October 2007 Archives

Sex, Misogyny, and My Blog Stats


I am not religious about checking my site meter or my blog stats, particularly when I’m not blogging much, and lately I haven’t been. But I generally try to check them once a week or so, just because.

About a year ago I noticed that there was a lot of traffic to my blog from some site called Real Adult Sex. This totally freaked me out, for so many reasons. First of all, I figured it was a porn site, and I didn’t want to visit it, because (believe it or not) I’ve never consumed internet porn and sort of wanted to keep it that way, plus I have heard that a lot of porn sites infect your computer with all sorts of nasty spyware and so forth. Secondly, I couldn’t imagine why a site devoted to “real adult sex” would be linking to mine, because although I write a lot about sex, I write about things like how it sometimes sucks and how I used to be a prude (and sort of still am--hence the fact that I’ve never visited an internet porn site). I didn’t see why that would appeal to the readers of a site discussing real adult sex.

Then traffic from that site dropped off--though it didn’t go away completely--and I just quit worrying about it. Recently, however, it picked up again, and I thought, all right, I don’t care if it is a porn site; I have to know what’s going on. So I followed the links back.

The Ex-Exes from Exodus and the Agency of Gay Men

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Yeah, I've been really busy--lots of writing, lots of job stuff. But things have recently calmed down, and yesterday I tried to catch up on a few blogs, which is how I found this post on the ways that women's lives can constitute collateral damage when gay men marry straight women.

There was also a really great BBC radio documentary on this not too long ago, called "The Sex Live of Us: Moving Out." Unfortunately the program is no longer available, but I'm including a link because someday they might put it back on.

After watching the videos on MoHoHawaii, I clicked on a link that led me to YouTube, and found this:

I watch that and wonder, is it more generous to hope that someday something like that happens to all gay men married to straight women--in other words, should I hope that they fall into deep erotic, emotional and intellectual love with someone who loves them back--or more generous to hope that it doesn't--should I hope they stay all their lives in marriages that lack passion and completion, because that doesn't cause disruption or make them admit the contradictions in their lives? For so many reasons, including the fact that I care about honesty and integrity and think falling in love teaches you a hell of a lot about what it means to be human, I feel like I should hope for the former for the men, but then we're back to making the women collateral damage.

But the focus still remains on whether or not gay men should marry straight women, not on whether straight women should marry gay men--because after all gay men have more agency in this matter: by and large men are still in charge of courtship; men still propose; men can hide or reveal their sexual orientation. It would be different if straight women were pursuing and proposing to men they knew were gay; if uncloseted gay men felt pressure to submit to the demands of straight women. But instead, it's all about straight women submitting to the wants and needs of gay men, who may or may not be closeted, who ask their wives to engage in marriages that are thorough shams or marriages in which sex will never play the same role it could in a marriage with complementary orientations.

Just one more way patriarchy stays hard at work for you and the status quo, even when you don't ask it to; one more way your choices can be misogynist even when you think you're the nicest guy in the world!

Check it out: something we feminists always knew is finally supported by researched evidence: having the courage, self-esteem and commitment to equality involved in identifying yourself as a feminist actually makes it more likely, not less, that you'll enjoy healthy relationships and find sexual satisfaction.

These are the conclusions of a study by Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan of Rutgers, published this week in the journal Sex Roles. A press release about the article states that

It is generally perceived that feminism and romance are in direct conflict. Rudman and Phelan’s work challenges this perception. They carried out both a laboratory survey of 242 American undergraduates and an online survey including 289 older adults, more likely to have had longer relationships and greater life experience. They looked at men’s and women’s perception of their own feminism and its link to relationship health, measured by a combination of overall relationship quality, agreement about gender equality, relationship stability and sexual satisfaction.

They found that having a feminist partner was linked to healthier heterosexual relationships for women. Men with feminist partners also reported both more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction. According to these results, feminism does not predict poor romantic relationships, in fact quite the opposite.

The authors also tested the validity of feminist stereotypical beliefs amongst their two samples, based on the hypothesis that if feminist stereotypes are accurate, then feminist women should be more likely to report themselves as being single, lesbian, or sexually unattractive, compared with non-feminist women.

Rudman and Phelan found no support for this hypothesis amongst their study participants. In fact, feminist women were more likely to be in a heterosexual romantic relationship than non-feminist women. The authors conclude that feminist stereotypes appear to be inaccurate, and therefore their unfavorable implications for relationships are also likely to be unfounded.

So there you have it: it's not only personally rewarding to BE feminists, but to date and marry them.

I Wish Bush's Claque Would Spontaneously Dehisce


Yeah, I've been a lazy blogger lately.... I've been busy. I've been writing a lot--had a lot of deadlines to deal with, for entities that print my writing on actual paper. I've also been just sort of trying to be, you know, creative, in the ways writers are supposed to be. One form that has taken is playing with poetry again. In particular, I've been toying around with word lists, something I used to use a lot while I was working on my poetry MFA to generate new material. I haven't used them much of late, but I'm remembering why I thought they were cool: it's because there are just so many cool words. Like dehisce, which means to burst open, particularly what a plant does when it blooms or when its pods open and discharge pollen or seeds or whatever. Or claque, a group of people paid to applaud a performance; professional sycophants. How can you not want to use those words?

Lousy Ticket Sales the Fault of Female Actors


OK, I know lately I've been relying heavily on the "here's a link to something upsetting we should all pay attention to" form of blogging, but the fact of the matter is, here's a link to something upsetting we should all pay attention to. Turns out that Warner Bros is going to stop making movies with women in the lead, because two recent vehicles for big-name stars (The Brave One, with Jodie Foster, and The Invasion, with Nicole Kidman), didn't earn much at the box office.

I admit I didn't see either movie, and don't plan to, but it wasn't because I don't like movies with women in them; it's because both movies looked to me like the scripts sucked.

Did I just make this up out of nothing, or did Erin Brockovich do pretty well at the box office? Chicago? Chocolat? Most every Austen adaptation, whether I liked it or not?

This points to a problem that has been noted with regards to reading audiences: women will read books about men, but men won't read books about women, so books about men are emphasized, even though women make up a larger share of book buyers and readers than men do. Apparently the same applies to movies, and now women will have to even fewer movies about women to watch. They'll just have to settle for more movies about men, because some men won't see movies about women--or even make them.

Thank the powers that be, once again, for the likes of Joss Whedon, L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll. And I for one shall boycott all Warner Bros films, even on Netflix--I'm just not going to support that shit.

Systematic Rape on an Unprecedented Scale


If you haven't already read it, you have to read this horrifying article in the NY Times on the brutal, vicious rapes being perpetrated in the Congo. Watch the video that accompanies the article as well. As both the article and the video state, "While rape has always been a weapon of war, researchers say they fear that Congo’s problem has metastasized into a wider social phenomenon," and sexual assault is being used to terrorize on an scale and with a viciousness that are unprecedented.

I'm currently working on a paper about trauma and religion, so I've been reading analyses of trauma. One text I'm reading argues that

to be called traumatic--to produce what are seen as symptoms of trauma--an event has to be more than just a situation of utter powerlessness. In an important sense, it has to entail something else. It has to involve a betrayal of trust as well. There is an extreme menace, but what is special is where the threat of violence comes from. What we call trauma takes place when the very powers that we are convinced will protect us and give us security become our tormentors, when the community of which we consider ourselves members turn against us or when our family is no longer a source of refuge but a site of danger.

I would say that applies to the family of humanity, not just one's immediate family. You just don't expect another human being to tie you to a tree for four months and gang rape you every day. You don't expect another human being to shove a block of splintery wood so far up you that your reproductive and digestive organs are beyond repair. And you sure as hell don't expect them to do it to you just because you're female. But that's why this is happening. And while violence against women this vicious, this brutal, is not wide-spread in the US, it is by no means unknown or uncommon--just watch any crime show and see how many of the crimes depicted involve the sexual torture and intentional degradation of women.

Our Bodies, Our Smells


I remember reading this very annoying essay by this woman about walking through a cheese shop and noticing “the pungent, strangely and almost bodily smells of the cheeses.” Come on: the smells of cheeses are neither strangely nor almost bodily: cheese after all is made from a bodily substance, so it’s perfectly appropriate that its smell be quite thoroughly bodily. Moreover, cheese is what happens when you take a substance and introduce agents--bacteria, yeast, mold--that transform its chemical composition, while you simultaneously try to extract a good deal of the moisture--which is also what happens to food in the intestines. I’m not saying the processes or outcomes are completely similar, or that cheese smells like shit, but I am saying there are several reasons not to be surprised by a lingering whiff of living, eating, breathing bodies and the substances they produce when you inhale in a cheese shop.

Which leads me to another point: it seems to me that although--or because--smell is one of the most primal of our senses, conveying as it does simple information necessary to survival (if something smells sick or dead, maybe you shouldn’t eat or drink it) and able to affect our basic physiology in ways the other senses can’t (an unidentifiable bad smell affects us viscerally in ways an unidentifiable unpleasant noise does not), we don’t like to acknowledge the work our noses do, automatically, whether we ask them to or not. We don’t like to acknowledge that we occasionally smell stuff that stinks. And we heap shame on people who admit that they use their noses intentionally, as a source of information, rather than as an occasional and accidental source of pleasure or disgust.

I have been thinking about this ever since Rebecca acknowledged noticing that her left thumb smelled like fish sticks. She took some heat for this--people asked her, “Why did you smell your left thumb?” But if she’d said, “I just noticed that my left thumb smelled like jasmine oil,” would anyone care? Would anyone ask, “Why on earth did you smell your left thumb?” But noticing--and admitting that you noticed--that your left thumb smelled like fish sticks--well, that’s just beyond the pale.

So Rebecca came back with a spot-on response:

Here's a little story that put me off my coffee yesterday, detailing a heat wave in the Canadian high Arctic, such that permafrost--stuff that has been frozen solid for millennia--is melting rapidly. Temperatures have reached 22 C (that's 71 F, for those of you still used to what used to be called Royal weights and measures), far above normal temperatures of 5 C (41 F).

Even the worst-case scenarios suggested by computers and models aren't equal to the devastating results that are actually occurring. I can't believe we're not taking more action on this. I can't believe it. I'm thinking about all the air travel I've got slated for the next few months and trying to figure out how to balance out the impact of all those flights on the environment--what energy consumption I can cut out, what resources I can save.

I mean, I am currently enjoying a breath-takingly beautiful autumn day: there's just a hint of red to the leaves of the sugar maples in the area, and my chrysanthemums are beginning to bloom--the deep red ones are especially pretty and autumnal. It's clear, calm and 71 F (22 C), decently above the seasonal average of a high of 61 F (16 C). It's frankly impossible not to enjoy the weather today, but I do have to recognize that it's the result of really fucking up the weather systems of our entire planets. It doesn't seem worth the price.

p.s. I found this story in a British newspaper. Haven't read anything quite so dire in an American news source, but maybe I'm just not reading the right papers.


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