Patriarchy and female sexuality, Part 2

In Patriarchy and Female Sexuality Part 1, I talked about how when women do not want to have heterosexual intercourse, they are thought of as disordered by the male-run medical establishment. In Part 2 I will talk about how female sexuality is actually active, not passive.

A conversation over on Hot Flanks’ WordPress blog illustrates how women with an active sexuality come to believe they have a “male sexuality.” Hot Flanks is a lesbian detransitioner. (There’s starting to be a lot of those women around, isn’t there?) Here are some important quotes, but reading the whole post is a good idea.

“The way that I relate to my genitals and the way I want my body interacted with intimately is something that I have experienced as being the “active” or “insertive” partner and have therefore drawn the easy connections to male sexuality in the past.”

“The more I realize that experiencing my Clit as an active participant and driving force behind intimacy is a healthy female experience, the less disconnect I feel from it. The more I internalize the idea that I am far from the first Lesbian in the world to desire and derive my primary pleasure from interacting with my genitals in the way that I do, the less I want to describe these feelings as “dysphoria” because it has stopped feeling like a “non-female” or disconnected way of expressing myself. If I can wrap my head around the idea of the Clit as an active player in both giving AND receiving pleasure, then I can more easily come to accept the way I relate to my Clit as a healthy way to relate intimately with my female body.”

“I threw out the idea that I was “stone” early in my social transition when I realized I wanted to be touched and to be intimate, but “not in the way that one touches or is intimate with women.”

Another lesbian with dysphoria who commented on 4thwavenow posted this:

“What if the sexual preference for a natal female is for a female, but only if the natal female were male? That is, what if the natal female does not self-identify as lesbian, could not conceive of being a female having an intimate sexual relationship with a female, but desires an intimate sexual relationship with a female as a male? I’ve yet to see this addressed by critics of “transition,” and yet I have seen this expressed by those considering FtM transition. Perhaps this is generally dismissed as “oh this person is just a ‘closet lesbian/gay,’ and therefore it’s not actually examined. But if it is a real issue for someone who identifies in anyway as having difficulty with their birth assigned sex, and such a person does indeed express desire for intimate sexual relationship (not homosexual), then what is a compassionate and logically sound response to such a person?”

The main problem with a female human wanting to have sex as a male is that it’s impossible. I’m not saying so because I’m an “evil transphobic TERF who wants people to die,” I’m saying it because a surgeon cannot construct a fully functioning penis on a female human. The only one who can construct a penis is Mother Nature. I think the “compassionate and logically sound response” to a female who wants to be an active partner in sex with another female is not to perform surgery on her to construct a pseudo-penis, but to help her to become a happy lesbian. As a lesbian, she can be honest about her sex instead of pretending to be male, she can have the sexual relationships she wants (provided she finds compatible partners of course), and she can live her life in her natural body without being made into an artificially constructed member of the opposite sex who is dependent on a lifetime of cross-sex hormones.

Take a look at these two sentences from the above quotes. “I wanted to be touched and to be intimate, but not in the way that one touches or is intimate with women,” and “what if the natal female . . . desires an intimate sexual relationship with a female as a male?”

These quotes reveal some underlying beliefs about female sexuality. These women want to be an active or insertive partner and they cannot reconcile these feelings with the genitals they have. That’s because they’ve been taught that only men are active/insertive partners, and that one must have a penis in order to have this role. This is not true—you can be a woman who enjoys being on “top,” and no male genitals are required.

Our friend This Soft Space commented on the post by Hot Flanks, and said that when her friend found out she was a lesbian, she immediately told her to buy a dildo, but she wasn’t interested in that at all. Her friend likely made this suggestion due to the belief that all women enjoy being penetrated and that female orgasm is universally experienced in the vagina. It will be further assumed that lesbians necessarily have to use a dildo since they are not using a penis. Since humans living in this particular era are primarily learning about sex from porn, it seems likely that they believe “lesbian sex” means two women stuffing each other with silicone dongs. Although it’s possible that somebody out there is doing that—there’s somebody in the world doing just about anything you can think of—that has never been my experience of lesbian sex.

Commenter Kat Outta The Bag wrote, on Hot Flanks’ post:

“I remember reading a forum for trans men where the people there were talking about just this sort of thing, how they had a “male sexuality” and “male sexual responses” because they wanted to penetrate, because they thrusted/humped during sex, because they didn’t have a desire or propensity to arch their back and wiggle around… I think I ate this stuff up totally, hook, line, and sinker, because I became neurotic about it. I believed my desires to do these things were proof of some innate tendency in me that made me less female, and I also started being frightened that any tendency to do the opposite, the so-called “feminine” thing, secretly meant I was a straight girly-girl underneath it all. I couldn’t enjoy solo sexual activities anymore because I developed a self-monitoring problem where I was constantly wondering about the gendered implications of what I was doing.”

Oh, my! This is where endless navel-gazing and gender scrutiny leads us. Its leads to people being unable to even masturbate without considering the gendered implication of their sexual response and whether they wiggle or thrust. But anyway, what I want to highlight here is that groups of dysphoric women are convincing each other that they’re men because they like humping and thrusting and want to penetrate. You can do all these things as a woman.

It’s not just porn that teaches people that female sexuality means being a passive receptacle. Regular sex education materials designed for youth present sex as a mechanical activity where the man is active and the woman passive. This Soft Space made this comment on Hot Flanks’ post:

“When I was a kid my parents had this set of medical encyclopedias, and being a curious twelve-year-old I received a good portion of my sex education from a cross-section diagram within. The accompanying text stated factually “During sexual intercourse the man inserts his penis in the woman’s vagina” and there it was in a detailed black and white drawing. That was how it was done, apparently. That was sex.”

I remember that diagram too. It’s legitimate to show this diagram to young adolescents in the context of talking about how to prevent pregnancy, but this is a very limited idea of what sex is. First of all, homosexuals have sex all the time and it doesn’t look like that at all, and second of all, heterosexuals do a lot more than just that and some heterosexual women don’t enjoy penetration and prefer other activities.

The quote by radical feminist Catherine MacKinnon illustrates that diagram perfectly: “Man fucks woman; subject verb object.” We are never taught anything other than this narrative, unless we are lucky enough to encounter some good quality comprehensive sex education that presents sex as being an activity between two subjects neither of whom is objectified.

Female humans are not passive receptacles—and that includes females of all sexual orientations. We have our own organ of sexual pleasure and we have our own desires and preferences. I will refer you to The Internal Clitoris, published by the Museum of Sex, which I have linked to before, because it provides everything you need to know about the clitoris. The only part of it we can see and feel is the glans—which is the outer button with 8,000 nerve fibers, and is so sensitive some woman cannot touch it directly. The clitoris continues inward where we cannot see it, and it contains erectile tissue that fills with blood during arousal, and it wraps around the vagina.

In my blog post about lesbian lust I quoted a YouTube commenter who said the following:

“When you dont have a dick but you feel like you have an erection (?) Like literal. I’m so serious. Is this almost what you mean. Cause I swear everytime I read porn I feel my no dick rise. I kid you not knowing that I will never get a blow job upsets me.”

This woman has learned that what she feels when aroused is a “male” feeling, but that’s not true. The clitoris has erectile tissue and it fills with blood during arousal. This woman does have an erection, in fact—an erection of the clitoris. This doesn’t mean she is male. She is a normal female. She doesn’t have to lament not getting a “blow job.” She could accept oral sex from a partner who wants to give it and it will feel good on her female genitals. Having her female genitals surgically modified to resemble a penis is not the way to have a satisfying orgasm.

Also worth noting is that the clitoris wraps around the vagina. It’s entirely possible that women who enjoy vaginal penetration are getting extra stimulation to their clitoris that way. Different people’s bodies respond in different ways to stimulation. Some women might only enjoy stimulation of the outer clitoris and some might enjoy stimulation of the internal clitoris. Women can have an orgasm without any penetration, and some women can orgasm without directly touching their genitals, by doing things like crossing their legs or activating their pelvic muscles.

There is no way to experience sexual arousal of the clitoris that is wrong for a female or that indicates that one is supposed to be male. Any sexual arousal a female feels is a female feeling. If her arousal makes her want to thrust or hump or be on top, that is a female feeling. And this is not just for lesbians, heterosexual women can feel this way too.

It’s heartbreaking that women are going around believing that the sexual feelings they get from their female bodies is an indication that they are “male.” The reason women are convinced of this is because our culture is patriarchal, and women are supposed to be sex objects for men. Human sexuality is constructed as men being active and women being passive. A woman’s role in sex is presented as being nothing more than looking pretty and spreading her legs. This is nowhere near what female sexuality is actually like. The fundamental reason that sexuality is constructed in this way is to preserve men’s dominance over women.

Bonus material: An adorable YouTube video of a woman drawing the internal clitoris:

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Patriarchy and female sexuality, Part 1

It was a gorgeous, sunny Saturday, so naturally I was deep in the reference section of the library reading the DSM-IV-TR,* as you do, and I happened to come across the section on vaginismus. (*The newest one is the DSM-5, but it wasn’t available while I was there.)

“Vaginismus is an involuntary spasm of the musculature of the outer third layer of the vagina, which makes penile penetration difficult or impossible. The diagnosis is not made if an organic cause is known. Although a woman with vaginismus may wish to have intercourse, her symptom prevents the penis from entering her body. It is as though her vagina says, “No!” In lifelong vaginismus, the anticipation of pain at the first intercourse causes muscle spasm. Pain reinforces the fear and on occasion, the partner’s response gives her good reason to dread a second opportunity to have intercourse. Early episodic vaginismus may be common among women, but most of the cases that are brought to medical attention are chronic. Lifelong vaginismus is relatively rare. The clinician needs to focus attention on what may have made the idea of intercourse so overwhelming to her: parental intrusiveness, sexual trauma, childhood genital injury, illnesses whose therapy involved orifice penetration, and surgery.” DSM-IV-TR, p 1074, 2004.

Emphasis mine.

This is absolutely shocking. I can’t believe they acknowledge that vaginismus is the vagina saying “no,” but they classify this as a disorder! That is a blatant example of rape culture. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to any of the misogynists who create this book that the vagina has a right to say no and that this is completely normal and acceptable behavior, since heterosexual intercourse is not necessary and is unpleasant to some women.

This week I also read a conversation between some lesbian detransitioners about how they didn’t know how to relate to their genitals and their sexuality because their sexual feelings didn’t match what they were taught about female sexuality. (More on this later.) This all makes it clear to me that we aren’t done talking about female sexuality, particularly lesbian sexuality, because people are still going around thinking that women are receptacles for male sperm, and that any women who don’t like being treated this way either have a disorder or aren’t real women. This is ancient fucking misogyny and I am really pissed that this is sticking around.

(It’s too bad we don’t have a feminist sex-positive movement that tells the truth about female sexuality and fights against rape culture, so that women can enjoy sex safely and in ways that work for us. Instead, we have a bunch of fucking idiots going around calling themselves “sex-positive” while promoting pornography, prostitution, and BDSM, all institutions which exist for the benefit of male abusers and to the detriment of women. That shit is abuse-positive, not sex-positive.)

PIV sex is culturally forced on all women–it has reached the status of institution and is expected of every woman whether she wants it or not. I’ve also written before about how lesbians are being taught to interpret their natural sexual desires as evidence of maleness in this post. I’m going to be repeating myself a bit here, but that’s okay. Since saying no to dick is still considered a disorder, and since lesbians still believe they’re men, I figure this is worth repeating. Besides, as a radical man-hating lesbian feminist blogger, writing against PIV is literally my job.

*rolls up sleeves*

Let’s start with vaginismus. This condition is generally caused by fear of intercourse and previous trauma. The involuntary spasm of the muscles is obviously a defensive reaction against something the body fears. Why does this even need to be treated? Why would you try to remove a defensive reaction from a traumatized woman in order to subject her to the same incident that traumatized her before? (Answer: misogyny.) This is so hateful it’s amazing that anyone can suggest it with a straight face. The treatment for vaginismus is, of course, more penetration. If we lived in a woman-friendly culture, the cure for not wanting to have sex would just be not having sex. The DSM-IV-TR mentions “pairing relaxation techniques with progressively larger vaginal dilators (p1075).” That sounds a lot like “Close your eyes and think of England.” Just relax, ladies, and accept the exact same penetration that caused you fear and pain in the first place, until you finally learn to enjoy it, or at least fake enjoying it. Because it doesn’t matter what women want, it just matters that men can continue to dominate us.

The website vaginismus.com, which exists in order to sell a book and kit to women in an attempt to cure them of their bodies’ legitimate defensive reactions, has some more shocking information about this “disorder.”

Some non-physical causes of vaginismus, according to vaginismus.com:

“Fear or anticipation of intercourse pain, fear of not being completely physically healed following pelvic trauma, fear of tissue damage (i.e. “being torn”), fear of getting pregnant, concern that a pelvic medical problem may reoccur, etc.”

These are all legitimate reasons not to have intercourse.

“General anxiety, performance pressures, previous unpleasant sexual experiences, negativity toward sex, guilt, emotional traumas, or other unhealthy sexual emotions.”

Why is negativity toward sex an “unhealthy sexual emotion”?? It is entirely reasonable to feel negatively toward sex, especially when you are female. The risk of pregnancy and infection are always there, plus in this culture, sex for women often means being disrespected and abused by partners who are addicted to porn and full of male entitlement. Why on Earth would women who feel negatively toward sex be encouraged to have more sex? This is rape culture.

“Partner issues : Abuse, emotional detachment, fear of commitment, distrust, anxiety about being vulnerable, losing control, etc.”

If you are having relationship issues such as abuse and distrust, then dump the boyfriend, don’t buy a vaginal dilator!

“Past emotional/sexual abuse, witness of violence or abuse, repressed memories.”

Once again, why should abuse survivors have to repeat the incident that traumatized them?

There are also physical causes, such as medical problems, results of recent childbirth, surgery, vaginal dryness, or insufficient foreplay. All very good reasons not to have intercourse.

Vaginismus.com has a page devoted to treatment. This page sells you their book and kit which takes you through everything you need to know about how to override your body’s reactions and submit to your husband or boyfriend who wants to penetrate you against your will. Their ten-step program makes tiny mentions of relationship issues and prior trauma, but it mostly talks about how a woman can relax her pelvic floor muscles and practice inserting objects into her vagina despite the pain it causes. It uses rapey language such as “how to override involuntary contractions, relaxing the pelvic floor so it responds correctly to sexual penetration.” BARF!

That sentence from the DSM-IV-TR is still haunting me. It is as though her vagina says “No!” The medical establishment has been considering a woman’s “no” to be a problem for decades, and of course, the capitalist patriarchy is going to benefit from the gas-lighting of the medical community in order to sell us products that “cure” our legitimate need to say “no.”

One of the reasons why this particular sentence is haunting me is because I remember a time when I attempted intercourse and my vagina said “No.” (Actually, I think her exact words were, “No way dude, get the fuck out.”) At age 18, when I was in deep denial that I actually preferred women, I had sex with my friend who we’ll call “Joe.” I believed I wanted to, and I was happy while driving to his place, and we did the things I believed I wanted to do, but my body didn’t respond. I barely got wet at all, and I ended up drying out completely when he penetrated me. I dried up enough that we couldn’t continue. We awkwardly stopped trying and neither of us were satisfied. At the time I had no idea what was wrong. Despite years of finding female friends attractive, I believed that my body would respond to heterosexual intercourse. I believed this because of the strong heteronormativity in society—every bit of culture I was exposed to told me that all people were heterosexual, and when I learned about sex from books and sex ed classes I saw the diagram and the explanation of what sex is—“when a man puts his penis in a woman’s vagina.” I was taught to believe that this was the most important and enjoyable sex act humans can partake in, and I was baffled as to why it didn’t work for me. I tried it again multiple times, believing I’d figure out how to make it work someday, but it never did. In university I was sleeping with a guy regularly and using artificial lube because I wasn’t wet enough. I was discussing this with a female friend and she had to sit me down one day and explain to me that it’s not normal for a horny 21-year-old to be dry during sex. She helped me to realize that I actually wasn’t enjoying it because I wasn’t excited by men. I couldn’t escape the denial anymore—I knew it was true.

Look at what the medical establishment suggests for someone like me, whose vagina said “No” to heterosexual intercourse even though in my mind I believed I wanted to. Neither the DSM nor the vaginismus website mentions the possibility that the woman could be homosexual. Nor do they mention that a heterosexual woman might not want intercourse and might prefer other forms of sexual activity. Their suggestion is getting over the fear and pain and doing it anyway. Women have the right to listen to their bodies and go with what feels good and avoid what doesn’t feel good. Instead of being taught a sexuality that suits men, women should be taught to trust their bodies and pay attention to their own reactions.

If I was creating a book for women with vaginismus, it would be very short. In fact, I’ll publish the whole thing right here for you to read:

Purple Sage’s Radical Feminist Cure for Vaginismus:

Step 1: Don’t have heterosexual intercourse.

Step 2: Tell your boyfriend or husband to fuck off.

Step 3: Consider becoming a spinster.

Done! Problem solved, and no dilators needed.

So what did we learn from this study of vaginismus? I didn’t write about this topic to shed light on an involuntary muscular contraction. The point here, of course, is that female sexuality is constructed by patriarchy. The male-run medical establishment creates propaganda in the form of medical textbooks teaching women that our sexuality is to be a passive receptacle. Popular culture, including pornography, also churns out propaganda teaching women the same thing. Religion teaches us that our role in life is to be married heterosexual wives who produce children. Absolutely nothing in our culture teaches us the truth about female sexuality—that we have an active sexual desire of our own that comes from our organ of sexual pleasure, the clitoris, and that the emotions, desires and preferences that live in our brains determine what the clitoris will respond to. The clitoris will not respond to people who aren’t pleasing to her or to situations she doesn’t like.

This concludes part 1, and in part 2 I will finally get back to that conversation I mentioned between detransitioners who thought they were male because they had a normal, active, clit-centered, female sexuality.