An article in today’s Huffington Post has me absolutely livid. The author, HuffPo contributor Toni Nagy, presumably is trying to make a point about how “dry humping” is a good idea for feminists (read: heterosexual women) as a way to draw out the courting ritual and be more selective about sexual partners. What she in fact manages to do–all in a 723-word article–is essentialize gender, turn women into hollow stereotypes, and perpetuate rape culture.
How many people’s mouths would you stick your finger in? A lot. I would stick my finger in a lot of people’s mouths. But how many people would you let stick their finger in your mouth? Not as many! There is a biological difference between the way women and men experience sex, and each gender should view and treat sex in its own way. I think women need a velvet rope and a self-important doorman for their vaginas, monitoring who gets access. If you’re not on the list, you are not coming inside.
This is how Nagy’s article starts, firmly rooted in the second grade. Sexuality, I don’t need to remind my regular readers, is not a linear transaction that we take part in by following a rigid script. This includes heterosexual sex. By distilling it down to the penis-in-vagina elements, Nagy clearly misses a thousand points.
But it gets better. What’s so dangerous about this article is that it’s not satire. People are taking it seriously. It appears on the Huffington Post front page, guaranteeing a huge number of page views, and it plays into familiar ladymag myths of the woman who, while “overly” sexual in her twenties, embarking on what Tony Nagy deems as every self-possessed woman’s “whore tour,” comes to view sex as a transaction, a game in which men and women play familiar roles.
Nagy plays into biological arguments that have shown up far too frequently in articles on heterosexuality recently–sex makes women want to bond, good sex is emotional, and women crave sperm. She then treats sex as a prize that men have to earn, stating that “The harder a guy has to work to get into your pants, the better he will treat the girl wearing them. ”
Watch out, ladies. Don’t make him work hard enough, and your vagina’s value will be diminished.
So how does this article perpetuate rape culture, you ask? Well, it puts another voice behind the proposition that sex is a commodity, as are women’s bodies. It positions heterosexual sex as a game–though women are apparently expected to give it up young, a little twist on the usual narrative, as women age the dating game shifts back into transactional territory where value lies in access to a woman’s body. That access, of course, revolves around PIV sex, because we should be picky about who puts their “finger” in our “mouth.”
Sex-positive activists, it’s time to amp up the education efforts. Let’s keep talking about why articles like this are damaging to women and to our entire society. Let’s attack these myths by providing examples of how sex can be fluid and varied. Let’s remind everyone that gender is far more complicated than this picture would suggest, and that queer women exist. If we don’t point out the cissexism, heteronormativity, and plain old sexism in arguments like this, no one else is going to do it for us.
This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.