Banter in the Garden
|Presenting the 51st… on Guest Post: Women’s Refu…|
|Fuck off, Bob Jones,… on Risky Business|
|Daniel Copeland on Risky Business|
|Emma on Risky Business|
|Deborah on A plea for your voice.|
Tea and Strumpets
The NZ Herald is running a story about women dieting and ruining their future chances of having babies. So much to unpack in it, but I’m short of time this morning. Instead of any in-depth analysis, take a look at the picture the subbies chose to run with the story.
I think that’s a picture of a pregnant woman. Disembodied of course, because we wouldn’t want to focus on actual women when we’re busy policing bodies. But I just can’t get my head around the picture at all. Is she supposed to be dieting? Or not? She can’t be illustrating the point of the story i.e. that women who diet too hard can’t get pregnant, because actually, she is pregnant.
Predictably, there’s nothing in the story about the pressures that ensure that women feel they must diet and stay skinny. It’s all the fault of the individual women, of course.
Oh, the old “All those fat children should walk to school and get off my road” debate again… The Dominion Post has a front page article this morning: Why don’t children walk to school?” Apparently most children are driven to school, including 50% of those who live within 2km of their school, and only 35% walk or bike. This is a BAD THING.
The reasons for children not walking to school are to my mind, obvious. Time, and safety. If you are in paid employment as well as parenting, then time counts. Even twenty minutes walking your children to school is a huge impost in the mornings when you are racing to get to work. I’ve written about it before:
If it’s not the children who are at fault, it must surely be their parents. They are the ones who won’t take 20 minutes out of their mornings, or afternoons, to ensure that the children get to school safely, on foot. Never mind that many families need to have two income earners, just to pay the cost of housing and food. Two incomes means two jobs, and frantic mornings trying to get everyone cleaned, dressed, fed, lunches made and school bags packed, all while trying to ensure that both adults can get to work in reasonable order, and hopefully, on time. Twenty minutes may not sound like much time, but it is a huge chunk out of a busy morning. Yet somehow, the “children should walk to school” brigade think that parents can just dream this time up out of nowhere.
And let’s not forget that some parents are told very clearly that they ought to be working. sole parents are perhaps the busiest parents of all. And now here’s yet another thing that they ought somehow to be doing.
Then there’s safety. Getting across busy roads is a difficult task, even for adults. And it’s not just roads that are problematic: children are typically totally unaware of driveways, and cars reversing out. Yes, the driver of a reversing car is responsible for ensuring that she or he doesn’t run over any pedestrians, but that legal nicety is of little comfort when you are confronted with terribly injured children. There is a vicious circle here: driver awareness of pedestrians and cyclists would be better if there were more pedestrians and cyclists on the road, but the numbers are so low that at present it is simply dangerous to be out there, so the numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are decreasing, so awareness drops even lower and it gets more dangerous, so even less children walk and bike. The problem is well known.
Those points are obvious. But there are some other issues that might be raised. Children’s age makes an obvious difference. We live near one of the local highschools, and every morning, we see hordes of teenagers trudging along the nearby streets, and virtually no congestion outside the school gates. The article in the Dom Post notes that 70% of five year olds are driven to school, but only 42% of eleven and twelve year olds. My guess is that one critical factor in determining whether children are driven to school is the age of the youngest child in a family.
Second, parents are given competing directions about what to do with their children. On the one hand, we are told that we should make our children walk to school, but on the other, we are told that we are not allowed to leave our children unsupervised. So it’s okay to send your child out alone to walk to school, but it’s not okay to leave them at home alone.
Third, my guess is that many adults live within easy walking distance of their workplaces (the article seems to have two distances in mind: 2km for easy walking, and 5km for possible walking or riding), yet there is no pressure on them to leave their cars behind. Yet it would be just as easy for adults who don’t have responsibility for children to take the extra 20 minutes in their day to walk or bike to work. But as usual, it’s just so much easier to ladle blame and shame onto parents and children.
My children walked to school in Adelaide, where we lived about 600m from the school, and the children could use a controlled crossing to get across a very busy arterial route.
We drive our children to school here in Greenhills, where we live about 3km from the school.
Hey ‘Student journalist Verity Ailsa’, wanna come and write for The Lady Garden? Because you just summed sex-positivity up in a nutshell:
If you don’t see the problem with having sex, and you are fully aware of the facts of the matter, why shouldn’t you? Why should you be forced to have an opinion you don’t believe in? If, on the other hand, you do want to wait until you find someone special, you do that. Not because it’s the “thing to do” but because you believe in it.
“If you don’t see the problem with having sex, and you are fully aware of the facts of the matter, why shouldn’t you? Why should you be forced to have an opinion you don’t believe in” indeed. Sadly, Verity, we’re often expected to hold opinions we don’t believe, especially as women. We’re expected to believe sex is bad, that it’s all men want us for (well, and the cleaning, obviously). We’re expected to meet standards of beauty and dress and cleanliness and flirting and ‘reasonable behaviour’.
And now, we’re expected to believe the quite ridiculous fallacy that comprehensive sex-education could possibly make teenagers have more frequent and more dangerous sex.
I would complain that the Herald is still running with this story. If they hadn’t unleashed Bob McKroskie, Garth George, and the almost literate Diane Taylor* on the subject, that is. Not to mention, contradicted the idea all by themselves. But you see, they KNOW this isn’t a story. If they thought it was, if it were anything other than trying to stir up a little moral panic and increase some page views, they would have named the school the 12 year old who ‘started it all’ goes to. There would have been complaints about the teacher who talked about “flicking her clit”. They would have brought in the Teachers Council and the Minister of Education.
This week, as the debate about what is appropriate in sex education classes raged, many parents have attributed our high teenage pregnancy rate to the explicit nature of some sex education programmes, saying it’s putting ideas into children’s heads that they are not ready for.
Dear Elizabeth, the debate isn’t raging. Except for in the pages of Your Views, and on the internet – you’re being ignored. As far as I can tell, no other media has picked it up. Because they know it’s not a story. And so do you, or you’d have better quotes than Dr Albert fucking Mackary. Family Planning’s Jackie Edmond would have had more to say, and the Principals’ Federation wouldn’t have fobbed you off with a patsy answer.
You know what? It WOULD be nice if we could rely on parents to give practical and knowledgeable sex advice. But that’s never going to happen. Because just as teachers’ “philosophy of life” may not correspond to that of parents” (thanks Dianne Taylor), nor may teenagers’. The father who doesn’t understand why his son needs to be taught about anal sex? Might want to think about the fact his son might not be straight. So might “Auckland Girls’ Grammar student Priyanka Kumar”, who I suspect might have a hard day at school on Monday. Because asking kids to lie on the ground and imagine, for a second that the world isn’t horribly heteronormative actually is what should be taught at every age.
Teachers should educate the students about the risks of drink driving, smoking from an early age, how to deal with peer pressure and maintain personal hygiene. This will have a better impact on the children’s minds then them having to learn about oral and anal sex, having a orgasm or even how to put a condom on a plastic penis.
It’s the plastic penises that get me. I presume teachers aren’t bringing their own used dildos to class to do it. So now I really want to know what these “plastic penises” are. Are they Ministry-issue? Does the PTA fund them? I know DVice reads here**, maybe there’s a sponsorship deal in it for them? But really. Can we agree that knowing how to put a condom on is a pretty fucking basic aspect of sex education? And that putting them on bananas or cucumbers is inherently ridiculous? And so, yes, possibly a black plastic penis IS not a bad idea.
Here endeth the rant. I’m out, New Zealand Herald, you win. Keep fighting the good fight, but I’m going to ignore you.
* This would be the Diane Taylor, a ‘social worker’ who has studied the subject at university. Hey, I had some pretty good sex education at university too, come to think about it. Though we may be discussing very different things. But, you know what might be worth mentioning? The fact that she’s the Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Society of New Zealand Council. Not that catholics aren’t very nice people, but not, historically, the most sex-positive.
** Because they Tweeted me. And Oh how I squeed.
No Uncomfortable Pumps or Messy Creams! Just Good Science!
Guest Post by Xanthippe
Amid all the fuss over including the clitoris in sex education (not the done thing back in my day, we were left in righteous ignorance), The Lady Garden are delighted to be able to reproduce this classic piece from the archives (it originally appears in Bust, fall 1999), with the kind permission of the author.
“Sermerssuaq was so powerful that she could lift a kayak on the tips of three fingers. She could kill a seal merely by drumming on its head with her fists. She could rip asunder a fox or hare. […] Sometimes this Sermerssuaq would show off her clitoris. It was so big that the skin of a fox would not fully cover it. Aja, and she was the mother of nine children, too!”
— Inuit tale, from The Virago Book of Fairy Tales, edited by Angela Carter.
It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your clitoris is? Of course you do, you’re a modern girl. You know what it is, what it does, and that it rhymes with glitterous, not Dolores. If you’re an exceptionally modern girl, you own a custom-designed silicone vibrator with an attachment dedicated to giving it a buzz. But do you *really* know its co-ordinates, or precisely how big it is? This is not an idle question designed to provoke a winner-takes-all Sermerssuaq-inspired clit-baring contest, it’s a legitimate avenue of scientific enquiry, and one with a surprising answer.
If, like me, you’re used to thinking of your clitoris as simply the handy joy-buzzer doorbell of your sumptuously appointed love-shack, it’s time to think again. Ground-breaking research by an intrepid Australian doctor offers a new picture of women down under that is both startling and thrilling. According to urologist Dr Helen O’Connell, the “little hill” (that’s what “clitoris” means in Greek) is merely the visible summit of a whole submerged apparatus of throbbing pleasure embedded in, around and behind the mons veneris. Imagine: your clitoris is not just a cute little pearl in your oyster; it’s more like that giant clam that half-devoured the Boy Wonder in one of the more memorable episodes of Batman. Kapow!
Dr O’Connell’s journey to the bottom of the C started with a straightforward feminist question about medical research and urological surgery. The thing about operating on the pelvic area is that it involves tricky manoeuvering so as to not sever crucial nerves and thus cause local power outages. For men, impotence used to be a common side-effect; but now, thanks to careful research, they are far less likely to wake up from a waterworks operation and find that their penis has stopped working.
Strangely, though, no-one had thought to ask *women* whether pelvic surgery affected their ability to have orgasms, nor wondered how to make surgery safer for women’s sex lives. O’Connell and her fellow researchers redressed this silence by producing the world’s first accurate outline of the female orgasmic nerve center. Their hard work, based on dissections of younger and healthier women than the usual elderly cadavers, and highly detailed color photography of what they found, led to the most comprehensive map ever made of the whole shebang. It turns out that the nub of pleasure that most of us think of when we say “clitoris” is only the tip of the iceberg. Iceberg be damned, it’s a highly active undersea volcano.
You see, the previously unmapped 90% of the clitoris makes it much, much more than a miniaturized dick. Have a look at the top joint of your thumb (very lucky women can borrow a big male thumb). That’s how long the front bit of your clitoris is, but you can only see the tippy-top part that sticks out (more at some times than others). The rest extends up and back into your lower pelvis, where it connects with a pyramid of erectile tissue which extends up to three inches in each direction, and includes two clitoral bulbs at each side of the vagina. Cup your hands comfortably over your groin and make a triangle with your thumbs and forefingers. There, you’re holding your gigantic clitoris in your hands. Basically, you’re packing it, girl. Is that an erectile pyramid in your trousers or are you just pleased to see me?
There’s no excuse now for a tentative lover not being able to find your clitoris – it’s not hiding, it’s all over the damn place. What sexpert Susie Bright has dubbed the “erotic command center” is now revealed to be a whacking great internal control tower, in charge of launching *and* landing all those circling orgasms. This news also puts a welcome end to the rather pointless debate about vaginal versus clitoral orgasm. Say goodbye to the “versus” in that sentence. As Dr O’Connell explained to an Australian news network: given that the clitoral system wraps itself around the entire vagina, that whole argument is really barking up the wrong tree. To which I say, “Woof!” An orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm, as Gertrude Stein no doubt said to Alice on occasion.
Now you know why your entire lower half throbs like a Harley Hog when you get horny. Suddenly size does matter. But since most of it’s hidden from the naked eye, you’ve got to speak up. Tell all your girlfriends how big yours is, which is also how big theirs is. Smile whenever a guy mentions a measurement in linear inches, and remind him that the cubic volume of a pyramid is, well, quite a lot really. Next time you read raunchy old Tom Robbins describing a clitoris as buzzing like a bumble bee trapped in a pool of honey, smirk and say “More like the queen bee *and* the whole damn hive, baby.” And maybe now we can get somewhere on the question of female ejaculation, that mysterious phenomenon many have believed to be a porn film hit or myth affair until their personal epiphany of a particularly torrid night involving several bath towels.
So it’s no wonder a decent orgasm can shake you off the bed (table, washing machine, car hood, whatever): that little perky flesh-coloured tic-tac you’ve got there is the ignition button for a great big shiny fuck-off 1100 cc motorbike engine. Well, what are you waiting for? Rev it up! Burn some rubber! Go out and test-drive your giant clitoris now. Me, I’m off to purchase an XXL thong for mine… fox-fur, I think, would be perfect.
Q. Where can I find out more about my new giant clitoris?
A. Not on the bookshelves, that’s for sure. My university library contains one book on the subject of the equine clitoris, about which, alas, I don’t really give a horse’s ass. Go to the serials shelf or the internet. Dr O’Connell’s work was first reported in New Scientist, 1 August 1998, by Susan Wilkinson and Rachel Nowak (paid link, alas)
The original research paper appeared in the July 1998 issue of the Journal of Urology, under the title “My God, It’s Huge! New Investigation Reveals Clitoris Is Fucking Enormous.” OK, it was actually called “Anatomical Relationship Between Urethra and Clitoris.” [A follow-up paper, “Anatomy of the Clitoris, appeared in October 2005 and is written about here.]
Also, Natalie Angier’s book, Woman: An Intimate Geography (1999) has a whole chapter on the clitoris, and Rachel P. Maines tells you everything you need to know about vibrators in _The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” The Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction_ (Johns Hopkins UP, 1999).
Q. Um, about that female ejaculation you mentioned?
A. Although they didn’t directly address the question of female ejaculation in their breakthrough paper, Dr O’Connell and pals explored the interaction between the clitoris and the urethra. Three walls of the urethra are surrounded by the fabulously big clitoral mass. When things get all hot and stiff down there, your urethra gets closed off, which the researchers say makes perfect sense — it helps to protect you from cross-infection.
If you’re interested in experimenting with ejaculation — that is, if you don’t already do it on cue, you big stud — you’ll want to vigorously stimulate your G-spot. It’s a particularly dense interaction between the clitoral erectile tissue and your urethra, on the front wall of your vagina, just inside and above the pelvic bone. In one of her novels, Lisa Alther described it as the bit “where velvet turns to corduroy” … you’ll know it when you find it.
Note that female ejaculate is not in any way like urine — rather, it’s an invigorating squirt of colorless and mostly fragrance-free liquid, and quite a delightful addition to any orgasm, especially if you enjoy being a show-off in the sack. And although it’s not completely clear yet what the relationship is between the new, improved clitoris and female ejaculation, that’s all the more reason for us dedicated amateurs to continue the clinical research in the bedroom.
For further information on the G-spot and female ejaculation, see The G-Spot (Dell Paperbacks, 1982) by Alice K. Ladas, Beverly Whipple and John D. Perry.
I like to think that on the whole, New Zealand does reasonably well when it comes to gender equality. We’ve had two female prime ministers, two female Governors-General, a female Chief Justice, numerous female Cabinet Ministers and MPs, and although it could be much better, at about 33%, the proportion of women in our Parliament is not too shabby at all.
But it turns out that all this representation at high levels is all very well. Undercutting it all is a deep-seated belief that women can’t be leaders, can’t have opinions in their own right, and are really just a subset of their husbands. A couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister of Australia was told to get on the wives bus, and on top of that, the MC at the opening ceremony for the Pacific Islands Forum, told the spouses of the national leaders there that “they could come up and join their husbands now.” Clearly it was simply inconceivable that a woman could be a leader. Mere slips of the tongues, perhaps, but nevertheless gaffes that reveal an underlying attitude of disbelief that a woman can be a leader.
On top of that, the New Zealand Herald, in its Herald on Sunday incarnation, decided to take a leftwing politician and activist to task for not having the same political views as her husband, who is standing for the Labour party. The horror, the horror! The HoS headline was revealing: “Labour wife predicts losses”. Julie Fairey, long-time left wing politician, former candidate for the Alliance, member of the Puketapapa Local Board of Auckland Council, to which she was elected in her own right, not a member of the Labour party, was reduced to being a “Labour wife”. It seems that if your husband is a member of the Labour party, or standing for the Labour party, you too must be Labour, just because he is.
In a society which regarded women as equals, which truly believed that women had minds and talents and abilities of their own, it simply would not be possible to assume that a woman should be on the wives bus. There would be no such thing as a “wives bus”. A woman could not be a “Labour wife”, because everyone would know that women in fact have opinions and political commitments of their own. There would be no such concept as a “Labour wife”. It simply would not make sense.
Check out what Julie had to say about the whole affair herself, at The Hand Mirror. And ponder the irony of right wing blogger David Farrar supporting her, while left wing blogger Bomber Bradbury at Tumeke attacked her. (Don’t read the comments at DPF’s place.) While you’re at it, you might like to read Anthony Hubbard’s article at the Sunday Star Times, trying to work out why there aren’t many women in politics. He speculates that part of the reason may be that:
women candidates still get a lot of flak that men candidates don’t. People want to know how women MPs will care for their children, but not male MPs. Women MPs have their looks, dress sense and sexuality discussed more commonly than men. It’s possible that women are less likely to want to be MPs, and not just because of the sexism they face. Perhaps the whole lunatic life of the politician is less likely to appeal to them. Perhaps fewer women have that particular kind of ambition. If this is true, why?
Perhaps part of the reason is simply that women know that no matter what they do, they will forever be relegated to the wives table.
As for me, I’m off to check which way my husband wants me to vote. After all, I’m a wife, and I couldn’t possibly think for myself.
My near-total web silence over the last week was caused by an enormously-enjoyable trip to Wellington. I was going to write intelligently on sex education when I came back, but Tallulah has beaten me to it (so to speak) and one of my lovely friends has given me a death-cold.
But, while I was away I stayed with an old university friend of mine, and we took a brief trip through our old Renaissance Lit reading material. So today’s porn is the written porn of the 1630s. If you wish to read along, please turn to this page in your internet. Those of you who own “Hollander and Kermode” can turn to page 620. Thomas Carew’s A Rapture. This is “a masterpiece of erotic vision strengthened, rather than kept in check by, the action of wit.” As all erotic vision should be.
A Rapture is a glorious exploration of just how unsubtle you can make a sexual metaphor. Seriously. Get this:
Now in more subtle wreaths I will entwine
My sinewy thighs, my legs and arms with thine ; 80
Thou like a sea of milk shalt lie display’d,
Whilst I the smooth calm ocean invade
With such a tempest, as when Jove of old
Fell down on Danaë in a storm of gold ;
Yet my tall pine shall in the Cyprian strait 85
Ride safe at anchor and unlade her freight :
My rudder with thy bold hand, like a tried
And skilful pilot, thou shalt steer, and guide
My bark into love’s channel, where it shall
Dance, as the bounding waves do rise or fall.
I am seriously tempted to try “Want I should steer your rudder?” as a pick-up line. Or at least I would be, if I were That Sort of Person.
There’s more to it than just the delicious smut, though.
There, no rude sounds shake us with sudden starts ;
No jealous ears, when we unrip our hearts, 100
Suck our discourse in ; no observing spies
This blush, that glance traduce ; no envious eyes
Watch our close meetings ; nor are we betray’d
To rivals by the bribed chambermaid.
No wedlock bonds unwreathe our twisted loves, 105
We seek no midnight arbour, no dark groves
To hide our kisses : there, the hated name
Of husband, wife, lust, modest, chaste or shame,
Are vain and empty words, whose very sound
Was never heard in the Elysian ground. 110
All things are lawful there, that may delight
Nature or unrestrained appetite ;
Like and enjoy, to will and act is one :
We only sin when Love’s rites are not done.
Carew has some ideas about the essential sexual nature of women, too:
Come then, my Celia, we’ll no more forbear
To taste our joys, struck with a panic fear,
But will depose from his imperious sway
This proud usurper, and walk as free as they, 150
With necks unyoked ; nor is it just that he
Should fetter your soft sex with chastity,
Whom Nature made unapt for abstinence ;
Tallulah and I may have some inappropriate remarks about fetters and chastity, but the less said the better. No, wait, that’s exactly wrong…
The New Zealand Herald does a really good line in moral panic. We’ve seen it time and time again. This time, they have sex-education in their spotlight.
Because you would think this would be the key point of the article.
“I didn’t wind up pregnant because I didn’t attend a class. I know all about contraceptives and safe sex. It was purely the fact that I was drunk, it was New Year’s, and some older male thought it would be fabulous to take advantage of me.
So some asshole chose to take advantage of a drunk teenager, but it is sex education’s fault? It’s funny how she listened enough in class to get that anal sex is OK, flavoured condoms mostly taste disgusting and the importance of consent, but not that “pulling out doesn’t work”.
Also, she’s very concerned about the fact that she’s being taught about sex before the age of consent. Guess that doesn’t matter for the drinking age, right?
Look. Sex education is fucking important. I’m just thrilled that, based on 2 NZ Herald articles, albeit, they seem to be teaching about the concept of consent. This idea that “if you’ve asked her and she’s OK with it”, is pretty revolutionary, compared with I got back in the dark ages. Schools seem to be doing the right thing – getting parental consent, and giving as much information as possible. Because:
Amber-Leigh has spoken out in the hope it may help other young teenagers to learn about the importance of having protected sex – or preferably waiting until they are older.
Which, I am pretty sure, is exactly what she would have been taught in class, no? Oh well, that “putting a condom on a banana” trick will serve her well at hen parties.
Ms Magazine tweets:
“Why are we willing to bleach, shave, starve, decorate, lift, implant, glue—while we meekly give up sexual pleasure?”
Now, the article it links to is a fascinating one about the over-use hysterectomies in the US, but that’s not what that tweet made me think about. (If anyone would like to write a post about hysterectomies, either a fellow lady gardener, or a guest, feel free. It is not my area of expertise.)
There’s been a number of articles floating around of late about the female orgasm (usefully summarised here). And of course, they all include the fact that 1 in 10 women don’t/won’t/can’t orgasm. And that makes me sad. That means I know at least a handful of women who have never felt their toes curl. Which is odd, because unless all my female friends are holding out on me (and given what they do tell me, I’d be highly surprised) I know one. One woman who has never had an orgasm. And believe me, I have given her some advice.
But it raises an interesting question. Why, when we expend so much time and money getting it, are we even happy treating the female orgasm as a separate scientific question? Why are we happy that it is treated as a rarity? When I am willing to bet few of us would put up with it being a rarity in our own lives.
We spend, as women, so much time making ourselves look attractive. (To whoever it is we want to look attractive to.) Not that men don’t, especially in recent years. But there is no comparison. We wax, shave, pluck, straighten, blow dry, diet, pierce, uplift, struggle into stockings. You’d think an orgasm would be a small price to pay for all that. So why do scientists keep trying to explain why we have them – as distinct from men – and not just get on with telling us how to have more?
Now, the question of why we do all that – the primping and the corseting – is bigger than one blog post. I can tell you that for me, it’s partly because I know that someone else likes it (the stockings) and partly that I like it for myself (the red lipstick). Feel free to tell me that shaving my legs, or waxing…other parts…is institutional sexism, and that I’m letting the team down. I don’t much care. I’ll do what I need to feel good about myself, thanks very much.
And so, I wonder about those mythical 1 in 10 women. (Not that I think they don’t exist, but I wonder if that is one of those numbers that gets bandied about with little statistical reasoning.) What is it stopping them? Biology? In which case, that’s awful, and heartbreaking. Is it just that they’ve never figured out which combination of buttons to push to get there? Or is it that we’ve been taught for so long we shouldn’t want sex, shouldn’t want pleasure for its own sake, and God forbid we actually ask for it? That sex is just for making babies, and anything else is an (albeit enjoyable) by-product. That really, what we as women want doesn’t matter. We’re just here to look pretty, and that sex is something someone takes from us, something we give up, not something we can legitimately go after for its own sake?