The existence of Patriarchy.
Gender as a social construct.
What do those ideas mean to you? Do you consider them established truths? Undeniable reality?
If you do, I’ve got news for you. You’re part of a minority.
Because outside of our close-knit community of sex positivity, ideas like the ones I’ve listed above are considered theories by most, and kooky liberal nonsense by many.
Why do these ideas fail to stick with a more mainstream audience?
Maybe we should be blaming ourselves.
Because let’s be honest. The sex positive community can be a bit of an echo chamber, at times.
It’s great that we’ve created an online community that nurtures sex positivity, acceptance and tolerance, but we’re not always as welcoming as we should be to ideas that challenge our dogma and our preconceptions.
This is, I think, because as a community, we’re not always quite as open-minded as we think we are.
From my experiences – twice monthly on this column, and in forums and blog commentary all over the web - I’ve come to realize that we’re deliriously open-minded when it comes to polyamory, sexual fantasy, and sexual identity, but challenge concepts like Male Privilege, or The Patriarchy, and you become the target of a flame war, and maybe even a social pariah. I speak from experience.
But the fact is, because we’re so unwilling to have these theories challenged we’ve failed to introduce them to an audience outside of the sex positive community. We’ve met their skepticism with scorn, and that hasn’t set the mood for meaningful dialogue.
When it comes to “setting the mood” for serious debate, we’ve got to manage our expectations. Otherwise, we end up with permanent, resolute, glacial stalemate – with neither us, nor the people we’re trying to introduce sex positive concepts to, willing to compromise on their beliefs.
If you want proof of this, just look at some of the biggest divides in modern America – climate change, the abortion debate, healthcare…
Because neither side in these arguments is willing to open their mind to the opposing opinion, there’s never any real dialogue at all – just a lot of shouting, stonewalling, and, ultimately, frustration.
And if you think it’s bad on the political scene (somebody joked that the opposite of progress was congress), maybe you should start taking a long, hard, uncomfortable look at how we conduct ourselves within the sex positive community.
If you can believe it, I think we’re even worse.
Just look at the column I wrote recently, arguing about the existence of “female privilege.” The response I got to challenging one of the core components of feminist theory wasn’t met with reasoned dialogue, or open-minded examination of my argument, but with angry accusations of misogyny, sexism and even anti-Semitism. Shamefully, my responses were probably no less inflammatory.
But at the end of the day, the fact that certain vocal groups within the sex positive community wouldn’t even discuss the possibility that “female privilege” exists did more to harm than help their argument.
Because outside of the ivory walls of our websites and forums, people do question what we consider unquestionable. If we want to convince a larger audience that concepts like The Patriarchy, Rape Culture and Male Privilege exist, we’re going to have to allow skeptical people to challenge those ideas.
More so, when it comes to rebutting their argument, we’re going to have to do a whole hell of a lot better than simply accusing them of being misogynists, racists, bigots, or take your choice of a dozen other hyperbolic accusations.
Only by allowing skeptical people to pick holes in our beliefs can we see how strong they ultimately are. Take global warming, for example. Skeptics can argue about computer models being faked, and demand to know why it’s snowing in Texas all they want, but ultimately that doesn’t change the fact that worldwide temperatures have slowly risen almost in unison with our carbon dioxide emissions.
In all debates, the facts will come out.
And that’s ultimately where the problem lies – in belief versus facts. People can believe in anything they want – Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Jesus, Radical Feminism – but belief doesn’t equal truth.
In the words of preeminent fictional scholar Indiana Jones: “There’s no such thing as truth. There are only facts. If you’re looking for truth, go take a philosophy class.”
If the sex positive community wants sex positive concepts to be considered by a broader audience, we have to set the mood by laying down our dogmatic belief and standing by the facts instead.
Only facts – cold, hard, inalienable facts – can challenge other people’s understanding.
And if we could frame our understanding differently, and set a mood for respectful, open-minded dialogue with skeptics, instead of stonewalling them right from the beginning, we might find we reach more people than we ever could by yelling at them, chiding them or accusing them of misogyny.
But on the whole, as a community, we don’t.
I fear that’s because perhaps some of the concepts we attempt to educate people about don’t hold up to their scrutiny quite as well as we tell each other they do.
Is the fact that we’re always “setting the mood” for failure a kind of subliminal defense mechanism?
Is it our way of protecting ourselves from going out there and fighting for what we believe in – because that fight might end up making us doubt our own beliefs?
I can’t answer that. But I do know that if we really want to make an impact bringing sex positivity to mainstream America, we need to up our game.
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