Looking in the Mirror of Feminism

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Simone. Photo by Eric Francis.

After my email exchange with Betty Dodson last night, I went digging through the index of The Whole Woman and looked up masturbation. And I got an eyeful. After reading Betty’s article posted below, I had a feeling that Germaine Greer was not going to be particularly friendly toward a subject that just about everyone loves so well, but I was actually surprised at how hostile she was.

If you look in the index, masturbation is first listed on page 191, and when you get there, the chapter is called “Sex.” The discussion of “sex” begins with an attack on pornography, what she terms the “sex of the millennium.”

Here is what she says.

“Pornography is the sexuality of the information revolution, elaborated to achieve all the staggering impact of which the megamedia are capable, projecting the images of the best known sex objects as far as distant planets in galaxies unknown.”

I get her point, but there was porno before there was the Internet. She’s never heard of Playboy? As a hobby astronomer I can tell you she’s exaggerating the bit about broadcasting to other galaxies. I don’t think the Internet reaches Andromeda. If it did, Time-Warner would be sending bills. She continues:

“Tommy Lee videoed his conjugal relations with Pamela Anderson because he was more deeply in love with pornography than with her. He was signaling his fellowship with all the other men who spill their seed on the famously, preposterously erotic image of his abused wife. Women are not the point of pornography. Pornography is the flight from women, men’s denial of sex as a medium of communication, their denial of sex as the basis of relationship, their rejection of fatherhood, their perpetual incontinent adolescence. The victims of pornography are men, not women. Pornography makes men leaky vessels, and undoes the principal male virtue of continence. As men’s real power dwindles, pornography is their refuge.”

Gee fucking whiz. That’s what it is? I thought it was, you know, less complicated than three dates.

Planet Waves blogger Fe Bongolan is sitting at my kitchen table and I just read that to her. “Does she know what sex is?” was her response.

Recently, I took a survey of readers over at my other Web project, Planet Waves. The survey was titled “Sex Survey” but also it was partly a masturbation survey. Sixty-three men answered and 303 women answered. It was not a scientific study so the error rate may be plus or minus 100%.

Here are some quick and dirty stats. Of the 303 women, 181 masturbate a few times a week and 176 masturbate with their partner present. One-third want to masturbate with others present even if they rarely or never do so. Two-thirds use sex toys. More than one-third use Internet pornography and one-third use printed pornography. Only 69 use a mirror. This part I thought was interesting.

Of the 63 men, 34 (a bit more than half) masturbate a few times a week and half masturbate with their partner present. Just under half want to masturbate with others present even if they rarely or never do so. Nearly half use sex toys. Three-quarters use Internet pornography and less than half use printed pornography. Only 14 use a mirror.

From this we learn that women masturbate, and that a lot of women use pornography. We get a sense that people are figuring out that masturbation is relational; that it is a way to connect.

“The substitution of masturbation for seduction means even more loneliness for heterosexual women, loneliness that is keenest within the embrace of a lover,” Greer says. I tell you, I’ve read this about six times and I’m still not sure whom she is accusing of what.

(Posted at Book of Blue)

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