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Mar 25 2008

The evangelical pro-life guide to sexy feminism

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.

156 comments

8 pings

  1. Pinko Punko

    I mostly always sneeze at least two times. I don’t know what this means in terms of ranking various things. Implied ellipseronis.

  2. Pinko Punko

    Also, meant to add that this is a really good post and Liz’ comments are great.

  3. W

    If only there were a big, metaphysical brick that could be slung about to knock some sense into these “feminists”: they are both the victims and perpetrators of antifeminism.

    I’d suggest pointing out the superior satisfaction in a sneeze when compared to the ol’ penis-in-vagina intercourse, but for some reason I think if that was accomplished, the patriarchy would somehow make it violent and oppressive, and right now I enjoy it so.

  4. Nine Deuce

    Amen. Awesome post.

    I’m not a “sex-positive” feminist, inasmuch as that term is used to refer to the kinds of people who believe that women, by adapting themselves the piggish sexual attitudes of men and becoming complicit in their own objectification, can fuck their way to being treated like human beings. In fact, I say piss on that misleading term altogether. It’s just another guise by which women are tricked into believing that the road to equality is paved with thongs and used jimmy hats. Using your sexuality to manipulate men does not equality make, nor does it even amount to controlling your own sexual destiny, because in order to manipulate men through sex you have to fulfill their pornographic fantasies, very few of which revolve around anything but a one-dimensional and completely fictional conception of female sexuality and nearly all of which completely ignore actual female pleasure. Fulfilling male fantasies is not feminism; no matter how many times you show them your tits, they’ll still run the government and all the corporations and institutions that make sure your life revolves around obsessing over your appearance and making 75 cents on the dollar for what they make.

    I think the new definition of “sex-positive” feminism ought to revolve around women demanding that their sexuality be acknowledged to be independent of male sexuality and that their sexual needs be met. That would truly be revolutionary (although it would still form only one tiny sliver of the pie chart of feminist issues). Instead we’ve got people like Diablo Cody calling themselves feminists and derailing the discussion of feminism, giving the general public the idea that the only problem left to be hammered out is whether porn and prostitution are feminist by nature.

  5. Kathleen

    I wonder how the sex-neutral thing will play out; it’s a genius move if it works because the rub of having to choose between being “sex-positive” or be labeled “sex-negative” (whatever that is) is that it makes the FIRST question you have to answer before you get to play in the discussion (of whatever issue that is otherwise vitally important on its own merits) one that tags you with “sex”. And of course it is always only women who have to get the “sex” tag staple-gunned to their ear on before they are allowed to proceed to talk about ANYTHING ELSE. the better, of course, to remind everyone lest they’d let it slip their minds about the sex class and who is in it.

    But I can’t imagine that trying the “sex-neutral” move won’t just get relentlessly hounded at by dudely bucketheads to get the “real” — that is to say, not sex neutral cause you can’t be sex neutral in the sex class! — answer. It’s like the 1970s Mr vs. Mrs. and Miss. While Ms has been pretty successful overall, if people know you for more than 5 minutes they want to know which is your “real” title behind what they take as nothing more than a delaying tactic.

  6. Seraphine

    Of orgasms are a dime a dozen,
    I have a shiny statehood quarter.

    Feminism is about having options. The right to do what we want to do. It’s freedom. It’s opportunity.

    I found another 65 cents in my desk drawer…

  7. sster

    Twisty, thank you for this. As a new feminist I’ve been wading in lots of stagnant pools that claim to be feminisms and it’s helpful to have a guide. I’ve always found “sexy-feminism” repulsive on an instinctual level but I’ve never been able to articulate it this well.

  8. Nine Deuce

    I forgot one thing. Thank you for mentioning the Suicide Girls in your post, Twisty. The Suicide Girls phenomenon is all about superficial and cliched rebelliousness masking a tired rehashing of the pornographic exploitation of women. The idea that the women involved are empowering themselves is revolting; the company is owned and operated by a man, the women are paid nearly zilch for the honor of degrading themselves for an audience of perverts who listen to Reverend Horton Heat, and the company locks its “models” into contracts that forbid them to “model” for any other sites and rob them of any rights to their own images. Where’s the empowerment? Is it in the fact that they don’t adhere to the mainstream blond porn prostitute ideal? Then I guess that means that women who participate in any kind of non-mainstream porn are empowering themselves. If that’s so, then what’s the criterion by which to judge how empowering a particular kind of porn is? The less mainstream, the more empowered the women are? Snuff films must be empowering as fuck, then.

    Dressing up everyday sexual exploitation and patriarchal gender roles in flaming cherry tattoos isn’t punk. It’s fucking nonsense. What Suicide Girls are doing is meeting a market demand created by dudes who want porn that matches their “alternative” hairdos and love for the Misfits, not representing an alternative kind of sexuality in which women are seen as sexually autonomous human beings, which is where the real sexual revolution is at. The mere fact that a large proportion of the Suicide Girls are Bettie Paige impersonators should tip even the most brainwashed of “sex-positive” “feminists” off to the fact that the company is selling little more than the idea that women exist to be used by men.

  9. PhysioProf

    What you and the commenter you quote have so eloquently pointed out is a species of a very general analytical principle that goes like this: It is highly unlikely to just be a totally innocent fucking coincidence when people who are supposedly making “free choices” that are “serving their own interests” happen to choose things that benefit extremely powerful agents with discordant interests of their own. As a corollary, it requires some seriously fucking persuasive evidence to overcome this presumption.

  10. Elinor

    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.

    Hahaha, indeed.

    The notion that you can do what you want despite patriarchy…well, it’s necessary to embrace it just so you don’t go nuts. But I think it’s far more intellectually honest to admit when you’re capitulating (and I do capitulate, all the damn time) than to pretend that you are ideologically and politically pure and anyone who suggests otherwise is oppressing you.

  11. Elinor

    Actually, you know what “sexy feminism” reminds me of? Mom politics. Moms for this, moms for that. The notion that you can get the powers that be to listen to you if you invoke neo-Victorian mommy myth wherein all “moms” (but especially stay-at-home moms) are tremendously noble, tenderhearted people who care for nothing but the well-being of their children and (by extension) children everywhere, and who are never wrong about what that requires.

    If you point out that mothers generally get a shit deal in the patriarchy, that stay-at-home mothers are in a precarious financial position (albeit less so since family law reform), that having children should not be a necessary (or sufficient, for that matter) condition for a woman to be taken seriously, that expecting a woman to be totally fulfilled by child care is uber-patriarchal bullshit — you “hate mothers,” or you “hate housewives.”

    And you can’t blame women for wanting to parlay whatever patriarchal capital they have — sexiness, motherhood — into political power. It makes sense. But it isn’t a solution.

  12. susanw

    Yes, all that pole dancing is s-o-o-o empowerfullating!

    Just cut out a few pictures of these fun, pornalicious poses and ask your enpenised friends to duplicate them. They don’t even have to wear silly costumes; just pose like that and duplicate the facial expression. Do you feel powerful? Well, do ya ?

  13. Ginger

    Twisty, I’ve been sex-neutral all my life! It’s not just you.

  14. Ginger

    BTW Twisty, you might be interested to know that orgasms and sneezing are controlled by the same part of the brain. So your ‘on par with sneezing’ comment is more spot on than you might have realized.

  15. Theriomorph

    Loving me some Twisty so much right now.

    Deeply unnerved by my cat’s sneezing right now.

    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.

    Rinse, repeat. Right now.

  16. jaed

    Whoa. First time poster here, because I read this post and finally realized that I’m not a sex-pos feminist. At all. I thought I was but now I know better, and I can articulate why to everyone I know. Thanks Twisty!

  17. ate

    THANK YOU!!! Being of the twenties age I’m surround by the fun feminists and the sexy feminists and any feminist fireside chat derails into me crying ‘but you’re objectifying yourself!!’ and them stubbornly retorting ‘duh, it’s empowering!!’ – cue hair pulling. i will now immediately forward this onto all of them… or maybe sneak a few key sentences into my back pocket for later use.

    p.s. i love your final note on the nature of patriarchy. it makes me feel nuts when people talk of the patriarchy as though it is that thing over there which we can opt out of and is really just a crazy construct from the minds of mad feminists. uh, no.

  18. Holly

    I have mixed feelings about the Suicide Girls site. I used to love it and be all about it and I loved that it was about not conforming to the stereotypical norm of female attractiveness, and then I learned that Suicide Girls are a product of PlayBoy and a way for them to make more money off of the alt-lifestyle folks.

  19. Orange

    In defense of Bust magazine, it does have a crossword puzzle now. A friend of mine creates it. I had to avert my eyes from the fashion section, but the mini book reviews were engrossing.

    I wouldn’t at all mind wearing deeper V-neck tops that show off my boobs nicely, but the second a gross, hairy man opts to ogle, the fun is ruined. Perhaps the patriarchy and sex-positive feminism could coincide more happily (and not work against mainline and radical feminism) if the men of the patriarchy would voluntarily put out their eyes, Oedipus-style. Is this feasible?

  20. Jen

    You know, I always thought that feminism was about getting what I deserve, namely respect, without opening the use of my vagina to every piggish frat boy that would have me.

    The way the media likes to portray feminists is a double-edged sword: we’re either a bunch of pro-bono prostitutes a la Tia Tequila or a shrill gaggle of Femi-Nazis out to castrate men and crush their puny brains between our hairy thighs. We can’t win. Feminism, I fear, was considered dead the moment that the average person thought of anyone that gave themselves that name as a STD-positive swinger or a burly dyke.

    Is it too much to ask that I be able to say that I’m a feminist without being propositioned for a threesome?

  21. cmg

    The second is the fictitious enemy of the first — a stand-in for the real oppressor — and functions as the dark, hairy background

    If I may: i.e., a straw woman?

  22. Merry

    Hey Twisty,
    I’m a 20-year-old blamer in the most cat-call-filled city in the country, I think. The New York construction workers will shout at you from 25 stories up, where they can’t even tell if you’re 8 or 80 so long as they can tell that you’re female. So I’m all about my right to be left the fuck alone like anyone with full-personhood while I’m walking down the street and generally being treated as a person, not a potential fuck.
    I consider myself a pretty damn good feminist. And I’m in love with this concept of being sex-neutral (just to note, because I think it’s kinda relevant I’m happy about the huge amounts of sex I’ve been having with the most feminist boy I’ve ever met) (Ok that was half information and half boasting. What was that you were saying about what people do in their 20s?).
    All that said, I was wondering if you would define for me what you mean when you throw around the word “feminine.” It’s a word that I worry about a lot. Sometimes I feel like I am working out some kind of algorithm of my own femininity–I like to feel pretty in pretty dresses and I bake cupcakes like nobody’s business, but I eschew many, many, many more feminine things and capitulations to patriarchy. Help!

  23. mearl

    Hey, I got one comment for the sexyfeminists: if it was really feminism, we’d be seeing some progress for women, no?

  24. lawbitch

    Sign me up for the sex-neutral program. It’d be a nice change of pace to take the focus *off* my body for once. I love that you used the word “dubitable,” which IMHO is not used often enough!

  25. anna

    Seraphine says:

    “Feminism is about having options. The right to do what we want to do. It’s freedom. It’s opportunity.”

    You know, I detest the notion of “choice feminism” for this exact reason. Yes, you’ve got the right to do whatever the fuck you want to do with your own body, but don’t, for the love of Christ, try to pass every choice that you make off as a feminist act simply because you made that choice. If I decided to go out tomorrow and ‘act’ in some Internet torture porn, that would be “my choice!”, yes – a virulently misogynist choice and one that would, I dare say, have pretty dire consequences for women as a class.

    Damn, I love you, Twisty. You’re like the foghorn of light in a sea of “nipple tassels = equality!” bullshit.

  26. anna

    Fuck, scratch that last sentence. Not the part about you being a beacon of light (although why I thought that the phrase ‘foghorn of light’ made any sense is beyond me), but about the “nipple tassels = equality!” mindset of these sexyfeminists. I don’t think the notion of ‘equality’ even enters into it for them, as evidenced by the mating call of “feminism is about CHOICE!” Oh, really? Coz I thought it was about smashing a system that places women on a lower level than men. You’ll just take the nipple tassels instead? All righty then.

  27. Twisty

    Hey Merry. Check out the Femininity archive, or do a search over there on the right. This post compliles many of the highlights, and as an added bonus contains the outline for the novel I’m writing.

  28. Ryna

    Sorry, but sex is way more fun than sneezing. It’s just that until sex is more fun than dignity, I won’t be down with pretending I like catering to the menz more than I like being treated like a human.

  29. panoptical

    I think you’re being too hard on a genuine sex-positive position. If indeed the patriarchy declines to grant full agency to women, then that lack of agency must apply to all sectors of life – not just the bedroom. Women can’t freely choose their career, their clothing, etc etc. Accordingly there have been various movements within feminism to try to defy the patriarchy by trying to claim agency over one or more of these sectors. In the socialist feminism of someone like Kathi Weeks we see an attempt to defy the patriarchal definitions of labor by valorizing women’s behaviors that have traditionally been devalued by the patriarchy. There are movements to fight the body-image imposed upon women by the patriarchy, to fight eating disorders and such. There are movements to allow women to wear whatever they want, work whereever they want, and generally do whatever they want, and all of these are commonly viewed as valid ways to fight the patriarchy.

    However, when a movement tries to allow women to fuck whoever and however and whenever and whyever they want, this movement is supposed to actually play back into the patriarchy’s hands. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the patriarchy has a vested interest in controlling and defining the sexuality of women. Anything that feminists can do to fight this control should be considered a valid feminist project. That’s why some feminists (and queer theorists, like Judith Halberstam) make the point that categories like gay, lesbian, transsexual, etc themselves constitute feminist projects – because these lifestyle choices provide alternatives to the patriarchal order they have the power to subvert it. They don’t necessarily always succeed – you could call it six of one, half a dozen of the other in many cases, for example, does homosexual male intercourse subvert the heterosexist patriarchal paradigm, or does one partner simply assume the role of “woman” or “fuckee” thus reifying the traditional gender roles? Does a woman who dominates a man in a BDSM relationship invert the patriarchal order destructively or does she simply replay the destructive nature of that very order?

    I think these are important questions, though, and not to be taken for granted. If it is possible, for example, for feminist separatists to form communities of women where sexuality is defined by women in terms of women, isn’t it also possible for other communities to form new definitions of sexuality that aren’t based on a traditional gender binary system at all? I would argue that just because sub/dom and sadist/masochist have traditionally in our culture mapped onto the male/female and man/woman binaries in one way, that doesn’t mean they are inextricably linked to those binaries. I think that looking at any relationship with an evaluative tool other than the gender roles (man, woman) that were invented by the patriarchy has a powerful potential to overcome the patriarchal order.

    I understand that you are not criticizing people who are genuinely trying to leverage their alternative sexual identities into defiance of the patriarchy, but I think that you are in danger of erasing them if you don’t see at least the potential for a sex-positive feminist project. After all, maybe we can’t do what we want despite the patriarchy, but where would we be without the women who tried?

  30. Kate Dino

    Dear Twisty Faster: although I am the propertay of the patriarchay, I totally respect your authoritay.

  31. Liz

    I also like “sexwhateverism.” I mean, I like sex. So what? I still think public displays of it are gross and tasteless. And I think the fact that I can’t go see a bunch of women play a punk show without also sitting through sexy girl-on-girl Jello wrestling or women stripping sucks, and I hate that these acts always draw the larger crowds. I hate that when Bust first came out it was all about “no beauty tips or guilt trips,” and wrote about feminist issues (at least that’s what I remember but it’s been so long), and it has since deteriorated into a magazine defending your right to live like it’s the 50s only now you can be both a domestic goddess AND a burlesque diva. And why do all the crafts look like they’re made by 12-year olds?

    But feminism is all about giving women choices, right, and not about questioning the choices we make or thinking about how these “personal” choices affect women’s status in general.

    I really, really love your blog, by the way, and have agreed with you on basically everything.

  32. Holly

    This post seems to be entirely about telling women what not to do. Don’t be too sexy. Don’t talk about liking sex. Don’t worry about people who want to take away sexual freedoms. Telling women that they must hide their sexuality is no better than telling them they must flaunt it–if freedom of choice isn’t at the root of women’s liberation, then I don’t know what the word “liberation” means.

    (By the way, calling sex-positivism the refuge of slutty young women ignores sex-positive advocates like Carol Queen, Annie Sprinkle, Betty Dodson, and Susie Bright who are hardly silly young kids.)

    And “sex-neutral feminism” seems to be a moderate-sounding way of saying “shut up” to people who think that sexual liberation benefits feminism. “Fine, live your little lifestyle, but don’t throw it in our faces.”

    I would never claim that sexual freedom is the most important component of feminism–clearly issues like personal safety and wage equity matter more than the right to be sexual without shame or punishment–but that doesn’t mean sexuality doesn’t matter at all and should never be discussed.

  33. Nine Deuce

    Holly, isn’t that a mischaracterization of what Twisty is arguing? No one is telling anyone not to do anything, but rather asking them to be honest with themselves and the rest of us about what’s really going on. No one is asking women not to be sexy, no one is asking women to ignore those who would limit women’s sexual freedom. But don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining; adhering to the Suicide Girl ideal isn’t liberation (and it certainly isn’t feminism), it’s joining them because you can’t beat them. Sexual liberation *is* a part of feminism, but sex-positivism isn’t sexual liberation, it’s capitulation to pornografied patriarchal gender roles.

  34. Elinor

    Meh. A series of don’ts: you could say the same for the more vulgar sex-pozzers. I don’t really like “The Vagina Monologues,” for example, but Betty Dodson’s article about it is basically nothing BUT “shut up, rape victims, you’re killing my buzz.” Don’t criticize “sexual entertainment,” no matter what it involves. Don’t mention that another generation of women tried the “sexy feminist that even men like” tack before and it didn’t work out so well. Don’t talk about abuses within those progressive, alternative sexual cultures. Don’t ask why people like Larry Flynt and Dov Charney are signing on for this particular feminist revolution or what they might be getting out of it.

    panoptical: I actually agree with you, and that’s why I don’t identify as closely with radical feminism as I once did. All I can say is that Pussycat Doll feminism isn’t the feminism you are looking for. There are thoughtful sex-positive writers out there, but they aren’t the ones writing screeds about how they love men, aren’t oppressed, and anyone who sees patriarchy at work in your life must be a big lame-o who can’t take responsibility for herself.

  35. Elinor

    Correction: “at work in HER life.” gah.

  36. doorknob

    Aside from the part where Twisty, unlike, for example, the patriarchy, has no actual power to “tell women what not to do,” I missed the part where she actually told women what not to do. When one reads radical feminist writing rather than pretending it says what you think radical feminist writing says, you don’t actually find a lot of telling women to hide their sexuality. You find more of an examination of how what we call “women’s sexuality” is a load of bull made up by men for the benefit of men. If your authentic sexuality is, somehow, expressed by performing fellatio for a camera, we radical feminists are really not getting in your way, but it would be nice if you’d consider what that does for the rest of us trying not to be defined by that paradigm in our sex lives or out of it.

    As for Annie Sprinkle, Carol Queen, Susie Bright, get real. They’re silly young kids who never grew up. They’re making good money doing what they do – like thirty pieces of silver good – and they don’t need my praise along with it.

    Please, please, sign me up for sex-neutral feminism. I just want to get this sign saying “SEX!! GET YOUR SEX!!” off my back and go for a bloody walk or something.

  37. Holly

    Nine – Okay, I’ll be honest; what’s really going on is that some women are being sexually exploited and some women are voluntarily using their sexuality for fun and profit. And telling the “fun and profit” contingent of publicly sexual women to admit that they’re capitulating to the patriarchy is:

    a) Precious close to just telling them to knock it off and put on something modest, ladies. Even if it’s not a direct order it’s certainly a harsh judgement.

    b) Just not true. Even in an atmosphere of patriarchy, a smart and independent woman is capable of making the decision that she’d like to act all slutty. Telling her that this wasn’t really her decision is patronizing and wrong.

    The more influence gender-conscious, voluntarily-participating women have over the media and sex industry, the less influence the bosses of sexually exploited women have. Being slutty isn’t exploitation; being forced to be slutty is exploitation. Being willingly, happily, proudly slutty is freedom.

    (As is being willingly, happily, proudly unslutty. There’s nothing in sex-positivism that says everyone should be publicly sexual; it’s about consent, about respecting both “yes” and “no” as valid choices. Maybe perfect ideal consent can’t exist in a patriarchy, but I still think that a woman’s word on whether she consents ought to have some weight.)

  38. Nine Deuce

    Holly – I’m not using the word “slut” here. Women who have a lot of sex are women who have a lot of sex. The portrayal of a male-fantasy-defined role isn’t sluttiness either. I’m not calling anyone a slut or telling anyone to cover up and stop being sexual. In fact, I think I hate that word more than anything as it’s a tool used by men to keep women’s sexuality in check. I’m all for women having the freedom to express their sexuality in any way they choose to, but I don’t believe that the way most of the sex-pos crowd choose to do so is free of the taint of pornographic exploitation or of patriarchy. Therefore, it can’t be a feminist choice.

    As for the idea of being forced to be sexualized, how can you argue that women who decide to conform their own sexuality to male fantasies in order to gain male approval aren’t being coerced into something? Sexual manipulation does not amount to real power. When the manipulating is over, the men still hold all the cards. Women have two choices when it comes to sex: conform to men’s idea of what female sexuality ought to be and reap the benefits that flow therefrom, or resist that bullshit and be shunned. How is that a free choice? Don’t you see the element of force there, or at least coercion?

    Again, I don’t care how much sex women want to have, who they want to have it with, or how they choose to do it. All I want is for women who have decided to capitulate to patriarchal sex roles to be honest about it and stop calling it feminism, and especially to stop reducing feminism to the question of “to strip or not to strip.”

  39. Lisa

    What I got most out of what Twisty is saying, and I have struggled with this whole notion of sex positive feminism, is this:

    We can’t legitimately proclaim our rights to say “YES!” to sexyfunpornyslutism, or whatever it is that you are into sexually, until we can say NO to men who can only see us as sexyfunpornysluts.

    Since rape, well, really really sucks and is really, really dangerous–and since milder forms of it such as cat calls, ogling, being grab-y on the subway or whatever also really, really suck and are demeaning…this is by far a more important issue to start with in the whole expressing our sexuality thing. How can you say yes when you can’t really say no?

    If we can get to the point where we do really have the agency to say no to all of that crap, then I’m all on board the sexyfun boinking train. That is when we can say we are truly controlling our sexuality.

    What I hear in this post isn’t don’t fuck, don’t show your tits, whatever, or you are a bad feminist. I’m hearing smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, but don’t act like it’s not poisoning your lungs. In the meantime, lets work first on the more pressing issues. Namely our rights to say NO safely at any and all times.

  40. Nine Deuce

    What Lisa said.

  41. Jen

    I’m with Nine Deuce and Lisa on this one. Putting tassels on my nipples and stripping at a frat party isn’t sexually empowering myself. Neither is letting all those who would like to fuck me actually fuck me.

    There’s a power differential in sex. Where the man is in power, on top, and in charge. When you differ from this, it suddenly becomes “role play” or BDSM. Women in charge during sex? Well, it’s weird.

    Besides, how many websites do you see with naked men posing in all sorts of lewd positions for their female viewers? Not many. I, personally, find myself surfing gay porn if I want to see that stuff. Which goes to show you that porn is made for men, no matter what gender it features. This is also all the more clear when you compare the amount of porn featuring the male orgasm to the amount of porn featuring a genuine female orgasm.

    So, if you’re not in the group of people who label themselves “sex-positive feminists” (who we’ve characterized as Suicide Girls, Betty Page, and Tia Tequilas) why are you defending them? I generally like having sex with people who think of me first as a person, then maybe notice that I have tits and a vagina. At the end of the day, what are you going to do when the sexual manipulation is over? When you aren’t paying in pro-bono blow jobs, they aren’t going to give you what you want. I have an idea: take that respect and liberty from them by the balls without objectifying yourself to just a pair of legs, tits, and holes to fuck.

    Because that’s what feminism is about. Feminism without the respect and equality? Why, that’s not feminism at all.

  42. ellecain

    …since it is entirely devoid of philosophic value, sexy feminism has sort of caught on.

    Yes, and it has caught on precisely because it gives the patriarchy what it wants. Dudes are happy to accept funsexyfeminism because they can girls to sleep with them easier but look at how they react to the less popular demands such as he pay gap or washing their own dishes. There’s a reason they’re unpopular. I agree with panoptical that there are geniunely good bits of funsexy feminism. The problem is that 90 percent of the time, funsexy feminism is reduced to promote idiotic movies like Charlie’s Angels.

    But as a 20 year old (first time) blamer I’m only now beginning to realize that the message of sex-positive feminism has been skewed by the media into almost unrecognizable forms. And it’s been fed to me all my life, so trying to unlearn the “capitulation = empowerful” part to get to the genuine message turns out to be harder than I thought.

  43. Elinor

    What I hear in this post isn’t don’t fuck, don’t show your tits, whatever, or you are a bad feminist. I’m hearing smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, but don’t act like it’s not poisoning your lungs.

    Oh, I like that metaphor.

  44. Elinor

    There’s nothing in sex-positivism that says everyone should be publicly sexual; it’s about consent, about respecting both “yes” and “no” as valid choices.

    Which is why your standard nipple-tassel vulgar sex-positive theorist would never, ever, ever snark that radical feminists “will never get laid.”

    Fish. Barrel.

  45. Holly

    Elinor – I think you’re quoting from the complete sentence that read “And if you don’t have sex until we reach perfect equality, well, buddy, you’re never gonna get laid.”

    That’s not really the same thing, is it? Living as we are (and, in my opinion, always will be) in the pre-revolution world, we can’t make our decisions in an atmosphere of perfect fairness, but we can still make them. Unless you refuse to do so under the claim that consent is impossible, in which case, well, you won’t be having sex, will you?

    (I’m not saying that radical feminists do this. But it’s hard for me to understand how you reconcile statements like “consent is impossible under the patriarchy” with having a sex life–obviously you don’t think of your male partners as rapists?)

    Jen – I’ve had sex where I was dominant without it being kinky or roleplay. (Also sex where I was submissive but enjoyed it, and I fail to see the harm in that; if I enjoy it just as much as the man does, it’s not exploitation no matter who’s wearing the handcuffs.) Sex is too private to have an inherent power structure; it takes place between two people, not an archetypal man and an archetypal woman.

    As for objectification and sexual manipulation, about all I can say is that sex-positivism is about the right to choose nipple tassels and respect the women who wear them, not about tasseling everyone up. I’m not saying “porn is the answer!”, I’m saying “porn is an option!” If you try to relate to people entirely with sex of course you’re going to mess yourself up, but I’m not recommending that.

    And a general comment – I’m disturbed that female desire hasn’t been brought up much. Women can have submissive or exhibitionistic desires of their own, and fulfilling those desires is not done for the benefit of men, it’s done for themselves.

  46. therealUK

    some women are voluntarily using their sexuality for fun and profit.

    In the world we live in the very notion of “using sexuality” is rooted, not in freedom, but in patriarchal definitions and control.

  47. alicepaul

    “Sex is too private to have an inherent power structure; it takes place between two people”

    Also, housework and motherhood and domestic labor are “too private” to have inherent power structures; they take place between family members within a home.

    Or not. Feminists have already established that domestic, intimate behavior is highly politicized. If what goes on in the kitchen and in the home in general is fair game for analysis, then the same can be said for what happens inside the bedroom. It isn’t a magical, insulated place immune from the patriarchy just because it is personal and private. We don’t get to pick and choose how social systems affect us, and in what situations.

    That being said, I’m a sex pozzie, I like BDSM, I’ve done the sex work, I don’t feel guilty about it, etc. BUT, I certainly don’t think this makes me feminist or subversive. I’m not going to pretend that I’m some sort of maverick posing some sort of challenge to the status quo. Cause, you know, I’m not.

    Being submissive in bed = exactly what women are expected to do/enjoy. Taking off clothes to be sexy = same old power structure. You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. I do what turns me on, but have no delusions that I’m being rebellious or powerful.

  48. Natalia

    I have been assaulted, harassed, groped, hit, and threatened with serious bodily harm for resisting a guy’s advances. You’d think I’d be all for this.

    And yet, I still see Twisty’s position as fundamentalism wrapped up in feminist rhetoric. In fact, I see it as fundamentalism with a generous sprinkling of Soviet youth-culture on top. This whole “you must benefit the collective, you silly young things – but as long as you believe in the bright future when the masses will be liberated, all will be OK. Trust Big Sister [as a stand-in for Big Brother, of course].”

    Not something I’d sign up for.

  49. Silence

    Great post. My only niggle would be the statement that women become sex objects after the clothes come off. Never been my experience. I’ve been ogled in a tee shirt and jeans — because I’m a member of the sex class and it doesn’t matter a damn what I’m wearing, what I’m doing, or what I want. And it’s the same situation for every woman posting here, no matter how much they’d like to think otherwise.

    Bottom line. No matter what you want, no matter what you do, if you’re female you’re either a sex object or an object that is failing in its sexual duties. You’re never a person. The women who agree to be sex objects get a few toys and pats on their heads until they age or otherwise fail to live up to their patriarchal purpose in life, and the others receive ridicule and scorn, all of which is designed to scare the majority of women into accepting their duties as sexual objects.

    And I know that some women will instantly cry that it’s different for them. Well, maybe. Frankly, I don’t care. It’s not different for the vast majority of women on the planet, so how about thinking about the problem on a global scale instead of being content with your own private kingdom?

    Oh, and by the way, if it’s a kingdom, you’re not the one in charge there either.

  50. emjaybee

    It does get very old to be constantly defining yourself as a woman in terms of sexuality, period. Sex is great, but hardly the only thing women do. But it gets all the press, so if you want to get attention as a woman, you talk about it, thus contributing to the problem.

    The only other inroad seems to be pop culture, which is where Bitch has gained its foothold, and where a surprising amount of feminist commentary is located. Partly because pop culture is so, well, popular, but also because (I think) many women feel safer discussing, say, Buffy, than history or politics–unless they get discussed through the filter of Buffy.

    We feel safe talking about sex and trivialities, because those have been our only realm for so long. And some of that is “reclaiming” but it’s also incredibly limiting. Every dude with a 12th grade education feels empowered to discuss why we’re in Iraq, no matter how stupid he sounds: I think lots of women don’t because war doesn’t “belong” to women in the same way. Even if a woman has a PhD in military history, she’s going to get more criticism for whatever she says than a guy who couldn’t find Iraq on a globe if you paid him.

  51. MelMir

    Did it say that you are writing a book? Has that been mentioned before? Please give us more details. And since I’ve never posted before, I’ll get my adoration out of the way now – I love you Twisty!

  52. Famous Soviet Athlete

    In fact, I see it as fundamentalism with a generous sprinkling of Soviet youth-culture on top.

    I fail to see the problem.

  53. Fiona

    Jen said: “When you aren’t paying in pro-bono blow jobs, they aren’t going to give you what you want.”

    This is a serious discussion and I shouldn’t make light of it, but this made me laugh out loud. I wonder if I can list “pro-bono blow jobs” under the volunteer work section of my resume.

  54. Ryna

    I went by Lizzie on your blog, and can I just say that Holly, you really suck. But more importantly, you are invading the only real space that sane feminists have for discussion on the internet because you can’t stand the fact that a place exists where people who disagree with you are allowed to talk to each other free of your inane nonarguments. You sexy empowerfullated voluntary bimbos have the rest of the internet in which to discuss how radfems are evil and you’re so grateful for the right to your brazilian. From now on, I personally vow to let you have your forums if you stay out of mine. We can chalk this all up to a misunderstanding, and you can fuck off. Kthxbyebye.

    PS. Thanks for being the type of complete fucking hypocrite who felt the need to yell at radfems for “telling other women how to feel” and then turning around to inform me that I’m not allowed to refer to myself as a former sex worker despite the fact that I fucking am one. Apparently, for the sake of your ideological convenience, it’s okay to label others’ experiences for them, starting with telling everybody who didn’t like being empowerfullated according to your personal model that it’s because they were slaves when they actually weren’t.

    PPS. I’m sure that women in actual slavery really appreciate your total inability to recognize any sort of distinction between the experience of a twelve year old servicing twenty men a day without condoms while living in a cage and the experience of an expensive American escort.

  55. Ryna

    Oh, and Natalia, you’re being ridiculous. Basically, your argument boils down to “Twisty is far too adamant about the fact that she’s right and I identify that with fundamentalism wah.” I don’t really even get what your problem is except that she didn’t giggle and apologize before she started writing.

  56. Tilly

    I think the crank on “sex positivism” is best cartoonized by the Full Frontal Feminism book, where on the book you have a nakid lady. See feminism is funz, see, you can put your body up for a product and it’s a self-referential joke and empowerfulizing. You know, like Obama put a nakid picture of himself on the cover of his important political book. Guyz do that all the time, because it is empowerful and shows yourz fancy thinkin’ and people don’t call men who write books without the nakid pictures of them to be on talk shows and a spokesperson for a generation.

    See, the author points out, feminists can be hairfree and have adoring gazes at your abs (just like the previous generation could do that and be cleaning their oven at the same time). See, you can be asked to be on the guyz shows to represent feminism because you getz that the price of admission to attention to whatever you argue is that you are pleasant to look at and the sexy. What a force for the changz.

  57. Catherine Martell

    Natalia: why all this farting about with Soviet/Big Sister allusions? If you mean “feminazis”, say “feminazis”. It’s not like we’re not going to notice.

    Twisty’s post has me cackling with delight. I am not surprised that some people are reading it as anti-sex or anti-freedom, because I’ve hung around this parish for long enough to realise how many people are bad at reading comprehension.

    There is nothing in Twisty’s post that says you have to stop having sex in whatever way you choose. All that she seems to be arguing is that sexyfun alone isn’t much of a basis for a political ideology. Though genuine liberation of female sexuality is an important concern of feminism, it is neither the only concern of feminism, nor even the most important.

    I urge you all to consider the Truth and Beauty of this point:

    “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.”

    Uh-huh uh-huh.

  58. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    “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.”

    I think I just came! That was exquisite!

    (oops)

    (backs offstage)

  59. Elinor

    we can’t make our decisions in an atmosphere of perfect fairness, but we can still make them.

    Flip that around and you have the position of most radical feminists of my acquaintance. We can make our decisions, but we can’t make them in an atmosphere of perfect fairness (or even close).

    (I’m not saying that radical feminists do this. But it’s hard for me to understand how you reconcile statements like “consent is impossible under the patriarchy” with having a sex life–obviously you don’t think of your male partners as rapists?)

    I don’t sign on for every single statement Twisty makes, and I don’t take everything she says at face value, is the thing. I also think all my choices are somewhat distorted. We don’t live in a “free market” when it comes to sex. I’ve been pressured, intimidated, and manipulated into doing things I didn’t want to do. Many of my straight female friends have as well. It’s not rape in the criminal sense (which many of my friends have experienced). It’s still a violation. It’s still patriarchy. Throw a stone and you’ll hit an article or a book that tells straight women that men will not love us, or continue to love us, if we fail at our feminine “duty” — being slender, nicely accessorized dolls who dispense sexual favours on demand. It’s powerful social control and the nipple-tassel set has no answer for it beyond “well, you don’t HAVE to do it, no one is putting a GUN to your head, personally I like dieting and dispensing sexual favours on demand anyway.”

    And yes, authentic female desire — authentic desire that is not the nipple-tassel porno “take me big boy, whoever you are” kind — isn’t much seen in these discussions. That’s the orientation of radical feminism, although it’s kind of hard to have an honest discussion of what authentic female desire looks like when you’re constantly rebutting assertions that it looks like Jenna Jameson.

    But the point isn’t that you can’t do the nipple-tassel porno thing; the point is that doing so isn’t subversive or radical. It’s the same old shit. I do plenty of the same old shit, every day. I don’t ask the world to bless my mascara-wearing as a feminist act.

    Anyway, suggesting that the major barrier to female sexual self-actualization is those nasty radfems! is, frankly, insane.

  60. Elinor

    I should clarify. Radical feminism does not strike me as especially preoccupied with constructing an egalitarian female sexuality (esp. straight); it’s generally more concerned with sexual coercion and sexual violation. For me, radical feminism isn’t really an all-encompassing theory, for that reason. However, even if radical feminists DO want to have an online discussion about authentic female sexual desire, it seems to me that doing so is more difficult when so many people (in the world in general, but also in blog comments) insist on defining female sexual objectification as female sexuality.

  61. Natalia

    I don’t use the word “feminazi,” so you are barking up the wrong tree there, Catherine. Neither do I describe myself as “sex-positive,” come to think of it. I think it’s an unhelpful term.

    I find “sex-neutral” to be much better – unfortunately, I don’t like the rhetoric attached to it here.

  62. pisaquari

    Some math:

    Sexy positives= (delusional) Sexual “ownership” Individualism

    (delusional) Sexual “ownership”= There was a sex buffet* (bdsm, kink, power play, etc) where I picked* from I got an orgasm/stimulated/attention/felt happy

    Individualism= random-variable-accumulation of mass concepts* Advertising/Media Gods tells me they are mine

    *Unknown origins of variables–current theories report they are “natural”. For more information see “Sexist Science” volume 11.

    In other news, I’m *so* glad you finally came out as the pro life evangelical we all knew you were Twisty. Maybe the rest of us sex-neutral or radical feminists can now feel comfortable speaking frankly about our relationships with the Right Wing too!

  63. pisaquari

    Damn it!! You don’t do PLUS signs Twisty!

    Should read:
    “ownership” PLUS Individualism
    picked* from PLUS I got an
    concepts* PLUS Advertising/Media

  64. Catherine Martell

    Natalia, I have not claimed that you call yourself sex-positive. And I am aware that you do not use the word “feminazi”. Instead, you used all these words:

    “And yet, I still see Twisty’s position as fundamentalism wrapped up in feminist rhetoric. In fact, I see it as fundamentalism with a generous sprinkling of Soviet youth-culture on top. This whole “you must benefit the collective, you silly young things – but as long as you believe in the bright future when the masses will be liberated, all will be OK. Trust Big Sister [as a stand-in for Big Brother, of course].””

    I submitted above, and I shall submit again, that using expressions like “fundamentalism”, “Soviet youth-culture”, “collective”, “bright future when the masses will be liberated”, and “Big Sister” to describe a form of feminism boils down to much the same thing as saying “feminazi feminazi feminazi lalala”.

    Your attempt to get past my Bill O’Reilly filter by comparing feminism to Orwellian ultra-leftism, rather than Hitlerian ultra-rightism, fools me for approximately no seconds.

  65. TP

    What I love is “sex-neutralism”. And that seems to be precisely what bugs sex-dependent pro-sex feminists: The idea that someone, somewhere out there doesn’t approve of their self-debasement and calls it like they see it. This is the deeply wrong method of redefining something as you see it and then condemning it, rather than condemning something for what it truly is. Because feminism, while pointing out the general trends of sexual politics, really doesn’t ever condemn any sex in particular as much as it points out probably causes and influences, for which we love to blame the patriarchy.

    This, our sex-positive friends, is not fundamentalism. It is simply theorizing about observations provided by your own actions.

    As for sex-neutralism, I live it myself. I’m married, and I hope my lovely partner feels the same way, as she tells me she does. What’s the big deal if we decide to live a life where sex, if it happens, is great? It’s more informed and about love than beauty myths, dominance, or oppression just for we two. It has ceased to be a big deal for us, it still is for you, end of story. At different stages of your life you have different concerns.

    What I love about sex-neutralism is also the idea that we could all be far more neutral about sex and be a lot happier than endlessly obsessing over a simple biological trick. Distancing oneself from obsessive sex and concentrating more on truth and beauty and idealistic things.

  66. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Sexneutral is BORing. I like Sexwhateverism: It’s more open, more inclusive, more flippant, more “stop boring me with your pervy obsessions I don’t care LOOK! Hummingbird!”

  67. tinfoil hattie

    “well, you don’t HAVE to do it, no one is putting a GUN to your head, personally I like dieting and dispensing sexual favours on demand anyway.”

    Laughed out loud. Hard and long.

    What a great post. Great comments.

    Sorry it leaves the “sex pozzies” spluttering.

    Oh, well.

    I’ve noticed a positive correlation between decrease in dudely-defined fuckability and scales falling from eyes.

  68. mearl

    “Telling women that they must hide their sexuality is no better than telling them they must flaunt it–if freedom of choice isn’t at the root of women’s liberation, then I don’t know what the word “liberation” means.” -Holly upthread

    …since when is dressing up to men’s expectations and gyrating, bowing and scraping, again to men’s expectations, WOMEN’S sexuality? That’s what I’d love to know. If sexyfeminists were honestly interested in their own sexuality, wouldn’t there be a whole lot more objectification of men going on, rather than objectification of themselves? I’m more than a little suspicious of the connection of sexyfeminism to its rewards, which are usually either money – the acquisition of which seems to underlie any proclamations of sexyfun feminism – or at least a pat on the head. Actually, I’m starting to think the pat on the head is more important, and money is just a nice side bonus.

    My issue with the fact that sexyfeminism equates typical oppression is that I can’t go anywhere these days or say anything without being harassed, catcalled, groped, misinterpreted, etc. I can’t even open my mouth about MY sexuality, because whatever men are standing by immediately jump on the bandwagon and start asking me if I’d ever “do another girl and can we watch” or “so do you like getting spanked?” (said with a raised hand in preparation to play-spank me if I say yes) or something similar. At least, before the year 1999 rolled around, I didn’t have to FIGHT with guys and INSIST that they be respectful to me. They kind of used to be. They’d keep their perverty comments to themselves. These days every fucking guy out there seems to think that he has license to say whatever horrid thing is going through his entitled head, because he assumes, as he has absorbed from mainstream culture, that I will be fine with it. I’m finding that less and less, I get taken as a PERSON first. Instead, because I’m female, I’m lumped in there with porn stars, whether I look like one or not.

  69. Kathleen

    “Sex is too private to have an inherent power structure”

    aha ha h h h aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha h ah aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    Oh my god I can barely breathe. Holly — please, please, just notice that having *such* an open mind requires dumping your brains out on to the floor beside you. that’s all we ask.

  70. Fiona

    Holly said: “And a general comment – I’m disturbed that female desire hasn’t been brought up much. Women can have submissive or exhibitionistic desires of their own, and fulfilling those desires is not done for the benefit of men, it’s done for themselves.”

    Isn’t this the argument used by women who get breast implants and lip injections?

  71. Holly

    Isn’t this the argument used by women who get breast implants and lip injections?

    Yes it is, sometimes. So? I wouldn’t get cosmetic surgery myself, but I don’t believe in telling women what to do with their bodies.

    since when is dressing up to men’s expectations and gyrating, bowing and scraping, again to men’s expectations, WOMEN’S sexuality?

    Who said anything about bowing and scraping? A (heterosexual) woman having lots of sex, or kinky sex, or even sex on camera, may make men happy but she also may make herself happy. As long as I get my expectations met, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to also please men.

    And now I’m confused as to what exactly is heterosexual female sexuality, if not pleasing men and being pleased by them. I don’t think one-sided servile sex is a good thing (unless that’s your kink, in which case it’s not really one-sided after all), and I do wish there was more porn made for women, but having full control of your sexuality means having the freedom to decide that you would like to make men happy. We need more porn of men, not less porn of women.

    My issue with the fact that sexyfeminism equates typical oppression is that I can’t go anywhere these days or say anything without being harassed, catcalled, groped, misinterpreted, etc.

    I don’t think this is the fault of sexyfeminism, I think it’s plain old-fashioned misogyny. Sexyfeminism says “sex in all forms is fun and good, but consent is crucial,” and the second part is not window dressing.

  72. buggle

    Anyone who wants to argue with Holly might want to check out her blog first. I found it, um, fascinating. A lot of misinterpreting Twisty and saying nasty things about radical feminists. Not sure why people are bothering to respond to someone who is an obvious troll.

  73. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Fiona: Yes. It doesn’t make it untrue.

    The “I’m going to milk my fuckability for all it’s worth” can be a conscious decision that serves the self. Pronouncing through words or deeds “I love reveling in my sexuality” also serves the self and makes self happy. However, do they qualify as feminist “statements?” Of course not.

    I’m an exhibitionist. I’ve been one since I was old enough to purposefully flip up my dress to show off the purple whales on my diaper. It made people smile and laugh. They said it was cute. I was CUTE! CUTE I tell you! I liked making people smile. I liked it when people liked me. Being liked made me happy. Being happy was fun.

    This “perversion,” the desire to trigger smiles and enjoy positive attention from the people around me, stuck. Exhibitionism STILL makes me happy. I STILL get positive attention from it. I DOESN’T belong in my basket of memorable feminist moments, and my bellydance costumes are not “statements.” They’re just very real parts of moi, a mixed bag like everyone else.

  74. TP

    I can’t see Holly as a troll. She disagrees with radical feminism because she thinks it gets between her and her orgasms, so she knocks it in order to be able to create her own brand of feminism.

    Once she discovers the problems her choice of sexuality have caused in her life, she might change her mind. Her most interesting and least-examined fault is that she can only imagine sex as a fulfillment of a certain type of pornographic fantasy, even though she has both ‘normal’ and self-debasing sex. This is a symptom of youthfulness, reminding me of my teen angst of thinking the only sex I could ever have was with the girl who just dumped me, because it was the best sex I ever had!

    Everyone who has only thought of sex in terms of what is coming between me and my orgasm or what is helping me to achieve my orgasm has a hard time with radical feminism at first, because it seems to fall into the first category, something that is harshing my delightful, pornographic sex buzz!

  75. E

    “Sex is too private to have an inherent power structure.”

    When I read this, I was surprised to hear someone imitating the sound Goofy makes when he laughs, and it really startled me. And then I realized it was me making the sound.

  76. Fiona

    Hey, I’m not looking to condemn anyone here. I’m actually finding this whole conversation very useful in further defining my own views, and those views are tending toward radical feminism more and more. I like it when people come in here trying to shoot up the place; it brings out some of the best blaming from some pretty sophisticated thinkers.

    My point about the “I’m doing it for myself” argument vis a vis breast implants, etc. is that doing something for oneself, on its own, doesn’t make it a feminist act simply because one is able to make the choice. Surely even the most positive of sex-positive feminists wouldn’t argue that mutilating one’s body in service to a beauty standard set by our patriarchal society is an act of feminism because she’s “doing it for herself.” Because even if the beauty standard were something that didn’t require surgery to achieve, women are still defined by their appearance. That is, their sexual appeal to men. That is, their value as objects to be consumed in a patriarchy. Making that “choice” is decidedly not feminism, sex-positive or otherwise.

    I’m not sure I know what exhibitionism is, so I can’t really comment on that. The BDSM thing–that I’ll never understand. No matter what roles people are playing in those scenarios, they’re acting out and reinforcing the patriarchy regardless of who’s the submissive or the dominant. Nothing subversive or feminist about that.

  77. Elinor

    Sexyfeminism says “sex in all forms is fun and good, but consent is crucial,” and the second part is not window dressing.

    Except that it kind of is, in the same way it is in right-wing economic libertarianism. The notion that the existing options are free and fair and no coercion is going on, overtly or behind the scenes, is crucial to both. Pointing out the existing unfairness in, say, the job market (to a right-libertarian) gets you accused of being a lazy, whining good-for-nothing who wants everything handed to you; pointing out the existing coercion in women’s sex lives gets you accused of being a miserable killjoy who wants all other women to be just as miserable as you are.

  78. anna

    Ryna/Lizzie: “Thanks for being the type of complete fucking hypocrite who felt the need to yell at radfems for “telling other women how to feel” and then turning around to inform me that I’m not allowed to refer to myself as a former sex worker despite the fact that I fucking am one. Apparently, for the sake of your ideological convenience, it’s okay to label others’ experiences for them, starting with telling everybody who didn’t like being empowerfullated according to your personal model that it’s because they were slaves when they actually weren’t.”

    I saw that, and it had me almost spitting with rage. Just letting you know that this feminist heard you, and you have my sympathies.

  79. Gayle

    Elinor,

    Nicely put.

  80. shannon

    Holly, the problem is that every single woman is stuffed into the loving being an exhibitionist or a submissive, and the sexual desires of those of us who get off through doing things that physically feel good [rather than thinking 'man, do I look hot' or "I'm totally humbled'] are ignored. Female sexuality is smushed into either you only get off through getting naked and being gawked at or you hate sex[which is apparently worse than anything else possible]

  81. Jen

    Just a thought for the sex-positives: I really like sex. I also like respect. When I can’t get the two together, as is often the case, I have a hand and a credit card to buy sex toys.

    I really don’t see how pleasing men is exerting my sexual liberation. I always thought that withholding sex from all piggish men until they got a clue was a better idea. So I surround myself with lots of fun self pleasuring tools and gay porn (the only porn that objectifies men too!). I call myself a masturbation-positive Feminist, because I really can’t be assed to go through all the trouble to find a man that cares about my sexual and emotional needs before or in conjunction with his own, so I resort to my hand.

  82. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    LOOK! HUMMINGBIRD!

  83. Mehitabel Moody Moss

    Great discussion. I love you Twisty, but I’m loving your brilliant commenters also. Many great quotable lines!

    This came to mind (old but true): The personal is political

    My neighbor told me tonight about her button: I’ll be a post-feminist in the post-patriarchy.

    Some old feminist stuff is passe but there was a point to CR groups and sharing experience/insights about how we are oppressed and how to deal with it.

  84. Ron Sullivan

    LOOK! HUMMINGBIRD!

    See, that’s why I’ve learned never to fuck with anyone who isn’t a birder. What species of hummingbird? Is it an extralimital? It it doing a territorial display?

    Feh. Amateurs.

    Oddly, I suppose, I learned how to twirl tassels back in my early 20s. Gravity and time have made me less inclined (or parts of me more inclined, which makes me less inclined) to actually do that any more, but I usedtacould change directions and bothways-at-once and all that too.

    I can also twiddle my thumbs in two directions at once. Try it. It’s about as sexay as tassels.

    Thing is, I have never figured out what those funny clothes and odd motions onstage have to do with sex. I really really like sex. I was relieved as all hell to discover, back in those nasty ol’ 1960s, that it had nothing to do with being sexy. Somewhere in there I found out that I could pretty much fuck anyone I really wanted to, male or female, and I got choosy as all hell. I never was goodlooking but I didn’t have to try. Maybe it’s pheromones, I don’t know.

    See, I don’t have to please anyone. If they’re not smart enough to have the hots for me already, well, there are six million people in the world and I don’t even have to confine myself to only half of them.

    “Consent”? Consent is reactionary. Want or don’t bother. And if they’re not really good at it, what’s the point?

  85. mearl

    Holly, if you’re over 40, you will be able to knock me over with a feather from the surprise. I dare ya to try NOT being a sexyfeminist and being an unfeminine, unattractive (by mainstream social standards) scary one instead, and see if your feminist demands are still met. Triple dog dare.

    According to my shrink, who is also a sex therapist (not for me, but in his other work), I like sex MORE than the average female. But like some other blamers, I can’t have good sex without dignity. This is really harshing my sex life. So colour me killjoy and call me a radical!

  86. mearl

    Whoa. Just read some of Holly’s blog and yeah, not a whole lot of critical thinking going on up in the grape. Yikes.

  87. Lara

    I commented at Holly’s….meh, I should have known she’s a Libertarian (even the mere word makes me cringe), hence her whole “soviets and commies are evil, radical feminists are evil, therefore, all radical feminists are commies!” type argument way above. And her Western individualism on steroids…
    Wow, equating nipple tassels and BDSM with actual sex?? Now where the hell did that come from? ::pst, Patriarchy!::
    I think the rampant individualism in some segments of third wave feminism is birthing this “sexayfeminism”. It’s all about me, me, me and what I do and what men do to me has no effect on other women ::blocking ears going “nananananananana!”::!! You libertarians and your damned “marketplace of ideas.” Get a fucking clue. We live in a patriarchy, not a dreamworld where we get to frolick around and “choose” whether we’re oppressed or not. I am really convinced too that supporting this “sexayfeminism” comes from a background of class and racial privilege. It’s really striking how most, almost all, “sexayfeminists” are white and middle/upper class women. Hmm…
    I like the “sex-neutral” idea, I think I’ll opt for it. That or the “sexwhateverism”. They both float my boat.
    IBTP.
    :P

  88. Holly

    Mearl – Hold the feather, I’m 22. 22, overweight, rarely wear makeup, dress like I just got back from hiking, and have been with a steady boyfriend for going on a year now. I’m sexy in the “openly proudly sexual” sense, not in the “lithe spandexed hardbody” sense. (Although I don’t look down upon spandexed hardbodies or tell them that they’re ruining things for the good girls.)

    Jen – Wow. If masturbation works for you, godspeed, but if you’re doing it to withhold sex from men then I think you’re under the impression that “men” is one person. Unless you live in a very small town, you know a single man who is not a pig and would care about you. Of course I’m not telling you to go out and find him and do him, but if you want to stay single and selfloving, do it because that’s what makes you happy, not because you’re angry at men.

    Shannon – You know, I don’t think things are perfect right now. I’m not happy with people who try to dictate to women what their sexuality should be. I believe that women should be respected regardless of their sexual choices–that I could declare myself celibate-for-life and be respected, or I could dance naked at the Super Bowl and be respected. Right now we don’t really have either of those options (or the many in between) fully open and that’s why I think sex-positivism is important to feminism.

  89. Elinor

    I usedtacould change directions and bothways-at-once and all that too.

    I’ve been using it as a shorthand for porno sexual exhibitionism, but it does seem like a neat trick. Sort of like those women who can shoot darts out of their vaginas, aiming and everything (I am assuming that this doesn’t hurt them). Or being able to wiggle one’s ears (which, alas, I cannot do).

  90. Elinor

    What I don’t understand is why, if you even admit that the options are unfairly restricted, you would go to such lengths to insist that women DO have agency and choices can’t be criticized and if I enjoy it it’s a feminist choice and blah blingety blah. This looks like self-contradiction to me.

    The notion that today’s radical feminists are the main or most important sexual dictators out there is kind of, yes, insane.

  91. Holly

    Elinor – Women get to choose what they do (to a large degree); they don’t get to choose how it’s perceived. I have the choice to pose naked but I can’t stop people from seeing it and going “that dirty ho,” and that’s what I’d like to change in the world.

    But I believe that the way to fight this is to pose naked anyway and couple it with expression of yourself as a whole human who extends beyond her sexuality, to add the humanity without taking away the sex. When smart outspoken women refuse to pose naked (on ideological grounds, I mean; you can always personally decide not to) it only solidifies the idea that naked women can’t be smart and outspoken.

    You can’t stop men from viewing women sexually and I wouldn’t want to. But you can make it so that they don’t view women only sexually, so that they can say “I admire her politics and her knockers” and not be joking about either part.

    I’m pretty sure radical feminists are not the main sexual dictators out there; I know damn well that dumb rich men are. But it bothers me when radical feminists talk like they’d want to control sexuality.

  92. Natalia

    Lara, I made the comment comparing this rhetoric to Soviet youth culture rhetoric. I stand by it. I don’t believe that “Soviets and commies” are “evil” – because I was born a Soviet (and, by association, a “commie” – although the USSR fell before I would have been old enough to join the Party).

    What I don’t find helpful is the similar style of rhetoric – and the way it intersects with religious fundamentalism. On my own blog, I compared Twisty’s comments about sex with a Russian Orthodox fundamentalist’s comments about sex. They’re weirdly similar, along with other similarities I have noted over the years of being both an American feminist and an Eastern Orthodox. Do I think there is some Big Conspiracy between the underground Politburo, Twisty Faster, and bearded Orthodox priests living on Aphon? Ha ha. I do think it’s interesting how certain types of thinking intersect in spite of all appearances to the contrary, however.

    ***Your attempt to get past my Bill O’Reilly filter by comparing feminism to Orwellian ultra-leftism, rather than Hitlerian ultra-rightism, fools me for approximately no seconds.***

    Not all, feminism, Catherine, but Twisty’s feminism. For example, I work with some feminist groups in Ukraine, and the direction they have taken is a wholly different one (of course, Ukrainian feminism in itself is not a monolith, and I would not like to perpetuate that image).

    As I noted, I think sex-neutral is a good term – particularly as I believe in the importance of language. Whether I like it or not, Twisty is a highly influential feminist writer (this is why I read her blog, even when I find myself in furious disagreement), just not one I could ever hope to agree with on these issues.

  93. fishboots

    I am so fucking happy your back Twisty.

    “This new evangelical site rocks it! It’s Sexy and Feminine!!”

  94. Elinor

    When smart outspoken women refuse to pose naked (on ideological grounds, I mean; you can always personally decide not to) it only solidifies the idea that naked women can’t be smart and outspoken.

    How is this different in structure from the radical feminist assertion that doing the empowerful porno act makes it more difficult for other women to opt out of the empowerful porno act?

    The pressure on women to be proper sexual objects is enormous. How do you address the scorn directed at women who don’t have the “right” kind of body to be in nudie mags? The association of public nudity and stupidity is one thing, but I doubt you’ll get anywhere trying to suggest that naked people shouldn’t feel exposed and vulnerable; what does it mean, therefore, when images of naked women and clothed men are everywhere? And the answer to this is first and foremost to stop complaining about the images of naked women, and perhaps to pose for your own nudie shots? What if I told you that I thought, for the sake of feminism, that more women should get over their dislike of makeup, dresses, and high heels, and even consider wearing those things, and certainly not talk about how those things take up time and money and may (or, in the case of heels, will) damage your health because that’s vilifying women who wear them and denying us choice?

    What if a woman just does not want to be treated as a sexual object, at all? What if she wants to keep her knockers to herself? We’ve seen already that sexual harassment happens all the damn time; is getting more women to pose naked more important to you than stopping the harassment? Maybe some women like being catcalled! What about them?

    Frankly you sound to me like you’ve just discovered sex and are a little bit drunk on the experience. That’s fine; enjoy that. I’m not much older than you, and I remember reading Ms. in my late teens and being frustrated that they had no stories about positive sexual relationships with men. I felt like they didn’t think those were possible. Then my boyfriend’s abusive tendencies came to the forefront, I had a few more experiences, a couple more boyfriends, and I realised that, nope, love and sex are awesome, but they are not political answers.

  95. shannon

    I wanted to express the idea that women’s sexuality outside of being submissive and showing your body parts to men who probably have ball stank is being perceived as NONEXISTENT. Either your sexuality is pornysexyfun or you’re celibate and hate sex. It’s like the madonna/ whore dichotomy except for the madonnas are the demons here, to be looked down upon[OMG, THEY HATE SEX!!!] and the whores, well, they get some ‘wages’ in attention and some actual money, but in the end, they aren’t going to be having a good time, what with the patriarchy.

  96. AngryYoungFemme

    Holly: “But I believe that the way to fight this is to pose naked anyway and couple it with expression of yourself as a whole human who extends beyond her sexuality, to add the humanity without taking away the sex. When smart outspoken women refuse to pose naked (on ideological grounds, I mean; you can always personally decide not to) it only solidifies the idea that naked women can’t be smart and outspoken.”

    Firstly, what is the difference between not doing something on ideological grounds as opposed to personally deciding not to do that something? THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL. We cannot escape ideology, whether it’s good or bad—especially when we don’t realize we are pandering to certain kinds of bad ideology (i.e., sexay feminism pandering to the patriarchy; THE dominant ideology of our planet.)

    Of course naked women can be smart and outspoken. They just can’t under patriarchy. EVER. More naked women is not going to further that cause.

    “I’m pretty sure radical feminists are not the main sexual dictators out there; I know damn well that dumb rich men are. But it bothers me when radical feminists talk like they’d want to control sexuality.”

    And again, radical feminists don’t want to control sexuality (except, perhaps their own.) I think you are missing a very important point here. You seem to be taking everything that Twisty says at face value. Yet, if you can understand the concept of ideology, how can you not understand that there is no such thing as “choice” under patriarchy? There’s the illusion of choice, i.e., no one puts a gun to the girl’s head who flashes her tits for Girls Gone Wild, yet, due to patriarchal ideology, she does so anyway because it’s what she’s supposed to do (not to mention, there are usually crowds chanting pressure at this girl.) It gets her applause; it gets her attention as an object. And patriarchal ideology dictates that women must seek attention from men in order to verify that they exist because under the patriarchy we only exist to reflect men.

    Can you imagine sexuality that is not influenced by patriarchal fantasies and ideals? Take all the ‘categories’ you find listed at porn sites out of the picture. Hard, isn’t it? That patriarchal ideology just creeps in, uninvited. But, that’s where authentic female sexuality can be found. And, unfortunately, we are a long way off from being able to have authentic female sexuality. That’s why sex-positivism doesn’t work as feminism, in particular, it doesn’t work as a feminism that will further women’s rights and autonomy and authentic sexuality.

    Like Twisty says, there’s no philosophical value in flashing your tits or enacting BDSM, especially when the only philosophical value you place on that is having the so-called “choice” to do so. May I ask you to explain what you believe the philosophical value is in sex-positivism?

    Methinks a trip to the library is called for here.

  97. Elinor

    And patriarchal ideology dictates that women must seek attention from men in order to verify that they exist because under the patriarchy we only exist to reflect men.

    Which is not to say that large numbers of women do not genuinely want attention from men. A lot of women genuinely love and lust after men, which is why “do X, Y, and Z or no man will want you” is such a powerful message.

    The notion that men are buyers in a buyers’ market, that their attention and affection are scarce and have to be “earned” through displays of submission (to those men directly, or to patriarchal norms of attractiveness, deportment, etc.) will not disappear if we just get more women to put on those displays. It will not even disappear if we just get more women to put on those displays while yelling “I’M NOT SUBMISSIVE.” There are imbalances in men’s and women’s sex lives that are about a lot more than women being shamed for wanting to have sex. A hell of a lot more.

    This is my favourite blog entry on the subject of sex-positivism.

  98. AngryYoungFemme

    “Which is not to say that large numbers of women do not genuinely want attention from men. A lot of women genuinely love and lust after men, which is why “do X, Y, and Z or no man will want you” is such a powerful message.”

    Exactly, Elinor, and that’s where it gets confusing and where authentic female sexuality, at least the facets of it that we can have under patriarchy (i.e., women who “genuinely love and lust after men”, of which I am one as a het femme) gets conflated with sex positivism.

    It takes abstract, critical thinking to grasp how the patriarchal paradigm influences us and our decisions and in order to navigate those influences in such a way that our sexuality is as authentic as it can be. Flash your tits if you want, but understand what that means in the context of our patriarchal society.

    “Women get to choose what they do (to a large degree); they don’t get to choose how it’s perceived. I have the choice to pose naked but I can’t stop people from seeing it and going “that dirty ho,” and that’s what I’d like to change in the world.”

    Exactly, Holly, which is why I don’t understand how doing something that will get you perceived in those ways is supposed to change how you are perceived. Two plus two does not equal negative 4. Posing naked and pandering to patriarchal ideals while screaming, as Elinor put it above, “I’m not submissive!” or “Respect women!” or “Women are not sex objects!” is not going to help and it is NOT going to change how people perceive naked women. If anything, those words will fall on deaf ears while above the din of wanking.

    Radical feminism is about getting to the root of misogyny and nipping it at the bud. Not taking on a branch or a leaf of the misogyny tree and trying to take the whole thing down that way. Once women are equal and respected and considered HUMAN like men are, THEN we can talk about everybody getting naked without patriarchal connotations.

  99. KH

    Catherine Martell: ‘using expressions like … “collective” … to describe a form of feminism boils down to much the same thing as saying “feminazi feminazi feminazi lalala”.’

    Lara: …the rampant individualism in some segments of third wave feminism is birthing this “sexayfeminism”. It’s all about me, me, me and what I do and what men do to me has no effect on other women ::blocking ears going “nananananananana!”::!!’

    In ordinary usage, collectivism & individualism are diametrical. If Lara is a feminist, then Catherine is mistaken to say that Natalia’s engaged in baseless name-calling. And Lara’s hardly alone. A lot of feminist ideology avowedly privileges collective over individual projects & rights. So Natalia’s not just ‘lalala’ making stuff up.

  100. panoptical

    “doing the empowerful porno act makes it more difficult for other women to opt out of the empowerful porno act?”

    There seems to be a lot of sentiment in this and other comments that various activities, whether public or private, actually hurt the cause of feminism by reinforcing patriarchal norms. In a way, then, radical feminism is telling women – or at least asking women – not to do these things. And that’s okay, but it’s not genuinely sex-neutral, and that’s what I think Holly and some others are objecting to.

    No feminist wants to feel a conflict between her sexual identity and her feminist identity. There is a certain level of contradiction there, which is kind of the whole point of feminism – that a woman in our society has a constant conflict between different identifications and needs, a conflict that has been described as early as Simone de Beauvoir when she asks why women don’t unite to end their oppression, if not earlier.

    What I am saying is that if Holly were not truly concerned with the liberation of women and with being a feminist she wouldn’t feel the need to portray sexual freedom in feminist terms. I don’t think it’s fair to call her a troll or other nasty things that have been said. She’s earnestly trying to reconcile her sexual desires with her desire for liberation. Maybe she is going about it the wrong way, maybe not. But what needs to be acknowledged here is that because women have sexual desires, if women’s liberation is possible at all, those desires will *have to* be reconciled with liberation. Holly wouldn’t be a liberated person if she weren’t allowed to act on her sexual desires.

    Yes, it’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario. Either Holly expresses her own sexual desires freely and thus makes it more difficult for other women to opt out of the porn paradigm and be perceived as fully human, or Holly represses her own human sexual desires for the greater good. This creates a tension between individualists like Holly and radical feminists like Elinor – however, let’s try to keep in mind that neither Holly nor Elinor nor any of the people posting here set up the conditions for this conflict. This scenario comes to us courtesy of the patriarchy and if we attempt to degrade each other because we’ve been set at each other’s throats by the patriarchy we’re playing into their hands.

  101. L

    There seems to be a lot of sentiment in this and other comments that various activities, whether public or private, actually hurt the cause of feminism by reinforcing patriarchal norms. In a way, then, radical feminism is telling women – or at least asking women – not to do these things. And that’s okay, but it’s not genuinely sex-neutral, and that’s what I think Holly and some others are objecting to.

    I think the comments on this post are about telling people — in this case, sex-pozzers — to stop portraying every little thing as a feminist act. That’s why it’s been called sex-neutralism in this post. The details of my or Holly’s sex lives are neither here nor there when it comes to furthering the cause of radical feminism. Do whatever the fuck you want, radical feminism doesn’t care, but if it’s not actually helping other women and it’s only helping you get more P-cookies, then don’t call it feminist.

  102. Fiona

    AngryYoungFemme said: “Radical feminism is about getting to the root of misogyny and nipping it at the bud. Not taking on a branch or a leaf of the misogyny tree and trying to take the whole thing down that way. Once women are equal and respected and considered HUMAN like men are, THEN we can talk about everybody getting naked without patriarchal connotations.”

    I think this is well put. This is why, to use a fluffy example, the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” leaves me cold. Yes, it’s saying these women who stand before you in their underwear aren’t starving, and they’re beautiful, too. Which is to say, these women are just as worthy and available for male consumption. If anything, it furthers the notion that women are objects because it’s simply an attempt to widen the membership criteria for the objectification club.

    I don’t mean to harp on the beauty standard thing, and I know I’m not saying anything that many others here haven’t already articulated, but the idea that redefining the beauty standard does NOT advance the cause where ending the definition of women in terms of their attractiveness to men DOES was a revelation to me. I never would’ve even thought of it that way if it weren’t for y’all, but I’m catching up. It seems to me that the sexyfeminism being discussed here is embraced by people who want the privilege that comes from male approval without feeling like they’re contributing to the problem of a society where male approval outweighs everything. Why else their need to defend so vehemently their views and actions, particularly on a radical feminist blog?

  103. AngryYoungFemme

    I agree that doing the things that “play into the hands” of patriarchy is not good, but there is nothing we can do that won’t do that, 9 times out of 10. I think if we as women are informed about the ways that patriarchy works and how what we do fits into that paradigm, then we can make choices that are as feminist as we can make them.

    The thing that gets my radical feminist goat, though, is when someone like Holly doesn’t see the bigger picture of the pervasiveness of patriarchy and thus doesn’t have a firm foot to stand on in discussing her actions, which do pander to patriarchal norms and which she seems incapable of acknowledging.

    Again, have fun with your BDSM, but don’t pretend that doing so is inherently feminist or that that furthers the feminist cause when it is, in fact, inherently misogynistic and does nothing for feminism. I think her intentions are good but misguided. That Holly loves herself (I hope) and is confident to do as she wants, especially sexually, is fantastic–that she demands what she wants and doesn’t wilt like a wallflower is feminist and great, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all of feminism.

    No one is saying YOU CAN’T DO THAT BECAUSE IT’S PATRIARCHAL! All we’re saying is, understand that it is patriarchal and if you still want to do it, go ahead, but be honest about it.

  104. AngryYoungFemme

    Fiona, I agree. I was just about to chime in that, again, this blog is not a feminist primer in terms of most-recent posts and related comments, but it is, actually, if one simply goes back to the beginning and reads the archives from start to finish. At least, I was a baby feminist of the sexyfun kind (though I was never really ok with that and felt very conflicted most of the time; must have been the rad femme in me who was itching to be discovered) when I found this blog and have since graduated to a no-nonsense radical feminist with a crazy sense of humor (thus, my fondness for Twisty F.)

    My guess is that Holly has not read enough posts and cannot (at least she has not given me any reason to believe she can) read critically and analytically. Twisty never says, “YOU CANNOT DO X, Y, OR Z.” Putting words in her mouth (or her pen, for that matter) so you have something to rail against in your own blog strikes me as insincere. There is plenty else in this patriarchal world to rail against besides fellow feminists. Believe it or not, Holly, Twisty is (or at least, in my understanding) on your side, you just can’t hear/read it above the sexyfunporno noise pollution.

  105. Serafina

    Patriarchy declines to offer you full agency, even if — particularly if — you try to take it. That’s why patriarchy is bad.

    Some of us take it anyway, and succeed. If that were impossible, there would never have been any feminist movement, and we might as well just throw up our hands and give up.

  106. Serafina

    The notion that men are buyers in a buyers’ market, that their attention and affection are scarce and have to be “earned” through displays of submission (to those men directly, or to patriarchal norms of attractiveness, deportment, etc.) will not disappear if we just get more women to put on those displays. It will not even disappear if we just get more women to put on those displays while yelling “I’M NOT SUBMISSIVE.” There are imbalances in men’s and women’s sex lives that are about a lot more than women being shamed for wanting to have sex. A hell of a lot more.

    Yes. Exactly.

    We’re all “sex positive” in the sense that we want women to be able to enjoy sex.

    But there’s something more important than the ability to enjoy sex, and that’s the ability to control sex, to own your sexuality fully, as much as men do.

    I’m not for sex. I’m for all people being in control of their own sex lives, of when and how and where they fuck, and with whom. That control–that power of choice–is more important than the sex itself.

    I want women to be able to enjoy sex. But more importantly, I want women to have the ability to control IF and WHEN and HOW they will enjoy it, to have the ability to say, “gee, my sexuality actually DOESN’T have much to do with constantly visualizing how I must look to male observers.”

  107. Serafina

    But I believe that the way to fight this is to pose naked anyway and couple it with expression of yourself as a whole human who extends beyond her sexuality, to add the humanity without taking away the sex. When smart outspoken women refuse to pose naked (on ideological grounds, I mean; you can always personally decide not to) it only solidifies the idea that naked women can’t be smart and outspoken.

    I agree.

    But what about the naked men?

    Who’s defending their right to be smart, and naked, and outspoken?

    Answer: there are no naked men in our commercial media, and therein lies the problem. Objectified nudity is a sign of degradation in our culture, and it’s a female-specific form of degradation. We can and should change it, and maybe feminists comfortable with nudity might help with that, but what would help MORE is fighting the idea that naked female bodies are the default way of selling stuff to men.

  108. AngryYoungFemme

    Serafina: while it is tempting, the answer to ending objectification of women is not by objectifing men in return with the same vigor with which they objectify women. The point is that we are ALL human and none of us deserves to be made into an object by anyone else.

    I am, however, all for appreciation of the male form, just as I am for appreciation of the female form. Until we are all seen as human first and sexual second (in a post-patriarchal world), however, women will continue to be objectified by the world dominant male gaze. This is why we don’t see the same level of male objecification as we do female. The reigning heterosexual male gaze doesn’t want to see other nude guys, it wants to see nude girls/women.

    And I would beg to differ, slightly, on the idea that there are no nude men in our commercial media–it just depends on which market of commercial media you look at. As has been discussed upthread (here or perhaps in one of the other recent posts) media directed at the homosexual male certainly objectifies men in the same way as media directed at the heterosexual male does women.

  109. Jen

    Holly: well, I suppose of more girls like me held out for a decent person instead of any old penis, we’d see a lot less of this kind of thread, no? I withhold sex from piggish men, not all men. Sadly, both as a product of the patriarchy, and the fact that I’m a 20 year old college student, there is a large shortage of non-piggish men. Also, when you’re a guy, it doesn’t take much to find a woman that will suit your life style. If you’re a feminist (especially a self-loving, piggish-asshole-hating one like me) it’s practically a never-ending interview process, where I’m lucky to get the second date without wanting to resort to large quantities of alcohol to dull the pain of seeing yet another asshat trying to play along with the same “boy meets girl, pays for dinner, and gets a blow job out of gratitude” script.

    It might also be because I’ve found that me, myself, and I are typically far better lovers than those that think the sex act begins with erection and ends with ejaculation. If I can have more fun by myself, and I don’t have to spend two hours looking nice beforehand, why the fuck should I extend my “womanly favors” unto the unworthy population? When I do find a nice guy (again) that checks his gender scripts and bullshit at the door, then we’ll stay inside and fuck like rabbits all day long. Until then, I have me, myself, and I to keep me company.

  110. mearl

    Holly: I don’t mean to be a jerk. I guessed that you were around 20, and I was right. I just hope you do some more reading and thinking about why people find certain things a turnon, like why it is overwhelmingly men who want submissive women that they can beat, humiliate, and control. It doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. If sexuality were so diverse, porn and BDSM wouldn’t be the same damn thing OVER and OVER again. But it is. I’ve just started reading “Pornified” by Pamela Paul, and, combined with the reams of reading and research and theory that I’ve stuffed into my pointed head since the age of 14, I’m drawing many, many conclusions about human sexuality, and why society’s interpretation of sexuality looks the way it looks currently. Capitalism has a lot to do with it. Insecurities, both on the part of men and women, seem to make up a majority of the rest of it.

    There’s one thing that I always tell my esteemed and sadly egotistical buddy, the Bootsauce, when he starts going off on his rant that he has somehow risen above human nature and that everyone else’s interpretation of his actions is TOTALLY off the mark, he is just SOOOOOOOOOOOO much more enlightened than the rest of us. I remind him that he’s in the same bag with the rest of us, so his reasons for doing things are not as murky and progressive and “rational” and “above the herd” as he seems to think.

  111. thebewilderness

    You simply cannot overthrow the patriarchy by enacting and celebrating the dominance/submission paradigm that is the basis of the fraudulent belief system that the patriarchy was designed to enforce.

    There are several things I am inclined to call that behavior, but Feminism is certainly not one of them.

  112. doorknob

    You know, considering how many of us (including me) seem to have outgrown our former sexyfun feminism through reading this blog, maybe it’s a good thing that Holly’s here. I’m 22 also, and a year and a half ago I was reading IBTP, going, “this is so infuriating and anti-individualist! Why can’t I stop reading it!” Maybe tacos are a good vehicle for bringing the radical feminist message.

    Oops, I guess I mean the evangelical pro-life message. Silly me.

  113. Tilly

    Performing and serving the erection instead of having sex and putting your own enjoyment equal is the feminist issue.

    Here’s some questions:

    How many women believe they have to totally dehair and attend to the yuckiness of their bodies in order to be acceptable nude and to “feel like a woman?”

    How many young women believe they are sexually free, yet don’t come during sex, don’t particularly wonder about it, and when they say they have oral sex, it’s always about giving it to the man? In fact, by default that is the meaning of oral sex to them.

    How many women define exploring sexuality as exploring things to wear or not wear or exploring sexuality is about taking a pole dancing class or exploring sexuality is about becoming a lipstick lesbian with a man watching? How is this about women discovering what is not performance – what is not a job?

    How many women think to themselves that sex is a performance not a shared act? Really?

    Why is Pretty Woman and that country singer that sings “feel like a woman” which should be called, feel like a hooker, equated with femininity? Why is a hooker with a heart of gold or a country singer singing a commercial for Revlon or drag outfits equated with “feeling like a woman?”

  114. ripley

    Natalia, perhaps it is unpleasant to hear echoes of some of the things that the Soviets said because of the many bad things that happened in that era, and bad things your remember.

    But the idea that there is a larger system we are part of that we can’t just opt out of through individual choice, that was true then, and it’s true now. In fact, some of the things the Soviets said about women and sexism were true too.

    I’ve seen a lot of folks who lived through that era in Eastern Europe or Russia reject everything to do with it and fall into a kind of nihilistic individualism and materialism. This is not, to my mind, progress

    Also, and not coincidentally, the former-soviet places have often embraced porntasticness and explicit beauty requirements for jobs and hyperfemininity and suchlike. I don’t see this as an advance from the efforts towards gender equality under the soviets (differently, in different regimes at different times etc etc).

    not to nerd out too much on that.

  115. TheMilo

    I dig this post, and I think it says some fairly necessary things.

    My wife calls this phenomenon you describe “pop feminism.” It’s catchy because it doesn’t require any serious alterations to one’s lifestyle, yet offers an ideological rationale for irresponsible and often demeaning behavior. It’s like dressing a certain way to piss off one’s parents: It shocks, but it also provides a shield against critique on the grounds that “you’re just judging me.” It is, as someone much wiser than I once said of conservatism “a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

    Incidentally, I’ve been lurking here for a while, and the last time I commented a few years back I was (rightly) slapped around a bit for making remarks that were, if not downright foolish, then perhaps ill-considered. I’d like to thank those responsible. I needed it. So thank you, and happy Blaming.

    The Milo

  116. Lisa

    I think when it happens, aging out of the sexyfunfeminist I mean, is when you lose those fuckability points.

    Even if you are overweight, Holly, you are young and I imagine your friends are young and you are still in the game. When I was young, I wasn’t drop dead gorgeous but I was cute. And I can admit now what I didn’t see then, it got me things. Attention, free coffee and drinks and meals, admiring looks, better customer service from guy waiters or tech support people or whoever. My fuckability was an advantage to me in 100 different ways, both big and small.

    Now I’m in my late 30′s. I’ve popped out a cupla kids. I’ve gained some wrinkles and some weight and some grey. I have a career and a family and a life so things like manicures, taking 45 minutes to do my hair, spending a fortune on cosmetics or designer clothes doesn’t appeal to me so much. Its just not a priority. I no longer have the need to flirt to get my coffee. I just buy it with the cash I’ve earned from the job I have from the degrees I’ve earned from the education I got some lurnin’ from.

    So, in every way that is important to me, I feel like I’ve improved. I’m a better person than I was back in my early 20s. But my fuckability score has plummeted with the men, simply because I’m no longer a hawt young thing so eager to use my hawtness to get what I want. And the fact that I can so obviously see that my self-worth has substantially improved since my early 20s, though it has so substantially decreased in the eyes of men, simply because I’m not so fuckable any more. I don’t meat the standard.

    And so I could say, I’m going to lose 30 lbs and get botox and a makeover and a Brazilian and hawt myself up and hire a babysitter and go out on the town because I want to embrace my sexuality no matter what men say. Well, fine. But, guess what? My worth is still being defined by men as a fuckability score no matter who I have chosen to become.

    Sure, I can choose to do things to improve my fuckability score or decrease it. And I can cry out that this is my choice and what I am doing is for ME and it is all outside of whatever framework the patriarchy has set up. But in the end, I am still going to be defined by how fuckable I am. By how hard I try to play into the feminine ideal, by how willing I am to perform and give blow jobs or whatnot, by how easily men are able to objectify me as someone they either would or would not like to fuck. So, sure, women can do what they want, and even find a pretty great guy to partner with who tries his best to look outside of that paradigm. But we are still surrounded every second no matter what, with the prevailing notion that our worth is tied up in that fuckability quotient.

    If this weren’t true, then those who chose NOT to become a big-boobed, blond bombshell wouldn’t get so severely criticized. If you didn’t want to shave, you wanted to go grey, you didn’t wear make-up, you even chose an asexual lifestyle, there would be no judgment for it. But right now, the world we live in is basically something like this:

    Dresses hot, keeps in shape, willing to put out and give head = value

    Dresses for function, doesn’t pick up a razor, doesn’t flip hair and giggle at the sight of men = crazy, hairy, dyke-y feminazi.

    Do whatever you want, but that is the framework we all work in, basically. You’ll see it in about 20 years.

  117. Elinor

    This creates a tension between individualists like Holly and radical feminists like Elinor

    I’m not a radical feminist and I’ve repeatedly said that I don’t object to Holly (or myself, or anyone) doing things that feed into patriarchal paradigms. I’m pissed off that you labelled me that way. I was simply asking why telling women they would be more helpful to the feminist movement if they posed nude is better than telling women they would be more helpful to the feminist movement if they didn’t pose nude.

  118. Feminist Avatar

    The point is that it doesn’t make any difference whether you pose nude or don’t pose nude, because you damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Under the patriarchy, they can be no truly feminist act; there can be no feminist sex. Because patriarchy is not (just)a behaviour that is performed and thus can be not performed; it is a way of looking and interpreting the world. That is why the removal of patriarchy needs a revolution; it needs us to entirely transform how we understand gender. As Firestone argues, it is not just about removing gender privilige; it’s about removing gender distinction.

    One of the key problems in my mind is the inability of the current feminist movement to envision a post-patriarchal world- to envision life free of gender distinction. This something that the RadFems of the Second Wave at least made an effort to do, and, yes, they were shot down for their inability to incorporate different world views (notably race and class difference) into their new hegemony- but they tried to do this. Part of the pro/anti sex debate is actually a discussion about the role of sex in post-patriarchy- but a debate that has failed to transcend the boundaries placed upon it by the patriarchy. We need to think bigger, broader and, yes, more radical. Becuase otherwise we aren’t moving forward.

  119. Natalia

    //Also, and not coincidentally, the former-soviet places have often embraced porntasticness and explicit beauty requirements for jobs and hyperfemininity and suchlike. I don’t see this as an advance from the efforts towards gender equality under the soviets (differently, in different regimes at different times etc etc).//

    Oh dear. I am not going to get into that discussion (it would be a huge de-rail). Suffice it to say that if the laws of the CIS countries were enforced, discrimination in the workplace would not be a problem. Gender equality in the USSR itself was an interesting phenomenon – it was, and wasn’t, there. Femininity, however, always was. I don’t know where the idea of the androgynous Soviet female comes from – (I’ve encountered it… Cold War propaganda, maybe?) – but it was rare.

    As for femininity in general – I don’t spend time asking questions such as “but are those platform Sonia Rykiel heels feminist? But is the headscarf? The blow-job? The boob-job?” To me, that’s like asking “but is eating this piece of cheese feminist?” Choices aren’t neutral – but neither is breathing (eating up all that precious oxygen, etc.).

    My feminism is tactical – involving working with the government system and maximizing impact in the crisis areas. “You do what you must do, and you do it well,” as the song goes.

  120. Anne X

    Mearl, you might find the books ‘Sex is not a natural act’ and ‘Profit and pleasure’ to be interesting. Both of them discuss the links between capitalism and sexuality.

  121. Ron Sullivan

    Posing nude doesn’t just make you nude; it makes you a poseur.

    Poseusse?

  122. panoptical

    Elinor: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to mischaracterize your position or place an unfair label on you. I assure you that I was not using the term pejoratively. Earlier you said you didn’t identify as closely with radical feminism as you once did – I didn’t realize that you meant that you did not want to be identified as a radical feminist at all.

    Perhaps I overstated my case, but let me try to draw an analogy so I can be more precise:

    Imaging an organization being created to try to encourage women to vote. This organization portrays women voting as a feminist action – women are exercising the right to make choices that were denied to them in the past.

    Now, we could argue that this is disingenuous. Women may vote, but for the most part that vote goes to the white men who have the power to secure the nomination for whatever office they are running for. In the rare cases where a female candidate has a chance at being elected, many women don’t vote for that candidate anyway. So in a way, women voting is not actually a feminist activity, because nine times out of ten that vote simply reinforces the patriarchy.

    “Vote if you want, but don’t pretend that voting is a feminist project” seems to be discouraging. It seems to say that a woman’s rights are not important. It seems to say that it is not important for women to exercise those rights. It seems to say that the women who fought to give women the right to vote were fighting for nothing.

    I think this analogy applies to the debate over sex-positivism. Women used to be forced into arranged marriages, essentially sold by their fathers and owned by their husbands; otherwise they were nuns forbidden from having sex, or prostitutes forced to have sex. Now, many women can choose whether to marry, and who to marry, and whether to be celibate or not, and yes, whether to be prostitutes or not (not to say that all prostitutes are prostitutes by choice – just that many women can choose whether or not to be prostitutes.) Can we say that exercising these choices is not a feminist project? Perhaps. But I think that sex-positivism is about celebrating the fact that (some) women now have these choices. Why shouldn’t it be empowering to choose to have sex when a mere fifty years ago that choice would have been met with censure or punishment? In some countries a woman who has premarital sex can legally be killed by her male relatives. Why shouldn’t Holly celebrate the fact that she’s not dead many times over, and why shouldn’t she view this fact as a celebration of feminism’s achievements?

    I guess that was a lengthy way of saying that from one point of view, a woman can be seen as helping the feminist movement whenever she makes a personal choice that would have otherwise been denied to or decided for her before the feminist movement. From another point of view, a woman can be seen as not helping the movement whenever her choice corresponds to patriarchal norms. Those are the two points of view that I am describing the tension between, and again, I’m sorry if I unfairly used you as an example of one point of view.

  123. Feminist Avatar

    panoptical: great analogy. And if you want to put this phenomenon into the context of patriarchy systems theory: what you are witnessing is the ability of the patriarchal system to adapt to the challenges that the feminist movement brings. In essense, this is the reason that a revolution is necessary, because ultimately short-term improvements for women are redefined to suit the needs of the patriarchal system, or reinforce male power. It is the ability of the patriarchal system to do this that makes it so effective as a power system. The patriarchal system is not (just?) an outdated edifice; it is a living system that changes as culture changes- that is has not been removed is a sign of women’s weakness within the system.

  124. Feminist Avatar

    By weakness, I mean lack of power.

  125. Dr. Steph

    I have sex, I like it, it’s fun. End of story.

    I think my Grandmother is right: there’s too much talk of sex. It’s a way to get away from discussions of things that really matter: oppression, disease, misogyny, exploitation etc. etc. etc.

    Sign me up for Sex neutrality.

  126. Serafina

    AngryYoungFemme, you said this:


    Serafina: while it is tempting, the answer to ending objectification of women is not by objectifing men in return with the same vigor with which they objectify women. The point is that we are ALL human and none of us deserves to be made into an object by anyone else.

    I don’t disagree–that’s what I was trying to get at, albeit unclearly (obviously).

    My point was that if “objectification” were really such a good, empowering thing, then we would see it being done to men. Saying “but you can be smart and naked at the same time!” doesn’t explain why male nudity is so much scarcer than female nudity, for example. The gender disparity in objectification highlights the limitations of empowerment-through-sexiness and suggests that no matter how much we insist otherwise, objectification is not a route to empowerment.

  127. AngryYoungFemme

    Serafina: Ah, thank you, I understand now. Sorry I misinterpreted you. Right there with you!

  128. Elinor

    But I think that sex-positivism is about celebrating the fact that (some) women now have these choices.

    I don’t have a huge problem with that as such, but when the analysis stops there it’s pretty weak.

    Voting is an inexact analogy because women as a group have not historically been defined by the way we vote or by our ability to do so, and because men have and use the right to vote just as women do, so voting is not coded as a female activity. But all right — to me, sex-positiveness often looks like a celebration of women’s right to vote for explicitly anti-feminist candidates. It’s nice to have that right, and I wouldn’t want to see it taken away, but I don’t care to applaud it, either.

  129. rubysecret

    The Past: Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

    The Present: Feminism is the radical idea that I can have sex whenever I want with whomever I choose. Oh, and porn is cool.

    The Patriarchy: hahahahahahaha!

  130. Lara

    Natalia said:
    “What I don’t find helpful is the similar style of rhetoric – and the way it intersects with religious fundamentalism. On my own blog, I compared Twisty’s comments about sex with a Russian Orthodox fundamentalist’s comments about sex. They’re weirdly similar, along with other similarities I have noted over the years of being both an American feminist and an Eastern Orthodox. Do I think there is some Big Conspiracy between the underground Politburo, Twisty Faster, and bearded Orthodox priests living on Aphon? Ha ha. I do think it’s interesting how certain types of thinking intersect in spite of all appearances to the contrary, however.”

    Well Natalia, supporting capitalism just makes things worse frankly. And please do not lecture me on Orthodox Christianity my family is Coptic Orthodox (Egyptian Christian) so trust me I know Orthodox Christian mentality VERY well. You still do not demonstrate WHY or HOW Twisty’s argument is like Eastern Orthodox belief systems, I think because there’s nothing there to prove it. Stop trying to play on the nasty old stereotype that radical feminists like Twisty (and like myself, by extension) are nasty old prude nazis who want to control women’s sexuality. Blah, blah, blah, old and hackneyed argument that never holds water.
    An Orthodox priest argues that sex is naturally supposed to be not only between a man and a woman, but specifically the man controlling sexual activity and that it is only for procreation. Twisty argues NOTHING of the sort. In fact, she is not even talking about how sex itself “should be.” She is talking about the ways that Patriarchy defines sex to start out with, not that it’s supposed to naturally be that way. Jesus Christ how is that hard to understand??? The fact that you could even read Twisty’s argument in such a way is just….stupid? Ludicrous? I dunno…but it’s annoying as hell that Twisty and I and other feminists like us are jokingly being suspected of forming a “conspiracy” with bearded jackass priests.
    Radical feminists are not dictating how women should behave. At all. We are simply analyzing and deconstructing the ways that women are taught to behave, and how women think they can gain “real” power UNDER MEN’S TERMS. You can’t take something inherently degrading and based on capitalist oppression and making it “empowering.” If I said it before, I will say it again: the personal is political. If you do not respond, Natalia, to the exact things I say here, if you do not give a thorough and coherent argument for how Twisty’s arguments are even remotely like those of Orthodox priests, then you are just avoiding the issue.
    My formerly-Orthodox disgruntled radical feminist ass is done for the night…
    IBTP

  131. Lara

    In regards to the sexual objectification of men, I’ll just add that black men in this country have traditionally been and still are sexually objectified in this country (US of A). It is not under exactly the same conditions as the sexual objectification of women (men inherently, even if non-white, are not totally defined by their sexuality/sexual availability, whereas women fully are), I have noticed that one of the main ways white culture has degraded and spat upon black men in particular is by portraying them as having bestial sexualities, oversized penises, and rapacious tendencies. Their “animalistic” sexuality was used to contrast with the supposedly powerful and beneficent, “rational” sexuality of white males. So, no, objectifying men will most certainly not help the feminist cause, to put it lightly…
    Read Patricia Hill Collins’s “Black Sexual Politics” to read more about. Awesome book, and very revealing and disturbing too. She covers the intersectional nature of Patriarchy and White Supremacy very well.

  132. Natalia

    Well, my previous comment seems to be (permanently?) stuck in moderation, Lara, but if you look back at what I was saying before – I was comparing rhetorical styles. I never accused anyone of a conspiracy, in fact, I made fun of the very idea – and you are twisting (no pun intended) my words.

    It’s funny you should bring up capitalism, because, as you probably know, since capitalism (or a messed-up version thereof) was introduced in Ukraine, we have suffered greatly. Even more so, I would wager, than the United States poor have suffered (I am not trying to play Oppression Olympics – but from what I understand, few American citizens have been trafficked).

    So to see my argument re-constructed as “yay capitalism” is humorous. While I’m not, like many American leftists, of the opinion that capitalism is inherently evil – I see its problems firsthand, especially when they are compounded by corruption.

    “Lecturing” someone on religion is the furthest thing from my mind – but, as an Orthodox, I do see similarities in styles, and in the desire to proclaim that there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way to go about defining the sexual self (what constitutes wrong and right is, of course, different) – particularly when it comes to consenting adults. For Twisty, sex is messed-up due to oppressive patriarchy, to a fundo it’s messed-up because of the oppression of sin. You can’t escape patriarchy/you can’t escape sin. Your choices are dictated by patriarchy/your choices are dictated by your sinful nature. And in both instances, a certain measure of asceticism is equated to wisdom, as is age (both Twisty and my friends the fundos seem to believe that youth in particular is a time of out-of-control sexual activity for the uninitiated). Just as “sexy feminists” are viewed as people who are, at best, halfway there, so are the moderate Orthodox considered people who just don’t want to make the final push to changing themselves and the world. A lack of radicalism is seen as a lack of resolve, or selfishness, or youthful stupidity, etc. Just as C.S. Lewis (I think it was him) – talked about a pure state when all human beings could be naked together with no evil on their mind, so do some radical feminists talk about how as soon as we have overturned the social order, nudity (or, say, cleavage, or whatever) will be less problematic. Until then, keep it buttoned up.

    There ARE points of contact here, I believe. I say this without the intent to slander. It’s just that often, I get asked why I, having seen what I’ve seen, have not turned to radical feminism like the sort that Twisty believes in.

    But I don’t think that’s the way, not for me, certainly. In my previous comment, the one that’s still moderated, I mentioned the idea of tactical feminism, wherein asking a question such as “is this halter-top feminist?” is completely irrelevant. That’s my shtick.

  133. tara

    Nothing happens in a vacuum. Women need to think critically about context, since it’s men’s birthright to never have to. I’m wondering where all these “smart,” “independent” women who love “showing their tits” got their ideas about sex. Apparently, they filtered down from some equity-filled Platonic fantasy world where rape and oppression don’t exist and we’re all equal players in a sexual-power-imbalance-free wonderland. What that doesn’t explain, however, is why–since we’re all by golly just people enjoying ourselves–women get “pleasure” and “power” from exposing themselves to men and shoving dicks in their mouth, while men don’t run around giggling and flashing their man-boobs to cameras held by leering women.

  134. mearl

    Finished up reading Pamela Paul’s “Pornified”, and recommend it to ALL feminists, sex-positive, sex-neutral, and sex-whatever alike. It is without question the best source of critical thinking about porn – evidence, analysis, and solutions inclusive – that I have laid eyes on since that glorious day back in 2006 when I accidentally found this blog.

    And thanks, Anne X, for the recommendations. I will take them up.

  135. Twisty

    Natalia, none of your comments are in moderation. A technological breakdown, no doubt.

  136. Lara

    Natalia the analogy you try to draw between Orthodox arguments and radical feminist arguments still fails: patriarchy is not some bullshit abstract concept like “sinful nature” is. While Orthodox priests and “devout” believers try to argue that we are supposed to repress natural “tendencies” or “evil nature” within ourselves, radical feminists argue nothing of the sort. Radical feminists argue that patriarchy, as a societal order, a status quo (NOT nature or natural tendencies) is at fault for making people believe that sex by default should be phallocentric and the way to determine women’s worth. Again, “evil nature” and “sin” are just stupid abstract concepts that have nothing to do with real life, they are used as scare tactics by the Orthodox. But patriarchy is NOT an abstract concept or a scare tactic. It is a whole societal system that’s developed over thousands of years, NOT something that is hardwired into people’s brains from birth. The problem is that you keep implying that submissive sex for women and “sexay feminism” is hardwired into women’s brains, that if we oppose the upholding of striptease and poledancing as “feminist” or “empowering” than we are going against the totality of women’s hardwired sexualities. Radical feminists argue that women are simply not hardwired to want to give every guy that walks by them a blow job and then call it “feminist.” They are not saying “it’s all individual women’s fault!” as Orthodox believe that the individual should be held to scorn for some stupid abstract “offense”. Radical feminists ask all of us as women, and that very much includes ourselves, to examine the ways that our every day lives are so influenced by the patriarchy. Do you not agree that the personal is political Natalia? If not, then in my opinion you are not a feminist period. Back in the 50s women thought that if they “failed” at matching up to the impossible ideals of perfect housewife and mommy then it is their own individual failures. But feminism introduced the concept that our personal experiences are actually connected, and have to be analyzed in context.
    Stop trying to take things out of context Natalia, and stop trying to draw a parallel between radical feminist arguments that are based on a very real sexual oppression system that has a tangible effect on women’s and men’s everyday lives, and Orthodox beliefs that are baseed on crap abstract concepts. So to recap for you: radical feminists are not putting the blame on women who love to flash their tits, they are essentially blaming the patriarchy and simply asking women who can only see sexuality through patriarchy’s filter to re-examine WHY they like to be exhibitionists and strippers, etc. while men have never felt the need or desire to be.

    Natalia said:
    “…radical feminists talk about how as soon as we have overturned the social order, nudity (or, say, cleavage, or whatever) will be less problematic. Until then, keep it buttoned up.”

    Natalia, by saying that radical feminists are trying to “control women’s sexualities”, and by saying their arguments are akin to the oppressive ideals of Orthodox Christianity for Maude’s sakes, you ARE implying that radical feminists are LIKE Nazis.

    Agh, Twisty how do you put up with this everyday?

  137. Natalia

    Obligatory invocation of Nazis… words put in my mouth (hey, as Twisty might say, it’s better than a… well, you know what, har har), utter ignorance of the function of sin in modern society, etc.

    //Do you not agree that the personal is political Natalia? If not, then in my opinion you are not a feminist period.//

    I believe that the concept of the personal as political exists in a complex ideological matrix. Isolating it from other pertinent factors, as we often do in these discussions, is reductive.

    And I don’t need your approval. I couldn’t care less as to what your “opinion” of me is. If you prefer, think of me as one of Cthulhu stray tentacles, slithering from the depths to irritate the hell of out of the online radical feminists (off-line, I get along with rad fems rather well).

    I’m not on here to flash my creds or play willy big-d*ck or some other, un-gendered form of the feministier-than-thou parlour game.

    I am on here to tell you why no bandwagon for me. And I told you. Twisty allowed me the chance to say my piece, and I thank her.

    //Back in the 50s women thought that if they “failed” at matching up to the impossible ideals of perfect housewife and mommy then it is their own individual failures. But feminism introduced the concept that our personal experiences are actually connected, and have to be analyzed in context.//

    *snort*

    In the 1950′s, my grandmother was a full-time professional. I have a place to go home to today because of her hard work. Incidentally, the clothes she’s picked out to be buried in would make the editors of “Lucky,” the shopping magazine, weep with joy. And she’s done more for my feminism than any bigot who urged me to “examine [my] choices” in a tone one reserves for children and animals.

    Feminism is not just what Americans came up with as a reaction to the post-war decade.

    It is bigger, and more nuanced, and diversified than you can clearly imagine.

    Peace.

  138. Lost Clown

    Do people purposefully misread the posts here (not the comments, the posts), because I never see how Twisty is telling anyone to do anything, ever. She’s even come right out and spelled that out a few times.

    YO! Asking you to analyze something is not the same as telling you not to do it.

  139. delphyne

    “When smart outspoken women refuse to pose naked (on ideological grounds, I mean; you can always personally decide not to) it only solidifies the idea that naked women can’t be smart and outspoken.”

    Oh, you’re going to allow them to decide not to pose on personal grounds are you Holly? That’s big of you. But if women (only the smart outspoken ones mark you) don’t want to do it because of ideology you’re telling them they have to get their kit off anyway.

    For someone who supposedly objects to women being told what to do it seems like you’re doing a pretty good job trying to do exactly that to us. And the order seems to be “capitulate to male supremacy and act your role as fuck toy”. No thanks. Men must love you though, keeping the ladies in line.

    The reality is that men like to cut smart outspoken women down to size and one of the ways they do that is by persuading those women to strip for them and keeping trophy photos – whether they do it privately or all over the pages of Playboy. It’s really pathetic to cheerlead and promote that kind of misogyny the way you are doing.

  140. Natalie

    Amen! thank you for posting this.

  141. Holly

    Delphyne – I think I’ve said this a few hundred times before, but I don’t want all women to get naked and dance. That would be ridiculous. What I want is for women who get naked to be respected–both by men and women.

    A lot of men don’t respect naked women. That’s a problem I think we agree on. But my argument is that the solution is “teach men to respect women regardless of how sexually or unsexually they present themselves,” rather than “don’t get naked.”

    And I feel that to tell women who get naked that “well, I can’t stop you, but admit to yourself that you don’t really like it,” is not at all respectful. If anything it sounds like a restatement of the patriarchal doctrine that “women don’t really like sex, they just want to get approval or love or money.”

    I don’t think women should be fuck toys. But I think that women who fuck a lot shouldn’t be punished for it. Calling them fuck toys and telling them that they’re cheerleaders or victims, collaborators or pawns, and that they don’t understand their own motives, is punishment. It’s not feminist and it’s not right.

  142. Lara

    “I believe that the concept of the personal as political exists in a complex ideological matrix. Isolating it from other pertinent factors, as we often do in these discussions, is reductive.”

    That made no sense. What pertinent factors are you talking about? What are you even referring to? But if you’re implying that “the personal is political” is just some bullshit abstract concept, than ok… If you’re not, sorry for the misunderstanding.

    I wasn’t trying to give you approval Natalia. For all I know you could be older than I am. I am simply telling you what I think is “feminist.” Is that the same thing as “forcing” my opinions on someone? I don’t think so, I am just expressing my opinions for Maude’s sake.

    “Feminism is not just what Americans came up with as a reaction to the post-war decade.

    It is bigger, and more nuanced, and diversified than you can clearly imagine.”

    You don’t have to lecture my sandn*gger ass on the diverse origins of feminism, thank you. In fact, I strongly believe that some of the most basic concepts of feminism originated in foreign cultures as well as among African American women back in the 19th century: http://www.genderracepower.com/?p=158

    Why the snort of condemnation at my comment about 50s housewives and the concept of “the personal is political”? I was not even implying that housewives in the 50s were not strong or didn’t do much. Since when was I even criticizing the likes of your grandmother? My grandmother hails from Egypt, you better believe she worked damned hard too. I think everyone’s grandmothers did that. Why did you even bring this up as a point to argue with me?
    And then you call me a “bigot” simply because I believe sexism is systematic instead of some random act committed by exceptional individuals??? Stop trying to put words in my mouth (“examine [my] choices”). You’re getting defensive for nothing. If simply analyzing the ways patriarchy has negatively influenced feminism and our personal lives is inherently patronizing to all women then I suggest you stop thinking about society period. I mean that seriously.

    “…utter ignorance of the function of sin in modern society, etc.”

    Wow, saying something absolutely arrogant and dismissive without even using some sort of argument or evidence to back it up. Talk about a “patronizing” tone of voice. I made the effort in my last posted comment, Natalia, to show WHY and HOW I believed there was no parallel between radical feminist arguments and those of Orthodox Christians. You should at least try to do the same, especially if you think you can keep personally insulting me by calling me a “bigot” and “ignorant.”

    “And I don’t need your approval. I couldn’t care less as to what your “opinion” of me is. If you prefer, think of me as one of Cthulhu stray tentacles, slithering from the depths to irritate the hell of out of the online radical feminists (off-line, I get along with rad fems rather well).”

    Why would you pride yourself in going online just to annoy radical feminists when you supposedly don’t care of what we think of you anyway? And if you didn’t care what I think of you, you wouldn’t be so defensive in your response to me and tell me my tone is “patronizing” (or whatever).

    “I’m not on here to flash my creds or play willy big-d*ck or some other, un-gendered form of the feministier-than-thou parlour game.”

    But you are. By making a distinction between radical feminists and all other feminists, then by saying that radical feminists have it all wrong, you are inevitably going to claim that some feminists are more “feminist” than others.
    And if radical feminists like Twisty were such horrid control freaks and oppressors like you IMPLY they are she would have at least banned you by now from making your empty and flippant arguments on here.
    Understand trying to argue with a stubborn radical feminist sandn*gger will get you no where…
    IBTP.

  143. Lara

    Holly, I think you are having a serious issue with identifying who you are talking with here, seriously. Where and when did any of the folks on here condemn you for getting naked? When and where did we even imply you are a “slut” or that you “disrespect yourself”?

    Holly said: “But my argument is that the solution is “teach men to respect women regardless of how sexually or unsexually they present themselves,” rather than “don’t get naked.””

    Jesus Mary and Joseph woman where in Maude’s name did any of us say “don’t get naked”? And why, for that matter, does “getting naked” equal “sex” when it comes to women??? Wait, no, don’t answer, I think I know the answer to that….

    Holly said: “And I feel that to tell women who get naked that “well, I can’t stop you, but admit to yourself that you don’t really like it,” is not at all respectful. If anything it sounds like a restatement of the patriarchal doctrine that “women don’t really like sex, they just want to get approval or love or money.”

    I get naked in front of the mirror everyday, it doesn’t mean I am simultaneously having sex, or that I am going to. Seriously. Holly, I think you need to get it out of your head that a woman being naked instantly means she wants to have sex. Or that the two are one and the same. For Maude’s sake this is the type of mentality that creates sexual violence against women (“oh, well did you see the way she was dressed? She asked for it.”). I am not saying you directly support this mentality I am just saying this idea that naked women = sex comes from the patriarchy. The absolute hypersexualization of women’s bodies.

    “I don’t think women should be fuck toys. But I think that women who fuck a lot shouldn’t be punished for it. Calling them fuck toys and telling them that they’re cheerleaders or victims, collaborators or pawns, and that they don’t understand their own motives, is punishment. It’s not feminist and it’s not right.”

    Radical. Feminists. Are. Not. Punishing. You. For. Having. Sex.
    Patriarchy. Is.
    And you understand your motives very well Holly, I think you’re just in denial. But don’t worry, I used to feel the same way you do about all this sexy”feminist” crap. Then I actually started to listen more to radical feminists, whose voices are marginalized very much in society, and I started to really understand their points. But in the end, understanding this is all up to you, not to anyone else.
    None of us radical feminists here are under the illusion that they can “make” you think they’re right. We’re just expressing ourselves in the few online spaces we have, we are simply responding to you.

  144. Natalia

    //Understand trying to argue with a stubborn radical feminist sandn*gger will get you no where…//

    It got me here, didn’t it? ;) If this can be classified as an actual “argument” (as opposed to irate goal-post moving) I might have to learn the English language all over again. C’mon. You got irritated with me because I said, “this stuff isn’t for me and here’s why.” The rest is just mutual rhetorical fireworks (although the invocation of the 1950′s American housewife as a teaching memo really gets on my nerves – and I think you can understand why). Not everyone who disagrees is a clueless bimbo and/or helpless victim. If you don’t want to accept that, well, that’s your journey (not to be confused with the awesomely over-the-top band).

    Hell, Twisty’s no control freak. At the very least, she’s a worthy ideological opponent on the issue of femininity.

  145. Mar Iguana

    “…(off-line, I get along with rad fems rather well).” Natalia

    How fortunate you are to live in a place where there are enough rad fems to get along with rather well. I’ve never run across one off-line myself. True, I don’t get out much. Still.

  146. Twisty

    You know, this thread is beginning to take on the characteristics of a squabble. Remember the rules: no ad feminam attacks; they weaken your position, and are dull reading. This blog exists solely for my own personal amusement!

  147. Natalia

    //How fortunate you are to live in a place where there are enough rad fems to get along with rather well. I’ve never run across one off-line myself. True, I don’t get out much. Still.//

    I see that this is tongue in cheek, but if you are in the States, check out Durham, North Carolina for rad fem goodness. The goodness made my five years there all the more excellent (but a little boring if one is an MRA trolling for that perfect antifeminist scoop – with no bloody battles waged over the ideological implications of Sonia Rykiel platforms, no innocent bystanding menz sacrificed to the goddess a la Nicolas Cage in that ghastly “Wicker Man” re-make… you can’t make a movie-of-the-week out of it, but folks are decent and food is cheap and tasty).

    Seriously. A good town.

  148. delphyne

    “I don’t think women should be fuck toys. But I think that women who fuck a lot shouldn’t be punished for it. Calling them fuck toys and telling them that they’re cheerleaders or victims, collaborators or pawns, and that they don’t understand their own motives, is punishment. It’s not feminist and it’s not right.”

    I didn’t call any women fuck toys. Please read what I wrote again. I said men try to push women into the role of fuck toy. They do.

    You act as if radical feminists have never experienced any of these things at the hands of men, Holly. Well you’re wrong. A lot of us have, which is why we are so vocal against it.

    Also if you believe it’s so important to get men to respect the women whose images they objectify in porn then what on earth are you doing here picking tiny fights with a handful of radical feminists? There is a whole internet full of male hatred, disgust and mockery at women who get naked for the camera. Why aren’t you taking it up with them? Fark.com is probably a good place to start. They really, really hate women there.

  149. ginmar

    Delphyne – I think I’ve said this a few hundred times before, but I don’t want all women to get naked and dance. That would be ridiculous. What I want is for women who get naked to be respected–both by men and women.

    A lot of men don’t respect naked women. That’s a problem I think we agree on. But my argument is that the solution is “teach men to respect women regardless of how sexually or unsexually they present themselves,” rather than “don’t get naked.”

    Why in hell are you giving men what htey want before they do a damned thing for us? They’re not going to respect us while you’re naked. You’ve already capitulated. It’s a discussion process and nudity ends the discussion. You’ve given them what they want and now other women have it that much harder.

    Giving men what they want makes it harder for other women. It reduces other womens’ ability to negotiate with men. You’re rewarding the very shitty attitudes that other women are trying to change.

    Sex pozes rush to please men so they can be the most popular girls. It’s easier to suck up than fight. Giving men what they want while not making them respect you might not be a problem for you but it sure as hell is a problem for the next woman they run across. As one of those women who doesn’t give men what they want unless they’re respectful, you’re personally making my life more difficult. Sex poz shit caters to mens’ worst tendencies and makes them think that they’re supposed to be sucked up to.

  150. ginmar

    You demand the respect first. Then you start the discussion. There can be no discussion without that process in that order. Otherwise, men will take what they can and flip you and other women off.

  151. Serafina

    Holly,

    I think you’re confusing having the choice to do something, and having the right to be respected if you do it, with that choice being a feminist act.

    I think getting naked is politically neutral. It can be patriarchal. It can be feminist. Like all things, it depends on context.

    What I and others are concerned with is this promoting of “sex-positivity” at the expense of actual feminism: the idea that all feminists (and, really, all women) must declare themselves “sex-positive,” by which they mean pro-sex industry, or be shamed as sex-hating Victorians. I am also concerned with the idea that having an orgasm and enjoying sex is in and of itself a feminist act, which some sex-poz types get very close to arguing. And I’m concerned with the fact that any criticism of sex in pop culture from a feminist will, again, lead to accusations about being “anti-sex” or what-have-you. I have been in many conversations in which saying anything about strippers beyond “It’s their CHOICE and my best friend the stripper says she finds it empowering! Good for them!” will get you labeled a puritan or (gasp!) a Dworkinite.

  152. ginmar

    And they don’t even get Dworkin right, either. If I have one more woman sneer that Dworkin said “All sex is rape” I’m going to start throwing things.

  153. Elinor

    What I and others are concerned with is this promoting of “sex-positivity” at the expense of actual feminism: the idea that all feminists (and, really, all women) must declare themselves “sex-positive,” by which they mean pro-sex industry, or be shamed as sex-hating Victorians. I am also concerned with the idea that having an orgasm and enjoying sex is in and of itself a feminist act, which some sex-poz types get very close to arguing.

    Indeed. I think Holly is attacking a strawfeminist, definitely. I didn’t see anyone suggest that she doesn’t really like sex.

    Personally I don’t want to get naked for someone who doesn’t respect me. If you think the proper thing to do is to get naked and then say “I’m naked! Respect me anyway!”…well, tough, I’m not doing that.

  154. Helen

    I wish I was more positive about sex, ignoring the sex-positive label for a bit. I’d love for men to be a bit more positive about sex too, because it would be great if sex wasn’t still classed as dirty and meaningless and your partners as inferior. It’s pathetic that people still have to devalue the people they sleep with because sex is still considered dirty and evil.

  155. Helen

    I should add that that isn’t true of everyone, and that i have been guilty of it in the past!

  156. Elaine Vigneault

    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.

    I see. So just give up. Don’t do what you want. Don’t challenge the patriarchy, just complain about it on a blog. Great idea. That sure is feminist of you.

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