In feminism, certain stereotypes persist. Like bra burning, man hating and an aversion to anything masculine. One area that is very thorny issue and still divides feminists; sex and eroticism. Is it possible to like sexual explicit material (erotic books, porn etc) and still be a feminist?
Granted, some of this has been touched upon in my previous entry ‘How to Lose Your Erotica. Virginity’ about women addressing their more intimate needs. What I want to so here is to engage and explore is a more general feeling, not just for myself but for other women. About where we stand in regards to the needs of women today for erotic fulfilment and the issues of claiming what I believe is a right that we have been denied.
As a feminist, I deeply believe that we should all have the right to explore out sensual, sexual side regardless of whether you are single or attached. Historically speaking, women have never been encouraged to enjoy sex or explore their own needs. Sex was only for the marital bed, for making babies and pleasing men. Men were allowed their erotic fix (Playboy etc) and these were the rules that all ‘nice girls’ had to live by. If a woman did enjoy herself, then she was ‘slut’. Now there are plenty of women who may feel that for religious reasons, she wants to stay ‘pure’ until she is married. If that is your personal choice, then I am in no way suggesting that you are wrong. What I am saying is that it for YOU to decide what is right for you, not what makes someone else more at ease. Empowerment is ultimately what feminism is; the right to make your own choices and not having one rule for men and one for women. If you find that a certain type of imagery titillates you, embrace it, find someone who appreciates your appreciation.
Contrary to what we have been told, there IS such a thing as sexual compatibility. When sexuality is explored, it becomes obvious that there is much, much more that just the same five positions. If you discover (or know deep down) that vanilla sex is not enough for you. Research it, find out proper etiquette, rules etc. If you want to explore with your partner, do. However for as much as you have the right to ask to try something new, they also have the right to say no. This is where problems could arise. Who is right? Is it fair to go with something important to you? Is it right to do something that you don’t really like to please your honey? In short you are both right. No one should EVER feel that they have to submit to an act they do not like. But likewise, no one should have to live a life of unfulfilling sex. What is clear that you are wrong for each other, their needs are mismatched. You may very well adore each other, however sex is a form of bonding and if there is such a clear issue. Nothing you do can fix what is so much a part of you. Sadly many people feel that they cannot open up to their partner, for fear of being judged, called a perv etc.
Where the conflict with these two areas lies is that typically, pornography has been accused to misogyny. First lets address the bigger issue, what is pornography? Pornography is the portrayal of sexual matter for the purpose of sexual gratification. Now, when we think of what porn looks like. This often involves the more mainstream version of porn which is basically a bevy of beauties that are ready and waiting to serve any man, regardless of his appearance (Ron Jeremy, hello?). If your only frame of reference is this type of porn. Then yes, it can be construed as hardly woman friendly. While men are allowed to be ‘normal’ the actresses in the films are always top-heavy, buxom and ‘dream women’ for most men. However porn, is an umbrella term for a whole manner of explicit features. If you were to see more sexual ‘subcultures’ (using the term very loosely here), then you will no doubt see a more varied depiction of women. Personally, where I believe a lot of the problem lies is that even features that are more female friendly are still the products of male visions. Where are the female porn makers? Where are the women showcasing what they wish to see as far as stimulus is concerned? Maybe if there was more ‘femme porn’ available, it would counteract some of the more ‘sex doll’ image of women.
One aspect of women reclaiming their own sexual fantasies is the through Burlesque. While some deride the act of disrobing as ‘objectified women’ and ‘anti feminist’. Maybe that view pout would have been valid when Burlesque was born in the 30’s when Burlesque was a more male focused kind of entertainment. If all you see is the objectification of women then that is what you will see. However if that is true then why, in a Dita Von Teese show today is the majority of audience members women? If you argue that we are ‘brain washed’ into enjoying Burlesque, that we are conditioned to enjoy degradation; does that not patronise women? Implying that we are so incapable, infantilise to make informed decisions for ourselves.
To attempt to answer the aforementioned question. Yes you can enjoy explicit sexual images and be feminist. While everyone has their own opinions on erotica, porn etc. You do not have to fall into the camp of ‘Pro woman/anti porn’ or ‘pro porn/anti woman’ you can find your own place that makes you comfortable (unless that’s not what ‘like’). You can find empowerment, not so much in sex. But in finding what is right for you and not allowing repressed people judge you for doing what they are too scared to do themselves.