-shoot of the movement that doesn’t seem to be offering me anything. Radical feminism, for all its problems, offers me more, though I stopped id’ing as a radical feminist due to my serious problems with radical feminists espousing the hatred of transwomen.

    If your goal is just to critique, then fine, nothing wrong with that.I do it all the time.Keep doing it, in fact.I’m just saying that for me, the conversation so far feels frustratingly unhelpful, and I don’t really see any reason to engage the critiques of sex-positivity that I’m seeing here given that I have already written about them multiple times, engaged them in multiple venues, and am apparently being ignored in those efforts.

    Quite frankly, this paragraph comes off as “If you guys aren’t grateful for all I’ve already done, and you still have these complaints, then why should I care?” Well, you don’t have to. But if after all you’ve already done, I and others still have the same complaints, then perhaps the problem is not with our ungrateful selves, but with the fact that not enough has been done. If you don’t want to engage the critiques, don’t. But you’re the one who seems to care about the image and appeal and need for s-p feminism.

    I mean, I’m sorry you’re frustrated. But it does not therefore follow that s-p feminism is fine the way it is and that the crits you’re getting have already been engaged. Surely a bunch of regular commenters on a feminist website is a decent barometer of how well your movement has responded to feminist critiques?

  90. Anonymouse
    October 23, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    EG: I hear that, Clarisse.But you are not the face that sex-positive feminism has presented to me.That was not under my control.I was hanging around feminist websites and in a feminist women’s college; I was reading feminist books and articles; I have/had feminist friends.I was not uninformed or just skimming the surface of feminism, and this is how sex-positive feminism presented itself.I’m glad you’re working to change that, but you feeling dismissed and erased is not something I’m responsible for.It’s something that the s-p feminist movement has done.

    THIS. That’s been my experience as well. In general, my attitude to various strains of feminist theory is “take what works, move on.” I don’t see why I have to be responsible for helping fix radfem, or sex-pos, or whatever, since these standpoints have outlived their usefulness to me. If someone asks me “what are your concerns with s-p,” I’ll tell them, but since my feelings on s-p are somewhere between “personally alienated” and “understand that it can be alienated to others,” I’m just not invested enough to make it my business to find solutions to the issues.

    Also (and this goes for radfem as well), all the “they are doing s-p wrong” arguments read exactly as “no true scotswoman” at this point. At what point are we allowed to say that the movement, with rare exceptions, has created an image that is alienating to a lot of feminists and that we should take the things that work and move on to different ways of talking about sexualities?

  91. EG
    October 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    The point is, if you want to be an ambassador for a movement that has alienated a chunk of people, then the onus for changing the parts of the movement that have led to that alienation are on you and your companions, not on the people the movement has alienated. And yes, it’s frustrating and a pain in the ass, which is why nobody should be that ambassador if they don’t want to.

  92. October 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    EG:
    Quite frankly, this paragraph comes off as “If you guys aren’t grateful for all I’ve already done, and you still have these complaints, then why should I care?”Well, you don’t have to.But if after all you’ve already done, I and others still have the same complaints, then perhaps the problem is not with our ungrateful selves, but with the fact that not enough has been done.If you don’t want to engage the critiques, don’t.But you’re the one who seems to care about the image and appeal and need for s-p feminism.

    I mean, I’m sorry you’re frustrated.But it does not therefore follow that s-p feminism is fine the way it is and that the crits you’re getting have already been engaged.Surely a bunch of regular commenters on a feminist website is a decent barometer of how well your movement has responded to feminist critiques?

    That isn’t what I was saying. And I’m not trying to do a “no true scotsman” either. I’m trying to explain why I think these things have happened and what the forces at work are.

    And right now, in this discussion, I am trying to give you a roadmap of how to influence me, since I appear to be the highest-profile sex-positive writer currently participating in this discussion. Take the map if you want. Ignore it if you want. Talk about something completely different if you want. I’m explaining how I feel about this right now, and some of the actions I have already taken.

    If your priority is to critique what you see that isn’t me? Do it. But if your priority is to have an effect on me? I’m telling you what I’m looking for and what my current feelings about the topic are, so that you can help me make my writing better.

    And again, if you don’t want to do that, then fine. But if you don’t want to do that, then don’t complain that sex-positive feminists are too busy talking about our orgasms to listen to critique, either.

  93. October 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Mod notes:

    Comment #83 edited for clarity.

    I’m going to do a bunch of other stuff and probably won’t be able to comment again for a while.

  94. karak86
    October 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Some readers here are mistaking “power” for “getting attention.”
    It isn’t powerful to get away with shit because you comply with patriarchal requirements. If women were viewed as fully human, we wouldn’t need disguises, masks, “sex-positivity,” or any such other crap to get by.

    It is power. If I get want I want by studying books and getting good grades, and then get a job, beating out other women, I’m A GOOD FEMINIST. But if instead I study fashion and presentability and conforming, and get a job, I’M CHEATING OTHER WOMEN.

    Female power is traditionally about manipulation and attention. Male power is about aggression and control. If women use MALE power, we’re GOOD FEMINISTS and GOOD WOMEN (and not conforming to the patriarchy because male power is normal and natural and strong and good) and female power is (icky and seducing and scary and nasty and WRONG). And feminists think this, and MRAs think this, because anything rooted in traditional female power is DISGUSTING. Yeah, it does come from a position of subjugation and oppression, but so does a LOT of forms of power and expression. Only woman power is that nasty, nasty WRONG STUFF.

    It’s misogyny against women who conform and it’s way to act like our women ancestors had no agency or real thought or real lives at all.

  95. Mandolin
    October 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    (Aside: Hey Clarisse–I am totally behind on email (and life) and I am explicitly verboten to go to my email until I finish a commission which hasn’t stopped me from writing a zillion words in response to this.)

    I guess some of my issues with sex positivity come from what Twisty says here: “femininity is not a “choice” when the alternative is derision, ridicule, workplace sanctions, or ostracization.”

    I know Holly says, “I talk about [sex positivity] in terms of promoting enthusiastic consent, promoting body acceptance, promoting the idea of finding out and coming to terms with your own sexual desires.”

    Which is, you know, good. (And I haven’t read the pervocracy but I like her comments on manboobz so I am definitely not anti-Holly.) But a lot of the sex-positive stuff I’ve read has been pretty deeply entangled with fatphobia, even the stuff that’s not trying to be. Which, lots of stuff is, so it’s not like I think sex-positive feminists are more fatphobic than other people or even other feminist activists (probably less as a whole!), but sexuality and body issues are really at a–I’m going to say it, “problematic” :-P –crux so…

    Well, at heart, I guess, I think some of the assumptions of sex positivity run counter to my experience as an unattractive woman.

    And this comment got totally out of control in terms of length, so I put the rest of it here at Alas, in case anyone is interested.

  96. Bushfire
    October 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    No, getting attention by “fashion and presentability” is not power. How many men do you see using fashion to get power? Conforming to male definitions of femininity is the opposite of empowering. Pointing this out is not misogyny, jebus.

  97. igglanova
    October 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    What the fuck? Since when did we swallow the idea that manipulative ‘traditionally female power’ is actually inherent to being female, rather than desperation brought about by oppression? Such manipulative ‘power’ is not actual power, because it still relies on the whims of the people who actually have power (usually men). If the boss decides not to give you jack shit for your efforts, no amount of makeup in the world will get you what you want.

    Besides which, nobody really cares if you personally wear makeup in order to land a job. But makeup is not empowering in any meaningful way, because any success it brings you is not self-directed. By your logic, all forms of coerced submission are ’empowering,’ because they lead you to more successful outcomes than resistance, which is punished. The person dangling the carrot still retains all the power in this relationship.

    Success within patriarchal constraints /= power.

  98. October 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Bushfire: How many men do you see using fashion to get power?

    Clothes make the man.

    Ask a male criminal defendant who wears a suit to court if fashion isn’t a kind of power.

  99. ivyleaves
    October 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    There is a rather huge difference between ‘people should just shut up about their sex lives’ and ‘Sex is one of the primary loci at which men have subjugated women under patriarchy and continue to do so. I think that discussions and analyses of sex are absolutely essential to feminism.’ I tend to agree with both of these views and do not see them as mutually exclusive.

  100. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Computer Soldier Porygon: I am just not interested in hearing the details of people’s sex lives. It violates my boundaries.

    @Natalia: I am not “conflating” anything. Merely pointing out that in the unlikely event that we ever live in a post-patriarchal society, none of that shit will be necessary. There will be no need for a sex class, nor for people to perform accordingly.

  101. Kristen J.
    October 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Valerie2: I really relate to the bit about sex-positives having to talk about their sex lives all the time.

    Fairly certain that if you changed that to “children” or “careers” you’d create a flame war to end all flame wars.

  102. igglanova
    October 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Kristen J.: Fairly certain that if you changed that to “children” or “careers” you’d create a flame war to end all flame wars.

    Oh god, don’t even bait everyone!

  103. Dawn
    October 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I am a regular reader of IBTP. I am also considered very attractive and married to a man that I regularly have sex with. I wear pencil skirts and a little makeup, and shave my legs whenever said pencil skirts are worn. Twisty does not offend me. She is generally spot on.

    I understand that I do femininity simply to get by in a patriarchy. It’s true! I have very long “shampoo commercial” hair that takes forever to dry. I would love the freedom of chopping it off, or going to work with it wet and pulled back. However, I know I can’t do that. My job title and salary are dependent on how well I comply with the patriarchy. Is that power? Sure, if winning the fight for scraps is power.

    For anyone who claims to enjoy this daily ritual, ask yourself this. If you could simply wake up and press the Easy button, and instantly have your hair and makeup done, would you? Or would you prefer to spend the extra hour that your male peers don’t have to spend? Sure, there are occasional times I like to experiment with clothes, makeup, etc for fun. But on a daily basis, I’d rather have the extra hour of sleep.

    Twisty does not hate attractive women. She actually defends us. There have been times I’ve had to “check” a few of her commenters who hate on slim and/or attractive women, and Twisty always lets my comments through.

    Below is a link to one of my favorite IBTP posts. I’ve struggled with the same kind of discrimination as Debrahlee Lorenzana, and Twisty’s analysis of it is one of the few I’ve found that fully supports the humanity and dignity of attractive women.
    http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2010/06/05/hugs-twisty-womans-sex-appeal-is-unbearable-to-knob-coworkers/

  104. Mandolin
    October 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    I totally buy that fashion grants power. For one thing, it’s a class marker, which is part of the reason it helps to get defendants into nice suits.

    “My job title and salary are dependent on how well I comply with the patriarchy. Is that power? Sure, if winning the fight for scraps is power.”

    And not all women are *capable* of complying with the patriarchy, so that power is denied to some.

    Patriarchy compliance can grant a degree of power or privilege. It’s contingent, though, and revokable. And comes with some very steep costs.

    “I am just not interested in hearing the details of people’s sex lives. It violates my boundaries.”

    …so don’t read them?

    I mean, this seems like a pretty simple equation. If the low-cut shirt of thy neighbor offends thee, avert thy eyes. If your boundaries are violated by other people’s storytelling, avert your browser.

  105. Gretchen
    October 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Clarisse Thorn:
    And also, as always, I would like to see more emphasis on how exactly we can deal with these issues.

    Clarisse Thorn: I guess I should make the point of my last two comments explicit: If your goal is to help me with my efforts to make these things better, then I need more than “this is bad” and “you should do X, Y, and Z!” where X, Y and Z are actually extremely complicated tasks.

    I’m just saying that for me, the conversation so far feels frustratingly unhelpful, and I don’t really see any reason to engage the critiques of sex-positivity that I’m seeing here given that I have already written about them multiple times, engaged them in multiple venues, and am apparently being ignored in those efforts.

    EG: Then I’m not sure what you’re looking for.You’ve positioned yourself as the person trying to make s-p feminism better, so I assumed you wanted to know what you and others like you within s-p feminism could do.

    EG:
    The point is, if you want to be an ambassador for a movement that has alienated a chunk of people, then the onus for changing the parts of the movement that have led to that alienation are on you and your companions, not on the people the movement has alienated.

    Clarisse Thorn: And right now, in this discussion, I am trying to give you a roadmap of how to influence me.

    Sorry about the block of quotes and text here, and yes, i am also piggy backing/third wheeling on this debate so i hope i’m not off-base here, but for me, this is kind of the crux of the issue.

    For Clarisse, no one can tell you *how* to change things within a movement you are involved with. I have personally felt alienated by s-p feminism. I can tell you *what* alienates me but i can’t say how to change it, because in this case your ‘people’ are not my ‘people’.

    I think i’m seeing your roadmap, ie. don’t tell me what the problem is, tell me how to fix it (?)…and well, I can’t influence you and I can’t influence s-p feminism. I can highlight various points on the map that would make s-p feminism more inclusive but i can’t tell you how to get there. At the end of the day, it’s you, holly and other s-p proponents doing the driving.

  106. Kristen J.
    October 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    igglanova: Oh god, don’t even bait everyone!

    You’re right, you’re right…”puppies” and “hats” then.

  107. violet
    October 23, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    1) Saurus, Tinfoil Hattie and EG. Thank you.

    2) Seconding the above 3 posters, and also other posters who feel that sex-poz can actually be pretty dismissive of people’s boundaries and experiences. And also that critiques of the porn and sex work industries can end up being dog-piled by people keen to dismiss the possibility that any woman, anywhere, may be being harmed by these industries, either directly or indirectly.

    3) As far as I understand, Radfems tend to view/criticise patriarchy on a class level i.e. women are the “sex class“, men are not. Libfems tend to view/criticise as individuals i.e. “if ’I’ want to use porn/wear heels/do sex-work then I’m entitled to.” This isn’t to say that both sides don’t have their positive and negative points, but it may help to understand that we’re all not working from the same road-map here. Which leads me to 4).

    4.) When I’ve seen the whole high-heels-and-cosmetics version of “sexy” criticised by rad-fems, it hasn’t actually been about attacking individual women for wanting to wear nice shoes, or short skirts, or giggle a lot; it’s been about women (who earn 70-odd cents to the $1 earned by men) being required to spend large amounts of their (smaller) wage on cosmetics and clothes to meet an ideal of “sexy”, an ideal which changes continually, which can be potentially health-damaging (cosmetic surgery, extreme thinness), and, which, when it comes down to it, creates a dichotomy whereby if you meet the “standard” you’ll be dismissed as just a “hot” body (hi Steven Greenstreet!), or if you don’t meet it, you’ll be dismissed as irrelevant for being fat/ugly/etc, and therefore having nothing of value to contribute. But feel free to wear lipstick/high heels if you want. Which brings us to point 5).

    5) What does it mean when women say “wearing lipstick and heels give me power!”. What kind of power? Economic? Political? Consistent access to decent healthcare, contraception and abortion, child-care, housing, pensions, and education? Safety from physical and sexual assault?

    A couple of men wolf-whistling at you on the way to work may make you feel that you‘re looking good (and there‘s nothing wrong with that), but does it help you achieve any of the above? Is this ‘power’ something able to get you ALL of the above, permanently and reliably, across your personal and working life, from when you leave school to when you hit retirement age – or is it just something gained during the occasional evening in a nightclub when someone is prepared to buy you a drink because they think you look “sexy”?

  108. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Mandolin, fashion does not grant power to women. It merely sets up a b.s. “contest” among women, the judges of which are always, ultimately, men.

    As for not reading comments about sex: gee, I was answering a question posed directly to me by someone else. However, if you could share with me the secret of knowing what a comment says before I read it, I’d be much obliged. Otherwise, I will continue to give my opinion when asked, secure in the knowledge that someone will disagree. Else why bother to discuss anything?

  109. October 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Oy… I wish I could have participated in this discussion before now. I’m just going to throw out some points.

    1. I don’t intend to attack all of radical feminism. I am not interested in “radfem vs. sex-pozzie” wars. (I was more interested in 2008, but I’ve grown somewhat since.) I think we both have things to bring to the movement, and “sneering disdain for each other” probably isn’t one of the better things.

    2. I don’t think sexuality itself is power; I think having power over sexuality is what’s important to gain. But I think that being able to talk about the details of your sexuality are important in developing that. And that includes whether your sexuality is “conventionally sexy,” whether it’s queer, whether it’s asexual.

    3. I know there are some people who do try to push others’ boundaries under the sex-positive label and I really am not okay with that. I think sex-positive spaces should be safe for people who are asexual and people who just want to keep their sexuality private.

    4. There’s a big difference between the origins of patriarchy-approved sexiness and authentic sexual expression, but they can come out looking the same. I’d be really, really wary of conflating them. A piece of pornography made by a man exploiting a woman into feeding his desires can look exactly the same as a piece made by the woman herself to express genuine sexuality, and I don’t think that gives you cause to assume that the woman in the latter one doesn’t really want to present herself that way. (Nor can you assume that all pornography is the latter, obviously, because I wasn’t born yesterday.) That really is steamrolling over a woman’s voice.

  110. Mandolin
    October 23, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    The words “contingent” and “revokable” were there for a reason. Although if we’re going to use the standard of “who’s the ultimate boss?” (the judge is always a man) then that seems overly strict; in class discussions, for instance, it would foreclose the ability to talk about the power differentials between foremen and workers. Not that patriarchy-compliant women are like foremen–but power over, say, other women in the house, is power, even if it is the power of desperation, and a power that is both revokable and contingent.

    Re: The Secret of Judging Comments

    You reach the point where you get the gist and then you scroll.

    If you can’t handle that much then I guess you do have a problem. Does it cause you to have panic attacks? Because then you might be able to get people to add trigger alerts or something.

    Otherwise, I find discussions about sports annoying. What is WITH people who write about sports? So disrespecting my boundaries to not have to read about that crap.

    And non-snarkily, I apologize for conflating you with commenters who said that spontaneously on the blog. It might have even been another thread. That sucked of me and I’m sorry.

  111. October 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    By the way, I think it’s important to point out that (as far as I’m concerned, at least) sex-positivity isn’t intended to be a counterpoint to radical feminism so much as to sex-negative society in general.

    Our society may be sexualized, but it’s not good at all at talking about sex–I write a monthly “Cosmocking” post on how terrible the sex advice in Cosmo is, and that’s a drop in the bucket of either bad messages or non-messages the mainstream sends about sexuality. Sex makes you slutty, sex is something men buy from women, women don’t really like sex so they have to be either paid or forced–these are what I consider really sex-negative messages. These are the things I think sex-positivity is much more concerned with than any intra-feminism wars.

  112. October 23, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Valerie2: You’ve summed it up pretty well. I really relate to the bit about sex-positives having to talk about their sex lives all the time.

    tinfoil hattie: I am just not interested in hearing the details of people’s sex lives. It violates my boundaries.

    This is where I see us getting into the realm of reciprocal, horizontal oppression – one person does an action which, within a reality that is situated in the patriarchy, contains elements of subversion (because nothing is purely subversive), but it ends up reinforcing some other aspect of sexism and patriarchy. Valid, but incompatible boundaries, in this case because of the impossible situations that our fucked-up realities create.

    I don’t know what the fix to that is – I’m just trying to put a name on it.

    saurus: Ultimately, I have issues with sex positive feminism not because of ideological differences – I used to count myself among them! – but because virtually every single sex positive feminist I’ve encountered offline has fucked up in a huge way when they encountered my sexuality, and I don’t think “bad apples” explains that.

    Yeah, and this is where I have trouble distinguishing between “people” and “movements”, the latter being a composite of beliefs, values, and causes. When I think about feminism, I think about (a) awesome feminists, (b) awful feminists, (c) awesome people who don’t identify as feminists but could, (d) awesome people who critique feminism and specifically don’t identify with it, and sometimes these groups of people seem to have a lot in common and sometimes they seem to have nothing in common. Sometimes I seem to belong to a group by virtue of the many beliefs we seem to espouse, and yet I can’t bear to associate myself with that group because it is itself associated with people I don’t want to have any connection to.

    And it’s not just a matter of being more specific. Even within more classical feminist variations (e.g., radical, liberal, socialist) and the new emergent feminisms that are developing all the time, specific to a particular cause (e.g., sex positive feminism) or community (largely nameless, but, for example, every feminist blog seems to develop its own particular community and subculture, even if there’s lots of overlap too, with its own particular priorities and participants), I find the same thing – some people behaving badly in the name of their feminism. I think we’re all negotiating this dilemma, and getting more invested in one feminist group over another, and so being more willing to work on problems among A-Feminists but giving up entirely on B-Feminists. And then we start engaging in kind of the fundamental attribution error writ large – my group fucks up because it’s normal and we all have things to work on and it’s a process, but your group fucks up because your ideas are fundamentally flawed and you all suck.* (Okay, we’re not always so obvious about it, but it’s that kind of pattern.)

    And can we completely control our own identities? If I like to describe myself as someone who is investing in breaking down social hierarchies and inequalities based on one’s sex and gender, as well as one’s sexuality and sexual expression, then is it reasonable to suggest that despite this I am not a sex-positive feminist, given that that is how most people would interpret those beliefs of mine? What then does one do about being associated with other “sex positive feminists” with whom one may share many relevant beliefs, but not share some other very relevant beliefs (like, for example, that there’s something wrong with asexual people, which apparently is something a number of sex-positive feminists say and I will take people on their word about that). Do those fucked-up opinions say something about sex positivity as a movement and other people who are, however agentically, aligned with sex positivity, or are they just fucked-up opinions? And how do we tell which fucked-up opinions are central to a movement, and which ones are on the fringe or part of a sub-group, and are these movements even coherent enough things to make those kinds of judgements?

    *The fundamental attribution error is a psychological concept in which we tend to explain others’ behaviour primarily according to innate personal characteristics and not contextual factors, but apply more nuanced evaluations to our own behaviours.

  113. October 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    saurus– thanks. You basically said what I came here to say, except better. Ditto for kaz.

    I am asexual. I don’t really think of myself as sex-positive, because sex is not an inherently positive act; it’s a neutral act. Also, enthusiastic consent! Consent can be active and engaged but not enthusiastic, and like kaz said, that should be good enough, because it might be all you get from an asexual person.

    Re: call for suggestions, I do have one suggestion that may or may not be terribly helpful, and is going to ramble:

    So, asexuality is defined as not experiencing sexual attraction to other people. It’s not synonymous with celibacy; the two just coincide frequently. So, including asexuality in discussions of sex-positivity has to go beyond saying “it’s fine not to have sex,” because some asexuals have sex and enjoy sex, and will still feel alienated by the discussion.

  114. Carpenter
    October 23, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    I read IBTP and comment sometimes. One this issue I feel split. Jill/TF has a point, femininity is regarded as culturally compulsory, so how can one be sure one is really choosing it.

    However I gotta say, that I can’t get past the essentialist critique of femininity. To me the trappings of femininity are completely arbitrary, just like any set of human conventions about appearance and mannerisms. The problem isn’t that they exist, the problem is that 1) They are confined to women only and assumed to be immutable and 2) They are associated with weakness and being an object (No doubt because of 1).

    In order to fix the world we gotta get rid of both problems. Rad fems and sex-poses probably agree on a bunch of stuff about the nature of femininity-for example that is a completely arbitrary set of conventions. It seems that the main difference between the camps is that rad-fems then advocate for femininity’s total abolition.

    I would say that if “the feminine” stays it needs to not be associated with women only, and it needs to be stripped all of the culturally loaded ties between it and frivolity/weakness. Under those circumstances the choice to participate would really be a free choice.

  115. October 23, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Jadey: Well, you have the right to your opinion no matter what – whether or not people agree with you or whether that opinion reflects sexism does not counter your right to have it. You use the terms “safe” and “unsafe” sex, but you might want to consider how complex those ideas are – there are many ways to be more or less safe in terms of one’s own and one’s partners’ physical health, mental health, personal integrity, etc. And personally, I don’t know too many sex-positive activists who advocate for STIs. There are also ways to support harm reduction without stigmatizing people’s sexuality.

    STIs are a fact, just as car crashes are a fact. Would you argue that people pushing for safe driving hate cars? Do you see people who warn about the need to respect and work with the ocean, as sailing-negative? Societies who stigmatise sex have a bigger problem with STIs than those which don’t. I was in my 20s in the 1980s when we experienced the transition from sex as playground to sex as activity which could potentially kill you if you didn’t protect yourself. I guess we got the lesson rammed home pretty well with the deaths of so many people, and that’s only HIV.

  116. October 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    @ Helen

    You are making assumptions about me and what I am talking about in that comment which are unwarranted. If you are intent on reading into my comment exactly what you are looking for, fine, I’m not interested in putting in the energy to correct you. But I do hope that other people reading it can be a little more reflective.

  117. piny
    October 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Tinfoil Hattie, when people come here and say things that are right out of a Focus on the Family newsletter, other commenters mock them. And I haven’t actually seen a sex-positive feminist say things about anal sex that are right out of a Focus on the Family newsletter. Excuse me, a Focus on the Family newsletter circa 1985. That kind of ignorant reactionary bullshit gets shut down, and it would be kind of shocking, I think, to see a self-identified mainstream feminist show up here to tell us that anal sex is contrary to nature. And so? So it’s homophobic. So it’s fucked up. So it’s fucking basic and everyone should fucking know better. If you’re reciting talking points straight out of a Phyllis Schlafly stump speech, you’re not being radical. Those people shouldn’t wander into your space and think, “Ah, finally, I’m amongst friends!”

    Twisty did finally come right out and ban the most virulent transphobic commenters, the ones who were comparing trans women to Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs and calling them mentally ill and dangerous and wondering why they can’t just choose not to exist. But you know what? She did that several years later than most of the rest of the feminist blogosphere. Viciously transphobic commenters were allowed to say really viciously transphobic things on IBTP for a really long time. It wasn’t something she couldn’t deal with; it wasn’t something she didn’t know about. We know that because she did finally fix the problem, when she cared to. What, last year or thereabouts. And it was completely fucking unacceptable, and I’m not really in the mood to read a bunch of bullshit excuses for it. It shouldn’t have happened.

    And you know? This is why people get alienated. My initial experience of radical feminism on the internet wasn’t a bunch of smart uncompromising women. It was the fucking Michfest boards. It was fucking Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff. That is part of your public face. It seems to be disproportionately part of your virtual face. And although it is not fair to smear the entire ideology, it is also unfair to pretend that the discomfort and disenchantment with radical feminism is ideological weakness or confusion. You can’t say that s-p feminists have allowed themselves to be appropriated by pseudofeminists but say you’re not your own sister’s keeper.

  118. October 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Related to Ashley’s original comment, it was just pointed out there’s another recent post that covers the subject of STIs and harm reduction rather than stigmatizing that has been really quiet so far: “Balka: Women, HIV, and Drug Use in Ukraine” short harm reduction documentary, also posted by Clarisse.

  119. October 23, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Sorry if it’s been pointed out before and I missed it, but I’ve been reading IBTP for a long time, and Twisty stated her position on femininity performance a while back – I’m not sure if I could find the exact post, but she said that she did not believe in getting all judgey about women who wear killer heels, lots of makeup every day and the rest of it, because of the strong societal pressure to do so and the need to do so, for some women, simply to survive in society and be able to work and feed themselves and their family; she wouldn’t condemn them on the basis that women as a group need to do what they can to survive. (I hope I’ve paraphrased her argument accurately, it’s from memory.) I would also point out that Twisty is the only radfem who has come out specifically against the persecution of trans women which is commonly associated with her group. She’s very down on PIV sex, but there are a bunch of us who read/comment regularly and those of us who have Nigels just agree to disagree. To write a whole series on how dreadful you think one blogger is seems petty at best to me.

  120. October 23, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    (Sorry for multiple comments – hadn’t seen Piny’s comment) Yes, Piny, I agree that was so, but she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer at the time. As she lives in a remote area, that would entail a lot of travel and a lot of time spent in treatment. It also might have entailed an element of “f**k my blog, I have a fight for my life to attend to”.

  121. October 23, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    she said that she did not believe in getting all judgey about women who wear killer heels, lots of makeup every day and the rest of it, because of the strong societal pressure to do so and the need to do so, for some women, simply to survive in society and be able to work and feed themselves and their family; she wouldn’t condemn them on the basis that women as a group need to do what they can to survive.

    That’s still kind of condescending, though, to women who want to wear killer heels, lots of makeup every day, and the rest of it just because that’s what they feel good in. Saying “you poor dears, I don’t blame you” still isn’t really respecting their choice.

  122. igglanova
    October 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    I really wish this thread hadn’t turned into a referendum on Twisty’s worthiness as a feminist blogger.

  123. October 23, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I agree that the Twisty Faster posts were immature, though, which is why I stopped them a long time ago and I’m not bringing them back.

    But I’m still getting razzed by other feminists–and not always radical feminists–for the whole “she talks about sex, she must just be looking for cookies from men” thing. It’s frustrating, and it’s also terrifyingly close to mainstream attitudes about “women don’t really like sex, which is why men have to buy or force it from them.”

  124. October 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Why not actually challenge something? Like the societal norms and unquestioning post-structuralist rhetoric that the so-called “positive” crowd encourages and attempts to sustain? Also, radical feminism is not “sex negative” because it doesn’t buy into the status quo or the capitalist marketed “sexuality” that is sold to us. How is it sex negative to critique cultural creations like high-heels (they didn’t pop up from nowhere!) that have been proven to hurt our backs? How is it sex-negative to critique the cosmetic/beauty/plastic surgery industry and its attempt to standardize the female body and present heteronormative, eurocentric standards of fuckability to men? Most commonly sold cosmetics are full of toxins and chemicals that can directly impact women’s health – so being against the corporate complex that dictates “beauty” is “sex negative?” Questioning heteronormative intercourse is also sex-negative, right? Because there is no other sex than heterosexual intercourse. I know why it is considered “sex-negative”, it is because it directly challenges men’s definition of sex. These inquiries and critiques of cultural and socially created norms are part of being involved in the political movement that is feminism. Nothing should be above critique, particularly not mass-produced “beauty” products or capitalist-driven “fashion” trends that dictate how women are “supposed” to look based on the male-gaze. All of these constructions were created at some point, they are part of some “natural” phenomenon to teeter about on inch-high blocks and rub lead-laden petroleum products on one’s mouth. None of these things exist in a vacuum.

    We must be willing to critique and analyse the social conditions that create such beauty ultimatums and norms, men’s definitions of “sexy,” the “women-as-commodity” mindset and the mass subordination of women globally.

    Seriously, go read Twisty’s rebuttal of this nonsense.

    http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2011/10/23/spinster-aunt-was-once-adored/

    It’s time we all remember that feminism is a political movement – not a self-focused, individualistic, middle-class consumer movement that focuses solely on the person “choosing.”

    Ps. Shame on you for promoting another woman’s attack on Twisty and then pretending like radical feminists are being absurd. So many people misrepresent and misinterpret radical feminism and it is a real shame.

  125. October 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    “Besides which, nobody really cares if you personally wear makeup in order to land a job. But makeup is not empowering in any meaningful way, because any success it brings you is not self-directed. By your logic, all forms of coerced submission are ‘empowering,’ because they lead you to more successful outcomes than resistance, which is punished. The person dangling the carrot still retains all the power in this relationship.”

    Bingo!

  126. piny
    October 23, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    She had every right to take care of her health. Every right! And yes, I’m aware that she was undergoing protracted, agonizing, exhausting treatment for life-threatening cancer. I’m not saying she had any obligation to prioritize her blog over her life or health–or over anything at all.

    But if you think that this was about a particular set of transphobic comments made during the Interblogospheric Blowjob Wars First Phase, Late Early Years, Pre-Bertian Epoch, then you just don’t know what I’m talking about. It was the climate, the regulars, the status quo for several years. Minor, but reliable. Up until a very short time ago, when it finally became officially Not On. And those people went, “Twisty has been compromised! IBTP IS NO LONGER FOR TRUE RADICAL FEMINISTS!” and founded blogs of their own so they could go and be completely creepy and horrible in freedom. (And they’re still out there, cheerfully representing radical feminism on the internet.) That’s a difference in crowd and tone, and it is the kind of thing that people notice and remember. Those people are not your fault, but those people do a lot of damage. I can understand why you think that IBTP is a valuable space, and why Twisty is a wonderful commentator; you need to understand why other feminists might not notice the parts that you value so much.

  127. Glundank
    October 23, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Anonymouse:
    I never agree with Twisty, but the way Holly goes about her critique of IBTP just smacks of “I choose my choice.” I don’t agree with radical feminist analysis of sex and sexuality, but I have to agree with critiques of sex-positive feminism advanced by commenters here, particularly the idea that sex-positive analysis erases those who don’t have positive experiences with sex. I feel that, when faced with someone who is describing sexual experience that has not been positive, sex positive feminism is more likely to interrogate that person’s experiences and ask them to explore why they aren’t “empowered” by sex than to interrogate social/cultural forces (patriarchy, if you will) at play. Also, the label “sex-positive feminism” sets out the binary wherein just “feminism” is then sex-negative, thus reinforcing stereotypes of feminism and feminists as anti-sex.

    Ultimately, I find both radical feminist and sex-positive conceptions of sexuality too reductive and restrictive to be useful. Really broadly speaking, radical feminism focuses on structures/institutions to the exclusion of agency and sex-positive feminism focuses on agency to the exclusion of analysis of institutions and power structures. So it’s either “patriarchy shapes all” or “you have to get with the empowerment through sex acts program.” I should say that this applies to how radfem/sex-pos dynamic plays out on the Internet.

    This really puts into words all my feelings on the topic. Thank you so much for this.

  128. October 23, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    The Twisty post in question did alienate me, which has generally been my experience with radical feminism. I don’t always disagree with her, and hers is hardly the worst radfem blog I’ve read. But the way she seems to have experienced femininity is very different from mine. I was raised in the religious right, and left the church only about three years ago, so within that context any woman who wrote about vibrators would have been considered a failure as a feminine person. It’s completely opposite from the experience she describes.

    Sex-positive feminism has helped me become comfortable with who I am as a sexual person. It’s helped me gain the confidence to throw off the incredibly unhealthy ideas about sex that I’d internalized. Encountering sp feminism helped me feel like less of a freak. When I read radfem blogs, I feel like a freak all over again. Radical feminism doesn’t represent me in the least. I’m insulted by the idea that because I sometimes wear makeup and incredibly feminine clothing–because I shave my legs, and love jewelry–I’m a slave to the patriarchy, just another one of those silly girls who mistakes “sex attraction for love.” Our choices aren’t made in a vacuum, that’s true. But I’m aware of that, and I analyze my decisions. Fuck anyone who judges me for them.

  129. Molly
    October 23, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Sarah J.:
    Sex-positive feminism has helped me become comfortable with who I am as a sexual person. It’s helped me gain the confidence to throw off the incredibly unhealthy ideas about sex that I’d internalized. Encountering sp feminism helped me feel like less of a freak. When I read radfem blogs, I feel like a freak all over again. Radical feminism doesn’t represent me in the least. I’m insulted by the idea that because I sometimes wear makeup and incredibly feminine clothing–because I shave my legs, and love jewelry–I’m a slave to the patriarchy, just another one of those silly girls who mistakes “sex attraction for love.” Our choices aren’t made in a vacuum, that’s true. But I’m aware of that, and I analyze my decisions. Fuck anyone who judges me for them.

    This is very much my experience, as well. Blogs like Holly’s and Clarisse’s make me feel better supported in relationship communication, in asking my partner for what I do want (and asking not to do what I don’t want), in dealing with fatphobic expectations around sex, in dealing with performative expectations around sex, in being comfortable with my own sexuality and seeking partners I’m actually compatible with, etc. They have actual, practical impact in my life, and I feel better equipped to negotiate sexual encounters because of their writing about the complexities of consent and communication.

    Blogs like IBTP, when it talks about sexuality, generally make me feel forgotten. As a lesbian, I’m mostly only good for making cheap points, and as a submissive/masochist kinkster, I’m a disgusting tool of the patriarchy who only THINKS I like that stuff because it pleases men (even though, see again “lesbian”). And as someone who gets off on penetration? I’m the scum of the earth, apparently, because, you know, that’s Unacceptable in the grand feminist utopia. I’m always left feeling like Twisty and some of her ilk would really prefer I don’t exist, because I’m a complex inconvenience to their very simple view of What Women Are and What Men Are.

    That said, I have a very simple solution to this: I don’t read blogs that make me feel ignored, used as a cheap point, and/or attacked for my private acts. The views I share with radical feminists (and there are plenty, but approximately none of them have to do with sex or sexuality) I can happily cultivate elsewhere. I still happily own a Radical Feminist t-shirt, and I’m pretty sure most of my friends think I’m a little tooooo lefty (even for Canada!), but when it comes to sex and sexuality, I’ll take a Holly or a Clarisse any day of the week, because they don’t make me feel like shit about myself and my desires.

  130. Glundank
    October 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Something that always annoys me about this “radfem vs. pozzie” war is that one is expected to be completely in favor of either side. I’m sure most radical feminists aren’t horrendously transphobic, but agreeing with some of their points gets you labeled as such. Most sex-positives don’t get their naughty bits out to relate old stories to their friends, but it’s the assumption others make about you if you think one may have had a good idea.

  131. wanderingby
    October 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    I’m fat, old and ugly. How exactly do I get to embrace funfeminism and sex positivity? I don’t thats how.

    I fail to see how behaving exactly how dudes want you to behave (performing femininity behaviors) and doing exactly what dudes want you to do (having sex and sucking dicks) by “choice” is empowering.

    That “choice” is conveniently denied people like me who don’t have it.

    The “power” you get from “choosing” all this is just a pat on the back for your compliance.

  132. Athenia
    October 23, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Once porn can convince my boyfriend that my hairy armpits are cute and feminine, I think we can call it a day and sing kumbya.

  133. Glundank
    October 23, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Athenia:
    Once porn can convince my boyfriend that my hairy armpits are cute and feminine, I think we can call it a day and sing kumbya.

    Cracked up. Thanks for lightening up this tense thread.

  134. October 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    @Molly: Ditto on sexual orientation being used as a cheap shot. I’m not lesbian–I identify as bisexual but my sexuality fluctuates and it’s taken me years to become comfortable not only with the fact that I am also attracted to some women, but also with the possibility of dating these women. So most of my relationships have been with men. I would never feel comfortable identifying as bi in a radfem space out of fear of being seen as that girl who just makes out with other girls to get male attention. I don’t want my sexuality used as a cheap shot either. Sex-positive spaces have been much more supportive.

  135. October 23, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Feminist Media Collective “On ‘sex-positivity” and misunderstandings”

    http://www.feminisms.org/3765/on-sex-positivity-and-misunderstandings

    Clarifies MANY many important things. Worth a read for folks on both side of the argument (and those in the middle)

  136. October 23, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Sarah, J….It is unfortunate you would feel uncomfortable to disclose your bisexuality to radical feminists, I know of bisexual radical feminists, it’s incredibly unfair to make such sweeping assumptions.

  137. NullPointer
    October 23, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    That’s still kind of condescending, though, to women who want to wear killer heels, lots of makeup every day, and the rest of it just because that’s what they feel good in. Saying “you poor dears, I don’t blame you” still isn’t really respecting their choice.

    From reading TF, I don’t think it’s that she doesn’t respect their choice, it’s that she thinks their choice is, like everything else, influenced by the patriarchy. Just like, I don’t know, you could respect my choice to become an engineer and still say that I was influenced by family pressure. I don’t think those are opposed at all. Every choice anyone makes is influenced by the patriarchy, since it’s the overarching social order.

    The fact that your hypothetical woman just feels good in makeup and heels doesn’t invalidate the fact that society influenced her to wear them.

  138. Bushfire
    October 23, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I sometimes wear makeup and incredibly feminine clothing–because I shave my legs, and love jewelry–I’m a slave to the patriarchy, just another one of those silly girls who mistakes “sex attraction for love.” Our choices aren’t made in a vacuum, that’s true. But I’m aware of that, and I analyze my decisions. Fuck anyone who judges me for them.

    No one is free from the patriarchy’s influences, whether they know it or not. Twisty’s not judging you for your choices, she’s judging the patriarchy for limiting our choices.

  139. October 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    That’s odd… I’ve been exploring radfem spaces for a long time, and I’ve never been attacked for saying I’m bisexual… when it’s been relevant to the conversation, anyways… :/

    Otherwise, tinfoil, you’ve said most of what I’d add. Argue on, y’all.

  140. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    @piny, my not wanting to engage in anal sex does not make me a homophobe. Youbare kickiing up a bunch of straw here.

    What you skipped right over is the part where anal sex, between het partners, is still something that het men “do to” women. How many het women’s male partners, when clamoring for anal sex, whip out a dildo and lube and call, “me first!”?

    It’s funny that with all your sex-pozzie street cred, you are incensed that I, personally, do not find the idea of a penis in my rectum to be appealing.

    As for transphobic commenters at IBTP, they are long gone, and I hope they stay that way.

    And it is unfortunate that while twisty was undergoing horrific treatment for breast cancer, she did not moderate her blog as vigorously as you may have wished she had. That she did not do so hardly makes her, or ALL RADICAL FEMINISTS!!!!, transphobic. So watch it with the accusations, will you?

  141. machina
    October 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    EG: I can’t link to or call any up, unfortunately, as I stopped paying attention to sex-positive feminism years ago, for just the reasons I described, so they’re not fresh in my mind.But in general, the rhetoric that sexuality [read always] is positive, that sex is [read always] wonderful, that the [read only] reason not to want sex is to be joyless, that by default feminists who don’t proclaim themselves “sex-positive” are anti-sex–they’re all alienating.It’s not so much any one argument as it is the assumptions of the rhetoric.

    Ok, I’ve mainly read sex-positive stuff that is focused on specific issues, like sex work and BDSM, so maybe they don’t do this so much.

    I’m wondering how much of this is implicit, do sex-positive writers actually say that sex is always positive, for example, or is it a matter of emphasising positive experiences that gives that impression?

  142. October 23, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    No one is free from the patriarchy’s influences, whether they know it or not. Twisty’s not judging you for your choices, she’s judging the patriarchy for limiting our choices.

    I’d be angry that you said that, but I know it wasn’t really you–I know the patriarchy made you say that.

    …Do you see how frustrating it is to get that kind of reaction when you’re trying to express yourself? Being told “I don’t judge what you do, I understand it’s not really you” is worse than being judged. It’s being belittled down to nothing, being told that she doesn’t even dress herself, and she should be pitied for having the illusion that she does.

    I’m not saying that she invented feminine clothing herself, or that it’s totally free of cultural markers, or whatever it would take to make it qualify as a 100% free choice. But treating her like it wasn’t a choice at all (and with undertones that you’d disapprove if it were a choice) is painfully condescending. And, yeah, sexist. “Women can’t make free choices in a patriarchy” always hits my ears sounding a lot like “women can’t make free choices.”

  143. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Gee, mando, thanks for the helpful internet tips!

  144. October 23, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I’m wondering how much of this is implicit, do sex-positive writers actually say that sex is always positive, for example, or is it a matter of emphasising positive experiences that gives that impression?

    Obviously sex isn’t always positive. That’s silly.

    But I do try to talk about positive sexual experiences, or in particular, positive sexual experiences that go against the prevailing social paradigm in some interesting way. Experiences that involve explicit negotiated consent, or experiences that value genuine female pleasure, or experiences that are gratifying in some way outside the norm. I think talking about those things is valuable.

    And I also think of “sex-positive” as something existing in contrast to ideas like “sex lowers a women’s worth” or “sex is a dirty urge that makes men into animals.” (These are not things I’m accusing radical feminists of thinking, but things I see in the societal mainstream.)

  145. Molly
    October 23, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    tinfoil hattie:
    What you skipped right over is the part where anal sex, between het partners, is still something that het men “do to” women. How many het women’s male partners, when clamoring for anal sex, whip out a dildo and lube and call, “me first!”?”

    Um, lots of them. Pegging is pretty common among young progressive het couples; Bend Over, Boyfriend‘s got to be in double-digit printings by now.

    It’s exactly this kind of reductive, everyone-but-me-is-behaving-like-1950s-couples assumption that makes people turn to sex-positive feminism. Sex-positive blogs are exactly where I see people fighting against the idea that the mainstream-porn-and-Cosmo ideas about sexuality (like that het anal is always the man penetrating the woman). Those blogs are where diversity of female (and male) sexuality are pitted against the “how to please your man by never talking openly about your sexual interests (or his)!” norms of our society.

    Did you even read @piny’s original comment? She quotes a commenter on IBTP as saying this:

    Sorry, that’s just too disgusting. I know more than enough about human anatomy & physiology to know that the anus was designed as an exit, NOT an entrance; therefore, anal sex violates that rule completely.

    If you’re defending THAT as not being homophobic? Then yes, you’re absolutely aligning yourself with homophobia, because that is incredibly homophobic–it looks like something I’d hear Rick Santorum saying. If you’re just trying to you have a personal preference against it (hey, so do I), you might want to distance yourself from this comment.

    Basically, all of this comes down to: I’m seeing you repeat a very Cosmo-style “truth”: that anal sex is something men do TO (never with! And never on the receiving end of) women, and that it’s gross. And that’s a complete failure of nuance, and it’s just not accurate. I’ll take the diversity and nuance of sexuality that’s offered by sex-positive bloggers any day over the “men do this, women do that” of comments like this one.

  146. October 23, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    @Bushfire: And I am trying to voice the fact that I still possess the agency to make my own decisions, even within the context of patriarchy. The only reason that agency is being called into question by radfems is because my behavior is different from the way they believe women should react to the patriarchy. It’s not your judgment to make. It’s not Twisty’s judgment to make. And I know damn well that if I didn’t shave my legs, or occasionally wear make up, the reasoning behind my decisions wouldn’t even be questioned. I wouldn’t even have to offer a defense.

    I also strongly resent the implication that anal sex is somehow inherently bad because it’s something that is done to me, presumably by a male partner. It’s something that I allow my partner to do. It’s not passive on my part, and if I didn’t enjoy it, it would not happen. Simple. We’re back to agency yet again.

  147. igglanova
    October 23, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Holly Pervocracy: “Women can’t make free choices in a patriarchy” always hits my ears sounding a lot like “women can’t make free choices.”

    Nobody makes free choices.

  148. October 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Nobody makes free choices.

    Technically true, yeah. But almost everyone gets some input. And when someone is facing you and talking to you and saying “this was my choice, this is what I believe is right for myself,” I think it’s only respectful to acknowledge that.

  149. Molly
    October 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Nobody makes free choices.

    Okay, sure, in the sense that we’re constrained by laws and societal expectations and a need to obtain food and shelter in a capitalist or socialist society.

    But there are about a million ways to stay within those constraints. Obviously, we don’t all do it the same exact way, even though many of us are demographically close to identical.

    So it doesn’t make it A-OK to say “she’s only doing that because Patriarchy, that poor ignorant girl.” It’s still just patronizing, sexist, and almost invariably classist. And just kind of gross, to be honest.

    Saying “we’re all pressured to do x, y, and z” can be a reasonable, demonstrable, and helpful statement. Saying “this woman I’ve never met/these women I’ve never met are clearly bowing to the pressure to do x, y, and z, which I know because I would never choose to do x/y/z and therefore no one else ever would, either”? That’s just fucked up.

  150. Kristen J.
    October 23, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Holly Pervocracy: …Do you see how frustrating it is to get that kind of reaction when you’re trying to express yourself? Being told “I don’t judge what you do, I understand it’s not really you” is worse than being judged. It’s being belittled down to nothing, being told that she doesn’t even dress herself, and she should be pitied for having the illusion that she does.
    I’m not saying that she invented feminine clothing herself, or that it’s totally free of cultural markers, or whatever it would take to make it qualify as a 100% free choice. But treating her like it wasn’t a choice at all (and with undertones that you’d disapprove if it were a choice) is painfully condescending. And, yeah, sexist. “Women can’t make free choices in a patriarchy” always hits my ears sounding a lot like “women can’t make free choices.”

    Not to mention we don’t all experience the patriarchy the same way…so rad fem liberation sounds remarkably like the pat to me.

  151. October 23, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Accusing “funfeminists” of “active appeasement” the way Twisty does in the comments on that post is simply fucked up. It’s incredibly patronizing. That’s exactly the sort of attitude that pushes me away from radical feminism, and that’s the attitude I’m criticizing here.

  152. igglanova
    October 23, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I think where we get into this obnoxious ‘I choose my choice’ quagmire is when we start narrowing our focus down to the individual. I mean really, there are going to be some people whose preferences just happen to align with what is in vogue with the patriarchy at the moment. There’s no point going after those people, because our goals should be much fucking broader than micromanaging people’s wardrobes.

    It is much more valuable and interesting to criticize trends and the large-scale social forces that shape them. Hence, why every credible feminist I have ever read decides to critique compulsory femininity and leave out the judgement of individuals. Honestly, I must hang out in vastly different circles from a lot of the commenters here, because I never hear anyone giving a damn about whether you, personally, shave your pits or not. I do hear a lot of criticism lobbed at the fact that women, as a class, are expected to shave off all their body hair, though.

  153. Kristen J.
    October 23, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    igglanova: I do hear a lot of criticism lobbed at the fact that women, as a class, are expected to shave off all their body hair, though.

    I chalk it up to reflexive defensiveness. Same on the other side of the philosophical divide in all these wars. People are careless with their words or their tone. But there are times when people will superimpose their perspective on *all women* which is fucked regardless of which side you prefer.

  154. October 23, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    @Igglanova: how is accusing women who perform femininity in a certain way of “actively appeasing” the patriarchy anything other than an attack on the individual choices of those women?

  155. Molly
    October 23, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    igglanova: Honestly, I must hang out in vastly different circles from a lot of the commenters here, because I never hear anyone giving a damn about whether you, personally, shave your pits or not. I do hear a lot of criticism lobbed at the fact that women, as a class, are expected to shave off all their body hair, though.

    I think the thing is that it’s not precisely the first thing that we’re seeing. It’s close–almost annoyingly subtle, and I apologize for that–but it’s this: they say patronizing things about women who shave their pits. Rarely if ever is a particular woman picked out (because that would be fairly ridiculous–“you, walking down the street! You there! YOU ARE A BRAINWASHED TOOL OF THE PATRIARCHY!”), but it’s not the same as complaining about the expectation of shaved pits.

    In other words, instead of what you and I clearly consider to be the problem (that women are expected to shave our pits), the focus all too often seems to be on the women who aren’t toeing the opposite line: that they’re failing us by shaving their pits. And that seems like a really troubling area to focus on, and one that I don’t see nearly as much of on less-radical feminist blogs.

    Here’s the quote Holly gives in the piece that’s being linked to here:

    So you should go ahead and do things that are patriarchy-approved, if you want to. Buy new nail polish! Care about celebrities! Have a giant wedding! Wear a thong in your hair! Put your picture on the Internet! Look good according to particular patriarchal ideas of what looks good! Be flattered when men wolf whistle at you, literally or metaphorically! Whatever aspects of being a “Hot Chick” work for you, enjoy them. Maybe except the hair thong. But don’t fool yourself that you’re doing so of your own unconstrained free will.

    This isn’t “we shouldn’t be expected or required to buy nail polish, care about celebrities, have giant weddings,” etc. This is unmistakably “women who buy nail polish, care about celebrities, have giant weddings, etc, are brainwashed, whereas you and I, reader, are the smart ones who know better.” And that’s patronizing, false, gender-essentialist bullshit, because there’s actually nothing the fuck wrong with most of the things she cites except that they’re coded feminine and therefore lesser.

    The problem with crossing the line from “we shouldn’t be expected to perform femininity (as our society defines it)” over to “women who perform femininity (as our society defines it) are Hurting The Cause and Are Not Making Free Choices” is that it sends the inescapable message that performing femininity is something that’s lesser and should be avoided at all costs, and is something that no one would ever do unless forced to by the patriarchy. Performing masculinity, on the other hand (gee, what’s the equivalent stereotype to the above–buying new socket wrenches and caring about cars?), is good for everyone.

    And that right there? That doesn’t seem like feminism to me. I see a lot of wonderful things in my society’s definition of femininity, things that many men I know wish they could enjoy more freely. Telling women that we should avoid them, lest we be labeled Tools of the Patriarchy, sounds a lot like saying femininity is inferior, and, frankly–that’s not what I want from feminism, ever.

  156. Randomizer
    October 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    I find Twisty’s blog well woth the time to read. Sure she’s rad, but she’s got a wicked turn of phrase and makes good points without the kind of whiney victim rhetoric you’ll find over at Femonade. Now there’s a disturbingly hateful little blog.

  157. Randomizer
    October 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    IBTP aside, Holly has, IMO a valid point and writes, as always, passionately and well.

    I find some of the counterpoints about how sex+ feminism dismisses the complex and sometimes negative experience of sex under patriarchy unconvincing.

    The false dichotomy of sex-positive vs rad-fem is problematic and obscures more than it reveals.

    I just can’t support the fundamentalism of the rad-fem argument that the pervasiveness of patriarchy negates women’s agency where sex (with men) is concerned. And don’t even ask about rad-fem views on transwomen!

    I do think that everyone should question their own motives, in the sense that none of us is free from cultural influences. But it is a bridge to far to say that if you are a woman having sex with men then you haven’t done your homework or you are brainwashed.

    Whole swaths of women’s lived experience are invalidated by this view.

  158. igglanova
    October 23, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Sarah J.:
    @Igglanova: how is accusing women who perform femininity in a certain way of “actively appeasing” the patriarchy anything other than an attack on the individual choices of those women?

    I honestly have no idea where that quote is from and I never defended it.

  159. Tony
    October 23, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Holly, maybe this would be better put at your blog, but for now I’m more comfortable commenting here. I just went back to read the original, original post from Jess on xojane, that you appear to be responding to. You write that it is

    “dripping with disdain for women who appeal sexually to men, and full of conflation between women whose “sexy” pictures are being used without their consent and women who are intentionally presenting themselves as sexy.”

    but I did not see that in the post? Where is the disdain? The author seems to be saying women who appeal sexually to men are perfectly fine doing what they’re doing– the problem is with the system (in this case represented by Steven Greenstreet), not with them. She’s not saying “I don’t judge you for what you do, I understand it’s not really you”– she’s saying “I understand it is really you, but to the extent that your identity aligns with reward handed out to women under the patriarchy is essentially arbitrary and women who make other choices not only do not get the same rewards, they get punished a lot, and that’s fucked up.” She’s not saying that there shouldn’t be sexual freedom, she’s saying that society does not give all choices made under freedom the same respect. She’s not saying that sexual women don’t have dignity, she’s saying that society denies all women dignity when the rewards accorded to women is contingent on certain sexual choices. At least that’s how I read it. I liked it. She even linked to an earlier thread Feministe. I agree with your post, but I just don’t get the same interpretation from the xojane article that you got.

  160. Darque
    October 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

    igglanova: I honestly have no idea where that quote is from and I never defended it.

    I am shocked, shocked to hear that gambling is going on in here!

  161. Azalea
    October 24, 2011 at 12:02 am

    DoublyLinkedLists:
    @Azalea

    I’m almost 100% sure that the answer to all of your questions is “because patriarchy”. Radical Feminists are tired of being blamed for that just because they recognize it.

    So the solution is to go along with patriarchy on that one instead of challenging it? If this were a group of MRAs saying LOOK either be “sexy”or be a feminist but you damn sure cant be both, then ok. But these are ummm women who are uhhh feminists limiting the choices other women have to enjoy their femininity the way they want to. How could you say you want women to have the rights men have (you know, how a dude can look good to other people *and* be taken seriously/respected/admired at the same time) then turn around and say being femme makes you a non feminist, suddenly wearing high heels and makeup means you anti-abortion, anti equal pay, anti rape culture, anti gender discrimination anti equal rights FOR YOUR FUCKING SELF.

  162. October 24, 2011 at 12:06 am

    @igglanova: it’s something Twisty said in the comments of her original post. I reposted it because I think it reinforces my point: the reason I, and some of the other commenters, feel alienated from radical feminism because its adherents do criticize women for their individual choices. It’s not just a broad condemnation of the expectations the patriarchy has placed on female-identified people. I agree that women shouldn’t be expected to remove body hair. I don’t agree that women who do are necessarily doing so because they want to appease the patriarchy. That’s the attitude I’ve been consistently objecting to, and it’s something I have consistently encountered from radical feminists. It is why I do not identify as one. Does that clarify things?

  163. October 24, 2011 at 12:08 am

    Also, ditto to everything Molly and Azalea have said so well.

  164. October 24, 2011 at 12:13 am

    “Um, lots of them. Pegging is pretty common among young progressive het couples; Bend Over, Boyfriend‘s got to be in double-digit printings by now.”

    Gosh, didn’t ya hear about what is down with those “progressive heterosexual folks” I would explode if I wasn’t chuckling. I mean, are you serious? For real?

  165. October 24, 2011 at 12:14 am

    The amount of complete obliviousness to real political analyses is mind-blowing. I remember why I don’t follow these middle-of-the-fence, heteronormative, pro-capitalist, male-identified, middle-class blog. Very saddening.

  166. Tony
    October 24, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Well you apparently do follow them, because here you are, and you’ve already taken a sh–.

  167. DoublyLinkedLists
    October 24, 2011 at 12:31 am

    @Azalea

    My point was that the reason women can’t do all the things you listed is because we live in a patriarchy where women are not allowed to do all the things you listed. As if feminists were really powerful enough to limit women’s choice. Lol.

  168. Matt
    October 24, 2011 at 1:12 am

    I’m not sure if I am agreeing with radical feminism here, or going beyond their beliefs, but, agency is a lie. There are no real agents, only an illusion so complex that people process it as agency. Saying that people performing femininity aren’t making a choice is stupid, they are making one just as much as rad fems who don’t perform are. Counter culture superiority is ridiculous no matter what the counter culture is. Breaking down the patriarchy is useful insofar as it increases our productive output and also causes our brains to experience chemical rushes that we perceive as good: endorphins, to some degree adrenaline, oxytocin, seratonin and so forth. I suppose the closest I can come to choice is saying, it would be good if no single cultural influence was so powerful as to overcome all the others, or maybe, it would be better if the expectations of our society were more in line with the possibilities available to the average person, ie being 110 pounds with non standard breast size, or possessing such and such muscle mass, having such and such weight, and so forth. So if you were conditioned by the totality of your influences in such a way that you wanted to be “skinny” you could achieve said goal without ribs poking out, and damage to your internal organs and/or intense depression. And although we will never reach a point where everyone is mostly happy with their lives and no one commits suicide or partakes in other self harm activities because their belief about what they should be like is not in line with the reality, any system that moves us closer and closer to that state is a good and helpful system.

    Sarah J.:
    @Bushfire: And I am trying to voice the fact that I still possess the agency to make my own decisions, even within the context of patriarchy. The only reason that agency is being called into question by radfems is because my behavior is different from the way they believe women should react to the patriarchy. It’s not your judgment to make. It’s not Twisty’s judgment to make. And I know damn well that if I didn’t shave my legs, or occasionally wear make up, the reasoning behind my decisions wouldn’t even be questioned. I wouldn’t even have to offer a defense.

    I also strongly resent the implication that anal sex is somehow inherently bad because it’s something that is done to me, presumably by a male partner. It’s something that I allow my partner to do. It’s not passive on my part, and if I didn’t enjoy it, it would not happen. Simple. We’re back to agency yet again.

  169. Computer Soldier Porygon
    October 24, 2011 at 1:19 am

    tinfoil hattie:
    What you skipped right over is the part where anal sex, between het partners, is still something that het men “do to” women. How many het women’s male partners, when clamoring for anal sex, whip out a dildo and lube and call, “me first!”?

    I peg my boyfriend. He loves it, I love it. I also like anal sex. Is that okay because it’s reciprocal? Would it not be okay for me to like anal sex if I didn’t give as good as I get?

  170. Computer Soldier Porygon
    October 24, 2011 at 1:21 am

    Boner Killer:
    The amount of complete obliviousness to real political analyses is mind-blowing. I remember why I don’t follow these middle-of-the-fence, heteronormative, pro-capitalist, male-identified, middle-class blog. Very saddening.

    Yeah bro, this blog is totally male-identified.

  171. October 24, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Hi Holly, thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    Well, this thread seems to have mainly turned into a thread about Twisty, which I’m not so interested in, but these things happen.

    I did want to add one more thing, in response to other comments about sex-positive feminism etc.:

    It’s not that I think people shouldn’t critique sex-positive feminism. And I am glad to see those critiques! But for me, from where I’m standing, I’m in a position where I’ve already had a lot of those thoughts and I’m trying to find ways to forge those critiques into a better body of theory and a coherent feminist perspective that works to free both sexuality and feminist thought.

    For what it’s worth, I really do want to make my writing better and more inclusive. So it’s not so much that I read these conversations and go “These people don’t understand me and how hard I try!” … it’s more that I read them and go “But I already wrote about that, so could you please look at what I already wrote, and then try to give me feedback on that? Because I totally am trying to address the problems you bring up and I want to do a good job.”

  172. October 24, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Also Jadey, thanks for linking the “Balka” video thread.

  173. October 24, 2011 at 2:26 am

    @Natalia: I am not “conflating” anything. Merely pointing out that in the unlikely event that we ever live in a post-patriarchal society, none of that shit will be necessary. There will be no need for a sex class, nor for people to perform accordingly.

    Yes you are – if you are implying that performance in and of itself is tied to the sex class. Men are not members of the sex class, and yet they engage in performance. If Steve Jobs, to give an obvious example, showed up to one of the big Apple events of the last few years wearing cut-offs and a Grateful Dead shirt, it would have been kind of awkward.

    Striving for post-patriarchal society is not feasible if you don’t define patriarchal society in realistic terms, I think. Which is my biggest problem with Twisty’s commentariat, come to think of it. I don’t agree with Twisty’s vision of the future, but I appreciate her wit and her intelligence, whereas most of her commenters merely engage in an “Original Sin turned on its head”-style feminism.

  174. October 24, 2011 at 2:53 am

    Also I did want to thank saurus @46 for specifically reading my attempted sex-positive 101 and commenting on it, although her comment left me with many more questions! But perhaps the place to have this conversation would be in comments on the actual 101 post itself.

  175. Deepika
    October 24, 2011 at 2:58 am

    @Holly Pervocracy

    “The patriarchy made you say that” is very different from “the patriarchy approves only choice a, b or c for you to say and if you want to say something else be ready for severe repercussions” (which is what “limited choices” means – read that part again carefully in the comment you responded to)

    I’ve read your post linked to in the OP as well and I keep getting this from your writing, again and again: “limited choice” somehow means being a total puppet with no agency — there is no in-between where people exercise their agency despite limited choices.

    Or am I misreading what you write?

  176. October 24, 2011 at 3:01 am

    This thread makes me want to reconsider labeling myself a sex-positive feminist if all the sex-pos people are going to argue against radical straw feminists. Man. So much talking past each other.

    @Holly

    Sorry you find it insulting to hear you don’t have total agency. It’s just a fact. No one does.

    Also, I don’t think, as I mentioned above, that I ever hear radfems say women don’t *REALLY* like x, y, or z- they just say that they like it BECAUSE Patriarchy. That is just true. You live in a patriarchy, thus your opinions and desires were formed under their influence. You aren’t magically able to shake that off. Neither are the women that choose to shave. They ALSO have formed their opinion in a Patriarchy and are influenced by it. So are men.

    Seriously, please get off the strawfeminist crusade. People are not saying your desires aren’t “real” (whatever that means).

    I am engaged to a man, live a TPE BDSM livestyle, wear makeup, remove hair, all that, and have never read that I don’t *really* like those things. Just that hey- my desires for those things weren’t formed in a vacuum, fancy that.

  177. October 24, 2011 at 3:01 am

    <blockq

    igglanova:
    What the fuck? Since when did we swallow the idea that manipulative ‘traditionally female power’ is actually inherent to being female, rather than desperation brought about by oppression?Such manipulative ‘power’ is not actual power, because it still relies on the whims of the people who actually have power (usually men).If the boss decides not to give you jack shit for your efforts, no amount of makeup in the world will get you what you want.

    Besides which, nobody really cares if you personally wear makeup in order to land a job.But makeup is not empowering in any meaningful way, because any success it brings you is not self-directed.By your logic, all forms of coerced submission are ‘empowering,’ because they lead you to more successful outcomes than resistance, which is punished.The person dangling the carrot still retains all the power in this relationship.

    I too am leery of essentialist critiques that attempt to paint manipulation as a “female” thing and confrontation as a “male” thing – but we’re throwing thousands of years of history out of the window if we define manipulation as “desperation brought about by oppression.”

    Men are allowed to be both confrontational and manipulative – a man who is a political manipulator, for example, is not so easily dismissed. When we’re citing Machiavelli (whose writings were mostly dark humour, from what I understand, but whatever), we don’t go, “Well, it’s JUST a survival tactic, what he’s propagating, that’s just SO silly!” When we speak about the men who rose to power under Catherine the Great, we don’t dismiss them as, “Well, they charmed the empress to get ahead – so how can you call them powerful?” When we look at the current head of Russia’s presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov – the one man in Russia nobody should EVER cross, we don’t go, “But he’s not *really* powerful, seeing as he is behind the scenes.” But someone like Agnes Sorel manipulating the King of France to do as she wanted when it came to France’s military engagements, well, she was never a powerful figure, of course, because titties and babies!

    I think this is largely a function of the self-importance of Western feminist thought, this idea that there is one way to “do” power, and it only “counts” if we find it palatable.

    Success within patriarchal constraints /= power.

    Hm. Hillary Clinton has risen to prominence in our very own patriarchal society, while walking a pretty narrow tightrope (people scream she’s “ugly,” but if she shows a bit of cleavage, it’s cause for half of D.C. to freak out, for example). Would we deny that she’s nevertheless a pretty powerful woman? We can’t deny the constraints placed upon her – but could we honestly say, “Well, her position in both U.S. and global politics doesn’t really count – because of patriarchy.” I’d say the fact that Clinton is HATED throughout many regimes is already a pretty good sign of the importance of her role. People hate what they believe in. If Clinton didn’t matter, nobody would give her a second thought. Same goes for Condoleeza Rice, come to think of it.

  178. October 24, 2011 at 3:03 am

    @Deepika

    That is the same impression I’m getting.

    Also, that pointing that fact out is somehow “condescending”. :-/

  179. October 24, 2011 at 3:22 am

    Boner Killer:
    The amount of complete obliviousness to real political analyses is mind-blowing. I remember why I don’t follow these middle-of-the-fence, heteronormative, pro-capitalist, male-identified, middle-class blog. Very saddening.

    Is someone keeping a gun to your head and forcing you to read and participate here? I do apologize if that is, in fact, the case. No one should be forced to rub shoulders with their political inferiors in such a humiliating a fashion. I’d call in a SWAT team, but since the style of their work helps prop up a bunch of problematic masculine ideals, they might be of little help. It’s tragic, really.

  180. karak86
    October 24, 2011 at 4:25 am

    “Besides which, nobody really cares if you personally wear makeup in order to land a job. But makeup is not empowering in any meaningful way, because any success it brings you is not self-directed. By your logic, all forms of coerced submission are ‘empowering,’ because they lead you to more successful outcomes than resistance, which is punished. The person dangling the carrot still retains all the power in this relationship.”

    Then why are men so goddamn afraid of it? Why is the seductress the creature of nightmares, why do so many MRAs and “normal” men believe women can force them or compel them in some mystical way, why are witches so scary? Why is the perfectly coiffed Ice Bitch such a stereotype (and a terrifying one at that)?

    I don’t see why acting feminine because you like it is okay, acting feminine because you fear the consequences if you don’t is okay, but acting feminine as a weapon to get ahead in the world makes you a bad person and a bad feminist.

    “But you’re fucking over other women!” No more than I am when I study harder, work longer, or do better than they do. I applied myself to learning a skill, given my resources, talent, and limitations, and if applied my time to anything other than my appearance it’s okay to use it to get success, but if I use it on my face I’m a dirty cheater.

  181. October 24, 2011 at 5:51 am

    “But you’re fucking over other women!” No more than I am when I study harder, work longer, or do better than they do. I applied myself to learning a skill, given my resources, talent, and limitations, and if applied my time to anything other than my appearance it’s okay to use it to get success, but if I use it on my face I’m a dirty cheater.

    This point bears repeating.

    As I said up above, I’m not really sure why make-up gets singled out as a “devil’s bargain,” considering the fact that applying for jobs is NOT a fair process either way you look at it.

  182. Kaz
    October 24, 2011 at 6:39 am

    @Clarisse –

    In general I also only really know what is turning me off from the movement but not how to fix that, but I *do* have some ideas and suggestions that could help. I’ll send you an e-mail or comment on the 101 post later when I have time to round everything up.

    @zuzu (yeah, this is me responding to something from half a thread ago) –

    I still think that saying “women are supposed to not want sex (but still have it)” isn’t accurate. What I think is going on is that women aren’t supposed to /express any opinion/ on sex. No sexual agency. So if a guy wants sex with them, they don’t object, but they don’t ask for sex on their own. So both going “actually, I want sex” and “actually, I don’t want sex” are deviations from what’s expected. And that is /still/ ignoring the experience of some groups (e.g. women of colour may see this quite differently) and simplifying it quite a bit and isn’t across the board accurate. I grew up in a left-wing liberal European environment and was bombarded by “sex is a natural part of being human and everyone loves it!” growing up. This was still pretty screwed in various ways (I think slut-shaming still happened, and it was intensely heteronormative) but wanting sex to some degree was compulsory. Or here’s a fascinating post about how asexuality may not be as accepted by religion as you’d think.

    This may seem like hair-splitting, but I am serious when I say I think this is at the root of a lot of shitty attitudes about asexuality. E.g. I think it’s definitely at the root of the whole “disabled women are stereotyped as asexual!” meme. I’m disabled, present as female and asexual, and that intersection can be a pretty unpleasant place to occupy. And some of the backlash I’ve seen when asexuals dare to mention that actually, we’ve got problems too and being asexual isn’t all roses is terrifying.

    @the discussion about agency and choices in the kyriarchy –

    One thing that I feel often gets missed in this stuff is different contexts, /especially/ when it comes to intersectionality.

    Silly non-intersectional example: I very rarely come across women wearing make-up in my area (academic maths). In fact, I think there’s a stereotype at play that anyone (especially anyone who looks female) paying too much attention to their appearance can’t *really* be a mathematician, so if you wear make-up or dress too femininely obviously you have to be incompetent and not really able to do maths. This goes across several disciplines, and a friend of mine who’s a physicist says she wears make-up and jewellery in part as protest in order to subvert this expectation.

    Intersectional example: Cis women may find they’re expected to STFU about their sex lives and sexuality and rebel against that by talking about it openly, where trans women might feel as if since it’s so common for people to demand information about their genitalia and suchlike the most radical thing they can do is to go “no, I am not talking about any of this.” Similarly, I find that although saying I’m asexual is going contrary to kyriarchal expectations, once that’s out there people will frequently demand information about my sexual experience, sex life, libido and masturbation habits, what have you. I am intentionally trying to recreate my boundaries on that front and think of this as an act of resistance against the kyriarchy; for a heterosexual woman who’s experienced very different societal messages it might feel the exact opposite.

    As a result, I’m pretty skeptical of anything that paints choices as feminist/anti-feminist or resisting/obeying patriarchy with too broad a brush, because this kind of thing is *highly* context-dependent.

  183. PosedbyModels
    October 24, 2011 at 7:32 am

    @Kaz, you just addressed some of the stuff I’ve been trying to work out as I was writing this. Thanks.

    I’m just not sure that I’m comfortable with the idea that the only real reason I genuinely enjoy (since it seems like most people here are at least willing to grant that) and get real physical and mental pleasure from certain behaviors is because I have internalized aspects of the patriarchy so thoroughly that those things feel like things I love to do or <things that turn me on rather than things I feel pressured or coerced into doing. And I am totally, 100% willing to grant that this is based in personal experience and that my discomfort with something doesn’t mean that thing isn’t real. And I am willing to grant, too, that kyriarchy influences my personal choices and preferences, and that those choices and preferences take place in a fucked up system that I can’t avoid. But the idea that women like certain things because patriarchy told them to and they listened doesn’t feel satisfactory to me.

    One thing I’m getting stuck on (that’s been discussed a little bit, but not a ton): Patriarchy shames, punishes, or denies women’s real sexual pleasure and desire, and I feel as if embracing real pleasure and desire–on an individual level, with whichever acts or behaviors–is, in some way, subversive. Even if what gets you off is something generally considered patriarchy-approved, isn’t something more complicated going on if it really does get you off? And isn’t the fact that it gets you off somehow subverting the idea that sexual acts are done to women, that they don’t ask for them or desire them or derive pleasure from them?

    And is there ever a point where we have to let people say “I’ve examined it as carefully as I can, and whatever my reasons for it, that’s just what I like”? For example (This is probably TMI, for those who don’t want to know about other peoples’ sex lives), I love performing oral sex on my partner. I love how he feels in my mouth, I love how he tastes, I love what that whole process does to both of us. And I like to think that the reason I love it so much has more to do with the fact that it makes us both feel good than it does with the notion that I feel pressured and obligated to do it, either by him or the patriarchy. Because when I actually feel pressured, I don’t feel sexy. I don’t enjoy doing things that I feel I’m expected to do just because I’m a woman and I should be compliant.

    And that’s not to say that I’m ruling out the possibility that I’m being influenced by patriarchy in ways I haven’t realized, but I also think that I’ve done a pretty good job of examining myself and my desires. And you know, sometimes that examination has shed light on why I like something or where that desire came from, but it’s never really made a desire go away.

    And finally, if the only reason some women like particular behaviors (sexual or otherwise) is because of internalizing patriarchal expectations, how do we account for variation? That view seems to suggest that some women have been especially susceptible to patriarchal influence, while others less so. And I worry that this creates some sort of hierarchy: “Those other women are just weaker, they haven’t fought off patriarchy like I have.” I just…I struggle with all of this. This whole thread has really gotten under my skin and I’m trying to work it out.

  184. PosedbyModels
    October 24, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Blah, sorry for length up there. Y u so complicated, feminism?

  185. Liz
    October 24, 2011 at 8:11 am

    When I stopped performing femininity as per the narrow dictates of sex-pos feminism, the sex got a hell of a lot more sensual, intimate, creative and diverse. And I got a whole lot more and better orgasms. Simple as that. When I was playing at being a smart, self defined bunny, the sex was predictable, and cock-centred.
    Sexuality is so colonized that it’s pretty much impossible to get to something like genuine expression when you are performing a role that some Hugh Hefner shithead invented for you to feed his ego.

  186. Heidi
    October 24, 2011 at 8:14 am

    “When I was playing at being a smart, self defined bunny, the sex was predictable, and cock-centred.”

    so…what’s sex-positive about that in the first place?

    I think that’s a reaction to a misunderstanding of what “sex positive” is intended to mean.

  187. Molly
    October 24, 2011 at 8:44 am

    PosedbyModels: And finally, if the only reason some women like particular behaviors (sexual or otherwise) is because of internalizing patriarchal expectations, how do we account for variation? That view seems to suggest that some women have been especially susceptible to patriarchal influence, while others less so. And I worry that this creates some sort of hierarchy: “Those other women are just weaker, they haven’t fought off patriarchy like I have.” I just…I struggle with all of this.

    Yes, this exactly. Where “women are expected to do x” becomes “and women who do x only ever do x because of that expectation,” women who don’t do x are up on a pretty damned high horse.

    Which, hey–there’s no denying that outside the feminist blogosphere, things tend to run the opposite way (“oh that poor dear, she doesn’t know how to dress to flatter her figure”). But, you know, we’re supposed to be better.

  188. Molly
    October 24, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Liz: When I was playing at being a smart, self defined bunny, the sex was predictable, and cock-centred.

    Wow, I don’t know where you’ve been reading, but I don’t think it was the cream of the crop. The blogs of the author of this piece (Clarisse) and the author she’s quoting (Holly) don’t have the slightest hint of “bunny”ness. They’re about complications of consent, real communication, body positivity, gender, and the enormous variety of sexual expression. I think you might want to read one of Holly’s Cosmo send-ups (for example)–they’re very revealing of the best parts of the blog.

  189. October 24, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Sexuality is so colonized that it’s pretty much impossible to get to something like genuine expression when you are performing a role that some Hugh Hefner shithead invented for you to feed his ego.

    Well, crap.

    I hadn’t realized Hugh Hefner watches me have sex – while stroking his… ego.

  190. October 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

    A sister has blogged about this, particularly Holly’s commentary

    http://almostclever.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/where-feminisms-collide/

  191. October 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

    A sister has blogged about this, particularly Holly’s commentary

    http://almostclever.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/where-feminisms-collide/

  192. Kristen J.
    October 24, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Natalia: Well, crap.

    I hadn’t realized Hugh Hefner watches me have sex – while stroking his… ego.

    Yes, and he was the only influence during the formation of your sexuality. Because we all live the same lives.

  193. Athenia
    October 24, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Glundank: Cracked up. Thanks for lightening up this tense thread.

    You’re very welcome! I try my hardest. *grin*

  194. piny
    October 24, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Tinfoil Hattie:

    “@piny, my not wanting to engage in anal sex does not make me a homophobe. Youbare kickiing up a bunch of straw here.

    What you skipped right over is the part where anal sex, between het partners, is still something that het men “do to” women. How many het women’s male partners, when clamoring for anal sex, whip out a dildo and lube and call, “me first!”?

    It’s funny that with all your sex-pozzie street cred, you are incensed that I, personally, do not find the idea of a penis in my rectum to be appealing.”

    Jesus fucking christ.

    Do you really not understand the difference between, “I, personally, do not enjoy anal sex,” and, “Anal sex is dangerous and unnatural?” Really? Because that’s what the quoted passage was saying. Dangerous. Unnatural. Disgusting.

    Here it is again:

    …you can be DAMN sure I would never consent to a guy putting it up my ass! Sorry, that’s just too disgusting.
    I know more than enough about human anatomy & physiology to know that the anus was designed as an exit, NOT an entrance; therefore, anal sex violates that rule completely.

    You are far more likely to contract all sorts of nasty diseases (some of which are lethal) from this practice than any other sexual practice, just because of the difference between the anal mucosa and that of the mouth or vagina– the former is delicate and far more prone to small, often invisible tears that can serve as an easy portal for infection; the others are tougher and more resilient, so you’re less likely to cause tissue damage in the course of usual activity.

    Saying that sexual practices are unnatural and disgusting
    is bigoted. And saying that sexual practices commonly associated with gay people are unnatural and disgusting is homophobic. This very same rhetoric was and is still used to justify discrimination against gay people. If you can’t understand that that commenter was arguing that anal sex is objectively bad for you, objectively contrary to nature, then you are not necessarily homophobic but you are utterly incapable of evaluating homophobia.

    And you know? I don’t usually have to explain why this is a royally fucked up and homophobic argument that to commenters on this lazy shallow mainstream sex-pozzie blog. Because they seem to understand the difference between something they don’t want and something nobody should want. You just demonstrated your inability to see that.

  195. EG
    October 24, 2011 at 9:38 am

    ivyleaves:
    There is a rather huge difference between ‘people should just shut up about their sex lives’ and ‘Sex is one of the primary loci at which men have subjugated women under patriarchy and continue to do so. I think that discussions and analyses of sex are absolutely essential to feminism.’ I tend to agree with both of these views and do not see them as mutually exclusive.

    I agree. I think discussions and analyses of sex are important. I also do not want to hear about the sex life of anyone in detail who is not my lover or close friend.

    Dawn:
    For anyone who claims to enjoy this daily ritual, ask yourself this. If you could simply wake up and press the Easy button, and instantly have your hair and makeup done, would you?

    On the whole, I completely agree with you. But for me, there is the exception that I do love doing my hair, because my hair is not “patriarchy-approved,” due to some pretty stupid racism/anti-semitism, and so I didn’t learn how to make it good until I was…jeez. In my late 20s? Maybe even later? So doing my hair, while laborious enough that I do it only every three days, does feel like loving self-care to me. I think there are always going to personal exceptions along these lines, but I don’t think such exceptions make the general observation any less accurate.

    Mandolin:
    “I am just not interested in hearing the details of people’s sex lives. It violates my boundaries.”

    …so don’t read them?

    I mean, this seems like a pretty simple equation. If the low-cut shirt of thy neighbor offends thee, avert thy eyes. If your boundaries are violated by other people’s storytelling, avert your browser.

    You do get, right, that s-p feminists exist outside the internet? In real life? This is precisely one of the reasons I don’t read pieces by avowedly s-p feminists about sex. I don’t want to hear about your vibrator choices, I don’t want to hear about your bondage practices, I don’t want to know about you enjoyment of anal sex. Go with God, my child, and do/have all of that with great gusto, and then blog about it, and I will skip those posts, and we will all be at peace.

    But sometimes, I meet a group of people for drinks. Or I meet a friend and a friends of hers for coffee. Or my entire grad program would be invited somewhere. Or I’d be hanging out with a sex-positive feminist friend with whom I have a lot in common and whose company I enjoy in every other way, and whom, I also, by the way, work with in a professional capacity. And then, when real people in real life start discussing their sex lives in unnecessarily personal detail without clearing it with everyone first, it feels like an intrusion, an emotional intrusion. You’re not my best friend, I don’t want to know such personal details about your life, and I don’t want such intimacy thrust upon me. In none of these situations is getting up and walking away abruptly really nice for anybody, and it would be likely to disrupt the pleasant group vibe of informal camaraderie that has developed. So…yes. Discomfort, and I resent s-p feminists using feminist to justify what is essentially rude and thoughtless behavior. Wearing a low-cut top shows cleavage; a guy taking off his shirt shows his upper body; what I think about in those cases is my own problem. Having someone discuss their own personal sex life in great detail is about putting unwanted thoughts in someone else’s mind, and that is a part of life, but in this case, I find it to be a rude and unfeminist part of life.

    Carpenter:

    However I gotta say, that I can’t get past the essentialist critique of femininity.To me the trappings of femininity are completely arbitrary, just like any set of human conventions about appearance and mannerisms.The problem isn’t that they exist, the problem is that 1) They are confined to women only and assumed to be immutable and 2) They are associated with weakness and being an object (No doubt because of 1).

    I think the problem with getting rid of #2, which seems to me to be what you’re advocating, is that, as the rad fem critique points out, a lot of aspects of femininity are about inducing weakness. Hobble skirts do make it harder to run or kick if you have to. High heels also make it harder to balance, run and kick, with the added benefits of fucking up your knees, hips, and back (and yes, I still wear them on occasion). Make-up and hair-care products cost money, money that, by and large, women have less of than men. Historically, women’s clothing is more likely to hurt and limit movement: high heels, corsets, girdles. That’s not to say that women who wear all or any of these things are to be scorned or thought less of or aren’t feminists–I wear heels and spend a lot of time and money on hair care and wear minimal make-up, and I know that I’m a feminist. But I don’t think it’s possible to separate all the tropes of femininity from weakness because many of these tropes cause weakness.

    Molly:
    That said, I have a very simple solution to this: I don’t read blogs that make me feel ignored, used as a cheap point, and/or attacked for my private acts. The views I share with radical feminists (and there are plenty…) I can happily cultivate elsewhere.

    Yes. This is exactly my solution to s-p feminism. But Clarisse seemed quite unhappy and a little condescending about that. I wonder how she feels about your similar decision to avoid rad fem blogs and sites.

    machina:

    I’m wondering how much of this is implicit, do sex-positive writers actually say that sex is always positive, for example, or is it a matter of emphasising positive experiences that gives that impression?

    A lot of it is implicit in the rhetoric of sex being a joyous wonderful experience that is/should be open to all. And a lot is implicit in that commenters online who I’ve seen try make criticisms of the sex being discussed in the topics (not of the “this sex act is inherently bad” variety, but of the “but how do gendered power dynamics inform this sexual expression” variety) were verbally attacked, shamed, and shut down. There felt literally like any negative experiences of sex or sexuality were simply irrelevant to the discussion and something that the discussers weren’t interested in hearing about or analyzing.

    karak86: Then why are men so goddamn afraid of it? Why is the seductress the creature of nightmares, why do so many MRAs and “normal” men believe women can force them or compel them in some mystical way, why are witches so scary?Why is the perfectly coiffed Ice Bitch such a stereotype (and a terrifying one at that)?

    Because this kind of fear is part of the ideology justifying oppressing and abusing women–if women are left to run free, they will subjugate us all with the power of their pussies, is how the thinking goes.

    And traditionally, witches run the gamut from ugly to beautiful. The most fearsome witches are actually hideous, but make a man think they’re beautiful, only revealing their true hideous while the man is having sex with them or something.

    “But you’re fucking over other women!” No more than I am when I study harder, work longer, or do better than they do. I applied myself to learning a skill, given my resources, talent, and limitations, and if applied my time to anything other than my appearance it’s okay to use it to get success, but if I use it on my face I’m a dirty cheater.

    This is about value systems. If you’re fine with it, go ahead; nobody’s stopping you. But I think studying, working, and having greater skill are things to be proud of. Doing make-up well, on the other hand, excites no admiration in me at all. So, no, I’m not going to be coming up with much respect for it.

    Heidi:
    so…what’s sex-positive about that in the first place?

    I think that’s a reaction to a misunderstanding of what “sex positive” is intended to mean.

    I think that’s a “no true Scotsman” argument. Yes, yes, the obnoxious unpleasantries propagated by sex-positive feminism makes it not real sex-positive feminism. But nonetheless, it is what I and others like me have experienced from it. In a very real way, it is a significant aspect of what s-p feminism is putting out there. If you don’t like that, confront your own people.

    Clarisse, I will respond in another comment. Right now, I have to run.

  196. piny
    October 24, 2011 at 9:42 am

    As for transphobic commenters at IBTP, they are long gone, and I hope they stay that way.

    And it is unfortunate that while twisty was undergoing horrific treatment for breast cancer, she did not moderate her blog as vigorously as you may have wished she had. That she did not do so hardly makes her, or ALL RADICAL FEMINISTS!!!!, transphobic. So watch it with the accusations, will you?

    Well, no, they were finally banned a little over a year ago. Some time after they stopped feeling remarkably comfy elsewhere. In the interim, they were allowed to hang–and they were allowed to say nastily transphobic things about trans people with remarkably little blowback. And while Twisty was undergoing treatment (which, again, not begrudging!) she found time to control the space along a bunch of other axes of assholery. She found time, over the intervening several years, to blog regularly and to talk about several other moderation issues. So, sorry, not agreeing.

    But are you sure you want this not to be all about Twisty, who did finally tell these people to GTFO of her site? Because if we’re talking about radical feminists in general, then those commenters aren’t just cranks on the margins of your unipolar party. They’re transphobic radical-feminist bloggers in their own decentralized right. And so far as I can tell, they haven’t issued sincere public apologies for ever besmirching the public name of radical feminism with retrograde paranoiac fantasies about fifth-column Frankenstein fembots.

  197. PosedbyModels
    October 24, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I suppose that the men on the side-walk are only “ironically” jerking off to the Slutwalk pageantry, keen to the subtle aesthetics of parody employed by burlesque stripper-costumes and women going top-less.

    A main slogan of Slutwalk, usually declared by women dressed in Victoria Secret lace and stilettos, is that however a woman dresses it’s not an invitation to rape. What point exactly is being made by this “look but don’t touch” approach—aside from its conformity to the construct of the “cock-tease”—except again to promote the false idea that how women dress has nothing whatsoever to do with rape, and that thus how women choose to dress is a free choice? But if the choice of sexual self-presentation for women was such a free choice why does it seem to come in only one flavor, namely, some variant of the patriarchal construct of “slut”?

    I don’t want to de-rail by bringing this all back to Slutwalk again, but Boner Killer, that first link you posted is skeeving me out with stuff like this. I hope to have time later in the evening to read it more closely, and I do support some of what’s happening in there, but paragraphs like this that keep coming up in are actually upsetting me. This just seems so cruel and frustrating. Like any woman who is stupid enough to wear heels or a bra in public is so fucking stupid that she has never really thought about feminism, she just likes to get in peoples’ faces and play “cock-tease.” And of course the assumption that only one kind of clothes and only one kind of woman with one kind of body ever shows up to/supports a Slutwalk. The thing about one flavor…I just don’t understand where that comes from. I think there are problems with Slutwalks and seeking liberation or expression through consumerist means blah blah blah blah but there are parts of that piece that I’m just finding very unsettling, and yeah, slut shaming. Like, “have fun twirling on poles in your bras, you dumb pseudo-feminists, I know you actually just like performing for the male onlookers.”

    Blergh. I wish I could articulate this better right now. Hopefully later…

  198. PosedbyModels
    October 24, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Kristen J.: Yes, and he was the only influence during the formation of your sexuality.Because we all live the same lives.

    Word.

  199. Dawn
    October 24, 2011 at 10:03 am

    karak86: Then why are men so goddamn afraid of it? Why is the seductress the creature of nightmares, why do so many MRAs and “normal” men believe women can force them or compel them in some mystical way, why are witches so scary?Why is the perfectly coiffed Ice Bitch such a stereotype (and a terrifying one at that)?

    I don’t see why acting feminine because you like it is okay, acting feminine because you fear the consequences if you don’t is okay, but acting feminine as a weapon to get ahead in the world makes you a bad person and a bad feminist.

    “But you’re fucking over other women!” No more than I am when I study harder, work longer, or do better than they do. I applied myself to learning a skill, given my resources, talent, and limitations, and if applied my time to anything other than my appearance it’s okay to use it to get success, but if I use it on my face I’m a dirty cheater.

    I’m not sure anyone is saying that. I know I’m not. I think that yes, it is “power”, but only because straight men are at the top. That is what I meant by “winning the fight for scraps.” Think about if 98% of CEOs and executive leaders were women. How much “power” would our feminine prowess have? Perhaps over lesbian or bi-sexual women at the top?

    We may be able to get men to do things for us. But what if men were the second-class citizens (which I’m not promoting, just saying what if)? Does it matter if you get someone who plays video games all day to do something for you? Or does it matter if you get the VP to grant you a professional favor?

    So again, it’s power only so long as straight men are in charge. I suppose you could say I too use my attractiveness as a “weapon” but I have no delusions about who it is I have to get power from (straight men), and that this weapon has a definite shelf life.

  200. Onymous
    October 24, 2011 at 10:19 am

    And, yeah, sexist. “Women can’t make free choices in a patriarchy” always hits my ears sounding a lot like “women can’t make free choices.”

    Maybe what we need to do is form a socio-political movement to tear down the patriarchy.

  201. October 24, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the people who criticize sex positive feminists seem to believe that there is some portion of sexuality that, somehow, men have a monopoly on because they often (stereotypically) act on it the most and seem to support it the most.

    But, there’s the thing…a group or individual can do something predominantly, but that doesn’t mean that they ALONE own it. There is one study that says that Denmark is the number 1 country in the world in regards to happiness. So one begins to think that, huh, some stats say that Denmark is a pretty happy place (whatever issues one has with the stats can be a separate matter). Yet it would be outrageous that say that Happiness itself is a Danish concept and that everyone else that expresses it is somehow a “fake” or a “mind slave to someone elses standard”.

    Now, that’s my view of it, but I could be wrong…am I?

  202. October 24, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Sorry for the double post, but I want to correct the grammatical errors:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that the people who criticize sex positive feminists seem to believe there is some portion of sexuality that, somehow, men have a monopoly on because they often (stereotypically) act on it the most and seem to support it the most.

    But, here’s the thing…a group or individual can do something predominantly, but it doesn’t mean that they ALONE own it. There is a study stating Denmark as the number 1 country in the world in regards to happiness. So one begins to think, “Huh, some stats say that Denmark is a pretty happy place” (whatever issues one has with the stats can be a separate matter). Yet it would be outrageous to say that Happiness itself is a Danish concept, made only for Denmark natives, and that anyone else who expresses it is somehow a “fake” or a “mind slave to someone elses standard”.

    Now, that’s my view of it, but I could be wrong…am I?

  203. October 24, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Maybe what we need to do is form a socio-political movement to tear down the patriarchy.

    Maybe a component of that socio-political movement could be freeing women’s (people’s!) sexuality from patriarchial ideas of “slut,” “prude,” “whore,” and “good girl,” in favor of pursing the sexuality that makes them feel whole!

    Can that sexuality be 100% free of patriarchal influence? Hell no. But I think it’s still a worthwhile pursuit to have as much sexual freedom as possible under the circumstances you live in. Total sexual freedom can’t exist, but more sexual freedom can and should.

  204. Sam
    October 24, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Kristen J,

    one question –

    Which brings me back to my solution to this continuing kurfuffle (and the mommy wars and the body altering wars and the…). Criticize the institutions, the messages, the norms but don’t criticize the decisions women make. Because here in the real world women make decisions based on a great deal more than a single person’s perspective on the patriarchy.

    isn’t that the entire question in a nutshell? That, from a radical standpoint of “matrix patriarchy”, women cannot be considered to have a truly free will, and thus their decisions cannot ever be considered to be expressions of true consent. Apart from the question of what “free will” really is, for anyone, male or female, isn’t that epistemological question the root cause of all other disagreements? I believe this radical epistemological argument is logically self-defeating (and no radical feminist has, to my knowledge, ever substantially logically demonstrated what differentiates radical feminist acts and thoughts from other women’s acts and thoughts, what gives them actual agency when all other women are exhibiting some sort of “patriarchy Stockholm Syndrom”), but, it seems to me, this disagreement about the nature of women’s agency is the root cause of the kind of disagreement discussed here.

  205. Molly
    October 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Onymous: Maybe what we need to do is form a socio-political movement to tear down the patriarchy.

    This is funny, but–honestly, I think this is the precise center of the divide we’re seeing here. It’s not really about sex. It’s about whether we’re primarily living for a utopian future, or for the best we can make of the now. A lot of radical feminist thought is “after the revolution.” And that’s great–we need people who talk that way, and who think that way.

    But I am never going to identify with that, because I need to live here, now, today. I need to deal with the reality on the ground, and the patriarchy is part of that reality. It’s not useful or practical for me to say, “well, none of my choices are free choices until we achieve a complete overhaul of the entire world.” It doesn’t help me operate under the patriarchy.

    The other side–and sex-positive feminism is only one aspect of it–is “we DO live in the now, and a lot of things about Now suck, a lot, but here’s some help negotiating boundaries with what Is, while it Is.”

    So the sex-positive version of that is: here’s how to say no, not just the big No, but little nos. Here’s how to say “I’d like to try.” Here’s how to deal with pressure from your partner, from your family, from society. Here’s how to figure out what you actually want. Here’s a look at the enormous diversity of sexual expression, and how it’s okay to want something the patriarchy thinks is wrong OR something the patriarchy thinks is right.

    And that kind of practical feminism is just more useful to my life, and more applicable, than the theory feminism of “when the revolution comes.” I can’t wait for the revolution. I can fight today’s battles for childcare, for abortion rights, for contraception, to stop human trafficking, to equalize pay, etc, etc, etc, but I can’t do all of them, all at once, while trying to overturn thousands of years of human history. I can’t. Maybe that makes me a failure of a feminist, but I need to be able to deal with the structures that are around me at the present, and work for a moderately better near-future. A perfect far-future isn’t useful to me.

  206. Kathleen
    October 24, 2011 at 11:19 am

    piny — I’ve been thinking about the way your attacks shift from “Twisty Faster” to “commenters at IBTP several years ago” to “radical feminists generally” back to “Twisty Faster”

    And the way several people here have said “oh but really this isn’t about Twisty, let’s focus people”

    because in fact, I think there is a big way that all of this is about Jill P. Smith. and that is because she’s funny as hell, and sharp, but also very kind, and — again — so damn funny. I mean, I’ve “walked away” from her blog several times and every time I come back because she is irresistibly hilarious. The existence of her blog puts the lie to a whole dismissive message about all of radical feminism, which is, “humorless haters”. That’s a message that, sorry, places like Feministe echo mindlessly; it’s become the take-home message of contemporary feminism about rad feminism and in many ways about *all* previous feminisms.

    It’s a total crock, and the “here be dragons” monsterizing of her — she may have explicitly denounced transphobia, but no, just keep calling her a transphobe cause you’ve gotta smear her somehow — feels pretty overcompensate-y. God forbid radical feminism might have a point about anything, right? God forbid somebody might make those points in a way that is smart and funny and soulful and not reducible to caricature? Scary, right?

  207. Kristen J.
    October 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Sam:
    Kristen J,

    one question –

    Which brings me back to my solution to this continuing kurfuffle (and the mommy wars and the body altering wars and the…). Criticize the institutions, the messages, the norms but don’t criticize the decisions women make. Because here in the real world women make decisions based on a great deal more than a single person’s perspective on the patriarchy.

    isn’t that the entire question in a nutshell? That, from a radical standpoint of “matrix patriarchy”, women cannot be considered to have a truly free will, and thus their decisions cannot ever be considered to be expressions of true consent. Apart from the question of what “free will” really is, for anyone, male or female, isn’t that epistemological question the root cause of all other disagreements? I believe this radical epistemological argument is logically self-defeating (and no radical feminist has, to my knowledge, ever substantially logically demonstrated what differentiates radical feminist acts and thoughts from other women’s acts and thoughts, what gives them actual agency when all other women are exhibiting some sort of “patriarchy Stockholm Syndrom”), but, it seems to me, this disagreement about the nature of women’s agency is the root cause of the kind of disagreement discussed here.

    Even if we could agree that agency doesn’t exist the rad fem perspective still fails to account for alternative experiences of patriarchal oppression. So even granting their assumption that individual women cannot freely choose, the criticism that individual women receive for “bowing to the patriarchy” by doing X is missplaced when individual women often receive a message that X is not patriarchy approved.

  208. EG
    October 24, 2011 at 11:26 am

    piny:
    But are you sure you want this not to be all about Twisty, who did finally tell these people to GTFO of her site?Because if we’re talking about radical feminists in general, then those commenters aren’t just cranks on the margins of your unipolar party.They’re transphobic radical-feminist bloggers in their own decentralized right.And so far as I can tell, they haven’t issued sincere public apologies for ever besmirching the public name of radical feminism with retrograde paranoiac fantasies about fifth-column Frankenstein fembots.

    And let’s not pretend that these views are contained within radical feminist circles and blogs. Mainstream press in the UK, at least, regularly features articles and essays by women like Sheila Jeffrys denouncing transwomen in hateful ways (not that there’s really a non-hateful way to do so). This is the public face of rad fem, and that’s why I stopped ID’ing that way (though I’ve hung onto my cotton-candy pink “radical feminist” t-shirt; these days I mostly wear it with pjs). If rad fems want to counter the well-supported notion that this is a major tenet of rad fem, they need to do a lot more than moderate comments.

    red_locker:
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that the people who criticize sex positive feminists seem to believe there is some portion of sexuality that, somehow, men have a monopoly on because they often (stereotypically) act on it the most and seem to support it the most.

    You’re wrong. What I, and others, have been saying is that s-p feminism privileges one particular kind of experience of sexuality over others, and dismisses, erases, has nothing to say to women who have ambivalent or negative experiences of sexuality besides “You’re doing it wrong!” Which is unhelpful and fundamentally anti-feminist, insofar as it implies that the problem with our sexual experiences lies in ourselves, and so we should get it together so we can love sex like they do, rather than in a sociocultural understanding of how sexuality is shaped and experienced under patriarchy.

    Holly Pervocracy: Maybe a component of that socio-political movement could be freeing women’s (people’s!) sexuality from patriarchial ideas of “slut,” “prude,” “whore,” and “good girl,” in favor of pursing the sexuality that makes them feel whole!

    How nice. You may have noticed that the second-wave feminists–and first-wave feminists–were pointing out and flouting the sexual double standard for decades. If that’s all s-p feminism has to offer, it’s not offering anything new. It’s certainly not offering anything new to those of us whose issues with sexuality are not mainly focused on negative labelling.

  209. Molly
    October 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

    EG: How nice. You may have noticed that the second-wave feminists–and first-wave feminists–were pointing out and flouting the sexual double standard for decades. If that’s all s-p feminism has to offer, it’s not offering anything new.

    Surely you’re not suggesting that the task is finished and we’re all free of the double standard? Seems to me, there’s plenty of room to keep hammering away at it.

  210. EG
    October 24, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Molly: Surely you’re not suggesting that the task is finished and we’re all free of the double standard? Seems to me, there’s plenty of room to keep hammering away at it.

    No. I’m stating that we don’t need a separate movement off-shoot doing that and claiming that it is doing something different from previous feminisms, and that if that is all it has to contribute to dismantling patriarchy, I can go elsewhere to get that without the heaping helping of “Isn’t sex wonderful! All kind of sex is wonderful! You should find sex wonderful!”

  211. Sam
    October 24, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Kristen J,

    “the criticism that individual women receive for “bowing to the patriarchy” by doing X is missplaced when individual women often receive a message that X is not patriarchy approved”

    certainly not, but it’s probably a consequence of *such* decisions being particularly problematic, because these decisions, more than simply Stockholm Syndrom decisions, are a threat to the radical axiomatic assumptions. It seems to me that, from a radical perspective, such decisions are to be treated like neutrons supposedly travelling faster than the light, they need to be discredited before they become a threat to the entire thought structure.

  212. Molly
    October 24, 2011 at 11:59 am

    EG: if that is all it has to contribute to dismantling patriarchy,

    I can’t speak to the author’s intent, but I don’t read these blogs with the goal of dismantling patriarchy. I read them with the goal of learning to deal with patriarchy, and get the most out of life under patriarchy. For progress, certainly, but not for revolution. I’m much more interested in a blog that’s about dealing with the reality I have to operate under than the ideal we might, in a hundred or three hundred or a thousand years, achieve. I want birth control to be easily accessible NOW, not after the revolution when birth control will be a completely different paradigm anyway. And obviously so do radical feminists, but their focus, IME, is on the theoretical future as contrasted to the unmitigated horrors of the present.

    By comparison to the radical feminists, these blogs–not just sex-positive blogs–see some good and equal and worthwhile that can be eked out of the present, even though we’re living under the patriarchy, and that’s important and useful to me.

  213. Bagelsan
    October 24, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I see sex-positive feminism as the idea that you should be allowed to have as much sex as you want to/the kind of sex you want to without suffering negative consequences from society. As a (at the very least currently practicing) asexual person that means that sex-positivity is giving me the thumbs up on having no sex, because that’s how I like it. And I’m down with that. Could sex-positive feminism be more explicit about this end of the spectrum (instead of focusing on the moar-sex-plz end)? Sure, why not, couldn’t hurt, but considering that the vast majority of people aren’t asexual I’m not shocked that we get less air time.

    And I definitely prefer being a sex-pos sidenote to being weirdly approved of for not having PIV or heterosexual (or any) sex, which is the vibe that my young unmarried self gets both from non-sex-positive feminism and society at large. I wouldn’t want to be told that not having sex is “doing it right” any more than not having sex is “doing it wrong”, and I’ve certainly overall received the former message more than the latter.

    I think that feminists need to practice looking at the big picture a little more — okay, so sex-pos feminism does not perfectly and explicitly address your exact sexuality or circumstances. Cry me a giant, privileged, well-educated and self-aware river; the vast majority of women aren’t worrying about how their medium-level or low-level libidos are being described in slightly less glowing terms than a high-libido person’s might be, they are being shamed and raped and murdered for having sex or being accused of having had sex at some point in their lives. Radical feminism does a good job looking at the theoretical underpinnings of some of this, but I believe sex-positive feminism does much more practical good in the world by putting out the message “sex is okay; sex doesn’t make women bad or dirty.”

    Yeah, I know that “sex is okay” is so omg totally last year in the feminist blogosphere, and we all want to get pickier about it now and start tailoring it just so, but outside of our relatively small culture it’s still a very revolutionary idea. People need to hear that having sex doesn’t make anyone bad before we start futzing around with phrasing everything just so, or before we’re like “okay, sex-pos, whatev I get it, moving on.” Like, I also get impatient when my beloved movements aren’t as sophisticated and current and relevant to my life as I like, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they are doing more valuable work than people who just sit around tsking at femmes and sluts, even if those latter people might describe my personal sexuality and gender presentation more favorably than sex-pos people often do.

  214. EG
    October 24, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Clarisse Thorn:
    And right now, in this discussion, I am trying to give you a roadmap of how to influence me, since I appear to be the highest-profile sex-positive writer currently participating in this discussion.Take the map if you want.Ignore it if you want.Talk about something completely different if you want.I’m explaining how I feel about this right now, and some of the actions I have already taken.

    You sound as if you think you’re doing me a favor. So let me make this clear: you are not. I’m fine with avoiding s-p feminism and feminists when possible. Changing s-p feminism so that it appeals to me is not a priority for me. By opening up a discussion topic on critiques of s-p feminism and responses to those critiques, you made it seem as though the appeal of s-p feminism is a priority for you. By asking for solutions to the problems identified by these critiques, you made it seem as though you took the critiques seriously and wanted to find a way to improve s-p feminism so that it addressed the problems I and others identified. Well, that makes sense. You are a s-p feminist, so of course the movement matters to you. I’m not, so what do I care how it presents itself?

    Now, as to this alleged road map: I have no idea what it’s showing, and there don’t seem to be any streets marked on it. Here’s what I’ve read you saying: “I’ve already addressed those concerns” and “When I asked for ideas for solutions, I didn’t mean things that I was supposed to do!”

    What, exactly, did you mean, then? Obviously the way and the places in which you’ve addressed these concerns have not been influential enough to counter the aspects of s-p feminism that we’re critiquing…or we wouldn’t be making these critiques. Asking feminists who have been alienated by s-p feminism’s presentations to become regular readers of s-p blogs on the off-chance that we find an essay there addressing our concerns is rather too much.

    I don’t go reading Marxist blogs either, despite the fact that I’m fairly certain I’d be in agreement with a great many of their points and analyses, because I do not find Marxism to be the best framework for analysis for all things. If Marxists want to convince me that their analysis and movement have divested themselves of the sexism and rigid authoritarianism that characterized them for so long, they’re going to have to come to me. And if they don’t want to, that’s fine. But in that case, their frustration about my critiques of Marxism is their problem, not mine.

    So, what did you mean when you asked for ideas for solutions? You say that you didn’t mean for us to suggest things that you and other s-p feminists who care about such things could do to address our concerns. Were you expecting ideas that involved those of us whom the movement has alienated to think of ways we could help out? Were you expecting ideas of how we could make s-p feminism relevant to our lives and experiences? Because, again, that is not my problem. I don’t care if s-p feminism flourishes, withers, or just carries on as it is. You implied through other comments that you did care about it. In that case, the responsibility for action is on you and those who think like you. Even if it’s hard and a lot of work.

    If your priority is to critique what you see that isn’t me?Do it.But if your priority is to have an effect on me?I’m telling you what I’m looking for and what my current feelings about the topic are, so that you can help me make my writing better.

    Except you haven’t. What are you looking for? Not things that you can do, apparently. If your current feelings are those of frustration, that is an inherent part of work of any kind.

    And again, if you don’t want to do that, then fine.But if you don’t want to do that, then don’t complain that sex-positive feminists are too busy talking about our orgasms to listen to critique, either.

    This was uncalled for, in my opinion. Not one critique of s-p feminism I have made has anything to do with your orgasms (although this is something I have encountered in other s-p feminists: an inability to understand that I fundamentally do not care about their orgasms) or anything else frivolous. We were having what seemed to me to be a reasonable discussion. I presented several critiques based on my off-putting experiences with s-p feminism (critiques, I might add, that I was hardly alone in noting, and not even the first). I went and read your 101 and, as I noted, I didn’t see how it addressed any of my concerns. You asked for ideas on how to address these concerns. I gave you my ideas, at which point you said you’d already done that, it would be really hard, and that suggestions entailing things that you should do were not! helpful!, at which point I kind of threw up my hands, because in that case, I have no idea what on earth you expect or want from me. You may have addressed these concerns; clearly these concerns have not been addressed sufficiently and in a way that has reached the people who have them. You may have more than enough work to do; in that case, don’t ask for suggestions.

    Your characterization of the critiques you’ve received from me as complaining about s-p feminists being too busy talking about their orgasms to listen to criticism is a willful flattening out of what I’ve said, and willfully condescending, which is one of the qualities of s-p feminism that puts me off, actually (“Oh, you have anxieties about bondage? You just don’t understand how fulfilling blah blah blah”). Now, that’s fine. I indulge in condescension myself quite often, but not towards people with whom I am trying to have a productive dialogue. Bluntness? Sure. Condescension and dismissiveness? Not so much. This dismissal of my critiques does not exactly fill me with confidence that you are indeed as open to addressing my concerns about how s-p feminism deals with ambivalent and negative experiences of sexuality as you profess to be.

  215. EG
    October 24, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Molly: I can’t speak to the author’s intent, but I don’t read these blogs with the goal of dismantling patriarchy. I read them with the goal of learning to deal with patriarchy, and get the most out of life under patriarchy.

    All right. Go back and look at the excerpt of my comment to which you were responding. Then go back and look at the excerpt of, I believe it was Holly’s comment, to which I was responding. Then go back and look at the excerpt of the comment to which she was responding. You will find that she was responding to a half-facetious comment about how we should construct a movement dedicated to dismantling the patriarchy, and that she was saying was that part of that movement would be undoing the sexual double standard.

    However, if you’d like me to rephrase in terms of “progress,” I’m happy to do so, as it will afford me the opportunity to fix a subject-verb agreement problem:

    I’m stating that we don’t need a separate movement off-shoot doing that and claiming that it is doing something different from previous feminisms, and that if that is all it has to contribute to feminist progress, I can go elsewhere to get that without the heaping helping of “Isn’t sex wonderful! All kinds of sex are wonderful! You should find sex wonderful!”

  216. annalouise
    October 24, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I think that I would be more down with a clarification of what feminist sex positivity is that didn’t just put it up against feminist “sex negativity” but against, what let’s just call “non feminist sex positivity” or something like that. By which I mean, old school 1960s-esque, male-dominated “sexual liberation”.

    The problem I have with sex positive feminism is that it’s really, really easy for it to get absorbed into a very anti-feminist type of pro-sex or sexual liberation worldview where sexuality is great and sexual repression is very bad. And where any criticism of sexual practices is evidence of sexual repression (bad!). In the most extreme terrible form you have people like Polanski apologists.

    In a less extreme form you have Dan Savage or you have feminists uncritically embracing pornography, burlesque, polyamory, sex work and bdsm to the point where it’s hard for people to accept criticism of any of these things from a feminist stand point because people forget that feminism and sexual liberation often don’t have the same goals in a patriarchal society.

    And I agree with Claire K above that I don’t feel like sex positivity has much to offer to me as a lesbian. I think that too much energy in feminist sex positive space is spent talking about how having sex with men is totally feminist. I don’t think that current feminist sex positivity is very good at presenting not-having-sex-with-men as a valid and empowering sexual choice. Nor is it very good at presenting to women of all sexualities that not-wanting-to-be-sexually-available-to-men at any given point in their lives is a valid choice.

  217. Bagelsan
    October 24, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Lol, so now sex-positive feminism has to be necessary and novel? Are we writing an R01 grant to the NIH now, or are we just trying to slightly un-fuck society’s perceptions of women and sex? :p

  218. EG
    October 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Bagelsan:
    I think that feminists need to practice looking at the big picture a little more — okay, so sex-pos feminism does not perfectly and explicitly address your exact sexuality or circumstances. Cry me a giant, privileged, well-educated and self-aware river; the vast majority of women aren’t worrying about how their medium-level or low-level libidos are being described in slightly less glowing terms than a high-libido person’s might be, they are being shamed and raped and murdered for having sex or being accused of having had sex at some point in their lives. Radical feminism does a good job looking at the theoretical underpinnings of some of this, but I believe sex-positive feminism does much more practical good in the world by putting out the message “sex is okay; sex doesn’t make women bad or dirty.”

    Bagelsan, I respect your views and admire your comments. In this case, though, I think we disagree. Certainly, noting that sex can be a good thing, it is certainly a fine thing to do if you want to, and that it doesn’t make anybody bad or dirty is important work. It’s also work, though, that mainstream feminists have been doing for a very long time now. Rad fem and s-p fem are not the only two options out there; neither one is very mainstream except insofar as what they say can be used by the overall patriarchal culture (so rad fems can get a lot of airplay by attacking transwomen, for instance). But mainstream feminism has often, and in reference to the second wave the large majority of the time advocated the ideas that there is nothing wrong with sex, that women can and should enjoy sex (Erica Jong, for instance, or the Hite Report being two major touchstones in second-wave feminism), and that doing so doesn’t make them bad and dirty. If that’s what s-p feminism is dedicated to doing, then what I don’t understand is why it needs a whole sub-heading, rather than just saying “There are indeed some rad fems who advocate the idea that there can be no meaningful consent to penetrative sex under patriarchy, and not only are they dead wrong, but that’s an absurd and retrograde idea” and coming on into the feminist mainstream.

    The fact that it’s a subgroup strongly suggests to me that it’s more than that, because those ideas can be found in mainstream feminism over the past many decades, and some can be found even other the past couple centuries.

    Further, it’s not just that s-p feminism doesn’t address my particular situation. It’s that it doesn’t address my particular situation because it seems to have little or nothing to say about experiences of sexuality that are not positive and how such experiences impact one’s feelings about one’s own sexuality. It seems to have little or nothing to say about feeling ambivalent about one’s own sexuality due to patriarchal culture beyond saying “Patriarchal culture is wrong! Own your sexuality! Love your sexuality!” Which…thanks, I’ll get right on that. Wish I’d thought of that years ago. And I suspect that negative experiences and negative or ambivalent feelings about one’s own sexuality are a not uncommon situation for lots of women raised under patriarchy to find themselves in; what does s-p feminism bring to our lives, except yet another group mouthing the phrase “you’re not doing it right”?

    Certainly, I think that s-p feminists and I will often if not always be political allies–I assume we both disapprove of rape for any reason, for attacking or killing sexually active women, of slut-shaming, of claiming that “she was asking for it” when she wasn’t actually saying with words coming out of her mouth “Would you please follow me into this alley and have sex with me?” But I don’t see the point of the offshoot movement, I don’t see what it has to offer, and I find its rhetoric, tactics, and the ways in which it tries to differentiate itself from other feminisms thoroughly unpleasant.

  219. tinfoil hattie
    October 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    @Molly, @Piny: Kindly stop holding me responsible for the several-year-old comments made by people on a blog I read.

    Otherwise, kindly accept for yourselves the adjectives “misogynist assholes,” as many of that kind of person has commented here.

    In addition, the plural of anecdote is not data. When I see blogs run by het men talking about how much they love anal sex, and read articles with men gushing about how much they love it, and see them giggling on “The View” about it, and see it as a little throwaway comment by men in prime time shows, then I’ll consider the possibility that anal sex is all the rage among both people in most het couples, and not just the latest awesome thing that men do to women during sex.

    No matter how much you wish I could be your bad, sex-hating, anti-woman evil radfem, I’m just not.

    Please stop blaming radical feminists for pointing out the problems of patriarchy, much the same way leftist men were blaming feminists for pointing out the misogyny of “Hot Chicks of OWS.”

    It’s the patriarchy, the patriarchy, the patriarchy. Not me. Not other women whom you find distasteful. So please just stop.

  220. EG
    October 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Bagelsan:
    Lol, so now sex-positive feminism has to be necessary and novel?

    I’d settle for “necessary and not irritatingly self-satisfied.”

  221. EG
    October 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Bagelsan:
    Lol, so now sex-positive feminism has to be necessary and novel?

    I’d settle for “necessary and not irritatingly self-satisfied.” Although, yeah, I do think that “novel” is part of “necessary.” So far, what I’ve heard people advance as the positive aspects of s-p feminism are concepts at the center of feminist activism that far-predate the creation and naming of s-p feminism. So what is it bringing to the table that makes it needed? Why does it need its own special name? And why does its rhetoric reliably set itself up as some “new” kind of feminism that exists in contrast to what has come before?

  222. Bagelsan
    October 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I don’t think that current feminist sex positivity is very good at presenting not-having-sex-with-men as a valid and empowering sexual choice. Nor is it very good at presenting to women of all sexualities that not-wanting-to-be-sexually-available-to-men at any given point in their lives is a valid choice.

    Huh, I must have missed the part of sex-pos feminism where people are encouraged to have sex with anyone they aren’t at all sexually attracted to, or that they must be “available.” Could have sworn it was about having sex as you like with people you like, and aiming for enthusiasm as the standard rather than passive availability or a lack of “no”? (And imho, “enthusiasm” doesn’t have to mean you’re incredibly turned on or whatever, just that you’re fully thumbs-up about the sex for whatever your reasons are, be they ’cause you want to get the other person off so hard they can’t walk straight the next day or what.)

  223. tinfoil hattie
    October 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    @piny: Case in point. You asked, “Do you really not understand the difference between, ‘I, personally, do not enjoy anal sex,’ and, ‘Anal sex is dangerous and unnatural?’ Really?”

    What part of that do you think I don’t get, since I am the one who said, “I, personally, am not interested in anal sex,” and not the one who sad, “Anal sex is dangerous and unnatural”?

    What the hell are you fighting about? Shit I never said. Please at least stick to what I did say. For crying out loud.

  224. Molly
    October 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Bagelsan: Lol, so now sex-positive feminism has to be necessary and novel? Are we writing an R01 grant to the NIH now, or are we just trying to slightly un-fuck society’s perceptions of women and sex? :p

    Pretty much exactly this. I don’t know what exactly we’re supposed to expect from sex-positive blogs. Here’s what I get out of them: communication techniques, nuances of consent and negotiation (with partners, especially, but not exclusively), a look at the diversity of sexual expression, a place where I don’t feel excluded as a dyke OR as a kinkster, a space for body positivity, a space where I don’t have to hide my sexual interests, a space where there’s discussion of sex as all the kinds of things it can be (and not just “pleasing men” or … “pleasing men unless you do it exactly like me,” eg the societal and the radical feminist views).

    If we’re asking sex-positive bloggers to be all things to all people, I think we’re asking too much. Many people get value out of what they DO do, and I think they manage to do the things they do in a very inclusive way (at least the ones I read, which include Clarisse and Holly–Holly’s is certainly the only “mainstream” feminist blog that I’ve ever seen address people who identify as multiple or as systems).

  225. October 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Bagelsan: Huh, I must have missed the part of sex-pos feminism where people are encouraged to have sex with anyone they aren’t at all sexually attracted to, or that they must be “available.” Could have sworn it was about having sex as you like with people you like, and aiming for enthusiasm as the standard rather than passive availability or a lack of “no”? (And imho, “enthusiasm” doesn’t have to mean you’re incredibly turned on or whatever, just that you’re fully thumbs-up about the sex for whatever your reasons are, be they ’cause you want to get the other person off so hard they can’t walk straight the next day or what.)

    Er, yeah, but that’s kind of the thing– we haven’t all had the same experience with sex-pos. The model you propose is good, but it’s not universal. For example, people put forward vastly different standards for “enthusiasm.”

  226. Bagelsan
    October 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    (Thanks for your response EG; for what it’s worth, the R01 comment was made before I read your latest comments and was probably unduly snarky. :p)

    I guess I see sex-positive feminism as “novel” mostly because it’s a bit like a rebranding — there obviously is/was some backlash to the free-sex-and-love-maaaan 60s and 70s stuff, and it also predates the entire lives of many young feminists (myself included) so having a more polished and kicky and modern take on sex-positivity seems alright to me. (Just like how women and fashion are tentatively rediscovering that women who weigh more than 90 lbs can still be sexy post-hyper-skinny-90s although that’s hardly a new concept individually or historically.)

    A lot of more “mainstream” feminists seemed to do a little pearl-clutching at stuff like the SlutWalks, because they’re all for sex and all but please keep your shirts on ladies!, but I saw a lot of very enthusiastic college-age-ish women at the one I attended who seemed to think that addressing the word “slut” was extremely relevant to them, and that doing it topless was freaking excellent. Maybe it’s just the mythological bra-burning of this generation, whatever.

    I think that having a branch of feminism that is explicitly sex-positive is helpful in really hammering in the generally sex-positive message of feminism as a whole to younger/kinky/porn-watching girls and women. Even my feminist girlfriends have had their moments of “yeah, wooo feminism yay go sex, but seriously though… ishavingthiskindofsexwiththisdudegonnamakemeaslut? >_>” and having an branch that says “nope, even that sex is not gonna make you bad! Darling, you couldn’t imagine a sex act that would make us bat an eye, let alone condemn you ;D” is helpful to them in a way that theory is not.

  227. Bagelsan
    October 24, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    What part of that do you think I don’t get, since I am the one who said, “I, personally, am not interested in anal sex,” and not the one who sad, “Anal sex is dangerous and unnatural”?

    People objected to the latter statement, and in response you insisted on defending the former statement as if it were the part people objected to. That’s why it’s not been made clear that you know the difference. That’s what you’re fighting about.

  228. tinfoil hattie
    October 24, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    EG, brava. And thank you.

  229. Bagelsan
    October 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    The model you propose is good, but it’s not universal. For example, people put forward vastly different standards for “enthusiasm.”

    I know it’s not universal; that’s why I put it forward. I didn’t go into this whole thing expecting a perfect movement, I just like sex-positive feminism’s general base approach better than the alternatives I’ve seen so that’s the branch I’m currently sticking to and bent on improving.

    Better enthusiasm standards is one place where I agree the thing needs some work, if only because “enthusiasm” is subjective as hell — for example, when I “enthusiastically” listen to music at a concert I’m fairly quiet and still (unless I’m performing more active enthusiasm for the benefit of my companions), while other people scream and leap, and there’s no reason that sexual enthusiasm should be any less diverse.

  230. CBrachyrhynchos
    October 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I have some bitter experiences with a community where certain kinds of limits were treated as a psychological and/or moral failing. (If you really were open-minded and kinky, you’d be down with ___.) And I’ve seen discussions go south where the taboo against saying “your kink is not OK” was used to bully people who are legitimately squiked and/or triggered by them.

    On the other hand, I just saw a terrible comment where a feminist conference was attacked because one presenter identified as a Bottom, so I’m a bit ambivalent.

  231. igglanova
    October 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    karak86: Then why are men so goddamn afraid of it? Why is the seductress the creature of nightmares, why do so many MRAs and “normal” men believe women can force them or compel them in some mystical way, why are witches so scary?Why is the perfectly coiffed Ice Bitch such a stereotype (and a terrifying one at that)?

    I don’t see why acting feminine because you like it is okay, acting feminine because you fear the consequences if you don’t is okay, but acting feminine as a weapon to get ahead in the world makes you a bad person and a bad feminist.

    “But you’re fucking over other women!” No more than I am when I study harder, work longer, or do better than they do. I applied myself to learning a skill, given my resources, talent, and limitations, and if applied my time to anything other than my appearance it’s okay to use it to get success, but if I use it on my face I’m a dirty cheater.

    I don’t see where I insinuated any of this, but whatever. Dost thou protest too much?

    Anyway, the idea that men are afraid of makeup is fucking hilarious. The most dramatic male reaction to makeup I’ve ever seen has been smirking disdain or pity for that ‘dumb slut.’ Never so much as unease.

  232. PosedbyModels
    October 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    EG-
    It seems to me that the reason a lot of self-proclaimed sex-positive writers feel the need to carve out their own spaces outside of the “mainstream” is because they feel they’ve experienced something similar to the kind of alienation you’ve been talking about; being treated like deviant weirdos who don’t belong, having people pity and concern-troll them, telling them they’re “doing it wrong,” etc. (someone please correct me if I’m off here–obviously I don’t presume to speak for all sex-positive feminists and their experiences, I’m just trying to give a general idea of what I’ve seen go down on this very blog whenever something like BDSM comes up, for instance). And if those same people have made you feel unwelcome or judged or whatever, that really sucks. I’m not sure that anyone here is advocating for that. It’s gross for people to take out their frustration with having their particular sexual preferences/lack thereof judged on other people who just happen to do/not do different things. I’m not sure how to address that, since it’s not something I have really read or experienced. And I’m struggling with your posts, in particular, because I feel that I have also experienced sexuality negatively, but have had basically the opposite response to sex-positive feminism. And I have seen sex-positive writers discuss their own negative sexual experiences and how they inform their sexualities and feminist identities, and so I just don’t feel like I’m seeing what you’re seeing. Which is fine, I guess? Like I said: I’m struggling.

    And I am just suspicious of this whole idea that self-identified feminist women who say they enjoy porn or do sex work or what have you have never thought about the implications and sources of those behaviors. I mean, I’m sure there have been people who do those things and say dumb, uncritical stuff about them. I know I’ve seen it, though it’s been a while. But to suggest that’s the norm among people who identify as sex-positive feminists…I just don’t know about that.

    Molly, Kristen J, and Bagelsan, you are doing a fabulous job of saying the things I take too long to work out in my head.

  233. Random Observer
    October 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    EG: That is a profoundly simplistic, anti-feminist, and flattened misunderstanding and mischaracterization of second-wave feminism, and it is precisely why I dislike the term “sex-positive” and how s-p feminism has positioned itself within feminist discourse. It contradicts the experiences of every single woman I have ever met who was born in the 1950s and lived through second-wave feminism–part of its liberation for them was feminism’s acknowledgment of and making space to talk about female sexual desire, for men and for women.It contradicts writings that have come out of second-wave feminism.It presents second-wave feminism as a monolithic whole with respect to its analysis of sex and desire, when in fact those issues were loci of significant debate.And…really?The people who fought for birth control, the people who sought to break the unnecessary tie between heterosexual sexual activity and unwanted pregnancy so that women could explore their sexuality without fear or stigma were sex-negative.Tell it to Ellen Willis, or Cynthia Heimel, or hell, tell it to my mother.And that’s not even touching on the radical views on female sexuality presented by even earlier feminists, like Emma Goldman and Alexandra Kollontai.

    (Emphasis mine)

    Speaking of history being erased, apparently you don’t realize that it was none other than Ellen Willis who was the first author to use the term “pro-sex feminism”. (Which after a few years morphed into “sex-positive feminism”, borrowing on an earlier term coined by Wilhelm Reich.) You are correct to point out that Ellen Willis was generationally second-wave, as are Pat Califia, Susie Bright, Gail Rubin, and a whole bunch of other founding sex-positive feminists. In fact, sex-positive feminism grew out of very deep splits within second-wave feminism, and was not merely some latter-day Third Wave mischaracterization of the Second Wave.

    The fact that somebody like Ellen Willis was compelled to write something along the lines of “Lust Horizons: Is the Women’s Movement Pro-Sex?” should point out that not all women found norms of Second Wave feminism (especially the increasingly sex-negative views that were becoming dominant by the early 80s) to be terribly liberating.

    That would be the historically informed view. Or one could just simply take the view that sex-positive feminists are a bunch of patriarchal fifth-columnists trying to destroy feminism from within. That was certainly the view of radical/anti-pornography feminists in the early 80s, and judging by much of the commentary here, this view hasn’t changed appreciably over the last 30 years.

  234. October 24, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I am a woman, and I have been a radfem from like kindergarten (and it was a Catholic school at that, shudder). I remember the first time I told my parents I refused to wear a dress to school anymore because I was SICK of the repeated unwanted touching (mostly by boys, but also adults- ew), the constant worry about my underwear being exposed (I SEE LONDON, I SEEE FRANCE! the shaming begins early!), the unnatural and false fawning/rewarding by grown-ups (‘oh, aren’t you such a pretty princess!’), and the regular reminders that I was ‘a girl’ and was lesser-than. I was once barred from playing Dukes of Hazzard (I wasn’t supposed to watch it, my dad said it was too violent and sexist, but I snuck a peek a few times, heh) by two boys who were supposedly my ‘friends’ because I refused to be Daisy Duke – I wanted to be Cooter. LOL. I was told I couldn’t, because I’m a girl. Daisy or nothing. I said, “But, she doesn’t get to DO anything” They agreed, yep! I said fuck it, and went off the the Book Nook- where I spent the remainder of my school years (wearing corduroy pants and T shirts). But, don’t think for one second that it didn’t hurt, that tears didn’t well up in my eyes (which I hid), that I wasn’t angry that these shitty little boys were ALREADY dictating what I could and couldn’t be. As if they were the boss of me! Mock if you want, but I REMEMBER these things, and they are relevant. A thousand tiny little cuts. Little kids are amazing at detecting falseness and lies, aren’t they? If they have a chance and are safe enough to really look. When can girls ever feel safe? When I DID wear ‘girl’s clothes’ I was patted on the head, picked up by strangers… it was like Pavlovian rewards. and, I HATED IT. I felt like my intelligence was insulted every day. This enculturation begins AT BIRTH for boys and girls. The very minute they stick that pink bow to your bald baby-head with Scotch tape, you are MARKED FOR LIFE. I keep hearing the same refrain, re: performing femininity, shaving, makeup, high heels, etc. And it’s that it ‘makes me feel good!’ Well, OK! I am pro-people feeling good, and especially about themselves. But, I ask: WHY? WHY does wearing clothing that restricts your movements, hobbles your feet, and makes you vulnerable make you ‘feel good’? WHAT, exactly, are the rewards? Unpack THAT, and perhaps we might be closer to having a conversation about P- approved femininity performance, and why I will NEVER see ANYTHING ’empowering’ about appeasing men (sexually or otherwise). That’s some epic sleight-of-hand. Even I fell for it sometimes in my younger years- I just wanted that Pavlovian approval/fawning/’love’. I wore fishnets, tight vintage cocktail dresses, 5-inch black patent slingbacks, liquid eyeliner… Then, I saw what it did to me, how much time and energy it drained, and how false and empty the rewards were. I daresay they aren’t rewards at all- just more Pavlovian training.

  235. October 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Ding! Drool! :P

  236. October 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Ding! Drool! Punish! Ad infinitum…

  237. October 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    oops, sorry, doubleposty.

  238. Kristen J.
    October 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    @Doctress Julia,

    But your experience of the patriarchy isn’t universal. Some of us received the message that wearing heels *made you worthless.* I could similarly sit here and tell you to endlessly unpack why you think heels are inappropriate in a system that says wearing heels makes women worthless. Or we could both accept that we each experienced oppression differently and that doesn’t make either of us wrong or imply that our decisions are unexamined and in need of “unpacking.”

  239. October 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I really liked Holly’s summary of the difference between “sexy” or “sexual” vs “sexualized,” written last November.

    Because compulsory sexiness isn’t just demeaning and creepy, it gets in the way of real sexiness. Makeup and heels aren’t even sexy any more, and even the ever-present images of mega-sexed-up models are barely a blip on the bonerometer. If women could be sexy on our own time — if looking and acting sexual was an indicator that we were actually interested in being sexy, rather than just doing what we gotta–then sexiness would mean something. We’d realize that actually, women aren’t sexless when left to our own devices. We’d discover the many different things that make women feel sexy (some of us kinda rock the cargo pants, thank you) and we’d be more comfortable with women being unsexy when they had other shit to do.

    I think it’s a huge mistake not to read both Holly and Twisty. It’s a bigger one to imagine that only one or the other could be right. And an even bigger one to imagine that you shouldn’t very carefully think about what both have to say. (I’m pretty sure if they hadn’t gotten off on the wrong foot with each other they might even agree with me.)

    Incidentally, there’s a great (face obscured) and highly representative photo of Holly at the link Clarisse posted, above. Where she is indeed still rocking those cargo shorts. (Note: I don’t think she’s wearing a bra in that photo. Oh, and check out the kicky leopard-print fabric… and the alligator stuffie.)

    figleaf

    p.s. I think the paragraph I quoted, particularly the phrase that goes “we’d be more comfortable with women being unsexy when they had other shit to do,” serves as a nice damnation of the stupid little morons who cooked up that “hot chicks of Occupy Wall St” photo set that was in the news a couple of days ago. They’re clearly not comfortable with women not being sexy when they have other shit to do, which makes them as sex-negative as it gets. And which, incidentally, also highlights the point Holly makes over and over that the real argument isn’t between “radfems” and sex-positive feminists, it’s between actual sex-positive people and pretty much society at large.

  240. Lara Emily Foley
    October 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Doctress Julia: Never said my experience was universal. I NEVER SAID THAT. Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s a real asshole move, you know that? Guess what: All decisions are in need up unpacking. ALL OF THEM. I question my own EVERY DAY. That’s how I learn things. This post has been a chance for folks do do that. UNPACK YOUR CHOICES, and why you make them. Or don’t- remain ignorant about the larger context in which all of these things exist. You can go on and on about how it’s all your ‘CHOICE’ and ‘empowering’. Whatever. We can talk about high heels all day and their ‘appropriateness’ whatever the hell that means, and ‘what I think’ about it- as if you care, or would even give a shit. Your reply was patronizing, ignorant and rude.

    Says the woman who accused women who perform femininity as being akin to the dogs in Pavlov’s experiment.

  241. October 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Kristen J.:
    @Doctress Julia,

    But your experience of the patriarchy isn’t universal.Some of us received the message that wearing heels *made you worthless.*I could similarly sit here and tell you to endlessly unpack why you think heels are inappropriate in a system that says wearing heels makes women worthless.Or we could both accept that we each experienced oppression differently and that doesn’t make either of us wrong or imply that our decisions are unexamined and in need of “unpacking.”

    Never said my experience was universal. I NEVER SAID THAT. Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s a real asshole move, you know that? Guess what: All decisions are in need up unpacking. ALL OF THEM. I question my own EVERY DAY. That’s how I learn things. This post has been a chance for folks do do that. UNPACK YOUR CHOICES, and why you make them. Or don’t- remain ignorant about the larger context in which all of these things exist. You can go on and on about how it’s all your ‘CHOICE’ and ’empowering’. Whatever. We can talk about high heels all day and their ‘appropriateness’ whatever the hell that means, and ‘what I think’ about it- as if you care, or would even give a shit. Your reply was patronizing, ignorant and rude.

  242. Kathleen
    October 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    okay, but if that’s

    .And which, incidentally, also highlights the point Holly makes over and over that the real argument isn’t between “radfems” and sex-positive feminists, it’s between actual sex-positive people and pretty much society at large.

    the “real argument”, according to Holly, why is it HOlly’s blog naming and shaming Twisty and not remotely the reverse?

  243. October 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Doctress Julia – I feel like you’re describing a situation where you don’t believe any intelligent, good, enlightened, you know what I’m getting at… woman would ever appear feminine. That’s pretty troubling to me.

    And I’m really not feminine at all. I’m not saying “makeup is power!”, I’m saying “being able to choose whether you wear makeup or not, and being treated like an intelligent and capable person regardless of your choice, is power.”

    I’m also not sure where your argument leaves trans women and feminine men, who absolutely aren’t rewarded by society for appearing feminine, but do it anyway.

    Kathleen – The specific post I made was about pressure I was feeling within feminism, but the vast majority of what I write about is definitely “feminism vs. the world” and not “feminism vs. feminism.”

  244. Computer Soldier Porygon
    October 24, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Kathleen:
    okay, but if that’s

    the “real argument”, according to Holly, why is it HOlly’s blog naming and shaming Twisty and not remotely the reverse?

    Twisty has written about Holly before.

  245. Computer Soldier Porygon
    October 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Kathleen:
    okay, but if that’s

    the “real argument”, according to Holly, why is it HOlly’s blog naming and shaming Twisty and not remotely the reverse?

    Twisty has written about Holly before.

  246. Kathleen
    October 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    I didn’t know. Can you provide a link to what she said? Was it in response to Holly’s series about the “insanity” of Twisty?

  247. Lara Emily Foley
    October 24, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Kathleen:
    Piny — thanks for the permission slip!Does the

    Kathleen: Kathleen

    job of feminist hall-monitor come with a special beanie?

    Sorry Trans people aren’t more grateful for the rare scrap morsels of respect we get from Rad Em spaces.

  248. October 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Doctress Julia – I feel like you’re describing a situation where you don’t believe any intelligent, good, enlightened, you know what I’m getting at… woman would ever appear feminine. That’s pretty troubling to me.

    And I’m really not feminine at all. I’m not saying “makeup is power!”, I’m saying “being able to choose whether you wear makeup or not, and being treated like an intelligent and capable person regardless of your choice, is power.

    I’m also not sure where your argument leaves trans women and feminine men, who absolutely aren’t rewarded by society for appearing feminine, but do it anyway.

    Kathleen – In this post, I was disagreeing with other feminists, but that’s not most of what sex-positive feminists do. We really spend a lot more time on sex and gender than on intra-feminist wars. Arguing within feminism is, to put it mildly, not the fun or productive part.

    (Also? Twisty originally called me out. Way back in the day, in like 2008, when I was admittedly a lot less sophisticated, I’d never heard of her until she called me out and her readers swarmed me. So there, she started it, nah nah nah, etcetera.)

  249. Kristen J.
    October 24, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Doctress Julia: Never said my experience was universal. I NEVER SAID THAT. Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s a real asshole move, you know that? Guess what: All decisions are in need up unpacking. ALL OF THEM. I question my own EVERY DAY. That’s how I learn things. This post has been a chance for folks do do that. UNPACK YOUR CHOICES, and why you make them. Or don’t- remain ignorant about the larger context in which all of these things exist. You can go on and on about how it’s all your ‘CHOICE’ and ‘empowering’. Whatever. We can talk about high heels all day and their ‘appropriateness’ whatever the hell that means, and ‘what I think’ about it- as if you care, or would even give a shit. Your reply was patronizing, ignorant and rude.

    As opposed to yours which repeatedly implies that people who disagree with you need to “unpack” their opinions…that was a charming and completely intelligent response. Of course the underlying assumption is that your experiences are the default and everyone else needs to just unpack until they understand the world the way you do. But please tell me more about how ignorant and patronizing I am for saying we each have our own realities that should be respected.

  250. piny
    October 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    because in fact, I think there is a big way that all of this is about Jill P. Smith. and that is because she’s funny as hell, and sharp, but also very kind, and — again — so damn funny. I mean, I’ve “walked away” from her blog several times and every time I come back because she is irresistibly hilarious. The existence of her blog puts the lie to a whole dismissive message about all of radical feminism, which is, “humorless haters”. That’s a message that, sorry, places like Feministe echo mindlessly; it’s become the take-home message of contemporary feminism about rad feminism and in many ways about *all* previous feminisms.

    It’s a total crock, and the “here be dragons” monsterizing of her — she may have explicitly denounced transphobia, but no, just keep calling her a transphobe cause you’ve gotta smear her somehow — feels pretty overcompensate-y. God forbid radical feminism might have a point about anything, right? God forbid somebody might make those points in a way that is smart and funny and soulful and not reducible to caricature? Scary, right?

    No.

    There are two important points to make about this denouncement. First of all, it was late. Really late. She finally came out and said that transphobia was a bad thing a good while after everyone else came out and said transphobia was a bad thing. That’s important. Second, it was necessary. It was necessary to write an entire post about how the spinster aunt takes ideological issue with saying that trans women are monsters. Not for ungenerous outsiders like me, but for regular commenters at IBTP. I’m sorry, but I’m going to go ahead and think it’s significant that this particular kind of crank just happened to feel much more comfortable over there than, say, here. On this shallow mealy-mouthed blog.

    And no, this is not about Jill P. It’s about radical feminism: a problem that radical feminism has. Transphobia is common to our culture, and common therefore to feminists in general. But the shocking hate speech, the comments that deny that trans women face violence, deny that trans women can be victimized by misogyny, deny that transphobia exists in the world, deny that transphobia is a valid idea, deny that trans women deserve any respect or assistance or protection under the law, and generally react to the presence or idea of trans women with an absolutely disgusting level of bigotry? That’s where you are. It shows up over and over and over and fucking over again in radical feminist spaces.

    By some eerie coincidence.

    And this is not, mind you, to say that there’s nothing of value there. But it’s a problem. And when it gets brought up, this is the reaction. It’s either, “That doesn’t happen,” “That doesn’t happen very often,” or this whole, “You’re lucky she even performs for you,” routine. And Jill gets valorized for coming out and saying–again, years after everyone else–that it’s not okay to talk about trans women like that. This is whip-smart? When does the impressive part begin?

    Go ahead and enjoy IBTP. Since I never had to choose, I just found a more perfect place on the internet. I walked away for good. Because once was once too often.

  251. Lara Emily Foley
    October 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Holy quote fail Batman

  252. Kathleen
    October 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Piny — thanks for the permission slip! Does the job of feminist hall-monitor come with a special beanie?

  253. October 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Anyway, the idea that men are afraid of makeup is fucking hilarious.

    Welllll, actually, most Western men today ARE afraid on makeup. On other men. That ought to say a lot.

  254. PosedbyModels
    October 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Doctress Julia–

    This is not supposed to be attacky, so I’m sorry if it comes off that way. But. Okay. The idea that a) you don’t believe people who like eyeliner or heels or whatever have considered or unpacked why they like those things, and b) that they must present all of that consideration and unpacking to you and whoever else as justification for everything about their lives and appearances that you or whoever else find questionable or un-feminist before we can make any progress strikes me as unfair.

    And this is one of the things I was trying to figure out in my first comment. If we require all women who purport to enjoy patriarchy-sanctioned behaviors to explain themselves to some mysterious, unspecified satisfactory level, then what? What if they say “yeah, I thought about my eyeliner,” and either “I just like how it looks on me, I don’t know what else to say” or “yeah, I realize that it’s because I want to look more ‘attractive,’ but I don’t want to stop doing it,”…is that enough? Do you want them to just admit that their behavior is “wrong,” or acknowledge that they’re catering to the male gaze, or to stop engaging in those activities altogether? Do they need to continue to publicly self-flagellate for being bad, patriarchy-appeasing women before we allow them to contribute anything? I mean sure, we can ask that people examine their behavior and motivations. I assume that most of us here do this every day. I just don’t see how demanding that other feminists confess all of their dirty patriarchy sins before allowing them to be part of the discussion is very helpful, or how it doesn’t contain a sort of creepy air of superiority; that “you’re not as strong/radical/feminist as I am” thing I was trying to get across earlier. And I’m not saying you’re doing that on purpose, or even that you’re doing it at all; I just feel like that’s an attitude that is really easy to develop in the kind of atmosphere it sounds to me like you’re proposing.

  255. piny
    October 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    @piny: Case in point. You asked, “Do you really not understand the difference between, ‘I, personally, do not enjoy anal sex,’ and, ‘Anal sex is dangerous and unnatural?’ Really?”

    What part of that do you think I don’t get, since I am the one who said, “I, personally, am not interested in anal sex,” and not the one who sad, “Anal sex is dangerous and unnatural”?

    What the hell are you fighting about? Shit I never said. Please at least stick to what I did say. For crying out loud.

    Okay, let’s all climb into the comment-thread Way Back machine….

    First, I said that a commenter on IBTP had said that anal sex was objectively disgusting. Then I posted that comment–the comment in which she really did say that anal sex was objectively disgusting. And unnatural. And unhealthy. Not just something she doesn’t enjoy (FINE!) but something nobody should do (NOT OKAY! ALSO HOMOPHOBIC!).

    Then you got angry with me for hating on this poor woman who just didn’t want to have anal sex.

    Then I pointed out that she had not actually said that anal sex was something she didn’t want. She had actually said that anal sex was disgusting, unnatural, and wrong. And I reiterated that this was fucked up and homophobic.

    Okay? I’m not holding you responsible for something you didn’t say. I’m holding you responsible for defending this other woman’s homophobic comments, the ones that were directly quoted right up there. Maybe you defended her because you didn’t read what she said, I don’t know.

    Here it is again:

    …you can be DAMN sure I would never consent to a guy putting it up my ass! Sorry, that’s just too disgusting. I know more than enough about human anatomy & physiology to know that the anus was designed as an exit, NOT an entrance; therefore, anal sex violates that rule completely. You are far more likely to contract all sorts of nasty diseases (some of which are lethal) from this practice than any other sexual practice, just because of the difference between the anal mucosa and that of the mouth or vagina– the former is delicate and far more prone to small, often invisible tears that can serve as an easy portal for infection; the others are tougher and more resilient, so you’re less likely to cause tissue damage in the course of usual activity.

    …And here’s you completely not getting it:

    With regards to anal sex, it does not make one a bad feminist to note that one finds the idea of having a penis in one’s anus utterly unappealing, any more than it is bad feminism to be asexual, or lesbian, and thus have no interest in penises whatsoever.

  256. Computer Soldier Porygon
    October 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Kathleen:
    I didn’t know.Can you provide a link to what she said?Was it in response to Holly’s series about the “insanity” of Twisty?

    I quoted from her original call-out of Holly upthread.

  257. piny
    October 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Piny — thanks for the permission slip! Does the job of feminist hall-monitor come with a special beanie?

    What a tart little amuse-bouche to pair with the sugary meringue peaks of You Just Hate on Twisty Because She’s So Amazing.

  258. Glundank
    October 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Things I have learned from this thread:

    1. Radical feminists are all transphobic and socially restrictive of women’s choices.

    2. Sex positive feminists are all unoriginal, patriarchally submissive and socially intrusive.

    3. Boner Killer is a REAL FEMINIST, and all you guys are just HETERO-NORMATIVE MEN and HIGH-HEELED JUDASES.

  259. Kathleen
    October 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Piny — aha hahahahhahahah sorry I didn’t realize I had gotten into an internet debate with a Bond villain!

    amuse-bouche! sugary meringue peaks! does your siamese cat have an eye patch?

  260. tinfoil hattie
    October 24, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Piny. I did not get all angry for hating on some poor stranger who does not want to have anal sex. I. SAID. THAT. I. DO. NOT. WANT. TO. DO. IT. The subject is closed, since for some reason you refuse to read my words.

  261. October 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    This is ridiculous. Y’all are talking past each other. I’m closing comments.

Comments are closed.