Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Eroticism: An Intimate Analysis with Simon Hardy

In his essay "Feminist Iconoclasm and the Problem of Eroticism," Simon Hardy explores and analyzes the complex world of heterosexual through historical and philosophical context. He contemplates the ever present feminist debate over pornography (anti-porn, anti-censorship) and uses the term iconoclasm to define one set of feminist arguments. An iconoclast is "a person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition (www.dictionary.com, yes I had to look up MANY words.) Hardy finds this term suitable to define the common tendency for feminists to challenge otherwise strongly held beliefs with a sense of authority in such a subject (78.)

In the introduction, Hardy presents the accused Feminist Iconoclasts starting with the radical feminists of the 70s and ending with the anti-porn radicals of the 80s and 90s. Radical feminists of the 70s brought light to the historical and societal issues of rape and sexual violence. This was a great step forward towards Women's Liberation and, according to Hardy, also helped jump start the great pornography debate.

There is the one side which believes "pornography sexual violence" and that there must be legal restrictions against it (78.) Then there are those that believe pornography constitutes the same or similar oppressive effects of sexual violence and that it should not be protected constitutionally under freedom of speech. And then there are the anti-porn iconoclasts that believe in the deconstruction of pornography based mainly on hostility and discomfort of its very existence (78.)

Hardy then begins to delve into his own research and findings in pornography and heterosexual eroticism. From his own study, he concluded that it's not the images or texts in pornography that are problematic, it is the subconscious message being portrayed to the audience that is problematic. Porn, more often than not, presents male domination over a female and this, he states, is "the problematization of heterosexual eroticism.

In the next section of his article, "The problematization of heterosexual eroticism," Hardy extends on his idea of heterosexual eroticism...obviously. He brings up many feminist commentators, R.W. Connell, Lynn Segal, etc, and their criticisms of the feminist movement. Connell believed that feminists had a great opportunity to continue pursuing issues of equality for all women but rather made it their main agenda to attack pornography instead. (80) This is a sentiment I remember Lynn Segal presenting as well and I also agree but I also see very little good in the commentary on something already done and irreversible. I wonder what other feminists of the time were thinking; the feminists that did not receive massive amounts of media attention because of the pornography debate. Did some feminists just give up? Do we always need popular and even negative media attention to get our voice heard?

Hardy states that one of the biggest problems with heterosexual eroticism is the preexisting and historical gender norms in our society. He brings up Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality, which digs deep into the history of human sexuality, the repression of sexuality, and the power dynamics of sexuality. He discusses Foucault's ideas of the importance of status, gender and sexual status, during Greco-Roman times which puts woman in the submissive, passive position and men in the dominant, active position. This idea has been ingrained into our society and only now are we finally starting to break these ties.

Hardy then brings up the idea of the "invention of heterosexuality" which I find incredibly interesting. Ever since I began understanding gender identity and questioning as a very important factor in some people's lives I have imagined gender and sexuality on a spectrum. Why do we need a sexual orientation, especially when it is usually based off of dichotomies (heterosexual v. homosexual)? Why is our society so obsessed with categorization and labeling of human beings? In my opinion, categories and labels can be dangerous and troublesome for many. There is no normal. ...And I'm digressing.

The next section is "The case for erotic expression" and Hardy explores the pornography debate even more and attempts to find reason and a basis to eroticism. He also believes that the anti-censorship feminists have a better chance at succeeding because there is a deep-seated reason for the existence of pornography. (At least this is what I thought he was saying.) When he discussed the psychic versus social circumstances I was a little confused.
Was he trying to say that pornography has less to do with our society today and more to do with our long history of sexuality, especially based off of psychoanalysis?
I was also wondering, if this is what he is trying to say, whether or not we can actually separate the two, psychic and social. How can we truly differentiate what we have acquired through socialization or psychically?

The last section, "The social uses of eroticism," I thought I would have an easier time understanding but I was wrong. The entire article is explicitly confusing. Hardy describes the individualization of society and how it has, in turn, affected our sexuality and relationships. Our society is changing and rejecting the private and public spheres hence creating a more egalitarian approach to relationships. He explains the "normal chaos of love" which I also found very interesting. Intimacy and sexuality is an ever changing entity in our society. Our sexuality is no longer a completely hush-hush topic.

Although I am still very confused and not quite sure what was all said in Simon Hardy's article, I think that his main goal is that eroticism should be redefined to make it fit our changing society. I hope that our discussion in class tomorrow will make things clearer for me...or maybe even more confusing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This is, like, so REVOLUTIONARY!

WOW. Where do I begin? I guess I will start with:

- This is a "Self Help" book. (See back cover, top left corner)
- This is the "authoritative voice on modern female sexuality"
(Kirkus Review...whatever that is...)
- It is meant to be empowering to women...right?

Okay. So before I actually began reading "The Hot Woman's Handbook: The Cake Guide To Female Sexual Pleasure" and I was just paging through, I was already scoffing at the material. It appeared to me to be a glamorized and hyped-up Cosmopolitan Magazine in book form. So far this "CAKE" isn't looking too sweet to me.
Then once I began to read, the very first few pages were already making me angry. In the introduction, the CAKE authors express their lament because of the "huge disconnect between how women are portrayed and how women really live, fantasize, think, and act." And I immediately wonder "how are women portrayed according to CAKE and how is CAKE different?" And then, of course, they answer my question by describing one of their infamous CAKE events. They projected "naughty excerpts from 100 of the best erotic films" and projected them on 40 foot tall screens. Oh, I get it now, CAKE women are PORN STARS!!! Oh, how original. Am I starting to sound like Levy yet?
Right off the bat, I do not like the way Gallagher and Kramer are claiming to be so revolutionary and unique to the "sexual" world and even the "real" world. They claim that under the CAKE Philosophy "female sexuality is about to come out of the closet." I beg to differ. I for one, never even heard of CAKE until this class but some how I have learned a great deal about female sexuality and my own sexuality. Maybe it's partly because I'm growing up in this "Raunch" culture but I am pretty sure I have learned about human sexuality through some reliable sources. So maybe I'm just an exception to most women but I really doubt it. I read Anne Koedt's "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" two years ago and I definitely thought my "floodgates" were opened up to the world of sexuality. I learned a lot from Koedt and she wrote that essay back in 1970. So far, I'm only reading CAKE as an exploitation of women's sexuality and I'm pretty sure that was not what Anne Koedt was going for.
I understand that this book is intended to be a "women's sexuality" guide of some sort but I do not understand why they believe sexuality should be integrated into all aspects of our lives. Yes, sexuality is important and I'm happy that women are finally learning that they actually have a "sexuality" but sex does not have to be incorporated into checking a book out from the library or shoveling the sidewalk. I encourage women to explore their bodies and definitely try masturbating but the way CAKE presents their material is...trashy.
I also do not appreciate the way they generalize their supposed research and make it sound like every single woman has experienced the very same thing. I agree that a lot of the time children are discouraged to think, talk, and experiment with their sexuality. And things would be a lot easier if we were taught the way our bodies worked without feeling shame if we happen to feel pleasure. But CAKE does portray a very narrow and, to say the least, "raunchy" form of female sexuality. (does that make sense?)
The "interviews" they present throughout the book seem very unnatural and fabricated to me. I'm pretty sure many of the quotes from the women they interviewed were made up by the authors in order to introduce their next exciting and shocking subjects. Many of their information is very generalized and really doesn't include every woman. But I guess I'm not sure whether they are targeting every woman or not. It's more like they are targeting upper class, white women that love to shop and get Brazilians (but going au naturel is okay, too...)
I'm pretty sure the CAKE authors wrote this book in order to shock the world but I'm in no way shocked, I'm just disgusted, annoyed and cynical. I have showed this book to several of my friends, including my boyfriend and I jokingly opened up the book to "TIPS FOR MEN" just for him. He agrees with many of my sentiments and said "sex should never be had just for fun." Then he pulled out a lovely quote from Jack Kerouac and it goes like this:

"Boys and Girls in America have such a sad time together.
Sophistication demands they go straight to sex without proper
talk and not talk about courtship but real talk about souls."

There is no way I could say it better than that. Sexuality is an important part of humanity but it should not be degraded or exploited. I'm not sure what else to say other than I am unimpressed by CAKE.

The End.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Suicide Girls

While I was reading Janne, Matt, and Laura Durden's posts about "Raunch" Culture I was reminded of the infamous "Suicide Girls."

It is an interesting concept. It's very much like a burlesque show but rather than having the "cookie cutter" American ideal of a perfect woman, they are women of all shapes and sizes. These women are tattooed and pierced from their nipples to there clitori (plural?)

My girlfriends from home are obsessed with the suicide girls. They have the DVDs, books, and of course, their own favorite suicide girl.

One thing I do know about Suicide Girls is that it started out as a very liberating experience for many women but as of late it has been very controversial in terms of ex-suicide girls. It is now a very corrupt "corporation," believe it or not. But regardless, I think it's interesting and you all should check it out.

Alright, see you all in class tomorrow!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Nerd Alert.

Well, I guess I started a blog. Blog blog blog. And I thought facebook was bad enough for me. But this is quite different. This blog is wholly for intellectual purposes so that makes me feel much better.

I'm definitely looking forward to this class because of the background each of us has to contribute to discussion. We all share a common language because we have taken similar classes that count as women's studies credits but we also have differing ideas and opinions. I hope that the class discussions are much like those we had last semester in Gender & Sexuality in the 20th Century (aka "It's About Sex!") There were days in the class when small group discussion times were extended simply because there was so much to talk about. And it wasn't like we all agreed on every issue. I believe if that were the case, discussions wouldn't last as long and would not be as engaging. The list of literature for the class also looks very exciting. I'm looking forward to reading more about motherhood, female sexuality, and more from Judith Butler (She is very interesting but incredibly difficult to understand.)

As for myself:

I'm a Senior Studio Art and Women's Studies Major. I hope that my background in art will add an interesting perspective to most of the discussions we have in class. Other Women's Studies related courses I have taken include : Intro to Women's Studies, Biology of Women, Feminist Political Theory, Human Sexuality, Feminist Theology, Philosophy and Feminism, Women in America, and now this class! yah.

I hope I didn't miss anything.

See yous guys in class!

Peace out.