Thursday, April 19, 2007


I've been doing an informal reading group on Dworkin's Intercourse lately. The women (including me) seem to get a lot out of it. The men seem to be slowly trickling away. Although I love being able to have discussions with the women, and I think it's important for us to get a lot out of the reading group, I'm a bit sad that we can't keep everybody. It's mostly sad for the men, since they don't enjoy benefit from the discussions.

I had a chat with one of the men yesterday, and he mentioned that the Dworkin makes him extremely uncomfortable. He says that the rhetoric reminds him of hate speech. In some ways, this is right: what I like about Dworkin is that her writing makes me angry at what I believe are grave injustices against women. It's supposed to make you angry. And anger is fun--a hell of a lot more fun than despair, which is arguably the #1 most popular response to injustice. But in another way, Dworkin does not function as hate speech for me, and seems not to work that way for the other women. I don't get mad at men in general and decide they should be exterminated. I get mad at strangers who catcall me and make unsolicited remarks about my breasts. (This doesn't happen nearly as much as I used to when I was living in... oh, I'll be completely apt and call that city R'lyeh.) I get mad at the boys I over hear on the bus, who talk about which college campuses are full of 'dirty whores' when they're clearly slutting it up their own selves. I get mad at the ex-boyfriend who wanted me to jump through a bunch of sexual hoops, even though he wouldn't do squat to satisfy my desires. This isn't the stuff of violent uprising. It's the stuff of perfectly reasonable expectations.

The really strange thing is that may of these same men had no problem with the S.C.U.M. manifesto, which I think is batshit insane. People say it's supposed to be funny, but I see no indications that Solanas is joking. But they get hung up on Dworkin, who never once advocates violence against men? I think the difference is that Solanas is too insane to really engage with, but Dworkin is on target enough to make them feel guilt. I'm not happy about the guilt: the guys who are feminist enough to be my friends are usually not the same guys who deserve to feel guilty about widespread rape and abuse. Those guys don't care. Then my friends read radfem literature, think it's attacking them, and have these massive unproductive attacks of guilt. They worry about whether their sexual desires are evil and in some way tantamount to rape fantasies. I usually feel the need to baby them, since the guilt is so unnecessary and unhelpful, and that's a pain for me. It's really frustrating.

One of the other sad things is that before the guys stopped participating, I got to hear (indirectly) about how limited their sex lives are. I had to explain to them why intercourse is not the only thing that deserves to be called 'sex', why a lot of mainstream het porn might not be so interesting for most women, and why the upshot of Intercourse is not that women dislike sex. Maybe Intercourse is just the wrong book for them. Maybe they all need copies of The Ethical Slut. Horses for courses.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

I'm a tool of the patriarchy

Via this thread, I find that many (but not all) patriarchy-blamers believe it's immoral to have sexual fantasies about someone without their consent. Since it's usually creepy and inappropriate to ask a person's permission to fantasize about them ("Hi there, Mr. Barista. I was just wondering..."), this is effectively a rule against sexual fantasies about people you're not already intimate with. Most blamers think it's OK to fantasize about fictional characters, although I find the line to be rather blurry. Is Captain Jack Sparrow, as played by Johnny Depp, a real person or a fictional one? What about the fictional Alcibaides in The Symposium, who's based on a real political figure? Does the answer change if the person fantasizing has just watched a theatrical adaptation of The Symposium where the guy who played Alcibaides was totally hot?

I don't think that it's inherently wrong or immoral to fantasize about a real person. Rape fantasies are problematic on a whole bunch of levels, but I don't think that most men fantasize about rape. Certainly not most of the men I'm willing to interact with on a human level. I don't want to defend male entitlement either, and I realize that male entitlement can be played out in sexual fantasy. But there, the problem isn't that the guy is thinking about sex. The problem is that he's failing to think about women as human beings. Plenty of men are happy to treat women badly whether or not they're thinking about sex, so I'm just not convinced that sex is the special element here.

A lot of people seem to have a problem with situations where X fantasizes about Y doing things that Y would hate in real life. I don't think that's inherently bad (although it can be bad for other reasons, if X's fantasies are violent or sexist). Fag hag that I am, I've got a vested interest in approving of fantasies that the fantasizee wouldn't enjoy in real life. But I'm equitable; if one of my male friends likes to fantasize about, say, me enjoying missionary position intercourse, he's more than welcome. He'd better not ask me repeatedly to help him fulfill his desires (duh!), but he's welcome to fill the inside of his head in whatever way he sees fit. His lack of creativity may be unfortunate, but it's his problem, not mine. We can both be glad we're not telepathic.

Apropos of some of the later comments, I'm one of those weird people who fantasizes about food. I often daydream about what I'd like to cook, and how it would taste to combine ingredient X with ingredient Y. I'd feel really bad for somebody who could only fantasize about pre-made cheeseburgers, but I wouldn't condemn them morally.

Well, let's see if anybody from IBTP thinks I'm worth ripping to shreds. (That is NOT an invitation.)