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Pre-2008 Posts

Feminist Hierarchies

Okay.

Over at Twisty's there is a debate (politely and respectfully) raging over women giving men blowjobs. I did not read every post carefully, but based on what I did read, the pro-blowjob contingent greatly outnumbered the anti-blowjob contingent (which included Twisty; her post was anti-.) Fairly late into the thread, a commenter with the screenname "Puffin" challenged the practice with a fair amount of eloquence and alacrity, tensions then increased, and finally another commenter said (paraphrased and in apparent exasperation), "I will not be told how to be a feminist and I will not buy into someone else's feminist hierarchy." Meaning, I guess, that to be challenged over the practice of giving head is to be told how to be a feminist and to buy into someone's feminist hierarchy?

How so?

What, exactly, is the reasoning there? Because discussions like this almost always end up this way, and I never understand why. Since the pro-blow-job contingent greatly outnumbered the anti- contingent, and since pretty much the entire Western het world accepts and endorses blow jobs during het sex, doesn't it make more sense that the antis would be on the defensive? That the antis would feel that they were being told how to be feminists? How is it creating a "hierarchy" or telling feminists how to be feminists to merely issue a challenge to what amounts to standard practice in heterosexual relationships?

Challenging what goes on in women's beds, especially heterosexual women's beds, is central to radical feminism, and that is because from time immemorial, girls and women have been harmed in our beds at the hands of men who were having sex with us. For millennia, we told no one about that harm. We didn't utter a word, because it wasn't proper, or because we were scared, or because we thought we were the only women on earth this was happening to, and we were ashamed, because we thought we deserved whatever was happening to us or because we were told we deserved it by the men violating us. It is finally talking openly about what had happened to us in our beds as girls and women at the hands of men, recognizing that we were all experiencing similar violations, which gave birth to the Second Wave. We realized what had happened to us in our personal lives, including sexually, was not just personal, it was also political. And the solutions to violations, we also realized — and were empowered by the realization — were to be found not only in the personal, but in political action and activism. We weren't alone. We had one another.

In this day and age, men and boys expect to be sexually serviced in certain ways, often because that's what they've seen in pornography, heard about in music or from their friends. They expect blow jobs. They expect anal sex. They expect that their pornography use is going to be tolerated and accepted. Those are the societal and cultural messages they hear all of their lives, and they are patriarchal, male supremacist messages, because what girls want is not factored in. Girls and women have seen the same pornography, have heard the same music and talk and messages, and they are going to also believe that these acts and practices are part and parcel of het sex, unless they occasionally hear feminists throwing down over anything that is sexually questionable, that may hurt women. When we, as radical feminists, throw down, it isn't for the purpose of butting in, it's for the purpose of raising male, female and public awareness of the fact that everything — everything — heterosexual must be open to negotiation, analysis, critique, discussion, challenge, confrontation. Men and boys should not expect anything at all sexually from girls or women– ever. Girls and women should not be made to feel that any act is expected of them during het sex– not a one. But girls and women, boys and men, for that matter may not understand or get it that everything sexual is up for negotiation unless they hear feminists challenging various practices on the basis of whether they are liberating and empowering to women or degrading and oppressive.

Challenging doesn't create "hierarchies." Challenging is not "telling other feminists how to be feminists." Challenging is just challenging. It is what, as feminists, we are here to do. If we don't challenge a male heterosupremacist status quo, then it never ends, and we are never free.

Heart

Discussion

60 thoughts on “Feminist Hierarchies

  1. I completely agree with challenging sexual practices that can be and are used to humiliate women and deprive them of their individual choices. I’m pretty sure MsKate who you took the feminist hierarchy quote from agrees with that as well. The disagreement arose when Puffin denied the possibility that you can be a feminist and not have a general aversion towards giving blow jobs. Even though several comments made clear that the authors were aware of the conflict between men’s expectations and own desires, and power issues and reasons for giving blow jobs were discussed, Puffin insisted that female “proponents” were not really exerting their sexual agency, but were merely justifying their subordination to patriarchy towards themselves and the others. In my view, this is not challenging women over the practice of giving head, as you say, but patronizing women.

    Posted by Wolke | June 15, 2006, 11:28 pm
  2. I loved Puffin’s post. I thought it was well-written and wicked witty.

    It’s funny–if Puffin had said, “chocolate sucks”, would all the chocolate lovers be that po’d? They may disagree, they may say, “well gal, that’s your opinion”, but somehow I really doubt they would object so vehemently.

    All that talk over at IBTP about oral fixations, how they’d be lesbians if it weren’t for The Dick Factor (as though the choice of who to share your bed with isn’t a choice!), and the knee-trembling pleasure that comes from cock-sucking looked way OTT to me. Some commenters there seemed to be trying to rationalise their acqiescence to an act they’d rather not perform by banging on about how old thumb-sucking habits die hard and shit.

    And there’s something vomit-inducingly Christian about giving your S.O. a blow-job as “a gift.” It just reeks of the conservative view that sex is something that men enjoy and women endure, and women just have to (pardon the unintentional pun) suck it up.

    Heart, you’re right. No-one should have to do *anything* they don’t want to do. Sex therapist Tracy Cox said that if women don’t give men head, they have the right to get it elsewhere. Me? I have this wacky idea that it’s not the most feminist thing in the world to badger women into performing fellatio on demand, and any specific act designed to stimulate your genitals is way less important than THE PERSON YOU’RE WITH.

    I’m funny like that.

    Posted by alyx | June 16, 2006, 12:41 am
  3. Yeah, I’ve been avoiding reading that thread. It actually seemed uncharacteristic of Twisty. Usually when Twisty argues something controversial, she does it for other reasons than simply wanting to pick a fight. And this, to me, was just shameless fight-pickin’.

    But yeah, I agree that, obviously, the “antis” should be the ones on the defensive, the ones claiming they’re being told what to do, not the “pros.” These arguments about blow jobs — I’ve had a few — always make radical feminists especially pissed, in my experience, because you get the one side who really wants to make the argument that all sex is okay if it isn’t hurting anyone (and then they realize, damn it, that’s what a lot of sex-positive people say and I can’t use that argument) and then you get all the heterosexual feminists flipping out because they think you’re telling them that heteros are not as feminist as homos.

    Personally, I think you are a shitty, awful feminist if you don’t believe in the all-mighty soothing power of grape popsicles. That’s just where I draw the line.

    Posted by Edith | June 16, 2006, 3:41 am
  4. I disagree. What Puffin delivered was a scornful scolding. Tough enough to take when addressing intimate acts fraught with patriarchial myth. When so called literary devices are used, including claiming that people said things they did not actually say, you’re bound to get some blow back.

    Posted by thebewilderness | June 16, 2006, 5:17 am
  5. If puffin was misrepresenting anyone’s arguments, she wasn’t the only one: People were ascribing all sorts of stuff to her that she never even mentioned.

    Bewilderness: Sophist (a man) called Puffin an asshole. Many commenters took offence at puffin’s harsh but humorous posts, but not one said anything about the name-calling.

    I was more offended by the fact that a man called a woman an asshole on a feminist blog than I was by anything puffin said.

    Posted by ReSister | June 16, 2006, 5:41 am
  6. I haven’t read the thread, but I just wanted to commend ALL of you for being open to discussing such matters respectfully and politely. As a former heterosexual (not out of the closet yet, just celibate for many years) I need to say that what men expect from us has changed DRASTICALLY during my short lifetime. I am only 41, but back in my day even the sickest pervs I got myself mixed up with did not ask or expect me to shave my pubic hair, which appears to be the norm, and I only once had to fight off (successfully) a guy who wanted me to submit to anal sex as punishment for an imagined infidelity.

    In spite of my outrage over what so many younger women endure as “normal” these days, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that I had the right to refuse oral sex. I may be too old to contribute much to this sort of discussion, but I just want to say, you go, girls! and that I’m glad that somewhere in cyberspace my daughter might be empowered by women who actually think about such matters and are not afraid to speak their minds.

    Posted by anonymom | June 16, 2006, 4:08 pm
  7. Puffin’s opening salvo was to call any women who said they enjoyed blowjobs “soulless.” When called out on that, Puffin attempted to give a more in depth answer, but the damage was already done. You can’t open a discussion with a blanket casting of your opposition as soulless and then expect polite, level headed responses to what you say further down the road.

    Posted by Sifl | June 16, 2006, 6:34 pm
  8. I am in Los Angeles this weekend and can only check in sporadically — argh when there is much to say! Thanks for the good and interesting thoughts. I appreciate Twisty's courage so much. I don't think her intention was to start a fight. I think her intention was to speak her mind. Her blog is, as she states right there at the top, dedicated to promoting her radical feminist views. There are all sorts of folks who hang out at IBTP, including quite a few liberal white guys who, I guess, think of themselves as allies to women (whatever, but go Metal Prophet! Yes!), but it's Twisty's blog. She is entertaining for sure, and smart as hell, and funny,  and much appreciated by anybody with an ounce of intelligence — how could you not admire what she does?  damn! — but she *is*, nevertheless, a radical feminist. In general, those of us who identify as radical feminists don't do blow jobs– and that's whether we're het, lesbian, or NOTA. Andthat is, once again — shouldn't have to be said, but whatever — not because we are prudes or hate sex or whatever-the-hell– it's because of what a woman giving a man a blow job *means* under male heterosupremacy. It can't be shut up to whatever we decide it's going to mean. What it means isn't something that exists in our minds or that can be bracketed off from a surrounding culture which relentlessly oppresses and sexually subjugates women. How difficult is it to see the woman-hating in the "climax", har har, of every last porn video, just about, the "money shot" so called?  Come on.  Well, I don't have time and there's so much to say. I will be back off and on but wanted to say this much for now. Alyx. I really appreciated your comment — let me add you to the blogroll! Anonymom, thanks so much for that. You are speaking my mind when you say that so many girls and women have *no idea* they can refuse oral sex. I don't know. When I read progressive, feminist women talking about giving blow jobs but drawing the line at these guys pulling their fucking hair, pushing their heads, what the freaking hell. Dear god. Those are acts of subjugation. Those are displays of dominance. It's not that complicated.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 16, 2006, 6:42 pm
  9. Heart, that gave me, a black male, something to think about. I hope you don’t mind me intruding. Thanks for that clear statement.

    MJ

    Posted by Maxjulian | June 17, 2006, 12:24 am
  10. Thank you! Thank you so much for this. I don’t actually want to argue with anyone about the merits or otherwise of whatever they do in their own time and the privacy of their own four walls and I don’t want to talk about my sexual history either. So I didn’t feel able to contribute to the thread on IBTP.

    But I believe that the personal is political. I don’t believe anyone can be real when they say “yeah…I recognise the subjugation of my sisters but it’s ok for me because….” I believe you practice what you preach and, for me, anything that is promoted as mainstream (especially sexual) subjugation of women is a no-no.

    I love my (male) partner deeply. And he loves me. And he understands the significance of my ‘personal’ in relation to my ‘political’. He knows I’m a radical feminist and he is continually learning how, and why, that impacts upon our lives.

    Nothing will change if we continue to ‘make allowances’.

    Posted by witchy-woo | June 17, 2006, 2:46 am
  11. I don’t like to give blow-jobs and so I’ve made it clear that I’ll only partake when I feel it’s something we can both enjoy. My partner is respectful of this choice and I’m thrilled to have such a person in my life. We both make some sacrifices for each other, but while always maintaining that ever-crucial sense of balance. In that sense, our relationship is somewhat genderless. It isn’t that we don’t have wonderful things to offer each other from either sex, but that neither is above the other. We set up boundaries and adhere to them.

    Posted by iamsamiam | June 17, 2006, 4:20 am
  12. I am sure there are lots of blowjobs out there that women don’t really enjoy, but feel obligate to do. Twisty raises the point that one must maintain a healthy skepticism of all ones actions sex being no exception. I feel Twisty was overstating the case for effect. No doubt even feminists sometimes falter in our attempts to purge the patriarchy.

    People started objecting when Puffin said that others said fellatio was the “be all end all”of other sexuality, something they did not say. Others commented that they got pleasure(not ultimate pleasure) from pleasing their partners. Puffin implied the other posters had not thought about how that pleasure of pleasing might play into the hands of the patriarchy(a fair concern). I don’t think that was warrented. Puffin didn’t say that all blow jobs supported the patriarchy or any such thing, only that the other posters had not really thought out the blowjob issue and that they were deriving too much pleasure,most in fact, in pleasing their partners and not themselves.

    If Puffin had only said, everyone needs to think about why they are doing blow jobs it would have been fine the problem was she then implied now one else had thought about it enough.

    It did get kind of messy but as I said I still think it was a valuable post, if it got so many people talking.

    Posted by Carpenter | June 17, 2006, 6:07 am
  13. The aspect of current culture on this which I do not understand is why people say it is ‘only’ a blow job, less ‘serious’ than, etc.

    Posted by Professor Zero | June 17, 2006, 6:26 am
  14. Hey, MaxJulian, thanks for your respectful and thoughtful response, very refreshing. And witchy-woo and samiamiam, really good thoughts. I like this, witchy-woo:

    I don’t believe anyone can be real when they say “yeah…I recognise the subjugation of my sisters but it’s ok for me because….”

    This is really so central to so many issues around sex and sexual practices — prostitution, strip clubs, pornography, all the way to private acts with partners women love. But feminism has to do not only with what empowers and liberates us as individual women, or what "feels" empowering or liberating to us. It has to do with what frees *all* women. People will sometimes create these artificial binaries, something like, "Just because I like to (insert sexual practice here), doesn't mean I support trafficking children from Cambodia for sex tourism." As though somehow saying that disconnects what is irretrievably connected or absolves the person who says it from responsibility for thinking a little more deeply about it. I think that's what your comment gets to, Professor Zero, the way women will quickly move to minimize or trivialize an act or practice. I think we all understand that impulse — ack, let's not go there, quickly, quickly, let's talk about how it's no big deal! But whether or not we have done something, or are going to keep on doing something, for that matter, that might be problematic isn't the issue. The issue isn't, "ohmygod, do you mean I have to stop doing (xyz, whatever it is)?" How about let's just consider, for a moment, the way women are connected, the ways women are connected to men, how what we do as women affects one another, how our connections to individual men might affect all women.

    I keep thinking about incested, molested little girls, or just neglected girls, girls without anyone to mentor them, guide them. I see so many of these darlins, so, so lost, absolutely no self-worth. Once they become teenagers, the sky's the limit, unfortunately, as to what they might be willing to do to feel accepted or loved or valued just for one hot moment, to feel as though they have joined the ranks of all of those apparently hawt women on the teevee screen doing all the hawt and apparently liberated things women are supposed to do to be valued, and so they end up sexually abused, date raped, and other-wise raped, they end up giving blowjobs to all sorts of guys and their brothers, they end up made to be sluts, laughingstocks, used and abused like a piece of kleenex. To people looking on, they "consented," and that's what people will say about them, that they wanted it, they asked for it. Asked for what? Asked for validation as a woman? Asked for what the whole world is telling them *equals* validation as a woman? Asked to feel, for a minute, as though they were wanted? As though they passed muster in a world in which all of the messages they receive tell them they don't and never will? And if we begin to move out from there, if we allow ourselves to think deeply, we begin to see girls and women "signing up" to be mail order brides, allowing their photos to be placed in meat-market style publications, shipping off to who knows what white western man's house to be his servant, slave and set of fuckholes, and we begin to see the connections between the arguments used to justify all sorts of sexual practices and acts in the West and arguments used to justify the mail order bride trade and trafficking in general. We see little girls and boys signing up for prostitution in the Global South to survive, to support their mothers and families, and if we think deeply about it, we begin to see the connections between arguments for women's and girls' "agency" in the U.S. and justifications for this latter horrific practice. Not long ago a prostituted woman, according to a friend of mine who was a friend of hers, told my friend we shouldn't really criticize 10-year-old girls being sex trafficked because to do so was something like "cultural imperialism," i.e., these girls' "cultures" informed their "decision" to become trafficked. Right. Like it has nothing to with Western white men's insatiable demand for more and more bodies of more and more girls and boys to fuck without any concern or consideration for the fact that they are HUMAN. Get it, Jones? HUMAN. BEINGS.  Not your private fuck toys.  As though  colonialism, Western imperialism, exploitation by the West of countries in the Global South and the entire world doesn't drive human beings to sell their bodies just to survive.  This absolutely lunacy from the pit of hell is where the individualistic, libertarian-like defenses of certain kinds of sex and sexual practices always take us, and that is what we will not be able to see and correctly analyze if we quickly skip over to "It's okay for me because…".

    I think another variation of skipping over what is really important is attempting to kill off the messenger, which is, I think, what happened to Puffin and some of that happened to Twisty, too. Something like, okay, you may have a point, but why did she have to say it THIS way. You know, it's a difficult thing to discuss. There is no perfect way to discuss it. If we could all go into this understanding that whatever we are critiquing, odds are, we've all done it sometime or another in our lives, then maybe instead of skimming over what is most important to discuss, we could simply discuss it. I agree with you, Carpenter, that what Twisty posted was really valuable, as the ongoing discussion continues to be.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 17, 2006, 2:31 pm
  15. Fab rant, Heart. It is all connected, the personal and political, and Stockholm Syndrome and disassociation are personal and societal survival tactics of people being assaulted on a massive scale.

    Posted by Sam | June 17, 2006, 4:26 pm
  16. Prof Zero
    Possibly becuase vaginal virginity is treated as a sacred commodity to passed from father to husband when the bride is given away. Violating the mouth doesn’t damage the other precious goods.

    Posted by Carpenter | June 17, 2006, 6:14 pm
  17. No WOLKE that is NOT what Puffin said.

    “Puffin denied the possibility that you can be a feminist and not have a general aversion towards giving blow jobs.”

    And yeh, unless we challenge.

    Unless we challenge…

    Thank you Heart. Than you Puffin.

    Posted by Pony | June 17, 2006, 7:04 pm
  18. Umm and I just wanted to request: could Heart’s post and the responses (the responses! the responses!) be hard linked somwhere, so when I come back for it in 6 months I don’t get a “cannot be found”? Maybe up there on the masthead, or over to the side in a blinking neon box?

    Posted by Pony | June 17, 2006, 7:10 pm
  19. Granted, I am not exactly the choir preachee. I am a visitor from another planet. I see many spaces as “patriarchies”. I see many pronouncements of fact in our personal fiction. I see great things in “blaming” but I wonder about method. We see sweet hearts giving. We see sweet hearts torn by their emotions, emotions shaped by the horror of my world, which I believe is a “patriarchy”. I don’t like putting periods into places where they are not TO BE appreciated. Words define our periods. The horror of our times are great and wicked. Preaching to the choir is… WHAT? Do we really expect that education will save the world? Will it do so if we only preach in the song of an academic convent(ion)? When will nuns be believed? When will wicked power be deceived? I don’t see answers here. I see the same brains I see on my particular snobby hill of knowledge. I see thoughts in a tube, thoughts being wrung dry and sucked by like thoughts. There is, NO DOUBT, great value here and there. I applaud Twisty in her quest. I applaud you all. I also feel that I cannot help in the least to change this blown and ass fucked world. I think we must reduce everything to population control FIRST, to remove power from POWER. Call me crazy, but I can hardly see education saving thought before it destroys thinking.

    Posted by jje0000007 | June 17, 2006, 7:15 pm
  20. well, i too, did not bother going through that thread, as so many of the threads on twisty’s site get so irritating so quickly. But i’ve been sort of following the posts of other people about this–

    I agree, heart, that the violence behind the act of a blow job is far too often unrecognized–and furthermore, that so many women don’t even know, today, that they can *refuse* to give BJ’s. But I guess this goes back to where we differ on seperatism heart🙂 because while i agree 100% that it is feminisms job to challenge what goes on in the bedroom, I think that our jobs can’t end with a simple refusal—i think it is feminisms job to create new ways of having sex, to create safe spaces where power heirarchies are not just dismantled, but replaced with something different and more meaningful.

    For example, Angela Davis argues that the riots of the 60’s were unsuccessful because they did nothing at all to replace the structure that the riots were retaliating against. As such, woc feminism now incorporates creating alternative structures that can better meet the needs of communities and women of color specifically.

    Similarly, I think that there has to be something to replace that violence behind BJ’s, or the violence will never end, you know? For example, women of color might ask, can welfare only ever be humiliation, state control and state dependence? Or can we remove that concept of welfare from control of the state and restructure it to fit our needs?

    In other words, do we eliminate welfare entirelly because it’s violent and degrading to so many women or do we recognize that there’s a concept underneath the violence that might be something good–and maybe through our feminism, we can liberate that concept and turn it into something that can, indeed, replace welfare for the better? The underlying concept of welfare, of course being the concept that no human being should go hungry, that no human being should ever fall below a certian community agreed upon level of poverty, that communities should spread the wealth around to the betterment of others and the empowerment of the community.

    I think that BJ’s have that same component. The underlying concept of BJ’s is male sexuality, which you too, recognized when you connected BJ’S to world wide male violence. BJ’s position male sexuality as the literal center of the act of sex, and right now, heirarchies and brutal violence being what they currently are, centering male sexuality exposes at the most intimate level the sickness of the structure of male sexuality.

    But just as we have asked ourselves the hard question of is there something positive about welfare (or social monitoring or the court system or the educational industrial complex ), I think we have to also ask is there nothing good in male sexuality that feminists can build upon to create an alternative system to all the violence that males as a whole (hets and queers) are currently engaged in?

    I think there is. I think there *has* to be or things will never change. And I personally *insist* that there is something good in male sexuality for feminists to build upon because I can’t tolerate my son growing up to be a rapist, inadvertant or otherwise.

    But I think that if feminists want to change male sexuality, we must do more than refuse to give blow jobs or insist that male sexuality is something *they* need to figure out *themselves*. Male sexuality includes us, whether through our mothering or our partnering, and we have a power there to change things.

    What would happen if feminists organized their own community run sex education classes? ANd by sex education, i mean, again, restructuring the concept of sex education from being some asinine “this is how you put on a condemn, now go home and pray things go ok” to something more along the lines of talking to five and six year olds about “where did I come from” through planting a community garden. I mean, hOw would things be different for men (and as such for us) if they grew up thinking that their sexuality was intimatly connected with the cycles of the earth? Sure most of those early classes would start off with just feminists bringing their sons, but eventually, as grassroots organizing is want to do, things will expand and grow outwards.

    Another example, many feminists hate hate hate natural family planning as it is something that the churches espouse and it all too often neglects the very real violence that women are subjected to which renders family planning laughable.

    But what would happen if after having taught our young children that our sexuality, male and female alike, is connected to the cycles of the earth–we then teach our pre-teens and teenagers,that there are ways to understand female sexuality (through “gross” female things like discharge and smells etc)–but that understanding that sexuality requires having a loving and respectful communication between the couple?

    How would all this challenge and change male sexuality into something more powerfuL? And furthermore, if these classes were community taught and supported, how would that challenge state sanctioned sexualized violence like sex trafficking, war time rape and the rape of imprisoned women? HOw would community taught classes empower and protect females as the entire community now has a vested interest in their sexual health?

    I guess what i’m saying is that I only agree with each side partially–I agree that we can’t entirelly eliminate one aspect of male sexuality all together, but I also agree that we can’t ignore that male sexuality as it stands today is very very sick. I also don’t think that giving BJ’s is the way to reclaim male sexuality anymore than I think that refusing to give BJ’s the way to reclaim it.

    I *do* think that if we position the act of BJ’s in a symbollic way–that is, the act of giving a BJ is symbollically the act of centering male sexuality as it stands in the world today–we can then begin to find ways to address that symbollism in a reality based way.

    (sorry for the ramble!! 🙂

    Posted by brownfemipower | June 17, 2006, 11:28 pm
  21. I love Twisty; she’s hilarious. However, she really seems to enjoy joking around about how all hetero women, insofar as they engage in hetero sex acts that Twisty does not like, must have been at least partly brainwashed by the patriarchy. Oh, I understand that nobody’s saying that hetero women are bad people just because they’ve been brainwashed into sleeping with icky men, and hey, we all have to make our compromises with the patriarchy somewhere, and Twisty was only joking, can’t you take a joke, ha ha! Nevertheless, I think there’s some serious anti-het-woman sentiment behind the jokes. Those breeders are all slutty sexbots, ha ha! Just kidding.

    Thinking about the shitty reality of sexual abuse can make you pretty hostile. I’m glad that Twisty is using that hostility to generate humor, and I’m glad that that she’s speaking out instead of remaining silent. But I wish she would direct her hostility a little less in my direction, since my sex life has zero to do with anyone else’s sexual abuse.

    Puffin, whose comments were neither funny nor original, has zero excuse for her rude behavior toward other women.

    All that said, I would welcome a forum in which women, without being gratuitously insulting toward other women, discussed how they personally did not enjoy giving blowjobs, and argued that men shouldn’t expect blowjobs. It would have been nice had Twisty made space for such a forum.

    Regarding the claim that Twisty didn’t intend to start a fight, she might not have intended it, but she definitely foresaw it. I could tell that a fight was spoiling immediately after reading that post, and I am not nearly as smart as she is.

    Posted by R.B. | June 18, 2006, 12:02 am
  22. The new and so hawt rave — anal sex–is to my thinking just another dodge for the partriarchy which really can barely stand women long enough to fuck them so they can be, to all intents and purposes, a fully fledged member of the Boo Ya Nation (Twisterolgoy). The patriarchy removes our female organs by the hunreds of thousands of castrating procedures annually, most of that not even for CANCER but just because they can) but the one female organ they can’t remove is the vagina. Not to be thwarted the patriarchy discovers that women have an ass.

    Posted by Pony | June 18, 2006, 12:44 am
  23. Similarly, I think that there has to be something to replace that violence behind BJ’s, or the violence will never end, you know? For example, women of color might ask, can welfare only ever be humiliation, state control and state dependence? Or can we remove that concept of welfare from control of the state and restructure it to fit our needs?

    Yeah, I agree whole heartedly, and that one thing that can replace the violence. Is two fold.

    1. You teach each person male/female to love themselves and that no one has any right to tell them “how to look” to conform to standards that are neither healthy, nor wanted.

    2. You teach each and every child that masterbastion is healthy and necessary. A form of love if you will. You cannot love someone else unless you love yourself first.

    There is your answer. Now I would LOVE to hear how we propose to teach it with out anyone freaking out.

    Posted by Loosely Twisted | June 18, 2006, 1:47 am
  24. It’s kind of odd that witchy-woo would say:

    I don’t believe anyone can be real when they say “yeah…I recognise the subjugation of my sisters but it’s ok for me because….” I believe you practice what you preach and, for me, anything that is promoted as mainstream (especially sexual) subjugation of women is a no-no.

    And yet, ten days prior, say

    For what it’s worth: I do wear make up sometimes and, sometimes, I shave my legs and underarms – when I want to.

    One might be tempted to say that witchy-woo is saying that, because she likes wearing make up, she can pretend that it has nothing to do with fascist beauty standards, or with practicing what she preaches, but because she doesn’t like blowjobs, anyone who does (in the same manner that she likes wearing make up and shaving her legs, because she “wants to”) is not being real, or practicing what she preaches.

    Posted by Pope Hilarius | June 18, 2006, 6:09 am
  25. You know, a couple of days ago I wrote a blog post in which I quoted from an article Leonard Pitts wrote about Ann Coulter. One of the lines I most liked in that great essay was the one in which Pitts talks about conservatives recoiling from complexity and lack of certitude the way wanna-be cartoon Superman-conservative types recoil from kryptonite. I think that working to make distinctions between what might be empowering and liberating to women sexuallyand what might not be is really, really complicated. I also think it’s something we are all inventing as we go, and there isn’t much at all, if anything, to guide us, we really basically just have to make it up from scratch. We have to create it. And that being so, I think it’s a good idea to be careful how we go about discussing one another’s points and arguments. I haven’t, again, read all the posts over at Twisty’s and I haven’t been back to read for a couple of days. I am still in Los Angeles and have access only to a dial-up computer connection, way slow and unpredictable, and so I can’t get around and read everywhere everyone might be talking about this, including at IBTP. It looks to me as though, in general, in this thread, there is at least consensus that the subject of women giving men blowjobs is worth talking about, that there are some issues there. It looks as though we have at least that much common ground.

    Where we go from there is important, is everything really. One problem with my generation, the Second Wave, is that while we had (and still have) an analysis of the mechanics of sexual subordination and oppresssion, revisioning and recreating women’s sexuality on our own terms is something we have barely begun. Some of that is because merely challenging various sexual practices, heteronormativity, compulsory heterosexuality, got us in such hot water, earned us such vehement attacks and got people so mad at us that we couldn’t manage to carve out any safe discursive space in which to have those discussions. Some of that is because of infighting. There are many reasons. What I do know is, if we want to have this discussion, it’s not going to do to caricature one another’s arguments or to focus on discrediting one another in these personal ways. I’m betting there are very, very few women who have participated in this discussion wherever it’s going on who hasn’t given some man a blow job somewhere sometime. That’s kind of why I started this thread. That’s why it’s called “Feminist Hierarchies.” This discussion should not be framed in these adversarial ways, i.e., as being about nonexistent women who have refused to besmirch themselves preaching to the heathen hordes who have, or something like that. I mean, are women somewhere involved in this discussion actually doing or saying something like that, “I’ve never given any man a blowjob, what the hell is wrong with you, you freaking sell-out?” :/ I really doubt anybody is doing that. I think it’s not useful to go scrounging around in people’s old posts and hauling out the evidence of …. what. The fact that they are women living under male heterosupremacy and they acknowledged that on the internet? Yee. How is that going to be helpful. Yes, we are women under male heterosupremacy. Yes, there is tons of evidence all sorts of people could dredge up in order to prove that, indeed, we are women under male heterosupremacy. That’s why we’re feminists now!
    :/

    If we have to come to these discussions with, I don’t know, some sort of pristine history of having managed to just live above all the patriarchal, woman-hating bullshit, let’s just forget it right now because none of us qualifies. And if somebody says she is, she should get out of my face right now because she’s not only a liar, she’s a dangerous bully liar and should take that shit elsewhere. (I have met a couple women like this. And my experience is, people should stay far, far away.) So far, I haven’t seen anybody posturing that way in this discussion. I think you’re right, R.B., that Twisty foresaw the fight that would come. At the same time, as feminists, aren’t we pretty much just a walking confrontation anyway when it comes to patriarchal, heterosexual, same old same old? Aren’t we pretty much here to make fights with people who defend a patriarchal status quo? That’s kind of what I was getting at when I alluded to the MANY people who hang out at Twisty’s more because they appreciate her humor and her writing than because she has radical feminist politics. She can’t just play to those folks, you know? She’s not the official court jester. She’s not here to entertain anybody. She has to be true to herself, to her own politics. Which means she has to say things that are going to make non-radical feminists angry. I don’t think that’s the same thing as starting a fight, except that radical feminist IS always already, ahead of time, a fight. It is, by definition, a throw down. It’s saying, you know what, every last thing you say a woman should do and be, including in the sack, you are going to have to explain to me precisely what’s in it for me as a woman, and what’s in it for all women, and not in these shallow terms, not with flimsy, self-serving, unintelligent arguments but in ways that make sense to me.

    From my perspective, I think it is tremendously productive and valuable just to get people talking about this idea that blowjobs are optional in heterosexual relationships, that they are up for negotiation, that they are, as brownfemipower said so beautifully up there, an act of centering male sexuality, positioning it in this central way. There is the erect penis standing in the middle, all you women, bow down! :/

    Having said that, I think that EVERYTHING in heterosexual (and lesbian) relationships should be optional and also up for negotiation. Especially, I think what women want, and how women feel about sex ought to matter, ought to be something we talk a whole lot about, not only for our own sakes but for our daughters’ sakes. They are bombarded with these destructive, destructive messages and images– if they don’t hear us challenging that stuff, then that’s all they hear, that’s all they get.

    bfp, I LOVE LOVE LOVE what you say there about male sexuality and teaching children, including boys, about sex. That is BEAUTIFUL. That is inspiring and encouraging and SO refreshingly visionary. I agree with you (and Angela Davis) that similarly with the way the Second Wave got the analysis of oppression right but didn’t get much beyond that point, 60s revolutionaries also didn’t manage to successfully restructure American politics and political structures and institutions and that that is the most important project of all.

    I agree with you that the point is not to get get het women to refuse to do blowjobs. I didn’t mean to communicate that I thought that was the most important thing or where the discussion should end. I think the discussion has to begin there, with taking a good look at blowjobs and what they mean, and I think sometimes there is value in saying something challenging like, “Radical feminists don’t do blowjobs.” It’s a throwdown, but it’s a throwdown that can change people’s thinking, if only because sometimes they get to considering WHY radical feminists would reject blowjobs. The ensuing discussion is really valuable, I think.

    But you are so right, then there is the issue of male sexuality, including our sons’. I don’t think all women have to be involved in the discussion of male sexuality or are affected by it, but I think most women are, either because they are het or have sons or young men or boys in their lives. And I think all women are *vested* in male sexuality in the sense that we are all affected by what you’ve described here:

    BJ’s position male sexuality as the literal center of the act of sex, and right now, heirarchies and brutal violence being what they currently are, centering male sexuality exposes at the most intimate level the sickness of the structure of male sexuality.

    I think one big problem we have had in radical feminism is, and this is a huge subject which could fill many books, these are just a few thoughts, is that radical feminism itself became gendered from within. The he-man feminists sort of distanced themselves from the wussy feminists in a way, (and yeah that’s inflammatory language but I am making a point), from things like spirituality, birth, focus on the seasons, earth, nature, the cycles of the earth (fearing the woman-as-nature connection, and I totally understand the reasoning, but disagree with it). What happened then is there got to be this preoccupation with various technologies and medicines, birth control, abortion, etc. as mechanisms for women’s liberation, with a sort of resulting disconnect, a rejection of, like you say, natural family planning and with it awareness of fertility, cycles, as part of wussy, breeder feminism. Jeez, so much to say about this and I am running out of time. I just think that you’re so right– sexuality is part of something much bigger, much, much bigger, it is part of the ebb and flow of life, of the making of life and the not making of it, and that is *not* something which pertains to women only (which is what it has been made to be under patriarchy and which is why feminists have been understandably cynical about going there and talking about it), it also *so* pertains to men (but they have been disconnected from it because it is “wussy”). If boys were taught in the way you describe, they might begin to get a glimmer of understanding of and reverence for the responsibility they have for creating and not creating life and hence for reverencing the processes by which it is created (or not). If boys were taught this very basic reverence for life, for the earth, its seasons, creatures, I wonder if in greater and greater numbers they would reject violence of all kinds. I have to think they would.

    Well, much to think about and write about, it’s a huge topic. But yes, for sure, talking about specific sex acts, like blow jobs, is just where we begin. It’s a starting point.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 18, 2006, 3:42 pm
  26. “One might be tempted to say that witchy-woo is saying that, because she likes wearing make up, she can pretend that it has nothing to do with fascist beauty standards, or with practicing what she preaches,…”

    One might. But one would be wrong.

    ALL cultures present and past have decorated their bodies. Wiith scarification, with piercing (got anything pierced? your ear, your nose, your navel maybe?), with ash, with dyes from plants revered and protected for that use, with blood mixed with clay, have plucked, twisted, adorned and shaved hair (with shells before there was Gillette) and with Burt’s Bees lip gloss.

    No comparison at all with what’s going on in blowjobbery.

    Posted by Pony | June 18, 2006, 5:29 pm
  27. Feminists call for a guaranteed income:

    Hot damn Canucks are RAD!

    http://saidit.org/archives/jan06/article1.html

    Posted by Pony | June 18, 2006, 9:45 pm
  28. Having just reread Robin Morgan’s The Demon Lover: the roots of terrorism, I have followed this debate with amusement. Recognizing myself in alot of the positions, and realizing that we as women do out of “love” alot of things that reinforce out dependance on pleasing the men in our lives, we also need to see in some deep dark way that we need to love ourselves more and fear less. What I mean is that loving is not the problem. It is how we interpret our loving and how others interpret it that is the problem. To see ourselves as whole and an authority on our own experience is more important than debating who is more feminist. When Twisty triggered this debate, she did us all a favour. It is not so much defending our positions, as allowing the questions to enter our consciousness and asking our own internal questions. It is a small step. Being the butterflys that create the hurricane is more important than defending a certain position. I want a world that loves more than it hates. I want a world that sings more than it moans. I want death to happen because it is time, not because one group,country, ideology wants to over run, rule and take what others have. I want a world where my sons are not fodder for the father’s lust for power. Oh silly me, in my old age, wanting all this stupid stuff. I don’t care. I still want it.

    Posted by rhondda | June 18, 2006, 9:55 pm
  29. Thank you, Pony.

    May I point out to the Hilarious Pope person the ending of the quoted post? I said:

    “We’re all just at different places on the same journey, surely?”

    I did not say that I’m perfect. I did not say that I like wearing make up or shaving.

    And, yeah, sometimes I have to question my own reality. Don’t you?

    Posted by witchy-woo | June 19, 2006, 12:29 am
  30. I don’t do much adornment, but I enjoy what I see: the artistry and creativity of the young people who look like they stepped out of an artist’s canvas. Or the pages of National Geographic.

    Posted by Pony | June 19, 2006, 5:21 pm
  31. Rhondda: It is not so much defending our positions, as allowing the questions to enter our consciousness and asking our own internal questions.

    This is exactly how I see it, Rhondda. The cool thing is, once we’ve had these discussions, we’ve had them. They are in men’s and women’s and girls’ and boys’ minds, percolating. That’s a lot better than the alternative.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 20, 2006, 9:18 pm
  32. I think a lot of the problem is that there a kind of idea that we have a right not to get our feelings “hurt” or be made to feel “uncomfortable” as if that were the most important thing we were fighting for. The whole discusion has made me uncomfortable but I’m okay with that because I do think we should chalenge and examine everything we do. There seems to be too much assumption that discusion and disagreement equals agression.
    Not that anyone seems to want to discuss it with me, I wrote a post about it which has been pretty much ignored.

    Posted by nectarine | June 20, 2006, 10:08 pm
  33. A woman telling another woman she can’t enjoy giving a blowjob is like a man telling another man he can’t cry or he’s a pussy, or that he’s gay if he uses moisturizer. (It’s interesting that both hyper-masculinity and fundamental feminism both seem at times to revolve around the same concept of trying at all costs to avoid seeming feminine.)

    It’s hard to be a feminist while at the same time not giving women much credit with regard to intelligence and personal volition. One would hope that sexual equality would include respecting individual will and desire, even if you don’t yourself necessarily agree with it. No, I’m not saying that it’s above question; the point is that making gender-based value judgments is, well… rather patriarchical.

    The problem is that this attitude smacks of Patriarchy. That is, take things that are said by radical feminists and put them in the mouths of men, and voila: You’ve got yourself a Patriarchy. “A woman who does ______ is not an acceptable woman.” Regardless of what fills that blank, be it “give blowjobs” or “not cook”, it’s still a stereotype about women that tries to oppress individual will and happiness.

    And it’s still a stereotype about women, which to me seems self-defeating. Liberation and equality will not come in the form of taking women (or, rather, the idea of what comprises a woman, but that just kind of nebulizes the metaphor) from one box and sealing them up in another.

    More of my thoughts on this matter can be found by clicking on this link.

    Posted by J Crowley | June 21, 2006, 9:53 pm
  34. I posted this in the comments section of one of Edith's posts over at Because Feminists Aren't Always Nice but am posting it here a little off topic of the most recent comments because it does make my own position clear where it might not totally have been.

    I haven't seen anyone focusing on the putative grossness of blowjobs, other than when someone was being sarcastic or deliberately overstating to make a point. We all know it's not about the grossness, putative or otherwise, of blowjobs. I also don't think "forced choice" is the issue. I think most girls and women don't even know that they *have* choices when it comes to sex. They look at sex as it's presented to all of us and think, "Oh, when you have sex with a man, you do X,Y and Z," to include blowing the guy. What is important, therefore, for feminists to do is to say, "You girls and women don't have to do one damn thing for men during sex. You can reinvent the whole experience. If getting your scalp and feet simultaneously massaged equals hot intimacy and/or sex to you and genital contact is optional, that is something you should ask for and expect from any man who wants to have sex with you. Everything you see all around you? Everything you hear? It was all invented and created and foist on all of us by men throughout history, the same men who have made heterosexuality compulsory. You have the right to re-create sex and make it whatever you want to be. You don't have to choose between blow jobs or no blow jobs. Blowjobs can be as legitimately irrelevant to any sex you want to have as penis-in-vagina sex might be irrelevant as anything else might be. We think about blowjobs in connection with het sex ONLY because we've been taught to and we've been taught to because we are women under male heterosupremacy."

    Nobody has said anything about "false consciousness" in this discussion so far that I have seen, but if someone has seen that, please post it. I have seen LOTS of mischaracterizing of what radical feminists have said, lots of making shit up about what we've said, but then, there's nothing novel or different about that.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 21, 2006, 11:15 pm
  35. I think, for the most part, that you are right. I don’t want to go into too many details, but bj’s are generally an act of degradation, especially when the man’s desire, stimulation and wants are put first. Its difficult for me to talk about my own experiences and feelings but I have very mixed feelings about this particular act. If you take away societal expectations, cultural expectations, pornography and so on, would we still think of ‘blow jobs’ as a norm or expectation of heterosexual relationships? Its wrong for a woman to do anything she doesn’t want to do, feel coerced or forced to do something just because it is ‘expected’. If you don’t enjoy something, you shouldn’t do it, end of.

    Posted by Liz | June 21, 2006, 11:55 pm
  36. Liz: Is cunnilingus equally degrading, in your opinion, as blowjobs? Just curious.

    If you take away societal expectations, I’ll bet there would be more in the world that would change than whether or not people would give blowjobs. What are we, if not the product of upbringing by our parents within society? Sure, you’re absolutely right: If we could operate in a vacuum and remove unremovable elements from humanity, things would, in fact, be very different.

    But, see, the thing is, you’re extrapolating your own personal experience to be representative of all things. From your perspective, blowjobs are degrading. This is the result of your own personal upbringing. Were we to remove that–the expectations from your own position within society, your own “class”, for lack of a better term–what do you think you would be like? See, that’s the thing: It’s ALL societal pressures and cultural expectations, just different varieties.

    And therein lies the rub: This is a subjective value judgment, meaning it is an opinion. There are plenty of women who feel that blowjobs aren’t degrading. Who’s right, if there even can be a right? How can you tell?

    This is why we simply hae to trust personal judgment. In other words, how do you know what’s good and what’s bad? Ask.

    And don’t automatically assume that other people are making the wrong decision if they don’t agree with you, because that’s not trusting personal judgment.

    Posted by J Crowley | June 22, 2006, 12:38 am
  37. Ah, one of the 5 cardinal dimensions of a liberal defensive edifice. Which are: Individualism, Naturalism, Voluntarism, Idealism, and Moralism. But MacKinnon already has addressed this, J. Cowley, and your argument simply holds no water.

    It’s about hierarchies and the power differentials between those that have power and those that have been disenfranchised of that power by patriarchal construction based on sex and ideas on sexuality and how those ideas naturalize, legitimize, and perpetuate institutionalized sexism and violence against women.

    Hierarchies, sexism, racism and the violence against women are NOT opinions.

    I mean, is that what picture comes to mind when you think of women’s liberation? A cock shoved into a woman’s mouth? What’s wrong with this picture?

    And just why do you suppose the vast majority of men recoil and react so violently at the idea of a cock being shoved into their mouths or up their ass? They don’t seem to mind shoving it into anything else. Women, children, infants, sheep, dogs, donuts, knots in trees. Just why would they draw the line when it comes to other men?

    Well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. It’s because another man would literally want to kill him if he dared to degrade him and violate him in such a way. Men, you see, are under no illusion about what these acts mean. And trust me, it ain’t about love.

    As I wrote on IBTP, it never ceases to amaze me is how easily men can convince so many women that even the most violating and degrading of acts are “erotic” and this somehow makes it “natural.” I’ll tell you what’s erotic to men. It’s not sex. It’s power. Sex is just one of the means he uses to achieve dominance and power. The more vile and degrading an act he can get a woman to willingly submit to without having to rape her, the more powerful he feels.

    So what’s next on men’s list when they grow tired of bjs? Footbinding’s already been tried. FGM. Suttee. Marriage. Intercourse. Hey, I know! How ’bout shitting in women’s mouths? No doubt he’ll be able to find women eager to please him. And as it becomes more and more widespread and popular, he’ll just declare it “natural!”

    Posted by Luckynkl | June 22, 2006, 5:21 am
  38. J Crowley – what makes you think my views come from personal experience? I have only had one sexual partner in my whole life and I am still with him. Men rarely DO cunnilingus, from what I can make out from modern society. They are not EXPECTED to do it, whereas it seems a norm that women ARE expected to perform fellatio.

    And excuse me – I have informed opinion, from reading many feminist works, blogs, sex books, sociological works, etc. Parents are not the only people who socialize their children. Society does. My upbringing doesn’t have anything to do with it because I had a good upbringing, a progressive one, which allows me to think freely, that has allowed me to question the shackles that society hands to us. So many women doing fellatio DON’T enjoy it, and yet they still do it. What would your answer be to that?

    Men have the freedom to choose whether or not they perform cunniligus. Women rarely do have the choice. This isn’t about personal preferences but rather about the norms and cultural values that society pushes on us, especially on women, disabled people, ethnic people and other so called ‘minority’ groups.

    Luckynkl, I agree. Power is erotic to men. They like to feel they have power over the female body, whether this is sexual or by some other means. I think the expectation of fellatio foisted upon women (and men) is an offshoot of this control/power.

    Posted by Liz | June 22, 2006, 11:12 am
  39. Ah yes – also, you have, J.Crowley, exposed your own ignorance. I did not say ‘unremovable’ elements. I merely said that certain expectations CAN be removed with education. The goal of feminism is to educate, to change, to ensure women get real choice and are not degraded, hurt or objectified (which they are in our society).

    Women need to know they don’t have to do with their bodies what they don’t want to, just as men have the freedom to refuse to do certain acts. Woman’s body is a commodity in 21st century society, which means that women rarely have choice. I am not debating whether someone ENJOYS a sex act, but I am debating whether the woman really has a choice.

    So many men coerce women into performing sex acts that they don’t really want to do. Why do they do it? Because they are afraid of perhaps losing their partner, of being called a ‘prude’ or ‘frigid’ and they think that it is an expectation.

    Posted by Liz | June 22, 2006, 11:24 am
  40. “shoving” a cock in a woman’s mouth is the only way BJ’s are ever done? there’s never ever been a woman who has willingly all by herself taken a man into her mouth and gone from there? there’s never been a gay man who sucked on another man’s dick because he loved him and wanted to express that love to him? There’s never been a lesbian couple who used a dildo in an egalitarian way to have fun? and even more pointedly, there’s never in the entire history of the world, ever been a single woman who gets turned on by power?
    constructs of power go much deeper than simply men have all of it, women have nothing. power is being messed with and challenged in very significant ways by many many different communities and I don’t believe for one second that it is an unchallenged “truthism” that there’s not any woman or man anywhere in the world who isn’t consciously playing with the boundries of power through the act of sex.
    even the woman getting a cock “shoved” in her mouth may potentially be challenging the constructs of power, as she may be consciouly deciding to give a man a BJ so that she doesn’t have to have penis/vagina sex with him while she is ovulating or if she knows he has AIDS (she can often get a condemn on him without his knowlege this way–a trick many organizers in Africa and India teach prostitutes).
    furthermore, I am having trouble understanding the logical next step even if we *do* all agree that BJ’s equals “cock shoved in mouth” for all of us. is there no other sex act that is equally degrading to women? is doing it doggy style degrading? Should we eliminate that from sex as well? What do we do next?
    i am an anti-violence activist, and i, for one, feel extremly alienated by language that would position me and the women i love and work with as little more than passive victims of the almighty cock. it belies the fact that so many of us already have strategies in place that are effective and safe in dealing with the power dominance–and it also belies the fact that many others who are not dealing with hetero sex have found ways to restructure what “the penis” means.
    I think that it would be more effective to acknowlege that women are not completly powerless and build on the strategies they have already implemented rather than demanding over and over again that we’re all just getting cocks shoved in our mouths.

    Posted by brownfemipower | June 22, 2006, 1:21 pm
  41. Luckynki, where can I find out more about the ‘5 cardinal dimensions of a liberal defensive edifice’? Did Mackinnon address this and where? You are right about looking at the images that words and abstract arguments evoke. I never thought of it that way before. I know I have always had a visceral revulsion at being asked to volunteer while someone else gets paid to tell the volunteers what to do.

    Posted by rhondda | June 22, 2006, 1:41 pm
  42. even the woman getting a cock “shoved” in her mouth may potentially be challenging the constructs of power, as she may be consciouly deciding to give a man a BJ so that she doesn’t have to have penis/vagina sex with him while she is ovulating or if she knows he has AIDS (she can often get a condemn on him without his knowlege this way–a trick many organizers in Africa and India teach prostitutes).

    brownfemipower, this is horrifying and hideous, but also interesting to me–to me what you describe isn't a woman challenging constructs of power, this is a woman using her wits to survive rape. She is being raped and can't stop it, but she finds a way to protect herself from disease and/or pregnancy. I want women to survive rape any way they can, including this way, and I think women have always survived rape this way, outwitted the rapist somehow. I've done it. I bet lots of us or women we know have done it.😦 But over the long haul, we just survived. We didn't challenge power, I don't think.

    I agree with you that it doesn't work to say men have all the power, women don't have any. We do have power and we can use it and we have used it in the interests of our own liberation– if we hadn't had it and used it, we'd all still be chattel with no legal rights whatsoever.  I think we are empowering ourselves and acting out of the power we have when we have these discussions, for that matter, when we talk about these things.

    I think that lots and lots of women and men do whatever they do in bed because they love, out of feelings of deep love, out of longings for intimate connection and intimacy. I also think lots of men and women do whatever they do in bed for fun, for pleasure, for kicks. And of *course* not all of these encounters are marked by aggression, "shoving," and so on. I don't think this discussion is about creating, or behaving as, any sort of bedroom police; my inclination, personally and always, is to leave a tender moment alone. What people are doing together because they love each other is entirely their business and I'd never suggest otherwise.

    At the same time, there is *so freaking much* shoving of penises into girls' and women's mouths and other body parts going on in the world, you know? It goes on in misogynist porn. It goes on during rape. It goes on during wartime for genocide. It goes on in abusive heterosexual marriages and relationships. It goes on in prostitution. And we are all surrounded by imagery *not* of women lovingly taking men into their bodies, but of women being brutalized and exploited and used and hurt by men. Somehow as feminists we have to challenge that imagery and all of the messages surrounding it, and one way of challenging it is the way we are challenging it here, specifically, and on the blogosphere in general, by naming what we see and calling it wrong, calling it out. I have six daughters, 8, 15, 17, 19, 21 and 30. Four of them so far, dear god, have been sexually abused/raped, at least one of them by having a cock shoved into her mouth, dear goddess on high, but it's true, and she was a little girl and it was a relative. This happened despite my unrelenting and fierce vigilance, despite what everybody described as my being overprotective, despite my bending heaven and earth to prevent it. The world isn't safe for our girls, for our daughters. Men and boys– they aren't safe. Relatives aren't safe. Boyfriends aren't safe. Husbands aren't safe. Fathers, uncles, cousins– not safe. This is the sad fact. If it were not so, then 1/3-1/4-1/2 of all women would not be sexually assaulted by the time they're adults. Most people will agree that it's at least 1/3, I think it's WAY more and why? Because almost every woman I know has been raped or sexually assaulted sometime. My mother was. My aunts have been. I have been. My sisters, my daughters. My daughters' little friends and their friends, and their friends' friends. And not a ONE of us ever reported our rapes to any authority. Not a one of us.

    This is a rape culture. It is a rape culture. This is what we as women know. Yes, it is possible to love someone and want to pleasure him out of that love. It is also possible to become very confused, especially if we've been incested, molested, abused, assaulted, raped, and to feel that you want to engage in degrading acts of whatever kind for reasons that stem, at least in part, out of your (very, very, penultimately appropriate) confusion, grief and brokenness. There is no shame in any of this, I'm not condemning anyone, no matter what she does, hell, I've probably done it all and twice on Sundays and once for good measure (and I would give an arm and a leg to go back and undo so much), that's not the point, the point is, *all of the sex we have takes place in the context of this rape culture*. And we have *all* been subjected to it, and as women and men, we have been victimized by the messages of that rape culture. That is really what we are talking about here, in my mind. I think any time we think that it is our love and desire for a man which is guiding our impulse to take him into our bodies, it makes sense for us to think about that a bit. Is that really what is guiding us, our love, our desire, for him? Or is it something different. Are we using our bodies to take care of him, the way, as women, we've been taught to take care of our men with our bodies? Are we competing with, or mimicking, the pornographic images in his mind, in our own minds? Are we trying to give him what we think he wants, based on the kind of pornography we know he uses or which we have seen and used? Are we trying to prove something? To him? To ourselves? Do we really *want* to do what we're doing, really, really, out of the depths of whatever it is that makes us who we are, or do we want to do it because who we are isn't quite good enough if we don't do it? Is it really fun? Or is it fun because he's having fun? And if it's fun because he's having fun, why does that give us so much pleasure. What is that, this deep, deep impulse we can have sometimes to pleasure a man? Is it a good thing? Why? When? How? Always? Under what circumstances?

    From my perspective, we can't just challenge a rape and raunch culture as though it is all out there somewhere and doesn't also reside inside our heads and even in our bodies, because I think that it does reside in our heads and bodies, however carefully and diligently we have worked to leave it behind. Where it gets tricky and goes sideways is where there is this idea that we are being policed or that some women should police other women. And hell, no. That's not what this is about. I think the idea of woman as penetrable and man as penetrator is important to talk about, blow jobs are important to talk about, power in sexual relationships is important to talk about, but when we're done talking, we're going to have sex or not and that's going to be ours and our business. Period. It's not for anybody to tell us what we can or can't do or whatever, again, hell, no. We're going to do what we're going to do. I just don't think all sex, of all kinds, all the time, no challenges allowed or entertained is subversive. (And I don't think anybody said it was, least of all you bfp, I'm just thinking about this right now.) I think it all has to be talked about, thought about, evaluated. Which again has nothing to do with anybody getting into anybody's bedroom or business and telling her or him what to do or what positions are allowable or not or whatever. It's just– how do we ever call out the imagery and messages of a rape culture if we don't call them out? How do girls and women know a better life and world is possible if we don't, loudly and relentlessly, pass judgment on all of the rape and abuse which passes for fun, for sex?

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 22, 2006, 4:38 pm
  43. “Well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. It’s because another man would literally want to kill him if he dared to degrade him and violate him in such a way. Men, you see, are under no illusion about what these acts mean. And trust me, it ain’t about love.”

    This operates on the assumption that all homosexuality is one big degradation carnival. A gay sixty-nine is just a concentric circle down the toilet of personal integrity, huh?

    “I’ll tell you what’s erotic to men. It’s not sex. It’s power.”

    All men ought to be ASHAMED of themselves for being born with penises! And all black people ought to be ASHAMED of themselves for being born black. And all Jews ought to be ASHAMED of themselves for being born Jewish. And all women ought to be ASHAMED of themselves for being born with vaginas. Yes, philosophies that operate on these principals are certainly to be celebrated, and are destined to achieve equality!

    Thanks–now I know exactly where to go if I ever need some broad, all-encompassing, generalized value judgments about the entirety of a given category of humans who share a common physiological factor. Can I have your e-mail address for a more direct correspondence? I’ll give you twelve cents a word–that’s better than many magazines.

    Liz: The answer isn’t “all fellatio is bad”; the answer is “all forced actions are bad”. CHOICE is the key, not the individual actions themselves. You seem to have trouble drawing the distinction. If a woman is forced into giving a blowjob, all blowjobs are bad. It’s like you take an individual instance, write your observations down in permanent marker, and never return to question it. Thus, from that point on, if a woman is giving a blowjob, it’s obviously not because she could in any way want it, because there are women who are forced to give blowjobs.

    In other words: Forcing women not to get abortions is just as bad as forcing them TO get abortions.

    And re: your second post: You said “societal expectations”. Given that this implies all societal influence, my response was not very far off.

    When any of you can prove to me objectively that “all blowjobs are degrading”, I might be more inclined to believe you. Then again, I’ve asked the same thing of conservative Christians regarding “gay is bad”, and have yet to hear anything back, so I’m saving my breath-holding for the next time I’m underwater.

    Posted by J Crowley | June 22, 2006, 4:38 pm
  44. Also, fecalphilia/coprophilia is, in fact, an existent fetish, FWIW. In any event, “eating someone’s shit because of a twisted sexual fetish” and “engaging in sensation of the most sensitive part of your partner’s anatomy” are two entirely different things.

    You know, there are women–people in general, in fact–who are humiliated simply going outside. It’s a psychological condition. Humiliation/degradation are subjective, and to be taken on an individual basis. Don’t drag a person embarrassed by being seen in public outdoors, and don’t force a woman who finds blowjobs degrading to give a blowjob. However, there are plenty of people who love going outside–it’s silly to tell them all that if they venture outside, they are degrading themselves.

    You tread on treacherous ground when you begin to attempt to tell people in broad, sweeping strokes what is and is not acceptable behavior.

    Posted by J Crowley | June 22, 2006, 4:47 pm
  45. You tread on treacherous ground when you begin to attempt to tell people in broad, sweeping strokes what is and is not acceptable behavior.

    I dunno, J Crowley. I was involved in a really, really interesting discussion a while back about cannibalism as a fetish. There are a large number of people whose fetish it is to eat a human being or to be eaten by one. They hook up via the internet. Not long ago, two of these men found each other and one ate the other and videotaped it. The man who ate the other man was charged with murder or maybe manslaughter, was convicted, and appealed (in Germany). His defense was that it wasn't murder because the dude wanted to be eaten.

    Is that the kind of world we want to live in? Should we, say, encourage people who want to be eaten to organize, incorporate, become more visible to those who want to eat them? Should we, say, start raising some human beings to be eaten by other human beings? Do we endorse this fetish, like other fetishes, because by all means, sexual fetishes must be honored and endorsed?

    Yes, this is extreme, and yes, this is happening, and yes, the case law is already being created so it is relevant. How far, as a society, as a culture, do we go in our pursuit of orgasms, sexual thrills, sexual adventures? When do we stand way, way back and look carefully at what is actually driving people, at what their impulses actually consist of?

    I am not at all inclined to essentialize fetishes– i.e., to say that some people just have them and there's nothing to do about it but help them to act on their fetishes and that we have to accept them because they exist or are natural or can't be changed or something like that. Like everything else in society, fetishes are constructed.  They are socially constructed. And when they rise to the level of one person consuming another person as the ultimate experience, when they are all about one person eating another's shit, or being physically hurt by another person, then it behooves us to look very carefully at the constructors or possible constructors involved. This stuff doesn't just come out of nowhere. It comes from somewhere. And when we look closely, we almost always find that it has to do with power– with who has it, who doesn't have it, and conflicts around the having and not having of it. We will never get that, never see that, if we just say, "Hell, yeah, some people like to eat other people's shit, leave them alone, what's it to you."

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 22, 2006, 5:00 pm
  46. brownfemipower, this is horrifying and hideous, but also interesting to me–to me what you describe isn’t a woman challenging constructs of power, this is a woman using her wits to survive rape. She is being raped and can’t stop it, but she finds a way to protect herself from disease and/or pregnancy. I want women to survive rape any way they can, including this way, and I think women have always survived rape this way, outwitted the rapist somehow. I’ve done it. I bet lots of us or women we know have done it.😦 But over the long haul, we just survived. We didn’t challenge power, I don’t think.

    Heart, I wonder, do you think that the prostitutes who these techniques are taught to think that they aren’t challenging power in a very significant way? And since when did survival strategies not equal a challenge to power structures? I appreciate the violence that women experience ever damn day of their lives. I just refuse to believe that i am nothing more than a victim with a cock shoved in my mouth. Any more than i believe that you or my neighbors or my co-workers or the woman i never met in india are victims with cocks shoved in their mouths. What i was saying was not that the only way to resist and challenge power structures is to give blow jobs instead of being raped, but rather that instead that because women are NOT just victims they HAVE begun to construct survival strategies and indeed, challenges to sexual violence. It is our job as feminists to *build on* and support what they are doing instead of doing nothing but decrying their victimization and insulting all of us all with terminology that completely erases any survival strategies and work women have done to challenge sexual violence.

    Posted by brownfemipower | June 22, 2006, 5:52 pm
  47. And since when did survival strategies not equal a challenge to power structures?

    This is true. You are right about this. To refuse to die is to challenge power. Dear god.

    I appreciate the violence that women experience ever damn day of their lives. I just refuse to believe that i am nothing more than a victim with a cock shoved in my mouth.

    Okay, but who has said you are nothing more than that? I think some of us are using whatever rhetorical, discursive tools are available to us to make a statement, to get people's attention. It is a foregone conclusion, or should be, always, that no woman is only a victim and that no women should be reduced to victim status. Having said all of that, there is also no shame in being victimized. The fact is, we *are* victims when we have been victimized.  We aren't responsible for that. That is never all we are, but that IS what we are (rhetorical "we".) "Victim" has become a dirty wordy the same way feminism is a dirty wordy because perps and violators don't want to face up to what they do to women so they make shit up, like that we enjoy being martyrs and eternal victims and all sorts of stuff that isn't true. But I'm not playing that. Women are victimized. Girls are victimized. They are victims. They are *also*, at the same time, survivors, fighters, fierce, warriors, feminists, and all sorts of other amazing things. No woman is ever only a victim, even when she is talking 24/7 about her, and other women's victimization.

    Any more than i believe that you or my neighbors or my co-workers or the woman i never met in india are victims with cocks shoved in their mouths. What i was saying was not that the only way to resist and challenge power structures is to give blow jobs instead of being raped, but rather that instead that because women are NOT just victims they HAVE begun to construct survival strategies and indeed, challenges to sexual violence. It is our job as feminists to *build on* and support what they are doing instead of doing nothing but decrying their victimization and insulting all of us all with terminology that completely erases any survival strategies and work women have done to challenge sexual violence.

    Yes, I agree that it *is* our job as feminists to build on and support what women are doing to survive, but I think we also have to decry their victimization, at the same time, and especially, I think we have to talk about the *ways* they are victimized. I don't think anybody is *only* decrying women's victimization. I think we're spending some time talking about the mechanisms of women's victimization and how to subvert and thwart those mechanisms, and we are also talking about who the victimizers are. The victimizers are, far and away, men. They have to be called out and they have to be made to stop their victimization in all of its forms and the first step is shouting what they do from the rooftops. They do indeed shove cocks down girls' and women's throats. Does that reduce those girls and women to nothing but victims? Hell no! And you know, I am not here on this earth to figure out ways to survive men's abuse of me only or to spend my time outwitting them only (although I have to do that and want to do that and want all women to do that). I am here on this earth as fully human and undeserving of any abuse, of any kind. I want men to stop it. I want the focus to be at least as much on the ways men abuse and victimize women and on their responsibility to stop it as it is on women's responsibility to survive it.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 22, 2006, 6:13 pm
  48. Does that reduce those girls and women to nothing but victims? Hell no! And you know, I am not here on this earth to figure out ways to survive men’s abuse of me only or to spend my time outwitting them only (although I have to do that and want to do that and want all women to do that). I am here on this earth as fully human and undeserving of any abuse, of any kind.

    is there only one way to become liberated? If rapes and sexualized violence stop because we have outwitted men, rather than gotten into direct confrontation with them, does it count less?

    And the feminist organizations that are working with women men and children alike who are in prostitution in india and africa are getting women into their centers and catching them on the streets by offering them the service of “here is how to give a bj so that you can get a condomn on” *at the same time* that they are giving them food, teaching them organizing strategies and watching their kids while they’re out working. where is that happening here in the states? what is more likely to happen is a woman locks her kid into the hotel room and then gets child care services called on her for being neglectful. Why aren’t we utilizing what they’re doing to build on and start something?
    what i think so many people forget (not saying you, heart, just people in general) is that coming to feminism or radical thought didn’t just *happen* one day–there were many steps involved in which conversations happened, books were read, meetings were organized, and then more people came and theory had to be reinvestigated and started over again. For most people, this happens in a relativelly safe university setting. women working in the streets don’t have that luxery. Thus, grassroots basebuilding’s job is to bring that step by step process of “becoming” radical *to the streets*. you go onto the streets and give tools and information and knowlege, and after two, three, ten years, a large enough base is set up for genuine action. If the tool you use to get women to keep coming back to your organization and take those risks inherent in standing up to oppression is “this is how you give a bj so you don’t die” why is that just “survival” and not revolutionary action?
    why do only those who go to college have the right to step into feminsim a bit at a time, and not those on the streets–especially when thinking, that in general, those on the streets are going to be taking far more risks than those in universities by coming to feminism?
    off of survival strategies comes resistance, off of resistance comes liberation. imo, you can’t discount any step in that process.
    ps. if i sound abrupt, it’s because i’m at school at the moment and am writing fast!!
    ** i’ve seen many many many people who are discussing this calling other women players of the patriarchy, suckers of the patriarchy, etc etc…much along the lines of those who call mothers “breeders”–
    ** i also think that by centering men in our strategies for liberation (calling them out on the roof tops) takes away from empowering women. Yes, 100%, men must be held accountable, but shouldn’t the first step be to organize women, rather than to call men out? Shouldn’t the first step be even before organizing women be creating some way to reach out to women and empower them with survival strategies so that they can make it to meetings and find ways to talk with other women in their lives? yes, the long term goal needs to be to call men out from the mountain tops, but i think we’re going to be standing my ourselves on the mountian tops if we don’t start looking for ways to centralize the poorest of the poor, the most victimized of all victims, and empower the hell out of them.

    Posted by brownfemipower | June 22, 2006, 7:28 pm
  49. J. Crowley – I do not have difficulties drawing a distinction between what is ‘right or wrong’ and the issue of choice. I basically meant that, if a man forces or coerces a woman to perform fellatio on him, it is wrong. I think the problem is, that you are taking offence at what I am saying because I am making generalizations.

    If a woman enjoys fellatio, then fine, but only if she really really enjoys, wants and desires to do it, NOT because she has been taught by pornography, societal expectations or is told by her partner ‘everyone does it’. The problem is that so many women are forced into doing it that I think its awful. Keep it in context – I agree with heart that it is not about moments of true intimacy and partnership, but about moments of powerlessness and no choice. Yes, some women have a choice, but the majority may not.

    Everyone in society makes value judgements about things they don’t like, I was under the impression that experience should be shared, opinions should be shared and respected. If you think you can change my mind then you won’t, but its okay to have your own opinion about something. I still think that bjs, in the context of force or control on a person, are wrong. I may have mistakenly said that they are “wrong” period, but I meant in the context of being forced/coerced.

    Also, I agree with Heart that some fetishes are very dubious and harmful to people, but I think the problem is that when we talk about sexual acts and fetishes, we are also examining our own sex lives. I think this is what everyone is objecting to, but maybe it’s important to examine them and our feelings about things that we find troubling.

    Posted by Liz | June 22, 2006, 9:05 pm
  50. Posted by Rhondda:
    “Luckynkl, where can I find out more about the ‘5 cardinal dimensions of a liberal defensive edifice’? Did Mackinnon address this and where?”

    Yes, McKinnon addressed it. It comes right out of “Feminism Unmodified.” Page 136. She specifically was talking about pornography, but it can be applied to this subject as well. Here’s part of an essay I wrote for Feminista which includes an excerpt:

    In her critique and analysis of sex positiveness, specifically pornography, Catharine MacKinnon in “Feminism Unmodified” asserts that there are 5 cardinal dimensions of a liberal defensive edifice. They are: Individualism, Naturalism, Voluntarism, Idealism, and Moralism.

    “It starts with the idea that people, even people who as a group are poor and powerless, do what they do voluntarily, so that women who pose for Playboy are there by their own free will. Forget the realities of women’s sexual/economic situation. When women express our free will, we spread our legs for a camera.

    Implicit here, too, is the idea that a natural physical body exists, prior to its social construction through being viewed, which can be captured and photographed, even or especially, when “attractively posed” — that’s a quote from the Playboy Philosophy. Then we are told that to criticize this is to criticize “ideas,” not what is being done either to the women in the magazine or to women in society as a whole. Any critique of what is done is then cast as a moral critique, which, as liberals know, can involve only opinions or ideas, not facts about life. This entire defensive edifice, illogical as it may seem, relies utterly coherently on the five cardinal dimensions of liberalism; individualism, naturalism, voluntarism, idealism, and moralism. I mean: members of groups who have no choice but to live life as members of groups are taken as if they are unique individuals; the social characteristics are then reduced to natural characteristics; preclusion of choices becomes free will; material reality is turned into “ideas about” reality; and concrete positions of power and powerlessness are transformed into relative value judgements, as to which reasonable people can form different but equally valid preferences.

    What I have just described is the ideological defense of pornography. Given the consequences for women of this formal theoretical structure, consequences that we live out daily as social inequality (not to mention its inherent blame-the-victim posture), I do not think that it can be said the liberal feminism is feminist. What it is, is liberalism applied to women.”

    Posted by Luckynkl | June 22, 2006, 11:56 pm
  51. Holy moly, thanks Lucynkl. I am going to have to find that book. The local women’s centre in my town has been taken over by liberals. It so confused me. They have “teas” and “auctions” to raise money, but only middle class white women can afford to go to them. I have refused to go on the grounds that a poor woman is not welcome because she can’t afford the price of admission. It is insidious. I have be ostracised because I dare to question andI am called paranoid. “They are just trying to help you know.”
    Their main funding is from government. Oh, do you think there is an agenda there especially when the local male ‘Liberals’ donate from their businesses great auction items? I think I get the picture. I need the theory. Thanks.

    Posted by rhondda | June 23, 2006, 1:10 am
  52. Liz: Of course that’s wrong. If a woman–or anyone, for that matter–doesn’t want to do something, regardless of what it is, be it any kind of sexual activity or even lifting up her right arm, then she shouldn’t have to do it, or feel like she’s wrong in her decision. I hope there was nowhere that I implied I thought otherwise.

    You’re also right in that I have a problem with sweeping generalizations. Especially when it comes to rather arbitrary value judgments that have little basis in objective logic and observable, correlation-indicating evidence and instead operate by taking an individual instance of an event and extrapolating it to be representative of every instance of the event. I could just as easily argue that all women love giving blowjobs simply because I know that there is one woman who loves giving blowjobs. It would be just as inaccurate and wrong as what you’ve been doing.

    WomensSpace: (It’s been striking me as odd of late to be debating with people using their screen names. I don’t know why.) Regarding voreophilia, that is a rather complicated issue. For starters, how do people develop fetishes? As someone with a couple, I can tell you that it certainly wasn’t a choice. Not for me, at least. Unless when I was maybe two years old, I thought, “hey, I’m going to be sexually turned on by feet for the rest of my life”. But considering that I had no idea what sex really even was by that point, I really doubt that explanation.

    We need to draw a distinction between fetishism and mental illness. But how? Where do you draw the line, and how do you deterine the placement of that border? Obviously a fetish that includes “I want to get off on ending my life in a particular way” or “I want to get off on ending someone else’s life” is going to fall into the category of mental illness. But you’re going to end up with a pretty hazy line from that point. And, of course, there’s a difference between having a fetish and acting on it. If a person’s fetish includes lack of consent, it’s obviously wrong for them to act on it. But all of this is a long conversation unto itself.

    There’s an enormous difference between “I’m going to get off on this bizarre and dangerous activity that is, save for an odd fusion in my brain, not in any way directly related to sex”, and “I am going to stimulate my partner’s genitals, or take pleasure in having mine stimulated”. Hopefully we would all be clear on the distinction between hard-wired physiological response to nervous stimulation and wildly-varying psychological connections between unintentionally sexualized objects and sexual arousal.

    This actually brings up a rather interesting question, though: Is it possible to breed fetishes? Or, rather, if you explain sexuality to a child in such a way that it includes engaging in a fetish, how will they develop? Will they still carry an interest? If, say, feet were included in a sexual explanation to a child, will they actually find feet arousing or will it just be some inexplicable behavior in which they engage as more of a chore because they’ve been told there’s some kind of connection? Hard to say, really.

    It’s not that all fetishes must be given the green light and endorsed and venerated and et cetera, but they should at least be understood for what they are. They are no more a choice, or a “societal construct” than homosexuality. If I chose to like feet, it’s certainly not something I recall ever doing, but it’s something that’s existed my whole life, long before I even knew what sex was. None of the people with whom I grew up shared this attitude toward feet, so it wasn’t something I was raised into or anything. I don’t know, perhaps out of all the people with fetishes in the world, I’m entirely alone in this. So how do you explain it? I’d certainly love to hear it. It’s one thing to make a broad, all-encompassing statement about something; it’s another thing entirely to actually explain what makes your explanation correct. That is, how does your explanation of fetishism correlate with observable evidence?

    But you’re right: We shouldn’t raise our children to think it’s okay to be eaten by strangers. You seem to be conflating the vore fetish with cannibalism as a whole. And given that the number of people in the world with that serious a vore fetish number in, oh, say, the dozens, I don’t think we really need to worry about a massive movement to begin breeding people as feeding stock for the purposes of sexual arousal. Just a guess, but I’d say it’s safe to move that worry onto one of the back burners for the time being. (I’d like to actually see some reports of voreophiles raising children for food, as you claim is happening. Could you provide some references for this claim? I’m not talking about individuals–say, some voreophile parents raising their children for food–I’m talking about this movement you claim is taking place.)

    My problem, here, comes with the way many seem to be phrasing their arguments, particularly Puffin from the comments on the original post. (Liz: I’m glad you clarified, because your implication was, in fact, different from what you actually meant.) Instead of taking issue with forcing women to do things they don’t want to do–which is, in fact, the issue–you’re taking issue with the act of oral sex in and of itself. It’s like taking issue with the act of kissing because there are women who are often kissed against their will, or taking issue with, say, riding a bike because there have been women in this world who have been forced to go for a bike ride at one point in their lives. Don’t make one particular instance of a forced activity the flag for the cause of eliminating forced activity.

    But the real problem is the hypocrisy of claiming to be all for women’s equality and liberation while at the same time casting judgment upon individual women’s decisions. This doesn’t apply to everyone participating in this conversation, of course–I don’t intend for this to be a description of all parties involved. It is, however, a perspective that has shown itself numerous times over the course of this debate. That is, it seems the attitude is: Either a woman hates blowjobs or else she just doesn’t realize that the only reason she “enjoys” doing them is because society pressures her to. She obviously is incapable of personal volition, and is just an unwitting sap who is easily used as a tool of men. And this seems to make the entire argument, “We are the only ones who know the truth; all other women are stupid; all men are scum”. Call me crazy, but I just can’t see how you’re going to get “sexual equality” out of that.

    Posted by J Crowley | June 23, 2006, 6:13 pm
  53. Amazing how some seem so determined to misinterpret others to prove a point. As a heterosexual feminist woman I have ambivalences about all forms of sex between men and women. However, I have no problem stating I have a huge problem with men expecting blow jobs from women. This is a particularly obnoxious manifestation of the male sense of entitlement. Especially since such men are unlikely to go out of their way to please their lovers.

    There are other men, few and far between as they may be, who take great pleasure and pride in their ability to give pleasure to women. Giving such a man a blow job might not be problematic, as a treat as opposed to something he has some right to expect. It would depend on how solidly egalitarian the relationship really is, which is impossible to determine, as the quality of any relationship is readily clouded by wishful thinking, and subject to change without notice. Also, I tend to think the sexual focus of such men is elsewhere; getting blow jobs is not that important to them.

    There is a huge difference between asking women to think about political implications of a sexual act and condemning it outright regardless of circumstances. I think Heart and others are being unfairly accused of the latter.

    Posted by Aletha | June 24, 2006, 6:36 am
  54. brownfemipower: is there only one way to become liberated? If rapes and sexualized violence stop because we have outwitted men, rather than gotten into direct confrontation with them, does it count less?

    What bothers me about this question, which I’ve been thinking about, is the way it tends to shift responsibility from men for raping women, to women to outwit them without direct confrontation. I’ve read enough of your writings, bfp, to know you’re not suggesting this; nevertheless, the idea is there and troubles me. The other problem I have with this is that we can’t outwit men sufficiently to stop rape and sexualized violence. It’s usually not about wits– it’s about brute force. An infant, a toddler, a little girl, is rarely going to be able to outwit OR challenge her rapist. There’s no outwitting a knife, a gun, or sheer brute strength and size. So while again, as I’ve already said, I want women to do WHATEVER they can do to keep themselves safe, much more than that, I want men to stop fucking raping us, goddamit. The responsibility resides with men to stop, not with women to outwit, or be stronger or faster or whatever. Which doesn’t mean, once again, for clarity, that ANYTHING that helps a woman to help herself, to be safe, isn’t great. The other thing is, I don’t think our subordination would end if rape and sexualized violence ended because we outwitted men. For our subordination as women to end, men have to take responsibility for subordinating us. I think this comes, in part, as a result of repeated, relentless, direct challenges to their subordinating behaviors.

    And the feminist organizations that are working with women men and children alike who are in prostitution in india and africa are getting women into their centers and catching them on the streets by offering them the service of “here is how to give a bj so that you can get a condomn on” *at the same time* that they are giving them food, teaching them organizing strategies and watching their kids while they’re out working. where is that happening here in the states? what is more likely to happen is a woman locks her kid into the hotel room and then gets child care services called on her for being neglectful. Why aren’t we utilizing what they’re doing to build on and start something?

    We should be! You are so right about this.

    what i think so many people forget (not saying you, heart, just people in general) is that coming to feminism or radical thought didn’t just *happen* one day–there were many steps involved in which conversations happened, books were read, meetings were organized, and then more people came and theory had to be reinvestigated and started over again. For most people, this happens in a relativelly safe university setting. women working in the streets don’t have that luxery. Thus, grassroots basebuilding’s job is to bring that step by step process of “becoming” radical *to the streets*. you go onto the streets and give tools and information and knowlege, and after two, three, ten years, a large enough base is set up for genuine action. If the tool you use to get women to keep coming back to your organization and take those risks inherent in standing up to oppression is “this is how you give a bj so you don’t die” why is that just “survival” and not revolutionary action?

    Yeah, I think you’re right, bfp, but I would invite others to respond because I think these are really good questions and the more brains, the more insights for all of us.

    why do only those who go to college have the right to step into feminsim a bit at a time, and not those on the streets–especially when thinking, that in general, those on the streets are going to be taking far more risks than those in universities by coming to feminism?
    off of survival strategies comes resistance, off of resistance comes liberation. imo, you can’t discount any step in that process.

    I totally agree.

    i’ve seen many many many people who are discussing this calling other women players of the patriarchy, suckers of the patriarchy, etc etc…much along the lines of those who call mothers “breeders”–

    Yeah, that’s so not helpful.

    i also think that by centering men in our strategies for liberation (calling them out on the roof tops) takes away from empowering women. Yes, 100%, men must be held accountable, but shouldn’t the first step be to organize women, rather than to call men out? Shouldn’t the first step be even before organizing women be creating some way to reach out to women and empower them with survival strategies so that they can make it to meetings and find ways to talk with other women in their lives? yes, the long term goal needs to be to call men out from the mountain tops, but i think we’re going to be standing my ourselves on the mountian tops if we don’t start looking for ways to centralize the poorest of the poor, the most victimized of all victims, and empower the hell out of them.

    Very true. Great thoughts, bfp. That’s why I love you. Well, one reason.

    And go, you and Nubian at the conference!

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 24, 2006, 3:56 pm
  55. Aletha: There are other men, few and far between as they may be, who take great pleasure and pride in their ability to give pleasure to women. Giving such a man a blow job might not be problematic, as a treat as opposed to something he has some right to expect. It would depend on how solidly egalitarian the relationship really is, which is impossible to determine, as the quality of any relationship is readily clouded by wishful thinking, and subject to change without notice. Also, I tend to think the sexual focus of such men is elsewhere; getting blow jobs is not that important to them.

    This is such a good point, Aletha. Good men will often refuse blow jobs– that's sure something nobody in these discussions has said yet! (That I've seen.) But it's very true. They will also reject sex that seems to be coming out of impulses that seem wrong, i.e., advances from women much younger than they are, where the power doesn't seem right, where the motivations seem to be informed by the one-up, one-down dynamics of heteropatriarchy.

    I think you're right, too, that most men aren't much about giving pleasure to women. At first when it's all new and exciting, yeah, but after a while, eh. The sad thing is, most of the time, women keep being willing to pleasure them even so. 

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | June 24, 2006, 5:21 pm
  56. A newcomer to this debate, I am somewhat depressed by how it is being conducted.

    Heart, are you honestly taking J.Crowley’s point about brushing people with broad strokes and addressing it using a cannibalism fetish? That’s sensationalist; it degrades the obvious thought and restraint put into all of this person’s posts. Why have you chosen to do that?

    I have my own experiences and thoughts to post, including my thoughts on how lovely it is (please note the sarcasm) to be raped by another woman and thus become invisible as a rape victim to the feminist community. The statistics for lesbian violence are on par with those for heterosexual. However, I think that J.C. deserves a better answer than a diatribe on cannibals.

    Posted by Somethingerine | June 28, 2006, 8:37 pm

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