Archives for posts with tag: psychology

I do not know how to start this post. I am angry. I am tired. I am tired of being angry.

There is often a lot of discussion surrounding ‘privilege’, at least there is on the Tumblr community. Privilege is what people in positions of power have in society. So, there is male privilege, which allows men to access things (capital, in the Marxist/Bourdieu-ian sense)  more easily than women. There is also white privilege, which allows white people to access better capital than people of color. There is cis privilege over trans* people; heterosexual privilege over LGBT*Q; and so on and so forth.

For examples of male privilege, see here or here.

Now, it has been my absolute honor to come across an article claiming female privilege.

Let me now explain how this article is complete and utter bullshit.

1. I’m allowed to be far more open about my sexuality than a man is. In fact, if I’m bisexual, it’s encouraged (both male and females encourage it funnily enough). If I’m hetero, I’m allowed to make comments about how hot men are, compliment men without others thinking it’s harassment and generally can make lewd comments about any person, be them male or female, and it’s considered ok. I can say “I fancy him so much I’d  even rape him” or “I need to pull him into the storeroom and show him I mean it” or “He is mega hot” about any male whether  he is seventeen (I am forty) or seventy. I can sit in a Twilight movie and drool at Jacob (for instance), and not be seen as a dirty old woman.

Women can only be open about their sexuality when it is approved of BY MEN. If you didn’t notice, she did not mention lesbianism, which only involves women. If a woman identifies as a lesbian, she will be told that she only likes women because she hasn’t had a good dick or a good fucking yet. In fact, even porn with “lesbians” in it is made for the men who watch it, and not for actual lesbians, which can be shown by the heavy emphasis on vaginal penetration. Bisexuality is only acceptable when she eventually settles down with a man, because then she will be seen as “really heterosexual”.

She is also completely erasing the Madonna/Whore complex. If a woman has sex before marriage, she is seen as a slut and a whore and deserving of any sexual assault that befalls her. Meanwhile, if she doesn’t have sex, she is a prude or a stuck up bitch or an ice queen. So tell me again how women’s sexualities are not controlled by men and how women are so free?

2. If my partner and I were in a domestic dispute and both violent, or both shouting, and I hit him … if the police were called, my male partner would still be the one far more likely to be taken into custody for the night. If my male partner tried to report domestic violence, it would be harder for him to have the charges laid, than if I did so. In fact, while there is a charge of Male assaults Woman in my country, there is no Woman assaults Male. That would be classified instead as General Assault.

Perhaps the male partner would be arrested, but let’s talk about what happens afterwards. The average prison sentence of men who kill their women partners is 2 to 6 years, while women who kill their male partners are sentenced on average to 15 years. This is despite the fact that 86% of female offenders kill in self-defense, while males are most likely to kill out of possessiveness (82%), abuse (75%) and during arguments (63%). Women are eight times more likely than men to be killed by an intimate partner.

Also, let’s talk about the fact that men are only allowed to show two emotions: anger/rage and lust. This is EXTREMELY harmful to the men in our society, and it is (one of) the reason(s) why men are disproportionally the one’s who commit assault (sexual assault, general assault, and domestic violence), have road rage, and commit murder. This is a problem and it needs to be fixed! THIS IS PART OF FEMINISM.

3. If my relationship with the father of my children was to break up, I’m far more likely to get the kids. And if I want a child, but don’t have a partner, I can do that too. I get to choose whether I have the baby or not, I get to choose whether the father’s name is on the birth certificate or not (and if he queries it, he’s the one who has to pay for the DNA test) and if he’s named as the father, he then has to pay child support, whether he was aware I was trying to have a child or not.

Yes, the reproductive rights of women are absolutely brilliant right now. No, really, it’s great.

Left out of her claims are the following facts:

1 –there are currently 31 states where a rapist can sue for custody of his child born from the rape. Also, let’s not forget that this happened

2 –the reason why women are often given custody is because of the sexist idea that women are better with children and more nurturing while men cannot be tied down that way because they have to be able to move to work

3 –working mothers lose more custody battles than they win

Also, are we just going to completely ignore the fact that if a woman does not want kids, people think there is actually something wrong with her? If a woman says that she never wants children, people will try to CONVINCE her that she actually does want kids, or that she’ll change her mind, or that kids are such a blessing. Are we just ignoring that? I guess we are.

4. I’m allowed to be as education- and career-driven as I want to be, and push for the top, seeking equity and equality in everything. But when it comes to dating and relationships, I’ll want the dates paid for, the doors opened, the bling bought. And if I want to choose to not be career-driven, and be instead at home, and not work, then I can far more readily choose that option too than a male partner could.

Women are “allowed” (by men) to be educated and career-driven, but it will cost them in many ways. Women are “allowed” to be career-driven, as long as they somehow figure out how to work and still do all of the house work and childcare. Women are “allowed” to be career-driven, as long as they are okay with never making more than their male peers and never being in a position of authority over them. Women are “allowed” to be career-driven  as long as they work above and beyond their male companions in order to even be noticed, and even then their achievements will probably be awarded to the men they work with.

Also, if women do well in academia or in the work-place, then they are immediately suspect. Claims are made that they “slept” their way to the top, because CLEARLY a woman cannot get into any position of power without having sex. This accusation has been leveled on me before, because I graduated with honors and won academic awards before moving on to date one of my previous professors.

In regards to the second part of her statement: the idea that men should pay for everything on a date is sexist and it comes from the idea that men are the breadwinners in society and women don’t/shouldn’t work, so how could they pay for anything? This is also a problem in society, and it needs to be fixed, but I’m not convinced it happens epidemically.

5. If I write an inflammatory comment, or a blog, or article, and a man questions anything in it, all I need to do to shut the conversation down is call him a bully, or say he’s a privileged male. I can also make disparaging comments about his sexuality, his economic standing, the size of his penis, and his ability to do pretty much anything in return for him disagreeing with me. I can do this, because when I do, I KNOW there will be a bunch of other women who will stick up for me. Because as a woman … I now have privilege.

Sure, a woman can try to “shut a man up” by calling him privileged or a bully. Want to know how to shut down a woman during an argument? Claim she’s on her period. Or, wait, no –just say she’s a crazy bitch who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Or, I’ve got it, this one’s good –say that she is being a typical woman and over-reacting. These things are called “gaslighting”, and they are all a form of mental abuse that happen all the time. So, let’s be honest, it is MUCH easier to silence a woman than a man during an argument.

Any notion of “female privilege” is either bullshit or is perpetuated by different strains of sexism and patriarchy. I will accept, however, that cis women have more privilege than trans* women (also due to patriarchy and trans-phobia). I will also gladly take responsibility for and accept my white privilege, because I definitely have that.

I refuse to accept that I have any form of female privilege that is NOT directly perpetuated by sexism and/or patriarchy. Just because patriarchy and sexism can backfire and hurt men as well as women does not mean that women have any sort of dominance or privilege over men. Period.

Someday I will actually write something that is not a response to something else that is completely wrong, but today is not that day.

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Before I even began this blog, a wonderful friend of mine (who actually was one of the first women to introduce me to the ideas of feminism) asked me to read and review 50 Shades of Grey. Let me note right now that this is just a themed-post, and I will most likely be writing three separate posts on each of the books individually. I will also be doing more in-depth posts on the topics below -orgasms, BDSM, consent, etc. -without having them be in-reference to the 50 Shades trilogy.

Also, SPOILER ALERT, if anyone cares.

Now, if you have not heard of this series of books, consider yourself lucky. This is a trilogy which was based off of (badly written) Twilight fanfiction. Edward and Bella became Christian and Ana. Wonderful.

Fanfiction aside, this series has hit the national bestseller list and has become extremely popular in America. I do have a few theories as to why this has happened, but we will get to those at the end of this post.

First, let’s talk about the actual content/themes of the trilogy.

For those who have not read it, the plot of the book is this: Ana (short for Anastasia) is a soon-to-be college graduate who has to work for money, but is never really left wanting because of her rich roommate Katherine (or, rather, her roommate Katherine who has rich parents.)

While doing a favor for Katherine, Ana meets Christian Grey, a CEO billionaire (understatement) with “exotic tastes” in basically everything, but specifically in sex. Christian Grey considers himself a ‘Dominant’ in a BDSM-type of relationship -this means that, in this relationship, he would be the one completely in charge of his Submissive partner during a scene that they both agree on beforehand. The relationship can last for longer than a single scene, but it is all organized heavily around lines of consent and rules (including safe-words.) Generally, that is how the trilogy begins.

Now, in this book series, author E. L. James gets a few things wrong on a variety of levels. We will start small.

Biology

Ana is, of course, a virgin when she meets Christian. He changes that by page 117 of Grey. I quote, “…I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity.” (emphasis mine.)

This idea (of a ‘ripped virginity’, or ‘popping the cherry’) is a common cultural myth. The hymen -what is seen as the woman’s virginity -is a thin and elastic membrane that partially covers the vaginal opening (there are instances where it covers the entire opening, and then surgery is needed.)

Watch this video, it’s much more elaborate and helpful!

This one sentence, with him ‘ripping her virginity’ sets the tone for their entire relationship -one that is based on violence. Even moreso, in the very next sentence, it says that he (Christian) looks triumphant. Ana is seen as a conquest, as something that he conquered by taking her virginity” as if the hymen leaves the woman after the first vaginal intercourse. She is no longer a person in this moment, she is just another one of the many women he’s been on top of. A victory.

This concept is masked by Ana’s pleasure. After the pain of her ‘ripped virginity’, she finds that sex is nice. This is true! Horray for one thing that’s right! But, James goes off the realistic track again by having Ana orgasm every single time she and Christian have sex.

No. Just… no.

I’m sorry, this just does not happen. Female orgasm just does not occur as often as male orgasm. In the majority of cases, women will not orgasm the first time they have sex, or even the second, or even the third. It takes a while -both in the sense of time during sex (women need just slightly more time on average), and in the other sense of experience. Plainly put, Ana is too inexperienced and Christian is too quick to guarantee Ana an orgasm during her first time, or really any of the times at all. There is also rarely enough clitoral stimulation involved for her to climax during their sexual encounters.

But, because Ana does experience orgasm every single time they have sex (and even in her dreams too), it can place shame on real women who read this series who don’t have orgasms when they have sex. It is not healthy or realistic to expect orgasm during the first few times, or even every single time. There are ways/methods for a woman to achieve orgasm, but this idea that it should just automatically happen during sex is just wrong.

Nothing is wrong with you if you do not orgasm when you have sex. Seriously. It’s harmful to yourself and to your relationship with your partner if you start to think this way. If you are not achieving an orgasm at all when you have sex, then talk to your partner and try to see what you can do differently, but don’t blame yourself or them. Please.

Psychology

Throughout the entire series, E. L. James makes use of the subconscious. She does this by referencing it on over fifty pages in the first book alone (51, 62, 63, 67, 75, 94, 95, 99, 126, 127, 128, 135, 145, 159, 164, 176, 199, 216, 240, 241, 242, 243, 245, 251, 252, 259, 260/1, 262, 273, 277, 285, 287, 309, 315, 334, 338, 345, 360, 368, 374, 382, 383, 391, 413, 420, 432, 434, 435, 445, 478, 482, 484, 485, 502, 507, 511.)

Ana and her subconscious interact with each other consistently throughout the book. Ana views her subconscious as some kind of stern older woman with horn-rimmed glasses that disapproves of sexual relationships of any kind and is extremely condescending towards Ana for her decisions in regards to Christian. Basically, the definition/image of an ice-bitch prude.

This is constantly contrasted with Ana’s “inner goddess,” which is apparently the part of Ana that wants to be controlled and fucked by a man. She is often ‘celebrating’ the sexual encounters between Ana and Christian by doing the salsa or yoga. Or by tearing off her clothes. (Unfortunately, I did not mark the page numbers down for the references to the inner goddess, because I foolishly thought it would not occur that often. Rest assured, I am positive the inner goddess is mentioned at least as many times as the subconscious.)

Both of these ideas are problematic.

First of all, E. L. James is completely misusing the concept of the subconscious. By its definition, the subconscious cannot be consciously accessed. The fact that Ana’s subconscious shoots her scathing remarks every 10-15 pages is completely ridiculous and oxymoronic. This is literally just bad writing. That’s it.

Moving on to the ‘inner goddess’ –this idea is redundant. James used “artistic license” on this one. Instead of allowing Ana’s ‘inner goddess’ to be the source of a strong female identity, taking shit from no one, James makes her the very thing which revels in being fucked and played with. While sex and pleasure are a part of female identity, they are not the only part, and this ‘goddess’ is not the source of a strong identity for Ana at all.

Character

On that note, let’s talk about how Ana barely has ANY IDENTITY AT ALL. She is the cookie-cutter female protagonist of modern culture. Her only flaw is that she is clumsy (which, I’m going to add, is not a flaw, because it is used in writing like this to make the character helpless and endearing to the audience and other characters as well.) In regards to character traits, we can see that she is somewhat sarcastic (witty), kind, charming, and she tries to be independent.

In regards to her physical characteristics, let’s discuss how E. L. James has perpetuated the ideals of feminine beauty throughout this entire series. Starting on the first page of the first book, Bella Ana states that her eyes are “too big” for her face.

This is written as though it is a bad thing, when in reality (in this culture) it is not. Women are constantly infantilized by this culture, and having big eyes is one way that happens. Meaning that Ana’s one physical “flaw” that she notes is not a flaw at all.

She complains that she has always been “too skinny” (Grey, 51) when, again, in this culture there is no such thing. People have died from being “too skinny” and it is still not enough. Ana ‘forgets’ to eat meals for days (Grey, 217, 312; it gets worse in the next book[s] ) and basically just does not take care of herself at the most basic level –eating.

So, for some reason, Ana believes that she is not pretty when by all cultural standards she is beautiful. Christian comments multiple times that she has beautiful skin, so we can assume she doesn’t have acne. She is thin, she has big eyes, her height can be average or so (I don’t recall it being mentioned, honestly.) Under these criteria, though, Ana could be a model. And yet E. L. James has decided to portray her as thinking she is unattractive.

This is just ridiculous. All of this adds to a horribly stereotypical female character that impossibly (by her wit and charm and mystery, and clumsiness) attracts a billionaire CEO. By having Ana fit into the thin, culturally attractive body and not recognize her beauty along with having a rich and powerful man fall in love with her, James perpetuates a stereotype about females which teaches that if a woman is fat, or if a woman recognizes her beauty, no one will fall for her, ever.

The problem is that Ana could easily be overweight. It would literally change nothing about the plot. Instead, though, James chose to perpetuate the harmful standards of female beauty that permeate the culture in every form of media possible. Instead of putting forth a message which promotes a healthy body image, or even (god forbid) sending out a message which says that a woman can still be beautiful even if she’s overweight –James makes her female character “too skinny” and ‘forgetful’ when it comes to meals.

BDSM

BDSM stands for bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism and masochism (S&M). In BDSM relationships, informed consent is essential. A relationship can last for as long as a single scene or much longer, but throughout all of it, there is a deep need for consent -both as informed consent before the scene begins or as consent throughout the scene by the use or non-use of safe-words.

Seriously, though, I cannot emphasize enough how important informed consent is in these relationships.

In 50 Shades, Christian Grey is a Dominant, meaning that he is the one who is doing things (tying up, inflicting pain/pleasure, exercising control over, etc) to a Submissive, who is receiving these things. The entire plot of the first book is that he wants Ana to be his submissive.

However, the way that this is pursued in this book is extremely problematic. James did get a few things right -written consent is fine, and Christian uses written consent for his submissives in the form of a written contract which can be edited and discussed and then signed. It is also noted twice (Grey, 187, 216) that the contract is not legally binding.

However, that’s about as far as it gets for ‘rightness’. In the book, Christian gives Ana the contract and then tells her to do her own research for the things that are mentioned in it -things like suspension, caning, and many different types of bondage -and basically lets it go at that.

Now, we have already established that Ana is extremely inexperienced at sex, and has literally zero experience with any sort of ‘kinky’ sex. Basically, he has given her this contract in the hopes that she would sign it even though he cannot actually prove that her consent was informed. She has no idea what any of these things are or what they could mean or how he could do them.

He literally tells her, on page 256 of 50 Shades of Grey, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into” in regards to their “arrangement”. He knows that she doesn’t know what their relationship will actually be like, and yet he does close to nothing to fix that. Sure, he edits the contract a little bit and allows her some more freedom, but he does not actually do anything to make her consent informed. He actually does close to everything to make her consent forced, however (Grey, 224, 226, 240, 245, 252, 261), and that continues on into the other books as well.

In BDSM relationships, informed consent is everything because it draws the line between BDSM and actual crimes -like assault, sexual assault, and rape. And (SPOILER ALERT, SERIOUSLY) ANA NEVER SIGNS THE CONTRACT. She NEVER gives her written consent, which was the agreed-upon method, meaning that ANY TIME HE LAYS A HAND ON HER (i.e. spanking), IT IS ABUSE.

The Christian-Ana relationship is not BDSM, it is ABUSIVE. Christian is extremely controlling throughout the entire series, and even when Kate points it out to Ana (Grey, 351, 381), it is ignored.

This video talks more about the nature of a BDSM relationship and problems with the book.

THEMES

This brings us to the basic theme of the trilogy, which is that if you love your partner “enough”, then you can fix them. You can change them from their sadistic and abusive nature, and make them love you back in a way that doesn’t cause you pain/harm.

This is ridiculous and harmful. This is basically challenging victims to stay with their abusers because they (the victims) should be able to “fix” them. That is literally the entire trilogy. That is the major theme. Stay with your abuser, and eventually, they will love you enough so they won’t hurt you anymore, and you will love them enough so that even if they joke about hurting you, it won’t bother you because they don’t really mean it anymore.

I hope I don’t have to explain how harmful this can be.

CONCLUSIONS

I mentioned before that I had an idea as to why these books hit the bestseller list. There are a few ideas:

1.) At first, I thought it was just about the sex. Sex sells, right? It makes sense.

2.) It could also be because people want to think that they can change people. That they can “fix” people who are broken. That if they just stay long enough, love truly enough, work hard enough, then the other person will be magically repaired and they will live happily ever after.

3.) But, over-all, I think that it’s because we want this. We want someone who is impossibly rich and attractive and sexually-efficient to fall in love with us and give us all of the things that we can’t afford on our own with minimum-wage jobs (or even other types of jobs, but still.) We want to never worry about money -about if we have enough to pay the rent, or enough to go out to dinner, or enough to keep paying back loans. We want to be able to take random personal-helicopter flights to see the sunrise, and to live in million-dollar mansions, and to buy that front-of-the-line brand new car that everyone is jealous of. We want to orgasm every time we have sex, and we want to have sex with someone who is attractive to everyone and anyone who meets him/her. And that is the point of these books, to make us realize that we want this and to think that maybe it’s possible.

I think that we all want the easy way, the rich way, this way, because we think it will make us happy, because that is what this culture teaches us. And that is what this book teaches us. And they are both wrong.

References:

Acuna, Kirsten. “By the Numbers: The ’50 Shades of Grey’ Phenomenon.” Business Insider. June 27, 2012. http://www.businessinsider.com/by-the-numbers-the-50-shades-of-grey-phenomenon-2012-6?op=1

Boog, Jason. “The Lost History of Fifty Shades of Grey.” Galley Cat. November 21, 2012. http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/fifty-shades-of-grey-wayback-machine_b49124

Edrefferal.com. http://edreferral.com/Celebrities_who_died_or_have_Eating_Disorders.htm

“Female Orgasm.” Brown University: Health Education. http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/sexual_health/sexuality/female_orgasm.php

Green, Laci. “50 Shades of WTF” and “You Can’t POP You’re Cherry! (Hymen 101)” youtube.com

James, E. L. Fifty Shades of Grey. Australia: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, 2011.

James, E. L. Fifty Shades Darker. Australia: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, 2011.

James, E. L. Fifty Shades Freed. Australia: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, 2011.

“Killing Us Softly: It Begins with Barbie.” Comm 101. August 5, 2011. http://introtomedia.edublogs.org/2011/08/05/killing-us-softly-it-begins-with-barbie%E2%80%A6/

Klausner, Julie. “Don’t Fear the Dowager: A Valentine to Maturity.” Jezebel. June 10, 2011. http://jezebel.com/5810735/dont-fear-the-dowager-a-valentine-to-maturity

Park, Madison. “Actress: I got compliments for looking emaciated.” The Chart: CNN Health. July 26, 2011. http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/26/actress-sounds-off-on-body-image-extremes/