As is my custom of a Saturday morning, I was just settling into a bell hooks essay , an aerosol waffle by my side, admiring from the corner of my eye the noble drooling countenance of my golden retriever Bert, when suddenly —
But wait a second. bell hooks has reminded me that I was, before my computer meltdown crisis threw me into a tailspin-cum-funk the size of Guam, about to declare war on this whole pro-sex/anti-sex/3rd wave/2nd wave/mix-n-match feminism-fight theme that keeps me awake at night. To wit:
In 1994 hooks published an anti-funfeminism essay wherein she explains that, within a feminist framework, being “pro-sex” is not the same as being pro-dudeliocentric pornulational prong-a-rama pole-dancin dick-suckin degrade-me-baby submission . Being pro-sex, she says, means “mov[ing] away from sexually dead encounters with patriarchal men who eroticize exploitative power and domination scenarios that in no way embrace female sexual agency.” She envisions a sexuality that is both “liberatory and fun.”
But uh-oh. The feminist movement has failed to provide women with a blueprint for a sexuality that is liberatory and fun, i.e., not rooted in power politics. This is not surprising to the spinster aunt, since the only available blueprint for any human behavior is the one authored by a culture of domination outside of which it is prohibitively difficult, if not impossible, to exist.
hooks perceives that this lack-of-blueprint situation has engendered a fatal hitch in feminism’s gitalong, which hitch has pretty much invited the invention of funfeminism. She views the situation as a bi-componential publicity problem.
One: humorless, prudey, anti-sex, “ruthlessly dogmatic” white chick feminists have drowned out the radical “pro-sex collective.” Because humorless, prudey, anti-sex, ruthlessly dogmatic white chicks are so easily derided by Dude Nation, hooks says, they’re the only ones who get any press, so feminism as a whole gets a bad rap. “It is no wonder,” she writes, “that the public voices of puritanical, reformist feminism turn most folks off.”
Two: the pro-sex collective has not produced sufficient quantities of “counter-hegemonic evidence to disprove the popular sexist stereotype that women in [the] feminist movement are antisex and antimen.” This evidence would take the form of art, literature, and film, and would document the new women’s sexuality, currently defined only as “new, exciting, liberatory, and fun.” Presumably the world would then see what a feminist really looks like: a chick who digs sex (not dude-sex).
Thus has feminism more or less unraveled into this pro vs. anti dealio. Meanwhile, into the gaping void left by prude-silenced pro-sexers has shimmied, with stripper pole and Brazilian wax complete, the phallocentric antithesis of feminism: funfeminism. hooks refers to it by its 1994 moniker “new feminism,” describing it as a mass-media “marketing ploy to advance the opportunistic concerns of individual women while simultaneously acting as an agent of antifeminist backlash by undermining feminism’s radical / revolutionary gains.” She identifies funfeminism as a commodity sold to a public made queasy by the thought of a sexual dynamic that doesn’t fetishize oppression. It is “being brought to us as a product that works effectively to set women against one another, to engage us in competition wars over which brand of feminism is more effective.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: funfeminism isn’t a movement, it’s a consumer lifestyle, and it’s male-identified to boot. It appropriates the tired old patriarchal model, announces “I choose to be degraded, so shut your pie-hole!” and is rewarded with approbative dudely analyses praising its practitioners for having the sense to be antifeminist feminists. That it’s still raunchin’ strong 15 years after hooks lambasted it pretty much proves her point, that feminism got behind the 8-ball with this sex thing and just couldn’t recover.
Take note: hooks is not maintaining that feminism screwed up because it wasn’t sexay enough. She’s saying that, owing to race and class issues within the movement, it couldn’t cohere sufficiently to deliver an alternative to sexay that acknowledges that women can be sexual and human at the same time.
[What hooks doesn’t mention in her essay — perhaps because they were, in the pre-Palin days of yore, still under the radar — is funfeminism’s sister group, also rushing in to fill the gap left by unresolved contradictions within the feminist movement: the right-wing Bible-thumpin’ anti-abortion pearl-clutchers. What a masochistic bunch of misogynists they are! Those who don’t openly revile feminism in the public square often describe their women-hatin’ ways as feminist. Keepers of the status quo reward this gang for playing virgin to the funfeminist’s whore. But I digress.]
Well, enough already. Here’s my point at long fucking last: Pro-sexitude, as envisioned by hooks, is a radical feminist consummation devoutly to be wished. I am not entirely convinced that global acclimation to such a radically new (and to some, totally unpalatable) dynamic can be accomplished through art, but there can be no doubt that the concept of women as human beings — the nexus of any feminist view of sexuality — could really use some positive mainstream publicity.
However, in the event that art should fail as a feminist growth medium, I suggest revolution. A post-patriarchal society would, by definition, include Women’s Sexuality 2.0.
Anti-men is dumb. Anti-sex is dumber. But having sex with men, when doing so eroticizes your own oppression, is the dumbest thing ever. Women to whom feminism is important enough will make it a priority to run screaming from such dehumanizing encounters. And if they are bell hooksian enough, they will document themselves with a camcorder and put it up on YouTube (or whatever corner of the internet permits radical feminist video).
I was going to propose some suggestions for a new, exciting, liberatory, and fun sexuality, but I couldn’t think of anything except this:
Do it with girls!
I know. Not helpful. But what about this:
If your Nigel’s flaws include an antifeminist worldview — and I include under that heading the disturbing habit of flapping the covers around after farting in bed — dump him.
Like I said. Envisioning new, exciting, liberatory, fun sex is tough. When gazing beyond the suffocating perimeter of this oppressive patriarchy set-up — which set-up inflicts derision, violence, and loneliness on those who resist it — enlightenment and liberation are but mirages shimmering on a desert horizon.
Anyway, the really important thing I was gonna say before I got off on this goofy bell hooks tangent was: holy shit! There’s a brown recluse spider in my sink! It’s got six eyes!
1. hooks, bell. “Power to the Pussy: We Don’t Wannabe Dicks in Drag.” Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representation. New York: Routledge, 1994. 9-23.
2. Ibid. “Talking Sex.” 73-81.