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Do you think (your) sexuality changes how you relate to women-only spaces?

(185 Posts)
LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 09:21:49

I was wondering how much sexuality is influenced by, or influences, how you interact socially with other women. I don't mean 'is sexual orientation determined by nurture' because that's offensive bullshit, I mean the more nuanced stuff about how you are sexually and what kind of sexual relationships you like to form.

I would like to think more about it without getting into that tedious 'oh, you are a feminist, you have to hate men/love women/mistake 'equality' for 'having no personal preferences amongst people'.

What I've been noticing is, I'm valuing women-only spaces more and more. And this is despite (because of?) the fact I naturally end up in groups with lots of women because a lot of my work is female-dominated. I was thinking about how much I just plain enjoy women's company. And I wonder how much this has to do with sexual identity (I'm rather vapidly and theoretically bisexual but have been married for a short time). And yet, although we're all enthusiastically discussing feminism, and separatist feminism, and all sorts of exciting theories, most of us are married or in monogamous relationships with men. Is there a correlation?!

MN seems also to be full of women who're pretty clued up on how to have a good sex life, and I wonder if that's because we're a majority-female community who get a lot of time to talk 'woman to woman'?

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Tue 25-Sep-12 09:47:23

Not sure it's what you are getting at, but I do find the more interested in feminism I become the more difficult I find the "idea" of a heterosexual relationship. I love dh he is who I want to be with but sometimes when I am ranting discussing a feminist idea he just seems a bit, I don't know, bored maybe. And I realize how he just doesn't get it which I find annoying.

I just think feminism adds this whole unique spanner in the works in that most women do want to be around men. If it were a race issue or anything like that you can step away from the person or the class causing your problems to an extent. If you are a hetero female that's not really an option.

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Tue 25-Sep-12 09:49:07

Coincidentally, I have just seen we seem to have a thread called "sleeping with the enemy" grin

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 09:51:18

I'm probably rambling a little bit, mainly because I'd like to sort my ideas out and that starts with having a clear question to ask!

I know what you mean about those moments when you realize a man you love very much, just 'doesn't get it'. With my it's often my lovely little brother, who is a great person, but occasionally, I realize it's his partner (who is much more right-wing and non-feministy) with whom I have the natural, unspoken connection over something. It's interesting.

And I agree totally about it being an issue because women cannot step away from men as a class. Even lesbians can't, can they - they still have dads and brothers and sometimes sons.

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Tue 25-Sep-12 09:56:26

Even lesbians can't, can they - they still have dads and brothers and sometimes sons.

Absolutely, I stupidly didn't even think of that. blush

THERhubarb Tue 25-Sep-12 09:58:51

Hmmm not really. I have worked in women only environments too and for women bosses and in my experience they tend to be a lot more competitive. To me, it's always as if women have something to prove. Probably because society labels them - a man is just a man but a woman is either a mother/daughter/wife/friend/sister etc. To many women that label comes before their career label.

This makes (ime) women much more aggressive in a career situation, always needing to prove themselves worthy and very competitive in all that they do. You've heard that motherhood is competitive with mothers competing as to whose baby spoke first, whose child is more gifted etc and I find that in other walks of life too.

Whereas lucky men, well they can relax more because they don't have to prove themselves. They are deemed capable just because they are men (although the roles are reversed should a man embrace the role of father and attend parent and toddler groups in which case it's always "where's the mummy? Is she ill?")

I get on, as a general rule, far better with men because it's much more relaxing. But then I don't want to talk about relationships, about who dumped who, about the latest pair of shoes, about which foundation goes best with which skin type. I find those conversations dull and completely uninspiring.

I like Mumsnet because you don't have to have those conversations and for once I realise that I'm not alone in wanting to discuss politics or talk nonsense. There is no competition here (or less so) because the usual boundaries of class/age/looks/gender are diminished. I can honestly say that Mumsnet is the only place where I enjoy talking to groups of women.

I'm not sure that has anything to do with my sexuality, or perhaps it does? Perhaps that's why I generally have more male friends and find it easier to talk to men? In situations where I have been with groups of women, say in ante-natal classes, at work, in school, I've always been quite isolated. They will all get on just fine and arranged to meet-up and I've always been left out of that. I simply don't have anything in common with them.

That's not true of all women I hasten to add and I do have some very close female friends but it's my experience. smile

Grumpla Tue 25-Sep-12 10:02:24

Personally I feel that feminism has probably contributed to my being able to select a decent partner and sustain a long term relationship with him.

Had feminism not given me the tools to pick a good'un and establish some workable "rules" for our relationship (eg mutual respect / no sexist fuckwittery) I probably wouldn't have stuck around. I am a fairly intolerant person.

Mind you I would have carried on having sex with men. So feminism hasn't informed my sexuality per se, just the sort of sexual relationship I have (eg marriage as opposed to a series of flings)

However that's not quite what you were asking - feminism for me has not been ideas developed in a woman-only context, both my parents are feminists and I have expanded / changed my own ideas as I grew up. Sometimes (often in fact) that was a fairly solitary process.

THERhubarb Tue 25-Sep-12 10:02:38

And whenever I do talk about feminism to women, most of them cloud over tbh. Whereas men can have some very interesting points to make about feminism and tend to embrace the conversation much more.

Most of the females I know are happier discussing other people's relationships and their latest diets. Stereotypical I know and tremendously frustrating because that's not how I want women portraying themselves.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:05:17

IdCal - no, not stupid at all, just I think a sign of how we do think about families primarily in terms of who's sleeping with whom. But in some ways your relationships with your siblings and parents are at least as character-forming, aren't they?

rhubarb - I have to say, I'm not keen on the 'women are more aggressive' stereotype. I'm sure it can be true of individual women .... but all of them? Really? Nah. But this is exactly what I was wondering, whether for some of us sexuality just fits so nicely with our social inclinations too.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:07:53

grumpla - no, that's absolutely relevant to what I was asking and I think it's important. Maybe we end up selecting feministy-type men and that's what gets us into good strong relationships with them.

I was realizing the other day that I am much happier to discuss feminism with like-minded women, than to argue about it with non-like-minded women (honest!). But I don't mind arguing it out with men. Not sure why?

THERhubarb Tue 25-Sep-12 10:09:50

I can only speak from experience though LRD. Trust me, I don't want to place women in these pigeon holes but you can't deny your own experiences.

I did say that not all women are like that and certainly my close friends aren't, but when growing up and all through my early twenties I felt very very alienated from women. I felt that I didn't fit it and wasn't accepted by them.

I viewed men as threatening and I so badly wanted to be part of this women-only crowd but it never worked for me. Not sexually but just as part of my identity really.

THERhubarb Tue 25-Sep-12 10:11:51

Absolutely agree with picking feminist-type men. Most of my male friends are educated and have a lot of respect for women. If I wasn't treated as an equal by a man then he would have no place in my circle of friends.

That's ultimately how we pick a mate isn't it? By becoming friends and sharing common experiences and thoughts.

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Tue 25-Sep-12 10:12:24

Whereas men can have some very interesting points to make about feminism and tend to embrace the conversation much more.

I think the more "interesting" view points (ime anyways) are there because they it becomes a debate for men. Usually about how actulaly women have it better than men. Interesting to listen to because the view is so different from my own. Oh and wrong.

Also if you feel women that you have met have been less interesting you have been hanging out with the wrong women, as evidenced by your enjoyment of mumsnet.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:14:59

Oh, sure. I was speaking from my experience too.

I do think it is interesting, isn't it, you saying you wanted to be part of a woman-only crowd but the dynamic doesn't work either socially or sexually. Because we all understand and accept that political lesbianism (for example) is probably nigh-on impossible to do. I have once met a political lesbian, and she was really interesting, but I couldn't easily get my mind around the idea.

But we don't really accept that we might have social preferences as well, or they might be interlinked. There are major outcries, on MN and in RL, if men or women declare they want to socialize only with men or women. We see it as anachronistic at best (eg. with monks or nuns) and really cruel or strange at worst.

I was wondering why that is, and how it can fit with the fact that, personally, I want gender as a construct to be dismantled, but I still find myself preferring women-only spaces at times just for social reasons.

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Tue 25-Sep-12 10:18:13

Political lesbianism shock I didn't even know that was a thing. I should ad that to the thread in chat about stuff you didn't know existed until mumsnet.

ArtexMonkey Tue 25-Sep-12 10:19:15

Oh rhubarb I don't recognise anything at all in what you say. I can't remember the last time I had a rl conversation about shoes or diets. I recall going to toddler group with my dd when Obama had just got in, it was all anyone was talking about, and this was in a very white working class area of the city I live in, it wasn't a 'yummy chattering classes mummies' group at all. And I don't know how old your dc are but my youngest is still toddler group age and I can assure you that these days dads are commonplace and no one thinks anything about them being there at all. I would really like to know what purpose you think these cliches and stereotypes about thick vapid women and intelligent contemplative men serve. If this is how you talk about 'feminism' I'm not surprised women cloud over.

THERhubarb Tue 25-Sep-12 10:20:08

Not so IdCal. My conversations with men on the subject of feminism is not so much a debate but an agreement. One of my best friends is out in Vietnam writing about the war atrocities afflicted on women by American soldiers. He has some very strong views about how women have suffered at the hands of men. My dh is the same, he'll often point out an example in the media of how women are portrayed as objects and will say as much to our dd.

As for hanging out with the wrong women, well I never did hang out with women, that's kinda my point. I had plenty of jobs in my late teens and throughout my twenties, working for agencies, in offices, etc and try as I might to fit into the social scene I just couldn't. Even at University I found my solace with my male friends who accepted me into their social circle much easier.

I'm not contributing to this debate to be awkward, just relating my experiences and questioning them as you are.

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Tue 25-Sep-12 10:20:48

Women people say they find all women groups naturally aggressive or competitive, so you think that could be because there is no "natural order"? Where as in a male/female group we know our "place". So there is no need for the competition? I definitely see competition betwwen men for top dog, so maybe they treat us differently because we aren't worthy of being competition.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:21:02

Oh, it's a thing. It was mostly a 70s movement.

But I went to a conference a while ago and I found out there are still women who identified back then as political lesbians and still are today. It wasn't the right context to have an in-depth discussion about someone's personal sexuality, so I am not clear to what extent this was a political choice firstly, or an option they deliberately took up, if that makes sense.

But there are also communities of women who live as 'separatists'. I started this thread because I was thinking of an older discussion we had in this section a while ago about those communities and how they work.

And you can still go on holidays to women-only centres, and that sort of thing - which I would love to do some time, kind of like a retreat.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:22:03

IDCal - oh, that's so true!

I think as well, there's that way we're trained to see the exact same interaction in a woman as 'aggressive' whereas in a man it's 'assertive'. I try to catch myself when I'm making that interpretation, but it is so hard not to!

THERhubarb Tue 25-Sep-12 10:23:26

Ok thanks Artex. I guess my pov is not welcome in this debate.

I cannot change my experience. I did say that not all my female were like that and I did say that it was MY experience which would differ from other peoples, perhaps depending on where you lived.

I lived in a very working class area and I had my children in a very working class area. I am still very working class but happened upon a group of friends who were more forward thinking - and that includes female friends now. But it was not always so. Perhaps because of the times (early 90s) or the area or the societal expectations then. Who knows. But if I am going to be seen as anti-feminist on this thread for relating my experiences and not making up something else to fit in with your debate easier then I might as well pack my bags and leave now.

THERhubarb Tue 25-Sep-12 10:24:25

Yes IdCal possibly that is true.

But I'm off. I have work to do now. Sorry I would love to debate more.

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Tue 25-Sep-12 10:25:04

No, I don't think you are being awkward, I just think you are missing the point. You have a couple of bad experiences and aren't tying to meet new female friends, would you write off black people the same way? Or The French?. I don't think anyone here spends all day chatting about diets and hair. So maybe try and make some new female friends? Also if your relationships with women have been fairly superficial you may not have gotten in to proper discussions with them.. maybe as an adult you will find you have more in common.. teenagers of both sexes seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on their hair.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:25:46

Nope, not unwelcome at all, rhubarb, just up for debate like anyone else's.

It is interesting how we relate to people based on gender. Your posts and mine and all the others prove that.

What I would like to know is, do we think these dynamics would disappear in a woman-only society? And how big, or how cut off from the rest of our non-women-only, patriarchial society, would it have to be before those dynamics disappeared?

That's what I wonder.

IdCalUaCuntBtUvNtGotTheDepth Tue 25-Sep-12 10:27:54

I liek the idea of a female only retreat, I'd feel more relaxed, but I would still prefer to have more than just gender in common.

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