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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Struggles with sexism: why we must be specific

Eradicating sexism is difficult because when men and women do the same things, they are interpreted differently – often to the detriment of women. Changing attitudes or portraying women as similar to men doesn’t always solve things. Here are a few examples:

When men are portrayed as dominating, that traditionally meant that women were passive and submissive. But getting more dominant women on TV might not make things much better because when women are dominant they’re seen as bitchy, crazy, mean and agressive.

When men are seen as having an insatiable sex drive, women are meant to be the civilizing influence on them, turning men to the family by witholding sex until marriage. Yet, for some regions the answer may not lie in portraying women as having equal sexual desire – because when female sex drive is acknowledged, it’s used as yet another excuse to control women (not allowing them free movement/driving) and seen as another inherent weakness in women (unable to resist temptation).

When women are percieved as more capable than men, this usually only extends to being better at parenting, organising, personal hygiene and tidiness. This portrayal of womens’ strength only serves to perpetuate the strict gender roles of women’s domesticity and motherhood-as-destiny. It further marginalizes women who are messy, disorganized or uncertain about being mothers. It’s fine for a man to be worried about loss of freedom when the baby arrives or worry about his capability as a father. Likewise, men are expected to be messy and oblivious to skin/hair products, even those for their gender. Thus, portraying women as superior to men may, in some instances, backfire completely as we inadvertently unearth the tired old Victorian ideal.

Therefore, solutions to sexism aren’t always as clear-cut as they seem. I am not advocating that we refrain from certain courses of action, nor that we do certain actions; I am just pointing out that the politics surrounding sexism are complex and that solutions cannot be too generalised. Solutions which work well in the west may backfire in other regions if the message is not more specific and tailored. Marketing images of women as superior to men may also backfire.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in Feminism

 

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The Domly One at It’s Just a Hobby responds to my film review in a thought-provoking post on the Story of O and how it would be portrayed in a way that would stigmatise BDSM if it was made into a film:

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Film, Spanking/BDSM

 

Sex Positive Feminism

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Feminism

 

Why some sexist jokes cause harm and some don’t

Just because I’m a feminist doesn’t mean I believe that ALL sexist jokes cause harm to women.

 

I’m guessing that some feminists left after reading that. For everyone who has stayed on this page, I thank you, and here is why:

Some sexist jokes are too full of hyperbole and carry such controversial or very generalized messages that they have little effect on attitudes to women. For example, “Why did the woman cross the road? Never mind that, what’s she doing out of the kitchen!” is unlikely to significantly affect attitudes because our society does not believe in making all women housewives, and we know that doing so would affect the economy and create many other problems. Also, there is no real threat of men suddenly making all women housewives.

However, “Why do women have boobs? So you’ve got something to look at when you’re talking to them!” is more harmful because women are being objectified by men more than they are being forced by men to be housewives. There is a real threat of such objectification increasing (I blame lad culture, media and advertising more than pornography for reasons I’ll discuss in another post). Also, the message here is more specific and also more subtle: that women are meant to be objectified or that breasts exist for male pleasure.

Lastly, “What did her right leg say to her left leg? Nothing, because they never met!” is even more harmful because slutshaming is rampant and this joke is not only encouraging slutshaming, it itself is a form of slutshaming material. There is a real threat of slutshaming increasing due to the speech and rhetoric of certain politicians, radfems, prolife NGOs and anti-sexwork NGOs. The message is also subtle – that women are not supposed to express their sexuality, and that doing so is deviant and worthy of mockery. Who knows, perhaps this “joke” or something similar was used to bully Amanda Todd in any of the schools she moved away from. It’s a popular joke and has been used to shame and bully girls and women for years now. I dream of a slutopia where this joke would make no sense.

The most dangerous and offensive jokes are the ones that help perpetuate rape culture. Jokes about rape – of either men or women. The only way a rape joke could ever be funny was if the joke was about the rapist and portrayed the rapist as evil, inept, cowardly, etc. The joke should make the audience laugh at the rapist. Sadly I don’t know of any jokes like this. We don’t joke about murder or serious assault, so why do we even joke about rape? That’s a disturbing question right there. I also find objectionable jokes about accidental sex or jokes which do not make clear if it was consensual (“she said ‘that’s not my [object]’. And he said, ‘well that’s not my [object]’.”)

On a personal note, I don’t believe my tolerance of some sexist jokes to be that surprising, given that as someone who’s half Asian I like Asian jokes and the way L;u Kim is drawn in South Park. It’s hilarious to me and my Asian relatives. If racist jokes don’t inspire racial hatred and aren’t used in a hateful way, they’re fine by me; perhaps if South Park didn’t mock white males the most I wouldn’t approve. Family Guy is similar: “I’m standing outside the Park Barrington Hotel because they don’t allow Asians inside.” “When [an Asian guy] comes in I’m going to blindfold him with this dental floss. Nah nah nah nah nah nah, racial slur.” And I think this is absolutely hilarious, because these two shows mock every other race, so why should Asians be exempted? That would just be treating them differently.

And it’s the same with sexism. If we joke about men, gays, alcoholics, vegetarians, Jews, nationalities, race, rich people, poor people, politicians etc, why exempt women? Wouldn’t that be treating women differently?

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Feminism

 

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My deleted spanking chats

Hello dear readers,

Although I’ve previously done some stuff on the ol’ internet to protect my anonymity – and I don’t just mean by deleting stuff, as I never post any personal info online – well, in the last couple of days I have been more paranoid and I’m over it now, in fact I want more views to get the message out there (I’m referring to the feminism stuff). The worry ofthe past few days and my newfound intention have resulted in me deleting lots of posts, even stuff that I wrote ages ago to market/link to this blog I now consider a liability because of similar usernames and such. So you readers will get to see a few of them right here because I want to preserve them. They’re mostly excerpts from longer threads.

So here you go:

Okay, my week of being grounded from the computer [by a boy a year younger than me I chat to online about spanking] is up, and I can finally reveal to you people out there in the infinite vastness of […] that on the 27th I was doing a nude photoshoot for a photographer who had commissioned a spanking drawing from me online. I was on all fours and he whacked my butt with a small leather paddle. Then a while later he spanked me with his hand otk on a little black sofa in the studio, (I was naked except for a red bellydancing hip scarf with coins) it didn’t hurt and I closed my eyes because it was so nice, exactly what I’d always dreamed it would feel like. I was so happy! Then he spanked harder, and that was even better. Then I asked him to pretend he was a police officer interrogating me about why I sent the spanking drawing in the mail, and he was spanking really hard and it hurt so I asked him to stop. It was about 5 mins/400 spanks altogether.

And:

User (the other guy I chat to online, he’s 30 and looks 20): I’m wondering, how much are you selling your virginity for? Mine’s for sale too, but it’s very negotiable. I’ll also trade mine for a guitar effects processor, some fried rice, and possibly a diaper change for either party 😛

Me: £8,000 which I guess is like around $16,000. Are you really a virgin or is that just a joke, because I find that very hard to believe? And that would be a very interesting trade-off. I haven’t heard from the guy in a few days, which makes me worry he is regretting the deal (because I can sometimes be paranoid like that) but that’d be stupid of him because he already gave me a £1,000 advance. I’ve started a blog about our journey, I’ll post the link once I get a couple more posts in the blog as there’s only one so far. I would seriously consider buying your virginity if we lived in the same country.

User: 8,000 pounds would be closer to $9,500-10,000. (my keyboard doesn’t have a key for the pound symbol). That’s not just a joke. I’ve done lots of kinky stuff, but I’ve never had actual sex before. People find it hard to believe. They also find my age very hard to believe, but what reason do I have to lie about either? The virgin thing is unfailingly followed by me being ask why that’s so, but that’s not an easy question to answer. The price or trade of my virginity is relative to the means of the potential buyer, but I could only give it up to someone who I think could handle me. I would seriously consider closing the deal with you, but do you think you could handle me?

Me: […] You know, ppl also ask me why I’m a virgin – they can’t believe it because of my confidence and I’m pretty. But the guys I’m into are either not attracted to me or have girlfriends, whereas the guys who are crazy for me are those who I don’t like. Or by the time I make a move on a guy he’s in a relationship. Is it like that for you too? You’re the oldest virgin I’ve known. And sure I believe you, who would raise their age or lie they’re a virgin; it’s usually the other way around for both things. You look younger than me. It’s so cool that we bothhave done kinky stuff that lots of ppl haven’t, but haven’t had sex.

User […] The thought of seeing you face to face makes my heart pound so heavily that I can taste my own pulse. I live in a city with lots of tourist attractions, and if you ever visited I’d give you the royal treatment. So I’m the oldest virgin you know, haha, thanks 😛 Many of my male friends have misconceptions about me that I’m a total player and sleep around a lot, but that’s entirely false. Most the women I meet who are into the same things as me are already in relationships with guys who aren’t. The single women I meet abhor spanking, AB/DL, or anything like that at all, but they still try for me out of physical attraction alone. I consider you to be a generation below me yet we’re so similar 🙂

Okay, I think that’s about it as I didn’t have to delete that much stuff as I thought I did. Hope you guys enjoyed it.

 

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Kat: You are not my leader

We have a problem. Being feminist in Britain now means you’re anti-sex work and anti-porn. The sex-negative feminists (heirs of the 1970’s radical feminists) have hijacked these debates and the word “feminism” itself. Women (and men) are afraid to call themselves feminists if they don’t share these ideas. They may feel, as I did, that because they are okay with sex work or pornography that they are not feminists.

This creates a vicious circle: when only anti-sex work, anti-pornography women call themselves ‘feminists’, they create a sex-negative public image of feminism. And so when the media portrays feminists and feminism, it is forced to portray sex-negative anti-porn women, because that’s the pool it has to choose from. So now Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista and ally of Object (an anti-sex work, anti-porn NGO aiming to make sex work a crime) is “Britain’s leading young feminist” according to The Guardian. This title implies that all feminists share her beliefs. But as we know, many feminists do not agree. Some feminists are sex workers or work in the sex industry. Some do not want to ban pornography or sex work. Yet others feel that different issues are more important and more to blame for gender inequality.

Yet, can we blame the Guardian? With only antis labelling themselves feminist, who else could they choose? If it wasn’t Banyard, it would be another with exactly the same views. Sex-positive public figures such as Dr Brooke Magnanti could never be labelled as our leading young feminist, because they reject the label of ‘feminist’.

Many sex-positive bloggers and sex activists already call themselves feminists or gender-equalists ‘in their heads’ but not publically.

So, this is a call to all sex-positive people – female, male, trans, genderqueer, whatever: CALL YOURSELF A FEMINIST! Then strippers, models, women who watch porn and sex workers can no longer be stigmatised or subjected to laws that harm them in the name of ‘feminism’, because it’ll be obvious that many feminists are against these measures. Showing publically that you are a feminist could be as simple as putting the word “feminist” in your Twitter, Facebook or blog/site profiles, or creating social media groups about sex-positive feminism, or social media groups to encourage others to adopt the label. As my lecturer said,” if you believe women should be equal to men then you are a feminist” – so millions of people are feminists but don’t accept the label because they associate feminism with people like Banyard.

Eventually, prominent feminists won’t only be sex-negative, we will have sex-positive prominent feminists! More famous people will adopt the label of feminist, and stigmatising all models/lapdancers/sexworkers as ‘slaves’, and women who like porn as ‘brainwashed’, -or even trying to criminalise prostitution in Scotland -will no longer be done in the name of feminism.

IIf all sex-positives call ourselves feminists, we remind everyone that Object, SCASE and the ever-lingering voice of 1970’s radfem Andrea Dworkin do not speak for us. And Banyard is not our leader.

Please RT, reblog etc or spread the word in your own words 🙂

Thanks, ‘Lika

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Feminism, Media

 

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Leniency to female sex offenders harms feminism

WHAT HAPPENED

A couple of days ago, Claire Roundhill, a woman who knowingly had sex with a 15 year old and his overage brother – and supplied them with cannabis as well as sending them explicit images of herself – was spared jail: http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/10/10/mum-of-three-had-affairs-with-brothers-aged-15-and-17-and-became-pregnant/

She was given a 9-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and will be on the Sex Offender’s Register for 10 years.

For a man in this situation, the defence that he didn’t know the girl was under 16 is not valid; he must have good reason to believe she was over 16. And this woman admitted to knowing the boy was underage the second time she had sex with him.

The astonishingly lenient sentence may or may not set a precedent for Forrest, though in my estimation his crime was worse as he was in a position of trust and he took Stammers abroad without her parents’ consent. But at least he loves her, instead of using the child for sex like Roundhill did.

WHY IT IS HARMFUL TO BOYS

Sentences like this hurt boys. All children deserve protection – EQUAL protection. We cannot discriminate on gender any more than we can discriminate on race or religion. Yet some commenters on the story seem to think that boys are so slutty that they cannot be abused as they’d go with anyone, or that a boy would enjoy being sexually abused. This issue is quite obvious, and I won’t dissect it here, except to quote the article on the effect Roundhill’s predating had on the boy:

The 15-year-old boy said Roundill bombarded him with hundreds of text messages and photographs every day. He said: “She would be in sexy outfits or topless. I now know she took advantage of me. I just want to put it behind me.” …there has been a victim personal statement from the boy which says he wants to put all this behind him and he is relieved that he does not have to give evidence in this case.”

The father of the two teenage boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has said Roundhill’s sentence was too lenient.

He said: “If it had been the other way around and this was a man having sex with a 15-year-old girl, he would have been locked up, without a shadow of a doubt. But, because she is a woman, she has walked free. She took advantage of both my sons. When my elder son dumped her, she targeted the younger. She planned it. I hope she now realises exactly what she has done. If she had gone to prison, I would have been happy but she has just got a slap on the wrist. We are disappointed. This doesn’t send out a message. Before this, he was a lovely boy and now it has changed him. He has gone off the rails. He has been in trouble with the police and this has never happened before. It was disgusting what she did. She has taken advantage of my family. If we had known what was going on, we would have put a stop to it straight away.”

Indeed, the court accepted the excuse that she was having a troubling time and a bad marriage – as if that somehow excuses child abuse!

The reporting of this case is full of the sexism that used to – and still does – categorise tabloid reports of women being raped. The headline uses the word “affair” instead of “child abuse” and the facts that the abuser is married, is a parent and that the victim had an older sibling who lawfully had sex with the abuser is totally irrelevant.

 

IT HARMS WOMEN AND FEMINISM

So far, so obvious – especially to parents of young boys. But let’s go on to the less obvious stuff, about how leniency towards female sex offenders, far from granting women superiority, actually harms feminism and women in general.

Firstly, women are harmed because female relatives, friends and carers of boys are harmed. How would a mother of 15 year old twins feel, knowing the female twin was protected but that the male twin was not protected? How does the mother of the boy in the article feel now that she has to live with the knowledge that her son was abused and violated, perhaps running all the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘if-onlys’ daily through her mind? Constantly wishing she’d realised what was going on, or talked to her son more about women and sex so he wouldn’t fall for her lies and promises, or had been there to protect her son. Similar thoughts might be racing through the minds of the boy’s older sister (if he has one) or his aunts.

Secondly, and here is the more complex bit: When female sex offending is not taken seriously and male minors can’t get justice, it perpetuates the view that only women can be hurt by sex while men – even boys – always enjoy sex or are at least immune to emotional pain from sex. So we start to see women as vulnerable and in need of protecting. We monitor daughters’ sex lives more than sons’, ‘for their own good’. Males are seen as sexually aggressive and females as sexually passive – great conditions for the sexual double standard, paternalism and male control of female sexuality to flourish. If sex is seen as dangerous to women then confusion or derision will be directed against women who do enjoy and seek sex. If sex as seen as harmful to teenage girls and young women then it justifies parental control over daughters’ sexuality.

The message of this case is that only teenage girls’ innocence (or virginity) is valued enough to be protected. Boys’ innocence is worthless (or nonexistent)? This might actually harm girls even more than boys, as this sort of thinking is full of that antifeminist social conservatism which buoys up slutshaming and the sexual double standard.

Thirdly, and this is the controversial bit: In a way, it is a good thing for women to be seen as sex predators. (To be SEEN AS, not to actually DO child abuse. I AM NOT ADVOCATING THAT WOMEN MOLEST CHILDREN IN THE NAME OF FEMINISM. And I’m talking about women who are guilty of being sex predators being seen for what they are, not innocent women being seen as sex predators.) It is a good thing because when we accept that women are sexx predators, we can offer support and counselling to their victims. Men will be more confident about reporting sexual assaults by women and recieving support from rape centres. It will no longer be acceptable to joke about men being raped, as if somehow they’re incapable of feeling as bad as women, as if somehow they can’t be violated because they’re sluts anyway, so who cares? It’s not as if dignity and bodily integrity could actually mean something to anyone with a penis, right?

Also, when we accept that women can and do commit sex crimes, the double standard will crumble to dust. The double standard is based on a conservative view of female passivity, chastity and asexuality – women want love, marriage and children while men want sex. The acceptance of the existence of female sex offending will prove that this is nonsense – anyone can be sexually aggressive, romantic, or chaste and it’s got nothing to do with either gender or biological sex.

With the fall of the double standard, stigma against lone mothers, “sluts” and (female) sex workers would also start to lift.

The culture of telling women how not to get raped, holding women responsible for rape (victim blaming) and paternalism would also fall once men realise they could become the victim of rape by a woman. And if men fear rape by women, they might be happier to accept that rape is real (step forward Todd Akin) and not oppose abortion in such cases – after all, would men really want to pay child support towards a child concieved by rape? (Claire Roundhill got pregnant, by the way. She had an abortion. But if she hadn’t and it was the 15 year old’s baby, he would be paying child support as soon as he turns 16 or gets a full-time job.)

In conclusion, this sentence was very unjust, unfair and insulting to the 15 year old victim and his family. It may set a worrying precedent about how male children are protected from exploitation and abuse. The comments below it seem to mean that male victims of female sex offenders can expect to be ridiculed and shamed as “wimps” for showing distress, or at best have their abuse dismissed as “a great experience”. Angry parents seeking justice can expect to be ridiculed as overprotective and restricting their child’s sex life. And female sex offenders will be propositioned, praised, or shamed as “slut” instead of “sex offender” – (the second one is the WORSE title, people!). The victims and their families suffer with little of the sympathy, understanding or support given to female victims – all because the kid is the wrong gender. And feminism suffers alongside them, as the message given is “Only females’ innocence is important enough for the law to protect”.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Feminism, Media

 

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Rape the sluts: the ‘Men can’t control themselves’ excuse

The clothes that a woman happens to be wearing at the time of an assault are often used against her in court, in the media or in her own social circle. I remember as an 18 year old being told by a girl I knew about a newspaper article which reported that a rape victim’s underwear was shown in court to prove that she consented. This was because the underwear had been manufactured with the words “Little devil” printed on the fabric. More recently an article in the Daily Mail sparked outrage for claiming that rape laws were too harsh and were catching innocent men; an example used was that a 19 year old attacked by two footballers had been drinking and had the top three buttons on her blouse undone, so it could not possibly be rape.

Another tactic in using clothes to victim-blame is claiming that if a man sees a woman wearing revealing clothes, he cannot help not raping her, or that the clothes themselves confuse men or constitute consent (a dress is a ‘yes’).

However, the assertion that all men are filthy, sexualised animals who can’t see a bit of cleavage without attcking a woman makes no logical sense. Firstly, men (and women) tend not to commit sexual assaults when there are witnesses around. This is why most attacks on women happen in the victim’s own home, in a dark or secluded area (an empty classroom, a car, an ambulance, a quiet street), in the attacker’s home or are perpertrated by the woman’s partner or family member. So, if men are really beasts who can’t control themselves, why can they control themselves when they know they’re likely to be caught? Why don’t we see men committing rape in malls, busy classrooms or crowded streets? Even when they do abduct victims from crowded places, how are they able to control themselves long enough to get their victim into a secluded area (remember the 14 year old boy abducted from a mall and raped in a toilet in Marks and Spencer’s?) How can Daddy control himself in the street and when Mummy is around, but suddenly he can’t control himself if his wife leaves the house? The myth that men can’t control themselves is just a nonsensical excuse.

A disturbing fact is that we don’t accept the ‘I couldn’t control myself because of my gender’ for any other crime or for any other gender. Try telling a judge that you couldn’t help knifing that person or nicking that wallet because you’re a man. Try telling anyone that you couldn’t help sexually assaulting that man because you’re a woman. So why accept that excuse for men who rape? The excuse should either be valid for all crimes and all genders, or it should be invalid for all crimes and all genders.

Another fact: we don’t accept the excuse for men who molest children or have sex with underage girls. But it seems that if you’re over the age of consent, it’s all your fault for leading him on and he couldn’t help it. If he really can’t help it with girls over 16, why is he able to control himself with a 15 year old? Why is it all his fault if you’re 15 and consenting, and all your fault if you’re 16 and not consenting?

Yet another illogical aspect of this excuse is: If men can’t control themselves, wouldn’t that mean that women also can’t control themselves? So why are only men deemed to be animals, and not women?

The tactic of using clothes to victim-blame, or even just to slutshame women ordinarily, is a dirty trick. You see, that outfit that Jenny is wearing that seems slutty to you isn’t Jenny – it’s an outfit. You’re judging Jenny based on what she’s wearing. If you had met her two hurs earlier she would have been wearing a business suit. If you were to meet her two hours later she’ll be wearing a frumpy, mumsy cardigan and worn baggy jeans.Later, when Jenny’s wearing her fleecey PJ’s, you might be wearing a short see-through nightie. So if Jenny is attacked at 4pm, she will be wearing a suit and will be seen as a victim (unless she knows the attacker). But if her attacker decides to lie in wait for her until 5pm and stalk her, by the time he attacks her she might be wearing a ‘revealing’ outfit. So it’s her fault for being dressed that way. And if the rapist instead chooses to follow her home and then break in, she’ll be wearing her mumsy outfit and be seen as a victim. Women have no control and no choice over when they are attacked or what they’re wearing when they are attacked. We don’t dress in the mornings or change our outfits in the day thinking that we might be raped, any more than men dress to be raped. We don’t think that men are dangerous animals who will leap at the first chance to attack us; we’re not paranoid. Neither are men. Judging women and victim-blaming on the basis of dress puts victims under the power of their rapist. The attacker chose when to attack; he has that control. The victim doesn’t. By victim-blaming, you are giving the rapist the power to make his victim endure shaming and make her testimony less believable. You are giving him the power to negotiate and influence the wider disourse around rape, as well as the opportunity to escape prison if the victim isn’t believed. By assuming womens’ dress causes them to be raped, we might even end up with a society in which men try to attack women who are dressed a certain way, so that they will get away with it – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And if men are biologically compelled to rape if they catch a glimpse of cleavage, leg or belly button, how are they able not to rape when they see women in bikinis on the beach? Or naked women in nudist colonies? Or topless women on the beach? When I was 8 I once saw a naked woman at the beach, pulling her two young children in a rubber ring and covering herself with her other hand. Nobody tried to rape her or even noticed her or cared. In fact, I, an eight year old female, was the one who was staring the most.

This final argument comes with illustrations (yay!). In Britain, it is ILLEGAL to wear clothing in public that would display nipples or genitals. Strip clubs, nudist colonies and BDSM club nights may have different rules, but when you step out of these establishments onto the street, you will be charged with public indecency if you aren’t covering those areas. So how revealing can revealing clothes even be?

This woman is wearing a bralet and short skirt, but all she is revealing is a little of her belly.

This is the most revealing photo I could find of people who appeared on Snog, Marry Avoid. However, the two womens’ outfits, while being as revealing as possible without being illegal, are actually less revealing than a bikini. And neither of them are revealing their nipples or private parts, so the most sexual parts of their bodies are covered. So they aren’t revealing anything at all – the erogenous zones are covered up, leaving only the mundane non-sexy bits showing.

Really, anyone who believes that men are so weak, violent and bestial that they would attack these two women just because their tummies, legs and decolletage are revealed is an idiot.

A man wouldn’t be compelled to attack a woman walking down the street naked any more than a woman would be compelled to attack a naked man, or an adult of either sex would be compelled to attack a naked child.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Feminism

 

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“Slut!”: When your sex life is deemed more important than your career, achievements and dreams

This evening I was watching BBC4’s documentary on theories about what existed before the Big Bang (which, as the documentary reveals, may have been a slow inflation, a bouncing back of a shrunken universe, or the other end of a black hole.) A female scientist appeared on the documentary, expounding a theory which I barely understand. I had a sudden realisation that her career, theories, achievements, childhood, dreams, hobbies and relationships could be completely negated by the word “slut”.

Because that is what the word slut does. That is what it means – that no matter what you’ve achieved, no matter the nuances and complexities of your character and personality, what is really important is what you do in the bedroom. Your sex life trumps your work life, family life and social life. It trumps everything you’ve created, like essays, blogs, stories, art. You could have a black belt in karate or be a world champion gymnast, a published poet, or have got a First class degree. You could have hobbies that make you very unique, such as base jumping or knitting. You could volunteer in a charity or be a human rights activist. But none of that counts for anything. No skill you’ve learned, no qualification you’ve earned or sport you’ve mastered is as important as how many men and under what circumstances and in which time frame you’ve had sex with. What you’ve produced with your brain, your drive and your two hands are meaningless compared to the activity around your vagina. It is that little part of you, your genitals, that are key.

Not your mind. Not your faith, politics or experiences. Failing that, not even a body toned and fit from regular excercise, dance or sporting activity. Not even something as meaningless as a face that is beautiful or a hairstyle that is on trend. Nope. Just what goes in your vagina. Not even the appearance, health etc of the vagina itself – just what goes in it.

That’s pretty sick. And disgusting. And woman-hating.

And the word “slut” is static. It assumes you’ve always been a slut and always will be. But in reality, your 14 year old self might be very different from your 23 year old self, and at age 35 you’ll be different again. At age 60 you’ll be different yet again. It’s very unlikely that, even if everyone could agree on a definition of ‘slut’ that the same individual would remain slutty from puberty until her death.

When someone uses words like “slut”, they are denying the whole woman. They are reducing her to slut, whore, tart, a two-dimensional sliver of a multifaceted and complex person. Nobody is just a ‘slut’ and nothing else. You cannot be ‘just a slut’; you will be a daughter, student, colleague, schoolgirl, dreamer, amateur writer, artist, musician. There is a tendency to assume sexually active female adolescents are sluts. However, they might go swimming, have a group of friends, skateboard, paint, go to dance classes, any number of things. Nobody is just a slut or a whore. Nobody is just a sex worker. Nobody is just a single mum. Nobody is just single and pregnant.

And that’s why slutshaming is so harmful and misogynistic.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Feminism

 

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Does love have to be forever?: “Love” priveleged; love myths

Love is a concept shrouded in myths. We don’t see love as on a continuum, at one end of a spectrum that starts with friendship or NSA sex. We don’t usually see love as flawed, fallible or even temporary in the same way that we see friendship and other sexual relationships. Somehow, love is supposed to be perfect and endure forever and ever. Love is supposed to mean the same thing to everyone and to be experienced in the same way by everyone. And the word “love” in English is used synonymously with the word “commitment”.

Love is a priveleged concept; it is always seen as sacred, pure, in no need of explanation or defence. While other feelings and relationships may be publically scrutinised, debated or denounced, love is not subject to any challenge. Even in the equal marriage debate, love is used as the justification for equal marriage, precisely because it is so difficult or unthinkable to argue against love.  The anti-equal marriage brigade resort to arguing that homosexual love is not-love; they do not challenge the pro-equal marriage supporters by arguing that love should not be priveleged or that love and marriage are irrelevant to each other. It is implicitly assumed by both sides that love should be rewarded by or lead to marriage and that love should be priveleged.

The Catholic Church and other random right-wing moralists, whether politicians, NGOs or think-tanks, criticise every other sexual emotion on the spectrum except for love. Love is immune. In fact, love is often favoured and other sexual emotions are compared to it unfavourably. Love is the ideal.

Women a little older than me may remember dreaming of – or being socialised into dreaming of – experiencing true love like Princess Diana. For those around my age, it was Cinderella, Princess Jasmine, Belle and Ariel. For those who are younger, Bella Swan is their role model. Previous generations had Shakespeare’s Juliet and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales, unDisneyfied. Obviously, this is part of the reason why we put love on a pedestal. But the really interesting thing is that all of us expect to experience love in the same way as our fictional or celebrity heroines. We don’t entertain the idea that love might feel different to different people, or feel different with different partners or at different ages.

Love is inextricably linked to marriage and the family the two-parent heterosexual monogamous fertile family. Female children and teenage girls take it for granted that they’ll fall madly in love with their very own Prince Charming and get married. The reality for a lot of people, though, is marrying someone you like a lot and who you get on with; the scorching fires of I-can’t-live-without-you passion and wild romance seldom lead to stable relationships, as the magic fizzles out after a while. Yet, we continue to delude ourselves that we’ll ‘find our soulmate’ and ‘know it’s true love’ and ‘live happily ever after’. This is because we see love as a shining, separate entity, instead of an emotion resting on the far side of the casual sex-friendship-like-like a lot-love spectrum.

This is quite harmful, because the separation of love from all other close, bonding, sexual, romantic, passionate and friendship feelings leads to seeing love as copletely cut off from all other feelings. We tell ourselves that it’s either love or it’s not love. So, if we like a girl or guy, we might think we are “in love”. After all, we can’t stop thinking about them and love being around them, so it’s got to be love. Thinking you care more deeply about someone than you do is probably inevitable, but separating love from all other emotions only exacerbates the problem. Another effect is that we think in terms of lust and love, as if they were polar opposites. We think that if it’s casual, short-term or has no clear direction, it’s just lust, when in reality there could be friendship feelings or other feelings there, too. Everything is lust if it’s not love. And love is ranked as superior to lust; women are meant to love, not lust, and to prefer to get love instead of getting lust.

It would be better if our language allowed a more nuanced discussion of the spectrum instead of using love-words (love, romance, commitment, faithful) and lust-words (casual, passion, hot, sexy) as if they were mutually exlusive. For cohabitees, polyamorous people, swingers and those in open marriages, our language and discourse are unhelpful and redundant.

And we think love cannot be flawed; if a man beats or sexually assaults his wife or a woman hits her child, these individuals didn’t love their victims. But there is no reason why someone can’t be in love and still abuse or assault their loved ones; it’s not normal, natural or acceptable, and could be referred to as ‘pathological love’ but it could happen*.

Love is seen as an end in itself, a goal to be achieved, a meaningful pursuit even for a successful career woman. None of the other feelings on the love-lust spectrum are seen in this way. Lust is not seen as a meaningful goal for women to pursue, or an end in itself for anyone. In fact, women who enjoy recieving lust or openly have too much of the emotion themselves are often slut-shamed.

Love, in the West, is usually equated with commitment. But should it be? In our modern society we sometimes forget that love wasn’t always thought of as permanent or as requiring faithfulness; even Shakespeare’s Romeo fell in and out of love with Rosemarie quickly, and in love with Juliet almost instantaneously, similarly to the way King David fell in love with Bathsheba as he saw her nude. The Hindu god Krishna is continually unfaithful to his consort Radha whom he loves dearly. And I have heard – I think most people have – of one-night stands or even holiday sex turning into cohabiting and then marriage. While I can’t take seriously the claim of “I felt love for everyone I slept with”, it may be possible to be truly in love with someone for a short time. After all, that’s why marriages fail – people fall out of love. So why couldn’t people be truly in love, but not have any plans to commit? Does being in love mean you have to want to be with that person until you’re 80? Or is it possible to be in love but know you can’t be with them forever, and, when you do leave them, you wuld always remember and think about them?

In regards to the glamorising and glorifying of this emotion called love: Love is nothing special. It’s just the end-point on the spectrum when the feelings of friendship and sexual attraction intensify.

 

 

 

 

*I’m not saying all or even most people who assault/abuse their family members love them. I’m just saying it could happen. And I’m certainly not saying that their love somehow “lessens” their crimes – it doesn’t. Arguably it makes their crimes worse.

 

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Feminism

 

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The Piano Teacher: Stigmatising BDSM

Michele Haneke’s Piano Teacher (2001) is a French erotic drama about – to paraphrase the blurb on the DVD cover – “a repressed woman in her late thirties”, Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert) who lives with her tyrannical mother. The plot follows her relationship with her handsome student, Walter Klemmer (Benoit Magimel) and how her “claustrophobic” world shatters as she gives free reign to previously inhibited desires.

This film has nothing positive to say about BDSM, which is surprising since its protagonist is into BDSM. Judging by the blurb, you could be forgiven for thinking that the film was a statement about the acceptability of BDSM, since it has an educated, successful protagonist contrasting a vanilla and domineering mother, and the entire plot centres on the unleashing of BDSM desires.

Nothing could be further than the truth. The movie actually manages to stigmatise BDSM even more than E. L. James has done (by linking BDSM to childhood abuse and having an abusive, possessive hero and an idiotic passive heroine).

Here is a list of why this movie sucks, because it is so bad that I can’t write it out properly:

Childhood abuse/current emotional abuse raises its ugly head as the possible cause of BDSM desires, as Erika’s mother is abusive

BDSM is conflated with self-harm as Erika cuts her genitals deeply for no apparent reason and derives no sexual satisfaction. There is a lot of blood. Even I, who wants my labia pierced in a BDSM context and has attempted to drink Roland’s blood, was disturbed by this scene, as it smacks of self-harm and not play.

Walter is the pursuer and is sexually aggressive, even jumping up and leaning over a stall door in a public toilet to watch Erika (his professor) using the toilet. Erika is passive to his advances – reminiscent of stereotyped gender roles and the double standard.

Erika has incestuous desires towards her mother and attacks her sexually; this is untypical of the BDSM community.

Erika is not independent; she still lives with her mother in a small rented flat. Again this is untypical of BDSM-ers and, considering a professor’s salary, is unrealistic.

Walter is disgusted upon knowing his girlfriend is kinky. This isn’t realistic and is hurtful, yet Erika just takes his disgust and does not call him on it. Hardly the behaviour of a professional.

Erika deliberately injures her pupil’s hand permanently by putting smashed glass in her coat pocket, then pretends to commiserate with the pupil’s mother. BDSM is confused with psychopathic tendencies and criminal behaviour.

Erika displays hypocrisy by blaming her pupils for looking at porn, as it is degrading to women, but then she watches porn herself.

Erika self-harms with a knife in public.

When Erika finally gets what she wants – a rape fantasy which initially angered and disgusted Walter – it doesn’t turn out to be as good as she thought it would be, and she is upset by it. This is the end of the film. This is a very negative portrayal of BDSM, and an explicit suggestion that BDSM is dangerous and emotionally damaging. It could also be taken as a dim view of female sexual expressiveness, as realised desire turns out to be traumatic for the woman but satisfying for the man.

In sum, the protagonists are a psychotic criminal with a history of abuse and repressed desires (Erika) and a sexually aggressive person (Walter), both of them in need of treatment to ensure they do not cause any risks to those around them. This is not representative of BDSM. The entire film portrays both BDSM and female sexuality as perverted, dangerous, criminal and destructive – or perhaps the implicit message is that only a disturbed, traumatised individual would like BDSM, or assert her sexuality?

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Film

 

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Moulin Rouge!: Smashing the ‘happy hooker’/sex slave dichotomy

Baz Luhrmann’s 2002 movie about naive young Christian (Ewan MacGregor) falling in love with Moulin Rouge dancer and sex worker Satine (Nicole Kidman) tells a nuanced story of love and sex work.

The Moulin Rouge nightclub and brothel is owned by Harold Zidler. The movie follows Christian as he writes a play that is to be performed there and pursues Satine, finally recieving reprocity and having to keep their love a secret from the jealous Duke who wants to marry Satine. All of the characters’ success and happiness (and, for Zidler, his livelihood) depends on Satine keeping the violent Duke happy by ceasing her sex work. This is reminiscent of the great cultural burdens of honour that women historically carried/still carry in some communities; if they lost their virginity it was a betrayal and tragedy to their families.

Although Satine is what we in 21st-century Britain would think of as more of a ‘sex slave’ since there was no welfare state in her time (so if she didn’t do sex work she would starve), she is portrayed as enjoying her work and as having agency. She is capable of building healthy relationships – friendships with the other characters and being in love with Christian. Satine can recognise unhealthy or abusive relationships (the Duke’s possessiveness and, in a sense, Harold Zidler for using her for business).

Best of all, when Satine becomes the victim of attempted rape, this is not portrayed as an inherent risk of sex work or as Satine’s ‘fault’ for being a sex worker. Instead, the Duke’s abusive, insecure, violent character is to blame.

Of the two men interested in Satine, the one with the rescuer mentality (a desire to ‘rescue’ sex workers from their work) is the evil abusive character. Christian, while struggling with jealousy, seems jealous only of the Duke and diesn’t go as far as demanding Satine stop doing sex work, as the Duke does by requiring a contract from Zidler that “binds Satine to me”.

None of the characters are stereotypes. Zidler is both the unscrupulous pimp and the concerned father-figure; Christian is a respectful, loving boyfriend but still toys with jealousy. And Satine says that she must do sex work to survive – “A girl has got to eat/Or she’ll end up on the street” and that she has ambitions beyond the sex industry (to be an actress, the next Sara Bernhardt) but, at the same time, she obviously enjoys her work and is capable of manipulating clients (such as using love, sex or charm to get the Duke to invest in the play). This portrayal seems quite odd to some participants in the current sex work discourse; how can one want to exit sex work, yet enjoy it, be proud of it and not want to escape the industry to a life of luxury by marrying the Duke? Significantly, Satine does not realise her dream of “flying away” and “leav[ing] all this to yesterday” but instead dies in the Moulin Rouge.

The Duke’s possessiveness, Christian’s love, Zidler’s business plans and Satine’s ambitions were really just dreams all along – Satine had tuberculosis and would never have lived long enough for any of this to be realised. All that was real was their love and her sex work.

A good point in the film is when Satine talks of escaping the Duke and the Moulin Rouge with Christian; however Christian isn’t rescuing her, she is choosing her destiny and wants to depart with Christian as equals.

Satine also only began to have wishes of exiting prostitution when she was told of an opportunity the Duke was affording her to become a celebrity, and this feeling only intensified when she fell in love and her relationship with Christian became her priority. So, without these two men entering her life, Satine would have remained happy to be a sex worker.

In addition, Satine is a well-rounded character who has a talent for acting and enjoys socialising – she isn’t a cardboart-cutout prostitute.

Sex work is not portrayed as either degrading or empowering in the film. It seems to be just another job, seen alongside the other characters’ jobs of acting, singing, dancing, writing and the arts – ( indeed, even interchangeable with the arts, as the sex workers dance in the Moulin Rouge and act in the play, and the actors (and writer) date and form friendships with the sex workers. The play itself is about a sex worker, and Christian’s novel, which narrates the film, is about the Moulin Rouge; Satine’s ambition is to act.)) All of these professions are shown as falling under the Bohemian Revolution spirit of Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love. The Duke, who stops Satine’s sex work, is the one character who is opposed to these ideals – “I don’t care about your ridiculous dogma!”.

In general, Moulin Rouge! does not fall prey to either side of the happy hooker/sex slave dichotomy, but embraces the good and the bad of sex work without demonising, glamorising or dramatising it; it’s just another way to make money in a corrupt and unequal society.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Film, Sex work

 

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Abstinence-Only Education is Negligent Parenting

Nice Girls Like Sex Too

When you become a parent, one of the biggest parts of your new job is protecting your child. You’d never let your child sleep with a plastic bag in the crib; you’d never let him or her ride a bike for the first time without a helmet; and you would never just toss your child the keys to the car without teaching them how to drive it first. So why, then, are so many parents failing at protecting their children from the lies, misinformation, and danger of abstinence-only sex education?

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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Abstinence

 

Life between the parallel lines

In the mid-1800s, the virgin/whore dichotomy was at its most extreme, which meant one simple social rule: there was a line drawn on the ground, and if you crossed it you were no longer a virgin – you were a ruined woman, a whore. These (slightly) more enlightened times have brought more freedom to women (and men) but paradoxically the rules, for women, are now harder to follow.

This is because there is now another line – you can’t be “frigid” or a virgin. You have to date, you have to have a boyfriend, but at the same time you can’t step over that other line into glorious slutdom. You’re trapped, between the parallel lines.

The contested space between the lines is most overtly expressed in high school. If you’re percieved as too close to one line, you’re frigid, ugly, a lesbian, a snob, a virgin, a girl who can’t get a man. Yet step too close to that other line and you’re a slut, a whore, cheap, easy, a ho, skank, slag, or nasty girl. And the lines aren’t only present in high school; they’re prevalent everywhere.

In offices and families and friendship groups everywhere, women are trying to fit into that little space between the lines. Your colleagues might not yell “Slut!” at you or snicker that you’ll “die a virgin” but they can gossip behind you. Your relatives might moan that you’re still single or frown when you tell them you’ve got a new man (or more than one man). And a lot of us are familiar with the feeling of not being able to keep up with our friends who somehow effortlessly lay man after man, yet wonder how they’ll judge our own behaviour when we finally do get up the nerve to do something adventurous.

For those who are abstinent, there is pressure to “do it the world’s way”. Yet the world which seems so liberal to the abstinents is often judgemental and rejecting to polyamorous or kinky women – or even simply women who regularly have NSA sex.

So, whether you’re abstinent or polyamorous (or both!), maybe it’s time to fly upwards – out of that confined space between the painted lines on the ground. They are only paint, after all.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Feminism

 

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