Degrading Feminism (See What I Did There?)

15 Jan

[Trigger warning for descriptions of BDSM.]

I found an interview on Feministing with “feminist” pornographer and sex-pozzie educator Tristan Taormino recently. I don’t visit Feministing anymore, so I found it linked from another site. That site? Adult Video News, the pornography industry’s trade mag. Just how I like my feminism. . . pornography-industry approved and promoted.

I’m not really going to get into the interview too much, but you can read it here if you’d like. There were just a couple bits I wanted to draw attention to since they relate to my later analysis.

1. Taormino says that, in college, she lived in a place called Womanist House. Later, when discussing young women not identifying as feminists, she expresses her confusion at this. She mentions how it’s a slap in the face to all the feminist work of the past, which I’m assuming means USian, white suffragists. While I get the train of thought she’s going with, there are other reasons that women – even young women – don’t call themselves feminists. Uh, hello… Womanist House?

2. “And I was raised by a gay man, so I love musicals.” And I was raised by straight, blue-collar parents, so I love NASCAR.

Now, onto something that was not in the interview.

On Taormino’s website, she answers messages from people asking advice about their sex lives. This one question stuck out to me. The following bold emphasis is mine.

Dear Anal Advisor:

My boyfriend is ultra submissive in just one area: his ass. He doesn’t go for the Mistress thing, lick-my-boot mentality, but when it comes to his ass (which is the focus of his fantasies and always how he’s able to come) he’s full sub. I know exactly what he needs that way, pain and humiliation. Directed at his ass. Insulting HIM gets us nowhere, but insulting HIS ASS does.  My snag is this: there are only so many ways to insult an ass. Degrading his ass, calling it a cunt or pussy gets him off in a snap. Is there any way to get good ideas to boost my imagination so play is not monotonous for either of us?

Mistress of His Ass

Can you guess what is not addressed whatsoever in the response? What is just glided over as a-okay and totally unproblematic? Get out your sex-poz bingo cards!

Dear Mistress of His Ass:

Plenty of people get off on pain, humiliation, degradation, and overall submission. Clearly your boyfriend’s submissiveness is tied directly to his ass and anal play. There are many ways to combine submission and anal pleasure. You’ve already insulted his ass, but have you also tried to insult and humiliate *him* for wanting his ass penetrated, for being a naughty butt boy? Take all the cultural baggage that comes with anal pleasure, and use it to your advantage, as a psychological tool: it’s dirty, taboo, dangerous, and will make him gay. Of course those aren’t true, but these myths can make for great mindfuck material. If he likes extreme submission, you may also want to explore forced anal penetration or anal rape scenes; that’s tricky territory, so tread lightly. It also sounds like there is an element of gender play in your man’s fantasies, since he enjoys having his ass be called his pussy. Try to explore that part of his desire further. Does he want to crossdress, to be girl? Does he want to be forced to do it? Forced feminization is quite popular and may be part of what he’s try to express in the anal play you’re currently having. See if he will open up about and be specific about his submissive anal desires, and use what he gives you to take things to the next level.

Way to NOT unpacked everything that goes into the idea of degradation being sexy.

The woman writing for advice says that her boyfriend enjoys being degraded. How? By calling a particular orifice of his a pussy or cunt. This is then misidentified by Taormino as a possible desire for “gender play”. Could it be that, since he equates having a vagina with being degraded, that he is actually just into that other popular practice of misogyny? Then, there’s “forced feminization” brought up in her response. That idea/practice is seriously woman-hating as folks raised as girls/women endure that exact thing – forced feminization. And this is what bunch of dudes get off on. Surprise, surprise.

The first line of Taormino’s response is simply a statement of fact, implying that if enough people like something, that makes it good/healthy/etc. “Plenty of people get off on pain, humiliation, degradation, and overall submission.” Yeah. Like rapists.

Taormino advises the advice-seeker to use “cultural baggage” as a way of turning her boyfriend on via degradation. Interesting term… “cultural baggage”. Using homophobia as incitement for your boyfriend to orgasm. . . FEMINISM.

And for all the talk about how “sex is a normal and natural thing”, “pornography can be a celebration of healthy sex”. . . why is it that sex is constantly referred to as dirty, women as dirty, etc in all porn, including feminist porn? Oh, but Taormino clarifies that sex as dirty and so on “aren’t true”. Just how far are we supposed to take this massive cognitive dissonance here? What if this boyfriend (who I’m assuming is white because BDSM is totally a Thing White People Like) really got off on, say, “fantasies” of being degraded as a black woman under U.S. slavery? Do we say, “Hey, well, what gets you off gets you off,” or do we offer even a modicum of analysis of just why the hell that may be? Hmm, could it have to do with misogynistic racism? I’m a little surprised Taormino doesn’t suggest something like that since, you know, what’s more degraded than having a vagina as well as brown skin? “But how else will he orgasm if not imagining himself in the position of an indentured woman?” Tough shit. Find something that isn’t  overwhelmingly offensive even at first glance. Find something that doesn’t eroticize someone’s oppression.

Golly, I’m sure glad that feminist Tristan Taormino is doing justice to all the feminist work that came before her. Fight the good fight, Tristan. . . well, unless someone thinks it’s really hot.

14 Responses to “Degrading Feminism (See What I Did There?)”

  1. kurukurushoujo January 15, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    Golly, I’m sure glad that feminist Tristan Taormino is doing justice to all the feminist work that came before her. Fight the good fight, Tristan. . . well, unless someone thinks it’s really hot.

    I could not agree more.

  2. Boner Killer January 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    [Trigger warning for descriptions of BDSM.]

    I found an interview on Feministing with “feminist” pornographer and sex-pozzie educator Tristan Taormino recently. I don’t visit Feministing anymore, so I found it linked from another site. That site? Adult Video News, the pornography industry’s trade mag. Just how I like my feminism. . . pornography-industry approved and promoted.

    First of all, seems to be getting worse and worse each time I visit. I was wondering, is this a recent article on there? How far they are slipping away…

    I can’t believe though, that of ALL people, to throw a capitalist, sexist pimp on the show and say it’s “feminist” somehow. Un-fucking-believable.

    The sex advice is horrifying here… transgressive it is to perpetuate unequal power in sex. How sex is always “dirty” and always marketed. I mean, pain and humiliation are synonymous with love, egalitarianism and liberation? What the fuck? Oh, but it’s feminist in some obscure, post-modern way that only white academics can posssssibbbly understand!

    You also have to love the blatant disrespect and objectification; talking about parts as if they are separate from the FULL human being.

    “Plenty of people get off on pain, humiliation, degradation and overall submission” So it should be above criticism. Anything that causes one to orgasm is OFF limits, dammit! Fuck, this is enraging – how could put this bullshit on their site>?

    Oh my god, i really fucking hate that website. So many young feminists I know love it and I can’t understand it.

  3. Boner Killer January 15, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Sorry I always copy and paste crap to read while I comment and i forgot to remove it ha. Apologies!

  4. Rainbow Riot January 16, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    I think I threw up a little, in my soul. Of course I’m not surprised that a liberal hedonist would give that advice. What did surprise me is that the person who asked the question specifically said that her boyfriend did not like being insulted personally, he just likes his ass to be insulted. (Wow, that sounds even more fucked up and ridiculous typing it myself.) Yet Taormino answers by suggesting that the “Mistress” use humiliating, deeply personal insults – the very thing that the “Mistress” said he didn’t want. Either she has no reading comprehension or she thinks that if a “sub” says they don’t want something, it means that they just need someone to do it to them to show them that they will like it. After all, it’s fun! They love it! (Hmm, what is the bullshit excuse that rapists, pornographers, pimps, and other misogynists use to exonerate themselves while blaming their victims? Side note: HHAHAHAHA. Taormino is TOTALLY a feminist!)

    The term “cultural baggage”, as well as the associated discussion of “mindfuck” techniques, demonstrates the sheer extent of this shit. The “anything is okay as long as you get off” thing is getting really fucking old, really fucking fast. The lack of analysis is staggering. I mean, what does it say about your sexuality if you talk about using manipulative, degrading, and even torturous methods on your partner? Or that your partner enjoys this? I agree that it is merely an expression of the ingrained homophobia, misogyny, and racism in our world.

    “Just how far are we supposed to take this massive cognitive dissonance here?”

    They would take it exactly to the extent which you described. Liberal hedonists, even the ones who call themselves feminists, are nothing more than sex addicts also high on consumerist “choice” propaganda. Choose this brand of cereal! It will make you feel good! Choose this new sedan! It will make you feel good! Choose degrading sex! It will make you feel good! The end justifies the means, in all cases, for these people. They just don’t care. I think that we are up against a combination of mass delusion and apathy.

    Boner Killer, “it’s feminist in some obscure, post-modern way that only white academics can posssssibbbly understand!” is the best sentence I have read in years.

    I guess we just have to keep fighting the good fight.

  5. Aileen Wuornos January 16, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    I can’t believe that TT doesn’t even realise she’s a token torturer. I can’t believe that people erotise pain and suffering, fuck I can’t believe that *I* used to.

    In 1996 I started my own zine. It was called Pucker Up, and it was all about sex and gender and radical sexuality and identity. People contributed fiction and non-fiction, and poetry and photos.

    She can’t even pay lip service to “all parties whose images were used KNEW about it” – which is a huge fucking red flag.

    All of them turned me down, and then John Stagliano called a couple of months later and said he wanted to make the movie.

    So she’s boosting her career along with a man who has made a career out of pay-per-rape/pay-per-anally rape. She also likes to work with TOTALLY FEMINIZSTZZ pornographic “actress” Sasha Grey.

    TT: I think it’s the Wicked Witch of the West, from Wicked the book and the musical. She’s also known as Elphaba, or the Green Witch. She’s always struck me as a really strong character. She’s an outcast, yet she has this tremendous confidence and self-assurance to stand up for what she believes in. She defies The Wizard, with a capital W. And she does it not by pitting herself against another woman who’s different from her, but by joining forces with this other woman, who’s different and has had a very different life experience. And I was raised by a gay man, so I love musicals.

    Riding on trends much?

    Of course the comment about being raised by a gay man does reveal a lot, seeing as how “queer” politics and “third wave feminism” are largely based on white gay male ideology and practices. Again, men are being put above womyn and girls in any capacity.

    I’m sorry, but I really, really don’t like TT.

  6. Aileen Wuornos January 16, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    CA: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?

    TT: Chocolate shortbread cookies from Soma in Toronto, freshly squeezed lemonade and the feminists who are in my Buddhist book club – Alice, Amber and Wyndi.

    What is this I don’t even?

  7. mscitrus January 18, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    I was so working on a post analyzing this and how it means being female is degrading (but that’s ok because we radfems think vaginas are dirty awful things, right?). Thank you for noticing this too! 😀 It’s so messed up.

    “And for all the talk about how “sex is a normal and natural thing”, “pornography can be a celebration of healthy sex”. . . why is it that sex is constantly referred to as dirty, women as dirty, etc in all porn, including feminist porn? ”

    I KNOW EXACTLY. You know who never calls sex dirty? …Radfems! Sjkfjs.

  8. Noanodyne January 20, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    Thank you for this great analysis. I wouldn’t have known about this odious creature and her popularity otherwise and just yesterday on FB I ran across her page calling attention to her being dumped from an OSU event. She (and all these doods and their collaborators & apologists) are imploring their liberal FB friends for solidarity for poor, poor TT, with cries of discrimination! conservatism! sex-prudery! I went to her personal page and was horrified to see that two people I’m friends with are her friends! One is a liberal dood who I’m in political and work circles with – FB unfriend never felt so good! – but one of them is a lesbian singer/songwriter whom I have a lot of respect for. Until now. This whole “feminist” sex-poz thing is yet another mind trap for people who should know better. Shit.

  9. Eleutheria January 21, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    It took me forever to finish reading that post because it’s so disturbing and personally triggering.

    Here’s my “trauma”: a “friend” of mine (I considered her my best friend, actually) wrote a fic for me. Just that. Just a fic. A “porn” fic that was so deeply horrifying it traumatized me: in fact, I suspect it triggered all the suppressed memories of the abuses I survived to and especially, it was made worse by the fact I strongly identify with the character (who’s male, btw) who was tortured in that “fic” – strongly identify in the way that I am him and he is me (a bit twisted and surreal, I know, but it makes sense, because in that “fic” he was sexually punished for who he was, that is, who I also happen to be).

    That former “friend” of mine was a misogynist self-proclaimed anti-feminist (she promoted twisted shit), she was into BDSM (although she had never been into the “scene” yet), and she was… a lesbian. (Try to figure out how that works; I can’t.) Oh, surprise! I stopped talking to her because she wouldn’t recognise the trauma she was responsible for (she mocked me and made it seem little and ridiculous; she was also abusive) and because I was just horrified when she posted that she let herself be collared by a woman she had met the very evening. Also, because she read the “fic” (that traumatized me) to her domme, and said that she had enjoyed it (and they both laughed about it). For a self-proclaimed masochistic bottom, she was very sadistic, wasn’t she? (And this is the personal reason why I can’t stand them or trust them, nor anything they say.)

    Now, the reason this story you posted is so triggering?

    Because it’s about a male who’s humiliated by being reduced to female status and through misogyny. (More or less one of the things that happened in the “fic” that traumatized me, and I am still severely triggered by all of that, by forced feminization, by calling people “whores”, etc.)

    Why is this story so upsetting even from the perspective of so-called BDSM philosophy?

    Because they are never talking about his consent, which is apparently their “key” principle.

    He’s not the one asking for those things. He’s not the one asking to Taormino. His domme is the one deciding. Not only do we not know if he asked for this, but she says what he’s not into. And he isn’t into being a sub for many things. He’s a sub only when he’s triggered. Because that’s what’s going on there. He’s triggered.

    Do we even know why he’s triggered?

    What if, I don’t know, he has fucking issues? What if there’s a fucking reason he doesn’t like being submissive except in one way? Would never thought of that, you jackasses, huh?

    Okay, I seriously want an Internet anti-BDSM feminist discussion to happen, if it’s not already. And not just on blogs. Is there a forum somewhere? Because there should be one. That discourse needs to be debunked.

    Here are two rights that don’t exist, and will ethically never exist either:

    – The right to get off;
    – The right to make your opinion or theory a dogma that will never face criticism.

    Yes, you can dominate, humiliate and torture your girlfriend/boyfriend/other if zie consents to it and vice-versa in any way you want. But it’s not a “right”, because it’s not stated anywhere that you can do that.

    You have the right to your sexual expression and to your sexual identity because human rights and law protect and should always protect human identity and expression – and sexuality is part of it.

    However, when you deduce from your sexual identity and sexual expression a “theory” and “philosophy” on human sexual behaviour and try to generalize it to other people who might (or might not) be like you, and when you advertize it so that many people read it, you are no longer expressing your sexual self: you are creating an opinion and forming a discourse. You are protected to express it by freedom of opinion and speech. What you are not protected against is to face criticism and disapproval (and by that, I don’t mean hate-speech: I mean genuine, honest criticism formed as another opinion or discourse).

    You don’t have the right to pose your opinion and discourse and theory as the Unique Truth – because that’s creating a dogma, and dogma cannot be ethically protected by human rights because dogma is fundamentally oppressive and anti-democratic and thus destroying the very concept of human rights.

    Building your opinion into a dogma isn’t protected by the First Amendment of the American Constitution. It’s not protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights either.

    But here they go, saying it’s just a “game” that’s “not real” and that happens “behind bedroom’s closed doors”.

    But here they are, all over the Internet, promoting their “lifestyle” and “philosophy” – and, oh, surprise, it’s antidemocratic and patriarchal, it uses various historical, real and barely altered instruments of torture, dehumanization and exploitation, it’s inspired by slavery, serfdom, Ancien Régime “justice”, Inquisitorial torture, Christian supremacism, the Shoah, Guantanamo, etc., etc., ETC. Oh, but there’s no problem with that: it’s “natural” to humankind. Except I don’t fucking agree that it’s natural to humankind. If we have a democratic process (little we have left of it anyway), if we can be free nowadays, if you can go around you can do whatever you want even forsaking your own freedom (which you can’t actually do, btw; it’s a philosophical paradox), it’s because people started standing up 300 years ago (and I’m not fucking talking of the American Founding Fathers – there were other people than them back then apart from those who were, oh surprise, conservative jerks for the most of them) and said: no, humans aren’t fundamentally evil, wicked, violent, needing to be governed by a Patriarchal God and its Patriarchal representatives on Earth in order to suppress and tame their animal instincts. (Remind you something? A certain “philosophy”? It fucking should – they think they are soooo original.)

    Yes, fucking hell, yes: BDSM “philosophy” (whatever that is) is profoundly anti-democratic.

    What’s a game in stating that being a sadist is an identity that should be respected, protected and defended by human rights, that being non-sexually submissive (and, de facto, being non-sexually dominant?) is valid, or that you have the “right” to be someone’s master of slave? We’re no longer talking about a “game” that is “unreal” and “only happening between a bedroom’s closed doors”.

    We’re talking about a discourse, and that’s not protected against criticism.

  10. elkballet January 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    What is this… I don’t even… How can someone who advises degrading someone by pretending they have a vagina call herself a feminist? People are incredibly stupid if they buy into this hypocritical bullshit. I’m sorry but anyone who thinks possession of a vagina is degrading automatically puts themselves in the category of misogynistic asshole. I don’t care if she’s a woman, she’s still a woman-hater. It boggles my mind how a vagina (one of the cleanest organs in your body), a body part most men claim to “love,” one that produces life, can be more dirty, disgusting, and degrading than a body part that funnels out shit.

  11. sea October 6, 2011 at 4:44 am #

    Whoa, GREAT article, thanks a lot! The media loves people who aren’t feminists but say they are; as long as they love porn, prostitution etc and are thus nonthreatening and it’s all so FUN! Like Caitlin Moran. How to be a woman indeed. How to be a porn-apologist patriarch-pacifier more like it.

    “Golly, I’m sure glad that feminist Tristan Taormino is doing justice to all the feminist work that came before her. Fight the good fight, Tristan. . . well, unless someone thinks it’s really hot.”

    Hear hear.

  12. Crucial D October 12, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    I am in the process of getting a degree in Women’s Studies and am currently taking a class called Women and Violence. The instructor posted links to “feminist” porn on the class page. IN A WOMEN AND VIOLENCE CLASS. I skipped class the day that we were supposed to discuss pornography because I just can’t handle any of this fun fem garbage. I want to switch majors because of this crap. I can’t afford to stay in school longer than I had originally intended so I don’t even know if I can change my major now. This is so shitty. 😦

  13. sellmaeth June 13, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    That is a thing I always found strange (since discovering that forced feminization fetish is a thing): How can a woman do this? Even a woman who doesn’t even know what feminism is. I mean, the reaction should be intuitive, shouldn’t it?
    How can a woman have sex with someone who considers vaginas icky?


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