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Archive for the ‘sex of the icky parental kind’ Category

If sex is dangerous territory for memoir writing then it is surpassed only by motherhood. Mothering is so wrapped up in notions of sacrifice that it can scarcely sustain even the mildest critical eye without some controversy. Rachel Cusk, one of my favourites in this field, is completely vilified for her memoir writing. In fact, a scathing review of her latest memoir, Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation won Hatchet Job of the Year. Sometimes the criticism of her motherhood writing is about her taking domestic life too seriously; something that is notably considered “brave” when done by a male author.

But more often it is about Cusk being insufficiently cheerful about domestic life. In depicting herself as a mother in Aftermath, Cusk is devoted to her children but you are still invited to consider her selfish. Cusk describes an argument around shared parenting revealing her own monster. For Cusk to pursue her writing career, her ex-husband had given up his job and become a stay-at-home father. Now that they’re divorcing, Cusk is horrified to discover her rights as a mother aren’t enough to allow her primary care of the children. Cusk was roundly criticised for this moment in the book – oblivious, nasty and domineering.

But you only know this information because Cusk gave it to you. She realises her sense of injustice is perverse. She is exploring a wider point about how ill-equipped early attempts at feminist living are for the emotional bonds of motherhood. She is thinking not just about what the moment means for her but what it means for everyone else, too. If you think she’s selfish because of this anecdote I have to wonder how well you’ve received the gift of confession. Because personal writing, more than anything else is a favour of empathy.

From here.

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Forgot to post this last week when my column was published. Am just a little bit overwhelmed at the moment by gosh, everything.. work, life, children, self. But anyway, here are my thoughts on facade and identity and Baden-Clay.

His identity, so incongruent with reality, must have felt heavier by the day and as the Judge said, ultimately built up a kind of explosive pressure in him. Why is it so difficult to confront yourself and your decisions, not to necessarily change them, but to even live authentically with them?

Maybe because identity becomes a kind of suffering and the suffering is hard to let go. You choose suffering because it is at least familiar, even though you are forgoing the possibility of relief. But to sit with this suffering requires an ever increasing level of cognitive dissonance.

And from the very moment you lie to yourself, you know this moment of self-sabotage has an unavoidable conclusion. What’s worse is that you may not even be able to guarantee that you’ll “never do it again”. It takes so much more than awareness to change.

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I was delighted, and also a little bit scared, to be invited to submit a piece to the mock erotica/romance collection, The Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary.

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Don’t say I never do anything nice for you. The Conquest: Sometimes the Political is Personal.

 

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Darkness, within the intimate confines of a bed, leveled social distinctions despite differences in gender and status,” Ekirch says. “Most individuals did not readily fall sleep but conversed freely. In the absence of light, bedmates coveted that hour when, frequently, formality and etiquette perished by the bedside.”

We sleep together not because it’s fiscally responsible, but because we are affectionate beings. Our minds need rest, but our minds also need camaraderie and intimacy and whispering.

From Jon Methven’s “Why we sleep together” in The Atlantic.

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From Katha Pollitt in The Nation with “Why do so many leftists want sex work to be the new normal?”:

It’s one thing to say sex workers shouldn’t be stigmatized, let alone put in jail. But when feminists argue that sex work should be normalized, they accept male privilege they would attack in any other area. They accept that sex is something women have and men get (do I hear “rape culture,” anyone?), that men are entitled to sex without attracting a partner, even to the limited extent of a pickup in a bar, much less pleasing or satisfying her. As Grant says, they are buying a fantasy—the fantasy of the woman who wants whatever they want (how johns persuade themselves of this is beyond me). But maybe men would be better partners, in bed and out of it, if they couldn’t purchase that fantasy, if sex for them, as for women, meant finding someone who likes them enough to exchange pleasure for pleasure, intimacy for intimacy. The current way of seeing sex work is all about liberty—but what about equality?

From Melissa Gira Grant in The Nation with “Let’s call sex work what it is: work”:

When we say that sex work is service work, we don’t say that just to sanitize or elevate the status of sex workers, but also to make plain that the same workers who are performing sex work are also performing nonsexual service work. In her study of Rust Belt strippers published in Policing Pleasure: Sex Work, Policy, and the State in Global Perspective, Susan Dewey observed that the vast majority of the dancers—all but one—at one club in upstate New York had worked outside the sex industry, and “many had left intermittently for low-wage, service-sector work elsewhere before returning with the recognition that they preferred the topless bar with its possibility of periodic windfalls from customers.” For the dancers who Dewey surveyed, it was the work outside of the sex industry that was “exploitative, exclusionary, and without hope for social mobility or financial stability.”

 

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Vice recently posted a fashion spread today called “Groin Gazing.” It features a series of photos by Claire Milbrath with styling by Mila Franovic, and the photos are framed tight on the clothed junk for your viewing pleasure. The models are identified by the type of guy they depict, such as “The Boyfriend” or “The Artist” or “The Businessman,” and even “The Boy Next Door.” And taken together, they are also exactly the sorts of men, anonymous, real, and imagined that a woman (or man) might lust after..

But what makes it remarkable is that, for a moment, you can indulge what it would actually be like if most of the photographs you saw in advertising or fashion were meant to cater to your desire. Not your desire to be more beautiful, or thinner, or more glamorous, but simply your desire for the opposite sex. This is something men take for granted. This is something women must overlook when watching popular TV shows and movies (*cough*gameofthrones*cough*truedetective*cough) that purport to be for everyone, and then instantly betray that when it’s time to show naked bodies, which are largely female, and which are nearly always and only filmed for an assumed hetero male viewer.

This discussion at Jezebel also made me think about how a big part of feeling desire is about feeling desired. Years ago I read an interview with a feminist stripper and she was asked about the difference between doing lap dances for male and female customers and she said that male customers tipped more. She put that down to men being more able to believe the fantasy that the stripper really, truly desired him. Female customers, she said, enjoyed the lap dance but understood that the stripper was working, that it was her job to pretend. But male customers believed the stripper wanted him and it was exciting and he tipped accordingly. What about when women watch male strippers instead? It’s quite difficult to objectify men. As John Berger (Ways of Seeing) says:

Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves…

.. The surveyor of women in herself is male: the surveyed female … thus she turns herself into an object-and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.

Might the patriarchal history of objectifying women mean that, for women, feeling desirable is an especially important part of feeling desire? Women often complain that mainstream images of men aren’t particularly erotic. Maybe it is partly because we don’t see evidence of desire for us in those images of men? Yes, male model, you look hot and you’re making serious bedroom eyes at me in this photo but I see from your crotch that you’re just posing. We know it’s all pretend. We don’t get the kick of excitement that is knowing this person is excited too, and that they’re excited about us.

See below the line for an example of these “groin gazing” photos. (Sorry about the lack of diversity – only slim white guys were used in the VICE fashion spread).

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This essay is written by Cristina Nehring. Do you remember the controversy around her essay about her love for her disabled child last year? Anyway, here she is writing about being a single parent and entering a new love affair – it’s not a brilliant essay, it’s just interesting. She specialises in big sweeping statements that can piss readers off but I do like the way Nehring explores her life with a bigger picture in mind. And I’m always interested in the topic of parents having sex lives, as you know.

Here’s Nehring in The New York Times with “Are parents better lovers?”.

But now I was there — even if I was on the other side. And all my fears were true: I did make Dice my priority. I’d find myself pushing her baby carriage through the park and thinking “I never spent near this much time with any man in a park.” Nor has anyone ever listened to me so rapt, nor smiled at me so winsomely, tenderly, heartbreakingly.

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I like this work by Deana Lawson that I came across via Dream Hampton.

The standout star of New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s 2011 “New Photography Series” was Deana Lawson. An upstate New York native who’s been nesting in Brooklyn with her painter husband since they both graduated from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, Lawson is re-imagining the portrait in wildly subversive ways. Nudity and power are central to much of her work, which is often staged in domestic spaces – living rooms and parlors, or bedrooms flooded with artificial light. She manages to turn a family portrait into a visual essay on love and power with a shockingly casual, carefully posed, nude mother. Curator and critic Franklin Sirmans, who was an early advocate of Lawson’s work, has likened her to Black women photographers like Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson and also to Nan Golden and Diane Arbus.

Prude alert: image contains mild nudity so I put it below the line in case you’re at work…

(more…)

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After all of this, there is also this..

There is a better way to talk and teach about sexual negotiation and consent, a more realistic and ethical approach that would, I believe, also be more successful in reducing sexual assault. It begins with thinking of sex as the outcome of a collaboration rather than a battle, as dancing rather than fighting.

It’s a wondrful piece in the Sydney Morning Herald from Emily Maguire, who is just as wonderful in person, I must say.

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Gender Equality is now routinely accepted as a worthy principle, but the term is so broad and abstract that a host of varying, contradictory and even authoritarian ideas hide behind it. Gender Equality as a social goal derives from a bourgeois feminist tradition of values about what to strive for and how to behave, particularly regarding sex and family. In this tradition, loving committed couples living with their children in nuclear families are society’s ideal citizens, who should also go into debt to buy houses and get university educations, undertake lifetime “careers” and submit to elected governments. Although many of these values coincide with long-standing governmental measures to control women’s sexuality and reproduction, to question them is viewed with hostility. The assumption is that national governmental status quos would be acceptable if women only had equal power within them.

Gender Equality began to be measured by the UN in 1995 on the basis of indicators in three areas: reproductive health, empowerment and the labor market. Arguments are endless about all the concepts involved, many seeing them as favouring a western concept of “human development” that is tied to income. (How to define equality is also a vexed question.) Until a couple of years ago, the index was based on maternal mortality ratio and adolescent fertility rate (for health), share of parliamentary seats held by sex plus secondary/higher education attainment (for empowerment) and women’s participation in the work force (for labor). On these indicators, which focus on a narrow range of life experiences, northern European countries score highest, which leads the world to look there for progressive ideas about Gender Equality.

These countries manifest some degree of State Feminism: the existence of government posts with a remit to promote Gender Equality. I do not know if it is inevitable, but it is certainly universal that policy promoted from such posts ends up being intolerant of diverse feminisms. State Feminists simplify complex issues through pronouncements represented as the final and correct feminist way to understand whatever matter is at hand. Although those appointed to such posts must demonstrate experience and education, they must also be known to influential social networks. Unsurprisingly, many appointed to such posts come from generations for whom feminism meant the belief that all women everywhere share an essential identity and worldview. Sometimes this manifests as extremist, fundamentalist or authoritarian feminism. Sweden is an example.

Really thought-provoking stuff and there’ s a wonderful conclusion in this article, too, by Laura Agustin in Salon“The sex worker stigma: How the law perpetuates our hatred (and fear) of prostitutes”.

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