Oh look, it's another discussion of how to examine one's sexual desires. To which one party has responded with raising the question of what the problem is with examining and analysing this stuff, anyway.
So here's the thing:
No amount of "examination" will make any form of sexuality ideologically correct.
Sexuality does not have an ideology.
As people said in various places in this blowup, a penis in a vagina is a penis in a vagina; it's sex, it's normal/natural/biologically common/whatever, it doesn't have an ideology. The meaning is something that people create, attach, ascribe.
I've been chewing for a while about the occasional "just because a woman chooses that does not mean it's a feminist choice" thing that crops up, and have come to the conclusion that the concept of 'a feminist choice' is meaningless. And, in fact, that the notion that there are 'feminist choices' and 'non-feminist choices' is one of the major factors that drove me the fuck out of feminism.
It is possible to tune one's level of analysis to make every possible choice wrong, when "examining one's choices". It's easy. It is certainly, given my socialisation and upbringing, the level of analysis that I will automatically gravitate towards: it is so easy to slide to whatever level of analysis will frame me as defective.
I mean, I've written a couple of times before about the white knight who was sure that I needed to be rescued from the horrible fate of having the love and support of some wonderful men. There's a level of analysis there, that looks at the socially known patterns of multiple relationships and finds a lot of abusiveness there, that knows about problems with women with low self-esteem being likely to get into bad situations, and so on; there's not enough "examination" to notice the paternalism or listen to the actual perspective of the other people involved, but that's par for the course. And saying, "Examine more!" won't make a difference; it's all fully examined, even if the analysis is obviously defective when viewed by people outside the system.
But what's the system?
Take this one, for something that isn't obviously some man telling a woman "UR DOIN IT RONG":
I'm a housewife.
This is one of those things that gets a lot of handwringing "examine that!" responses. Lack of financial independence, check. Short resume in the event that Horrible Things Happen and I need to be supporting myself, check. In this situation in part because of being a dropout and thus in the ranks of the undereducated-for-modern-employment, check. Buying into patriarchal norms of appropriate womanhood, che--
Well then. I've written before about how the norms of "appropriate womanhood" where I grew up had a lot more to do with getting into the boardroom, the tenured faculty, and the White House than housewifery. And how attempting to conform to that standard despite my poor suitability for those roles was, shall we say, rough on me. So there's a little more examining to throw into the pot. And when I examine that far, I wonder if maybe Doing What The Pat Says Not To Do Reflexively is maybe another Controlled By The Pat thing, like a teenaged rebel who hasn't thought this through.
And then the little self-analysis mode goes into maybe being lazy and too entitled to go work outside the house, which I can stew in for months at a time if I'm not careful. Never mind that my time supporting myself left me feeling used and abused and actively unclean at times, not to mention the number it did on my mental health. And I examine a little more and find the bit where the work done at home is not socially marked as actual work (unless one does it in someone else's home, in which it's work only fit for poor women), and for that matter the creative work that I do is not socially respected as real work (see also, "But what's your real job?" directed, at some point, at just about every writer in the universe). And examining down another layer, well, that's all just an excuse, isn't it?
And if I keep examining, I wind up at "That's all just an excuse to justify doing what you want. Doing what you want is being a selfish bitch by definition, you selfish bitch." No matter what I examine, I wind up there. Protestant work ethic, a thread in there, and examining that one which runs so deep goes straight back at "selfish bitch", even when I am ideologically committed to an abundant universe.
There are no "win" choices. I choose this place to give myself time to pursue my callings -- my religious work, my creative work, eventually my mothering work -- and support my family in non-financial ways, not only because I have the option to choose it but because I am ill-suited to many other choices. Someone else may choose the same thing because of ideology of some sort, which I may or may not personally approve of or consider adequately enlightened or whatever.
But the choice has no opinion on the matter. It's not representative of an ideology; it is, at most, an emerging result of the interaction with ideology and reality. And the same ideology will lead to different choices when running into different bits of reality, and different ideologies will produce indistinguishable choices in various circumstances.
So back to sex.
Where the things that produce arousal come from is one of those deep mysteries. There's evidence that sometimes, they come from traumas, imprinting, juxtapositions that made an impression of the mind, sometimes they have biochemical origin points in part, and that sometimes they just come from somewhere and fucked if we know. Thinking about where they came from can be an interesting thought exercise, but I've found that the only intellectually honest answer I can present for some of them is agnoticism: I don't know, and I don't believe it's knowable.
"Why don't I just lie here anyway? Why don't I climb out? Why don't I just go zootlewurdle. Does it matter? Even if it does matter, does it matter that it matters?
Zootlewurdle, zootlewurdle, zootlewurdle...."
-- Marvin the Paranoid Android, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio broadcast, episode eleven, by Douglas N. Adams
Examining sexuality in the light of ideology seems to me to consistently come up with pernicious results. Mostly because it's generally framed not as "What sex do I want to have?" but "What sex should I want to have?"
When asking the question "What sex do I want to have?" all this stuff reasonably goes into the pot -- what is actually desired, what is acceptable to one's sensibilities to act upon, and so on. And this is quiet, personal stuff that has to do with one's own consent and desire to consent, one's recognition of the differences between fantasy and reality, and is only the business of anyone else if they're expected to participate. At which point they get to decide if that particular thing is sex they want to have for whatever reason they choose to do -- which may or may not include ideology at all, and they don't have to say why.
"What sex should I want?" goes into all kinds of ugly directions pretty much immediately -- slut-shaming kicks in on any female desire for sex at all, internalised homophobia chews up anyone with queer attractions and spits them out, anyone remotely pervy winds up wrestling with the possibility that they're some kind of monster, huge swaths of fantasy sexuality get shrinkwrapped and sanitised for your protection in the name of Practice Safer Wanking, and shame and guilt over sexuality are the rule, not the exception. It engages the prurient parts of ideologies, the invasive attention that expects someone's political to be everyone's personal, the creepy social stalker that wants to grope inside people's underwear before letting them get married.
Swapping from the default sex-negative culture's ideological perspective on acceptable sex to a different ideological perspective on acceptable sex doesn't fix the problem. It doesn't even change the problem. It just comes up with a new way of examining sexuality in order to determine who's having the wrong sex. To which the answer is, unsurprisingly: usually women, usually the people who aren't having mainstream sex for reasons of number, gender, or activity, usually the people whose sexuality is unacceptable to the dominant paradigm already. And the fact that these new ideologies pretty much paint the same people as unacceptable as the things they're supposedly critiquing ... goes unexamined.
But the examination, the taking apart of desire in the name of ideology, it mostly just makes people ashamed. It doesn't go anywhere rewarding; it ponders the unknowable until people get disgusted with themselves or their desires, or blow it off as useless, and if they blow it off as useless they get told that they're shallow, not thinking things through, saying "Whatever gets me off is okay."
I got asked the other day whether 'my feminist beliefs' had problems with me being submissive.
I just ... was too tired to get into how angry I get at that question.
(Added: A link to another instance of a post I linked up there somewhere, because there's conversation happening there.)