DESIRE War Of Positions by etssetcf


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Maureen Freely explains why power and desire won't be parted
War Of Positions
            s the war against the pat-

                                                                                           the traditional hetero-woman has
            riarchs drags into its third                                                   yielded to her brutish ejaculating hus-
            decade, we still aren't sure                                                   band, she does a lot of other things
            what we want to do with the                                                    without having to pause to give him the
            world after men have uncon-                                                    time of day - having children, for
ditionally surrendered. Is there a possi-                                                  example.
bility for a new kind of love to exist                                                       Heterosexuality might be an institu-
between men and women that will per-                                                       tion and as such reconstructed and
mit them to respect each other and work                                                    deconstructed, but a relationship that
together as a team, or will any attempt                                                    takes place inside that structure cannot
to co-operate with phallocrats lead to                                                     be analysed in the same way because it
the undermining of equality, and defeat?                                                   exists in time. It is subject to change.
  The fashionable view in the bunkers is                                                   Even if we see the traditional hetero-
that all these things will sort them-                                                      relationship as a relentless power
selves out in a century or two so long as                                                  struggle - and I do not - we must still
we make changes possible by fighting                                                       concede that not all the victories go to
today for a woman's right to determine                                                     the one who has the penis. Sometimes
her own destiny. Maybe we will drift                                                       the women win, too. There are constant
effortlessly towards a form of mat-                                                        shifts in the balance of power and in the
riarchy in which men will continue to                                                     'distribution of tasks. It is based on flexi-
make themselves useful as studs, glad-                                                     bility and trust. If you're locked into a
iators and playmates. Or maybe men                                                         vicious power struggle, you can never
and women will soon be so similar in                                                       cede ground because you risk losing it
nature that we will be able to call them                                                   for ever. If you trust the other partner,
androgynous twins. Your guess is as                                                        you can cede ground because you know
far-fetched as mine.                                                                       that the next day the roles can be rev-
   There have always been more serious                                                     ersed and you'll get twice as much
thinkers who are not prepared to let                                                       ground back.
nature take its course. A recent                                                             This is mutuality in action. But is
example is Sheila Jeffreys, who argues,      same kind of kicks from mutuality. De-        mutuality ever safe? In a traditional
in her polemic Anticlimax, that hetero-      tractors may call it bambi sex, but Sheila    hetero-relationship, it at least feels safe.
 sexuality constructs desire in such a       Jeffreys suggests we would all prefer         It means that there are times when you
way that it eroticises power difference.     sex that 'does not leave us feeling be-       can call a truce, put down your arms and
The only solution, she says, is for us to    trayed'. Mutuality sex will engender          get the dinner on the table. In relation-
 say no - for the time being - to hetero-    trust and so make it possible for couples     ships where there is some lip-service
 sexual desire, and then to construct        to be supportive and work as a team.          given to the principle of equality and
 homosexual desire in such a way as to         What she and her fellow emotional           some degree of economic parity, mutu-
 eroticise equality and mutuality. In the    engineers are trying to promote, in           ality means something different. It
 meantime, we must reconstruct male          other words, is a love relationship that      means that domestic life is a constant
 sexuality in such a way as to sever the     is simultaneously safe and exciting. An       negotiation and renegotiation of privi-
 link between power and aggression and       appealing idea. Is it feasible? Walt Dis-     leges, responsibilities and duties - all
 sexual pleasure. Then - who knows -         ney would say yes, but those of us who        in the name of balance and fairness. It
 we might be able to get out our bricks      have been to Orlando know that it is safe     happens in both heterosexual and homo-
and mortar and reconstruct hetero-           because it is totalitarian and the wrong      sexual households. It can be a good and
 sexual desire so that it eroticises equ-    kind of exciting because it is ersatz.        noble process, but it is never a peaceful
ality and mutuality, too.                                                                  one. And I can't see how it will ever be
   I am never quite sure how seriously I       What they want is to redesign the plea-
                                             sure principle so that it stops reinforc-     any different.
 am supposed to take people when they
 make grand Utopian recommendations.         ing the male value system. What a good          Even when men and women accord
 In a way, though, I admire her boldness.    idea. But what a shame that it is based       each other boundless respect, they will
 I can see that she is able to think about   on such a simplistic understanding of          still have to share the earth's resources.
 the future in ways I cannot because she     men and women. We can never hope to           They will still have to decide, probably
 refuses to waste any time arguing with      change anything if we persist in throw-       through argument, which spaces are
 anyone who disagrees with her. She has      ing around such unwieldy generalisa-          public and which are private. And even
 a vision.                                   tions. No relationship can exist without      when they have severed for ever the
                                             some degree of mutuality at least some        link between desire and power, even if
 So let's forget about sociobiology. Let's   of the time. Not even a traditional hete-     neither party is ever on the bottom or
not worry about logistics. Where there's     rosexual relationship. If all the hetero-     the top, there will always be the possi-
a will to create mandatory sperm ser-        bed had to offer was one three-minute         bility of infidelity. There will always be
vices, test-tube baby factories, and a       act of subjugation after another, the         the possibility of other, less dramatic
legal system that outlaws the mission-       women of the world would have left it         but equally damaging breaches of trust.
ary position, there's a way. Let's con-      long ago.                                     There is no such thing as a sexual rela-
centrate instead on her most interesting       There is more to heterosexual sex than      tionship, or indeed any relationship,
suggestions, namely, that liberation will    the struggle for power, and there is          which protects the people involved
not be possible for women (be they           more to a heterosexual relationship           from being betrayed. That, unfortu-
straight or gay) so long as they find        than the sexual act. Erections do not last    nately, is what makes them exciting.
power difference sexy, and that we           for ever. The score in bed does not           That is why love will continue to hurt
need to work on ways of getting the          dictate what you do in the kitchen. After     even after all things are equal*

                                                                22       MARXISM TODAY AUGUST 1990

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