Friday, October 15, 2010

A Sweet Bitch of the Week: The Grandmother of Orgasms

So I thought that it could be time for another Sweet Bitch of the Week post around here. A Sweet Bitch other than all of the awesome ladies who organised the abortion protest last week. The protest that I was actually able to attend because my boss read my hysterical-slash-impassioned blog on the subject and gave me a couple of hours off work. Come to think of it, my boss actually would have been a pretty good candidate for Sweet Bitch of the Week. It was a really, really great protest. There was chalk. And hoops. And way more than the reported "50 people" in attendance. Thanks for nothing TVNZ.


[Edited to add that for more photos and an excellent demo report you should head over to The Hand Mirror where Maia has written an excellent rally report, including photos and this video that Pro Life NZ took of the protest. Possibly for their spank bank?]

It was really awesome how many of you commented on that post. I was so heartened and encouraged by all of this feminist power in my city, a city that is usually powered by roti chenai and icy rain, that I was like the Energizer Bunny. If the Energizer Bunny ran on riot grrl and zines and protests and pro choice camaraderie.

But yes, I hear you loud and clear dear readers. Get on with it and get to the bit about the orgasms, you say. Your wish is my command, because we are gonna talk about sex therapist Betty Dodson, who has probably had more orgasms than you or I could shake a stick at. It is Betty who taught me about the real meaning of being sex positive and my nether regions will be eternally grateful, so I thought it might be time for me to spread the love and for you to spread your legs. I'm just going to nab this little introduction to Betty's work from an excellent interview with Dr. Lori Buckley; a podcast and transcript of which can be found here. Buckley says:

Betty is known for liberating masturbation, for hands-on women's workshops, showing women how to love their vulvas, enjoy masturbation, and how to become orgasmic. Betty is also known for her many books and films which include the books "Sex for One", "The Joy of Self-Loving", and "Orgasms for Two: The Joy of Partner Sex". Her films include "Viva La Vulva" and "Orgasmic Women: Thirteen Self-loving Divas".

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I love Betty. I can't remember whether I introduced her website to my girlfriend, or whether she introduced her website to me, but Betty is one of our mutual loves along with fried cheese and Christina Ricci. I want you to fall in love with Betty as well so I'm going to make a little list of eleven reasons why you should love her and why she is my Sweet Bitch of the Week. This is quite possibly the most mathematical that this blog is ever going to get, so lap it up numerical nerds! A word to the wise and to those who like to stay employed, these thinks are probably fairly unsafe for work.

1. I just actually love the way that Betty talks about sex. I love the way she talks about sex all over her website, which she runs with Carlin Ross, and all over her YouTube Channel, and all over her blog. I love that her work in sex education has extended to the free-for-all Internet, as well as running her own private practice in New York City, because it is this kind of positive, non-judgemental sex education that people need, not the pearl-clutching and the slut shaming and the pictures-of-pustules-and-diseases-without-any-discussion-of-pleasure-or-consent-or-thrush-or-UTIs. Just watch this video (link here). Then watch all of her other videos. Luxuriate in the way that Betty talks about sex.

2. She wrote this amazing response to the play, the Vagina Monologues, and opened up a whole new can of critical thinking. Why can't even the most pussy-centric play of our time use anatomical terms correctly? Why can't we ever talk about women and sex and women's bodies without talking about rape? Why does rape always have to be a women's issue?

3. She has the most amazing skin. Apparently her secret is "pussy power". She makes me want to orgasm into my eighties and save on my skincare routine.

4. Yes, her eighties. She is eighty one. EIGHTY! ONE! I love how she totally kills all of those stupid media representations of old person sex as one big cutesy, hilarious and/or repulsive joke.

5. She cares so much about pleasure. Because that is what consensual sex is, right? It's about doing what feels good. It's just bodies. I love how much she cares about teaching women to orgasm. I love that she runs masturbation workshops. I love that she kept running masturbation workshops after she had a hip replacement.

6. I love that her and Carlin's response to the hysterical anti-porn brigade (which my girlfriend blogged about; republished on Betty Dodson's website nonetheless) was to make a series of sex education videos. Brilliant. If you don't like something, make it better.

7. I love that she started a genital art gallery, as part of her work to normalise and celebrate different types of genitalia. I hate that it got taken down. I love that her vulva illustrations are on Scarleteen though, a sex education website for teenagers.

8. I love that there is some stuff she does that I don't completely love. I wish she wasn't quite so dismissive of the G-Spot, for example, but I get that she has an entire generation of women who expect to come from vaginal penetration alone to deal with. Also, Betty has been criticized for her support of Clitoraid, an organisation that fund re-constructive surgery for women who have experienced female genital mutilation. While I really hate Clitoraid's patronising "Adopt a Clitoris" campaign, I love Betty's response to her critics, and I love her and Carlin's tireless advocacy against FGM.

9. She identifies herself as a heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian.

10. She wrote an essay called Fucking Like a Feminist.

11. The eleventh and final reason to love Betty Dodson is simply just because this photograph of her exists. She looks like she has just popped out of training at the masturbation military. Amazing.

[If you guys are interested in this sex-positive feminism business, you should check out my girlfriend's blog that she has just started up. And tell her to post more stuff, because Stevie eats pro-sex feminism for breakfast.]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gingerly Negotiating Your Rage on the Internet

Do you know what Internet? It makes me so happy when you send me emails about your rage. I quite like getting emails in general actually, but I especially love the rage. This is possibly only because it makes me feel like I am not the only furious psychopath on the Internet, but the heart wants what the heart wants. So you guys should keep emailing me, because it makes me feel like I am reuniting with my many long lost siblings of fury. As if we were all adopted out by one extremely angry mother, and now we are finding each other through our shared distaste for idiocy on the Internet. Although, I think I'll stick with my own mum because she has a crystal necklace that spells out CUNT and she doesn't mind when I blog about cum towels on the Internet.

In the latest installment of Your Rage and My Blog, we are going to talk about this little gem here that I was sent by my pal A:

ginger hate

And A, as a sibling of Internet fury, was offended by this. She said:

'Ginger' hate has to be one of the stupidest possible sorts of discrimination. Its a hair colour! Come the fuck on. It is just senseless bullying. I think hair anywhere in the strawberry blonde- violent red spectrum is awesome. Naturally red headed people have the loveliest hair, and often wonderful pale skin freckly complexions.

People really are idiots.

Funnily enough, I happen to agree with A. And not just because I am biased. I was almost on board there with Izzy because it was a Harry Potter joke, and I do like to think of myself as bearing an uncanny resemblance to Madam Rosmerta. Almost on board, but not quite. Because I didn't find it that funny when a friend in first year explained that you call a "hot" red head a unicorn. And I didn't find this funny either:


Decidedly no laughs there. Any possible points that I might have assigned for critical analysis of Twilight (alternatively known as Stephanie Myer's Pro Life Allegory of Stockholm Syndrome) have been counter balanced by Izzy's casual homophobia. And the strawberry blonde thing? How awkward. God forbid, letting somebody describe their body using the terms that they choose. :L indeed.

I mean, you guys probably know this by now, right? I like to be offended by stuff. And yes, blah blah, ginger hate is just a joke! I should probably calm down or get over it or lighten up or take a chill pill, or something else completely dismissive. But surely, by now I'm on record as being completely humourless and a total boner killer. So humourless, in fact, that I was one of the 700 New Zealanders who made gleefully made official complaints about Paul Henry because I'm just not that into state funded racism. So bitterly humourless, that I just don't think that ginger jokes are that funny. I don't think it's that funny to imitate all of the other types of discrimination by joking about hair colour. If it's that funny then why don't we all play a little light hearted round of eugenics? Or maybe we could sit down to a game of Khmer Rouge? Lynch mob role play anyone?

I know. Nobody is dying. It's a hair colour. But why imitate this shit? It's still bullying. It's still body policing. It's these kind of jokes that normalize how divisive our society can be. Sometimes bullying leads to stuff. And ginger hate has lead to some pretty crap stuff. And seriously, if Perez Hilton says he is going to stop bullying people, there has got to be hope for us all.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Eff You Peter Carlisle

There is a pro-choice rally in Wellington on Tuesday. I really wish that I could go. Partly because I want to feel like a proper days-of-yore feminist who goes to six protests before breakfast and then goes home to read the Beauty Myth. Partly because abortion is actually illegal in New Zealand and because getting an abortion requires already vulnerable women to jump through hoops like little sparkly-ruffed circus dogs. I'd like to go to the rally because for a woman to choose abortion in New Zealand she has to see two different doctors and she has to tell them that the continuation of her pregnancy will endanger her life, her mental health or her physical health. If she lives outside of Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland she will have to travel, often meaning many days away from work and away from her local support network. MP Steve Chadwick is currently proposing an Abortion Reform Bill to take abortion out of the Crimes Act, which surprisingly will be opposed by anti-abortion group Voice For Life. The life that they advocate for of course being that of unborn foetuses, rather than the full and healthy lives of women and their planned families. So I have a few pretty good reasons for wanting to go and protest.

But mostly, I'd like to go to the rally to say a big 'fuck you' to Peter Carlisle. I don't know who Peter Carlisle is, but he posted this on the Facebook event page for the No More Jumping Through Hoops Abortion Rights Protest and I instantly hated him:

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Needless to say, I am more than a little offended by the dismissive, misogynist, homophobic, slut-shaming and inaccurate Peter Carlisle. So were a whole lot of other open legged lesbians on the event page. Nicola made this brilliant point:


Astute, although I often wish that we didn't have to use extreme situations like rape or incest to suggest that a woman should be entitled full control of her body. Hannah casually pointed out Peter's apparent lack of basic biological knowledge:

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My friend Izzy, a she-wolf if there ever was one, eloquently put Peter in his place:

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But Tessa possibly had the best argument of all:

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And just quietly, Peter Carlisle is not only poorly informed about basic biology but also about the meaning of the word contraception. He should possibly get his facts right before posting on a Facebook event filled with slutty lesbians who also happen to be pedants. Contraception is something that is used to prevent conception, so I am guessing that most women who request abortion are a little past that point. And if Peter means that women are using abortion as a method of birth control, perhaps he should go and read this awesome blog post at the Curvature. Here is a snippet:

"Because do you understand the actual words you are speaking? Do you know what birth control is? It’s right there, in the name. It is something you use to control whether or not you give birth. That’s it. Ta-da. The end. When someone says “lots of women use abortion as a form of birth control!” what they mean is “lots of women use abortion.” The extra words are unnecessary. How the hell else are you going to use it?"
I would love to go to that protest to shove it to Peter Carlisle. I would like to shove it to all of the Peter Carlisles of the world; men who think they ought to have a say in what women do with their bodies. I would love to go because full equality depends upon women having full control over their fertility. I would love to show my support for Steve Chadwick's bill, because often it is not abortion that causes mental distress, it is the obstacles that women face. I would love to shove it to Peter Carlisle for suggesting that women who have abortions are sexually promiscuous and for even thinking that the amount of sex a woman has is something that can be used as an insult. It would be great to ask him about a pile of things, like why he thinks that my being a lesbian (or at least a woman who is in a same sex relationship) somehow seems to undermine my stance on reproductive rights or why he seems to think that women are solely responsible for planning when to have kids. I would like to take him up on why he thinks it is appropriate to tell another human being to just shut their legs. I would like to tell him about how no contraceptive is 100% effective and about how nobody is perfect and about the many women who have died in back alley procedures as a consequence of limited access to safe and legal abortion . I would like to tie him to a chair and make him watch Vera Drake. I would like to ask him why he feels so comfortable with the idea of forcing his moral beliefs onto others. I would like to politely suggest that if Peter Carlisle doesn't like abortions then maybe he doesn't have to get one, but he shouldn't rob others of their personal choice.

But I can't go to the protest. I will be sitting at my desk at work devoting eight hours of my day to typing, mediocrity and capitalism. But maybe you can. Go. Shove it to Peter Carlisle.

If you live in Wellington and you want to stick it to Peter Carlisle you should go to the No More Jumping Through Hoops: Abortion Rights Protest at the Court of Appeal tomorrow, on the 5th of October. Make a stand against Right to Life is taking the Abortion Supervisory Committee to court, to try and further restrict women's access to abortion in New Zealand.Meet on the corner of Aitken and Molesworth Street at 12.30pm and wear something red. I understand that organisers are also looking for volunteers to hand out fliers this afternoon at the train station and on Tuesday morning they need help blowing up balloons. Email for more information or go to the Facebook event page.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Count This, Internet.

Today, I learned something from Facebook. Something other than the fact that girls from my high school are getting engaged at an alarming rate.

I was sent this charming screen cap and I learned that my big boobs don't count because I am fat. And let me tell you, Internet, that this was quite a revelation for me.

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Previously, I had been under the impression that their mere physical existence was enough to ensure that my boobs counted. I thought that surely they must count because last week I spent one fifth of my pay check on a new bra and that money has definitely left my feeble bank account. I thought they counted because the week before my period my boobs ache, like two bowling balls have been shoved in my chest. Or because of the way they bounce up and down when my girlfriend is fucking me and because of the magic of a well-timed nipple pinch. I thought they counted because of the heckling and the come ons and the cat calls and the comments, or just because of the way they fill out a t-shirt. I thought they counted because of the crescent moons of sweat that appear underneath them when I jog up the Brooklyn Hill or how sometimes when I eat risotto for dinner I'll take my bra off to get in the shower and I'll find stray grains of rice tucked in my bra. I thought that they must count for something because I can easily fit my cellphone and my lip balm down there and forget about them, and on a special occasion I can conceal a can of Pulse. I thought they counted because of how sore my back gets sometimes, which must be some indication of their weight and their presence and the fact that they count. Or because I can look down my admittedly-low-necked top and literally count them. One. Two.

But apparently, I was wrong. Because I guess, at the end of the misogynist day, the only thing that boobs count for is being sexy. And we've talked about it before, but in our culture, being fat is not sexy. But actually, I hate this and I hate this Facebook group and I call bullshit. My boobs count. Not only because they are sexy, which they are. Not only because of the sweat and the pinching and the grains of rice. My boobs count, because they are mine and I am a person.

Internet, you tell me a lot of stupid things about my body. You tell me that I am ugly and that I am also an object and sometimes a fetish and that I am an immediate death risk. I get it, you have a lot to say. But please, don't tell me that the body I eat and walk and live and breathe and dance and think and fuck in doesn't count.

I exist.

I count.


Friday, October 1, 2010

My Fat Body - A Word On Fat Acceptance

Okay, so I know that posting this here is king of cheating because this isn't even a new post. I am working on one right now; I have my deck doors swung open looking over Aro Valley and I have a custard square from Aro Bake, both of which are critical to writing success. This article is something I have written for Jason Mann's photography project Reclaim Advertising. All of the photos that appear throughout the post are pictures of me that Jason has taken as part of the project. You can see other photos here (including this one of my lady friend) and his wonderful girlfriend Coley has written a blog post here which explains more about Reclaim Advertising, and includes some of her writing for the magazine that Jason is publishing as a culmination of his work. I apologize if some of this article is a little boring or self indulgent for regular readers, as a lot of the stuff I have touched on I have written about before on this blog. I will be less boring next time, I promise. The custard square is helping with that.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but a serious epidemic is plaguing fat people. Symptoms include headlessness, waddling and the wearing of khaki shorts. The headless fatty affliction is most visible in news stories about the obesity epidemic; news stories pinned on scientific information which is usually funded by weight loss companies or gastric band manufacturers. Often cases of headless fatty can be seen in infomercials for diet pills and for bizarre and expensive contraptions that apparently make it easier for one to do a sit up, even though all that is required is merely sitting up.

I posed in these photos for Jason Mann’s Reclaim Advertising project because I was getting really sick and tired of how fat bodies are depicted in the media, both without heads and without dignity. I wanted Jason to take photographs of me being fat and sexy, because to me that seemed like a radical act. In the media fat is not sexy. Images of headless fatties, with their waggling asses and their shifting tummies are not seen as sexual, whereas close ups on tight buttocks and rippling abdominals seem almost pornographic. In our culture ‘fat’ and ‘sexy’ are seen as mutually exclusive because the word ‘fat’ is an insult. Lately I’ve been trying to change that, just in my daily life, in between blogging and going to work and drinking whiskey. I’ve been trying to use fat as a describing word, because saying that I am fat should carry the same cultural weight as saying that I have green eyes. Which is none. Waxing lyrical about being fat should be culturally weightless, if you will.


I decided to use the three letter F Word after reading the article ‘Does My Butt Look Fat?’ by Fat Acceptance blogger Kate Harding. Harding writes about how the word fat does not just mean fat in our culture. Harding observes that fat can mean ugly, smelly, unhealthy and lazy. Fat can mean ignorant. Fat can mean poor. Fat can mean unlovable or undisciplined. But fat never just means having more adipose tissue than other human beings.

The fat acceptance movement is trying to change that. Fat acceptance is based on the radical notion that human beings deserve respect no matter what their body looks like. It is not about promoting being fat. It is not about saying that fat bodies are better than thin bodies in the obnoxious tradition of ‘Real Women Have Curves’, because all women are real women. It is about rejecting body surveillance culture and body shame. Fat acceptance is often about separating ‘fat’ from ‘unhealthy’, and rejecting the assumption that it is possible to tell how healthy someone is based on what they look like. Fat acceptance is about how the Body Mass Index is bullshit, because unhealthy thin people are not getting the medical attention they deserve. It is about Linda Bacon’s medical mantra of Health At Every Size, because Pro-Health is more effective than Anti-Obesity. It is about ending discrimination because you can’t shame a person into being thin, because nobody wants to look after their body if they hate it. Fat acceptance is also about respecting the choices that people make for their own bodies, because health should not be a prerequisite for respect. It is about how nobody kicks up a fuss at cyclists or adventure sports enthusiasts for being a drain on the tax payer and the health care system. For me, fat acceptance has been about rejecting the urge to body snark as a bonding activity with my female friends. Fat acceptance is not just about fat people. It is for everyone, because everyone deserves respect.

I am so pants-wetting-ly inspired by the work of so many clever, insightful and provocative Fat Acceptance bloggers, whose work I have internalised and probably inadvertently plagiarised. Harding, who I mentioned above and who writes at Shapely Prose. Lesley Kinsel from Fatshionista; Natalie Perkins from Definatalie; Marianne Kirby from The Rotund, Elizabeth from Spilt Millk; Samantha Thomas from The Discourse, Frances from Corpulent; Tasha Fierce from Red Vinyl Shoes; Charlotte Cooper from Obesity Timebomb; Jessica from Tangled Up In Lace; Nick Perkins from Nicholosophy; Ragen Chastain from Dances with Fat; Melissa McEwen from Shakesville. These writers are part of a thriving and exciting fatosphere on the Internet where bloggers share their writing; where the sartorially minded post pictures post pictures and convene to discuss major ‘fatshion’ events like the release of infamous fat singer Beth Ditto’s Evan clothing range.

Saying the word fat is still hard for me, but thanks to the fatosphere it is easier than it has ever been. I have always known that I am fat. To find your best friend at my primary school you had to find someone who could fit their thumb and forefinger around your wrist. My wrist was too big. The next day I ordered only an apple from the school canteen. I was nine. By using the word fat I am trying to reverse the last thirteen years of body shame, starting with that apple. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s actually hard. Advocating for fat acceptance does not magically cure every negative thing that I have internalised about my body. I haven’t forgotten the heckling in the street or the fat jokes or the Facebook group “Big Boobs Don’t Count If You’re Fat.” I have not reached a Utopian state of permanent body love, where it rains Maltesers and where there are limitless wheels of Brie. But I am trying.

These photographs are part of that. When Jason took those photographs of me it was a counteraction to every headless fatty photograph that I see in the media. I wanted to recreate a perfume advert, and reclaiming this kind of advertising was an action against everybody who has ever said that fat people smell, or that they are disgusting. (Do you know that when Lee Daniels, the Director of Precious, started working with Gabourey Sibide he was surprised she didn’t smell?) These photographs, like pictures on fatshion blogs and like Aquaporko, a fat lady synchronized swimming team in Australia, are about normalising fat bodies and separating ‘fat’ from ‘ugly’ and from ‘unhealthy’. These photographs are about humanising fat people. These photographs are about my head. And my fat. In the same frame, at the same time. Looking sexy.