Monday, October 13, 2008

Practicing Sexism Leads To Bad Sex

In a post I wrote regarding black males that use sexism to supposedly uplift black women an anonymous commenter had this to say.

What you say above kinda hits home for me. I think most of the women you posted pictures of are extremely attractive. Does that make me a bad person.
If so, then what do I do once I've established my attraction to women is wrong?


I have been thinking about this comment from the moment that I read it.  what really triggered a response in me was the fact that calling out sexism was equated with denying our sexual nature.  Even though this commentary was benign, sexism is quite often justified as part of the natural discourse that occurs between heterosexual beings.

I am a heterosexual woman that is quite in touch with my sexuality.  Not only do I enjoy having sex as regularly as possible (quite the task with two kids), but I also am very physically attracted to men.  Just like everyone else I have my "type".  For me it is the tall dark tortured artist look.  Yeah, that works for me and then some.  There is a difference between being sexually attracted to someone and objectifying them. 

image I may look at someone like Wentworth Miller, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Naveen Andrews or Antonio Banderas, and think to myself yeah, I'd hand him the crackers to eat in my bed.  What I will not do is reduce any of these men to fuckable body parts.  I will not envision them as beings without feeling that I can exploit for my sexual pleasure. 

The fault is not in being sexually attracted to another person, the fault lies in how we allow social discourse to effect our understandings of these sexual leanings.  If I as a woman take a sexually aggressive approach and think to myself yeah, I'd go there, I am envisioning myself as the active body.  This is a transgressive sexual thought as female sexuality much like the female body is constructed as passive and closed.  Women are expected to respond sexually in response to male action and not of our own volition.  When we orgasm it is because a man bestowed it upon us and not because we actively sought one.

When a man sees a woman that he finds sexually attractive, he has a choice.  He can look at her breasts, ass, legs or whatever his thing may be and see her as a being there to perform for his sexual pleasure.  He can picture all of the things he would do to her, often reflected in comments like, "I'd hit that" or he can envision are more equal kind of sexuality.  He can envision a sexuality that is based upon reciprocity and respect.  A sexuality where the man is not always the dominant or active body because he is male, a sexuality where the goal is the pleasure of both or all parties involved. A sexuality that is based in mutuality is a more progressive sexuality because it understands that as humans we have desires and needs but those sexual desires need not fall prey to sexism or gender essentialism. 

Just like every other aspect of our lives the ways in which we have sex is highly gendered.  We perform certain activities because that is what good women or sexually confident men do.  Each time we engage though we believe that we are wild with abandon, in actuality we are not free and continue to perform our gender.  Sex needs to be rescued from gender essentialism to truly be experienced as autonomous beings.  We are more than disembodied genitals, we are passionate yet intelligent beings capable of rethinking how we understand all of our drives.  In answer to the question, being sexual is not wrong, but understanding it as a jigsaw puzzle of genitals reduces sex to a performance rather than an act of intimacy.  So go on, get your groove, drop it like it's hot and it will be if you open yourself to all of the possibilities. 


Isabel said...

mm, dark tortured artists... sorry what were you saying?

but seriously folks, I kind of love this post. I would also add that even if you find yourself mentally objectifying people (since we can't control our thoughts and habits are hard to break), it is still really not that hard to stop yourself from being a jerk. Just don't voice it. For real. I am not trying to censor anyone, I am giving advice about how not to be a jerk. This includes online forums (i.e., if a feminist blog is having a serious discussion about the objectification of a female public figure, that is not an invitation for you to wade into the comments all "seriously people, she's not even that hot!" or "yeah I'd do her." no one cares, and it makes you, yup, a jerk). (This is not to pick on that commenter, who seems genuinely confused [what can I say, I like to give the benefit of the doubt]). Don't stare at her chest, don't assume she wants to sleep with you, etc. And if she does want to sleep with you and you're on your way to making that happen, don't assume you know everything there is to pleasing a woman (seriously, no one wants to sleep with That Guy). She probably has some ideas of her own and if you ask her about them it'll probably be more fun for the both of you.

ideologicallyimpure said...

This is a damn good post, especially:

"What I will not do is reduce any of these men to fuckable body parts. I will not envision them as beings without feeling that I can exploit for my sexual pleasure."

It so perfectly sums up the difference between attraction and objectification.

White Trash Academic said...

Suresh..Sayid...finding it hard to concentrate.

Hope this illustrates what you were getting at :)

Danyell said...

Lust certainly does have it's place. But everyone needs to acknowledge that whoever they are attracted to is a real, live person and deserves to be treated as such. It's ok to notice the parts of us that are sexual, but it's pathetic when that's all you can focus on.

I'm more attracted to the whole person, rather than the sum of the parts.

Sady said...

Yes, precisely. The problem is not with desire, but with refusing to accord humanity to the person that you desire. Sex has the potential to be great. When we refuse to really hear or engage with our sexual partners, we create not only a massive potential for exploitation and hurt, but some really crappy sex.