Rug Munchers and Other Mythical Beasts

As a former student of Linguistics, I fail to understand the semantic link between ‘this is my girlfriend’ and ‘I very dearly want you to fuck me with your manly penis’.

No seriously, I don’t get it.

I have been in a lesbian relationship for over a year now, and I am beginning to sympathise with the Angry Lesbian stereotype. Not because, in addition to requiring low slung jeans and banded underwear, I am genetically programmed to simply BRIM with angst, but because:

+ Unless I take specific care to be in a gay bar at the time, men interpret my dancing with my girlfriend as an invitation for sex.
+ If I introduce my girlfriend to a straight man whom I have recently met, they interpret that as an invitation for sex.
+ If I tell a man that I am unavailable due to my being a committed relationship with a woman they INTERPRET THAT AS AN INVITATION FOR SEX.

I would argue (perhaps radically) that a vast majority of general populace do not in fact, believe, in lesbians.
Hear me out.

Anecdote:
I recently attended a university club event with my girlfriend and several other friends. We had several (read: all of the) drinks and were enjoying ourselves immensely. We were also on a boat, which is necessarily a good time.
During the last hour or so of the event, I made friends with a few young men on the dancefloor. I learned their names, I told them a bit about myself, I danced embarrassingly and they danced embarrassingly. Then my girlfriend approached, and I introduced her to my new friends.
They looked surprised, then disbelieving, then interested. We had drunk dancing fun together, and when the event finished we convinced them to attend our favourite trashy gay bar with us, instead of the official after-party.
On the way to said after-party, my girlfriend got into a cab with these boys and I followed separately. I was several minutes behind, and when I finally managed to track down my girlfriend (she had left her phone in my coat pocket), she was in tears.
Upon arrival at the bar, the boys had become irritable at my absence, and had admitted that they had only come with us in order to ‘watch you make out’. When I failed to turn up on time, they stormed off, asserting that we had ‘ruined their night’.

After years of making out with women in public (well, in venues) I have a hundred of these stories to tell.
It gets a little…tiresome.

That covers my interactions with the majority of  straight men with whom I do not have a prior acquaintance.

Maybe I’ll start carrying laminated copies.

Anecdote:
I attended the birthday of a woman with whom I have been friends for many years. We boarded together at high school and became a member of each other’s families.
He family was at the party; I spoke with them all and introduced them to my girlfriend for the first time.

Two weeks later  when I was meeting my friend for A Nice Glass of Wine, she said to me (slightly shocked and moderately offended):
‘You’ll never guess what Dad said after meeting your girlfriend!’
I said: ‘I bet I will. But she’s too pretty to be a lesbian’
‘YES!!’

I probably don’t need to unpack this statement (which I have heard a great many more times than once) for people who read this blog, but I will anyway.
‘But she’s too pretty to be a lesbian’ = ‘But you are attractive, so you must be able to get guys to fuck you. It’s only women who are too ugly/aggressive/fat/etc to get men who need to resort to lesbians.’

On the one hand, I experience men who absolutely can not conceive that two women might sexually interested in each other for any other reason than to attract or enhance the pleasure of men. I have tried to convince them. I have been firm, angry, polite, charming, and even borderline violent (of which I am not proud). I have spent literally hours trying to cheerfully explain my own experience to men, before realising that they were just glazing over until such a time as they deemed appropriate to cut me off and deliver their own personal reflections.

So I have decided that for most people, Lesbians are less a concrete reality, and more an abstract concept with which they can account for the failings of women and/or their failings with women where applicable.

I would really appreciate any handy tips for deflecting such attentions in the future, for I fear that the next time it happens I may headbutt someone.

 

Phat

From a linguistic perspective I sometimes long for the brief period in the 90s where phat was A Thing. Or should I say, a thang.
For the uninitiated, it meant ‘cool’ or ‘Pretty Hot And Tempting’, but you wouldn’t use it nowadays unless deliberately uttering a slang faux pas.
Because fat people are GROSS. Didn’t you know?

These days, I struggle to think of an instance in which a bigger is better – at least when we’re talking about ladies.
Fat phobia freely abounds in the media. Chic mags occasionally do this thing where they pretend to celebrate ‘curves’, usually by juxtaposing pictures of hospitalisation-worthy underweight celebrities with Kardashians, but it’s pretty hard to swallow when the next page contains ‘5 ways to lose those last five pounds’. Pun intended.

I am not overweight by medical standards. I also not thin. My belly and thighs wobble when I move about and you can grasp a handful of flesh at my middle if I fold my body in any way. I have muscle tone, and proportionately very slim ankles. I don’t think I’m fat, and I don’t believe any of my friends do either.

And yet:
There are stores in my city where  clothes ‘don’t come in my size’.
Other women speak to me about weight as if they assume that I wish to lose it.
I frequently hear people criticise the appearance of other women who are a similar weight to myself.
I constantly (constantly!) criticise my own appearance. Obsessively even. I can’t even watch television any more without wishing (a touch desperately sometimes) that I could rip out their spines and move into their bodies.*

But enough about me.

I have  mature lady in my life who is overweight by medical standards. She is  obese actually. And she faces so many obstacles because of this, in every single aspect of her life. For an introduction to just one way in which she is discriminated against because of her weight, here is an article on how fat-bias affects the level of medical care given to overweight individuals. Here is another one.

The thing is, people assume that overweight people have made a choice to be overweight.
As raised in stories of the above articles, no-one ever asks them what kind of journey they have had with their health and weight loss efforts. They see fat people as actively lazy and deliberately neglectful and don’t ever consider that there might factors in play other than desire or self-control.

They don’t consider how being overweight affects that person’s ability to lose weight. They don’t realise that overweight people are often ashamed to exercise in public. They don’t realise that many overweight people are not educated about nutrition. They don’t realise that overweight people may be suffering from eating disorders and mental health problems which compromise their ability to lose weight. They don’t realise that overweight people often have ingrained habits of years, or decades that are Really Rather Difficult to break.
They don’t realise that most overweight people are constantly and desperately trying to lose weight. If it were easy, we would all be our ideal weight.

Most importantly, they don’t seem to have any grasp of the scale of social discrimination which overweight people face. This overweight, mature lady that I know has confided to me that she repulses herself, and that she feels judged and shamed by literally every set of eyes upon her. And because of the relentlessness with which the media equates women’s value with women’s physical beauty, she does not see herself as a worthwhile or valuable person.
Even without being ‘overweight’, I can testify to the immense power of accumulative judgement, whether real or imagined, and it’s ability to induce a demotivating despair. It is difficult to foster and embrace a healthy respect for your body and to learn to care for it, when immersed in a culture of such hatred and repulsion.

Much of this judgement is not imagined. As mentioned in the articles above, complete strangers often feel entitled to comment on overweight women’s appearance. You know what guys? They FUCKING KNOW. They are aware, because they live their life in their own bodies, surrounded by your constant judgement. They Do Not Need To Be Told.
When someone critiques an overweight person’s appearance, they are Not Helping. “Tough Love” and/or negative motivation are not effective tools for weight loss. All they do is reaffirm that person’s view of themself as ugly, worthless and incapable of success.

It would be instead helpful, if we could work towards creating a positive environment in which women are taught to love and respect their bodies. In which women are taught from a young age to value their health and well-being above ridiculous fashion standards.
In which health professionals want to hold conversations with their patients about their history, their mental health and practical advice for achieving not just a healthy weight, but a healthy body image.

You can contribute to this by not shaming overweight people – whether or not you think they can hear you. Do not make comments about how amusing you find their attempts to work out. Do not laughingly express your revulsion at the possibility that fat people might have sex. But most of all, do not disregard their capacity to feel hurt or despair and assume that the only reason they are not thinner is because they are stubborn, lazy or unconcerned.

*Please do not be alarmed, it’s a Dylan Moran reference.

+ My friend canbebitter wrote a post this week about Hairspray and ‘fat’ as a feminist issue, which in addition to the other three linked articles above provided the inspiration for this post.

++ Please don’t assume that because I did not directly address the fact that women can and should be perceived as beautiful at any weight, or that fat people can be healthy, that I do not believe it. I just didn’t choose to focus on that aspect this time.

The Medical Need for Wang

I never thought I would be one to criticise The Hairpin, for it is frequently my go-to for internet based good times.
HOWEVER.
In this most recent ‘Ask a Lady’ column (which is usually some excellent reading), a reader submitted this question:

I’m bisexual. And not the “bi now, gay later” kind of bisexual that some gay men feel duty bound to hilariously bring up whenever I mention it. Bisexual for real! I have been with women and men and it’s great with both and I don’t plan on choosing sides at any point in the future. But I’m not promiscuous, I don’t suddenly switch from one orientation to the other, I’ve never cheated on anyone in my life, and I don’t have any oddball tastes in the bedroom; put simply, there aren’t any surprises or stereotypes in store for my partners. So if I’m pursuing a lady, how soon should I bring this up? It doesn’t affect the way I behave in relationships, and I worry that some women may freak out unnecessarily if it comes up before they know me well enough to see that I’m not weird.

As a regular and long-term peruser of said column, I know that this question, and variations of such, are not of the infrequently-asked variety. They are usually dealt with in the sort of ‘your own personal shit is your own personal shit and you should not feel pressured to reveal your sexual history unless and until you want to’ kind of way. Which is basically what A Lady did. Except:

That’s all if everything you said is true — specifically that being bi doesn’t affect the way you behave in relationships. Which honestly I don’t think is true in your case. Because if you don’t ever, ever cheat on anyone, but also don’t plan on choosing sides at ANY point in the future, then it means that whenever you’re in a relationship with a woman, you’re not going to be satisfied by that relationship unless you’re getting a little dick (a nice, normal-sized dick) as well. Which you’re not getting, ’cause you never cheat on anyone — so you settle for whatever sex parts your current partner has until things don’t work out, which does absolutely count as affecting the way you behave in a relationship.

I read it. Then I re-read it about four times, because I have faith in The Hairpin and A Lady, and was kind of shocked that they would betray me like this. Did she just say that we had to choose sides? Did she just imply that we would inevitably cheat on our partners until we did because, you know, we couldn’t be satisfied by just one set of genitals?

The fuck, A Lady.

I immediately scrolled to the comments, which obviously I rarely do, because comments are for some reason inevitably filled with illiterate mouth-breeders who seem compelled to vomit hatred and vitriol all over their keyboards. But this time, it was full of people being all: The fuck, A Lady. We don’t appreciate the inference that we are all unfaithful, slutty deviants.

Also, did you see the part where he clarified his bisexuality for you in the preamble because he is used to receiving bullshit from people who, like you apparently, assume this means he is an unfaithful, slutty deviant?

Anna Paquin is bi, and people not believing in it pisses her off too.

One of the worst things about being bisexual is people completely rejecting your existence. When I came out to my mum, she told me that she ‘didn’t really believe in bisexuals’, and she gave me that special look that people give you when you use the word bisexual – doubt mixed in with disbelief.

I tend not to use that word when identifying myself to new people. Most people my age (especially those not particularly familiar with the ways of the gay) seem to associate ‘bisexual’ with drunk girls who make out with drunk girls in order to impress/attract dudes. Which doesn’t help much.
Other people (and by people I mean dudes) tend to interpret ‘I’m bisexual’ as ‘I really want to sleep with you’.

My point is that it’s hard enough without people who are supposed to be on our side (and again, almost always are!) purporting this kind of degrading stereotype.
I will admit that there are people who identify as bisexual and eventually move on to realise that they are/come to terms with being/come out as gay or lesbian. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t  bisexuals who are and will remain attracted to both sexes for the duration of their lives, and it would be nice if we could be taken seriously.
Bisexual is not a layover on the way to gaytown, it’s not a ‘college experiment’ and it’s not mutual masturbation in between ‘real relationships’.
It’s a thing.

BONUS FEATURE:
(my favourite comment from the column)

Heyyyyy, whoa. This kinda grates on me. I mean, I’ve dated people who weren’t way-deep-obsessed with music like I am, but it didn’t mean I whiled away my time until things broke enough that I could lunge at someone in a Weakerthans t-shirt.*

Being attracted to more than one gender doesn’t mean you NEED to get some of both at the same time. Some people do, some people don’t, and this sounds like one of the folks who doesn’t. The question was “When do I disclose the bi,” not “When do I disclose my MEDICAL NEED FOR WANG.”

* No, seriously, SEND ME CUTE BOYS IN WEAKERTHANS SHIRTS SO I CAN TEST THIS THEORY

“Manstruation” and the Abject Object

Manstruation
Defined for me by a young Australian man (via the magic of talkback radio) as ‘just having a really shitty week’. As the conversation between the radio host and the gentleman in question unfolded, I learned that he and his friend had coined the term for their own usage after having an unusually and arbitrarily crap week. Generally speaking, the dialogue addressed the appropriate treatment of the symptoms: consumption of ice-cream, intense couch-time, copious amount of sympathy and a dash of self-pity.

I have to admit I was charmed. From a semantic perspective, the transfer of meaning (from ‘menstruation’, obviously) seemed to center around a sense of vulnerability as a reaction to extraneous circumstances. Basically, feeling like shit because the universe dicked you.
I enjoy the idea that these young guys perceived monthly bouts of emotional fuckery as both something beyond the control of their lady compatriots, and something they could share in. It made me feel a little better than I usually do about Boys And The Periods, which is pretty fucking terrible.

Cloth Menstrual Pads, now in Space Cadet!

I read something once when researching a paper about menstrual fluid being constructed socially as the most abject of all the body fluids. It provided many examples of how bleeding ladies are ostracised in certain cultural and religious practices (and a few where they were revered or sanctified) and argued fairly convincingly that western culture tends to group ‘dirty’ fluids (faeces, urine, menstrual blood) in opposition to ‘clean’ fluids (semen, non-menstrual blood).
The main contention of this author was that menstrual blood was abjectified, partly because of its ties to childbirth (and the Original Sin etc) and partly because, well, it comes from the va jay jay.

I would love to say that I don’t agree with the above, but the truth is that I tire of the squickiness surrounding periods. Luckily for me, I have always found myself in relationship where my partner’s reaction has been at worst ‘I am a little unsure of how this operates, but I believe I should fetch you a hot water bottle?’ and at best ‘I’ll just put down a towel’.
Outside of my personal relationships however, I frequently perceive a weirdness towards, even a fear of menstrual blood, And not just from dudes.
It makes me sad to hear fellow ladies who are ‘like, so totally grossed out’ by the fact that they bleed from the vagina. I mean, it’s not like I want to sweeten my tea with the stuff, but it’s just blood, right?

Unless you’re in the business of advertising feminine hygiene products, in which case, it is actually a thin blue liquid.
I don’t know how it works in other countries, but here in Australia, menstrual blood is apparently too indelicate a visual for the general public, so things like magic-anti-leakage-troughs and what not are demonstrated with what I would guess to be Listerine.

As a result, we’ve all heard one or more stories about a young girl who has Freaked the Fuck Out because she is bleeding ACTUAL BLOOD of the red variety OUT OF HER VAGINA.

So I guess that’s why I was so charmed by these lads and their Manstruation. It was just so nice to hear people talk about it (on National Radio even) without a trace of squick or mystification.

BONUS ROUND: I made a list of fun ways to refer to your ‘time of the month,’ using only my eyes and our friend The Internetz.

  • The Great Ovary Revolt
  • Bleeding out of my Goddamned Vagina (straight to the point)
  • Surfing the Crimson Wave (I heart Clueless so much)
  • Trolling for Vampires
  • Panty Shields up, Captain!
  • Expelling my Hysteria (particularly amusing if you are aware of the etymology of ‘hysteria’: from the Greek ‘of the womb’, suffering of the womb’).
  • The Tears of a Disappointed Uterus
  • There are Communists in the Funhouse (definitely my favourite)

I also found some really awful ones that you should never, ever use unless you are terribly skilled with irony:

  • The Curse
  • Using Man-Hole covers
  • Sick with Girl Flu
  • Broken

 

On Contraception and the Sexual Emancipation of Women

The controversy surrounding Rick Santorum and his views on birth control has made me think once more about the consequences of those little pills and their friends prophylactic, scary copper-twisty thing, implanon etc. It seems to me that the upcoming U.S. elections are relying increasingly on women and their reproductive rights to provide a battleground for varying degrees of campaign bullshit, and whilst it is refreshing to have people realise that Feminism is still necessary, it is largely INFURIATING.

I should state right out that I in no way support anything Santorum has said about contraception (or pretty much anything for that matter).

ANYWAY, in some of my early feminism lectures, it was put forward that the so-called ‘Sexual Revolution’ of the 60s/70s actually had very few positive outcomes women, and was more or less a rearrangement of the pressures applied to women by The Patriarchy.
Birth control and the ‘sexual emancipation’ of women were said to provide key examples.

The contraceptive pill, vaunted as the be all and end all of liberation for women, provided a means of medical/chemical control over women’s bodies as never before. It headed a storm of technological advancements in the field contraception and fertility that has by no means rained itself out in the 21st century, and continues to deny women real agency in their reproductivity (shut up spell-check that is a real word).

Allow me to extrapolate: birth control may allow women to regulate their fertility, but it did nothing to change the social context of everyday women’s lives. So even though they were now physically able to not have children by choice, they still had to deal with all the rigid cultural norms surrounding sexuality and lady-behaviour. Half a century later we still have  magic pills that allow you to choose how many children you have (you’re still having children just so we’re clear – mustn’t waste that nice broad pelvis!), and still have a culture which fights women tooth and nail for every scrap of reproductive agency. You’re too young to have kids – take this pill! You’re too old to have kids – take this pill! You might want kids later – freeze your eggs! Your uterus has dried up? – lemme stick you with these hormones. Wait, you’re pregnant? – Have an abortion! You’re giving your child away? – you heartless bitch. You’re sixteen and broke? – better give that kid away. You want to have sex with me? – You’re taking the pill right?

You get the idea.
I’m not suggesting that having the ability to regulate your fertility is necessarily a bad thing, it’s more that now, women are expected to regulate it. By extension, I believe this has lead to an increased perception of fault, should a woman fail to regulate it effectively. I can’t know for sure, being only 24, but I feel like The Dance Partner of the 50s would have been more inclined to fulfill his end of the bargain child-rearing wise than the average dude today.
I certainly don’t wish to paint men in general as 100% hit-and-run in the knocking-up department, but you have to admit there are more than a few guys around who seem to feel as though they can take or leave accidental pregnancy because, you know, she should have been more careful.

Coming back to the alleged Sexual Revolution, it seems to me as though the restrictive moral and social code that governed women’s sexuality then (oh god why am I having flashbacks to Footloose) was not dismantled so much as it was medicinalised (also definitely a word). Women’s sexuality is still controlled, if by less overt, and more chemically oriented methods.
If I wasn’t already convinced, the most recent discussions on male contraception make a pretty strong argument for birth control being less about population control, or even pregnancy prevention, than control of women’s bodies.
It is also worth noting that any useful ovary-tech business is only to be utilised by the right kind of women. Old women are OUT. Disabled? NOT FOR YOU. Lesbians, obviously, must not ever reproduce, because everyone knows that will lead to a race of  man-castrating amazonian super-dykes who don’t ever remove body hair.

I hate to even think that Santorum might have been onto something (at any time, on any subject) when he said that contraception was bad for women, but perhaps he might have stumbled, in the dark, to within several hundred kilometers of almost. Now, don’t get the wrong idea – I fully support contraception, and if anyone tried to take it away from me I would do my best to hamstring them with an IUD. But I do hanker for the feminist utopia in which electoral campaigns don’t ignore the economy (in a goddamn GFC) in order to commit all of their time to FUCKING WITH WOMEN’S REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS. And I think at the very least it is clear that responsibility for ‘family planning’ has very little to do with families, and a lot to do with keeping a firm grasp on women’s ovaries.

* When I google imaged ‘contraceptive pill advertisement’ their was this:

Johnny Depp, #1 ladies contraceptive!!