Demanding Sex

Capitalism Controls Your Sex Life

Sexual repression starts in the family.
By attempting to control the entire
development of their children.

The nuclear family fulfills a basic
function for capitalist society, the
socialisation of each new generation
in the values of bourgeois society
and male superiority.

The sexuality of men and women has
to be violently forced into patterns
of masculinity and femininity which
preclude ‘abnormalities’ like promiscuity.

We are forced socially to repress our
sexuality to “fit into” the bourgeois world.

Capitalism is based on exploitation. Women more than
men suffer under it, extending to their sex lives.

Because women’s labor is systematically undervalued
and frequently underpaid, their survival tends to be
dependent on men. Thus, women’s sexuality becomes
a commodity under capitalism.

Women can make certain demands, usually emotional
or financial, in exchange for access to their
sexuality within the confines of monogamy or marriage.

Capitalism has fundamentally shaped and warped
the ways we relate to each other, sexually and
otherwise, leading us to view intimacy and love
as things that only exist in finite quantities
and are only worth investing in worthy relationships.

This doesn’t mean paying for sex is bad. Sex work is work.
It’s an open exchange of labor power. In this case, sexual services
for a wage denominated in money. Once the money is transferred,
it can be reused in the economy for all other goods and services.
Sex work, of course, existed before capitalism.

The commodification of sexuality is the intrusion
of market-like thinking and exchange into a
nonmarket sphere of social relations.

Women can exchange access to their sexuality
for non-monetary remuneration — dinner,
drinks, clothes, a wedding ring.

These things are not easily turned back into money
for use in the rest of the economy. The commodification
of sexuality is not an explicitly negotiated transaction.

It’s a set of shifting social expectations about
what things women can or should or might demand
in exchange for access to their sexuality.

Conditioned to Fit
into the Bourgeois World

Blame Capitalism
for Undermining Your
Sex Life

This is a time of unprecedented sexual freedom,
in which people are rejecting boring conventions
and prohibitions, and in which meeting a new sex
partner is as simple as swiping around on your
phone while you’re on the toilet.

Yet, a lot of women are still very
unsatisfied with the sex they’re having.

There are several potential culprits for
this fact: female pleasure under patriarchy,
general male incompetence. And the elephant
in the room, capitalism.

Capitalism is based on exploitation,
and women disproportionately suffer
under it.This extends to their sex lives.

Because women’s labor is systematically undervalued
and frequently underpaid, their survival tends to
be dependent on men. Thus, women’s sexuality becomes
a commodity under capitalism.

This isn’t an explicit exchange, though, but rather
a set of shifting social expectations.

Women can make certain demands (emotional or financial
support, for example) in exchange for access to their
sexuality, usually within the confines of monogamy or marriage.

Capitalism has fundamentally shaped and warped the ways
we relate to each other, sexually and otherwise, leading
us to view intimacy and love as things that only exist
in finite quantities, and that are only worth
investing in worthy relationships.

Sex for Sale
A Capitalist

Bourgeois men, Engels complained, set
their own women on a pedestal of chastity
then preyed on working-class girls.

They self-righteously condemned the immorality
of their workers while perpetuating the poverty
from which that immorality stemmed.

Sex in capitalist society is just one
more commodity. Its proliferation a
symptom of an ever-expanding consumerism.

light punishment

Commodity Model
versus Performance
Model of Sex

In the commodity model of sexuality, sex is a commodity that women are expected to protect and men are expected to get. it’s like comparing “lady sex” to a water bottle.

Women must guard their water bottle no matter what and not let any man take a sip until marriage. Men, on the other hand, deserve to take a sip and are expected to do anything they can to convince a women to let them. If a woman gives in to a man’s advances, she is immediately less worthy.

The more men she allows to take a sip, the less and less worthy and “impure” she becomes. If she is distracted or takes her eye off of her water and someone takes a sip, then it is her fault for not protecting her water because it is her responsibility to guard it.

The man that takes the water without permission may be reprimanded, but she left it out for him to take, so can you really blame him?

This model is problematic. Women don’t want sex (they want love). They are not agents of their own sexuality and are instead qualified by their sexuality.

They are hyper-sexualized, yet expected to be “innocent.” Virginity is emphasized as the highest form of purity and thus a virgin woman is of the highest value.

Words like “slut” and “whore” are used to keep women in line with the commodity model – these words tell her that she should not want sex and she should keep her sexuality private.

The model isn’t good for men either. In it, they are expected to want sex more than anything. Because sex is such a commodity, they should do everything they can to get it from as many women as possible otherwise they aren’t real men.

Virginity for men is something to be embarrassed about. The model emphasizes that men want sex, and men deserve sex.

sex for sale

Instead of sex being a fun activity which two people can enjoy together, it is viewed as an exchange where the man receives it and the woman gives it up (this model is also completely heteronormative).

Unfortunately, we are taught these ideas from a young age and in many ways the commodity model has become ingrained in the way we think about relationships and sex.

Abstinence-only education endorses it, as do movies, TV, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of media. The evidence for how prominent this model is in our society is everywhere, and it’s overwhelming.

Furthermore, this model promotes rape culture. The views that it is a woman’s responsibility to prevent being raped and that men who rape can’t be held completely accountable because “she was asking for it” by the way she was dressed both stem from the commodity model mindset.

So, what’s our alternative? Friedman suggests that we explore a more collaborative, creative model of sexuality. “The performance model of sexuality” is one that appears in her book (co-edited with Jessica Valenti) in an essay by Thomas Macaulay Millar.

Sex for Sale

Creative Model of

In this model, sexual interaction is a collaborative partnership. It is a fun activity that involves the enthusiastic engagement of everyone involved – like in music collaborations.

When a musician plays with multiple groups, he or she isn’t considered a “music slut.” In fact, they will probably learn a lot from playing with different people and will grow as a musician.

This model emphasizes sex as an activity rather than a commodity. It also emphasizes “enthusiastic consent” as a requirement for any sexual interactions.

Enthusiastic consent means that each person has the responsibility to make sure his or her partner(s) is into what’s happening. The consent must be clear and continuous, which means you must engage in conversation throughout.

The performance model makes it clear that our sexuality is just that – our own. It gives agency back to women, as opposed to the commodity model that takes it away. Sex is no longer a water bottle and women are no longer the objects that are required to protect it.

We are free to express our sexuality however and with whomever we want, as long as we continually respect others’ sexualities, boundaries, and agencies. If the model were practiced every time that anyone had sex, there would never be rape.

Instead of an ambiguous “No Means No” policy that provides a lot of grey area, the enthusiastic (affirmative) consent policy is clear and has no room for misunderstandings or excuses.

Obviously, talking about this model is much easier than actually following through with it. It requires clear communication and it also requires that you know what you want.

Neither of those things is easy – especially in a society where we’ve been told that we aren’t the agents of our sexuality. How can we know what we want sexually when we haven’t felt in control of our sexuality?

To overcome these difficulties, talk about sex and talk about talking about sex. Collaborative sex and communication won’t necessarily be easy, but it will get easier with practice.

I think it’s pretty clear that this model is infinitely better than the commodity model – not only does it completely undermine rape culture, it will also, undoubtedly, lead to better sex.

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