Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Hello, people. You might remember last week, before all the discussions on car theft, I was showing you how “porn for women” was different, in defiance of the general Women Against Pornography line. This week, I want to ask a question: why should it have to be?
Here’s the thing: what if stereotypes turn you on?
What happens when you’re a sucker for that romance novel situation where the big hunky hero carries you off for lusty sex after rescuing you from the bad guys? What happens if the sexual fantasies you use to get off involve being dominated by your husband? What happens if you get wet thinking about being deflowered and “taught” by an older, more knowledgeable man? Or if you like the idea of being “objectified” by a man, or an audience of men?
See, in promoting the New Pornography, we come perilously close to saying, “When pople are smiling, laughing, playing? That makes it okay. When the oral sex is cunnilingus, that’s okay. When the woman (or women) are directing the play, that’s okay. When the sex is gay or lebsian or kinky, that makes it okay.”
But what if, as a woman, you like gonzo porn? What if you have rape fantasies? What if you enjoy the idea of being dominated, of being pushed around? What if the fantasy of being taken by a rugby team makes you hot? Is that “not okay”?
From a sex-positive point of view, the answer has to be, there is no “not okay”. To quote the brilliant Clarisse Thorn, there is no “should”. Even if your sexual desires are old-fashioned, vanilla, normal, they’re still okay. And they’re not misogynist. What would be misogynist would be telling women which desires were appropriate for them to have. And no sexual fantasy can possibly make you a Bad Feminist.
The guilt of having “stereotypical” desires turns up in male Doms and female subs quite a bit, especially when people are first starting to explore those desires. Contrary to the idea of “stereotype”, or the Dines idea of socially-constructed sexuality, men are strongly conditioned NOT to hit women, even if the woman in question has made it perfectly clear that’s what she wants.
There’s a much wider acceptance of kink, particularly of BDSM, than there used to be. But those desires exist in the wider, het-vanilla sex world as well. Men and women who have dominance fantasies. And if it’s a positive thing for LGBT and kinky people to express their sexuality and take pride in it, and to have their porn that reflects their desires, it’s okay for straight vanilla people too.
[Trigger warning: Lots of discussion of rape in the post, and I have no doubt douchey commenters will be along any minute now: I’ll try to keep a firm moderation hand on it.]
No, really, I do love dudes. I understand that as a feminist, I am supposed to be a buttoned-up, politically lesbian, battleaxe. But the problem is, I shaved my legs just this morning, and I am wearing pink, and I don’t feel like conforming to the patriarchy’s stereotype today.
So, I love dudes. I love their arms and their smiles and their hair, and the way they do that reverse head nod greeting thing that can turn me to mush. I love their minds. I love to fight with them. It’s why I want them to be part of the debate here, to feel free to comment, providing they aren’t being concern-trolling, mainsplainy, rape-apologist douchecanoes. (Or comparing women to, variously: cars, wallets, raw meat, or a bloodied leg. Here’s a tip, fuckwits: Women aren’t property. The comparison doesn’t apply.) But the thing I try to remember is that sexism does actually hurt us all.
And this is what I don’t get about the “Oh, but you have to keep yourself safe” crew. Aside from the point that that’s not what we’re arguing at all, it is harmful to men. Because it assumes that all men are one short skirt away from being a rapist. And I have known many a man, both good and otherwise, and I think most of them would bristle at that charachterisation.
When you say “But being drunk at 3am, alone and in town, dressed like a harlot, you’re vulnerable!”, it raises a number of points. First, do you really, honestly thing we don’t know that? Do you really think women, who are taught from day one to be scared of strangers offering us sweets, who are given self-defense classes, who are given any number of societal messages every fucking day need to be reminded of that the next person around the corner is likely to attack us?
Which brings me to my second point. Why do you want us to think that every man is a potential rapist? Why do you want us to live in a world where that’s true? Where rapists are the norm, not the incredibly rare, deviant, and criminal exception. Could it be that if we are scared and vulnerable, we’re easy to control? That getting fucked up on bourbon and coke until 3am is a man’s domain, and we little ladies should keep our sweet asses out of it? That it’s OK if we dress slutty, but only if we are doing it in its rightful place – in the bedroom to please you. Because that’s what you’re saying when you tell us that our behaviour is a “cause” of rape, or that rape is a “consequence” of it. Aside from it being a bullshit flawed argument, not upheld by the reality of sexual assault, you’re telling us that our behaviour is the only thing stopping that seemingly nice man who flirted with us, and sent us flowers, and bought us drinks is just a glimpse of our creamy thighs away from slipping us a roofie.
Yes, I am being glib. Because this argument fucks me off no end. Men aren’t just Animalistic Penis Brains (thanks Danielle), who can’t control themselves at the sight of a pretty women. The vast majority of them can and do. All you do by repeating this “don’t be slutty and you won’t get raped” idea, is hurt both sides of the debate. And take the responsibility away from the person who commits the crime – the rapist. And don’t forget, men get sexually assaulted too. By both men and women. And very few people question what they were wearing.
I wouldn’t encourage anyone to read the comments on Danyl’s post (the link above), because it’s descends into a circle jerk of fuckknuckles telling us not to be sluts, and that what we’re doing, with SlutWalk, is putting women at risk, by telling them not to be personally responsible for their own safety. On the kiwiblog post about my Paul Quinn post, there was a question about which bars I hang out at (dude, you’re never getting a blow job, I can guarantee that), and a bingo card full of comment about women “crying rape” when they slept with someone unsuitable, and the “culpability of sluts”.
So, again, I would ask – can you tell me how many people I have to sleep with to be a slut? Exactly how much of my breasts you have to be able to see for that to be true. And why is it any of your fucking business? Why on earth do you think what I wear, and what I do, gives anyone the right to attack me? Why are you so intent on controlling women’s sexuality and behaviour? That’s what we’re marching for. For you to fucking listen.
And I know a number of men who are going to march alongside with me. You know, those ones who are able to see me drunk, cleavagey, and “vulnerable”, and instead of raping me, make sure I get home safely. I would (and have) return the favour for them. Because I love those dudes, and respect them. And I will continue to do so, if that’s OK with you.
If you’re not keen on Too.Much.Information, you might prefer to avoid this post. I want to share my experience here, given that I was so scared about this, and as it turns out, unnecessarily so.
Now that I’m 45, I’m eligible for the free breast screening programme here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and my doctor’s practice nurse has been
hassling reminding me politely that I should make an appointment and get one done. I finally did it, last Friday. I was very nervous about it, because the prospect of having my breasts squished between sheets of cold glass wasn’t all that appealing. As in, holy f-ck, get me out of here!
It wasn’t all that bad.
Once I made the appointment, the clinic sent me a letter explaining the process, and giving me details about where to go and where to park. Very helpful, given that it’s a stressful and scary experience, first time round. They included accessibility information: all the clinics in New Zealand have been designed to be wheelchair accessible. When I got there, I found that there was plenty of reserved parking, and car parks for people using disability stickers were right beside the door.
Once I got through the sign in and greet and wait (just 5 minutes), the radiographer who was taking my shots came and collected me, took me through to the changing room, explained that once I had taken my bra off, I could use the gown they supplied, or just put my own shirt on and slip it off once they were right ready to take the shots. She took me into the x-ray room and talked me through the process, and checked carefully about the scars I have from having had a couple of benign lumps taken out about twenty years ago.
So far so good. But the next part was what I had been dreading. The radiographer lined me up against the machine. She positioned the height very carefully, and helped me to position my breast on the plates for the first, horizontal squish. Then came the squish.
It wasn’t too bad at all. It was uncomfortable, and uncomfortable to the point of painful, but not painful to the point of crying out, or even gasping. The sensation was one of heavy pressure, and the tightest, heaviest pressure lasted only for a couple of seconds. I found I could cope very easily with it.
The horizontal squish was repeated on my other breast, and then the radiographer changed the angle of the plates so that she could take a vertical shot. The aim of this shot was to get as much of my pectoral muscle in as possible, and it took a bit of work to get the machine at the right angle. More squishing pressure, and then a repeat with my other breast. After that it was back to the changing room, to wait while the radiographer checked the quality of the pictures. She called me back in for a repeat horizontal shot on one breast, and while I didn’t exactly bound in with glee, I certainly wasn’t at all afraid of having another shot done. Then I was free to go.
The results will be through in a couple of weeks. The odds of me having breast cancer are small, as they are for any woman, but if they do detect one, then the chances that I will survive are much better. I’m very glad to be able to have this screening test, just as I am glad to be able to have smear tests. Not very much fun, at all, but worth it.
For all my fear, it didn’t hurt very much. I did time the test for the pre-ovulation stage of my menstrual cycle, because my breasts are always tender post-ovulation, and had my period not arrived the day before the test, I would have rescheduled it. I commented to the radiographer that this was one time when being a small-breasted woman was a bonus. She replied that it didn’t seem to make a difference, ‘though I would be keen to hear what larger breasted women say about that.
Update: I got an ‘all clear’ letter today. The letter is excellent; it says that there is ‘no evidence of breast cancer’ in upper case and bold, and it reminds me that screening isn’t perfect, so I need to see my doctor if I notice any changes in my breasts.
It’s the weekend. Time to fulfill your womanly duties and make cupcakes. I wish I had the skills to make these. h/t to Amanda for the link.
A film named Too Much Pussy? Well, that’s a Lady Garden Day Out, if ever I heard one.
Too Much Pussy is one of the films in this year’s OutTakes film festival. OutTakes is full of awesome things, but a dear friend specifically mentioned this one to me.
We see backstage development and live performances which are theatrical, erotic, absurd, burlesque, interactive, comic, and just plain hot and sexy.
My Twitter feed exploded last night, imploring me to hear what a National backbencher had had to say about Slutwalk. I have transcribed it here, in case you don’t want to watch the triggering. (If you do, it’s here on “chapter 2”.)
Quinn: “They’re there when I am on my way to the swimming pool at 6 in the morning.”
Wallace: “Do you think there’s something to this idea that they kind of ask for it, just in a little way. Because I know that the viewers watching this will be saying that”
Quinn: “I think there’s a real issue with young ladies getting drunk.”
Wallace: “So that’s the real issue?”
Quinn: “I can tell you, in Courtenay Place at 2 or 3 in the morning…”
Wallace: “…So it’s about the drunken behaviour, it’s not about what they are wearing?”
Quinn: “No, it’s about drink and behavior.”
Wallace: “Heather Roy, what do you think about this, Slutwalk Aotearoa.”
Roy: “I think alcohol is certainly a contributing factor, but it’s not just young women that are getting drunk, there’s plenty of young men.”
Trevor Mallard: I just want to…can I….it can never be an excuse to rape a women because of what she wears or what she’s had to drink. That is just wrong.”
[It continues, but that is the gist…]
Paul Quinn has since half-heartedly apologised on Twitter, saying
sorry I did not hear what she had said So my answer was totally out of context & know that short skirts are not provocation
But I still have some questions.
And Trevor Mallard…thank you. Just, thank you.
[just a warning. Some of the comments on this post became extremely triggering, so tread carefully. We’re sorry.]
As I see it, one of the main problems with the internet is that people don’t watch enough porn.
Stay with me here.
There’ve been a few articles in mainstream newspapers about “porn for women” lately, particularly after this year’s Feminist Porn Awards. The article in The Guardian was quite useful, especially given their history of providing a platform for a certain kind of anti-porn anti-prostitution female columnist. And the Sydney Morning Herald ran a piece after an Australian pornographer was nominated for an award.
What fascinates me is that in the comments to both articles you’ll find screeds of people happy to offer an opinion on the New Pornography, and how it’s just like the Old Pornography. “I don’t see how it’s any different!” And you know why? Because you haven’t fucking looked.
I know, the net is all about offering up unqualified opinion, and why should I find other people’s screaming ignorance embarrassing when they clearly don’t? Tough. I do.
And if you were dubious but curious, the SMH went to the trouble of getting in an expert to offer up a dissenting opinion. They don’t make it clear why they chose to ask a professor of Political Science, but she’s pretty adamant: “no pornography can break away from a male-orientated view of sex.”
She’s also Sheila Jeffreys. Sheila Jeffreys is the Gail Dines of Australia. Here’s Louise Lush (also known as Ms Naughty) on Jeffreys. And here’s Questioning Transphobia on Jeffreys’ issues in that area. And hey, here’s an Australian sex worker who has the odd entry tagged “Sheila Fucking Jeffreys“. For the trifecta, Jeffreys sees BDSM as inherently male sexual oppression of women, and boy do you have to erase a lot of people to do that. Maybe, though, I should just let her speak for herself:
all feminists can and should be lesbians. Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. It does not mean compulsory sexual activity with women.
Yes, that’s right, she advocates political lesbianism, the kind of lesbianism that doesn’t include being sexually attracted to women.
So, if the positive voices are pornographers and the negative voices are batfuck crazy, how can you find out for yourself what the New Pornography is like?
Watch some porn.
And yeah, it’s a big, scary, squicky world to go out into with no guidance. So this is my first task: to provide you with a gentle ‘in’, a glimpse of what there is, without pushing people’s boundaries too far. By no means should anyone feel pressured to watch anything I link to. However. If you won’t even look? When it comes to talking about pornography? Shut the fuck up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
I can promise you:
– no grainy blue film stock
– no boomchickawaawaa music
– no enormous hair or freaking scary fake fingernails
because seriously, it’s not the 80s any more, okay?
When it comes to positive sexual imagery, there is no height to which I cannot recommend the Sex Is Not The Enemy Tumblr (NSFW, explicit sexual imagery). Note the smiling, and the laughter.
Here, in a totally safe-for-work, won’t be taken down by YouTube fashion, Ms Naughty explores the idea of what porn for women actually is. (Men doing housework? Fucking seriously?)
Now, trailers and shorts. The great thing about trailers for my purposes here is that they give you a taste without going all the way. So while they’re explicit, you won’t be encountering prolonged sex scenes.
If you manage to watch one thing, make it this: the trailer for Erika Lust’s Barcelona Sex Project. (NSFW, explicit, wear your headphones, seriously.) Three men and three women, one by one, first do an interview, and then masturbate to orgasm. One of them does it wearing stripy socks.
For less white light and the new classic goth-alt porn vibe, try her Room 33, a full short film. (NSFW, mildly explicit.)
One of the most well-regarded series, and winners of multiple Feminist Porn Awards, is Crash Pad. Here’s a perfectly safe YouTube taster, and here’s a short featuring Jiz Lee. (NSFW, explicit, actual lesbian sex.) If that’s a bit full on, Friend of the Blog Amie describes another one of the Crash Pad series here. Thanks, Amie.
I have a bunch more links here, but you know… I’m going to stop with this one, Bleu Productions. These are lesbian fetish and BDSM films. (NSFW, moderately explicit) Click on the TOP player on the right hand side to see a trailer of Maria Beatty’s work. If you click on the second player down, you’ll end up watching Vampire Sisters, and I laughed pretty hard.
From there, you could try the work of Anna Span or Candida Royale. Or, okay, one more, Comstock Films Bill and Desiree. (NSFW, mildly explicit.) (I was hesitant to include this, but I’ll just note that Comstock Films consider their work “erotic documentaries”, not porn.)
Can you see how it’s any different? That’s all I really want, for people to have this as their mental image, or at least a part of their mental image, when they think about pornography. You don’t have to think that therefore it’s okay, but at least know what the fuck you’re talking about.
There’s an obvious question that remains after all that, and we’ll get to that next time.
When I was 13, my father told me that if I got pregnant, not to bother coming home. To be honest, 20 years, a career, and many fights with him later, if I got pregnant now, and wasn’t with the father, I would approach talking to my Dad with some trepidation.
So, it’s probably quite lucky I wasn’t sexually active at 14. Because if Judith Collins and her ilk had their way, I’d have had nowhere to turn. I wouldn’t have been able to access a counsellor, without fearing they’d talk to my family, ending any relationship I might have been able to forge with my parents. (My mother would probably have been more supportive, but I still wouldn’t have told her.) Likely, I would have ended up in a dangerous situation, with a backroom abortion, hiding it from everyone I knew, for fear someone would tell my family. Without support, without counselling, without proper medical attention. So, frankly, I read that story, and think, ‘there but the grace of God’.
And let’s face it. I’m lucky it never happened, and I am privileged that one conversation in a car, though something I’ve remembered for the rest of my life, was the extent of it. Because this isn’t about the health and well-being of young girls. It’s about control, plain and simple. (Incidentally, that quote that Bill English has about Panadol? Unless it has significantly changed since I was at High School, is bullshit.) Changing this law wouldn’t change my life one iota. But forcing a pregnancy on a 15 year old girl because her parents are anti-choice nutbags? Would.
Aside from anything else, the thing that most annoys me is that THIS ISN’T A FUCKING STORY. It’s bullshit journalism. It’s fucking awful journalism, and while I hesitate to give it more legs, it deserves to be called out. One woman, discovered her daughter had had an abortion, and instead of talking to her, and dealing with it as a family, she went to a newspaper. The newspaper then decided that the Bob McCroskies of this world don’t get enough coverage and column inches, decided to make it a story two weeks in a row. So they went to a minister, but conveniently forgot to mention that said minister has actually nothing to do with this, that her portfolios DON’T FUCKING COVER THIS ISSUE. Then, get a quote from a catholic, on the record as anti-choice, minister for good measure. Don’t look at the actual numbers: “Statistics New Zealand figures show that 3950 11- to 19-year-olds had induced abortions in 2009. Of those, 79 were aged between 11 and 14, ETA: representing 0.45% of all abortions that year.” But you can’t look at the actual numbers, because it would show that this REALLY ISN’T A FUCKING ISSUE. So use that 3950 number, because that’s a big, scary number.
But hey, props to Paul Hutchison, the one person (including the journalist) who actually knows something about this issue for giving a sensible quote.
Backbench National MP Paul Hutchison, a former National Women’s Hospital obstetrics and gynaecology consultant, said debate on reproductive health was essential. “That should come before this issue. We have to tread lightly, doing everything possible to have the parents involved. But having worked in places like National Women’s, where I saw women who had been beaten by their families because of an unknown pregnancy, that’s why the law is there.”
Maybe there is some hope.
Since I wrote the famous “mortgage-slut” column on Public Address, I’ve seen a lot of perfectly reasonable people talking about the messages clothing sends, and how careful you should be about how you dress in case you send the wrong message. It happened over Boob-Quake, and again over SlutWalk. Covering your boobs up is just a reasonable precaution, in case they start semaphoring people.
Maybe there’s something to it, though, at a very basic level. If you’d assume that someone is going swimming if they’re wearing togs, maybe there are other things that people can genuinely deduce from clothing. What could people learn just from looking at the way I’m dressed? And there are a few things. You could tell, for instance:
What you can’t tell from my clothes, however, is whether or not I am Up For It*. So I guess there’s no way you could possibly find out.
*Apparently, the first time I snogged my current partner, I was wearing bunny ears and a tail. As I don’t remember this happening, however, it’s not admissible as evidence.