***my photos of the march***
the sex industry
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This week on We Have Brains, we finally sit down and talk about that oft-discussed feminist topic: the Sex Industry.
[It's so much fun to capitalize, isn't it? Makes it seem like That Horrible Industry That Might Devour Us Whole.]
I unloaded some of my random thoughts on pornography/erotica a few weeks ago. So as not to bore those of you playing the home game, I'd suggest you read them: here (if you're interested). Suffice to say - I see no reason why women shouldn't actively participate in porn. Creating and consuming, both. So, why aren't I doing more of either? Quite honestly, I'm one repressed chica. I hardly even talk big when it comes to things sexual. But I am working on it.
I'll also add to my previous comments, that I believe the only difference between "porn", "erotica" and "erotic art" is taste. Many people may disagree. Here, on this blog, they're all wrong, and I'm right. If it titillates you, call it whatever you want. It's all the same to me. Well, that's not entirely true - I've seen some sexy art that actually challenges the psyche enough to meet my definition of art - but it's rare as hell.
So. Given that. Pornographers are entertainers. In my book, that's equivalent to being Disney, or the guys who make Grand Theft Auto. Entertainment is a vehicle for release - of whatever in you needs releasing. Entertainment is okay. Television is okay! Porn is okay! All of these things can, at times, cross lines for different people, can turn offensive. Different people have different lines. Ergo, no one line can be drawn culturally (much as I'd like to draw my own and line people up on either side of it).
What I'm trying to say is - porn is no more dangerous to the psyche than any other form of entertainment. Any form of fun can turn dirty, but that does not justify keeping people away from it via legislation or cultural stigma.
Okay. Porn topic over. For now.
Let's talk about sex workers. I have yet to meet even one sex worker who feels degraded and exploited by her work. Whether they be phone sex operators, prostitutes, or strippers, every woman I've met who represents some aspect of the sex industry has chosen her career and largely enjoys it. Now, admittedly the sex workers I've met have all been American, and that makes a big difference.
But I will not sit by and allow other people to declare these women's voices null because they don't fit some sort of stereotype of the victimized woman forced into a life of degrading sex. We cannot ignore the viewpoints of the people who are actually doing the work we theorize about while we theorize about their work. [Dr. Seuss would be so pleased with that sentence.] That's just plain patronizing - and more importantly, it leaves out one of the most valuable perspectives on the discussion - it's like talking about the "Woman Problem" in 1910 without talking to a woman.
So, what have I heard from these sex workers? This. Sex is fucking empowering! Why do you think fat folk are so keen to prove their sexiness? Because they know that being sexual is a source of power and satisfaction. Sex can be deeply spiritual - and I don't just mean the high you get from sex with someone you rilly rilly luv - sex is one of the most basic human desires, and sex work in all its forms can tap into a certain primal male/female identity for some people. And hey, if you add the often very nice money you make while doing it - well, that's a pretty good case for sex work.
That's not to say that there are no sex workers who feel they've been exploited. Simply that it's not fair to assume they all are when that isn't their experience of their own situation. That robs people of self-determination. That is, in my book, anti-feminist. Just as it would be for me to assume that the handful of strippers I know represent all strippers ever.
When we talk about The Sex Industry without talking to the people who are the industry, we continue to marginalize that work. We fail to understand its appeal. We guess. And we gloss over critical issues like the need for healthcare and other benefits for sex workers. In short, we make ourselves stupid and narrow-minded.
vaginas and their monologues
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I did not like The Vagina Monologues. But, for the sake of We Have Brains, I'll talk about it a little.
but wait! there's more »
I have to say, the word vagina just bothers me so much. I'd rather use cunt. I'd rather use darn near any other word for it. So, I'm not interested in hearing "vagina vagina vagina vagina". Nope. [Apologies to those of you who already know this, but I don't like the word because it means "sheath" in Latin. The vagina-completed-by-penis aspect of that bothers me. So, I prefer the indeterminate etymology of cunt. I don't care if it does mean any of the things Inga Muscio claimed, it at least isn't flat-out Freudian. Bah!]
So. I didn't like The Vagina Monologues in part because I do not like the vagina. I also don't care for Eve Ensler much. Her delivery, her "acting", if you will, was so pedantic and intrusive and slightly condescending in the version she did all by herself. Now, the versions with other, local women working together - those are okay. They're about women discovering commonality, and that sisterhood thing is, as bell hooks'll tell ya, powerful.
I do, however, feel pretty okay with my own cunt. I'm not quite to the speculum-peering my-cunt-is-my-inner-female stage, but I'm conscious of my bleeding and my sex. I pay attention to my cunt as a part of my body, something that has animation of its own but is still part of me.
It does not. Give. Monologues. No more than my mouth could give monologues without the rest of me. It would no more wear lipstick than my arm would [Ha, although given certain circumstances, it might perhaps wear my arm, in a manner of speaking.]. I have difficulty grasping the "Huzzah for my vagina!" aspect of the new feminism.
Part of that is, I think, that I feel a need to consider my body as a whole, a usable unit rather than a series of joined components. I need grounding in my body, and talking about my cunt like it's an anatomical marvel doesn't make me feel stronger and more womanly - it makes me feel distant and apart from my physical aspect.
« get it out of my sight!
tangents about sex
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Here's something that irks me: holding up "The Greeks" (meaning classical Greeks, nothing to do with sororities or fraternities) as a culture tolerant of a wide range of sexualities.
It irks me because, well, it just doesn't appear to be true. I mean, yes, classical Greece accepted men having sex with me - but only to an extent. Classical sexuality was understood more in terms of power than love, and people with power [men of age, the only Greeks really referred to as "citizens"] could penetrate the less powerful objects of their choice. Who a citizen could associate with was not so much a question of gender, though marriage between people of the same sex was hardly even considered. Marriage was a social and procreative necessity; the notion of marriage as a commitment born of love simply didn't exist.
And yes, there were those who spoke of love between equals (for instance Plato, though he only advocated love between equal men), but that would have been a radical philosophy.
It annoys me when we bend history to fit what we wish it had been. I'm sure I have some distorted ideas about how things went down at various points in the past. I haven't researched everything in detail, and it frustrates me to have to do so in order to be sure I get an unbiased perspective. Shouldn't I have gotten that in history class?
[Yes, I can just imagine a frank discussion of classical perspectives on sexuality along with the seventh grade social studies examination of gods, goddesses and architecture. It would go over so well.]
Anyhow, I read someone somewhere talking about how the Greeks were just totally cool with homosexuality, and of course I had to open my big mouth and sound educated.
It also made me think of something Rev said recently, about the words we use to insult people. We say fuck you and we're screwed and bite me (well, maybe no one says "bite me" anymore).
And these are all essentially words that talk about sex classical-style. That is, sex where one person has the power and does the action, and the other is a passive vessel. Taken in a contemporary context, these words really do imply abuse and rape. We use them so often that they've practically lost any meaning. But it's still pretty creepy.
I mean, I won't even let people say vagina around me, because its meaning offends me [not what it means now, what it used to mean - "sheath"], but I say fuck a lot. Enough that I wish I hadn't thought about this - what will I fill my potty mouth with now?
I don't know whether these words incite us to violence (I'm certain they don't directly, but indirect effect is much harder to pin down), and I don't know what the taboos around these words say about our attitudes towards sex and violence (maybe nothing), but I do think it's worth considering your word choice.