Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Like most feminists, I'm not anti-sex, I'm just anti-exploitation, control and humiliation.

I recently got lambasted by a couple of people on Twitter, for daring to express my view that prostitution is essentially about men exploiting women, often very vulnerable women, and in the most desperate cases of all, vulnerable women who have the added complication of children they're trying to bring up.

Of course, not everyone posting online is the person they claim to be, and Twitter offers an arena where it is incredibly easy to conceal your true identity.  "Hard left socialist" could be a conservative party member, looking to tarnish people's perception of trade unions, "animal rights activist" could be a member of the security services, looking to infiltrate local animal liberation groups, and "campaigner for women's rights" could be a pimp or regular user of prostitutes.

So while I, absolutely, acknowledge people's right to differ with my views, the ones who get disproportionately angry at me, personally, I tend to shrug off as being driven by other agendas which probably have little to do with a blog entry I may have written.  The more they rant on, the more I shrug, often the only way to stop them ranting is to block them. 

The price any of us pay, as bloggers who touch on these important and powerful subjects, is that we become open to personal abuse ourselves.  You consider it, you weigh it up, you decide to post the story or you save it to publish another time.

As a feminist, of course I respect a woman's right to be in control of her own body and to do with that body whatever she so wishes.  She ultimately has the right to starve herself, in pursuit of the apparent joy of being size zero, she has the right to cut her own skin, if the release of endorphins is what helps her cope with stress, she has the right to let some guy to knock seven bells out of her, in her belief that he loves her really, and she has the right to allow men to use her body to satisfy their sexual urges and their need to dominate women.  Of course any woman has that right.  I imagine most people reading this, will agree with this basic principal. 

It becomes complicated when she has children, of course, because those children have rights too.  Her children have the right to be brought up in an environment which isn't physically or psychologically damaging to them, and she would need to protect her children from any potential danger or harm.  I would imagine virtually all of us, who are parents, both men and women, would agree with that premise too.

Being a good parent is a balancing act for all of us.  How to fulfil ourselves as individuals, so that we have some meaningful life, beyond simply parenting, and how to do this in such a way that our own needs don't compromise the needs of the children we love so desperately.  I'm sure we're all on the same page here...

I've also written articles about the sex industry more generally over the years and pornography in particular, again, often attracting strong accusations that I'm a sexist, puritanical do-gooder who is totally out of touch with reality and what men want. 

To judge men as all wanting the same thing, be that paying for sex or watching other people who've been paid to have sex, does men as a gender, a huge injustice I think. I know lots of men who despise pornography and would be horrified at the thought of paying for the services of a sex worker. 

Most men like sex, but not every man who enjoys sex, likes pornography; in many ways these are two completely different issues, which get confused by the media and general public alike.

Internet porn has become a growth industry (if you'll pardon the pun) in the last decade or so, with studies showing that many more women are accessing porn sites now, and worryingly, that more children are watching adult content on their computers at home.  The reason for such concern is that the porn that's available to watch and download, is becoming increasingly graphic and in many cases extremely violent and this seems to be impacting on a lot of men's perception of women generally and an expectation that what women like in sexual relationships is to be humiliated and degraded.  In a study a few years ago, of men between the ages of 19 and 39, more than half said it was OK, in some circumstances to force a woman to have sex with them - which was a shocking statistic at the time, and the worry is, the percentage of men sharing that view is more likely to go up, than down.

In researching content to help me write this blog, I was stunned by sites expressing angry views that feminists hate sex because they lose the control they normally have over men, two completely unsubstantiated statements which say more about these men's fear and hatred of women, than their liking for sex.

For the record, most feminists enjoy sex as much as anyone else, in fact they probably have a better time in bed than many other women because their lovers are more likely to be intelligent, sensitive, self-aware human beings who can focus on what both are getting out of this experience...  Admittedly, this sort of concept is probably beyond the mental capability of your average misogynist in the sack!

Sex with a willing partner is a completely different experience to sex with someone doing it for payment, or under duress in some other way, the unconscious drivers are completely different and the outcomes are unlikely to be the same.

I've written before about the way violent sexual assault is being portrayed, more and more as acceptable now, which you can read here:  We need to look at the way we seem to be saying... rough sex is sometimes OK, when it's a turn on...

On a slightly different note, I also wrote a while back, about erotica and pornography, I'm a realist... most of us don't have love lives like that... in which I differentiate between erotica and porn, because they're not the same, (as defined by The Oxford Dictionary).

I'm not anti-sex, I'm just anti-exploitation, control, humiliation.  Indeed, one of my very favourite movies of all time is "37°2 le matin" aka "Betty Blue" and the opening scene with Beatrice Dalle and Jean-Hugues Anglade is an incredibly erotic, stunningly directed piece of cinema.
Jean-Jacques Beineix's 1986 movie 37°2 le matin, opened with a beautifully directed erotic scene

Since when was that not sexy!

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