Women's Liberation Is Coming

By O'Connor, Jennifer | Herizons, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Women's Liberation Is Coming


O'Connor, Jennifer, Herizons


Imagine a Tupperware party...or a quilting bee. Now add a harness and numerous other sex gadgets. Seven women, varying in age, size and body piercings, sit in a living room, surrounded by sex paraphernalia, safety gear and the famous `vulva puppet' -- an anatomically-correct teaching tool scaled large enough to impress any size queen. They talk about female ejaculate, why silicone lubes should not be used with silicone toys and discuss the merits of plug-in vibrators versus portable.

These women are discussing the joys of sex in the film Please Don't Stop: Lesbian Tips for Givin' & Gettin' It, a Sex Positive production that is the first film of its kind to be made by a cast and crew of lesbians of colour. But such adventures aren't just happening on videotape. In books, e-zincs (on-line publications), performance, and activism, women are claiming their sexuality.

For Shelley Taylor, third-wave sexuality is characterized by "a much more assertive belief that we own our bodies and we can do whatever we want with them." The owner of the Halifax and Ottawa-based Venus Envy stores describes the attitude as, "Nobody can tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies. Don't tell us who we should be partnered with or how many people we should be partnered with or even that we need a partner." The result, Taylor explains, is that it's becoming more and more acceptable and sexy to be knowledgeable and forward and assertive about sex. And if it means bending their boyfriend over, these gals know how to do it safely.

Not that it's as simple as grabbing some lube and latex. Young feminists in particular, writes Merri Lisa Johnson in Jane Sexes It Up: True Confessions of Feminist Desire, "feel the edges of feminist history grind against the conservative cultural contexts in which our lives unfold." They live inside the contradiction of a political movement that affirms and encourages expressions of sexuality, and the "real world of workplaces, families and communities that continue to judge women harshly for speaking of sex, much less expressing one's `deviant' acts and complex erotic imagination."

Examples of this deviance are everywhere. Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano's S.I.R. Video Productions make films such as Hard Love & How to Fuck in High Heels (lesbian porn) and Bend Over Boyfriend (a straight couple's guide to male anal pleasure). Bust magazine provides readers with sex-positivity in sections such as The Sex Files, Susie Q's (an advice column by Susie Bright) and an erotica section aptly called "One-Handed Read." And women are signing up for workshops on female ejaculation and introduction to BDSM (bondage and discipline, sado-masochism) at women-focused stores, such as Good For Her in Toronto, where I've worked for the past year.

But you don't have to venture that far to find sexy-girl media. Mainstream magazines such as Chatelaine have a sex advice columnist and television programs such as the W Network's (formerly WTN) Sunday Night Sex Show are as close as your cable provider.

Of course, women didn't invent sexuality sometime around 1991. No, the stops on this tawdry tour include early feminists at the turn of the century advocating for birth control, articles about the legalization of abortion that appeared in Chatelaine under the editorship of Doris Anderson and, more recently, Little Sisters' battles with Canada Customs over gay porn.

However, as Lee Damsky writes in Sex and Single Girls, most of us don't live in this blithe bubble. As she explains, "We grew up with a mix of social-sexual contradictions: the conservative backlash and the AIDS epidemic, the queer movement and gender-fuck. We got divorced parents and `family value,' homophobia and lesbian chic, `Just Say No' and `Ten Ways to Drive Him Wild. …

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