Buried Alive


No More No (Sexual Stigma p.2) by pisaquaririse

Where has our “no” gone? (Trust this will become a huge theme for this blog henceforth)

It’s very difficult to fathom how powerful and incremental one word, one concept, can be to the sexual health and well-being of a civilization yet go so hushed and lost.

At the intersection of power, stigma, and sexual socialization there has been made an incredibly thriving market to the tune of billions of dollars and, what’s more willing worldwide participants, in the celebration-the orgasmic celebration if you will-of no “No.”

And what I am talking about is not limited to rape and sexual assault though they, of course, are some of the darkest manifestations of this. No–I am talking about the ubiquitous, ever-existential, concept of sexuality and how much of our sexuality has been formed on the erasure and undermining of “no.”

In sexual stigma p.1 there were two main points that I wanted to make clear:

1. Consent and sexual readiness has been presented to us, through marketing and media, to be a look-a set of features-embodied by women/girls. Thus creating a situation wherein, if the “look” is present, the sexual meaning is implied. When sexual meaning is implied the first layer of consideration for the women’s interest in being considered sexual by another, as well as her legal ability to even be so, is removed. A layer of “no” is gone.

2. We are being conditioned to find people sexually attractive and ready in way that is supposed to be against our will. From early ages we are presented a set of sexual norms that we are supposed to want yet what we are supposed to *not* want is most sexualized. Thus our capitulation and lack of control is sexualized. Thus we perceive our own responsibility and agency as a bit of a continuum–vulnerable to change given how desirable we find the subject. As the stigmas normalize and mainstream our ability to achieve this same arousing effect diminishes. We are now searching out new sexual ways to breach our own will.

Exactly how many ways can one say Rape Culture?

But let’s not stop there.

Stigma, sometimes called “taboo,” has an even an more problematic function. Due to the language and politics surrounding sexual norms vs. stigma, stigma has become synonymous with liberating/sexual freedom/sexual autonomy. To engage in a taboo/stigma is often seen as engaging in a more sexually free activity. It’s a pseudo-freedom dichotomy: the sexual norms are pushed in a way that is so forceful and exaggerated (by no-fun, questionable institutions no less: schools, religion, family) that by the time someone has gone through all the emotional and psychological , if not societal, shaming to finally partake in the stigma who can blame them for feeling freer?

And don’t get it twisted: we know who bears the brunt of this shaming.

However, the problem here is that we have created a very protected, hot tempered situation wherein no one can really challenge stigmas without being viewed as a censurer/personal-liberties-destroyer. To question the stigmas is to question sexual freedom by default of the norms vs. stigma system. (How free are we really if we can’t even question without being insulted?)

Moreover, the sexual stigma is not viewed (wrongfully) as originating from any sort of institution or official entity–we just say it’s there, it’s how we feel and when asked to possibly locate the origins/roots of this one is often presented with some very sexist primitive science (usually funded by The Right) or told it doesn’t matter, consenting adults, so who cares.

Funny that we, as feminists, often have no problem discussing the origins of the sexual norms adults engage in–most likely because they originate from The Right and we have no quibbles questioning them. Double standard much?

(Anticipated misreading number 1*: I am not saying I anymore agree with the current sexual norms than I disagree with the sexual stigmas–I think the whole system is bunk. My point is to express how these intersecting dynamics destroy so much of what is needed in the foundations of consent.)

The other thing is: stigma is mainstream. As in, it’s mainstream for us to have stigmas. The norms vs. stigma system is the mainstream. But when taboo is spoken about, when people who participate in stigma come forth they are regarded as sexual revolutionaries, as if they are challenging mainstream on a ground breaking level. This celebration means we continue to reward almost any deviating behavior, or make excuses for it, in such a way that removes critical analysis. As well, those who choose to participate in more sexual norms are considered boring, humdrum, or same ole same ole.

(Anticipated misreading number 2*: I do not mean deviating as all bad–I speak of any deviation from the norm, with no necessary value judgment)

What I find so immensely troubling is the defense and/or apologetic attitudes towards systems, ideas, even said “sexual revolutionaries” who defend sexual stigmas meant to control, ostracize, harm, and shame women. Such examples would be the use of terms such as slut, prude, whore, virgin in pornography or role play. Such examples would include rape and/or child rape simulation. Such examples would include sexual practices depending on uneven power distributions.

Now really: If you have to suspend the disbelief that your sexual partner is a child to get off then how invested are you in perpetuating a better consent model? And a world without child porn, pedophilia, predatory behavior etc.

If you have to suspend the disbelief that your sexual partner is a whore/good little girl (re:sexual shaming tactic) to get off then how invested are you in perpetuating a better consent model? And a world where women aren’t categorized, turned away in rape trials, prostitutes murdered without a second glance, etc.

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again and again and again: if you must suspend the disbelief that your sexual partner is not consenting to get off then please tell me how possibly invested you are in a better model of consent.

(Ironically many who are vocal about the harm of rape jokes somehow go quite silent critiquing rape based orgasms…)

If we don’t want the stigma then we don’t want the stigma, right? This two way game we are trying to pull off wherein we want women respected in the general world but must pretend otherwise in the bedroom is pretty unbelievable. What kind of disconnect are we embarking on that says harmful sexual stigmas against women are sooo awful until we decide to be sexual?

“Women are not sluts until you want to get off on the idea that one of them is!”

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!!?!??!!!!??!?!?!?!?!!?!??!

Nope. Sorry. Failed logic. Not my fault, I didn’t invent the game.

But to the supporters and players and apologists and creators of the game: ps–it’s. not. fucking. working.

*I anticipate several other misreadings should they decide to comment. I will number them accordingly.

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32 Comments so far
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What an amazing post. You have this ability to understand things at a deeper level and comunicate them in quite a simple way. That said, I kinda wish you had made 5 posts of this and explained it in a much more nuanced way, ‘cuz I would like to understand everything, and some things escape me 😛

“This celebration means we continue to reward almost any deviating behavior, or make excuses for it, in such a way that removes critical analysis. As well, those who choose to participate in more sexual norms are considered boring, humdrum, or same ole same ole.”

So true. Ever heard of “vanilla sex”?

“no one can really challenge stigmas without being viewed as a censurer/personal-liberties-destroyer. To question the stigmas is to question sexual freedom by default of the norms vs. stigma system.”

It reminds me of how you cannot criticize the capitalist mess without people taking you for a Comunist Lunatic.

Well done, once again.

Comment by Mary Tracy9

Well thanks MT^9!

“I kinda wish you had made 5 posts of this and explained it in a much more nuanced way, ‘cuz I would like to understand everything, and some things escape me”

This is a series so if there is something I can clarify in another post I’ll be happy to. The plan right now is to take this another couple posts–I have only a rough outline, so far.
(ideas welcome to the e-mail. Someone use it make me feel special already!)

Also, this comment section is a place to hash out the post further. Ask away.

“It reminds me of how you cannot criticize the capitalist mess without people taking you for a Comunist Lunatic.”

Yes–it’s amazing to count the ways people impose a *binary*.

Comment by pisaquaririse

Congratulations P. You got all the way through without mentioning Butterflies, Daisies, Sunshine and Marshmallows. Or the V word. (which I believe has racist origins BTW). Strangely when I wrote about this tho’ I got no trolls, I was hurt. Maybe I’m not on their radar…

Comment by polly styrene

“Butterflies, Daisies, Sunshine and Marshmallows. Or the V word.”

Wow–I have no idea what this means!

Sorry to hear about no trolls though. Next time, right?

Comment by pisaquaririse

Clue – you just take the first letters of the words, (and think of a popular ice cream flavour).

Comment by polly styrene

Ah!
You are the clever one.

Yes, well, one can only intercept people’s porn searches so much.
I’m still racking in the searches for child and kiddie pr0n on “Hot for Tots.” Gives me anger.

So, your welcome on no butterflies or marshmallows or whatever. (Am I congratulated because they are typical to mention when discussing this topic?)

Comment by pisaquaririse

Very interesting! Yes, we live in a Rape Culture and are viewed (no matter what we want) as the Sex Class, so we’re not allowed to opt out of any scenario we consider as insulting or threatening to us without the penalty of being labeled “prude,” and etc. Your phrase “no ‘No'” sums the trap up beautifully.

Comment by Level Best

Consent and sexual readiness has been presented to us, through marketing and media, to be a look-a set of features-embodied by women/girls. Thus creating a situation wherein, if the “look” is present, the sexual meaning is implied. When sexual meaning is implied the first layer of consideration for the women’s interest in being considered sexual by another, as well as her legal ability to even be so, is removed. A layer of “no” is gone.

This was brilliant pisaquari, and so beautifully put too.

This two way game we are trying to pull off wherein we want women respected in the general world but must pretend otherwise in the bedroom is pretty unbelievable. What kind of disconnect are we embarking on that says harmful sexual stigmas against women are sooo awful until we decide to be sexual?

This is an excellent point, on respect in/out of the bedroom. Throws a damper on the pro-porn isolationist theory that it doesn’t matter what happens (to females) in porn because it’s oh-so-private and has no bearing on Life in the Outside World.

Comment by stormy

Well the butterflies and daisies crowd are fond of rape and child abuse fantasies P. And blahhing on about consent also.

Comment by Polly Styrene

That has to be one of the best fucking posts on the fallacies (or should I say phallacies?) of liberal/sex-poz feminism/porn apologist thinking. Ever.

Comment by Lara

“Strangely when I wrote about this tho’ I got no trolls, I was hurt. Maybe I’m not on their radar…”

Polly, it could be that goat pr0n is more the rage now, while cow pr0n is, like, so last season.

Comment by Lara

I’ve been inspired to write a (future) post-
I think that “prude” is just as misogynist and unacceptable a word as “slut”. Neither of them have any real meaning, yet are bandied about regularly to insult a woman judged to be insufficiently or excessively sexual.

Comment by L.M.

“if you must suspend the disbelief that
your sexual partner is not consenting”

There are too many negatives in this
sentence – I don’t understand it.
Are you saying you must believe she
is consentin? or not believing she
is not consenting?

Comment by Greenconsciousness

“we’re not allowed to opt out of any scenario we consider as insulting or threatening to us without the penalty of being labeled “prude,” and etc.”

Exactly Level Best–and isn’t it the bullest shit that we are put in those scenarios in the first place! Where is the outrage over that? Over all the sexual presumptions placed on women?
It’s expected. And because some women might enjoy the sexual presumption (find it a compliment, enjoy the attention etc–no, *not* woman-blaming here) all women are having to live with it.

Hey thanks Stormy :).
“pro-porn isolationist theory that it doesn’t matter what happens (to females) in porn because it’s oh-so-private and has no bearing on Life in the Outside World.”

Well I’ve got conclusive evidence of that. It’s called growing up female and having the misfortune of having to leave the house sometimes.

“Well the butterflies and daisies crowd are fond of rape and child abuse fantasies P. And blahhing on about consent also.”

The impression I get is they are most fond of the everyone-does-whatever-they-want-so-long-as-consensual thinking–which I don’t necessarily disagree with. But it’s too simplistic–especially from a feminist perspective (which some butterfly and daisy thinkers don’t care about).

Lara, thank ya thank ya. “Phallacies” is phantastic for this post!

“I think that “prude” is just as misogynist and unacceptable a word as “slut”. Neither of them have any real meaning, yet are bandied about regularly to insult a woman judged to be insufficiently or excessively sexual.”

Yep, and what the hell is insufficient or excessive (I like these words for this) anyway? “Prude” doesn’t get called out like “slut” does because maybe people don’t use that specific word as much (maybe I’m wrong tho)? However, they use that concept, the woman without enough sex-ing all the damn time.
I look forward to the post LM!

Comment by pisaquaririse

Welcome Greenconsciousness!

“There are too many negatives in this
sentence – I don’t understand it.”

There is only one negative in the portion you’ve highlighted so I guess I’m confused too.

“Are you saying you must believe she
is consentin? or not believing she
is not consenting?”

I’m not saying one must do anything.
My point is to question sexuality that needs to pretend consent is missing for the desired arousing/orgasmic result.
Hope that clarifies.

Comment by pisaquaririse

Blasted hell, just got a visitor searching for:

“preteen pedo sex models”

(when will it eeeennnddd)

Uhh-Hiya! :::waves to pedo:::
Please turn yourself in. Kthx.

Comment by pisaquaririse

Oh dearie me, makes my “b*sm cheltenham” and “sperm – humans starving” look quite innocent. Just hang yourself eh?

Comment by Polly Styrene

An hour later I got “daddy daughter sex.”

“sperm-humans starving”

You win the weird award.

And on that note I should mention searchers are *fascinated* with stories of people being “buried alive.” They want pics too.

Comment by pisaquaririse

I always win the weird award. Most of my searches have word ‘drunk’ in them. Fortunately most of them aren’t just plain disturbing though, they give me a giggle. But it makes you realise just how many people there are out there who would be no great loss frankly. There was a guy killed in the UK recently (it made headlines because he was stabbed on Oxford Street in London in the middle of the day) and it turned out he was on bail accused of a particularly horrible gang rape (they poured caustic soda over the victim to destroy DNA evidence). I said ‘no great loss then’ and somebody told me off and said there was no proof he was guilty – yeah right.

NB – “just hang yourself” was of course directed at the searchers, not you P.

Comment by polly styrene

“There was a guy killed in the UK recently (it made headlines because he was stabbed on Oxford Street in London in the middle of the day) and it turned out he was on bail accused of a particularly horrible gang rape (they poured caustic soda over the victim to destroy DNA evidence).”

Good fuckin’ riddance.

Comment by Lara

The following is an excerpt from some work I did for Feminista:

Radical analysis and critique have never stemmed from a “moral” position. In her critique and analysis of sex positiveness, specifically pornography, Catharine MacKinnon in “Feminism Unmodified” asserts that there are 5 cardinal dimensions of a liberal defensive edifice. They are: Individualism, Naturalism, Voluntarism, Idealism, and Moralism.

“It starts with the idea that people, even people who as a group are poor and powerless, do what they do voluntarily, so that women who pose for Playboy are there by their own free will. Forget the realities of women’s sexual/economic situation. When women express our free will, we spread our legs for a camera.

Implicit here, too, is the idea that a natural physical body exists, prior to its social construction through being viewed, which can be captured and photographed, even or especially, when “attractively posed” — that’s a quote from the Playboy Philosophy. Then we are told that to criticize this is to criticize “ideas,” not what is being done either to the women in the magazine or to women in society as a whole. Any critique of what is done is then cast as a moral critique, which, as liberals know, can involve only opinions or ideas, not facts about life. This entire defensive edifice, illogical as it may seem, relies utterly coherently on the five cardinal dimensions of liberalism; individualism, naturalism, voluntarism, idealism, and moralism. I mean: members of groups who have no choice but to live life as members of groups are taken as if they are unique individuals; the social characteristics are then reduced to natural characteristics; preclusion of choices becomes free will; material reality is turned into “ideas about” reality; and concrete positions of power and powerlessness are transformed into relative value judgments, as to which reasonable people can form different but equally valid preferences.

What I have just described is the ideological defense of pornography. Given the consequences for women of this formal theoretical structure, consequences that we live out daily as social inequality (not to mention its inherent blame-the-victim posture), I do not think that it can be said the liberal feminism is feminist. What it is, is liberalism applied to women.”

In conclusion, the Radical feminist critique of sex positiveness has nothing to do with sex or individuals’ attitudes about sex. It’s about hierarchies and the power differentials between those that have power and those that have been disenfranchised of that power by patriarchal construction based on sex and ideas on sexuality and how those ideas naturalize, legitimize, and perpetuate institutionalized sexism and violence against women.

Comment by luckynkl

That’s some awesome commentary luckynkl, which essay is that taken from on the Feminista website?

Comment by rychousmama

That’s some awesome commentary luckynkl, which essay is that taken from on the Feminista website?

The name of the essay I wrote for Feminista, where this excerpt comes from, was called “Sex Positiveness.” J asked me to write something for her e-zine, and “Sex Positiveness” is what I submitted to her and what she published. It looks as tho feminista.com has expired recently tho and is no longer there. The essay caused a bit of controversy tho, was discussed in classrooms across the nation, and many reporters asked if they could interview me. I declined all interviews. As far as I’m concerned, there is no controversy. Either women are human beings or they’re not. What more is there to discuss?

I can post the entire essay, if you’d like. I don’t blog as a rule, but I do have a blog I threw up some time ago so that I’d have a WordPress account. I can post it there. The unedited version anyways. My editor toned down my language somewhat on the Feminista version. Let’s just say it wasn’t all that polite. 😛

Comment by luckynkl

Welcome Luckynkl–I’m with Lara, very astute summation you’ve highlighted–the thinking patterns known as sex positivism.

Particularly:
“I mean: members of groups who have no choice but to live life as members of groups are taken as if they are unique individuals; the social characteristics are then reduced to natural characteristics; preclusion of choices becomes free will; material reality is turned into “ideas about” reality; and concrete positions of power and powerlessness are transformed into relative value judgments, as to which reasonable people can form different but equally valid preferences”

Comment by pisaquaririse

That’s actually a quote by Catharine MacKinnon from “Feminism Unmodified.” Everything between the parentheses is.

Comment by luckynkl

Er, I mean, between the quotation marks, not the parentheses.

Comment by luckynkl

Luckynkl, thanks for the response. If you could post the whole essay at your blog that would be awesome. 🙂

Comment by Lara

Piaquaririse, you’ve managed to sum up something I’ve been trying to put in to words for ages. Thank you.
The closest I got was a feeling that it was not okay any more to criticise or question anything that was sexual, because apparently that makes you some sort of Mary Whitehouse, killjoy, anti-freedom type. You put it much better.

Comment by theradicalrodent

Welcome Radical Rodent!
I’m happy to form the words right outta your mouth.

You will note the terrible contradiction that was imposed on you:

“it was not okay any more to criticise or question anything that was sexual… that makes you some… anti-freedom type”

The implication here that everything sexual in nature is free in nature.
Yet freedom can be questioned, and allows for such.

So go you for having the instincts!

Comment by pisaquaririse

Damnit Lucky has a blog. Why wasn’t I told? Addy, please! And yes, I’d like to read that too.

Anyway, this was an amazing post as usual so I’m not going to go there. This:

““if you must suspend the disbelief that
your sexual partner is not consenting”

Girrrrrrl, there are THREE negatives in that puppy. Come on, you know I’m sloooooow. Two negatives cancel each other out, and the third puts it back in? I though you knew this was English 101 and the quiz is on Monday, not Advanced Radical PsychoMale Analysis?

Comment by m Andrea

Crapola, Pisaquaririse, upon second perusal, this idea is freaking brillant. Jesus. I shall have to read it a third time tomorrow.

Comment by m Andrea

“Girrrrrrl, there are THREE negatives in that puppy.”

Where I think the confusion may be is in the “suspend the disbelief”–which, afaic, is common *phrase* for what people are doing when they are watching films/”fantasy.” We react because we have given over to believing whatever we are watching.

If one is reading the (dis)belief as somehow working with the “not” consenting then I may need to reword it. “Suspend the disbelief” is really one idea, meant to define one action, and shouldn’t be broken up to work with/*negate* any other negative in the sentence. 🙂

“Crapola, Pisaquaririse, upon second perusal, this idea is freaking brillant.”

If you’ve come to this conclusion then I should say you do indeed understand the piece!

Comment by pisaquaririse




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