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On The “Sexual Double Standard” and Slut-Shaming December 9, 2012

Posted by FCM in feminisms, health, PIV, pop culture, rape.
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this will make sense in a minute hopefully?  i wanted to talk a bit about “slut shaming” and what has been framed as the “sexual double standard” since long before any of us was born — i think i first heard of it in the context of first-wave feminists who noticed that prostituted women were being singled out for oppressive state controls like mandatory screenings for venereal disease while male johns werent.  while i think the “double standard” concept was initially useful because it drew attention to a misogynistic phenomenon, so that we could isolate, identify and examine something that was really happening in real life, the concept itself is thinly (or not at all)-disguised equality-rhetoric isnt it?  it means that, assuming we are all the same, or “all things being equal” there should be one standard that applies universally.

the problem with identifying sex-based “double standards” however is that there are actual, meaningful sex-based differences between women and men — the “assuming we are all the same” part poses a problem for radical feminists, who understand that men do not equal women and women do not equal men.  for us, once we have identified the relevant issues as being reproductively-based, or having literally to do with “sex” (either biological sex or sexual intercourse, which implicates biological sex-based difference) an analysis based on the sexual double standard is a nonstarter.  radical feminists can and must do better, and our analyses do in fact shed meaningful light on issues affecting women as a sexual class, including social patriarchal structures and mechanisms which are designed by men to benefit themselves and support male power at womens expense.

in the case of the so-called sexual double standard of oppressive state controls being placed on prostituted women but not on male johns, the problem is not that its a double standard (which is an unhelpful liberal, rather than a feminist, concept), but that its actually a patriarchal reversal — policy and practice has assumed that prostituted women were largely infecting men, when the truth is that its the male johns who are infecting prostituted women, and not so much the other way around.

furthermore, a truth-based policy and practice would also have to acknowledge that, as a general matter, male johns are becoming infected themselves primarily through engaging in penetrative sex with other men (and intravenous drug use) — again, due to biological differences between women and men which make it relatively difficult for women to infect men with disease, as a general matter, men are not becoming infected by women, prostituted or not.  men are also known to engage in risky sexual and other behavior more than women are, which complicates the matter — what that “social” difference does not do, however, is make women more likely to infect men with sexually transmitted disease.  ruminate about “nature versus nurture” on that difference all you like, but for our purposes its largely irrelevant.

to clarify, whats “unfair” about the historical treatment of prostituted women is not that they are treated differently than men — the “double standard.”  no.  in reality, these policies and practices are “unfair” because they are objectively damaging to women and are misogynistic and patriarchal, designed to benefit men at womens expense (and in the case of the reversal, its an inversion of reality, to boot).

savvy?  now, for any of you who are still awake, i will attempt to draw a parallel between slut-shaming and the chest-burster scene from alien.

regarding “slut-shaming”.  slut-shaming, apparently, refers to the “sexual double standard” whereby women who engage in (primarily) intercourse with men are cast in a negative light, while males who engage in (primarily) intercourse with women arent.  yes?  so dismissing the equality-framework of the double-standard as inadequate on its face (we are talking about intercourse, where there are in fact meaningful sex-based differences between women and men) we must go deeper.  what is really going on here, when women who fuck men “consensually” are regarded as “more promiscuous, less intelligent, less mentally healthy, less competent, and more risky” than are the men they are fucking?

first, its obvious that this is a male-centric viewpoint — everything is, and will continue to be, unless and until women develop our own female-centric discourse, and create language and concepts and definitions that center female reality, and that address and communicate what *we* mean when we say what we say.  interestingly, when viewing the world through mens eyes, the reasoning behind “slut-shaming” instantly snaps into focus doesnt it?  to wit, considering that men know that intercourse is harmful to women, including the risks of disease and pregnancy; and understanding that female-specific reproductive harm is central and critical to male political and interpersonal power; and considering that intercourse-as-sex is therefore the very foundation of patriarchy itself — men tend to view women who “have sex” in a negative light because no sane, healthy, competent etc. person would voluntarily engage in it, considering the risks.  get it?

so sane person.  no human person.  no man.

you see, there is not a man in the entire world, if the risks of intercourse applied to men, who would ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER choose to engage in it for pleasures sake.  never, ever, ever, ever, ever would a man voluntarily place himself in harms way like that, and that includes the most submissive, masochistic and self-hating man.  NO man would EVER do this.  so if the question is, “why do men treat women who voluntarily engage in intercourse as if those women are retarded, damaged, or crazy?” the answer, im sorry to say, is “because thats what they think you are.”

historical note: nymphomania.  this is not abstract theorizing mkay.  men have long thought that women who desired intercourse with men were crazy, as in mentally ill.  because no sane person would voluntarily engage in it, considering the risks.  note that historically and today, this diagnosis applies only to women, although that history (and, uh, present) has been obscured of late with bullshit equality rhetoric: wiki now redirects to “hypersexuality” despite the female-specific context and connotations of nymphomania.

its not difficult to see how and in what context “slut shaming” makes perfect sense, actually.  note that *i* am not saying that women who voluntarily engage in intercourse are retarded, insane, or particularly damaged.  i know better, and that its more akin to making a deal with the devil, where men are the devil.

interestingly, and very much related, this is what men appear to think of pregnancy:  (remakes of) the chestbursting-alien scene from alien!  i couldnt find the real one, but these will do.

which is even more reason for men to think women are LITERALLY RETARDED, literally insane, to voluntarily place themselves at risk by having intercourse with men.  it also demonstrates what they think of people who are insane, when sane = man = human.  as in, no sane person.  no human person.  no man.  listening to men tell it, they seem to think pregnancy and aliens are very much related.

and while *i* accept that some women might desire pregnancy under some conditions, men seem to think that NO sane person would EVER voluntarily submit to it under ANY conditions, although they are assuming the continuation of patriarchy including patriarchal medicine and how it is deliberately used to support male power and to harm and damage pregnant, birthing and mothering women.  of course they are.

tl;dr.  slut shaming: its what men really think of women who voluntarily have sex with men, because men know that intercourse is damaging to women.  also,  the sexual “double standard” cannot be applied to radical analyses of policies and practices implicating “sex” and sex-based difference.  in the context of “slut shaming”, a double-standard analysis is unhelpful liberal equality-rhetoric, nothing more.