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Housework and compulsory heterosexuality

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Deck access's picture
Deck access
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Apr 6 2013 23:37
Housework and compulsory heterosexuality

I’ve read libcom for quite a while, but this is my first post

People usefully describe waged work as two classes with opposing interests - labour and capital - but not many people describe housework in a similar way. Why is that? Well, maybe because the two classes in this situation are women and men, and men are clearly the enemy. And pretty much the only people who dare to describe it like that are radical feminists. (I am a boy, jsyk)

But I think it’s important, because housework is the site of compulsory heterosexuality, and the agent of that is men. Women are forced to date men, to have PIV (penis-in-vagina sex), to have children and to do most of the housework. Knowing that women and men have opposing interests here, we can see fights and arguments between them for what they are: class antagonism. When men don’t use condoms, or don’t help at all with housework, it is not just personal attitudes. It is the balance of class forces.
This is a good blog post (not mine) on women and mens’ opposing perspectives on PIV.

From womens’ perspective, it’s a matter of tipping the balance of power. Women can make demands to their boyfriends/husbands, and be backed up by comrades. An example of this is the Gulabi gang, which was mentioned in the topic here. They force men to stop violence towards their wives. The tactic could also work for other demands- doing his share of housework, always using condoms, or not having PIV. And once they know of womens’ solidarity with each other, men will be easier to persuade. Of course, men can be unpredictable, so having the capability to shelter women from their violence might be a prerequisite.
The abolition of both compulsory heterosexuality and the wage system should be our aim.
What does anyone think? Am I on my own agreeing that men are structurally the enemies of women?

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Apr 7 2013 07:33

I think you're about to get a lot of responses here, so I'm going to try and keep this short.

(1) The problem isn't one of men v. women, but of patriarchy. It's about societal and structural institutions which prop up and reproduce gender inequality and oppression. Of course, men--on the whole--are the primary beneficiaries of this and lots of men conciously and unconciously do lots of partriarchal shit. But men are also very capable of challenging their own internalized patriarchy and of being part of larger movements which challenges patriarchy in wider society.

This is different from the notion of classes where one classes have inherent and irreconcilable interests from another, so the analogy (not to mention the analysis) doesn't work.

(2) There have been a lot of attempts to look the relationship of housework to the class struggle. In fact, any decent class analysis addresses the fact that a very sizable percentage of the total amount of labor performed globally is unpaid, in the home, and most likely done by women.

For something more practical take a look at Federici and Dalla Costa from here both of whom look at the the Italian Wages for Housework campaign which should be of interest to you as well.

(3) The way to deal with this is through the class struggle. Patriarchy and gender equality are class issues. Siphoning them off or redefining class oppression is not productive. Rather we need class-based women's groups to confront patriarchy and a healthy internal culture within class struggle groups that confronts and challenges patriarchy both within the organisation and within wider society--both of which would be impossible if you believe that men are structurally the immutable enemies of women.

(4) PIV - what?

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Apr 7 2013 16:22

Thanks for the response smile I agree that men can also help ending patriarchy. For a start, men can help fight patriarchy in wider society, like abortion laws. But we should also have a crystal clear focus on the root, which is mens’ ‘internalized patriarchy’, and the institution of the family/heterosexuality.

(1) To clarify that, I don’t think men and women have irreconcilable interests, but within the context of a patriarchal family I think they do (i.e. they can reconcile their interests, and doing so effectively destroys patriarchy). It’s all very well encouraging men to help and drop their patriarchy, and for men who have a revolutionary perspective that may be enough. But what we can also do is force men to drop their patriarchy. So if there was an anarcho-syndicalist union of housewives, wouldn’t it be focused on organising housewives to stand up to men, like the gulabi gang? Because the main problem housewives have is their husband. Basically I think the appropriate tactics can vary, from explaining to someone what’s wrong with their behaviour, to threatening them with the full force of a union.

(2) I’ve had a look at Federici’s ‘Wages against housework’. It’s very good, I like this bit:
‘In its turn, the unwaged condition of housework has been the most powerful weapon in reinforcing the common assumption that housework is not work, thus preventing women from struggling against it, except in the privatized kitchen-bedroom quarrel that all society agrees to ridicule, thereby further reducing the protagonist of a struggle. We are seen as nagging bitches, not workers in struggle.’
And this:
‘Women have always found ways of fighting back, or getting back at them, but always in an isolated and privatised way. The problem, then, becomes how to bring this struggle out of the kitchen and bedroom and into the streets.’
And this:
‘When hundreds and thousands of women are in the streets saying that endless cleaning, being always emotionally available, fucking at command for fear of losing our jobs is hard, hated work which wastes our lives, then they will be scared and feel undermined as men.’

And if men ‘will be scared and feel undermined’, then you can demand they drop their patriarchal bullshit. The ‘kitchen-bedroom quarrel’ can be won by women, and we will have a more unified working class to take down capital.

(3) I think we agree in practice, ‘class-based women’s groups to confront patriarchy’, would be great, like an anarcho-syndicalist union of housewives.

(4) PIV is short for penis-in-vagina sex, i.e. the most common type of sex under patriarchy. It’s a term that radical feminists use; ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ is from them as well. I think radical feminist stuff is useful, for example the blog post I linked in the op, which describes the ‘kitchen-bedroom quarrel’ that Federici also mentions.

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Apr 7 2013 18:37

I'm surprised to learn about the PIV label (which I assume was coined to remove the sexist baggage of 'penetrative vaginal sex' or heteronormative 'full sex'). I would have thought the term Vagina Enveloping Penis (VEP) sex, would be preferable because it notionally shifts the concept of penetration to one of female control (perhaps you could argue 'man organ in woman organ' is analogous to 'hand in glove'- the glove being passive with no agency of its own confused ).

Of course no sex act should be compulsory, for anyone involved and it is inspiring to see collective responses to gendered and patriarchal violence and oppression...

Quote:
PIV is short for penis-in-vagina sex, i.e. the most common type of sex under patriarchy

I think general kissing and touching is probably the most common form of sexual expression and I think it will continue to be even once we are rid of patriarchy, generally PIV is combined with other consensual sexual acts to maximise pleasure for both parties, well I hope it generally is... before and after the revolution. But yeah, what ever people enjoy doing sex-wise they should do really. Its all good as long as the other person really wants to too. It is very bed that some people feel pressured or are forced into doing things they don't want to sexually. Most women seem to quite like PIV, and plenty of other stuff too, well, in my fairly (in)extensive experience so I'm not sure about the impression I have that you might be saying some people think the prevalence of PIV is a patriarchal construct...? (have I missed the point?)

In terms of gender and housework then I think Chilli is right that we can't necessarily call it class struggle as its not an irreconcilable conflict of interests between man and woman in the same way that boss v worker is, but of course women suffer more in terms of unpaid labour (and gendered violence), particularly in the household. This labour is necessary to capital (both in terms of production and social reproduction), and therefore it does have a relationship to the class struggle... erm. I will wait for other responses because I've got a feeling I'm saying nothing useful.

Actually, finally, I think most (or perhaps all) of us men are negatively affected by patriarchy and socially constructed notions of gender. I find it hard to show affection to men in a non-embarrassing way, especially when I fancy them, (I am male, and generally identify as straight with some queer tendencies) (or something like that, fuck all these labels!). I enjoy cooking, showing affection to people, playing with children and I like to try to look pretty (but not feel obliged to, or be judged for looking however I choose or am stuck with) etc- I don't always find it easy to express myself in these 'feminine' ways (and other a-normative ways) without sometimes getting some stick or find myself feeling awkward about it...

Women and men of any gender or none, I am sorry for the way this post reads... I still find the whole gender thing incredibly difficult to talk about without sounding a bit silly.

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Apr 7 2013 20:43

Thanks for the questions smile

Quote:
Most women seem to quite like PIV, and plenty of other stuff too, well, in my fairly (in)extensive experience so I'm not sure about the impression I have that you might be saying some people think the prevalence of PIV is a patriarchal construct...? (have I missed the point?)

Yes, some people (feminists) think the prevalence of PIV is a patriarchal construct. Saying that ‘most women seem to quite like PIV’ misses the point. It is part of the role of the housewife, because men are taught to expect it from them, and they are taught to give it to men.
In ‘Wages against housework’, Federici writes:
‘Yet just how natural it is to be a housewife is shown by the fact that it takes at least twenty years of socialization – day-to-day training, performed by an unwaged mother – to prepare a woman for this role, to convince her that children and husband are the best she can expect from life. Even so, it hardly succeeds.’
And for a better and longer explanation, the blogger I linked in the op talks about why women do and don’t like PIV.

I agree with you here though:

Quote:
it is inspiring to see collective responses to gendered and patriarchal violence and oppression...

And I empathise a lot with finding it difficult to express yourself in ‘feminine’ ways. Though I don’t think you should call yourself ‘straight with queer tendencies’- I mean if you’re gay or bi then just call yourself that? But if you’re straight, queer is a derogatory word. Not blaming you though, people calling themselves ‘queer’ is really common, and it’s easy to forget it’s a slur.

Quote:
I still find the whole gender thing incredibly difficult to talk about without sounding a bit silly.

Don’t be put off, because it’s important to talk about. And to avoid sounding a bit silly, I think it’s best to use solid material analysis and practical examples smile

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Apr 7 2013 21:45

OK, I might struggle with the material analysis and practical examples but here is a response anyways. Seeing myself being quoted as saying 'most women seem to like PIV' made me feel uncomfortable and like I had phrased it very badly.

Nevertheless, in my experience most women actively seek out PIV with a partner (and at a time) of their choosing. That's not to say that others do not, or should feel obliged to engage in the act if they don't want to, (whether they are in a heterosexual relationship of whatever kind or not). I didn't mean that PIV is always welcome by women, or that all women like it, or that women who don't like it are somehow abnormal or anything like that.

I am well aware that it would be wrong (and deeply problematic/ very bad) to assume most women always like it under any circumstances. I just don't see the fact that loads of us (men and women) are doing PIV on a daily basis as something to be worried about if both the people involved in the act want to participate.

So I don't think the act itself, or its prevalence in general terms, should be seen as primarily a product of patriarchy, more a product of human sex (as with a whole range of other sex and intimate social acts). I think after patriarchy and all forms of hierarchcial cooercion have been abolished we'll be at it a whole lot more!

If one or more parties don't want to engage in PIV, but are forced to, or feel obliged to then that is obviously bad, and to be fought against. (I don't doubt that unwanted/ cooercive PIV is almost exclusively suffered by woman whether its rape or something more to do with other forms of coercion or conditioning, and this one of the many reasons I do want to abolish patriarchy).

I'm also sure that while most women like PIV (when they choose freely to engage in the act) there are still plenty of examples where women don't want to, (and thankfully, usually don't have to), or don't want to and are forced or cooerced to.. the latter is to be fought against because of the question of the power dynamics and cooercion/violence/patriarchy involved in any sex act where one party makes another feel they 'have to' do something they find unpleasant (or uses force or whatever).... but I don't think linking the act of female-male full genital sex with patriarchy per se is helpful. I will read the article just in case it says something I am missing.

On the 'straight/queer' thing. Some of my earliest sexual experiences were with men (well boys of my own age at the time, actually), but I generally find the male sex organs a bit gross to look at, let alone play with (I have no problem with my own in this regard wink ) and I am very rarely attracted to a man to the extent I would want to have sex with him of any kind (which I guess is true of most women too)... so all of my adult sexual experiences have been with women. Queer tendencies? I dunno, just straight then, if you insist. I don't really care what people would call me after a forensic analysis of my sexual past and desires, but I do care that the word 'queer' is used as an insult and that same-sex-sex (attraction or acts) are seen as 'not normal', I see sexuality as more of a spectrum, I mostly fancy women, but there are some men that I fancy more than some women... and one guy in particular who I think is SUPER HOT

edit: I prefer 'queer' to 'bi' because more of my friends who are open about being attracted to people of the same sex use it to label themselves- hardly any use 'bi' or 'gay' when talking about themselves. I just think queer is a lovely word and it feels great to say it, though there are people who would use it as an insult just as they would use 'anarchist' as an insult- fuck 'em (not literally, unless it's consensual)...

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Apr 7 2013 21:38

that blog is one of the worst things I've read. Seriously, graphs being used to demonstrate something you have no data or evidence for is ridiculous.

I get not everyone likes "piv" but plenty do. And to say that all these women feel terror, like jumping off a bridge, but they don't even know it, that they're somehow brainwashed or in denial is infuriating. Way to massively dismiss and speak for other people's experience.

ahhh! Bad feminism is as annoying as patriarchy!

EDIT - sorry that sounds like I'm having a go at you, deck access. That irriation is aimed at the blog, not you.

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Apr 10 2013 21:20

I started reading the blog but it made me angry and confused so I gave up... didn't get as far as the bit with the graphs. (It of course contained snippets of good stuff- it is unquestioningly bad that women are sometimes labelled as either frigid or nymphos just because their sex desires don't conform to someone else's expectations or whatever etc...)

I trust CommiePrincess's judgement on this and assume it's probably not a helpful thing to read in it's entirety. I'm going to stay off this thread now unless I have said something which is patriarchal/ bad in which case I am happy to be challenged and to respond...

(late) edit: inserted the word 'sometimes' as it was missing from the sentence, which changed the meaning to one I hadn't intended

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Apr 7 2013 23:00
commieprincess wrote:
that blog is one of the worst things I've read. Seriously, graphs being used to demonstrate something you have no data or evidence for is ridiculous.

I get not everyone likes "piv" but plenty do. And to say that all these women feel terror, like jumping off a bridge, but they don't even know it, that they're somehow brainwashed or in denial is infuriating. Way to massively dismiss and speak for other people's experience.

ahhh! Bad feminism is as annoying as patriarchy!

EDIT - sorry that sounds like I'm having a go at you, deck access. That irriation is aimed at the blog, not you.

thanks for posting this: I thought the same thing reading that ridiculous blog but didn't feel comfortable just slagging it off, being male.

I mean, apart from anything else, hasn't the author of that piece heard of contraception?

And as for saying that the way patriarchy describes female sexuality is either "frigid" or "nymphomaniac" is just completely false.

Deck access, going back to your OP, chilli sauce responds to your questions pretty well. But I have a couple of things to add, as well as a couple of questions:

Deck access wrote:

But I think it’s important, because housework is the site of compulsory heterosexuality, and the agent of that is men.

I must admit I don't quite understand the sentence. Nor do I understand what you mean by "compulsory heterosexuality". Could you explain?

Of course in some countries there is legal compulsory heterosexuality, where homosexuality is banned. However that's not the case in most Western countries. Although of course there is still widespread homophobia, but this is not the same thing.

And nor is homophobia an exclusively male trait - plenty of women are homophobic as well.

Quote:
Women are forced to date men, to have PIV (penis-in-vagina sex), to have children and to do most of the housework. Knowing that women and men have opposing interests here, we can see fights and arguments between them for what they are: class antagonism

again, I'm not sure exactly what you mean in your first sentence here. Who do you think forces women to date men? Don't you think that most women actually want to date men? And as for PIV sex, well as commie Princess says, while it's not everyone's cup of tea loads of women really like it! As for being forced to have children, again in some places access to contraception and abortion is difficult or impossible, but this is not the case in most of the West. And in any case access to contraception and abortion is not something which is men against women, but has men and women on both sides (although of course it is women who are most affected).
The issue of housework you raise is an important one. And again I don't think it's as simple as men versus women, although many men do benefit from the unpaid caring labour of women. And it would be good to have a discussion about how we could try to support organising efforts in this area, and what kind of approaches might be useful. (Although it's worth pointing out that it is not a universal thing: men do some housework as well: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_images.jsp?cntn_id=111458&org=nsf)

In terms of class antagonism, as chilli sauce outlined, men and women are not different classes but exist across all classes (i.e. you have capitalist men and women, and worker men and women). As communists, we find it useful to define classes in relation to the means of production (principally, in terms of owners/controllers of it, and those without any). If you have an alternate definition of class by which you can show men and women are indifferent ones I would be happy to hear it.
With regard to your comments about sex and contraception within marriage/households, I think there is a separate discussion basically about consent and sexual violence. Of course any nonconsensual sexual acts are bad and should be opposed, but you can't generalise that to all PIV sex or sex without condoms, which there is nothing inherently wrong with.

Quote:
What does anyone think? Am I on my own agreeing that men are structurally the enemies of women?

on this forum I would say yes. Certainly there is huge amounts of evidence that working class men and women have largely the same economic interests (i.e. in capitalism for higher wages, shorter working hours, better working conditions, better healthcare etc). Although of course there are noneconomic elements of gender oppression like the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual violence - but then in other areas like race and ability there are particular elements of particular oppressions like discrimination and violence but this doesn't mean that people of different races or disabled/nondisabled are structurally enemies either. Quite the opposite in fact.

NannerNannerNan...
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Apr 7 2013 23:05

"Well, I think these guys are a bunch of wieners because..."

That's what I was going to post until I found out the the blog you linked is a fucking right-wing radscum anti-trans outfit

boohoo people are trying to erasure me and my reactionary bigotry waaaaaah theyre givin me death threats for being a fucking right winger mah freedoms check yur non-transphobic privilege yalls

NannerNannerNan...
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Apr 7 2013 23:17

Off-topic: I don't see anything inherently wrong with the term "PIV". I mean, "penetrative sex" is a pretty, uh, "dong-centric" and slightly aggressive term, and it's always best to use a gender neutral term in place of gendered one, right?

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Apr 8 2013 04:19

sorry for the long post

Responding to A Wotsit:
Ok, a lot of what you say is completely fair

Quote:
I am well aware that it would be wrong (and deeply problematic/ very bad) to assume most women always like it under any circumstances. I just don't see the fact that loads of us (men and women) are doing PIV on a daily basis as something to be worried about if both the people involved in the act want to participate.

I think this is my fault for not being clear enough in the op, where I listed ‘not having PIV’ as a potential practical demand, alongside men sharing in housework and men using condoms. Those other two could easily apply to any housewife, so I was accidently implying that any housewife would also want to stop having PIV.

Quote:
“The tactic could also work for other demands- doing his share of housework, always using condoms, or not having PIV.”

Not having PIV is a potential demand, but that is not to say that no women should want PIV

Quote:
“So I don't think the act itself, or its prevalence in general terms, should be seen as primarily a product of patriarchy, more a product of human sex (as with a whole range of other sex and intimate social acts). I think after patriarchy and all forms of hierarchcial cooercion have been abolished we'll be at it a whole lot more!”

I disagree here. I think the prevalence of PIV over other sexual activity is a product of patriarchy.
On the word ‘queer’- I didn’t mean to intrude, I guess if you’re using it about yourself, it’s meant in a good way, so it’s alright.
And I apologise, I didn’t mean it to sound like I thought your post was silly, when I said ‘to avoid sounding silly’ I meant for all of us in the discussion.

Responding to commieprincess:

Quote:
that blog is one of the worst things I've read. Seriously, graphs being used to demonstrate something you have no data or evidence for is ridiculous.

Fair enough smile

Quote:
I get not everyone likes "piv" but plenty do. And to say that all these women feel terror, like jumping off a bridge, but they don't even know it, that they're somehow brainwashed or in denial is infuriating. Way to massively dismiss and speak for other people's experience.

I do think her points are a plausible description of the mechanisms of patriarchy in a relationship, and she is writing from her experience as well. Though not all relationships have those mechanisms, I can’t see she’s wrong. Woman are socialised to have PIV, regardless of whether they want to. And men are socialised to feel entitled to it. It does look like how she puts it, ‘a clash of 2 realities’.

Responding to Steven:
This explains what I mean by compulsory heterosexuality, by Silvia Federici in ‘Wages against housework’

Quote:
In the same way as god created Eve to give pleasure to Adam, so did capital create the housewife to service the male worker physically, emotionally and sexually – to raise his children, mend his socks, patch up his ego when it is crushed by the work and the social relations (which are relations of loneliness) that capital has reserved for him. It is precisely this peculiar combination of physical, emotional and sexual services that are involved in the role women must perform for capital that creates the specific character of that servant which is the housewife, that makes her work so burdensome and at the same time invisible. It is not an accident that most men start thinking of getting married as soon as they get their first job. This is not only because now they can afford it, but because having somebody at home who takes care of you is the only condition not to go crazy after a day spent on an assembly line or at a desk. Every woman knows that this is what she should be doing to be a true woman and have a ‘successful’ marriage.

Basically the emotional and sexual servitude to men is what I’ve been calling ‘compulsory heterosexuality’, and the physical servitude is what I’ve been calling ‘housework’.
And a comment on it by Spikymike:

Quote:
Even though there has been some shift in womens role as 'housewife' in more recent times resulting from changes in the structure of the workforce, the role of the state and pressure from womens struggles for improvement in their conditions, much of this critique still seems to ring true for many working class women.

And after a quick google, here’s a suggestion of why the prevalence of PIV might just be because of patriarchy:

Quote:
Only 25 percent of women are consistently orgasmic during vaginal intercourse.
This bears repeating: Only one-quarter of women reliably experience orgasm during intercourse-no matter how long it lasts, no matter what size the man's penis, and no matter how the woman feels about the man or the relationship.
This statistic comes not from just one study, but from a comprehensive analysis of 33 studies over the past 80 years by Elisabeth Lloyd in her fascinating book The Case of the Female Orgasm (Harvard University Press).
Rounding things out: About half of women sometimes have orgasms during intercourse. About 20 percent seldom or ever have orgasms during intercourse. And about 5 percent never have orgasms, period.
In other words, intercourse is not the key to most women's sexual satisfaction.

(www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/200903/the-most-important-sex...)
But on the other hand, ‘loads of women really like it!’ smile

And a last point-
You said:

Quote:
As communists, we find it useful to define classes in relation to the means of production (principally, in terms of owners/controllers of it, and those without any)

Federici said:

Quote:
so did capital create the housewife to service the male worker physically, emotionally and sexually – to raise his children, mend his socks, patch up his ego

RAG in Dublin said:

Quote:
it was noted that from a feminist perspective, the family and the body are additional sites of conflict (our literal “means of production” which we determined to seize!)

(http://ragdublin.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/why-anarcha-feminism.html)
Well according to RAG, the family and the body are means of production. And according to Federici, families and womens’ bodies are subservient to men. That looks to me like men own/control the means of production, while women are without any. smile
But like I said earlier, men and womens’ interests are reconcilable, and must be reconciled if we are to take down capital.

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Apr 8 2013 07:22
deck access wrote:
I can’t see she’s wrong. Woman are socialised to have PIV, regardless of whether they want to. And men are socialised to feel entitled to it

As you point out, it's fucked that people should have any expectation or wifely duty, but this is not the bloggers point. She's not just saying there's an expectation. She's saying that women who like it only think they like it but underneath they really don't like it. How could anyone like it if she doesn't? I guess everyone else just lacks any kind of agency and decision making power. They can't possibly know what they like sexually because of patriarchy.

On the other hand, isn't there a chance that the blogger's fear and disgust of "piv" could also be to do with living in a patriarchal society? Hmmmm?? Not saying that is the case, but how come it's only women who enjoy penis-vag sex that are brainwashed zombies?

The link you posted to Steven about vaginal orgasms - lots of sexual acts do not result in orgasm for one or both parties, but are just great in their own right. Lots of kinds of foreplay, and "pim" and "tov" for example.

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Apr 8 2013 07:59
Quote:
And as for saying that the way patriarchy describes female sexuality is either "frigid" or "nymphomaniac" is just completely false.

I mean, yes and no. For example, women's sexuality has been historically dealt with as a dichotomy: the 'pure' wife and the 'unpure' slut. I'm thinking about literature here mostly, but many teentage girls report, on one hand, feeling pressured to have sex and, on the other, the pressure of being labeled easy if they do. That contradictory polarity is still there.

I mean, of course, that blog is shit and lacks any sense of perspective or subtlety, but I don't actually think it's one of it's worst points.

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Apr 8 2013 08:26
commieprincess wrote:
The link you posted to Steven about vaginal orgasms - lots of sexual acts do not result in orgasm for one or both parties, but are just great in their own right. Lots of kinds of foreplay, and "pim" and "tov" for example.

exactly - that link doesn't contradict what I said at all. I mean not many people would orgasm from back rubs, doesn't mean lots of people don't enjoy back rubs!

Thanks for explaining what you mean by "compulsory heterosexuality", although I must say I don't understand it at all because it is nothing to do with heterosexuality being compulsory, so to me the terminology sounds inappropriate and counter-productive.

Deck access, you say that the author of that blog post is writing from personal experience. Now of course this is something which is laudable. However she is not just writing from her own personal experience, she is generalising to all women from her own personal experience, and coming up with a stupid graph to point out why the experiences of all other women don't count for anything because they have just been brainwashed by patriarchy, unlike the enlightened author. This is not laudable.

On a separate note it's good that NNN has pointed out the other bigoted crap on that "radical feminists" blog. FYI, here is a good critique of transphobic "feminism": http://libcom.org/library/moving-towards-solidarity-laurie-penny

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Apr 8 2013 08:31
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
And as for saying that the way patriarchy describes female sexuality is either "frigid" or "nymphomaniac" is just completely false.

I mean, yes and no. For example, women's sexuality has been historically dealt with as a dichotomy: the 'pure' wife and the 'unpure' slut. I'm thinking about literature here mostly, but many teentage girls report, on one hand, feeling pressured to have sex and, on the other, the pressure of being labeled easy if they do. That contradictory polarity is still there.

I mean, of course, that blog is shit and lacks any sense of perspective or subtlety, but I don't actually think it's one of it's worst points.

yes, totally there is that dichotomy - but frigid/nymphomaniac is a much more extreme (i.e. they are medical diagnoses) dichotomy which is less descriptive of the real situation which is more like prude/slut. Anyway, this is a minor point, more about emphasis than actual disagreement so I won't derail the discussion.

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Apr 8 2013 08:53
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frigid/nymphomaniac is a much more extreme (i.e. they are medical diagnoses) dichotomy which is less descriptive of the real situation which is more like prude/slut.

Fair point, I think we're in agreement.

Is 'frigid' still a medical diagnosis? I thought it was one of those like 'idiot' which is no longer used by the medical establishment but still survives in oppressive everyday language (which sounds worryingly like language politics, but you know what I mean).

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Apr 8 2013 16:07

The important thing is that positive options should exist- to have sex that doesn’t include PIV, to have gay relationships, to wear clothes considered inappropriate for your sex, to never have children.

commieprincess:

Quote:
On the other hand, isn't there a chance that the blogger's fear and disgust of "piv" could also be to do with living in a patriarchal society? Hmmmm?? Not saying that is the case, but how come it's only women who enjoy penis-vag sex that are brainwashed zombies?

I think you’re all being really harsh on her. The viewpoint she has, of disliking PIV, is not a viewpoint that I’ve seen articulated anywhere else. Not from anyone. I’d say in an environment like that, many people don’t have the positive option not to have PIV. So I think her opinion is really useful, because it opens the door on options that people might not know they have.

Steven:

Quote:
The issue of housework you raise is an important one. And again I don't think it's as simple as men versus women, although many men do benefit from the unpaid caring labour of women. And it would be good to have a discussion about how we could try to support organising efforts in this area, and what kind of approaches might be useful.

As for useful approaches, this bit from ‘Wages against housework’ that I quoted earlier is brilliant:

Quote:
Women have always found ways of fighting back, or getting back at them, but always in an isolated and privatised way. The problem, then, becomes how to bring this struggle out of the kitchen and bedroom and into the streets.

Quote:
When hundreds and thousands of women are in the streets saying that endless cleaning, being always emotionally available, fucking at command for fear of losing our jobs is hard, hated work which wastes our lives, then they will be scared and feel undermined as men.

I’m not sure people are thinking strategically enough. The idea is to scare and undermine men. No?

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Apr 8 2013 21:44

Deck access, totally agree that other options should be available and there should be no expectation or pressure to have piv sex. And that pressure definitely exists.

As far as I know there is some existing feminist discourse on the rejection of piv sex (like Andea Dwarkin) but it's all really reactionary and ignores the fact that lots of women actively like it, and it's kind of insulting to imply that those women can't see beyond their social conditioning.

I don't think her blog is promoting sexual liberation, which I'm all for. It's just weird charts and seems pretty essentialist to me.

Having said that, if you find it helpful on a personal level, I dont' want to shit all over that. I just don't think judging others for how they like to get jiggy is helpful. (Not that you're doing that, but the blog is)

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Apr 9 2013 14:08
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As far as I know there is some existing feminist discourse on the rejection of piv sex (like Andea Dwarkin) but it's all really reactionary and ignores the fact that lots of women actively like it, and it's kind of insulting to imply that those women can't see beyond their social conditioning.
I don't think her blog is promoting sexual liberation, which I'm all for. It's just weird charts and seems pretty essentialist to me.

Ok fair enough, I’ve had a look and found a good post that’s not so uncompromising

Quote:
So I’m asking…is piv worth it? Or can we just come up with other sexxay ways to feel sexxay during sex that involves little risk and all parties actually being satisfied? Not that anyone shold feel pressured out of doing intercourse but of course that isn’t the only way. Be creative! B-E-creative!! Women nor men NEED it to achieve orgasm…and come on…are the risks worth it?
Oh and on the prince charming idea…is that really what we need to be teaching our young children?! Not really! Happily ever after isn’t promised or garunteed in relationships or in life. And the dudes are being taught that as long as they’re jeks with hot faces then they’ll get hot girls who are supposed to do whatever you want.

Full post

Also, here’s Christine Delphy’s view on some of these points:

Quote:
Since the bringing up of children is labor extorted from women, it could in fact be thought that men fear women will seek to escape from the labor of child-rearing, notably by limiting births, and that men therefore accord themselves the means to withdraw such control from women by prohibiting abortion. The constraint to be heterosexual and the “choice” within sexuality of practices that result in impregnation can also be seen as a means to withdraw control over fertility from women and give it to men. The same sort of reasoning has been applied to marital violence3 and rape.4 However, to be fair, the links so established are too abridged to be called full explanations.

Patriarchy, domestic mode of production, gender, and class - Christine Delphy

And sorry for using so many Silvia Federici quotes, but here’s some more from ‘Wages against housework’ smile

Quote:
We want to call work what is work so that eventually we might rediscover what is love and create what will be our sexuality which we have never known.

Quote:
We want and have to say that we are all housewives, we are all prostitutes and we are all gay, because until we recognise our slavery we cannot recognise our struggle against it, because as long as we think we are something better, something different than a housewife, we accept the logic of the master, which is a logic of division, and for us the logic of slavery.

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Apr 9 2013 17:55

edit: deleted. Realised I was just repeating what had already been said.

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Apr 10 2013 14:44
commieprincess wrote:
As far as I know there is some existing feminist discourse on the rejection of piv sex (like Andea Dwarkin) but it's all really reactionary and ignores the fact that lots of women actively like it, and it's kind of insulting to imply that those women can't see beyond their social conditioning.

Lots of people actively like capitalist society. Does this theoretically refute communism?

The theory of communism suggests that a fundamentally different way of organising society is possible, one that would destroy social class and offer a great liberation of human capacities. The form of society that is described by this theory is utterly unrecognisable to the vast majority of people currently living in capitalist society. This vast majority, if offered the theory of communism, would reject it entirely. Not always because they consider it an inherently bad idea, but because it is so far detached from material reality that it is laughable. Does this mean that to maintain the idea that it is in the interests of the majority of people in our society to take part in a transition to communist society is "reactionary" and "insulting" to that majority (who presmuably, from the perspective of the communist theorist/activist, cannot "see beyond their social conditioning")?

The logic underlying your rejection of Dworkin's feminism is politically liberal. You believe that because a person states a preference for something, we have no valid grounds from which to argue that the thing in question is in fact in conflict with the person's true interests. This is one of the basic arguments used in defence of the market economy. From this basic position we have no grounds from which we can advance a revolutionary theory of society.

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Apr 10 2013 15:10

To me, that seems like a bit of a bizarre way to reason against what CP said jonglier. Still not sure if I have got my head around it...

Applied to capitalism v communism and people's stated preference vs 'what is best for them, but they don't know it'... generally when people who suffer because of capitalism defend it they equate it with 'the type of capitalism we have is not as bad as state capitalism ('Communist' dictatorship)' or they agree 'it is bad in many ways, but its unreaslistic to think there is something which could be better' or even at the most confused level 'but I like having consumer products'.

However it's quite different in the case of sex where our personal experience of sex acts results in either pleasure or displeasure- and therefore it would seem to me that people are much better placed to judge what is good and not, for themselves, sex-wise than they are about an entire system of social organisation and alternative possibilities.

Did that actually deal with the idea you're posting...?

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Apr 10 2013 15:27

Not sure if I should add...

..so sex-wise we should respect each others wishes and also do what we enjoy. While also acting against those who do not respect people's wishes in self-determining their own sexual behaviour. Communism-wise we should aim to work together to try and build and mobilise opposition to the aspects of capitalist social organisation which harm us and seek to involve those who have a stake in finding collective remedies to these harms...?

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Apr 10 2013 16:54

jonglier- I completely agree with you smile
I think that PIV within the context of a patriarchal family is contrary to womens’ interests. For example, Christine Delphy’s observation:

Quote:
The constraint to be heterosexual and the “choice” within sexuality of practices that result in impregnation can also be seen as a means to withdraw control over fertility from women and give it to men.

(note that Dworkin said ‘I think both intercourse and sexual pleasure can and will survive equality.’ i.e. she’s not ignoring that post-patriarchy some women will still like it)
So if I was in a relationship that involved PIV, as a pro-feminist I think we’d have to think very critically about if we wanted to do it, and consider other ways of having sex. That would be necessary to dismantle the patriarchal mechanisms within our relationship. Creating an equal division of labour at home would also be necessary.
I think that an effective feminist organisation (and any anarchist organisation should be feminist) would be very critical of both heterosexuality and PIV- I am convinced it is possible to criticize these things without people feeling pressured out of them.

A Wotsit:

Quote:
However it's quite different in the case of sex where our personal experience of sex acts results in either pleasure or displeasure- and therefore it would seem to me that people are much better placed to judge what is good and not, for themselves, sex-wise than they are about an entire system of social organisation and alternative possibilities.

Sex is a fundamental part of patriarchy, and of capitalism as a whole.

Quote:
...so sex-wise we should respect each others wishes and also do what we enjoy. While also acting against those who do not respect people's wishes in self-determining their own sexual behaviour.

This is not enough. We have to critically examine the parts of our lives that are entwined with the subordination of women, we can't just do what we enjoy.

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Apr 10 2013 18:39
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The constraint to be heterosexual and the “choice” within sexuality of practices that result in impregnation can also be seen as a means to withdraw control over fertility from women and give it to men.

But no one here thinks you should limit people's choices (except the choices of those who try to cooerce others into things they don't want) and make them feel they have to be hetero, or that people should have to have PIV if they don't want to. We are all-for reproductive autonomy for women. We recognise that patriarchy is a very bad thing.

Quote:
Sex is a fundamental part of patriarchy, and of capitalism as a whole.

I agree. But sex is also a fundamental part of what makes us human and will always be, including PIV for those that want to do it, now, and when patriarchy is abolished. If people want to do it together, they should go ahead and not be judged negatively for it.

Quote:
We have to critically examine the parts of our lives that are entwined with the subordination of women, we can't just do what we enjoy.

I agree. Which is why women should be able to choose for themselves whether to have PIV or not- and others should respect those wishes (The onus being on respecting peoples wishes if they do not want to, of course). And when people feel cooerced into doing something they don't want to it is to be resisted strongly both individually and collectively.

Quote:
So if I was in a relationship that involved PIV, as a pro-feminist I think we’d have to think very critically about if we wanted to do it, and consider other ways of having sex.

If I told my partner I thought we shouldn't have PIV 'because of patriarchy' I'm pretty sure she would be quite disappointed and confused about that. However I don't doubt that patriarchy permeates all relationships and all of life, I just think its a step to far to say 'patriarchy exists, unwanted sex exists- ergo, PIV is generally a bad thing'.

I keep telling myself I should leave this thread alone but it's quite compelling! I hope to hear from more female posters, in the interests of balance.

edit I feel I should add:

Quote:
We have to critically examine the parts of our lives that are entwined with the subordination of women, we can't just do what we enjoy.

Agree. But two (or more) people (of any gender) can do together what they both/ all enjoy when it comes to sex.

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Apr 10 2013 19:42
jonglier wrote:
commieprincess wrote:
As far as I know there is some existing feminist discourse on the rejection of piv sex (like Andea Dwarkin) but it's all really reactionary and ignores the fact that lots of women actively like it, and it's kind of insulting to imply that those women can't see beyond their social conditioning.

Lots of people actively like capitalist society. Does this theoretically refute communism?

The theory of communism suggests that a fundamentally different way of organising society is possible, one that would destroy social class and offer a great liberation of human capacities. The form of society that is described by this theory is utterly unrecognisable to the vast majority of people currently living in capitalist society. This vast majority, if offered the theory of communism, would reject it entirely. Not always because they consider it an inherently bad idea, but because it is so far detached from material reality that it is laughable. Does this mean that to maintain the idea that it is in the interests of the majority of people in our society to take part in a transition to communist society is "reactionary" and "insulting" to that majority (who presmuably, from the perspective of the communist theorist/activist, cannot "see beyond their social conditioning")?

The logic underlying your rejection of Dworkin's feminism is politically liberal. You believe that because a person states a preference for something, we have no valid grounds from which to argue that the thing in question is in fact in conflict with the person's true interests. This is one of the basic arguments used in defence of the market economy. From this basic position we have no grounds from which we can advance a revolutionary theory of society.

This seems like quite a crude comparison to me.

Tons of people do not actively want the overthrow of capitalism, but that's not the point. Workers are pissed off when their pay is inadequate, when they have to work long hours, when they have to do shit work. Or in other words, their material conditions. They are perfectly capable of recognising this and constantly do. There is an array of complex reasons why people complain about these things and don't actively change or try to change them, social conditioning being one of many factors.

This is completely different from women having a range of sexual preferences. While I totally agree that there are distorted expectations about sex, and that this can cause women who don't enjoy piv to feel pressured into it, it doesn't make piv inherently oppressive or patriarchal.

Are you saying that women who find piv physically enjoyable actually don't? What evidence is there for this assertion aside from the fact that orgasm is supposedly the only form of sexual pleasure?

No one likes being exploited, but people have massively wide ranging sexual desires.

EDIT - also, according to the link Deck Access put up 25% of women can achieve orgasm from piv. So why not let them go ahead and enjoy themselves?

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Apr 10 2013 19:30

A wotsit is smacking it. No need to mince words. You're just applying basic logical principles and there's no shame in that.

Quote:
Lots of people actively like capitalist society. Does this theoretically refute communism?

Seriously, come on now. Physical pleasure is not the same things a material conditions.

And, beside, lots of people who have serious beefs with capitalist society actively give verbal defense to capitalism. Those same people act against the interests of capital everyday without being conscious of it and certainly without verbalizing any opposition to capitalism. Contradictions of class consciousness, action preceding consciousness, etc, etc.

In short, the analogy doesn't work. Verbalising a like of capitalism is not the same as deriving pleasure from a sexual act. And I think it trivializes and distorts both to equate the two.

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Apr 10 2013 19:32

Also, this:

a wotsit wrote:
I agree. Which is why women should be able to choose for themselves whether to have PIV or not- and others should respect those wishes (The onus being on respecting peoples wishes if they do not want to, of course). And when people feel cooerced into doing something they don't want to it is to be resisted strongly both individually and collectively.

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Apr 10 2013 20:30
Quote:
A wotsit is smacking it. No need to mince words. You're just applying basic logical principles and there's no shame in that.

Thanks chilli, I do appreciate the reassurance (is my angst so obvious?*), must admit I am making a real effort here to try and keep the tone of my posts calm and avoid making crude jokes... and mincing is just my style. wink

CP and chilli's posts have actually advanced my thinking on why J's analogy didn't work for me- I hadn't clearly got my head around the 'material conditions' bit etc.

* I am aware I've said/ thought stupid things about gender in the past, I'm becoming increasingly confident in discussing it though.

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Apr 10 2013 20:52

OK, another female poster here.

I think everything's pretty much been said, I don't know what I'm adding here but to agree with Commie Princess that it is a really awful blog. OK, it's written from a personal perspective, probably not the best thing to base a wider analysis on, but it seems to me that to take the leap that she does that if she doesn't like something that all other women don't like it either, or they're just too dozy to work out that they don't like it. Not to mention the awful graph, that 50% of women are terrified of it and 50% are not - that could be a sample of just her and a mate who has slightly more ambivalent feelings than her. As well as the transphobic stuff, there's a bit where she argues that men and boys are obsessed with death, which leads to necrophilia. I can't honestly be bothered to go through it all, so it may have some redeeming features.
So, I guess we all agree that mutually consensual sexual activity, enthusiastic consent if you wish to use that term, between partners, or more, or less, is a good thing, in which case,then I'm not at all sure what the problem is. Of course nobody should be forced or coerced into any sexual activity they don't want to do but I really don't think that refraining from PIV is an effective tactic to dismantle patriarchy, either within a relationship or in wider society as a whole. I know that sounded a bit glib but it is within the context of respectful relationships just one of a whole bunch of things people do to get off and if you like to do it, like I said already, I don't know what the problem is. I do, on the other hand, have a bit of a problem with other people telling me how I should enjoy my sex life, so that woman's blog did rankle me a bit.
And the other blog, she asks "is it worth the risk?" which I took to mean the risk of getting pregnant. Sure, for much of human history the risk of pregnancy was a big thing for women but it's not so today for most of us. Certainly no birth control is 100% sure but the risk that PIV inevitably leads to pregnancy is very, very largely mitigated by good knowledge and practice of contraception. For the record, any man who insists on not using a condom when a woman has asked him to is committing a sexual assault.
I'm trying (and probably failing badly) not to come over as being preachy and patronizing. I used to be a sex and drugs advisor, giving information to young folks, and my position was and still is that you need to educate yourself and have and develop confidence in your own sexuality. That means knowing what you want to do and what you don't want to do and being able to discuss that. Also, that sexuality is an integral and normal part of human life, one of Mother Nature's better ideas. I don't think that it's a good idea to throw a blanket prohibition on any sexual activity which people consensually enjoy, whether it's for religious, moral or political reasons. There's an enormous amount of politics around sex and sexuality, I don't think that an individual's personal pleasures should be part of that conversation. If everyone involved is happy with what's going on, it's all good.
Essentially, I don't think that refraining from PIV will challenge patriarchy in any way and the argument that the majority of women don't orgasm from PIV alone and therefore it shouldn't happen isn't very compelling. There are loads of sexual activities which do not inevitably result in orgasms, for both women and men, that doesn't mean that people don't like them. And also, fixating that orgasms are the be all and end all of sexual activity is a bit limiting. There's a lot of sexual activity that people have fun doing, all kinds of enjoyable fooling around which doesn't make you come.

btw, PIV? Is this a new bit of terminology which somehow passed me by? I would generally be using a far more anglo-saxon vocabulary to discuss this. Personally, I don't like using any vocabulary relating to sex which is overly, clinical, medical or political. I think by doing that it removes it the sphere of what is a normal, natural and everyday sort of life.