our bodies/ourselves

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I am really bothered by the way we talk about ourselves, ie about our bodies. You dont ‘have’ a body. You ARE a body, the body is YOU. We talk about women having ownership over our bodies, when it comes to consent or abortion or the clothes we wear. We literally discuss it in those terms.

How often do you ever hear, or think, of men as having ownership over their own bodies? How often do they ever talk about it? How often do they need to assert it?

How disconnected do women feel from our very selves when we need to assert ‘ownership over’ our bodies? Men simply ARE, they simply exist. Apply the concept to them and see how ludicrous it is. See how ludicrous the language is.

Womens bodies arent resources to be fought over, for women and men to argue over and decide who gets to make the final call, for whos approval or convenience they should be used or dressed. Where are women, when this debate about womens bodies is going on, when we’re deciding who owns them? I mean where physically are the women, in what physical space? The term womens bodies is meaningless. There is only women.

you cant ‘have’ or ‘have ownership over’ your body. You can only be alive, or be dead.

What I’ve learned from reading radical feminism

not so much what I’ve learned; the stuff I’ve learned to see, analyse and articulate is obviously encyclopaedic.

but what I’ve learned to do that’s new.

Mainly:

1 respect femme women and women who perform or are invested in femininity; something which i previously scorned. I have come to see that they and I are both playing the same rough hand; they have chosen to play it differently but maybe they have made a wise choice, certainly I no longer believe they have made a choice substantially ‘worse’ than mine in any respect. Or substantially less authentic. We are all performing and none of us know who the fuck we really would be without patriarchy.

 

2 respect older women. Listen hard to what they have to say because they have learned a lot of shit the hard way and some how they are telling you about it even if they’re not saying it consciously.

 

3 respect and centre women generally. Pay attention to their ideas, experiences and contributions. These won’t be dressed up or asserted but they’re usually worth hearing.

 

 

I’m not proud of myself that I had to learn to do this stuff, but there it is.

sex=rape

This is something I have been thinking about for a while…

In law, in court, consent is what separates sex from rape. The law sees sex and rape as the same thing, the same act, with consent to the act being the difference between them. The law understands them both the same; the law understands sex as something that is done to someone. Subject verb object. If that object does not consent, it then becomes rape.

In law, a woman’s sexual history and the sexual history between the rapist and the victim, count as evidence. Partly because in legal terms, rape is framed as an act of trespass and not a hate crime. It makes no sense to say to the victim of hate mail, ‘well you have received post in the past, how do we know you didn’t want this one?’ or to the victim of verbal harassment and abuse ‘well you have had conversations in the past, so who’s to say you didn’t want this?’

I have always understood sex as communication. As something people do with each other, not to each other. As something two (or more) people do together. I have always understood rape as something different.

Isn’t it disturbing that the courts of law, and the men who run this society and make and enforce those laws, have an understanding of sex which can only be differentiated from rape by getting consent first?

 

FCM

I miss FCM already. That blog, including reading the comments, has been a HUGE part of my own developing feminist consciousness or whatever you want to call it.

I will probably post more about this later. I’m thinking about writing a post about the main things I took away from Femonade, the broad strokes. But there were always certain individual comments or posts that would stay with me. Sometimes it seemed almost like I was missing the point because they would be comments and observations that didn’t seem to be so important to everyone else. But whatever they would echo and resound in my head.

I woke up today with this one still in there, five months later:

“its all very literal now isnt it? men have created technology in their own image to turn the entire world into themselves, and to literally SHOW us whats inside their minds. their fantasies, including what they want women to be, and the future of the world. futuristic movies are all apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, or in space. there are no trees or natural areas ANYWHERE. women are robots, uniformed “honorary men”, rape objects put to work repopulating the species, or do not exist at all. and PORN. increasingly violent and dehumanizing to the woman. this is what men see when they close their eyes. they dream about it, fantasize about it, and this is what their “creativity” looks like. again, this is happening by degrees, although we have discussed before how we seem to be at a critical mass of male insanity now. surely girls and women have to be progressively sedated/euthenized in order not to see any of this, to not be disturbed by it or to not care. not knowing our history helps. and this is exactly what i am reading about at the moment. part 2 of gerda lerners “the creation of patriarchy” which is called “the creation of feminist consciousness” is all about womens history and how its been lost.”

This was a comment posted by FCM on http://factcheckme.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/presence-of-absence/

When I read it it was one of those little epiphanies. I just thought about men and the shit they have created to entertain themselves. Mainly the videogames they unwind with, and how entertaining they find war and violent crime. I know it’s old hat, but really realising that that is what comforts them- fantasising about actually doing this shit in real life. Constructing games wherein they get to play like they’re doing it for real. Striving every time to get the graphics more and more ‘realistic’.

If you talk to men about this they’ll just laugh and tell you they know the difference between fantasy and reality. But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that this is their fantasy at all.  This isn’t a world they want to escape from. It’s a world they find — entertaining.

BDSM (again) – a question

Okay, this is something I really don’t get.

From my reading/my understanding, a big part of the submissive’s ‘training’ or role in BDSM relationships is to take whatever is dished out, and to learn to take it without making a sound, protesting, moving, or otherwise resisting.

 

I don’t understand this because surely- surely, the dom needs to see some kind of manifestation of discomfort, fear or pain from the submissive, in order to be pleased?

So essentially the more ‘trained’ a submissive is, ie the ‘better’ a submissive gets at their role, the less satisfying it is for the dom, and the more the dom will need to push it, test boundaries, etc. Until they can get a reaction again. The submissive then learns to ‘control’ that reaction and ‘take’ the next level, and then the cycle begins again.

Is this how it works? And if so, where does the cycle terminate? What’s it leading to?

 

 

Fifty Shades of Heteronormative Sex Practices

Recently I read the first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy, along with part of the second book. I was borrowing it from a friend; I don’t have the book with me to copy out quotes word for word.

I found it kind of funny that I knew all the obscure BDSM stuff already from reading radfem blogs, lol.

As an aside I will say that while bits of the sex writing were in my opinion quite erotic (albeit not in a revolutionary way, haha), overall the plot and writing was incredibly dull, boring, and frustrating to read. Other than this I’m not going to bash E L James too much for writing with what is an appropriate level of subtlety for her genre.

I don’t want to focus on the obvious criticisms of the series because these have been done to death by feminist blogs and to be honest, it’s just too easy. What I will say is, whether feminists like it or not, huge numbers of women are reading these books, enjoying them, and recommending them to friends. The books are a cultural phenomenon. Therefore, worth examining.

Also I have no wish to criticise women for enjoying these books.

I think there are two reasons for their popularity. One, het women are rarely exposed to erotica by and for het women. So even shoddy erotica has a huge novelty value, due to its rareness. Two, I think the books do express some sort of truth about women’s experience of sex and het love affairs. I am not claiming it’s a palatable truth or a revolutionary truth or a positive truth. But I think it is a truth.

In my head the book read like something Dworkin would quote in Intercourse. I could almost see her annotations. (Andrea, I will always be thankful to you because you have helped to free my mind.) I think Andrea Dworkin would have had a lot to say about the symbolic use of a cross that Ana is tied to at one point during a sex scene, too.

The very first paragraph of the first book leapt out at me and smacked me round the face. I have found the first chapter online for free here http://www.scribd.com/doc/87912214/April-Free-Chapter-Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-by-E-L-James so this is an accurate quote:

‘I should be studying for my final exams… yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush… My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail.’

so the very first paragraph describes routine grooming practices (ie what women do to themselves in order to be male-pleasing) in BDSM terms. submission… reciting a rule… bring it under control… restrain.

this continues at other points in the book. I can’t remember all the examples, but during a sex scene the narrator, Ana, describes herself as ‘trussed up by my own bra’. Her flatmate, Kate, also supervises a ‘humiliating and painful’ exercise in depilation, in readiness for Ana’s first sexual encounter with Mr Grey. There is also an interesting appointment with Mr Grey’s on-call gynaecologist so that Ana can start taking the Pill- because Mr Grey doesn’t like condoms. Ana isn’t even consulted about how she feels about raising her risk of heart disease/stroke and fucking with her natural hormone levels. She’s just examined and given the Pill.

The baseline, in the book, seems to be that women are already doing this shit for men, in pursuit of love. When Mr Grey wants to be able to hurt, restrain, and punish Ana she sees it as her role to try and fulfill this, and try and want it too- or risk losing him. She believes she’s in love with him, so she decides to try to submit because the idea of losing him is unbearable.

(it’s an easy point to make, but Mr Grey is gorgeous and a multimillionaire, and makes her come, a lot. Ater a few days, a lot of sex, and pretty much no meaningful conversation, Ana is irrevocably ‘in love’ with him. I do think if he was just some kinky bloke renting a single room in Peckham, say, he’d be a lot less attractive.)

Whether I like it or not, whether we like it or not, women submit to unbelievable shit from men, both on an individual and broader social basis. A lot of the time we do it for love. That’s one thing.

Also, Mr Grey is fucking scary. He’s a frightening character and Ana seems scared of him and his reactions a lot of the time. Also, he makes sure early on that he has economic control over her life, and can take away her resources at any time should she displease him. I think this also highlights some good motivators for why women submit.

One way that Ana rebels- one of the only ways that Ana rebels- is by not eating. Any discussion of anorexia is a whole ‘nother post in itself, but there is clearly an element of subversion in her refusal to eat food, as well as of desperation.

The female characters in this book are rather weak. Ana’s mother is on her fourth husband (Ana decides that ‘maybe she does know a thing or two about men’ based on this. Yeah. Or she just refuses to learn from her mistakes). The author is clearly so bored by the mother-daughter bond that she concludes any conversations between Ana and her mum before they’ve even begun- usually by interrupting them with Mr Grey.
Ana’s mum is desperate for Ana to ‘find a man’. Ana feels her mum needs looking after because she is whimsical and impulsive (women are infantilised throughout), and Ana hopes that her mum’s latest husband will be the one to look after her mum. Ana’s mother misses Ana’s graduation because her husband has hurt his ankle and she needs to stay with him and wait on him hand and foot. Ana is fine about this, thinks it’s perfectly reasonable.

Ana’s flatmate Kate manipulates her and bosses her around; this relationship is often presented as a precursor to Ana’s sub/Dom relationship with Mr Grey. The ways in which this is a misleading comparison are numerous- Kate doesn’t want to physically hurt Ana, nor is Ana scared of Kate, nor does Kate stalk Ana. Nor is Ana trusting Kate with her entire body including the risk of pregnancy. Kate doesn’t constantly torment Ana with the threat of physical violence if she fails to comply.

Other than that the comparison is an appropriate one.

There’s another thing that immediately struck me about this book, and it’s the eroticisation of child abuse. Mr Grey was abused as a child, which is the reason why he hates to be touched on his torso, and why he’s a sexual predator. And partly why Ana falls for him. Yes, Fifty Shades is one of those works of fiction in which there’s nothing more intriguing or tragic or attractive than a lover who is damaged because they were abused as a child.

Obviously it’s attractive that someone has been irrevocably damaged because they were hurt by someone in a position of trust when they were incredibly vulnerable. It’s never been the sort of thing I fantasise about in my ideal lover, but what can I say? Fifty Shades has opened my eyes. (sarcasm, btw.)

Most of the sex in the first book was so-called ‘vanilla’. This was still based on roles of dominance (for the man, Mr Grey) and submission (for the woman, Ana). There was nothing un-D/s about it, but because they didn’t actually leave bruises or use instruments of torture it was described as ‘vanilla’. It was like sex except Ana got a lot out of it and came about three times every time they got it on. That stuff was the actual erotic writing. The spanking scenes where she was being hurt weren’t actually even written in such an erotic style. Most of my friends found the ‘BDSM’ stuff ‘weird’ and ‘doesn’t do it for them’. They read it out of fascination more than anything.

Of the women I discussed the book with, no one expected Ana to gain much pleasure from submitting to Mr Grey’s BDSM fantasies, but they were of the opinion that ‘she’s in love. And you put up with all sorts of shit when you love a bloke.’

 

There were just a couple more things that stayed with me, that I want to write down.

When Ana sees the ‘Red Room of Pain’ she says to Mr Grey ‘you like to hurt people?’

And he goes ‘People? I like to hurt women.’

Later, the morning after they first have sex (her first sexual encounter) she does her hair in pigtails- because, she says, ‘it might keep her safer from him’. Looking like a kid, that is. (It doesn’t. He plays with her pigtails when he next fucks her.)

joining the dots

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/908231-tia-sharp-police-sorry-for-search-errors-as-grandmother-among-arrests

This story is not incredibly unusual. The behaviour pattern is familiar enough that plenty of people could predict how this was going to turn out. Plenty of women will be able to tell you that even if he doesn’t end up killing you, the boyfriend of a mother or grandmother is often not a safe person to be around, can be a predator within the home.

I feel sick seeing a twelve year old girl’s life cut short like this.

I don’t understand why feminists are talking about not shaving their armpits and aren’t talking about what has happened here. One of the many horrific things about this case it that it is not unusual. Most people will find it safe to assume, without knowing the full facts, that this girl was killed at least in part because she was female. And it’s not unthinkable, and not unknowable, is it? growing up as a girl- understanding that you may not make it past twelve, if you catch the attention of the wrong man. We all knew it. We all know it.

I hesitate to write this, and I may delete it, because I don’t want to use the death of anyone as a political statement. At the same time I cannot fail to connect the dots. In this society, women and girls are killed by men, because they are female. This is a horrific truth. One of the things about it that I find so frightening is that women- even feminists- fail to even recognise these killings as political. They are so widespread. They are in many senses normalised.

Of course if violent crime against females, by males, was recategorised as hate crime, and treated as such, that would be unworkable. The prisons would be overflowing. The economy would grind to a halt.

Shave your armpits; don’t shave your armpits. But I hope that at least feminists begin to connect the dots. Look at this and you can see and understand what is happening, what has happened, and what will continue to happen. This kind of thing is the ultimate and extreme expression of the norm. I don’t know what we do about that, but I think we have to start by noticing it.