Sexuality Feminism

I’ve been struggling, like many feminists interested in sexuality, with the issue of self-identification. I am clearly neither an anti-porn feminist nor a sex-positive feminist. I very much enjoy porn, but I think its trends and messages are extremely problematic. I'd much rather see a new, different kind of pornography as an alternative to what we've already got.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: This is an excerpt from my in-progress honor's thesis on porn and feminism.


Michael Halila said...

An excellent post. I'm jumping on this bandwagon with you, if you don't mind.

Unknown said...

Thank you, and absolutely! I really would love to have it catch on. The other labels are so frustratingly limiting. :-)

Anonymous said...

...I don’t agree with their total lassiez-faire attitude towards porn.

I don't really recognise that as a fair characterisation of sex-positive feminist thought.

I think its trends and messages are extremely problematic.

I think sex-positive feminists agree with that, and have had a lot to say about the matter. I think that a lot of the time, the nuances of sex-positive feminists' takes on porn are lost because of the more vociferous anti-porn feminists trying to drown us out.

Unknown said...

Maybe "lassiez-faire" is the wrong phrase. You're right that there's some criticism, but I guess I just don't think they take it far enough. Yes, I recognize the polarizing influence of the debate. That's exactly what I'm trying to call out.

I have seen some reluctance among sex positive people to criticize specific porn of any kind because they don't want to shame anyone for their particular brand of sexuality. I think it's a noble goal and that it's important to honor people's choices.

It's not that they're necessarily so "rah, rah, porn" all the time, just that I think they sometimes forget it's okay and important to call out porn for its misogyny, even when it will hurt the feelings of the people who like it.

Just to be clear, I get very angry at anti-porn feminists who call those who enjoy violent porn anti-feminist. That's not what I'm talking about here. I just mean we can say, "Yes, it's okay to enjoy it, but yes, it has patriarchal images and is doing its part to oppress women and promote violence against them." It's an uncomfortable position, but then so is living in any grey area.

Myca said...

Sexuality Feminism. Awesome. Rawk.

This is a really good idea. I have a few people I want to point to your posts on feminism and porn, and I have a feeling many of us would label ourselves sexuality feminists.


On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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