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the feminist polemic might do itself a favour

by being more credible about sexual dynamics

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SEX & FEMINISM  

relationships • 26.06.13   

I’m easily disposed to feminism and the issues women have faced historically with patriarchal power. The particular brand of masculinity I grew up around was especially odious, typifying much of what feminists set themselves against.


The rhetoric can be off-putting though. Its polemical nature doesn’t afford much insight into how individual men and women actually relate to each other. Thus when you listen to the feminist position there is rarely an indication of any converse grievances men might have with the female of the species. Perhaps the case for men is for men to make. But if one of them utters a word in defence of his own kind he is likely to be branded sexist and unworthy.


This is all part of the rhetorical process of course but it’s annoying just the same. How helpful is it when young women might be told that all men are rapists because all penetrative sex is rape, that if they didn’t give consent explicitly they have been abused? An amorous suitor could find his reasonable discernment insufficient which is only a step away from requiring a signature prior to the act and a mile away from what engagement is really like.


Sex is discussed as if it should be straightforward with no hinterland, no kinks and no complexity. In truth sexuality is problematic. There are few of us who haven’t been compromised by our love lives this way or that. Marriage and exclusive relationships seek to contain some of these problems keeping them private and away from wider scrutiny. Thus the difficult issues rage behind a cloak of family life in infinitely untold ways.


To approach the complexity of sex as if it were mundane and transactional has about as much erotic appeal as an insurance policy. It fails to capture the essence. I might be in broad agreement with the feminist argument, even at its most radical, but it could do itself a favour by being less pretentious and more credible about sexual dynamics. People might then be more inclined to engage with the issues in the desired way.


One can only wish. That political rhetoric in general might aspire to the nuanced intelligence it so terribly lacks is hardly likely. Yet it would be a welcome thing, a development millions like me who are currently mired in cynical apathy could happily go for. I cite the debates around sex and feminism as only one example of a widespread problem