Stop using the term “Slut Shaming”

…as if it were a progressive, productive thing to say.

I have heard this term a lot recently from people ages 18 to late 30’s. A google search yielded about 725,000 results and there is an urban dictionary and a wikipedia page for the term that defines it as follows:

“It is a neologism used to describe the act of making any person feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, or that which may be considered to be contrary to natural or religious law.”

The vast majority of people who use this term seem to be on the side of women, women’s rights and sexual liberation. I think they and whoever created the Wikipedia page are wrong.  Germain Greer is wrong. The people who march in “Slutwalks” are wrong too, or at the very least, misguided.*

Would you ever call a racist a “Nigger-hater?”

Would you tell someone who is antisemitic to “stop the kike-bashing?”

LGBT Activists don’t fight for “Dyke and Faggot Rights.” (In fact, smart LGBT Activists are very careful about the language they use because they are conscious of how much hate and fear of homosexual activity are engrained in everyday language.)

None of these terms are used in the fight AGAINST hate. The slurs I just mentioned are horrible terms invented to shame and degrade various groups. These are not legitimate names for categories of people. Neither is “slut.”

Words like slut, bitch, whore, shrew, cunt,” etc. were invented as weapons against women: to shame and subordinate them sexually (the consequences being political and economic and social subordination). I have been called a slut. I have heard many, many people call other people sluts. I have probably called someone a slut. I have certainly thought that I was one.

I was wrong. “Sluts” do not exist except in our own collective imagination. The word is a vestige of a time when women could not express and own their sexual desires. It is another way of saying “a woman with a lot of sexual partners.” It is a harmful word rooted in sexism, hate, and disdain. To combat these larger evils, we need to invent new words, not  appropriate old ones.

If you do not like it when a man is celebrated for his sexual exploits while a woman gets insulted, then change your language. Saying, “I think it’s great that Molly is a slut, she really owns it.” is not productive. Say your resent “The Double Standard.” Say you think that all human beings have the right to express sexual desire and enjoy consensual sex as much as they want.

You can even tell a man that shames a woman with hateful language that he is an “asshole.” But it will not hurt him very much. The category of man, unlike that of woman,  is not one traditionally associated with victimization. Better yet, throw a drink in his face and tell him to join us in the 21st century. If you hear a woman call another woman a “slut,” take a moment to talk to her and ask her why she uses ugly words that perpetuate her own subordination.

In any case, “Slut Shaming” is an ill-informed and counterproductive term that I hope drops out of the lexicon in 2014.

*The Huffington Post publishes articles in favor and against the term. Eliza Skinner is on the fence.

Advertisements

Do you like my poetry or my body?

dear parisThis question came up in conversation today. Not about me (la vie est dure) but about a young lady around campus who writes and dates. I had this worry a few times while I was in Paris (bon, ca m’arriva parfois). I can’t be the only one who sometimes asks herself: 

Would I rather be published in a book/magazine because the editor is my friend or because my writing is good?

It goes both ways.

“Are you sleeping with me because you like me or do you just think I am a good writer?

Such are the troubles of the simultaneously charming, talented and insecure. I never found an answer for myself. But I was always comforted by the thought that the only reason I ever wrote, performed or mimed anything was to sleep people. (Dieu merci, nous avons ces vérités éternelles.)

Just a quick thought, be well.

Signature

P.S.

Coming at the end of the week: A visual deconstruction of the Proust Conference I went to last week.

58366

Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying

erica-jong-fear-of-flying-icons-open-road[1]

Jong, Erica. Fear of Flying. New York : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973.

dear paris

Sometimes I wonder if Feminism has done what it needed to do. That sexism is, in many important ways, over.

Then I remember how I felt whenever my father helped me move into my dorm at Dartmouth. In these kinds of situations, my reaction is always the same when he hesitate.

There is a blaze of anger that ignites in my belly and I think, God gave you more muscles and society gave you more fucking everything and you can’t carry a mini-fridge?! I feel the same way when my brother types a restaurant bill into his tip calculator. Move the decimal to the left, Daniel. Just move the decimal to the left.

When I calm down, I realize that sexism is hard for men too. Nowadays anyway. That was not the case in 1978 when Erica Jong published Fear of Flying in 1973.[1] Back in those dark days, it was Eliot, Auden, Pound and a bit of Nabakov that were being taught at Barnard College and women were banished to the periphery of literature to write things like historical novels or mysteries. You’d have a hard time finding any sort of respectable novel written in a women’s voice—you know except for “Zora Neale Hurston, Hortense Calisher, Belva Plain, Rosellen Brown, Mary Gordon and Anna Quindlen”—This list is taken verbatim from Jong’s afterword to the 30th anniversary editiion of her book (p.432). It’s a testament to the fractured nature of the Humanities Curriculum (a lingering sexism?) in America that I had never heard of any of these women except for Neale Hurston.

Nor had I heard of Erica Jong. It’s a travesty really, everyone, man, woman, everything between them on the gender spectrum should have to read this book the way we have to read about the Holocaust: To remember how terrible things can get if no one pays attention.

Jong’s protagonist is called Isadora Wing and her problems are as alien to me as any medieval washerwomen’s. She is smart and literary (I can relate.). She grew up in New York (I can relate.). She is upper middle class (I can relate.). She is of Jewish descent, loves men, has no trouble coming so long as she has access to a penis or a hand. This might be the only thing I do not quite believe in the book: Her utter sexual madness for men.

Men who wipe shit on the bed, men who think they are god, men who knock her around like she is a blow-up doll. Men who are not particularly great or special. Men who just happened to be men—and therefore objects of desire and worship, erotic, intellectual, for young Isadora.

Jong in the early 1970's

Jong in the early 1970’s

Despite her astounding weakness, I like Isadora, she somehow manages to describe it all in a convincing and charming way—even though she is implicated in the imbalanced worldview presented through the men—“You’re so oral!” Feminine intelligence reduced to a sexually-driven psychosis. It’s cruelty masked as science and she goes alone with it.

How could she believe, even for one second, that to be a woman is to be somehow psychotic and wrong?

At the center of the book is a penis. A penis. The penis. Any penis. Usually two penis—that of her husband and that of her lover, Adrian Goodlove. Her husband’s penis is always hard. Adrian’s is always soft. And she loves the, both! In fact, her husband’s ever-hard penis might be his only good quality. That and a depressive reticence. It seems that the greatest hope for Isadora’s marriage (all heterosexual marriages?) is that her husband support her work, fuck her and generally leave her alone. As a practiquant of disastrous lesbian fusions, I have no idea what Jong is getting at.

The centrality of the penis is part of the drama. If Isadora didn’t have a really big problem, we wouldn’t have a really good book. Still, I can’t help hating her dependence on men: her weakness, her gullibility, her complicity in their illusion of male centrality and dominance.

Maybe I hate this about Isadora because it doesn’t seem unfamiliar. I can’t relate to her penis mania but I believe her total dependence on men because I have seen it so many times in real-life. Men might not be as dominant as they used to be—but they are still very central to women’s lives. Not just for relationships and sex—but for approval and validation. I even see echoes of Isadora’s neediness and contingent self-esteem in myself and my friends. In the way we doubt ourselves, our  worth, our jobs, our okcupid accounts.

Jong’s book is dated, but it’s fun too. Reading it is a good reminder that not so long ago, smart, pretty, charming and artistic women could give in to a cruel masculine worldview this fucking easily.

Love,

Signature


[1] My mother was 20 years old at the time, 7 years away from marriage and 10 years away from children. So there is a generation gap.

I hate this blog.

Image

I hate this blog. I hate writing it. I hate not-writing it. I hate that it is another thing on my to-do list. I hate that people tell me “I read your blog, It’s great.” It makes it seem like I only do this blog to get compliments (Why else would I be doing it?) I hate reading it. I sound either preachy or cynical. Both tones depress me. Most of all, I hate that it is a blog. I don’t read blogs (is that  horrible thing to say?).

I don’t mean I have never read a blog. I occasionally check out a literary review or a comedic posting and I think to myself: “Wow he/she is really funny and smart.” (I only read blogs by hermaphrodites.) But mostly I don’t have time to read blogs. I would rather do something else with my time (stare at my pores, watch French Erotic Thrillers, sleep). After all, blogs seem so self-promoting–which is such a sad and obvious thing to be (and necessary too?).

That is perhaps why I find my own blog writing to be an onanistic (nice word for masturbatory) endeavor. I would kick a poet in the teeth if she/he never read anyone else’s poems. How selfish! How Horrible!

Actually the real problem would be that not reading poetry would result in bad poetry 99% of the time.

Is the same true with blogs?

Still, I think that my inner critic (who is an asshole) has gotten the better of me in my own blogging. I have ten or fifteen blogs that I half wrote and then discarded because I thought they seemed awful and lame. They might be both. I only started writing this blog because I thought I could justify it with the excuse that Helene had asked me to do it. But really, I just wanted the attention. I just wanted an excuse to have to write every week.  (Why did I need an excuse?) Then I made it into a rule–something I had to do. Then I hated it. Then I hated blogs in general. Really, none of these things matter enough to hate,

I remember a few of the blogs, especially the one about the Italian girl I dated, did make me feel better. Being in New York and poor and not-in-Paris and unsure if what to do was depressing. Most of the time, when I actually sat down and did it, this writing this blog made me feel better. Which is, I guess, pretty onanistic.

LOVE,

Image

My secret life

dear paris

               nmnm

I have not been as diligent about this blog as I wanted to be when I started it (at Helene’s dreamy request). At first it was because I didn’t have a computer. I lived by using an iPod Touch and squatting computers that belonged to other people—my mom, my brother, my friends, my friends’ moms and even once some dude in Barnes & Noble.

Three weeks ago, I bought a computer. Now I have a new excuse not to write: Netflix.

If you are wondering where I am right now and what I am doing, I am probably on my bed watching Netflix.

It’s become a problem. Sometimes when I am out with friends or on an OkCupid date, it occurs to me that I would rather be at home watching Netflix. I compensate by making even more plans and even more OkCupid dates, so that no one will know that I would rather be at home watching Netflix.

I can’t help it. There is a button that you can press that says “Gay & Lesbian” and bam: You have every movie you ever wanted to see except when you were in the closet.

It’s hard to explain exactly why I love these movies so much. It’s partially erotic, I guess (the girls are usually pretty). Partially didactic (so that’s how ladies do it). But mostly when I am watching movies like Desert Hearts or Kyss Mig, I have this very peaceful feeling. It’s as if I live in a world where it’s completely okay for women to love women.( Which I do, right?) Or maybe it’s the joy of doing something completely private and secret.

My secret life used to be my gay life. Now that’s out in the open and I miss having secrets. I miss having something that was completely personal and didn’t have anything to do with a community or politics. I don’t even like talking about these movies with other gay women, not even with my girlfriends. I’ll laugh about them, share title and then watch encourage her to watch it separately. These movies are a part of my sexual and intellectual life that is somehow separate from my public, physical and actual life as a lesbian woman.

Is it just fantasy? Is this how straight girls feel when they watch straight romantic comedies? The men in in the movies don’t resemble the real men in their lives. Germaine Greer would probably say that we are being lulled with a fantasy so as to avoid facing the problems of reality. Maybe. The safest kind of sexual fantasy is fantasizing not only about being with someone else but being someone else. Someone wrote eloquently about this in an analysis of James Salter’s A Sport and A Pastime.

netflix-commentary

Or, if we were to get less political and more psychological, maybe I am looking for a kind of acceptance from the world or a model for how to be in the world. But then wouldn’t I be more interested in finding real-life lesbians so that I could figure out how to be like them. You know like Eleanor Roosevelt or Gertrude Stein or some other broad lady in practical shoes. I never even found myself an older girlfriend or friend to teach me the ways. The only real lesbians I have ever fixated on have been Virginia Woolf and Nathalie Barney, both in a distant, literary way. No, I never wanted to have a lesbian model to follow. (Incidentally, I live an extremely typical sort of Sapphic life which you could accurately categorize with a number of stereotypes.)

I love these movies for something else. They are all variations on a single theme. The first season of The L Word is a lovely example. There is a straight girl who is going through some sort of change involving marriage—engagement, the ceremony, divorce, etc… Then there is the gay girl who is beautiful and vaguely androgynous. There is seduction, hesitation, temporary separation and a final joyous reunion. There are some important exceptions, namely Bound, where both are gay (but one starts off with a man!) and some of the earlier films such as Lost & Delirious, where instead of a joyous reunion, one girl kills herself by jumping into a well of loneliness. Sniff.

Up until recently, (say 2005) these movies were poorly done. The plots were formulaic, the dialogue made me cringe. But I still loved to watch them.

On aime entrendre raconteur les histoires d’un lointain passe, pourvu qu’elles soient bonnes et belles, plus encore que les nouveautes.

Le Roman de Melusine

These stories are like fairy tales not only in their distance in both space and time, but in that they are always sort of the same story. Even if the stories themselves are linear, there is a circularity to how we tell them. Once we finish one, there is another one, just like it but different.

This desire for the same kind of story explains why the vague conversion fantasy persists despite the reality, in most of the world. that gay women can live openly.

But in telling the story again and again, the story seems to take on another kind of meaning. It’s this constant re-making of a lesbian world—where things change and change, but they stay the same.  There’s something about having to leave men behind—as nice as they are. But I don’t want to get too far from the point, which is the movies themselves, which I love watching. I like settling in and knowing exactly what will happen—memorizing the details of a scene, watching how well the women act, think about whether or not they are gay. I cannot believe how well some of these women fake orgasms. They do aftershocks and everything. I’m so impressed.

On that note, what do you think I am going to do now?

Signature

P.S.

10 Movies and something I like about each one

 

1)      Kiss Myg              –I love how grumpy the brunette looks for the first half of the movie. It starts out with the music and the lighting of a psychological thriller and ends in Barcelona. The music is excellently done. At one point, a character tries to lie to cover up the affair and completely sucks at it.

2)      Desert Hearts    –I got drunk over Christmas break when I was 17 and bought this on Pay-Per-View. I recorded it on a VHS and watched it over and over again. When I lost the tape the tape, I had nightmares about my brother finding it and knowing my secret. Kay is the young cavalier who seduces the older (and hotter?) professor. Gia Carangi styled herself and her clothes after her. In fact, for a long time, Kay was the only positive, cinematic representation of an openly lesbian woman in America (who wasn’t also a vampire).

3)      Jack & Diane      –The lead brunette looks exactly like the first girl I ever fell for. Coincidence? There is no such thing. Justin Bieber’s haircut is the inspirational center of a vortex of lesbian haircuts.

4)      Nino Pez              –The narrative is so confusing that when you finally do see some boobs and the lead turns into a bad-ass gangster killer, it’s a real relief.

5)      World Unseen                  –This movie is part of a duet written by the same woman and with the same two leads. Despite the dialogue in either this or I can’t Think Straight, Shamim Sarif is a good writer. I love the idea that to make drama about two women getting together, she had to pair up two Indians in Apartheid South Africa. I’m sure it was tough. It’s quite beautiful.

6)      Imagine Me & You          -This movie is completely silly. The characters are al adorable and British. My secret reason for watching Game of Thrones is that Lena Heady is in it and I love Lena Heady.

7)      Amour des Femme    -It’s French and one of the actresses used to be a porn star. I like that the whole thing is sort of badly lit and dreary. This one you’ll have to watch online.

8)      Bound                   -Famously, the director hired a lesbian sex coach for the love scene. The love scene itself is surprising because it’s the girly one being the aggressor.

9)      Room in Rome                  –It’s Baroque and fantastic. Everything is a fetish in this movie: one is Russian, one Spanish, they’re in Rome with Frescos, amazing waxing jobs and an insane musical score. Constant nudity. I give it a 10.

10)   Elena Undone   –The Gay one is so hot. It’s like some one knew all the ingredients to a good movie and used too much off all of them: nutty supporting cast, testimonials from real couples, destiny, mean church-ladies. When it came out, it featured the longest kiss yet recorded on film. It is a good kiss. Whenever we cut the hot gay one, she is lying in her pool reading Curve Magazine. Love it.

P.P.S

I just realized I forgot Fingersmith, a seminal movie for both me personally and the entire universe (obvi). It’s a BBC mini-mini-series in three parts. I won’t tell you what happens. See the movie first then read the book. The entire thing turns into this kind of parody of lame movies and their acting; but it still maintains a touching story. Both leads are excellent–perhaps the straight-haired one is excellenter.

First Dating

Presentation1firstdatejoke

scan0003

I have been on a lot of first dates lately.

When you are on a date, you reveal certain things about yourself. Certain things that could be construed as embarrassing or weak. But the fact is that anything you tell a person about yourself is not truly revealed. For someone to reveal something about you, it must be without your consent or initiation. An example: When I was in university in Lyon, the sinks in the bathroom each had a yellow ball on the wall next to them. When, two months into the semester, I asked my friend what they were, she looked at me for a moment then told me they were soap. It was immediately obvious that I had never washed my hands after using the toilet.

That was something I revealed without wanting or meaning to.

That is something I would never tell someone on a date.

Signature