Saturday, March 01, 2008

Why Does Jezebel Exist?

Obviously Jezebel and I have HISTORY. But I am not afraid to put my hand up when I agree with them on something.

This time however they've gone with really shocking story, followed by offensive coverage of that story. The story is some nasty people are selling a T-Shirt with the slogan "No Means No... well maybe if I'm drunk". Which is obviously a horrid thing to be saying and selling. And I understand that with pressure from Feministing, they have now stopped. Jezebel's response however features the following:

"You can probably blame a religious fetishization of virginity for the fact that a lot of girls say "no" to sex they actually want."

I'm not fan of religion, nor of virginity cults, but I'm pretty horrified by a supposedly pro-women site suggesting that when women say "no" they may "actually want" sex.

They are talking about women who find the guy in question attractive and are feeling aroused in some way and they're equating that with "wanting sex". Now I may not believe that Jesus needs me to stay pure for him but there are a ton of other perfectly valid reasons why women might not want to have sex with someone they fancy even though they are in the mood for sex. Like if they're committed to someone else, if they don't feel like they completely trust the person in question, if it's practically difficult to arrange (no condoms, early start in the morning, lives the other side of town), if they don't feel that it's right emotionally, if they don't want to affect a friendship or working relationship or if they're enjoying the idea of a little delayed gratification. Or a million other things. Or if they'd rather go for a slice of pizza and then watch late night rubbish on TV.

Which means when guys ask women out, even if they think they're really sexy, and even if they happen to be really horny, they often still say "no". And it's not OK to rape them then. Consent is about specific verbal permission, not best-guessing what a woman's hormones might be indicating. And no matter how much their hormones might be raging, if there's one thing women don't want - it's some guy forcing himself on them when they've already said "no".

It's like if you're feeling hungry but have decided to skip dessert because you want to lose weight, then some guy grabs you and physically forces you to eat cake. You don't enjoy the cake, do you? You feel violated and ill.

Virginity cults in any case don't seem to affect the amount of sex young people have - only the amount of access to advice and protection that they get. Members of virginity cults are perfectly capable of consenting, so if they don't that means they don't want sex

Did that all really need explaining? Here's what I'd like explained: Why does anyone read Jezebel?


evil_fizz said...

I'm really not at all sure where the author's going with that post. I can't actually tell if it's meant to be wildly sarcastic or agitated or what.

Here's the thing: I think that there is a defensible argument to be made that the virginity fetishist camp encourages women to be fundamentally dishonest about their sexual desires. Denial is good, you're the gatekeeper, all sorts of dumb arguments that play on the good girl stereotype.

Having said that, the word no should mean exactly that and it's more than a little ill-advised for anyone to propose shades of no.

Cruella said...

Yeah I'm the first person to find the religious fetishisation of virginity repugnant but the solution isn't to tell guys that's it's ok to rape the women in question. We need to let young women know that they are in charge of their sexuality, not men they date, not religious leaders, not their parents and not the media. And we need to tell women that sex should be fun - not that you should pretend it is if it isn't or there's something wrong with you. But that they should take charge and do whatever they enjoy doing.

[This is the bit where I show up in some cringe-worthy educational video teaching school-girls how to masturbate... but why not? When I was at school boys sex ed included masturbation and girl's didn't - although my mum helpfully told me not to because "I wouldn't enjoy it as much later". Yeah cos being totally ignorant of your own sexuality means you'll have great sex...]

Iceman said...

"Virginity cults in any case don't seem to affect the amount of sex young people have - only the amount of access to advice and protection that they get."

Kids who take virginity pledges or receive abstinence education tend to just have oral or anal sex instead, and then when they do have vaginal sex they tend to do so without protection. Teen pregnancy rates are highest in Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, Arkansas and New Mexico, all conservative states with a strong religious presence, and lowest in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Maine, mostly liberal states dominated by secularism. And everyone knows it's the girls from really strict families who become the biggest sluts in college.

"I'm not fan of religion, nor of virginity cults, but I'm pretty horrified by a supposedly pro-women site suggesting that when women say "no" they may "actually want" sex."

A lot of Jezebel's stuff is satirical - sort of a cross between Cosmo and the Onion. I agree that it's in poor taste to joke about rape, but they aren't seriously advocating that women actually want sex when they say no.


Wrong Iceman young women who are sexually active are not 'sluts.' If one believes sexually active women are 'sluts' then the same sexual insult must apply equally to men who are sexually active because they too are 'sluts.' Unfortunately only males are accorded the right of sexual autonomy and sexual rights. If a young woman engages in any sexual act the assumption by male partners is of course she is consenting to any sexual act he demands or expects. We need to teach both girls and boys their sexualities and bodies belong to them and it is their right to refuse to engage in any sexual acts they do not want, desire or like. We certainly need to teach girls that it is acceptable and normal for young women to have sexual desires and sexual feelings but it is her decision alone whether or not she acts on her feelings. A prospective sexual parner does not have the right to impose their desires, demands or expectations on her, because this is sexual coercion or forced sexual activity. But there we are sadly a very long way from female sexual autonomy and agency.

JP said...

I think you're reading that wrong... you took one sentence out of context and used it to say that the whole article condones rape? Or the shirt? It does the opposite. It is titled: How Did "No Means No" Become A Fun Rape Joke?
"Somehow the often-amusing, eminently human phenomenon that is changing one's mind as to one's amenability to sex with an individual, a process men and women experience with frequency, has been twisted into an excuse for rape." Implying that it SHOULDN'T be an excuse for rape. And the rest of the paragraph (which you neglected to quote) comes out pretty strongly against date rape.

I understand that it's written unclearly but it really seems that you didn't take the time to understand what was being said. Nothing in the article says that rape is funny.

Iceman said...

Way to take one word out of context and miss my entire point. I don't think there's anything wrong with girls being sexually active, and my point is that it is unrealistic to expect them not to be, and that keeping them informed about choices is the way to help them make healthy decisions, including the decision to have sex in mutual consent with a partner on terms acceptable to both of them. I agree with the rest of what you said.

Unknown said...

You butchered what was really said. They were placing blame on a culture that tells girls that they should play "hard to get" where they really do want it but say no and make the guy have to keep trying until the girl says yes. The girl is supposed to say no and the guy is supposed to persist and that shows "he really cares for you." They placed blame on Christianity idolizing virgins and our culture. They never said rape was good. Just the opposite.