Quick hit: Stephen Fry misquoted?

// 31 October 2010

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Stephen Fry says he was misquoted over comments suggesting that women just don’t like sex.

Misquoted or quoted, taken out of context or not, Fry’s reported remarks include gems like:

I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want. They want a boyfriend and then they want commitment.

The whole issue has been all over Twitter since the story broke. I think we’ll run something more thoughtful on this whole debacle later on, but for the moment here’s a couple of the more amusing tweets about Fry’s (reported) comments:

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Comments From You

Ellie // Posted 1 November 2010 at 1:31 am

Stephen Fry seems to have based his ideas on the fact that women don’t revel in promiscuity. Could it be that many straight women enjoy sex, but that women tend to enjoin an emotional aspect with the event, whereas many men are able to experience it as a purely mechanical (albeit physically enjoyable) experience?

Even if it were the case that heterosexual women desire emotional relationships with men (which I think is the case), it seems a totally illogical argument from a usually intelligent man to infer that women don’t enjoy sex per se. Surely sex can be enjoyed physically and emotionally with another human being despite the fact that one might desire an emotional relationship with the sexual partner: a relationship which may or may not be forthcoming. Women may not be able to emotionally remove themselves from the event, and that does cause acute distress when interacting with men who can and do remove themselves in this sense, but this argument simply doesn’t work if you apply it to the idea of enjoyment of a physical event.

I think Stephen Fry has just had a bit of an emotional strop, and not thought his argument through. It’s a real shame, as I have had such respect for him, but these comments give an impression of a drama queen stomping his feet and making grand sweeping statements on female sexuality which are bizarre at best and damaging at worst. How many straight men with 2 brain cells will read these comments and agree with Stephen? The consequences can only be a reinforced impression of the confusing and frustrating nature of women, which can only be damaging.

Elb // Posted 1 November 2010 at 2:04 am

I doubt it’s a misquote because he has said very similar things on camera.

Jess McCabe // Posted 1 November 2010 at 7:51 am

@Ellie I get where you’re coming from, but I think we should be slow to generalise about differences between men and women’s attitudes to sex as well.

Also, this idea of women not revelling in promiscuity – first of all, what is promiscuous? How many partners before someone is being promiscuous varies hugely in the eye of the beholder, and this concept has been used so much to control women’s sexuality, and slut shame, that I’m just very wary of it.

polly // Posted 1 November 2010 at 8:17 am

‘Steven Fry says the Observer portrayed him as the Antichrist’.

Oh get over yourself for heaven’s sake man. You said something stupid and got pulled up on it. However as far as I know, no one is suggesting the four horsemen of the apocalypse are waiting round the corner.

How does Fry explain the existence of lesbians, that’s what I want to know, if women only put up with sex because they want a man?

Jenny // Posted 1 November 2010 at 8:27 am

More convincing if he hadn’t said similar things to a camera:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A211L382EVI&feature=youtu.be

His current attitude is actually getting irritating (and a little derailing?). The whole “The big mean feminists are picking on me! I didn’t say nothing bad!” is boring. If he wants to start an interesting debate about sexuality and socialisation and expectations etc, then that’s fine, as it is, just shutting down and refusing to consider any of the issues isn’t helpful.

Honestly, I find it a little sad that whenever something like this gets said, the generalisations are, yes, annoying and unhelpful. But I also really dislike, as Ellie says, the attitude (on both sides of the debate, actually) that if people really enjoy sex, then they’ll be going out having no-strings, uncommitted sex. And I don’t think it gets us anywhere! It’s like the conflation of two issues which are both relevant, but need to an extent to be kept separate in order for each to make sense.

There certainly are women who don’t feel comfortable (or safe) engaging in more casual forms of sexual activity, but who really love sex with a partner. As others have commented recently, there are also plenty of women who are happy to have sex without being in a relationship. I think it’s important to talk about the fact that those forms of sexual expression are totally legit and how negative and sexist it is to use shame to control women’s sexuality. Equally and separately, though, we also need to recognise that there are many ways to enjoy sex. All of this is staying very much on the ‘surface’ level of the debate and it would be nice to read some articles delving deeper, and many do; I just think it’s important to emphasise the distinction between the types of sexual activity someone enjoys, and how much that person enjoys sex. Because you can’t assume the second from the first. Which seems to be what a lot of commentators do seem to imply.

On a completely separate note, it would also be nice if comedians could start to recognise that trotting out sexist stereotypes in their comedy is neither witty nor – and this just adds insult to comedic injury, really! – original. Unless they’re using it as a way to poke fun at simplistic generalisations and address interesting issues about sexuality, in which case, hooray! More feminist comedy, please.

Sarah // Posted 1 November 2010 at 8:47 am

I don’t think he’s the ‘anti-christ’ (as he’s said the journalists are making him out to be). I am pretty uncomfortable with what he said though… I always thought he was a bit more clued up. Even if it genuinely was taken out of context (though I’m struggling to see what context it’d be all right in), he might have thought twice about how it might sound to people…

lady gloom // Posted 1 November 2010 at 9:47 am

Fry has done a lot of good in this world as regards gay rights and mental health advocacy, but his understanding of female sexuality is going to be identical to my understanding of what it is like to be a gay male – based upon guesswork and supposition. Sometimes he needs to learn when to stop talking!

That said, you can find the original film of this interview on YouTube, and there has been some misquotation going on.

JBK // Posted 1 November 2010 at 9:57 am

I AM A FRIGID! I have never enjoyed sex and found it incredibly painful. Was very part or bringing sex sexuality and women’s sexuality to the fore. But the fact remains. Many women do not enjoy sex, get very little out of it no matter how or what you do but still want to make love as that part of being part of someone else is still very important. Have met many who have thought they had the “cure” and thought I was doing it wrong but after it did not happen and I was still in dyscomfort blamed me and hurt me further (Thank you) Nothing wrong up there. but that did not stop the first doctor examining me for frigidity “FISTING ME” and saying how that should sort the problem out. I went into trauma and fell off the high table. So that and painful frigidity did not help.

I know it all tried it all heard it all. But if Fry puts frigidity on the map and that some women – in fact many – do not get anything out of sex and it is uncomfortable painful and distressing I suggest that someone else also stands up for this fact. Although I have stood up for other’s sexuality and been part of educating about sex prejudices I have never been supported in my own but abused rejected and denied to the point of being shamed. I AM FRIGID! Its a fact. I don’t need curing and don’t need another conversation which is ignorant or negative. I don’t like sex. That last taboo. Lets help liberate others to say so and be honest.

sianushka // Posted 1 November 2010 at 9:57 am

jess, i totally agree. what is promiscious? because what it means for men sure as hell ain’t what it means for women! he’s a stud, she’s a slut.

his argument basically seemed to stem from the fact that women don’t go cottaging. which is a pretty big leap to women don’t like sex.

i have a lot of respect for stephen fry and these comments are really disappointing. it seems to me to just be lazy controversy, having a go at women’s sexuality and deciding that women don’t like sex. what does it achieve?

perhaps he’s just jealous – it is us woman after all who get to enjoy multiple orgasms!

JenniferRuth // Posted 1 November 2010 at 10:04 am

Personally, I found this part of what Fry supposedly said to be the most tone deaf:

If women liked sex as much as men there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas.

Of course. The reason we don’t do this is because we don’t like sex. We’re frigid! It’s not as if we’re constantly told not to walk in the dark, don’t be alone, don’t trust strange men, don’t stay out late, don’t “lead” a man on, don’t go on a date without letting your friends know where you are, because you might be raped. And if you are raped, then you probably did something to put yourself at risk, right?

AND if a woman does have casual sex, it’s not like we live in a world where she’d be shamed for that. What’s that word…”slut” ?

I find it offensive that Fry has not bothered to consider the fact that women are surrounded by messages that police our sexuality. Instead he just reinforces the two main categories that people try to force womens sexuality into – the frigid and the slut. The madonna or the whore. As so it has ever been.

I’m glad people called him out on this archaic attitude.

Fry says he has been misquoted. I hope so. But even misquoted I suspect that the sexism at the core of this will still be there.

angercanbepower // Posted 1 November 2010 at 10:26 am

This is just a boring thing to say. I am pretty sure this hackneyed cliché was accepted as bollocks in around 1975. I can’t be bothered to engage with such depressing nonsense anymore.

Kate // Posted 1 November 2010 at 10:32 am

What I found so unhelpful about Fry’s comments is the assertion that women are deceitful. It’s something that I’m so fed up of hearing, that we’re lying and scheming and manipulating men. It’s so dangerous and disappoining to read (yet again) that women are not to be trusted, especially when it comes to sex.

sianushka // Posted 1 November 2010 at 10:35 am

ooh, what a good thread! i feel a bit more awake after my sleepy first comment.

jenny – yes! why is there this assumption that to enjoy sex, you must always be chasing sex with a new partner or one night stands? we need to get to a point where we can say that women can enjoy no strings sex (without being called promiscious or a ‘slut’) but also say that women can enjoy sex with a partner they love. it is almost as if he is saying that there is something wrong with sex in the context of romance, or that if women ‘put up’ with sex so they can have the romance, the two are incompatible. and then, at the same time, he renders invisible women’s capacity for pleasurable no strings sex. it’s a double idiocy!

JBK – thank you for your comments. like you say, there’s nothing wrong with not enjoying sex. we need to get rid of that taboo, we need to start allowing women to happily and fully inhabit their sex lives, whether that is in a relationship, a one night stand every night, or by not having sex at all. we still pathologise women’s sexuality. it’s ridiculous.

JenniferRuth, i agree with everything you say. fry has completely ignored all the reasons why women don’t go ‘cottaging’ in order to make a childish and silly judgement that women don’t like sex. he hasn’t stopped to consider the dangers women are in or even the societal implications for women who say yes, i love sex. i’m thinking for example the treatment in the media of abby lee, for whom saying she enjoys sex meant she was called a prostitute in the independent. but why let serious debates, questions and interesting points get in the way of a little off hand misogyny? why bother challenging the status quo and normal sexism when you can get in the headlines by writing nonsense about women?

Troon // Posted 1 November 2010 at 12:10 pm

JBK

I feel awful commenting here because I’m a straightish man (well have been in a monogamous heterosexual relationship for over 10 years). Yet for much of my life I had no inclination to receive sexual pleasure (although liked the comfort of sex with a partner). I struggled to make it clear that ‘asexuality’ was as much a sexual identity as anything else (still think this), and it obviously limited some relationships, but I was never seen as ‘frigid’. Only women seem to be told this is a failing, a lack, a ‘frigidity’. There was a really refreshing discussion between women about this on Mumsnet, dealing with it as an identity and issue but not as a frigidity problem . Thought you might like a read:

http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/relationships/1067939-Does-anyone-here-consider-themselves-to-be-asexual

anonymous for this one! // Posted 1 November 2010 at 12:25 pm

Er, straight women do go cruising…

I used to use the website GumTree’s No Strings Attatched feature to meet men for casual sex. I put the ads up, describing my appearence, and what I wanted, and the men got in touch with me via a anonymous email address. Every time I met a man for the first time I would do so in a bar where I knew the bar maid, two of my friends would be in the next room and I had a variety of safe words and alarm bells that I could activate that would lead to my friends coming to my rescue if things got out of hand within minutes, as well as a ‘personal safety device’ both in my handbag and in my bedroom. We always went back to mine, apart from with one guy I met several times over about a two year period by which time I trusted him as much as I would a lover I met in the conventional sense.

I loved it. The first time I met someoen I got such a thrill of power, this was a man (who was to be honest absolutly stunning) I had chosen, we were completly honest with each other and the sex was great. I regulary met this man and met a couple of others using the website and never had a bad experience.

Then a woman met a man using the same service, and ended up being murdered. Her body was found in a suitcase. NSA Gumtree closed down the next day. I was very very angry and sad for the woman and her family, but had also lost a vital outlet for my sexuality, along with the many many women I know who also used the site.

There are other websites you can do this on but they charge massive fees, and are usually specialist, looking for a certain body type or fetish, which I’m not into. I’m not into group sex or swinging either.

Recently, I’ve been using Twitter. Taking a converstaion to the Direct Messages and then on to something a little more flirtatious is quite easy, and I have met a couple of my lovers that way.

Sexuality as I see it is completly fluid. I have had a couple of long term relationships, but I enjoy sex, and as long as I’m being safe I don’t see what the problem is with this. I had a very long arguement with one of my friends when I started on the Gumtree thing, as she was concerned for my safety, but in the end most people have been very supportive and admire me for it. I’m not going to stop having a sex life just because I haven’t met anyone I would seriously consider spending all my time with for a couple of years.

I could go out and do the whole ‘meeting people in bars’ thing, but they’re usually drunk, and therefore can’t get it up, and you don’t have all your crads on the table like you do with meeting people online. I miss Gumtree, but Twitter will do for now…

ps. I’m staying anonymous for this one, not because I’m ashamed, but because I don’t want to ‘out’ any of my lovers :)

Jennifer Drew // Posted 1 November 2010 at 12:27 pm

For once Stephen Fry has shown his true colours because he too, like many men is a misogynist because of course only male on male ‘sexual activity’ = real sex. Fry is correct that most women do not like ‘sex with men’ and the reason is because heterosex is male-centric and women are expected to sexually service men.

Fry’s contempt for women is clear and no he was not misquoted – he deliberately set out to ‘jump on the bandwagon ‘ and add his four pen’orth worth to the male-dominant media obsession with incessant misogynistic articles.

Misogyny is men’s latest ‘in topic’ and so Fry’s comments are not isolated ones – they are common because many men adhere to the phallocentric myth that the penis is the sin que of human sexuality.

sianushka // Posted 1 November 2010 at 12:45 pm

Jennifer Drew:

‘Fry is correct that most women do not like ‘sex with men’ and the reason is because heterosex is male-centric and women are expected to sexually service men.’

there is a problem with how we frame sex as ‘normal’ sex always being male/female penetrative and i agree with points you have made before about how we need a broader definition of what sex means to include sex that isn’t always and only penetrative.

but i really disagree with what you say here. some women don’t like sex with men, some do. saying most women don’t like sex with men is, to me, a way of silencing and shaming women who do enjoy it! there’s nothing wrong with having sex with men, just as there is nothing wrong with having sex with women, or not having sex at all. by saying otherwise is just unfair.

Elly // Posted 1 November 2010 at 1:45 pm

Just wanted to say a very loud “hear hear” to Jenny’s comment especially.

And the need for more feminist comedy… *ohhh* yes. Big time. The prevailing comedy meme at the moment appears to be the old ugly parcel of misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism, just draped in a fashionable layer of “irony”. I have a lot of respect for Fry in many ways – his outspokenness on the subject of mental health is something I find inspiring and comforting. I think he’s clearly a lovely, if deeply troubled man. But the fact that he expected such offensive stereotyping to pass without comment speaks for itself. He’s surrounded by people who are lazily relying on restating old-fashioned and dehumanising values in a way that’s assumed to be “edgy” and challenging because it upsets people. Regardless of the fact that it’s about the most conservative and stodgy form of humour there is. And even Q.I., good thought it is in many ways, seems to fall back on this boring, offensive, “Mock the Week”-style humour too often.

*sighs* And of course, with that meme so powerful now, marginalised groups are supposed to take everything unpleasant directed towards us/them as “just a joke”, not speak out about it, and *definitely*, oh *so* definitely not make new jokes ourselves…

I rather feel for what Fry’s going through right now – for a man with his low self-esteem and mental health problems, this must all be hell. But most I’m just despairing at a culture where a highly intelligent, 50+ man with women friends a) appears to never have heard of slut-shaming or rape culture and b) has no idea of how to react appropriately when he’s been called on his privilege. :-(

Kristin // Posted 1 November 2010 at 3:10 pm

Jennifer Drew, I think Stephen Fry showed his true colours years ago. I stopped watching Q.I and anything else he was in (and that was a L-O-T of telly at one point!) because of the misogynist stuff he’d come out with.

And as for women being deceitful users of men (according to him), what does Mr Fry imagine his much younger ‘toy boy’ wants HIM for?!

Lindsey // Posted 1 November 2010 at 4:16 pm

To anyone looking for feminist friendly comedy with a pinch of DIY culture, Josie Long is currently touring:

http://www.ents24.com/web/artist/67825/Josie_Long.html

I have seen and approve this show for general consumption :)

Elmo // Posted 1 November 2010 at 5:04 pm

Agree with Lindsey, saw Josie Long, got my picture and autograph (Im going to keep saying it cos im THAT chuffed) she is amazing and not afraid to tell the truth!

Aline // Posted 1 November 2010 at 5:25 pm

If Stephen Fry has got such low self-esteem, it doesn’t stop him having a hell of a lot to say for himself, including pontificating on subjects he can’t know diddly squeak about.

And would someone ‘highly intelligent’ be that clueless and make those kind of comments in the first place? It’s like he just cannot shut up ever. If he did, he might learn something.

Elly Metcalfe // Posted 1 November 2010 at 5:42 pm

@Aline his struggles with serious mental illness and his self-hatred are well-documented. Low self-esteem manifests in different people in different ways, as I myself am in a very good position to know.

And yes, I think he *is* highly intelligent. He’s not always wise, and over this issue he is ignorant and wrong. His intelligence is palpable – and to my mind is part of what makes this whole mess so frustrating.

Liz // Posted 1 November 2010 at 5:45 pm

I’m really sad to see the ‘pull your socks up’ mentality has got through comment moderation here, F word.

Rob // Posted 1 November 2010 at 6:19 pm

And yet ironically, in The Liar (by Stephen Fry), there’s a scene where the protagonist is having sex with a woman (for the first time IIRC) and is amazed to discover she wants it as much as he does. I’m assuming that wasn’t a lie by the liar and that Stephen has merely forgotten the wisdom of his youth.

Ruth // Posted 1 November 2010 at 6:57 pm

Liz

not seeing that it has, myself? Care to elaborate?

Liz // Posted 1 November 2010 at 7:42 pm

Definitely two or three people making assumptions that he should ‘get over it’

polly // Posted 1 November 2010 at 9:54 pm

In defence of Aline: – the fact that someone maybe experiencing mental illness, doesn’t mean that they’re not responsible for what they do, or that they can’t also behave badly.

I don’t think that’s a ‘pull your socks up’ attitude, I just don’t see how the illness Fry suffers from excuses him making remarks like this. It’s not a get out of jail free card, neither is low self esteem. If he doesn’t want to be criticised, maybe he should think about what he says before he says it.

orlando // Posted 1 November 2010 at 10:15 pm

“But most I’m just despairing at a culture where a highly intelligent, 50+ man with women friends a) appears to never have heard of slut-shaming or rape culture and b) has no idea of how to react appropriately when he’s been called on his privilege.”

This precisely sums up what has floored me about this episode. I only hope Emma Thompson is giving him hell right now.

Liz // Posted 1 November 2010 at 11:04 pm

I tried to elaborate but it appears to have stuck in the moderation queue. I think we need to be careful if we’re judging someone’s capacity to react in proportion to the situation when the person in question suffers from a mental illnesses. I know it’s difficult to understand.

Essen // Posted 1 November 2010 at 11:09 pm

One of the things that really depresses me is that Stephen Fry has just accused every man in a relationship with a woman of being a deceitful liar who’s only pretending to love or care for his partner so he can get sex.

And it’s the FEMINISTS! (argh! those scary feminists!) who are, once again, defending women AND men from these charges. Why aren’t more men standing up and saying ‘I love my wife and I’m not just stringing her along for the sex.’

And why are gay people getting married *at all*? Why are they forming long-term relationships and pushing for marriage equality? Why don’t they just go cottaging on Hampstead Heath if they want sex? And if gay men are capable of romance AND sexual desire, why aren’t straight men?

I suspect that a lot of this comes from his (well-documented, by himself) own-self disgust and occasionally hatred of his body. HE had a long period of celibacy, for god’s sake! But that’s no excuse for working all this out in public where he’s reinforcing tired and dangerous myths.

Helen // Posted 1 November 2010 at 11:21 pm

(An Open Letter to Stephen Fry)

Dear Stephen, might women not have sex on the same terms as men precisely because the terms are NOT the same?

When women can have sex with who they want and how they want, without being shamed by labels such as ‘slut’, ‘slag’, and haunted by the inevitable whore stigma, then we might just be able to begin discussion about whether women are truly less sexual than men.

But Stephen, I’m afraid this would mean the erasure of millenia of societal mores, codes and discourse. You’re an intelligent man, I’m sure you’ve read a bit of Foucault.

Additionally Stephen, might one conclude that similar prohibitive social codes are precisely the reason why non-heterosexual sexuality has been effectively relegated to designated social spaces? Some might even use the word ‘segregated’. Might we not dare to dream that in a freer less heteronormative society – freedom to enjoy the sex one wants might not be confined to a park (you reference Hampstead Heath). Or is that what untrammelled sexuality looks like?

….I just wrote a blog post on this, please read, at: http://talesofabadfeminist.blogspot.com/2010/11/dear-stephen-fry.html

Napalmnacey // Posted 2 November 2010 at 4:43 am

It’s very disappointing to hear Stephen Fry say this sort of thing, but I suppose it’s because women’s sexual desires are something he doesn’t really have direct exposure to. It would be the same as most heterosexual people and queer people’s desires.

And this whole idea of women not liking sex is news to me. I like being with a lover *and* having intercourse. They’re both lovely and I don’t think the two are either mutually exclusive nor things we have to choose between. Also, women are perfectly capable of having casual sex and enjoying it immensely. It’s a shame that this is still such a radical concept.

Kerry Ryan // Posted 2 November 2010 at 9:41 am

Hey there is feminist comedy on at Ladyfest Ten in two weeks.

http://ladyfestten.com/comedy/

Curated by No Fun’s Zoe Grisedale, supported by Funny Women and MC’d by Laughing Cows’ Maureen Younger and Katerina Vrana, Ladyfun is an eclectic mix of the strongest women on the comedy circuit. So come and laugh till you drop, pop or just can’t stop.

Featuring: Shazia Mirza, “the Lenny Bruce of Female stand up” – Metro; A Ant (aka Bridget Christie), “brilliantly, uniquely funny; what truly alternative Fringe comedy should be” – Chortle; Nat Luurtsema, “a distinctive comedy voice, strikingly original, a talent for dry, off-the-wall wit” – Chortle; Jen Brister, “confident, energetic and knows how to deliver a line for maximum laughs” – The Scotsman; Kate Smurthwaite, “a powerhouse of observational wit” – The Spectator; Shelagh Martin, “an intellectual stocking filler” – The Scotsman; Sara Pascoe, “an enjoyable fusion of silliness and intelligence” – Chortle; and much more!

Maia // Posted 2 November 2010 at 11:04 am

Kerry Ryan, thanks for that. Sounds great!

Well said, Aline and Kristin (above). It’s true that Stephen Fry has indeed been making misogynist comments for years. He even once launched a very public, sexist rant at his ‘friend’ Emma Thompson. He may be highly intelligent about many things, but it’s clear in this case that he either knows nothing at all about women’s sexuality and the way it is still policed (as someone else pointed out), or is choosing to ignore it. That has got nothing to do with any mental health issues he may have, and it is patronising to suggest that.

And as for low self-esteem, well, how many girls and women have got low self-esteem because of all the sexism they have to put up with? I’d say that is way more damaging.

Aline // Posted 2 November 2010 at 11:16 am

Hi Liz,

If you mean I’m one of the commenters displaying what you refer to as a ‘pull your socks’ up/ ‘get over it’ mentality, I don’t think it’s wrong to suggest that Stephen Fry pull his socks up and get over his incredibly sexist attitudes.

That might actually help him. How can anybody be happy and healthy if they’re going around feeling contempt for people based on their gender?

Paul // Posted 2 November 2010 at 11:34 am

Stephen Fry has been expressing sexist and heterophobic views for a long time now.

His attitudes to women and heterosexuals, as well as his own body and sexuality are extremely creepy.

And, Mr Fry, don’t tell me I want my girlfriend just for sex! You don’t know anything about me. And I’d prefer not to know anything about you!

Kristin // Posted 2 November 2010 at 11:40 am

Helen,

Your letter is brilliant.

Jenny // Posted 2 November 2010 at 5:21 pm

@Maia: Damage to women and girls through beauty standards is definitely something which is really negative and needs to be combated. But I do think that we need to be aware that there are a lot of different kinds of mental illness and a number of ways in which people struggle with self-esteem (as Elly noted above).

And certainly somebody can contribute to damaging somebody else’s self-esteem or triggering them in other ways, whilst also having difficulties themselves and needing support for something similar or different entirely. It’s not necessarily helpful to start getting into how and whether which is better/worse than another. Put another way, that can do exactly what I mentioned before about causing damage or triggering, and it’s painful no matter who’s on the receiving end.

Not that I disagree that sexism causes low self-esteem for women and girls which is a massive issue, but ableism does also.

@KerryRyan: LadyfestTen sounds amazing! I’ve only heard of a couple of those acts, it’s always great to discover new feminist comedians!

@Liz: Fair point. I think I was quick to be disappointed by his response and reacted accordingly without considering further, which isn’t helpful. I apologise.

Metal teapot // Posted 2 November 2010 at 5:38 pm

I’m not sure how to see this, as a woman if you want a relationship with a straight man then sex isn’t voluntary. It is a duty you have to perform whether you enjoy it or not.

I’d also argue the stereotype of a woman faking a headache to get out of sex has some relevance here. Whether it is true or not it highlights clearly that in a relationship a woman saying “I don’t want sex right now” is not a good enough reason for a couple not to have sex.

It seems to me female enjoyment of sex is irrelevant to the sexual experience (that doesn’t mean woman can’t enjoy it) so I can see how men see this as a woman never enjoying sex.

Maybe the reason men believe women don’t enjoy sex is they rate enjoyment on orgasms only. A lot fewer women orgasm during (penetrative) sex than men, and a reasonable proportion of women never orgasm. I’d find it difficult to imagine a similar result for men and can easily imagine a man thinking that no orgasm = no enjoyment.

Jess McCabe // Posted 2 November 2010 at 6:16 pm

@Metal teapot I think it’s really important for us to define our relationships in the way that we want them to work, not just following patterns of ‘that’s how this is done’.

I can say for sure the notion of a relationship, for me, where sex not 100% based on enthusiastic consent, does not sound like a relationship I would want to be in. Not to mention, the idea of having sex with someone who has no interest in my enjoyment or pleasure?

We’re all so poorly educated as a culture on this issue of enthusiastic consent, but it is 100% necessary, whether this is the first time you’re having sex with someone, or if you’ve been in a relationship for years.

Also, I think it’s just as important to move beyond penetration as ‘the’ definition of sex.

Christine Ottery // Posted 2 November 2010 at 7:35 pm

@Metal teapot

When men possess the sole right to ‘sexual pleasure’ it puts women at risk of violence and disease. See: http://bit.ly/c82qWa

Ideally, however, men’s and women’s rights to pleasure are equal. That way lies safety, good health, respect, sanity and also more enjoyment for all concerned.

Saying no if you don’t want sex, whether you are a man or woman, transgender or in any relationship combo, is a good thing. Sometimes men don’t want sex and their partners do. Should they be made to perform? (That’s a rhetorical question and the answer is ‘no’, whatever the sex act).

Kristin // Posted 2 November 2010 at 10:21 pm

Jess, well said. Enthusiastic consent should be the basis of every sexual relationship or encounter.

Julie // Posted 3 November 2010 at 12:22 am

One thing that annoys me about the debate about the so called differences in men and women’s sex drives is the assumption and it is made by many people irrespective of their own sexuality, is that because we hardly ever visit brothels or cruise in parks late at night we somehow don’t like sex.

This view does not factor in the existence of something called (surprise, surprise!) womens’ oppression. Women are far less likely to visit brothels or cruise in parks because a). they don’t want to be viewed as ‘sluts’ (I don’t believe there is any such thing as a ‘slut’ by the way).

And b). what I suspect might be a bigger factor is that they would be putting themselves in great danger if they did go into parks late at night looking for sex. Women are far more likely to be victims of reported rape than men. Even if it is the case (and I am not sure) that men are less likely to report being raped than women. The ratio of women reporting being raped compared to men is about 9:1 (free free to provide different statistics if you have them).

I can also tell you that walking in public places, or on the bus late at night I witness MEN sexually harassing women and invading their personal space on a far GREATER scale than the other way round. I suspect that the vast majority of women do not cruise in parks mainly ‘cos they are terrified of being attacked and with good reason. On the brothel issue well let’s face it: a). Women are encouraged to feel that if they cannot get a man to have sex with them on the basis of their looks and have to resort to paying for sex,then they are somehow ‘ugly’. I suspect that women are more likely to have this view than a man who pays for sex.

b). Men are encouraged to view women as passive objects for them to select, like a tin of beans on a supermarket shelf. The whole power dynamic is different when men pay women for sex. Combined with the fact that on average men (and that would include male sex workers in brothels, and men who walk in parks) are likely to be bigger and stronger than a potential female that they come into contact with.

So to sum up; Women are much more likely to view visiting brothels or sh*gging in parks as being fraught with far more danger and difficulties than what men would. If we hardly do these things it AIN’T to do with our sex drive.

polly // Posted 3 November 2010 at 7:48 am

I understand what you’re saying Metal Teapot, but when you say this:

“It seems to me female enjoyment of sex is irrelevant to the sexual experience (that doesn’t mean woman can’t enjoy it) so I can see how men see this as a woman never enjoying sex. ”

You’re assuming ‘sex’ = heterosexual penetrative sex. Something Fry does as well. Something more or less everyone who’s commented on this debate seems to do.

Fry’s comments fall at the first hurdle if you factor lesbians into the equation. If women only have sex with men because they want relationships with men, why are lesbians doing it? If neither of them want sex?

There probably are women in heterosexual relationships having sex when they don’t want to, or don’t enjoy the sex they do have because it’s not meeting their needs, but I’d say that’s because of the power imbalance within those relationships, not because women don’t enjoy sex.

Horry // Posted 3 November 2010 at 9:53 pm

Not to worry – here’s another man to step in and save the day with his own perspective on whether or not we enjoy sex (god forbid that our own views about it should hold any weight):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/02/stephen-fry-mistaken-women-sexual-nature-complex

polly // Posted 5 November 2010 at 8:20 am

“””Women are, in general, weaker than men. That last point is hugely unfashionable in a society that has tried to paint over the differences between the genders, but it remains important to the way we conduct ourselves. Anthropologically, women’s relative weakness has led them to protect their offspring through an alliance with a male. “””

From the guardian piece linked above.

What a load of bollocks – if women are ‘weaker’ than men, why do they have a longer average life expectancy? And why do we need to protect our ‘offspring’ (fictitious offspring in my case) through alliance with a male? Because you face hand to hand combat walking to the bus stop?

Ye gods, this man needs to learn some history (and pre history) about ACTUAL social structures before spouting this stuff.

polly // Posted 5 November 2010 at 8:23 am

The gift that keeps on giving.

“”The consequences of women’s weakness are also felt in a more immediate day-to-day manner through their aversion to potentially dangerous activities. Women need to trust a sexual partner before going home with them. That process takes several hours. I’d put it at about six, although this varies wildly. “””

OF COURSE, you can tell if a man is a rapist after knowing him for six hours!

sianushka // Posted 5 November 2010 at 1:31 pm

that article had me spitting tacks polly! i’d like to see that man push a human being out of his nether reasons, having spent 24 hours in labour ! i haven’t done that btw, but he certainly has NOT!

i just love men telling me how i feel about my sex life and my sexuality.

Cat // Posted 6 November 2010 at 10:05 pm

Er, guys, I do agree that if what the papers have reported that Stephen Fry says is true then it is utter bollocks Stephen Fry is an idiot for even entertaining those notions. However, I would just like to point out that he’s posted an entry on his blog denying that he ever said anything of the kind, and I just think that what he said deserves to be seen here:

http://www.stephenfry.com/2010/11/04/silliness/ I hope everyone gives it a quick read and draws their own opinions. This site is awesome. Peace out.

smally // Posted 8 November 2010 at 4:35 pm

lady gloom,

Where is this youtube video showing the complete 1 giant leap interview? I’d like to see for myself that the youtube video linked above (showing only excerpts) somehow misquotes him.

Thanks

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