The Radical Notion

Encouraging women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians

Terminology (or, This Isn’t Sex), Pt. 2 February 27, 2010

Terminology (or, This Isn’t Sex), Pt. 1 found here.

Note: I briefly had this post under password protection, as it dealt with some personal/intimate details and feelings. If you read the post and have strong opinions on whether or not it should be publicly published, please drop me a line in the comments (I can delete your comment after if you want).

[trigger warning]

This is a continuation of the sentiments expressed in the other day’s post, Terminology (or, This Isn’t Sex). In it, I describe how when I was younger, I assumed pretty much any sexual media to be “sex-positive” and empowering, as some sort of “take that!” to the social conservative, decidedly sex-negative movement. I conflated objectification and rape apologism with empowerment and sexual freedom and agency, in part because none of the former words were in my vocabulary at the time. I discussed how the lack of feminist terminology in popular discourse, or the misunderstanding of same, leads to the phenomenon of all criticism of pornography, etc. being labeled as prudish and anachronistic, and had I realized that at least some of the criticism was based on ideas I would actually agreed with, I would have come to certain realizations much earlier.

Today, I’m going to discuss more thoughts about sex I had at that age and how they were influenced by popular culture and education, so this is your fair warning to leave if it’s something you’d rather not hear about (Hi, Mommy!).

When I was a teenager, one of the paramount themes in representations and discussions of relationships was sexual intimacy (shocker, I know). I was lucky enough not to be in an area of the country or religion where abstinence-only sex education or purity pledges abound, but the impressions I got were still mixed, at best. In discussions with health teachers, other adults, friends, and of course almost all popular media, the following messages were disseminated:

  • Teenage boys are the horniest creatures on the planet. They are perpetually masturbating, or thinking about it, and this is both completely acceptable and very funny. In almost no situation can a teenage boy control his sex drive, whether this means becoming aroused at an inappropriate times or trying to “get” sexual activity from a hesitant (female) partner.
  • Teenage girls are boy-crazy, but any sexual contact with said boys is a result of peer pressure. The vast majority of girls don’t masturbate, which is why any discussion of it is both rare and considered much more”shocking”. Teenage girls can’t control their emotions and fall hopelessly in love with boys at the drop of a hat, which leaves them vulnerable to being “made” to do something they’d rather not (have sex). This is not a funny thing in the same way that boys humping apple pies is, but the girls aren’t pitied very much either, because as the possessors of a lower libido they are the Designated Kill Switch for any teenage sexual activity, which is universally considered to be bad unless we’re just talking about boys having sex with nameless figures, in which case it’s cool and funny. Any girl who fails to properly control her boy’s sexual urges is to be blamed and shamed; any indication that she might have actually invited or (gasp!) wanted said sexual activity should lead to even more blaming and shaming. The terms “fast”, “loose”, “easy”, “whore”, and “slut” should be employed whenever describing a girl that someone thinks might have wanted sex, or had sex, or been “made” to have sex, and are universally acknowledged as the worst things a girl could ever be.

People were not entirely without sympathy for the female half of the population, though. We also received frequent admonitions and instructions on how and why we should “resist” our potential boyfriends’ inevitable (and inevitably unwelcome) sexual advances. I remember distinct moments in health class, for example, where we all discussed what we would say if our boyfriend told us “you would [have sex] if you loved me” – the proper response was “if you loved me, you wouldn’t make me”. A boy who is trying to have sex with a girl who doesn’t want to (pretty much all sexual activity was assumed to fall into this category) is inconsiderate and not a nice person, and it might even be good for you two to have a Serious Discussion About Your Feelings, but breaking up with a boy who was pressuring you into sex was a last resort (don’t want to be a prude! And all boys are gonna do it anyway, so do you really want to be alone?). (more…)

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Terminology (or, This Isn’t Sex) February 25, 2010

Terminology (or, This Isn’t Sex), Pt. 2 found here

There comes a time in every grown-up’s life when they have a sobering revelation: their parents were right.

Well, maybe.

One of the things I’ve noticed during my Feminist Journey ™ is how I’ve become critical of things that I used to think were totes cool. Well, okay, that’s not news, but I have more, I swear! I’ve become critical of things I not only used to be interested in, but used to support because I thought they were progressive, or empowering, or some vague force for good in the world. Case in point: Cosmopolitan Magazine.

15-year-old TRN: OMG there’s this magazine that talks about SEX and it’s right there in the CHECKOUT LANE and it acknowledges women’s libidos and doesn’t call them sluts and helps them have better sex and become Fun, Fearless, Females! Clearly this is not only hot, but AWESOME. I feel so morally superior to all those prudes who don’t want me to read it, because they’re afraid of SEX, especially premarital sex, and especially the ladies doing it. They just don’t like women being happy with themselves as sexual beings! I feel validated in being a female with an actual sex drive! Cosmo is the best magazine ever!

22-year-old TRN: OMG I immediately die a little inside when I meet someone who takes Cosmopolitan seriously. I can’t believe I ever liked that magazine. Sure, it does manage to stray away from the Madonna-whore dichotomy of women’s sexuality, but that’s about the only good thing I can say about it. Its sex tips are not only repeated every month, but completely ridiculous. It’s so heteronormative that I don’t think I’ve ever, in the dozens of issues in multiple languages I’ve read over the years, seen a single mention of a non-heterosexual romantic or sexual interaction. It promotes hackneyed gender stereotypes and “relationship tips” (I once read one where they advised women to pretend not to be able to do certain things, i.e. open jars, in order to help your man feel manly). Oh yeah, and they’re also rape apologists.

Obviously, there are many reasons why I think differently now then I did in middle and high school. But you know what? If someone had actually said the latter paragraph to me when I was at the height of my Cosmo phase, I might have listened – probably not as much as I do now, but I would have least understood the idea that there were objections to Cosmo other than OH NOEZ LADIES HAVING SEX AND LIKING IT. It’s gotten to the point (documented well by Ariel Levy) where the social conservatives in our society are demonizing sexuality and fetishizing virginity so much that any frank depiction of sex, particularly with women involved, comes as a relief (you think women should cover up all their skin? Well, I’m going to get NAKED!). Of course, it’s usually a false idol, as objectifying women and portraying them as perennially thin, hairless sex machines just dying for a good “pounding” is neither novel nor particularly helpful. But I wonder how much of the criticism that when I was a teenager I mentally labelled as “socially conservative” (or “prude”, or whatever the hip terminology was) was actually based on principles that I would agree with now. (more…)

 

A Good Patriarchy September 13, 2009

Filed under: Feminism,Meta,Pop Culture — theradicalnotion @ 9:57 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I know that the common perception of feminists is that they’re histrionic, hysterical, humorless women who enjoy “playing victim politics” because viewing themselves as martyrs is the only way to bring meaning to their empty, loveless, joyless lives.We eagerly hunt down or completely fabricate instances of psuedo-discrimination, (because nothing gets you more power than saying you don’t have any), and by “playing the gender card” and getting people to feel sorry for us, we hope to take over the world (and kill all the men lolz).

Shockingly, I don’t agree with this viewpoint (spoiler!). Obviously, I don’t agree with any of it, but one point in particular that I want to discuss is the “enjoying” bit. The whole idea that we “look” for things to get pissed about is excellently debunked by Liss at Shakesville here, and I heartily concur. I do not spend my days combing through websites and books, eavesdropping on people’s conversations, watching films frame by frame, in order to catch any minute instance of someone not being “P.C.” so that I may pounce and say “ah-ha!”. And if/when I find something, it doesn’t make me happy. (more…)

 

On Credibility

Filed under: Feminism,Meta,Relationships — theradicalnotion @ 2:53 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Okay, so here’s the thing: I am a huge nerd.

No really, I am totally that person who, at the slightest provocation, will start to go about social insects or childbirth in America or the history of syphilis, because I think it’s just that cool. Thanks to a rabid curiosity about the world, a fairly good memory, and nearly constant Internet access, I have become a veritable well of quasi-useless factoids. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and in elementary school a good portion of my interactions with classmates were them asking me for homework help.

I’ve met a lot of people, in a lot of different contexts: different jobs, different schools, different social events, and as would any person, I’ve made a variety of impressions. It would be grossly misleading to imply that everyone I’ve ever met has liked me; I’m obviously not an impartial judge but can imagine that some of my negative traits include a grating sense of self-righteousness, over-prurient sense of humor and a not insubstantial amount of social awkwardness. However, there’ve been very few interactions with people where I felt that the other person saw me as too stupid. Yes – obnoxious, annoying, boring, lazy, inconsiderate – but not slow-witted or unintelligent. Whatever people’s other feelings about me have been, I’ve managed to go through my life having my intelligence relatively unassailed by would-be doubters (or if I haven’t, I’ve obviously been too dense to notice a lot of it).

I can assert that yellow jackets are wasps rather than bees, that tetanus doesn’t actually come from rust, or that rabies is the only disease that can be prevented after its transmission without people batting an eye (except perhaps in disgust). There is, however, one thing I can do that can completely change the way a person is interacting and speaking with me, so that in a moment I go from “pleasant, acceptably well-informed person talking to me about ______” to “OMG HOW DID I EVER LISTEN TO THIS PERSON AS SHE’S CLEARLY NUTS.” That thing, of course, is to say something feminist. (more…)

 

Dr. George Tiller, 1941-2009 June 3, 2009

I know I’m kind of a day late and an hour short on this story, but it’s taken me a couple of days to process. For those of you who have been living under a rock with only sporadic Internet access, Dr. George Tiller, a doctor at the Women’s Health Care clinic in Wichita, Kansas, was murdered in his church on Sunday. As Cristina Page, author of one of my favorite books, writes in an editorial for the Huffington Post, this is the first casualty in the near-inevitable upsurge in domestic terrorism directed at abortion providers in the United States since Barack Obama’s election. Abortion clinics have already experienced huge increases in harassing phone calls (1401 in four months versus 396 in a year in the Bush administration), blockades, stalking, and other tried-and-true tactics that the anti-choice movement uses to intimidate women seeking abortions and those who would provide them.

When I first heard the news on Sunday, I was surprised but not shocked – coming as it does on the heels of the DHS report on the growing danger of right-wing extremism in the country, I had braced myself for the worst. I was angry, certainly, and sad in an abstract way, as one is whenever hearing about someone who’s died, but my attention was mostly focused on monitoring the maelstrom in the progressive blogosphere. I read lots of things I hadn’t known about abortion availability, and the extent to which anti-choice activists will go to get their way, and became increasingly outraged. As I think I have made clear, I feel very strongly that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy is paramount, and those that would campaign to remove it from her get on my shitlist right quick. I started collecting and bookmarking and compiling posts, planning one of my own on the matter. One thing that I noticed in several posts (such as this excellent one from Shakesville) was the mention of personal sorrow on the author’s part – something that I couldn’t really identify with. I mean, I was super-pissed, but heartbroken? Weeping? Not really. It’s not that I’m heartless – on the contrary, I’ve been known to bawl during Disney movies and Buffy season finales without reservation – but I just didn’t feel personally affected by the event. There were some vigils held across the country last night, and I could have gotten to one very easily, but I just didn’t think I’d fit in. I wanted statistics and scathing analysis, not some pseudoreligious sobfest. What would be the point? So I stayed home, and I read some more. (more…)

 

Trolly Fun May 14, 2009

Well, it’s finals season, and I don’t have the time or energy to make any posts for the next week or so. But! I am always thinking of my loyal readers, so I thought I’d share with you the latest trolly comments I’ve received. Apparently, my troll makes a habit of going onto liberal blogs and acting like a douchenozzle, as s/he crashed a thread about homophobic slurs here in March. I don’t exactly know how s/he found my humble little corner of the Internet, but I’m honored and proud to host hir. Unfortunately, as can be read in my commenting policy, I have a low tolerance for misogyny, illogical arguments, and just plain asshattishness, so I am forced to not approve “KillCommies” ‘ comments. Sadface. However, I would love to share them with you, in case people didn’t believe that female bloggers are harassed more frequently and angrily online.

Unfortunately, as I do not have the time to write an actual post, I really don’t have time to feed the troll and get my jollies on – not that it would make any difference, as this one is clearly not playing with a full deck of cards, and is just super-super pissed at all the wimminz and their voting and their pants-wearing and their sheer audacity of writing a blog. But! That doesn’t mean I can’t post the comments myself :). (more…)

 

Derailing For Dummies April 5, 2009

Filed under: Feminist Blogosphere — theradicalnotion @ 9:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

Just updated the “Commenting Policy” page to include this new link: “Derailing For Dummies” (via).

From the website:

You know how it is.  You’re enjoying yourself, kicking back and relaxing at the pub or maybe at the library; or maybe you’re in class or just casually surfing the internet, indulging in a little conversation. The topic of the conversation is about a pertinent contemporary issue, probably something to do with a group of people who fall outside your realm of experience and identity. They’re also probably fairly heavily discriminated against – or so they claim.
The thing is, you’re having a good time, sharing your knowledge about these people and their issues. This knowledge is incontrovertible – it’s been backed up in media representation, books, research and lots and lots of historical events, also your own unassailable sense of being right.

Yet all of a sudden something happens to put a dampener on your sharing of your enviable intellect and incomparable capacity to fully perceive and understand All Things. It’s someone who belongs to the group of people you’re discussing and they’re Not Very Happy with you. Apparently, they claim, you’ve got it all wrong and they’re offended about that.  They might be a person of colour, or a queer person. Maybe they’re a woman, or a person with disability. They could even be a trans person or a sex worker. The point is they’re trying to tell you they know better than you about their issues and you know that’s just plain wrong. How could you be wrong? (more…)