I admit: my initial response to last week’s article was the definition of freedom of expression (read: pissed and maybe a little profane). It was Friday afternoon, I was coming down from the elation of Wednesday’s event and the overwhelming support and sense of collectivity as a result of it, and, to put it lightly, I was not pleased to feel it debased.
Because to me, “I <3 Orgasm” held April 24, was a huge success. Two hundred people came out to spray paint OrgasmiCC t-shirts, they got burgers, there was music, and the evening event – one of the only large-scale events this year to provide a space for trans and gender-queer or gender-unidentified students – attracted over 500 people.
While I was extremely thrilled with the outcome and the article did little to alter that, my two principal flaws with last week’s article are both based on what I perceive to be a lack of journalist ethic. The first of which is very clear to me: the writer did not go to the event. If he had, I believe he would have found it to be a reified model of CC feminist groups’ missions: safe, open, and inclusive spaces for all. Junior Rosie Nelson said she “found that the event did not conform to the gender binary – transgender, genderqueer and other gender identities were a prominent part of discussion,” and we, in addition to the speakers and sex educators, Marshall Miller and Kate Weinberg, very consciously desisted gender binarism in our programming. Additionally, a huge portion of the event was focused on the gender-ubiquitous activity of masturbation, “as opposed to specifically pleasuring a female.”
My second concern is that the listserv posting he mentions was not fact-checked, because if it had been, it would not have been included. The posting was not affiliated with myself, OrgasmiCC, or anyone in OrgasmiCC although we sincerely apologize to everyone who was offended by it. That haiku does indeed, as the writer addressed, lock objectification into gender binarism, and my peers responded accordingly by asking, “What about women who objectify women? What about women who objectify men? Men who objectify men?” OrgasmiCC – which is a club, not an event, as last week’s article describes – is concerned not necessarily with the genders of the objectifier or the objectified but with objectification itself. Where there is objectification, particularly sexual objectification, there is likely not sexual autonomy, which is exactly what OrgasmiCC is working to bolster.
The author expressed to me that he “and some of [his] male peers” felt “that the week [was] overwhelmingly geared towards women,” well, it was. But beyond that, it was about getting everybody excited about celebrating their roles in women’s’ sexualities – getting women’s male partners or boyfriends jazzed on the idea of mutually satisfying sex and how to communicate and attain it, getting women to feel more comfortable talking about their sexualities or female masturbation or sexual experiences, getting friends of women to open up a more constructive line of sexual dialogue. It was about creating a conversation about and strengthening everyone’s sexual autonomy, agency, and positivity.
With these concerns in mind, I would like to nevertheless thank Jack Williamson for opening up this dialogue…
In third block Sociology of Sexuality, Professor C.J. Pascoe made a heavy-hitting but mildly accurate comment that remains with me: “feminism is dead on CC’s campus.”
Upon hearing this, I quickly recounted various moments where CC feminism was surely alive. Which meant I also recounted numerous times I’ve had to stick up for my feminist values and those of my club. Unfortunately, the latter moments outnumber the former.
CC graduate, Katie Rogers, put it excellently in a lengthy comment she left on my Facebook status: “While I certainly agree that one of the most important goals of feminism (the concept, the movement, etc.) is about (a) advocacy, activism, and educating/evangelizing non-feminists, I also believe that a second absolutely vital goal of feminism is about (b) creating safe spaces for marginalized identities (women, queers, poor people, not-white people) to feel validated by one another; to express their frustrations, exhaustion, and new ideas in a space where they don’t need to feel challenged and compelled to explain their views to non-feminists (for once); and to celebrate their identities together.
Of course, the nature of these two goals of feminism is that they are often entirely impossible to accomplish at the same time, yet feminists are frequently criticized for neglecting to accomplish both of these goals in every single article they write, event they organize, or area of pop culture they critique.
Yes, of course there is an important need for (and unfortunate dearth of) calm, informative discussion about feminism, what it means, and the fact that it is not anti-man, but anti-sexism, and therefore is FOR EVERYONE because it BENEFITS EVERYONE (no gender identity, including “masculine,” is safe from culturally ingrained forms of sexism – we all know that the masculine gender is heavily policed, too). But it is also acceptable and understandable for feminists (or any group, e.g., women who want to learn how to orgasm because the dominant sexual narrative in this culture sure as shit doesn’t teach them how) to want some time occasionally to hang out, vent, and converse with other like-minded people. And because it’s fairly difficult/basically impossible for every feminist event, article, conversation, or gathering to accomplish both of these goals at the same time, I think it’s a little unfair to criticize the CC feminists every time they fail to do so.”
For being the ideologically liberal institution we are, it’s slightly embarrassing that feminism – the notion that all people are people and thus inherently deserve equality in theory and action – has a bad rap here.
At essentially every deemed-feminist event, there is a form of backlash that takes the focus away from the event and it’s intentions, and places it on the preexisting majority and whatever we are doing to not serve it. I hesitate to label this male-privilege, but I do not hesitate to say: we, as OrgasmiCC and as feminists, are not undermining our feminist values by holding inclusive events that are intended to promote sexual autonomy. Rather, our feminist (and sexual) values are externally undermined when the events are taken out of the context we created them in.
No event can satisfy all of the perspectives of all of the audience members’ sexual orientations, experiences, gender identities, and preferences.
I identified an unacceptable disparity between the regularity of female and male orgasm on campus. I identified that as problematic. So I planned an event to address it. My future work with OrgasmiCC will continue to attend to the people affected by the problems we identify, for example, women experiencing a a lack of female orgasm, rather than to the majority, for example, the men already having regular orgasms.
Men are unquestionably an invaluable part of this conversation, but in order for the conversation to be progressive and productive, we all need to acknowledge the validity of the cause and inequity of the root problem, rather than deny it on the grounds of flawed feminism.
We worked extensively with Marshall and Kate to become what I would argue was one of the most – if not the most – inclusive event we have had at CC, but if anyone is interested in bringing an event to campus that focuses specifically on male or LGBTQ sexuality/orgasm, OrgasmiCC would absolutely love to co-sponsor and help out in any way we can.
Fun fact: those who identify as gay or lesbian report significantly higher rates of regular orgasm than those who identify as straight. We can all learn from another and support each other’s developing autonomies; however, a campus culture that promotes the orgasm of only 6% of women is unacceptable, and warrants at least 97% of our attention, (oh, is that the same percentage of men who are regularly orgasming?).