Sex was not invented in 1963
...you might not be surprised to hear. But women's writing about it in the past has frequently been ignored, even by scholars looking at other aspects of their work.
I've just been reading an article on Rose Scott (1847-1925), an early Australian feminist and social reformer. The article by Judith Allen is remarkable for its author's openness about how her view of her subject had changed over time. Allen writes: "My first work on Scott substantially ignored her writings on masculinity and sexuality. Instead, by splitting the public and the private, I focused on those of her activities generally accepted as giving Scott her importance to the history of feminism", e.g. suffrage, legal issues, the condition of prisoners. (p. 158)
"The personal is political" has been around a long time, but there still seems to be considerable discomfort in recognising the fact. Of course sometimes past writings were so coded, because that was the way women had to write, that it can be hard to recover the meanings, but that's not the case with Rose. She wrote about the "animal in man", which coiled itself around woman, suffocating her spirit. Woman had to endure "the snake". (Clear enough!)
Allen suggests that while it is easy to dismiss this "ignorant, misguided or cavalier on the question of women's pleasure", this ignored the fact that "heterosexuality as men enforced it was central to the oppression of women"(p. 164).
Rose in fact should perhaps be seen as a foremother of Andrea Dworkin, although Feministe pointed me to an article in which she explains she never said "all sex is rape". Her comments there also on violence within marriage tie with my earlier post on honour killings.
A short biog of Rose can be found here.
From Crossing Boundaries: Feminisms and the Critique of Knowledges," Barbara Caine, E.A. Grosz, Marie de Lepervanche (eds), Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1988, pp. 157-165