Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Love and sex in a time of politics

There has been a writing prompt going around the feminist blogosphere that asks people to express their thoughts on “f***ing while feminist”.  The responses have been interesting, if not slightly predictable. There’ve been debates about casual sex, monogamy, the difference between sex with men and sex with women, and BDSM, with the general consensus being that at the end of the day the most important points are consent, safety, and enjoyment. To me these things seem like givens for any healthy sexual relationship, but sadly they do need to be brought up in discussion over and over due to societal failures. But I think there is a deeper discussion to be had about how the politics of the society we live in affect what goes on in the most intimate parts of our lives.

With my brain practically drowning in feminist theory from my women’s studies class and the unnecessary amount of extracurricular reading I do on the subject, I examined where the personal meets the political in my own world. I began thinking out loud, proposing theoretical questions to my friends, not as concerns about my own life necessarily, but more as some food for thought.

Is it feminist to be monogamous? Is it feminist to date a man? The response I got was not what I was looking for.

“Feminism is not about being anti-man.”

“You can be a feminist if you’re single, if you’re married, if you’re a porn star; Feminism is for everyone.”

“If you’re happy, you’re being a good feminist.”

They had essentially presented me with their definitions of feminism and attempted to minimize my concern by assuring me that I fit in just fine. I’m not worried about the feminist police coming and taking away my membership card because I’m dating a man and I certainly wouldn’t stop doing something that made me happy because I didn’t think it was “feminist.”

The debate about the definition of feminism and who gets to be a feminist isn’t a new one, but it is something that comes up a lot these days, primarily because of Sarah Palin and her abortion views. But, while most people would agree that feminism is fundamentally about equality and women’s rights, it’s also a movement that has historically not included all women. Women of color, lower class women, and transgender women have all been excluded from what is apparently some kind of elitist, secret club.

The definition of feminism, as well as the people involved in the movement, will continue to evolve and change with society and gender theory, and that’s a good. But to view the idea of “f***ing while feminist” as “how to make sure you’re being a good feminist while you’re f***ing” ignores that the concept of a “good feminist” has not always been particularly helpful and that its definition will never be set in stone.

The thing about “f***ing while feminist” is that it takes your desires, your most intimate wants and needs, and places them in the context of the misogynist, heterosexist society you’ve spent your whole life in. It may very well be true that you are in a monogamous heterosexual relationship because it’s what you want and it makes you happy; that is fantastic. But you have to assume to a certain extent  that the reason you want something is because someone else wants you to. It could be because they want you to buy something, or they want power over you, or maybe they want to maintain a system of oppression that benefits them. This isn’t a conspiracy theory, I’m not being paranoid or radical or any other of the things you could call me to dismiss my concerns. Our culture operates within these structures of power and privilege that we are all influenced by, whether we recognize it or not.

It’s not like there is some evil overlord at the head of David’s Bridal cackling and rubbing his hands together saying, “I will brainwash them all into hetero-normative monogamous relationships so they will spend absurd amounts of money on weddings!” Ultimately there is nothing wrong with any kind of relationship you may be involved in, assuming that consent, safety and enjoyment are present. But it might be worthwhile to reflect on your desires.

Whether you like it or not you are a product of either conforming to or rebelling against the world around you. Even if you were to realize that you only want a relationship because all your friends have them, or because the television told you to, it might not mean that what you feel isn’t authentic, or that you should change anything. It’s just important to understand the systems of power around you, systems that are probably in one way or another affecting your sex life. I’m not going to dump my boyfriend because I decide our relationship doesn’t fit in with my queer politics. But to simply say that it makes me happy, end of story, is to ignore the world I live in and the influences around me.

“F***ing while feminist,” to me, means sexual awareness. It’s about being comfortable enough to question what no one else can question for you. It’s about realizing, without judgment, that your desires might not be what they appear and that, ultimately, it’s about having the humility and personal strength to recognize and change certain aspects of your life.

Tori Knobloch is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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    AngieSFOct 25, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Well written and I am heartened to hear the responses of todays young women. Yes, being a feminist is basically having the freedom to Palin it up or rock on at the local dungeon with a pack of f#@# buddies.

    The world will never be fair and part of being a woman is doing what works for you within your life.