Shades of Making Sexism Sexy
Do Fifty Shades of Grey, along with the deluge of violent and humiliating images that flood our consciousness, support patriarchy by making male dominance seem sexy?
Some worry that it might.
John Stoltenberg, a feminist activist and scholar, wrote a piece called “Pornography and Freedom,” observing that plenty of porn seems to promote oppression, whether a woman is pictured bound and gagged with her genitals open to the camera or whether lines from a book read, “The man wanted only to abuse and ravish her until she was broken and subservient.”
These sorts of images in both mainstream media and porn are mostly about women submitting to men.
In the eroticization, male dominance can seem sexy, he says.
If it’s sexy, who would want to end it?
A student of mine once asked why we should care about women’s equality when a lot of women (like her?) find male dominance sexy.
Two of my friends told me that they wanted to marry dominant men. One did and eventually divorced him because she didn’t like the reality of it. The other stayed married but had a lot of emotional problems.
I’ve mentioned Alisa Valdes before. She was raised feminist, and was even named one of the top feminist writers by Ms. Magazine. But when she met “the Cowboy,” she “embraced her femininity” and learned to submit: No back-talking; no second-guessing; no sarcastic, smart-ass remarks. She stayed monogamous and ignored her jealousy while Cowboy catted about. Her book, “The Feminist and the Cowboy,” suggests women will live happily ever after in orgasmic bliss if they just submit to controlling, misogynist men. In a recent post I described how her submission turned increasingly violent.
Still, my students often wonder “What’s the big deal?”
But what if the imagery were about race instead of sex? What if blacks nearly always had white lovers in real life, and at the same time nearly all of the “D/s” imagery depicted white domination and sadistic acts inflicted upon blacks? And what if some blacks came to crave submission and their own abuse at the hands of whites?
Would that be healthy?
Of course, once patriarchy sexualizes submission you can turn it around with “the dominatrix” emerging. Yet we are not bombarded with imagery that makes matriarchy sexy. So guys don’t go around wanting to marry dominant females who will boss them around in real life.
But a lot of people don’t want to engage this discussion. Repression and all that.
Prof. Robert Jensen, of the University of Texas, studies porn and says,
When I critique pornography, I am often told to lighten up. Sex is just sex… (but) Pornography offers men a politics of sex and gender – and that politics is patriarchal and reactionary…
There should be nothing surprising about the fact that some pornography includes explicit images of women in pain. But my question is: Wouldn’t a healthy society want to deal with that? Why aren’t more people, men or women, concerned? …
We should be free to talk about our desire for an egalitarian intimacy and for sexuality that rejects pain and humiliation.
I feel it is important to discuss things that are rarely discussed, and that make distinctions between what is healthy and what is not.
Next time I will turn to the other side of this question, looking at “pro-orgasm” feminists.
Posted on July 8, 2013, in feminism, pornography, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged feminism, Fifty Shades of Grey, pornography, psychology, sex and sexuality, sexism, women. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.