Today something really fortunate happened. I was looking at Tinder, and gradually came to feel more and more agitated and disgusted with myself, because I found myself torn up about why I was using it and whom I was saying “yes” to and for what reasons. And though I have heard this before, more and more the idea that gender is —
This all began a long time ago. I think it first really started with Refusing to Be a Man. I mean there are things that set me on the course to read that, of course, so it began there. And it began before that. It all began a long time ago. But the revelation that I had today began with Refusing to Be a Man. And as I was swiping, there was such a resurgence of my porn mind. The fact was, I was deciding to declare, again and again, in as explicit and definitive way possible in many cases, whom I would fuck and whom I would not fuck. It was more complicated than that with many “swipes,” but with many it was not. And a greater and greater agitation and disgust built up in me, because truly I was saying about many women whom I thought I would probably not enjoy a conversation with, that yes, I would have sex with you. It felt .. so connected to pornography, and thoughts of the porn I had watched over and over, and the types of scenes and presentations I had searched for in porn came back and I felt the drive to watch it, and it’s been months now since I’ve masturbated, and I feel so grateful, so much calmer, so much more myself, at peace. I began to panic, I did not want to lose the thing I felt so lucky to have been able to build.
The phrase I’d read somewhere*** that gender is the eroticization of domination and submission came into my head, and eventually it drove me to the relevant section of Catharine MacKinnon’s 1989 Toward a Feminist Theory of the State. And then I wrote a reminder to myself for my Reminders file:
“Consider whether part of what you find erotic is intersubjectivity in the context of an anticipated relief from the threat you usually feel around others, and whether that is part of what some part of you finds “erotic” about the performance of submissiveness.”
It was really helpful for me to put it that way, because both realizing why part of me was so drawn to that performance and being aware that it is a performance of submissiveness together help me avoid making the cognitive mistake that allows me to pornify**** someone in my mind. It is always a humyn being, a man (in the sense of “one small step for a man” or “man is a tool-using animal”)*, performing submission—not a submission-creature, not a cute and self-devoid or personality-starved moon there, eager to reflect my sunlike glory**. My porn-mind is a hateful thing to me now, so to see it re-emerge and then have a little perspective from which to examine it was incredibly helpful.
* No, I’m sorry to say, more than that, too. I was telling someone earlier how productive the practice of imagining (cis) people as the opposite gender—and (I didn’t mention this) especially imagining women as men—was, and how it helped me identify a certain amount of sexism that had been in my head. All women are men in the sense that all women deserve the respect that my brain had only, up to the point where I had begun that exercise a couple of years ago, accorded to cis men. There is not some gulf between the inherent mind of a person with a female-sexed body and my inherent mind. When I began that exercise, I realized that I had been thinking otherwise, had been thinking that there were intrinsic aspects that were unknowable to me of the female-sexed mind. To really “see a man in there”—and I know it’s shitty that that’s how it has to manifest for me (and it really still does, to a very significant extent), but that is how it has manifested for me, so stab me through the heart if you have rid the world of all other people like me and would be rid of the last—changed an enormous amount for me. And so anyway, that’s what this post is about—“seeing a (hu)man in there” in one of the relationships in which my mind has still had trouble doing so.
** Thanks to LL for bringing that metaphor to my mind tonight.
*** Probably Alyx Mayer‘s articles on anti-imperialism.com:
**** Did you know that the word “porne” from Greek means “prostitute”? The other day KW said to me that there’s no such thing as a whore, and I really appreciated that.