Saturday, 18 April 2009

I have moved to Wordpress

Please visit my new blog here.

Of course, people who have been harmed by pornography or in prostitution will still be able to send me (post) their stories anonymously on my Blogger blog at this post here.


Friday, 17 April 2009

Breaking the Chains of Patriarchy: A Short Story on Resistance to Masochism

This was written as a short story (hence the use of the past tense), based on real life events. -M.H.

Among my brethren are many who dream with wet pleasure of the eight hundred pains and humiliations, but I am the other kind: I am a slave who dreams of escape after escape, I dream only of escaping, ascent, of a thousand possible ways to make a hole in the wall, of melting the bars, escape escape, of burning the whole prison down if necessary.

-- Julian Beck, in The Life of the theatre; 1972.

To survive in a misogynist environment, a woman must learn how to protect innate female power from a society designed to destroy it. After she learns to recognize and avoid male violence in its many forms, a woman's capacity for self-love blossoms, and her female power begins to thrive: creativity, vitality, and confidence emerge, along with a refusal to subordinate herself to male power.

-- Kay Leigh Hagan, in Orchids in the Arctic. [emphasis mine]

She was born female and, like so many others, she was struggling to live within a misogynistic world that didn't really care about her well-being, a world where the patriarchists would love to get off on her pain, a world where many rape victims were not believed.

She didn't want to spend her nights waking up in cold sweat, with a terrible headache anymore. Dreams and sexual nightmares often reflected thoughts which were part of the conditioning she'd had as a woman, i.e. how she had been sexually trained to conform to patriarchy. Such a conformity, she didn't want anymore because she resented it. She realized that the claws of patriarchy would love to seize her female power and rip it to shreds. This is why she was having those strange dreams and shivers.

Having patriarchal dreams (but not fantasies, no longer) about something didn't necessarily mean that she wanted it to happen to her. She'd figured that sexual nightmares which at the same time appeared to be 'just dreams' actually meant the complete opposite of what she wanted. Women had been living the everyday reality of patriarchal sexual terrorism. Thus, she thought, "some of our dreams often mirror our deepest fear of, our deepest hatred for, our deepest disgust of the kind of sexuality that has been packaged to us as 'freedom'."

She'd become aware that patriarchy typically manipulated women's sexual feelings. There were no real words to express a clearly negative response to sexual feelings about patriarchal sexuality. "How do we try to explain that there are sexual feelings that we simply do not like?," she pondered. A male-dominated society loved to exercise control over language by, amongst other things, failing to provide words for her to express a negative reaction to some of the masochistic sexual feelings she had had as a woman and which had been patriarchally-constructed.

Female power, as she saw it, involved taking a stand against male violence against and exploitation of women in all forms they may take. When her self-esteem went up, she noticed that she had great abilities: being courageous, creative, alive, confident, etc. She loved being self-aware. She refused to surrender. She refused to choose subordination to male-supremacist power. That did not mean that she didn't still sometimes struggle with conflicting sexual feelings, engendered by patriarchal conditioning to masochism - but she would no longer surrender to male-dominated sexuality.

Sadomasochism was often defined by radical feminists as being the eroticization of power and powerlessness. Pornographic scenarios were rife with the sexualization of domination and subordination: women being dominated, demeaned, degraded, raped, slapped, gang-banged, throat-raped, gagged, etc and they were being portrayed as either enjoying it or wanting this kind of subordinating treatment. She decided to resist masochism. She knew precisely why.

The female life-force is characterized as a negative one: we are defined as inherently masochistic. [. . .] Sexual masochism actualizes female negativity, just as sexual sadism actualizes male positivity. A woman's erotic femininity is measured by the degree to which she needs to be hurt, needs to be possessed, needs to be abused, needs to submit, needs to be beaten, needs to be humiliated, needs to be degraded.

-- Andrea Dworkin, in The Root Cause (note: Dworkin did such an interesting uncovering of what goes on in the male pornographic mind).

The masculine role in sadomasochism was portrayed as what was positive, what was 'top'. In order to 'prove' his masculinity, the man who took on the masculine role needed to reify his so-called male positive energy, his domination, through his (ab)use of women. He could take an arrogant pride in his 'masculinity' even more so if he used a woman who apparently accepted the socially-constructed masochistic femininity which had been prescribed to her. Female masochism enabled men to reify the masculine gender role and norm called 'manhood'. She would no longer allow any male (or any person who took on a masculine role) to abuse her, torture her or bruise her so that he could take pleasure in the lie of male superiority.

Masochism, for her, was now clearly very important to analyse instead of just thinking about getting off and 'that's it'. After she'd been raped by her first boyfriend and then had been involved in a destructive male-female relationship, she'd gone through masochism. With many other men she had been with after this relationship, quite a few times, she'd gone through masochism. There were some times when the sex had felt like rape, and it was true. Quite a few times, she had been coerced into sex by men and she'd also had to force herself to have sex with them: through pressure, through domestic violence (at one point), because she'd wanted to be loved or for the simple sake of "trying to save a relationship."

And there were other times when the sex, she recalled, had been about masochism, about "just being fucked" and engaging in roleplay in which she had been the 'submissive' part. As a former submissive woman, she could tell that bondage and handcuffs, for instance, were very popular in BDSM culture - especially the act of tying a woman up to a bed.

Even back in the days when she'd just been thinking about getting off and 'that's it', she'd kept hearing a little voice at the back of her mind trying to tell her that, somehow, something was not feeling quite right.

First, there had been the fact that she'd wanted to be loved by men, so much. She'd had such a longing for male approval that she'd only faintly noticed that she'd been paying the price of their pornographic imagination: they'd been wanting to turn her into a sex object. There had also been this kind of survival mechanism she'd had in her, this way of coping. She used to think that if sexuality was about being subordinated to men and she couldn't be loved or appreciated by them if she was not willing to accept at least part of their view of what sex was supposed to be, then she might as well "just lie there and enjoy it." Because, after all, she used to believe that things weren't as bad as they seemed to be. Like so many other women, she'd used to completely mentally shut down from the reality of the pain she'd been going through. Masochism had been chosen partly due to the restricted options she'd had in a world filled with a sexuality based on gender roles and norms - and she'd had no words to express that before feminism.

Second, she'd been brought up in a patriarchal society that had eroticized and romanticized masochism. This had given her some sort of mixed feelings about sexual masochism. This had been, of course, difficult and hard to cope with.

She felt there had been some sort of a 'split' between good feelings and bad feelings she'd had about sadomasochism. However, she used to shut out what had made her feel uncomfortable about it from her conscious mind. She had refused to look at what was unpleasant about sadomasochism. The patriarchal indoctrination of a pornified culture had been trying to show her that, as a female, she was somehow "inherently masochistic." Stories of women being dominated by men had always been presented to her in a good, glamorous way by mass-media & culture. The mainstream films, novels, women's magazines and songs she used to collect had been rife with the portrayals of domination and subordination which patriarchy thrived on.

She'd gotten involved in sadomasochism predominantly because she'd simply had not been able to imagine anything beyond the male-dominated sexuality that had been packaged to her as appealing. This was therefore why, she understood, female sexual arousal to S&M was in fact culturally constructed. But she had suffered in masochism, no matter how many times she had been trying to deny it. Her past denial reminded her so much of how some battered women experienced Stockholm Syndrome and how they would defend their abusers over and over again. After all, she had apparently been getting off and she'd had *chosen* it. So, what could possibly have been wrong with that?

She'd heard that it was sometimes argued that it was the subordinated female who often approached the male who would dominate her in a sadomasochistic relationship. She knew it was not always the case. Many times boyfriends, husbands or acquaintances would try to initiate an S&M practise by bringing some pornography, a sex-toy catalog or some paraphernalia and would try to convince their partner to "try this" or "try that" with either insincere 'sweet talk' or subtle intimidation. And when it was women coming to men with the intention of being dominated, they had generally been fully trained to conform to a culture that constantly gave a false praise to all women who viewed themselves as passive and submissive "sex objects". Both cases had happened to her: she'd had sadists approaching her, grooming her, and she'd come to men who would dominate her.

Because of patriarchal conditioning, her sexual submission to men used to seriously turn her on, at some point. Then she'd fallen into the sado-patriarchal trap of masochism. She now had absolutely no shame to admit this to herself. Because she was now fully aware that radical feminists understood her experience. She'd perceived herself as passive and submissive because of all the self-hate she'd internalized through rape, through domestic abuse, through the past emotional manipulation she'd had experienced at the hands of men. The wider patriarchal conditioning she'd had in a misogynistic world had also influenced the way she used to internalize her own self-hatred, self negation & subordination as a female.

Radical feminists knew well that the 'Madonna/Whore' dichotomy was a false dichotomy: while right-wing men wanted to keep the "good women" in marriage and in the privacy of the home to privately own them and (ab)use them, the left-wing men wanted the "bad women" to be collectively & publicly owned by them outside of marriage -- but most forms of male ownership, abuse and exploitation happened behind closed doors though, where women were most at risk of male violence.

As she'd gone through female life under patriarchy, she'd often found herself stuck in the trap of the 'Madonna/Whore' dichotomy without being able to see what was beyond this patriarchal lie. "If only we all women could see," she now realized, "what's beyond dominant ideologies, we would be able to be ourselves: we are not 'Madonnas', we are not 'whores'; we are female human beings. And we need a strong movement that will work toward the liberation of women from male oppression."

Radical feminism had helped her see the patriarchal oppression and self-negation in the way she used to be aroused by sexual masochism. But, to her, there was a lie that masochism intrinsically entailed: that she would be somehow 'fulfilled' by this sort of sexuality.

She was sure that the sexual arousal itself (i.e. not combined with orgasm) had naturally led to body release of endorphins (natural painkiller). Based on her own experience, she reckoned, it was true that being in a state of sexual excitement could somehow make pain more tolerable, i.e. pain had somehow felt like a strong sensation though it'd never gone away. The presence of pain in the S&M sexuality she'd experienced had been very real. She now perfectly understood that any sort of harm inflicted on a person during sadomasochistic love-making was still harm, regardless of whether s/he'd consented to it or not.

Consent can be manipulated. She realized that fully informed consent (including a comprehensive prior knowledge of how power dynamics in heterosexual relationships operated within a patriarchal society) generally did not exist. "Therefore we, women, generally all consent to what this culture tells us about sexuality. And seldom do we question it 'cause we've been taught not to, for fear of sounding 'prudish'; so we often comply to what our partners expect of us," she thought to herself. She remembered. There had been pain. But she would deny it.

She'd been so manipulated by the male-supremacist seduction of this culture, the grooming she'd had to the way romantic love was portrayed, and her own deep internalization of patriarchally shaped desires, that she would psychologically deny the pain when being bitten, the pain of the scarves and cuffs digging into the flesh of her wrists and the pain of the strong penetrations. She had been told so many times that she would enjoy this type of treatment that she would desperately try to believe that she'd genuinely enjoyed it. This combined with the strong sensation she'd felt due to the endorphin rush, which could give her the impression that she'd really been getting off on being degraded.

But, in hindsight, she could see that women were routinely taught to please their man, to literally become the 'ego-booster' for vicious male pride of domination. Therefore, she figured, her sole enjoyment in sadomasochism had in fact been in wanting to please the men she used to love by accepting their views of what sex was supposed to be. But didn't she have desires of her own? Didn't she have the capacity of imagining a sexuality that would be completely hers? A sexuality in which she would be able to preserve all her bodily integrity and that would genuinely fulfill her?

Looking at the truth: any sexual feeling from experience, dream and fantasy about the sexual degradation of her body were making her feel uncomfortable and distressed in spite of arousal. Because, deep inside, she'd known that she was not 'naturally' masochistic; no woman ever was (even though she had not known masochism was a socially-constructed phenomenon at the time).

Romantic love, in pornography as in life, is the mythic celebration of female negation. For a woman, love is defined as her willingness to submit to her own annihilation. As the saying goes, women are made for love--that is, submission. Love, or submission, must be both the substance and purpose of a woman's life. For the female, the capacity to love is exactly synonymous with the capacity to sustain abuse and the appetite for it. For the woman, the proof of love is that she is willing to be destroyed by the one whom she loves, for his sake. For the woman, love is always self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of identity, will, and bodily integrity, in order to fulfill and redeem the masculinity of her lover.

-- Andrea Dworkin, in The Root Cause.

Her being aroused did not equate being sexually fulfilled. She was aware that sexual arousal and sexual fulfilment were two separate things. But patriarchy used to have her believe that just because she'd had sexual feelings when being in a submissive role (like when being tied up, for instance), then it must have necessarily meant that she'd gotten off on it. In a patriarchy, it had been very easy for her to confuse strong sexual excitement with actual absolute pleasure. Part of this was caused by male supremacy's cultural control of women's thought processes. Thought was expressed primarily as language, a language that had been invented by patriarchy. She'd sometimes been living through the lie that just because she'd felt 'hot' about something, then it had necessarily meant that it made her hot to the point of being fulfilled. But, as a woman, she had NOT become fulfilled going through sado-masochistic relationships; claiming otherwise had been one of the biggest rackets that she'd fallen for in a porno-sado-patriarchy.

The bottom line was: "pain and pleasure are NOT the same thing," she reminded herself of how much she knew the fact "that women somehow genuinely enjoy pain is one of pornographic culture's biggest lies." She'd noticed that her body had felt the pain and that there had been no real orgasm, just a strong sensation of pleasure that was inherently anti-liberation. She remembered the inherently negative consequences of masochism: a sense of self-loathing had occurred just after the quick strong sensations from hierarchical sex were gone, and depression had usually ensued when the degradation had been experienced over and over again. Sometimes, she had even refused to see that she was depressed, She had refused to see how much she'd hated hetero-patriarchal control, because she'd so much wanted to be happy with her boyfriends from the past.

She opened her eyes. In a patriarchy, female self-negation and female diminution of be-ing (diminution of one's full capacity for real female identity & bodily integrity) had become institutionalized. This had been going on for thousands and thousands of years: patriarchy was a system which had constantly subordinated women, forced them into submission through manipulation, outright coercion or male violence in its many forms, whether subtle or overt.

Radical feminism had helped her see the truth: no woman was 'naturally' masochistic, and she was no exception. Because masochism was not 'natural' (as the patriarchists would have her believe), any pleasure derived from it was therefore unnatural and in the end, she'd been able to see how S&M had made her feel seriously ill and demeaned afterward because she had known masochism was inherently unhealthy, somehow, in the back of her mind. But she'd kept silent about her inner feelings against sadomasochism for fear of being called "prudish" or "unenlightened" about sexuality. Radical feminism had given her both a voice for expressing her discomfort regarding S&M and a way of seeing the clear pornographic woman-hating it promoted.

Male-dominated culture had pretty much defined the parameters of how sexuality was meant to be expressed. She sighed, feeling sadness about all the women out there who had not yet found a way of expressing the gut feelings they had against male-dominated sexuality. Any dissent to patriarchal definitions of sex was perceived as heresy in this pornified culture. She had decided to break the chains of patriarchy which were trying to shackle her into masochism and steal her female power, her willingness for social change. She wished all her sisters would start breaking those chains too, within a societal prison in which the male grip was so tight upon the female thralls. She was pained to see how women were constantly under male power because of various things: patriarchal conditioning, pornified brainwashing, cultural institutions of (presumed) male superiority, wrongful portrayals of romantic love that eroticized sub/dom relationships, gender roles & norms, physical or emotional coercions, etc ad nauseam. The list went on. . .

So many women, including feminists, lowered their eyes from the vision of how to make women free and decided to get stuck into having more-powerful orgasms in any way that worked. The pursuit of the orgasm of oppression serves as a new "opium of the masses." It diverts our energies from the struggles that are needed now against sexual violence and the global sex industry. Questioning how those orgasms feel, what they mean politically, whether they are achieved through the prostitution of women in pornography, is not easy, but it is also not impossible. A sexuality of equality suited to our pursuit of freedom has still to be forged and fought for if we are to release women from sexual subjection.

The ability of women to eroticize their own subordination and take "pleasure" from the degradation of themselves and other women to object status poses a serious obstacle. So long as women have a stake in the sexual system as it is -- so long as they get their kicks that way -- why will they want change?

-- Sheila Jeffreys, in How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women's Movement.

A major reason that she'd known to make masochism plausible is that women were typically taught to please men and to hate themselves, having been born and raised female into a male-dominated culture which had misogyny as its core ideology. Like so many other women, she had been taught to notice men and see their "great strength" while ignoring herself, ignoring the inherent female power that lied dormant within her as a capacity to redefine herself as a woman, now property of no man. In a patriarchal culture, female subservience (to men) and self-destruction were celebrated. Male sadists, with their pretense of aiming to please, actually got off on a woman who was (supposedly) enjoying the hatred of herself, of her own kind.

She did not have 'fun' finding radical feminism. Fun was not the word, eye-opening experience was. It had not been fun to realize that her romantic relationships had been mere re-enactment of the oppression of women. But by opening her mind to that little radical feminist sub-culture of heretics, that little community living at the margins of society, she'd been able to see the truth for what it really is: that she had not really been enjoying going through masochism, and she would rather know the truth than live in denial, protect the patriarchy or defend the men who'd gotten off on dominating her through these so-called 'romantic' sadomasochistic relationships. She now clearly understood that feminism was about the liberation of women as a class. The terms "sexual equality with men" had long ago been co-opted. She had no interest in the mere 'freedom to fuck'; what sexually interested her was rather: the state of being completely free and preserving her whole bodily integrity as a human being with sexual feelings.

What she hadn't realized in the past was how much masochism reified sadism. Subordination reified domination in the same way that femininity reified masculinity. All these constricting gender-defined roles kept humanity confined to the boundaries of male-supremacy. The few heretics who wanted to move beyond all these restrictive dichotomies knew well that they had to constantly, everyday, struggle within a culture which kept reinforcing those patriarchal role-plays.

But, as a woman, she'd noticed that she was able to resist masochism, to resist subordination and to resist femininity in the best ways she could. There used to be a time, not so long ago, when masochism had still been present in her fantasies. It seemed to be a big deal at first (as she'd had those thoughts when she was fully awake). But she'd then learned how to change her sexual fantasies. It hadn't been easy at first. It'd taken a while to re-work them so that they would become pleasant things which were her own, things that weren't products of male supremacy, or even of the "vanilla" male-supremacist definition of sex. She'd had to re-work her sexual feelings until she sexually responded to those new sensuous imaginations she'd created in her mind. She'd learned how to think about something which was both totally non-exploitative and pleasant. It wasn't exciting at the beginning (as she'd not been conditioned to those new sensations), but then it gradually became arousing and eventually turned into an utterly blissful feeling of female intimacy. She could feel her female lifeforce as her fantasies were now completely woman-centered and sexually fulfilling.

Getting herself off on something that was absolutely non-patriarchal had been a major step reached for her personal well-being. Everything was different. Her orgasms were now ten thousands times more emotionally rewarding and all the feelings of shame and worthlessness she'd experienced after the quick S&M pleasures of patriarchal sex in the past were now gone: No feeling of self-hate, shame or guilt was ever present after non-patriarchal orgasms, rather delightful feelings of sexual fulfilment and happiness. . .

She still struggled with some occasional sexual nightmares which were patriarchal in content and nature. But the fact that she still sometimes had such dreams did not 'prove' any misogynistic Freudian bullshit theory of so-called "penis envy". She was aware it merely reflected the simple fact that she was still living in the society she had been forced to live in: a society that hated the female sex and wanted to see women degraded and self-destroyed. When she woke up, she was aware of how much she was glad these sorts of nightmares were over and how much they innately distressed her. No feminist was to blame for having sexual dreams and thoughts that were patriarchal because, to destroy all trace of dominance and submission, all social conditions that created dominance and submission would have to be eradicated.

But feminism, ultimately, had to be the movement for women's liberation, not equality. The 'equality' word had long ago been co-opted by the patriarchists, unfortunately. She had no interest in having the equality to make choices to consent to the world that patriarchy had created. She saw absolutely no liberation goal in consenting to pornified rape culture. She refused to consent to masochism, to her self-negation, to her self-diminution because she had no desire to reify the patriarchal belief that said that being dominated was inevitable and enjoyable.

More importantly, She refused to consent to the eroticization of sexual slavery because she was now strongly aware that such consent destroyed female power: the energy it takes to dissent to the whole male-supremacist culture of sexual violence. Masochistic submission to the patriarchal power that controlled women and tried to "keep them in their place" was a form of internalized oppression by the oppressed and it would hamper her capacity to resist male violence in all its forms.

Consent to oppression, or the enactment of the very symbols of slavery, torture, rape, battery that constituted that oppression, would not liberate the oppressed. She did know that the feminist struggle against the complicity of women in patriarchy seemed like a mammoth task, especially considering the fact that most women had been primarily socialized into loving men and their culture before they loved themselves. But she wanted to be able to put her strength into the Women's Liberationist struggle against the culture that tacitly condoned male violence against women. She would love to help break the chains of patriarchy which were trying to shackle women into masochism and steal all female power, their willingness for social change that would overthrow the very sado-patriarchal system that claimed that "rape victims were responsible for their rape" or that "battered women loved to be mistreated, otherwise they would leave". To be liberated, we would have to get out of the immense social prison called patriarchy, she knew it. . .

Recommended Readings:

Against Sadomasochism: A Radical Feminist Analysis, edited by Robin Ruth Linden et al; Frog in the Well Press; 1982.

Unleashing Feminism: Critiquing Lesbian Sadomasochism in the Gay Nineties, edited by Irene Reti; HerBooks; 1993. [also refers to heterosexual S&M]

Sexual Politics, by Kate Millet, Doubleday; 1970.

Our Blood:Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics, by Andrea Dworkin, Harper and Row;1976.

How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women's Movement, by Sheila Jeffreys.

Consensual Sadomasochism: Charting the Issues, by Claudia Card.

Sadomasochism: Not About Condemnation ~ An Interview with Audre Lorde by Susan Leigh Star.

Sadomasochism and the Social Construction of Desire, by Karen Rian.

Edit: new URL for this post on my new blog here.


Saturday, 28 February 2009

New Book on Prostitution & Pornography

The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade, by Sheila Jeffreys, available from Amazon.

Here is a link to a radio interview with Sheila Jeffreys on the global sex trade. From the Amazon description:

The industrialization of prostitution and the sex trade has created a multibillion-dollar global market, involving millions of women, that makes a substantial contribution to national and global economies. "The Industrial Vagina" examines how prostitution and other aspects of the sex industry have moved from being small-scale, clandestine, and socially despised practices to become very profitable legitimate market sectors that are being legalised and decriminalised by governments. Sheila Jeffreys demonstrates how prostitution has been globalized through an examination of: the growth of pornography and its new global reach; the boom in adult shops, strip clubs and escort agencies; military prostitution and sexual violence in war; marriage and the mail order bride industry; and, the rise in sex tourism and trafficking in women. She argues that through these practices women's subordination has been outsourced and that states that legalise this industry are acting as pimps, enabling male buyers in countries in which women's equality threatens male dominance, to buy access to the bodies of women from poor countries who are paid for their sexual subservience. This major and provocative contribution is essential reading for all with an interest in feminist, gender and critical globalisation issues as well as students and scholars of international political economy.

Also another book on prostitution worth reading: Making Sex Work: A Failed Experiment with Legalised Prostitution, by Mary Lucille Sullivan; aivalable from Amazon.


Just thoughts. . . on blogging and stuff. . .

I had been keeping some posts I have been writing inside of this blog lately, before releasing them. . . when I will be ready. . .

I'd like to say that before I'd started this blog I didn't expect things to be as they are. It is not that my speech is not free; it is that almost every time I speak out I get hits (people trashing me online). Not that I care much about that part: I know who I am; I know that I am not who they think I am. It is very sad though that, nowadays, contemporary malestream 'feminism' is now pretty much about promoting values that suit the status quo, without ever seriously challenging the system.

If you check out the "top 30 feminist blogs," you will find on the list some people who have become extremely famous at trashing other women, especially radical feminists. It is true that I have noticed that, in a patriarchy, a woman gets some sort of popularity whenever her writing is, not only rife with patriarchal thinking, but also is about slandering other women (who dare challenge male supremacy), including slamming some radical women who have been victims of rape or prostitution. A male patriarchist gets off on watching a female patriarchist stalk, attack, slam and slander another woman, especially a rad fem; it means that he can rest comfortably: his *precious* patriarchy is being well-maintained. This actually hardly differs from the ( so much wider) malestream contemporary woman-hating in the mass-media and in everyday society -- especially when you see/hear women hating or abusing other women.

Whenever a woman upholds misogyny, she gains some sort of a status. This, of course, does not change the fact that she is a member of an oppressed gender class which most men regard as inferior. But throwing hatred at or demeaning other women gives her some sort of popularity, at least in the short term.

Double standards apply: Once, not so long ago I was criticized for telling the truth: that rape can take different forms and that, because male sexual exploitation of women exists in a continuum, it is worth paying attention to ALL sorts of sexual abuse, not just the most egregious ones. Contrary to what some folks claimed, I was NOT misrepresenting the word "rape"; I was merely elaborating on the different dimensions of sexual exploitation. Yet, please do not forget that when it is men who really use the word "rape" casually, as in the 'fun' of a videogame, or as in the language of their BDSM 'games', or as in sexist jokes or fantasies, hardly anybody notices, let alone call them out on their misogyny. "It is merely a fantasy, it doesn't hurt anybody," "It's just fun" or any other similar garbage the patriarchists would have us believe. Well, in real life, these "fantasies" and "fun" actually hurt other people and rape is not funny; rape harms women!

Andrea Dworkin was misrepresented and demonized. In the words of John Berger, she was "perhaps the most misrepresented writer in the Western world.". . .

Because of her subject, because of the substance of her ideas. . . Andrea Dworkin faced especially naked misogyny: "woman hating," which is the title of her first book. How she was treated is how women are treated who tell the truth about male power without compromise or apology. It is why few do.

-- Catharine MacKinnon, "Who Was Afraid of Andrea Dworkin?," New York Times, April 16, 2005.

Moreover, as reported on Heart's blog lately:

“Linkfluence” is invited, you know, the company that offered us the “Top 30 Feminist Blogs”. Linkfluence’s goal is to “make finding influential communities and following their conversations easier for the greatest benefit of corporations, consultancies or survey institutes.” Just what we need! An organization working to make our feminist conversations most beneficial to corporations! As references, Linkfluence lists multinationals Nestle, Nike and Roche, among others. So I suppose we should not be surprised that among the “Top 30″ are pimps, procurers and those who blog for them, anti-feminists and misogynists. All of that notwithstanding, when companies like this create lists like this, the naive and trusting as well as the anti-feminist and capitalist are going to LINK to them which is what the real goal is. The goal is not to carefully study the influence of feminist bloggers. The goal is to rank blogs according to how dogged they are in linking — who cares WHY they are linking; perhaps they are linking in order to repeatedly launch attacks on feminists, as is very true of several on the “Top 30 list”, and which is always a good way to drive up hits and linkage; blogosphere attacks on women are such good times – because that way companies like Linkfluence and Fem 2.0 garner maximum linkage to themselves and therefore they begin to gain exposure and to influence in heretofore untapped markets.

[Thank you very much, Heart, for the amazing work you put in this wonderful piece and the other one. (I am kinda sad that Heart will not be blogging the same way anymore).]

Often, when I blog, I get some people in comments (which I block) who are stubborn enough to try to shove malestream values down my throat, like "women choose to enjoy torture," "prostitution is a wonderfully 'feminist' thing," etc, etc and other similar propaganda, blah-the-fucking-blah. . . I am not surprised. It is hard to be open-minded to radical feminism when you live in a patriarchy. You constantly get malestream beliefs reminded to you. They keep controlling you. I used to feel that way. But some people really need to understand that I have been fed malestream values, I have heard them, my whole life; I hear them everyday, which is why I'd rather protect my blog, and whoever comes here with friendly intentions, from the same ol' patriarchal porn/prostitution/rape apologies I hear every single fucking day.

The language of "choice" and "agency" from the 'sex work' standpoint perfectly suits the economic politics of neo-liberalism. Spokeswomen for Coalition Against Trafficking in Women have previously explained that pro-prostitution advocates have organizations that take money from the sex industry (e.g. source: Mediawatch audio podcast). I disagree with the pro-prostitution position which unfairly accuses us of not listening to women who say they love their 'sex work' job. It's not that we're not listening to them; it's just that we happen to have understood some simple facts. Women are not valued for their talent or intelligence in this patriarchal society, but for their bodies or how 'good' they are as "sex-objects" who service men, hence obviously we understand that some women, more than others, will conform to this patriarchal plasticized ideal of 'how we should be' and they will promote the 'sex' industry. But we have been informed about the ongoing abuse of other women. And we have concluded that the prostitution industry is inextricably linked to this abuse and there are simply no acceptable losses, as Biting beaver once explained. Therefore, our priority must be to understand what prostitution really is: an appalling abuse of women's rights to their own bodies and self-determination.

The worst thing is that people who harass rad fems online probably know that our little feminist community is at the margin of patriarchal society. Patriarchists' views are mainstream; but that does not seem to be enough for them: they need to persistently attempt to silence the few dissenting voices, the few heretics. We, radical feminists, are heretics, mainly because we despise this whole culture and all its diverse forms of misogyny and we will not agree with views that purport that most women or all women enjoy being degraded in every possible ways. Female psychology is a lot more complex than this and women have restricted autonomy within the boundaries of patriarchy.

Lately, I seriously thought about blogging 'Comments Off' (with just leaving the survivor thread open for survivor to speak out) as I'd read about the fact that there may be some advantages in doing so. But I changed my mind: I might now use some of those hostile comments sent to me (before deleting them) as a way of observing the raw aggressiveness in supporters of porn & online stalkers to prove my point on the negative effects of pornography.

One thing is for sure: the people who persistently stalk me online will never make me regret to have created this blog. I have full control over my blog and I fully enjoy the luxury of having my right to push the 'reject' button whenever someone comes here with totally unfriendly intention and merely a goal of trying to pick up a fight in comments. I will release more and prospective comments will be thoroughly moderated as well as monitored. I will recognize people who are not genuinely interested in radical feminists views and who are merely trying to pick a fight. . .

Comments are closed on this post in order to (at least, temporarily) avoid online harassment. People who are friendly readers of my blog can always check out my Contact Page.


Sunday, 11 January 2009

Julie Bindel, on Norma Hotaling

British radical feminist, Julie Bindel, wrote an article in memory of Norma Hotaling, a formerly prostituted woman, a US campaigner against the sex trade and the founder of the SAGE project, Standing Against Global Exploitation - whose mission is "to improve the lives of individuals victimized by, or at risk for sexual exploitation, violence and prostitution through trauma recovery services, substance abuse treatment, vocational training, housing assistance and legal advocacy."

This from Julie Bindel's Guardian article:

Norma Hotaling, who has died aged 57 of pancreatic cancer, was internationally renowned for her advocacy work in the US on behalf of victims of sexual violence, in particular prostitution and trafficking. The Florida-born campaigner founded a world-famous programme to deter men from paying for sex.

Hotaling herself had endured the worst type of violence. Shortly after the death of her father, when she was three years old, she was sexually abused for the first time, with further occurrences between the ages of five and seven. She went to school in Palm Springs, but by the time she was 18, she was on the streets selling sex and soon became a heroin addict.

In 1989, after 21 years in prostitution, Hotaling decided she had had enough. She turned herself in at the nearest police station and insisted that she be put in jail, where she stayed for six weeks, almost dying during drug withdrawal. She soon began to devote her life to helping other women. First working with Aids sufferers, in 1992 she founded Standing against Global Exploitation (Sage), a San Francisco-based centre offering services to help women out of prostitution.

Furious that street prostitutes continued to be arrested and blamed for their circumstances, Hotaling decided to try to educate people living in neighbourhoods most affected by the trade. She began meeting regularly with community leaders, explaining that the women were not there out of choice, but that the kerb crawlers were. It was then that she decided to do something about the demand side of prostitution.

Ironically, it was her collaboration with the police officer who had arrested her countless times in the 1980s for soliciting, Lieutenant Joe Dutto, that enabled her work with sex buyers to take off. She contacted him after hearing of his concern about the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in the city, and, by then armed with a degree in health education from San Francisco state university, offered her skills.

Hotaling devised a programme that was to become known as the John's school, which came to be replicated across scores of cities in the US, Canada and the UK. Formally known as the First Offenders of Prostitution Program (Fopp), charges against first offenders were dropped if they paid a fee and attended a day-long course, including sessions run by former prostitutes, on the realities of the sex trade. Most of the fees went to help women attend the Sage programme.

"I was scared," she said about the first time she ran Fopp. "I knew they would hate me. I never thought in my wildest dreams they would get anything out of it. At the end of the programme they were all crying." Very few men who attend Fopp are known to reoffend, and its existence has enabled a change in emphasis to focus on the demand for prostitution as the cause of the problem.

In recognition of her work with Sage and Fopp, Hotaling received more than 20 awards, including Oprah's angel award in 2001, presented to her on air by Winfrey herself. She also advised governments on how to tackle trafficking and prostitution and addressed conferences all over the world.

Asked in 1997 how she managed to work with women who have complex problems, she replied: "It's like caring for orchids. They die so easily. But you take the dead-looking stem to someone who knows orchids and that person can look at the root and say, 'Look! There's still a little bit of life here.'"

Hotaling never married. She is survived by her mother and brother.

• Norma Hotaling, campaigner, born 21 July 1951; died 16 December 2008

And another wonderfully courageous feminist has died. I feel a deep grief...


The Twentieth Carnival of Radical Feminists...

... is now up at Women's Life Matters & Women's Lives Matter.

It has a section called Sex-Trading = Slave-Trading?

Other features are called Race Divide, Gender-Crossing, Women's Global War of Terror, etc, which can be found on the main page and contain links to many posts on different topics.

Many thanks to Rain. She did a great job gathering all those articles.


Sunday, 4 January 2009

Seduction: connecting the dots?

Seduction is the rapist's sleazy sales pitch.

If I don't want you without tapping the vast reservoir of conditioned responses to dominance-submission-paradigm eye dances/gender performances/body festishes then our physical transaction amounts to nothing more than a hazy reification of woman-hating. And no person, except a raging sexist and rapist, believes women knowingly consent to these measures.

-- Pisaquari, in a comment to this post.

When I think about seduction, a couple of words come to my mind: exploitation and manipulation, 'sexploitation' to boot. These words actually bring up vivid memories in my mind: about someone whose name started with a D, who was male. I don't think I've been talking about this to anyone for years, not even to my most recent partner. Tears come to my eyes each time I remember D's seduction of me, his sexual exploitation and manipulation of me...

For sure, I did not mean to somehow 'shock' some readers with my broader definitions of rape in that post here. I can understand why, to some women (who often come from mainstream society & culture), some radical feminist thoughts may sound strange or crazy, etc. Hell, I would have confused my younger self had I been reading something similar to this - a radical feminist writing - a few years back, when I was being manipulated by D, for instance.

I will talk about this younger self of mine as she were like a few years back exactly at the time I was seeing D: I was this rather ordinary girl, ordinary but 'sexy', 'beautiful' (according to him) and naive - or at least behaving in a very naive way 'cause it was 'fun' and it made me smile. I remember that before I met D I had been raped - though I never called it rape. When I had been raped, coerced into sex, harassed, harangued, over and over by my first boyfriend (before meeting 'seductive' D), I had never called my experience rape, not once. All that was "just life" and I deserved it: sometimes I blamed the pain I'd experienced in my first relationship on the fact that "I hadn't been listening to my Christian parents and all their moralistic advice" (now I know differently: Woman-hating, whichever side of the patriarchy it comes from, is woman-hating)...

Back to where I was: When I met D, I had come from a very hard, very painful relationship and I wanted to get over it. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to be free. My first boyfriend had been real evil to me but surely not all men were assholes, were they?

Okay, let's talk about seduction then... as it happened to me on a personal level...

I used to be this girl who loved going clubbing, drinking booze, smoking pot, wearing 'sexy' high heels, stockings, skirts; this girl often dressed in black, wearing loads of makeup and often hoping, with a huge smile on her face, that D would love her as much as she loved him. Nowadays, I don't club, don't drink, don't smoke (it's been years...), don't wear high heels or stockings or skirts or makeup, and I sincerely don't give a shit if D ever loved me: he was an asshole that used me, used my body, played on my feelings, tried to fuck up my mind...

D once came to me. I remember he was so 'charming'. I remember sitting next to him while he was playing guitar one of the first times I'd met him. Dunno if I'd fallen for him yet at that time but I did have a crush on him. He was so chivalrous, you know, he kept telling me I was gorgeous and all the words that many women have been influenced to buy as a way to happiness in a patriarchy. He made me sleep with him. I remember thinking during a minute that he may have been bragging about it to his friends the next day but then I fell back into denial, even though I'd briefly heard rumors about it. [Denial is a powerful part of the conditioning you get under male supremacy. The culture had taught me that denial of some behaviors of the men you like or love was healthy, it makes you happy, but I did not know that at the time - or only in the back of my mind...]

I came back to D later on. I so much wanted to see him again. He was so kind; he'd even bought me flowers. I had been told once that when a man bought you flowers it truly means something, and my first boyfriend had never bought me flowers...

One day, when he thought he'd finished with using me as a sex-object, he threw me out of his place while I was staying there for a few days. But he came back and he kept seducing me. And I was weak. I know malestream society would, with no doubt, put the blame on me for going back to him but he was capable of being so kind, so polite, so seductive and, like all the 'good girls', I had been taught to forget and to forgive...

He was so skilled at seducing me, manipulating me, looking at me with his seductive eyes, making me believe that I was being valued in his heart while, as a matter of fact, I was just "another girl" to him. Sometimes, I'd believe him, I'd fall for his "sleazy sales pitch". Other times, I wasn't sure and thus I'd go away, just for a while to not be hurt in case I was being manipulated... The situation was extremely difficult because I loved him, I think...

Another day, after he'd used me again, he said, "I'm sorry, I'd told you that I loved you just to have sex with you one more time." He just wanted my body to use for his own purpose, his own gratification...

Then, at some point, when we were just friends, him and I, he'd left me alone drunk at one of his pals' who'd then tried to fuck me that night. He'd wanted his friend to use me too; I'd overheard them talking to each other earlier that night...

Last time I saw D, I remember him telling me what an asshole he had been to me but, in hindsight, I believe he was trying to excuse himself for all the times he'd fucked me over... I felt terribly used and abused. I had gone through his seduction of me...

. . . How then do we define rape?
Rape is a crime against women.
Rape is an act of aggression against women.
Rape is a contemptuous and hostile act against women.
Rape is a violation of a woman's right to self-determination.
Rape is a violation of a woman's absolute control of her own body.
Rape is an act of sadistic domination.
Rape is a colonializing act.
Rape is a function of male imperialism over and against women.
The crime of rape against one woman is a crime committed against all women.

. . . Rape occurs when a man, who is dominant by definition, takes a woman who, according to men and all the organs of their culture, was put on this earth for his use and gratification. . .

-- Andrea Dworkin, "The Rape Atrocity and the Boy Next Door", in Our Blood, p. 32 & p. 46.

The thing is that when I eventually opened my mind to radical feminist thoughts, even some that I'd initially found strange or confusing, I noticed a great feeling: I finally had some sort of a power, the power of knowledge; I was able to see the dominant system with all its intricate parts, to understand how the world works, to know how much women have been culturally brought into submission by patriarchy (through pernicious ideologies, behaviors, attitudes fully internalized through socialization), to be aware of how relationships between men and women are all, to some extent or another, exclusively set within the boundaries of patriarchy. And that kind of knowledge, that kind of feeling I never, never ever, wanna give up on.

Apart from the power of knowledge, radical feminists have very little power. We are a little handful of women living on patriarchal Planet Earth and publicly striving for the good of womankind. And we are hated. We are so hated that constant insults and misrepresentations get thrown at us. For the little number we are in the female population, such an amount of hatred seriously looks to me like an overkill.

When we speak of rape while using wider definitions than malestream culture, we sometimes confuse people and even drive them mad. That reminds me of the expression "Not my Nigel" aimed at describing many women's denial of malestream institutionalized misogyny and abuse of females. The fact remains that men of course ARE the ones who perpetrate rape and who also condone pro-rape attitudes, especially within their pornified male circles. And they get away with it. "Not my Nigel" notwithstanding: the vast majority of men 1) hate women, 2) participate in rape culture and/or 3) have been conditioned to get off on the oppression of women. Here is an interesting feminist article on women, heteronormativity and the socialization of men:

Women do not live in a benign or even neutral society. Most of us move through this culture in denial of its prejudice because the reality is too horrible to bear: the absurd injustice of a caste system based on gender. Feminism teaches us ways to recognize this prejudice in institutions, systems, and individuals around us; to understand how we have internalized the prejudice; and finally to acknowledge that our private, personal relationships are affected by it. Yet whether or not we call ourselves feminists, we know this caste system exists. All of us, women and men alike, are conditioned to conform to this culture. Men are trained to be dominators, women to be subordinates. No one is exempt. Everything we do, think, and feel takes place in this context of male supremacy and climate of woman-hating.

-- Kay Leigh Hagan, in Orchids in the Arctic.

I can understand why some women (coming from mainstream thoughts and ideologies) would feel seriously confused by this post here. But to me it is no longer so hard to connect the dots, i.e. to be able to see what happened to me as I understand it now thanks to radical feminism:

First of all, my first boyfriend - with his repeated mistreatment of me, of my body, of my mind, of my soul - had fully trained me to submit to patriarchy and all its supposed charms. I had never dressed provocatively or been involved in sexually submissive behavior before I had been sexually abused for the first time. I had never been conditioned to let myself be used before that had happened to me, or to let myself be fucked over in order to be loved. And I do not believe that I am to be blamed for what happened to me (Any other woman whose personal experience may have been similar is not to be blamed either, for that matter).

Second, I'm sorry if rape comes across as a bit of a strong word to some women, especially considering the fact that all of us have conformed and internalized the patriarchal values of this culture, yes, including me (in the past). I have been raped and it is not in my intention to minimize anyone's experience of sexual coercion by arguing that rape can take different forms - hell no, I am a survivor myself! I am merely arguing that sexual abuse and male sexual exploitation of women exist in a continuum: Some are blatantly violent while others are subtler but still cruel ways of making someone your submissive 'object'. That is, for instance, while my experience with D may not have been as bad as the living hell I'd been going through with my first partner, what D did to me was literally using me as an object in order to get his rocks off, using me again and again.

Third, was it sexual abuse I felt at any point when I was with D? The 'seduction' part, I mean? Well, I may not have felt any crime or aggression; I may not have felt any contempt or hostility at all when he was seducing me. But, looking back, do I think there was a violation of my right to self-determination when he was manipulating me with his words, his ways of looking at me? Hell, yeah! Do I believe it was sexual exploitation? Hell, yeah! Do I perceive men's seduction of women as a colonizing act? Hell, Yeah! Did I feel there was a sadistic domination in his seducing of me? Hell, yeah! Do I believe that seduction is part of male imperialism over and against women? Yes, I do!

However, that does not change the fact that I did feel aggression, contempt, hostility, sadistic domination and violation of my right to self-determination, and much more when I was being raped by my first boyfriend... I felt all that too later on in life, when I was living in domestic violence...

p.s. Still preparing my post on masochism. I will need just a bit of time before it is released, but not too much...