We started talking about this issue in early June, on one of those sunny afternoons that anticipates a long, hot summer. We were drawn to the topic of sex, not only because of the setting, but because, in our consideration of potential topics, sex seemed so undeniably critical to feminism. From the persons case to the abortion caravan to Bedford v. Canada, campaigns to advance the status of women in our country have focused attention on radically different conceptions of female bodies, sexuality, and desire. For this issue, we wanted to confront this messy topic in new and exciting ways that honoured those who have struggled before us.
We have clearly benefited from the achievements of past feminist movements—legalized abortions, improved reproductive and sexual health services, and anti-harassment workplace regulations are just a few major feats in Canada. And yet, it is painfully apparent to us that feminist political intervention is still needed when it comes to the domain of sex. Let us consider the facts. Feminized bodies remain contested terrain in government social policy: provincially funded and easily accessed abortions are, for many people, not a reality; sex workers face new legislation that will make their work increasingly unsafe; women’s shelters, rape crisis centres, and women’s rights advocacy groups are invariably strapped for cash.
Women continue to be the target of sexual violence and assault: one out of every four women in Canada will experience sexual assault or intimate partner violence in their lifetime, the majority of which will go unreported. Aboriginal women and girls will experience three times the rate of violence compared to non-Aboriginal women. Sexualized violence is par for the course in popular films, television shows, and video games; when this trope is critiqued, the backlash is swift, angry, and appalling.
Still some people insist we do not live in a rape culture, taking up terms like “grey areas,” “bad sex,” and “bullying” to speak about cases where sexual consent was not present. The persistent disavowal of gendered forms of oppression convinces us that the struggles of women and trans people are too often configured as isolated matters, rather than symptoms of a larger patriarchal structure.
Our Sex Issue began as an attempt to make space for the personal stories and opinions that often remain unheard, while striving to collectively address sexualized oppression at a systemic level. And now, in the heart of a cold Canadian winter, it seems that our timing could not be better.
The importance of consent, the reality of rape culture, and the dangers of transphobia and body-and slut-shaming are informing some crucial conversations taking place in the broader culture right now. New voices and stories are being heard and our social and cultural institutions are coming to recognize that change is needed. After decades of work, it seems folks are finally starting to pay attention to feminism and the concerns of female-identified people.
High-profile advocates are even incorporating feminism into their brand identities. This popularization of the term is undoubtedly helping to extricate feminism from its long-held status as a dirty word. Pop-feminist discussions about sexuality and empowerment, however, are often reduced to a crude consumerist notion of individuality, measured by one’s purchasing power, desirability, and an ability to sleep with whomever one wants. Although sex positivism once provided a clear avenue toward instituting social and political change, its contemporary manifestation in today’s independent and sexually liberated feminist icons can also serve to conceal the gendered and racialized forms of oppression that continue to regulate our daily realities.
In these exciting, challenging times, we’re looking forward to releasing pieces that will contribute to these conversations. We hope that the diversity of this issue will demonstrate the breadth of contemporary feminist thought and experience, and the need for these discussions to continue and expand.
Creating space to talk about rape is key to rethinking the normalized conceptions of sexual and social relations available to us. In “That Stayed,” SLV & RJB share sexual experiences where consent was not present; the authors search for words to talk about those stories that resist categorization and overcome the shame that silences too many survivors of sexual assault.
Some of our contributors look to the future of sex online, exploring how our interactions in and with the digital world introduce the potential for a radically non-binary approach to sex. “Sext Adventure,” “Digital Remnants,” and “Surgery,” all look at conceptions of sex, gender, and desire that exist beyond the limits of “men,” “women,” and even “bodies.” Together these pieces serve as a roadmap for exploring our sexual futures.
“Redefining the sexuality of our bodies in a way that feels right for us is a radical act of self-love and defiance,” writes contributor and sex educator Kaleigh Trace. We are inspired by this possibility of politics. And of pleasure.
As we’ve come to realize, it can be hard to keep the pleasures of sex and intimacy in mind while also trying to focus on and annihilate rape culture. But one thing we cannot and will not lose sight of is the joy of sex itself and the thrill of bodies in rapture. That too can be radical.
We are releasing the Sex Issue in two parts. In part one, a host of introspective feminists will draw on their personal experiences, their art, and relevant cultural phenomena to write about pleasure, sex, technology, sexual violence, and more. In part two, to be released in January 2015, we’ll tackle some of the systemic problems that bind and dictate the terms of sexuality.
Throughout this rolling release, we are also excited to share your responses to our “Open Secrets Sex Survey.” We asked you to talk about your sex lives; what you have discovered, enjoy, and dislike. It has been both informative and exciting to partake in this dirty talk with you all! We heard from people of all ages and genders about their kinks, sexual identities, what they have learned from sex, and what they wish they had been taught. We are grateful to everyone who shared their stories with us. Your answers have been curated and we will post them bit by sexy bit over the next few months for you to savour.
So go forth, dear readers. Fuck and masturbate!
Be wild, be angry, be loved!
With love and solidarity,
Your GUTS editors
Our Sex Issue will be released throughout December, 2014 and January, 2015
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