sunflowerp: (Default)
[personal profile] sunflowerp
Lina of Uncool, as part of a post about the (real or perceived) lack of sexy images of men on sex-positive sites, and comcommitant (also real or perceived) over-representation of sexy images of women, asks:

"So yeah, why is this 'male-centric'? Why is it seen to be pandering to men or patriarchy? Why is [a woman] being naked and sexual seen to be trying to please men?"

Specifically, she's wondering why (some... hell, quite a few) self-identified feminists would reflexively assume that.

The answer to that, it seems to me, is, "Because men are pleased by it." Never mind that the male pleasure may be purely incidental - the woman may be being naked and sexual for her own pleasure, or for that of her female lover (or for that matter for the pleasure of her male lover as distinct from any other men who might observe it). Never mind that some or even all of the men observing might be appreciating her sexual agency, the evident fact of her active sexuality ('cause, know what? Quite a few men find active female sexuality more attractive than passivity. Like JFP for one ::blows kiss::, and come to think of it, I've a shrewd suspicion that's true of most if not all of my male readers.)

No, the problem is that men are pleased - and We Can't Have That!

To a certain breed of feminist, the only way to subvert the "women as sex class" paradigm is to intentionally avoid pleasing men; women who do things that men are pleased by (even if their motivations have sweet fuck-all to do with men) are undermining the subversion effort.

In a resultant private e-conversation, others deconstructed the logical inconsistencies better (certainly more succinctly) than I could, so I quote:

Belledame: "[D]ude, if you spend all your time worrying about what men think,
you're...still spending all your time worrying about what men think."

[ profile] ksej: "And the irony is that this is still letting men's desires control them, just in the other direction."

Yep. Anyone who sees female sexuality only in context of how men respond to it, as if it had no existence outside that context, is - intentionally or unintentionally - reinforcing the "women as sex class" paradigm, not subverting it. Seeing any feminist action only in context of its effect on men undermines its feminism by implying that what doesn't affect men isn't important.

And, y'know, sex isn't an invention of Teh Ev0l Patriarchy; it's just the way human reproduction works. A case can be made, however (historically simplistic, but more logically consistent) , that the stigmatization of sex as dirty, impure, and uncivilized (a stigmatization reinforced by that breed of feminist's distaste for overt sexuality) is a patriarchal construct.

That's not a reason to negate sexuality in the name of feminism, it's a reason to celebrate it.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-06-08 06:18 am (UTC)
kiya: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kiya
Right now I'm half-naked because it was fucking hot in here when I had the game computer on to raid Tempest Keep in Warcraft this evening, and still hasn't cooled down.

Later, there will be the cold shower in the hope of dropping my body temperature enough that I'll be able to sleep.

Most of the male-pleasing happened before I took the shirt off; by the time I stripped down [ profile] arawen had stomped off to stress about his chemistry homework, and [ profile] teinedreugan was out playing poker this evening.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-06-08 06:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That kinda reminds me of the this bit of humour:

"The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat." — Lily Tomlin

(no subject)

Date: 2008-06-09 05:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
::blows kisses back::

Why is [a woman] being naked and sexual seen to be trying to please men?

What else could it be for? I mean, obviously you only flirt with me because you've got your eye on those fat librarian paychecks I'm hoping to get in a couple years; what else could you possibly get out of it?

Seriously, I think part of the problem is that there's typically no distinction between "sexy" and "sexual" made by society - women are only recognized as being sexual by being sexy. (I think the reverse is true to some degree for men.) There's also the question of who gets to interpret the act. I think the anti-porn/anti-prostitution feminists tend to focus on how patriarchy views the act, not how the actor does, and conclude that the most self-affirming sexual acts can be invalidated via appropriation by the patriarchy. Which in a way is saying that "because it pleases men" is the problem, though more accurately it's "because it becomes *about* pleasing men, no matter what it was about before". The leer trumps all--and IMO that's even dumber than pretending it doesn't exist.

Who *should* get to define what sexual expression means? That's a tough one. In many forms of expression, we say that authorial intent is less relevant than audience response, but I'm not comfortable making that kind of statement here. I think it's because, in the case of women's sexual expression, things are already too far out of balance in that direction; women's intent is regarded as irrelevant, or is assumed to be deducible from men's reactions (i.e., any woman's expression of sexuality in my presence means "she wants me"). (OTOH, sexual expression by men *is* defined primarily by intent, which is why people will defend harassing behavior as complimentary interest.)

Of course, there's nothing wrong with a call to examine one's behavior (though if it's made in good faith, it should be asked of *everybody*, not just those whose actions one disapproves of), but any solution that's centered around "women shouldn't be sexual" misses the point utterly.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-06-10 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Possibly a differentiation between "intended audience" and "incidental audience" is pertinent here.

I think it is. I originally used "audience" as a substitution for "reader," and was thinking about the sort of observer that interprets what's going on, but doesn't influence it. And I think what a lot of the anti-porn/anti-prostitution folks have a problem with is that no matter how affirming an act is for the actor, there's so much privilege flying around that the observers can ignore that and "make it about" their own gratification. Which, of course, is "worrying about what men think," in a way, but in a society where those observers have more privilege, it becomes problematic, because "what men think" tends to become the generally accepted interpretation. (E.g., that review of Lady Chatterley's Lover which complained that the sex scenes weren't sexy enough.)

This is one of the factors that's led me to call myself a "positive-sex" feminist rather than a sex-postive feminist--as a het man in this society, given the history of co-option of sex-positive movements, it simply can't be my place to say to women what they should find affirming or empowering. In general, that is - in the context of a specific relationship, it's rather different because it's about what *I* think, not what "men" (of which I'm a proxy, if not always the most representative one) think.

[Also, there seems to be a related convo starting up over at Feministe.]

(no subject)

Date: 2008-07-16 01:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Firstly, i must apologise! In perusing the fifth edition of the FCSFA, i saw this post of yours included. "Why haven't i seen that already?" wondered i. i thus went and checked my feed aggregator, which is how i keep up with my f-list - rather than via my Friends Page - and discovered that, for some reason, the feed for your LJ wasn't there! :-(( Sorry! i wondered why you didn't post in your LJ that much. :-P So i've now got a number of historical posts of yours to read. :-)

Secondly, good on you for getting included in the Carnival!

Anyone who sees female sexuality only in context of how men respond to it, as if it had no existence outside that context, is - intentionally or unintentionally - reinforcing the "women as sex class" paradigm, not subverting it.

Well said! And it seems to me that the people who think this also often have difficulty believing - or simply refuse to believe - that women's motivation for expressing our sexuality is based on anything other than patriarchal brainwashing. Sure, it's ludicrous to think that we're not at all affected by growing up and living in a patriarchal society; but that applies to every woman, not just sex-positive feminists. Which in turn means we sex-positive feminists can turn around and suggest to our detractors, since (as you pointed out) the historically negative attitudes towards sexuality, and particularly non-reproductive sex, can reasonably be regarded as a patriarchal construct, that it is their motivations which are based on patriarchal brainwashing.

The problem is that, although i feel it's necessary for feminists to examine the impact of patriarchy on people's psychology, it needs to be recognised that this is a very tricky process, given our relatively limited understanding of how the human mind works. i think it's simply not possible to make strong claims about why a group of women are motivated to act the way they do - let alone why an individual woman acts the way she does. Too many feminists have ended up falling down the slippery slope towards certainty in this regard, with the result that it makes me think of something Pat Califia once wrote:
The women's culture that seemed about to flower in the early eighties has withered on the vine, and it's not because a handful of S/M dykes, bisexual women, or transgendered women found their way into feminist bookstores and lesbian collectives. It's because too many of us bought into a type of feminism that made us care more about what our sister was thinking about when she had an orgasm than we did about raising money to establish women's centres, lobbying for better healthcare, staffing rape crisis centres, or doing any one of hundreds of more constructive, radical feminist actions.

long time, no post

Date: 2008-11-11 07:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] (from
Hi Sunflower -

I'm just checking in because it's been ages since you posted, and I miss your stuff! I totally understand that life gets complicated and you have *zero* obligation to keep up a certain blogging pace. Nonetheless. You had great things to say. So if you come back to this, do spread the word.

It goes without saying that I hope all's well with you. I'll say it anyway.

Sungold (whose blogging has been somewhat perfunctory in recent weeks due to too much work!)
P.S. My email is sungold85 (at) ...

November 2009


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