By the time we got to the second wave feminism had discovered political lesbianism. I spoke to a second waver who felt shunned from her feminist group because she had boyfriends. Boyfriends and red lipstick. Therefore her voice had very little value in many feminist circles.
Now we have sex positive feminism. There isn't, as yet, an official sex negative movement but it is simply because they haven't mobilised as a core movement. Because to me sex positive feminism is all about keeping women safe, people educated and sexual health services accessible I like it. However some see it as mere anti-prudery and a request for permission to have politics at the pole.
But while it started in response to the anti-pornography movement, sex positive feminism is so much more than a women's glossy article in which a columnist tries a pole dancing class and finds it 'empowering'. Mainly because, eurgh, that is so 2004 I could cry but also because, and all feminists should know this, sex is more than titillation. Sex positive feminism recognises the subject isn't black and white.
Lately opposition to sex positive sexism seems to have stepped up a little, Glosswitch wrote in the New Statesman on her interpretation of sex positivity: "And so we get to 'sex-positive feminism' - that feminism which, by its very existence, suggests that all others types are for miserable, dried-up prudes who just needed a good fuck (ideally PIV)."
we forget how patriarchy and feminism regularly dismisses voices who are far more knowledgeable on the subject than we are.
Glosswitch's frustration with sex positive feminists is based on her belief that we prop up the patriarchy: "There's a bitter irony to the fact that 'but I'm a feminist' has become one of those phrases by which male dominance can be positively reinforced. 'But I'm a feminist and I don't mind objectification / unpaid work / sexual harassment / being called a cunt!' The implication is that we've come full circle. Feminism has worked through all of its issues and realised that the grown-ups were right all along. All that stuff we used to call oppression? Weâre totes cool with it now." We're cool girls, right?
Really Glosswitch is right to fear this, but I disagree that this full circle feminism stems from sex positivity. Let me be really frank, I don't agree with NMP3 BUT if I woke up tomorrow and porn, Page 3 and sex work didn't exist I can't say I'd shed a tear. If I woke up and we could discuss these subjects without falling back on insults and people shutting conversations down because they disagree and refuse to see the other side I'd perhaps weep with joy.
Glosswitch and others clearly feel they are being regularly dismissed when they broach certain subjects: "It ought to be possible to criticise the gender politics of sex work without being diagnosed with 'whorephobia'. It ought to be possible to question the objectification behind Page 3 without being seen as a slut-shamer. It ought to be possible to object to cat-calls without it being implied that you are classist, naive and sexually repressed. It ought to be possible to hold differing views on the legal status of sex work without being considered worse than abusive clients and rapists."
Perhaps we forget how patriarchy and feminism regularly dismisses voices who are far more knowledgeable on the subject than we are.
The frustrating thing is we are both fighting for the same thing, ultimately we want to get rid of objectification, abuse and sexual violence. "...the truth is, those who question objectification aren't afraid of fucking. They are not the swooning, pearl-clutching prudes dreamed up by misogynists and sex positive feminists alike. They're just taking sex positivity one step further, by recognising that no one's choices are made in a vacuum but that everyone needs to be respected as an autonomous sexual being."
I'd be punching my fist in the air and yelling "Yes!" aloud at this were it not in a bid to douse the momentum of sex positivity. Both sides (and they are sides) should question why something intended to boost feminism and smash patriarchy has been ill received. We can't do anything if both sides feel silenced. If we both want similar things perhaps this is a question of updating our language and getting on with it rather than chastising each other and halting progress.