Blow-job blowhards

The feminist blogosphere explodes over dick.

Published June 20, 2006 10:29PM (EDT)

How did the feminist blogs get into a raging debate about blow jobs, feminism and the patriarchy?

Well, funny story. Heh heh heh. See, best I can tell, Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy kicked it off by arguing, in response to a post on One Good Thing advising a letter-writer on how not to gag while administering oral sex, that "no woman, since the dawn of the patriarchal co-option of human sexuality, has ever actually enjoyed this submissive sexbot drudgery. There's a reason that deep-throating a funk-filled bratwurst makes a person retch.* (*Reason, it's fucking gross.)" Twisty got 230 responses, many of them from women who argued that giving head is an empowering act. And so she followed up, sarcastically opining that she is "chastened." "I'd forgotten that when it comes to sex, it is the duty of the radical feminist to shut the fuck up," Twisty wrote. "Sex, which, along with religion ... is sacrosanct territory. It is anti-feminist to point out the ideological problems with certain patriarchal sexbot traditions because so many women enjoy patriarchal sexbot traditions ... Like Germaine Greer always says, if you wanna nail your nutsack to a breadboard and call it sex, it's A-OK with me! ... It is a well-known fact that most women spring from their beds every morning singing, 'O I hope I can blow some dude today!'" This post garnered 93 responses.

Then Piny at Feministe weighed in, suggesting that perhaps Twisty was baiting her readers with her fightin' words. Soon Amanda at Pandagon arrived on the scene, thoughtfully blogging about the anti-hummer sentiment and its empowerment corollary. "I don't agree that blow jobs are inherently gross," she wrote, adding that she does think it worthwhile to engage an argument about male privilege, power imbalances in heterosexual relationships, the eroticization of those power dynamics and the suggestion (not hers, but extrapolated from the discussion) that: "The blow job is especially marked in our culture as a submissive act. In porn, it's routinedly filmed as inherently humiliating ... Because the notion that it's inherently degrading is so ubiquitious, it is de facto humiliating and opting out is no more optional than asserting that pissing your pants in public isn't humiliating just because you say so." Amanda agreed with Twisty that the empowerment line is flimsy. It's an attempt, according to Amanda, "to argue that by reclaiming the blow job, you can subvert the dominant understanding of it as humiliating. The problem with that argument is that subversive reclamation has to be ironic in order to have power and while it's technically feasible to do a sexual act in an ironic fashion, I doubt most people feel ironic about blow jobs at all, even the people who call them empowering." Amanda has 160 responses so far.

Since then, well, it's pretty much been a pile-on. R. Mildred at Punkassblog opened her response with a succinct, "Do you know what Twisty? Bite Me" and went on to excoriate the anti-oral argument, noting that "those of us with two brain cells to rub together and an ability to actually connect in a sexually intimate way with other human beings of a male persuasion tend to be able to find ways to invite men into our beds without turning it into a threesome with the patriarchy." R. Mildred went on to explain that an anti-head stance actually hurts women. "Explain to me again why both this bullshit anti-sex 'feminism' of yours and The Patriarchy you talk about despising so much, both involve me, a woman, becoming abstinent? Why is everyone afraid of the horrors I may commit with my vagina or mouth if just left alone to challenge the patriarchy one cock at a time?" Amanda then responded to that rather admiringly. Jill at Feministe threw in her (rather nuanced) two cents, while Jessica at Feministing threw up her hands, noting that stepping into this mess is "just too much trouble" and that "I just can't bring myself to talk about dick today."

I tend to think that Jessica has rather the right idea on this one, and so Broadsheet (at least this poster) won't be delineating a blow-job opinion any more nuanced than "Hey, smoke if you got 'em." But I was really amazed by just about every angle of this debate: the initial posts, the intensity and fury of the responses, the degree to which so many voices felt compelled to chime in. Maybe I'm naive but I simply didn't realize the issue of to blow or not to blow was something that aroused such interest or passion among feminists. So I figured I should at least let readers know what's being tossed around out there and see if any of you have strong feelings about it one way or another.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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