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"White cis men are the patriarchal leaders of society, and it is every other group that is descriminated against. The suicide statistics suggest the story is far more complex; people that are just rolling around in their privilege don't kill themselves at these numbers".
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"Most of our support services have got men framed as the perpetrators, and struggle to relate to them as victims".
"Sometimes, as a male approaching support services, you get met with a response along the lines of "Well, what have you been doing wrong?".
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People often conflate and compare sexism and racism. They say that sexism doesn't apply to men in the same way that racism doesn't apply to white people. You can't be sexist against men in the same way that you can't be racist against (insert massively downtrodden race identity here).
This is a profound misuse of logic, a gross oversimplification, and a banner that allows people to behave in sexist ways while telling themselves that they're the victims.
Racism is complicated. When you look at a situation like Australia's invasion of the land it now claims, or Hitler's holocaust against the Jews, or America's treatment of People of Colour (now, definitely, but even more so in the past), we all agree: Negative attitudes from the oppressed towards the oppressor are more or less irrelevant compared to the un-justices being meted out against them. The power difference is so extreme that the 'reverse racism' seems... irrelevant. Breath, relax, we all agree. I am not about to attempt to tell you how, as a white Australian, I am as oppressed as the original occupants of this land.
But racism is not anywhere near that clear-cut, most of the time. Take the Isreal / Palestine conflict; or the simmering racism between various Asian nation-states, like South Korea and Japan. Or even the USA / Russia conflict as it stood in the early eighties, when both sides were more evenly matched (and threatened).
It's complicated. It's nuanced. Both sides are entitled to claim victim-hood. There is no clear winner or loser, and both sides commonly feel like they're more hard done by.
Sexism - at least in Western modernity - is not as simple as a holocaust, invasion, or annihilation. The gender war is complex and nuanced.
Men win in the areas - to generalise - of politics, business, employment, economics, and sometimes physical strength. Women win - to generalise - in the areas of family, friendships, community, communication skills, emotional fluidity, and sometimes physical appeal.
Men may get paid more, but are more likely to die or be injured on the job. Women carry the emotional load, but are overall happier. Men will die younger, but richer (neither for any good reason). Women are freer to speak in community settings, but less free in business settings. Men are more likely to commit crimes, but get 150% of the sentence women get for the same crime. These comparisons go on forever.
It's complicated. It's nuanced. Individuals within the gender war will sometimes be in positions of privilege, and sometimes disadvantage; gender will sometimes play in their advantage, and sometimes not.
To say that sexism never happens to men is to say that racism never happens to Israelites. Or Palestinians. (Depending on what side you're listening to). It is to say ageism never happens against young people. (Or old people). Or that nepotism never happens to [group x]... you get the picture.
Personally, I have come to dislike the racism-sexism argument because it's generally followed by something really sexist, against me. The speaker will feel completely justified, because as far as they're concerned, they're off the hook. They're not the problem. They're the victim. If anything, they're just evening out the score, and that's justified.
That's what everyone fighting a war has told themselves, regardless of whether it's an evenly matched or hopelessly one-sided war. It doesn't mean they're right; it may just mean they're one-sided.
Yet at the same time, I am patently aware that what new Australia has done to indigenous Australians is wrong, wrong, wrong, and continues to this day. Any racism directed towards me (as a white person) is irrelevant.
Confusing? No, not really, just complicated. Please stop talking like it's simple. Racism and sexism are not the same, and sexism is not something that only happens to women.
I'd love to frame this with some kind of witty, compassionate introduction. But I ain't got it.
Today, it's time to rave. I'm angry.
In the gender equality debate, I'm angry about these people...
People who get angry about sexist jokes, but then refer to a bad joke as a "dad joke".
People who claim that their model of feminism is about gender equality for everyone, but that only ever speak or post about equality for women. (The walk don't match the talk).
People that say they support men getting together to talk about their issues, then complain that the mens rights movement is nothing but misogynists.
People who see sexual adventurousness in women as women enjoying and expressing their sexuality, but view exactly the same behavior in men as sleazy.
People who complain that men aren't good at sex or relationships or communication, and then go and run a workshop on those topics that only women can attend.
People that claim to be well informed about gender issues, but that have never read a book written from another gender's perspective.
People that argue that things that mostly effect men (like suicide) shouldn't be regarded as gendered issues because that makes women invisible, but then argue that things that mostly effect women (like street sexual harassment) should be regarded as a gendered issue.
People that tell me I should speak up when I see sexism against men, but then get deeply defensive and outraged when their sexism against men is pointed out to them.
People that make passionate cases against being judged by our gender, but feel that having a baseline of mistrust towards men is reasonable.
People that complain that men are bad at communication, but that don't have the compassion or political framework to see that men are relatively unprivileged in such things. They blame the individual, rather than the conditioning.
People who are interested in privilege, but only if we're talking about it as something that women don't have, and that men do have.
People who say that sexism doesn't really happen against men, then say something stupidly sexist against men without even realizing it.
People that think that men in the current day and age need to accept that there's a lot of anger against men, and that part of being a privileged man is learning to listen to anger directed at them and not take it personally... Not realizing that they're holding an individual accountable for something others of their demographic might have done - the very meaning of the word 'sexism'.
People who say we shouldn't use the word 'sexism' to describe what happens to men, not realizing what an amazing piece of sexism that perspective is in itself.
People that say they're passionate about exploring and discussing the concept of privilege, but struggle with the idea that privilege is not one simple thing (rather, it's made up of many many small things), or that all privileges are double-edged.
People who cannot see my anger - such as that in the background of this writing - as anything but dangerous and suspicious (as opposed to when a woman is angry about gender politics, where her anger is seen as understandable and an important part of the process). The very same people that don't understand that being able to speak up about gender politics and be taken seriously - most of the time - is a privilege.
People that think that the men's movement should only operate within the bounds set for it by feminism, but (understandably) rail at the idea that feminism should only operate within the bounds set for it by patriarchy.
People that say that the patriarchy is bad for both men and women and that that's why we need feminism. But that patriarchy also benefits men, which is why we don't have to include men's issues in our activism, our language, our funding, or our thinking.
People that say they want men to get more involved in the parenting process, but then insist that abortion is only a women's issue, and that men should have no legal rights to family access.
People that object to the use of words like 'cunt', 'twat', and 'pussy' as negative words or put-downs, but then happily use words like 'dick-head', 'prick', or 'cock' in the same context.
People that claim to be against slut-shaming and sex-negativity, but that think that male sexuality is fundamentally dangerous.
People that think that male libido enhancements are another example of a patriarchal medical system prioritizing male pleasure. And that female libido enhancements are a way of the patriarchal medical system manipulating women's bodies to suit men.
People that think dental dams are an appalling loss of pleasure, and that they understand why women don't want to use them. But that men that don't want to use condoms are incomprehensible.
Women that feel like it makes perfect sense for them to only study women's issues, but that men that only study men's issues are dangerous, misogynistic and ill-informed. (Which, for the record, the author tends to agree with - one should study sexism, inequality and privilege as it relates to all genders. See 'cis-political').
People that say that sexism by men against men isn't really sexism, but that sexism against women by women is.
People who support quotas to get women more equally represented in politics, business and media, but think that quotas to get more men in child-care, family, and community sectors would be an affront.
People that do an analysis of gender violence in video games, conclude that video gaming is misogynistic, but don't notice that almost all of the violence is against men because that's normal.
People that understand that in marginalized communities, high rates of violence, law-breaking and incarceration are evidence of those populations playing out the structural violence committed against them. But that when men demonstrate high rates of those things, it's just because men are bad.
People that - when told about domestic violence or abuse against men - assume he probably deserved it.
Women that exclaim "check your privilege!", not noticing that in discussions about gender politics, being female is a privileged position.
People that assume that any blow-back against feminism can be attributed to stupidity, and is a cue for an explanation about privilege and inequality; but the same, in reverse, is regarded as mansplaining.
Most of the above can be gender-flipped, showing the same one-sided and unfair perspectives in mens' rights activism circles.
The reason this rant is not inclusive of both is that the mens' rights movement is hopelessly small. It's not in my news-feed, it's not on my radio, it's not in the films I watch or the conversations that happen around me. The above is; it's everywhere. I promise, if it was the other way around, I'd be ranting against MRA with as much passion. So for the record: Men's Rights Activists, you need to get your act together too. You're doing all of the same things, flipped.
One-sided gender politics doesn't work. It's in too many ways a repetition of the problem it's trying to solve.
If you only care about one side of gender politics, then of course that's all you're going to see, and it's going to feel like the world is against you. I suggest it behooves us to get well informed and compassionate about all sides of the discussion - men's issues, women's issues, trans-sexual, pan-sexual, inter-sexual, and everything else.
Do what you're asking, and find some love and compassion for the other side. Gender-flip your politics.
I just had the most wonderful conversation with someone, which I'll copy for you below (edited only for spelling and to change names).
I spend a lot of time addressing women with nasty attitudes towards men, and it's a slippery conversation to hold. It was actually a great deal of fun addressing a man with some nasty attitudes towards women. It's so much easier, going into bat for others.
Women will never be equal to men.
And men will never be equal to women.
Nevertheless, individuals overcome those odds all the time, and I'm in support of folks having that option / choice.
What's your point?
Wow that makes no sense.
The only thing women have going for them is their reproductive value.
There is nothing that a woman can excel at better than a man.
Natural law trumps your "opinion".
Your pages is twaddle.
Oh, James... Thanks for writing, but that's just hilarious.
Is that what you really think?
If I could give you just one thing that women are better at, would you concede that it's not as black and white as you suggest?
There are so many things that women are better at, I'd be delighted to list a couple for you to consider.
Or are you just trolling me?
I will debunk anything you say. Lets make this fun.
List ten things women are better at men.
And don't use the "troll" term again with me.
I live to debunk feminist nonsense with logic.
I have to go watch the sunset on the beach.
Will be back in a minute.
Go ahead....and um...start without me.
Thanks for being clear about the word 'troll'. Won't happen again, and I see that you're genuine.
I will give you ten things, this will be fun. [smile emoticon]
Firstly, I am NOT a feminist. I am passionately NOT a feminist. I believe in equality for all people, regardless of gender. A lot of people that identify as 'feminist' really struggle with what I have to say.
Nor am I a Mens Rights Activist. Like I say, I believe in equality for all.
So, ten things women are better at (noting that these are all horrible generalisations, of course. And that some of these might have a base in biology, but most are due to social conditioning):
1 Articulating their emotions in speech
2 Feeling their emotions in the first place
3 Having multiple orgasms
4 Being able to 'read' a lover's body during sex
5 Having different kinds of orgasms - simple clitoral ones, full-body ones, kundalini ones, g-spot ones, anal...
6 Being able to read body language
7 Craft human-centric solutions to problems
8 Dress up
9 Jointly come together and articulate shared problems
10 Collaborating, generally.
And, purely so that you don't think I'm one sided, here's my opposing list of things that men are sometimes better at. Again, horrible generalisations mostly based on socialisation rather than anything else:
1 Giving over to work
3 Manipulating physical objects
4 Detaching from / ignoring emotions
5 Instigating relationships
6 Instigating sex
7 Earning money
8 Getting ripped apart in public and living to face another day
9 Competing against each other within a capitalist system
10 Accepting what they're told
So, go right ahead and show me this logic you speak of.
Remember, that if it's truly going to show that women are better at nothing, then none of those same logic tricks can apply to the list of stuff that men are better at. Otherwise they disprove themselves.
"1 Articulating their emotions in speech"
Emotions and speech are a womans domain.
"2 Feeling their emotions in the first place"
Both sexes "feel" emotions, a double negative? But women base their decisions on them. The universe runs on logic, not emotion.
"3 Having multiple orgasms"
Most womrn cannot do this, and even fewer still know how to ejaculate. Womens sexuality has been studied excessively in Asia. Women are feelers of the universe. So? This isn't "better". They deal with imbalence of chemicals once a week and shed blood. No thanks.
"4 Being able to 'read' a lover's body during sex"
What does that even mean?
Women listen more than they read. Like reptiles.
"5 Having different kinds of orgasms - simple clitoral ones, full-body ones, kundalini ones, g-spot ones, anal..."
Women have the same orgasms as men. Orgasim corresponds with nerve plexus. They just have different nerve endings brah. Settle down and study anatomy.
Even then, this has something to do with birth, and lessening pain in childbirth.
"6 Being able to read body language"
All forms of life depend on doing it and you do it subconsciously. Women aren't better they just tune in more because emotions suck.
"7 Craft human-centric solutions to problems"
"8 Dress up"
To get a mate. To have children.
"9 Jointly come together and articulate shared problems"
You mean faking orgasims? What are you in high school? Women can be wicked and deceiving and cunning.
"10 Collaborating, generally."
Not that women have ever made any major discoveries. Like scientific.
Any examples of that helping civilization....other than working with others to raise children?
I hope the sunset was nice.
Yes, this is fun. Thanks for your reply.
1. Yes, emotions and speech are a woman's domain. Whether it's through biology or socialisation, it's true.
And since your challenge to me was to come up with anything where women are better than men, then I have already won, on this point alone. Thank you.
2. The universe runs on logic, or more specifically, the laws of physics, yes. I agree.
However, humans don't. Humans are emotional creatures, and logic won't help someone who his hurt, or fearful, or happy, or in any other emotional state. If there are humans involved, then emotions are crucially important. Humans are driven by their emotions; it is illogical.
And yes, both sexes (and other non-binary genders) 'feel' emotions, however women are (on average) far quicker at noticing those emotions, and acting on them.
Which, based on some things you said further down, it's clear you agree with. So again: We have something that women are better at than men.
3. Far more women can have multiple orgasms than men (even though, technically, men are just as capable). So again: This is something women are better at.
4. By "reading a lover's body", I mean the ability to notice how a lover / partner is responding to touch. It's very hard to measure, but it would seem that women might be better than men at this (not because women are fundamentally better, but because it's a larger part of their conditioning).
5. Thank you for the suggestion to study anatomy. I have done so, especially as it relates to orgasms, and especially as it relates to gender differences and similarities.
I am in Australia. I put to you with a great deal of confidence that the average woman in Australia is capable of a far wider variety of orgasms than the average man.
Most men don't know that many of the nerve endings that wind up in a clitoris wind up in the frenulum, and that similar orgasms can be had. Most men don't know that they can have prostate orgasms that for all intents and purposes appear to be extremely similar to g-spot orgasms.
Most men don't know they can have multiple orgasms (whereas a lot of women do, even if they themselves don't have them), and very few men have experienced kundalini orgasms.
Thus, I put to you, that (on average) women are better at a variety of orgasms than men are. I don't know about you, but speaking as one male-identified person to another, I would very much like to reach equality with women on this point alone.
(Note: In the above language, I'm assuming that women have vaginas, and men have a penis and balls. I apologise for this generalisation, and note that many people don't fit this binary. It's very hard to discuss without slipping into language short-cuts, however, so please forgive me).
6. Yes, we all read body language. But a lot of studies show that women are far quicker and more accurate than man. (Again, I think this is just the effects of socialisation, but it's true nevertheless).
7. Whereas men might be more likely to come up with a solution that makes perfect logical sense, women might be more likely to come up with a solution that is likely to be accepted by the people that are required to implement it. Again: Humans respond to emotions more than logic, and women are better at appealing to this than men.
8. It doesn't matter what the purpose is. Women are better than men at it.
It sounds like you agree, and are just stating the reasons why.
9. No, I mean that women are better at coming together about their collective problems; I'm referring to feminism, as the obvious example. Part of the reason the men's movement is so hopelessly small in comparison is because men's socialisation doesn't include much in the way of coming together, sharing, and working together on solutions. Women are much, much, much better at this.
Sit 10 men down in a room and ask them to list their shared problems, and they will basically just freak out and look at you blankly. (Not, however, because they don't have any shared problems...)
Sit 10 women down with the same question, and they will give you a thesis and an action plan, and it will be very articulate.
10. You're referring to a different point. My point wasn't that women are better at scientific discoveries (which may or may not be true; let's do that another time). My point was that women are better at collaborating, since collaborating requires emotional intelligence, communication skills, and the ability to 'read' others in the group.
No, women definitely don't do this all the time, and there are some great examples of men doing this, but my suggestion is that on average, women are better.
Back over to you, my friend. But I have to say, so far I very much feel like I'm winning.
I think part of the problem is that you only want to measure women on men's terms. This is an unfair test; it's like setting a test that says that being tall is better, and then (not surprisingly) failing the short people.
Since you like logic so much, then perhaps this will make sense to you: You can do the same test in reverse. You can make the claim that men will never be as good as women are, and then measure the men in question against things that women are better at. It would infuriate all of the men involved, and it wouldn't prove anything.
I put to you this: Our socialisation favours men in some ways, and women in others. In the background of that, there are probably some fundamental biological truths; but far less than most people think, and in any case, it's still not possible to say which of those are better or worse than any other.
Women are awesome. Men are awesome. None of this tells us anything about any individual person, who may be so far out of the generalisations we've been making above that it's all completely irrelevant.
I believe that each individual person has the right to try their hand at anything - whether it's a woman stepping into business, or a man stepping into family, or whatever else. The odds may be against them, but they may just prove themselves to be far better at it than those around them.
Finally: A person's gender tells us nothing about them. A person might be the most logic-driven or emotions-driven person on the planet, but knowing that wouldn't tell us their gender.
Hope you're doing well.
We know that there is a connection between one's upbringing, and the likelihood that one will be involved in crime. In short, as the quality of a child's upbringing decreases, the chances that they'll be involved in the criminal system increases.
Recent studies also show us that when given a plastic baby doll, people will hold the doll more closely and intimately if they think it's a girl. If they think it's a boy, they will be a little rougher, and a little more distant. The old adage that boys should be treated more roughly still holds true.
If we put those two pieces of information together, does it not explain some of the reason why men are more likely to be physically violent, commit crimes, and wind up in jail? Is the problem of bad male behavior partly one of our own creation?
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Some questions for anti-porn people; specifically, those that see porn as fundamentally degrading to women...
What, exactly, is degrading? I'm assuming you're comfortable with the idea of people having sex, so why is that as soon as that's captured as an image you regard it as degrading?
If your concern is that some porn shows women being treated badly (ie. having sex without consent), are you okay with the rest (and vast, vast majority) of porn?
And I'm curious: Regarding the very small amount of porn that is non-consensual (like when an actor is in a situation that they haven't agreed to or don't like), are you as outraged about porn that depicts men this way? Or does your perspective not apply to men? Is it okay to treat men that way? What do you think happens to men when we send a message that says that violence or non-consent against them is not important?
What do you think about porn where two people, who obviously care about each other, film themselves having delicious, intimate, loving sex? How do you think we could go about supporting positive porn like this, while putting a clear contamination zone around porn depicting non-consent?
What do you think about the fact that some women, and some men, like to be treated in a way that others might describe as rough, painful or kinky? If it's done with consent and negotiation before-hand, is there anything wrong with it (other than it not being your thing)? Have you tried being treated that way (with consent), or treating someone else that way (with consent)? Did you find any aspect of it fun? Does it make sense that even if it's not right for you, it might still be a positive thing for other people?
If you think that all porn is fundamentally degrading towards women, how come the same doesn't apply to men? How exactly is it any different? If you feel that the majority of porn being viewed shows men having non-consensual sex with women, do you know of any statistics that support that analysis?
What do you think about people for whom, for whatever reason, porn is literally their only sexual outlet - do you think that should be taken away from them?
At what point does this act become wrong for you: Two people have sex. One of them asks if they can photograph the other, the other likes it, so says yes. It becomes something they enjoy doing. After a while, they upload some images of them having sex to an amateur porn site. They laugh when they see how many people click on it. ...At what point did this become a violation? At what point did it become degrading?
If women are being exploited through their participation in porn, would you say that the men that pay to watch it are being exploited also? (And yes, please gender flip this question also, out of recognition that men feature in porn, and women pay to watch it. Both perspectives are equally interesting).
How do you feel about that other form of porn, erotic literature? Would you agree that it is also negative because it sometimes portrays women and men in very stereotyped ways? Are you only concerned with erotic literature that implies a lack of consent - rape culture - or all erotic literature? What do you think about the way that people in erotic literature are often described in ways that very few people can measure up to, therefore contributing to body image issues, inadequacy, lack of confidence, unrealistic relationship expectations, etc.? What do you think about the research that shows that women now spend more money on written porn than men spend on visual porn? Do you think men, through the way they're being portrayed in erotic literature, are being exploited, or does it only work the other way around?
What do you think about the emergence (and now dominance on a megabyte-for-megabyte basis) of 'amateur' or 'reality' porn - porn that is far more personal, real, diverse, and loving? How does it impact on your viewpoint, when you consider that porn is actually becoming more personal and informative?
Regarding the people you've spoken to that are in porn (or the sex industry, generally): Why do you think they keep claiming that their work in the sex industry has, most of the time, been an empowering and liberating experience? Why do you think that, on average, people stay in the industry for a long time (even though the wages aren't often all that great)?
When you've explained to women in the sex industry that they're only there because they're reliving historical abuses and in some way are addicted to being abused by men, is that something that they've agreed with, or disagreed with? Do you believe them? Do you think you know their situation better than they do?
Have you ever watched someone perform for you, erotically? Have you ever taken a photo of them doing that? Or, similarly, have you ever performed for someone, and been photographed? In what way was it fundamentally degrading? Have you ever looked at erotic imagery and, if so, is it absolutely clear that you have violated someone by witnessing their nakedness or sex?
How would you improve porn? What would you do to make it better, more ethical?
What education do you think needs to be taking place so that people don't need to use porn for their sexual education? What lessons are missing from basic sex education? Do you think a "just don't do it" approach is working, or do you think it's forcing teens (and others) to try and learn about sex from porn instead? Have you spent as much energy lobbying for better and more positive sex education as you have lobbying against porn?
How could porn be made to be more educational and informative? How should porn be changed, given the important role it's currently playing in sex education?
How could porn become more like fine art? How do you think porn could better reflect the nature of our sexual relations, given that it's probably how we're going to be judged in the future?
Do you think it's a good or a bad thing that the generation that has grown up with porn is consistently more sexually open-minded, better informed about their bodies, more able to communicate clearly about sex, and in general are reporting far more interesting sex lives than the generations that came before them? Do you think porn might actually be playing a positive role in this transformation?
The author acknowledges that addiction to porn (and erotic literature) exists, but notes that it effects a very small percentage of viewers (or readers).
The author also acknowledges that, for a similarly small number of people, porn allows them to follow an increasingly violent set of fantasies, and that a tiny percentage of people will struggle to separate fantasy from reality. Also noted: It is unclear as to whether porn and erotic literature make this situation any better or worse.
I let something slip the other day when we spoke, and it needs to be made right.
We were talking about body image, and the ways we are perceived by the world. In that conversation, you described yourself as being neither "fat" nor "not-fat", but as something in between. We had an interesting dialogue about beauty and privilege and how in some ways you have the best of both worlds, and in some ways the worst...
I spoke about that with you, and I used the same language and concepts that you started the conversation with; about you being both "fat" and "not-fat". But please be clear: I don't see you through that lens, or assess you on those terms. All my adult life, I have said this: It is not our bodies that make us beautiful, but what we do with them. The depth of your ethical viewpoint and your self-development capacity is infinitely more important to me than the size of your tits (or arse, or whatever).
I know you ultimately have exactly the same world-view, and deep down you measure yourself against your character rather than an external and manufactured idea of beauty. I know that you are only submitting to those concepts, momentarily, because of the industry you are in and the clients you feel you need to appeal to. I totally respect that, and I'll always be happy to have conversations about that with you in whatever language makes sense, but I don't want it to be assumed that I share that same version of reality. :)
I love you.
A Cis-political person is a person who's gender identity matches their gender politics.
A cis-political woman is someone who identifies as a woman and / or female, and who is generally more aware of women's issues. She most likely identifies as a feminist.
A cis-political man is someone who identifies as a man and / or male, and who is generally more aware of men's issues. He most likely identifies as a men's rights activist.
A cis-political trans person is someone who identifies as trans-sexual (-female, -male, queer, neither or other), and who is generally more aware of trans issues. They might identify as feminists, men's rights activists, both, or neither.
(The same structure can be used for all gender identities, but for the sake of brevity, only female, male, and trans examples have been used).
A non-cis-political person is someone who is generally more aware of the gender politics that don't relate to their own gender identify. So this includes (but is not limited to) men that are generally more aware of women's issues, and women that are generally more aware of men's issues.
A fluid-political or queer-political person is someone who is similarly well informed about issues that affect women, men, and other gender identifies. They can understand a given situation in terms of how it positively and negatively effects various gender identities. When sexism happens, a fluid-political or queer-political person will feel it similarly regardless of what gender it is expressed against.
Currently, most people with female bodies - even if their gender identify is queer, fluid, non-gendered, undefined, or another option - are cis-political. They are principally aware of women's politics and issues.
There are a lesser number of people with male bodies that are cis-political.
Cis-political is regarded by some as the final frontier of gender fluidity. Whereas many people have made great progress in freeing themselves from the gender roles they were conditioned with, few are able to simultaneously feel the gender experience of all people, equally.
(The author identifies as cis-sexual, does not identify as cis-gender, and sometimes identifies as cis-political.)
I wish someone had sat down with me when I was in my early teens and had a frank chat about pornography and sex. In the absence of genuine information, pornography became a de-facto educational tool, and I assumed that what it portrayed was accurate. Needless to say, this set me up to get about a hundred things wrong in bed in the future.
I’m not anti-porn. Indeed, if we’re talking about sex between consenting adults, I’m decidedly liberal about most things. But porn has its dangers and needs to be framed in some kind of context and coupled with real information. Otherwise, like me, our youth are in for an unpleasant series of surprises when they attempt to copy what they see in porn with their own partners; the real world is far more complicated - and interesting! - than a lot of mainstream porn represents.
Before I divulge my sometimes embarrassingly earned lessons, I need to tackle a pervasive myth: That porn is fundamentally disrespectful towards women, and to enjoy porn is to be a misogynist. I used to assume this was true, and trying to reconcile my love of women with my enjoyment of porn was a challenge. Eventually I was relieved to discover that despite the presence of porn in my life, I didn't hate women or want to treat my female partners badly. If the misogyny myth wasn't true for me, then maybe it simply wasn't true?
The alleged link between porn and a hatred of women is very contentious; some research seems to support the connection, but most doesn't. Personally, I believe that if one already hates women (or men), one will find porn that expresses that hatred in a sexualised way. However, if in life you approach people with respect, then you will find that nasty porn is just not to your liking. We live in liberal times, and you have access to an incredible array of stimulus; keep searching until you find something ethical. And the types of porn that are available now are far more ethical, interesting, and just plain real than what was around twenty years ago.
So here is what I wish someone had told me:
1. No two people are the same, and no two people like the same things in bed. Further, what a person likes will change depending on who they’re with, and even at different times with the same partner. In mainstream porn, certain themes emerge, and it's easy to make the mistake of assuming that those recurrent patterns can be transposed onto all partners. It is better to start sex from a perspective of curiosity and a willingness to experiment (and watch the feedback), rather than with an arsenal of moves up your sleeve that might have worked for somebody else.
2. The sex and sexual techniques that are often portrayed in mainstream pornography are selected based on what will look dynamic on screen, rather than what is enjoyable or what the actors themselves might actually like. This means that big, dramatic, and often hard-core sex scenes take up most of the time in porn, and the less grandiose and subtler things get left out simply because they’re not as cinematic. There's a place for big, fast, athletic sex, but there's also a place for slow, intimate acts done with the right attitude. As with all sex, the best way to navigate is to simply run some experiments, and ask for feedback.
3. A lot of heterosexual porn is somewhat stereotyped in terms of gender roles; he will generally be the pursuer, the active one, the one on top, while she will be pursued, more passive, and often be on the bottom. Sticking rigidly to these roles doesn't work for most people. You’re short-changing yourself if you never switch things around and play with the dynamics, even if only for five minutes here and there, to see what you like.
4. All bodies are beautiful. Pornography (and the fashion and advertising industries, generally), cater almost exclusively to people of a certain shape, and we are led to believe that only these people are sexy. The truth is that what a person is like in bed depends on their relationship to you, and their relationship to their own body. The way they look gives you no information about either of these things - although the way they look at you will give you some hints!
5. Pubic hair is beautiful. Some people get rid of it, others don’t; both have their advantages. Learn to have fun either way, and love your own body either way. Being comfortable in your own body, however it looks, is perhaps the greatest gift you can offer to yourself and those you choose to share your body with.
6. Saying “no" is as much a part of sex as saying “yes”. It’s easy to assume, from watching porn, that a good lover will already know a hundred and one tricks to get any partner off. In reality, sex is a constant and creative series of experiments, some of which work, many of which don’t. There are no standards that work with all people, every time. Asking your partner to do something differently is a sure path to improving sex for the both of you, especially if it’s phrased as a positive request – “can you please try it more like this...?” – rather than simply “that’s not working for me”. Also, it should go without saying that if you don’t want something, you are always and unquestionably entitled to say a nice, clear “no” - both men and women suffer pressure to skip this important step.
7. Something that almost never comes across in mainstream pornography is the love – or at least the sense of intimacy – that exists between most partners. It doesn't make for easy screenplay, and most porn actors don't have such feelings for one another. However, in your life, these are the things that will change sex from being a basic physical act, to a deeply moving and gratifying experience that brings you closer to your self and your partner (if you want it to).
(This point shouldn't be read as a vote against casual sex with a relative stranger, if that's what you're into).
8. In the context of a relationship, sex starts hours, days, weeks before penetration - if penetration happens at all. When creating mainstream pornography, directors aren’t aiming to put together hours of tantalizing dialog and witty flirting, or even the unlimited varieties of foreplay that most folks enjoy; they're pitching to an audience that they believe just wants to see explicit sex and lots of it, and so this is what is often produced. However, in real life, putting that much focus on just the hard-core parts of sex makes for some of the least enjoyable sex you could hope for. The way you and your partners treat each other throughout the day, and the way sex begins, makes a big difference to your enjoyment of sex.
9. The more you watch one particular kind of porn, or one particular body type, the more your brain will wire itself to associate that type of activity or person with sex. This has implications for your love life; be careful you don't accidentally program yourself for a narrow band of enjoyment, as you might overlook a whole variety of other pleasures.
10. Porn works pretty well if you just want some relief. But again, you're inadvertently programming yourself for quick, shallow orgasms if this is the extent of how you use it. Why not go the other way? - Set aside a couple of hours, rack up a suite of your favorite porn, and see how long you can hold out for. Soon you'll be having orgasms you didn't know were possible, and it will radically improve your love life, not detract from it. (There is some evidence to suggest that the frequent and quick use of porn can actually reduce one's sex drive. Also, if your use of porn is interrupting other aspects of your life, you need to start researching porn-addiction).
Good sex is both your right and it's within your reach – treat it like any other skill that might benefit from some focus now and then. Pornography is not always useful as an educational resource, but nor is it pure evil. Let your own feedback and the feedback from your partner/s be your ultimate guide to good sex, and enjoy!
(Originally published by 'Equality for Men and Women', and www.genderequality.com.au).