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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