Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Human Sexuality: Puritanical Feminism and the Religious Right

Be forewarned, the following post contains adult content, a very frank discussion about sexuality and probably TMI about yours truly. Though remarkably, I managed to keep the naughty language to a minimum.

I also wish to clarify that while I firmly embrace sex positivity, I also embrace personal choices. Just as I abhor sexual repression, I also abhor the pressure that is applied to people who have made a choice to abstain. Human sexuality is a beautiful, wonderful expression. But it is all too often made ugly and painful by the choices people allow others to make for them. People should never feel that there is something wrong with them because they happen to want to wait or forgo the sexual experience altogether. Just as I believe there is nothing wrong with casual sex, there is nothing at all wrong with no sex.

I like Teh Sex. Back when I was a little younger, a whole lot prettier and had a band, I proved it by having a whole lot of it. Casual sex managed the balance between using a whole lot of drugs and playing music all the time. Not one for romantic entanglements, I rarely delved into the world of significant others. Like who I'd play music with, I had standards when it came to sexual partners, but they were really more of a loose set of guidelines, than a firm set of rules. Basically I wanted to sex people who were fairly literate and interesting conversationalists. I preferred women who met certain aesthetic standards as well, though mine have always been rather wide ranging aesthetic standards. And I preferred to have sex with women, as I just don't find men sexually stimulating. But ultimately, none of those standards were fast and solid. If a women was particularly intellectually stimulating, I could look past potential failures to meet my aesthetic standards. Likewise, if a women managed to hit my aesthetic idealism, I might look past her inability to meet my intellectual standards. And if a boy met a certain aesthetic ideal, coupled with an emotional/intellectual attraction, I could enjoy time spent providing them sexual pleasure - not to say that I wouldn't get some enjoyment as well, but as I said, it's really never been my thing.

I wish that I could say that I never played women, never lied to them for sex. But unfortunately I have. My only defense is that I never lied to a women about my feelings, when I wasn't also lying to myself. For the most part, I sought women who wanted the very same thing I was after - casual sex. And on a couple of occasions, I even got burned by women who were playing me. One of them, I believe was deluding herself as much as she was deluding me. The other was just straight up lying to me. But I figure it's all ok, because in neither case was I doing anything but lying to myself about my own feelings. The fact is that hurting others and being hurt is part of growing up. Trying to minimize the damage is about all anyone can ever do.

For a few months, when I was eighteen, I worked as a stripper. The club I worked was mainly a female audience two nights a week and a mainly male audience three nights. I absolutely hated the ladies nights. They were really obnoxious and didn't tip nearly as well as the horny, greasy old men. The men had their drawbacks, one being that many of them expected something more after the show, but they tipped well (often with large bills that had phone numbers written on) and the worse any of them might do is play with themselves while they watched. I can honestly say that getting a bunch of cash from people watching me dance rather poorly, but in the buff, fed my narcissism in a big way. I would even go as far as to say it was somewhat empowering. But mostly, it was just a fairly easy way to make good money, something I just didn't manage very well at that time of my life.

I also managed a fairly short stint as a gigolo. I mainly did it for the experience of it, to have the opportunity to live in pretty extreme luxury and hob-knob with people of pornographic levels of wealth. Being young, sexy, highly literate and very well spoken, I was well received when I worked as an escort for a very wealthy, very attractive women more than twice my age. I fulfilled her need to satiate social expectations, fulfilled other, more personal needs and was absolutely discreet about fulfilling my own more personal needs. In turn she took very good care of me, providing an apartment that was luxury I understood existed, but never knew existed.

According to the religious right, I am an abomination on a great many levels. Even though I am pretty tame, here in my early thirties, abstaining from sex and drugs, I make no apologies for who I have been. Not only making no apologies, but embracing who I was, taking ownership of it. Though I am abstinent, I still identify myself as a philanderer, a whore. The years that separate me from that lifestyle, do not change the basic fact: There is nothing inherently wrong with casual sex, selling one's sex or otherwise profiting from one's sexuality. So to the religious right, I'm downright evile.

But that's not where the persecution of people who, like me, embrace their sexuality ends. Oh no. Because there is a fairly sizable contingent of feminists who embrace the same puritanical repression of the religious right. Only instead of believing that open sexuality is a sin against their gods, puritanical feminists believe that pornography and profiting from one's sexuality inherently supports the patriarchy. Porn and sex work, by their very nature are inherently oppressive to women - both those directly involved and by extension, all women.

I grew up in the church. Mostly in pretty right wing churches. I was preached to about sexuality for many years. I heard it from Promise Keepers and many other evangelical organizations. The truly frightening thing in all this, is that the message that puritanical feminism pushes, is almost identical to that of the religious right. People who firmly believe themselves to be progressive, to be sticking it to the patriarchy are instead embracing the fundamental idealism of the patriarchy.Hardline repression is hardline repression, no matter who's pushing it. And there is little that more firmly represents the very worse abuses of the patriarchy, than the sexual repression and oppression.

Like I put it on a very old thread at Renegade Evolution;
Puritanical bullshit that sounds little different than something the American Family Ass, or Concerned Women for America would come out with seems more like sucking patriarchal cock, than getting paid to blow a rich white guy is.


Comrade PhysioProf said...

Dude, your writing is fucking outstanding! Preach on!

DuWayne Brayton said...

The irony of your request that I preach on, is that there was a time when I was well on my way to becoming a Christian minister.

Eppendork said...

Eppendork approves Duwayne Brayton - I am guilty of liking sex and playing with it since I was far too young really to be thinking of it (and consequently not too cognizant of my actions - scares me now to think about some of the dumbarse things I did). I have no issues - your body, your choice - so long as it isn't impinging on or endangering anyone else. Free will is a god given right. Kudos DB.

JLK said...

Ha! I was a stripper also, but only for one night. I hated the idea that I was taking advantage of some men's stupidity by pretending to want them in order to get them to open their wallets. Stupid guilt.

I agree with you about freedom of sexuality and that hardcore feminists are in many ways supporting the very idea that they hate.

BUT, I disagree with you about pornography. I come at this from a social psychology centered on gender issues viewpoint, so bear with me.

The problem with porn is NOT what it is, or whether or not people have the right to view it, produce it, or participate in it.

The problem with porn is the actual effects it has on (mostly) men's views of women. Porn that degrades women has been shown through research to affect perceptions of equality, increase objectification, and in cases of violent or rape-depicting pornography, increase levels of aggression toward women. (If you want the article citations, let me know and I'll dig them up for you.)

One line of research that is being pursued is the classical conditioning that may be occuring when men watch and masturbate to pornography. The basic logic is that if men learn (especially from an early age) to associate the pleasure of orgasm with the degradation of women, that will eventually become the primary sexual stimulus that turns them on or gets them off.

And if that's what's happening, that's not good.

Think about the age-old excuse that married men have used for going to hookers: "I could never do the things I did with the hooker with my wife." Yes, to some extent there's a socialized resistance for women to perform certain sexual acts because they're deemed degrading even though the intention isn't that. But that socialized resistance COMES from the porn industry.

I could go on and on about this, but I'm going to leave it at that for now. I might post over on my own blog about this topic eventually.

Candid Engineer said...

Just found your blog through Juniper. Great writing, really, and very interesting post.

Sexuality is a beast that I don't think I will ever understand. Although I can't even come close to the experiences that you have had, I am often inclined to feel that my definitions of allowable sexuality are frowned upon. I am a married woman, but it's like the world expects me to zip myself up and stop having fun...

Anyhow, if people want to judge you, then fuck them. You have kept your experiences in perspective, and they give you an interesting take on life.

PhizzleDizzle said...

Also just came here for the first time due to various linkages on various blogs and various comments.

Dude. You're intense and the writing is good :). I look forward to reading more.

JLK - you were a stripper?? Damn! You'll have to tell me how that happened, I'm fascinated :).

Ambivalent Academic said...

Great post!!! More to say but already having some of this conversation at JLK's.

sandy shoes said...

Fortunately, there are sex-positive feminists.

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with you a bit about pornography. I'll revisit the issue when there is as much porn made to get women off as there is aimed at men.

DuWayne Brayton said...

I am really going to have to write a post about the porn and will do so as soon as I have time. This is really an issue that deserves it's own post.

Sandy Shoes -

To quickly address your mention of so little porn geared for women.

First, it's a simple matter of market. By a large margin, men are the biggest consumers of porn. In part this is because it's mostly made for men, but in part, it's because even porn that is made for women (and it does exist) doesn't send women out in droves to buy it. I think that this is really a gender issue, one that I will discuss asap, in another post about gender issues.

Second, I would daresay there are a lot more women than you would suspect who get off on what's available now. A great many of the women I have been involved with, loved to watch porn with me. Both when we were having a sexual encounter or just when I was wanting to play with myself.

(Honestly, hated it most of the time. I hate the distraction during sex and when I want to masturbate, I want to masturbate. Only a couple of my lovers ever got that and used it as a time to play with themselves - that's actually really fun. But there is a different texture to self-pleasuring, than there is with sex. And sometimes that satisfaction is what one wants - so it sucks when attempting to do that becomes a sexual encounter.)

But back on topic. If you aren't uncomfortable doing so, let me know (in comments or email) what you would like to see in porn. I am absolutely certain that I could find something you would like.

You just have to keep in mind that porn (like any product) is focused on the largest market. There is something for everyone out there, but the smaller the market, the less you'll find that is made for that market.

I think you also might be surprised to hear that most women who buy porn, go for particular fetishes. They also don't seem to go for same sex porn, male or female. And a lot of hetero porn is a turn-off, because the women are put into obviously uncomfortable positions. Let me assure you, though it may not appear so, those positions are extremely uncomfortable for men as well. It's just not possible to show the pertinent bits without everyone involved being in awkward, discomforting positions.