These remarks from reader Liz conveniently summarize, more or less, my own views on sexy feminism. She begins with quoted text from another commenter.
“Sexy feminism (aka sex-positivism) isn’t about appealing to men and thus perpetuation [sic] the patriarchy through internalized sexism. It’s about claiming our own sexual pleasure and our own bodies. It’s about doing what we want despite the patriarchy. It’s about using our bodies for our own pleasure or to express our own thoughts, despite how you or anyone else interprets our bodies. We’re saying, ‘It’s my body and I get to decide how to use it.’” [Context]
It’s interesting that [Twisty] mention[s] Clinton and fun feminism in the same post, because people criticize Clinton as “more of the same,” and that’s exactly how I feel whenever a feminist tries to convince me that “sexy feminism” is about having control over your own sexuality. You know what would make me feel like I had control over my own sexuality? Having the same rights as guys to walk around topless on the beach without feeling afraid or ogled as some kind of sex object, or being able to breast feed my baby in public without that being offensive or risque or any kind of issue at all, or being able to walk home at night alone without being groped by some drunk asshole.
Instead, “sex positive” feminists focus on is the ability to accept themselves as sexual, which they only attain by presenting a version of themselves that others readily find acceptable and have since way before I was born. Would you feel so empowered by your sexuality if you didn’t have a receptive audience? Nothing new here. Nothing challenging.
I think our desire to gain control over our own sexuality is important (and hopefully possible), but this whole “sexy feminist” movement completely misunderstands what that means. I’m “sex positive,” (stupid term) by the way, and I think that this label is completely misused by practically everyone as a way of insinuating that those who disagree with their self-exploitation are somehow anti-sex.
We already have the ability to use our bodies to turn ourselves on and others on. What we don’t have is the control over showing our bodies in a non-sexual way, because whenever the clothes come off, we’re sexualized. Being able to control that distinction is central to having true control over your body, yet “sexy feminists” never talk about that, and they just present us with more lame burlesque acts and sad porn sites.
As long as Liz brought it up, let me just say this one last thing about sexy feminism. It’s a too-too-tool of the patriarkay. It’s an expedient justification, a way to rebrand what everybody does when they’re in their twenties, which is to drink too much and screw a lot, as a cool 21st-century-activist political activity.
This would just be kind of funny, you know, youthful hi-jinx and whatnot, except that, since it is entirely devoid of philosophic value, sexy feminism has sort of caught on. It’s had the untoward effect of diluting the message of actual feminism. And the even more untoward effect of vilifying radical feminism. And the even more untoward effect of strengthening patriarchal oppression.
What do I mean by “sexy feminism”? Suicide Girls. Bust magazine. BDSM. The “position” that women should be free to “choose” femininity if that’s what bangs their box. The idea that embracing sexploitation is “empowering.” The notion that women “can do what we want despite patriarchy.”
What I don’t mean is: the effort to liberate women’s sexuality from the clutches of its traditional, misogynist, male-defined constraints, i.e. the effort to define women’s sexuality in terms of women, as opposed to men defining women in terms of sex. These are issues of ongoing concern to serious feminists and committed spinster aunts, but, as it turns out, have nothing to do with the preservation of feminine submission as a lifestyle choice.
Let’s face it, girls. We’re living in a war zone and orgasms are a dime a dozen. The performance of pornulated, dude-appeasing sex moves just isn’t important enough to form the basis of an entire political ideology. Particularly when that ideology presumes to co opt and dilute a movement which was formerly of some use to women. Seeing as how feminism was originally founded on sound philosophical principles thought up by thinkers, and had the potential to liberate millions of women from an endless cycle of violence, persecution, and poverty.
Sexy feminism creates two groups of women, but, oddly enough, neither group is for women. I allude to the “sex-positive” group and the “anti-sex” group. The first benefits the status quo. It reassures women who fear the burden of true liberation that femininity is a legitimate identity. The second is the fictitious enemy of the first — a stand-in for the real oppressor — and functions as the dark, hairy background against which the glowing orgasmic accomplishments of the sexy feminists may glitter in the light of life’s dudely disco ball. Of course there is no real group of anti-sexites; this is a fabrication that allows sexy feminists to indulge in patriarchy-appeasing misogyny on feminist blogs.
I propose third, easy-breezy alternative to the suffocating conformity demanded by this tiresome positive vs. negative binary thought system: sex-neutralism. Get busy, don’t get busy, whatever! While recognizing that penis placement has enormous political, social, and economic ramifications, particularly for members of the sex caste, the sex-neutral feminist — and I may be the only one alive — puts the act itself on a par with sneezing. Pleasant enough when it happens, but hardly worth elevating to the pinnacle of human acheivement, or devoting 98% of an internet to.
“Thoughts,” as our first commenter suggests, may well be “expressed” through boinking, but whether such thoughts differ substantially in philosophic value from sneezal effluents is dubitable.
By the way, you can’t “do what you want despite patriarchy.” Patriarchy declines to offer you full agency, even if — particularly if — you try to take it. That’s why patriarchy is bad.