This post is not going to name names or tackle particular books, academic articles or blog posts. I am tackling the entirety of radical feminism, which for the purposes of this post I am going to define as a political agenda or set of beliefs which is anti-porn, anti-sexwork, anti-PIV [penis-in-vagina] sex (or considers all sex to be rape), and identifies itself as “feminism”. Basically, the agenda that Andrea Dworkin started and that Kat Banyard inherited.
First, let’s look at what the goals of feminism are: gender equality, in all aspects of life from family life to career prospects to salary, media portrayals, political power, education, healthcare, quality of life, freedom to make choices, opportunities…the list goes on. The important thing is gender equality, and on that all feminists can agree. So let’s look at what the radfems are doing and how this achieves (or destroys) gender equality.
I’ve already covered this in more detail in my post on the No More Page 3 campaign: https://diaryofavirginwhore.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/how-no-more-page-3-harms-feminism/ so suffice it to say that the anti-porn stance:
Assumes women do not consume porn; is harmful to women whose careers involve creating porn – either by being porn actors or porn directors, producers, scriptwriters, marketers etc (there are a LOT of roles involved in the porn industry – who do you think designs porn websites, manages sales teams and negotiates advertising deals, for instance?). The anti-porn stance also assumes that pornography causes rape, something which has never been proved and, as I said in my Page 3 post, is debunked by this blog, in which I have posted pornographic fiction about an underage boy being raped twice yet simultaneously posted criticism of a lenient sentence given to a woman who had sex with an underage boy. Inconclusion, the anti-porn stance just digs out the tired old stereotype of the pure woman who would never consume porn, and ultimately brands women who work in the porn industry as traitors to women (at worst) or misguided and exploited (at best). All this achieves is the bolstering of the sexual double standard and the silencing of womens’ lived experiences – both of women working in the industry and of female porn consumers and female amateur pornographers (women who regularly write or draw porn and put it online, or who post their sex videos or nude photos online).
I feel like adding this little anecdote in here: A few weeks ago I came across a blog that supported No More Page 3. It was badly argued, drawing a cause-and-effect between pornography and rape. I made some sort of short, on-the-fence sort of comment, to which the author replied; it was not exactly an interesting debate, owing to my reticence about arguing with people on the internet. However, despite not remembering any of what was said, I do remember this: the blogger edited my comments, changing “porn” to “p()rn” to “avoid my blog coming up in any creepy dude searches”. Obviously, she thought porn itself was ‘creepy’ not natural or titillating or entertaining. Secondly, she couldn’t concieve of the idea that half of those creepy dude searches could be creepy chick searches; that women consume pornography. I had asked her whether she thought my BDSM rape fiction about males was as bad as male-created porn about females. No wonder she didn’t respond to this question – the idea of a woman creating porn had never entered her worldview. This worldview smacks very much of the double standard and concepts of chaste women versus predatory men. It is a dichotomy that insults womens’ autonomy and sexuality and also mens’ autonomy and morality. But it harms women more, because of course such a view inevitably means that female porn consumers and creators are deviants and forces chastity on women. And it’s only a small step from this dichotomy to the “all men are rapists, all sex is rape” line of thinking.
The anti-porn stance does not promote gender equality; it promotes the old Victorian stereotypes. Therefore it is antifeminist.
Criminalising sexwork takes away womens’ freedom to choose their occupation and it takes away their careers. The anti-sexwork NGOs’ lies about the exploitation of all or most sexworkers silences sexworkers’ real, lived experiences. I have been on the recieving end of this – albeit only for about two hours – and no, it is not fun to be told you’re a helpless victim in denial, that your entire blog is nothing but the heartbreaking documentary of your imminent descent into drugs and trauma, that you didn’t really choose to sell sex/virginity and you need help urgently. I put a lot of hours into this blog and a lot of thought into choosing Roland (my client) – including going to a modelling shoot and being paid for spanking just to scope him out as a potential buyer. And sending that message (an ‘invitation to treat’, they call it in Contract Law). So to be told that this is all fake – I’m a tragic victim with no agency, he’s a cardboard-cutout predator with no backstory who simply dropped conveniently into my life to prey on me – well, as I said, it’s not fun. Even for two hours. I mean, I wanted a man who I vaguely know, who has a degree, lives in the Lothians area, likes spanking, doesn’t mind knives/enemas/bondage etc, is a switch, isn’t a rapist, and is rich enough to pay me what I want. And I freaking got it. (Oh, and he likes art and is polyamorous, which are my preferences.) How do I not have agency??
Anyway, the anti-sexwork stance puts sex workers in danger of rape, jail, having their children taken away and having their identities revealed. Criminal records also make it harder for them to exit the sex industry if they want to. Under criminalization, the sex industry goes from cottage industry to criminal underworld where sexworkers are controlled by pimps instead of working independently or with escort agencies. (More details and references in my post on decriminalization here: https://diaryofavirginwhore.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/why-decriminalization-is-best-for-sex-workers-and-society/ ). Criminalization also leads to increased sex trafficking; there has been increased trafficking in Sweden since clients were criminalized. Criminalizing sexwork might mean criminalizing the creation of pornographic films also.
Putting women at risk like this and enabling clients to rape them without fear of it being reported is not helping women. This isn’t feminism – it is anti-feminism. The Ruhama Agency ran the Magdalene laundries and uses false statistics to push for criminalization; so does Rhoda Grant MSP who is also attempting to criminalize sexwork with her consultation paper. The anti-sexwork NGOs frequently confuse sex trafficking with sexwork (which annoys the real anti-human trafficking groups). Other less disturbing consequences of the anti-sexwork stance is, again, the silencing of womens’ lived experiences and stigmatising them as exploited victims (if they’re “sex slaves”) and gender traitors (if they’re “happy hookers”). Yet again, patriarchal norms of the “good”, “pure” woman and whorephobia are the only gems that emerge triumphant from this mess of an ideology. On that note, it has been proven that most anti-sexwork NGOs receive huge amounts of funding from a single Christian organization (The Sex Myth by Dr Magnanti…I can’t pimp this book enough. I reckon I should put an ad banner on this blog; I might as well get paid for advertising it in just about every non-Diary post. Seriously, though, read it). So being anti-sexwork harms women, leaves them vulnerable to rape and violence (two big issues for any feminist) limits their choices, is conducive to whorephobia and therefore also slutshaming (something feminists want to eradicate) and is therefore antifeminist.
Anti-PIV/All sex is rape
Aside from being an absolutely insane idea, this is contrary to the nature of our species. Let me explain: homosexuality/bisexuality/BDSM/being genderqueer is natural because it’s so common and is found in other species (many species exhibit homosexual or bisexual behaviour, change their gender at will, and exhibit ‘masochistic’ sexual behaviours). However, rape isn’t natural because if our species was meant to reproduce by rape then women would not need to have any sexual desire, arousal or ability to love or form committed relationships with men. And not doing PIV while being heterosexual is very rare, so it is unnatural.
More relevantly, the idea that PIV sex is degrading or that all sex is rape depends on the assumption that the man (or the party who penetrates) is dominant and active, while the other is submissive and passive. This only bolsters the idea that sex is something that men do to women – the hallowed ‘subject verb object’ of ‘man fucks woman’.
My pet peeve with the active/passive duality is that it is the reason behind rape-as-a-weapon (the most famous instance of this was Muammar Gaddafi’s use of rape against the rebels (and anyone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time). Although rape was used against men as well as women, its “justification” as a weapon comes from the belief that sex/rape is not equal; the active person is forcing submission or humiliation on the passive person. If this duality was not believed, rape could not be used as a weapon because both sides would be equally dominating and equally submitting. Similarly, this duality enables rapists to believe that they caused humiliation to their victim by committing the rape. Sometimes rapists will show photos or videos of their crimes to boast about the “humiliation” they think they caused.
A less disturbing aspect of the duality is that it reduces the woman to an object, to be pursued and enjoyed like a product. This is not the reality of human sexuality, where both genders equally desire the other.
And of course, if being passive/recieving is humiliating or, well, passive, then it means women who have sex with people who don’t love/value/cherish/insert-meaningless-word-here them are being used, are being objectified. While f penetrating symbolises dominance and power, men are dominating women every time they have sex, which means it is a good thing for them to have sex with lots of women. You can see where this heads in terms of the double standard, slutshaming and whorephobia.
Refusing to have PIV sex only legitimizes and encourages the duality. We should be trying to dissassociate dominance from penetration and passivity from receiving.
In conclusion, this just undermines feminist goals of equality.
Excluding some women from the feminist movement isn’t very feminist, is it? Not a lot to say on this, because it’s so, well, simple.
In conclusion, the radical feminist movement is itself antifeminist.