File spoon-archives/marxism-thaxis.archive/marxism-thaxis_1998/marxism-thaxis.9804, message 8

Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 02:42:49 -0500
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.

>>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.

>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.

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.

>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.


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