Archive for April, 2012

As I type this blog post I find myself becoming increasingly angry about the current state of my University. To give you a little back-story, I attend the University at Buffalo and have for the past three years. UB has 2 student publications that run regularly and neither is anything special. They are what you might expect from a typical campus news source and aside from a few poorly written articles each issue they do all right.

That is of course until this year, with the addition of the self titled “sex column” to UB’s The Spectrum.

The writer of this column’s name is Keren Baruch and she attempts to write on all topics relating to sex—as she calls it. She signs off most of her posts with “be safe, be smart, be sexual.”

I feel I should clarify that I have no personal problems with the idea of a sex column. Writing about sex isn’t something I think should be taboo or removed from college newspapers. Sex is essential to life and as such should be conversed about (whether that be in print or not).

What I think is problematic about a self titled “sex column” can be summarized by Keren Baruch’s column from January: What’s your number?

The second paragraph of this article reads:

How many times have you been in this situation: pants off, condom on, laying on your back ready for his gooey marshmallow to make the inside of your graham crackers complete.

Well, Keren, I can honestly say with some experience on this topic that I’ve never been in this situation. I might even stretch far enough to say that putting gooey marshmallow anywhere near the “inside of my graham cracker” sounds like I’m asking for a yeast infection.

Actual picture from The Spectrum's website associated with Keren's column

Keren goes on to create a setting in which a female is in a bar and is interested in a man and suddenly her mind shifts to sex and then to worrying about his “number.”

The number she is referring to is the amount of sexual partners a person has had. She poses the question if a high or low number has a negative connotation and feeds directly into heteronormative gender stereotypes.

Many girls feel that guys hold high expectations of the vagina that’s about to become the peel to their hard banana. These high standards set by previous freaky experiences and porn can be nerve-wracking, especially for a virgin.

Again with the weird, unnecessary food metaphors. I would hope if you are writing a sex column you would at least be able to use the words “penis” and “vagina,” but maybe that’s just me. I will say that she makes an interesting point to add in that the expectations of sex are extremely hyped up due to pornography–but I believe all people experience anxiety as a result of this in some form not just “virgin girls.”

Keren then goes on to speak for all men in saying:

 Guys want their girls to be good in bed but at the same time they don’t want their girls to have high numbers.

And gets a super reputable quote by sourcing a UB business student:

“The lower the number for the girl, the better,” said Ryan McTigue, a senior business major.

This generalization is problematic and I would even go so far as to say oppressive. Women must be good in bed, but they can’t have a high number of partners on which to establish practice for “good performance.” So, if the pressure put on people to perform a certain way during sex wasn’t already enough with the use of the before-mentioned pornography industry, (you can view it for yourself with a quick google search if you need a reference) now women especially must be good in bed and maintain a lower number to appease their male counterparts. Keren goes on to dig her philosophy a little deeper with this gem of a statement:

 simply “getting the crazy nights out of our systems,” isn’t an excuse to portray ourselves as easy and slutty

So, if a woman likes to have sex– I’m going to assume here she is speaking for all women as a whole, as she lumps herself into this “we” mentality in this statement– and has sex with whomever she wants, EVEN if she is safe, she is being “easy” and “slutty.” Gesh, pearls of wisdom.

She ends her column with a warning message for “naive” girls who are trusting in what their partners tell them to be their “numbers,” and sources a “relationship expert” who essentially says that everyone lies when it comes to the amount of sexual partners they have.

While I can understand the use of (what she may view as funny) food metaphors, and over simplification of sexual relationships, I can’t for the life of me understand how the editors of The Spectrum think a sex column this poorly done is helping their publication. This isn’t just a problem facing our campus, this female vs. male differential treatment when it comes to sex is incredibly problematic in everyday life situations. Take for example recent reproductive health laws and then read this column and think about who is being oppressed.

This column is not the only one of its kind to come from Keren Baruch, which is pretty unfortunate.

UB MEME's response to Keren's "sex column"

As stated before, I have no qualms with publications that print “sex columns” per se. And I do understand that a column is reflective of the opinion of the writer and not necessarily of the entire publication as a whole. It’s that this depiction of females is harmful and degrading, the male perspective has inherently become some sort of authority within this piece for the basis of Keren’s argument on women’s sexual choices. Not to mention the entire lack of mention of anyone functioning outside of a heterosexual relationship.

Is your “number” important to you? And how do these implications affect your relationships?

As always, thanks for reading.

Girls Around Me: A problematic application.

Posted: April 12, 2012 by Carly Bea in Uncategorized

As access to the internet and social networking sites have expanded, privacy and security have become an increasing concern for many.  The advent of internet accessibility on cell phones has led to thousands of applications being developed, some of which are free and some of which must be purchased. A number of these applications allow individuals to have access to information about others.  This may not be too much of a problem when the information is freely given, i.e. the people involved enter their personal details and they are put online for others to see. However, things can turn scary when an application allows people to see information about complete strangers that most likely do not want these details to be shared, and were not aware they were available to the public.



The application in question is called Girls Around Me, and it is no longer on the market. An article about the app can be found here. A Moscow based developer, I-Free, developed the application to allow people to track the locations of nearby women.  The app works by utilizing publicly available data on the social network FourSquare (which allows users to ‘check-in’ to places, thereby showing their friends where they are). The Girls Around Me application, however, also drew information from women’s Facebook. By using both of these networks, Girls Around Me is able to create a map showing the locations and photographs of nearby women.  It also shows the ratio of women to men in the area. Despite the applications name, settings could be changed to search for men instead, but the default setting was to search for nearby women.  When the app is first loaded, it begins by determining the location of the use and, using Google Maps, showing a map of the surrounding area. Once the user specifies whether they are interested in men or women, the app immediately begins searching for people. Once they are found, their photographs and locations are displayed on the screen.


All of the information pulled by this application was publicly available – taken from Facebook and FourSquare, where people had voluntarily entered it. In fact, to be one of the people displayed, one must first “check-in” somewhere using FourSquare. However, these people were not necessarily aware that their information was being used for another application entirely. The application has had mixed reactions, many of which have been negative, especially from women. Concern has been expressed as to the safety of the individuals whose photographs and locations show up.  Some people voiced apprehension as to what implications the app could have if it fell into the wrong hands, such as those of a rapist or stalker.

Consider the following possible situation: A man is interested in meeting a woman, and uses the Girls Around Me application to scan for women in the area. The application detects that there are several women in a bar nearby. Depending on how much information these women have made publicly available on Facebook, he may be able to discern their full names, where they went to school, and even their interests. He could then use this information to strike up a “Remember me from high school?” type conversation.

Of course, this application could be seen as a wake-up call: Facebook isn’t as private as it may appear to be, and settings usually default to share a considerable amount of information. In addition, some people choose to link their accounts.  If one has their Twitter account set to public, linking Twitter  to FourSquare could make their location public to anyone.  People need to be aware of how much information they are sharing, and how they can restrict this from others if desired. It usually only takes a few minutes to delve into the privacy settings of a social networking site, and it is well worth one’s time if it protects one’s privacy.


However, the author, Larry Magid, does miss something: the inherent sexism of this application. There is no doubt that over-sharing data is a legitimate concern, but it is also important to consider the implications of sexism and gender relations the application may create. Although the application can be used to find both men and women, its title does not suggest such. It could also be argued that there is some victim-blaming here – the problem is women sharing data, not that men are using the application to find these women.  In fact, some of these women may not be aware they are sharing so much information. They may not even have heard of the application itself. Instead of being blamed for dressing in revealing clothing, women will be blamed for revealing too much data about themselves.  Instead of blaming the people who share the data itself, it is important to consider the sexist culture that has created the desire for an application such as this in the first place.  Because the application pulls information from those who have not necessarily consented to their data being available, it encourages objectification, and in my opinion, is pretty creepy.

Besides all this, this application, like many other social networking sites, seems to discourage getting to know someone the “old-fashioned” way – meeting someone new and having a conversation. Instead, Girls Around Me encourages instant gratification and the chance to obtain information with minimal effort.  I’m not saying there is something inherently awful about social networking sites – just that it is crucial that people be aware of what privacy settings are available and how to use them. In addition, we shouldn’t have to rely on applications such as these to do something as simple as striking up conversation. It could be argued that applications such as these may even further alienate people from each other, because information is accessible at the touch of a finger rather than having to talk to someone.   I for one am happy that this application was removed.

I am wondering what others think – is an application like this okay? Is it ethical to draw out other individuals’ information without their informed consent?  Would you consider using an application such as this?

As always, thanks for reading.


A Spotlight on the Vagina, ONLY the Vagina

Posted: April 10, 2012 by lildanadoo in Uncategorized


I have never been a big fan of the magazine Cosmopolitan, because it disseminates sexist information that continues the heteronormative ideas of gender dichotomy. It seems as though every issue is a new way to “please your man.” The most recent, April 2012 issue is no different. Yet this time the article is titles: “The Thing He’s Dying to See During Sex” by Brittany Talarico. This article is all about a man’s lustful desire to view himself penetrating a woman. Talarico even goes so far as to give a detailed description of the best position to give him the premium view during sex.


This article, and the entire magazine, is directed at a heterosexual audience. Talarico presents herself as an authority revealing a universal truth. This standpoint in itself is very problematic. Her refusal to account for other sexualities reinforces the notion that other sexualities are deviant. Talarico assumes that she is addressing an exclusive heterosexual female audience, who is seeking to find the best possible method for pleasing their male partners. As an authoritative figure, Talarico fortifies the idea that sexual relationships are only for male pleasure. This problematic stance undermines a woman’s desire for sexual pleasure and reinforces normative gender roles.


Looking at the material present in the article impedes on the acceptance of women’s social advancement, which continues the ideas of placing sexual desires in a binary of normality and outlandishness. This article presents the act as mischievous which leads to being erotic: “…men get off on the fact it’s a dirty picture that’s out of the norm.” The language used supports the idea that the act of viewing one’s own body is a deviant act. This act is referred to in negative language several times throughout the article: in terms of “raw” which brings to mind a savagery associated with viewing one’s body. She also uses the terms: “shocking,” “dirty” and “taboo” which places this act outside of the “norm.” Using this language associates the act of gaining pleasure in one’s body as foreign which makes it exotic and erotic. The association with discovering pleasure in the exotic has been a long tradition, but even though the experience may be pleasurable it is still considered abnormal. 


The standpoint of the article places sex as for man’s pleasure. The article reports that the act of a man watching himself penetrate a woman “…taps into a guy’s craving for sexual power.” The focus is on the man craving a woman; as though this is his need that she needs to satisfy. Talarico assumes that women are confined to the gendered role of the feminine female. Almost as an afterthought at the end of the article Talarico adds: “And why not take a peek at the action for yourself when the position allows? [my emphasis] Who knows, it might give you just as much of an erotic rush as it gives your guy.” This statement places women in the role of only giving pleasure and maybe if his positioning allows for her to “take a peek” she may also find some enjoyment herself. The language of “peeking” for her, and giving him the “clear shot of the real action” reveals the socially constructed gender roles just in how one can observe their body. It is shocking that a magazine intended for women, does not view female sexuality as a priority.


The article gives a detailed description of how to perform the act for his optimal vantage point:

If you want to be in control, straddle him on top, lean back, and rest your hands on his upper thighs. This will open your pelvic area so you’re fully exposed to him… Want him in charge? Have him take you from behind, then put your head down toward the bed- it angles your body in a way that allows him to look down easily…

This description constructs the sexual act in terms of power and control. It also gives the woman a false sense of “having control.” The entire sexual position is for his benefit and the control or power is only “who is on top.” By using this language, Talarico highlights the gendered binary, which views men as superior and ultimately women as inferior making their desire secondary. The description of the woman in a position of control sounds more like a balancing act and disregards the woman’s comfort level. Yet again, this places all the focus on his sexual pleasure instead of mutual pleasure. This power construction is also made clear in the previous quote about a man’s need and craving for “sexual power.” The notion that a man needs sexuality and craves it, reinforces the notions of masculine gender roles.


I was not surprised by the articles I found in the Cosmopolitan magazine, yet I am still disgusted with the blasé reinforcement of socially constructed gender roles. The article is featured in the Lust section of the magazine which is introduced by a survey titled: “His 50 Wildest Sex Secrets Revealed” which is an interview of over 1,000 heterosexual men  that gives a detailed description of their favorite positions, duration of each position and a various sexual preferences. Directly following this interview is Talarico’s article. The entire section on lust focuses on a man’s desires, even though the magazine is aimed at women. You would think there would be something about the issues women are having in the bedroom, or how to vocalize those issues. But no, the only information given is how to give him the best experience ever. Why do you think that in a magazine such as this, that women’s sexual pleasure is a topic that is completely dismissed? I think that we all know that a woman can gain just as much pleasure from sex as a man can, so why is that not recognized? Is it because it would be considered not feminine to express those desires? Or is there a deeper issue here?