Saturday, February 24, 2007

Feminist Sexuality

After seeing your pic, it is also evident why you talk about sex so much... and having sex so much. It kind of goes back to the old joke about why fat girls are so good at giving blow jobs - they have to be. Your ramblings on having sex on the first date are beginning to add up to the age old situation - women that screw alot do it becuase the claim they love sex.. in reality, it's the only way they can spend any time with a man.

-- troll comment, circa yesterday

In the bad old days, women had no sexual autonomy. They had neither the right to have sex with the partner of their choice nor the right to refuse sex when it was ordered by their male keepers.

Feminism and women's economic independence have changed all of that. Women today have the possibility to choose to be openly sexual and still expect to be respected as people. At the same time, they have the right to refuse any unwanted sexual contact and can expect not to be condemned for that either.

Real sexual autonomy cannot exist unless both of these choices exist in a meaningful way as real possibilities (as I've already discussed here).

In practice, however, I've found that most of the feminists I've met connect very strongly on an emotional level with one of these choices or the other. That's fine, and I think it's normal. The tragedy, however, is the following:

Women get so viciously attacked for their sexual choices -- whatever they may be -- that they can't help but sometimes respond defensively by justifying their own choices as the right choices. And unfortunately that can lead to projecting one's own right choices onto other people as the only possible right choices for women. This is sad because it is basically handing the enemies of women's autonomy the strategy of divide and conquer.

Openly sexual women have always been called whores and told that they're worthless trash for it. Today many feminists say that if a woman dresses sexy and seeks out sex for fun, then it can't possibly be that she likes her body and likes sex -- it's that she's "self-objectifying" -- brainwashed to think her only worth comes from attention from men and desperate to do anything at all to get it.

One of my purposes in keeping this blog is to be a living demonstration that that myth isn't always true. Frankly -- and sorry if this sounds like bragging -- I don't think anyone in their right mind could follow my blog for any length of time and conclude that I have no self-confidence and nothing going for me. Yet despite this mountain of evidence I'm sitting on, a troll has come here and leveled this same standard, insulting charge against me, namely that I talk about sex because I need male validation and I don't have what it takes to get a man's attention any other way.

It reminds me of a diagram posted recently on one of my favorite blogs. Now I ask, which reasoning strategy does it look like my troll friend is using? ;-)

Now I know that you're not supposed to "feed the trolls" by encouraging them with attention. But the thing is that my first troll here illustrates a point I'd been specifically planning to make: that feminists shouldn't think it's "feminist" of them to slam other women's sexual choices -- even when other women make choices that you wouldn't have made yourself. You see, the thing is that from the logs, the visitor who made the insulting comment at the top of this post came in through links from a (non-religious) feminist blog. From reading the two comments, I strongly suspect that this anonymous person is someone who (in real life) would identify as feminist. Sounds crazy I know, but this comment is very similar to tons of similar comments I've received from women who think it's "feminist" of them to explain to me that my sexual choices prove that I have no self-respect.

In the same way that the anti-sex feminists shouldn't be calling the pro-sex feminists trashy losers, the pro-sex feminists shouldn't be responding with the equal and opposite accusations that women who make comments such as the above are frigid, repressed, hate their own bodies, "just need to get laid," etc.

All of these ideas will be covered (in even more excruciatingly boring detail than this ;-) ) in the book I'm planning on writing: Feminist Sexuality: Choices for All.

(This part will be covered in chapter 2: Respect me! The Lady vs. the Tramp. By the way, since I'm very busy with my whole mortgage-and-family gig, my feminist sexuality book would go a lot quicker if some publisher were to express interest. *hint, hint* ;-) And don't anybody else steal my book idea before I get it done!!! ;-) )

I have a dream that one day the lady and the tramp -- the virgin and the whore -- can join hands and call each other sisters, and call each other feminists. It won't be easy, but if we work at it, we can get there!!!

Sisterhood is powerful!!!


C. L. Hanson said...

p.s. for the record I am currently very happily married and monogamous. I don't have a problem with having open marriages or other agreements (as long as the partners are honest and in agreement about it), but that's not my current situation.

The above accusation of my being a whore is based on the fact that I freely admit that back when I was younger (in high school, college, and grad school) I was sexually active and liked to go to nude beaches.

Jewish Atheist said...

That kind of criticism says a lot more about the critic than the target.

Life is way too damn short for abstinence.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Jewish Atheist!!!

I agree!!! :D

Rebecca said...

Chanson, I don't think that person could POSSIBLY identify as a feminist considering that he/she is making really derogatory comments about girls/women who are considered unattractive. Usually feminists - of all varieties - try to get people to see women as MORE than looks, whereas your troll seems to be basing his/her judgment mostly on appearance (and saying that women who aren't conventionally attractive have no right to male attention because they are worth less than attractive women). That's not ANY sort of feminist viewpoint.

And I think you're totally cool-looking.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

You're right -- ideally no feminist should be making derogatory comments about women's appearance!!!

Obviously when someone leaves an anonymous comment on a blog of forum you can never be sure of their identity. Here's is what makes me suspect that "Fredddy" is a woman:

I've heard men dis women for being sexy and I've heard women dis women for being sexy, and (in addition to the clue that the troll came in through a feminist blog), the comments have a couple of flags that make it look more like something a woman would say than like something a man would say:

First of all, with the slam on fat women, most of the ignorant guys I've talked to would have clamed personal knowledge of fat women's skill at blow-jobs rather than citing it as hear-say.

Even more telling is the conclusion: "in reality, it's the only way they can spend any time with a man." So troll claims my motivation is the need to get attention from a man -- any kind of attention. This accusation that I need validation from a man is typical of the feminist "self-objectification" theory. A man would be more likely to attack by telling me how stupid I am to be giving men what they want, wrongly thinking that the man loves me in return. Then -- if the troll read enough posts to figure out that I'm happily married -- I think a guy would have thrown in a special insult for my husband for being loser enough to have married me. To make it clear that he (the troll) would never have stooped to such a thing, had he, y'know, been given the opportunity and everything... lol

Actually, I hope I'm wrong and it turns out that "Fredddy" really is a man. It's somehow less disturbing. The fact that some men feel threatened by female sexuality is par for the course. It's the sort of thing that we feminists can combat as long as we're all in this together and women have got each other's back.

Anonymous said...

Women can actually be quite mean and cruel to one another. One theory I heard for this is a reaction to the sexism and patriarchy in society.

Women were not allowed to be up front, angry and critical - they were forced to be passive-aggressive and manipulative to have any sort of power.

Interesting then that your feminist troll decided to criticize you anonymously and not come right out and debate you.

I think women were also not allowed to be mean, angry and nasty. And - as full human beings, women have just as much capacity and right to feel and be that way.

The idea that if the world were run by women, there would be no war is just as insulting. It's suggesting that women are always peacemakers and concerned with motherhood and children. Again - I've met lots of women who were greedy and demanding. They weren't prone to violent conflict but the idea that women are innately peaceful is limiting as well.

I agree that it's hard to understand why any feminist would criticize another feminist's sexual choices.

The terms slut and whore have always bothered me - there is nothing to describe men that way. And - I found it odd that the women who were termed "slut" or whore exhibited the same behavior as their male conterparts - yet the men didn't have a derogatory label.

I know I don't need to say this, but anyone who knows you or has read your blog once or twice knows that all these accusations are full of sh*t - grasping at straws.

Texas said...

You're last line reminded me of Simone Beauvoir's analysis of the virgin/whore dichotomy in and how it is used to control women's sexuality. She was the type of woman you are talking about strong, independent and engaged in sexual relationships on her own terms.

I have always found it odd that feminism seems to be so divisive among women, and that so many fingers are pointed at those who are not "being a good feminist."

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Aerin!!!

Exactly. When people don't have power to control things openly, this can naturally lead to adopting strategies of working behind the scenes, sometimes in negative ways (manipulative behaviors, passive agression, cattiness, etc.)

Hey Johnny!!!

Yeah, she's the one who originated the theroies on the virgin/whore dichotomy, isn't she? I'm not as well-read on the subject as I'd like to be...

T Wanker said...

Of course, I need to get my two cents in on this one.

Cent 1: Freddy-- man or woman? I was originally convinced that Freddy was a fat, ugly, never laid returned missionary venting, thus no mention of past experience. I was given new evidence of where the troll came from and changed my theory. Now after further review, I have developed yet a new theory to better conform to the evidence. (See, I can follow that diagram.) It doesn't matter.

The attitudes of the troll are equally repulsive whether it is a man, woman or troll. Personal attacks, particularly about someone's sexuality, don't even contribute to understanding something that is much more complex than a simple virgin/whore dichotomy. (I discuss the virgin/whore dichotomy in terms of Mary the Virgin and Mary Magdalene in Mormon theology on my blog.

I think the reason c.l. finds it more comforting if Freddy is a man is the same reason I find it more comforting if it is female -- We don't want that hatred of sex that is oozing out coming from our own gender. If a man, it is a hatred of women for being rejected. If it is a woman, it is hatred of men for objectifying. This is why the troll's gender doesn't matter -- both are wrong.

Cent 2: I'm probably ignorant, given the limited scope of the finer details of the feminist debates on sexuality, but where are the male voices in the debate? Reminds me of an old Joseph Smith sexist quote, now slightly modified by my continuing revelation: "We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature of some feminists, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion."

A certain faction of feminism wants to reduce or deny the male experience and it is usually, although not always aligned with the anti-sex faction.

Back to the diagram, the overwhelming evidence is that sexuality is too complex, not biologically equal and too varied in its subjective experience and objective manifestations to be reduced to a simple myopic theory of belief -- whether it be a religious or secular feminist belief that stops further inquiry.

Which brings me back to why I commented on c.l.'s ass in the Topless post. The evidence would suggest that objectively her ass is better than the blonde in the bikini (a nice tan and a nice ass are two distinctive things). Subjectively, I happened to agree with my objective assessment. And I wanted to make a point (by ironically acting the male chauvinist pig) that the assessment is made by males (and females) of sexual attractiveness constantly. Any theory of sexuality or feminism that doesn't factor that in is as blind to reality as any religious dogma that refuses to allow contrasting viewpoints.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey T. Wanker!!!

Speaking of complexity, that's the main problem I have with the APA study we've been discussing.

I'm willing to believe that some of the things they talk about are at least questionable, especially the child beauty pageants.

But I have a big problem with them studying sexualization in isolation from other forces acting on young girls. First and foremost, there's the girl's own sexuality. Then there's the question of imposted chastity which still exists in grand supply in our very religious society, plus the girl's rebellion against it.

They cite a list of suggestive T-shirts for kids, and among them they cite "bad girls rule." To me, that says taking power from questioning authority -- a baby version of "Well-behaved women rarely make history." If that's some sort of message about seeing your worth in terms of male validation it's not obvious... Yet in one line they say we shouldn't see girls as "vessels to be filled" by culture and then turn around and unquestioningly attribute the girls' choices as pathetic, pitiful "self-objectification," rather than thinking of them as people and exploring the complex motivations behind their choices...

AnnM said...

Hear, hear! Or is that, Here, here! Hmmm...

Anyway, the link to mind on fire gave me a new term which I like a lot: post-Mormon.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Sam-I-Am!!!

Yeah, that's a great term, isn't it?

It's growing in popularity, and I think it's because it really reflects the way many people feel about how their experience with Mormonism is one aspect of their past.

Rebecca said...

For the record, I would like to point out that I was not saying I think the troll isn't a woman - I was saying I don't think he/she could possibly consider him/herself a feminist. I also wasn't saying feminists never notice physicality - just that it's sort of part of the POINT of feminism to make appearance just one aspect of the whole, rather than an end in and of itself.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

Absolutely. I agree that should be one of the main points of feminism. And I wish I could say I've never heard self-identified feminists accusing other women of being sexually active out of desperate need for male validation, being too undesirable to get it any other way...

As far as this particular troll is concerned, obviously I can't be sure what is going on in his/her head...

Revena said...

Great, thoughtful post provoked by a dreadful, thoughtless comment. I think it's great that you're able to get some meaningful discourse out of something that was clearly meant to be silencing.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks R!!!

I think you're right that it was meant to be silencing. But the thing is that I'm a respected software engineer (published as such) and have been competing with men in male-dominated math-heavy fields all my life. And I've been happily (monogamously) married for years. I'm very interested in discussions with feminist and other women's groups. So if some troll tells me that I talk about sex because it's the only way I can get a man to give me the time of day -- well, I can't even begin to take it seriously... ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, normally I never do this, but you people have totally made my day.

I am the Freddy in question, and this disscussion is priceless. I am a 17 year old High School Junior (female). Every week 8 or 10 of us play a game we call "BlogBingo". Long story short, if I make a comment that gets the blog host to react - points for me. If the host reacts angrily - more points for me. If assumptions are voiced about me - points for me. And the grand slam... If a new post is started based on my post - mega points for me.

Thank you for all your help. Normally, a good response might get me 100-150 points. This sequence scores out at almost 1300. The added benefit is that I have tons of other sites to try to score at now in the future.

Thank you again, all your great analysis was fun - and high scoring.

Happy blogging.


C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Freddy!!!

Charming game you guys have got going -- still looking forward to that link to your regular blog... ;-)

Anonymous said...

But Im sure you can guess that most of us who play feel that blogs are pretty much a joke. I dont have a blog.

Rebecca said...

I'm so totally rolling my eyes (in a semi-good-natured way) right now. Normally I'm totally on the bandwagon of teenagers being awesome, and of not stereotyping them, so it kind of makes me sad (even while I'm laughing) when I see a kid prove the stereotypes about the conceit and pretention of youth. But I guess it's all part of the fun of being young. Chanson, you're a good sport.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Rebecca!!!

That's the Internet for you...

Have you gotten many trolls over on your blog? Actually, I'm surprised I haven't gotten more considering that I blog about the big three: religion, politics, and sex. Plus there's all my pretentious literary criticism that people could be mocking. ;-)

Rebecca said...

I think I've had, like, 2 trolls. One commented about how I would probably delete his/her comment because it wasn't nice - as if! I like to point out the trolls because usually they slink off into cyberspace, never to be seen again. And if they don't they come back acting SO pretentious (PS - I spelled "pretension" wrong in my last comment. In case you were wondering. :) ) that it's just funny to see how smart they THINK they are. *sigh* Blogging is fun.

C. L. Hanson said...

Blogging is fun??? I'll bet you'll feel pretty embarrassed for saying that when you scroll up and see that "most of us who play feel that blogs are pretty much a joke." ;-)

Rebecca said...

No way. It IS fun. I'm pretty sure I don't care if a high-schooler thinks it's a joke. I know I can remember a LOT of things from high school that I'm good-naturedly embarrassed I ever thought. :)

C. L. Hanson said...


Lynet said...

Hey! Nice meeting your blog - this is an issue I care about. I'm really like your honesty in general, actually, and will be back for more :)

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Lynet!!!

Your blog looks fascinting too!!! I love reading stuff by women in Mathematics!!!

Aaron Kinney said...

Re: the original blog post.

In the bad old days, women had no sexual autonomy. They had neither the right to have sex with the partner of their choice nor the right to refuse sex when it was ordered by their male keepers.

You are totally right. If a woman is not having sex, shes a prude. If she is having sex, shes a whore.

Its all about controlling the womans choice, and thus controlling who gets to pass on genes etc.

Women get so viciously attacked for their sexual choices -- whatever they may be -- that they can't help but sometimes respond defensively by justifying their own choices as the right choices. And unfortunately that can lead to projecting one's own right choices onto other people as the only possible right choices for women.

Sad but true. The problem is that some people confuse the issue as being what the woman chooses instead of whether she even gets to choose at all. The issue at hand is freedom of choice itself, not the amount of sex that the woman chooses.

Excellent post. I enjoyed reading it :)

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Aaron!!!