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?
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.