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My Take on the Feministe Post “Jesus was such a cockblocker”

Posted by Curt on Monday, 28 June 2010

Last Saturday, guest blogger Erica wrote on Feministe about the experience of a woman she knows who dated a devout Catholic guy named Scott, who believed that sex outside marriage is a sin.  The narrator of that piece did not believe so and desired sex with Scott; so much so to the point that she was nagging and pressuring Scott to have sex with her.  Scott eventually gave in and they did wind up having sex, but with certain conditions that annoyed the narrator.  The sex ultimately turned out to be very short and disappointing to the narrator, to the point that she ridiculed him and, after breaking up, his newfound wife and (rather large) family.  The ultimate point of this piece was to demonstrate that religion, specifically Christianity, poses unnecessary restraints for sexual freedom.

While that ultimate point may have been well taken, the post generated a fair bit of controversy.  Many Feministe commenters claimed that the narrator of that piece essentially raped Scott through coercing him to have sex with her and questioned her sexual ethics (or lack of), which you can safely assume they would say the same thing if the genders were reversed.  Erica wrote another post responding to the argument that arose in the comments where she defended the narrator’s character, claiming that yes while the narrator’s sexual ethics were not the best, she was young and inexperienced, ultimately emphasizing that the most important thing was for her to come out and be open and honest about her experiences.  It was basically a call to hate the sin but love the sinner, which some commenters found inexcusable.

Here’s my take on it.  Sexual coercion is really bad practice.  It is not rape, and I’ve written about that before, because consent was given even if it was coerced.  But just because it’s not rape doesn’t make what was done acceptable; rather, it’s quite immoral (at least in my code of ethics).  I simply define rape more narrowly than a lot of Feministe commenters do, and probably most feminists in general, which I think is essential because rape is a horrible crime and I believe it’s vital not to throw in things that weren’t necessarily rape to preserve how horrid it is, as I do not believe being coerced into consenting for sex is nearly as bad as being forced into having sex against your will.  Doing so will demean the notion of “rape” which will have a detrimental effect on all rape victims.

That said, it’s pretty obvious in Erica’s story that Scott and the narrator did not match up at all.  Sex was obviously vital for the narrator to have and she demanded it before marriage, Scott was a lot more hesitant with it.  If this becomes such a big problem in a relationship that it results in what the narrator did, the relationship is doomed from the start.  I can accept that the narrator, being only about 17 or 18 in the story, was generally inexperienced and thus didn’t understand that the relationship was unsalvageable, but, unlike the tone of Erica’s second post, I don’t see why that should excuse the narrator for her coercion.  Given the tone of both posts, the narrator (even Erica herself) seems completely unaware of why what she did was so wrong.

I am more or less in agreement with Isabel’s comment:

“I would find this follow-up a lot easier to tolerate if the original post had included any – ANY – indication that both Erica and the OP were clearly aware of the wrongness of this action. There was absolutely no condemnation going on in the post – which, whatever, fine let’s not condemn the person, but condemn the action, hell to the yeah. Neither of the people in the post did, and frankly, I find that inexcusable.

There’s nothing brave about telling a story of sexual coercion in which you DON’T ACKNOWLEDGE that you sexually coerced someone.


The narrator needs one of these to pound it in her head that she's in the wrong.

The main thing is that neither Erica nor the narrator accepted that the narrator was personally in the wrong – they appeared willing to accept that coercion itself is wrong, but not that the narrator was in the wrong.  The narrator’s story was framed as if Scott was in the wrong for not wanting sex because of his religious beliefs.  To which I say, agree or disagree with his beliefs all you want, but his feelings on sex should be respected, as should anybody’s.  Just because you disagree with his beliefs doesn’t make it any more acceptable to coerce him to having sex or delegitimizing him for his hesitancy to have sex.  That, in my mind, is just arrogant and bigoted.

You’d think this would be agreeable enough to all, right?  Well, some take issue with how it’s being framed.  You see, some of the commenters feel that the narrator of that story shouldn’t be individually blamed for what she did and that the criticism put forth against her is uncalled for.  Indeed, they get into the good old power dynamics I’ve talked so much about before: That because the coercion of a woman into having sex doesn’t mirror the coercion of a man into having sex due to power differentials (leaves different connotations, different ways we think about it, etc.), we shouldn’t necessarily regard the two as equally bad.  Thus the rape against a man shouldn’t be regarded as bad as rape against a woman.  I’ve talked about this before and my thoughts on it.  The comment by Jesurgislac below sums it up perfectly:

“We’re all in agreement that ‘domestic violence’ is bad whether it’s women hitting men or men hitting women. But the constant “Won’t someone think of the MENZ” whenever domestic violence comes up is anti-feminist not because violence towards men or men getting raped is funny, but because women get killed and seriously injured and permanently damaged by men they live with, and this happens a lot – and there isn’t a simple mirror narrative.

The same for rape. We live in a culture which makes normal and acceptable men raping women, makes – at best – a nasty joke of women being sexually aggressive towards men, and does not acknowledge that a woman can rape a man at all. I don’t know whether the situation OP describes constituted rape: it seems clear it constituted sexual harassment: I do not defend or sympathise with her behavior: but I do say it is unacceptable to lay a crapload of individual blame on a young woman negotiating a complicated situation with the wrong map.”

Let’s take it apart one-by-one.

Stereotypical male victim image, with humor from women and frying pan jokes.

First of all, “won’t someone think of the MENZ” seems like a totally irrelevant thing to bring up here.  The thread’s debate never started with the violence against a woman – it started with how the narrator wronged Scott.  It started with the “menz” in the first place.  If anything, what she’s doing is essentially “won’t someone think of the WOMENZ”, but I don’t use that argument because I see both genders as so interconnected and intertwined that you simply cannot separate them.  You cannot look at one or the other in isolation.  Recognizing gender differentials is absolutely vital, but the goal of gender equality should be to destroy those differentials, not seemingly use that as a justification to care only about the ways in which women are hurt, but not men.

I’ll need to get around to making a post about what I think of rape culture, but I’ll say that I think a lot of it is misconstrued.  More on that later.

Right now I’m more concerned with this gender dynamic.  She’s perfectly reasonable in bringing it up; indeed, we won’t perceive rape against men in the same way we perceive it against women.  But this is my problem: She’s acting like it’s framed in a way which hurts women more than men.  And I call absolute bullshit on this.  I challenge anybody to go find somebody who thinks that rape against women is funny or not an issue we face in society and, if they succeed in doing so, if they’re anything more than some group condemned by the vast majority of men and women alike.

But then we look at men and the rape against men is routinely joked about.  Prison rape goes beyond a simple joke to people claiming it’s deserved.  Cara at The Curvature has written all about this and why it’s wrong.  And you can argue that the rape of men is totally different from the rape of women; sure, that’s fine.  But let me say that I simply want to end all rape, against men and women both, or at least do as much as much as I can to prevent it.  And these attitudes of rape against men are fucking disgusting and awful.  The rape against women is getting the attention it deserves; the rape against men, however, is not.  And this needs to change.

It’s worth noting, again, this conversation was all about Scott and the way in which he was raped (or just coerced, as I’d put it).  Where did the rape of women get brought into this?  Feminists deride the “but what about the MENZ” argument so much, but I think they fail to realize just how much they do the same exact thing when we talk about issues of rape against men, male genital mutilation, and others.  They talk about how they want men to bring up these issues for themselves and address it, but then they turn against them for not giving women any attention, despite the fact that the conversation is on males.  I’m not one to limit the conversation to just one gender, but seriously – can men ever get a chance to express themselves and their issues without so many feminists coming down on them?  Women’s rights are human rights, but women’s rights alone won’t bring empowerment to men.  Not everything we do in regards to gender equality should be solely for the benefit of women.


2 Responses to “My Take on the Feministe Post “Jesus was such a cockblocker””

  1. A.Y. Siu said

    I was actually quite impressed with the responses to both posts (with some exceptions). People overwhelming called BS on both the original post and Erica’s fake apology. The funny thing is that a lot of commenters called Erica out on the “I’m sorry if” fake apology, and then Erica proceeded to close both threads with yet another “I’m sorry if” fake apology.

    The “what about the wimmenz?” reactions seemed few and far between, despite stereotypes about feminists as being male bashers or misandrists.

    • Curt said

      As per your first point, I agree. Though I tend to think it’s the narrator who should be the one making that apology, not Erica. And I don’t think it really should be to anybody on Feministe either, but rather, to “Scott” himself. But she and Erica both seem to lack a serious acknowledgment of wrong doing on her part given that, or if they do, they do not feel the narrator herself is personally responsible for it (which I think is reprehensible as it’s a total evasion of that responsibility).

      As for your second point, I do agree that they were few and far between. Perhaps I should have made that more clear in my post. When I went to expand my point on feminists as a whole, I started drawing up more from my own personal experiences in regards to trying to emphasize male issues because it is indeed a difficult thing to bring attention to, particularly within the framework of feminism. And this does make sense given the nature of feminism itself. Feminists are more or less united in regards to having a certain core of issues they bring attention to, complete with an academic framework built for them to interpret it. This isn’t to say that feminists are all the same; rather, I argue the opposite, but there is a core that unites them as feminists. When it comes to male issues, it’s a whole different ballgame and feminists’ opinions on it will vary from receptive to outright hostile. As a result, as much as there is talk that males should address male issues for themselves, it does result in putting anybody who tries bringing attention to male issues in an uneasy position in regards to feminism as a whole. You will have certain feminists like the individual I quoted in the post who are as much as a pain to those trying to bring attention to male issues as anti-feminists and a number of MRAs are to feminists. That’s the big overarching point I was trying to make.

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