Posts tagged feminism

“Sex negative” and “sex positive” are relatively useless terms with regard to discussing feminist approaches to issues of sex and sexuality. The terms convey the message that “sex positivity” equals support for a vision of sex and sexuality that is defined by patriarchy and one that is primarily libertarian. What’s defined as “sex positive feminism” tends to translate to: non-critical of the sex industry, BDSM, burlesque, and generally, anything that can be related to “sex.” “Non-judgement” is the mantra espoused by so-called “sex-positive feminists,” which is troubling because it ends up framing critical thought and discourse as “judgement” and therefore negative. Since I tend to see critical thinking as a good thing, the “don’t judge me”/”don’t say anything critical about sex because it’s sex and therefore anything goes” thing doesn’t sit well with me.

“Sex negative,” on the other hand, tends to be ascribed to feminists who are critical of prostitution, pornography, strip clubs, burlesque, BDSM and, really, sex and sexuality as defined by patriarchy and men. The reason that feminists are critical of these things is because they want to work towards a real, liberated, feminist understanding of sex and sexuality, rather than one that sexualizes inequality, domination and subordination, is male-centered, and is harmful and exploitative of women. To me, that sounds far more “sex positive” (from a feminist perspective, anyway), than blind support for anything sex-related, because sex.

It’s the Belle Knox brand of feminism. It says that if an individual woman consents to — or even enjoys — performing in pornography, it must be ok. It says that if an individual woman likes pornography, it must be ok. And not just ok, but potentially empowering. I have no idea why we would assume that only men’s sexualities can be shaped by porn or why, simply because a woman’s fantasies have been shaped by porn that means those fantasies and that pornography is necessarily feminist. I don’t give a shit how many people like porn. I don’t give a shit if you say you like performing in porn (most women don’t, for the record, but there are exceptions to every rule that you’re sure to find if you look). That changes absolutely nothing about what porn is and how it impacts our lives and society as a whole.
The way in which it has become acceptable in some feminist circles to blackball and tar women who fight pornography and prostitution or to ignore and discredit them by calling them “sex-negative pearl-clutchers” — to claim feminists are the ones doing the oppressing because they criticize selfies or burlesque or, really, anything else one might feel attached to — that’s all part of the backlash. Which isn’t the same as saying women are to blame, but it is saying we’ve been had.
If we do indeed want to look at the “reality” of prostitution, we’re going to have “feelings” about it. Those who don’t are, in fact, the problem. Because you know who doesn’t let “feelings” get in the way of their opinions about prostitution? Johns. Also, people who don’t care about women.
Since when does feminism promote the idea that one should not have “feelings?” My understanding was that to accuse women of being “too emotional” or of letting their feelings get in the way of rational (man) thought was, er, kind of sexist? Beyond that, the reason one would get involved in the feminist movement would be literally because one cares about other women. We cares about women’s lives, rights, well-being, and, more generally, their ability to live their lives free from oppression and violence and with dignity. To demand that we “put our feelings aside” when thinking about feminism and women’s issues is anti-feminist.
I do consider “rape culture” to be a useful and accurate way of describing the way in which sexual violence has been normalized and sexualized in our culture. There is simply no denying that, when we see male students “joking” about raping female students, as we did recently at the University of Ottawa, when fraternities are untouchable on campus despite the fact that the “Greek scene” is a cesspool of toxic masculinity and sexual violence, when students at Canadian universities participate in “rape chants” during frosh week while fellow students are actually being raped on campus, when violent pornography that depicts sexual violence is defended as “just a fantasy,” or when we learn that acting out rape scenes is a way for us to recover from our own trauma, when women are afraid to walk alone at night, when women are afraid to be home alone at night in their own homes – this is a rape culture. We’re living it, every day.
Femininity is an illusion and it is work.

Race, class, and sex intersect in the worst ways to subjugate Native women — and in the act of prostitution it’s the most racist, the most sexist… And the man holds all of the economic power in that.

- Jackie Lynne

That indigenous women — the most marginalized people in Canada — are the ones funneled into this industry, groomed via sexual abuse from the time they are children, offered no options for escape, no housing, no education, no support services, are ignored when they disappear and are murdered, and are dehumanized by men want to think of and treat them as non-human should be one of the most significant aspects of this conversation. It is unacceptable that the voices, experiences, traditions, and realities of these women and girls are left out of debates and decisions around prostitution and prostitution law.

Here’s something I’ve been meaning to say for some time: libertarianism is not compatible with feminism. The reason for this is that if we make individual freedom the epitome of liberation, we cannot and will not address the systemic oppression of entire groups of people. Because under libertarianism my choice trumps all. Even if said choice might marginalize, oppress, or otherwise negatively impact another. You can forget about ideas like affirmative action, universal daycare, and affordable housing if you want to roll with the libertarians and the situation of women and other minorities simply will not change without addressing systemic inequalities. The hard work and personal choices of individuals will not create an equitable society, as evidenced by America.

- Meghan Murphy

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