At the Texas Monthly, Jenny Kutner tells the story of her affair at 14 with a married teacher 10 years her senior. She paints a complex portrait of herself as both a victim and a survivor, but also a willing — and unwitting — participant, a young woman believing she has full agency and later an adult coming to terms with the manipulation and abuse. More than anything, the piece is powerful because it gives voice to both the 14-year-old girl who lived the experience, and the adult woman assessing and processing it. She’s not a news story or a silent figure in a larger morality tale; she’s a real girl, with all the complex feelings that come along with infatuation and adolescence and victimization and breaking through. It is a must-read.
So begins a miniseries for the next couple months on rape culture and the finer points of victim-blaming illogic, as part of an effort to stray from tried-and-true topics and cover more divisive subjects that typically attract online harassment and rape threats. Afterward we’ll talk next semester’s plans and ask how you’d grade Feministe’s first attempt at vlogging this year. But first, here’s our last episode of 2013, as of this writing…
I’m not a Cosmopolitan reader. There are endless reasons to leave it on the magazine rack. And then there’s Cosmo fashion editor Charles Manning, who is both a dude and the fashion editor for Cosmo. In an editorial on the magazine’s site, Manning points out that teaching women to “fix their figure flaws” and camouflage their bodies to fit traditional standards of perfection doesn’t exactly promote a positive body image.
Women are more likely to regret casual sexual encounters than men. Is that because women are evolutionarily predisposed to feel shame after sex? A team of UCLA evolutionary psychologists says yes. I say no:
It’s my dream: I got to write about a Dear Prudence column in the Guardian. This week it’s about a mom who wrote in to Prudence concerned that her husband freaks out when their son wears mom’s ballet flats, and expands into the way we gender our kids from birth:
The brilliant Lisa Wade at Sociological Images has a thought-provoking piece about penis/gun imagery in safer sex ads, like this particularly vivid one:
The right-wing anti-sex “real woman” backlash seems to have hit the feminist movement this month, with the publication of books telling women to swear off the Pill and to swear off sex. I’m writing about it in the Guardian: That we’ve come a long way, baby, but gender relations remain fraught, and living with a wide variety of choices that look wide-open but end up constrained is much more challenging than having one or two paths to choose from. It’s easier, in many ways, to offer simple proscriptive advice about “real” femininity than to have to figure out how to be a woman when the definition of “womanhood” is increasingly broad:
Rape is in the news again this week with another widely-publicized gang rape in India and a 31-day sentence for an American teacher who raped a 14-year-old student (she later committed suicide). In the Guardian I’m writing about how certain cultures abet rape and keep reporting rates low:
Sunday night’s MTV VMAs: Miley Cyrus gets to wear and/or remove revealing clothes. She gets to put her hands and/or pelvis in assorted places. She gets to wear latex granny panties and grind up on a fully-dressed Robin Thicke. She gets to stick her tongue out — constantly — no matter how gross it is — like a cartoon dog seeing a sexy cartoon lady dog. Miley Cyrus is a grown woman and gets to use her body as she wants.
Using other people’s bodies is a different story, and a number of bloggers have commented on that crucial fact.
When a partner cheats, there’s always (well, frequently, anyway) a question: Why? Why, God, why? Is it something I did? Parent Society blogger Jennifer Carsen has the answer: Yes! Yes, it is. It’s probably because you got fat. Yeah, when your partner decides to have illicit sex behind your back instead of fixing your relationship or breaking it off cleanly, it’s definitely because you got fat.
We live in an era of unprecedented access to information about sex, imagery of sex and health care related to sex. Internet porn is ubiquitous. Sexual health information, though not always easily accessible, is more accessible online, in mainstream publications (hello Cosmo) and at doctor’s offices than ever before. Frank discussion of sexual pleasure is standard on television and in movies. There are entire university departments dedicated to the study of human sexuality. That’s all good, and we have early sexual pioneers and researchers to thank for it. But we still have quite a long way to go. I’d love to see us embrace a vision of sexuality that isn’t transactional or gendered or capitalist:
Earlier this month, Jillian Horowitz wrote about being a sex-negative feminist on xoJane. Reading her piece, I had thoughts similar to the ones I have when I find myself listening to Coldplay: “Is this… good? Is this good for me…