Monday, April 30, 2007

I’ve been sort of taking over the conversation at Verte’s place since Trin threw us a particularly juicy bone by directing us to the Egalitarian Sex page on LJ (http://community.livejournal.com/egalitarian_sex/), and I want to talk about it some more, so I thought I’d bring my random babbling back over here instead.
So, egalitarian sex. I’ve heard the term thrown around for years, and never quite known what people meant by it. No one has even been willing or able to give me a definition. What does it mean to have sex in an egalitarian way, exactly? What would that look like?
Apparently it looks like poorly written male/male slash involving defenceless British rock stars who have not given their consent to being thus depicted, one of whom may or may not be dead. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
From the community info page, here are the rules for writing about/discussing egalitarian sex.


All sex partners fantasized about treat each other as equals and feel equal respect for each other.
No sex partners fantasized about behave any differently on the basis of what gender they are or treat other people any differently on the basis of what gender other people are.
All body types are celebrated, and no sex partners fantasized about ever feel distaste for any body type (including body types their partners do not possess - for example, the fact that your partner is beautiful fat does not make it egalitarian to find skinny people unattractive; it is only egalitarian to find all body types attractive).
No sex partners fantasized about define themselves as definitely going to remain exclusively heterosexual for life, because this implies treating people differently on the basis of gender or body type.
If the sex partners fantasized about define themselves as definitely going to remain exclusively homosexual for life, they choose to do so due to living in a society that would give partners in other-gender relationships unequal power toward one another, rather than due to any belief that members of the other gender are physically unattractive or biologically incapable of behaving in all the same ways that members of their own gender can.
All sex partners give their full and uncoerced consent, including financially uncoerced consent, to everything that happens.
No sex partners fantasized about pretend at any point not to be consenting, and none are tied up, voluntarily or otherwise (pretending not to consent is a turn-off, not a turn-on, to people who are turned on by egalitarianism).
No sex partners fantasized about are turned on by inflicting physical or emotional pain on each other or being subjected to physical or emotional pain by each other, consensually or otherwise



Now, in principle I can agree that a little more egalitariasm in relationships would be an excellent thing. What we have right now is a system in which everyone hetero is basically practicing a really fucked-up form of BSDM, but it’s not any fun because no one discusses anything, there are no safe words and women are ALWAYS supposed to be on the bottom. Well, not everyone, but you know what I mean. That’s the standard hetero script, right? I’m not thrilled with that script. It could do with some adjustment.

However…this is not the way to go about changing things. This script has a few problems, too.

Rule number one I’m fine with. Even the most extreme BSDM people do that – yes, you in the peanut gallery, they do. I know you don’t believe me but tough shit, cupcake, I know more about this than you do.

The second rule on the other hand…OK, we have a problem here. You see, the basic anatomy of men and women is different. It is not possible to have sex with men and women in EXACTLY the same way because the bodies involved are not made the same way. I know this is inconvenient in that it fucks up the theory, but there it is.

See, I’m bi. I’ve had sex with both men and women. I fantasize about both men and women, and I’ve gotta tell you, what I fantasize about does in fact vary based on what possibilities are available in a particular situation given the anatomy involved. I’m trying not to be too graphic here, but I’m sure people can see what I’m getting at, yes?

Rule number three…OK, now you’ve really jumped the shark.

I do not know anyone who is equally attracted to all body types. Literally, not a single person. Everyone has a type. Which type one prefers is widely variable, but everyone has some physical characteristics that push their buttons and others that do not.

Which brings us to…nobody should feel distaste towards any body type.

You know, whatever drugs you people are taking you really should offer to share them with the rest of the group. Sharing is caring, after all, and it would take a LOT of drugs to make me buy that particular argument.

Again…everyone has preferences. Likes and dislikes. This not only means that everyone has some characteristics that they really love, it also means that everyone had some physical characteristics that they find distasteful in others. Again, these vary, but everyone has them. One can attempt to pretend that one does not have them, but that will not make them go away. People are not robots, they cannot simply be reprogrammed at will. The psychology of how people come to favor the physical traits they do is pretty complicated, but everyone who has studied it is agreed that these things are fairly deep-seated and pervasive. By the time one is an adult, one has preferences, and one cannot simply reset them at will.

Why is it such a terrible thing for people to have preferences, anyway? How is the world as a whole harmed because, say, I have a preference for men who are tall and thin? Or because I find heavily muscular men unappealing? There are after all plenty of other people who do find muscular men appealing. It’s not as if my finding them distasteful means that no muscular man will ever find love again.

So, sorry, but this phrase - “it is only egalitarian to find all body types attractive” – is both unrealistic and frankly rather creepy. What if hypothetical person A is really, genuinely not attracted to skinny men? Should she/her force him/herself to date them because not to do so would be inegalitarian? Should she/he attempt to alter the content of his/her fantasies? Scold her/himself if he/she has an inappropriate thought?

In what way is this helpful to anyone? How does it improve anyone’s sex life? Make them a happier person? Add to the sum total of human happiness in general?

And that fourth one…now, I’m bi, and I’m inclined to believe that EVERYONE has someone out there for whom they would switch teams. I’ve seen it happen. I have a gay friend who makes passes at me when he’s drunk, even though he’s never slept with a woman. He says that me and Catherine Zeta Jones are the only women’s he’s ever gotten hot and bothered over. People are weird. However…for the most part people are pretty fixed in their orientation. To go around demanding that people not identify as exclusively hetero seems a bit…well, unreasonable. Especially when we consider the fact that no comparable demand is being made of gay people. What about them? It’s inegalitarian to only be attracted to the opposite sex because it implies that one is treating people differently based on gender, but it’s OK to only be attracted to one’s own sex even though that also implies that one is treating people differently based on gender? How does that work, exactly? How is that egalitarian?

Except there’s the next rule.
“If the sex partners fantasized about define themselves as definitely going to remain exclusively homosexual for life, they choose to do so due to living in a society that would give partners in other-gender relationships unequal power toward one another, rather than due to any belief that members of the other gender are physically unattractive or biologically incapable of behaving in all the same ways that members of their own gender can.”
How very convenient. Sorry, not buying it. Justify it however you want, you’re still creating a situation in which following the rules is going to be a lot easier for some people than for others.


Next rule... All sex partners give their full and uncoerced consent, including financially uncoerced consent, to everything that happens.

I’m actually fine with this one. Yep, eeevil BSDM me. Funny how that works.



The last two…well, OK, so obviously I don’t think those should or do apply to everyone. If people want to organize their sex lives that way I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t, though. As long as it’s understood that not everyone chooses to live by those rules.

If it’s being implied that those of us who DON’T choose to live by those rules are bad wrong, wicked etc rather than just “not egalitarian” then I have a problem with that. But as long as it’s just a prescription for how a certain group of people choose to live and not a judgement, then it’s none of my business. I wonder if they would extend the same courtesy to me?


Now, about those stories…about the only thing posted recently on that page is some m/m slash featuring the (dead) guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers, Richey, and their bassist, Nicky. I have no moral or ethical objections to RPS, but I do find the idea of writing slash about a guy who as far as we all know committed suicide a bit creepy, especially when he’s partnered with someone who probably wouldn’t be very happy to see stories about him shagging his dead friend.

That’s not the real problem I have with those stories, though. The real problem I have is that they’re not very egalitarian at all.

What those stories are all about is eroticizing innocence and lack of sexual experience. Note that the two characters are not equally innocent (I hate that word in this context, but it’s the word the author used so I’m sticking with it). There is a noticeable disparity in experience, and one characters (Nicky, described here as Nickly – blech!) is getting a thrill out of the other’s lack of experience (Richey, described here with loathsome, tooth-rotting levels of cutesiness as “Teddy”).

The eroticization of innocence/lack of sexual experience is all about power dynamics. Hell, it’s the oldest trick in the book, probably the one thing that has been and continues to be most used against women in our current system. How is that egalitarian, exactly? Does it suddenly become OK because they’re both (poorly written, painfully out of character) men?

Or is it OK because there’s no penetration, no one is in a position that LOOKS like they’re in control (note the “looks like” – in fact the one with more experience is clearly in control)? So basically egalitarian sex is people who behave as if they’re really young and unsure of themselves doing frottage?

This isn’t egalitarian, it’s just infantile. It’s defining egalitarianism as childhood, as about never really claiming any sort of control over one’s sexuality at all. And that’s just creepy.

Thoughts? I actually think that more egalitarianism isn’t a bad goal to strive for for most people, but there has to be a better way to do it than this.

32 comments:

Veronica said...

Bwah ha ha ha! Hee, ha, ha!

No wait...

*snicker*

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

I used to feel bad for having a 'type' (big noses) I dated someone who wasn't said type for two years, he was an ass, I broke up with him in order to date another guy with a big nose who I had been attracted to for several months by then. Moral of the story: You can't escape your preferences.

belledame222 said...

what Veronica said.

i mean, no, that's...very interesting, really. yes. interesting. hmm.

belledame222 said...

basically it reads like Harrison Bergeron rewritten by fangirls with a radical feminist overlay.

cringe.

belledame222 said...


You know, whatever drugs you people are taking you really should offer to share them with the rest of the group. Sharing is caring, after all,


it's the Egalitarian Way!

damn. now i'm flashing on Dennis Moore.

"Blimey. This redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought."

Sassywho said...

I love this post, and while you may not be able to escape your preferences, I find myself with so many contradictions that would be impossible.

i would be tempted to say a substantial look or personality turned me off, but that would be impossible given how many people that I've been attracted to who turn me on.

at that point it becomes an individuality thesis, which is what sexuality should be in the first place....

Cassandra Says said...

We shouldn't laugh, we really shouldn't, but it's so hard not to...
RE Types, what's interesting is that I definately have a type, but my type - male and my type - female bear no resemblance to each other whatsoever. Example - I like skinny guys. I don't like skinny women, or at least not to the same degree. I can think of practical reasons why that might be the case (my mother died of cancer, she essentially wasted away, so I may be looking at very thin women and interpreting their thiness as illness), but I think it's more than that.

belledame222 said...

I dunno--do we analyze our musical or food tastes like this? you know?

Cassandra Says said...

Not food, maybe, but I've had other feminists demand that i EXAMINE my taste in music a few times. Too many male musicians, too much aggression, you know, very unfeminist (or unfeminine) of me.

Sassywho said...

i am so f'd up when it comes to food. i am such a senses-type of person, i love textures and taste but am picky about such... for example i love the flavor of mushrooms and can eat them as long as i chop them into tiny little pieces where i don't get the funky texture of them.

on the other hand that is what i love about noodles... not so much the flavor but the smooth texture of them.

so who's to say....

Cassandra Says said...

Oh, I'm freaky with food too. For example, I won't eat shrimp because I hate the texture. The taste...well, it's pretty taste-free really, but I HATE the texture. I hate the texture of shellfish in general.
And then there's smell. I can't drink whiskey because I literally can't stand to bring it close enough to my nose to taste it. I've had whiskey truffles and whiskey-flavored fudge and I can eat those, so it's all about the smell.
Also texture...I love vergetables, but I can't eat them if they're overcooked. Even if they still taste more or less the same the soggy texture puts me off.

Octogalore said...

On types -- I think it'd be tough to be attracted to men and women who are THAT similar. Just because there are certain limits. I mean, a tall woman would be significantly smaller than a tall man, and same for musculature. And also, if you're attracted to a guy who is a certain way, it would mean a totally different personality if a woman were that way too -- eg, if a guy wears a man's suit, it's traditional; if a woman does, it's edgy. Same with jewelry or lack thereof.

That said, to the extent I'm attracted to women (which is -- I'm basically straight, with the occasional "I'd go gay for"), they have similar physical characteristics FOR WOMEN that the guys I like have. Strength. Irreverence. Thick hair. Muscles. Brains. Edge. Toughness. But with some stereotypical adjustments for gender norms. I don't like guys with no body hair and I don't like women with any facial hair. And on guys, I have some politically incorrect size expectations that don't have any female equivalent, at least not for me.

So the whole "nobody should feel distaste towards any body type"... that works for friends, not lovers.

Cassandra Says said...

On types - well, the men I'm into aren't THAT tall.
Let's say I like men who are about 5ft10-6ft, thin, toned but not bulky, long hair, pretty faces.
I could very easily find women who look a lot like that. In fact I know women who look a lot like that. But I'm not attracted to them. I'm attracted to women who are petite and hourglass shaped.

Cassandra Says said...

This, however..."any body type"... that works for friends, not lovers. "
That's kind of what I meant by saying that some of this sounds infantile to me, like people no owning their own desires. The whole "all body types treated equally" thing together with the refusal to accept that some people reallly are hetero adds up to a sort of rejection of real desire. All of this stuff makes complete sense if we're talking about frienship, even really close frienships with people we love very much, but the moment you introduce sex into the equation things change.

belledame222 said...

i mean, i can understand a policy of, we want to be inclusive of a diversity of body types (in our erotica); or, no bashing of physical appearances, thanks. but that's a bit different.

and way to fuck up someone's boundaries as well, frankly; what if someone internalizes that and yer prototypical "nice guy" pulls the guilt-inducing, "you just won't go out with me because I'm not a rockstar/tall dark and handsome/of that extra head." like, "I'm sorry, I'm just not attracted to you" isn't sufficient? didn't a lot of guys try to pull that in the initial "free love period," and isn't that a fair chunk of why a faction of feminists got jaundiced about the Sexual Revolution to begin with? like, oh, great, here's one more thing I OWE you...

Merril Markoe has this hilarious book called "Merrill Markoe's Guide to Love"--basically a tour through a number of dating and mating self-help seminars; it kind of works as an anthropological guide for the Curious about the Twilight World of Straight Dating (yes, John Gray is included).

anyhoo, early on she's recounting her boomer college days and recalls some dude coming up to her while she's petting a dog and pulling some soulful-yet-obnoxious line about how fucked up it is that she can give the dog love and touchin' but not a guy like him (total stranger of course).

and so in hindsight she writes what she -should- have said, something like, "because I find the dog a lot more pleasant to be around, and frankly a lot less likely to give me mange."

Cassandra Says said...

Belle - Indeed. Seems to me that you and I have had this conversation about certain people, those people over there, lacking boundaries on many occasions. If I were to take this little manifesto seriously it could most certainly be construed as pissing all over my boundaries.
You're right about this very issue being what prompted a lot of feminists to bail out of the mainstream leftist movement and build their own. Dworkin had all kinds of things to say about leftist men attempting to manipulate women into sex that they didn't want by appealing to their sense of "fairness". And about that she was entirely correct - that stuff is bullshit, and it's pulled far too often. The women best equipped to deal with it when they encounter it are those with a strong sense of boundaries, which is why I don't understand why some feminists seem to forget about the importance of boundaries on such a regular basis.

annalouise said...

ha ha ha. That girl is one of my favorite internet personalities with her love of RPS and insistence that her boyfriend's ass was "enveloping" her so it wasn't evil inegalitarian penetration.

Anonymous said...

Cassandra, interesting that you don't eat shellfish. I don't either, because I have yet to find an invertibrate that I like eating. Every few years I'll try a piece of shrimp or lobster or something to see if anything has changed, but nothing so far.

I love fish, however. Especially big gamefish, some of which are not the most sustainable foods in the world's fisheries ... but I don't eat out often and I don't generally buy gamefish to cook at home.

Thomas

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

"i love textures and taste but am picky about such..."

Ah, texture. The one reason I cannot bring myself to eat a banana.

Zan said...

No shrimp? What? Oh, Cassandra! You have failed me at last! I love the buggers. Yuuuuummmy. Specially in a scampi sauce. Gimme.

As far as preferences? Please. Everyone's got them, denying them only makes people look stupid. I'm not seriously attracted to very overweight men. Irony, yes, seeing as how I'm pretty big myself. But I don't have a 'distaste' for them. I'm just not attracted to them, as a rule. Of course, if I meet the right guy? Eh, who really knows?

I like tall, skinny, pretty boys with tats. I like tall, curvy women with dark, dark hair and attitude. Which does not perclude my falling in love with someone outside that type, but still. We all have preferences. Gods bless 'em too. If we all saw everyone as equally attractive, we'd never get any work done! Seriously, can you imagine being sexually attracted to every person you saw?? We'd all have to walk around with blinders on.

Cassandra Says said...

Thomas - I can eat crab if I have to, to be polite, but I still don't enjoy it. It really is the texture, since none of that stuff tastes of anything other than what you cook it with.
I love tuna, which is about as ecologically unsound a fish as one could be consuming. I don't like the canned tuna, but I love the really red, bloody stuff (ahi, maguro, etc). I do try not to eat it too much, though, because it is so endangered.
For home use I usually seem to end up buying catfish.
Which bring me to another thing I detest, which Zan will probably scold me for...crayfish. I just can't get past the fact that they look like giant roaches.

Cassandra Says said...

Zan - You like shrimp? That's it, I'm moving out and I'm taking the cats with me!
And as for the rest of it...have we found anyone who doesn't have preferences yet?
(crickets chirping)

Cassandra Says said...

This is a relevant point too..."But I don't have a 'distaste' for them. I'm just not attracted to them, as a rule. Of course, if I meet the right guy? Eh, who really knows?"
That puzzles me, actually, the idea that if someone isn't attracted to a certain type that automatically translates to virulent disgust.

Also..."If we all saw everyone as equally attractive, we'd never get any work done! Seriously, can you imagine being sexually attracted to every person you saw?? "
The thing is, I really don't think that's possible (and it would be rather inconvenient). What it makes me suspect is that what this person means by attracted to isn't what I mean by it. I'm guessing she doesn't mean that "every time I look at this person I want to get naked and sweaty with them" sort of feeling. In fact, I'm not sure if that feeling is considered acceptable by "egalitarian" standards at all.

Maybe the "sexuality" in "egalitarian sexuality" means something more like the "lesbian" in "lesbian feminist"?

Cassandra Says said...

annalouise - Do you have a link?
Because OK...not that I think fucking your boyfriend in the ass with a strap-on is necessarily inegalitarian by my standards, BUT how does that fit into the rules? And what if a lesbian couple want to do the same?

Alex said...

Hi Cassandra, I'm a bit of a newcomer here (been reading you for a bit, but never had a reason to post before now)...

I don't know if I have a "type". I have people I'm slightly more attracted to than others, but in the great scheme of things I don't think it's statistically significant, you know?

Of course, I bet someone combing through all the people I find attractive could find some similarities. (I'm thinking maybe wavy/curly hair would be the top one.) But it would be a long list, and no one wants to do that. ;)

To be honest, I'm not sure that without the "want to get hot and sweaty and naked" that it COUNTS as sexuality. [With some caveats for, I dunno, cold shower sex.] Like, I'm trying to imagine how it would work. Do they think, "yes, someone could find that person fuckable"? "I can find something attractive in that person's features, even if the whole package isn't for me"? (This is something I try do, often - Belle mentioned doing something like it on another blog, maybe hers, can't rememeber)

Also, do said rock stars define themselves as heterosexual? Does it matter if they do/don't/did/didn't in reality, or just the fantasy? And how can these people post it, given that I'm betting that there was NO consent given for it?

Has anyone pointed this out to these women [and men?]?

Anonymous said...

I find that I don't have _a_ type, but I have several. I am attracted to women with all kinds of body types and personal styles, but there are shapes that are appealing to me: not one or a small group, but a scattered and seemingly random collection.

Anonymous said...

I find that I don't have _a_ type, but I have several. I am attracted to women with all kinds of body types and personal styles, but there are shapes that are appealing to me: not one or a small group, but a scattered and seemingly random collection.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that double-post was mine. Keyboard error.

Thomas

Palmer said...

A bit off topic but:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1720068.ece

Apparently bondage pre-dates patriarchy. The modern form of patriarchy, anyway.

Take care

Anonymous said...

Palmer's link is incomplete. This is the article:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1720068.ece

Thomas

Anonymous said...

let's try that again

http://www.timesonline.co.uk
/tol/news/uk/article1720068.ece

Thomas

Zan said...

No, Cassandra! You can't take the cats!!!

And crawfish? Eh, I don't care about them so much, except they bring us lots o'money and I likes money. So.

And it's craWfish. This crayfish thing is just a Yankee attempt to capitolize on our good sense. Bah. Crawfish, mud bugs, crawdaddy but not ever every CRAYfish. Grr Arg.

And that's your Cajun lesson for the day ;)