Intercourse, suffering, pleasure, and feminism: more on “envelop” v. “penetrate”

I’ve gotten a few emails from readers in the past few days asking me to respond to something else Factcheckme (FCM) discusses on her blog. (See my post immediately below this one for an explanation of the disagreement she and I are having about the role of men in the feminist movement.) Though I don’t think FCM and I could have much of a conversation (a civil exchange requires a mutual recognition of good faith and legitimacy, and she’s made it clear she doesn’t think I possess either), her views are not unique to her and deserve a response.

One of FCM’s tabs is her Intercourse series, a lengthy set of posts exploring her reactions to Andrea Dworkin’s famous book by the same name. As even a casual reader of her blog will realize, FCM takes Dworkin quite literally in her insistence that heterosexual intercourse (penis-in-vagina sex, or PIV) is abusive to women. Women should generally resist PIV, FCM argues; any man who dares claim the label feminist ally for himself must renounce PIV if he wishes to be taken seriously. Refusing intercourse is the proof of one’s seriousness and credibility.

There’s a lot of debate among Dworkin scholars as to whether her work was meant to be taken literally in all instances, or whether she was often engaged in a complex and dazzling rhetorical performance designed to elicit shock and reflection. (I tend to hold the latter view, and I suspect that FCM leans towards the former.) I certainly think that feminists ought to challenge people’s conventional views about heterosexual intercourse. In my women’s history class, for example, I point out that until relatively recently, one of the leading causes of death for women was complications related to childbirth. (In some places at some times, pregnancy and childbirth have been the leading cause of female death.) The overwhelming majority of pregnancies are the consequence of heterosexual intercourse; therefore, it is logical to conclude that heterosexual intercourse has led to the deaths of hundreds of millions of women over human history, as well as to unimaginable pain and discomfort to those who did not die but were merely injured by everything from miscarriages to fistulas to prolapsed uteruses.

Though maternal death is far rarer today in the industrialized West (though troublingly higher here in the States than in Europe), it is still a very real danger in less developed parts of the world. But pregnancy is not the only consequence of PIV that can lead to death. In Africa the AIDS epidemic is primarily carried on through heterosexual intercourse; the vast majority of women who die of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa contracted the virus by having PIV. When fundamentalists speak of AIDS as God’s punishment for homosexuals, it’s worth replying that God has punished far more women with death for having PIV with their husbands than he has male homosexuals for having anal sex. And God is said to be a fan of PIV in marriage. Feminists do well to point these things out, and I do so in every class I teach.

(Parenthetically, heterosexual intercourse put me in the emergency room once, as I wrote in this post. There’s no comparison, of course, between the physical danger of PIV for women and for men. But PIV can bring everything from frenular tearing to broken hearts to males as well; to suggest otherwise is to be blind to the reality of male vulnerability. And vulnerability isn’t a zero-sum game.)

It’s also important to note that women’s legal right to resist intercourse with their husbands is very recent, and by no means universally accepted. The first successful prosecutions for marital rape in this country only took place in my lifetime; many traditionalists in many places still find the notion of marital rape itself to be an oxymoron. Empowering women legally and socially and psychologically to say “no” to their partners (including their husbands) is an essential part of the global feminist project.

But of course, there is another side to all of this discussion. As Dworkin’s critics have long pointed out, much of her objection to PIV is rooted less in physiological reality than in the language we use to describe it. I wrote about this last fall, describing an exercise familiar to all my women’s studies’ students. An excerpt follows.

One of the first gender studies courses I ever took at Berkeley was an upper-division anthropology course taught by the great Nancy Scheper-Hughes. It was in a class discussion one day (I think in the spring of ‘87) that I heard something that rocked my world. We were discussing Andrea Dworkin’s novel “Ice and Fire” and her (then still-forthcoming, but already publicized) “Intercourse”. I hadn’t read the books at the time (they were optional for the class). One classmate made the case that on a biological level, all heterosexual sex was, if not rape, dangerously close to it. “Look at the language”, my classmate said; “penetrate, enter, and screw make it clear what’s really happening; women are being invaded by men’s penises.” Another classmate responded, “But that’s the fault of the language, not of the biology itself; we could just as easily use words like ‘envelop’, ‘engulf’, ’surround’ and everything would be different.” The discussion raged enthusiastically until the next class irritably barged in and chucked us all out. I was electrified.

My classmates were having, as I came to discover, a classic intra-feminist argument: to what extent is the sexual domination of women by men part and parcel of our biology, and to what extent is it a construction maintained by language that deliberately disempowers women? The consensus seems to weigh more heavily to the latter position, particularly within the contemporary (so-called “Third Wave”) feminism which was very much still in its incubation when I was discovering Women’s Studies in the Reagan years.

In every women’s studies class I’ve taught here at PCC, and in many guest lectures about feminism I’ve given elsewhere, I use the “penetrate” versus “engulf” image to illustrate a basic point about the way in which our language constructs and maintains male aggression and female passivity. Even those who haven’t had heterosexual intercourse can, with only a small degree of imagination required, see how “envelop” might be just as accurate as “enter”. “A woman’s vagina engulfs a man’s penis during intercourse” captures reality as well as “A man’s penis penetrates a woman’s vagina.” Of course, most het folks who have intercourse are well aware that power is fluid; each partner can temporarily assert a more active role (frequently by being on top) — as a result, the language used to describe what’s actually happening could shift.

Radical feminists like FCM and the more literally-minded members of the Dworkin camp might claim that changing the words doesn’t change the reality. After years and years of bringing up this material with my students, I know that some tend to see this language shift as a neat trick that only disguises male domination but doesn’t change the fundamental power imbalance in PIV. Many others, however, tell me that substituting “envelop” for “penetrate” in their thinking and talking about sex has changed how they have PIV itself. For at least a great many people, it’s more than a word game. It’s positively revelatory — and profoundly redemptive.

And yes, the obvious point is that a great many women do want to have sexual intercourse with men. They want it for a host of reasons: to experience physical pleasure, to affirm their desirability, to enhance an emotional connection, to conceive a child. And though we can and should ask questions about why we imbue PIV with the particular reverence we do (and why we often use PIV as a synonym for sex, as if anything that isn’t PIV isn’t really sex at all), we need to be respectful of the reality that women can and do consent enthusiastically and consciously to PIV. To assume that that consent is a consequence of brainwashing of some sort smacks of paternalistic contempt for women’s agency. That contempt is found on both left and right.

I’ll have more to say in a subsequent post about the remarkable synergy between many social conservatives and the rad fems who work in the Dworkin tradition. The likes of FCM and the likes of Christian fundamentalists are united in their belief that the pleasure-centred ethic of most mainstream liberal feminists (what FCM calls “fun fems”) falls short of the mark. More on that to come.

I’d also like to make it clear that as off-putting as her rhetoric is, FCM is making some very important points that deserve responses, even if actual engagement is unpromising.

0 thoughts on “Intercourse, suffering, pleasure, and feminism: more on “envelop” v. “penetrate”

  1. To assume that that consent is a consequence of brainwashing of some sort smacks of paternalistic contempt for women’s agency. That contempt is found on both left and right.

    Except that for women’s nationalists like FCM (“radical feminist” is too big a tent to quite describe her and her readers specifically), the appeal to “women’s agency” is a self-serving cop-out, worse when a man uses it to defend women from feminist analysis.

    When an entire class of people systematically do things that are not in their material bad interest, and when that just happens to coincide with patriarchal expectations, don’t they have a point to suggest that an appeal to agency is weak sauce?

  2. I’m not a regular commenter, so I’m assuming y’all are moderating this place because of the tendency of Internet discussion about feminism to go all explodey.

  3. Mandos, I agree that the appeal to agency can be manipulative and dangerous. Heck, it’s the classic tool used by older men who predatorily pursue younger women. “Hey, you’re old enough to know what you want” is a standard line in a seducer’s arsenal. But the fact that agency can be oversold doesn’t mean it isn’t a real concept — and that we err as much by underselling it.

    Lisa KS, you’re the second person to recommend Elgin’s stuff to me this year. I haven’t read any of it, and ought to.

  4. But the fact that agency can be oversold doesn’t mean it isn’t a real concept — and that we err as much by underselling it.

    Yes, but in this case FCM is focusing on a particular class of activities. She isn’t saying, “Women, stop being sexual with men, it never emerges from your agency.” After all, she herself has a male partner. If there’s any point she’s made, it’s that PIV in particular places a *material* burden on women that acts as a systematic hobble, akin in kind if not degree to foot-binding. ie, that without PIV, the sexual potential of male and female bodies can be assessed on a more equal footing.

    If a large group of people willingly places a systematic hobble on themselves, based in their physical health and well-being, is it really wrong to suggest that the concept of agency is least appropriate in that context?

    What if it were obligatory for men to bungee-jump every day? Lots of men find bungee-jumping a whole lot of fun (or so I’m told, the concept makes me shudder). But if we were all convinced to perform a somewhat risky activity on a regular basis, if it were part of fundamental metaphors of our culture, if it were an expectation that, e.g., all straight women want to see their men bungee jump or trapeze every day in order to find them attractive, how would we evaluate the concept of agency there?

    *insert chorus of protests that women really do demand men do risky things, etc…*

  5. Mandos, I agree that feminists can and should ask critical questions about “compulsory intercourse” (or at least the way in which PIV gets “centered” in our contemporary romantic narratives.) But we already do do that as feminists — the very feminists whom FCM dismisses as obsessed with “fun” are reframing consent and working for a more holistic understanding of sexuality. (Think Jessica Valenti, Heather Corinna, Jaclyn Friedman, and so forth).

    The debate is over whether the “hobble” is intrinsic to PIV, or only a matter of the cultural and linguistic baggage we attach to PIV. And that’s an old debate we apparently need to continue having.

  6. I have two big problems with Dworkin’s analysis, among many others. For one thing it is often blatantly pornographic in tone and sounds like it was plagiarized straight out of Hustler or Forum. Second, you can line her discourse around penetrative sex right next to gay-bashing diatribes I hear all the time from the religious right, and they are indistinguishable. It’s all the same rabid sex-negative ranting, so they really are not such strange bedfellows. If she is able to separate anything she has to say from her heterophobia and raging misandry, I have missed it. And frankly I doubt she would have had any qluams about bashing gay men.

  7. Mandos…to me it’s still the same…it’s up to the individual, it wouldn’t make men any less manly to refuse those activities…it’s the socialization that’s the problem..not the people participating in or not participating in said socialization… We’re not trying to change the actual person, but the paradigm in which that person exists…changing the person does not change the paradigm…only skews it to one favor or another.

  8. The debate is over whether the “hobble” is intrinsic to PIV, or only a matter of the cultural and linguistic baggage we attach to PIV. And that’s an old debate we apparently need to continue having.

    This *could* be the right way to frame the debate if it were the case that PIV’s *material* burden originated in the cultural and linguistic aspects of its nature. That is, PIV’s problems are located in the physical-psychological or cognitive-cultural nexus.

    But as FCM points out pretty graphically, there’s a huge and systematic *medical* burden on women, consisting of all manner of physical and pharmaceutical risks and discomforts that accrue massively disproportionately to women, and necessarily so for pregnancy and disease prevention.

    As I think you yourself seem to point out (or you suggest your students do), rephrasing it in terms of a psychological inequality doesn’t erase the material-medical hobble. Isn’t that just more of the same weak sauce as the appeal to agency in the case of systematic sacrificial behaviour?

  9. It’s not an either/or, Mandos, but a both/and. The hobble is both cognitive and biological. And it’s true that with the latter, we can only ameliorate rather than eliminate the various negative effects of PIV on women. Is it worth doing that work of amelioration? Are women who are still willing to have intercourse despite their knowledge of risks engaged in self-deception, or are they still in thrall to a myth about their obligations? Let’s keep having that conversation. And let’s keep being honest about risk, ameliorating risk, and avoiding the tempting but dangerous pleasure of sweeping denunciations of genuinely consensual sexual activity.

    As a liberal (rather than a radical) feminist, I am convinced that authentic consent is genuinely possible. But we’re headed into a complex area of feminist epistemology at warp speed… and I have to go meet my first women’s studies class of the year!

  10. In wondering whether women who are still willing to have PIV intercourse despite their knowledge of the risks are doing so out of self-deception about the risks or from a standpoint of culturally-induced obligation, I think it’s worth considering men who are willing to have, um, let’s call it PIA intercourse? with other men and being on the A end of the transaction rather than the P. These men don’t carry the burden of biological risk associated with pregnancy, but they do carry the same biological burden as a woman recieving PIV intercourse in terms of STD transmission, physical damage both internal and external, etc. To the best of my knowledge, there is no pressure on them culturally to be on the receiving end of PIA sex–quite the opposite. Yet clearly many, many men actively seek this form of intercourse out.

  11. Mandos,

    I assume you’re the Mandos from the fantastic thread about the origins of male dominance on the reclusive leftist blog? Great post, great comments, just wanted to mention that – read it two years ago, one of the best things I ever read on the web. I keep an annotated pdf version of the entire thread…

    Hugo,

    I love how you’re taking on my role of pointing out the problematic axiomatic structure in this debate ;)

    “change the fundamental power imbalance in PIV.”

    Of course, there is a fundamental power imbalance in sexuality. It’s rooted in biology, and whatever we do, we cannot change that. You may not want to call it that, but you’re essentially making an argument about the relative costs of sexuality for men an women and you’re wondering if words can change that.

    They can’t. But changing *that* is hardly the point. If feminism were about changing the reality of fu**ing, about attempting to change biology rather than the framing thereof, it would be a completely pointless exercise. It would be akin to saying let’s get rid of gravity, we don’t like it (leaving epigenetics aside for the moment).

    However, the basic axiomatic assumptions of feminism, certainly radical feminism, do contradict that point of view. Making that argument was oxymoronic when Dworkin made it, and it doesn’t get less oxymoronic when someone else uses it. It’s apparently a case of ranting without actually understanding the axiomatic structure the argument is based on.

    This is a debate that cannot be “won” by rephrasing, it is a debate that can only be “won” by pointing out that the other position is, in fact, inherently impossible to hold.

    And then we can discuss agency and how this is another case of staying in the (in this case feminist) matrix or not.

  12. But as FCM points out pretty graphically, there’s a huge and systematic *medical* burden on women, consisting of all manner of physical and pharmaceutical risks and discomforts that accrue massively disproportionately to women, and necessarily so for pregnancy and disease prevention.

    But to get from here to FCM’s conclusion, there’s an unspoken premise: that if two people agree to engage together in dangerous or risky behavior, and we are to call that decision an expression of freedom and agency, then that risk must be equally shared by those two people.

    Perhaps that position is correct! But it’s at all obvious to me that it is, and I haven’t seen any compelling reason to believe it necessarily is.

    (Alternatively, she could argue that, because our culture is utterly suffused and polluted with patriarchal assumptions, norms and values, it is a rank impossibility that a man and a woman could arrive at an egalitarian decision with mutual agency. But I don’t think she’s arguing this either, and if she is, she needs to specify why this logic would apply to PIV sex only, and not other kinds of sex, or for that matter, other kinds of important decisions. If this is the logic that leads her to forswear PIV sex, it should probably lead her to forswear relationships with men altogether.)

  13. Back to the ladies, I must say that I have known a fair number of women over the years who, while strongly and preferentially romantically inclined towards men, really didn’t and don’t care for PIV sex. None of these women were really any kind of feminists, so their objection to PIV sex was in no way philosophical; they tended to share the following traits instead: They thought penises were uninteresting to physically unattractive, they thought ejaculate was uninteresting to actively repellent, they did not particularly enjoy the sensation of penetration and tended to prefer men with smaller penises, and they found the greatest sexual satisfaction with men who regularly either performed oral or manual sex on them or used vibrating toys externally with them. And no, none of them were repressed lesbians. They just really didn’t care for PIV. So, why? Cultural, biological, both? And if so, how could the same forces also result in women who think they really love the way penises look, think ejaculate is sexy, enjoy the sensation of penetration and don’t prefer oral, manual or toy-based sex to PIV?

  14. It’s not an either/or, Mandos, but a both/and. The hobble is both cognitive and biological. And it’s true that with the latter, we can only ameliorate rather than eliminate the various negative effects of PIV on women. Is it worth doing that work of amelioration? Are women who are still willing to have intercourse despite their knowledge of risks engaged in self-deception, or are they still in thrall to a myth about their obligations?

    No one’s saying it’s not a both/and. But once you’ve dealt with the cognitive-cultural side, by having everyone, I guess, reconceptualize PIV as “engulf” rather than “penetrate”, we’re still dealing with a world in which the medico-economic consequences apply. To the “engulfer”. And at that point, it becomes an either-or.

    Look, this discussion would be very different (and FCM would have no case) if it happened that PIV had become one sexual proclivity among many, and that only a minority of women partnered with men actually engaged with it—in fact, only whenever this proclivity among proclivities happened to line up between the male and the female partner. But instead we live in a world in which the following premises appear to hold:

    1. For very many straight men (I’d say a strong majority), it’s quite evident that PIV is a prized component of sex, a primary source of sexual satisfaction, even among men who are abstaining from it with their partners, it tends to be counted as a major loss (consider FCM’s story with her apparently still-current partner, if you’ve been following her blog).

    2. This is only true for only a minority of women—again, we’re told this over and over, and even if you read between the lines of patriarchal propaganda like Cosmo headlines at the grocery checkout line, you get this overall impression.

    3. The medical-economic consequences fall disproportionately upon women—leaving aside the psychological-cultural ones, which I presume we can efface through the usual means of cultural advancement.

    4. Even given 1-3, the vast majority of straight relationships apparently include regular PIV, even apparently among people otherwise genuinely committed to gender equality.

    So what does it mean for both 4 AND 1-3 to be true at the same time, if indeed they are true (I see no reason to think otherwise). From FCM’s perspective, it seems to be clear that even if were to eliminate 4, we still have an imbalance between men and women that is highly consequential for gender relations, unless it’s the case that by eliminating frequent PIV, we eliminate 1.

    This is all quite independent of our cognitive conceptualization of PIV intercourse, engulfment *or* penetration.

    FCM is skeptical that if we were to ameliorate the frequency and conceptualization of PIV, we’d significantly affect the rest of the imbalance between men and women’s sexualities. Hence her commitment to her variety of what I call female nationalism.

    If you dislike female nationalism, you have to come up with alternative explanation for (1), or some other way of mitigating it. How is it that PIV has such an appeal to men when the medico-economic hobble to women is obvious?

  15. I feel as though FCM is saying that if you exhibit stereotypically female behaviors you are oppressed, and on the other end is the argument that oppression is caused by stereotypical behaviors, then where are we going wrong here?
    If group A is saying x=y, and group B is saying y=x (x being oppression and y being stereotypical behaviors)
    This smacks of circular reasoning…but I never was good at math, maybe my formulation is WAAAAY too simplistic.

  16. LisaKS: if you’ve read any female-nationalist blogs (or separatist, or whatever name you prefer), you’ll find that PIA among gay men is often referred to as revealing the deeply problematic nature of men, also known as the quality of “male energy” that drains women. Disagreement still persists as to whether this is cultural or biological-developmental, but the PIA tendency of gay men suggests to many that penetration is an important component of maleness *however* one constitutes the behavioural component of biological maleness.

    If so, at minimum, a separatist moment is required to sort this out in a manner that is just to women, at least so that some kind of compensatory accomodation can be made (take your pick).

    If you dislike this, you either have to posit some value of frequent PIV to women generally that exceeds the costs, or you have to find some alternative way to ameliorate the costs in the long run.

  17. Sam: Yes, it is me, Mandos, the one and only :)

    Actually there are lots of Mandoses on the Interwebs, but only one that I know of with my notoriety on political blogs.

    I’m glad you liked that thread.

  18. But to get from here to FCM’s conclusion, there’s an unspoken premise: that if two people agree to engage together in dangerous or risky behavior, and we are to call that decision an expression of freedom and agency, then that risk must be equally shared by those two people.

    Perhaps that position is correct! But it’s at all obvious to me that it is, and I haven’t seen any compelling reason to believe it necessarily is.

    I suggest that that is exactly what FCM believes, at least by implication from her extensive writings, and in the ideal case, I would agree with her. A way of defining class oppression is that it is a large-scale systematic disequilibrium of risk and cost. If you believe that at a society-wide scale, this is a bad thing, you must necessarily at least pay attention to the class-wise maldistribution of risk and cost in sex and account for it somehow.

  19. Putting all this emphasis on PIV ignores that just having a vagina can be a burden all by itself and many of the risk factors of PIV are not actually unique to that act. I am all for people who want to celebrate their menstrual cycles, but for many women it’s painful and at least somewhat messy. It can cause medical problems and costs money to deal with. UTIs and yeast infections can occur for all sorts of reasons and they are just the tip of the iceberg for crotch problems that can occur without a penis being involved in any way.

    And it’s not like PIV is the only risky sex act. STIs can be spread through many means that don’t involve penetration. PIV isn’t the only way to get pregnant either.

  20. Mandos: I haven’t read any female-nationalist or separatist blogs, not because I’ve purposely avoided them, but because I have lacked interest in the idea. I still do lack interest, which means I’m reluctant to go read any (it’s hard for me to recreationally read things that don’t interest me–I love reading too much as a recreational activity!). But I don’t think I quite understand your point–I’m not talking about what drives men to be the P in PIA; I’m talking about what drives men to genuinely believe they want to be the A. This is the exact opposite of any posited component of maleness that requires them to be the penetrator, and therefore can in no way be explained by a problematic need to penetrate others sexually or of any kind of “male energy” (whatever that might be–is that metaphysical in nature or biological?).

    Nor do I understand why a separatist movement would be necessary to understand this behavior in men?

    I’m also not sure what you are suggesting I might dislike? Please don’t make me go read female-nationalist blogs. :) unless all my confusion is a result of us not sharing a female-nationalist vocabulary.

  21. Hugo: I definitely recommend “Native Tongue;” I don’t know if I would recommend the sequel (“Judas Rose”) and I definitely don’t recommend the last book in the trilogy (“Earthsong”). As a matter of fact, I definitely recommend skipping “Earthsong.” Sometimes, when people run out of ideas for a story, they should just not go there.

  22. As even a casual reader of her blog will realize, FCM takes Dworkin quite literally in her insistence that heterosexual intercourse (penis-in-vagina sex, or PIV) is abusive to women. Women should generally resist PIV, FCM argues; any man who dares claim the label feminist ally for himself must renounce PIV if he wishes to be taken seriously. Refusing intercourse is the proof of one’s seriousness and credibility.

    What a depressing state of affairs! In Puritan New England, to be accepted as a member of the church, you had to stand before the church community and relate your conversion narrative. If it was unconvincing or the leadership believed you had not truly converted, they would deny your membership. Is that any less oppressive than the standard proposed here?

    As a progressive, congregationalist, dionysian Christian, I cannot separate sexual morality from my faith. That said, I think human sexuality is and must be a way to express love, commitment, to share pleasure, to experience joy, to honor one’s self, one’s partner and the Divine within all of us. Christ the Liberator calls us to deeper wholeness, to deeper honoring of self and others. The god who embodied him/her/itself in the man of Nazareth is a god who understands human pleasure and pain. God who extends to us compassion and empathy invites us to do the same for one another. Human sexuality is an inherent aspect of the human life and god’s invitation to us to make that aspect of our lives good and holy. We cannot do that if we disdain one another’s sexuality, one another’s very bodies. We cannot extend compassion and empathy to ourselves if we are unable to extend it to other persons.

    As my spiritual journey continues to unfold, I see in the anti-sex, anti-erotic anger and vitriol of both the religious fundamentalists and the radical feminists a deep disdain for sexuality itself, which I believe translates into disdain for the one’s self and one’s body. To embrace the body is to embrace the self – to forgive yourself for being human and imperfect and flawed is to learn to forgive others; to embrace yourself is to embrace others. Christ embodied is our model – fully human and recognizing and responding to the full humanity of one another.

    The notion that men must deny intercourse to be treated seriously is fundamentalism – pleasure is sin. Christ liberator calls us to mutually pleasurable and mutually consensual sexuality and invites us to be liberated to be ourselves fully aware and fully human. In the standard FCM and other radical feminists seem to hold toward human sexuality, I see little evidence of empathy, compassion, joy or mutuality.

  23. This discussion bugs the crap out of me. I could intellectualize it. But the truth is that it is making me look at my own sexual choices and that is annoying the living crap out of me. Mandos has a few really good points, and they hit way too close to home. Damn it, Mandos, why couldn’t you just be a screecher or a sycophant so I could write you off?

    And Hugo, what is it with you and bringing up discussions that force people to think?

    This reminds me of one time when I googled something John Stewart said and was scarred for life. Once you know something, you can’t un-know it. It is stuck, rattling around in your skull, annoying the crap out of you.

    Damn it, damn it, damn it. Thanks a lot people. Now I have to think.
    (This moment of maturity was brought to you by the makers of coffee, who invite you to experience a mid-afternoon crash once their yummy crack has worn off.)

  24. “it tends to be counted as a major loss” This has been true in my personal life..but let’s say there was some physical disadvantage that didn’t allow for PIV to happen…if the couple didn’t find a way to relate intimately other than sex, in a way that was deeply more intimate than sex, then yes it could be viewed as a great loss by a man…this is where I think FCM is going on the stereotype that men aren’t capable of relating on a more intimate level than just the physical, and I think this is caused by the socialization that we exist in, one she seems to ignore affects her as well. As for how to establish a more intimate relationship I think avoiding PIV is harmful…physical seems to be the way that men communicate their intimacy which is problematic, but NOT to be done away with completely…to deny a man physical, is in essence denying him emotionally which will lead to him becoming more closed off emotionally…The idea is to establish intimacy before ever having sex…My husband and I before we got married abstained from sex…we both wanted to do something special intimately for each other because we realized how special we were to one another…My husband was relieved that we didn’t have to have sex, and found it fun to find other ways to connect emotionally…we cried, we hugged, we exposed our vulnerabilities, we got a sense of who each other was…yes we have had PIV, but when we did he cried…he related that the emotional waves he felt from expressing an intimacy that was well established before we had sex, and he literally was overwhelmed… this is where I think FCM is selling men short.

  25. As a hetero woman, I have to say, I LOVE PIV. I was going to say a lot more, but most of it has already been said, and so I will only add: I don’t really see how telling women what they should do and not do is feminist, especially in the area of sexuality. I’m in the feminist camp that all of women’s choices need to be accepted because the experiences of all women are valid (as long as they don’t use their choices to take away other women’s choices, by voting for abortion restrictions, for example). I understand the physiological risks involved, and like those who enjoy bungee jumping, I accept them and engage in the activity any way because of the pleasure it brings me (of course, also like the bungee jumper, I do what I can to mitigate those risks).

  26. @Mandos: Look, this discussion would be very different (and FCM would have no case) if it happened that PIV had become one sexual proclivity among many, and that only a minority of women partnered with men actually engaged with it

    Given that most people, male and female, do at some point want children, and that PIV sex is, at the very least, both to most straight men and to most straight women, more pleasant than the turkey baster approach, I think it unlikely that I’ll even in my lifetime see a world in which PIV sex is an “only a minority” niche taste that most people cheerfully go a lifetime without trying.

    Though, obviously, if you’re not particularly into it, doing other stuff for the large stretches of your life when you really don’t want kids is always an option.

    2. This is only true for only a minority of women

    Exactly which part of the things you’ve attributed to men is “true for only a minority of women”? That PIV is “a primary source of sexual satisfaction”? Or that not getting PIV ever at all for the rest of your life, because your partner doesn’t want it, is “counted as a major loss”? Because these are arguably two different things: some women who never have orgasms from PIV alone would still experience its lack as a major loss (heck, most people never get orgasms from kissing alone, but many people would experience it as a major loss to remove kissing permanently from their available menu of sexual options).

    I’m not denying that you could probably find considerably more women than men who would be just fine with a sex life that didn’t include PIV (for all the reasons LisaKS describes); I just question your assumption that those women are easily in the majority. Particularly if you’re talking about, not placing a lower relative value on PIV, compared to other acts, than their male partners do, but valuing it so little that they really wouldn’t miss it at all.

    If you dislike this, you either have to posit some value of frequent PIV to women generally that exceeds the costs

    Yes, I would in fact posit that women generally find a value in “frequent PIV” that exceeds the costs, as long as “frequent PIV” means, oh, at least once a week, rather than, oh, at least multiple times a day. And as long as we have the freedom to mitigate the costs through, for example, readily available and reliable birth control. I don’t think this is an outlandish possibility to consider.

  27. I find the discussion here brings up a lot of feelings within me! A group of us men were inspired by Andrea Dworkin’s first speech to a predominantly male audience in 1983 to form Men Stopping Rape, Inc of Madison, Wisconsin. While I never agreed with all of Dworkin’s basic ideas she was an inspirational influence on many of us!

    My partner(female)’s children were both conceived absence intercourse due to the fact that she and her partner are both female.

    I’m also a man with significant erectile dysfunction based limitations which evolved over the past years into making piv contact impossible. I’m most aware of how many men facing ED foolishly are enslaved by what they think “being a man” is, much to the detriment of their female partners and their relationships.

    Certainly many of us men – use our “weapons” (sic) in ways that make perspectives such as Dworkin’s – whether taken literally or figuratively – to be most understandable.

    I’d also like to hope that there will be a day when some of us will still be alive when “rape culture” and its attendant stalking, domestic violence, rape, abuse of our children etc. will no longer be “male” problems and be rare and truly “deviant” in the cultural norms of our world(s). Thanks!

  28. I think a lot of this discussion went way over my head (I never took more humanities courses than I had to in college, and I basically avoid the rhetoric everywhere but the blogosphere). Also, Fred is short for Winifred – I’m a woman.

    But, I, like another commentator here, have to agree that I love PIV sex. And, in response to the idea that it is male driven, I like penetrative sex of other sorts when I’m with women. Basically, penetration is good in my world. And I think people who tell me that I don’t know my own mind on this issue are really, wrong and borderline offensive.

    Because so much of this conversation is about power, and I’ve been active in the S&M scene, I have to ask: Do these same arguments make consensual submission (in sexual or other BDSM contexts) equally irrelevant and the result of brainwashing? Even when the submissive is a man and/or the dominant a woman? And is S&M, in your view, inherently non-consensual, because in many kinds of pain play (this is only one example) the masochist has a greater physical risk than the sadist? Even when the masochist is a man and/or the sadist is a woman?

    Personally, I just don’t buy it. I do what I want with my life, and it leaves me with an enormous smile and feeling good for days, and as nearly as I can tell (and I watch pretty closely) has the same effect on my partner(s). And I just don’t see what is wrong with that.

    Also, if you’re worried about sharing risk: certainly there is some part of risk that men can’t take on in PIV sex. But what if they tried to make up for it by, say, paying for the condoms and birth control? Or relieving risks and burdens in other areas of life? I think this is the old fair is not equal argument.

    Sorry if a lot of that was redundant or otherwise useless. As I said, I suspect a lot of the discussion went over my head, so I might have said something really stupid.

  29. Hugo,

    I just wanted to say that while I do not always agree with you (although I mostly do), I am so, so, incredibly moved to see a man doing the kind of work and saying the kind of things that you are. I tend to have an extremely low opinion of men in general (especially as a queer butch female-bodied person), because dealing with male privilege constantly just wears me down, but you have reminded me that men can, in fact, be good allies. I can’t express how much this blog means to me emotionally.

    I hope you remember, on your bad days, that there are people like me who are immensely helped just by knowing you exist.

    Wiley

  30. BDSM is interesting territory. I’ve always understood that the submissive or bottom is in control – he or she sets the limit for how far is too far. BDSM also seems to engage the idea that pain and pleasure are not opposites sides of a coin but they exist in harmony along a continuum – at some point pain can be pleasure and pleasure can be pain. Dominance and submission are truly possible only within a relationship of trust – violate that trust and the submission cannot occur which means the dominance cannot occur.

    Within the analytical framework of factcheckme and similarly minded feminsts, no woman can give meaningful consent to intercourse so I think their answer would be that BDSM is simply a literalization of patriarchal roles; just guessing but I think the argument would hold that since the bottom is in control a male submissive is enacting his patriarchal power and if the male is the top, he would ignore the female submissive whose consent is not authentic anyway. Bear in mind I believe his analysis is flawed (in granting neither men nor women their full personhood).

    From where I sit, BDSM must be consensual. When it ceases to be consensual it becomes abusive.

  31. Andrea Dworkin was a great writer. Whatever else I think she was, I have to admit that much, and she had an impact on the more moderate feminist movement as well as the obnoxious radicals, which can only be a good thing.I actually agree with FCM in that I think her writing was meant to be taken fairly literally- there’s really no evidence to the contrary aside from the fact that it was so radical. But, as can be seen in some of the less desirable corners of the feminist blogosphere, legitimate radicals do exist, and Dworkin was one. She certainly lived her life according to the tenets expressed in her writing. Now, do I think that Dworkin’s writing was a waste of time? No. But most of the ideas that I think were worth something originated somewhere else, and were merely popularized or reshaped by Dworkin. Her original ideas (mostly having to do with intercourse and pornography) were, to put it bluntly, trash. I still think she was important as a firebrand of sorts, but I think she would have been more effective had she been more moderate.

  32. Fred…

    “Because so much of this conversation is about power, and I’ve been active in the S&M scene, I have to ask: Do these same arguments make consensual submission (in sexual or other BDSM contexts) equally irrelevant and the result of brainwashing? Even when the submissive is a man and/or the dominant a woman? And is S&M, in your view, inherently non-consensual, because in many kinds of pain play (this is only one example) the masochist has a greater physical risk than the sadist? Even when the masochist is a man and/or the sadist is a woman?”

    I have a more liberal view of what BDSM comes from…I don’t think it’s because of patriarchal brainwashing…but perhaps a response to it…a way to live safely outside the “norms” if you will, and finding a solidarity in such an intense understanding…can it be misused??? absolutely…but obviously so can PIV.

  33. Mandos, upthread:

    If you dislike this, you either have to posit some value of frequent PIV to women generally that exceeds the costs, or you have to find some alternative way to ameliorate the costs in the long run.

    The mindset here really gets at where I think this whole approach goes off the rails. Insofar as Mandos is accurately representing the mindset of FCM here, she comes across as, in essence, channeling some of Jeremy Bentham’s worst tendencies. She’s looked at all the risks and costs of PIV with open eyes and a calculator, she’s run the numbers, and she’s come to the conclusion it’s just not worth it. The idea that someone else might rank values and disvalues differently than she does only computes if you assume they’re making errors. It’s a terrible epistemology for understanding just about any realm of human activity, but it’ particularly ill-suited for the sexual realm.

    When I teach my political theory survey courses, I encourage students to engage in critical feminist readings of thinkers. Not everyone embraces or even fully understands this task, but when it comes to Bentham, the tend to see the deep and gendered paternalism of that perspective pretty easily. For a radical feminist, she’s operating with a surprisingly patriarchial epistemology.

  34. One of the assumptions that radfems make that always pisses me off is that men are strong, women are weak, and that in every single personal relationship between the two, the man is ‘in charge’. Not that all men don’t have male privilege, but pretending that every single relationship has the same dynamic because of that is a notion that doesn’t show to much serious consideration. Just as a white person could be the abuse victim in a relationship with a black partner, despite having white privilege, a man can be an abuse victim, a submissive, physically weaker, etc. It is important that people understand that just because a social expectation and stereotype exists, there are always plenty of people who don’t fit it.

    For example, I had one radfem insist that a relationship I had with a man had to have been under his control. Except she was ignoring the reality of the dynamics of my relationship with this person. I was physically stronger, older (not a huge gap, but older), had more status within our social circle, was sexually dominant in every sexual encounter we had (I’m a switch but he really wanted to sub and was so thrilled to find someone who would keep it private and not judge that our sex kind of just gravitated towards that), and I tended to be the one who set the nonsex boundaries of our relationship (at that time, I didn’t want monogamy or long term and took them off the table at the beginning of any relationship), and almost none of our sex was PIV. However, just the mere fact that my partner was a cis guy and I am female bodied meant to her that he had to be the one controlling the relationship and having the power. This was a person who could not understand why I, a bisexual person, would be open to relationships with men (when I can and do have sex with and date women), even after I told her that the only relationship I had ever had that began to take on abusive control features had been with a woman. Because she couldn’t get into her head that not all women are gentle, kind, nonabusive, respectful, etc. and that some men are. It had to be those stereotypical behaviors and notions for her, she did not get that not all people or relationships fit the stereotype.

    “I’ll have more to say in a subsequent post about the remarkable synergy between many social conservatives and the rad fems who work in the Dworkin tradition.” I think that they both work off of the same gender framework, biological based notions of the gentleness of women and the strength of men, they just disagree with what should be done based on those ‘natures’.

  35. Dworkin does not have a problem with intercourse because it involves penetration, or – to better convey her sense of horror and revulsion – invading and colonization. Her problem – and FCM’s problem – isn’t the act itself. Or the language used to describe it – it is one of the participants.

    It is the man, not the act, that fills Dworkin with loathing. Substituting the word “engulf” changes nothing – instead of seeing men as invading predators, she’d just see men as cancerous Trojan horses. It would make a nice, extra credit assignment for your students, Hugo, to have one of them take a thesaurus and develop a software macro that will – at the push of a button – produce an alternate “Intercourse” featuring men in the role of tumors, parasites, and poisons.

    Dworkin hates men an awful lot more than she loves women. She’s the sort of common justice advocate that claims outrage at suffering, but who is really, really motivated by hatred, and I’m pretty sure Dworkin would much rather hurt a man than help a woman. Pleasure, not suffering, is her enemy.

    And not just men’s pleasure. You can’t read a paragraph like this:

    “To become the object, she takes herself and transforms herself into a thing: all freedoms are diminished and she is caged, even in the cage docile, sometimes physically maimed, movement is limited: she physically becomes the thing he wants to fuck. It is especially in the acceptance of object status that her humanity is hurt: it is a metaphysical acceptance of lower status in sex and in society; an implicit acceptance of less freedom, less privacy, less integrity. In becoming an object so that he can objectify her so that he can fuck her, she begins a political collaboration with his dominance; and then when he enters her, he confirms for himself and for her what she is: that she is something, not someone; certainly not someone equal.”

    . . . without realizing she’s not exactly fond of women either. Especially ones that have allowed themselves to be polluted by men.

    I haven’t read much of her – I’m thankful I have enough plain sense to avoid more exposure than necessary to such a pitiless hatebag. When I read her I’m reminded of no one so much as the Son of Sam, cruising lover’s lanes, peering into cars, reaching for his gun as he discoverers a couple in the act.

    And I honestly don’t know who Dworkin would shoot first.

  36. Why do you interpret hatred for embracing gender roles as hatred for a person? She was describing how a woman embraces her gender role..not how she hates women…to me it just doesn’t compute that way…Why can’t the hatred for gender roles be separated from the actual human being like I see here in that passage? Are the two so intertwined by the casual reader?

  37. kristina,

    Sure, it is possible to dislike gender roles, and argue against them forcefully without hating. Hugo certainly does that.

    But Dworkin reeks of hatred.

    There’s no right answer here, but I read anger at betrayal in that particular morsel. Mostly in the “political collaboration” note, but not only that. The embracing woman has no interior life worth noting. Dworkin mentions no feeling of hers at all. She could be writing about a bug under a glass. There’s some blame: “she takes herself and transforms herself.” I get a whiff of contempt because she notes that the woman is docile even in the cage.

    You let one of them have you? You let one of them define you and use you to feel good? — then you are dead to me.

  38. Andrea Dworkin’s relationships with men were complicated: on the one hand, her first husband violently abused her and she apparently had a dreadful time working as a prostitute to survive. On the other hand, the closest and most loving relationships in her life seem to have been the one with her father and the one with her husband John Stoltenberg (apparently each the love of each other’s life despite the fact that the one identified as lesbian and the other as gay).

  39. I think this post is a load of bs and that the author is a creepy dude, but I have to point out something no one else did and would like to thank Mandos for the patience and for getting it. Because I am way too creeped out by everything Hugo has said and the mansplaining pretentious tone of his to comment extensively.

    “They want it for a host of reasons: to experience physical pleasure, to affirm their desirability, to enhance an emotional connection, to conceive a child.”

    All I have to say is this-if someone is having it to affirm their desirability, meaning that they are FUCKABLE, calling that enthusiastic consent is laughable. This means that they’re having intercourse FOR MEN. Not themselves, because they “enthusiastically” want it, but to affirm that they have male approval. Because thats what we need to feel good about ourselves, because we’re taught that’s the men’s opinions on us and our fuckability is so goddamn important. And you say this as if it’s okay. Your definition of consent is creepy and disgusting.

    And there’s this thing, I dunno if you’ve heard of it, called a clitoris. When you touch it, it feels quite nice, and you don’t stick your dick in it. And touching it doesn’t transmit HIV, gasp! Also, on the having children thing? Women are taught and expected to have children from birth, (see dolls and shit) so this is hardly a freely made choice. Even if it WERE, around 50% of pregnancies are unplanned for fuck’s sake.

    Seriously, all FCM is trying to say that this “agency” nonsense is a bunch of crap that ignores women are taught from birth to be fucked. So we don’t have much of a “choice” then do we? Is that so difficult to understand? The fact that everyone throws a fit when we question PIV, BDSM, and the other ways people fuck makes me all the more suspicious of it.

    Radfems = puritans/prudes? Never heard THAT one before. Keep up the creative insults. God forbid someone acknowledge that humans are social creatures who are formed by their culture and that “free will,” aka agency, is a load of western individualistic special-snowflake crap.

  40. Anyone who sneers at “fun” as a legitimate pursuit and a valid need for human beings is already undermining their argument in my eyes. What’s the point of the fight if not to get to a place where suffering in minimized and pleasure is a human right? I’m increasingly convinced that any liberal/leftist/progressive theory that doesn’t center around the importance of pleasure and making sure all human beings have access to it is one that is fatally flawed in its humanism and bound to fail. For instance, food justice issues fall apart if you fail to talk about the pleasure of eating and the role it plays in perpetuating injustice—and how validating the need for food to give us pleasure as well as sustenance is the only way that we can actually reimagine our food systems.

    Same with sex. If you discount the importance of gaining pleasure from sex, you fail to have a coherent and usable theory. The notion that women’s pleasure in intercourse should be a secondary concern to hardly universal or absolute agreements about the symbolic value of an act that those who don’t understand symbolism (basically all other mammals) also engage in strikes me as the path to failure. Like all biological acts, the symbolism we imbue on them is not absolute.

    It’s questionable to me that intercourse has a single, undeniable symbolic meaning when oral sex or masturbation can have many.

  41. Thank you, Ms Citrus, but I have been deemed naughty in the past and doubtless will be in the future, so you should hold off the praise for a while :)

  42. It’s hilarious how MsCitrus talks about women’s “conditioning” as if men grow up in some kind of box, free of all of society’s expectations. Women are conditioned to want intercourse? Actually, this is scientifically incorrect, as intercourse is a critical part of evolution. But let’s say she’s right. Couldn’t the same be said for men? So, essentially, according to the these kooky krazy radfems, we’re all mindless robots, our every single thought and action predetermined by the dark shadowy Matrix, I mean society. And since none of us can “really consent”, we’re all assaulting and raping each other… or maybe the Matrix is… or are we raping the Matrix… or something like that.

    Classic radical feminism, synonymous with idiocy.

  43. MsCitrus,

    ““agency” nonsense”

    of course you can believe we all live in a matrix in which men are agents and women aren’t actually able to express free will – have agency – but are only conditioned into believing they have free will. Now while that sounds like a pretty absurd assumption, it’s at least logically conceivable.

    Where you and other women making such arguments run into logical problems is that you possess all properties of a person deemed unable to profess free will/agency/understanding of the matrix/patriarchy in your theory, yet claim to hold the key to truly free will lies in rejecting some arbitrary symptom of the assumed lack of free will/agency/matrix (like PIV) when it should be more than obvious within that theory that your rejection of symptom x is, should you be right about the system and your position in it, just as valuable as the affirmation of symptom x by another woman, as you are both women, who, in your theory, are unable to see and express themselves freely.

    Thus, even if you assume a difference in free will between women an men, the externalisations of a female radical feminist are logically just as valuable as the externalisations of a female adult film star. Rejecting the assumed symptom x is just as much part of the assumed matrix as would be embracing it.

  44. MsCitrus –

    The difference between the religious fundamentalist and radical feminist view of sex is surprisingly small. I would suggest as well that the dynamics of both are similar – grounded in a desire for certainty rather than comfort with ambiguity. Both are equally flawed in solving real world problems by a desire to make reality conform to theory rather than theory conform to reality. Just as right wingers tell us the answer is abstinence and lifelong monogamy and all our sexual problems will go away because we’re all following the rules; the radical feminist solution is to set up a set of sexual rules and propose if we all follow them everything will be fine. Both systems of thought are grounded in similar dynamics and both attack liberals and liberalism for failing to be sufficiently rule bound.

    Both religious fundamentalists and radical feminists share a profoundly negative view of human sexuality, one that expresses itself in draconian pronouncements about how we “ought” to behave. Both seem to disdain the flesh and its pleasures. Both seem to tend toward authoritarian styles concerning sexuality.

    The idea that “choice” and personal moral agency is a conceit. Of course we all are shaped by society but we not programmed by it and incapable of responding as suits our own preferences and needs.

  45. And there’s this thing, I dunno if you’ve heard of, called a clitoris. When you touch it, it feels quite nice

    Naturally, it’s physiologically impossible for a man to touch your clit while you’re having PIV sex. So no woman in the history of the universe has ever gotten the slightest sensation of physical pleasure while enduring that terrible ordeal.

    Also, on the having children thing? Women are taught and expected to have children from birth, (see dolls and shit) so this is hardly a freely made choice.

    No, the only free choice is for absolutely every woman to refuse to have children, ever again, from now on, because some women might not want them. Because it’s ever so much more free to do what some third party you’ve never met considers to be in your political interest, even if it makes you, personally, miserable.

    Even if it WERE, around 50% of pregnancies are unplanned for fuck’s sake.

    I never said women only had PIV sex because they want kids, just that, for those rare occasions in your life when you do want kids, making sure only to get your sexual pleasure in ways that wouldn’t produce them, so that you could then go produce your kids in ways that don’t involve much pleasure, seems rather silly.

    After all, if you’re going to argue that men need to totally give up PIV sex, even in the case where women enthusiastically consent, it follows that women, also, have to totally give up PIV sex, ever, even under the circumstances where they enthusiastically want it.

  46. Both religious fundamentalists and radical feminists share a profoundly negative view of human sexuality, one that expresses itself in draconian pronouncements about how we “ought” to behave.

    And both seem determined to maintain that women can’t really want what they say they want. It’s just that the religious fundamentalist version of “false consciousness” involves trying to tell us that all we want is love, if only Hollywood didn’t corrupt us by showing us so much sex, rather than telling us that if we weren’t corrupted by patriarchy, we’d only want to select from a particular menu of sex acts.

  47. @djw:

    She’s looked at all the risks and costs of PIV with open eyes and a calculator, she’s run the numbers, and she’s come to the conclusion it’s just not worth it. The idea that someone else might rank values and disvalues differently than she does only computes if you assume they’re making errors.

    Well, it depends on what you’re trying to do. If you admit that women are disadvantaged as a class, then that disadvantage should cash out in some observable way. I suspect that FCM would say that even at an individual level, PIV sex is not worth it for most women, but what if it is? You still have the class analysis to deal with, and the class analysis is that measurable costs apply to women’s health and pocketbook from PIV that do not apply to men, and that men only sometimes help to shoulder.

    I mean, how is class oppression materially visible except in the systematic maldistribution of costs? Now, we could entirely deny class analysis, but that would make us right-wing libertarians, pretty much, and there’d be no point of talking about this issue at all. I’m not a right-wing libertarian, I believe in at least some kind of high-level class analysis.

    Now if individual women really feel that the costs are worth it, or minor enough in comparison to intangible benefits—as evidently many do—I can’t argue, and I’m libertarian enough not to suggest that class analysis always be substituted for individual judgement in individual interactions.

  48. @Lynn Gazis-Sax, Marissa, etc:

    Far be it from me to suggest that women shouldn’t risk for the things that they value, and if many women see value in PIV above the unequal physiological risks, as a male individual I am hardly qualified to dispute their experience and preferences.

    I take my understanding of how women in the aggregate have historically experienced PIV from feminist writers like Anna Koedt. And even if most women enjoy it, is it really the case that it is the “main event” for women the way it frequently seems to be for men? And that, as a group, the construction of sexual practice even among liberal-minded couples leaves women with equal or greater overall satisfaction than men? Rarely is this ever suggested, so I am genuinely curious to know whether you think it’s true.

    Well, even so, if 1-4 is a fair summary of FCM’s argument, (2) is the least important “moving part.” It could be that even in the aggregrate, women are generally getting equal satisfaction from their sexual relationships and practices as men, but it would still be the case that the costs to them are higher. I mean, birth control, while a great and obvious benefit to women in relationships with men, has associated risks that men do not immediately shoulder.

    Now it could be the case that it’s just the price of being female, as someone said here, and that biological femaleness is just more expensive due to mammalian physiology. I have difficulty believing that sexual practice’s contribution to this cost is negligible.

    Also, I don’t think you can legitimately conflate or equate this argument with a religious fundamentalist one. Religious fundamentalists conceptualize social costs differently from groups based in class analysis, which surely includes almost all of feminism, even the parts that are less liberal-minded.

  49. I’m libertarian enough not to suggest that class analysis always be substituted for individual judgement in individual interactions.

    Pleased to hear it, Mandos. Part of the liberal feminist project is working to equip women with the tools with which to ameliorate the most negative effects of PIV (the “extra burden”). This includes everything from pleasure-centered sex education (which will invariably de-emphasize PIV as the be all and end all) to ensuring abortion access. As a liberal (and not a radical or a Marxist), I do believe in free will, in the possibility of agency, and in the importance of empowering individuals. We all (I think) stipulate to the negative consequences of our culture’s confusion of PIV with “real sex”, and we all long to build a sexual ethic that is more diverse, more pleasure-centered, and more concerned with the physical and emotional consequences of sex. What that looks like in practice will differ from person to person, and women are capable (here I disagree with radicals and Calvinists) of sufficiently divesting themselves of their cultural “baggage” so that they can make these decisions intelligently and with a regard for their own best interests. And they might choose to incorporate PIV, and they might not.

    We can honor the hegemony of the cultural discourse without overestimating its power to drive our lives.

  50. @LisaKS:

    But I don’t think I quite understand your point–I’m not talking about what drives men to be the P in PIA; I’m talking about what drives men to genuinely believe they want to be the A. This is the exact opposite of any posited component of maleness that requires them to be the penetrator, and therefore can in no way be explained by a problematic need to penetrate others sexually or of any kind of “male energy” (whatever that might be–is that metaphysical in nature or biological?).

    It’s standard in radical feminist theorizing to suggest that gendered roles persist among both gays and lesbians as they do in the straight population. I’m told that some gay male “penetratees” get prostatic stimulation. But that gay men are often recipients of sexual penetration isn’t that much more interesting to the radical feminist than that women are.

    Radical feminists divide into roughly two groups on the matter of the meaning and consequences of penetration: a “Dworkinistic” and a “Dalyistic” group, for lack of better terms. Or maybe, “cultural reconceptualizers” and “physiological metaphysicists”, but that’s rather clunky.

    The Dworkinistic one is the more liberal, although it might cause some raised eyebrows to associate “Dworkin” with “liberalism”, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s compared even a little bit of Dworkin’s and Daly’s writings. The Dworkinistic position is to say that penetration is a physical means by which the male gender inscribes it’s dominance on the bodies of the female gender.

    The ultimate consequence of this is that a solution to the problem of dominance will result in a world in which penetration and sexual practice in general would not be loaded with any particular negative meaning. Such a world would have a lot less PIV (or PIA) in it, and certainly PIV as currently practiced reinforces the dominance paradigms in the way that it is practiced, particularly in that its evidently obligatory nature around the world creates a presumption that female bodies are not private.

    But a world of radical feminist success would be a world in which the male body would no longer itself have a “loaded” value in relation to dominance over female bodies.

    The other view is that PIV is not immediately intended at a cultural level to be an instrument of male dominance. Evidence for this is the apparent commonness of penetration in gay male sex. But contrary to what you might think, this is even worse. It suggests that penetration is not a component of oppression, but a component of maleness. It should be apparent why this position is less liberal. It implies that oppression is partly rooted in the fact that the male organ is pointy…and that the seat of sexual pleasure in men requires intrusion into the space of others for it to be enjoyed with the participation of others.

    Conceptualizing this metaphysically will suggest that maleness itself is defined by intrusion into the space of others. Female bodily and psychic integrity is thus compromised when males as a group play a significant role in the lives of women as a group.

  51. Just want to chime in and agree with Lynn here. I question the validity of Mandos’s point number 2. But it’s an interesting argument!

  52. What that looks like in practice will differ from person to person, and women are capable (here I disagree with radicals and Calvinists) of sufficiently divesting themselves of their cultural “baggage” so that they can make these decisions intelligently and with a regard for their own best interests. And they might choose to incorporate PIV, and they might not.

    Yes, but the problem is that insofar as we continue to observe the disproportionate costs of sexual activity spread out over the entire class, we are also forced to wonder whether women really are making decisions in their own best interests.

    Sure: I myself can’t tell individual people what to do, and I don’t want to. But that doesn’t imply that individuals aren’t making choices (insofar as they are not simply denied the choice, of course) that in the aggregate disadvantage their class. This is the flaw in the Agency Argument. That it’s difficult/undesirable to berate other people for their individual choices doesn’t mean that their individual choices are really free and an emanation of their capability—even the choices of men, for that matter.

    We can honor the hegemony of the cultural discourse without overestimating its power to drive our lives.

    Yes, but the radical feminist complaint (from all parts of the big tent that is radical feminism) is that liberals *systematically* underestimate the cultural discourse in pursuit of their individual liberty, and hence diverge from the goals of class justice that are the main focus of radical writing. That’s what they mean by “funfem.”

  53. And even if most women enjoy it, is it really the case that it is the “main event” for women the way it frequently seems to be for men?

    While individual men and women vary, in the aggregate I’d say not as much the “main event.” And I’d definitely agree with a critique of the way PIV often gets treated as equivalent to “sex.”

    And that, as a group, the construction of sexual practice even among liberal-minded couples leaves women with equal or greater overall satisfaction than men?

    Among particular liberal-minded couples, that could go either way. For example, men who have sexual dysfunctions, but still manage to find ways to get their partners off, may suffer more of a hit to their sexual satisfaction than their partners. Partners with unequal sex drivers may get different amounts of overall satisfaction, and both who has the low sex drive and who gets the higher satisfaction can go either way. I don’t think equal satisfaction among liberal-minded couples is particularly rare.

    I do think that the construction of sexual practice tends to leave women’s sexual satisfaction, on average, less something you can take for granted. And that this (alongside, of course, the greater slut-shaming women get, and the different distribution of sexual risks in general) is one reason that, on average, men set a lower bar as to how well they need to know their partner before sleeping together. With the right partner, one may have an equal shot at sexual satisfaction, but that can go very wrong if you didn’t happen to pick the right partner.

    It could be that even in the aggregrate, women are generally getting equal satisfaction from their sexual relationships and practices as men, but it would still be the case that the costs to them are higher.

    Definitely the costs are higher, and not always shared. And, as Hugo says, giving women the tools to mitigate that higher burden is part of the liberal feminist project.

  54. Mandos,

    I think there’s a huge category mistake here. We’re talking about the risks associated with PIV yet the vagina has hardly anything to do with the risks we look at here – it’s the uterus. It’s the ability to give birth. Men can get STDs through vaginal sex as well, the risk may be slightly lower given marginally less mucuous tissue involved, but by and large that would be equivalent – the consequences are higher costs of giving birth, not PIV. Imagine in-vitro fertilization in an all-lesbian society without *any* dildo, and that risk structure would still not change a bit.

    Evolutionary biologists would say that the higher costs associated with pregnancy are the reason for different female sexual strategies – quality over quantity, and female choice (as opposed to the assumed male strategy of quantity over quality given the assumed lower costs of pregnancy). Now I think some kind of female choice with respect to sex is easily observable even though I believe that a good argument can be made that male sexual discrimination/female competition/mutual choice is what differentiates humans (and possibly other primates) from other mammals. And one thing really confuses me – you yourself brought up the ultimate argument against your current position in the thread at reclusiveleftist.com.

    I mean, back then you (and the host) suggested that motherhood cemented female centrality, both individually and collectively, a centrality that needed to be balanced out by coming up with other stuff that would make men feel equal to women on balance. Now you seem to see motherhood as a cost rather than a benefit to women. Which one is it?

  55. Mandos,

    “It should be apparent why this position is less liberal. It implies that oppression is partly rooted in the fact that the male organ is pointy…and that the seat of sexual pleasure in men requires intrusion into the space of others for it to be enjoyed with the participation of others.”

    Yeah, but that position is, again, like saying “fuck gravity, I want to fly.” There’s no need to even consider it. The other position can be effectively dealt with by Hugo’s argument.

  56. Something Lynn said upthread has been bubbling in my brain:

    And both seem determined to maintain that women can’t really want what they say they want. It’s just that the religious fundamentalist version of “false consciousness” involves trying to tell us that all we want is love, if only Hollywood didn’t corrupt us by showing us so much sex, rather than telling us that if we weren’t corrupted by patriarchy, we’d only want to select from a particular menu of sex acts.

    I’m still pondering it but that’s a powerful insight. It’s as if both movements believe women need to be protected from themselves.

    In Max Blumenthal’s book Republican Gomorrah he discusses the experiences of many women in the world of religious fundamentalism – women whose response to a personal crisis (whether divorce or a pregnant teenager or marital infidelity or loss of a job) is to embrace fundamentalist religion which teaches them that the problem is their fault for being insufficiently faithful, insufficiently obedient to men. It’s fascinating stuff.

  57. LisaKS,

    You asked: ” I’m talking about what drives men to genuinely believe they want to be the A. This is the exact opposite of any posited component of maleness that requires them to be the penetrator, and therefore can in no way be explained by a problematic need to penetrate others sexually or of any kind of “male energy” (whatever that might be–is that metaphysical in nature or biological?). ”

    The answer is that it is anatomical. A lot of men find a lot of physical pleasure in being penetrated, and this despite all the enculturation they get against it. Straight men engage in it with men to get that pleasure, to the extent of going to bath houses, pron shops and so on. There are straight men who are comfortable enough with to ask for it from their female partners, to the extent that Dan Savage said he was going to have to coin a name for it. He asked his readers what they thought. They decided to call it “pegging”.

    The anatomical aspect – there are men who can reach orgasm solely from being penetrated. Some almost immediately – “Sorry; I guess I’m not a very fun bottom.” The botom’s version of premature ejaculation. This is completely irrespective of sexual orientation. I am gay and being penetrated does nothing for me. Yet there are plenty of straight men who will pay to get done. There is not connection to sexual orientation. It has to do with stimulation of the prostate gland.

    As to who is in charge, as the saying goes, the bottom is always in charge. There is even an expression, expanded to other social domains, the “mean bottom”, somone who is demanding, entitled and intentionally difficult to satisfy – “You’re not doing it right; you don’t get me off, what about my orgasm?” The applicability to straight PIV is obvious.

    Glen, your comments have been really good, especially yesterday at 11:01.

  58. First off, I’m having a really hard time reading some of these comments because this topic makes me really, really angry.

    The very idea that someone who considers themselves a feminist could believe that they have any sort of right to tell me, as a woman, that my mind is not my own and that I don’t really like something (sexual or otherwise) but am brainwashed into thinking that, makes me think those people are JUST as bad as the hard core right-wingers and the “christian discipline” people.

    As someone who identifies as a feminist, I strongly believe that women have every right to make up their own mind and seek out their own desires. If a woman tells me she wants to be a stay-at-home-mom, I support her choice just as much as the woman who wants to be an astronaut. If a woman tells me she’s submissive and wants to engage in BDSM play with a man, I support her in her choice just as much as I would support a woman who does not ever have sex with men.

    I do NOT get to do her thinking for her or tell her that she’s brainwashed just because she may choose a path that is too close to traditional for my liking. If I have genuine concerns, I will address that, but in the end, I respect the right of women to be who and what they want to be.

    As a straight woman who enjoys various kinds of penetration with a penis, and has taken the time to consider very thoughtfully whether or not those feelings are genuinely mine, I take vicious offense to the suggestion that I don’t really like it, or that I’m losing or missing something by having sex that involves a his penis inside me. How dare anyone disrespect me and my choices and my enjoyment of my body (and his) in that way?

    Yes, there are uncounted numbers of women in the world who are having het sex that they don’t want to have, for all kinds of reasons. That does not mean that all of us who have piv sex are doing it for the wrong reasons.

    There is so much more I could say, but the fact is, I’m running out of time and this topic makes me so hopping mad that I should really go do something else for the sake of my own sanity.

  59. “It’s hilarious how MsCitrus talks about women’s “conditioning” as if men grow up in some kind of box, free of all of society’s expectations.”

    I do not think men grow up in a box, ffs. But radfems do not say anything about male socialization, because we do not care about what expectations men are forced into, because the only ones that restrict them in any way only restrict them from feminine behaviors, meaning they are based in misogyny. Men’s “right” to wear a skirt and not be called a faggot for it is a bit less important to me than women’s bodily autonomy. I do think men are equally subjected to conditioning, and thats it’s damn near impossible to overcome it.

    What I was trying to say by the clitoris comment, is that INTERCOURSE IS NOT NECESSARY. You do not have to stimulate the clit using PIV, ever-and the way most men perform PIV is terrible anyhow. (hammering basically) Most people have these things, I dunno if you’ve heard of them, called hands. You can use them to touch each other. Oh, and tongues. And they don’t tend to transmit HIV or other STDs to women like dicks do. Oh yeah, and they don’t put you at risk for pregnancy.

    No one ever said sex was evil, that people shouldn’t enjoy physical pleasure blahdeblah. The fact that me being anti-intercourse and anti-fucking is taken to be anti-sex says quite a bit about what y’all think of as sex. Just saying that you dun need to stick a dick anywhere to pleasure the clitoris makes people think I hate sex?

    Even if I am anti-intercourse, because of how men see it and how dangerous it is for women, and not for men, I don’t get where it follows that I think no one ever should have it because its soooo terrible. I never even said no one should have it. But the fact is, which many want to ignore, is that many women are having it for the wrong reasons, and this needs to be pointed out. I don’t see how anyone could translate Dworkin or radfems to equal anti-sex. I’ve posted that I have intercourse and enjoy it before on FCMs blog and no one shit on me or said I was “misguided.”

    Yes I really do think that no one can make a free choice, ever. I was (am?) a bit crass in my last comment obviously, due to frustration at how horribly FCM, Dworkin and other radfems are being misinterpreted (IMO delibrately so). But that doesn’t mean there’s a “one true way” or anything. I think the closest thing to making a free choice requires ACKNOWLEDGING that you are conditioned to do xyz, without any defensiveness about it. And preferably a period of making the choice you ARENT conditioned to make, so ensure that if you return to the one you’re conditioned towards you have experienced the alternative. For example, when I had intercourse, I would acknowledge that its possible I only felt I wanted due to conditioning. I think this makes it more of a free choice than if I just said “I DO WHAT I WANT” without questioning WHY those desires are there. My lover and I have abstained from it for the last half of the year, to ensure that I know I can go without it and (on my part) to see if he would get pissy or something because of it, even tho the intercourse we had was always pleasurable and I didn’t exactly NOT want intercourse.

    I swear people deliberately misinterpret anything radfems say, because no one ever said to stop having sex period, and yet everyone is freaking out is if FCM and I personally hot-glued a chastity belt to their nether regions.

    Random note: The idea that I hate sex…is quite a bit hilarious. My drawing tablet is pretty much a bunch of naked or partially clothed people doing it. When I’m not on radfem blogs, I’m reading gay fanfiction. Usually with smut. The “omg you hate sex” thing is SUCH a red herring, it really is.

    “Yes, but the radical feminist complaint (from all parts of the big tent that is radical feminism) is that liberals *systematically* underestimate the cultural discourse in pursuit of their individual liberty, and hence diverge from the goals of class justice that are the main focus of radical writing. That’s what they mean by “funfem.””

    YES this exactly. That anyone could take using “funfem” to mean we’re anti-fun is really amazing to me. I mean really, is ANYONE anti-fun (besides Southern Baptists)? The whole point is that we believe “funfems” overestimate individual resiliance to cultural conditioning and think that many of the things they support (ie pornography and BDSM) aren’t given a sufficient critical analysis because people are too busy gettin’ off on them.

    And yes Mandos, I remember you being naughty. :P

    Also, I’d really like Hugo (or someone else really) to address that creepy part of his post I pointed out, instead of just falling over trying to defend free will.

  60. Mandos:

    “It’s standard in radical feminist theorizing to suggest that gendered roles persist among both gays and lesbians as they do in the straight population.”

    It’s standard? Upon what is this standard based, and where does this suggestion lead to, given that it would mean that women routinely as a central, most important desire and then do penetrate other women with phallus objects in lesbian relationships if it were true?

    I agree that the type and form of sexual intercourse between two persons of any gender should be regulated solely by what gives them both the most mutual pleasure, not clunky societal conditioning about what *should* give either or both the most pleasure. However, both arguments you described commit the logical fallacy of reversing the chicken and the egg–if the historically dominant gender had an entirely different organ configuration, then we’d be able to spin an entirely different metaphysical argument around the deep meaning of the Whatever the dominant gender had to do to stimulate their part to orgasm by using the subordinate gender’s parts, both of which evolved solely to facilitate the transfer of new and potentially advantageous genetic material to the next generation and for no other reason. The problem is absolutely and utterly not penetration, it’s gender domination. Addressing penetration to cure gender domination is like addressing a runny nose to cure a cold. You are ameliorating a symptom but the cold will run its course and return in due time in an ongoing cycle for eternity–suppressing a symptom makes it actually more likely that you’ll never really address the problem because the problem is more bearable with the suppressed symptom, more tolerable.

  61. Grr, I hate typos. Delete “and” from the second sentence in my second paragraph, please, as soon as it comes out of moderation. :)

  62. MsCitrus: “I swear people deliberately misinterpret anything radfems say”

    On this thread, I would say it’s more your mode of address that results in misinterpretation. You’re probably aware of the hostile tone you took in your introductory post; it is difficult to consider what someone says in the perfect abstract when it’s opening line is “I I think this post is a load of bs and that the author is a creepy dude.” What you say subsequently is then supposed to be treated with more respectful consideration than you showed..? Based upon what?

    You also stated that you were “creeped out by everything Hugo said” so it’s difficult to know exactly what it is you want specifically cleared up?

  63. MsCitrus, you are certainly welcome here. The reference to women having sex “to affirm their desirability” was to something I think is universal, not gendered: the longing to know that we arouse someone else. The pleasure in being wanted is problematic from a feminist standpoint, of course, because so often it is the only pleasure we allow women (and it centers male pleasure). But there’s more to the longing to be longed for than sexist acculturation. We all — men and women, straight and queer alike — crave validation. That craving isn’t, I think, inherently pathological. The problem lies when that craving for validation trumps everything else.

    When I have sex with my wife, among many other things, I take pleasure in knowing that she wants me as I want her. It is that pleasure and affirmation to which I refer. If that’s creepy in your eyes, so be it.

  64. What I was trying to say by the clitoris comment, is that INTERCOURSE IS NOT NECESSARY.

    Oh, I totally agree that intercourse is not necessary. If that’s all you want to say, you can just say it, and don’t need any capital letters for it. One can have a fabulous sex life, and even a fabulous heterosexual sex life, without it. Depending on how you roll.

    But the post Hugo’s responding to, and the comment thread attached to it, suggested that men should not be considered properly feminist, unless they completely gave up PIV sex, and that even enthusiastic consent wasn’t sufficient reason to have it. I object vigorously to that view, and I’ll continue to object to it.

    Anti-centering-intercourse as the great pinnacle of sex for everyone, I can get on board with. Pro-people-willing-to-apply-a-slow-hand, I can get on board with. But anti-PIV-sex even for women who love it, I’ll object to any time it rears its ugly head.

    You do not have to stimulate the clit using PIV, ever-and the way most men perform PIV is terrible anyhow.

    This varies greatly with the man and the woman. There’s some evidence that “G-spot” and clitoral orgasms actually have the same origin, and that what’s called the “G-spot” is actually an extension of the clitoris. This may mean that women who readily have orgasms during PIV sex and those who don’t aren’t so much psychologically different, with one being frigid or the other kidding herself, as different in the size and positioning of their organs (similarly, men who do or don’t get off on being penetrated may to some degree be reacting to physical differences in the positioning of their prostates).

    Also, men vary a whole lot in their sexual technique. And some women who don’t have orgasms from PIV sex may still love it as foreplay to the main course.

    The fact that me being anti-intercourse and anti-fucking is taken to be anti-sex says quite a bit about what y’all think of as sex.

    No, it doesn’t. If you’d come out strong for the old view that clitoral orgasms are immature and women are “frigid” unless they have their orgasms during PIV sex, I’d have taken you to be just as anti-sex. What’s anti-sex, to me, is being anti people having the kind of sex they actually enjoy and get off on.

    But the fact is, which many want to ignore, is that many women are having it for the wrong reasons, and this needs to be pointed out.

    I question “many women are having it for the wrong easons,” at least as it’s applied to mutually enthusiastic and enjoyable PIV sex (which I think actually makes up the majority of PIV sex).

    I don’t see how anyone could translate Dworkin or radfems to equal anti-sex.

    I’m not convinced Dworkin was anti-sex, because my understanding is that she objected to certain cultural centering and valuing of PIV sex, rather than objecting to the practice lock, stock, and barrel. The position I’d consider anti-sex is the one Mandos attributes to Daly, more than the one he attributes to Dworkin.

    It’s possible, of course, that I’d change my mind about Dworkin, either to be more or less favorable than it currently is, if I actually read her book Intercourse rather than hearing about it secondhand (I’ve read some other books by radical feminists, with varied reactions, but haven’t read that one).

  65. I’m sorry to tell you, but this “fun-fem” thing comes across as quite pejorative. It reduces non-radical feminists to a bunch of ditzy little bubble-heads that aren’t really feminists at all. And perhaps some radfems think that.

    And again, I skipped a LOT of the comments, because this topic just makes me too angry at other feminists, and I don’t like feeling that way. But I certainly didn’t say the radfems in question were anti-sex. But this concept that I am essentially to drunk on my cultural conditioning to actually consent to it, really, really angers me.

    Yes, fingers and tongues are nice, in that area. Fantastic, even. But so is a penis. No, I don’t generally get off during piv without fingers being involved, but often times my orgasm is much stronger when there is a penis in there. And synthetic ones just don’t do it for me. When it comes to toys, I really only use them on the outside.

    And just because some men “hammer” and don’t have sex with you the way you want, doesn’t mean all men are like that. I doubt I’m just “lucky” in finding men who actually want to do the things that are fun for both of us, and who feel greater pleasure when I’m obviously enjoying what they’re doing.

  66. CMsCitrus,

    “But that doesn’t mean there’s a “one true way” or anything. I think the closest thing to making a free choice requires ACKNOWLEDGING that you are conditioned to do xyz, without any defensiveness about it.”

    you do realize the circular nature of that argument, don’t you? You make assumptions about your having been conditioned into xyz but if you assume you have been conditioned into xyz you don’t really have a base for acknowledging this, you may equally have been been conditioned into believing you have been conditioned into xyz. There is not end to that argument. Acknowledging the bounds of free will is a nice thought exercise but as every assumed limitation of our free will is a equally subject to the very same assumed limitations, we won’t get anywhere with this.

    It certainly doesn’t lend additional credibility to one position or the other.

  67. “many of the things they support (ie pornography and BDSM) aren’t given a sufficient critical analysis because people are too busy gettin’ off on them” I don’t think that there is any feminist within this culture who is pro-BDSM and not anti-porn who hasn’t had serious thoughts and analysis of them, especially females, most especially female subs. I think that anyone assuming that a feminist who is pro-BDSM and not anti-porn hasn’t faced these discussions or ideas is just flat out ignoring just how damned often they come up in feminist spaces. You may disagree with us, but pretending that we have never been exposed to these ideas or critiques is a really pathetic way of patronizing your oppponents. ‘Fools, since you have obviously never ever once thought about your highly socially unapproved, controversial, sex habits, let me give you a 101 lesson appropriate for a five year old’. It is possible for a straight vanilla woman not to have to critically examine her sex life, it is not really possible for a kinky person, or for someone that society sees as a woman who watches porn (because porn viewing and enjoying is considered culturally appropriate only for males, a woman who watches porn, particularly alone for her own pleasure, is being socially deviant).

    “INTERCOURSE IS NOT NECESSARY” Funny how you don’t seem to get that a lot of us who occasionally have PIV or PIA sex have lots of sex that doesn’t involve intercourse. Also, BDSM and other kinksters often have less, not more, intercourse in their sex lives than vanilla people. No one here said that intercourse was nessecary, only that it should be an option for people who find it pleasurable. I think that I could remove all intercourse from my sex life and never date or have sex with men if I really wanted to, the issue is that I don’t want to give up having intercourse when I feel in the mood for it just because someone else’s warped theory about ‘stealing female essence through penetration’ or that pentrated partner always equals submissive, or five hundred other things that clearly don’t reflect the reality of many people’s sexualities and sexual experiences. I also don’t appreciate concern trolling of radfems over my possible STD/pregnancy risks, in large part because it is the exact same shit I hear used as attacks on queer men and polyamorous people. What STD and pregnancy risks I find worth it is up to me and the people I am fucking (because they share in the risks), it is not up to some outsider trying to be judgmental about my sex practices.

  68. And the fact that Hugo and everyone else here FREAKED OUT when all FCM did was talked about how intercourse is damaging to women in ways it isn’t to men and say male feminists should not have it says a lot. Not to mention many kept accusing radfems of being anti-sex (whether via a conservative analogy or not), says to me that someone thinks intercourse = sex. People have called Dowrkin and FCM

    “You make assumptions about your having been conditioned into xyz but if you assume you have been conditioned into xyz you don’t really have a base for acknowledging this, you may equally have been been conditioned into believing you have been conditioned into xyz.”

    Dude, there’s this thing called the MEDIA. You can kinda look at it to see how we’re trained to act. You’re argument seems to be that there’s no “base” for acknowledging conditioning-and that’s a load of crap. You could look at aggregate behaviour of each gender, such as the FACT that women are more likely to enter low-paying, care-taking professions to get the crazy idea that maybe something in society conditions women to take those jobs. This is like 101 shit here, I can’t believe I’m having to explain this to you. Or is that I was just “conditioned to believe I’m conditioned”-which means all this pressure I felt to shave was just in my head. Sounds like you’re calling women hysterical here.

    The idea that BDSM is deviant or unapproved is hilariously stupid. That’s like saying rape is unapproved-hello, we live in a rape culture buddy. The fact is, I have NEVER seen a good argument that supports that BDSM is healthy-most of the time, BDSM defenders just come out and call radfems anti-sex or babble on about the submissives “choice” and womenz agency. I honestly do not care what submissives do at all-I have no problem with them, but I do worry about them. I take the same positions radfems do on prostituion: Don’t blame the women or the prostitutes, hate the johns. So I hate dominants, never submissives (unless they’re just a douche for other reasons, like calling me a prude). But yes, a woman watching porn is considered deviant-but not in a bad way, unless you’re in Utah. Dudes love women who go to strip clubs and watch porn.

    I do think it is men’s responsibility, however, to refuse to have PIV for the most part. I might make SOME exceptions for people in monogamous relationships, but again, men can lie and cheat so that isn’t full-proof. And of course this would require the man taking on the burden of birth control and ALWAYS using condoms, no questions asked. (except if they have a latex allergy, lol)

    Either way, I would still HIGHLY RECOMMEND abstaining from intercourse-it’s also a good test to see how much male-entitlement your partner has. Just like I also highly recommend separatism, although I’m not a separatist myself. I’d seriously suggest saying (whether or not its true) that you want to avoid having intercourse ever again. Or blowjobs, or sex beyond making out. Read their reaction, and you’ll learn quite a bit.

    And most men do hammer, or wish they could, thanks to porn and how men are in general. Y’all are probably far older than me so you haven’t experienced it as much-my generation was RAISED on internet pornography, and I’ve never met a man my age who didn’t watch it regularly. (Except my nigel, but that’s because his family was too poor have more than one computer, which his dad hogs for-guess what-pornography.)

    @Hugo – On the desirability thing-men will NEVER have as strong of a need to feel desirable as women do. Men are not compared to an impossible pornarific beauty standard the way women are. The fact that you say its a “universal” thing is ridiculous. What’s creepy isn’t that you want to be desired, ffs-it’s that you think its FINE for women to “consent” to intercourse because they want to feel desirable. I wouldn’t call that consent by any stretch of the imagination. Those men are doing the same shit pedophiles do to neglected children-they’re taking advantage of a human need for love and acceptance to “get some.” If you don’t know the woman well enough to be fairly sure she’s not doing it to feel fuckable, you shouldn’t do anything past kissing.

    I wouldn’t say you have much room to talk on consent either, since you SLEPT WITH YOUR STUDENTS. How feminists can consider you worth anything other than as an example of a creepy predatory jackass after that is beyond me. I hope your wife knows about your “affairs” with students, though unfortunately most women will overlook that sort of thing.

    And Hugo, you are a disgusting human being. I heard on FCMs blog you had slept with a student, and you confirm it on your blog. Not only that but you slept with multiple students. GAH. I can’t believe feminists link you-you should have no authority or legitimacy as a gender studies OR women’s studies professor, let alone a feminist. (I was gonna tell you this on those posts, but you closed the comments there, fucking coward.) I want to vomit reading your intellectual crap, because I’m sure you used the same tone to assure yourself that those affairs were “consensual,” and that you weren’t abusing your power. I’m only really commenting after learning this because someone needs to correct y’alls stupid interpretations of radfem theory. And to procrastinate on my assignment.

    But I guess hating stupid individualism-butILIKEIT-obsessed arguments (ie, this whole thread) is why I’m a sociology major.

  69. MsCitrus, I close comments on all posts after a few weeks, unless I’m specifically asked to re-open them. I’m happy to do so. Perhaps you have a new take.

    Liberal feminism is more than the simplistic “I choose my choice” discourse that both right-wing conservatives and at least some of their radfem allies believe it to be. Among many other things, it’s about the notion that the transformation of society begins with the transformation of the individual, and that individual’s subsequent willingness to take responsibility for participating in the transformation of others.

  70. Not to mention many kept accusing radfems of being anti-sex (whether via a conservative analogy or not), says to me that someone thinks intercourse = sex.

    That’s excessively literal. I consider anyone who composes lists of sex acts that are proper and acceptable and those that are not, for all people in all circumstances regardless of those people’s preferences, awareness of risk, and consent to be anti-sex, whether it’s Catholic theologians telling me why all non-procreative sex is wrong, or whether it’s you saying the opposite of that. Neither is technically entirely and wholly anti-sex, of course, but as the term is commonly used, scolds confronting consenting adults a list of sex acts they must forswear to be proper and decent people are the epitome of what ‘anti-sex’ means in the vernacular. I mean, it’s more literally true that, say, Shakers, but they’re all dead now.

  71. MsCitrus,

    “You’re argument seems to be that there’s no “base” for acknowledging conditioning-and that’s a load of crap.”

    my argument is that you have exactly the same epistemic authority in this respect as *every other person* – in your worldview “as much as every other woman”. You cannot claim to be less or more conditioned or have a higher authority than any other woman claiming to enjoy sex or motherhood, and when it comes down to it, no one is able to tell apart which ingredients of our desires are innate and which have been acquired. That doesn’t make them less real though. For all practical purposes, people do have agency and it is absurd to claim they don’t, *because your’d be abrogating your own agency* and without agency your own argument falls apart – can’t you see this? You’re making a logically impossible argument.

    “Read their reaction, and you’ll learn quite a bit.”

    I imagine. I think what this will demonstrate rather clearly is that female sexuality is valued by men to the extent that they would still want to be sexual with a person who is telling them that their sexuality is deeply pathological, who has, in essence, nothing but contempt, and who, given that, seems to be willing to objectify them for her own pleasure (even if only kissing) regardless of what her own demands on men in this respect are. Given that even women who openly and willingly exhibit such hatred for men and their sexuality are able to “get some” is, if nothing else, an indicator of the relative scarcity and thus attributed value of female and male sexuality.

    Hugo,

    I am very much pro Voltaire, but I don’t think he was talking about letting other people insult you in such a way on your own blog.

  72. I came to this blog through a butch’s blog, and while I find factcheckme’s tone quite offputting, I do find this topic particularly compelling.

    For whatever combination of physical and psychological reasons, I find P (or silicone P) in my V distasteful.

    This is definitely not because I’m anti-sex! I had a male lover (back when I still had those) who said he was worried he’d never find a lover as enjoyable as I was again. (We never had PIV).

    (And Hugo, I’m with you in saying that feeling desirable is one of the motivators behind sex, not just the physical pleasure itself, even though that feeling doesn’t lead me towards PIV). Even though I do think it’s more socialized for women, for sure, it doesn’t mean it’s twisted, in my view.

    For me, anyway, it was more than just language. I am quite capable of bucking the dominant paradigm in sex — for instance, I have always thought that fellatio is a power-up position for a woman, not a humiliating/sub act.

    But in my experience, penetrating is much more appealing than being penetrated, whether with hands, real dick or pseudo.

    I stopped having sex with men because I decided it was not reasonable to expect a man to give up PIV for the long haul, and because I wasn’t willing to engage in an activity that I didn’t enjoy as the price of admission for the activities I did enjoy.

    There is definitely not a lot of space in this world for a woman to be sexual and loving with a man and to decline PIV. It can even be problematic for some butches.

    But as the interwebs say, your mileage may vary!

  73. “There is definitely not a lot of space in this world for a woman to be sexual and loving with a man and to decline PIV.”

    I agree, and in my experience I have had orgasms from many sexual encounters PIV with no clitoral stimulation, straight clitoral stimulation, toys, hell even a kiss!!! If we were to define sex as the presence of a female and male orgasm either through direct physical stimulation, or indirect physical stimulation…it may be more intriguing to examine less direct physical stimulation methods…it’s about peaking interest, not turning it off.

  74. MsCitrus – I want to try a different approach here since I get the impression we’re talking past one another.

    Based on what you’ve written here, I’d guess you are relatively young, college, brighter than average. Sometime in the last couple years you came across not just feminism, but radical feminist theory. If it was in a class, you’d walk out of class feeling as if you’d been supercharged, every nerve tingling, your brain on fire, the impression that new tracks, new insights were being cut into you brain with almost every word. Suddenly, questions you never knew you had were being answered. Things that just never fit your before started fitting. You felt like you were home. You were feeling transformed by the experience. You couldn’t stop talking about it – it was so exciting, so REAL.

    And you wondered how is it other people can’t see the things you see. How can they just go about and not see and not get it? Because you’re bright, you start applying what you’re learning, you start seeing patterns you’d never seen before unveiling themselves around you. You come to Hugo’s website and it’s so plain how can the rest of us not see it?

    Am I right?

  75. Also, if an MRA made a post even half as offensive as MsCitrus’ he’d be banned in a heartbeat.

  76. Mr.C, to the extent that MsCitrus was over the top, she hoisted herself on her own petard. Her least temperate remarks were directed towards me, and she doesn’t make the blanket condemnations of all feminists that so many MRAs engage in. Let’s not play that game. My blog, my rules.

    My past is my past. Virtually everyone who knows my work knows my story and my rather familiar redemption narrative and the pre-redemption tawdriness and exploitative behavior. My work today is my attempt at a living amends, and I am graced to have the fearlessness of a fella who has no skeletons in his closet — because they’re all out for anyone who cares to see.

  77. I guess this discussion has been moved to the new thread, but I’d like to address what Sam mentioned. Just to give some background, what he’s talking about is an old thread in which I participated on another blog way back in…2006, I think, that has somehow retained a reputation in certain quarters.

    As I (vaguely) recall, that particular thread was on the…metaphysical/psychological origin of the patriarchal impulse and its relationship to female and male bodies, in particular, the frequent female capacity for pregnancy and the entire male lack thereof. The basic gist was that the female capacity for pregnancy tends to place women at a sort of social-psychological “center”, and the oppression of women is one possible response by which males bring themselves to this center. Then the question becomes: what are the alternative reactions, and based on that, how would males bring themselves to the social center alongside females in a non-oppressive way—in the hypothetical post-patriarchy.

    That said, Sam is right to suggest that the cost of PIV comes more from pregnancy/birth than it comes from STDs. eg, BC pills, tubal ligations, etc, etc, are more costly to women than any extant equivalents are to men. But it’s he who makes the category error. First:

    Imagine in-vitro fertilization in an all-lesbian society without *any* dildo, and that risk structure would still not change a bit.

    The only aspect of risk that cost that matters to a class-based analysis is the relative risk and cost. In an all-lesbian society with manless fertilization (there’s a few serious SF novels on this, such as Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite and the lesser known books by…Jean Stewart I believe, and of course Herland) the risk and cost is spread out among everyone, and is more likely to be neutral as a site of class oppression.

    Furthermore,

    I mean, back then you (and the host) suggested that motherhood cemented female centrality, both individually and collectively, a centrality that needed to be balanced out by coming up with other stuff that would make men feel equal to women on balance. Now you seem to see motherhood as a cost rather than a benefit to women. Which one is it?

    This is by no means contradictory with anything I said in that thread. That thread was about social centrality, and the human impulse to seize it. There isn’t a necessary direct relationship between social centrality and material benefit. It could be in many instances quite costly to have the spotlight upon oneself. But many humans seek it all the time, including in the gender space—or are pushed there, or are pushing there…

  78. Mandos,

    maybe it would be a good idea to check what you said in the thread back then – comments 41/44/88 esp. – I don’t think you’re remembering it too well.

    “The only aspect of risk that cost that matters to a class-based analysis is the relative risk and cost.”

    Fine, but what question does that answer? The risk is still largely related to giving birth and *not* sexuality. If all semen were sterilized and ovaries were planted in the uterus surgically, women could have all the vaginal sex they want without any additional risk.

    “This is by no means contradictory with anything I said in that thread.”

    I think it is contradictory. Because the centrality is based upon taking on the risks associated with motherhood. As many humans seek centrality all the time, we’re either back at the epistemic square one if you assume that motherhood is a “learned bad taste” in patriarchy and not an actual revealed preference, or you have to accept that women value that centrality higher than the risks associated. I’d humbly suggest that arguing now that men have created a system in which women are more central which then requires them to get some sort of male jojo to balance out the imbalance they perceive in a system they are assumed to have created to create that imbalance seems rather absurd.

    I’m sorry, but I think you made more sense three years ago.

  79. For whatever combination of physical and psychological reasons, I find P (or silicone P) in my V distasteful.

    This is definitely not because I’m anti-sex!

    I wouldn’t find you so. I’m with djw, in that what I find anti-sex is making lists of sex acts that other people shouldn’t enjoy even if they want to (whether it’s that people should give up PIV even if they both enjoy it, or that sex that gets people off without including PIV is bad and wrong because it’s not procreative enough).

    There is definitely not a lot of space in this world for a woman to be sexual and loving with a man and to decline PIV. It can even be problematic for some butches.

    I agree with you about this; also, a lot of the advertising to men about how to get women off is of the “make your schlong bigger and last a long time” variety (to the point where it’s even sometimes suggested that any woman who says she doesn’t care about a big schlong is lying), which is beside the point even to women who are quite happy to have PIV, but get their orgasms from other parts of the activity.

  80. “(to the point where it’s even sometimes suggested that any woman who says she doesn’t care about a big schlong is lying)”

    God…I hate that..Physiologically it’s actually beneficial for a female orgasm to come from a penis that is say roughly 4-5 inches HARD…being that the area behind the clitoris would provide a powerful orgasm…from.. gasp…penetration! Though yet again, women are so vastly different in shapes and sizes that the size of the penis would vary for maximum pleasure…but not that much.

  81. “There is definitely not a lot of space in this world for a woman to be sexual and loving with a man and to decline PIV. It can even be problematic for some butches.”

    Holy shit this is all FCM and I been saying all along. PIV is considered MANDATORY, and this is a problem. It is dangerous for women in ways it isn’t for men, and typically more pleasurable for men than it is for women. No one ever said you can’t enjoy PIV-I even said that I enjoyed intercourse with my nigel in the past. Fuck, I even talked about how I posted on that on FCMs blog and wasn’t flamed or told I was brainwashed, as people here suggest is what she’s doing. But conveniently, everyone ignored that part of my comment. And my confession of my fanfic hobbies.

    “my argument is that you have exactly the same epistemic authority in this respect as *every other person* – in your worldview “as much as every other woman”. You cannot claim to be less or more conditioned or have a higher authority than any other woman claiming to enjoy sex or motherhood, and when it comes down to it, no one is able to tell apart which ingredients of our desires are innate and which have been acquired. That doesn’t make them less real though. For all practical purposes, people do have agency and it is absurd to claim they don’t, *because your’d be abrogating your own agency* and without agency your own argument falls apart – can’t you see this? You’re making a logically impossible argument.”

    What I mean by agency is bullshit, is that no one is entirely making their own decisions. Duh to everything you said, we can’t know where our desires are coming from. That’s why we should be critical of them and question them, instead of blindly accepting them. People can chose to do things, but this overemphasis on “agency” ignores the institutional and social forces that shape how we express our agency. Focusing on “agency” is a waste of time, it doesn’t change anything and it erases the context of all our decisions. It’s a male-pleasing individualistic load of crap that serves to make men feel better about fucking over women. It’s far more important to critique the social structure of things, instead of getting into what individuals want.

    And no, I did not pick up radical feminism in college. We’re taught the same “sex-positive” crap in class Hugo teaches-agency, agency, individualism, blahdeblah. Except in sociology, of course, because that subject is less pretentious than philosophy and other white classist shit like that. (Not that sociology doesn’t have its problems, though).

    I really don’t see how people get so defensive about PIV. Pro-PIV and Pro-BDSM is the dominant culture (rape culture), so why is it necessary to defend it? To demonize and infantalize the people who are against it? I get that some people enjoy PIV-I did myself. BUT this doesn’t have to translate into hating people who are against it, or proclaiming them “anti-sex”.

    Also, to the same patronizing jerk, I am not against PIV because I’m stuck in an “adolescent developmental stage.” Anxiety against intercourse is HEALTHY, because intercourse is DANGEROUS for women. Acting like I went into radical feminism because I feared intercourse, however, or am just immature is rude and mean as hell. I guess my sexuality is “immature,” unlike women who don’t worry bout PIV. Thanks, Freud. But of course I’m the mean one, because I bluntly call a post bullshit and the predatory author a creep, instead of just saying I respectfully disagree. Excuse me for offending everyone’s middle class sensibilities by actually getting angry and upset at people being misogynist. Sheesh.

    Of course I’m going to be hostile-Hugo is a fucking rapist as far as I’m concerned, and “feminists” are listening to him. You can’t sleep with someone you have that kind of power over “consensually”-and even if HE says it was consensual, that doesn’t mean it was. We’re hearing the perpetrator’s perspective, and the sad thing is people are taking it seriously. I’m not going to take the word of a man who fucks women half his age while in an authority position over them on whether or not they were “willing.” He has every reason to lie on this, and I’m willing to bet he is. Not to mention, he never says who initiated these relationships, while he lists every other excuse for them imaginable (she wanted it, she was older than me, blahdeblah). This leads me to conclude HE initiated some of these relationships, which qualifies as sexual harassment. So even if you don’t think he raped them, he’s still a fucking creeper. It’s just plain pathetic that people are taking what he says about women and other feminists to be true.

  82. Pingback: Noli Irritare Leones » Blog Archive » If I can’t foxtrot, I don’t want to be in your revolution

  83. Lynn, Kristina,

    tangential, but still – I (being a guy) perceivse two discourses with respect to the penis. One – the MsCitrus one, let’s call it the “appendix theory”. That’s the one I grew up in, the notion that the penis as well as male sexuality as such is some sort of evolutionary remnant without anything particularly appealing for women. That’s the discourse that makes men wonder what on earth women could want with a penis and – as a consequence – what on earth they would find attractive about a man. From that point of view it’s puzzling. I remember being over the moon when the first woman who touched my penis mentioned how “beautiful” it was – that was a category I had never even considered in this respect (although she was apparently equally puzzled about just what I found “beautiful” about her vagina… so well, maybe that’s just the natural order of things).

    The penis-size discourse seems to be some sort of attached discourse in which, given the male confusion about the possibility of female desire for them and the “little difference”, intra-male competition becomes key. It’s for sure that a big penis makes a guy more confident (if it doesn’t lead to spontaneous fainting), and as confidence is probably the most decisive element in sexually attracting women, there may well be a correlation between female preference for men with big penises, although the correlation may not be directly owed to the penis size as such. Many of my female friends (who usually are unaware of my penis size) size, certainly girth, does, however, seem to matter. Also, if you consider dildo/vibrator sizes as a market driven indicator of size preferences by women (I mean, why on earth would they pick a dildo they don’t like size-wise?), my impression is that they are on the larger end of the spectrum, definitely larger than the average penis. I bought one as a present for a friend last year, because she didn’t want to go to a sex shop, and before she was worried about it being to large. I picked one that was on the upper end of the average and she said it was perfect. So, size definitely does matter in a couple of respects. Which is not to say that a man without a large penis cannot be a great lover (I suppose). It’s just a lot harder for him to get the confidence to become one and – as the guy Samantha dated in SATC did – not take it personal if she wants to use mechanical help in addition to his penis.

    Apart from that, we really don’t know a lot about female sexuality…

    http://www.alternet.org/sex/142104/why_do_women_orgasm/?page=entire

  84. Holy shit this is all FCM and I been saying all along. PIV is considered MANDATORY, and this is a problem. It is dangerous for women in ways it isn’t for men, and typically more pleasurable for men than it is for women.

    To use one example, since there are lesbian women and gay men, obviously interourse is not “mandatory”. Yes, they face discrimination, but they coexist with straight people and are gaining more acceptance every year.

    Two, since intercourse is the only way to propagate the species, and yet you claim the desire is socially constructed, I take this to mean that you flatly reject evolution. I assume you must be a creationist, then…?

    I’ll probably talk some more later, but right now I have better things to do than argue with an insane radical feminist (read: idiot) who thinks that making wild and unfounded accusations against the most tolerant person I know is a good debate strategy. Shape up, kiddo.

  85. ***deep sigh****

    MsCitrus – Take a deep breath and re-read the comments here. There’s been very little anger or defensiveness aside from your anger and defensiveness.

    You obviously misunderstood my last comment. Wherever you picked up radical feminism I’d say the dynamic is the same – it answered your questions, it excited you, it made you see things in new ways and you want to share it with other people. That’s what it means to be a person who takes ideas seriously. That’s what it means to engage the world seriously and thoughtfully. I think any of us who takes ideas serously has done exactly the same journey you’ve made with regard to feminism. What happens is that for a while it fills your head, you get excited, it just makes sense. But a after a while, you start to see some holes in the theory – questions it doesn’t answer. A for a while, you even accept arguments such as “Radical feminism isn’t concerned with men’s experience becasue . . .” But then it starts to nag at you. How can this theory work if it ignores half the people? And you start looking for ways to fill that gap, seriously reading critics of whatever set of ideas you’re examining and suddenly . . . you find something else, some other writer or theorist who offers you insights you didn’t have before and the cycle starts over. Some of those books will stay on your shelves and become books you pick up again and again and again, but others you will reread at some point and say, “Why was I so enamored of with this back then?” It’s part of the life of the mind. And it’s an adventure. But it can be rough.

    Your attacks on Hugo are a logical fallacy – ad hominem – attacking him without dealing with his comments and ideas on their own merit. I’ve been reading his blog for years and in that time, I’ve come to realize he’s one of the decent people – he makes mistakes and owns his mistakes and learns from them. (And he’s hot! Have you seen his pictures? I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers.)

    You’ve obviously misread a great many of the comments here; no one’s sensibilities have been offended by what you’ve said. I’d point out that the people posting here have taken both you ideas and factcheckme’s ideas seriously – seriously enough to debate them, think about them and even take the time to refute them; but there have been very few if any direct personal attacks on either your or fcm, while you have engaged in personal attacks and insults towards other commenters. Some of the criticism of your ideas has been harsh it has been directed at the ideas not the persons proposing them.

  86. I’ve been so open about my past that most folks who read my blog or work on my campus know she’s well off base. More than a dozen years have passed since I slept with a student of mine, and I have made amends to everyone I could think of, often in the most public way possible. I continue to grieve the harm I did, and work to undo it with patience and persistence and the complete absence of shame. Transformation happens, and I live it out under the scrutiny of a large cloud of witnesses today.

    But the personal attacks on others do need to stop. I do take FCM and MsCitrus seriously; the rhetoric may strike people as over-the-top, but they are making an important case that is very much consistent within one respected feminist tradition. (I disagree with their case, as is clear, but I think they raise interesting and important points worthy of discussion.)

    Civility and candor can coexist, and an insistence on recognizing the dignity and good faith of one’s fellow commenters is not the same as giving assent to their positions. Please keep that in mind, everyone.

  87. Hugo, what “respected feminist tradition” are you talking about? Because I can assure you that no one respects radical feminists, just like no one respects the Flat Earth Society.

  88. Careful, Id. I do respect that tradition — the tradition of Dworkin and Firestone and Millet and so many others. Much important work that started as radical has come to the mainstream, to all of our benefit.

  89. Well, in my opinion, radical feminists are roughly equivalent to MRAs, so I don’t see how you can respect them.

  90. I mean look at MsCitrus. Entirely ignore her political views for a second. She comes on here in some kind of rage and accuses you of being a predator, a false feminist, and a full on rapist at multiple points- and considering this is your blog it shows a high degree of arrogance and entitlement on her part. This is pretty typical of the radfem blogosphere.

    You’re a more tolerant person than I am, to be sure, and that’s a good thing. But I think at some point, I don’t know, you can just dismiss these people.

  91. Both. It’s more than just changing terminology, it’s about changing our whole understanding of sex (and PIV intercourse, which is one kind of sex among a host of other options). It’s about the discourse that informs us all. I’m not saying changing language is a panacea — but it is important. Language doesn’t just describe reality, it helps to create and sustain reality.

  92. Thanks for my deleting my comment, Hugo. Hit a little too close to home I assume. It’s frightening to think that liberal men don’t consider a professor sleeping with students rape, or even predatory. How I’m acting entitled or arrogant from looking at his past is beyond me. I have a REASON for my accusations, for fuck’s sake. Note that NO ONE has addressed those, except to say him being a rapist is “irrelevant.”

  93. Ms Citrus – No one that I’m aware of is saying “that liberal men don’t consider a professor sleeping with student rape, or even predatory”.

    If I had several accidents caused by drunken driving where I injured or killed others – I would clearly be a “murderer” or similar to some. To hear that years later would be different from shortly after the last “accident”. (None of this happened.)

    I have no problem with you Distrusting Hugo or Disliking Hugo or similar. I can accept criticism for sexist actions I’ve done in the past. I can accept a lot, though I may not always feel it is justified.

    I do have a problem with your labeling of Hugo as you continue to do here with terms that seemingly Define his character as you see it being – as opposed to owning Your Feelings in Relation to Him.

    I disagree with some of Hugo’s “Christianity” and focus upon it, but I’d hardly Blame Hugo for The Crusades and many other despicable actions that Christians have done to Jews and Others.

    I can respect Some of your ideas and certainly listen to your ideas. I find it less acceptable to hear your labels!

    I don’t think it any different than how people have labeled Andrea Dworkin and may others. Dworkin was obviously Much More Profound an influence on most of us than Hugo is and didn’t have a Past of which she was Ashamed due to things she’d done – as Hugo does, but she wasn’t “perfect” in her visions. Criticizing specifics of her ideas is fine, but labeling her as oft times is done shows More of the limitations of the Labeler than anything about her.

    There is plenty – if you want to criticize Hugo – related to his past and certainly material he writes of now. There is no need to make things related to Hugo or others as a: “you’re with me or against me” mindset as you are (unfortunately) doing. Thanks!

  94. I also don’t consider Dworkin and co. to be on the same level as most of the radfem morons I’ve encountered online. She was still a radical feminist and I disagreed with everything she said, but she was much less radical than the likes of FCM and MsCitrus.

  95. Another thing- radical feminists, with their constant use of the word “rape” (see MsCitrus’ posts) to describe almost any sexual activity, devalue the pain of real rape victims even more than the slut-shaming culture.

  96. Id – I’d be careful with criticizing the use of the word “rape”. While one can criticize a lot related to radical feminism if one so chooses, it had a lot to do with the general awareness of rape, domestic violence and related issues.

    To this day there remains remarkable consistency of self-blame: “if I’d not been drinking”, “if I’d not ….” that helps maintain the myths that Victims “Ask” to be assaulted. While awareness of acquaintance rape may be much greater now than 25 years ago, there still are myths that the danger of rape is primarily from strangers.

    Rape is and should be a “male” issue, and not primarily a “women’s issue” We men have NOT dealt with rape and domestic violence and truly made them and related issues “deviant” and “not the norm” to the degree that they are simply Not Acceptable in our society.

    Unfortunately Rape and Domestic Violence and Stalking and similar are very common in our society as is murder and the use of hand guns in The United States at least as a means of resolving “respect” and related issues.

    How many more years will it take for the socialization that breeds stalkers, domestic violence, and rape to radically change. When will it be Rare that we hear of the Star Professional and College Athletes who are in court for such issues.

    Our male issues are serious! We have White Male issues related to campus shootings primarily of young women that are never stated as “White Male Issues” and confronted. We are very good at scapegoating Poor Minority Young Men as well as Women and Girls.

    It is a fallacy that IF you have self-defense training you will “be safe”. It is true that you will not truly be safe until we Men learn as Boys and as Men that we need to deal with our issues through talk and listening and not by fighting each other and raping and otherwise assaulting women and girls.

    Personally I would much prefer hearing more use of the word “rape” and particularly more focus upon how we men are socialized (still) to be violent towards both Women and Men – we fight with Men (and Boys) and we beat up and sexually violate women and girls.

    I don’t need to agree with women like Dworkin or even Ms.Citrus – to recognize that they have legitimate, compelling important issues that oft times are Not dealt with without the pressures from Radical Feminists. It is no different than how it was as the Civil Rights Movement evolved when Blacks were told that they needed to “go slow” and not pressure Whites to move “too fast”. Many of the failures (today) related to racism relate to how we’ve not seen racism as a “White Issue” just as similar “violence issues” have not been dealt with because we’ve not seen them as “Men’s Issues”.

  97. Geo, that explanation is very much why I see compartmentalization as issues in society…it is done by all “separating” parties, and very much why I think men AND women need to be involved in the movement. Apparently, compartmentalization is done by both parties men and women and is a common psychological phenomenon that some feminists choose to ignore. The damage done to society is NOT just a women’s issue, so to make separatist comments like ones I’ve seen here is a hindrance to society as a whole.

  98. I’d be careful with criticizing the use of the word “rape”. While one can criticize a lot related to radical feminism if one so chooses, it had a lot to do with the general awareness of rape, domestic violence and related issues.

    I don’t disagree with your analysis of rape. However, most radical feminists- including Dworkin- use the word “rape”- which should be a word of power- to describe almost any sexual encounter, even when, by any reasonable definition, it is not rape. The word is used so loosely in those circles that it loses its meaning- apparently there is no difference between a consensual sexual encounter and a brutal gang rape in the radfems’ world.

    I don’t agree that we need to bow to insane people simply because they are feminists. The radicals have no point, their arguments are nonsensical, and I will say so.

  99. I think it’s important to recognize that “rape” is a term that goes beyond a strictly legal definition. If rape involves non-consensual sex, and we understand that things like a power, class, or age imbalance can sometimes vitiate the consent of the less-powerful party, then a seemingly “consensual relationship” between a professor and an adult student, or a president and an intern, or simply a very wealthy man and a working-class woman of the same age could — and I want to emphasize “could” be interpreted as “rape.” In feminist discussions where everyone has some shared views, it’s certainly possible to use “rape” both in its strictly legal and its broader senses without danger of the latter robbing the former of its awful power.

    I banned MsCitrus because she was repetitive and inflammatory. She can call me a rapist until the proverbial cows come home; that wasn’t the problem. It was her ugliness to other commenters that was far more problematic. In one sense she could be right about the word she uses — if consent is impossible between a teacher and a student, even of the same age, then yup, I was a “rapist.” The fact that what I did didn’t meet the legal standard of rape, and that no one involved ever complained, and that at the time, my behavior (rather stunningly) wasn’t even a violation of college policy, doesn’t change the wild inappropriateness of what I did. And in one sense (not the legal one), it was indeed rape.

    Should have I resigned or been fired at the time? Perhaps. But I wasn’t, and after nearly dying of yet another overdose in June 1998, I changed my life. And I can answer with confidence about my sexual behavior ever since. What I was before June 27, 1998 was worthy of revulsion, disgust, and perhaps pity. I had no business calling myself an authentic feminist then. I believe I do now. And those who know me best, who watch me and to whom I am accountable, know and see the truth I live every damn day.

    I ask to be judged on two things: the work I’ve done to make right what I did before June 27, 1998, and the man I’ve been ever since. I’ve got a twelve-year track record I’ll stand on with pride and gratitude. And shame ain’t got no dominion over me.

    My archives on this subject are substantial, and I think I’ve said what I needed to say.

  100. I think it’s important to recognize that “rape” is a term that goes beyond a strictly legal definition.

    Absolutely, I never said that the line we draw needs to be the legal one. However, there does need to be a moral line, and radfems don’t seem to have one. Dworkin didn’t say that all intercourse was rape (although she came close), but there are other radfems who have, and I believe this first and foremost enormously disrespectful to real rape victims, whose pain they are dismissing by putting it on the same level as a woman who enjoys sex with her partner. They talk down to other women- and men- and are highly arrogant and rude to anyone who thinks differently than they do.

    I think that what you did was wrong, and could even be called predatory (even that is a stretch). But to refer to it as “rape”? Given the circumstances- which I believe are truthful- that is beyond ridiculous. Teacher-student relationships may not be totally ethical, but claim that consent is not possible- when the student and professor are so close in age- is ludicrous. I don’t approve of what you did, but you are way too hard on yourself. Seriously.

  101. I appreciate that, Id. I wrote about making amends and that process recently:

    http://hugoschwyzer.net/2010/03/17/not-putting-the-skeleton-back-in-the-closet-a-quick-note-and-some-links-on-professor-student-sexual-relationships/

    http://hugoschwyzer.net/2010/03/22/i-dont-want-your-amends-of-consensual-relationships-happy-memories-collective-harm-and-montblanc-pens/

    http://hugoschwyzer.net/2010/03/24/i-cant-trust-your-praise-the-unintended-fallout-of-professor-student-affairs/

    In any context OTHER than a radfem discussion, no, I agree nothing I did was rape. But in that context, the word’s okay. And for the record, none of the students was half my age. The last time I slept with a student I was 31, and was at my “worst” when I was 29. Most of the women with whom I crossed a line I ought not to have crossed were about five to eight years younger than I was.

  102. Still… I know I need to be hard on myself so I don’t forget my past mistakes…it’s not to say I’m going to break down and kill myself for it…but in a strange way, it actually keeps me going..focusing on my bad decisions and not fluffing the situation keeps things in perspective for me, it makes me sure that I’m not dismissing a future screw-up as okay…but whatever works for you.

  103. ‘In any context OTHER than a radfem discussion, no, I agree nothing I did was rape. But in that context, the word’s okay.”

    This is an interesting and I think a valid distinction, if by this you mean they are using this as a term of art. It’s rather like the varying uses of grammatical terms – just now a couple of linguist blogs are collecting and ridiculing examples of lay people misusing the term “passive voice’. “Passive” to describe wording or tone is one thing, but “passive voice” has a precise technical meaning. It’s the same principle in reverse as what you are saying about the use of “rape”, specialists using a term more narrowly in the case I cite, but the principle is the same.

    And come to think of it, this broader use has etymology on its side. The term rape is related to ‘rip’ or ‘rob’ or ‘bereave’ and ‘rive’, and only since about the 1500s has it been applied to sexual attacks.

    The problem arises when the term has a specific legal usage that can lead to real-world effects in peole’s lives when it’s misused. so we really do in this case have to decide what constitutes misuse. No one ever got lynched for being accused of misusing grammatical terms.

  104. Thanks for the articles, Hugo. I’ll take a look.

    I suppose I see what you’re saying, although I think we just have to agree to disagree. In the context of radical feminism, maybe your actions can be called rape (like almost anything else), but since I despise that entire philosophy and consider it junk, it means nothing to me. It’s kind of like saying that two plus two equals five in the context of another dimension. Okay, but so what?

  105. Oh, I missed Sam’s comment:

    ”

    I think it is contradictory. Because the centrality is based upon taking on the risks associated with motherhood. As many humans seek centrality all the time, we’re either back at the epistemic square one if you assume that motherhood is a “learned bad taste” in patriarchy and not an actual revealed preference, or you have to accept that women value that centrality higher than the risks associated. I’d humbly suggest that arguing now that men have created a system in which women are more central which then requires them to get some sort of male jojo to balance out the imbalance they perceive in a system they are assumed to have created to create that imbalance seems rather absurd.

    I’m not sure I understand the logic here. While childbirth may bring women to a kind of psychological center relative to men, how does that reveal anyone’s preferences? Men didn’t create childbirth, neither is FCM accusing them of doing so. But now that we know where pregnancies come from, the question is ultimately how men approach female bodies knowing what we know. It’s orthogonal to the matter of social centrality, which is an issue that exists whether or not we know about the function of sperm.

    I’m not exactly surprised you like me on that thread more than you like me on this one. ;)

  106. Id – just stepping to say that, especially in the modern world, it’s flat-out out false that intercourse is the only way to propagate the species. It’s certainly the usual and perhaps easiest way for sperm and egg to connect, but the act of PIV intercourse itself is not “the only way to propagate the species”.

  107. I said that it’s the only sexual activity that can propagate the species, which is true. Furthermore, it’s the only viable way to do it on any sort of large scale. Point is, without intercourse, the human race would be destroyed.

  108. This idea of a female-only utopia that maintains its population has me very puzzled–how could it hope to reproduce?

    (It may be that I’m totally misunderstanding this argument, and if so I apologize, and I’d be more than open to hearing a more accurate explanation. This also might be a bit derailing, so feel free to tell me to GTFO if it’s so far off topic, but I’m curious for another’s take.)

    I’ll grant that there are technologies that allow for women to reproduce without sexual coitus (in the scientific sense of the word, ie. penile-vaginal), but in the end those are simply ways of remotely replicating it. As far as I’m aware, though, these still requires that an egg and sperm meet. The only difference is that it is done in petri dish instead of the uterus. You’re not removing the necessity of sperm at all, simply time-and location-shifting conception.

    There may be an as yet undiscovered method of allowing conception involving egg-egg interactions, but as far as I’m aware* such techniques have not been developed, and certianly have not been tested for efficacy and safety in humans.

    This also opens up a whole realm of problems, both practical and moral.

    1. artificial conception/reproduction would be, and is, very expensive. This would only exacerbate what are already large problems we as a global community have with economic inequality.

    2. sexual reproduction (i.e. reproduction that is not mitotic cloning) is very good at generating diversity in populations because of the large amount of gene exchange involved. Without this genetic diversity, you end up with a dangerous situation where an entire population is vulnerable to specific diseases or parasites. An example is the Gros Michel banana, which was by all accounts superior in taste but was wiped out by disease because all the plants were clones of one another.

    3. to counteract the genetic uniformity generated by the loss of sexual reproduction would take some very very complex and sophisticated genetic engineering. And honestly, if we are THAT advanced as a species there are probably better solutions available to us.

    4. Even if you could do all of this, you’d still have the problem with one partner in a relationship bearing the full burden of childbirth while the other stands idly by. I guess you could mandate that if one partner wants a child, BOTH (or ALL if it’s a non-monogamous relationship) parties must agree to become pregnant, but that creates other problems. .

    I’ve also never understood the moral grounds for this female-only utopia.

    I’ll be honest, the idea strikes me as fairly…radical? (Pun intended!). I’m not saying “FEMINISTS ARE MAN HATING NAZIS!” (I consider myself feminsit/pro-feminist/feminist ally/ and I know better) but when somebody is proposing the elimination of the male gender…isn’t that mysandry? I mean, if you’re honestly proposing removing a population from humanity you can’t also claim to value them as “people,” can you? Imagine if we discovered a way to breed using big culture vats and the Patriarchy suggested doing away with women because we don’t need their wombs anymore. It’s an abhorrent idea, right?

    Another problem is that unless there is some major breakthrough which allows for the complete removal of sperm from the reproductive process, men would still be required for reproduction. Or, their sperm would, at any rate. What would be done with the men needed to produce said sperm?

    I guess this whole talking point could be summed up in the question: how is replacing the Patriarchy with a Matriarchy an improvement? You’d still have inequality, just shifted onto a different segment of the population. I guess one in favor of this could argue “it’s OUR TURN TO BE THE OPPRESSORS FOR ONCE” but that’s just vengence, not equality.

    Honestly, if one wanted to go the route of eliminating men, it seems to me the only thing to do would be to eliminate women, as well. We could re-engineer humans to be hermaphroditic, removing inequality by modifying both genders instead of simply eliminating one from the gene pool.

    As a bonus, we could go the snail route and have fencing matches with our penises. Loser is impregnated. :)

    So…yeah. Sorry for the inquisition here. I’ve just never encountered this idea before and I’m really curious to know how it could work. If it’s really too off-topic to discuss here just delete the comment and I’ll see if I can’t find an explanation elsewhere.

    *I’m no expert in reproductive science, but my academic background is in molecular biology and genetics so I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the subject and that kind of technology seems like it would be a big talking point.

  109. This idea of a female-only utopia that maintains its population has me very puzzled–how could it hope to reproduce?

    This doesn’t seem to be a particularly difficult problem, given current technology. The simplest answer, it seems to me, would be to just harvest and freeze a lot of sperm before you send the men away. Should something catastrophic happen to the sperm supply, you can always save the species by temporarily allowing a number of males to be born and reach puberty. (note that I’m not addressing the moral foundation for such a society, as it’s really to absurd to bother with. But the practical problems are, given sufficient will and power to make it happen, eminently solvable).

  110. @djw

    That makes sense, but I guess I was thinking of something a bit different–a society in which the Y chromosome has been entirely excised from the gene pool.

    If you kept a bunch of Y chromosomes around and just birthed men when they’re needed that’s not really female exclusive, just a female majority. I mean, such a society would still NEED men to reproduce. You’d just need them less often and in petri dishes.

  111. What are you guys talking about? Yes, a small female-only community could survive with current technology- as could a male-only community, we can utilize artificial wombs- however, I’m talking the world. Couldn’t happen.

  112. Even if there was a female only utopia…how could you not possibly still be exploiting women? As far as I know technology doesn’t provide artificial wombs…and since pregnancy is such a danger…someone has to exploit those women…it’s acceptable if it’s other women???? Not to me it’s not.

  113. Id: again, no. Fertilization happens when egg and sperm meet; there’s not an additional requirement of a penis physically being present as some kind of chemical catalyst. Obviously PIV sex is the most usual and reliable way for this to happen, but it’s far from the only way.

  114. Yes, mythago, you’re correct. However, the only natural source of human sperm is the male penis- get the picture? Artificial fertilization- insertion of sperm into the vagina- is possible but not feasible for the vast majority of the population. Furthermore, it’s not a sexual activity between two people. And any kind of “accidental” pregnancy is so rare as to be dismissable as a statistical statistical anomaly.

    What are you even saying? That women get pregnant in a wide variety of ways? Sorry, guy, but for the most part- they don’t.

  115. What are you even saying?

    That you don’t seem to grasp the difference between ‘this is how most pregnancies happen’ and ‘women MUST endure PIV intercourse, for the Good of the Species’, which is the logical extrapolation of the only-way-to-breed argument.

  116. Well, firstly, I doubt most women would think of it as “enduring” intercourse. It is a source of pleasure for them as well. Secondly, I’m merely correcting an obvious falsehood- that, in this day and age, we could feasibly replace intercourse with artificial fertilization, even it was desirable (which I don’t think it is).

    Thirdly, you responded to a single sentence in my previous post. Interesting.

  117. (From Kristina) Geo, that explanation is very much why I see compartmentalization as issues in society…it is done by all “separating” parties, and very much why I think men AND women need to be involved in the movement.

    G – I agree!

    K – Apparently, compartmentalization is done by both parties men and women and is a common psychological phenomenon that some feminists choose to ignore. The damage done to society is NOT just a women’s issue, so to make separatist comments like ones I’ve seen here is a hindrance to society as a whole.

    G – Here I have some problems. I think that the Civil Rights Movement- evolving into The Black Power Movement and The Modern Feminist Movement have similar parallels.

    Black Americans in the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-60′s began saying to White Americans that they wanted to be “Allies” and that it was time for the Whites to go into the White Community and work to end the Racism there. The assassination of M.L. King – ended the era effectively – as Whites had NOT seriously done the necessary work (and reactionary responses took over). Whites didn’t “do the work” because it was a “Black Problem” and secondary to them (The Vietnam War also didn’t help matters).

    Radical Feminists were highly relevant in pushing a Feminist Agenda at least in the 1960′s-1980′s and most probably continue to be important today. To the degree that they wield potential power and influence continuing to the present it relates largely to the obvious facts that “feminism” and how it changes Male Behavior has been quite slow and oft times a total failure.

    I first became involved in the Pro-Feminist Men’s Movement in the early 1980′s. I wrote a lengthy writing in 1987 on men’s anti-rape organizing work. To read what I wrote today, 23 years later, most of the main ideas are still highly current, because we Men have changed little in the intervening years.

    I find it simplistic to blame radical feminists or women for what has failed, though obviously individual women have done “bad things” to individual men.

    Where men are “organizing” related to being male it seems to me to be largely caught in a split between the “sports only” misogyny of an often apolitical majority with the “good guys” (sic) oft times being followers of those such as Robert Bly, who can drum all they want into the sunset, without really changing men or society except by using their upper-middle class male privilege to “find themselves”.

    Yes – there are men who are “good fathers” and good supporters of feminism. There aren’t that many of them though and when the chips are down women oft times can’t count on all of them for support.

    Personally – I think that men will Only – seriously work towards change when we see How we’re hurting (and hurting others later on) related to our mortality rates (related to women) and many other ways that we are “the weaker gender” despite the power that we wield as men.

    Kristina – I agree that women such as some that you’ve criticized Don’t help get more men involved. At the same time I think that we men lack the excuses in Not doing the hard work that can logically come from recognizing that we aren’t and don’t want to be: 1.) The warriors, 2.) “THE breadwinners” and 3.) The Head of the Family – roles that largely are dying and gone.

    We’ve Not done the difficult, tough work of building a new masculinity which deals with our Homophobia (even when we’re Gay) and our related Violence directed at both Women and Men and much more that is important. We are “the weaker gender”. Our death rates are higher from birth onward. Thanks!

  118. “Personally – I think that men will Only – seriously work towards change when we see How we’re hurting (and hurting others later on) related to our mortality rates (related to women) and many other ways that we are “the weaker gender” despite the power that we wield as men.”

    I agree in revealing the “weaker” gender…I’m just not sure over-asserting ourselves as women will make that point.

  119. Geo- I struggle to see a balance in which we can engage men without making them withdrawn (which is a knee jerk response to modern feminism)or by encouraging them so much so, that they can conveniently ignore their pain and enjoy their “power”… it’s funny as the most connected group to realizing the weakness of men, are MRA’s, but unfortunately they have perceived their weakness too greatly and refuse to see the “power” they hold over women in general…thus blaming women, and misdirecting their anger…I have sympathy for those men…for all people in general, especially knowing where the anger comes from (fear and pain). I have been through many rough times in my 26 years of life, and the best thing I have ever done for myself is to withdraw from people to observe, on occasion the insanity is overwhelming. :)

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  121. Geo:
    Black Americans in the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-60’s began saying to White Americans that they wanted to be “Allies” and that it was time for the Whites to go into the White Community and work to end the Racism there. The assassination of M.L. King – ended the era effectively – as Whites had NOT seriously done the necessary work (and reactionary responses took over). Whites didn’t “do the work” because it was a “Black Problem” and secondary to them (The Vietnam War also didn’t help matters).
    I can see your desire to make this comparison (I’ve seen it often) however I don’t think a comparison between racial equality and gender equality will hold up too well simply because the imbalances aren’t as one sided in gender as they are in race.

    While getting white people to work among themselves on how they treat black people would do a lot of good (if not damn near totally resolve it) on racial equality getting men to work among themselves on how they treat women is only 1 part of gender equality. A big part mind you but not the enter picture by any means.

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  123. From a purely personal perspective: I NEED PIV, regularly, otherwise it hurts… I’m a woman. In my relationships I’ve never thought about being penetrated or whatever, I just enjoy it. My ex-boyfriend made a wonderful line drawing of what it felt like to be inside me,I guess you might say, to be envoloped, it looked delicious.

  124. I don’t know if I need PIV. I have a very hard time orgasming from intercourse alone unless I’m getting clitoral stimulation from my fingers or a vibrator.

    But I like PIV. I’ve also had VOP (vagina over penis) sex. To put it differently, I’ve “been penetrated” and I’ve “enveloped” men, but not at the same time. There is an exchange of power in intercourse that can shift often, not only over the course of a relationship but even within the same act of sex. I’ve fucked and been fucked, and both can feel wonderful.

    Orgasm isn’t the only barometer of pleasure. I love to cum, don’t misunderstand me. But I don’t fuck just to cum anymore than I just fuck to conceive. I fuck and am fucked to feel free, to feel close to my boy. And whether that’s because I’ve been brainwashed by the sexist culture or not, I don’t give a shit. With reproductive rights under assault and the teabaggers on the rise, trying to convince women that they shouldn’t like intercourse with men seems like the last issue any feminist should focus on.

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