Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Towards a Sex-Positive Utopia

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  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But she's a mum -- and she doesn't want her daughter thinking that there's something wrong with the way she looks, or that waxing is the only choice.

    The answer to this is the same as to Max's concern about young men only having seen waxed vulvas, in porn. It's that nobody ever, for the love of sanity, only sees naked bodies in porn, or near-naked bodies in advertising. That everyone, male and female, has seen a multitude of human bodies in childhood, and knows and accepts how wonderfully varied they are. The problem is not that kids see a particular kind of body presentation, the problem is that they're not seeing others.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene, in reply to Tom Beard,

    There's a common argument that says something like "Pre-pubescent girls have no pubic hair, so removing it from an adult woman makes her look like a child. Ergo, the result is, at best, to treat women like children, and at worst, a form of paedophilia."

    Totally agree, Tom. As Sopranos guy once noted, Brazilians make women look like girl scouts. But maybe I'm biased. I grew up on 70's porn, when guys had beards and women had bushes. They seemed to be enjoying the sex a lot more than half the stuff that comes out now too.

    The pre-pubescent look is part of the larger marketing strategy of selling fear, in this case the fear of death. Bald vages are no different from shaving, facelifts, hair dye, and make-up. Paying through the nose for expensive fountain of youth products in a futile attempt to keep entropy at bay.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    But they don't, you get that, right Ben?

    Of course I do. Everyone is afflicted by it. I haven't lived out every fantasy I've ever had, nor done everything I would ever like to. Not only because I haven't had the opportunity, and because many of them are actually impossible, but also because some of them actually are too dodgy to do. I'm not going to say what, but I doubt society will ever be permissive enough, and for that matter, I wouldn't want it to be.

    But surely, sexual jealousy, and Not Getting Enough would be lessened in the kind of world Emma is describing.

    Not Getting Enough, probably. Sexual jealousy, though..? Not convinced. I bet that one is a constant.

    Take the shame and prurience out of the equation, and surely jealousy will be lessened.

    I can't see why. I don't think Hugh Hefner is shameful, but that doesn't mean I'm not jealous of him. I don't let it bug me, though. Mostly by avoiding watching his shows.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    My favourite line in that article, of many, is "WHAT IF MY CAR BREAKS DOWN AT NIGHT AND I DON'T HAVE A REFLECTIVE ENOUGH VAGINA?" She is my hero right now.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3663 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to BenWilson,

    Attachment

    I don’t think Hugh Hefner is shameful, but that doesn’t mean I’m not jealous of him.

    Me too! I've always wanted to be a boat captain.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3663 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Danielle,

    oh Julie

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Which perhaps is being all 'libertarian', but actually I'm calling bullshit on that, because part of living together collectively is accepting that our individual experiences are different, and making space for that.

    Yes, but who's making the space, and how? I'm hearing a lot of 'me' here.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    Yes, but who's making the space? I'm hearing a lot of 'me'.

    We all are, for each other. What I demand for myself I give to other people.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    That's certainly utopian, yes. Anarchistic perhaps. Seems unlikely to address things that are not matters of personal preference or socio-psychological constraint.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    make the default assumption they know their own fucking minds

    Actually, I don't make the default assumption that anyone knows their own fucking minds.

    I don't follow the precepts of any of the great psychological dead-ends of the 20th Century (Freudianism, behaviourism, Marxism). I'm also unconvinced by either the "just so" arguments of evolutionary psychology or their opposite, the tabula rasa approach of the standard social sciences model that treats our actions as merely the expression of an infinitely malleable culture. But one thing that they all agree on is that "knowing your own mind" is somewhere between a simplification and an impossibility.

    Our minds and actions are not pure, sovereign expressions of free will. They are layered, contradictory, mutable and often opaque to conscious introspection. No-one's a "gynoid sock-puppet of the patriarchal media-industrial complex", but on the other hand no-one's desires and actions are immune to received wisdom, unspoken assumptions, peer pressure, advertising, body-shaming and the countless other forms of cultural influence and persuasion to which we are subject.

    That makes for complicated discussions in all aspects of life, not least in sexuality, and has some especially tricky connotations for the notion of consent. We should all respect people's choices as a first principle, but shouldn't disregard those forces that might make some choices less free than others.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    things that are not matters of personal preference or socio-psychological constraint.

    F'r'instance?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Oh, disability for one. Society's attitudes won't magically improve just because mine do, and it won't stop humans from being animals who make sexual decisons on ancient imperatives that reason doesn't reach. Symmetry, height and curviness won't stop being sexy just because a wider range of things might be.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Tom Beard,

    no-one's desires and actions are immune to received wisdom, unspoken assumptions, peer pressure, advertising, body-shaming and the countless other forms of cultural influence and persuasion to which we are subject.

    agreed

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Gee, in reply to Sacha,

    Can 'erotic' be about more than sex?

    This is how I see a good night out dancing -- as refreshing and erotic and sexy as some sex can be and it has nothing to do with the persons I'm dancing with but with the energy and the movement and the rhythm and the vibrations. Like Emma said, I don't think of things in a sexual/not sexual dichotomy.

    And like Jackie I want to say how much I've learned from all the commenters here. Thanks for the schooling and for the Conversation.

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    Symmetry, height and curviness won't stop being sexy just because a wider range of things might be.

    Height and curviness, at least, have gone in and out of fashion over the centuries. Just like body hair has - for men and women - over the last few decades. But there's a whole thing here about the difference between socially-constructed attractiveness and actual 'sexual success' attractiveness that I don't know if we have the space or inclination to get into. (Basically, in any large social group, the person who's the most conventionally attractive may well not be the person who 'scores' the most.)

    Disability was one of the things I was thinking about in the paragraph about prostitution. I've read some really great stuff in the last couple of years about disability from a sex-pos perspective, and the way the two trains of thought work together to expand our idea of what sex, or sexual activity is, to expand our sexual imagination.

    I think... the idea that 'society' is this big separate thing that's beyond our control, that just does stuff to us, can be dangerous. It encourages us to give up. But society is, simply, made up of individuals. The actions of individuals make a difference. And yeah, social change happens slowly, like turning an oil tanker, but that doesn't mean that each individual little push isn't important. But then we're getting into the 'how'.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Gee, in reply to BenWilson,

    I can't speak for more repressive societies, but within this one, people already can do pretty much whatever they want within the law.

    I think you've confused 'law' with 'society' here. The day that, for example, a schoolteacher could teach their students about sex of all shapes, forms and preferences, including none and not just puberty, could discuss polyamory, bisexuality, BDSM, asexuality, porn and the missionary position openly, is the day that society allows people to be who they are without judgment. Law makes criminals of people doing some or all of these things in many places, but societal acceptance and real tolerance is often completely unrelated to the legal environment. The sex-pos Utopia we're dreaming of here would allow me to be open about my preferences, choices and beliefs rather than feeling I have to hide them from others. If I still have to bite my tongue in a professional setting when someone makes a sneering comment about a woman who enjoys sex being a slut, then am I in a free society?

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose, in reply to Gee,

    The day that, for example, a schoolteacher could teach their students about sex of all shapes, forms and preferences, including none and not just puberty, could discuss polyamory, bisexuality, BDSM, asexuality, porn and the missionary position openly, is the day that society allows people to be who they are without judgment.

    Exactement.

    The reason I use this pseudonym here is not that I'm ashamed of what I'm saying, that it's illegal, that I want to be a cowardly anonymous dickmonkey to people here, or even that I'm particularly worried about my friends knowing it's me. It's because this is an open forum, and my name would be forever attached via Google to my views on polyamory, prostitution, BDSM and the like. I've found that even people who generally consider themselves liberal about such things as sexual orientation get squicked out or judgemental if they know that I'm a kinky man-whore, so god knows what a more conservative potential employer would make of me.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    But then we're getting into the 'how'.

    You say that like it's a bad thing. :)

    Individual decisions don't magically create social change. I'd prefer a utopia with some chance of success.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    You say that like it's a bad thing. :)

    I say that like it's a separate thing.

    Individual decisions don't magically create social change.

    What does create social change, if not individual decisions?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Height and curviness, at least, have gone in and out of fashion over the centuries.

    Have shorter men been attractive in some cultures?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Roger,

    This Utopia would seem to present a dilema for those people who enjoy fantasy about the forbidden?

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    What does create social change, if not individual decisions?

    Collective political action. Conversation like this.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    Collective political action. Conversation like this.

    Collective political action doesn't just happen. It happens because individuals work to make it happen. In this field, it happens because individuals put themselves at significant social and emotional risk to make it happen.

    Have shorter men been attractive in some cultures?

    Certainly men have not always been required to actively be tall. Heeled shoes came and went. And a lot of that was about how they made their calves look. My anthropological knowledge just isn't extensive enough to say whether shortness has ever been actively desired. The Greeks liked their penises small.

    Also, Tom Cruise. In the 80s, anyway.

    This Utopia would seem to present a dilema for those people who enjoy fantasy about the forbidden?

    This is a problem, yeah. Though, as I said, there are still ways individuals can contextualise their sexual encounters to feel all forbidden and dirty. If there's one thing BDSM can teach us*, it's how to set a scene.

    *There are lots. So many lots.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    It happens because individuals work to make it happen.

    together.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Tom Beard,

    Actually, I don’t make the default assumption that anyone knows their own fucking minds.

    Perhaps I need to be a little more specific then. How about this:

    When women talk about their own experiences, bodies and sexuality on-line, make the default assumption they're speaking in good faith.

    no-one’s desires and actions are immune to received wisdom, unspoken assumptions, peer pressure, advertising, body-shaming and the countless other forms of cultural influence and persuasion to which we are subject.

    Which is really wizard in a seminar room. Perhaps we also need to talk about other things people (especially women) who don't conform to hetero-normative, cis-gendered sexual norms aren't immune from. Emma can speak to that with a hell of a lot more authority than I can, but I'm personally rather sick of people who confidently ascribe my sexuality to childhood sexual abuse or maternally-induced gynophobia. I wasn't diddled by a dirty old man trying to hit his recruiting quota for the quarter, or traumatized by the sight of my mother's verdant quim. Promise. Please take my word for it.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

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