Feminism, once again, blamed for, well, everything

[Ed note: Lori and Courtney don't like to take on pop-psychology by themselves. It gives them the heeby jeebies, and runs a high risk of inducing anger and/or exasperation. So they decided to team up to debunk this faulty logic. The result is the below post. Enjoy.]

Courtney: While blatantly hocking his new book, Dr. Ogi Ogas (ah, yes, also famed game show contestant and Homeland Security consultant), offers a highly original and nuanced argument: feminism is ruining our love lives. We’ve never heard that before.

In any case, Ogi (I have to use his first name because it’s just too much fun), is arguing that women and men are both turned on by inequality based on the internet search data he has mined for insights into human sexuality, plus some neuroscience that–surprise, surprise–he interprets as directly correlating with his pre-cooked theory about how people get turned on.

Lori: Ogi kind of boggles my mind with this. He truly believes that “feminism is the anti-viagra.” He likes to quote erotic romance novelists as saying that “one of the problems we’re having in romance in general right now…[is that]we’re portraying men the way feminist ideals say they should be-respectful and consensus-building.” He also thinks the term “rapey bodice-rippers” is a totally scientific way to describe What Women Want, and devoted an entire section of his Psychology Today article trying to prove that “gender equality inhibits arousal.”

Courtney: Isn’t it nice when all of your biases and, perhaps even your own personal preferences, are perfectly proven by the evidence you selectively include and interpret? Makes life really simple and sells books really effectively. Ogi writes:

So what’s a loving couple committed to equality, consensus, and mutual compromise to do? Negotiating sexual politics has always been difficult, but paradoxically the laudable and necessary victories of gender equality activism might make it even more challenging. We’re all figuring out how to live in the first society in human history where women have such power, independence, and clout. But just as democracy has no effect on our basic taste preferences for sugar and fat, democracy doesn’t affect our basic sexual preferences for domination and submission.

There are a few things I find especially problematic about this little assertion. First and foremost, how does Ogi, and other corroborating scientists (of which there are many), get from some people are turned on by being dominant or submissive to equality writ large ruins sexual desire? Seems like a pretty preposterous leap to me. After all, one could be in a truly egalitarian relationship, that consensually and joyfully plays around with power dynamics in the bedroom. I would argue that the foundational equality of their relationship would actually make role play even more available to them.

Lori: I agree. I recently wrote an article on TheGrio about race play in the BDSM community, and researching that topic really opened my eyes to the ways that power play can be fun, sexy, and empowering- for those who choose to participate consensually. But Ogi fails to make this crucial distinction, dismissing power play and sexual desire as something that can only exist on a subconscious (and therefore, consent-and control-free) plane. I appreciate that he’s attempting to speak publicly about women’s desire, and validating this as a subject, but his analysis lacks nuance and shames those women, and men for that matter, that dare to have fantasies about control with an immature scientific argument that amounts to little more than a feminist “gotcha” attempt. Toying with power, perceptions, attitudes, and history as part of one’s sexual experience is more fun when done consensually, as Nancy Schwartzman and the “Where Is Your Line” campaign, Ben Privot and The Consensual Project, and many, many others have pointed out. Plus, dear Ogi ignores basic scientific studies that have demonstrated that feminism is damn sexy.

A Rutgers University study found that feminism boosts sexual satisfaction for both men and women, and that having a feminist partner is linked with healthier, more romantic relationships, at least for heterosexual couples. A study published in the journal Sex Roles found that:

-College-age women who reported having feminist male partners also reported higher quality relationships that were more stable than couples involving non-feminist male partners.

-College guys who were themselves feminists and had feminist partners reported more equality in their relationships.

-Older women who perceived their male partners as feminists reported greater relationship health and sexual satisfaction.

-Older men with feminist partners said they had more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction.

Courtney: But really the kicker for me is the notion that democracy has no effect on our relationship to power and/or sexuality. Our culture–whether political, pop, or otherwise–directly shapes our most personal ideas about family, love, and sex. People far wiser than I have made that assertion over and over again. Maybe Ogi should step away from the data sets for a bit and read up on interconnections and socialization. While we wait for Sami’s new book to come out (yayayayaya!), I’ll give him this, from Terry Tempest Williams, to start:

The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?

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12 Comments

  1. Posted April 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I remember encountering the extremely unpleasant Ogi Ogas at the University of Iowa in the early 90s. Then an aspiring film maker, he got in to some rather serious legal liability problems when a car accident occurred on a shoot off campus, and I think he had to leave the university because of it. Of course his bio includes no mention of this, and the annals of the university paper only go back to 2003. Interesting to see that his early potential as a conceited, self-promoting asshole has borne such fruit as this.

  2. Posted April 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t need to read the book to know to some sad extent, he’s right. Some men run like hell from a woman who has the indecency to think she’s just as good as a man, and doesn’t shy away from letting him know.

    As a Hispanic female, it’s even worse, because the women in their (the men’s) family, coddle them, make them think they’re smarter than any mortal being, etc etc. Their wives and gfs can’t keep it up and keep it sane.

    I’ve read some marriage books that talk about this…they urge the wives to act in such a way that men will “cherish” them. Um…I don’t need someone to cherish me. I need some damn respect, thank you very much.

  3. Posted April 11, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    While I can tell from this post I have no interest in slogging through this book and imagine my response would be pretty similar to y’all, was there any data he generated that was at all interesting if re-contextualized with a more critical or feminist lens? I myself am inclined to read any signs of this gender equality as essential to becoming aroused as results of the societal and cultural values many of us are raised within.
    I feel that both female and male desire is a complicated terrain that bears much of the scars of life in a patriarchal or kyriarchal world. Sexual liberation is a big part of different feminisms, as shows up in those studies you elude to, but we surely aren’t all fully liberated (and I’ve always imagined it’s more about the process of constantly liberating rather than any point where you are “there”).

    I’m not a worshipper of data, trust me, I guess reading this just sparks my thoughts about how many of us still encounter parts of our own desire that run contrary to our own interests or values. I distinguish this, of course, to consensual power play, which I don’t see as always just a byproduct of a colonized mindset…

  4. Posted April 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    really? making fun of his name?

    • Posted April 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      Whaa? I thought they were saying his name is sweet as hell. At least I thought it was…. Too bad a cool name doesn’t make a cool person :/

  5. Posted April 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Looking at these comments, it looks Ogi Ogas should stay far away from anybody named “Jenny”. :) Yeah, I’m not about to help that matter.

    1)I’ve never encountered a doctor/therapist/social worker with anything good to say about Psychology Today magazine, my impression is it’s not highly regarded by the professionals in that field.

    2)Romance novels? He’s making scientific assertions based on works of fiction? Do all his ideas about astro-physics happen to come from Star Wars movies as well?

    3)If things like respect and consent are such boner-killers for this guy, I’m kind of scared to know what DOES get his mojo rising.

  6. Posted April 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Also, gender equality or respect for women is not anthropologically speaking a revolutionary thing. What he’s suggesting up there is that for all of human history men have been dominant and women just … did what they said or something. Which is fantastically unrealistic and inaccurate and not just in a Marion Zimmer Bradley kinda way. There have been matriarchal societies, there have been egalitarian societies, there have been societies with varying degrees of power and various power structures that do not match up with our own. His assertion is … Spencerian without even paying attention to what Spencerian means.

    I’m going to have to take a real good look at this article, because my suspicion is that the “data” he has is largely trumped up or biased. His arguments are certainly flawed and full of inconsistant logic or logical leaps. Even if he has a good theoretical cushion I’ll bet you can attack the theory too. This kinda pseudo science offends me as both a feminist and a scientist. Oh yeah, and as a person too.

  7. Posted April 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    In terms of what “turns on men” (as if that is of the highest importance to bi/hetero/pan women), just about any sort of attempt to generalize is bound to fail horribly and is more likely to reflect one’s proclivities rather than actual fact. Turn ons for men include anything and everything. No exceptions. (It’s a corollary of Rule 34.)

    Granted, it is probably true there are more female feminists than male feminists (keeping mind that male feminists are the prime dating pool for female feminists and are most suited to getting “turned on”). But then, this disparity is no more the responsibility of feminist women than anti-feminist men (and that’s before taking into account who has the higher moral standing), and for him to cast blame on the “other” group and not his own is blatantly self-centered.

  8. Posted April 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been reading Feministing for a long time, but this is my first comment: It enrages me that Ogi Ogas gets publicity for his bad science. He first became known to me in connection with a fanfiction survey that he tried to conduct that had ENORMOUS methodological problems and revealed ridiculous bias. There’s a comprehensive collection of links catalogued here.

  9. Posted April 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    If you’re queer, trans, or kinky (in the way this study doesn’t suggest- i.e.: dominant female or submissive male), studies like this are easily rendered invalid by saying “well I exist, therefore neener”. What about all the people who aren’t turned on by rapey bodice-ripper type hetero gender relations?

    Not that if everyone in the world were a gender-normative, straight vanilla person, the study would be valid. On account of the fact that you can easily separate D/s sex and equality in real life, and even if you couldn’t, why would we sacrifice our aim- the suffering of the world being reduced through equality and prosperity for all- because this aim fails to give people boners?

  10. Posted April 12, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Of all the upsetting things about this article, this is what upset me the most:

    “These include some of the most inventive and varied genres of male erotica, such as hypnotism porn (where Svengalis hypnotize woman into having sex), drunk porn (where men trick inebriated women into having sex), sleep porn (where men take advantage of sleeping women)….”

    Each of these “inventive” and “massively popular” forms of erotica really boils down to rape, and I find it incredibly disturbing that he normalizes it so much. He completely ignores the culture that sexualizes violence in these ways- maybe THAT has something to do with the fact that so many women aren’t being satisfied in bed. The man condones rape-porn but thinks that feminism and equality are ruining sex lives? Please.

  11. Posted April 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Among the many things he’s falsely generalizing is the state of both explicitly erotic and mainstream romance novels. “Bodice-ripping” hasn’t been the state of the art since the 1970s/1980s. Romance heroines not only consent to sex, they desire sex, they initiate sex. Similarly, I don’t know who he talked to in the erotic romance community, but the online erotica sites show an exploding diversity of interests, including male/male and female domination of males.

    Note that in the fanfiction controversy alluded to above, he came in with an incorrect generalization of why women write and read fanfic, and maintained it against all comers. ” How is straight female interest in slash fiction like straight male interest in “shemales”?[sic] And why in the world does this matter? ”

    http://www.journalfen.net/community/unfunnybusiness/152992.html (note that many of the links are now broken.)

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