I currently have a piece up on Liberal Conspiracy http://www.liberalconspiracy.org about my views on feminists’ campaigns to legislate against the sex industry in the UK. I hope you might take a moment to have a look at it. The sexual fantasy pieces I write here, have a political context to do with how our sexuality is policed in this country. My feminism and my writing challenges that policing, supports people who work in the sex industry, and ends up in almighty arguments with feminists who have a more puritanical view of sex and work than me. And, I hope than you too!
Archive for June, 2010
I am transcribing this directly from the notebook. It is hard to resist the urge to edit my words but this is the challenge I have set myself. Trust me.
It was a hot night. Humid and close. I knew I would not sleep well. Lying there in the dark alone, I resigned myself to fitful sleep.
My hand reached down to find my cunt. It was difficult to know what else to do on a night like this. I was wet already, but that was partly sweat, and the remains of my period.
I’m not sure how to describe how I felt. I never have any trouble getting myself off. But, just as a mood can change between two lovers, so can an atmosphere shift and darken, even when I am alone, my right hand finding its way into my sticky wetness.
As I lay there I began to imagine you, approaching me with your belt. Me bending over, ready for the blows. I felt the heat of the first strike as I pushed my fingers further into my cunt. It was so dark and hot.
But my thoughts blurred and wavered and the scenario flickered and faded. The more I rubbed and probed, the more I connected to myself, just me. Lying in the darkness on this hot night. You disappeared.
I thought about how I’d come to be this girl. This whore. I didn’t really know but I knew I’d got there somehow. I knew it hurt. As my orgasm began to peek through the gap in my thoughts, as the wetness intensified, a wave of loneliness and despair coarsed through my body.
I remembered feeling like this before. Totally vulnerable and scared and sad. I remembered my partner entering me and the deep well of sadness inside being too much. Because that was where ‘He’ got to me, how he (that other, malevolent ‘he’ of my nightmares) had reached in and taken all my sense of wholeness. He ripped me apart from inside. And when my boyfriend tried to fuck me with love, all I could do was cry.
And all I could do was cry now. My orgasm made my muscles twitch. My body shook with involuntary sobs. I cried for that hole that void inside that ‘he’ had left. I cried for the little girl that always felt so lost.
My body shook as I came. I came and I cried and when I turned over to reach out my arms to you there was nobody there.
*I might have called this ‘Coming and Crying’, but that belongs to Melissa and Megan. www.melissagira.tumblr.com T: @melissagira @meaghano
Coming and Crying is a set of personal stories from ‘the other side of the bed’. Out soon in U.S.A
** I changed two or three suffixes to make the past tense consistent. Sorry.
The notebook was defaced. Actually it is a relief: I can’t control who writes or doesn’t write in it, or what they say. Judging by the graffiti, I can’t control what I write in it either.
The word is written in thick green marker pen, over my last entry, that I scrawled on a train again, pissed and pissed off. I didn’t say anything interesting. ‘Whore’ is the most interesting word on that page. Someone refused to take the notebook away, but still managed to read it, my words and his words, that we had so carefully written, respectful of the exercise and its rules. This guy came in and pissed all over our precious exercise. And then he disappeared, off into the London night, never it seems to be heard from again.
I haven’t had that deafening silence as the outcome of a date for a long time. It is unnerving in its contrast with the pre-date virtual chatter and flirting. And it is more annoying because it involved him gaining access to some personal material.
I wrote some rubbish on the train coming home, I clutched the notebook to my chest. I read the proper, spidery handwriting entries of the last contributor and felt strangely moved. I missed my stop. I woke the next morning with a graze on my elbow, a metaphorical wound. I called myself a whore for all to see.
But the good thing is it has freed me up. I am not little miss muffet sat on her tuffet anymore. I’m just a whore that wants to meet some other whores, and read what they have to say. I wonder who will be next.
Feminism Will Eat Itself: Examining the New Backlash (in UK feminism)
Part Two: Ghetto Women
So I am a small voice in the wilderness, trying to make myself heard. I am saying that this ‘resurgence’ of feminism that is being hailed by the liberal press and the ‘new feminist’ movement, it’s not sitting very well with me. And when I try to talk to ‘feminists’, not always to critique, sometimes to learn, to educate myself, to not feel so alone, I am suddenly a kid again, putting her hand into a box, and recoiling as I find it is full of stinging nettles or wasps.
What I learned about gender in the 1990s, was that it is a collection of multiple ‘intersections':
‘Intersectionality may be defined as a theory to analyse how social and cultural categories intertwine. The relationships between gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, class and nationality are examined. The concept can be a useful tool in tracing how certain people seem to get positioned as not only different but also troublesome and, in some instances, marginalised.
Suzanne V knudsen http://www.caen.iufm.fr/colloque_iartem/pdf/knudsen.pdf
What seems to have happened is that many feminist interest groups have taken on this concept of ‘intersectionality’ but interpreted it in a simplistic way. They acknowledge how ‘feminism’ cannot represent all women as a homogenous group. They identify themselves as a minority who is ‘othered’ by the dominant feminist ideology, and is seen as ‘troublesome’. But their reaction is to retreat into their own ‘ghetto’, where they feel safe and are not ‘troubled’ by anyone else’s differing identities and opinions. So the radical feminists, trans women, ‘womanists’ , liberal feminists, anti-sex industry feminists, pro-porn feminists, trade union feminists all inhabit different discursive and physical spaces. In some cases they are patrolled by guards and have high fences round them, to keep out intruders.
But I have no interest in ‘ghetto’ politics. There were some key single interest movements in the past, such as Radical Feminism and Black Power, which needed to distinguish themselves from ‘mainstream’ society and organise, educate themselves separately. But this is 2010 not 1970, and even if people need to work in single-issue groups at times, if there is no coming together, no communication, no acknowledgement of the inevitable intersection between us all, there is no future for feminism.
Here are a few examples of what some of these ‘ghetto women’ said to and about me, when I attempted to ‘intrude’ on their territory, to ask questions and make a dialogue between feminists about difficult subjects such as transgender issues, cissexism, rape, sexuality, pornography and ‘objectification’.
‘she’s just a cis white princess. #enemyatthegates’
‘if cis women have better stuff than trans women, remember its because they beat us down and stole what little we had and destroyed the rest’.
‘all cis gender academics should be killed’
‘Quite Riot Girl, you do know that the sadism in BDSM is named after the Marquis de Sade, the serial rapist of poor French women? Is that really something you want to support in aid of your “fantasies”?’
‘Why should “kink” be respected anyway? Eroticised male violence to women is harmful to women.’
‘Tell that to the girls who had their clitorises cut off for men’s pleasure Quiet Riot Girl. Capitulating isn’t an adequate political response you know’.
‘Quiet Riot Girl – your posts (that you widely publicise) don’t just criticise feminism, they are offensive to the max. Especially your posts about rape. You think you are ‘big and strong enough’ but actually you are misinformed and vile’.
‘But have you ever raped anyone though?’
I found all these comments (and more) about me hurtful at the time. I was struck by how easily some of the people who made them found it to use violent language in their personal attacks. But I reproduce them here, not to gain sympathy. I know I am a privileged white cis woman. I do not feel ‘othered’ by society, except in the ‘small’ matters of my sexuality and my choices around who my partners are and what I write about. I put up these quotes to illustrate how feminism is operating in ghettos, and how anyone who tries to break down the barriers and climb over the fence, gets her hand bitten.
The discourse amongst liberal white feminists, the ones who write the Guardian articles and run the national feminist organisations, the ones who hold the power and privilege in this context, I think, is that this is all part of the big melting pot of feminist thought and action. That all voices can be heard, and all identities can be represented.
I call bullshit on that view. I think trans women are completely ignored and marginalised in our society, including by ‘feminism’. I think a lot of the writings and organisations that are feminist are racist. I think that working class feminists are silenced by the majority of middle class feminism. I think that radical feminist views on rape and sexual violence that were formed in the 1970s, dominate feminist discourse, and other opinions and approaches are vilified. I think the anti-sex industry lobby is doing very well at changing laws and criminalising sex work further, and that people whose sexual proclivities include S and M and kink are treated as ‘vile’ by dominant feminist views.
I think as well there is a case of ‘blame the messenger’ going on here. I am one of very few feminists that I am aware of in the UK who is drawing attention to these divisions and conflicts within feminism. I have been accused of getting involved in ‘infighting’ instead of focussing on our shared aims and objectives. I have had my articles rejected for publication in feminist online journals, and treated as somehow ‘marginal’ in themselves. I have not had emails and correspondance answered by feminist organisations who don’t like what I have to say. What I have to say is not comfortable listening. For something is rotten in the state of feminism, and we need to address it before the whole kingdom comes tumbling down around our ears.
My vision of where feminism is going is bleak. I see a liberal white elite of cis middle class feminists, continuing on their merry way, serving their own interests, and ignoring the rest. The rest, I believe, will retreat further and further into their ghettos and become more and more resentful, so the language of hate could become the actions of hate. Violence against trans women, against sex workers, against gay women, against black women is already occurring (as is violence against white cis women but that is much better publicised and challenged by feminist campaigns). The feeling I have had when visiting these groups, even just online in some cases, is that they are ready to fight back. And that they see ‘feminists’ as a valid target as any for their resentment.
So if we don’t want a war on our hands, don’t you think we should start talking to each other?
With all these ghettos in feminism, I am concerned by the lack of discussion about the biggest ‘ghettos': those of ‘men’ and ‘women’. Without men, feminism does not have a hope in hell. But in this ghetto politics, men and their various ‘intersectional’ identities are not given any credence as far as I can see. My next section will address men and masculinities.
Take a final drag from your cigarette,
Before you let the bitch have it.
Summon the strength, the necessary power
To do the job. Kick down her door.
Think of your anger, rising within.
Make her the cause of all your pain.
Look at her snivelling, sneering expression.
Tonight you’re going to teach her a lesson
She’ll never forget. Concentrate.
Force her to look at you square in the face.
Next on the cheek you once gently kissed,
Accurately plant your fist.
Pull her towards you by the roots of her hair.
If she is screaming then do not hear.
See how her blood turns your hands red,
How strands of her hair stick to the blood.
Throw her down, onto the floor.
This is all she was ever good for.
Kick her, hard, in the small of her back
Till her body goes limp as if she’d been fucked.
Step back for a moment. Check she’s not dead.
Go in for one last punch in the head.
Ask her if this time she understands
Who’s boss. Now wash your hands.
Part One: Backlash Redux
My feminist heart is breaking. That may sound hyperbolic, but it is true.
I was born from the belly of 1970s Women’s Liberation Movement. One of my earliest memories is of being pushed around in my pushchair at a Women’s Lib march. I grew up with the iconic image of the fist inside the women’s symbol, the way other kids grow up surrounded by Star Wars posters. If I cut myself I bleed red, feminist blood.
According to the liberal media, the current epoch is a new ‘golden age’ for feminism, not seen since the second wave’s heyday in the 70s, that I scrutinised not a little critically from my pushchair.
‘There has never been a better, more exciting time to be a feminist’ : Zoe Margolis AKA Abby Lee, author of Girl With A One Track Mind.
‘There’s a resurgence of feminism happening now’ : Catherine Redfern,founder of the popular feminist blog The F Word and co-author of Reclaiming The F Word: The New Feminist Movement.
These are good times we are being told. The third wave of feminism is rolling and crashing onto the beach. So why is this life-long feminist crying into her beer? Why do the words that come to my mind when I think of the state of feminism today include ‘meltdown’ , ‘crisis’ and ‘self-destruction’?
I can’t stop thinking about Backlash. In 1991 Susan Faludi wrote this amazing book on ‘America’s undeclared war on women’. She talked about how
‘the creators of commercial culture distort feminist concepts to sell products while selling women downstream, how the feminist ethic of economic independence is twisted into the consumer ethic of buying power, and how the feminist quest for self-determination is warped into a self-centered quest for self-improvement’.
Faludi told us that the concept that feminism had damaged women and men was a symptom of this ‘post-feminist’ backlash and a myth that needed to be challenged, and, back in 1991, was being challenged by feminist women.
‘Women themselves don’t single out the women’s movement as the source of their misery. To the contrary, in national surveys 75 to 95 percent of women credit the feminist campaign with improving their lives, and a similar proportion say that the women’s movement should keep pushing for change. Less than 8 percent think the women’s movement might have actually made their lot worse’.
But I am beginning to think that the backlash virus has infiltrated feminism itself, and we are attacking our own immune system. So ‘feminism’ is not necessarily the solution to the problems caused worldwide by patriarchal power structures. Feminism has become part of those power structures itself.
Here I list four examples of this shift: they are only symptoms of the disease. To diagnose the cause I would need a lot more time and research.
1. Ghetto Women
2.Men and Masculinities
3. Dumbing down
4. Written on the body.
First section next up: ‘Ghetto Women’
I got the notebook back last night. I could tell by the way it looked a little bit ‘lived in’ that he had used it as I intended. I could also tell, that the experience of carrying the notebook around had affected him, not in the same way, probably, but as it had also affected me.
He wanted to read from his entries but I said no. Suddenly seeing it there in real life analogue again, with him sat there beside me, I felt shy about the words I’d scrawled. I started to wish I hadn’t got it out that time on the tube when I was pissed. He did say that I ‘lost it a bit in the middle’. Too right I did.
When we parted I decided not to read what he had written, not yet anyway. The notebook was burning a hole in my bag and all I could think of was how to get rid of it. Luckily or rather cleverly, I had already made a date with the next potential ‘guardian’ for the following day. The hot potato would be out of my hands again very soon.
I hope the next person agrees to take part. I hope that he enjoys reading the personal confessions of two strangers. I hope he doesn’t think I am a complete headcase. Or if he does, that he realises this little band of secret scribblers have self-selected to a degree.
The notebook belongs to all of us. We just don’t like to admit it out loud.
Rude Boy is the new single and video by Rhianna.
Apparently it is causing a bit of a stir in the media and with the ‘parents’.
I don’t know what all the fuss is about do you?
Aside from the fact Rhianna is a gorgeous, strong (not white) solo artist, she sings about sex that overtly references power dynamics (‘I like it when you pull my hair’ ‘I like it when you tell me move it there’). She is also shaking her booty suggestively and looking directly at the camera with a cool stare. ‘If I ain’t feelin’ it I won’t fake it’. This woman is for real and some people will feel threatened by a woman expressing her sexuality.
But I think there is another reason why her new song and video is causing a commotion in Middle England. The last time we really saw Rhianna spread across our newspapers, she looked like this:
It is likely that the media and the parents find this juxtaposition, of a woman as victim of violence, against a video of a woman regaining her confidence and her sexual assertiveness , difficult to handle. It’s easier to think of victims of partner violence as perpetual victims, and to dismiss ‘sexualised’ images of women in pop music as ‘offensive’.
But I love how Rhianna challenges the stereotypes. I am happy to see her shaking her booty and telling her man to ‘gidee up gidee up’.
You go girl. And enjoy those rude boys on your own terms.
I am sitting on the ledge at the end of his bath. He is crouched below me in the empty tub. We are both naked. In theory, I could be holding the power in this situation, as I am sat above him looking down. I could probably even kick him in the balls if I tried. But it is me who is feeling vulnerable and exposed. He has got me exactly where he wants me, and I am completely at his mercy. Power, it transpires, belongs to whoever wants it most.
Also he is holding a weapon: a small, manual razor, the blade flashing silver in the fluorescent light. I shiver, though it’s not cold. He notices my discomfort and smiles. ‘Nervous’? he asks but I know better than to reply. Suddenly the cute little erotic story I have been writing in my mind transforms itself into a slasher movie. I see Carrie in her blood-stained prom dress, I see the shower scene from Psycho. I see that Algerian man from ‘Cache’, slitting his own throat in front of his childhood friend, the blood spurting out from his neck and onto the kitchen floor. I start to think about that short by Scorsese: ‘The Big Shave’. It shows a man cutting himself shaving. Only in this mini horror the blood keeps on pouring. The more he shaves the bloodier it gets until the sink is a crimson pool, the man’s face the scene of a massacre.
I imagine him taking the razor and slicing me up into little pieces, my blood splattering all over the pristine white tiles, the bath, the shower curtain, his pale body. What the fuck am I doing here? I barely know this man. Maybe I should have asked myself that question much earlier, before we drank all that wine, before he told me to undress, before he put me over his knee and spanked me till my arse bruised purple, blue, black. ‘Relax’ he says, but I can’t.
I try to rationalise my fears. He wouldn’t want to mess up his lovely apartment would he? He wouldn’t want the hassle of becoming the owner of a crime scene, wouldn’t want to annoy his neighbours with the sound of a woman, screaming? No, he just wants to have a bit of fun, like me. Except I am not having fun right now. I am terrified.
Everything stops. I feel a sudden freezing sensation on my skin below my belly. I flinch and breathe in sharply. Looking down I see I am covered in blue shaving gel. It looks so clinical, like the stuff they put on a pregnant woman before an ultrasound. I sit still as a stone. Then I watch transfixed, as he takes the razor and slowly starts to shave, scraping off little clumps of pubic hair mingled with the gel. The sensation is not entirely unpleasant. I am in awe: nobody not even me has done this before. His expression is one of complete concentraion. He holds his hand steady as he pulls those flaps of my skin to one side to get to the hardest to reach hairs. when he has finished and rinsed me with the shower I examine the results. I have not been this naked since I was about eleven years old. It is weird: I can’t remember actually acquiring pubic hair. It is as if I went to bed one night a child and woke up the next morning a woman. But now I am a child again, no, more like a mannequin. It feels strange, but also horny. ‘I am the first to do this to you’ he declares, staking his claim. ‘You belong to me now’.
Later, in the safety of the darkness, I finally let myself go. He plays with his new toy, licking and prodding it with his tongue, stroking the smooth skin with his fingers. He whispers in my ear as he holds me down, telling me what a beautiful cunt I have. As I lie back, preparing myself for the tsunami that is about to wash over my shores, I cannot help but agree.
When I finally fall asleep I dream of naked flesh, of cold metal cutting through skin. And blood. These days my dreams are always soaked in blood.
Tags: Scribbling on Foucault's walls
Nothing is fundamental. That is what is so interesting about the analysis of society. That is why nothing irritates me as much as these inquiries – which are by definition meptaphysical – on the foundations of power in a society or the self-institution of a society, etc. These are not fundamental phenomena. There are only reciprocal relations, and the perpetual gaps between intentions in relation to one another.’
Michel Foucault. (1991). ‘Space, Knowledge and Power’. In Paul Rabinow, (ed.), The Foucault Reader. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, p. 247.
‘So you’re a Modernist, then?’ he asks. Though it sounds more like a statement. She nods.
It is kind of a relief to admit it. You don’t go round saying things like that in polite ‘post-modern’ company. She doesn’t think many people know what modernism is. Or was. It certainly makes her a throw-back, to identify with such old-fashioned ideas.
She smiles inwardly, picturing him picturing her in some cold, white modernist appartment somewhere, a single Mondrian on the living room wall, reading To The Lighthouse. If only life mirrored art so aesthetically.
When she speaks she sounds as post-modern as you can get. She is her father’s daughter after all. She finds it difficult to open her mouth without a qualification. She’d start all her sentences with ‘But…’ if she didn’t think it was bad grammar. ‘Nothing is fundamental’ . Meaning is as nebulous as the ocean, crashing against the shores of our consciousness with complete abandon, and certainly no respect for order. There are no straight lines.
In matters of identity her post-structural mind goes into overdrive. She will sit and tell you over and over how the self is a site of conflict, creating and moulding multiple identities every day, every moment. She is not the same person now as she was five minutes ago. ‘Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same’. Whoever said that one was born just once? Certainly not Derrida.
The postmodern view of the self is perfect for people who want to enjoy multiple identities and experiences. They don’t have to make one aspect of their existence match up with another; all they need to do is create another identity, another mode of being. The internet makes this as easy as logging in.
We can be whoever we want to be. She knows this in theory. We can invent and re-invent ourselves, weaving webs of intrigue like wires at the backs of our computers. We can have a job and a wife by day, and then launch ourselves into a parallel virtual universe by night, where our hyper-real libido roams free. We can act out that splitting of the self in ‘real life’ aswell. (Yes, it needs inverted commas these days). It can’t be so hard, as everyone is acting all the time anyway. And how can you lie when there is no longer such a thing as ‘truth’?
But when she walks into the room to meet him. When he sits down beside her on the sofa. When their arms brush against each other, they can only ever be one person each.
So she watches and listens, amused, as he tries to maintain the split personality he presented to her online. This man is married, and also a casanova. An academic, and also an ‘anonymous sex blogger’. He talks about his ‘lives’ as if they are two separate existences. But sat here beside her, sipping his pint, a little nervous, he is just a man. Yet another man who heard her surname and wanted to meet her, to split the daughter up from her father, to take the ‘Foucault’ out of her identity, to rip her famous heart from its moorings and touch it, see it, know it, casting the rest of her identity aside. But sat there beside him, sipping her pint, all he sees is a woman. Not Foucault’s emissary on earth, just a slightly awkward, serious but admittedly beautiful woman. He can barely hide his disappointment.
For it is only one heart that beats inside her rib cage, and one set of lungs that drags the air in and pushes it back out of her body. If somebody killed her there would only be one corpse. Even her father, the daddy of multiplicity, could only produce one pathetic corpse.
She tries to live in such a way that honours the limitations of the body that carries her. This means she attempts some kind of moral and narrative consistency, going through her like the words through a stick of English rock. She may not succeed. But she tries. She thinks about explaining this to him, but decides against it. He seems so attached to his double-life, the illusion that he can split himself in two, half of him disappearing before her eyes. If she speaks her mind, he might disappear altogether, and she isn’t ready to be left alone in a bar in a strange city. Not tonight.
So instead she just nods. Yes, she is a modernist. It’s dreadfully quaint, she knows. It takes the fun out of meeting and fucking these international postmodern men of mystery for a start (though of course she doesn’t say that). And it makes her look at this world like an outsider would, as if from a previous age, peering into the LCD screen, reeling in wonder and in horror at what she sees.