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The Tyranny of Choice

If you identify as bisexual then there are a myriad of identities which are also imposed on you by the outside world. One of the most common tropes is of the “hawt bi babe” whose sexuality is totally founded on the performance of sexuality for the male gaze. Lesbians of course can also be treated in the same way, with their sexuality assumed to be conditional on male pleasure and satisfaction. A conditional form of sexuality which can be turned by proximity to a cis man’s penis. The term lipstick lesbian was coined for cis women who were conventionally attractive and femme, to insinuate that the sexuality of someone who cis men might be attracted to could not be genuine unless it included an attraction to cis het men. By the same token bisexual, queer or lesbian women who do not fit femme, conventionally attractive norms are often attacked according to their physical appearance. It is not uncommon to see criticism of these groups of women based around a cis het man not wanting to fuck them, as if rejection must be hurtful, since wanting sex with cishet men must be the pinnacle of desire.

Musing on these ideas of queer women’s acceptability to cishet men (and thus to patriarchy which as a group they represent, although of course as individuals they may themselves also be oppressed by patriarchy according to race, religion, disability, age, sexuality and so on) and I was struck by how much the issues seem to rest on the unacceptability of rejection, and choice, particularly around bisexuality.

Somehow women (and I am generally talking about non men otherwise known as the class of women here) should be hurt, or upset by the idea that a cis het man does not want to have sex with them. If we consider the ideas of projection, and transference, people most usually use as an insult or attempt to hurt that which hurts them the most. This brings some logic to the supposed insult. After all if you know someone does not share your sexuality, saying that you would not fuck them is like a tea totaller turning down a bottle of WKD. Clearly there is more to any misogynistic trope, however it seems to me that the “I wouldn’t fuck that” trope is based on this kind of projection and transference. Namely that male entitlement and ego are “hurt” by the existence of queer women who would not fuck them. I use the speech marks because this is a hurt rather like that of all with privilege in our society, the hurt of a butterflies wing brushing against your cheek, rather than the spiked barbs of pain the oppressed have to live with daily.

Patriarchy is founded on the idea that only (some) men should be able to exercise choice within western capitalist society. In every sphere this is seen to be true. The most obvious is reproductive rights. Womb havers are meant to abrogate any control over their fertility (including the vile suggestion from MRAs that the age of “consent” should be the age of menarche. I use consent in speech marks because to MRAs being born with a vagina means you must at all times “consent” to sex with them. By contrast cis men are not only given huge leeway to determine their own reproductive choices, but if sex should result in an unwanted pregnancy they speak of being trapped, or deceived, as if their right to choose had been stolen from them. People with wombs are denied this right, once determined to be fertile choice becomes something that is precarious at the best, and very often non-existent.

Within sex work this idea of choice belonging only to men is also seen. Antis of course parrot patriarchy by saying that only cis male clients are able to choose, that sex work is non consensual for female sex workers. More interesting, to me, than their attempts to win patriarchal cookies is the language used to describe (cis) female and (cis) male sex workers. Whilst the labour is the same cis men who engage in sex work are seen to have agency, to not be victims, to be able to choose. Whilst cis women who engage in sex work are agencyless, and unable to make choices, not because choice is denied to them, but because they are in some inherent way incapable of being choice makers. It is one of the lies of patriarchy which has traditionally been used to infantilize and control cis women. The idea has always been that cis women were not intellectually, or even sometimes physically, capable of making choices, thus they could be denied the right to vote, to own property, to act as full autonomous adults, since they would not be able to cope with being adults. If you look at reporting of events such as the rentboy raids, you see how much this attitude still permeates our society, men can choose, women are not able to, and so must be protected, most of all from themselves. (Here I am generally talking about cis sex workers since most of those opposed to sex workers rights do not accept any other genders exist).

So, we live in  a culture and societies which only allow cis men to have choice, and then only some cis men to have the most choices. Given this bisexuality, and particularly bisexuality of cis women becomes a huge challenge to the patriarchal mindset. Choice exists,on the individual level that this bisexual woman could choose to have sex with that man. We all know how dangerous it is to reject an individual male, it’s why we give out false numbers, and wear the half smile of patriarchy. Bisexual and queer women carry within them the idea they could choose a man, could chose this particular man. When they do chose a particular man they break that basic rule, that only cis men should be able to exercise choice. By their very existence queer/bisexual women carry the possibility of choice. Thus patriarchy tries to either deny their sexuality as genuine, or turn it into a mere adjunct of cis het mens sexuality. For the one thing that can never be allowed is that any woman, cis or trans, be allowed the right to choose.

This post largely discusses cis men and women since those are dominant in the patriarchal narrative. 



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This entry was posted on April 17, 2016 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

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