No ImageI think I knew this was going to happen eventually, and I suppose I was just waiting until I was ready to jump in. Perhaps I’m ready now.

The subject of “feminist sex” often comes up in feminist circles – the discussion often seems to turn from a question about a specific practice (blowjobs, BDSM, etc, etc) to a generalised debate about what kind of sex is or is not “feminist”, or about which, if any, sexual preferences can be proclaimed and celebrated by a person who also wants to say: “I am a feminist”.

The last question is easiest: any person can say that they are a feminist, it’s just a question of opening your mouth and uttering the words. And, moreover, any person who in fact believes in freedom for and equality between women and men, who in fact appreciates that currently there is no such freedom and equality, who actually supports (in principle or in practice) action to redress that problem – that person is a feminist. Regardless of their sexual quirks.

But just because you call yourself a feminist does not make you perfect. We all have our weaknesses. Some of us haven’t yet realised that certain customs, actions, ideas are sexist. Sometimes people with good, feminist intentions just don’t get some of the (potentially) anti-woman consequences of their actions. We are most of us on a journey and some of us believe different things about what in fact is the cause of our oppression and what in fact will be the solution. Just because we believe different things doesn’t of itself make some people feminist and other people anti-feminist. It just makes us different.

For example – sex.

This is a hot topic, because all the world is obsessed by sex. It is also – despite the fact that for reasons of my own I have long skirted around it – a crucial topic for any modern feminist.

It is crucial for lots of reasons, such as:

  • Sexual violence. This makes women into victims, both really and metaphorically. It makes us feel like victims, it makes us act like victims, and all this in a world where “victim mentality” is a weakness of the victims and not a sin of the attackers. This is damaging.
  • Sexual (self-)repression. Believe it or not, there are a lot of women who don’t have orgasms, not because of physical mutilation but because of guilt and ignorance. The energy taken up by all that guilt and the danger posed by all that ignorance holds us back. It keeps us in an attitude of unliberation. This is damaging.
  • Sexual femininity. Just as we are taught to act feminine in every other aspect of our lives, so we are taught to act feminine in the bedroom. This is damaging.
  • Sexual objectification. This makes women into objects existing (solely or partly) for male pleasure, rather than human persons in their own right. This is unliberating and dangerous for women, and it hurts men, too, because it tells them lies about women. This is damaging.

These are sensitive issues, because we all approach them with our own sexual history and our own preferences, which we feel are intensely personal, intensely private (often) and intensely important. Thus any analysis which appears to challenge our own sexuality puts us on the defensive. We either shy away, or we find ways to disagree. It is hard to get to the truth, with so much emotion in the way. We try. We keep trying. It isn’t easy.

We have different views.

Some see pornography (to pluck a random example…) as inherently anti-woman. Others see pornography as a way to celebrate and liberate our sexuality. Some have a view that sits somewhere in the middle, comfortably or not. For many, it is a hard question. For some, it is simple – but if it were that simple, would intelligent feminist women be so divided?

Some see an emphasis on stopping sexual violence and raising awareness about sexual violence as a crucial first step towards the liberation of women. Others see it as a way to perpetuate our victimhood, by encouraging women to act like (potential) victims regardless of the actual risk – or by stealing the focus from some other, more important area for feminist action, such as the liberation of female sexuality. Again, there is a spectrum of views and the answer can’t be simple if so many people disagree. Right?

The time has come to wade in: so, now it is my turn. At least, tomorrow…