Choice Joyce: Equating Sex with Women's Oppression?

Choice Joyce

Essays from a pro-choice feminist liberal skeptic infidel activist (and animal lover)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Equating Sex with Women's Oppression?

"What is liberation? Feminism past,present and future" by Gail Golden

Excerpt: "Important conversations are currently taking place about a confusing phenomenon regarding a specific group of contemporary women. These conversations relate to some young women today who embrace pornography, prostitution and the sexual objectification of women. Rejecting the feminist struggles of an earlier generation, these young women seek to advance this so called ’post feminist’ agenda. This paper seeks to enter the conversation in an effort to understand and respond to this supposed manifestation of a new kind of women’s liberation. We begin by addressing the question of whether we are actually in a post feminist age."

I found this article quite weak, frankly. It's based on biases about sex and sexuality. For example, it uses terms like "sexual objectification of women", "damaging impact of pornography" "male lust that degrades women and treats them with contempt" without explaining or justifying those terms - which are really just personal feelings not based in evidence. The article offensively portrays women who "join the raunch culture" as selfishly betraying feminism. The problems with the article are captured in this sentence from it: "In psychological terms, however, this post feminist tendency to objectify one's own body has aspects of the phenomenon known as identification with the aggressor."

In my opinion, this talk of "objectifying one's body" simply masks disapproval or distaste for sex, especially casual sex. Many people with healthy, strong sexualities accept that there is a time and place to be a "sexual object" - it's exciting and fun for both men and women. It's a common male fantasy to be a "sex object" to women, after all, and let's face it, women love it too, or they wouldn't enjoy wearing makeup and sexy clothes. This is all normal, and it's a normal part of sex, especially casual sex.

Linking "sexual objectification" with "identification with the aggressor" simply assumes that sex is inherently violent and that men are rapists by nature. That insults men and male sexuality, but it also narrowly defines women's sexuality, because it amounts to a dismissal of the validity of sexual pleasure for women without the presence of "love, respect, tenderness, and dignity."

The author is forced to admit that certain "privileged" women enjoy sex work and are not exploited by it, but this concession undermines her assumptions and conclusions. If even some women - and it's not a tiny minority by any means - can confidently handle being a sex worker, then that means sex work cannot be inherently exploitive. The very existence of such women points the way towards addressing the abuse and coercion that other women often experience within prostitution. In my view, this can be done by decriminalizing sex work, raising the status of women, and abolishing the sexual double standard that says women shouldn't have or enjoy casual sex.


  • At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I commend you for your level-headed views on sexuality and women. It's good to see that coming from someone as concerned with women's rights as you are.

    As you imply, these issues are controversial enough without emotionally-based charges being stated as fact.



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