Not particularly interesting, considering one could just read Nietzsche or Sade and it would be better written and easier to understand. But I happened to notice a comment on women that got me thinking about the ways in which even traditions and groups that encouraged women to explore sexuality often did so on men's terms. The book I read, Liber AL vel Legis, is no exception:
III.43. Let the Scarlet Woman beware! If pity and compassion and tenderness visit her heart; if she leave my work to toy with old sweetnesses; then shall my vengeance be known. I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart: I will cast her out from men: as a shrinking and despised harlot shall she crawl through dusk wet streets, and die cold and an-hungered.Here women are not just told to be sexual and shameless, but told that if they're not they will be punished with a bad reputation, cast out from everything. They're not encouraged to be libertines, they're ordered to be. It's presumed that they will have great difficulty letting go of old modesty, and they're castigated for it. I don't see such attitudes towards men. To the men I just see exhortations to be libertine and wanton.
44. But let her raise herself in pride! Let her follow me in my way! Let her work the work of wickedness! Let her kill her heart! Let her be loud and adulterous! Let her be covered with jewels, and rich garments, and let her be shameless before all men!
45. Then will I lift her to pinnacles of power: then will I breed from her a child mightier than all the kings of the earth. I will fill her with joy: with my force shall she see & strike at the worship of Nu: she shall achieve Hadit.
This reminds me of two things. First, I think of certain feminist critiques of "sexual liberation" or "the sexual revolution". These critiques say that encouragement for women to be sexual rather than to be gatekeepers still happens on men's terms. The idea is that providing women with sexual freedom is really providing men with sexual freedom to use women's bodies. And that is what I see here.
But the thing that fascinates me about that is that many feminists who notice this don't actually divorce themselves from this context at all. Instead of answering the critique with a thoughtful exploration of what it would mean to be a sexual woman on your own terms, they simply leave it at this idea that sexual desire drives men. They leave it at the idea that the libertine woman is a man's creation, so there is no way for a woman to be sexual on her own terms.
And that worries me, because that's the same exact thinking as the men they criticize. That's not replacing a masculinist idea of the scarlet woman with a woman-centered idea of desire and need. And unless we have that, I don't see how we have a feminist environment that's truly safe for women. I suppose we could have one is truly safe for celibate women, or asexual women, but I don't think that's most women.
And I suppose it could be said that such a world would be truly safe for lesbians, if by the word lesbians we mean a certain kind of political lesbian. But that kind of lesbian is only one small subset of lesbians, and some lesbians who are not political lesbians think political lesbians are appropriating their experience anyway.
So while I don't think we get far at all if we just take on images of female libertines that were created without women in mind, I don't think we get much further if we don't then work to transform the meaning and understanding of what a sexual woman is. I think that's an integral part of the work we have to do, and we neglect to do it at our own peril.