Category Archives: gender & sexuality

purity ball, abstinence and changing society

This morning, i read a brief article in the NYTimes called Contr-Contraception. In short, there’s proposed legislation requiring insurance companies to cover contraception, conservative folks argue that this will create a new wave of sexual promiscuity. The second half of the article focuses on abstinence education and “purity balls” where young girls (and yes, only young GIRLS) promise to keep their purity until marriage. The whole article makes me want to scream (which is why you should read it), but i want to address one component of it….

Abstinence education rhetoric speaks of a return to a more pure society, back when people didn’t have sex until marriage, when women stayed at home with the kids and were forced to swallow their pride every time their husband cheated on them (cuz we all know that cheating is not a 21st century phenomenon). What isn’t remembered is that people got married at 16, not 32. Bad marriages were formed out of horniness. At the same time, young men could assume to have a meaningful career path by the time they were 22/23. Today, many 22/23-year olds are still working in Starbucks because the Baby Boomers aren’t willing to retire and give up the privileged positions within society. We also like to pretend like people didn’t have sex outside of the sanctity of marriage. Bullshit. People just didn’t *talk* about it. People relied on the pull-out method, got married quickly before she would show, had babies that weren’t their husbands, etc. Abortions happened with hangers – they didn’t simply not exist.

When i talk to my friends working in sex ed, i get so upset. All of this abstinence bullshit has resulted in an increase in STDs, a dramatic lack of knowledge about sexual health and pregnancy, and a silencing of problems. Based on what i’ve heard, my guess is also that fewer girls are reporting rapes.

Why? Why? Why?

When it comes to sex legislation, folks either take the moral highground or a practical approach. The former argues that the latter is promoting immoral activities while the latter argues that the former is cruel and dangerous. I’m definitely in the latter camp because all of my own research has shown that desire trumps risks for most people. This means that a lot of good people will get themselves into bad situations that could’ve been prevented if folks weren’t so insane about upholding a moral highground that they could never actually live by either. For me, the key is setting the practical as the baseline and then trying to instill moral values on top of that… but not at risk of really harming people in the process.

::sigh:: Conservative politics make me feel so powerless.

P!nk: beautiful and political

Although i had heard P!nk’s music on the radio over the last couple of years, i didn’t pay much attention to her until her latest video Stupid Girls started popping up all over MySpace. I was floored by the no-bullshit strong feminism coming out of a mainstream artist and utterly ecstatic to see young girls share her video on their pages. So i bought her latest CD. I’m Not Dead unapologetically political and extremely beautiful and i have just been playing it on repeat all night. One song in particular – “Dear Mr. President” – really got under my skin. Featuring Indigo Girls, it’s an open letter to Bush. Here’s a sample from the lyrics:

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
How do you walk with your head held high
Can you even look me in the eye

Let me tell you bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box

It’s been a long time since i wanted to celebrate a mainstream artist, but P!nk’s latest album really blows me away and i wanted to share that with those of you who haven’t been paying attention to mainstream music. Wow.

lessons from the WoW debacle

When i first heard of Blizzard conflating advertising queer-friendly guilds with sexual harassment, i was pretty upset and blogged about it. Since then, numerous groups have spoke eloquently about the issue, Lambda Legal got involved and Blizzard apologized. It is always good to see digital demonstrations work. Given this, i will re-order WoW and check it out shortly.

While i should celebrate this positive change of affairs, my sunny spirits have been dampened by the ways in which participants justified Blizzard’s decisions in the commentary of many blogs, on mailing lists, and in person. It has been a real eye-opener at how much unchecked homophobia swirls around me, both from within the queer community and from without. I’m not talking about the overt “faggot” homophobia; i’m talking about the homophobia that comes from failing to recognize systems of oppression and privilege. When i wrote my post, i made some assumptions about my readers, about the people around me. I feel the need to explain the assumptions under which i am operating.

Imagine a world where a woman is told that they can’t talk about being a female because that would be encouraging people to attack her and thus it would be not permitted and would be deemed sexism. My hope is that most people can recognize that this is absurd. Of course, the funny thing is that we live in that world anyhow. In technical fields, we are often told that if we talk about being women, we are complaining. We are told that we live in a meritocratic world where women are welcome so they should just stop complaining. Yet, the reality is that being female is not just about the XX chromosomes, the estrogen, the boobs and hips. It’s a situated identity that cannot be untangled from experience. Sure, we can try to out-male the men (and many of us do indeed try) but the standards are still separate. We are still read as women when we walk in the door, whether we like it or not. We live in a sexist culture and pretending sexism doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Tis the reason that i have much appreciation for Malcolm Gladwell for using narrative in explaining research to make this issue more visible – even when we think that we aren’t looking at race and gender, we are. If we said that we should not talk about being female, everyone would be assumed to be male and judged on that manner. You don’t create equality by removing the experiences that alters embodied identities… in those terms, the oppressed will always be oppressed, systemically. There’s a huge amount of sexism in WoW – even in watching over others’ shoulders, i’ve seen my fair share of “don’t be such a girl” and comments about the femininity/masculinity of particular characters’ representations. Would a sexism-free space be acceptable to the majority of users? I have to imagine that few people would say that is oppressing sexist bastards.

Sexuality has always been a more complicated picture because the debate is rooted in issues of morality. I will never forget the first time i was asked why gay people had to highlight their butt-fucking to everyone by marching down the streets. ::shudder:: This is when i realized that from a heterosexist point of view, “gay” is read as a set of practices, not an identity. It is assumed that when a group of queer people gather, they do so to fuck. This is just as stereotypically problematic as saying that when a group of women gather, they do so to bake. Sure, it does happen, but it is by no means the sole reason to gather… Gatherings happen based on identity, based on a set of shared values and views about how the world works. It’s about creating safe space where you don’t have to have your walls up high, have to be on constant guard for attacks, don’t have to constantly defend your view of the world. It’s a way to keep sane more than anything else. And it’s a way of being able to cope in a culture of oppression.

The problem i have with people saying it’s equivalent to a hetero-friendly guild is that hetero-friendly is the norm. Heterosexuals are not an oppressed population; they can walk proud on the street, show their love on TV without question, bring their partners to the company picnic without fear, have children without worrying how their love will affect their children. They don’t have to worry about feeling silenced by comments such as “you’re such a straightie.” It’s simply not the same.

Of course, i’m totally in favor of Blizzard keeping it a PG-13 (violence permitted) environment. I totally understand why watching two characters fuck would not be appropriate, but i don’t think that the gender of the characters matters. The thing is that is fundamentally different than eliminating identity. And queer is an identity first and foremost. Fantasy worlds may not need to have sex, but they do have to have identity. And people’s lived identities seep through whether we like it or not. To silence only the oppressed individuals in a system is beyond dangerous; it promotes a society that i can never support.

I also understand why some people are afraid to reveal their sexuality to young people for fear of being attacked, perceived as a pedophile (although more straight folks abuse children than gay folks), or thinking that sex should not be mentioned to children. The problem is that we’ve all been taught that to talk about our sexuality, our identity, is the same as bringing sex to the conversation. That’s a dangerous dangerous thing to internalize and i implore queer folks to stop doing that. No one should be talking about their sex life to children, but that doesn’t mean you should hide your identity because people have told you to be shameful of yourself. Young people need to know queer people as regular people – this is how tolerance is formed.

I respect that Blizzard has made the economically responsible decision to stop this tomfoolery. But i think that this issue is also critical for general societal reflection. Silencing people because of their identity is a dangerous proposition. We’ve done that a few times in our history to deadly ends. Let’s not do that again.

girls in boy-wear

I loved the fact that the girls could do grunge and skater just like the boys – flannels, phat pants, etc. Many of the butchy girls i knew wore boxer briefs and bought all of their clothes from the boys’ shelves. I’ve been utterly fascinated by contemporary boys’ street wear, in particular the style that involves wearing big pants with no belt below your ass (where your ass shows your underwear) combined with a long baggy T. This outfit typically requires holding onto your pants so that they don’t fall down and yanking them up every few minutes. While i know many a-parent sees this and screams, “WHY?,” my reaction is, “Where are the butchy girls?” I have yet to see a girl sporting the same style. Hell, i see very few girls sporting any form of baggy pants these days. Has streetwear moved to being completely gender divided? It sure seems like it. 🙁

On that note, check out this Pink video about “stupid girls.” (tx Tom)

on sex education

I think that abstinence education is a crock-o-shit, in part because we’ve pushed off marriage to be something that you do in your mid-20s (or 30s). At the same time, sexual maturation is occurring earlier and earlier (in part due to nutrition and other hormone shifts). Not only is sex seen as a rite of passage to maturity, but it is sold through every form of media out there.

How on earth can we expect people to be virgins through their 20s? (Remember: a century ago, you may have lost your virginity when you got married… but that was at like age 16. Not 25.)

I’m constantly perturbed that we’re teaching abstinence instead of safe sex because we refuse to acknowledge that teens are having sex. Not only is it not working (well, it is resulting in the substitution of oral and anal sex for vaginal penetration), but it’s putting a lot of kids at risk.

Anyhow, amidst my reading this week, i ran across a hysterical quote concerning how to actually motivate abstinence. It had me laughing so hard i had to share:

There’s no evidence that information about contraception – or even distributing condoms in school – gives young people the idea of having sex. The entire culture and their own bodies seems to be doing that quite effectively. Indeed, if there is any one thing that can make sex dull for teenagers, it is to teach it in high school. — Thomas Hine

register for Blogher 2006

Blogher 2005 was a complete blast and Blogher 2006 will be even better!  Now two days long, Blogher 2006 will allow women bloggers around the world to gather, commune, socialize and revel in the fact that technology participation is more diverse than people think.  Blogher 2006 will be held in San Jose, in a bigger location (although space is still limited so sign up now).  This year, there will be two days of convening: July 28-29, 2006.  Come one come all!  Above everything else, REGISTER NOW!!!

gender representation on King Kong

I decided to see the new King Kong while i was in Hawaii and i have to say it was an unbelievable experience. First, there was something so utterly astounding to be in a theater with mostly Hawaiians Hawaiian residents while watching a film with an atrocious and offensive depiction of Islanders as a “savage” population incapable of hygiene with their eyes rolled back in their heads. Of course, the kids in the audience didn’t seem to mind – they happily talked their way through the entire film, more ecstatic at the action scenes than anything else.

Putting the problematic racial depiction aside, what really fascinated me was the representation of gender performances intertwined with the dichotomy between nature and technology. Kong is a stand-in for pure masculinity, pure nature while Jack (and crew) represent a technologically-aided masculinity. Ann on the other hand represents pure femininity in society, but her representation in the “wild” is a complicated mix of feminine beauty and stereotypically masculine strength and will. The masculine side of her tames the beast while the feminine side brings out his vulnerabilities and nurturing side. The crew’s masculinity comes out in trying to preserve the female while Kong’s masculinity is tamed by the female.

In the wild, neither Kong nor Ann represents a cleanly gendered split while their representations in human society are, by the very nature of that society, split into a clean binary (best represented by Kong and the fake Ann’s interaction on stage back in New York). Conversely, in society, Jack is a nice metrosexual but in the wild, he develops into a pure masculine energy, determined to heroically save the girl. The crew view Ann as a completely vulnerable individual who must be saved while Kong saves her for bringing out his vulnerabilities.

Juxtaposed against the monkey vs. robot narrative, the gendered aspect is intriguing. In the wild, there’s more flexibility for complicated gender performances but when technology evens the playing field, gender must be dichotomously maintained through performance.

What i found intriguing about Jackson’s representation of gender in King Kong was that it was so over the top caricatured that it was fascinating to watch unfold (while his racial representation was disturbing at best).

Anyhow… just some random thoughts. Mostly cuz i’d love to hear others’ thoughts on the representations in the film.


Homosexual is a term originating from the greek words Homos, meaning “same”, and sexual, meaning “sexual.” It is used to describe couples who have sex in the same manner each night. This is different from heterosexuals who have sex in varying positions.

Homosexuality is especially popular in most Christian religions where anything aside from missionary style sex is considered sodomy. Most christians are outright homosexuals and believe heterosexuality to be a sin. — Uncylclopedia

ROFL. ::crash::giggle:: Oooh… my belly hurts. ::laugh::laugh::laugh::

Pledge-a-Picket at Planned Parenthood

i passed their handheld signs
went through their picket lines
they gathered when they saw me coming
they shouted when they saw me cross
i said why don’t you go home
just leave me alone – Ani

Anti-choice protesters make it very difficult for Planned Parenthood clinics to provide information, support and a choice for women in need. Protesters work in the most egregious ways to emotionally wreck these women, many of whom are already suffering tremendously. So, when i saw that Planned Parenthood started a campaign called Pledge-a-Picket, i had to pledge. Basically, you can pledge to contribute based on the number of picketers that visit. Thus, every picketer gains Planned Parenthood money by engaging in their egregious behaviors. Their activities are no longer purely destructive – they are inverted to help PP do its work!

Please join me – pledge some picketers.

Note: i know this happened last year too – this is a new campaign that ends November 30