sunflowerp: (Default)
[personal profile] sunflowerp
I've really got to stop making long comments on other people's blogs instead of posting here. Or at any rate, I need to ruminate here as well.

Holly at The Pervocracy (adult content) has ruffled a few feathers of late. The real action is in the comments to her I Love Men post, where I refrained from further comment after the rufflees arrived, on the supposition that some seemed likely to be Trolls, and thus should not be fed. (Further observation suggests there are no true Trolls [or that Holly blocked the only one, an ill-mannered trollop who didn't notice the irony/hypocrisy of appearing out of the blue and accusing one of Holly's regular commenters of appearing out of the blue], merely ideologues and Utopians, since they're not commenting on any of her other posts.)

A further installment in the saga can be found in her Like sex?... post. (Do follow the trail of linky breadcrumbs to see the whole of what Twisty said - I'll make some references to that, as well as to what's at Holly's, but you don't need to bother with Twisty's commenters unless you're entertained by such things. Oh, except for the fourth one, by Nine Deuce, who talks about a "new" definition for sex-pos feminism. There may be others worth a look; should I decide to read more of 'em, and find any, I'll let you know.) That's where I made the lengthy comment that I'm sorta-kinda going to expand on here.

Y'see, apparently sex-positive feminists are all a bunch of irresponsible, hormone-driven twentysomething party girls who wear skimpy clothes, talk about "Girl Power" and derive a false sense of power from attracting male attention. Yep, that's me, young, gorgeous, lean-bellied, perky-breasted, wearing a baby tee and high heels, batting my false eyelashes at the men. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

(I'll pause for a moment while those of my readers who know me in person stop rolling on the floor, get back in their chairs, wipe their eyes, and regain their composure. This may take a while.)

The reality? I'm middle-aged, and have a figure very similar to that of my witchy avatar (but with less-perky tits - years on a one-gee planet have an effect). I rarely bother with makeup (when I do, it's goth paint), and haven't worn heels since my sister's wedding almost 13 years ago. I have hairy legs and hairy 'pits (okay, not very; my body hair is fair and fine - but not by any effort of mine), and my primary sartorial consideration is comfort. I don't look like a Spice Girl, I look like a former hippie.

It appears that the confusion lies in assuming sex-pos feminist = "sexy feminist", and further assuming that "sexy" means "enhancing one's appearance to conform to media-promulgated standards of sexually-attractive femininity". BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!

I'm definitely and emphatically a sex-positive feminist - the exploring I've been doing has strongly confirmed that, in all sorts of unexpected ways, that modifier is the right fit. Whether or not I'm a sexy feminist depends entirely on what the observer finds sexy - if one's taste runs to a strong-willed, outspoken, opinionated, obstinate, well-read, geeky woman with an excellent command of the English language, a snarky wit, and a mind like a steel trap, then I'm sexy as hell, with very little reference to media-driven conventions. And, bloody hell, if being able to be sexy in one's own, unique, individual way, entirely independent of conformity to some hypothetical standard, isn't part of what we've been fighting for, I'm in the wrong movement.

It seems to me that those assumptions require an underlying assumption: that there is a universally-applicable, prescriptive, definition of "sexy" - that sexiness necessarily refers to female attractiveness, to men, and that all men are sexually attracted by the same qualities - and, further, that this posited universal definition is, in fact, the one found in mainstream advertising and entertainment. If a woman doesn't fit, or chooses not to fit, that standard, then she is, by definition, not sexy. (I'm not certain whether the implication in the other direction is that men can't be sexy, or can only be sexy in homosexual contexts, or it's an entirely separate and unrelated issue.)

Evidently those holding such assumptions know different men than I do - or have not troubled to find out what the men of their acquaintance prefer, or suppose their male associates to be exceptions to the otherwise-unrelieved monolith of - wait for it - Class Man.

Yep, gender essentialism rears its mentally-lazy head - that same thoughtless homogenization that underpins prescriptive gender roles, and without which misogyny, hostility to women as a class, possible.

I'm not accusing any individual of gender essentialism, much less of misandry; I'm just following the chain of logic as I see it. Perhaps there are links I've missed; perhaps there are individuals who have adopted the surface assumptions without considering what underlying assumptions they led to. Perhaps those who hold all these assumptions really do know different men than I do, men who really do fit that picture. It's not like such men don't exist; I've known plenty of them, too. They're not only a significant part of why I've remained feminist (I truly don't ever recall a time when I was aware of feminism but thought I wasn't one - I was pondering the pros and cons of committing arson on training bras a good four years before I owned one*), they're a significant part of why I'm a sex-positive feminist: because I damn well want positive sex, not the mediocre exercise in friction offered by those particular individual men. (And, I inadvertently lied in my Intro entry; I will post rants about particular men who have strengthened my feminist resolve - no names, no pack drill, but plenty of snark.) But there are quite a few men who have rejected that Procrustean bed, and a whole lot more who've discovered that it's uncomfortable as hell but haven't yet figured out how to get out of it.

Is it possible that the "sex-positive feminism" label is being co-opted by horny young women as a way to compete in the Girly-Girl Olympics (in two "events": in the Traditional Program, whoever gets and keeps the most high-status man gets the gold; in Freestyle Catch-and-Release, it's whoever gets the most men) and still pretend to have feminist street cred? Possibly, although most of the Girly-Girl Olympians I've met don't want to be feminists (which they think requires them to be humorless and implacably hostile to men) - and the few that do are perfectly happy with the "sexy feminist" identity. Hell, plenty of young women who are outright militant about sexist crap are rejecting the feminist label (but that's another post). And it's not Holly who's co-opting - her blog makes it amply clear, to those who bother to read, that it s a sex blog that sometimes discusses feminism, not an attempt to construct a feminist ideology out of sex.

Nevertheless, yep, making sure sex-positive feminism is well-defined is an excellent idea - since there are clearly those who will happily redefine it if we don't. Contrary to Nine Deuce's supposition (mentioned above), though, it's not a new definition - well before (media-driven) "Girl Power", there were the Sex Wars of the '80s, wherein radical feminism schismed bitterly. Those who disagreed with the prohibitionist approach - to sex work, to erotica/porn, to kink, to overt expression of female sexuality, etc - are where sex-pos feminism came from.

So when 9D says the "new" definition should "revolve around women demanding that their sexuality be acknowledged to be independent of male sexuality and that their sexual needs be met," there's nothing new about it. One of the interesting things about that approach is, individual sexuality and sexual needs are, well, individual - when your feminist discourse involves frank discussion on the subject, it becomes impossible to ignore diversity. (You can despise it, if you must, but you can't ignore it.)

In my long-but-much-shorter-than-this comment at Holly's, I found myself doing a seat-of-the-pants definition, not because of 9D (I think I hadn't seen her remarks at that point), but because of somethingorother somewhereorother that I can't find now, that I construed as a complaint that sex-pos feminists were vague about their actual stance, and as part of my point that "sex-pos" doesn't inherently stamp everyone else as "sex-negative": "sex-pos feminism emphasizes the positive aspects of sex and sexuality as a core issue, and strives to address the negative aspects."

There are things I deliberately didn't explicate there - acceptance of transfolk, f'ex, which would've opened a can of worms that'd likely derail the debate altogether. But I'm mentioning it here, because it's part of that running theme of individual diversity.

I have lots and lots more to muse related to Holly's brouhaha and to (my observations of and ideas about) sex-pos, but I've been writing for hours; expect Part 2 in the next day or two.

(N.B. ON COMMENTING, just in case the brouhaha pays a visit here: I'm not shutting off anonymous-to-LJ comments, because they can be productive and I'd rather not lose that. But if you're not on LJ or not signed in, please sign your comments. Feel free to disagree with me all you like, provided it's rational, civil, and engages what I actually wrote. I reserve the right to delete for incivility, obvious flaws in reasoning, and ideological haranguing, if this gets too lively; I like debate, but dislike brawling, and it's my damn journal. F'list folks, and people I know from elsewhere, don't get a free pass, but I will cut 'em more slack than I will for strangers. Identifiable Trolls will be shot on sight.)

(* Can't go without closing my footnote. Yes, I know that no bras were actually burned at that protest, nor is there any record of literal braburning elsewhen/where. But I didn't know that when I was, what, eight or something.)

I've done this post in HTML, so I could include usable links. It should work; if it doesn't, I think I'll go kill something by bare-hands dismemberment.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-27 03:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
(If this isn't an appropriate place to respond, feel free to delete.)

Y'see, apparently sex-positive feminists are all a bunch of irresponsible, hormone-driven twentysomething party girls who wear skimpy clothes, talk about "Girl Power" and derive a false sense of power from attracting male attention. Yep, that's me, young, gorgeous, lean-bellied, perky-breasted, wearing a baby tee and high heels, batting my false eyelashes at the men. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

I think that one of the problems is that the face of sex-positive feminism in the larger media *is* precisely "sexy feminism" - heavy on the (conventionally) sexy, light on the feminism. They're the ones who get hired to write sex columns in the indie papers, they're the ones who create sex-positive blogs that get A-listed without much effort (I remember one "best of sex blogs" list where every single blog featured a conventionally attractive 20-something woman as either author or model, usually both), they're the ones who get the book deals*, etc.

If you don't fit that type, attention is much harder to attract. (Speaking of which - read Figleaf, everybody!)

It's also complicated in that, within the blogosphere, there's a cadre of generally sex-positive women who identify as anti-feminist, seemingly in response to feeling left out of feminism. So you've got quite a few "sex positive" people for a radical feminist contingent to respond to, but not a group that's a particularly representative sample.

*[I'm emphatically NOT referring to books like Full Frontal Feminism or It's a Jungle Out There here - I've got in mind all the "My Year as a College Stripper" diaries out there. Some of them may be good reading, but surely there's room for more in the sex-pos canon.]

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-27 04:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I didn't block anyone; I think trollish comments only reflect on the commenter.

It seems like some of their comments about (the way they perceive) sex-positive feminists were very... well, I think they basically called us sluts. They talked about us dressing all skanky and giving it up to any man who asked. And thus ruining things for the good girls. Slut-shaming: now feminist?

Part of my trouble holding my own in the brouhaha (and why I maybe shouldn't have yapped so much, but I was having too much fun) is that I haven't constructed a full-fledged feminist ideology out of my love of the wiener. I identify as sex-positive because I believe that viewing female sexual desire as equally important to men's matters; but I would never say that sexiness is feminism.

(Possible language problem: when I say "sexiness," I mean "degree of public and aggressive sexuality," not "possession of a sweet hoochie rear." I think that sometimes this wasn't clear.)

I'm not fighting for my right to fuck; I'm fighting for my right to fuck the way I want, to not fuck when I don't want, and to not be judged for how I fuck.

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

I'm not saying this woman speaks for everyone, and if masturbation is what works for her than more power to her, but... uh... I think I detect some slight subtle misandry issues. Between the lines.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-27 05:48 am (UTC)
kiya: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kiya
"I always thought that withholding sex from all piggish men until they got a clue was a better idea."

While I'm aware that this person is probably in the school of thought that considers assent to "Men are pigs" the first step in evaluating whether a man is worth spending time with, my reaction to this remains, "Well, fuck me sideways, why consider sexing up the piggish men in the first place, rather than pursuing the ones who are actually worth your time?"

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-27 05:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm fairly certain that "piggish men" is to her a rhetorical redundancy, like "cold snow" or "wet sea."

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-27 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
At least one person used the word "bimbo." Wow, how progressive.

What's next? "Scarlet woman"? "A is for adulteress"?

What is this, feminism, or a bloody Hawthorne novel?

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-28 06:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The comment on masturbation wasn't from Twisty herself but a commenter (I think Twisty's gay anyway); Twisty herself tends to kinda stay above the fray while her commenters say the really embarrassing things.

(Man, speaking of "hoochie rear," I keep alienating myself from certain people with sloppy language; I have terrible and apparently unbreakable tendencies to sarcasm, hyperbole, and casual use of traditionally demeaning terms. Got absolutely reamed out for using the word "slut" as a shorthand for "sexually assertive" even though I was arguing pro-"slut" and thought I was being clear. The Ethical Slut got away with it...)

But I've way too late realized that this isn't a discussion of beliefs, it's one of identity. They are radfems, I am not, no one's changing anyone's mind because what I did was like going to a Jewish forum and explaining the love of Jesus. They take pride in being radfems, not in the specific tenets of radfeminism, and there's no way to argue someone out of their chosen identity.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-04-01 02:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] (from
As I mentioned to you on my blog, Sunflower, I have no doubt that you've got your own kind of sexy. It's not just that you're smart; you have a sexy mind, and the two things together are a hot combination. At least, that's a major attraction for me in men, and I'm just not willing to believe that *all* men only care about plastic beauty.

But this just points out, once again, the trouble with our words. You and other commenters have already pointed out how crucial it is that we redefine "sexy" in much broader terms than the pornified, air-brushed images of supposed hawtness that honestly just don't have much to do at all with women's pleasures and fantasies. I just want to say that I loved this statement: "And, bloody hell, if being able to be sexy in one's own, unique, individual way, entirely independent of conformity to some hypothetical standard, isn't part of what we've been fighting for, I'm in the wrong movement."

I don't generally like "sex-positive" as a term because it gets too many people's hackles up in an unproductive way. ("What, are you saying I don't like sex??!!") And it's too mired in the Sex Wars, which are now just about a quarter century old. Maybe something like "sex-radical" works better? The language problem might make good fodder for a future post. (Not forthcoming from me; I have no desire to attract the traveling brouhaha!)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-04-01 02:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] (from
Aw, rats, I once again forgot to sign my name, and open ID only shows my blog address. So - it's me, Sungold the Space Cadet.

November 2009


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