I’ve been struggling, like many feminists interested in sexuality, with the issue of self-identification. I am clearly neither an anti-porn feminist nor a sex-positive feminist. I very much enjoy porn, but I think its trends and messages are extremely problematic. I'd much rather see a new, different kind of pornography as an alternative to what we've already got.
In the past, I’ve identified most closely with sex-positive feminism. When I was growing up, I was socially attacked and ostracized for being a woman who was openly interested in sex. This hurt me. When I encountered sex-positive feminism, it was like a light shone down from the sky. There were other people who thought that sex was important, that women could be sexual, that I was really an okay person even though I had a sex drive.
On the other hand, I don’t agree with their total lassiez-faire attitude towards porn. I think it’s important to recognize the systematic misogyny in porn. I don’t want to ban porn at all, but we can’t do any better for sexuality if we don’t recognize its problems. That “pornified” misogyny is part of what creates the idea that women can’t be sexual unless they’re whores (in other words unless their sex is in service of men). I can see that, and think it’s important.
Therefore, I am coining a new term for myself. I am a sexuality feminist. I believe that sexuality is central to gender inequality. I think that addressing sexual inequality is a very crucial step towards decreasing overall gender inequality. I make sexual equality the main focus of my activism.
This term could, in fact, apply to both the anti-porn and the sex-positive feminists. It says nothing about whether you’re in favor of mainstream porn or not. Maybe it could even let us work together sometimes.
It doesn’t mean we have to give the word “pornography” a new meaning in order for the average person to understand what we mean when we define ourselves. It doesn’t suggest that those who oppose us are “sex-negative” or anti-sex. Rather than putting us in opposition to something, it gives us a realm in which to work, rebel, agitate, create, define, and live.
Who knows, maybe it could catch on. I'm claiming it here and now: I’m a sexuality feminist.
Cross-posted at Paper Cuts and Plastic.
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