Sex Negativity and the National Post

Hello again everyone,

I found a topic to talk about! (3 actually!) Now just to find the time to write them up for you all.

So, yesterday, Google alerts alerted me to an opinion piece in the National Post about a sex-positive activist, Kendra Holliday. Someone who I happen to have heard of previously, but never had the chance to speak to. I thought that I would give it a read. Wow! Was it bad. There were so many sex-negative tropes throughout the piece, that I figured that I had to talk about it. But, the problem was where to start really and what to focus on. So, I decided that I would paste the entire thing here, adding my comments where I saw fit.

But before that, I think I should make it known that I am rather biased against the National Post. Being Canadian, I have heard quite a bit from the National Post, and I have always felt that the opinions in the newspaper as a whole didn’t reflect mine. In fact, I would say that the newspaper is possibly even biased towards the conservative. (Not as far as FoxNews in the United States though.) I will try to keep my words for the author, Barbara Kay, and topic separate from this, but kind of a full disclosure statement.

Next, I am assuming the author of the opinion piece is female-identified (from her name), so I would like to thank her for putting her views and opinions forward. Women are very much underrepresented in op-ed submissions and publications. So, I want to validate the act that is a woman speaking her mind in a publication. ( ^_^ )

Now, on to the critique: (All of the emphasis is my own, it is used as a guide to show a rough area where I have problems with something the author said.)

A while ago, a Toronto policeman had the misfortune to suggest publicly that women who didn’t wish to be raped should stop dressing like sluts. It’s too bad he exaggerated. Obviously real rapists are not so fussy in their choice of victims.

Really, I don’t think there is much misfortune involved here. There are a very large number of people that feel that women can avoid rape by not dressing more conservatively. What the police officer in Toronto did was much more than an exaggeration of the “facts,” it was straight up victim blaming, and women have the right to be angry about that.

Also, “real” rapists do take looks into consideration, we “feminists” know this. It isn’t that they are more likely to pick a “slut” because she is “asking for it” or anything stupid like that. Instead, they pick the “slut” because we, as a society, are less likely to believe the “slut.” And what the police officer said really just acts to reinforce that belief.

But the impulse behind his remarks was not altogether wrong. In his bumbling way he meant to say that normally it is women’s dress and behaviour that set the parameters for the social barrier between men and women, and that women who dress modestly usually won’t be harassed by men.

Oh, yes! Do tell us what the police officer meant to say! I mean, you know exactly what he was thinking while he was giving this talk, right? I think I will file this under the “mind-reading” cognitive distortion.

Um, speaking from experience, women dressed modestly ARE harassed. Yesterday, my girlfriend and I went for a walk, her in a T-shirt and jeans, me in a Polo-shirt and dress pants, and we got harassed, right there on the street, no less than 6 times. Being honked at, cat-called, hooted at, and chatted up by strangers IS harassment, and I really don’t think that many people would tell my girlfriend and I that we were dressed provocatively.

But even that nuanced comment may have spawned enough outrage to create SlutWalk -a growing protest movement whose message is that women need never be ladies, but men must always be gentlemen.

No, no! Really, it isn’t. I mean, each SlutWalk is organized and run by different people with different agendas. But, I can say for the most part, SlutWalk is about telling the world that women are pissed off about being the ones at fault when one of us is raped.

And, really, not raping someone doesn’t make you a gentlemen! Not harassing a women does not make you a gentlemen. Being a gentlemen is a lot more than just simply not cat-calling me in the street, but, yes, cat-calling me or raping me would mean that you have no chance of being a gentlemen in my eyes.

Last week, while presenting at Moses Znaimer’s annual Toronto ultra-marathon for the mind, IdeaCity, I had the unusual opportunity of spending one-on-one leisure time with a professional slut.

St. Louis-based Kendra Holliday, a fellow IdeaCity presenter, is not only, according to her bio, “a passionate sexplorer … of kinks, fetishes, BDSM, swinging, polyamory and perversion.” Kendra is also an active evangelist in the moral laundering of sexual obsession. She evangelizes on her blog, The Beautiful Kind (not for children or the sexually squeamish), and whatever media will indulge her. Why the need to go public? In a word, honour.

Well, I have to say that I see a wee bit of spin in the description of Kendra’s work. I think the idea is more to get people to understand that sexuality is just another part of life, and to get them to talk about it, like you would anything else. However, I have to admit that I haven’t read all of Kendra’s work, so I am probably not the best person to ask. Though, Kendra is quite active on her blog on The Beautiful Kind, if you would like to head over and get the word from her, herself. (Which is really what one should do when making assumptions about another’s work, be it professional or recreational.)

Um, I think that you, too, are falling into this “whatever media will indulge her” category. Also, ad hominem (on both bold statements, really).

In his illuminating book, Honor: A History, media critic James Bowman defines honour as “the good opinion of those who are most important to us.” According to Bowman, honour is an intrinsically human preoccupation, always linked to one’s sex. For men honour is inseparable from physical or moral courage. For women honour is inseparable from circumscribed sexual behaviour. Too much male honour results in burkas and honour killings. Too little female honour hyper-sexualizes society.

I have to admit that I have no experience with the view points of James Bowman. From what is here, I happen to disagree. However, there is far too little here to gain a contextual knowledge of his views and ideologies on the matter.

For decades honour as a driving force for any behaviour at all has been considered a retrograde encumbrance to social progress. Cultural changes seem to have vindicated this view, for Western women’s control of their own bodies is now effectively absolute, while manly courage -apart from pious encomiums to male victims in the protective professions: dead soldiers, police and firefighters -is mocked or ignored.

WHAT!? I didn’t get the memo!? You are telling me that all street harassment has ended!? Rape is a thing of the past!? Women can get abortions without white men in suits telling them that they have to stay somewhere for 3 days listening to all the reasons why she shouldn’t get an abortion and being shown the pictures of what her fetus will/does look like!? Oh, this is a figment of the author’s imagination, darn! I thought that we made it.

If you haven’t gathered from my sarcasm, women do not have “effectively absolute” control of their bodies. You may have noticed that in my experiences from yesterday, or the fact that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted, or that abortion is under attack the world over.

Next, men are being ignored? What? You know that men make up the VAST majority of the politicians that make the decisions for the entire country, right? You do know that women are being told that they have to wear skirts and refrain from grunting while playing tennis, because the (male) viewers are complaining? You do understand what patriarchy means, right? If you really think that men are underrepresented in the news, movies, music, video games, sports, or anything else, please look at some of these resources:

Feministing

Feministe

Feminist Frequency

This video [Warning: Auto-Starting Video]

SexGenderBody

Kendra Holliday is the poster woman for this sea change in our culture. She has a 10-year old daughter (to whom she claims to be a “goddess mother”). But motherhood doesn’t deter her a whit. Her aggressive promotion of sluthood in the media has prompted her ex-husband to sue for full custody, and Kendra admits that in her socially conservative environment, his odds of achieving that goal are good.

Okay, I am going to call ad hominem again on “sluthood” as you, yourself, say at the bottom of this article that slut is always a pejorative.

In her talk Kendra said she was kicked out of her daughter’s Girl Scouts program “because I have sex.” No. Nobody cares what she does in private; it is her relentless publicizing of her raunchy activities and fetishes, publicity that is likely to impinge negatively on her daughter’s life, that turns mature people off.

Okay, I think that you have a fair point here. Yes, I think that the Girl Scouts probably have more of a problem with the publicizing of the sexual activities, rather than the sexual activities themselves.

I am calling ad hominem on “turns mature people off.” But, I am not really all that sure that it would impinge negatively on her child. I happen to think that being open and honest about sexuality with children (about the good AND the bad) is the best strategy. However, I have to admit that I don’t know of any research into the issue. (You know, besides the biased research of places like the American Family Association and such.)

Why is it worth losing her child? I think her yearning for the good opinion of “respectable” people is trumping her self-interest. Kendra wants to have her cake and eat it: Like prostitutes whose legal battles are mostly about social validation, Kendra wants to be a slut and still have the respect of people who aren’t, or have contempt for, sluts. Kendra wants to believe sluts can have honour. But they don’t.
Kendra is fixated on “honesty” as the highest virtue. But discretion with children around our adult sexual activity is not dishonesty, it is our way of protecting children from too early sexualization.

Do share! What, in your opinion is too early? 18? 16? 14? 12? 10? You know that our society sexualizes young people (especially girls) well before their parents do, in most cases. You should check on the APA sexualization report, or sexual clothing being marketed to tweens, teens and kids.

Yes, Kendra does want the respect of those around her. Just like as a woman, I want the respect of those that have contempt for women. Just like as a disabled person, I want to be respected, even by those that look down on me. Just like as a transperson, I want the respect of those that would rather me dead. Just like as a lesbian, I want the respect of those that don’t think I should have the same rights as them. Just like as a christian conservative, you want the respect of those that disagree with both of those ideologies (or you wouldn’t have written the opinion piece in the first place).

I don’t think what Kendra is looking for is all that unusual, really.

Also, I would like to think that conservatives can have honour. But … of course they can, much like sluts can, and sex workers too (since you seem to be against them too). Because honour is a subjective term that is used to try to inappropriately encapsulate one’s entire being. So, what is honour in my eyes, isn’t in yours, or my girlfriend’s, or society’s.

I think Kendra was disappointed in the polite, but rather tepid applause following her presentation, which included taped voiceovers from her daughter testifying to the value of honesty. (Kendra’s cheerful reference to the belly dancer she provided as entertainment for her daughter’s birthday party was a bad judgment call.)

But her talk went down very well with the organizers of SlutWalk, which seeks to extort validation from those trying to lead honourable lives for a word whose connotations have always been pejorative, and never honourific. Kendra has been asked to participate in the next Toronto SlutWalk program. She spoke of this invitation with pride. She doesn’t get it. Groucho Marx’s famous comments about membership in clubs springs to mind.

Extort? That is a loaded word. Also, ad hominem with the whole “sluts are bad” theme.

For those that didn’t catch the reference, Groucho Marx famously said “I would never belong to a group that would accept someone like me as a member.” I imagine this reference was used completely without context, because I believe that the quote is actually a self-deprecating try at humor. Realistically, if you feel this way, you have a few self-esteem issues to sort through, especially since this could, realistically be applied to membership on a university campus or in the ranks of employment.

Overall, I happen to disagree very strongly with Barbara Kay’s opinion piece, even though I wasn’t at the presentation, nor do I know Kendra personally. I happen to be one of those people that feels that the world needs to be more accepting of those that are different from the “norm” (which isn’t really the average of every in society). This holds true whether you are talking about sexual orientation, sexual practices, BDSM identification, transgender status, age, size, class, race, (dis)ability status, or anything else.

Here in the BDSM community, we have a saying “your kink is not my kink, but that is okay.” This is something that more people within and outside the BDSM community should apply to just about anything. “Your life is not my life, your choices are not my choices, but they are okay.”

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2 thoughts on “Sex Negativity and the National Post

  1. Wow, well done! Thank you for breaking it down and pointing out mind reading cognitive distortion and much more.

    You are yet another woman who has come forward to let the world know that dressing modestly doesn’t prevent harassment.

    Barbara Kay had an evening to sit with me face to face and find out more about me. I wish I could do that with you, as well.

  2. Thank you~, and I really want to thank you again for not backing down from her words. I really think that it is important that those involved in a debate get to talk rather than being drown out by the ideological babbling of others (like myself).

    Really, I think that the modestly dressed woman comment that she made wasn’t the one was most vehemently against. It is definitely something that needs to be talked about and mentioned as the victim blaming rhetoric that it is. However, I think that the most damaging comments that Barbara Kay wrote in her opinion piece are the comments “for Western women’s control of their own bodies is now effectively absolute, while manly courage -apart from pious encomiums to male victims in the protective professions: dead soldiers, police and firefighters -is mocked or ignored” and “SlutWalk -a growing protest movement whose message is that women need never be ladies, but men must always be gentlemen.”

    Admittedly, the first of these comments could be the words of James Bowman. Someone that I haven’t read enough about to draw a conclusion. However, I kind of feel that both of these comment were slut-shaming and victim blaming, as well as attempts to silence entire movements of people. This is always scary.

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