And so much of me should-be-writing-a-paper. But I wanted to repost a few things, mostly in reaction to the Open-Source Boob Project kerfluffle.
For those who don't know about it, this all started when a guy named theferrett
and a few of his friends had one of those cool moments that happen among friends sometimes, where you all let down your boundaries around physical intimacy and engage in a whole lot of mutual groping without any real sexual intent, just to enjoy each other's bodies. Which is, in my opinion, fine. The problem was that, being fans at a con, they said, "This is awesome! Let's get lots of other people to join in!" So they propositioned some random passers-by, who didn't object very loudly, and they decided they should make it a meme. They started wearing buttons announcing their participation in this "project," which basically said that anyone passing by could ask a person wearing the button whether the passerby could grope the button-wearer, without insult. There was a focus on breasts (see the name), but when asked, the people involved said that many types of touch were permitted, including grabbing guys' asses and chests (though not balls), by people of both sexes toward people of both sexes.
The major difficulty with this, in my opinion, is that it would have worked nicely in a culture which does not have a long tradition of violence against women, women's bodies being seen as property for the taking, women being pressured through a variety of means to see
their bodies as property for the taking, and women's sole route to power of any kind being through the use and sale of their bodies. However, we don't live in a culture like that. And a lot of the discourse in the (1300 comment long!) thread was around theferrett
and his friends saying, "No, I don't want to live in this kind of culture. So we don't! And you're all just being silly," and a lot
of people saying "..." Only with lots more eloquence.
I recommend the comment thread, as it has a lot of interesting discussion, and only a few trolls.
Here, though, I'm posting two things. One is my comment, which is also up on theferrett
's journal, but buried on the fifth page of comments, and I liked it, so I'm reproducing it here:
So, on the one hand, I'd disagree with people who are seeing theferrett
and his friends as having done a Very Bad Thing. Everyone's descriptions make it sound like this was a genuine attempt, by a bunch of friends, to try for a moment to live in a world in which touch and sexuality don't have the baggage of fear and patriarchy that they carry in the rest of our lives. And that's a cool idea.
But there's something I've noticed in the entry and these comments which puts me firmly in the "the way this is being discussed is pretty damn objectifying" camp.
So, I don't know about anyone else, but my breasts are erogenous zones, chock-full of nerve endings. If someone is touching my breasts, one of two things is happening. Either a) I'm turned on, or b) I'm dissociating, trying hard not to be present and aware of the sensation and its impact on me. I don't have a trauma history, but I do have times (at the doctor, say) when I'm trying to be as unaware as possible of what's going on in my body, because it feels emotionally uncomfortable.
Now, a number of women have talked about being involved in this event, and, in the comments I've read so far, none of them have talked about feeling aroused. Instead, they say things like what zoethe
said several threads upstream: "I felt empowered by the ability to say, 'Yes, I can choose to share my bounty with others.'" The focus is not on the women's physical sexual pleasure. It's on their pleasure at being able to have their bodies appreciated by someone else. ewin
said it even more clearly: "I really dig on the idea of letting as many folks as possible appreciate these boobs before they droop, you know? They have a lot of pep left in them, and they're just SITTING there right now, doing nothing. It's a shame." That statement makes it sound like ewin
doesn't see her breasts as being there for her pleasure except as someone else might enjoy them.
Now, I can see two possible reasons for this. One is that the women were
sexually aroused by all of this, and didn't want to say so-- because that is embarrassing, intimate, and/or forbidden by the traditional view of women which forbids us from seeking sexual satisfaction for our own sake, not someone else's. But the other possible reason is that people actually weren't aroused, because they were dissociated from what they were experiencing physically, because they really were doing this only as breasts to be appreciated.
I wasn't there, so I don't know what it felt like from the inside. But I know that I'd feel a lot more comfortable with this idea if the women involved were saying "I enjoyed this because free petting feels really good!" rather than "I enjoyed this because it's nice to have my assets appreciated."
The other thing I want to re-post is, yes, a meme, but also a vow I'm taking seriously. And want it to spread. Because this is the point where talking on the internet turns into real action, that can cause real change.The Open-Source Women-Backing-Each-Other-Up Campaign
Here's my pledge: if I see somebody groping you in public, and you're not moaning Yes! Yes! Yes!
, I will break through your Somebody Else's Problem invisibility field and come over and ask if you're okay. If your situation looks dangerous enough I can't help on my own, I will call over friends or, if it's a situation in which I think the cops would be on your side, I will call the cops. If you're being harassed by a guy*, you can say so to me, even if you don't know me. I pledge I will distract him so you can get away, or I will tell him that he needs to leave, or whatever I can do to the best of my ability. I pledge that yes, actually, because you are a woman I will give you the benefit of the doubt. If you tell me that a guy just did something shitty to you I will not refuse to look at any evidence and tell you that I know him and he's a great guy and you must have been imagining things. I have great loyalty to my male friends but I will not allow that to blind me to the fact that none of us are saints and even my best friends can screw up and may need to be called on it. I pledge that I will walk you to your car if you don't feel safe walking alone at night, and then you can drive me to mine.
Yes, even at Wiscon. I pledge that even if I don't know you, if there is a creepy guy following you around, you can say so, and I will not say to you go hide in your room; I will say to him go find another party, or if necessary, go home. I will come with you if you need to talk to the con organizers. I will not make you feel like your right to control over your own body is not a big deal.
And I will do this whether or not I like you, or even know you. It's not about liking you. It's about the fact that we need to back each other up, and I will need you to do this for me some day.
*Or a girl. Despite the statistics, men do not have a monopoly on sexual aggression.