This post is brought to you by sex. Lots and lots of sex, which I may or may not have had in the past and/or be having right now. The precise nature of said sex shall remain undefined. Suffice it to say that it’s as rude – or not rude – as you want it to be. The point is, I’ve fucked my way to credibility – or have I?
It has come to my attention that in most discussions of porn, sex work and objectification, there’s immense pressure placed on feminists to demonstrate they have the lived experience required to take part. It’s not enough that to have grown up in a patriarchal culture, nor to have felt the daily impact of being reduced to passive flesh. You’re obliged to show your bits. After all, if you don’t do that, how can anyone tell whether you’re not just some sex-fearing neurotic? Disliking sex is not the same as, say, not liking sugar in your tea; it’s become a form of bigotry and thus, as a bigot, you’re not allowed an abstract opinion on how objectification affects womankind. Indeed, even if you’re fond of most things sex-wise, it’s probably best to express unbridled enthusiasm for anything at all that you find problematic, otherwise you may not be permitted to find it problematic in the first place. Does that make sense?
At this juncture I’d like to stress that it’s not the case that I don’t like sex (see first paragraph). I’m just, you know, pointing this out, for a friend, although naturally I find myself in the same double-bind as every other feminist who broaches this topic. Disclose past sexual encounters in all their scope and variation and you’re confirming that disclosure matters; only those who (a) spill forth and (b) present the correct narrative (the one leading to the “right” answer) shall have a place at the table. Don’t disclose anything and you will be deemed not to have anything to disclose. Either way you’re fucked (or not fucked, since even if you have fucked, everyone will decide that you haven’t. Not that this matters, except in this case it apparently does).
You will find similar double-binds in other areas of feminism (this is because patriarchy is shit). Take appearance, for instance. It is occasionally argued that the only reason feminists object to women being judged on looks is because they themselves are ugly (men’s rights extremists even have a word for such feminists: “fuglies,” they call them. Hilarious!). Of course, you can say “but feminists aren’t all ugly” – which is true – but the moment you do, there you are, back judging women on how they look and even conceding that appearance could, theoretically, influence political positioning. Unfortunately, the alternative to this – saying “feminists don’t care” – will only bring the retort “well, they would say that, being ugly.” So you’re left with “they’re not all ugly, not that that matters, except obviously it does, only it doesn’t for the ugly ones, who come to their position completely independently of the stupid value system which I’ve just been obliged to accept…” And then the cognitive dissonance kills you.
With debates relating to sexual experience, however, I find it even worse. This is, quite possibly, linked to something deep and disturbing in my past (or is it?). Sex is understood to be very special. It’s meant to exist outside of feminism. It’s consent that’s always seen as the problem – and consent is viewed as something separate, with the context of sex itself having nothing to do with it. If men get off on imaginary narratives of woman-hating, so the story goes, it’s fine to reproduce them for mass consumption because such recreational validation will be unrelated to the woman-hating that goes on in real life. If an idea makes you come, it can do no harm.
It’s interesting that many liberal feminists will be on a constant look-out for dog whistle prejudice, but they will stop short at calling out anything that could get in the way of the male orgasm, no matter how glaringly obvious the hate. To attack something sex-related might suggest one has a problem with sex. You risk being seen as damaged or not properly functional. Your perceived lack of sexual experience will be read as political conservatism, and soon your alleged sex-phobia will become whorephobia, homophobia and biphobia (but never, of course, lesophobia; sexual experience which doesn’t involve cocks doesn’t count. Funny, that). The pressure to say “but I bloody love sex!” and recount one edgy encounter after another becomes incredible. Of course, you should be free to recount whatever you like without judgment; but even saying you don’t want to play this game will be read as a blanket condemnation of sexual openness (rather than a reasoned objection to the patriarchal rules on how sexual openness must be deployed).
The whole thing is immensely regressive. Whatever you do, however you do it, you won’t be able to discuss objectification without people evaluating your opinion on the basis of your known sexual history. And you will be aware of this, so you’ll have to make decisions on how to present your views which may run contrary to the very principles you are outlining. And at the end of the day, you will know that it comes down to this: can you demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that you’d still hold these views if you were a good fuck? And, for that matter, are you? Care to show it?
Anyhow, I’ve said enough. Back to having loads of sex. Or not having it. Whichever makes me into the woman I need to be for the argument I’m trying to express.