Yes means Yes: getting explicit about heterosex. By Kath Albury (Allen & Unwin Australia 2002; 204 pp; AUS$19.95 softcover.
Is sex just something men do and women have done to them. This question is raised by Australian author Kath Albury who sometimes portrays herself as "Nurse Nancy a university trained pervert " who complete with wig stilettos and deep cleavage" undertakes sex research at parties, and then announces the results at 3 am in the morning.
The main qualification to become an expert these days is to obtain recognition from the media by giving a paper at a conference. Which is what Kath Albury did by speaking to a world conference on pornography Albury is a freelance writer and researcher, specialising in sexuality and popular culture, and is currently a Ph.D student at the University of New South Wales Australia. Her book Yes means Yes provides an accessible and entertaining look at sexual pleasure from a heterosexual perspective. She faces a barrage of self imposed questions which are strikingly obvious but generally not raised, eg why do straight women have sex with men, what is amateur pornography and sacred sex, to name a few. The book is not about sexual violence or assault, but about the sexual activities of heterosexual women.
The biological category of sex and the socially constructed category of gender must be clearly understood, as well as pornography being transparently oppressive. Gender should be examined as a cultural product. Albury uses the academic methodology of discourse analysis which is popular in the field of cultural studies to reflect various theoretical perspectives, following the lines drawn by sex positivists speaking from within feminism. As such, commonsense is the product of culturally approved opinions. Michael Foucault once argued that contemporary Western commonsense traditions have existed only since the Seventeenth Century, as before this the Church had the final say over sexual rights and wrongs - all sex was sinful unless for reproduction. Sodomy was punishable by death, so the criminal was a sodomite not a homosexual. The rise in anatomy biology and psychiatry made sexuality a medical matter rather than a moral one, though buggery was still a crime in England till 1967.
Many feminist writers have drawn attention to the way classical Barbara Cartland style romantic fiction serves as a type of women's pornography that is acceptable provided it is culturally expressed. These readers can imagine themselves as the many different characters, both male and female. But since the 1980s, women's fiction has become more specifically pornographic, though female heterosexual attraction is not always physical but emotional for power protection and comfort - perhaps women prefer text based erotica and men more visual. Albury points out that there is a link between sex and power. In the Mills & Boom romance the ideal man gives his woman the sex she wants without her ever having to ask, and she is really in control ("chicks with dicks").
Some modern feminists would prefer Germaine Greer's definition of pornography from the literal Classical Greek pornos whore and graphos writing, so that pornography is really writing about whores. The alternative in a system of compulsorily heterosexuality are variants of virgin, wife, mother, and whore; pornography is essentially male, becoming "secret men's business" made by men for men, so "stagazines" which are not gender neutral. Of course there is the standard coercion of the capital system of exchanging labour for money, albeit nude bodies.
No longer does religion dictate sexual habits and practices. Flagellation has been replaced by meditation which is comfortable for Twentieth Century Adam and Eve in Suburban Garden of Edam. Sex is not considered inherently evil; a Virgin Birth is not needed nor required. Psychotherapist have replaced priests, with the confessional now a couch. There is no need to complain about the contemporary crisis in morality - the availability of contraceptives, no fault divorce, and the rise in single parenthood are 'where we are'. Such lifestyles are not amoral but rather present challenging and complex structures of life. Ethical relationships are now established by the essence of the relationship, not by outside arbiters. While many cultures disapprove of multiple partnering serial monogamy is now the norm and expectation, without a change of paradigm. There are new approaches to sexuality in Tantra and Taoism amounting to sacred sex but heterosexual couples are still the only ones who can display their sexuality in public, regardless of the acceptance by society of other forms of sexuality.