Sex

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny…

Designer Jessica Rey implores for greater modesty from young women, asking the question [of the bikini], “Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?”

To this I say, “Maybe… I DO ?”

Her argument for greater modesty is underpinned by studies showing that men really do see women as objects the less they wear. However she is invoking the same logic used in arguments saying that if women and girls don’t want to be raped they shouldn’t wear short skirts. Feminism is about equality and choice. If I want to wear an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini, I should be able to— without fear of some consequence such as sexual harassment or abuse.

Rey’s argument also ignores the existence of a woman’s own agency. To her own question, “who says it has to be itsy bitsy?,” she answers: everyone— “fashion designers, the media….”—everyone except the woman buying the bikini, that is. In this way, she completely fails to acknowledge a woman’s own agency.

But perhaps, Ms. Rey, it’s the WOMAN buying it who says so. I buy bikinis because I think they suit my particular body shape better than a full bathing suit, and, quite frankly, I find it more comfortable. Point in fact, I actually feel like a sausage stuffed into a casing in a full bathing suit. Hell, maybe I would actually look “better” in a full bathing suit rather than a bikini, but I just prefer letting my belly and hips hang out. It’s so freeing.

Quite frankly, Rey seems to be living in line with the misogynistic male gaze more than I do in my bikini, or perhaps any woman in her bikini for that matter. After all, she’s the one conforming to the very androcentrism behind her whole argument.

“Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?”

Me. And my freedom of choice, and my fashion sense, and my self-recognized agency. That’s who.

 

 

 

 

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DRUNK IN LOVE AND MARRIAGE

 

Anybody have any feminist-related thoughts or comments on Beyonce and Jay Z’s performance at the Grammys last night?

I, for one, loved that it oozed both sex AND partnership. What a concept! As it started, I was thinking, “DAMN. Get it, girl! GET IT,” and by the end I almost shed a tear because it was so sweet.

We should all be so lucky to have a partner with whom we can grow, share in our version of success (whatever it may be), and of course, be madly, butt-crazy, passionately in love with. I feel incredibly lucky to feel that I have that too.

It was also interesting to wake up to an article this morning about how Beyonce and Jay Z “Make The Case for Marriage That Conservatives Can’t“…

 

drunk in love

 

Lyrics via metrolyrics.com:

[Intro: Beyoncé]
I’ve been drinking, I’ve been drinking
I get filthy when that liquor get into me
I’ve been thinking, I’ve been thinking
Why can’t I keep my fingers off you, baby?
I want you, na na
Why can’t I keep my fingers off you, baby?
I want you, na na

[Verse 1: Beyoncé]
Cigars on ice, cigars on ice
Feeling like an animal with these cameras all in my grill
Flashing lights, flashing lights
You got me faded, faded, faded
Baby, I want you, na na
Can’t keep your eyes off my fatty
Daddy, I want you, na na
Drunk in love, I want you

[Bridge: Beyoncé]
We woke up in the kitchen saying
“How the hell did this shit happen?”, oh baby
Drunk in love, we be all night
Last thing I remember is our
Beautiful bodies grinding off in that club
Drunk in love

[Hook: Beyoncé]
We be all night, in love, in love
We be all night, in love, in love

[Verse 2: Beyoncé]
We be all night, and everything alright
No complaints for my body, so fluorescent under these lights Boy, I’m drinking, walking in my l’assemblage
I’m rubbing on it, rub-rubbing
If you scared, call that reverend
Boy, I’m drinking, Imma bring it right
Oñly bring you a gangster wife
Louis sheets , he sweat it out like washed rags, he wet it up
Boy, I’m drinking, I’m singing on the mic ’til my voice hoarse
Then I fill the tub up halfway then ride it with my surfboard
Surfboard, surfboard
Graining on that wood, graining, graining on that wood
I’m swerving on that, swerving, swerving on that big body Been
Serving all this, swerve, surfing all of this good good

[Bridge]
We woke up in the kitchen saying
“How the hell did this shit happen?”, oh baby
Drunk in love, we be all night
Last thing I remember is our
Beautiful bodies grinding off in that club
Drunk in love

[Hook]
We be all night, in love, in love
We be all night, in love, in love

[Verse 3: Jay Z]
Hold up
I do say it’s the shit if I do say so myself
If I do say so myself, if I do say so myself
Hold up, stumble all in the house tryna backup all of that mouth
That you had all in the car, talking ’bout you the baddest bitch thus far
Talking ’bout you be repping that 3rd, wanna see all that shit that I heard
Know I sling Clint Eastwood, hope you can handle this curve, uh
Foreplay in a foyer, fucked up my Warhol
Slid the panties right to the side
Ain’t got the time to take drawers off
On sight
Catch a charge I might, beat the box up like Mike
In ’97 I bite, I’m Ike Turner, turn up
Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake, Anna Mae
Said, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”
I’m nice, for y’all to reach these heights you gon’ need G3
4, 5, 6 flights, sleep tight
We sex again in the morning, your breasteses is my breakfast
We going in, we be all night

[Hook: Beyoncé]
We be all night, in love, in love
We be all night, in love, in love

[Verse 4: Beyoncé]
Never tired, never tired
I been sippin’, that’s the only thing
That’s keeping me on fire, me on fire
Didn’t mean to spill that liquor all on my attire
I’ve been drinking, watermelon
(I want your body right here, daddy, I want you, right now)
Can’t keep your eyes off my fatty
Daddy, I want you

[Hook: Beyoncé]
We be all night, in love, in love
We be all night, in love, in love

Read more: Beyonce – Drunk In Love Lyrics | MetroLyrics

American Horror Story: Holding a Mirror Up to Society

American Horror Story: Coven. Above: Madison Montgomery, played by Emma Roberts

**Spoiler Alert: Details from the season 3 premiere of AHS: Coven ahead***

AHS, or American Horror Story, Season 3 has a lot of self-proclaimed “feminist themes” contained within it, and after finally watching the season 3 opener the other night I can totally see what they mean.

Some of the real horror in the show is not so much exhibited via witchcraft or black magic, but rather, by way of the racism and sexism demonstrated throughout the series. Already, in this powerful first episode, the character of Madison Montgomery (played by Emma Roberts, pictured above) and her new witch cohort, Zoe, go to a frat party where Madison is drugged and raped by multiple frat brothers.

 

I think the following quote sums this up best:

“Madison is brutally date raped by several of the frat brothers, and we were forced to witness most of it from her drugged-out perspective. This is Horror Story. Any other series would have had Zoe bursting through the doors in the nick of time. Nope, not on Coven.”

 

I’m not gonna lie, it’s a pretty disturbing scene, and while it induced some serious cringing and nausea, I also couldn’t help but think of how trite this plot detail could sound to some. You know the story: Girl goes to frat party, girl gets roofied, girl gets raped. It’s disgusting how trite this sounds. Yet it’s trite because this shit actually happens. It’s not just a scene out of a show, or a movie— it’s Steubenville, Ohio, it’s Richmond, California, it’s the reality of many girls and women— it’s real life. Yet the show did such an amazing job of visually representing something that could sound so trite as so disgustingly, nauseatingly, horrific, I felt a deep sense of gratitude at the portrayal of it. It took something that could sound trite and made you see it for what it really is: appalling, sickening, gruesome, horrific.

It’s actually a positively galvanizing scene.

When I was 15, I was one of the weird goth/punk girls in high school and I was roofied and sexually assaulted by a football player. It sounds so cliche, right? Yeah, I know. Yet it actually happened. And it was anything but cliche. I was drugged. We were out and about in an outdoor mall and I woke up with kids just a couple years younger than me (around 13) slapping me awake, trying to feed me coffee, asking “Hey, are you okay? No, no, don’t close your eyes, keep em open, okay, stay awake. Are you okay?”

This shit happens.

And it’s not okay.

Perhaps we need a show like American Horror Story, holding up a mirror to our collective face in order to make us so violently repulsed by what we see so that we can begin to change it…

So once again, I, for one, am really glad that AHS put this scene in it’s show. It’s a shockingly powerful way to represent something very real that may end up seeming [sadly] cliched and commonplace due to it’s regrettable ubiquity. When representing rape within popular media there is a fine line between gratuitous content and content that serves a purpose, and I truly think that the galvanizing nature of this scene and it’s context was well-employed. If you’re not already watching this show, you totally should— especially if you’re a feminist. It’s some of the best subversive feminism out there in the mainstream media (not that there’s much to choose from).

SEX & PORN

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PORN SEX & REAL SEX!

 

I found this video while reading this Huffington Post article recently. Obviously, this video is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek look at the differences between ‘real sex’ and porn sex, but it also underscores a very real and serious problem in our country:

A severe lack of sex education.

As Nina Hartley says in the aforementioned HuffPost article, “Pornography is a paid, professional performance by actors. It is a fantasy, it is not meant to be a rulebook and guidebook or a how to as a general rule. And it goes to show how poor our sex education is in this country that people are reduced to looking at an entertainment medium for information about the body.”

I could not agree with Ms. Hartley more. In fact, if you’re already following the MFB Facebook page (good for you!) then you probably already know that I am the biggest advocate of education in general (it’s only the best tool in the shed for rebuilding this old house we call ‘Merica!), but sex education is of particular importance to me— largely because a lack of it engenders some specifically unique consequences. One of these unique consequences stems from its inevitable interconnection with porn.

What teen or young adult in this country isn’t looking at porn, if not for “educational purposes,” then out of pure curiosity? And guess what— I’m not even here to slam porn as some of you may be expecting at this moment. Oh, no… I’m just here to talk about sex, much in the same way that Salt n Pepa once did: “Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be…” Sex can be great. And so can porn. However, modern-day “mainstream” porn has brought with it an onslaught of problems:

  • People will look to it for sexual guidance (i.e. what to do and how to do it)
  • People will judge their own bodies against the bodies they are viewing, often castigating their own bodies as “wrong,” and believing that they should, instead, look like the ones onscreen— hairless, bleached, six-pack abs…
  • Women are consistently portrayed as passive sexual actors, with even the woman on woman sex scenarios (I hesitate to use the word “lesbian” here, for obvious reasons) usually centered around male pleasure
  • HETEROSEXIST ANDROCENTRISM, pure and simple.

Now, the first two bullet points mentioned above are not directly the fault of porn, per se, but rather, are inescapably bound up with our lack of education regarding the human body and human sexuality. But on that same note, porn could be a useful tool in displaying and promoting bodily diversity, yet, sadly, mainstream porn does not. Now as for the last two points…

Androcentrism is the key word here as far as I’m concerned.

Mainstream porn is no doubt heterosexist (i.e. biased towards heterosexuality), and it is also highly androcentric. Whether literally, as in, the movie itself revolves around a heterosexual male and/or his fantasy, or behind the scenes, as in, it is being written, directed, and produced by heterosexual men.

This lack of authentic female sexuality (and it’s representation in porn) is evident in what artist Sophia Wallace calls our society’s lack of “cliteracy.” As she said to Creem magazine earlier this year, “It is a curious dilemma to observe the paradox that on the one hand the female body is the primary metaphor for sexuality, its use saturates advertising, art and the mainstream erotic imaginary. Yet, the clitoris, the true female sexual organ, is virtually invisible.” “Even in porn, the clitoris is treated as this optional, kind of freaky, ‘wow he’s doing her this huge favor’ thing,” she told HuffPost, adding that women often feel “embarrassed” to ask their partners to pleasure them. “It’s insane to me that this is still happening in 2013.”

Can you hear my applause for Ms. Wallace right now?

Yet another interesting facet that Wallace hints at with this last quote (ahem, “embarrassment”? Read: “body conscious”) is the issue of physical insecurity, and guess what— it isn’t just for women and girls anymore. Take the following statement from writer, Phoebe Baker Hyde:

“A cultural anthropologist shared this observation with me: Pornography consumption on campuses is changing because women can now access porn privately and anonymously on the Internet. While this can lead to butterfly Brazilians and “designer vaginas” in sexually active young women, it also gives these women considerable performance expectations of their sexual partners. It’s hard to imagine a man showing off his fake orgasm over a pastrami sandwich the way Meg Ryan did in When Harry Met Sally, but it seems that young men are becoming more self-conscious and body-conscious during sex, so we may be headed in that direction.”

It is here that I must stop and reiterate: Porn is not evil. It is not a social ill, nor is it comprised of, and/or made by ill-minded people. Moreover, porn can be a really progressive and feminist and overall awesome thing. And sometimes it actually is. Plenty of other sex-positive feminists like myself like porn. And as one article very rightly observed: “Porn never goes away when it’s banned.”

In fact, in the article referenced above [CLICK IT!], the author gives a lot of wonderfully thought-provoking insight on the conflation of mainstream porn, everyday sexism, and ‘real sex.’ What makes her contribution on this topic all the more interesting: the backdrop for her analysis is her experience of YALE SEX WEEK. Here’s an excerpt:

“Censors which stigmatise one type of pornography as ‘bad’ implicitly elevate the alternative, ‘acceptable’ porn. And far too often, that ‘normal’ pornography conveys images of passive femininity that are more easily absorbed into everyday life: artificial conventions of beauty in porn are as dangerous to real women as movies that reveal, astonishingly, that sex and power are linked.

Start banning anything that comes close to a rape scenario, and you’ll block out feminist attempts to reclaim or experiment with centuries-old erotic traditions. You’ll even block sado-masochism that has women on top (does it degrade men, this time? Or does it degrade women, because the dominatrix is still sexualised for male lust? It’s all too confusing!) Gothic images are obviously fantasy (how many castle-owners can afford the metal-polishing costs on gleaming dungeons, nowadays?), but impossibly curvaceous cheerleaders ‘consensually’ putting out for the football captain do a far better job of masquerading as ‘real sex’ guides for today’s teenagers.”

And thus, I am right back where I started. (see what I did there?)

Porn serving as ‘real sex’ guides for today’s teenagers…

I shudder to think of the many boys and girls out there right now thinking that they are “learning” a thing or two from porn (ahem, and probably plenty of grown men and women, too). The many girls trying to comprehend this ostensible link between sex and power, and the many boys absorbing insidiously sexist images and messages. Ladies and gentleman, can we please stop thinking that porn is the same thing as real, regular ol’ everyday people sex? Because it’s not. It’s a movie, it’s part of the entertainment industry— it’s a farce. If you want some real talk, check this out (warning: it really only applies to the straights and lesbians) or, I don’t know… find a cool coloring book to begin your journey of learning about yourself and the wonderful world that is ‘real sex.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

how-to-be-a-woman book cover

Three word synopsis:

Hysterical, Intelligent, Contentious.

Here’s the deal: I really enjoyed this book. The entire first half had me in stitches. I was laughing out loud in the break room at work, on the BART train home, and in my own living room. She is hysterically funny. Both the stories in and of themselves, as well as her sense of humor. I was so thoroughly entertained I wasn’t even taking notes. And I am ALWAYS taking notes. Or, at best, resisting the urge to notate any and every book I read.

Here’s a glimpse at one of the parts that had me beside myself cracking up at work—on the topic of naming your vagina, naturally. I ended up sharing it with my coworker:

 

“But, let’s be honest, “pussy” is the least of it. There is a panoply of slang words that are, in their ways, just as truly awful as “vagina.” Let’s bullet point!

  • Your sex: sounds like a preemptive attempt to shift blame.
  • Hole: a bad thing that can happen to stockings or tights. My Johnnylulu is a GOOD thing that happens to stockings and tights.
  • Honeypot: inference of imminent presence of bees.
  • Twat: an unpleasant melange of cow-pat, stupidity, and punching. No.
  • Bush: the band of the same name are tiresome. The vegetation has spiders. No.
  • Vag: sounds like the name of a busybody battleaxe, a la “Barb” and “Val.” Suggestion also of chain-smoking Marlboro Lights, and borderline addiction to bingo. No.”

 

I mean, really—”Vag”—she is so dead on with that description.

Oh, and then she goes on to list a few of the names that she does like, and that bit may actually be even funnier (especially if you like Star Wars and/or came of age in the 80s).

 

Moran is a British writer, born and raised in the countryside of Wolverhampton, who at 16 gets to go work for a rock magazine in London. Her upbringing is interesting, to say the least, especially to someone born and raised in LA like myself. It is not only foreign geographically, but culturally. She grew up in a small house, in the English countryside, sharing what little space they had with 5-6 siblings in addition to her parents and a dog. (She not only shared a room, but a bed, with one of her many sisters.) On her 13th birthday she gets, instead of a cake, a baguette filled with Philadelphia cream cheese. And the cultural, class, and gender differences just continue on from there.*

*note: there is not much said, or discussed, in regards to race throughout the book. end note.

Her chapters go from pre-adolescence to present-day womanhood, in chronological order, and one of my favorite aspects of this journey is her chronological commentary on sexism. Ironically, the chapter titled I Encounter Some Sexism!—found dead center in the book—is also the point at which I wanted to bang my head against a wall out of frustration. Really, it boils down to the fact that:

(a) she says “You couldn’t find a woman making music for love nor money” in the early nineties. Hello?! L7, Verruca Salt, 7 Year Bitch, PJ Harvey (whom she does mention, at least), Tori Amos, Hole, The Breeders… and I’m sure many of you can think of even more amazing female artists, both rock and otherwise.

(b) she furthermore states that we’ve “had little more than a handful of female geniuses” since women got the right to vote (“There was still no female rock band to rival Led Zeppelin…No female hip-hop artist to rival Public Enemy…”) *Ahem* I’d say Janis Joplin earns at least the right to rival Led Zeppelin, and as for female hip-hop artists: TLC, Lil Kim, Da Brat, and SALT N PEPA. And don’t even get me started on [musician] female geniuses between the 1920s and 1990s: Nina Simone, Billie Holiday (whom she does mention), Peggy Lee, Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane), Sarah Vaughan, Wanda Jackson, Alice Coltrane, Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie and the Banshees), Kate Bush, Nico (The Velvet Underground), and I COULD name more…

finally, (c) I’m not sure whether it was in this chapter or the preceding one, but she does state at one point that she probably learned most about being a woman/how to be a woman from her husband; However, in this chapter she is upset at her boss saying, “You wouldn’t know what it’s like to be a fat teenage girl, being shouted at in the street by arseholes,” when, as she says, she in fact is “a fat teenage girl, being shouted at in the street by arseholes.” Well, Mz. Moran, given that you just stated you probably learned most about “being a woman” from a man, perhaps it is not so unfeasible for your male boss to know more about being a teenage girl than you. It just seemed a little hypocritical to at one point say you learned most about being a woman from a man, but then say, well, this guy is a jerk for thinking that he knows more about being a teenage girl than I do (because, once again, apparently your husband knew more about “being a woman” than you did…? Perhaps she could have at least expanded on this in order to clarify…) I just found those two aspects of the narrative a bit incongruous and I was miffed.

With that bit of criticism stated, I did love her “Is this polite?” sexism test (as I’m sure most people would- men and women alike), as well as her chapter on strippers and strip clubs. It’s a really delightful, laugh-out-loud funny, and insightful take on the whole sex work/sex worker debate. Something I’ve yet to decide on myself, but I do like what she has to say. One of my most favorite aspects of the book is the pairing of the two chapters, Why You Should Have Children, followed by Why You Shouldn’t Have Children (Chapters 12 & 13). Maybe it’s due to my legal studies background, but I do so enjoy how she is able to argue for each side, and quite deftly at that. My only point of criticism here is the last paragraph of the former chapter (chapter 12). Having studied childbirth, and having a midwife mother-in-law, that last paragraph made me give the book a sideways glance while thinking, “ummmm….ok, Moran, sure. uh huh.” But it’s a trivial piece of criticism, really. This book is truly and sincerely more than the sum of its parts.

She decides to almost end the book (it’s the second to last chapter) with abortion, and wow. It’s profound. It’s clearly well thought out. And of course, it’s contentious.

In spite of my pieces of criticism it really is a great read. I am so glad I read it and would definitely recommend it. I love her intellect, and perhaps most especially her humor. It will keep you entertained, and make you think, and I don’t think a book lover can ask for more than that.