Dear Future Husband


Alright, alright. So Meghan Trainor released this music video and people have very strong feelings about it. As someone with very strong feelings, I was surprised that mine differed.

Trainor explains, "I want to make sure guys take me on a date and treat me right because I didn't do that in the past," but critics have blamed her for "basing her self-worth on male acceptance." I really don't think that's true, she's not desperate for any approval. She knows she's awesome (remember last summer's body-loving anthem?), and she won't settle for someone who doesn't recognize that.

The video creates an an interesting role reversal (it's not necessarily good, but it's certainly refreshing) to see a 50s style throwback without the women being submissive. Rather, it's the men being objectified.

Yes, work it, you sexy red headed backup dancer.
Trainor makes it clear that she's turning the 50s stereotype around: "You got that 9 to 5/ But, baby, so do I/ So don't be thinking I'll be home and baking apple pies/ I never learned to cook." She's independent. It's nice to see a song where the woman gets to call the shots in her perfect relationship. 

Admittedly, there are a lot of lyrics I don't like as well. It's a little concerning that she's marginalizing her partner's needs. She promises to buy groceries and kiss him, but will she tell him he's handsome as often as she demands he call her beautiful? Will she support him and respect him as much as he'll do for her? We may never know.

The lyrics may be all about her, but honestly, for this song, that's ok. Trainor has every right to look for specific things in a relationship. She's not claiming that all relationships should be like this, or that every woman should get married. By accusing this video of being so wrong, I worry that people step uncomfortably close to the very sexism they think they're criticizing; implying that women should be docile, submissive, and accept whatever their man gives them. Trainor refuses to settle, and there's nothing wrong with fighting to get what you want and deserve. 

Again, would I want the type of relationship she's describing? No. I don't want a partner to tell me I'm always right. I won't do all the grocery shopping, and I'm not really a flowers-every-anniversary-girl. But I would want to be with someone who respects me and treats me well, and I think that's the point. 

So let's talk about the actual video. The plot is pretty simple, she meets four different guys who fail to impress her in a variety of ways. A lot of the blowback has been about how she's being sexist with all these heteronormative stereotypes (men should be strong, etc), so let's meet the suitors.

1. The Cook 

Maybe she's just not a seafood person. Back off, man.

This guy shows up with a giant box of chocolates, creepily eyeing the peephole. He makes her a super fancy, gourmet style single scallop (That's what that is, right? A scallop? Is that what I'm looking at?), but she shakes her head and pushes it away. He insists, puts it on a fork and literally tries to feed her as she makes gross faces. The guy can't take a "no", and yet, he's surprised when she leaves.

2. The Strong Man


This one brings flowers and then tries to impress her at a carnival. He keeps trying the strength tester but landing on "sad sack". Eventually, she just walks away. This one is admittedly the most questionable, and I think it can go two ways, based on how you interpret her reaction.

Option 1: He's not strong enough for her. I don't totally buy this, the song isn't about finding a "strong man" as much as it is finding someone to treat her well. But alright, let's say it is. It's pretty shallow, and a sexist way to measure worth, but she's allowed to have preferences. If she wants a strong man, he's not the guy for her. She's doesn't insult him, question his worth, or shame him, she just leaves, and that's fine.

Dude, seriously, you're gonna do this? Ugh, we were having such a good time.
Option 2: Like the first guy, this one just isn't listening. Her "disappointed" reaction comes right after he takes off his jacket to try to show off. She's not making him do this, he's the one who won't stop. He keeps trying to prove to her, over and over, that he's strong. It's like a guy that brags about how much he can bench, all the babes he can get, or how much money he has.

3. The Sailor

Sit the fuck down. 
He brings her a little blue gift box and takes her out on a boat. It seems fun, until he tries to stand up. She tells him to sit down, she gets sea-sick, and he doesn't listen. They capsize. She leaves.

4. The winner!

What a cutie.
He just brings her pizza. Thats it. He didnt cook for her, didn't try to woo her, and isn't muscular, but he comes off as casual and comfortable, like he just wants to get to know her and have a good time, and she immediately pulls him inside. Ding ding ding. We have a winner.

The first three guys all embodied some "typical, idealized, romantic quality". A gourmet chef, a romantic sailor, a wannabe macho strong man. But none of them suited her. They didn't listen to what she wanted, they just kept trying to impress her. She's well within her rights to turn them all down, they're not entitled to anything. 

That's why I think this song is so much more about being able to ask for what you want and say no to what you don't, instead of being about finding a "perfect man" to marry and be subservient to.

Being treated the way you deserve? I can totally get behind that.

Obscenity and F*cking Censorship

A few weeks ago, Google announced that it was going to ban sexually explicit blogs, and I was gearing up to write an angry blog post about it. However, since then, Google received a ton of negative feedback from bloggers (here's an article from a blogger whose blog, Gross Nudes, was up for deletion) and they changed their minds.

These are the basic rules they've decided to stick to instead:
  • adult content is allowed, but must have an "adult content" warning
  • you can't make money on adult content 
  • no illegal content (like child porn) 
  • no posting/distributing images or videos without the subject's consent 

The proposed ban would have continued to allow nudity, but only if "the content offer[ed] a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts". Basically, so long as it wasn't obscene.

The idea of "obscenity" has been around for awhile, but a lot of people aren't aware of it. In short, obscenity isn't protected by free speech. The Miller test is generally used to determine what's obscene and consists of three conditions that must be met:
  • Would the average person think it may be sexual?
  • Does it explicitly show sexual content?
  • Does it lack literary, artistic, political, or scientific value?

Usually, the sale and distribution of obscene materials isn't protected, but the right to own it is (thanks to privacy laws). Immediately, pornography comes to mind, much of which is, of course, obscene. But sometimes, a story line can be considered to add "literary value". Surprise, those terrible plots have a purpose. And trust me, there's a lot of them.


One of the most popular X rated films of all time,  Deep Throat (1972) was one of the first pornographic films to have a real plot and production value. The movie follows young Linda Lovelace, who discovers her clitoris is in her throat, and spends the movie deep throating various men while fireworks and bells go off whenever she orgasms.  People disagreed on whether or not it was obscene, so it was banned in some locations but allowed in others. A film critic claimed that the comedy of the plot gave it enough merit to be legal. However, a year after it came out, judge Joel Tyler ruled it obscene, claiming:

"The alleged story lines are the facade, the sheer negligee through which 
clearly shines the producer’s and the defendant’s true and only purpose, that is, 
the presentation of unmistakably hard-core pornography."

Obscenity laws aren't a thing of the past. Many states have put bans on sex toys because of their "obscene nature". Thankfully, many of these bans were found to be unconstitutional, the most recent overturn was in Texas in 2008. However, that still leaves Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia.



Apparently, state officials believe there's "no fundamental right to purchase a product to use in pursuit of having an orgasm." Firstly, sex toys aren't just for sex. Secondly, these laws unfairly target women. Thirdly, and I'll borrow the words of Dr. Marty Klein for this, banning sex toys is an "extraordinary erosion of personal liberty, coupled with the massive disrespect of and fear of sexuality." While sex toys may not be for everyone, a lot of people enjoy them, and you can't prevent other people from using them because you think human sexuality is obscene.


(Since the release of Deep Throat, actress Linda Boreman has made statements about not consenting to the acts in the film. Though the film is one of cultural significance, I'd advise you not to watch it, and remind you that RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) is an available resource if you ever need it.)

Bratz (Guest Post)

One of my very cool friends and fellow bloggers Lex Vex posted some really interesting thoughts about the new trend in Bratz dolls, and I shamelessly decided to share it here as well. An artist has been redesigning some of the fashion dolls, which you can find articles about here and here, as well as the artist's tumblr here. Bratz dolls have taken a lot of criticism for sexualizing girl's toys because of their excessive makeup and risqué clothing, so the redesigns are a dramatic change. The new "Tree Change" dolls have "swapp[ed] high-maintenance glitz 'n' glamour for down-to-earth style," according to the artist. There's been an outpouring of positive feedback, things like, "it's a welcome attempt to desexualise the glamorous fashion dolls" and "now they look like real girls". This "natural doll" movement has been gaining momentum, especially with the release of Lammily, a fashion doll with realistic proportions.


                                                                                                         

As some people may have seen the Bratz dolls from our wee years have been all over twitter and the internet this week because someone in Tasmania ave the dolls make-unders. This woman has been praised for 'desexualizing' the dolls and turning them into little innocent forest children, instead of bad influences.

1. What's wrong with options? 


As someone who likes to put on make up most days, it's rude and dumb to make snap judgements about intelligence based on their outer appearance. People have been saying these dolls have 'inner beauty' because they look 'natural.'

Um... No they don't, they're dolls- and having the option of natural looking dolls is great but believe me I have met some real assholes who didn't wear makeup while knowing many lovely women who do. Dolls however, have no personalities and unless there are rainbows in that inner husk of theirs, they have about as much inner beauty as an empty Pringles can.


2. De-sexualization? Really?


I think my biggest problem with the desexualization fight is the ignorant question of who is sexualizing these dolls. Speaking from the perspective of someone who played with said dolls at a young age, I don't think I eroticized them in the same way that adults do. The bold colors and patterns of the clothes may have stimulated emulation but it was because the aesthetic was interesting, vivid, and not constantly 'pretty in pink.' Do girls explore sexual discovery through playing with dolls? Honestly yes- but that can be done with any set of dolls- and to blame the clothes is preposterous- all I know is that when we played with the dolls and someone wanted to have a baby, doll clothes would hit the ground faster than you could say 'lack of genitalia' - and reenacting 'sex' with the dolls was so incredibly inaccurate that instead of sex positions that made sense we'd just make the dolls scissor, regardless of gender, and boom a baby happened. Children don't sexualize the dolls. They don't look at the clothing the dolls wear and think, "this is sexy and all the boy dolls will want to fuck her." Parents do. Saying the natural dolls are better is a form of slut shaming so ingrained that we are forcing it on inanimate objects. That is one slutty hunk of plastic. The problem isn't so much that we treat the dolls as pariahs of bad influence- it's that we treat women the way we treat these dolls. 

3. Just Look at this Diversity


Can we quickly discuss how diverse Bratz dolls were for their time? Even now they lead the doll market as far as diversity is concerned with tons of varying race, ethnicity and even social groups represented. They have no single 'token' person of color doll but many who are given equal weight in advertising. And, unlike Barbie, all dolls have their own, equally cool, style, individual face shape, makeup pallet and fashion sense.


4. BUT BRATZ DONT HAVE CAREERZ


One of the biggest butt-hurts people have had with the franchise is that the bratz dolls don't promote any type of non-traditionally-feminine interest. I wonder though, does Barbie, who has a wide array of forms and jobs, actually promote play within those ranges? When I was a child, I would choose the coolest looking bratz or Barbie doll and, regardless of clothing, made them paleontologists, veterinarians, marine biologists myself. The commercials may show bratz dolls going on trips to the mall for fashion, but mine was most certainly a prosthetic limb engineer.



Long and the short, I'm not saying the refurbished dolls are bad or stupid, but I do think they are an alternative option that should be available without vilifying the dolls already out there. The girls and boys who play with them should not be scolded for enjoying a vibrant aesthetic or praised for proffering a woodsy one. Just get the kid the doll they'll like, and as long as you don't see signs of anorexia as a result, let it be. Adults, please stop sexualizing your children's toys. That's what you have your own for.



Want more Lex? Check out The Full Scope, a blog about gender identity in video games.

Fifty Shades of Grey


Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world. Despite mixed reviews, the "mommy porn" erotica has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. At the very least, it's interesting.  I've read the whole trilogy, I readily admit that. (I read Twilight too, doesn't mean I think either series is "good"). As far as Fifty goes, the writing makes me cringe, the sex scenes were terrible, and there's a lot of questionable power dynamics.

I'll get this out of the way now. Fifty Shades is NOT a guide to BDSM. It is NOT a healthy representation of BDSM. Anna and Christian are FICTIONAL CHARACTERS. If you recognize any of the same controlling patterns in your own relationship, please call the Domestic Abuse Hotline immediately.

Alright, ready? Moving on.

I'm glad people are reading it. Frankly, I'm just glad people are talking about it. It's a stupid, easy, read, but I think it got popular because we didn't stigmatize it for being sexual. For the first time, people could talk about reading erotica. Granted, a lot of people just talked about how ridiculously dumb it was, but still, our culture began to openly acknowledge porn, erotica, and sexuality.

Before Fifty Shades, I didn't see anything about bondage on my Facebook newsfeed, but in response to the inaccurate portrayals in the book, people have been talking more, sharing more links and information, that sort of thing. And that's fantastic. I don't care what started the conversation, I care that it's happening. Instead of shaming someone who reads the book and thinks spanking might be sexy, let's just use it as a springboard to start talking about spanking healthily (because yes, there is a right and wrong way to do it). Check out 50 Shades of Curious or 50 Shades of Kink.


If you want to act out an Anastasia/Christian romp, go for it, just be sure to use a safe word, start slow, communicate, and be ready to learn. Again, let's all just say it again, Fifty Shades it not a guide to BDSM.

Obviously, some of the things that happen in the book would be rape if they happened in real life. (Again, let's acknowledge that Fifty Shades is not real life). Rape doesn't actually work the way it does in the book. I hesitate to even call it rape, because I don't want to imply that it would be remotely ok to think that a victim wanted it, or that it was hot "because that's how it was in the book". Fantasy is not real life.

If Fifty Shades isn't your thing, don't sweat it. But please, don't stigmatize or shame people who found it sexy.  It wasn't a good book, but I'm not going to boycott the movie. I hold out hope, that maybe if we support erotica and sexual expression and push for better writing, someday we'll get it. Someday, I'll get off on a better plot point than, "but I didn't order a pizza" and read better writing than "my inner goddess is doing the merengue".


Side note, does "Anastasia and Christian" sounds like "Anna and Kristof" to anyone else? Just me?