Feminism Does Not Die During Sex: Be Careful What You Fetish For
Why it is not Okay for him to ask if he can Come Between Your Breasts
Trigger Warning: Sexual assault
The topic is abuse but we will have to keep calling it sex (much like the Indian courts) for some time. What i am trying to do here is to explain through examples and logic and also feminism (i wrote that so that one half of the readers say ‘not again’ and leave.) how what are known as ‘fetishes’ or ‘preferences’ or ‘ugly/bad sex’ are all abuse.
It all started with the Babe article. The one that the Atlantic and the Washington Post decided they should take the time to rebuke. I was lying. It all started when i led a #metoo campaign in a famous film school in India where i was a student. I had been abused many times before that but that one time i had decided to fight it through ‘due process’. Everything that followed after that has had a huge role in my understanding of power, patriarchy, sexual harassment, abusive mentality, rape culture and the ‘Atlantists’ and ‘Postists’. This is the reason why, before going to my theory, i will state one thing because that is the most important of it all.
To the woman who wrote about the sexual assault by Aziz Ansari, (whom i’ll call Grace, the name in the Babe article,) you were absolutely right, and the rest of the world can go to hell.
Understanding People’s Response to Abuse
Every woman who has complained or come out as a victim or a survivor of sexual abuse has had to hear ‘liar,’ ‘attention seeker,’ ‘whore,’ ‘other variants of whore,’ ‘mad’ etc. from the general public. These are the standard responses of the vast majority of people who have no idea about sexual harassment or rape and are active participants of the rape culture. But in each of these cases, you will also see a group of people, male and female, who stand by the victim and use feminism to explain how the woman speaking up is an act of courage and that more women should do that. And quite surprisingly, women just decided to do that with the #metoo campaign. [Usually we put it off to be done after the other world changing idea that we have to try out.] All women came out as victims of sexual harassment because all women had been sexually harassed. The group of people who were always in support of lone voices were ecstatic and saw it as the beginning of something unique.
It was unique and it did change a lot of things. Hollywood shook under the revelations. It was all going well — relatively, it’s always relatively when it’s about sexual assault — till the time Grace said #metoo. Then, nobody even called her a liar. Everyone was really okay believing that her account of sexual assault had actually happened. They were just not ready to consider it sexual harassment. And most importantly, the group of people had changed. It was the male feminists, feminists of all gender who were only happy to support other victims of sexual harassment who expressed ‘shock’ that sexual preferences or fetishes or ‘ugly sex’ was being called rape culture. This was the most interesting part for me. Since when did women’s voices become so believable? And why were feminists saying that the incident was not assault and was sex? I mean, imagine a person who has criticized Indian judiciary’s stance on marital rape say that Ansari was just having sex.
No one had a problem believing Grace because behaviour she wrote about is common in sex.
This led me to an experiment.
I did this on social media. I put up a list of things and asked people if they thought if all or any among them was sexual assault. I was hoping that my most favourite humans would not give answers that said sexual assault was sex but damn you, Muphy’s law, that’s just what happened. After getting over the pain of always being ahead of time, (sob sob) i moved on to analyse the answers and talk to more people. This was my post.
I asked if the following things asked by men in heterosexual sexual relationships were abuse or not.
1. Let me come (ejaculate) between your breasts.
2. Swallow my semen.
3. Drink my urine.
4. Let’s have sex on train, open air, car, bus, terrace of hostel
5. Do me a hand job in this movie theatre
6. Want to watch your boyfriend having sex with you.
7. Want to have sex with you when your boyfriend is having sex with you.
8. Why didn’t you let me have [sex with] you when you were heavier?
9. I want to put my phone in your vagina
10. I want to fuck *the woman’s friend’s name* said while having sex with the woman.’
These were all actual things said and done by people. Some of it was done to me the rest to my friends — on all occasions, the demand(s) had been fulfilled by the women partners including me. I am quoting two of the responses.
‘2 and 3 are gross. I hate the instructive tone in which all these demands are made. Like there is no way you can say no. No place for your own kinks and your own wishes. depends on the relationship dynamic[s]. Like consenting partners are known to give each other hand jobs in public spaces and enjoy it. But that dynamic of power is something else completely. The sexual need is not expressed like this in that case.’
‘The dynamic[s] matters. Part of being in a consensual sexual relationship is “setting an equation” of what works for both parties and what doesn’t. I’ve never asked such questions but have been asked to do all of Nos. 1–5 by women that I was consensually involved with. They weren’t pushy (even though my response was generally “No, thanks!”) so it wasn’t abusive, because it was a simple request which I had the choice to accept or reject. It’s when it’s a demand that it becomes problematic. The dynamic obviously shifts when it’s men making demands of women, but the question itself is not automatically abusive.’
Now this is the argument that i am going to take on. My theory is that these questions are inherently abusive. This will help us prove that Ansari’s case of sexual assault and rape is sexual assault and rape and those who are arguing that it is sex are doing so because of reasons that i am going state in some time (2 minutes).
Argument: It is not abusive if asked in a certain way. If it is asked by women with whom i have consensual sex, it is not abusive. If both the partners enjoy it, it’s not abusive.
Response: It is, it is, it is.
How? Asking is not merely asking. If A asks B if they can murder B using a knife and slitting their throat, is that a question or is it violence? It is violence.
Why? Killing someone is manifestation of violence and the fact that one asked before killing does not rid killing of its inherent violence.
Question: Are you saying that a guy asking his ‘consensual sex’ partner if he can come between her breasts is inherently violent?
How? The woman has no problem with it!
Answer: Putting someone in a position where they even have to think ‘Do i have a problem with this?’ itself is violence as far as sex is concerned. This immediately sets a power equation even where there was none earlier.
Question: So what, now we can’t ask anything?
Answer: No, you can’t ask anything. Sex, is a tool that is used on a large number of women to assert power. It is mostly done by the male species. So every sexual act that you think about is part of the exertion of power if not abuse. It becomes abuse only when you do it but the thought itself is abusive in nature.
Whining: But that is like — a LOT of things!
Rolling eyes: Yes, precisely why Grace did not get the support of even staunch feminists. Even feminists have fantasies, we have sex too and yes, contrary to what the world thinks, we do think. Accepting Ansari’s behaviour as assault would mean that we have abusive thoughts, we have abused people and that our sex life might not be all that politically correct as we imagined it to be. See the other big problem here? One doesn’t even have to be a person who has done things like what Ansari did in the way he did it, but just being someone who thinks of these as normal sexual acts are either being abused or are having abusive thoughts. Even if they are doing it with consent, it means that both the partners have normalised abuse and maybe even take pride in that.
Whining: But that’s a LOT of people, even women, you are talking about!
Rolling eyes: Yes, it is.
‘Coming’ between a woman’s breasts is not part of sex. It is a need that has risen out of fetishizing and imagining ways in which sex can be more enjoyable to oneself. If the need to do this act is arising from healthy appreciation of women as humans who have sexuality, this is not exactly the ideal way to show it, is it? When you appreciate breasts, why would you think of spraying your body fluids, residues — over them rather than — umm — telling them that? If that is a legit way of expressing happiness, sexual pleasure or interest, one must be really happy and sexually interested in toilet paper, right? Let’s not forget that something called a ‘facial’ exists and that porn has a category where one can watch men ejaculate on women’s faces. Or are you saying that porn is the new healthy sex?
‘Blow job’ is no different. (Okay i think i successfully lost the last readers who were lingering to see where i was taking it.) If ‘blow job’ is just part of sex and is completely all right for consensual sex partners to do it, why is ‘blow job’ also derogatory? We know that it is used as an insult. One male sucking another male’s cock is derogatory not only because people are against gay sex but also because it is considered demeaning by males themselves. Of course, taking one’s sex organ, that too, the sex organ that the male species considers is part of their power, in someone else’s mouth is demeaning even in its origin. To be honest i myself have used it against some men who were particularly nasty. Like saying ‘you’re so spineless you can even suck your own dick’ or ‘how many blow jobs did it take for this guy to come in support of you?’
Don’t say that the penis not a source of power in patriarchy. Chithralekha, a Dalit woman from Kerala was given death and rape threats because she abused the Chief Minister’s sex organ as the only possible defence against the violence the government was doing to her. What do you think is the deal with unsolicited dick pictures?
The ‘blow job’ is an insult when it is not being done with one’s sexual partners because it is a play of power. And it is not an insult with sexual partners for the precise reason that it gets done. That is, it is no coincidence that many sexual acts that are inherently abusive are deemed ‘normal’ by rape culture.
Yes, oral sex is performed on women as well, they enjoy it. Let us again go to the parallel male universe. Performing oral sex on a woman is not exactly ‘manly.’ In fact, someone who licks a pussy is a pussy in male language. Even the Atlantic piece against Grace, has a line that gives the author away with their male thinking. [Many lines, actually, but no point going there.]
‘Within minutes of returning, she was sitting on the kitchen counter and he was — apparently consensually — performing oral sex on her (here the older reader’s eyes widen, because this was hardly the first move in the “one-night stands” of yesteryear), but then went on, per her account, to pressure her for sex in a variety of ways that were not honorable.’
A male performing oral sex on a woman is also used as a quid-pro-quo for oral sex on men. Or for sex itself. And in the same universe there are sexual acts that suit a ‘wife’ or a ‘lady’ and there are those that suit a ‘hooker’. Come on, look at the name ‘blow job’ itself. So the argument that ‘fetishes’ and ‘preferences’ are all right as long as they are consensual is nothing but men trying to get everything from one woman, in their language, clubbing a ‘wife’ and a ‘hooker’ or a ‘whore’.
Also notice how one of the commenters found swallowing semen and drinking urine to be ‘gross’ but thought the rest of the acts depended on other factors? This is the threshold point. There is one for everyone who has ever said ‘that doesn’t sound like assault’ about assault. [To be fair, the commenter wasn’t one among who thought Ansari’s case wasn’t rape.] And more often than not, these threshold points are formed by one’s own sex life or ideas about sex both of which are highly influenced by the rape culture that is already in place. This way, a person who considers having sex in public to be inherently abusive might also feel that having sex with boyfriend in front of another sex partner is quite all right.
I am not questioning the agency of people, especially women, who have various threshold points like these. I am saying that understanding abuse is difficult because of rape culture. One might try to lose some kilos because boyfriend said that he sometimes wondered ‘how would it be to have sex with a lighter you’ but neither the fact that you are happy doing it, nor the fact that you feel really good after losing weight and having sex, make the boyfriend who ‘wondered’ less abusive. You might be of the opinion that grooming is terribly abusive but losing weight yourself and feeling good about it might not make you realise that that’s what you were subjected to. What do you call a ‘fetish’ for children? It is called child sexual abuse. And while you become an abuser only when you implement your ‘fetish,’ you are not having a ‘fetish’ but an abusive thought when you think of children that way.
Don’t Even Ask
I will not go into the details of what Ansari did to explain how each is abusive and not ugly or bad sex but at this point, it is important to think of how to ask someone if they want to have sex because it looks like everyone wants to have sex.
Like i said earlier, there is an inherent powerplay in heterosexual sex because the male dominated world has made it so. Men who think with their dicks is a reality and since the male sex organ is one of the things that is part of patriarchy which enables rape culture, you don’t ever ask a woman if she wants to have sex with you. You heard that right. If you are interested in having sex with a woman don’t go up to her and ask ‘Can I have sex with you?’ because there is always the possibility that she doesn’t want to have sex with you.
Examine why you want to have sex with her. More often than not you will realize it arises from toxic masculinity and objectification. So don’t ask anyway.
If a woman wants to have sex with you, they will surely ask. This is where a group of males who say that it is always their female partners who make the first move and therefore all sex they have has to be consensual. No, it doesn’t work like that. That’s like thinking that feminism has won if you like having the woman on top when you have sex. Like how the second commenter said, if women approached him and asked him to drink their pee or to have sex in a classroom or a garden, it would be his responsibility to say that that cannot be done. Not because of the way in which it was asked but because it was asked at all. Have you ever helped anyone out of abuse? It sucks.
It will really hurt when you try to rescue yourself out of abuse and convince your loved ones to do the same. So if a woman is approaching you with an invitation for sex, you don’t, as a responsible sexual partner get to say yes all the time. Understand that it is possible for women, as long time victims, to harbour abusive thoughts towards themselves. So a woman saying ‘come between my breasts’ is her objectifying herself and not consent.
It is also possible that they never ever ask you anything except may be the point of existence of the male species, but seriously, if a woman never approaches you for sex, it means that she does not want to have sex. News Scroll: It is a possibility that there are women who might not want to have sex with you. It is also a possibility that there are women who might not want to have sex at all.
Haven’t you seen public toilets on trains and bus stations — or is it just an Indian thing? I haven’t been anywhere else — that have penis pictures all over? You don’t see vagina pictures or vulva pictures all over women’s washrooms, do you? That is the difference in power in gender. So the task is to make the penis women friendly. That sentence is figurative.
To all those who just cannot see the abuse in Ansari Vs Grace, i am putting in a gentle reminder that feminism doesn’t end in bed. It doesn’t die a natural death during sex and resurrect the morning after when you have to figure out whose turn it is to do the dishes. If we fought and achieved birth control, we also have to fight and achieve women, queer, transgender friendly sex. But this time, let it be clear that what we are fighting for, is not in fact women-friendly sex, but sex. Sex that is not women-friendly is not called sex, it is called abuse.
[Next year on the same date, you can wish me ‘Happy 1st Losing Your Remaining Friends Anniversary. P.S. I love chocolate and don’t drink.]