This is the seventh part in an eight-part series of articles, The Prudes’ Progress, about non-objectifying, woman-identified sexuality based on ideas of equality and whole-personhood, in the tradition of lesbian feminism. For the first article in the series, which includes a table of contents, please click here. The articles don’t have to be read in order and contain many backwards and forwards links so you can follow them in whatever way is most useful for you, although forward links won’t work until the relevant article is available.
The Seventh Progression: Creating Places of Safety
It’s painful to put this so late in the list, because I think places of safety are essential for all feminists taking on any feminist project. But because “feminist” is such a broad word, and because many self-describing feminists might not be interested in Progressing, I’ve chosen to talk about the process of creating our spaces at a point where Progressing Prudes are aware of and have made significant progress working on some of the challenges of feminist desire.
Few – if any – women will have made it to this point alone. Movement away from instrumental sexuality is movement against the flow of society, and without others around who see things in a similar way, who are supportive and who are moving with us, it can be difficult to sustain. Even those who don’t know anyone else on this Progress will almost certainly have come this far via the support of general feminist community, and perhaps via taking part in specific struggles alongside other women.
Those of us who’ve had time and energy to come this far are likely privileged, lucky, determined or all three. For many people, demands of work, health, oppression and even daily survival have to take priority over the kinds of work described here. Even though I’ve tried to emphasise at many points how so many of the struggles for feminist desire are collective struggles, not individual self-improvement, there’s no getting away from the fact that it takes significant personal energy to do the individual work that’s a part of this Progress.
So I consider it our responsibility to give something back, and one way of doing that is to spend some of our time and energy on creating, maintaining and improving spaces which have political values and practices compatible with feminist desire. These spaces can be political groups, social groups, personal friendships and even sometimes online spaces, although the latter can sometimes lack a personal, empathising quality that I think is important.