Modern feminists seem dedicated to teaching us uncultured regular people that many of our favorite common expressions are actually offensive slurs. “You guys.” “Oh, man!” “Man up!” They say these phrases create a male-centric society that oppresses women sexually and professionally, whether we intend them to or not.
You might think that these language-vetting philosopher-cops would make sure that their movement’s own language was coherent and appropriate. But you would be wrong.
As part of its “Sex Week,” the Women’s Resource Center at the University of New Mexico invited a “sex and relationship expert” slash pornographic puppeteer to teach workshops with titles such as “How to Be a Gentleman and Get Laid,” “Negotiating Successful Threesomes,” and “BJs and Beyond.”
Watching a man use puppets to demonstrate sexual encounters might not do much good in terms of achieving the program’s goal of promoting “healthy relationships,” but the women’s center stood behind the events.
The center, which claims to be based on a “feminist model of empowerment,” insisted the workshops would “help prevent sexual assault” — even though their descriptions actually used the same kind of language that feminist activists have been claiming causes sexual assault.
The “Negotiating Successful Threesomes” workshop, for example, promises to teach students to “negotiate boundaries . . . to make your next menage a trios tré bien! [sic].”
“Negotiate boundaries?” Wait, doesn’t that sound like “rape culture”? I thought sexual “boundaries” were whatever the woman says they are, and that any further discussion, questioning, or “negotiating” beyond that was unacceptable and contributed to a culture of pervasive sexual violence.
Then to that, add that that the “sex week” included a workshop on how to perform oral sex on males but not one teaching how to perform oral sex on females (a clear manifestation of the feminist critique that our culture is focused on the sexual satisfaction of males only), and it seems as though this group just might not have any coherent message whatsoever
The workshop instructor, Reid Mihalko, has worked closely with top “sex positive” feminist activists such as Susie Bright (contributing editor to publications such as Jezebel and Salon) — and yet even Mihalko couldn’t adhere to its impossibly strict language rules. Feminists could argue that it was okay for Reid to use the phrase “negotiating boundaries” because he meant it in an open-dialogue, sex-positive way and never intended to hurt anyone. But here’s the thing: You can’t argue that and also insist that a guy who says “Oh, man!” when he loses his keys is oppressing people whether he intends to or not.
Amid intense controversy surrounding the content of the workshops, the school has since apologized for spending student fees on them. But the women’s center has responded only by saying that it intended for the events to promote sexual health.
Apparently, the language vetters didn’t do such a good job vetting the language of their own initiatives. This movement, so obsessed with semantics that it equates the use of longstanding common phrases to oppression against women, might want to be more vigilant — or, better yet, focus on more important issues.
— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.