Confessions of a former liberal feminist

Anonymous 

 

I don’t know when it hit me that sex positivity was hurting me. I’d had tiny glimmers of a revelation: feeling disillusioned as my friends cheering me on while I drunkenly stumbled home with a man I didn’t know. I remember telling myself I was empowered when, at 2 AM, I was in the house of an unemployed 35 year old man I met off Tinder. I didn’t have any money for a taxi back. I’d not met him before. I felt too drunk. The next morning, I scurried back to student accommodation, where my friends high-rived me for being so rebellious and spontaneous. I remember questioning that sex may not be good for me right now, that I wasn’t having it for the right reasons. My friends reassured me that the patriarchy shamed women who were promiscuous, and I had to counter this by continuing not to care. And I tried hard not to care, so I could be the empowered young sex positive feminist I wanted to be: not when men wanted to hit me in bed, not when men pressured me into sending nude photographs, not when dependent on heavy drinking to silence my inner, questioning voice.

I stopped feeling “empowered” very quickly. I got into abusive situations. I entered a friendship with a much older mentor — a 64 year old man, a figure in the local BDSM community, another writer — who encouraged my brand of feminism. He loved that I seemed “carefree” and wasn’t dowdy, like the “anti-sex feminists” he often made fun of. He encouraged me to be promiscuous and drink to excess; he always found some kind of third wave feminist message when I told him about my one night stands, despite the fact I clearly wasn’t mentally well. A few months into our friendship, he raped me. It took me almost a year to realise what had happened because, on a physical level, the rape didn’t feel different than the other sex I was having at the time. I was having sex because I hated myself, and no one around me realised.

Using sex as self-harm is disturbingly different than other forms of self harm. For cutting, one may blame a cat and fool no one. For eating disorders, many friends will see through any “I ate earlier” excuse and try to help. For sex, when the vehicle for harm is promiscuity, liberal feminists are reluctant to point out the root of the issue, lest they criticise a woman’s choice or “slut shame”. Their antidotes were always having more rather than cutting back: to call myself sex positive and become comfortable with that label; to watch more porn until I liked it; to experiment with more men until the sex was more palatable and okay.

Liberal feminists cling so dearly to the concept of consent to the point that it becomes a fault. Any ‘consensual sex’ that is traumatic, or unwanted (despite the ‘yes’), or abusive is hard for them to understand. When I realised I was assaulted, many friends told me it wasn’t ‘real BDSM’. I was blamed by other liberal feminists for my own mixed signals. Whenever I recounted less-than-pleasant encounters, they worriedly would ask whether or not I was accusing a man of rape. When you draw a hard dichotomy between rape and happy, pleasurable sex, so many women are silenced.

This is why radical feminism, and delivering a radical message to young women, is so important. There are young women out there who are like how I used to be: vulnerable, insecure, self-loathing. The patriarchy tells women their worth is contingent on how fuckable men view them; liberal feminism, in its desperate attempts to create an identity for itself that contrasts against the “prudish, anti-sex” radical feminism, tells women to go for it. I felt like it was the only way I could be feminist. For so many women, sex positivity is the compulsory option. And within sex positive, liberal feminism, there is little room for dissent. Question whether promiscuity is healthy in a patriarchy? Slut shamer. Ask why men would get off on a woman’s abuse? Kink shamer. Is it any wonder that so many young women, socialised to put others before them, socialised to think they’re always wrong, don’t argue back?

It is often said that radical feminism is about destroying the patriarchy, while liberal feminism is about navigating the patriarchy. While I used to take this to be true, I now feel this is too charitable to liberal feminism. If it’s supposed to be a navigation, it isn’t working. I left liberal feminism utterly lost. It wasn’t until I found radical feminism that I realised both my way and my worth. Radical women must continue to have a voice despite the overwhelming opposition. After all, there are women out there right now being told the same message I was told: to fuck for their empowerment, rather than think their way to it.

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27 thoughts on “Confessions of a former liberal feminist

  1. I’m not sure I’d include this bit: “Using sex as self-harm is disturbingly different than other forms of self harm. For cutting, one may blame a cat and fool no one. For eating disorders, many friends will see through any “I ate earlier” excuse and try to help.”

    Otherwise, I love this! This is exactly how I feel about sex.

    Like

      1. I agree. I mean that is the crux of it right? Some people are having sex for all the wrong reasons and physically and / or psychologically harming themselves in the process. This should be every bit as much a cause for concern as being a cutter or anorexic.

        Liked by 6 people

  2. Glad you woke up to your own personal truth. It is not dependent on how other people view things. It is not enlightened to follow them and their flippant axioms. Trust yourself. Welcome back!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. This! I was shamed and branded a prude so many times in the 1980′s and 1990′s when I stated that I didn’t like casual sex. I wasn’t trying to tell anyone else what to do (except that I don’t think it’s cool to cheat) but for me, casual sex is a bad thing that leads to feelings of suicidal depression.

    I began to realize that the majority of my early sexual experiences were coercive. I also realized that with my mental illness (bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, which were not properly diagnosed until I was nearly 40), I tended to get into unhealthy sexual/romantic situations (they were all unhealthy) when I was in a hypomanic state and was hypersexual.

    Some people prefer casual sex. I don’t. Being someone’s “fuck buddy” or one night stand is not “empowering.” Porn is not “empowering.” I went through many years trying to train myself that I just needed to “grow up” and enjoy casual sex. I worked as an affiliate for adult websites. Several times after (inebriated) casual sexual encounters, I ended up cutting myself because I was so filled with self loathing.

    No one should be shamed for promiscuity. Words like “slut” need to disappear. However, shaming someone for being a “prude” needs to disappear as well.

    Sexuality is a complicated thing. People should not be shamed or exploited. Puritanical ideas don’t help, but neither do the “liberal, sex-positive” ones. Both of them hurt people.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Did you know that many women are incorrectly diagnosed with borderline and bipolar because they are abuse victims, or victims of patriarchy in general?

      Think about it: If they can diagnose women who show symptoms of being abused, then they can blame the borderline or bipolar for her behavior and not blame the man’s abuse. It also makes an excuse for them to promote behavior modification to the woman, which you know will include “be nicer to your husband!”

      Men have ALWAYS been calling women “insane” to shut us up- it is a good way to shut anyone up because no one wants to support someone insane, sometimes not even the victim herself!

      Check out this awesome article if you want to know how psychology and psychiatry diagnoses women for being abused and men for being abusive:

      https://radicalhubarchives.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/the-case-for-the-sanity-of-women/

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Yes. I hate there are so many of us out there, having succumbed to this garbage. Good on you for getting out of that mindset and I wish you a speedy but thorough recovery.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. This sentiment has rung so many bells,

    “he raped me. It took me almost a year to realise what had happened…”.

    Those who choose to exploit others’ sexually seem to be (the only ones?) reaping the benefits of ‘sex positivity’. You have made me think of the rather bizarre associations to rape my ex-partner (self identifying – selectively sex positive – feminist lesbian) had to rape/ sexual assault and invalidating my experience of it. I will blog further about this! Thank you!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. You’ve put words to the conflict I face right now between feeling like I “should” be having sex (I’m young! I’m attractive! I’m about to leave college! It’s “empowering!”) and knowing that it would essentially be a form of self-harm for me (having come off an eating disorder too recently to like my body yet, it would not be healthy for me to put myself in that vulnerable a position). Thank you so much for this. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This article is AMAZING. Especially this paragraph:

    “This is why radical feminism, and delivering a radical message to young women, is so important. There are young women out there who are like how I used to be: vulnerable, insecure, self-loathing. The patriarchy tells women their worth is contingent on how fuckable men view them; liberal feminism, in its desperate attempts to create an identity for itself that contrasts against the “prudish, anti-sex” radical feminism, tells women to go for it. I felt like it was the only way I could be feminist. For so many women, sex positivity is the compulsory option. And within sex positive, liberal feminism, there is little room for dissent. Question whether promiscuity is healthy in a patriarchy? Slut shamer. Ask why men would get off on a woman’s abuse? Kink shamer. Is it any wonder that so many young women, socialised to put others before them, socialised to think they’re always wrong, don’t argue back?”

    You absolutely hit the nail on the head and I’m very sorry you went through this immense amount of mistreatment from your friends and abuse from men.

    I awoke to radical feminism through being disillusioned with sex positivity too. I go to a UK university and would be happy to talk and get you in touch with communities of young UK-based radical feminists if you would like. Feel free to reply to my comment and I’ll send you a private message, somehow! Lots of love and solidarity.

    Liked by 2 people

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