Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jezebel Takes Down Camille Paglia

It's always good to hear a woman's point of view. Especially on matters like female sexuality. Even more so when a woman offers a rather negative opinion of the latest Camille Paglia op-ed on the Jezebel site. Link here.

You may recall that I posted some comments on Paglia a few days ago. Link here. I found her op-ed to be incoherent, only interesting as a part of the culture wars.

After posting, I noticed that several exemplary bloggers seemed to believe that Paglia had lit on some point of consuming interest. They seemed to believe that she is promoting a lifestyle filled with exquisite sensual pleasure.

Clearly, I thought the opposite. Talking about lust is not the same as feeling lust. I suspect that if you have to keep talking about it and trying to convince young people to adopt it as a credo, you are not promoting lust but are diminishing it. As the bard once said: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

But then again, I am of the male gender, so what do I know. That's why I was interested to read Anna North's column on Jezebel, entitled: "Legendary Nutjob Gives Horrible Sex Advice."

North is slightly more caustic than I was, but we can easily forgive her. Paglia is trying to peddle her wisdom to young women, and it feels like a good thing for a young woman to reject it out of hand. So, hats off to Anna North for a job well done.


Adrien said...

I thought that the Jezebel piece and the commentary that followed were both condescending and dogmatic. Paglia is a shit-stirrer, please forgive the Australian colloquialism, she's been waging a kind of merry war within feminist circles for almost 20 years now, is persistently mis-represented and feeds this fire with gasoline.

But she's worth reading. An interesting mixture of the reassertion of tradition and feminism.

I didn't comment at Jezebel. I've already had one online battle this week. That's enough.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Adrien. I appreciate the comment and hope that others will take a look at your posts on your blog.

I certainly agree with you that Paglia is always worth reading. She writes well, and is consistently entertaining.

On the other side her promotion of a mythic battle between bourgeois propriety and a supposedly vital sexual energy feels off base to me.

Even though it is consonant with some branches of sex positive feminism, while being in opposition to others.

This is recycled and politicized Freud, with a contribution from Marcuse and company.

When these energies are unleashed by politicians, perhaps you gain more sexual pleasure for everyone-- all well and good-- but you also get Red Guards and Brown Shirts... political representations that received the full support of people who were proclaiming the need for an increased expression of vital sexual energy.

That's what concerns me about this line of reasoning.

Adrien said...

but you also get Red Guards and Brown Shirts... political representations that received the full support of people who were proclaiming the need for an increased expression of vital sexual energy.

And vice versa.

I think it's the vice versa that Paglia's concerned with. The lack of responsibility for sexual behaviour of which she speaks is something I have personal experience with. A woman who maintains 'empowerment' one moment and then acts like one of Freud's proverbial neurotic head cases the next is not a good look.

I agree that she has some kind of chip on her shoulder with what she sees as WASP sexuality and that it is basically Freud, and Nietzsche as well. But she did point out well in advance issues such as the collision between motherhood and career. This was considered here viz our current prime minister.

What I think's important about her contribution is the reinsertion of nature into question of new post-feminist gender roles. Her accusation that academic feminists persist in excluding all talk of natural difference from their discussions is spot on.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I certainly agree with you and Paglia on the need to understand the importance of nature, of biology, in the definition of sex roles.

And I do applaud her efforts to challenge feminist orthodoxy-- in whatever way is possible.

I did not mean to suggest that I find nothing of value in Paglia, but rather than on the specific point she was making in this article she had erred.

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