May 07 2007

The secret lives of prigs

Jesus tap-dancing christ. The next commenter who uses the word “priggish” to describe the radical feminist case against pornography is gonna get banned on the grounds that he’s just too dumb to post on this, my own personal blog.

That goes for trying to slink by with “feminista” as a synonym for “feminazi,” too.

And, while I’m at it, I might as well put the kibosh on the tired old “what about gay porn?!” For crissake, it’s 2007; do we not yet get that gay men are men?

I allude to this comment; as an example of aforementioned tiresome trends it by no means stands alone, but it’s the rancid onion ring that clogged my last artery.

Allow me to elucidate. “Prig” is a flaccid insult. Not only does it suggest a false dichotomy (“if you don’t agree to exist on male terms, you clearly must yearn to force celibacy on our happy, horny world”); not only it is a pusillanimous act of patriarchy-approved dominant behavior and therefore is in itself priggish; but also it reveals an ignorance of the radical feminist zeitgeist that I cannot tolerate on this, my own personal blog.

If you don’t like it you can fucking lump it.

If a person weren’t too dumb to post on this, my own personal blog, he would, should he suddenly find himself moved to deploy the word “priggish” in a magisterial context, stop, and look it up. And lo. The clouds of ignorance would part. Brilliant beams would bathe him in enlightenment. He would be as one with the wisdom of the ages which holds that a “prig” is one who performs senseless, exaggerated behaviors of fastidiousness and propriety merely for the sake of high conformity.

Having so proficiently acquired the straight poop on prigs, the savvy commenter would then brilliantly deduce that a radical feminist — because she is radical — cannot be a prig. That’s right! Logic precludes it! The laws of physics preclude it! The spinster aunt precludes it! The two conditions are diametrically opposed!

Now fervid with the thrilling pursuit of erudition, our merry commenter would comprehend with undiluted joy that an anti-porn feminist in a pornsick world is — sound it out — an iconoclast [1]. In the blink of an eye he would grasp, as does his long suffering feminist friend, that, in a patriarchy, graphic representations of sex are prized only because they depict the dominant culture’s fondest narrative: the sex class conforming to the dominant culture’s standards of sexual behavior. He would savor like the last spoonful of whipped cream on Earth the awareness that a social order predicated on dominance of an underclass obviates, in praxis, “consent” for that underclass.

And then, if and when I wrote “The radical feminist doesn’t want to ban sex, you idiots! She wants to liberate women from oppression,”[2] he would nod vigorously in perfect understanding. In fact, he would spring from his Aeron chair and go bounding through the streets, strewing rose petals and singing with the clarion voice of Truth “Pornography is the fetishization of oppression! I’ve never felt so alive!”

1. Because he is not too dumb to comment on this, my own personal blog, he would not have to look up iconoclast.

2. I am perfectly well aware that to patriarchy buffs there can be little distinction between banning sex and liberating women from oppression. Of course they’re are all for porn. What’s wrong with porn? Porn is perfectly appropriate to them, since it portrays their favorite myth: women “consenting” to exist completely on male (the default human) terms.


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  1. Kathy

    Awesome post. As usual. Thanks for making my day!

  2. Hawise

    I clicked on the link and got bupkis- error 404.

  3. Hawise

    Great post, you make the dictionary come alive.

  4. Catherine Martell

    I got bupkis, too. But I don’t care – I can imagine the doofus in question all too well. Anyway, who needs other people’s writing when we have this?

    In fact, he would spring from his Aeron chair and go bounding through the streets, strewing rose petals and singing with the clarion voice of Truth “Pornography is the fetishization of oppression! I’ve never felt so alive!”

    I may actually go and do that now, just for the kicks. Twisty, if the concept of “genius” wasn’t inherently gendered to glorify moody, irritating, sociopathic men, I would heap it fulsomely upon you.

  5. Twisty

    “clicked on the link and got bupkis- error 404. ”


  6. kreepyk

    Yes! Thank you, Twisty.

    I wish this blog were required reading.

  7. LMYC

    I didn’t click on it, because I’m fairly sure that it links to the comment that made me click back, get up, go pick up my knitting, and forget about the entire rest of the thread.

    They literally cannot tell the difference between sex and porn. They cannot tell the difference between sex and rape. They really, really, really can’t. It’s positively mindblowing that you can simply talk about, “No, forget about porn — what do you think sex wouldb e like in a porn-free world?” and they just lock up and gape. They really honestly have no idea what you’re talking about. They simply can’t fathom it.

    It’s like showing a television set to a neanderthal. They just gawp, and every brain cell in their head begins singing that birdie-tweet that they used to use in the old Warner Bros cartoons when Bugs Bunny stepped on the rake and saw stars circling his head.

    The hell with this bullshit about men magicalyl waking up and realizing we’re humans one day in the (near?) future. You ask them to envision a world of equality, where women are actual people, and they literally have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. They’d have better luck imagining a universe where addition were not commutative.

  8. hedonistic

    NOW I know why I was incoherently irritated by Dieter’s comment(yes, moi-self, HPS, that same cyberentity who posts half-nekkid photos of herself on the HPS blog).

    Any commenter who cannot tell the difference between a nude body and porn, or sex and porn, is in dire need of a clue stick. In the groin.

  9. Cathy

    LMYC is right, as usual (enjoy your comments). But although they can’t possibly envision equality, they have no trouble imagining what will surely happen if they should relinquish any of their power: The evil feminazis will take over, and proceed to do to men exactly what they have done to us! They are certain we would be just as evil in retaliation.

    Ever see the movie, “Basic Instict,” where the woman wants to have sex and then stab the guy? Totally a male idea, because that’s how their fantasies run. They just reverse the genders to make it “scary” to men.

    I used to work with Hispanic men who couldn’t possibly fathom why a woman accused her husband of rape. “What!? They’re MARRIED!”

  10. Edith

    Wait, wait, wait. Are you saying that gay men are men? I mean I just read you say that, but you must be mistaken. Gay men are our GIRLFRIENDS! They totally go shopping with us! They’re like honorary women, don’t you think? I mean, lesbians are kind of weird, like they dress all gross and just want to be men (although bisexual women, now they’re really sexy, like they’re really IN TUNE with their SEXUALITY). But gay men are so cute! And cool! And I love going to drag shows! So much fun! Clearly we should let our boys have what they want!

  11. Sniper

    In fact, he would spring from his Aeron chair and go bounding through the streets, strewing rose petals and singing with the clarion voice of Truth “Pornography is the fetishization of oppression! I’ve never felt so alive!”

    Thank you for this mental picture. I shall treasure it always.

  12. norbizness

    Nobody’s a Jane’s Addiction fan here? ‘Prigs in Zen’? HELLO!

  13. Medbh

    Oh, snap, as the kids say.
    Twisty, don’t you ever tire of schooling dolts?
    Iconoclast indeed.

  14. kcb

    Pornography is the fetishization of oppression! I’ve never felt so alive!”

    I’m with Sniper. This made my day, and it’s not even happy hour.

  15. norbizness

    KCB: Damn, you start late. I’ve already had three martinis from that one Taco Shack that serves them.

  16. Candice Morgan

    When I try to discuss feminist issues with my boyfriend, he asks me why I care. (Let’s, just for post’s sake, ignore this obvious snippet of oppressor speak.) Like it’s something I can just turn off.

    It’s ironic, actually, since that’s what men seem to be the most afraid of–being turned off. (Oh horror of horrors!) What’s even more ironic, is that the porn that doesn’t even try to pretend it’s not disgusting, turns me off completely (actually, all porn turns me off, but you know what I mean–there are ‘romantic’ versions of porn that women are supposedly cool with and then there’s that OTHER porn, which I cannot conceive of ever being anything other than putrid and which men hide (if they even make that effort) the most, specifically for that ick factor.)

    I just read a book review in they NYTimes for Chuck Palahnuik’s new book, Rant, (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/07/books/07masl.html) in which I found the following little gem of patriarchal spewage (from a fan of Chuck’s, apparently–what an authority!):

    “And just when this tower of piled-on ingredients seems to be at its wobbliest, Mr. Palahniuk adds the crowning contrivance: time travel. To translate this concept into Rant-ese, as expressed by one of his dimmer fans: “What if you found yourself a long time ago — by accident — and you met your own great-great-grandmother before it was wrong to date her? And what if she was a babe? And let’s say you two hooked up? And how about she has a baby who’d be both your daughter and your great-grandmother?””

    Q: When is it ever right to date your great-great-grandmother? What the fuck! LoserPRIG, if you are time travelling, then she’s still your fucking great-great-grandmother. IT IS ALWAYS WRONG TO DATE HER! And, am I crazy, or do I get an inference here that he’d date his daughter/great-grandmother, too?

    Oh, wait, sorry, excuse me. I’m being a bit hasty. That she’s your BLOOD relative has nothing to do with it. Because it’s only wrong to date your great-great-grandmother (or any other family member) if they’re (in regard to the women of the family) either TOO OLD to be considered HOT anymore or they just aren’t HOT to begin with. I see now. My mistake!

    MORON! Incest is incest no matter what! Yesterday, today, tomorrow…I mean, PUKE!

  17. linden

    Thanks, Blamers. This is a great place to come after seeing the latest drivel on Alternet about how liberating and feminist it is for women to strip/wash floors/prostitute themselves/all of the above. I swear there’s some piece of crap article on the so-called progressive websites every day urging women to make the “choices” the patriarchy likes, all in the name of “feminism.”

  18. Hippolyta

    I am one of those who still doesn’t get it, though I must say I have been making an effort. I was born to a feminist mother. I consider myself to be a feminist. On the vast majority of issues covered by this website I agree wholeheartedly. I simply don’t understand “the feminist stance” (understanding that no one feminist can speak for all feminists) on pornography.

    I think that new technology has made it more difficult for some of us to distinguish between sex and pornography or more accurately to understand whether the majority of feminists are making a distinction between sex and pornography. In all of this discussion of pornography I’ve read no entry defining it or even making much of an attempt to define pornography. I wonder things like this, if I and my lover, also a woman, are having sex and I grab my camera and take a picture of her, is this pornography? When I look at the picture later and remember what it was like to have sex with her, is it pornography. To me sex with her is lovely and amazing as is anything that reminds me of it, but I get the impression that you are telling me that this is pornography and I am thus pornsick. This is difficult for me to reconcile. It is as if you are taking out your big red PORNOGRAPHY stamp and slapping it down on the image of my lover. Does this make any sense to you?

  19. zofia

    Great post. I’m sure he’s too fucking stupid to understand why he shouldn’t come in an shit on the rug but if you continue to whack em on the nose with a rolled newspaper, perhaps he’ll go somewhere else with his feculent output.

  20. Candice Morgan

    OH, did you notice the use of the adjective ‘dimmer’ used to excuse this asshead’s crooked explanation of time travel?
    Yeah, that covers it. I’d say ‘eat me’ if I didn’t think they’d like it.

    And does this guy really think ‘before it was wrong to date her’ explains ‘before you knew who she was’ if he wasn’t being disgusting on purpose?

    But wait, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Oops. Silly me.


  21. LMYC

    I tend to think of patriarchy the same way as I think of the environmentalyl dirty world we live in. Unless you make it your 24/7/365 mission and live your life entirely centered around it, you CANNOT AVOID PUTTING CARBON INTO THE ATMOSPHERE. Period. Al Gore drives a car and flies. He tries his level best to minimize it, and to make sure that his positive effects outweigh his car exhaust, but nowhere does he make the argument that because he is an environmentalist, his car exhaust has no effect on the atmosphere.

    Similarly, yes. You can be a feminist and consume porn or wear lipstick or heels or whatever, but sorry about this — that doesn’t make your activity patriarchy-free. Just like Al Gore’s car exhaust, your activity dumps patriarchal shit into the atmosphere.

    Now, Gore buys his offsets (after researching them) and makes sure that he drives and flies when he can make a positive difference by the public speaking he does. Similarly, a woman politician might have to do the lipstick-and-heels drag to get elected and make a positive difference in women’s lives. We all have to draw our line someplace, and just as we cannot live without dumping carbon into the air, we cannot live without dumping patriarchy intot he air, no matter what we do. I buy offsets, but for me to claim that because of that, my car exhaust is actually GOOD for the atmosphere would be fucking obscenity. Similarly, I don’t give a shit what sort of feminist you call yourself, your porn dumps shit into the air.

    Porn in fact is the patriarchy equivalent of driving a Hummer 55 miles to work and back. Sorry. You can attempt to jerrymander that into environmentalism, but the planet knows and its reality trumps yours. I don’t give a shit if you only buy stuff with stickers with little pictures of trees on them, that last tenth of a degree of global warming was YOUR FUCKING HUMMER. I don’t give a shit what you CALL yourself, your porn dumps crap into the patriarchy that makes it worse.

    Again, we can’t live carbon-free. We can’t. This world is set up such that NO ONE CAN LIVE CARBON-FREE or anywhere near it without making it your entire life and signing off of every other ambition you ever had. Patriarchy is the same way. And we all have to make CONSCIOUS, AWARE choices. Wear the female impersonator drag only when you can’t avoid it. Wear it when the net benefit to WOMEN (not just to your damned self, feminism has more than ony fucking pronoun) offsets it.

    And buy your fucking offsets — BRCA, for example. Donate as much as you spend on cosmetics in one year to a battered women’s shelter or something. DO SOMETHING. Don’t just fucking consume that garbage and act like your feminism magically makes it okay. It doesn’t. Any more than your eovironmentalism turns your car exhaust into roses and tweeting bird farts.

    This isn’t about guilt either. Guilt is a useless emotion. I couldn’t give a rat’s asshole if you feel “guilty” for your car or your lipstick. Just use it wide-awake, don’t fucking sleepwalk. Use it when you can justify it. And buy your offsets, as much as you can. We can’t all do that — sometimes poverty means driving the POS car with the lousy carburetor because you can’t afford another one, or wearing the lipstick and heels to make some extra money.

    But be aware of why you do it, and don’t LIE TO ME OR YOURSELF about the effect it has. Yes, YOUR PORN DUMPS PATRIARCHY INTO THE AIR. YOUR CAR EXHAUST RAISES THE GLOBAL TEMPERATURE. No matter what you call yourself. And I don’t CARE if you feel guilty, I don’t give two shits for guilt. Worthless emotion. Just DO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. And don’t bullshit me or anyone else about it.

  22. Candice Morgan

    (I realize I sound crazy in my last post–what the fuck is she referencing?–but my earlier erudite and point-making post has been sent to the moderation cue. For how long, I’ve no idea. Sorry, fellow fems.)

  23. yankee transplant

    “not only it is a pusillanimous act of patriarchy-approved dominant behavior and therefore is in itself priggish; but also it reveals an ignorance of the radical feminist zeitgeist that I cannot tolerate on this, my own personal blog.”

    I am in awe. You amaze me.

  24. LMYC

    Hippolyta, what we’re saying is that, beyond your own skull, that picture does dump patryarchy into the air, no matter why you took it, or what your own personal commitment to feminism is. Like driving the car as an environmentalist. It sucks, but there’s no avoiding it. Patrharchy is REAL, it’s not just some belief we have that we can make go away by pretending it doesn’t exist.

    Twisty isn’t choosing the stamp that picture because it’s her arbitrary personal choice, any more than I’m choosing to define your car exhaust as bad for the environment because I feel like it. It just is, and no matter how badly we may want to believe otherwise, tough shit.

    You just have to choose what you want to do to reduce your patriarchal carbon load.

  25. LMYC

    Jesus on a pogo stick, how many ways can I find to cram typos into the word “patriarchy”?!

  26. Christina

    Thank you a million times for getting it and helping us all do the same. I can’t tell you what an impact you’ve had on my thinking and how much happier I am for it (in a way). I don’t have an Aeron chair, but you get the idea.

  27. Feminist Avatar

    LMYC I think you’re bang on here. I think we also need to acknowledge the total lack of choice we have in this scenario. Our actions are totally bound by the patriarchy and in many situations there is no way out.

    I think this is shown most often in discussions of clothing. Wearing high heels, lipstick and thong is not resisting patriarchy, but in fact there is virtually nothing we can wear that allows us to resist. All forms of female clothing have some level of sexualised discourse surrounding it. The thong is highly sexualised, the ‘big pants’ imply virginity and prudishness (which in the right context is sexy), and let’s not even discuss wearing nothing at all. What can we wear that is not sated with sexualised discourse, or quickly becomes sexualised? Even dressing like a man can be construed as sexy and implies that men are the default that we should aspire to.

    In a similar way, photographing your partner naked while ever so innocent is replete with patriarchal discourse that you cannot extract yourself from.

  28. TP

    I love LMYC. You are on fire today! Fiery is the perfect word for you in general.

    Hippolyta seems confused by what pornography is. The etymology of the word reveals the patriarchal intentions: Graphic representations of whores. The intention of all pornography is to excite men who regard the women depicted thus as whores; namely objects to be fucked.

    I can see how many representations of women will not lead to this kind of interpretation except by pornsick jerkwads.

    There are grey areas like those you speak of, and the answer, to me, is: Was this designed and intended to arouse the male gaze? Was it designed and intended to arouse anyone? Perhaps women, too, are susceptible to the objectification of other women. That would be doing what men do, on a far less global level, and might not be really a good feeling if you were to amplify it and follow it all the way down the rathole of prurience and sexual greed.

  29. LMYC

    An example: I love the A&E “Hornblower” movies. They’re fantastic — I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen them.

    They’re about GUYS WHO BLOW SHIT UP FOR EXCITEMENT. There are tims during the movies when I just ga[pe in amazement at the pure stupidity of the male human and its outlook on life. You have RULES?! When you’re KILLING PEOPLE?! Honor, fair play — WHAT?! They’re treating mass killing as some sort of fucking game! WTF is wrong with their BRAINS?!

    There’s a grand total of THREE women characters in these movies, two majors, one minor. ONE of them is good, the rest absolutely SUCK WIND.

    You can count the non-white people on far less than one hand.

    These movies, promoted and viewed by zillions, advance patriarchy in the minds of the people who watch them. In my mind, they don’t — or at least I like to think that and I can say that they probably do so faaaaaar less than in the minds of almost all other viewers. Yes, I’m arrogant. Sue me.

    But they have a positive patriarchal carbon load. I’ll say it out loud. My car’s exhaust isn’t roses and jasmine either, and EVERY movie I’ve ever watched (granted that’s damned few; I watch no TV and have VERY few DVDs, and can’t recall the last movie I saw in a theater) has a positive patriarchal load, including the bare, bare few I’ve enjoyed.

    I’ve witnessed conversations where one shrill (believe me, it fit) self-proclaimed feminist bitched out someone for watching disney movies while she her very own self was a HUGE Star Trek fan and refused to admit that HER pet entertainment also released patriarchal carbon into the planet’s atmosphere.

    So yes. Whatever you do, whatever you may think, however much you may love your SO before you snap that photo, it DOES release that shit into the atmosphere. Until we face up to this, we can’t make the conscious informed choices needed to reduce that pollution load. Fuck defensiveness, fuck guilt, fuck it all.

  30. Twisty

    “positive patriarchal load”


  31. Hattie

    I wonder if this isn’t that asshole Dieter I once knew in Portland. Anyway, I have stumbled on porn that makes me sick. Things like tits bound up like sausages and cervixes ditto and sticking out of vaginas. You like that?

  32. LMYC

    I think we also need to
    acknowledge the total lack of choice we have in this scenario. Our
    actions are totally bound by the patriarchy and in many situations
    there is no way out.

    That’s why I think the environmental analogy is perfect here; there ARE NO CARBON-NEUTRAL CARS that would let me get to work where I like to think I make a positive difference in my state because I work for an educational nonprofit that serves VAST swaths of the population. But even if I do work at a company that I believe firmly makes a HUGE positive difference in the world … my car exhaust still fucks up the planet. And I can’t avoid it. There are ABSOLUTELY NO public transportation options that would allow me to leave my apartment after 4am and get home after 10pm, every night. That’s a choice I make, and I have to be aware of the damage I do and on the lookout for ways to ameliorate it.

    But those choices, the fact that I’m stuck either burning gasoline to get to work or using electrical public transit that burns COAL to run … I can’t avoid that currently. I can make the best choices possible, but there is no way to avoid dumping far more shit into the air than we should in this world. We can work to create better choices, but even that work, until our work starts to pay off better, involves burning fossil fuels. Like I said, Al Gore flies and drives to his speaking engagements.

    That’s what it means to live in a dirty world. Or a patriarchy. And we can’t make the best choices possible or create new ones unless we realize it.

  33. bigbalagan

    The position of “more precise in my rhetorical distinctions than thou” is itself a patriarchal maneuver (as I confess, I well know), which Dieter demonstrates very cogently. All those “nuanced and difficult” concepts with their “permeable boundaries” require a true mental master debater. Clearly, in Dieter’s view twisty sisters are not thinking clearly enough (that is, with enough “penetration”) to make the subtle distinctions necessary. The fact that the comment appears in a blog which is the most precise rhetorical and conceptual instrument on the web is just a further embarrassment of cluelessness. Were I so moved, this is the last place I would engage in defense of pornography based on the self-implied superiority of my thought process.

    To see if I’ve understood, I would try to respond to Hipolyta this way: if you and your partner enjoy a photograph of yourselves, that’s between you two. Once it gets beyond you two, that image must participate in the world of patriarchal pornography, not because of what it shows, but because there is no other category for it as a social object. All images whatever of sexuality that are public in any way are defined by the patriarchy to meet its standards of control and dominance—and because the patriarchy rules absolutely, there is no alternative public existence for these images. And perhaps furthermore—it may be that even your *private* image cannot avoid participation in the patriarchy, because images of “sexuality” (totally in quotes) are a key tool of patriarchal oppression, and are deployed as far as possible into our brainwashed private existences.

  34. LMYC

    … not thinking clearly enough (that is, with enough
    “penetration”) to make the subtle distinctions necessary.

    If you HAD the wit and sagacity to SEE the Emperor’s New Clothes …

  35. LCforevah

    In fact, he would spring from his Aeron chair and go bounding through the streets, strewing rose petals and singing with the clarion voice of Truth “Pornography is the fetishization of oppression! I’ve never felt so alive!

    LMYC, you’re right, this is never going to happen, but the mental picture had me peeing in my pants! Too. Damn. Funny.

  36. Spinning Liz

    Oh please would somebody more talented and moneyed than I am come along and turn this divinely lyrical post and its ensuing comments into a super hit Broadway musical. The world NEEDS this to happen NOW, and I need some new stuff to sing in the shower anyway.

  37. Panic

    re: offsets.
    I’ve the discussion in the past couple days about being one of the leg-shavers (for some reason it always comes down to that), and how do I reconsile that with my feminism, knowing all the reasons for the feminine drag I’m in. Your comment was bang on, illuminating, and gave me a great place to start investigating the issue. I really was at a loss. Much appreciated.

  38. Panic

    I don’t know why I leave words out all the time. Is it a special sort of dyslexia? I’m truly worried.

    “I’ve had the discussion…”

  39. Wrongshore

    What’s wrong with “feminista”? This is 2006, compas: aren’t all white lefties supposed to refer to themselves in appropriated Spanish?

    Love the patriarchy offsets. Someone should design a greasemonkey app for guilty pr0n-sumers to bring up NARAL’s donation page every time they visit Fleshbot.

  40. Rebecca

    When I try to explain how “Pornography is the fetishization of oppression,” and inevitably run into the argument (which I suspect is misunderstoodedly Marxist in origin) that if sexual imagery is produced outside of the patriarchal porndustry then it is dismantling rather than reinforcing that system, I find it helpful to refer to early feminist film theory, such as Laura Mulvey and Mary Ann Doane. While their writing is problematic in its reliance on Freudianism, they makes some excellent points about how the visual vocabulary of film is male-egocentric by its very nature, meaning that a female spectator must assume a “male gaze” in order to receive pleasure from film. Therefore, unless/until an entirely new vocabulary of film is created, even images with feminist content are utilizing the vocabulary of the patriarchy, and “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
    So is that image taken by a women of her lover pornography? Yes, in the sense that it utilizes a vocabulary and syntax established by patriarcho-pornography. For example, the necessity that the photographer physically distance herself from the subject-object establishes the photographic gaze as necessarily objectifying/othering. The mediation of the photographic apparatus produces another layer of distancing, privileging that which is seen through the lens as significant to the exclusion of other visual information and all non-visual components of the scenario. In the context of sexual imagery, this privileging of the visual over all else perpetuates the pornographic (etym: Greek, prostitute writing, lest we forget) construction of sexuality in a patriarchy.

  41. Twisty

    “This is 2006, compas”

    And to think, sometimes I wonder why I keep a blog.

  42. BubbasNightmare

    Yeah. That’s part of the reason why I don’t see a anti-Patriarchal revolution having a chance of being successful; the revolution itself would have to contend with its own “patriarchal emissions”, to borrow a phrase.

    IMO, the use of multiple, very small, under-the-radar nudges is the only way I can see of any kind of success in this realm. I see the use of education, leverage, and biology as the only way to slowly nudge this juggernaut off of its destructive path.

    Evolutionary changes take time (usually more than anyone wants), but historically, evolution usually brings more lasting changes than revolution.

  43. magickitty

    I love you all.

  44. Yeny

    I am completely in awe of you, Twisty.

  45. Bird

    LMYC, even though we do battle sometimes, I do absolutely love you.

    That may be the first time I’ve ever heard someone talk about the effects of stuff like wearing high heels as a feminist without me feeling immediately defensive and guilty as I look down at my feet. Thanks for offering a different way to consider my decisions.

  46. LMYC

    I’m a bit lukewarm toward the whole “master’s tools” thing — you can’t dismantle the master’s house with them, but you might have to grit your teeth and use them to make your OWN tools, with which you CAN at least make a few dents in the master’s house, or ameliorate its effects on your life.

    The trick is to know the difference between the two sets of tools, and nto to bullshit yourself that when YOU use the master’s tools, it’s okay because you have good feminist karma.

    No, you use them clear-eyed and aware of how they work, the damage they do, and why. That way, when better tools are to hand, you can pick them up, and know precisely when to drop the old ones down the shit-chute.

    And while I’m the first person to agree that patriarchy will never go away, I don’t think this analogy really illustrates why, only because again, you start out having to burn fossil fuels in the process of creating new choices. Once those other technologies are at a level where you can start using them, even just a bit, then things get better. The problem isn’t an abstract tautology, it’s that there are real, concrete choices made by human beings to hamstring and destroy those technologies because they fear them.

    Again, I do think that patriarchy is not going to go away, but I don’t think it’s necessarily because of this analogy. Using this analogy, Gore IS doing good despite burning fossil fuels, even if he can travel someplace by smoke-belching 747 and convince them to put up a wind farm.

  47. LMYC

    Bird, I tend to think of it like when Hillary Clinton had to do that infantile, ridiculous cookie-baking thing in 1991. I can guarantee that it galled her right down to the soles of her Rockport-clad feet.

    But she was stuck doing it, and now that she’s been elected, she’s at least trying to do some good. As a Senator, she’s probably had a better net effect for women than the negative effect of that stupid cookie-baking bullshit-o-rama. That in no way denies the very real fact that the cookie-baking bullshit dumped a shitload of carbon into the air. But she was stuck.

    We just all need to make the choices we make wide-awake and with our eyes open and our brains engaged. If you’re going to call yourself a feminist — or an environmentalist — you don’t get the luxury of sleepwalking. And however bad you may feel about something, you can always make some positive choice someplace, as long as you don’t lie to yourself or anyone else.

  48. delphyne

    Small note – when Lorde referred to “the master’s tools” she meant racism. A lot of white people seems to miss that and instead try to apply it to situtations it was never created for. That could be why you’re uncomfortable with the metaphor, LYMC.

  49. bigbalagan

    LMYC—On the other hand, it’s easier for me to envision the end of capitalism than the end of the patriarchy. I never would have said that some years back in my proto-marxist phase. Twisty has pushed me right over the edge.

    I mean, class relations are clearly another tool in the patriarchal arsenal, and I guess another way to put what I just said would be, “the working class will ‘liberate’ itself before the sex class will”. Liberate has to be in quotes because it cannot be true liberation until the sex class is liberated. While one can see the historical beginning (and maybe end) of the class structures that support capitalism, who can describe a historical time when there was not a sex class? What is the dialectic that will synthesize *that* one?

  50. LMYC

    Delphyne, I don’t see why it’s not applicable here, and I doubt that Lorde compartmentalized the two quite that thoroughly.

    The master’s tools were made for the service of white, straight males — they disadvantage anyone who doesn’t fit that category, however they may deviate.

  51. Feminist Avatar

    Instead of the master’s tools thing, I prefer to think of female agency, which is of course not the same a free choice. Women have consistently fought the patriarchy by standing their own ground in the face of opposition as best they can, by hanging on to that sense of their own identity even when in a place of very limited choice. Sometimes agency can seem really small in the face of the big patriarchy, but it is how women have brought change over time. I think this may be similar to BubbasNightmare idea of evolutionary change.

    I think that why we made need revolution is that patriarchy has thus far been able to systematically respond to these challenges, to evolve to meet resistance.

  52. LMYC

    FA, that’s a good point — feminism will evolve, but like e. coli, patriarchy also evolves against it.

    That’s why punctuated change is sometimes necessary — and evolution bears that out as well.

  53. EN

    This is my favorite bit from Dieter’s blather, and not just because of the dropped article or his difficulty with subject/verb agreement: “If a person thinks they’re happy, oppression can become uselessly academic point.”

    There is no grasp of the fact that knowing that one is happy, and thinking that one is happy, are two completely different things. There is a huge gap between the two, a gap caused by oppression; to call this a useless academic point is not only to renounce any interest in women’s happiness, but to reject the possibility of it.

  54. Wrongshore

    Well, it’s not far from 2006. Maybe I’ll switch back to old-timey union argot. Fellow workers!

  55. LouisaMayAlcott

    I like that idea of punctuated change. I don’t yet know *why* I like it, but I know that I do.

  56. delphyne

    Have you read her piece “The Master’s Tools”, LMYC, because I don’t think she could be any more explicit. She’s criticising white feminists for their racism and classism and for refusing to celebrate or even acknowledge the differences that exist between women. To quote a small part –

    “If white american feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us, and the resulting difference in aspects of our oppressions, then what do you do with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor and third world women? What is the theory behind racist feminism?”

  57. Panic

    De Beauvoir had an excellent point about happiness, in that it shouldn’t even be part of the equation, when you’re talking about oppression (IIRC).

  58. LMYC

    Delphyne, yes — I have read it. And I still think that what the woman says is applicable to patriarchy as well as to white racism. Minorities everywhere are constrained to working for their own advancement within a system that was specificalyl designed to disadvantage them.

    Now, you tell me how that ISN’T THE CASE with women in a patriarchy.

    And do you really think that Lorde wasn’t aware of the ways in which both patriarchy and white racism impacted her life? I simply fail to see how the fact that white women can be racist is used to invalidate the applicability of what Lorde said to patriarchy.

    Again, all minorities are stuck working to advance themselves within a system that was designed to put them at a disadvantage. The fact that white women can be racist does not in the slightest invalidate this.

    Christ, is this rocket science or what?

  59. Twisty

    “Christ, is this rocket science or what?”

    Apparently it is, since only about 37 people in the world get it.

    And by “it” I mean “feminism.”

  60. LMYC

    To illustrate further, do you think it’s appropriate for any civil rights movement that’s not composed exclusively of black people to refer to Martin Luther King as an inspirational figure? Especially when some of those people might have been racist themselves?

    Further illustration: when deaf students took over and paralyzed Gallaudet because they were pissed off (rightfully so) at teh selection of yet another hearing president, they chose to carry a banner that said “WE STILL HAVE A DREAM.” King inspired them.

    To stomp in and say, “He was talking about WHITE RACISM, and so since you are all mostly WHITE PEOPLE, clearly his words DON’T APPLY TO YOU OR YOUR PROBLEMS!” is ridiculous. King’s words apply to any group of disadvantaged people who want to be seen on their own damned merits.

    To refuse to acknowledge the truth adn applicability of Lorde’s words to patriarchy would be insane. The woman’s words are correct, goddamn it.

  61. edith

    I really like LMYC’s metaphor.

  62. slownews

    It wasn’t until I came here and realized that since this patriarchy shit is literally the air we breathe, that we are both being oppressed and we have to work within their rules no matter what.

    You are all amazing, especially Twisty and LMYC, and I love you. I’m trying my best to live and raise my daughter and sons as feminists, and you all help out enormously.

    Donating my high heels to a used clothing store in the near future, sn.

  63. Trout

    As I see it, the problem isn’t Dieter’s point, but his (unspoken) premise, which is that women actually have some kind of ownership and control over their own bodies. In a world where it was universally acknowledged that women owned their own breasts, butts, lips, mouths, and vaginas, where every human being understood that women were 100% equal, where women could decide completely for themselves whether and how to participate in sexual behavior, it might make some sense to ask the questions Dieter is asking. In other words, I would diagnose Dieter as being very young and inexperienced, just as I was twenty years ago. (Notice my clumsy foreshadowing…)

    That said, I suspect the conditions Dieter imagines do exist for some extremely small subset of women. I imagine they’re women with good feminist family support, in big cities with woman-friendly police departments, who own their own business and have a partner who treats them as 100% an equal.

    I further suspect the sexual stories of these women and their mates are very interesting, and I’d love to hear/read/watch them, for reasons that go well beyond the prurient. I have some strong interest in how a person who lives outside the patriarchy thinks about sex.

    Unfortunately, these people are hothouse flowers, (Hippolyta, perhaps?) and the effect of releasing their sex stories (recorded in any media) would be the same as throwing fertilizer from an all-organic compost heap into a sewer. Once the stuff has been sitting in the sewer for a few minutes, who can tell the difference?

    I bring all this up to introduce a personal story about nudity and photography. I once had a very beautiful girlfriend who, after multiple requests, finally allowed me to photograph her. I wanted to portray her in a long coat with an umbrella, and she went along with my plans for perhaps an hour. Once she was comfortable, however, she seized control of the photo shoot. She took off her clothes and began to masturbate, (though she only allowed me to photograph her face while she was doing so.) After she had her orgasm, she demanded immediate sex in quite graphic terms, during which she cried copiously. Afterward, she told me that she loved humiliation, and that it had been a wonderful, sexual afternoon – which wasn’t what I’d been aiming for at all.

    I was in my early twenties at the time, very young and dumb, and had no idea what to make of the whole thing. I had no clue about what questions to ask, or how to put together the hints she had given me. To a large degree, I’m still clueless about her – getting a straight answer from this woman was like pulling teeth, not to mention that her problems and issues were beyond my (extremely young and dumb) ability to handle.

    At the time I thought of myself as a smart, clueful guy who knew women were my equals. I believed myself perfectly capable of navigating a “simple” encounter with a woman and a camera…

    I’ve still got the photos someplace. What do you suggest Dieter? Should I post these “consensual” pictures on the Internet?

    BTW, Twisty, your new commenting script with preview makes it very difficult to cut and paste text from another program. I find that I have to insert two html “break” tags where I want a paragraph. Is anyone else having that problem, or does it relate to my software somehow? (I’m using Ubuntu Linux 6.06, and I have the same problem regardless of which word processing program I use.)

  64. linden

    Saying that feminism is no good for women of color because the movement mostly contained white women is a classic way to split off women of color by telling them their main problem is race, not gender. Let’s not forget the reason there was a second wave of feminism was because the mainstream civil rights movement was run by, and for, men. Keep your eye on the sparrow!

  65. linden

    Trout — Since you’ve been so forthcoming with your story, I hope you don’t mind if I ask what might seem like some nosy questions. From the time your subject started to take off her clothes and masturbate without prompting, it seems like you were uncomfortable with the situation, yet you continued to negotiate with her about how to take the pictures and then had sex with her. Was there ever a moment when you thought about calling a halt to the activity? Did you really want the sex, and was it enjoyable? Or did you feel like you just had to go through with it because she’d made you horny and men are supposed to have sex every time they’re horny and there’s a convenient opportunity?

  66. Bird

    To speak to the other side of Trout’s story, I had a very pornsick relationship in my early 20s where I was essentially the puppet to act out a man’s fantasies. He got so far into porn that he would no longer know what would turn him on in real life until he actually tried it, which led to acting out all sorts of things that make my bile rise into my throat now that I look back. I gave my “consent,” but I was definitely coerced.

    He was also an artist, and I “allowed” him to draw me in all sorts of ways that I otherwise would never have consented to because supposedly it was all about trust and love and “giving myself” to him.

    I said yes at the time. Would it now be okay for him to publish those images? Technically, I did consent. And drawings aren’t the same thing as photos when it comes to the subject’s rights—if he really wanted to publish them, he could do so without my permission.

    By the way, I’m lucky. At the end of the relationship, I insisted that he relinquish those drawings, and I’ve since destroyed them. Trout, I’d suggest you do the same—you can’t give them back to her, but a decent human being wouldn’t hang on to those photos.

  67. thebewilderness

    This is WAY more complicated than rocket science, it’s about people.
    As was said in a previous thread, once enough women recognize the patriarchy for what it is, and commit to minimum compliance, a revolution begins.

  68. delphyne

    ““Christ, is this rocket science or what?”

    Apparently it is, since only about 37 people in the world get it.

    And by “it” I mean “feminism.””

    Oh I get feminism fine, Twisty, radical feminism at that.

    I also get that white feminists seem to have taken Lorde’s words and used them to apply to just about every situation *apart* from the racism Lorde was addressing when she coined the phrase “the master’s tools”. It’s called appropriation.

    And LMYC, Lorde’s words referred specifically to patriarchy – that’s what “the master’s house” means, in other words you can’t defeat patriarchy by using racism. It’s not exactly rocket science now is it?

  69. LMYC

    Delphyne, you are just not getting this — Lorde’s words APPLY TO MANY DISCIMINATIONS. Okay? Christ on a fucking crutch, woman. What the hell is your damned problem?

  70. Trout


    I’m uncomfortable mainly in retrospect.

    At the time I was in the middle of a very fucked up relationship, and not seeing things terribly clearly. Also, I’d asked this woman to try lots of new sexual stuff, so when she started doing something that turned her on and asked me to participate, it fell on me to be a good sport just as she had been. It would have been hypocritical, and probably bad for the relationship, to ask her to stop.

    Twenty years later, of course, I can see that she had been raped and possibly forced into an abortion, (though the abortion part is very, very speculative) during the relationship immediately previous to ours, (by which I mean five years earlier) but she couldn’t use anything close to the word “rape” to describe it. She may have even been unable to use such words in her own thoughts.

    I suspect that she was trying desperately to socialize what had happened to her by experimenting with issues of force and power during sex. She probably had a set of major dom/sub kinks, but couldn’t sort them out from her need to socialize the rape, which was quite problematic. Unfortunately, her needs played into my kinks…

    It was an ugly situation all around, and failing to figure out what was happening and at least attempting to fix the problem is one of my major regrets.

    Of course, I couldn’t have figured it out until I’d handled my own molestation issues, which didn’t happen until five years later…


    As I said. Young and dumb.

  71. bluestockingsrs

    To build on what LMYC has said with regard to Audre Lorde’s writings, the reframing of the civil rights movement as a movement only concerned with racial equality is curious to me, since I think it is pretty clear that the goal was social and economic justice for all people.

    I think LMYC breaks this down pretty well up there but this idea that there are not intersections of oppression ultimately hobbles coalition building among oppressed groups.

    I agree the Audre Lorde was one of those people (among others) who articulated how oppression intersects in one body. Like, me for example, I am a middle class queer white woman. I am oppressed by virtue of being female and a queer, but am the oppressor because of my skin color and class. We are simultaneously with and without privilege at all times in this hierarchal existence.

  72. slythwolf

    I’m having a blast reading this thread, and I wish I had something constructive to add, but mainly I’m just overjoyed somebody else says “Jesus tap-dancing Christ”. :)

  73. Twisty

    Yo Delphyne, when I said “by ‘it’ I mean ‘feminism'” I had hoped to convey that I wasn’t commenting on the whole Audre Lorde controversy, but was in fact making a dumb joke.

    I should know better than to comment on blogs. I suck at it.

  74. delphyne

    Fair enough Twisty. I am prickly today.

  75. Twisty

    Trout, the only other complaint I’ve gotten about the preview thing was from Mandos, so obviously I ignored it. I think it must be a Linux/guy thing.

  76. Trout

    Bird, you have a very good point about destroying those photos. Certainly the pictures in which she was masturbating are probably an issue of poor mental health making real consent impossible. Do let me emphasize, however, that these pictures show only her shoulders/face/neck, and the rest show her fully clothed. (I’m not worried about them.)

    If the pictures turn up again I’ll try to look at them with your eyes and make a good decision. (At the moment the items in question are in an unlabelled box someplace in the garage, storage unit, or closet, so they’re in no danger of being found by anyone but me regardless. None of the pictures have been digitized, BTW.)

  77. justicewalks

    …the reframing of the civil rights movement as a movement only concerned with racial equality is curious to me, since I think it is pretty clear that the goal was social and economic justice for all people.

    You’d be mistaken. The leaders of the civil rights movement were pretty adamantly opposed to any social or economic justice for women. Their role was to be some man’s perpetual fluffer helpmeet, like in the Bible. Especially black women, because who really cares what other people are doing with their womenfolk, right? Now, the logical conclusion of all that dream talk certainly is social and economic justice for all, but that conclusion must be drawn by King’s torch bearers. It’s not one he’d reached.

  78. Trout

    Twisty, after a little more thought, it’s probably an issue with the different ways Linux and Windows handle line feeds. Windows uses a Carriage Return plus a Lindfeed character to indicate the end of a block of text, while Linux uses a Linefeed character only. (MAC uses a Carriage Return character only.)

    If anyone other than Twisty and I are interested, there’s a short article here.

    This is probably a simple change to make. If you don’t program, send me the script you’re using and I’ll see if I can fix it. No guarantees, but I’ll take a look.

  79. bluestockingsrs

    Yeah, I get this, hello? Bayard Rustin is a perfect example of how the civil rights movement fell down on the job. All movements for change are flawed in deeply horrific ways (the US revolution and slavery for example) and some just haven’t figured out all the pieces yet.

    I think Audre Lorde gave us a pretty clear picture about how some of those pieces intersect.

    But my point is, I guess, that as descendants of that movement we should be able to recognize the intersections of oppression.

  80. acm

    Now fervid with the thrilling pursuit of erudition, . . .

    I think I swooned upon reading that.

  81. justicewalks

    Recognizing the ways in which a certain theory can be extrapolated to a broader scope doesn’t have to come at the cost of denying the original intent of said theory. One can say, “while so-and-so intended this for black people’s purposes, it is also useful in this other context.” Regularly giving voice to the novel ways in which a particular philosophy can be applied without ever harkening back to the originator’s intent sometimes seems like entitled appropriation. I’m not saying that a person needs to always do that, allude to the intent of the original author, but the fact that certain groups of people NEVER do when it comes to the works of certain authors can seem suspect when it’s not to your own advantage to obscure it.

    I’m not personally questioning your motives. I’m just pointing out that the ways in which the consistent neglect of more privileged people to give even cursory mention, not all the time, but ever, to these things gets old.

    That said, yes, Audre Lorde’s words have relevance to us all, despite the fact that she had a particular foe in mind when she wrote them.

  82. Random Lurker

    There’s a long history of American feminism using the struggle for racial equality as inspiration. Fredrick Douglass was one of the signatories of the Seneca Falls Convention’s Declaration of Sentiments. According to reports, after the Declaration was read he was the *only* man present to stand and applaud.

  83. Narya

    Yeah, okay, whatever . . . I’m still just completely entertained at a post that contained “jesus tap-dancing christ,” “iconoclast,” and “praxis,” along with the strewing-rose-petals image. Sometimes–especially when whatever I’m copyediting is particularly poorly written–I despair, but the pure enjoyment of saying things well (and in an entertaining fashion, no less) that emanates from Twisty’s writing, well, I’m kinda in love.

    As for the porn thing, I think it’s partly age-related; I think the increased availability of it has really warped everyone. (“In my day, we had to READ porn, not just look at pictures!”).

  84. Ron Sullivan

    Lorde’s words referred specifically to patriarchy – that’s what “the master’s house” means, in other words you can’t defeat patriarchy by using racism.

    delphyne, I remember reading those words back when Lorde first said them, and I was simultaneously thrilled and bugged by them. I figured optimistically that they meant pretty much what you’re saying here, but one does hear them applied all over the place, sometimes validly I guess. I’m willing to call LMYC’s use here that, for all that you’ve been bristling at each other over it.

    Or maybe I’m still bouncing in my definitely non-Aeron chair over LMYC’s carbon emissions metaphor, I dunno.

    What has bugged me since then is the interesting task of distinguishing between the master’s tools and the tools that are damn well mine by birthright but the master has stolen. In that thinking I’ve been comforted by Ntzoke Shange’s line about how stealing it [“my stuff”] doesn’t make it yours; makes it stolen.

    But science, for instance. Rationality, empiricism. That is fucking well NOT the master’s; it’s mine. I’ll be damned if I’ll let them walk off with all the goodies, and I’ll push for using all the self-correcting mechanisms it’s got in it and prize the humility I learn from it.

    Well hell, here, example: Politically, we’re all transitional forms. So we don’t need to expect to be perfect, just to look for ways we can do better; we don’t need to believe our predecessors were perfect, just that they got one or two things right and we don’t need to perpetuate their mistakes to honor them or ourselves.

    What I’m wondering, prickliness aside, is whether you personally see that sentence as applying to anything else. And if so, what? (If not, that simplifies thinking about it. No, I’m not awaiting a prescription of course. I just like seeing how other women’s thinking evolves.)

  85. Spit The Dummy

    Delphyne said: And LMYC, Lorde’s words referred specifically to patriarchy – that’s what “the master’s house” means, in other words you can’t defeat patriarchy by using racism. It’s not exactly rocket science now is it?

    What’s the prob? Tools is plural, right? The “master” (ie the Patriarchy) has more than one “tool”, of which racism is one, which Lorde is specifically referencing. LMYC is simply extending the metaphor further. It’s a pretty handy little metaphor, I think we can share it around a little without getting our knickers in a twist.

  86. delphyne

    “What has bugged me since then is the interesting task of distinguishing between the master’s tools and the tools that are damn well mine by birthright but the master has stolen. In that thinking I’ve been comforted by Ntzoke Shange’s line about how stealing it [”my stuff”] doesn’t make it yours; makes it stolen.”

    See this is what I can’t relate to. Lorde’s piece is about racism and classism (“the master’s tools”) so why would you want to extend that to mean anything else? Why can’t the metaphor stand as it is? Where does this idea of the master stealing stuff come from? Because it’s not there in what Lorde says.

    What has happened with the phrase is that it has been stretched and twisted so its original meaning and the original point she was making has ben obscured. I’ve seen it used in lots of places, by white feminists, usually to put other white feminists down, and *never* as a criticism of racism. Usually it’s been something about hierarchy or dominance and not very clear at that. LMYC’s use does at least retain part of the spirit of it. When I finally did read Lorde for myself it was blindingly obvious what she was saying and I have to say I was really surprised at how her words had been misused and misappropriated.

    I think the giveaway as to why it can’t be extended anywhere else is the term “the master’s house”. Who built the “master’s house” using “the master’s tools”? It’s not just a pretty metaphor for patriarchy, African American slaves were forced to build their masters’ houses in the American South. There were real masters. There were real “masters’ houses”.

    And you know even if that reading is wrong, I still think it’s more tactful and respectful for white feminists (and Lorde was directing her criticism at all white feminists, not just a handful who got it wrong at a conference) to respect the original meaning and not try and change it in order to use it to make their own points.

    I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t said anything because I too was cheering on LMYC.

  87. delphyne

    “not just a pretty metaphor for patriarchy, pulled out of nowhere in particular”

  88. justicewalks

    I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t said anything because I too was cheering on LMYC.

    One can cheer a person on for her insights in one arena (feminism) and, at the same time, bemoan her entitled appropriation of another woman’s work in another arena (racism). It isn’t necessary to overlook the shortcoming in order to appreciate the gift.

  89. Zonk

    “I’ve still got the photos someplace. What do you suggest Dieter? Should I post these “consensual” pictures on the Internet?”

    Well of course not, but probably for reasons that involve privacy and breach of trust.

    Is your point that she likes humiliation? So do many men. So do I. Oh noes, I’m being oppressed.

    There’s many ways to make your point without using anecdotes that only vaguely fit the argument.

  90. Kathy

    I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments here – very thought-provoking. But I have to say, I don’t know about the “master’s tools” stuff. When I first read the article (as a neophyte womens’ studies major), I really picked up on the racism and classism points – probably because I was a white feminist, and had already realized to some extent how I was privileged as a white person, so I read it and I was like, “Right on!” because Lorde was articulating what I had sort of suspected but not really understood, and she just broke it down so well. Now, years later, Lorde is one of “my favorites,” and I really think she’s brilliant – so I’m a little hesitant, *now*, to say that the “master’s tools” only referred to racism and classism. Especially now that I know more about Lorde than I did in that intro class. One of the things I appreciate about Lorde is her multiple consciousness (is that the right term?) – that she sees so clearly how everything fits together. And knowing that she was also (in no ranked order, on my part) lesbian, female, disabled, I find it hard to believe that she wasn’t aware of how heterosexism, sexism, and able-ism fit into the master’s toolbox, and worked with racism and classism (and whatever else) to disadvantage her.

    Did I make any sense? Basically, I find Lorde too clear-sighted and clear-thinking to believe that – even if she originally meant “master’s tools” *only* to refer to racism and classism, and even if she originally wrote that to wake us white feminists up – she would disagree with LMYC’s extention of the metaphor to include other systems of oppression.

  91. justicewalks

    While she may not disagree with the extension of her metaphor, she might balk at the notion that her original intent need not even be mentioned by white feminists, at whom it was directed.

  92. Kathy

    I guess that’s fair enough – but I also don’t want to put words in Lorde’s mouth, or confine her to only racism and classism if that wasn’t her only intention, since that feels a little presumptuous-white-feminist-of-me to me. And it’s been a while since I’ve read it (well, a semester), so I’m operating off memory and can’t recall the exact wording. I know what I’ll be re-reading and thinking about tonight.

  93. CannibalFemme

    Delphyne and Justicewalks, this is just a random and sadly insipid note of gratitude for everything you’ve said, and especially for bringing in ‘appropriation’. I hear you, I appreciate your speaking up, thank you.

    I am in entire agreement with others in this thread that IBTP is *the* place to come for hardcore feminism largely unsullied by masculine whining and/or female compromise. With that said, I often do bemoan the other forms of privilege here which seem to go unchallenged.

  94. buggle

    Can you say more about your last sentence CannibalFemme?

  95. Bird

    Zonk, go back and read that post again.

    Trout was pointing out that she “consented” because she had some pretty big psychological scars from stuff in her past that led to her actions of the day. She didn’t really like being humiliated; it was her mind’s attempt to normalize the horrifying experiences she’d been through in the past. Did you not read Trout’s statement that she had been raped in her previous relationship? I’d say her actions that afternoon with the camera had little to do with her liking anything.

    A lot of women (and men) who supposedly enjoy being humiliated are actually the victims of abuse or have pretty major traumas in their past. That sort of behaviour often covers some very serious pain.

    That’s the same sort of pain that leads many women into porn. That’s the sort of misery that makes real consent impossible, even if a person says the word “yes.” I see the connection. If you don’t, you’re reading the wrong blog.

  96. smmo

    Twisty’s point that opposing the pornocracy is in fact the opposite of priggish is so fucking right on. Porn is not edgy or bohemian or counterculture. It is middling and dull and a human rights crisis.

    LMYC’s metaphor about patriarchy and carbon emissions is freaking genius. She watches Hornblower, I watch football. For someone to point out to us that these are patriarchal is not oppressive, it is merely the truth. I am so fucking tired of fauxminists whining about their ill-treatment by feminists. They are outraged by such horrifying abuse as being disagreed with on a blog but johns and other assholes get a pass. IBTP.

  97. J


    Referring back up to what you said about half-way down the comments, about engaging patriarchy being inevitable on the way to resisting it, though our steps backward can never match or exceed our steps forward, I appreciate the insight. As you may know, Alternet posted Is stripping a feminist act?, which is about how the author (an alternet writer) used stripping to give herself the financial edge to do more than live day-to-day, including write a book.

    The virulent pro-sex backlash against the expectable “yeah, but…” that a few people, myself included, were inclined to say was hard to negotiate, if not to say impossible. I had the thought in mind that while rags-to-riches is as impossibly possible in the stripping world as it is elsewhere, there was something more insidious about stripping than its individual consequences. Thank you for giving me/us some perspective on how to frame what I think other people think as well.

  98. mearl

    Twisty, your post made me howl with laughter. Have I told you lately that you are my hero?

    I don’t have much more to add since everyone else has already said what has been whirling around inside the pointed head. Except for this: Zonk, if you would kindly send me your address I will mail you a bottle of skull-thinner. It might help with things. Or you could just think about the complete FUCKHEADEDNESS of comparing women’s and men’s “enjoyment” of humiliation in the context of the GLARING FACT that we live in a world where women don’t have power (as the world defines it)in real life OR in fantasy, and are beaten, humiliated, sexualised, raped, killed, tortured, demeaned, brainwashed, mentally terrorised and otherwise treated like less than donkeys BY MEN EVERYWHERE on a regular and pervasive basis.

    The bottle of skull-thinner comes with a long, pointed dunce cap, compliments of the house.

  99. Bird

    Mearl, I love you ’cause you’re so much less polite than me and say all the stuff that I bite my tongue about. If I’m ever out Manitoba-way, I’m buying you lunch.

  100. Q Grrl

    So Lorde gives us a tool of her own and we shouldn’t use it?

    Pissing on the gateposts of metaphors is patriarchal to the core.

  101. CannibalFemme

    Buggle: oh, you betcha. I can always say *more*. I understand it’s one of the ways in which I continually offend.

    At any rate: here is my disclaimer that I am no scholar. I am going completely off of my instincts and interpretations and opinions. With that said, my experience here often follows this pattern:

    Some random dude or nice dude comes in here and says something which they perhaps don’t intend to be offensive, but is indeed offensive and ignorant. At that point, many commenters here point out that they are way off base, or unenlightened, or in need of feminism 101, or are just a basic knob–all of which I absolutely, wholeheartedly, approve and applaud and get all excited about. It’s why I come here. IBTP’ers call bullshit on male entitlement and male privilege. It’s all kinds of yay!

    Then, at some point, there will be an IBTP comment which, to me, seems classist, racist or homophobic, and these often pass unchallenged. I challenged a few myself in the past, but the opinion expressed at that point was that this venue is intended for feminism, and critiques of other forms of oppression were neither appropriate nor welcome. Since I’m a fairly polite and high-functioning sociopathic vigilante, I accepted that as a rule, and let it go.

    But it still bums me out.

  102. redhead

    CannibalFemme –
    Some of us want to hear these things. Keep us accountable.

  103. buggle

    Thanks CannibalFemme- I want to hear it too. As a white woman with a whole lotta privilege, it’s all too easy for me to just not see stuff, since it’s not in my own personal experience. I don’t expect anyone else to educate me or anything, but it’s great when people call me on my stuff. Hard, but great.

  104. Twisty

    You go, CannibalFemme. Racism and classism must needs be outed. A word of caution when accusing blamers of isms, though: provide specific examples. These vague “the commenters at IBTP are classist racists” remarks do nothing to enbiggen the discourse.

  105. B. Dagger Lee

    This has been bugging me for a long time; Lorde’s essay is about recognizing difference. The “master’s tools” erase difference and construct discourse so as to make white, heterosexual feminists speak for and represent all women.

    From Audre Lorde’s 1979 essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,”

    “As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.

    Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference—those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older—know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” (p. 112, Sister Outsider)

    Also pertinent to this discussion, same essay, same page: “Poor women and women of Color know there is a difference between the daily manifestations of marital slavery and prostitution because it is our daughters who line 42nd Street.”

    yrs, B. Dagger Lee

  106. Trout

    Bird, I wouldn’t say that the ex-GF in question “consented” in any sense of the word, because I didn’t propose anything beyond ordinary, clothes-on photography. She did something that I didn’t expect at all, then reacted to having her picture taken in a second, completely unexpected manner, then talked about what had happened using language and concepts I would not have expected her to attach to the previous events.

    What made it a big deal (are you listening, Zonk?) was the depth of psychological damage the events revealed, and what they say about the possibility of getting “sane” consent for the taking of pornographic images.

    Yes, there are doubtless some people who are very, very sane about sex. But how do you pick them out of the crowd, for purposes of either viewing or participating in some imagined form of non-patriarchal, hard-core erotica? I’m not sure it’s possible.

  107. Bird

    Trout, that’s exactly what I meant by putting consent in quotation marks. Although she permitted/encouraged the events, it wasn’t actually consent at all.

    I think we are saying the same thing in different words. In the context of patriarchal culture, sane and free consent is impossible to discern and does not exist in any real sense in most cases. In this current world, all porn is tainted by that fact no matter what the intent or desires of those involved in the creation of the image.

  108. Shakes

    I see porn as being harmful in three distinct arenas. First, it is harmful to the women involved in making the porn. Second, it maintains the patriarchal status quo. And third, it pornopolizes sex. That is to say that permeates into men’s and women’s consciousness so that they reproduce porn in their own beds.

    I like sex. A lot. But sometimes I feel that I am merely reenacting the pornographic tropes embedded in society. For example, it’s fun for my boyfriend and me when he occasionally blindfolds me while we’re being physically intimate. It’s fun because it adds that element of surprise. It’s also a nice feeling to be able to trust him. But sometimes when I think about these kinds of activities, I’m ashamed or revolted. How could I let him debase me? Why do I enjoy it? I would like to believe that certain “kinks” that have been canonized in pornography can be genuine actions between two people.

    If we did not live in this pornsick culture, sex wouldn’t be so fetishized and pre-packaged. People would be able to discover what they like for themselves.

  109. B. Dagger Lee

    delphyne, justicewalks and CannibalFemme preceded me in comments about Lorde’s meaning–big dyke infinitesimal chin nods to them.

    The tool that Lorde gives us–Sister Outsider Specs–is to see difference, and value it. It’s against Grand Unifying Theory, aka White Male Norm.

    Ron, if science and empiricism and logic are being dismissed as the Master’s Tools, the essay is being misread and misparaphrased. (Although all reading is misreading. Ha-ha!)


  110. CannibalFemme

    I hereby disavow vagueness in future, and I do feel much more free to share my opinion, thank you all for your kind support! It’s better than undoing my belt after dinner. Whew.

    For this specific post, I will attempt to sum up by saying that I’m in agreement with Delphyne about appropriation. As far as I understand it, appropriation isn’t about pissing on goalposts, but rather about respecting that which exists outside of whiteness, and understanding that white folks’ commentary about, opinion of, or claiming of pieces of any of that stuff is problematic.

    So for me, that is akin to men coming in here and expressing their privileged opinion, without any understanding of what makes their opinion privileged.

    Goodness. It’s very taxing for me to be that serious for that long. Now I need to tell B. Dagger Lee how much I adore her, and also tell LYMC that I see her Hornblower and raise her a Harry Potter and Stargate Atlantis, lordy.

  111. Patti

    Bird and Mearl – yes, and yes, and yes. I was in a BDSM relationship for almost 2 years, and based on my own past abuse, and the abuse histories of many of the women I met, I view the term “consent” with suspicion, if not a derisive snort. I came close to killing myself a number of times, while insisting that everything was ok.

    Twisty, thank you for being here and making a safe space.

  112. Silence

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, Patti, Bird and Mearl. I find what you’re saying because I — thank whatever kind spirits or good luck caused it to be so — have never been in an abusive relationship. I’ve been leered at, pinched, pawed, groped, and grabbed, par for the course when you’re a woman in the patriarchy, but never abused. And if anyone did try to tie me up, handcuff, or whip me during a sexual encounter, I do believe my gut instinct would be to thrash, kick free, and then possibly try to kill them.

    I have no say over whether people perform BDSM or not. I’m not suggesting we make laws regulating it or criminalizing it. But I always turn a skeptical eye when people insist that it is liberating or about trust or whatever line they use to justify their enjoyment of it. I prefer to think that the things we enjoy require no justification.

    That said, I’ll see CannibalFemme’s Hornblower, Harry Potter, Stargate Atlantis, and raise her The Seven Samurai. Best damn movie ever.

  113. Trout

    Shakes, everyone has their kinks. It’s very important to not be ashamed of them, and very important not to judge yourself harshly on account of your personal “perversions.”

    Whether your kinks come from your genetics, your brain-chemistry, or your psychology, the simple fact is everybody has a kink or three. They are what they are, they’re damn-near impossible to change, and their origins are difficult (at the very least) to isolate. As long as you’re not hurting yourself or others, enjoy the kind of sex that appeals to you and love yourself. (If you are hurting yourself or someone else, obviously you should get help.)

    The idea that sex is degrading, or that certain kinds of sex are degrading, or that some kinds of sex are “better” or “worse” is, at it’s core, a patriarchal conception, as is the idea that “evil” kinds of sex will somehow make you into a worse person. Do whatever you and your lover enjoy in the bedroom, but judge yourself for how you behave outside the bedroom.

    I say this as someone who’s been wrestling with these questions for thirty years. All the therapy, naval gazing, and worrying in the world isn’t as good as loving yourself and trying to be good person in the real world (that is, the world outside your bedroom.) Beating yourself up is really, really counterproductive, but good orgasms are a gift from The Goddess.

    Most importantly, (at least for purposes of this discussion) you have considerable control over how porn influences your sex life. It’s not an instruction manual. A less-unhealthy approach might be to think of porn as a menu. You can order whatever you want, have dessert first, just have a salad, go to another restaurant, or (this is far more nutritious) cook at home using your “favorite organic ingredients.”

  114. edith

    Uh, porn as a menu? With women as the meat? That we salivate over and rip out with our teeth? I’m not feeling it.

  115. Trout

    Uh, porn as a menu? With women as the meat? That we salivate over and rip out with our teeth? I’m not feeling it.

    No Edith, not like that. It seems to me that Shakes (or someone in her life) is giving porn too much power. Thus I drew a deliberate contrast between “porn as instruction manual” (Instruction manuals must be obeyed, right?) and “porn as menu.” Unlike instruction manuals, menus don’t have to be obeyed. They offer many (sexual) options which can be accepted or rejected at will.

    That being said, porn is not a great menu – analogies involving McDonald’s come readily to mind – but better a menu than a manual, and thus my final suggestion that cooking at home with “organic ingredients” offers better value.

  116. Ron Sullivan

    Ron, if science and empiricism and logic are being dismissed as the Master’s Tools, the essay is being misread and misparaphrased.

    I’m thinking about that categorization not so much as a direct quote or paraphrase of Lorde’s piece as, rather, an extension of the metaphor. I do think that sort of extension is a useful thing. Pass the vodka, dearie: I’m soooooo ollllld that I remember “second wave” feminism’s leap from Civil Rights work to, well, civil rights thinking. And I do recognize that, for instance, extending the inalienable rights mentioned in the US Constitution to the rest of us is a similar good thing.

    One might be excused for thinking I believed in the myth of Progress. Well, this is progress; I just don’t think of it as inevitable.

    So. Lorde said that, and it was one of those metaphors through which lens I found myself looking at lots of things. And of course it got dragged into lots of other matters, like honest medicine (and I’m not all rosy about how that needs to be sifted out of standard practices) vs. woowoo and quackery — a live issue for me while I was a nurse, and in dealing with my own physical annoyances. And even where I didn’t feel it applied, I found I had to argue with other people about why. I do live in Berkeley, after all.

    In that context, I found Shange’s “stolen” metaphor useful.

    In talking about appropriation, I think it’s also useful to try to sort out whether the use of a metaphor in any particular instance is an oratorical trick/cheat or an acknowledgememt of its power.

    Apologies if I’m getting incoherent here. We spent the day on a press junket to Alcatraz and I’m exhausted. Damn but that place is vertical. Good, tho’.

  117. J

    “That being said, porn is not a great menu – analogies involving McDonald’s come readily to mind – but better a menu than a manual, and thus my final suggestion that cooking at home with “organic ingredients” offers better value”

    There’s that whole value-form thing coming in again. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m referencing absolutely nothing, though technically I am since my last two posts have been eaten-up by the website.

    At any rate, what you are doing by calling “cooking at home” a better value than “going to McDonald’s,” the difference being that between non-porn sex and porn-sex, is inadvertently conflating the two despite your best metaphorical efforts. I mention the value-form thing, because what you assume is that porn is about sex, or that the sex in porn is (about) sex. There is some level of equivalence at which you are trying to talk about sex in porn and sex not in porn that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist, because the sex in porn is at best a secondary feature of why its watched and how its produced.

    Porn is not about sex: plain and simple. Commodified (objectified) sex is no longer (about) sex, but an exchange value. Porn and sex-work in general is about exchange and the jollies one gets from having power in that context. What is being exchanged, though, are dehumanized human lives, particularly in their sexual dimension. Porn is the commodity-form of an otherwise unformed, raw human activity (physical sexuality). To that extent, the sex we identify in it is not sex but porn – a completely different species. In that form, sex has that “enigmatic character” of sometimes blatant sometimes insidious oppression.

  118. J


    I’m sure “matrifocal” is what you mean, but it is in no way a synonym for “matriarchy.” Matrifocal societies, which exist in rabid abundance compared to anything remotely matriarchal, are typically just a bad place to be a woman as the next, except you don’t move around as much, and when it matters wealth and junk is sometimes inherited through the mothers and daughters. It is nevertheless controlled and exploited by the men, just as are the women.

    Cynthia Eller’s “The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory” is a pretty good case against the notion of a present or past matriarchal society. She also points out how it can undermine feminist revolution by mystifying the past with an anthropological analysis that does not have much if any support in the very archaeological record it engages. A key pitfall to most so-called support of a matriarchal prehistory, namely the abundance of female (goddess) imagery, is that it in no way suggests how women were treated. A parallel example that I think she offers is how the abundance of female imagery today (porn, both explicit and subtle, as a chief example) obvious does not relate to how well women are treated.

  119. therealUK

    If people want to use a sex = food analogy, then porn = serious eating disorder. (ie NOT porn = a slightly less nutritious but fun every now and then menu alternative).

  120. Catherine Martell

    J – great post. Just what I was going to say, only more succinct and with a proper reference.

    Paulette, I don’t know about all the societies you mention, except a bit about the Machiguenga thanks to a friend who is an expert. They are certainly matrilineal, but in no sense are they a “matriarchy” in the way we understand “patriarchy”. Inheritance and the home are passed through a female line, but I think I’m right in asserting that chiefs, envoys and shamans are exclusively (or almost exclusively) male. Men are also usually the hunters, while women take the lead in cultivation of crops. The Machiguenga may have suffered less from the extremes of patriarchy than many other societies, but it is not accurate to describe them as matriarchal.

    Unfortunately, owing to the current experiences of contact with energy companies attempting to appropriate bits of their land, the Machiguenga lifestyle is becoming more, not less, patriarchal. Not least because of the company workers’ enthusiasm for using young Machiguenga women and girls as prostitutes. Indian Country Today had a distressing report on this a few months ago.

    I’m not sure what a deeper study of such societies would prove in the context you ask for it, and I have flashbacks to Coming of Age in Samoa when anyone starts to imply that the anthropology of indigenous peoples might provide evidence to support our own political beliefs about Western sexual mores. Care to elaborate?

    Meanwhile, this whole “porn is a menu (possibly for people with eating disorders)” thing is grossing me out. A bit like the icky structure of The Joy of Sex in which various copulatory possibilities are described as “appetizers”, “main courses” etc, alongside studenty sketches of hippies nibbling each other’s armpits. What’s the point of this metaphor? To imply that sex is a form of consumption? Or are you just trying to put me off my breakfast?

  121. justicewalks

    In talking about appropriation, I think it’s also useful to try to sort out whether the use of a metaphor in any particular instance is an oratorical trick/cheat or an acknowledgememt of its power.

    For me, this gets right to the heart of the issue. For me, it is a cheat if the “lens” is only used to gaze outward and never reflectively. This is why people are stressing to you that racism and classism are also tools of the patriarchy. It’s very nice indeed that women (and probably Lorde herself) have expanded the metaphor to include baking cookies and sex-class drag and blow jobs, all those things they can comfortably criticize because, hey, they’ve always been able to see the futility of aspiring to male-defined ideals. But one suggestion that perhaps west isn’t best and white isn’t right, and suddenly it’s more important to discuss every interpretation of Lorde’s words but the one that emphasizes the oft-used patriarchal tools (racism, classism) of straight, white, not-so-bad-off-if-they-do-say-so-themselves (and they do) women.

    We’ve got people on the Vile thread suggesting, in all seriousness, that it’s against the internet code of etiquette to post a comment in any language but English, as it has been deemed the universal language, and anyone who isn’t familiar with it isn’t worthy of expressing an opinion. On that same thread, there are people praising, in all seriousness, a (presumably male) commenter who burst onto the scene to let us know that misogyny is native only to “that entire region” or whatever and leave, as a calling card, a link to a racist screed.

    When you’ve got people posting things like this, you know you’ve got at least a handful of lurkers sitting at home nodding their heads in agreement. And yet, every response to this Lorde discussion (aside from a few notables; you know who you are) has been all pro-expansion of the metaphor. It looks to me like there are more than enough who need Lorde 101 before sailing right past the racism and classism to the other stuff. Whether from ignorance, blissful or willful, or outright malice, I don’t want those people also nodding in agreement with Lorde’s words before turning them on themselves. I think it’s a cheat to do so and, if I may be so frank, I think it is other white people’s responsibility to make sure they don’t, by also referencing interpretations of “master’s tools” that include the ones white people are more likely to use than others.

    Just as any man not actively swimming against the current adds force to the tidal wave of patriarchy, likewise does a complacent or silent white person exacerbate white supremacy (and, by extension, patriarchy, it being one of its tools and all).

  122. justicewalks

    I should say that any “you’s” up there are entirely general and not directed at any one person.

  123. scott

    Great post. On a trivial side note, it’s good to know that others use the “like it or lump it” ultimatum. I also prefer “like it or eat it.” I vary it according to taste and occasion.

  124. Twisty

    Trout: “porn as menu.”

    Are you fucking kidding me?

    I remind the dudely reader that porn is the graphic representation of violent oppression. It is only a ‘menu’ if you are the oppressor.

    I trust that Trout, who by now will have realized that ‘kink’ is a patriarchal construct, will refrain in future from offering relationship advice on this blog.

  125. Tigs

    My understanding of the philosophical argument that we cannot consent to our own oppression comes from Plato’s Republic, more specifically in the refutation of Thrasymachus.
    Is there a separate fundamental feminist philosophical argument, or does this argument go back to the dead white men (and is this problematic)?

  126. TP

    We all struggle with our response to porn. When the response is horror and disgust or when the response is lust and arousal.

    Trout can try to look at porn with new eyes. If he can see his own daughter bound and abused by men in all the wonderful sick ways that have become so common, and know that he can never be certain that her participation was as enthusiastic as he would hope it was, he might start to change his ideas of choices in porn.

    The choices so canonized and protected by porn-loving men are actually different symptoms of damage, as he kind of pointed out when talking about his girlfriend’s photo session.

    The only really human – versus masculine or feminine – choice in sex is to look at it as if it existed outside the hormonal whirlwind we live in. It’s a simple and intimate act between people that doesn’t need all this artificial stimulus to give us what pleasure it affords. The artificial stimulus that we swim in today is a result of a market-based idea of sexual titillation being a successful method of attracting the attention of the largest group of people, and it just grows and grows outward from there.

    Men can take control of these artificial desires and responsibility for the effect their own desires have on them far more easily than they would like to admit. They seem to have a great fear of losing the stimulus that provides them with a near-constant state of arousal, even though the anxiety and damage this arousal creates in their lives causes more pain than the pleasure they think they feel.

  127. Twisty

    Hey Tigs, il n’y plus de nouveau sous le soleil. One has only to examine the nature of oppression and the nature of consent to grasp, without any Platonic intervention at all, that the two conditions cannot coexist.

  128. J

    “Someone had expressed the idea that anything viewed which brings the male pleasure is porn … This is why I remarked that if anything which stimulates the male brain is porn then nature is a pimp & a whore.”

    You are stepping pretty close to an essentialist view of not just gender, but its relations too (in our case, Patriarchy). In other words, it is giving men a biological cop-out to reduce the pleasure they receive in viewing porn to their neurology. Men are not hard-wired to love porn, however raunchy or “romantic” it is. If anything they are conditioned to protect the false sense of power that underpins their whole personality, or to use a more technical term their subjectivity.

    This is different in that being biologically hardwired does not hold men accountable for their objectification of women. If porn is appealing because of how, in that objectification, it speaks to the patriarchal psychosis that women are objects that men can/do/must master, then there is room for change on the men’s part. This is why it is a cop-out to say that porn is inevitably appealing for men because of their brain-chemistry, rather than that porn is inevitably appealing to men who choose to treat women as if they were objects when (and this is obviously debatable) they know they are not.

  129. Feminist Avatar

    When the camera was first introduced into some cultures, people were frightened that it would steal their soul. In light of the discussion about photographing private sex acts, I think they may have been on to something.

  130. Bird

    Silence, my response now would be similar to yours. I was much younger, the survivor of an abusive childhood, and very vulnerable. I was willing to give up a whole lot for the idea of being loved.

    Six years down the road from finally getting out, I can firmly say that any attempt by someone to do any of those things to me would be met with a swift and violent response.

    As for hardwired kinks, that’s a load of crap. Sure, we all have preferences in the bedroom, but some things are simply not okay. Saying that they’re innate traits that can’t be helped means that they’re either pathologies that need intervention or that the person claiming they’re just built that way is looking for justification.

  131. Shakes

    While the whole “porn as a menu” thing is pretty unsavory and probably not the greatest metaphor, I think Trout raised a number of other issues that could be more beneficial to the productive furthering of this thread.

    “The idea that sex is degrading, or that certain kinds of sex are degrading, or that some kinds of sex are “better” or “worse” is, at it’s core, a patriarchal conception, as is the idea that “evil” kinds of sex will somehow make you into a worse person.”
    This is kind of what I meant by pornopolization. Sex is not inherently good or bad. Pornography has a stranglehold on sex in the popular imagination. If, as Twisty says, “‘kink’ is a patriarchal construct,” where does that put us?

    “Most importantly, (at least for purposes of this discussion) you have considerable control over how porn influences your sex life.”
    How true is this? I would like to believe that I am capable to not letting porn influence my sex life, but I’m not really that optimistic.

    I’ve noticed that metaphors don’t tend to go over very well here, but I’m going to give it a try anyway. That said, it is an oversimplified and probably flawed metaphor, but I hope it will get my point across.
    Did anyone else dye carnations different colors in grade school? Let’s say the carnation is me, and the blue dye is the patriarchy. I’ve been dyed blue by growing up in a patriarchal society. I recognize this. But I can’t un-dye myself, can I? So what do I do now?

  132. Twisty

    Shakes says “I’ve been dyed blue by growing up in a patriarchal society. I recognize this. But I can’t un-dye myself, can I? So what do I do now?”

    This question is precisely why I keep this blog. It perfectly illustrates what nobody wants to hear: that patriarchy really, actually exists, even for privileged honky American chicks, and THERE IS NO WAY OUT.

    This shit is FUCKING SERIOUS.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: because of patriarchy’s invisible ubiquity, there’s no happy ending. There is no 100% non-toxic sex. Within a patriarchy there’s no way to fix this. The game is rigged. You can’t win.

    The answer to Shakes’ question is: resist any way you can. This will preserve your dignity, and let you bag the self-loathing. It’s all that feminism can give you, short of the revolution that would truly liberate you.

  133. Shakes

    And it’s precisely why I read your blog.

    If I don’t always like what you have to say, it’s usually because I don’t always like the truth. Patriarchy bites. Realizing how much patriarchy bites is even worse.

    Feminism is not fun; it is a struggle.

  134. Tigs

    and “rock is cool but the struggle is better.”

    ig and Twisty totally do the same thing for me (sophomoric snickering here)– reaffirm that I’m not crazy or overreacting, that there are other people out there trying to resist, that it IS better, and that there are means of resistance.

  135. Patti

    Bird – exactly. My experience was recent enough that I think if anyone tried to touch me at all, I’d paste ’em.

    Trout – I had incredible orgasms during that time, but they were not delivered by the goddess. I was still suicidal; I was cutting, which I hadn’t done since a teenager. Orgasms do not make everything else ok.

    I have two kids who were different from each other from the moment they emerged – I don’t believe in tabula rasa. But nobody is hardwired to like abuse. Some of us might like INTENSITY, which in this culture can easily get twisted into abuse.

  136. thebewilderness

    So then what to do? If there is only patriachy are we kidding ourselves to believe we can resist & that we can make any real lasting positive change? By focusing exclusively on the system isn’t this perpetuating woman as the victim-object rather than victor-subject?

    When the only choice is submit, or die, and they might kill you even if you do submit, we may as well resist because we are all going to die anyway.
    Seriously, whether you call it noncompliance or passive resistance, it’s about being realistic and honest with yourself about what you are doing and why you are doing it.
    If you can’t see your way clear to stand up for your own human rights, right here, right now, without the assurance that your actions will create lasting positive change, you are making the choice not to find out.

  137. Trout

    First of all, my apologies if I have offended anyone, particularly my hostess. That was not my intention. Unfortunately, my dislike for porn stems from certain personal experiences which don’t track the ideas I’ve seen expressed here terribly well. Suffice to say that the “menu,” and fast-food” analogies relate extremely well to the ways porn-fueled sex has caused me pain. (And no, I’m DEFINITELY NOT going into details. It’s not what you think, whatever you may be thinking!)

    Shakes, I don’t want you, or anyone else who read what I wrote, to believe that I’m suggesting you do anything you find unpleasant, either physically or emotionally, to please your boyfriend. Your post gave me the idea that some of your feelings of shame were externally imposed, and I was addressing that particular issue. Obviously if your feelings of shame or revulsion are coming from within, that’s very different. Per Twisty’s wishes, I won’t give further advice, but I do want to make clear what I was and wasn’t trying to say.

    I hope no one who read what I wrote believes that I think orgasm is the only measure of sex. Obviously one can have a great orgasm and feel really bad about the sex afterwards. That’s why I wrote, “As long as you’re not hurting yourself or others…” Sex that makes one feel suicidal, or even merely “unhappy” comes under the heading of “hurting yourself.” Perhaps I didn’t express that idea terribly well, but I believe it.

    Lastly, I don’t believe our sexual tastes are “hardwired.” I think the causes of our sexual likes are a very complex mix of psychology, biology, genetics, brain chemistry, and whatever imprinting happens during the our sexual awakenings. Untangling the root cause of a particular sexual need is frequently impossible. I think this idea is very important in the context of not beating yourself up over your sexual choices. I spent twenty-five years doing that, and the time was NOT well-spent.

  138. zofia

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: because of patriarchy’s invisible ubiquity, there’s no happy ending. There is no 100% non-toxic sex. Within a patriarchy there’s no way to fix this. The game is rigged. You can’t win.

    You’re gift for distillation puts Jack Daniel’s to shame. Gimme a shot of Twisty, straight up.

  139. zofia

    That should have been “your” bad edit.

  140. Twisty

    “So then what to do? If there is only patriachy are we kidding ourselves to believe we can resist & that we can make any real lasting positive change? By focusing exclusively on the system isn’t this perpetuating woman as the victim-object rather than victor-subject?”

    You must resist, I tell you. Resist advertising and godbags and capitalism and Ralph Lauren and the Gilmore Girls and femininity. And tell your kids to resist. Thebewilderness puts it nicely a couple of comments up. “Lasting possible change” may never occur globally or even regionally, but you will have rescued your self, and this will have nothing but a positive effect on your immediate sphere of influence.

    If everyone did this, we’d have the revolution in the bag!

    As for women-as-victims, hell yeah we’re victims. There’s no shame in it. We didn’t ask for it and we don’t enjoy it and it’s not our fault. It is an act of patriarchal aggression to hold women responsible for their own oppression by turning “victim” into an insult.

  141. Twisty

    See, you’re doin’ it, Paulette. I get that it’s super depressing, that the future holds no promise of liberation. But any time you can make even a little momentary dent in the Black Thing, it’s a victory for the oppressed, and a boost for your own humanity. You go girl.

  142. Trout

    Paulette, I applaud your treatment of the asshole – he certainly deserved a brick through the windshield – but I also strongly second your boyfriend’s suggestion of self-defense classes. Fortunately, the jerk you encountered was easily cowed, but if he’d been a little braver or a little crazier he might have hurt you badly, raped, or killed you.

    You might also purchase some pepper spray. Being blinded and in pain puts your attacker at an immediate disadvantage, and it’s much easier to explain to police that you blasted some scumbag with pepper spray in self-defense as opposed to damaging property.

    The first time my daughter experienced the kind of harassment you described we bought her a can of pepper spray that same day and talked her through how to use it. (She’s too young to legally have pepper spray, but I don’t give a fuck.) She immediately felt more comfortable about going outside and she does understand that it’s essential to use the pepper spray responsibly. I’m trying to convince her to take martial arts classes, but she’s balking. I may have to insist, bacause she “bloomed” while still very young, and she’s very much, and very obviously, a non-conformist.

  143. Twisty

    Trout, I really must take exception. You begin to sound suspiciously like those rape-spam emails that well-meaning dopes send their women friends listing all the stupid shit they have to do to prevent rape. Knock it off with the concerned pedantry, already.

  144. Trout

    Nah, I read Paulette’s post, imagined my daughter in the same situation, and immediately began imagining all the horrible ways that story could have ended.

    I’m pretty worried about the kid these days.

  145. mearl

    Paulette, I just finished posting in another post about the efficacy of rocks, for the purposes of hurling at harassers in cars, when a rock is on-hand. Then I read your post about the brick, and yelled, “YES!” and “WHOO-HOO!” and scared both my cats.

    Anyone who says that you should keep quiet and not fight back JUST IN CASE some guy who is insistently and obnoxiously harassing you, a man who takes your silence as acceptance, MIGHT get mad if you stand up for yourself, is telling you to lay down and let the patriarchy walk all over you. Gavin de Becker says it best: if your instincts tell you that keeping quiet is the thing to do, listen to them. If they don’t tell you, have at ‘im with the brick. The law does not do for women what it should: therefore women should do for ourselves.

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