Friday, June 6, 2008

Sexist or Sexually Empowering?

This started as a response to comments on the Just Do It post but ended up way too long for the comment box so i thought i'd make an entry out of it.

The postcard text reads: "When I jog by men I breathe heavily and moan, so they imagine fucking me as I trot past"

I gave this postcard a lot of thought before putting it up, especially in regards to Female Desire Week, but decided that it made the cut, here's why:

Although i agree it's difficult to separate agency from systemization we also (unfortunately) can't go back and ask the author of the post card to explain what s/he meant.* I am going to imagine the person who wrote this was female (it may very well have been a male) and analyze it from a female sexuality perspective.

To me, the postcard represents a woman having the power to manipulate other's wants and thoughts based on her choice of action. She is taking the control and power of her sexuality to make him imagine her in the way she wants to be imagined and wants to be seen. And if this turns her on, by all means...

I realize a lot of people have a hard time with women claiming power through sexuality because, way too often, sexual power is the only type of power women are said to have. However, i also think it's empowering for this particular woman to have chosen to take back her power in this way and reclaim the power of her own sexuality. She is making a conscious choice, outside of the stereotypical norms set for sexuality, especially female sexuality.

In that respect, this IS celebrating female agency because it's not socially acceptable for women to assert themselves in that sort of sexual way and by doing so they are taking that power back. In contemporary society it is acceptable for women to act subtly sexual and it is expected that their sexuality is elusive and non-apparent. In this case acting overtly sexual by complete choice is acting as an agent outside of the system in place.

Also, thinking through norms of sexuality, women are taught from a young age to use their sexuality as their main asset, especially for personal gain (example: the DQ commercial i wrote about a while back - little girl acting sexy to get ice cream). However, to act this way completely for themselves and not to acquire something, to me, is totally different. If causing a guy to imagine that he is fucking her turns this girl on and the knowledge of that is what she is "getting" out of the situation, i do not see anything wrong with that. Female sexuality that isn't of the social norm (such as purposefully breathing heavily and moaning), as in almost "deviant" sexual behavior, that is decisively deviant and made freely - outside the norm of sexuality, outside the system, and outside female expectations of sexuality - is empowering. To me, this reclaims female power and agency and is a perfect example of female desire and female sexual freedom.

Also, i'm incredibly new to thinking about sexuality and female power through sexuality from a feminist perspective so i would love the feedback of sex-positive bloggers who know their stuff much more so than i currently do :)

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

*If you are the author of this postcard and somehow happened to come upon this blog, PLEASE chime in, we'd love to hear from your perspective! :)


phd in yogurtry said...

I agree with you, feministgal. I think. I read this postcard as if it were speaking of a woman's fantasy. Imagining men imagining fucking her. She likes the idea of men desiring her.

Alot of people, male and female alike, get turned on imagining others are turned on to them.

I pretty much see this postcard as one individual's ego boost or libido enhancer or simply a way to charge up her running, get more power when the energy is flagging. That she is imagining that others find her desirable or want to fuck her, and is making sounds to enhance her fantasy, seems to yes, enhance her sexual agency.

Rule of thumb regarding sexual fantasies: don't analyze them or try to link them to some deep unconscious need. Theyu are just that - a fantasy - and as fantasies often go they have little to do with one's day to day persona, beliefs, moral principals or aspirations. Like dreams. Sometimes dreams are just the mind playing unsupervised at the playground. A mental free-for-all.

Sarah J said...

so far you're kicking ass at it, lady.

the great thing about blogging rather than writing academic papers is that you can just throw things up there and work through your own feelings and thoughts on the matter. and I agree with what you've put up here, but even if I didn't, you're working through your own thoughts and that's the important part.

Smirking Cat said...

I was left wondering, if it's an act of taking power, why phrase it as an act being done to her ("fucking me"), instead of something she is doing, or something they are doing together? Our language about sex really puts women as the object being done to, and I question any power in that.

Anonymous said...

With this remark:

Female sexuality that isn't of the social norm (such as purposefully breathing heavily and moaning), as in almost "deviant" sexual behavior, that is decisively deviant and made freely - outside the norm of sexuality, outside the system, and outside female expectations of sexuality - is empowering.

I think you've captured, if not the ethos of "sex-positive" feminism, then at least of "kink feminism", which while not necessarily all of sex-positive, is at least one corollary of it!

I think the way in which a woman under the patriarchal paradigm is supposed by others to have power in her sexuality, is because she is the "gatekeeper" for sex, which means she is cast by men in the role of "prize", and she judges who is "worthy" of the prize. Sex is not in itself a thing for her to enjoy, but for her to give to whoever she determines has performed the tasks asked (for example, the dominant paradigm has the woman saying, "show me a good time on our date this evening, I'll show you a good time tonight in bed...") What you've described is of course the antithesis of this paradigm, because the woman is assumed to be regarding her sexuality as something to enjoy for herself, and not as something to be exchanged for goods or services. It doesn't have to be "outside the social norm" as such, except inasmuch as "good sex is its own reward" is an ethos that is outside of social norms for a woman to express.

Queers United said...

I think everything is contextual. I am a feminist and a sex positive blogger and I am also a male.

FeministGal said...

smirking cat - you bring up a really interesting point that i didn't consider, thanks for the perspective! i'll definitely give that one some more thought :)

Anna McM said...

Hey FeministGal - just found your comment on THM, and popped over for a look. I love your blog, and the fact that you're a woman in science as well. The sexuality/empowerment thing is something we're discussing under the 'breach of contract' post on THM - feel free to contribute!

Anonymous said...

i see what you're saying but then part of me thinks "why does she even care if some random dude wants to fuck her or not?" like, is it her agency or is it male attention? or both? idk, just sayin'

Habladora said...

I'm not sure it has to be either sexist or sexually empowering - we all have our personal fantasies (cue Eurythmics). Of course, this person chose to send her fantasy into Post Secret - making it a bit less personal. I guess it is empowering to be able to talk about your sexuality - for a long time women were supposed to be asexual, or to at least feign asexuality.

I too would like more resources on sexuality and sex-positive feminism. Post some links if you find any good ones!