Monthly Archives: October 2012
Would you like to be a Playboy Bunny this Halloween? The Bunny is a popular costume, and you may have some fun. But one real, live ex-Bunny paints a bleaker picture.
Lili Bee had once worked at the New York City Playboy Club. One day when a Bunny/Playmate emerged from the shower Lili was “struck by how absolutely human she looked.”
Curious about the Playmate’s spread, Lili flipped through the stacks of Playboys that sat in the Club’s employee lounge:
In front of me was sprawled virtual perfection, not a flaw in sight, her skin pore-less, tawny, with the texture of velvet. Her eyes were sparkling and bright. Her lips perfectly moist, parted ever so slightly to show off her perfect, non-rejecting smile.
Her body was portrayed in much the same way: All good features were highlighted to the extreme, and the less than perfect were ‘corrected,’ which is to say, rendered invisible.
Yes, the centerfolds were pretty. But so were her aunt, her boyfriend’s sister, and the woman who had handed her the New York Times that morning. In fact,
Most women were attractive if you could just see them outside of the narrow rules, and yet it seemed that Playboy had extolled some illusory woman as the absolute gold standard for perfection.
That presents a scary perspective for your average women. A fear that she can never live up to an ideal. She might undergo scary surgeries or diets to try to achieve that “perfection.” Or wear tortuous outfits to create an unreal shape. In fact, the Bunny costume is kind of scary.
In its shape-shifting, Lili’s outfit was painful and the boning left marks around her ribs. When feminist, Gloria Steinem, worked undercover as a Bunny, she had to wrap gauze around herself to keep the boning from rubbing her raw. And the stuffing the breasts sit on to make “anyone” look large-breasted was sweltering and tight. In fact, the costume was “so tight it would give a man cleavage,” Steinem recalled. Even the modified outfits that actresses wore for last year’s cancelled Playboy TV series were described as, “tight,” “constricting,” and, “Child, you cannot breathe.” All this pain to create the illusion of an “ideal” female figure that does not exist in reality.
Today Lili is leery of all that Playboy has created: Unattainable ideals that will hurt American women for the next 40 years, and counting…
So women can feel they don’t match up. And men can feel deprived, never finding the idealized perfection.
A little scary.
Some men wonder why they objectify women. So Jayson Gaddis asked men on his Facebook page why they thought they did, and then he wrote about it for The Good Men Project.
What is objectification? Jayson describes it as:
Staring, gawking, or checking out women and their bodies and body parts. Seeing them as objects instead of actual people, and thinking of them in a sexual way.
Why do they do it? Most blame “nature.” As one man exclaimed,
I love looking at women. They’re just amazing. It’s part of my biological make up to think that they’re beautiful.
Jayson believes biology plays a role since men are hardwired to look for mates and procreate. But he thinks cultural conditioning is involved, too. To paraphrase:
In men’s culture, it’s acceptable to objectify women. Men bond around it. And, it’s pervasive and all around us. Notice where men buy stuff, there are often photos of women present. I can barely go on any male-focused website now without being hit at some point by a tiny, physically attractive, disproportioned airbrushed woman looking at me.
Some men objectify because the “feel good” feeling acts like a drug or pick me up. Objectification can fill an empty place inside:
I’m stuck in the belief that that feminine essence is outside of myself. I’m alienated from the larger truth of my Completeness as a human being. That sexy, juicy, radiant paradise is not inside myself, therefore it’s an object I obsess about outside myself and I treat it like entertainment. This insight leads me to believe I haven’t spent enough time balancing the relationship with My (whole) Self.
Others want gratification without any real work or risk of rejection.
I objectify women cause it’s “safer.” I receive an immediate gratification, a thrill if you will, albeit superficial, it does keep me safe at least for a time from annihilation — from a treacherous road of intimacy and vulnerability — the risk of being really seen and connected with – or actually rejected!! Yes, that’s it — it’s an avoidance of rejection… Intimacy takes a lot of work, courage and commitment. Objectifying is an “easy” road out of the potential of rejections.
Maybe some men simply enjoy the sense of being with many women, polygamous, a way of living that doesn’t appear to be a possibility in our culture. One man says he likes to play with the fantasy and the illusion like he does with porn:
The most fun and exciting and ego gratifying times in my life have been when i have embraced it and danced with it and gave myself permission to play with the illusions, projections, feelings, etc.
Like this man, many say they seek approval or self-esteem. I’m not sure what that means. Might a man’s self worth rise when he imagines the women enjoying his attention?
Or, does self-esteem rise from gaining a sense of power over women? After all, they dressed and adorned themselves to please men – and thus, “him.”
Some talk of the power women have over men – making them melt and creating unrequited desire. But by objectifying women a man can feel superior. “He” is subject while “she” is an object that exists for his pleasure and purposes.
The fear of annihilation has been cited before, but one man describes it in a way that echoes this fear of female power. He seeks “to avoid the terror of annihilation — being reabsorbed back into the feminine.”
Whatever’s going on, Jayson suggests men consider how objectification is working for them and the women in their lives. For those who feel it’s not working, here’s how some have dealt with the matter:
What I’ve found works best for me so far is being a yes to everything in my own experience and in what’s happening AND at some point in my development simply realizing that objectification is not enough for me … I love appreciating and experiencing another human being for more than just her physical traits. What I prefer physically doesn’t in itself inspire me to want to connect with a woman, and doesn’t in itself have me feel attracted. The attraction and inspiration simply are there or not independent of how she looks.
The answer for me was to stop trying to get this woman but use that energy to make myself the best possible me I could become. A me that now has confidence because I am self assured, self respecting, and full of self accepting unconditional love. Part of becoming that man means that I must accept and own the truth of my motives and be willing to see the motives of others. That is when I was finally able to let go of the fantasy and see this woman for who she really is inside.
My biggest life breakthrough and victory came as a result of that growth.
As a result, something incredible is happening to me now. Something wonderful has started growing in the void where my fantasy used to live. It’s a genuine curiosity and appreciation for all woman. Especially for all the women who actually live and display their authentic self and freely give their love to all as an expression of their femininity.
Once I get connected to me again, I notice how I can appreciate a beautiful woman and I’m in my body, connected to my heart. It has a totally different quality. She feels it and I feel it.
By the way, objectification and desire are two different things. And men are rarely objectified. See these two articles:
For more on all this, go to The Good Men Project.
I step on the scale, glance at the digital 135 and sigh silently.
“Hi, listen,” my boyfriend’s words ring in my mind, “I want you to lose weight. Immediately!”
I know I am a bit bigger than most Asian girls, but I never thought I was “fat.” I do want to lose weight to “look good,” but it is just so hard. Now, this stupid man, who is 5’10 and 110 pounds, who thinks of himself as “fit and charming,” sees me as “overweight.”
And my mind wanders back to a girl who smiles sweetly and says, “If you were thin, you would be very pretty.” My lips smile back but my mind glares. I’d already thought I was beautiful.
Mother wants me to lose weight, too. She claims I haven’t because I’m not insistent.
Although I love my body, although I am a feminist, although I try to ignore the thin girls around me, I am shaped by my society. Sometimes I feel upset when I see my round belly. And I feel guilty when I eat too much.
But I worry about dieting. Courtney Martin, who wrote Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, says that 25% of dieters develop eating disorders. One of those disorders is especially dangerous: 7.4% of anorexics die. Then she tells us about Janet who says, “Even after my friend had a ministroke from taking Ephedra, I sometimes wonder if I can search the Internet and find some on the black market.”
Why risk death to lose weight?
We watch TV and see slim heroines, we pick up magazines and see skinny models, and we learn that thin is hot. We accept what society wants, and deny ourselves.
We accept superficiality over the inner beauty of independence, wisdom, and achievement.
Men don’t face such strict standards or such close scrutiny. My father is a bit overweight, but no one judges him by his body. Yet men feel free to judge us.
Martin suggests a solution:
If a women of any size is able to stop her negative self-talk and accept herself, she may experience the world with a little peace of mind.
I see my body in the mirror. It is so perfect. I face my boyfriend and stare at him, “If I wanna lose weight, I would. But I just think it is so stupid to lose weight because my boyfriend thinks I’m fat.”
I say to him, “If you don’t like my body, then don’t even touch me!”
He stands there shocked, saying “sorry” with his eyes.
This was written by one of my students (who is perfect weight and perfectly beautiful) and posted with permission.
Does porn raise men’s expectations of how women should perform in bed? I believe it depends entirely on the man’s ability to distinguish between real life and fantasy.
True, you could try to recreate porn in real life. But then it’s not real. It’s acting. So you’re back to fantasy.
I think porn is great to enjoy. But men must realize what it is.
Unfortunately, a lot of men (and some women in regards to things like Twilight) get fantasy and reality mixed up. And that can harm relationships.
Take my girlfriend’s ex. He’s a nasty piece of work. Barely finished high school, can’t drive, no job. Literally sits at home all day. But because my girlfriend was young when she met him, he became a lot of “firsts.” And he made her think that things that weren’t healthy were.
She didn’t expect to ever get off on real sex, or that her significant other should even try. Early on she told me that she would be “totally down for a threesome” if I saw another girl I found attractive. She later recanted when I told her to never suggest anything that makes her uncomfortable or unhappy.
As we talked on she began blurting out a long list of things her ex did, sexually, that she asked me not to. The worst part was that after she had listed everything, she thought I was angry with her.
I was angry. Not because she had asked me not to do certain things, but because I realized what she had come to expect. I had thought she’d say something like, “I don’t feel comfortable with the lights on,” not, “Please don’t tell me I’m a dirty slut for enjoying your cock.”
I was upset that she had let someone treat her, for lack of better words, like trash. I had to explain that, even without her asking me not to do those things I would not have done them.
I saw that she had come to believe that she must do things she hated for a relationship to “work.”
Obviously we’ve talked about these things and she realizes that, yes, I do watch porn, but that porn is porn. I do not expect her to act like the girls in it, nor should anyone else.
My girlfriend is beautiful. She’s incredibly attractive just the way she is. And she’s most beautiful when she’s enjoying herself, sexually or otherwise.
This was written by one of my students who gave permission to post it under a pseudonym.
Obama and Romney both have grandparents who practiced polygamy, yet both have said (and one’s still saying) that marriage should be between one man and one woman. Some think it odd that they both reject the practice when they’ve each got a family history. But I, too, have grandparents who practiced polygamy yet I don’t like the practice, either. This brings me to the concern that marriage equality is a slippery slope to polygamy.
If you hold marriage to “two consenting adults” the problem goes away.
At the same time, while I have a personal distaste for polygamy, I’m not sure that decriminalization would be a bad thing.
First, the problems with the practice.
Gender inequality can be created by simple supply and demand, with “the one” having more power, whether polygyny (one man, many wives) or polyandry (one wife, many husbands). In the polyandrous Lahaul Valley of the Himalayas women have great say over matters. As one young man in this community explained, “The wife’s voice is the dominant voice in the household.”
Typically, polygamy is practiced under patriarchy (as polygyny) so the power of “the one” man becomes intensified. As one New York Times letter writer observed in response to Jonathan Turley’s insistence that polygamous families should be free to live their religion and values:
(In highly patriarchal families) this is not ‘the right to live your life.’ The men have rights, but not the girls (who are) brainwashed, uneducated and mothers while in their teens.
In polygyny it can seem that women make all the sacrifices so that men may take unlimited pleasure. A Sufi who agreed to be a third wife of her teacher (the article title “My Husband, My Teacher” suggests additional inequality of relationship) described her experience this way:
I went through, as did the other wives, all of the usual feelings of jealousy, fear, and insecurity.
She had to learn to let go of attachment, or seeing her spouse as property. Yet her husband didn’t need to learn any of these lessons, enjoying greater freedom and sexual variety than any of his wives ever will.
The addition of a new wife may even be used as a threat in polygamous cultures. Not surprisingly, 86 percent of Afghani women are against the practice.
Moving to larger societal problems, at marriageable age women and men are in equal number so girls in polygamous communities must be married at younger and younger ages, and are often forced into marriage. Their youth further disempowers them. Meanwhile, teenaged boys may be thrown out of these communities via trivial charges like watching “inappropriate” movies.
Joseph Henrich, a University of British Columbia professor whose expertise lies in psychology, anthropology and economics says higher levels of polygamy are tied to higher crime rates, lower GDP per capita, and worse outcomes for children.
And, fewer available women may mean more frustrated bachelors who support the sex trafficking of girls and women. These young men are also vulnerable to recruitment by extremists in some parts of the world.
There is plenty that is not pretty. So why legalize polygamy?
When the practice is illegal and stigmatized, those who live it end up isolated from the rest of society. That means its practitioners hear few alternate voices, and are less aware of the possibility of living differently. Or, choices become limited as others ostracize them and reject their friendship. In other words, they’re more stuck.
Oddly, adherence to “plural marriage” might actually decrease if it were made legal and destigmatized.
I don’t know if legalization will ever destigmatize polygamy, which is an important step in freeing people to hear different voices and to help them to have more options.
Regardless, I doubt legalization will bring people flocking to the practice. The notion of sharing your husband or wife while being forced to be monogamous, yourself, just isn’t that appealing to most people. In the U.S. polygamy is pretty much only practiced for religious reasons, so it’s not likely to catch on. And where it does, it would be more likely voluntary and not coerced.
If you fear gay marriage because polygamy might come next, I doubt there’s really much to worry about.
It all began when Amanda and a few of her middle school friends started videochatting with strangers just for fun. Some told her she was “stunning, beautiful, perfect,” a complement any 13-year-old would enjoy. Eventually, a man asked her to flash. And she did.
A year later this same guy found her and threatened to send the nude photos to her family, friends and her entire school if she didn’t “put on a show for him.” When she refused, he did.
Amanda became the laughingstock of the school and lost all of her friends. Anxiety and major depression overtook her life and she turned to drugs, alcohol and cutting to cover the pain.
She moved a couple of times, trying to get away, but her stalker always collected the names of her new friends and even set up a Facebook page with her boobs as the profile picture.
The pictures followed her wherever she went. And so did the derision. And the isolation.
She made two suicide attempts.
A couple of weeks ago she posted a nine-minute video, “My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide and self harm.” She never speaks in it, but holds up note cards that tell her story. Maybe you’ve seen it. If not, it’s a powerful message against bullying which you can see here.
Near the end she seems hopeful, holding a card that reads:
Everyone’s future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I’m still here, aren’t I?
But depression finally won and she committed suicide last week.
How could objectification have played a role? Well, how does objectification encourage men to see women? Actually, it doesn’t encourage men to see women, but to see women’s bodies – as objects that exist for their purposes.
The images are often bodies without heads—without minds and thoughts and emotions or personalities or a will to act in the world. Sometimes the bodies are shaped in the form of an object, like a table, for a man to use as he will.
The man who harassed Amanda did not see her as a person who had hopes and dreams for the future. He is not a man who cared about her. He did not think of her as a person. She was just a thing for him to play with and manipulate for his own sadistic purposes. If he had seen her as a real person and felt any empathy he would not have behaved as he did.
Now, all men are subjected to objectification, yet not all men behave like Amanda’s stalker. So of course it takes more than objectification to drive a man like that. But objectification combined with a twisted mind can be a dangerous thing.
Naomi Wolf wants women to have better sex lives, and more empowered lives generally. Vagina: A New Biography seeks to light the way.
Wolf began researching this book after she regained her sexual desire, creativity and passion for life — much to her surprise — when her spinal cord was repaired.
I’ll discuss the larger life issues later. For now, let’s look at how her somewhat controversial book might benefit women with low libido, and the partners who love them.
Something she calls “the Goddess Array” consists of “a set of behaviors that activate the autonomic nervous system in women” and turns them on. She describes these as “the-things-that-women-need-that-men-don’t-need,” quoting sex educator Liz Topp, who coined the obese phrase.
So, women need certain things to spark desire that men don’t. And these behaviors actually have biological effects.
As she explained to the Huffington Post, women need to be relaxed and free from bad stress so that heart rate and respiration can increase, engorging what needs to be engorged and lubricating what needs to be lubricated. These processes are heightened when women lie in their lover’s arms and when they are romanced. In fact, dancing is actually seductive, she says.
On the other hand, these arousing physical processes can be interrupted if her lover snaps at her or flirts with someone else.
So foreplay begins way before bed. But we all know that, right?
True, she says, but what’s new is that science actually backs this up.
Plus, she points out that porn — so prevalent today — leads us away from this knowledge. Porn is a sex educator (a poor one) — even if neither men nor pornographers look at it that way. Men go there to get turned on, but then believe what they see: women see a huge penis, quickly get aroused and climax after a very few minutes of friction. Context doesn’t matter.
Even Masters and Johnson can throw us off. Wolf adds,
We’ve got this model from Masters and Johnson that male and female sexual response is kind of the same — there’s arousal, plateau, climax and resolution — and the Cosmo model is that everyone should be racing to the goal together, trying to get there together. This as a model of sexual response (for women) is not true.
And for women and men who do know better, we too often forget or don’t take the time to nurture the good energy that women need for arousal.
This is especially important in long-term relationships. When love is new, “feel-good” oxytocin levels skyrocket. But then they drop. Women also get turned on by feeling chosen, but after being married awhile a woman may feel less like she’s chosen and more like her partner simply has no other choice but her. Wolf continues:
Once you’re in a relationship, you don’t have to woo her, you don’t have to bring her flowers, you don’t have to take her dancing, you don’t have to tell her she’s beautiful, you just cut to the chase. That is a killer for passion for women in long-term relationships, and it’s not a psychological thing, it’s physiological, and a mind-body connection.
Marta Meana, a UNLV psychology professor, would seem to agree. She says women have a lower sex drive (culturally influenced) and need a bigger jolt to spark their libido. As she told a New York Times reporter,
If I don’t love cake as much as you, my cake better be kick-butt to get me excited to eat it.
Turning on the sex goddess, the gospel according to Naomi Wolf. It may be worth a read.
Strange that Brown would brand himself with a battered Rihanna for all the world to see. And if it’s not Rihanna, why sport an image that will remind everyone of the pummeling?
Publicity seeking seems likely.
Still, you have to wonder why shame doesn’t stop him.
Apparently Chris Brown is not alone in feeling no shame. Sean Connery and others feel that it is “absolutely right” to slap a woman. Televangelist, Pat Robertson, advised one man to beat his wife into submission – even if he had to move to Saudi Arabia to legally do it. To these Neanderthals, beating women is all part of being a real man (or caveman).
There’s a myth that men who beat and rape women just “lose control” and that after they act out, they sit around stewing in shame. That is because this is what these men tell people they are trying to ingratiate themselves with, in order to gain their acceptance and forgiveness. But inside, as many victims who have seen their true face can tell you, they are defiant. They believe they are entitled to dominate women, and they feel victimized by a world that doesn’t give them what they believe is theirs. They act out, looking for little ways to assert the right to dominate [what] they believe is theirs.
Marcotte cites research from psychologist David Lisak, who found that certain men will happily tell stories about successful sexual assaults. Joanna Schroeder over at The Good Men Project feels the analysis rings true:
The batterers I’ve known have betrayed a certain pride over the pain they cause their partner. They want their partner to keep the abuse a secret, but they themselves say things like “Jodi knows better than to look twice at another guy” while making a punching motion with their hands. It’s always under the guise of being a joke, but it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you already know or suspect that the guy is abusing his wife. One man I knew who was a batterer would threaten to rape his wife, seemingly joking, in front of almost anyone. Turned out he had been raping her for almost as long as they were married.
If you see yourself as righting the scales of justice — punishing those who have “hurt you,” and returning gender to its rightful order, with men on top — I guess bragging makes sense.
…telling others about it and watching them recoil basically means reliving the power trip… Not only did they dominate the victim, but they have provoked anger and disgust in you, and that makes them feel powerful all over again.
Growing up, Brown was tormented by watching his stepdad beat his mom. That childhood horror and helplessness seem to have deeply scared him. Too bad he hasn’t dealt with his issues in therapy and focused his power in positive ways – in real ways – because how much power does this guy really get from beating his girlfriend?
Turns out, they can. Esquire just named sultry Mila Kunis “Sexiest Woman Alive.” This follows Maxim naming her third hottest woman in the world, while FHM put her in the top 10. Gorgeous mate, Ashton Kutcher, is good with her, too.
Other women of petite boobage have also landed on these lists, and a few years back FHM named Kiera Knightley the hottest of the hot. More recently Kate Middleton’s “Boobgate” inspired 311 million searches for “Middleton topless photos.” (The Duchess also made FHM’s “Hottest 100” this year.) Seems many men find smaller-breasted women attractive.
Now, I’m no fan of objectification and ranking women on lists. But so long as they’re doing it, I am glad to see some branching out from a narrow ideal of “skinny + big boobs = attractive.”
Without implants or obesity, B is the average cup size. Since so many women are an A or B cup it’s no wonder that by age seventeen, 78 percent of young women are unhappy with their bodies – worries about weight being another big issue.
007 Breasts – 007b.com, a website devoted to women and their breasts, gets (not surprisingly?) quite a few male readers. Based on comments they receive WOMEN do most of the fussing over breast size, not men. Men most commonly communicate these thoughts:
- Men are happy with any pair of breasts their partner has
- Men often say implants seem unnatural and hard
- A woman who appears secure and confident is attractive
Well, Mila Kunis exudes confidence.
So it looks like women don’t need to mutilate themselves and harm their health to be attractive. And moms don’t need to give their seven-year-old daughters a $10,000 voucher for a future boob job, as one did.
And if your boyfriend thinks you’re boobs are too small, it sounds like he’s a boob — get a better boyfriend!