Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Eroticism Can Still Be Consensual

I'm pretty unapologetic about my beliefs.

Like that when to have sex, and how to have sex, and with whom to have sex (among consenting adults!) are personal choices.

Like that the government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all, but since it's too late to change that system, same-sex couples should be granted the same rights as male-female couples.

Like that Christianity and feminism are not mutually exclusive.

Like that my boobs don't define me as a person, and you literally know nothing about me based on my body or my clothes, except the general shape of my body and the colors I like.

So when I saw that one of the prompts this month involved "getting on my soapbox," I figured I would write something in regards to feminism.

Then, of course, my brilliant twitter friend @j_aallan linked me an article titled "Sexism. The New Prudery?" published in New Male Studies, an academic journal that apparently doesn't have very high standards for submissions. Seriously, I was reading it, and I kept tweeting at @j_aallan to complain about the academic level of this paper. I almost feel guilty for critiquing it. Almost.

The article's premise is that the fight against sexism is actually a fight against eroticism. Before we look at the specific arguments, I want to define sexism and eroticism. 

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex, via wikipedia.

Eroticism is generally understood to refer to a state of sexual arousal or anticipation of such, via wikipedia.
Le déjeuner sur l'herbe by Manet

Immediately, I see a disconnect between the argument that fighting sexism is the same as fighting eroticism. Fighting sex-based discrimination does not equal fighting sexuality, or fighting sexual arousal, or fighting sexual relationships. But let's look at a few selected quotations and analyze what is wrong with them. Italicized text is from the original paper, with brackets if I made grammatical changes for clarity. Bolded text is for emphasis of my own thoughts and to distinguish from the italicized text.

Ultimately [sexism's] intention is to describe the world of men and women in terms of irreconcilable opposition and to create the appearance that their relations to one another are shaped not by eroticism but rather annoyance, anger, and violence. Sexism fights eroticism because the latter focuses on what men and women have in common rather than what separates them.

1) Discrimination doesn't have any intent other than to discriminate. The phrasing of just these two sentences are a clear example of the poor writing. The argument is that feminism, in tackling sexism, is actually tackling eroticism. But instead, the author routinely refers to sexism as something that opposes eroticism.

2) I cannot speak for every single feminist ever. Feminists do not agree on every single thing ever. In general, however, feminists dislike the battle of the sexes or irreconcilable opposition

3) Feminists also tend to reject the idea of rigid gender roles. We think that men and women can have healthy, beneficial relationships without sex. We think that a healthy sexual relationship between a man and a woman includes more than just sex. We also like to focus on what men and women have in common.

4) Feminists actively work to change the idea that masculinity is inherently [angry or violent]. We also want to change the trope of the nagging, annoyed girlfriend/wife.

Yet the delusion of sexism not only denies that eroticism creates and maintains relationships. It also attempts to unmask eroticism as an instrument of male domination and to replace it with the belief that men are perpetrators and women their victims.

1) And the rape apology begins. The author's understanding of eroticism is that all women are ready to have sex with all men, at any given point in time, and feminists are just trying to oppress natural sexual desires.

2) Actually, feminists are all about men and women enjoying the same sexual autonomy, between consenting adults. We are not calling eroticism an instrument of male domination, we are calling RAPE an instrument of male domination.

3) We do call attention to the fact that the majority of rapists are men, just like we call attention to the fact that the majority of men are NOT rapists. It's not that men are perpetrators, but that the perpetrators are mostly men. We also highlight that men can be victims of sexual violence as well, not just women.

Since eroticism attempts to near the vulnerable intimate space of the other, it not only entails risk but can lead to misjudgments this can be avoided if you ask for and receive consent, grave breaches of decency MRA talk for sexual assault, misunderstandings I didn't know it was rape because he didn't say no, and I didn't ask first, a sense of personal offense like shame, humiliation, confusion because of being sexually assaulted?, and consequently violence MRA talk for self-defense.

The object is to rein men in, regulating their conquest behavior step by step--right up the sexual act itself--bringing their alleged violence under control, and thereby protecting women.


During the process of garnering consent, passion is lost.

If you can't enjoy sexi time without raping someone, you're not mature enough to be engaging in sexi time.

Eroticism has been proclaimed an everyday risk for women.

What? You're confusing eroticism with objectification. The chemistry aka eroticism experienced between Beau and me is hot. Like when he does this one thing that drives me crazy that he can innocently do in public but results in my instant arousal. It is not the same thing as men seeing my body, leering at me, whistling at me, ignoring me as a person and focusing solely on my individual body parts.

A differentiation is no longer made between a gentle touch that is premature, a look that is too direct and can be annoying, invasive bottom grabbing, the lack of women in corporate board rooms, the physically violent male in the home, Oscar Pistorius pulling the trigger, and a homicidal rape in an Indian bus. That is intentional. That is why it is generally claimed that women should have the right to define violence according to their own criteria.

Yes, all of these fall under the broad category of sexism. Yes, they all are symptoms of patriarchy. Yes, they should all be defined as sexist. Incremental sexism leads to worse and worse examples of sexism. All these situations result from thinking that women are lesser than men, that women's needs are secondary to men's needs, that women don't deserve men's respect. So, yeah, I wrote about my own invasive bottom grabbing, and yeah, I labeled it correctly as sexual assault. No, I wasn't raped, and I wasn't murdered, but it was still wrong. You know what I didn't label as sexual assault? Guys I kissed who put their hands below my waist, even when I didn't want their hands there. I understood it was a natural progression for many people hooking up, so I just moved their hands. No big deal. Not sexual assault. Women are allowed to define this because we are human beings capable of intelligent thought and nuanced beliefs.

For without crossing the boundaries of daily life... consensually and yet simultaneously embracing risk--personal relationships simply cannot come about.

So... you agree that eroticism and consent can co-exist. After writing all your stupid doublethink that consent ruins eroticism. Basically, you're a bad writer with a worse thesis.

Did you read the original article? Did it fill you with rage? How do you maintain consensual eroticism in your own life?



  1. Did not read the main article, but the idea that if we as a society learn to give up rape, violence, and sexism, we are therefore also sacrificing eroticism is beyond ridiculous.

    1. Don't read the main article. It's horrible, not just the message, but the poor writing.

      I think this whole backlash to pushing consent--it's not sexy!--is just a bunch of whiny, privileged jerks who couldn't get laid if consent became normalized.

  2. okay, after reading your post I couldn't bear to read the actual article, but it sounds like the author is defining sexism as eroticism solely for the enjoyment of men. As you say, "confusing eroticism with objectification." Only when there is no sexism can there be mutual eroticism. Right?


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Comments are moderated because I receive a lot of spam, and I think CAPTCHA is annoying. I reply to most of your comments within the comment section because it inspires discussion between readers. For first-time commenters, I try to reply by email.

Yes, you can comment anonymously. Yes, you can disagree with me. However, as of 05/31/2013, if you are commenting anonymously, and your words are hateful or abusive, I will publish these at my discretion. I like that my blog can be a forum for discussion, but anything that blames or mocks survivors of sexual assault will NOT be tolerated.


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