Misogynistic literature

(46 Posts)
ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 18:36:22

Inspired by a thread in Relationships, I wonder if anyone else has issues with their male partners choosing to read fiction that is graphically misogynistic in its language and imagery.

I do, and I don't really know why. Any thoughts?

NotDead Sat 12-Oct-13 18:37:46

its empowering. cf Alanis Morissette.

BasilBabyEater Sat 12-Oct-13 19:35:00

I would feel uncomfortable about it because not seeing anything wrong with it is a problem isn't it?

When I was with XP he used to listen to dreadful music with misogynist lyrics and I was always slightly uncomfortable about it but didn't know why exactly. I suppose the fact that he was so comfortable with the lyrics and didn't see anything wrong with them, was all the time sending me a signal that he didn't really have a problem with misogyny.

Which is a little like living with a black person and not having much of a problem with racism, really. Awkward.

Suelford Sat 12-Oct-13 20:27:58

Just because you read it doesn't mean you can't see a problem with it. Often the author is deliberately using it to make some point about a character or situation.

If the misogyny (I guess you could open this up to all the usual -isms too) is presented unthinkingly, not to make any point but just as casual, unchallenged content, then there could be a problem.

But I tend to put more trust into book readers than in magazine readers, quite irrationally I'm sure, so if there was some misogyny in, e.g. Jim Davidson's autobiography then I still wouldn't have a problem with it in the house because I would think that the reader could detect it, and analyse its use to determine that the narrator is a misogynist. However, I wouldn't place the same trust in a misogynist magazine, e.g. Nuts, even if it was the same reader, DH. Hmm.

DH does read misogynistic stuff, but he's not a misogynist. I can't really police what he reads. If I thought it impacted on how he behaves towards women then I'd probably not be with him, rather than be checking up on his reading list.

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 21:09:16

Yes, I think it is that he doesn't have an obviously negative reaction to it that I can see.

Whereas when I read woman-hating stuff I have a strong reaction; I am visibly upset. It upsets me that he is not upset by stuff that upsets me.

Or something.

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 21:14:32

For me, there's a difference between woman-hating and other kinds of violence. I can handle most violence. Maybe it's because woman-hating is pervasive in society in very subtle ways, and the graphic representation of it resembles a hidden reality that other violence doesn't?

(Reposted own post from Rel.)

duchesse Sat 12-Oct-13 21:22:25

The book that turned me into a feminist was a set text at school. "Une vie" by Guy de Maupassant. This woman has the most unimaginably appalling life, and I just couldn't work out why she'd stay (oh the callowness of youth). The front cover featured a lovely impressionist painting of a woman in long flowing dress in a meadow with a parasol. The story was awful.

Other contributory works included Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights, and Vipère au Poing (now that one is seriously mysogynistic!). I was lucky in growing up bilingual that I had a vast array of anti-feminist literature to draw on.

duchesse Sat 12-Oct-13 21:24:05

Also studying Freud biggest pile of mysogynistic crap ever peddled in upper 6th philosophy.

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 21:26:45

That's interesting duchesse. Kate Millett's Sexual Politics started by using literature as the basis of her analysis.

Perhaps I get uneasy when DP reads a misogynistic text and doesn't immediately start a feminist discourse smile

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 21:28:15

Have you read Gloria Steinhem's 'What if Freud were Phyllis'?

It's hilariousl

DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 21:36:40

Does he say he's a feminist, Army? Does he notice that there's a problem with them?

Can you give an example of the books?

I can't really answer your original question. I think I just feel a pervading sense of disappointment when folks take their entertainment from privilege differentials. It's not like there's not a whole world out there to explore through reading that's not just enforcing the white male perspective.

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 21:42:24

He says he's pro-feminist.

The last book we had a 'talk' about was The Dice Man. He lent it to me and I couldn't get past the sexism. I couldn't finish it. I was sort of annoyed that he could and was unphased.

It's difficult to explain.

DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 21:55:19

Of course he could. It's academic to him. Or, rather, he is removed from the effects.It's why those who are not affected by discrimination will empathise (to an extent) and follow laws that outlaw it, but will not necessarily fight for them.

In a sense, he is only doing what everyone does. Never going to be more than an ally.

If a guy confronts another on their sexism, it seems that he's in the top 10% of allies. Can't expect them to do more than that of their own back.


To be fair, I'm not busting my arse actively campaigning for men to be accepted as childminders or primary teachers.

duchesse Sat 12-Oct-13 22:01:22

Honestly I don't believe in censorship in any way shape or form. I don't think people should avoid certain books because of their content or ideas. Ideas and principles don't just plop full-formed from book to reader's brain. The books contribute to the principles. So a person (I use "person" advisedly) can read a book breath-taking in its outdatedness of sexism or racism and come to a completely different opinion on it from someone else.

If a sexist pig reads mysogynistic literature or output, it may well comport them in their opinions. If a feminist reads them, they may well come to a very different view. I don't think anyone should stop anyone else from reading what they want- it's the person and their ideas that matter, not what went into those ideas (although that can be interesting to debate).

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 22:04:02

I know what you're saying.

The other aspect of the other thread though (am I allowed to do this - thread about thread?) was that it was weird that the partner wanted to have sex as normal having just read about a very unpleasant sexual act.

I find it difficult too, that if DP has just read about or seen, for eg, a disturbing rape scene, he would find it easy to have sex a short time after.

I can't have sex after disturbing rape scenes.

DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 22:07:35

I think perhaps I'm missing the context here. Army, do you mean that he seeks these books out for pleasure, with no critical appraisal and a kind of glossing over of the parts that you would see as problematic? Like Bond books, for example?

Like lots of things feministy that lead to accusations of censorship, it's not that you want to stop him reading them, it's that you'd like it if he didn't want to in the first place?

DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 22:09:55

Oh, I didn't see the other thread.

Like I say, it would be easier if you're one step removed. Or maybe the taboo/abuse adds a frisson? Is that what worries you?

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 22:15:09

"Or maybe the taboo/abuse adds a frisson? Is that what worries you?"

It certainly did until we talked about it. But I'm thinking that might be the case for the OP in the Rel. thread and she hasn't got much support. Shouldn't speak for her though.

In my case it probably stems from a mistrust of men. I've been with an awful lot of shits.

duchesse Sat 12-Oct-13 22:16:15

I can see why you'd be more than slightly disturbed about him apparently being turned on after reading about sexual violence. I DO actually think that's a conversation worth having with him. It's not censorship to tell him you won't shag him after he's been reading that stuff.

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 22:19:32

Until you start reading something you don't know what's in it, so it's not that I'm upset he starts reading something. More that he can finish it with no reaction to the misogyny.

Although he does react these days, if I'm about. smile

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 22:21:18

It's been a while, but I have talked to him about that and he said it wasn't on his mind after he'd put down the book.

It's not that sexual violence turned him on - just that it didn't seem to turn him off.

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Sat 12-Oct-13 22:24:05

I find it really hard to read modern literature by men nowadays (historical texts I can bear because they are in context).

My mum and me have often shared books (i.e. we each pass them on to one another) since i was a young teen but since I have become a more confident feminist I find it harder to enjoy the same books as she does. She passes me a book saying 'this is absolutely brilliant'! and all I can read is 'sexism, sadism, misogyny, female torture-porn'.

We both love crime thrillers but most stuff written by men (and a lot written by women, unfortunately e.g. Marina Cole) has female victims murdered/kidnapped/hurt in very detailed sexually motivated crimes.

I don't object to these crimes being used for fiction or to authors using their artistic licence but sexually explicit descriptions of torture/murder and the constant normalisation of women as either "slutty" victims or hardfaced, sexually frustrated cops (i.e. 'good' girls, or 'bad' girls, but either way up-for-it) is relentless in crime-fiction.


DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 22:26:52

I don't know whether this has anything to do with your thread, but I'll write it anyway.

I was out last night with some friends and the topic of erotic literature came up. They were all going on about it being so female-friendly and so much better than the free porn sites (yawn) and whatnot and I said I bet it's not. I don't even know why I said it, but like I said earlier, I'm going through a jaded phase. So, I brought up literotica on my phone and clicked on the "New Stories" link. That is a site that is often mentioned on here as an alternative to visual porn for women. The vast majority of the new stories on there are about incest, non-consent, gay men, transwomen or men watching their (slutty) wives fucking other men, all mostly written from the perspective of men.

Like I said, jaded.

I think you have to accept that most men are not going to be feminists in the way that you might want them to be. We are sold the partner as best friend/soul mate myth and feel let down when they deviate from this. Most people are shit at empathising and even if you tell them from your heart why you feel x or that y happened and so you react like that to z, they are never going to get it, unless they've been there.

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Sat 12-Oct-13 22:27:28

Oh, sorry, thread moved on while I was typing.

DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 22:30:42

You weren't OT, LaLa, I don't think. I'm still trying to get where Army is coming from too!

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 22:40:22

Doesn't seem off topic to me!

Maybe it's just that woman-hating language has no impact on most men, to the point where you think it's just normal to them. Apparently, a lot of men adjust their language around women.

I really don't like reading books by men these days, because it looks like an insight into their heads. A bit like anonymous internet trolls. How many men do they represent?

Sorry if I'm not making sense. Wine.

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Sat 12-Oct-13 22:51:38

Sorry, maybe not too off topic, then, I just wasn't aware of the other thread.

Yes, I really do dislike (possibly through prejudice sad ) most literature written by men. They always seem to push women into a very narrow set of tropes (victimised prostitute/cop with daddy issues/ nun/ homely mum) and I find it so hard to read their prose about females; I have a constant hmm face on because it always seems so 2-dimensional. Even autopsy scenes seem to have comments like 'her pert breasts bounced in rhythm to the circular saw dissecting her sternum' hmm

It's not enjoyable to read.

DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 22:58:39

Army, you have hit on what has often been talked about on here about male feminist allies. Which is why hey get given a hard time and then get all put off feminists.

I know what you mean about books by men. I watch a lot of films, some with a film club. I am fed up with watching films from the male point of view where women are just a bit part or a bit of totty, however highbrow they purport to be. And yes, getting insight into the average male head is not pretty. Nor is it pretty to be in the average female head, but I seriously don't think it is as full of harmful dismissal (whilst taking full advantage of their energies)* of the opposite sex at best, violence against them at worst.

*I could write an essay on this.

BasilBabyEater Sat 12-Oct-13 23:00:17

At the risk of being controversial and / or offensive (for which I apologise in advance if that's the case) I think what you are expressing is the disappointment so many women have in the men they live with.

It's like what DebrisSlide is saying. Only the most unusual men will be able to really, genuinely get it. Even the nicest, most decent ones mostly don't. That's how patriarchy corrupts men and how it ensures that so many of our relationships with them are curtailed and limited because their experience of life is so cut off from our's. Most of them can't understand what this sort of casual misogyny is to us, because to them it's just academic, it doesn't touch them directly and they've been infected by it anyway. It's one of the reasons so many women can't risk getting too involved with feminism, because it would entail feeling creeping disappointment with their life partner. It's horrible and tragic and a real consequence of patriarchy and one of the things you don't investigate too much when you live with a man because it opens too many cans of worms tbh.

BasilBabyEater Sat 12-Oct-13 23:00:55

I wish you would Debris (write that essay) I'd read it!

DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 23:06:59

Army, you have hit on what has often been talked about on here about male feminist allies. Which is why they get given a hard time and then get all put off feminists.

I know what you mean about books by men. I watch a lot of films, some with a film club. I am fed up with watching films from the male point of view where women are just a bit part or a bit of totty, however highbrow they purport to be. And yes, getting insight into the average male head is not pretty. Nor is it pretty to be in the average female head, but I seriously don't think it is as full of harmful dismissal (whilst taking full advantage of their energies)* of the opposite sex at best, violence against them at worst.

*I could write an essay on this.

DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 23:08:00

Sorry! Got a glitch. Damnit, I lost a much more interesting post, if I do say so myself.

DebrisSlide Sat 12-Oct-13 23:11:56

Basil, you've written better than I ever could about the drain that men are on women.

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 23:35:12

Debris: please post either your essay or your 'much more interesting post'.
That is a demand grin

ArmyOfPenguins Sat 12-Oct-13 23:36:20

And Basil, yes, it's very much frustration. When you are close to someone, it's heartbreaking to think they just cannot 'get' you.

DebrisSlide Sun 13-Oct-13 00:54:36

It's a bit late for a rant and my tab keeps eating my words, so I shall postpone.

I understand where you are comng from. It's just unthinking, but that unthinking is so important, especially when you have come from a background of not having the luxury of it being an unthought. Privilege, eh?

SinisterSal Sun 13-Oct-13 08:10:23

Going back to the point about reading critically vs uncritically. The former is fine, isn't it, but the latter isn't. If they act like they have read it uncritically that makes us uneasy. I don't think it's as direct as reading a horrible rape scene and getting turned out on. But reading a horrible rape scene and dismissing it utterly and thoughts turning to sex (or icecream, even but obv sex is the touchy one)
I feel the same about violent and sad films to me it seems a degree of compartmentalism that a) feels weird and b) I wish I had.
I'm fully prepared to be told I'm oversensitive and so on.

Agree on reading male authors. So many lauded authors, must reads, 'amazing' contemporary male authors just leave me cold. Because they are so 'othering' in their approach to women. Othering as in mysterious mysteries with mysterious motives or othering as sex objects, or just making the tea and plot devices.

Sausageeggbacon Sun 13-Oct-13 09:44:27

The issue also revolves about books and when they were written. No one is going to have an issue with LotR because the book was written in an era when women were still stay at home mothers in 98% of cases. So the perspective that you have to have when viewing other people reading lists is when the book was written and also the age of the author. A 20 something author now will write differently to a 50 year old author in the 1950s.

And I tried policing what DS1 reads and realised I was turning into the thought police. How can he form his own opinions if what he reads is vetted by me or others?

larrygrylls Sun 13-Oct-13 09:57:05

I think it depends on what exactly he is reading and why he is reading it.

If it is "literary" and he is reading it to appreciate a writing style or to put other books in context, I don't think that there is anything wrong with it. I don't think many would want to ban Nabokov's "Lolita", for instance, because it concerns paedophilia. And just about every book over a century old would have what would be what is now considered sexist and often even misogynistic.

If it is trash regarding hurting or degrading women, then I think all civilised people should have a problem with it. "American Psycho" (for me) is just a vile book. I could not read it and thought it horribly misogynistic as well as just glorifying torture and violence.

MurderOfBanshees Sun 13-Oct-13 10:05:27

"I really don't like reading books by men these days, because it looks like an insight into their heads. "

I'd be hesitant to assume that, a bad writer is going to just write what they think/feel, a good writer will do so much more than that.

comingalongnicely Sun 13-Oct-13 17:39:09

I do think you need to refer to the other thread -


as some of the context is being lost on this thread. There is an assumption that the partner of the Original OP (OOP from now on) was wanting sex after reading this book when in fact the OOP was concerned that it didn't stop him from having sex.

Many things don't stop me from wanting sex, I can quite happily watch the 10 o'clock news, or some charity extravaganza and not lose my libido - it doesn't mean I'm turned on by it!

Also, the book in question is by Irving Welsh who is renowned for his gritty, hard stories & was enjoyed by many people of both sexes. The implication that it's a "male only" book is totally unfounded!

The OOP didn't like it & couldn't understand how her DP could, and (I think) had opened the thread looking for support of her view & was disgruntled not to get it!

I've not read the book, but it sounds quite interesting so may give it a go based on the "reviews" on the other thread. The main character isn't meant to be "fluffy" & by all accounts gets his comeuppance, he in no way benefits from his actions.

I believe it's perfectly normal to be able to read fiction and not get upset by it. I can only think of a couple of times that I've had to re-read a sentence thinking "did that just happen", never been physically affected by a story & at no time have I (or 99.9% of people) mistaken the story for an instruction manual.

Personally speaking, I think my DW would be more worried if I started reading "feminine" fiction - whatever that actually is...

comingalongnicely Sun 13-Oct-13 17:41:20

If nothing "illegal" or "nasty" happened in books then it'd be a boring world & we'd never have heard of Agatha Christie for one....

I think this is a really interesting question.

I read some literature myself that is misogynistic and I work on medieval literature, loads of which is really misogynistic. And I love it.

But I think what bothers me, is when someone reads misogynistic literature because they enjoy the messages. I have an ex, who is generally a nice person, but I did feel really squeamish when he discussed reading Brett Easton Ellis, because the level of violence against women there just turned my stomach.

And I do think it has an impact. Fiction is meant to be entertaining, and I think you do internalize the idea 'oh, this was entertaining ... and it was violence against women'.

I'm not saying misogynistic literature shouldn't be read, or we should never enjoy anything that isn't feministy, because literature isn't propaganda. But I do think it's a question that really needs exploring and the knee-jerk 'oh, it's just fiction' isn't a good enough response.

BasilBabyEater Sun 13-Oct-13 18:15:20

Comingalongnicely that's not what this thread is about.

This thread is to examine the subject more generally.

I find it hard to relate to people who don't read very much. I find it even harder when people who don't read very much start whining and stamping about what other people read and telling them how to react to it.
Most people who read a lot have open, inquiring minds, and they like to be exposed to a variety of viewpoints and a whole range of possibilities.

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