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...

.

9 comments:

Rachel said...

Let me preface what I'm about to say with this: I completely understand where you're coming from and I am truly sorry that you had to experience it. There are a lot of people out there who use a person's emotions against them and that is wrong. You were wronged.

However, it comes across to me (someone who has also experienced sexual violence and asshole boyfriends), as the thrashing around of a helpless victim. You say that radical feminism has given you power -- but it doesn't really seem that way to me, especially when you're using the experience of having been manipulated by one person to justify lumping all similar actions into the "rapist" category. Not only is this a dangerous precedent in that you seem to make no room for exceptions and interpretation (basically, any heterosexual sex is rape is what I'm reading from your definition; and that's just blatantly untrue); it's also a logical fallacy, (pardon the reference to the male anatomy).

Lumping all types of a specific action, such as a man's kindness toward a woman, into a category called "rape" diminishes the word rape (like screaming "fuck" at the top of your lungs for an hour; or wandering around muttering "Voldemort, Voldemort, Voldemort" under your breath as though the character were confused with Beetlejuice); but it's ineffective and condemns a lot of people who are not worthy of such condemnation. Some men are actually nice. Some men put on the nice face in order to fuck pretty young women, then yank them around, cheat on them, dump them but say "let's still have sex"; denying yourself agency in these situations and placing criminal blame on the other is not a sign of being in power. Rather, it says "this person had power over me, and still has power over me, so I'm going to thrash around and call him a rapist". It's not morally right to do such a thing.

However, having not had your experiences, I refuse to say that you weren't mistreated or that some aspect of that mistreatment was rape -- and, again, I have a great deal of empathy for you in that experience as someone who has been a victim of sexual violence and asshole boyfriends.

The thing is, not all "nice guys" are just assholes in disguise and I don't think that it's right to condemn nearly half of the human species for the actions of one man -- especially when many of the individuals of that half of the species have their own offenses worthy of condemnation.

I hope you heal though. I hope that the means you are using bring you more joy and healing than anger and resentment. And while turnabout may be fair play, that doesn't mean it's right.

Maggie Hays said...

Lumping all types of a specific action, such as a man's kindness toward a woman, into a category called "rape" diminishes the word rape

Rachel- As I said in the other comment thread, I understand why some people may have felt confused by this post because I was pretty tired & depressed when I'd initially written it and I guess I'd just let my personal thoughts go freely and weirdly without elaborating enough on what I really meant about seduction. Thus, I think it is now fair that I have now edited my definition of "seduction" in this post:

http://maggiehaysagainstporn.blogspot.com/2008/12/
rape-can-take-different-forms.html

so that people can now understand what I really meant by seduction (through developing what I actually meant a little more), partly from personal experience.

To elaborate, I meant seduction as: 'When a man persuades a woman to have sex with him, often subtly, through being kind, polite, chivalrous, while playing on her feelings, possible vulnerability, or sometimes getting her consent by deceiving her, distracting her, and sometimes intoxicating her (with alcohol or drugs) so that he can use her for his own sexual gratification and purpose.'


I completely understand where you're coming from and I am truly sorry that you had to experience it. There are a lot of people out there who use a person's emotions against them and that is wrong. You were wronged. [...]

having not had your experiences, I refuse to say that you weren't mistreated or that some aspect of that mistreatment was rape -- and, again, I have a great deal of empathy for you in that experience as someone who has been a victim of sexual violence and asshole boyfriends. [...]

I hope you heal


Thank you very much for your understanding or concern on this part.


it comes across to me (someone who has also experienced sexual violence and asshole boyfriends), as the thrashing around of a helpless victim.

I believe that the thrashing around of an helpless victim can be sexual exploitation, IMO...


You say that radical feminism has given you power -- but it doesn't really seem that way to me

No, I think you misunderstood that part. I was talking about the power of knowledge; radical feminists pretty much have NO other power apart from this one. To reiterate:

"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 you're using the experience of having been manipulated by one person to justify lumping all similar actions into the "rapist" category. Not only is this a dangerous precedent in that you seem to make no room for exceptions and interpretation (basically, any heterosexual sex is rape is what I'm reading from your definition; and that's just blatantly untrue); it's also a logical fallacy, (pardon the reference to the male anatomy).

Right, in response to this, to reiterate:

"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."


it's ineffective and condemns a lot of people who are not worthy of such condemnation.

Hey, I certainly NEVER said that all men abuse women or participate in the pornified rape culture; I said that most of them do.

I also talked about men and socialization before in this post there:

http://maggiehaysagainstporn.blogspot.com/2008/07/
thoughts-on-men-oppression-and-sisters.html

(on which I have not changed my mind since- broke the link above so it would fit in the thread, pls copy & delete the space)


Some men are actually nice. Some men put on the nice face in order to fuck pretty young women, then yank them around, cheat on them, dump them but say "let's still have sex"; denying yourself agency in these situations and placing criminal blame on the other is not a sign of being in power. Rather, it says "this person had power over me, and still has power over me, so I'm going to thrash around and call him a rapist". It's not morally right to do such a thing. [...]

The thing is, not all "nice guys" are just assholes in disguise and I don't think that it's right to condemn nearly half of the human species for the actions of one man -- especially when many of the individuals of that half of the species have their own offenses worthy of condemnation.


It's not morally right to sexually exploit a woman. To reiterate:

"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 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:

[Quote]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.[/quote]

-- Kay Leigh Hagan, in Orchids in the Arctic,
http://www.terry.uga.edu/~dawndba/4500orchids.htm "
(this essay is really good; I recommend a reading of the whole "Orchids in the Arctic" essay.

And I did not say all men. When I say men, I often mean 'men as a class'; that does not change the fact that I do not mean all men have been socialized to oppress women (in one way or another), I mean most men have been socialized that way, not all. And I don't think it is inherently biological, innate or a state of nature that men behave that way. I have always argued that it is due to conditioning, socialization to masculine norms and roles within a patriarchal culture.

Dworkin did not believe either it was innate, men behaving in an oppressive way toward women (see link below), but it was because of patriarchal conditioning. And she'd even argued with some feminists (who believed in "biological" explanations) about that:

http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/
WarZoneChaptIIID.html
(broke the link above so it would fit in the thread, pls copy & delete the space)



Now, for the people who keep sending accusatory comments: can you please stop it? I have NEVER said that all intercourse (or all sex) is rape, and neither did Andrea Dworkin:

http://www.againstpornography.org/
andreaneversaidthat.html
(broke the link above so it would fit in the thread, pls copy & delete the space)

I think I have now made my points clear enough now and I worked hard during the last two days on elaborating those (you can re-read now and re-check if you like). Therefore, if I get another wrongfully accusatory comment sent to me, I will push the "reject" button, and I will keep pushing it if I get another one.

delphyne said...

Powerful writing, Maggie.

I'm struggling to see why some people are struggling to see your point. Like you say seduction is on a continuum of sexually abusive exploitative and damaging behaviours, in the same way that fraud by a charming fraudster is on a continuum of theiving behaviours along with mugging and bank robbery. The manner the crimes are carried out may be different but people on the receiving end are still victimised and still experience a loss.

You do seem to cause howls of outrage just for speaking your truth. I say continue.

Maggie Hays said...

Thanks, Delphyne. :)

Maggie Hays said...

Just re-posting the links I mentioned (unbroken this time):

http://maggiehaysagainstporn.blogspot.com/2008/07/thoughts-on-men-oppression-and-sisters.html

http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/WarZoneChaptIIID.html

http://www.againstpornography.org/andreaneversaidthat.html

http://www.terry.uga.edu/~dawndba/4500orchids.htm

(all recommended reading).

Sarah said...

It is very patronising how Rachel spoke to you. Just wanted to say.

Anyway: please keep screaming your rage whenever you can. Keep up the good work.

Rachel said...

Maggie-
I understand now a little better what you mean, and while I still disagree to some extent I do want to thank you for clarifying your positions. There is a very fine line between an appropriate definition of rape and an over-broad one that causes more harm than good. After your refinement of the seduction definition (*distracting* a woman with perceived niceness in order to manipulate her into sex), I disagree less, but there's still a fine art to parsing the language just-so in order to actually draw a line. I do believe conversation on the topic is essential to protecting all women from sexual violence, and to helping men to realize that they can stop rape.

As for Sarah's comment: it is unfortunate that you have confused compassion and a desire to have a real conversation with being patronizing. I don't think that Maggie's definitions are as wrong as originally portrayed because she engaged in a discussion with me, and if it's patronizing for me to express my thoughts on the subject... well, I guess I'm patronizing.

Maggie Hays said...

After your refinement of the seduction definition (*distracting* a woman with perceived niceness in order to manipulate her into sex), I disagree less, but there's still a fine art to parsing the language just-so in order to actually draw a line.

Well, I did say I was sorry if rape came across as a strong word, though I do believe that many men who practise seduction (as I define it) do engage in some sort of subtle rapist behavior in some ways. A couple of commenters in the other thread did say things like "there's some formal equivocation in the term where it means the disingenuous acquisition of consent by means of guile, distraction, and possibly intoxication on the one hand (which I agree is incontestably indistinguishable from rape)" or "I checked the dictionary too (I don't think anyone who stands with the word 'seductive' as not related to rape would want to check my dictionary; it spells it out as persuading someone to do something they wouldn't otherwise do)."

I believe it is very important to recognize all forms of male exploitation of women (not just the most egregious ones) as the wider (malestream) culture doesn't or doesn't always.

I definitely believe that 1)seduction is a form of male sexual exploitation of women and that 2)sexual abuse & male dominance exist in a continuum.

These were my main points, as you now recognize. We may disagree on some stuff, but that's another matter...


it is unfortunate that you have confused compassion and a desire to have a real conversation with being patronizing. I don't think that Maggie's definitions are as wrong as originally portrayed because she engaged in a discussion with me, and if it's patronizing for me to express my thoughts on the subject... well, I guess I'm patronizing.

Well, I guess your first reply may have come across as 'patronizing' to some people, initially. And not just one, I think...

I think Sarah may have noticed something wrong somewhere in your first comment, even though I hadn't completely clarified my points on my definition of seduction yet and I did notice some compassion in some parts. But I don't want to get into any debate about this. This isn't what my original post was about and it wasn't my comment...


I do want to thank you for clarifying your positions.

No probs...

You know, digging into my past like I did in this post and bringing back those painful memories is a very hard thing to do...


I do believe conversation on the topic is essential to protecting all women from sexual violence, and to helping men to realize that they can stop rape.

Yep, conversations on the topic are essential. And it is men who perpetrate rape or at least participate in a pornified rape culture. I think that socialization to male-supremacy is a big problem; the patriarchal conditioning that most men had is very strong: it has taught them to become oppressors...

Thanks for your interest, even though we don't agree on every point.

Rain said...

Nice post Maggie :)
Keep up the dot-connecting!