Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Are Some Sex Acts "More Equal" Than Others?

A previous post of mine titled “How Pornographic is too Pornographic” was added to a feminism-related page on the website, Reddit. One version of it received ten comments. Unfortunately I cannot find that version now, but in this post I will respond to the arguments put forward in the comments, as best as I can.

As always, I invite my readers, including those opposed to my views, to comment on my blog directly so that I can respond more easily. Do try to respond with actual arguments rather than just dismissals.

Liberals often say that they view all consensual sex acts as equal. However, in this post I stated that liberals view aggressive, degrading or otherwise anti-egalitarian sexual activities, such as sadomasochism (or BDSM as it is often labelled), as more subversive, liberating and praiseworthy than so-called “vanilla” sex. These two viewpoints contradict each other, yet they are clearly both held by liberals.

Conflicts within the ideology of liberal feminists are their problem, not mine. This post will instead focus on the claim that anti-egalitarian sexuality is superior to egalitarian sexuality and attempt to demonstrate that liberals, on some level, adhere to this claim (or at least talk and act as though they do), regardless of whatever else they say or believe.

Insulting Language

I am generally not that picky with regard to language use. I despise the way liberals use perceived errors in speech or writing (e.g. stating that Christopher Columbus discovered Latin America or listing multiple categories without listing every combination of those categories, as Patricia Arquette did) as an excuse to vilify their political opponents.

However, in this situation, I am not referring to the spontaneous word choices of an individual, but to terms regularly used by movements. I also will not be referring to instances when someone failed to mention a particular group. Is literally denying the existence of Native Americans or non-white women a common position among activists that we should be worried about? I will let my readers decide. Personally, I am more concerned with what people do say than what they do not say, particularly when their words convey value judgements.

Firstly, there is the term “vanilla”, which is used by practitioners of sadomasochist sex to describe those who do not practice it. Liberals in general are also expected to employ this term (e.g. by acknowledging their “vanilla-privilege”). They may argue that the term means “conventional” sex, but in practice it is used to refer to practices which do not involve any anti-egalitarian (or otherwise pornographic, according to the criteria I lay out in the first section of this post) elements.

According to Google, “vanilla” (when not used to describe food) means “having no special or extra features; ordinary or standard”.  By using the word, liberals imply that people who do not practice sadomasochism have boring, conformist sexualities. It is thus logically inconsistent for liberals to state that there is “nothing wrong with vanilla sex”, unless they believe that dullness and ordinariness are positive or neutral traits. They recognise that egalitarian sex is not immoral (a position which means little, coming from liberals), but they do imply that it is the inferior sexuality.

Not everyone who has “vanilla” sex views it as conventional and uninteresting. Thus it is insulting for liberals to insinuate that it is. In fact, domination and submission is the sexual convention within our highly hierarchical society. Radical feminists (particularly lesbian feminists) often reject such practices out of a desire to defy sexual norms. 

However, I have seen people use the term vanilla to proudly express their preference for egalitarian sex. I am not sure how I feel about such uses of the term, but I do acknowledge that it did not start out as an insult. Originally it described tasty desserts, which are favoured by a somewhat select group of people (chocolate was the favourite when I was a kid, not vanilla). Nonetheless, the condescending intentions of the term “vanilla”, as used by sadomasochists, are clear.

Meanwhile, liberals use terms like “subversive” and “liberating”, along with gushing euphemisms like “spice-up your sex life” to refer to sadomasochistic sex acts. To “subvert” is to “undermine the power and authority” of a social system. Thus those who label sadomasochism as “subversive” are claiming that it will contribute to the destruction of patriarchy (or some other oppressive system). This is grand praise indeed.

While liberals do not explicitly condemn egalitarian sex, complimenting one behaviour and not another is also discriminatory. Until liberals start saying that loving, egalitarian sex liberates women and subverts patriarchy, with the same frequency that they heaps such praise upon sadomasochism, pornography, casual sex, etc., I think it is reasonable to claim that they view the former as inferior, yet acceptable for those weak, boring people who cannot handle “spiced-up” sex. 

Sadomasochist, “Feminist” Pornography

Pornography that features sadomasochism is more likely to win an award for its supposed “feminism”. In case you think I am speculating, based on the contents of previous recipients of the “feminist” pornography award, I am not. I neither know, nor care, which videos got the “award”. This information comes from the website of the award. Its creators say they “like to include films that contain kink, BDSM, and consensual non-consent” when choosing films for the award. It seems they favour pornographic videos (which are not “films”, in my view) that feature (outright) sadomasochism over those that do not.

By pointing out that the sex industry and its liberal allies reward sadomasochistic pornography over “vanilla” pornography, I am not suggesting that non-sadomasochist pornography should be given awards or endorsements, nor am I suggesting that such videos feature genuinely loving, egalitarian sex. If I had my way, there would be no pornography awards to begin with. However, by excluding a video from receiving a “feminist” pornography award (or at least lowering the probability that it will receive it), due to its lack of sadomasochism, they are implying that some sexual activities (“vanilla” ones) are less feminist or less worthy of celebration, thus contradicting their belief that all consensual sex acts are equal.

An even more frightening aspect of the aforementioned site is its claim that the pornography selected for the award is “for everyone”. You read that right, everyone. They do not even have the decency to limit it to adults. They do however admit that “not all films are for all audiences” and that no one film can “include everyone”. I find the latter phrase disturbing. I do not know what the intended meaning is, but the phrasing makes it sound like they want audiences to be directly involved in pornography. Whether they do or not, their position seems to be that while it is okay to dislike some pornography, everyone will like at least one kind.

If someone claimed that romantic comedies or egalitarian, loving relationships were for everybody, liberals would be outraged. They think it is perfectly fine to completely reject non-pornographic depictions of sex (I myself take issue with some of the messages promoted by romance films, but I do not believe that they are inherently a bad thing), but cannot conceive of somebody rejecting pornography in all its forms. This is further evidence of a double standard within liberalism, one which favours pornography and the kind of loveless, aggressive sex that it features over alternatives.

So What If All Sex Acts Are Equal?

While I have provided evidence that liberals perceive sadomasochism as more subversive, rebellious, exciting and “spiced up” than the egalitarian alternatives, the “all (consensual) sex acts are equal” idea is nonetheless part of official liberal dogma. The view is one I am familiar with, but not one which I think can be rationally defended. I addressed it briefly in this post (leave a comment or send a message if you want to know where) and in an often re-blogged section of this one, dealing with the liberal understanding of equality.

Simply put, I do not believe that all consensual sex acts are equal and I do not equate human equality with granting equal approval to all behaviours. I think there are many standards, besides consent and pleasure, by which sex acts can be evaluated. These include egalitarianism, gentleness, respect and genuine, personality-based love (all of which have been discussed countless times on this blog). Then there is my oh-so-oppressive belief that sex acts should not cause death (discussed here) and that those which do are inferior, what a crazy thing to think, right?

As for the Black Jack analogy (put forward in this post), I think it still stands, whether liberals think sadomasochism is better than egalitarian sex or not. If instead of being told to aim for a score of twenty-one, Black Jack players were instead allowed to pick their own target score and players chose twenty-one as their score (because they personally liked it) many of those players would likely end up going over twenty-one. If you aim to make your sex acts more rape-like (i.e. more violent, dominating and degrading) without actually committing rape, you might just end up crossing the line. You are far less likely to cross the line if you stay far away from it by aiming for gentleness, equality, respect and love instead.

One premise that is essential to my Black Jack analogy is the claim that “sadomasochism is rape-like”. This statement is difficult to refute (though I nonetheless challenge my readers to try), given the existence of consensual non-consent (mentioned in the “feminist” pornography award quote above), which sounds a lot like “consensual rape” to me (Orwell must be rolling over in his grave). From what I understand, consensual non-consent involves a submissive agreeing to be forced into a sex act at some future point (and not being allowed to withdraw from it). The practice is a subject for another post. All I will say for now is that those who reward pornographers who practice and promote such acts (instead of distancing themselves from them) have little regard for logic and even less regard for human rights.

Another possible weakness in the analogy is that Black Jacks involves an element of chance, while committing rape is a decision (made mostly by males). With enough willpower, a man can always decide not to commit rape, but increasing the incentive to commit rape and decreasing the internal incentive against it, will make the decision harder. Sadomasochist simulations of rape result in both of these things. They convince the pretend rapists (that is, after all, what the dominants in such situations are) that committing rape would be a pleasurable experience for both them and their victim (masochistic pretend victims often do end up enjoying it). Few men make it their life ambition to become rapists. It is something they move towards over time. While they always have the option of refusing to rape, they would be wise not to give themselves sexual incentives in favour of it. Why would any decent person want to encourage oneself to commit rape? 


So how do liberal feminists explain the fact that they constantly make the “all sex acts are equal” claim, while also saying and doing things (such as giving out awards) which suggest that violent, degrading (or as they put it “subversive”) sex is the best kind?  I do not like to accuse people of lying, unless I have strong evidence that they are, but I do not understand how liberals can simultaneously adhere to these two views, nor am I, as an opponent of liberal feminism, required to understand this contradiction. Perhaps these claims are preached by different sections of the movement.

It is also possible that the “all sex acts are equal” position is their conscious view, which they defend with (attempts at) rational arguments, while the view that sadomasochism is superior is more subconscious. They have even made non-sadomasochists feel that their image as a "modern" (and presumably "feminist") woman may be compromised by their “failure” to participate in such practices (as evidenced by this entertaining article). The fact that the author felt the need to reclaim "vanilla sex" suggests that the dominant belief in our culture is that all “empowered”, “sexually liberated” women should be able to enjoy sadomasochism. It seems that while liberals have, on an intellectual level, accepted the view that all sex acts are equal, they cannot help but make value judgements, as all humans do. The problem is that they favour dangerous and hierarchical forms of sex, over those which are more consistant with egalitarian ideals.
Yes, the title is a reference to the famous Animal Farm quote. I would not dare suggest that I came up with something so brilliant on my own.