Edition 22: The Politics of Love and Sexuality
Transcribed by Julia Beck
“Real Voice” by Thistle Pettersen:
But through the hallways of academia and on the face of the moon
The footprints of conquest haven’t left us any room
To say what we think, or to speak what we know
To hear different voices, at least a sound from below.
Jenna DIQUARTO: Greetings and welcome to the 22nd edition podcast of Women’s Liberation Radio News. The team at WLRN produces a monthly radio broadcast to break the sound barrier women are blocked by under the status quo rule of men. This blocking of women’s discourse we see in all sectors of society, be they conservative, liberal, mainstream, progressive or radical. The thread that runs through all of American politics, except for separatist feminism, is male dominance and entitlement in all spheres. This is Jenna. Happy Valentine’s Day Season to all of our WLRN listeners! This month’s edition examines the politics of sexuality and romantic love. We will hear excerpts from interviews with WLRN’s Julia Beck, radical lesbian feminist Bev Jo, and Dr. Meagan Tyler, who spoke to Meghan Murphy of Feminist Current. Thanks to Feminist Current for permission to rebroadcast portions of that interview. In the spirit of the season, WLRN is partnering with Threadbare Print House to create the winning t-shirt from our design contest. Shirts are available for a limited time only! Pre-orders end at midnight on Valentines Day. But first, here are the WLRN headlines for this Thursday, February 1, 2018, as prepared and read by yours truly.
The weekend of Saturday, January 20th marked the 2nd annual Women’s March with events that took place across the United States and in cities around the world. While overall attendance wasn’t as numerous as 2017’s march, it was still a sizable turnout. On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people crowded the streets in New York (200k), Chicago (300k), and Los Angeles, where as many as 600 thousand people protested. More than 50 thousand people turned out in Denver, San Francisco, and Philadelphia; 40 thousand in Oakland. Attendance was in the thousands and tens of thousands in countless other cities and towns across America, such as the 20+ thousand in Phoenix and San Jose, 15 thousand in New Jersey and at the March’s flagship event in Las Vegas, 10 thousand in DC and Austin. With over 200 marches planned from Alaska to Maine, Florida to California, the grand total is well over the million mark. Sister marches took place globally, in Canada, Argentina, The UK, Italy, Germany, Uganda, Kenya, Japan, China, and Australia to name a few. US marches were specifically protesting Donald Trump and calling out sexual assault, with many signs indicating impeachment, and the #metoo and #timesup movements; International marches took part in solidarity, focusing on gender equality and misogyny. The keynote of this year’s Women’s March is ‘Power to the Polls’, hoping to get more women not only voting, but also running for office and winning elections. Their goal is to register a million new voters in swing states across the US by the 2018 Midterms. The Center for American Women and Politics anticipates over 600 women will be running for office this year – a 200% increase from the 2016 election, and that’s without taking campaigns for State Legislature into account. Women are taking action in a multitude of supportive ways as well, whether it be canvassing neighborhoods, phone banking, fundraising, organizing events, or taking part in local political assemblies. It’s worth noting that there were women that sat out this year’s march. Similar to last year’s criticism, some felt the march wasn’t inclusive enough, specifically in terms of immigration and racial equality. In Our Own Voice founder Marcela Howell was to-the-point at the DC march, stressing the importance of all women to solidify at the polls.
Marcela HOWELL: We can march every single year but the best way to stop the right wing policies coming out of the Trump administration is to change the people who make the decisions, and women have the power to make that change. Black women have consistently voted for candidates who support voting rights, women’s rights, civil rights, the rights of LGBT people, workers’ rights, but we need all women as our partners. We have thousands of women who are stepping up to run for office, but they will not win without women’s votes.
DIQUARTO: Others felt the marches were too focused on Democratic victories; understandably so since many Democratic politicians spoke at and supported the marches, while it would appear not a single Republican spoke at any of the numerous events that took place over the weekend, unless you want to include a self-congratulatory Tweet from Donald Trump’s Twitter account.
In what appears to be a burgeoning protest movement in Iran, a second woman has been detained by Iranian police in Tehran for dress code violation. Both women removed their headscarf and held it up on a stick. The initial arrest was made at the end of last year, when Vida Movahed (moo VAHD), aka the “Girl of Enghelab (eng GLAB) Street”, stood on a utility box during a “white wednesday” protest, removed her headscarf, tied it to a stick, and waved it in the air. Two days later it was announced that women who don’t observe Islamic dress code within the capital would no longer face arrest, but rather be made to attend a class. Even so, Movahed remained in police custody for several weeks until her release just this past weekend. Earlier this week, at the same location, Narges (nar GEZ) Hosseini (ho SAY nee) was detained within 10 minutes of staging her protest in solidarity with Movahed. While two people filmed her, she, too, stood up, removed her headscarf, and waved it through the air on a stick. All three were arrested; Ms. Hosseini was set a heavy bail and sent to a prison outside Tehran, where she remains at present time. “White Wednesday”s began in May of 2017. It’s a protest campaign conceived by My Stealthy Freedom founder and exiled Iranian journalist, Masih (mah SEE) Alinejad (ahl IN eh jahd), wherein Iranian women are encouraged to wear white headscarves as a symbol of protest. Vida Movahed’s actions have taken the protesting to a new level – a quick visit to My Stealthy Freedom’s Facebook page shows how many women have been staging similar protests since her arrest.
Customary chiefs in the southern Ashanti region of Ghana, following an order from a local river god, issued an edict banning menstruating girls and women from crossing the local Ofin River. The river is a natural border between the Ashanti and the Central regions of Ghana, the latter area known for its educational resources. This recent edict, that also includes a directive banning all females from crossing the river on Tuesdays, specifically interferes with girls of the Upper Denkyira East district, as they must cross the river to attend school. The order has been denounced by both local and global humanitarian endeavors, such as UNICEF, Plan International Ghana, and Equality Now. Menstruation is an especially difficult experience in places like Africa and south Asia where a number of factors affect women’s ability to best handle that time of the month, not the least of which are clean water, private toilets, and proper disposal. In addition, women’s health education is sorely lacking, with many girls starting their periods completely unaware of menstruation and what it is. A 2014 UNESCO publication estimates that 10% of girls miss school due to their periods, provided they haven’t stopped attending school entirely. In 2012, affiliates of Oxford University conducted a small-scale pilot study titled “Sanitary Pad Interventions for Girls’ Education in Ghana”. The study provided girls with either menstrual education alone, or a combination of education and sanitary pads, against a control group which received neither. In 5 months time, the study saw an increase of 9% in school attendance, demonstrating that even education alone is enough to empower girls to control their periods and function while menstruating.
And as we can expect, there is the added hurdle of the religious and cultural perception of menstruation as being something shameful. Asum(az UHM)-Kwarteng Ahensah , Country director of the child rights group Plan International Ghana, acknowledged that the order is a direct violation of the girls’s rights and adds, “We have seen girls being excluded from public gatherings when they are menstruating as they are deemed ‘dirty’.” In a quote to the BBC, Unicef’s menstrual hygiene ambassador Shamima Muslim Alhassan called this religious balderdash flat out: “It seems the gods are really powerful aren’t they?” she said. “Sometimes I think that we need to ask for some form of accountability from these gods who continue to bar a lot of things from happening, to account for how they have used the tremendous power that we have given them.” It does seem that Ghanaian officials recognize the order to be in direct conflict with the Constitution of Ghana, in addition to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of which declare all persons entitled to equal education. Both the Central Regional Minister, Kwamena Duncan, and Ghana’s Deputy Education Minister, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum have committed to establishing a school on the Ashanti side of the river, so that the girls need not cross to pursue their education.
Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer for the rock band The Cranberries, died on January 15th, 2018. Authorities found her unresponsive in her Westminster hotel room that Monday morning; she was pronounced dead at the scene. At the time of this report, the cause of death is unknown, but the Metro police and Westminster coroner do not believe the death is suspicious. News outlets are reporting O’Riordan was in London for a recording session with the LA band Bad Wolves, mix sessions with D.A.R.K., the duo she joined in 2014, as well as a meeting with her label, BMG, regarding the next Cranberries record. O’Riordan had struggled with a host of health issues over the years, most recently a back injury from 2016 that left her with chronic pain and affected her ability to tour. In a 2013 interview she revealed the horrid details of childhood sexual assault. She contended with depression, anxiety, anorexia, and bipolar disorder until her final days. The coroner has pushed the investigation into her death back until April 3rd, to allow time for toxicology reports to be completed. Ms. O’Riordan’s body was laid in repose for grieving fans in the days leading up to her January 23rd burial in County Limerick, where she was from. She leaves behind three children and a devastated family, band, and fan base.
On January 24th, former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, Larry Nassar, was sentenced to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to 7 counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct. In reality, he has assaulted more than 160 girls in his 19 years at Michigan State University, including Olympians Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Jordyn Wieber, four of so-called the “Fierce Five” who brought home the Gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics. From 1997 to 2016, Nassar molested and raped female gymnasts under the guise of providing them medical care. He was brazen in his entitlement, sometimes committing assault with the athlete’s parents present in the room. In the week-long hearing leading up to his sentencing, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina allowed all Nassar’s victims the opportunity to confront their rapist. Mattie Larson, now 25, attended Karolyi Ranch, USA Gymnastic’s national camp in Texas where Nassar had access to the girls who trained there. In her statement to the court on January 23rd, Larson describes the abusive and neglectful culture of the isolated Ranch, a situation so severe she tried to injure herself to avoid returning. She tells of the first time Nassar assaulted her, and how the abuse continued. Be forewarned, dear listener, the following audio clip describes sexual assault:
Mattie LARSON: My injury was very close to my pelvic bone, so when Larry put his fingers in my vagina for the first time, I innocently thought it was some sort of internal treatment for that specific injury. Almost each and every time I received treatment from Larry from that moment on, he would molest me. This went on until I left the national team to compete for UCLA at 19 years old. The thing is, however, that was the only injury I ever had that was remotely close to my genital region. Yet no matter what Larry was supposed to be treating on me over the years, usually my ankles or my knees, his fingers all would seem to find their way inside of me, never once wearing gloves. There was a camp where I sprained and dislocated both my ankles at the same time. Larry checked out my x-rays, saying I was fine. I was literally left crawling the rest of the camp or using a rolling office chair I found in the lounge to get around. He didn’t even wrap my feet for the flight back home. When my doctor checked my x-rays, I had a fracture. I simply cannot even get myself to consider you as a real doctor. Your priority should have been my health, yet your priority was solely to molest me. Larry, I trusted you. I believed you were a kind person. I believed you were on my side. I thought you cared about me and my well-being. You took complete advantage of my innocence. Your kindness was simply a ploy to molest me every chance you got. I can’t even put into words how much I fucking hate you. Your Honor, I stand behind my former teammates and survivors who have asked you to give Larry the maximum possible sentence.
DIQUARTO: In the aftermath of the conviction and sentencing, focus has shifted to all those who enabled Nassar, mainly USA Gymnastics and Michigan State U. USAG has severed ties with Karolyi Ranch, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called on the Texas Rangers Division of Public Safety to investigate. The US Olympic Committee issued the USAG board an ultimatum: resign or face decertification. They have all since resigned. Michigan attorney general, Bill Schuette, has expressed his commitment to the already year-deep investigation into “what happened at Michigan State University”. “It is abundantly clear that a full and complete investigation… — from the president’s office down — is required. My department … will find out who knew what and when, who took action, who failed to take action, what did or did not happen, and what should have happened. No individual and no department at Michigan State University is off-limits.” MSU’s gymnastics coach of 27 years, Kathie Klages, has retired in light of her thwarting complaints against Nassar since as early as 1997. At least a dozen staff trainers, coaches, and campus authorities were aware of complaints made against Nassar. Lou Anna Simon, University President since 2003, has also resigned, though she claims to be a casualty of politics rather than a culpable party in enabling Nassar. She was made aware of a Title IX investigation into accusations against Nassar in 2014, yet MSU continued to employee him for 2 more years. The repercussions of his conviction are continuing to unfold.
Hold onto love. That is what I do now that I’ve found you,
And from above everything’s stinking, they’re not around you.
And in the night, I could be helpless,
I could be lonely, sleeping without you.
And in the day, everything’s complex,
There’s nothing simple, when I’m not around you.
But I’ll miss you when you’re gone, that is what I do. Hey, baby!
And it’s going to carry on, that is what I do. Hey, baby…
Julia BECK: That was “When You’re Gone” by The Cranberries. In our first feature interview, we’ll hear legendary lesbian feminist and separatist Bev Jo talk with Sekhmet She Owl. Bev Jo became a lesbian feminist in 1970 and took several different direct actions for the lesbian feminist cause. Many of her essays and articles have been published in lesbian and feminist anthologies. An updated edition of her book Dykes Loving Dykes is available for free online, at bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com.
Sekhmet SHEOWL: Can you explain how and why love and sexuality are feminist issues?
Bev JO: Well, everything about women’s lives should be feminist, and certainly nothing is more important, or among the most important things, is who we love and how we love, and that’s why actually it’s a lesbian feminist issue. I don’t even like to use the words “sex” or “sexuality” for lesbian.
SHEOWL: Right, but I mean, whether you’re a lesbian or het or bi, those things are political and feminist issues, wouldn’t you say?
JO: Oh yeah, and it’s all a choice.
SHEOWL: Can you expand a little bit on that, on it being a choice?
JO: Who we love is one of the most important choices we make in our lives, so it was what lesbian feminists did in the 70’s, because the whole right wing psychiatric monolith was saying we’re born this way, and there’s something wrong with us, and we’re pathological, and we’re inverts. That was all very, very much affecting lesbians for a very long time. So when massive members of feminists came out as lesbians, they were probably saying, “We choose this.” And then it was the whole gay male agenda that changed everything in the gender queer movement, so if you say it in almost any reference to women, they’d just start flipping out and going at you, insulting you, and threatening you saying, “No, of course it’s not a choice!” The thing for lesbians is it doesn’t feel like a choice, because it’s natural to love and be in love with other women. But it still is a choice, because women, most women, don’t choose that, even though probably their first sense of being in love with someone was with another girl. So then it becomes a really important tool of the patriarchy so that women don’t even question whether they’re lesbians or not. It’s just like, “Nope, they’re het, that’s how it is.” And for the bisexuals, well, that messes the entire theory up, because of course they’re choosing, but there still is an argument about, “But they’re not really choosing.” Of course they’re choosing! Then all these women think that they actually feel attraction to males without realizing the incredible number of imbeds and propaganda that’s aimed at women through the media. Then there’s peer pressure. Women think they want to be with men or are attracted to men. I don’t think any woman in her right mind without patriarchy would want to have anything to do with men.
SHEOWL: As far as feminism goes, the general issue of who you choose to love and be partners with is important to bringing down patriarchy and male power. Why would you say?
JO: If women really get in touch with [the fact] that males are destroying the earth, and we’re running out of time. Patriarchy needs to be ended now, and women could do it, if women stop investing in males and keeping males going. They wouldn’t even have to be lesbians if it’s too horrifying, the thought of that. But their problem is they’re not gonna do it, because the choice is pretty much based on privilege, choosing privilege. Even if it’s just to feel normal. Even if they’re supporting the men they’re with financially. That sense of thing is accepted by society, family, everyone. There’s no other oppressed people that is assumed just by default that they will be in intimate relationships with their oppressor in the way women are with men. Almost anything that you see that’s in the media that’s talking about relationships is assuming it’s a heterosexual relationship, in spite of new change. You can see this all the time, including in feminist pages.
SHEOWL: Would you say that unless and until a majority of women reject heterosexuality, it’s not possible for us as feminists to destroy patriarchy?
JO: I don’t see how it could happen. How would it happen? It’s very confused, it’s very tied up. Everything to me is really clear and very simple, but women just start tying themselves up in knots about tractions and what to do, and they’re so invested in their males, they’re lying to themselves. I saw a thing today that talks about hetero-sex being literally painful for women, and yet it’s not being in kind of discussions. Why would women want to do any of this stuff. Just the fact that they don’t want to stop dressing in really uncomfortable, demeaning, grotesque ways. They won’t even do that, even with the whole #MeToo movement and the actors who dressed in black and were on the cover of Time Magazine. They’re still showing cleavage, and some of them are half naked. They won’t even stop doing that. They won’t even stop crippling their feet and backs with high heels. I see these talk shows, and they’re interviewing- these men are interviewing the women about feminism and the #MeToo movement, and the women sit down, they’re kinda tugging at their skirts, because they’re exposed almost up to their crotches. It’s continuing. It’s not even changing. You’d think that with all this, but of course we’re not even allowed to say that at all. We’re not allowed to talk about all those contradictions.
SHEOWL: What do you think the difference is when it comes to lesbian love and relationships between women who are feminists versus women who are not feminists?
JO: Well, I think being more aware and conscious and having politics that protect and help you defend yourself and those you love, it’s just going to make things much, much better, because the security isn’t in- I mean, they may have some sense that oppressive ways of being are not good, but they’re not going to have the same awareness, I don’t think. No, I think it’s really central. The ones who aren’t really feminist, then they do end up going in the direction of the gay men or the trans cult.
SHEOWL: Right. So you think that feminist consciousness makes lesbian relationships better and stronger?
JO: Absolutely, absolutely. For years I would only be lovers with separatists, and I haven’t otherwise for a very, very, very long time… and then they don’t stay where they were, or they don’t maintain the politics, but yeah, I think it’s really, really crucial. The thing is that there’s a lot of women who pretend they’re really fully lesbian who are feminist who aren’t, and then in some ways, you’d be safer with somebody- I mean, then it gets to be the difference between: Are you a lesbian because you are in love with other females and basically just went in that direction wholeheartedly? Or are you a lesbian because it’s a political choice? Those often can be less trustworthy in my experience.
SHEOWL: Oh, you mean the ones who are lesbians because of their politics?
JO: Yeah. It shouldn’t be a bad thing, but in terms of like, why aren’t they being a lesbian anyway, or feeling that way, that’s it’s this overwhelming feeling. It’s like a friend of mine who didn’t come out for feminism, but we’re about the same, just a little bit younger. She was het, and then she said she hadn’t realized she was- she finally realized she was a lesbian, which isn’t what happened. She just fell in love with a woman and couldn’t control herself, really. I mean, she just went in that direction, and she’s not wanted to be with males ever since. It’s interesting. So I really trust her on that level.
SHEOWL: Yeah, I mean, that’s something that is- it’s a little- I think we’ve talked about it before. It’s a little difficult to parse out the difference between a woman who says that she’s a lesbian because of her politics and a woman who found feminism and then had the strength or the courage or whatever you want to call it to come out. And there is a difference.
JO: It kinda depends on what’s going on else in their lives, too, because for a lot it was a trendy choice for a while, believe it or not.
SHEOWL: Yeah, I mean it seems like these days there’s nothing trendy about being a lesbian.
JO: Yes, but ideally, yeah. The politics are really important.
SHEOWL: Do you think that lesbians who are not really feminist, they are not really very political, can still have partnerships with women that are pretty much as good as the ones that happen between feminists?
JO: Well, it depends on what their instinctual feelings are, because they can have the feminist awareness and not theoretically know that its politics can be wonderful.
SHEOWL: So you’re saying that women who, they are feminist but they don’t call themselves feminists?
JO: Perhaps, yeah. But in this day and age, why don’t they? Why aren’t they aware? I mean, it’s hard, because most of what’s in the media presented as feminism is really awful.
SHEOWL: Yeah, it’s almost like you want to avoid the women who call themselves feminist now, because all it means is that they’re liberals.
JO: Yeah, but if they’re not, then what does that mean, too?
SHEOWL: Yeah, I don’t know. And then there are the women who, they claim to be radical feminists, but they’re not. So that’s another problem.
JO: That’s a serious one. I know it’s really awful to see friends online starting to think, “I don’t want to call myself a radical feminist anymore because the radical feminists are doing these awful things. They’re classist, they’re racist.” It’s just like, they’re not radical feminists! Don’t let them take our name and identity.
SHEOWL: How would you define the ideal love between women?
JO: Well, this is where I think it is really important to be a radical lesbian feminist, ideally separatist. Just love each other wholly, wholeheartedly, not want to be oppressive in any way, want things as equal as possible. Ideally that’s what it should be. Then it brings in so many other things about the choices that somebody makes in their lives, but that would be the ideal love, with full awareness of who we are, who we each are, and being wildly in love with each other.
SHEOWL: When you say that the ideal love relationship is based on having complete equality, what do you mean?
JO: Well, that that’s what you should try to have as much as possible. Not have anything going on that’s unequal. No role playing, either. None of that. That it should definitely involve love-making as the ideal love.
SHEOWL: What are some ways that there can be inequality in a lesbian relationship?
JO: If somebody’s butch, then the other’s like, objectifying her and pushing her into various forms of roleplaying, which can seem like, “Oh, we just naturally like to do things this way or that way.” Inequality: one choosing to look het, pass as het, feminized. Being classist, being racist, being ableist, being ageist, being part of the inequality that patriarchy creates. Just do not do it.
SHEOWL: How do lesbians achieve that?
JO: Being really aware of all the issues involved, and not being afraid to think about it or face it, about getting to feeling- using any excuses to avoid being aware of the differences. If you have power, not like being guilty but not doing anything. Really being honest about it, and figure out, well you just like things like this, and think about why and what that makes things unequal. In the old days, it seemed like a lot of lesbians were very involved with that, in wanting to really explore everything and unlearn all the oppressive things. I’ve never seen a workshop about it, on unlearning heterosexism for lesbians, or unlearning femininity. That is what it would take, which basically, if ideally you really want a strong and loving equal community, then that’s what we should all want to do.
DIQUARTO: Sekhmet She Owl has written three mini commentaries for today’s edition, each one examining a different kind of love. Here’s the first commentary, on the politics of lesbian love and existence.
SHEOWL: Lesbian love is the greatest threat to male power. That’s why it has always been erased, driven underground, forbidden and punished. Lesbian lives undermine male authority over women and male intentions for female existence. Even lesbians who aren’t feminist threaten the male power system simply by saying, “No,” to the male demand for their bodies and personal resources. Lesbians are living examples of all women and girls that heterosexuality is not inevitable or mandatory for women. This is true regardless of any individual lesbian’s politics, consciousness, or intentions. It is no less true today than it was before 20th century lesbian feminism. All you have to do is look at today’s lesbian erasure and persecution conducted by the gay, bisexual, and trans populations and their heterosexual allies to know how threatening lesbians continue to be. They are not supposed to exist in this androcracy. No woman is supposed to defy her heterosexual grooming, and yet lesbians do. More lesbians today are male- or het- identified in their politics and perspective, in large part due to the destruction of the lesbian community, lesbian culture, and lesbian spaces that thrived in the 70’s and early 80’s. Their alignment with male and heterosexual values and agendas prevent lesbians from experiencing the best possible partnerships and friendships with each other. Lesbians need feminism just as much as they always have. Only through feminism can they become their most lesbian-identified selves and realize the full potential of their relationships with each other. Everyone from heterosexuals to bisexuals to the trans cult perpetuate an infinite number of lies and distortions about what lesbians are and what lesbian relationships are like. The simple truth is: a lesbian is a woman who gives her whole heart and her life to other women. Lesbian love is an intimate, affectionate, spiritual, domestic, passionate, and tender bond between women. It is not some pornographic fantasy. It is so much more than sex, and for some lesbians, may not even include sex. That any woman would give her love, time, energy, and personal resources to other women instead of men enrages the male oppressor like nothing else. Every lesbian knows before she comes out that she’s risking her physical safety to be in love with other women openly. That risk never disappears. It has been a part of lesbian existence since the beginning, but lesbians continue to be, and continue to love each other. Lesbian love is brave love.
So speak out, speak over, speak under, speak through the noise.
Speak loud so I can hear you, I want to know you,
I want to hear your real voice
I want to hear your real voice
Your real voice,
Your real voice,
Your real voice
SHEOWL: Next up we’ll hear from WLRN member Julia, as she talks to Thistle about how women, especially lesbians, fit into the grand scheme of hetero-patriarchy. Julia is a writer and interviewer for WLRN, which she joined in the fall of 2017. In the spring of that year, she was branded as a “terf” by people who she thought were her friends. She is obstinate for female liberation. As a woman-centered woman, she enjoys spending time with other steadfast feminists.
PETTERSON: I have Julia Beck on the line. Welcome, Julia.
BECK: Hello, hello!
PETTERSON: This season is definitely upon us. What does Valentine’s Day mean to you?
BECK: It means a lot of stuff. It’s a complicated holiday. For the most part it means sharing the love and showing people that you care about them, going the extra mile to make them happy or to get them a gift, something to brighten their day. That’s what it really means to me, but the way that I see it in the wider culture is this trap. It’s a commercialized trap to get you to buy things that you don’t really need and that your significant other doesn’t have a use for, like diamonds. Why do we buy so many diamonds? It’s a nonsense holiday that’s been marketed to people as this requirement to show each other just how much they care, just how much they love through all of these material things. That really destroys the true meaning of Valentine’s Day.
PETTERSON: What are the pitfalls of romantic love in our heteronormative society?
BECK: Romantic love? Romance is fine. The noun “romance” just means love, but as a verb it can also mean “to court” or “to pursue.” People nowadays can truly romance each other, but that usually involves material possessions: gifts, buying stuff. Modern romance and this whole holiday is extremely commercial. When you look at romance through a radical lens, we do see that it’s incredibly heteronormative. The Greeks named a few different kinds of love, like platonic or narcissistic, but I think that any kind of love, real love, is basically the same. In order to love yourself and to love other people, you have to trust and care for and be honest with those people and with yourself. These days that real honest love gets buried underneath all of the societal and institutional pressures to conform to all of these suffocating ideals like heteronormativity. It’s exceptionally difficult for women to love other women in this society, because first of all, that goes against the whole social order of heteronormativity, that script that Valentine’s Day puts out nowadays. Secondly, the way that this patriarchy works is it pits women against each other as enemies. We’re supposed to fight each other for male attention. We’re socialized from birth to do that, so it’s tough to break out of that mindset of putting other women down. When we take that male supremacist wool from our eyes, we can begin to develop and grow a love for women that is pragmatic and radically unconditional. I don’t know if the Greeks had a word for that, but I do know that in England, or the UK now, they did have a word for this heterosexual heteronormative script, and that was “chivalry.” In the 10th or 11th century, we had these new codes of chivalry which enforced the hierarchy of gender, with masculine over feminine. Chivalry designated exactly the same sex roles as we have today. Men who followed the codes of chivalry were duty-bound to the three branches of patriarchy, which are the state and the church, which were one and the same back then, and then the nuclear family. One of the ten commandments of chivalry is literally, “Thou shalt defend the church,” which is completely patriarchal. So this is where the idea of courtly love came from. Quiet, docile ladies in soft dresses pining after manly men in shining armor who travel across the globe to prove their manliness by killing the infidel. Without strict sex roles, we wouldn’t have ridiculous rules like a code of chivalry. I guess nowadays chivalry is kind of a buzzword. I see it used a lot by neckbeards and guys who are incels, like involuntarily celibate, which is bullshit anyway. I see a lot of nice guys, who describe themselves as “nice guys” who follow this code of chivalry until a woman rejects them, and then they throw these testicular mantrums. We have the phenomenally misogynist series of books called Fifty Shades of Gray that makes this kind of manipulation seem normal, where a woman is mentally and sexually abused by a male psychopath, but it’s a best-seller, because it toes the party line. And the party line here is male dominance, which begets and is reinforced by heteronormativity. So to me, modern romance provides the means for men to manipulate women into having sex with them. I’d like to see chivalry and these horrible heteronormative ideals just die.
PETTERSON: So what can a woman do? Can she become a lesbian or does she have to be born a lesbian?
BECK: I am not the Lesbian Police. I’m not going to revoke your lesbian card if you’ve had sex with men, or if a man ever forced himself on you. I think a lot of women are pressured into having sex with men when we don’t really want to. Some women can be lesbians, or can be prone to lesbianism, without even being aware of how much they really love women. But at the same time I’m not sure that it’s fair to claim that some babies are born with an innate sexuality. I don’t want to sexualize children, especially not young girls. At the same time I do understand where the “born this way” rhetoric came from and how important it was to gay activism in the 80’s and 90’s. Sheila Jeffreys writes about that kind of sloganeering in Unpacking Queer Politics. That book helped me take the wool from my eyes and see all of this queer pomo (post-modern) speak for what it is, but it also gave me some really useful historical context for understanding where we’ve come from. Gay men claimed they were born gay because people were saying homosexuality is evil and unnatural. So these brave men and some brave lesbians as well said no, I am gay, and I’ve always been gay, ‘cause I was born this way. I was born gay, and there’s nothing you can do about it to make me straight. I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if anyone really is born gay, but then again, I don’t think the specifics of that are really important to this conversation. Even if some of us are born gay, society teaches us, especially women, that being gay is not okay. Women have a much different experience than men do with navigating sexuality. Almost every realm of society teaches us to love and honor men as figures of authority. We have our fathers and uncles, brothers and sons all managing the house and telling us what to do. We have the heads of state, which are usually men, enforcing laws that benefit men. We have religious leaders, who are almost always men, enforcing heteronormative dogma. Society teaches us that men deserve respect and adoration because that’s just the way it is. So both women and men grow up believing that male domination of the planet is the natural order. This whole patriarchal system of beliefs is reinforced again and again everywhere you look. For lesbians to define ourselves as lesbians, we have to reject all of that patriarchal conditioning. We have to reject everything we’ve been force-fed all of our lives. The first step towards developing a lesbian consciousness is just becoming aware of how deep that patriarchal conditioning goes. And nowadays, a girl who likes other girls is told she’s not really a girl. She must be a boy, because only boys can like girls. We see this heteronormative script still today, except now it’s lauded as super progressive. I think a lot of young girls today are facing a new kind of pressure that was simply unheard of fifty years ago. A girl who likes other girls, fifty years ago, she would be bullied and maybe correctively raped, but she would be able to call herself a lesbian. But today, girls who would have called themselves lesbians are now calling themselves something else, something that sounds fancy and subversive, because lesbianism is now considered evil and exclusionary. I think lesbianism, while it is very clearly as a sexuality, as the homosexual attraction between female people, I think it can also be a mode of consciousness. Any woman who actively centers women in her personal and political life, I think she can promote a way of life that is very similar to what lesbianism is, which is woman-centered. But I would like to say that even though a woman can be politically in tune with a lesbian-like mode of action, I want to make it very clear that lesbians are female homosexuals, and that lesbianism is a rigidly exclusive sexuality. Nothing more, nothing less.
PETTERSON: Just like “straight” is an exclusive sexuality. In this heteronormative, male dominated society, there’s a pairing of sexuality and sexiness with violence. That’s rape culture. What are the harms of PIV (penis-in-vagina) for women? Obviously there’s risks like pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease, but what are the psychological, emotional, spiritual harms of PIV for women?
BECK: Aside from all the physical risks of internal bleeding, bruising your cervix, considerable distress that can come from not being aroused or your partner doing things that you didn’t agree to. Aside from all of that, you do have to consider how you’re going to be affected mentally. If you’re going into this, if you’re agreeing, if you’re consenting to PIV, you have to ask yourself: are you ready? Are you mentally, emotionally, and psychologically prepared to engage with another human being on a sexual level? Are you ready to be completely vulnerable in that primal, mammalian, basic way? And then you have to consider all of the motivations and intentions that fuel this sex drive. For all the heterosexual women, I want you to ask yourself this every time that you get in bed with your boyfriend or your husband: does he want to have sex with you because he wants to help you to reach climax? Or does he want to have sex with you because he wants to reach climax? You need to ask that question every single time. And for all the men out there who love PIV, I hope you’re really listening. Are you actually going to pay attention to the woman you’re having sex with? Will you communicate with her about how she’s feeling? Will you notice the way her body reacts to you? Or are you just going to fuck her because you like to cum? We need to acknowledge the fact that there is a monumental exchange of energy between people who have sex together. When we talk about PIV, or really any kind of sexual engagement, even cunnilingus, we have to consider not only the obvious risks to the body, of which there are few with cunnilingus, but also the risks to the psyche, to the mind and the heart. I think vulnerability is key here. You gotta be prepared to be vulnerable with someone like that.
PETTERSON: I’ve heard some feminists say that all PIV is rape. What about women who enjoy it?
BECK: I would say, if you really like PIV, then more power to ya, sister. I think that there is a wider culture of coercion here that we need to consider when we engage with men in that way, or even when men engage with us in that way. Oftentimes it’s nonconsensual. I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations, but it seems to me that since heterosexuality is the norm, a lot of women are socialized to put up with PIV when we don’t want to.
PETTERSON: Well, Julia, it’s linked to our reproduction, so isn’t it the most natural form of sex? Obviously we have sex for more than reproductive reasons, but that’s a big part of it.
BECK: Sure, yes, that is how babies are made. For centuries that is how babies have been made. Saying that it’s the most natural form of sex? I would disagree. That depends on our understanding of the word “natural.” Yes, it’s linked to reproduction, but it’s not the only form of sex that we know of. There are plenty of different ways to engage with other people sexually, and heterosexuality isn’t the only form of sexuality found in nature!.
What’s the matter with harmless? Take a new step in an old direction.
If you think about tenderness, what’s the matter with harmless love?
I take a little walk outside in a town that brings me pears and peaches.
I’m busting with love inside, and it’s always more than it ever teaches.
On the curb I pass a friend of mine. We seem a little older maybe a little wiser.
We laugh about the shades of time and marvel at love, the great skyrider.
What’s the matter with harmless? Take a new step in an old direction.
If you think about tenderness, what’s the matter with a hand-on-a-hand affection?
Do you dream about a new day? You gotta dream about something strong and simple.
“Each and every” is a kind thing to say. What’s the matter with harmless love?
You play it cool and then you love someone, you try to fight it but kind love knows.
You tell yourself you’re in it just for fun, but ain’t it funny how good love shows.
You know how to tell a joke in troubled times. Pass the sugar on a cold dark night.
Spend your nickel just to save that dime toward a winter that will bite just right.
What’s the matter with harmless? Take a new step in an old direction.
If you think about tenderness, what’s the matter with a hand-on-a-hand affection?
DIQUARTO: That was “What’s the Matter with Harmless Love” by Ferron. Here’s Sekhmet She Owl’s second mini commentary, on the politics of women’s heterosexuality and bisexuality.
SHEOWL: To suggest that heterosexuality in women has no political meaning or consequences is to deny the function and goals of the male power structure we often call patriarchy. For thousands of years, men have used violence and the threat of violence to enforce cultural and legal rules that herd women and girls into heterosexual marriage and reproduction whether we like it or not. Even today an estimated 20% of females in the world are victims of forced child marriage, in which an underage girl with no other means of survival is sold to an adult man as a wife. Forced marriages are also a reality for many adult women in different parts of the world where their ability to reject heterosexual marriage is no greater than it was 100 years ago. The whole point of males keeping females economically and legally vulnerable has been to force us into heterosexuality and reproduction for thousands of years. The fact that women in developed nations now have a choice about whether to enter heterosexual marriage does not and cannot erase that history or change the fundamental meaning, purpose, and effect of a woman’s voluntary heterosexuality. All heterosexual relations continue to happen in the context of a world where males have all the power and are universally misogynistic and violent toward females. What is the purpose and function of patriarchy if not supplying males with females to have sex with and use for breeding? Every heterosexual and bisexual woman who comes to radical feminism should be willing to consider her heterosexual lifestyle from a political standpoint using critical thinking and feminist analysis to interrogate the lifetime of beliefs and internalized heterosexism she has acquired from male culture. Instead of defending their choice to live a heterosexual life, heterosexual and bisexual feminists and potential feminists could be using their status to actively combat the grooming of girls into heterosexuality and challenging heterosexism in other women. Instead of assuming that most women will and should always be heterosexual, instead of approaching heterosexuality with the futile mission of making it a fairytale experience for women by reforming men, het feminists can help women and girls think of alternatives to traditional heterosexual marriage, alternatives that center love between women, or at least avoid pleasing and prioritizing men. There is nothing rational or sensible about the belief that women can change men by giving them what they want and what they’ve been forcefully taking from us for thousands of years. If you choose to spend your life coupling with men, giving them a lion’s share of your free time, energy, love, and resources, then at the very least, acknowledge this choice is not contributing to the reduction of male power and misogyny. It is not making life better for all women and girls. Radical feminism, unlike liberalism, is not about achieving personal happiness while ignoring the big political picture. We have to be honest about heterosexuality if we’re going to accomplish anything positive for women in the 21st century, and that honesty must come from heterosexual women themselves.
PETTERSON: Next, we will hear portions of an interview Meghan Murphy did with Dr. Meagan Tyler courtesy of Feminist Current, an online feminist media organization we encourage our listeners to check-out and follow. Meagan Tyler is a Senior Lecturer at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Meagan is the author of Selling Sex Short: The Sexological and Pornographic Construction of Women’s Sexuality in the West and co-editor of Freedom Fallacy: The Limits of Liberal Feminism. You can follow her @drmeagantyler.
Meghan MURPHY: I wonder generally what kinds of trends you’ve come across.
Meagan TYLER: I think probably the strongest trend that I came across in reading through all the texts that I did for these pieces of research was probably just that an underlying, constant pushing of women to accept whatever sexual demands a male partner wanted of them, and that often wasn’t said really outright, you know, that wasn’t going to be the title of the book, but there’s kind of constant pressure in there for women in heterosexual relationships, whatever your male partner wants of you, to be good sexually is to agree to that or find a way to pretend to enjoy it.
MURPHY: Right. I find it personally troubling, personally and politically troubling, actually, as a feminist and as an individual woman, that sex is really just taken for granted in relationships. We hear messages like, “If you aren’t having sex then that’s a sign of a bigger problem in your relationship.” And of course, when we’re talking sex, we’re talking about penetrative sex. We equate relationships that don’t include much or any penetrative sex to loveless marriages. We tell others or are told that if our partner isn’t engaging in sex with us, we should leave them, or that we have the right to cheat. What’s at the root of all of this? Why are these messages so accepted in our culture?
TYLER: They’re probably the existing literature, long before I looked at this, would just say the male sex rite, really. That men’s sexual access to women is the cornerstone of heterosexuality, and that they exist under unequal conditions of power so that women not submitting to sex acts that often they don’t find particularly enjoyable is kind of then the downfall of the whole heterosexual construct. So it seems extremely threatening, maybe not consciously, to a lot of these therapists and sexologists that that’s really what all of this is sort of founded on. Just as you say, it really is penetrative sex. They might talk about it in other ways, but absolutely they take sex to mean heterosexual sex, and they take it as shorthand for coitus, really, in all instances. There are some fascinating case studies that have couples coming to them perfectly happy in not having penetrative sex, and by their own criteria of if they don’t find it a problem, then the therapist shouldn’t treat it as a problem either, but in actual fact they’re all kind of horrified by this and think that these people aberrant. I think it’s fascinating that that still exists. I think the gloss we get of a lot of pop kind of psychology stuff around sex therapy is very like, “Do what you want! Do what you feel comfortable doing!” That rhetoric is still really there, but you break it down just a little bit, and like you say, you should be in a relationship, cause none of this advice is aimed for single people. Sex, as you say, is absolutely the expectation of relationships, but it has to be penetrative sex, and a heterosexual relationship is kind of the gold standard. There’s some great stuff by Jenny Kitzinger, probably about 20 years ago now, talking about how none of this advice makes sense in the context of lesbian sexual relationships. It just all completely falls apart. It only makes sense in the heterosexual paradigm.
MURPHY: You’re likely familiar with Dan Savage, the sex columnist, I guess you would call him, although of course he does write on other stuff, but mostly about relationships, and sex and sexuality. Of course his work isn’t just centered around heterosexual relationships. He’s gay, and he writes a lot about, you know, queer sex, etcetera. He coined this idea: good giving and game. Are you familiar with that concept?
TYLER: I’m not, actually.
MUPRHY: You could probably figure out what it means based on the words, but you know, it’s like this idea that if you’re in a relationship, that should be your approach to sex. That you should be sort of open minded and willing to consider anything within reason, because you want to please your partner and you want your partner to be happy. That’s sort of the deal and the contract that you enter into in intimate relationships. I wonder what you think about that idea.
TYLER: I think it’s, again, interesting the way it goes in cycles, and I imagine that gets touted as kind of progressive in some circles. I’ve seen the way that a lot of his advice does. But it echoes advice from decades, if not even centuries, ago in sex therapy and sexology before that. So you have things like The Joy of Sex, the really famous handbook from the 70’s, very similar ideas. In fact, that’s broken down: food is a constant analogy with sex in a lot of pop sex therapy, and it is in the case of The Joy of Sex as well, where you have everything broken down into appetizers and entrees and main courses and what have you, and it’s all quite nauseating if you actually read through it. One of the things he says very early on is this kind of comparison of, “Well, even if you had a partner who really, really liked Chinese food and you didn’t, you would eat it sometimes with them to make them happy so this is exactly the same.” I think that it is really scary that all those notions that we have outside of regular, every day sexual relationships of consent, of positive affirmation and enjoyment of sexuality are supposed to go out the window in long-term a heterosexual relationship. There is huge pressure, as you say, to keep up a particular kind of sex. I think there is probably more pressure on agreeing to certain sex acts than others, for example, then there absolutely should be. Why is that consent relevant once you’re in a long-term relationship? I think it speaks volumes that we need this entire industry to kind of cajole women into having forms of sex that they often don’t want to have.
MURPHY: Why is that a bad analogy? What’s the difference between eating Chinese food and sex?
TYLER: Well, I guess forcing yourself to eat Chinese food you don’t love is not the same as being coerced into sex that can end up being rape. I suppose it’s very similar to, in some ways, and I’ve read about this in the book, the kind of continuation of, as Kathleen Barry talked about, prostitution sex kind of bleeding into everyday life. Having done some studies recently about men’s views of women, brothel prostitution, for example, is really interesting the way that gets represented just like regular work. But then if you take consent away from that, it’s rape. I think it’s the same kind of thing that, trying to run all these other analogies about sex in relationships is that you don’t acknowledge if it goes wrong and there’s coercion or if this is someone agreeing to sex that they don’t want. Then you are looking at coercive sex. You are looking at abuse. That has really traumatic consequences to the people involved. That maybe eating something you don’t like doesn’t.
MURPHY: Along those lines, you in your work are around sex advice and sex therapy, you do use that feminist analysis of prostitution as the framework. I wonder if you can explain that a little more. What’s the connection between prostitution and the treatment of heterosexual relationships in sex advice, sex-help books, or self-help books, and therapy?
TYLER: I think that the most obvious one, and the one that was kind of horrifying to me and meant that I was motivated to look into this initially was the way in which porn stars and women in prostitution were being held up as the kind of ultimate sex experts, because the more sex you have, the better you must be at it, and the more you must know about it. There was no kind of contextualizing. That is, at its most kind of positive level, you could even say, faking sexual enjoyment for cameras. Ariel Levy talks about, in Female Chauvinist Pigs, that you have this sense that sexual enjoyment then becomes actually just performing for someone else’s enjoyment, and that that gets conflated. That was probably one of the most obvious ways in which this kind of notion of commodified sex in its most basic form was then being touted as the model for all women to mimic in their everyday heterosexual relationships. So there was that side of it. But then there was a kind of more radical feminist analysis that has existed for decades, sort of looking at maybe the defining element of prostitution isn’t just the economic exchange, which is often what it’s seen as separating out of other forms of sexual interaction, but that it is the sexual inequality between men and women, and at its heart that one person’s sexual desires determine everything that happens, that there is one person in that interaction who is not getting their own interests or sexual desires or needs taken into consideration at all. They truly exist to make the other person’s perceptions of what they want, and that actually that model is really prevalent in sex therapy, particularly in self-help books for women. Self-help books for men are markedly different, which is also quite interesting.
MURPHY: There’s also this idea that I think is pretty common these days that is called “maintenance sex.” In your research, how common have you found this practice and this term to be, and what’s your perspective on it?
TYLER: It’s interesting. I think in the literature I came across in doing that kind of research in the academic side of things, unwanted sex is probably the more common usage that’s started bleeding into then these less harmful sounding terms like “maintenance sex.” There is this idea of just doing it anyway when you really don’t want to, but it keeps the relationship going or it keeps everyone happy. In fact, we saw that with the post that went viral about one of the mommy bloggers talking about that, kind of getting it over and done with, because that makes for an easier life. I think sexologists really struggle to categorize that, and they certainly wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing generally, that they think that high levels of sexual interaction are really important. Again, I was sort of shocked to read how many of them were sort of counseling women who were saying they were still having sex with their husbands even though they had 3 or 4 small children, still having sex with their husbands 3 to 4 times a week, but he wasn’t happy with that amount, so could something be done to help the woman have more sex? They wouldn’t say, “Hey, you know what? Actually, there’s nothing wrong with you. That sounds like actually quite a lot of sexual activity in a house where there’s a hell of a lot else going on.” So definitely there’s been a constant kind of treatment of women as aberrant regardless of that. There is no benchmark. The benchmark is his sexual desires. The maintenance sex fits quite well into that, right. That it’s not about what women want or whether or not they want any physical enjoyment or connection out of that sexual activity. This is about maintaining his sexuality at all costs, and the ultimate kind of benchmark of good heterosexuality is meeting male sexual desires. I think maintenance sex is a really harmful concept, that this is absolutely normalizing the idea that women shouldn’t be connected or entitled to enjoy or want the sex that they actually participate in. I think, again, we saw the kind of pointy end of that in the sexological literature, that after Viagra came out- which it seems so normal now. When I talk to my undergraduate students, they actually can’t imagine a time before Viagra, when men sometimes had to just put up with not getting erections for example. They can’t imagine a world where that’s normal. After Viagra came out and seemingly solved erectile dysfunction, according to a lot of people in the sexology and sex therapy industries, then there was this huge shift in attention to like, “Okay, well how do we get women to now deal with the fact that there are a hell of a lot more erections going around?” often in relationships with older women, for example, who hadn’t had penetrative sex for a long time. One of the things that they started to develop was this idea of receptivity, and that actually women maybe in their idea didn’t go around with just active sexual desire, wanting sex, that they had to be kind of awakened by men’s touch and then get interested in sex. So they’re encouraging women to just agree to sex, first off, and see how they felt about it. Maybe, you know, a few minutes in, they might find that it wasn’t so bad, and they might end up enjoying it. That was kind of their great idea for the leap forward of women’s sexual therapy treatment, was going to be encouraging them to just give it a go for a while and see what happened. Again, it’s kind of extraordinary. They were saying that this was the way forward when in actual fact, it was sort of like the Sleeping Beauty model of women’s sexuality that has existed for centuries: that women don’t have any sexual desires of their own; they only exist in relation to men.
MURPHY: Speaking of Viagra, in recent years, there’s been a real push to find a “female Viagra” and in order to justify this push to come up with something that will, you know, increase women’s libidos, there’s also been a lot of talk about sexual dysfunction in women and the idea that if a woman doesn’t desire sex, she’s dysfunctional in some way, and that’s a problem that can or should be treated. I wonder, have you studied that phenomenon at all?
TYLER: Not directly, but kind of doing analyses of the literature that deals with sexual dysfunction. From someone outside the field, studying it does include scientists and sociologists. It’s just astounding some of the claims that get made. You think one of the spikes after, as you say, the interest in Viagra, and then the interest in trying to find a “female Viagra” was this really widespread claim that came out of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a really highly-regarded medical journal, claiming that most women were sexually dysfunctional. It was obviously hugely marketed, and there was all the huge rush to find some kind of pharmaceutical product for this was huge. But it was that no one ever questioned their assumptions that they were going around saying, “Most women are sexually dysfunctional.” And what does dysfunctional mean if you’re actually talking about a majority of women? It goes back to, again, it’s funny seeing how often these things reoccur. It made me think of the Hite Report from the 80’s, finding that a majority of women say they almost never really or never orgasm in penetrative sex with men. That is still classified as a disorder, even though we know that actually represents a hell of a lot of women’s experiences. That is really unchanged, and I guess there’s that it’s the bedrock of not wanting to question what we think sex is, which is kind of penetrative, heterosexual sex that focuses on male pleasure, and then telling women that they’re dysfunctional for not liking that rather than saying, “Actually, maybe this whole setup we’ve got isn’t about women’s pleasure, so it’s not surprising that women aren’t gagging to do it.” Well, certainly not all women, anyway.
DIQUARTO: You are listening to WLRN, brought to you by the totally excellent radical feminists at Women’s Liberation Radio News. To close out this February edition on the politics of love and sexuality, here’s Sekhmet She Owl’s final mini commentary on female friendship.
SHEOWL: Perfect friendship is one of the most beautiful human experiences available to us, and arguably the highest form of love possible between two people. It’s also one of the rarest types of love, one a majority of people seem to live without. What passes for female friendship between adult women in this society is often a pitiful shadow of what friendship can be when it is realized by two women who are female-identified and who see the full potential and value of friendship. Female friendship is directly affected by whether you and your friend choose to be het, lesbian, or celibate. It is often also affected by whether you choose to reproduce or not. From my vantage point, friendship is better between child-free women who are either happily single or lesbian for the simple reason that men consume women’s attention, energy, and consciousness when present. Women who exclusively love other women will have more to give their friends than women dedicated to husbands and boyfriends. Friendship can be so much more than what it usually is for the average het woman: more emotional, more affectionate, more involved, more committed. Without any hatred of lesbians or fear of being a lesbian, women are free to love each other passionately in friendship, free to share emotional intimacy and warm affection. Friendship can be the thing that celibate and single heterosexual women choose to dedicate their lives to instead of men. When female separatists and lesbian separatists talk about female separatism and political celibacy as feminist choices, we don’t ask het and bi women to live without love or partnership, but to imagine alternatives to heterosexual marriage that center same-sex relationships. If women took friendship as seriously as it can be taken, if they imagine the potential that non-sexual love and relationships have when you ignore male rules regulating friendship, there is nothing other than sex that friendship excludes. As wild as that may sound to most heterosexual women, it’s true. Women have always had emotionally passionate, physically affectionate friendships with each other, and have even chosen to live in non-sexual partnerships with each other when they had the opportunity to avoid marriage. Whether these partnerships count as lesbian relationships or not is beside the point. The point is: there’s more than one way to prioritize another woman in your life, and so much potential for profound emotional satisfaction in female friendship.
BECK: Hey, Jenna. That’s an awesome shirt you’re wearing. That coffee looks so tasty and warm, and the slogan, “Womyn are why I get up in the morning,” really resonates with me. Where’d you get that shirt?
DIQUARTO: I ordered the shirt online from WLRN. It’s the winning design from their 2017 t-shirt design contest.
BECK: A t-shirt design contest? Wow! Who was the winning designer?
DIQUARTO: Kacie Mills, a lesbian radical feminist from Baltimore. I think it’s great how she pairs such a woman-centric slogan with a steaming cup of coffee.
BECK: Me too. I love women and coffee. How can I get one of those shirts?
DIQUARTO: Just go to wlrnmedia.wordpress.com and click on the Donate button. When the Paypal screen comes up, be sure to add the size of the shirt you want in the Special Instructions box. If you want to see all the other awesome design submissions, then visit the t-shirt contest tab.
BECK: Hmm… Money is kinda tight right now. How long will the shirts be available?
DIQUARTO: WLRN is taking pre-orders for the entire month of January.
BECK: A whole month for pre-orders? That’s great! Do you know where the proceeds are going?
DIQUARTO: They’re donating a portion of the proceeds to the We Want the Land Coalition to maintain, preserve, and conserve around 650 acres of women-only land near the Manistee National Forest in Michigan. You can find out more about this fundraiser at wwtlc.org
BECK: Thanks, Jenna! I can’t wait to order shirts for all my woman-loving, coffee-drinking friends.
PETTERSON: That’s our show! We hope you enjoyed it. Tune in next month on Thursday, March 1 for our 23rd Edition on rape culture and an analysis of the #MeToo movement. Our handcrafted podcasts come out every first Thursday of the month. I’m Thistle Pettersen. Ciao for now!
BECK: And I’m Julia. It was a pleasure to share my thoughts with you today. In the midst of this commercialized season, I hope you take the opportunity to show just how much you care about women’s art and women’s spaces by checking out the winning t-shirt from our recent design contest. Pre-orders end at midnight on Valentine’s Day, and proceeds will be donated to the We Want the Land Coalition, an organization dedicated to manifesting the reality in which women and girls can destroy the limitations we have fought against all our lives.
SHEOWL: Today’s edition was produced by WLRN’s in-house sound master Jenna, with tender loving care. I’m Sekhmet She Owl, signing off for now.
DIQUARTO: You can follow WLRN on Facebook and Twitter, where we keep our followers up to date on the latest feminist content and women’s headlines. Find our Facebook page entitled Women’s Liberation Radio News and our Twitter, @radfemradio..If you’d like to get in touch with us or have questions or comments, you can send us an email to email@example.com. This is Jenna. As always, thanks for listening.
“but how will we find our way out of this?
What is the antidote for the patriarchal kiss?
How will we find what needs to be shown?
And then after that, where is home?
Where is my home?
‘cuz gender hurts…”