Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sleeping with the Enemy: From the Other Side, Part One

Jaclyn, a guest-blogger last week over at Feministe, has some great posts up over there. Among them is a series titled Sleeping with the Enemy, parts one, two and three.
Note: There seems to be something weird going on over at Feministe as regards links to these posts. I'll try to fix the links as things over there settle down. Sorry!
They're all great reads, infused with insight that comes with non-self-conscious analysis of one's own experiences, and I think kudos are in order for Jaclyn for speaking on this topic, one that there is a lot of silence about.

Silence About Intimacy
In fact, I think none of us talk enough about what it means for men and women to find some intimacy with each other while doing the work of feminism, whether that intimacy be framed as friendship, love, sex or various combinations of all of these. Once you jettison hetero norms and the like, and you've got an even more complex situation that a lot of people seem to want to oversimplify to fit their world views (i.e. people who stereotype bi-identified people as all in the closet or 'confused'). In some ways it is understandable that this stuff doesn't get talked about as much as I would like it to be--personal intimacy issues seem to pale in comparison with, say, the glass ceiling or violence against women, as far as things that need to change go.

And yet, intimacy is one of the great joys of life--an for those of us who identify as hetero or bi (and for some of us who identify as queer), intimacy with those of the opposite sex, of various forms, can be a kind of joy that we may think is worth all of the trouble. Certainly, when Jaclyn talks about hoping for long-term-ish-ness in her current relationship with a guy, we hear (in part) that she thinks the joy she's getting from this intimacy is worth the crap that has to be waded through involving people's reactions to her "sleeping with the enemy".

But I didn't mean this post to be about intimacy in general. What I intend is to paint a bit of a picture of what it's like to be the 'enemy' in a similar situation. In particular, I'm going to talk a bit about the complexities that have revolved around dating feminists, dating bi- and queer-identified women, and the ways in which I've attempted to deal with, from time to time in important ways, being intimate while being construed as the enemy.

On Avoiding the Bullshit Altogether
Jaclyn points out that being a woman who is only intimate with other women can give one the option of opting out of a lot of the bs that comes along with being a woman who is intimate with men:
I had dropped out of the world of men for complicated reasons. You can read more here if you like, or else suffice it to say that once I discovered that I was attracted to women, I immediately realized that I had no reason to deal with male bullshit at all anymore.

It's important to not play down how freeing this can feel for people. I've talked with bi- and gay-identified women in my life who feel pretty deeply the ways in which not being intimate with men (to the point of cutting off family ties with a parent or siblings, even) can be liberating to the extreme. Which is not to say that intimacy between women is without baggage of its own, of course--but arguments have been made to me that, given a choice, finding love and friendship without having to deal with "male bullshit at all" could be the way to go.

But what does the "male bullshit" mean to men, who sometimes are the enemy, who sometimes become the enemy?

Next: Part Two: Becoming the Enemy
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