Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sexual Politics: Obfuscated and Dismissed (A Follow-Up)

It turns out that my article about sexuality was not well-received. To some extent this was expected. And I knew it would be criticized by those on all sides with a position about sexuality. I was hoping it would also spur some constructive dialogue, but this wasn't really the case. Instead, the article was criticized for reasons I wouldn't have expected. Both the proponents of “men's rights,” and one apparent feminist, offered criticism that really didn't address the underlying points I was trying to make in the article.

The “men's rights” crowd did not like my use of the word patriarchy. Although I think it's pretty basic concept which doesn't actually condemn men or manhood, one comment suggested that: “Patriarchy is a dog-whistle term feminists have used since the incarnation of the second wave and any mention of it immediately biases me against the user.” To some extent that may also be true, but to deny the existence of patriarchy is to deny things like the basic and widespread Judea-Christian values which teach that the man is the master of the household and that wives should be obedient to their husbands. It also denies the long-standing trend of patriarchal lineage in terms of historically passing along the family name and the wealth associated with that name. Sons have historically been favored in these ways and have usually been the recipients of family wealth after the passing of the parents. Even to the extent this has changed it's undoubtedly been the historic cause of certain subtle values being instilled in our society. And the broader point regarding patriarchy is that it has proven detrimental to both men and women.

Another issue with the “men's rights” proponents had to do with my mention of the glass ceiling. Although it was conflated with issues of race, I more often associate the glass ceiling with gender – in terms of how much power women are able to achieve in our society (most senators and Fortune 500 CEOs are not women, for example) and also with limited earning potential women have historically had in regard to getting paid less for doing the same amount of work as their male counterparts. I believe this is still largely the case, but even if it's changed, again... the historical reality of this condition instills certain values in society. If one must compare the issue to race, it's as if racism in the United States disappeared after the end of slavery or as if the election of Obama somehow proved America was a post-racial society. But, obviously, that is not true. The long-standing historical values and practices of a society still have an effect on the way that society is composed even after some practices have changed on the surface.

And then the article was also critiqued for what I felt were very petty reasons. For example... someone took issue with this line: “While not exactly common... if a woman 'cheats' on her husband, then, all-too-frequently, that amounts to a death sentence – just like in any backwards 3rd world fundamentalist nation. Our society is violent enough that even men often suffer physical harm if they stray.” This was portrayed as exaggerated fear-mongering and painting men out to be monsters. But again, that was not my intention and I feel it was a leap to come to that conclusion. To clarify... the point was that church and state backed monogamous contracts between men and women lead to violent overreactions when such contracts are broken. Again... this creates a problem for both men and women.

Feminists didn't chime in much about this article – although I did post it to a few overtly feminist forums. One apparent feminist took issue on an anarchist forum about my portrayal of Andrea Dworkin's feminism and then admitted to not reading any further than that first paragraph because of my “men's movement misogyny apologia.” I was also corrected because I confused the name of Andrea Dworkin with another 3-syllable name that starts with an “A” and ends with an “a”. That criticism was more understandable and personally embarrassing – but I feel like it was an easy mistake to make and didn't really effect the points I was trying to make (especially since my point was that I'm not big on Dworkin's particular school of feminist thought).

While a “men's rights” proponent accused me of being a leftist (presumably from the position of a right-winger), on an anarchist forum I was essentially accused of the same thing – with the reason being in the latter case that my position wasn't radical or revolutionary enough. Ironically, the article was largely about undermining Western consumeristic capitalism and ushering in a new society by means of throwing off repressed sexual tendencies.

Another point of critique, from a more personal source, was that mentioning these subjects, and the various positions people have on them, only somehow reinforced their existence and made them more accepted and entrenched in our society. The argument was, as I understand it, that just mentioning these things merely added to the spectacle and normalized their existence. However, I don't feel that ignoring problems or social conditions will help change them. And I believe that analysis of these issues will help inform new cultural patterns and perhaps inspire a methodology for opposing the typical old ways. Frankly, I thought this argument smacked of anti-intellectualism.

As you can see... I took it from all sides (no pun intended) in regard to this issue. But I must admit that I was a little disappointed in the overall response and the lack thereof. I felt the article was rather frank and that this isn't something you often see from most people in regard to the very sensitive subject of sexuality. The five pages I wrote on the subject were some of the most tedious I've ever written. I tried to be thorough, balanced, and honest about a very tricky subject – which is almost taboo by it's very nature. If anyone agreed with the position I put forward... they certainly weren't forthcoming with statements of support. And, if I didn't know better, it almost seems that those who might agree with me are actually somewhat repressed in themselves. Or... maybe all the criticism leveled at me was perfectly reasonable and justified?

But I don't think my positions expressed were actually very controversial. Maybe that's why I didn't receive much positive feedback? Maybe my article was more trite, hackneyed, and commonly accepted than I believe? That seems unlikely to me from where I stand, but maybe everyone is already undertaking the first steps of a sexual revolution which will undermine the sexually repressive and oppressive nature of modern society? One can only hope.

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