Heavy traffic, attracted for all the wrong reasons

I’m developing a bad reputation in the blogosphere. In terms of traffic, my stat tracker shows a steady increase. But lately one post is drawing between a third and a half of all my traffic:

stats
1. March 10
    83 of 278 hits (29.9%);

2. March 23
    74 of 209 hits (35.4%);

3. March 31
    156 of 389 hits (40.1%).
 
 
Which post is responsible for
all the heavy breathing?
Tarted-up teens, natch!
 
 
Wouldn’t it be nice if people were coming to read about photography, US politics, the historical Jesus, or philosophy?

I know, sex sells. But teen sex? What kind of disreputable blog am I keeping here?

In fact, the post is part movie review and part social critique:

Western society rushes children headlong toward sexual maturity. Animé is normative; every schoolgirl aspires to look like her name is written on a bathroom wall somewhere. Harmful consequences will surely follow, for some of them.

But readers wouldn’t know that until after they get here, would they?

search terms

*sigh*
 

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Real feminists don’t have breasts

“Little things please little minds.” Sometimes not-so-little things:

Valenti with Clinton

The photo (cropped from the original, which includes a larger group) looks pretty innocuous, right? But it has created a great stir in the blogosphere — twice! The original stir happened six months ago and it’s back in the spotlight again this week.

It helps if you know that Jessica Valenti, the woman in the grey sweater, is a feminist who contributes to the blog, Feministing. Note that Jessica is white; she has brown hair; and she has breasts. OMG, she and Monica Lewinski are virtually indistinguishable! (Not really. Perhaps Valenti looks a little like Paula Jones.)

According to Valenti’s critics, she is pushing her breasts forward so that Bill Clinton can’t help but think, “I must have that woman. Maybe I can come up with an excuse to go into the broom closet with her.” In other words, this feminist is using her body parts to curry favour with a powerful man.

This major news story first hit the blogosphere in September, when Ann Althouse jumped all over it. Now it’s getting renewed attention after Althouse had a total meltdown in an interview on bloggingheads.tv.

(It’s available on Youtube, of course. But it’s not worth watching, unless you’re titillated by the sight of a presumably rational adult throwing a hissy fit. In brief, the interviewer (Garance Franke-Ruta) made a perfectly innocent reference to the “the whole sort of Jessica Valenti breast controversy,” which was enough to send Althouse into a rage. Althouse accused Franke-Ruta of character assassination and indeed, of assaulting her!)

Does the photo really warrant this much attention? Andrew Sullivan nails it: “It’s amazing what two boobs, Bill Clinton, and a blog can foment, isn’t it?”

But maybe the controversy illustrates a serious issue. As Valenti lamented back in September:

Things like this remind me that no matter what I do or accomplish, because I’m a young woman all I’m good for is fodder for tacky intern jokes and comments that I don’t “represent feminist values” because of the way I posed in a picture.

What’s worse is that this comes from other women, other progressives, and other supposed feminists. How are we supposed to move forward as a movement if we’re busy bashing each other with this ridiculousness?

I don’t know anything about Jessica Valenti, so I can’t comment on her intelligence or the substance of her feminism. But the above point is certainly valid: why are women so often in the business of putting other women down? Aren’t feminists supposed to oppose behaviour detrimental to the advancement of women?

I’m reminded of one of the Church Fathers, who castrated himself in his zeal to obey Mt. 19:12. I guess a real feminist would have her breasts removed.

The morality of BDSM

The acronym BDSM refers to several related sexual practices: Bondage & Discipline, Domination/Submission and Sadism/Masochism. Fundamentally, BDSM involves yielding control to your partner. It may involve either physical pain or humiliation:

One of Baumeister’s favorite — perhaps apocryphal — stories is that of a woman whose husband threw her a birthday party, inviting lots of people. She was posed nude and spread-eagle on the hors d’oeuvre table. Every party-goer who reached for a cracker or the vegetable dip had to reach across her bare self.

In recent years, BDSM activity has entered mainstream culture:

Sadomasochism has also become a popular theme for advertisers who seek to appear “edgy” or unconventional. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., a mainstream brewer of popular beers, including Bud Lite, now sponsors the Folsom Street Fair and Diesel brand Jeans runs ads in major fashion magazines with an S&M theme.

Here in Canada, the television show Kink documents BDSM culture. Kink is broadcast on Showcase — a standard cable channel (not pay-per-view).

kink.jpg

Mental health authorities no longer regard a predilection for BDSM as a mental disorder in and of itself:

In certain extreme cases, sadism and masochism can include fantasies, sexual urges or behaviour that cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, to the point that they can be considered part of a mental disorder. However, this is an uncommon case, and psychiatrists are now moving towards regarding sadism and masochism not as disorders in and of themselves, but only as disorders when associated with other problems such as a personality disorder.

Nonetheless, I have serious reservations about the morality of BDSM.

I tend to apply broad principles to determine the morality of any behaviour, including sexual behaviours:

  • No harm, no foul.
  • Consenting adults should be free to do as they please in private.
  • Behaviour that is both respectful and reciprocal is unobjectionable.

In my view, BDSM is problematic on all three counts.

Folsom Street Fair 2006First, the submissive party may be at risk of harm. Here I should distinguish between hard-core activity and other, relatively playful forms of BDSM. It seems that many adults utilize blindfolds or restraints as one variation of their sexual play, without taking even a remote risk of physical harm.1 But activity of the sort pictured on the right risks mutilating the body.

Second, the term consent is problematic in BDSM activity. The Web sites I’ve visited assume the activity is consensual insofar as the submissive party establishes limits:

While it might be assumed that the “sadist,” or “top” — the person who gives the sensation or causes the humiliation — is the one with the power, the actual power may lie with the “masochist,” or “bottom,” who typically creates the script, or at least sets the boundaries, by which the S&M practitioners play.

The argument is valid only if we assume that the “bottom” is psychologically healthy. Arguably the bottom’s willingness to submit to extreme physical pain and/or humiliation is de facto evidence of a psychological disturbance. Consent is not valid unless it is given by an adult of sound mind.

Finally, I wonder whether BDSM activity can be characterized as respectful and reciprocal. This may be a subjective judgement. Personally, I could not bring myself to inflict serious physical pain on another human being, even if s/he begged me to do it. I can’t regard such behaviour as respectful; therefore it offends my conscience. But I accept that others may come to a different conclusion where the behaviour is consensual.

As for reciprocity, while some people alternate roles, it’s clear that other people never do so. This post was provoked by Barbara Nitke’s photo of the week2, with its accompanying text:

This moment was at the end of an intense play piercing and flogging scene, which had been cathartic for Kimiko. She started crying, and then became deeply embarrassed. There were just a few of us there, but she looked around the room, and asked if it was okay about the crying.

Soulhuntre untied her from the cross, and then held her very gently.

One of the reasons I liked the shot [of Soulhuntre hugging Kimiko] so much was that I felt it was out of character for him. Soulhuntre never shows much compassion, at least publicly. Kimiko is a 24/7 service slave, so their relationship is more about her giving service than being hugged and comforted.

He also has another slave, Tatsumi, and the three have been together for about ten years now, in what appears to be a stable and rewarding relationship for all.

Note that Kimiko is a 24/7 service slave, and this small expression of compassion was apparently out of character for Soulhuntre. The sadism is clearly not reciprocal: their respective roles were established ten years ago.

Finally, to return to an issue raised earlier, I find myself wondering about the psychological health of any person who would submit to 24/7 “service” involving intense physical pain.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1According to Wikipedia: “A 1990 Kinsey Institute report stated that 5% to 10% of Americans occasionally engage in sexual activities related to BDSM. This was based on the 1983 Playboy Readers Sex Survey by Walter Lowe. There has been an explosive growth in the BDSM community since the 1983 study, which raises the possibility that the 1983 figures are unrepresentative of current behavior [citation needed].”

2Since the photo will only be displayed for one week, I’ll explain that it shows a clothed man hugging a much smaller naked woman.

Defenceless against pretty woman

I don’t usually read Dear Abby, but for some reason I did today. This letter is pathetic, but hilarious.

Pretty girl is more than roommates can handle

DEAR ABBY:
My best friend, “Ted,” and I recently met an attractive girl I’ll call “Bridget.” Ted was married and suggested I date Bridget.

Within a few days, before I got up the nerve to ask her on a date, Ted broke up with his wife, moved in with me and started seeing Bridget.

This was awkward, but in addition, Bridget started making sexual advances toward me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the wisdom to keep away from her. Although we didn’t have sex, I was closer to her than I should have been to my best friend’s girl.

Bridget JonesTed knows about it, and now ensures that Bridget and I are never alone together. He constantly worries about the situation, and it is interfering with his job.

I believe he wants to break up with her, but he’s afraid I will date her. I agreed with his suggestion that we both stop talking to her, but they are still dating. She continues to flirt with me every time he leaves the room, and I am defenseless against a pretty woman.

Bridget says she likes me, but she loves Ted. She clearly has some attachment issues. I would love to talk to her about them and help her.

I think Ted and I both have strong feelings for her. What should we do? Neither of us can resist when she cries or wants something.

“I am defenseless against a pretty woman.” Honestly! Are there still men living in the West who blame women for their lack of sexual self-control?

It’s too bad Dear Abby doesn’t publish photos, because “Bridget” must be beyond pretty.

Tarted-up teens

Babel (the movie, reviewed in my previous post) illustrates a social issue that interests me: the sexualization of teenaged girls who have not yet mastered their sexual persona.

One of Babel’s four plot lines follows a Japanese teenager dealing with a double crisis. Chieko (played by Rinko Kikuchi) is trying to come to terms with the death of her mother. The circumstances in which her mother died are not made clear until the climax of the movie. And Chieko’s emotional struggles are intensified by the fact that she is deaf. She feels like a freak at a time in her life when she is acutely interested in boys.

Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Chieko’s age is never revealed. She might be eighteen; presumably the actor is, since she is shown in full frontal nudity. The character seems younger than that, but perhaps her social development has been delayed because of her deafness.

Physically, Chieko is an adult, I suppose. (To me, eighteen-year-olds look only half-formed.) Emotionally, she is a needy child. She desperately wants to lose her virginity. She has something to prove, some need to fulfill — not really a need for sex.

suzukaasahina suzukaSome of the scenes reminded me of the tarted-up schoolgirls depicted in animé. Chieko goes out in public wearing a mini skirt — without panties, as she makes clear to a friend.

She tries to seduce various men; some are her own age, others are as old as her father. But “seduce” is the wrong word. Her technique is too clumsy to be seductive; as unsubtle as the plot of a porno movie. She has the necessary body parts, but she has not yet mastered her sexual persona.

Chieko represents some of the adolescent girls I see in my part of the world: all cleavage and half-exposed behinds, with no real comprehension of what they’re playing at.

At this point I must interject a couple of clarifications.

First, I’m aware that there are exceptions to the sort of adolescents I’m describing. I have met precocious girls, not yet twelve years old, who exude sexuality, and who appear to be in complete control of their sexual persona. Perhaps they are sexually active; perhaps it’s just a persona. Those aren’t the girls I’m discussing here.

Second, this isn’t a rant against premarital sex. I’m not arguing that boys drive the sexual agenda and girls require our protection. In the movie, Chieko is on the prowl. I would be OK with that, if Chieko weren’t so messed up in other respects — that’s the pivotal consideration.

Br*tneyMy critique, fwiw, is directed at society and the way we socialize our children. As Chieko mimicks animé, so North American girls ape Br*tney Sp**rs — or the current pre-fab adolescent pop tart, whoever that is.

A couple of summers ago, I noticed a young teenager wearing a very short skirt. She was crossing a street, downtown. It was a windy day. She was trying to hold the skirt down as she walked, and the expression on her face showed that she was very uncomfortable with her situation.

Who dressed her that way? She dressed herself, of course, but with a head full of MTV images. I remembered her as I watched Babel. Like Chieko, she wasn’t ready to wield such a potent sexuality.

Western society rushes children headlong toward sexual maturity. Animé is normative; every schoolgirl aspires to look like her name is written on a bathroom wall somewhere. Harmful consequences will surely follow, for some of them.

Le Rêve

While we’re on the subject of women pleasuring themselves

Picasso’s “Le Rêve” is in the news today:

Casino mogul Steve Wynn will keep and restore a Pablo Picasso painting that he accidentally damaged shortly after he had agreed to sell it for a record $139-million (U.S.), an aide said Tuesday.

Wynn was showing the painting called Le Reve, French for The Dream, to guests in his office earlier this month at Wynn Las Vegas when he struck the painting with his right elbow, spokeswoman Denise Randazzo said.

Wynn, who often gestures with his hands when he speaks, has retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that affects peripheral vision. He was travelling Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

The 1932 painting was left with a silver dollar-sized hole torn in the canvas, according to an account by screenwriter Nora Ephron, who saw the mishap.

Le reve = the dream? Perhaps the fantasy is a better description of the action here:

Picasso, Le Reve

Picasso wasn’t shy about masturbation. He captured another woman “dreaming” in “Femme qui rêve a Venice” (1900):

Picasso, Femme qui rêve a Venice

Beautiful!

Shortbus … and unlawful sex toys

a) Shortbus:

I went to see the movie Shortbus last night. It’s not for the faint of heart … perhaps I should say, the sexually repressed.

shortbus posterThe movie features a considerable amount of sex, often graphic, and not simulated. Sook-Yin Lee, the female lead, nearly lost her job with CBC radio for accepting the role:

The network relented under pressure, after the likes of Yoko Ono, Francis Ford Coppola and REM’s Michael Stipe rallied to her support. Now the CBC may wonder just what it agreed to. No one was prepared for just how graphic Shortbus would be. It offers the most kaleidoscopic carnival of hard-core action ever seen in a film not meant as pornography. It includes an oral feat of autoerotic yoga, a three-way pretzel of gay sex that has a guy belting the Star-Spangled Banner into another guy’s butt, and a scene of semen landing on what looks like a Jackson Pollock — a literal commingling of art and porn.

The movie’s message, delivered with an over-the-top gay sensibility, is this: sexual energy is fundamentally positive, a force for social good. It’s a message that I agree with, my Christian faith notwithstanding.

Shortbus is set in New York city in the post 9/11 context. Looking out over an orgy, one of the characters remarks, “It’s just like the 1960s, only with less hope.” It’s a funny line; but it’s also a reminder that the sexual fun and games take place in the shadow of a darker, more violent world.

Does sex really constitute the destructive force that many Christians make it out to be? Even homosexual or polyamorous sex?

It isn’t an idle question.

b) No vibes!
vibrator in a 'no' circle
Many American law-makers evidently regard (female) orgasms as a threat to society:

Under an Alabama law passed in 1998, selling a dildo or vibrator in that state can result in a year of incarceration and a $10,000 fine — and there are six other states where selling sex toys is illegal or greatly restricted, including Georgia and Texas (where schoolteacher Joanne Webb was arrested in 2003 for selling vibrators).
[emphasis and link added]

Law-makers in South Carolina and Tennessee would like to replicate this fine legislation in their states.

Conclusion:

Selling a sex toy is illegal in states where selling a gun is legal. (Not to mention that ownership of a gun is a constitutionally-protected right!) The clear inference is, (female) orgasms are a bigger threat to society than bullets.

What a fucked-up society! But then again, I guess not.