Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Violation is a synonym for intercourse" DOES NOT MEAN "all sex is rape"!

 
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"As all advocates of feminist politics know most people do not understand sexism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media." -- bell hooks
"Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating." -- Andrea Dworkin
"Since the abatement of censorship, masculine hostility (psychological or physical) in specifically sexual contexts has become far more apparent. Yet as masculine hostility has been fairly continuous, one deals here probably less with a matter of increase than with a new frankness in expressing hostility in specifically sexual contexts. It is a matter of release and freedom to express what was once forbidden expression outside of pornography or other "underground" productions, such as those of De Sade. As one recalls both the euphemism and the idealism of descriptions of coitus in the Romantic poets (Keats's Eve of St. Agnes), or the Victorian novelists (Hardy, for example) and contrasts it with Miller or William Burroughs, one has an idea of how contemporary literature has absorbed not only the truthful explicitness of pornography, but its anti-social character as well. Since this tendency to hurt or insult has been given free expression, it has become far easier to assess sexual antagonism in the male." -- Kate Millett, Sexual Politics, 1968
In the late 1960s, Kate Millett identified something, in society and in literature, that was rampantly manifest at the time she observed it: male aggression took especially sexual forms, often against females. Force is fetishised.

Her observation was refuted by many men, even while she had analysed the books of  well-read and established "great" male writers. Men fumed that she dared to say out loud something that many already intimately knew, but had no language for: that sex and gender are profoundly political, even more than they were or are "natural" as that term is popularly (mis)understood. It was like announcing "water is wet" or "fire is hot". She was telling a basic, fundamental social (not natural) truth about men in a patriarchal, rapist society that het men knew but didn't want known.

It was and, forty-plus years later, still is het men who aggress sexually against women, calling it "sex". To this day, "fucking" and "sex" are synonymous to many people. From Most heterosexual people I know use the term "sex", when describing an activity between people, to mean "vaginal/penile intercourse" and nothing else. Everything else has its own name: blowjob, eating out, handjob, jerking off. But "sex", to this day, is a synonym for the act in which a part of a man's body is placed, somehow, within a woman's genitals.

Maybe, just maybe we can weed out some of the online antifeminist bozo-block's misinformation campaign's most malicious mendacity.

Ranking in the top ten lies antifeminists tattle online, is that Andrea Dworkin (and/or Catharine A. MacKinnon--with her first name almost always misspelled), said that "all sex is rape" or "all intercourse is rape". Neither of them ever said it or wrote it, and if you want a non-feminist source of verification that neither feminist said it, go to snopes.com, *here* and read the page called "rape seeded" about this internet and off-line printed myth/lie/misinformation campaign. MacKinnon has, in one of her more recent books, in a footnote, traced this misinformation back to a few sources, all of which were anti-radical feminist.

But the lie remains because it serves antifeminist/propatriarchal/propornographer/propimp interests to keep it going and going and going, like an Energizer Bunny on a sports drink, double latte, and speed.

One might reasonably ask, where in Intercourse, by Dworkin, does it say "all sex is rape" or "all intercourse is rape"? Answer: Nowhere. (But surely she's said it, somewhere, at some time, in some book she wrote once about something? Nope. Not at all. Not ever.) What Andrea Dworkin DOES say is that, in English, "violation", socially, is a synonym for intercourse. If you're familiar either with pornography, romance novels, soap operas, or something called "dominant society", you'd know this is ubiquitously and indubitably the case, and is not at all a controversial or contested observation, on the part of Andrea Dworkin. It's as controversial as saying "war kills people" or "pollution is unhealthy". Yes, there are defenders of both war and pollution, and, in fact, those people are in charge of Western civilisation. So too are the men who define sex as fucking and fucking as the violation, penetration, and occupation of a woman by a man. They are called, here, corporate pimps, pornographers, husbands, preachers, and politicians.

Steering clear of pornography, I'll alert those still in massive denial about this matter of socially synonymous semantics with romance novel-speak for "intercourse involving a man's penis and a woman's vagina". Sex, as fucking, as violation, is often called "penetration". Here is a very partial portion of a VERY long list for ALL the heterosexist expressions, phallocentric phrases, antifeminist axioms, endemically misogynistic euphemisms, and plain old dirty terms for "that act", aka "the fuck" found in a collection of romance novels:
  • as he took her
  • buried himself to the hilt
  • burying himself all the way
  • claimed her
  • cry of pleasure
  • driving into her
  • drove his manhood
  • drove into her
  • drove up into her
  • embedding himself deeply
  • entered her with a driving thrust
  • filled her completely
  • filled her in one swift motion
  • filled her to the hilt
  • ground his molten member into her
  • he took her
  • imbedded himself
  • impaled her
  • impaling her on his straining shaft
  • moved hard into her
  • plunged his manhood
  • plunged inside her
  • plunged into her
  • plunging hotness penetrated
  • possess the lily
  • powerful fullness entered and filled her
  • probed her
  • pulling her down
  • pushed into her
  • sharp penetration
  • speared her
  • surrendered
  • thrust himself into her
  • thrust his hardness into her softness
  • thrust of his manhood
  • wanting became reality
That last one... I had to keep it in the abridged list, because it's so fucking hilarious. As for the others above, we can note how, again and again, dominant society reinforces the idea that both "woman" and "man" = their genitals. The heterosexual woman and man's genitals are one and the same--the penis isn't just an extension of the man who fucks, but it IS the man who fucks. The fucking makes the man, as long as the fuckee is female or feminine. And she doesn't have a vagina and vulva as her genitals; instead, when that area of her body is penetrated, "she" is penetrated. He took her, means his penis entered her vagina. He speared her means his penis entered her vagina. This act of "love-making", in these very popular books, requires force against a person: taking her, pulling her down, pushing, plunging, impaling, sharp penetration, thrust, and surrender.

I know this will shock some of the most ardent "anti-MacDworkinites" but Andrea Dworkin didn't make society. For all the power anti-feminist men project onto her, she was never so powerful as to be able to create the world we live in. She was able to name aspects of it, however. And she did this without regard to whether it made men look "good". But she noted that men, in a dualistically and hierarchically gendered society, means "good", and womanhood means "bad". So men are good, by definition, and women are bad, by definition. This partially explains why it is that het men who visually violate women who have been pimped and raped and displayed by their pimps, think they are looking at "pictures of naked women". They are not.

They are looking at pictures or are watching videos of women who are portrayed as bad, with their sexuality and their genitals also being "bad", in need of punishment, abuse, subordination, submission, death. Andrea Dworkin didn't create the pornography industry, she wrote about it. Pimps created all that material that portray women as wh*res, as sinful, as evil, as a tease, as deserving of all forms of degradation and violence. The only irony, and it is a bitter one, is that since women are, definitionally, "bad", one wonders why men have to make her pay for it over and over and over again. For what else can she be? And what will she be after all that degradation and violence: "good"?

Well, according to dominant society, her being tamed and tethered to him is "good". In our terribly romantic heterosexist society, her father gives her to hre husband. If he's a gentle-man, he asks her father for permission to marry her. How sweet, right? She never quite gets to stand alone, does she? This is the real world of patriarchal imperatives and practices. This is "life". And Kate Millett and Andrea Dworkin, among many other women, had the audacity to challenge those imperatives and call for an end to those practices which subordinate women and define her, her sexuality, and her genitals as "bad"--in need of punishment, subduing, subordination to him and his other "him"--his penis.

As Dworkin notes in her writings, pornography takes all that romantic Disney-esque racist, rapist CRAP to far more overtly misogynistic and racist places. I'll leave it to the reader, who I trust has been around the patriachal block, to seek out verification, using Google, if necessary, of the degrees to which corporate pimps will go to keep this propaganda (called "porn" in popular vernacular) in the censored and withered Western imagination. As Dworkin noted, it is pornographers who are the censors, not the feminists who oppose them with their not-so-well-funded speech. Pornographers make many billions of dollars a year and can afford a bevy of attorneys to make sure their "speech rights" are not abridged in any way. That their speech means women's silence was noted by Dworkin and is ignored, generally.

Her work is both ignored and distorted, by anti-feminists who want to kill feminism so their their white economically privileged dickdoms may stay institutionally erect, looming large, in charge.

With great thanks to feministx, I am glad to be able to post this clarification of misogynist men's incessant internet lie about "what Andrea Dworkin said" that anti-feminists have been blabbering on about endlessly, as if they've ever read a book by Dworkin. What follows is all hers--a post she just did on this subject:

The Science of Heteronormative Sex

I commented on Sophia's blog in response to a criticism of a feminist. Commenters subsequently implied a mocking derision of an author who is dear to me, Andrea Dworkin.

Here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercourse_(book)) Dworkin describes her assessment of heterosexual intercourse as it is generally performed and perceived.
Intercourse is a particular reality for women as an inferior class; and it has, in it, as part of it, violation of boundaries, taking over, occupation, destruction of privacy, all of which are construed to be normal and also fundamental to continuing human existence.

Intercourse is often said to argue that "all heterosexual sex is rape", based on the line from the book that says "violation is a synonym for intercourse.
"
And the mocking ensues- Oh Andrea! What a loony. Heteronormative sex degrading? Comparable to an occupation? Only something the most vile of extremists would say such a thing!

Pah. If you don't think heteronormative sex is degrading for a woman, there are some possible explanations for your puerile and impaired understanding of sexual relations:

Reason A: You are a virgin. You don't know anything about sex.
Reason B: You either aren't very reflective or you aren't good at coming to reasonable conclusions upon reflection.
Reason C: You are stoopid.

First, we should make sure to develop a careful understanding of the meaning of the word, degraded.

degrading: de⋅grade [di-greyd or, for 3, dee-greyd] Show IPA verb, -grad⋅ed, -grad⋅ing.
–verb (used with object)
1. to lower in dignity or estimation; bring into contempt: He felt they were degrading him by making him report to the supervisor.
2. to lower in character or quality; debase.
3. to reduce (someone) to a lower rank, degree, etc.; deprive of office, rank, status, or title, esp. as a punishment: degraded from director to assistant director.
4. to reduce in amount, strength, intensity, etc.
5. Physical Geography. to wear down by erosion, as hills. Compare aggrade.
6. Chemistry. to break down (a compound, esp. an organic hydrocarbon).

–verb (used without object) 7. to become degraded; weaken or worsen; deteriorate.
8. Chemistry. (esp. of an organic hydrocarbon compound) to break down or decompose.

To empirically verify the degrading nature of heteronormative sex, I propose an experiment which is at least as empirically valid as other online studies performed in the Roissysphere.

If you are a hetero male, I want you to follow these instructions closely.

1) Get on your knees with your legs slightly spread.
2) Position yourself so that your head is closer to the ground than your ass. Arch your back.
3) Remain in this position for a few minutes.

Ok, you complied? Let's review the nature of this experience.

Question (1) Pick the word that most closely describes how you felt in that position.

a) powerful
b) callipygean (s'how I always feel anyways)
c) ulotrichous
d) degraded

That was step one. For step two of the experiment, you probably have to use your imagination. Return yourself to the position required for question 1 (remember to keep your head to the ground and your butt raised high), and now close your eyes and envision the following scenario. An entity of a categorically different physical form with twice your muscle weight is going to repeatedly jam a six inch foreign object into to a cavity in the middle of your body. Imagine this vividly for several minutes.

Ok, back up? Now again let's review how this made you feel for question 2.

a) noble
b) ninja-like
c) jumentous
d) degraded

Imagine that the above scenario is regularly expected of you. Note that the larger entity involved in the thought experiment in question 2 is practiced at lying, bribery, coercion and emotional manipulation and enjoys using such methods to convince you to engage in the scenario described in question 2. You are also well informed of the historical fact that the identical predecessors of said larger entity often resorted to brute force and totalitarian oppression in order to coerce your physical category into continuously tolerating the scenario described in question 2. Additionally, these larger entities colluded together to maintain such oppression for thousands of years. This information makes you feel:

a) gymnophoria
b) skoptic (hint: this is the right answer)
c) moo cow
d) degraded

Post answers in the comments section. Notice that a number of words used in the very definition of the word degraded also directly apply to the description of the position described in question 1 (lower, reduced in rank etc).

5 comments:

Clarissa said...

"Dworkin describes her assessment of heterosexual intercourse as it is generally performed and perceived.

Intercourse is a particular reality for women as an inferior class; and it has, in it, as part of it, violation of boundaries, taking over, occupation, destruction of privacy, all of which are construed to be normal and also fundamental to continuing human existence. "

-This is why I always tell my students to avoid using passive constructions: they make for very weak writing. Performed and perceived by whom exactly? Why should anybody - you, Dworkin, anybody else - tell me how some vague, unnamed entities perceive my way of practicing my sexuality? How is it a positive thing to judge millions of people who exultantly, happily, and non-degradingly practice their sexuality in these limiting terms?

I find it deeply offensive that a person's sexual orientation - which, remember, we do not choose but are born with - should be burdened with this kind of discourse being attached to it.

Het. sex is not demeaning or degrading. But such definitions of it absolutely are.

Julian Real said...

Hi Clarissa,

Thanks for writing.

It is sincerely not a desire for me to tell you how to live your life, what to do, what to value, what to think, or how to feel.

And that doesn't mean I am incapable of harming you in some ways. So I'm wanting to check some stuff out here, and clarify a few points.

I am writing in challenge to institutionalised misogyny and degradation, racism, genocidale and gynocidal atrocities--practices, actions, ways of being, many of which are entirely normalised and considered good, because "het sex is good".

I think het sex is many things, just as gay sex is many things. But one thing I don't believe about either is that they are natural, or unafflicted and unimpacted by WHM supremacist values and forces.

Dworkin, as a political philosopher and activist, to me, is entitled to express her perspective and opinion--one that ran counter to everything the status quo media, and pornographers, had to say about "intercourse" as a natural, normal, necessarily enjoyable-for-all sexual practice allegedly beyond the scope of political scrutiny.

Kate Millett blew that myth out of the water--that sex, any sex, between two people, is somehow "one thing only". Shere Hite's reports demonstrated clearly that many women do not enjoy, want, or welcome a penis in their body as a way to experience sexual pleasure. Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks and many other theorists have shown how normal society harms women. Yanar Mohammed and Ruchira Gupta spend many hours of each day offering assistance to women trying to stay alive, from practices that are very normal and socially acceptable.

All their work goes against status quo media and pornographers' and pimps' imperatives that sex be phallocentric, if not also phallocratic. Domination of women by men, in and out of bed, was and remains "standard practice": not seen as evil, mad, crazy, bizarre, ridiculous, extreme, radical, unnatural, or unnecessary by many people.

Men dominating women in bed, including through penetration fused to needs for control and the subordination of women regard, is not designated as illegal, immoral, or unethical by many normal men who speak out about what they enjoy in sex with women.

You ask:
Why should anybody - you, Dworkin, anybody else - tell me how some vague, unnamed entities perceive my way of practicing my sexuality? How is it a positive thing to judge millions of people who exultantly, happily, and non-degradingly practice their sexuality in these limiting terms?

I'm not speaking directly to you in my post. So please don't take it personally. My work is predominantly sociological, not psychological, cultural critique, not personal critique. I think that is very evident from my posts: I'm talking big picture, not individual snapshot.

Pimps with money are judging your sexuality negatively far more than I ever could, and far more than Dworkin ever did. She wrote one book on the subject. Pornographers have leveled forests and taken up incalculable cyperspace polluting society with increasingly normalised misogynistic ideas, images, values, and practices that reinforce women as dirt; that tell consumers that sex is dirty; and that portray "women" as things that somehow also have wants--but... those wants are (allegedly) to be used and abused and traumatically penetrated by many, many penises. Dworkin analysed the society in which she and other women lived. She wrote about what she knew and what she heard from other women.

Julian Real said...

I believe pornographers and pimps' websites, and virulently misogynist men's blogs, and mass meida, do more to try and tell you you are wrong or bad or evil or sick.

Are you critical of them for how they attempt to regulate your sexuality? For they are profoundly anti-woman, racist, heterosexist, and classist, unlike the writing you'll find in Dworkin's books.

I find it deeply offensive that a person's sexual orientation - which, remember, we do not choose but are born with

I don't agree with that. I think all sexual orientation is very social.

Some dimensions of my attraction to men may be, as this term is misused, "natural", but how that sexual attraction manifests: what kind of men I am and am not attracted to, what kind of sex I like and don't like, by your own assessment, is very personal, specific, and unique.

I don't think every human has their own genetic coding or hormonal imperatives for liking to wear high heels (whether a man or a woman or a trans person) or being attracted to women with unnaturally overt-stuffed breasts. Much of what het men tell me they are attracted to is not "natural", in this sense.

- should be burdened with this kind of discourse being attached to it.

Do you really find Dworkin's one book, or a few blogposts by me, to be more burdensome than patriarchal mandates and social codes that are enforced institutionally, that are compulsary and compulsive, that are not avoidable or escapable--that Dworkin and I oppose being so invasive and prevalent?

My blog seeks to expose and challenge the stuff we can't regulate, because you, Clarissa, and me, and all feminists, are not in charge of society: white heterosexual men are, and it is their interests that are best served by rules and laws and customs they enforce in many ways, conscious and unconscious to us.

Julian Real said...

As Noam Chomsky noted, and Foucault described, white male supremacist power is infused into us, not "chosen" or "not chosen" but rather inflicting. We are invaded by it, in this view. Society's elites either use overt military and police force to achieve compliance, or uses the coercive, propagandistic force of mass media to get us to think we are doing what we want to do. See "The Manufacturing of Consent" (video, may be online), if you haven't already, for more on how this works--and it does work, on most of us if not on all of us.

As I hear it, you are objecting to one woman stating what is "true" for all women, when it comes to "sex". Then you go on to tell me, a gay man, with a mom who was raped, female relatives who had to have sex--not by choice, but by religious custom and coercion, female cousins who were sexually assaulted, and dozens of female friends who have been date raped, molested, and sexually degraded and violated by normal heterosexual sex, the following:

Het. sex is not demeaning or degrading. But such definitions of it absolutely are.

When I hear anyone say "het sex is not demeaning or degrading"? I think about what I know of their lives, and how hurt they have been.

Those among them who are living are, except for one woman, not college educated. They know what they know from living life, not from reading--they've never heard of Dworkin, for example--they know that they have been harmed by normal experiences, some of them sexual, with men.

To anyone who says "sex is bad", I say "which sex?", and to all who say "sex is good" I say "which sex"?

I hear you saying that, for you, the het sex you have is sex you enjoy and do not find to be degrading or demeaning. And I and genuinely glad that is the case. And I hope you never experience normal het sex that is anything other than what you most want from sexual contact.

That's my view. I own it as such. Are you saying that me stating my views, here, on my blog, harm or undermine you? If so, I'm listening.

And do you think this post you are responding to has done more to cause you any form of distress that what mass media or pornographers do, in your name and in mine, daily?

JENNIFER DREW said...

Why am I not surprised that heterosex defined as penis in vagina is always virulently defended whenever a woman or for that matter a man says 'no heterosex is not just penis in vagina. Is it because our male supremacist society has for eons cajoled, threatened and pathologised any woman who dares to state 'no I don't want your penis penetrating my body because I don't like it/enjoy it or want it.' Now of course it is not sufficient for penis to be forced into vagina but said penis must now be forced into a woman's anus because porn teaches men this is 'sexual pleasure for all women'

Sexual liberatationists claim 'everyone should do what they like' but when it concerns women saying 'no I don't want your penis thrust into my body that is viewed as heresy.'

Fact: penis in vagina is a reproductive act and no not all women want/like or desire this sexual act - see Shere Hite for factual research. However, some women do like and enjoy piv but that is not the same as all women.

Sheila Jeffreys' book Anticlimax provides excellent factual information on how our white male supremacist society has to consistently cajole, terrorise and threaten women into accepting heterosex as piv - anything else is 'foreplay' according to white male supremacists. Male sexologists created the term 'female frigidity' because these men could not see their definition of human sexuality was/is phallocentric and the penis must be satisfied at all costs. Why do you think piv has to be constantly promoted as the only 'real sex' if this sexual act is supposedly 'natural.' Could it be because many women do not want to engage in this act but are forced to by their male partners.

All the misogynistic terms used to reinforce the myth of the mighty penis serve to eroticise male sexual violence against women.

Here in the UK popular media commonly uses the term 'full sex' when referring to piv and I've always wondered what then is half or quarter sex? Does 'full sex' only occur when it is defined phalllocentrically and male sexual pleasure is achieved at the expense of women's sexual autonomy and rights?

It is not heterosex which is the problem it is how male supremacy defines it as male domination and male control over women. Women must always be sexually available to men 24/7 and if they are not they are pathologised as 'frigid, prudish or horrors - lesbians. Any woman who declares she is a lesbian has committed the greatest heresy - indifference to the mighty penis and therefore no interest whatsoever in putting men first, second and last.

Feminists want an end to male domination of women and given phallocentric definitions of what supposedly passes for human sexuality must be upheld and maintained at all costs it is not surprising so many heterosexual men become hysterical when phallocentric male sexuality is challenged.

Andrea Dworkin, Kate Millett and other radical feminists had to be demonised because it is esssential phallocentric sexuality must be upheld at all costs since it maintains male supremacy over all women.