sexism

Eventually the Pendulum Swings

Greetings from the Left coast. It’s been quite a while.

I’ve had an entire day now to mull over this Trump victory— I mean, really let it sink in before speaking out—and I find myself now compelled to publicly share my thoughts.

I’m so happy for you Mr. Trump.

Congratulations. You won.

I mean, not the popular vote, which is why there are so many protests occurring, but hey, electoral vote, so what does it matter because you won, right? (except it does matter because, as I’ve just said, half the country is outraged, and it’s not some kind of sore loser outrage, but rather more of a “WTF, howthefuck have my rights just been compromised” type of outrage)

It was pretty clear that pretty much everyone here in California yesterday was walking around in a haze. In a complete, WTF-induced haze, trying to make sense of it. But as one person said to me yesterday, out of her shock and disbelief, “Yeah… I’m just trying to make sense of this… But you know what— I’m from Ohio, so I do get it.”

And for better or worse, so do I. My own father voted for Trump. Which in and of itself continues to baffle me. (Like, dude, you adopted a brown baby [me] who was born of one “illegal” parent from El Salvador) But I digress…

We’ve all been sitting here wondering how we could go from electing the first Black president to the man who questioned his very eligibility because of his race. We’re wondering how we could go from Black Lives Matter to electing a man endorsed by the KKK. We’ve all been wondering how we could go from potentially electing our first female president to a man who has condoned sexual assault and spouted hateful misogyny over and over again.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Hate Votes, meaning that so many people have been so disillusioned with the government, and were so angry with the choice of candidates, and henceforth our very “democracy,” that they just wanted to vote “anti-establishment.” Enter Trump. Many of his supporters were not as much for-Trump, as they were against-Hillary.
  2. Economic policy has trumped (pun intended) equality, social justice, and common decency. People care more about his economic ideas and potential business acumen than the horrible things he has said. Racism, sexism, and downright bigotry are being overlooked and pushed aside because, you know, he’s going to “make deals” and that’s more important.
  3.  Going back to #1: Eventually the pendulum swings.

It’s almost a game of two steps forward, two steps back when it comes to our political climate and presidential elections. After eight years of Obama—after eight years of any president, mind you, the same happened with George W.— often, if not always, people want change. A striking change. And Trump offers the most striking change of all.

But you know what? This is what is going to keep the optimistic political fire inside me burning bright.

Eventually the pendulum swings.

Bernie may not have won the presidency or even the democratic nomination this time around, but his impact has been undeniable and indelible nonetheless, and he underscored a major movement going on in this country. We have been shown, to some extent, just how far we can go. Even if it wasn’t all the way, there is room for progress and we are going to create even more room. Those of us that declare Trump as #notmypresident are only further revved up in our political fervor and social activism. I know I am.

I am heavily disheartened by the intense apathy and disregard for racism and sexism demonstrated by this election, let alone the very active role both have played throughout the Trump campaign. I am horrified at the potential Supreme Court nominations to come. And I am beyond saddened and beyond disappointed by just how insidious and endemic sexism is in our country that this candidate— THIS person, of all the possible candidates out there— won over Hillary. I have zero doubt, and firmly believe, that if it was Donald Trump versus a “Hal” Clinton (i.e. another man), Trump would not have won. That is just my personal belief, but I know I’m not alone.

Notwithstanding, this means that I am only going to continue to fight even harder than I have in the past. A friend of mine asked me yesterday morning, “Where and how do we fight back?” I’ve thought really long and hard about this question. It’s a great question, and I think one a lot of us are asking ourselves, as well as each other, right now.

This is what I’ve come up with so far… Do take into consideration that this is coming from someone who is a reproductive justice worker, political activist, and in the process of obtaining a Masters in Social Work. I am no political strategist, nor am I even some kind of amazing community organizer *ahem* but nonetheless, here are my thoughts:

  1. As a reproductive justice worker who helps low-income women of all ages, incomes, and ethnicities obtain access to reproductive healthcare and services, I am going to fight even harder for this access. In a country in which, yes, we do have the right to choose, such a choice is not always so easily accessible, even here in California. There are still women who have to travel hundreds of miles for abortion services, women who may not have access to a car or even very much money. There are women afraid to seek out aid because they may be undocumented, a minor, or in a domestic violence situation. These issues are part of our everyday reality, and part of why reproductive justice— not just choice, but reproductive justice— is so crucial. Although Roe v. Wade still stands, the Republican party’s way around this is to chip away at access, and create further barriers for women. I think it’s crucial for us to do what we can in the way of protecting and increasing access, as well as paying attention to state and federal policies encompassing such things as insurance and immigration. If you can volunteer somewhere, great! If not, at least pay attention to state and local elections and use your voice!
  2. On this same note: I am currently helping to push the EACH Woman Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (as we like to say here in the Bay Area, “Barbara Lee speaks for me!”), which leads to another important mode of engagement: Find out who your congressperson is and pay attention to what they’re doing!
  3. Similarly, let’s keep our eyes on these women.
  4. Finally, let us remember: eventually the pendulum swings. Seeing as I’m playing the long game here, let us take these next four years to work even harder at our activism, to pay greater attention to House and Senate bills being penned by our elected officials, and create an even bigger space for progressive ideas and policies. This is the time for us to find one another and work together, and work very hard.

There are a lot of protests going on right now and a lot of people don’t understand why. Well I do understand why, but I also think it’s important to take that angry, frustrated energy inside of us and put it into useful, meaningful, productive action. This is why I’ll be paying close attention to Trump and the policies and actions he will be attempting to make over the next few years.

Because I am going to be a part of the counter-action.

And when the pendulum swings, I’ll be ready.

 

Please feel free to leave comments with further ideas on how to engage in meaningful and productive action

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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.

 

 

 

 

PSA: feminism and wussy men are a threat to national security

I don’t know if you all knew this, but…

“American men are on the decline.”

Or so says Australian Author, Nick Adams, in the below Fox & Friends interview with infamous Anti-Womanist Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and other Faux News Douche [insert name here].

 

First off, I love that the “wussification” of American men (and I can’t even tell you how much that made-up word drives me up the wall, Charlotte Perkins Gilman style) is especially seen as a threat “given the leading role” of our country. Ah, American Exceptionalism at it’s finest! Guess what… I love this country. I am very happy to be living in the United States. But, it’s not the greatest country in the world. That doesn’t mean that I hate America. It just means that I’m very critical and very aware. (Thanks, UC Berkeley!) After all, part of my thesis involved looking at our infant and maternal mortality rates against other countries whose primary labor attendants were midwives and indeed, ours is abysmal. There are plenty of other elements factoring into the cold hard fact that we are not the greatest country in the world, and while the above hyperlink is a clip from a TV show (well, it’s not really TV, it’s HBO) that does not render the information contained within it invalid.

I also love that Mr. Adams postulates that feminism sees men as preventing us [women] from achieving our goals. Funny… I’m married to a man, yet… hmm… he actually helps me achieve my goals… OH MY GOD THIS ENTIRE TIME I’VE NEVER EVEN BEEN A REAL FEMINIST.

Ok, so clearly Mr. Adams is not really familiar with what feminism actually is, what it sets out to do, or why most of us feminists view it as a necessity. Suffice it to say that Mr. Adams clearly sees feminism in “Backlash” black and white. Not to mention right in front of his face, during that very interview, was an actual woman who strives to prevent other women’s [feminist] goals….sooo…that’s funny.

And, I’m sorry, we’ve “whitewashed” genders? When did that happen? Does he even know what gender is? And that it is not the same thing as one’s biological sex? (Which is also not binary, by the way—there are both more genders and sexes than just male/female, masculine/feminine) I can only laugh at the lack of knowledge behind such a statement.

Finally, I find it humorous that he declares, with the utmost authority and confidence, that “feminism has delivered angry women and feminine men.” I beg to differ. Feminism has made me (and my predecessors, I’d argue) quite happy. It’s really more the whole sexism bit that has delivered the “angry women,” I’d say. And as for the “feminine men,” is he talking about gay men? (Not that all gay men are feminine, of course) Because whether he is, or is not, his stance that “Weeps and wussies deliver mediocrity” is intrinsically bound up with homophobic rhetoric and ideals. After all, the very notion (or existence, really—it’s not exactly a notion, anymore is it?) of homosexuality has very much undermined the concept of traditional masculinity. Either way, this guy’s notion of masculinity is what I really find most threatening…

Says Katie McDonough, in her Salon.com article:

After listening to Adams bemoan how men once known for “wrestling alligators” have been reduced to “wrestling lattes” instead, Hasselbeck asks — in her most serious journalist voice — if feminists and wussified American men are a threat to national security.

“Do you see this affecting national security? How a nation operates in terms of being a strong presence globally?” she inquired.

“Absolutely, without a doubt,” Adams replied. “I think it has wide-ranging implications. Weeps and wussies deliver mediocrity. And men win. And what America’s always been about is winning. So I think it’s pivotal to the health of the country.”

********

Tom Hanks once said:

“I’m glad I didn’t have to fight in any war. I’m glad I didn’t have to pick up a gun. I’m glad I didn’t get killed or kill somebody. I hope my kids enjoy the same lack of manhood.”

I can’t tell you how much I have loved this quote over the years. And the so-called “manhood” that he is referring to is the very same masculinity to which Mr. Adams is referring. It is a masculinity that engenders violence. It is a masculinity that infers dominance. It is a masculinity that engenders rape, bullying, war, and oppression.

And masculinity isn’t just for men. Anybody—regardless of sex or gender—can exert masculinity. Though it is obviously an image of which is overwhelmingly expected of, and pushed upon, almost all young boys and men (if not all). In my opinion, that’s the real societal threat.

Everyday Sexism

I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE

The amazing folks over at Everyday Feminism have a running theme of posting photos comprised of people holding up signs that say “I need feminism because…,” with each person’s sign citing just one reason (albeit I’m sure there are more) they need feminism. Today I would like to share with all of you just a little sneak peek into that which fuels my feminist fire.

A.K.A.: #EverydaySexism

Below is just a sampling of that which I see on the daily— images, articles, tweets, etc.—which only further serve to ignite the STRIDENT FEMINIST within me.

Exhibit A: The Underrepresentation of Women Within Our Government

wherearethewomen

via @NancyPelosi

Currently, “99 women serve in the U.S. Congress. Twenty women serve in the Senate and 79 women serve in the House. The number of women in statewide elective executive posts is 75, while the proportion of women in state legislatures is 24.3 percent.” (See more stats taken from the Women In Elective Office 2014 Fact Sheet)

Exhibit B: Blatant Sexist Bullshit such as, “Girls With Short Hair Are Damaged” by King of the Morons 

(ok, I made up that moniker)

shorthair01

“Girls With Short Hair Are Damaged” By Tuthmosis

Which is brought to us by a website called returnofkings.com, whose “About” section I have copied and pasted* below:

About

Return Of Kings is a blog for heterosexual, masculine men. It’s meant for a small but vocal collection of men in America today who believe men should be masculine and women should be feminine.

ROK aims to usher the return of the masculine man in a world where masculinity is being increasingly punished and shamed in favor of creating an androgynous and politically-correct society that allows women to assert superiority and control over men. Sadly, yesterday’s masculinity is today’s misogyny. The site intends to be a safe space on the web for those men who don’t agree with the direction that Western culture is headed. Click here to send an email to the team.

Women and homosexuals are prohibited from commenting here. They will be immediately banned.

ROK Community Beliefs:

1. Men and women are genetically different, both physically and mentally. Sex roles evolved in all mammals. Humans are not exempt.

2. Women are sluts if they sleep around, but men are not. This fact is due to the biological differences between men and women.

3. Men will opt out of monogamy and reproduction if there are no incentives to engage in them.

4. Past traditions and rituals that evolved alongside humanity served a net benefit to the family unit.

5. Testosterone is the biological cause for masculinity. Environmental changes that reduce the hormone’s concentration in men will cause them to be weaker and more feminine.

6. A woman’s value is mainly determined by her fertility and beauty. A man’s value is mainly determined by his resources, intellect, and character.

7. Elimination of traditional gender roles and the promotion of unlimited mating choice in women unleashes their promiscuity and other negative behaviors that block family formation.

8. Socialism, feminism, and cultural Marxism cause societies to decline because they destroy the family unit, decrease the fertility rate, and require large entitlements that impoverish the state.

ROK is published by Roosh V.

Exhibit C: tea party propaganda

(And, no, I will not capitalize the “t” or “p” in tea party)

LIBERALS

I actually got to see this little gem due to a  FAMILY MEMBER posting it on Facebook. OH, GOODY.

For one, I couldn’t help but see this and think, “You are not making your party look any better with this crap, buddy. This is fallacious in so many ways. Why not attack actual policies that are currently in place, in a logical, rational way? That would make you and your party look so much better than spouting nonsense BS like this.” Then it also occurred to me how very insulting this actually is to any Jewish Liberals out there. THINK, Teabaggers, THINK! Way to offend the Jewish crowd by comparing Liberals to Nazis. I’m sure they and any Holocaust survivors really appreciate your poor analogy.

In any case, after much debate with said family member and their tea party friend, I finally ended my side of the debate with the following statements:

My objections to the above graphic are based on (but not limited to) the following logical fallacies:

  1. It analogizes current-day America to post WWI Germany, which is a highly inaccurate analogy due to the different economic, social, and political conditions of each country within their respective contexts.
  2. It equates Liberals with the Nazi party. Just one flaw in such an analogy between the two is the fact Liberals are for increased rights for the LGBTQ and Disabled communities, whereas the Nazis wanted such people rounded up and killed. Liberals are largely for a more egalitarian society with increased infrastructure and social programs whereas the Nazi Party was a dictatorship.
  3. It implicates a cause-effect relationship between stronger gun regulation and a fascist government takeover. England, even at the time that it was one of the Allies during WWII, had stronger gun regulation. yet it did not “follow Hitler’s lead,” nor does not today.

Exhibit D: Online Harassment

tumblr feminist art project

Lindsay Bottos’ “feminist art project”

The words on the above picture state:

I bet you’ve slept with half of baltimore. Your just an ugly slut with cheap ugly makeup and a shitty art school haircut. I hope you get an std and die, the world would be better without your ugly fucking face.

It is just one of many photos in a series Ms. Bottos has put together as a righteous fuck-you to all whom have thrown such insults at her on tumblr for no particular reason whatsoever. According to buzzfeed, “Since starting the Tumblr in 2010, she has received hundreds of cruel anonymous messages. Last week, she decided to turn the words of hate into a feminist art project; she screencapped some of the messages and posted them over pictures of herself.”

Online bullying, threats, and stalking are without a doubt a seriously gendered, feminist issue. After all, the majority of all such harassment—and I mean a LARGE majority of it—is aimed at women.

Just listen to what writer/journalist/heroine-of-mine, Amanda Hess, has to say on the subject:

“According to a 2005 report by the Pew Research Center, which has been tracking the online lives of Americans for more than a decade, women and men have been logging on in equal numbers since 2000, but the vilest communications are still disproportionately lobbed at women. We are more likely to report being stalked and harassed on the Internet—of the 3,787 people who reported harassing incidents from 2000 to 2012 to the volunteer organizationWorking to Halt Online Abuse, 72.5 percent were female.”

“The Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman draws a distinction between “tourists” and “vagabonds” in the modern economy. Privileged tourists move about the world “on purpose,” to seek “new experience” as “the joys of the familiar wear off.” Disempowered vagabonds relocate because they have to, pushed and pulled through mean streets where they could never hope to settle down. On the Internet, men are tourists and women are vagabonds.” (Excerpts taken from Amanda Hess’ Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet)

This is our world, folks. This is why I NEED feminism. In fact we all do.

Even John Legend says so.

john legend

“All men should be feminists.”

*Editor’s note: I have de-linked the two hyperlinks originally contained within this text, so as to not contribute any more traffic to their site. (and if you’re a woman you’re “not allowed” to comment on any of their articles anyway)

You Might Be A Feminist If….

 

Recently, a friend showed me the following article from Glamour magazine titled,

The New Do: Calling Yourself a Feminist.”

IMG_5427

“I’m not a feminist—I hail men. I love men. I celebrate American male culture and beer and bars and muscle cars.” -Lady Gaga

 

According to this article, “the number of women who identify as feminists went up 12 percent from 2006 to 2012, according to a study by Ms. magazine in conjunction with Lake Research. The affiliation is especially strong among young women; a you.gov poll found that 42 percent of women under 30 call themselves feminists, the highest percentage of any age group.”

While I do, of course, think feminism is “catching fire” so to speak,  I also can’t help but think that perhaps my perspective is a little skewed on the subject due to my complete immersion in it. Of course I think feminism is catching on— I’m constantly reading about it via feminist articles written by other feminists. However, bias aside, I think that it’s hard to argue that it’s not resurfacing in a major way thanks to women like Michelle Rodriguez, Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham, and now Beyonce.

Honestly, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

I’ll never understand why any woman wouldn’t want to call herself a feminist.

Okay, actually, I unfortunately can understand why— it is, no doubt, due to the extant influence of our nation’s sociopolitical backlash against feminism in the 1980s after all of the advancements that were made in its name throughout the 60s and 70s. But it’s 2013 now. Almost 2014 as a matter of fact! So can we please close the door already on all of this feminazi/ women wanting to dominate the world/ feminists hate men, bullshit?

And guess what, ladies….? Chances are— if you are not a woman who is experiencing/ suffering from self-loathing internalized oppression— you might be a feminist. And to all the boys and men out there: if you have a mother or sister, whom you love dearly and believe is deserving of all the same respect and rights afforded to men, you might be a feminist. Or perhaps you have daughter of your own, (heavens to Betsey—especially if you have a daughter of your own!) hopefully you are already, unknowingly, a feminist. Which is, in fact, absolutely possible, if not quite likely. (Also, see: John Legend.)

Point in fact—You Might Be A Feminist If…

  • If you think sexism is real, and it sucks, you might be a feminist.
  • If you know who Elizabeth Warren and Wendy Davis are—and you like them—you might be a feminist.
  • If you think gender roles are bullshit, you might be a feminist.
  • If you are aware of privilege in its myriad forms, you might be a feminist.
  • If you think women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, the disabled, and other marginalized groups of people are, well, marginalized, you might be a feminist.
  • If you are pro-choice, you might be a feminist.
  • If you know who Angela Davis and Alice Walker are—and you like them—you might be a feminist. (or a womanist)
  • If you know what biological determinism is, and you think it’s bullshit, you might be a feminist.
  • If you believe that women are the largest population of oppressed/subjugated people on this planet, and it ticks you off, you might be a feminist.
  • If you think the ubiquitous sexualization of girls and women for marketing and advertising purposes is disturbing and fucked up, you might be a feminist.
  • If you’ve ever taken a women’s and/or gender studies course, you might be a feminist.
  • If you believe in equal rights and opportunities, you just might be… a feminist.

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.’