Jan 24 2006

My Life As A Sex-Positive Feminist


I missed when the whole sex-positive-feminist thing happened, but I think it went down while I was playing punk rock in a loud chick band while dressed in a negligée.

In St. Louis in the 90s, a band of three women with nary an Ovation acoustic guitar (or, as the femme-folk hatas used to call’em, “Ovulations”) in sight was an enormous novelty. I believe it still is.

I guess I was getting a lot of action at the time, because all the songs I wrote were about sex. They had sexy titles, too. My Baby Won’t Go Down On Me. You’ve Got The Second Biggest Dick I’ve Ever Seen. Vibrator. The one CD we managed to put out before the drummer (also my girlfriend and then at the height of her considerable drum-thwacking powers) shot herself in the heart with a large rifle was called “Still Life With Strap On.” The cover had a bunch of dildoes from her extensive personal collection. Before she blew herself away she threw all that stuff in the dumpster so her mother wouldn’t see it.

Always leave’em wanting more.

Our band was called Johnny Magnet, which name made us all cringe (although not, alas, until five minutes after it was too late to change it), but which nevertheless turned out to be a highly accurate assessment of our audience-drawing abilities.

Excepting the girlfriends of the guy bands on the bill, women didn’t come to see us. Nevertheless, we were very popular. Scenester dudes flocked to our gigs to reassure themselves that we couldn’t play our instruments. Leering drunken motherfuckers flocked to our gigs to get all whipped up before careening across the river to pull all-nighters in East St. Louis strip bars. Lone middle-aged dudes stood quietly motionless in the back, then asked us after the set if they could “shoot our video.” None of them noticed or cared that the songs were all about how stupid men are.

We thought we were hot shit musicians puttin’ one over on dudeville, but in retrospect it’s clear that, because we were first and foremost women on a stage referencing fucking (which is what all women on stages do, whether or not they intend to, because they are inadvertently born with fuck-holes), we were actually a burlesque show of cariacatures. I was the ambiguously gay trash-talkin’ ballbuster in the purple wig. E, who had “I Heart Daddy” written on her guitar strap, was the kitten-with-a-whip. Lori was the butchy-boi who played in smiley-face boxer shorts and giant motorcycle boots bought for her by some straight girl she’d turned out.

Nina Hartley, a porn star I used to see on TV every night in a commercial advertising a St. Louis adult video store, and who identifies as a sex-positive feminist, is sick and tired of being judged by feminists who don’t fuck for a living. She intimates in a recent comment at Bitch | Lab that anyone who isn’t a sex-positive feminist, “hate[s] porn and sex work” and “be they from the right or the ‘left,’ are projecting onto me and my colleagues their own “ick” factor about porn and sex.”

Porn = sex.

That’s showbiz.

You know, it means little or nothing in my young life if women are all “yay, porn and sex!” I don’t hate these women. I hate patriarchy. It remains to be seen whether patriarchy can be defeated by yay porn and sex. If it can, drinks are on me.

[Johnny Magnet performs the sweet midtempo ballad

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

, 1995’s most popular prom slow dance. Yep, that’s me on guitar and “vocals.” Turn it up to 11!]

[Bitch | Lab link via Pandagon]


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  1. KJean

    I don’t think it remains to be seen. We know what happens, it’s been happening for 30-odd years. It’s madonna/whore writ macro.

    And the 90’s, to paraphrase Mark Ames, were the decade that drove everybody’s boner into the ground…

  2. TP

    ‘Vibrator’ rocks, especially in my stuffy otherwise silent office. One track’s enough though, now I want to hear the whole cd!

    Fancy making a quick buck selling copies to British punks?

  3. TP

    Damn it – I meant NOT enough. I am a typo-retard.

  4. tisha

    Ya know . . . gay or straight, I think we’re all just kind of muddling through the “sex-positive feminist” thing. I don’t believe there is an easy answer to it, unless one is a lesbian, in which case, it’s so much easier to resist.

    But how does the straight female – – especially the very sexual one who enjoys playing dress-up and LOVES sex with men – – – reconcile her heterosexuality with her feminism and loathing of the patriarchy?

    If a woman enjoys pleasing men, is she just “confused” about what this really means? If a woman likes to be the “bottom” (sometimes), is she a pawn of the patriarchy? If she finds BDSM with men (in any role) to be enjoyable sex play, is she hopelessly fucked-up,locked in the patriarchal dominance/submission paradigm? (and don’t get me started on high heels and fishnet and sexbottishness in general).

    It’s easy to trash hetero-sexbot culture if one is a radical-lesbian-feminist who just doesn’t see the appeal. It’s an entirely different question if one is straight and derives real sexual pleasure from engaging in it.

    Tricky-tricky. HMMMM. I don’t have an answer.

  5. tisha

    oh – – one more thing, in case there is any question – – – I know the difference between the “pleasure” derived from obtaining the APPROVAL of men (it’s actually more a relief than a pleasure!) and the pleasure obtained from actual sexual play and orgasm.

  6. Liz

    Ooops, your song title’s been ripped off by a bunch of good ol’ white boys in Louisiana. Hard to believe they have a major mainstream radio hit with a song called Vibrator. Probably because nobody down here knows what thell a vibrator is. I like your hit a lot better.

  7. Twisty

    “Ooops, your song title’s been ripped off by a bunch of good ol’ white boys in Louisiana.”

    How do you people find this stuff? Zydeco honkys = the anti-Twisty

  8. SneakySnu

    Dang, girl, you can sing!

    That sound brings me back to my days in Chapel Hill. Sigh.

  9. Mungafung

    That must have been awful, your girlfriend committing suicide. We love our Twisty, and hate her pain.

  10. Twisty

    It was awful, as a matter of fact. Lori was a famous charismatic and bon-vivant, and a hell of a drummer. She grew up gay where you can’t grow up gay, in small-town Missouri, a veritable petrie dish of survivalists, neonazis and the Klan. Her fucking godbag harpy of a mother always told her she was going to hell. So she did. They buried her next to a McDonald’s on I-44.

    But that was a long time ago.

  11. tisha

    Am I the only one who temporarily “blacked out” the part of Twisty’s post pertaining to her friend’s suicide? Survival instinct perhaps: It prevented me from being depressed over it all morning. So sad, plus it’s a dramatic, almost cautionary tale.

  12. wheelomatic

    Well said, Mungafung.

  13. drumgurl

    Scream it, Twisty! Unfortunately, not much has changed for women in music.

  14. morgan

    “If a woman enjoys pleasing men, is she just “confused” about what this really means?”

    Yes. Next question.

  15. CafeSiren

    I checked, and at least two of these songs (from Twisty Dear’s band, not Zydeco honkeys) are available on iTunes, as part of a soundtrack to a movie that bills *itself* (gag) as “a dangerously experimental punk art film.”

    I might buy them anyway.

  16. ellie

    I love that rude guitar and your voice. I’d have loved to catch you guys when you were still playing. Very cool, Twisty. I hope you still play music.

  17. kathy a

    guess i missed the whole thing, but it just never occurred to me that regular feminists are “sex-negative.”

    it was a long time ago, twisy, but hell. just hell. i’m not one of those people who thinks everything happens for good reasons. also don’t think the pain of something senseless just goes away. sometimes, it helps forge something in us that is strong and dedicated, though. you carry a piece of lori, which is a far better memorial than a piece of ground by a mcdonald’s.

  18. BitingBeaver

    Argggg Twisty,

    I followed your link and now I’m all riled up again. That’s the last time I follow one of your sneaky links.

    Anyway, it’s interesting that those who are against the sex-industry always tend to be labeled ‘anti-sex’ or whatever the new buzzword is.

    And they say this with all the vindication of someone who truly believes that porn is sex.

    Great post per usual Twisty. Keep on blamin’ that Patriarchy!

  19. Bitch | Lab

    As I think I’d made clear in my post, _I_ don’t happen to agree with portraying your position — or anyone’s for that matter — as one of disliking sex. And it totally annoyed me that the article to which I responded painted one side as “prudes” — a word I simply won’t use for reasons I explained.

    so thanks for making it clear that Nina’s comments do not reflect my view about making unsubstantiated claims about motivations, ideological blindness, projection, prudery, etc. That kind of uncharitable nonsense between people that ought to forge bridges to one another is worth less than 0 in my view.

  20. Dim Undercellar

    “reconcile her heterosexuality with her feminism and loathing of the patriarchy?”

    By realizing that patriarchy =/= sex, and that porn is as much about sex as rape is about sex.

    You can LOVE sex and hate Patriarchy. Just make sure the sex you LOVE, as in, the stuff YOU PERSONALLY LIKE (as opposed to the stuff you just do because you like that your man likes it), is stuff you honestly enjoy, and then ask yourself why you enjoy it; what does it say about you that you enjoy it?

    I don’t encourage taking a critical look at your personal feelings about sex just to turn you into a raving radical man-hating lesbian separatist. Just to foster what the Gestalt school of psychology calls “congruence”. When you know the truth about who you really are, and you WANT to be who you really are, then great. Be it. If you DON’T want to be who you are, then that sucks. Change it.

    As for BDSM, though…Been there, done that. As has my partner. If you honestly enjoy that sort of thing, you need to take a good hard look at the reasons. It’s not healthy. No, never. I rarely make such blanket, inflammatory statements like that, but dude. The entire scene is about playing out symbolic rape. It’s like some sort of rape Eucharist.

    Not to mention that it’s a culture that employs the word “painslut” in common parlance. Most layfolks who see that should INSTANTLY know something is seriously wrong there!

  21. joy

    I think the point of sex is generally to please and be pleased by our partners. So, Tisha, I wouldn’t sweat your feminist credentials just because you like to have sex with men and like to please them while you’re at it. And if you don’t already read BitchPhd, she’s got some excellent writings on these very topics (feminism, power, heterosex, high heels) that you might find edifying.

  22. LCGillies

    To follow on from tisha and then morgan’s comments, I wonder if tisha’s question was “if I please my partner” rather than “if a woman pleases men”. Nothing I’ve seen so far in my travels contradicts the thought that at some level, a person seeks physical intimacy. Sometimes this involves getting inside someone, or being entered, which obviously should (but often does not) depend on a huge amount of trust. As for who enters and who is entered, either process is possible in any combination of either set of genitals (sometimes aided by intimate objects!). Hopefully it involves pleasure, which for some may be paradoxically derived from pain. It can be very complicated, but the question of mutual permission is paramount.

    One reason it can get so complicated is that we are deeply damaged. The Patriarchy creates psycological power through fear. Various parts of the population are encouraged to believe that they must dominate the others, and the others are encouraged to believe that they will only be happy dominated. The act of physical possession is the most direct implementation of this policy—rape is not only a pathology at the individual level, but a political imperative for the Patriarchy. And it’s called Sex, which is how I interpret twisty’s statement that marriage equals whoredom. An individual human quest for intimacy which often finds expression with consentual partners in “sex” becomes a host for the Patriarchy’s necrotrophic parasite “Sex”.

    Patriarchy succeeds by using the personal as political—ripping off the personal, in fact. I have a feeling we will not figure our collective way out of this horror show until we at least can distinguish between what people are seeking personally and what has become of that seeking as Patriarchy has made it instrumental, violent and oppressive.

  23. Twisty

    CafeSiren, dont buy nothin Magnet offa no iTunes. Somebody’s gettin’ paid, but it sure isn’t me. I’ll post those two tunes at Twistyfaster for free. One of’ems actually kind of rawkin.

  24. Miriam

    BRAWR! Very nice voice! More please?

  25. Kelley

    Tisha, damn fine question, and one I have struggled with for over a decade. I’m hetero, but at the same time, I’m fully aware of the role sex plays in the patriachy. Indeed, our very perceptions of sex and how it is performed are shaped by patriarchal discourse.

    At the same time, I’m torn by how to reconcile my enjoyment of sex with my significant other with my existence as a staunch feminist. I don’t have the answer but I’ll continue to seek it. Joy’s suggestion is right on point; BitchPhD has excellent discussion about these topics.

    However, I’ll admit to wondering whether this inner conflict is just another evil tool of the patriarchy. That is to say, are issues such as those proposed by the dumb-ass porn queen just a way to create dissent among feminists so that we don’t focus our considerable energy on the common enemy??? On the other hand, intellectual dissent (and I stress intellectual) can be healthy, and ultimately lead to the growth of stronger arguments.


  26. Magdelena FG, Od

    Tisha – thank you for asking the questions that spin around and around in my head.
    LCGillies – thank you for one of the best answers I’ve heard so far.
    Twisty – thanks for spurring the discssion, today and every day.
    I’ll be over at BitchPhd on Joy’s recommendation, I seriously need edification.

  27. tisha

    Joy/Kelly, I’m a late arrival to the BitchPhD site, there hasn’t been much hetero-sex-feminist-politics blogging lately. I caught the shoeblogging though! :-) Someday, when I have the time, (hahaha) I’ll pore through her archive.

    I also confess to being late to the whole feminist sexuality debate, period. I shudder to think the only “right” way to have feminist sex might be with (just one?) woman, lying sideways and face-to-face in proper egalitarian fashion. For me to try it this way would certainly add fun and variety to my sex life ;-) but if someone were able to convince me that it was only way to express my sexuality and be a good feminist at the same time, I’d probably react a bit like a cornered rat (not that anyone has actually suggested this to me; I’m just following the anti-patriarchal mindset to a – possibly? – absurd conclusion?).

  28. KJean

    Kelley: The whole reconciling heterosexuality with feminism problematic stuff? Yeah, it’s a tool of the patriarchy. You CANNOT question their norms without being called a dyke, hairy-legged…oh, you get it. The ultimate is when the critique is coming from YOURSELF.

  29. Liz

    How do you people find this stuff? Zydeco honkys = the anti-Twisty

    Yeah, well, A.) because I live right smack in the heart of zydeco country, even though I’m a purist who doesn’t give the time of day to the growing flock of white zydeco enthusiasts who’re scared to death to set foot in a black club, I can’t escape hearing this shit. It’s all over the place here.

    And B.), every day about eight million idiots enter “honky zydeco vibrator” into their search engines and end up staring at my damn blog. Boy are they in for some bitter disappointment.

  30. Nancymc

    I think the “sex positive” confusion arises from the fact that Dworkin/McKinnon were part of the Meese commission back in the 1980’s, and since then being anti-porn has been equated with being a “sex-negative” feminist.

    Part of the problem is that for some people, expressing disapproval of something is the same as calling for it to be outlawed. That was the crux of the disagreement between Katha Pollitt and Gloria Steinem in a discussion I once heard between them (the audio used to be online by my Google search comes up empty now) Pollitt seemed to be saying (if I remember correctly) that we shouldn’t speak out against porn because that feeds into censorship, while Steinem’s position was that she wasn’t in favor of censorship, but that doesn’t mean we have to shut up about women-hating porn.

    That’s also a problem with the issue of prostitution. For example, self-proclaimed feminist Donna M. Hughes (published now by David Horowitz) thinks that all prostitution should be outlawed on the grounds that some prostitution involves sex slavery.

  31. Dim Undercellar

    As for BDSM…
    Been there, done that.

    Executive summary: You should probably be able to tell what kind of mental health effects are inherent in the practice purely from the fact that the scene using the word painslut in common parlance. It’s the most brutal forms of rape, symbolically and actually played out nightly in bedrooms and “dungeons”. It’s a rape Eucharist.

  32. Dim Undercellar


    I’m still confused on the whole point of “porn = sex, therefore anti-porn = anti-sex.”

    As for prostitution, I completely agree with Ms. Hugh’s position. How many women have to be sacrificed for the male orgasm?

  33. Burrow

    hear hear Dim.

    To all who missed it, you’re lucky. Every time I speak our against porn or burleque (lets say) or even how objectifying ads are I get called anti-sex. Which is completemly silly because if those people knew anything about me…..

    well we’ll leave it at that. And you can enjoy sex and be a feminist. I feel it’s VERY feminist to enjoy sex.

  34. Twisty

    You straight girls who like doin’ it with the fellas, you’re pretty much fucked. But then, we all are. Because in our culture, as I’m sure I don’t have to remind you, all women are members of the sex class. The sex class is a second class and an oppressed class. The best you can do under the auspices of patriarchy is to hook up with a guy who at least understands the ramifications of his male privilege and knows what it means to you when he wields it. Some women, such as this spinster aunt, find that it’s less gruelling to just avoid the politics of the dick altogether. But I gotta watch it, because lesbo relationships can default to the hetero model in the blink of an eye.

  35. Dim Undercellar

    …Sitemeter also told me that I’m a dumbass. I screwed up my own link.

    That first link up above, “Been there, done that”, should go to My essay on BDSM rather than just that month’s archive.

  36. tisha

    Hello Dim, loved your “Equal Opportunity, My Ass” essay!

    For what it’s worth – – sorry folks if this is TMI – – I’m not into the BDSM “scene” myself. However, many many moons ago, when I was modeling for “fun,” I modeled for a bodypainter experimenting with liquid latex. One night I found myself modeling painted-on fetish gear at a dungeon in the Poconos mountains.

    I felt like a visiting anthropologist: very curious, trying to be nonjudgmental, as I have never myself experienced any kind of physical abuse in my life and don’t find pain “pleasureable” in the slightest. It was all very strange and novel to me.

    I was surprised at how “normal” everyone there was (I suppose I shouldn’t have been, since apparently, society itself is based upon the BDSM model). But everyone was surprisingly kind to one another, and committed couples seemed proudly monogamous and devoted to each other’s sexual pleasure.

    One woman I spoke to was a “sub” (most women there were “Doms”), who was naked and covered with little bruises. I was more than a little bit shocked by this. Still, she was glowing and happy as a Boddhivista and I just HAD to ask her . . . “Does pain give you orgasms?” She grinned and said “YES!”

    It was an eye-opener, to say the least. Had I personally experienced physical abuse in my lifetime I might have reacted to this woman in a completely different way, tried to “rescue” her from herself, etcetera, in a way that actually might have been patronizing. But since her mindset just did not compute with me, I could only drive home that night thinking, “WELL. Fancy that.”

  37. Violet Socks

    The thing that always impresses me about these very vocal “sex-postive” feminists is their intellectual shallowness. The innanity of their arguments almost defies response. I think they appeal to women who came of age in the 90s and thus imagined — as young folk often do — that their elders hadn’t actually enjoyed sex. The whole “sex-positive” term implies that other or older feminists are sex-negative, as kathy a points out above. What bullshit. Feminism has always been women claiming their own sexuality.

    What little I’ve read of people like Hartley and Bright has made me want to never, ever read them again. Ever. There are few things more annoying than people who are both ill-informed and insufferably smug. Not only do they seem to think they discovered sex, they think that unless you’re into their brand of fishnets-and-stilettoes sexuality, you’re “repressed.”

    As I say, too inane for serious debate.

  38. Donna

    What pisses me off to no end about these porn apologists, who deem themselves the ultimate abriters of who is and isn’t ‘sex friendly’ is what they so blithely refuse to acknowledge. Which is that no member of the sex class can opt out of the patriarchal porn culture. They act like you can, via stupid statements like “Well you don’t have to watch it if you don’t like it?” and “Who are YOU to tell a woman what she can CHOOSE to do with her body!” Fucking liars. Maybe you could be lucky enough to avoid all contact with the vast majority of other humans and all forms of media long enough to truly be able to foster a personal sexual paradigm that is true to your authentic self. But fat fucking chance of that ever happening in a patriarchy that sells hiphuggers with ass-writing to 11 year olds. Or you join a fundie cult of some sort. We got some great “choices” don’t we?

    Your face is rubbed in your fuckhole status at every conceivable opportunity, and in a really ugly way if you dare to suggest that you should actually own and enjoy it for yourself and not funnel it into sexbotism. And fuck so-called ‘feminists’ who make money from patriarchy stroking. You know who you are and you can kiss my ‘anti-sex’ ass. Patriarchy = no fucking happiness for anyone. Ever.

    And I’m so sorry about your girlfriend, Twisty. If it’s any consolation, at least she had you in her life for a while.

  39. Violet Socks

    Just now got a chance to listen to Vibrator — DANG! Y’all rocked! Great voice, Twisty, and absolutely nothing like I’d imagined you would sound. I think of you with a Texas twang. Did you lose the twang, or do you just sing without it (in the great tradition of people whose singing voices sound nothing like their speaking voices)?

  40. marsha

    I’m a sex-positive feminist in that I positively like sex! And I have it when I want to and on my terms. I do not know if men understand this. I hate porn because I find it emotionally abusive to watch. I have loved watching friends have sex.

    AND I WANT A CD!!! That ROCKED! And I want you to come to NYC and hang with all my creepy lower east side artist gang. Like a gang in nancy drew, not like a gang in LA.

    I’m gonna sing VIBRATOR constantly.

  41. Sylvanite

    Yeah! Vibrator did indeed RAWK! Awesome. I gotta get me an MP3 player one of these days.

  42. sunny in texas

    twisty, about us straight girls who like having sex with the fellas being pretty much fucked.
    yes and no.

    first thing though, i’ve got a motorcycle. riding a motorcycle is a very liberating thing. especially since i fix my own. i can spot a patriarchal SOB within moments of entering a bike shop now. and i have been very careful to only deal with guys who don’t treat me even slightly like a second class citizen. they are out there. these are the guys who don’t treat you with the default bike shop attitude of “she can’t possibly know what she’s doing so i must be sure to enlighten her.” they also don’t assume that i am a lesbian. the non patriarchs are all young fellows too. which gives me hope for my own hetero girls future.

    anyway, so i have a bike and it is very apparent to the men around me that i don’t need a man. the men who don’t like this can suck themselves off. i don’t compromise on my independence. i never thought i’d find a partner because my anti-slavery sentiment is so incredibly strong, but i have. and i’ve known him for about 3 years as an acquaintance. and he’s read my blog for that long starting while he was in his own personal hell married to a leech who was an alcoholic. we’ve been an item for 6 months today.

    he’s willing to be a stay at home stepdad, except for the fact that he still has some credit card debt left from her. he has no issues with me making lots more than he does(and i do). he likes me as i am and listens to me bitch about the jerks at work without trying to “help” me. he doesn’t want me to drop everything and follow him around but he is in the process of dropping everything of his and moving down here.

    but damn it, why shouldn’t he be a patriarchy blamer too? his mother was abandoned by his dad when he was eight and she worked two jobs to keep a roof over his head and food on the table. she never got into another relationship to save herself. i think he had a damn fine example of humanity to emulate and apparently he has.

    all this is to say that they are out there. you can even find them in bike shops. i just happened to find the guy online.

  43. Burrow

    Violet and Donna, I agree with you COMPLETELY.

    To quote an anonymous commenter from another blog: “I’m anti-porn because I’m PRO-sex” I’ve just learned that I must be doing something right if those folks call me anti-sex. I am for free, mutually empowering sex.

  44. Violet Socks

    I’ve been a self-proclaimed feminist all my life (well, since age 8), and it never got in the way of my enjoying sex or digging guys. You just ignore the losers and hang with the smart guys who grasp that women are humans too.

  45. Violet Socks

    Jesus Christ, what is that thing? It’s supposed to be the numeral eight. I’ve been a feminist since I was age eight, not since I was a smiley face with a pair of sunglasses.

  46. R. Mildred

    ‘s good, doing JKD practice to it, and I’m anti-certain pr0n, there’s some seriously nasty stuff that just makes me want to smash the cassettes and wipe my ass with the film before shoving it down the throats of the sick woman hating fucktards who made the damn thing in the first place, and choking them all to death with a 6 foot long strap on worn by rick santorum’s dead corpse.

    And I would name the resulting tableux “Life Immitates Porn, You Sick fucks”

  47. Amanda Marcotte

    You straight girls who like doin’ it with the fellas, you’re pretty much fucked.

    Indeed, and right now the only question is if it’s frequent and fun enough to tolerate the male privilege about the house. So far, not yet. ;)

    I’m not sure, by the way, that the term “sex positive feminist” absolutely must imply “sex negative feminist” as its opposite. I think “sex negativity” is an aspect of the patriarchy that I like to fight, along with others. I’m not entirely sure that it was noted that Bitch Lab’s main issue was that she didn’t think the term “sex positivity” had to mean having lots and lots of sex in the most humiliating ways possible, that she thought it meant something else.

    Like the post, Twisty. And seriously, I hear you. I have female friends who are in rock bands, and some like to really dress up, look sexy/glamorous/rock star, and it’s disturbing how many men in the audience will try to wield this against them to imply that’s all they are. Fuck that, seriously. Being interesting to look at or sexy or glamorous isn’t considered a strike against male performers.

    Of course, if same women dressed down, that would be held against them. Sexiness or glamour in and of itself is a tool used to discredit women’s abilities. If it wasn’t sex appeal or lack of it, it would be something else held against women who dare consider ourselves men’s equals.

  48. Amanda Marcotte

    Despite the long ago-ness of it, my sympathies for Lori. I am firmly of the opinion that depression is an insidious plot of the world against the best of us.

  49. Violet Socks

    Amanda, my problem with “sex positive” is that it’s like “gender-feminism” versus “equity-feminism” — I think the term was invented by people to create a false dichotomy. As soon as some women started saying they were the new breed of “sex-positive” feminists, it did three things: 1) implied that previous/other feminists were against sex, 2) validated the idea that the extremist Dworkin position was representative of mainstream feminism (which it never ever ever was), and 3) suggested that if you didn’t fully embrace Bob Guccione/Larry Flynt style porn, you were repressed and hung up.

    Susie Bright may make sense to you, but I’m a lot older and when I first read her I could not BELIEVE how far she had her head up her ass.

  50. Mimi

    Good God, I just got an education! I’ve been blaming the patriarchy without knowing it for a long time but I never knew until now how much a product I am. Every guy I’ve ever engaged with, I’ve turned into a bag of pleasing mush. Every woman with whom I’ve committed, I’ve done the same thing. What confused me is that the women were doing the same thing I was. Now I’m out of that business altogether. Perhaps I need to reconsider.

    Love your tunes, Twisty. Thanks! (I still have to work out how to download them to my computer—do you have any hints—or, maybe you don’t want to allow downloads?). I’m not much of a geek.

  51. Becker

    Mimi: with most browsers, as far as I know, you can try clicking with the right mouse button on the Vibrator. A window will come up, and from there left click “Save target as”. Soon her music will be at your beck and, if you insist, call.

  52. Tony Patti

    Someone asked why couldn’t her male sex partner blame the patriarchy, too? And I have to say that you can only be doing him a favor by introducing the whole liberating idea to him. He will thank you for helping him to understand more fully what kind of culture we’re all trapped in.

    It’s disgusting to me to think how men are sucked into the whole mess represented by male privilege and patriarchal behaviors. There’s a flipside to the privilege of – for example – enjoying porn. At the same time a man is supposedly enjoying it he is strangely humiliated by the ease with which he finds himself seduced into it. And there are many more ways that men are unconsciously oppressed by the assumptions of dominance and submission, because often they are somehow dimly aware that they are always submitting to an entire culture devoted to dominating anyone and everything in sight.

    Dominance and submission have a strange sexual appeal that exists primarily in the world of abstraction and fantasy. It works mostly as a substitution for sexual stimulation that is absent for all the normal reasons, the lack of a lover being the common denominator.

    When 2 lovers are face to face and in the throes of true love sex intimacy, there is no up or down, no back or forth, no me or you. It’s a simple and universal feeling of love, and it can be so good it could be a cuddle or a sexual caress of whatever kind.

    There’s a reason why people in love just have the most boring sex possible and enjoy it fully and without thought. It’s because it’s a non-objective, highly personal and intimate connection that has nothing to do with porn, beauty, money, who owes what to who, or whether she is a he or he is a whatever.

    But at the same time sex is also a house of mirrors where what we need is what we tend to give and what we get might be what we should give but don’t because we’re too busy admiring our own reactions in a funhouse mirror warped by our pathetic hopes and dreams.

  53. Violet Socks

    In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I’ve read almost nothing of Bright’s since my initial exposure, and I suppose it’s possible she’s removed her head from her ass and evolved into some brilliant creature. But in the first interview I read with her, she said things like “I’m just trying to teach feminists that it’s okay to enjoy sex,” and “My message to feminists is: Just relax, it’s okay — you don’t have to be hung up — you can enjoy sex!” It was laughable.

  54. Elinor

    But in the first interview I read with her, she said things like “I’m just trying to teach feminists that it’s okay to enjoy sex,” and “My message to feminists is: Just relax, it’s okay — you don’t have to be hung up — you can enjoy sex!” It was laughable.

    What publication was the interview in, if I may ask?

    It’s just so insidious. If you don’t enjoy the sex you’re having, it’s because you’re hung up? And because feminism made you that way? And if you enjoy the sex you’re having but think you wouldn’t enjoy some other kind of sex, is that also a hang-up?

    I know you described Dworkin as “extremist,” but she’s the first feminist writer I read who really took this shit on and I am immensely grateful to her for that.

  55. Elinor

    What pisses me off to no end about these porn apologists, who deem themselves the ultimate abriters of who is and isn’t ’sex friendly’ is what they so blithely refuse to acknowledge. Which is that no member of the sex class can opt out of the patriarchal porn culture.

    Indeed. We’re just supposed to learn to like it…or, if we’re willing to not be sex positive, learn to ignore it, and we will be (barely) tolerated.

    Oh, and I might add that the discussion at BitchLab with the hyperventilating male “sex-positive feminist”? Exemplifies pretty much everything that pisses me off about this stuff. I could spend the whole damn day splitting his comments into little bits and trying to figure out what they mean, what the hell it means to “admit you enjoy sex,” what exactly are the leftist organizations run by sex-hating radical feminists, why objecting to sexual commodification or certain aspects thereof means you’re afraid of sex (hey, the sex industry makes less money than Wal-Mart, so it’s almost like it’s not an industry at all!), why he believes that radical feminists hate lesbians (self-hatred?)…

    But my head hurts just thinking about it.

  56. laura

    I hate these arguments. and some of the reasons why is this:

    “As for BDSM…
    Been there, done that.

    Executive summary: You should probably be able to tell what kind of mental health effects are inherent in the practice purely from the fact that the scene using the word painslut in common parlance. It’s the most brutal forms of rape, symbolically and actually played out nightly in bedrooms and “dungeons”. It’s a rape Eucharist.”

    Great. so from a bad experience you had, my entire sexuality is a ‘rape echarist’. well, excuse me, but i am going to be angry now. Fuck you. I am not saying that BDSM is always good, or that it should be accepted whole heartedly without questioning the motivations behind it. But this is no more helpful than me saying ‘vaniila sex is always boring, and requires the woman, who never gets an orgasm, to submit to the man, who always gets his end away.’ Which was my experience of vanilla sex. (and yes, i did i with people i love). But you know what, i think that as long as its ‘safe, sane and consensual’, i can do what the fuck i like, and no, it doesnt make me less of a feminist. But not to hijack the post, I direct the curious to Amp at Alas a blog, and the thread about BDSM and feminism. Sorry, i realise that this post was lazy of me not to back up my statements, but please look at my longer postings at Amp. I get tired typing the same thing.

    OK, on to non personal anger. I would reccommend that Violet Socks re reads some suzie bright. I do agree with the head up ass of the early stuff, but then i thought that Dworkin also came accross as that in some of her writing. And if you think that it is always fluffy, then i suggest you relook at it. Yes, in a way ‘sex’ is fluffy. In another, it is us at our most intimate, and underpins much of how we relate to the world and the world relates to us. And I like the fact that I can enjoy sex with a man, without feeling like I am letting down the cause. A lot of the ‘I am not sex negative, I like sex’ talk often then leads onto comments which are so unlike my sexuality, and yet are promoted as the ‘natural’ sexuality, or the ‘feminist’ sexuality, that I want to say – get out of my bedroom. In my view, this ‘nilla stuff is as much a fetish as mine for leaving pretty stripes on my BF’s ass.

    Onto Porn and the sex industry. Too often, I think that there are serious misunderstandings between ‘sex positive’ feminists and ‘everyone else who may like sex too’. I support the right of sex workers not to be abused, to be safe, to have a union. Ditto porn workers. I don’t think that writing off all of the women who work in these industries is a feminist act. And I don’t think that telling them all that they are victims is a feminist act. Would I support thse wanting to get out of the sex industry? Yes, I would do that too. But the other stuff, the anti porn stuff, I recon that porn can be feminist. But the reason I dont use porn, is that I do not know how it was made, whether the girls and boys in it were hurt, etc. An that won;t change until we get rid of the patriarchy. Or I make some porn.

    So lets get rid of the patricarchy, and porn will sort itself out. I hope. Equal work for equal pay, anyone?

  57. BitingBeaver

    If you never even bother to look at the dominance/submission underpinnings in porn/BDSM and other ‘fetish’ areas then you’re simply making a deal with the Patriarchy rather than trying to oust it entirely.

    Quite simply, how many women have to be raped during BDSM “scenes”, porn films, and prostitution before you’re ready to throw in the towel and say “Enough!”?

    Radical feminists ALSO support women not being hurt when they’re engaged in prostitution, porn et al. You seem to believe that radicals don’t give a shit about women which *I* find patently offensive. Here’s the difference. When radicals care about women they don’t just stop caring when some magical number of them become ‘safer’. We continue caring about them until every damn one of them is truly safe.

    And if there was a way to produce rape-free porn (both at the worker end AND for the larger scale of women who are raped by men looking at porn) then radicals wouldn’t give a shit about any of it. We care because we’re losing women, millions of them, to the very industry that you defend.

    As for the ‘feminist’ porn. Keep looking for that pink unicorn. And, if you believe it exists, then I got a great bridge for sale nearby, it’s cheap too!

  58. sunny in texas

    “There’s a reason why people in love just have the most boring sex possible and enjoy it fully and without thought. It’s because it’s a non-objective, highly personal and intimate connection that has nothing to do with porn, beauty, money, who owes what to who, or whether she is a he or he is a whatever.”

    HOLY SHIT! tony, you just described the most puzzling thing about sex with my guy. and you have explained why it is this way! all this time i feared something was wrong…

    the patriarchy internalized just took another major blow in my own life! THANKS!

  59. Dim Undercellar

    Anyone who doesn’t think that a “scene” in which the word “no” is a turn-on rather than a cease & desist order, to the point that they have to make up new words to convey the C&D idea, isn’t mimicking rape, needs their head examined. If saying “no” and being brutally reamed anyway isn’t rape, there’s no such thing as rape.

    For people who didn’t read the article, I was heavily involved in leadership positions in the BDSM scene for several years. I could talk all day about the difference between a flogger and a scourge, about why you’re not supposed to use a violet wand in the chest area, and what “edge play” means. So don’t think I’m just talking out of my ass when I say BDSM is a rape eucharist. I watched the most brutal and the most subtle forms of rape play-acted in front of me for the further empowerment of men.

    But it’s ok, because they have a “scene”. Right?

  60. Twisty

    I just read Dim’s artful excoriation of the BDSM scene and recommend it highly to all hardcore patriarchy-blamers (see link in #35)

  61. sparklegirl

    Here is the link to the Alas thread Laura refers to. It was a very interesting discussion, with a very different tone from the one at Dim Undercellar. Honestly, I don’t know what to think.

  62. Chris Clarke

    HOLY SHIT! tony, you just described the most puzzling thing about sex with my guy. and you have explained why it is this way! all this time i feared something was wrong…

    Not only that, but he answered a question that’s been nagging at me since I was 15 or so, namely “If Martin Buber had written the words to ‘Lola,’ what would it sound like?”

  63. Bitch | Lab

    Elinor wrote: “why objecting to sexual commodification or certain aspects thereof means you’re afraid of sex (hey, the sex industry makes less money than Wal-Mart, so it’s almost like it’s not an industry at all!), why he believes that radical feminists hate lesbians (self-hatred?)…

    Just to be clear: I don’t think it means that you don’t like sex. That was what my post was about and I object to anyone who claims to be sex positive who does do that.

    As to commodification, I think the difference may be that, if you’re a socialist, then it’s not clear that there is something unique about the commodification of sex that makes it a special object of contempt in a way that the commodication of any work once considered the domain of women isn’t an object of contempt.

    As I always ask, in terms of my enslavement to capital (and even as a freelancer/contractor I’m clearly a ‘wage’ slave and, in fact, I feel even more enslaved than I did as a full time employee), how is my selling my fabulous skills at baking pies any different than selling my fabulous skills at performing hummers?

    The key phrase there is not ‘fabulous’ (wink), rather it’s “in terms of my enslavement to capital”

    And no, I’m not a leftist who believes that capitalist oppression is the main thing we fight, rather I am a socialist feminist (following Alison Jaggar’s formulation) who believes that there is an integrated system of oppressionS and none is any more important then the other and, while you can separate out the strands, typifying them for the purposes of analysis, our STRUGGLES must always work against all of them.

    You can read more about my views on oppression, here: Oppression: It’s a process, not a product..

    It was addressed to Alas, a blog’s discussion of whether or not fatness is an oppressed identity.

    Anyway, this is Twisty’s space for the discussion of her feminism, not mine.

    I just think people need to understand that being sex positive does NOT mean having sex 24/7. You can be asexual and be sex positive. And, while I don’t like the phrase, I think people need to stop falling back on the claim that we’re implying your sex negative in order to avoid the more complicated discussion as to whether or not certain sexual practices are feminist or not, whether they are the result of internalized patriarchy or not.

    And, yes, I also think sex positive feminists need to take responsibility for their rhetoric and absolutely avoid logical fallacies — claims about intention, psychological states, and so forth attributed to an entire group or class of people that go unsubstantiated. E.g., calling others prudes, or claiming they are ideologically blinded by the vestiges of Victorian culture just poisons the wells of discourse.

    So, yeah, we need a little ‘message discpline’ as Sara at F words told me. But, then, that’s expecting that I have the kind of free time that would enable me and others to get to work on it.

    I DO think that some publisher — or maybe our own self publishing collective ought to write an anthology about this debate, grounding it in the history of feminist thought and practice. It would be quite enlightening.

    Alas, money and time — mine is typically spent helping capital lines its pockets with the dead bodies of labor.

  64. Tony Patti

    Thanks to everyone who appreciated my comments. Sometimes I worry that I am talking out of my ass and the positive comments count. I’m not a sex-negative feminist, which is kind of a funny idea that I would almost like to adopt since so much of sex in our world is simply male privilege and the women who think that is all there is to sex, but I can’t.

    I think male sex fantasies have warped the whole structure and reality of sex and that men also suffer greatly for it, though. None are so blind as they who will not see.

    I’ve always said we need pubic rites in the modern world, and I’m starting to get a glimmer of what kind of rituals we might need. Feminist rituals with realistic ideas of sex as responsibility, as a form of communication and understanding what message you are sending, and how expectations and archetypes can dramatically change your experience until only extreme and violent substitutions for respect and love can satisfy the human desire for variety.

    I have a suspicion that BSDM and other forms of extreme sex practice are a reaction against the natural decline of sexual passions as we age – even from 16 to 22 – and that we, as a society, need to learn to accept and welcome the ebb and flow of sexual desire and recognize when we are resorting to artificial expedients to force ourselves to perform as we desire rather than react as we need.

  65. jo

    Your singing in that song was awesome. So powerful!

  66. Lorenzo

    Wow. Another great discussion on this topic.

    As an aside, Twisty, I don’t even usually listen to punk (I usually go for industrial and certain kinds of metal) but I would be more than willing to pay money for that album. Either as CD or as 192 or (ideally) 320kb MP3. It’s that good (and, as an additional bonus your band didn’t misplace the bass. I usually joke that my problem with punk is that you don’t need a subwoofer to listen to it. heh)

    My personal biggest aggrivation with some ‘sex-positive’ feminists is the constant refrain that sex-work = sex and that women’s performance for men’s sexuality = women’s sexuality. The two major ways you see this happen is when sex-work is lumped in with sex as if they are th e same, and thus opposition or even a critical stance to sex-work gets you called a “prude” and you see it when sex-work is defended as an expression of women’s sexuality.

  67. Laura

    I am replying to this from an emotional thing, and I am not sure if what I am about to say is helpful. I hope so.

    Biting Beaver: 1. I have thought about BDSM, and nothing in my post suggested that I haven’t. Didn’t come to the same conclusions as you. When I am less tired / busy I will write a longer thing (hey, maybe I’ll start a blog!) about why i came to different conclusions. And yes, a lot of it came down to the fact that I am a top and a bottom and I don;t do Dommination and Submission. Yeah, I like pain, so sue me. Just wanted to correct the impression that I am a bimbo who never thought about it… Am tired so probably confirmed it!

    2. Yeah, I know about rad fem’s caring about women and not just those who aren’t involved in sex work. Sorry if i gave that impression. If you think that all sex workers are victims, however, then I disagree. I can;t see Dita Von Tease as a victim. Does this mean that most sex workers are expressing their sexuality and spirirt? Nope, don’t think that either. I was trying to say that I do not think all sex work is inherently patriarchal. I don;t know how we can find out, tho, until we get rid of the patriarchy. and me being kinky with my wonderful boyfriend, and extended circle of playmates is not gonna stop the revolution. or start it. But it might give me and my friends who are wired that way the playful energy to fight when it gets tough, and you have to sacrifice something.

    Dim Cellar:
    You offended me cos you tricked one of my buttons. The one about my own sexuality. I live in the UK. And I hazard a guess that I am younger than you. I think my scene is different. It is not as you describe yours was, anyway. Part of that difference i think is due to feminists like Suzie Bright. All I know is that since I have doing BDSM and the ‘safe sane and consensual’ thing, I have never been pressurised to have sex or play. When I was vanilla, all this shit was unspoken, and I have been pressurised to have sex. Which is not a ‘all BDSM is good and abuse can;t happen’ la la la la la. But it works for me, and it works for a lot of my friends. It gives us a framework to talk about our sexual feelings, and an acceptance of the dark ones. For me this meant an acceptance of who I am as a person, all of me, including the ugly bits.

    I am not trying to argue that everyone should do BDSM, or anything like that. I am trying to argue that I am not less of a feminist cos I come when my cunt is cropped. I would even argue, that the pain side has a biological reason for feeling good, as it releases endorphins, and adrenalin into the body, and arguing that because I enjoy this I am less of a feminist is like arguing that because you like cock you are less of a feminist. I think that that bit s biological. Talk about fetishization of violence in society, and then you have a point.

    Whoever said about feminist porn being a unicorn. I dunno, but it sounds fun to try and catch it. Part of it for me would be about having a plot, dialogue, characters. Also that the performers got off on performing. That it would not cause harm to women by seeing it, or by men seeing it. That different sizes and shapes would be getting it on. Finally that it was playful, fun to watch. This sounds very fluffy and ditzy, I know, but then I think a project like that would be fun. And that there is a place in titilating sex scenes in sexual education. After all how can we stop rape if men don;t know what consent looks like? If women think sex if dirty, and something you endure for the man? If you think that all bodies look like the airbrushed ones on mainstream advertising? And maybe visual explicit sex would help with that? Please slap me down, I would really like to know what people think about that one.

    Tony – I agree about an acceptance that sexual desire comes and goes. However, i think that SM is a part of my make up, like some people are gay, or bi or straight. Which may be why i get so het up about it. Because I think a lot of misery can be caused by people feeling that part of themselves is ‘wrong’. And if part of your identity is being a feminist, then it is a problem if your sexuality is constantly called into question by other feminist whom you respect.

    Apols for the crap spelling and grammer, I am working too much at the moment. Sorry for length, and self focus. But a lot of the above felt personal.

  68. Les

    Your music is roxors. Sorry to hear you only attracted men. 1994 was a bit on the late side of riotgrrl, I guess. In the bay area in 1994, it was possible to go see a queercore dyke band or a riotgrrl band and be in a room full of sweaty, half naked women stage diving into a pit.

    Ah, the good old days…

  69. Dim Undercellar

    ” think my scene is different.”

    If I had a quarter for every time someone said to me “Hey! my porn/ scene/ prostitution/ exploitation/ whatever/ etc is different!”, I wouldn’t be worried about making the mortgage this month; we’d own the house outright.

    I guess it’s just me then. Everyone else’s (self-)oppressive rape-courting/encouraging behavior is different. I’ll shut up now.

  70. Violet Socks


    Sorry, I can’t remember where I read that interview. Too long ago.

    I know you described Dworkin as “extremist,” but she’s the first feminist writer I read who really took this shit on and I am immensely grateful to her for that.

    Actually that was an adjectival problem on my part — “extremist” was meant to modify the position, not Dworkin. I was referring to her most extreme position. And I appreciate her work too.

    laura: I would reccommend that Violet Socks re reads some suzie bright. I do agree with the head up ass of the early stuff, but then i thought that Dworkin also came accross as that in some of her writing.

    laura, I’ve tried, but there’s nothing there for me. I’ve looked at her online journal, but I’m not interested in her sexual fantasies, I don’t care what her vagina is doing, and I don’t need her advice. My sexuality has always been very healthy. I don’t need her help. She just seems irrelevant and silly to me.

  71. Elinor

    Bitch|Lab, my frustration was mostly in response to Anthony whatsisname.

    As to commodification, I think the difference may be that, if you’re a socialist, then it’s not clear that there is something unique about the commodification of sex that makes it a special object of contempt in a way that the commodication of any work once considered the domain of women isn’t an object of contempt.

    Except that I prefer not to think of sex as “work,” and to resent the mindset that makes it a woman’s “job.”

  72. The Fat Lady Sings

    Interesting discussion line. Me – my interest in sex is wide-ranging. I don’t think in political terms, just satisfaction. I’m older now, and will not play any games that don’t suit me. Sexual compatibility is a rather fluid thing – my interests do not and have not remained static. Being a feminist, in my opinion, has nothing to do with how you like it in the bedroom, (or anywhere else that takes your fancy). It has to do with balance and equality – physical and intellectual. Like Sunny said – not all men are assholes. And having sex with men is a matter of alignment. I like men. Some of my friends (female) don’t, and other friends (male) do. Fine – it’s not what fits where, its how you think and behave.

    I read your piece on the mail order ‘brides’. That shits scary – and I feel terrifically sorry for the women who feel that kind of life is better than what’s currently on their plate. I’ve been to China (wrote a piece about it on my blog). There are reasons why women want out – any out they can find. And its not just China, or Thailand. Try America, Europe, Canada – women are marginalized everywhere you look. That’s why this blog attracts so many of us; Twisty you have the right of it. The patriarchal bent of society in general harms humanity by denying people their rights due to gender. I have had to fight tooth and nail for every professional gain in my life. God – would it be nice not to have to gird myself for battle whenever I step outside my front door!

    And Twisty – I was sorry to hear about your girlfriend. My sister committed suicide when I was 7, and I carried that blame on my shoulders for years. It hurts, and I know it – long time ago or no. As for your music – you should be getting paid for those songs – you deserve it. When you’re through with all this distracting chemo shit (not trying to be flippant), I hope you get yourself a lawyer and kick their asses for stealing from you. No one has the right to exploit someone else’s talent.

  73. Elinor

    I think a project like that would be fun. And that there is a place in titilating sex scenes in sexual education. After all how can we stop rape if men don;t know what consent looks like?

    That’s a good point; I’m certainly not of the “all graphic depictions of sex are porn and all porn is bad” mentality, and I do think we need – not necessarily porn, but more education about what good sex is like.

    If women think sex if dirty, and something you endure for the man?

    I’ve known more men who thought that than women. And this, well, it reminds me of something else that frustrates me about certain sex-positives…it seems to be assumed that the person who isn’t having the orgasm is the one with the problem, the one who needs to change.

    Particularly sex-industry liberals. If misogynist text in porn gets men off, is needed to get men off, what do we do with that? If you’re a woman and your male partner takes that into sex with you and you don’t like it, do we say “well, he can call you a dirty, worthless whore but you know you aren’t one so it shouldn’t bother you”? Do we say “there’s nothing wrong with being a dirty whore and if you feel insulted by that you haven’t embraced your inner sacred whore-dom and you probably hate women who’ve had more partners than you and you’re a bad person”?

    My experience tells me that if a man gets off on the idea that you exist to serve him and that serving him makes you dirty and bad, he’ll do his damnedest to make you feel that way even if you didn’t before. And then you will be one of those poor misguided women who think sex is dirty, and he somehow will be just fine.

  74. Lorenzo


    Does this mean that most sex workers are expressing their sexuality and spirirt? Nope, don’t think that either. I was trying to say that I do not think all sex work is inherently patriarchal. I don;t know how we can find out, tho, until we get rid of the patriarchy.

    I don’t understand this positon. If you acknowlege that sex-work is primarily about performance by one gender for the desires of the other, and that in patriarchal societies virtually all the performing is done by one gender for the other, how can you then say that sex-work isn’t inherently patriarchal? How can it be that the social construction of the sexuality of one gender is such that it is portrayed as consisting entirely of performance for the other isn’t patriachal?

    I mean this as a serious question, by the way, not as a shot.

  75. LCGillies

    Thanks, everyone, including Twisty for the rhetorical firecracker that started all the other explosions! Not everyone is prepared to talk about this aspect of life, fundamental though it be. Big props even if I think you’re crazy :-)

    A real pivot of the issues raised that I see in the thread is e.g. Laura at 67 and Dim at 69. IMHO it is absolutely critical to distinguish between personal and political being in this discourse. After all, the patriarchal standards that we detest are politics in the form of personal repression. So, I would argue, is the notion that Laura’s personnal engagement in BDSM is *just* an example of

    Everyone else’s (self-)oppressive rape-courting/encouraging behavior

    as Dim says.

    The personal is where politics comes to and then turns around transformed and goes back out (we are both made by and makers of our history). If Laura enjoys this activity in a mutually consensual setting (that is, she is not just consuming her own misery) then not only is this a basic right of self-determination but it may also be a way she has found to explore aspects of self, whether they are ‘original’ or absorbed from the patriarchy, so as to transmute them—its a kind of sexual alchemy. The principal is: freely and/or consensually expressed personal sexual behavior is protected from political criticism. Personal sexual expression can never be *just* a reflection of patriarchal servitude, or any other politics, because otherwise we have no self-expression.

    So I’m reading some of what’s above, and so moved by peoples’ willingness to talk so personally, but also feeling empathetically bruised by the collisions of personal truth and spot-on political judgement. Because of course (and I think Laura is agreeing to some form of this) though given individuals engage in consensually fulfilling acts of bondage, the political imposition of bondage is no less repulsive. This is not a contradiction, and we don’t need to “solve” it—

  76. Violet Socks

    Too little too late, but I also want to offer my sympathy regarding your girlfriend, Twisty. Don’t know what else to say except that sucks hard and I’m sorry.

  77. BitingBeaver


    I suppose that my point is, as far as BDSM is concerned, that you are fully aware that you are acting out the most patriarchal ideas that this society has to offer. That, in many ways, you are glorifying said ideas and thus, giving legitimacy to them.

    In the end the choice of an individual to engage or not engage in BDSM or other, similar, things, is their choice to make. But if you’re going to do it then a full acknowledgement of what that means and what it says about you, your values and your feelings towards dominance/submission both in bed and in the larger world outside are important to make.

    For example. I like to watch King of Queens. It’s a hideous, stupid comedy with absolutely NO redeeming qualities other than it makes me laugh. It does NOTHING for feminism and, in fact, works AGAINST the ideals of feminism at it’s core. It shows an asshat of a man who does abusive shit to his wife (like scaring her friends away amoung many others) and never gets into trouble for it.

    A understand that when I turn on that TV and let the channel rest at that ridiculous show that I am undermining my very message. I know this and I have to be sure that I am aware of that on the occasion that I watch it.

    You are perfectly free to choose to participate in BDSM, but I ask that you understand exactly what it says about you and how it works towards/against the message of feminism that you want to send. Does the glorification of rape/violence and the enmeshing of pain/pleasure as well as the regaling of dominance/submission send the message you want to send?

    In other words, do your actions, deeds and thoughts and words match up. This is called consistency and it’s important.

    Ultimately the decision is yours, I make deal with the Patriarchy on a daily basis, but NEVER without understanding or attempting to understand, the ramifications of those deals.

  78. Dim Undercellar

    “IMHO it is absolutely critical to distinguish between personal and political being in this discourse.”

    There is no distinction. I seem to recall a great feminist who once said: “The personal is political.”

    The “freedom of choice” bit gets bandied about to excuse all kinds of self-serving Patriarchal horse pucky, from prostitution and pornography to cooking all the dinners and wearing burkas. In the end, it just boils down to “Whatever we can convince women is good for them, so that they chose to do it under the pressure we’ll be putting on them to choose it, becomes good! Q.E.D!”

  79. sparklegirl

    Biting Beaver, I don’t think BDSM necessarily has to mean acting out patriarchal ideas. There may be many people who use it as an excuse to act out such ideas, but there are also people who use it to deliberately mess with them.

    In the Alas post I linked to, and Laura referenced earlier, Myca said:

    …To call BDSM a representation of male dominance and female submission is both 1) factually inaccurate in the huge and important number of cases where there aren’t any women, aren’t any men, aren’t two people, the woman isn’t submissive, or the man isn’t dominant, and 2) it seems to miss the point even in the cases where it’s not factually inaccurate on the face of it.

    What I mean by #2 is that . . . well . . . hmm . . . look, I don’t think that gay male relationships are sexist because they exclude women. In fact, I lose respect for people who make that argument. I don’t think that a relationship between two white people is racist because it excludes black people. Once again, I would lose respect for anyone who make that argument. For me, BDSM is the same thing.

    “Excluding women” in the bedroom or in a romantic relationship isn’t the same thing as excluding women outside of it. “Excluding black people” in the bedroom or in a romantic relationship isn’t the same thing as excluding black people out of it. A deliberate choice to play out a power imbalance in the bedroom isn’t the same thing is perpetuating a power imbalance outside of it. Maybe it’s just that I think of sexual/romantic relationships as something “different.” It’s just how we are. We’re attracted to who we’re attracted to. We get off how we get off. Our kinks are our kinks.

    I’m not sure I agree with that, but I learned a lot from reading the thread and its comments, many of which were by very feminist, non-patriarchal BDSM practitioners, and I wanted to put it out there that there is more than one way to look at BDSM. I’ve read a lot of comments by BDSMers who, threough their comments on unrelated posts, have made their feminist credentials quite clear, so even though BDSM doesn’t appeal to me personally, I’m reluctant to judge it as patriarchal or anti-feminist. The discussion at Alas is very nuanced and I highly recommend it.

    To me, it seems that the most important thing is that any roleplaying be “safe, sane, consensual”–for example, using a code word so that either person can stop if they get uncomfortable. Clearly, those rules were not followed in the egregious examples of abuse that were given on Dim Undercellar’s blog. I’m not sure how prevalent such abusive behavior is in the BDSM community–it’s quite possible that there are some communities where most people are careful to follow the rules and respect their partners, and other communities where many people disregard the rules and use BDSM as a cover for abuse.

  80. Violet Socks

    In every thread I’ve ever read on this subject, being “sex-positive” eventually boils down to two things: being pro-traditional pornography, and being pro-BSDM. So why don’t you just say that? Why keep calling yourselves “sex-positive” and implying that other people aren’t? Just say you’re sado-masochism-positive and Hugh Hefner-positive. Be honest. I think that would clarify the discussion immensely.

  81. sparklegirl

    I agree that a lot of people call themselves “sex-positive” when they really mean pro-traditional porn. I think it’s a problematic phrase to begin with, because it implies that those with different views are “sex-negative.”

    However, while I can’t see any possible feminist justification for the mainstream porn industry, I think there is room for legitimate disagreement among feminists about whether sexually explicit material is inherently exploitative. It is possible to make porn that doesn’t involve male domination (for example, but not limited to, lesbian porn that is actually aimed at lesbians rather than straight men–and yes, it exists, because I’ve seen it). Feminists can disagree over whether, in an ideal world, sexually explicit material would show men and women in egalitarian sexual situations, or whether it would not exist at all.

    Personally, I think we’d all be better off if we tried to label our positions (so to speak) less, and discuss them more.

  82. Violet Socks

    I think there is room for legitimate disagreement among feminists about whether sexually explicit material is inherently exploitative.

    I agree, and in fact I would be the first to argue that looking at other naked humans, or reading or thinking about sex with other humans, is something our species would be likely to enjoy under any circumstances.

    BUT — sex positivists don’t do that. They always bring in people like Susie Bright and Nina Hartley, who are very definitely in the business of defending and furthering traditional porn.

  83. Elinor

    n every thread I’ve ever read on this subject, being “sex-positive” eventually boils down to two things: being pro-traditional pornography, and being pro-BSDM.

    Well, three things, IMO: being pro-prostitution is the third.

  84. Lorenzo

    Violet Socks,

    In every thread I’ve ever read on this subject, being “sex-positive” eventually boils down to two things: being pro-traditional pornography, and being pro-BSDM. So why don’t you just say that? Why keep calling yourselves “sex-positive” and implying that other people aren’t? Just say you’re sado-masochism-positive and Hugh Hefner-positive. Be honest. I think that would clarify the discussion immensely.

    Err…I think *that* is a little unfair and reductionist (and remember, I’m not a ‘sex-positive’ feminist). There are quite a few ‘sex-positive’ feminsts who don’t fit this mold in addition to the large number that do. I know of a few ‘sex-positive’ feminists who are intensely critical of traditional porn and other forms of traditional sex-work. It’s true that this is far more true of defending BSDM, however…

  85. Indy

    BTW, quit referencing Hefner- Hustler is so, like, 1983. I mean, he stepped down as publisher in what? 1979?

    The zenith of modern porn is proably Bangbros- they own a huge family of websites, some of which are much more overtly exploitive than others, and if your’re even remotely curious, a lot of it can be had for free.

    Sex positive: means a lot of different things to different people, and is most often used by those in need of personal validation, weither to justify the huge amount of time you spend consuming images of not too bright 18yrolds being exploited, to justify your own relentless exhibitionism and need to be transgressive (Bright), or to justify the fact that you have an entire dresser drawer dedicated to sex toys, or maybe just a simple belief that kids should have classes in school about stds and how babies are made.
    Sex postive starts with the idea that “sex is an innate good”, and usually moves rapidly to “now please validate my little corner of it, no matter how perverse, or else I’ll call you an old prude.”

  86. Indy

    * strike hustler, replace w/ playboy (God thats some bad porn). Either way, print media pornography is now a backwater.

  87. Burrow

    1) I’ve never heard of anyone with a drawer full of sex toys need to call themselves sex positive. I know I never had (and would probably be attacked for my anti-pornstitution views if I did)

    2) Hefner=Playboy, Flynt=Hustler, and I’m pretty sure they’re both still really involved in their magazines, and we can thank them for bringing porn into the mainstream. Gail Dines does an awesome history of the bringing of porn into the mainsteam. (She did it in “A Drug Called Pornography” and I’m sure elsewhere.

  88. Violet Socks

    Yes, but Susie Bright wrote for Playboy, Hugh Hefner is a gazillionaire, the Playboy Empire is going strong, and Hefnerism — as outmoded as it may be to porn connoisseurs — remains the mainstream epitome of women-as-fuckbots.

  89. Stephanie

    Sparklegirl, thank you for posting the link to the Alas BDSM thread. I have a very hard time relating what I read at Dim Undercellar’s link, and here in this thread, with my own experience and understanding. There’s a world of difference between, “What you do is categorically bad” and “Your sexual desires and experiences can usefully be subjected to feminist analysis.”

  90. Tony Patti

    Dear sweet Laura wrote:

    “Tony – I agree about an acceptance that sexual desire comes and goes. However, i think that SM is a part of my make up, like some people are gay, or bi or straight. Which may be why i get so het up about it. Because I think a lot of misery can be caused by people feeling that part of themselves is ‘wrong’. And if part of your identity is being a feminist, then it is a problem if your sexuality is constantly called into question by other feminist whom you respect.”

    And I, too think that I can get tremendously excited about SM, especially a girl-centric and playful fantasy world kind of SM where I know everything is centered on the pleasure of a woman. Because I’m just so into women, as a man.

    My first girlfriend wanted to be submissive, back when I was 16. I couldn’t begin to understand her desires, since I was raised in a kind of matriarchal family where the women where the default human beings who were thoughtful and smart and articulate and the men, completely ignored by me and the women in my family, would sit silently in another room watching TV and saying nothing.

    When this girl would tell me she wanted to be submissive and played with in an SM way, I was unable to even conceive of how to respond. Once, to my total embarassment, she took off my shoes and sucked my toes in front of a small group of my friends and I let her, but found the whole scene just painfully ridiculous.

    Since then I have gained an more clear idea of how this kind of sex play can be enjoyed, but never really felt an overwhelming urge to explore it. This is because I have decided that in general, throughout all the back and forth and in and outs of sexual experience, that sex is really something far more basic and simple than desire would have you wish.

    For me, I want to abandon the whole messy business of seeking the mere surface pleasures of whether I’ve forced myself to orgasm by whatever extreme measures that can used to hypnotize me into this frenzied state and on to the more emotionally deep worlds you can find in the emotionally rich exploration of a single partner. Sure, I have to give up the superficial and fleeting abundance of sex crazed excess, but with a deep and emotionally satisfying result.

    It’s that glance in the mirror the morning after that always gets me. After a night of insane dionysiac frenzies; spanking and coming and submitting and rising to higher and higher ecstacies while sinking to lower and lower depths of self respect; after the thrill has gone and the dawn has revealed all the dark stains and hidden regrets, you may have to exert quite an effort to convince yourself that the aftermath of a wild sex binge is every bit as emotionally satisfying as the lingering cuddle of a trusting lifelong lover breathing softly at your side.

    But as for you I want you to know that I want you to find the deepest and most complete happiness you can find. I deeply suspect the kind of men who are allowed the privilege of spanking your cunt to orgasm are not to be trusted or easily understood by a woman who wants and needs to trust them in order to get the kind of sex that pleases you.

    If there were no patriarchy I could see trusting and understanding a man to indulge your desires. But in a world where male privilege is so insidious and difficult to admit for any man, it’s really hard to believe that a man in a position to dominate and exploit a woman sexually would not be seduced into becoming even more sexist and begin to think, even though he may deny it even to himself, of women, you included, as methods and objects to be used to satisfy his ever-ncreasing desires.

    I’ll never forget the long talks I had with Twisty herself about sex, pornography and male desire many years ago now. I refused to accept the idea that the privilege of enjoying a woman exhibiting herself by stripping or in pornography could be dehumanizing. But no matter how much I tried to justify it to myself, I had to eventually admit that if it were me, I would be degraded by such a world. It’s incredibly difficult for men, spoiled and blinded by the patriarchy, to understand what it means to be a woman. The only way for men to do so, is, I think, to let go of the idea that the tables cannot be turned.

    A man who exposes himself to a woman is not in the same emotional and sexual state as a woman who exposes herself to a man. A man has to see it as a man exposing himself to other men who regard him as a contemptible come slut. Only then will the man start to question how sexy it is to consider a woman the same way.

    So after years and years of thought, I finally came to a more complete agreement with Twisty about porn, desire and feminism, and I expect to continue to evolve. I hope I don’t sound too whiny when I stress once again how difficult it is for a man to see under the clouds that surround his lofty position of privilege. I say it because it goes a long way towards explaining why so many good men do such fucked-up things. It’s an explanation, not an excuse, though. Men need to at least try to see things from a woman’s point of view, or else we’ll never get anywhere.

  91. Dim Undercellar


    Why can’t the codeword just be “no”? Think very hard about this. What does it say about the people, particularly the men, in this community that “no” can’t be the “stop hurting me” codeword?

    What does a man or a woman have to think about women to allow them to get off on beating them and torturing a woman?

    What does a man or a woman have to think about women to allow them to get off on humiliating and degrading a woman?

    What does a woman have to think about herself and her sex to allow herself to get off on the above?

  92. Laura

    Hey, Dim,

    I cannot get the copy buttton on my pooter to work – damn pcs, so please bear with me.

    1) I feel uncomfortable with this as well. I don;t actually use code words – I like to actually use normal english, as then it is a clear as possible. However, the fact is that the most popular fantasy for women are rape fantasies. I don;t think that there is a problem with people playing with this as long as the safe sane and consensual rules are followed. Is this a healthy thing for society? No. But by playing with control in a safe environment I think it helps people to work out how control works, and to recognise it when it happens in ‘real life’. So yeah, I agree that there are issues here that need to be unpacked, but I think that it is simplistic to ignore the fact that a lot of people get off on it. I for one would rather that this happened in an open and negotiated way, than was implicit and happened without consent. I would like to go more into this, but I dont have that much time.

    2. Don’t understand the question. If it helps, I get off on beating and torturing men too. grin. Sorry, that was flippant. I think pain play is different from beating and torturing. I can see you rolling your eyes at this. But I think that there is a difference between punching somone in the stomache, and using a flogger on their bottom. Especially when one makes the person punched hurt, shocked and violated, wheras the other makes them giggle, wiggle around and generally be very happy. Which is where limits come in, and actually caring about the person you are playing with.

    3. humiliations and degradation. I have never got this, sorry, can’t help you. I don;t like it and I don;t get involved in scenes where this happens. Sometimes BDSM is appropriate and some therapy is appropriate.

    4. Erm, is this close to you are all women? you know what? I love some women, (about 5 including my mum), I like a lot of women( can’t really count), I dislike a lot of women (can’t really count), and I hate probably about 2 or 3. Do I want to kill any? No (Although I won’t be gutted when Maggie Thatcher goes.). Do I want to hurt any? No. Do I want to make any wiggle, and scream, and come until their eyes cross? One or two. DO I respect women? no, not all of them. Do you see what i am trying to say? I think that you keep making it very general – all women are hurt by this, all women are degraded etc, whereas in this topic i can only talk in specifics.

    There are much more things to think about and talk about in this area, and I would very much like to engage more. Unfortunately, I think due to work I am going to bow out for a day or two. Especially around porn and sex work, and whether it is inherently exploitative and to clarify my own thinking on it.

  93. Dim Undercellar

    “The most common fantasy for women… is rape”

    If that little lie right there doesn’t set off every alarm bell in your head, it’s a serious problem.

    THIS, RIGHT HERE is probably the most dangerous part of BDSM; it tells men that the most common fantasy for women is rape. So how was HE supposed to know that she really didn’t want it? HE thought she was just fighting back and kicking and screaming while he tied her up because she was playing out her “rape fantasy”!

    I saw this over and over and over and over and over again in the scene. Women who talk about what are, in essence, brutal rapes, then doubt that they even CAN be raped because they’re convinced that they have these unconscious “rape fantasies”, which means they must have wanted it.

    And then they look at other women who say they were raped… what does that do to a person’s veiwpoint about rape?

    Would you want a judge at your rape trial who believed that the most common fantasy for women was a “rape fantasy”?

    The idea that women have “rape fantasies” is actually listed as one of the Rape Myths, but the BDSM community actively encourages it and defends it. If YOU have rape fantasies, that’s one thing (I won’t argue with you about your fantasies). But to say that it’s “the most common fantasy” is false, damning, and dangerous to ALL women, not just “scene” women.

    Here’s a question: How much thinking do you, or any BDSM’er, do about MEN’S fantasies of raping women? Are men just obligingly acting out something that they don’t really want to do on a woman who screams in lust at the thought of being raped? That’s certainly the implication. Nobody ever talks about the blatantly apparent MEN’S fantasies of being rapists. Just the ambiguous and unsupported idea that WOMEN want to be raped.

  94. BitingBeaver


    The point I would like to make is that I categorically deny that ANY woman has a rape fantasy. The first thing that we must, must, must understand as it pertains to women and these reported ‘rape’ fantasies, is that the first and foremost problem is that rape cannot happen with consent.

    These are NOT rape fantasies as the women are consenting in them. To blur the lines is a dangerous practice and it may seem like a small thing but it isn’t. Rape, real, honest to frigging god rape, is NON-consensual by it’s very nature.

    Another HUGE danger of roleplaying the ‘rape fantasy’ is that it necessarily conflates rape with sex. Without an actual ‘rape’ occuring there is no gauge of fear, of the terrifying out of control feeling that is involved in a real rape against a woman. There can be none of that because if all the ‘rules’ are followed in re-enacting a ‘rape fantasy’ the fear, terror and mind-numbing feeling of having ZERO control over ones autonomy is absent.

    In this absence we get but one result. The conflation of rape and sex. Again, this may not seem like a big deal to many a layperson, but to someone who has heard, “Don’t make yourself too pretty or you may get raped” or, “Husbands can’t rape their wives” or any other number of rape myths, it becomes a very salient point indeed.

    Rape is NOT sex. Rape is control. Rape is terror, rape is unrefined horror at having no autonomy, Rape is the death of soul. To say that women have ‘rape fantasies’ is a fallacy of HUGE proportions. Rape CANNOT occur in a fantasy. Period. Unless you’re proposing that a woman who has agreed to act out a ‘rape fantasy’ is, in fact, subjected to all of the other stimuli that comes into play during a real rape?

    As for the rest, I’m not going to clutter Twisty’s blog with it. If you’d like to you can come back to my site and we can discuss it there? I assume that you’re the same Laura whom I’ve been talking to over at The Den? If so, I did reply to you on the ‘vanilla’ thing just this morning in fact *wink*

  95. LCGillies

    If personal=political, then we are in china’s cultural revolution, hitler’s germany, and numerous other oppressive state/social systems—not to mention ours, which is certainly tilting in that direction. The idea that all manifestations of BSDM, including private, consensual ones, by definition somehow enable, amplify, or support the institutionalized BSDM in our patriarchal society is itself a form of oppression—a mirror image of a patriarchy which enforces the notion, for example, that a woman wearing scant cover is ‘asking for it’ and which thereby enables rapists. The political is always personal, but the personal is not always political.

    When the personal is participation in BSDM, its equation with the political and its consequent condemnation is understandable in light of the horrific destruction being wrought every day on oppressed people—children (the biggest victims of all), women, people of color, all those who do not have automatic privilege (like I do as a white man). What we need to do is attack the agents of oppression, not its manifestations. There was also a famous feminist who said “I won’t be in your revolution unless I can dance.” Since she was ultimately shot in a ditch by a right-wing death squad, I don’t see it as a frivolous comment.

  96. Dim Undercellar

    Then I’ll pose the question to you:

    How would you feel if a judge at your/your partner’s rape trial was a BDSM participant and believed that all women had “rape fantasies”?

  97. sparklegirl

    If a judge was a BDSM participant, he might actually be more sympathetic to a rape victim, because he would probably realize the importance of “safe words” and consensual negotiation before any act, and therefore see the difference between consensual role-playing and rape very clearly.

  98. sparklegirl

    That said, I definitely wouldn’t want a non-BDSM judge who thought all women had rape fantasies. But I don’t think BDSM propagates that idea–if anything, by confining people with such fantasies to a small subculture, it shows that most women don’t have such fantasies.

  99. Chris Clarke

    There was also a famous feminist who said “I won’t be in your revolution unless I can dance.” Since she was ultimately shot in a ditch by a right-wing death squad, I don’t see it as a frivolous comment.

    Um, that quote – “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” – was bon-motted by Emma Goldman, who died at an advanced age in the relatively death-squad-free Toronto, Ontario, of a stroke.

  100. Elinor

    If personal=political, then we are in china’s cultural revolution, hitler’s germany, and numerous other oppressive state/social systems—not to mention ours, which is certainly tilting in that direction.

    Godwin’s Law demonstrated in 95 posts!

    I missed the point where anybody here suggested that THE GOVERNMENT should come in and FORCE people not to do BDSM.

    I don’t know diddly-squat about BDSM and thus don’t feel qualified to make sweeping judgments about it, but I do know that you’re not dealing with the substance of, for example, Dim’s posts – about honest-to-god abuse that goes on *within* the scene. It seems to me that one shouldn’t have to prove that rapes cause other rapes to demonstrate that rape is bad.

    What we need to do is attack the agents of oppression, not its manifestations. There was also a famous feminist who said “I won’t be in your revolution unless I can dance.”

    What? In one sentence BDSM is a manifestation of oppression and in the very next it’s compared to dancing? I’m confused.

  101. Rhus

    “the fact is that the most popular fantasy for women are rape fantasies”

    As Dim said above, neither do I believe in that “fact”. I suppose that some women fantasize about having a sexual relationship without having initiated or encouraged it at all because that way they’d be “clean”, non-responsible for enjoying it, or something. But I suspect it is not that frequent as it is said; it is of course very different from actual rape; and anyway, if this analysis is right, it doesn’t sound like a good idea to insist upon such a fantasy and reenact it constantly.

    “by playing with control in a safe environment I think it helps people to work out how control works”

    Controlling a partner in a bedroom? I might be very ignorant or unimaginative, but why would you want control over anybody else in a sexual situation? I’d want cooperation or abandonment or trust or any attitude that showed care for a partner. I get plenty of chances to learn about control in my daily life and they are enough for me.

    “and to recognise it when it happens in ‘real life’”

    (By the way, this sounds like it “must” happen, and I damn hope it doesn’t although I’m aware that there is a high probability of it if you are a female.) IF it happens in real life, I don’t have ANY doubt that I’ll recognize the thing for what it is. What a curious idea to reenact it before in a bedroom. What for?

    Thank you very much, Twisty and all of the participants in this thread. I totally love the discussions here. I’ve especially enjoyed the contributions of Violet Socks, Elinor, Tony Patti, Dim, BitingBeaver and some others that I might forget here… Thank you all.

  102. LCGillies

    yes, I conflated Emma with Rosa. I’ll deflate myself a little.
    Dim, all I mean is—people exploring their own sexuality are not necessarily imposing it on others, or propagating it. Having rape fantasies is fundamentally different from ascribing them to others. I take aunt twisty’s point about finessing the art form, so perhaps it doesn’t amount to much of a distinction, for example if we’re talking about BDSM. I’m trying to figure out the difference between personal life and its social expression, because I feel like we need as much freedom as possible in our personal lives to exorcise the social damage…

    thanks for the thread!

  103. Dim Undercellar

    Sorry, that sounds way too John Roberts/Sam Alito-esque to me.

    Sure, in an ideal world, one’s personal opinions and feelings and hobbies shouldn’t impact their logical judgements and behaviors except as they pertain to those specific situations.

    In the real world, if Alito doesn’t personally believe abortion is protected by the Constitution, all the stare decisis in the world won’t protect Roe from him.

    In the same vein, ideally a judge who believed that women have rape fantasies shouldn’t bring those beliefs to the bench at a rape trial. In reality, however, such beliefs and practices WILL color his worldview and affect his decisions.

    Similarly, a man in a bad drinking with a stranger who believes that all/many women have rape fantasies would, in an ideal world, not let that belief influence his behavior around that woman on the way back to her apartment, or, in a less ideal world, when she slurs a drunken “no” while he’s taking off her pants. In reality, however, the belief that all/many women have rape fantasies is almost assured to cause dangerous influence on such a man’s behavior.

    To believe otherwise means we’d have to take Alito at his word when he said “My personal beliefs won’t affect what kind of judgements I will reach on any specific case.”

  104. morgan

    I think the words ‘sex positive’ are really just code words for someone who is ‘hip’. Sex positive feminists can look at porn and not shudder delicately like their sex hating sisters.

    I hate how feminists use ‘sex positive’, I think someone equated it with equity feminism. I agree. Please stop using it. Pretty please. You’d think that if enough of your sisters were telling you that it isn’t helpful, that you’d stop doing it. But its like being beaten about the ears over and over and told that you really hate sex, and then you say, ‘no, I don’t’ but someone keeps telling you, you do. Because in essence that’s what sex positive means and implies. So screw it. Ditch the harmful lingo.

  105. Dragongrrl

    Going way back to tisha’s comment about reconciling being a heterosexual feminist…

    If you haven’t seen the book “Jane Sexes It Up” (totally blanking on the author, it’s something something Johnson) The book is a collection of essays about sex, sexuality and feminism. I highly recommend it. Especially the chapter “Fuck You and Your Untouchable Face”.

    If I had the time and elequence I would give you a supurb review and highlight the important points from the book. However, I’m in a rush and my brain isn’t working well today, so you’ll just have to look it up yourself.

  106. Liz

    From the Publishers Weekly review of Jane Sexes It Up by Merri Lisa Johnson: “It’s not for the straitlaced, but sex-positive feminists will find this a provocative, important anthology that speaks honestly to the question of pleasure and how to get it….Forecast: Jane should please readers of Nerve.com and forward-thinking Camille Paglia fans. Antipornography feminists may want to steer clear.” Quod erat demonstrandum, eh.

  107. Kas

    That revoltingly self-congratulatory thread at Alas mentioned above was actually the thing that tipped me over from, “Well, I guess if everyone’s consenting adults,” to, “No way, that shit is fucked up.”

    And I’m someone who really *really* likes BDSM. I won’t do it anymore because, unlike most of the people who are into it, I’ve thought long and hard about *why* I like it and the answer isn’t pretty.

    I think it was Dim who said in the other thread that we should all deconstruct our sex lives and IMO BDSM apologists *really* need to do some thinking.

  108. belledame222

    Fucking, by itself, won’t overthrow the patriarchy, no. *Nothing,* by itself, has done that or will do that. Not the vote, not laws against sexual harassment, not equal pay for equal work, not maternity leave, not daycare, not legal abortion and birth control, not Model Mugging classes, not consciousness-raising groups, not womens’ studies classes, not comfortable shoes. That doesn’t mean that any of these things aren’t good things in themselves, or that they don’t help.

    Personally? I like to fuck. As a woman, and particularly as a woman who likes fucking other women, *and* who has some other kinky turns as well (which I have been aware of since long before I would have been able to articulate any of this as theory), it has not been especially easy for me to meet my desires, or, for a long time, even to name and claim them. In fact, quite a lot of my energy as a young woman went into stifling my desires. For this, I blame the patriarchy.

    It is my belief that sexual repression, just like the repression of any other strong drive/energy/emotion, has an impact ranging far beyond sexuality, per se. You can’t clamp down on one part of your feelings and leave the rest to function normally, in my experience.

    Reich may have had some quirky notions, and he was unfortunately a product of his time wrt homosexuality, but in essence I think he was quite right: you can’t have an authoritarian society without severe sexual repression. They bank a lot on people channeling all that energy into aggression, and work work work. Among other things. There’s a reason why the religious right keeps going after all things sexual. It’s not arbitrary. Stupid and hateful, but not arbitrary.

    Advanced capitalism/corporatism combined with our puritan legacy has made for some rather strange and frankly schizophrenic expressions of sexuality. Britney Spears is not exactly a sign that women have made great strides in general, no; but whose fault is that?

    For me it boils down to this: if I can’t come, I don’t want to be a part of your revolution.

  109. belledame222

    Dim Undercellar: people have *all kinds of fantasies.* Women people included. Anyway, I know I do. Perhaps not rape, per se, personally, but lord knows I have plenty of fantasies (erotic and otherwise) that go way beyond the limits dictated by law, ethics, and sometimes physics. That’s what makes them fantasies, you know?

    >What a curious idea to reenact it before in a bedroom. What for?

    I’ve known survivors who find it rather cathartic, actually. Are you at all familiar with psychodrama? This is what this kind of BDSM is about, for me. Re-enact a traumatic scene with a trusted partner (and you *cannot* do this sort of play with someone you don’t trust) and change the ending, whether it’s turning the tables or something else entirely.

    One theory of sexual fantasy is a neat way of reframing without the pathology, which I like very much: essentially, that by infusing the unbearable with the erotic, the body-mind is attempting to reclaim the life force, to make itself whole again.

    All this is assuming that all BDSM is always about heavy emotional and/or physical play, of course, and it so isn’t. Personally, I don’t eroticize physical pain, and I’d never really given rope bondage much thought one way or another. But, for instance, I did get quite a lot out of a recent scene wherein I let another woman tie me up and apply various floggers and canes to my bare skin. It was a great way of getting out of my head, of giving up control. The beat of the background music and the thud/swish of the flogger put me in a sort of trance. I breathed more deeply as the sensations got more intense; eventually, I screamed, which was a great release (how often do you give yourself the opportunity to just *scream,* really SCREAM?) It hurt, sure. But in a way comparable to eating strong chili peppers, or putting myself through an intensely grueling exercise routine. “The burn.” Which later became a glow. I did not feel remotely degraded afterward. I felt wonderful.

    And humiliation isn’t what it looks like. You can get called a “slut” or “dyke” or suchlike in scene and it can mean the exact opposite of what it would mean to be called such a name by some jerk in the street (same as getting kissed or felt up by your loved one is completely different from it happening unwanted). It can be a way of saying “I see you, that unwanted, dark place…and I like it. I approve of your sluttiness. It gets me hot.” I’ve found such scenes healing and empowering, myself.

  110. BritGirlSF

    Interesting given how far apart Twisty and I are in our views on BSDM that I completely agree with her on the subject of sex-positive feminism in general. I find few things less sexy than having someone lecture me about how sexy I SHOULD find something, and nothing at all feminist about attempts to guilt-trip women into sex that they don’t want. Porn doesn’t really offend me, except in a socialist exploitation-of-the-underclass kind of way, I just don’t see any good reason why other women who are offended by it are not entitled to their opinions. Hartley et al annoy the crap out of me, which is ironic given that I haven’t got a prudish bone in my body. I just find their hectoring, condescending tone tedious.
    I once had a so-called “sex-positive feminist” guy tell me that “any woman who is not willing to do sex work has no right to call herself a feminist”. I pretty much tore him a new asshole, as you may imagine – what exactly is so radical about what is after all commonly referred to as the oldest profession (which is bullshit by the way…the oldest profession is actually farming)? His moronic statement pretty much illustrates my frustration with the whole phenomenon. I’ve met far too many people who just seem very self-serving and intellectually rather lightweight.
    It should be obvious, but sex does not equal porn. One can love one and have no interest in the other. I find it a little suspect when those who insist that anyone who hates porn hates sex are those whose livelihood depends on people buying porn.
    In fact I would go so far as to say that Hartley, Sprinkle etc are in a way sex-negative, in that listening to them makes the whole thing seem so boring that one hardly wants to bother. One is almost tempted to abstain just to spite them.
    Tisha – I think that the only way to deal with the issue you raise is to realise that one’s preferences are what they are, and that they seem to be pretty much hard-wired into our psyches. Sex with men, if that’s what you want, is neither submitting to the patriarchy or subverting it. It’s just what you like to do. As long as your particular habits are not actively harming anyone else I see nothing feminist about denying yourself pleasure for political reasons.
    I’m not even getting into the whole BSDM discussion here. This post has too many comments already. I will only say that the scene I used to be involved with was light years away from the one that Dim was involved in. The scene that she describes would have scared the crap out of me right from the get-go, so I feel like it would be pointless to get into a discussion as we are obviously talking about very different scenes.

    And yes, the music industry is a cesspit of sexism. That’s why I ran away as fast as my legs could carry me after a brief flirtation with being in a band as a teenager. Which really sucks for those of us who live and breathe music, by the way. In the case of my own unfortunate but necessary for my mental health departure from the industry I do indeed blame the patriarchy.

  111. Dim Undercellar

    “That’s what makes them fantasies, you know?”

    Does that mean that your fantasies are things you’d never ever ever ever want to act out in real life?

    If porn-users and BDSMers are only fantasizing about things they’d HATE and LOATHE if real people were involved, isn’t that yet more evidence that Patriarchal sex molds infect the brain like a virus?

    “I can’t stand the thought of this happening in reality, but… oh my god.. I can’t… help it… I must… masturbate to it! Nooooo!”

    Now, if fantasies ARE things you’d like to see done in real life to real people, doesn’t that mean a man who has fantasies of raping and beating women is kind of dangerous to women? Sort of like how a guy who has fantasies of sex with 14-year-old girls is dangerous to children?

    And doesn’t that mean that a woman who has fantasies about strange, scary things is equally strange and scary?

    Again, you only get two options:
    1) Either you fantasize about things you’d NEVER want to do for real, which means your sexual mind has been co-opted against your will by the Porntriarchy, OR
    2) You fantasize about things you WOULD like to do for real, which means your fantasies can make you a danger to yourself and/or others and need to be deconstructed and examined.

    I really don’t see a third option here. Either you do, or do not, wish you could act out your fantasies.

  112. sparklegirl

    Isn’t the whole point of fantasy that it’s about things you wouldn’t actually do in real life? For example, you might fantasize about having sex on the checkout counter in the grocery store or some other ridiculously public place, even though you would never attempt it, or want to, in real life. Or you could fantasize about a threesome, or having sex with a movie star, or something else that you wouldn’t want to do in real life even if you had the chance. That’s why it’s called fantasy–it’s not limited by reality.

    That said, rape fantasies are definitely problematic , even though a vast majority of people who have them probably never go on to commit rape. I think it’s important to examine and deconstruct such fantasies, while also recognizing that many men and women do have them, and not labelling them freaks or potential criminals.

  113. Dim Undercellar

    I’m sorry if it makes me an anti-sex vanilla prude victorian godbag, but if you have fantasies about seducing Harry Potter, I’m not going to let you babysit my 13-year-old stepson.

    Similarly, if you have fantasies about raping Hillary Duff, I’m going to be very leery when you volunteer to chaperone the high school dance.

    You either would like the opportunity to act out your fantasies in real life, in which case they need to be examined to keep you from being dangerous to yourself or others, OR
    You would never ever in a million years consider acting out your fantasies in real life because you hate the thought of them happening to real people, which means porn and patriarchy have co-opted your sexuality and forced you to masturbate to things you actually loathe.

  114. Lis Riba

    Fantasies can be a way of safely exploring things one is curious about, whether or not one wants to actually enact them.

    Your logic would seemingly condemn every horror author out there as unsafe for polite society. As far as I know, Steven King’s kids are no more emotionally-unhealthy or abused than most people.

    I enjoy slash fiction, and sometimes find it hot to read about two men having sex without any women whatsoever. No way I can act them out. How does that fit into your dichotomy?

  115. Dim Undercellar

    So you’re saying people fantasize about things they don’t actually like or want to do?

    I call bullshit. If you didn’t want to do it, you wouldn’t be MASTURBATING YOURSELF TO ORGASM at the thought of it.

    UNLESS porn and patriarchy have co-opted your sexuality and forced it into those areas against your will.

  116. Dim Undercellar

    Oh, and I doubt Stephen King or his kids are masturbating to “Firestarter”. If they WERE, that town would be doing a booming business in fire insurance.

    Wouldn’t you be a bit worried about someone with Harry Potter/Ashleigh Simpson rape fantasies babysitting your kids? Because if you would be, that is completely contrary to everything you want me to believe about the harmlessness of fantasies.

  117. Lis Riba

    First of all, you ignored my comments about slash.

    What does it imply if a woman masturbates to words/images of two men having sex? Vanilla sex, no coercion, none of the parties under-age.

    Does that make the woman somehow delusional, because she wants something she can never do? Or maybe such fantasies imply gender-dysphoria because if she really gets turned on by MM sex, maybe she’s secretly wishing she was a man herself?

  118. morgan

    No, it doesn’t make her delusional. I enjoy slash myself and think its pretty much an a-okay past time. But objectively — Sometimes, I need to distance myself from it to see the problems with slash as it is now. Women for one thing in slash stories are demeaned to an alarming degree. Buffy was turned into a demon by slashers. And I have to wonder what it is about slash that draws women who seem to have a beef with other women. And before you tell me that het is like that too, I’m not talking about the problems with het, which are numerous, I’m talking about slash ‘only’ which bills itself as being transgressive. But if you look at it, it’s really not. What’s transgressive about women writing themselves out of their own stories.

  119. Lis Riba

    What’s transgressive about women writing themselves out of their own stories.

    Was this intended as a question?
    Because men write themselves out of porn they create for themselves.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s something in our wiring to fantasize about .

    Het women create unrealistic male-male porn for themselves and for female readership/viewership.
    Het men create unrealistic female-female porn for themselves and for male readership/viewership.

    Right now societally they exist at opposite ends of the scale (one a major commercial industry and the other mostly underground work done by individuals), but both exist and both fulfill similar needs for the consumers.

    There’s a research study in there somewhere, and I’d love to read it. :)

  120. Kas

    Does that make the woman somehow delusional, because she wants something she can never do?

    It’s something she can do: watch two men have sex. Not even necessarily in an actively-participating-as-a-voyeur way, but unless you’re picturing yourself as one of the men (which most slashers would find ludicrous and totally missing the point) that’s what you’re fantasising about.

  121. morgan

    I’m talking about women here and not men. I’m talking about slash and not het. I already said I have problem with het.

    And you didn’t talk about how women are portrayed in slash. And it is a problem, because slash isn’t just porn, it is a window into the mind of the people writing it the same as porn is for men with their steriotypical lesbians. It exposes their biases in rather unflattering ways.

  122. Dim Undercellar

    Lis Riba: And you ignored everything else I said, so I guess we’re even.

    However, morgan got to it first – it means the exact same thing that it means for men who read hot girl-on-girl stories. It means they would drool in happy delight over their male partners having sex with another man in front of them.

    Now if you say you wouldn’t actually like to see that, you just mastubate and orgasm at the thought of it, then your sexuality has been co-opted and you get off to thoughts of things you’d never in a million years want to happen – proof the Porntriarchy has invaded your head like a virus.

    If you WOULD like to see that, you need to deconstruct it and ask what kind of effect it must have on your partner, that he knows he’s not what you really want – you really want someone who will have sex with other men for you.

  123. JJken


    I had sex with 16 year olds when I was 16, it still turns me on to think about, does that mean 16 year olds are not safe around me.

    I fantasize about bashing my car into people who cut me off, or slashing thier tires, does that mean my license should be taken away and someone needs to take all the knives out of my silver ware drawer?

    of course not.

    Acting out a fantasy is like anything else, use your judgement and you will be fine.

  124. Laughingrat

    Whoa. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but you could really sing, huh?

    Also, this post is great, although it probably gets repetitive to hear that over and over again. Or maybe not!

  125. SoJo

    Oh my, I’m glad laughingrat commented on this and brought it out of the archives…what an awesome song! I love it! It’s twistalicious

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