Tuesday, January 20, 2015

End the war on women. Liberate men's sexuality

In a messy article - weirdo sex aka kink makes for good click bait the New Statesman editor must have thought - Margaret Arvid fails to convince that liberating male sexuality will advance feminism. Apart from the rambling logic and generalizations what I dislike most about the article is how the author fails to see privilege exists in many forms. One of them apparently being a women's privilege to define how men see the world.

Note: This post started as a comment and is best read after the article it discusses 

The one good thing you can give 50 Shades credit for is the torrent of articles in mainstream publications about BDSM it unleashed. Unfortunately, whatever is written often does not make much sense. Margaret Arvid, writer and professional dominatrix argues that "If we liberate men’s sexuality, the war against women can end." Replace man by woman in her description of the traditional male - and what a burden being a man is - and the outcome would hardly change.

"When I tell a man to strip his clothes off, I am also taking the weight of social expectations from him; and when our time together is finished, he puts his clothes on, piece by piece, and takes that weight onto his shoulders again."

Complete nonsense, if you browse Fetlife (Facebook for kinky people) you find countless "helpful" dominant women providing long lists of do's and don’ts for men looking for a dominant girlfriend. Hint: it often includes such things as learning to do pedicures, giving massages, being an excellent cook, accepting that the relationship is not exclusive and possessing a mature personality, preferably financial maturity. No pressure there. If that sounds a bit unlikely, Christian Grey of 50 Shades is loaded. How rich? On the Forbes Fictional 15 - the richest people that never lived - Mr. Grey is number eight with an estimated imaginary net worth of 2.2bn dollar. You cannot blame Christian for being super wealthy and kinky; after all he is a product of the powers of invention of one person: a woman. She made the rules and I am still wondering why she choose a man as the dominant character rather than a woman.

With submissive men outnumbering dominant woman 10:1 or perhaps 20:1 men are eager for advice and in their desperation replace one set of rules with another one.

Angry men

Men are angry because they live a life of unfulfilled promises according to the 2013 book Angry White Men. Politicians become the puppet masters of those angry young men, turning them into monsters, hating everything from women to strangers. Some of them become so extreme they go on a killing spree. I was already wondering where the article was going, but this is where it derails. As arguments go these are vile debating tactics. not unworthy of what governments do when they call upon the four horse men of the infocalypse (drugs, terrorism, pedophilia and organized crime) to push through controversial and extreme measures.

Playing on people's fears with an extreme case of misogyny will win few people over. Misogynist on a killing spree assumes a causal relationship between the two, but you never know if his hate against women was just the excuse he needed to unleash his anger or that he indeed was specifically targeting women. Under different circumstances maybe he would have directed his deadly anger against other minority's or perhaps environmental activists.

Now that is has been proven that men are evil - maybe not all - but definitely white males, and most certainly those who are radicalised, the author moves on to advanced feminism. I had to read it several times to understand what Arvid advocates, the argument bounces back and forth like a rubber ball. Improper references to social brown-shirts, comparisons with Ferguson and (separately) fascism add to the confusion. Next she writes how "As feminists, we rightfully put the interests of women first." I understand feminists put the interests of women first, but rightfully? Rather than explaining why, a short treatise on self-respect and sex work as seen through the eyes of extreme feminists versus intersectional feminists follows.

After having vilified men the author makes a complete U-turn when she quotes women's rights activist Betty Friedan who said men are not the enemy but fellow victims. Unfortunately the author continues to fire random conclusions when she tries to wrap up her argument. Her conclusion that "it is feminism that offers men the chance at a sexually fulfilling life." baffles me just like her comment on "...truly satisfying intimate relationships."

Advanced feminism made her return to politics and it shows: "And on a deeper level, a broader understanding of the real causes for male anxiety can offer hope to men who feel dispossessed, and the solace of knowing that it is not their fault." Every politician's pipe dream: words that can fill an empty stomach. Somehow I feel there is more solace in having a job than somebody telling you they feel your pain.

Two more quotes I want to include here but need no comment:

"men who, like my clients, want to redefine what it means to be a man."
"for men, a true feminism offers liberation and sexual fulfilment, through the very process of coming to a fuller understanding of their privileges, and burdens, under patriarchy."

Baffling conclusion

From Margaret Arvid’s writing I assume this is something very close to her heart and in an effort to express herself most forcefully she throws in all kinds of irrelevant bells and whistles and combines unrelated arguments, trying to write the perfect argument. However the author comes across as too emotionally involved to make a convincing case. It happens to everyone, when you are passionate about something it can be hard to focus. That is why I read the last paragraph several times:

"because the liberation of male sexuality will undermine one of patriarchy's principal foundations. "

So feminism must support male sexual liberation, not because it is a worthy cause to fight for, but it advances the feminist cause? Think about that double standard for a moment. What if a man supports feminism but only because it will liberate women sexually - something he clearly thinks will benefit him?

First Arvid accuses politician of exploiting the misery of angry young males then she argues feminism offers a way to truly satisfying intimate relationships only for the male reader to find out that his feelings are manipulated for the feminist cause just when has learned that trust, openness and honesty are cornerstones of any successful relationship.

You do not have to take on the weight of the world but an acknowledgement that there are many forms of privilege would have made her case stronger. Assume a simplified world where there are three forms of privilege: sex: male or female; race: white or non-white and wealth defined by whether you live in a rich or a poor country. I am definitely privileged, I already knew that, but Mrs. Arvid scores two out of three which is not bad either. Does that mean things don't need fixing? Of course not. We men are fathers, sons, siblings, husbands and boy friends and we want the women we care about and all other women to lead the life they choose, without fearing sexual predators or being at a disadvantage for being a woman, but that does not mean we men are exclusively to blame for everything and even less BDSM is to blame for it.The author asks men to be conscious of their privilege, ignoring privilege comes in many forms. That is a privileged view of the world.

Last year Dutch newspapers reported on how male primary school teachers left the profession in droves - about one in six is male - because they felt alone among a majority of women.  How will that affect children's world view?

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