Fantasy and Ivory

In general, I’ve tried to stay out of the Fifty Shades of Gray debate, in part because I think others have covered the territory quite well (see the Smart Bitches’ awesome take, for example). And, well, after perusing three free chapters of the first book on Amazon, I have zero desire to read the damn things. Not my kind of (hot, same-sex, well-written) porn. Which is cool.

However, I have [and do] laud the books for starting a long-overdue (if often juvenile) conversation in the US about women, erotica, and desire.

That said, Ruth Marcus’ column in today’s Washington Post brought out what is, for me, a new and unpleasant wrinkle in this debate: women telling women what we, as good feminists, should REALLY be fantasizing about.

After blushing for several paragraphs over talking about BDSM sex (tee hee! she’s so naughty!), Marcus actually does a nice job of kicking down Katie Roiphe’s ridiculous claims in Newsweek that feminists want to be subs in the bedroom because they’re tired of being in charge, because they’re threatened by what Roiphe claims is the “shaky” nature of “male dominance” in contemporary society.

Marcus cuts Roiphe to the quick (hurray!) and observes that Gray may be difficult to discuss, in part, because to do so

requires acknowledging gender differences that we’ve been conditioned to deny.

That is: that women’s fantasies be different than men’s.

Okey dokey.

But then–alas–here’s Marcus’ kicker:

Ultimately, Leonard [EL James’ real name] makes the key distinction: between women’s fantasies and their realities. “In real life, I think it’s something very, very different,” she told NBC. “You want someone who does the dishes.”

Now that’s one hot fantasy.

See, women of America (who read the Post)! Here’s what you SHOULD lust after:

And not this:

And DEFINITELY not this:

Gay porn stars of the 1970s? Out of bounds!

Now, I’m all for acknowledging all kinds of desires, especially those that transcend the binary of male and female. If everyone’s legal and consenting, then hop to it.

But, damn it, I’m ANNOYED by Marcus’ choice here. It feels to me as though, with that kicker, she’s distancing herself from those naughty ladies who read Gray, who read erotica/porn so they can fantasize about fucking beautiful men (or women!).

In essence, Marcus’ closing statement feels like an act of imaginative policing, of telling us feminists what we should really want is not a hot sex partner(s) but a man who’ll happily soldier 50% of the housework. That we should get turned on not by this–

–but by the sight of our (presumably male) partner doing the goddamn dishes.

You know, to each her own. That’s cool. But please, middle-aged woman who writes op-ed columns for the Post: please do not presume to tell me, as a feminist (who writes porn) what my fantasies may or may not include. Thank you.

You can have the dishwashing husbands of America all to yourself, darlin. I’ll take the boy with the stupid hat and the stuffed bird.

I’ll Make A Man Out Of You. With My Fists.

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So I had C-Span on this AM so that I could watch Mitt Romney’s commencement address at Liberty University.

Make of my sanity from that what you will.

But I was early, or Liberty was late, so, in the interim, I heard a series of calls from C-Span’s morning call-in program.

The conversation centered on the Washington Post’s article this week on Mittens’ dumbassery at a high school student, which, according to the article, centered on at least one occasion on physically assaulting a younger classmate whose haircut Mittens didn’t like.

So he gave the kid a new one. You know, while his buddies were holding the kid down, ignoring his crying and screams for help.

Totally normal behavior. For a sociopath.

Anyway, Steve from Haymarket, VA came in on the Republican line.

And Steve? Couldn’t see what the big fucking deal was about. Because, he argued, he’d been bullied at school, during his time at a military academy. No, not bullied, he said: hazed.

And that hazing had, he claimed, been just awesome for him. Being bullied makes you butch, makes you tougher, he argued. Turns you into the man you’re supposed to be. That’s what it did for him. Getting the snot beat out of him convinced him to take up weight lifting, exercise, blah blah blah macho, and goddamn it: Steve from Haymarket was grateful for it. And he didn’t understand why the kid that Mittens and his buddies “hazed” wouldn’t have “manned up” under such treatment.

Now what struck me wasn’t the bullshit notions of masculininty, or of what it means to be a “man.” How you become a man–through physical violence and intimidation, apparently.

It was that, for Steve, Romney’s participation in this kind of behavior–which Mittens hasn’t denied–is a good thing, is a selling point for Steve on why Mitt is the Right Man for the Job.

To be a man, it seems, means you have to be willing to beat masculine conformity into the bodies of others who are failing to live up to your expectations.

So what does that mean for a guy who wants to be the President, the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military in the world? What about from a diplomatic perspective? Are “real men” only those willing to wage war, to push the physical assault of one kid out onto a multinational stage?

Certainly, I don’t care for Mittens, and I–like most people, I imagine–was bullied in high school. Not physically, for me, but bullied nonetheless. And over what my would-be tormentors perceived as my being a “lesbian.” Now, mind you, at my wee little high school on the edges of the East Coast Megalopolis, there were no constructive discussions of gender and sexuality, more out of ignorance, I think, than any sort of malice. I doubt the morons who tried to give me a hard time [in French class, no less! I think that’s my favorite part, in retrospect] even understood what a lesbian was, other than, perhaps, a girl who didn’t look “girly” enough to them.

So all that said: I’m not with Team Mitt on this one. [Or any one.] But I’m more freaked out by the notion that some people would see this kind of asshattery as a sign of Mittens’ leadership potential, of his potential awesomeness as the leader of the free world. And I wonder how many of said people would also claim to be “Christian,” to be followers of a religion that, ostensibly, is all about treating your fellow humans with dignity and respect.

Not sure what to make of that, exactly. But it doesn’t feel like something good.

This Week In Male Hetero Fail (Thus Always To Tyrants Edition)

This is my boomstick! Not my transvaginal probe. Swear to god.

A friend and I were in a local restaurant/bar last night, eating, talking, trying to get some shit for school done. It was pretty quiet, being a Sunday night, I guess, save for one boisterous exception: a group of aggressively moronic dudes playing darts right behind our fucking table.

Now I have no problem with the individual elements here: dudes, darts, and beer. Fine. But this group took the elemental combination to new heights by tossing homophobia into the mix, which. Awesome. They’d divided themselves into two teams for their game, and their team names? The “gays” and the “lesbos.” Yes, in fact, they were so proud of these monikers that they not only repeated them [loudly] at every possible turn but also inscribed them on the wee chalkboard on which one of their ilk was keeping score.

So I don’t know for certain that these men were exclusively hetero; indeed, you could make a pitch for such aggressive posturing as being a cover for some sort of latent anxiety related to their own sexual identity, much less that of others.

Still. I strongly suspect.

So their dickishness [and my inability to formulate any sort of real-time response, vocal or otherwise], got me thinking about all of the male hetero fail that’s swirling around my home state of Virginia these days.

It’s not fair to consign all of heterosexual maledom into a universal. So take that as my caveat. [Indeed, a friend recently rapped my virtual knuckles for referring to him as “hetero” in a way that he took as a bit of an insult, which, ok, it may have been, but only unconsciously so. Hence me performing my bias so openly here.]

However, a handful of white, heterosexual men–many of whom ostensibly represent the fine people of Virginia–have been doing their damnedest over the past few weeks to make that truism harder and harder to uphold. So to speak.

Most of this idiocy centers around our state government’s attempts to pass a law that would have required any woman seeking the LEGAL medical procedure of abortion to have a transvaginal ultrasound. Oh, yeah. You’ve surely heard about this by now, thanks to the efforts of Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and The Rachel Maddow Show. Thus always to tyrants, indeed.

Currently, Republicans control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion in our fair state. And although the person who drafted the state-mandated penetration bill is a woman, many of the bill’s loudest and most prominent supporters were the white men who dominate Virginia’s House of Delegates and our Senate.  Our right-wing social experimentalist governor, Bob McDonnell, had been touted as a potential running mate for the GOP’s eventual nominee [*cough*Mitt Romney*cough*].

However, once the transvaginal nonsense broke into the mainstream–both in Virginia and in the national press–McDonnell backed down from his heretofore vociferous support for the bill [and its equally insidious cousin, a so-called “personhood” bill that would redefine human life as beginning at conception. Good times!].

Now that the state-mandated penetration bill has been killed and the “personhood” bill has been sent back to committee [effectively tabling it for the rest of this year], you may be asking: of what new male hetero fail do you speak?

I speak, dear reader, of Delegate David Albo, who ostensibly “represents” district 42 in Fairfax, VA. Let me allow the gentleman from Fairfax to speak for himself–and it’s worth quoting in full, via Gawker:

I got Rita [Albo’s wife] some red wine, sat next to her, used my patented cool move. I invented this, it’s a United States patent. I went, “Ohhh, I’m so tired!” I then turn on the TV to find the Redskin channel. I know you think that’s weird, but my wife loves the Redskins more than she loves me. Got my theme music going, my red wine, looking at the Washington Redskins and I start flipping through the channels. And through the channels you have to get through the news stuff. And all the sudden on my big screen TV comes this big thing and a picture of a bill that has “Albo” on it. I went, “Wow! Holy smokes, it’s my name as big as a wall!” And the very next scene was a gentleman from Alexandria’s face as big as my wall going “trans-v-this” and “trans-v-that” and “they hate women!” and “we’re gonna—in that bill—she’s crazy!” And I’m like this with my wife. And the show’s over, and she looks at me, and she goes, “I gotta go to bed.” So if the gentleman’s plan was to make sure there was one less Republican in this world, he did it.

[If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the video of this display of rhetorical impotency here.]

As the commenters on Gawker’s story point out, Albo can’t even SAY THE WORD VAGINA, yet he professes a desire to legislate how and when the state should have access to it.

What’s almost as bad, I think, is his apparent assumption that if he wishes to have sex [shudder–why am I thinking of tentacle porn?!], then his wife should [by right] be in the mood. And I also love his assumption [a peek into his figured world, perhaps?] that it’s the talk of the transvaginal probing legislation that gets his wife “out of the mood,” as if she was already in said mood, given all of his careful preparation for seduction. Hey, at least he recognizes that talk of state-mandated penetration is, you know, less than alluring–as might be, dare I suggest, her knowledge that he supports such legislation of women’s bodies. Might not really make her want to, you know, give you access to her vagina, dude, knowing that you spend all day thinking up way to virtually worm your way into those of women all across the state. Just a thought.

And, to top it off, the Daily Caller website threw a video tantrum today over Rachel Maddow’s coverage of Governor Transvaginal Probe and his buddies. Seems the good people of the Caller don’t like Rachel using the word “vagina” on the TV machine. Loudly. Repeatedly. And in the context of GOP policies. [Also, note the totally squeamish way in which the blogger from the Washington Post presents this video. Can’t even bring himself to comment on it beyond a coy: “That’s as much detail as I’m willing to provide on this affair.” And the use of the word “affair”? No mistake there.]

So let’s add “vagina” and “transvaginal probing” to the list of words with which the dominant discourse is very, very uncomfortable–to the list of words I vow to now repeat early, often, loudly, and occasionally even in context–in a way that’s totally different, I think, from the heebie-jeebies that words like “anal” and “sodomy” give to said discourse.