Tuesday, July 14, 2009

intellectual masturbation

from wikipedia re: andrea dworkin

Main article: Intercourse (book)

In 1987 Dworkin published Intercourse, in which she extended her analysis from pornography to sexual intercourse itself, and argued that the sort of sexual subordination depicted in pornography was central to men's and women's experiences of heterosexual intercourse in a male supremacist society. In the book, she argues that all heterosexual sex in our patriarchal society is coercive and degrading to women, and sexual penetration may by its very nature doom women to inferiority and submission, and "may be immune to reform."[36]

Citing from both pornography and literature—including The Kreutzer Sonata, Madame Bovary, and Dracula—Dworkin argued that depictions of intercourse in mainstream art and culture consistently emphasized heterosexual intercourse as the only kind of "real" sex, portrayed intercourse in violent or invasive terms, portrayed the violence or invasiveness as central to its eroticism, and often united it with male contempt for, revulsion towards, or even murder of, the "carnal" woman. She argued that this kind of depiction enforced a male-centric and coercive view of sexuality, and that, when the cultural attitudes combine with the material conditions of women's lives in a sexist society, the experience of heterosexual intercourse itself becomes a central part of men's subordination of women, experienced as a form of "occupation" that is nevertheless expected to be pleasurable for women and to define their very status as women.[37]

Such descriptions are often cited by Dworkin's critics, interpreting (sometimes even falsely quoting) the book as supposedly claiming 'all' heterosexual intercourse is rape, or more generally that the anatomical machinations of sexual intercourse make it intrinsically harmful to women's equality. However, critics such as Cathy Young point out that numerous statements in the book, such as "Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women,"[36] are difficult to misinterpret.

Dworkin rejected that interpretation of her argument,[38] stating in a later interview that "I think both intercourse and sexual pleasure can and will survive equality"[39] and suggesting that the misunderstanding came about because of the very sexual ideology she was criticizing: "Since the paradigm for sex has been one of conquest, possession, and violation, I think many men believe they need an unfair advantage, which at its extreme would be called rape. I do not think they need it."[39] (For discussion of the controversy, see: Intercourse)

when i was in college studying feminist theory, dworkin's theories really incited a rage within me that i could not -and still cannot- verbalize. heterosexual sex, by her definition, is tinged with female degradation and promotes male superiority, and could be considered rape.

as someone who is, by nature, an extremely aggressively sexual female, yet into sexual submission, i am conflicted by her postulation because rape is, in my opinion, an act of power and violence. through dworkin's lens, i would be a victim every time i engaged in sex because it perpetuates male contempt. but how could this be if i am the one authorizing the act? by removing the efficacy of power at its root, by giving consent, am i not neutralizing that point of power, or in fact, granting it to myself? this is what has been cheekily referred to as "topping from the bottom" to borrow jargon from BDSM vernacular.

i'm sure she would argue that i am so steeped in cultural teachings, both subliminal and conscious, that i have learned over the years to grant a type of sexual pleasure to my preferences because it is both socially acceptable if not a given, and yet, simultaneously taboo or "kinky." doubling the severity of her argument would be that i'm an asian female, already weighted with the stereotype of being meek and submissive. yet my personality, loud, brash, confident and even abrasive at times, defies that image. it is only in my private realm where i enjoy giving up control, an act that grants me the power of control in itself. what does this mean? have i really internalized a societal understanding and compliance that women are inferior to men and should be coddled or beaten? why are there two extremes? and why is there a stigma attached to wanting to have either done?

i am not into humiliation, and i do not engage in extreme submission in which i would happily sleep at the foot of my lover's bed or authorize him complete control over me physically. there are sexual acts i do not like and that is always understood and respected by my lovers. what is wrong with liking being pinned down or choked? does it suggest that i am in acceptance of being equated "less than" in a male-dominated society? why do i like the smell of skunk in the woods?