Monday, May 18, 2009

..but by all means you should still go read the whole thing

I was surfing through Salon today and came across an interview of Jessica Valenti by Tracy Clark-Flory. For the folks at home that are unaware of Valenti she is a feminist author and one of the main brains behind Feministing. During the course of the interview Valenti touches on various subjects like purity balls, Bristol Palin, and the concept of virginity. She makes a lot of sound commentary but there is one thing that didn't sit well with me.

Clark-Flory: "Let's talk more about men. There are countless movies about the high school geek who is on a mission to lose his virginity. So, obviously men are affected by the purity myth?"

Valenti: "In terms of male virgins, I don't think they're affected nearly as much as women. As you said, male virgins are presented in this jokey way in U.S. culture -- you see them in a doofy movie and that's pretty much it. I think the way that they're most affected is in how they're taught to interact with women and to define themselves in oppositional terms. To be a man you just have to not be feminine -- don't be a girl, don't be a pussy, and don't be a sissy."

That "jokey way" she speaks of is a lot more damaging than than she makes it out to be and it damn sure isn't funny. What Valenti seems to be missing is something that is often missing in discourse about male virginity that doesn't include males. An actual male perspective. While girls are simultaneously pressured by some to refrain from sex for as long as possible and by others to have as much sex as possible boys are told from all sides that they need to be having sex, they should want sex at all times, to not have sex is to not be a man, and since they want sex all the time there is no such things as raping a guy. Yeah those guys might be portrayed as doofy but at the same time they are humiliated, ridiculed, teased, and sometimes physically attacked because of their sex drives.

Now mind you I'm not trying to say that females don't go through any trials and tribulations when it comes to sex but dismissing what males go through as a joke is just as bad as dismissing what females go through.

Thing is boys are punished for their sexuality too. Females are told to suppress their sexual appetites boys are told that they supposed to be ruled by their sexual appetites because males are sexual animals that cannot help but be controlled by lust. Girls and women are not the only ones being called disgusting, sick, perverted, and who knows what else because of sex.

And this:
To be a man you just have to not be feminine -- don't be a girl, don't be a pussy, and don't be a sissy.

Now if only it were that easy. To be a man we "just have to" be expected to sign up for Selective Service in order to go to college, expected to ensure that the "women and children" (odd how they are lumped together like that) are safe at the cost of our own lives, expected to have our potential as life mates measured mostly (if not entirely) by our financial stability, etc... Not trying to say its harder than being a woman but that shit is not a cake walk.

Now perhaps Valenti just gave those short (and inaccurate) answers because she didn't want to spend much time talking about and that would make sense but dismissals like that are a part of the problems that men and boys face these days. And as you can see I only have a gripe with a small portion of the interview so don't let this stop you from giving it a fair shake. There is a lot more material in the discussion between them and who knows you may not agree with me on this part so go give it a go.


womanistmusings said...

Valenti gets so many things wrong consistently really I am shocked that you are surprised. Her ideas about race/class/gender reveal someone who has not really thought deeply about these issues from an intersectional perspective. She really to never answers her critics and seems to believe she is above question. I am very quickly running out of patience with her and refuse to believe that anything she has to say should be considered relevant discourse despite the media attention she receives. More often than not feministing is a disservice to feminism.

Danny said...

You're right I shouldn't be but its the result of trying to not to just write people off. Intersectionality does to be a foreign concept to her. Its one thing to not talk about an issue simply because you are talking about something else but it is quite another to dismiss an issue as non-issue and that is exactly what Valenti does with male sexuality. I can understand that as a feminist she would mainly focus on issues facing women and girls but as you say it is quite the disservice to a group of activists that claim to be concerned for all people to just shrug off someone else's issues as a joke.