Our 23rd prompt comes from A.H. They ask:
What do you think of political lesbianism? (The concept of women refusing heterosexual relations as a form of protest against men and patriarchy)
Welcome, my fellow radical feminist (I hope). I’m glad we get to talk about this here because, after all, a day can’t pass without feminists being accused of just being (ugly) lesbians. Or, without us being told that if we hate men so much, maybe we should stop f***ing them. I’m happy to share with the people who say this that many feminists arrived at that conclusion long before you – not that we are all just ugly lesbians, but that perhaps we should stop f***ing men.
For anyone who’s just joining us, there are two articles you should read as primers: #3: Musings on Kenyan Feminism(s) and #19: Can men be feminists? All your Feminism 101 questions are addressed there. Onward.
A political lesbian is a womyn-identifying womyn who does not f**k men. This does not mean that she f**ks womyn, though. Or that she partners with them. She could be celibate or asexual. It has long been said that heterosexual womyn are feminism’s weakest link, because they literally sleep with the oppressor. Political lesbianism is proposed as the answer to this conundrum.
The issue of sex and sexuality is a thorny one. It’s important to note that only in the male supremacist patriarchy does the oppressor have such intimate access to the oppressed. He basically has access to her/their insides. Add to this the fact that power relations extend to sex and sexuality, such that there is usually a partner who is dominant and one who is submissive. A partner who conquers and one who is conquered. This power differential is reflected in everyday language; in jokes and metaphors. The woman is presented as having given sex to a man. She “loses” and he “gains.”
In the same way that the nuclear family is considered the basic unit of the society (and any other type of family is frowned upon/not considered a “real” family), a heterosexual pairing is the basic unit of the patriarchy. Which is why women are threatened/asked “Who will marry you?” or “Who even will even date a woman like you?” whenever they behave in ways the patriarchy disproves of. The ideal/goal is to be part of a heterosexual pairing. Everything else is an aberration. Your life may be in shambles, but at least you are married. At least you got “chosen.”
This is the patriarchy’s smartest move, because this way, every woman in a heterosexual pairing is attached to a man. Men may be trash, but not your man. Or maybe he is trash, but of the deluxe kind. Sentient trash that can take itself out, or whatever metaphor tickles your fancy. The fact that you are still oppressed is blurred by sex and love. Sure, you’re with a man, but at least he shows you love by doing nice things for you, and he f***s you good, am I right? Sure, you’re into slaying the patriarchy, but right now you could do with cuddles from your favourite bearded man, right? I mean, you may at least take the few (non) benefits the patriarchy gives you, yeah?
The debate on political lesbianism is one of the thorniest feminist discussions of all time. What it asks womyn to do is unimaginable for many. It is met with so many questions. And answers. Are you saying that heterosexual womyn are the enemy? (No, the patriarchy is the enemy, you are merely a pawn in the game, stay focused.) But I like f***ing! (Ah, sis. Almost everyone does.) What if I’m not ready/willing to give up sex? (What are you willing to give up for the cause? All causes require sacrifices.) But what about desire? (What about your oppression?) Can sexuality be a choice, and not be because of wiring? (Yes. It is small minded to think that the only good pro-LGBTQIA argument is that people are “born that way.” While this is true in most cases, they can also choose to be that way, and still deserve equal rights and treatment.) Why are you making us feel bad? (Life is generally hard and unpleasant when you are part of an oppressed group.) This is so hard to do! (Refer to the previous response.)
What do I think about all this? Well, it definitely comes down to personal choice, but I endorse and support anyone who chooses political lesbianism in revolt against the patriarchy. Sex strikes have worked in the past (remember the 2002 Liberian sex strike that ushered in peace and eventually helped elect Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state on the African continent?), and there is nothing to suggest that a large scale refusal by womyn to have sex with men wouldn’t also shake things up radically. Of course I’m not saying that it’s a silver bullet that will end the patriarchy in two weeks, but is it worth a try? Sure.
This post is part of a daily writing experiment that I’m running for a year. I’d love it if you took part! 🙂