Friday 21 November 2008


Ernesto linked to this article about Sheila Jeffreys' clear-eyed condemnation of the global sex industry. Thirty years ago, she was a leader of radical, separatist feminism in England. Remembering how they tore my life apart, for I loved a man. No, unfair. My own immaturity, ambivalence and inability to trust my own feelings tore my life apart. Theirs was a brave voice of dissent. Such voices needed, then and now.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the shout-out, Jean. And thanks for your interesting insight!

My warmest regards.

Zhoen said...

It's an interesting and valid viewpoint, especially in cultures and at economic levels, where women are not free to chose. But, well, there is more to marriage than an exchange of sex for sustenance - at least in first world countries. And prostitution as an illegal institution is hardly better for the women, prey to pimps, johns, and police. It goes to the heart of what gender is, an area where most people on the planet are not rational at all. Men or women.

Dale said...

I don't know. I find this kind of rhetoric extremely tedious, since it bears no relationship to the world I know. I simply don't know of any marriages that look anything like that. There are gender inequities and cruelties galore, but -- the model of prostitution is completely useless in understanding them.

And it's all very well to wax self-righteous about the sex trade, which is as disgusting as it can be, but the fact is that most interventions that I know of make it far worse. Okay, so everyone should get angry about it and... do what? Well, put people in jail, drive it underground... golly, that sounds kind of familiar. Like possibly something that's already been tried.

I don't know. I'm really allergic to that particular tone, it's in the family, you might say: it's at the heart of the cherishing of anger and the holding of grudges and the continual imputation of malice that (I think) destroyed the 20th century Left. Kilkenny cats.

Anonymous said...

I'm completely with Dale on this and have put my two cents over at Ernesto's blog.

Lucy said...

I haven't read the article, and don't know if I will.

But I think I've felt a bit like you do of late, reading, for the first time, Adrienne Rich's poetry, and wondering whether I need to take out and reassess my feelings about that kind of separatist feminism, and how unhappy it made me, and the false choices it imposed and the wedge it drove and betwen me and other women.

I still feel muddled and cowardly about it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. Though I agree that some feminist rhetoric may indeed alienate others, women and men, I, as an heterosexual male, find interesting points there.

Like Dale, I don't know too many marriages that look like that either, but that does not mean that I am not aware that there are still situations in the world that are accepted without any sort of dissent. I have attended weddings where the rhetoric of the ritual has made me very angry, the way the bride is talked about as if she weren't there, how only the men are allowed to talk, etc.

(Why do the best man gets to say something, but not the maid of honour? Why does the groom can talk about how they met etc, but not the bride? And I have seen this in weddings where the bride had an MA in feminist theory).

It's those little things that remain uncontested that make me uneasy. Of course that I am not into any sort of separatism, but I do respect the courage of women and men who have spoken out, sometimes unpopularly, against what they consider unfair.

It seems that people now think there is nothing to resist anymore.

Anonymous said...

I think there's plenty to resist and to contest in this domain, as in so many others. It's just that when any group decides to blame one thing for all that's wrong with the world, they tend to become so strident that their argument loses effectiveness. At least that's how it seems to me.

Rachel Fox said...

Why any heterosexual couple want to get married in this day and age is quite beyond me...never mind who gets to speak at the wedding!

Jean said...

I rather share Ernesto's view. But what your comments mostly make me realise is that my emotions on this subject, at an interpersonal level, were long ago exhausted. I still dissent profoundly from patriarchy, which I still see as a more profound oppression than capitalism. But I also take every individual as I find them, as uniquely weird and wonderful and never completely definable in terms of any theoretical construct. That's the best I can do.