Category Archives: masculinity

The Economics of Sex (OR misinformation and subjective data interpretation with dumb animation)

Here is an infuriating video from The Austin Institute for the Study of Family & Culture about how sex is a commodity and marriage is always good and men and women are operating under a strange and simple system that disregards their personalities and desires. I honestly had a hard time getting through it, so I’m gonna present my thoughts in a sort of live blog format. What follows is a (largely unedited) list of the thoughts I had while watching, so you can listen and follow along. Anything in italics are thoughts I’ve added after the fact to expound on the  more important(ly disturbing) points. And there are gifs because I love gifs and they make this whole thing easier to think about.

~first assumption: marriage is good and divorce is bad This is obviously untrue depending on where and when you are in history and who you are personally. Just a gross simplification of people’s lives. Completely stupid. 

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~is sex a commodity? Definition: a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee. So, no. 
~is it an exchange? Yes, but what is being exchanged is not axiomatic or universal.

~men have a higher sex drive- NO Just, no. 

britbrit
no.

~how can you possibly know that they link sex to romance less often? The general use of data to support their point without actual stats/sources and without mentioning that interpretation of data is not entirely objective is super manipulative. 

~female motivations: expressing love, commitment, affirming desirability, security. uuuummmmmmm what? how is that shown in the data? Also, those motivations are not gender specific, lots of people have sex for those (and other varied) reasons.

sex will happen when women want it to? what? relationships all work the exact same way all the time???!?

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~men want sex but women don’t? men sacrifice for sex but women don’t?

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~market value. no. there are cultural expectations, and no it isn’t entirely private, but sex is not a supply and relationships are not a price. To paraphrase a perfect Jezebel comment I read on this topic: I am not a cow. My vagina is not milk. My partner is not a customer. 

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~comparing pesticides to birth control is not so subtle and gross

~’lowering the cost of sex’ would apply for everyone… And this is where the metaphor stops working the way they want. People generally like it when things are cheaper, especially things they like a lot of. So really, from where I’m standing, everyone benefits if the ‘cost of sex’ drops. But ‘the cost of sex’ isn’t an actual real thing in terms of how humans live their lives so this is a dumb point all around.

~’sex was oriented towards marriage.’ THIS IS HETERONORMATIVE AND TOTALLY LIMITED.  Also, again, assumed to be positive. But I happen to think that more people having agency over their bodies and experiencing a greater variety of relationships/orgasms is super positive. 

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~yea the unanticipated side affect is more autonomy for everyone, mostly women, and we are still adapting to the gender role shift. It’s not a catastrophe comparable to THE ONGOING DESTRUCTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT. Not even close.

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~”in the past it really wasn’t the patriarchy that policed women’s relational interests, it was women. but this agreement, this unspoken pact to set a high market value of sex has all but vanished. but in a brave new world where having sex no longer means babies and marriage has become optional, the solidarity women once felt towards each another in the mating market has dissolved. Women no longer have each other’s backs. on the contrary, they’re now each other’s competition.” SO BAD. This is, for me, the most destructive idea, because it actually blames the entire problem on women. Women policing other women’s behaviors was not a result of a worldwide agreement to ‘set a high market value of sex.’ It was a result of patriarchal ideas about women’s sexuality, and the ensuing rules and options regarding sexual behavior and marriage. Getting an oppressed people to participate in their own oppression is a wildly smart and effective tactic that has been used by the elite and powerful for centuries. Women were always each other’s competition. Marrying has historically been one of women’s best options for climbing the social ladder and creating a better life for themselves. It was not about sisterly bonds anymore or less than it is now. And to blame women for their own devaluation is just such bullshit, it’s taking it back to Eve and original sin and I will not stand for it. I will not take it seriously as an idea and I will not internalize guilt or self-disgust and I will not accept that women are to blame for their own  institutionalized and culturally accepted oppression. 

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~so women control sex and men control marriage, but women want marriage and men want sex. THAT IS COMPLETELY SIMPLE AND OUTRAGEOUS. The only limits on humans behavior are societal norms and cultural expectations. If people tend to act in certain predictable ways, it is due largely to videos like this, that expound a divisive and dangerous perspective on relationships and gender roles.

~this video puts women as the gatekeepers of morality, specifically men’s morality. this is terrible for everyone but especially for men. This idea is not new, but it is just as damaging for men as it is for women. If men are just a-moral dummies wandering this world and women must control them (in part by controlling their own behavior) then humans have an extremely limited capacity for depth and for growth. It means that men are silly boys and women must act as every man’s mommy. It’s gross, and reductive, and it sells every single person on the planet short.

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~so in this world sex is a commodity linked to marriage, and no one can possibly want other kinds of relationships, to explore one of those things without the other, and only heterosexual sex/marriage exist and matter.  It’s really not rocket science kids. There are an immeasurable amount of reasons that a person would want to have sex, with whomever that person wants to have sex with. And it is true that sexual and romantic relationships are kinda tough these days because we are all dealing with the break down of traditional roles in a rapidly changing/ technology flooded world. But harder doesn’t mean worse. I fail to see how people being liberated to explore more options is bad. I fail to see how a world with less marriages is bad. I fail to see how the break down of gender roles is bad. I do see a world where (hopefully) folks will be less constrained by cultural ideas of who they should be or how they should act or who/what they should desire. Sex is not something to be traded for commitment, that idea is so passive aggressive and fucked up. If you want commitment you should ask for it and if you want sex you should ask for it and if you are still trying to figure it all out then just be as honest as possible but don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Men are not all soulless animals looking for a trophy wife while trying to satisfy base instincts and women are not all worrying manipulators who are wielding their sex as a weapon while counting down  their remaining days of fertility. People are people, with complicated motivations and a variety of desires that may even be existing in the same moment and sometimes communicating is hard and this kind of distorted, reductive information is bullshit and I won’t accept it. Don’t allow anyone to dictate your desires or tell you the right way to get what you want. Women and men do not exist as separate groups that act as one singular entity, and no one is actually beholden to this garbage about what it means to be a man or a woman. You exist as you, and you act as yourself.  And you are probably great. 

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we woke up like this. flawless.

And you know what else, there actually was a time where sex was part of an economy. But it was women and girls, their bodies and minds and whole selves,  who were actually being bought and sold as familial property. This is not something to be nostalgic about nor is it a time to long for or extoll the forgotten virtues of. It was gross and patriarchal, a time where women’s bodies were not their own and where women did not possess full humanity. And it is a time that, frankly, we are not yet past despite some incredible progress. Until all women are free from the threats of sexual and reproductive violence and until women are economically independent worldwide and until this kind of video propaganda with this misogynist/homophobic/sexist worldview ceases to be disseminated (or have widespread support) we cannot truly say that we are beyond the historical moment of gender tyranny.

smashpatriarchy

Let’s get beyond it.

Stick to that Letter: Key & Peele cunnilingus skit

I laughed out loud, at my desk at work, while watching this. Before we discuss it’s pros and cons, lets just enjoy the comedy, brought to us by Key & Peele on Comedy Central.

Alright, alright alright. Catch your breath. Let’s start with the good stuff. First of all, any entertainment that portrays a sex education class for men with the goal of encouraging enthusiastic partner pleasuring is a WIN. Using humor to encourage mutual satisfaction is great. And some of that advice is actually quite accurate (don’t focus only on the clit, make letters with your tongue, gauge your partners response and stick with what is working). If you have an aversion to a particular act, maybe explore why that is. You of course have every right to say ‘not for me’, but especially in the case of cunnilingus, the issue deserves some thought, since culturally we aren’t taught to appreciate female anatomy or pleasure. Sex should be fun, and it should feel good, for all parties involved. There is no set script to stick to, no correct order, and no limit on what you can do (besides consent. It’s gotta be consensual.) Let your imagination run free and have fun!

get hype!
get hype!

But. It fell short for me in a few places. The word ‘bitches’ is just so jarring, when it’s used so often in such a short clip. I know they are playing characters from a very specific cultural segment, but I thought it was a bit much (although ‘learn your bitch’s snowflake’ was PRICELESS.) It’s a harsh word that doesn’t evoke respect or caring, and I think using ‘woman’ or even ‘lady’ could still have worked within the character’s universe. The only other moment I wish hadn’t happened was the line ‘Penises are easy. Vaginas are hard.’ Because that is just not true. The anatomy is different, sure. And it is true that penises are external, so visually they are easier to see and handle. But vaginas, labia, clits and g-spots are really not difficult to navigate. It may be true that female-bodied folks need more stimulation time, but I don’t have actual stats to back that up, and if they do THEN SO WHAT?! Take your time. Vary from the oh so boring script that is disseminated in mainstream porn. Act with care and enthusiasm, and notice to your partner’s response. Don’t assume all your partners will want the same choreography or timing, be ready to switch it up pay attention to everyone’s cues.

omg PREACH
omg PREACH

EPIC ADDENDUM: That advice works for all gender variations, so I think we all need to grow up a little bit and block out sexy fun time and freakin’ GO FOR IT. Don’t be scared to make mistakes, be open to feedback and trying new moves, and most of all up your enthusiasm. Pleasure for pleasure’s sake is a worthy endeavor, so broaden your horizons/challenge yourself to be a better partner/leave shame at the door/wild out. It may take time, and serious work, but I’m hopeful a more sex positive world (free of shame and violence) will emerge in the near future. *Note: This ending paragraph applies to everyone everywhere regardless of sex/gender/sexuality/any other demographic factor. Get. Into. It.

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**2nd Note: I know how optimistic/idealistic/borderline nuts that last sentence sounds. But hey, a girl can dream.

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Victim Blaming- *Rape Culture

I have just finished reading an article in the Wall Street Journal, by James Taranto, which has left me feeling nauseous and sad. Not a cute combination. Taranto is a member of the editorial board at WSJ, as well as the ‘author of its popular Best of the Web Today column’, so he is not just random dude.  The article is entitled ‘Drunkennes and Double Standards: A Balanced Look at College Sex Offenses.

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Right off the bat, I know I’m in for it. Sex offenses aren’t balanced. There is a perpetrator and a victim. Rapists are to blame for rape. So, yea, what’s his overriding argument?

What is called the problem of “sexual assault” on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike… If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn’t determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver’s sex. But when two drunken college students “collide,” the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault. His diminished capacity owing to alcohol is not a mitigating factor, but her diminished capacity is an aggravating factor for him.

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He also mentions false accusations, which as I’ve stated before make up around 2% of all accusations on a generous day. Women are not getting drunk and consenting to sex, then making false accusations fueled by their regret and resentment. “Had she awakened the next day feeling regretful and violated, she could have brought him up on charges and severely disrupted his life.” This almost never happens. Women are not slinging accusations willy nilly, especially given the nature of an investigation, the toll it takes, and how often victims are harassed and shamed when their stories are actually true. He goes on, “What is called the problem of “sexual assault” on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike.” And this, this is an interesting sentence.

I do not disagree that alcohol consumption, in excess, is dangerous for both men and women. I also don’t disagree that having sex while black out drunk is a bad idea for both men and women. For one, drunk people are usually measurably less responsible, so contraception is likely disregarded. Boundaries can also be crossed due to diminished communication, and usually drunk = sloppy which can result in a sub par experience for all. But the most important issue here is who can give consent. If neither party is capable of making rational decisions, then what follows is a messy grey area. Which can be emotionally damaging, or just awkward.

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HOWEVER.

There are a whole lot of assumptions when you make the claim that BOTH PARTIES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT. You assume that everyone is the same amount of drunk. You assume everyone has positive intent. You assume that men are victims at the same rate as women. You assume we live in a world where sexual assault is an accidental oops, where men are just confused by ladies who claim to be liberated but are really pretending and then want to save their own reputations by destroying someone else.

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Again. Cause none of those things are true. What is true is that rape happens at an alarming rate, everyday, to all kinds of people. It happens to men and women. It happens to college students and to high school students, to children, and to adults of all ages. It happens across race and class lines.  And the only way to prevent it from happening is to teach people how not to rape. It’s to teach everyone that violence and aggression are not linked to ‘real masculinity’. It means teaching everyone what true consent means, and it means decoupling sex from shame. Women should not have to stay sober to avoid being raped, because that doesn’t work anyway. Are there good reasons to help college age kids learn to control their levels of intoxication? Absolutely. Is one of those so they don’t get raped, or accidentally rape someone? No.

The author also sites a widely circulated article from Slate last year to boost his argument, quoting the author:

…she offered the same advice to college men: “If I had a son, I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.”

Tell me how sad that quote makes you.

this one?
this one?
or this one?
or this one?
nope, this one. definitely.
nope, this one. definitely.

The author of that piece, Emily Yaffe, would tell her son that it’s not in his self interest to find himself accused of rape. Not that he should respect women. Not that he should be sure to only engage in consensual sex. Just that it would be bad news bears FOR HIM, for his life, if he were in a situation that allowed him to be accused of raping a drunk girl. The lack of empathy and compassion in that line of thinking is truly astounding.

The end point of Taranto’s piece is that chivalry should make a come back, because men and women are different, despite feminists instance of equality, and the balance of power in sexual encounters is uneven. He is only 1/2 right. The balance of power is still often tilted in the direction of men. This does not mean, however, that women are naturally more prudish or inclined towards monogamy. It means that we live in a culture that perpetuates base misunderstandings about gender and that de-values the bodies and well being of women at an alarming rate. It means that we all must strive to be more honest with ourselves and with our partners, and to treat our sexual partners as actual humans and not as a different species that we must apply different rules to and ‘figure out’. Yes means yes. You do not have the right to ever touch another human intimately without their expressed approval. And sure, I’m down for giving out basic safety advice like 1) learn to control your consumption 2) travel in groups 3)be aware of your surroundings. But that advice isn’t limited to just young women, and it applies to violence prevention in all forms.

Because the only advice we need to give on rape prevention is: Don’t rape anyone.

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Mais Oui. But of course! *Rape Culture

Well, I was not prepared for how real this video was going to get. This is a short french film from director Éléonore Pourriat entitled Oppressed Majority.

Trigger Warning: This video depicts sexual violence and harassment. Also features brief female nudity from the waist up.

Powerful. It is striking to me how disconcerting it feels to see men overpowered and disrespected by women, and so forcefully. And yet we are surrounded everyday by images of violence against women, images of disrespect and abuse, so that they are almost benign. From high fashion to Instagram, women’s bodies are violated and distorted.

high fashion ad. is she dead? passed out? does it matter?
high fashion ad. is she dead? passed out? does it matter?
still sexy even with a bullet through her head
still sexy even with a bullet through her head
a real life sexual assault during an Ohio state homecoming. by standers photographed and posted online rather than calling the police
a real life sexual assault during an Ohio state homecoming. by standers photographed and posted online rather than calling the police. It went viral and the girl was largely blamed/ridiculed.

These are the everyday images we all live with, part of our collective consciousness. The director uses that film to turn that consciousness on it’s head, which is particularly brilliant.

Let’s clarify the world view that results from this collective and damaging consciousness. These images are only possible in a culture where violence against women is seen as a given. Feminists use the term ‘rape culture’ to describe a culture where rape is normalized, and people are taught how not to get raped instead of how not to rape.

preach!
preach!

Rape culture means that women are responsible for rape. It means that we police women’s bodies and behaviors. It means we can’t conceive of ‘nice guys’ or ‘talented guys’ being predators.

This issue is particularly prevalent right now with the release of a letter written by Dylan Farrow, restating her allegations of a sexual assault committed by her then father, Woody Allen, when she was 7. Her statement has garnered plenty of support…

To be blunt: I think Woody Allen probably did it, though, of course, I could be wrong. But it’s okay if I’m wrong. For two reasons… The second reason it’s okay if I’m wrong is that I’m probably not wrong. It’s much more likely that I’m right. Because I am not on Woody Allen’s jury, I can be swayed by the fact that sexual violence is incredibly, horrifically common, much more common than it is for women to make up stories about sexual violence in pursuit of their own petty, vindictive need to destroy a great man’s reputation. We are in the midst of an ongoing, quiet epidemic of sexual violence, now as always. We are not in the midst of an epidemic of false rape charges, and that fact is important here.

~http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/woody-allens-good-name/

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But of course there are also plenty of haters and doubters. A lot of folks don’t want to outright call her a liar, but instead suggest that while she truly believes that it happened, that it did not. A lot of people can’t bring themselves to believe that this talented director has engaged in this criminal violent behavior (although the more ambiguous fascination with younger women seems palatable.) Even friends that I thought understood about these things cited the now imfamous Daily Beast article at me, which spends quite a lot of time excusing ‘creepy’ behavior and insinuating that Dylan was “disturbed” and thus isn’t telling the real truth. Plenty of name calling and mud slinging and accused-defending goes on when sexual assault accusations go public. We also tend to engage in a lot of cultural forgetfulness. But that first support quote is super important to remember:  false accusations are incredibly rare, statically insignificant. The balance of power between individuals is not equal. If you start from a place of skepticism when listening to a victim’s story, then you truly don’t understand this issue.

I think that last stat would shock a lot of folks... from http://www.rainn.org/statistics
I think that last stat would shock a lot of folks… from http://www.rainn.org/statistics

This is something everyone should be outraged by, because this kind of thinking affects us all. If we are all confused on what sexual assault (and sexual assailants) look like, then we are probably also confused on exactly what it means to give consent. That has drastic implications for all sexual relationships. ‘No means no’ is actually not as accurate as ‘Yes means yes’, and our cultural ambivalence regarding consent trickles down and leads to street harassment and the idea of ‘friend zoning’. If women are made to be the gate keepers of their bodies, they are stripped of their humanity and exist only as a sex object to be won by any means necessary (including trickery, coercion, and force.)

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All of this dehumanizing behavior also strips women of their ability to be sexually empowered humans, and then you have a whole population experiencing shame and guilt around their bodies and their desires, folks who cannot positively participate in their own sexuality. Which is terrible.

exactly. not cool.
exactly. not cool.

And when you make a person an object, you get the kind of culture that normalized the violent images shown above. Because an object doesn’t deserve compassion or empathy. And this overall lack of compassion for women’s bodies creates the imbalance we all feel everyday.

from a talk on rape in native american communities, where sexual violence exists in epidemic proportions
from a talk on rape in native american communities, where sexual violence exists in epidemic proportions

That is why Oppressed Majority is so jarring, because that power shift is so dramatic.

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I’ll end with this epic snark from Lauren Conrad, responding to a sexist and gross question from a radio personality. Just another everyday moment of sexism. It’s not just about the loud moments of sexual assault and violence, it’s also about this kind of small moment that is still hurtful, disrespectful, and wrong.

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#werk
#werk
well played!
well played!

These are the moments, large and small, that we must all work to prevent through education and healing for both men and women, if we are to have any chance of a truly respectful and fulfilling coexistence. Rape culture affects all of us negatively, and the future of women’s safety and our sexual health as a culture depends upon it’s dismantling. It will need to be a team effort the likes of which has never been seen, but I do believe (on optimistic days) that folks everywhere are waking up, and seeing collective effort and momentum gives me much hope. Speak up and speak out. You’ll be in good company.

A Quick Note: Fox News and the Nostalgia for ‘When Men Were Men’

There is a video circulating my newsfeed (which, if you haven’t figured out by now, is where I find most of my material…) Here. Enjoy.

Here is, in my opinion, the most dangerous quote: “…it emerges from this mindset that a lot of women have unfortunately bought into, this destructive idea that men prevent them from being able to achieve their goals.”

Now, this idea is super ridiculous. However, the distinction between men and the patriarchy is one that a lot of people do not grasp, and I get how this guy came to that conclusion. Let’s break it down: When women make 77 cents on the dollar of men, that is patriarchy working. When women are overwhelmingly the victims of spousal abuse and sexual violence, that is patriarchy working. When magazine covers feature glossy airbrushed photos of women that make women feel bad and keep us focused on our beauty as our most important asset, that is patriarchy. When women are still hitting a glass ceiling, absent in the top echelons and board rooms and decision making roles in virtually all industries and in politics, that is patriarchy working. When masculinity is linked with dominance and violence and not compassion or empathy, that is patriarchy working. It is not ‘men’ as a group that keep the oppressive status quo in place, it is in fact all of us that live our lives without challenging the patriarchal values and systems we see working around us. Women need not defeat men to live full lives and be seen as humans; we all need to defeat patriarchy.

Now, I’m not sure that the guy, Nick, gets that. He might and simply not care. Because pitting men and women against each other is a much better way to sell books and distract us from the real work of dismantling the very system he longs for. Nick isn’t anti-patriarchy at all, he is just pro-‘men being men.’ Because real men are dominant and run the world and real women are submissive and play a support role and damnit, that’s just how it’s supposed to be! This nostalgia for a by-gone (not totally by gone, but at least by-gone enough that we can use Mad Men as a reference point for then) era of male dominance is actually pretty disgusting. They aren’t even really arguing that it was better for women then, which is something they’ll sometimes throw out there, just that masculinity being complicated and evolving as a result of the work of feminists is hard for them and confusing and they just don’t wanna deal. Whine, whine, whine. ‘Wimps and wussies deliver mediocrity’ is a telling quote, because wimps and wussies are really code for ‘girly men.’ Men who display feminine characteristics, which are of course ‘feminine’ by cultural standards only. So it’s all about downgrading women and anything traditionally feminine, about keeping the lines clear and keeping the traditional and completely arbitrary rules of behavior in place. If you want the freedom to live your life the way you see fit, without worrying about fitting in to the rigid boxes we’ve created for ‘real men’ and ‘real women’, then you should rally with the feminists that are working to undo the world that this guy wishes we could return to.

Ok. End of rant. I could go on for days but, let’s just agree to not watch Fox news and not buy this guys book. Also I didn’t mention anything about the fact that he’s Australian because the patriarchy is everywhere and his ideas are gross so it doesn’t really matter where he hails from. Ew.