Please note: The comment policy for this post is somewhat different than usual. It’s at the end of this post.
So. Please bear that in mind.
I am sick to death of hearing that feminists are sex-hating prudes because we don’t want imagery of women in videogames to be overwhelmingly sexual. I’m sick of hearing that we’re sex-hating prudes because we want conferences to have rules and guidelines about sexual conduct at conferences, so people are not harassed and groped and assaulted against their will. I’m sick of hearing that we’re sex-hating prudes because we think there are times and places where explicit sexual imagery is not appropriate — such as, oh, say, just for example, the public media announcement of a major landmark in scientific discovery.
Repeat for other issues, as appropriate.
The idea that sex-positivity and sexual liberation means everybody expressing every sexual thought and acting on every sexual desire, the minute it pops into our heads — this is bullshit. Sex-positivity and sexual liberation means… well, it means somewhat different things to different people. But one of the central things it means is a celebration of CONSENSUAL sexuality, an acceptance of a variety of CONSENSUAL sexual orientations and activities, a philosophy that sees CONSENSUAL sex as, overall, a positive and valuable experience.
Consent, consent, consent.
Why is this so hard to understand?
The particular incident that sparked this piece was the “sexy pinup girl” shirt that Rosetta Project scientist Matt Taylor wore while talking to reporters about the Philae comet landing. As a feminist — and as a pornographer — I think this was sexist, demeaning, and wildly inappropriate. There are appropriate places and times to wear clothing with sexual imagery on it — sex parties, erotica readings, erotic art openings, I can probably think of a few others. But the very public announcement of a major event in the history of scientific discovery — landing a robot on a comet! — is not one of those places or times.
Women in our culture, in case you haven’t noticed, are routinely reduced to purely sexual beings. We are routinely treated as if our brains, our talent, our imagination, our inspiration, are useless and trivial unless they’re applied to sex and sexual attractiveness. And the sexist treatment of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is legendary, and very thoroughly-documented.
Repeat for other issues, as appropriate. Hitting on women at conferences who’ve made it clear that they don’t want to be hit on does not say, “Sex is awesome!” Making videogames where all or most of the female characters are helpless victims or scantily-clad sexual prizes does not say, “Sex is awesome!” Getting women drunk or high so you can have sex with them does not say, “Sex is awesome!” Treating the idea of enthusiastic affirmative sexual consent as ridiculous does not say, “Sex is awesome!” The exact opposite is true. All of this says, “Sex is a minefield. Sex is a battleground.”
And this does not freaking well make me a sex-hating prude. It doesn’t make any feminist a sex-hating prude. Most feminists I know love sex, and think it’s important, and are big advocates for sex-positivity and sexual liberation. Anyone who thinks that feminists hate sex hasn’t paid much attention to feminism.
I love sexual imagery. I love it in fiction, video, photography, comics, pretty much any media you can come up with. I’d probably like erotic macaroni art, if it exists. (Cue 10,000 people sending me links to erotic macaroni art.) I love sexual imagery of women, of men, of people who don’t identify on a gender binary. Yes, a lot of it sucks and is mediocre at best, and a lot of it is very sexist — a lot of every form of pop culture is mediocre and sexist, and porn is no different — but when it’s good, it can be magnificent and awesome and just hugely fun.
And I am not a sexual prude because I bloody well want sexual imagery to be enjoyed consensually, in times and places that are appropriate, in times and places that don’t tell women, “Your intelligence, your insight, your hard work, your accomplishments — none of that will ever matter as much as your tits and ass.”
UPDATE: Matt Taylor has apologized for the shirt. This piece still stands, though, as (a) it’s about lots of things other than Matt Taylor’s shirt, and (b) there are still hordes of people who think the shirt was completely appropriate, as evidenced by the comments on the news story.
Comment policy for this post: I really, really do not want the comments on this post to turn into a debate about pornography. I will consider that a derail, and will deal with it accordingly. Thanks.