Of Bread and Circuses

As a card-carrying “geek girl,” it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I’ve been watching Game of Thrones since it debuted on HBO back in 2011. Besides, I made this fact clear last summer when I reminisced about using the show as a touchpoint of connection between Mr. Mezzo and myself back during the late spring & early summer of 2013 when we were living apart as part of the Great Northern Relocation.*

(For the spoiler-averse, I’m going to be talking more about last night’s GoT episode, as well as plot points from previous episodes. So if you’re not caught up and don’t want to have plot surprises reveled to you, stop now rather than clicking through to after the jump. For the rest of you, who are up-to-speed or who don’t give many fucks about the series, come on in!)

Continue reading “Of Bread and Circuses”

Many Hands Make Light(er) Work

I am usually able to sustain a pace of approximately one essay per day here on JALC. Certainly, I have fantasies of writing lots more than that: sometimes those fantasies express themselves in the desire to write shorter or faster posts — which is probably obvious, considering the number of times I (falsely) promise at a post’s outset to write something quick. Usually, though, these fantasies take the shape of the “megamillions dream” — the notion of suddenly, magically having enough financial resource that I could stop working for other people’s companies and instead write all day.  The interesting thing, as I’ve been studying these fantasies, is that I’m not in any self-delusion about the writing being quick and effortless.

i_poop_rainbowsI can’t find it now, but I remember reading some snarky-brilliant quote once about how “everyone wants to have written a novel, but very few people actually want to do the work of writing said novel.” I get that writing take work. Between research, drafting, outlining, writing, editing, and posting, I usually spend between 2-3 hours per night here on JALC. So I’m not imagining that essays will magically spring from my typing fingers like unicorns shitting rainbows. However, the thought of having 10-12 hours a day I could devote to those tasks, and the idea of what I could produce in that sort of space? I cannot deny it’s a seductive notion.

Continue reading “Many Hands Make Light(er) Work”

On Porn and “Potterotica”

I guess it’s my week to talk about sexualized body parts?

This Button Poetry video from this year’s National Poetry Slam caught my attention yesterday:

The title of Brenna Twohy’s spoken-word poem Fantastic Breasts and Where to Find Them is a punnish play on the title of a volume about the Potter-verse, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (emphasis added), published by J.K. Rowling some years ago as a companion to the 7-book saga of “the boy who lived.”

Twohy articulated the goal of her poem to Buzzfeed thusly:

I wanted to highlight how unrealistic most pornography’s portrayal of sex is, and how that creates really damaging expectations for both men and women.

twohy-ask-me-whatMission accomplished (at least for the most part) to hilarious and devastating effect. Particularly pointed is Twohy’s observation that a taste for fan-fiction erotica is to be considered “unrealistic” — while mainstream porn is somehow seen as more real. Which is about as laughable a deception as I’ve heard since… well, unfortunately, just since yesterday, when folks were declaring that public breast-feeding is immoral. (Seriously, y’all. The patriarchy just needs to shut up and die in a fire. Now.)

In yesterday’s Independent, Jonathan Owen discusses a recent poll of British teenagers that reveals:

the majority [of poll participants] warn of the “damaging” and “addictive” effect of sexual images and videos readily available online. 80 per cent say it is too easy for young people to stumble across it and most recall “accessing pornography was seen as typical” while they were at school.

At least 70 per cent agree that “pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex” and “can have a damaging impact” on views of sex or relationships.

A quick visit to Professor Google turned up a wealth of other articles unpacking the sexual myths and unrealistic expectations fostered by the mainstream porn industry. For example:

The gist of all these different articles is perhaps most entertainingly summarized by Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz in Alternet:

The problem is, learning about sex from porn is like learning about firearms from action movies. Action movies sacrifice realism for the sake of storyline or a really cool explosion. Action movies don’t teach you gun safety. Action movies don’t talk about alternatives to violence. And action movies use some tropes—such as the infinite ammo supply—that may move the story along but don’t reflect reality. That’s not a problem, as long as everyone treats them as entertaining fantasies.

Unfortunately, for many young people becoming sexually active today, the entertaining fantasies of mainstream porn are the teacher they’ve spent the most time with, and mainstream porn is a terrible teacher.

Even more than the general unrealistic nature of mainstream pornography, Twohy chooses to highlight a particular strain of misogyny and violence against women that runs through so many adult films.

[SIDEBAR] I will admit to having some level of discomfort over a piece that lambastes porn culture for allowing men to fantasize about sex with barely-legal teens while offering — however ironically — the “more empowering” alternative of a book series where the main characters are under-18 for a majority of the time. Also, having quickly perused some of the titles and advertised pairings in the “mature” section of the Harry Potter stories on fanfiction.net, I see the potential for a lot of uncomfortable power dynamics (Snape & Hermione) and Stockholm syndrome (Draco & oh, everybody).** Blurred lines of consent all over the place… [/SIDEBAR]

Nonetheless, the general thrust*** of Twohy’s piece feels really true and honest and on-point about the culture that mainstream porn participates in and which it helps perpetuate. To quote HuffPo (who also quotes part of Twohy’s poem):

a 2010 Violence Against Women study found that 90 percent of porn video content online and off included verbal or physical aggression towards women.

“I know a slaughterhouse when I see one,” Twohy says of the porn industry. “It looks like 24/7 live streaming, reminding me that men are going to fuck me whether I like it or not, that there is one use for my mouth and it is not speaking, that a man is his most powerful when he’s got a woman by the hair.”

Twohy suggests that the “slaughterhouse,” an uneasy analogy where the slicing instruments aren’t knives but part of a video editing suite, does more than just provide shots of women’s segmented body parts. It also creates a culture where domestic violence isn’t only expected, but accepted.

And more than that, Twohy steps — for an uncomfortable, searingly honest moment — into the ways that we all internalize these messages about how men and women are expected to perform in romantic and sexual situations — men, rough, cruel, aggressive; women, compliant and sex kittenish.

The first time a man I loved held me by the wrists and called me a whore, I did not think “Run.” I thought, “This is just like the movies.”

I have seen that training, on film and in real life.

It everybody fucks over, the patriarchy does.

* Yes, I dare say it has.

** You know how yesterday I took a bullet and read the comments sections on things so you wouldn’t have to? That favor-doing stops tonight — I was not going down that particular rabbit hole. Not for anything.

*** Sorry, couldn’t resist.


Image credit: http://iwatchforsasha.tumblr.com/post/95066205780/fantastic-breasts-and-where-to-find-them



Either George Will or He Won’t

[Trigger warning: discussion of rape and other sexual assaults; quotations that show profound misogyny, slut-shaming and victim-blaming; and rebuttals that share stats and stories about rape and rape culture, and yeah, with a lot of profanity. A LOT of profanity.]

causes-of-rapeI am totally cheating tonight. The Day 7 prompt for Writing 101 is about creating a sense of contrast: “Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.

But I am currently so enraged and stabby-feeling over George Will’s latest exercise in newspaper-subsidized misogyny that it was inevitably going to be my topic tonight, no matter what I had to do to shoe-horn it into the Writing 101 structure. (Honestly, as far as ideological contrast goes, we have that in abundance. As far as dialogue is concerned? That’s more of a stretch.)


Women, Higher Education, and Sexual Assault: a Point-Counterpoint Between George Will and Mezzo Sherri

Colleges and universities are . . . learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.

Dude, even though it didn’t exist by the same name, the conceptual underpinning for our current understanding of microaggression has been around since at least 1905, when Freud first theorized about the sublimated violence/victimization cycle in so much of modern humor. And even if your current status as rich, urbane, white male — sort of the royal flush of the privilege poker hands — makes it hard for you to perceive microagressions with “an untutored eye,” here’s a tip from Charles Davis at VICE: “You don’t need a reference manual to not make people feel bad; you just need to listen every once in a while, learn a thing or two, and try to be more considerate, particularly around people you just met. Since when did stopping to think before you open your stupid mouth become such a bad thing?”

And excuse me? Being the target of sexual violence is a “coveted status”? In whose bizarro world is that true? After all, the rest of your column just oozes compassion and acceptance for those individuals who have experienced sexual assault. Oh wait: the rest of your column is actually “contributing to a society that is utterly dismissive of their experiences.” (PolicyMic)

Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.”

1. Here’s some basic set theory for you: all rapes are indeed sexual assaults, but not all sexual assault is rapes.  (Or, to break it down even further, here’s how I used to explain that concept to my SAT students back in the day: All of my bracelets are jewelry, but not all of my jewelry is bracelets.) I point this out just because if you’re going to use irony quotes to make fun of a term, it might be best to actually understand the term you’re mocking, and oh, maybe to check in and see if your mockery actually functions as humor or instead just shows your own woeful ignorance about a topic. (Also see above, re: microaggressions.)

2. Supposed epidemic? Really? I know you’re gonna quibble with this statistic later on below the fold, but let me just lay it out there anyhow. The CDC reports that 19% of undergraduate women had experienced “attempted or completed sexual assault” since entering college. Now this is a statistic you’ll see reproduced by lots of advocacy and service organizations (sometimes rounded up to the “1 in 5” phraseology we’ll be discussing soon), but please note I did not go to a partisan or activist source here. I went to the C-D-motherfucking-C. 19% of undergraduate women experience some sort of sexual assault, and 37% of female rape survivors are first raped between the ages of 18-24. And yes, that final age range admittedly extends beyond the usual age window for undergraduate students, but still. How much more of an epidemic do you need?! How many women need to suffer before you can get up a compassion boner for them?!?

Herewith, a Philadelphia magazine report about Swarthmore College, where in 2013 a student “was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months”

Slut-shaming at its finest. Because of course, once you’ve said yes at one time in one context that means automatic consent for all future times in all future contexts. And by the way, just emphasize how foul your perspective is:

“They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. ‘I basically said, “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” And then he said, “OK, that’s fine” and stopped.. . . And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.’”

Six weeks later, the woman reported that she had been raped.

Well, she reported having been raped because that’s actually the legal definition applicable to the events as described here. But hey, why should an insignificant thing like factuality matter between friends?

Now you’ve been nice enough not to state the most evil of your assumptions outright, but they’re palpably there, oozed between the lines of suggestion and innuendo.

Why didn’t she fight harder after saying the first “no”? Because we’ve been trained (over and over again) NOT to do so! Even if it’s slightly off the subject, perhaps this video will help explain the level of understood threat that might cause a young woman to decide against “fighting back.”

I had a friend in college who was date-raped sophomore year. (I know: I must be lying about this, and this event couldn’t actually have really occurred because George Will has decreed that college sexual assault is merely a “so-called epidemic.”) She carried some guilt for a while about not having “struggled more” — and I remember her sharing the moment of insight that emerged during a session with her therapist where my friend realized that she had, to the best of her ability in the midst of this awful experience, made a threat assessment and consciously concluded that if she didn’t stop struggling that she would be killed, or at least seriously, seriously wounded. It is perfectly understandable that someone may make a decision to stop resisting, wether because of cultural programming, threat assessment, or some other reason(s). That choice to cease actively fighting back in no way excuses a rapist from the legal and moral responsibility of having committed such a harmful act against another human being.

(This is also, by the way, why affirmative consent standards are so necessary. Yes means yes!)

Why did she wait so long to report this crime?* Maybe because she knew that jerk faces like you would blame her or doubt her. Maybe because even the most “casual look at our criminal justice system, military justice system and the academic disciplinary system under scrutiny right now reveals that each tend to punish survivors, not reward them.” (Salon, emphasis added.)

I could find story after story that demonstrates the ways women reporting sexual assault get interrogated about their clothes, alcohol use, sexual history, and general behavior/decorum, but to save us all some time, here’s a photo gallery that both captures many of these victim-blaming attitudes but also wonderfully eviscerates them.

(I’m skipping ahead a few paragraphs because I only have enough patience to dialogue with one last passage.)

The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20 percent.

Oh, I see what you did there: it’s like SAT algebra all over again! (98 over x equals 12 over 100; and then once you solve for x put that number over the total population number to get your percentage…)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: CDC. The 19% assault rate has been confirmed by the C-D-motherfuckin’-C.** So rather than taking the 12% report rate as the hard-and-true fact and using that to invalidate the CDC’s confirmed statistic, why not try this idea on for size: maybe the 12% number is wrong! And that notion is even kind of awfully plausible, since this figure can only ever be “an inferred estimate, because there is no directly measured number of unreported assaults.” (Pharyngula.)

Oh, and by the way? If a 2.9% rate of sexual assault is “too high” by your assertion, and considering the fact that the actual assault rate of 19% has been confirmed by the C-D-motherfuckin’-C, do you want to go back and rethink any of your prior statements about a “so-called” epidemic?

Just wondering.

* I almost put the word crime in those mocking irony quotes (as I assume George  would have done), but I just couldn’t do it.

** I swear, if I ever go back to writing anything based on my dissertation research, I am working this phrase in there somehow.


Image credit: http://michonnemicheaux.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/before-you-make-excuses-for-rape-tw/