Aside from crazy Halloween parties and the SF Giants winning the World Series, this weekend also saw the first anti-feminist conference, held in Switzerland. Lately, I’ve seen some men’s groups popping up that equate feminism with an all-encompassing hatred of men. Let’s set the record straight.
What Feminism is Not
A hegemonic ideology. The stories we hear about feminism tend to fit the accepted schema (Socialist Feminism, Separatist Feminism and PostModern Feminism) but, in truth, feminist theories are highly divergent.
A movement to destroy men. Social power is not a zero sum game. The reason this idea persists is because a) media gives the mic to the most radical viewpoints (Teabaggers anyone?) and b) people increasingly tend to focus on news items that confirm, not challenge, pre-existing beliefs.
A conspiracy among women. Put five people in a room and have them order one pizza. Getting that small group to unanimously agree on pizza toppings is enough of a struggle. Getting hundreds of thousands of people to agree on how to ensure women’s rights is a never-ending argument and a far cry from conspiracy.
Putting Feminism Into Context
The one thing I think anyone calling themselves feminist will agree on: women have a right to agency, a right to make decisions about their lives. In short: CHOICE. And the forgotten fact attached to this is that women have historically (in some parts of the world, currently) not had a say in their lives. Continue reading Feminism is not Misandry. Seriously.→
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Every last one was a male-centric plot line. Nearly every last one is an action movie. All of them were directed by men, produced by men and starring men. Women are a minority behind and in front of the cameras. (For insight as to why, read this Salon’s roundtable with 10 powerful Hollywood women).
So what’s the real dirt on women and power in this country? Gender equality isn’t as equal as this guy is shouting about. Yes, women are making gains in education but at a time when educational systems are crumbling. Yes, women make up 52% of the workforce but in low paying positions. In the Forbes top ten richest there are two women from the Walton Family (Wal-Mart) but their wealth was inherited.
Really, the U.S. ain’t doing so hot with gender equality. According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks #31 out of 115 for equality. Read the WEF report here, relevant snip below:
The Global Gender Gap Report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four critical areas:
Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio
The Index’s scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men.
This was out of 115 countries. When I read about women’s lives in other parts of the world, I really want to cry. Rape, honor killings, systematic abuses, minimal autonomy. Horrifying. We so often forget that in our own country, women have only really been making gains over the last century. Women around the globe need a leg up after centuries of unequal treatment. Please read this article in the New York Times about women’s rights around the world.
So to the haters out there: women’s rights are still an issue. We’re making progress, but not enough. I struggle to understand why people (usually men) direct such vitriol at women trying to succeed in life.
What boggles my mind even further is that Matthew Fitzgerald’s writings center around women as shrewd manipulators using sex as bait. I read his book’s Amazon reviews to get a feel for his audience and what I saw…well, it’s disturbing to think he’s right about any people in the world. But what he says resonates with some. In half of the reviews people exclaim “OMG! Women are totally like that!” but the only women I’ve seen use their bodies for financial gain were sex workers. So, women of the world using sex for manipulation: stop lying. Go ahead and be a sex worker. It’s OK. Just be upfront and tell the guy you’re fucknig him for rent money or a new purse.
And to the guys complaining/writing about those women: stop dating them. There are plenty of women that enjoy their financial freedom. There are also women that enjoy sex for its own sake.
At the heart of his writing, and much of the anti-feminist parading as anti-misandrist writing, is a very true frustration.
Are Equality Policies Rooted in Sexist Thought?
“The modern man walks around on eggshells, afraid of saying the “wrong thing,” scared of showing his natural sexual interest to a woman, scared of being scorned, humiliated, or even fired — scared of his own true self.”
Exaggeration (and heteronormative) but a phenomenon I see with some men of my generation. They’re…. Peter Pans? No. Hesitant is a better word. Prone to inertia. And I think the writer is on to something when he points out the role of politically correct speech and sexual harassment charges.
Before you get all riled up: sexual harassment is serious. Anyone in a position of power manipulating an underling sexually deserves punishment. But the way we lay out the law sometimes hinders equality and political correctness can be an ineffective solution.
I am thankful to have laws that prevent my higher-ups from sexually harassing or coercing me. But I resent a law on the books stopping someone from calling me “babe” or “chick”. I’m a grown woman and I should be able to easily say “Stop it”. If I have to, take the matter to a higher-up and keep pursuing it. There is something creepily paternalistic about some of the sexual harassment guidelines, particularly when schools use suspension as a behavioral intervention for inappropriate touching. I am also frustrated with a world that lumps flirting with sexual harassment, that pegs any sexual move from a guy as predatory and aggressive. Sexism underlies these policies. We assume men to be sexually aggressive and women always dislike sexual attention and need outside intervention. The regulations are necessary but we need to look at ineffective and harmful aspects of these policies, lest our solutions create more problems than answers.
Which leads me to an uncomfortable question, still unresolved in my own mind: when we create policies to spur equality through encouraging preferential treatment for disadvantaged groups, should those policies only be short term? By carving them in stone will we, over time and gains in equality, have laws with unequal treatment? And are we sending the message that women need this protection permanently? We certainly need to give a leg up to historically oppressed and disadvantaged people but at what point can we resume an even playing field? Do permanent laws of preferential treatment hurt in the long-term and uphold racist and sexist ideals?
The Blame Game
Whatever the answers to the above questions, one thing is certain: we cannot sit and point fingers at other groups or nebulous ideologies. Yes, it’s comforting name our monsters but ultimately misleading. Men are not at fault for all the world’s problems. Women are not at fault for the current masculinity crisis and anxieties. Feminism (whatever you think that is) has not ruined gender relations. Agitated, yes, but that needed to happen. The old gender order wasn’t working.
But when we agitate a cultural bedrock like gender roles we need to think critically about how to reconstruct gender relations in society. Some would say eradicate gender, but I disagree. You will find cultures with two, three, four, five or six genders but you will not find gender-less socieites. So while I feel so sad when I see inflammatory, gender-stereotyped, sexist analysis that plays the blame game, I know it’s a mistake to write it off wholesale. Just because someone else won’t engage in critical thought (or provide any evidence to back their claims) doesn’t mean the frustration isn’t valid.
The problem is not feminism or women withholding sex. It’s that we need a new construction of masculinities, alongside femininities, that deal with harmful aspects of male gender while encouraging men to shine and succeed in life. We need to deal with the sexist man-bashers of every gender. We need to deal with restrictive gender roles in general because the times, they’re a-changin’.
First there were just orgasms. Then Freud came along and declared female orgasms fell into either the immature clitoral or mature vaginal category. And thus began this century’s strange preoccupation with women attaining every orgasm type, like kids collecting baseball cards.
Already had clitoral? Experienced the remote lands of vaginal? Well move onto the mystical G-Spot orgasm. Or perhaps you’re skilled enough for the big, bad blended orgasm. Don’t worry if you haven’t gotten there; Cosmo will give you enough advice to keep trying.
In reality, the only true type of orgasm is the hypothalamic orgasm. That little section in our brains releases a delicious orgasmic chemical cocktail in our brains with enough pleasurable stimulation.
When it comes to female orgasms we focus on the area being stimulated, hence all the different categories and “types” of orgasm. And it isn’t just women’s magazines devoting discourse to this idea. In my early sex education training days, several professionals repeatedly taught me that a clitoral orgasm is different than a vaginal orgasm. Even Planned Parenthood gives primacy to the theory of distinct orgasms:
“Although some researchers believe there is just one type of female orgasm, others believe that stimulation of these two parts of the genitals can cause different types of orgasm. During a clitoral orgasm, the vagina becomes longer, and it causes a pocket to be formed beneath the uterus. During a vaginal orgasm, the uterus drops lower and shortens the vagina. Stimulation of both the vagina and clitoris can cause a blended orgasm, the third type of orgasm. All these orgasms may feel different from each other.”
On one hand, it’s not illogical to categorize orgasms by stimulation source. But the idea behind the categorization is that some orgasms are superior to others, an idea that drives Cosmo sales every month. Read their article and achieve sexual enlightenment by finding your G-Spot.
Feminist writer Anne Koedt argued against this hierarchy of female orgasm way back in 1970’s “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm“, pointing out that the vagina contains far fewer nerve endings and any importance placed on vaginal stimulation served straight men more than it did women. In Koedt’s construction of female sexuality, the clitoris is the puppet master:
Although there are many areas for sexual arousal, there is only one area for sexual climax; that area is the clitoris. All orgasms are extensions of sensation from this area.
Weirdly, Koedt’s argument towards clitoral orgasm centrality operates within the very Freudian paradigm she railed against. We have orgasms from nerve ending stimulation. Though nerve endings exist abundantly in the clitoral structure (about 8,000) nerve endings exist everywhere else on the body. Substituting the clitoris for the vagina does nothing but rearrange the sexual stimulation hierarchy and ignore that nerve endings exist in the vagina. For some, those nerve endings feel amazing when stimulated.
When I present sex ed lectures, my favorite question to ask participants is: “What are the two largest sexual organs?”
The answer? Brain and Skin. Stimulating skin sends signals to the brain, which processes the sensations and releases the appropriate neurotransmitters. That’s an orgasm. No clits, vaginas or G-spots to define it. If you’re still feeling unsure or confused about the social construction of orgasm vs. the physical realities, I recommend reading Heather Corinna’s With Pleasure: A View of Whole Sexual Anatomy for Every Body.
Tune in tomorrow for suggestions on how to have an orgasm!
Move over public health clinics, there’s a new testing site in town. Make that 1,800 private testing sites connected through one online service. STDTestExpress, an Analyte Media product, connects customers with confidential, fast testing services with doctor consults via phone. And if public health clinics freak you out, they offer a de-stressed testing experience by using a large national testing lab.
Sexademics have weird arguments on Facebook. In my opinion, our reason creates the very idea of libido. This does not mean that we are without sexual desire. It means the idea that we have a sex drive that controls us (especially XY genes aka Men) is in part a cultural construction.
In the academic world we call this Biological Essentialism. Our bodies drive us, all that we are is natural and our actions are driven by biology. Many cultures use biological essentialism to justify social norms. In the Victorian Era, women stayed in the home and made babies. Doctors said that this was the natural drive of women: child-bearing but not sexual pleasure.
Norms change. We now argue that a sex drive exists in women, separate from their biological clock, but men are puppets to their sex drive. Libido controls all. I’ve argued against this sexist thinking before.
We justify our choices between desire and reason. One does not battle the other. There is no “fundamental” nature to males or females.
My cohort is split into two camps: genderqueer studies and sex education studies. I told a friend about this and she said, “I know which one you’re in. Genderqueer. And I know your new genderqueer pronoun: itsamacalit.”
Two of my friends run PUA (Pick Up Artist) workshops and they sometimes hire me as a Super Girl (an attractive, talented, conversation-minded female) for men to practice pick up skills. Never heard of the PUA (I pronounce it POOH-ah) phenomenon? Mystery? The Game? Not familiar? Here’s a short primer.
In 2005, Neil Strauss published a book called The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick Up Artists. He described his personal transformation from writer geek to writer that successfully hooks up with lots of women using psychological and sociological ideas learned from other men doing the same thing. (Reverse psychology is an example of one of these concepts. So is body language.)
The book was a pop culture phenomenon and spawned a plethora of workshops, writers and even a (lamentable) television show called “The Pick Up Artist” on VH1. Every source promised straight men the skills they needed to get any woman they wanted, regardless of money or looks. (There is a small, burgeoning gay version of pick-up artist culture, but so far I’ve only found one forum. And in the upper right hand corner there were ads for picking up girls and meeting Christians.)
Writing from deep within finals land where hands are cracking and wrists are sore. My brain is too mushed to write anything coherent that won’t bore you, so here is the project I did for my Sex Education seminar this semester. Like it? Have investor friends? Fund us!
(Slighty NSFW. One second shot of penises for educational purposes only.)
Virginity, as a concept, is weird. With a single act of a penis into a vagina, boys become men and girls become used. Gay people don’t count.
When I was a teen I was obsessed with my virginity. I wore a chain around my waist to represent my special status and planned to give it to the man who deflowered me. I imagined the perfect scenario: with my boyfriend on prom night in the back of a limo. Of course, fantasy sparkles better than reality and few things go exactly as planned.
I lost my virginity had penetrative sex for the first time with a guy I barely knew, in a place far from home and it lasted for all of 5 minutes after I bugged him for a good 3 hours to stick his dick in me. (I felt a bit weighed down by the virginity thing after a while. And the chain was annoying.)
Afterward I remember thinking That was dumb and feeling a weird regret because it was all over so fast. My special moment in life was highly underwhelming and I began to think that women everywhere were being bamboozled by men. For years I could not understand how any female could enjoy having sex.
Here’s why: sex itself isn’t the special moment so many people rave about. We get excited about orgasm/sexual pleasure not sticking a body part into a bodily orifice.
I propose a new virginity definition: you are a virgin until you have an orgasm. Virginity denotes inexperience and a person “loses” their virginity after having that experience.
So let’s stop thinking about virginity in terms of penis-in-the-vagina. All this paradigm creates is a world focused on heterosexual baby-making instead of allowing sexual pleasure for everyone. We need to focus on the first orgasm as that special experience that can fundamentally change you and the way you see yourself and the larger world.
In this light, the time I lost my virginity was awesome and still one of my fondest memories.
Originally posted to NSRC’s Dialogues on 10/21/09.
Is there such a thing as a sex addict? In a culture of plenty we tend to pathologize our access to excess and any pleasure seeking behavior can be an addiction. Shopping addiction, gambling addiction, food addiction: all seemingly innocuous behaviors that can be considered an addiction if taken beyond the blurred line of social acceptability.
Addiction is real. I have seen loved ones battle with drug addictions all the way to their graves. The successful ones went through hell while their bodies went through the painful process of adapting to a drug-free state. It seems disrespectful to the severity of addiction to lump compulsive pleasure-seeking activity into the same category. Continue reading Sex Addiction and the Rhetoric of Normal Sexuality→