Value judgements are useful if you you can quantify what makes something good. But what if the actions that you want to evaluate are very subjective?
writes about the subjective and hard to pin down qualities that might make someone "good in bed"
The Other Side of Desire, by Daniel Bergner
The best part of Daniel Bergner's new book, The Other Side of Desire, is that it very thoughtfully takes an open-minded and open-hearted look at the lives of four people whose sexual desires fall outside of mainstream norms. Through in-depth interviews and time spent hanging out with those he profiles, Bergner gives us a sense of really getting to know these four individuals, and helps us see them in terms of more than just their sexualities. This potentially goes a long way toward destigmatizing unconventional sexual expression.
The Other Side of Desire is broken into four sections, each focused on an individual whose story, Bergner hopes, will help answer questions like "What do we do with the desires we cannot bear, the desires we or the society around us strain to restrict or strangle...?" (Introduction, x). We first meet Jacob Miller, a severely learning-disabled yet successful salesman with a foot fetish that causes him such shame he is sexually alienated from his wife and driven to seek anti-androgen therapy to diminish his desire. Regardless the source of Jacob's foot fetish, his story is one about the destructive power of shame.
The next story, that of the Baroness, a designer of latex clothing and a consummate sexual sadist, demonstrates the satisfaction a person with very kinky desires can have when they are free of shame. The Baroness is all self-confidence and self-acceptance. She has found community with others who share her orientation to sexuality and in doing so has maintained a happy marriage to a man whose sexuality is much more "vanilla." As she walks around her New York City neighborhood she creates an air of acceptance for other "misfits." Bergner writes "The effect might have been due to her flaunting her difference, to their recognizing a champion misfit. But she claimed another power. She said it was because she was willing to look at them" (61-62). The social good that comes from truly looking at each other, and at ourselves, and accepting what we see, "deviant" or not, is the lesson of the Baroness.
This might date me a bit, but when I first saw a picture of a shaved pussy, it was a real turn-on because it seemed edgy and sexually aggressive. It wasn't something that women did, as a rule. Now, it's so common that it's banal, and natural bushes, like the one that Furry Girl has made her trademark, have become a fetishized niche. The difference between the two styles still inspires a lot of heat and passion, and not always the good kind. Some people insist that shaved pussies make women look like children; others think that pubic hair looks scraggly and unclean. I'm one of the rare ones, someone with no preference whatsoever. But I can say that I utterly despise the vehemence on both sides, and their willingness to pathologize women's bodies one way or another. What I dislike about the shaved look is its total ubiquitousness. I hate that it's considered de rigueur for models to shave their pubic hair unless they're trying to appeal to a niche demographic, and that women feel like they have to shave to show up at a sex party or even to fuck their date. Shaved pussies are gorgeous, as are pussies with wild, full bushes. But homogeneity is boring and unsexy, and if the aesthetic flipflopped tomorrow, I'd say the same thing about natural bushes.
Thomas Beckett: Archbishop of Canterbury and Justice in America.
Does a question generally considered to speak to Church and State have any connection with jurisprudence and concepts of equal justice?
In the 12th Century, Henry II ruled an empire from England across the south and west of what is now France (Aquitaine). By Divine Right, this King of England was the law in every aspect of life. Every aspect save one. The other power in this empire was the Catholic Church.
Henry II ruled with the able hand of his lifelong friend and Lord High Chancellor Thomas Beckett. Even these two powerful men could not hold sway over the dominion controlled by the Church. Crimes and misdemeanors committed in the realm met with the justice of Henry’s court; unless a person holding office within the Church committed that crime. In that case, the Church held authority. More, Henry ruled every aspect of his own life, until it crossed a line of sacrament. There, Henry’s primacy bowed to the primacy of the Church.
I recently published an article, "Consciousness-raising 2.0: Sex Blogging and the Creation of a Feminist Sex Commons," in the journal Feminism and Psychology. I was invited to submit the piece by Leonore Tiefer , chief advocate of the New View Campaign against the medicalization of sexuality. She was putting together a special issue of the journal looking at the uses the New View has been put to since it's inception ten years ago. I immediately agreed because, while I believe in the importance of expert research guiding policy and knowledge, I think it is important for that research to be grounded in the experiences of real sexual people and should attend to their social environments and not only to their chemical and genetic components. Over-medicalization, and the privatizing of knowledge about sexuality distances us from our bodies and our experiences and frames our issues in terms of diseases instead of seeing the way that social and cultural factors influence our ability to experience sexual pleasure.
We are advocates here for solid research on sex work, especially on working conditions across the many sectors of the sex industry. It is especially galling when bad research, often bad enough to be called "research"-in-quotes, gets passed off to support public policies that make working conditions more dangerous (e.g., driving sectors of sex work further under ground or making it harder to report crimes or workplace dangers).
Recently the UK has been taken by a storm of anti-prostitution "research" that is being used to support policies that would criminalize the purchase of sex. There was Melissa Farley in Scotland "studying" men who purchase sex (we debunked that here) and now there is the Poppy Project's "Big Brothel" investigation by Julie Bindel and Helen Atkins, purporting to look at the workings of establishments where women sell sex to men. I am glad that a growing number of well-organized feminist researchers are publicly challenging these projects. They clearly highlight the ethical and methodological flaws in the studies and the sensationalistic ways that they overgeneralize from flawed findings. It seems sometimes that the anti-prostitution "researchers" are so disgusted by their topic that they can't take it seriously. Below is a summary provided by the UK researchers who are most actively challenging this kind of work and who need the support of everyone who takes sex workers seriously.
Full Title: The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For all of us who live with disabilities, chronic pain & illness
Author: Miriam Kaufman, M.D., Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette
Publisher: Cleis Press
Copyright: 2003, 2007 (2nd ed.)
Pages: 334 plus index
Price: $18.95 (US)
The sexuality of disabled members of our society is perhaps one of the most closeted, or at least overlooked, topics in American public discourse. Rarely is the topic addressed even by the most strident of sex positive advocates. The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability was written to rectify this deficiency in our public square. The authors, Miriam Kaufman, M.D., Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette, take a unique and personal approach to their mission by lacing the book with actual responses from a survey done by phone and internet. These survey responses faithfully guide the book toward its objective.
(The rest of the review is below the fold)
"You run like a girl." It was an insult aimed at boys. Being "like a girl" was clearly a bad thing for a boy to be if he wanted to be an athlete. Not being enough "like a girl" on the other hand, is devastating for women.
It was not so long ago that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) used to require all women athletes to be tested to discover whether they were 'truly women' or not. [Bracket, please, for a moment the question of what a 'true woman' might be. We'll come back to it. I promise.] Now such tests are only performed, according to the story in today's New York Times, when a woman athlete's sex is questioned. [Bracket for a moment why this never, apparently, comes up in men's sports.] What would cause her sex to be questioned? The Times does not present a list of specific suspicious indicators, but does say that it has come up in the context of doping tests. What is so striking about this is that it represents an insistence that women be held to a biological standard of womanhood. Consider the variations among women. What does it mean to set aside some group of women and say they are too powerful to be 'real women'? Consider how this makes even less sense when we are talking about women who represent the strongest, fastest, most agile, most physically powerful women in the world.