To continue the analogy that porn is like fast food, I’d like to point out two specific aspects of Vargas-Cooper’s take on sex that bothered me. Specifically, she described aggression as a normal part of sex, and possibly a necessary one, and she characterized aggression and the desire to demean women as part of “male sexuality.”

In my analogy, aggression is like habaneros. Some habanero is great, in some recipes, as long as you know what you’re getting. Some people like habanero in nearly everything; others can’t stand it and find anything spicier than a bell pepper unpleasant. Some cuisines rely on habaneros more than others. Some people don’t even like jalapenos, but still enjoy a chipotle sauce, where the heat has been reduced to a warm tang. To each his, her, or their own.

Some people like the spice of aggression in their consensual sex; some people like dominance, or role-playing, or lots of other things. Again, as long as you know what you’re getting, and everyone is consenting, have fun, everybody enjoy, none of my business. But Vargas-Cooper isn’t describing who initiates sexual encounters, she’s not describing who’s on top. She’s describing physical aggression, sometimes to the point of rape, and a kind of dominance that’s about as far from consensual as you can get. This isn’t adding spice to sex; it’s about power, and control, and violence.

Vargas-Cooper says that aggression is part of male sexuality, inherently, and that we can’t deny or change that. It’s like saying that every recipe has to have habaneros in it, or at the very least that since historically, recipes for Jamaican jerk chicken have included habaneros, it’s inherently impossible to make jerk chicken any other way. She denies even the possibility of change.

This is gender essentialism at its most basic. Men are the way they are because, well, they’re men. Nevermind that many men aren’t that way; nevermind the experiences of women who are that way even though the theory says women have some other set of inherent characteristics; nevermind the experiences of trans folks…and so on. In my analogy, it’s like telling people from China that they are only inherently, even physically, capable of cooking, eating, and enjoying “Chinese food.”

I think you get the point; I won’t flog the analogy any further. But the underlying ideas motivating Vargas-Cooper’s ideas of sexuality aren’t just quaint, they’re dangerous. Hopefully a ridiculous comparison (All food has habaneros! Chinese people only eat Chinese food!) can help highlight both the ridiculousness and the dangers of those ideas.

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