Sunday, 3 December 2017

Seemingly Incongruous Musings About Sex, Men, Slut Shaming and Al Franken

I like sex…

Actually, I love sex. It took me a long time to get this point, but I love sex, and I’m not giving it up for anything or anyone.

I lost my virginity at a very young age to date rape. (If you haven’t read my previous post about that, you can find it here.) I have been sexually harassed and fought it, so I have been through that nightmare. (The harassment was merely annoying and stupid, the nightmare started when I brought a formal complaint because the asshole was also harassing younger women on a university campus.) I am bi-sexual. I have never discriminated against race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender when it comes to my sexual attraction. I think I’ve even been with a Republican, but we had great chemistry, so I let the fact that he voted for Bush slide (this was before 9/11). I have never believed in monogamy; my second marriage was an open one. I am not polyamorous; I don’t like boundaries of any kind. I am an explorer of the human condition in all its gore and glory.

I’m a bit loathe to bring my mental instabilities into this conversation because mental illness is often used as a scapegoat or a reason for dismissing my sexuality as an extension of my mental state. In the same way the sexual empowerment of a stripper, porn star or prostitute gets dismissed if they were sexually abused. Except that over the last few years since getting mentally healthy (my blog post about that here), my sexual appetite, my kinky side and my enjoyment of sex has increased - much as I am currently staring down the barrel of menopause. (Forgive me Venus, I am aging, it’s been 3 months since my last period.) While there might be a correlation between mental anguish and sexuality, we tend to focus on the side of damage rather than on the side of liberation. There are women, like me, who have released ourselves from the stigmatisms of sexuality because we don’t connect with normalcy. In a lot of ways, this is our superpower, much as it is judged and maligned by the mainstream.

There was a time when sex was the only enjoyment I got from living. It was the only time I let myself be free and the only time I let go of (what I didn’t know at the time was debilitating) anxiety. And on more than one occasion, it was the best reason I had to stick around. Those magnificent moments of being devoured and devouring, of giving in completely to desire and letting my body lead me to sensual pleasures of the flesh were absolutely unrestrained and glorious. While I positively love women and women’s bodies, there is something so sublime about being penetrated by a man. There is something primal about taking in and surrounding that power, extracting everything it has to give and transforming it into bliss for both of us. I have found nothing in the world as exhilarating as inciting that flash of desire in a man’s eyes that ignites his passion and takes him to a purely physical, instinctual realm. As my mental health has significantly improved, my sexual appetites have grown not diminished (which is why I buck against the fallacy of mental illness compromising my ability to own my sexuality) and I am far more vocal about who and what I am in the world now.

As a woman who has command of almost every room I’ve ever walked into, I relish finding men who I can submit to, men who can subdue me. Men with confidence rather than bravado, men with manners rather than indifference, men with generosity rather than wealth, men with substance rather than flash, men with ingenuity rather than idiosyncrasies, men who empower rather than degrade, men who give in to the vulnerability of lust rather than merely feeding it. Men with a certain amount of indifference – because I am not a prize for them to win or a notch for them to gain. I demand that they are all of what they are so that I can be all of what I am. I also demand authenticity, which is a harder ask than many might think. All that said, I really dislike being commanding in the bedroom, but I will not diminish myself or be diminished there either. (I applaud women who like to be commanding, it’s just not my taste.)

There is a difference between an asshole and a genuine guy…

[I want to make a disclaimer: when I use the term degradation here, I am excluding the fetish of degradation that some seek. I applaud those who know they like that and who seek it, but it’s just not part of the meaning of the term as I use it here.]

Can I tell when a man is genuine or when he just wants to degrade me? You bet your sweet boots I can. And there are huge tell-tale signs that are as subtle as they are nuanced between a genuine guy and an asshole: the asshole starts with degradation, bravado, being pushy and strong-arm tactics. The genuine guy starts with confidence, manners, wit, humour, patience and I know he’ll walk away before he’d ever compromise his core self, while the asshole will twist himself inside out just to cop a feel.

I’ve NEVER gotten a dick pick from a genuine guy – and that one is more significant than I realised. A few months ago, I started a flirtation online that moved to What’s-App. After a few days, he started to send pictures – which should have tipped me off, but we had been getting pretty hot with the texts, so I figured it was a natural extension (and I'm new to the digital sex scene). There were issues of distance and timing, so this went on for quite some time before we arranged to meet. 2 days before that arrangement, his wife texted me. A wife I had never heard of.  I immediately severed the connection. (While I don’t believe in monogamy, I don’t mess around with anyone who is in a relationship where at least one of the two believe themselves to be in a monogamous arrangement – much as I’ve been accused by some women as being a threat to the institution of marriage because I’m not monogamous.) When I thought about if I should have known this guy was an asshole, I immediately realised that the moment he sent me a dick pick, he showed his true colours. (Sending dick picks after you’ve been intimate with someone is probably different – even though it’s really not to my taste – but if you’re sending or receiving dick picks before you’ve met the guy or the girl, think about what that means.)

The reasons I can rely on these tenuous-at-best signs is that a genuine guy doesn’t need to screw me at any cost. There’s no desperation with the genuine guy. There’s no pressure. His ego and his masculinity are not dependent on me in any way. And most importantly, his enjoyment doesn’t come at my expense. (I believe this is Al Franken’s problem. While he isn’t as bad as some, he still derived his enjoyment at the expense of someone else and that’s schmucky at best and abusive at worst, no matter how much Minnesota needs a democratic senator.)

For the scores of men who are suddenly frightened by the current climate of sexual harassment scandals, here’s a couple of ideas:

  • ·         Degrading a woman doesn’t increase your prowess it just reveals that you’re an asshole
  • ·         Doing anything at anyone else’s expense – women, minorities, religions, etc = asshole
  • ·         If you proposition her without allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you’re probably crossing a line (it’s the difference between ‘may I kiss you?’ and ‘hey, baby, give me a kiss’)
  • ·         Keep your hands to yourself – just start thinking of women as feral beasts who will bite your hand off if you touch us until that becomes second nature. We need to give you permission or our bodies are not available to you for any reason.
  • ·         A conversation doesn’t diminish the act – and more importantly, if you can’t talk about it, you can’t do it. And I mean look her in the eye (no texts, no phone calls, no emails) face-to-face talking. Meaning if you can’t say out loud that you want anal sex, you can’t try to have anal sex. Also, if you can't talk about condoms or birth control, you really shouldn't be having sex.
  • ·         Think of what she would like rather than what you like. Make her enjoyment the most important thing in the world - from how you talk to her, how you touch her and how you treat her afterwards. Women have been conditioned to make your experience paramount, turn the tables on that. Don't assume that what worked for the last girl will work for the next girl. Explore and discover - never assume.
  • ·         A post mortem isn’t out of the question especially if things got really freaky,
  • ·          …and lastly, don’t slut shame us after, don’t talk about us like we’re trash to your friends. Even if you include yourself in it, shame doesn’t stick to you the way it sticks to us.

Genuine guys don’t fetishise purity….

While I enjoy the beauty and pleasure of sex. I also enjoy the awkwardness, the humour and the absolute absurdity of it. Sex is absurd – absolutely – fundamentally -absurd. It’s weird. It’s messy. It’s gloriously uncouth (look up both meanings). And every living thing does it. It connects us to the primordial ooze we stepped out of -and therein might lie the problem. We keep trying to evolve away from the primordial ooze and sex puts us right back in it.

We’ve tried to redeem sex by inextricably connecting it to love – in the same way we’ve tried to elevate our need for nutrition by innovations in fine dining. But at the beginning of that dining experience is slaughter (even if it is merely the slaughter of plants for vegans and vegetarians) and it ends in the excretion of shit no matter how pretty your plate looks before consumption. We cannot extricate ourselves from those human processes and instead of embracing the extraordinary functioning of our bodies, we have tried to vilify those functions and shame our higher selves for needing/wanting/indulging them.

We’ve also tried to erase the carnal aspects of sex by fetishizing the purity of girls and commodifying everything female except the vulva - though if standards of decency were relaxed, I’m sure there would be thousands of media campaigns objectifying every aspect of female anatomy. The interesting thing about the commodification of female anatomy is that when media campaigns are meant to entice 12-year-old boys, the female form is perfected and glorified, but when media campaigns are meant to entice girls, the message is that their inherent form is imperfect and malignant and must be corrected. 

Our legs must be shaved, our breasts must be pushed up, our tummies must be flat, our skin must be flawless, our sweat must be stopped, our scent must be changed and our labia majora must be waxed. In my experience, genuine guys don’t give a shit about any of that, but assholes do.

In my experience, genuine guys like women who have experience and know what they’re doing, while assholes put a premium on purity – while at the same time wanting a perfect sexual experience. There are times when jealousy rears its head because of some perceived insecurity on their part, but genuine guys don’t slut shame women about their previous partners, and assholes do. Assholes think that if a woman has been around the block, that gives them uncorroborated permission to do whatever they like in the bedroom. And assholes tend to look for ways of diminishing and degrading women out of their own deeply felt insecurities. No one -no one – raises themselves up by putting others down - ever.

I know a lot of genuine guys. I also know more assholes than I would like to know, and the differences usually reveal themselves in short order. I think men who are assholes want to and like blurring the lines between the good guys and themselves because they think it helps them get away with their absolute shit behaviour. They will have no problem throwing good men under the bus to save their own sorry asses while treating women like disposable objects that only have value when we fulfil their pleasure quotient. This means good men are now at the peril of assholes, the way women have been since forever. It is not a club I welcome good men into with open arms because it’s a sucky club. However, I certainly welcome the additional help in fighting the assholes.

Right now, I think a lot of good men are cowed by anxiety and fear because they know the assholes can and will lump themselves in with the good guys in order to paint all men as creeps. I think this is the danger of the Al Franken situation.

Slut Shaming and the Al Franken Double Standard…

We can debate if Leeann Tweeden has a right to accuse Franken of sexual misconduct while she was a model of FHM and Playboy (which is a clear case of slut shaming) until the cows come home. That it’s up for debate at all is the problem. Why aren’t the HRC gang not standing with Tweeden? Why are some of them even joining in the slut shaming? Because they don’t like her or her politics. And that’s the ball game ladies. We just lost what should have been a shutout.

Either the principle of sexual misconduct matters or it doesn’t. No matter how much we like the pitcher and no matter how much we hate the receiver, no matter how much the game is rigged against our side, sexual harassment is sexual harassment.

I would bet a million dollars that the women who want to save Franken by demonising Tweeden are the same women who championed President Clinton while demonising Monica Lewinsky – and when we wake up tomorrow and years down the road and ask ourselves why didn’t this watershed #MeToo moment turn into real substantive change, we’ll have to look in the mirror and remind ourselves that in both cases we put the personality of the men above the principles of the harassment and we didn’t give credence to the #MeToo women we didn’t like or who weren’t in our click.

That Franken doesn’t remember the incidents with any of the other pictures or the groping, is also seriously problematic. If you grope and grab people, you know you do. If you don’t, you know you don’t. That he doesn’t remember and that he’s leaving open the possibility that he did means he probably has groped. If he’s never thought anything of it, that’s problematic because it means he tacitly believes women’s bodies are fodder for his hands. It’s not like there are stories yet of him being handsy with men. 

Is it possible he only ever gropes women from the opposite political spectrum because he doesn’t like Republican women? Or he wants to diminish women who own guns? Or he wants to degrade women who believe in school prayer? Or because he knows he can get away with it politically because Democrats don’t like those kinds of women anyway? If it turns out that he’s hedging and that he did grope any of those women, then we’ve sold out the cause for an asshole and I don’t think we should make that bet. Not now.

I had an uncle in-law, who was a priest, who grabbed my ass so fervently his finger went up my anus. I had to go to the bathroom to pull my underwear out from inside of my ass. I was 19. There was nothing subtle about it and that man knew exactly what he had done. I told my mother what happened as soon as I could get her alone. I wanted to scream at that man, but it would have traumatised my aunt and uncle, so I only told my mother. I was furious. I remember it distinctly to this day. If that man (who is no longer among us) were about to take a prominent position within the Church would I bring this incident up: probably. Would it be politically and religiously (or anti-religiously) motivated: yes. Would that change in any way what happened: no. Am I sexually promiscuous, devoid of commonplace morality, and could I be labelled a sexual deviant: yes. Do I deserve to be slut shamed if I were to speak out against this man? Does he deserve your solidarity because he's on your side?

I don't think Franken is worth the risk…

None of the genuine men I know have ever even come close to touching me inappropriately – ever. Franken’s behaviour smacks to me of men who blur the line or who don’t know the line exists. The men who don’t blur the line and the men who know the lines exists deserve my support but not this guy. And by the way, many of the genuine guys I'm talking about don't subscribe to vanilla morality but they have more integrity and ethics than some of those who claim moral authority. I care less about a man’s morality and far more about a man’s integrity. And I want to champion the men I know who are genuine and decent in this time of fear and turmoil more than I want to support men like Franken. I just can’t let the assholes win by taking us back to a puritanical time when women like me would be branded with scarlet A’s and men like Franken and President Clinton would merely be called libertines. And that seems to be the direction we’re heading if only women of purity have the moral authority to call out harassment and only men we dislike get held to account.

No comments:

Post a Comment