On the (Rest of the) Net.

Santa Barbara gunman Elliot Rodger isn’t the only one who feels awkward about their lack of sexual experience. Women feel like this, too!

“The notion that all women can get effortlessly laid, if only they open their legs, reduces the reality of female experience, transforming women from complicated individuals to the vessels for male sexual desire…” [Nerve]

Still with Rodger, taking the pressure off sex might have made him realise that losing your virginity doesn’t change your life. [Vice]

Finally, he wasn’t a “virgin madman, he was an entitled madman with four guns… Misogyny actually kills people.”

ICYMI: Feminism in Elle magazine.

You’d better #pitchbitch: a new initiative to encourage women writers to get their stuff out there. [Kill Your Darlings]

Pregnancy on TV. [Los Angeles Magazine]

Finally: alcohol doesn’t cause rape, rape mentality causes rape. [Times Free Press]

ABC’s disability discussion website Ramp Up will cease publication at the end of this month, thanks to the new government’s budget.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

The-To-Do-List-Kiss

I wrote about joyless, obligatory sex in The To Do List. [Bitch Flicks]

I recapped Outback Championship Wrestling’s show last week, featuring international wrestling superstars Rob Terry, Briley Pierce and Mohamad Ali Vaez. Expect to see a lot more of me in that company. [Facebook]

On writing while female. [Thought Catalog]

And, ICYMI, walking while female.

Feminism is not always about “leaning in”:

“We are so obsessed with ‘making it’ these days we’ve lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms. As women we have internalized the idea that every morning we wake up, we have to go for the fucking gold. You can’t just jog; you have to run a triathlon. Having a cup of coffee, reading the paper, and heading to work isn’t enough—that’s settling, that’s giving in, that’s letting them win. You have to wake up, have a cup of coffee, conquer France, bake a perfect cake, take a boxing class, and figure out how you are going to get that corner office or become district supervisor, while also looking damn sexy—but not too sexy, because cleavage is degrading—all before lunchtime. Who in her right mind would want to do that? And who would even be able to?” [Glamour]

Further to the link I posted last time, the case of using trigger warnings in school. [Jezebel]

The final girl: women in horror. [Junkee]

Navigating an anti-porn conference as a pro-sex feminist:

“Throughout the SPC conference, there is a phrase that shows up again and again: “selling women.” It is a phrase that doesn’t sit well with me. After all, you could argue that all labor entails buying the worker on some level: the manual laborer selling their body and physical strength, the nanny or social worker selling their capacity to care, or indeed, me as a writer selling you parts of my brain in writing this essay. To argue that sex work is different to these other labors is to argue that sex cuts to our souls in a more meaningful and profound way than anything else that we do. And that is just as conservative an idea as some of the portrayals of sex in pornography.” [New Inquiry]

Feminists and women who won’t give NiceGuys™ sex are to blame for the Santa Monica mass shooting. [Cosmopolitan]

Image via Bitch Flicks.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

LindsayOWN

I wrote about Oprah’s docuseries being bad for Lindsay Lohan’s career. At least before her lacklustre reputation could be boiled down to “Rumours”. Now, despite her addiction and various other mental and physical issues, we’ve see just how unprofessional she really is. [Junkee]

Jill Meagher’s widower Tom on the “Monster Myth”, rape as punishment, and as an inevitability for certain types of women by certain types of men who don’t understand “the rules”:

“The idea of the lurking monster is no doubt a useful myth, one we can use to defuse any fear of the women we love being hurt, without the need to examine ourselves or our male-dominated society. It is also an excuse to implement a set of rules on women on ‘how not to get raped’, which is a strange cocktail of naiveté and cynicism. It is naïve because it views rapists as a monolithic group of thigh-rubbing predators with a checklist rather than the bloke you just passed in the office, pub or gym, cynical because these rules allow us to classify victims. If the victim was wearing x or drinking y well then of course the monster is going to attack—didn’t she read the rules? I have often come up against people on this point who claim that they’re just being ‘realistic’. While it may come from a place of concern, if we’re being realistic we need to look at how and where rape and violence actually occur, and how troubling it is that we use a nebulous term like ‘reality’ to condone the imposition of dress codes, acceptable behaviours, and living spaces on women to avoid a mythical rape-monster. Okay, this rape-monster did exist in the form of Adrian Bayley, but no amount of adherence to these ill-conceived rules could have stopped him from raping somebody that night.” [White Ribbon Australia]

Can you be a feminist and…? [Another Angry Woman]

Equal opportunity objectification. (I also wrote about the phenomenon upon the release of Magic Mike in 2012.) [Jezebel] 

James Franco, teen girls and “Humbert Humbert culture”. [The Style Con]

The garish-yet-elegant art of drag… and wrestling! [WFAE NPR]

On TV, troubled women are better off dead than being helped. [The New Republic]

Still with TV, rape in the golden age of it. Notice how most of these shows centre around men while raped women are in the periphery. [Washington Post]

And further to this, isn’t it about time straight, white men on TV stopped being represented above all other possibilities? [SBS News]

Battling street harassment with street art. [New York Times]

The science of promiscuity. [The Wheeler Centre]

Image via Junkee.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

jennifer-lawrence-middle-finger

Jennifer Lawrence and the “Cool Girl” phenomenon. [Buzzfeed]

I’m Lip Magazine‘s Feminist of the Week.

Reading while female. [In These Times]

PETA: Cutting off their feminist nose to spite their animal rights face. [A Room of Our Own]

The history of Cosmo‘s most infamous sex tip: a donut around the penis. [Slate]

In defence of Barbie: encouraging children to engage in safe, imaginative play about sex, sexuality and sexualisation. (Also this.) [The Cut]

Image via Splice Today.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Short and sweet this week.

Rape as a plot device. I’m reading Stephen King’s Under the Dome at the moment, in preparation to delve into the series which Clementine Ford cites in her article, and let me tell you, it is rife with unnecessary and gratuitous rape and violence against women. Even the characters’ inner monologues reek of misogyny. It should be interesting to see if the TV show is as heavily drenched in it as the print version. Judging by Ford’s article, it is. [Daily Life]

The racial politics of Beyonce’s hair. [Daily Beast]

Lady Gaga and cultural appropriation. [Jezebel]

Why do we care so much about other people’s sex lives, or lack thereof? [Jezebel]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

americas next top model caridee smart

Approaching America’s Next Top Model from an academic perspective. [The Atlantic]

The enduring relevance of Freaks & Geeks. [TheVine]

Gay men need consent to touch a woman, too. [Role/Reboot]

Why do humans have sex at night? (SFW) [io9]

In defence of “Blurred Lines”. Could it in fact be about sexual liberation instead of sexual assault? [Slate]

Image via Wet Paint.

Book Review: Night Games by Anna Krien.

anna krien night games

Everywhere you look lately, there seems to be a promo for Anna Krien’s latest investigative tome, Night Games, and rightly so: it’s a fantastic, impeccably researched and hard-hitting look at misogyny and power in football. I might be a little biased having a vested interested in the topic and, as I told Krien when I got my copy signed at the Readings Carlton book launch last week, the rape statistics she rattled off in an excerpt reading at the event, unfortunately they’re nothing I haven’t heard before.

Having said that, though, Night Games is an absorbing read for those well versed in the misogynistic nature of “jock culture” as well as for those new to the topic. Krien makes sure not to alienate sports fans who may be wary of picking up the book:

“This book is not anti-sport. ‘”Jock culture” is a distortion of sports,’ the American author and sports journalist Robert Lipsyte once noted, warning that America was in danger of finding its values in the locker room. It’s not the game, the pleasure of the play, that’s dangerous. It’s the piss stains in the grass, the markings of men who use sport as power and the people—teammates, fans, coaches, clubs, doctors, police, journalists, groupies—who let them do whatever they want.” [p. 266]

However, “football is an abnormal society” [p. 70], and nothing reflects that more than the bulk of the book, which deals with “regrettable sex” [p. 73] or rape accusations, depending on who you ask, against AFL and NRL players; “Camel Nights”, in which players bring two women they don’t care for so “everyone gets a hump” [p. 71]; and that infamous Cronulla Sharks group-sex scandal from 2002 that came to light in a 2009 Four Corners exposé, amongst many other examples.

Speaking of Matthew Johns and Cronulla, Krien quotes an anonymous player who laments the stigma of group sex bonding sessions:

“It’s like saying you can’t be homosexual, or you can’t have such-and-such sexual preferences. How can he tell us what to do in our private lives?… We already have so many rules; we can’t drink on these days, we can’t go to these places, now we can’t have group sex. About the only thing we can do these days is go to club functions and just hang around with other players. That’s just isolating us more from the rest of the world, and it could lead to even more violent acts.” [p. 46]

While it’s easy to scoff at these privileged footballer comments, he does make a valid point. It’s kind of like the argument against restricting dangerous dog breeds: the more you isolate a pit bull, for example, the more likely it is to be aggressive to other dogs and humans when it does come into contact with them.

Oftentimes, the difference between a rape allegation and the aforementioned “regrettable sex” is treating a woman well. You know, like a human being:

“‘It’s not during the act, it’s the way you treat them after it. Most of them could have been avoided if they’d have put them in a cab and said, you know, thanks for that, sort of thing, not just kicked her out, call her a dirty whatever, that sort of thing. It’s how you treat them afterwards that can cover a lot of that sort of stuff up.” [p. 183]

But what Krien makes the reader understand is that groupie sex with a footballer is not about the woman, it’s about them:

“A footballer does not look at another human when he fucks a groupie. He’s looking at his glorified reflection—and when he performs, he’s doing it for ‘the boys’, not her.” [p. 200]

And:

“[Sam Newman] said it [the hazing of sports writer Caroline Wilson on The Footy Show] was a compliment of sorts, a sign that the Footy Show culture ‘accepted’ her. In other words, it wasn’t really about Wilson, it was about them. About a subculture of men trying to find a place—albeit a very lowly place—in their world for a woman. Considering that it’s all about the boys, they prey doesn’t even need to be present.” P. 72.

Going back to the group sex-as-bonding scenario, it makes sense that the woman/women would be used as a vessel to bring the teammates closer together. And further to the absence of a woman, we can see this in the social media shaming of the Steubenville victim, for example. The whole team—and, by extension, the town—we’re brought closer together by reliving the girl’s assault on YouTube and Twitter.

Obviously this is one of the more extreme and brutal examples of sexual assault in sport, but Night Games also talks about the “gulf of uncertainty between consent and rape” [p. 73] and the many sexual experiences that occur therein. Krien also comes across as sympathetic to the “… ongoing education about how to negotiate sexual encounters in a way which ensures informed consent is always obtained” [p. 47] amongst the codes, but there’s still a long way to go, baby. This is exemplified by an educational male-on-male rape video that is shown during a training session. Many of the players are noticeably upset, with one lamenting that “You don’t really ask for trouble if you have too much to drink and get raped by a bloke. You don’t ask for that.” I’ll just let the double standards marinate for a bit after you consider that the video shown prior to this was one of mistaken identity male-on-female rape to which the players were less than sympathetic. [p. 188–189]

The abovementioned “grey zone” that exists between the sexes “to explain what was lost in translation” [p. 259] takes the form of the rape trial of Justin Dyer (name changed), an amateur footballer accused of raping Sarah Wesley (also not her real name) the night Collingwood won the 2010 grand final rematch. Many of the reviews of Night Games seem to focus heavily on this “he said, she said”, but Krien expressed relief when facilitator of the Readings event, Sophie Cunningham, skirted that issue. While the trial beautifully bookends all the points Krien makes about the treatment of women in male team sports, it’s not the be all and end all of Night Games. Similarly, though Sarah declined to be interviewed by Krien, thus leaving “all those little erased bits, I thought, hovering around like question marks” [p. 245], I don’t think it does the book detriment. In fact, I can’t envisage how Night Games could get any better.

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Related: In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Elsewhere: [The Vine] All Dogs Go to Seven.

This review has been submitted to The Australian Women Writers Challenge as part of their 2013 Challenge.

Image via Kill Your Darlings.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

girls patrick wilson

Is Girls‘ Hannah Horvath physically worthy of the sexual interest of a successful, hot, rich doctor? While detractors thought this week’s episode was the worst in the series, presumably because Lena Dunham’s “refreshing, yet displeasing to the eye” (to borrow a line from Elizabeth Banks in Pitch Perfect) naked body was front and centre perhaps more than any other episode, I actually thought it was the best of this season’s bunch, and I had no qualms buying Patrick Wilson’s character being so sexually into Hannah that he begs her to stay in his apartment for a 48-hour fuck- and naked ping-pong-fest. I will say that the gratuitous nudity and the continuous lack of people of colour is really getting my goat, though. [Jezebel]

Also related, apparently the utter disbelief at the abovementioned May-December Girls romance completely goes against a middle-aged man’s biological inability to resist a younger woman. A bit closed minded, but still valid. [Jezebel]

Let’s all stop bagging Rihanna for taking Chris Brown back and maybe look at why she did and what support we can give domestic violence victims. [Jezebel]

That time someone made a blog about all those times Michelle Williams was ostracised from the Destiny’s Child fold. Funny but cruel but also kinda true? [Poor Michelle]

Class divisions in Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day. [Elsevier] 

James Bulger: 20 years on from his abduction and brutal murder. [Daily Life]

More equal opportunity nudity and sex on camera, please. [Jezebel]

The beauty myth: are people we perceive as beautiful really just average? [TheVine]

Following on from last week’s links on whitewashing in Hollywood, check out the ten most racist portrayals of characters of colour by white actors. [TheVine] 

Image via Rolling Stone.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“What It’s Really Like to Wear a Hijab.” [Daily Life]

While the mainstream media is not always the most tasteful industry, its coverage of Jill Meagher’s disappearance was invaluable in helping catch her killer. [MamaMia]

And here’s an amusing take on the sexist comments thrown women’s way after the Jill Meagher tragedy. I’ve been experiencing some of these “restrictions” myself since then, preached to me by well-intentioned but misguided friends, which I’ll be writing more about next week. [Feminaust]

Why fur is back in fashion. [Jezebel]

Instead of petitioning the fashion magazines, should we be making love instead of porn? [TheVine]

The perils of getting a hair cut as a black woman. [Jezebel]

Two of my favourite writers and unofficial mentors, I guess you could say, are in the midst of writing books. Rachel Hills and Sarah Ayoub-Christie detail their struggles with the process. Keep ya heads up, girls! [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, Chasing Aphrodite]

“Reverse Photoshopping” a “too thin” Karlie Kloss isn’t any better than Photoshopping away cellulite or blemishes. [Daily Life]

Famous writers throughout history reimagine Cosmo’s sex tips. [McSweeney’s]

Why are all the feminists these days funny? Um, because we wised up to the fact that our ideals are better digested by the mainstream through less-threatening humour than shoving it down unwilling throats. Though we still do a lot of that!

“[Sexism’s] existence at the moment requires a tougher, wilier, more knowing, and sophisticated stance.” [Slate]

Clementine Ford’s full Wheeler Centre Lunchbox/Soapbox address on the equality myth.

Incorporating part of her speech, Ford elaborates on Alan Jones’ misogynistic comments about the Prime Minister and women in general. [Daily Life]

On the male-male-female threesome. [XOJane]

Why isn’t Mitt Romney being questioned about the way Mormonism treats women? [Daily Beast]

Book Review: 50 Shades of Grey by EL James.

The title of this post is something I never thought I’d write. Ever since the 50 Shades phenomenon hit the mainstream, however many subsequent BDSM and erotica-filled pop cultural months ago that was, I vowed to never let EL James’ literary abomination come between me and an actual good read. However, after hearing the anti-feminist and abusive relationship aspects of the trilogy in blog post after book review after writers festival talk, I finally succumbed to the pull of Christian Grey and swallowed my pride. (It must be noted that I am coming at 50 Shades from a critical and research perspective. It must also be noted that having finished with the first instalment, I will not be returning to the Red Room of Pain.)

Firstly, let me start by saying that I had very low expectations for 50 Shades, and while I won’t go as far to say it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be, I will say that the writing is not as bad as I thought it would be (using its inspiration, Twilight, as a benchmark). However, I still found the book deeply problematic.

There’s Christian’s obsession with making Anastasia eat, which is included in the contract she must sign upon entering into a sexual, submissive relationship with him. (Conveniently, at the end of the first book she has yet to sign it.) Also included is the wearing of clothes provided by Christian, the requirement of eight (begrudgingly downgraded to seven at Anastasia’s request) hours sleep a night, refraining from physical endangerment with regard for safety (New Moon!) and the way Anastasia must conduct herself in the company of Christian, and others.

It must be noted that I’m not opposed to submissive sexual relationships. They’re not for me personally, but I don’t find a problem with them in general. I’m under the impression that most of these relationships focus on dominance and submission in the bedroom, whilst out of it the participants go about their daily life in relative equality (correct me if I’m wrong). Certainly, there are a myriad of sexual relationships out there, and some of them do take the form of Christian and Anastasia’s. But they are not the subject matter of the highest selling book in the world; one that’s sold in supermarkets next to the celery, no less.

What I find most troubling about the worldwide embrace of James’ “clit lit” is that it’s completely archaic and conservative, for all the sex-positivity it claims (or champions of it claim) to spout. For example, it holds up the notion that bad boys can be tamed. Despite Christian’s repeated pleas early on in the book that “You should steer clear of me… I’m not the man for you… I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of guy… I don’t make love, I fuck,” the catch-cries of commitment phobes everywhere looking for quick, easy sex without attachment, Anastasia still thinks that if she just did more of this or less of that, he would love her:

… He needs to walk before he can run… You are making him mad—think about all that’s [sic] he’s said, all he’s conceded… I need to be able to show him affection—then perhaps he can reciprocate. [Original emphasis]”

Somewhere in the midst of the trilogy (apparently it’s not at the climax, as writer Susan Johnson revealed at the Melbourne Writers Festival a couple of weeks ago), Christian marries Anastasia (note how I—and many others who’ve written and spoken about the book—referred to the union not as “they get married” but as “he married her”, insinuating that marriage is something that happens to Anastasia, like pretty well everything else in the book. For someone who’s the central protagonist and first person narrator of this sordid love affair, she actually has no autonomy over her own story), demonstrating to millions of impressionable young (and no so young) women and any men out there reading it that you can change a bad boy!

But Christian’s not just your average bad boy. He’s a filthy rich, disarmingly handsome (James, living vicariously through Anastasia, never fails to mention this as if it’s his only redeeming quality—who am I kidding? It kinda is—and all red blooded humans of the XX chromosome persuasion fall weak at the knees in his glorious presence), “control freak with stalker tendencies”: yep, sounding more and more like Edward Cullen with every adjective. In essence, he is an abusive partner. As mentioned above, he tries to control Anastasia’s eating, sleeping, sex- and friend-having, and pretty well everything else in her life. After a fight, he barges, uninvited, into her apartment she shares with a friend, who tells him to get out and that he’s not welcome there. He persists and spends the night with Anastasia, something he has previously said he will “never do”. He finds out which flight she’s on to Atlanta, where she’s going to visit her mother and escape him, and changes her seat to first class. Later, he turns up at the hotel Anastasia and her mother are dining at. He expresses jealousy and anger when Anastasia hangs out with her male friend Jose who, incidentally, tried to sexually assault her. He buys her a new phone, laptop, car and clothes. He likes her plied with alcohol because she’s more open with her emotions in an inebriated state. She is not allowed to masturbate (not that she does that anyway. It’s icky in 50 Shades’ world), because he “want[s] all your pleasure”.  Anastasia cannot touch or look Christian in the eyes when they’re having sex. If she does, he will discipline her. That last one isn’t inherently damaging, but the fact that Anastasia herself refers to the physical debasement that occurs in Christian’s playroom/Red Room of Pain as a “beating” and him “hitting” her shows that she’s definitely not into it, and that’s what makes the sex problematic.

Anastasia is scared of Christian. She often tells him, “I’m sorry… Please don’t be angry/Please don’t hit me,” the hallmark of a battered spouse. At the end of book one, when he pushes her physical limits too far and she makes the decision to leave him, she tells him it’s her fault: “I asked for it.” “I’m a complete failure. I had hoped to drag my Fifty Shades into the light, but it’s proved a task beyond my meagre abilities,” she laments. From an abuser’s point of view, he’s got her right where he wants her. Anastasia lacks self-confidence to begin with, and often expresses disbelief that someone like him could want someone like her. She defends him to his detractors (namely the abovementioned roommate), shouting subconsciously, “I KNOW WHAT HE’S REALLY LIKE—YOU DONT!” After a fight, he makes puppy dog eyes at her or some such thing and she melts: “How can I resist him when he’s like this [emphasis mine]?” Her “innocence” and “naivety” which Christian loves so much blind her to the fact that this is a classic abusive relationship: as someone who grew up amongst one, I can vouch for it.

When it comes to Anastasia as the protagonist, her incessant whining about her “inner goddess” versus her “subconscious” is infuriating. While it makes for consistency in terms of character traits, it certainly doesn’t make her any more likeable. Her conservative personality (Anastasia’s literary heroines are all submissives—Tess Durbeyfield and Jane Austen’s female characters—not to mention her reaction to Christian having paid for sex in the past. So being shackled and whipped semi-unwillingly is fine, but prostitution isn’t? Perhaps it hints at Anastasia’s deep-seated  discomfort at having Christian buy her things as part of their contract), however, makes it less likely that she would so willingly enter into a contractual agreement to be Christian’s sex slave, essentially. Oh, but then there’s that “innocence” again…

And the sex. Don’t even get me started on the sex. Author John Flaus mentioned at the Bendigo Writers Festival last month that he thought the sex scenes were really “clinical” and written from an “outsider’s” perspective. Like a lot of sex scenes I’ve read and seen before, though never in real life, the virgin experiences orgasm her first time. She also comes quickly and without fail during each instance of vaginally penetrative sex, a highly unlikely occurrence, and when her clitoris is whipped with a riding crop. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t connote the most warm and fuzzy feelings down there. (Oh, and “down there” and “sex” instead of vagina, vulva and clitoris, the latter of which is only mentioned once or twice, are repetitive, conservative euphemisms that are littered throughout.) Further to the dominance Christian seeks to exert over Anastasia, he repeatedly demands her to “sit still” when he performs sex acts on her. I, for one, don’t know many men who prefer a woman to be unresponsive to his touch, but then this book isn’t exactly based on reality. Despite James being the (seemingly biological) mother of two children, it’s as though 50 Shades was written by someone who’s never had sex before.

One last thing I want to add before I attempt to erase the experience of 50 Shades of Grey from my memory is that I can kind of understand where James is coming from when she writes about the tumultuous, sometimes physically and emotionally painful relationship between Christian and Anastasia. I have fantasised about being emotionally hurt by a lover and having him come back and make it all better again. I have also felt the need to be overpowered by a man, in the seemingly simple, harmless way of pulling me to him in an embrace when I don’t want to be. In that sense I think she taps into a biological need (and I hate to buy into the notion that men and women are evolutionally different and that’s why one hunts and gathers while the other tends to the “heart and home”. Ugh.) to be physically (not necessarily sexually) loved. Like, as a child, when you fall down or mum yells at you and you just want her to hug you and make it all better again. I think it’s also important to note that just because a fantasy occurs in the mind, doesn’t mean it has, needs or wants to be acted out in reality: rape fantasy, for example. That is the one tiny, take-away titbit that warrants merit in 50 Shades, I think. The rest can be filed under the severely abusive, gender- and hetero-normative guidelines that so much of popular culture is today. 50 Shades of Grey as sexual liberation for women? My ass.      

Related: My Week in Pictures 16th August 2012.

Melbourne Writers Festival: Notes on Women in Culture.

Melbourne Writers Festival: Censorship, The Body & Porn.

Elsewhere: [Good Reads] Katrina Lumsden’s Review of 50 Shades of Grey.

Image via November Grey.