Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dear Stephen Fry

Dear Stephen Fry,

So, you're a Nice Guy (TM), one who I greatly admire and respect. One can imagine that entering into a verbal debate with you would be most intimidating - you eviscerate, usually in the nicest of ways. Meeting you across the debating table sounds like one of those "naked at school" dreams, a concept that has me quivering in fear, because your intellect would squash mine like the mote that it is.

However, having a towering intellect, a sharp tongue, and biting wit does not give you a pass to say cruel and unusual things about women, or straight men (that's a bit rough, categorizing all straight men as completely mindless when it comes to sex and women. Even I like to think better of my fellow men), or even gay men (they'll fuck anything? Really? This from you who will stand up and attack the "gay men are promiscuous" stereotype?), as you do in this article. Those are some very broad strokes there, ones I'm bemused to hear coming from you, someone whose intellect and wit I value and appreciate so highly.

So I'm sucking up my fear and saying "Hey, come on Stephen Fry. This is not on." Cruel strokes like "women are only sexual to get a relationship" and "Women don't enjoy sex" are not fair, not nice, and completely misses the point of how the intersections of patriarchy and policing of sexuality harm women.

You have the privilege of education, class, race, intellect, gender, and power, but surely you of all people would understand what it's like to have your sexuality misrepresented and maligned. Don't get me wrong, I'm completely on your side. I respect your struggles. But to say you don't believe women when they say they like or want sex is negating our lived experiences and dismissing our voices. I'm at a loss as to why you would do so, when you have fought for so long for the voices of under-represented sexuality to be heard.

You say "If women wanted sex for pleasure they'd just go out and get it". Well, sure they do, but only if they're strong enough to wade through the tide of "slut" and "whore" jibes, not to mention rape culture and the threat of bodily harm. Oh yes, we can have all the sex we want, but the patriarchy sure as hell makes sure we pay for it - with our dignity, pride, bodies and lives.

You say: "The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want. They want a boyfriend and then they want commitment."

I ask you this, Stephen: What about lesbians? What about bisexuals? What about pansexuals, asexuals, polyamourists, non-monogamists? The women who, throwing off the policing of sexuality and the jibes and the whispers and the not so covert bullshit, DO go out and get laid? Women are not this single-minded, single sexed collective intent on trapping a man into a relationship with our disgusting sexy wiles. That is a narrative sold by the patriarchy to keep women in check, busy, and in fear of questioning their sexuality. Surely you are more intelligent than that to believe that sort of socialized tripe?

I don't know what reason you would have to say these things, it's not really my place to guess, but to say I'm disappointed is an understatement. You strike me as the sort of person who wouldn't dismiss people out of hand, simply for disagreeing with you - heck, you love a good debate. People listen to you, people respect you, and your words have weight. Therefore, I'd politely ask that you join and engage with the narrative, and instead of driving the conversation, stop and listen to what women actually have to say about their sexuality. You know, the sexuality that belongs to us, the individual, and what we want to do with it, when and if we can break free from the chains of patriarchy.

In a world that's already stuffed with misogynist rhetoric, it's so very difficult to find someone of stature, intellect, wit, and pleasant nature to point to and say "Hey, he's really a nice guy. I respect what he has to say". I hope you will clarify your position and not disenfranchise a rather large portion of your fan base. Please don't make me take "The Fry Chronicles" off my Christmas wish list.

Ms Pickled.

For some further reading:
Boganette: "The Stephen Fry Saga"
Not Emily: "An Open Letter to Stephen Fry"
Queen of Thorns: "I am a woman and I enjoy sex"
Lizabelle: "Stephen Fry and you and me and everyone we know"
Laura Penny at The Guardian: "Stephen Fry, how could you?"
Catherynne Valente "The Why of Fry"
Annie Sisk "Mr Fry, I'm a bit disappointed in you"

1 comment:

  1. Well said Amanda. I totally agree. And I really wish he would engage with the women (and men) questioning why he holds these beliefs.