I blame it on Jess. And her friends. And the crew over at G3. And anyone else I can add to the list in a vain attempt to diminish my own culpability for this morning’s hangover. Cause, after all, the last thing you expect at a gathering that is both lesbian and chic is to be encouraged to drink silly amounts of strong alcohol before dancing til the early hours.
Although before the party spirit hit, I found myself for the umpteenth time this year discussing an issue that feminists, academics and assorted commentators really need to get to grips with. Which is the sex-positive revolution… . and the way in which (mostly) rad fems, and puritanical Christians on one side, and a new wave of young/libertarian feminists on t’other seem perpetually to be locking horns over this issue.
Simple, really. We all know how alternative sexuality is “bad”. Cause Freud and an army of therapists after have told us. And thus we believed until some point in the last decade or so when Dr Gayle Rubin published her wonderful deconstruction of that view – the “charmed circle” – which highlighted how much our views on sexuality were constructed around a particular normative world view. Straight, missionary, non-commercial, lights on, non-bdsm is “good”: anything else is at least potentially “bad” – and frequently pathologised as such by the psychiatric profession.
As antidote to this, a lot of the debates at Onscenity last month were a breath of fresh air: Meg Barker pointed out how we too frequently confuse the co-ercive and the transgressive; a string of academics spoke about how there was much to be learnt from the non-normative. That it was a perspective, rather than an illness.
But still, wriggling between the cracks, was a small voice getting louder..and I am seriously indebted to academics such as Alex Dymock for keeping this on my personal agenda – although she is far from alone in making this point. Which is simply: just because it is sex-positive doesn’t make it bad: but nor does it make it good either.
Somewhere in the mix of kink and bdsm and let-it-all-hang-out sexual freedom, valuable lessons are to be had about our selves, our bodies and our relationships. Yet also in there are narratives of damage and hurt and, yes, harm.
And as long as this debate is conducted by two sides much in the fashion of two playground tribes slinging rocks at one another, we are going to get nowhere.
We need a new synthesis. Sex and extravagant sexuality is not of itself, bad. Rad Fems, Christians: just get over it (and yourselves); but its not necessarily good, either. We need a new language, a new dialogue that allows academics and researchers to look at both sides, to switch sides, to think roundly without being accused of being over-attached to one or other agenda on this matter.
That, and the fact that before the tequila and dancing set in that was the topic of a mostly sensible conversation.