Worldviews On Holiday: Another Celeb Obsessed Post

Wake me up when they start asking Nigerian male celebrities if they are feminists or whether they ‘believe in feminism’.  Until then, #freetiwa, please.

We’re back from our lovely holiday which included a trip to a Cornish hospital with a torn cornea, a conversation with a taxi driver about how to keep intimacy alive when you have small children, magicians, a children’s disco and shedloads of wine.  I’ve also been on Twitter.  A lot.  So much so that I’m definitely taking a break (soon).

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To demonstrate that Iain is unable to take a bad picture, he was very hungry and grumpy when I insisted on this selfie.

Abandoning all protocol and pretense at sanity, I’ve been sliding in and out of people’s mentions like James Brown and tweeting and liking in the early hours of the morning.  I’ve made political tweets about Great Britain and Nigeria and have been sarcastic at a celeb!  I started writing this post when I was told (in a display of admirable restraint) by a high ranking tweep to go away.

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Just so you know we weren’t in the back garden the whole time

If nothing else, publishing this post means I can finally end the pin/unpin dance with my last article which went something like this:

Day One:  Pin to Twitter profile

Day Two  (‘Ah Tracy, this is all a bit harsh.  What if he reads it?  What if his mother reads it…?): Unpin

Day Three (‘Ok, it took me a long time to write this post.  I’m keeping it pinned for 7 days and then I’ll take it down.  I owe it to myself’):  Pin

Day Seven (4:05 am in the morning ‘Well that’s that.  I’ve done my bit to spread awareness):  Unpin

Same day (about 13 hours later, having watched a YouTube clip where he said he has a ‘personal problem with prostitution’, full of premenstrual ragey hormones and Aldi white wine.  ‘Right! The post can bloody well stay on my profile page!’):  Pin – more about this mad reaction below.

Day 11: (‘Cripes.  He’s in the Independent.  Better take it down.  I don’t want to be outed as the misguided hater of a young revolutionary’): Unpin

Day 12: (‘Oh look, I have a new follower.  Why should he be deprived of my brilliance? Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it’): Pin

I’ve also formed many opinions on trending topics.

#FreeTiwa

What is the point of asking Tiwa Savage the exact same question about feminism, which she answered in a Beat FM interview less than a year ago, other than to rile up women and feminists everywhere and subject us once again to the tedious debate on whether or not women are allowed to ‘choose’ not to be feminists?  Wake me up when they start asking Nigerian male celebrities if they are feminists or whether they ‘believe in feminism’.  Until then, #freetiwa, please.

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If  Olamide or Burna Boy were asked the same question,  would it result in one of those lengthy laughing sessions that constitute one of the most annoying sounds on radio?  We all but swoon a male celebrity replies that he can’t really cook, but can manage one dish, despite him saying previously that  he won’t accept anything less than a wife who earns lots of money.

I can’t see us making Nigerian male celebrities nail their colours to the mast on feminism, but, contrary to the way it’s treated, it is not just a women’s issue.  It is about equality all round and requires men’s participation.  Men are (in Nigeria) the principal beneficiaries of the sexist system, dish out majority of the gender-based harm and, apart from  having and implementing ideas which keep women at a disadvantage, have majority of the power so it’s even more relevant to ask them this question.

Out of curiosity, are there any feminist male celebrities in Nigeria?  I’m hopeful about DJ Spinall, not because I’ve ever heard him say anything about women’s issues but because when he was asked about gay marriage once, specifically the nationwide status granted by President Obama, and he replied “it’s all love.”

I’m not sure that he’s ready to burn his bra yet but Adekunle Gold tweets and writes like he regards women to be fully human. It may have something to do with the fact he has a female manager.  There’s the lovely MI of course and the somewhat shaky-in-his-feminist beliefs Banky W.  We don’t ask male Nigerian celebrities if they are feminist but we are shocked (shocked!) when Tiwa repeats views which she has already made clear that she holds (heck, even I wrote a critical article about  the BeatFM interview).

I don’t believe the narrative that women habitually pull other women down, are their own worst enemies, always fight each other etc but I think sometimes we could stand to consider things a bit more carefully before we take the bait.  We can’t be tiptoeing around male rappers and singers who produce consistently sexist music (‘oooooh, I really like him but don’t you think his last 34 songs were a bit…off?’) and lose our collective cool when a female politician or artist agrees with patriarchal ideology into which we have been indoctrinated since at least colonialism.

I say colonialism because some people seem to think that pre-colonialism, most of Africa was a gender-equal paradise.  I remain skeptical.

A Personal Problem With Prostitution

I’ve pontificated about my mixed views on  prostitution many, many times.  I won’t repeat them here except to say I seem to always feel the need to caveat my support for legalising sex work  so people won’t think I’m one of those overly woke people who that think such work is the equivalent of working in McDonalds.

I’ll also say that my views are centered around harm to women individually and as a group.  However, when someone has a personal problem with prostitution and that problem only manifests in shaming and ridiculing women involved in whatever form of transactional sex – but mostly the sugar baby/runs girl variety where women tend to have more agency –  and does not include:

  1. bashing the men who participate in transactional sex or men who use money as a way of attracting sexual attention;
  2. addressing the problem of women being forced into transactional sex by, for example, lecturers who demand sex for grades (or more precisely not unjustifiably failing a woman), or employers who harass their female employees into sex with them or clients;
  3. addressing the entitlement to sex after money is spent on a woman;
  4. addressing the socio-economic reasons why women are drawn to sex work and linking them to their hatred of sex work; or
  5. acknowledging that women carry out real crimes – embezzlement, murder, human trafficking – instead of treating sex work as the most predominant ‘crime’ committed by women.

then, to use Adichie’s reasoning, that person doesn’t have a problem with sex work, they have a problem with women and particularly women having agency and real choices as to transactional sex.

Hating sex workers is wrong and sociopathic but not liking sex work is not necessarily sexist.  It’s all in the detail and the reasons (perhaps 5 generations ago, his ancestors were attacked by a vicious crazy prostitute and her 30 cats.  It could have nothing to do with the usual pseudo-religious and patriarchal reasons).

However, it’s probably more likely  to do with the way we have been conditioned to blindly demonise sex workers, and by extension women we consider to be ‘loose’, and be indifferent to or even sympathise with men who we believe to be caught up in their wiley snares.   All it takes for a nice, intelligent man to have an irrational hatred of prostitution, that only manifests against the women who sell sexual services, is a failure to examine his view of gender roles when it comes to controlling sexual behaviour.

RIP to the Queen

Chain of Fools, Never Loved A Man, See-Saw, Sweet, Sweet Baby, The Night Time, Think, Oh No, Not My Baby, Good Times, Don’t Play That Song, This is the House that Jack Built – I’ve screeched my way through too many Aretha songs not to feel a sharp jolt when I read about Ms. Franklin’s death  (on Twitter).  She is absolutely fantastic and like others have said before me, as well as having an incredible voice, is an exceptional vocalist and musician.  And I’m only just learning about her role in the Civil Rights movement.  Rest in peace, Aretha!  You will be missed and your legacy will continue forever.

What’s Choice Got To Do With It?

I wrote the first draft of this post before the Moesha/Amanpour debacle (aswear)….

I’m getting worse. I don’t know when I started to feel rattled by the argument “At the end of the day, feminism is about choice!”. All I know is that within an alarmingly short period of time, hearing the phrase in any context made/makes me feel like this:

I must admit I do find it difficult to understand, practically, where choice fits in with feminism. I think I can set out my theoretical view quite easily – feminism is about fighting inequality, bias, gender-based harm etc against women. One of the ways sexism or the patriarchy works is to take away choices from women; choices that men readily have. Therefore restoring those choices to women must be an act of feminism. However, women can make sexist choices….. Okay, so maybe it’s not that easy  after all.

Clearly, choices are not made in a vacuum.  Some choices have their origins in historical conditioning or even women obtaining what advantages they can from patriarchal systems. For example, the choice to take back a serial cheater in a culture where unmarried women are pitied and scorned and the blame for the  failure of a marriage is laid squarely at a woman’s feet surely must warrant some scrutiny.

On the other hand, I don’t want to stray into thinking that, whenever I disagree with a woman’s choice, it must be because she is too stupid or conditioned to understand all the relevant implications. So, where do we go?

Extreme Examples: When is A Choice Unacceptable?

My first gripe is that the bald statement ‘feminism is about choice!’ misses the point if it is meant to prohibit any criticism of a choice because it is made by a woman. I think, deep down every feminist understands this.  A sexist act or gender-based violence is not transformed into a feminist or even a fair act by choice or  consent.

To use an extreme example, take a mother who was subjected to FGM and wants to carry it out on her own daughter. Say, in her view, her own operation was done very well, she can’t see any way in which it adversely affects her life and she wants her daughter to be brought up in accordance with her traditions.

Of course, our first argument is that she has no right to make that decision for her daughter. Okay, she says, putting down the blade, but ‘I maintain that it hasn’t caused me any harm or distress. Please stop putting the idea out there that it is an inherently evil thing and listen to people like me who have actually gone through it’. Now I don’t know if such a woman exists – presumably yes because there are women willing to do it to their daughters.

It’s very likely that anyone who supports FGM when they have gone through it themselves is ‘brainwashed’ but we can’t prove it. The reality is that we fight and rail against FGM, regardless of women who choose to believe that it is advantageous, because it is unfair and cruel for girls to go through that physical trauma and to have their sexual organs and responses interfered with in that way.

Take another extreme example – this time in a distressing video I saw which depicted a Russian couple of some ultra-orthodox Christian sect. I’m not sure whether this had anything to do with their religion but the husband demanded complete subservience from his wife. His wife was articulate, published and seemed to completely buy into the idea that it was fair and necessary for her to endure beatings from her husband because of her, and women’s, natural deviousness.

Like the FGM example, there is  some doubt as to whether I can blame ‘choice’ for these women. However, there are many domestic violence victims who support and defend their partners and ask the public to respect their choices to stay with their partners even after footage of shocking violence. The fact remains that we cannot prove that these women don’t have the mental capacity to settle for beatings in exchange for whatever they think they are getting out of the relationship.

Indeed, beyond the initial feeling of shock and pity, many of us don’t really care deeply about the welfare of these strangers. A lot of our strong emotion is outrage and horror that we live in a world where people think that this is a viable way to live. We don’t want people living this way, partly because one woman enduring this has consequences for all women in a world where domestic violence is very much a pattern of the patriarchal society that we are struggling to get out of.

(Directed) Sexual Empowerment

On to less dramatic examples  – this part deals with the fact that we identify behaviour and patterns that are rooted in, and in some cases the very foundation of, sexism, pronounce them bad but then reserve a space for men to keep practising them as long as there are good things attached like consent (technical or not) or agency or not judging. And if that’s not enough, the focus shifts to protecting the choice to do these things and not the original patterns which were being fought against in the first place. Therefore anyone criticising these choices becomes the real anti-feminist because they are apparently attacking choice and ‘feminism is about choice (!)’ after all. As you can tell, this really cheeses me off.

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Before I give examples I will freely admit that I’m not the most sex positive person in the world.  However,  I  don’t really have anything against nudity per se. My first, second, and third thoughts when I see a picture of a naked woman are to compare her figure to mine and vow bitterly to ‘get it together’. This is before any moral, social or feminist thoughts.  Also, I’m not particularly modest myself.

The Passive Mistress

Disclaimer in place, let’s move to the first example which  is what I’d like to call the ‘passive mistress’. This is a geisha-like relationship, not to be confused with an ordinary extra-marital affair, between a wealthy man and an often much younger woman. The woman is not a sex worker but the relationship is rather one dimensional – he gives her money and other advantages and she only shows the complacent, compliant part of herself – always ready for sex, always groomed and never arguing with, irritating, or challenging him. He is king in her house.

To me the feminist issue is that the character being played by the woman is a figment of chauvinist society’s imagination. It’s this idea that a woman exists solely to please her partner and free him of all the troubles of living in this troublesome world. It’s a bit like the 1950s ideal that when a man comes home from work, rather than reflecting real life, his house should be an oasis of calm. It should be perfectly tidied, there should be no sign of the children, a meal should be perfectly prepared, drink and slippers in hand. All things that would keep a woman slaving away physically while suppressing any emotional or mental needs that she may have. On top of that, she is supposed to keep herself forever youthful, attractive and perfectly groomed and very much aware of her sexual ‘duties’.

The feminist outcry was that women, wives and girlfriends were being reduced to this one-dimensional rearing, domestic creature whose only reason was to please her man  sometimes to the detriment of her children and always to the detriment of herself. To expose my radicalism (well, expose, scratch the surface, who’s monitoring?), it is sexist and dehumanising to want your significant other to do nothing other than look pretty, provide for your needs and never challenge you.

Why then do we approve of men doing this in the name of consent and choice? A passive mistress, geisha, runs girl, sugar baby, whatever should not be demonised  but I don’t agree that we have to act like it’s a choice that has no effect on other women. I think it is unrealistic to say that we want the standard for relationships in a modern society to be on a equal footing – both parties are individuals with their own needs and ups and downs, who are trying to make each other happy and build a life together – when we reserve this space for men who have enough wealth to escape equality this way. We also can’t pretend it doesn’t put pressure on wives to regress back into the intellectually-empty-vessel 1950s stereotype if it would reduce the chances of her wealthy husband from going elsewhere.

‘Sex Work is Work!’

I have a similar problem with presenting sex work (not exotic dancing or stripping which I don’t really consider to be sex work) and participation in porn as simply empowering choices. Again they are valid choices and for some, real choices. For sex work, I think decriminalisation would assist in regulating these choices and preventing abuse. I want sex workers to have the same right to respect and protection from harm as other women.

This is an entirely different matter from castigating someone as ‘not being a real feminist’ for questioning the  effect that some of these choices have on women or if they suspect that not everyone making these choices has any other option.

Perhaps prostitution, in a completely equal world, would not be inherently harmful to women (or more harmful to women than men). But we don’t live in an equal world – at the extreme many sex workers are not wiling participants and there are still prevailing harmful ideas about sexuality and consent which means viewing women as sex objects still harm women as a whole.

Apparently I am not allowed to refer to the fact that some people only do sex work because of poverty.  That’s now like saying people only work in McDonalds because of poverty.

I must confess that I am unable to reach that level of endorsement of sex work for reasons that I can’t quite articulate.  I get that it is inaccurate to describe prostitution (a term which I can tell is fast falling out of favour) as ‘selling one’s body’ and with the right amount of agency, it can provide more freedom than being, say, a Stepford wife but still….I don’t think it’s just because when transacting for money, handing someone a burger over a secure counter carries inherently less risks that going alone with them into a room, removing your clothes and surrendering to whatever act they think they paid for.

Perhaps it’s personal.  Or maybe it’s because many feminists and other women who promote the idea that sex work is nothing more than a commercial transaction are often lawyers, doctors and other middle-class people who have no practical concept of what sex work involves and no appetite for trying it.

It is true that some women simply don’t mind or even get a thrill out of sex work but if I was dating, I would be very careful around men who used the services of sex workers, no matter how liberal they appeared. Even if I could get my head around his addiction to relating sexually to women who are there predominantly to meet his own desires; could I really be sure whether he cares or checked whether any of these women are there solely out of their own will (I’m pretty sure that most of these transactions take place online but my overactive imagination has liberal men striding up and down grotty brothels shrilly demanding EVIDENCE of AGENCY)?

Any man who enthusiastically exercises his right to view women as one-dimensional sexual objects, whether through porn or prostitution, is suspect to me. I wouldn’t trust him to snap out of it when it came to ‘real relationships’. Incidentally, I think that’s where some of these well-meaning liberal men go wrong.

They have good thoughts and intentions but their diet of ‘harmless’ porn may explain why they are reluctant to take no for an answer when they come across a sexually liberated woman who doesn’t want to, on the first date, tangle herself into a some kind of complicated knot (that and constantly straying into wild inappropriateness. Pro-tip, liberal men: if a strange woman on Twitter is reluctant to give you her name in a personal message exchange, chances are she will feel offended and insulted if your next message is to enquire about threesomes. This is probably largely down to the fact that life is not actually a porn film. On a more serious note, enthusiastic consent also relates to, apart from touching, verbal communication and includes recognising and not ignoring signals that a woman does not want to have any kind of intimate conversation with you.)

Female Entertainers and Hypersexuality

A brief word about the pressure on female entertainers to be hypersexual: by this, I don’t just mean sexy, like the picture of Tina Turner above which I’ve only used because of the title of this essay and her brilliant song ‘What’s Love Got to do With It’.  I’m talking more about Nicki Minaj’s Paper Magazine Shoot or Beyonce’s sudden self-discovery in her videos for the 2013 album ‘Beyonce’.

Great if you make the choice; I just don’t believe a lot of women do make the choice. And if they do, it’s not for the reason that you think they do. I’ve seen singers in the….shall we say autumn of their careers, put under pressure to release that hyper sexual photoshoot. I’ve seen aspiring models verbally abused and screamed at for not wanting to ‘go topless’. I’ve read of actresses responding to a script which simply states that ‘she shows her tits’ for no reason that is connected to the storyline.

Everyone wants to be sexy and attractive; I think fewer people want to be as constantly naked as some kind of prisoner of war. I don’t believe Nikki Minaj or Beyonce really want to. They may not mind; they may accept it as a necessary step for a female entertainer to achieve world domination but that is not the same as the spontaneous expression of sexuality that is being presented to us.

So what’s the harm? These women are perfectly entitled to make commercial choices to disrobe, aren’t they? What’s the worst that can happen apart from Jennifer Lawrence freezing in a tiny dress, while her male co-stars are covered with layers of clothing talking about “ch-ch-ch- choice.”?

Yes a commercial choice is still a choice but I think it’s quite wrong to rip through people who question what this is doing to female self-esteem and future female entertainers. Firstly, it sends out the message that anything a woman has to offer in the entertainment industry has be accompanied by a side-order of T&A.  It chips away at our humanity; it seeks to reduce us. No matter how successful or powerful we are, we can only obtain recognition by being naked and hold on to fame by being even more naked.  It makes it all the more easier for men to insist that aspiring and usually quite vulnerable and young female entertainers are as naked as they (men) want them to be (there is an interesting story about a young Beyonce walking out of a photo shoot when the French director had the bright idea of her posing naked covered in honey).

Of course a lot of that naked investment is lost when our looks start to go.  It is a double con – if you want me to stop pretending to be sane about this – it is often not really a choice in the first place and the fake non-choice has a negative effect on women as a whole.

Purity Culture and My Idiotic Childhood

The other end of the spectrum is virginity and purity culture. I’ve written about virginity. All I have to add is this – when I was a teenager, I used to regard women who  scorned virginity as extreme cases of ‘pick-me’s’ or I would have if the term existed in my youth.   Of course, like everyone else, I regarded too much female sexual activity as sluttiness but I like to think that even then my suspicion of any kind of empowerment that seemed male-pleasing was already being formed. I thought basically women like this wanted men to want them so instead of holding out and making men suffer like a good decent woman, they gave it away freely, under the guise of expressing themselves sexually but with the real intention of holding on to men. A bit like I regarded women who appeared to like football. Absolutely disgraceful and a complete reduction if not erasure of female sexual identity. I’m only just understand how harmful purity politics and culture are.

Summary

Just in case anyone is in doubt or cares, I don’t think sleeping with men for money or ‘advantages’ is a good thing or anything approaching an ideal.   I think women should get on with their lives, whether it’s careers, relationships, sex, friendships, study, amassing wealth,  in accordance with their values,  instead of all this endless worrying about how their sexuality is going to get them a man, job, money, grades or whatever.   That, to me, is what a equality looks like.  And yes, I do think it’s wrong, in that it is participating in the hurt and deceit of another human being, to have a covert sexual relationship with a married person or a person in a relationship.

It’s just that it’s none of my business what women choose to do.  My feminist issue has always been, apart from wondering what aspect of patriarchy encourages women towards these choices,  that women are demonised  for the very same acts that men are held blameless for.  In fact, society would  rather blame the men’s wives, who had none of the illicit sex, than the men who instigated and committed them.

A more recent feminist issue seems to be that we are concentrating on and regressing back to the sexist paradise for men where women existed for their domestic and sexual pleasure instead of addressing the issues that got us there in the first place, under the guise of choice.

Domestic Duties

Moving on to my bugbear of the share of domestic labour in marriage and partnership. The choice here relates to a range of heightened level of domesticity for the female partner.

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I’m definitely not one of those feminists who think that  it is a crime or pity or shame when a woman chooses to give up her career, temporarily or permanently, to be a stay at home mum or just wife or girlfriend. There are good valid reasons for this – a child that needs extra care, a female partner earning less (although there is a sexist back story to this) and the sometimes astronomical cost of child care. Being a working mother myself, I personally can say my job does get in the way of what I would consider optimal parenting (but would I optimal-parent? Or would I just sit around clicking on Twitter and overeating?).

My only concern is leaving the woman with less economic power – money that is not provided by her male partner and increased difficulty in getting back into work. This probably makes it harder to leave a harmful marriage and even with laws relating to shared marital property opens her up to humiliation and accusations of gold digging as her very valuable contributions to home-making are disregarded when she tries to secure a share of the joint property (notwithstanding stories of hard-done-by sports men).

Also, I’m a bit grumpy that workplaces around the world and male partners can’t collude to allow women to work more easily and be mothers. Why does the bulk of childcare emergencies fall on mothers? Why don’t men do more in the home?

This brings me to the feminist or woman who choose do all the cooking or take the lion’s share of housework. The woman who is happy doing all the cooking and cleaning for a boyfriend she only met a month ago. The woman who chooses to submit to her husband. But if she chooses to, aren’t I the real enemy of feminism, progress and everything else to comment negatively about her choice? Isn’t feminism supposed to be about being what you want to be?

It bloody well isn’t – it’s an organised system to fight harm and inequality. But leaving that aside, it’s the  inherent unfairness that bugs me – why on earth should one gender be allowed to be domestically incompetent leaving the other to run around after them like a toddler? I’ve had otherwise sensible women tell me  that a man shouldn’t go into the kitchen if he has a woman. Put that way, any self-respecting feminist would and should be outraged. And it’s not just about the cooking. It’s the constant drudgery of unshared housework. We acknowledge that this unfair system exists yet our answer to it is to create a space where, through apparent choice, men can continue to exist within it and defend that space with every breath in us.

Also, let’s examine that apparent choice, shall we? It’s not hard to imagine that the ability to make this choice would be a highly desired asset for men that have no interest in changing the status quo. Perhaps then finding a partner is the predominant factor behind this choice rather than a nurturing nature and a desire for only four hours sleep a night.  Also, I wonder how many men made the ‘choice’ to take on a significant share in the household chores before second wave feminists started hinting that they should do so?

But fair enough, if a woman thinks that this will  increase her chances at partnership, she’s perfectly entitled to do so. To have this presented to me as feminism sticks at the back of my throat; to be told that if I challenge it, I’m the real anti-feminist sticks back even further.

The Aziz Ansari Story: Me Too or Not Right Now, Grace?

I must admit I’ve not read too many #metoo stories. I’ve read a few. Not only do they make me fear for my daughter simply because she’s going to grow up to be a woman, they are just too depressing. Don’t get me wrong – they are absolutely necessary. The attacks, assaults and harassment have clearly been going on for too long and have been accepted not only by Hollywood but in a way by the rest of society – an illustration is how the reaction to the term ‘casting couch’ is usually salacious amusement instead of the outrage now being expressed at the #metoo stories.

However, one of the most depressing things about watching man after man being accused is the feeling that the more the numbers stack up, the less likely it is that any individual is going to face tangible consequences. It’s almost like a statement I read in an account of a genocide which said something like ‘if all of us do it, then none of us are guilty/wrong’. At the very least, not everyone can be punished in any meaningful way (why am I so obsessed with punishment?  I don’t know).

Not only does the chance of justice for these women decrease but compassion fatigue starts to set in. The only thing I can wearily wish for is that even if no one is punished, whether by criminal prosecution or even socially or career-wise (beyond the initial fleeting moment of embarrassment when the media is all over a particular story), at least there will be a change of culture. A bit like the expenses scandal but with far more personal, harrowing consequences (just watch Uma Thurman’s response to a question about #metoo for an idea of the pain that this sexual violence has caused women).

I did read the Ansari story though. I think majority of people would agree on two things. Firstly that he committed no crime. The second is that he was definitely being a creepy dickhead that night. Less people may agree with the second statement but I still think they would be in the majority.

Opinions will probably be more divided on whether he should have been publicly shamed. Was it necessary for the world and his dog to know that his post-date routine is to disrobe completely the second the front door clicks shut behind him, require the other party to do the same and then spend the rest of evening directing any and all attention, queries and commentary towards his crotch? Is that what’s going on out there? Never in my decades of reckless, mixed-signals, problematic, I-know-I’m-a-Christian-but-I-sure-do-love-the-D-but-then-does-this-mean-I’ll-fry-in-hell dating have I encountered such strange behaviour.  Yet lots of women have told similar stories of average guys behaving this way.

Another more important question is whether this story really should be a natural, logical extension of the #metoo revelations. In other words, is it right to try and attach this story to the #metoo movement, a movement about how powerful men have, imagining that having any woman they want is a reward for their so-called success, attacked, degraded, dehumanised and just generally made life a misery for women who are just trying to get on with their jobs, or is this a different story altogether?

The reason I say that fewer people would agree that Ansari acted reprehensibly is that this story is as old as, at least, modern courtship and dating. I heard the much derided term ’emotional rape’ in high school in the early 1990s in relation to US college campus rapes and sexual misdemeanours. Emotional rape was alleged when a male college student technically obtained consent, after coercing and breaking down a girl who clearly did not want to have sex with him. Quite a few people took the view that if she said ‘yes’, did not say ‘no’ or did not protest by some kind of physical manifestation – screaming, shouting, moving or running away – then ‘it’s on her’.

Other people are more sensitive to the more subtle issues. One is that once it appears that a man is unwilling to accept a negative response, some women will choose to avoid the risk of a more violent attack by unwillingly consenting to sex. Yes, a man will not and should not be successfully prosecuted if that happens, but it really does come to something when a woman’s choice, on a date, is to run out or unhappily acquiesce to sex. No one can sensibly say that the guy who opens the door and says “Run then! Run for your life!” (like a 1980s action film villain) is a good guy. Even a world weary “Well if you don’t want to have sex with me, I’d rather you’d leave my flat this second.” would raise a few eyebrows much less continually pawing a woman until she flees.

Another issue is the confusion she must feel, when the mask slips off a nice guy that she is attracted to and has herself been lusting after. The mask is one of mutual care, or at least admiration, and respect; not using any means necessary to sleep with her as if she were nothing more than a sex doll.

On one hand I really  don’t understand the mechanics of ploughing relentlessly with one’s quest for sex, whether  in a casual encounter or a committed relationship, when it is abundantly clear that the person they are with does not want to have it with them.  This is especially because I reject the premise that male lust and sexuality is an uncontrollable object that can be involuntary unleashed at anytime up to the point of sexual attack (remember how we believed in ‘blue balls’ until we realised it was a load of gaslighting nonsense?)

However, the way we approach romantic and sexual relationships makes this story unsurprising. It comes from the left and the right. From reactionary socially unreformed meatheads’ point of view, a good girl not only does not have casual sex ; she does not put herself in a position where someone might think that having sex with her may go unobserved. If she does, well, there really isn’t any escape for her – if she has sex enthusiastically, she is a slut, an object of vicious gossip and potentially a target (if she’s ‘giving out pussy’, why isn’t she giving it to me? What’s wrong with me? WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?!?), if she doesn’t, she’s a prick-tease; if she complains about sex obtained by coercion, she is trying to ruin the life of an upstanding, promising young man.

From the left, which is where I understand Ansari comes from, I have noticed an almost aggressive entitlement to casual sex. Once there is an acknowledgement of mutual attraction; there is pressure and almost an obligation to consummate that relationship immediately. This pressure doesn’t always come in the form of a horrible ‘date’. It’s there when it is suggested that a woman who hesitates about when to have sex or whether to have more unusual forms of sex is a brainwashed prude; when liberal men shout about how virginity is a SOCIAL MYTHICAL CONCEPT/CONSTRUCT (is it your virginity?); when they are extremely grumpy about a decision of someone with whome they have no interaction to remain celibate for religious or other reasons; when they meet someone who posts sexually explicit tweets and immediately demand sex or sexual acts from them; when they demand naked photographs as of right; when their immediate response to being asked to go on a date by girl is ‘will you be on the menu?’

All this frenetic sexual expectation doesn’t come with any commitment (and I accept, without equating it to coerced sex, that people can also be wrongly pressured to enter into a committed relationship which they don’t want to be in) or even friendship, of course. If a girl asks for this prior to sex she’s not only being silly, she’s manipulative and clearly needs deliverance from the thorough brainwashing she has received in the past. Some girls like this but I really do think some of these men need to move away from the idea that the sexual revolution was solely for their benefit.

From the left and the right, we are left with this confused idea about male sexuality and of course, as several have pointed out, the damaging notion that the woman responsible for controlling not only the sexual temperature in any one encounter but the man’s sexual response.

It’s not enough to say no or not yet, she must not let him touch her if she isn’t prepared to go ‘all the way’. A lot of the talk about mixed signals is not that the man mistook her crossed legs, complete with hand over her crotch (different story) as a sign that she was about to collapse with lust; it is that once a woman crosses a line sexually, she must accept the entire male response whether she wants it or not (not) and no matter how clear it is to him that she didn’t want it. If she kissed him at 7:05 pm, then she must vaporise at 7:30 pm to avoid being taken against her will or pestered out of her sanity. Illogically, if a woman likes a man and lets him know, she should always be on the alert for him to launch an attack.

On the man’s part, sex is viewed as something he takes so his goal is to keep trying until he is gets it or is physically stopped. It’s a sign of prowess when you, as a man, ‘get what you want’ and ‘don’t take no for an answer’. Maybe debatable when it comes to your job or chosen vocation, but whose crazy idea was it to extend this principle to a woman’s body?

The difference between Ansari’s story and the #metoo stories is that in the former both people liked each other – or at least had some attraction for each other. ‘Grace’ may have had sex with him at her own pace had Ansari not being singularly focused on his almost unstoppable goal of having sex with her that night (again, why? Why that night? Why was that so important?). The issue is co-erced consent in that context.

In the #metoo stories, it was very unlikely that the women involved were remotely interested in Weinstein and the others. These are stories of men wielding their power over women and womankind in general for a range of reasons – from the right to have any woman they want to the dark and perverse pleasure in violating another protesting human being. There are some similarities but the main one is that they involve powerful and/or famous Hollywood men.

So, me too or not right now, Grace? I think probably somewhere in between. I definitely think Grace’s story, or a version of it, was one that needed to be told. Whether attempting to lump it in with the #metoo movement  is effective or detracting remains to be seen.

Addendum – 19/1/2018

I try to resist the urge to change blog posts too drastically once I’ve published them- if only to avoid stealing other people’s ideas and cleverly  weaving them into my original post.  In this case, however, I feel it’s worth commenting on one of the opinions that has been expressed on this matter.  Quite a few people are saying that they too have experienced bad dates like this one (some a lot worse) and what they did was leave, not try to turn them into incidents of sexual misconduct.

Fair comment but if this is an implicit acceptance that Ansari’s behaviour, as described by Grace, was bad, I’m confused about why society tolerates and accepts this kind of bad behaviour from men.  Not just a random person from the internet who turns out to be bad  – but also average men and nice or good men.

People have queried why she went into Ansari’s flat in the first place on a first date (my bet is that they would have posed this same question even if he had attacked her).  Well, why wouldn’t you go into Aziz Ansari’s flat? He says, writes, acts and produces the right things about women.  He seems such a  lovely, cuddly, decent person.  As a public personality, he has more than some to lose if he acts badly.  Why would anyone be afraid to go home with him, even if you could interpret his speedy exit from the restaurant as a desire for sex?  Is it because, as a man, he is expected to activate ‘beast mode’ at any time?  In that case, can we really complain about the ‘men are trash’ hashtag?

In fact, I can’t think of any actor or male celebrity (except for the ones who have been exposed obviously), whose image is not so carefully tended, that one can expect horrible behaviour from him once you cross the threshold of his residence.  They all seem such completely reasonable and left-leaning, right on types.  Not Tom Cruise with his Scientology (didn’t he stop to help a car accident victim, when the accident had nothing to do with him?), Russell Crowe with his gruffness or James McAvoy with his gleaming forehead.

Maybe Mike Tyson.  If it had been Mike Tyson’s place that ‘Grace’ had gone into after their date,  even I might have left this blog post for another feminist to write.  Go upstairs after a date with Tyson?  Is she mad???? Is she?  We are told he is a reformed man, that his rape conviction was decades ago and we should not judge him on his past actions.  That’s apparently why we have no right to complain when we see him on our screens.  Why should we assume that we are tolerating a man in the public eye who everyone accepts will turn into a monster if he is left alone with a young woman?

So which is it?  Is it that Hollywood and TV-land would have nothing to do with these men, who have made ‘mistakes’ in the past, if they were still the same overtly female-harming men or that they really don’t care about what the person has done or is doing as long as he can bring in the ratings?  Are all men prone to turning into, at the very least, ‘bad dates’ if you catch them on the wrong day, and are therefore potentially trash, or should we treat them like inherently decent human beings and stop lumping them with the same label?  If someone had said, before this incident happened, don’t go anywhere alone with so-and-so nice, woke actor, because as a man  and based on no other evidence, he can and will exhibit highly questionable sexual behaviour, would they have been vilified as a man-hater or not?

Questions, questions.

Weird Feminism: Conversations in Modern Feminism that Make Me Uncomfortable – Part 1

As a single girl, if a man couldn’t show me his two penises, he was going to have to explain to me in words of two syllables or less why he needed two women. It was as simple as that – not about female solidarity or empowerment.

Beauty Privilege

I’m always tempted to dismiss pretentious-sounding phrases that I see on social media and don’t quite understand like ‘beauty privilege’ and ‘sexual capital’. However, attempting to write dismissive articles about said phrases has forced me to consider if I’m being 100% honest with myself.

Take beauty politics for instance; it’s okay to like being attractive. It’s equally okay not to care about being attractive. The value placed on women being attractive is ridiculous. It’s unfair and quite frankly, in some cases, plain racist that some groups of people are considered, by default, to be more attractive than others (God gave each race different physical virtues and humans, in their perversity, relegated those virtues to a league table). But if as feminists, we don’t care if we are considered attractive and fight for opportunities not to be dependent on our physical appearances, then beauty politics loses its power over us. Right? Wrong (apparently).

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Why? Beauty privilege. Society doesn’t just label us attractive or not and leave us to nurse our smug/hurt feelings in peace. It rewards and punishes us accordingly. One big way is in the area of employment and therefore money. From people who want to pursue careers in show business to opportunities within more mundane career paths – attractive people and especially attractive women seemingly win.

I say seemingly win because they are made to pay a price for that victory. There is definitely some resentment and hostility towards attractive women as men and society in general exert themselves in the vital task of ensuring that pretty women don’t get too big for their boots and remain humble. As demonstrated by the Weinstein débâcle, sexually harassed attractive women seem to receive less sympathy from certain elements of society.

Another example is in the area of romantic love, partnership and marriage. Marriage is not an achievement in that lack of marriage is not a failure to achieve or be a complete woman. However, many people eventually hope to find that one person they can partner up with in life (and building a relationship can seem like hard work!). Women especially are simultaneously rejected for not being attractive enough to boost a man’s status or if they are attractive are made to prove that they have a brain (what living mammal doesn’t have a br..never mind) and are generally regarded with high suspicion.

Beauty privilege and, to some extent, sexual capital (not this nonsense about how ‘sex is power’ and how great it is to have a man brought to his knees by your sheer sexual force which is just regressive and a false victory) means that failing to be attractive, which you may not have a lot of control over, can have some influence over getting the basics in life.

Black women moan about white women’s beauty privilege causing me (along with our constant bothering of anyone who dares to write anything critical about Beyoncé) to despair a little. I would love for us to concentrate on what, to my mind, are the real issues and I hate the fact that we look so damn needy for validation. However, I can’t say that I don’t see their point. A white friend of mine eschews beauty politics. If you tell her that  her young daughter is beautiful, she will give you a blank stare. If you try to talk to her about losing weight after a pregnancy, you will get the same reaction. She once blasted me on Facebook (the shame!) for praising Kim Kardashian for her post-pregnancy figure (North not Saint).

That is her absolute right and I would give anything to reach her level of nonchalance about beauty. The luxury of not despairing for at least 15 minutes ( to 15 hours) a day because I can’t shift that stone! However as a white woman in the UK, she already has a certain amount of beauty privilege that she is perhaps oblivious to. People see her as default femininity and whether she accepts it or not she gets whatever privilege (and disadvantages) that derive from that. In light of that, I’m a little kinder to my sisters who get hung up on beauty politics. Rightly or wrongly (wrongly), sex and beauty sells and not only has someone decided women have to be the ones to predominantly sell it; they’ve decided that a sizeable majority of black women can’t even have access to whatever financial or other advantages flow from this flawed system.

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Feminism and Capitalism

Speaking of beauty and money, when people say we have to dismantle capitalism in order for feminism to be established what the *&^% are they on about? This came up in this segment (https://twitter.com/AJUpFront/status/923231917406687232) of an Al-Jazeera interview where Meghan Murphy and Jamia Wilson were asked whether they think Beyonce is a feminist icon.

Having read a lot of Murphy’s work, I starting feeling tense even before she opened her mouth as she had the twitchy, unsmiling demeanour of someone who was getting ready to announce that Beyonce’s brand of feminism was pure BS. However, she surprised me when she simply said, to summarise, that Beyonce’s feminism was suspect because it was entrenched in capitalism and that it was not possible to be a feminist and a capitalist at the same time. Wilson, a self-confessed Beyoncé fan, responded that she agrees with the need to dismantle capitalism.

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If I actually stop to think about it, I can understand how capitalism props up sexism, in particular, and a lot of other inequalities. There’s money to be made in pressurising women to obsess about beauty, youth and sex appeal, getting people to think that men and women are so radically different that we need books, seminars and retreats to decipher each other, teaching women how to keep your man or on the darker side, the sex industry which is based on the idea that women can be bought, sold and consumed. In fact, if the choice, beauty obsessed, sex positive type of feminism is not an invention of capitalism, it definitely is a gold mine for consumerism as aspiring to look like your favourite pop/film/instagram star is now not only girly idolising but also apparently empowering. In parts of the world where capitalism results in abject poverty, it’s often the women who are the most vulnerable to the worst of the suffering.

So, I’m not confused when people link inequality to capitalism; I’m confused because despite this apparent need to ‘dismantle capitalism’ I can’t see any effort, which is sufficient to make the slightest dent in capitalism anywhere in the Western world (or does dismantle not mean what I think it does?) to do so.  Sure, people like me would rather a more socialist form of capitalism but I haven’t really noticed people doing anything other than talking about how bad it is and attending the odd rally. Neither Murphy or Wilson looked entirely untouched by capitalism in that interview; if I may make a judgment based on their physical appearance.

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Take me for example; I don’t consider myself to be a leader in the capitalist system. I don’t own my own business or any shares. I merrily collect a salary and continue to consume. Now that I have kids, the endless consumption doesn’t even seem that pleasurable. I may remember to question the ethical origins of the thing I’m consuming but that doesn’t happen very often. I don’t work as hard as some (take Kevin Hart for instance whose aggressively capitalised and comprehensive Twitter bio states “My name is Kevin Hart and I WORK HARD!!! That pretty much sums me up!!! Everybody Wants To Be Famous But Nobody Wants To Do The Work”) but I think I’m making a small contribution to society, through my employment.

I know lots of feminists. I haven’t seen any evidence that they are fighting capitalism in any kind of organised way that has any chance of succeeding. The most I can say is that some of them oppose (or mildly disapprove of) the worst excesses of capitalism. I don’t even really know of any truly non-capitalist country that has been a success story. I’ve always thought feminism is a doctrine that should be promoted in any context but perhaps naivete like mine has bred the kind of thinking that says the obtaining of money and power by a woman is in itself a feminist act, even if that money and power was obtained by sexist and patriarchal means. That would make the female owner of a brothel a feminist because she has found a way of making lots of money.

Watch this space. I’ve already started gathering intel on the issue.

Feminism and the Other Woman

One of the most fantastically stupid threads by a feminist I saw was in response to a nutter threatening to display a woman’s naked pictures on Twitter because the woman allegedly sent them to her husband. There is a significant risk that the first woman was unhinged as the second woman denied everything. The first woman’s account was eventually reported and shut down by Twitter and that was that. Storm in a tea-cup.

The thread contained such a  perfect mixture of stupidity, feminist-speak and truth that as I stared at it blankly and blinking, the only response I could muster was not to press the like button. Imagine that. A few weeks later I’ve figured out what my response should have been and I live for the day when she retweets the thread.

Firstly, the thread. It regarded the situation – which would have been trying to instigate a sexual relationship with a married man by sending him naked photographs if the whole thing hadn’t been a figment of Woman 1’s over-fertile imagination – as an example of how married women expect society in general to take responsibility for and protect their marriages and labelled that expectation as entitlement. Basically expecting people not to try and sleep with your husband is patriarchal entitlement.

I did agree with the part that said the solution was to address your husband and not to attack the ‘other woman’ but apart from this the message in the thread is cobblers. It was a disgrace even to the flakiest choice feminist and essentially shores up the false idea that feminism means doing anything you want and the consequences are always someone else’s fault. It doesn’t fight patriarchy; it plays into the idea that women are illogical creatures incapable of taking responsibility for their actions.

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It is not unreasonable for women to expect people to respect their relationships or marriages by not pursuing relationships with their other halves. The line comes when, if an affair happens, they go after the other women instead of addressing their husbands or partners, often under the guise that men can’t help themselves.

It is disrespectful to pursue a relationship with a ‘taken’ man but ultimately it is the man’s responsibility to reject the offer. I could imagine having a word (even jokingly) with both of them or finding another way to assert my presence if someone was openly flirting with my husband at a party but I would never take her aside and warn her not to mess with my man. That’s my husband’s job.

Sadly it is probably more common for married men to do the chasing. The narrative that has single women ‘stealing’ husbands, when not only do husbands allow themselves to be ‘stolen’ they are often the ones offering themselves up and attempting to break down the resistance of single women, is dishonest.

Another underlying issue is the divide between married and single woman in some cultures and societies. In these societies, the former automatically receive a higher status while the reaction to the latter ranges from pity to suspicion. Whether or not a woman wants to be single, there is pressure on her to feel like a failure when in reality finding a life partner is often just a matter of luck, especially with the high expectations that come with romantic relationships in terms of compatibility, overwhelming love, endless spells of uninterrupted happiness and fabulous social media photographs and updates.

In that situation, which can lead to bizarre behaviour like avoiding single friends once you get married, isn’t it incredibly naïve to expect loyalty from that single woman in the name of some contrived feminine solidarity which you yourself have failed to show to her? Wouldn’t, in fact, a more natural survivalist response of a single woman striving to meet society’s expectations be either to try and aspire to your marital status, by obtaining any man she can, including your husband (we’re still in the alternate universe where men are powerless in the face of even the slightest sexual advance) or the level the playing field by doing all she can to interfere in your relationship?

I think this is the frustration the author of the thread was projecting, rather than, as she implied, saving feminists from marriage which she described as the last tool in toolbox of oppression against women. Or perhaps she was angrily married and in love and frustrated that she was denied the opportunity to fight the good fight within what she thinks is the appropriate relationship status. I joke but I often torture myself with similar thoughts. Am I only a continuing to be a feminist because I’m happily married and ‘safe’? If, at 42, I wasn’t married, would I abandon all feminist ideals in my hunt to the death for someone who was willing to marry me?

Having said the above, if you are too evolved to accept that it’s immoral to sleep with a married man, then please understand that it is one of the least feminist things you can do. However woke your tweets are or sexually graphic your blog is, you are still operating on the basis that a man deserves the attention of two women – a modern day version of polygamy which includes dragging one man between two women and often fighting, resenting and hating the other woman simply because of a gutless codpiece that can’t make up his mind.  And guess who is the beneficiary of all this moral mind-bending?  Yup!  You guessed it!  The man again….

As a single girl, if a man couldn’t show me his two penises, he was going to have to explain to me in words of two syllables or less why he needed two women. It was as simple as that – not about female solidarity or empowerment. I was just too much of an angry, mouthy bitch to endure a man whining about how even though he was in a relationship with someone “he was weelly weelly unhappy because she didn’t understand him or tweat him wight”. In the interest of full and fair disclosure, it’s not like many married men approached me when I was single.

In part 2 of ‘Weird Feminism’: Tracy Treads Trepidatiously Into The Terrifying And Treacherous Terrain Between Terfs And Trans (If she dares. ONLY IF SHE DARES…..!). Before that,  some comic relief (still on about feminism though) in ‘Simi vs Third Wave Feminism’.

Whose Vagina Is It Anyway? – a discussion on Christianity, feminism and the concept of virginity

Choice or Wrong choice? What position should faith feminsim take on the V-word?

The scandal!

Twitter is up in arms again (at least it was when I decided to write this post)! It’s all about actress and comedian’s Yvonne Orji’s decision to wait until she’s married before she has sex. Yep! She’s a card carrying Christian virgin and proud of it!

 

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The feminist outrage

Some people, feminists included, are somewhat annoyed at this news. They profess not to have a problem with celibacy as such, they just condemn the idea of holding on to one’s virginity as a patriarchal concept of preserving oneself for ownership by a man. Just in case, like me, you’re not sure what that means, I think it has to do with presenting yourself as a gift to your husband on your wedding night, unspoiled and (relatively) untouched. I guess it does imply ownership and potentially more worryingly, your husband’s control over your sex life even before you’ve met said husband.

Others are concerned about the unrelated link between a ‘woman’s worth’ and her virginity. Somehow being a virgin means a higher value should be placed on a woman. Still others lament religion as an oppressive force bullying women into repressing their natural sexual urges. Finally, I have heard criticism of the concept of sexual purity – the implication that sexual activity soils and therefore damages.

In all honesty, there is some truth to these criticisms. Historically various cultures, whether Christian or not, have placed value on a woman’s virginity and chastity . There is for instance the practice of virginity testing on the wedding night. Even in cultures where the wedding did not take place until the woman became pregnant (I understand that this was the practice when Mary married Joseph – the sequence was engagement, pregnancy and then wedding to avoid childlessness), few of them would have celebrated or even agreed to take a (previously ) sexually active wife.

One has to take into account that in historic times, girls were married off at a fairly young age. Perhaps sexual activeness at that age carried the risk of some kind of physical damage. Or perhaps ancient cultures were also bastards to women (like everyone else) .

A big part of feminism and sexual liberation (apart from tackling sexual harm to women) continues to be to (1) ending double standards between men and women when it comes to sexual activity (2) reversing the thinking that a woman’s personal sexual choices and sex life are matters of public shame – slut shaming and his evil twin brother who decides whether a woman is a victim of sexual assault based on how she’s dressed and how many sexual partners she’s had in the past (3) allowing women to acknowledge and express themselves sexually (4) and yes, ending the practice of determining a woman’s ‘worth’ by her sex life, past or present.

I must confess, I take issue with the whole ‘woman’s worth’ concept. It makes women seem like commodities and plays into the good woman (or ‘queen’ – a word I’m beginning to despise when not used to refer to actual monarchy) /bad girl division. People make commitments, behave honourably or badly, are compatible with you or not. That’s how you decide whether you want to be with them. They are not priced or awarded points as if they were on display in a supermarket. Anyway!

The Christian perspective

It is likely that the reasons for Orji’s decision are nowhere near as sinister as the above. In modern charismatic churches, both men and women are expected to abstain from sex before marriage. The thinking is that sex is a special expression of a certain type of love (romantic, I suppose, but that word feels too shallow) that God intended for us to undertake with one person in the context of marriage.

As to how some Christians apply it beyond their own personal standards and stray into ‘judging’ others, most (media-savvy) people would say “It’s just my personal belief. I’m not imposing these standards on anyone” then (in what seems to me like a slight shift in position) “I’m not judging !”  In reality, it often goes beyond personal belief. Just like choice feminism has been roundly condemned in relation to this issue, ‘choice Christianity’ is, I suspect, not really credible in many charismatic churches.

The general belief is that if sex before marriage is wrong, it’s wrong for everyone or at least every Christian. Some churches may see at as a personal conviction, in that they do not expect individuals to account to some deacon or pastor about their sex lives, and may even tacitly accept that some church couples who are in a long-term relationship may be ‘doing it’. But generally in these churches you are not supposed to announce and publicly celebrate the fact that you are having sex before marriage.

I started attending the Church of England after I got married (so the whole sex before marriage wasn’t really my problem by then ha ha ha). I’ve not heard the prohibition against sex before marriage actively advocated in C of E . Much will depend on the individual church of course -for instance Holy Trinity Brompton is one of the biggest and most charismatic congregations of the C of E, as far as I know, its founder, Nicky Gumble, believes that sex should take place within the confines of marriage.  In the churches I’ve attended, it’s not unusual for the vicar to be openly accepting of people living together and producing babies before marriage. Perhaps someone has a word in private.

The issue is not without difficulty in the church. There is some discontent among Christians who reject promiscuity but wonder, when they find themselves involuntarily single in their late 30’s and 40s, whether the rule against sex before marriage has prevented them from forming compatible relationships. Some women (especially as there always seems to be less men in churches) find themselves completely disillusioned with the whole thing and wonder if they have wasted the ‘best years’ of their lives waiting for this ideal of a sex-less relationship (their mood, I suspect, turns especially sour if it turns out the married pastor has been schlepping the single choir mistress the entire time but I’m hoping that, despite the media sensation such events generate, that this is relatively rare) especially when there appears to be no direct Biblical authority for the rule (although plenty of implication and Biblical context).

It doesn’t help that some pastors take it too far and preach all kinds of weird analogies for the consequences of sex before marriage. My favourite went something like this: when two people come together in sexual union, they somehow mould together so that they are incomplete and damaged when they are ‘ripped apart’ – a bit like cookies or cakes which, meant to be separate, have (wrongfully and annoyingly!) migrated towards each other on the baking sheet while in the oven, formed an unsightly whole which you first try and break apart and disguise the flaw with icing then abandon the idea and end up eating them standing up, cursing, in the kitchen.

The above is to demonstrate their belief that sex is an act which invariably has emotionally and spiritual consequences as well as long term effects. My main problem is with presenting these theories as if they are undisputed Biblical law when at best they are interpretations sometimes tenuously based on scripture.

My general perception is that a lot of active Christians have managed to overcome whatever reservations they had about having sex before marriage although few would defend promiscuity as being within Christian beliefs or ‘God’s plan’. It continues to be a difficulty in the church, especially in light of the very different standards of secular society, and I’m not sure how consistently or effectively the rule is followed.

Most importantly….my opinion!

I’ll get to the two things that disturbed me about the feminist outrage. The lesser is the hypocrisy of some feminists in supposedly rejecting choice feminism in this context. An example is a tweep (she may even be what another tweep described as a ‘thought leader’ with her 19k followers – I’m not jealous at all) who has been pro choice feminism about a number of sex positive things. Such were her bizarre conclusions that she had me exploring radical feminism like:

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I was shocked (shocked!) to hear her condemn choice feminism when it came to Orji’s virginity (I don’t know if Orji is a feminist but the issue is whether feminists can justifiably assert that her position is inherently patriarchal or whether this is one of the choices that feminism should absolutely protect ).

This tweep was quoting anti-choice-feminism threads with not a hint of irony or qualification – as if her previous pro choice/sex positive feminism tweets didn’t exist. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood her. I regularly follow and unfollow her out of exasperation/sneaky admiration/envy (I’m afraid I’m one of those ‘unfollow and scroll’ people. I’ll unfollow because some tweet annoyed me, check on the tweep’s timeline to see “wha’ gwan”, follow again because “ah she/he doesn’t seem that bad”, get annoyed by another tweet…ad infinitum).

The bigger issue is linked to my own personal experience. I never fully accepted that a sexually active person/woman was soiled or that sex before marriage was necessarily damaging. I have been and am a bit suspicious of the claim that it is a sin because of lack of a direct Bible quote.  I am a bit wary of promiscuity, partly because I’d like my partner to be faithful and I think what keeps you faithful is commitment and self-control, which is built through life experiences (as opposed to ‘love’ and the fact I’m so much woman he won’t go elsewhere).

However, what really bothered me was the fact I never felt I owned my sexuality. I always felt that when I was dating, I owed it to society, to men, to be sexually active when they decided I should be sexually active. I never even got a chance to make my own objective decision and (much like my eating now) after a while I had completely lost anything resembling a natural instinct in my 20s and early 30s.

I was completely unreasonable for ‘making him wait’ for any period of time/until I felt comfortable, I was manipulative, I was withholding, I was wasting his time, I was trying to force him into a serious relationship/marriage. I was too easy (when I finally said, “ah screw it/me”). I wasn’t making enough effort. As soon as I expressed an interest in a guy (not all my exes), I felt he was watching my vagina with a proprietary eye, waiting for me to give him what was rightfully his.

It wasn’t just the men. From my ‘non-waiting’ girlfriends, the advice seemed to be you had to have a strategy for determining whether he was serious or not. Once you decided he was serious, give him the most exotic, exciting booty he had in his life in order to ‘keep him’.

My waiting friends advised me to resist, resist, resist so that God would reward me with a good Christian husband. The problem was the potential Christian husband seemed to come from a pool of arrogant young men, subject to sexist indoctrination of expecting submission from their wives, who were very much aware of their special-breed status and WHO DIDN’T SEEM TO LIKE ME.

I was completely lost and I behaved very strangely, and sometimes badly, indeed during those lost years. All these people that say Orji should make her sexual decisions free from patriarchy, religion or this, that or the other; I wouldn’t have known where to start. From the moment I entered into a relationship, I felt burdened with the job of managing other people’s expectations about my sex life.

I didn’t know what I wanted until I said to myself “HALT! I am what I am. I am a product of my contradictory upbringing (my mum wanted me to be fairly chaste but not so ‘frigid’ (a sexist, entitled, rapey term) that I drove away a prospective husband), personal experiences and my religious beliefs. If I’m going to change, dismantle everything about the above, it’s not so some man can have access to my vagina or so some women can have some kind of collective validation about their own lifestyle. I YAM WHAT I YAM. Feminism felt natural to me. This does not”.

This is why I am bothered enough to write this post about some of the feminist discussion on this issue and on sex generally.  I’ve seen tweets describing the decision as sad. Before Orji, I’d previously seen a tweet saying that women should grow up and accept they are sexual beings (it’s the ‘should’ that bothers me). The brilliant ‘Dear Ijeawela/Feminist Manifesto’ says it is disingenuous to pretend sex is an “only in marriage” act – it is for some people (through choice obviously, most people are physically capable of having sex outside marriage).

There is of course the type of sex. One feminist suggested that a girlfriend who does not digitally/anally manipulate her boyfriend is not a real girlfriend (I bloody well hope she was bloody well joking – as an aside, I’m led to believe by Twitter that if I was young and dating in 2017 I would regularly be expected to ‘eat ass’. I’m ashamed to say that it took me a very long time to realise that this is not just crude slang for oral sex and personally the thought of it has shaken my liberalism a bit).

There’s probably nothing wrong with the  bum stuff and I’m a complete prude.  However, the serious point is that I’m alarmed to see that feminists and entitled men (from the left and the right unfortunately) saying some of the same things. Give it up (and in accordance with some pornographic fantasy of what is supposed to constitute good sex – I recently re-tweeted the article by Jean Hatchet about the pressure teenage girls are under to have anal sex) at THIS point or you are damaged/brainwashed/being bloody difficult.

My fear is, under the guise of a collective war on patriarchy, we are attempting to force on Orji our own ideas about sexuality and to be totally dramatic about it, co-erce her into sexual activity. I wouldn’t describe myself as a choice feminist – I think feminism is a global tool to fight inequality and oppression against women (and I don’t think sex work is ’empowering’ FFS) but individual sexuality needs to be left alone. It can be so complex and scary with so many people trying to lay claim to female sexuality. So much harm has been done in the execution of the idea that a woman’s vagina is collective property, of collective interest. There is so much entitlement in that area that feminism must march towards individual choice, in my view.

Patriarchy and sexism has done more harm to women’s sexuality than feminists can probably conceive of. But for me, there is something inherently terrifying in trying to co-erce a woman into sexual activity for her own good and for the common good.