Monday, May 21, 2007

Feminism: reclaiming sex

One of my favourite quotes: "Don't scream penis at me, but help to change the world so no woman feels shame or fear because she likes to fuck." (Joan Nestle, A Restricted Country)

I am advertising this blog, to show my support and because I pleased to see these feminist bloggers coming together to open up a space for women to discuss SM (and I also think these four women bloggers rock!). I understand where they are coming from 'cos as a socialist feminist who is anti-censorship on porn I know all about the “Feminist Guilt” and know how it is so difficult to have an open, honest and democratic discussion about sex, sexuality, SM and pornography as the influence of radical feminism still looms large.

We need to be able to explore, examine and untangle these issues without the threat of being insulted, lectured and condemned. Women are sexual beings. I am sick of us being made to feel ashamed of our sexual desires and fantasies.

Things don’t change and when I first became a feminist 20-odd years ago porn was central and still central to the radical feminist thesis. I have been to feminist conferences in the past couple of years and the feeling of déjà vu is strong: “porn is the theory, rape is the practice”.

What I would like to see is women being able to talk about these issues freely without the condemnation, moralism and the immense feeling of guilt. Guilt, ‘cos you not a proper feminist as you indulge in “bad sex”. I am also sick of hearing that women who enjoy SM or any form of sex that isn’t typically vanilla coated being labelled as “brainwashed” by the patriarchal order.Or daring to experiment beyond the acceptable boundaries. And of course we are capitulating to patriarchy when we use those phallic shaped dildos/vibrators. And are you selling the sisterhood down the river if you enjoy looking at porn?

Well, you sure can use that argument regarding sex about anything under patriarchal capitalism. Are we really free to choose in any given situation?

All I am saying that we cannot judge women, make our own assumptions and come to rigid conclusions. Nor is it helpful to hold the belief that women are just passive victims of patriarchy to know what desire is. We are not just saturated with sexual imagery we are also saturated by morality.

Suppressing debate is bad news. It will stunt the growth and continue the fragmentation of feminism. And as a socialist feminist I don't want to see that. Nor was it the feminism I signed up for. For me the opposite is true. I want women to be able to discuss their needs, desires, sex and sexuality without the fear of any condemnation, in an open and free way.

Good luck with the blog, which I will be reading!


Korakious said...

As a BDSM person, I say that this blog is most definitely welcome. I've just about had it with the "you have probably been abused sometime in your life but are subconsciously repressing the memory" line.

Up the leathers!

Louisefeminista said...

Korakious: Yeah, the "must be a victim" argument is so patronising. I am also sick of the "you can't make an informed choice 'cos you are brainwashed" line you get as well.

For too long people are moralised and guilt tripped about sexual desire and enjoyment. And what is considered "good" and "bad" sex.

About time people can be open to express how they feel without the guilt and shame bollocks.

Trinity said...


Thank you tons for the blogger props! I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say that we're very glad to see you not only commenting but linking.

Louisefeminista said...

Hey Trinity,

No problem re: linking and commenting as I said it is good to have you in the feminist blogsphere...

belledame222 said...

Thanks, Louise!

verte said...

Do I spy a non-radfem feminist blogger in the UK...? I do! Miracle!

Thanks so much for the linkage, Louise, and also alerting me to your blog.

I think feminist conferences in the UK seem to have progressed less than over the atlantic, with less tolerance shown to accomodating third wave feminists. Did you come to the socialist feminist conference at SOAS in October? Perfect example of the same old porn/sex arguments going back and forth. We just don't seem to be able to push discussion beyond fundamental differences.

On feminist guilt, yeah, it's ridiculous, isn't it? It's funny how ideological guilt, of whatever persuasion, is like the new religious guilt, isn't it...

Louisefeminista said...

Hi Verte,

No problem linking to the blog (and I do like your own blog). I have had some crappy experiences with radical feminists in my time (I was bloody annoyed about what happened to you over Ladyfest).

I joined Feminists Against Censorship in 1990 mainly because I totally disagreed with the rad fem thesis over censorship and porn and I disliked the treatment women received who disagreed with the "line". You couldn't (and still can't) have reasonable dialogue about our differences instead you were accused of selling out the sisterhood, capitulating to patriarchy and this one used to do my head in, "you are not a real feminist"..

Radical feminism is so utterly personalised and a kind of "gut reaction politics". It is based on, "I don't like it therefore you shouldn't either"..

Women already face so much shit in this society and to get it from our own side (so to speak). The lectures, moralism, guilt tripping and hectoring behaviour. That just aint liberating..

And yeah definitely, it smacks of some religious ideology. Puritanism. And that aint healthy either.

I didn't see the debate at SOAS last Oct. Though what you say doesn't surprise me in the least. Same with the FEM conferences. I argued at the FEM 05 conference for a FAC speaker and that want down like the proverbial led balloon. Instead the workshop on porn only had bloody Object and no conunterbalance. And it was over subscribed.

I just think porn is being built up into the bogeyman and plays on women's fears while other forms of discrimination and oppression play "second fiddle" as if we slay the bogeyman we slay women's oppression. Utter tosh!

Anyway, Verte, good to see you and hope to see you again.

AN said...

I think the general approach of the rad fems on this issue "I don't like it so you shouldn't either" has wider resonance.

Generally the left and progressive movements have a habit of trying to elevate their own personal lifestyle choices as being politically justofied, and by implication other people's lifestyle choices as being politically inferior.

For example, almost no-one on the left have objected to the civil liberties infringments of the smoking ban and ban on hunting with dogs.

verte said...

FAC, eh? I'm a member too, though living oop north makes it difficult to get to meetings.

I'm absolutely gobsmacked about FAC being refused from attending FEM05. I would have thought counterarguments were pretty important. And to be honest, once you break down the radfem argument, most moderate feminists are lefty, pro-civil liberty and usually anti-censorship. That was certainly what we found at the SOAS gig last year, where Zak from FAC certainly DID get to speak, and instead no panelists from Object or any other radical feminist group would agree to attend (they kicked up a fuss about IUSW being involved and many boycotted, apparently). So instead, we just had two merry radfem hecklers angrily shouting at panelists to ask whether we'd been raped, apparently in order to 'justify' our view. Loooovely.

Anyway, the power both sides wield seems to alter periodically. And yet it still seems to be us left feeling the guilt...

Thanks for the welcome, and I'll probably be reading regularly now.

AN said...

Hi Verte,

As an outsider to this scene, I find this astounding: we just had two merry radfem hecklers angrily shouting at panelists to ask whether we'd been raped

Isn't that, well, bad manners, intimidating, rude, and objectionable in every conceivable way?

Louisefeminista said...

AN: It is objectionable and offensive but the problem is you know it will happen and expect it to happen (I have had the same thing said to me from a rad fem who argued that it was "obvious" I had never experienced violence as if I had I would be pro-censorship...). All assumptions.

They don't allow you to debate in a meaningful way without the hostility and shouting. They dont listen to your point of view.

Verte: Yeah, I am a member of FAC. Campaign Against Pornography always always refused to share a platform with FAC and that actually worked against CAP as it really pissed off their own supporters. What did they have to lse? What did they have to hide?

But yeah, again, I know what you mean about the guilt. I just wish we could debate this without the assumptions, insults and lectures about being a "bad" feminist.

Louisefeminista said...

PS: Verte, I don't know if you attended the Andrea Dworkin memorial thingie last yr. I didn't but listened to the transcripts.

Alison Assister spoke (FAC) and she endured some personal abuse flung at her (the chair was utter crap in stopping it)and you can tell from her voice as it changes she is becoming upset.

And who can blame her with the verbal abuse being chucked at her. It really appalled me.