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.

TV: What’s Eating April Kempner?

One of the couples I’ve been wanting to get together forever on Grey’s Anatomy finally did a couple of weeks ago: April and Jackson. But, as a virgin who has apparently now broken her promise to Jesus, their love wasn’t meant to be (well, except for that second go around in the men’s bathroom during their boards!).

I just don’t get how you can be a doctor—an occupation where science, fact and the tangible reign supreme—and be religious at the same time. A job which involves you, and other skilled scientists like you, saving someone’s life cannot be clouded by “God’s way” and “oh well, they’ve moved on to a better place.”

I really hate the direction April’s character seems to be going in after her outburst during her examination, in which she tells the facilitators that first and foremost she would pray for her patients and that she’s sick of “holding back my relationship with God” from a bunch of scientists. Did the writers really have to make April’s virginity a direct correlation to her faith? I know a few older virgins who haven’t had the opportunity or are waiting to be in a serious relationship to have sex, not because they think premarital sex is “inappropriate” or that Jesus will hate them if they engage in it. April even goes as far as to say that the reason she’s even more highly strung than usual isn’t because “I broke my promise… The problem is… that it felt good.” Ahh, and so sin rears its ugly Jesse Williams-esque head.

Further to this, when it turns out all of April’s potential attending jobs have been pulled after tanking her boards and Jackson tries to comfort her, she says he just feels guilty because now “no one wants me”. She may have just been referring to hospitals, but I have a sneaking suspicion April also meant potential suitors.

Grey’s Anatomy is usually so progressive when it comes to matters of sex and stereotypes, so I really hope this God-fearing version of April Kempner remedies itself by next season.

Related: The Underlying Message in Grey’s Anatomy’s “Superfreak” Episode.

Image via Putlocker.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Zoo Weekly, what will you think of next? Australia’s hottest asylum seekers, it would appear. [Daily Life]

The dearth of protected sexytimes on TV and in movies lead young people to have more unprotected sexytimes. [Jezebel]

Twitter: humanising the porn star. [Jezebel]

To bleed or not to bleed, that is the question most doctors should be asking their female patients interested in hormonal birth control. [AlterNet]

Apparently, six-year-olds want to be “sexy”. Cue outrage. While some points of the argument are valid, children are naturally sexually curious beings. I remember all my prep friends and I wanted to be “strippers” when we grew up, we thought Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex” was the coolest thing going, and we used to play the “sex game” regularly. Kids just want to do what they think adults do, which they emulate in make-believe. I think it starts to become a problem if these ideals are still being expressed come the onset of puberty when the body is physically ready for what typically accompanies “sexiness”, but certainly not mentally. [Jezebel]

Image via The Hoopla.

TV: Girls—Sexual Harassment & Invasions of Privacy.

Call me crazy, but if my housemate’s significant other invaded my privacy by reading my diary (that is if I kept a diary, but I have experienced the encroaching of a housemate’s significant other on my relationship with him), I would throw down.

Hannah does no such thing on Girls, though, when Marnie’s boyfriend’s friend reads Hannah’s journal and uses it in their band’s song. She doesn’t even try to defend herself to Marnie, who is furious that Hannah would write such intimate things about her relationship. Um, am I missing something here? THOSE WERE HANNAH’S PERSONAL FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS THAT SHE DOCUMENTED IN HER OWN PRIVATE NOTEBOOK THAT WERE NOT MEANT TO BE READ BY OTHERS! (Okay, so maybe Hannah undercuts this argument when she says her notebook is not a “diary” but a “journal” that she someday hopes to publish, but work with me here, people!)

So what if she did publish them, anyway? Hannah’s entitled to her own opinions and she’s entitled to air them in any way she sees fit. (I’ve been in trouble with a friend whom I wrote about on this here blog. I didn’t name them, but they believed everyone would know it was about them because the characteristics I described were very specific, apparently. I was sorry that I upset them but I’m not sorry about what I wrote because it was how I felt.) I think Charlie, Marnie’s boyfriend, was just looking for an excuse to start a fight with Marnie as he was aware their relationship was stagnant. What Hannah wrote was exactly what Marnie expressed to her in the first episode, so I don’t think she has a right to be upset about it.

But  Marnie’s not exactly the most worldly woman. I feel like she’s managed to get by in life on her looks, and she thinks that because she “smells like a Bed, Bath & Beyond” that she doesn’t have to work at her relationship and that that should be enough. This is evident in her break-up sermon with Charlie:

“You watch porn? Why don’t you just, like, picture us?”

When she begs Charlie not to break-up with her, she offers to give him blowjobs if he stays with her. Call me crazy, but I would hazard a guess that healthy, equal sexual relationships would involve giving each other blowjobs on a regular basis. But that’s just me…

Speaking of sex, last week we saw Hannah being touched inappropriately by her boss. When she laments this to Jessa, she asks if Hannah’s flattered by it:

 “I’m not flattered by sexual harassment.”

“Why not? I love that stuff! ‘Sir, I have half a mind to call the authorities. How dare you!’”

Hmm, not exactly as progressive as Girls claims to be…

Related: Girls Just Want to Have Realistic Experiences.

The Harassed & the Harassed-Nots.

Image via Putlocker.