(This article was adapted from our new book Emotional Frustration – the hushed plague)
In 1952 Frantz Fanon, a French psychiatrist and intellectual born in Martinique, published Peau Noire, Masques Blanc—one of his most important and still disregarded works. Based on his own experience growing up as a black man in a largely white society, he exposed the dehumanizing effects of racism on the psyche of vulnerable communities in colonized societies like the French Caribbean islands. He applied the psychoanalytic theory and praxis to explain the sense of inferiority and dependency that oppressed black people feel toward the white supremacists.
In the chapter titled Le Noir et la Psychopathologie, he claimed that in a society where whites have all the major levers of economic opportunities and the communications, black people cannot fit into the mold established by the dominating classes, which creates a schizoid dissociation in their subconscious that equates “blackness” with “wrongness.” The perfidious association of “black” with “villainy” will be seared in the young blacks’ minds , inevitably influencing their sexual desire. On the other hand, the social castration of young blacks elicited a compensatory fantasy in the minds of whites who extolled the “sexual prowess” of their victims.
Fanon, compromised with the anti-colonial struggle of Algerians, died too young at 37 years old in a New York City Hospital in 1961 but he bequeathed his ideas to us. Just a few years later the Feminist Movement, deeply influenced by the struggle of colonized people against their colonizers in the 60s, vociferously demands the end of the dominance of men over women in a then overtly sexist Patriarchal society. In the late 70s Catherine McKinnon affirmed that the traditional psychoanalytic view of desire as primal and apolitical must be discarded to recognize its violent nature. Influenced by the Patriarchy, sexual desire of men (the oppressors) is tainted by the paradoxical co-existence of contempt and also arousal of the master towards slaves; likewise the desire of women (the oppressed) is tainted by a sense of vulnerability. In the workplace women were judged by the standards used for wives and friends; the imbalance of power provoked the subordination of female labor to male desire.
For the radical feminists the erotic experience of sex was inexorably related to the imposition of patriarchal rules of domination on women, questioning the true value of the supposed “voluntary consent” and affirming that women could not enjoy it. Discreetly they advocated for a self-disciplining of educated, emancipated women that eventually led to a “political lesbianism” in practice as men could not be trusted. The psychologically and physical abuse of men over women in bed was reinforced by the surge of demand of pornography material in the70s and 80s in our societies.
In the late 80s and early 90s some feminist rebelled against the fundamentalist anti-sex view of the McKinnonites and revendicated the right of women to good sex. They insisted that women were entitled to sexual desire, including heterosexual. In a chapter titled “Lust Horizons: is the Feminist Movement Pro-Sex” of her book, Ellen Willis stated that the MacKinnonites not only denied the right of women to a basic human physiologic function, but it also reinforced the quaint Victorian prejudice that “men only want sex and women can only endure it.” She claimed that this supposedly “natural” sexual dichotomy was used by the Patriarchate to enforce the exclusion of women from their access to the social and economic levers of power in society. Willis said that anti-porn feminism “asked women to accept a spurious moral superiority as a substitute for sexual pleasure, and curbs on men’s sexual freedom as a substitute for real power.” Surreptitiously deflecting the discourse, the chameleonic Patriarchate stays in power.
In an excellent review titled “Does anyone have the right to sex” in the London Review of Books, Amia Srinivasan affirmed that the case for pro-sex feminism has been solidified by the more recent acceptance of the concept of intersectionality by the defenders of women’s rights. She said that “ thinking about how patriarchal oppression is inflected by race and class—patriarchy doesn’t express uniformly and cannot be understood independently of other systems of oppression—has made feminists reluctant to prescribe universal policies, including the universal sexual policies.” The furious demand of white women for equal access to the workplace might seem irrelevant to poor black women who have disproportionately worn the pants at home, which implied toiling in an outside job plus doing the house chores. Similarly the self-objectification of women has a different meaning for them as they might subconsciously resent that society “naturally” considers the white women as a paradigm of beauty solely by virtue of their color.
In a follow-up, we will discuss the acrid confrontation of Feminists and Trans women.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.