Chains of oppression: Katie Roiphe, Lena Dunham and the sexual counter-revolution

Via Pennyred

Kink has been part of the sexual menu for so long that it’s hard to pretend anyone is shocked anymore when it turns up on the table. The practice of male masochism, for example, has become almost idiomatic when one is discussing Wall Street workers, or the British aristocracy – despite Rousseau and De Sade, the French still refer to sadomasochism as ‘La Vice Anglais.’

At no point, however, has anyone implied that men who want to be sexually dominated by women also want to be dominated by them socially and economically. Quite the opposite, if the long history of powerful men paying poor women to beat them up in backrooms is anything to go by. Apparently, though, a few smutty books about naughty professors wielding handcuffs are meant to prove that modern ‘working women’ (sic.) aren’t really as into all this liberation schtick as we make out.

In a cover story for Newsweek, noted rape apologist Katie Roiphe argues that the recent success of pop-porn bestseller ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ proves that even feminists secretly want to be shagged into submission by great, big, whip-wielding brutes. Not just in spite of our feminism, but because of our feminism. Roiphe argues that modern “working women” – I’m sorry, was there ever a time when women actually did no work? – find “the pressure of economic participation… all that strength and independence and desire and going out into the world”…”exhausting.” Roiphe goes on to theorise, based on precisely one film, one tv show and one novel, that “for some, the more theatrical fantasies of sexual surrender offer a release, a vacation, an escape from the dreariness and hard work of equality.”

[Admin note: per our posting policy, this full-length article from another site has been excerpted. Visit Pennyred for the full article.]

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2 thoughts on “Chains of oppression: Katie Roiphe, Lena Dunham and the sexual counter-revolution

  1. I have to object to the author’s claim that opposition to abortion is fundamentally about efforts to curtail “women’s autonomy.” The pro-life movement does not desire the abolition of abortion as a means to some other end. It does, however, advocate sexual restraint as a means to reducing the number of abortions. In this sense, the article has it precisely backwards: abortion is not primarily wrong because it enables a culture of promiscuity (although there is certainly a compelling argument to be made that it does), but because it constitutes the direct taking of human life.

    The argument against abortion in no way stems from a desire to see women who become unintentionally pregnant “punished with a baby” (to borrow President Obama’s unfortunate phrasing). Pro-lifers readily admit that children can be conceived under incredibly trying circumstances, but are not willing to concede that these circumstances justify denying them their right to life.

    I, for one, wish that the pro-life movement would do more to show its seriousness about creating a culture that is truly welcoming of new children and supportive of mothers who find themselves in difficult situations. Advocacy for universal health care or expanded federal funding for early childhood education would be just one way of demonstrating a comprehensive commitment to changing some of the conditions that impel women to seek abortions.

    The comments at the end of the article regarding this part of the argument are even more absurd than the original assertion. One claims that pro-lifers – who are all males, of course – are merely frustrated by their “newfound inability to use [women] as livestock.” Another insists that the issue of when life begins is a “legal, not a moral question.” Could it perhaps be a scientific one?

    I apologize if I’ve steered the conversation too far away from whatever main point the poster wanted to convey. By no means do I wish to claim that CiS/ASC is responsible for what other bloggers write about, let alone what goes on in their comment sections. But I do think that ASC has a responsibility to refrain from even appearing to imply that one’s ability to appreciate the seriousness of rape and sexual assault is necessarily dependent on one’s taking a particular side in the most contentious debate over a social issue to face our nation since the end of slavery.

    • Though you say you don’t wish to claim ASC is responsible for the words of other bloggers, your point about their responsibility from “even appearing to imply that one’s ability to appreciate the seriousness of rape and sexual assault” depends on being pro-choice is highly problematic.

      I’m not going to respond to some issues you raise in your comment, which, as you acknowledge, stem from a very minor point in the article under discussion. I will say that I disagree with your argument that the pro-life movement “advocates sexual restraint as a means to reducing the number of abortions.” Frankly, I’m mystified that you don’t see how making abortion illegal, and what seems like your opinion about the legality of birth control if you’re going to be consistent, would eliminate a “culture of promiscuity” that you claim abortion supports. Women are allowed to want to have sex without being sluts; they don’t need to be punished and certainly don’t need to be labeled as promiscuous or slutty.

      No woman has wild amounts of sex because she knows she can get a quick fix if she happens to get pregnant, and it seems that those who support reversing Roe v. Wade are the ones who would not have to suffer the consequences of pregnancy, childbirth, and either giving up a child for adoption or raising him or her. Particularly in regards to this article and your response, I think it’s important to realize that appreciating the seriousness of rape and sexual assault, which you claim to do, means appreciating their consequences, one of which is pregnancy. Women who are raped can get pregnant; that’s a reality, and they deserve the choice to terminate said pregnancy and to heal in any way they can without months or years of additional physical, not to mention emotional, after-effects.

      I respect the fact that abortion is a difficult and highly contentious topic. I don’t think ASC has any intention of furthering a pro-choice agenda in any other way than that it relates to their main objective of gaining an understanding of consent and communicating the prevalence, in our community and in the world, of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor, I unfortunately know quite well that women get raped, and I firmly believe if one doesn’t consent to have sex than one shouldn’t have to consent to suffering additional consequences of her assault. Ultimately, a lot of what ASC’s mission comes down to is giving people agency over their bodies and letting them know that they have the choice to say yes or no. Whether women choose or don’t choose to engage in a sexual act, they have the right to choose what happens after.

      Consent is about having a choice. ASC members may differ on their viewpoints about certain issues, but I think they all believe that women (and men) have a right to choose what happens to their bodies.

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