08 February 2009

Keri's first post as a Feminist Ninja!

And it will be.... a critical reading of the January 22, 2009 New York Times Magazine article "What do Women Want?" (Full text available here (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/magazine/25desire-t.html?_r=1) and please, currently nonexistent readership, chime in!)

“A postfeminist generation of researchers is discovering things Dr. Freud could never have imagined"
Here I cringe. The word postfeminism makes me want to vomit, and the presumption that Dr. Freud was taking anytime out of his phallocentric mentalities to delve into female arousal outside of a male dominated framework is ridiculous. This article was a big old quandry. A male author, 3 female sexologists of supposedly varied opinions on so-called "female-desire," and are we really still having this conversation? I scribbled all incoherently over the actual physical article, and these are my notes in a semi organized list.

- Why is western medicine still "proving" that women can orgasm in all sorts of ways? I'm pretty sure women "proved" that a few thousand centuries ago. Why is the word "prove" synonymous with "Because men/the medical profession said so"?
- It appears that even in "postfeminism," women are still frigid, sexless, ice queens.
- I really can't comprehend women taking pharmaceutical drugs to "enhance" our "desire." Why aren't we just finding people who will fuck us until we come and come and come? Why aren't we putting our own hands/toys/showerheads/whatever on our own bodies? Hey y'all, maybe it's not us. It could be you.
- "So there are hints, she told me, that the disparity between the objective and the subjective might exist, for women, in areas other than sex. And this disconnection, according to yet another study she mentioned, is accentuated in women with acutely negative feelings about their own bodies." Someone want to tell me again how this is a "post" feminist world? I missed it at "Women can't orgasm because we are socially conditioned to HATE ourselves."
- Page 4 of 8, second paragraph down on the online text, a priceless segment about figuring out women who experience arousal during sexual assault. Next to the paragraph, I wrote this (whoever picks up this magazine next is going to hate me): It seems so fucking absurd to try to figure out the biological arousal behind the immensely societal act of rape. Sex is posited in such a way in this society that "good" and "normal" sex is narrowly defined as heterosexual with the man in a dominant position (and even the man making the active choice to relinquish a dominant role in a controlled "sub/dom" situation is still considered "kinky" or somewhat abnormal). So no fucking wonder physical arousal during sexual assault is a somewhat natural response. I'm not saying that all heterosexual sex is rape. I am saying that I don't think a lot of it is supremely far off. Two sides of the same coin or something like that.
- Then there was this: "Ancestral women who did not show an automatic vaginal response to sexual cues may have been more likely to experience injuries during unwanted vaginal penetration that resulted in illness, infertility or even death, and thus would be less likely to have passed on this trait to their offspring. Evolution’s legacy, according to this theory, is that women are prone to lubricate, if only protectively, to hints of sex in their surroundings." Well, "according to this theory," "Ancestral women" developed an EVOLUTIONARY TRAIT to deal with unwanted sex. Rape of women is apparently so ingrained, that there is an unconscious, natural response, to respond to any kind of sexual intrusion.
- You can call it "receptive," you can say "If you have this dyad, and one part is pumped full of testosterone, is more interested in risk taking, is probably more aggressive, you’ve got a very strong motivational force. It wouldn’t make sense to have another similar force. You need something complementary. And I’ve often thought that there is something really powerful for women’s sexuality about being desired" (the "dyad" being male/female), whatever, but I'm really sick of being told that my sexuality is always, always, biologically, socially, neurologically, passive.
- It's pretty insulting to men in particular the way the article imposes non-fluidity on men. And re: fluidity. Yay that sexual fluidity is in conversation. Boo that the article frames fluidity only insofar as to assure the reader that though women want "emotional intimacy" with "people rather than gender" they're more likely than not going to come back to men after they get that silly little intimacy fix
- Again, why is a desire to actually like the people we're fucking (via words like "emotions" "intimacy" "connection") a strictly female thing, why is that ok, how is it scientific, and why is it SO constantly and fervently linked back to passivity?
- I did like this quote: "If I don't love cake as much as you, my cake better kick-butt to get me excited to eat it." But... shouldn't our cake always kick butt? I like cake as much as the next manly man, and definitely there have been situations where I'm the one who really really wants the cake, and just because I fucking love cake does not mean that I ever want to settle for mediocre Entenmann's shit.
- So then there's the section about "rape fantasies." And that always trips me up. There's this: "A symbolic scene ran through Meana’s talk of female lust: a woman pinned against an alley wall, being ravished. Here, in Meana’s vision, was an emblem of female heat. The ravisher is so overcome by a craving focused on this particular woman that he cannot contain himself; he transgresses societal codes in order to seize her, and she, feeling herself to be the unique object of his desire, is electrified by her own reactive charge and surrenders. Meana apologized for the regressive, anti-feminist sound of the scene."
This isn't necessarily anti-feminist. It sounds kind of hot. Take the words "reactive" and "surrender" our, replace with an active reciprocation? Not bad. My own experience with that kind of "fantasy" is never, ever a “passive” role. Meana said a few sentences later, "What women want is a real dilemma." I'm missing the dilemma. Desiring equal power in sexual situations isn't a dilemma.
- Check, women are still emotional wusses who can't detach sex from emotion
- Check, straight men are always straight, gay men aren't competition to straight men so they can always be gay, apparently ALL women are "fluid" (fluid here seems to mean that yes guys, lesbians do still like dick, don't let them tell you otherwise) and expressions of female homosexuality are just expression of our irrational emotions and desire for intimacy (those tricky little things that men just don't have)
- Is anyone else reading intimacy as "wanting to have sex with people who don't demean our bodies and souls"? Silly me.
- There are points in the article where female sexual fluidity and the word "narcissism" are used in the same breath. This was a huge problem for me. The connotation of the word narcissism doesn't do anything productive for an analysis of sexuality.
- Also, goddammit, how does fluidity equate, yet again, to passivity. Women are fluid (so says you, medicine!)! We want to fuck everyone! What is passive about that? That's pretty fucking aggressive.

It ends by reminding readers of how pointless that was: "What more could sexologists ever provide than intriguing hints and fragmented insights and contradictory conclusions? Could any conclusion encompass the erotic drives of even one woman? Didn’t the sexual power of intimacy, so stressed by Diamond, commingle with Meana’s forces of narcissism? Didn’t a longing for erotic tenderness coexist with a yearning for alley ravishing? Weren’t these but two examples of the myriad conflicting elements that create women’s lust? Had Freud’s question gone unanswered for nearly a century not because science had taken so long to address it but because it is unanswerable?" (then, next paragraph, asserting that it's somehow helpful to women to find answers to unanswerable questions by grouping all women into one big unit that has a knowable sexuality)

Overall, I still epically fail to understand how this medicalization and categorization of sexuality is in any way "helpful" to individual women. Why are we still striving to determine the norms of the elusive female sexuality? I did appreciate the recognition of fluidity, but the intent behind it so far missed the mark. How about, women are different? People are different? I get turned on by sex in subway stations, rubbing a very particular part of my back, and smokers. 3,000 women will say 3,000 different things. Clearly someone knows the right answer, won't they just fucking come out with it already?

It ended with this, taking me a bit off guard: " “So many cultures have quite strict codes governing female sexuality,” she said. “If that sexuality is relatively passive, then why so many rules to control it? Why is it so frightening?”... There was the intimation that, at its core, women’s sexuality might not be passive at all."
What was that now? POWER in female sexuality? An INTIMATION (duh duh duh) that womens' sexuality may not be passive? An acknowledgment that sexual regulations are a response to male dominated fear of women? Well fuck me sideways.

No comments:

Post a Comment