On Fetish And Misogyny
Alexander Gordon Jahans
It is easy to write about the problems of the other. That doesn’t mean the consequences and the reception are easy, it’s just that the writing itself is easier when you stand distanced from the things you are commenting upon. The thing I have grappled with my whole life is that to the outside of observer the problems seem easily categorized. Maybe they categorize different things in different ways but the outside observer can look upon me and judge with relative clarity while I am still lost and figuring things out.
I am filled with self hatred for so many reasons but one of the big ones is that I have found it so hard to see with clarity where fetish ends and misogyny begins. In recent times however things have happened to present landmarks along the moral landscape and let me figure out where the fuck I am.
You see in my head I have always assumed on a basic fundamental level that I am just seeing in the world what I want or expect to see. Years of feminist discourse washing up against the shores of my reality and still I have to consciously remind myself that there aren’t also millions of superhero, scifi and fantasy films where the women get to be angsty badasses while the men get to look pretty and scream as they’re tortured or killed.
I am torn because my head can only function in a world where there is actual gender equality, yet instead the balance is so tipped in my gender’s favour that the things I think are harmless actually help to reinforce a status quo that is sexist and misogynistic. There are so many times where my brain just wants to say “Fuck it, kill me now.” because things are a confusing mess.
So, here’s my hypothesis. The world is misogynistic as fuck. generation after generation has created a culture and society where men can be shits but women have to conform to bullshit aesthetic standards and behaviours just to be accepted. Women have fought long and hard secure more rights and legal protection but now they face what is arguably the hardest challenge, reversing generations of cultural momentum that fetishises the portrayal of women as this unrealistic, oxymoronic, impossible, perfect fantasy.
At the same time political socio-cultural factors have coincided to create a vocal pushback by men who have been abandoned by society and aren’t being offered another way to be. As feminism seeks to tackle the fetishisation of women in popular culture, misogyny is making a strike back.
All of this is made so much more confusing because feminism is not some unified political body, rather billions of individuals fighting for women in their own, sometimes contradictory, ways. I mean there are trans exclusive radical feminists, feminists who want to help men as well, feminists who care only about women, feminists who think porn is evil and feminists who are sex positive. Equally sometimes the fetishisation happens out of genuine hatred of women and the misogyny sometimes happens out of fetishists who feel lost and abandoned by the world and are then preyed on by actual women haters.
I think I have at last gotten a handle on where I sit. I’m a fetishist. I am problematic because of my ignorance and occasionally misplaced confidence but I don’t actually hate women. I can be anti-feminist at times because I know there are times when a so called feminist is just a person corrupted by hate, clinging to bullshit rhetoric as a justification for their sadism. However 9 times out of 10 I will fight for feminists against the misogynists because the misogynists are just deluded and hateful. Even knowing how good men can be corrupted and that misogynists deserve to be bought round I will always oppose those who have crossed a certain line in the sand.
Where it gets complicated, where the self loathing kicks in, is that the sexism of society plays into the fetish. I am at my core someone who will never fail to see a woman as an equal and that’s why I fetishise their inequality. It’s the taboo I feel by engaging in pseudo traditional masculinity. It’s partly/mostly just that I think submissiveness is really fricking cute. That I can’t deny the appeal of someone who would make themselves vulnerable or beautiful for another. I mean boys are bought to think highly of those who sacrifice themselves for another so it’s not so irrational to think highly of someone who would make even small temporary sacrifices to bring another pleasure.
There is however certainly a darker undercurrent that I like to forbid myself, a sense in which the appeal of the submissive woman comes from a playful punishment. It is certainly evident in BDSM and microphilia fiction and even crops up at times in the playful flirting with my friends. There is a thrill at the idea of the naughty girl getting punished until she behaves herself. It is a fantasy that keeps its potency by being forbidden and because I would never forgive myself if it stopped being a playful fantasy.
All of this I think is probably actually fine if not for one thing. I write this stuff into my fiction. And there’s the rub. As we have seen with Joss Whedon, it doesn’t matter how much credit you earn amongst the feminist community, if you upset them, if you fall from grace, they will round on you and take pleasure in your agony. Personally I wanted to torch Joss Whedon’s cock off when I realised he’d romanticised an ancient blood sucking vampire falling in love with then stalking a teenage girl but the feminists were fine with romanticised paedophilia and then they decided to go nuclear when he wrote a crap wonder woman script that didn’t get picked up.
Now I have made mistakes, mistakes that I don’t expect will ever stop haunting me, but I have red lines in my fiction. Granted I think the new villain Richard Raspberry breaks every single one of them but that’s the point. My fiction is very fetishistic of a certain kind of woman, it features women being bought and sold, being shrunk and kept as pets, yes even being eaten alive. Yet apart from a couple of specific instances where the point is that certain men are massive shites every woman who has this stuff happen to her is under the impression that she is consenting and loves the experience. That doesn’t mean that villains are devoid of blame. Just that I don’t torture my women characters and I’m not sure that I have to date ever written a woman character as obnoxious just so their suffering and submissiveness is enjoyable. Things Joss Whedon has actually done.
I don’t know maybe I’m worse for trying to justify myself. I actually have nightmares about how twitter and facebook will react to the things I post online. (Sorry esoteric Jahanists, you never get a look in.) I find myself repeating this phrase like a mantra at times. “Crawl. Hole. Die.” expressing my desire at times to just hide away unnoticed and lie forgotten, no longer able to stress about what people think of my writing.
I know people who write for validation and to please others. I’d love to please others. I’d love to have a genuine discussion with someone who actually likes my fiction. (Though memories of the discord now make me want to torch anyone I don’t already know and trust who offers an opinion.) It’s just that I don’t write for others. I write for me and I have to. I need to write and I love to write but I have to write for me and so I have to write this fetish stuff about women. Hence “Crawl. Hole. Die.” because what’s the solution? I’ve gone my whole life and killed off the Farsh-nuke so many times thinking the character was the problem. It’s not and never was.
I don’t get to judge myself, that’s not how this works, but equally I don’t write to satisfy the judgement of others and so I just lurch onwards, uncertain for ever as I despise myself yet continue to write. Here’s the ultimate irony. The ultimate tragedy of my existence I suppose. The fiction has caused me so much problems and it makes me hate myself so much but writing the fiction provides me with so much joy and purpose, and gives me reason to keep thinking up such fetish scenes, that it keeps me going when the problems of the world would stop me dead. The fiction makes me want to die but writing it gives me the strength to live through the rest of life’s shit.
I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that this is who I am: A problematic sometimes anti-feminist dreamer and writer of submissive women who will fight alongside women against the misogynists of the world. There are people who should say I should be better and maybe they’re right but I haven’t yet found the strength to do so.