Archive for March, 2012

You may have heard of something called “The Vagina Monologues.” It has certainly been a source of great interest and increasing popularity in recent years. It has also sparked controversy – in my personal experience, I can attest to a few individuals being offended, or at least feeling awkward, by the inclusion of the word “vagina” in the title.

But what exactly is the Vagina Monologues, and how did it come about? The aim of this short piece is to focus on the first all-transgender performance of the Monologues, and the public’s reaction to such. However, in order to do this, some background information must be provided.

The Vagina Monologues is, essentially, a collection of stories from women of various walks of life, performed by other women.  The idea was created by a woman named Eve Ensler, who believed that women’s empowerment is deeply connected to their sexuality. Ensler also stated that growing up in a violent household helped to shape her interest in women who have been affected by sexual assault and other forms of violence (ibid).  It was this curiosity that led Ensler to begin speaking with close friends about vaginas, and sexual experiences in general. Some of these friends would advise her to speak to someone they knew, which eventually led Ensler to conduct over 200 interviews with women of various ethnicities, ages, and sexual orientations. Ensler recalls that at first, women were hesitant to speak, but speculates that this is due to the fact that no one has previously asked them to talk about such sensitive topics. She stated, “Any time we open the door to a place where we have a lot of feelings or thoughts or stories, we react enthusiastically” (ibid).

This collection of stories turned into The Vagina Monologues that are performed worldwide today. Ensler wrote the first draft in 1996, and they debuted shortly thereafter at the HERE Arts Center in New York City. Although the play ran for only about a month at this venue, word spread, and interest in the Monologues grew.  Years later, in 2001, a performance in Madison Square Garden took place, that included Whoopi Goldberg and Melissa Etheridge.

One of the monologues, entitled “My Angry Vagina,” can be viewed here.  Be forewarned, it is explicit.

In 2004, Eve Ensler decided she wanted to try something different. With the help of Jane Fonda and Deep Stealth Productions, the GenderMedia Foundation staged a performance of The Vagina Monologues.  It was held on February 21, 2004, at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, CA. This unique performance featured trans women from all over the world. This show was intended as a benefit for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults against Women. This was a one-night only performance for “LA Until the Violence Stops,” and included monologues read by eighteen different women.  A brand-new monologue was also included to document the experiences of transwomen.  Photos of the event can be found here.

The new piece was entitled “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy;” you can watch it below.  A word of caution: violent experiences are discussed, and like many of the Monologues, it can be a bit intense and evoke powerful emotions.

They Beat The Girl Out of My Boy (Video)

In this performance, a woman describes how those who do not “pass” are often pushed aside in society. One trans women describes, as a child, seeing a vagina and wanting one, thinking that “it would grow.” Another woman describes wanting to smell like her mother and “be pretty.”  Still another says that she “ached to belong.” The same message is echoed over and over: that these individuals knew that they were women, but were repeatedly told that they were not adequate. One joined the Marines, another grew a beard, and others were told to “butch it up.” Nearly all of the women faced violence at one point or another in their life. They talk about their experiences with transitioning: everything from surgery to practicing speaking in a more feminine voice.  One woman details how her boyfriend was beaten simply because others did not approve of his dating a woman who happened to be trans. She concludes, “They were afraid of love.”

A plethora of traumatizing experiences and memories are discussed, but some hopeful and positive aspects of the performance shine through. Women talk about how they would like to travel, how they feel more like themselves, as they should be. One individual talks about how she is much happier in her body since going through a transition.  Another woman states, “Once I got my vagina, it was like a car alarm was turned off.”

The women who participated in this performance stated that this was a “historic opportunity for the trans community to express ourselves in a positive, contributing light.” The monologues held at the Pacific Design Center were certainly very different from what many were used to. Instead of focusing solely on cis women’s experiences, the monologues shifted to frame the experiences of being a woman in a different way. The reactions seemed to be positive – of course, like nearly all of the monologues, many audience members were emotional during the performance. However, it was well-received, and in my eyes, truly a monumental event in the V-Day Campaign. Through her writing of a piece dedicated to the experiences of trans women, Eve Ensler showed that she was willing to be more inclusive, and wanted to encourage this sort of inclusivity in others. In a society where unfortunately, women are still fighting for their rights, trans women’s experiences are all too often pushed aside and ignored. This show offered hope that in the future, trans women may continue to be included in this and other such performances that typically only include cis women.

Questions still remain: How can the Vagina Monologues and V-Day campaign continue to be, and improve upon, being inclusive to all those who identify as a woman, regardless of sex assigned at birth, race, and etc.? How do you think a performance such as this might be received at a college such as the University at Buffalo? And lastly, should only women who are trans be allowed to perform monologues such as this, or should any woman?

 

As always, thank you for reading.

 

Carly

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Abhorrent white behavior, an American history.

Posted: March 29, 2012 by chelsiehinck in Uncategorized

Ever relevant today in the spotlight of recent political debates is the issue of birth control.  What is left out of this conversation altogether is the horrific historical record of the United States performing sterilizations on women without their consent. A majority of these sterilizations were performed on women that identified within minority groups inside of the United States. For the focus of this blog post, the forced sterilization of Native American women will be explored.

To begin, I just need to say that this is another example of absolutely appalling behavior that is a direct result of white patriarchal society. It’s a ridiculously disgusting abuse of human rights.

To put a date on the sterilization of Native American women is a somewhat difficult task. With the colonization of America and the invasion of “white man” the oppression of Native Americans as a whole began. The forced sterilization of Native American women as a “campaign” began in 1970 through the “fully federally funded sterilization campaign” by Indian Health Services (IHS).  Information on the Indian Health Services can be found on the Internet here, and in summation is the U.S. Federal Governments way of providing health care for Native American people either for free or for minimal cost (according to the website). This is the only source many Native Americans have for their health care needs because traditional treatments were no longer an option after the forced relocation of many tribes. When the only option is health care from IHS, women seeking reproductive services were left with limited options.

Forced sterilization may seem like a tough term to understand, and Myla Carpio sums up a majority of the instances that were common among Native American women populations:

 American Indian women are susceptible to uninformed or involuntary sterilizations because of the different ways in which doctors or health care professionals present hysterectomies and tubal ligations. Some women reported that questionable delivery room diagnoses led to their sterilizations. IHS doctors used consent forms for medically required sterilization procedures rather than forms that distinguished voluntary sterilizations from required ones. Other women were told outright lies about their conditions and treatments (Carpio).

The reasoning behind such sterilizations is covered extensively in Andrea Smith’s book Conquest, which is available for purchase here. This book is an extensive look into the sexual violence and American Indian genocide. In chapter four of this book, titled: “Better Dead Than Pregnant” The Colonization of Native Women’s Reproductive Health, Smith cites many “justifications” used for the practice of sterilization of groups of people. The main point being that the potential for furthering the “continuance of the people” through childbirth becomes threatening to white dominated governments looking to control the population in their favor.

According to a report surveying 12 areas of the IHS’s sterilizations 5 percent of all Native women were sterilized between1973 and 1976 (Smith), and some reports state that around 42% of women of childbearing age of Native American origin were sterilized, leaving the number of Native American women that were sterilized as a part of the IHS sterilization campaign difficult to pin point exactly.

Most women were sterilized with no prior knowledge or consent to the procedure.

Barbara Moore, a Lakota, conveyed her experience:

I was pregnant myself and I went to a public health service to deliver my baby. For one reason or another, I was not able to deliver it in a normal way. They delivered my child by caesarian [sic], that is all l remember. When I woke up the next day after the operation I was told that my child was born dead…. Besides this, they told me that I could not have any more children because they have had to sterilize me…. I was sterilized without my knowledge or without my agreement (Carpio).

Barbara, like many other Native American Women, was not given any consent form to sign releasing the hospital to conduct further procedures without her awareness. She was left childless and unable to have further children due to a forced sterilization. From her statement, it doesn’t even seem as if the doctors gave her relevant information about what went wrong during child birth perhaps lending to the fact that the IHS was acting under governmental orders to basically perform mass genocide of the Native American population.

The discovery that the Federal Government had issued this “sterilization campaign” came from a doctor inside of the IHS, Dr. Uri, Choctaw and Cherokee, discovering that women as young as 20 had received complete hysterectomies.

At first I thought I had discovered a case of malpractice… There was no good reason for a doctor to perform a complete hysterectomy rather than a tubal ligation on a 20-year-old healthy woman. I began accusing the government of genocide and insisted on a congressional investigation (Carpio).

The desecration of land and the forced relocation of Native American populations across the country apparently wasn’t enough to appease the United States government. When boarding schools weren’t enough it seemed that they took a more direct approach in attempting to perform a mass genocide by halting the reproduction and therefore birth of further Native American children. It’s absolutely abhorrent that less than 40 years ago this country allowed the Federal government–and then President George H. W. Bush to conduct themselves in such a manner.

An important lesson to take away from this terrible situation would be to focus on what is happening inside of the health care system we are currently living in. Access to affordable health care has become increasingly difficult in this country and due to our patriarchal white dominated society the groups that suffer the most are women of minorities. By limiting health care as a privilege only afforded to *some* in our society are we not still promoting the same ideals that led to the forced sterilization of Native American women?

Sources:

Carpio, Myla Vicenti. “The lost generation: American Indian women and sterilization abuse.” Social Justice31.4 (2004): 40+. General OneFile. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.

Smith, Andrea. Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Cambridge, MA: South End, 2005. Print.

Deconstructing Language

Posted: March 28, 2012 by lildanadoo in Uncategorized

I feel that Rhacel Salazar Parreñas’ book: Servants of Globalization does not adequately deconstruct ideology of the female migrant worker. The composition of the book and the use language reinforce the socially constructed notions of transnational migrant workers. Parreñas initial interviews of the migrant women focus heavily upon their role as mothers, and the fact that their children are living separate lives in the Philippines. This focus makes her interviews come across as critical and judgmental nearly vilifying the migrant workers.

The first three chapters set up Parreñas’ study of migrant workers and introduce key terms for understanding their experiences. These chapters start to divulge into the women’s experiences but mainly focus on introducing the study she is constructing. Chapter four is the first glimpse we have into the lives of migrant women. This chapter heavily focuses on motherhood, and the distance between mother and child. I understand that Parreñas is using this method as an attempt of showing the situation in the Philippines which forces women to transnationally find employment to sustain their families. However, Parreñas uses very negative language when talking about the women; several times she uses the terms absentee (mother) and talk about the women as having abandoned their children. These term have very negative connotations and reinforce the blaming of migrant women.

In Parreñas’ interviews with the women in Chapter Four, she goes so far as to intentionally make the women feel uncomfortable on the basis of their family situations. In the interview she conducts with Lolita, it seems as though she is badgering her and deliberately trying to make her feel guilty and uncomfortable. After Lolita shuts down and will no longer speak on issues about her children, Parreñas inserts her opinion: “Although she claims to work and struggle, using her own words ‘for the happiness of her children,’ her discomfort and inability to earnestly discuss her relationship with them alluded to feelings of guilt and wrongdoing” (93). This comment places the blame on the women, because they are not adequately fulfilling the socially constructed gendered of the mother. The focus on Lolitas’ feelings of “guilt and wrong doing” trivializes the sacrifices she is making her children.

 

In the next chapter, five, the focus continues to be on the role of the woman as mother, but from the perspective of the children in the Philippines. The chapter explores the situation of financial instability which is the driving force behind the women finding work outside of the Philippines. Yet the main focus is on the experience of the children and continues to use negative and critical language. While discussing the women who have children who live with them, while at the same time have other children living in the Philippines she explains: “…the different relationships that they have developed and maintained with their two sets of children are inexplicable, transforming into a grief they are unwilling or unable to confront” (130).  The problematic word choice of “inexplicable” sets the women up to be wrong, and the implication that their choice cannot be explained or justified automatically sets them up as the villains. Parreñas presents Gay’s life story, as an example of a Filipino child’s experience. Parreñas makes the connection that a contributing factor to her mother’s employment outside of the Philippines was the fact that her father had relationships with other women. As a result, Gay was raped by her father and Gay said that he did it because she looked like her mother when she was younger. I think that this interview is a prime example of how Parreñas veers away from the social issues which drive women to seek work elsewhere and instead places blame, or partial blame on the women. Now, I am not questioning the truth behind Gay’s story, nor am I attempting to trivialize her experience. I personally believe that these initial chapters which introduce the reader to the personal stories of migrant women do not deconstruct the traditionally family roles that women are forced into, but perpetuate them. 

Parreñas goal was to remove the stigma from women and depict the social issues which are shaking the foundation of the traditional Filipino family. Yet I personally believe that in order to do so, one has to go outside of the negative language, which hinges on normative gendered roles to complete that goal. By setting up a gendered binary of the roles of mother and father, Parreñas leads the reader to assume that there are certain roles that both should perform according to their gender. Parreñas does show how the Filipino children assign these gendered roles to their parents by exposing the ideology that a majority of the children believed that it is the role of the father to leave, or that it would be easier to have the father find work outside of the Philippines. Yet I feel that she falls short by not taking that ideology further to deconstruct this notion.

 

The following chapters focus on the experience of the migrant worker, and place them in terms of being human beings instead of only being mothers. These chapters also focus on the individual experience of the workers and the struggles they face as a result of the work and pressure placed on the women. I think that if these chapters would have been presented earlier, the critical and judgmental tone may not have been so heavy. Also if these chapters would have introduced the women’s experiences it would make the reader more sympathetic to their experience instead of viewing them in extremely gendered tones and may have also allowed for a clearer understanding of Parreñas’ goals.

While reading chapters four and five of Servants of Globalization I became enraged at the critical and negative tone towards the migrant women. After reading further I was understand the situation that Parreñas was presenting. However I believe that in order to deconstruct the constructed social ideology around gendered understandings of transnational workers the language has to be carefully chosen to correctly convey the stand point of the author. I feel as though the focus, setup and language in this book blur the distinctions that Parreñas is trying to convey by failing trap to these gendered notions. Looking at only chapters 4 and 5, did Parreñas’ language affect your view of the migrant workers? Is there another angle Parreñas could have taken to discuss the migrant women?

Men and the Dolls Who Love Them

Posted: March 8, 2012 by globalsexandsexuality in Uncategorized

Men and the Dolls Who Love Them

In an era when sex is not only profitable, but also accessible from virtually every corner of the world; there are bound to be innovations, which push the boundaries of what is considered the norm in terms of sexual practices and aids. In visualizing a product that is not only unusual, but also creepy to some is something I had no problem in searching for. The object I chose is something I discovered when I was a pre-pubescent child discovering the wonders of HBO past midnight.

In watching a show titled “Real Sex”, which explored sexual practices, objects and entertainment between adults of the pre-Millennium; I discovered something that could very much replace human connection. That object is a Real Doll. A Real Doll is essentially, a life sized sex toy designed for sexual gratification. A Real Doll is usually fashioned in the form of a human female; though male Dolls are also available. This product is the result of a California company named ‘Abyss Creations’ and it’s founder Matt McMullen. The doll is the product that was initially created in 1996, and through the years the company has perfected the silicone it is made of, making it more “realistic”.  The dolls are sold exclusively on the internet through their website, www.realdoll.com The current Real Dolls can be custom produced with a variety of wigs, skin color, genitalia type and size, body proportions, eye color and the like. The dolls are manufactured inside of a warehouse in San Marcos, California, and the production team consists of McMullen and his wife, and seven production employees who manufacture the dolls. They are made of a silicone skin, metal and vinyl frame,

The basic doll retails for $6,000 USD, so it can be argued that these dolls are aimed at people with a lot of disposable income. According to an article by Peter Hossli (http://www.hossli.com/articles/2004/01/01/real-dolls/), much of the consumption of Real Dolls come from the United States, with countries such as Germany and Japan catching up to the phenomenon. At first glance, the Real Doll may appear to look nothing more than a human looking sex toy. However, the appearance may be deceiving. Looking at various pictures on the Internet, it seems like these toys may have become a sort of replacement for actual women. In advertisements, the dolls are dressed provocatively; if they are dressed at all. It can probably be argued that the dolls have taken on a misogynistic allure. These dolls have all the ‘physicality’ of a woman, without the emotion, intellect and humanity of a woman. They take on complete and total submission.

In the mind of the average person, Real Dolls are probably seen as weird sex toys that are expensive. However, I believe these dolls are just a small segment in the issue of what I’d like to call ‘deviant sexuality’. Not deviant in the sense of something inherently bad or discouraged; but a deviation from human-human contact to human-inanimate object contact. As I mentioned before, these dolls can be thought of mechanisms that stress or exacerbate negative relations between heterosexual men and women. In my research, I have found that some reasons people resort to Real Dolls have to do with negative experiences the customers have faced in regards to human interaction and intimacy. They feel as if human-human contact is unsatisfactory or is not fulfilling. I think this sentiment is something that seems to appeal to various people (mostly men with disposable income) transnationally. I think the demand of the Real Dolls stem from a paraphilia known as ‘Agalmatophilia’, which is the sexual attraction to a doll or mannequin. As aforementioned, I believe there is a misogynist and sexist element that plays a part in why these dolls are popular. I also think these dolls are a product of the attitudes of women in Western society; seen and not heard. Women feel, they emote; they experience sensations such as anger, pain, hurt and shame. I can go on a limb and say most women do not want to be mere sex objects designed for the pleasure and gratification of men.  Real Dolls seem to be the penultimate in examples of feminine objectification and examples of a patriarchal society. According to Lauren Vork, our society has perpetuated this ideal portrait of a female as being physically perfect, without a human element most men are privileged to have. (http://laurenvork.xomba.com/real_dolls_a_sex_positive_feminists_analysis) So, Real Dolls are; in effect, a result of this longing of perfection and complete reticence and acquiescence. This notion troubles me greatly, because it leads to a school of thought that human interaction is so troublesome, or imperfect that I need an inanimate object to feel complete, or to feel like I have a viable companion. Moving away from a western point of view and to more of a global perspective, I think that the countries that have citizens buying them have similar reasons as the United States, and these countries are decidedly more “western” (In terms of GDP, population, average income etc.) than others. I’m sure there are people who either have a Real Doll or who want one, and they come from the Global South. I would have to say, however, in countries with a higher rate of poverty or a low GDP, the primary consumer of this expensive object would undoubtedly be men; perhaps men in higher ranking offices who can afford this type of synthetic luxury.

The popularity of Real Dolls has spawned much interest. There have been a few films made with a Real Doll as a primary “character”. These include Lars and the Real Girl, a movie about a young man who incorporates a Real Doll into his life; Love Object, a sinister movie about a Real Doll and it’s owner; and Guys and Dolls; A documentary about Real Doll owners. It seems like the familiar trope that subjects women as objects of desire and not as human manifests itself much like the mold that these Real Dolls come from.

Although the group I am in focuses primarily on issues to do with sexual identity and sexualities in general, I thought I would do something a bit different by instead shifting my attention to a more gendered issue: in this case, an object.

The concept of chest binding is not a very new one – Joan of Arc, a French revolutionary, incorporated this technique as a way to pass as a male soldier. However, binders themselves are a relatively new product (One company, T-Kingdom, has been around since 1999), invented out of the desires of some individuals to minimize the appearance of the chest they currently have. When worn correctly and in the right size, they are arguably the safest way to bind – much better than ace bandages and the like. That being said, binders can still cause physical discomfort, especially back pain, and should not be worn for extended periods of time.

While it is true that some individuals transitioning from female to male may use a binder, this is certainly not their only purpose. Some may wear one for comfort, a drag performance, or simply aesthetics (which has sparked some controversy, but more about this later).  For people who experience dysphoria and feel as though their female body is wrong, a binder may help to alleviate some of this discomfort.  Because there are people all over the world who use these products, demand has increased on a global scale, and new companies are springing up in a variety of countries.

How many times have you wanted to order a product online only to find out that it is either unable to be shipped to your country, or that the cost of shipping and handling is outrageous?  It’s happened to me, and I can only imagine the frustration someone might feel if they felt they needed a binder to be more comfortable in their body, but one was not available in their area. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that binders are becoming available in an increasing number of countries worldwide.

LoveBoat, a company established in March 2005, boasts that they are the first “fashion and lifestyle shop for the queer community in Taiwan.” Along with binders, they offer unisex clothing, erotic toys, and books.  They have a wide variety of merchandise, including zip-up, swimwear, and Velcro binders, all of which are available online and in the store, located in Taipei City, Taiwan.  The wording on this site was more inclusive than I have seen on some: the authors acknowledged that there are people who are not necessarily FTM-identified who still may wish to bind.

Danaë, a company owned and operated by a transman in the Netherlands, was created to help people in Europe save on shipping costs. Their website states that their products are marketed towards “people who always or occasionally, in whole or in part, want to experience what it’s like to have the appearance of the opposite sex” (ibid). Again, it is nice that this does not simply say “for trans men” or “for FTM’s”.  The introductory paragraph goes on to say that people who cross-dress, participate in drag, or just want to dress up are welcome to purchase their products.

Another company, T-Kingdom, states, “people bind their breasts for different needs, some for good looks, some for gender identification, and some for sense of security” (ibid). Along with offering a variety of binders and a how-to guide, they ship globally, and state that they will mail a product to any country:

regular registered airmail:
around 5~12 days to asia
around 7~14 days to America (weekends excluded)
around 7~14 days to Europe (weekends excluded)
around 7~12 days to Oceania (weekends excluded)

So, what does this all mean? With the option to ship to any country, those with adequate monetary resources will, hopefully, be a bit more comfortable in their bodies, or at least have a new piece of clothing and way of expression to experiment with. In addition, companies such as LoveBoat in Taiwan make the Queer community more visible by having a physical store in addition to an online one.  Stores such as these in different countries send the message that it is acceptable to identify as LGBTQ, or even just express gender in a nontraditional way.

On a separate, but related note, the concept of chest-binding has become more prevalent and noticeable in other ways. Lady Gaga’s opening the 2011 VMAs with a drag performance as her “alter-ego,” Jo Calderone, sparked much discussion and even some controversy. Quite a few people in the audience were stunned, and others, in the blogging community, were less than enthused. She was criticized for “fetishisizing trans* bodies” and promoting a type of binding that can be rather unsafe. Although Lady Gaga is not wearing an actual binder, her performance is relevant because it was seen by millions of people around the world, and she herself is a global icon. While I can definitely understand some people not finding her performance or drag persona appealing, it does not seem to me to be inherently oppressive or appropriating.  Gaga asserted that she was merely interested in “all the different people we can become or have become in the past.” Of course, Lady Gaga isn’t perfect, I’m certainly not her biggest fan, and she has done a few less than admirable things (in my opinion). However, her performance showed the world that binding is not only for one group of people. It is for anyone who wishes to temporarily alter their body for whatever reason – be it body dysphoria, dressing up, passing as another gender, or doing a drag performance. The prevalence of chest binders on the internet in an increasing number of countries seems to me to be a step in the right direction – that of tolerance and allowing people to be more comfortable and happy with themselves.

What do you think of products such as these being available in a wider variety of places, and do you think it is a good thing? Why do you think some people feel as though only certain groups should be allowed to use these products?

Thanks for reading!

-Carly

Rape-aXe

Posted: March 8, 2012 by chelsiehinck in Uncategorized

“Probably no male human being is spared the terrifying shock of threatened castration at the sight of the female genitals.” — Sigmund Freud, “Fetishism”

Vaginal penetration is the most common form of sexual assault in the world.

Rape statistics are extremely hard to accurately come by on a global scale simply because reporting and recording of attacks is unreliable. What is known is how prevalent the act happens, and how difficult it is to respond to in terms of “punishment” and law enforcement. That is where devices like the Rape-aXe theoretically become useful.

To clarify before I begin, rape is a risk for every person, not just people who identify as women. For the explanation of this device, gender binary will be used.

The Rape-aXe was created by Dr. Sonnet Ehlers in an effort to give back some power to women in a situation that many times leaves them powerless. The mission statement on this products website says:

 Governments all over the world still show little commitment to the fight for gender equality and women’s rights. Women and girls have long been targeted due to their standing and value in patriarchal societies.  Gender based violence appears to be acceptable, in fact many violated victims are brain washed into believing that this type of violence is acceptable. In this day and age there are communities where practices such as virginity testing, female genital mutilation, child marriages, arranged impregnations and then forced marriage are practiced. My mission is to highlight the plight of these women and give them the choice! source

This is what the Rape-aXe looks like this: And works, according to the product website, like this:

The Rape-aXe system consists of a latex sheath, which contains razor-sharp barbs. The device is worn in her vagina like a tampon. When the attacker attempts vaginal penetration the barbs attach themselves to the penis, causing great discomfort.

So, theoretically this device is meant to latch onto the penis of a rapist causing great trauma to the attacker and forcing the person to have the device SURGICALLY REMOVED in order to regain use of their penis. They can’t even pee with the device on according to the website, so I am assuming this hurts like a bitch and would need to be removed ASAP.

The thought then is that the rapist would be identified… by the clamped spikes stuck in his penis… and brought to justice in a swift way. How it works in video format:

To me, this product screams victim blaming. It was first released in South Africa–where rape statistics are astronomical— during the World Cup for free, but is set to be released on market for about $2 a pop. Some medical personal and feminists have rushed to praise this device as a way for rape victims to finally fight back against their attackers. Bring justice to a situation that is unjust and allow for women to feel like they can be in a position of power once again. This is all fine and commendable… to an extent.

Let’s say now in South Africa, hypothetically, a woman goes out without a Rape-aXe in. She gets raped. The attacker isn’t identified because rape is so prevalent and he doesn’t have a device sticking out of his penis in need of medical attention. What will people say? “She should have used a Rape-aXe.” It’s unfortunate and utterly victim blaming but it’s true. Women have just assumed more responsibility to not get raped. Never mind teaching men to not rape. Never mind using some sort of device for men if they think they might rape someone when they go out. Women must assume responsibility for their sexual health or no one will. That is the message this device sends. Wear “Rape-aXe” or run the risk of being raped and not catching the man who did it.

That’s only problem one. Rape is a crime of power. It has almost nothing to do with the act of sex itself and is formulated around the idea of control over another person. If a person capable of rape is attacked by their victim how likely is it that they will not inflict more bodily harm onto them?

  • In 29% of rape cases, the offender used a weapon e.g. a fire-arm barrel, a broken bottle or even a knife.
  • 75% of rape victims require extensive medical care after the attack

These facts are again straight from this products website, yet the possible further endangerment women face upon using this device is never addressed. While the Rape-aXe does harm to the rapist, will it lead to further abuse endured by the victim?

Beyond both of these arguments, I can say with years of experience that tampons are not comfortable to wear. The idea of a plastic device the size of a tampon in my vagina doesn’t seem appealing or comfortable. This device is meant to be worn in any situation in which a woman may be raped. If you are consistently living in fear that would mean consistently being in discomfort with a reminder that you could be a victim. Not to mention, what if this thing breaks INSIDE OF YOU?! Shards of razor-sharp barb being removed from a vagina seems almost impossible, if not resulting in a major surgery.

I commend Dr. Sonnet Ehlers on creating a device that can be purchased over the counter for women that feel they are at risk of rape in their everyday lives. The aid it provides in catching rapists is unquestionable. It just seems to me like another tool for making women responsible for protecting themselves from rape, and while the thought of shards of barb being hooked into a penis might be enough to dissuade some men from committing rape it doesn’t address the problem at hand– that rape exists and it isn’t the victims fault.

What do you think? Would you use this device? Do you think  it perpetuates victim blaming?

As always, thanks for reading.

Chelsie

Nevermind the Bollocks

Posted: March 6, 2012 by lildanadoo in Uncategorized

My actual album

One of my most prized possessions is my 1977 “Nevermind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols” picture disc album. (It’s okay to be jealous!) Now you’re probably wondering what this record has to do with sex and sexualities; well, the answer is everything. The Sex Pistols initiated the punk movement in the UK, which was a counter to the free love movement that started in the 1960’s. The Sex Pistols loudly and adamantly forced their point of view into the music world. I choose this record because it is in its original state, the way people originally encountered it, and is representative of this movement that sent shock waves.

 The Sex Pistols were formed in a store front on Kings Street in London named Sex. The store sold rubber and leather fetish wear and clothing. This store was made in a counter to the Teddy Boy and “hippy” fashion of the 70’s. The band members often frequented the store and became the Sex Pistols. Since the store represented a rebellion from the mainstream society, the clientele also assumed this idea of rebellion and insurgence. The name of the band, according to the manager Malcolm Mclean, was for “sexy young assassins, pistols being a gun and also a penis” (The Filth and The Fury). (However, everything Mclean has said is up for debate).  The band had a massive effect on music, fashion and culture reveals the impact that their music made at the time.

 

Issues of sex and sexuality litter the Nevermind the Bollocks album. The song “Submission” describes the act of performing oral sex on a woman as disgusting. With the lines:  “Got me pretty deep baby/ I can’t figure out your watery love/ I gotta solve your mystery/ You’re sitting it out in heaven above/ Submission going down, down/ Dragging me down submission/I can’t tell ya what I’ve found.” Having this confusion and disgust towards female anatomy placed in popular culture affects the way that the female body is viewed. The punk rock movement is heavily dominated by white men. This male domination has an extreme effect on the music itself, which makes it very misogynistic and sexist. 

 The song “New York” is directly bashing the band the New York Dolls, commenting on their drag and gender bending style.  “I think about time/ You changed your brain/ You’re just a pile of shit/ You’re coming to this/ Ya poor little faggot/ You’re sealed with a kiss.” This attitude towards sexuality holds on to this masculinist idea and reinforces heteronormaility. Punks are known to be violent, aggressive and shocking. The Sex Pistol’s bassist, Sid Vicious, was known for hurling himself into the crowd (he also hurled random objects such as beer cans and bicycle chains into the crowd) , injuring himself on stage, and being extremely outrageous. This aggressive attitude, mixed with the intolerance of sexualities and non-heteronormative gender views is a breeding ground for hate, closed mindedness and violence.

 Their music also deals with gender reproductive issues as well. In 1967 the Abortion Act was passed, which made abortions legal in England, Scotland and Wales. In 1973 the Roe v Wade act legalized abortion in the United States. As a protest the band created the song “Bodies.” This song is a disgusting detailed description of an abortion. The lines:

 Throbbing squirm,
gurgling bloody mess
I’m not a discharge
I’m not a loss in protein
I’m not a throbbing squirm

Fuck this and fuck that
Fuck it all and fuck a fucking brat
She don’t wanna baby that looks like that
I don’t wanna baby that looks like that
Body, I’m not an animal
Body, an abortion

The real kicker is at the end when “Mommy” is shouted out. These lines are extremely violent and disturbing, and are shocking to be found in music. Yet to see how these movements were initially viewed is extremely prevalent for examining these issues today.

 The band was viewed as so outrageous that they were banned by the BBC, every independent radio station in London banned their music, and they were banned from performing in Nashville. It is shocking that a band which was viewed as so extreme holds such conservative and misogynist views. Yet the songs are not all so conservative and judgmental: the song “God Saves the Queen” is about being against social conformity.

 Interestingly, the band broke-up after one year and only released the Nevermind the Bollocks album, yet with such short success, and limited product they still made such an impact and continue to make this impact. This album is therefore representative of their cover as a whole, and each song influenced music and politics in a drastic way. The Sex Pistols created new environments, which allowed for people to experience the expression of individuality in a different way. Even though the songs were hostile and controversial they still allowed for a space for people to dress eccentrically.  This also was a space women could, and did freely express themselves without the pressure of the enforcement of conventional gender rules.

The punk rock movement was heavily based in the western world. Although the music did cross borders, it did not have much, or anything to do with undeveloped or third world countries. But the band did bring awareness to class issues. The members of the Sex Pistols were from extremely impoverished families and gave a voice to the unheard, marginalized youth. The punk scene continues to be a crude and controversial genre, but has broadened as a result. Punk has branched off into many different genres: Oi , Crusty, Emo, Riot Grrls, Gypsy etc. These spaces do create confinements but also broaden the genre to encompass many different ideas.  Gypsy punk bands include transnational issues of racism and globalization into the punk scene, typified by the Ukrainian punk bandGogol Bordello.  Punk still exists on an international scale and scrutinizes issues of race, gender, sex and class. This genre has been heavily influenced by the Sex Pistols, “Nevermind the Bollocks…” album.