Wednesday, September 12, 2007

the eyes have it

It's annoying, having your favourite sexual organ constantly underrated.

I've been reading around the porn wars again (oh blah blah wank whatever wank about wanking blah) and it's irritating how often it comes back to the status of the female body. In particular there were two CiF pieces at the weekend about prostitution; you'd've read them a million times before, I'm sure, one idolising the Swedish model, one saying that it's not that simple. The comments return over and over to your-body-your-choice, to whether feminism is consistent, blahblahheck. It's not relevant. The meaning of a female body will never be relevant to women's sexual liberation, because I've got news for you; 98% of women fancy men (buried in a sidebar there).

Men. Male bodies. The ones with cocks, you know? Not that you can ever see that on TV, because male bodies are obscene and all. Looking at men is something 98% of women have in common - there's no feminist principle more unifying than this. Given that, feminist issues centre on female bodies strangely often.

So there's this Sheila Jeffreys idea that I just find plain ridiculous:

"A world without prostitution in any form, including pornography, for men might seem very threatening indeed because it removes the sexual prerogative of being able to degrade and use women irrespective of their personhood or pleasure. It means that men cannot access the sexual pleasures of women enslaved to their will by purchase. [...] In a world beyond prostitution women can relate to each other without the division created by the different, and conflicting uses to which men put them. Women will have the opportunity to unite to pursue goals which do not include sexual subordination, even for a fee."

Nope, sorry, not important to how women relate to each other, or to their goals. Because 98% of women fancy men. It's not, on the whole, relevant to them that a tiny proportion of other individual women are exchanging their bodies for the money of a larger-but-still-minority group of men. In a social responsibility sense we need to worry about trafficking and pimping, just as we need to worry about gun crime and the deaths of innocents in warfare - these things can be vital matters of conscience, things that have to be solved in order to make people feel comfortable with the world outside their homes, but they don't have to have personal impact. I don't believe the prostitution laws effect those 98% of women whose sexual interest lies, exclusively (82%), primarily (11%) or partially (5%), in the male body.

The Girl made an excellent post about how focusing on the male body makes women happy - and how the media, and the law, can conspire against our gaze. Many of the comments she received were along the lines of 'nonoez, objectification IS WRONG and if women do it that makes them JUST AS BAD AS MEN'. I'm of the opinion that yes, objectification is wrong, and what's wrong with it is that men are so inhospitable. They'll take it, but they won't dish it out. Really, why wrong? It's just looking. There are any number of ways to avoid being looked at, if you do find it upsetting - ways of dressing, of acting, of being present. It's just odd that so few women employ those ways, when almost all men do. You'd almost think they didn't want women to ogle them, as if being the object of our gaze was so terrifying it wouldn't be worth the extra sex they'd get out of it. There's reams of literature about men finding female sexuality scary - about terrible divinities like Aphrodite and Lilith. It's not the female body that's not wanted, is it? It's the eyes.

It's never happened, but I've always imagined that if a man asked me why I don't shave my legs, I'd say 'For the same reason you don't shave yours'. Because the way my legs look is irrelevant to my presence, to my sexuality - what matters is where my eyes rest.

And there are men responding to The Girl's Cif piece this morning saying 'women have sexual power, any woman can get sex whenever she wants!', still assuming that a woman is a body and a man is a pair of eyes. That's not sexual power. Sexual power is desiring and having those desires fulfilled; doesn't matter how easily you can get a man to fuck you if you fulfil his wants and he doesn't fulfil yours. But this is new, and women's bodies being on display is not new, so his visions are clearer than yours, and easier to live up to. And it bothers quite a lot of people that he can go out and buy what he wants; even if a woman can, even if she has the economic power to do so, few do, right? Because paying men to cater to your sexual desires is something only wild young women who've grown up in this evil, sex-saturated society do, right?

Bitchy Jones is ever-articulate on how men who pay find it hard to relate to women who do not pay. (I confess that I was looking for a different post of hers but I can't find it and that one does almost as well. She's also done something on how irritating endless sexual images of women can be to members of that 98%. Plus she is, on the whole, to blame for me latching on to this woman-body man-eyes thing.)

My eyes, incidentally, are (thanks to both Bitchy and to my sister) lately mad into Dieux du Stade. Have a good look at them, but I warn you, that fifth guy is so mine.

No comments: