Simone de Beauvoir
It is every day that we are as we are. It is every day that we are not as other people see us. I write as I write because one of my central topics is on that that was relevant to my foremothers, and will be relevant to my daughters and their daughters, long after whatever makes up Lillian is scattered back to the corners and the winds. I do not remember the moment that I came to be, and of course, I will not remember the moment that I cease to be. But within me is a memory from before I was of what it means to be a woman.
One part of that is how men see us. I write as I write not because men do not see as as people. Mostly, they do. However, I write as I write because men accept that other men have a right not to see us as people. This is part of the condition of our lives and our existence. Not a day goes by where I am not reminded of this in the real world, and very few in Second Life. In second life people are cruder about how they express it.
There are many people who are wiser about the deep roots of this condition, who can speak to the theory, both psychological and physiological of what creates it. This is not my place. What I write about is the state of the ecstatic, within which we are creatures, not of drive and desire, not contained within the four corners of our identity, nor in the walls of our stage. We break through that fourth wall that is between us as actors, and the world as stage. In the grip of this, memory speaks through us, and to us, and pleasure reorders our souls and our selves.
I say this for cold reasons. Pleasure and tears are two of the ways that we remake our inner selves. Tears and pleasure reach into us, and remake us.
It is part of the desire to have these, without being had by them, which drives consumption. We consume to have pleasure, but repeated and repeatable pleasure. A pleasure that does not change us, but affirms that we are unchanged. Even lesser pleasure that we are in control of, is better than greater pleasure we are not.
And this brings me back to the words that I quoted above, and which an Indepedent article quoted, and made me remember when I first read them, in a darkened room, to scared to admit that I was reading what I was reading. I had the book on my lap, knees crowded in together to hold it up. I was staring down at it, the words far away, and yet, so close that they seemed to touch my face.
In men's eyes – and for the legion of women who see through men's eyes – it is not enough to have a woman's body nor to assume the female function as a mistress or mother in order to be a "true woman." In sexuality and maternity woman as subject can claim autonomy; but to be a "true woman" she must accept herself as the Other. The men of today show a certain duplicity of attitude which is painfully lacerating to womenl they are willing on the whole to accept woman as a fellow being, an equal; but they still require her to remain the inessential.
It was these words that were on my mind this evening when a supposed leading light of SL humanist society did the stumping for humping routine with me. All poetry falls like Lucifer from heaven when describing such events. Sagan Theas IM'ed me, and wanted "some fun." I asked him what he meant, he told me he wanted sex. I told him that if he was keeping me on his friends list as a name in his little black book, that he should take me off. He then replied "So why the leading line of questioning?" As if I tricked him into IMing me in the first place.
This is Simon de Beauvoir's paragraph in action. He is a real person, with social connections in Second Life. This gives him the privilege, the right, to treat women as "things." Humanist, atheist... sexist. Willing in some abstract way to accept women as intellectual equals, but demanding that, I at least, be his thing, his object, for him to impose his design upon. If I do not accept this role as Other, then I am at fault.
We are not born women, but, instead, we are made into a woman. We become women by the roles that others assign to us, and by the otherness we accept. I understand that there are distant roots in biology. But there is no biology here. Indeed the whole paradigm of men proposing and women disposing is without need here. It is as hard to find a man, harder probably, who is good at the flow of creating cybersex, as it is a woman. And it is much harder for a man to get off with two hands on the keyboard. Escorting reverses the outside world's men propose, women dispose, since it is men who have what the escort wants. Men have the privilege of women in that situation, without the costs. A woman cannot escape being the object of propositions to reduce her to otherness. Men can.
The reason for this otherness, I feign, is in the nature of drive and desire. A drive reduces and pushes. It is satisfied by the action, by the end, even without envisioning the end. No matter how much intelligence is behind a drive, it remains a drive. Sagan Theas was in the grip of a drive. That drive was to reduce me to operative other. As Beauvoir observed, the greater the ability of a man to impose, in public or private, the more virile he is, the more a man. However, as a woman, my rejection of being a thing to have his ability to make me say that he has pleasured me, is a mortal sin. Again, this from a man who is a self-proclaimed free thinker. But he does not grant that right to me.
A drive is a push, a desire a pull. Desire pulls us in that it creates a vision of another state, perhaps future, perhaps unobtainable, perhaps visible from some other vantage point. Desire then, while in many ways as simple as a drive, is capable of integration with the whole of a person. While a person can be reduced to brute drive or desire equally, a drive is only capable of elaboration by bringing more of the person into it. We can be more clever, more cruel, but it is still a motor tha runs, a buzzer that vibrates. A drive reduces in all cases. A desire can reduce, but it can also expand. By bring words, visions, memories, gestures, the whole of the creative self can be engaged in desire.
It is desire that makes a woman, not because we are born to it in some particular way that is different from men, though I suppose biology may impinge upon it's tendencies, but because desire is the form where a woman is allowed to be integrated, as a man is integrated by his ability to impose. Men have a drive for a woman who is encompassed by desire, particularly if it is so powerful as to negate her power of choice. Men want us to be receptacles for their virility, even if it is of a virtual kind. Desire is the integrator that we are allowed, and it is for this reason that men become enraged if they can not exploit it, because while they can deny our right to do, or to question their place as men, the cannot deny the right to desire itself. Thus nothing I say will shame Sagan Theas. He has an absolute right to attempt to otherize women, granted to him "by men and the legion of women who see through men's eyes."
Desire is what makes a woman a woman to herself. It is this change from drive to desire which is the essential change from proposition, to disposition. To propose may be to desire, but it is to be motivated by drive. To dispose is to desire, to visualize.
When I wanted to be a dancer, the drive made me focus on each movement, but it was the desire that animated me through the hours. It was like a bubble that formed just below my heart, and it expanded, pushing aside everything else inside me, my lungs, my blood, until it filled me, and then rushed upwards and exploded into my skull like a bursting light, until it forced open my eyes from the inside. I could feel my spirit escape through my eyes, and look down at a more beautiful Lillian, on a more beautiful stage, floating on point in the air. And with that vision I could pull myself just that much higher, arch my back just that much more, and point my feet just that much straighter.
Once given to desire, what state have we? The unification of being through desire is different than the unification through a drive. It is something I've observed in my friends, those who have slipped into baby madness. Suddenly everything is a calculation to bring about the confluence of events that culminates in pregnancy. I have danced upon that line many times myself, it is biology, it is destiny. It is also a construction of society, because it is being able to work those levers that is the hallmark of the madness itself. Without the construction, there is no meaning to it. Getting pregnant is simplicity itself, it is shaping the social fabric so that we feel an entitlement to protection and care, an entitlement that should come with being a mother, that is the essence of the drive expressed. The drive is not for a baby, but for the social place for the baby to be.
And that is why in the cruelest sense, I will write about the ultimate form of otherness in our society, at this time: abortion. Terminating a pregnancy. It is a right that we need to participate as so-called equals in modern society. But think on why we do this to ourselves: because society does not accept our right to reproduce, or deems us not to have constructed a social place for ourselves and our baby. Society demands that a woman "choose" what society has already chosen. A woman does not have an abortion, society does, but makes her alienate her own body, treat fertility, as an otherness. It is not us, but something other than us, that we must end and control, by choice. By choosing we affirm the social contract, and the relationships of power, and admit that we have not worked them well enough, we have not woven them well enough. Abortion then, is a right that society needs us to have, in order to escape it's own duty.
This is an extension of the demand that we make our own pleasure otherness, an orgasm is something a man makes us do, a baby something he makes us have. Abortion then, is the expression, not of our rights in society, but of our lack of them. We must have it in an intrinsic sense, because we carry the child. We, and no other, stand for that child and the readiness, the rightness of entry into the world. Yet in most cases we pass judgment upon our baby, made by someone else. It is not we who are unready, but the outside.
This duality, of Other and Outside, is the great tension that is imposed on us. Men want to make us into Other, by pressing the outside. They want to make the clothes we are wearing, the place we are standing, or where we were standing when we met them, the determiner of whether or not we have a right to choice. Meet a man in an orgy room, and you are on his list of women than he can make blunt sexual demands of. Once a cum dumpster, always a cum dumpster. Once an object of his mastery, always an object of his mastery. The unquestioned right of the outside to impose, is, of course, power, and violence.
This desire to impose the outside made JayR Cela threaten me with violence, and call me a "dirty pussy" because I would not bend to his will. He plays a woman in second life, but when it comes to it, he is a man, and demands a man's right to reduce the public woman to a target of violence. This is perfectly acceptable to everyone. A man has an unlimited right to kill and destroy women, because even those who would not want such a right, freely grant it. There is no penalty for threatening a woman with violence should she not comply with the power of men.
This is not limited to second life. Recently the Supreme Court ruled in Heller on gun rights. This is a direct expression of the principle that men grant other men the unlimited right to violence against women. The supposed strict constructionists of the right wing found a right which is not in the words. That right is used, overwhelmingly, by men, to murder women. The man's interest in his virility, under the law, is infinitely and unquestionably greater than a woman's right to be alive at all. A woman has nothing that a man is not allowed to take away from her, at any time, for any reason. And no collective force can take away that right. That is the law in America as it is now, that is the law as it will be tomorrow, and for a great many tomorrows after that.
I close with a summary of what may seem a diffuse essay, but let me tie the strands together. What makes someone a woman, is the decision by others that men have the right to turn her into an object at any time, a right that will not be denied by law or social sanction. What makes someone a woman to herself, is the unification of her person not by what she does, or by the otherness that would be imposed, but by desire, but bringing together all parts of herself in a vision of what could be, and what her whole body and being wish her to be. This right is carefully controlled and contained, because men cannot deny the right to desire. They want to otherize desire, and it's results, but they cannot remove it.
Society inflicts the Outside upon us, by making us commit the acts which society demands, but which it ascribes to us. We "choose" abortion, even though we do not choose it. So too men have the right to murder us, or demean us, or impose upon us, and we are wrong if we do not accept the blame when we cannot be what they want us to be. It is our fault for not being what we were supposed to be.
I write as I write because this collapsing into otherness is a reality which is accelerating. I could point, I suppose to the reality that in our society, true virility is less and less valued. There are numbers and facts to point to, but these are merely temporary and transient statistical indicators, of a more fundamental truth. The world belongs, not to men, but to the system we have built. Increasingly men do not fit within it, and so, they are, in that time honored tactic, granted rights over women, to replace the rights that they once had as public men. Men are not allowed to be as virile in public, so they are given the otherness of women as the private right.
It is not just here, but around the world. I see this in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese. I find it in men who are cultured, and men who are crass. I had one Egyptian man today teleport me in, and demand we fuck, even as he was fucking someone else. It was "none of my business" that he was fucking someone else. He works in an internet company in real life. I had several times before told him I did not want to have sex with him.
There are some who would argue it is biology that makes men as they are. I could not argue against it in their totality, but the biology is, at best, one aspect of the raw material. There is no biological imperative here. No amount of cybersex will produce a baby by itself, or reproduction of any kind. This is not a biological drive, but a social construction that a man who reduces woman to his pleasure object, without paying, is more of a man. Yet he inflicts the price on every woman he meets, and not merely in the IM. Do you think I could ever attend a meeting of the Freethinkers now? No it is permanently made Sagan Theas territory by his appropriation of it. He has made me other, because he owns it, and in it bars me from participation in public. Freethinkers is now, by his appropriation, just another sorry sexist excuse for a power game. The same is true of Rl: the Virginia Society for Tech in Education, Science Friday - are rl. Philosophy House? Only if you are a man, women are not safe there.
That is, there is RL which I cannot network into, because of the man's privilege of objectification.
And that is true of virtually every organization. Any woman who does not accept a man's unlimited right to reduce her to an other, will not be able to leave her apartment in the morning. There is no escape, no enlightened society, no free place. It is not that every man is like this, or even most men, but it is enough that most men accept that some men are like this and have every right to be like this.
We are not born women, but we are both made into one, and make ourselves into one. There are only two outcomes. One is to be made into a man's drive of a woman, and accept that from the Outside. It leads to becoming Other, even from our own body and fertility. The other is by desire to make ourselves. This is a constant struggle, because while the outside accepts our desire, they want it to be the tool of consumption and being a willing blank slate for objectification.