Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
AskMen want us to believe this is Science: “concrete data and actual numbers”. But really, it’s a self-selecting internet survey, on a website now known for its sexist bullshit. So why do you care, Tallulah, I hear you ask. Well, just because it fucks me off. I saw this survey tweeted several times before I got up the courage to look at it, and in looking at it, all it does is perpetuate “battle of the sexes” bollocks.
Here’s the one that most got my goat.
Ten, closely followed by that magical 20 number, which I think we can agree is official now. Sleeping with 20 people makes you sexually promiscuous. W00t! I am a dirty tramp*. Of course, over on the women’s survey, they don’t mince words, just wanting to know how many makes you a slut. (It is, of course, 20.)
There is of course no corresponding question of when a man becomes sexually promiscuous, because that idea DOESN’T EXIST!
The survey is riddled with mistakes. On the women’s side, in Question 6, 74% of women have never cheated. In Q7, it drops to 60%. That didn’t take long. One question is asked twice, with completely different answers (it’s a typo, I am sure, but even so).
And ultimately, it means almost as much as those “Does your partner secretly wish you would wear a French Maid outfit in bed” quizzes Cosmo does. The survey, and the results, say significantly more about AskMen’s editorial team, and its readership than it does about Men in general. (Remember, we here at TLG love and respect most men.)
My issue with it, and my issue with most publications of this type, is that for every person who answers ‘no’ to ‘would you dump your partner if he/she got fat”, there’s someone who said yes. Well, there’s a 53/47 split in the men. And that someone just had it reinforced that it’s OK to think that way. Just as it is OK to ask “at what age do women lose their looks?” It’s OK to ask when a woman becomes a slut, thus it’s OK to treat women like sluts. It’s OK for men to want to change a woman’s ‘attitude’. That men “get screwed” in the divorce courts hardly paints women in a flattering light, does it?
So, guys, AskMen readers, if I may, some advice. The kind of drink you order doesn’t reflect on your masculinity – but the confidence with which you do it does. If a woman deigns to sleep with you, whether you’re her first or her fiftieth, it’s not OK to say she’s a slut. If you are dumping your partner because she put on weight, yeah, good luck finding a new one. Real men cry, if they need to, and aren’t ashamed of it. If you think women put “too much value on a man’s financial worth”, find new women. I could go on, but I won’t. Most of you are right when you say it’s “not a competition” between the sexes. But AskMen and Cosmo would have us believe it is. And they would ahve you always winning it. My best advice? Stay away from surveys and articles like this.
Oh, and the 78% of you who are pretty sure you can tell when she’s faking it? Yeah, you really cant.
* But let’s do the math on that. I am in my 30s. I became sexually active at 16. So what we are looking at, is less than 2 sexual partners a year (presuming I am bang on 20, which let’s face it, I’m not.) Assuming that because I am such a dirty ‘ho, these encounters have mostly been outside committed relationships, that’s less than two times a year I’m doin’ it. And that, my friends, is fucking ridiculous.
Something a little more positive and up-beat today. I’d kind of like it if we never went a month at The Lady Garden without saying, “Sex is great!”
I wasn’t raised in a sex-positive environment. Now, that doesn’t mean that I grew up in an actively sex-negative environment, just like me describing as “sex-positive” doesn’t mean that I think everyone who doesn’t use the label is negative about sex. (Though, absolutely, there are feminists I would happily describe as “sex-negative”, no problems at all. If you think sex needs to be contained, that it’s only okay if it’s done in certain ways and in certain contexts, then your basic assumption is that Sex is Bad. IMO.)
The last few years on line, though, I’ve run across a lot of great sex-pos people and blogs. In RL, I have a whole lot more explicitly sex-pos conversations with friends in bars. I love it, it’s great. Note, I’m saying “great for me”, not “great for everyone”. I’d like to be able to talk about the joy that sex-positivity has brought into my life, without being told that I’m speaking for everyone, because I’m really not. This is my experience, okay? Do add your own in comments.
The absolute best thing is the lack of judgey-pants. I can talk about what I like, what I don’t like, what I fantasize about, what I think I might like to try, without seeing THAT facial expression. You know the one. The sudden square closed-face that says, “You just went down in my estimation as a human being because of what you get off on, you freak.”
That means I am much more at peace with myself. Because other people are accepting of me as I am, so am I. I think it’s probably hard to imagine with the apparent ease and pride I have talking about these things on line that at one point I loathed my own desires as sick and wrong.
And you know, there are still a lot of places and times I CAN’T talk about it. And I don’t mean “long graphic descriptions of Sex Acts I Have Performed”, because I never do that. But a couple of days ago, when a nurse asked me what my new tattoo meant? I told her the moons meant I was bisexual. I would not, could not, tell her the triskelion meant I was a BDSM practitioner. I didn’t have the trust that I wouldn’t see The Look from her, and it wasn’t worth the risk. But the contexts in which I can leave that tattoo exposed, happy to explain it, and even happier when someone doesn’t need it explained? Delightful. Precious.
And probably the simplest thing is the freedom from guilt. I don’t have to feel bad about enjoying sex. I don’t have to deal with people whose basic mindset is that sex is either Bad Unless Properly Contained, or that it just isn’t important (I don’t get this, much as I don’t ‘get’ people who don’t actively enjoy food), or that it should never be talked about.
I really enjoy not feeling like a freak because I’ve slept with too many people. (You know who thinks I’m a slut? Anders Breivik. Twenty does really seem to be the Slut Number.) Or the wrong people, or in the wrong way. It’s nice to be able to relax knowing nobody’s going to assume I’m weak because I “bruise easy”. (My doctor asked me what I did for stress relief. On balance, I decided not to tell her.) And even more than that, I enjoy knowing people will talk to me about stuff they’ve done, and know I’m not going to judge them, either. Even if they’ve cheated in a relationship, or been the other person, or slept with someone they utterly shouldn’t have, because we all understand how you get into those situations.
Basically, I love operating with the basic premise that Sex is Good. That sexually life is about getting what you want, more than about avoiding what you don’t want. Acknowledging as a basic “well fucking DUH” that the vast majority of sex is consensual and pleasurable and joyful, and that for the vast majority of people sex is a desirable thing to have in their lives. That we shift from talking about “sex” and “good sex” to “sex” and “bad sex”, because basically? Sex is Good.
When the Lady Gardeners saw this piece by Martin Van Beynen in Saturday’s press, there was shouting, sick feelings, and someone may have broken some of the tiles out by the pond. And so, we decided to shamelessly steal an idea from Femininsting and do a round table of sorts. (Not like the round table in the Garden where we sit and drink kir royales and talk about boys! and periods! and our slutty, slutty sex lives. Apparently.)
Tallulah: I attended SlutWalk in Wellington. I was not scantily clad, far from it, and I can report that I could count on my fingers the amount of women that were. Of course, you and I may have very different definitions of what “scantily clad” implies. Because, I would suggest, if not wanting your daughter to see women in their skimpies, you might want to keep them away from the ballet. Just sayin’. Also, if you’re looking for role models, how about NOT Cinderella, a simpering child who doesn’t stand up to her family, is basically the posterchild for domestic abuse, and waits around for a prince to rescue her. Unless, of course, that’s what you want for your daughter. I suspect if is, given you suggest the way forward for women is Redemption Through Housework.
The thing is, you really don’t like women very much, do you? We should be hard-working and chaste, and stand by our men, agreeing with them, no matter what. Apparently at all the “dinner parties” I go to with my “husband” (I live a very different life to you, Martin) I should just let him spout his “brilliant and noble” ideas, and keep my pretty little mouth quiet. Because that’s supporting him. You know, Martin, no man worth his salt, no man worth my time, has ever wanted that kind of support.
There is actually too much in this column of yours for me to argue with, and I am sure some of the other ladies will pick up the slack. But you know how you want women to hit the books? Perhaps you could do that yourself, and find out what SlutWalk was about, why your victim-blaming bullshit is harmful, and why it wasn’t about our right to dress like tarts. Go on, I dare you. Learn something.
Emma Honest, ‘Lulah, it’s like van Beynen read my How to Be an Opinion Columnist column as a genuine how-to, because he’s done every single thing in there. Factual inaccuracies: check. Strident opinions offered on things you know absolutely nothing about: check. Treating groups you don’t belong to as if they don’t contain people: check.
So yeah, van Beynen’s characterisation of SlutWalk couldn’t be more wrong. He clearly just didn’t care enough to pay attention to its actual message. And of course he had the assistance in his ignorance of people like that Stuff photographer by the bridge who was only taking pictures of women in fishnets.
And here’s the thing, for me, the reason I get so fucked off when people tell lies about SlutWalk. Anything you say about SlutWalk you say about rape victims. There were people there for whom being on the march was a huge emotional strain, but who felt it was so important that it was worth putting themselves through that, worth standing up in public for the first time and saying “Yes, I was raped, and no, I am not in any way to blame for that.” I’d like van Beynen to try putting himself in that position, imagine being one of those people, and then I’d like him to read what he said about them.
When women take to the streets to pursue the right to dress like tarts, you can see why I am often forced into the realms of fiction to find exemplary womanhood.
Those people, male and female? Would make fabulous role models for children.
Also, the car crash metaphor? Fucking seriously? Also, you know what? If I’m walking down the street and I get hit by a car, nobody gives a FUCK what I’m wearing.
[We have emailed Mr van Beynen for a response to this post. Fingers crossed! TS]
[Update: Mr van Beynen did not respond to our email, nor did he bother to join the conversation here. Mainly because I’m sure he’d like us to shut our mouths along with his wife. His ‘response’, such as it is, is here
I (Tallulah) have just one question (for tonight) Martin, did you really just tell rape victims to stop being so touchy? Jesus. ]
This is Women’s Refuge Appeal Week. Well, it’s appeal month, and there are also charity auctions on TradeMe, but this is when the street collectors are out. Please consider taking a minute to make a donation.
I’ll nag about this every year, yeah. Two years ago I wrote this, which should explain why this is an issue so close to my heart.
Earlier this year, my mother died, and for the first time one of my brothers and I actually talked about my father, my mother’s abuse, and the hell my brothers had lived through. Because in my family, three of the victims of domestic violence, who were beaten and verbally abused and made to feel utterly shit about themselves, were male. He talked about coming home to visit to discover that my mother was gone, he and my Dad angrily asking each other “Where the fuck is she?” About having to get his grandmother to testify to who he was so that he’d be allowed to get in touch with his mother. And not about the fear he must briefly have had that my dad had finally gone too far and killed her.
And I went some way to assuaging his thirty year old guilt over leaving home, abandoning her, by explaining that she’d waited so long to go because she wasn’t allowed to take her teenage sons into the Refuge with her.
My cousin talked about the first time she saw my mother with black eyes and her wrist in a cast, and how while Mum covered it up (“I tripped over the hose”), my Dad admitted what he’d done and apologised. He was always genuinely sorry.
So, bearing in mind my reservations, and my opinion that “Well men should just set up their own damn refuges” is about the most callous and empathically-bankrupt response to victims of violence I’ve seen, still do this. Because the Refuge saved my mother’s life. It meant that the experience of violence that my brothers and I have carried throughout our lives, that still affects our intimate relationships, finally stopped after seven years. It provided a circuit-breaker for her, somewhere she could go without putting anyone else at risk. And I know that all around me, particularly in Christchurch since the earthquakes and the inescapable constant stress we all live with, what happened to my Mum is happening to women right now. There’s not a lot most of us can do to help, but there is this.
…I’m going to write about sex, again. Kind of. I try not to put the words “Garth George” and “sex” in the same sentence, lest I have to pour bleach directly onto my brain. That shit gets messy.
Dear, Mr George,
We know you dislike women. That much is clear. We’re not nearly meek and subservient enough for you, these days, are we? We don’t cook and clean and fetch your slippers and polish your knob like good little puppies anymore. We’re actually out, having lives, some of them messy, and that infuriates you.
That’s OK. I’m happy for you to live a lonely little backwards existence. If I could ignore you, and your views, I’d be a happier woman. The thing is, though, I can’t. Because you have a giant mouthpiece in the form of the New Zealand Herald, and an apparently advanced degree in missing the fucking point.
Yes, advertising has been highly sexualised for the past few decades. So, why exactly does that mean the National Council of women should shut up about it? Shouldn’t they be speaking up, and louder?
In a land awash with sexual titillation aimed at everybody from little children to the intellectually disabled to the aged, blaming a drink can featuring a cartoon character’s big boobs for “desensitising” the populace is ingenuous to say the least.
Ms Bang says: “The National Council of Women has been working for many years to improve the status of women in New Zealand and the advertising on the energy drink flies in the face of our efforts. We strongly urge those retailers selling the product to take it off their shelves.”
All I can say is the council’s hard work over many years has been not only misdirected but rather less than fruitful.
Um, first of all, do you mean disingenuous? Could it be that the Council has been working on these issues for some time, and you’ve never listened to it before? Perhaps you are tickled by Miss Helen’s melons, and don’t want it taken off the shelf.
Or maybe, it’s because this particular product – and by the way, it’s a product, not advertising – is so egregious, so offensive, that we won’t shut up? And to compare it to viagra and ciallis? Seriously. You may not like them, but come on, they have helped a lot of people.
The answer to a world which sexualises and degrades women isn’t for women to sit down and shut up about it. Except, that would be your answer to everything for women, wouldn’t it. Sit down, shut up, and cook you some fucking eggs.
As for this….
Once again, I wonder where Dr Farvid has been for the past 40 years. Shut away in an ivory tower, perhaps? Because ever since the birth control pill came on the market, women have been seeking casual sex.
Actually, no, it started happening long before then. The pill gave us freedom from the fear of pregnancy, it didn’t turn us into rabid whores overnight.
Trust me, I know. These women – and they were the quiet and unassuming vanguard of female sexual liberation – were not sluts, nor were they seen to be, except for the very, very few who genuinely were.
So…providing you are “quiet and unassuming”, you can’t be a slut? That’s where I have been going wrong all these years. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so loud when indulging in a little ‘sensory pleasure’. Once again, though, for the 1000th time, I would ask, what is the difference between those quiet and unassuming women and the sluts? What is a slut, Garth? Who decides? Because frankly, given how incoherent and confused this particular column is, I don’t think you’re fit to be the country’s moral arbiter.
For decades now most people have come to see the act of sexual intercourse as simply a physical function, much like having a meal together or playing a game of tennis, something to be indulged in purely for sensory pleasure. I really don’t think that’s the way it is supposed to be.
Why can’t it be? What is sex supposed to be? And again, who decides? You? Or each person, for themselves? Perhaps you could get down off your fucking high horse and admit, just once, that actually, you just think most women _are_ sluts, and that them being so is the root of all evil, what with our abortion-having, not respecting our elders, hedonist lifestyles.
Oh, and “Love Truncheon”, if that’s your real name. For this:
Not all women are sex objects!
Only the hot ones are.
There’s a pervasive myth in New Zealand that it’s illegal to leave children under the age of 14 at home alone, unsupervised. If you think that you’re not allowed to leave your kids at home alone, that can create considerable logistical problems.
As it turns out, the law doesn’t say you can’t leave children unsupervised. What it says is:
Leaving child without reasonable supervision and care
Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $2,000 who, being a parent or guardian or a person for the time being having the care of a child under the age of 14 years, leaves that child, without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child, for a time that is unreasonable or under conditions that are unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances.
Source: Summary Offences Act 1981
In plain English, you may leave your child unsupervised, as long as it’s reasonable.
Of course, that begs the question about what is reasonable. CYF (Child Youth and Family) has some suggestions about things you should consider.
– the age and needs of the child
– the child’s level of maturity and understanding
– the place where the child was left
– how long the child was left alone, and how often this occurs
– were any other children left alone with the child
– is a pre-arranged responsible adult accessible to the child
– does the child know what to do or who to contact in an emergency
– is there a responsible adult that will check in on the child
Long story short: it’s fine to leave your kids at home while you head out to the supermarket, or drop into the office to collect some work, or go to a meeting, or out for a run, provided you’re sensible about.
For me, that means that I have been leaving my daughters at home, alone, since they reached the age of about eight or nine years, for short periods, and for increasingly longer periods as they get older. I’ve always been more cautious about leaving my younger daughters at home, because of some concerns I have about group dynamics, but in general, as they have gotten older, I have found that they manage just fine. I try to ensure that they have a settled activity to engage in, because leaving children unsupervised and bored sounds like a invitation to trouble to me, and I make sure they know how to get hold of me if they need me. So far, all has been well.
And it seems to me that children will only develop the maturity and skills to look after themselves if they are given the opportunity to manage by themselves.
What’s your cut-off point for leaving children home alone?
I finally got around to reading Sex at Dawn, and while I knew that some of its themes would resonate with me, and there’s enough interesting scholarship to make it a worthwhile read, the final chapters struck a strangely discordant and disappointing note. Without wanting to make this a full review, here is my response to what I think is a potentially liberating but ultimately problematic book.
You probably know the outline by now. The “standard model” of human sexuality in evolutionary psychology is that humans are naturally monogamous, but that men cheat on their wives and spread their seed with young fertile women whenever they can, and that while women generally have no sexual desire, they’ll occasionally shag young studs when ovulating, thus cheating their good-provider husbands into providing for genetically superior offspring. Familiar, depressing and self-serving.
In contrast to this, Ryan and Jethá posit that until the invention of agriculture, our nomadic foraging ancestors were promiscuous and egalitarian, using sex for pleasure and social bonding, with group parenting, multiple stable sexual relationships and occasional guilt-free invigorating dalliances with strangers from other tribes. Then we settled down to farm, which provided surpluses and required the definition of private property, leading to economic and sexual inequality, monogamous or polygynous marriage, possessiveness and the suppression of female desire. In other words: patriarchy.
There may be as many leaps of faith and plausibility arguments as in standard evolutionary biology, but the combination of anthropological, archaeological and anatomical evidence is enough to convince me that we may “naturally” be more like our randy, carefree bonobo cousins than the guilt-ridden failed monogamists that we’ve become. And they’re also clear about the failure of monogamy: adultery exists in every culture, as does its punishment, and why would we need social stigma, guilt trips and even stonings to enforce a monogamy that is supposed to be natural to us?
Along the way, they take some surprisingly bold potshots at other cornerstones of “civilised” culture, including the idea of progress and the flawed Malthusian logic behind neoliberal economics. It all seems poised for a clear call to dismantle the dismal infrastructure of a social and economic system that inflicts the misery of sexual guilt and/or denial on so many men and (even more so) women.
But then … they seem to lose their nerve. The final chapters swerve into bisexual erasure, unsubstantiated essentialism about the male need for novelty, kink-phobia (either they’re lazy or they seem to equate BDSM and mild fetishes with paedophilia) and end up with hazy self-help talk about “confronting the sky together”. They talk in a vague yet resignedly practical way about couples negotiating their own boundaries of fidelity, but while they flirt with advocating polyamory (including one brief example of a MFM triad), in the end there’s a distasteful emphasis on dealing with powerful middle-aged white men’s need to have affairs with younger women. The message seems to be: “Ladies, don’t take sex so seriously when you have the love of a good man, just let him have his affairs (and maybe take a lover too if you feel like it, but we’re not going to say that out loud).”
That’s very much a parody, based on one reading, but even if their closing examples had been more even-handed, there’s still a fundamental problem with this couple-by-couple approach. The trouble of “negotiating boundaries” is that negotiations come down to power, and in a patriarchy men and women do not have equal power. In most cases, it’s not enough to advocate couples to make their own changes, but to change society as a whole.
Just for a start, here are some things we’d need before we can even start to see an equal expression of sexual desire among all people (in no particular order, and if my feminism were beyond pre-101 stage I’d add others):
We might even need to discuss whether it’s possible to have truly free, pleasurable and equal multi-partner sexuality without returning to some sort of anarcho-syndicalist pre-agrarian society with shared parenting and no private property. Without that, while their cute talk of Socio-Erotic Exchanges (S.E.Ex for short) “forming a durable web of affection, affiliation and mutual obligation” might sound delightful and achievable for an affluent childfree subculture (and it does sound a bit like parts of my social circle), it presupposes a whole lot of privilege.
I get the feeling that they’d want to say more. As well as using an often cutesy, folksy, jokey tone throughout (as if “writing for non-specialists” requires “writing for 10-year-olds”), they often seem to be defensive of their way-out wacky ideas: “before you think we’re Marxists”, “no, we’re not hippies!” But of course, they’re writing for a mainstream, largely American audience, and perhaps a more radical book would not have had the same impact. Maybe it has helped open up the debate about the universal expectation monogamy as part of a web of social oppressions to people who would otherwise run a mile, but I think it’s time to move the debate on further.
Have something pretty to start the week.
I made these rainbow cupcakes for my younger daughters’ birthday party. They were easy enough to make: plain vanilla cupcakes with pale blue icing, each topped with an arch of multi-coloured fruit strip anchored at either end in clouds of royal icing.
The assembled party guests greeted them with an “Ooooohhhhh” of delight.