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

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Aside  —  Posted: March 8, 2012 by Carly Bea in Uncategorized

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.

The Queer Atmosphere: Sexual/Gender Identities on the Internet, in the 21st Century

Christopher Patterson

Introduction

As I have come of age in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, I have seen a trend which makes me want to be educated further. I am talking about the issues of Gender/Sexual Identity.

Background

             It is hard to think about my upbringing without including an obvious queer narrative into it. You could say (and I often do) that I grew up knowing I was different, that who I was, was not something considered commonplace and “normal”. It was further complicated by my inclusion into a Judeo-Christian atmosphere, which had little, if any, tolerance on things not biblical. This included feminist concepts, queer and transgendered identities. It wasn’t until my 21st birthday that I decided I would not ‘closet’ myself or my feelings; I would actively explore what I wanted, and I would educate myself on topics which I were ignorant about. Such topics I was ignorant about pertained to various identities, which deviated from the ‘traditional’ ideal of heterosexuality, masculinity and femininity.  I only thought in terms of either/or and black/white. Meaning that in terms of gender and sex, I only thought in the heterosexual/homosexual and male/female binaries. This mindset proved to be so un-inclusive and so limited that in retrospect, I have to shake my head at the ignorance. What’s scary is so many people think like I did, and they continue to do so, thinking that’s how the world is and how it should be.

Sex=Gender?

 

Once I began to educate myself, I learned there is a difference between what sex and gender is. Traditionally, the associative factors between sex and gender were as such:

Male=Masculine, Heterosexual, Maleness, Man, Hard, Father.

Female=Feminine, Heterosexual, Femaleness, Woman, Soft, Mother.

 

Knowing I had never felt like I belonged into the Male category, and that I always had or incorporated characteristics from the female category; I took to the Internet.  The Internet; despite the distraction factor it provides, is an invaluable tool in researching this anomaly I saw in myself and in the world around me.  For years, I assumed that both sex and gender were these two “things” that were symbiotic in a way. If you were assigned male at birth, that meant you were born with a penis, assigned male on your birth certificate and you identify as a man per your upbringing and socialization, and you had to be heterosexual. Same as the notion of woman= Vagina-Female-Woman-heterosexual woman. Obviously, I now know that is completely false. What has aided me in my education of all things sex and gender (besides books of course) has been a little social networking site called tumblr. When I joined tumblr I found a wealth of knowledge unlike anywhere else in the world. I began to follow blogs created by people of every ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation. Not only did I become more aware, but also it helped me to discover not only my own gender/sexual identity, but traditional delineations from this binary of sex and gender.

 

Global Sex & Gender Revolutionaries

 

             Dennis Altman briefly touches upon the concept of what would be considered ‘queer’ identities in traditional societies

. He introduces specifically the South Asian Hijra, and the Native American Two-Spirit.

These two identities, in my opinion, fall into what I would call Genderqueer identities. They are mixed gender roles, in which the individual who fits into these identities move through the male/female ‘binary.’ People within the Two-Spirit generally dress in a fashion usually considered for the opposite sex, as well as performing other social expectations. For example, a Two-Spirit who may have been born ‘male’, would wear women’s clothes and perform duties usually reserved for males. Similarly, the Hijra are individuals who were born male but have a gender identity that is feminine. Some members undergo a ritual in which their male genitalia is removed. (nirwaan). The concept of the Hijra seems to lack a discernible western counterpart, however a similar identity is found in Thailand as a Kathoey, or what we know in American and in mainstream pornography as the “Ladyboy”. (Or what’s known as a Transsexual Woman or the pejorative term Shemale/Tranny)

Tumblr & Me

 

            I explained earlier that tumblr had a positive effect on my education in terms of sexual and gender identities, and in my own identity. I feel I should elaborate on that a bit. I had always known that I was not heterosexual and felt that a “Gay” identity didn’t completely fit with how I felt. As I began to learn more I came across the term Genderqueer, a word I used to describe the Two-Spirit people. I found out that Genderqueer is a catch-all term for people who may identify as both male/female, neither male nor female, as a whole separate gender (Third Gender). I began identifying as Genderqueer because I acknowledged that I exhibited both characteristics common to males and females. As I began to feel comfortable with my gender identity, I sought out

websites/blogs on tumblr to supplement my queer education. I found it refreshing that I could read information on queer issues written by people across the globe; bringing to the table diverse experiences and perceptions.

What Does This Have to do with Global Sex?

 

                 I chose this particular topic as an overarching theme from the book because not only does there need to be more exposure and education about topics such as these, but because Altman writes from the perspective of an LGBTQ activist [?] point of view, and I felt had someone who was not a advocate or LGBTQ identifying individual wrote this book, it would have come out differently. I think that it is important to recognize one’s own identity in terms of gender and sexuality because whether or not we can see it; it does have an effect on how we view the world and how we view other individuals, governments, nations and organizations.

 

 

The GOP’s War on Choice.

Posted: February 23, 2012 by Carly Bea in Uncategorized

Requiring that pregnant people undergo pre-abortion ultrasounds, cutting funding for family planning services, and even “personhood laws” that grant a fetus the same rights as a human… do these concepts seem illogical and even perhaps absurd? It’s not so for Rick Santorum and quite a few others involved in politics today. The plethora of “anti-choice” bills that have been put on the table, and in some places, passed, is disconcerting to many who consider themselves to be pro-choice. Some go as far as to call the recent culmination of incidences a war on women, mainly citing the GOP as the driving force behind the recent cuts to reproductive healthcare.

Dennis Altman begins to touch on some of these issues in his discussion of the globalization of women’s bodies.  He emphasizes that in the past, many societies have “sought to limit women’s sexuality by defining it in terms of their reproductive role” (61). Societies do this by creating laws that restrict sexual expression, especially when it may be deemed as threatening to the “control of male reproduction” (61). Altman also argues that “the idea that governments should seek to regulate population through a mixture of persuasion and coercion” is largely a modern one (62).

Globalization has encouraged the nearly worldwide spread of ideas. In places where individuals have access to the internet, information about what is going on in another country is very easy to access. This dispersion of ideas and discourse can have both positive and negative results. It can encourage members of a group who identify similarly or have related concerns to join efforts, collaborate with each other, and generate new ideas and solutions. Contrarily, the internet can be used to perpetuate untrue information, and can allow governments to engage in “international programming,” making it easier for them to gain control over the population – usually women. (62).

Of course, the internet is not the only way that ideas are being spread more rapidly across nations. As representatives from various countries come together in conferences, opinions are exchanged regarding reproductive health, some of which result in “deep cultural clashes,” especially when abortion and contraception are mentioned (62).  When leaders with drastically different religious and cultural backgrounds come together, opinions will no doubt differ, and arguments are bound to arise.

So, what does this mean today? Altman’s book was written only eleven years ago, and the effects of globalization have only increased in this short span of time. In the past year, attacks on reproductive health care have become so frequent and unreasonable that they have become known by some as the “War on Women” (or, more accurately, war on people with a uterus).

Who is behind this “War on Women,” and what exactly is taking place? Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the people suggesting that reproductive healthcare be restricted – or even terminated – are groups of white men.   Over the past two years, Republicans have voted to “slash family planning funds for low income women,” attempted to prevent people from purchasing insurance plans that would cover abortions, and even introduced a bill that would allow hospitals to refuse to carry out emergency abortions needed to save the pregnant person’s life.  A group that is not widely known is largely behind these propositions – the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.  After the 2009 health care debate, in which they advocated for the bringing down the healthcare reform bill because it did not prevent insurance companies from covering abortion, they became one of the most powerful advocates in the anti-abortion disputes. Members of the Conference of Catholic bishops spoke to priests around the country, asking them to encourage their individual congregations to oppose the entirety of the healthcare reform bill if it were to include abortion.  Now, the Conference of Catholic Bishops claims that President Obama is not seeking common ground with religious groups, and say they are being discriminated against on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, a host of laws that restrict choice and/or limit the availability of adequate reproductive health care are being passed all across the country.  One such bill was recently passed in Oklahoma, where senators decided that life begins at conception.  So, if the individual carrying the fetus were to die during childbirth, could the baby be charged with murder? Seriously, though, this is a huge problem: doctors are afraid that the bill will jeopardize reproductive medicine, including a few types of birth control.” The bill is now headed to the House, where it is expected to pass.  If it does, it will give a fetus all of the privileges and rights of a person.

If that isn’t scary enough, in Virginia, a bill presumed to pass the legislature this week would require doctors to carry out an invasive procedure that could constitute a sex crime. Essentially, an individual who wished to undergo an abortion in the first trimester would have to first go through a “vaginally invasive procedure,” after which they would be offered images of the fetus. The image would then remain in their medical file for seven years. Now, Democrats are attempting to dissuade Republicans from allowing the bill to pass by arguing that the bill would criminalize doctors under a local statute known as object sexual penetration (OSP), which carries a five-year jail sentence. According to a recent poll, most Virginians oppose the measure and feel that it is “emotional blackmail” – making individuals who are pregnant feel bad about their choice to get an abortion.

In Texas, where Rick Perry has cut Medicaid funding to hundreds of thousands of people, Republican legislators often refer to family planning clinics as “abortion clinics,” even though none of the 71 family planning clinics that receive government funding provides abortions. Perry is not the only presidential hopeful that is so adamantly opposed to choice; Santorum is even against contraception, staying that states should have the power to outlaw birth control.

These are just a few of the bills that have been passed, or at least discussed, in recent months. There are, unfortunately, many more. Supporters of such bills claim that they are “pro-life,” but in a world where 47,000 people die from complications arising from an unsafe abortion worldwide each year, how pro-life is their stance? To me, it seems clear that those in power do not truly care about the “unborn” – instead, they wish to maintain control over those capable of getting pregnant. Jon Stewart sums it up well: “You’ve confused a war on religion with not getting what you want.”

Thanks for reading!

The social construction of the ideas of “normalcy” and the hierarchy of white male dominance manifests itself in every facet of our globalized world. Arguably hit the hardest by the pressure to be “normal” is the realm dealing with sex and sexualities. How much should you like sex? What sex practices are considered normal? Who should be having sex? These questions become a part of the daily struggle inside a globally sexual world.

Sprung from this push for “normalcy” comes the creation of the “Other.”

The Other refers to any sexual identity or practice that divulges from what a patriarchal white male dominated society (cough America… cough) deems as normal. Dennis Altman hits on this subject many times throughout his book Global Sex, paying special consideration to draw attention to the times in which Othering happens.

To me, this is a double edge sword of globalization. On one hand, as Altman suggests, the result of globalization has been to bring different cultures and areas of the world together—resulting in a growth of shared interests and sexual identities, practices, etc. What also ends up happening is a sort of shift to “inevitably mirror the dominant ideological strength of rich countries,” (Altman, 63-4) further reinforcing the idea that the “Other” is sub standard.

An interesting take Altman explored on this subject was in chapter 9 of his book—Squaring the Circle: The Battle for “Traditional” Morality. This chapter reflects on major extremes cultures have gone to in order to maintain a traditional approach to the subject of sex and sexuality in a modern world.

There seems to be a remarkably widespread belief that we are living through a period of collapsing moral values (Ibid. 140).

This belief stemmed in part from the necessity of open conversation about sex practices to accommodate a rapidly globalizing world. To understand how and why certain diseases were transmitted from person to person and to treat said illnesses as touched on in chapter 5.

As a way of dealing with the painful realization that: SHOCKER! People have sex! Some people even have sex in their sleep!(validity pending). Some people don’t have sex at all, and some never want to! & That is perfectly okay.

Some traditionalist members of societies around the world react to this in harmful ways.

For Altman, writing in 1998-2001 this manifested in “redneck” reactions to hippies, Klu Klux Klan admittedly racist and sexist policies and the stereotyping of AIDS as a “foreign disease,” to name a few.

This unfortunate reaction is still very much a reality today. Take for example the practice of corrective rape of lesbians living in South Africa.

This practice is a horrific attempt by men in certain cities and villages to control what they see as a threat to their traditional way of life. Corrective Rape is a criminal practice where men rape lesbians as a means of “curing” the woman of her sexual orientation.

The most publicized instance of corrective rape in South Africa was in 2009 when Eudy Simelane, the former star of South Africa’s acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad was found dead in a creek outside of Johannesburg. She had been “…gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs.” She was the target of this crime for being openly gay and an activist for equal rights in Kwa-Thema, a black township outside of Johannesburg. This case was ruled as an act of “corrective rape” in an attempt for men to “cure” her of her sexual orientation (source).

*The following video is graphic, watch with viewer discretion*

This same sentiment has been relevant in the United States with remarks following the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

On a conservative news site called The Daily Caller, Joe Rehyansky–a Tennessee Judge, advocated for corrective rape to be used in the Military. His exact quote is as follows:

Lesbians should be allowed to serve [because] it would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream

This man is so threatened by… well… let’s go with a “threat to his traditional approaches” that he feels it is necessary to advocate rape. ADVOCATE RAPE. All while perched from his white male dominant spot as a part of the American legal system.

In every instance cited throughout chapter 9 those that took a stand or were on the opposing end of the politics involved in sexual regulation were flagged as “Others” or outsiders to the culture and marred.

While it is easier to focus on the injustices presented in a global world with the use of “Othering” and traditional pushes towards submission, it is important to also understand the shift in the norm that has been a result of global movements, making a return to what some would view as “tradition” intangible.

Altman summarizes this point:

..it is gradually becoming apparent that international capitalism is both capable of unsettling almost all areas of life and of generating huge movements of resistance, the most potent of which are likely to appeal to a yearning to return to an imagine past in which the ‘traditional’ sex/gender order symbolized a society in which the social order was widely understood and slow to change (Ibid. 138).

The threat of the “Other” on traditional approaches to sex and sexuality can fuel incredibly hateful attacks on human rights and historically have done just that. Opening the dialogue of sex and sexuality to a global scale is a before-mentioned double edged sword. It can create an atmosphere of community and acceptance transnationally yet can also contribute to ethnocentrism and greater fear of the “Other.”

So, my question for you readers is this–why is sexuality so damn threatening? What is it about sexual practices and identities that makes for such uneasy feelings? It seems if a person doesn’t fit within the cookie cutter mold of “ideal” (white, male, dominant) practice they are marked as “Other” and therefore carry all of the negative connotation that comes with being considered outside of a culture. What do you think?

Thanks for reading,

Chelsie

Perception of Virginity

Posted: February 21, 2012 by lildanadoo in Uncategorized

Throughout history, the female Virgin has been depicted in different forms of media as the pinnacle of femininity. She is idealized and sought after yet have you ever wondered why so much value is placed on female virginity? Why are women expected to maintain their virginity and abstain from sexual desires to remain respectable? There are no easy answers to these questions. At the same time, especially in western culture, men are made to feel embarrassed if they remain a virgin for “too long.” Transnationally female sexuality is perceived differently, however virginity is almost always held up to a high esteem.

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Western culture has a slew of depictions of men’s perception of virginity as a conquest. For example, the movie Cruel Intentions shows that virginity is held to such high esteem that a man would be willing to lie about his entire life in order to sleep with a female virgin. Yet men are not depicted the same way. It is assumed that men who are virgins past their teenage years are “un-cool” or somehow not good enough. The movie The 40-yr Old Virgin is a good example of this concept. The main character is shown to be a nerd unable to “seal the deal.” In Dennis Altman’s Global Sex he discusses this phenomenon as result of: “female honor and male nobility” (Altman 5). For many cultures women are taught not to show signs of being interested in sexual desires, while men are not given this same message. Altman describes this as: “…the very common practice of defining sexual desires as something ‘nice women’ do not experience, and the construction of women as either madonnas or whores, no matter that the reality is almost always more complex” (Ibid 5). This notion is not something new; it can be traced throughout history. Female virginity was held to be so important that at one time women were expected to show proof of their virginity with blood stained sheets. In Shakespeare’s play Othello depicts this tradition: “Thy bed, lust-stained, shall with lust’s blood be spotted” (VI 35-37). In some cultures the sheets were hung outside of a window for public display. This tradition is just an example of the stress put on women in order to be viewed as respectable.

Religion has a major effect on the perspective of sexuality and gender: “…it may well be that the primary social function of religion is to control sexualities and gender in the interests of hegemonic masculinity” (Altman 6). The majority of religions view female purity as a central aspect to the religion. An unmarried woman must retain her purity in order to be viewed as respectable. It is astonishing to discover that this transnational theme is communally globally consistent. Altman explores this concept: “Often national and religious identities are linked to a particular view of women, who are both venerated as the defenders of moral purity and feared for their sexuality, which risks escaping total male control” (Ibid 140). By taking on this perspective it is easy to make the connections between patriarchal societies, which use religion as a means of policing women’s sexualities and the fear of women’s reproductive abilities. Religion is often used as a method of preventing and condemning the use of contraceptives or abortion. These practices place major constraints on women‘s sexuality.

 The scrutiny of female sexuality leaks over into the perception of the criminalization of prostitution. Sex workers are transnationally denied basic civil rights. Especially in the United States sex workers who have been raped are ignored because of victim blaming. Sex work is an occupation which is looked down upon, women involved are viewed as “un-rape-able.” Since sex work is an extremely prevalent, many women are being forced into the occupation through circumstances or sex slavery. Yet not much is being done to protect women from this phenomenon. In Manila, the mayor closed down the brothels “he succeeded only in pushing the trade into adjoining cities- or farther underground. The criminalization of prostitution- and the denial of basic civil rights to sex workers- is a significant factor in the perpetuation of a whole set practices which amount to sex slavery” (Ibid 114). As a result of the scrutiny of female sexuality, sex workers are viewed as undeserving of protection.

As a result of female virginity being regarded in such high esteem, if a woman is raped she is deemed to be corrupted and impure. “Indeed in some societies a girl who has been raped is treated as ‘dishonored’ and hence unfit for marriage, even though she was powerless to preserve her virginity” (Altman 4). This demonstrates the importance placed on virginity, which results in the objectification of women. In this situation a woman is treated as a piece of property, as though she is somehow devalued by an act she had no control over.

As a result of  idealizing virginity, in certain cultures it is believed that virginity has the power to cure HIV/AIDS. This has been defined as: the rape myth. This is the belief that if a man contracts HIV/AIDS, it can be cured by raping a virgin. In the CNN article “Child Rape Survivors Saves ‘Virgin Myth’ Victims” the continuation of this practice is examined: “This so-called virgin myth, perpetuated by Zimbabwe’s traditional healers, has led to the rape of hundreds of girls, according to UNICEF. Some of those victims are too young to walk, much less protect themselves.” Consequently thousands of girls are contracting HIV/AIDS as a result of the rape myth.

It is strange how much of an effect female virginity has. The understanding of female purity influences how women are treated socially and culturally. Has your exposure to this subject been different? Why do you think that male virginity isn’t held to such a high standard? Is it because only women can have “proof” when they lose their virginity? Again there are no easy answers to these questions. However, it is interesting that in a transnational setting, female virginity is almost always held to a higher standard.