File spoon-archives/marxism-thaxis.archive/marxism-thaxis_1998/marxism-thaxis.9804, message 136

Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 23:02:33 -0800
Subject: Re: M-TH: Picking up the Pieces

>Nancy replied to me:
>>>First of all, sexuality constitutes much more fluid fields of reality and
>>>representation than race does. Race as category is rooted in the histories
>>>of colonialism, imperialism, labor market segmentation, educational
>>>disenfranchisement, residential segregation, etc. Sexuality is of course
>>>related to the same histories, but much more indirectly.
>>I do not see sexuality as "rooted" more indirectly than race to colonialism,
>>imperialism, etc. Patriarchy, class society, and slavery have reinforced and
>>perpetuated each other since their mutual beginnings 5000 years ago, while
>>racism is a more recent development. Race is not even a biological category,
>>but sex is.
>You are conflating different categories: sex, gender, and sexuality. They
>cannot be interchanged with one another.

I don't see how I am doing that, but you are not.

>>>Secondly, the women's movement has been split by not only class & race but
>>>also sexual identities. There is a history of lavender-baiting in the
>>>women's movement. Dwarkin, etc. do not seem to be interested AT ALL in
>>>queer women's sexual practices + identities and how they might be
>>Do you know this for sure? I have not followed the Dworkin thing very
>>closely, but I definitely remember seeing her encampment at a California
>>Women's Music Festival in the early '80s, which no one would attend if they
>>were not lesbian or lesbian-friendly.
>I am posting from a computer lab, and I don't have any book by Dworkin at
>hand, but I am certain. And I am not just talking about her. Talks about
>the 'lavender menace' among straight feminists who were afraid of men
>perceiving feminism as a 'lesbian' thing were part of women's movements.

The Lavender Menace was NOW. I'm pretty sure Dworkin herself was/is gay.

>>Needless to say, the women's movement did not talk with gay/bi
>>>men as to the possible alliances + strategies for better sexual
>>Probably not. But then, the focus was not on "sexual representation" itself,
>>but on pornography and its supposed impact on women, through problems such
>>as violence against women, etc.
>But when critics of pornography turn to the bourgeois state for the
>enforcement of its views (which I think is a repressive and ineffective
>thing that should not be done by feminists/marxists), effects of the
>enforcement tend to be felt by queers first. So gay/bi men (as well as
>lesbians/bi women) have a direct stake in how (straight) feminists argue
>their views about porn. Ideological critiques/critiques of exploitation
>about pornography should make clear that they were not about sexual
>representation in general.

No doubt you are right, and I really don't know what Dworkin did on this
>Pornography is a category that includes more than the kind of sexual
>representation that may have negative effects on women.
>>>Thirdly, while our racial identities are often (though not exclusively)
>>>marked by visibility, our sexual identities are not. We don't necessarily
>>>wear on our bodies what we do + fantasize sexually. In fact, it's mostly
>>>invisible. (That's why there are such practices as 'coming out,' 'outing,'
>>>'cruising,' etc.) So racial identity groups and sexual identity groups have
>>>different stakes in and approaches to issues of visibility + representation.
>>I don't see why visibility and nonvisibility would be a factor in issues of
>>representation. Sounds very mechanical to me. Our inner feelings about
>>ourselves are much more powerful than our outer appearance, it seems to me.
>>I have known a lot of beautiful women who thought they were ugly, and had
>>convinced themselves that they were. And a lot of ordinary women who thought
>>they were beautiful, and indeed, they were.
>What I am saying is that queers have a direct stake in more visibility,
>because a part of our oppression comes from socially enforced invisibility,
>that is CLOSETING.
>>>Fourthly, what sexually turns us on and off is not always clear; nor does
>>>it always follow our professed adherence to certain "ethical" principles
>>>and "moral" conduct in other areas of life. Transgressions, violations of
>>>bodily/psychic boundaries, flirting with dangers, playing the games of
>>>domination/submission, etc. are often sexual turn-ons, even for those who
>>>only have "vanilla" sex, at least at the level of fantasies. Now, you may
>>>go ahead and say that getting turned on by those ideas, images, etc. is BAD
>>>both at the levels of individuals and social relations;
>>I wouldn't say that, by the way. I don't see how any of us can define what
>>is "moral" when it comes to another person's, or even or own, feelings.
>>Feelings are beyond morality, which is a rationalistic expression of the
>>societal programming imposed by the patriarchy; feelings are feelings.
>Are feelings beyond morality? I am not sure, What I said is that feelings
>are not always amenable to moral suasions. Also, I don't think morality is
>'rationalistic.' A lot of people's moral feelings are quite irrational,
>from my definition of reason.

Of course a lot of morality is irrational; I didn't say that morality was
rational. I said that morality was "rationalistic," in the sense that
"rationalistic" is to reason as "scientistic" is to science.

>>however, it seems
>>>that most people's sexual tastes are impervious to "ethical" persuasion,
>>>censorship, inept educational efforts, etc. I am not saying that people's
>>>sexual tastes are fixed and cannot be changed; I am merely saying that
>>>should we desire changes--esp. for better--in them, there might be better
>>>ways of working for changes than what have been often disastrous attempts
>>>at moral/state repressions.
>>I agree. I accidentally deleted the material that someone forwarded from the
>>women's organization in Arkansas. It very well described the kind of
>>educational programs that Marxists should be supporting. Yes, I know that
>>the material basis of patriarchy needs to be removed, but violence against
>>women will not just disappear automatically after that. Education is just as
>>important as economic change.
>One might discuss the nature of education--including sex education--that
>attempts to do away with violence against women. IMO, such a sex education
>includes, among other things:
>(1) sex is for mutual + consensual pleasure;
>(2) sex mostly is not for procreation, though one may choose to have it for
>the express purpose of becoming pregnant;
>(3) most women do not come through a penile-vaginal contact alone.  It is
>important for straight women and men to know what a clitoris is for;
>(4) human sexuality is fluid and diverse; one's sexual preference can and
>do change over time;
>(5) we may fantasize about things we do not necessarily do or want to do in
>(6) sexuality and sexual identities are not biological givens--they have
>been historically generated and products of social relations, discourse,
>(7) equation of heterosexuality with normality, naturalness, etc. is
>(8) masturbation is to be encouraged, especially for girls--it's good to
>know about one's body + mind and what pleases them;
>(9) safer sex and the use of contraceptives can be eroticized--they are not
>the 'second best';
>(10) regarding sex between men and women, it is not a responsibility of
>women alone to prevent pregnancy; men ought to get condoms, must never
>complain about condoms 'diminishing sensations,' should consider vasectomy
>if they do not desire children, etc;
>(11) sex is not dirty, shameful, etc.; nor is sex the 'truth, nature, etc.'
>of our identity;
>(12) practice naming + communicating to others one's needs, desires,
>fantasies, etc.--this is especailly important for girls but everybody
>should be able to discuss them without embarassment.
>There are many other important things, but I do not have the time to list
>them all. But the point is to educate people into developing their own
>sexual agency, knowledge of themselves + others + history, learning
>communication skills, cultivating an aptitude for erotic practices of
>various kinds, and respecting other people's sexual agency.
>     --- from list ---

     --- from list ---


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