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Sep 08 2009

You thought I was just kidding

Mutant prickly pear paddles of the Texas Hill Country

Announcing my new heartwarming nature crap series, “Mutant Prickly Pear Paddles of the Texas Hill Country.” I expect to turn the project into a coffee table book sometime in the future, perhaps when people can afford to buy coffee tables again.

While I tootle off to Austin to buy some polyvinyl alcohol (the armadillos are thirsty!), what say you ponder this? Because nothing delights a spinster aunt more, of a bright, shiny Tuesday morn, than to stir up a cauldron of vehemence Cotonbouchaise.

Behold a condensed excerpt from the afore-linked-to recent blog post, authored by blamer Pisaquari:

One of the BIG reasons I no longer believe in, or support the idea of, sexual orientation has to do with our relationships to others’ body parts. In most cases, to have a sexual orientation, is to have fetishized genitalia (or preference, one prefers [part]). [...] [U]sing genitalia as a visual marker for arousal or appeal is a fetishizing act and does not differ you in any way from another amateur pornographer.

The “another amateur pornographer” to whom Pisaquari alludes is that dude Pelicanh, whose misogynist oeuvre I scorned a while back.

Sexual orientation = fetish. The idea is somewhat problematic, no? Yet oddly compelling.

131 comments

1 ping

  1. octopod

    I actually don’t see what is so problematic about this. Contrariwise, in fact, I think it solves a lot of the semantic problems that come about in defining “fetish” and “sexual orientation” to be different things.

  2. Tupe

    [Re-posted comment from Pisaquari's blog]

    This is a really important complication to add to the discussion because it challenges the bio-determinism of transphobia. Sexual orientation can only fetishize certain genitals if those genitals are the marker of gender. While some woman are told “I just think your pussy is hawt!” there are lots of woman who are told that their penises or intersexed genitals are sick and wrong. This problem you point out about sexual orientation becomes way less offensive when it is actually about gender, which is not about genitals.

    At the same time, I would not say that the fetishizing of genitals is a simple, universal thing, because sexualized power is not simple nor universal. A man fetishizing a woman’s genitals is not the same thing as two queer women fetishizing each other’s genitals. But it isn’t just about gendered power — a white woman fetishizing her black partner’s penis is a perpetuation of sexualized racism.

    I’m wondering if you would problematize sexual orientation in the positive as well as the negative. Taking into account intersections of privilege like the ones above, it the same thing to say “I really love my partner’s genitals” as it is to say “I really hate those people’s genitals who I’m not attracted to”? Also, is it the same thing to say “I love my partner’s genitals” as it is to say “I love my partner’s sexed/gendered body,” which would include much more than their genitals, but still be kind of fetishizing?

    OCTOPOD:
    I think the criticism is about the ways in which people use the term “sexual orientation” when really they mean “fetish for certain genitals.” But I could be wrong.

  3. acm

    on the other hand, the average, say, teenage girl mooning over the latest teen crooner or androgynous fictional elf is in no way fixated on genitalia. it’s hard to say what they *are* fixated on, but it’s more a sort of romantic attraction than thoughts about penises (which are probably more frightening than attractive to most misty-eyed youth). so this construction misses a lot about how we experience our sexual orientation, especially when young, but also when expressing our sexuality through attraction to personality, vibe, and a host of other non-dangly bits . . .

  4. bellacoker

    There is a great book called The Perfect Red about prickly pear cactus, and the bugs that grow on them, and the dye which can be squeezed out of their buggie bodies.

  5. Julia

    The segue from prickly pear *paddles* to pondering fetish terminology is fabulous.

    On a less joking note, the idea that sexual preference is a fetish for a particular set of genitalia is dependent on the definition of fetish. Dictionary-wise, fetish (used in a sexual context) means a non-genital object or idea that consistently elicits a sexual response… such as, you see a high heeled shoe (or a person smoking, or a bagel, whatever gets you off)and it always arouses you. Some people think, however, that fetish means something not normally considered a sexual item that you can’t achieve arousal without. Either way, two of the most common definitions for fetish center around the fact that the item in question is not normally a sexual object, nor is it something that arouses the majority of the population.

    In my opinion, saying that sexual preference is a fetish for a particular set of genitals is like saying that all of us being alive is really just a phobia of dying, where phobia is really meant to indicate an *irrational* fear.

  6. Paris

    I don’t know if I’d call it a fetish, but I’d agree with the author that the sexual orientation is not a very helpful way to think about sexuality as it does not easily accommodate the totality of fantasies, activities and history that most of us have.

  7. Jezebella

    Perhaps I am simple-minded and literal when it comes to sexual orientation, but I find it hard to believe that kids’ “crushes” – which start at age 5 or 6 for many – have anything to do with genitalia. Gay and straight, most of us are aware of our “orientation” at a very young age. And, as Julia notes, the very definition of “fetish” is something non-genital. Color me skeptical.

  8. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Probably it’s my immaturity, but my thoughts don’t automatically run to what someone up-thread called “dangly bits” when I have tender feelings for a person. I’d have to say attraction for me is more in spite of than because of, if that makes any sense.

  9. octopod

    Tupe: I see. So, then, maybe we would separate the concept of “genital fetish”, which (as many fetishes are) is something socially obtained in adolescence, from that of “sexual orientation”, which is that thing that acm, Jezebella, and Antoinette Niebieszczanski are describing? “I think {vulvas, penises} are {gorgeous, gross}” being an example of the former, and “The people I fantasize about are exclusively {female, male}” an example of the latter. That certainly makes sense for the objection — I mean, people do conflate both of those all the time, as you say.

    And Julia, your point is taken about the definition of “fetish”. However, I think the interesting point to explore here is whether that definition is the most useful possible way to construct the concept signified by the word, or if we can get something more interesting out of it by expanding or contracting the set of things denoted by it.

    Please forgive my lack of understanding and overly academic language. I don’t really have “sexual orientation” in this sense, I think, and my “fetishes”, even though body-based and therefore not in the conventional definition of a fetish — or perhaps a better word is “sexual triggers”? — are not pegged to genitalia, so this whole business is rather outside my lived experience. This conversation is already really interesting.

  10. Judi

    Excessive concern with sexual orientation enforces the assumption that both sex and gender are so important that they should occupy large chunks of our attention, and that they should be the among the dominant factors by which we classify ourselves and others. And that we even need to be classifying ourselves and others.

    Asking about my sexual orientation would be like asking about my favorite football team–why would I even want to have one? I can understand that some people like football or sex enough that they would develop an identification with a particular team, or a devotion to a particular player. For others, neither football nor genitals of any shape are nearly as interesting as a thousand other things one might notice while walking the dog, or looking out the window from the recliner (like naturally occurring cactal question marks).

    I don’t mean to sound smug or dull by suggesting that sex and gender are not worth celebrating–only that we should not accept the assumption that they matter so deeply and so universally that they should dominate all other concerns. That’s patriarchy, and I blame it.

  11. ambivalent academic

    You should just go ahead and release the coffee table book anyway. I don’t think I am one of those who can afford to buy a new coffee table at the moment, but I haven’t pawned my old crappy one just yet. I might be able to scrape up enough dough for the Prickly Pear collection when it hits the presses.

  12. Julia

    Question mark is an interesting impression… I was getting “lobster claw”, heh. A postcard book would be nice, too. Maybe one with perforations and mild adhesives so you could have cactus stickers (cactus stickers, heh) out of it instead.

  13. Julia

    On another note, I think that putting all sexual orientation into a genitalia-fetish category, no matter how mild or broad, would subtract from the concept of people who actually are obsessed with genitals. I’m not sure I’d consider it a “fetish” in my mind so much as merely an obsession, but there are people who obsess about a specific type of genitalia to the point that they are oblivious to other body parts. If we need a way to think about these people and we also need a concept to use for sexual orientation, I’d rather that they weren’t confused.

    Like others have mentioned, when we develop an attraction for someone or a crush on someone, seldom are we thinking “I really dig that person with the vagina.” or “Wow, I adore that person with the penis.” There are usually other qualities both physical and mental that attract us… personally, my heart skips a beat when someone stands over a foot taller than me. That doesn’t often happen with women, but it has happened before. People can give off a vibe completely disagreeable to their genitals, too. There are women who just “feel” like men to me and men who “feel” like women. I have a lot of transgender friends and while some seem awkward to me, some seemed to me to be the gender that they “chose” all along, well before any hormones or lifestyle changes or surgeries. There is something, in my opinion, that you can’t really define or pin down that gives people femininity or masculinity or even androgyny, and I think that most people are drawn more to one of those than the other, although some people are drawn equally to all or none. Also some people confine themselves according to cultural restrictions, such as a woman who would prefer masculine people in general anyway but would never date a masculine woman because of her religious community or a man who might be attracted to a feminine man but would never act on it because of his sports-related peer group. I think without these cultural restrictions sexual orientation would be even less based on genitalia since people might be more willing to experiment even within a fairly rigid preference.

  14. octopod

    Grappling hook, maybe?

  15. PhysioProf

    a bagel

    With nova and a schmear?

  16. Kristyn

    “Probably it’s my immaturity, but my thoughts don’t automatically run to what someone up-thread called ‘dangly bits’ when I have tender feelings for a person. I’d have to say attraction for me is more in spite of than because of, if that makes any sense.”

    I’m very curious. Why do you consider this a mark of immaturity?

    I do remember that when I was in junior high, most girls’ crushes didn’t seem to have a sexual (as in, genitalia-based) component, whether it was because nobody had really started the puberty hormone-bath, because very few of us really knew what genitalia were supposed to look like, or because everybody was too scared and embarrassed to think about it, I don’t know.

    However, I doubt that any of those qualifications apply here, so I’m interested to read more.

    (By the way, I feel very much the same about the people I ‘find attractive’, whatever that means. Probably others do too. Any other Blamers want to weigh in?)

  17. Agasaya

    Nova? If I were to adopt a fetish, that would be it. The patriarchy is innocent of that one.

  18. pisaquari

    “Sexual orientation = fetish. The idea is somewhat problematic, no? Yet oddly compelling.”

    More than somewhat problematic–the idea has thoroughly pissed off legions of my feminist friends irl and elsewhere. I don’t expect an uptick in agreement from those oddly compelled either.

    To be picky though, my post is not simplifying to the point of sexual orientation= fetish (though it is simplifying, yes). More, that *one* component of sexual orientation includes (or usually does) fetishizing the body of the opposite/same sex–or whichever “sex” with which one identifies their orientation (because we’ve got a whole bunch now, I’ve heard).

    Ultimately, I find a whole bunch of things wrong with sexual orientation in patriarchy but don’t go into those specifics with this post. Already this thread is moving beyond the one element I addressed and I hope it continues.
    “Thanks for the serious PLUG Twisty” is in order.

    pisaquari

  19. Comrade PhysioProf

    The patriarchy is innocent of that one.

    You think those fucking salmon just smoke themselves?

  20. Tigs

    I (shockingly for those who know me) turned to thinking of the sort of fetish that I deal mostly with–the commodity fetish.
    For Marx, fetishization is mostly a mistake. Under capitalist oppression the reason we want profit in the first place is that under capitalist production, we come to believe that profit is that which can save us (from all sorts of human maladies: death, fear, loneliness, other oppression). The commodity is fetishized because it is imbued with all sorts of powers that it does not have–commodities cannot make us infinite, they cannot override the subject-object divide, etc.

    Because of the mechanisms of the oppressive regime, the relationship between necessity and profit becomes inverted. Instead of needing things because we need them (as humans, we need things: clothing, shelter, art supplies), we end up trading things because we can profit from them. C-M-C (Commodity-Money-Commodity) becomes M-C-M (Money-Commodity-Money); because these things never happen just once, it is easy to see how this happens (C-M-C-M-C-M), and capitalist oppression takes this mistake and exploits it.

    I suspect, thinking in this framework, that sexual orientation may not be a fetish, but rather that sexual orientation is indeed fetishized under patriarchy– instead of simply an orientation towards a set of characteristics, it becomes a way of ordering relationships–power, legal, social and otherwise.
    We need other people, and most of us need people of different genders at different times for different things. Under patriarchy, human relationships are reduced to potentially sexual (twu wuv, forbidden, or dangerous) or Other. Other relationships are in many cases circumscribed by sexual orientation– think for example the perennial question of whether a straight woman and a straight man can ‘just be friends.’

    Sexual orientation isn’t necessarily the problem, it’s what patriarchy does with it that’s so messed up.

  21. Hedgepig

    Count me among those hapless women ‘attracted to men despite their genitalia’. Hapless because it would make perfect sense for me to be a lesbian but, while aesthetically appreciating women’s body shapes and attributes much more than those of men (I think men’s bodies are boring: they just go straight up and down) I just can’t feel aroused by the feminine body. However, the more feminine a man is in the face, the more likely I am to find him attractive. Mostly.
    For awhile I thought my ideal was a man with no penis and a somewhat pretty face. But no ladyparts.
    My lack of appreciation of the male body makes me think it’s something else male I’m fetishizing – perhaps it’s the Y chromosome. Although, obviously, not visible, perhaps because it bestows maleness upon a person it triggers my innate or conditioned response of attraction.

  22. yttik

    “I’d have to say attraction for me is more in spite of than because of, if that makes any sense.”

    It makes complete sense. I feel the same way.

    “In most cases, to have a sexual orientation, is to have fetishized genitalia…”

    I agree with much of this, but I think people are so much more than genitalia. There are other characteristics and qualities people have that you might find attractive. I think that even if you managed to remove the patriarchal influences that define gender, there would still be subtle biological differences. Than there are chemical things going on, pheromones and such. I suspect that sexual orientation may be more chemically hardwired into our brains then we realize and a lot of sexuality is happening on an invisible level.

    Actually women, with exceptions of course, are not usually as sexually visual as men are. Given the patriarchy’s fondness for disembodied lady parts, it’s hard telling if this is a learned behavior men adapt to sexually or if it’s a subtle chemical difference in people’s brains. Regardless, the vast majority of porn, which in part would be about fetishized genitalia, is consumed by men.

  23. rowmyboat

    That is oddly compelling.

  24. Cimorene

    I think the biggest problem with this is that gender, which is the defining factor of sexual orientation (I like girls or boys), is something more than genitals. So these arbitrary characteristics of bodies (are you bits dangly? or are they inside-y?) are what tell us whether we are men (dangly) or women (inside-y). I knew I was a “woman” because when I was a kid, I was told that I was a “woman” and I was told that I was a woman because my mom’s ob/gyn saw my inside-y parts and told her that I was a woman. And thus I was socialized into woman-ness–in all that it implies, and despite a marked disrespect for the gender binary system and the trappings of femininity etc, I still wear skirts when it’s hot out–and my skirt tells people that I’m a girl. So the other “women” who are attracted to me are then labeled “gay” or “bisexual” based on their attraction to me, a “woman.”

    (I leave non-conforming gender out because I’m talking about those mechanisms that enforce a strict adherence to conformity.)

    What I’m saying is, that these random things are like the first domino that gets flipped, leading to millions of other traits of mine–traits that have nothing to do with my vagina as such, but traits that I have now because they saw I had a vagina when I was born. Sexual orientation, then, can have little to do with actual genitals. Like, if someone had a crush on me, their sexual orientation would indicate that they are attracted to women, even if they never see my lady bits. They are attracted to the secondary (or tertiary or whatever) traits that I’ve picked up indirectly because of my vagina–my beautiful feminine hair, my penchant for high heels*, my fluttering eyelashes and tendency to laugh at boys’ unfunny jokes while tossing my hair over my shoulder all feminine-like. They are attracted to my femininity, not my vagina.

    The focus on the random shit that screams “girl” or “boy” to those I pass on the street–I would say that sexual orientation fetishizes those things, not the body parts. It fetishizes gender, basically. Of course, there people who are attracted to specific genders who may not see my point, and so strongly associate “vagina” with “sexy lady” that the appearance of not-vagina on the body of a human presenting as “sexy lady” in all other aspects is horrific and the cause of violence. It wouldn’t be the actual genital, but the shock of expecting one genital and finding other–a shock created by the refusal to see how arbitrary this connection between “wears a dress” and “has a vagina” is, and the fear that accompanies facing the obvious evidence that this whole gender thing is total bullshit.

    *JUST KIDDING

  25. Cimorene

    “Actually women, with exceptions of course, are not usually as sexually visual as men are. Given the patriarchy’s fondness for disembodied lady parts, it’s hard telling if this is a learned behavior men adapt to sexually or if it’s a subtle chemical difference in people’s brains. Regardless, the vast majority of porn, which in part would be about fetishized genitalia, is consumed by men.”

    I don’t think that men consuming porn is an indication that they are more visually stimulated than women. I think it’s an indication that men enjoy the humiliation and degradation of women, and women don’t like to face the logical end of the patriarchy and the violence against women that it entails.

  26. orlando

    Hedgepig: you mean Alan Rickman in Dogma?

  27. Tarr

    Huh. I see a prickly pear that has had a javelina bite taken out of it.

  28. Comrade PhysioProf

    Prickulina!

  29. humanbein

    If it weren’t for our thorough and in-depth training in patriarchal mores we would all regard genitalia as bodily parts that create other people when used in certain combinations. There’s a certain inevitable fascination with opposite sex body parts that comes from the obsessive and secretive status they are given by our parents that leads to either shame or fascination. Genitalia have one prime and all-important purpose that our adolescent culture mostly ignores: Urination.

    I’m gonna wish I never wrote that one way or another if someone chooses to misinterpret it creatively enough!

  30. Gertrude Strine

    Orientation a body parts fetish?
    I made another try at understanding the nuances of rhetoric in this thread, as I have also done in other sexuality threads here. And I went into a coma somewhere around the third commenter who pointed out their own orientation as if it somehow even matters.
    More even than tigs concludes, I reckon that sex itself is a fetish.
    If I don’t read left liberal and right holy joe stuff, I don’t think about sex from one month to the next.
    And I don’t do it from one month to the next either.
    Whatever sex is.

  31. Hedgepig

    orlando: yes! Except without the wings. I know, I know I’m just too fussy.

  32. Jill

    women don’t like to face the logical end of the patriarchy and the violence against women that it entails.

    If only women were more vigorous in not liking to face it.

  33. Jill

    [...] commenter who pointed out their own orientation [...]

    Although it’s in the FAQ somewhere, and always applies to every post, I should’ve included a reminder suggesting that the commenter avoid regaling the blametariat with personal revelation in lieu of actual argumentation. Something about sex posts really brings out the meaningless anecdote in people.

  34. octopod

    I suspect the reason why “Something about sex posts really brings out the meaningless anecdote in people” is because so many sex posts begin with one or more generalizations, so everyone who is a counterexample feels obliged to stand up and say “Hey! I’m a counterexample!”

  35. Jill

    “Sexual orientation = fetish” isn’t a generalization, it’s a proposition. Which cannot successfully be argued either for or against by means of personal anecdote. Arguments are always stronger and more interesting when they do not begin with “I.”

  36. Hedgepig

    You can theorize all you like about sexual orientation, but all anyone really has to offer as evidence to back up a theory or substantiate a claim when tackling this topic is personal experience. We were just trying to unravel the mess that is sexuality under patriarchy, but, as was said recently, we can get our own fucking blogs to do that!

  37. orlando

    Gertrude rather made Hedgepig’s point by telling us about the nature of her sex life in a comment about how irrelevant comments making reference to an individual’s sex life are.

    Also: how can wings not be a turn-on?

  38. Agasaya

    The science of sexual orientation exists independently of the cultural overlays which stigmatized many of the multiple options apart from heterosexuality. The cultural aspects are experiential. The realities and capacities (not the same thing)of sexual attraction and performance are certainly open to objective analysis. However, fetishes (and thanks for the definitions) can be rather Pavlovian in their development. Dogs can be trained to salivate to a bell.

    But does their tendency to hump human legs boil down to leg = fetish for a canine? Or just any port in a storm?

  39. pheenobarbidoll

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/0603/valeria/bigbend/Picturesbigbend046.jpg millipede in Big Bend.

  40. Comrade PhysioProf

    Whoah! What the fuck is that substrate the motherfucking millipede is pedeing on!?

  41. pheenobarbidoll

    A crappy “road”.

  42. Gertrude Strine

    Quoth orlando:

    blah blah sex blah [ellipsis] how can wings not be a turn-on?

    A point about the relative presence of concentration on sex – being thoughtful about the term fetishising as invited by the OP and the discussion linked to – in a person’s life vs what a person actually does by with from or about sex?
    Still not interested.
    My auntie’s geese might be, but they don’t do blogging as far as I know.

  43. Friend of Snakes

    Jeeze, are you kidding, or what? I see a cactus with a bite taken out of it. Unlike Tarr, I won’t speculate as to the identity of the biter. I stopped reading the link at the point where the writer declared she didn’t believe in sexual orientation, so nothing past the first sentence. Was she kidding? I guess I’ll never find out.

    Catch you later.

  44. Valerie M

    I think that even if you managed to remove the patriarchal influences that define gender, there would still be subtle biological differences. Than there are chemical things going on, pheromones and such

    True, but without gender training and enforcement, it is unlikely that the naturally occurring behavioral differences between sexes would be considered numerous or profound enough to justify anything more than a passing observation.

    For example, there are minor behavioral differences between brown-eyed and blue-eyed people. Blue-eyed people tend to display more sunglasses-seeking behaviour; they tend to burn more easily and so spend more on suncream. It may even affect their choice of holiday destination. However, we don’t feel this warrants bathroom segregation, and brown-eyed people don’t imprison blue-eyed people in underground caves ‘for their own good’.

  45. Julia

    Hm. That is an interesting perspective. I can see how you could extend “fetish” to include all manner of sexual orientations – that is, those things which make one sexually aroused. Accepting the premise that nothing is inherently “sexy”, what one finds arousing is a product of complicated systems of biology, neural chemistry, and culture, but more heavy on the acculturation side.

  46. Julia (number 2, aka Joolya)

    I’m a different Julia than the Julia with embedded link, btw.

  47. Julia the second

    Re: why young girls crush on androgynous boys and not fixate on teh penis. I reckon most young boys are not obsessed with vaginas, but tend to be more focused on boobs and bums, for similar reasons that have to do with habituation. A young girl is not likely to have a lot of familiarity with penises, apart from maybe prepubescent siblings, who aren’t (usually!) sexualized beings.
    (I’m going to start an anecdote with I now, and am giving fair warning.)
    I, a fantasizer about men from a young age, was pretty repulsed by penises until I was out of high school. They were weird and alien, and you just don’t see them around the way you see breasts or other body parts. I was penis-phobic. I pity my first, understanding and accomdating, boyfriend. But after a while and a whole lot more experience with them, I am now a connoiseuse of the male external genetalia, and have a set of preferences concerning them, an aesthetic appreciation of them, a pleasurable conditioning towards them, and arousal at the sight and feel and smell of them, which was not the case ten years ago.
    I also like the ladies sometimes, but my intimate experience with women is far less extensive than it is with men (which certainly has a LOT to do with culture!). I find the curve of a woman’s waist arousing, or a finely-turned leg or arm, or hair, or cleavage, etc, but am not familiar enough with vaginas to have a set of aroused responses about them. I imagine, though, that if I were to have yummy great sex with a few women, I would be all about the pussy.

    I know I’m only one person, but I imagine there is a generalization that can be made here.

  48. vinoveritas

    Was there another one shaped like a hammer nearby? I knew it! Commie Cactus!

  49. octopod

    Yes! I think that is the point of pisaquari’s OP.

  50. yttik

    “True, but without gender training and enforcement, it is unlikely that the naturally occurring behavioral differences between sexes would be considered numerous or profound enough to justify anything more than a passing observation.”

    Except people know from a very young age what gender they are. It’s an important part of their identity. Even if you raise a girl as a boy, she knows something isn’t adding up. We have lots of evidence from transgendered people that leads us to conclude that gender isn’t just about genitalia, not is it about nurture or patriatchal training. It’s biological, it’s nature, it’s built into us.

  51. Valerie M

    @ yttik

    I must respectfully disagree.

    It’s no accident that most children assume a gender role after they start school. It only becomes important after they have had everything presented to them in terms of gender segregation and that you must be classed by gender and even have your day planned around which gender you are, to some extent. Yes some people may feel later on that the gender they picked (or were given) was a mistake, but the fact remains that they were never given the choice to not have one at all.

    The point is that outside of a patriarchy, these roles would not be enforced, or even presented. People ‘know from a young age’ what gender they are because people have gender shoved down their throats from the minute they are born. Think about it – by the time most kids get to primary school, they have been exposed to genderised messages from practically every source of media they encounter (including their parents) for as long as it takes to go from high school to a masters’ degree in almost any subject.

  52. Julia Grim

    Just to clarify, that last “Julia” post without any linkiness to my boob photos in the username wasn’t me. While it would be interesting to have a discussion like this without knowing who originated each comment it’s generally easier to follow a line of thought if you can see who authored the same ones, so I’m switchin’ to use my last name as well (since I’m new to the posting here – but not the reading – chances are good I was the one that swiped the name).

    Another thing to consider when pondering gender and outside influences and how much a person is born with vs. how much is pounded into them (I’m sure there’s some lame junior-high, I could use some gender pounded into me joke in there somewhere), is that along with the “conditioning” that people receive as they begin to attend school and socialize and move out into society are more choices and more information. A girl growing up in the country, for example, as a “tomboy”, might not always be “conditioned” 100% when attending school as much as 95% “conditioned” and 5% just never realizing before that she could wear a skirt. Maybe she never saw a skirt before. That’s a very simplified example with totally made up numbers, but I’m sure you see what I’m trying to say. Perhaps the transgendered people that seem to choose later on in life had some undefined nagging somewhere deep down in their soul but didn’t realize what it was until they moved around in society more and became aware of the variety of gender-oriented choices available to people.

  53. utahgirl

    The reason this is disturbing to me is not that it’s true that all people attracted to men are obsessed with, love, or even like male genitalia, and people attracted to women feel anything in particular towards female genitalia, at least consciously, but when it comes to determining sexual orientation, most people go by which gender they have most often (always?) been attracted to. Although probably most people don’t THINK about the actual genitalia involved in determining gender, if it were true that, as people have been claiming, some people are attracted to men even in spite of their genitalia, then what is involved in the “maleness” they are attracted to, and in that case, if those attributes don’t necessarily include a penis, it should be possible that there would be a woman who possessed all of those attributes. And yet I would venture to guess that most people unless they identify as bisexual would feel at all comfortable engaging in sexual activity with someone whose genitalia are different from those of the sex they identify as being attracted to, might not be able to be aroused by them, even if they filled all the “requirements”.
    This is a strange and new way (for me at least) of thinking about my own sexuality.

  54. yttik

    Well, if we view gender as totally the result of being force fed gender roles, then it denies the experiences of those who were raised a different gender then they biologically were. People who always knew something was wrong and later learned that their chromosomes don’t match their outside appearance. Or those who realized at age two or three that something wasn’t right, that they were in the wrong body, that they were designed to be a different gender.

    You cannot raise and nurture someone out of their gender identity, just like you can’t raise someone out of their sexual orientation. People have tried both with rather tragic results for the individuals, and it’s never been successful, even when it began in infancy. Parents have tried it with hermaphrodites, selecting a gender for them at birth and raising them in their assigned role. But people can feel there’s a lie there. Their identity is inside of them. A large part of gender is undeniably biological, hardwired right into our DNA.

  55. Laughingrat

    that they were designed to be a different gender

    Surely you mean a different sex? Gender is the social role; sex is the biological construct. If all transsexuals wanted was to be able to enact different gender roles, they could do so without the physical measures so many of them undertake. Not that it’s easy to adopt the behaviors of a different gender; it guarantees harassment at the very least, but then so does actually changing one’s sex.

    There’s a new book called Pink Brain, Blue Brain about how gender–and the meaning is, yes, gender, not biological sex–is communicated to children from the moment of their birth, and which contradicts gender-essentialist thinking with some new research (and new synthesis of older research, as I understand it). Gender, like other social constructs, cannot be innate.

  56. AMM

    @Jill:

    “Sexual orientation = fetish” isn’t a generalization, it’s a proposition. Which cannot successfully be argued either for or against by means of personal anecdote.

    Personal anecdotes can serve as counter-examples. As someone who was a mathematician in a former life, I can say that counter-examples are an ideal way to disprove a proposition. Also, that a proposition for which you can’t come up with a non-trivial example is likely to be BS — perhaps false, perhaps just content-free. (I do agree that “proof by anecdote” is BS, though.)

    When it comes to propositions about human beings, I want to know how they are going work out on real human beings, in the real world. Rational propositions have a nasty history of being used as Procrustean beds when applied to the diversity of human experience. For example, patriarchy is full of propositions about “what men are” and “what women are” that actually fit quite a few men and women rather neatly. It’s only when you see how badly they fit some people, and the violence that is perpetrated based on these propositions, that you see them for what they are.

    I have to say that after reading some of these anecdotes, I think this proposition is not very good. It’s either flat out wrong, or if you expand what you mean by “fetish” to encompass the experiences that people have related here, you end up labelling pretty much anything that anyone likes as a “fetish.” (“I eat three meals a day because I have a food fetish.”) In obedience to the guidelines, I won’t relate my own experience, except to say that it is different from any that have been related, and it doesn’t fit the proposition, either.

    There may be a useful observation hiding in there, but I don’t see how you’re going to find it without looking at a lot more “anecdotes.” (FWIW, that’s how Real Mathematicians come up with Useful Theorems — they look at a lot of examples.

  57. Valerie M

    Thanks Laughingrat.

    You cannot ‘biologically be a gender’. You have a biological sex. Gender is a social construct. Girls aren’t really born wanting everything, absolutely everything, to be pink.

    Boys aren’t hardwired to want fabric to meet between their legs. If they were, it wouldn’t be normal in other countries for men to wear flowing robes and sarongs.

    This confusing/ conflating of sex and gender leads to so much argument in the feminist community, sadly.

  58. yttik

    “Gender, like other social constructs, cannot be innate.”

    I believe gender really can be innate, much like sexual orientation, both of which probably happen in utero long before people are born. Knowing whether you are male or female would be innate, but what it means to be either or those things in the greater culture would be learned behavior. However, even before you learn what is expected of you, you already have a gender identity, you are not just a biological blank slate with a sex stamped on you.

    If gender was totally the result of nurture and not nature, then those parents who simply selected a sex for their children and raised them to be that gender, would have raised happy individuals who were content with the choice that was made for them. It has not worked out that way for many people, so I am left to conclude that people are not just born with a sex, they actually already have a form of gender identity.

  59. Valerie M

    those parents who simply selected a sex for their children and raised them to be that gender

    How many parents actually train their child into a gender role that doesn’t match their genitals? Are there any properly conducted studies about them? Even if a lot of parents do this, which I doubt, wouldn’t you only hear about the cases where it didn’t work out?

  60. Jill

    (FWIW, that’s how Real Mathematicians come up with Useful Theorems — they look at a lot of examples.

    Precisely. Which is why the personal anecdote, unless it is considered a point of data along with many others which are then sort of compiled and analyzed, may only be considered as extraneous to the argument. For example, a few blamers saying “I am straight but I don’t like penises” is ultimately — in terms of this argument, at least — meaningless, because it doesn’t prove that the concept of sexual orientation is not a cultural construct. It merely proves that these commenters disagree with the premise, based, apparently, on personal preferences which may or may not be generated by the very cultural construct in question.

  61. yttik

    “How many parents actually train their child into a gender role that doesn’t match their genitals?”

    There are supposedly about 65000 intersexed children born every year and because of laws and cultures, parents are forced to assign a gender to them at birth. I imagine they raise those kids in rigid gender roles to varying degrees, some parents are probably enlightened and do their best not to.

    As to studies, there are medical and scientific ones, but I’m speaking of the anecdotes, the stories (and the suicides) from the people who have experienced this. Because of what they have gone thru, advocates now do not favor sex assignment surgery in childhood because we don’t fully understand exactly what determines sex or gender.

  62. Valerie M

    Yttik, I think that is tragic. However, it doesn’t prove that gender is real. Individuals may like this behaviour/colour/outfit more than another, and those things might sometimes match up with what is expected and sometimes might not.

    If women would naturally behave a certain way and all want to look a certain way, then why all the heavy-handed indoctrination from birth? Same with men. Why must boys be fed a steady diet of violence and degradation of women?

    If there is one thing we have learned about human behaviour, it’s that advertising works. Really really well. Only sometimes it doesn’t, and you get people who eschew gender roles altogether or people who just like the other gender role more than the one chosen for them. But again, that doesn’t make gender real. It just means some people throw off parts of what doesn’t work for them from the extremely limited choices patriarchy gives us.

    Maybe I’ve been out of school for too long, but I thought we knew exactly what determines sex and gender. Sex is determined by chromosomes, yes? Female, male, or intersex. Gender is determined by how you are socialised, and with what room we allow people to subvert it.

  63. lesbianwoman

    Fetishize genitalia? Nah, I just don’t like the way men smell.

    Look at all the heterosexist experts weighing in. Nice job.

  64. lesbianwoman

    Oh, and for those who have forgotten the lessons of history, just look up “lesbian menace” on Wikipedia.

  65. Agasaya

    Can we agree that a fetish is an accidental conditioning of arousal for a normally benign object? Sexual arousal resulting from the viewing of a body part of the gender(s) to which one is attracted does not equate with having a fetish under those circumstances. Arousal is a biological imperative for procreation. We just create abnormality out of it and assign social rules for it to restrain male aggression and assuage male irrationality.

    The fact remains that screw ups in biochemistry are having an increasing affect upon sexual development. It is most obvious at present in amphibians with so much pollution in the water (endocrine disrupting chemicals) and also with increased incidence of genital malformation with certain types of maternal exposures (e.g. hypospadias). The increased interference in sexual determinism at a biological level will (or has) increased the need for recognition of multiple gender classifications as well as multiple choices for individuals within each class.

    Bisexuality appears quite logical yet biochemistry may preclude certain social choices through a lack of arousal. If people are driven to believe they must become aroused by breasts or penises in order to ‘be’ included in a preferred gender classification, then fetishes become a necessary accessory to sexual performance.

  66. Tupe

    TIGS,

    Blame on. That was some hot fucking Marxism right there.

  67. AMM

    Jill: … the personal anecdote, unless it is considered a point of data along with many others which are then sort of compiled and analyzed, may only be considered as extraneous to the argument.

    This sounds awfully close to “I’ve got a way to nullify the effect of your life experience on my theory.” I admit to having a non-rational, negative emotional reaction to anything that sounds even vaguely like “my mental construct is right, it is you who are wrong” — too many throats have been cut in my lifetime by people who thought that way for me to be dispassionate about it. (I’m rather attached to my throat, thank you.) Even if you aren’t about to cut my throat, I’m not so sure about your buddies.

    Jill: … a few blamers saying “I am straight but I don’t like penises” … doesn’t prove that the concept of sexual orientation is not a cultural construct.

    I would agree “that the [usual] concept of sexual orientation is … a cultural construct.” But, as I recall, that wasn’t the original proposition. The original proposition was “sexual orientation = genital fetish,” and that IMHO oversimplified construct was what people were trying to disprove, using their own experiences.

    The problem with the usual concept of sexual orientation isn’t that it is a cultural construct — as humans, damn near everything we think or do is a cultural construct. If you’re happy living within a particular cultural construct (and it isn’t leading you to hurt yourself or others), why is it a problem? The problem is that so many people don’t fit into it, and the majority-ites keep trying to jam them in anyway and then to get rid of those who can’t or won’t be jammed in. This proposition sounded like the same sort of thing, only worse.

  68. Hedgepig

    Because humans are not maths, it wouldn’t actually matter if 5 Blamers’ personal experiences are analysed, or the personal experiences of 5000 people randomly selected from the general populace. A proposition like “sexual orientation = fetish” is not prove-able or disprovable. Rather than stating the proposition and following with “True or False?”, I for one thought Jill was stating the proposition and following it with “Discuss”. But after reading about the Blamer who has grown to like the smell of cock, I’m starting to regret getting on the personal anecdote bandwagon. I mean, like, gross! That makes orlando’s SICK wing fetish sound almost wholesome. (Please note, I’m just being playful, I don’t mean to be down on anyone’s experience)

  69. ivyleaves

    If gender was totally the result of nurture and not nature, then those parents who simply selected a sex for their children and raised them to be that gender, would have raised happy individuals who were content with the choice that was made for them. It has not worked out that way for many people, so I am left to conclude that people are not just born with a sex, they actually already have a form of gender identity.

    No, actually, if parents select a sex for their children and raise them to be that gender, or some other gender even, they are using propaganda and brainwashing on a child, which is what happens right now. It is by this casual domination that the fertile breeding ground for male domination (patriarchy) is perpetuated, leading to all the ills we discuss on this blog. It is precisely the problem. From that I conclude that gender itself is a cancer on human beings’ ability to be happy.

  70. Jill

    But after reading about the Blamer who has grown to like the smell of cock, I’m starting to regret getting on the personal anecdote bandwagon. I mean, like, gross!

    The compulsion to post this sort of thing is why the following appears in the little-known “Guidelines for Commenters”:

    • Commenters should write opinion before they “share experience.”

    • The anecdote (and its poor relation, the synopsis of an acquaintance’s views) can have entertainment value, but is rarely, if ever, effective as evidence in an argument, cf. “some of my best friends are strippers, and they are rich, happy, and empowerfulized, therefore your views on porn are wrong.”

    • Particularly, commenters should carefully consider whether a description of their personal sex lives is in fact absolutely vital to their analysis. Because it isn’t.

    But alas.

    You’re quite right, though, Hedgepig, that I seem to have altered the original proposition in midstream. I didn’t even notice I was doing it. This is probably because I don’t actually consider sexual orientation to be a fetish. At least not exclusively. My own views fall in somewhere near those of ivyleaves, above. I am a big fan of the concept that hegemonical brainwashing screws everything up.

  71. Comrade PhysioProf

    Maybe I’ve been out of school for too long, but I thought we knew exactly what determines sex and gender. Sex is determined by chromosomes, yes? Female, male, or intersex. Gender is determined by how you are socialised, and with what room we allow people to subvert it.

    This is a false dichotomy. There is no doubt that human gender arises in complex and poorly understood ways from interactions between physiological and social mechanisms.

  72. TwissB

    It was said far, far above but I would still like to affirm this statement:
    “I don’t think that men consuming porn is an indication that they are more visually stimulated than women. I think it’s an indication that men enjoy the humiliation and degradation of women, and women don’t like to face the logical end of the patriarchy and the violence against women that it entails.”

    And would add that the “men are more visually stimulated than women” pseudo-biological line is just your typical men’s self-serving excuse for the the objectification of women that makes violence against them so easy to describe, as singer Chris Brown does, as “what happened.”

  73. TwissB

    Correcting the last paragraph above:

    “I don’t think that men consuming porn is an indication that they are more visually stimulated than women. I think it’s an indication that men enjoy the humiliation and degradation of women, and women don’t like to face the logical end of the patriarchy and the violence against women that it entails.”

    And I would add that the “men are more visually stimulated than women” pseudo-biological line is just your typical men’s self-serving excuse for the objectification of women that makes violence against them so easy to describe, as singer Chris Brown does, as “what happened” and not “what I did.”

  74. Valerie M

    This is a false dichotomy. There is no doubt that human gender arises in complex and poorly understood ways from interactions between physiological and social mechanisms.

    Well, I’m assuming if you read that, you read my other comments on this thread, in which I addressed just that.

  75. lesbianwoman

    Hedgepig: “But after reading about the Blamer who has grown to like the smell of cock, I’m starting to regret getting on the personal anecdote bandwagon. I mean, like, gross!

    Jill: “The compulsion to post this sort of thing is why the following appears in the little-known “Guidelines for Commenters”:

    “But alas.”

    Alas? ALAS? How ridiculous can you get? This is blatant heterosexism!

    By all rights, I should be allowed to tell you in excruciatingly delicious and wonderful detail how much I love pussy, how I like to smell it, taste, touch etc. But, noooo, that would remind you ladies too much of a man, wouldn’t it? (Prudes… er… (cough, cough))

    If you’re going to psychoanalyse me, I should have a right to voice my personal anecdotes, whether you like it or not, whether you’re disturbed by it or not (and, BTW, I think any man in his right mind would be deeply disturbed by this topic), otherwise you should take the whole entry down. I consider it extremely offensive. Offensive enough, say, to write an angry letter about homophobia to your Internet provider. (I’m not saying I will, I’m just saying.)

    Ya’ll better recognize. Here you all are, living inside your perfectly protected little bubble, free of all dissenting opinions, not unlike an amniotic sack. You hope the outside world will never reach you inside your bubble, but you have no chance of changing the outside world whatsoever. And, that’s for the best, because your patently socialist constructs and social theories, social propagandizing against sex and gender (which defies all logic… tell me again why you think this is good?) and your irrational, reactionary fear of a man’s (or lesbian’s) sexual enjoyment of you, is beyond mad. And, best of all, the author admits she doesn’t give a damn, and that if anyone happens to reach her inside her bubble, it is their fault that they chose to read her material.

    This is the same logic used by any number of hate groups or splinter groups to dissuade argument. All the more reason why they should be challenged: their mad schemes must be stopped. They must be stopped at all costs. Leave people to their own devices without outside dissent for long, and they will grow utterly corrupt. That is what has happened here. Pretty soon, one or another of you will be testifying for the Family Research Council. Nevermind that sexual orientation works both ways; oh, no. The more irrational the argument, the better!

    AMM: “This sounds awfully close to “I’ve got a way to nullify the effect of your life experience on my theory.” I admit to having a non-rational, negative emotional reaction to anything that sounds even vaguely like “my mental construct is right, it is you who are wrong” — too many throats have been cut in my lifetime by people who thought that way for me to be dispassionate about it. (I’m rather attached to my throat, thank you.) Even if you aren’t about to cut my throat, I’m not so sure about your buddies.”

    Right on. You took the words right out of my mouth.

    Hedgepig: “A proposition like “sexual orientation = fetish” is not prove-able or disprovable. Rather than stating the proposition and following with “True or False?”, I for one thought Jill was stating the proposition and following it with “Discuss”.”

    The hell it isn’t disprovable! I’ll disprove it right now. You just altered the definition of “fetish” in the dictionary, therefore by the laws of logic, it is FALSE. End of story.

    What is the use of “discussing” anything, if your fundamental basis is flawed? It’s a total waste of time. Again, I’ll say that it is a grave error on the part of the author of this blog to print homophobic, inflammatory material, then actually pretend to be gay-friendly, even though she is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (sorry, lip service just isn’t gonna cut it), then squash all dissenting opinion, then declare not to care, all while claiming intellectual superiority to “most 20-something white males” (from your own guidelines), which is pure arrogance, since it is so obviously not true. (The corollary of this, of course, is your intellectual superiority to 20-something black males, unless you believe blacks are intellectually superior to whites.) The racism, sexism and sheer stupidity of this one comment alone renders this whole blog questionable. Who could enjoy reading this other than haters, I can’t even imagine. And, yes, I’m a lesbian, so don’t start questioning my gender or sexual orientation. (Even the modern usage of gender is a twisting of words; “sex” once meant “gender”, and “gender” itself referred to sexual intercourse.)

    I shudder to think what your ideal, sexless Utopia would be like. (Test tube babies for everyone? Genetic engineering as a side bonus?) Or, how do you work out the problem of inhibiting sex? (Surgical removal of genitals at birth? Joy buzzer down your pants?)

    I definitely hope someone gets the chance to read this, so I can reach someone before it’s too late. If you remove my post, I will consider it an honor. If you want to know why I made it, I am now on a crusade to prevent your mad schemes from taking effect. Not that any of your plans have a chance of ever being adopted (thank the Goddess for that!), except maybe in a futuristic, 1984-type scenario.

    Thanks for taking the time to read. Have a nice day.

  76. Jill

    Lesbianwoman, who is obviously either a heterodude or studying to be one, affords ample opportunity for hilarity. His comment falls into one of my favorite categories, the “I Have Wildly Misconstrued Your Views, You Have Unequalled Power Over the Universe, and Now I Make A Semi-Literate Threat to Prevent You From World Domination” category.

    It is surprising how often it is supposed that I propose to eradicate sex from the universe. And that I possess superpowers.

    Like, with just the flick of a blog post, I can apparently re-write dictionaries!

    “You just altered the definition of “fetish” in the dictionary, therefore by the laws of logic, [your proposition] is FALSE. End of story.”

    Yipes!

    The good old Internet. I can’t remember how I used to waste my time before. Probably because I was smokin so much weed at the time.

  77. Agasaya

    Jill,

    What color cape would you like?

  78. Hedgepig

    @AMM, who reminded us of the original proposition:

    I agree with you about the problem with socially constructed gender identities being that so many of us don’t fit them, yet we’re all bullied into trying to fit our designated role. (In fact that seems to be something most of us agree on). I don’t understand why you think (if I’ve understood you rightly) “the proposition sounded like the same sort of thing only worse.” I would have thought sexual orientation = fetish is an idea that is compatible with a view of sexuality being socially constructed.

    Regarding personal anecdotes: while they can sometimes be a bit icky, I don’t think that makes them irrelevant. It just makes them a bit icky.

    And may I suggest lime green for Jill’s superhero cape colour. Then she can sit in camouflaged wait in her recliner and pounce on unsuspecting crusaders as they battle to foil her mad schemes before it’s too late.

  79. lesbianwoman

    Thanks for removing my post exposing the truth that I am a woman. That way, you can characterize the truth any way you like in your own little bubble. What cowardice.

    You’re right about one thing, though. You are absolutely powerless to effect social or political change for the better. You are self-deprecating; you mock yourself and the women who frequent your blog with every word. A waste of my time.

    “And that I possess superpowers.”

    You have no power at all. You are the reason I receive sexist comments all the time in response to intelligent suppositions, such as “Men and women share 99.9998% of each other’s DNA, therefore they are intellectual equals,” and the only response I get is, “Too bad. I was about to let you be the smart one.” They’re responding to you, not me. I get blamed for your intellectual mediocrity.

    I can only reach the conclusion that human beings everywhere are complete and utter morons, and it won’t be long before we eradicate each other off the face of this planet. (What a sickening thought, but Jill is so convinced of her intellectual superiority in the face of all other evidence, there is no other conclusion to be drawn.)

    I never wanted to change the Universe, nor did I say you had any ability to do so; if I could have changed the mind of a single one of your followers, I would have. If you persist in removing my future posts, please remove all of my posts. It’s only common courtesy. If you persist in suppressing the truth of my sexuality and mischaracterizing my previous post, then it only proves that you are a homophobe and an even greater threat to gays and lesbians than a religious wingnut. I might even follow through and write to your internet provider. Remove all my posts, or none at all.

  80. Jezebella

    Ah,jeez, you know, I *needed* a laugh tonight. Thanks, “lesbianwoman.”

  81. Jill

    My dear lesbianwoman — if that really is your name — if you would kindly refrain from posting your incomprehensible commentary, I would be absolutely delighted not to delete it.

  82. ivyleaves

    I would love to see the letter to your internet provider, just before it makes the rounds of the office. I mean, has anyone ever been so transparently a sock puppet on the this blog? As a matter of fact, this may be Serene whatever resurfacing after his descent further into the chasm.

  83. Uppity

    Because no one else has said it yet, although it has been eluded: David Reimer (nee Bruce Reimer, once known as Brenda Reimer) is the reason gender can not be considered solely a social construct. This is the boy whose penis was destroyed in a botched circumcision, had sexual reconstruction surgery as an infant and raised as a female based on the assumption that gender is malleable. He defined himself as male at 14 and later committed suicide at 28, the trauma of his early life is considered the main reason.

  84. Valerie M

    @ Uppity

    This is confusing sex and gender again. He still would have experienced puberty as a male, eg. testosterone and the physical changes that result from it. No wonder he decided he was male shortly after (14).

    Male is not the same as man/boy. One is sex, one is a gender role.

  85. Uppity

    No, he could not and did not, his testicles were removed, he had a constructed vagina and he received estrogen injections. He developed breasts. He went through years of therapy to promote his female identity. His doctors believed in the theory that gender was social and plastic, that it could be changed in the mind by promoting the changes of the body. In other words, change the sex, change the gender. His body/sex was as female as it could be, but his gender was male.

    I have not a lick of problem with gender behaviours being culturally embedded, gender identity is a whole other ball of wax. Too many transgendered people to think otherwise. Because really, who CHOOSES to be a woman in this society when there is another option?

  86. Valerie M

    Since I know exactly what will happen if I answer this question, I think I’d best not.

  87. Valerie M

    Having read more about David Reimer, I don’t see how this proves anything. He and his brother both had gender stereotypes shoved down their throats, were lied to, and traumatised.

    And it still confuses sex with gender. His sex was never changed – he had a normal x and a normal y chromosome. His body was superficially altered and he was given hormones. Can we really say this makes an adequate approximation of a female? Especially for someone who never asked to change their body? Is there no chance that there are still things we don’t know about the human body?

    Also, maybe what he didn’t like were the harmful female stereotypes being forced on him. Maybe what he didn’t like were the Orwellian brainwashing sessions with his therapist. I just might claim to be a man to avoid such psychological torture too.

    Plus he had an identical twin. We have not discovered all there is to know about the psychological link between twins – just enough to know there is something significant there. It’s another confounding factor, and this case is full of them. Not that one person is a proper study or anything.

    Again, he was never given the option to not have a gender (gender meaning your sex defining who you are as a person in huge ways). He was never given the option to not be indoctrinated into a genderising society that makes nurture-mountains out of nature-molehills.

    Look back at my brown-eyed/blue-eyed example. If that had been the arbitrary characteristic chosen as the basis upon which to oppress people, we’d all be discussing the case of the person who had their eye colour changed and how we can’t deny that eye colour is an integral part of your identity and so on.

    And this blog would be called I Blame The Brownarchy/Bluearchy.

  88. Frumious B.

    What David Reimer’s parents did to him and themselves is tragic, but isn’t enough to claim that gender is innate. I don’t entirely blame them b/c they didn’t have an opportunity to raise their son without gender. The experience appears to have messed them up* pretty badly, and I posit that you can’t raise a child to have a healthy gender identity when you are wracked with guilt over having caused his penis to be cut off. Much of the evidence which supposedly proves that David knew he was a male all along is that he wanted to run and wear pants. Plenty o’ women of all biologies like to run and wear pants and still comfortably identify as women. I further posit that forcing someone to sit still and wear a dress, as David’s parents did to him, when they want to run around wearing pants will cause at minimum severe unhappiness with their gender role. Then further learning that your parents have lied to you your whole life about something as fundamental as your being as your body, and what’s worse in this gender and sex obsessed society, your sex, well, in keeping with my positing hobby, I just think the discovery of the lie has got to be at least as bad as the gender role which does not fit.

    *”messed them up” absolutely being scientific psychological terminology. I try to avoid giving diagnoses to, well, anyone, since I’m not a psychologist, but in particular to people who I have never met and only read about.

    @Valerie: “His body was superficially altered and he was given hormones. Can we really say this makes an adequate approximation of a female?”

    Ouch. Did you have to go there?

  89. Comrade PhysioProf

    Look back at my brown-eyed/blue-eyed example. If that had been the arbitrary characteristic chosen as the basis upon which to oppress people, we’d all be discussing the case of the person who had their eye colour changed and how we can’t deny that eye colour is an integral part of your identity and so on.

    And this blog would be called I Blame The Brownarchy/Bluearchy.

    It is absurd to assert that the choice of sex as a physiological basis for oppression is historically arbitrary, and the analogy to eye color is bankrupt.

  90. Valerie M

    Thanks for your opinion CPP. Now I can sleep tonight.

  91. Valerie M

    Apparently sex as a reason for oppression isn’t arbitrary, did we all hear that? It’s a REAL reason!

    How dudely.

  92. Comrade PhysioProf

    Of course it’s a real reason, in the sense of being a historical cause. That doesn’t mean, of course, that it is in any way a justification for its continued existence.

    You are on very shaky and dangerous ground if you build arguments for the injustice of various forms of oppression on the arbitrariness of their historical origins.

  93. Hedgepig

    @ PhysioProf: Why is the eye colour analogy bankrupt? Surely eyecolour is as superficial a physical characteristic as skin colour, and we know that skin colour has been the basis of complex and all-encompassing systems of domination and subordination.

  94. little_sis

    @Valerie: “His body was superficially altered and he was given hormones. Can we really say this makes an adequate approximation of a female?”

    yes! plenty of trans sisters can attest to that.

  95. Agasaya

    The proof of the argument remains with the individual in this case. He remained a ‘he’ despite the medical and social interventions which were imposed upon him to transform his sexual and gender identity. Therefore, we can infer that gender indoctrination alone is insufficient, by itself, to alter sexual identity. Not that surprising when we, as women, feel free to disregard gender indoctrination in the absence of sexual modifications!

  96. Jill

    @Valerie: “His body was superficially altered and he was given hormones. Can we really say this makes an adequate approximation of a female?”

    yes! plenty of trans sisters can attest to that.

    We’re wading into dangerous waters here. The question really is: what is a “woman”? One of my favorite all-time questions.

  97. Jezebella

    A timely mainstream-media meditation on this very question:

    h
    ttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/magazine/13FOB-WWLN-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine

    Peggy Orenstein panics a bit about her gender identity upon being told she should remove breasts and ovaries for cancer-related questions, and concludes: “Perhaps merely because . . . I say so. And maybe that will have to be enough.”

  98. Valerie M

    Of course it’s a real reason, in the sense of being a historical cause

    Sex was never the cause. Something ABOUT our sex, probably to do with our ability to create human beings with our own bodily tissues, scared the widdle men and their insecurity and feeling of irrelevance led them to decide to oppress women.

    But no, our sex itself did not cause our oppression.

    We’re wading into dangerous waters here. The question really is: what is a “woman”? One of my favorite all-time questions.

    These shouldn’t be dangerous waters, but I’ve been around the feminist blogosphere long enough to know you’re too right.

    It is difficult to define what makes a woman (or a man), but I would hesitate to say that someone raised as a man, with a male endocrine system, is the best judge of what it feels like to be a woman. How do you know what a woman feels like? How do you know you know?

    That’s the whole problem with trans being seen as proof that gender is real. Transpeople, like non-transpeople, can only rely on their own subjective feelings to tell them they feel like a girl/woman. Or boy/man. But it’s all relative; what makes the feelings of a trans person, as opposed to a non-trans person, the litmus test?

  99. delphyne

    “But it’s all relative; what makes the feelings of a trans person, as opposed to a non-trans person, the litmus test?”

    Because they’re men. Men’s feelings are important.

    Men get to decide what women are – in this case a woman is a man who claims to be a woman. Women on the other hand only get to acquiesce or support them.

    I’m always amazed that feminists don’t see it. We don’t take men’s word for anything else they say about women, but when they’re claiming to be women suddenly they’re right? Very odd.

  100. delphyne

    Also it’s pretty easy to define what a woman is – anyone who wasn’t born with a penis and testicles. I think that even covers intersex people for the peanut gallery.

  101. Jezebella

    So, delphyne, if a born-woman claims she’s a man, and takes steps to change her identity to male, do you believe *her*?

  102. Hedgepig

    That’s an interesting question Jezebella. Because I believe that to be a woman you have to be brought up from birth to be a member of the Orifice Class, I don’t believe that a man who claims to really be a woman has a right to insist that we share our female pronouns with him.
    Logically, this means a woman, socialised from birth as a member of the sex caste, is not going to be truly male just because she feels male.
    I recently got yelled at over at Violet Socks’s place for saying similar things. Guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

  103. Jill

    Also it’s pretty easy to define what a woman is – anyone who wasn’t born with a penis and testicles. I think that even covers intersex people for the peanut gallery.

    Within a bizarro-culture-of-domination, “woman” is an idea, and a much more complicated idea than one of phenotype exhibited at birth.

  104. Carpenter

    It doesn’t seem quite right to say sexual orientation is a fetish the way it was presented. Which seemed to be that by having a preference of one sex over the other, one was objectifying the genitalia the hence fetish.

    Say one didn’t have a preference, say one was completely bisexual, that lack of orientation would in no way mean genitals were not objectified. We could all be completely without sexual preference, but if we insisted on wearing clothes to hide the genitals, genitals would probably still be a fetish.

    A deeper question is probably, independent of orientation does some degree of objectification always come with lust? I suspect it has to.

  105. delphyne

    “Within a bizarro-culture-of-domination, “woman” is an idea, and a much more complicated idea than one of phenotype exhibited at birth.”

    Nope, woman is a reality. We women have a lot of bizarro ideas attached to us in the form of sex roles, but women have to exist in the first place for those weird ideas to be attached to us. The bizarro ideas that men made up about us don’t negate our reality or our existence.

    This is feminism 101 or maybe more accurately, feminism which was bleeding obvious back in the 1970s but because a few chaps decided they were actually ladies, and postmodernism became fashionable suddenly “woman” didn’t exist any more.

    You’ll notice that nobody ever pretends that men don’t exist or that man is a really, really complicated idea. It’s only women who need erasing.

  106. coathangrrr

    “but women have to exist in the first place for those weird ideas to be attached to us.”

    Different races have all sorts of weird ideas attached to them, but they are most certainly only social constructs and not biological. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and even if being a woman is a social construct it would exist. Money is also a social construct and it exists. The ideas attached to these different things is what makes them as categories, though not as individuals.

  107. delphyne

    Race isn’t analogous to sex. If sex didn’t exist we wouldn’t be here. Every single one of us needed a female parent with ovaries and eggs and a male parent with testes and sperm to produce our selves. You can’t get much more real than that. Sex is real, it exists in our bodies. It’s not a social construct. Gender, the system of power relations where men dominate women and the beliefs and behaviours that flow from that is a social construct. Maybe that’s what you mean.

    The erasure of sex, which is really erasure of women, is very disturbing. It doesn’t surprise me to see a lot of men promoting it though.

  108. Valerie M

    Different races have all sorts of weird ideas attached to them, but they are most certainly only social constructs and not biological. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and even if being a woman is a social construct it would exist. Money is also a social construct and it exists. The ideas attached to these different things is what makes them as categories, though not as individuals.

    Money doesn’t actually exist beyond it’s social construct as far as I know. I’m not convinced race does either.

    @ delphyne

    I don’t think men exist any more than women exist. The concepts ‘men’ and ‘women’ are very dehumanising in that the deny us our individuality. Women exist now because we are raised as a class and have many similar experiences because of that social distinction. But how similar would our experiences be outside of this class system? Some things would persist; biological phenomena like periods (which most females get) would remain. But I don’t think our social experiences would align to such an extent as what makes women exist now. And outside of a patriarchy a handful of biological similarities would not a class make.

    Same goes for men. Exactly the same.

  109. delphyne

    I find the erasure of women’s bodies really, really disturbing from radical feminists. You can’t talk women’s bodies away. They’ll still be here when the words have stopped. And they’ll still be the site of most patriarchal oppression given the violence and sexual violence that men inflict on them whilst we’re blithely giving away our power.

    Outside of a patriarchy women would be liberated, we’d still be women though. Whatever happened to being proud to be a woman? Now it’s “I’m only a woman until patriarchy stops and then I’ll be free of it”.

    Woman = adult human female. That’s it. If you’ve bought into all the other patriarchal nonsense that men have tried to attach to it, that’s a problem with you, not with what women are. Pretending that women are merely a abstract class and nothing else is misogyny in my view. It’s hatred of femaleness at its fundamental level.

    I don’t really get why people even bother to call themselves feminists or more excitingly women’s liberationists if you’re trying to pretend that women don’t actually exist except as an abstract concept not as a physical reality that is a source and power and identity for us if we’d only allow it.

    The only people who seem to be keen on actually claiming womanhood and its reality are trans. Now that truly is bizarre.

    Do you think the concept of “human” is dehumanising by the way Valerie? Denying as it does our individuality and consigning us all to one species?

  110. Valerie M

    Delphyne that is totally ridiculous. I said women DO exist within a patriarchy, I am not trying to pretend we don’t exist and I have never said I am ashamed to be one!

    What I am saying, if you READ my posts, is that outside a patriarchy the categories ‘woman’ and ‘man’ would cease to be necessary to qualify a person. ‘Female’ and ‘male’ would probably still be descriptors in the same way that ‘brown-eyed’ and ‘blue-eyed’ are today, but the lack of sex class segregation, oppression, and dominance would cease to produce the shared experiences based on sex class segregation, oppression and dominance aaaaaaahhhhhh what is so hard to understand here?

    Ahem.

    The word human could be dehumanising if we were sharing the planet with another species very like us in the use of language, ability, shape, brain capacity, etc.; if humans and the other species were fairly alike in the same way that women and men are very alike compared to women and ferns/men and opposums. In other words, we would have to be in a comparable situation with another species as we are currently in with men.

    Of course we would need another word for dehumanising in that situation.

  111. coathangrrr

    “Every single one of us needed a female parent with ovaries and eggs and a male parent with testes and sperm to produce our selves.”

    By that rationale only females able to bear children are really females. That seems like a major problem to me.

  112. Jill

    “Woman = adult human female. That’s it.”

    That would be it, if women weren’t oppressed. But membership in an oppressed class automatically abrogates socio-political neutrality. In other words, the objective biological essentialism upon which you insist, though alluring in its simplicity, is functionally irrelevant. “Woman” is a gender, thanks to the patriarchal paradigm.

    In a post-patriarchal society, “woman” would have no meaning. “Female,” on the other hand, might have some slight relevance to a few test-tube-wielding nerds, on a cellular or molecular level.

    You have also appended “adult” to the definition, interestingly. Another weird, nebulous social construct.

  113. polly styrene

    “Sexual orientation can only fetishize certain genitals if those genitals are the marker of gender. While some woman are told “I just think your pussy is hawt!” there are lots of woman who are told that their penises or intersexed genitals are sick and wrong. This problem you point out about sexual orientation becomes way less offensive when it is actually about gender, which is not about genitals.”

    Que? Some people have a fetish for rubber, is that a marker of gender?

    My take on the matter:

    A)Yes sexual orientation is a preference for a certain genital arrangement (or more than one type of genital arrangment, or not being interested in genital sexuality at all, whatever floats your boat).

    B)I fail to see why this is a problem. Some people are aroused by penises and their accompanying bits, some people are aroused by vulvas, vaginas and clitorises, some people are aroused by both. Some people would rather just have a nice cup of tea, though Boy George was fibbing when he said he would.

    This is only a problem if you think there is something wrong/bad/icky about finding things sexually arousing. Personally I find female genitals more arousing than male ones because I know how they work. Which seems perfectly rational to me. And also I think penises are Eeeeuuuwwwww.

  114. polly styrene

    And can I point out that lesbians attracted to butch women (some of whom can pass socially for men) are always asked – well why aren’t you attracted to men?

    Doh!

  115. polly styrene

    Lesbianwoman is right. There’s a lot of not so concealed homophobia behind these discussions.

  116. Hedgepig

    ‘Scuse my density, but I just can’t see where the homophobia is in these discussions. I’m willing to concede this is possibly because of where I’m situated (hetero), and I would genuinely like to be educated.

  117. polly styrene

    I published a reply to you hedgepig, but it is stuck in moderation. Don’t know why, but hopefully it will make it out at some point.

  118. polly styrene

    Try again – in case I just typed my e-mail wrong

    Well first of all hedgepig, you probably don’t know the history to that post appearing, which for reasons of wanting to finish my reply this century I will not go into in detail.

    But in short, if you say that sexual orientation is a matter of just being attracted to a person’s gender, you are saying that genitals are irrelevant, that sexual orientation is just a matter of how much that person resembles a *man* or a *woman* in social gender roles.

    I know that is the point that is being made above, the problem is it’s being made from a very heterosexist point of view. I am quite willing to believe that women are *attracted* to men without it being a genital thing, given the overwhelming social pressure to be attracted to men.

    However the same can hardly be said of lesbians who have to act counter culturally to define themselves as lesbians in the first place. You have to be pretty sure to know that you are attracted to women to want to go through with the whole thing and its attendant social disadvantages.

    Hence we have the phenomenon I described whereby women who are sexually attracted to *butch* women are asked *why aren’t you attracted to (biologically male) men then? The answer being that the biological males and the butch women have a somewhat different genital arrangement.

    The original post is homophobic because it kind of ignores that a lot of us define ourselves as lesbians because we are SEXUALLY ATTRACTED to females. Not for political reasons, or because we want to avoid men, but because we actually fancy people with female genitals.

    And furthermore it goes on to say that being attracted to female genitals is icky/bad/wrong, (which is very homophobic) and makes us no different from pornographers. The point being ignored here is that although one tends to be attracted to whole people, there are some things in terms of a physical sexual relationship that are deal breakers they wouldn’t be in terms of mere friendship. That doesn’t mean lesbians are attracted to everyone who has female genitals though. Homophobic trope no 3, lesbians are sex beasts who fancy ALL females just because they’ve got female bits.

    Unfortunately I have a much longer comment which preceded the two above that is mysteriously stuck in moderation. However above a commenter referred to women with penises being told their genitals are *sick and wrong*.

    The commenter did not elucidate further on the circumstances in which this happens. However – I am speculating here of course -if someone defines themselves as a lesbian, by which they mean sexually attracted to female bodied people, I don’t see how saying that they are only sexually attracted to female bodied people is the same as saying someone’s genitals are *sick and wrong*.

    The reason for this is that no human being has a right to demand another human being is sexually attracted to them. If someone defines themselves as a *woman* who am I to argue? However if that person has a penis and then demands that people who are only sexually attracted to people with female genitals is also attracted to them – on the basis of their *gender* – they are behaving very badly indeed.

  119. delphyne

    “You have also appended “adult” to the definition, interestingly. Another weird, nebulous social construct.”

    Mature?

    Someone who has passed puberty?

    Or are we going to pretend that these physical experiences don’t exist either? Claiming that something is a social construct doesn’t make it one. Pretty much anything in the world we give a name to could be called a social construct using your logic.

    Woman isn’t a social construct. Femininity and gender are social constructs – they are what are created through men’s oppression of women. Gender is simply another word for the hierarchy of sex with men ruling over women.

    As for what happens in a post patriarchal world, you really think that femaleness is going to be erased do you? Well I guess that’s what the misogynists would like to happen. They hate femaleness and want it to disappear.

    Does that mean that all lesbians will stop being lesbian in a post-patriarchy because sex will only exist in a test tube (ignoring the fact that we all have genitals which reflect our sex right there on our own bodies of course).

  120. Felicity

    A lot of feminists have an idea that if they don’t 100% agree, they have to be *really* angry concerning the opinion expressed.

    These feminists don’t take the same tone with privileged folk, funny that. Why we should never take the unnecessary ranting on feminist blogs seriously – it’s displaced rage.

  121. Hedgepig

    pollystyrene, I hope your comment hasn’t got lost in the inter-ether. Thankyou anyway.

  122. polly styrene

    Well it’s still awaiting moderation Hedgepig, but I have also commented on the other thread in similar terms.

  123. polly styrene

    Does that mean that all lesbians will stop being lesbian in a post-patriarchy because sex will only exist in a test tube

    I think that’s the theory yes. We will all stop worrying and learn to love the p*n*s. As we should of course, what kind of unnatural pervy women are we otherwise?

  124. nobodyinparticular

    Delphyne,

    Females *as such* simply don’t exist to these people.

    You’re whistling into the wind, but I love it.

  125. polly styrene

    “These feminists don’t take the same tone with privileged folk, funny that.”

    Because no-one who frequents feminist blogs is privileged? And how exactly do you know what tone feminists on blogs take with people in non blog situations? Psychic powers?

  126. Felicity

    Feminists might have privilege, but they do tend to be the under dog and certain radical feminists can be scape- goated with displaced rage. Did I touch a nerve?

  127. polly styrene

    I don’t know if you touched anyone’s nerve or not,you tell me, since you’ve got psychic powers. I asked you a question which is how you know stuff about what privileges people you’ve never met have, and how you know how people on the internet behave. I’ve made my views on Pisaquari’s post crystal clear. And I’ve made it crystal clear why I think them. Of course Pisaquari might have certain types of privilege. Like heterosexual privilege for instance, which allows her to be homophobic.

  128. polly styrene

    And since I know nothing about you, you could have male privilege for all I know.

  129. polly styrene

    Because it most certainly is an expression of heterosexual privilege as far as I’m concerned, for a woman who is not a lesbian to describe women who are physically attracted to other women as having a ‘creepy, creepy fixation’ with women’s genitals, and saying they are the same as male pornographers.

    Certainly I’m angry, but it’s not misplaced. It is being directed quite appropriately thank you for your (psychic) advice, Felicity.

  130. polly styrene

    And I think your psychic powers are slipping Felicity. Otherwise you would know that I am about to bring a grievance against some very senior people where I work for sex discrimination and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Speak truth to power indeed.

    Of course this post has been popular in a lot of circles. Probably the circles it wasn’t intended to be popular in. The reason for that is that Pisaquari has handily told women that if they dare to refuse male bodies for a sexual reason, as opposed to some high flown political one, ie they date to be interested in sex, without a male present to make it ok, they are, far from exercising sexual autonomy, the same as men.

    A view that is popular with misogynists and most major world religions last time I checked. Women are there to be f*ck t*ys for men, not to have creepy, creepy autonomous sexual desires of their own.

    Believe me Felicity, there are plenty of radical feminists who have no reason to love me, or I them, who agree with me on this one.

  131. polly styrene

    The comment above should read “dare to be interested” not “date”

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