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Women's Bodies

Burn Baby Burn: Oppressive Regime of Clitoris-Obsessed “70s Feminists” Toppled!

Emma Tom writes:

AFTER years of unfashionability, vaginas are finally back in vogue. This exciting news comes courtesy of Australian social commentator Bettina Arndt and is a big relief to those of us who continued covertly sporting vaginas even when the fashionistas thought they were as passe as macrame belts and velvet disco jumpsuits.

Most of us weren’t bold enough to expose our out-of-date organs in public, but every so often we’d kick back in them around the house, copping merciless flak whenever we were busted by trendsetting friends.

“I can’t believe you’re still getting about in that old thing,” these mode meisters would say in hysterics. Some of the younger ones didn’t even know what vaginas were, greeting them with the mystified looks they directed at vinyl albums and telephones with spinning front bits, curly cords and finger slots.

But we didn’t care. We knew we were unforgivably unfangled. We knew we should have chucked our vintage vadges into car park clothing bins or donated them to Smith Family appeals. But – hopeless hoarders that we were – we held on to them in the hope that one day they’d make a comeback.

Finally our patience has been rewarded.

In a column in The Weekend Australian, Arndt blamed clitoris-obsessed 1970s feminists for unfairly declaring vaginas dead in the water. She said the consequent “clitoral clamour” kick-started an “era of clitoromania” that brainwashed women into thinking their love ovens were fun-free zones and robbed them of the many delights vaginas had to offer.

“American feminist Shere Hite claimed women were being exploited by being forced to endure the old in-and-out when it did nothing for them,” Arndt wrote.

“But her efforts to normalise women who need clitoral attention silenced others who enjoyed traditional coupling. The oppressed became the oppressors, which is why it has taken so long for the vagina to regain its place in the sun.”

Apparently the Big V’s sunny resurgence is due to groundbreaking research that shows the clitoris is not the only body part responsible for sending “have an orgasm” messages to the brain. In a new book called The Science of Orgasm, American professors Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk reveal that nerves in the vagina, cervix and uterus are also in on the act.

We genitalia dags are, of course, tickled pink that our much-maligned moneymakers have experienced a revival. Yet Arndt’s suggestion that feminists filched vaginal felicity does seem a little extreme. In fact, her claim about a great vagina heist is reminiscent of all those hysterical “a bra-burner took my baby” outbursts made by women such as ABC presenter Virginia Hausegger a couple of years back.

Tom’s entire essay is definitely worth a read and a hearty, resounding and appreciative snort.

It’s astonishing the lengths to which anti-feminist men and women (and sometimes theoretically pro-feminist men, progressives, and some feminist women)  will go to, pardon my French, make shit up about  “70s feminists” so-called.  The creativity, dishonesty, and malignity of the lies stun.

“70s feminists” never suggested — EVER — that women’s sexual pleasure, including orgasms, was only about their clitorises.  That is absolute fiction, if I’m being diplomatic, and it’s a straight up goddamn lie if I’m not.  “70s feminists” — some of them, some really brilliant ones — suggested the precise OPPOSITE.  They said  our women’s bodies, in their entirety:  clits, labia, vaginas,  cervixes, skin, arms, legs, feet, hair, hands, faces, mouth, back, shoulders, brains, minds, emotions  — are, or are potentially, erogenous, sexually responsive and sites of pleasure, and deserve attention and consideration during heterosexual sexual  intimacy.   (Lesbians didn’t need to be told about all of this, they’d known it for the longest.) These “70s feminists” so-called certainly did suggest that, for example, women are a bit  more likely to have orgasms when their clitorises receive a bit of stimulation, ya know, than when, for example, everything but the vagina is ignored by male partners  in the course of treating women’s bodies as masturbatory aids along the lines of “Fleshlights” and calling that “sex” and “intimacy.” They suggested that many women’s clitorises were a long way from Tipperary, to wit, their vaginas, and that when the vagina was the only body part visited by male partners, women missed out.   They suggested that women are unique, different, that different things are pleasing to different women.  Especially they suggested, and reported, that a whole lot of women were getting NOTHING out of het sex.  Why would they suggest such a heinous thing?    Because it was true!   Because they talked to women, knew women, were women, conducted extensive studies in which they interviewed women, and most of all, because they cared about women.  Their point was not to impugn or malign vaginas.  Their point was that a woman is — hello — more than a vagina. 

How does the amazing work these feminists did, truly groundbreaking, liberating in so many ways, somehow get morphed into 70s feminists being “clit-obsessed oppressors”?   It was, is, and forever more shall be, world without end, amen, a no-brainer that women themselves know what they, themselves enjoy.  Who in the universe EVER suggested that women who had orgasms as a result of traditional sexual intercourse with men should stop having them, should worry about them, or should stop enjoying them?  Whoever suggested, or would have, that what is not broken should be fixed?  The concern was that thousands and millions of het women were enduring sex they found painful, did not want, did not enjoy, but felt they had no option but to endure, it was their wifely duty, there was probably something wrong with them that they didn’t enjoy sex.  Their concern was that thousands and millions of het women had been having sex for decades, throughout their adult lives, and had never had an orgasm, even ONCE.  Their concern was that women deserved to enjoy sex!

I am not going to waste any time responding directly to anything in Bettina Hall’s anti-feminist screed.  There are too many lies, there is too much distortion, it is again, some more, still, so much propaganda, beginning with the fiction that  it was Shere Hite’s work which was the groundbreaker (although in many ways it was groundbreaking.)  It was actually Ann Koedt’s work, The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, written in 1968, which was groundbreaking.  Shere Hite’s research came later, the work of many other fine feminist women came later.   The results were that heterosexual women, in particular, but women in general, realized that there was nothing wrong with them, they were not the only women who did not enjoy sex with their male partners, most women did not enjoy sex with their male partners.  The results were that they were en-couraged, given the courage, to explore their own bodies without shame for the first time, to ask their partners for what they wanted during sex,  for the first time, and especially, to speak up about the fact that they didn’t enjoy sex with their partners.  The results were that they found the courage to refuse sex that they didn’t want to have, and to call rape, rape.

Whoever in the titles department at The Australian it might have been who titled Hall’s essay, Climactic Research Leads to Seminal Moment,”  was absolutely correct.  But he should have just spared us the pun and gone ahead and spelled “seminal”, “semen-al.”  The research at issue, or Hall’s reading of its results, was definitely “semen-al,”  guaranteed to delight and inspire male supremacists of all stripes and their female devotees as well.

Heart

Discussion

13 thoughts on “Burn Baby Burn: Oppressive Regime of Clitoris-Obsessed “70s Feminists” Toppled!

  1. You know women can be dragged to their death behind trucks while they are living, have their heads sawed off while they are alive, be shot to death in front of their children at domestic violence shelters, be arrested when they call the police because they are being battered while the batterer walks, can lined up, as schoolgirls, sexually assaulted and murdered, can be stoned for prostituting themselves to feed their children, and yet if we call these men “oppressors,” we will be accused of hating men and being professional victims and so on. Yet feminist women, expecially radical feminists, are called “oppressors” all of the time– even by feminist women! For such things as suggesting that perchance, someone might listen to what women say about sex, and about their bodies.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | October 18, 2006, 7:40 pm
  2. Of course, to boot, Hall showed how little she knows about women’s (and her own) sexual anatomy, in pretty clearly mistaking the clitoral hood and shft for the whole of the clitoris, which is also INTERNAL, through parts of the vaginal canal and labia, and the good ol’ g-spot IS as sensitive as it is in large part because it is technically PART of the clitoris, via the urethral sponge.

    And none of this is big news.

    Umm, and “vaginal orgasm” STILL isn’t apt, just like “clitoral orgasm” isn’t. Pity the writer has research she can read but doesn’t dig just into the surface enough to clue into the fact that orgasm, period, is a nervous system event, which is where it all happens, with genital EFFECTS, in part due sometimes ot genitial stimulus, but it doesn’t happen there, for crying out loud.

    (And I know I have a bias here, because Hite is my absolute idol in the area of work I’m in, but dear gawd, was someone reading her clearly a little short in the reading comprehension department.)

    Regardless, I really loved this post. More than once, while ever straddling the oft-preacrious gap that exists between the feminist community and the sex education/information communities, I have tried, tried, to pinpoint some of the history you have to people, but never done so quite as well (or clearly, very effectively).

    Posted by Heather | October 18, 2006, 11:40 pm
  3. This is a very important essay, Heart.

    Before the 70’s feminist re-evaluation, the dominant notion was anything but a vaginal orgasm was wrong, immature, frigid and possibly lesbian. That was straight from Freud. Women worried they were having the “wrong kind” of orgasm.As you point out, Hite and others abolished the orthodoxy of the “right kind” of orgasm, which Tom is pretending they promoted.

    Posted by saltyC | October 19, 2006, 3:23 am
  4. Hey, thanks for your good thoughts, Heather and salty. Actually, salty, I think Emma Tom is on our side, it’s Bettina Hall who somehow thinks these researchers have discovered something or proved something or who knows.

    A huge problem is, I think it’s hard for most young people to even imagine a world in which huge numbers of heterosexually married women didn’t have orgasms and didn’t enjoy sex– and didn’t talk about it. They just suffered in silence. But that was my mom’s generation, the generation which came of age in the 40s and 50s. I came of age in the late 60s, when because of feminism and because of the Sexual Liberation movement, so called, and because abortion was at last legalized, and because of birth control pills and IUDs, it at last began to be okay for girls and women to openly discuss having sex, being sexual. It was in that context that Koedt and later Shere Hite (whom I also so love, Heather) did the work that they did.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | October 19, 2006, 5:06 am
  5. So much of what is said to have happened around feminism in the ’60s just didn’t happen in Canada (and not likely in other western countries either). And even so, I have heard from some American women that they didn’t consider the pill in the ’60s. Divorce, for example was still scandalous. Began, I think, is the operative word, and among women who were not urban, and large American urban, the ’60s didn’t happen until the ’80s.🙂

    Posted by Pony | October 19, 2006, 7:28 am
  6. Salty I have recently been told by a physician that the uterine orgasms I have are vaginal. I remind you this is 2006. This was apropos of why I don’t want a hysterectomy. “Most certainly vaginal” he repeated. I advised him there was nothing in there. Stunned is an understatement. Well, on both our parts. Is this person some dinosaur in his 60s? No. He’s in his mid to late 40s. And in case you think we don’t have smart doctors here, we do. He’s American.

    Posted by Pony | October 19, 2006, 7:35 am
  7. And the spin begins…
    (against Hite et al)

    Posted by stormcloud | October 19, 2006, 8:25 am
  8. “contractions” I should have said. Since I agree orgasm is an all-systems event.

    Posted by Pony | October 19, 2006, 2:50 pm
  9. Their point was that a woman is — hello — more than a vagina.

    Now there’s a novel idea. You could start a revolution with that one😉

    Posted by witchy-woo | October 19, 2006, 4:08 pm
  10. Actually, according to porn, isn’t the vagina out of fashion in favour of anus, mouth, whatever??

    Posted by stormcloud | October 19, 2006, 4:58 pm
  11. Hey, Heart?

    If you or any other older woman you know would be up to writing a piece for Scarleteen on what it was like for you?

    I would be SO elated. I mean, I fill them in now and then in advice/history discussions, but it’s thirs-person coming from thirty-something me, and I’d so love for them to have a more direct perspective.

    And Pony? UGH. But of course, you knew that.

    One really crappy thing with western docs is that the requirements on them for continued ed are SO minimal. To boot, in most medical schools, even in OB/GYN, study of sexuality is SO teeny: we’re talking a couple weeks tops, and that is very rarely an arena anyone does any continued ed. So, we get reports incessantly of these old (often male, but not always!) docs telling teen and young adult women things that just leave me sitting over here with my mouth hanging open. Sadly, because Dr. comes before their name, and they dig talking so authoritatively (and to their agenda, to boot), too many times, these girls believe them no matter what we say.

    I once had a teenage girl threaten to sue me for the cost of a second doctors visit when, after contracting Chlamydia TWICE vaginally from her boyfriend, she then had unprotected oral sex with him — he still had not had treatment — I made clear she now also needed an oral swab done. She made an app’t, and her doctor told her STIs can’t be contracted via fellatio, period, end of story, and that she was wasting his time. Sigh.

    Posted by Heather | October 19, 2006, 8:21 pm
  12. Thank you, Heather. I was going to point out a few of the points you made. It’s sad when women are completely ignorant of their own bodies. I know I once was too. Because we are so often only taught and exposed to the male point of view and how men look at women’s bodies and sex — which revolve all around him, of course.

    Doubly scary is when doctors behave this ignorant, too. It’s more important to be a male ignoramous than a doctor? Yikes, Pony. I hope you fired him and got yourself a new doctor? Cuz it sure sounds like he got an “F” in anatomy.

    And I agree with a lot of what’s been said here. Flat-earthers look at me rather strangely when I say that a back massage is just as pleasureable to me as sex, if not more so. Hell, I’m ticklish from head to toe. Smelling or eating exceptionally good food can certainly be almost orgasmic. Looking at it can certainly make my mouth water. Watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset rates right up there. Hearing the crash of the ocean waves or the rain dancing on my roof gives me the utmost pleasure. My genitals certainly aren’t my only pleasure center. Far from it. My whole body and anything that is pleasing to my senses I’d label as sensuous. Isn’t that where the word comes from?!

    Posted by Luckynkl | October 19, 2006, 8:26 pm
  13. How freaky is that?

    Oddly, just as you were posting that, I was elsewhere editing the part of the book which tries to address sexuality as involving ALL our senses, not just the visual or the genital.

    The bummer is, I suspect it may miss the mark. It’s one of the Big Trickies I have in talking to young people about sexuality. If I ask about things like this, I get the online equivalent of a blank stare much of the time. There’s a million reasons why, obviously, from how hands-off/sensually dead so much of the world has become to how sexuality isn’t presented holistically (and from a feminist perspective, for very obvious reasons/agendas), etc. Would that I knew, Lucky, how to hammer what you’re talking about above — which in my book, is beyond integral to healthy, happy sexuality, no matter the sex/gender we’re talking about — truly home.

    Sigh!

    Posted by Heather | October 19, 2006, 11:33 pm

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