Tuesday, 1 February 2011

What it means to be sex-positive

According to feminist Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross "Our definition of a sexual feminist is a woman who gets to make up her own mind, but it must come from choice... The key in sex is always about choice, I choose to be an old slut." Alright, so far I'm on board... Betty went on to illustrate (in e-mail) the madonna-whore complex and cultural pressure on women's sexual choices. Still on board... She continues that because of this complex and the dichotomy set up between virgin and slut sex-positive feminists take the route of the whore, of the fallen woman. You lost me Betty, not in understanding your argument here but how it relates to your previously stated definition.

To me feminism is about breaking down the madonna-whore dichotomy in the first place, not simply aligning with the perceived 'bad opposite side' of what our culture wants in order to prove a point. The freedom to choose not only gives people the right to say yes, it also gives them the right to say no as Dan Savage states here. I understand that many girls and women make choices about sex based on religion, culture, etc. but, we should also acknowledge that women have brains and maybe are genuinely making that choice, not just because they are brainwashed. Many women do make choices without really taking the time to reflect and research but it should not be held completely out of the question that someone could make the decision to not have a lot of partners, only have sex in a relationship, when married, etc. out of pure and genuine choice.

Michelle Goldberg really gets at how I feel and why I am hesitant to label myself as a sex-positive feminist. "There’s another sort of possibly emerging sexual conservatism among younger women that I actually find a lot more understandable and am personally a lot more sympathetic to…I do think that organized feminism or mainstream feminist activists have somewhat missed an opportunity to speak to a lot of young women who find hookup culture and the emotional brutality of contemporary sexual mores to be really unsatisfying…Sex-positive feminism became something in which women were expected to be as casual and callous about sex as the most casual and callous men."(2009)

If being sex-positive means choice, pure and simple, yes and no, maybe, tomorrow, not until marriage, a one night stand, not until love, a quickie in the club bathroom, then I am sex-positive. If it means insulting women (and creating further divisions) through accusations of 'you couldn't have possibly made that choice yourself, it was your culture, your religion that did it!' then I might be running as far away from sex-positivism as I can.