Sunday, 31 March 2013

P in V Is Not The Only Kind Of Sex, or, Nadine Dorries Is Still The Worst

So, everybody's least favourite MP/human being Nadine Dorries has been at it again, arguing against gay marriage in the House of Commons like the smug ignorant bigot that she is:

"The definition of sex is for ordinary and complete sex to have taken place. Same-sex couples cannot meet this requirement."
05.02.2013, from her blog

Headline: 'Nadine Dorries Says Same Sex Couples Can't Have Sex'?

This nasty, heteronormative little remark hurts everybody. It hurts gay people, it hurts straight people, it hurts sexually active and asexual people, it hurts the victims of sexual assault, it hurts everybody with its rigid, controlling definition of what 'proper sex' is. Dorries clearly understands the phrase "ordinary and complete sex" to mean P in V penetration*. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else - just P in V. It's vastly heteronormative and extremely sex-negative in implication, and an incredibly damaging message. Here is my counter-message:

There are many, many forms, kinds and actions of sex, each as valid and as complex as the others, because sexuality is limitless.

Sex does not require P in V penetration. It doesn't require a P or a V at all. The idea of 'sex' contains a vast, wonderful realm of activities, of people rubbing themselves on each other and rubbing things on themselves and squishing themselves together and all around in all the messy, glorious combinations imaginable. I'm sure there's no need to make a list, but many, many things can be sex. Sex cannot be defined as a certain set of activities or experiences, because the spectrum of human sexuality is undocumentably huge and uncategorisably intricate. Lying down fully clothed and spooning can be a form of sex. Kissing a man or a woman or either or both can be sex. For some people, touching feet is sex. P in V is only one way of having sex, and its fetishisation in society as the only or the most important kind of sex is damaging for everyone. 

How? It's clearly obvious how this idea is alienating for same-sex couples, denying the validity of their experiences, but emphasising P in V as the be-all and end-all of sex also hurts hetero individuals as well, defining and denying a wealth of experience, rather than educating, liberating and encouraging people to understand and be confident in their own sexuality. Attempting to define sexuality by the standards of other people (especially, by god, conservative, conventional, religious, heteronormative standards) can only lead to misery, because sex is individual and idiosyncratic. Some people (even straight people) hate P in V sex, or find it painful or uncomfortable or boring. The good news is, there's a lot of other sex out there to be having.

Fetishising P in V as the most valid, real form of sex is another way that we tell people that their own feelings and desires are not valid when they don't conform to convention, and when people believe that their desires aren't valid, that creates unhappy sex. That creates everyone who ever said "well...alright, I guess", everyone who did it because they thought everyone else was doing it, everyone who thought they should or they had to, everyone who ever lay back and thought of England. Reluctant sex is not happy sex. If you're enthusiastically consenting to P in V, great, have at it, but the social emphasis on P in V devalues enthusiastic consent to all the other forms of sex. 

Dorries's comment also has extremely worrying implications for issues of sexual assault. If activities not involving P in V penetration are not real sex, when unwanted, are they still sexual assault? Does Dorries - the woman who once asserted that the sexual abuse of children could be stopped if only children were taught abstinence - mean that it is not possible to rape someone of the same sex? 

You know what, here. This is my sex-positive, anti-Dorries message:

Sex comes in many forms and many shapes. Some of them you might like, and some of them you will not, and as long as you have the informed, enthusiastic consent of everybody involved, all of it is absolutely fine. All of your feelings are very valid. Go forth and explore. Say yes to things you want and no to things you don't want. Learn your desires and your boundaries and respect them, and have others respect them. Be safe, physically and emotionally. Have exactly the sex that you really want, the sex that makes you feel good, exactly when and how you want it. Your sexuality is your own. Do with it exactly what you will. 

*(Conventionally, that is also what it means in law, but I do not credit Dorries with critical analysis of legal complexities, nor do I really know the ins and outs of it. Heh heh heh. "Ins and outs".) 

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