Turning back the clock on sex.
So, I was looking at this page about a GOP Rep lying about the morning after pill and whining that religion should have some privileged place in the law. I looked at the links in the sidebar, so many of which are about political attacks on women. I thought of Rush Limbaugh’s insane demand for sex videos from women who use birth control. And I tried to imagine the world these assholes are trying to create.
It made me think of My Secret Life. First published in 1888, this anonymous sex diary is a fascinating uncensored look into the side of Victorian culture that was so carefully hidden in published work from that era. “Walter” holds nothing back in describing his sexual adventures and it can be uncomfortable to read at times.
I’m not going to judge him, frankly I’m less interested in the character of one man than I am in the culture the book reveals. For women in the 19th century, having sex at all was a risk, and one with high stakes. Even ignoring the risks of pregnancy or disease, simply being perceived as an unmarried woman who has had sex could be devastating to her life, costing her a job and forcing her to choose between moving away and taking up prostitution to survive.
Reading this it becomes clear where the concept of “no means yes” comes from, because in that social structure if an unmarried woman wants to have sex her only real choice is to find a guy who’s aggressive enough that she can make a token resistance and let him assume that he talked her into it. Seriously, with most of the women Walter writes about it’s not entirely clear how consensual things really are, because if she doesn’t at least pretend to resist, well then clearly she’s a slut. There’s almost always an element of coercion in Walter’s encounters and it’s pretty clear that this isn’t just him, but the standard way people go about fucking in Victorian England. It’s a society that seems to deliberately blur the lines between consensual sex and date rape.
Even when we aren’t talking about prostitutes sex is treated as a commodity. Something to be bought, extorted, begged for, or stolen. Often Walter goes out of his way to pay for it when he really doesn’t have to, out of what seems to be a complex mix of compassion, guilt, and making sure there’s no obligation left. Perhaps I should read the book again to examine that more closely, it’s been a while and memory is treacherous.
“But Leo,” I hear you cry, “what does this weird old book have to do with the GOP’s war on women?”
Well, when I try to imagine the world they seem to be working to create, it looks a lot like the 19th century. Keep woman marginalized, trivialized, fucktoys & incubators. Where the usual feeling a woman has after sex is shame that she let it happen mixed with shame that she liked it. Where a woman is never quite sure if she agreed to it or was date-raped, her reputation depends on how people perceive her sexuality and she’s in constant danger of getting pregnant and having to make desperate, even drastic decisions.
If we have healthcare systems that provide for prostate exams, Viagra and vasectomies but not pap smears, tubal ligations or birth control, the cultural message we are sending says very clearly that a man’s sexual health is important while a woman’s isn’t.
And frankly, I’m amazed at the blatant hypocrisy of Rush “Dominican Republic Viagra” Limbaugh calling someone a slut. Tell me, Rush, why should she be shamed for wanting to have sex, when you yourself clearly also want sex in your life? Shouldn’t you be called a slut or something? Are you ashamed of yourself? Who the fuck are you to try to shame her for her sex life? Who the fuck is anyone to make decisions about the sex lives of others?
There’s a lot of talk about the non-contraceptive benefits of birth control, which kind of bothers me. It feels like a concession, like saying “Sure, wanting sex is bad, but there’s all this other good stuff.” Fuck that. Wanting sex isn’t bad. If the only reason a woman wants birth control is so she can have a lot of sex that’s between her, anyone she’s planning to have sex with, and her doctor. And the doctor’s only included optionally for health preparation’s sake. Most health insurance plans cover drugs and procedures for men that have no other purpose than to allow them to have more sex, why the fuck shouldn’t it be the same for women?
Nobody should ever feel ashamed for wanting to have sex. Nobody. Ever.
Posted on March 2, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged 19th century sex, assholes, bullies, equality, fuck, fucking patriarchy, My Secret Life, Politics, postaday2012, rants, Rush Limbaugh (I already said "assholes" didn't I?), sex. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.