Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Cross-posted from Public Address.
Back when I first started reading feminist bloggage, there was a question I used to see pretty often: the Feminist Utopia Question. Would there be pornography in your feminist utopia? Prostitution?
As a dirty filthy incrementalist, it always kind of annoyed me. What use was it, without considering the steps along the way? Didn’t the very question prioritise ideology over the effects on real people? Wasn’t it just, basically, a big pile of intellectual wank?
Now, though, having been in the game for a while, I’m tempted to give intellectual wankery a try. What would an ideal sex-positive society look like? What would be different, that perhaps is not so obvious? What would have changed along the way?
Before we begin, a word about what sex positivity is, and ridiculously more to the point, what it isn’t. This is my personal interpretation: everyone’s will be slightly different. See here, here, and of course the Chocolate Manifesto.
Sex positivity is not the belief that all people everywhere should have as much dirty dirty sex as possible. The essence of sex positivity is embracing the diversity of human sexuality and gender identity. It’s about actively seeking to remove both shame and privilege from particular kinds of sexual activity – or a lack of sexual activity. It’s about everyone being able to make the sexual choices that are right for them, free of stigma: having the knowledge and the social freedom to do so. It’s about being positive about all sexual choices and the biological bases we make those choices from. And, of course, celebrating the joy of dirty dirty sex.
For a start, in a Sex-Positive Utopia, the Period Planner app on my phone wouldn’t say “love connection”. It would say “sex”. With no stigma around sex, there’d be no need for euphemism. We wouldn’t have to pretend sex was love, or sleep. That wouldn’t mean the loss of magnificent figurative language around sex: rather the opposite. We’d have so many more sexual ideas to explore and discuss.
With the loss of its taboo, sex would actually become less important on a social level. You’d no more use sex to sell a car than you would golf. There’d be no point in policing people’s clothing choices, because no-one would care if you were trying to get laid or not. Worried about losing the specialness? Individuals would still be able to create circumstances that made their sexual experiences sacred, or sordid.
We’d talk openly about sex a lot more, but with less significance. Sexual mores in other times and places would be a simple, matter-of-fact part of History and Social Studies, just like customs of dress and diet. If you were studying Roman History, you’d actually know about this. (Link mildly NSFW – an acronym I wouldn’t need in this future.) Sex education would be about sex, not puberty, and focus on the reason most people have most of their sex: pleasure.
Speaking of school, you know what you wouldn’t find there? Gender-based toilets. Having done away with the assumption that absolutely everyone is either male or female and everyone is straight, there is no fucking point in having Girls’ Toilets and Boys’ Toilets. Ditto changing rooms. And good riddance too, to our earliest introduction to the idea that males and females are mutually-incomprehensible aliens.
Depending on the survey, somewhere between 5 and 15% of people report having experienced same-sex attraction now. Removing the stigma from non-heterosexual sex is hardly going to push that number down. Segregation by gender simply makes no sense at all.
We are never going to stop passing judgement on each other’s relationships. But after the Sexy Revolution, the gender and number of participants and the nature of their sexual practices will be irrelevant. We’ll have to stick to judging relationships by the content of their members’ character.
And yes, there would still be prostitution. Good sex is awesome, and not everyone can get as much as they would like, for many reasons. Some people are good at sex and want to make a living from it. In Sex-Pos Wonderland, we could treat those people with the respect they deserve.
There would still be sexually-explicit imagery. There always has been and there always should be. I just don’t know if you still call it “pornography” when it’s not stigmatised.
We would also have a completely different idea of ‘masculinity’. Our concept of what it means to be male would bear some resemblance to the men we actually know. We’d finally be free of the Masculinity Box. That doesn’t mean automatically rejecting traditionally masculine values. It means including the behaviour and values of all men, until the concept basically becomes meaningless. Having a cock would no longer require or excuse being a cock.
As a result of all of this, of living in a world free of sexual shame and repression, perhaps the two most significant benefits. One: teenage girls would be allowed to direct their sexual energy into sex, rather than One Direction concerts. There goes the screaming and fainting and incoherent babbling. Two: more people would be having more and better sex. Possibly with screaming and fainting and incoherent babbling.