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??
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 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.
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 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.
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.