ALSO I just wanted to say that I stalked your /tagged/me and you’re like hecka cute and I love your hair and fashion choices and everything aslf;laksjf;askjfd. It’s so awesome to see someone that can radiate that much confidence.
Thank you anon :) Always nice to get a compliment along with a request for a favor. I’m glad to hear I radiate confidence, because I can be quite insecure just like everyone else! Which is partially why it’s taken me a week or so to get to your question. I often feel like I’m not qualified to talk about feminism, so sorry for the delay. But no worries, it’s no bother. I actually like talking about feminism? ;)
So first I need to give the obligatory “sex-negative feminism is not anti-sex” even though I kinda hate the necessity of it. I think sex-negative feminism gets a lot of backlash because people hear “sex-negative” and go, “Why would you ever be against sex? Sex is great!!” And that in and of itself is a reason to be sex-negative. Because sex is NOT great, but it CAN be great. And there’s a huge difference.
I’m someone who happens to very much enjoy sex. I have sex often, and with multiple partners. I do not have hang ups about the amount of sex I’m having (except when I don’t get it every day and become a crybaby about that), or about the kind of sex I’m having (if it’s vanilla or kinky, or heteronormative or queer). I practice consent and am accepting of other people’s sexual needs. Sounds like sex-positivity, huh?
But you can be positive about sex without being sex-positive. I’m sex-negative not because I’m against sex, but because I’m against sex-positive feminism.
Before I go into why, let me please give you some links, so you can see what other people are saying on this topic. Much of what they say will be repeated by me in my own words, but I want to emphasize that this is not something I’ve come up with, and I don’t want to seem to steal anyone’s ideas, so I’ll put them first.
This article seemed to start a lot of discussion on the subject. And while I wish it were longer, it is a good introduction: http://www.xojane.com/issues/im-a-sex-negative-feminist Here’s another (even less info, but interesting approach— trigger warning for sexual assault and eating disorders): http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kelly-rose-pflugback/women-sexual-empowerment-_b_4058018.html Here is a response to to the first article: http://taikonenfea.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/im-coming-out-as-sex-negative/ and finally, my favorite piece on the subject (although it’s very long! it’s incredibly inclusive, and focuses on rape culture, patriarchy, misogyny, and heteronormativity): http://radtransfem.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/the-ethical-prude-imagining-an-authentic-sex-negative-feminism/ also I would suggest checking out friendlyangryfeminist, especially http://friendlyangryfeminist.tumblr.com/tagged/sex-positive I owe much of my sex-negativity to that brilliant woman!
Ok, but you asked me, so let’s get into my own beliefs.
My first problem with sex-positive feminism was when I was introduced to the idea that sex does not have political or sociological implications. That what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom does not affect other people or society. This remains a huge problem for me, and one of the reasons why I consider myself kink-critical. Growing up with kinks, I understand the desire to make kinks a-okay as long as they are consensual. I get it, I really do. It makes us feel less shame about being the way we are. But we have to understand that nothing exists in a vacuum, especially not sex and sexuality. When our society teaches us that it is sexy for men to be aggressive and violent toward women, it doesn’t actually matter if these women are consenting - because it’s contributing to the patriarchy, to misogyny and mistreatment of women, and it encourages sexualized violence and abuse of women, regardless of consent. For feminists to say, “but she likes it!” is ignoring that we most likely don’t see the conversation of consent, and the idea of her liking it can be tied to coercive or corrective rape just as much as it can be tied to consensual bdsm. The pervasiveness of sexualized abuse in our society, even if it’s something the woman enjoys, perhaps even ESPECIALLY if it’s something the woman enjoys, does not lead to the liberation of women, but rather to the continued abuse and mistreatment of women. You’re allowed to enjoy problematic things, but please understand that there’s probably a reason why you have kinks or problematic fantasies, and it is almost always connected to rape culture and patriarchy. This doesn’t mean we should blame the people that are affected by this, but it also doesn’t mean we should excuse them and their kinks as if they don’t matter. It still matters, it’s just that blaming them is not going to help our society. So instead of making it an individualized and personalized thing (which sex-positivity does — this is about you and your enjoyment! forget about what society says, enjoy yourself!), I think we should make it a sociological subject — why do people have problematic fantasies, what does that tell us about the society that is shaping our sexuality, and how might we prevent society from shaping people in this way in the future? Instead of just being like - yeah do that master/slave thing, that’s not fucked up! (when it is - regardless of consent, or gender, or sexuality, because power play relates to patriarchy and oppression)
This also connects to me being anti-porn, which is another sex-negative idea. In kinky porn, and lbr most porn out there is kinky even if it’s not labeled as such, we do not see the conversations of consent before the sexual acts. We don’t see him ask if it’s ok to touch her, or pin her down, or slap her face, or spank her, or jizz on her face. We see her gag, cry, scrunch up her face, and moan, and we do not know if these are things she likes, things he likes, or expressions of pain and discomfort. We don’t see the aftercare following the sex, him asking her if she’s ok, if what he did was ok, them cuddling, kissing, laughing. We don’t see the expressions of love or affection, or the communication that is *required* for consensual power play. Because of this, this is NOT a fantasy. That coerciveness that we see in porn is not a rape fantasy, it is rape. We are not seeing the parts of it that make it fake. So to us, it isn’t fake. So when he pulls her hair, or spits in her face, we are not seeing consent, we’re seeing violence, aggression, and misogyny. REGARDLESS of what the woman likes. Because this isn’t about her pleasure - we haven’t heard her side, and we don’t see it - it is about the pleasure of the viewer, and their pleasure is derived from the idea that what is going on is real, and that also makes the actions of the actors more rape-like.
A second reason why I’m anti-porn, aside from the fact that I believe it promotes non-consent, rape, and sexualized violence against women (and the idea that they like it without needed to communicate that), is because a lot of porn legitimately is rape. The women do not need to consent to every thing that happens on set, because they’ve signed a contract. They can agree to be on set, and then the male actors can do whatever they want to them, or the directors can make the women do whatever they want them to do. There have been many cases of female porn actors asking for videos to be removed from sales because they included rape in them, and then being told it didn’t matter because they signed a contract. Porn has become an industry where if a woman is not willing to be raped, there will be another woman put in her place who will be. We unfortunately only hear testimonies from “porn stars” - women who the industry does not wish to destroy, so they don’t put them in those roles. Those women enjoy their experiences, mostly because they’re kept from being raped to stay in the industry, because of a fan base or what have you. But the women who are not faces of the industry do not get the same luxury, and are raped without contest. They’re forced to do degrading things that often psychologically scar them for life, and told that it’s liberating for them to be in these positions. (here’s a couple testimonies of some porn stars: http://justthinkingaboutcatsagain.tumblr.com/post/62651017530/ex-pornstars-on-the-porn-industry)
(the sex-positive idea that things are not inherently degrading or humiliating also drives me mad. it’s fine if people enjoy being degraded or humiliated, but please let’s understand what it is, and think about why it’s often involved in power play and gender play, and what that says about our society, and our societal view of sex and sexuality)
The next thing that made me dislike sex-positivity is the idea that consent is sexy. No! No. No. I could not express how much this idea disgusted me. I first saw it on panties and felt sick. It took me a while to realize why I felt sick. At first someone expressed some idea that did resonate with me - “consent is not sexy, it is mandatory.” I definitely agreed with that, but I couldn’t understand still why I felt sick. Until I realized - the idea that consent is sexy is also what lead me to be coercively raped.
When I told my partner I wanted to stop having sex with him, he didn’t care that I didn’t want it anymore, he wanted to hear from me that it was ok to keep going. Because he wanted to keep going, but he needed my affirmation, because consent is sexy. Vocalization of consent was sexy. Not that me wanting sex was sexy, because I didn’t want sex anymore, and he knew that because I’d told him, but my actual words of consent were something he desired as a male in a sex-positive society. So after he begged me three times, BEGGED ME, something that you don’t need to do if you actually have enthusiastic consent (which sex-positivity ignores), I said, ok, keep going, fine. And that was all he needed, that was his consent, and it was sexy to him, and he was able to continue as if he wasn’t a rapist. And I hated myself as if I were the bad guy, because it’s sexy to consent, and why couldn’t I just consent?
This realization that the sexualization of consent actually leads to coercive rape made me less sex-positive. Telling women that they become sexy through consent is not going to encourage them to stick with their no; it’s going to make them want to say yes, to say yes the most, to say yes the loudest, to say yes no matter what. You may think I’m exaggerating. But after I became anti-coercive rape, though still clinging to sex-positivity, I was coercively raped again.
He did what I call the boiling frog technique. He knew I did not want to do something extreme (anal sex), so he did not try to get me to consent to that right off the bat, because I’d told him no before. So instead, he got me to “consent” to much smaller steps toward his extreme goal, and each time I said yes, even as a sort of admission, I was, in his mind, in the mind of sex-positivity, encouraging him to keep going. I was sexualizing the situation, as was he, with the “consent” we were practicing (shout out to sexual ppl reading, try not to ask to do something new in the moment, but in a non-sexual setting to practice true consent). But it was falsified consent. He knew I didn’t want to do anal play, but he also knew if he did these smaller things and kept asking if it was ok, each small thing would be “ok” (ok in the sense that it wasn’t bad - and is this true consent?), and I’d eventually be “warmed up” to his prize extreme. And this is how I got raped a second time, thinking, “how did I get here? how did I let this happen? I know for sure he knows I didn’t want this. why is he doing it?” because “yes” is sexy. and because I was told to say yes. and he was told that as long as he gets a yes, he’s not a rapist. And he probably has no idea he is a rapist, because he’s never continued after a “no,” because that’s how we’ve simplified consent in a sex-positive society.
After being raped by him, and having another man attempt to rape me during consensual sex, I stopped wanting to have sex with men. Three out of the six guys I’d slept with had either raped me or attempted to, and none of them considered themselves a rapist, because they each wanted me to say yes, wanted me to like it, and I decided the only way I could prevent myself from getting raped again was to not have sex with men. You have no idea how much backlash I got from this. Like I was ruining my feminism by taking sex out of it. Like I was de-liberating myself. Like the only way I could be a fulfilled person was by having sex with everyone, and focusing on consent rather than gender, or circumstance, or power and coercion. I was told this was a fault of mine, a flaw I needed to get over, a problem with me and not with men. If only I could have known my needs better, if only I had known I was being coerced, if only I had been more on top of my game. All I needed was a way to change myself to be sexually available to men again. What is the liberation of a woman if it does not make her sexually available to men? God forbid her decisions to control her own sex life makes her sexually unavailable to men. I was told this made me not queer, or that I was a political lesbian, or that this was an abuse response and not a valid decision, and it was something I should work on to become a complete person again.
And that has become my main problem with sex-positivity. This idea that everyone needs to have sex. That the liberation of women lies in whether or not they’re having sex, and a lot of it, and preferably with multiple genders. The more sexually available a woman is, the more she’s liberated. And while I agree that this is a freedom men have enjoyed, I do not agree that it’s something that needs to be forced upon women for us to be equal to men. If it is something a woman desires for herself, she should attain her desired lifestyle (as I have nowadays :P), but it absolutely should not be anything we push on women, encourage women to do, or link to a woman’s liberation. If a woman feels liberated by not having sex at all, absolutely more power to her. If a woman feels liberated by not having sex with certain people or genders, more power to her. If a woman feels liberated by not dressing immodestly, or not reclaiming misogynistic slurs, or not being seen as feminine or sexual, MORE POWER TO HER. Women should act in whatever way makes them feel safe and comfortable, even if it is in a way that does not embrace their sexuality or their bodies or their femininity.
Yes I’m very grateful to be living in an age of feminism where I can wear mini-skirts and fuck whomever I want and still be seen as an intelligent and capable being, but I don’t think that needs to be sex-positive. I think to me that’s female-positive, gender-positive, indivudual-positive. I’m not making sex a positive thing, because it’s not always a positive thing. Sex is the reason why I’ve been raped so many times. Sometimes sex has negative associations with me. Sometimes I get triggered during sex. Sometimes I can’t let people touch me or kiss me. Sometimes I want to have sex every day all day. Sometimes I want to be tied up. This is not positive, this is not beautiful, this is not liberating - it’s just me!
I get so sad when I hear my partner talk about her life after she realized she was raped. The way that she responded was by trying to have sex with as many people as possible. She was horrified that her body had been taken from her, and sex-positive feminism taught her that the way to reclaim her body and her bodily autonomy was to have consensual sex, and a lot of it, and with a lot of people. She’s still recovering from that response of hers, and the negativity it brought into her life. I wish sex-positivity hadn’t taught her that that’s how she needed to recover from rape. I wish she had been taught that she didn’t need sex to be lovable, and worthwhile, and beautiful, and a complete person. I wish she had been taught that she’s whole just the way she is, and she should only have sex if she desires it, and not that it is something automatically good, that will automatically make her feel good. Ultimately, it made her feel insignificant, and it made her feel like her gender is sexualized, and it has made sex strange and unsafe. Having to tend her sex-positive wounds makes me even more angry at what it is doing to our young feminists, and how it is teaching them to love themselves.