Why sleep with a boy? Natalia regails you all with personal musings on sexuality!

Please note that this post stems from a discussion started here – at Twisty’s blog. Also note – I have bolded the nickname “undercover punk” so that reading this rather long post is easier on you.

I moonlight as a valiant defender of my own brand of cynical, eurotrash feminism over at Twisty’s quite a bit these days. I find that the discussion does occasionally get interesting. I like to dialogue with people – especially with radical feminists – and the opportunities for that are rare.

Now, I have met a radical feminist who goes by undercover punk. Undercover punk recently asked this question:

If a woman claims to be conscious of the many insidious ways that patriarchal dominance and oppression invades our everyday lives and our private relationships, AND feels any sexual attraction to women (and considering how the female body is so fetishized by mainstream culture, I really cannot conceive of any way NOT to internalize this at lease to some small degree), WHY would a smart, rational woman choose to sleep with men at all????

I replied that even though I enjoy looking at women as much as men, sex with the former doesn’t appeal to me. I also found that the question had an underlying assumption that it’s dumb and irrational to sleep with men – an assumption that undercover punk says isn’t there. Undercover punk went on to ask more questions – these of a more personal nature. I decided to take my reply to my own blog, since I didn’t want my response to turn into an epic derail.

Here are three important facts, before I get started:

1. Even though I enjoy looking at women (and frequently post pictures of women I consider beautiful on this blog), I do not identify as bisexual.

2. I am presently in a committed, long-term relationship with a man. Have been for… geez, over 5 years now. Holy crap. Gettin old.

3. I don’t think that human sexuality is either constructed or immutable. I think for all people, there’s a degree of both. How large a degree, either way? Depends on the individual in question.

OK, now, on to the more personal stuff! Pull up a chair, grab a beer/popcorn/Valium, and enjoy!

Undercover punk said:

We here at IBTP [I Blame the Patriarchy – Twisty’s blog, for the uninitiated], we blame the patriarchy. We acknowledge the insidious nature of the patriarchy and the many subtle ways that it CREEPS unwelcome into our daily lives, our personal relationships, our thoughts, our unconscious desires, and our very measures of SELF-worth.

The Patriarchy isn’t the only thing I “blame,” so to speak. I think that we all live in a world with overlapping systems and hierarchies of power. Too often we speak of an abstract, all-powerful Patriarchy in very general terms. I think that this can be dismissive of the specific problems that human beings tackle in their lives daily.

SO, assuming this understanding of the patriarchy’s power AND assuming your bi-sexuality (such that is is), WHY would anyone consciously, deliberately, voluntarily *seek out* and/or *focus on,* for one’s sexual gratification or romantic partnership, a person (male) with whom it is inherently MORE difficult to achieve and maintain an equal power dynamic with?!? Why would one hold-out for the lone enlightened unicorn of a truly feminist-minded man that you might never meet??

Am not at liberty to use my boyfriend's picture, but here is one of James McAvoy! McAvoy is an important illustration of my predilection for cute fellers who happen to be shorter than I am. picture from EW.com
Am not at liberty to use my boyfriend's picture, but here is one of James McAvoy! McAvoy is an important illustration of my predilection for cute fellers who happen to be shorter than I am. picture from EW.com

Hold out? I may be a lot of things, but the holding-out type I am not! 😉

Facetiousness aside, I personally have never thought of seeking out a mate who specifically identified as feminist. A lot of good people don’t identify as feminist, for a variety of reasons. That’s one thing.

Second thing is – I believe that in any non-abusive relationship, the power dynamic is something that people will work on in order to achieve an enjoyable arrangement. I don’t think that most people go into a relationship with all territory staked out and agreed upon. Instead, they feel things out on a continuous basis. Relationships are not static. What works one year may not work in the year after that. I also believe that in most relationships, there is no such thing as a single power dynamic – I think that people work on different levels with one another, and those levels shift often throughout your time together. Doesn’t matter if the parties involved are heterosexual or otherwise.

Why deliberately seek out a man, on the other hand…? Well, see below….

I say:
“I think ladies are as nice to look at as the fellas, always have, but sex with the former just doesn’t appeal to me.”

Undercover punk replies: Just doesn’t appeal to you, huh? Do you think that a woman can’t give you an orgasm? Do you think that a woman can’t LOVE you? What aspects of heterosexuality/man-sex appeal to you so overwhelmingly that having sex with a woman is, by comparison, unappealing?

I think that undercover punk is asking me these questions in good faith, otherwise I would not engage. I did, however, find the tone of her questions a bit patronizing. I’ve had men talk like that to me about my lifestyle, and it isn’t any more enjoyable when a woman does it. Trust me.

Would we ask a self-identified gay man the same questions that undercover punk is asking me? I have to wonder about this, because gay men are often invisible in these discussions. Forget whether or not someone “chooses” to be gay – I’m not interested in that aspect of it at all (as I said up above, I don’t think that sexuality is either constructed or immutable, I think that’s another false dichotomy) – but does a gay man need, you know, valid reasons for sleeping with other men? I don’t think so.

I think that there are many lovely women in this world who could give me plenty of orgasms and love me until the day that I die (and quite possibly beyond that, considering that I believe in an afterlife).

Trouble is, women just don’t do it for me like men do. Even when I feel attracted to a woman, I don’t feel The Fire. What’s The Fire? I think you know it if you’ve felt it.

When I look at a woman I find attractive, I usually compare myself. I wonder if, say, that hair would look good on me. I wonder if she exercises and if yes, how much. I don’t really wonder much about having sex with her. There are exceptions to this, but even then I haven’t really felt The Fyyyyyiiiiiieeeeeeeeeerrrrrreeeeee!

It’s very different for me with men. I don’t know if I’m hard-wired for it. I don’t know if I’m brainwashed. Truth be told – I don’t care. I’m happy.

I love my body. Other women’s bodies? They just don’t do that much for me sexually, no matter how much I may admire them. A man on the other hand… Hmm.

Vintage bulge! Courtesy of Mark Wahlberg!
Vintage bulge! Courtesy of Mark Wahlberg!

When these long, drawn-out discussions about sex happen on radical feminist sites, I sometimes find the urge to hop in, scream “I LIKE DICK!” and run away, giggling like a third-grader. The fact that I haven’t done so is a testament to my general self-restraint and, uh, amazing level of maturity. Or something.

I am always surprised, and weirded out, by blanket statements such as “no women really like X” – with X being something that usually involves the male body, an aspect of a heterosexual relationship, and so on. I think it’s just as presumptuous and dumb as a statement like “all lesbians need is a deep dicking, haw haw.”

In feminist circles, nobody critiques a woman’s desire for another woman’s body. In a similar fashion, I don’t really critique my desire for a man’s body. I like the way it looks. I like the way it feels. I’ve been fascinated with it ever since I was a little girl. Even getting abused by one man and violently attacked by another hasn’t turned me off men

I have wondered “why men and not women? Or, why not both?” I think everyone wonders about their choices from time to time, even heterosexual manly men who are totally! not! gay!

I think everyone has their own reasons. But I don’t think that those reasons matter nearly as much as simply finding whatever it is that makes you happy in this world, and being able to hold on to it

I said:
“I like what was said about this “ex-straight” thing – it’s just as pernicious as teaching an “ex-gay” lifestyle. This isn’t to say that I think sexuality is static, people figure out new stuff about themselves all the time, but you can’t turn it into a conversion cause
…”

Undercover punk replied: I could not possibly “convert” those who are already attracted to women. Conversion has nothing to with it. Consciously, rationally, deliberately recognizing and subverting an oppressive ideology and its corresponding lifestyle does.

Oh dear. I know I’m going to get slammed for this, but, once again, this is just way too old school Soviet-style for me to handle. I never get tired of repeating this story: when my father wanted to marry my mother, the same exact argument was trotted out by his superiors to keep him from going through with it. It wasn’t cool to be with a woman who wasn’t a member of the Party. They were just looking out for him, sheesh. It was for his own good, dammit.

To address what undercover punk is actually saying, though – I believe that if everyone fell in love (or lust) with the idea of of subverting some ideology or another firmly planted in their heads… I think the world would be an even weirder, more frustrating place. You have to indulge the irrational side of the brain, and the irrational side does not give a crap about any ideology whatsoever. It just wants to hang out and party.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t think about why we like the things we like, or do the things we do – but that over-thinking ourselves isn’t going to get us anywhere either.

On radical feminist sites, I repeatedly read the word “revolution.” While I have a rather Pavlovian response to the word – I think it’s gross – I do want the world to change for the better, especially wherein women are concerned.

But I don’t think that change is possible with one half of the human race sitting on the sidelines. Which is why I find critiques of feminist women entering into relationships with men to be odd. Even if the woman in question is bisexual. If she wants it, she wants it. And who knows? She might bring her man around to understanding some fundamentally progressive concepts.

good times with the menz of our household.
good times with the menz of our household.

I don’t think that a feminist movement that’s largely sequestered from men is going to achieve a whole lot. Not only will it leave men by the wayside, it will also leave many women by the wayside – not because that these women are all male-identified “fembots” or whatever, but because they do share meaningful relationships with men, romantic or otherwise. Besides my boyfriend, I am very close to my dad. I’m close to my brother. I have a male boss whom I like and respect. I work with men and then I go out and have apple and kiwi margaritas with other men (on the days that I can afford margaritas, that is…).

While I am closest to my boyfriend, I don’t discount the importance of these other relationships. They are as much a part of my lifestyle as living with my boyfriend is. To me, this isn’t about just giving up sex with men – it’s also about giving up socializing with men and being close to men, and I wouldn’t do that. Especially since I believe I am making a difference, however small.

I think that a lot of times a guy needs a loud-mouthed but sincere woman to call him out on some piece of sexist bullshit – whether it’s “hey, but women ENJOY it when I honk at them! It’s a compliment!” or “what do you mean, wage-gap? Women just CHOOSE to be paid less!” or something along the same lines.

I’m not saying that it’s the job of All Women Everywhere to combat this nonsense, but if I am in a position to do it, I will do it. And if I’m close enough to a guy to where he’ll trust my opinion – hell, I might just change his mind about a thing or two in the process. I find that valuable.

And speaking of value – any good relationship is, well, good. A loyal friend is a loyal friend. A good boss is a good boss. The goodness alone does not make various gender issues go *poof* and away – but it does provide a solid platform, both for feminist engagement and for some very basic, and much-needed, human joy.

81 thoughts on “Why sleep with a boy? Natalia regails you all with personal musings on sexuality!

  1. I will reply in more detail later, but I just wanted to tell you right away & in advance how HAPPY I am to be engaging in this discussion with you (my favorite topic, you know ;). Thank you!!

  2. I know we’ve had disagreements at IBTP in the past… but just wanted to say I really like this post and for what it’s worth, I agree whole heartedly. 🙂

  3. Current first bemusement: the notion that “how the female body is so fetishized by mainstream culture” means anything to whether or not I find women attractive.

    (Hell, I know a bisexual woman whose reaction to that fetishism was to think she was straight until she was in, I think, her thirties.)

    I also know more than a few bisexual folks who really resent the notion that they should be looking for a particular sex distribution in their partnership choices — whether it’s male, female, or ‘one of each’ — because they don’t consider that a relevant criterion in the first place, so why burden themselves with it?

    Current second bemusement: that “holding out” for an ideologically acceptable relationship works better than seeing what people one’s on good terms with one’s actually attracted to and seeing if working from there is functional.

    Third and really major bemusement: that framing relationships in ideological terms is anything other than horrifyingly oppressive in practice. “The personal is political” doesn’t mean I’m a dancing monkey.

    So, yeah … bemused. :}

  4. generally speaking, I find that the “sexually correct” feminist type don’t tend to be real big on “WOO MUFFDIVING” sorts of comments, either.

    which, allow me. YAY FOR JUICY CUNT.

    oh, i totally arrived at that through a rational, logical rejection of my patriarchal overlords. aren’t you jealous?

  5. (Hell, I know a bisexual woman whose reaction to that fetishism was to think she was straight until she was in, I think, her thirties.)>>

    oh yeah, I remember a good deal of people trying to convince me that I wasn’t really -attracted- to women, I just wanted to -be like- attractive women.

    The idea that both at once might be possible is apparently still beyond some peoples’ ken. too bad for them.

  6. Alright, Natalia, I’m not going to attempt to address every point that you’ve made, that would obscure what I believe we’re really talking about here—or at least what *I* want to talk about! I’ve tried to practice the virtue of brevity, but unfortunately it’s not one of my strengths, so I apologize in advance for this being so long; there’s just so MUCH to discuss!!!! 🙂

    Let me harken back to what what I initially suggested was a necessary underlying assumption of this discussion, maybe we should call it the “crux:” WHAT IS SEXUALITY?? You don’t share what you think sexuality is, but you certainly seem to affirm its existence, so I will have to settle for expounding on my philosophy of sexuality. And here, I think we may differ.
    Let me back it up one step to the fact that I believe gender is constructed. While there may be some essential, immutable elements of our “sex,” my brain is not advanced enough to isolate these characteristics and identify them as being independent of cultural influence. In fact, when people say “gender isn’t binary,” I simply cannot conceive of “gender” that isn’t defined by the pre-existing constructs of “male” and “female.” Any attempt to imagine a “third gender” is always, in my mind, some combination of these 2 “original” ideas. SO, when I think of sexuality and what “gender” one is attracted to, I think–hey, that’s just an extension of these cultural constructs. More so than gender or sex, I can imagine a core sexuality that exists independently of external suggestions. HOWEVER, I also believe that the OBJECT of our sexuality, that towards which we direct this sexuality, IS defined by culture. It would be SO WRONG for me to deny that I have internalized my culture’s gender-related expectations of me, sexually, behaviorally, intellectually, physically– oh, I have. But my awareness of that is what pushes me to delve deeper into questions that I think are equally appropriate for discussion. How you answer these questions is totally personal; it is informed, necessarily and inseparably, by your personal experiences–both first and third hand.

    Now, I am *not* going to question your identification as a heterosexual woman. I am not going to “slam” you for liking dick. It wouldn’t be right for me to judge you based on that alone; I don’t know you. You are obviously very smart, very self aware, and apparently quite happy in your relationship. I believe these circumstances play an important role in our ability to have this conversation, for which I am quite grateful. I do not intend to be patronizing and I certainly do not intend to talk to you like a man–whatever *that* is supposed to mean! I’m not going to go there either. I *do* want to ask questions in a straightforward manner.

    So for this one, maybe it will help if I admit that I also think MarkyMark is sexay! However, I think *my* attraction to him is driven, at least in part, by some combination of the following: he is in excellent physical condition, he is hairless, and he has that characteristic male gaze that I am so accustomed to being subjected to: it is challenging, arrogant, and slightly aggressive. These things, these qualities that I can identify and articulate: can we extricate them from their cultural context? I don’t think so. At least, I can’t. Maybe someone can help me out here.

    And please, I’m not suggesting that we deny ourselves pleasure simply *because* it is pleasure that society or culture has conditioned us to feel—I’m just saying that we should be *AWARE* of it. That’s what feminism is about the me: the questions and the *personal growth* that results from exploring the possible answers to these questions. I don’t think we should be afraid of the questions.

    Natalia, I fully appreciate your point that over-thinking things can be a rabbit hole. Nevertheless, I think that we should push ourselves as far as we can towards the goal of deconstructing patriarchal and related hierarchical fallacies. Obviously, this is not something that interests everyone, but it does me. And for me, that involves asking myself, not just why do I prefer one particular sexual *practice* over another, but also WHY do I choose the partner that I do. I suspect, for example, that even if you don’t seek a partner who specifically utilizes the *label* feminist, you are still seeking one who shares your views and beliefs about the world to some greater or lesser extent. And those likely include so-called feminist philosophies. I think that seeking someone who shares your views is an important, if not essential, part of seeking relationship and a power dynamic that works for you–no matter who that partner is. We ought to be conscious of the reason why we seek out particular characteristics in our partner, no matter what the gender, but the gender itself shouldn’t be off-limits any more so than any other topic. I don’t think it’s *wrong* for Nine Duece, on her blog, to publicly question the motivations of women who allege to enjoy BSDM. My questions are an extension of the same reasoning and/or questioning: if you allege to be attracted to women, why choose something (heterosexuality) that’s inherently modeled after the patriarchal glorification of unequal power dynamics?

    (Now, let’s talk about how I do indeed use the word “patriarchy” to refer to a crazy complex web of hierarchies and centralized power constructs, including the corresponding oppressor/oppressed dichotomy that necessarily results from said power structures. It’s all the PATRIARCHY to me. I apologize for being lazy with my descriptions and definitions thereof. If such laziness causes confusion or misinterpretation of my statements, please do call me out. I trust you all will! (I hope these pesky ellipses are allowed on your blog, Natalia–I love them!))

    Ok, so back to my questions already. And by the way, whether it reflects poorly on me or not, I simply do not have the same interest in questioning why men sleep with other men. It makes no sense to me and it makes my brain smoke and overheat just thinking about, let alone trying to come to some rationalization of it. I am, however, interested in the reason WHY a woman chooses her lover or romantic partner.Natalia, you are a self-professed straight woman. That may limit our ability to attribute the same or similar relevancy to particular questions about sexuality. I ask ONLY the bisexual feminist woman who seeks an egalitarian romantic partnership with another person, male or female, to consider the following:

    That choosing to reject a heteronormative lifestyle on its most fundamental level by *instead* participating in a woman-loving-women lifestyle and ALL of the associated social (externalized) stigma that said lesbian lifestyle is inextricably encumbered with, that maybe this is MORE terrifying than the reality of a heterosexual relationship including all of *its* patriarchal complications (internalized). Maybe.

    Now, all questions have embedded assumptions (ok, ok, I admit it!) and the one that I ask you to adopt here is that it’s inherently MORE DIFFICULT for a man, he who experiences the wonders of male privilege in all of its many subtle and not-so-subtle forms, to understand and maintain his acute awareness of this privilege AND how its counter effects may be experienced by his female partner. My assumption is that it’s MORE WORK, more intellectual and emotional work, to maintain a consciousness of this framework (the male privilege) in your private relationship when the participants are two opposing members of the social sex caste. If we can’t agree on that, then the question is moot. But I think it’s a really important question that people who take—and I implicate NO individual person in this statement—what I have coined “the Katy Perry approach” to sexuality: that girls are hot and I honestly enjoy fooling around with them but, no, I couldn’t *actually* subvert the heteronormative paradigm by publicly carrying the lesbian flag. I ask these people to explore their motivations for continuing to focus on the male object for their sexual and romantic gratification.

    Male privilege and the social rewards for a woman who participates in heterosexuality are greater than most would believe. Only by actually, truly, deeply contemplating the absence of these rewards, can we acknowledge our *possible* dependence on them. There it is.

    I agree that it IS really, really important to engage in consciousness-raising no matter what romantic, sexual, professional, social, or platonic relationship we are participating in. I agree that it is NOT the responsibility of All Women Everywhere to do so. But when we can bring ourselves to expend the energy and time to help others understand the reach and power of the “patriarchy”, such conversations can only serve to benefit ALL of us– oppressed and oppressor alike. May the world bless all who try!

    Phew, I think that should keep us busy for a while. I always have more to say, especially about comparing oneself to other women, but let’s see if we’re any closer to understanding each other now. Thanks again for the intellectual engagement!

  7. Oh, I also neglected to mention that you, Natalia, are much more ambitious and optimistic than I in your dreams of and for an egalitarian future. I pose these questions without regard for the widespread adoption of my personal conclusions (which is laughable in itself) because I don’t think there’s any true danger in gender separatism on a large or global scale. It’s more of a consciousness-raising exercise than a call for an organized revolt….though I could go for that too. 😉

  8. If you’re interested in explorations of gender, I can point you at four posts of mine about being a genderqueer cissexual woman:

    http://lettersfromgehenna.blogspot.com/2007/12/sexes-and-genders-and-bears-oh-my.html
    http://lettersfromgehenna.blogspot.com/2007/08/bulletins-from-planet-gender.html
    http://lettersfromgehenna.blogspot.com/2007/07/gender-on-slant.html
    http://lettersfromgehenna.blogspot.com/2007/01/while-were-talking-about-monsters.html

    I don’t think it’s *wrong* for Nine Duece, on her blog, to publicly question the motivations of women who allege to enjoy BSDM.

    Meanwhile, I *do* think it’s wrong to dismiss women’s stories with the word “allege”.

    I would also note that most of the more severe forms of abuse and emotional trauma I have experienced in my life came from women, and some fair fraction (though not, for the most part, the most significant) of that came about because of my lack of appropriate female gender performance.

    This leads me greatly to doubt that it can easily be said that relationships between women have easier to resolve power imbalances. Most of the power imbalances that have caused me significant harm in my life have come from other intersections, as I am not one of the few people lucky enough to only have to deal with sexism. And I don’t even have all that bloody many intersections — dealing with mental health ablism doesn’t give me insight into the power issues that people of colour have to face.

    An anecdote:

    A friend of mine was in a conversation a while back and happened to mention that she had two long-term romantic partners. Since it was known that she was bisexual, people were fine with that.

    Then it became clear that both her long-term romantic partners were male, and she was suddenly the target of invective, because she was not having the right sort of sexuality. She should have a man *and* a woman if she was going to be nonmonogamous, to do anything else was … just … wrong somehow, really!

    This caused her a great deal of pain. Her attractions do not include sex or gender presentation as a criterion in the first place; she is not “attracted to men” and “attracted to women”, she is interested in people. The people she was then involved with as partners both happened to be male; this wasn’t a statement, it was a happenstance, and people trying to make it into a statement were tremendously abusive to her.

    Another anecdote, this one briefer:

    Another friend, this one with a male partner and a female partner, wrote today about her frustrations with being taken for a straight woman, about having her relationship with her beloved girlfriend dismissed as irrelevant because “women have girlfriends, it’s just a word”, how in order to get that recognised as a girlfriend-girlfriend relationship she has to be more overt about her sex life than she prefers.

    I can’t but wonder if she would look like a “Katy Perry” to some, because the person she shares her apartment with is the male partner, not the female one.

  9. It’s out of moderation now!

    Undercover punk, please forgive my rather cryptic stance on these matters, but I believe that gender and sexuality are constructed and are not constructed at the same time. I just don’t think it’s an either or question.

    I’d be curious to know why men having sex with other men doesn’t make sense to you. Or, actually, I’m curious why it has to make sense in the first place? Not that I’m denying that we get with people without some rational goals in mind – but that’s not all there is to it, is there?

    I guess my belief is – you cannot fully rationalize desire.

    I think that any relationship that doesn’t involve abuse (monogamous or not, btw) is going to have its perks and its downsides. I think that living in a society where a straight lifestyle is privileged above all, a straight relationship is going to have more outside perks – but as to what goes on between people, it’s a matter of luck. Or fate maybe. Depending on what you believe.

    I personally would not want a woman or a man to want to be with me because it’s politically subversive. I would want to be with someone who first and foremost loves me. If they have stronger feelings or predilections for someone else, if I couldn’t give them what they really wated, it would be unfair to both of us.

    My bf is Arab, to give one example, and he was surprised and uncomfortable when he was approached, once, for the purposes of friendship – with the “friend” in question clearly desiring to get to know my bf because he was essentially “the oppressed Arab in post-9/11 America.” It was just so blatant and so dishonest. I think the person in question meant well, but come on.

    Friendship, like a romantic relationship, has to have that organic component. Otherwise, it’s nothing but a joke.

    I think that the Katy Perry thing is, well, perfectly normal. I think there would be less of it if straightness wasn’t always the default for everyone, but even in a more inclusive society – people will be curious, people with experiment, then people will realize “nah, not for me,” and move on.

    And I also didn’t like the whole BDSM thing over at Nine Deuce’s blog. Not all women allege to like BDSM. Some actually do like it. There was a lot of presumption over there, especially on the part of delphyne, and I few people I genuinely like were clearly hurt. Not cool, I say.

    Anyway, I’m sorry for this rather rambling response – it’s morning over here, my cats were BAD and didn’t let me sleep, and I have to run off into the shower now. I’m already hours behind! If I’ve neglected to answer anything, please let me know. I’ll be back on it in the afternoon, local time.

  10. Wow. The things I read on your blog! :O

    I am quite happy to be ‘oppressed’ in my patriarchal construct of marriage and motherhood. I find great freedom in it.

    My lesbian friends were more bound up in patriarchal power struggles with their partners than I ever was with my husband.

    I am firmly convinced we are not whole without consistent, intimate input cross-gender.

  11. I am firmly convinced we are not whole without consistent, intimate input cross-gender.

    Kinzi, what does that mean?

    Also, I don’t know how you define “whole” (perfectly happy? Fulfilled? In tune with God and/or the universe?) but I’ve honestly yet to meet anyone who’s truly “whole.” People are weird creatures. We don’t stay still. Wholeness comes and wholeness goes.

  12. As I suggested from the beginning, and which by now has become quite obvious, the sticking point to our discussion involves around to what extent gender and sexuality are constructed. I have many, many stories of heterosexual privilege and bisexual confusion/frustration—including my own—but I’m not going to share examples of my personal experience because I don’t think that exploring specific situations can help us get closer to deconstructing the general. You can find an exception to any “rule.” What you choose for yourself and what goes on inside any relationship is as unique as the people involved in it. If every attempt to discuss general power dynamics between men and women is refuted with evidence of the specific, I don’t think we’ll be able to make any progress.

    My interest is in FEMINISM and heterosexuality. That is why I am not interested in discussing gay men and heterosexuality. The social status of gay men is quite different than that of lesbians. I was not born male and I do not understand what it’s like to “be” male, nor do I understand what is to be a gay male, including his many choices and desires. I am a bisexual woman; that is my perspective. I do not choose my partner based solely on rejection of mainstream, heterosexual ideology. However, I maintain that gender *does* play an important role in *most people’s* process of choosing a romantic/sexual partner.

    Heterosexuality is an institution and a tool of the patriarchy. Gender is an essential construct of this institution. It is, therefore, an important feminist topic–if we can’t agree on that, the conversation is moot. If ANY exploration of sexuality, “Katy Perry” or otherwise, cannot or will not recognize the power of heterosexuality as an institution, if we continue to be complicit with it, refusing to question its power, it shall continue the same as ever. Only by fearlessly acknowledging, discussing, and subverting heteronormativity—regardless of your partner’s gender—shall we begin to overcome its overwhelming and often silent power. This is what I ask the bisexual feminist woman to consider when she seeks a partner.
    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
    Before I go, please allow me to apologize for using the word “allege” in relation to desire. My belief that desire (for anything beyond basic human survival needs) is a reaction to cultural conditioning underlies my description of desire. The object towards which we focus our desires is the constructed part. I did *not* mean that the experience of any desire is illusory or illegitimate. Desire is real, I’m sorry for implying that it isn’t.

  13. Hello again, UP.

    Like I said, I think to what extent these things are constructed varies. I think every person needs to figure things out for themselves. I don’t think that there is a “right” choice either – I think that it is often implied, as in the case of the post on Pursuit of Harpyness, that yes, there is a right choice, and that is to reject A, B, or C.

    But I think that even if you define yourself against something, you are still bound up with it, first of all.

    I also think a lot of such posts assume that anyone who has done questioning or deconstruction will move on to eliminate a certain practice and to urge others to do the same. But that’s not what always happens.

    This is because I don’t think you can ascribe a single motivation or meaning to such things as – a sexual relationship, or the way that you present yourself, etc. As I mentioned before, my belief is, we live within overlapping systems, and practice overlapping methods and live overlapping lifestyles. There isn’t a single lens with which we can view our world – I simply don’t believe that.

    As an aside -People always sidle up to me and go – “but have you examined X?” “Have you thought about the meaning of Y?”

    If I say “yes” – they’ll say: “but… you still practice X! You say you like Y! Clearly, you haven’t done these things.”

    And I will say, “sure, I have. Which is why I think that people who feel that practicing X is really messing up their chi, or that they hate Y but have to pretend to like it because of the screwed-up world we live in – I think they should do Z. And I’ll support them in this, because…”

    And they’ll interrupt and go – “but you still do X and like Y! What’s WRONG with you?”

    And I’ll say – “I’m a…person? An adult, even? If I like Y, I like Y. At least I know for certain that I like Y, because I’ve thought about it.”

    And they’ll say – “If you REALLY examined, you WOULDN’T like Y!”

    And on and on and on it goes.

    I just find that useless, at this point in my life. And I’m one of those people who, in my present situation, has to deal with the fact that the very act of going outside is an act of rebellion, due to the way I look. So you can imagine how *exhausting* it is to continue to defend myself against virtually everyone, including fellow feminists.

    It’s a personal problem I have – though I think I am far from alone in feelings this way. Meanwhile, on the whole, I think that there are practical steps that everyone can take in order to be good allies and help change the societies that we are living in.

    Like you, I have serious issues with heteronormativity – starting with the fact that it quite literally gets people killed. I think we’re on the same page here.

    The reason why I bring up homosexuality is simply because I don’t want it to remain invisible. I often feel like it is, in feminist circles, especially in radical feminist circles. Even though gay men present a huge threat to the standing practices of society – considering how men in general are so hung up on penetration. They tend to pass off two women together as “harmless” or even “hawt” (with notable, and horrifying exceptions, including the recent case of a woman targeted by rapists because she is a lesbian), but nothing quite gets the guys panicking as the implication of ZOMG TEH GAY. Which is why I was interested in asking you about where homosexuality fits into your views.

  14. … I find the attractions of gay men much easier to understand than the attractions of straight men.

    It’s people who are attracted to women who confuse the hell out of me. I mean, as a woman, I’m glad they exist, but there’s this uncrossable chasm of “I have no idea what you’re seeing here” that occasionally gives me mental fits.

  15. Dw3t-Hthr, that’s exactly how I feel about most men! (the two-dimensional, hairless Marky Mark aside, you know)

    And I *totally* have mental fits over why a woman who is attracted to women in the slightest, who recognizes the power structures of the patriarchy, who contemplates the oppression inherent in heteronormativity, why she would STILL choose to live inside the confines of that heteronormativity. I just don’t fucking get it. So while I respect your right as an independent, thinking adult to evaluate, to deconstruct, to weigh your circumstances and priorities, and to ultimately choose whatever the hell you want; forgive those of us who may consider conscious deconstruction reason enough to change, forgive us if we remain perplexed by those who work with the same information yet do not change. It’s not necessarily a judgment, it’s an honest question. One that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask…or to answer.

  16. Here’s a thought for you —

    Always coming down on the side of Doing What The Man Doesn’t Want is just as thoroughly being controlled by the desires of The Man as always coming down on the side of Doing What The Man Wants.

    The only freedom from the pressures of heteronormativity, or whatever, is not “choosing to pursue same-sex relationships” or “choosing to fit in”; it’s choosing to evaluate the situation with as much neutrality as is possible to achieve to find, if not the best possible solution, one that is at least satisfactory. (I find “best possible solution” a dangerous ambition; “letting the perfect be the enemy of the good” and all.)

    And going through that process will sometimes lead to going one way, and sometimes lead to going the other, and always lead to removing power from the normativity or oppression being questioned, because it is working on building the possibility of evaluation of the situation without reflexively bowing to the existence of the power.

  17. Yes, all is defined by opposition to something else. It’s an in inescapable truth.

    The very *reason why* I question is in attempt to get closer to that elusive neutrality you speak of. The more information I have, the more I know about myself and the external forces that influence me, the better decision I can make.

  18. And, again, many many women do not have the luxury of only being able to make evaluations in terms of sexism or heteronormativity. Being able to treat the question that simply is a matter of really straightforward privilege.

    You say that this is what interests you; that’s fine. But it limits the women your arguments can truly connect to significantly.

    Natalia here writes a great deal about being a Slavic woman partnered with an Arab man, and dealing with the racial stereotypes and political dramas that come with both of these. And yes, there’s blatant sexism in that post, which seems to me to be granted permission to exist as blatantly as it does by the underlying racism.

    Trinity writes about the intersection of her physical disability with her life, including her sexuality. Her topics range from caregiver-abuse-origin PTSD through to comments about physical capacity to have sex and the unsexing of disabled people.

    Bitch|Lab wrote a while back about the class issues of being a poor wrong-side-of-the-tracks lesbian and thus an exciting safari target for slumming middle-class lesbians who wanted a more physical sort of sex but not to commit to relationships with more physical kinds of women, you know, the women who were still unenlightened enough to like rougher sex without being ashamed or do butch/femme. (I believe I’m remembering that more or less right, it was some time ago.)

    The list goes on. Women of colour can’t skip out on needing to evaluate racism. Trans women have to care about transphobia, given that they’re more likely to be murdered than to die in a car crash. Antisemitism. Religious persecution. You get the idea, I’m sure, and can fill in a few traits that I haven’t explicitly stated.

    I mean. I’m a mostly-able-bodied white cissexual woman from a professional-class background in the United States, which means I’m supposedly smack dab in the middle of the mainstream feminist demographic that would be able to focus on issues of sexism due to being lucky enough to not have fifty other things to worry about, and I don’t have that luxury. Because I’m preoccupied with downward class mobility due to mental illness, non-queer non-normative sexuality, the invisibility of emotional abuse in families, and other stuff that actually makes my relationships more difficult, which power differentials between men and women as a class doesn’t.

    And one can dismiss me as anecdotal, personal evidence, and Natalia, and Trinity, and Bitch|Lab, and Little Light, and BrownFemiPower, and all the other women who blog about these things and all the ones who don’t, but that won’t change the fact that heteronormativity is only one of a myriad possible stumbling blocks for people in the world, and some of them, for some people, are a hell of a lot more in the way.

  19. Your point is taken! Privilege and power manifest themselves in countless ways *beyond* sexism and patriarchal heteronormativity.

    Thank you for the lesson and suggesting that this is news to me; I think your comment is condescending and purposefully argumentative.

  20. And I think the notion that many women – even bisexual women – who care about oppression can reasonably be expected to prioritise not-maleness in their partners over everything else is contemptuous and dismissive of people who have to concern themselves with things other than heteropatriarchy, so I guess we’re even, huh?

  21. No, actually, all really isn’t defined in opposition to something else. At minimum, not that starkly. And, bodies just don’t work that way. The erotic mind: does not work that way.

    But hey, you’re welcome to not get what you don’t get. Me, I don’t get how any woman who’s attracted to women and had the joyous experience of being attacked, shamed, scolded, and generally mindfucked by people with their own agenda into justifying, second guessing or just plain denying her own desires, her own -self-, would ever attempt to turn around and do it to someone else. but, many people are often too up their own ass to make that connection, alas.

  22. “And I’ll say – “I’m a…person? An adult, even? If I like Y, I like Y. At least I know for certain that I like Y, because I’ve thought about it.”

    And they’ll say – “If you REALLY examined, you WOULDN’T like Y!”

    Yeah, THIS. The “discussion” lasts until you break down and confess.

    It’s a psychological breaking tactic. It’s not a discussion.

  23. I have The Hangover of Doom right now, so please forgive me if this sounds a bit snarky – but no, I don’t think D was being condescending in the least on here.

    I engaged these questions in a personal manner, as I thought it was expected. I was told that I’m basically just relating anecdotes and that it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I sincerely beg to differ.

    Also, I’d like to talk about heteronormativity more. Especially since I don’t believe that the only meaningful way for us to challenge it is to reject partnering with men.

  24. Natalia, you have been perfectly civil. I am perfectly happy to discuss with you.

    However, I do not wish to be antagonized by others who want to discuss specific circumstances of which they know, but I do not. Or by introducing additional complications to a discussion that began on I Blame The Patriarchy! If I wanted to address all of the other forms of power and privilege, I’d have made my comment on another site.

    I think that if true philosophical discussion were the goal, someone would’ve pointed out to me that by defining sexuality as entirely constructed, I am de-legitimizing all of the gay people who have come before, those for whom homosexuality is NOT a choice (as being straight may not be a choice for you). Additionally, to define gender as entirely constructed begs the question of why one would be concerned with gender at all. In fact, why would I be insistent that I am a WOMAN if I believe gender is entirely constructed? Because I can’t get outside of what I’ve been conditioned to believe about myself. Apparently, other people have this ability.

    I sincerely doubt that any of us is fundamentally opposed to EXAMINING DESIRE. That is the goal of neutrality and the purpose of questioning. You have obviously completed this task already.

  25. “9. Sexual selection must be build along the lines of class revolutionary-proletariat expediency…

    12. The proletariat, in the interest of revolutionary-proletariat expediency, has the right to interfere in the sexual life of its co-members; sexuality should always be subordinate to class, in no way interfering with the latter but serving all its needs.”

    From ‘Twelve Sexual Commandments of the Revolutionary Proletariat’, Revolution and Youth brochure, Sverdlov Communist University, 1924

    Take out ‘class revolutionary-proletariat’, insert ideology of choice.

  26. Okay, if you only want to engage with abstraction:

    You assume that it is more work for a woman to form a relationship with a male partner than a female one. Why should a woman whose experiences do not back up that assumption use your theory?

    For that matter, why should a woman whose experiences do meet the theory but who has other, much more significant barriers to forming interpersonal relationships prioritise the minor factor over the major ones?

    Does your philosophy have an answer to these questions? If it cannot respond to them, how can it be applicable to lived reality?

  27. “I think that if true philosophical discussion were the goal, someone would’ve pointed out to me that by defining sexuality as entirely constructed, I am de-legitimizing all of the gay people who have come before, those for whom homosexuality is NOT a choice (as being straight may not be a choice for you). ”

    Um. If you already know what you want everyone -else- to say, why even bother having the discussion with actual other people? And, yeah, no, not everyone is into a “true philosophical discussion” (whatever).

    but I thought my point about yeah, I don’t -get- women who have any experience of being exhorted to change their (gay) sexuality (LIKE I DID, if it wasn’t fucking clear) might’ve registered as that, albeit I wrote it with fewer words and less pretentiously.

  28. “However, I do not wish to be antagonized by others who want to discuss specific circumstances of which they know, but I do not. ”

    Cupcake, we don’t always get what we want. Some of us already find -you- antagonistic, believe it or not, as well as the whole IBTP crowd; and, you know, you show up somewhere that isn’t a controlled (by you) environment, you pays your money and you takes your chance.

  29. excuse me: that was, I don’t “get” women who’ve been exhorted to be straight when they aren’t then turn around and try to control other peoples’ sexuality.

    or was that what you meant about not wishing to be antagonized by people whose experience is different to yours? and by the way, “disagreed with” =! “antagonized,” I find Dw3t-Hthr perfectly civil, and a lot less likely to try to -control others- (however indirectly and disingenuously) than, well, a bunch of other people.

  30. oh yeah sorry, if we’re going to be in pure abstraction land. very convenient when it doesn’t involve -actual people- with -actual bodies-.

    it is bullshit. I could hypothesize the ideal neo-Platonic state as being one where we all sit around and meditate until we become partheogenetic, but, ummmmm, it isn’t reality.

    you can’t fucking discuss this shit on a -purely- abstract plane, and why would you want to, unless it’s to make sure you can make sure nothing messy like physiology or other peoples’ experience or anything else you can’t -control- get in the way?

  31. and yes yes yes I know, you’re -not telling anyone what to do.- that and a buck fifty. it’s a lot more honest to bluntly tell someone “I command you not to fuck men” (or whatever) than to play the kind of all too drearily familiar games you’re playing here: you implicitly set yourself up as the holder of objective truth, then magnanimously “allow” as to those of us who are clearly -wrong- can arrive at our own conclusions on our own (even though we’re clearly “wrong,” duh). then when people get aggravated because they -didn’t accept your framing of the terms,- you can keep on blandly assuming it’s just frustration because people don’t or won’t or can’t -live up to- the terms you’ve set up as ideal.

    it’s classic IBTP and a thousand other tedious wadfem sources. been there, done that, don’t want the T-shirt, it doesn’t fit and it’s not me. if you really want an honest dialogue between equals you are going to have to open up a lot more, frankly. right now you’re speaking as though from a great height, and it’s annoying as all fuck.

  32. Additionally, to define gender as entirely constructed begs the question of why one would be concerned with gender at all. In fact, why would I be insistent that I am a WOMAN if I believe gender is entirely constructed? >>

    *sigh*

    A building is a construct. It is an artificial creation made by human beings (collectively); it did not just naturally spring up out of the ground.

    Nonetheless,

    a) it was constructed -out of- material that was already naturally existing on Earth, as is everything, you can’t create something out of nothing

    b) more to the point, the fact that it is a construct doesn’t mean that one person trotting by can go, lalala, look, a construct! It’s not “natural!” Ergo, it doesn’t exist! and then blithely walk -through- the walls. -It’s still real.-

    sure, a building can be “deconstructed,” but generally it takes more than a few people here and there disbelieving in the structure. You can blow it up, but it still tends to leave a mess in the aftermath; you also can’t make something out of nothing.

    there is also the question of, perhaps you believe the building is an eyesore and made with asbestos and should exist at all, period; or perhaps you might think that it’s a nice space, actually, and if its current horrible occupants moved out, it could be a great community center, or what you will.

    and about there is where the analogy becomes overextended.

    seriously, though, all of this has been discussed before, and all of this will be discussed again. and again. and again. and again. and again…

  33. I don’t think that having a “true” philosophical discussion means that we get to discount the lived reality of the people participating in this discussion. If someone’s lived reality doesn’t directly benefit from a certain theory, it doesn’t mean it contradicts said theory.

    Also, I think we’re all on the same page in regards, for example, to heteronormativity, as I mentioned before. I’m just not going to sit here and go “yes, of course, my relationship upholds the existing power structure, and I feel VERY BAD about that.” Because I don’t feel bad. I don’t think that the only meaningful way to challenge this shit is to partner with women. ESPECIALLY if you don’t want to. Lilly’s right to bring in the Soviets here at this time, because this is what these conversations always end up reminding me of.

    If I told my parents, they would be very amused.

  34. I do not enjoy hostile discussions of any kind. If we are to discuss inflammatory subjects about which we all feel passionately, can we please agree to do so with NO name-calling? Not even “cupcake,” which I would consider cute under different circumstances. If I, or anyone else, apologizes for using unclear or regrettable descriptions, can we please agree to acknowledge those mistakes and not refer to them as the first example of judgment on other blogs? It’s fuel to the fire of personalization and hostility. I know this is the interent, but I have no interest whatsoever in a hostile dynamic. Particularly when I suspect that we agree on much more than we disagree.

    Discussing abstractions is not an attempt to dismiss or discount personal experiences. Information about individual circumstances is not information shared by all participants to the conversation. It’s (if you will) “privileged” information to the person offering it. Additionally, I think defensive response is practically inevitable in a discussion of personal experiences.

    Natalia, I agree that we’re on the same page regarding heteronormativity on a societal or cultural level. I am critical of it because I oppose the existing power structures that it represents.

    Dw3t-Hthr, as for philosophies that account for every circumstance or situation, I’m not sure that’s possible. Even well-accepted, objectively proven scientific “rules” can have exceptions. It’s possible that we have different ideas about the purpose of a philosophy. I think of it as a guideline, not a hard and fast or black and white rule, more like a public policy that seeks to serve as many situations as possible.

    For example, you make the point that an individual woman may have more important considerations when they choose a partner than what anyone’s gender is. I agree. Only the person making the particular decision knows themselves and knows all of the external circumstances they’re dealing with. Only that person can actually prioritize these factors. I haven’t made any judgment about any person’s individual circumstances when I say: the cultural manifestations and political implications of gender, for a person who’s attracted to other humans regardless of “gender”, is and should be a factor when choosing a partner within a feminist framework, a feminist examination, of patriarchal culture.

    There may be people who resent having to consider gender as a factor in their partnership, especially if they believe it’s a construct, but you can’t pretend that cultural and personal implications of gender do not exist. Just because you’ve thought about it and believe you have removed (or overridden) the cultural context of gender from your personal choice, doesn’t negate contextual meaning itself. I don’t ask you to feel bad about it, only to acknowledge that the offensive context continues to exist in the rest of the world and even to the rest of the world. An outside perspective can see the cultural context but lacks information about the additional, overriding factors the individual has prioritized. If you think that my asking whether someone has considered this factor is, without more, offensive, we may have identified a fundamental disagreement. I don’t think that it’s paternalistic to examine, or to want to examine, cultural realities.

    If you don’t want to examine cultural context, or you’re so-over-that, I’m not sure why we continue to engage each other. Personally, I like abstractions and underlying assumptions. Like, what IS the essence of gender or sex or sexuality that exists prior to or independently of cultural constructs?? Can it be articulated? And if not, what credence should it be given? I think we’ve established that it deserves some acknowledgment, even if it can’t be quantified.

    belledame2222 says:

    A building is a construct. It is an artificial creation made by human beings (collectively); it did not just naturally spring up out of the ground.

    Nonetheless,

    a) it was constructed -out of- material that was already naturally existing on Earth, as is everything, you can’t create something out of nothing

    b) more to the point, the fact that it is a construct doesn’t mean that one person trotting by can go, lalala, look, a construct! It’s not “natural!” Ergo, it doesn’t exist! and then blithely walk -through- the walls. -It’s still real.-
    Right, a) so what are the naturally existing elements of gender, sex, or sexuality? I already mentioned that my brain is too small to identify them, but I am sincerely interested in your thoughts on the topic.
    And b), I am in complete agreement that we MUST acknowledge the construct and we cannot pretend that it doesn’t exist, whether in it’s finished form as a building or in the elements that make it up. Or do I misunderstand your point?

    I say:
    we assume a woman’s bisexuality
    we assume her interest in a feminist (anti-patriarchal) examination of her desire, and relatedly,
    we acknowledge the existance of cultural constructs
    we assume a lack of other overriding concerns
    Under these hypothetical circumstances, my philosophy is that seeking a female partner is the best way to fundamentally undermine the patriarchal power structure of heteronormativity. I also think it benefist the woman (or women) in question on a personal level, inside her relationship, based on my belief that a woman is more likely to treat another woman as an equal. I say the probability is better, not that it’s true in every situation.

    The number of women for whom these circumstances actually exist is unknowable by any of us.
    That’s all I have today.

  35. UCP:

    I’m fine with not being hostile, as long as you understand that some people experience the kind of abstracting that you’re doing as itself hostile. When one party gets to decide what counts as hostility, discussions get lopsided fast.

  36. ha, inadvertent smiley time. that was a not very polite acronym for–yeah. sigh.

    it’s cool that you have no interest in being flamed. me, I have no interest in a discussion framed as narrowly as you seem to be insisting upon. and I question why you need the frame to be so rigid.

  37. “I don’t ask you to feel bad about it, only to acknowledge that the offensive context continues to exist in the rest of the world and even to the rest of the world.”

    Again, classic, been there, done that, refused the T-shirt. And what if we say “no?” How will you manage?

    Again, you’re trying to reframe the argument on your terms, and you’re not being transparent about it; that’s what annoys people.

  38. “we assume her interest in a feminist (anti-patriarchal) examination of her desire, ”

    Besides all the other assumptions, and the hypothetical way you’re putting this when actually you’re involving real live people, even if none of them in this thread may currently meet your exacting standards viz demographic:

    you seem to be assuming that “interest in feminist/declaration of feminism”=”consent/interest in ‘examination of her desires'”

    You would be incorrect in this hypothesis.

    a) There are many kinds of feminism, many of which are focused on external goals and less concerning with highly abstract navel gazing of this sort, particularly when it comes to arguments about very subjective desires that have already been going around and around for thirty years or more and don’t seem to have accomplished anything but antagonism

    b) There are many frameworks for examining one’s desire. Me, I tend to apply queer theory as well as an eclectic assortment of psychological approaches as well as basic “sex positive” tenets; you may not consider any of these “feminist,” but for me they are integral parts of my feminism.

    c) even people who may be closer to you ideologically or demographically may have already drawn their conclusions, just happening to differ from yours, and mainly get irked by the constant refusal of people like yourself to accept this and stop essentially demanding, albeit here couched in many, many, many words,

    “Justify yourself to me.”

    No.

  39. also, there appears to be some confusion about what you’re terming “overriding concerns,” if by that you mean factoring in race, class, transgender and/or non-congruent gender identity/presentation, and so forth. They’re not “overriding;” they’re “intersecting.” It’s not that people are saying, hey, I’m more concerned with classism (for example) right now, meaning something that has nothing to do with sexuality, I don’t have time for this argument at all; it’s that you can’t consider the one without the other, if class situation also affects your sexuality.

    and frankly I consider opening up those discussions much more interesting and worthwhile, and I question, again, why you need to keep the frame focused so narrowly; because you end up leaving a hell of a lot of people out.

    Try reading Amber Hollibaugh’s interview with Cherrie Moraga, “What We’re Rolling Around in Bed With;” maybe then you’ll get what people in here are trying to get at. It’s not “either or.” It’s “more than the sum of its parts,” and most people can’t just ignore one part while focusing on another.

    so basically what you’d be saying is, you only want to talk to–or about–bisexual women who are white, UMC or higher, basically privileged/”mainstream” in all other ways, who happen to more or less agree with your interpretation of feminism.

    It helps to at least acknowledge that, I guess, as opposed to just taking it for granted that this is the standard model and all else are deviations not worth bothering about; but, well, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that not that many people are interested in engaging, then.

  40. http://reweaving.cinnamon-sunrise.com/?p=45

    I think one of the reasons I don’t belong to a “queer” community is because I didn’t feel I had the right to. After i made a commitment to my male partner, I felt like i “let the side down” or “betrayed the cause” and so no longer had a right to spend time with other non heterosexual people. Why should I feel that? why should I feel more of a fraud, more of a failure being in a relationship with a man than I would if i were in a relationship with a woman.

    And partly I think its because radical feminists talk so much about not giving our energies to men, about being woman identified about not collaborating with the patriarchy

    often heterosexual radical feminists have frankly odd conversations about weather they should leave their partners and become lesbians because that would be more feminist of them, somewhere along the line I swallowed this whole without thinking and started to think that if it was expected of het women wasn’t it even more expected of bisexual women? (except it isn’t expected of het women, they rarely do it they just talk about it)

    But i think that’s ridiculous, surely part of feminism is upholding women’s rights to have relationships with whoever they want, It also makes me think that many heterosexual feminists have no idea how power struggles and infighting play out in lesbian communities and relationships. It seems some heterosexual women don’t know that lots of lesbians are not feminists, that lots of lesbians perceive themselves and express themselves through certain sorts of masculinities, (in fact almost all of the women that make me go ooohh her! do this) that are often seen as the antithesis of radical feminism

    And it feels like these women are downplaying and have no idea of the lived realities of lesbians or women in lesbian relationships, the prejudice, the danger, the fear the heterocentricsims of the world, the rejection from friends and family.

    And that lesbian sex is not all sugar drops and rainbows, that there are as many different ways of having sex as their are lesbians and some of those ways do not gel with narrow focused radical feminism.

    I find the whole self flagellation of “oh I’m in a heterosexual relationship, what a bad feminist I am” really disturbing. Seriously If you don’t want to be with him leave him, but if you want to stay don’t witter about it on the Internet its disrespectful to those of us who are attracted to women on a gut physical and emotional level and it disrepects your partner who presumably you have made a commitment to.

    I find it totally possible to be in a heterosexual relationship and be woman focused but maybe that is because of my sexuality, while having a conversation the other day i realised that maybe the reason women only spaces are so important to me is not because I’m a feminist but because I’m bisexual and I need that deep connection to women, without it I get sick, I get restless, i feel like I’m missing part of myself. So maybe I make more space for women in my life than most heterosexual women do because I need it more. And maybe I need to stop feeling guilty about being bi and just be bi with all the glorious messy complications that entails

  41. http://meraterrhapakistan.wordpress.com/2008/05/02/you-trendy-lez-you/

    Lately, I’ve been reading online about feminism (particularly radical feminism) and its enthusiasm for women as superior beings. Way back when I learned about radical feminism, about 10 years ago, I learned about it being body-focused, body-centered, the liberation of the body. I read some Andrea Dworkin talking about penetration as a violent act and read it as a kind of drama piece, a monologue or something, rather than a treatise on the reality of human relationships. That’s not what she intended, probably, but who cares, I can read things how I like. The rest of radical feminism I read as being a woman-centred look at the universe. And I was certainly on board with that.

    It occurs to me that I possibly missed some key texts in radical feminism. Otherwise, it would have hit me earlier that there’s a strong separatist trend in radical feminism, a desire to get these male buggers out of our hairs for good and just be women-on-women action all the time.

    Speaking as a bisexual woman, I would like to say, ein minuten bitte…

    …When I was in university, it was possible to be a BUG – Bi Until Graduation – and I was lumped in with the BUG category because a) bi women are untrustworthy in their allegiance to queerness and b) I was Pakistani so for sure I’d go back in the closet when I went home (which I did, for a while, and I don’t apologize to anyone but myself for it). And if you were feeling BUGish, you would feel guilty about desiring men, doubt your own ability to stay the course of your beliefs as well as your feelings and belief yourself to be easily swayed by the cool factor. I thought I’d been easily swayed by the cool factor and that’s why my insides were turning to jelly at the sight, sound, smell, suhbat of certain women. This would not happen once I was out of this hellish den of hellish sinful sodomitic hell!

    Quite.

    Reading Philomela reminded me of all this just now. Of the sheer stupidity of thinking that bisexuality is a changeable state of being. Talk about self-oppression! “I am bi and with a man therefore I must be the enemy.” Meanwhile, straight women are going about saying they would be lesbian for the wo-man cause if only they could get up the guts to actually desire women. I know girls. Pussy smells funny. And you’d miss that lovely cock taste so much.

    Being Bi is really fucking hard. It takes ages for your partner to feel secure that you’re not going to leave them for a different gender, that you’re not desiring the other parts in your sex life. And then there’s people constantly asking you, “Are you sure you are into men? Are you sure you’re into women? Are you sure? It doesn’t seem lke it, sometimes, that’s all. You’re not really the type.”

    Kiss my ass. No bi person needs to feel guilty for desiring someone. There’s no superiority in partnering with a woman over a man. Love is love. Love may be political, but politics doesn’t dictate who you love; who you love explains your politics to you. Shows you your power and your privilege.

    Asshattery. Making people feel like they’re not fighting the good fight because there’s a friendly penis in the vicinity. People are NICE. Some people are MEN. Get the fuck over it.

  42. I think of it as a guideline, not a hard and fast or black and white rule, more like a public policy that seeks to serve as many situations as possible.

    If your philosophy seeks to serve as many situations as possible, why are you only interested in addressing a miniscule minority of situations with it?

    For that matter, has the construction of your philosophy taken into account the frequently-commented-upon phenomenon that a vast amount of gender policing and oppression is perpetrated upon women by women?

    Are you aware that the philosophy as posited can be taken as an additional example of gender-based behaviour policing inflicted upon women by women, and thus, as Trinity pointed out, will come across as intrinsically hostile to some fraction of observers?

    Whenever the question goes from “What sex do I want?” (an evaluation based on desire, preference, ideology, whim, and whatever else) to “What sex should I want?” (an evaluation based solely on ideological purity) oppression is inevitable.

  43. I guess some of my own personal reaction to this stems from my background. But I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – can we really rationalize desire?

    If a bisexual woman falls in love with a man, will she be taking a step backward if she decides to be with him (whether as part of a long-term, monogamous relationship, or otherwise)? What about the mere fact of denying yourself someone you love?

    Love isn’t all candy hearts and social programming, I believe. If you want to be with someone – you should be with them.

  44. yeah, and look–satisfying erotic life + a support system are -good- things. if a woman is denying herself the person(s) she’s determined are the best source of those things not on the basis that she herself has concluded that she’d really be better off w/out for whatever reasons, but because some “spinster aunt” and/or correctly lesbian feminist somewhere has convinced her rhetorically and “logically” that she’s hurting herself and (oh, the guilt) other women! by upholding “the patriarchy!” even though she thinks she’s happy!

    …fuck that, really, that’s what women do all the goddam time: second guess themselves, give up something that -really- makes them happy in order to please someone else. And no, that someone else is NOT always a man, hello; and that’s true both in and out of feminism. Or d’you think a lot of women don’t have big ol’ Mom buttons that convincing sounding feminists can’t press?

  45. not to mention anyone on the queer spectrum usually has an added reflex of second guessing hir sexual desires, -whatever- they are; it’s very easy to take all that internalized homophobia and just dump it right onto the “new” way you’re wrong for wanting whoever/whatever you want, need to justify yourself, apologize, question etc. etc. zzzzz.

    meet the new boss. same as the old boss. just (maybe, if even that) more passive aggressive with the injunctions.

  46. Well, well, well. Belledame222 and Dw3t-Hthr: y’all might’ve mentioned in the first place that you are opposed to the examination of desire and related questioning. See also. You might have, but you chose not to.

    I wonder why you didn’t. I wonder why you allowed me to sincerely, naively, helplessly search for common ground from which we could proceed. I wonder why, even when I acknowledged that you were correct, even when I apologized for my own regrettable description or tone, even when I pointed to unsupportable assumptions of my own, you CONTINUED TO BERATE ME, to object to every-fucking-thing I said, with your super-human neutrality and enlightenment. You have and never had any intention of teaching me. You called me names (noodge and cupcake). You used the terms “pretentious” and “annoy”ing in reference to me. You used my words as the first example of ignorant judgment on your other blog—even though I apologized! I wonder why you would refuse to acknowledge my apology, why you would be be so argumentative, so antagonistic about “questions” that you denied the legitimacy of from my first asking. You had no intention of teaching me, showing me the great light of your objective ways, explaining to my feeble mind why you feel so strongly that the mere act of questioning is inseparable from negative judgment.

    Exactly WHY would someone engage in a conversation that they never believed was worthwhile and never intended to be productive? I can only conclude its because you enjoy the hostility of conflict and because your true interest is in dominating and humiliating me. ?!!?!?!??!!?

  47. If questioning is so vital to you, why don’t you question why you have such an intensely negative response to other people’s firmly held belief that being advised “to question” is often a genteel dominance tactic?

  48. I mean, just think about it. The dominant group is always in the position to say to those below, “Well, but we know why you want that, and we know it’s bad for you. We’ll help you get better.”

    Yet suddenly when it’s feminists doing it, it’s everyone else who’s behaving like the master?

  49. Do you expect everyone to present you with a resume before they talk with you, then? You have a link to my blog – which is more than you have provided anyone here, as far as I can tell – and chose to use it.

    Now that you have determined that my positions are in fact consistent and proudly pointed at a blog entry in which I said the things that I have said here before, I … what? am I supposed to be ashamed that my positions are sufficiently thought-through and, yes, examined that someone can find me repeating myself a year later?

    I am likewise supposed to be ashamed of not having sufficient psychic skills to predict a comment made a day after I write a blog entry?

    Please control your projection. I do, in fact, consider it worthwhile and productive to oppose oppressive ideologies. I have pointed out the limitations of this theory from an intersectional point of view; I have pointed out its limitations from the point of view of simply replacing one ideology of correct behaviour with another; I have pointed out the prevalence of gender policing and the like from women directed at women. When you expressed a preference to communicate in abstractions rather than address the actual lived realities of people who do not fit your theory, I obliged you.

    You have not responded substantively to these critiques; you appear to have gone searching for something to give you an excuse to avoid responding to them by revealing the shocking! truth! that I am consistent in my beliefs and behaviours! and attempting to call me onto the carpet for holding and acting upon a lived experience of the oppression perpetrated by “theory” and “philosophy”.

    This is my personal being political. If you wish to promote a theory that is harmful to me, the women I know, and, for that matter, the men I know, I will argue against it. I will not be a Good Girl and flutter and make tea and cookies, I will be “argumentative” and “antagonistic” – patriarchy-words for “She’s not a properly compliant doormat.”

    I’m a submissive, not an idiot.

  50. Oh ffs. I started to engage with that and then I realized that that link led to–you’re just now discovering that I think BDSM is okay, is that what this is? And this is your “aha” moment, -I- must be dominating -you-? And a whole shitload of other things I/we must have been -intending- toward you. “Allowing you to innocently, naively”–hoo boy. What, so now we get to be Snidely Whiplash, mustachios and all, is that it? Because we’re both into THOSE things. Yes?

    There’s nothing in that link that isn’t what I was trying to explain to you here, except perhaps for the explicit revelation that yup I’m into kink. If you think this is some sort of “gotcha” moment because you were -owed- some sort of revelation of zomg it’s THOSE people, let alone “teaching” you (what, now? why “teach?” That’s power too, y’know, and–what?)

    Please control your projection. I do, in fact, consider it worthwhile and productive to oppose oppressive ideologies. I have pointed out the limitations of this theory from an intersectional point of view; I have pointed out its limitations from the point of view of simply replacing one ideology of correct behaviour with another; I have pointed out the prevalence of gender policing and the like from women directed at women. When you expressed a preference to communicate in abstractions rather than address the actual lived realities of people who do not fit your theory, I obliged you.

    You have not responded substantively to these critiques; you appear to have gone searching for something to give you an excuse to avoid responding to them by revealing the shocking! truth! that I am consistent in my beliefs and behaviours! and attempting to call me onto the carpet for holding and acting upon a lived experience of the oppression perpetrated by “theory” and “philosophy”.

    WORD.

  51. And no, people aren’t automatically trying to “dominate and humiliate you” because they tell you, in so many words, that they don’t want to play by -your- rules either. You might want to examine the implicit beliefs about power in -that-, as well as the business about what “we” want vs. your “innocence.”

    Most particularly, if that -is- a sudden “aha, because I have this idea about BDSM and clearly if you’re into it I get to tell you exactly how DOMINATING you must be -toward me- no matter what the interaction, with a not so subtext toward pathologization?” Fuck off.

  52. And, um, okay. I never made any claims for super-human neutrality and enlightenment. And yes, you are correct in picking up irritation on my part–D for her part was being nothing but courteous as far as I could see, certainly right up until you called her “condescending”–but I was being honest about -why- I found this discussion exasperatingly familiar (and was trying to push beyond it, albeit not with much hope, that’s correct); I really don’t know what else you would’ve found over there but not here that suddenly caused the light to dawn. For all that I’ve been not so nice here, for the most part I -have- been talking -to- you. The others certainly have.

    As for why the antagonism about questions: we HAVE answered, you just don’t seem to want to hear the answer unless it fits the one you already have. That’s why it starts getting antagonistic. I really can’t make it any clearer.

  53. *shrug*

    I think BDSM’s alright too. And have written reams about why I think this “but you must question, love” business can be quite unhealthy – especially when directed toward adult women.

    I regret the tone this discussion has taken – if only because it was nice, for a bit, to have a conversation about this which didn’t immediately get bogged down in negativity.

    However, the participants all have their personal histories. And D, Trinity, Belle and I have had so much experience being told that “if you’d really questioned X, you wouldn’t like X anymore!” that, I guess, we start to bristle pretty quickly.

    Though I maintain that D was not being condescending in her original comment. Not at all.

  54. and–okay, rereading, the “objective” thing is just weird. First you don’t want us to refer to our own lived reality unless it’s one you already know of on account of that would be “privileged” (say wha?) and instead you want to deal with pure abstraction; then when people do try to engage you somewhat in more general terms as well as specific, you dig up some links and flip out.

    So…we’re not supposed to refer to our own subjective realities; and when we say we can’t really do this kind of discussion without doing so in fact but respond anyway, you complain because we’re not living up to our supposed own lofty standards of “objectivity.”

    I think I speak for several people here at least when I say, “buh?”

  55. and although I should be used to the cognitive dissonance by now, I’m also particularly marveling that anyone who’s been around IBTP et al can complain about -you’re not teaching me- (i.e. you’re not patiently re-explaining shit that’s been discussed, to some degree right here, and/or you can see there’s a shitload of links to, and not getting impatient no matter how little I seem to be listening or interested in anything but my own agenda).

    Think really carefully. -How- many times have you seen a dude wander into a site like that and pull pretty much the same chapter and verse wrt feminism? Complaints about tone, insisting upon dominating the discourse with his own frame of reference, and all?

  56. I can’t stand that bunch of harpies at IBTP.(the current bunch–I haven’t tried to chat with U.P. or Belle or the wymyn here yet)

    A feminist-minded man did stumble into their midst once, back when everybody was blogging about the Israeli woman in the “Rape by Deception” case. This poor guy was probably the only person on the net that defended the woman. He chats on another blog I follow. We’ve debated a little, but I just assumed he was stating something closer to the radfem position on issues like pornography, etc. because he’s male and trying not to get his balls busted. He was always very polite, and seemed sincere, not a concern troll or a godbag or anything. He seemed smart enough; I’m guessing a philosophy undergrad, judging by his writing style. We didn’t always agree, but I never had a problem with him.

    So he tried to appeal to Twisty for help because everybody disagreed with him about the rape thing. What did Twisty do? Shot the unicorn. DUH-UH. She devoted an entire post to cackling at the guy’s letter. And worse, some of the commenters shot accusations at him that get people’s tongues cut out in my ghetto. I mean the people who wrongfully accuse like that get their tongues cut out. People who are actually guilty of those behaviours get the shit kicked out of them for it.

    So I went over to IBTP and went tsk tsk, and WTF, and how do you know you’re not chasing off the next John Stuart Mill and blah blah blah.

    She deleted that comment and 2 more that I posted about fluffy subjects like Mad Men and fashion. At least they respected that I’ve never met the guy and they didn’t accuse me of being “oppressed” by him in some gross way. But that kind of behaviour in other women really pisses me off. If you want people, male or female, to show you courtesy, don’t attack them for no good reason. It’s just that simple. You can have a preference for women without maiming innocent bystanders.

    And anybody telling anybody, gay, straight, bi or trans, in SUCH A TONE that their gender identification is wrong bothers me too. I came of age in the 90’s when it was trendy to be gay for a day and queer for a year. The sex was amazing, but I couldn’t fall in love with a woman for the same reason I can’t live with my sister. Because women who live together get their periods at the same time every month. And then they fight like cats and cats. YUCK!

  57. For reasons I won’t whine about right now, I was stuck without a place to stay last night. Abusing my computer lab privileges at school, and using the lab as a place to stay safe from the sort of people who generally attack women who sleep on park benches gave me the opportunity to finish reading this entire thread.

    Natalia, you are a much kinder mediator than I could be.

    A woman has TWO boyfriends and she’s upset because her gay friends don’t consider her gay enough?!?

    Another woman has a live-in boyfriend AND a female lover and she’s upset because other people don’t see the 2 relationships as equal?!?

    That’s like saying everybody who owns a Mazzaratti and a Porsche should have a revolution *as a consciousness raising experiment* until both are treated as equals.

    Gods I hate teacup feminists. I’d be happy with a busspass, a pack of smokes, a decent night’s sleep and a freaking sandwich!

  58. if women continue to sleep with men knowing men hate women then that is surely a form of masochism.
    Women may use men for sex as long as they remember the true reality that men truly do hate women!
    Face the truth and survive !

  59. Thought I’d come back and be fair to whoever does the moderating on Twisty’s site. They did eventually fish my comments out of the “not rad enough” box, for whatever reason. I’m still reluctant to believe that this act demonstrates that Twisty’s people are fair to or open to debate from feminists from other schools of thought.

    But I try to practise what I preach. Until I have proof to the contrary, I’ll extend the fairness that was apparently extended to me. I still don’t agree with much of the radfem stance, but at least they allowed me to be heard without ridicule.

    Btw, if jo sheldon roberts isn’t the craftiest MRA troll I’ve ever seen, she is TRULY the saddest self-fulfilling prophecy I’ve ever seen.

  60. I’m not going to go through all the comments, but I will say that I generally agree with what you’re saying here. One of the problems I’ve had with radical feminism is that some facets seems to make it out to be an us-v-them type situation. If you blame the patriarchy, blame that.. Not necessarily the guys who have been raised under the same system. Instead of us-v-them, we should aim at us+them-v-the system that pits us against one another.

    An excellent post. I also read monster in the mirror and I look forward to reading more.

  61. . I am a Christian hetro woman with strong radical feminist leanings.
    I have no idea how to have a romantic relationship with men at all. I can be friends with men up to a point but my male friends know I’m somewhat of a chauvinist which does not seem to turn them on. I have never met a pro-feminist man. I have met a few who claim they are but their privilege is so internalized they still think women’s equality is determined on a one to one basis (or some other weird delusion).
    I am so lonely, I want to get married and have kids. Where is this good man that I have lots in common with and sports a fab backside? Oh, he’s got to be Christian too.
    Can you tell that I still believe in miracles?

    Anyhow, I think it’s really important for women around the world that radfems start formulating ways in which men and women can have mutually fulfilling, empowering, romantic, secure relationships with each other. A way to breed and train males to become good partners and fathers and a way to weed out and deal with bad apples is also necessary.
    Everyone has the right to a good farther and heterosexual procreation is natural. The answer to women’s liberation is not turkey-baster babies with anonymous fathers. I do understand the appeal but it is everyone’s rite to have a relationship with their farther. Obviously that is not always possible for many serious reasons but it is for no one to purposely deny that opportunity. Of secondary importance it is my desire to have romantic, marital (under a feminist empowering definition) with a hot dude that I have allot in common with and is quite good at maths. Oh and is also a Christian. I think we hetro radfems need to rewrite the courting rulebook and guide men and women into cooperating with it. It needs to happen because allot of women’s idea to a good man is still *well, he doesn’t beat me or the kids*.

  62. I don’t know where to begin with your comment… I think it’s great that you know exactly what you want out of marriage (few people do). But I’m kinda hoping that this whole idea of “breeding” the right kind of men is a big, funny-haha sort of joke. … Right?

    On a general note, I think that it’s wise to remember that our SO’s always disappoint us. They don’t do it all the time, obviously, but disappointment – and getting over it – is a big part of any relationship. So no matter how close your partner is to a political ideal – he’s still just a human being. I think people who subscribe to all kinds of political ideologies tend to forget that.

  63. Don’t sleep with boys – what an idea, another prof that radical (if we can call it that) feminism has nothing to do with real life.

  64. I like your post. i don´t agree with all,but it´s good to see a het woman answer a lesbian separatist without that bullshit “omg bad lesbians are opressing me!1!” i am het,but i think lesbian separatists pose some very good questions,but i also think they fail to see some things. like,even if a lot of women would like to become lesbian separatists,they can not simply leave men. some because of money,some other because of kids,some others because of racial questions. i also think they should adress more the fact that not all lesbians relationships are “opression free” even if the both are feminists. but i had the feeling that you think that all radfems are lesbian separatists. that´s not true. and there are good critics to this position within the radfem community. that does not mean that being a lesbian separatist is wrong or a bad political position. i think is not a position for all,but i see the value. and i also think we must adress the lesbophobia within the radfem community. because it really does exist. and no,it is not ok. so,i would say that you should keep coming to radfem foruns. you surely have ideas we could use,and we probrably have some ideas you could like. kiss, sister =)
    here are some blogs from het radfems you may like: http://cherryblossomlife.com/
    http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/

  65. Thanks, but I’m pretty sure Femonade banned me years ago over some disagreement or another. I generally don’t have time for *much* of the blogosphere these days, sadly, but thanks for stopping by and taking the time to engage this old post!

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