For starters, to quote this excerpt from Chris's review:
He does not, of course, ever say that we should just cloister ourselves and live lives of sexual abstinence. But when he does try to give solutions to the nightmare world that he depicts, Robert Jensen’s words lose their fire. His description of a positive sexuality is vague and bloodless, and speaks little of sex as a physical act but in semi-mystical terms about light and mystery and touch. It’s bland and dull, but even worse, it gives little in the way of practical advice. In the 90’s, I came away from reading sex-positive writers like Carol Queen and Susie Bright with sophisticated ways of thinking about safer sex techniques, talking honestly about limits, and what consent was and wasn’t. All that I get from Jensen is an admonition that we should try to make sex be more about light, and less about heat. (And god help me, I’m still not sure what that means.)
It took until this morning before reading that graph when it really did hit me: what Jensen means by his version of a "bloodless sexuality" that contains "more heat and less light" is similar to what the cultural feminists of the 1980s described as a "feminist sexuality" that would be imposed as much on women as on men. In that vision, sex would be concieved as much less a physical pleasure and more of a transcending, supernatural presence which would somehow go beyond the experiences and sensations of the individuals; more of a sprirtual and universal experience in communal bonding than any individualistic physical act. Of course, such a transcendent phonenom would be totally shorn of such "patriarchial" nonsenses as erections, body fluids, or even orgasms; such trite physical sensations would be whisked away by the sheer revolutionary outer-body experience that "feminist sex" would produce in men freed from their evil "patriarchial" ideas of power and domination. It's almost as if Jensen and his radicalfeminist mentors see his crusade against "masculinity" and the porn that he alleges is the foundation behind it as the key to ending world war, hunger, economic and social inequality, and most other ills of the world.
The problem with such a utopia, though, is that it comes dangerously close to an equally restrictive and "transcending" view of sexuality: that of the Religious Right.
It is no accident that the social conservatives have so appropriated much of Jensen's core theory about male sexual rapicity towards women; albeit with the aim of supporting and abetting their own traditional sexual morality of restraining sex within the act of procreation within marriage. The contraposition of the "liberating" and "beautiful" and "uplifting" power of what they call "the marital act" when "two become one" (or "when two become one") in the conception of a child, with the "ugly", "selfish", "compulsive", and "addictive" acts of sex for physical pleasure alone; has been a stable of conservative and traditionalist thought about sexuality since time immortal. Strangely enough, it has now been appropriated by the most sexually conservative feminists as a means of "protecting" women from the "male gaze", but with an added twist: "personal intimacy" and "emotional integrity" within codependent monogamy has replaced hetero marital procreation at the top of the privileged and sacred pyramid.
The emphasis may differ with each movement: the antipornradfems seek to regulate the supposed out-of-control nature of male sexuality at the hands of the "patriarchy"; while the fundamentalists target what they perceive as the threat of unbridled female sexuality in defiance of "God's law" (or "Allah's", or "Yawheh's" or any other deity of choice). But the effect is nevertheless the same: to inprision and restrict men's and women's sexual choices and impose a rather strained, exclusive, and repressive system of sexual regulation and choice by the use of shame and guilt (and with the full power of the State as a backup just in case the "gentle persuasion" and "conciousness raising" doesn't elicit the changes sought).
That such a reactionary concept of sexuality can be passed along as "progressive", even "Leftist" is one of the utter tragedies of this book....almost as much as the complete denial of female sexual agency that lurks just underneath the surface of Jensen's jerimiads.
The other thought that reared its head at me was about the individualistic approach that Jensen takes in his activism towards men who might be suspect to his illogic. He seems to see progressive activism as most of the culturalist Left and liberals of the 1970s do: as a means of consciousness raising of people already with "privilege" to confront, accept, and then repudiate such privilege and see the world as their apparant "victims" of such racial or gender or imperial privilege would. (Call it the "Walk a mile in their shoes" type of movement, if you will.)
This kind of activism sounds all well and good at first...but it ultimately suffers from the same flaw that most culturally-based movements falter on: the inability to take on fundamental physical institutions of inequality; and the confusion of individual acts of cruelty with institutional acts of inequality. Rape may be a universal crime of sexual anger and rage directed by men towards women (but don't forget anti-gay hate, either!!!), and certainly may be exploitable as part of larger hate campaigns against certain groups; but that doesn't change the basic fact that rape is for the most part an act of extreme violence done by an individual (or group of individuals) against an individual person.
Conversely, as much as many people might find facials or double penetration or anal sex "demeaning" and "filthy", the fact remains that even loving and caring and committed people can engage in such activities and find them personally upliftiing, or simply arousing. The difference is in the overall political and cultural outlook of whomever is making the prejudgment about such acts; not in the acts themselves.
On the other hand, though, laws specifically created to restrict and constrain sexual expression and behavior amongst consenting adults do far, far, far more damage to progressive activism than any of the dire consensual sex acts that so excise Jensen and his radfem mentors. Not only do they literally invite the State to intervene in matters of personal sexual tastes and asthetics that are better left to individual choice and free will; but they are the ultimate gateway to justifying more explicit political censorship.....the kind that has been traditionally used against the Left and against liberals in general for time immortal. Can't Jensen see the connection between McCarthyism and the anti-"homosexual menace" movements of the 1950s?? The intimate links between White supremacism and religious bigotry and sex crime so starkly seen in the castration and lynching of Black men (and rape of Black women) during the Jim Crow years??) The undercurrent of sexual bigotry and fear underlying the current memes against "illegal aliens" (read, anyone Latin@ who isn't a paid agent of the GOP or not useable as a slave for multinational corporations)?? The antiabortion movement and the attack on basic women's control of their own reproductive systems and all the "sluts get what they deserve" rhetoric??
Maybe Bob Jensen with his doctorate and his upper-middle-class background can overlook all this...but I as a working-class Black man certainly can't.
There are far, far more important issues of racial and gender and economic inequality -- and the institutions of capital and State that buttress and reinforce such inequality -- for liberals and Leftists to tackle; it is a distraction and a ruse and a dead end to get caught up in baiting and hating men for having impromptu erections (and women for getting damp panties and engorged clits) at the mere sight of imagery that doesn't fit a narrow ideologue's personal squicks. Save the hate for the rapists and true misogynists who earn it....and work the energy someplace else more fruitful than getting into every man's boxers....and every woman's panties.
[Cross-posted to The SmackDog Chronicles]