Men Are from Earth, Women Are from Earth

28 03 2014

John Gray Women Venus Men MarsRemember the whole ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ craze that swept the ’90s? Some people still believe in it. I consider it the bilgewater of popular myth. I view it as part of a larger machine in which right-wing conspiracy theorists enshrine old-fashioned ideas about gender difference through pop-culture vehicles like John Gray and Leonard Sax. Even the paranormal radio programme CoasttoCoastAM invites John Gray as a regular guest, but not people who disagree with him.

The notion that male and female brains are fundamentally different has been challenged by neuroscientist Gina Rippon, of Aston University in Birmingham, England. Rippon does not claim that male and female brains are the same—she claims that they are different because of environmental influences. In other words, she suggests, everything children learn, and everything they absorb from their youngest years, informs their concepts of gender. Isn’t that a pioneering concept? Cordelia Fine echoes the same ideas in her acclaimed book Delusions of GenderHowever, there are armchair theorists in every family who want to slap down anybody who rocks the uncomfortably comfortable boat.

At the core of Rippon’s argument is the concept of brain plasticity. She points out studies which show that the brains of London taxi-cab drivers changed after they acquired knowledge of the streets and landmarks of London. After an extended period of time, the cab drivers had created new neural networks to meet the demands of the environment. The point is that the brain is not just a ready-made piece of meat, but a tool to meet the needs of the user. Just as a Gina Rippon Brain Male Female Gender Sex Differencetaxi-cab driver moulds her brain to fit the streets of London, a young boy moulds his brain to suit the needs of an exacting stepfather. That stepfather might try to shut down dolls in a boy, or he might try to shut down cars in a girl.

It is important to note that criticisms of the gender binary do not preclude the fact of transgender identity. Just as any cisgender person identifies with one or another gender, so does a transgender person. Gender is a spectrum, and transgender people can claim any space a cisgender person does along this spectrum (or wagon-wheel/Venn diagram, as I like to think of it).

The point is that it is wrong to assign roles on the basis of gender identity. I understand that in sports we assign roles to traditionally feminine or masculine physiques–like football–but that is an exception. And besides, even then, don’t ‘women’ have a better sense of balance and a better track record of completing long-distance treks? So why do we judge ‘male’ abilities better than ‘female’ ones? All of that aside, we need to form a better standard for treating people on the basis of their gender. Because the fake idea of equality, that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus–without allowing women what men have–constitutes an insult to everybody’s intelligence.





Valentine’s Day and Stupid Sexist Jokes

15 02 2014

Conan O'BrienLet me make this clear right away: I love Conan O’Brien. He is the funniest late-night television show host I have ever watched. He is refreshingly, self-deprecatingly wacky and off-the-wall. It is fun to watch Irish gingers make fun of themselves, too. Most late-night hosts don’t do that—Conan is uncannily British in his farcical humour, which is probably why he’s so popular in so many countries outside the United States. But he doesn’t write his own monologues—he works behind the scenes with writers and then delivers the final product on stage. He is not entirely at fault for the jokes he delivers in his monologues.

While I normally slap my knee uproariously over Conan’s crazy introductory monologues, I’ve been a little bit peeved lately at the show’s jokes about Valentine’s Day because of their retrogressive direction. One of the jokes was about how McDonald’s has offered discounts to 05 - Needle You - Vintage ValentineValentine’s Day couples, and how all the tables will be filled only by one person—presumably a man who was abandoned by his female lover for taking her to such an awful place for the most important date in her calendar. Another joke was about how Valentine’s Day bla bla bla men don’t care bla bla bla women love it bla bla bla therefore punchline about how men don’t care about Valentine’s Day, and just want to get their dicks sucked as payment.

OK. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, and I totally appreciate the overall vibe of the Conan show and other commercial outlets for St Valentine’s Day, but the whole ‘man pays woman with chocolates for sex’ thing is  just kind of annoying because it reinforces several very unfair things that many of us automatically assume about the ritual of love and romance. And it shouldn’t be this way; it should be about romantic love and devotion between consenting partners.

First, there is the assumption that men don’t care about Valentine’s Day as much as women do. Really? What kind of evidence do you have to support this assumption? I’m curious to know. The typical narrative is that the man gives the woman flowers and chocolates in exchange for sex. This suggests that men don’t care as much as women do about romantic love, for that is what Valentine’s Day is all about. It is an incredibly special day in which couples celebrate their love for one another. If you don’t believe the man cares as much Batgirlabout romantic love as the woman does, doesn’t this deserve explaining? Why do you think the man shouldn’t care as much? Men feel romantic desires too, don’t they?

Second, there is the assumption that women don’t care as much about sex as men do on Valentine’s Day. Again, really? Give me hardcore reasons for your assumption. We all know the drill: the man gives the woman chocolates and flowers as an expression of his love and devotion (like some brain-dead, sex-crazed zombie), and the woman rewards him by performing fellatio on him. Or more. This whole scenario suggests that sex is a form of payment to a man by a woman. No. If St Valentine’s Day means anything, it is that couples merge consensually in perfect, harmonic sexual love. There is perfectly good reason to believe that Valentine’s Day should be as sexually pleasing for the woman as for the man. It isn’t her fault that you don’t know where the clitoris is. Maybe that’s why she asked for chocolates.

My intent is not to ruin your joy—there is nothing more precious than true love—but it is to shatter the myth that St Valentine’s Day is an excuse to make a profit off some ill-conceived battle of the sexes. It is not the case that men have to earn sex by giving women flowers and chocolates, and it is not the case that women have to earn love by denying their own sexuality and gratifying a mate. It is far more egalitarian than that. Both women and men acknowledge that they both experience love and lust, and want to share it with one another. How fucking complicated is that? It sounds like a fun time to me!

And with that, I leave you with ‘Welcome to my VD’, by my favourite comedienne, Deven Green:

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2746119/welcome_to_vd_comedy_parody_by_deven_green/





8 Reasons Why Transphobia Makes No Sense

22 11 2013

Transgender Man Evon YoungTransgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) was 20 November, but I didn’t post this blog entry in time. Ironically, it has allowed me to cull from the Web information that was only available on the day itself. It has allowed me to calculate the shocking cost in human terms of hatred toward transgender people.

**Trigger warning for graphic description of violent crime**

It has allowed me to acknowledge the horrifying fact that Evon Young, a 22 year-old rapper from Milwaukee, was suffocated, beaten, and shot before being dismembered and set ablaze.

Transphobia is abhorrent in all its forms, but it takes on a new shape when it involves class and race. Many victims of transphobia are poor, black, and utterly lacking in social or financial resources. That’s enough Carmen Carrerato think about in itself.

Compassion is key to ending transphobia—there is nothing more needed than an understanding soul—but I also find it helpful to challenge transphobes with reason (of which compassion is the keystone). Thus, I offer eight reasons why transphobia makes no sense. If this doesn’t sway you, I don’t know what will.

1. Transgender people challenge gender stereotypes

This is a classic argument used against transgender people by the religious right-wing. Yes, they do challenge gender stereotypes. So, what? What is wrong with a person offending your sense of the way males or females should appear or behave? You don’t have the right to restrict another person’s rights just because of your ideas about gender.

2. Transgender people reinforce gender stereotypes

This is the reverse of the supposedly ‘conservative’ stance. It states that transgender people are sexist because they reify ideas about gender. For example, a transgender man might cut his hair short and wear pants. How is this any different from anything a cisgender man might do? If you can blame the transgender man for Chaz Bono Cherstereotyping, you also have to blame the cisgender man for stereotyping. There is no difference. This attitude suggests that cisgender men can get away with being masculine, while transgender men can’t. Vice-versa for transgender women and cisgender women. If a cisgender woman can get away with growing long hair without being seen as sexist, why can’t a transgender woman? As long as cisgender people maintain gender stereotypes, they are in no place to judge transgender people for doing the same. We all live in the same milieu of gender-crap.

3. It’s unnatural

Of course this is bullshit. As I stated in 8 Reasons Why Homophobia Makes No Sense, just because something is natural does not make it right, and just because something is unnatural does not make it wrong. Clearly cutting hair is unnatural, but how many people create an uproar over that? Likewise, not Amanda Simpsoncutting your hair is natural, and few people create an uproar over that. So even if being transgender were unnatural, the appeal to nature argument is a fallacy. A thing doesn’t have to be natural in order to be valid.

4. Transgender people reduce people to their genitals

As opposed to cisgender people?? The argument is that transgender people reduce people to their genitals because they fixate on gender reassignment surgery. First, not all transgender people seek gender reassignment surgery—some transgender men can give birth, and some transgender women don’t want penectomies; second, so what if they did? There’s nothing wrong with wanting different genitals. It isn’t a fucking gender statement; it’s them realising themselves. In addition, some cisgender women undergo hysterectomies and mastectomies, and there are post-menopausal women, but we don’t say they are no longer women. Why should we say the same about transgender women? Why should cisgender women care so much about their anatomy, but not transgender women?

5. Genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation is an horrific crime against humanity in which all manner of mutilations are Trans Mancommitted against women and girls for the sake of the virginity, marriageability, social acceptance, and suppression of desire among women and girls, often with dire physical consequences. It is an abhorrent act that no cultural relativist can justify. It has nothing whatsoever to do with gender reassignment surgery. People who seek gender reassignment surgery do so voluntarily—and often at great cost—to fulfil their needs. It is absolutely wrong to equate FGM to transgender people seeking gender reassignment surgery.

6. Transgender women are dicks in disguise

There is this weird idea among some members of what is called the radical-feminist movement that transgender women are really men disguising as women to infiltrate the sacred sisterhood and violate them. Ugh. First of all, if you believe in gender ambiguity, how does somebody who’s fighting for their right to be recognised as a woman threaten you? Second, if a transgender woman has undergone sexual reassignment surgery, how can she do anything to you that any other woman hasn’t?

7. They’re pathologically confused.

No, they are not pathologically confused. You are. They know who they are, even if you don’t. In case anybody has any doubts, the American Psychological Association has not only validated transgenderTransgender Child identities as healthy, but has also provided a very helpful booklet of information for those who still don’t understand why transgender identity is good and healthy.

8. What about children and families?

I understand your apprehension. It seems like transgender people can’t or shouldn’t create families. The fact is, some of them do, and all of them have come from one. There are transgender men who bear and nurse children. Why should they be treated differently from other men? Because of their anatomy? Remember the woman who has had a hysterectomy. I understand that this seems silly and abstract, but think about it.

Those are among the many reasons why transphobia makes no sense. After reading about Evon Young’s horrific murder, I was paralysed with horror, but I figured that providing these points might help educate people about the real-life consequences of transphobia. It is not rational, good, or healthy to be cruel. Transgender people need our support, and wherever you meet a transgender person in need, give them the coat off your back.





The Nomenclature of Gay and Female Bodies

17 11 2013

Most of us are familiar with the highly developed and sophisticated set of terms used to describe the female body. (Understanding that gender is a complex creature, here by female body I mean the traditional concept of the biological female body.) Many, if not most, of these terms compare women to animals. In my experience some women don’t care, some women find them empowering, and many find them demeaning. This is totally understandable. I guess it just depends on the individual.

I am quite certain most of these terms are available on Urban Dictionary in case you are unsure of their meaning, but here I have provided a few of the most famous ones. Unsurprisingly, the majority of them seem to treat women in terms of their sexual relation to men. A simple Google search for each term reveals its image in the popular imagination. Oh, I suppose this is the time to tell you that the below images are not safe for work. Also, *trigger warning* for potentially degrading images.

First, we have the bitch:

Female Nomenclature - Bitch

OK, so this term does not refer strictly to the body, but it still compares women to animals, which is a running theme here. The bitch is supposed to be an unpleasantly feisty woman. Funny. I would never call Helena Bonham Carter a bitch—I would just call her magnificently talented—but I guess you could make the argument that a bitch is a good thing.

Then there is the fox:

Samantha Fox - Leather

While the bitch is a ball-breaking ‘cock-blocker’ (not exactly the same thing as a cuckold), the fox is a pornographic delight for heterosexual men everywhere. Samantha Fox, who happens to have a female partner (to the chagrin of men who grew up in the ’80s), calls her fans ‘foxies’, so sometimes it might be a positive term.

The fox closely resembles the vixen (which happens to be a female fox):

Female Nomenclature - Vixen

Here I have used a picture of the character Vixen from the Disney film The Fox and the Hound because a Google search of vixen yielded nothing but images of ’80s hair bands and pornography models. The vixen, I think, is supposed to be more sweetly seductive than the fox.

Even more seductive is the sex-kitten:

Female Nomenclature - Sex Kitten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, the term does refer to her sexual relation to a man (or, I suppose, her sexual relation to a woman too.) The sex kitten puts the vixen to shame. She is ultra-cute and coy, and loves to toy with men’s desires. Personally, my idea of a sex kitten is Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman—a lady who will claw your balls off if you fuck with her:

Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman

In this case I must maintain that the sex kitten resembles something more akin to a powerful, self-asserting agent—like the Egyptian goddess Bastet—than a pleasantly-purring princess. Of course, this was from a film in which men themselves were compared with bats and penguins. Oh, there was also the Poodle Woman, but she was more creepy than sexy, which I kind of like.

And what of the majestic cougar?

Female Nomenclature - Cougar III

She is the sexually mature, over-forty mother of cats. There are many a pimpled teenage boy who fantasize about her. But why can’t older women be sexual and vibrant without kow-towing to silly puerile sex fantasies? Jessica Lange, Miranda Richardson, and Ellen Burstyn have already proved it is possible.

But the complimentary anthropomorphic archetypes end there, it seems, for we also have the dog:

Female Nomenclature - Dog

Does this look like a woman to you? It doesn’t to me. I am pretty confident in saying this is categorically cruel and demeaning.

Another case in which the woman is compared negatively with an animal is the cow:

Female Nomenclature - Cow

I guess this is supposed to refer to an overweight woman? So, what? It’s cruel and unnecessary. I take great delight in the thought of a cow daintily trampling the smug teenage boys (and sometimes older men) who mock women’s weight.

The nail in the coffin is the whale:

Female Nomenclature - Whale

The whale is actually a graceful and intelligent creature, but somehow this fact has escaped the minds of those who compare women’s bodyweight to that of a whale. Hopefully they get crushed by a calving cow while surfing the waves of southern California and, while pinned under her weight, have to watch her calf suckle from her teat, as the cow and her calf wash away. That would be sweet justice.

This trend in ascribing animal traits to women applies to lesbians too, particularly in the form of the bull-dyke:

Female Nomenclature - Bulldyke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is just one image of the bull-dyke, and it suggests there is power in the term. There are other images which are decidedly less sympathetic. The bull-dyke is a large, strong, assertive gay woman. I guess this is another case of ‘pick or choose’ whether you like the term or not. By the way, is that Betty Friedan? At any rate, I think she rocks.

Another lesbian category is the lipstick lesbian:

Female Nomenclature - Lipstick Lesbian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In accord with the third-wave feminist movement, she needn’t be masculine in order to be a woman. I don’t see a problem with that. Women should be able to be whatever they want to be, whether masculine, feminine, or gender-queer. Again, I guess it’s your business whether or not you like the term ‘lipstick lesbian’.

Let us not forget the leatherdyke:

Female Nomenclature - Leatherdyke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She wears leather and rides around on a motorcycle. She takes the dominant, butch role in sexual relations with other women, her preferred instrument of pleasure being either a fist or the strap-on dildo. Her leather gear symbolizes her tough exterior, which is supposed to be attractive to lipstick lesbians.

There is a very interesting intersection between women and gay men in terms of nomenclature: both groups have been categorised by body type, especially in terms of animals or sexual nature. The dynamic might be different with gay men in that there isn’t a heterosexual male presence influencing the categorisation, but there is an internal, sometimes self-defeating, pressure to do so. And sometimes women do view men in objectifying ways, although I think it’s safe to say this is less common  only because women know by experience what it feels like to have this done to them.

Some straight women will feel guilty about making some of these categorisations—and yet I almost want them to, because it would suggest that they acknowledge that they have sexual desires too. This doesn’t feel harmful to me, since I know men have traditionally been perceived as the sexual agents, and women, as the sexual patients. So read on, straight women and gay men.

Perhaps the most popular man is the twink:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Twink

He is called a twink because he is smooth and filled with cream, like a Twinkie. (Gay men are vile and disgusting in their metaphor.) He is the property of Hostess, which is now owned by the private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. Forget animals. He is a processed piece of junk-food from the local convenience store. How’s that for dehumanization?

But then there is the bear:

Gay Bears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bears adopt a rough and gruff exterior, but are often surprisingly sensitive and articulate. They do co-habitate, but the bear-net is loose. Some bears tend toward chubs or otters. (We will get to these latter two below.) Sadly, some of them believe in the ‘straight-acting’ script, which states that a real man isn’t gay, because gay men are somehow unmanly (whatever ‘manly’ is supposed to be). Bears who like leather are called ‘leather bears’.

A young, small bear is called a cub. A cub is just a baby bear; he is younger. What he has in common with his older peer, though, is that he tends to be hirsute. Hair is the crowning glory of the cub and the bear, whether it be a beard, or—ahem—anything else.

Akin to the cub and bear is the otter.

Gay Male Nomenclature - Otter

The otter is basically the same thing as the cub or bear—he is hairy—but unlike the cub or bear the otter is always slighter in build. Also he tends to have a markedly playful nature.

Similar to bears, cubs, and otters is the satyr:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Satyr

The satyr is half otter, half ‘average’. That is, while he has an average amount of hair on the upper half of his body, he has an enormous amount of the stuff on the lower half. Admittedly, it is not the most common of body terms used in the gay community, but it exists. The satyr of Greek mythology has an enormous sexual appetite, but I am unsure how far this applies in the modern-day gay male usage of the term.

And then there is the chub. The chub is just a large man, like the female whale:

Female Nomenclature - Whale

Some people like the term chubs, some people don’t. Some people are attracted to chubs and seem to use it in a complimentary way, yet I can’t help but think that the term is flippant, if not slightly degrading. Again, decide for yourself.

Then there is the dolphin:

Olympics Day 8 - Swimming

Like the twink, the dolphin is slim and hairless (and usually white), but unlike the twink he usually shaves it off so he can swim faster through the water. I guess he would be like a slim, sexy whale (depending on your preferences, of course). And like satyr, the term dolphin isn’t very common, but it exists. He is the prototypical gay bar go-go dancer.

One of the stranger creatures is the leatherdaddy:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Leather Daddy

The leatherdaddy is much like the leatherdyke—he performs an assertive, dominant sexual role—and he is usually older than his twinkish partner. I don’t get the weird ‘daddy’ thing—it kind of creeps me out—but I think it’s just supposed to signify adoration of an older, powerful man. Also like the leatherdyke, the leatherdaddy is totally into BD/SM. Oh, and Tom of Finland’s caricature of the male form is obviously exaggerated (as caricatures are)—most men do not have such ridiculously broad shoulders and narrow hips. I guess it’s just a fantasy.

Finally, there is the pig:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Pig

By pig, I don’t mean ‘male chauvinist pig’, I just mean a hungry, nasty sex animal. That is the way it is used in the gay male community. The pig doesn’t necessarily dislike romance—he may love it—but he is noted for his love of rough, loud sex. He is into all sorts of things that I cannot possibly enumerate here, nor should I for the sake of decency.

So there you have it. Those are the chief terms used to describe the bodies of women and gay men. Sometimes the term does not refer specifically to the body, but it does refer to the personality and the way in which the individual relates to another, often sexually. I won’t even attempt here to dissect how the media influences concepts of physical beauty—that is an entirely separate blog entry—but I do want to draw your attention to the way people categorise women and gay men according to body and personality type. Some people like it, some don’t, and some just don’t care. My only caveat is this—never be mean-spirited.





RuPaul’s Queens Get “Red” for Filth on Their Perfume Commercials

24 03 2013

RuPaul RuPaul's Drag Race Perfume Commercial ChallengeLook! It’s RuPaul smelling “Grandma’s vadge”, as the always meek and subtle Aubrey O’Day put it. I usually hate reality television, and I’m constantly watching documentaries on asteroids and volcanoes, but RuPaul’s Drag Race pumps out some hot stuff, hookers. On Episode 8 of Season 5, the dolls had to concoct their own unique fragrance and make a commercial for it which reflected their personalities.

Well, I was not terribly impressed with the girls’ work. London makeup artist Joseph Harwood himself expressed surprise over the quality of the commercials–and I agree with him. They could have been more polished as actors. Nevertheless, I do think some queens did better than others, and I’ve included their delightfully tongue-in-cheek perfume commercials below. Enjoy!

1) ‘Red…for Filth’

Alaska had RuPaul cackling like a witch with this fine gem. The pun in ‘red’ is obvious, but it’s just so funny and catchy that it hits you out of nowhere like a friendly drunk hooker turning tricks on the street. Alaska’s right up there with Jinkx in terms of high-kookiness, in my opinion. She carried through with the theme of red in her runway look in the same episode, and her fragrance was the only one Aubrey didn’t think smelled like Grandma’s vadge. (Alaska wanted to create a raw, earthy, leathery smell.) So, deservedly, Alaska won this, her first, weekly challenge. Are you read(y) for me?

2) ‘Heroine’

Another clever double entendre. As Lineysha Sparx said in a previous episode, Detox looks like eyes with legs, but she is so posh and polished, and so very refined and committed to her art, that she is virtually unassailable. Her dark, alluring, expertly applied makeup matches perfectly with the message she conveys in her commercial: ‘I may be a drug addict, but, by golly, I am glamourous about it’. The deep ‘heroin’ voice nailed it for Joan Van Ark, one of the judges who critiqued her in this episode and loved her for being so bold. By the way, Heroine is available at the clinic.

3) ‘Delusion’

Jinkx is the queen of glamour-kook. She is a melding of beauty and humour. Tammie Brown has done kooky, but she depended too much on kookiness at the cost of glamour. Alaska is kooky, like Jinkx, but she doesn’t possess Jinkx’s appreciation of vintage drag, which is important when you want to make drag history accessible to modern-day youth. Jinkx is multi-layered and fascinating, always responding to criticisms from Michelle Visage by upgrading her look and growing as a glamour-queen. She is the strange, gorgeous, funny vaudeville surprise. And she isn’t defensive or catty, which is refreshing. Con-vince yourself!

So, while I prefer educational documentaries on asteroids and volcanoes, I have a weak spot for RuPaul’s Drag Race. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be for RuPaul to smell the samples of her minions. It must be like eating poisonous flowers. I am confident, however, that she will make a wise decision about who will take home the crown. And I will let you speculate on who that individual shall be. *hint, hint*





Drag Queen Jinkx Monsoon Talks Gender and Makeup Tips

14 02 2013

The fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race has commenced, and we are all dying to know which queens will make the cut to the much-relished triumvirate, let alone who will win the crown. I’ve actually had a hard time identifying the queen I think will win (in the past I’ve accurately predicted Raja and Sharon Needles), but I am quite enamoured with Seattle’s own Jinkx Monsoon. She’s just so bananas and full of character! And purpose.

I’m going to tell you why I think Jinkx is such a fascinating creature (and might deserve to win the crown), but first I want you to watch this video of her sharing her makeup tips as well as her ideas about gender, drag, and performance art:

The first thing that caught my attention were her thoughts on hyperfemininity in Hollywood films: “There are a lot of really hyperfeminine villains in American culture. I think we think that women can only be evil if they use their seduction to…gain status over their enemies.” I don’t think Jinkx is saying, “Hey, this is what women should be!” I think she is parodying traditional expectations of womanhood by making them look absurd and turning them on their heads by glorifying the traditionally scorned woman. Often, in drag, the “evil woman” is actually the misunderstood woman with a rich history that Jinkx Monsoon Seattle Drag Queen RuPaul's Drag Racedeserves exploration before fielding judgement.

I also appreciated Jinkx’s comments about drag as a performance art: “Beyond just the fact that you have to paint your face and change your body and step into this whole new skin…. It’s an art-form because it’s not just a form of self-expression, but it’s a forum for kind of discussing topics and bringing things to the foreground that you want people to start talking about. I think really good drag makes you think about something, just like any–any good spectacle or theatre piece or anything–they kind of make you take a look at something you may have not noticed yet.” This is precisely why drag is not just gender illusion–it is gender commentary. But it’s still fun to dress up, of course.

The most profound thing Jinkx says in her interview is about gender identity. “The best drag queens are commenting on gender Jinkx Monsoon Seattle Drag Queen RuPaul's Drag Race IIor sexuality. And when you’re playing a character, you can say things that you wouldn’t normally say as yourself. Like, I can call out all kinds of bullshit as Jinkx that I would never really talk about as myself.” In other words, men become drag queens to comment on the stupid ideas of sex roles produced largely in the middle twentieth century. But this aesthetic is also pretty, and they do celebrate that. It’s OK to be feminine too. Both are good.

Drag queens like Jinkx Monsoon are fascinating because they know what they are doing. They are sophisticated and ethereal about their craft, but they also know how to turn it out on-stage. Jinkx knows that she is mocking traditionally feminine roles while also celebrating the beauty of femininity–which is worthy. This is a hard line to walk, but I think she aces it.

Besides. My snitty-tits said so.





Miss B Just Got Pregnant–with Twins–Watching This Judith Butler Video

10 08 2012

Isn’t she great?? I love Judith Butler! She’s my hero. I wish more people were as critical and as probing (literally, tehehe) as she. Please, do let me know what you think about her thought-thingies. I think she’s fuckin’ spot on–she actually kind of comes across as down-to-earth and relateable, despite her exotic musings. She shows that with philosophy, you can question anything–from biological determinism to religion and even the laws of nature themselves. (That’s Michio Kaku territory.) That is what makes philosophy so powerful. (Don’t worry–I’m not going to start a Judith Butler religion or anything like that. Just sayin’ she’s brill, m8.) At the last minute, I have included another video. I implore you to watch both for your benefit.





Miss B Digs Her Nails Into A Gay Conservative Catholic

15 07 2012

I’m getting weary of the old-fashioned sex difference revival. (Yes, I’m channelling Linda Evans right now. Shut up.) It’s everywhere in the media, from Time to Newsweek. Clinical psychologist Rosalind Barnett and journalist Caryl Rivers tackle the subject in their book Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs. They critique the resurgence of gender myths in modern society, especially since 9/11, paring away at the bad science propping up such myths and showing how it hurts us.  And, boy, can these bitches mount a queen. In ‘The Testosterone Test,’ a section of Chapter Eight in their book, they mention a gay man who has embraced the specious notion that testosterone makes males more aggressive than females. To me this is anathema, and I’ll tell you why. I will, I tell you. I will!

As I’ve suggested, the section deals with claims that males are more aggressive than females because they have higher testosterone levels. The authors admit that males have on average ten times more testosterone than females, but they point out that the relationship between testosterone and aggression is very foggy indeed, and that we do not know whether testosterone causes aggression levels to spike, aggression causes testosterone levels to spike, or something else entirely causes both to spike. In fact, it is doubtful that there is any direct relationship between testosterone and aggression in males, according to John Archer of the University of Central Lancashire, who conducted a major review of the literature [1]. So we should remain sceptical about claims that testosterone causes males to be more aggressive than females. It’s more complex and nuanced than that, and failing to realise this point might have real-life consequences.

To show how influential quack notions about gender science can be in popular culture, Barnett and Rivers cite a sensationalistic 2000 cover story in the New York Times Magazine called ‘The He Hormone’ [2]. The article wasn’t written by a scientist–it wasn’t even written by a science journalist–it was written by a gay conservative Catholic essayist with HIV called Andrew Sullivan. Barnett and Rivers note that it would have been valuable reading if Sullivan had written about taking shots of testosterone to manage his HIV condition, because this might have great benefits, but he attempted to write a full-fledged science article on the relationship between testosterone and sex, citing out-of-the-mainstream scientists and making factual errors andinaccurate claims along the way. As Barnett and Rivers write,

Robert Sapolsky, an eminent Stanford University professor of biology and neurology and an expert on testosterone, told Slate that Sullivan ‘is entitled to his fairly nonscientific opinion, but I’m astonished at the New York Times [for publishing his article].’ Saposky notes that one of the studies cited by Sullivan is a scientific laughingstock that was discredited long ago. Three other respected researchers signed a letter to the Times about the article, stating, ‘[i]n particular, there are scant results from well-controlled experiments showing that testosterone affects behaviour of normal men in the ways asserted by Sullivan.’

So, given this scientific insight, my question to Sullivan is: Really? Are you serious? I am gonna put on my Lee Press-On Nails and slap the bitch off your face. You should know better, queen!

But, in honesty, why in the world would a gay man be promulgating such pseudoscience? Immediately I am drawn to five facts: he is gay, male, conservative, Catholic, and HIV positive. This is a very complex archetype to read, but to me it ultimately screams “sexual insecurity.” Of course, nobody should be promoting the pseudoscience Barnett and Rivers describe, but one would think that a gay man, of all people, would be among the first to recognise and criticise it. Doesn’t Dan Savage campaign against gay bullying? Doesn’t Sullivan? Anti-gay bullying is motivated largely by gender norms, after all, and gay people don’t fit  into the traditional male-female procreative script so integral to such norms. I think this strange disjunction in gay men like Sullivan stems from a sort of schizophrenia or cognitive dissonance over gay men being aggressive but also compassionate. Gay men want to be accepted for being effeminate, but, ironically, they also want to assume the bully’s role and hence gain power over the people who once tortured them. The white, bearded, brunette bear in plaid becomes this macho–in some cases very supercilious–bully towards the shaved, tanned, blond twink at the local gay disco. (Don’t get me wrong–I think they’re both silly for their own reasons.) The effect isn’t physical, but it’s psychological. And that’s also damaging.

Everybody should be dispelling gender myths, but one would expect gay men to be among the first to do so, because of their own personal experiences with how such myths have hurt them. But faggots have foggy memories, and their minds are like phantasmic labyrinths. I don’t think Sullivan wants to hurt people, but I think he does so with his essay. I think he might be confused, desperate, and slightly egotistical. Gay people should be reading more academic literature on feminism and gender theory, like Barnett and Rivers’s book or Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, and they should be constructing an argument which produces a fuller image of who we should be as human beings. We should be raping the airwaves with real, sound, solid science on how everybody suffers from gender myths.

1. J. Archer, ‘The influence of testosterone on human aggression,’ British Journal of Psychology 82 (1991); 1-28.

2. Sullivan. “Why Men Are Different.”





Women Who Like Gay Porn

8 04 2012

Surprise! No, not really. It’s quite common-sensical, actually–a lot of women like to watch pornography. You might think this strange, assuming either that pornography objectifies women, or that women are sexless emotional angels, but in fact you’d be wrong. It turns out a lot of the pornography women like to watch is gay. This actually makes sense for several reasons, and it seems to corroborate research on female lust, voyeurism, and promiscuity.

The first reason it makes sense for women to like watching gay pornography is pretty intuitive. Just as straight men are sexually attracted to women, straight women are sexually attracted to men. Hence, just as straight men like watching lesbian pornography, straight women like watching gay pornography. Now people will try to break up this neat little analysis by screaming, ‘But women are less visual than men! Research ‘n’ stuff says so!’ This is basically what Tracy Clark-Flory says in her sex column at Salon in which she responds to a woman experiencing a ridiculously unnecessary tug-o’-war between her ‘feminine’ prudery and her lust for man-on-man action: ‘It’s true that research has found men to be more visual’ concedes the columnist in a tone of tired surrender. Sigh. The all-powerful spell of biologically determined sex difference prevails once again: ‘Men are like this! Women are like that! It’s in the genes! No nuance required! John Gray! Venus! Mars! Easy as cake and commercial as shit! Tehehehe!’ But there are two problems with this: Clark-Flory didn’t even direct the reader to a name connected with the research she ‘cited’ (the curse of popular publishing), and pornography isn’t just about vision anyway; it’s about hearing and other senses, too. So, even if the research proved men to be more visual than women, women might still derive other sensory pleasure from pornography, or it might simply provoke their imagination. The point is that straight women are attracted to beautiful men by way of many senses, and beautiful men are a dime a dozen in gay pornography, hence it makes sense for women to enjoy it–despite the mountains of shame that may weigh on their conscience due to age-old prescriptions on women’s  desires.

The second reason it makes sense for women to like gay pornography is that it doesn’t involve sexual exploitation of females. We all know the formula: some ugly man slams a woman’s head into the cushion of a sofa inside some gross, overlighted Hollywood McMansion while she squeals like a stuck pig and rubs the nipples of her voluminous breasts with her French manicure.  The man’s looks don’t matter, because he is the agent, while she is the screaming lump of gorgeous, glistening flesh to be used. It’s obviously male-centred and male-dominated. It almost feels like rape. Gay male pornography doesn’t have this. It involves a man penetrating another man, so there is no man dominating and objectifying a woman. Some gay pornography does involve objectification, but there seems to be a mutual respect and understanding rather than a real-life power division. This isn’t necessarily so for straight pornography, which can conjure up troubling images and memories for many women. But straight sex shouldn’t be the way it is portrayed in pornography–there is no reason why a man and woman should not have mutually respectful, understanding, and loving sex. That’s what should be depicted in straight pornography. Until that day comes, though, women will like gay pornography. Heck, they might still like it afterward, simply because they like watching gorgeous men having sex.

The third reason it makes sense for women to like gay male pornography is that it lacks a storyline. This is curious and much less intuitive. In his blog Straightguise, openly gay clinical sexologist Joe Kort, PhD, cites an article by Elizabeth F. Stewart in In Family magazine called ‘Hot Man On Man Action (And the Lesbians Who Love Watching It)’. Kort agrees with Stewart that lesbians enjoy gay pornography for its raw nature and de-emphasis on background and storyline, but he adds that straight women may enjoy gay pornography for this reason, too. But women are supposed to like storylines, right? Wrong, according to Kort. Kort cites Stewart as saying in her article that ‘It is a myth that all women–lesbian or straight–want a storyline and emotional content in porn.’ He, too, mentions that women might enjoy gay male pornography because of the balance of power as well as the obviously real orgasm (often faked by women in straight pornography). Obviously it isn’t scientifically conclusive, but Kort’s suggestion that women like gay male pornography for its lack of a storyline, and for its mutual, egalitarian rawness, deserves a great deal of further exploration, because it totally defies the assumption that women are overwhelmingly sexless and emotional creatures. (But, then, a lot of the best gay male pornography is highly emotional and romantic, and many gay men will attest to this, citing some of the highest-quality specimens of film portraying men in love.)

But why do lesbians like gay male pornography? Because some of them do! This was surprising to me. It’s anecdotal, but I worked with a lesbian at a theatre in Vancouver, and when I asked her about this, she nodded, “Yes, it’s true.” We already know one reason, it seems: as Stewart noted, some lesbians like the rough, anonymous nature of gay male pornography. I can only speculate about the other reasons: so-called ‘lesbian’ pornography is fake, degrading rubbish made by straight men for straight men (it says a lot when lesbian pornography is so off-putting as to turn lesbians on to gay men poking each other’s anuses); lesbians may derive a cerebral pleasure watching men do each other instead of women; and you don’t have to be attracted to somebody’s sex to be attracted to what they’re doing and the way they’re doing it. This last point is important. You can be turned on by what other people do without being attracted to their biological sex per se. So, that is perfectly good reason for lesbians to like gay male pornography, especially when women are so poorly portrayed in the industry.

I should mention income disparities in pornography. Defenders of straight pornography will often argue that the industry isn’t unfair towards women, because the women, being the objects of desire, actually earn more money than men. But this doesn’t necessarily give women an economic advantage over men in the industry. For who is the producer and the director? Probably a man, and that man probably earns more than any of the female models. So even then men might have an economic advantage over women in the industry. Besides, the cost of pornography is not just economic–it is also social and psychological, given the image of women it peddles to the male masses. No wonder a lot of women choose gay over straight pornography.

One last point should be made: research doesn’t necessarily support the assumption that women are more monogamous or less libidinous than men. Self-surveys do not actually reveal how people feel, or what they actually do. The media tend innacurately to portray men as more promiscuous than women when in fact women reveal a similar level of sexual desire when interviewed privately and discreetly, as Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers explain in Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs (pp. 58-9). We get a more honest picture if we look at our closely-related simian cousins. While Darwin observed female chimpanzees’ sexual swellings, he failed to notice the “12-day period around a chimpanzee’s maximum tumescence, when she typically mates about one to four times an hour with thirteen or more partners”, according to Barnett and Rivers, quoting Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (p. 53). In fact, there might even be reason for women to be even more promiscuous than men, or at least for men to be more loyal to women than previously believed. As Barnett and Rivers note (pp. 61-3), human females don’t go into oestrus, so human males don’t know when the females are fertile. It could be two or three days out of the month, but he doesn’t know which days these are. Hence, to ensure he successfully spreads his genes, it makes sense for the male to have sex as often as possible with the same female, not with many other females, since he might be killed or injured by their mates. Barnett and Rivers explain this increasingly accepted paradigm even further in their book, which is very much worth reading. What we can say based on these observations is that women like sex, and sex with a lot of different men, a lot more than we might wish to believe given our predilection for safe and secure sex roles.

To summarise, a lot of women like gay pornography, because they’re sexually attracted to men (if they’re straight), gay pornography doesn’t exploit women, it lacks a storyline (which women don’t necessarily crave), and lesbians dislike the degrading, fake portrayal of women in straight pornography (while taking pleasure in the sex acts of people despite their gender). We ultimately get a picture of women’s true desires, which is extremely transgressive. Pornography has been bad for both men and women, but it could be good for both. The point is that women liking gay porn liberates both sexes. It lets men enjoy the role of the sexual giver for once, and women, the role of the sexual agent, for, in the end, a black-and-white power-division isn’t healthy–a balance is.





Mapping American Social Attitudes

28 03 2012

I’ve found maps fascinating ever since I was a wee lad. I remember getting a globe for my birthday in 1986 and an atlas for Christmas in 1991, and getting new maps and globes over the years to watch the changes in national boundaries. I was shitty at math but adored maps. Maps say so much in pictures  about people, politics, migratory patterns, industry, the environment, natural resources, social attitudes, and loads of other hot, steamy, bloggable stuff. Looking at different maps of the United States, we can see a stark divide in political and social attitudes about race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. Here I want you to take a look at some maps of the U.S. to see where different attitudes are concentrated. It’s amazing to see the clear patterning of regional differences, which in turn shows us where we have our work cut out for us in terms of achieving social equity.

We can start this work by looking at the political attitudes, which frequently overlap with social ones. Consider the following maps of the 2008 U.S. presidential election. The first map shows states with red, Republican majorities, and those with blue, Democratic majorities; the second one shows this same information, but with a focus on population density.

As we can see, Republican voters were clustered in the south, the Great Plains, and the interior west, while Democratic voters were clustered in the northeast, Great Lakes, and west coast. As it so happens, the red areas also generally reflect sparsely populated areas, and the blue areas, more densely populated areas, revealing a correlation between cities and Democratic values.

But does the Republican-Democrat divide reflect something more than just urban versus rural? If we look at the following Gallup maps from 2011 and 2010, respectively, we get a better idea how conservatives and liberals are distributed across the country.

Not only are the northeast and northwest regions predominantly Democratic and urban, but they are also decidedly more liberal than the south and the midland. (The midland tends to be a grey area, as we shall see.) The ideological divide along geographical lines begins to deepen. Urbanity, Democratic politics, and liberalism begin to characterize the northeast and west coast while rurality, Republican politics, and conservatism begin to characterize the hinterland.

The regional difference comes into even sharper focus when we look at education and religiosity in America. Below is a 2009 Gallup map showing the most religious and most secular states in the country as well as a 2000 Census Bureau map showing educational attainment.

As the first map suggests, the south is much more religious than average, while Cascadia and New England are much more secular than average. The second map shows the inverse for education: the more secular areas tend to have better-educated people, and the more religious areas tend to have less-educated people, especially when we compare Washington state and Massachusetts with Mississippi. What this seems to show is that religiosity and lower educational attainment pattern together in the south, while secularism and higher educational attainment pattern together in New England and Cascadia (anchored by the cultural and educational centers of Boston and Seattle, respectively).

This ideological divide becomes particularly important when we look at the history of black civil rights in the United States. Consider these maps on slavery and anti-miscegenation laws:

It’s probably no surprise that the south consisted almost entirely of slave states, and the north and west almost entirely of free states and territories. Nor is it surprising that the map of anti-miscegenation laws so closely follows this pattern, with the south resisting the repeal of racist marriage laws until 1967, over one hundred years after slavery was abolished. The south wasn’t always overwhelmingly Republican, though: the region was full of “Dixiecrats” when the liberal Democrat and conservative Republican binary was not as stark as it is today.

But this general pattern of a blue, liberal region wrapping around a red, conservative hinterland doesn’t end with race; it also shows up in opinions about women, women’s rights, and sex differences, as illustrated in the following maps of women’s suffrage laws and attitudes about abortion.

In the suffrage laws map, the divide between a conservative south and a liberal north and west is slightly blurred. Large parts of the northeast joined with the south in resistance to suffrage, but vast parts of the west and northwest remained progressive on this issue, in stark contrast with the south. The north-south binary reappears, however, in the 2006 abortion map, which shows a northeast and west coast far friendlier toward reproductive rights than the south.

The south’s apparent concern for unborn babies seems incompatible with its poor record on child welfare. We see another stark regional difference looking at maps of state-by-state child poverty rates and overall child welfare across the United States.

On the 2008 child welfare map, children are better off in the lighter-shaded areas, which include Washington state, Utah, the Upper Midwest, and New England, but they are worse off in the south–the same part of the country where women’s rights, black civil rights, and post-secondary educational attainment tend to lag behind, and where religiosity tends to flourish. A very similar pattern holds for child poverty rates, with a dark band of impoverished children in the south and a lighter strip of well-off children in the west, north, and northeast.

No discussion of American social attitudes would be complete without mention of gay rights, which seems to be the social justice zeitgeist of our time. It’s everywhere in the news, at least in the United States, where everything is controversial. Once again, the general pattern we have been seeing holds true when we look at the maps below showing the advance of gay rights in the United States.

The first map shows the northeast, Midwest, and west coast taking the lead in knocking down old laws banning sodomy between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes. Most of the south (as well as Mormon country) had to be forced by a 2003 Supreme Court ruling to catch up with the rest of the country. And, in typical fashion, the northeast, Midwest (Iowa), and northwest (Washington state) shine bright blue as the beacons in the gay marriage movement, while the south and Great Plains are steeped in a mostly dark blood red. We must take care not to lump the entire south into the category of “retrogressive”, however: one former slave state–Maryland–is now a gay marriage state. Now, that’s a remarkable transformation. How many states can say that they used to have slaves, but they will soon have legally married gay couples if all goes according to plan?

Certainly, looking at a few maps gives only a rough depiction of social attitudes in America, and much more investigation is required to yield a truly refined and nuanced portrait of the issue, but we can still get a general idea where American attitudes lie with respect to the rights of women, minorities, children, poor people, etc., by looking at maps. Cascadia and New England generally represent more liberal, educated, healthy people while the south generally represents the opposite. We can use this kind of knowledge to focus our efforts on helping those who have been targeted for oppression. It isn’t about judging ignorant rubes–it’s about demonstrating compassion for the underprivileged. With further research, and with the facts in mind, we can reach out to disenfranchised minorities, abused children, poor people who don’t have money for rent, young pregnant women with no access to reproductive health-care, bullied gay youth with nowhere to go, and the lonely, ostracised atheist or Muslim, with the goal of creating equity for all. This is the purpose of looking at social attitudes in America.