Sunday, June 25, 2006

Blow Hard: A (Somewhat) Detached Assessment of the Great Cocksucking Debate of 2006

[On opening: Thanks to the lovely and talented AlwaysArousedGirl for guilting me into writing this, and for sending me all this extra traffic. Here's the post, finally. Hope everyone who visits, both regulars and newbies, enjoys and can manage to slog through it. I seem to have gone for broke on this one.]

Okay, so should you be completely out of touch lately, there's been this huge blogtroversy going on that began on I Blame the Patriarchy. It's related to blowjobs and if this act is...well, let me allow the always opinionated Twisty to speak for herself:
Flame me if you will, but I posit nevertheless that no woman, since the dawn of the patriarchal co-option of human sexuality, has ever actually enjoyed this submissive sexbot drudgery. There’s a reason that deep-throating a funk-filled bratwurst makes a person retch.*

How dare I presume to impugn the sanctity of a woman’s right to the blow job? I do so mostly on accounta I will get a big bang out of the impassioned arguments defending it.

*Reason: It’s fucking gross.

WELL. The furor this set off! Which I'm sure delighted the author. Actually, I don't have to postulate, she says it herself.

Initially, though I did read all Twisty's posts and others comments on them, as well as many other reaction posts around the Web, I didn't weigh in.

I would have spoken up. But you see, unfortunately my mouth was too full of penis at the time.

Yuk, yuk, yuk. Okay, you gotta allow me one sarcastic, pseudo-grumpy joke (after all, Twisty got to have loads of them), and now I'll get all sincere and serious. Stick with me folks, and I promise another bad cock joke at the end.

Okay, seriously now, I decided I wasn't even going to bother to weigh in on the initial debate for a couple of reasons. First and foremost was because my response would merely be nothing more than an amusement to the author of the post. People, pay attention--despite whether at root the author believed her statements to be true or not, the tone screamed out "this is not a serious assertion" and therefore it didn't deserve a serious debate.

Credit where credit's due. Ya gotta hand it to Twisty for knowing how to tweak people's figurative nipples and get them all in a huff so they forget what they're about and just start screaming. It appears very few others managed to do this before reacting, but I actually read and paid attention to the whole original post. Twisty's sarcasm from the start shows it's not an issue she considers worth serious debate. I mean, hell, she SAYS it at the end of the post--she's only saying it because she wants to get a "big bang" out of the controversy she knows she'll stir up. Why other people have risen to this kind of baiting is beyond me. And also, it's amazing to me that no one noticed that the post itself is--I will assume deliberately, since Twisty is no idiot and a stickler for good writing--faulty in the structure of its argument. It's designed intentionally to lead people down the wrong path. I won't get into the mechanics of composition and rhetoric right now; but trust me on this one. Look closer and you can see for yourselves.

So. My primary reason for not weighing in was that I didn't see the use of contributing to a trumped-up debate designed to get women defensive and angry at each other so they start thumping their tits and yelling, "Me good feminist!" "You bad feminist!" at all the others around them. I've seen this kind of crap before, and I don't appreciate that type of holier-than-thou, divisive shit that can go on within the community--or those who delight in instigating it. Haven't we got outside problems enough to battle without deliberately trying to piss each other off and creating a whole bunch of in-fighting? We need to be fighting the inequities of a patriarchal system, not each other over stupid issues like blowjobs. If people would show HALF this much passion about what's been going on lately related to abortion or women's reproductive rights, we might actually be getting somewhere.

And by the way, no, Twisty, if you actually have the time to read the billions of response posts you've gotten at this point and are actually reading this, I'm not saying you should "shut the fuck up." I'm saying you should say whatever the fuck you want, but don't call bear baiting "radical feminism."

My other reason for not bothering with the original debate was that I'm a feminist who's straight--and also a sex blogger. It should be pretty obvious where I stand on the issue of heterosexual oral sex. I think oral sex is a wonderful part of any sex life, gay, straight, or other, so long as it is done with consent and done equitably. And personally, I see no need to defend that stance. Particularly to someone who states right in her post that she's only writing this to get a rise out of those who would defend it. However, if you want to know how I feel, Amber Rhea's discussion here pretty well matches my overall view on this, so I don't even have to do the work. Thanks for rocking the house, Amber. Update: Also check out O's great post here about the concept of calling any act "perverse" or "degrading." Her thoughts are also very much in line with my own.

So I ignored the brou-ha-ha. But--sigh--nobody else did. And since the first post there's been a second one, and a third, and people have been throwing around a lot of bile in the comments sections of all three, and writing about it around the blogosphere--and those people were taking it seriously. And I saw a lot of fallacious logic out there that wasn't intended just as an incitement to argument, so now I have a few things I want to comment on.

But before I begin, I'd like to state for the record that none of the following is an "impassioned argument defending my right to suck cock"--or anyone else's right to, for that matter. Twisty wasn't even debating someone's right to suck cock, so I sure as hell am not going to. Suck cock, don't suck cock, I care not. If you think keeping a penis out of your mouth is going to save the world, be my guest--keep your mouth cock free.

So again, this is not a defense, it's about getting the facts straight, and defining feminism appropriately. In short: I'm not angry; I'm just right. Read on.

1) A real feminist does not discriminate based on sexual orientation. ANY sexual orientation.

A number of people expressed sarcastic bemusement that women who do engage in oral sex with men would defend themselves so adamantly. Is this such a surprise? I'm guessing not, but just in case anyone is a little slow, here we go. If you talk about women who engage in oral sex with men, and then imply that this is "submissive sexbot drudgery," we all know which group we're condemning the actions of here, and it ain't lesbians. Whether overtly stated or not, the context of those statements implies heterosexual women are doomed to oppression by their own basic biology--and not only that, but their sorry asses are too damn stupid to even realize it. Or, stated more succinctly: Straight women's sexual orientation empowers the patriarchy, and is therefore wrong.

Unless you're generally surprised when GLBT folks take issue with being told their basic sexuality is a bane to society, I don't see how you can be surprised by the same response from a heterosexual woman when she's told the same thing.

2) Heterosexuality is not slavery; the overthrow of the patriarchy begins at home.

Some commenters compared straight women who said they got pleasure out of giving pleasure to their men to antebellum slaves who sang songs and told stories in praise of their masters. Ignoring the sheer insulting nature of such claims to those in healthy, egalitarian heterosexual relationships, let's move on to why such a claim is based on entirely shaky, pedantic logic.

We live in a patriarchal society, yes. This means, as Twisty says here:
We all know that in a patriarchy, (and by ‘patriarchy’ I mean a social order in which all women are subject, by universal agreement, to all men), on accounta the power differential, all relationships with men are inherently inequitable.
Yes, patriarchy means men (as a group) are more empowered than women (as a group) in toto. Including in the area of sex. Therefore, by this logic, any sexual act a woman performs on a man that gives the man pleasure, blowjob or otherwise, would be interpreted as being subservient and therefore contributing to her own oppression. Therefore, to be sexual or have a relationship with a man at all, regardless of how that particular man interacts with her as a human being, is invalid.

Ideologically, yes. In theory. It all sounds nice and tidy.

However, ideology is not based in reality. In reality, this theory is simply ridiculous. Here's why.

Assuming we want to combat patriarchy (and we do) and assuming the above statements are true (which they are in the abstract), there is only one solution. We must ask heterosexual women to all give up their basic biology and stop having heterosexual sex/relationships. Unless you're living in a dream world, it's pretty damn obvious this is never going to fly. People have been telling gays and lesbians to change their sexuality and/or just stop having sex for eons--it's never happened. It's not going to happen in reverse either.

So, in reality, we have to look for another solution, that accepts the continuing existence of heterosexuality. The solution is an obvious one: heterosexual women forge egalitarian relationships with men who don't agree with the current system, therefore subverting the system at the grassroots level.

There has never been a human or civil rights movement that has been advanced solely by the oppressed group itself without a percentage of other concerned, enlightened people who happened to have been born into the dominant oppressor's group contributing and supporting the oppressed group's goals. In every case, both such groups always work together at the grassroots level to forge change. This is exactly how slavery was repealed and how the civil rights movement gained the advances it has to date. And, yes, though some of us radical feminists may hate to admit it, it's also how the suffrage and early feminist movements advanced--by the work of both dedicated women and men. (And yes, I know the men were a much, much smaller percentage. That doesn't entirely negate their contribution.)

Saying that heterosexual women are enslaved by the men in their personal lives who love them and support their feminist principles, merely because those men were born men, is like saying William H. Baldwin and Booker T. Washington should have refused to work with Julius Rosenwald to set up African-American educational institutions across America, because Rosenwald was white and therefore of the oppressive race, and therefore an oppressor to all African-Americans--despite his full ideological and philanthropic support of their cause.

At first glance, shouting "enslavement" and "oppression" at any feminist-friendly heterosexual couple may sound logical. In fact, it's the direct opposite of logical. A heterosexual feminist doesn't choose an oppressive relationship. She chooses one with a man who, despite being part of the overriding patriarchy by default, rejects the suppositions that patriarchy was built upon, acts as such in his home and community, and serves, along with the feminists in his community, as a supporter of the cause and as a model of the way things should be.

If a woman has an egalitarian relationship with a man in the microcosm of her own home, or her own bedroom, that is not slavery. That is an important grassroots step toward the overthrow of the overriding, problematic macrocosm.

3) The rules keep changing as to what is "okay" sexually for women, on both sides of the political spectrum. Limiting choice and assigning blame and guilt on women for their chosen sexuality is a patriarchal behavior. It is not a feminist behavior.

All the derision and "it's disgusting" commentary that is being thrown at those women who enjoy oral sex with their male partners in this debate is decidedly anti-feminist. And we feminists need to be supremely careful of not falling into the patriarchal trap of instilling the same nonsensical, morally-based arguments to limit women's sexual choices. Feminists have always had a difficult time in this area.

Back in the even more extreme days of the patriarchy, women were considered sluts if they engaged in any sexual act besides the missionary position. Women were made to feel guilty and dirty and "wrong" if they enjoyed sex too much with a man, or enjoyed sex at all with a woman. When the second wave of feminism hit, women were told they were "wrong" if they weren't enjoying sex enough and/or if their sexual repertoire was too narrow, and they were told they "should" branch out. They branched out, grew braver, allowed themselves to try and enjoy new things. The result? Now being told they're "wrong" for having done so and having come to enjoy it so much that the heterosexual women among them might actually enjoy creating an environment of mutual pleasure with the man they're having sex with.

In short: Feminism should never offer "shoulds" when it comes to sex. It should offer openness, choice, and options--stressing the need for those qualities within an equal, supportive sexual environment (regardless of the sexual orientation involved). And we should be working to show all people how to create that sexually supportive, egalitarian environment where choice and open communication--not shame or guilt politics--is the operative factor. That's where our focus should be, not on who's blowing who, or rimming who, or 69'ing who, or who's sticking to nothing but missionary, or what have you.

4) "Pleasure" has been ill defined in this debate. Pleasurable sexuality is about choice, respect, and balance, not the particular acts involved.

Not everyone has to like giving head. Those who don't shouldn't do it. However, that you as a woman personally don't feel good about the act doesn't mean others can't.

Let's look at the concept of pleasure as it's being thrown around in this debate. If you assume that sensation due to physical contact/stimulation is the only definition of pleasure during sex, then yes, bestowing oral sex on another would not usually be defined as a pleasurable act for the person giving it. It would be done strictly to please the one who is receiving it. However, without trying to sound too judgmental, those whose definition of pleasure is based strictly on physical sensation have had a limited experience of sexuality AND a basic lack of understanding of the actual definition of the word "pleasure." Please look the word up in the dictionary. You'll see that the definition says nothing about physical sensation at all. It's all about mental/emotional states.

With this actual definition in mind, it is entirely possible for one partner to get pleasure out of giving another partner pleasure. It is a shared "happiness, delight, joy, glee...etc." And that, my friends, is not oppressive. It is powerful---a shared power--regardless of which gender is doing the giving and/or receiving.

The only time this would be untrue is if there is some inequity or lack of choice involved. If, for instance, one partner insists on receiving head, but refuses to give it to the other partner (assuming the other partner wants to receive it). This would be an oppressive and inequitable situation. And in a heterosexual relationship, if the woman was the one expected to give without return, it would be patriarchal.

And obviously, when any woman is forced to perform any sexual act, oral sex included, without her express consent, this is not just patriarchal subjugation, it's also rape.

Well now! I think that's about all I can manage at the moment, and probably more than enough for all of you to chew on. Thanks to anyone who made it through.

Again, my last comment on all this is that while I am all for open and honest debate on all topics, be wary of those who are more concerned with rabble-rousing that awareness-building. We women have got more important goals to achieve together than wasting time fighting over who puts what in who's mouth.

But then again, Twisty, blow 'em if they can't take a joke, eh?

(See, I told you all I'd get one more in.)

With love and cocksucking to all (even those who have a thing about bratwurst),



Blogger ArtfulDodger said...

Thank you Syl for bringing a measure of intelligence and balance to this "debate". The danger with movements, in my opinion, has always been the radical and fanatical percentage that simply wants to do away with one form of oppression with another. It does no good to overthrough the dictator if you are simply going to replace him with another dictator.

You would have to be an idiot not to appreciatethe history of this issue from the female perspective, and obviously I am no idiot. Having said that, your point about equality being a grassroots movement is on the money. The only way for equality to thrive is through this approach. Having equality dictated has never worked, and it won't work. Equality of the sexes begins in the bedroom. If that foundation is established in a loving relationship it finds its way into all aspects of that relationship, and I would posit into the wider world.

Personally I have never once felt superior to women, and receiving oral sex has only ever made we want to give it back. I find it difficult to find the negative in that.

6/25/2006 7:55 AM  
Anonymous said...

Syl, that was brilliantly written, brilliantly argued. I wish I could say that I thought it would be widely read. It should be. I appreciate your summarizing the origins of this argument for those of us who do not read the blogosphere widely enough to have known that the issue was even out there.

In the course of research I was doing with highly sexual women, allowing their voices to be heard about what it was like to be who they were in the midst of a society that did not acknowledge their existence, I read very very widely the feminist literature from the seventies through the nineties dialoging about sexuality, including what came to be called the Sex Wars. It became clear that women who called themselves feminists took all sides of the debate, and some of the radical feminists, so-called, frequently took the position that only they could define "true" feminism. To many, though not all, of these writers, women who were sexual in any kind of active way were in some way joining with the patriarchal society. To some, even wanting to have sex to have an orgasm was patriarchal. Women's sexuality was supposed to be tender, gentle, comforting, and not orgasm focused. I have not continued my wide reading of the literature since I finished my research (trying, instead, with what energy I had away from my job, to find a woman to co write a book allowing the voices to be heard, publishing their voices in a professional journal, and just living life). I would have hazarded a guess that the dialog, whether published on paper or in the blogoshere, had moved way beyond the notion that women should not be, as Muriel Dimen said, the active agents of their own desire. Certainly the blogs I have recently started to read make it clear that many women so believe. So I was really quite surprised to read that this argument about whether women should suck penises, even if they wanted to do so, was even being raised. I suppose, sadly, that I should not have been surprised.

My partner and I have a mutually supportive relationship. I don't think that she would in any way consider herself oppressed. Yet she sucks me more frequently than I suck her. So what? On the other hand, I pleasure her much much more frequently than she pleasures me. So what? It gives me great satisfaction to hear and see and feel a woman cumming. So am I submissive/ subservient to her? Hardly. As you say, the movement toward a more equitable society must take place on a grassroots level. Thanks again for such a well written piece. My lover has just arisen, laughed with agreement that she should be considered oppressed because she sucks me, and says "I think it's a turn on". With that I will close so we can go discuss it further.

6/25/2006 8:53 AM  
Blogger Anastasia said...

I read "Judgmental Sex Pedantry" and I took it to be tongue in cheek but on the other hand, I can see the point as well. Everyone experiences shitty moments in relatiosnhips where they're not getting the best out of them and some sex acts can be seen as a chore from time to time as well, fellatio (like cunnilingus) being one of them.

I don't get the big deal about it, realistically fellatio in porn is portrayed as a mechanical act, it's not primarily romantic or 'sexy', it's like the woman is a cock vaccuum cleaner. It's rare to see a decent blowjob in the typical porn film that's out there.

I consider myself lucky I hadn't viewed a porno film prior to experiencing the first blowjob otherwise I wouldn't be motivated, to tell you the truth.

So really, people should also be asking themselves 'why' people are finding fellatio to be 'gross' and how fellatio is portrayed in mainstream porn, because in many cases it isn't filmed/depicted as a loving act. It's sexist.

As for equality, I don't think true equality exists, not as long as television broadcasts sexist tv commercials that portray females a particular 'attractive' way either. The female is the 'mother/nurturer/shit-kicker/fuck toy', I mean, c'mon.

6/25/2006 9:21 AM  
Blogger AlwaysArousedGirl said...

See, much better than mine. And more cock jokes, wooooo!

I actually loved the original Twisty post on this topic and I think in *some cases* she's probably right--sometimes, for some people, in some relationships, oral is sexbot drudgery.

But not every time. Not in every case.

But the comments, oh the comments. They made me weep.

Thanks, Miss Syl.

6/25/2006 11:23 AM  
Blogger ArtfulDodger said...

I believe that equality does exist, on an individual level certainly. The argument can be made that it will never exist in an overall general sense, history has taught us that much. But individually it does, and primarily I speak only from my own life and perspective in this instance. But one-on-one equality is possible. And that is where true change begins.

Ceratainly the mainstream media perpetuates the idea of women as "objects", we cannot deny that. On the other hand I have noticed an increasingly obvious movement in the last twenty years to "dumb" down the male in the media. In commercials, shows and movies it has become much more common place for the female to have the "right" answers. Does this make men stupid? I don't think so.

6/25/2006 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Hiromi said...

Egads, the price we pay for having a cerebral cortex.

It blows my mind.

6/25/2006 12:17 PM  
Blogger Evil Minx said...

Syl, as ever, food for thought so eloquently expressed i could simply weep.

I am a feminist, always have been. However, i haven't indulged in actual feminist debate since my years as a student, way back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. So this was, for me at least, something of a blast from the past. Most enjoyable too.

OK, now for my somewhat muted $0.02. Frankly, i feel it is integral to the very nature of equality in the bedroom (or bathroom, living room, hall stairs, back alley, back seat of the car or wherever you're actually doing it) that all sex is mutually accessible and acceptable. By which i mean that, given that the right of refusal due to reasons of personal taste is inalienable, from a "putting things right at grass roots level" perspective (which i firmly believe in) women should feel encouraged to be as mutually active as their male counterparts.

[If you can breathe after reading that last sentence, i take my hat, and my purple overalls off to you.]

On a personal note, I never really enjoyed giving head until i reached my sexual peak. It's amazing how perspective can change with age and experience.

Thanks Syl. As always, a pleasure to read you.


6/25/2006 12:55 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I (mostly) agree with you, but when you suggest that there's not not only truly egalitarian heterosexual relationships, but also that they're common, I have to quarrel. It's probably better just to admit up front that even if both the man and woman in a situation strive for equality, society won't let them. That said, abandoning heterosexuality is silly for the reasons you state.

6/25/2006 12:56 PM  
Blogger Anastasia said...

Men aren't portrayed as 'dumb' human beings where I live: they're portrayed to be entitled to wish for updated versions of their partners (one particular car advert we have that even pissed Germaine Greer off), one of our cough medicines basically puts the onus on the mother buying the medicine for her sick child (portraying her as incompetent to leave the iron on while sleeping at the ironing board) and I could go on. Print media always portrays perfect air brushed females, and these are more significant than the 'mere blow job' debate, surely.

In short, it's about the blowjob, the penis, therefore it's a huge 'debate', whereas if it was about cunnilingus, who'd give a shit? Alternatively, it's like another interesting analogy in another blog that was mentioned: if men had to experience abortion, they'd be available everywhere and there'd be no argument, the same but in reverse.

What control does a woman have when the pornographic model of the blowjob she's given, is basically constructed by male directors who have unrealistic fantasies? I don't blame younger (more impressionable females or teens of today) females finding the idea gross, because fellatio in today's 'stag' films are grotesque. And it can be difficult having individual equality when one finds that males are raised with the notion that a blowjob should incorporate 'moves' that they've been continually exposed to on film or in magazines.

I'm just perplexed as to the meaning of the blowjob debate. In a decade's time, Russia will be reach epic proportions in HIV transmissions/cases and this will affect the continent of Europe, so that's one side of the world, and then in Asia, same problem, in North America HIV still remains, and no one is near a cure or vaccine and yet, the blowjob is so significant because it's part of the male anatomy. Give me a break.

6/25/2006 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Darkhawk said...

Reading through bits of that whole ... thing ... really left me wondering if I was some kind of freak for not having this extensive exposure to blowjob-laden porn that would apparently have warped me somehow (and I can't figure out if that was the 'right way' or the 'wrong way' to be warped in any case).

People were going on at such length about the visions of sexuality presented in porn of various types and how problematic they are, the various hegemonies of unrealistic fantasy construction, and the only time I encountered anything even remotely like that was when I was involved with the guy who was into collecting furry inflation porn art.

I mean, when it gets down to latex humanoid rabbits with helium tanks jacked into relevant orifices, it's pretty clear that the porn isn't starting from a 'this could be real!' perspective.

(I think I'm just warped in a ... warped way.)

6/25/2006 1:42 PM  
Blogger ArtfulDodger said...

Interesting stuff here today, so many topics popping up around this "debate" about nothing really. The blowjob isn't the issue, the issue is male/female relationships. And those vary as widely as the stars in the sky. It is difficult to make overriding comments about either, other than the obvious.

It isn't wrong for some women to not enjoy oral sex, the same as it isn't wrong for others to enjoy oral sex. The same holds true for men as well, some love it and others want no part of it. It is an individual choice with individual consequences.

The "debate" I suppose is more about the act itself, and if that act in some way degrades or subverts a woman's identity to that of the man. Again, I'm sure that happens in many cases. Heck, so does everything else. From forced encounters, to date rape, to rape itself, to beatings, to abuse, to physcological manipulation, the list goes on and on. It is indeed a male dominated, but not exclusive, perspective. That doesn't make any of it right. Or defendable.

Whose fault is it? Culture, upbringing, media, video games, comics books, bad porn, movies, hero worship, celebrities, the church, our genetics, politics... the list of things/people to blame seems never ending. When will we stop blaming everything but ourselves?

I hope it is soon.

6/25/2006 1:48 PM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Thanks all for the comments.

Artful Dodger: Fanatacism in any movement is a danger. I think there is a difference between a radical and a fanatic. I think *true* radical politics serves an important purpose in any movement. Unfortunately, though, I think often people outside a movement *equate* "radical" with "fanatical" (which results in the movement not being taken seriously), and people inside a movement *mistake* "fanatical" for "radical" (allowing them to sometimes tolerate leadership or ideas that are destructive to the movement overall).

Here, here on the grassroots discussion. Though I'd suggest never "feeling" superior doesn't mean the person isn't granted certain levels of superiority they're not conscious of. I don't walk into any situation feeling superior because I'm white, but I'm aware that just walking into a room with the skin color I have, certain assumptions are made that may make my life easier, whether or not I reject those assumptions or feel personally they're true.

It's not in whether you feel empowered or not, but that you're aware of the social structure and, as you say, work actively to make it more equitable.

esblumberg: Nice to meet you, and thanks for your compliment. The most disturbing thing of all to me is how on all sides it continually boils down to how the woman "should" behave sexually. It's always been presented that men are the initiators and women are responsible for "gatekeeping" the boundaries of sexualilty so things are "correct" from a moral/political/societal basis. There is never much focus for men on their responsibilities related to sex and intimacy. Perhaps the biggest problem lies therein. Men overall don't get lectured to about their political/social role in the bedroom, and no one encourages them to think about this. Maybe if instead of blaming women for being agents of their own disempowerment, we taught men how to NOT be agents of oppression, we'd be in a much better place.

Ana: Agreed, any sex act can be a chore if the relationship is problematic. I'd posit that's the same for *either* side, though.

I laughed at you saying that you're lucky you learned about oral sex before seeing the act via porn. You are so right. I didn't think about it before, but I feel the same. And this leads back to what I was saying to eblumberg above--I think the real issue is not whether women want to engage in oral sex, but that we teach men and women more positive, realisitic, and balanced ways to engage in sexuality. Which is not to say porn should be negated, but perhaps improved.

And no, I don't think true equality exists, for all the reasons you said--as I said, we're still under a patriarchy. But my feeling is that the grassroots level is supremely important. Despite the outside world still being incredibly inequal, if couples work together to negate bad messaging and build a form of equailty in the microcosms of their homes, and educate both their male and female children on a new way of looking at things, so that more people running the media and etc. will present imagery that's more positive, then we'll be helping change things from the inside out.

AAG: Not better, just different. And yes, for some people, it is drudgery. People who have not yet begun to think about their disempowerment, and/or allow themselves to be disempowered because they have no hope for any other alternative. That's why it's important for those of us who have managed to break free of that yoke to reinforce there ARE better ways out there--that people don't have to accept such relationships. I'm not saying that any heterosexual relationship doesn't have its power issues, but it's the willingness to keep working and readjusting those power imbalances that I think will move us forward. And to those who aren't willing to contribute to that, I say, "No sex for you!"

Artful Dodger: That's an interesting observation about the "dumbing down" concept. There's always been this weird thing on TV shows from way, way back (think "The Honeymooners" for instance) where they insinuate, "The man thinks he's in charge, but the woman is really pulling the strings." I'm not sure what that's about. I suspect it's trying to convince people that traditional roles are okay, because "secretly" the woman's in control, within her little sphere of influence, if not in the outside world. Which is just bunk. Or, it could be messaging that despite men's outward empowerment, women are still responsible for "taking care of them." Also bunk. But maybe there's also some untapped messaging there about how men don't *want* to always be the ones in charge, and wish they could just be a bit "dumber" and less "responsible," and to have someone smarter and more in control help take care of things. Who knows.

Hiromi: Eh? In what way do you mean exactly?

Minx: Yeah, I was suprised at how many women were saying they didn't enjoy it, period. I really feel this attitude probably has more to do with the partner and the relationship they're in than with the act itself, but what do I know. Maybe it also has to do with evolving to sexual maturity.

Amanda: I never say anywhere that egalitarian heterosexual relationships are common. I don't think they are. And I think those that aspire to them have to work really, really hard at it--much harder than most people are willing to put up with.

When I said an equal relationship, I was speaking primarily of the give and take they engage in with each other, and their ability to define their relationship by their own choices and needs, not those of the society at large. As I said, in the macrocosm that exists outside of that relationship, for the time being, the woman is still more disempowered than the man, yes, and this requires a lot of awareness and rebalancing in a relationship to keep that outside imbalance at bay (to the best that it is possible given the societal norms they're fighting).

Anastasia: Very true about the alternate messaging. I think both exist, even in Australia. There's an Australian comedy show that gets broadcast here called "Kath and Kim." Do you know it? In it, the husband is pretty much a hapless idiot and the women are the ones who run everything (not that either of them are very smart, either). I think that's the stuff Art is talking about.

But you're quite right that there is also this "upgrading" mentality. Throughout TV and movies, you see very out of shape, unattractive, low-income men with these model-esque looking wives and girlfriends. You don't see the same portrayed in reverse.

All this cross messaging: It's no wonder all of us hetereosexuals are confused as hell and fuck up our relationships so often. In a weird way, the GLBT community has a better deal there, because despite the terrible societal stigmatization of their relationships, at least they get to define them outside the pressures of unrealistic mass media imagery.

6/25/2006 2:16 PM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Darkhawk: Furry inflation porn? I need to see an image of this, just to get my head around it.

My own opinion of the currently popular blowjob scenario in porn is that it's this weird objectification thing in a number of ways. First, generally for most of the time the blowjob is being filmed, they are close up on the woman's face and the cock--you don't get any wide shots of the man being sucked off, so you can see the couple interacting together as two humans. At best, for a few seconds they cut away from the close-up action to solely the man's face and get a response shot from him, but the woman herself is absent from those shots, and no emotonal interaction is viewed.

The only emotion interaction, in fact, appears between the woman and the cock itself. The extreme closeup more or less gives the appearance of the woman being just an "instrument" for sucking cock--any disembodied cock. And the man is objectivied as soley his cock. As such, the woman makes all kinds of noises and expressions of pleasure directed at the *cock,* not the man.

I see this set up as the problem. Egalitarian, non-objectified porn would focus on the interaction between the humans in equal measure with each act. There isn't much porn like that, more's the pity. I've heard that Comstock Films has made some good advances in this area, though I haven't seen any of those myself, and it's hard to tell exactly from the previews available. I'd love to get my hands on a few and review them on the blog from this perspective. Hey, Tony, whaddya say?

In any case, I hope more such porn gets made. I think both men and women would enjoy it more and would benefit from it in any number of ways in their sex lives.

6/25/2006 2:30 PM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Artful Dodger: When will we stop blaming everything but ourselves?

A good question, as we are the ones creating and supporting all those things you listed. I agree, we should look inward and work outward, and not blame our problems as being "acted upon." But at the same time, it is important to be conscious of the inappropriate messaging that is out there and to learn how to negate it AND call for a change in it, rather than just ignore it and hope it goes away.

6/25/2006 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Darkhawk said...

He used to have a mailing list for collecting the stuff; I don't know what's available on the web off the top of my head. (I fear doing searches for balloon animals ...) If you like, I can ask him if he has any recommendations for curious sex bloggers, though. Or, I suppose, see if the Doug Winger galleries online have any inflation stuff (as opposed to merely his usual size-queen Gargantuan Furry Cocks).

I've heard that a lot of amateur porn does a good job of being non-objectifying, just because it's frequently done by actual couples who happen to have a thing for being in front of the camera or something. Not so much with porn-cliche, either.

To speak to the broader political context for the foofaraw -- one of the things that left me feeling very uncomfortable about the whole debate on the subject was the sense that no matter what, someone out there is interested in regulating women's sexuality. Usually for women's own good, somehow.

Needless to say, that makes me uncomfortable -- and I would like to think that it would make me uncomfortable even if I didn't feel like a prime target. Seeing people going off about something I don't feel strongly about (like blowjobs) leaves me with a conviction that it's not safe to be my sort of woman.

6/25/2006 3:05 PM  
Blogger Anastasia said...

I have to say, the topic amuses me immensely primarily because it's all about the blowjob (the hoopla surrounding it and how it's been transformed into a political/social issue up above) but I think, between the lines, it's also about the fact that Twisty received 244 comments for her own opinion about them, and that, I think speaks volumes.

6/25/2006 8:02 PM  
Blogger O said...

Thanks Syl for pointing out what many people seem to have missed: the original post was ironic, the author trolled her own blog anonymously in comments to stir up debate, and it took quite a long time before she could get anyone to "bite" (so to speak).

I have my onw ideas about what's sexually degrading or not, and did a post on it recently, if you are interested. The real issue isnt just blow jobs, i dont think, but whether there are any acts that two consenting adults simply "should not" perform. I suspect we're in agreement about much of it, but I'd be interested to see what you think.
(it's at the new site: here)

Thanks again for a thoughtprovoking post,

6/25/2006 9:52 PM  
Blogger Cherrie said...

Miss Syl, I must commend you and the commenters for attempting to address this issue (or non-issue) with logic and intelligence.

But attempting to interpret sexual behavior as a reflection of society in general necessarily leads to frustration, since few of us can agree on what's really happening. There is a consequent bias toward generalizations that reflect the commenter's views.

I'm sure that, for some women, the BJ is symbolic of their subservient relationship to their men. Indeed, I wonder how much BDSM activity reflects the same thing.

For me, I just enjoy giving pleasure, and getting it. Lost in the debate seems to be the fact that giving head helps get a man hard enough to fuck, which is what I derive most of my pleasure from.

6/26/2006 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Buck said...

Wow. That's some read.

Confessions: I am completely out of touch, and I like it that way. I haven't read twisty's blog and don't intend to. I enjoyed reading your post because it's witty and intelligent and well constructed, but I couldn't care less about the politics of blowjobs. Also I suspect that I'm an antifeminist, since whenever I hear the term I associate it with manipulative misrepresentation of facts, emotional blackmail and bigotry -- the very things it claims to rail against. Obviously, this isn't gonna win me any friends here.

Having said that, I don't know that I have much to add, except to say thank you for writing, because this was sensitive and humane.

6/26/2006 3:39 AM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Darkhawk: " of the things that left me feeling very uncomfortable about the whole debate on the subject was the sense that no matter what, someone out there is interested in regulating women's sexuality. Usually for women's own good, somehow.

Yep. Exactly what I was saying in my last point.

Anastasia: I'm not sure I follow. Do you mean you think people have been responding because they hope to get as much attention as her?

O: Thanks for visiting and saying hi--I'm a quiet one, but I visit your site also and like your writing a lot. In fact, before you wrote this comment, 'd actually popped in and seen you had a write-up on the topic, but yesterday I was overwhelmed and couldn't give it the attention I wanted. It's on my to-do list. I'll definitely be giving it a read later today. Also, I like the re-design so far. Very pretty.

Ellie: Lost in the debate seems to be the fact that giving head helps get a man hard enough to fuck, which is what I derive most of my pleasure from.

Good point, and one that made me laugh, so extra points for having made it. Though, of course, playing devil's advocate, there are a lot of other ways to get a man hard enough to fuck.

Buck: I really don't care about the politics of blowjobos either, which is why I didn't write initially. I do care about miguided views about feminism, though, and felt at this juncture enough of them were being thrown about around this particular issue to make it necessary to respond.

With that in mind, I'll correct one of *your* misguided issues about feminism.

Also I suspect that I'm an antifeminist, since whenever I hear the term I associate it with manipulative misrepresentation of facts, emotional blackmail and bigotry -- the very things it claims to rail against.

You say you felt my post was sensitive and humane. My post was about what true feminism is really about. If you're responding positively to that, than you're responding positively to feminism.

"Anti-feminist" means that you believe that women do not deserve equal political, social, and economic consideration under the law. If you do believe women don't deserve this kind of equality, then yes, you are anti-feminist. (For instance, if you rationalize that you should get to have/do certain things that women do not for the mere reason that "I'm a man," then that would render you anti-feminist.) If you do believe both genders deserve equal treatment and consideration, you are not anti-feminist.

I don't know you well enough to say, but your quote above seems to imply a lack of understanding that this alone is the simple heart of the issue. As with any movement, there are some within it who will misunderstand or pervert the core issues for their own personal reasons. They are a minority, but are often portrayed by the opposition and the media as the majority because they give the opposition to the movement a convenient scapegoat they can show to those still unsure about the issue, in order to raise fear and anger against those asking for their basic human rights. And extremists also make for good, controversial soundbites, so they get far more attention from the media.

However, these people are a tiny percentage of the the wider, more realisitic, more rational group of people involved in the movement who deserve respect and consideration. Saying you're anti-feminist based on the extreme examples (which, knowing many feminists, I would say your examples are) is pretty much like one saying one is againsnt civil rights because one doesn't like Louis Farrakhan's take on them.

In short, I suspect you are against stupidity, devisiveness, and mean-spiritedness, none of which are core tenets of feminism. And none of which you will find present in the majority of forward-thinking feminists.

6/26/2006 8:05 AM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Oh, and I also meant to say re O's comments about the author's own comment trolling: In my limited readership of it, so far her blog reads as if it were a parody of itself--almost as if it were designed specifically to create divisiveness within the movement. And in fact, if you read her full bio, it states she is a fictional character. I think it would be wise for people to pay attention to these things and exercise caution and suspicion when dealing with such a character. I'm not convinced she's at all for real. Nor do I feel comfortable having her blog stand as a representative for anything related to feminism.

Reading her, I get the feeling I do from one of those chat room people who don't have the balls enough in real life to say what they think, so instead go online and adopt antagonistic personalities so they can troll chat rooms strictly to piss people off. Some people get off on creating disunity.

I really don't have time for that kind of nonsense. I put those people in the chat room on ignore.

6/26/2006 8:14 AM  
Anonymous Hiromi said...

Syl, I was talking about the comments. People thinking too hard, and finding oppression in everything.

6/26/2006 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Buck said...

Hey Syl,

You may be right. And some of it may be an extension of a general mistrust and hatred of labels; there may be an entry on this I can add to my growing list of things I meant to get around to. Certainly I believe in equality, and might make up my own label and call myself an "equalitarian".

Otherwise, we're gonna have to agree to disagree. Taking just one example, when I worked with HIV outreach and community partnerships alone I met a huge number of "feminists"; It's silly to compare data sets, but I will say my opinions spring from personal experience and not the media. And you're the first person I've ever heard (or read) use the word and actually mean equality.

6/26/2006 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Buck said...

....except possibly for latter-day Inga Muscio (i.e, the second half of/appendix to Cunt, as opposed to the main book, which is still funny and warm and worth reading but less fair - as she freely admits herself). Inga's cool.

Okay, so that's one and a half people. Sort of. But I still mistrust the label.

6/26/2006 11:34 AM  
Blogger Blue Gal said...

Now see here, Miss Syl, over at my place we have a rule that intelligence is the best aphrodisiac. Your brain is showing. Veeery sexy.

Honestly, the sad part about this whole debate is that it reinforces some people's image of feminists as those who leech the joy out of every personal act. Sheesh.

A wonderful post as usual. Sorry I've been lurking. I'm on dial up for the summer.

6/26/2006 7:38 PM  
Blogger Shay said...


That was a great post. There's been a lot of posturing around this bj thing lately and I hope more people take note of what you said about how giving blowjobs doesn't equal anti-feminism.

6/26/2006 10:17 PM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Hiromi: Oppression in Everything. Isn't that just a great band name?

Buck: I understand and have some problems with labels myself. The "equalitarian" think sounds tempting--and also like the movement in the (I think) 1990s to change "feminist" to "womanist" or "humanist" to try to combat the negative stereotypes attached to the word feminist. But I was never for that. Much like the GLBT community adopted the pink triangle, I feel that I'm not going to keep adjusting who I am, or the name attached to that, merely because some people have developed negative views about it. So I embrace the word feminism and take it at it's purest definition. Some people give every movement a bad name. That doesn't mean that the movement is bad, y'know.

BadASS, maybe. I'm a badass mutha feminist, I am.

Also, the most recent wave of feminism has combatted a lot of those stereotypical views of man-hating feminists. I am blanking on actual reading recommendations, but they're out there. Perhaps some others could post some.

Blue Gal: You make be blush. Thanks for visiting with me despite the difficulties, and never apologize for lurking. That anyone reads at all is just lovely. Comments are just an extra shimmy on top of that koko pop.

Though of course I like shimmy on my koko pop quite a bit.

May the gods of broadband smile upon you soon, darlin'.

Shay: Thanks, you lovely thing. And like Blue Gal said to me, I'm lurking over at your place all the time. I need to comment more.

6/26/2006 11:37 PM  
Blogger O said...

Hey thanks for the linkage!--and also for that above defense of the meanings of "feminist" and "antifeminist". I have to say that the demonization of the word feminist never ceases to piss me off beyond belief. Well said.

7/01/2006 4:06 PM  

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