(First article here).
There must be something peculiarly boring about reading an article that talks to you about your set of genitals, but assumes they’re a type you don’t possess. Actually fuck it, let’s drop the nonspecificity, it basically only happens to people without penises. I’m directly guilty of this, and so I’d better start with an apology: sorry, everyone.
The reason I did this, not that I’m trying to excuse it, was because it’s exactly the appeal I felt the film was making, an appeal to phallocentric sexuality, a trick that was designed exactly for it. But mine might have been a more interesting critique if it hadn’t had such sexual exclusivity – effectively, guilt of the same crimes as its target.
Let me follow that through. I claimed that Baader “fires his gun from the hip, spraying his revolutionary ejaculate over Germany”. Who actually thinks of guns like that, except men? Why the keenness to see the penis not just as a weapon but a deadly one, why the keenness to see a 1,500mph projectile as equivalent to semen? Why so quick to equate sex and violence? Why so quick to use interchangeably the words fucking and sex?
This belies a certain misogyny in the writer. Many feminists write about male obsession with guns as phallic objects, as analogies, and there’s weight and worth in that. But that isn’t what I did. What I did was directly take a gun as a phallic analogy myself. My critique was not “the film vainly attempts to make us see a penis in Baader’s gun” – no, it was more like “the penis we feel in Baader’s gun emasculates his audience” – which firstly doesn’t apply to 50% of the world, and secondly sounds like the idiot conscience of the 50s bemoaning its macho sandcastles slipping away to the tide.
Lots of readers won’t agree with me that the words ‘fucking’ and ‘sex’ should not be used interchangeably, (and I daresay I’ll get the usual accusations of romantic conservatism. But you’d be wrong, so fuck off), but I think it’s essential. This is my explanation:
Many women have their first sexual experience with men. The formula for this is becoming almost hegemonically prevalent: man/boy has very clear idea of what sex is, woman is much more open about what it might be, with the result that the woman is aggressively ‘taught’ what sex is. It’s hard to describe it as “sex with”, instead “sex on”, “sex to” or perhaps “sex against” might be more accurate.
Let’s try to throw out right away any accusations that I think women can’t look after themselves or that women are never in control; many women are in control. But let’s not be in revolutionary denial here – one of the most obvious aspects of patriarchy is the way apparent norms are imposed on women, the way male discourse is dominated by the imperative, and the level of violence and humiliation (and readiness to employ it) at the disposal of the average male. Of course there are many women and men, girls and boys, who don’t fit this.
But it goes further. Lots of feminists, both pro- and anti-porn, have noted the rise in proportion of female users of porn. So what? The porn they watch, the porn there is, is entirely within male gaze. Women are raped and forced to beg for more in a structure that is exclusively about ‘traditional’ phallocentric sex* and that which is faked itself a form of violence in its own level, the fantasy of endless choking screams being forced out of someone by the sheer weight of physical assault. I mean, violence is fine, if you’re into it, but remember that porn is ideology. Is your ideology violence against women?
So there’s this phenomenon of sex as done to people, sex as the ideology of porn attempted as reality, and I don’t think it’s one that can be described as sex. Say what you like about the importance of not over-romanticising sex, but it should never be consensual in deed but rape in form, or to put it another way, consent given for sex but taken by males as acceptance of fucking.
That’s how I distinguish the two words. Maybe this will anger some of you who like the word fucking, and I’m not going to make you accept my meaning, worse still tell you that your sex is not what you say it is, but nonetheless I do continue to worry about the level of porn-centred, male-imposed sex that exists. I’m not trying to impose definitions; I’ve always thought of the word this way. For those of you who also wouldn’t use the word fucking about something you wanted to happen with or to you, perhaps you already understand the definition as I do.
Hence my apology for using fucking and sex interchangeably.
One last point. When I said “sex is measured in time and speed and decibels, and consumerism in time and speed and pounds”, I meant not sex, but fucking. I believe the rationalising (time, speed, decibels), although we haven’t yet used numbers in these categories, is a feature unique to the porn ideology and therefore something that explicitly demarcates talking about fucking from talking about sex.
I retract the article; it was, while perhaps funny, perhaps ebulliently angry, perhaps fun to write, was also revealing of lazy misogyny on my own part, and doesn’t stand up with that removed; and most of all, it acted as if my audience was entirely male. Fuck that.
*as opposed to other phallocentric sex: worshipping someone’s penis doesn’t have to fit in with beginning, middle, end, or fasterfasterfasterSTOP as you might phrase it, and is of course not necessarily unfeminist.