Central to pro-sex thought is the idea that there is a plethora of
sexual preferences and practices which profoundly violate societal restrictions.

Among these restricted sexual activities—which are seen as
wildly divergent—are cross-generational sex (to use their euphemism for child sexual abuse), fetishism, sadomasochism, and the making and use of pornography. Such deviant sexualities, so the theory goes, are at the bottom of a hierarchy of sexual privilege, which has heterosexuality, marriage, and procreation at its pinnacle, and “vanilla” homosexuality somewhere in the middle.

"Those engaging in these privileged acts," Carol Vance writes in her introduction to Pleasure and Danger, "enjoy good name and good fortune."

All of this sounds logical and persuasive until you move beyond
society’s pieties and look at what it actually practices. Then it becomes clear that, instead of being forbidden or persecuted, these frowned upon sexual activities are, in the case of men, promoted, encouraged, and rewarded, and, in the case of women, imposed and enforced.

Moreover, instead of being incredibly different from one another, they all have a common denominator: a power relationship that replicates in miniature the power relations of society.

How deviant is cross-generational sex, for example, when, laws
against child sexual abuse notwithstanding, the activity is so popular that more than a quarter of all females are sexually abused as children?

How nonconformist is fetishism when “regular guys” proudly identify themselves as “tit men” or “ass men,” and the best-selling men’s entertainment magazines devote whole glossy pages to just our genitals, just our breasts?

How taboo is sadomasochism when Penthouse boosts sales by displaying Asian women tied up like slabs of meat and strung
up from trees and trendy sportswear manufacturers successfully promote their products by showing battered-looking models in torn clothing?

How forbidden is pornography when, aided by anti-obscenity laws, the industry rakes in more than the film and record industries combined?

As for the hierarchy of sexual privilege, it too sounds convincing,
until you examine the position of women in this hierarchy: Heterosexuality, procreation, and marriage may mean privilege for men, but they mean something very different for the married woman. Her “good fortune” is a 1 out of 3 chance of being a battered wife, a 1 out of 7 chance of being raped by her own husband, and a statistically undetermined probability that she will be her husband’s domestic servant and that her identity will be subsumed in his.

The so-called good fortune of lesbian feminists is either public denigration or invisibility and often loss of jobs and family.

It’s not that “cross-generational sex,” fetishism, sadomasochism, and trafficking in or using pornography are never punished.
Sometimes they are, but never enough to dampen their popularity. Just enough to make them seem forbidden and keep them exciting.

It’s not that there are no sexual choices that truly violate society’s rules. What I am suggesting is that the “deviant” sexual practices defended and promoted by the pro-sex people aren’t really proscribed by society; they’re prescribed.

They’re not really deviant at all. They’re good soldier conformity.


- When Women Defend Pornography, Dorchen Leidholdt

Debunking the Myth of “Vanilla Privilege”: That ‘deviant sexuality’ is in actuality, mainstream in a porn & rape culture.

"We have got to understand that sexual response for women and orgasm for women is not necessarily pleasurable and positive. It can be a very real problem. It can be an accommodation of our oppression. It can be the eroticizing of our domination." [- Sheila Jeffreys]

"Acting out the roles of dominance and submission that the system forces on us is not the same as choosing them. Experiencing arousal and orgasm in the course of acting out these roles is not defining our own sexuality. I’ve come to believe that a human being can eroticize anything—including banging one’s head against a brick wall." [- Dorchen Leidholdt]

I flew into Frankfurt on my way to Strasbourg, and used that opportunity to study, up close, legalized prostitution, European-style. The Frankfurt city fathers had created a system of legal, regulated brothels, hoping to stamp out an array of evils, including street prostitution, control of the sex industry by organized crime, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It was obvious that their strategy was a colossal failure. Street prostitution was flourishing; organized crime groups were running underground brothels filled with Asian, Latin American, and Eastern European women and girls. Only the few legal brothels (grossly out numbered by their underground counterparts) cared whether buyers used condoms.

What had emerged in Frankfurt was a two-tiered system of prostitution. I later realized that this was the face of legalized prostitution in the western world. Women and girls who had been trafficked from poor countries were propelled into a competition with Western-born women for local prostitution customers and a growing number of sex tourists. It was apparent that the quotient of suffering was the most acute for the undocumented women and girls in the illegal brothels. They were forced to endure unwanted sex with half-a-dozen customers each night, were unable to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and were deprived of travel documents, threatened with violence and deportation, and required to work off exorbitant debt that locked them into conditions of slavery.

While not as dire as that of their internationally trafficked sisters, the lot of the legally prostituted women was also dismal. Posing as an American newspaper reporter, I was welcomed by the madam into a legal brothel in the heart of Frankfurt. It resembled a four-star hotel in the United States. I was soon surrounded by a group of women eager for a distraction from their late afternoon wait for their “clients.” Several of the women’s husbands were also their pimps, most of the women were from poor, rural areas of Germany, and all faced bleak futures with few employment skills. The sex of prostitution was an unwanted invasion they had developed a series of strategies to avoid — their favorite, they confided, was to get the men so drunk that they didn’t know what they were penetrating. The women seemed bored and depressed. Their depression deepened when I asked them what they hoped to be doing in five years. Aside from one woman who said that she hoped to help manage the brothel, they were at a loss for words.

The effects of trafficking and prostitution were not confined to the brothels in Frankfurt. I was told by Asian women working to assist trafficking victims that they couldn’t publish their names in the telephone books or they got calls all night long from prostitution buyers. They were constantly solicited for sex. The mainstream media was saturated with prostitution imagery.

Building on their argument that male supremacist sexuality is faced by women universally—though not identically—radical feminists further contend that these harms are not discrete: all female sexual exploitation contributes to the oppression of all women. In other words, women are linked not only by their common experiences of sexual exploitation, but by the patriarchal mindset that is both cause and effect of the sexual exploitation of any woman. [Dorchen] Leidholdt, for example, argues that “sexually exploited women and children are the sex industry’s primary casualties but not its only victims. Commercial sexual exploitation diminishes the lives of all women and girls by inculcating in men and boys profoundly misogynistic beliefs and attitudes.”