The Sexist

Sexist Beatdown: Sex Positive Negativity Edition!


To truly call myself "feminist," must I partake of the dildo?

Earlier this week, I explained, ever-so-respectfully, why I thought sex-positive feminism was boring and dumb. In this edition of Sexist Beatdown, a chatty-thing, Tiger Beatdown's Sady kindly explains how she came to personally identify as a "sex positive feminist" by being the only employee in a sex shop who didn't know her anal nerve endings from the ones in her "cooter," and I realize that a preponderance of rope restraints may be the only thing keeping me from the dark "sex-positive" side. Enjoy!

AMANDA: ok. so. sex sex sex sex feminism sex

SADY: Indeed! I have, at times – many, many, MANY times – identified as a "sex-positive" feminist. Yet your article demonstrated for me some of the reasons why that can be annoying even to my very own ears!

AMANDA: yeah, and the issue is actually a lot more interesting than the form it was presented in my post ("rant")

SADY: Well, I feel like "sex-positive" is kind of a necessary construction, or was, at a certain point, when people were arguing with each other over whether porn, or heterosexual intercourse, was inherently oppressive to the ladies because of The Sexism. I even feel like right now we need to talk about ladies having sex drives and bodies that can enjoy sex and how that is not just necessarily some thing women inexplicably do to gratify man boners!

AMANDA: incidentally, i identify as a man boner gratifying feminist. i definitely agree with you, and i think the history of "sex positivity" and "feminist" is part of the reason it sort of nonsexually rubs me the wrong way. i just think at this point it's so obvious that feminists are not sex-negative. but i am a young female feminist-identifying person, so maybe it's not as obvious to, say, feminist-hating middle aged men.

SADY: RIGHT? They probably think you are out luring the man boners into wood chippers or something. OR marrying dudes so you can then divorce them, which I hear is quite popular. OR, you are a big old slutty slut slut boner slut. ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE TRUE, in the mind of the Middle-Aged-Feminist-Fearing-Dude.

AMANDA: yeah. and specifically with this conference, which i've never been to but i hear is really interesting and respected and everything, i want to be careful not to criticize a speaker selection because she was a porn star or used to do performance art shows where she put flashlights up her vagina or whatever. because that would be sex-negative and unfair, but at the same time, nothing about that stuff really interests me as a feminist and i wonder if we have to continue to insist on feminism being "cool" and not "prude" in our own feminist circles too in order to benefit the image that middle-aged wanker dudes have.

SADY: well, yeah, if there is one thing several decades of "I, Too, Have A Vagina, And Sex With It: A Performance Art Piece" has accomplished, it's to make women feel that having sex and sex drives is totally normal. has it convinced DUDES that women having sex and sex drives is totally normal? I am not sure! But it really seems that if you identify as a feminist these days it's assumed that you're also OK with sex. It's assumed if you're a young woman you do! It's not even really a "feminist" concept any more! So why do we need to keep emphasizing it, if not to try to make ourselves less threatening?

AMANDA: i mean, there is nothing wrong with feminist conferences going into these sort of related ideas that are maybe less serious and that a lot of the participants will probably be interested in. i just think that a lot of times it gets into this territory that's like, sex is great, all kinds of sex is great, this particular thing i do with my boobs and a swing or something is great, and at some point, i kind of just want to get back to Afghanistan or whatever

SADY: Yeah. I mean, I want to say a thing in defense of the SPF, and that is that it's interesting to talk about. When I was working in Ye Olde Sex-Positive Sex Toy Shoppe (not mentioned by name because I was possibly the worst employee they ever had, could not keep a till, whatever) I learned that it is FREAKING AMAZING what most people don't know about their bodies. How many nerve endings do you have up your butt? Is it roughly comparable to the number of ones you have in your cooter? I required employment at the store to tell me this!

AMANDA: yeah—i've found since writing the post, that talking about sex-positivity is actually super interesting! and i'm sex positive, i guess. i just usually associate talking with "sex positivity" as something different from both "sex issues" and "sexism," and it sometimes involves trying to sell a group of college girls dildos. but that is my own bias.

SADY: Selling them dildos OF FREEDOM, my friend! But yeah, "sex-positive" gets caught in this thing where we're talking about sex is great, the kind of sex YOU have is great, the kind of sex I have is great, sex sex yay – and as far as that goes, what with its being tied to LGBTQ stuff and not hating people because of how they get off, good. But can we also talk about the social stuff involved? And how to actually get actual social rights for folks? Like, yeah, some dude is eventually going to think I'm a slut because I've had sex, or a bitch because I haven't had sex with HIM. Granted. However, if I live in a world where sexual harassment and rape are not culturally or legally tolerated, he poses far less of a threat!

AMANDA: yeah, i mean the sex part of sex positivity i am not interested in. like, whatever you do when you have sex i could care less about. it's when those behaviors become stigmatized or litigated or whatever when i become interested. gah, i think i am a sex positive feminist. i dont know what i am anymore

SADY: ha ha, COME TO THE OTHER SIDE.

AMANDA: are there rope restraints over there

SADY: WE ARE DEMONSTRATING ROPE BONDAGE.

AMANDA: AHH

Photo by wakxy
  • Eleonora D’Arborea

    Sigh. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a newly-middle aged feminist is seeing the same questions hashed out over and over again. I don't know how long this has been going on for - probably decades - but it sometimes feels like we learn nothing of our history. Like we are constantly reinventing the wheel - and moreover, enjoy doing so. Maybe its because serious (as opposed to 'fun') gender issues are shut out of mainstream cultural and political dialogue. I don't know.

    For example, save yourselves some time and just let go of the "castrating feminist harridan" stereotype. Do some feminists have negative attitudes about sex? Sure. So do some non-feminists. So do a lot of fauxgressive men, for that matter.

    Meanwhile, there is a long history of feminists - Margaret Sanger! Marie Stopes! Aletta Jacobs! and more!- who fought for the right of women and men to be empowered, self-determining sexually active people. So can the stereotype be put to bed now? Can we just say "sex-positive feminism" in an anachronism, and an inappropriate one at that since it implies there is truth to a pernicious stereotype / popular straw-woman?

    In my opinion (oh yes, I have one) the interesting issue here is the intersection of the principle of support for all forms of sexual expression with the legal, health, and social issues that concern non-sexual behavior. In other words, do the rules change when a behavior is viewed as sexual rather than a different form of expression? More specifically - from a health perspective, is "cutting" bad when a young woman does it because she's depressed, but just peachy when she allows it to be done to her as part of an S&M knife fetish scenario? What if the woman in the latter case is also depressed? And what if the same woman does it in the context of making porn - is it okay (not unhealthy) because she gets paid? Or is it only healthy if you get off?

    And so on. Lots of emerging issues here, plenty of questions that are relatively new. I'd love to see you discuss them.

...