Sex-Neg = Mab-Neg

Posted: December 31, 2009 in Troll Wars

Sexing it Up at Bondage-a_Go-Go

Dec 29 2009
This was my Bondage-a-Go-Go outfit. In the end It was too sexy for the club. A lot of women liked it, but a few of the straight Males got aggressive. I had crossed a scary line where I loose my “human” status. Twice boys told their girlfriends to stop interacting with me. A blatant, social performance of othering which is more intense than the simple stinkeye. I was glad that I was not alone with any of those hostile Males. That is the risk of sexing it up as a Mab Femme.
I have recorded earlier Bondage-a-Go-Go experiences in my Queerpedia.
I think I want a new word for RadFem (Radical Feminist ) individuals whose words and actions I am critiquing. I have been using the “Lesbian Separatist” category, but it is not the social practice of separation that I find reactionary, it is the social act of hating and scapegoating the “Other” in order to achieve separation. If the Fab separatists go off and create a space and hang a “No Mabs Allowed” (Mab = Male At Birth) sign on the door, I do not really care. My problem is with the hate and prejudice that Dworkin, Daly and Raymond promoted and that a lot of Fab-separatists still enact. Mab-Negative Feminism might be a more appropriate term than Lesbian Separatist. Mab-Neg Separatists think that Fab-Love means Mab-Hate. This Mab/Fab class war spills out onto the streets, parks, Mab-inclusive queer spaces and University Classrooms of Progressive America. It leaves its mark in Mab-Neg policing of interaction between bisexual lesbians and Mabs. I have encountered some intensely hateful Mab-Neg Feminists. Funny enough, these incidents were not in Women’s Space, they were in neutral space. The pattern was that I would make friends with a queer girl. An angry Masculine Identified Women would see me talking with her girlfriend/ex/friend and would vent her insecurity, jealousy and threatened masculinity in terms with the language of Mab-Hate. So I reject the narratives of valiant feminists under siege by the cruising Mab predators. This Anti-Mab bigotry was motivated by the basest and pettiest of human emotions. The race card gets played to enact a mob as a power gambit. In Mab-Neg spaces the Mab card gets played in order to perform relative power and exercise relative privilege. The binaries are performed though these internal police actions.
I am a huge critic of Seranoan Feminist identity politics. In a sense Julia Serano went back to the original RadFem texts, embraced the rage and resentment she found there but redirected the Mab-hate onto Cissexuals, Postmodernists, Social Constructionists and Fab Feminists who refused her Essentialist definitions of sex and gender. The Dworkinian hate and anger is the same on both sides. Both sides fuel anger with images of Rape and Murder by their “Other”. Much as American Crypto-Racists tell narratives of Black rapists, and the Cultural Right Wing portray Gay Men and crossdressers as molesters and rapists. Mab-Negative Feminism is just another example of the self-organization of oppression.
Seranoan Feminism retains the Mab-Neg attitudes of the RadFems but define themselves as exterior to Mab. The masculine enemy is retained but an attempt is made to shift the markers away from their transsexual bodies. In some ways this category shift is ingenious because Seranoan Feminism retains the Dworkinian security blanket of an anti-Mab class war but the enemy becomes a Masculinity which can accrue to both Mab and Fab bodies, and most especially to the RadFem Transmisogynists. The weakness of this social engineering of Identity Categories is that it relies on a radical disidentification from Mab-ness. Transfeminists are the recipients of an intense Mab-negativity but they can not contest this hate on ethical grounds. Mab-Negativity is fine as long as they are not marked as Mab.
I contend that Mab-Negativity is a pathologization of the Mab-body which is marked as intrinsically aggressive, perverted and wrong. The Dworkinian trope of Mab-as-rapist, the intrinsic depravity of the Mab body has lead Mab-Neg feminism to participate in intensely reactionary, social purification movements against pornography, alcohol and sex-workers.
Polly said (and this is probably the only non rad fem place on the internet I can say this without also being accused of killing someone).
Creating a space where I can discuss a Mab Femme category, makes this one of the few places on the Internet where I can critique Mab-Negative Feminism, because I can argue for the intrinsic wholeness of a Mab disassociated from the false consciousness of Social Masculinity. I think that a Sex-positive, and Body-positive feminism must eventually also transcend the form of Body-negativity which I call Mab-negativity. There is no original sin. Mab’s are not intrinsically evil. It is time to emancipate every body through Body-Positive Bio-Politics.
Mab = Male At Birth
Fab = Female At Birth
Cissexuals = non transsexuals
Seranoan Feminism = A transfeminist activism inspired by Julia Serano’s The Whipping Girl

  1. polly says:

    I don’t think hyperbole helps anyone. But I do wonder if you’ve actually read Raymond, Jasper. I can’t cope with Daly, I find her impenetrable (pardon the pun). But I think Raymond’s stance (though she strays into essentialism) isn’t actually too far from your own WRT to surgical intervention. Dworkin’s stance is quite clear, that males visit sexual violence upon females. I have to say that crime statistics support her.

    The real point here though is that FAB only spaces are a small part of the whole world. So my question is why are they such a threat? From your description of your experience above it was the straight males who reacted aggressively to you, not females of any stripe. So why do FAB only spaces constitute such a threat? Genuine question……

    Yes it is making a broad generalization based on a person’s biological sex. But if we are not to make such a generalization on some grounds then women only spaces (of any type) are not justifiable.

    What I find genuinely paradoxical is the argument that women only spaces should exist but that the means of deciding who is a ‘woman’ should be self identification since practically speaking this bars no one from entering.

  2. polly says:

    And I also have to say San Francisco – what is up with the city????? What is up with the USA???? Really Jasper, no one would look twice at you dressed like that over here….

  3. polly says:

    It leaves its mark in Mab-Neg policing of interaction between bisexual lesbians and Mabs. I have encountered some intensely hateful Mab-Neg Feminists. Funny enough, these incidents were not in Women’s Space, they were in neutral space. The pattern was that I would make friends with a queer girl. An angry Masculine Identified Women would see me talking with her girlfriend/ex/friend and would vent her insecurity, jealousy and threatened masculinity in terms with the language of Mab-Hate.

    Yet again I’ve never seen anything like this happening. What I have seen happening is a genderqueer male in an open relationship with a FAB woman spending an entire evening at a club cross examining one of my (female) friends who has also slept with her as to what had happened. Simple jealousy and feeling threatened maybe? Which can happen to anyone, no matter how they identify?

    It is true that a lot of lesbians wouldn’t want to have relationships with bisexual women for various reasons. But I just don’t buy the idea that there are hordes of butch lesbians out there scared that their bisexual girlfriends might turn – if that was the case they’d probably avoid relationships with bi women in the first place. And that isn’t the reason that a lot of women hate men either, because the women who hate men the most, in my experience, are usually heterosexual.

  4. Jasper Gregory says:

    @polly | because the women who hate men the most, in my experience, are usually heterosexual. That is interesting. In my experience straight Man-Haters have not Been Mab-Haters. They have been sweet to me when I tell them I identify as Femme. I still find the hate unproductive, but it was not totalizing. They were willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. In my experience the straight girl Man-Haters never hated on Gay Men either. That is unfortunately rather common in SF. From what I hear from queer Fabs the San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Seattle dyke scenes are unusually Mab-Negative. I have heard much more positive things about inclusiveness in Austin, Chicago and New York. I am sure that European queer politics have their own dynamics, which also differ from city to city.

  5. Jasper Gregory says:

    And I also have to say San Francisco – what is up with the city????? What is up with the USA???? Really Jasper, no one would look twice at you dressed like that over here….
    I would like to come over and wear it to really gauge the reaction. It is always hard to judge the oppression of a group you do not belong to.
    But… I am prepared to accept that the supression of Mab Femininity is more overt and violent here. Hegemonic American masculinity is physically aggressive in a way I never experienced in a European country, although I find Hegemonic Mexican masculinity to share the violence of its Northern cousin.
    Ironically, the guys who make the straight dance spaces feel unsafe are usually the staff of the danceclubs, especially the guys at the door, sometimes the floor managers perform Neanderthal Masculinity as well.

  6. SheilaG says:

    “Perform Neanderthal Masculinity as well” LOL

    I too find that the most man-hating women I ever encounter are straight women. Talk to a divorced straight woman who had a custody battle, or who’s man renegged on child support, or the straight woman who was raped by her male therapist, and is taking years to recover… those women really do hate men.

    Crime statistics are a really good way to gauge what men do to women in the world, and until men as a group really address these issues, I think the hatred of Dworkin et. al. is simply the hatred of the message bringer, rather than focusing on the real issue, which is the massive rape of women, the violent pornography directed at women, which even mainstream straight male journalists are now writing about in horror… Chris Hedges’ “The Empire of Illusion” being one such book.

    Remember, Jasper, you felt the greatest threat from other men at those clubs, not FAB women. You will be beaten and killed by men, you won’t be beaten or killed by lesbians.

    Pay attention to which group does the violence to whom, read the crime statistics, take a look at the prisons. Or perhaps women only space really does threaten some sort of male status quo, and that is what men can’t stand.

    Crime statistics…

  7. Jasper Gregory says:

    @SheilaG | Thanks for your honest and fair words. I would like to create a space where nothing is censored as long as people stay away from polemic. Remember, Jasper, you felt the greatest threat from other men at those clubs, not FAB women.
    I am absolutely aware that:
    1) It is Hegemonic Macho Masculinity which meets Mab-femininity with violence and subjugation.
    2) I am also aware that Hegemonic Masculinity has kept Fabs in a position of subjugation for recorded history, and that subjugation is alive and well.
    3) I am also aware that 100% of hegemonic American Masculinity is Mab.

    My problem with the Anti-Mab Feminism of Dworkin et al. is that the resentment towards Hegemonic Masculinity is displaced towards all Mabs. It is a collective class based guilt which makes Mab/Fab alliance impossible.
    Think of us Mab-Femmes as refugees from masculinity. I am trying to define social space where we can exist, be seen and be heard. Our visibility undermines the heteropatriarchy, especially if we refuse to pass as Fab.
    We will never be accepted in Fab separatist space. I am appealing to Mab Femmes to give up the lesbian separatist dream.
    I want to support Mab/Fab integrated queer space where we all belong and where I can fight the heteropatriarchy rather than “representing” it. I won’t attempt to enter Fab spaces, but please accept me as an ally, struggling against Hegemonic Masculinity.

  8. SheilaG says:

    I think this is a reasonable position to want space where FAB and MAB can get beyond patriarchy.
    But as long as MABs want some sort of sexual agenda with women, I’m not going to be in those spaces.

    I think a lot of men feel highly threatened when MAB violence against women as a class is fully exposed in the world. Dworkin and others are writing from a human rights point of view, they are saying that rape of women by men is a deeply human rights issue. Why would a concern for one’s life be about hating men? That makes no sense at all.

    The bottom line is, that historically speaking, men have not been accustomed to women forming political theories on their own. Being shocked by this completely different socio-political reality, MABs of course feel deeply threatened. They are used to patriarchy, used to male supremacy, and used to running the show. So when women, say hey, we want a different world, we want crimes against women fully prosecuted within the law, well all hell breaks loose. As far as I know, Dworkin was completely advocating legal measures. She was not lynching men, castrating them etc., she wanted rapists in jail, and she wanted violent porn done away with. Her radical stance threatens men, because men really want to pornify and objectify women…it’s how they make their billions of dollars, and they want that profit center. Look at the money, and you’ll know the real truth.

    Again, just pay attention to your personal experiences with women. Who are you most afraid of being beaten or killed by? That is toxic masculinity. Now you might be relatively new to being on the receiving end of this, but just imagine a lifetime of dealing with toxic neanderthals everywhere.

    I salute you for trying to create “new” space. Leave the lesbian separatists alone, and leave lesbians to our own spaces. That is a given, but you can work with women to create new spaces.

    I don’t go along with the SMBD stuff, and I think my sexual point of view is largely incomprehensible to men and gay men in particular. It’s why I don’t like the queer scene and clubs to begin with. So I don’t bother talking about sexuality with men, because they don’t get it.

    The overthrow of neanderthal masculinity is a huge male problem. I don’t know what gets men acting so insecure about just about everything feminists want to do. But the bottom line, is it is the male ego that seems so frightened, and toxic masculinity’s fear is of being labeled “woman” and thus “not a man.” It’s why men will kill you eventually Jasper, and that is the true danger of being a rebel against male supremacy.

    The sad part of being raised a boy and man, is that you may not truly realize the danger you are in if you happen to meet the wrong men on a dark street in one of those outfits. As a lesbian, I know the danger of men in the world, and am under no illusions.

  9. Jasper Gregory says:

    @sheila | An interesting text in so many ways. I did not expect so much common ground.
    The sad part of being raised a boy and man, is that you may not truly realize the danger you are in if you happen to meet the wrong men on a dark street in one of those outfits.
    Actually, I think that Mab Femmes learn very quickly how dangerous the streets are. Hegemonic Masculinity turns on us full force, and our innocence is stripped away.
    My experience was difficult because I faced the threats alone. That is one reason why I was desperate for the solidarity of women. Our lives are in danger as we blunder about learning to survive, I am totally in agreement about the level of threat.

  10. SheilaG says:

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if MAB femmes and lesbians patroled the streets together defending all women everywhere?

    When I see what men do to public areas, and how they buy the guns, kill women, rape them, put drugs in women’s drinks at clubs and then rape them… a friend of mine says this happens all the time, I think we know that women have many reasons for wanting men out of our spaces.

    Anything that reads as female out there is open season.

  11. necessarilyn says:

    I’m a woman but I suspect my life is not particularly endangered because the men in my life are not prone to violence. Violence by strangers is normally aimed at men, not women. Unfortunately, I think women are more accustomed to performing basic safety hygiene in public, because this is a normal part of women’s social lives. (I may be echoing SheilaG in saying that.)

    A few years ago I attended a self-defence course for women. But I really wish my husband could go on a self-defence course because he needs it more than I do. I think men are supposed to learn martial arts for this purpose because the idea is they’ll punch their way out of difficult situations!

    Other than that – class war, solidarity, othering – I feel dreadfully non-compliant in this scheme of things. Given my microsociological bent, all these categories and identity politics make my head spin. I guess I could offer solidarity as a woman but I’m not sure what that would even mean.

  12. Jasper Gregory says:

    First, I am utterly happy with the dialogue we are achieving here. Thanks everyone.
    @necessarilyn I have not the statistics on violence towards Mabs, but I can share my personal experience. Growing up as Masculine Presenting in America, Bullying and physical aggression started in elementary school and gained intensity and violence going into High School. In my school the Jocks had a monopoly on violence and they policed the sexuality and gender of non-conforming Mabs. The ever-present threat of violence kept all of us in the closet.
    That said, as long as I remained closeted, the violence remained implied. When I left High School for a white middle-class Mab life the threats receded.
    When I broke the codes and started presenting as Mab-Femme I again encountered constant implied threats in public space. I learned that sexual harassment is not an expression of desire, but a method of humiliating and degrading the recipient. It is a method of enacting power and dominating. It is a method of activating the fear and trauma of the recipient.
    That is a form of daily violence and threat that is reserved for the dehumanized other. It is different from a bar fight or a mugging. It is a kind of self-organizing para-military action, to perform the dominance of Hegemonic Masculinity.
    Given my microsociological bent, all these categories and identity politics make my head spin
    I am micro in the sense that all of these structures exist through continual reenactment. I do not use the term class except as a metaphor. I do believe in caste like social structures that are performed by an us/them discourse which labels the “other”.

  13. necessarilyn says:

    There are a lot of statistics around, and they usually show that men are more likely to be targets of violence than women. Sexual assaults are more often committed against women. The main perpetrators of violence against women are “intimate partners” whereas for men it is strangers.

    The shortcoming of that kind of analysis, though, is the lack of nuance in statistics that categorise everyone as simply “man” or “woman”, and that there is some subjectivity in deciding what violence is. Nevertheless, I’m going to continue being more concerned for my spouse, brothers, and boyfriends and not worry too much about being raped in an alleyway.

    I agree that there is a difference between what you are talking about and bar fights/muggings. But what is the difference?

    You could say that street violence against men as not as damaging personally or socially because it’s impersonal in that it’s random or not part of a pattern. (I’m fine with that until I think of the actual men I am close to and then I think I’d rather the reign of suggested terror any day if I could protect them from the physical violence they’ve experienced.)

    The personal nature of the atmosphere of threat changes it – it’s much more psychological. As you say it’s about “activating the fear and trauma of the recipient”.

    Implied threats only work if you’re working from the same scripts, which makes the experience and self-defence so different from a mugging. Recently a bear-like middle-aged man who was blocking my path as I walked down a deserted street put his arms out to me as I approached and said, “I was going give you a hug but I was worried you would punch me”. So he was presuming the role of admirer of pretty girl, thereby casting me in the (vulnerable) role of pretty girl who was failing in my role and losing value by looking too unfriendly. But I don’t think he was consciously trying to scare me, just performing what he thought was himself and being socially tone deaf. I don’t know the pretty girl role so it’s hard to invoke my acceptance of the role – I just continued to feel like my usual capable self and laughed, so he laughed and said to me “have a nice day” by way of repair.

    Implied threats only work if you’re primed for fear, if you already have the wound to be reopened. I’m not saying I’m just ultra-tough or that you just need to work on your self-esteem. I have other wounds that are reopened in other ways. All I’m saying is that the psychological nature of implied threats leaves open the possibility of responding with indifference, or by returning the challenge. Easier said than done, but not an option open to the mugging victim.

    We’re coming at this topic from superficially similar but I think quite remote positions. There’s lots of nuance which I would like to get to but can’t – maybe we’ll get there. Conversation is better for understanding than monologue.

  14. SheilaG says:

    While strange men in public spaces may think they are being harmless or socially tone deaf, that’s not how women often see this.

    One interesting thing that happens now and then that is striking to me: I live in a very big city, so there are thousands of people all over the place.
    Every now and then a homeless person will come up to me asking for money. Most of the time, I’m ok with this, I know people need help, and if I have money I many times give it.
    Black men when they approach white women are much more conscious of being “not tone deaf” white men just waltz up and can be creeps, like the man holding out his arms. I am willing to bet that man was white.
    One time a delivery man came to my door. I own a giant dog. He was fearful and deferential at the door, knowing that if I wanted to, I could open the door wide and tell the dog “attack the man.” He said, “Oh mam I’m afraid of your dog,” and he quickly handed the package to me through the door. I smiled to myself, wow, a man now fears me! With the dog, men are weary and leave me alone most of the time. I think that it is truly awful when men think they can approach women in parks or when they are alone walking in nature. I view this as a possible threat, am on my guard, and am ready to let the dog loose.
    It’s why I like women only spaces; I just don’t want to think about my safety ever, and want to truly enjoy the place and feel relaxed. In Mexico City, Japan and Cairo, there are women only buses…it’s heaven!! Maybe Jasper can get toxic masculinity off the streets and out of the parks.

    Again, statistically speaking, men may be beaten up or robbed more in public, but women are raped.
    You don’t want to ever be raped, because then you’ll have to tell this awful tale to a male judge in a court room, the attacker gets off more often then not.

    Toxic patriarchy is about terrorism against women, about keeping women off the streets. It is delivery men who have no idea that I see men they way they see the big dog. Until I see a concerted effort for men to clean up the streets and sweep toxic masculinity into the garbage bin of history, there is going to be a separate physical reality for women and men in the world. Since I can’t recall the last time I ever heard a man say in outrage: “I want all rapists dead!” or feel outrage at the latest rape attack on a college woman at a frat party, until I hear this, I am assuming that men are silently agreeing with this state of affairs. Put Jasper in a suit and tie, cut his hair and trim the beard, and he is once again, a free man who can walk around and not have stupid tone deaf men ask him for a hug. That happens to women. And women live with this their entire lives, that’s the big difference.

  15. necessarilyn says:

    This reminds me of my often-called-upon defence of Dworkin’s argument in her book Intercourse, which many men find objectionable because they think they’re capable of having sexual intercourse with women without raping them.

    We have a social context where penises and vaginas are construed as active and passive, where sex is understood as something that women give up and men take. Walking into your own home and shutting the door on the outside world does not shut out those interpretations of our bodies and bodily acts. In this world intercourse is always an violation of a woman’s body.

    I think Jasper has made references to the kind of dancing needs to take place when heterosexual people want to have sex but avoid all that crap.

    So with the theory of how power organises social relationships and so on and so forth, I totally agree!

    Most of the rest of what you say is bullshit.

    “Since I can’t recall the last time I ever heard a man say in outrage: “I want all rapists dead!” or feel outrage at the latest rape attack on a college woman at a frat party, until I hear this, I am assuming that men are silently agreeing with this state of affairs.”

    The men that I tend to spend my time with don’t generally say they want any group of people dead, so I have to concur that I don’t recall any such declarations. You can assume that’s because men are happy about rape, but I think that’s a pretty slimy accusation. I could assume that Muslims are all totally down with terrorism because I don’t hear them baying for Osama’s blood.

    If you’re not actually trying to say that men who don’t express outrage secretly love rape, but just saying that men stand to benefit from the existence of women’s terror, then sure. I’m white and I can acknowledge that I benefit in so many ways both from being white and from other people not being white. If you want to say me and my white friends are all quietly gloating about it, that’s something else.

    “Again, statistically speaking, men may be beaten up or robbed more in public, but women are raped. You don’t want to ever be raped, because then you’ll have to tell this awful tale to a male judge in a court room, the attacker gets off more often then not.”

    Is your fear of delivery men based on a perception that attacks by delivery men are common, or a perception that their attacks are devastating? I wonder if the fear of rape is so magnified because it’s supposed to be so uniquely degrading. Of course I don’t want to be raped. (I also don’t want to be mugged.) But I don’t want to get raped because then I’ll have to tell my awful tale to a (male) judge? So rape is worse than mugging because it’s difficult to talk about afterwards?

    Shame and humiliation is how rape works, and rape complainants are often humiliated and re-traumatised during court cases. We all know that rape is not about uncontrollable sexual desire but the desire to dominate and control. I know that realistically I can’t fend off every man who might want to rape me. But I refuse to accept that a penis is the key to my total devastation. Why would you ask me to give up my belief that my vagina is equal to a penis, that I should in fact be very very afraid?

    Defining a common cause and collective identity is essential to any social movement, so I understand that it has been important for feminists to name and articulate the way that power is organised in our society. Gay activism couldn’t exist before people started thinking of themselves as gay, as opposed to people who engaged in vice. But the group identity demands a level of conformity that requires compromises from adherents. As time goes on, the cost-benefit ratio of explaining how horrific rape is shifts. If feminism requires we constantly attack the patriarchy, it requires patriarchy to continue to exist, and will suppress any movement towards a world where patriarchy is not the dominant social organising structure.

    “Put Jasper in a suit and tie, cut his hair and trim the beard, and he is once again, a free man who can walk around and not have stupid tone deaf men ask him for a hug. That happens to women. And women live with this their entire lives, that’s the big difference.”

    Put Jasper in a suit and tie and he’ll have to fight it out in the male pecking order again. Being a man in this world is more than just being able to lord it over women. He won’t get requests for hugs but he’ll have to deal with a whole can of worms that you and I never have to think about. One of the things he’ll have to contend with is the idea that he is, or should be, invulnerable. I’m a woman, and I’ve been in intimate relationships with men, and I know I have the power to hurt them, to scare them, to isolate them. I’m not talking about hurting their pride or their feelings, or slapping a man knowing he’s too chivalrous to respond, but these are the only types of injuries that real men are presumed to experience at the hands of women. How much worse are these injuries when men know that if they can even make themselves believed they will be considered defective for “allowing” themselves to be hurt?

    I’m living with tone deaf men asking me for hugs for my entire life and it has its difficult aspects but that doesn’t justify this crap about men.

    “Black men when they approach white women are much more conscious of being “not tone deaf” white men just waltz up and can be creeps, like the man holding out his arms. I am willing to bet that man was white.”

    Yes he was white, as am I. I live in Sydney, which is a very segregated city. Given that this occurred in my neighbourhood any story I tell about my local area will probably be about white people. In any case, race has different features in Australia. I once encountered an Aboriginal man in Brisbane who was purposely freaking out white people by asking them for tax money for occupying his land.

    Yes, lots of men are unaware that they can be intimidating and creepy. For some it would never occur to them because they’re too busy feeling intimidated themselves. Others think of themselves as innocent individuals who have no connection to the crimes of other men. They should get educated, particularly the men who start saying women are bitches when we’re hostile to the overtures of random strange men. I would probably say that there is a moral obligation on everyone to understand the nature and the sources of their own privilege, so while men’s ignorance is a culpable failing it does not turn them into coconspirators in a regime of rape terror.

    You seem to be suggesting that black men are more aware of their ability to intimidate and perhaps of women’s experiences. Of course there’s another intepretation of the greater deference you observe in black men when approaching white women. How much of this consciousness was raised by murder and persecution? I’m not sure all white women are aware of it, but I bet most black men are familiar with the dynamic. I hope you’re never tone deaf about that, because it might mean you agree with our racial state of affairs or something. (I may be tone deaf too at times, but I do my best.)

    I agree, totally, that implied threats and implicit power structures are real. But it’s disgusting to say that men in general delight in this state of affairs, any more than I as a white woman love the feeling of power I have over black men.

  16. necessarilyn says:

    @SheilaG – My previous comment hasn’t been published yet, and I wrote it hours ago and don’t remember exactly what I said and what I left out but I think it was harsh and I’m sorry I wrote it that way. I was treating this as a logical dispute but there’s more to it. I understand that what you say reflects your own lived experience. I know that women who point out that rape and intimidation are not isolated, private events but reflect and reinforce general social practice are often reviled. That’s not what I’m trying to do.

    I struggle to reconcile my knowledge that there are women who feel constantly terrorised, and men who don’t give a damn, with my knowledge of my own power as an individual. To me it sounds like you say that I have little power because I’m a woman, that I’m ignorant if I think I’m not subject to men’s domination at every turn.

    It’s much easier for me put together an argument than to account for how much that pushes my buttons and why, which is why I did.

  17. SheilaG says:

    Hi Necessarilyn,

    I had no intenstion of very saying that you have little power or are subject to men’s domination at every turn. I’m so sorry if you felt that from my writing.

    But what I do say, is that men’s and women’s LIVED experience is radically different, because men DO terrorize, intimidate, rape, and invade women’s personal space all the time. The stuff that goes on in the “privacy” of homes worldwide is shocking. The court system makes it very hard for women to win rape cases.

    This is about a structure, and I don’t really hear men speaking up against rape, or DOING anything about it when it happens. E.g. a local university fraternity had a big party, a boy at the party drugged a woman and raped her. No men on campus marched on that frat house, nor did men demand that the place be banned from having alcohol or parties as a result. Sororities on the same campus were not allowed to serve alcohol at parties by the way, thus giving the “male” spaces an advantage, and they took advantage of a young woman student as a result.

    Women are targets. Men who dress like women are also targets of other men. The toxic machos that Jasper talks about. It is very rare for a gang of girls to go out and rape or beat up a man dressed in women’s clothing.

    Women grow accustomed to the toxic world they live in. Now I am not saying that all men delight in women being raped, but I do know the pornography industry is worldwide, and that men who view violent porn do delight in rape stories and fantasies. Men sit silently all the time while other men say sexist things. And I hear it, I hear them make rape jokes too. Now this doesn’t happen every day, but I can count on one hand the number of times men even bring up the idea of women’s human rights worldwide, or say that pornography is a form of hate speech against women, or that it might be making little teenage boys toxic. Men stand by. It is up to feminists to force the issue.

    I think men have to be more aware that a lot of women don’t want men hugging them. I certainly don’t want men doing this to me, unless I specifically condone this. We had to tell male ushers at our church NOT to hug women coming in the door, because it freaked out a lot of lesbians. It was a gay and lesbian church.

    I’ve actually never seen African American men violate the space of white women, but I often hear African American women complain about black men. I can’t speak to Australian life, however, only large urban American life, and a few other countries I’ve been to.

    I’ve never once hear a man complain that other men pinched his butt, gropped his breasts or some other physical violation that women report all the time when they come back from Greece or Italy… just examples here. Recently, I realized I hadn’t heard these stories in years, and a friend had invited me to Greece. “Oh, I guess men don’t do that as much,” I speculated. She was shocked, and a group of her friends chimned in about how horrifying it is walking the streets of Greek cities, and what the men do. Reports from their trip last summer.

    I’m not sure we have much to argue about. All I’m saying is I don’t really perceive a huge male commitment to ending rape, and I hear about women all the time getting drinks drugged and rapes happening, and it’s a lot more common than anyone cares to admit. And what an ideal thing for rapists. You cause a lot of shame to the woman, you make her face a trial with a male judge and male opposing attorney asking horrifying sexually detailed questions in public. You objectify women’s bodies in the media, and you let violent porn run rampant worldwide.

    Men don’t even realize what they are doing most of the time, until you make it clear that NO you can’t hug me, you must keep your distance, or shake hands. But NO it is not open season on me, but I see women all the time being touched by men in public… I see the looks on their faces, the slight discomfort, the slight change in facial expression that men “pretend” not to see at all. I make it a point to gentlely go up to the woman later, and ask her if she felt uncomfortable when Male A was rubbing her shoulders in the middle of a business meeting. We talk a bit, she is upset, but tries to shrug it off. A lot of the time, women simply say, “Oh I don’t like it, but hey, he didn’t mean anything by it.” This woman doesn’t like something, is uncomfortable by a male hand on her body, maybe she is recovering from childhood sexual abuse, maybe she was raped, but one thing that comes out again and again, is men seem unaware that women even feel this at all.

    It’s a small thing, but men don’t have to deal with the in business settings. They are not “manhandled” so to speak. I think it is a question of making the world a good place, and women should not even have to deal with this. And yet, if I go to large business meetings, I see it happen week after week, I note the men doing it.
    And I see women cringe, and I’m sick of this.
    I’m so tired of it. And that is a violation, and women deserve to be treated like human beings, not objects to be pawed over. This should be obvious by now, and I want men to stop other men from doing this. I want men to observe what goes on in meetings, and do something. I want men to be aware of other men, and what they do to women socially.

    I don’t this this is bs at all. I really don’t see or hear men doing anything at all about even “minor” things like this. I feel for women when I see their discomfort and how they tolerate this. Not because they are weak or unable to, but I believe they have a hard time defining what this boundary may be. Maybe as a lesbian, it’s very clear. I have no interest in men putting hands on me at all, and I don’t want “male attention.” I simply want to do my job, and have men work as professionals. I’m not all that interested in dealing personally with men unless they really are of good character and good quality, and not sexist to my face. Many men are like this. Many men actually have feminist manners and that’s good. But given all that, I’d never drink alone with a man, or go to his house alone, never. And I don’t go to other locations with men driving me either. I take my own car, or car pool with a woman friend or colleague.

    Well this is way too long, and I believe as a social outsider to heterosexual behavior, I tend to see things. Black people can see subtle racism that white people don’t know about. I see subtle sexism that straight women miss. It’s very real.

  18. Gabriel says:

    I’m nowhere near as studied or nuanced as most people who comment here, but as the conversation turned to violence/rape/”the system, I figured I’d toss in my two cents:

    I identify as Mab femme, and I was also recently raped. I can attest to earlier comments about the way courts and other people treat you: in court, you’re constantly humiliated. Judges are mystified as to why you were afraid of the police, for instance, and the strength of your case lies in how much of a terrorized victim you are. As far as society is concerned, you know you better keep your mouth shut unless you want more trouble.

    The way we deal with sexual difference and violence seems to be shaming. And that affects every victim of sexual violence, including Mabs like me. Anyone can be subjected to that kind of hatred and hurt.

    I get that women are more often singled out for sexual abuse because it’s built into our societal consciousness. But it’s more complicated than that: what about people who pass as female? I know that women are subjected to a kind of harassment that is hard to escape, but so are Mabs like me who look like women regardless of what we do. In fact, we get a special kind of violence reserved for “faggots”.

    I guess I’m saying that I agree with Jasper’s assertion that both Mabs and Fabs suffer because of the patriarchy. Some people clearly suffer more, no doubt. But I doubt that more shaming and hatred will really remedy the issue.

  19. necessarilyn says:

    OK, I understand, and a lot of it is about perspective. I think if you’re observe heterosexual behaviour from a distance, there are these mass patterns that you observe. But then, because I am ostensibly straight, I can tell you that the rockface is not as featureless as it appears from the distance. I must be somewhere in that behavioural category too, but it’s never exactly felt like home. I read Jasper saying he never sees reflections of himself in various places, and I have to laugh. I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least faintly grossed out by what heterosexual relations are meant to be.

    Most women have been taught better than I was to be agreeable and to smile through discomfort. I remember a excitable three year old neighbour when cautioned by her father to speak “softly and sweetly”. I remember another, older, schoolfriend who dated boys she didn’t even want to because she couldn’t work out how to enforce her personal space. I don’t know how, when that’s what you know from family and friends and tv, to easily overcome that kind of cultural training. But I don’t think it’s impossible. I have remade some aspects of the personality I express to the world. We humans are adaptive.

    I’m not, by natural inclination, a very agreeable person, which is part of what my hug-man story was meant to illustrate. I’m not rude, but if people block up the foot path I’m not going to make myself small and squeeze around them. And that gets me a long way. That man ended up mildly embarrassed because I treated him like he was talking nonsense. During my life I’ve found a lot of ways of behaving that can reconfigure the social relationships in my own little bubble. It’s doable.

    I can agree that what you see is, as a generalisation, accurate and real. Can you acknowledge that I might have experiences that don’t fit the norm, and this is to do with my ability to assert myself in relation to other individuals, and not my ignorance of what really happens?

    No one, man or woman, can behave submissively and expect no one to take up the space they vacate. My spouse is as agreeable as I am disagreeable, and one of our struggles is ensuring fairness. So a lot of the emotion in my objection to generalisations about men and women is the feeling that the assumption will give me even more power than I already have. Yuck. Given that the balance of power in our relationship often tips my way, it scares me that if I hurt him intentionally or unintentionally we live in a world where it will be deemed to be his failing. The belief in men’s dominance isolates men who don’t feel dominant.

    I often drink alone with men, and will visit their houses. These are men who are my friends, not unknown men. I know that this engages me in a whole series of negotiations that you might validly want to simply avoid. I have friends among men and women, and all of those relationships have their limitations and complications.

    There are things that I avoid in the same way that you describe avoiding being alone with men. I would like to never have to deal with these things again, but that serves the status quo so much more than it does me. The tiny space allotted to me is just too small for me to live in, so I re-engage. The position I’ve presented in this discussion reflects not just how I think the world is, but how strategically I have chosen to define it. I have cultivated a bias toward seeing the gaps and potential for change. Focussing on strength and weight and knottiness of the status quo would overwhelm me. So, part of my mental fight is refusing to think like an outsider, and remembering all the ways in which my foes are just humans like me with strengths and weaknesses, good and bad. This is what works for me.

  20. polly says:

    Hi Gabriel, I’m sorry to hear about your experience, but sadly it is all too typical.

    I don’t know how you identify yourself, but you’ve described something that is very real – the crossover between hostile reactions to gender non conformity and homophobia – anyone who is gender non conforming is assumed to be homosexual, whether they are or not.

    A man who is perceived as gay will be assumed by the criminal justice system and society at large to have ‘invited’ violence/rape in the same way a woman would be. And as you rightly describe, there is then a necessity to prove that you are a ‘terrorized victim’.

    This is caused I think by ostensibly ‘straight’ males splitting off and externalizing their own homosexual desires – a ‘feminine’ male is in effect a substitute female here. But it doesn’t work the other way round. ‘masculine’ females are still seen as targets for rape. It is more that gay males, or males who are percieved as gay, are lumped in with females outside the heterosexual male identity which is seen as the default norm.

    It’s interesting to think about why ‘masculinity’ is so apparently fragile that it needs constant shoring up in this way….

  21. SheilaG says:

    Smiling through discomfort is not a good idea if you want to be a truly free person. Men aren’t usually forced to do this. They are at least allowed the dignity of being stone faced when being chewed out by the boss, for example. Women not only are humiliated often in public by men, but are then forced to grin and bear it. That is just unacceptable to me.

    An expressionless face when dealing with potentially hostile men in public is hugely powerful. They usually never come near me anymore, so I am free to study in public places without any interruption at all. Definitely a plus.

    As for seeing yourself in the world, the only place I truly see myself is in lesbian spaces with women over 50. Out in the world, most women look pretty artifically made up most of the time.

  22. necessarilyn says:

    @SheilaG – I don’t know if you’re saying I smile through discomfort, or agreeing with me about it being a bad idea, or responding to something else entirely.

    Anyway, this has been a great discussion for me because I’ve managed to understand what inspires some of Jasper’s statements, which previously seemed unrealistic to me, and I’ve been able to reconcile how I seem to both see patterns of sexism and live comfortably in the world. Like usual, I feel like Ann Coulter now, but that’s life for you.

  23. necessarilyn says:

    @Gabriel – You’re right that violence is not just by men against women, and even when we talk in generalities about women’s lives it’s not intended to deny your experience of the world.

    An unfortunate effect of talking about “patriarchy” is that it can sweep all “men” into the same basket, when clearly this is not the case. I don’t think I have anything to fear from you, and I hope the reverse is also true.

  24. Jasper Gregory says:

    @ necessarilyn Like usual, I feel like Ann Coulter now, but that’s life for you.
    I feel like you have enriched the discussion immensely. I hope you stick around.
    I wonder what role cultural difference plays. America is a very, very violent culture compared to the Dutch culture. When I lived in Holland a serial Rapist was on the loose and it was big national news. A serial killer here does not even make the news like that, until it becomes a spectacular court trial. American masculinity is brutal, just look what happens when the cowboy marines try to be peacekeepers in Somalia or Afghanistan.

    Your points about most rape happening within the home are well taken. The threat of nonconsensual sexuality is a powerful organizing force though.

  25. SheilaG says:

    Sorry for the confusion Necessarilyn, I meant that being required to smile through discomfort is a terrible idea, and a terrible way to have to live your life. Women do it all the time, but to our great internal deteriment, and a complete violation of our inner feelings.

  26. Gabriel says:

    @Polly: I think you are touching on a complexity in rape that is often unacknowledged. Rape is often “corrective” i. e. lesbians or masculine women need to be forced to see that they will like penile penetration. It can also be used to put people in their place. But rape can also be non-corrective, an act of selfishness that is still just as dehumanizing. (For instance, I was raped by a gay man. The straight component just isn’t there.)

    Regardless of what purpose was behind it, the victim is by default viewed as female due to the penetration he/she experiences and his/her “victim” status. There always seems to be a kind of guilt inherent in femininity, and therefore you deserved what you got. This IS due to the patriarchy, regardless of why you were raped.

    @necessarilyn: Of course no fear. I guess my point was that the patriarchy is violent towards pretty much everyone, and boiling the issue down to men raping women can make it the problem simpler and smaller than it is.

    Of course, that is not to say that we should ignore that problem, either, as a lot men DO rape a lot of women and, sadly, can get away with it easily. The burden tends to rest on the victim (typically a woman) to right that wrong. And with the odds stacked against you (and trying to recover), that is a pretty big burden.

  27. […] being strongly rebuffed.  She has now entered a friendly dialogue with her new friends where she bargains away the rights of others under the premise that she is the same as everyone else she decides is […]

  28. blackcherryorchid says:

    Regardless of what purpose was behind it, the victim is by default viewed as female due to the penetration he/she experiences and his/her “victim” status. There always seems to be a kind of guilt inherent in femininity, and therefore you deserved what you got. This IS due to the patriarchy, regardless of why you were raped.

    Gabriel, this is an excellent point. This is really the essence of patriarchy right here. Men are human beings, and women are not. The more “man” someone is, the more human they are. And what is a man, at the most basic? A man penetrates. A man is not penetrated. Women are, at best, seen as alien, and at worst, seen as an evil. Thus, women are all and always guilty.

    This attitude is at the root of a lot of the oppression MAB femmes (gay or straight) experience from patriarchal society. This is why you can have societies where a man penetrating femme males does not make him less of a man, but being penetrated does. Take a patriarchal society such as ancient Greece. Women were outright hated. It is right in the Pandora myth:

    “This was the origin of damnable womankind, a plague with which men must live.”

    It is right there in The Odyssey:

    “Never trust a woman.”

    Yet when it came to male homosexual relationships, these were encouraged, even celebrated, but mind you the misogyny was still there. All well and good for boys (not yet men) to be penetrated, but it was better not to be that one.

    “Aristophanes uses the epithet “europroktos”(wide-arsed) for men with a lot of experience of being penetrated. Greek convention decried the passive partner in penetrative intercourse and we may assume that both partners took care that their private pleasures were not made public.”

    (Paul Halsall, “People With a History”)

    These attitudes toward penetration have become only more entrenched in patriarchal society today. I think an understanding of this could help one to be more sympathetic to the attitudes of radical feminists like Dworkin. This was her whole point. Women are the sex class, the penetrated class. So for a man to display as “femme” or to be penetrated (or to prefer non-penetrative sex with women as I believe Jasper has said he does) then in a patriarchy this man is “womanned”.

    Radical feminists fight for the liberation of women. When women are liberated and their full humanness is unquestioned, then to be a femme MAB or a butch FAB won’t mean anything at all except to the individual expressing him or herself and those who are attracted to that expression. In fact, there will be no more need for “femme” and no more “butch” but just people, humans being. Right now in order to survive physically and psychologically I understand the need to identify with words like “femme” in order to preserve your identity in a world that denies you should exist.

  29. Jasper Gregory says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Gabriel. You are helping people understand that rape is related to Masculinity and Femininity but it does not follow a simple Mab/Fab. Another issue that shows the complexity here is that abusive relationships are common among San Francisco’s Gay and Lesbian social niches. Fabs find themselves performing the “masculine” role of abuser and Mabs find are put in the “feminine” role of the abused.

  30. Jasper Gregory says:

    @blackcherryorchid, I loved reading your comment. I recognize myself in your words. That is a delight. I feel that there is still something beneath the Butch and Femme. I hesitate to say it, but i believe in a kind of innate leading/following dynamic in human relations. I just wote elsewhere:
    I believe that sexuality is always a giving and receiving. Hegemonic America labels giving as Mal At Birth (Mab) sexuality and receiving as Fab Sexuality.
    Giving is translated as dominance or Topping in BDSM culture and Femme and Butch in lesbian Butch/Femme culture where they are explicitly decoupled from Fab/Mab.
    It is also sometimes translated into an older woman younger man relationship, which also been the subject of taboo.
    Most people I’ve talked to have a preference for one or the other.

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