Thursday, March 08, 2007

Blog Against Sexism Day

According to Amanda Marcotte on Pandagon, today is Blog Against Sexism Day. (It is also International Women's Day.) This is something I feel pretty strongly about, so I'll try to put together a semi-coherent post. Marcotte's is better and I highly recommend it.

One question she asks is
When did you become a feminist? Either when you embraced the word or when you realized that sexism is still a problem and that feminism is still necessary?

This is a tricky one for me. As a very young child, I already had some feminist instincts, which I can only assume came from my mom. I remember my grandmother telling me, "Act like a little lady," and how much it rankled me. Being anti-feminine, as I have been as long as I can remember, is not identical to being feminist, but the two are related insofar as one agrees that femininity is a social construct to keep women down, or, alternately, a coping mechanism that allows women to survive under patriarchy.

At the same time, there were always giant gaps in my feminist understanding. I remember one time at church (First Unitarian in Houston), I visited the women's group because Houston's mayor (Kathy Whitmire) was giving a speech there. After the speech, a woman from the group cornered me (as I perceived it) and demanded to know whether I was a feminist. I think I probably stammered that I was a humanist. My view of this incident is different now, but I remember complaining to Mosch about it later. I had a resistance - one I think is typical to people my age - to describing myself as a feminist. Didn't it imply valuing women above men? Wouldn't it be wrong to consider oneself a masculinist? etc.

A more important area in which I was wrong was that my sexuality had too strong an emphasis on pleasing men. I believed that being "good in bed" (by which I meant "able to please a man") was important - far more important than getting pleasure myself. (I would have described this differently at the time, probably explaining that giving pleasure to another was how I got off.) Because of this and because I am slightly tricky to bring to orgasm, it took many years for me to learn as much as I now know about my own body.

In general, I had the view that men will not stick around, or will suffer unduly, if they don't have orgasms whenever they want them. I had an early boyfriend who definitely encouraged this view. There were many other ways in which I failed to be adequately selfish in that early relationship, especially sexually.

I remember learning that a friend of mine would, if she got tired of having intercourse (during the act, I mean), actually just stop (say "I'm done" or whatever). That kind of blew my mind at the time - wasn't it your obligation as a decent human being to continue until the guy came? Wasn't the decision to fuck basically a contract?

Well, no. I don't mean to portray myself as a totally selfish jerk - I am actually a pretty generous lover, all things considered - but I have gotten over my early ideas that (a) a man will die or be harmed by not having an orgasm, and, more importantly, that (b) a woman's duty is to be a receptacle for male pleasure. (Of course, I would never have said otherwise, but I think that was the basic idea underlying my attitudes.)

There is lots of stuff at the Pandagon post I linked earlier that is more germane to global feminist aims, so I won't address that here, but just leave this as a report of (some of) my personal experiences. Of course sexuality is not the only area in which I think feminism is important, even on a personal level - but it's one thing.


momm said...


Tam said...

Aw, geez. You should see the stuff I don't post!

Jason Galbraith said...

When I was dating April a year and a half ago, "I'm done" or "I got off" meant "I had an orgasm -- now you can move and get one." This was not of course an attempt at tantric sex, for which we are probably both insufficiently sophisticated.

And I'll bet you-know-who didn't like wearing them because he wanted you to be pregnant more than anything. I know my own tolerance for condoms has decreased as my desire to become a parent has increased.