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.