So, yesterday’s post disturbed me and many other readers. I think the idea that one should coerce women into or demand sexual positions is so problematic and goes against my idea of what sex should be about. Number one: sex definitely should not be a game where the goal is to ‘score’ or get points from your friends. To me that is so incredibly perverse and disrespectful and dehumanizing to your partner. Yesterday’s post thus reminded me of a FABULOUS post not to long ago by Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon.

Marcotte’s post was about trying to understand why many of the threads about rape at Pandagon were overrun by men who tried to defend the rapist, or find a way to get him off based on a technicality (Ex. :but she invited him into her room late at night”). She then tries to explain where the attitude comes from that was evinced in Details and by some men (not all of course, I know many men who don’t have this crazy and disturbed view of sexuality).

I’d say the two major metaphorical frames about sex would be the conservative-sexist one and the liberal-feminist one. The conservative-sexist metaphorical framework of sex is Sex As Conquest. In this frame, women’s bodies are objects and sex is about the struggle to conquer the pussy. Sometimes the struggle over the pussy is between men (ex: jokes about fathers guarding their daughters’ bodies from young male interlopers) and sometimes women themselves are tasked with defending the pussy from sex. If sexual intercourse happens, by definition, the man who gets to fuck the woman has won and the defender (father or woman herself) has lost. Sex happens when women surrender, in this model.

The liberal-feminist view of sex is that it’s not a war or a game, but more of a mutual collaboration, less like a battle and more like playing music. In this model, to be a sexual person is to be a musician and sex is playing your instrument. Sometimes you play by yourself, sometimes you get with others and jam, and sometimes you actually have a band that you have a long-term relationship with. There aren’t winners and losers, but there can be good and bad sex, just like there can be good and bad music.

Can anyone say frightening… and yet very familiar? As a university student that has been my problem with some of the men that I meet. When they approach me they are working not to get to know me or to engage in any kind of collaborative sexual undertaking… but to manipulate me in order to get into my pants. I am not really a full person to them… but a thing to have sex with. A pussy with legs. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with casual sex. But even casual sex can acknowlege that its participants are both human, equal partners and the desires and pleasures of both can be respected. Having sex shouldn’t be about manipulation. Sex attained by manipulating or lying to someone (ex. when someone of either sex says “I really like you, I could see this going somewhere” when all they really want is to get laid and move on to the next person).

These separate models of what sex is explain why threads about rape turn into hellholes pretty quickly—sexists and feminists aren’t even speaking the same language, in a sense. The conservative-sexist model of rape is the same one used to define a foul in basketball. Basically, when sexual intercourse happens, the man team has scored a point against the woman team. Each team is allowed some strategies and disallowed others. In basketball, you’re supposed to snatch the ball from the other team, but you can’t cross certain lines or you’ll get a foul. This explains why rape trolls are so eager to find out what the “rules” are, i.e. when they are permitted to force sex. (”Is it rape if she’s drunk? What if she says yes and changes her mind? Is it okay to bully someone into it, so long as you don’t actually hold her down and force her? Are guilt trips okay?, etc.”)

If there’s some ambiguity when the referee calls a foul, your teammates (other men) are supposed to clamor to your defense, regardless of whether or not you actually fouled. If the foul is called, then the woman team scores a point (or a free throw in basketball, but you get the idea). The idea that it’s wrong to have sex with someone unless she really, really wants to do it makes about as much sense as saying that you should only be allowed to get the ball in basketball if the defense hands it to you.

On the liberal side, in contrast, the very idea that getting someone to play in your band or jam session who is reluctant or openly hostile makes no sense, thus the idea of “winning” in sex by getting a reluctant woman to submit is repulsive to feminists, period. Trying to figure out the rules of when coercion is acceptable and when it’s not makes no more sense than asking if it’s okay to make someone play in your band by holding their kids hostage, threatening to fire them, locking the doors so they can’t leave or simply laying a guilt trip on them. You can vaguely understand the desperation sometimes, if no one will ever play with you, but in the end, it makes no sense. Even if you can force someone to go through the motions, odds are the results are going to suck because they don’t even want to be there. Music is supposed to be fun, so if it’s not fun, it negates the entire point. Same with sex. All of that goes a long way to explaining phenomenon like banning the word “rape” from a rape trial and allowing the word “sex”. In the sexist view of sex, the distinction between rape and sex is one of degree. To feminists, the difference is of kind—if it’s rape, it’s not really sex, since sex is a collaborative effort and rape is a violent assault.

I wonder how you readers feel about Marcotte’s views about the different ways sex is seen and approached. Reading them was an ‘Aha’ moment for me. It totally made sense and made me think about the ways in which some (not all) of the men that I meet and interact with see sex and how I’ve always had a problem with that. This also explains the ways in which men share their sexual encounters with their friends for ‘points’. I always found this extremely disturbing that sex became less about a collaboration with the person they were sleeping with and more about a running game with their boys. I wrote an essay about how this was vaguely homoerotic – making sex ‘Between Men’ (using Eve Sedgwicks’ Between Men, of course).

Anyways, this always infuriated me because as a woman, I did not see myself as a pussy that was waiting to score on. As such I demand respect from any man that I interact with sexually or otherwise and I outright refuse to engage sexually with any men who have this conception of sexuality. I would rather remain celibate for the rest of my fricking life than plan into a game which is so dehumanizing and manipulative for women!

Thoughts?