Interesting. My last post on this topic – trans sexuality – which was mostly the dipping of a toe into water, evoked a bit more controversy than i expected.
In part, i think, because the language was not entirely familiar: one peep appeared to think that “sexual narrative” was journo-speak for smutty story. But also because of some of the reasons i alluded at and more.
So i’m going to take a second bite of the cherry here (ooer, missus!) and try and put my thoughts in order.
1. Discussing sex and sexuality is “dangerous”. This is an observation from many spaces, many debates – including academic network, Onscenity – where discussing any amount of topics in the media/popular culture (violence and the media, censorship and, etc.) is perfectly acceptable, but discussing “sex and…” instantly arouses cries of “agenda”.
Though oddly that accusation seems mostly pointed at those writing from a sex-positive pov.
2. Models of sex and sexuality have historically been from a normative perspective, often written up from by white, middle-class males to the exclusion of all others. The history of female sexuality – and i’m indebted to Gloria Brame for some source material here – was mostly written by the patriarchy, with men setting down what is normal, what not for women. Men even pathologising what THEY see as non-normative behaviour.
3. “What women want” is frequently very different from what men think they do or should: i was mildly amused recently by the reaction of a cis female friend to imagery i discussed that was picked by lesbian friends. As in: “Oh. I hadn’t expected that…”: because her view of what appealed to lesbian women was fundamentally shaped by a male sexualised view of same.
4. Discussion of sex and sexuality throws up awkward issues. For women, f’rinstance, the rape fantasy thing: its there. The difficulty is in analysing and deconstructing it in ways that don’t play to the oppressive male: “you see, i told you women like that sort of thing”.
Clues, i guess, lie in the fact that it is a fantasy, which is NOT the same as desiring anything remotely close to the reality: its personal and its private. Also, as per Meg Barker: transgressive is OK, co-ercive is bad; and its all about understanding the difference between the two.
Informed consent under conditions of free choice.
5. A common reaction to difficulties in the sexual narrative is a refusal to talk about it, because its seen (as above) as giving hostages to fortune. Perhaps rape fantasy IS no more than a patriarchal imposition: but that needs to be argued, not simply asserted.
6. These same memes run through trans debate on sex in much the same way and measure:
– there is much allergy to discussing it (even though others, espesh the media and transphobes are more than happy to imply sexual motives to anything trans);
– historic discourse on trans sexuality (repressed homosexuality, autogynephilia and the like) has been imposed by the same white male patriarchy as decided it knew all about women;
– trans sexuality contains problematic stuff (particularly if one acknowledges that the transgender umbrella contains some whose interest in trans IS to some degree motivated by kink);
– the latter creates and contributes to a divide within the community: all trans folk tend to be tarred with the same brush; which possibly leads to a rejection of sexuality, even of discussing sexual narratives for fear that those outside the community will immediately jump to the wrong conclusions.
I think that’s about it, beyond suggesting that my response to the above, as to all other big debates of this kind, is that “knowledge shall set you free”. Or in this instance, talking about it.
Whereas shuffling awkward issues under the carpet is more likely to perpetuate difficulties.