Tag Archives: misogyny

Let’s talk about dry sex in Africa (and about exotification

Wendy Syfret has a piece over at Vice titled “‘Dry Sex’ Is the African Sexual Health Issue No One’s Talking About.

Dry sex“, Syfret writes, is a disturbing genital trend gaining ground in some African countries. It has apparently been a thing for some time (see, inter alia, “The practice and prevalence of dry sex among men and women in South Africa: a risk factor for sexually transmitted infections?” in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, 1999).

In order to achieve properly dry sex, women insert dessicating substances — absorbent sponges, bleach, dust, ground-up vegetable matter, sand — into their vagina. This is done with the hope that the resulting dryness will provide their male partners with a ‘tighter’ sexual experience.

Sand. In. The. Vagina. This ghastly practice exposes women to increased risk of infection, and is acutely uncomfortable to boot. It’s also grounded in false ideas of sexual biology, not to mention unjust conceptions of sexual equality. Are men in Lilongwe or Joburg sacrificing their penile comfort in order to deliver a happier sexual experience to their female partners? (A quick Google search turned up no evidence that this is so.)

Syfret got in touch with Dr. Marlene Wasserman, widely known a sex health advocate and radio host in South Africa. She explains the spread of self-sacrificing sexual practices like dry sex as a differential in cultural attitudes regarding the sexuality of the two genders: “We can talk about penises and circumcision, which we do all the time, and the government puts policies into place. But dare we talk about vaginas? I’ve been doing radio for 20 years and the only time I’ve been reported to the broadcasting commission was when I referred to vaginas.”

Ugh; the social consequences of body-shaming male squeamishness. What a tragic mash-up of miseducation and misogyny, and stating clearly that I hope educators, advocates, and public figures like Dr. Wasserman can help make it a short-lived fad. I was glad to read that Wasserman recently helped the World Association of Sexual Health launch a declaration of sexual rights articulating the “right to pleasure.” As she tells Syfret: “Women are surprised that’s one of their rights. We know 33 percent of women have and tolerate painful penetration. That becomes part of what they expect from sex.” Let’s change those expectations.


There’s a consideration that comes to mind when I hear reports of bizarre practices like dry sex: the need to balance respectful and open empathy with an awareness of how journalism purporting to be foreign affairs cultural coverage might be a front for the age-old traffic in stereotypes. Given the distances — geographic, historical, economic, cultural, and linguistic — that separate readers in the US from the lives lived in the nations of Africa, it’s very easy for misconception and prejudice to mix in among the facts. In that context, it can be hard to distinguish rumor from reporting.

See if you can separate fact from fiction in a few representative samples:

  1. “Throughout Africa, we’re seeing teenage thugs getting high a concoction of sewage and kerosene called jenkem.”
  2. “We’re receiving reports of HIV-positive men in South Africa attempting to ward off the symptoms of AIDS by forcing themselves on pre-teen virgins?”
  3. “In certain regions of East Africa, albinos leave in fear of being kidnapped and dismantled for sale as traditional folk medicine?”
  4. “Women in Ghana, eager to keep their men interested and happy at home, are paying up to US$1,500 for laser treatments designed to reverse age-related vagina atrophy.”

Which of these chunks of reportage reflect true facts, and which are just the same old gods — fetishism, blood libel, various flavors of misogyny — poured into in new, Upworthy-ready bottles? (Disclosure: the last report, about vaginal atrophy laser treatment, is true, but it isn’t happening in Africa, and it is actually good news for cancer patients.)

Further reading:

Two Replies to the Problem of Misandry

Feminists hear it all that time: What about sexism against men? It comes in different forms: “Well, you know, men face discrimination to.” “You’re not really interested in equality, since you want women to gain an advantage and don’t care that some men are disadvantaged…” and on and on in endless variations, each of which presumes, firstly, that misandry is a thing, and secondly, that the existence of disadvantages somehow undermines the need to advocate for gender equality.

This morning, a male poster on a mailing list I belong to sent out the following question:

What are your thoughts on comments on sexism that’s focused at men?

I’d like to share my response to his question, here out of its original context, as a conversation starter. I’d love your feedback:

When I see this question, my genuine response is to wonder how in the world this question could seem, to a person (not necessarily you) writing in the United States, at this moment in history, like an urgent question to ask. It is not a non-problem; but if you’re in a position to be aware of the prejudice directed against people of color, against people of non-majority ethnic or national status, against women, against LGQBT people… how does does the question of discrimination against men seem like a question that needs addressing first?

The response that comes not long after that initial incredulity is, I think, a little more useful. I’d say that the lion’s share of prejudice directed against men is part and parcel of the same cultural attitudes that manifest against women as misogyny. (I could explain what I mean, if you don’t see my point.)

This entanglement is an issue I think of a lot of critics of feminism would be helped by understanding. When you raise half your society to behave as if the other half is enfeebled by lesser intelligence, crippled by irrationality and sentimentality, and designed to use deceit and wiles to capture a spouse’s attention, virility, and well-being for their own personal benefit — that’s a corruption that poisons everyone’s water.

In other words: the misandry that I see in the world seems mostly to be just another expression of misogyny. Which means that the response you sometimes see to misandry — which is itself a reactionary, defensive, aggressively anti-feminist backlash — has the ironic effect of strengthening the cultural conditions that foster that particular form of prejudice.

Feminists are the best advocates I know for men’s rights, though I know many people identifying as MRAs would not agree.

Ugh, it’s hard to look at my “low-stakes” writing later on. Got to learn the power of concision! Less is more, Zak.

*    *    *

And here’s a response to the same question sent out by another (female-identifying) member of the list:

Sexism directed at men is like racism directed at white people: it may exist, but because white people and men occupy positions of power in society, they suffer many fewer disadvantages due to prejudice than do members of minority groups.

Additionally, I feel that a lot of what men perceive as “sexism” against them is really just the problems of the patriarchy seen from a male perspective. For example, women are often granted custody of children in a divorce, rather than men. This is because of the patriarchal view that women are more ‘nurturing’ and are somehow natural caregivers. That stereotype hurts women by holding us back from obtaining high-level jobs due to widespread prejudicial worry that we might quit or take time off to go have babies.

That stereotype ALSO hurts men by making it more difficult for them to be equal participants in raising their children if they separate from their partners. It’s the same problematic system hurting everyone, really. This concept is sometimes referred to as the “kyriarchy.” That is, all of the current systems of power are designed to keep everyone in their place, and people are raised to believe that some places are better than others. Men are raised to believe that women should be the ones raising children, so they may silence their own desires for parenthood, or may spend more time toiling away at work because they think that the best way to be a ‘provider’ is to make money. That belief hurts women by holding them back at work, or by causing people to have negative views of women without children. But it hurts men by brainwashing them into having particular desires or suppressing desires, too.

TL;DR, if you want less sexism against men, be a feminist.

So, what do you think? Did our replies to the question make the most out of a teachable moment? How would you have responded?

TYSK #3: Misandry (and why it’s not a thing)

Misandry (definition: hatred of men) is not a thing.

This is a controversial statement to make.

However, when feminists use this catchy slogan, we are completely aware of the fact that there are, indeed, situations in which men are disadvantaged by their gender. We are not disputing this fact, we are simply pointing out that, given the current reality that men hold the “one-up position” in society, true misandry does not occur and cannot occur on a large enough scale for it to merit the same amount of attention and activism that misogyny does. In other words, the current societal climate necessitates that issues of misandry are not our primary concern.

Hence, the feminist slogan, “Misandry is not a thing”.

Feminists are consciously refusing to spend an equal amount of time and effort addressing misandry, because an equal amount of time and effort should not be allocated to solve the subsidiary issues of the privileged group.

Even so, often in the midst of conversation regarding feminism someone points out how men are left out of the discussion. This person (if not arguing from the standpoint that feminism is secretly advocating  men’s oppression) argues that if feminists wish to get men on their side, they ought to include talk about both men and women’s issues. Focusing solely on women supposedly alienates the people feminists need to ally with in order to enact social change.

This is why there is such opposition to the term “Feminism” as used to describe the movement towards gender equality. If it is a movement based on eliminating pernicious social norms and structures which disadvantage both men and women, why not call it “Equalism” or something of the like?

The answer is that feminism is named thusly to put the focus on the disadvantaged group: women. The pernicious social norms and structures are damaging to women far more often than they are to men. This is true to such an extent that in our society, the supposedly neutral human – the default – is a man. So when we choose to use the term “Feminism,” or the slogan “misandry is not a thing,” we do so intentionally to direct the focus to the group who is most often ignored, underrepresented, and harmed.

Yes, men, we need you on the side of feminism for this whole thing to work. But we do not need to mitigate our efforts to solve women’s issues by addressing misandry as much as we address misogyny. To do so would be to enforce male privilege, not lessen it. The process of achieving equality of the sexes requires men to give up their privileges, one of which is their expectation to be included in and catered to by every institution and discussion.

Feminists are not in any way advocating the systematic oppression of men by using the slogan “Misandry is not a thing.” We are not telling men that it is impossible that their gender could somehow disadvantage them, either. We are simply asserting the point that misandry, here and now, in this discussion, is not relevant. Misogyny is.

The unfortunate day could hypothetically arrive when men are the underprivileged group and misandry does merit our attention, but that day is nowhere in the near future. Those who cry “Misandry!” when they hear “Feminism!” need to stop yelling fire before someone has even lit a candle.

For further reading:

If I Admit That ‘Hating Men’ Is a Thing, Will You Stop Turning It Into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Sorry, Men, You’re STILL Not Oppressed: Reexamining the Fallacies of “Misandry”

This post was written in partial response to:

On the Misandry Isn’t a Thing Thing

“But Empowered Women Deflate My Dick!”

Every once in a while, someone decides that it is advisable to spew their ignorant, asinine nonsense all over the internet in a perfect representation of the hideous, nauseated cave-dweller which they prove themselves to be.

This is exactly what the hobgoblin who goes by the name of Matt Forney has accomplished.

See if you can tell which statement regarding women comes from his personal blog, and which is a collection of factually inaccurate, inane ramblings crafted by yours-truly (spoiler: this will be more difficult than it looks):

Option 1:

Whenever a girl I’m talking to brags about how she’s “confident” and “strong,” I can feel my dick deflating like a punctured tire. I’d still bang her, of course; a repellent personality doesn’t negate the fact that she has a slammin’ body. But a crucial part of the attraction is lost. I’d be less offended if she ripped a fart in my face.

The idea that women should have self-esteem or need it, beyond a low baseline to ensure they don’t commit suicide or become psycho stalkers, is one of the most disastrous social engineering experiments of the modern era. A woman with excessive confidence is like a man with a vagina. It’s an attribute that is at best superfluous and at worst prevents women from fulfilling their natural biological and social functions.

Option 2:

Whenever a girl I’m talking to goes off about how she is an “empowered” woman cause she has a job and career, all I can think of is “Wow, what a waste of a fine pair tits-and-ass.” I mean, I really can’t think of a bigger turn-off than some chick who acts like she deserves respect for pretending to be a serious professional. There is nothing more useless to society than a “career woman.” Her time would be better spent on my dick or in the kitchen – for the sake of efficiency, let men do men’s jobs so they don’t have to waste their time cleaning up the mess some chick made, and regretting that they hired her in the first place.

The idea that a woman deserves the same respect as a man is absurd. She is half as capable as men are if she is lucky. If a girl expects to be regarded as a man, she has to play by our rules, and I haven’t met one woman who wouldn’t crumble if she were held to the same standards as men are held to.

Well, there you have it.  Can you tell which one is real? Click here to find out (but not if you want to be in a good mood afterwards).

The point is that us feminists need to be cognizant of the fact that people like this do, indeed, still exist. Hopefully, you will only have to come into contact with them rarely. When you do, proceed with caution, as it may be difficult for you to resist body-slamming them off of Planet Earth for the good of humanity.