Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy birthday to me-- on turning 26

Today is my birthday!  And I'm 26.  And I'm of the opinion that this is awesome because, well, I think I'm fairly nifty, and I think birthdays are great.  I spent the first part of the day in bed reading with JD and our kittens, then I went to the gym, and then we went out to Eastern Standard, where I had an utterly delicious dinner, and now he's watching the Duke-BC game while I read.  This is pretty much my ideal day.

Today has been all about simple pleasures for me.  I think a lot of us don't take enough time to really relish the small things, like a good book or tasty beverage or the feel of warm fluffy kitten fur.  But I think we should take the time to do those things, because they make everything else we do so much fuller.

25 was a pretty good year.  It had some disappointments (I am le unemployed), but on the whole, I'm happy.  I have a wonderful little family here, with JD and out cats, and my family in the rest of the country is wonderful, and i like who I am, and I have so many good friends.  I may not have many tangible accomplishments, but I have something that is more valuable to me-- self-knowledge, happiness, love, and wonderful human connections.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Another take on sex objects

Another take on sex objects is to look at things from an object-actor viewpoint, a passive-active standpoint.  I know I've read about this elsewhere, but I can't find the essay, so a lot of this may be simply my brain regurgitating someone else's thoughts months later.  I hope I'm adding something to what I've read, though!

Anyway, in my other post about sex objects, I talked about a sex object as a literal object, a person who becomes a non-person in someone else's mind.

And then for some reason I remembered grammar, and subjects and objects; hence, thoughts on sex objects and sex subjects.  In grammar, the subject is the one who does, who acts, and the object is the thing or person who is acted on.  Sally hits Suzy.  Jim kisses Jack.  Sally and Jim are the subjects, the actors, and Suzy and Jack are the objects-- the passive ones.  But what about Jane and Sam shake hands?  Jane and Sam are both actors-- acting on each other at the same time.

In a lot of discourse about sexuality, things are framed with an active partner and a passive partner-- A leads all the interactions, with B following and passively accepting.  Sometimes, the actor switches back and forth, with first A, then B, then A, then B acting, and the other accepting passively.

But human interactions can also be very much like the handshake-- two people acting on each other at the same time.  And I think that, often, it takes that dual action for people to get really comfortable with each other.  If you are a sex object in this sense-- always the passive partner, who follows the lead and desires of the active partner-- then you're not meeting on the same level, and possibly not getting your own wants taken care of (even though in some situations, like oral sex, the one doing the acting is generally doing it primarily for the other's pleasure).

The main thing that it's getting me thinking about now, is that if people do tend to go through the same sexual scripts all the time with one partner as actor, and another as passive recipient, it could be worthwhile for both of them to think about their sex life (as well as their interactions outside of sex) and whether mixing things up in a different way-- or at least talking about why one tends to be active and one passive-- might be a good thing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How should a crime that kills a wanted fetus be classified?

I recently (possibly today?  Possibly a few days ago?  Everything runs together when you realize you have to finish planning a wedding and fill out a Bar application in less than two months!) read an article on Jezebel-- and then the initial news article-- on laws affecting crimes against pregnant women, specifically ones that cause them to miscarry.

I tried to refind the articles, but I can't.  Which annoys me, because context is always helpful.  But at any rate, the issue is how do you deal with an attack that causes a miscarriage?  Is it simply ignored, with the crime against the woman considered, whether it's murder or just assault?  Is it an additional homicide in cases where the parent(s) were intending to bring it to term?  Is it an unlawful abortion?  Is it a form of theft?

The way it's dealt with matters, because in both the law and society, words have meaning-- and application of laws can create precedent.  We dealt with this situation some back in 1L Criminal law.  I don't remember how most of the people in the class felt, but I do remember that the cases dealt with scenarios where the woman wanted a child, and some of them were pretty horrifying, in part because of our societal views that pregnant women are to be protected, and in part just because of the brutality of the attack (I still remember reading about one man who said he was going to "stomp the baby" out of a woman).

I do think it should be taken seriously-- and I don't think that that in any way is in conflict with my being pro-choice.  It's pro-choice. Which means I respect the choices that women make for their bodies and reproductive futures, and I don't think abortions or miscarriages should be forced any more than I think they should be prohibited.  But the killing of a wanted fetus that the mother is planning to bring to term still should not count as a homicide-- because a fetus is not a person.  When it dies, a person is not dying-- a potential person is, even though a couple who wants a child may have already named it, and may already be emotionally thinking of it as a person.  But it isn't a person.

Still, because of their hopes and dream and effort put into it, and lifestyle changes, and potential dangers of just being pregnant, people invest a lot into a wanted pregnancy.  And there should be some kind of extra charge.  I guess the best that I can come up with would be a new charge, based on the idea of theft, but even that doesn't quite convey the right tone.  It's a trespass against someone's body in a way that a normal physical assault isn't, and it steals their past efforts and their hope of having that fetus be a child.  So I don't think it should be ignored, and I don't think it should be treated as murder, but I do think there should be some additional charge, and I also think that that is completely in low with a pro-choice viewpoint.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What does sexual objectification mean?

A lot of people online talk about objectification-- specifically, sexual objectification  qnd treating women as sex objects-- but a lot of people  also don't really seem to quite understand what objectification and sex object actually mean.  It doesn't mean looking at a woman, and thinking she's sexy.  It doesn't mean noticing her breasts, or hips.  Hell, it doesn't even mean fantasizing about sex with her.

It means treating her as if she is not a full person, and as if her primary purpose is for sex, to give men sexual pleasure.  It means treating her as an object for sex-- the way a vibrator or lube is a sex object, the way a game controller is a gaming object, the way a cane is a mobility object.  It means treating her or seeing her as an object that exists for sex.

That isn't the same as seeing her as an awesome-- or awful-- person that you might want to have sex with.  It isn't the same at all.  And understanding the difference can help people understand why it is that feminists object to women being treated-- by people or the media-- as sex objects.  Because honestly, people can look at each other and evaluate each other as potential sex partners all day long without seeing them as sex objects-- as long as they also stay cognizant of the fact that that person has their own inner life and mind, and that they have qualities that go beyond what sort of sexual experience they'd give, or what sort of sexual thoughts their image evokes.

Ads turn women into sex objects when they pose women sexily to sell things-- because her sexual appeal is the only thing about her that matters.  Some men do this too, when they think the only reason to talk to women is as a preliminary to getting her into bed.  But thinking about sex-- in conjunction with thinking about her intellect, or musical abilities, or even just personality-- is not the same thing.

I've seen on some blogs men who misunderstand this, and angrily defend their rights to fantasize about sex with women they meet.  Well, fine.  Fantasize.  Some people (myself included) find the thought of strangers or even friends fantasizing about them to be creepy and unwanted.  But it doesn't necessarily have to dehumanize them, as long as they still think of her as a real, full human being.  Modern feminism is not trying to take away anyone's ability to fantasize.  We're just saying that, in the way you think, in the way you interact, int he way you fantasize, in the way you have sex-- remember that women are people, not things, and that they have the same emotional depth and potential that you do.  It's not much to ask, really-- but man, does it get a lot of resentment from some people.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What I think about guns

Since I just wrote a post about someone shooting someone, I thought I would clarify my views on guns.

I do not like guns.  I do not dislike guns.  I think hunting is the most ethically responsible way to obtain meat, since you have to actually face the animal, take it’s life, and put effort into killing, skinning, and preparing it.  I think it puts you a touch closer to nature.

I have shot a gun once—well, several times, but one occasion.  When JD and I move, I will likely shoot a gun a whole lot more, because I’ve told him that my one rule for having a gun in the house is that I know how to use it.

I think people who treat guns like toys are reprehensible.  I think you should be able to shoot to kill in self defense or defense of others.

I do not think that learning to shoot, or owning a gun, or getting a concealed carry permit are feminist acts, or non-feminist acts, or anti-feminist acts.

I don’t know enough about gun control to have a strong opinion on how it works in this country.

I think bringing a gun along when you go hiking in deep wilderness is a good idea, and a second reason I will learn how to shoot.  I think that if you have guns in the house, you should teach your children that they are not toys, are to be respected—and that they should be locked up, and the kids should not know where the key is.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

So, a pick up artist has allegedly shot a woman in the face

So, a man called Gunwitch, who is internet famous for running a pick-up artist site has allegedly shot a woman in the face.*  My first reaction to reading about this was to be… horrified, but not extremely surprised.  Which is so, so cynical—but if you ever stop by pick-up or “game” blogs, you quickly realize that most of the guys who are well known in those circles project seriously hateful, dismissive, and entitled attitudes towards women, and that a lot of the attitude that gets spoken about is a mindset where women’s only worth is found in their fuckability—women are discussed as objects to gain access to, whose feelings, desires, and humanity are nothing compared to a guy’s desire to get laid.  It’s disturbing.

I have to think that most guys who read those sites are probably not that messed up though, because otherwise, it’s just sad.  A lot of the men who read pick-up sites are probably just insecure and bad with women—and if all the sites taught men was how to be their best selves, I wouldn’t have a problem with them.  But they don’t, and the men who spend a lot of time on those sites come off as terrible human beings.  Their tactics seem aimed at focusing on women with low self esteem or reducing a woman’s self esteem, on lying about themself, on projecting threat, and on physically getting her away from her friends.  Gunwitch’s pickup strategies seem to be focused on threat—escalating physical contact, projecting animal sexuality (which—what does that even mean?  It seems to mean, treat her like an object you own), and ignoring any body cues or language that a normal human being would interpret to mean stop.  His catchphrase seems to be “make the ho say no”—an idea that a man shouldn’t leave a woman alone until she flat out directly refuses him.  In American culture, at least, women are taught from the time we’re girls that we’re supposed to be “nice”, that we shouldn’t flatly turn guys down because it will hurt their fragile egos, and that we need to sort of finagle are way out of being hit on.  Problem is, if you’re stuck in a corner while some guy keeps putting his hands on you, and you’re trying to get out while saying “I really don’t think this is a good idea” or trying to put him off with a phone number so that you can politely ignore him later without the direct esteem blow—well, this guy’s advice is for men to ignore all that and just touch her more.  Until she either actually says not, or just stops trying to escape.

I can totally see a woman stopping her escape attempts in this situation, not because she’s been seduced, but because the man is acting so outside of the normal bounds of human behavior that she’s afraid he’ll become violent if she doesn’t just shut up.  And sure, that might not lead to sex, but it’s going to lead to her dealing with a lot more touching than her comfort zone is ok with.  Plus, we all know that not all guys interpret no to mean no—I remember running around a club one night in college, trying to avoid a man who kept groping me, even after I’d told him thatn o, I did not want him touching me and no, I had no interest in him whatsoever.

So with all that—I find Gunwitch’s methods to be horribly creepy and morally deficient. But the phrase “make the ho say no” has another problem—ho.

It seems that a lot of men in the pick-up (and men’s rights) community view all women as—or at least, all American women—as morally devoid sluts… who still need to be seduced to get them into bed. (There is a blog post somewhere on the ridiculousness of this doublebind.  I thought it was on Figleaf’s blog, but can’t find it.  You should check out his blog anyway.)

I know, the two concepts don’t make much sense together.  The amount of cognitive dissonance going on in some people’s heads must be staggering.  And it will seem really odd if, like me, the men you know in real life are all good human beings who treat women like people and yet who still manage to have self respect and earn the respect of others.  But the truth remains—there are women who go out to bars or other locations, who live relatively chaste lives, and who are not going to go home with some random PUA no matter what his “game” is like.  There are also women who go out to bars looking for someone to go home with—and who might go home with a PUA, not because he has good “game”, but because he happened to be there and interested, and not too bad looking at the right time.  Pick-up treats women as if we’re all the same creature though, and as if we’re all able to be manipulated in the same easy X number of steps.

But a lot of guys will admit that pick-up is really just mostly a numbers game.  Which means that the pick up itself, for most people, is probably not what’s getting them laid—the fact that they asked ten women, and found one of two or three in the bar who was already looking to get laid is.  (Sidenote: I think it’s interesting how many guys in pickup talk about the “number close”, where they get a woman’s phone number.  When I was single, giving the phone number was usually a good way to get a guy to leave me alone when he wouldn’t listen to me telling him I wasn’t interested.  Then when you get a chance, change his name in your phone to “Do Not Answer”.  You’ve already told him you aren’t interested, and since he’s begged for your phone number “in case you change your mind”, he’ll be able to tell that you…. Haven’t changed your mind)
So yes,  I’m horrified, and honestly surprised that a pick-up artist actually (allegedly) shot a woman, even though my first instinct was to not be surprised.  But in a way, it makes a sick kind of sense—if you’re part of a culture that views women as only good for sex, and you are in fact someone who teaches others how to dehumanize women, then it makes sense that eventually you might internalize it to the extant that you end up shooting a woman.  I don’t know that the shooting was intentional, of course—other’s have pointed out that in his most recent videos, Gunwitch seemed mentally unstable, and managed to shoot a bullet into his wall with a gun he thought was unloaded.  Even if he was just trying to be cool and do an idiotic form of show and tell, he’s still responsible for shooting her in the face.  I’m just saying that, at this point, shooting a woman in the face is a disturbing, but slightly logical, extension of some of the thought in pickup blogs that treats women as interchangeable and less than human.

*Because I’m not a court of law, or even a lawyer, I’m going to say that I think he’s very likely to be guilty.  Because, contrary to some people’s understandings, innocent until proven guilty doesn’t mean that individuals can’t have their own opinion as to someone’s guilt or innocence.  So no, I don’t know that he shot her in the face.  But I think, given what’s been reported, that he probably did.