Andrea Dworkin (an influential feminist and anti-pornography activist, notable for her attempt to pass the Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Ordinance in the 1980s) is often accused of stating that “all sex is rape”, but she never actually wrote or said those words. Her accomplice Catherine McKinnon did not say such a thing either (liberals cannot seem to agree on who should be demonised as the anti-sex fanatic). According to snopes (a website devoted to debunking urban legends), this misinterpretation originated with an article in “Playboy”. No surprises there. What might surprise some people is that mainstream feminists trust the words of the soft-core pornographic magazine (which, for obvious reasons, was biased against Dworkin) and frequently repeat the “all sex is rape” misquote.
Opponents of Andrea Dworkin claim that the statement “all sex is rape”, adequately summarises her writing, particularly “Intercourse” ( published in 1987). In a preface to the book, Dworkin rejected this interpretation, but liberal academics still attribute it to her and other prominent anti-pornography feminists.
This post will give liberals a taste of their own medicine, by showing that the words of a sex-positive lecturer (that I had for four weeks during my first year of university) can be interpreted as “all sex is rape”. I hope to show what would happen if sexual liberalism, were subjected to the same level of criticism as anti-pornography feminism. I think the former would crumble in a second, but I will let my readers be the judge.
The "Sex-Positive" Academic
I realised that my lecturer was highly sex-positive during her second lecture, when she criticised a documentary called "Dreamworlds 3" (which came out in 2007) for supposedly being moralistic and prudish. I have seen Dreamworlds 3 and actually found it to be pretty liberal, compared to other documentaries made by the Media Education Foundation. It presents an interesting examination of the sexual objectification of women in music videos, but ends up capitulating to the pro-sex viewpoint by declaring that there is nothing inherently wrong with objectifying women, so long as this objectification is balanced by discussions of women’s thoughts, feelings, personalities, etc. I may discuss this wimpy approach to sexual objectification in another post.
For now, the important thing to note is that even this highly qualified critique of the sexualisation of women was too much for my lecturer. In addition to stating that the documentary was too sex-negative, she denounced the Media Education Foundation, for having a “political agenda” as if that were inherently a bad thing. I guess even moderate, leftist critiques of mainstream culture are too “political” for modern universities.
Things went downhill from there. The liberal academic spent half of her fourth and final lecture discussing Adrienne Rich’s critique of compulsory heterosexuality or rather ranting about how she as a heterosexual found it offensive. She then spent the other half of the lecture describing age of consent laws as an example of the “regulation” of sexuality, which was the stated topic of the lecture. I guess age of consent laws were the only example of sex-related government regulation that she could come up with, so much for the liberal notion that “Big Government” is repressing sexuality.
Of course, “regulation” is not a synonym for “totalitarian repression”, but she went on to say that Victoria’s age of consent laws were the most “progressive” (that was the very word she used) laws in Australia, because they were looser than laws used in other states. So while I cannot be sure that the lecturer in question endorses paedophilia, I would not trust her when it comes to creating policies related to child safety or sexual health.
In spite of all my objections to this academic’s viewpoints, I do not wish to promote a personal hatred of her, so I have not included her name in this article. However, if the lecturer in question reads this post and recognises that it is about her, then I invite her to inform me of her actual views regarding the objectification of women and paedophilia. That way I can correct any mistakes I have made. Unfortunately, past experience suggests that I am more likely to end up becoming the topic of her next rant against “sex-negative” feminism.
A Dishonest Discussion of Sexual Choice
Since this academic was clearly sex positive, how could she make the claim that all sex is rape? Allow me to explain. During her third lecture, the liberal academic stated that there was not enough evidence to conclude that homosexuality had a biological origin, nor could it be proven that it was the product of one’s social environment. She then went on to say that it was none-the-less acceptable for the gay rights movement to push the “born that way” slogan, because the slogan was successful in getting people to endorse the cause of gay rights. I, myself, believe that gays and lesbian sexual desires are just as legitimate as heterosexual one, but the issue of whether people are born with such desires does not really matter to me.
There are no inherent inequalities of power involved in sexual relationships between two men or between two women, nor do such relationships necessary involve causing physical pain/harm. Therefore there is no need to abolish homosexuality and thus no need to uncover its cause, but I refuse to lie for the sake of the “sexual liberation” gospel. If academics openly admit that they do not care about honesty and present the whole notion of truth as oppressive and totalitarian, how can I believe a word they say?
Despite her acknowledgment that the genetic explanation of homosexuality has not been proven, the lecturer endorsed the claim that being gay is not a choice and spent a good deal of time trying to convince some conservative in her head to agree with her. The lecturer began this internal argument by stating that people do not choose their sexual desires. I think this is true in the short term, individual sense, but not necessary true in the broader sense. I will address this issue more in the next section of this post.
The lecturer discussed the “conservative” claim that it is possible for people to decide whether or not to act on their sexual desires, even if they cannot control the desires themselves. She argued that if a person felt a preference for gay/lesbian sexual activities over heterosexual activities or vice versa, then they could not make a “real choice” between those two options. While this claim was made in relation to gay rights, sex-positives often argue that other “subversive” sexualities, such as BDSM, are morally interchangeable with gay/lesbian sexuality. In any case, my lecturer’s approach to sexual choice implied that few, if any, sexual activities are genuinely chosen (since few people are equally attracted to all sexual options presented to them) or to put it another way, “all sex is rape”.
The Implications of this Viewpoint
In fact any denial of the claim that people can choose whether or not to initiate or participate in sexual acts implies that all sex is forced upon people. Ironically, this way of thinking is often used to justify rape. The view that men are incapable of controlling their desire for sex is prominent throughout the culture. We are encouraged to believe that once a man is aroused, he will either have sex with the person who caused this arousal (whether the person wants to have sex with him or not) or go crazy.
Self-proclaimed “sex-positives” reinforce this view by arguing that men and women must “express” (which I assume means “act on”) every sexual urge they get and never let their brains get in the way. According to sex liberals, people who fail to blindly obey their genitals will go insane, become depressed, go on a savage raping spree, commits acts of violence or die from suicide, due to their lack of “sexual health/acceptance”. It all sounds pretty coercive to me. I dare liberals to prove that humans have some innate tendency to go insane if they do not act on every sexual desire they experience and that such craziness (when it does occur) is not the fault of a society obsessed with sex.
Liberals talk about sex as if it were some god-like force that exists independent of human society. They say it has been “repressed” by human society for thousands of years and must be satiated in order to prevent destruction from being inflicted upon the human race. Being ruled by a “sex spirit” (real or figurative) does not sound at all liberating to me. Real liberty means being encouraged to think rationally about the ways in which people have sex. Real liberty means having sex in ways that are consistent with one’s moral and political values. Real liberty means being able to say no, without being told that horrible suffering will inevitably result from such a no.
An Alternative View of Sexuality
In reality, sexuality is not an eternal spirit. It is a product of human society and it has the potential to be far more egalitarian, loving and pro-human than it is now. Individuals cannot instantly turn sexual desires on or off, but I believe it is possible for humanity as a whole to choose a better sexuality by changing the society.
Capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, religion, the school system and the traditional family all encourage some people to be dominant while others submit to them. Thus it should not be surprising to radicals that dominance and submission dynamics have crept into sex (in the form of BDSM, rape fantasies, paedophilia, etc.) If capitalism were overthrown, a socialist society, in which industries were managed democratically by those who worked in them, could create a new culture, one that glamorised equality, love, assertiveness and kindness, instead of dominance, submission, violence and mindless hedonism. Of course the masses would have to be convinced of the need for this cultural transformation, which is part of the reason why this blog exists.
In the meantime, we have to hold people accountable for sexual behaviours that hurt people or involve power inequalities. If free will is real (I might share my thoughts on this issue in another post), then people do make choices regarding sex, the same way they make choices about what to eat, drink and watch. Public education campaigns and changes to the cultural environment can help people make the right choices in these areas, in spite of any unhealthy desires they may have (e.g. desires for cigarettes and junk food). The idea that sexuality is beyond human control is false and dangerous. It also creates a contradiction while liberal feminist dogma, since the very people who preach it also love to brag about their “sexual choices”, especially when such choices involve danger or degradation.
While my lecturer did not really believe that "all sex is rape", I hope I have convinced you that her approach to sex does not hold up to intellectual scrutiny. I assume that it survives within academia only because it has the power of the sex industry and other highly sexualised, capitalist enterprises (e.g. the media and the beauty industry) behind it. These industries have the power to keep opposing progressive views out of mainstream culture and most Western universities. No idea that can only sustain itself via such means deserves to be seen as legitimate.
As for the “all sex is rape” quote, I do not want to hear any more liberals attributing it to radical feminists. It is unfair to do so when radical feminists rarely have the chance to respond. Furthermore, I have demonstrated that, with the right spin, this sentiment could just as easily be attached to them.
In case you are wondering, the academic in question never ran any of my tutorials or marked any of my papers or at least if she did, I do not know about it. My problems with her are strictly political, not personal.