Feminist writers and thinkers, including right here at Slate, have spent thousands of hours and untold numbers of words trying to debunk the myth that respecting women means hating sex—that our objections to sexual objectification and sexual harassment are about the objectification/harassment part and not the sex part. We love sex, we tirelessly explain, pointing to our support for reproductive rights and our excitement over the proliferation of feminist sex stores and erotica. Lust is great, we repeatedly exclaim, as long as women are not reduced to sex/breeding objects, that women’s subjective experiences matter, and that consent is respected for sexual interactions, from flirting to intercourse (and beyond).
And then Andy Hinds comes along, claiming to be a feminist, and says, Nah, feminism is really about policing men’s thoughts and scrubbing them clean of anything resembling sexual desire.
Hinds’ piece, written for Slate, takes it as a given that male lust is inherently disrespectful to women, apparently because Hinds himself cannot see women as anything but vaginas on legs. Actual feminist men see vaginas on legs and heads on shoulders.
Andy: It’s OK to strip people naked in your imagination, as long as you respect their right to not know that’s what you’re doing. This is accomplished by not gawking, ogling, and drooling, but rather learning to be discreet. Nearly all women and a healthy percentage of men manage to do this every day.
But the only option Hinds sees to stop reducing women to sex objects is to not see them at all: “Instead of undressing them with my eyes, I’m cloaking them in imaginary burqas,” he writes, testing out one possible cure for his “affliction.” Those paragons of feminism, the Taliban, would be so proud. Unsurprisingly, this mental exercise of erasing women completely results in said women losing all individuality to him:
It’s a little strange and sad to me that, when I try to think of the women I’ve interacted with over the past 12 hours, I can’t really pull up any distinct images, as I would normally do with ease. For someone with an eye for detail, it’s unsettling to not remember what a person I saw so recently was wearing. This technique of essentially ignoring women’s physical presence may not be sustainable, and it may not be desirable.
No, Andy, it’s not desirable to hide women away when you need a break from getting off. And telling women the only options are to be gawked at like we’re still photos in a porn magazine or not seen at all is a lot of things, but “feminist” is not one of them.