Monday, July 24, 2006

Sex Positive Radicalism 101 -- (Smack)Doggie Style

Since many of you who view this blog may not know or understand the underlying philosophy that underlays this little blog project; I will take time out from the Sex Wars and entertain you with a post that I placed at Bitch | Lab a few minutes ago. It was in response to Miz K sweetly and with much jest suggesting that my advocacy of porn and sex positivity as a litmus test for feminism was "annoying". Since I do happen to have a reputation to uphold; I sent this post in response (actually, it was broken down into three posts, but I am consolidating them here for brevity's sake. Hopefully, it will give you a inkling of the methods of my madness....or the other way around.

Just try and blow this one, Ms. Bitch. heheh :-P

Adapted from the "Erased" thread at Bitch | Lab, which can be found here.

Perhaps a clarification of my fundamental views on sexuality and feminism is needed so that people can understand why I can get really annoying…..errrrrrr, passionate at times about the issues:

I’m not an academic like B|L; I deal in the empirical world with regular working people. (Not that you don’t, Miz B; I’m just saying that I’m not academically trained.)

My belief as a sex radical and a socialist and a free-thinking feminist is that people should be given all of the resources and all of the leeway to make informed decisions about themselves and their bodies based on factual and non-judgemental information…and that the masses should be willing to accept that individual’s decision (whether it be based on an individual or part of a collective decision process) as long as that decision doesn’t negatively impact, injure, or irrepably harm others. To me, a free and equal person is more than able to make informed and capable decision; and whether you like that decision or not; as long as it doesn’t affect you personally, it shouldn’t be really any concern to you what (s)he does.

Now, there are limited conditions to that basic belief where I do think that government or the state can step in in the name of the common good and intervene in personal behaviors that may become ultimately destructive to others..but the burden of proof lies with the government or the other institution to prove that they are acting in the proper interest and that their actions are limited to the scope of the danger, and not just to increase government power for the mere sake of power itself.

Therefore, I have no problems with government inducing citizens to pay their fair share of taxes to fund infrastructure improvements or public health care or living wages or supporting legal and fair unions to improve the well being of the working class and the poor, because that represents a common, collective good of equality and social and economic justice.

On the contrary, I have a really BIG problem with using tax dollars financed through regressive taxation to fund a overbloated military and a repressive social structure (jailing citizens for “victimless crimes”; using prisoners and undocumented “illegals” for cheap labor to undercut wages and benefits for working people; repressive surveillance (sic??) used to snoop on people to use their personal failings against them; and other similar issues); as well as giving all sorts of benefits to the wealthiest portion of the population at the expense of the working class and poor majority.

[Note that I use the term "working class" in the traditional old-school Marxist sense of meaning anyone who depends solely upon their labor for their wages.]

In short, my belief in free will and self-determination has always been rooted in the ideas of fundamental Leftist notions of equality and social justice and redistribution of resources and popular control of the means and ends of production.

Similarly, as to my views on porn and sexual expression: I’m not arguing that porn is the utopia of ultimate personal sexual expression, or even that those who consume it regularly are the vangard of the new socialist (or feminist) revolution. Of course, all porn is not neccessarily asthetically pretty or promotes all love and peace and flowers; real live sex reflects the attitudes of those human beings who make it, and so does porn. (And like any other medium, porn is not immune from all the motivations and frailties of the profit motive; that more than anything else is the source of why so much of it really sucks (and not in the good way, either).)

Yes, most het porn is tuned to male fantasies of women; it is the collorary of romance novels and soap operas that are geared to women. (Ignoring, of course, gay male, bi, and lesbian porn or porn featuring transsexuals.) Yes, porn sells a certain hyperrealistic fantasy about a woman or man who is always ready to drop his or her drawers whenever (s)he desires sex (not to say that such women or men don’t or shouldn't exist, mind you; people who aren't afraid to follow their hardon or clit and enjoy sex to the fullest is definitely NOT a bad thing); that’s not that much different than lotteries which sell the opportunity for escape from middle-class drudgery into the level of the rich, if only for a while until the money eventually runs out. And yes indeed, porn can also be a reflection of the worst in people’s behaviors; it reflects the broader sexism and racism that exists in this unequal capitalist, racist, patriarchial society.

But just because sexist people may produce sexist porn to sell to other sexist people and make a small fortune on it at the expense of the talent (the male and female performers) who does all the “dirty work”, or that are some really nasty people who do exploit and abuse prostitutes or erotic dancers for their own purposes, does NOT neccessarily translate always into porn or sex work being solely the essence of patriarchy and "sexual slavery"; and that its total abolition through censorship and replacement with a “feminist” -made sexuality is the only solution to mitigate for the negative effects. Here is where I particularly and directly part company with the radfems and their “leftist” allies. Human choices are indeed conditioned by the societies they live in; but intimate human sexual desires are not so socially constructed that they would totally fade away if the societies were transformed radically.

Besides, porn and sex work can be and has been used just as much as a tool of progressive, feminist, positive transformation as it can be and has been used for reactionary purposes; and in this world where sex is still treated as nuclear waste outside of the narrow definition of procreation for religion or monogamous “intimacy” within marriage, it is more than important that we understand why porn and sex work remain so popular, even in spite of their illicitity. As important as sex education books and reproductive freedom is to the progressive development of human beings (especially considering the issue of world overpopulation and women’s rights); learning about and understanding the functioning of their sexual bodies and their desires is simply essential….and how can people effectivly understand others if they are so ignorant about their own bodies and feelings??

This is where the traditional Right’s (and the Puritan Left’s) crusades against sexual discovery and enlightenment (and physical acts such as masturbation or non-procreative sexual acts or preventative measures against unwanted pregnancy) really come into focus; it’s as if an orgasm or a man spilling his “seed” is considered to be such a cosmic threat to the social order that huge institutional weight must be sent down to enforce the overall Puritan social order.

Now, I do not deny one bit that being sexually assertive and open doesn’t have its risks and pitfalls by any means, especially for women. There are indeed men who will take the generosity and openness of sexually assertive women as a license to do all kinds of harm to them (including rape, assault, forced prostitution, and even murder). Plus, there is the usual “slut’/”whore”/”harlot” stigma that has always been attached for ages to women who defy the traditional sexual standards of the “good girl/woman/feminist” pedestal; thusly earning them all the typical abuse and slander for “bringing women down”. And there is the threat of STDs such as HIV/AIDS, herpes, gonnorrhea, chimydia (sic??) cervical cancer, and other health risks that go with unprotected sex that those who choose to act out on their sexual urges have to confront.

Given all of this, it is not too surprising that within feminism and the Left there has emerged a counter-Puritan-like movement similar to the Religious Right to condemn sexual experimentation and greater sexual openess as damaging and harmful to women, and to revive all the restrictions of older, more conservative sexual morality as protecting women from “the patriarchy”. Their motives are true and they mean well…but their tactics still do not allow for the basic fact that sexual media and other sexual institutions can be reformed and transformed for more progressive goals, that the primary sex institutions do serve a legitimate social need of venting sexual desires; and that total and complete abolition of sexual services would not in any way change the attitudes of men prone to reactionary beliefs about women and sexuality.

Plus…their open hostility and elitism and sheer disgust towards women and men who don’t share their absolutist views about the innate criminality and rapicity of male sexuality or the absolute equivalence of “pornstitution” with rape and violence, serves to divide and polarize and ultimately weaken progressive activism in general at a time when such activism needs to be more consolidated than ever. This isn’t to say that there is absolutely nothing true about antiporn activism or radical feminism; but their explotiation of certain realities to manipulate emotions and slander their critics (while collectively indicting and punishing innocent men as rapists merely because of their erections, or women who disagree with them as “sluts” and enablers of rape) ultimately does as much or more damage to the cause of women’s rights than any antifeminist Rightist could ever do.

The point of all this, Miz B, is that however I may place my defense of consensual sexual expression and media under the guise of “determinism/free will”, as you so put it; my more fundamental underpinning lies not in the mere defense of free choices, but the radical notion of sexuality being a progressive and a positive force for human empowerment and equality, and that people of the Left should not overpoliticize human sexual desire merely to proscribe human choices that do not coerce or physically harm others. In other words, sex and the erotic shouldn’t be taken too seriously that it becomes an obsession at the expense of more fundamental issues of institutional inequality, but should be taken seriously enough when it is used as a source and a media for enforcing inequality and injustice. Merely attaching sex media, sex work, and the study of sexual desire as the pinnacle of racism, sexism or capitalism, then promoting an essentialist model of “transformative” sexuality as an alternative that has no relation to the reality of women’s or men’s desires and actual behaviors is simply insufficient; one must interact and analyze the real world with real people as they exist; not in the utopias invented in some fantasy world of the future. (Although, such fantasy worlds can be genuine motivations and targets to push for.)

In the real world, men and women will dance, kiss, grind, grope, suck, lick, and fuck; that won’t change one bit one day, one month, or a thousand years after “the revolution”. Maybe it’s time for Leftists and progressives to acknowledge that fact and stop attempting to ape the Right in attempting to put down legitimate sexual urges and desires; and instead work to make sexual relationships and outreach more humane, more equal, more progressive, and more mutually pleasurable for all.

That, sister K, is my fundamental belief on sexuality. Call it “annoying” or call it whatever you wish; but it’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

-- Dedicated to Nina Hartley, Shauna O'Brien, Vicky Vette, Avy Scott, Susie Bright, Dr. Susan Block, The Real Violet Blue, Theresa "Darklady" Reed, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Tristan Taormino, Dr. Carol Queen, Dr. Betty Dodson, and all the other sexy and intellegent ladies who helped me to shape my sex-positive pro-feminist radicalism to the fullest.


Renegade Evolution said...


antiprincess said...

Well done, as usual.

swing by my blog, Mr. Kennerson - you'll be amused.

Anthony Kennerson said...

:bows back at RE:

You're not so bad yourself, my dear.

I have a bit to go, though, before I reach your level of kick-ass. But I'll just try harder next time.