Damn Those Cartoons!

This past weekend, I attended Anime Boston 2010. I helped out a friend with his booth in the dealer’s room, where I carded kids to keep them from browsing or purchasing any of his adult comic books (which accounts for about 75% of what he sells). Yes, that’s right, the man sells hentai. Lots of it. Of all different kinds.

At the same time, he’s one of the leading pro-feminist dudes in my life. He’s got a really good grasp on gender relations, respects women, and is comfortable with all spectrums of gender and sexuality (or at least he seems it). I rank him very high on my list of “dudes I feel really safe and comfortable around.” Having a basement full of Japanese porn hasn’t turned him into a skeevy woman-hating rapist.

Also, as you may recall, I’ve mentioned time and time again that I love porn. I really do. Either it’s really hot, or it’s really hilarious. Either way, it’s fun! Some of the porn I like surprises people. Hell, some of the things I like in the bedroom surprises people. Apparently, feminists have a very narrow spectrum of what we’re allowed to enjoy sexually, because everything else is degrading.

Well that’s just not true. Two consenting adults who respect each other are never actually degrading each other. Whatever gets you off isn’t degrading unless it is made to be degrading. That’s up to you and your partner (so pick your partners wisely). A partner who respects you can do all kinds of things to you without losing that respect or seeing it as degrading.

Likewise, a person who is well-adjusted and understands the difference between fantasy and reality can enjoy all kinds of crazy-ass porno without having to commit any of those acts in real life. You can fap to whatever you want without that controlling your brain.

Every time I hear that people jerking off to a specific kind of porn is going to lead to them running out and becoming blinded by lust and unable to control their urges and forcing women into participating in their creepy weird fantasies, I die a little inside. It’s the same thing as saying that men rape because they just can’t help themselves; they are dominated by their penises.

NO. NO, GODDAMMIT. Biological essentialism is bullshit, no matter what wrapping paper you put it in. Either men are violent rapists by nature, and all it takes is a girl in a mini-skirt or some porn to trigger it, or they aren’t. You can’t have it both ways. I stand firmly in my belief that men aren’t penis-drones; they can control their junk.

Besides, as people have pointed out many times, this is basically the same as the videogame violence issue. Let she who has never had fun playing GTA or God of War or Fallout cast the first stone. If those videogames don’t cause us to reenact them, why would any other?

What I’m getting at here is the whole RapeLay controversy. I’ll be honest–the concept does make me a little squeamish. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I was dating a guy and I found out he played it. But censorship is censorship and I do not endorse the banning or censoring of media. The comments over at Jezebel are really great–there’s a lot of people having a lot of good discussion. Several times, the issue of violent videogames is brought up, as is the issue of policing sexuality.

A fantasy is just that: a fantasy. Some people play them out through safe relationships, some people watch porn, and others just think about them. But as long as they are not actively harming another person with their fantasy, then they shouldn’t have to justify it or deal with people putting laws and bans on it. People have rape fantasies. They also have fantasies about gay sex, oral sex, and plain old lights-out-under-the-covers-missionary. That’s all FINE. As long as we don’t start actively harming others because of our fantasies, we can fantasize about whatever we want. Orgasms are great! Go ahead and have ’em. (And people always bring in the “well, what about child porn?” And the answer is “that’s not okay, because that is actively harming the child.” Although it grosses me the hell out, I have nothing against illustrated kid stuff, because that’s just a way for people to get their fantasy on. Gives me the heebie-jeebies, but I’m sure some of my fantasies would give them the heebie-jeebies, so it’s all fair.)

I am hesitant to start calling for bans and policing of free speech, of media being what it wants to be, because it’s a slippery slope.

We don’t need to have sexual violence legislated out of our society (I mean, look how well laws have worked at stopping murder and drug use and people driving over the speed limit!). We need to change our society to one that doesn’t accept and condone sexual violence. It’s possible to have whatever fantasies you want and look at whatever porn you want without condoning sexual violence. We need to treat each other with respect on a day to day basis and always regard one another as human beings. This means we learn to disagree with others and to accept our differences.

04/07/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Feminism and the Sex Trade

I am a bit torn on the sex trade. I’ve turned it over in my head many times and it is just yet another example of one of those things that I don’t think I know enough about to really have a definitive stance on. When I was younger, it was an easily concrete black-and-white issue of “sex trade bad!” Since then, though, I’ve grown up and had a lot of experiences that change things, including being friends with a former stripper (she now sells sex toys). As I’ve said time and again, experience is not monolithic, so what she has to say about being a stripper certainly doesn’t necessarily apply to every stripper, but talking to her has certainly opened my eyes.

Anyways, Iceland has banned all strip clubs, and the Guardian is headlining this as “Iceland: The world’s most feminist country.” I have a hard time sitting by and feeling comfortable with that statement.

It always irks me when people try to add the modifier “pro-sex” when I say I’m a feminist (“Oh, you’re a pro-sex feminist!”). First off, what the hell does that even mean? I know feminists who don’t necessarily agree with my views on sex, but they still like having it. It really bothers me that we are adding the “pro-sex” modifier because that means that being anti-sex is somehow the norm for feminists, and the whole anti-sex humorless man-hating hairy bra-burning feminist is a cultural trope I want to destroy. (For the record, my feminist friends are easily among some of the raunchiest, perviest people I know. We have fun.)

So, I dislike this idea that stamping out sexuality is a feminist victory. Stamping out unhealthy sexuality is a feminist victory, but I don’t think that getting rid of every strip club in Iceland is the answer. You can have healthy sex shows. That much I know. I doubt that every strip club is a bastion of empowered, happy, healthy women, but does that mean that getting rid of all of them is a solution? No, probably not.

I’m unfamiliar with Icelandic culture, so I cannot speak to what might play out there. But in the US, it doesn’t seem to me like it’s the presence of strip clubs that’s leading to women being commodified–that is a symptom. So even if all the strip clubs were shut down overnight, the commodification wouldn’t stop. Instead of purchasing access to look at a woman’s body legally, it will go underground, and that’s when it immediately becomes that much more dangerous, particularly for the women involved. Now it’s a lot harder for them to draw the line and say no to customers, because the customer has the leverage of the woman’s illegal activity to hold over her. It will be that much harder to get help from police. When strippers are harassed or raped, they already face a much harder time getting legal help or taken seriously; make them illegal and it will become quite nearly impossible.

You know what would be a feminist victory in my mind? If women could do what they want–be strippers if they want–without it being illegal, without getting judged, shamed, and scorned by the population, and without being blamed for any attacks they suffer. I would love for the same thing to apply to men, as well!

I had a brief discussion recently about why there are so few strip clubs that have men stripping (related: Nevada’s first male prostitute has quit his brothel after over two months, but only 10 clients) and so on. The initial knee-jerk response given was “well, women don’t want to pay to see men naked! Women aren’t wired like that/don’t have the same sex drive as men/aren’t as horny” and so on. I disagree with that. Women have libidos as well, and we like to look at naked men. However, it’s been socially programmed into everyone that women don’t want this and won’t pay for it, and if we do/would, we’re abnormal and inappropriate. So, the market has been neutered, essentially.

So to me, a feminist victory would be equal opportunity sex trade–anyone who wants to strut their stuff can, without recrimination. They will be provided with safe working conditions, health care, vacation time, etc. The social stigma will be removed. Their clients will treat them with respect and appreciation.

Sexuality is powerful, wonderful stuff. The more we make it illegal and shameful, the further we will have to go to achieve a state of healthy, happy sexuality.

P.S. Would you look at that! In the time it took me to write this, Feministing did a write-up that bludgeons mine into the ground. Go check it out!

03/29/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Catholic Charities Doesn’t Discriminate, Hates Equally

What next, cats and dogs exchanging currency? Stop the insanity!

I really hate Facebook applications, and I particularly hate all those “sassy” bumper stickers people are posting with sayings like “I don’t discriminate, I hate everyone equally!” I realize I am a misanthropic jerk, but I still think those are stupid. However, if Catholic Charities of Washington, DC has a Facebook page, they should probably update it with that sticker.

As of today, gay marriage is legal in the District. Hooray! Victories! Right? Right?

WRONG. Because gay marriage is just, like, SO SCARY, Catholic Charities has decided to no longer provide benefits coverage to spouses of newly wed employees. Coincidentally, that policy starts today.

Huh. Couldn’t possibly be related, right?

No. Of course not. After all, Christianity is all about loving thy neighbor, helping, and forgiving. Why in the hell would a Catholic charity organization refuse health care to EVERY new spouse, simply on the small chance that there might be some gender congruence in the couplings? That just wouldn’t make any damn sense.

I still just don’t understand what’s so terrifying about gay marriage anyways. Is it that, given the opportunity, they think women would rather marry other women because men are so utterly unappealing? Is it because if two men marry each other, we will bump into the confusing issue of who will do the dishes and fold the laundry and make the sammiches? That if gay men start making their own sammiches, women might start expecting their heterosexual husbands to make their own goddamn sammiches too?

The foundations of my entire reality, they quake and shiver at such a thought. When will the madness end?!

I’m super-thrilled that DC has also approved same sex marriage. Every time we carve out another victory, that’s, well, another victory. Never mind the fact that we shouldn’t have to be fighting for this in the first place–it should be self fucking evident that who you love doesn’t change that you are a human being. Marriage may have started as religious institution, but in the glorious US of A where we have this neato thing called “freedom of religion” and “separation of church and state,” marriage has morphed into a social institution. Unless it can return to being strictly religious–IE carrying no tax benefits, no hospital visitation rights, no special perks except a big thumbs up and a show of the pearly whites from your deity–then it must remain strictly social and it must be equal. This should not be a question. There should be no debate. It shouldn’t be a matter of celebration that on one more itty-bitty little piece of American soil, people are “allowed” to be full citizens of the country.

Fuck that noise.

And fuck you, Catholic Charities, for punishing the many for the sins of none. A victory has been won today that never should have had to be fought for and you have turned around and in response to love, you have institutionalized hate. Every time I get off because I’m thinking about a woman, I’m dedicating my orgasm to you and I’m sending Jesus a memo. He’ll be keeping track, just for you.

03/03/2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Circumcision as genital mutilation?

I don’t have much of an opinion on circumcision. I don’t subscribe to any religious beliefs that mandate circumcision, and I’ve been with men of both varieties and it didn’t really make a difference to me. I’ve never become particularly interested in the topic, so I haven’t bothered to learn much of anything about it.

However, Massachusetts will be voting on a bill on March 2 that would make illegal any “genital mutilation” of children under the age of 18. It would outlaw circumcision, without any exceptions granted for religious purposes.

My first instinct is simply that this can’t be legal–freedom of religion is one of the major rights, which this bill would be flagrantly contradicting. On the other hand, there’s also the right to bodily integrity.

The thing is, I firmly stand against female genital mutilation, and as soon as you start making laws that apply to only one gender, you stand on shaky ground. It becomes easier and easier to undermine something the more stipulations you put on it.

Admittedly, I don’t suppose we have a very high rate of FGM in Massachusetts. (Then again, now that I’ve said that, I will probably regret it, as I will discover depressing statistics or something.)

I don’t know. I can’t really come to a decision on where I stand about this issue, but it’s certainly an interesting one to turn over in my head. Again and again and again. There’s a lot of ways to look at it, and a lot of issues interconnected with it. I’ll keep thinking on it.

[original article]

02/12/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

The internet: for porn, and now perving too!

Our civil liberties are being protected. They’re being protected real hard.

They’re so protected, in fact, that a guy can get a conviction for soliciting sex from an underage individual reversed. How? Why? Because he did it using Yahoo messenger, instead of handwriting.

Yes, let that sink in. Because he wrote his attempted solicitation on a computer, instead of in handwriting, it doesn’t count, because the current law only covers things written with a pen or pencil.

The good news is that he was busted by an undercover cop, so although he thought he was getting some sweet sweet lovin’ from a 13 year old girl, he actually wasn’t. So, at least it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, I guess?

The worst part is that after having taken an intro law class, I can see exactly how his lawyer worked the system to get him off the hook. What disgusts and enrages me is that the court chose to follow the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law (as there are also options to work the system in that way), and it disappoints me that the opposing lawyer couldn’t manage a better rebuttal.

The guy was trying to fuck a 13 year old girl. C’mon people, this is not rocket science–dude is guilty, whether he used Yahoo messenger, a #2 SAT-approved pencil, or goddamn smoke signals. I call serious bullshit on this ruling.

[Original article via UniversalHub]

02/05/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.