Tuesday 20 October 2009

Angry feminist Tuesday

I get angry when debates are skewed by lies and weasel words on both sides, as is happening right now with the debate around prostitution, trafficking and the Policing and Crime Bill currently going through the House of Lords. I get angry when the people whose side I'm nominally on, the people out to protect women first and foremost, the good guys goddamnit, make up, distort and exaggerate statistics. And I get angry when media outlets use that exaggeration to dismiss the whole debate - in this case, to claim that there are almost no trafficked sex-slaves working in Britain today , a claim which has led other commentators to alledge that trafficked women are not worth public funds and anyone suggesting otherwise is -and I quote - 'hysterical'.

I get angry when punters, bystanders and sex worker organisations claim that it's not okay to criminalise men who rape sex slaves, because that might make it a little harder for non-coerced prostitutes to earn their money, or even - shock, horror! - make it harder for yr average punter to get his no-strings fuck.

I get angry when groups that pretend to be supporting women try to push through illiberal clutches of contradictory laws based on bad statistics. And I get angry when I see clusters of people tearing each other apart over laws that, even if they are put into place, will leave us with exactly the same situation: namely that prostitution, an industry in which the overwhelming majority of sellers are women and nearly all buyers are men, will not actually be legal or illegal - it'll be just about illegal enough and just about stigmatised enough that those who sell sex get almost no protection or support from the law or their local communities, whilst still just about legal enough that 10-15% of men are free to pay for sex without having to consider the humanity of their partner whenever they so choose.

I get angry, too, when I make the mistake of reading my words twisted by idiots online, my feminism rubbished, my ideals mocked. I get angry when I hear, time and time again as my profile as a feminist writer grows, that I'm a prude, a frigid bitch, that I hate sex, that I believe in a sterile female supremacist state, that my sisters and I believe all heterosexual sex is rape. I get angry when I am lied about. No other kind of political writer gets their very selfhood, the deepest most intimate parts of themselves, trampled in the most malicious of ways by total strangers - only the few bloggers, journalists and authors who are brave enough to tackle feminist issues in the public sphere.

I get angry when I'm told that I am not allowed to take offence when women are objectified and served up as pieces of meat by the media, when I'm called a prude for hating the prevalence of lap-dancing clubs and wanting those clubs to be properly designated and licensed, when I'm called a crazy, bitter bitch for hating the fact that I can't leave my fucking house or even open a goddamn webpage without seeing pictures of unreal female bodies served up as the ultimate ideal that I should aspire to, when I hate being told to buy more things so that I can look perpetually young, odourless, hairless, shaved, de-sexed and dehumanised. I get angry when I'm ridiculed for wanting to own my sexuality, and wanting others to be allowed to own theirs.

I am a feminist. I am pro sex-worker, morally indifferent to the notion of a sex trade, fantastically opposed to the sex trade as it operates in Britain today - full of rape, abuse, sexual slavery, grooming, coercion and objectification. The voices of prostituted women who aren't having a good time are the only ones we don't hear - plenty of rape apologists, plenty of feminists getting it wrong, and plenty of people responding by telling us that those feminists are hysterical bitches who hate all men and all sex. A few brave people are trying to redress this balance: Rebecca is one of them. Go and read her blog before you read anything else.

All this anger makes me horny.

And when I'm horny and angry I need to get off if I'm to be any use to myself or anyone, not that masturbation is ever that much of a chore. So I go hunting online for a quick pornographic fix. But yknow what? All the porn I can find online involves raping, hurting, punishing and shaming women, endless thumping shots of cocks going into holes that just leave me cold and upset. I click on one that looks like it might be alright, only to watch thirty seconds of a young woman actually crying and screaming 'ow, ow, ow' whilst a disembodied cock fucks her in the anus. I hate it. It makes me want to throw up. Does that mean I'm a frigid bitch who hates sex? Apparently, yes.

The truth is that we have not even begun to tackle the sexual objectification of women in our culture. Slapping a ban on lapdancing clubs or fiddling around with the laws on prostitution will achieve sweet nothing unless it's backed up by cultural change - although it's always our right, as feminists and advocates of free speech, to object to the treatment of women in the sex industry or anywhere else, if we so choose. We are trying to hold back the sea, when instead we need to be building armoured submarines and diving into the water all guns blazing.

I am personally, right here and now, sick of being objectified by this culture, sick of denying my selfhood and performing for others and apologising for my wants and needs and desires. I'm only 23, and already I have starved my body into nothingness, I've nearly died from hunger and come out the other side, I've stripped on stage and felt no joy, I've experienced date rape and had sexual partners tell me I'm dirty and women tell me I'm a slut to my face, and every day I am forced to see thousands of pictures of how my body should look - plucked, shaved, starved, limp, white, pre-pubescent, drained, dead - and encouraged to beat myself into that mold - and yet people tell me that my experience is invalid, that my feminism is anathema, that I am 'bitter'. As a woman in my 20s I am told that I should constantly aspire to look sexy - but I shouldn't sleep with too many people, I shouldn't sleep with anyone on the first date, I shouldn't appear too keen, I shouldn't be 'slutty'. I am an object; I should aspire to be the best possible object I can be.

THAT is what objectification means. It's a denial of selfhood and sexuality and identity so absolute and all-encompassing that most of us don't even notice anymore that we've been duped.

Well, I'm sick of being an object. I'm sick of apologising for my 'frigidity', for my feminism, for my rage at not being allowed to express myself sexually and yet being expected to perform and bullied if I object to men, strangers or otherwise, treating me like chattel. There's something thundering inside me about to be unleashed, hemmed in by anger and the bawling of stupid, ignorant misogynists. I feel like my anger could howl away inside me and consume me if I don't let it out. I want to scream. I want to hit things. I want to climb on some high roof and yell that I'm a person, that all women are real people who deserve to be treated like human beings, until they come and drag me off for being 'hysterical'.

But don't mind me, I'm just your crazy neighborhood feminazi. Take me away before I upset somebody.


  1. I agree. I tend to avoid a lot of feminist blogs etc. that I agree with because the misogyny from commenters is too upsetting to be worth it. I often don't read the comments on yours for the same reason.

  2. Been there, got the t-shirt. Ten years ago. Same old, same old.

  3. Hear hear to everything you've said. And nobody will deny you the right to be angry. Those idiots, hey? It's never fun to be misrepresented, best way to avoid it is to be honest and not misrepresent others :)
    I for one have never had a problem with your feminism (just the socialism part), and spent too many years of my life being angry. But rage is a powerful motivator I have found.

  4. Your frustration is so resonant with my own, and I draw much strength from your posts. Stay strong, and stay angry. You are changing the world.

  5. If you put your head above the parapet expect your enemies to take pot shots at you. You realise that not all men are as you sometimes describe them, although it has to be said that more are than I would like. Bodies are not commodities and there should be no property in human flesh. Ever. Perhaps if enough people say this often enough eventually a majority of the population will recognise it as an expression of a desirable truth. Keep doing what you are doing and try not to be discouraged. It's surely better to light one candle than merely curse and complain because of the darkness.

    You're on the side of the angels.

    Please don't be downhearted.

  6. You are wonderful, and you are damn right. Thank you.

  7. Fucking hell, Laurie. Hope that was as cathartic to write as it was good to read.

  8. Very well said. I love your anger, and if you can give it a focus, it gives your writing a real power.

    Actually, writing from a male perspective, I can see why porn winds you up - if I feel the need to watch it, it's weird that stuff from 25 or 30 years ago feels, maybe not less misogynistic, but not as soulless. The modern material with all its disembodied meat shots is just depressing. 1980s porn could have a woman like Kay Parker, with cellulite, natural breasts and a hairy bush and who was no less beautiful for that, because she was real. Now the imperative is to be starved, implanted and waxed to look as close as possible to a blow-up doll.

    Objectification? You bet. If I was a young woman surrounded by all this crap, I know I'd want to scream. Just think of all the people you're screaming for.

  9. "I get angry, too, when I make the mistake of reading my words twisted by idiots online, my feminism rubbished, my ideals mocked."

    Everyone gets pissed off when their ideals get mocked. I've just looked at cif and as things stand, it looks as if you got owned. So go back and make a better case. I'd say only half those opposing you had misogynist motivations. Half were quite reasonably making the case that the evidence as it presently exists doesn't support the contention that there are significant numbers of trafficked sex-workers and, as tragic as the situation is, those small numbers don't warrant the huge level of expenditure demanded by various parties.

    A "yeah, but even one is too many" argument is undeniably true but since the entire debate hinges on exaggeration and dodgy statistics, I think you have to come up with something other than emotive rhetoric. You seem to be making the case that, whatever the true figure, it's undeniable that large numbers of women continue to suffer at the hands of men. Again undeniable, if a little "bears shit in the woods". What new aspect are you bringing to the particular debate other than a widely held truism?

  10. Begger off to the buggers; just to stroke your ego I really think you to be one of the best young writers around.
    Actually forget the qualification; my favourite, and thus the official and legal very best. You express so eloquently the anger, frustration and distress that I feel so often but often can't quite articulate.
    My red pen it attacking Brighton. A lot.

  11. WOW! What a rave...You go grrl, keep talking your talk and walking your walk...because you ROCK!
    P.S I look forward to reading you again!

  12. In defence of pornographic actresses like Linsey Dawn McKenzie, Jenna Jameson and Tara Patrick etc., these women do make a nice living by having sexual intercourse on camera.

    Just because you aren't sexually stimulated by seeing a young woman sodomised doesn't make you frigid. You just haven't found the right kind of pornography to press your buttons, that's all! Try girl-on-girl flicks and see if it suits.

  13. good article laurie. Can the trade exist without some of the elements you raise and if so how? {exploitation, rape, co-ercion). Bren

  14. Anyone care to elaborate on whether any online porn is targeted towards women. 'Lesbian' porn seems even more geared towards guys than straight videos. Bren

  15. Great article! Thank you!

    You've prompted me to look for a red pen. And get angry and write in capitals on the next objectifying billboard i see.

    Hopefully bystanders won't dismiss me as a feminazi; i'm male, i'm "allowed" to have strong opinions.

  16. Your posts are so passionate and downright f***ing inpsiring, please keep going, keep writing, keep changing the world.


  17. Yeah , I don't have much to add to all the praise from everyone else - but hear hear, thankyou, and welcome to my blogroll xxx

  18. Dr. Who, what where and when21 October 2009 at 18:09

    Didn't Lady Gaga have a hit with a song called "Feminazi!? Or was it "Paparazzi"? I'm not sure.

  19. I am astonished by this sort of thing. People who otherwise seem well-adjusted, reasonable, actualized, emotionally together, and intelligent stick up for the worst behavior--sex slavery! I want to know why, but it's hard for me to get past the "ugh!" factor and start hypothesizing as to the cause. But I know isolating causes is a huge part of problem solving, so here goes.

    Is it because we as a society repress gender differences as to suitable number of partners and what comprises "cheating" that people take out their sublimated aggression on those issue against the economically helpless and sexually subjugated? By some kind of vicarious fantasies?

    Is it because it's human nature to have a mean streak about slavery? Maybe this kind of thing is just the modern manifestation of human hierarchical nature which enshrined slavery in the Judeo-Christian Bible, the U.S. Constitution, etc. in neutral or approving terms.

    Other hypotheses, please?

  20. Who's sticking up for sex slavery?

  21. Many women in loveless marriages are little more than slave, particularly in Asian communities. Very few people in the first world or the new world have any idea of what it is to be made into a chattel and regularly raped in the marriage bed three or more times a night with no redress within the community and posslibly murder or disfigurement as a punishment if you try to escape.

  22. If you have to be frigid to be a feminist I think I'll decline to join that sorority and have decided to join Greenpeace instead.

  23. This post WINS THE INTERNET.

  24. Thanks KJB - and thanks everyone else for saying nice things. I'm glad this post went down well, I was having a very bad day when I wrote it.:)

  25. Your views are extremely ignorant and naive. The seemingly cultural views of women, which you object to so strongly, do not come from culture, rather they come from biology and evolution. I would encourage you to read up on the evolutionary reasons for the importance the world places on a woman's looks, for example.
    Women do not live according to some arbitrary standards set up by men, they live according to evolutionary principles which are well-documented. Men also have their evolutionary imperatives, to compete for women's attention (except for men, the imperative is resources, as opposed to women's imperative of showing off their fertility and beauty). Read any evo-psych book, by David Buss, Helen Fisher, you name it.

    And by the way: Women's enemies are not men, it's other women. Women suffer at the hands of their own "sisters" far more than from males, and indeed prefer to socialize/work with males for that reason, rather than be in female-dominated circles, characterized by envy and judgmentalism.

  26. Gene (if I may butt in on your lecture)...

    "Your views are extremely ignorant and naive."

    As an opening gambit, that doesn't exactly scream "open dialogue".

    "I would encourage you to read up on the evolutionary reasons for the importance the world places on a woman's looks, for example."

    Plausibly, but, as aesthetic demands upon women fluctuate between cultures, and relatively brief time periods, I don't see a reason to assume an evolutionary imperative to starve oneself, or go under the knife.

    And by the way: Women's enemies are not men, it's other women. Women suffer at the hands of their own "sisters" far more than from males"

    That's an endearingly monolithic view of "enemies", but levels of rape, spousal abuse and patriarchal oppression don't really stack up in favour of your inter-gender-all-out-war theory.

  27. Great post, Penny, as pretty much always. You're an inspiration.

    And Gene - evolutionary psychology? HA. What basis do you have for thinking "evo psych" is anything other than total bollocks? Because one of the most respected scientists in the blogosphere, PZ Myers, and one of Britain's most eminent psychologists, Oliver James (who has written a book around the lack of evidence for genetic influence on adult behaviour), both think it's crap.

  28. Gene said, "Women suffer at the hands of their own 'sisters' far more than from males, and indeed prefer to socialize/work with males for that reason, rather than be in female-dominated circles, characterized by envy and judgmentalism."

    Well, no, not really. I don't care who I am working or socialising with, as long as they are okay to get on with. By coincidence, the drama group I attend is currently all-female, except for a male guide dog, and it is a pleasant, mutually supportive environment. Yes, really.

  29. "I get angry when I hear, time and time again as my profile as a feminist writer grows, that I'm a prude, a frigid bitch, that I hate sex, that I believe in a sterile female supremacist state, that my sisters and I believe all heterosexual sex is rape."

    Hey, that is what happens when you associate yourself with the movement which is full of people who think like that.

    It's like associating with hippies, dressing like a hippie, proclaim that you're a hippie, and then getting offended because people dismiss your opinion because they think you're on drugs most of the time, like the rest of the hippies.


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