11 04 2010

Shocking confession of a normal behavior:

Every once in a while, I shave my legs.

If I had it easy, I’d get all the hair on my body removed – except maybe my eyebrows. But that’s costly – and it sounds painful. A needless indulgence. And seriously – the act of removing my hair is followed by a rush of feeling clean and renewed – I couldn’t trade that in for less hassle.

In particular, the process of shaving my head makes for one of the best feelings ever.

I did it earlier this week and it never fails. Bad day at work? Sluggish clouds hanging low? Shave the head.

I step out fuckin’ freshed and feel like myself all over again. It’s as if the hair growing ever so slowly on top of my head is an army of lazy, heavy, depression trying to keep my spirit down.

Sidebar: I lived in New Orleans for a little bit a few years ago and in that city, the public space is a social space. Me being basically shy and essentially content with solitude – it was a change for sure. To be approached on the street – but not by catcallers (though yeah – of course that happens everywhere) but by people seeking meaningful connections – was a revelation. I connected with so many people – we were all so diverse – it blew my mind and when I moved away to my current abode, it was what I missed the most about that city.

Here, it really is just the catcallers. Here, my shaved head stops people in a way that makes me try to act like I didn’t notice. In New Orleans and other places I’ve traveled, I find that the most frequent commenters on my lack-of-hair-style are older women. They express the desire to do the same and all I can say is ‘go for it’.
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The Sexual Feminist’s Guide to Sex Toy Shopping from Afar

3 04 2010

I have this memory of watching something on TV a few years ago that I’m pretty sure led directly to my discovering my own personal sexual pleasure. Though I had slept with someone years before witnessing this TV moment – I hadn’t really considered taking care of myself sexually – I really just thought of it as a partnered experience. I look back in my mind to that very educational moment and see four or five middle-aged women, sitting at a table outside – on some patio – discussing personal sexuality. And no, it wasn’t Sex and the City – it wasn’t fiction at all but real women, talking openly and honestly about their personal sexual lives.

I was surprised to learn that some women don’t explore their own sexual pleasure until they are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and onward. I was also surprised to discover that I hadn’t really gone there myself either. This has a lot to do with the socialization of us as we grow into our sexually unique selves in this sexually bizarre society. There’s a whole culture and money-making industry around male masturbation – so pervasive and normal that all genders are aware of it. What a strange betrayal of our existence that we women can grow into being sexual without knowing ourselves as honestly as we can – we are somehow denied this education and support system as young women. While in fact there is a full sex positive culture and knowledgeable industry for females, it’s just not as accepted in the mainstream (yet). Somehow positive female sexuality is too scandalous to be the norm. It definitely didn’t reach my teenage self. I didn’t start masturbating until I was 20. In fact, I didn’t start using sex toys until I was 23. I only started purchasing sex toys at the age of 25, just last year.

I can say that, today, buying sex toys as a woman is a great experience. There are so many options for body safe toys from sex positive spaces.

A feminist sex shop is a good thing to have and a great thing to share. For exploring your sexuality in a partnered adventure or as a personal journey – women-oriented spaces offer all you need to make it a slippery slope to pleasure and discovery (yes, I went there with the pun). Being that I live in a small city that lacks a feminist, woman-owned sex toy space – I turn to the internet. So this is me sharing what I’ve learned so far about shopping for toys as a feminist who lives far away from feminist spaces.

As a woman in the internet era, you don’t even have to walk into a store if you don’t want to (though with workshops and more, you’ll probably find a reason to stop by if you’re lucky enough to have one near you) and you don’t have to wait for your town to get a shop if it doesn’t have one yet – you can go to the many sites already chock full of safe, sensual and sexy toys (and tons of healthy sex info as well):

Babeland (Seattle, New York)
Ah, Babeland. This is the fun, sex positive environment from my dreams. I’ve always wanted to visit Seattle – an opportunity to stop by the Babeland store is just one more reason.

Sugar (Baltimore)
Lesbian owned, woman and trans operated

Smitten Kitten (Denver)
I’m not sure if this is woman-owned but it is a great resource for body safe toys

early to bed (Chicago)
Woman-owned, woman-oriented and welcoming to all genders

Womyns’Ware (Vancouver)
Their tag says: “Celebration and empowerment of women’s sexuality”

Tool Shed (Milwaukee)
Supportive of all genders, woman-owned

A shop that isn’t queer-positive, woman-positive, trans-positive – isn’t really positive at all. As far as I can tell, all of the above meet that criteria.

These few cities are so lucky to have such great spaces for a healthy and sexual lifestyle – many of these include workshops, lectures, screenings and more.

I offer this list as an alternative for those who live too far away – this is sex toy shopping for the rest of us.

PS – Know of any others with online shopping? Please let me know in the comments – thanks!

Somewhere Carl Jung is smiling

26 03 2010

Speaking of synchronicity!

For exploring more thoughts about love and feminism and fucking and feminism (a la my previous post), there are two new reads breaking out:

Fucking While Feminist, With Jaclyn Friedman


Dating While Feminist by Jill Filipovic

Personally, the guy I’m currently living-n-lovin’ with was mostly feminist when I met him. He has been an anarchist and vegetarian for most of his life and feminism was always part of that. But it’s safe to say that our feminist perspectives have deepened through our partnership FOR SURE. Like seriously. It’s an on-going process and it only got off the ground because we challenged each other and cared about each other.

I’ve dated many guys (and only guys, so far) and have had many different kinds of relationships. And yeah, I’ve been with some who were misogynistic (didn’t last long). Through the years, I developed priorities:

*The person has to care about me (this hasn’t always been true, but once I became aware I made it top priority)

*If he is a feminist, it might not work if he’s too worship women. If he has a goddess pedestal, we won’t get far. Same goes for that hellcat idea, “feminists are hot!” – no way – same sexist story, different phrase.

*If he’s not a feminist, he should be open, curious and respectful (this is me totally agreeing with Jaclyn Friedman).

*Honestly, if he didn’t have some feminism, certain hot feelings probably wouldn’t have even bubbled up for him after a certain age in my life.

I’m participating in this conversation about dating and fucking even though I’ve been doing those with the same person for almost three years because I care about the topic. And it’s something I think about.

I’ve made compromises but so has he. The key has been to be self-aware. Both of us try to consider that we don’t know everything (hmm!) – it simmers the ego, checks the socialization and encourages learning – pretty damn peaceful stuff. Long-term relationships can be complex journeys and ours is for sure but it is also full of love.

Wasn’t always easy though – not trying to claim it was a hot cake right out of the oven. We’ve worked our asses off for this.

We’ve had some notable feminist moments at seemingly inappropriate times. Like say, on vacation. I remember when we were talking about rape on a road trip. It was probably the middle of the night and we were cruising down some desert highway. I expressed that rape should never be the point of a joke (not that he had made one – I actually can’t remember what sparked the thought).

Right or wrong was the question (though come on, I wasn’t really expecting a debate. Good example of how feminism is a learning process, particularly a shedding of old skin – we absorb so much that is damaging unless we critique it off of us). We went in and out of the topic, used other words, grabbed examples from other horrible acts in society – we were ALL IN. We even pulled from old movies like Alien and whether the alien inserting another alien into that man was rape. On vacation. VACATION. That feminist moment was long, strained, passionate and ultimately satisfying because we totally agreed with each other in the end. We left that discussion winded but refreshed. And smarter. And better feminists.

I know that we become stronger by talking with each other.

Being a feminist while fucking, dating and loving can be a great way to spend a life. Compromise unless it makes you feel uncomfortable, at which point you should talk – depending on how that goes is probably whether the relationship moves forward or not.

The upside

25 03 2010

Recently, I had an email exchange with an old friend about that British study published this month which claims that we (society) are still sexist in our writing.

I wanted to share it with her not only because she is a close friend but also because she is intelligent and she is, at times, interested in feminist perspectives.

I got a quick response from her and was not surprised to see that it was a long one but was surprised at how defensive she seemed. I read her words with a quickening heartbeat – my old friend was bristling at a somewhat tame study. When I initially decided to send it to her, I had considered it something we could both relate to and recognize easily – the wording “he or she” is so common in english language. In verbal situations, the female is almost always listed second. It’s a subtle way to maintain females as second-class citizens. Or worse: invisible in the instances of ‘guys’ being used to describe a group of people of varied genders. “Hey guys”, “those guys”, “what are you guys up to”, etc. Can you imagine someone approaching a mixed gender group and saying, totally seriously, ‘hey gals, how’s it goin?’*

After a few back-and-forths, none of which consisted of personal criticisms rather just discussions of language, we closed it on the agreement that talking openly is essential to exposing oppression – though she ultimately said that this in particular is not a very important issue.

In a way, ‘masculine first’ language isn’t the most damaging thing in the world if you measure it as a single blow at a time but if you zoom out and view the effect it has on all of us – its subtle influence individually expands to widespread unnatural male privilege which extends the power of men and maintains the oppression of women.

Language is important.

I was definitely glad to find a common agreement between us – very glad to know that she values discussions as well but I’ve been bothered that she felt defensive, especially considering I wasn’t challenging her, or at least, I didn’t think I was. I’ve been wondering – what is so threatening about feminism?

Let me wind it back a little:
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The Philadelphia Story

23 03 2010

If a good horror film is one that scares you when you’re least expecting it, then The Philadelphia Story is a good horror film.

This 1940 black and white film is dazzling. The people are beautiful, rich and dewy in soft focus.

What I knew about this movie before seeing it for the first time was that Katharine Hepburn was mostly responsible for it being made at all – she brought it to Broadway and then to Hollywood. I also knew that I generally enjoy her films and characters.

What I didn’t know was that this film showcases a real life conflict but in a fantasy setting.

The movie opens with a lover’s spat that quickly ends in the man pushing Hepburn to the floor. You get the feeling it’s supposed to be comedic. Me and my guy didn’t laugh. “This film is already condoning violence against women” he said, just minutes into the film. *Collective grimace* as we curled up on the couch to watch the plot unfold.

Instantly the film advances two years after the domestic violence incident as Hepburn is set to marry a different guy. She seems to be happy and secure in her life at this point.

An exchange between Hepburn and her mother:
Her mother: We both might face the fact that neither of us have proved to be a very great success as a wife.
Hepburn’s response: We just picked the wrong first husbands, that’s all.

Her being rich and fabulous, some tabloid staffers show up to capture the wedding – one of which is a future love interest for Hepburn’s character. And by “future” I mean that very night.

How did the tabloid crew get into her big ol’ mansion the day before her wedding? Why it was all thanks to her sweetheart of an ex-husband. You remember him? The guy who pushed her? He’s a very charming Cary Grant in fact.

Over the next several scenes, we get treated with funny antics, physical comedy, a little charm, some quirky relatives – it plays out like a typical wedding movie. The highlights in this film are the bursts of great dialogue:

At one point, the new love interest says to Hepburn’s character: Oh, it’s grand, Tracy. It’s what everybody feels about you. It’s what I first worshipped you for from afar

To which she replies: I don’t want to be worshipped. I want to be loved.

It is perfectly romantic at times:

The new love interest: No, you’re made out of flesh and blood. That’s the blank, unholy surprise of it. You’re the golden girl, Tracy. Full of life and warmth and delight. What goes on? You’ve got tears in your eyes.

She responds: Shut up, shut up. Oh, Mike. Keep talking, keep talking. Talk, will you?

At this point, we’re really into the movie – it’s all that black and white dazzle, all that quick dialogue and charm. Still, the scenes between Hepburn and the other men in her life are very disturbing. Read the rest of this entry »