Excuse me while I have a little rant…

// 30 June 2009

I’m one of those girls who’s always got on better with guys as a general rule, and I’ve had serious relationships with guys since I was 15. So there are a lot of men in this world that I care deeply about. But every now and then I feel so bloody alienated from them that I want to scream. Why? Because they will never, ever understand what it is to be a woman in a society dominated by and created for the benefit of men. They will never understand how it feels to grow up in a world where you are a commodity, where the opposite sex has access to – and feels entitled to access – your body and your sexuality for their own gratification.

I wish that just for one day we could turn the tables and straight men could feel what it’s like to know that their female friends and lovers could go out into any number of bars or clubs in their town and perve on beautiful men, pay them to bend over for them and rub them off; that at a click of a button they could access millions of images and videos of men which exist solely for their gratification; that they could turn on MTV and see almost-naked men gyrating around a fully-clothed woman who sees them as just another piece of meat to get her off; that they could pay to gain a man’s consent to sex and not give a shit about whether he really wants to have sex with them. How would they feel if they knew that every year hoards of women go on holiday to places like Vegas and Amsterdam where they will be offered men to use as they please at every bloody turn, and that that’s the very reason they go there?

I wish men could know what it feels like to grow up desperately trying to prove that you are just as sexy and desirable and fuckable as all those millions of women and girls that they can perve on all over the goddamn place. I wish they could know how much that fucks with your self esteem. And I wish they could feel what it’s like to know that the people you care about – however nice or sweet or caring or socially aware they may be – often help perpetuate this situation that makes you feel like shit. They don’t mean to make you feel like shit, but when the status quo is designed with them in mind, when it benefits them and they’ve never been encouraged to question it, when their privilege and sense of entitlement have been propagated since birth, it’s hugely unlikely that they’re going to do anything but take at least some kind of advantage of what’s handed to them on a plate. I don’t blame my straight male friends when they do, but I wish to hell they could understand that every time they benefit from this woman-as-sex-object culture it reminds me where my place should be in this society, and it certainly isn’t on an equal footing with them.

Disclaimer: I know there are a hell of a lot of other ways in which it would be nice to turn the tables for a day so men could see what life is like for us, but this is what’s particularly irritating me at the moment, so please forgive the rather specific focus of this post. Also, this is a very personal post, I’m not saying all women feel like I do – I recognise that this is very much based on my own hang-ups and insecurities – but I feel that these hang-ups and insecurities are to a large extent a product of growing up in this society, so I felt it was appropriate to let off a little steam here

Comments From You

Cara // Posted 30 June 2009 at 12:25 pm

Nice rant! I for one completely agree.

zohra // Posted 30 June 2009 at 12:36 pm

Thanks for this Laura. I completely hear you on feeling alienated by men sometimes. I simply do not have the words sometimes to explain to them how much my reality differs from theirs and how much they benefit from their privilege at my expense. It is so frustrating sometimes, I just want to scream.

Octavia // Posted 30 June 2009 at 12:36 pm

Couldn’t agree more, great post. Also like to add that it pisses me off that almost everytime I go to the cinema or watch a film I have to sit there, feeling crap and second rate, as a long line of “hot girls” are paraded in front of me for my boyfriend’s and other male viewers’ benefit.

For one day I would love it if men could feel what it’s like to constantly be bombarded with images of the “perfect male” everywhere, whether it’s adverts or supposedly family films; to know what it’s like to know that almost everything is geared towards pleasing the opposite sex.

Clare // Posted 30 June 2009 at 12:36 pm

Here here!! This is one of the myriad of things that, however well meaning they might be, male friends etc just don’t seem to get. I can’t ever seem to explain it to them, so I might just send them your rant instead!!

Clare M // Posted 30 June 2009 at 12:40 pm

Thanks for this article/rant!

I’ve recently been trying to explain to the men in my life how mad it makes me that, unlike them, I don’t have the freedom to walk down the street without a comment, or a “Cheer up!”; or to cross the road without looking to see if a car full of guys is stopped at the lights, and thinking “Oh please, don’t say anything to me”.

And then the men in my life say, “But that must be quite rare, though, surely?” and I say, “No, it is ALL THE TIME: at any time of day, whatever you look like, whatever part of town you’re in, however you’re dressed.”

I told them about the sheer number of replies to the street harrassment article this site put up a while ago, and how endlessly familiar all the women’s stories and comments were, and they simply couldn’t comprehend it.

And I also told them about when a male colleague and I were doing our (identical) jobs and someone came up and chatted to my male colleague all about the job we both do, and then asked him, “And is she helping you?”

And that’s on top of everything in the article re. sex and the commodification of women. I heard a young girl about 15 or so, out shopping the other day, saying to her friend “I’m going to get something really tight and slutty in H&M!” And that made me sad.

Denise // Posted 30 June 2009 at 12:58 pm

Laura, thank you SO MUCH for your rant, I totally love it (and also thanks to Jess for posting about the outrageous Wimbledon sexism).

Today, thanks to the F-Word, I will not feel like a lonely little alien in a cruel world!

Kit // Posted 30 June 2009 at 1:13 pm

Great rant/post! I often feel bad when I say I think X male actor in a film is attractive when talking about that film with my guy friends, but then I remember all of this and the scales are no where near even (and usually they talk about which female actors are attractive too so *shrug*).

sianmarie // Posted 30 June 2009 at 1:44 pm

thanks so much for this rant! each word was spot on for me.

a few weeks ago i walked out the job centre and there was a group of guys sitting outside the strip club opposite – about 5 in their 30s. as i walked past i was taking my sunglasses out my bag and putting my glasses in my bag, and they yelled “you dropped something”. i turned around as i thought that was quite likely, then they shouted “you dropped your knickers”. i turned to keep walking and they started yelling and chanting in a really nasty, vicious and violent tone “bitch bitch bitch” over and over as i walked down the street, until i started to cry. when i turned the corner, another old man (50s-60s) yelled – “lovely outfit darling. ”

i am SICK that this was allowed to happen to me as i walked down the street, that by virtue of being a woman, i am subject to that kind of verbal abuse. i am fed up of male privilege and even more i am fed up of the denial of male privilege by men, which happened when i told that event to some male relatives of mine.

Elmo // Posted 30 June 2009 at 2:12 pm

thanks for the rant-like others who commented i can never get through to the opposite sex about why women are STILL fighting for equality-“but you’ve got the vote, what else do you need?” aaaaargh! and thats just britain! thats not even touching on the fact that there are still places in the world where women dont even have the franchise! im also coming across increasing numbers of girls who think (or perhaps pretend) that feminists are bad tempered man haters-it seems they do not want to be associated with feminism (even if they agree with it) because they think its just being whiney and ungrateful. sometimes it really gets me down because it makes me feel like no one else is listening, or that im being silly, so its always great to know that others DO feel the same!

Tamasine // Posted 30 June 2009 at 2:16 pm

Thanks for your rant, I agree with what you’ve written about. I guess to some extent I try to ignore the more obvious signs of commodification of women through things like MTV, simply through not watching it, but I wouldn’t like to make a guess about how much this has filtered through other types of media and affected me in a more indirect/subtle way.

Clare M – what you’ve written reminds me of a conversation I had with a male friend a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about various things and he decided to ask me whether I thought that (*white) men were discriminated against…and it just made me want to scream for the sheer lack of understanding about the position of others in relation to him. His lack of understanding about how women or others are placed in an ‘other’ position to men was more than frustrating to say the least! Let’s just say I won’t be meeting up with him for some time…

(*I’m assuming that he was only including white males in this, or at least prioritising them over others).

Christian // Posted 30 June 2009 at 2:45 pm

“I wish that just for one day we could turn the tables and straight men could feel what it’s like[…]”

I know it’s immature to say so, but the vast number of homophobic men, jocks, douches, “nice guys”, etc. are that way exactly because they can’t deal with being looked at that way. It’s not so much that it’s another guy doing the oggling, when you think about it, so much as how they can’t control what’s going on there.

You want to put them in a woman’s shoes for a day? Hell, just a night even? Dress them up in leather panties and harness, and throw them in a gay bar. Let them then deal with turning down people. Gods.

The self-esteem part of your rant… Wow. Just wow. I’m a fashion designer and I see that every day, everywhere. Guys just consume all that fakery and Photoshop and put it in the bank that it’s what a women ought to be, while in reality it just messes up everyone. It’s sickening.

Thank you for that. Good stuff.

msruth // Posted 30 June 2009 at 2:50 pm

Amen.

And it’s not just men who don’t understand, a large proportion of our society doesn’t see the problem with sexism and objectification. I sometimes think if it wasn’t for the internet I would feel very isolated, some days I have to count to a very high number to keep from screaming as it is.

TL // Posted 30 June 2009 at 3:54 pm

I don’t think you even need the disclaimer here! When women, and increasingly younger and younger girls, grow up in this society they are sexualised at literally every possible chance…even when you think there is no way a situation could allow them to be sexualised, like others have said here about simply walking down a street! So really this article isn’t to do with your personal insecurities like you say, you’re totally right in saying it’s a product of growing up here! I know the issues of young girls being sexualised has been brought up many times on The F-Word but it never stops being important and certainly has not faded away. I work in a youth club with kids aged 7 – 9, and watched in horror last week as many of the girls copied (I assume copied, I really hope they weren’t making them up of their own accord) some incredibly inappropriate dance moves including gyrating, thrusting and lifting their tops right up as we danced about playing musical statues. It was a horrible juxtaposition of adult behaviour in a kids’ game and it made me so angry..of course it’s not the first time I’ve noticed this with young girls as so many of them tell me excitedly about their newly decorated Playboy themed bedrooms and so on…they’re 8, it’s awful! So many people don’t understand the gravity of such pervasive sexualisation, just how damaging it is for girls and women. I absolutely applaud you for writing about it so well and so extensively. Also, one more thing…I challenge anyone to watch the video for Ciara/Justin Timberlake ‘Love, Sex, Magic’ and tell me just where the love or magic is..! This video really is a perfect example of just how far (demoralising and offensive) sexualisation (of women) in popular culture has gone.

Laura // Posted 30 June 2009 at 4:08 pm

Jesus. Just watched that video, TL, it made me feel sick. Could it any more obvious in its assertion that women exist to pleasure men? That possessive, arrogant look on Timberlake’s face makes my skin crawl. Why isn’t Ciara looking JT up and down, why doesn’t he want to show her what ‘love and sex and magic’ are all about? I guess because that would involve him performing for and being possessed by her, and that would emasculate him. *retches*

It scares the hell out of me that little girls are growing up on this misogyny.

Alex // Posted 30 June 2009 at 4:17 pm

You refer to a couple things as “privilege” which are not, but your hang ups are a result of living in a sexist society.

The clubs and Amsterdam/Vegas snippets for example. Yes guys are dogs….and we have every right to act the same way(equality), but most women do not as they feel “Good girls don’t behave that way”.

That’s something women have to work on, the right to do what we believe will bring us happiness has already been won, but more women need to exercise it more in order to reinforce upon society that we are no longer docile, subservient “good girls” who exist to serve men. If women act like second class citizens, men will treat them accordingly.

Others have experessed my wish – let the guys deal with the non-stop street harassment for awhile, see how they like being looked upon as a piece of meat. Let them experience the feeling of dread that today may be the day one of the guys looking at me like a wolf looks at deer decides to follow up on those sexual urges and damns me to hell….again.

Aimee // Posted 30 June 2009 at 4:26 pm

Thankyou for this!!! I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t describe themselves as a feminist! Especially women! It’s hard to imagine a racial minority who advocates racism against them… so why are so many women anti feminism? I

Aimee // Posted 30 June 2009 at 4:30 pm

I just watched that video…

There are no words really.

The comments on the Youtube version just sum up for me why feminism is so important.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 30 June 2009 at 4:55 pm

There was some discussion about the race & gender issues raised by that video on some blogs (Timberlake pulling on a chain around Ciara’s neck, etc.). For example: http://tinyurl.com/dcmotq

maggie // Posted 30 June 2009 at 5:11 pm

That video is disgraceful. It demeans all those who worked on it. Yeuk! I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy playboy things for a girls bedroom.

Great rant. Men certainly would hate it if the tables were turned. But looking at the state of man boobs on the street in this unusually warm weather, (cover up ffs), I’ll not be lining up.

Rosalind // Posted 30 June 2009 at 5:26 pm

Sociological Images had a post on music videos recently. The ones they mention are all dreadful in terms of objectification and promoting sexual violence.

http://bit.ly/JBPCg

Hope the link works.

Samara // Posted 30 June 2009 at 6:46 pm

FAB post Laura. I totally agree. Thank you for reiterating something a lot of people are thinking…

As an addendum, I’ve always thought that it would be great if just for one day, men could go around with their penises poking prominently out of their chests. That way men would realise what it was like to have one of their most prominent sexual characteristics on display, and straight women would realise how difficult it was not to stare…

Karen // Posted 30 June 2009 at 9:52 pm

A guy from one of our sewage works has just gone to thailand for two months so you can probably imagine the conversations going on. The guy knew the son of a convicted on-the-run drug dealer that now runs a ‘go-go’ bar there (classy,eh?) and is staying there and was saying “ok so I’m a perv but I just want 30GGs to play with” (my 36c’s wouldnt do then? Thank God!) and then the conversations about using the thai women for sex cropped up and one of the blokes said to me “I don’t mean anything against you but we all know why we go there” Like being a thai woman thats probably exploited up to her eyeballs by the government so that she provides entertainment for the sex tourists, thats ok cos she aint a white british female like me! I replied, “yes well we all know we’re just sex objects really for the benefit of men to use and abuse aren’t we” at which I got the o shit sorry i spoke roll-the-eyes treatment. You are so right Laura. Dipsticks like these guys just haven’t got a bloody clue or they just don’t care as long as they get what they want.

Qubit // Posted 1 July 2009 at 1:02 am

The thing is men already do feel objectified, insecure and harassed, at least the ones I have talked to. I have talked to many men who strongly feel street harassment is unbearable for them and they are constantly surrounded by sexualised images of men. Many men I would know would argue that this is to a far higher degree than the images women are exposed to.

I am not sure which is more prevalent as I have never bothered monitoring such things. However the point is that many men do know how you feel because rightly or wrongly they often feel it is worse for them.

David Kames // Posted 1 July 2009 at 1:06 am

Sidetrack, but I think it’s interesting:

Why don’t women wolf-whistle or sexually harass men they see on the street? Is it purely fear of violence?

Speaking for myself: I’ve never felt entitled to access anyone else’s body purely for my own gratification.

Paragon of virtue that I am, I can honestly say I’ve never done anything like street harassment – and I’ve never seen any of my friends do it; not to say it doesn’t happen a lot of course.

Actually I did have had one experience that I suppose counts as sexual harassment: it was at a party, a girl I’d never met before came upto me and in a loud voice started asking mocking and detailed questions about my sexual history and experience for a few minutes before grabbing my head and shoving my face into her breasts…

no-one tried to stop her, or said anything to her that I overheard…

It wasn’t pleasant and it rattled me for a bit – but it was easily excused: she was very drunk and not more than 16 (I was 15.)

So stuff like that? Can’t I just cast my vote for “women shouldn’t be abuse, harassed and commodified” and skip the re-education?

Mel // Posted 1 July 2009 at 3:06 am

Wow my friend pointed me to this blog and I was so amazed. I 100% agree with you and you just found yourself a new follower to your blog.

IKIP // Posted 1 July 2009 at 5:02 am

You just said everything I’ve been feeling. Thank you for putting into words what I could not. I am a ‘fluffy’ sized woman and because of the way women are packaged as gratification merchandise I feel as though I have no value in our society. And that is despite being an educated, talented and creative being. Even other women look at me as something lesser because of my size. I’ve heard people say that the sex industry empowers women because they have the power to deny their services and are the ‘holders’ of what is desirable but in truth the sex industry suppresses not ony sex workers but all women in modern society.

aimee // Posted 1 July 2009 at 8:06 am

I posted a link to this post on Facebook, (hope you don’t mind!), and the comment made about it was this:

“I refuse to believe one woman’s personal insecurities are representative of society’s ills as a whole. I suppose you think Wimbledon should be giving women equal prize money too, even though they play for at least a third less time…”

….

Yes. It WAS from a man. *shakes head*

carolyn // Posted 1 July 2009 at 8:56 am

I am new to this site and have never posted before. This rant sums up everything I have been thinking lately.

MTV is banned in my house, I complain in shops about playboy garbage and up till now I’ve felt so alone in my beliefs. I now know I am not alone and it means so much! Thank you!

Louise Livesey // Posted 1 July 2009 at 10:38 am

Re: Christian’s comment – I’m quite uncomfortable with much of this. Firstly it’s suggesting using LGBT safe(r) spaces to meet heteronormative ends and this is a massive problem (don’t get me started on hen parties on Canal St for example). That is really problematic suggesting that LGBT spaces should be used to prove some point to heterosexual men is both exploitative of LGBT spaces and would impact on the relative safety of those spaces – such suggestions on invasion of these spaces is really problematic. Would we be similarly happy with suggestions of sending straight women into lesbian/bi spaces just so they can get an experience? Or men into all women spaces?

This ideas here also essentialise gay spaces when there is a big diversity of what “gay bars” are like and it essentialises gay male sexualities as all being leather boys/BDSM which is also problematic. Would we countenance suggestions that lesbian sexualities are all one thing? Would we countenance suggestions that all women spaces are one thing? I don’t think so.

Plus I’d argue that the gay male gaze on other gay men is not the same as a the straight male gaze on women (and I know I’m going to essentialise here a little, sorry) in that gay male sexuality doesn’t, as I understand it and have heard it talked about, usually have the inherent threat of violence that the straight male gaze embodies. For me part of the problem with the straight male gaze is that it represents a system of continuum of power which oppresses women in everything they do. Talking with gay and bi male friends suggests that isn’t the same for the gay male gaze and although it does and can embody, for example, surveillance of the body beautiful and of social relationships etc, it does have the same threat or histories of violences (I acknowledge some gay men experience domestic violence but the biggest threat to gay men is straight (homophobic) men rather than other gay men).

These are thoughts in progress but I am quite uncomfortable about these suggestions and would ask that we think more carefully before assuming these are unproblematic things to suggest/do.

lucy // Posted 1 July 2009 at 10:42 am

@David Kames

Whatever happened to you it did not happen within the context of a society where sexual abuse of men by women is anywhere near as widespread as abuse of women by men. When we experience harassment, this is something we immediately fear, and it’s a realistic fear. That’s something you simply cannot experience. Whilst i think it is also important to consider sexual harassment by women, please take this into consideration when you are comparing your experience to ours.

Lara // Posted 1 July 2009 at 11:29 am

I urge you girlies to rent out ‘Australia’. Nicole Kidman is fully dressed throughout and the clothes are very androgynous and not sexual. Hugh Jackman is in tight, sweaty, see through clothes, muscles rippling through and at various points throughout topless. Drool. The best bit is that it seems to be filmed through the ‘female gaze’ at a lot of points with close ups and slow motion on his body rather than hers. It’s really refreshing!

Rosie Lilley // Posted 1 July 2009 at 11:30 am

Thank you so much Laura Woodhouse for showing me I’m not the only woman who feel like this. I’m lucky to have a complete feminist family (mum, dad and 3 brothers) but everyone else in this world that I speek to glazes over when I talk about it. How is it that nobody cares! It’s so upsetting. Any way,

Thank you

Jenni // Posted 1 July 2009 at 11:58 am

Re: Australia and the female gaze – I think that’s probably why critics (who seem to be mostly male) slated it! Movies that appeal to the female gaze are rarely taken as seriously as the rest, and men seem to resent any man who appeals to the female gaze. I’ve heard my boyfriend say “Oh, he’s such a girl!” about men who appeal to lots of women, such as Robert Pattison. They subconsciously relegate these men to the ‘female’ category because they are objectified.

Thanks for the advice Lara – I quite fancy some topless Hugh Jackman!

Kate // Posted 1 July 2009 at 12:26 pm

Abso-friggin’-lutely!!!

Kath // Posted 1 July 2009 at 1:20 pm

Re Louise’s reply to Christian:

I think you are taking Christian’s ‘suggestion’ way too literally. I’m pretty sure it was made in the same spirit as your ‘suggestions’ of how you’d like to turn the tables and exploit men so they know what it feels like. I doubt it’s a serious plea to actually take over gay bars for our ends any more than you are seriously suggesting we round men up and force them into prostitution in Amsterdam. It’s, a thought experiment

Sean // Posted 1 July 2009 at 1:54 pm

Whilst I understand your point and to a certain extent, agree with it, I feel a few counter points need to be made.

You seem to generalise your point to all guys having a lack of sensitivity to the female thoughts and feelings. This balances on a line of making your thoughts as bad as a typical males thought. ‘guys see all women as sex objects’ and ‘women see all guys as not understanding their thoughts’.

Not all guys are like this. I consider myself to be more understading. I see women as they are and appriciate their own type of beauty. Further to this, I see them as equals.

I also think that times are changing. There are a lot more men being seen and treated as sex objects etc, as the female populate are shifting there overall way of life.

The point im making is that not all guys are like this, and while I agree that it is still mostly a male dominated world, women are becoming more equal.

Laura // Posted 1 July 2009 at 2:57 pm

Hi Sean,

I’m not saying that all guys see women as sex objects or that men can’t understand women. My point is that much of the media and sex industry is aimed at straight men and the vast majority of them participate in or benefit from that to some extent. That doesn’t necessarily make all men arseholes or mean that all men objectify women or are incapable of admiring or loving women as sexual subjects – or seeing us as equals, like yourself – but it does mean that we have to live with the knowledge that the men in our lives have been encouraged from day one to see us as sexual entertainment and have access to a whole range of commodified, sexualised images of women’s bodies – our bodies – to which we often feel like we have to live up to. That can be really tough at times, hence my rant.

While I know that, for example, my boyfriend respects, loves and is sexually attracted to me in a perfectly acceptable way, I also have to deal with the fact that he has grown up on a diet of porn, that when he watches TV or films he has a whole realm of hot women thrust in his face and his friends or men in his life often sit around chatting about porn, visits to strip clubs etc. He doesn’t engage in these things himself because he knows it would upset me, but the knowledge that he is part of a straight masculine culture which views me as second class, as an object for consumption, makes me uncomfortable some times. It’s the fact that woman-as-sex-object is laid out for him on a plate should he wish to take it, that he doesn’t have to deal with the same level of man-as-sex-object being thrust in my face and my sexuality from day one; this difference between the gendered cultures we’ve grown up in reminds me that he belongs to the dominant sex and I do not. And that upsets me.

This post was more about gut feeling than analytical theory, so I haven’t delved very deeply into the issues, but as you can see from the comments from other women that it’s something a lot of us feel and have to deal with, and that makes it real and relevant to me, whether or not men agree with or can understand where I’m coming from.

Laura // Posted 1 July 2009 at 3:19 pm

@Kath – Those were my rhetorical suggestions, not Louise’s.

Kath // Posted 1 July 2009 at 3:25 pm

@Laura (and Louise) – Sorry, I did get you two confused there.

Laura // Posted 1 July 2009 at 3:28 pm

No probs, Kath!

Lara // Posted 1 July 2009 at 4:00 pm

Male critics slated it because when this unbelievably perfect male body appeared on screen to be swooned over by women they felt emasculated, inferior and insecure. It’s a fantastically shot epic film, good plot, great lines, funny etc you can’t give it less than a 4/5 really. If it was a film where a female was viewed in that way chances are a female critic would give it a fair write-up – because we’re so used to women being gazed at in that way.

I’m from Brighton and a lot of the time (straight) boy mates say ‘Eurgh this bloke really checked me out just now’. This unwelcome attention is something women put up with all the time – except we’re normally shouted at and touched up as well.

Sean // Posted 1 July 2009 at 5:38 pm

@Laura

This subject has peaked my interest, mostly because, as your artical states, men do not understand/comprehend what you feel.

I’ve never really though about this much as any girlfriend I have had has never brought it up, let alone try to get me to understand it. They have mentioned a dislike to guys being to forthcoming at clubs etc, being touched up of being insulted with crude and derogatory. Whilst this does not directly apply to your point, I’d just like to say that as a guy, I hate this behaviour and do understand as this as also happened to me (albiet only twice) with females replicating the behaviour of males. Which kind of enforces my earlier point.

I’m gonna kinda play devils advocate here, so forgive me, but its just to gain a better understanding…

You say your boyfriend, while being respectful and loving has grown up on a diet of porn. While this is not true with all guys, I see your point but have to ask two questions. Why do you not take an interest in porn? There are so many different types out there now, with a fair amount aimed at females. (i’m aware there is still a bias towards male based porn).

Secondly, surely (some) women are making this situation worse by actively wanting to participating in porn? They have helped make the porn industry into the giant that it is now.

As for the media, I feel that although still bias toward men, with nearly naked women being shown all over the place, there are a lot of topless men being shown as well. But I think the focus has changed, more to the ‘sex sells’ idea rather than for want of a better word, exploiting women. This affects both genders and is something that I personally don’t really agree with.

In regards to women feeling that they have to live up to perfect bodies and the such, equally this affects men too. Every man on TV is well built, muscular and very good looking, just as each woman is perfectly shaped etc. This does have quite a bearing on men (well, at least some). This is the same for any type of porn. One of mans biggest insecurities is the size of his penis, which is only accentuated by the generous portions shown on these films.

Further to the above, I sometimes have difficulty understanding certain elements of women wanting a perfect body etc. For example, I love the way my girlfriend looks. She however feels that she needs to be more toned etc. While there is a certain element of her own satisfaction, there is no need to idolise over a perfect body as she, as like most women, have someone who thinks its perfect just the way it is.

Again, I’m playing devils advocate here, but its just to gain a better understanding.

Kittens // Posted 1 July 2009 at 6:05 pm

Devil’s advocate? Who has the energy for that? If you agree with what she’s saying then you agree, you don’t need to make (frustrated, exasperated) people defend their views just for your reading pleasure. And it was a self-confessed rant born out of frustration, not an ‘artical’ – it’s not as though everything needs to be backed up with solid statistics.

‘I sometimes have difficulty understanding … to gain a better understanding…’

*ticks ‘it’s your job to teach me about feminism’ off her bingo card*

http://viv.id.au/blog/20070414.431/anti-feminist-bingo-a-master-class-in-sexual-entitlement/

Jack Leland // Posted 1 July 2009 at 7:11 pm

I absolutely agree with this post. I had never really thought about it in graphic terms (so the explicitness was effective); women do not have the option to just pay men to bend over and rub them off in public. There certainly are no tourist centers set up for women to sexually use men as a vacation. Mens bodies are not on television viewed as pieces of meat on a regular basis as brainwashing to attack male self-esteem. Hadn’t thought of it that way: perhaps there should be a day when this happens so men get the picture.

I dislike the gay bar comment. This dynamic is really a straight dynamic. Using gay people are some sort of torture method to bother men is beside the point and somewhat insulting to gay people.

I really agree with Laura’s further comment that a true love sex magic video would involve Timberlake performing for and being possessed by Ciara. But we don’t see videos like that. This was part of my point on the Filament thread: where are these images? Clearly there are feminist men who understand that being sexually objectified by women is an equalizing measure (not emasculation) and certainly there are feminists who think such reverse images service equality, so where are the videos and images? Instead we are bombarded with more arrogant misogyny. Perhaps we need more discussion of normative masculinity involving performing for and being possessed by women.

As for the “guys are dogs” comment, I agree, but admitting that and accepting criticism for it perhaps is a step toward equality, as it is a step toward renouncing male privilege, no? Obviously, not every man is as good about things as Laura’s boyfriend seems to be, but acknowledging your unfair role as the dominant sex and relinquishing porn upon request seems to be model behavior.

One thing that I think gets lost here, though, is that porn depicting females are dominant is incredibly popular. So is media that depicts women in power roles, including action films. One can brush all of it aside and say it does not reflect structural power relations, but the fact is that men are consuming these images. Is that a reflection of what men truly want (real equality) or is it a way of blunting women’s demands for equality? (Why have the real thing when you can keep all your power and privilege while pointing to an image that caters to your sexual gratification?) I don’t know the answer.

Mark Tozer // Posted 1 July 2009 at 7:14 pm

Perhaps I am a weird kind of guy but I only want to make love to a woman who wants me , not just physically but also emotionally. ( sorry about the spelling )

Emily // Posted 1 July 2009 at 7:40 pm

Sean, you ask Laura why she doesn’t “take an interest” in porn. You then go on to say that “this situation” (by which I take it you mean the subject of Laura’s rant) is surely being made worse by “(some)” women wanting to actively participate in porn, and that they have helped to make the porn industry the giant it is.

Some women choose (and when I say “choose” I’m implying the choice of one or more options) to work in the sex industry. That doesn’t mean they are contributing to women on the street getting harassed. It is some men who choose to harass women. A lot of women are in the sex industry because they were pressured into it, or forced into it, or do not have any other valid way of earning enough money to pay their bills – ie. not by free choice.

Porn came about because of the way a lot of men (not all) want to look at and treat women. I’m not as knowledgeable about the different types of it as you seem to be, but I think the general problem with porn is that the individuals engaging in it are usually not equal in power and status and free will.

You say “this behaviour” has happened to you. Did you feel real visceral fear for your safety? For your life? I doubt it. Do you worry what to wear or not wear when you go out, in case someone might see that as a reason to harass you? Do you avoid certain places? Do you watch how much you drink in case you get attacked and then you get blamed and not the perp because you’d been drinking?

Yes, one of man’s biggest insecurities is indeedy the size of his penis. And a lot of women have been and continue to be humiliated, brutalised and murdered because of that insecurity. When women feel insecure about their bodies, they don’t usually go out and harass or hurt people. They have a boob job, or some other op. Or go through life feeling worthless. That’s the difference.

Men who harass women have got to get over themselves and stop treading that worthless path.

Lisa // Posted 1 July 2009 at 9:12 pm

As a thoughtful woman, why are you watching MTV in the first placed ? Watching Hollywood ? Watching Barbie porn ? And if men spend all their time in this fantasy land isn’t that their waste of time and if they believe it’s real isn’t that their delusion ? It’s not our responsibility if they are unable to relate to women in real life and they remain perpetual adolescents. Even the saddest of them starts to realise he’s sad in his thirties and it only gets worse the older he gets, even if he won’t admit it.

As for those who do act out their ‘fantasies’ on the street, in Thailand – it’s no use presenting them with feminism because they are not open-minded enough to listen, digest it and transform. You have to carry on speaking to them in their language. In other words challenge them in ways they can understand – that they are sad, pathetic, v definitely ‘uncool’, foolish, losers, ‘weak’, ‘babies’. This is language all men understand no matter how much of a Neanderthal he is. The truth is that mature, thoughtful, serious men have nothing but contempt for men who bully and exploit women and they know the media is nothing but ‘prole feed’ to keep the peasants from riot and revolution.

For the moment though you’re not literally forced to watch it 1984-style and neither are your children, so make the most of the opportunity to switch off the TV, switch to arthouse film, avoid 99.9% of the Internet and totally blank men who indulge their inner ape.

Lattie (there's already a Laura) // Posted 1 July 2009 at 10:39 pm

Hi,

Read your site for years, never usually comment but I had to reply to Sean. Yes, men are objectified too but to believe it is to the same extent as women is absurd.

Firstly, media. Next time there’s an advert break watch them and see how many adverts there are for women such as hair dye, cellulite cream, anti-wrinkle creams (loads of those) and compare it to the number for men. Fairly recently there was an anti-wrinkle advert for men but it contrasted hugely to that for women. All of those adverts for women featured women in their forties retouched to not even look like people. Babies do not even have faces that perfect. The one for men however featured Pierce Brosnan and he had all these deep forehead lines, smile lines and wrinkles around the eyes.

Do you walk into a newsagents to see countless ladette mags and top shelf mags with naked men on them or is there just a few topless ones like men’s health?

Film – how many actors can go grey when the women can’t? The highest paid actors in hollywood are over 40, most of the females are seriosly struggling to find work. Overall, the standard for men is much lower.

Porn – I am speaking here as a 17yr old female who was pretty much addicted to porn for years. I was very interested in porn from a young age thinking it would just be sex. It wasn’t. It was misogyny but I was really too young to know. Most of the men in porn are unattractive and far older than the females. That is the point of it. Porn users find it sexy when they think a woman won’t enjoy it, the penises are large so that they are more likely to hurt the women involved (tear her ass etc.). It is no secret that producers admit that their target market are losers who are alone and blame the women who have rejected them for that.

Also, to say porn is biased towards men is an enormous understatement. There are no mainsteam free sites that I am aware of that aren’t misogynistic let alone for women (I could never pay, too young for credit card.) I remember on youporn there was 1 (that’s right 1) video where the woman was really being pleasured by a man. He was going down on her and both were loving it. For me it was the first time I saw a film which was about the woman (even if it was for only 1/3 of the film). Even films that are so-called porn for women aren’t for us. The pictures on the front of the dvd boxes show a woman on her knees giving a man a blowjob! I haven’t had sex yet but I definitly have a dominant sadistic streak in me so I thought I would enjoy femdom sites. No. It is still all about the men, the focus is on her dressing up (heel, corset etc.) and doing things to him rather than her being pleasured by him.

Lastly, I am very interested in the truth behind porn now I no longer need it, and there are many reasons for a woman entering porn, I would say very few are real free choices. The people who contribute to porn growth are producers and consumers. I am aware that I fall into that and it is something I am deeply ashamed of. I would never excuse myself for that by saying ‘(some) women are making it worse by wanting to participate in porn’.

Men need to take resposibility for their actions and not try to shift the blame on others.

Xenu // Posted 2 July 2009 at 1:13 am

@Sean:

Actually, I just finished having one of several conversations with my boyfriend about the lack of straight, female-friendly porn out there.

I defy anyone to find porn that can truly be labeled as feminist that involves a guy and a girl having sex. Really. I’ve seen guy-on-guy, guy-on-himself, girl-on-herself and girl-on-girl- not to mention the wide variety of other options when it comes to queer porn. I’m all for queer porn, but sometimes a girl wants to see some peen, you know?

Jehenna // Posted 2 July 2009 at 3:24 am

Sean,

I think part of the issue is the cultural differences that women are imprinted with from birth onward.

You may not like it when a woman makes crude comments, or touches you inappropriately. But I assume that you don’t have to live every day with the thought in the back of your mind that there are women out there who think of you as nothing but meat to fuck, and they will do that whether or not you want it. That when you go into a relationship with even the most kind, understanding girl, you might have trouble explaining what you want, and knowing that it will be you that has to compromise, because you’ll feel so lucky to have someone who even listens to you in the first place.

To watch movies targetted for the mainstream that remove your gender from the equation again and again, except to portray you as an object for sexual desire or gratification. To have the role of your gender as a parent, as an active agent in society, as a person with opinions, removed and reduced.

To know that all items are marketed at you showing naked/semi naked men, despite you being heterosexual and attracted to women. To have your heterosexuality denied, and repackaged as bisexual because ‘the gaze’ is always defined as being heterosexual female, and therefore only sexually objectified men are held up as objects to lust after.

To know that every day will be a struggle against people who will dismiss your experience, invalidate your life story and then tell you when you protest that you are shrill, anti-women, and that you don’t know what you are talking about. This includes even talking about a subject you have specialised in, in tertiary study, with people who have no formal background, experience or knowledge of the subject, but who believe that they are right to tell you that they know more, simply because they are women and you are a man.

To know that after you turn 40 you are almost invisible to the population. That people serving you at the counter, will look through you and to the next attractive man, or any woman, before attending to you. To have people speak to your partner rather than to you about purchasing decisions, no matter whose money is being spent or whom the item is for.

To knowing you will have to work twice as hard to get anywhere in your chosen profession, and watch while other people less deserving are coddled, promoted, petted and their shortcomings overlooked, simply because they are women and you are a man.

To have the person that raped you, forcing themselves on you when you were asleep at a friend’s house, tell you to ‘toughen up princess’ as you struggle into your jeans, sobbing with revulsion and horror that this is now the third time in your life that a woman has forced themselves upon you, and you know that there will be no justice because its her word against yours and you will not be believed.

To trying to speak again and again about these injustices, only to have women tell you that they were groped in a bar once, passed over for promotion once, whistled at on the street once, and so whatever it is that you’re feeling, cannot be relegated to your gender, and you are MAKING IT UP, to get attention and sympathy.

Now. Deal with that every waking moment, and when you sleep.

Then look at being touched up in a club in that context. You may have been touched up, but you did not have all the attendant power imbalances and systemic violence directed by the other gender at your gender. It is similar behaviour, but the context makes the experience totally different.

I hope that makes things about the rant a little clearer. :)

polly styrene // Posted 2 July 2009 at 5:53 am

That is really problematic suggesting that LGBT spaces should be used to prove some point to heterosexual men is both exploitative of LGBT spaces and would impact on the relative safety of those spaces – such suggestions on invasion of these spaces is really problematic. Would we be similarly happy with suggestions of sending straight women into lesbian/bi spaces just so they can get an experience? Or men into all women spaces?

This already happens Louise!

It’s now illegal to have a gay/lesbian only space. And straight couples wanting threesomes have been cluttering up Canal street for years. As well as hen parties playing “snog a lezzer, straight men who are just there to cause trouble etc, etc, etc.

Qubit // Posted 2 July 2009 at 8:14 am

Perhaps one of the differences is the huge pressure on women to believe they are attractive or they are called pathetic or insecure. I think men can proudly say they aren’t physically attractive without feeling less of a man and this is what women should aim for.

Why am I insecure rather than just realistic for knowing I am not as sexy as the numerous women on offer in clubs and TV? A man who claimed he wasn’t attractive as {insert famous attractive male celebrity] here wouldn’t be accused of being pathetic.

The need to be the most attractive person to your partner is of course going to make women insecure (it makes me insecure) but by challenging this need I think women would feel better.

JenniferRuth // Posted 2 July 2009 at 9:17 am

@ Sean

To answer your questions on porn, perhaps you might like to read this:

http://www.oneangrygirl.net/pornmyths.html

It has sections that answer both of your questions.

As for the representations of male bodies in the media no one is saying that men don’t have a tough time. There are ridiculous standards of masculinity being presented and we can understand that these messages must be hard on men. However, it doesn’t compare to the bombardment of of messages that women receive on a daily basis. A man and his body are still regarded as two different things by the media – having a good body is “aspirational” but it isn’t presented as what you are. A woman is represented as being her body – there is no separation distinguished between who a woman is and what she looks like, as there is with men. That is what makes all the difference.

I thought that this comedy sketch by Mitchell & Webb did a really good job of showing the difference in how men and women are advertised too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9fFOelpE_8

(actually, you should all watch this because it’s fucking brilliant)

Laura // Posted 2 July 2009 at 3:33 pm

@ Sean

Jehenna has perfectly described why, while recognising that men of course have insecurities, I don’t think they are comparable to the experience and feelings I articulate in my post. We’re talking about having to deal with an entrenched structural bias against women, and it is within this that our experiences are situated.

I’m not really interested in porn because my sexuality is very much geared towards having other people involved – I’m not interested in getting off on my own. But, as Lattie said, there is actually very little porn aimed at straight women that is not sexist or stuffed with porn-for-men clichés – the straight female gaze is really missing, even in the small amount of self-proclaimed feminist porn that I’ve seen (I’m actually bi, but I find it really hard to enjoy sexualised images of women because of how they make me feel about myself, among other things – another post entirely I think!). And there are almost no websites devoted to sexualised images of men aimed at straight women, seriously, it’s astounding. But whether or not I’m interested in porn and whether or not women choose to make porn is irrelevant to my experience as a woman in a society designed for heterosexual men, as Jehenna so clearly points out.

@ Lattie

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I agree with you on the femdom stuff – it’s all about the men getting off on the women, not genuinely dominant/sadistic women getting off on the mansubs. Bitchy Jones writes some amazing stuff on this: http://bitchyjones.wordpress.com.

@Lisa,

No, I don’t watch any of this shit if I can help it, but avoiding it doesn’t mean that I’m not aware of its presence, of the role it plays in other people’s lives and the effect it has upon them. So while ignoring it does of course minimise my potential for being angry/upset, just knowing that mainstream society portrays me as wank fodder for men is enough to get me pissed off.

Octavia // Posted 2 July 2009 at 3:57 pm

Oh, and another thing: email spam is pretty annoying at the best of times, but the thing that winds me up the most is the assumption that EVERY receiver is male (impress your girlfriend tonight/be bigger down there/is ur girlfriend cheating/get the hottest girls/etc, etc). I receive a lot through my filter at work – about six a day – and have never seen one aimed at women. Not that I particularly want any, but if I’m going to be inundated with it, a balance WOULD be nice.

Eurosabra // Posted 2 July 2009 at 4:34 pm

Every straight Euro-heritage Anglosphere man knows his female friend, lover, or spouse can walk into any bar or pub and approach men, beautiful or otherwise, with every chance of success, given the difference between the way men and women (and here we have the usual caveats, cis-, het-, etc, to describe the issue) live the consequences of how patriarchal society thinks about desire. The risk is not TOO LITTLE sex, but too much dehumanization resulting from the enactment of female desire–“slag”, “goer”, “‘Yes’ to one is ‘Yes’ to all”, etc.

The other thing is that Vegas and Amsterdam furnish only a simulacrum of desire and being desired, Vegas less so, because few people outside the USA know that prostitution is actually illegal in Clark County, NV, and the police are diligent about making it unpleasant for johns. The working conditions in legal brothels elsewhere in Nevada are often horrible, to the point that they resemble the worst trafficking situations in the UK. And Pattaya? Pattaya kills. Men go there, and some die of drink, HIV/AIDS, terrorism, or tsunami. Or an aged punter checks out because of the strain of the sex itself. I don’t know where you found such a bunch of self-deceived madmen, but what is being bought and sold is sexual services, not desire–and I think that part of the problem is that some men do not really know how to talk about desire.

polly styrene // Posted 2 July 2009 at 8:07 pm

Alternative explanation Olivia – maybe spammers think men are more gullible and will fall for the magic penis enlargement pills.

Sherry // Posted 2 July 2009 at 9:44 pm

Thank you, Laura, for writing this. And I’m so sorry that you, and every other woman who writes about this, feels the (understandable) need for elaborate disclaimers and caveats.

To any who say, “if you don’t like it, just turn it off/avoid it!”, please re-read sianmarie’s post and read mine.

While in graduate school, I lived down the street from a strip club. Every day, the level of street harassment increased dramatically whenever I was within one block of the club.

A man who worked at the car shop next door made a point of standing outside his shop and shouting sexual comments and insults at me every day. Such a thing has never happened to me before nor since.

Twice, I was stopped by police and accused of being a prostitute for walking home from school alone after dark. That has never happened to me before nor since.

On one memorable occasion, a group of men who had just left the club started chasing me until a more sober guy called the others off. It was terrifying. After that, I was very careful to cross the street before I got too close to the strip club. (This also kept me out of reach of the shouting man at the car shop.)

My point is this: The effects of strip clubs on men’s behavior don’t stop at the strip club door. The effects of sex work are not limited to sex workers, pimps and customers. Female “bystanders” are affected, too, and we don’t just complain about it because we’re prudish, jealous, or insecure and just need to “get a grip”.

Christian // Posted 3 July 2009 at 5:55 am

Indeed, I have to say that Kath’s perception of my viewpoint as a thought experiment is fairly accurate.

In regards to Louise’s insightful and vastly more articulate retort to my words: I’m not suggesting that all gay bars are uniformly leather fashion-centric (or is any one set perspective). I simply use the setting that *could* be more conducive to recreating the feeling of threat that an under-dressed female in a social context is subjected to.

Inherent violence in the gaze or not is not really the issue I sought to underline. Where I live, violent sexual behavior, in proportion, is not less common in the LGBT community as the heteronormative one; would it be different if every single victim spoke out? I don’t know, but I sure wish everyone did, for one. I trust that the gaze itself, as I felt before, is threatening or enlightening enough in itself to trigger a reaction, an epiphany of sorts.

In an ideal world, I believe it’s a theory that should be presented but never acted upon. In this example I presented (for those late comers: sexy up a straight man and take him to a gay bar to “feel” the gaze and its inherent threatening factor), once you take out the dualism of the sexes as well as the individual battles and idiosyncracies of the LGBT community, a potentially powerful learning tool could be brought to bear on an otherwise heteronormative, patriarcal mind.

(Yes, I am a fan of Donna Haraway’s ‘Cyborg Manifesto’, in case anyone wonders).

I don’t advocate doing just that, mind you… But one might imagine that once you take out the “buts” and the “what ifs” of the equation, you could recreate, at its core, a feeling somewhat similar to what women go through everyday. It’ll never be the exact same thing, but then again, you cannot make a male female overnight, either. It will never be the same thing, but you might accomplish an approximation of it.

I know I’m not the first person ever to bring this up, but… Can a straight adult man, once exposed to an objectifying, deriding or sexually threatening gaze or behavior, connect the dots (or be helped in connecting the dots) and draw for himself a revealing parallel to the battles and problems women face daily? In truth, I say yes. Because I am a man, and I lived this, and it was like an arrow was shot through my heart. I never saw myself as a threat and never felt I acted violently or threateningly towards women in my life, but in a handful of encounters, my life was gradually changed.

Can we hope that other men realize the same and start changing their ways without having to shock them into doing it? Why, of course we can hope. We can even help them along. That’s the very least we can do.

Karen // Posted 3 July 2009 at 1:44 pm

Hi Lisa, yes I know that the wallybrains I mentioned are not open minded enough to even think about feminism but does that mean I shouldnt be allowed to say anything? I went to the area manager yesterday because a copy of the daily sport had been left in the canteen and it is against company policy to have any form of pornography in the work place. The manager in question is a good bloke, ex-royal navy and straight away saw the point that I was making and agreed that it was valid. There will now be discussions about this at the next managers meeting. Also, the area manager went to the same site that I visited where the joy-of-sex thailand style was being discussed and said that they seemed like a bunch of jack-the-lads and didnt seem surprised when I said that I had already had a run-in with them. My point is that I complained because I thought “no, why should I stay quiet on this, it’s insulting, it’s breaking the rules and if I dont say something, the problem will still be there tomorrow” So yes, even if you are presented with knuckle-draggers of the first order, you have the right to challenge their views. It’s one of the few rights we still just about have.

Rosa // Posted 3 July 2009 at 3:32 pm

“Can’t I just cast my vote for “women shouldn’t be abuse, harassed and commodified” and skip the re-education?”

Sure, if you want to be that absent minded about it.

Most people I know would cast a vote for, say, not being racist but that doesn’t make racism go away. It doesn’t make you a better person. Re-education does, and an educated vote is worth far more than an ignorant one.

Honestly it seems like you’re missing the point of Laura’s rant and your comment comes off as more than a little patronizing. Laura’s post wasn’t about “bad men” it was about normal men – men she liked – who casts their votes, “skip the re-education” and as a consequence everything stays the same and nothing gets better because no one learns anything.

If you’re really asking that question, go back and read her post again and there’s your answer.

Lucy // Posted 3 July 2009 at 6:36 pm

I like this post as it expresses alot of my frustrations about how men i know can’t conceive of growing up in a world where the vast majority of puplic figures and role models throughout history and at present are of the opposite gender.

i do however think that we need to look at the issue as a complex one and less black and white, and realise steriotypes and societal influence on both genders. an extremely good male friend of mine is very skinny and i know that he feels his body isn’t up to much when compared to the macho ideals of a man’s body.

i thinks its good to appreaciate preasures experienced from all fractions of society, and maybe this way we won’t feel so alienated.

Lucy

Jack Leland // Posted 3 July 2009 at 8:33 pm

@ Christian

1. I agree that subjecting more hetero-normative, patriarchal men to the objectifying, deriding and/or sexually threatening gaze or behavior by women would push toward equality. I doubt we can predict what percentage of that population would have to be exposed to “the feeling of threat” from women, but I disagree about using the LGBT community as an instrument of straight female advancement. (I know that is not what you mean, so I withdraw my objection.) I do agree with you, on an individual basis, about how effective the technique is. Though I disagree with your conclusion: because we cannot predict what portion of the male population ought to be shocked, as many as possible should be shocked. Civil rights leaders in the Sixties in the US did not limit the exposure of their marches for justice simply for the purpose of efficiency.

@ Laura

1. I agree that power dynamics between men and women that need to be reset are those between real people in real life, not just a battle between imagery in porn. But the visual battle matters, as you seem to acknowledge in your post: images affect social norms and behavior. To have a culture where women are free to be dominant and sadistic and get off on mansubs, as you put it, perhaps there needs to be normalization of it in media just as there is a normalization of the reverse: Vegas is in every bachelor party movie and women are often portrayed as performing for and possessed by men at ease, usually for petty cash. Perhaps inundating men with images of the reverse would open their minds to the female gaze and tame the belief that being got off on or objectified by an assertive woman or exposed to “the feeling of threat” by women in real life is emasculating. Perhaps the thought process should be “my objectification empowers women and promotes equality”.

2. As for Bitchy Jones, I understand her argument about images of dominant women in the media reflecting male fantasies and purchasing power, rather than female sadism toward men or female empowerment in the form of promoting the female gaze. I think she takes her Marxist critique too far, though: it discounts her own popularity and oversimplifies the views of men. Men are not mindless sex addicts; men also have anxieties and fears. It is just as likely that many men buy into safe images of dominant women as analgesic to the rise of women in the economic and political sphere. It is not surprising that powerful female politicians are depicted as sex objects. One interpretation is that the icon of a dominatrix is disempowering. The other is that sex is already wound up with power, and men are expressing their irrational fear. So while Bitchy is correct that a lot of the porn images are commercialized corporate product for male credit cards, that only explains the supply side, not the demand side. (It also ignores the proliferation of women’s grassroots sites of her nature that existed prior to the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 and the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) of 1998; under the guise of protecting children, the United States Congress increased the cost of putting sexual images online, thus creating a market where before there was only community.)

So, in a sense, I agree with you. The images that you get are real (women posting pictures of what they do in their private lives with other people) without regulation; with regulation you get corporations paying models to pose as sex objects. But in both cases the free pictures and the commercial product, the demand amongst the male population is, at least, the same. (If anything, commercializing sex promotes it.) The variability in the quality of the supply (from pro-feminist to antifeminist) does not negatively change the demand side. You could very easily promote the right kind of discourse in the product, then. And it does in fact occur. Bitchy often attacks the prevalence of the strap-on in femdom porn as reflective of male desire (what woman wants that? It doesn’t please her?) but she ignores that for a lot of other people that symbolizes ultimate emasculation and strikes right at their conception of hetero-normativity and patriarchy, not to mention visually deconstructs gender. There is a common misconception that radical feminism and BDSM are related, and the prevalence of such porn is perhaps why. But it certainly not a ridiculous claim that Judith Butler’s notion of gender as a performance is being demonstrated in porn depicting women “acting like men” (penetrating) and men “acting like women” (being penetrated). I am not a sociologist, but I imagine that men who watch this kind of porn are far more likely to be open to certain kinds of feminist discourse than others. Indeed, to understand Bitchy’s critique, you need to have seen these very images. Clearly, they are having an impact on people, on the culture, and on feminism. The demand for authentic female empowerment has increased, both in the female and male populations.

Laura // Posted 3 July 2009 at 10:40 pm

Just to let everyone know: I’m on holiday for the next ten days, so won’t be able to reply to any comments. Holly will be moderating comments in the meantime. Cheers.

David Kames // Posted 4 July 2009 at 3:33 am

@Rosa, but not exclusively…

OK so I think if this post and associated thread proves anything it proves that no, straight-white-men in this society can’t ever REALLY understand what it’s like to be a woman, or black, or gay or any other non-privileged group.

I’m going to ask you to take my word for this (you don’t HAVE to – but please) I don’t think that any of the advantages I get from patriarchy are worth having if they come at the price paid by women. I’d like things to change. So lets just pretend I’m a genuine example of a Nice Guy (TM – i’ve been hanging around feminists blogs for a little while I know the stuff that annoys you ;-)

What is it you want us to do differently?

What if all men said, and kept to (thought experiment, remember)

We wont abuse women

We wont attack them

We wont shout at them in the street

We wont perve over them or harass them in pubs

We wont by the sleazy exploitive porno

We wont watch the awful misogynistic MTV videos

And lets say we develop some self-control, and we promise not to judge you by how attractive we think you are…

I know that this isn’t enough – but I CAN’T know what else you need from me unless you tell me.

(and I know I’ve left out a hell of a lot of economic / power stuff, yes I know.)

I’d also like to ask Rosa – what is it I should do to help stop racism aside from not being racist myself?

What is it that you do?

David Kames // Posted 4 July 2009 at 3:43 am

*Token frustrated male rant*

Damn you mysterious enigmatic feminist women that I don’t understand just what is it that you want from me?

and don’t give me feminist bingo – I’ve seen it, it was funny when she did it, but when you do it you are just avoiding the issue.

The tables aren’t ever going to BE turned – we won’t ever know how it feels. But what is your solution? In words please…

polly styrene // Posted 4 July 2009 at 12:26 pm

Christian:

I’m white. If I was to convincingly alter my appearance so that I appeared black, I may be able to experience some of what being on the receiving end of racist behaviour feels like.

HOWEVER, I have still lived my entire life with white privilege, and that is what I have internalised. So I wouldn’t understand how BME people experience racism at all. Because that has been their lifetime experience.

Women and girls, from birth, learn to live with the constant, unspoken threat of male sexual violence. One day, or week, or month of having the tables turned, when they know they can return to male privilege in the ‘real world’, won’t give a man an idea of what women experience.

And that is completely ignoring the fact that what most actual straight men would do in your imaginary gay club situation isn’t to feel objectified, but to react aggressively.

Magnetic Crow // Posted 4 July 2009 at 9:35 pm

YES. Frequent frustration about this. Especially when trying to explain to my Mate or other guys close to me how threatened I feel in a situation of street harassment, and they just shrug it off with a “He couldn’t have actually done anything to you in public.”

I have a lot of male friends, whom I get along very well with. Growing up, being fairly genderqueer myself, they were who I identified with the best. But there was always the fact that I could never REALLY be “one of the guys”, because, you know, I was a girl.

And then because I’m female I had to deal with guys I really liked as friends getting the wrong message, just because I liked being friends with them, and making unwanted advances. Then getting upset with me for “sending mixed messages”, because my very female-ness obviously is a beacon of sexual availability/interest to every guy I just want to hang out with. :(

My own, related rant, on the topic of guy friends and certain subconscious, society-endowed feelings of entitlement.

Holly Combe // Posted 5 July 2009 at 10:55 pm

@David: I’m jumping in here and can’t speak for the commenters you’re responding to but would say that, seeing as men are not some monolithic group who all play out their privileges in exactly the same way, it’s impossible to come up with some magical set of instructions that would be sure to apply to all men. You mention hanging around feminist blogs for a while… If doing your bit for feminism is important to you, would it really be so hard to piece it together, as you understand it, and then look at your own behaviour to see what needs to change? Obviously, not all women are the same either so, if you’re not sure if your behaviour in a specific situation with a woman is helpful, why not ask her?

Holly Combe // Posted 5 July 2009 at 10:55 pm

The tables aren’t ever going to BE turned – we won’t ever know how it feels.

What a depressing reminder of how much power men have in society and how much they’re prepared to hold on it!

David Kames // Posted 5 July 2009 at 11:51 pm

@Holly Combe

>I don’t think men are some monolithic group who all play out their privileges in exactly the same way

Well neither do I, but it was my understanding that feminism was based on “Challenging the relations between men (as a group) and women (as another)” to quote from my copy of ‘Introducing Feminism.’ So I thought that it might be useful to talk in general terms just to illustrate the principles.

Obviously I do try to examine my own behaviour and try to piece these things together by talking to the women I know… BUT since I don’t know that many women (or even people) that I’m able to have these discussions with – why not ask the question in a public forum on the internet?

>We wont abuse women

We wont attack them

We wont shout at them in the street

We wont perve over them or harass them in pubs

We wont by the sleazy exploitive porno

We wont watch the awful misogynistic MTV videos

And lets say we develop some self-control, and we promise not to judge you by how attractive we think you are…

I don’t do any of these things anyway (hey, I’m a Nice Guy TM) but I’m sure there are plenty of more subtle forms of sexist behaviour not all of which I am aware of since I have (as Magnetic Crow pointed out) “certain subconscious, society-endowed feelings of entitlement.”

as Polly Styrene said

>One day, or week, or month of having the tables turned, when they know they can return to male privilege in the ‘real world’, won’t give a man an idea of what women experience.

-any more than you, Holly, can ever really know what it is to be a man.

So I simply ask – beyond the violent and obvious forms of male violence and privilege – what else is it that men, in general, in your experience, do that maintains male privileged? How can I stop or change if I don’t know it’s a problem? What else can I do as (an admittedly privileged) but otherwise powerless male sympathiser do for women’s equality OTHER than change my own behaviour and vote the right way? I’m not in any position of power or influence – I’m not a manager or employer, I don’t have any large amount of money I can give – I could get involved with some kind of activism I suppose, but how can I help fix these problems if I’m unable to truly understand what they are?

And Holly? I DON’T want to hold on to this power and privilege – I have my own personal reasons to believe it does me personally more harm than good. That is why I’m here.

And do you seriously want the “Tables turned?” You want men to feel afraid of aggression and sexual violence from women in public spaces? Is this any more than a revenge fantasy?

Anna Jack. // Posted 6 July 2009 at 12:41 am

The tables aren’t ever going to BE turned – we won’t ever know how it feels.

Many words come back to bite us – be prepared David.

Jehenna // Posted 6 July 2009 at 10:03 am

@ David Kames

I really think you want to get somewhere – if you’re trawling feminist blogs, that’s a sign that you’re looking for something you’re not finding enough of in your daily life. My words are going to seem a little harsh, but I do mean them well, and wish you well.

You need to understand something really important. It’s not about you.

Let me say this again.

It’s not about you.

This is a rant. This is a woman expressing her frustration about something she experiences in her life. Then other women have talked about their experiences, as it relates to the first woman’s experience.

This is not meant to be a debate where people propose solutions and we teach teh menz about what we really want. This is about someone talking, and other people listening. And then we might talk a little and compare experiences. But we don’t tell the first woman about her own experiences or expect that if she complains, she should have a solution handy. Or that any group of feminists anywhere has some kind of an answer to how to fix this problem.

I understand that as a man, you have a well developed sense of agency, and that probably you feel passionate enough about this to want to do something. But it is not our job to support you in feminist or racist activism. It’s your job to support us in ours.

This isn’t a battle you can take on and win for us. It’s a situation where you have to step back and realise that you might not actually be the right person to run the crusade.

That is not to say that women are going to win the battle alone. It is that you are going to have to do something else than what you expect in order to do your part.

I don’t know your personal situation but here is what I would recommend to a heterosexual man who really genuinely wants men and women to be treated equally.

Do at least half the housework and the childcare duties. Stay home and mind the children while your wife goes to classes or activism meetings. Make friends with men who think of women as equals and eschew fellowship with the ones who make the rape jokes and think women should be in the kitchen. Change your life to fit in with your family. Take equal responsibility for the well being of both sets of your parents. Read everything you can about feminism. Learn about the things your partner is interested in. Relate to your partner as though she were your best friend and your travelling companion along all the walks of life. You are a team.

That means taking the back seat a lot of the time. It’s not something men generally want to do. But if you are sincere in your determination to help the cause of equality then you have to understand that the clothes need to be washed, dinner dishes need to be done, and children need cuddles even while the activism is happening. Doing your share of ‘women’s work’ will let your partner have more time to fight her own causes, whether or not that is feminism or racism.

We need to move past the notion of the hero who rides in and saves us, and understand that it is far more important that we stand together, knowing that our causes are the same, and that once we get home, we won’t be doing the dishes on our own.

You are not going to get answers, or a pat on the head everytime you get something right – many women are VERY tired with men wanting a cookie for even the simplest of things – taking out the garbage, not raping someone, being kind to a random woman.

I would start though, with learning to listen to the experiences of women without feeling the need to counter with your own experience or asking for answers. It’s not about you.

David Kames // Posted 6 July 2009 at 1:18 pm

@Jehenna

I take your word in the spirit they are meant – thanks for writing a detailed reply.

>You need to understand something really important. It’s not about you.

Well I never thought it was – and I should have added a disclaimer to my comments: I don’t demand answers to these questions, nor do I think that this thread exists solely or mainly for my benefit so that as one of teh menz (does that make you a womanz?) I can learn how to rescue all the damsels form the dragon of the patriarchy.

I did read the post: I know that Laura Woodhouse only intended this as a rant – an expression of feelings rather than a policy document.

I don’t expect that Laura or anyone else has all the solutions handy.

I don’t need cookies or pats on the head – nor do I expect them.

I do want to ask questions though, and if anyone want’s to answer my questions, I’m grateful.

I would like to know what ideas people have about solutions and fixes.

So thankyou, Jehenna, for your time and your answers.

@Anna Jack

*DK is beaten to death by f-word readers* – he would like to submit this as evidence to all those people who say “snuff doesn’t exist”

hms // Posted 6 July 2009 at 2:58 pm

@David Kames

I always find it encouraging when my partner notices/points out/complains about instances of sexism which I haven’t already mentioned/noticed/complained about. It’s nice to know that he has internalised enough of my ranting/done enough reading/thinking to be able to pick up on these things for himself. It would be even nicer if instead of just pointing out these things to me he complained about them to/discussed them with his male friends/colleagues/relatives.

Jess McCabe // Posted 6 July 2009 at 5:46 pm

@David Kames Are you in London by any chance? There’s a London Pro-Feminist Men’s Group, which has discussions and also helps out in practical ways at feminist events.

Or you could set up something similar in your area.

Jack Leland // Posted 6 July 2009 at 6:58 pm

@ Jehenna

It seems you are providing a quite robust answer to David Kames: the role of a man in the feminist movement is to support women by devoting himself to feminist literature, internalizing feminist criticism, taking the “back seat” in terms of domestic chores, listening to feminists uncritically and silently, and not expecting any rewards or leadership positions. In other words, men should turn the tables on themselves and let women have the greater share of power. Is that correct?

Holly Combe // Posted 6 July 2009 at 10:47 pm

David: You’ve reiterated your own list of things you are willing to do so I’d suggest they would be a good place to start. But, as Jehenna said, this wasn’t meant to be a debate where we teach men about “what we really want”. I know it could have been read as tongue in cheek but, for me, there was a genuinely bossy tone to your *token frustrated male rant* (e.g. the implication of a perceived irrationality and inconsistency in your exasperated “I don’t understand just what is it that you want from me?” and dismissal of Kitten’s reference to feminist bingo, while attempting to second-guess people and criticise what they might say or, perhaps, how they might say it as somehow not right). I think that affected my response.

Re: what men do, in my experience, to maintain privilege. Again, I’m cautious about generalising but I suspect inadvertently expecting women to conveniently fit in with whatever they want to do, whilst also expecting us not to make that acquiescence obvious enough for them to feel oppressive is one. I get the impression that a lot of guys consciously hate the idea of dominating and taking responsibility for an unequal partner and genuinely feel attracted to strength in a woman. The problem is that they still bear the legacy of a patriarchal society that puts a man at the front and a woman behind him as a support act. They’ve grown up to expect a woman to fit in with them and easily get annoyed if she doesn’t but the pressure to be seen as A Nice Guy means they also get annoyed with her if she does and it’s too obvious.

And Holly? I DON’T want to hold on to this power and privilege – I have my own personal reasons to believe it does me personally more harm than good. That is why I’m here. And do you seriously want the “Tables turned?” You want men to feel afraid of aggression and sexual violence from women in public spaces? Is this any more than a revenge fantasy?

I don’t think that would help anyone but, more to the point, did I really say anything that implied that? I probably could have made it clearer but I also didn’t actually say I saw you as a prime example of a man holding on to his power and privilege. I meant that your point was a painful reminder of how male power and men’s related holding onto it is taken as an absolute given. There seems to be an overwhelming assumption that it could never be any different because it’s somehow “just the way things are”. The archetypal passive “good” woman, along with her oppressor: the all-seeing, all-viewing, active “bad” man are apparently so deeply entrenched in our society that it acts as a self-fulfilling prophesy. I mean if even a man who seems to want change is compelled to frame a reverse reality as an absolute impossibility, where does that leave us? The implication seems to be that we women have let it happen to us due to some sort of weakness but men NEVER would.

You’re right that I can’t ever really know what it’s like to be a man but I imagine that life’s not always a picnic when you are constantly expected to be active. And that’s the thing. As I’ve said before, I think more “table-turning” (though not to the oppressive extent described above) would be as beneficial to men as it would be to women.

Jack Leland // Posted 7 July 2009 at 1:31 am

Holly,

I meant that your point was a painful reminder of how male power and men’s related holding onto it is taken as an absolute given.

I am a bit confused by this point myself. Why is male power and men holding onto it taken as a given, and where is this the case? Most of the feminists and men I know point to the various newspaper articles showing women overtaking men in academics and graduate schools and in the workforce and seem to predict a female dominated future. I recall a cover on the Economist with the stages of evolution ending in a high-heeled businesswoman standing on a globe.

As I’ve said before, I think more “table-turning” (though not to the oppressive extent described above) would be as beneficial to men as it would be to women.

What would the benefits to men be? And what kind of table-turning do you envision? I guess part of the problem is not only that men are asking for prescriptions, but also that the concept of table-turning has been agreed upon without being clarified or defined. If we know what kind of table-turning would be unacceptable, what is the acceptable table-turning that we’d all, presumably, like to see?

I mean if even a man who seems to want change is compelled to frame a reverse reality as an absolute impossibility, where does that leave us? The implication seems to be that we women have let it happen to us due to some sort of weakness but men NEVER would.

I am a man and I don’t see a reverse reality as an absolute impossibility. I’m rather not interested in implying that women are weak, and much more interested in discussing a plausible reverse reality, and I know more than a few pro-feminist men who feel the same. I realize the thread is not about me, but I am not all that atypical.

I get the impression that a lot of guys consciously hate the idea of dominating and taking responsibility for an unequal partner and genuinely feel attracted to strength in a woman. The problem is that they still bear the legacy of a patriarchal society that puts a man at the front and a woman behind him as a support act.

This seems accurate and apt to me. But I almost never, if ever, see male admiration of strong women celebrated on feminist sites or in the feminist discourse, which tends to be more critical than constructive. It would seem that feminists, or women generally, could venerate men who admire strong women as exemplary. I suppose that might be construed as “asking for a pat on the head,” but the point is that men who are attracted to strength in women and who wish to reverse a patriarchal legacy that puts the man in front and woman in back are looking for leadership from women, not from men, so the notion that pro-feminist men should get together and criticize each other’s privilege overlooks the social dynamic actually at work. If the reverse consists of putting the woman at the front and the man behind him as a support act, with the woman dominating and taking responsibility for an unequal partner, that would seem to be open to criticism from feminists who will claim men are yet again shirking their responsibilities by putting an unfair workload onto women. I suppose you could take the dominating/unequal language out to anticipate that criticism, but you’re still left with strong women in front and unprivileged men in a support role, and I don’t see any feminists really advocating that we should have a “strong women in front, men supporting strong women society.” Am I wrong about that?

Holly Combe // Posted 7 July 2009 at 3:01 pm

Jack: I’m going to respond in two parts, as I think this thread’s in danger of becoming unwieldy! These are interesting and important issues but I’m wary of this becoming an insular debate focused on the men in it (with lots of overly long comments that eventually end up straying from the theme of Laura’s original post).

Why is male power and men holding onto it taken as a given, and where is this the case?

Well, as I said, I thought David’s rather definitive-sounding statement that “the tables are never going to BE turned” (i.e in relation to Laura’s original comments about the woman-as-sex-object culture) was an example for a start. I also think it was clear that I take issue with this apparent societal given, as I said I found it “depressing”. I have to say I wonder if your reference to the viewpoint of “most of the feminists and men” you know means you’ve perhaps misinterpreted my observation of what I see as a common attitude as my own attitude towards male sexuality?

In terms of where this view of the inevitability of male sexual power can be seen, I would firstly say this is surely a tenet of the traditional essentialist and heterosexist view of female and male roles (i.e “active man exists to follow biological imperative to spread his seed/passive woman exists to be picked out and incubate pregnancies/all sexual behaviour serves this purpose, whether directly or indirectly”). Secondly, I would say there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that this is unfortunately a popular view (e.g. “this is the real world: men will always be Men, as it’s wired into their nature and women need it- deal with it”).

To a certain extent, I think your comment about women overtaking men in academia (IMO, the world of work is somewhat lagging behind due to employer attitudes) and predictions of “a female dominated future” are straying a little from Laura’s original theme. However, I would also say the example indicates there is indeed a gulf between a lot of people’s views of women’s intellectual abilities and their willingness to entertain the idea that women are as innately capable of sexually objectifying others as men are traditionally expected to. I think Ayn Rand’s attitude towards sex roles was an example of the unfortunate conventional notion that it is only right and proper that men sexually dominate women. She famously viewed women, in The Voice of Reason , to be just as capable of taking on a powerful position as a man but reckoned that a rational woman would not want to, say, be president because “the essence of femininity is hero worship; the desire to look up to a man” and it would somehow be sexually unappealing to her that so many men would essentially be “beneath” her (1989: 268). This has been summarised, in The Psychology of Self Esteem, as being tied up with the “active and dominant” male role, with man supposedly experiencing the “essence of his masculinity in the act of romantic dominance” and woman experiencing it in “the act of romantic submission” (Branden, 1969: 208).

I won’t go into a full critique here but that’s the kind of sticking point I’m talking about. The conservative view that male sexual dominance is inevitable and appropriate for the good of everyone is a hard one for society to shake off so it doesn’t really surprise me that even a guy wanting to know what he can do for feminism should so easily say “the tables aren’t ever going to BE turned”. (I do, however, appreciate your own comment that you don’t see this as somehow impossible yourself.)

Re: your high-heeled businesswoman example. I’m not saying high-heels are somehow always a terrible thing but they do commonly function as a sex-object symbol so I think that Economist picture could be argued to be a case in point. It’s no good if images of female power always have to be sexy ones.

Holly Combe // Posted 7 July 2009 at 3:02 pm

With regard to defining “table turning” and the possible benefits to men as well as women, I was using Laura’s objectification example. While I certainly wouldn’t want to see men experiencing a fear of “aggression and sexual violence from women in public spaces”, I do think the general over-protection of men from objectification (eg: from less exposure in sexual images and erections not being allowed to be shown in magazines such as Scarlet) needs to be challenged. I also think everyone benefits if we challenge the traditional positioning of men’s bodies as somehow lacking sex appeal in comparison to women’s.

I don’t think there is an example of “acceptable table-turning that we’d all, presumably, like to see” because, of course, we don’t all think the same things. No change will please everyone.

men who… wish to reverse a patriarchal legacy that puts the man in front and woman in back are looking for leadership from women, not from men, so the notion that pro-feminist men should get together and criticize each other’s privilege overlooks the social dynamic actually at work.

I see your point here but I think that has to be balanced with a need to fight the tendency for women to be expected to tend to men’s needs and nurture them. I’m all for taking on some of the responsibilities that men have traditionally been given but, apart from there being others that need to be challenged in the first place for everyone (eg: the 9-5 work ethic), I also think dominant readings of situations and the way society is structured can end up dragging women and men back into their traditional roles if left unchecked.

…I don’t see any feminists really advocating that we should have a “strong women in front, men supporting strong women society.” Am I wrong about that?

Well, for a start, you highlighted Jehenna’s answer as a possibility but I can’t speak for someone else. Certainly I think you’re probably right that a lot of women will feel nervous about proposing such a thing. This is partly because, quite rightly, we know how it feels to be expected to deny our identities and play second to a man and object to that (i.e the two wrongs don’t make a right truism). Unfortunately, however, I also think part of the hesitance is also down to knowing just how obscene a lot of people would find the idea of men losing their privilege. There’s an awareness of the pure wrath that even the mere suggestion of women not only not knowing their place but actually seeking to be genuinely in charge would be likely to incur. Sure, there are some very good reasons not to just reverse roles and do to men what’s been done to us but you can bet that a massive portion of the outrage that even a mere suggestion of it would provoke is down to the traditional view that women being in charge is outrageous and “emasculating”. Meanwhile, it seems men being in charge is actually viewed as okay, as long as it’s done in a quiet, discreet and chivalrous manner that enables us to pretend it’s not really happening and we’re all equal now.

Jack Leland // Posted 7 July 2009 at 5:49 pm

Holly,

I apologize if I inadventently implied your view of male sexuality was one you were criticizing; that was not my intent.

On the Economist cover page I take you point, but I took it as more as a comment on class (rich women buy fancy shoes).

I agree that women should take on some of the responsibilities traditionally possessed by men and that there are good reasons not only for a role reversal but for women to do to men what’s been done to women, but I suppose — other than you! — I don’t see anyone articulating it. (Perhaps that is my own ignorance of the literature; I certainly wasn’t as familiar with Ayn Rand as you are.) Are there any feminist sources you know of I can consult that deal with those concepts (what responsibilities those are and what the good reasons are)?

Holly Combe // Posted 7 July 2009 at 6:57 pm

I’ll have a think about it… I don’t reckon you’ll find anything like that from Ayn Rand though ;-)

Kath // Posted 7 July 2009 at 7:00 pm

“I’m all for taking on some of the responsibilities that men have traditionally been given but, apart from there being others that need to be challenged in the first place for everyone (eg: the 9-5 work ethic)”

Oh Holly, I would love to only have to work 9-5!! ;-)

Holly Combe // Posted 7 July 2009 at 8:19 pm

Yes, good point, Kath. “9-5” does seem rather like something of an understatement when you consider the long hours culture in Britain!

polly styrene // Posted 8 July 2009 at 8:10 am

“However, I would also say the example indicates there is indeed a gulf between a lot of people’s views of women’s intellectual abilities and their willingness to entertain the idea that women are as innately capable of sexually objectifying others as men are traditionally expected to. I think Ayn Rand’s attitude towards sex roles was an example of the unfortunate conventional notion that it is only right and proper that men sexually dominate women. ”

Well first of all, Ayn Rand was an extreme right wing libertarian, so I’d be inclined to take anything she said with a pinch of salt.

Secondly, I don’t think that women have to sexually objectify others to stop being sexually dominated by men. It’s not either/or. The aim is equality and/or liberation, not simply reverse discrimination, surely?

Holly Combe // Posted 8 July 2009 at 3:05 pm

I don’t think that women have to sexually objectify others to stop being sexually dominated by men (Polly)

I agree that the aim is certainly not “reverse discrimination”. As I think I indicated earlier, I don’t think it would be some kind of achievement if men were to end up having to deal with women’s sexual aggression in public spaces (or, indeed, in private ones, if unconsensual). However, I don’t view seeing men as sometimes-sex-objects as a problem. It really depends what definition of objectification we’re using. If, by definition, it can only be all-encompassing then, yes, I would agree. By this, I mean I agree if objectification simply means wholly and permanently reducing a person as just that “thing” for oneself; where the objectifier is unwilling/incapable of seeing that person as a full human being. However, that’s not my definition, as I think there are states of consciousness where it’s possible for roles to be interchangeable and a little bit of objectification, in context, is okay. It’s the saturation point I find unacceptable (e.g. women who work in the sex industry being patronised as stupid by men who find them attractive or women who work in a job that doesn’t require sex appeal, such as politics, being expected to be “sexy” in the public eye).

I also think we should at least be able to accept that women can be as innately capable of sexually objectifying others as men (whatever definition we use). We just aren’t enabled or encouraged in the way men are. For me, saying otherwise seems to stray into saying that women’s vulnerability somehow stems from our “better” more passive nature, rather than structural inequalities.

Re: Ayn Rand: Hopefully, it was clear that I’m not a fan either. I just think her view neatly encapsulates a commonly accepted social “truth” that, in my opinion, is very prevalent. I can certainly think of times when I’ve found myself having to challenge the tawdry implication that I somehow want or need to “look up to” a man.

Jack Leland // Posted 8 July 2009 at 7:38 pm

Holly,

Have you thought about the feminist sources I should consult on the issues we discussed up-thread? I’d actually like to start reading on these issues, so it would be very helpful. Thanks!

@ Polly

Wouldn’t enabling women to sexually objectify men to the extent as is consistent with their will, short of oppression, a form of liberation? One can encourage women to express themselves colorfully just as much as proverbial sailors do without promoting slander or libel. It would be insisting that women’s natures keep them polite and censoring speech for everyone that would be anti-equality and pro-oppression.

lindsey spilman // Posted 11 July 2009 at 4:40 pm

I have to say that all these hot girls being around all the time does not bother me. It is not that about the world that i do not like.

I see just as many hot guys around in all these films. They may not be naked but do they need to be its imagination that does the trick. I am bisexual, i do not know if this makes me different.

I do not think a lot of these really thin women in mags with fake breasts, and fake tans are all that perfect anyway. I tend to find real women attractive, only hetro women who do not have the ability to see what is attractive in a woman could be fooled into thinking this is ideal. I do not need to dress through the male eye as i have my own and can see the best in both sexes. Also from a personal point of view i have never envyed another woman for her looks, i would not want to look like these women as i want to look like i have choose my own image and not conformed to the standad. That way i gey to be a rebel by just being myself. I become a rebel for beinmg confident in my own skin, i get to be happy with myself for not ever comparinmg myself to another woman. After all i do not see other women as competition as she could be a potentiol partner. And girls if you want to see men in action then go for gay porn. Women can go pick up as many men as they want, we do not have male hookers for women as we know that women do not have to pay for sex. As a bi woman i can do a fair comparason. It is much easier to get it with a man, even if you are a tomboy like me.

sam // Posted 14 July 2009 at 4:16 am

Hi,

late to this, didn’t read all of it. Personally, I think this is where all debates on feminism between men and women end, wherever they started. And taking the intra-feminist disagreements into account, this is probably also the most important intra-feminist division.

As a guy, I wish for the same thing – that at least for a day, feminist were able to see the world from an average Joe’s angle. Feel the powerlessness that most men actually feel, particularly with respect to women and then keep defending their axioms of a world of structural male sexual privilege.

But even absent that actual possibility, I’d love it if feminists would – in discussions with men – actually do what they expect the men to do. Listen, try to understand their experiences and not instantly discount them as either outliers or liars simply because their individual reality doesn’t fit what the answer is supposed to be according to feminism 101.

Btw, there’s a simple explanation why these kinds of threads always turn into pseudo FAQs about “What do women want” – men are confused by the often observable difference between general female statements and individual female behaviour. And there’s a general default level of aggression in such a discussion, because it necessarily starts off with some sort of blaming men for their sexuality whether that’s intentional or not. That, on the other hand, makes the female experience the default one, the one to measure the male experience against, and that, I think is quite evident to every feminist, is just as wrong as normalising the male experience – don’t you think?

Holly Combe // Posted 14 July 2009 at 6:08 pm

Re; Jack’s query. It’s a bit out of date and the book itself goes wider than the specifics of active role-taking for women but I think the Sexuality and Eros chapter in “For Men, Too” by Helmut Barz touches on what we were talking about. (As I understand it, the writer uses the terms anima and animus in relation to the objectified and objectifier in a female/male example.)

Karen // Posted 14 July 2009 at 9:56 pm

Hi Lindsay. I am also a bi woman and I am sick to the back teeth of the male-view hot women on display. I don’t tend to fancy this type (without wishing to sound too unkind to those who are 36-24-36 or whatever the British Standard BS number is for conforming women now) I tend to like those who are a bit different in some way. I don’t feel the need to look at men in that way either, be they naked or fully dressed. If you are turned on by the “eye candy” type (I hate that phrase too) then it is more by luck than by the designs of those who put these women on display (we aren’t the target audience, men are) and then try to sell us a load of shit and say “you can look like this too!” Can I really, I reply, well stuff my old boots! I dont mean to have a go personally but whether male or female, other people should not just be there for the audience to have wet dreams over. I’m probably that extra bit bitter having come through college with pornos left open on my desk and being told “why have we got you here, why can’t we have someone that looks like that instead?” Like I was purely there for their benefit!? Well done for being confident in your own skin, I applaud that but you seem to be misinterpreting our frustrations with all these “hot” women everywhere as jealousy. Why the hell should I as a free woman doing what the hell I want to, be jealous of someone that probably would get taken out and shot by the men that “manage” (own) her if, horrors of horrors, she does something really drastic like go out wearing the wrong brand of make-up? Media? Its all a false promise of happiness and the sooner we all realise it and kick the crap patriarchal system into touch, the better.

Laura // Posted 15 July 2009 at 11:27 am

@Sam,

I wish for the same thing – that at least for a day, feminist were able to see the world from an average Joe’s angle. Feel the powerlessness that most men actually feel, particularly with respect to women and then keep defending their axioms of a world of structural male sexual privilege.

No one’s claiming that most men necessarily FEEL powerful, Sam, but this doesn’t change the fact that male heterosexuality is most provided for and assumed to be the default in much media and the sex industry. Why should men feel powerful with respect to women anyway? I don’t think any individual should feel powerful over another.

But even absent that actual possibility, I’d love it if feminists would – in discussions with men – actually do what they expect the men to do. Listen, try to understand their experiences and not instantly discount them as either outliers or liars simply because their individual reality doesn’t fit what the answer is supposed to be according to feminism 101.

I do listen. Perhaps you’re the one making assumptions here?

lindsey spilman // Posted 15 July 2009 at 12:58 pm

Hi Karen.

I am not turned on by the so called eye candy type, that is my point. I do not think that there is one set ideal for women, or one ideal type of woman that is attractive. This is why i do not feel a drop in self confidence when i see these women, i see attractiveness to be individual. Just as no two women find the same type of woman (or man)attractive all men do not find the same type of woman attractive either. All these images and videos showing are aimed at mostly men, a few are aimed at women. I think the reason for this is due to men having more freedom to watch these things and talk about women in this manner. If the average heterosexual woman spoke about a man in this way with her female work friends she would be called names that i do not wish to type. Simply men are more free to express there sexuality, women are still expected to be more refined in this way, until that changes there will not be much of a market for porn aimed at women.

Women can objectify men if they choose, women can eye up mens bodys, we are free to have a gaze. But i think there is another big reason why women avoid doing this more then men do. My experience is that men love attention more then women do. While a woman would feel unease if a man in a shop was to stare at her breasts and bottom, a man who had women check him out gets an ego boost, in some cases they will be over to chat. As times pass and it becomes more exceptable for women to be more direct in this way, or should i say when women let each other be more open in this way without the list of names i do not wish to type being said. In these times women will be free to objectify or should i say look and take the leed role instead of just having to be the passive reciever. Women have eyes, women cannot be objects if they look back as objects do not have eyes. If that also results in porn aimed at women then so be it.

If men have power, then who lets them have power. Women can hold the real power, not by reacting to men, but by going in a different direction. I think that men do see women as powerful, this is why they focus and try and get us to focus on our body instead of our minds, and on each others bodys instead of each others minds.

KJB // Posted 15 July 2009 at 1:18 pm

sam – isn’t it a bit rich to not bother reading the whole article, and then accuse feminists of not listening to men properly?

Holly Combe // Posted 15 July 2009 at 2:24 pm

@Sam: You highlight the importance of listening and not discounting men’s experiences “simply because their individual reality doesn’t fit what the answer is supposed to be according to feminism 101”. Then you say men are “confused by the often observable difference between general female statements and individual female behaviour”.

I don’t think anyone here suggested men should all be exactly the same so why should women? And what exactly are “general female statements” anyway? The implication seems to be that any statement about womanhood should somehow compel individual women to behave in ways that fit with it when, actually, it should surely be taken as a given that no one woman is automatically speaking for all women whenever she says something. *Cue visions of women getting together and agreeing on some universal Female Way to avoid confusion*

Karen // Posted 15 July 2009 at 7:12 pm

Hi Lindsey, I think I see more about what you were trying to get across and yes, all women are beautiful in their own way and no, we shouldnt be made to feel jealous about certain “types” of woman. My point though is that these days we are only allowed by the media to see the narrow-minded male view of what female beauty is. Personally, if I werent engaged to my lovely fem-ally boyf, I would be in the queue for a date with Beth Ditto or Florence from Florence and the Machine. But would would the Current Bun or Daily Male attach the label pretty to individual ladies like these? As I say, I do think its great that you are as comfortable with yourself and your sexuality as you are and I wasnt having a personal pop. And yeah, I had some funny feedback before now to my comments regarding my tastes but thats their problem, not yours or mine.

Sam // Posted 16 July 2009 at 4:24 pm

Laura,

“No one’s claiming that most men necessarily FEEL powerful, Sam, but this doesn’t change the fact that male heterosexuality is most provided for and assumed to be the default in much media and the sex industry. Why should men feel powerful with respect to women anyway? I don’t think any individual should feel powerful over another.”

Yeah, “powerful” was a sloppy choice of word – empowered would have been better, or feeling confident with themselves (and in this case, their sexuality) with respect to everyone (women, in this case) else.

Well, I suppose that gay heterosexuality is just as catered to by the sex industry (in relative terms, there’s *far* more heterosexuals than homosexuals after all), and that male sexuality is catered to more because men are willing to pay to be catered to sexually. We can then discuss whether the chicken or the egg was first, but I think it’s quite evident that women are not equally willing to pay for sexual entertainment, whatever the reason. There are constant attempts to make them do this by an industry only too eager to double its market with the other half of the population, yet women aren’t as interested in doing this. Maybe that’s also, to look at it from a different perspective – not just an expression of different female sexuality (natured or nurtured) but also an expression of female sexual privilege. Maybe women don’t need porn or strippers or escorts because they know on some level that, should *it* hit them one evening, it will be far easier for them to pick a guy up just for sex than it will be for Joe Nextdoor to pick up a girl (whatever the reasons – male and female sexualities just aren’t the same).

“I do listen. Perhaps you’re the one making assumptions here?”

Well, I’m glad to hear. But when you say things like “I don’t blame, but…” it comes across (to me) as if you’re doing just that. Sometimes that “but” actually inverts the subtext of the first part of the sentence. Moreover, that part of the sentence wasn’t particularly directed at you, your rant was mostly personal (despite about “the system”), but with respect to the nature of feminist discussions of this matter, in which the female experience is normalized and the male experience is “othered”, which is usually a complaint feminists make with respect to pretty much everything else.

Holly,

“I don’t think anyone here suggested men should all be exactly the same so why should women?”

Yeah, this is a complicated one. This one is at the heart of the nice guy tm thing and many other male-female/ feminist misunderstandings in my opinion. Remember that I tried to answer someone’s (rethorical?) question above why these discussions always turn into a “what do women want faq”. I think that’s because from my (male) perspective it’s difficult to square public female statements with individual female action – particularly with respect to sexuality. Maybe that’s because men in general are too stupid to not generalize individual rants like the above and feel attacked by them, retreat in their sexuality until they behave like nice guys and then be hit over the head again because they’re allegedly incapable of experessing their sexuality. Sound familiar? Is it any clearer what I tried to express?

Qubit // Posted 16 July 2009 at 6:09 pm

My friend recently got married and so for the hen night they thought of going to a strip club. Admittedly they were looking in the tiny town of London so you wouldn’t expect much. They couldn’t find anything concentrating on male stripping. Some strip clubs do run ladies nights, they still have women stripping but why would straight women want to look at men!

I think the question of why a sex industry doesn’t exist for women is more complex. I think a lot of women have a fear of sex in the way that we are aware consent is a murky issue. Once you have paid a guy as an escort or male prostitute then you have basically given away any rights to remove consent in the eyes of the law courts. Or at least I would assume it. This makes me think of it as a dangerous activity akin to jumping under a train.

I also think a failure is due to the ideal man being an image that seems to be projected by men onto men not women. The result is that the material catering for women tends to ignore women’s actual tastes, even as a general trend. I mean here while everyone is different, the material for men appeals to the average Joe while the material for women doesn’t appeal to the average Jane and isn’t designed to. It seems almost deliberate to keep women from appreciating the male body to idealise a form women don’t tend to like.

My personal reason that I could never participate in the sex industry is that I am not very attractive. I couldn’t enjoy things like porn because I wouldn’t be able to fantasise knowing that if the guys in question knew about it they would feel disgusted at me for it. I couldn’t attend a strip club or see a prostitute because I’d rather go without sex than have to force someone to do something sexual with me they weren’t going to enjoy. The fact that they could gain no pleasure would kill my pleasure. I couldn’t go into a bar and get sex, I’d be laughed out of town. However I don’t think I could make someone to do something for me they didn’t want to. I get a similar feeling if I am in a hotel and the cleaner comes in, it feels morally wrong she (it is always a she) is doing the cleaning for me.

I find it interesting that in Japan there seems to be a sex industry that caters for women and I have often wondered why this is. I think it might be that the industry is expanded to include fantasies other than penetration for men and this means women are more likely to see something they want. I am not saying women don’t enjoy penetration or staring at naked men but it isn’t the be all and end all. Another reason might be that this industry takes into account women’s tastes and desires rather than trying to shape them. I don’t think this is the result of a more enlightened society just one that understands capitalism better. Another possible reason is hostess and host clubs seem to celebrate the idea of being served by the opposite sex. While I get the impression strip clubs offer this and that is actually why many men go I think culturally it is something we disapprove of more. I am not sure whether this is right or whether the ‘maid/butler’ fantasy is harmful, it seems to remove an aspect of humanity from the relationship but also intriguingly add an aspect more similar to parenting. As well as the idea of a benevolent dictator and romantic savour akin to Pretty Woman. It is something I would quite like to understand better to see the similarities and differences from our culture and desires.

Laura // Posted 16 July 2009 at 9:36 pm

Qubit,

I couldn’t attend a strip club or see a prostitute because I’d rather go without sex than have to force someone to do something sexual with me they weren’t going to enjoy. The fact that they could gain no pleasure would kill my pleasure.

I totally agree; I would hate to have sex with someone who didn’t genuinely want to have sex with me, who wasn’t interested in or attracted to me. I can’t understand why anyone would want to do this. I guess for some men at least, part of the reason they enjoy visiting prostitutes is the power of making someone do something they wouldn’t normally do :-/

Jehenna // Posted 17 July 2009 at 3:25 am

David and Jack,

I want to recognise you both for the determination you’re showing in staying with the dialogue so far.

Let me make it really clear at this point that I am giving you my opinion only. I don’t speak for all feminists, I don’t speak for the movement.

What we have in our society, is a hierarchichal view about work and the significance of our work.

When Jack says – take a back seat – I get the feeling that he sees taking care of the children and the domestic side of things, as a less active way of showing support. Traditionally we’ve viewed these activities as not very important and as women’s work. Now whether they were unimportant because they were women’s work, or women’s work because they were unimportant is not something I have a particular view on.

But we segregate the support activities like taking care of children and ensuring that life is facilitated, from the going out and doing stuff. Which is why being a housewife is not considered a job worthy of being paid, but being a stockbroker is. (Yes, this is a simplification, but bear with me.)

I don’t want men to ‘take a back seat’ because that implies that they have less responsibility for the success of the movement. What I would want them to do is to take on the duties that women normally perform, in order to enable women to move into those areas that have been traditionally the domain of men.

In the case of activism, that would be the campaigning, protesting, letter writing, meeting, debating, etc etc.

I can see why that would feel like taking a back seat. But we need to really think about the wider implications of that. Why is it that taking care of children is seen as not supporting a cause in a very direct and helpful way?

We need to reassess the way we look at work. Right now it is far more important what work someone does, than that they do it, or how well they do it.

We are quite capable of paying our cleaners, cooks or childcare workers very very little in comparison to those who sit in parliament, run hedge funds or design buildings.

What this means is – we don’t actually value cleanliness, good food or children, but we do value politics, money and buildings.

Now, when jobs are vastly gender or racially imbalanced (and by this I mean that those who do those jobs are by majority either male, female, white or ‘of colour), what does that say about the type of work those people do and how we value their contribution to society? Because its not just about how much we pay them, its whether or not we’d want our children to grow up doing that job.

The reason you see taking care of children and doing domestic chores as taking a back seat – is because you don’t value the contribution that these tasks make to the bigger picture. Because it’s ‘women’s work’.

Jehenna // Posted 17 July 2009 at 3:31 am

Sam,

I’m not sure how we’re ‘othering’ male experience by actually giving voice to our own experience and agreeing that its not the same as male one.

I don’t feel there’s a whole bunch of other associations being attached to other opinions than those expressed and a definition of those views as ‘negative. There isn’t the same level of subjectivity and autonomy being ascribed to women’s perspectives, and denied to male perspectives.

I find it quite odd you’d write on a feminist website that because we’re talking about our experiences rather than men’s experiences that we’re somehow ‘othering’ them. Could you explain what you mean by this?

Jack Leland // Posted 17 July 2009 at 2:38 pm

Jehenna,

Please accept my apologies for carelessly implying that men have less responsibility for the success of the feminist movement and the empowerment of women. I strongly concur with you that we men should honor our obligation to accept equal responsibility for the success of women, and my “take a back seat” language meant only to express what you have more articulately stated above: “What I would want [men] to do is to take on the duties that women normally perform, in order to enable women to move into those areas that have been traditionally the domain of men.” I certainly agree that women should move into those areas that have been men’s domain and men should support women by taking on domestic chores to enable this. I do not believe, however, that means domestic chores are “women’s work,” as I fully accept that my role as a supporter of feminists is to do them! I very much value my contribution to the feminist movement and to women moving into what were once male-dominated domains; if I wrongly gave off the impression that I do not value supporting women, I apologize! I think we are in total agreement, and I will try to avoid using potentially polarizing language in the future.

Holly,

Thanks for the book recommendation. The only problem is that it is out-of-stock everywhere. Are there any easier to buy books I might locate on the topic?

Sam // Posted 17 July 2009 at 4:06 pm

Jehenna,

“I find it quite odd you’d write on a feminist website that because we’re talking about our experiences rather than men’s experiences that we’re somehow ‘othering’ them. Could you explain what you mean by this?”

I mean by this that in feminist discourse I often see a tendency to see the female experience as the default and the one to measure the male one by. This is particularly apparent in discussions about differing perceptions of male and female sexuality, like this one. Often women not just describe their own experience and perspective but assign relative value to their own and other perspectives. The male perspective therefore isn’t taken as incommensurable, but compared, particularly morally compared to the female one. The female sexual experience, however varied it may be, is thus defined as the moral standard and the male one is defined as the other, not A-nother perspective. This, in a way, is exactly what is often critizised by feminists with respect to the “mainstream media” where the male experience is supposed to be the “default” and the female one the “other”.

Qubit // Posted 17 July 2009 at 4:49 pm

But how do I as a woman talk about the male sexual experience? I have only the words of men that I have heard to go on. Also why if the main stream media concentrates on what men want should feminists also have to concentrate on this? While I personal don’t believe any relationship should be entirely about what I want it would be nice if it mattered a little.

All men I know talk about how easy it is for a woman to get sex seemingly ignorant of the fact that very few women are attractive enough to be able to get sex when they want it. You are doing the same. You talk about the extra insecurity of being a man ignoring the fact that women who do the chasing are often treated with far more scorn. I know I have had numerous men that I asked out consider me pathetic and desperate and treat me like crap for it. It has also affected my social standing and meant in general I am considered a bit weird, desperate and unattractive.

The idea that any party of the relationship has access to free mutual desired sex with someone else whenever they want is a delusion. I think if your insecurities come from the belief that women truly have an easy experience of sex and relationships you really need to see the other side.

I don’t argue that men have it easy but I hate this common idea that men are desperate and would have sex with any female. The majority of females stand no chance with men and are aware of it. Possibly the same is true for men and women. To say otherwise is to look at the world in a warped way.

Jack Leland // Posted 17 July 2009 at 4:53 pm

The female sexual experience, however varied it may be, is thus defined as the moral standard and the male one is defined as the other

What is wrong with this, assuming it is true, Sam?

Jehenna // Posted 17 July 2009 at 4:55 pm

@Sam

Thanks for the clear explanation, I understand exactly what you mean now.

Do you think this arises from the critical analysis of say, male sexuality, rather than the disempowering stance that othering often entails?

@Jack

I’m glad that I misunderstood your stance. Well wishes :)

Sam // Posted 17 July 2009 at 7:15 pm

Quibit,

“But how do I as a woman talk about the male sexual experience?”

well, first off, I didn’t imply there was anything wrong with the way *you* individually do this, but I was replying to a question about why threads like this turn out the way they do. I offered an explanation that I think is valid with respect to feminist discourse. There are, think Naomi Wolf, is really not something only I say, just something that is apparently very difficult to do but something that should be avoided if it is critized elsewhere.

Assuming you talk to me with respect to “the extra insecurity of being a man”, I’ll reply to that part of your comment. I agree that, often, women who do the chasing are caught by the slut shaming trap, and that’s a shame. I for one do whatever I can to help them out of it. This is a complicated issue that’s dealing with a lot of deeply ingrained cultural aspects of human mating, and potentially even biological preferences (apparently men are expected to do the chasing even in indigenuous Chinese Matriarchies). No one really knows. But in our lifetime this is not going to change significantly, so we’re stuck with the status quo, for the better or worse. And in this status quo, we all have to deal with our insecurities – and I’m not comparing them, they’re our own and as such incommensurable – and one thing women often don’t understand is how insecure men are and how much rejection is a part of the male experience, how much a bruised ego is an essential part of the male experience. Someone suggested up in the thread that men should be sent to gay bars to learn how it is to be the one rejecting so they would get an idea of what the female perspective is like. I’m not sure that’s a particularly smart idea for a number of reasons, but I do think that it’s true that “rejection” and the way women and men experience it and deal with it is at the center of the question we’re talking about here. If you’re asking me if I think that women have it easier getting sex, I think we’d have to define what we’re talking about with respect to “sex”. Women will usually, and I think that will be the case for a large majority of women, be able to get sex with a random male if they are only persistent enough. I’ve seen this happen quite regularly. Men will have a much harder time at this particular exercise – simply because most women don’t seem to want this kind of sex, which, in turn, explains why women also have the feeling they can’t get what they want. So, if women were thinking like men, they’d have a comparative advantage. But, of course, women aren’t usually thinking like men when it comes to sex, so they usually don’t have that comparative advantage from *their* perspective. Does this make sense to you?

“I think if your insecurities come from the belief that women truly have an easy experience of sex and relationships you really need to see the other side.”

I think I got the ability to see the other side more so than many other men, simply because I am – at this point of my life – quite successful with women but I was a virgin in my mid 20s. And that means that I have dealt with rejection from both sides, something which I think has given me a rather unusual perspective in these matters.

Jack Leland,

you’re kidding, right?

Jehenna,

“Do you think this arises from the critical analysis of say, male sexuality, rather than the disempowering stance that othering often entails?”

Personally, I think it’s mainly and simply a group think effect and as such a side effect of communication happening as opposed to an intentional disingenuity, but of course, looking at the history of feminism male sexuality was always the most divisive element, even if Andrea D. never said it verbatim, apparently. Male sexuality has been assigned the role of “capital” in the marxism-derived feminist theory that, in my opinion, still is the most dominant line of thought within theoretical feminism, although it’s being constantly reframed to allow for a discourse outside of a 1970s sociology faculty. I’d really wish that this kind of class based thinking would give way to a more postmodern approach – I mean, it’s been almost 20 years since Judith Butler….

http://tigerbeatdown.blogspot.com/2009/06/dear-andrea-dworkin.html

(interesting link in this respect)

polly styrene // Posted 17 July 2009 at 11:14 pm

Sam, men may well feel *powerless*. The question is what do they do when they feel powerless? And the answer, more often than not, is to try and feel more powerful by asserting power over somebody female. And the structures of society allow them to do this.

That’s what feminism is about. Looking at overall social structures. Individual white people aren’t all advantaged. That doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist.

polly styrene // Posted 18 July 2009 at 9:45 am

Wouldn’t enabling women to sexually objectify men to the extent as is consistent with their will, short of oppression, a form of liberation? One can encourage women to express themselves colorfully just as much as proverbial sailors do without promoting slander or libel. It would be insisting that women’s natures keep them polite and censoring speech for everyone that would be anti-equality and pro-oppression.

No. Swearing is nothing to do with objectifying other members of the human race. To objectify someone is to treat them as sub human – literally to make them an object. It’s not desirable who ever is doing it.

Rachel // Posted 18 July 2009 at 3:22 pm

Sam, I don’t think if some feminists believe escort users etc to have lower morals when it comes to sex, that those feminists are ‘othering’ those men.

Maybe they’re disgusted with them. Is this what you’re saying they have no right to be? With the every day domestic violence related to sexual preferences, with the sexualisation of younger and younger girls, aggressive street and sexual harassment. These things are hardly ‘othered’ as they occur everwhere.

The alienation from the ‘othering’ you’ve gleaned here is from gaining insight into the female perspective!! Male perspective is typically different to a woman’s… different to a feminist’s. If you feel our collective sense of the male taste in porn to be worrying, and it bothers you; the point is it degrades women, so it’s meant to, and degrading a class of people should be ‘othered’ behaviour and not general! Which is the problem of course, sexism IS becoming more general, and more and more acceptable. People are hurt by it, and it’s indeed ‘othered’ as feminism to give a damn about the mass of people who are hurt by it on a daily basis (as the norm). Such is our culture.

Feminists just recognise low behaviour for what it is, and of course have different morals when it comes to the mass of female- hating sex sold to every one of us as ‘GREAT’. IMHO with the stats on domestic violence we are free as women to judge male aggressive- sexual related behaviour as something to be ‘othered’ for the better. Women finally gaining respect shouldn’t be ‘othered’, women being seen as sex objects should. So we all get along and no one gets hurt.

Sam // Posted 18 July 2009 at 5:16 pm

Rachel,

“Maybe they’re disgusted with them. Is this what you’re saying they have no right to be?”

You/they can be disgusted as much as they want, that’s not my point. My point is that a particular way of looking at thing – bizarrely, one brought about by the assumed epistemic privilege of being a woman – is then, by ignoring the very logic that allowed to get to this point (standpoint epistemology), turned into a default position and world-view. It’s saying “you cannot know how women see the world because you’re a man and thus you shouldn’t impose your perspective” while at the same time (often) doing the exact same thing the other way around.

With the every day domestic violence related to sexual preferences, with the sexualisation of younger and younger girls, aggressive street and sexual harassment. These things are hardly ‘othered’ as they occur everwhere.

“If you feel our collective sense of the male taste in porn to be worrying, and it bothers you; the point is it degrades women, so it’s meant to, and degrading a class of people should be ‘othered’ behaviour and not general!”

The point here is again that you’re generalizing your position as *is* not as your/feminist position with respect to an mutually observable phenomenon. You can say “I think it is degrading…” and I can say “I don’t think it is degrading”. But what we can’t say is that something *is* degrading unless we agree on what “degrading” actually means. And here’s the problem I described above: when you use your assumed epistemic privilege to say that I cannot understand, never understand what makes something “degrading” because I am not a woman, we will never be able to agree on the content, as you’ll never be able to understand what the term entails for me. So relying on this thought-mechanic is like saying “trust us, mother knows best”. I’m sure you see the problem with that.

We have to get over that particular element of feminist epistemology to actually get anywhere together. So we all get along and no one gets hurt, to quote you.

Here’s, btw, a feminist woman who disagrees with your understanding with respect to sex work (and she also explaines the problems with twisting standpoint epistemology in this way, albeit less academically framed ;))…

http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/the-swedish-model-and-its-discontents/

polly styrene // Posted 18 July 2009 at 7:10 pm

It’s interesting that an original post about a woman’s experiences of being objectified, and how that impacts on her has swiftly deteriorated into *but what about the poor menz?*

And entirely predictable of course.

Jack Leland // Posted 18 July 2009 at 8:36 pm

Swearing is nothing to do with objectifying other members of the human race.

Polly,

You misunderstood me. Coarse language short of slander and libel was an analogy to objectification short of oppression. Just as we value free speech, we ought to value sexual expression (which, we might argue, is a part of free speech). If we imposed standards on women of politeness we chill their speech and if we say they can’t objectify men short of oppression we restrict their sexual expression. In neither case is that advocacy of oppression or slander and libel. The point was not that swear words = dehumanization.

@Sam

I am not kidding, and I don’t understand why you would think I was.

Jack Leland // Posted 18 July 2009 at 8:53 pm

Rachel,

I am a bit confused. Are you saying that men should feel that women (or feminists) find them disgusting for being male?

Legible Susan // Posted 19 July 2009 at 12:00 pm

Sam,

I don’t know what you mean by “standpoint epistemology”. What you’re describing is a basic feature of oppression dynamics: men (in general, and nearly all men in particular) don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman; most women know all about how men see the world, because (i) that’s what 99.9% of all media is based on, (ii) the women who don’t understand men are at a severe disadvantage.

It’s a feature of many if not all systems of privilege (I first came across this observation in the context of black people understanding white people in order to survive in mid-20th-century USA). The oppressors don’t need to understand the oppressed, and in the rare cases where they bother to try, they won’t really get it (however well a gender-conforming cis man disguises himself as a woman, he won’t be absorbing a lifetime of how girls and women are treated); whereas the oppressed need to understand the oppressors or suffer the consequences.

Denise // Posted 19 July 2009 at 1:44 pm

Polly styrene, I totally agree with you about how this post has swiftly derailed into the predictable ‘what about the poor menz’ thing. I think it happens too often. Far too much time being wasted on…time wasters!

Sam // Posted 19 July 2009 at 6:21 pm

Polly,

“polly styrene said:

It’s interesting that an original post about a woman’s experiences of being objectified, and how that impacts on her has swiftly deteriorated into *but what about the poor menz?* And entirely predictable of course.”

Exactly. Entirely predictable. Just as I said in my initial comment – this is how almost every comment thread with respect to sexuality ends when both women and men participate – I have offered my understanding of why that is the case. The problem is that *one* personal perspective is rhethorically turned into *the* gendered experience, which there may or may not be but which logically is epistemologically inaccessible using feminism’s own thought constructs. It’s like you say here

“Individual white people aren’t all advantaged. That doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist.”

No, but it does mean that “racism” may not be exactly what you think it is in simplified intersectionality theory.

Jack,

ok – one question for you then. When you talk about sex with your girlfriend – should her ideas be more important than yours, yours more important than her’s, or should the two of you be equals in that discourse?

Laura // Posted 19 July 2009 at 6:51 pm

Thanks for that, Legible Susan, I’d been thinking something along those lines but your wording makes it very clear.

Sam – I agree that some feminists can go too far in making generalisations about male sexuality – I do find it irritating when someone says, say, that ‘all men see women as sexualised commodities’ – I know plenty of men that don’t, although most of these would still benefit from seeing the world from a woman’s pov, as described in my post.

However, I do think we can make generalisations based on the way (straight) male sexuality is presented to us in the mainstream media and sex industry, as we have to deal with this sexuality on a daily basis. Of course, to men whose sexuality does not conform to the mainstream – and, crucially, men who read feminist websites and are not trolling probably fall into this category – these kind of generalisations could seem unfair, untrue and unhelpful. But just as when we critique the way in which het female sexuality is framed and pushed on us, when we critique het male sexuality and the way this affects women we are not referring to all straight men. We are not saying that all straight men behave in the same way. We simply need to be able to identify the trends within male heterosexuality which have a negative impact on women in order that we can improve gender relations and tackle male sexual violence against women. If you don’t fit into the general model we are critiquing then that’s great, but we cannot afford to treat every single man as an individual when there are real, harmful trends in male sexuality – experienced and shared by many men – which need to be addressed.

Jack Leland // Posted 19 July 2009 at 7:12 pm

@Sam

Despite the fact that you might read it as a denial of my own individuality (something I would call a stretch), I would agree with Laura’s statement above that “we cannot afford to treat every single man as an individual when there are real, harmful trends in male sexuality – experienced and shared by many men – which need to be addressed.” I do not expect to be treated as an individual in such feminist discourse and, so long as the discourse does not demand that I internalize female disgust (the reason I flagged Rachel’s comment above), but rather only that I accept it is a part of the feminist critique of heteronormativity (what I take Laura to mean), I am happy to be included. I say this as preface to an answer to your question.

When you talk about sex with your girlfriend – should her ideas be more important than yours, yours more important than her’s, or should the two of you be equals in that discourse?

Equality in that discourse may entail her ideas being more important than mine, because we are operating against a background of a patriarchal culture and I am not a perfect man. If I did not prioritize her criticism of my sexuality, then we might recapitulate patriarchal norms in our sex life, which would unfairly constrict her autonomy. Certainly, oppressing a woman sexually is not a form of equality, but listening to her sincerely is.

Sam // Posted 19 July 2009 at 7:56 pm

Legible Susan,

a couple of links from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that will probably explain better than I could here –

Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-epistemology/

Feminist Social Epistemology – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminist-social-epistemology/

Analytic Feminism – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/femapproach-analytic/

“most women know all about how men see the world”

If you claim this, it means that it’s equally accessible for me to know what it’s like to be a woman. If you claim that, feminist reality construction falls logically apart – have a look at the links – the real problem is that while situated knowledge (or epistemic privilege) very much exists as a consequence of human autopoiesis (we’re closed systems) there is no basis for claims that gender based situated knowledge is any more objective than any other criterion for assumed objectivity based on assumed shared subjectivity.

Laura,

I have no problem with generalizations as such. I’d just like to see some kind of “modesty disclaimer” occasionally, some kind of awareness that this kind of generalisations is not actually “the truth”, but one perspective thereof. “In my understanding of this world some things in male heterosexuality are harmful to women.” is different from “some things in male heterosexuality are harmful to women” or “male heterosexuality is harmful to women”, don’t you think?

lindsey spilman // Posted 19 July 2009 at 7:59 pm

I refuse to be objectifyed, i refuse simply by not being eye candy. I do not see why a woman has to dress different while doing the same activity or going to the same place as a man. Here in the 21st centuary women still allow the objectifyed view of women or male gaze tell them how to dress. Shoes are a good example, so many women seem to not mind walking around in shoes that are stupid but appear to look good through the male eye. While men either wear trainers or can be considered smart in brouges. The problem today in the UK is this the divide is getting wider. I have observed that most middle class women are too busy trying to out class working class women that they forget to challenge oppression. Middle class girls would rather wear the clothing sanctioned by the oppressors then wear more functional clothes and be mistaken for a track suit wearing working class person. It did not take them long to have girls walkinmg about in dresses, wearing stupid shoes and clinging onto bags again did it? What makes things worse is when women call this drag there femininity or there way of expressing there sexuality. These things come off at the end of the day, so if stupid shoes and dresses are an expression of a womans sexuality and femininity these things must be removed at the end of the day too. Imagine if a mans masculinity and sexuality was viewed to exist in the clothes he wears, it would make male strip shows interesting.

Sam // Posted 19 July 2009 at 8:12 pm

Jack,

“Equality in that discourse may entail her ideas being more important than mine, because we are operating against a background of a patriarchal culture and I am not a perfect man.”

I’m sorry, but there will never be equality in this paradigm, as she will hold the key the definition room – you’ll never be able to assert anything in such a discourse because you don’t believe that your perception of reality is as valid as hers. There is no way to solve this “affirmative action” dillema, and it’s certainly not going to bring equality to hand over the definitional reigns from one side to the other. That’s what I’m saying: in order to solve this problem so no one gets hurt (which, alas, will never be the case in real life), we have to listen to each other and not automatically assume that one position is morally superior than the other.

Rachel // Posted 19 July 2009 at 8:56 pm

Sam, in a world where women weren’t obviously an oppressed class I’d agree you had some points.

Do you say ‘I think Hitler was evil.’ Or… ‘he was evil.’ Who cares, it’s basically semantics and straw picking.

I have my view, these women have theirs, you have yours and so what?

You can disagree over straws till the cows come home. But you waste people’s time and I wish ‘whataboutz?’ posts such as yours were filtered.

Yes some feminists agree with brothels blah blah. Having read almost every feminist book I get my hands on reading ‘whataboutz’ posts such as yours gets enfuriating. Look up the answers instead of battling it out with women who are sure when they say ‘women are oppressed’, and picking every straw you can just to settle an imagined power dynamic.

As it is, you’re making this whole thread about you and about men. Happens a lot, most feminists just ignore it but I took the time to respond only to get a time- wasting answer! Doh.

Rachel // Posted 19 July 2009 at 9:01 pm

Jack, nowhere did I say that. Neither should I have to apologise for my opinions as a member of the oppressed class talking on a website designed for oppressed people to voice their opinions safely.

If by ‘male’ you mean ‘typical male who thinks it’s ok to visit prostitutes’ then yes. Although I know not all men are like this.

polly styrene // Posted 19 July 2009 at 11:27 pm

Jack Leland: I understood you perfectly. But I don’t think objectifying other human beings is anything whatsoever to do with expressing one’s own sexuality.

polly sytrene // Posted 19 July 2009 at 11:39 pm

Sam I’m not sure what you’re on about, due to the you are speaking academentia-ish, but you seem to be saying that feminism is inadequate for understanding the position of the poor oppressed men. This may or may not be true, (in fact it could simultaneously be true and false -depending on WTF simplified intersectionality means), but I think, yet again you’re missing the point of feminism.

It’s not all about you. Sorry.

Laura // Posted 20 July 2009 at 11:36 am

Moderator comment: (For those who are irritated by Sam’s comments.) I’ve allowed this discussion because my original post was about men and in some ways directed at men, so I feel comments related to men’s sexuality and which express male viewpoints are relevant here.

Sam // Posted 20 July 2009 at 4:02 pm

No, of course it’s not all about me, and I’ve said so in basically every comment I made. So, well, I suppose this discussion is over. Some closing remarks – thanks Laura for letting me make some points.

Rachel,

“Yes some feminists agree with brothels blah blah.”

I think this perfectly illustrates the problem of what happens when one elevates one’s opinion to the only morally acceptable standard – lack of understanding and condescension between feminists, not even between women and men.

Polly,

“that feminism is inadequate for understanding the position of the poor oppressed men”

I’m saying that feminist (standpoint) epistemology should either be taken seriously by feminists, in which case they would not be able to assert things about male sexuality in the way they do, or, in case feminist epistemology isn’t taken seriously, they should stop applying it selectively, when it seems convenient (privilege/opression/etc). It’s a matter of intellectual honesty, not a matter of “what about ze menz”. In fact, it is – and that was my point in the initial comment – this kind of intellectual dishonesty that is bringing about, entirely predictably, the usual discussions that don’t get anyone anywhere. So, this one is over, wasn’t a bad one though.

Qubit // Posted 20 July 2009 at 4:38 pm

When you talk about feminist dismissing male sexuality is this about the male ‘need’ to see prostitutes and go to strip clubs etc? While feminists have different views on this it is a phenomena I don’t understand so if you care to provide an explanation why these things are key to male sexuality but not female then I think we will try to listen.

However if you list reasons such as it is easy for women to get sex I think it will be difficult to relate because I don’t think many feminist believe an ability to get sex when you want it, is a necessity or a right.

George // Posted 20 July 2009 at 5:33 pm

Sam,

A couple of things.

Firstly, do you not think that there are some ethical considerations to be had around coming along to an inclusive feminist space, as a man, and deliberate adopting a register that few will understand?

Secondly, I think you misunderstand standpoint epistemology. A main point, which is made very clear by Harding etc, is this – although no position is, a priori, better than another, within a system which valourises one position above all others (i.e. patriarchy), one would do well to deliberately ‘think from’ the standpoint of the oppressed rather than the oppressor. This means thinking from the eperience of various women, and remembering that this is a radical move against the homogenizing discourse of the opressor. So, just because a few feminists started to emphasise female seuality over male does not mean that the accounts are ‘skewed’, that patriarchy has been blown out of the water, or that men are suffering. It means that some people have made an epistemological/ethical step to increase our knowledge. To assert that this has meant that men no longer have an epistemological voice is a basic ethical mistake (i.e. so basic that it is summed up by “what about teh menz”), as well as a misunderstanding of this type of epistemology. And I cannot see any empirical evidence for it either – if you try and tell me that academic departments are made up entirely of feminist women, I will roflmaoetc.

I would also suggest that you might think further about this so called “men vs women” paradigm you are adhering to – there are just as many types of men as there are women.

Also, Jack, I think your point about listening more to your girlfriend than yourself is ace, and very interesting.

Sam // Posted 20 July 2009 at 5:51 pm

George,

“although no position is, a priori, better than another, within a system which valourises one position above all others (i.e. patriarchy), one would do well to deliberately ‘think from’ the standpoint of the oppressed rather than the oppressor.”

You do see that that’s logically impossible, right? It’s exactly what I said above. Either take it seriously or don’t, but don’t say it’s impossible but worthwhile to see things from the oppressed’s perspective. In fact, it’s logically impossible to assign valuations like “oppressor” or “oppressed” in that paradigm – it’s convenient, and it’s wrong, and it will predictably cause this kind of thread when it comes to sexuality.

“I would also suggest that you might think further about this so called “men vs women” paradigm you are adhering to – there are just as many types of men as there are women.”

Absolutely, I’m not sure where you got that from me, in fact, if anything, I was complaining about the “othering” of the male experience within this kind of feminist discourse, I would say that’s an attempt to end such a “vs”-paradigm. Doesn’t work with standpoint epistemology though.

Sam // Posted 20 July 2009 at 11:20 pm

Quibit,

took me a bit to dig this out –

“Musings on biological imperatives and cultural response” by “Kiki”

http://saucebox.almeidaisgod.com/?p=85

Probably the best thread I’ve ever come across with respect to the issue at hand. I don’t agree with every single aspect Kiki mentions in the post, but it’s certainly a beginning for the kind of serious – no blame – dialogue I am referring to.

Rachel // Posted 21 July 2009 at 2:21 am

Sam, I wasn’t condescending feminists agreeing with brothels , as I know why they agree with them and they don’t come at it from the same angle as your average dude. The ‘blah blah’ was with reference to the content of your own posts.

Don’t think the ‘Ha! You hate feminists!’ has never been tried from dude nation posters, either; along with every other derailing tactic you’ve tried: whatabout the men? let me give you a ‘MALE’ perspective etc etc.

Funnily enough the more you post, the less you sound like you have any degree of sound argument and just want to rant for the sake of whatever agenda.

Jack Leland // Posted 21 July 2009 at 3:16 am

@ Rachel

My concern was only the idea that an individual straight male must internalize female disgust in order to be a feminist or authentic supporter of feminism. A straight male could willingly enter the discourse where such disgust is expressed toward men generally or male heterosexuality generally and contribute without suffering psychic distress. I completely agree that you should not have to apologize or censor yourself on a feminist website.

@ Sam

I’m sorry, but there will never be equality in this paradigm [“Equality in that discourse may entail her ideas being more important than mine, because we are operating against a background of a patriarchal culture”] as she will hold the key the definition room – you’ll never be able to assert anything in such a discourse because you don’t believe that your perception of reality is as valid as hers….we have to listen to each other and not automatically assume that [a feminist] position is morally superior to [a man’s].

Given that women are an oppressed class and males are a privileged one, it would make sense that a feminist critiquing male privilege (a class phenomenon) and detailing oppression of women would be morally superior to a man seeking to retain his privilege in the face of her criticism. It would seem that by stepping into the role of a feminist critic a woman is taking a morally superior position, because that discourse is about stripping an oppressive class of its privilege. My only point was to say one can take steps to listen to this discourse earnestly so as to avoid oppressing women, so long as internalizing hatred is not required. (Hatred is not an idea.) That obligatory listening to feminist critics under the premise that their negative criticism of male privilege and male sexuality is morally valid to enter feminist discourse is not much of an obligation. If one could not exit such a discourse freely (or participate without being browbeaten), then you might have a point. But no one is forcing you to read this website and the moderator(s) of this thread have been cordial and intellectual.

Laura // Posted 21 July 2009 at 2:18 pm

Moderator comment: I think this thread has more or less run its course and I’m getting comments which have little or nothing to do with the original post, so I will be effectively closing it by only publishing any further comments which relate directly to the post. Thank you all for your participation.

Juliet // Posted 21 July 2009 at 3:05 pm

Laura, this post of yours was really great and I loved reading it, ditto some of the comments. You are right to say that from now on you will only publish comments which relate directly to it. It’s a pity that wasn’t done earlier, then we could have been spared some long boring diatribes by people whose sole aim seems to be to derail and attract attention to themselves which they’re clearly not getting anywhere else. For a good reason.

Your time is too valuable for that!

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