Thursday, July 3, 2008

The last P stands for property

Technorati's "feminism" feed brings the anti-feminist nutjobs out of the woodwork, including one calling himself "The Counter-Feminist" (not gonna directly link him; you can do a bit of searching if you really want), who posts an email from one of his supporters containing the following quotation:
According to modern sensibilities a woman's sexual favors are hers to bestow, whenever to whomever she so pleases. The idea of a womans sexuality as "property" is thus retained, only it becomes the EXCLUSIVE property of the female.
This is actually a technique I see quite often:
  1. Assert something that "they" say
  2. Point out some potential benefit to (some) women or harm to (some) men.
  3. Blame women and feminists interchangeably for that effect.
In this case, what's happening is that the quoted commenter is working within a "sex as property" idea, and then blaming feminism for the effects of that paradigm.

We see the technique again (with the faint glimmering of recognition that, maybe, this has something to do with the patriarchy/kyriarchy as well):
As might be expected, most of our society's judgmental attitudes toward male sexuality are not original to feminism though feminists have been more than happy to exploit them.
Of course, the ways in which feminists are said to "exploit" these attitudes are:
  1. Valuing girls' virginity more than boys' (which explains all those feminist-run "purity balls")
  2. Reserving "courtship, weddings, marriage, children" for women (and not, apparently, vice versa - it could just as easily be said that the attitude is to reserve women for courtship, weddings, marriage and children)
  3. Establishing relationships as an exchange of sex for other benefits (and again, not vice versa - there's apparently no power in being able to use economic clout to compel sex)
  4. Granting women a "protected and untouchable status" (because, as we all know, nothing says "top of the hierarchy" like "untouchable")
Now, with respect to the property argument, I can see what would on the surface be a very similar point made by some types of feminists: that the idea that sex is a "favor" for women to "bestow" (upon men, presumably) doesn't really provide for sexual agency, even if you vehemently affirm that it's *their* favor to bestow; it's still something that's done "to" rather than "with." It's the realm of "Just Say No Means No"; it's the argument-by-adhesiveness made by abstinence-only "sex educators" who liken sexuality to a lollipop or a strip of tape; it's the scarcity economics model where a "favor bestowed" is worth less the more people receive it. It also works as denial of agency because it sets up sex as something that is "bestowed" or "refused" as a reward or punishment, which is another way of saying that "I want to/don't want to" isn't a good enough reason.

The anti-feminists, on the other hand, argue (simultaneously, it seems) that "nobody really thinks of women, or of sex, as property" and "but women really embrace this idea of property, because gatekeeping is power." Because, after all, the problem with sexuality as power from this perspective is that it's power they don't feel they have. (It's such a burden on us men, having to hand out hot dickings to everyone who passes by.)

The difference, I think, can be highlighted by looking at the two groups' proposed solutions. The anti-feminist solution appears to be less to abandon the idea of sex as property and more to look at sexuality (women's, anyway) as a commons - something out of Brave New World, perhaps, where sex isn't property only because nobody ever says "no" to anyone else. (One of the fundamental attributes of property, after all, is that the owner can refuse to grant access to others.)

Most of the feminist solutions I've seen are to move from sex-as-property to something more like sex-as-performance - the idea isn't so much that the property model is bad because it divides humanity into sexual haves and have-nots, but that it's bad because commodification alienates people from their sexuality. (More on both those ideas at some later date - they've both been kicking around in my head for a while but aren't ready to post.)

The later part of the post just degenerates into the typical "patriarchy means an active conspiracy by men brought about by facially discriminatory laws, and anything else is just The Way The World Works, and no sense trying to change that," and is even less worth responding to than the rest of it.

1 comment:

Fidelbogen said...

For some people, feminism is a sacred cow. For the rest of us folks, it is merely another ideology. . . long overdue for a good healthy horsewhipping on account of its overweening presumption.

Since you don't want to post the link to my blog, I'll save your readers the trouble of Googling by posting it here:

Oh. . . and I think I'll mail that "supporter" of mine a link to this post so he can enjoy your very interpretive "take". ;)

Finally, I would like to invite you to switch sides and c'mon over to the NON-FEMINIST SECTOR. I mean, if you are not comfortable with a label such as "anti" feminist, then NON-FEMINIST might be just the ticket.

You might be surprised to discover that we have bookworm librarian types over here, too! (Let me tell you something about myself in particular: I tackled 'Moby Dick' when I was 9 years old!! Yup!)

Anyhow, you just might find yourself in better company than you expect. In fact, we could use some more fellas like yourself, with literary leanings. . .

Think about it, okay?

The invitation stands.