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Monthly Archives: September 2012

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

From the “Well, Duh,” files, talking about sex makes for better sex.

More from the “Well, Duh,” files: The Moral Case for Sex Before Marriage.

people who marry early and/or hold traditional views on marriage and gender tend to have higher divorce rates and unhappier marriages… It turns out that feminist values – not “traditional” ones – lead to the most stable marriages. And feminist views plus later marriage typically equals premarital sex.

The New York Times’ Nick Kristof on Obama’s stand on sex trafficking:

Reasonable people can disagree about what to do in the case of adults who sell sex voluntarily. Put aside that disagreement, for we can agree to place priority on the millions of children and adults compelled to provide sex or other labor.

Painfully unwatchable or completely brilliant, or both. The Chaser on Gay Marriage:

Via wonderful feminist thinker Blue Milk, three articles / posts that you ought to read.

1. Economist John Quiggan talks Keynesianism, and parenting, and part-time work, and the structure of working life. As Blue Milk says, it’s an essay in economics, but it’s easy to read, and there is not a graph in sight. I (Deb) recommend it.

2. Sady Doyle on not castigating someone as a bad feminist and tossing all her thinking out because she says some silly things, or in Naomi Wolf’s case, writes a silly book – Why the uproar over Naomi Wolf’s vagina?

3. And Kira Cochrane in the Guardian as women as the victims of voyeurism, and what the uproar over those shots of the Duchess of Cornwall sunbathing topless tells us about our society.

Over at The Hand Mirror, Luddite Journo has two posts about all the work that has been done on changing the justice system so that it is more responsive and sensitive to victims of sexual violence. Long story short: the current Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, has binned it. Check Terrible news for rape survivors and Reading reports helps sometimes.

I’m (Deb) on the Kapiti coast this weekend, enjoying the sunshine. I hope it’s sunny where you are too.

See you next week.

Quickie: Compare and Contrast

[I’m belatedly adding a trigger warning for child violence to this post.]

Family First:

“The popular public perception is that women and children need to be protected from men, but this ‘gender’ focus is misleading. Mothers killed 15 (45%) of the 33 child victims, comprising 10 daughters and 5 sons,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “If we’re really serious about reducing family violence, we need to talk about family violence, and our violent culture, and the role alcohol and drugs play in fuelling this environment.”

White Ribbon:

“While Family First is stating a fact, they are being irresponsible by not presenting the numbers with all the specifics. “Only two out of the 15 deaths where mothers were responsible for the child, was physical assault the cause of death. Contrast this with the 10 out of 10 deaths where fathers and step-fathers were responsible for the death of a child and were caused by assault.

Every time I think Bob McCroskie and his cronies could not be any more vile, I am wrong.

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

The Pervocracy on Models of Sex:

There are many different ways to model sex, many answers to the questions “So, what exactly is sex? What is it for?”  I believe that once you know someone’s answers to those questions, you can understand why their sexual choices make sense to them.

More on the whole ‘sexual harassment in geekdom’ thing. explains the puzzle box metaphor:

Some men see women as puzzle boxes.As far as they’re concerned, inside every woman, there’s a tasty Sex Treat™, and there’s some way to get it out. Some combination of words, of behaviors on the man’s part, some situation will pop that box open and the treat will be his!

And from the comments on that piece:

if the puzzler can’t get it to open, it’s all to easy to see the puzzle box as broken. “THIS ONE IS JAMMED. I’ve tried everything and I can hear Sex Treat™ rattling around in there but the damned thing is stuck! I hate this broken toy!”

Feministe discusses an unusual and complex “is it rape” scenario.

Sex workers and disabled clients: why is this generally considered to be ‘more okay’?

Sex workers are able to cater to those needs, allowing for these persons to fulfil their fantasies in a consensual relation with another adult. As sex worker and campaigner Rachel Wooton said: “I treat them as human beings. And they all have different needs and desires…it’s just about changing my service delivery slightly.”

And if we weren’t done with Naomi Wolf’s Vagina yet, TIME looks at what the neuroscience actually is.

Love — for both men and women — relies on the same circuitry that engenders addiction. It’s the same circuitry that fuels the desire to persist in frustrating tasks like parenting as well. Like addiction, both love and parenting involve continuing with behavior despite negative consequences… This doesn’t mean, however, that we become powerless in the face of our brain chemistry.

From the Annals of Research We Are Completely Unsurprised By, a new study showing gender bias in science. Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students

… science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant.

See you next week.

Submission Pun Goes Here

Cross Posted from Public Address

Submissions are now open for Louisa Wall’s Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. They close on the 26th of October. If you want to make a submission, this page contains all the relevant information, and if you scroll all the way down to the bottom, a button for making an on-line submission. If you’re wondering whether or not you have anything useful to say, I’d recommend reading this post at The Lady Garden.

The bill has gone to the Government Administration select committee. That committee consists of:

Chris Auchinvole – NAT – voted yes at first reading

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi – NAT – voted no

Ruth Dyson – LAB – voted yes

Trevor Mallard – LAB – voted yes

Eric Roy – NAT – voted no

Holly Walker – GRN – voted yes

If, like me, you’re considering submitting in person, that list of names may give you pause. Somehow I don’t think they’re going to let me do it alone with Holly Walker…

Anyway, this is the body of the submission I will be making. (Just the body: check the links for formal formatting boiler-plate, etc.) Supporters of the bill have one almost unfairly huge advantage in making submissions: we can speak about how it will actually affect our lives. Its opponents cannot.

I am bisexual: sexually and romantically attracted to both men and women. Gender is one of the least important partner traits for me, yet currently it defines my options and rights in choosing the form of my relationship. I support this bill partly because it would finally give me equality not just with heterosexual people, but with myself. I would have the same relationship choices with a woman as I would with a man. Currently, I do not.

 My current (male) partner and I chose to formalise our relationship as a civil union. The chief reason for this was that I would not choose marriage when I could not marry a woman. I would not enter a relationship form I would not have the right to replicate with a future partner, should something happen to my current relationship. We are not married because marriage is, as the law currently stands, a discriminatory institution.

I have actually been married. When I was at university, I married my then-boyfriend so that he could have access to a student allowance. That marriage was entirely legal. I fail to see how my loving and committed marriage to a woman would be more damaging to Marriage itself, or anyone else’s marriage, than that marriage for money.

I have two children, one male and one female. Today, no-one would argue that they should have different rights on the basis of their genders. Given the roles of both genetics and environment in determining sexual orientation, there’s a significant chance that at least one of my kids will be gay, lesbian or bisexual. I want my children to have the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation, and that includes the right to marry.

I also want them to have an easier time of growing up than I did. I was a teenager in Timaru in the 1980s. I was closeted, because I firmly believed that if I came out, I would be beaten up. Bisexuals have higher rates of suicide, depression, bullying, drug abuse and poverty than heterosexuals, but also higher rates than gays and lesbians. Bisexual women have higher rates of domestic violence than lesbians or heterosexual women. For us, sexuality-based violence is not a theory. It’s a very real risk we run all the time, simply by being who we are.

This bill is not a silver bullet for homophobic bullying. But it would keep our government from saying to our persecutors, “You’re right, you know. Those people aren’t as good as us Normal People.” Those in favour of legal discrimination may not condone homophobic violence, but I certainly believe they allow it room to thrive. How can we expect teenage bullies to treat LGBT people as equals when our State doesn’t? We need to support our LGBT teens by showing them we believe they’re just as deserving, just as much a part of our society, as anyone else.

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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

Actually, the Lady Gardeners are all exceedingly busy, and we haven’t found much around the internet this week. So instead of a round-up, we think you should all listen to Friend of the Lady Garden Megan Whelan’s documentary about women in the Pacific.

Megan Whelan considers the appalling violence and health statistics for many Pacific women and asks if more female MPs help?

You can find it on this page at Radio New Zealand. Either download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis (whatever that is), or play the documentary from the page.

In other news this week, there is a thread of doom at Feministe on a professor teaching a class in feminist anthropology who took her baby to class because the baby had a cold and couldn’t go to daycare, and part way through the class breastfed her baby. See all 649 (and counting) comments here: Breastfeeding sick babies in class. Blue Milk has some links to a rather more nuanced analysis of what happened: A couple of great responses to the Professor who breastfed in class controversy.

Across the Tasman, Catherine Deveney oh no shock horror rudely interrupted the bishop and dominated a conversation. Except she didn’t. Glady the Cross-Eyed Bear has the stats. Also, “Gladly the cross-eyed bear”…. say it out loud.

And a nuanced discussion of some aspects of sex work on …. wait for it… Stuff! High flyers who turn to escorting.

For some more great reading, check out BlueBec’s Spring linkspam.

That’s it then. See you next week.

Review: d.vice advice

d.vice advice

Ema Lyon & Wendy Lee

Penguin Books

Disclaimer: My copy of d.vice advice was given to me by Ema Lyon when we appeared together on the Lust panel at LATE at the Museum.

The subtitle of this book is “real questions and answers about sex, for adventurous everyday people”. And that’s who this book is for: people who, as Girl on the Net said about 50 Shades of Grey, say ‘maybe’ to anal sex. Not those who shudder at the suggestion, or those who are already practised hands. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. (Note: there is no way to say “there’s nothing wrong with that” without making it sound as though there’s something wrong with that. Neither my intention nor my fault.)

I did learn something from reading this book, though, and there’s so much breadth in it that I think most people would. Subjects like anal sex, g-spot stimulation and pregnancy sex are discussed without coyness or shame. There’s a lot of Science, which is presented without being condescending or (gods forbid) too dry. So it’s not just what to do, and what happens, but why it happens too, which is the kind of thing that makes me happy.

Most of each chapter is in the form of answers to questions the authors have genuinely been asked. Because of this, there’s some repetition of information, and perhaps it’s a better book to skim or dip and out of than go through end to end. Like d.vice’s shops, there’s an air of being couples-oriented, without being erasive of less-conventional sexual encounters.

The whole book is written with a breezy air of sex-positivity. There’s a lot of emphasis on the importance of communication. Most people, I think, would feel better and more comfortable about sex after reading it, and I can’t imagine anyone feeling worse. Unless, perhaps, they’re that woman with the cherry. She might be mortified. It gives a good idea of the range of “normal” for things like physical size, physical response, time taken to orgasm, etc, and in only one case did this make me go, “What, really? Shit…”

I will comment on the final chapter, on BDSM. Like other practices detailed in the book, BDSM is made to seem like a bit of unthreatening, fun experimentation. There’s some good advice on things to try just starting out. There’s no mention, however, of the profound emotional reactions – positive or negative – that BDSM can produce. While I wouldn’t want to put anyone off, I think it is advisable to warn people that this might take them apart, and I always do.

This is a great book for couples looking to add variety to their sex lives. It’d also be good, I think, for, say, your kid heading off to varsity. Okay, maybe someone else’s kid. I’ve given it to my (male) partner now, and when he’s done, I’ll add any comments he has.

Sharing the love

Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

Woot! The 52nd Down Under Feminists Carnival, hosted by Lip Magazine. Including some posts by Lady Gardeners.

Ms Naughty (site NSFW) reviews the new “romance porn”.

We probably shouldn’t read too much into this, but people with purple bedrooms have more sex.  I (Emma) couldn’t possibly comment. But my bedroom is purple.

Girl on the Net on the ethics of snogging someone you don’t really fancy.

The haters won. Goodbye for now. FTR, I think Jen is fabulous, and I am appalled by what she was subjected to, just for daring to be a woman on the internet. tigtog has more about the silencing of a wonderful woman.

And another story about a woman who dared to say no. Content note: harassment and verbal abuse. I debated whether or not to share this story.

Apparently women in politics are destroying the joint. News with Nipples has some things to say about that.

He’s got a point, though. These uppity women, you let them go to school and then they get involved in politics and then they don’t want to be hit and it’s POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD and what’s a bloke to do? Sheesh.

And personally, I’ve (Deb) had a pissy week, culminating in me doing something which I know was the right thing for me to do, but I am now waiting rather nervously for a response, and getting stressed by it. Damn. So nothing pretty this week, because I’m just not in that space. I think I’ll go shopping.

Feel free to treat this as an open thread, for links and grumps and celebrations.

Guest Post – How to Make a Select Committee Submission

FotLG Oliver has graciously agreed to write us a post on how – and why – to make a submission to a select committee. 

So, it may be of some minor interest to a few of you that something called the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill has been referred to a select committee of Parliament. That committee, the evocatively named Government Administration Committee, may well ask people to tell them what they think of it. So a couple of the Ladies thought it might be useful if I wrote a little bit on how that works and some tips on doing it well.

The short version is: It is definitely worth your time to make a submission, even if it’s just to say that you approve of the bill. (Or indeed disapprove, though if that’s you, you might be in the wrong place) The committee is likely to get a lot of submission s on this one, so everything you can do to make it easier for them to consider yours is a Good Thing. Make it readable, make it memorable, and keep it focused on the Bill.

The mechanics of making a submission on a bill are fairly straightforward.  You can make a submission through Parliament’s website once the Committee has agreed to receive submissions. As I write this, the select committee page says “submissions not called for”. Don’t worry, that’s just because the Committee needs to formally agree to receive submissions.  In theory, they don’t have to, but that’s not very likely. Use the web form, because it’s free and easier for the committee staff, but attach a nicely formatted document —the text box on the web form produces ugly courier type text.

Once submissions close, they’re all bundled together and sent to the members of the committee, and to the advisors, who will be people from the Ministry of Justice, most likely.  The advisors will read and summarise them for the committee. One very important thing is that submissions become the property of the committee, and are published on Parliament’s website.  After written submissions are all in, the Committee will make arrangements to hearoral evidence. For this one, they’ll probably do at least a couple of sessions out of Wellington, as well as hearing some people by teleconference. Being heard in person can be an extremely daunting experience. The committee knows that, and will bend over backwards to make you feel comfortable. They get you to summarise your submission, and make any extra points, and then they’ll ask questions. If you want to be heard in person, say that in your written submission.

The booklet published by Parliament is the best guide to the details. (Warning: .pdf)

Having read a lot of submissions, I can assure you that the most important thing is to make your submission readable, and the most important part of that is to make it short. The Committee is going to receive an awful lot of submissions, and they’re much more likely to read yours if it is a page.  The officials will read nearly all the submissions, and at least skim over the rest, but if your submission is more than three pages, no one will read it, unless you happen to be the Law Society or similar. I could talk for a long time about the writing, but the best tip I can give you is to get someone to read it and tell you if it makes sense.

The most common mistake I’ve seen in submissions is irrelevance. Keep it focused on the Bill. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk generally about the effects such a measure will have, and stories about despair and suicide are some of the most powerful. It does mean you shouldn’t talk about how people shouldn’t be allowed to get married unless both parties are present; or about how the marriage license form is too difficult to fill in, or how marriage is just an evil plot to encourage breeding and thus hasten the End Times. I’m making up examples, but not exaggerated ones.  Also, don’t be mean about anyone. Committees don’t like it, and I was at a meeting a few weeks ago where a committee decided to expunge someone’s evidence from their record because it was potentially defamatory. Focus on why you think it’s a good idea.

The Committee is made up of humans, and what they will be most concerned about is how a proposal affects actual people. If you have a personal example, use it. If you want to get married but can’t yet, say that. If you had a civil union because you weren’t going to get married unless everyone could, say that. Those very personal stories are good to go and say in person, because the committee will remember them, and often refer to them in the next stages of the debate.  But even if you have nothing to say except, “This is a wonderful bill, and I think it should be passed immediately[1]”, say that. Those submissions are counted, rather than considered, but they are counted, and the only thing every politician agrees on is that numbers are the most important thing there is.

And that’s about all I have to say. It’s worth your time — make a submission. Make it readable, personal, and focused. Participate in your democracy, so that, in the brighter future, when the children ask, you can say, “yes, I was there, and I told them they should make the commencement a month after the Royal assent, so that people had time to get new forms printed”.

[1] “Immediately” in government time means within a year.


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Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week.

The Pervocracy on The Myth of the Boner Werewolf.

Men aren’t rollercoasters. They aren’t werewolves.  They aren’t walking penises.  They’re people.  They make decisions.  Let’s stop talking about “he couldn’t stop himself” and start talking about “he decided not to stop.”  Men deserve that dignity, and the responsibility that comes with it.

Alison McCulloch’s article in the Bay of Plenty Times about abortion: Our position on rape echoes US extremism.

In New Zealand, rape is not a legal ground for abortion – something right-wing US politicians would love to achieve.

And while there’s certainly a push going on in the US to crack down on abortion access, as things stand, the US has much more liberal abortion laws than New Zealand does.

Alison’s article is sobering throughout. I (Deb) recommend it.

As I’ve (Deb) mentioned a couple of times, there’s been a huge on-going stoush in the US atheist and skeptic blogospheres about the treatment of women within the movements. Women have been demanding that they be treated with minimal human decency and that there be things such as sexual harassment policies at conferences and no rape threats. Outrageous. And they’ve been told this is incredibly divisive and they are tearing the movements apart. Greta Christina has some thoughts on divisiveness.

For a solid year, far too many women in this community — and especially feminist women — have been relentlessly subjected to a torrent of hatred, harassment, and abuse… and to a torrent of people ignoring this behavior, rationalizing it, trivializing it, or getting angry at us for even talking about it.

So why is it that forming a subset of atheism that prioritizes the inclusion of women, over the inclusion of hateful, misogynist assholes, is what’s being seen as “divisive”?

And why is it that actions and words that demean women, objectify us, inappropriately sexualize us, violate our privacy, and literally threaten us and make us unsafe, are not being called “divisive”?

Bic designed some pens especially for women, in pretty sparkly colours. Read the reviews on Amazon: they’re superb. A sample:

I want to make sure other girls don’t fall for the misleading marketing like I did. If you use this pen, you STILL NEED TO HAVE A MAN CHECK YOUR WORK!

Two bits of happiness to end the week. First, Hillary Clinton in a fabulous sunshiny suit in the Cook Islands. This photo shamelessly stolen from F0TLG Megan’s Twitter stream. Because Megan took the photo. She is there too. The northernmost Lady Gardener (that would be Deb) is deeply envious.


And a gorgeous clip of two 11 month old girls dancing to their daddy’s guitar.