Documents from the Women's Liberation Movement
An On-line Archival Collection
Special Collections Library, Duke University
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One hangup to liberation is a supposed "need" for sex. It is something that must be refuted, coped with, demythified, or the cause of female liberation is doomed.
Already we see girls, thoroughly liberated in their own heads, understanding their oppression with terrible clarity trying, deliberately and a trace hysterically, to make themselves attractive to men, men for whom they have no respect, men they may even hate, because of "a basic sexual-emotional need."
Sex is not essential to life, as eating is. Some people go through their whole lives without engaging in it at all, including fine, warm, happy people. It is a myth that this makes one bitter, shriveled up, twisted.
The big stigma of life-long virginity is on women anyway, created by men because woman's purpose in life is biological and if she doesn't fulfill that she's warped and unnatural and "must be all cobwebs inside."
Men are suspected at worst of being self-centered or afraid of sex, but do not carry any stigma of being unnatural. A man's life is taken as a whole on its merits. He was busy, it may be thought, dedicated, a great man who couldn't spare the time and energy for demanding relationships with women.
The guerillas don't screw. They eat, when they can, but they don't screw. They have important things to do, things that require all their energy.
Everyone of us must have noticed occasions when he was very involved in something, fighting, working, thinking, writing, involved to the extent that eating was haphazard, sleeping deliberately cheated. But the first thing that goes is sex. It's inconvenient, time-consuming, energy-draining, and irrelevant.
We are programmed to crave sex. It sells consumer goods. It gives a lift and promises a spark of individual self-assertion in a dull and routinized world. It is a means to power (the only means they have) for women.
It is also, conversely, a means of power for men, exercized over women, because her sexual desire is directed to men.
Few women are actually satisfied, of course, but they blame the particular man and nurse the myth that they can be satisfied and that this nirvana is one which a man and only a man can bring her.
Moreover, sexual freedom is the first freedom a woman is awarded and she thinks it is very important because it's all she has; compared to the dullness and restrictiveness of the rest of her life it glows very brightly.
But we must come to realize that sex is actually a minor need, blown out of proportion, misunderstood (usually what passes for sexual need is actually desire to be stroked, desire for recognition or love, desire to conquer, humiliate or wield power, or desire to communicate).
We must come to realize that we don't need sex, that celibacy is not a dragon but even a state that could be desirable, in many cases preferable to sex. How repugnant it really is, after all, to make love to a man who despises you, who fears you and wants to hold you down! Doesn't screwing in an atmosphere devoid of respect get pretty grim? Why bother? You don't need it.
Erotic energy is just life energy and is quickly worked off if you are doing interesting, absorbing things. Love and affection and recognition can easily be found in comrades, a more honest and open love that love you for yourself and not for how docile and cute and sexy and ego-building you are, a love in which you are always subject, never merely object, always active, never merely relative. And if despite all this genital tensions persist you can still masturbate. Isn't that a lot easier anyway?
This is a call not for celibacy but for an acceptance of celibacy as an honorable alternative, one preferable to the degradation of most male-female sexual relationships. But it is only when we accept the idea of celibacy completely that we will ever be able to liberate ourselves.
Until we accept it completely, until we say "I control my own body and I don't need any insolent male with an overbearing presumptuous prick to come and clean out my pipes" they will always have over us the devastating threat of withdrawing their sexual attentions and worse, the threat of our ceasing even to be sexually attractive.
And that devastating rejection is absolutely inevitable. If you are serious and men realize it they will cease being attracted to you.
If you don't play the game, the role, you are not a woman and they will NOT be attracted. You will be sexless and worse, unnatural and threatening.
You will be feared and despised and viciously maligned, all by men you know perfectly well you could charm utterly and wrap around your finger just by falling into the female role, even by men who have worshipped you in the past.
How is that possible? Obviously, because they never were worshipping you. That's the bitter truth, and you'd better catch on now.
Whenever they're nice to us, it isn't us they're being nice to but their own solipsistic creations, the versions of us they manufacture for their own amusement and pleasure and purposes. How presumptuous it is of us to accept the love and admiration, to crave it even, as if it were meant for us!
It's their female ideal they adore and they will be resentful and angry if you mar that image and will turn against you to a man if you try to destroy it.
Unless you accept the idea that you don't need them, don't need sex from them, it will be utterly impossible for you to carry through, it will be absolutely necessary to lead a double life, pretending with men to be something other than what you know you are. The strain of this would be unimaginable and could end in a number of disastrous ways.
You, who have had such heady power to charm and arouse and win men's total admiration and respect, must be willing to give it up. You must be willing that they cease to be attracted to you, even find you repulsive, that they cease to respect you, even despise you, that they cease to admire you, even find you unnatural and warped and perverted sexually.
These men who were so tenderly protective will try to destroy you, to stab you in the back, to use any underhanded means to get back at you for posing this threat to them. You have done them the incalculable offense of not deferring to their sex, of daring to be yourself (putting your needs ahead of his), of stepping out of your role, of rejecting the phony sexual differentiations that make each of them feel like a man.
It you don't act like a woman he doesn't see himself as a man, since his sexual identity depends on the differences, and so he feels actually castrated. Expect no love, no desire, no mercy from this man.
You have to be prepared, then, to be not just unnatractive but actually sexually repulsive to most men, perhaps including all the men you currently admire.
We've spent many years learning to be appealing to men, to all men, whether we are specifically interested in them or not. We dress, we walk, we laugh, we talk, we move our hands and our heads, we sit, we speak, all in a way carefully cultivated to be feminine and charming.
We need to be thought charming and appealing even by men who bore us or repulse us, by strangers who may be trying to pick us up; we have a horror of appearing vulgar and repulsive even to the most nauseating creep. The creeps must all be brushed off gracefully, in a way that leaves their egos intact and consequently leaves them with a friendly impression of us.
It's so important that our image be favorable, we are willing to put up with the fact that it is false, distorted, that we are being loved for our weaknesses, or for qualities we don't have at all, and our strengths are denied or ridiculed.
If we are going to be liberated we must reject the false image that makes men love us, and this will make men cease to love us.
Unless we can accept this we will crumble under the first look of fear and disgust; or certainly under the first such look from a man we love and admire.
Ultimately, of course, we will cease to love and admire such men. We will have contempt for men who show that they cannot love us for ourselves, men whose egos demand and require falsehoods.
It will be a less friendly world, but there will be no unrequited longing. What we're really after is to be loved for ourselves and if that's impossible, why should we care about love at all? Friends and enemies will be clearly lined up, and the friends will be real friends and the enemies unable to hide behind phony benevolence -- nor will we have to toady to them.
An end to this constant remaking of ourselves according to what the male ego demands! Let us be ourselves and good riddance to those who are then repulsed by us!
-- Dana Densmore
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