Skepticism

Defining Feminism, Cartoon Style

The XKCD Forum is all aflutter over Randall’s recent “Porn for Women” strip.

Some don’t get the joke, or flat out don’t find it funny. Some missed the point entirely. And then there is the really interesting bit. Something of a flame war is brewing between those who think it is a solidly feminist contribution and those who find it offensive and sexist, and whether or not men can (or should) properly identify sexism. Oh, and one person who finds the idea of sexism ridiculous, because, really, we’re waaaaay past all that 1950s silliness (seriously).

I think the root of this argument has to do with how the various parties define feminism. For me, it’s about freeing everyone from stereotypes and expectations tied to gender. I’ve discussed here before my non-standard femininity and strong distaste for attempts to box me in. Despite average differences between men and women, I think it’s crucial that we allow for outliers and eschew social pressures that stifle those who fall outside the norm.

From my point of view, this comic is spot-on. He portrays one woman’s opinion about the ridiculous “Porn for Women” books, poking fun at the idea that our culture, whether seriously or jokingly, expects women to be turned on by seeing men doing housework. Also, the hover text punchline nod to Galactica fanfic was guffaw inducing (though my personal preference is somewhat more British and takes place in a blue police box, mostly ;)).

Those who find it offensive seem to be coming from a view of feminism as something of a battle of the sexes in which women should present a unified front in the fight for equality, and in which men are the obstacle, however unwittingly, and as such can say nothing on the matter. They are offended that a male cartoonist has dared to point out something he finds to be a rather ridiculous understanding of female sexuality. If not that, they seem to be reading this one female character’s view on the matter as intended to apply to women universally.

Frankly, I find this view hard to understand, and maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe people on the internet just like to argue (what?!). In any case, I thought this might be an interesting discussion to bring over to Skepchick. Maybe you kids will have some insights that might shed some additional light on this topic.

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71 Comments

  1. Bottom line – this is a JOKE. In order to be funny, it needs to do something shocking, twisted, unexpected – you know, FUNNY. The kind of thing that makes you go ‘Ha ha’ for one reason or another?

    I suppose Randall could have put something in the final panel like ‘I object to your stereotyping of women as sexless robots who care only about seeing men doing menial chores (against their own stereotype). I would prefer something more directly erotic, so next time, please take this into account.’

    Seems a BIT less funny to me.

  2. I’m a white middle class male, so my view may be different than that of others, and I thought it was funny. I saw it as poking fun at one particular and in my opinion highly patriarchal view of what women find erotic. And written as being the perspective of one particular woman. Anyone familiar with the strip would understand that the people are distinct characters with their own particular quirks and traits and aren’t meant to proxy all [women|geeks|men|elite hackers| etc]

  3. I’m solidly with Randall and Carr2D2 on this one… Sure, the “Porn for Women” things seem like a bad one-off joke that’s gone on too long, but Randall’s interpretation is dead-on. The idea that a woman’s fantasy is simply a man doing the household stuff that has stereotypically been a “woman’s job” is crap for a couple of reasons.

    First, it enforces the standard gender roles in that porn is somewhat “deviant,” so it assumes that men doing these things is transgressive in some way instead of normal. Second, it furthers the “stupid man” stereotype that you see everywhere. The fact is, not all men find cooking or cleaning odious. And some women find them far more odious than many men, and are just as unlikely to cook/clean!

    Finally, it’s been my experience that women DO in fact prefer the people in their pornography to be naked and doing sex-related things, NOT dressed and helping out around the house. The subtle implication that women are (or should be) above watching porn is ludicrous and once again seems to take the edge off of female sexuality. It’s OK to talk about men watching people screw, but women? HEAVENS FORFEND.

    As I said, I don’t necessarily think that the “Porn for Women” people intended anything other than a lame joke… it’s just that the subtext behind the joke demonstrates a few unstated but still unsavory things about sex and gender roles in our society.

  4. I’m very surprised that this is controversial among feminists. I thought the cartoon was spot-on. The idea that men can’t be feminist, or contribute feminist works is just ridiculous. If all the men of the world thought more like Randall Munroe, I think women would be better off.

  5. Yup, people will argue over ANYTHING. I thought the comic was pretty brilliant, as well.

    Do some of the commenters there ever think that Mr. Munroe, I don’t know, actually talks to girls and has friends of the opposite sex from where he may have gotten his idea? We don’t live in our own same-sex spheres here.

    Aaaaand now I’m day-dreaming about Doctor Who porn… damn you!

  6. I don’t know who the quote is from, but I think it applies here quite well. “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”.
    XKCD has generally had an offbeat perspective on things. Here, I think they nailed it right on the head. The housework “porn” is evidence of patriarchal stereotyping. Yes, I admit it’s worth a chortle, but it is NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, porn.

    “In my porn, people fuck.”

    Yeah. In mine, too.

  7. Frankly, I find this view hard to understand, and maybe I have it all wrong.

    Same here! I’ve seen that book before and it’s just humorous. I thought it was kind of funny and almost bought it for a girl friend (well… the guys -are- not bad looking if you flip trough it). I just never took it too seriously. I also read this strip yesterday and thought it was brilliant (for once! I don’t get the punchline from XKDC’s strips very often). In my porn, people do the same thing!

  8. Hi there!

    Although I haven’t read the flame-war, (nor do I want to) I’d assume that the opposition to this comic would come from the fact that Randall Munroe is a MALE, and how DARE a male presume to understand what women think?

    Despite my awkward Y chromosome, I like to think of myself as something of a “feminist”. i think it’s outrageous that in the 21st century, women are not paid equal to men. I can’t believe that harassment and belittlement still take place in America’s workplaces, and that America is deemed to be “not ready” for a female president.

    To me, we are still living in some bizarre kind of backwater patriarchal puritan society that judges women as either “saintly” or “slutty”, and if a woman dares to speak with the frankness and honesty of a man, she’s “bitchy”. I think that most women would agree that this is a travesty. (but then I’m a man, so how dare I claim to know what women would think)

    But the thing that bothers me about some kinds of radical feminism is that it so closely mirrors that same patriarchal puritan Madonna/whore stereotype under the guise of “objectification”.

    If a female celebrity appears nude in a magazine, or shows herself in society in some kind of sexual way; conservative Christians will start an uproar over the bad image she’s giving to “our children”. Well, that’s predictable. But then radical feminists will speak right up in AGREEment with them, saying that this woman is DEGRADing herself. That she’s displaying herself as a sex object and that this is harmful to women. To me, that just sounds like good old-fashioned American puritanism masquerading as political correctness. Why can’t a woman WANT to flaunt her sexuality? Why can’t a woman be PROUD of who she is and what she looks like? Why can’t a woman want to read porn in which people actually FUCK, for God’s sake.?

    To me, there’s nothing more powerful than a woman who owns her sexuality and is in control of her own image. I don’t feel that women should inhibit themselves based purely on the fear that some guy somewhere is going to be aroused by it.

    But then, I’m a guy, so naturally I’m a huge pervert and I just want to see women naked and read porn and I’m probably some kind of sick, latent rapist with my male gaze and hindered by the male privilege. :(

    But I like to think of myself as a feminist. :(

  9. And then there is the really interesting bit. Something of a flame war is brewing between those who think it is a solidly feminist contribution and those who find it offensive and sexist, and whether or not men can (or should) properly identify sexism.

    I’m working on a hypothesis that it is impossible to construct a grammatical sentence that doesn’t offend someone.

    When it comes to sexism I just don’t get it. I’m lacking a gene or education or perhaps common sense. In arguments involving sexism I’m inevitably told I just don’t get it. So I’ll admit this right up front. This was brought home for me the other day when a friend asked me to review his website on “The Best Stuff for Men.” I found myself equally bewildered. What makes a good TV show for men? I have no idea. I had nothing constructive to offer him. I just don’t see the world through a filter of X and Y.

    This being said I can’t help but wonder if the perception of sexism is more of a problem than actual sexism. To be more precise, complaining about perceived sexism in places where it really doesn’t exist detracts from addressing the last few bastions of real sexism. I suppose it goes without saying that I find this cartoon funny and entirely not sexist.

  10. Oh, and:

    Regarding the argument that men have no place in feminism, my instinct is to just call BULLSHIT and let it go at that.

    However:

    I can understand that argument, if only from the perspective that there is a line between men fighting alongside women and men fighting FOR women as if they can’t stand up for themselves.

    I think that Randall’s cartoon is clearly in the former camp. If people can’t see that, or think he’s being patronizing in any way, I’m afraid nothing I could say to those people would change their minds.

    The fact is, feminism would not make much progress if its default position were to say “Men can’t contribute!” Ultimately, feminism’s goal is to change the underlying biases at play in our society, and it’d be awfully hard to do that if those men who agree with that goal are shut out of the discourse or are told that they can’t comment because of a chromosomal difference.

    I don’t think most women, or even most feminists, feel that men can’t contribute. And as long as their contributions are of the “standing with women” rather than the “standing FOR women” variety, I see no reason to shout them down.

    But I’m a middle-class white dude, so maybe I’m too inherently biased to have a say.

  11. A friend of mine has actually started her own porn magazine (with online content soon, I believe) for straight women. It shows regular men. Naked. And by regular, I mean no beafcakes, so from skinny to fit to average to chunky.

    So, these men aren’t fucking (she’s doing something similar to, say, Playgirl … but not for gay men), but ARE naked, and they aren’t cooking.

    So anyway, my sort of on-topic comment. Hehe.

  12. So in thinking about this more, I reread the comic. While the book’s title – Porn for Women – is relatively presumptuous, the cartoon is written from the perspective of one person’s email stating “In *my* porn, people fuck” (i.e., not all women like this).

    I think they broke my brain. I don’t get how this is offensive. Like, I can’t even wrap my head around it.

  13. @davew

    “This being said I can’t help but wonder if the perception of sexism is more of a problem than actual sexism. To be more precise, complaining about perceived sexism in places where it really doesn’t exist detracts from addressing the last few bastions of real sexism. I suppose it goes without saying that I find this cartoon funny and entirely not sexist.”

    The last few? Really?

    Sigh.

    Yeah, you don’t get it. And I’m not surprised.

    I really hate whe people say, “You shouldn’t point out (ism), it only makes it worse!!” Um, no. Ignoring it makes it worse. And just because you don’t think someone is sexist (especially considering the fact that you, yourself, do not experience sexism in the same way that women do), doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    But “last few”?! Really? Seriously?!

    But moving on…

    THAT SAID, this comic was rather funny, and yes, men can get sexism. Randall got it perfectly, at least in this particular strip (he misses the mark sometimes, but he’s only human). It’s sardonic and freakin’ spot-on.

  14. A funny cartoon and a silly controversy; and if you’re offended it’s probably a good indication someone should be making jokes about your offencesensitivity issues. Anyone know any good jokes about pompous over sensitive haters of porn for women jokes written by men? Where’s Opus when you need him!!

  15. @Expatria:

    I can understand that argument, if only from the perspective that there is a line between men fighting alongside women and men fighting FOR women as if they can’t stand up for themselves.

    Spot on!

    Men also shouldn’t say to a woman, “I don’t think that is sexist, why are you saying it’s sexist?! It’s not sexist!”

    Also, many men have the best of intentions, but they tend to forget that their world-view is based off of, well, their world-view and experiences as men. So when certain men start trying to argue that such-and-such isn’t sexist, and that women should just ~lighten up~ or stop pointing out sexism (because he doesn’t feel it is sexist), that man is not fighting alongside women; that man is now (trying to) fighting for, or against, women.

    Even the best feminist men out there can’t completely “get” how sexism (and feminism) affects women in their daily lives. You just can’t.

    And even those “minor” instances of sexism that might not seem like a big deal to a man, are still big deals, because they all add up. Small shit matters, just like in racism or homophobia. Like that one time my male friend followed me to Discount Tire after my tire blew, so I wouldn’t be stranded. I had to *literally* stand in front of my friend so the mechanic would talk to ME, and not my male friend.

    It may seem minor to most men, but that is the kind of shit women experience on a DAILY basis, and even the smallest things add up. It’s all harmful. It’s just as important to stop the small stuff as it is to stop the big stuff.

  16. I’m a man that thinks women should be treated the same as men. Label me as you see fit, I can’t be bothered.

    But part of treating people equally, in my book, is letting them get offended or laugh. IMO if the intent isn’t hurtful then it’s comedy whether someone is offended or not.

  17. And this “sexism is so rare nowadays!” attitude is not based in reality.

    In a society that can make miscarriages into a crime, sexism is NOT rare. In a society that is still fighting for women to have the right to choose, sexism is NOT rare. In a society where equal rights for gays, lesbians, and transgendered folks is a constant, huge, painful uphill battle, sexism is NOT rare.

    Yes, it’s better for many … but not for all. I for one would not want to live in Utah, as a woman.

    Hell, I live in Arizona. My right to choose is limited here. Not nearly as much as it is in Utah and in some other states, and I’m lucky that I live in a big city, but my reproductive rights are still on trial, and it’s something I think about every.single.day.

    And reproductive rights are just the tip of the iceberg.

    It’s easy for a man to say sexism isn’t really a big deal anymore, but to me, that goes to show that, no, you don’t really get it, and you don’t really want to.

  18. 1. I thought this was actually funny. (I really HA!ed IRL.)
    2. I thought this wasn’t some guy trying to speak for all women everywhere “in my porn” not in all porn or women’s porn or good porn or real porn (also note people which I smiled at).
    3. I’m always happy to have men who are glad to stand up and fight alongside women in issues of sexism.
    4. @davew I appreciate the sentiment and you may not see it but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. And that it isn’t screaming. You will never get it. Just like I will never get what it is like to be a black young man in an urban area, I just have never experienced that. That is ok. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know that it is a different experience. Also the fact that you can look at something and not see the differences is where your privilege shows. It would be lovely to not see any differences but you only get that when you feel represented or understood.

  19. Maybe people on the internet just like to argue

    No they don’t! Shut up!

    I thought the cartoon was hilarious. I instinctively cringed the first time I saw one of those calendars, but I didn’t really give it much of a second thought until I saw the XKCD.

    At the very least, I’m glad people are talking about it.

  20. But porn for women shows my deepest sexual desire: to have one day in my life where a man does all my housework and I get to put my feet up and not have dishpan hands. Because that’s what it’s like to be a woman. I actually make out with my Swiffer then complain that it never takes me on dates. What is it, Swiffer? Are you embarrassed to be seen with me? And that mop that I ditched to get you? Why were you two looking so cozy in the utility room with the light out? You say you were just leaning up against the dryer because that’s where I put you, but then why did the mop smell like orange Febreeze Swiffer fluid? Why? Answer me that!

    Is this because of the Roomba? Because I told you, Swiffer, what I have with the Roomba is purely functional. The more I use it, the more I can use you. Why can’t you understand that? It’s a robot! Why would I want a robot when I have you?

    (But I would like to see a nice Cuisinart beefcake calendar!)

    Fucking is weird and gross. Who wants to watch that? Ew!

  21. I appreciated both the Porn for Women and xkcd contributions, though for different reasons. In many (most?) households in our culture, women do most of the cooking and housework, so it makes sexualizing a man’s doing these things into material for humor—it goes against the script, so it’s potentially funny. OTOH, when it comes to the reality of getting turned on, what do people tend to turn to? Actual depictions of sexual activity, and that seems to be what xkcd is getting at.

  22. I thought the comic was hilarious. Then I found out it was talking about a real books. I’d never heard of it, I have few female friends offline and none of them would find that interesting enough to point out to me. Then I started to feel stabby.

    Still think the comic is funny, I think men can be feminists too. However I don’t find the books amusing at all since in my porn people are fucking too.

  23. Whenever I see criticisms of feminism on Ye Olde Internet, it typically takes the form of “Feminism is just a bunch of angry women who want to keep men down!”

    No one I’ve ever known to describe themselves as a feminist (including myself) has ever expressed anything of the sort. I really like carr2d2’s summary, which fits my view as well: it’s about freeing everyone from gender-based expectations.

    I frankly can’t possibly image why people would have a problem with the xkcd strip.

    If it was about ANYTHING, it was about the tastes or values of an individual versus the tastes or values prescribed by society upon a group to which that individual belongs (the titular “women” of Porn for Women).

    Might some women enjoy the “porn for women” aesthetic? Sure (ahem, Elyse). Hell, I’m sure it does it for plenty of men, too. But that’s the point here: everyone has their own tastes and values and perspectives, such that blanket statements like “porn for women” (or Uzbekis, redheads, geeks, thirtysomethings, etc.) might rub some people the wrong way.

    I don’t care to look into the shitstorm that sounds like is happening on the xkcd forum, but I find it baffling that anyone would criticize Randall’s take on the sheer fact of him being a man. That seems a bit contrary to the gender-equality goals of feminism (or my feminism, anyway).

  24. @Pete Schult:

    I like Porn for Women because it’s soooo true! I love craft fairs! And getting flowers! And bitching at my man about watching too much football because I’m a nag! And having him take out the garbage because it’s smelly and heavy and far too burdensome for my delicate feminine sensibilities.

    I also like it because it’s clear that the reason these men don’t normally help me out with these things is because they spend so much time at the gym. To turn me on. So on the rare occasion that he vacuums, he can do it shirtless and I’ll just swoon over his abs and dream about us sitting together, under a tree, eating yogurt while the wind blows through the wild flowers and our hair.

    I would never ask that a man do these things because he should contribute to the home, but rather so I can be puritanically turned on… very occasionally.

  25. @colddayinapril:
    <tangent>So, the pope dies, and St Peter greets him, asking what he’d like to do first. He says he wants to go to the library to clarify a few bits of theology. A few hours later, St Peter sees the pope walking along with a forlorn look and asks what’s wrong. The pope replies, “There was an r. It’s ‘celebrate.'”</tangent>

  26. Ok… as a feminist ( and I don’t label myself lightly … or often), I have to say I love the cartoon. I also hate the Pron for Women books… they are tripe.

    I used to write porn. I read a lot of porn. Yes it makes me happy when The Man cleans… but if he wants to turn me on, there is no need for cleaning supplies.

  27. I’d never heard of the the “Porn for Women” books. I was set to get all punchy about the inherent sexism of the title and the arrogance of the authors to assume that their work will appeal to an entire gender, etc.
    Then I realised that the book is a joke too, and for some reason I can’t fathom that makes xkcd even funnier. Rock on, Randall.

  28. I thought the cartoon was great. My head almost explodes whenever someone finds out that my part-time working husband does most of our cooking and cleaning and responds “Oh, you are so lucky! Too bad there aren’t more husbands like that!” Um, if he didn’t do all of that stuff while I was busy working full time and going to school, I wouldn’t just feel unlucky, I’d be pretty sure I’d married a total asshole.

  29. Comedically, it’s strong to end on the word Fuck – hard ‘K’ words are always funny, women swearing seems to be funny, especially from a woman perceived to be smart and articulate, and especially in a strip where the word is rarely used.

    XKCD is primarily for entertainment (I believe); any social commentary is secondary. The line was funny to use in that place, in that way.

  30. Controversy and I missed it?

    I don’t get it, I’m one of those outspoken feminist types who calls sexism when I see it (I am often called uptight, too PC or a bitch for it too) but I don’t see anything controversial about that cartoon. It was funny. The girl likes fucking in her porn. If I bought some porn and it was some guys cleaning the house, I’d feel ripped off.

    After reading this, I now know what that Porn for Women thing is. That doesn’t seem very funny to me though. If I had seen it in a store or something it probably would have started an angry rant to rival the toilet cleaner commercial incident of 2008. Gah! That toilet cleaner commercial still bugs me.

  31. The Feminist blogosphere also got upset at XKCD for this strip, too: http://xkcd.com/322/

    There is a small group of vocal feminists that are just out of touch with reality. They’re so used to getting attention and feeling righteous from “speaking out” that they eventually start “speaking out” against their own cause.

  32. @Kaylia_Marie:

    but if he wants to turn me on, there is no need for cleaning supplies.

    Never underestimate the uses for a feather-duster.

    Seriously – I thought one of the stated goals we Olde Cronesâ„¢ fought for way-back-when was for everyone to grasp how a) damaging; b) silly; and/or c) just plain antiquated gender stereotypes are. So now we get women complaining when a guy shows he gets it?

    Excuse me, I need to go hit something.

  33. @davew: I’m working on a hypothesis that it is impossible to construct a grammatical sentence that doesn’t offend someone.

    I’m offended by your generalization! (Come on, someone had to say it. ;-) )

    Seriously, I’m with Randall on this one, P4W is a lame joke, fair game for mockery.

  34. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair (or accurate) to accuse legitimate feminist critiques as being “out of touch” or “easily offended” or anything like that: The discussion centers around 2nd-wave vs. 3rd wave feminism: both have valid points and the current feminist academy has been unable to effectively reconcile the two seemingly opposing viewpoints. This is not a weakness of feminist thought but a symptom of feminist theory being very pluralized as is necessarily reflective of culture and history.

    Also, I generally find it sad when people (usually men) think that Feminism is a women’s issue. It’s not: feminism is a people issue.

  35. If people aren’t fucking then it’s not really porn is it?

    Unless you mean it in the broader sense like “The West Wing is liberal porn” or “Michal Bay films are disaster porn… in more ways than one.”

  36. I think it’s crucial that we allow for outliers and eschew social pressures that stifle those who fall outside the norm.

    Those who fear/hate different are often the same who don’t believe in or willfully choose not to understand the concept of evolution, those who revel in stagnation.

    Learn to embrace different, because it is, after all, the mutants who make evolution possible.

  37. For those pointing out that the book in question is a joke, keep in mind that most of us understand that it’s not actually meant to be bought as a masturbatory aid, but that the “joke” is based on a tired stereotype that has been mined by hack comedians for ages. If you think that it is in any way challenging gender stereotypes instead of reenforcing them, then you are hopelessly out of touch.

    As for people getting offended by the comic? Some people make “getting offended” their life. They spend all their time worrying about which of their sensibilities might be offended without stopping to actually think about how unreasonable they are being.

    Oh well, fuck them.

  38. @Some Canadian Skeptic: The discussion centers around 2nd-wave vs. 3rd wave feminism: both have valid points and the current feminist academy has been unable to effectively reconcile the two seemingly opposing viewpoints. This is not a weakness of feminist thought but a symptom of feminist theory being very pluralized as is necessarily reflective of culture and history.

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but are you saying a cartoonist should understand three waves of feminism and the differences between them before writing a strip that mentions women?

    Perhaps a better question would be: in your opinion is anything wrong with this particular XKCD strip. If so, what? If not, then aren’t arguments about it more than a little academic?

  39. @Dynotaku: That’s the thrust of the joke. Get it? Get it?

    @DaveW: I think what @Some Canadian Skeptic meant was that second wave feminism takes a decisively negative view of porn as degrading to women, and a feminist critique of this comic might arise out of such an ideology. Munroe would be considered to be objectionable by projecting a male/antifeminist attitude on a female character in his strip.

    Of course, the mouseover text raises not only the implication of fan fiction, but also of slash fiction. This is where that argument breaks down in regards to this particular strip: is her porn still degrading to women if only men are in it?

    For the record, I also happen to find this strip spot on, if a bit insensitive to the sexual identity and expression of housework fetishists.

  40. This comic and post pretty much sums up my feeling about the Porn for Women thing. I know it’s a joke, but it still rubs me the wrong way. One time, a co-worker of Mr Roguekitten told me I trained him well ‘cos he loaded the dishwasher at work. Ugh. Yeah, he needed to be trained o_0

  41. @davew:

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but are you saying a cartoonist should understand three waves of feminism and the differences between them before writing a strip that mentions women?

    Perhaps a better question would be: in your opinion is anything wrong with this particular XKCD strip. If so, what? If not, then aren’t arguments about it more than a little academic?

    Nah, I don’t think the cartoonist needs to know the differences. He’s a cartoonist, I expect cartoons from him. I was trying to get across that the discussion itself that has arisen out of it is about 2nd wave vs. 3rd wave.

    Also, I find no objection to the strip at all. Doesn’t turn my crank, but that’s just a matter of comedy aesthetics. Whether it’s “more than a little academic”, I think is a valid point, but I also think that those people who firmly place their feet in the 2nd wave or 3rd wave of feminist thought often do so without realizing it (which is partially a fault of the feminist academy and lack of communication), and that venom can fly perilously easy both ways. An academic (not to be confused with navel-gazing pointlessness) discussion might be very valuable here: Skeptics often take quasi-academic (not to be confused with pseudo-academic) stances and analysis with the body of physical science, so I think it’s perfectly fair (and ideal) to understand the academics behind the social sciences.

    The fact is that this conversation has been going on for over 30 years, and it’s a wonderfully rich topic to engage in. The fact that is academic is sort of central: We need to think very seriously about the feminist thinkers that came before us and draw upon their lessons as best we can, rather than call a silly little stick figure “sexist” or call other people “prudish” or any other pejorative that doesn’t need to be there.

  42. @Some Canadian Skeptic: The fact is that this conversation has been going on for over 30 years, and it’s a wonderfully rich topic to engage in.

    I agree with this and everything else in your response. I lack the vocabulary to join the discussion in a meaningful way, but I accept that it is important and that other people can make headway discussing it.

  43. I actually think the problem comes from everyone’s (including feminists’) misunderstanding of women’s sexuality.

    As a sex nerd and feminist, I feel obliged to mention that half of sexual arousal is turning on the “ons” (like seeing naked sexy people) and the other half is turning off the “offs” (like worry about the dishes and the laundry and the bills etc). For women, this second part is particularly important.

    Feminist Porn is, I think, a tongue in cheek acknowledgement of the basic reality that it’s easier for women to be aroused when they feel feel cared for and supported and they don’t have to worry about stuff.

    http://enagoski.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/what-women-want-4/

  44. again, we all get the joke. The premise that women spend their time worrying about housework so much that they can’t get aroused or that they need to feel “cared for” to acheive arousal is sexist. Period.

    Hell, I wish my girlfriend thought about housework occasionally.

  45. @enagoski: Although I don’t know that the author of Porn for Women really had that in mind when putting the book together, what you say makes some sense.
    If I have a lot of things roaming in my head (ex: housework) sex is probably (and sadly) a little low on my list of priorities. And if I procrastinate by having sex, well… it’s not going to be great sex. I’d be lucky if it would even be “ok” sex.
    Maybe that’s why I thought the little book was funny as I’m stuck with the house chores more often then not and hmm… yeah… I almost bought it for a couple of girl friends.

    @mikerattlesnake: The premise that women spend their time worrying about housework so much that they can’t get aroused or that they need to feel “cared for” to acheive arousal is sexist.

    How is that sexist? I think it’s a fact that women arousal is more complex then men.

  46. how does “more complex” translate to “always thinking about housework”? I may concede the basic premise (though I think male sexuality is often oversimplified, often by men themselves who become scared of their preferences and spend a lifetime coaxing out half-boners to busty, blonde, barbie doll women) but the idea that that’s as deep as the complexity goes should be downright insulting. For the “joke” to land, it has to be taken as a given that women have a deeply ingrained obsession with housework.

    The other, barely different, option is that this is being presented ironically. This offends me, not as a feminist, but as a humor enthusiast. There is nothing original to be said on this topic. It’s lazy humor that either insults or fails at being provocative or interesting.

  47. @mikerattlesnake:
    For the “joke” to land, it has to be taken as a given that women have a deeply ingrained obsession with housework.

    No it doesn’t. I’m a woman and I’m not obsessed about housework. In fact, I HATE housework. I would much rather smoke weed and do some gaming, or tend to my other hobbies and personal projects. But -someone- has to do the cleaning -sometimes-. If you look at my living room right now, there are candy wrappers, empty bags of chips and empty bottles of pop laying around. But the garbage hasn’t reach critical mass just yet. If I were obsessed with cleaning, there would be no litter around in my living room, don’t you think? But I can’t just let stuff pile up forever. So I have to be the better person in the relationship and start doing cleaning and solicitate the aid of the boyfriend in cleaning (cause sadly, he doesn’t take initiatives by himself very often when it comes to cleaning).
    So I -DO- get the joke and not because I’m obsessed with cleaning.

    I do agree that male sexuality is often oversimplified. And “more complex” doesn’t translate to “always thinking about housework”. Like Enagoski explained, it’s about turning the on’s on and the off’s off!

  48. your entire first paragraph described me pretty well. Change “woman” to “man” and “boyfriend” to “girlfriend”.

    And since you are the one slightly more inclined to clean, does it preclude arousal?

    “And “more complex” doesn’t translate to “always thinking about housework”. Like Enagoski explained, it’s about turning the on’s on and the off’s off!”

    Well, if you’re going to simplify it to that level, then I can’t disagree with you but for this particular joke to land you have to accept that particular gender role.

  49. @mikerattlesnake:
    And since you are the one slightly more inclined to clean, does it preclude arousal?

    *looks over her shoulder to make sure the boyfriend is not lurking around as she’s typing this* Hmm… I would say it’s a contributing factor. I haven’t been proverbially “swept off my feet” in a while. Not saying that the sex life in nonexistent. Just… you know. :-( I am more inclined to arousal when I feel we are equals in this relationship.

  50. @mikerattlesnake:
    But for this particular joke to land you have to accept that particular gender role.

    Absolutely! Which is probably why in your position of being the “better person” in a relationship, as a man, you don’t get the joke.

    Which reminds me I’ve had a couple of boyfriends turned on by me cooking. Should I be offended by that?

  51. I’m only interested because we seem to be in relationships with very similar (but opposite) dynamics in regards to cleaning, and I actually do find it to be a bit of a turn-on when the girlfriend takes a more active role in that regard.

    I think that as people are raised with less strictly ingrained sexism (though I would never suggest that we are even close to eliminating the subtler sexism that is rampant in society) we gravitate more towards our natural roles rather than the ones laid out for us. I know probably nearly as many men who are the more dominant cleaners/cookers in their relationship as I do women. The book in question takes a very regressive approach to a very old and overused stereotype that doesn’t seem to me like it would exist if people didn’t keep reenforcing it.

    And the thing is, you relate to it because you are (slightly) in that role. The problem is that this book isn’t sold as “Porn for the More Active Housecleaner in a Relationship”, it’s being sold as “Porn for Women” with the active assumption that A is always B. I don’t dig that.

    I will also actively deny the “better person” accusation, if only because the girlfriend reads this blog.

  52. @mikerattlesnake:
    The problem is that this book isn’t sold as “Porn for the More Active Housecleaner in a Relationship”, it’s being sold as “Porn for Women” with the active assumption that A is always B. I don’t dig that.

    I’m starting to see what you mean… especially when I think of my brother who’s in a similar relationship (minus the weed). And I will retract my statement affirming that you are the “better person” in that case! Haha!

    Hi! *waves at Mikerattlesnake’s girlfriend*

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