Sexuality Feminism?

// 2 February 2009

Paradox at the blog Fourth Wave Feminism calls for a new category of “sexuality feminism”, for feminists that put sexuality at the centre of their activism, but do not necessarily identify as pro (or anti) porn, etc.

I have an awful lot of sympathy for this idea:

In the past, I’ve identified most closely with sex-positive feminism. When I was growing up, I was socially attacked and ostracized for being a woman who was openly interested in sex. This hurt me. When I encountered sex-positive feminism, it was like a light shone down from the sky. There were other people who thought that sex was important, that women could be sexual, that I was really an okay person even though I had a sex drive.

On the other hand, I don’t agree with their total lassiez-faire attitude towards porn. I think it’s important to recognize the systematic misogyny in porn. I don’t want to ban porn at all, but we can’t do any better for sexuality if we don’t recognize its problems. That “pornified” misogyny is part of what creates the idea that women can’t be sexual unless they’re whores (in other words unless their sex is in service of men). I can see that, and think it’s important.

Therefore, I am coining a new term for myself. I am a sexuality feminist. I believe that sexuality is central to gender inequality. I think that addressing sexual inequality is a very crucial step towards decreasing overall gender inequality. I make sexual equality the main focus of my activism.

This term could, in fact, apply to both the anti-porn and the sex-positive feminists. It says nothing about whether you’re in favor of mainstream porn or not. Maybe it could even let us work together sometimes.

It doesn’t mean we have to give the word “pornography” a new meaning in order for the average person to understand what we mean when we define ourselves. It doesn’t suggest that those who oppose us are “sex-negative” or anti-sex. Rather than putting us in opposition to something, it gives us a realm in which to work, rebel, agitate, create, define, and live.

Who knows, maybe it could catch on. I’m claiming it here and now: I’m a sexuality feminist.

(H/T Sinclair)

Comments From You

Vxn // Posted 3 February 2009 at 3:08 am

Go on her.

Well said.

JenniferRuth // Posted 3 February 2009 at 9:41 am

Well said, Paradox!

Personally, I don’t believe that sexuality is at the centre of gender inequality – although it is obviously massively effected by it. I have disliked the term “sex-positive” for a long time though due to the implications that there is a “sex-negative” lurking around somewhere. I think that this term is a much wider reaching definition and it opens the door for discussion on porn without placing the debate in simple black and white terms (for or against – no inbetween!).

I hope people pick up on it…

Gweem // Posted 3 February 2009 at 11:00 am

Sounds an awful lot like my current stance – I’ve never quite fitted into either group perfectly. However, sexuality is only one facet rather than the centre of my feminism – I don’t have a focus yet!

Clare // Posted 3 February 2009 at 1:57 pm

I think the more I read about these issues and think about it, the more I come to this conclusion: Sex and sexuality aren’t the issue, they’re the medium.

Lyndsey // Posted 3 February 2009 at 3:04 pm

Fantastic post. I’ve had conversations with friends that have concluded with a similar position.

Shell // Posted 3 February 2009 at 5:49 pm

Me too!

Female sexuality is what scares the masses. Somehow they got around it with porn and lap dancing however, and they’re certainly comfortable with those girls being openly sexual. Except misogyny is still in abundance with abuse of openly sexual women. Patriarchy will allow us to have sexuality provided it’s in a need to be dominated, and thus show our inferior side. And provided it’s in service to them, again showing our inferiority as a sex.

Although being sexual is ’empowering’ (yuck hate that word because of its overuse). We’re not sex objects if we have the same sex drives as the sexists who deem us so. We could actually be as human as they are; so a threat?

I love the term as it will hopefully get rid of all this empowerment bull to do with anything female related and sexual.

Acknowledge the good in being sexually free; whilst the bad in how our sexual freedom is abused and demeaned.

Mobot // Posted 3 February 2009 at 6:01 pm

Hear, hear! This totally speaks to the frustration I’ve experienced for ages due to feeling like my only options are being totally anti-porn and saying that anything goes… I’m glad there are other feminists who appreciate that things aren’t so black and white! And while I don’t know if sexuality is the root of all misogyny, I do find myself coming back to the same notion over and over about female sexuality being perceived as a threat and therefore needing to be controlled. Nice post!

maggie // Posted 3 February 2009 at 7:30 pm

It’s great posts like this that make the internet a wonderful medium. I love this term too.

Aimee // Posted 3 February 2009 at 10:06 pm

That pretty much sums up how I feel about a lot o the issues to do with feminism and sexuality. For example, I disagree with porn as it is now, but not of erotic films per se. I think porn would be great (and probably a lot more arousing!) if it showed real people having real sex. Not all sexy music and filth, but real people doing the various things that real people do and just being comfortable with eachother. It’d be more informative too! Instead of missing out all the giggly bits and the bits where you’re not sure what to do or you accidentally poke the other person’s eye or something could be included. So as to make it a real act and not something from someone’s horrible lecherous fantasies.

Lisa // Posted 4 February 2009 at 8:16 am

Neither of the terms really appeal (sex positive or sexuality feminism). They both leave a lot unsaid and focus on too narrow an agenda e.g. sex positive – positive about what exactly ? everyone with a sex drive is positive about sex so this doesn’t add anything. sexuality feminism – as opposed to what ? race feminism, class feminism ? Surely they all overlap but at the same time none is more important the other ?

There are enough problems in promoting straightforward basic feminism. Plus most women I know are struggling with work issues – how to combine children and work, how to maximise hourly pay, how to facilitate a return to work after children, how to care for older or sick relatives and work, how to retrain, add skills, how to start their own business etc etc. Sex is a welcome distraction but unless we all turn to the commercial sector no help paying the rent !

Jess McCabe // Posted 4 February 2009 at 10:23 am

There’s room for everyone to focus on what inspires/interests/seems urgent to them.

I wouldn’t say this is the absolute centre of what I think is urgent, but it’s up there. And I don’t think it’s really as simple as “everyone with a sex drive is positive about sex”.

Paradox // Posted 26 February 2009 at 5:46 am

Wow, hi everyone. Aviva at Fourth Wave just pointed me to this post. Thanks for all the positive feedback! It’s nice to hear that other people are frustrated with the whole binary framing of the issue.

I do think Lisa’s right that sexuality feminism is no more or less important than race feminism or class feminism. Or any other kind of feminism, for that matter. I just find it useful to specialize and the term gives me a way to describe how I do that. I can’t do everything, so I’ll do the best I can to create change in the arena to which I’m most drawn. For me, that’s sex.

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