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Lies Our Bodies Tell

June 29, 2010

I mean to keep this short, because discussing the complete and utter shitshow unleashed by a guestblogger at Feministe really upsets me. For many reasons, I feel a sense of deep loyalty to some of the key bloggers there.

Guestblogger Erica posted a story from a friend of hers who used “months of pressuring and nagging” to get her teenage boyfriend to “finally relent” and have intercourse with her, despite his stated religious convictions and unease so great that it appears to me like he pretended to not know how to get a condom on just to get out of it.

Most of the commenters have rightly called out that behavior as unethical and coercive. But a commenter using the name “Somebody” said something that is both unspeakably vile, and yet still a common misconception. Somebody said:

Does nobody understand what heterosexual sex is anymore? Without male consent, it can’t occur. At all. Ever.

I can see more problems with that that I have time to list: the cis-centrism and heteronormativity and penetrocentrism and ableism, etc. But the core of what’s wrong with it is that this commenter believes that biology is consent, that physical arousal invalidates our rights to refuse.

Following that logic, anyone who can turn us on can do whatever they want to us. No feminist would make that claim about cis women, of course. No feminist would listen to the story of a cis woman who has been raped or molested and whose body has responded with arousal and say, “you were not raped because your body wanted it.” (Would the commenter argue for a different rule for trans women with cocks? I’m not assuming any measure of reasonableness or good faith with that asshole.)

We all know that people are not their bodies, right? Isn’t that an important general rule? Disabled people are not the limitations of their bodies and trans people are not the histories of their bodies or the anatomy of their bodies, right? Women who have uteruses and can reproduce are not their uteruses or their capacities to reproduce, right? Isn’t it always true that we are not our bodies? And when we die, we are gone, but our bodies will remain.

I am not my body, and I am not my cock, and my cock does not make my decisions for me. I do not consent to cheat on my wife because a woman I see in my professional life also makes my cock hard; I am not my cock. I make the decisions and I am responsible for them. A boy does not become complicity in his molestation because an older abuser can make a penis erect or cause orgasm. A man who sets a hard limit with a partner is entitled to set that limit, even if we don’t agree with his reasons, and he does not lose that right if he has a penis that wants different things from what he wants. Because he is not his cock.

Like so many things I say on this blog, this shouldn’t have to be said. It shouldn’t have to, but clearly it does.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2010 12:58 pm

    Thanks for this.

    I tried reading the longer comment threads, but the conversations got really tangled and people were reading the OP sloppily and then getting angry at each other — no energy for that today!

    But anyway, I mostly clicked over from my RSS feed to say thanks for the whole “physical arousal is separate from consent or pleasure” thing. It’s amazing to me how often this reasoning is raised in conversations about sex, and how supposed physical responsiveness then negates the person’s actual words which say things like, “that doesn’t feel good to me.”

  2. Lorinda Adams permalink
    June 29, 2010 6:18 pm

    Thank you. I found this post via a friend linking to it on facebook. I’ve heard people try to make the ridiculous claim that it’s impossible for a man to be raped short of anal penetration, or that a man cannot be raped by a woman. That this is complete $#@! shouldn’t have to be said, but as you noted, it does, and I thank you very much for doing so.

    • makomk permalink
      July 1, 2010 3:50 pm

      Oh, it very much does. Especially given that both of those are actually the law here in England where I live. Legally, it’s only rape if the rapist actually penetrated the victim with his penis, which kinda excludes the possibility of female rapists. (Technically some trans women could, but in practice that only seems to happen in the imaginations of bigots like Julie Bindel.) There’s also assault by penetration, which carries the same sentence, but again requires the victim be the one penetrated. Without this, the only crime committed is sexual assault – maximum ten year sentence, also covers stuff like groping.

      • July 1, 2010 4:29 pm

        I am very much against attempts, usually by MRAs, to confine the plain-English use of rape to a specific legal definition. That’s silly; some jurisdictions do not even use the term, and more to the point that would mean if they repealed the statutes against it the word would disappear. So anyone arguing that words like “fraud” and “negligence” and “rape” should lose their common meaning and be confined to their legal meaning ought to promptly be told to shut the fuck up.

  3. June 29, 2010 7:28 pm

    I hate that people think that arousal equals consent. And not just for men, but for women, too. Someone can be aroused without wanting sex or whatever other non-consensual behavior occurs. A man can have an erection from a hardcore make out session with a partner, but that doesn’t mean that he’s consented to his erection being touched in any way. A female can become aroused from the same thing, but lubrication and arousal does not imply that she wants to be touched/penetrated/etc.

    People are fucking unbelievable sometimes.

  4. marybullstonecraft permalink
    June 29, 2010 8:18 pm

    Thanks for this post; shit show is right. The whole thing is both upsetting and disappointing, and I’m glad you took the time to address it.

  5. Sunset permalink
    June 30, 2010 7:59 am


    Thank you so much for this. The OP’s story written reminded me chillingly of my own story as a young conservative girl. And the many times I was told it wasn’t “real” abuse because there hadn’t been a huge physical struggle. That I had merely been “pressured” into sexual activity…pressure, I might add, that meets the legal definition of sexual coercion.

  6. Clarisse permalink
    June 30, 2010 9:57 am

    When I was an undergraduate, I heard a statistic along the lines of “60% of women report orgasming while being raped”, and was informed that this made huge problems for reporting because many women are then very reluctant to report the rape (because they feel a spurious sense of responsibility). Do you happen to know the source of that statistic? Whether it’s even true?

    • June 30, 2010 10:06 am

      I’ve never seen it quantified. I’ve heard the personal stories from more than one woman, though. My friends being who they are, I’ve heard it mostly from subs or masochists, among whom the barriers to reporting, stigma, self-blame and shame issues has huge additional facets.

  7. ChartreuseFlamethrower permalink
    July 9, 2010 5:29 pm

    This is a big problem for asexuals, too. If they get turned on by whatever (asexuals can enjoy intimate contact with their partners for the intimacy even if not the sexual aspect)- their partner will use it as proof that they aren’t asexual and want “it”. Even if they don’t try to physically push their boundaries then- this can be used to pressure them into things. I don’t know if they push harder than they would with a sexual, or if part of the pushing is trying to help “cure” the sexuality in question, or what. It’s not worse than when it happens with sexuals, of course, but the fact that it’ll always be an aspect of the relationship if the person can’t accept their partner’s asexuality makes it even more difficult for asexuals to find a partner.

    As for a woman with a penis- I’m curious about one who’s post op, too. I think most people use a woman’s wetness as part of judging arousal, and a surgically created labia doesn’t get wet. Wonder what the justification would be there.

    • July 9, 2010 6:40 pm

      Just a terminology note here, though it’s probably unintentional: the way you used “one” might be read as third-gendering trans women who have had GRS.

  8. July 18, 2010 4:00 pm

    Cis male erections happen all the time, for the damnedest reasons or lack thereof. Cis males can even have erections when they’re dead. (wikipedia “death erection.”)

    Physical response is NOT consent. It’s just NOT.

    Leaving the really ignorant and nonsensical assertion that heterosexual sex = penis in vagina, when in fact there are plenty of things that a female can do to a male even if he does not have an erection.


  1. Lies Our Bodies Tell (via ) « flirt with suicide
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