My Hero

“I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, “She must have provoked him,” or, “Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.” They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.”

-Patrick Stewart (via Shevilfempire)

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Your Mileage May Vary, and Other Sex Ed Lessons from Fandom

(Alternate Title: Everything I Know About Sex I Learned from Fanfiction)

In Dan Savage’s most recent podcast he interviews Cindy Gallop, creator of the (somewhat misleadingly titled IMHO) organization Make Love Not Porn ( www.makelovenotporn.com).  Gallop talks about how she realized that many people, especially younger people, are getting a lot of their sexual education via pornography and, absent any alternative sources of information *cough cough actual, comprehensive sexual education cough*, are coming (hehe) away with a lot of misconceptions that can get in the way of a healthy, fulfilling sex life.  MLNP is an effort to provide a more realistic alternative and in essence to encourage critical porn consumption.  People in general, especially younger ones, are much more media literate than they once were (though they could definitely stand be more so) but for a variety of possible reasons (because watching porn is stigmatized so we don’t like to think about it, it taps into our lizard brains, etc.) not many of us apply those skills to porn.  Gallop thinks, and I agree with her, that that should change.

Listening to her talk about all this on the podcast, what was the first thought that sprang to my mind? Thank G-d for fanfiction!  It sounds strange, but the truth is, a lot of what I learned about sex and sexuality came from reading fanfic as a young teenager, and it has proven a much better textbook than the porn vids many of my peers apparently learned from.  After all, no one in a written story is contorting themselves to get a better camera angle, and since fandom isn’t driven by profit no one is trying to reach the largest possible audience so authors are free to express and indulge in all the diversity of real-world sex and sexuality.  Fanfiction is where I learned about safewords and negotiation, it’s where I first started figuring out what gets me going and what does nothing for me.  It’s also where I learned that some people not only aren’t disgusted by things like female pubic hair and love handles, but actually find them appealing.  Fanfiction told me that not everyone wants the same things in bed or looks for the same things in their partners, a revelation after a lifetime of bombardment with identical, airbrushed bodies and interchangeable sex scenes.

Fanfiction also differs from straight-up porn in that the sex isn’t artificially isolated from the rest of the narrative.  In porn, sex serves one purpose exclusively: to arouse the consumer.  It can serve that purpose in fanfic as well, but it can also facilitate character development, advance the plot, or illuminate the relationship between characters.  All this is a lot closer to how sex functions in the real world; no one leaves their personality, history, and relationship at the bedroom door.  This also opens the door to a different kind of sexual diversity: in quality.  No, it doesn’t happen often, but characters in fanfiction do occasionally have *gasp* bad sex.  As do those of us in the real world.

Being exposed to all this during my sexually formative years has given me what feels like a relatively solid foundation for my own sex life.  It’s made me better at asking for and articulating what I want and what I don’t.  Unlike some peers I’ve talked to and those Dan and Cindy spoke about, I don’t spend all my time self-objectifying and frantically evaluating my performance visually.  That’s not to say I’ve been spared entirely, nor that I would want anyone to get their information about sex and sexuality EXCLUSIVELY from fanfiction (there are an awful lot of straight women out there writing some very painful-sounding gay male sex scenes).  Nor is it to say I’m completely sexually liberated, lacking in self-consciousness, and free of hang-ups and body image problems, or that fanfiction is completely responsible for my relative health, but I am better off than many others, and fanfic deserves some of the credit for that.

One further note: during the interview, Dan Savage says that he’s noticed an undercurrent of anger and resentment threading through a lot of straight porn, but he doesn’t think it’s about misogyny or sexism.  It’s just about men wanting women they can’t have, so the porn is doubling as a revenge fantasy.  Sorry Dan, but I’m not buying it.  If it isn’t about gender, then why don’t you find it in gay porn?  Surely there are gay guys out there being rejected and resenting it too?  Yes, anger is a natural response to rejection for many people in many situations, but I think patriarchy shapes pervasiveness and expression of this particular anger.  If men didn’t feel generally entitled to women’s bodies and sexuality then I don’t think there would be this level and intensity of rage.  Add to that the evident desire to punish women sexually, with rape and humiliation, and any argument that this isn’t misogyny gets pretty shaky.  That’s my take on it anyway.

(Latin) American Graffiti: The Walls Speak

A few of my favorites, mostly from Argentina:

  • True, crickets don’t work. But ants can’t sing.
  • Poverty is a time bomb.
  • Fight hunger and poverty! Eat poor people!
  • If you’re surprised by a storm at sea, pray, but do not stop paddling toward shore.
  • God lives, it’s a miracle!
  • Everybody makes promises but nobody keeps them.  Vote for nobody!
  • Blessed are the drunkards, for they will see God twice.
  • The revolution is the orgasm of the people.
  • When a politician says yes, he means maybe, when he says maybe, he means no, and when he says no, he means it’s not political.
  • A war may begin with a small detail…like a speck in the sky dropping bombs.
  • In ’73 we were on the brink, and today, we can proudly say that we have taken a step forward.

And best of all:

  • Tremble Fascists…Maradona is a lefty.

White Like Me

I’m reading the most amazing, exciting book about white privilege and being antiracist.  At first I was somewhat disappointed in it because it seemed like it was just privilege 101, but once I got past that and into the discussion of how whites can fight racism it really grabbed me.  My mind started racing in the best possible way.

For instance, I’ve long seen how men and boys define themselves as not-women and not-girls, and I’ve seen how this limits them as they cut themselves off and deny themselves anything perceived as feminine, be it therapy or close same-sex friendships or playing in the school orchestra or making art.  I’ve never thought to apply that to other systems though, other privileged groups.  Yet here is this book, explaining how whites do the exact same thing, and its just as sad and limiting to be not-black (or not-asian, etc.) as it is to be not-female!

“I Dreamt the Snow was Burning” by Antonio Skarmeta

Is that not the best title you’ve ever heard? I’m just totally enchanted by it, even more so now that I know where it comes from: a Chilean folk song. If you’re interested, you can listen to it @http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IStkuzilAQ.  I haven’t been able to find the full lyrics, but the section the title comes from goes:

I dreamed the snow was burning,

I dreamed the fire froze over,

And dreaming impossible things,

I dreamed you were my lover

So it’s not only a beautiful turn of phrase, but also fitting, because ultimately this is a book about impossible dreams.  For Arturo, the closest there is to a main character, that dream is to become a famous footballer and lose his virginity (he manages one out of two, but it isn’t as he’d hoped).  For those around him, and the author himself, the dream in question is a democratic Chile, ruled by and for her people, a place where workers own the means of production and community centers are full of blistering political arguments. The book takes place in the last days of democracy in Chile, before the military seized control in what I’m guessing was the early 70’s based on the football references. (Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Chile beyond the fact that it was briefly democratic before turning fascist under a military dictator who turned the national football stadium into a prison camp/torture center).  The last days of life in Chile, a poet might say; that’s certainly the way it comes across.  At the risk of sounding cheaply sentimental, all these beautiful people, full of hope but hardly naive, arguing over Lenin and Socialism, boisterous as a spring day and believers, every one.  Yet a shadow looms, of course it does, in the form of Arturo’s humiliation in the match of his career, taking place at none other than the previously-mentioned national stadium.  When he makes “contact with the ball, bringing it to earth with a blow of his boot which to many sounded like a corpse being thrown into a grave,” it’s foreshadowing at its most chilling.  So I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say that the novel ends with the roar of tanks and the spit-fire of machine guns, doors kicked in and new martyrs with slogans half-spoken on their lips, the-people-united-can-never-be-defeated, an awful ruckus of shattering like I’m sure I’ve never heard, and then, in the end, silence.