The last time I paid any attention to the musings of Jaclyn Friedman she was explaining how she had learned to overcome the pain of a failed relationship by acting like a slut. I offered several posts on the topic, provoked by comments and by other blogs. Link here.
Friedman proclaimed that, for her, sluthood was a positive experience, one that felt therapeutic, even empowering. When I and others suggested that this would naturally encourage young women to try to overcome relationship heartbreak by slutting it up, she and her minions complained that she had not really advocated for it or told women to go out and get in touch with their inner sluts.
Which means that Friedman is not to be taken as a serious thinker.
If she believes that publicly proclaiming her pride in her own sluttiness, and publicly declaring its benefits is not going to encourage young women to try it for themselves, then she is either hopelessly naive or flat out ignorant.
She is banking on legalistic hair-splitting because she does not want to feel responsible for the consequences that might befall the young women who choose to emulate her example.
To me that makes sense. After all, if you read Friedman's latest foray into the topic, in an interview with one Amanda Marcotte and in a follow-up response to Susan Walsh, she is positively fulsome in her expression of how she feels about what she did, while not saying a word about how it might look to other people. Links here and here.
Since she proclaims that she still wants to have a meaningful and durable relationship, she should have said a few words about how other people might see her now. If she is implying that other people must see her only as she wants them to see her, she is simply acting like a petty tyrant.
As is true of all human conversation, you do not have the right to say that your words mean only what you think they mean or that the implications of your arguments are only what you want them to be.
If Jaclyn Friedman does not like the inferences that people can logically draw from her forays into the world of thought, then she needs simply to revise her theories.
In her more recent posts, Friedman has offered a new definition of sex, as a "collaborative performance."
In her words: "So, there is an entirely other way to look at sex that I think more and more people are turning on to and understanding, which is that it really is just a collaborative performance between two or more people. And it doesn't matter what your gender is. It doesn't matter how many people there are. It doesn't matter that it's anonymous. What matters is: are you both having a good time? Are you both getting something positive out of it? And is there good, healthy communication? Is everybody being safe? All those basic things. But outside of it: is everyone having a great time? Then there's nothing wrong with it. As long as everyone's on the same page; nobody's lying, everybody's playing safe about disease and pregnancy, that we can consider it more, like, you know, a collaborative jam session. Are we in the mood to make some music? Let's do it!"
Note very well that this is sex in the moment. It does not measure or evaluate consequences, except to the extent that it assumes that open communication will eliminate the possibility for any untoward consequences. Only someone with her head firmly ensconced in the clouds would ever believe such a thing.
Friedman does not seem to recognize the following possibility. What if you have freely chosen to have no-strings-attached sex with your collaborator, only to learn at the last minute that your collaborator cannot make it.
In some cases people have been know to compensate by having what Woody Allen called, "sex with someone you love," i.e. solo sex.
If Friedman believes that all sex concerns two or more people, is she saying that solo sex is not sex?
More saliently, how likely is it that you can have free and open communication between two or more people who are anonymous? How well can you really get to know all of the participants in your next orgy? Are gang bangs OK if everyone has consented freely and has produced proof of good health? And what if two people decide freely that they can best pursue sexual pleasure by beating and abusing each other, by mutual consent? Is that an acceptable way to find pleasure?
If you do not know the person, how can you trust his or her word? Do you interrogate? Do you require him or her to produce test results or papers?
But if he or she produces test results, these must contain proper names, and you must know the person's proper name, lest your future collaborator be tricking you by showing someone else's results.
Friedman's response is that people in committed relationships also lie. Which simply begs the question, rather inelegantly. Someone you know well, as a human being with a name, is less likely to lie to you than is someone you know only as a pleasure-seeking organism. If said pleasure-seeking organism is merely out for a good time, without there being any real risk of every seeing you again, why would he or she not tell you exactly what you want to hear?
There are myriad problems with Friedman's definition of collaborative performance.
One she addresses, in her reply to Susan Walsh, linked above. Namely, that performances are usually public. To which Friedman replies that she thinks of these sexual jam sessions as private performances.
But don't performances always imply spectators, real or imagined? At a time when more and more people are oversharing their intimate experiences on the internet, why imply that this is basic to sexual experience?
Considering the ease with which Friedman told the world of her own sluthood, it would not be too much of a stretch to consider that she does not quite understand that the value and the pleasure of sex lies for many people in the fact that it is a private and intimate experience, thus that the two participants are not performers.
Second, if there are two anonymous pleasure-seeking organisms involved, then it is fair to say that they are not really functioning as fully human beings. If their experience transcends their gender and name then they are fictional creations. Nothing more or less.
Third, if all sexual experiences are created equal, then how can anyone place greater value on sex within a relationship than sex with a handsome stranger. If people do place more value on sex with someone they love, are they deluded? If commitment makes sex feel better for certain individuals, are they abnormal?
And what are the potential consequences of making pleasure, having a good or great time, the gold standard? Many women have involved themselves in relationships that had no real future because the sex felt so good. How many relationships between pleasure-seeking organisms have come to grief once the demands of living as a couple intruded?
Fourth, the kinds of anonymous random sexual encounters that Friedman seems to be using as the model for sexual relations are most commonly practiced by gay men.
Why so? Perhaps because there are no women involved, thus, nothing resembling a pregnancy risk. Without a built-in link between pregnancy risk and emotion, gay men have better access to the kind of sex that Friedman wants to make into the norm.
Ought gay men be stigmatized because their sexual experience differs significantly from that of straight men or gay women? I think not.
Perhaps one kind of sex is right for some people but is not right for others.
Saying that all forms of human sexual behavior should be defined in relation to the model of gay sex is to distort human sexuality in order to ensure that no one feels that they are any different.
As it looks, Friedman is telling women that they can have the kind of sex that gay men have mastered without having the feelings or the emotions that belong to them properly as women.
I will mention in passing that when gay women involve themselves in intimate relations they place far greater value on emotion, conversation, and knowing the other person. It seems intrinsic to the way women experience intimacy.
And, naturally, women have been clearest in expressing their objects to the sex positive feminism that Friedman has been offering to unsuspecting college girls. Susan Walsh has collected some feminist objections to people like Friedman in this post: Link here.
But if young women are being induced to have sex as though they were gay men, aren't they denying something about their being as women? If so, is Friedman mounting a feminist assault on women, because if women act like women, if they trust their own judgment, and follow their own impulses, then perhaps they will be less likely to be grist for the feminist recruitment mill.
People have said, correctly, that I am not a feminist. Well and good. But if sex positive feminism involves enticing women to have sex as though they were gay men, that feels just a wee bit like telling women that they should stop acting like women, lest they make gay men feel different.
To me that idea has a faint whiff of misogyny... unintended, I'm sure.