October 20, 2006
Here’s a bit of semi-fun, semi-seriousness.
Two interesting–provokative?–articles about women’s Halloween costumes.
The first from the New York Times. I admit just reading the intro paragraph is a bit of a turn-on:
IN her thigh-highs and ruby miniskirt, Little Red Riding Hood does not appear to be en route to her grandmother’s house. And Goldilocks, in a snug bodice and platform heels, gives the impression she has been sleeping in everyone’s bed. There is a witch wearing little more than a Laker Girl uniform, a fairy who appears to shop at Victoria’s Secret and a cowgirl with a skirt the size of a tea towel.
Of course, I am picturing my wife in these outfits. Really.
What I find puzzling is this little observation from one of them “experts” we’re always reading about:
“Decades after the second wave of the women’s movement, you would expect more of a gender-neutral range of costumes,” said Adie Nelson
Because, yeah, girls want to look like men all the time.
Gray, drab dress pants are fine, and I’m hardly an expert, but I see a lot of women being taken seriously without sacrificing their femininity.
Further down, another puzzle:
Deborah Tolman, the director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University and a professor of human sexuality studies there, found that some 30 teenage girls she studied understood being sexy as “being sexy for someone else, not for themselves,” she said.
When the girls were asked what makes them feel sexy, they had difficulty answering, Dr. Tolman said, adding that they heard the question as “What makes you look sexy?”
Yes, it is puzzling how anybody can think the most basic social impulse has anything to do with attracting the attention of other people.
Remember–I’m not saying this because I’m a hot, sexy thing who likes to strut my stuff. I’d be better off if everybody wore paper bags over their heads. I’m just a realist.
With names like “Transylvania Temptress,” “Handy Candy,” “Major Flirt,” and “Red Velvet Devil Bride,” there is no doubt that costumes marketed to children and teens have become more suggestive.
If you know me, you probably know I have a hard enough time buying into the whole little-girl-dreams-of-being-a-princess schtick that children are taught. (I mean, politically, you do know princes and princesses exist on the backs of other people for no reason other than their heritage… right? And that dreaming of marrying rich is probably the worst dream you can foist upon your child if you want her to be successful in life? Yes?)
I sympathize very much with the intent to show children–especially girls–that there’s more to life than “looking pretty” for other people, and this article has some good parenting advice. (Where, by “good,” I mean, “seems reasonable,” though I have not tried it myself, so I have no idea how practical and, hence, good the advice actually is.)
Judging from the average gallery of 13, 12, and even 11 year-old girls I see strutting around with their mothers and grandmothers in Victoria’s Secret (and even the outlet malls!!), a lot of parents are ill-equipped to, well, be parents. I mean, these girls have less subtlety than the average crack-addicted prostitute walking the street. But let’s forget that can of worms. Teenagers go through phases.
The biggest challenge I see, the biggest dilemma facing our ever-sexualized culture, is that so much of mainstream sexuality does–to paraphrase the NYT article–“indulge male lolita fantasies.” Is that indulgence warranted?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a costume to order for my wife… and I need to shorten my own skirt this year. Need to “keep up with the joneses” and all that.
April 24, 2006
Over at scienceblogs recently, there was a story about researching sex in an MRI tube. (NOTE: It appears this research is actually seven years old, and won the 2000 IgNoble award for Medicine. Which means you’re fully justified in laughing at the research…that is, if you’re not as aroused by it as I am.)
The methodology was a bit weird, and left a bit to be desired:
After a preliminary image for positioning the true pelvis of the woman was taken, the first image was taken with her lying on her back (image 1). Then the male was asked to climb into the tube and begin face to face coitus in the superior position (image 2). After this shot—successful or not—the man was asked to leave the tube and the woman was asked to stimulate her clitoris manually and to inform the researchers by intercom when she had reached the preorgasmic stage. Then she stopped the autostimulation for a third image (image 3). After that image was taken the woman restarted the stimulation to achieve an orgasm. Twenty minutes after the orgasm, the fourth image was taken (image 4). At the end of the experiment, the images were evaluated in the presence of the participants.
Obligatory wisecrack: at least they were realistic about the stages of sex.
In case you’re wondering, they removed the bed–so the participants did have a full 50cm to move about inside the tube. In spite of this freedom of movement–or maybe because they weren’t as confined as anticipated–most of the couples, um, had trouble performing. (As one who’s been through an MRI tube before, I have to say it was a huge turn-on. Or maybe that was the cute nurses.)
Frankly, I’m surprised this kind of research was still getting funded in 2000. I remember, as a child (yes, I was a very naughty child)–and I’m talking, I believe, pre-teen here–watching an episode on PBS where they’d inserted a camera into a woman’s cervix as she was orgasming (and, apparently, so was her partner). I remember this episode because they reran it several times (did I mention I was a very naughty child?).
The point of that program was to demonstrate the role that female orgasms play in human reproduction. I recall finding it both gross and oddly compelling. More important, I recall being struck by the question: how/why did the female orgasm evolve? (Was it was an evolutionary response to widespread rape/forced servitude?)
So if researchers were inserting cameras during intercourse 15-20 years ago, why the need for MRIs of staged/static faux sex?
A better question is: as medicine matures and aging MRI machines are discarded by hospitals, will a new sex industry spring up around hand-me-down MRIs? Why should doctors have the upper-hand in getting past the third date with lines like, “Wanna go back to my office and check out my gargantuan MRI?”
April 16, 2006
New York magazine on The New Monogamy: marriage, with benefits. The authors–two engaged women–explore the option of negotiating the definition of “monogamous” and the boundaries of monogamous relationships.
There are two things I thought worth noting.
First, surprisingly, not only is this not polyamory, it’s actually anti-polyamory:
“We’re not polyamorous,” insists Mike—and in fact, every couple we spoke with said the same thing. “We don’t date other people, and we don’t have romantic relationships with our sex partners—though we’ve become close friends with some of them.”
If he sounds a bit defensive, it’s understandable. Because in most people’s imaginations, you’ve got on the one hand your earnest, hairy polyamorists (see San Francisco) and on the other, doughy, middle-aged swingers (see Minnesota or HBO). These are the bogeymen of today’s hipster open relationships […]
Second, by the end of their exploration, the authors conclude there may be something a bit more sinister at work:
[…] a pattern we saw emerge in our research: The most smooth-running nontraditional relationships, it seems, comprise a straight man and a bisexual woman who’s not particularly interested in men besides her No. 1 guy. “I wish I were bi,” says Siege. “It’d make things easier. But it’s like this island of old-fashionedness in my brain—I just don’t want her messing around with other guys. Because I don’t find men attractive, my only instinct would be to punch them.”
Perhaps this is all a performance to turn guys on, Girls Gone Wild Gone Nonmonogamous. It could be that sexually speaking, women are just not taken seriously: Hot, yes, but as sex toys, not real romantic threats. (Who could trump the mighty penis?) As two women about to embark on what we hope will be lifelong commitments, we’re left wondering: Has the bar suddenly been raised? Is female bisexuality the latest way to be the perfect girlfriend?
Not that male hypocrisy is anything surprising…
How much of “negotiated monogamy” is descended from “technical virginity,” which was popular when I was a teenager? If you’re not familiar with that, it runs like this:
If you valued virginity as a moral ideal (as many of my generation did), but you were horny (and what teenager isn’t?), you’d do everything but allow penetration. You’d still call yourself a virgin and feel superior in doing so–and girls still had the psychological advantage in warding off unwelcome advances by claiming to be virigins–but you could get your kicks every weekend.
After all, the subjects in this article are all from the same generation.
(Link via ValleyWag.)
February 18, 2006
Apropos of nothing, this funny little sequence occured to me.
Understand that, in the Bay Area, East Bay cable subscribers tend to get the East Coast feed of the Sci-Fi channel, while Peninsula subscribers get the West Coast Feed. As a result, Battlestar Galactica comes on at 7 & 10 on the East side, but 10 & 1 on the Peninsula.
So imagine you’re a single guy living in, say, Palo Alto, with a girlfriend who lives in, say, Fremont.
You get off work early on Friday, and head out to Fremont to pick up your girlfriend. Before you go out, you catch BSG.
So you go out to eat, and head back to your place, just in time to see… BSG.
When that’s through, you turn off the TV and do whatever it is that young couples do at 11:00 on a Friday night. (Play cards?)
At 1, you switch on the TV again, and have a little rest while watching BSG.
Almost makes me wish I were still single.
Well, that, and the knowledge of what girls will do these days if you have a camera and a Webshots account… but that’s a subject for a different post.
November 12, 2005
The FDA is considering new condom labels warning that condoms reduce, but do not eliminate, the risk of pregnancy or transmission of HIV.
Sounds like a straight-forward statement of the facts, right? If you’ve been paying attention, you already knew that.
Conservative groups are supporting this measure, because they think it will increase the number of unmarried couples abstaining from sex. Um, no, not gonna happen. The decision to have sex is not a logical decision. That decision has far more to do with hormones, emotions and social conformity than it does with rational risk assessment. Fact of life. And if the reason somebody is avoiding sex is out of fear of disease, they probably have more severe problems, and are not any more emotionally or logically well-adjusted as anybody else. (One who is well-adjusted, and does make it a logical decision, is not going to be swayed by being berated, anyway.)
But here’s the thing. Planned Parenthood is opposing the warning label because, so their argument goes, it will cause maladjusted teens to abandon condom use altogether. According to Planned Parenthood, unmarried couples having promiscuous sex already have an aversion to, and doubts about, using condoms. So telling them that condoms really aren’t 100% safe and effective will make at least some of them conclude that they’re not worth the trouble.
My guess is Planned Parenthood is opposing the label simply on account that Conservative groups support it. It can best be understood, then, as a political tactic, not a health tactic, simply so they’re not seen as agreeing with Conservatives, whether they expect the FDA to drop their recommendation or not.
Because, if not, what they’re really saying can be stated thusly: “More information leads to worse decision making. So keep people ignorant and lie to them if you have to.”
Hmm. That sounds suspiciously like some of the arguments made by abstinence-only advocates.
I’m sure there’s an economist somewhere who can lay out a great argument on how perfect knowledge can lead to degredation of everybody’s economic well-being. And we’re all aware of how impending disasters might be kept secret for a time until preparations are made so as to not cause panic and more damage. And, hey, if we accept that having sex is not a logical decision, then maybe we don’t want to combat public health issues with facts and figures and rational arguments. But it just seems so absurd to me.