“As a rape survivor, I…” Or, why feelings ought to matter to sex-negative feminism

Earlier this month, Jillian Horowitz wrote about being a sex-negative feminist on xoJane. Reading her piece, I had thoughts similar to the ones I have when I find myself listening to Coldplay: “Is this… good? Is this good for me right now? Is this so bad that it’s actually good? Is the universe a cold and desperate place that will expand until there will be no more thermodynamic energy and no point to anything?”

To get something obvious out the way first, Horowitz is certainly right when it comes to some of her criticism wrt sex-positive feminism (which in itself has been sliding fast toward being nothing more than another cultural cliche for years now, incidentally). Take the issue of consent within patriarchy, for example. I don’t like to complicate it much. In my view, most men are both stronger and more socially privileged than most women. That’s the reality I live within and acknowledge. All the way out here, in the macho world of Moscow media, where I currently reside, it’s a reality we speak about in an offhand sort of way.

The phrase “rape survivor” feels phony and strange when I apply it to myself. I admire the phrase, I think it has great power. But when I sit down to type that words, “As a rape survivor, I…” there is always that twinge of pain, and the lingering doubt. Did I actually survive? Some parts of me obviously did, but others I’m not so sure of. In the aftermath, I battened down the hatches and went sailing in a dark and violent sea. I don’t know if all of me will ever fully return.

I’m not supposed to talk about these things, either. As a journalist, an editor, a “public person,” an occasional Head Bitch In Charge, as a playwright, I should not be making myself vulnerable. This will undermine my career. This will be used against me. How many times have I heard this before? When will I learn? Why don’t I just stop? I don’t have an answer.

Still, I am compelled to address Horowitz as a rape survivor. Because when you wag your finger and tut-tut at the ladies, and then turn around and deny said ladies their silly lady feelings, when you say, “the way you fuck is not ‘private'” and follow it up with a hearty “no whining,” you draw a pretty clear line in the sand. And the reason why I’m not willing to join you on your side of the line has everything to do with my past experiences.

Horowitz references the fact that “that many women have neutral to negative experiences with sex, whether due to a lack of desire or sensitivity or past traumatic experiences or myriad other reasons, or may not wish to have sex at all, and that none of this makes them unhealthy, aberrant, or wrong.” Yes! I agree!

But here’s another thing: people aren’t insects frozen in amber. Most of us will have sexual ups and downs. Some of us will manage to combine negative feelings with positive ones. Some alternate periods of celibacy with periods of libertine abandon that would make Anthony Weiner blush. People are different. People are weird. People change. This weirdness, these changes, they don’t always fit into neat little political categories either. That line in the sand? It’s often imaginary. Arbitrary. Reductive.

Horowitz bemoans the fact that when it comes to sex, ‘we fall over ourselves in an attempt to pass the least amount of judgment and avoid being categorized as “man-hating” or “anti-sex” or “judgmental” or “shaming” or “prudish.”‘ She reasons that this has a lot to do with “the seeming opposition between “sex-positive” feminism and just plain “feminism,” no qualifiers, and the demonizing of the latter.”

Well, duh. Feminism was and is attacked as the domain of bitter hags – and some of us obviously pushed against that very hard, the unintended consequence of this being that entire groups of people were initially sidelined. And that’s kinda a big problem. We do have a lot to answer for in that regard. I agree.

And yet, what about a simple concept such as shame? The reason why so many of us are quick to point out that we don’t want to be judgmental is because the world, on the whole, is pretty damn judgmental. Outside of your pristine feminist kaffeklatsch (assuming you enjoy pristine feminist kaffeklatsches on the regular), women were and are punished for being sexual, or not sexual enough, or sexual in the wrong contest, or sexual without being sexy, or sexual while being of the wrong skin color, and so on. In general, women are punished for being women – every damn day. This is why there is a reflexive need to no longer be judgmental. It’s not cowardice. It’s a defense strategy.

“We can’t fuck our way to freedom”? Well, sure. “We can’t crochet our way to freedom” also has a nice ring to it. Just as “We can’t lolcat our way to freedom” does. Or “We can’t moonwalk our way to freedom.” (Can we?)

I’m not trolling (OK, I am trolling – but only a little bit), but pointing out that sex is just one of those human experiences. In and of itself, it won’t set you free. But it’s stupid to argue that sexual experiences cannot be a liberating or enlightening experience for a given individual. That it won’t transform them. That said individual is probably just confused or brainwashed. That they don’t know their own feelings. Or that their feelings don’t matter.

Yeah, that line denigrating other people’s “hurt feelings?” The very fact that Horowitz even needed to say it hints at the emotional depths of the subject we are dealing with. Where sex-positive feminism can fall short is in the insistence that we focus only on the positive aspects of sex and the emotions surrounding it – bypassing the fact that human desire can be strange and ambiguous, and that it set you down all kinds of journeys, and journeys by their nature can be long, and difficult, and dark (and beset by Rodents of Unusual Size).

We all have our narratives (though women are frequently denied the role of author), and there is a lot of personal power in owning them, in taking credit and responsibility for the good, and the bad, and the ugly – to the extent that one can. Assuming that some people just don’t know any better when it comes to their own narrative is belittling. And kinda nasty. And makes you just “negative” as opposed to “sex-negative.” And that negativity is particularly difficult to respond to when one is a trauma survivor who Really. Doesn’t. Need. Your. Fucking. Approval.

Speaking of approval: A lot of online feminist discourse involves around the idea of validation. We seek it from others, or else put ourselves in a position of bestowing or withdrawing it (sometimes in very inappropriate and ridiculous ways).

I don’t need Jillian Horowitz to validate my sex life – because LOLWAT – but I do want to say this: precious, delicate fee-fees do matter here. Mine matter. And yours. And Horowitz’s. And none of this is an impediment to any sort of conversation on sex-positivity or sex-negativity or sex-notgiveafuckery.

Acknowledging the fact that the person you are speaking to is a human being is not the end of discourse – it is the beginning.

~UPDATE~

If anyone tells you that you need their validation, this is the gif you send them instead of a reply, OK?

like-i-give-a-fuck


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351 Responses to “As a rape survivor, I…” Or, why feelings ought to matter to sex-negative feminism

  1. It is easy to see the world as restrictive and painful from every possible perspective, but I could never live like that myself. Ever since I was a small child, I’ve woken up every morning recognizing that I will have some degree of pain to deal with that day. This isn’t spoken for validation or sympathy, but rather to say that I’ve had to provide the joy and happiness myself.

    Many conversations we have in feminist spaces spiral and spiral, growing more and more like a hurricane gaining strength. I myself have learned to distance myself when I simply cannot take on any more of that intensity. We do an excellent job with confrontation of others and ourselves, but sometimes it seems we see our role as a wrecking ball.

  2. Nobody says:

    precious, delicate fee-fees do matter here.

    How dare you bring something as trivial as feelings into a conversation about sex.

    You’re clearly suffering from false consciousness.

  3. A4 says:

    ETA: added by author request - Trigger warning for rape and sexual conquest imagery

    The political meaning of intercourse for women is the fundamental question of feminism and freedom: can an occupied people – physically occupied inside, internally invaded – be free; can those with a metaphysically compromised privacy have self-determination; can those without a biologically based physical integrity have self respect?

    There are many explanations, of course, that try to be kind. Women are different but equal. Social policy is different from private sexual behavior. The staggering civil inequalities between men and women are simple, clear injustices unrelated to the natural, healthy act of intercourse. There is nothing implicit in intercourse that mandates male dominance in society. Each individual must be free to choose – and so we expand tolerance for those women who do not want to be fucked by men. Sex is between individuals, and social relations are between classes, and so we preserve the privacy of the former while insisting on the equality of the latter. Women flourish as distinct, brilliant individuals of worth in the feminine condition, including in intercourse, and have distinct, valuable qualities. For men and women, fucking in freedom; and for men and women, fucking is the same, especially if the woman chooses both the man and the act. Intercourse is a private act engaged in by individuals and has no implicit social significance. Repression, as opposed having intercourse, leads to authoritarian social policies, including those of male dominance. Intercourse does not have a metaphysical impact on women, although, of course, particular experiences with individual men might well have a psychological impact. Intercourse is not a political condition or event or circumstance because it is natural. Intercourse is not occupation or invasion or loss of privacy because it is natural. Intercourse does not violate the integrity of the body because it is natural. Intercourse is fun, not oppression. Intercourse is pleasure, not an expression or confirmation of a state of being that is either ontological or social. Intercourse is because the God who does not exist made it; he did it right, not wrong; and he does not hate women even if women hate him. Liberals refuse categorically to inquire into even a possibility that there is a relationship between intercourse per se and the low status of women. Conservatives use what appears to be God’s work to justify a social and moral hierarchy in which women are lesser than men. Radicalism on the meaning of intercourse – its political meaning to women, its impact on our very being itself – is tragedy or suicide. “The revolutionary,” writes Octavio Paz paraphrasing Ortega y Gasset, “is always a radical, that is, he [sic] is trying to correct the uses themselves rather than the mere abuses…” With intercourse, the use is already imbued with the excitement, the derangement, of the abuse, and abuse is only recognized as such socially if the intercourse is performed so recklessly or so violently or so stupidly that the man himself has actually signed a confession through the manner in which he has committed the act. What intercourse is for women and what is does to women’s identity, privacy, self-respect, self-determination, and integrity are forbidden questions; and yet how can a radical or any woman who wants freedom not ask precisely these questions? The quality of the sensation or the need for a man or the desire for love: these are not answers to questions of freedom; they are diversions into complicity and ignorance.

    Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse, Chapter 7

    Andrea Dworkin expressed and was complicit in many oppressive and essentialist views on gender, but I think the above passage is very relevant to the implications of sex positivity as axiomatic.


    The Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Project – Andrea Dworkin wasn’t a friend to trans people, especially transsexual women.

    • can an occupied people – physically occupied inside, internally invaded – be free

      fucking hell could you attach a trigger warning to this shit

      did not need to be reminded of fundie crap today

      • A4 says:

        I don’t understand.

      • A4 says:

        We need a giraffe here.

        I am still not certain why the language quoted is especially triggering, but that’s not as important as the fact that people are telling me that it is.

        Could a mod please add a trigger warning or content note at the beginning of my comment?

        Perhaps “Trigger warning for rape and sexual conquest imagery”

        [Thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ mods]

        • Okay. Went off, chilled out, then came back to thread.

          It’s basically that this view of women* as existing without an innate ability to consent (not just without cultural inability to consent) is intrinsic to a whole lot of really, really toxic religious stuff I was fed growing up. Whether or not it’s accurate, I can’t separate Dworkin’s narrative from being told that women (a category to which i’m generally assigned) are not quite human, not quite intellectually or spiritually realised beings and that’s what makes us the Destined Fuckees instead of fuckers, so to speak.

        • Oh, and thanks for requesting a giraffe. I know I wasn’t polite in saying it was triggering, and I hope it didn’t come across as demanding you not post the comment. Just because I disagree doesn’t make it irrelevant.

        • A4 says:

          Thank you for explaining!

          When I’m triggered it doesn’t put me in a state of mind that encourages polite and lengthy explication of my reaction in unemotional language. I can’t expect that of other people.

          I think I was a little slow in figuring out the best way to respond but I got there eventually.

    • Katniss says:

      Okay, so what does this mean to you? What is the most important message you’re trying to convey?

      • A4 says:

        I think what stands out the most to me is the appeal to naturalness as a prediscursive justification for considering intercourse to be an undeniable part of life that cannot be questioned by examining its political implications.

        I also am drawn to the point that the expectation that the woman’s natural function is to be entered and the man’s natural function is to enter the woman is elided when considering the basis for the subordination of women in society. That’s where I think sex positive feminism fails when focusing exclusively on consent. A woman is expected to consent to penetration or not penetration. A man is expected to consent to penetrate or to not penetrate. The choices and pressures surrounding them do not have the same political implications.

        If I take a stance of sex positivity then I hang my hopes on frameworks of explicitly communicated consent to equalize sex relations in a culture that considers heterosexual intercourse to be natural and fundamental to the nature of humanity and the standard to which all other sex is compared. I fail to look at the assumptions underlying that consent framework and the political implications of elevating heterosexual intercourse as natural and essential to the definitions of man and woman.

        • Donna L says:

          I hope Andrea Dworkin’s work isn’t still under copyright. That was quite a lengthy quotation!

    • Alexandra says:

      I love this passage. It’s been years since I read any Dworkin, and damn could she write when she wanted to.

      When I read this passage, I am reminded of the way I think about sex and my sexuality when I am at my angriest, when I don’t feel like a “rape survivor” or a “rape victim”, but rather like a trampled body – like an object still imbued with enough mind to be bitter about what happened to it, and what still sometimes happens. I am reminded of the way I feel when I try to be sexual with someone new, and begin to dissociate, to replay over and over again in my mind the most uncomfortable and distressing moments in my sexual history.

      I am grateful to Dworkin for giving that part of me voice, and for stating it strongly, without apology or hesitation, but as a legitimate position from which to question the world.

      One of the things I loved most about radical feminist writers from the 1970s like Dworkin and Millett and Brownmiller was their courage, their readiness to take a shocking position that they knew most people would find not just challenging but even incomprehensible, their unwillingness to allow the ordinary and intuitive way of understanding the world to limit them from pursuing their political opinions to logical extremes. I don’t agree with everything they wrote, but I admire them.

      • Natalia says:

        I admire them as well – but I also think that they can only take you so far. Anger is useful as a stepping stone – but then what? Dworkin’s writing isn’t going to change the fact that most women are going to want to partner up in some way or another (whether with men, or not, is beside the point, methinks – although some people believe that separatism will save us); we’re not just sexual creatures, we’re social creatures as well.

        Also, Dworkin’s anger in itself sometime strikes me as really gleeful and sorta… pornographic, if you forgive the term. The way she talked about women sometimes, it’s almost as if she wants to be the one humiliating them, instead of the men.

        I wouldn’t say that about all of her writing, but I’ve definitely gotten that vibe before, and it really put me off.

        • Beige says:

          Dworkin’s anger in itself sometime strikes me as really gleeful and sorta… pornographic, if you forgive the term. The way she talked about women sometimes, it’s almost as if she wants to be the one humiliating them, instead of the men.

          I don’t forgive the term, and I think your what you’ve written here about another feminist and woman is truly detestable. It makes me lose respect for you and Feministe to see such defamatory cruelty projected onto a feminist sister, however much you may disagree with some of her politics.

        • Not all of us consider Dworkin a sister. And this is how she makes me feel – this is how I relate to her work. It ain’t pretty, but I won’t apologize for it either.

        • Not all of us consider Dworkin a sister.

          Particularly given the many isms Dworkin herself perpetuated. And I, too, get that creepy vibe off some of Dworkin’s writing, just saying.

        • A4 says:

          Also, Dworkin’s anger in itself sometime strikes me as really gleeful and sorta… pornographic, if you forgive the term. The way she talked about women sometimes, it’s almost as if she wants to be the one humiliating them, instead of the men.

          Personally, I think this is a super valid impression. My own impression of this gleeful quality is that it is a sort of rageful and unapologetically exact description of the ugliest aspects of gender relations that she sees. I kind of relate because I come from a very comprehensive religious system (Orthodox Judaism) that has some very beautiful aspects and some very ugly aspects, and people often highlight the former and wave away the latter. It makes me want to take the ugly parts and describe them in great and emphatic detail and show it to those people, and that’s the feeling I get from Dworkin’s writing.

          I’m really grateful for all the feedback people have been giving on the Dworkin quotation I posted, because I just finished Intercourse and was feeling like I needed some help processing.

          Also, this idea that disagreeing with someone’s politics should not influence my impressions of their motivations? Strange idea. Don’t like it.

        • Donna L says:

          It makes me lose respect for you and Feministe to see such defamatory cruelty projected onto a feminist sister, however much you may disagree with some of her politics.

          Do you have the same reaction when you see certain radical feminists, past and present, regularly and gleefully engage in defamatory cruelty (so much so that it appears to be their primary occupation) against other feminist women who happen not to agree with their politics?

      • Schmorgluck says:

        Lately, I’ve been wondering if a connection couldn’t be made between Andrea Dworkin’s writings, particularly about the symbolism that’s being attached to intercourse, and what is now called rape culture. I have the feeling that what she described was rape culture, or at least fundamental aspects of it.

        I’m no expert in these questions, so I just throw this as an interrogation. I haven’t seen this connexion mentioned anywhere, but I didn’t put much effort in finding it.

        • Valdi says:

          I don’t think that’s too huge of a leap. Dworkin’s ideas of a compulsory form of “real sex” that occupies women with a male-centric sense of their own desires – at points this comes close to rape culture as an ingrained pattern of behaviors that define “real rape” and carefully manage/tolerate sexual transgression when it falls outside of expectation.

          I think Dworkin was bolder about her claims though. It is easy to view rape culture rather minimally, to desexualize it and look at how rape culture is perpetuated in behavior, in media messages, and in the treatment of people who claim rape. For Dworkin, it is impossible to think outside of doctrines of male-centric sex and sexual coercion, such that they are “occupied” by it. Or put another way, if rape culture is about the systems that naturalize or otherwise excuse rape, Dworkin’s ideas in Intercourse are about how sex itself normalizes coercion.

          (Obviously still working through it myself, so I welcome comment.)

    • Oh, wow. Can we have a trigger warning for stupid on this quote, too? It uses the classic logical fallacy of evo-psych biological determinists, where something found in nature is described by a metaphor from human society, and then the act is considered a “natural” expression of that made-up metaphor. Just as beehives aren’t really ruled by their “queens”, so the whole idea of penetration equalling dominance is entirely a product of patriarchal ideology imposed onto the act, and nothing in the least bit inherent in the act itself. As firelizard19 pointed out, in a female-dominated society, one could easily make the opposite argument: how can anyone be free when they are being engulfed and devoured? Etc.

      A4, I don’t understand why you think this kind of crap is at all meaningful to real-world sex and consent issues. You write:

      “A woman is expected to consent to penetration or not penetration. A man is expected to consent to penetrate or to not penetrate. The choices and pressures surrounding them do not have the same political implications. ”

      But that’s only because of metaphorical ways of thinking that are holdovers from more patriarchal times. It’s a whole raft of unwarranted assumptions: that all sex involving a man penetrating a woman, that the man is always the more active partner, that non-consensual penetration is inherently more traumatic than other non-consensual sex acts. And this kind of gender essentialism is also something that promotes rape culture, by acting as if male dominance is an inevitable part of sex with men, and thus giving ammunition to male chauvinists who want to convince hetero women that their “natural”sexual desires are incompatible with equal rights.

  4. See also: Prof LD, a UK-based sexuality academic, explains her use of the term “sex critical.”

    • Jamie says:

      She’s not a TERF, right? (They’ve got a term called “trans-critical.”) I’m not familiar with her, hence the question.

      • Donna L says:

        I very much doubt it, since she cites the radical transfeminist blog. Plus her style of writing, and her thinking, don’t resemble that at all.

    • Thank you for posting that link; it’s a realy interesting article and comments. It certianly brings up some of the impressions I’ve had of the “sex positive” business slipping too easily into the GGG (pardon me while I hurl) stuff; nice to know I wasn’t imagining it.

  5. roro80 says:

    As I read the Horowitz story, I felt it practically screamed for a Dworkin quote, and A4 has obliged by providing one.

    I definitely agree with the post written here. Dworkin asked a lot of important questions that had never been asked before about the nature of consent, whether the sex act itself has political implications, etc, much in reaction to the whole free-love thing that in many cases didn’t work out terribly well for women. Horowitz, though, seems to think that feminists who identify as sex-positive have failed to look at and examine those questions posed decades ago. There is a mountain of evidence that Horowitz is miserably wrong on that count.

    [content note for issues of consent]
    Sex doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Consent doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Some women have uniformly negative sexual experiences. It’s not fun for all women. I could be wrong, but I think most sex-positive feminists get that. Dworkin asks if the physical act of (PIV) sex means that women cannot be free. I can’t talk for anyone else, but I know when I read her as a very young woman, I rolled that question around in my brain for a number of years, and came up with the answer to that question. I decided that yes, I can have sex and still be free. Frankly, anyone who says otherwise is shackling me and trying to take away my ability to consent more than any man who has ever “occupied” me. I decided that even though Dworkin had a ton of ground-breaking things to say — important things, different framings — she did not get to define my or other women’s experiences for us any more than the patriarchal assholes who always had.

    I guess what bugs me about that Horowitz piece is that she starts off decrying the straw(wo)manning of radical feminists, and then goes on to knock down fields full of straw arguments. She brings up all these Dworkin-esque ideas as if they were new, and tsk-tsks sex-positive feminists for never having thought about them before. I think that like any movement, sex-positive feminism deserves some valid criticism, but rehashing whether or not consent exists is not really relevant to that, in my opinion.

    • Frankly, anyone who says otherwise is shackling me and trying to take away my ability to consent more than any man who has ever “occupied” me.

      Yeah. I didn’t give the men telling me I had no right to determine what happens with my body the flying finger in order to let feminists tell me I had no ability to determine what happens with my body.

      Also, I look at the essentialism of many radical feminists and wonder if they ever actually bothered to talk to women who weren’t “liberated” (i.e. upper-class, educated, white, Christian/areligious) and ask them how they navigated through life. The women in my family have faced a neverending river of patriarchal shit with strength and grace and the kind of temper that really ought to have turned all our hair red, and telling them they don’t really really have any ability to deal with their circumstances, because they’re poor widdle non-feminist-identifying brown women, would have them jamming their foot up your nose so fast it breaks the sound barrier.

    • Dworkin asks if the physical act of (PIV) sex means that women cannot be free. I can’t talk for anyone else, but I know when I read her as a very young woman, I rolled that question around in my brain for a number of years, and came up with the answer to that question. I decided that yes, I can have sex and still be free. Frankly, anyone who says otherwise is shackling me and trying to take away my ability to consent more than any man who has ever “occupied” me. I decided that even though Dworkin had a ton of ground-breaking things to say — important things, different framings — she did not get to define my or other women’s experiences for us any more than the patriarchal assholes who always had.

      THIS. Thank you.

    • firelizard19 says:

      I agree with The Kitteh’s Unpaid Help- exactly! It is no more obvious that the penetrating penis is in control of the situation, and therefore dominating, as it is that the vagina envelopes and therefore “surrounds” the penis, and therefore has it at her mercy, so the vagina is in full control of the situation (especially if the woman is on top, as that is the best way for many to achieve orgasm). My point is, while power dynamics are fun for kinky play, of course, they aren’t inherent in any essential way to PIV sex, if it weren’t for the cultural narrative proclaiming it so. The act itself works best when both parties are aroused, so therefore both parties are equal from a physical standpoint. I just don’t see what useful views can come from opposing feeling liberated whether a prude or a lovertine- I’m a very sex-positive, somewhat prudish woman myself, though I’ve evolved in my personal life over the years. My mother still calls me a prude, though :), when I don’t want to change in front of other women in locker rooms etc.

      • Well said!

        The whole idea that PiV must mean the penis-owner is the dominant party is wrong. Yes, I can see all too well why it has that cultural baggage, but it isn’t automatic, it isn’t a given. Even missionary position (gods I wish someone would come up with a better name for it)* is not necessarily “dominant” in an emotional or mental sense, depending on the relationship. TMI but it’s my favourite position, and domination does. not. have. a. role. in my relationship with Mr K, sexual or otherwise.

        *I know why it’s called that, but geez, I’d like to see a name that doesn’t bring up all those tropes. Worse’n “vanilla” (barf).

        • Valdi says:

          To follow the line of the second paragraph, it’s interesting that we so insist on drawing a distinction between who is on top and bottom. Because at first I thought “forward tackle” would be a possible alternative name, or perhaps “the gravity hug.” But missionary distinguishes not just position but who penetrates and who is penetrated, just like “cowgirl” does. Dworkin would likely make this point, as would some authors who might be construed as sex-positive: our classification of discrete positions around who is on top makes domination into an issue, even though who penetrates/who is on top need not correspond to dominance.

          So I wonder what would change if the normative phrase were VoP or VaP – vulva on/around penis, if engulfment or taking in were the normative action of sex instead of penetration.

        • Of all of those, I like the gravity hug! Especially since it doesn’t specify who’s on top. Plus it includes the collapes-at-the-end bit. :)

          I’ve seen the suggestion of using enclosure rather than penetration before, though it was years ago (in the ancient history of Pre Internet), so I’ve no idea where I read it.

    • Miss S says:

      At this point in my life, I don’t know if I can be really free and have sex. I want both but… the fact that men have so much power outside of the bedroom means (to me) that they have it inside the bedroom too. Sex doesn’t level the playing field, in my opinion. Things don’t become equal when clothes are removed. Regardless of the position, I’m the one being penetrated since I have the vagina and my partners have penises. Regardless of how awesome or amazing the sex is, I’m still the one without power- before, during, and after sex.

  6. Nobody says:

    I guess what bugs me about that Horowitz piece is that she starts off decrying the straw(wo)manning of radical feminists, and then goes on to knock down fields full of straw arguments.

    Having observed these arguments for decades, it’s depressing how rarely they manage to get past the same tired strawwomanning.

    Either you’re a grim harridan who hates sex or you’re a happy-go-lucky airhead who thinks that absolutely everything to do with sex is totally unproblematic in any way.

    No nuance or complexity allowed; you have to choose one or the other.

    • roro80 says:

      I guess I just haven’t seen many (any?) who identify with sex-positive feminism who don’t think about all the things Horowitz is saying that feminists refuse to think about. Certainly conversations about sex-positivity can disappear marginalized groups; it’s certain a problem, though hardly a phenomenon limited to that subject.

      But stuff like this: “Thus, sex-negativity urges feminists to reject compulsory sexuality, which has historically translated to forced sexual compliance with men” — is there anyone in feminism who agrees with forced sexual compliance with men? Anyone who doesn’t understand the historical context of forced sexual compliance?

      Or this: “understand that even in situations where consent is given, sex is not necessarily enthusiastically consented to or utilized as a means to ends other than pleasure and intimacy” — um, duh. I’ve never talked with anyone about sex — feminist or not, and including even those who are extremely enthusiastic and excited about sex in general — who would claim that every single consented-to sexual encounter moved the earth or was for the sole purpose of the physical orgasm.

    • Alexandra says:

      Sex-positivity isn’t just a theme within feminism, though. Every now and then I will go and read a Savage Love column, and the comments section are full of woman-hating sh*t about how any woman who isn’t “GGG” is a brainwashed prude. I see plenty of men using the language of sex-positivity to advance ideas that Henry Miller might cheer, but that I certainly wouldn’t.

      • roro80 says:

        Well, yeah. The linked article, the rebuttal here, and my comment are all explicitly about sex-positive feminism.

        • Alexandra says:

          Mm. I went back and reread the Horowitz article, and it is frustrating that she doesn’t cite any examples of what she criticizes, perhaps because she doesn’t want to start a blog war and perhaps because she doesn’t have any examples to cite. That said, my point was more that just because the opinions Horowitz critiques aren’t sourced doesn’t mean that there weren’t feminist-identified women making those arguments.

          My larger objection to the Horowitz piece is that I cannot understand why she would accept some false dichotomy of “sex-loving” versus “sex-hating”, where the only place one can critique sexual practices from is this stereotypical joy-hating, prudish radfem cartoon.

        • roro80 says:

          It’s not that no feminist-identifying person has ever made the arguments. It’s just that so so many sex-positive-identified feminists have so thoroughly explored the subjects she says we refuse to think about. Of course the primary subject of a feminist kink blogger (for example) will be how kink works as a feminist subject for the author, but I can’t think of a feminist kink blogger who does not regularly explore these subjects from the perspective of the patriarchal system ze lives in, differing views on consent, and the acknowledgment that such scenes are not safe for everyone. I’m sure there are those who do.

      • TomSims says:

        Can you help me out? I’m confused about sex positive/negative. From reading your post, it looks like men or at least the men you described, are all for sex positive women , but sex negative is for ?

        I’ve read the OP and the other posts down to here and I’m having a hard time getting a handle on what is being said here.

        • roro80 says:

          Hey Tom, I’m really not sure what you’re asking. I’d help out if I did. Can you rephrase your question?

        • Hrovitnir says:

          I’m going to assume you have no prior experience with the terms: if this is well off-base don’t mind me.

          My perception of “sex positive” is that it’s grown out of 3rd wave feminism, with a focus on destigmatising female sex drive/the female gaze and accompanying social prudence when it comes to sex in general and the accompanying gender roles.

          Naturally the casualties in this approach have been asexual people and just people who feel erased by so much focus on !sex! is awesome!

          I believe “sex negative” is more 2nd wave-inclined feminists who are not impressed by sex positivity and use the term somewhat tongue in cheek where as mentioned elsewhere, “sex critical” (where criticism = analysis) is probably more accurate.

          BUT. My personal experience has been a lot of not-sex-positive feminists being incredibly derisive of “sex pozzies” and often in the process incredibly patronising and ultimately misogynistic in their judgements.

          And I have *never* encountered a sex-positive feminist who doesn’t put considerable time into analysis of the negative aspects of sex, social contracts, and alternative experiences. That’s kind of natural when over-analysing sex. (Cliff Pervocracy’s post is awesome.)

          But but, I can definitely see how it can read as “yes rape is bad but-” in the hurry to make your point, and it could certainly be alienating to less sexual/sex-focused people, especially with the name!

          And I agree with a hell of a lot of what more sex-critical people say (probably seldom those that would self-identify as “sex-negative”) – just not always the conclusions. And as a woman-like person who’s always been very into sex it attracted me.

          Don’t know if that’s helpful. :P

    • Natalia says:

      I’m just dying for some kind of crossover here.

      People who think that happy-go-lucky harridans don’t exist are missing out.

    • Jamie says:

      Either you’re a grim harridan who hates sex or you’re a happy-go-lucky airhead who thinks that absolutely everything to do with sex is totally unproblematic in any way.

      Yeeeeep. Tiresome.

  7. Power of Choice says:

    I have a feeling that ‘sex-positive feminism’ feels as though it is bordering on cliche is due to the tendency of some self described ‘ sex positive feminists’ to overstate the importance of sex in the feminist cause (while understating arguably more important issues such as wage disparities, social inequalities, etc.)

    I don’t believe any woman deserves a feminist gold sticker at the top of her paper just because she proudly announces she watches as much porn as her boyfriend. Being ‘as sexual as a man’ isn’t a requirement for being a feminist.

    This is as far as I can go with agreeing with Horowitz’s exasperation with falling all over ourselves not to pass judgement about sex.

    On another topic, though – thanks for the link to the article and your response, Natalia. Both interesting reads.
    Although I must disagree with you on one key point:
    NOTHING makes Anthony Weiner blush. He has no shame. (And not in the good, philosophically sex-positive way.) :)

    • That’s the impression I get about the side-eyeing of “sex positive” – that it gets taken as “porn is greaty, yay!” without any acknowledgement that a hell of a lot of porn is anything but great. Indeed it’s the impression I’ve had floating around, while knowing that it’s not right, or only minimally so, and I couldn’t even say where I got the impression. All very odd.

      As for Dan Savage – *hurk*

    • Natalia says:

      True about Weiner. :(

      But then again – at least he was blessed with an appropriate kind of last name! That happens so rarely that it ought to be celebrated somehow.

      I mean, my name is certainly not Natalia Zombie-Hunter or Natalia Reader of Pretentious Literature, so in that sense, I do envy him.

      • If for no other reason that signing “Weiner” takes a hell of a lot less space and ink than signing Natalia Zombie-Hunter or Natalia Reader of Pretentious Literature would.

        Though I must say I have a yen for Luxury Yacht (pronounced Throat-Warbler Mangrove).

  8. gwyllion says:

    you know – this is a GREAT post with some great feedback so far – really needed this today – thanks! Needed to get my brain churning on greater and better things.

  9. Fat Steve says:

    While I agree with the general assessment of Horowitz’s article, it should be pointed out that a lot of really interesting clever points were made in the comments section, most of which were critical of Horowitz’s position. As far as Natalia’s Coldplay question (i.e. is it good?) I could say that some of the responses were so well worded it made the article seem ‘good’ as a jumping off point.

  10. Alexandra says:

    Awesome article. I’m reading and commenting while listening to Shakira and dancing around the lab waiting for my gel to stain, and even though there are long, long stretches where, as a “rape survivor,” I wish that I could be celibate forever, there are also periods where I just plain enjoy being a sexual being, even if I’m being sexual alone.

    • Jamie says:

      Unrelated to your main point:

      . I’m reading and commenting while listening to Shakira and dancing around the lab waiting for my gel to stain

      You are great. :D

  11. yazikus says:

    Happy to see you blogging Natalia! I always enjoy (okay, maybe not enjoy, but rather look forward to and glean perspective from) your pieces. This one as usual, was excellent.

  12. From Horowitz’s article:

    What it does, in fact, mean is that the way you fuck is not “private,” apolitical, or outside the realm of critique. Sex does not happen in a vacuum immune to outside structural influences; in fact, it can (and does) replicate inescapable systems of power and dominance. Being sex-negative means acknowledging that sex, and kink, have nothing intrinsically “good” or “positive” about them (in direct contrast to sex-positive feminists, many of whom argue that sex is an inherent good and that less charitable opinions toward sex are the result of a poisonous, prudish society).

    She seems to have a strange definition of negative. Sex-neutral would surely describe it better?

    As for the bit about “the way you fuck is not ‘private'” – well, sorry, Ms Horowitz, but yes it is. It’s not political and it’s none of your goddamn business what my beloved and I do. Pardon us for living if we don’t happen to fit your narrative.

    Now to read the comments …

    • zaebos says:

      ~=-“acknowledging”-=~

      That sounds so arrogant. I cringed at that.

    • Taylor says:

      If I remember right from discussions around sex negativity, using sex negative instead of sex neutral is more of a tongue-in-cheek sort of thing. Since sex positive feminism distinguished itself from feminism, it sort of left the idea that feminism prior to that was negative about sex. (Especially when you see SP feminists talking about the second wave and all that jazz.)

      So, yeah, sex neutral would probably describe it better, but honestly, it’s a bit of a joke as well as an attention grabber.

      • I see she used sex-critical later in the article, and that makes much more sense.

        Am I the only one who gets tired of headlines, or people deliberately writing like headlines? If she had a serious point to make, she lost it right there, because sex-negative is a huge thing in the US and it’s got stuff-all to do with feminism, too. If I’d happened on that article I doubt I’d have bothered with it: “Fine, sex pisses you off. Next!” It was only reading Natalia’s piece here that made me bother with it.

  13. Okay, there’s one comment in that article that struck me as totally weird – about the studies linking good sex to improved health. The commenter questioned the idea that health is an intrinsically good thing. WTF???

    • Kaisa says:

      I didn’t read the actual comment, but Jonathan M. Metzl and Anna Kirkland discuss in their book Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality, that the society’s current image of health has nothing to do with actual health. Yellow teeth are considered a mark of unhealthy habits, even though the colour of teeth has nothing to do with the healthiness of teeth etc. So, suggesting that good sex leads to better health does not necessarily mean that an individual is really better of with having good sex? Weather or not health is a good thing depends on how we define health?

      [of-topic] I think this is my first time commenting even though I have been lurking for years! Yay! [/of-topic]

      • Li says:

        Or, for instance, the way in which “health” is frequently tied up in abled-bodieness or with other kinds of privileged bodies.

        Or even that it doesn’t necessarily equate with outcomes that have relevance to the particular lives people are living: my capacity to deal with an elevated heart rate isn’t great for a number of reasons (not least of which is that my body presumes that a higher heart rate must be a threat reaction and so responds with panic), but frankly that impacts only very minimally on my quality of life, since I just don’t have to run very often in my day to day life.

        PS: Welcome Kaisa! It’s always nice to have people unlurk.

      • Valdi says:

        I lurk often, but I’m glad to be in a commenting mood to welcome you! Thanks for pointing out the book, since it sounds like it has a pretty good thesis. (Confusion of what’s good for us and the marketed signs of health.)

        I’ve also read books that focus on historical conceptions of health and hygiene (Gail Kern Paster’s The Body Embarrassed is one example), and I’m constantly struck by how, no matter the health paradigm in a period, there’s a set of lived behaviors and experiences that teach a set of behaviors that only somewhat coincide with the knowledge.

    • Thanks for the replies, all, and welcome Kaisa (though since you’re prolly been on this site longer than me, it feels a bit o’ cheek saying that). I wasn’t thinking of the health = morality thing; I seldom do, being lucky enough to be of an age and size and relative ability that doesn’t cop that sort of attention. Privilege ahoy! (Possibly it’s not as bad here in Oz – Li, you’re Australian, aren’t you? Any thoughts on that?)

      • Li says:

        Well, since I haven’t lived in places other than Australia, I can’t really say how it compares to say, the US or UK. I do think there are a large number of identifiable anti-fat messages in our culture of the kind that equates particular kinds of “health” with moral worth, such as The Biggest Loser and the fitness sections of any major publication, and I’ve personally experienced a lot of mental health shaming, but I think those kinds of things can vary from community to community.

        I’m fortunate in that I don’t engage much with the gym side of gay men’s culture, which to some extent is much more openly about aesthetics than straight gym cultures are, but I’m definitely aware of messages that equate “looking after yourself” (eg. going to the gym 4+ times a week) with self-control and maturity. And that’s not even getting into things like HIV stigma, which is a whole extra can of worms in terms of health moralising in my communities.

  14. Be the SOLUTION says:

    I’m sorry, I don’t think that parents of boys get to be part of this discussion on women and rape. I understand that this is a radical position to take but I also really wish that YOU, Natalia, would understand that as a parent you are part of the problem.

    It’s a hard pill to swallow, whaetever, but boys grow up and turn into men. YOUR rapist also had a mother.

    • Actually, I had no idea that my rapist had a mother. I thought he was vomited out by the Celestial Void instead. You just blew my mind right there.

      But you know what’s even worse, SOLUTION? I have a son. I also got pregnant – by a mayuuun.

      I mean, how dare I talk about rape when I’ve also engaged in consensual intercourse – of the sort that results in baby-making, right?

      Clearly, women like me just ask to be raped. Good Rape Victims (TM) live in separatists communes. The rest of us are fair game.

      Your logic is brilliant and I thank you for contributing to the discussion.

    • I’m sorry, I don’t think that parents of boys get to be part of this discussion on women and rape.

      I’m sorry, I don’t think people who paste the responsibility of rapists on their mothers get to be part of this discussion.

      Also, what do you suggest the parents of boys do about being “part of the problem”? Not have male children? You are aware that nobody sits down while pregnant and goes “awww, I want a widdle rapist, I have my Playboy nursery wallpaper picked out ♥”, right?

      I’m also very curious what your reaction would be should you have a male child yourself.

      • Also, I’m not sure if this is just me, but this commenter’s name is unpleasantly Holocaust-evocative. Is it just me? Am I tipsy and overly connected to paranoid-brain? :(

        • Fat Steve says:

          Also, I’m not sure if this is just me, but this commenter’s name is unpleasantly Holocaust-evocative. Is it just me? Am I tipsy and overly connected to paranoid-brain? :(

          As someone who is on alert to that sort of thing, I doubt it. I’ve only heard ‘Be the solution’ as the opposite of ‘be the problem’, not anything to do with the ‘final solution.’

        • Angie unduplicated says:

          No, you’re not paranoid. Down here in Aryan Nation country, the word is used unpleasantly often in skinhead business names and by people who fancy accessories bearing the number “88”.

        • Donna L says:

          I didn’t realize until recently that “88” is code for HH (Heil Hitler) because H is the 8th letter of the alphabet.

      • Be the SOLUTION says:

        I wouldn’t have children, period. I’m not about fucking and orgasms and diapers, OK? Some of us never drank the kool-aid to begin with.

        • fucking and orgasms and diapers

          Pictured above: what BTS thinks cishets are into.

        • Fat Steve says:

          . I’m not about fucking and orgasms and diapers, OK?

          That’s a bit ableist against those who suffer from sexual intercourse based incontinence.

        • Aydan says:

          You know, I’m not about fucking or diapers either, but I never figured that the people who were had “drank the Koolaid.” I just figured they… y’know… had different [often innate] preferences than me.

          Did I miss a memo and that’s somehow not allowed in feminism any more?

          But seriously, as someone who feels similarly, not liking or wanting sex or kids doesn’t entitle you to look down your nose at people who want different things and blame them for rape. How about we blame rape on rapists?

        • Alara Rogers says:

          I’m sorry, but I don’t think that people who don’t want to have sex, who don’t want to procreate, and who plainly despise anyone who does, should be part of any conversation about changing human culture. People who don’t want to have sex and people who don’t want to procreate are fine people, but as soon as they cross the line into condemning everyone who does have sex and/or procreate, they are enemies of humanity in general, and have no business trying to propose any solutions to anything.

          If you want to define the existence of men as the essence of rape, and therefore all women who have sex with or give birth to men are collaborators in the war against women, you’ve just determined that the existence of humanity is predicated on rape. Therefore you have no constructive solution to rape aside from “humans should go extinct”, and while I agree that would solve the problem of humans raping humans, it does smack of burning the village in order to save it.

          Some of us like to think that 50% of humanity are not, in fact, predestined by the dangling thing between their legs to oppress and torment the other 50%… since if that were true, there *is* no solution outside of the violent murder of all the male humans on the planet, after which humanity will survive for as many generations as it takes for the sperm in the sperm banks to go bad or run out, after which we die out. I find the position that men are inevitably the enemies of women to be a profound enabler of rape culture, as it basically says: women, suffer rape or die out. As most of us would rather be raped than die, and realistically, you will never get women on board with a “kill all the men” plan and it wouldn’t work because men have a lot more weapons anyway, you say that rape culture is impossible to defeat. Which, you know, is exactly what rapists and their enablers say.

          So you’re an enabler of rape culture, therefore you have no place in this discussion. You’re also an enemy of humanity and have no place in feminism, which is a movement about making life better for at least half of humanity and is therefore a profoundly pro-human movement. Go away.

        • Be the SOLUTION says:

          Thanks for mis-representing my views, Alara Rogers. Must be nice, to be that superior and smug.

          I don’t despise anyone. I do think that grown women can stand to question the ways in which they participate in rape culture today. I believe humanity can change! All of humanity! But there is a lot of denial that is holding us back.

          Leading an unexamined life is not healthy. And it’s toxic when people leading unexamined lives are given a platform to ruminate on something like rape, which is literally a plague. I’m sorry, I just don’t see it any other way.

          How come Natalia gets a pass on everything? For that matter – look at her admitting that she works “in a macho Moscow media world.” No one noticed this? Why does she get a pass in propping up oppressive systems? These are honest questions, I believe, and I’m sorry that the commenters here appear to be completely oblivious and hostile to questioning.

          These are the nature of my arguments. I want her to examine and own her stuff. I don’t want humanity to disappear.

        • Jill says:

          Thanks for mis-representing my views, Alara Rogers. Must be nice, to be that superior and smug.

          Pot? Is that you? -Kettle.

        • No one noticed this? Why does she get a pass in propping up oppressive systems?

          OK I’ll bite. Where do you work? Is it an all-female workplace? That exclusively serves the interests of women? Are you quite sure that your religious, economic, leisure etc activities do not prop up oppressive systems?

          Where was your computer made? Who made it? What were they paid? Do you wear sweatshop clothing? How about your food, are all the people who make/grow your food free and liberated?

          How do you plan on recompensing the children that others have, who will eventually be paying for your feminist old-age care? The taxes that will keep your roads built and floods managed and garbage collected when you are no longer a taxpayer, assuming that you currently pay taxes?

          If you do pay taxes, what are the policies of your government? Are they engaged in imperialism? Colonialism? Racism? Homophobia? Are any of these endeavours funded with taxpayer money? How do you plan on renouncing your part in that oppressive system?

        • jrockford says:

          Would it be safe to say that this comment thread has gone down the lane and into the Mace?

        • I don’t despise anyone. I do think that grown women can stand to question the ways in which they participate in rape culture today. I believe humanity can change! All of humanity! But there is a lot of denial that is holding us back.

          That’s rich, coming after

          I wouldn’t have children, period. I’m not about fucking and orgasms and diapers, OK? Some of us never drank the kool-aid to begin with.

          In fact I’d say it’s an outright lie. Declaring any woman who enjoys sex with men or wants to have children to have “drunk the Kool Aid” makes it all too clear you do despise them. You sound like someone from RadFemHub coming out with that stuff. What next, that the vagina was never meant to have a penis inside it? (Actual claim I saw there once.)

        • Alara Rogers – well said! ::applauds::

        • Jamie says:

          fucking and orgasms and diapers

          Look, adult baby kinksters need love, too.

        • Look, adult baby kinksters need love, too.

          Jamie, you owe me a cup of tea now.

          ::mops screen::

    • Milquetoast says:

      Could you elucidate on how Natalia (and her role as a mother) is part of the problem? And, consequently, what she must do to not be part of the problem? From reading her other posts, what must she do with her child to ‘not make it part of the problem’? From reading her other posts, Natalia seems very aware of the culture in which she is living and all the problems and benefits that pertain their. But, whatever, I guess she should shut up.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Well, Milquetoast, I have been advised by more than one internet commenter to murder my sons for the good of women. Perhaps BTS thinks this a good idea? After all, my sons would never be able to rape anyone then!

    • Well, that was a whole lot of whatthefuckery in a short comment.

      I guess this means that no rape victim who’s a parent can ever talk about rape ever? ‘Cos men aren’t the only rapists and women aren’t the only victims, whether we’re talking cis, trans*, intersex or any other people. So anyone who’s procreated (or fostered or adopted or raised children in any way whatsoever) is obviously Part Of The Problem and has no place in the discussion … even if they are rape victims themselves.

    • Fat Steve says:

      I also really wish that YOU, Natalia, would understand that as a parent you are part of the problem.

      Only in the sense that we are all part of the problem because none of us is a superhero who can turn off rape culture by snapping our fingers. Jeez!

    • Radiant Sophia says:

      I wasn’t going to comment on this thread (which I very much liked), because it largely isn’t about me. But this comment really needs to be addressed.

      How would one go about correcting the “problem” of having a male child, or is it too late, and one deserves to be raped for it? It’s all good to come here and tell people that they are part of the problem, but you do not offer any explanation as to how one would correct this problem. Most of the time, yes, it is not the duty of every feminist to educate every other person, but in this instance, when the idea is revolutionary and largely unknown, it is your duty to explain it.

      I am anti-sex, but I understand that some people want to do it. A lot of people actually, both men and women, and babies are the natural result of that action. If you are advocating that people stop having sex, I can understand that. If you are advocating that people stop reproducing, I can understand that. But I don’t think that is what you are saying. You seem to be advocating that a women who has a male child is no longer a women, or at the least now deserves whatever happens to her for being a woman. You seem to be advocating for an end to male children. What shall we do about those that already exist?

      • Be the SOLUTION says:

        If you’re anti-sex, then maybe you will understand me.

        I don’t think anything should be done to existing male children. Hell, if people want to keep fucking – it’s their business (their loss, as a matter of fact!).

        I just think there is hypocrisy at work in this post, which was authored by a self-identified feminist who is the mother of a male child. And I want her to examine this hypocrisy. Own up to it.

        Natalia Antonova is not a feminist or an ally and she is not your friend. She gave birth to a boy – she cohabits with men. Knowingly so and gleefully so. If she’s going to use a feminist blog as a platform, she should acknowledge the war that men have been waging on women.

        It’s one thing to come to an understanding later in life…… But I know the type. She identified as a feminist before she became a mother.

        • Fat Steve says:

          Natalia Antonova is not a feminist or an ally and she is not your friend.

          She’s not my friend???? Oh no! I’ve never met her and know almost nothing about her, but I was going to ask her to help me move house. Do you think that might be a mistake?

        • Jill says:

          Natalia Antonova is not a feminist or an ally and she is not your friend. She gave birth to a boy – she cohabits with men.

          OMG you guys, Be The SOLUTION is knowingly and willingly commenting on a blog WITH MEN. A blog that has allowed MALE guest bloggers and that regularly has MEN in the comment sections. She is not your friend and she is not an ally and she is no feminist.

        • Jill says:

          Which is to say… I know it’s ban-hammer time, but this is just too entertaining. I can’t wait to see what gets us kicked out of feminism next!

        • But Steve! I already brought the moving van and the color-coded boxes. This is not a mistake. It’s MEANT TO BE.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          I am very much against all sex (not just PiV), as any sex act is, at it’s core, based on inequality. I also happen to be human, and have empathy for other humans. If you feel that all men, everywhere, are attacking all women, everywhere, then I can comprehend that. I, however, can’t imagine how a pre-adolescent male is waging a war on you.

        • amblingalong says:

          Explain to me how, say, two gay women performing oral sex on each other is ‘based in inequality.’

          Also, yay for the voluntary human extinction movement! I used to think y’all were just a kinda clever comedy troupe but kudo on, you know, being real.

        • amblingalong says:

          Also, I reject the idea that all sex is based in inequality largely because if that was really true, it means that inequality and oppression are fundamentally inherent to human beings, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          amblingalong,
          I respect that you reject the idea, and I’m not going to denigrate you based on having a conflicting belief. I honestly don’t know if “inequality and oppression are fundamentally inherent to human beings”. It’s quite possible.
          Regardless of my beliefs, I’m not going to attack someone based on having different beliefs, unless I believe that those beliefs are inherently dangerous. I think Be the SOLUTION’s willingness to attack someone over the existence of a young child is very dangerous.

          p.s. I’m not part of the human extinction movement. Procreation is quite possible through artificial means.

        • amblingalong says:

          If you don’t want to address my question about how two gay women having sex is inherently unequal that’s obviously your right, but I do want to make sure you noticed it, because I (honestly, no snark intended) cannot figure out how one could come to that conclusion.

          re: the rest, I appreciate that you’re not attacking people, and I hope you don’t feel like I’m attacking you; your views are just so far out of my typical frame of reference it’s possible I’m misrepresenting them, but I am actually listening to what you’re saying (promise).

          I guess my issue is that sex is so fundemental to biological life on the macro-level (with a few exceptions, of course) that to claim it is inherently political/oppressive/unequal seems impossible. If you’re arguing that due to our social constructs all sex is fraught with power dynamics, sure, I can get behind that. But the idea that the act of sex itself is and inherently must be oppressive? That I don’t understand.

          I’m not just taking potshots at you, I really would like to hear why you believe what you do.

        • roro80 says:

          Holy fuck dude.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          O.K. I’ll try to explain.
          A sex act can have many negative consequences (I hope I don’t need to explain these). The only potential positive of a sex act is procreation. This can be accomplished through artificial means. Any sex act is therefore inherently negative, as it is dangerous, with no redeeming quality. If sex is something you do with yourself, then you take the responsibility for it (like skydiving or bungee jumping, or any other high risk activity). But sex with someone else is PURPOSEFULLY exposing another human being to these negative consequences.
          But I also believe that people can make their own decisions. So I guess “inequality” isn’t as correct as “very dangerous”, and I believe that exposing another human being to that danger is very irresponsible, and is taking advantage of someone.

        • Donna L says:

          Natalia Antonova is not a feminist or an ally and she is not your friend. She gave birth to a boy – she cohabits with men. Knowingly so and gleefully so.

          What exactly was she supposed to do once her baby boy was born in order to retain her status as a feminist? I wonder. (See my comment below.)

          In any event, how do you know that a baby assigned male at birth won’t turn out to really be a girl? Or that a baby assigned female won’t turn out to really be one of the enemy?

          Oh wait, you don’t believe any of that is real, do you? (The correlation of views like The SOLUTION’s with aggressive transphobia is, I think, pretty close to 100%.)

        • Donna L says:

          [QUOTE}The only potential positive of a sex act is procreation. This can be accomplished through artificial means. Any sex act is therefore inherently negative, as it is dangerous, with no redeeming quality.[/QUOTE]

          How is two gay women, or two gay men, having oral sex with each other “dangerous”? (Barring accidents involving teeth?) Or are you saying that that doesn’t count as a sex act?

          And are you saying that physical and emotional pleasure don’t count as positives or as redeeming qualities? There has to be a tangible, measurable benefit? I simply don’t understand. If you want to believe all this for yourself, fine. But, whether you intend it or not, it is inherently and phenomenally judgmental towards others, as well as dismissive of their own feelings and judgments as to whether they “benefit” from having sex in any respect other than procreation.

        • Any sex act is therefore inherently negative, as it is dangerous, with no redeeming quality.

          This is provably untrue. Intimacy, connection, expressions of sexual/romantic bonds, ability to experience things one cannot with masturbation, ability to engage in kinks that require another person and that get you off, etc, are all aspects of sex that cannot be derived from masturbation alone.

          So I guess “inequality” isn’t as correct as “very dangerous”, and I believe that exposing another human being to that danger is very irresponsible, and is taking advantage of someone.

          So, to use your own analogy, if I owned a skydiving business, am I being irresponsible or dangerous just by existing, or am I assuming that someone shelling out the money, time, energy etc to turn up at my doorstep and use my skydiving facilities (with my consent, and my taking full care to give them as safe and happy an experience as I can) is an intellectually whole human being who can make their own decisions? Isn’t the direct implication of your views that all sex is inherently coercive and taking advantage of another human being, no matter how much the other human being might want it?

          Your views seem pretty paternalistic to me. And it’s a bit creepy for me to think that I have no real ability to consent to sex (because by your definitions anyone having sex with me is taking advantage of me).

        • And, because we’ve had this runaround before, Sophia, am I oppressing my wife or is she oppressing me? Who’s taking advantage of whom? Which of us doesn’t have the ability to consent, or are we just sorta-raping each other all the time?

          I’m not trying to make you feel bad, here, and I don’t think you’re intending to judge me, or that attaching that connotation to my sex life is something you decided to consciously do. But theoretical beliefs have real-world expressions, this is the logical extension of your belief as it applies to my life, and I’m simply pointing it out.

        • amblingalong says:

          In addition to cosigning all of DonnaLs and Macavitykitsunes points, I’d like to add that artificial procreation is a technology not available to most people (for reasons of cost, access to medical facilities, etc.). So to argue that it’s the only moral method of procreation is tantamount to telling poor people not to have children.

        • Lolagirl says:

          Sophia, I’m kind of baffled by your universalizing your opinions about sex as being always negative and dangerous. I’m not trying to attack you here, and I absolutely respect that you know your own reality and personal feelings on the topic of sex. But I agree with Mac that sex with a partner can serve many positive, non-dangerous purposes for plenty of folks that have nothing to do with procreating.

          Different people, different emotions, different experiences. I would never insist that I speak for all the people everywhere on such a personal and individual topic like sex, and I’m absolutely open to the likelihood that there is a whole spectrum of opinion that other people hold wrt to sex. On the whole, my working assumption is that no single opinion on this subject is absolutely definitive or the best.

        • Ledasmom says:

          I just think there is hypocrisy at work in this post, which was authored by a self-identified feminist who is the mother of a male child. And I want her to examine this hypocrisy. Own up to it.

          Natalia Antonova is not a feminist or an ally and she is not your friend. She gave birth to a boy – she cohabits with men. Knowingly so and gleefully so. If she’s going to use a feminist blog as a platform, she should acknowledge the war that men have been waging on women

          I am the mother of two male children. I am twice as evil as Natalia. Fear my Y-chromosome-friendly uterus!

        • Ally S says:

          @BTS

          Natalia Antonova is not a feminist or an ally and she is not your friend. She gave birth to a boy – she cohabits with men. Knowingly so and gleefully so. If she’s going to use a feminist blog as a platform, she should acknowledge the war that men have been waging on women.

          Acknowledging that women suffer from gender inequality doesn’t require having contempt for all men and boys. Nor should it. If there’s anyone who’s an enemy here, it’s you, not Antonova.

          @Radiant Sophia

          A sex act can have many negative consequences (I hope I don’t need to explain these). The only potential positive of a sex act is procreation. This can be accomplished through artificial means. Any sex act is therefore inherently negative, as it is dangerous, with no redeeming quality.

          But you can avoid those consequences (and most people do so very easily), therefore consensual sexual acts are not inherently harmful. Your argument makes no sense.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          Donna, Mac, Lola;

          O.k. I really did not mean to come across as judgmental, or patronizing. I firmly believe that every person has a right to make any decision regarding their body, and I apologize for any offense I might have given, especially as regards the poor not having children, which I did, in no way, intend.

        • The Last Selina says:

          The only potential positive of a sex act is procreation. This can be accomplished through artificial means.

          This does not make sense to me. There are no artificial uteruses so while fertilization can happen artificially, you still need to subject someone with a uterus to danger in order to procreate. Even if that person has never had sex and chooses to be artificially inseminated, someone is “PURPOSEFULLY exposing another human being to these negative consequences.” Even if that person inseminates herself, someone has provided the sperm, knowing the danger they will put other person in. It seems like you are saying that someone with a uterus can choose to procreate without being taken advantage of, since procreation is a positive. On the other hand, is seems like you are saying that no one can choose to have sex with another person without being taken advantage of, even if the result is procreation. Those seem contradictary to me.

        • amblingalong says:

          RadiantSophia- I appreciate your willingness to apologize when people point out problematic statements, but (speaking only for myself) I think it’s probably more productive to actually respond the criticisms of your positions a number of people have raised (that there are benefits from sex aside from procreation, for example) rather than just retreating. If your mind has been changed, fine, but if not why not actually address what people said?

          For example, you still haven’t addressed multiple commentors asking how two gay people having oral sex with each other is unequal/dangerous/harmful, or how a situation can exist where both people simultaneously are taking advantage of each other. I’m legitimately interested in hearing how you deal with that issue.

          YMMV.

        • Oooh, ooh, can I play this game too?

          I cohabit with a king who passed over three hundred years ago! We make love! We do stuff together! I like his sons! Do I count as an EBIL HET SEXYTIMES FEMINIST TRAITOR or not?

          (Also did anyone notice Trolly McTrollerson’s contradiction in saying women who fuck have “drunk the Kool-Aid” and how she’s not into any of that stuff, above, and in this latest effort saying that giving up sex is “their loss”? Kinda sounds like someone’s telling porkies and losing track here.)

        • @amblingalong –

          I guess my issue is that sex is so fundemental to biological life on the macro-level (with a few exceptions, of course) that to claim it is inherently political/oppressive/unequal seems impossible. If you’re arguing that due to our social constructs all sex is fraught with power dynamics, sure, I can get behind that. But the idea that the act of sex itself is and inherently must be oppressive? That I don’t understand.

          Thank you. I’ve been trying and failing to articulate that ever since the Dworkin quote in this thread.

        • @Radiant Sophia:

          The only potential positive of a sex act is procreation. This can be accomplished through artificial means. Any sex act is therefore inherently negative, as it is dangerous, with no redeeming quality. If sex is something you do with yourself, then you take the responsibility for it (like skydiving or bungee jumping, or any other high risk activity). But sex with someone else is PURPOSEFULLY exposing another human being to these negative consequences.

          N’th iteration of not wanting to attack you or your definition of sex for yourself, and that you also don’t get to define it for anyone else.

          Procreation is not automatically a positive outcome, or even a possible one, of sex. That’s basically just PiV sex you’re talking about, so you’re wiping out the sexual experiences of anyone who doesn’t, or can’t, do that, or who might do it but not be able to conceive, or not want to conceive. It’s massive erasure, though I suspect it might be my reading rather than your meaning.

          But at any rate, do you not allow that love, intimacy, physical delight and comfort are positive outcomes? Even simple physical pleasure, for that matter. If sex was the wholly negative thing you paint it, why would anyone do it if they weren’t trying to breed?

          My situation’s not the usual one: my beloved is in Spirit, so the physical dangers (STDs and so on) don’t exist for us. But even if they did, they would not override the joy we have in making love, because LOVE is the operative word. Treating all sex as if it were inherently bad and redeemed only by potential pregnancy (which, to me, would be the biggest reason NOT to have sex) is just wrong. It’s totally a case of YMMV.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          I’m sorry that I’ve offended people here. That was not my intention. To reiterate: I believe everyone is entitled to do what they want with their body. I never meant to imply otherwise.

        • Computer Soldier Porygon says:

          I cohabit with a king who passed over three hundred years ago! We make love! We do stuff together! I like his sons! Do I count as an EBIL HET SEXYTIMES FEMINIST TRAITOR or not?

          What?

        • @Sophia I’m not offended, just puzzled why you’d hold this view, tbh, because it runs very counter to my own (and I’m ace-spectrum too, to boot). I didn’t think you were intending to get judgy at all.

        • you still haven’t addressed multiple commentors asking how two gay people having oral sex with each other is unequal/dangerous/harmful, or how a situation can exist where both people simultaneously are taking advantage of each other.

          amblingalong, I’ll take a crack at it. First of all, why are you singling out oral sex as opposed to other kinds of sex? As far as I can tell, it can have all the physical dangers and consent issues as most other kinds of sex. If you want to explain why you’re specifying oral sex, I might be able to address that.

          I’m going to assume you’re listing two gay people as an example because of the oft-cited difference in power between men and women, that makes heterosexual sex to some degree inherently non-consensual in some people’s eyes.

          RS has stated that all sex acts are problematic because they are based in inequality. I would say there are very few people that are exactly even in power, if there are any. Race, age, disability, experience, gender identity, orientation, career, familiar status, intelligence, religion, reputation, wealth, even access to transportation, all play into how one is treated and percieved in a relationship.

          Most of us are content to legislate or address only a select few power differences; sexual relations between people in the workplace, people related to each other, and adults and minors. Those are the ones we deem significantly harmful or potentially harmful enough to call out.

          With the example two women, something as simple as one having social anxiety could make the power dynamics in the relationship dangerous. In such a case one woman could rely on the other to make the phone calls, or do the shopping, and the end of the relationship or a fight could end up with the socially anxioius woman unable to even obtain food.

          Maybe one of the women dislikes oral sex. The other woman owns the car though, and they live in a town with no mass transportation. Sure, the oral-sex-hating woman could find an alternative eventually if they broke up, but the pressure is there to do all that is possible to keep the relationship from going rocky because she needs to get to class tomorrow morning.

          Or one of the women is a lesbian and the other is a bisexual, and if mutual oral is a requirement for the lesbian in a relationship, and they break up, the bisexual woman knows she’ll be looked at by their friends as just another “sl**ty bisexual”, especially if she dates a man next.

          Inequalities and power inbalances are rife in relationships and any sex act or action doesn’t happen in a vacuum (unless you’re really kinky). I’m not of the opinion that the inbalances make all sex a bad thing, but I don’t fault other people for opting out of for those reasons.

          As for a situation where both people take advantage of each other at the same time… maybe adult/adult non-forcible same-generation incest? I would think that’s a case where both people are hurting each other.

        • @Radiant Sophia – I wasn’t offended either, just very surprised, and I think universalising the “sex is bad” idea is as wrong as universalising “sex is wonderful all the time”.

          @Computer Soldier Porygon – that’s my life, so never you mind. I’m also playing whack-a-troll but it doesn’t seem to have had a response.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          Mac,

          Honestly I am worried that I offended you (and Lola, and amblingalong, and Ally S, and Donna). I understand how you feel that my belief denigrates you and Val. If the situation was reversed, I think I’d feel the same way. I really am trying to work through this. (Had other stuff here, but deleted it). Please be patient.

        • Sophia, no worries, really! Maybe we can take it to #spillover once you’ve had time to chill out? It seems a less fraught place somehow than the main threads, I dunno.

        • Most of us are content to legislate or address only a select few power differences; sexual relations between people in the workplace, people related to each other, and adults and minors. Those are the ones we deem significantly harmful or potentially harmful enough to call out.

          I really feel like I should point out that the reason for legislating/addressing those power differences, as opposed to the others you pointed out, such as race, disability, gender identity, religion etc, is that legislating those aspects declares people undateable (unfuckable, unmarryable, etc) based on aspects of their self, as opposed to aspects of their performed life. My boss is my employer, which makes her hitting on me incredibly horrible (if she did, which she doesn’t, ftr), but that’s not because she’s a brunette or white or spiritual or cis (to zero in on the differences between us that I’m aware of), it’s because in her role as employer, she doesn’t get to hit on her employees. I feel comfortable legislating [boss] in a way I don’t legislating [cis], for example, because it would lock me into dating only non-binary folks, for example, by placing cisfolk as inherently abusive towards me. A role of power =/= parts of identity.

        • Lolagirl says:

          Sophia, I’m coming back kind of late to this, but, no, I wasn’t offended at all by what you posted earlier. Surprised, sure, mystified, a bit, but definitely not offended.

          I completely understand that your opinions wrt to sex are absolutely true to you, Sophia. It was when you assumed and even insisted that they were universally true for all sex and for all people that I objected. But you have enough of a history here of good faith discussion that I was 100% willing to hear you explain your opinions further, and I was actually and genuinely curious to see how you fleshed out those opinions a bit more.

          I hope you didn’t feel attacked by my questioning you or disagreeing with you. That definitely wasn’t my intention.

        • Evie says:

          ” So I guess “inequality” isn’t as correct as “very dangerous”, and I believe that exposing another human being to that danger is very irresponsible, and is taking advantage of someone.”

          RS, I’m just wondering: do you drive?

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          Absolutely not! Cars are VERY scary (and bad for the environment). I happen to be fortunate enough to live within walking distance of the grocery store, the mall, several fast-food choices, and many other businesses. And, of course, we live within a mile of Roommate’s place of work (Roommate doesn’t drive either). Getting somewhere further away requires public transportation, which I can handle on a good day, If I sit in the back-ish area. Unfortunately Public transportation here doesn’t run 24/7. But the internet is a godsend for shopping.
          Sorry, more information than you probably wanted, but no, I am a dedicated pedestrian.

    • Jamie says:

      LOL WHAT IS HAPPENING WOW

    • Power of Choice says:

      Don’t feed the trolls.

      I’m not one to leap to the conclusion that someone is just trolling any time I see a post with a radical position that I don’t disagree with, but this seems like a pretty clear case of making an absurb statement just to get a rise out of people.

      Maybe I’m missing something, but surely nobody actually believes that all males (not just actual rapists) are so evil that even the mother of one loses feminist credibility.

      • Radiant Sophia says:

        No, there are people who actually believe that “all males (not just actual rapists) are so evil that even the mother of one loses feminist credibility”. I am not one of them, but I have conversed with several. I have never, however, actually heard one express what should be done about it.

        • Power of Choice says:

          Ah – I stand corrected then.

          Obviously, the answer of ‘what should be done about it’ is a globally enforced program of sex-selective abortion coupled with surgical castration for those evil males that have already been born.

          We must be steadfast in our resolve against the ‘Protuberances of Evil eNdowement Installed by Satan’

        • Obviously, the answer of ‘what should be done about it’ is a globally enforced program of sex-selective abortion coupled with surgical castration for those evil males that have already been born.

          Internet Feminist Mordor already suggested this in all seriousness, iirc.

      • Be the SOLUTION says:

        I’m not trolling. I have the right to express my views.

        • XtinaS says:

          I belieeeve you.

        • Fat Steve says:

          I’m not trolling. I have the right to express my views.

          You’re not expressing your views, you’re making a personal attack on Natalia because a male child passed through her uterinal canal. How about objecting to something she actually said?

        • Well, I googled “I believe in you”, and came up with these lyrics by some guy…

          But I believe in love.
          I believe in babies.
          I believe in Mom and Dad.
          And I believe in you.

        • Be the SOLUTION says:

          I just don’t think that people like her should be given a platform to talk about rape in a feminist context. Not without some self-examination, at least. Why is that so hard to understand?

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          So, to “talk about rape in a feminist context”, one must be free from the tainting presence of men, i.e. have no male children, and not have sex with men?

          The first thing you ascribe to her is “parents of boys”. So, to talk about rape, you must remove yourself from male society, yes?

        • XtinaS says:

          What form would this “self-examination” take, out of morbid curiosity?

        • tinfoil hattie says:

          Um, Fat Steve. What the hell do you imagine a “uterinal canal” to be?

        • Donna L says:

          I don’t even think there’s such a word as “uterinal”!

        • Computer Soldier Porygon says:

          But I believe in love.
          I believe in babies.
          I believe in Mom and Dad.
          And I believe in you.

          Oh my god, Mac, I hate that song so much! Now it’s going to be all in my head and shit. Boooooooooo!

        • D: I’m sorry! I’ve never even heard this song, I had no idea it was awful, lol. >_>

        • Fat Steve says:

          Um, Fat Steve. What the hell do you imagine a “uterinal canal” to be?

          uterine canal- the cavity of the uterus.

          http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/uterine+canal

          It’s not a word I normally use, in fact, I just looked it up so I could make that comment….

          And, according to what I can tell from google saying Uterinal instead of Uterine is a british-ism

      • Donna L says:

        [Trigger warning advocacy of infanticide]

        Somewhere on the Internet, I’m sure it’s still possible to find the notorious thread on the now-defunct Rad Fem Hub website in which a number of commenters made very clear, very seriously, that they knew exactly what should be done about this problem: namely, that what the world, and feminists, need most is more brave midwives willing to smother boy babies (= future rapists), and more mothers who understand why it’s so necessary. Obviously, any mother who doesn’t support this isn’t a real feminist, right?

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          That is just horrible.

        • Yep, that’s the Internet Feminist Mordor I was referring to, above. Ughfuckingwhat.

        • That’s the thing, isn’t it? I keep wanting to write SOLUTION off as another troll – but it would trouble me more if she were actually sincere. Because this is the logical conclusion of her ideas.

        • Be the SOLUTION says:

          That’s just ridiculous. I do not advocate infanticide. Violence is a male tool for changing the world – and it always, inevitably fails.

          I want mothers of boys to be taken down a notch. I want them to stop blabbering about rape without noticing their own place in the system. That’s not murder.

        • Ladeeda says:

          Is it here? http://radicalhubarchives.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/female-infanticide-and-child-abandonment/

          [trigger warnings there for even more discussion of infanticide]

        • Lolagirl says:

          What, precisely, is it about birthing a boy child that requires the mother to be “taken down a notch” pray tell?

          Do you seriously not realize that the gestator has no say, whatsoever, in preemptively selecting the sexual plumbing their fetus will have upon birth? And when you say boy, do you not realize you are discussing an infant or child, and thus not a full grown man even capable of sexual violence? And why is it that you blame the mother for the as yet not-perpetrated sexual violence of her male offspring?

          Oh, that’s right you have no real points to be made, just tomatoes to throw and ad-hom attacks to make.

          Got it!

        • I want mothers of boys to be taken down a notch.

          You…you realise that people don’t exactly get to choose what they give birth to, right?

        • Donna L says:

          No, that’s definitely not the one I’m thinking of. The one I remember was very explicit about what’s only implied in this one.

        • Donna L says:

          I’m pretty sure that this one was at least one of the ones I remember; see the comments to a post by vliet tiptree (who, in real life, is supposedly a well-known author of mystery novels, whom I won’t name here):

          http://radicalhubarchives.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/radical-feminism-in-the-21st-century/

          I’m thinking of comments like this one:

          Women need to stop raising male children. Women who raise male children are digging the graves of other females. Nobody wants to bite that bullet (except lesbian separatists) but it must be done.

          And this one:

          Men oppress us, so it’s no good getting annoyed at women for raising boys, although I certainly agree that lowering the male population is important, and I’ll never forget those two midwives who killed every boy baby for decades to prevent the warring between the tribes.That is a hopeful, positive story.

          And this one:

          Females don’t have to kill baby boys. Just not nurture them. Females are forced to *birth* baby boys, but beyond that a female’s physical actions are her own.
          Males will die without the constant infusion of female energy that they get from our wombs and from our lives. They are perfectly welcome to take the male infants from the hands of the midwife, and what they do with it from that point is *their* decision.
          Females need to not be emotionally and intellectually invested in a male future.

          And this one:

          as vliet suggested, i think a biological solution would be a radical solution. such as dispatching male babies at birth. . . . [W]omen would be incarcerated and executed by the legal system for dispatching male babies at birth, if we even tried this as a solution. and its very likely that this is the only solution that would work. this is not a coincidence.

          And this one:


          it occurs to me that a female ob/gyn that was willing to perform sex-selective abortions on male fetuses would be giving a gift to the next generation, and preventing the future generation of girls and women being eaten alive.

          And this one

          most women do know what we are talking about. and some of them are already implementing biological solutions that we are only just now beginning to discuss, like dispatching their male babies immediately after birth rather than investing a decade or two of resources into them before their grown male children end up killing everyone and being killed in generations-old wars started and continued by men.
          this stuff is really basic. i think western conveniences and our fake academented educations only make this shit harder to grasp.

          And so on.

        • Ughhhhhhhhhh.

          I feel sorry for this woman:

          One of the greatest and most complicated regrets of my life has become giving birth to and choosing to raise a male child.
          But I can no more walk away than I could rip my own heart out and eat it.
          If the revolution happened tomorrow and all males were eliminated, I would congratulate my separatist sisters, thank them, and perish at his side.

          And I feel sorry for her child. When your mom regrets having you because of your gender – that. is. wow.

        • Safiya Outlines says:

          Urrrgh. It is common to dub things “The Worst”, but few sites deserve it as much as RadFemHub.

          Although the bit about “feminine energy from our wombs” did make me think of miranda coils and giggle a bit.

        • roro80 says:

          I want mothers of boys to be taken down a notch. I want them to stop blabbering about rape without noticing their own place in the system.

          Ok, I’ll bite. What, exactly, do you feel is “their own place in the system” that makes mothers insufficient to speak about the subject of rape? Or is it only the mothers of boys? It seems to be, but I can’t for the life figure out how a woman* who has a baby boy is incapable of consent but a woman* who has a non-boy baby is a-ok. Maybe forced ultrasounds leading to forced abortions should the baby show signs of male genitalia? Or, if the pregnant person can’t afford an ultrasound, then and only then is infantacile cool? Or maybe we can all just be really mean, bad moms to baby boys in general?

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          That is just incomprehensibly, I don’t have any other word than evil.

        • roro80 says:

          Well shit. While I was writing that last comment, it seems that DonnaL linked to comments indicating that infanticide and neglect of baby boys is something being suggested. The Worst indeed, Safiya.

        • I want mothers of boys to be taken down a notch. I want them to stop blabbering about rape without noticing their own place in the system. That’s not murder.

          You really do think anyone with a penis is a rapist, don’t you? And that giving birth somehow makes a mother culpable even if the child never rapes anyone?

          Oh, I forgot, any sex with a man is rape, innit?

    • Jamie says:

      But seriously, you trollin’.

      • We see her trollin’…

        • PrettyAmiable says:

          They hatin’.

        • Safiya Outlines says:

          I am singing the song from Three Billy Goats Gruff to myself

          “I’m a troll, trolly troll
          I’m a troll trolly troll
          and I’ll eat you for my supper”

          Also, I am on tenterhooks. Currently I am a Correct Feminist with my Sisterhood Approved Female Child.

          But, what is the unborn uterine occupant?

          Is it an eeeevil Blight on Humanity?
          Or
          another Sisterhood Approved* Female Child?

          Oooooh the suspense!

          *Sort of. There’s probably not that much Sisterhood Approval for having sex with a man and making babies like boring, koolaid drinking women

        • pheenobarbidoll says:

          Don’t you know little boys be bad and unworthy….

        • Also, I am on tenterhooks. Currently I am a Correct Feminist with my Sisterhood Approved Female Child.

          But, what is the unborn uterine occupant?

          YOU ARE SCHROEDINGER’S FEMINIST

        • pheenobarbidoll says:

          I have you beat. My Sisterhood Approved Female Child is also having a Sisterhood Approved Female Child.

        • YOU ARE SCHROEDINGER’S FEMINIST

          Do we get a gold star if we have kittens? I mean, Schroedinger’s Feminist Cat would be the best!

    • A4 says:

      Oh my goodness this thread.

      I can’t choose which I like better:

      1) Giving birth to a boy is an anti-feminist act
      OR
      2) All sex is dangerous, EXCEPT procreative sex

      O_O

      I have to go with #2. It’s just a breathtaking redefinition of the concept of “dangerous”

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        I flail quite a bit with orgasms. I see the inherent danger in my pleasure.

      • Radiant Sophia says:

        I didn’t say “All sex is dangerous, EXCEPT procreative sex”, I said “all sex is dangerous, but procreation is a reason to engage in sex, which is still dangerous”

        Please don’t make me sound like I’m saying that somehow having sex with the intent to have children makes it all of the sudden not dangerous.

        • A4 says:

          But what about phone sex? Is that also dangerous?

        • Matthew says:

          I nearly spat out my wine A4. ;-)

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          A4, we have both been commenting here for some time. I’m not sure how my beliefs come as a shock to you. I believe you have a right to do what you want with your body, and I’m not advocating making sex illegal. Saying that you don’t agree with this is one thing, but is it really necessary to make fun of my belief?

        • roro80 says:

          Radiant, I think the difficulty you’re running into here is that your statements necessarily redefine all the sex everyone has had as “dangerous” and rooted in inequality. All sex may be dangerous for you, and nobody here is trying to redefine sex for you, but it is equally inappropriate to redefine the sex that other people have. You don’t get to do that.

          For someone like me, it is so counter to my reality to think that sex with my long-term monogamous partner is inherently dangerous or rooted in inequality that it does come off as ridiculous to have someone tell me that it is. It is ridiculous to the point of silliness. I say this with full knowledge that my marriage and even individual sexual encounters within that marriage have an element of power politics to them, they don’t all move the world with their magnificence, and there are risks involved despite precautions taken.

          If you try to redefine all sex among all other people as your personal negative conception of them, you will likely be mocked for that in spaces where sex isn’t axiomatically considered bad. You get to define sex for you. You don’t get to define it for other people, and your statements do that.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Hell, even twisty faster, back in the heyday of “I Blame the Patriarchy,” banned commenters who recommended that I and a few others kill our sons. Now that one of mine is 12 and one is 16, I wonder if my feminist cred is getting weaker by the day?

        They were cute little boys, after all. Now they are little more than Schroedinger’s Rapist, and I have no right to talk about rape anymore. Alas. Still and always being defined in the context of men and and boys. How feminist!

        • Donna L says:

          So, would I get an exemption because my son is gay? Or is having a gay male son just as harmful to women?

        • A4 says:

          @DonnaL

          Only if he works in the fashion industry

        • Donna L says:

          No, he doesn’t. He works at the Cloisters right now. Surrounded by unicorn tapestries and other representations of virgins.

        • At the Cloisters! ::envy envy envy::

          I’d love to visit there if I ever get to New York.

        • Fat Steve says:

          At the Cloisters! ::envy envy envy::

          I’d love to visit there if I ever get to New York.

          Really? I should go there…never been, was sick on the day we went as school trip.

        • I read about them in Helene Hanff’s story “Apple of My Eye,” where she and a friend did all the tourist stuff they as New Yorkers had never done. I’ve never even seen a picture of them, it was all down to her story. :)

          (Helene Hanff of “84 Charing Cross Road” fame, for anyone who doesn’t know the name.)

        • tinfoil hattie says:

          The Kittehs’ Unpaid Help, I stumbled across that awesome, delicious book in 1981 and devoured it (not literally, of course) on a train ride from DC to NJ.

          @DonnaL, I’m stumped. Ya got me.

        • tinfoil hattie, I read 84 back in the day too, and loved it – I have the omnibus edition that has Apple in it, too. I just love her writing!

          I went to 84 Charing Cross Road when I visited London in 1989. It was a record/CD shop by then (I hardly even knew what CDs were at that stage).

          I remember thinking on 9/11 that I was glad Helene Hanff had already passed over and didn’t have to see what had been done to the city she loved.

    • Lolagirl says:

      Wow, good to know I’m not a feminist, or an ally, and actually a traitor to all of womankind by fornicating with a man and having boy children (and 4 of them, OMG the universe will smite me for my betrayal!)

      But seriously, there appears to be a breakdown in understanding how basic biology functions here. Making sure that one only becomes pregnant with girl children is problematic in its cost prohibitiveness and because of the high degree of medical intervention required. Discovering what sex is indicated by the plumbing present in that fetus is also tricky to discover for the first half of a pregnancy. Also? it’s almost hilariously cis-centric to insist or presume that a baby declared a girl (or boy) at birth is actually that sex/gender for the rest of its life. Thus, obvious Troll also a transphobe to boot.

      But, hey, trolling for lulz usually goes hand in hand with ignoring facts and science and stuff like that.

      • Power of Choice says:

        Lola, by fornicating with a man, you have lost your feminist card. But there is a loophole in this rule. Your card may be returned – on a probationary basis, of course – by requiring that any future male fornication partners sit down while urinating.

        • Lolagirl says:

          Shhhhhh, don’t tell the patriarchy on me, but I am already raising my little penis owners to sit down whilst peeing. I have no plans at present to replace my current fornication partner, so I guess I lose anyway!

        • pheenobarbidoll says:

          I’ve fornicated with a lot of men. A lot. Like upwards of 30 or so. I’ve lost count, I fornicated so much.

          BUT, I fornicated with one man who was not white. And we had a female child. So does this count as atonement? he was a real asshole too.

          And now I will be a grandmother to a female child, so do I count that or does the many numerous fornications before this cancel out any female progeny?

          I suck at math.

          fuck. Girls aren’t supposed to suck at math.

          *hands over my feminist card*

          *and the sooper sekrit evil feminist decoder ring*

        • Evie says:

          Whew. My male fornication partner is German. I guess I’m safe then.

    • Evie says:

      I feel you. Most rapists are male, and therefore any male is a potential rapist – the actual chance that he will rape someone is irrelevant. But why stop there? An even greater percentage of rapists are human. Surely those who have brought humans, and therefore potential rapists, into this world have no place in this discussion.

      Actually, how do you know for certain you personally won’t succumb to mental illness and attack someone with a dildo? It is a possibility, however remote, and therefore you have no place in this discussion either.

      • Evie says:

        Oops, sorry. Should have said “succumb to some mental illness that could cause such a thing”. I don’t want to imply that mental illness = rapist. I also don’t want to assume that BTS is in an ideal state of mental health now.

      • Donna L says:

        and therefore any male is a potential rapist

        I don’t think that logically follows, and I don’t believe it’s true, either. I think women are entitled, based on the fact that most rapists are male, to perceive every man they meet — even gay men — as potential rapists if they choose to do so or feel that way instinctively (because, after all, how can one ever really know what another person is capable of, even when one knows that person, let alone when one doesn’t?). But that doesn’t mean that every man actually is a potential rapist. I am absolutely 100% sure, although obviously I can’t prove it, that when I was living as a man, I was not a potential rapist, any more than I am now. (Notwithstanding the views of some that my very existence as a trans woman = a symbolic rape of all “real” women.) And I am equally sure that the same is true of a great many men, including cis men.

        I have the same reaction to this as I do to those who make the “everyone is capable of it; how do you know what you would do” argument about the Holocaust and other genocidal atrocities. No, everyone isn’t capable of it. And the same is true of rape, whether one is male or female or otherwise.

        • Jamie says:

          I have the same reaction to this as I do to those who make the “everyone is capable of it; how do you know what you would do” argument about the Holocaust and other genocidal atrocities. No, everyone isn’t capable of it. And the same is true of rape, whether one is male or female or otherwise.

          I feel that it’s too easy for people to be convinced of their own goodness. I say this as a person with clinical depression who has a (figurative) voice in her head often telling her that she’s a walking piece of shit. Too often, I think people convince themselves that they’d be the hero to stop this or that thing, while not actually practicing to actually stop this or that thing. We see this mindset behind a lot of idiotic NRA responses to gun violence. “If only there’d been a hero with a gun!” Fantasies full of swagger, as opposed to, (switching issues now) “You know, I’m going to find a knowledgeable person and see if they’ll teach me what to do if I see a guy being creepy to a woman at the club and how to intervene in a way that de-escalates the situation.” Or, “I’m going to brainstorm with my friends about how to fight the bystander effect if we see something fucked up happening around us.”

          The world, as modeled to us, from when we’re very young children, is full of fucked up values. None of us are born good people. We have to be taught. It’s a lifelong process.

          TRIGGER WARNING:

          I love your comments, DonnaL, and 99% of the time, I agree with them. But because I agree with you so often, the rare comment where I disagreed, strongly, stood out to me. It wasn’t just you, someone else made a similar comment. It was along these lines… I think Alara said that, in the Middle Ages, most sexual interactions were probably rape. There’s no way to prove whether or not that’s true. I would like it to not be true. I don’t believe in the inherent goodness of humans. I don’t believe in an inherent evil, per se. But I believe that we’ve evolved to contain both altruism and the desire to dominate. We see it in many animals. And as social beings, it’s very hard for us to resist what society teaches us, if it’s taught overwhelmingly. And in a society where men are taught that women are nothing more than property… I don’t think simply looking into a woman’s eyes and seeing her humanity would have been enough.

          It’s not that I think all men are inherently rapists. But I think all human beings, male and female and in-between, are capable of both great kindness and great horribleness, many times in the same person. We’re so good at rationalizing things to ourselves. It’s part of our makeup; it’s the building block of cognitive dissonance.

          I think the Stanford Prison Experiment, the use of rape as a weapon in war, the Milgram Experiment, and so many other historical examples show that, overwhelmingly, it’s very, very easy for us to do the wrong thing. I agree that it’s enlightening to look to the small few that resist, and find out the building blocks of that resistance, so that we can replicate it. But I also think it would be naive not to focus on our own capacity for horror, because that can also be reverse-engineered.

          I feel like I just wrote that all in a really pretentious way, btw. :/ Sorry if it came off as condescending, that wasn’t my intent. Also, I think you’re really cool! Just throwing that out there.

        • Jamie says:

          Btw, by “and those inbetween,” I was referring for genderqueer people, I wasn’t trying to third-gender trans people. /clarification

        • Jamie says:

          YET MORE CLARIFICATION (of my long-ass comment that’s still in mod): When I refer to my depression, I don’t mean, “Most people delude themselves into thinking of themselves as good people! Except super special Me! I’m so enlightened because my mental illness makes me think I’m shitty!” I mean that even with a mental illness that tells me I’m shit, I think I’m still too easily convinced that I’m Totally A Good Person That Would Never Do Terrible Things. I should’ve just titled my comment, “I Would’ve Been A Polish Freedom Fighter” Syndrome.

        • Fat Steve says:

          I don’t think that logically follows, and I don’t believe it’s true, either. I think women are entitled, based on the fact that most rapists are male, to perceive every man they meet — even gay men — as potential rapists if they choose to do so or feel that way instinctively (because, after all, how can one ever really know what another person is capable of, even when one knows that person, let alone when one doesn’t?). But that doesn’t mean that every man actually is a potential rapist. I am absolutely 100% sure, although obviously I can’t prove it, that when I was living as a man, I was not a potential rapist, any more than I am now. (Notwithstanding the views of some that my very existence as a trans woman = a symbolic rape of all “real” women.) And I am equally sure that the same is true of a great many men, including cis men.

          It depends on what you mean by ‘potential,’ but if you were a potential rapist then, you are a potential rapist now (i.e. you are physically capable of rape, and were you drugged or had some sort of mental break, it’s a potentiality.)

        • Fat Steve says:

          I think women are entitled, based on the fact that most rapists are male, to perceive every man they meet — even gay men — as potential rapists if they choose to do so or feel that way instinctively (because, after all, how can one ever really know what another person is capable of, even when one knows that person, let alone when one doesn’t?). But that doesn’t mean that every man actually is a potential rapist.

          …also I think it’s important for men to consider themselves potential rapist, so they get clear consent from the women they are having sex with. Were I, if I was single and/or unfaithful, to have sex with a woman it’s important that I don’t make assumptions because you or I could have been in the situation 20 years ago with a woman who we didn’t know was too intoxicated to consent or was consenting due to some other reason unbeknownst to us,

        • amblingalong says:

          Then by that logic, Steve, everyone is a potential rapist, a potential murderer, a potential thief, etc.

          In which case, sure, but are you really saying anything useful?

        • Then by that logic, Steve, everyone is a potential rapist, a potential murderer, a potential thief, etc. In which case, sure, but are you really saying anything useful?

          I think he is. I think a hell of a lot of people violate boundaries of all sorts because they don’t think they’re “that sort of person”. I get racial/homophobic/misogynistic microaggressions all the time from people who I wouldn’t categorise as racists/misogynists/homophobes, they have some toxic attitudes and ideas that they’ve internalised over time and are spewing at me. However, the response I get to pointing out those microaggressions often tends to be “I’m not a racist, so I would never say a racist thing!” (etc.). But the thing is, they did say a racist thing, but because they can’t perceive themselves as remotely capable of racism, they don’t have the perspective to think of their actions as microaggressions.

          I think I am at least a potential racist/transphobe (been called out on both here, so). I am potentially homophobic, potentially misogynistic, potentially a rapist, potentially a crook and potentially literally every kind of person I cannot stand. Perceiving myself as capable of erring allows me some perspective as to my lack of objective perfection, and thus some ability to check myself. (I’m not perfect, but who is?)

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          Then by that logic, Steve, everyone is a potential rapist, a potential murderer, a potential thief, etc.

          amblingalong, do you think that there are people who aren’t?

        • amblingalong says:

          amblingalong, do you think that there are people who aren’t?

          Yes. I think I am absolutely not a potential rapist- there is no set of circumstances which would lead to me raping someone, at least as I define rape.

          For example, Steve brought up the case of someone who gives consent but was being coerced, unbeknownst to their sexual partner. In that situation, I think the coerced person might legitimately define their experience as rape, but their partner isn’t a rapist. Ditto for having sex with someone who, in their sleep, gives the appearance of consent due to narcolepsy (sounds farfetched, but it’s a scenario we discussed a few months back here).

          So yeah, I’m entirely comfortable saying I am under no circumstances a potential rapist. It’s just a line I’d never cross.

        • amblingalong says:

          Macavity- I agree with your post, but I guess I see the difference as being rooted in the distinction between beliefs and actions. I definitely think most people who aren’t member of [insert oppressed group] probably have isms against that group; I see a real difference between that and committing and act like rape, which, assuming you understand the principle of consent, you really have to purposefully commit. I don’t think it would be possible for me to rape someone by accident, and I know I wouldn’t do it on purpose.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          For example, Steve brought up the case of someone who gives consent but was being coerced, unbeknownst to their sexual partner. In that situation, I think the coerced person might legitimately define their experience as rape, but their partner isn’t a rapist.

          Soooo…
          A rapist requires knowledge that what they are doing is rape?

          I completely disagree with this. Anybody who commits rape IS A RAPIST.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          Moving to Spillover #6

        • amblingalong says:

          I completely disagree with this. Anybody who commits rape IS A RAPIST.

          Yeah, I disagree- or maybe you and I disagree about what rape is, instead. If someone threatens to kill a person’s family unless they go to a bar and sleep with a random stranger, I think they’ve been raped. I don’t think the random stranger is a rapist.

          I get that it’s an absurd hypothetical, but there are plenty of real-world situations which approximate it.

        • Long comment in mod for amblingalong. -_-

        • amblingalong says:

          Just FYI macavity, there’s a longer version of my post/extended conversation at Spillover #6.

        • Yeah, I just moved my in-mod comment there too. Mods, again, feel free to delete this one! It’s approaching derailtiem, so…

        • Donna L says:

          if you were a potential rapist then, you are a potential rapist now

          Neither.

          I can’t prove it, but I know it.

  15. Pingback: “As a rape survivor, I…” Or,...

  16. Athenia says:

    Thus, sex-negativity urges feminists to reject compulsory sexuality, which has historically translated to forced sexual compliance with men but has recently been extended to non-hetero sex and sexuality as well.

    Sex-negativity also encourages us to question “consent is sexy” attitudes (since sex is inescapable from patriarchal and other power relations, and thus what is “sexy” caters to men and the male gaze) and understand that even in situations where consent is given, sex is not necessarily enthusiastically consented to or utilized as a means to ends other than pleasure and intimacy.

    I think that’s where Horowitz lost me. While I agree consent isn’t always consent in a patriarchal society, I’m not sure abandoning the concept and replacing it with “non-compulsory sexuality” is the solution.

    • Power of Choice says:

      It also sounds as though Horowitz is suggesting that she believes the majority of sexual interactions which take place are not truely consensual. Yes, in a patriarchal society, sometimes a ‘yes’ still can kind of mean ‘no’ in certain situations and in some relationships with a power imbalance. But (call me an optimist if you will) I disagree that all – or even most- sexual interactions in modern society fall into those scenarios.

      • Athenia says:

        Yeah, like when patriarchy is “you should be sexual but not in these situations”, I’m not how sure non-compulsory sexuality tears down that framework. As another commenter said, perhaps “sex neutral” works better.

    • Alara Rogers says:

      I think you mean “compulsory non-sexuality”, since “non-compulsory sexuality” *is* in fact a good thing, as it means “no compulsion to have sex.” The thing I think you’re trying to contrast is “compulsion to not have sex,” which has been universally awful in every culture that has adopted it, and has been universally used to harshly punish women for being women.

  17. Angie unduplicated says:

    I have trouble with the portmanteau phrases. It’s OK to be sex-positive in this society unless you are aging, birth-anomalous, trans, fat or unpretty and decide to take the role of assertive fuckor, whereupon the gender gangsters assemble and stomp you down while telling you that you are to shutthehellup and be sex negative, unless you are working class and then you are to be positive in order to get that nickel raise. We may be told that we are allowed to be sex positive but only for preferences we don’t want, usually but not always celibacy. Reject that idea and hear that self-sex is for other people and sexual ridicule is for this particular stigmatized group. Furthermore, one must be body-positive, and as a rape survivor and child abuse survivor, I don’t want any stranger’s hands on me anytime. Now that Robert Cialdini says that touch influences people, people touch more, and without permission.
    The issue, to me, is about self-ownership. Do we, as women, own ourselves or not?The same people who say we don’t will infringe on other properties as well. Takers of sexual autonomy are thieves. I own my anger, and you do not want it in your beds. Be positive about that. Sex is fun, but putting up with rape and the current culture to get it is not worth the aggro.

    • Power of Choice says:

      The issue, to me, is about self-ownership. Do we, as women, own ourselves or not?The same people who say we don’t will infringe on other properties as well. Takers of sexual autonomy are thieves.

      To me, this sums up the entire argument. I believe we each have the right to choose how/if we are sexual. And furthermore, those who are sexual need to be sesensitive and aware that some people aren’t and don’t have a desire to be – and don’t need to be ‘fixed’.

      To be honest, I admit that I’m guilty of violating that last part: when I hear a sexual trauma survivor (or anyone for that matter) explain that she’s no longer interested in being sexual, my immediate mental assumption is that she is damaged and needs fixing. This is wrong of me, and trying to help a nonsexual person to heal so they can be ‘normal’ is doubly wrong because it places a social pressure on them to engage in activities they aren’t comfortable in.

      On the reverse side, when those who identify as ‘sex-negative’ imply that my desire for and enjoyment of sex is somehow anti-feminist is hurtful in its own way. My sexuality is not a holdover from a patriarchal society – it’s a biological and emotional need I have to satisfy to keep sane & happy.

      That said, anyone who chooses not to be sexual has a much more difficult time treading in society than those who are sexual. Sexuality – and the expectation that everyone is sexual – is everywhere. And I offer my open and sincere apology for any ways I have contributed to the hardships nonsexual people face by my own ignorant assumptions.

      • Schmorgluck says:

        I wish I’d leave in a world in which it was so simple. I wish I had the choice of being sexual or not. Specifically, I wish I had the option of being sexual.

      • Scott Cunningham says:

        Similar story here. I’d like the positive stuff to be true for me one day, but for now my experience is trauma and (mostly self-imposed) long extreme isolation. Also I’m (cis) male and was attacked my men. Sometimes my body looks like my attackers to me and it scares me. I call myself sex-ambivalent. I’d like to be positive, but in fact I’m full of fear.

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      I think sex-positive is a compound rather than a portmanteau.

  18. gwyllion says:

    Well……this WAS a GREAT post with some great feedback…sigh…

    • roro80 says:

      Shit got weird…

      • Nobody says:

        I’m still on the fence as to whether the weirder comments are real or a Master Class in trolling.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          I assume you are referring to me. I am not a troll/am not trolling.

        • Power of Choice says:

          I had originally assumed troll, until a few people corrected me that there IS a feminist subset out there that would actually agree with the weirder comments (RadFem Hub users, etc).

          After that, I decided that whether or not the weirder comments were trolling or were the posters bona fide opinion is irrelevant. If there are those out there with similar opinions, it makes sense to treat the posters as bona fide in the interest of an engaging dialogue for all the lurkers out there who might silently agree.

        • Donna L says:

          I don’t think anyone thinks you’re a troll, RS. A number of people just disagree with you, that’s all.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          I don’t think anyone thinks you’re a troll, RS. A number of people just disagree with you, that’s all.

          It’s just that I’d hate for anybody to confuse me with Be the Solution. I certainly do not agree with the idea that a woman who has a male child (or has sex with men, for that matter) should lose the ability to discuss rape on a feminist platform, or isn’t feminist in the first place. I believe that separatist, anti-natal belief ultimately results in infanticide. And that sickens me. I also believe you are correct in labeling Be the Solution as 100% transphobic.

          However, the few posts above me have grouped comments about “the weirder posts”. I realize some of my beliefs are weird, and I just want to emphasize that I
          don’t agree with the other “weird posts”.

        • Lolagirl says:

          Yeah, Sophia, I think the troll discussion is related to final solution or whatever they were calling themselves and their fapping on about how Mothers Of Boys Aren’t Feminists and Can’t Be Permitted To Discuss Rape.

          Definitely not about you. Your opinions may have been controversial, but definitely not trolling.

        • Power of Choice says:

          I might suspect Solution is trolling, but not you, Sophia. Solution’s suggestion that mothers of boys can no longer have valid feminist opinions just isn’t logical.

          I can at least see where you’re coming from when you say sex is dangerous. It is. But for me, I feel those dangers can be mitigated through safer sex practices with a committed sexually monotonous partner. And then the benefits outweigh the risks to me.

        • Power of Choice says:

          Oops… I meant “sexually monogamous partner”, not “sexually monotonous partner” LOL.

          Wish I could blame that on auto-correct but I’m afraid that Fruedian slip may have been all me…

        • There are a couple of trolls who basically follow me up and down the Internet, making outlandish statements on everything I write, whether it be here, or in The Guardian, or The Moscow News, etc. I’m wondering if SOLUTION is/was ultimately one of them too.

        • Radiant Sophia says:

          There are a couple of trolls who basically follow me up and down the Internet, making outlandish statements on everything I write, whether it be here, or in The Guardian, or The Moscow News, etc.

          Why would someone do this? What I mean is is it just for attention, or are they actually antagonistic to what you write?

        • Lots of possible reasons – but the bottom line for me is that I have to write very personal things on the Internet. When you do that, people decide that they “own” you – and come after you should you somehow fail to meet their expectations down the line.

        • Fat Steve says:

          Lots of possible reasons – but the bottom line for me is that I have to write very personal things on the Internet. When you do that, people decide that they “own” you – and come after you should you somehow fail to meet their expectations down the line.

          People on the internet are horrible. Even if you’re just a Top 40 DJ who does nothing more than introduce music, people think they own you. I am a bit immune from it just being a sidekick/producer (i.e. not important for people to care about,) but there were whole threads on digital spy talking about what a piece of shit our show was and how my friend who hosts the show ‘shouldn’t be in radio, much less on a national station,’ and saying the most vile things about how ‘a loser like him managed to get such a hot wife,’ etc.

          Now when the trolls would bother him, I would tell him the best policy was to keep his fucking mouth shut and ignore them. However, I get that people have been telling women/feminists to keep their mouths shut through history, so I can totally respect why feminists should be the one to tell the trolls to keep their fucking mouths shut.

  19. Echo Zen says:

    I wish this post weren’t already swamped with comments (though I knew it would be, given the subject matter). I just want to say it’s good to see you blogging again, almost a year since we last saw you here…!

  20. theLaplaceDemon says:

    (mild TW for discussion of bad consent)

    I had similar misgivings about Horowitz’s post. I’m shy of the term sex-positive because, frankly, I’m afraid of what people who define sex-positive feminism the way Horowitz does will think I believe.

    While I generally consider myself a person who likes sex, and I usually enjoy it quite a bit with myself and my current partner, my sexual experiences have included a lot of “bad consent” yeses. So I totally get the need to emphasize that not everything that looks like consent superficially is uncoerced, or power dynamics (including male-female power dynamics) can fuck with consent even when all parties have the best of intentions.

    So I get that. I get that it’s important to talk about that. But I also think that women should not be pressured to have sex in a way that’s Good For Feminism. EVEN IF one’s sex practices are steeped in patriarchal power structures, I don’t think that shaming them into doing something else is the answer.

    I also think that if you buy into the “no consent is real because of the patriarchy” or even “no heterosexual sex is real because of the patriarchy” mindset, you are (1) forcing a particular narrative on all women who have sex with men, regardless of their lived experience; (2) It disregards other power dynamics that could be at play; (3) It literally assumes a woman cannot have agency when the patriarchy exists; (4) Maybe this last one is just a logic-less discomfort on my part (I’m really not sure), but to me when we call a woman-initiated mutually agreed upon and enjoyed sex act problematic consent, I feel like we are watering down the term such that experiences such as mine – where I always said “yes”, but only because the consequence of saying no bordered on emotional abuse.

    • Power of Choice says:

       when we call a woman-initiated mutually agreed upon and enjoyed sex act problematic consent, I feel like we are watering down the term such that experiences such as mine – where I always said “yes”, but only because the consequence of saying no bordered on emotional abuse.

      Couldn’t agree more.

      I was fascinated to read some of the other comments in this thread, though, which explained the idea that all relationships have power differentials. And, actually, I think I’ve ‘seen the light’ now enough to agree that there probably aren’t any perfectly equal relationships. (Before this thread I would have argued until I turned blue that there were – and that I was in a perfectly equal relationship.) Barnacle does a good job above illustrating some examples (ie: one partner has social anxiety, only one partner has a car, etc…) After giving it some thought, I would also add to Barnacles list common situations like: one partner being more attractive than the other, one partner being more ‘head over heels’ in love and/or more committed to the relationship, etc.

      Bottom line is: I now understand and even agree with the statement that NO relationship is such that both partners have exactly the same level of investment/commitment/incentive not to leave.

      So in this sense, whoever is more invested in the relationship has the most to loses, and is therefore theoretically in a weaker bargaining position.

      But from a practical standpoint, I don’t believe this theoretical power imbalance comes into play in healthy relationships. I don’t think there is some subconscious emotional-financial-domestic spreadsheet that people run when deciding to be imtimate.

      Maybe I’m just being naieve here – but I don’t think anyone does a mental calculation like: “Because Sarah makes $5K a year more than me, and drives me to class in the morning, I owe her 4.875 shags per week. Plus a performance bonus of oral sex if she folds clothes on my day to do laundry.”

      Sex-positive doesn’t mean ‘in support of coerced duty-shags’. (Although I also see nothing wrong with the oft-maligned uncoerced duty-shag under the right circumstances.)

      I guess I just don’t think the small theoretical power differences that are unavoidable in a relationship necessarily mean that consent and agency aren’t still possible.

      There’s a huge difference between what LaPlace alludes to (‘consenting’ to sex under threat of emotional coercion or abuse) and the more typical (at least in my experience) model of enthusiastically consenting to sex out of the loving desire to please my partner and the selfish desire to please myself.

      • Alexandra says:

        So there’s this concept I learned in statistics that I think is relevant here. I agree that there is probably no such thing as a perfectly equal relationship, if by “equal” we mean that each partner brings exactly the same experiences, ‘power’, privilege, etc to the table. People are different from one another; you’d only really get a “perfectly equal” relationship in a world where people were perfectly equal.

        But it’s also true that, in our day to day lives, there just isn’t much practical significance to many of the little differences, and even some of the big differences, between people that can lead to an imbalanced relationship. The practical significance of these differences is not always very big, even if in theory it is important and significant that all relationships involve some sort of power dynamic. So when we’re talking about that woman-initiated, woman-enjoyed sexual experience above, in many cases the power dynamic between that couple just isn’t terribly relevant to the validity of consent.

        It’s really important to preserve the fact that power imbalances often are incredibly important, but I’m not sure I’m willing to wipe away the idea of women’s consent in general. I agree with you, basically!

      • @Power of Choice and Alexandra –

        What seems to be missing from Barnacle Strumpet’s comment, and all those that posit women as being unable to give really truly consenting consent, is the idea that the people involved might just care about each other. They might even love each other. Heavens, they could even be aware of inequalities between them. Where do love and respect come into those cold little lists?

    • Exactly!

      It ends up like the mirror of the horrible “no means yes” idea – “yes means no” has its own load of horrible. As you said, it minimises the real cases of pressured or problematic yesses, and also implies no yes is ever real.

      ::hurls::

      • Gwen says:

        Too many claims that women are not really interested in sex, that they only have it to make their partner happy or to get something in exchange. that kind of thinking is too easily followed by thinking that “it doesn’t matter if she says no this time – it’s not like she ever really wants it anyway so I might as well go on.”

        That’s what I find the scariest side of “no yes is ever real.”

      • Lolagirl says:

        And this is what bothers me so much about the “sex negative” radfem take on hetero sex and women’s agency (or lack thereof.) Because too often it goes down the road of, hetero sex is never really consensual for women, as women never have their personal agency respected. All without the realization or acknlowedgment that this leads to the inevitable result of continuing to deny women their personal agency by telling them they can never consent to hetero sex.

        Regardless of how certain any woman is that, no, she really did consent to that hetero sex. But you can’t consent, because patriarchy! But no, really, I’m quite sure I consented to it, rather enthusiastically! But no, there is no such thing as enthusiastic consent, you’ve been brainwashed to think so! Well, wow, it sure felt like enthusiastically consented to sex to me! Nope, not possible!

        • Schmorgluck says:

          The idea that nefarious power dynamics would interfere in the relationship has long shaped the social anxieties that prevented me from having a sex life. I think I must emphasize that it shaped them, it wasn’t the true root of them.
          Combined to the fact that I hate dominating and I’m terrified to a fault of getting more than I give, it solidified my issues for a long time, and the only solution for a woman to have sex with me was to pounce on me. Any subtler approach was doomed by my endless layers of second thoughts and doubts. It didn’t happen a lot.

          And I’m not sure I have made as much progress that I like to think I have on that matter. Then again, it’s yet another occurrence of my doubting my abilities. I find myself tiresome at times…

    • theLaplaceDemon says:

      Really got a lot out of this discussion, y’all. Thanks :)

  21. Pingback: Defining my sex-positive stance | Valery North - Writer

  22. Lisa says:

    I think there are some valid reasons to identify as sex-critical, at least.

    I had never even thought of being sexual as “compulsory” until I read this article, and then some things clicked for me. It makes sense to me, and it honestly makes me feel better about my general ambivalence towards sex. Not being that interested in sex usually makes me feel like a terrible partner, someone who doesn’t deserve to think about getting married.

    So, that, at least made sense to me.

    • Radiant Sophia says:

      Lisa,
      Not being interested in sex does not make you a terrible partner, and it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to think about getting married. Sex need not be an important (or any) part of any relationship, even marriage.

      • Seconding this at high speed! Marriage isn’t all about sex, and it doesn’t have to be even a little about sex. (I’d advise disclosing early, to avoid being pressured for sex, but that’s just me.)

        • amblingalong says:

          Seconded both above, with the caveat that for a lot of people sex is necessary for a romantic relationship, and that’s OK.

          And that sort of sums of sex-positivity for me, actually.

        • Seconded both above, with the caveat that for a lot of people sex is necessary for a romantic relationship, and that’s OK.

          Yep, which is why I said it doesn’t have to be about sex. As in, it could be or it could not be. (or, as in fun cases like mine, it could not be, but it is.)

  23. Unree says:

    Got here late but would like to say wonderful post, great dialogue– and I’m thrilled to see Natalia back. Do find the time to write more on this board if you can!

  24. BroadBlogs says:

    This reminds me of a poem I read recently, written by a rape survivor. It’s called “Rape Joke”:

    http://www.theawl.com/2013/07/rape-joke-patricia-lockwood

    Unfortunately, sex can be experienced in extremes of both positive and negative — along with all points in between. And I think it’s important to acknowledge all sides.

  25. AMM says:

    I read the Horowitz article back when it came out (even posted a link in the July 10 Signal-boost thread), and I did not see it saying what people here seem to think it said. I re-read it just now, and my impression remains the same.

    I don’t recall any “tut tutting”, or “denying said ladies their lady feelings.” What I got out of it was the point that if you grow up marinated in Patriarchal ideas (as we all are), it’s impossible for your sexual choices and “consent” not to be shaped by those ideas, both in ways you may be aware of and in ways you aren’t aware of.

    This seems like a no-brainer to me. Like capitalism, we cannot escape Patriarchy, nor can we avoid participating in it or internalizing its tropes.

    This doesn’t mean that you have to renounce sex for the rest of your life, and I did not in any way get the impression that Ms. Horowitz meant it that way. As the joke made famous by Woody Allen has it, we “need the eggs.” If we ever succeeded in purging ourselves of everything that has a Patriarchal taint, we’d probably find that there was nothing left of us.

    What it does mean is that we need to be prepared to examine our “lady feelings” (or “gentleman feelings”) as necessary to see whether and how those feelings may be a result of Patriarchal indoctrination, and whether and how acting upon those feelings may perpetuate Patriarchal constructs in society or in our relationships (or within our selves) in ways that we might not want to if we were aware of it. And decide which things that we used to enjoy are now just too creepy and which things we will keep on doing, despite what we have realized about them.

    • trees says:

      @AMM

      Interesting. I have a similar take on that article. This was the bit that really stood out for me: ” Sex is not a realm separate from politics — it is always already political and social and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. “

      • ” Sex is not a realm separate from politics — it is always already political and social and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. “

        That kind of thing sounds great in an essay. But in reality, have you ever noticed how people who actually try to apply politics to their sex lives on a daily basis tend to either be The Worst or have the worst time of it?

        You know, the people who literally sit there and say stuff like, “But if I put on a banana-flavored condom, would that be sending the wrong political message wrt the shameful legacy of United Fruit?”

        (BTW, I should mention that people who care about ethically made condoms are The Best kind of people, obviously – but I’m not talking about them here)

        In college, I once went on a date with a grad student who seemed cute at first, until after a few drinks he launched into a monologue about my shirt and how I had obviously worn it because I subconsciously bought into the “colonization of women’s bodies.” I told him, “Dude, I just really like this shirt.” But of course, he wouldn’t buy that, because it was the kind of shirt that made him think of sex, and then made him think of the politics of sex, and that in turn made him realize that… Well, I forget what it made him realize – but the personal is political, dammit, and if a woman wears a shirt that hints at the fact that she has breasts, that kind of act must be “unpacked.”

        A few days later, having sobered up and realized that he had acted like a turd, he apologized for having “forced his politics on me.” I wished him luck in finding a companion who would be equally thrilled to sit there and “perform self-analysis” until the wee hours of the morning, while the night passes by all around them.

        I’m not saying that sex is separate from politics – because, haha, it’s not – but what I am saying is that even people who try to yammer that point home in provocatively titled xoJane essays also know that people do have to let go. All the time.

        I’ve noticed that so much of these arguments wrt sex-positivity actually revolve around who has the right to let go, and under what circumstances, i.e. who’s smart and self-aware enough to have a sex life, and who is, at best, a sad kind of animal sadly following whatever pattern the Patriarchy caused them to adopt.

        It’s seems very, very crucial for some people to set themselves apart in these debates – as the arbiters of what kind of sex is OK, and where, and with whom, as the people who Get It (just like Mr. Grad Student, who probably thought that I would be very impressed by his “uncompromising” stance on my clothing) – even though they won’t admit it. (In fact, I should probably write a separate post on that alone – when I have a moment)

        But either way, there comes a point when self-analysis reaches the level of bisection – and as someone who dwells on past trauma a lot, I know that there is a point where it can not so much enlighten as harm you, leading you down a maze that never had an exit to begin with.

        • Oh gods, thank you for replying with this, Natalia. I’m starting to get glassy-eyed at all the comments here that seem to be saying every sex act has to be dissected every time, and probably rejected, because it’s taking place in a patriarchy. Well, yes, duh, but it ends up sounding like the writer thinks there’s no such thing as love or affection or simple fun, either – or that they don’t really count, not enough to outweigh The Politics Of It All. If the participants aren’t totally equal in every possible way, there is Inequality!!1!!eleventy! And nobody can possibly have safe, fun, enjoyable, or even just hey-it’ll-pass sex without contributing to the patriarchy, can they?

          Of course we want to examine and change things about our society, but people writing as if sex just shouldn’t happen in any but an ideal world gives a whole new level to “futile”.

        • trees says:

          That kind of thing sounds great in an essay. But in reality, have you ever noticed how people who actually try to apply politics to their sex lives on a daily basis tend to either be The Worst or have the worst time of it?

          All the scenarios you describe sound pretty ridiculous and miserable, being more about self-righteousness and self-harm than anything else. I’m not thinking of this as a daily interrogation, but rather an acceptance that sex, like everything else, can be seen through a political lens. I’m questioning the notion that anything that turns you on is “okay”. I’m thinking about some sexual fantasies, and the use of things like racial slurs and other hateful language during sex.

        • roro80 says:

          This is an awesome comment, Natalia.

          I think it’s worth noting that when we get too political about our own individual interactions, our politics can start folding in on themselves and become what we hate. I think your story about your date and your shirt illustrates this very well — who else do we know who insists that a woman’s sexual availability can be gleaned by her shirt? This mimics exactly your idea of the sex-negative viewpoint revolving around who is sufficiently self-examined in order to be allowed a fulfilling sex life. Saying that sex is inherently evil except under xyz circumstances is a song we’ve all heard before.

        • Jamie says:

          Wow. Dude. That is a really interesting comment. And I agree with roro that the ideal is acceptance, rather than self-flagellation (unless you’re into that sort of thing, I’ll be here all night, try the shrimp) or shaming others, and I feel like I can fall into both of those behaviors myself, though I try to keep my judginess to myself.

          But I think acceptance is hard for a lot of human brains. It’s really hard for a lot of people, maybe most people, to accept that you’re capable of good and bad, if the bad stuff really goes against your values. It’s really hard to hold those two conceptions of yourself in your head without rationalizing or minimizing or invoking a lot of cognitive dissonance. It’s hard to just have the Good and Bad just… sit there. Or to even reframe them as neither Good nor Bad.

          I don’t think the answer is to just throw your hands up and say “Fuck it!” and never view your sex life through that lens, and I don’t think it’s to turn into Grad Student guy, but that middle ground is really fucking difficult, so… man. I don’t know.

        • Jamie says:

          Whoops, I was referring to trees’ comment, not roro’s. Not that I disagree with roro’s comment, either.

        • @roro –

          Saying that sex is inherently evil except under xyz circumstances is a song we’ve all heard before.

          Gods, yes, this. That’s what I’m getting from some comments on this thread, when they universalise.

          @trees – have you read The Pervocracy? Cliff has some really good articles. Some of them squick me out a little because kink’s not my thing, but zie has a lot to say on consent and sex-positivity that’s well worth reading.

          (Nearly wrote “king’s not my thing” then and that would be the biggest fib ever, lol.)

      • roro80 says:

        I’m not thinking of this as a daily interrogation, but rather an acceptance that sex, like everything else, can be seen through a political lens.

        trees — and I presume you think that that isn’t happening among self-described sex-positive feminists? I know it doesn’t necessarily happen very consistently among the genral populace, but I quite honestly can’t think of a major sex-positive feminist who doesn’t write extensively on the subject of sex and how it is political. This is what I don’t get about the initial article. Where have the sex negative feminists been hiding such that they don’t see article after article after article about the intersection of sex and politics among the sex positive feminist set?

        • trees says:

          Admittedly, I probably have a pretty limited understanding of sex-positive feminism, since I find the term off-putting and distasteful in a way similar to how I hate the term “pro-life”. My understanding is that sex-pos fem allows someone to uncritically hold the position that whatever feels good, where ever desire lies, is all good because sex exist in a socio-political vacuum where sexual pleasure = good, forever and always. This stance would allow for someone who is exclusively attached to conventionally attractive blond-haired blue-eyed young thin women, to say that’s just what turns them on. Full stop. It would allow someone to say that being exclusively attracted to cis gendered, to the exclusion of trans* gendered bodies is just fine and politically insignificant. It allows for the perpetuation of dehumanizing stereotypes that birth things like dating site profiles that explicitly exclude men of Asian descent, for example. If I’m off-base, may you please disabuse me of my misconceptions.

        • sexual pleasure = good, forever and always

          @trees I’ve been reading sex-positive feminists for a long time and I’ve rarely seen anything like you’re describing. If I had to describe the sex-positive takes on the hypotheticals you’ve brought up would be more like….

          someone who is exclusively attached to conventionally attractive blond-haired blue-eyed young thin women, to say that’s just what turns them on

          …what are the terms that dictate that these are the only acceptable people for turn-ons? What are the conventions where people who are not of this body type get desexualised/hypersexualised/etc? How do beauty norms interact with asexuality (e.g. beautiful people should not be asexual because they owe it to society, asexuals are ugly, etc)?

          t would allow someone to say that being exclusively attracted to cis gendered, to the exclusion of trans* gendered bodies is just fine and politically insignificant.

          That’s pretty much straight-up bullshit that I’ve never seen in sex-positive circles. In fact, 99% of the time when I see someone talking about being exclusively attracted to cis people it’s because they’re either radfem types who believe trans people aren’t “really X”, or conservative types who believe trans people are “icky”.

          In fact, all the discussions I’ve seen of race play, cis-centric sexualities etc have been from sex-positive feminists (or at least sex-neutral feminists). While I’ve seen radfems discuss these issues, it’s always been to declare that “fun feminists” are just sellouts sucking patriarchal dick or whatever, without offering any analysis beyond ALL FETISHES BAD SEX BAD UGH NO. And I’ve read large amounts of sex-negative feminist work simply because I keep thinking that there’s got to be some kernel of decent ideology in there. But nope. It’s white saviour complexes, whorephobia and gender essentialism all the way down.

        • trees- comment in mod, but the tl;dr is your impressions of sex-positive feminism are pretty much completely off-base.

        • trees says:

          @macavitykitsune

          Thank you so much for your comment. I am very pleased to learn that my previous understand is dead wrong. Can you think of any particular author/book/blog that I should check out? I have a long history of sexual violence (don’t know if I’m really a survivor as I feel pretty broken) so a lot of this sort of talk makes me feel uneasy.

        • @trees

          The Pervocracy is a pretty good place to start, and Cliff provides a bunch of links. A less NSFW place is Figleaf – don’t let the title discourage you, I made that mistake too lol. Other than that, I really like almost everything Thomas Macaulay Millar’s written, and there’s a pretty strong sex-posi slant to his work, I find (though feel free to disagree if you’re reading this, Thomas!). I don’t want to linkspam, because moderation, but if you want specific trigger warnings for posts before reading their stuff, I’d be happy to email you.

        • trees says:

          Thanks for the links. The Figleaf might be a little too “advanced” (for lack of a better word) for me. Since both you and The Kittehs’ Unpaid Help recommend it, I’ll cautiously give The Pervocracy a go. Does the site take a woman-centric approach; does the author mostly identify as a woman?

        • Figleaf talks less about kink than Cliff does; he’s mostly focused on societal stuff rather than kink. (Individual entries are less likely to graphically describe sex than in Pervocracy’s blog, just fyi, if that’s what you’re asking, despite the titles of the blogs.)

          Cliff is FAAB genderqueer afaik, and I haven’t been reading regularly in the past few months, so if I’ve missed updates on that, mea culpa. And yes, Cliff does take a mostly woman-centric approach, though I guess it depends on your definition of “woman-centric”.

        • trees says:

          Yeah, I’m not sure what I mean by woman-centric. It’s probably an expression of my anxiety around whether it’s a safe space for super-fucked-up-about-sex me. Sounds like I should check out The Figleaf too.

        • roro80 says:

          Trees — I’m in agreement with mac on all this. I’ve been reading sex-positive feminist writing for a long time, and I’ve never seen it advocated that all sex is always the best thing ever, or that every desire should be acted on, or that we should accept all sex without analysis or as apolitical. I can think of different groups or people that might verge on those views (tantric yoga, some forms of sex therapy, witchcraft/paganism sometimes), but not sex-positive feminism. Not that it’s perfect — certainly not! — but the problems with sex-positive feminism aren’t the problems Horowitz thinks they are, and not the issues you brought up.

          If you don’t want to dig through the archives, here’s a really concise 101 on Pervocracy that another commenter dropped way up in the thread http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2013/05/what-i-mean-when-i-say-im-sex-positive.html

        • trees says:

          @roro80

          That was really informative (your comment and the link). Thank you.

    • I think that once you start putting consent as “consent” you’re obviously going to lose some people – not everyone relates to their sexual experiences in a uniform manner.

      And yeah, I think telling people not to whine about their hurt feelings is bullshit and unproductive bullshit at that. I bet she was going for a tough and no-nonsense style of discussion – but these kinds of discussions always fail to acknowledge that there is a reason why we set sex (and sexual violation) apart. There’s a reason why, for example, we bristle at the old analogy that getting raped is just like “having your wallet stolen,” etc.

  26. Power of Choice says:

    What I got out of it was the point that if you grow up marinated in Patriarchal ideas (as we all are), it’s impossible for your sexual choices and “consent” not to be shaped by those ideas, both in ways you may be aware of and in ways you aren’t aware of….

    What it does mean is that we need to be prepared to examine our “lady feelings” (or “gentleman feelings”) as necessary to see whether and how those feelings may be a result of Patriarchal indoctrination, and whether and how acting upon those feelings may perpetuate Patriarchal constructs in society or in our relationships (or within our selves) in ways that we might not want to if we were aware of it. And decide which things that we used to enjoy are now just too creepy and which things we will keep on doing, despite what we have realized about them….

    But this makes it sound as though you believe my sexual feelings and choices are somehow subconsciously controlled by societal influences. I can’t agree with that notion.

    Whether we lived in a patriarchal society, a matriarchal one, or in the ‘ideal, perfectly equal society in which we all sang kumbaya by an organic, sustainable campfire every night, our bodies would still see to it that many of us ‘got horny’ every once in a while. We’ve had a billion years of evolutionary biology that ensures that – beginning from the time the first single-celled eukaryotes started using sexual reproduction.

    As far as ‘creepy’ activities – you didn’t elaborate what you meant by this. Are you referring to things like role playing rape fantasies or something? Or BDSM, power-play types of activities?
    Or would you consider any activity in which one partner is temporarily in a more subservient role to the other – such as one partner performing oral sex on the other – to be ‘creepy’?

    • AMM says:

      But this makes it sound as though you believe my sexual feelings and choices are somehow subconsciously controlled by societal influences. I can’t agree with that notion.

      Your not agreeing with it doesn’t make it untrue.

      There’s nothing like being in psychotherapy a while to make one realize how much one’s “feelings and choices” are influenced, even driven by outside forces (and internalized versions of them.) And if one remains unconscious of these forces, one will, indeed, be “controlled” by them. This is pretty much psych 101 stuff. The point of the “sex-negative” folks is that sexual feelings and choices are not exempt from this.

      As far as ‘creepy’ activities – you didn’t elaborate what you meant by this.

      Because each person is going to have a different idea of what is ‘too creepy’.

      But here’s a somewhat simple-minded example of what I had in mind: lots of women are turned on by dominant men, take-charge men who sweep a woman off her feet — I’m thinking more of the romance novel “dominant”, not BDSM. Now, this trope is all-pervasive in our society. It’s the Standard Model(tm) of Patriarchal sex. If you are one of these women, you can pretend that your being turned on in this way was entirely your own choice and is not in any way influenced by the fact that virtually all depictions of male-female relations promote this trope. But I don’t think this passes the laugh test.

      Or you can recognize that you _are_ going along with the Standard Model and probably to some extent enjoy this because it’s what you’ve been raised to want. At that point, you could decide you’re okay with it anyway and can see no reason to change. Or you might find that you are no longer comfortable with it (=find it ‘too creepy’) and want to change … something.

      A different (and sadder) example was furnished by a commenter in the Blue Milk thread that linked to Horwitz’s article. A researcher had interviewed adolescent girls and found that for them, sex was all about what the boys wanted. It seemed pretty obvious to me (and I think everyone else in that thread) that this was a case of the girls’ acting out their Patriarchal training. One would hope that someday they will examine their own sexual feelings and choices and see how they are, indeed, being controlled by society’s influences.

      • redyelloworanj says:

        There’s nothing like being in psychotherapy a while to make one realize how much one’s “feelings and choices” are influenced, even driven by outside forces (and internalized versions of them.) And if one remains unconscious of these forces, one will, indeed, be “controlled” by them. This is pretty much psych 101 stuff. The point of the “sex-negative” folks is that sexual feelings and choices are not exempt from this.

        This is what confounds me about sex-positive feminism (as advocated by many self-professed sex-positive feminists). We agree that many aspects of patriarchal culture ultimately detrimental to the feminist movement may, on the surface, appear to be freely and joyfully integrated into our personality, manner of dress, dating practices, career choices, etc., yet human sexuality is immune from patriarchal influence. If it feels good, it is good. Nothing to see here…move along.

        I don’t understand where this fallacious thinking stems from. I’m also mystified by the argument that critiquing sexual practices amounts to controlling others’ sexuality. Maybe it’s based on the heavy-handed, heavy-on-sarcasm criticisms of sex-positive feminism that abound in the feminist blogosphere. Then again, I look at that term, “sex-positive” and I see more than a little antagonism directed at “feminists who don’t think like me”.

        And now I’m just babbling, so I’ll wind this up by saying: Awesome comment!

        • roro80 says:

          yet human sexuality is immune from patriarchal influence. If it feels good, it is good. Nothing to see here…move along.

          Ok, who? Who are these self-identified sex-positive feminists who believe human sexuality is immune from patriarchal influence, that all sex is good, and that it shouldn’t be examined?

          I don’t understand where this fallacious thinking stems from.

          Me neither. I don’t know who thinks that among sex-positive feminists. Maybe they do exist, just not among the many, many that I have been reading for the last decade.

          I’m also mystified by the argument that critiquing sexual practices amounts to controlling others’ sexuality.

          Are you critiquing a sexual practice within the larger culture, or are you judging people because they have sex, or have sex that is different than you? Because most of the non sex-positive feminists I’ve read will feign the former in order get their sanctimony on while doing the latter.

    • Bagelsan says:

      But this makes it sound as though you believe my sexual feelings and choices are somehow subconsciously controlled by societal influences. I can’t agree with that notion.

      Um, isn’t this a no-brainer “yes they are” situation? Maybe saying that your choices are controlled by society is a little strong, but they’re sure as hell influenced. Strongly influenced, I’d argue, even if the influence is only in a society-says-X-so-I’ll-do-Y-fuck-’em kind of way. Surely you’ve once or twice acted out of something other than pure naked unbiased free will? Even if you didn’t necessarily follow the rules I’m sure you knew they existed, and that can’t help but affect you.

  27. I think the thing that creeps me out about sex-negative feminism (and yes, I use the word “creepy” with great deliberation) is this notion that seems to underlie it, that sex is only acceptable if it’s being had in certain ways, by certain people, in certain contexts. And I don’t mean no-brainer unacceptable contexts, like coercing POC partners into race-related roleplay; I’m talking about basic sex acts.

    It reminds me very much of fundamentalist religion in that it polices most sexual behaviours out of acceptability and demands the repression of generally common sexual urges, as well as the pathologisation of those who indulge those urges. To take a generally reviled activity, for most people with penises, penetration is a pleasurable act. To frame penetration as inherently an act of rape is to frame any penetrated person as existentially permanently raped and any penetrating person as existentially a rapist, thus completely eradicating any concept of consent (since a person who is forever only raped cannot consent, and a person who forever only rapes cannot receive real consent). In this, sex-negative feminism loops completely back around to patriarchal norms of sex, in which penetrated people are inherently removed from the ability to consent (since a person who is penetrated can never consent due to the rules of sexuality, which make the transfer of consent an activity that occurs between two penetrating individuals, father and husband), and penetrating people are inherently positioned as being narratively removed from consent, since it is not something they receive from their partner, but from society.

    Either way, whether in radfems a la Dworkin or conservatives a la Debi Pearl, penetrated people (overwhelmingly women) are not ever possessed of the ability (or narrative right) to consent, and penetrating people are not able to acquire consent (or do not acquire consent from the person they penetrate). Trans people of all genders are also positioned as existentially penetrative (since they are physically penetrating a psychic womanhood/manhood by either possessing or wishing to posses a penetrative body).

    The result of both thought processes is a removal not only of the ability of the penetrated person to consent (since all sex is rape, whether ordained by God or by patriarchy), but of the responsibility of the penetrating person to obtain consent, since no matter what they do, they are either always-raping or never-raping the people they penetrate. This is an ideological recipe to either pathologise or entitle, that will result in penetrators concluding that since all penetration is rape, consent is not a requirement (since no matter what consent the person they penetrate offers, they are incapable of consenting anyway). It is a systematic training of penetrating partners to believe that they are already rapists and always rapists, whose choices are to forgo sexual pleasure or to physically commit the rape they are already existentially perpetrating. It is the reason my immediate response on realising I wanted to penetrate people was to feel like a rapist, because all penetration of my body, no matter how happily consented to, had been narratively positioned as rape, and I had been systematically socialised to think of it as such.

    And if you can’t see how fucked up that is, bless your heart and I wonder how you cross the road by yourself.

    • Great comment, mac. This and the Let’s Talk About Sex thread seem to have a fair bit of the “sex is always rape” or at least “sex is so bad so often for lots of people, therefore it’s always a terrible thing” undercurrents going on. It’s like it’s not enough to say it isn’t always wonderful or romantic or delightful; it’s got to erase the voices of penetrated people (it’s mostly cis women I’m thinking of here, I admit) who’ve expressed their desires and pleasures in sex over the centuries, even when that’s gone against the cultural narrative.

    • theLaplaceDemon says:

      Well said.

    • roro80 says:

      Absolutely, mac — great comment.

      [tons of trigger warnings for hostility to consent, choice, trans and LGB rights, etc]

      I’d also like to add that sex-negativity and all the academic questions that come with it do fly in the face of the lived reality of helping people and making a better world, which to many on this board (myself included) is the whole point of feminism. Issues like reproductive justice become nearly meaningless in a world where all sex is wrong by nature; maybe those bad women who have sex deserve to be in whatever negative situation they end up in. Trying to dismantle the madonna/whore dichotomy so that women can live full lives without slut-shaming or sexual oppression doesn’t make any sense to a mindset in which women who have sex are, actually, evil traitors to the patriarchy. Making lives better for all women doesn’t make sense if we are going to sneer at the personal choices of women who get married or have kids or wear make-up or shave their legs or are attracted to men. Who cares about marriage equality if marriage is just a tool of the patriarchy? Who cares about trans* violence if trans* people are inherently and perpetually violating themselves and everyone else? Who cares about dismantling gender roles when one of the most common genders is inherently violent and raping and worthless? Not only would we necessarily purge all men and nearly all women from the movement, we also wouldn’t be able to help almost anyone. What’s the point of feminism if that’s the case?

    • Radiant Sophia says:

      Mac,
      I have been thinking about this a lot, and I think it finally clicked. I think it comes from being taught (indoctrinated?) that sexual relations are inherently different from any other human activity, that they are sacred. I don’t mean for that to sound like an excuse, and I am really sorry for how some of the things I said must have made you feel. I’m still trying to figure this out, and it helps.

      • Sophia,

        Yes, that makes sense. And don’t worry about apologising; I wasn’t offended by what you said, just offering examples of why I felt you were really wrong. They were personal ones because personal is all I’ve got in the situation, so to speak, lol.

    • Jamie says:

      Loving this comment. I think Dworkin and MacKinnon are really provocative and I think it’s a good thing to read their work, and I think they brought interesting ideas, and that their hearts were in the right place with regards to rape culture (even if it wasn’t called that then(?)), but it’s ultimately reductive and just… doesn’t work with… well, humans.

      • I honestly haven’t read a thing by Dworkin I could stomach, because in my opinion (and oh I’m about to betray the feminist sisterhood, trigger warning for a dissenting opinion!) when she writes about rape and abuse, she sounds like she’s got a hand down her pants the whole time, and it’s too damn creepy for me to handle for extended periods of time (I’m talking more than a page). I’ve read her exact opinions from others and had no issues with it, but…eh.

        And no, it doesn’t work with humans. It doesn’t work except on the ideological foundation of half of humanity being so completely depraved that the logical conclusion of such a belief, sincerely held, would be to advocate for genocide. And call me an idealist, but I don’t think that’s the case.

        • Alexandra says:

          Whoa. Andrea Dworkin was a rape and abuse survivor. I don’t think she fetishized her own abuse.

        • Andrea Dworkin was a rape and abuse survivor. I don’t think she fetishized her own abuse.

          I don’t know whether she did or didn’t, and I don’t have any biographical information on her beyond wikipedia; what I’m saying is that her writing sounds like that to me, personally. Her being a survivor =/= automatic protection from anyone ever being allowed to say she’s coming off as a creepy person. There is in fact a Venn diagram of survivors and abusers. Not that I’m saying she was an abuser, since I have no evidence of that whatsoever, but I think I’m entitled to find someone creepy if I find them creepy, yes?

        • Also, I did not say that she fetishised her own abuse.

  28. redyelloworanj says:

    I’ve read Jill’s article, scanned the prodigious comments section, read this blog post, perused the comments section, and now I’m left feeling utterly baffled and wondering: Why even bother with the qualifier “sex-positive”? Why engage in this dichotomous Us vs. Them language war? From what I’ve gathered, “sex-negative” is a cheeky misnomer and open to interpretation; “sex-positive” is an inherently meaningless phrase that, also, can be imbued with whatever meaning a self-professed sex-positive feminist wants to give it.

    The defining characteristic of “sex-positive feminism”, from what I’ve been given to understand, is rejection of the application of feminist analysis to sexual practices and beliefs. The notion that any sex act enthusiastically consented to is above critique. That no sex act can be socially oppressive if a woman enjoys it. If you’re telling me that this isn’t the case, then what exactly is “sex-positive feminism”? If you don’t mind my asking.

    • The defining characteristic of “sex-positive feminism”, from what I’ve been given to understand, is rejection of the application of feminist analysis to sexual practices and beliefs. The notion that any sex act enthusiastically consented to is above critique. That no sex act can be socially oppressive if a woman enjoys it. If you’re telling me that this isn’t the case, then what exactly is “sex-positive feminism”? If you don’t mind my asking.

      Bullshit you read the comments thread, or you’d have noticed this, or this. If you read them before those comments were posted, please do read them now.

      • trees says:

        @macavitykitsune

        I hadn’t read that second thread. Alexandra says this:

        Sex-positivity isn’t just a theme within feminism, though. Every now and then I will go and read a Savage Love column, and the comments section are full of woman-hating sh*t about how any woman who isn’t “GGG” is a brainwashed prude. I see plenty of men using the language of sex-positivity to advance ideas that Henry Miller might cheer, but that I certainly wouldn’t.

        I think I first encountered the term some years ago through reading that column.

        • I think the salient point there is

          the comments section are full of woman-hating sh*t

          I mean, feel free to judge a term by the anonymous comments section on the nationally syndicated column of the creator, but I won’t.

        • Although that comment was in no way meant to detract from Alexandra’s. There’s people using sex-positivity to push shady-ass agendas, sure (and also Dan Savage’s column attracts some disgusting people, which is why I haven’t read comment threads there in years). But I dont’ think there’s a positive concept in the world that hasn’t been perverted by some shithead or another.

        • trees says:

          I mean, feel free to judge a term by the anonymous comments section on the nationally syndicated column of the creator, but I won’t.

          I don’t know if I’m judging the term so much as just expressing my experience the it. I used to read Dan Savage’s column ages ago, years before it was national, long before it was on line. It was Savage himself that introduced the term to me, as there was no comment thread.

        • roro80 says:

          As I pointed out in response to that comment, we’re not talking about sex columnists. We’re talking about sex-positive feminism. Dan Savage is not a feminist of any stripe.

        • trees says:

          As I pointed out in response to that comment, we’re not talking about sex columnists. We’re talking about sex-positive feminism. Dan Savage is not a feminist of any stripe.

          I can’t speak to what he’s up to lately, but back in the day Savage was far more than just a sex columnist. He was a local personality and we ran in some of the same circles. I do specifically recall his linking of the term “sex-positive” to “feminism”. I didn’t actually just pull this out of my ass; I might be incorrect in what I believed to be the commonly accepted definition of the term, but my impressions are not without foundation. However wrong it may be, there does appear to be some diversity of understanding.

        • roro80 says:

          There’s a lot of overlap between what most sex-positive feminists advocate and what Savage (and other not-specifically-feminist LBGT activists) advocates, because they’re both progressive and generally think sex is an important area as concerned with civil rights and health and general happiness. But it does seem a bit…weird…to take something that anonymous commenters say in response to articles not even written by sex-positive feminists and have that be some sort of definition of sex positive feminism. And sure, there is some diversity of understanding among self-identified sex-positive feminists, but at least when identifying general tenets of a group, it’s a lot more helpful if we actually look at members of that group to inform what we think about them.

        • trees says:

          But it does seem a bit…weird…to take something that anonymous commenters say in response to articles not even written by sex-positive feminists and have that be some sort of definition of sex positive feminism.

          ?????? When did this happen?

          And sure, there is some diversity of understanding among self-identified sex-positive feminists, but at least when identifying general tenets of a group, it’s a lot more helpful if we actually look at members of that group to inform what we think about them.

          I suppose that depends on who you consider to be in-group. I posit that Savage, at least once upon a time (when, iirc I was first introduced to the term), did think of himself as advocating self-positive feminism.

        • trees says:

          …meant sex-positive not self-positive feminism, of course

        • roro80 says:

          ?????? When did this happen?

          Errr, really? Did we just miss that we were talking about a subset of this comment board thinking sex positive feminism is all about yay whoopie let’s not examine anything all sex is good and prudes are bad because of comments on a Dan Savage article? Dan Savage may or may not identify as a feminist, but he certainly doesn’t identify as a feminist first. He is an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, and a sex columnist. He has written and done some really good things, but he has also done a lot of things that show him to not be a great ally to feminists. If you want to go ahead and think of him as speaking for and defining sex-positive feminism, go for it, but you’ll come up with a very different definition than the vast majority of sex-positive feminists. Which is pretty much exactly what happened here.

          I know this got a little hostile and spiky, and I’m not sure why. I don’t really understand why it’s a problem to say that there are some big divides between Dan Savage and sex-positive feminism. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, just that his focus is different. I’m not even pulling a no-true-Scotsman. Feminism is not Savage’s focus, and certainly the comments on his articles aren’t necessarily going to be representative of what sex-positive feminists think.

        • Dan Savage may or may not identify as a feminist, but he certainly doesn’t identify as a feminist first. He is an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, and a sex columnist. He has written and done some really good things, but he has also done a lot of things that show him to not be a great ally to feminists.

          Seconded. I find some of Dan’s concepts and base assumptions to be essentially feminist, and I don’t think any of his concepts and base assumptions re: healthy sexual boundaries/relationships are anti-feminist (the extrapolations of his sleazier commenter crew aside), but he’s certainly never identified as a sex-positive feminist or anything of the sort. And his advice isn’t perfect either, but eh.

        • trees says:

          Errr, really? Did we just miss that we were talking about a subset of this comment board thinking sex positive feminism is all about yay whoopie let’s not examine anything all sex is good and prudes are bad because of comments on a Dan Savage article?

          We must be reading two different threads because I’m not seeing where anyone said that. That is not even remotely related to what was said. Personally, I have never read the column online and therefore know absolutely nothing about the comments that follow his posts.

          If you want to go ahead and think of him as speaking for and defining sex-positive feminism, go for it, but you’ll come up with a very different definition than the vast majority of sex-positive feminists.

          I’m not saying anything of the sort.

          I’m sure I hold some of the responsibility for not communicating effectively, but you and macavitykitsune aren’t arguing with me but rather with a construction of misreadings and preconceived notions. This an unproductive exchange and I’m just going to stick with the bibliography that Buttered Lilies provided.

        • roro80 says:

          You quoted a comment that said that. But, ok, whatever.

        • trees says:

          @roro80

          You quoted a comment that said that. But, ok, whatever.

          I quoted Alexandra saying:

          Sex-positivity isn’t just a theme within feminism, though. Every now and then I will go and read a Savage Love column, and the comments section are full of woman-hating sh*t about how any woman who isn’t “GGG” is a brainwashed prude. I see plenty of men using the language of sex-positivity to advance ideas that Henry Miller might cheer, but that I certainly wouldn’t.

          You translated that to:

          Did we just miss that we were talking about a subset of this comment board thinking sex positive feminism is all about yay whoopie let’s not examine anything all sex is good and prudes are bad because of comments on a Dan Savage article?

          In spite of my repeated attempts to clarify my perspective, you and macavitykitsune seemingly willfully misrepresented my position and went on to rail against a point that was never made.

        • you and macavitykitsune seemingly willfully misrepresented my position and went on to rail against a point that was never made

          Huh? I didn’t misrepresent anything. My last comment was exclusively about whether Dan Savage is/not a sex-positive feminist, and didn’t actually address any of your points (which I thought were a separate issue). I wasn’t under the impression you were arguing for that, I was pushing back against Alexandra’s implication that Dan Savage’s comments have anything to do with sex-positive feminists.

    • roro80 says:

      If you’re telling me that this isn’t the case, then what exactly is “sex-positive feminism”? If you don’t mind my asking.

      I mind you asking after it’s been answered so many times on this thread already. The impression you’ve “been given to understand” (um, made up? heard from those who actively work against sex-positive feminism, perhaps?) is wrong. Not even close. It’s been linked to twice on this thread (which you’ve supposedly read?), but since it seems you can’t be arsed: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2013/05/what-i-mean-when-i-say-im-sex-positive.html

      • No, don’t you understand, if you see literally any theoretical positive to anything remotely sexual, you’re condoning everything. Everything! Saying that heterosexual intercourse is not necessarily rapey is exactly the same as being happy-happy-joy-joy about neo-Nazi gang-rapes and violent transphobia! No sex-positive feminist has ever analysed sex or sexual politics in the history of ever!

        This is exactly why Jill, Natalia and Caperton, three sex-positive feminists afaik, have never ever written anything about sex other than to say that literally everything is perfect under the patriarchy. This post doesn’t exist. This blog doesn’t exist. None of the things are real, except Deity Dworkin and her Everything Is Rape Squad.

        • roro80 says:

          Ah yes, silly me! Thanks fer puttin’ me straight. But not straight as in hetero, because that would make me a tool of the patriarchy.

    • Buttered Lilies says:

      If you’re looking to read some sex-positive feminists, start with Ellen Willis’s ‘Lust Horizons’ essay, where she coins the term “pro-sex” feminism. (When, exactly, “pro-sex” morphed into “sex-positive”, I’m not sure.) Pleasure & Danger, ed. by Carole Vance, and Powers of Desire, ed. by Ann Snitow, are both older sex-positive anthologies; Pleasure & Danger is a collection of the essays from the infamous 1982 Barnard Conference on Sexuality. Heresies 12 is also pretty big in the older stuff. I think of Willis, Gayle Rubin, Joan Nestle, Patrick Califia, Susie Bright, etc for the original wave.

      And then in terms of newer stuff, Tristan Taormino, Heather Corinna, Cliff Pervocracy. Jill’s Yes Means Yes! anthology was sex-positive, and mostly about rape and rape culture.

      • trees says:

        @Buttered Lilies

        Wow, that bibliography is greatly appreciated!!!! Thank you very much.

        • Buttered Lilies says:

          Oh, you’re very welcome! I’m glad I could help!

        • trees says:

          I was able to order an affordable used copy of Pleasure & Danger on Amazon. After the Willis essay and Heresies 12, the anthology looks like a good starting place for me. Outside of the Yes Means Yes! anthology (some of the essays of which I have previously read), I’m wondering if there are any other WOC writers who lean pro-sex? Thanks again!!

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