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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Beyond Pornified and Female Chauvinist Pigs

Pornified and Female Chauvinist Pigs are everywhere - so, so much to say and just not enough time right now to puzzle it all out. I've been thinking about these books for a while, and it's Levy's that I think irks and fascinates me the most, perhaps because I feel like, ten years ago, I might have written something similar, and also because I do care, I am also a feminist, and yet I feel so removed from her conclusions. Wendy Shalit reviews Female Chauvinist Pigs in today's Wall Street Journal and you'll really just have to read it yourself for gems like:

But something else may be going on. Feminism grounded itself, in its early days, in the idea that there were no differences between the sexes. A girl wanting to keep her virginity was bad, for sexual reticence amounted to asserting a separate standard, a Victorian one at that. To Hef, modesty was a "hang-up," and to the feminists it was a "patriarchal construct." Ms. Levy believes that feminism was on the right track but then veered off-course: "What has moved into feminism's place . . . is an almost opposite style, attitude, and set of principles."

But maybe feminism's foundations were weak from the start. Everyone in Ms. Levy's book--whether it's middle-class girls who feel anxiety about appearing "hot" or grown women who confess to Ms. Levy that "accumulating sex for its own sake . . . is not that sexual"--shows that a woman's experience of sex and love is very different from that of an adolescent boy or a man. Indeed, the more a woman imitates a man, the clearer these differences become.

Paris Hilton tells Rolling Stone: "My boyfriends always tell me I'm not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual." (Ms. Levy reports that on one of the infamous videotapes she takes a cellphone call during intercourse.) Plainly, the sexual revolution has not brought fulfillment for women. Even its mascots experience boredom, and for the civilians there is distress and heartache.


Where is the talk about Suicide Girls? Where are the BUST readers and the Liz Phairs and the Lisa Palacs? Or, going backwards a little bit, the Victoria Woodhulls? When did we get forced make a choice between being a "pig" and being...smart? empowered? feminist? self-actualized? Able to make our own decisions about who we fuck and how we dress? I feel like it's such an attack to say that anyone who does anything remotely within the realm of "raunch culture" is a part of the problem. That view leaves NO room to reclaim anything, no room for feminist women to make porn, be self-proclaimed feminist porn stars, or just grapple with our naked bodies. Where are those of us who are feminists and who are in the sex industry? Where are the women who are in Carly Milne's anthology Naked Ambition? Where ARE we in this debate?

Okay, I found one kindred soul - in the comments section at Ann Althouse's blog. Diane, you are my new heroine:

I guess I am one of those who do see sex as empowering.

I’m not for “free” sex in the sense of “Hop into bed with anything and everything that will say yes!” I don’t think women are generally built for that, psychologically. Our bodies release oxytocin after orgasm, which leaves us awful attached to our sex partners.

But I see celebration of our “body parts” as the ultimate empowerment of women. Yes! Look at my teats. Are they not nifty?! I am a creature separate from man, and special, and if you enjoy looking at it, then I enjoy showing you. I have a fleshy behind, too, and a narrow waist, and it is beautiful and it is all connected to a wonderful brain! Touch any of it without my permission, though, and die.

You *can* look without any intention of touching.

What I find appalling is our society’s need to separate a woman from her body completely before we acknowledge her intelligence. Attractive women are forced to wear unflattering clothing, and downplay their appearance, or we treat them like bimbos.

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