Monday, September 26, 2005

Yes, yes, YES...?

The Guardian women's page never fails to have me twitching in delight or disgust or just general bemusement and today is no exception. An interview with Elizabeth Lloyd is offered. Fair enough, she's written a book about female orgasms, lets see what she has to say...

Now apparently the crux of her arguement is that "the female orgasm is not a biological adaptation with evolutionary advantages - it's just a light nature forgot to turn off". And being generally interested in evolution theories I'm curious to see the explanation for this. The Guardian interview doesn't bother with any such thing however. It merely offers Ms Lloyd's remarks that "In my book I examine 20 explanations which turn out to be completely unsupported by the evidence". That's a null arguement. If her explanation IS supported by the evidence, then we should be shown that evidence, just to say that other theories aren't supported by the evidence doesn't mean that an untested theory must be the right one. Now weirdly Elizabeth Lloyd agrees with me, since she adds "my view isn't necessarily the right explanation". So we're not learning much from this interview. I have a few points though...

Firstly, what isn't addressed is the widely-known fact (especially if you've ever seen The Vagina Monologues, which is well worth a trip if you get the chance) that the clitoris has twice as many nerve endings as the penis. So the arguement that it's a biological left-over, compared in the article to male nipples, doesn't hold a lot of water.

Secondly so what? I mean I don't really care WHY it's there. What difference does that make? The article claims that Ms Lloyd's work has enraged feminists... Yet it doesn't name-check any feminists who have been enraged, nor does it offer any quotes from feminists or opportunity for feminists to respond to the comments made about them in the article. I should like to register now that I, a feminist, am distinctly un-enraged by a discussion on biology.

And finally, and this always gets me, why is biology the main thrust of every other article on the women's page. Is X biological? Are women pre-programmed to do Y? These seem to be the perpetual undertones of a majority of articles they feature. As if the question we all need answered is "do women deserve to be treated as second-class citizens?". It doesn't really matter what biological pre-dispositions we all have, what matters is that we're all given a fair and equal chance of success in this society. Save the biology for the science pages and address the issues that matter: the pay gap, discrimination against women, violence against women, the pensions gap and the rights of women around the world to live their lives in the way that they want to.


Cruella said...

Following up to this, and to extensive discussion of it had last night in a very nice Indian restaurant...

It appears that Ms Lloyd is trying to differentiate between the clitoris and the female orgasm response. Which is fair enough. So my comments on the number of nerve endings in the clitoris don't in fact impact on what she's saying.

Also she seems to agree with me over the media treatment of her work. Quite ironic really that while she's being misrepresented in the press like this, the same article concludes with a transcription of her comments about how she is always being misrepresented in the media!

Elisabeth Lloyd said...

Cruella -
You might have done a brief check of my website before sounding off -
There, you would have found the article, "More Orgasm: Elisabeth Lloyd on why some feminists hate "The Case of the Female Orgasm," and why they shouldn't", in which I give 15 quotes of feminists and progressives in blogs and publications trashing me and my book. Given that the interviewer *said* that feminists were going after me, don't you think it safe to assume that he had reasons to back that up? Why didn't you try to find out?

Moreover, it is unreasonable to expect that, in an interview of that length, the content over which I had no control, you might find the abundant evidence supporting my favored explanation for the evolution of female orgasm. So why do you imply, implausibly, that I *have* no evidence for my favored account? If you had checked my website FAQs or response to my critics, you could have gotten an idea of what that evidence is.

How about doing a little bit of checking next time, before you so sharply criticize someone? You ended up just piling on, much like the others, with unfair critiques. I'm sure this is not what you intend, as a smart and thoughtful feminist interested in the scientific issues.

EA Lloyd

Elisabeth Lloyd said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cruella said...

Elisabeth, thanks for finding me. Let me explain: My grumble is not with you at all, it's with the sub-editors of the Guardian. My complaint is that they don't describe any of your evidence or reasons, in fact they don't even suggest you have any, nor do they offer any insight on what feminists have complained about. In fact it seems from your comments in the interview, and more so on here, that you also feel your piece has been poorly represented.

As you yourself comment in the article the majority of feminists who were unhappy with your work were unhappy due to a misapprehension about what your key argument was. A misapprehension pushed about by the misogynist media machine. You mention here in your comments that you had little control over the final piece and I sympathise deeply. As a female author, much like a female stand-up comic, you're lucky to get your name in the paper at all. And I'm complaining about that machinery, and the way it misrepresents you. I have no grumble with your book which I wish you the best of luck with.