Twitter!

25 08 2010

FYI, I know some of you were already following me under my old Twitter name, but if not, I’m @queerscholar now and the Twitter is going to be more for the same sort of stuff I blog about here, as opposed to personal updates.  (If you know me personally, there’s always Facebook.)

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Competency Kinks, Violence, and Imperialism

22 08 2010

A couple of months ago, I had a thought.  I was brainstorming an idea for an urban fantasy novel, one that would feature a strong androgynous superhero whose jurisdiction was over things like stopping rapists, confronting misogynists, and making vulnerable populations feel safe.  But as I was brainstorming this hero, who not only saves your life but has a penchant for cuddling and physical affection, I realized that one of the traits I was using was still “could kill you with hir little finger.”

That got me thinking about competency kinks and how they align with violence.

“Competency kink” basically just means that someone being really good at whatever zie does is a turn-on.  Movies certainly capitalize on this.  Sometimes it’s intellectual competence, or psychic ability, or something else unrelated to violence, but very often the protagonist is competent at killing, injuring, and/or self defense.  Whether it’s competence with weaponry, martial arts, magic, or some other violence-related skill, filmmakers are very good at combining destructive prowess with sexiness.  Think Christian Bale in Equilibrium.  Think Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.  Think of all the bad-ass chicks in films that are unexpectedly very skilled at physical combat.  Kill Bill, anyone?

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Scary Thoughts of Actual Success

15 08 2010

Everyone who’s ever done Artist’s Way knows that when you start to get creative, good things will come to you, and it’s important to be open and accept them.

Well, I’ve been having thoughts about a career shift, about possibly trying to develop my online presence in a way that could lead to a career as a writer/speaker/freelancer. There are so many doubts about this: it’s not a steady stream of income, which is terrifying; I’m already 25 and I feel like I’ve wasted that stage where you do things and people say indulgently “wow, you’re so young, okay, we’ll take a look at your book proposal.” My friends on Facebook who went to high school with me are now heads of departments and I’m an administrative assistant.

But I want to nurture my little seed, because maybe it will grow, and I like writing. I like free speech. I like being able to say whatever I want, and not the message of the organization.





Gender and the Potential of Children

9 08 2010

There’s been a lot about children and gender identity on my radar screen lately, from stores with gender-neutral children’s clothing to the media ridiculousness surrounding little Shiloh to the tragic murder of a 16-month-old little boy whose mother’s boyfriend didn’t think the infant was “man” enough.  I’ve also been tapping into my own inner-child potential as I try to resolve issues with depression and finding my gender identity.

Childhood, ideally, is all about play.  Children who are given safe spaces to exercise their curiosity and explore their surroundings as they grow up are more likely to be well-adjusted adults.  Adults, in fact, could learn something from children.  It’s amazing how a problem changes shape and how solutions present themselves when you take a step back and approach the problem with your imagination guns a blazin’.

And that’s the thing about childhood.  Imagination doesn’t do well with boxes.  It’s about exploring possibilities, playing, learning.  As we get older, society draws lines and we all learn where those lines lie.  We learn that boys do this and girls do this, and we learn behaviors that society considers “appropriate” to our gender.  And for those of us who don’t feel 100% comfortable with our gender, it may take years to unwrap those neat little packages we’ve been dressed up in and try to find who we are, independent of this thing called “gender.”  It may take a lot of play.





Why Is Same-Sex Marriage a Priority?

8 08 2010

I know I’ve mentioned here before that I get frustrated by the emphasis on marriage and the military in the gay rights movement, two issues that don’t really matter to me personally and in some ways seem less important than other issues (like decriminalization of sodomy around the world, like HIV prevention, like hate crimes prevention, like non-discrimination laws). But aside from that, I was just wondering, why marriage? Obviously it’s an important institution in our society, but I find it interesting that it happens to be the marker of how the gay rights movement is progressing around the world. A lot of countries in Latin America, for example, have really impressive laws about hate crimes and non-discrimination, but that doesn’t get emphasized in the news at all, while a new country getting same-sex marriage is automatically a big deal.





Prop 8 Overturned, Sort Of

5 08 2010

Your blogger’s inner cynicism rears its ugly head, I’m afraid.  I haven’t had time to read the decision or anything else, so I’m operating on what I know from the news, which is that a California District Court ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional on Due Process and Equal Protection grounds and that a stay has been issued, though it’s not a very long one and so it’ll expire before an appeal and another stay will have to be issued.

Assuming that’s correct, this is definitely something of a victory, but it doesn’t mean people can get married again, and it doesn’t mean that Prop 8 was really “overturned,” at least, in the sense I use the word.  I sort of feel like you can’t overturn something if the next guy can turn it right back.  But despite that, I’ll feel some cautious sense of victory, and eagerly anticipate the result of the appeals process.





Wendy Shalit’s Return to Modesty

3 08 2010

When I’m reading non-fiction, I often come across titles that are referenced as representative as “the other side” and end up curious about those books.  Wendy Shalit’s 1999 book, A Return to Modesty, was one of these, and when I found it on the bookshelf at work I decided to give it a read.

I don’t disagree with every single thing Shalit says, but I do think she’s missing a lot.  Two major “gaps” were evident to me in her argument, which is about things like modest dress and the the hookup culture.  One is that she quotes a few feminists who mention the heterosexism inherent in a “traditional” gendered view of female modesty, waiting till marriage, etc., and she never addresses this argument.  Queer women are completely erased in her book.  Perhaps, not identifying with the conservative movement herself, Shalit would just apply her argument to same-sex marriage and say that gay women should be modest to preserve their sexual allure before marriage, but she is so into gender roles that I’m not sure how that would work.

Second, Shalit talks a lot about modesty vs. prudery, framing modesty as being erotic in its sense of mystery and using that to make the no-sex-before-marriage argument, but she never talks about what happens after marriage.  She seems to me to lose a little credibility because she was, as far as I can tell, a 24-year-old unmarried virgin writing advocating abstinence before marriage.  Since Shalit had no experience at the time of writing of the glorious post-marriage sex she seems to be hyping, one has to wonder.

Certainly, there is some allure to be found in mystery.  Covering up can be sexy, I actually agree with that.  I also agree that if everyone runs around naked, nudity isn’t very erotic.  On the other hand, even beyond the “try before you buy” argument about having sex before marriage to determine compatibility, I just don’t see what happens to her argument about mystery when a couple marries.  So you have all the sexy anticipation, you get married, and… then what?  Mature sexual relationships, including those between married people, require some comfort with our bodies once they are naked, ability to communicate about sex, ability to explore desire, etc.  I’m not saying you can’t have these things if you haven’t had sex before marriage, but I think you need to consider them.

She talks about how nudity often turns people off because it shows people all the body types that exist, all the blemishes and fat and whatever else Shalit considers unattractive.  But those things exist, and it seems to me that Shalit’s argument basically encourages shame about any perceived bodily imperfections, rather than encouraging communication and openness about sex.

I also find Shalit’s argument about androgyny kind of funny.  She seems to think that modern sexualized society encourages women to be sexual and therefore “like men.”  It reminds me a little bit of websites and communities that advertise as “genderqueer” and rather cater exclusively to trans people.  Androgyny is not the same thing as masculinity.  Some of us do have a fairly androgynous approach to sexuality, and that approach isn’t to “have sex like men,” but rather to de-gender sexuality and focus on its elements on their own terms.  And, big surprise, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  When I encounter “womanly shame” or embarassment about sex, I don’t think, like Shalit does, oh, this is a sign that I should embrace female modesty and avoid sex.  I think hmm, this particular practice or partner isn’t something I’m ready for.  It’s time to be honest about that and proceed with caution–a fairly non-gendered response.