Words are almost always our means of communication; not withstanding the significance of body language and facial expressions which often convey more than words and even belie what we say. The word ‘feminist’ is one such word for me; abandoning it for myself more than two decades ago because it seemed to deny and denigrate who I was as an individual and as a female. Socially, politically and economically, the vernacular had muddied the waters of the word, causing me to jettison it altogether, favouring my own coined word ‘femmosexual’. I have changed my mind over the past twelve months, not because the word has assumed a more lucid or specific insight into what it means being female (at least in the first world), but because I came to realise that for me anyway (and damn how fraudulent and hypocritical some women are who call themselves feminists!), I think the word enshrines exactly what I’ve fought for, argued about and tried to achieve most of my life; at work, at home and at play; not especially just for myself, but for other females; of all ages, religions, race, sexual diversity and across our socio-economic spectrum. It now seems irrelevant whether other females abuse this word with their insincerity and lip service adherence; feminism is about the rights, justice and opportunities of females to live their lives as if there’s no particular gender divide, and I take comfort in the belief that I’ve always been ‘a real feminist’, encouraging other women to make the most of themselves and standing up for themselves against the social norms which have tried, and are still extant today, in limiting and proscribing our thoughts, actions, feelings and beliefs.
Many women, as I’ve penned previously, have called me ‘dangerous’ and turned their backs on my over the years for daring to declare that we must ‘live’ our beliefs, not just retreat and shy away from the challenges, difficulties and complexities that riddle our lives as we try to remain true to these beliefs. It is a ‘hard’ road; and more than 40 years since the women’s liberation movement tried to seize the day, too many of us are still fighting for our rights, justice and opportunities. In one perspective, it is depressing indeed to acknowledge that on some levels, nothing much has changed, particularly in social attitudes about motherhood, childlessness, careers, sexuality, ageing and opportunities beyond a myriad of repressive social norms that act to restrain our maturity and enrichment as we live our lives. Yesterday, the headline in a quality Melbourne newspaper again ‘screamed’ out yet another sexual limitation; ‘The last taboo: intimacy and the older woman’ as if even in 2015 our sexuality is still tainted by another taboo – this time being an older woman. It infuriated me that this was the headline; are we as females, young, old and/or older, still chained by the quasi-religious tenets of a sexual behaviour that is somehow still limiting our innate humanity? Does ageing, as the article suggests about Erica Jong’s new book ‘Fear of Dying’, prevent the expression of our sexuality or are women themselves feeling less inclined to engage sexually because their bodies are no longer what they used to be and their libido has waned? Women I knew when I was much younger complained about their bodies ad naseum then too; they were too fat, albeit ashamed of bearing themselves naked in the full glare of light; or didn’t have big enough tits or too much tit etc etc. It’s not ageing per se that has inhibited older women’s enjoyment of sex, but some intangible covert conspiracy that women absorb about their sexuality, blaming ageing as if that’s the issue. Men too, I’ve heard lament their loss of libido, their impotency and their lack of interest, leaving me pondering whether men as well as women are just as shackled by unrealistic fantasies about sex and their own sexuality. Viagra’s been around now for years, and earlier this year, a lust-lifting medication for women has been developed to restore women’s libido. They are not women in their 60s or 70s either; rather, women in their 40s who for whatever reasons, have no interest in sex. Furthermore, the article quotes Jong : ‘As people age, touch is more important, erections are less important and I think somebody needs to write about that.’ Indeed, except I’ve been writing about the importance of touch for more than 37 years; touch is not just significant for me as I’ve aged, but has always been intrinsic to good sex; I’ve bemoaned many men as dud fucks simply because they DIDN’T touch me; from the second time I had sex to too many men over my life. It is nonsense to me that touch is any more important as we age; and I can only ponder too if so many women who have no interest in sex as they age is because they actually never really enjoyed sex anyway and now they can blame ageing as an ‘inconvenient truth’ for their loss of libido. Maybe they were just never touched enough across their bodies as too many men ignorantly believed an erection and intercourse, or ‘a cock up a cunt’ is what women wanted; oblivious about women’s needs as much as the women were ignorant about themselves. Erections have never been the be all and end all for me about sex; I had a lover who was 44-years-old when I was 41 and he could never get it up either, blaming not his age however, but his alcoholism. He made up for it in so many other ways I loved the sex with him; though that didn’t stop him from crying about his inability to have an erection despite what I told him. Likewise, another couple of men I’ve met over the years since. Male sexuality is obviously so tied up with an erection that I’ve started to realise that men too don’t know much about women; let alone understand that intercourse with a penis doesn’t necessarily or automatically equate with good sex. I’ve had many unsatisfying sexual encounters where intercourse was the only sexual activity; touch et al non-existent. Erica Jong’s ‘zipless fuck’ in her book ‘Fear of Flying’ was just that, and I’d already learned I didn’t want that when I read her book at 23. It was just ‘intercourse’, and if that’s all it was for her way back in 1973, I can see now why she’s penned this new book that for me, still gets it all cock-eyed (pardon the pun). She also laments the loss of a woman’s sexual power as she ages; the Greer supposition too that we become invisible as we get older; I can’t abide the sheer stupidity of it all as if our sexuality is about nothing more than what we look like.
This is where ‘real’ feminism comes in for me; it needs to focus on what we acknowledged and some of us understood and appreciated more than 40 years ago; that our sexuality is about far more than erections, intercourse and the perfunctory act of sex. It has been well documented over the decades that many women marry ‘a good provider’ and men marry ‘a good mother’ as if really mutually satisfying, good sex is irrelevant. It never was for me which is why I never got married as I never did meet a man who I could enjoy great sex with as well as great conversation et al. No wonder these men and women who married for reasons that denied the importance of sex are now wondering where their libido and lust has vanished to!
Since the Jong article was published last week, there have been another couple of articles about females and sex – one about the demise of the delectable delights of naked women in Playboy as ‘you’re now just one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture’, so said Playboy company chief executive Scott Flanders. Indeed, in 1975, Playboy boasted a circulation of 5.6 million (according to The New York Times), seven times what it is now. The article suggests that ‘in breaking the taboo (yes, THAT word again!), around female bodies, the magazine helped liberate women as well as men from sexual shame. I can’t agree at all; it certainly might have helped (for want of a better word) reveal the beauty of female flesh in all its air-brushed purity, but the shame of sex for females I contend, outside of a relationship (whatever that really means) or partnership or marriage, is still infra dig around the world. Nothing about social attitudes towards sex, from my perspective, experience and knowledge, has realistically changed one iota in celebrating genuine good sex between mutually consenting heterosexual men and women as intrinsically human; albeit integral to living enjoyable lives. Playboy’s naked women weren’t actually about sex per se; they were about sexual fantasy and very much about male sexual fantasy, as the male centrefold in Cosmopolitan is 1972 didn’t work and later, Playgirl magazine was a publishing disaster, too. Naked male bodies obviously didn’t appeal to females anywhere near its vice-versa counterpart, and the female author of this article suggests ‘fair enough’, without even wondering, thinking about, or even positing as to why. For me, it’s about too many females still shrouding their sexual fantasies in a darkened abyss in their psyche, buried somewhere in their unconscious and not to be revealed. Men for me have always been far more open and honest about declaring their lust while women, as even I did sometimes in my twenties, were, and are still, obsessed with love, as if sex and love are inextricably linked for them in ways men don’t even entertain. Playboy did not at all break a sexual shame taboo for women, it often contributed to an even greater sense of female inadequacy about their own bodies even more than catwalk models did fully-clothed. Sex per se had nothing to do with it for women; and the revolution in internet porn sadly only cheapens and contributes to the same unrealistic fantasies for males (who watch it far more than women) about sex with women. Porn stills, moving images and films are but an act, contrived and covertly impinging on people’s minds (and that’s where it all emanates from?) and so far removed from anything real about most of us ordinary mortals. Depressingly too, young females are watching it and then rushing off to the nearest cosmetic surgeon to have bits of their vaginas ‘cut and stitched’ for some perfect ideal (whatever that is) that doesn’t exist. The issue for me about all of this is it’s NOT about how to feel good about yourself, your body and the person you’re engaging in sex with, but about living up to some sexual fantasy yet again.
No one is still really talking about sex; further evidenced by yet another article about teenage pregnancy and how the stats haven’t changed much over the past decade. Even that article did not mention the reality of female adolescents perchance, wanting or needing sex; it was just another rehash of what I’ve read ad nauseum about the issue; one, from January 2009, I wrote a blog about months ago. What’s changed in our world when sex and the appreciation, pleasure and enjoyment of it is still tainted by so many taboos, albeit couched in ‘supposedly’ different contexts without any real and/or meaningful discussion about sex per se. Teenage pregnancy still shames young girls, a young woman felt, what else is new- too sadly, nothing at all as far as I can read what’s written in the mainstream media. One women, working at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Dr Susan Nicolson, said ‘We have a lot of work to do as a country to even acknowledge and accept that teenagers do have sex.’ I can only wonder whether the journalist writing the article even asked her why we are unable to acknowledge it: let alone accept it? There was no comment as to that.
Furthermore, surely the doctor’s comment is what it’s really all about – society and the teenage girls and daresay their boys, unable to accept themselves having sex so they can ensure there’s not an unwanted pregnancy. Maybe what we need is an article addressing THAT issue on its own – how many times I’ve written letters, published, but no journalist et al is even coming close to addressing the underlying causes of unwanted pregnancies in teenage girls, or for that matter, in older women, too. Abortion is too often being used as contraception after the cause.
Another article had the headline ‘Men, become the “mum” for a while’, elaborating that successful, high-profile women had one major trait in common: not that they’re raving (and that’s was an interesting choice of word, too) feminists, (maybe they should be?) but ‘that they had a partner who, at some stage, had been willing to stay at home and look after the kids. The job sharing was either full-time or part-time, and the men didn’t see staying at home as a negative’. The researcher, Carol Hymowitz, in a 21012 report by Bloomberg News, with 18 female chief executives of Fortune 500 companies, observed that these executives had ‘figured out early what every man with a corner office has long known: To make it to the top, you need a wife. If that wife happens to be a husband, and increasingly it is, so be it’.
The article also posited that ‘workplace discrimination against women – whether conscious or unconscious – happens as we speak. Women are not being given the opportunities to rise to the top’.
I’ve written so many times, sadly ad nauseum too, about the more significant ‘unconscious’ discrimination, projections, or notions that have affected me my whole life; not just in the workplace, but at home and at play. It has been written about many times in newspapers, but no one seems to consider the oft tragic repercussions and implications of these unconscious assumptions nor more importantly, try to make these conscious so we can dissect and dissemble them. It is imperative to highlight these unconscious manifestations of gender imbalance, not just in sexual behaviour but across our lives, or nothing will really change in our society, albeit our world. That’s why the word ‘feminist’ is now a really important word for me; it’s about making conscious all those unconscious assumptions, both men AND women, project on to each other and too often internalise about themselves in our society so that we can identify and understand exactly what we have to address to achieve meaningful and worthwhile change for us all.