The Opposite Of Sex*
Yesterday, I gave sophomoric college columnist and pro-rape activist Alex Knepper a piece of my mind. I’m not alone. Jill’s take links to Amanda Hess’s coverage of the travesty and the reaction to it. I read Amanda’s piece, and I wanted to say one more thing:
Alex Knepper is the problem. Not just the specific problem, which is his position that women who enter frat houses or drink are giving general permission to rapists, though he is very much that problem. He is also the larger problem. Knepper is the Commodity Model.
The whole issue with the Commodity Model, as I expressed it in Toward A Performance Model of Sex, is that it assumes that people are lessened by sexual interactions:
We live in a culture where sex is not so much an act as a thing: a substance that can be given, bought, sold, or stolen, that has a value and a supply-and-demand curve. In this “commodity model,” sex is like a ticket; women have it and men try to get it … This model pervades casual converstaion about sex: Women “give it up,” men “get some… The commodity model assumes that when a woman has sex, she loses something of value.
YMY at p. 30, 38, emphasis supplied.
One of my criticisms of this model was its heterocentrism: the duality of giver and taker falls apart in same-sex pairings. YMY at pp. 35-36. But Alex Knepper, a gay republican or conservative of some kind (specifically, the kind who calls himself a “classical liberal”, which means laissez-faire, free market true believer, or guy who has shrines to Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman in his basement). He has managed to adopt the Commodity Model wholesale by reconstructing sex among gay men along the reductionist dualistic lines Catherine MacKinnon criticized when she wrote, “Man fucks woman, subject verb object.” (High irony; since Knepper told Hess, “It started with Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, and it’s an utter betrayal of the ideals of women like Wollstonecraft, Stanton, and even Friedan.”) What does he think of people who get fucked? he told Hess:
[Gay men are] far more likely to understand that dressing one’s boyfriend up like a girl and fucking his ass with a dildo is to feminize him. The feminine element of sexuality is not literally about being female—it’s about surrender and submission. One might say that my homosexuality is the ultimate expression of my deep-seated hatred for women, though, right?”
Knepper doesn’t even hide what he thinks. Femininity to him is submission and surrender; even for two men having sex, for Knepper, to get fucked is to submit and surrender. One might assume that this “which one is the girl?” stuff had been relegated to the most sophomoric (pardon the pun) of homophobes, but actually it fits quite well with the pseudointellectual essentialist drivel on his reading list. One can get that from Paglia just as surely as the guy who says “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”
(I’ll interject a personal angle, as I often do. In my own sex life with my spouse, one of the dynamics I most often play with is the opposite of this: entering partner as bottom, enveloping partner as top. The specifics, while I have discussed them on blogs before, are kind of beside the point. The point is, I know that the dynamics Knepper thinks are the furniture of the universe are in fact flexible and socially constructed, because I play with that flexibility myself.)
Now, I would think that other gay men might take umbrage at Knepper’s construction. Obviously, though, Knepper recognizes and embraces that his comments are offensive. The rest of his remark to Hess:
“Gay men—by which I do not mean the eunuchs who constitute the vanguard of so-called queer activism—are far more likely to understand that dressing one’s boyfriend up like a girl and fucking his ass with a dildo is to feminize him.
I wonder how deep that well of self-hate goes. I wonder idly; I don’t actually care and I’m not inclined to forgive this asshole for his youth. He’s an evil little man.
He’s an evil little man because he profanes sex by spreading the idea that it lessens us, or some of us. What I want, what I have, and what I want everyone to have is sex where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, that is itself a creation between the participants: where everyone leaves the encounter having more, being increased and enriched … so, in juxtaposition to what Knepper describes, the opposite of that.
*Yes, it’s a movie title. And the last paragraph is a conscious parallel to Christina Ricci’s closing line.