Prostitution Culture: Four Things Every Man Needs To Know
This is a direct response piece to the work “Rape Culture: Four Things Every Woman Needs To Know”.
The article “Rape Culture: Four Things Every Woman Needs To Know” (published on Medium on November 21, 2017 by Caitlin Johnstone) will be worthy of study as a primary source document for some future historian whenever sanity is restored and the Sex Wars are finally laid to rest. For the time being, the document provides a perfect opportunity to examine current affairs as they stand now.
For the record, I identify as non-binary myself, and spent significant time in upper division Women’s Studies coursework at Portland State University. I am deeply concerned by the direction American culture has taken around these issues. There is not a person in my life who has not been deeply effected one way or another. So before you prepare the gallows outright, I ask you to step into my high-heeled leather boots for a moment and look upon all of this as an outsider: someone who’s sexuality and gender have never at any point fit anyone’s mold.
And yet I was born into a body anatomically female, or however we are supposed to be saying it these days. The oppressions I have faced in my life are therefore associated with that feature, however insignificant I may find it myself. The realities of my form are inescapable where it comes to its most outstanding capacity, by comparison to other possible configurations: that is, childbearing. But since I am a woman (as far as everyone else insists upon treating me) for whom childrearing is prohibited through disabling hereditary disease, I take issue with any presentation of “True Womanhood” that evokes the long-obsolete argument that we must be resigned to our station as sex objects.
More to the point, I identify as a comedian, and I therefore let myself off the hook for saying anything here that might be offensive to some; in the name of performing my sacred duty of telling the truths that no one wants to hear.
1. If it is Their Right to be Beautiful, they Can’t get Mad at You for Seeking Beauty.
It is true that one major problem women face in dealing with the sexual world is a lack of self-confidence. However, laying this problem at the feet of the great demon “rape culture” lacks integrity. Women face a host of other challenges in our lives that rightly have nothing to do with our sexuality or physical attractiveness. To refer all of these back to attractiveness as a mate dehumanizes women and recreates us as sexual objects.
It is also an outrageous falsehood to say that “all women are beautiful, period.” Many of us do not posses the qualities (physical or otherwise) that men in general (whoever that is) find attractive; or we posses them in greater or lesser degree to our peers. That is the basis for the patterns of most human interaction; and women as well as men create and reinforce these social hierarchies in even the tiniest of social exchanges. Right, wrong, or indifferent: to ignore the fact does not improve conditions or outcomes.
Let’s say you are a woman who has acquired unhealthy patterns of behavior through trauma. Does it in any way benefit your potential partners to ignore this fact about you when deciding how closely to bond themselves with you? Any particular man is not personally responsible for whatever your historical trauma narrative, and you have no control over anyone’s behavior but your own. Becoming an empowered woman is not about excusing yourself from the tasks of self-maintenance and betterment by foisting them on to your partner.
Johnstone’s approach of addressing the feelings of isolation and rejection through self-delusion may temporarily assuage the feelings, but you cannot cure a lack of self-confidence with an overblown ego. You need to have something to be confident about. Some men can be fooled by the veneer: alternative culture clothing; make-up; the right friends; a pretty smile. But the truth will have out as the months turn to years; and you never have the power to make them stay.
2. “Women Have All the Sexual Power”, and so it is Their Responsibility to Use It Wisely.
I actually agree with Johnstone here that the origin of the problem is the consistent failure of the systems in place to reward women’s labor with buying power in the market. Traditional “Women’s Work” is quite necessary to the continuing health of a functioning society, as the loss of these heritage skills in America over the last fifty years has clearly demonstrated. Normalizing women in the workforce has not resulted in the magical transference of these capacities and interests to men, on the whole. (This statement is made without judgment.)
However, Johnstone’s coherence ends there. The fact that in the past women were expected to be supported in these activities by their childrearing partner does not mean that all of these other kinds of nurturance and community organizing services women provide are inherently sexual in themselves. To equate all of “Women’s Work” with women’s sexuality is to again reduce womanhood to a purely sexual role; and sex itself to a kind of labor. In that case, any work we do that has been traditionally identified with womanhood for which we accept pay at all may be seen as prostitution.
Thereby, we are unwittingly undermining women psychologically in our quest for advancement, because women feel dirty about asking for money to perform these tasks. Community organizers in particular regularly wrestle with the quandary: raise ticket prices and exclude some poorer members; or keep them the same and potentially lose money from their own pocket? After all, your guests have done you a favor by coming, right?
Therefore, it makes no sense whatever when Johnstone says, “They want our sexual energy so they created a patriarchal currency that we need to survive. A false resource to swap with our real one.” No amount of “sexual energy” is going to plant the fields that grow your food. No amount of “sexual energy” is going to run the plants that produce the electricity that powers your home. No amount of “sexual energy” is going to pay your medical bills if you get sick.
And while you can sometimes secure a venue with sexual favors, the practice prejudices the market in favor of those women willing to make such a compromise with patriarchy.
Again, the misapprehension here is that somehow individual men are personally accountable for the conditions of a society that, like all other trading nations, uses currency to represent trade-able value. If you’ve got a better idea, I’m all ears; but don’t tell me we’re going to somehow replace money with an imaginary substance called “sexual energy” that is comprised out of all the things that women do to make life more bearable.
Or — and I know this is a radical idea, here — we could do the hard work necessary to address the fact that “Women’s Work” (whether done by women or men) is STILL dramatically undervalued in the mercantile world (cooking, teaching, nursing, social work, the arts, etc.) and under-compensated in the common marketplaces (if it is monetarily compensated at all). If we do not want women to feel pressured to mate, perhaps we should correct this problem.
3. Women are Taking a Transactional View of their Sexuality, and a Myopic View of Yours.
Never mind that this is a gender essentialist view of men’s sexuality (for we have been in that realm for this entire argument). To characterize men’s sexuality by only the practical, biological urges associated with men’s bodies is to objectify them every bit as much as Johnstone’s arguments objectify women. While it is true that men in general desire sex more frequently than women do, that does not mean that they are achieving the deeply gratifying sexual experiences that they crave; and crave just as much as we do. It is just that men are discouraged from sharing any of their feelings, much less their most vulnerable yearnings around sexuality.
Johnstone’s characterization of the sex women have on average (as opposed to those deeply nourishing moments of ecstasy) as nothing but performative places a higher value on the fulfillment of women’s desires over that of the men with whom they partner. It also reifies the “Victorian Purity Myth” by creating women’s sexuality as more noble and spiritual, while men’s sexuality is treated as intrusive and objectionable.
The way Johnstone describes the heterosexual dynamic, it makes one wonder if she actually likes or wants men at all. The advice she gives here to women will certainly not create a peaceful cohabiting partnership with one, that is certain. A stable relationship requires both mutual respect and desire. If a woman is only partnering in order to trade her “sexual market value” (as the Men’s Rights camp would term it) for goods and services to a man, he is not a partner but a John. Most men I know have no interest in being treated like the consumer of their partner’s ministrations, and so neither pop-culture feminism nor the toxic components that have taken over the Men’s Rights movement are speaking to the real interests of our menfolk.
Oh, and the deeper and darker desires that come out of women in our most vulnerable moments? As Johnstone describes, “It can take some dark turns and go to some kinky places because our sexuality is intimately tied to our self-healing, so our sex will go where our psychology needs healing.” You heard that right. If you are D/s identified or otherwise interested in kinky sex, that is ipso facto evidence that there is something wrong with you that needs to be healed.
It couldn’t possibly be that you just enjoy it when he ties you up, flogs you silly, and makes you call him “Daddy”. Johnstone’s statement is deeply irresponsible given that we only just won the fight to get BDSM activities removed from the DSM. Personally, I don’t know what sort of man would want to take up an “invitation and opportunity” to be with such a woman as Johnstone describes, unless he was perhaps a hard-core submissive or masochist. Perhaps that is the only kind of man Johnstone finds acceptable.
4. A man’s sexuality is never your responsibility, and neither is a woman’s emotions.
Ya know what? The lady is right. Nobody should ever be having sex if they legitimately don’t want to do so. In fact, no aspect of a relationship should be coercive. That means that women should not use access to physical affection as a means of dominating and controlling their partners, outside of the context of a contracted D/s relationship.
Do you owe your partner sex? No. But then, neither does he owe you servitude as an endless well of emotional support. If you don’t want to have sex, fine. Don’t. But if you are the sort of person who is regularly disinterested in sex due to emotional or other causes, perhaps you should consider open relationship styles that allow your partners to seek the physical satisfaction and emotional closeness they actually desire. If this is a pattern that continues over a long period of time, women shouldn’t be surprised if their partners decide to seek something that works better for them: they too must look after their own needs.
After all, healthy adult relationships are supposed to be an equal exchange.
Just for fun, and to make the readership squirm, I’m going to pull a passage directly from the author here, doing absolutely nothing except swapping the pronouns and gender roles. You can tell me in the comments what you think:
If your partner is really into you, she’ll happily work through whatever stands between you and sex. She’ll make sure that supper is waiting on the table when you get home from work and the kitchen is clean as a whistle, because you’re the one who worked all day. She’ll patiently tease the aching soreness out of your muscles, scrub the sweat and grime from your skin, make sure you have clothes to wear tomorrow, whatever future worries you need put at ease, whatever adjustments you’d like to make in your lovemaking. If she loves you and wants to have sex with you, she’ll do whatever she needs to do to make sex enjoyable for you…
Personally, I’ve got no problem with Johnstone’s rendition so long as this one is also true. The reality is that women do not have all the sexual power, because most women are driven to partner in order to find emotional fulfillment through close pair bonding with a sexual mate. Certainly, this is no more universal among women than it is among men, but it is true enough to have birthed many multi-billion dollar industries. Such a force in shaping human societies cannot be denied or ignored.
If women want this from men, they are going to have to be willing to likewise care for the needs of their mates. This is the compact. So long as it is upheld, love works just fine.
Love Culture: The Answer We Actually Need