Seldom does a day go by when I’m not asked “What is androgyny?” The truth is that over two years ago the concept of androgyny, as I know it to be now, was very foreign to me. While thought I knew what it was to be androgynous I never considered that androgyny could actually be a philosophy rather than just a term describing one’s seemingly ambiguous gender identity.

A couple years ago while studying in Rome everything changed. I stumbled upon this club advertising an androgyny night; I was curious so I decided to check it out. Who knew that that this decision would have such a catalytic impact on my life?

That night I met a diverse group of gender deviants who expressed themselves with the kind of comfort and security that I could only dream of at the time. Men and women both indulged in all sorts of gender bending behaviour: men wore make up and fashion accessories, women wore short cropped hair and bound their chests, and everybody comfortably transcended the gender norms that seem to keep most of us in check on a daily basis. Now this was not the first time that I had ever seen gender queer attitudes expressed so openly in a public setting, it was however the first time that I had realized that being gender queer had nothing to do with sexuality.

In grade school I was familiar with gender bending behavior like cross-dressing, gender play, and crying at Barbara Streisand movies, but like most uneducated children I had always thought that such things were unique to the gay community (now I can laugh at how wrong I really was.) During my adolescence I felt such a need to fit in that I did not hesitate to play up the hetero-normie card for the sake of keeping up appearances. The funny thing about keeping up appearances is that you’re never truly happy with yourself because you’re constantly worried about saying or doing something that will reveal you as the freak that you are.

Well my friends, we’re all freaks; every single one of us is a freak and it’s about time we come to terms with if we ever want to move on enjoy our lives. Normies are freaks like the rest of us, the difference is that they are willing to play a part for the sake of fitting in with the good old boys (or girls). I know what it’s like to be a “normie”, and I’ll tell you that there’s nothing great about it unless you enjoy walking around with your nose up in the air like a self righteous prick. We should never look at people who are daring enough to be themselves against the odds, we should follow their example.

Androgyny is not about boys wearing skirts or girls wearing pants, it’s about people not feeling the need to pretend to be something they’re not. So do yourselves a favor and be the person you want to be regardless of what the old men in penguin suits say you should be. Keeping up gender appearances is a frivolous waste of time. We’re all just people anyway, isn’t it about time we act like it?

In my last post I quoted some lyrics from Madonna's "What it Feels like for a Girl." Thankfully one of our readers quickly pointed out that the quote is originally from a book called "The Cement Garden" by Ian McEwan. I have yet to read it myself, however it is certainly on my list. Thanks Harri.

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I've had this discussion before. Sometimes more than once with the same buddy. Am I really a man if I'm not packing down there? Do I stuff my shorts to pass more easily? When is it safe to use the Guy's John?

Penises are a hot issue with all guys. Though most bio guys won't admit it, we too worry about how much of Johnson we have, how it looks and will a prospective love/trick pass us by if it's not impressive enough.

I want to state for the record that I do not believe that you need a penis to be a man. I have one, it's part of the original equipment I was born with. It's not ginormous, no one has yet gasped, pulling his wrists to his chest and begged me to put that monster away. No one. Not even one guy has pretended for the sake of my ego. But I'm not bitter.

About a decade and a half ago the first of my transbuddies, (named Jay) informed me "You don't have to have a penis to be a man." At the time, I'll admit here that I wasn't born enlightened about trans issues, I had to really think about it. Because to me, that's what made you a guy, right? I mean… it's a penis. It's your best friend, you take him everywhere. Jay, though, was patient and only punched me in the arm about six times until I agreed with him. Loudly.

But I soon saw the truth in his statement, and it was a big shift in understanding gender for me. Jay, wherever you are today, I want to thank you publicly for wisdom.

Each of my buddies who's worked to claim his true gender talks to me about his cock. This is also how I learned about the engorged clit. For those of you who don't know, when a guy starts T(esterone) often the Clit gets bigger.

For the record let me just say after having seen the Vagina Monologues, I was really jealous not to have one of those. They sound fabulously sensitive.

Lesson learned from another buddy, don't skip those T shots, because your newly enbiggened thing down there may lose a little mass, and it won't regain it. So keep those shots regular dudes.

What makes a man is his spirit.

A man is gentle and generous. He cares for others. He is not afraid to cry at sad movies. While some of these characteristics may sound femmy at first, let me assure that any man who is secure in his maleness can and does do these things. And it makes him all the manlier because he can do them. They are signs on strength, my friends.

Men, whatever body parts they have, possess a core of strength. They operate from that strength. This strength is what allows them to tough it out, to be strong, to "man-up." But it also allows him to nurture, to teach and to be vulnerable in love.

Strength makes a man.

Not just, or perhaps even, what his bicep can lift. Not a love of cars and football.


When a man is strong in his humble belief in himself, every person he encounters is strengthened and comforted by his presence.

This gentle strength is what every man should strive for. Think how much safer our world would be if all men, even those who didn't have to work to become men, practiced a gentle strength, a sharing strength, a nurturing masculinity.

The bulge, or lack of bulge, is the least of what makes a man.

His heart is what makes a man. His Spirit.

Keep these always in your mind: Strength, Spirit, Heart. Use these ideals to guide your actions, reactions and interactions with others, and you will always be a man honored by others.

Salaam, Shalom, en fe la paz, and Amen.

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In my previous post, I outlined the notion that gender is not a fixed identity that each individual possesses; it does not represent some inner, knowable essence of all men and women. Rather, it is a social discourse that sets expectations for people’s lives, without necessarily forming their identities or gaining their allegiance. What implications does this view have for the study of gender? How should it affect gender-progressive activism?

Discourse’ is a relatively contentious term. Nevertheless, for our purposes, the following definition should be sufficient: a relatively organized set of propositions about a particular object that has claims to representing the authoritative truth about that object. For example, the discursive formation on men would trigger the following train of propositions and assumptions: “men have penises, they don’t have breasts, they are sex-maniacs and interested in women of a particular type, they don’t quite have the same connection with their children as mothers do, they like cars and sports.” This discourse constructs identities and sets expectations for behavior, while at the same time, coloring people’s analyses of a particular person (as ‘manly’ or ‘not manly’ etc…).

There are generally two types of discourses about gender: the discourse about the content of gender and discourse about gender itself. The former refers to the various non-physical attributes of men and women, and the list of acceptable behaviors for each gender. This discourse is flexible, changeable, up-for-debate, and (re)constructed on a more-or-less daily basis. For instance, while the social discourse on the content of gender emphasizes that men like sports and fast cars, in recent years, normative masculinity has appropriated many so-called ‘feminine’ practices as well, such as grooming, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and applying skincare products. This is indicative of how malleable the discourse on the content of gender is. It is very much up for debate and flexible: the list of acceptable behaviors for men and women can change often.

The discourse of gender itself, however, displays the opposite attributes. I would characterize it (at least within the context of Euro-U.S. culture) as ‘hard’, inflexible, and exceptionally difficult to change. It so often goes unquestioned that it has an existence independent of the mass of individuals that put it into practice. What are the main postulates of this discourse about gender? (1) There are two and only two genders; (2) Gender characteristics follow ‘naturally’ from ‘biological’ sex traits; (3) There must at all times be a difference between the two genders. So, just as we noted above that men could appropriate certain ‘feminine’ practices, we should also note that, in the process of that appropriation, the difference between men and women had to be upheld. There is never any question of men becoming women or being like women. Rather, in appropriating ‘feminine’ beautification and grooming practices, they had to be translated into a masculine context, renamed and reinterpreted so as to fit the changed content of masculinity. Thus, manicures become ‘hand-fixes’, skincare and grooming products begin to wear the label ‘For Men’, and a new masculine identity (metrosexuality) is created in order to make sense of the changes. Despite the appropriation of ‘feminine’ beauty practices, a difference between genders has been maintained: men are still men and women are still women. At least in Euro-American. culture, gender flexibility seems to stop at the point at which the two-gender model and the assumption of essential difference between men and women are challenged.

Nevertheless, the inflexible and ‘hard’ nature of this discourse does not mean that it is not possible to change it. The very existence of people who do not accept the two-gender system, whose gender characteristics follow different paths than their ‘biology’ would normatively lead one to believe, and who are not obsessed with always producing a difference between men and women, is profoundly destabilizing. Simply confronting people with the fact that the above assumptions do not apply for everybody, that there are people whose experiences differ vastly from what the discourse of gender itself postulates, should be enough to destabilize it. Genderqueer: Voices from beyond the Gender Binary is an amazing book edited by Joan Nestle and Riki Wilchins that does just this. It features stories from genderqueer, intersex, agender, and Third Gender people that, just by their very existence put the discourse of gender itself to shame. Spreading these stories is definitely the way forward to chipping away at this seemingly hard and intractable discourse.

***For More Information***
Once again, I have no choice but to recommend anything by Judith Butler for more on the discursive aspect of gender. Also, Judith Lorber’s essay “Night to His Day” outlines the imperative of difference (how the semblance of difference must be maintained at all costs) between men and women very well.

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I know CNN has been on a slow decline in terms of "hard hitting journalism," but good lord .... what the heck is going on? Two videos on their site today hardy seem CNN-worthy:

Red Carpet Report: The House Bunny
(Why does CNN even have a red carpet report?)

Britney Spears' new diet!
(complete with nutritional commentary from the correspondent - because clearly she is an expert)

What the hell? Two complete fluff pieces that reinforce extreme heteronormativity.

Now, I love me some Anna Faris. And for some odd reason, I find myself drawn to Girls Next Door when I am channel-surfing and it is on. But I watch the show with a grain of salt. Maybe it does celebrate "women's beauty," but what an odd form of beauty. Plastic, tan, plastic, blonde, plastic .... what are we really honoring? If anything, the plastic surgeons and spa workers should be celebrated.

And Britney. Not only is her weight loss complete fluff news, the coverage is a complete sham. Not one but TWO correspondents chimed in with the CNN reporter (the nutritionist and a VH1 reporter).

But what really gets me is why CNN, what used to be a true news source, feels the need to latch on to this crap. Perhaps I should turn to other sources for true journalism and actual news, but when did CNN become so much like Fox News? Not only is the "news" not really news, and the coverage spotty at best, but the reports .... holy NILFs (newscasters I'd like to [four letter word] ... thanks Daily Show). But that gets into a whole other can of worms. I'll give CNN some credit - at least it's not just the female reporters that are young and attractive. At least they're not pairing hot blondes with crusty old men.

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The Bachelor Pad

Tony looked around my new Bay Area studio apartment.

Wow, this is really coming together.

Candles, paintings, nice furniture, and a layout perfect for entertaining. Lighting to accentuate any and every mood. Yes, it was coming together. But it wasn’t done yet.

I didn’t know you were this gay.

I paused. I decided to take it as a compliment.

Why didn’t your Texas apartment look like this?

Because I let my roommate decorate that apartment. This—this has to be me.

And in asserting my apartment as an extension of me, I realized how much of this was, as Tony pointed out much more bluntly than I ever could, gay. There, showing off my new place, I realized that I hadn’t really counted on my sexuality intersecting with how I created home, but I guess it made sense. Indeed, my gayness played much more into its design than the (awfully good) taste Tony was noticing.

I think it began to hit me as I signed my lease three weeks earlier: OMG. This is my bachelor pad.

I suppose you could dim the lights and cue the seventies porn music. But before we get too far ahead—some background.

I’ve always considered myself pretty independent; as soon as I turned 18, I was out of my parents’ house, but never have I lived alone for an extended amount of time. In college, I had roommates. During summer internships, I leased studios but never furnished them with more than a mattress and a fold-out table and chairs. And in my last apartment, I had an apartmentmate, which afforded both of us the privacy of our own rooms while retaining the collegiate atmosphere of having someone always around. And yes, we decorated it as minimally as possible. It was College Lite.

Now here I am: my own studio. With real furniture. With real privacy. With utilities that will be all mine to pay. Blare the trumpets: My bachelor pad.

And with this awesome realization came responsibility: if this was my mid-twenties bachelor pad, then it had better get pimped out.

I’m not going to lie—I’m picky about furniture and design. Two weeks before I moved into my new apartment, I created potential apartment layouts on my computer; I surfed,, and lots of fancy, nameless European furniture store sites; I even debated color combinations and schemes with friends.

I came to my move-in day prepared—only to be caught off-guard by some ratty red-brown carpet, an old-fashioned yellow oven, plugs that were all two-prong, and JCPenney burlap-looking curtains that couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be the color of copper or dirt. It wasn’t the apartment I remembered when I visited a few weeks before, but then again, the whole thing was furnished… which told me that I was the one who had to turn this place into (music) my bachelor pad.

I found that, in both style and function, my choices had to go through a dating filter. If this was going to be my bachelor pad, then I had better deliver my best first impressions all the time.

In terms of style, nothing could look temporary. I am not a college student. I don’t do posters taped on walls, futons that look like futons, or desks with a reading lamp. No: things had to have a sense of permanence, like I had established myself as a man… after all, that’s who my mates are going to get. This meant more expensive furniture made of darker woods and metals. It meant frosted glass and leather instead of plastic and actual canvassed art instead of whiteboards. There would be no institutional fluorescent lighting—mood lamps and candles at various heights and intensities would create separate spaces out of what would otherwise be a one-room studio. The messaging behind this: I have my shit together, and you’re going to love it. If I had a loft space, it’d be damn sexy; I don’t but this is as close as I can get.

The centerpiece of the new space, a huge bookshelf stacked with photographs, books, DVDs, CDs, board games… things that are all about me. Perfect conversation fodder for dates that somehow make it back home with me.

In terms of function, I had to be comfortable bringing those potential mates to my new digs too. I had to have seats tiny enough to fit my small living area without giving up potential cuddling opportunities. A twin-bed was a no go, even if a studio space blooms with less furniture; I settled for a wide full. And, in lieu of a TV (which I find to be a huge distraction from work and extra bills I could go without), a projector, screen, and sound system made possible the almighty excuse, “Wanna come back to my place and watch a movie?” I even bought a variety of DVDs to suit any suitor.

So now here I am, a gay man in an apparently gay-friendly apartment within reach of the gayest city on earth. I’m sitting on my new sofa with the lights dim and floating to Coldplay’s newest album. There’s a candle lit on the table. I’m writing about my life and pretending it might be interesting to others. It’s sort of like being the male Carrie of Sex and the City… and in a place like San Francisco, I feel like I’ve got no excuses—I’m going to nab me a man.

Then again, it took Carrie six seasons and a movie to nab hers. And while the city was her playground, I think that when my apartment is complete, this place will be mine.

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Helen Boyd joins us from (en)gender:

I was reading over at about casual sex, & read a recent bulletin from GenderPAC about the increase in Purity Balls, & then was mourning over the loss of another trans woman who got beaten to death by a guy who she’d previously given a blowjob to, & it got me thinking.

See, I wasn’t comfortable being a nubile when I was younger. I wasn’t comfortable ever being a nubile, & am still only wont to dress in sexier ways in very safe spaces - like DO, or certain queer/drag/fetish events, or the like. As much as I know it’s never a woman’s fault if she is hurt because of the way she’s dressed, I also had enough contact with non-sexual street violence to be twice as cautious about leaving myself open to any kind of sexual abuse or harassment, much less violence.

Which probably makes me painfully Second Wave, but there you go. I just don’t get it, & I’m never going to get it. I never had good sex that was casual; a long-standing “booty call” type relationship was a little closer to my experience of having good, non-committed sex, and maybe here we’re just defining “casual” in different ways, and the folks over at feministing are talking about the same kind of relationship.

But for young transwomen who are getting killed the stakes are WAY higher. Not that a lifetime of dealing with the trauma of being raped or beaten isn’t enough, but at least you live through it. Stark, but there it is.

What worries me is that women are still defined by being sexual, and in some ways, are sexualising themselves instead of letting men do it. It’s kind of the Hugh Hefner version of feminism; sexually-liberated women means guys get laid more.

That is, I’m not sure it’s a world that women can be safe being sexual in. In fact, I’m pretty sure it isn’t. I’m not sure that encouraging women to be sexual in a world that still denigrates women and blames them for violence directed at them is a good plan. I don’t think Purity Balls are a good plan either; I find them ridiculous and frankly, kind of incestuous in their traditionalism.

I don’t really know what the answer is. I do know that I think young women need to feel more secure before having sex. I know that they need to tell someone where they’re going, & what their date’s name & address are. Trans women especially need to bring a friend the first time they meet a guy, & in a lot of cases, they need to be upfront about being trans *if* they’re going to date guys off the internet.

As usual, I find myself between the two sides of this ongoing argument. On the one hand, I think a lot of women become sexual in order to be sexy, not to be sexual for their own pleasure or their own selves, but for the validation that comes from our culture for it. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with remaining a virgin until you choose to have sex. In either case, I think women are being told too much about the right way to think about sex as a woman: either you’re supposed to be cool & groovy about casual sex or you’re not sufficiently liberated, or you’re a whore for even wanting to have sex without getting married & pregnant.

Be cautious, you beautiful young women. Not all men will respect your sexuality, & it’s worth waiting for one who will.

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Katy Perry’s obnoxiously catchy chart-topping new tune, I Kissed a Girl about lesbian posturing and heteroflexible experimentation has the Entertainment biz buzzing with newfound love for our sometimes Sapphic sisters. Perry is far from the first or the only sultry siren to embrace newfound lesbianism to lubricate the publicity machine. Madonna, Brittany Spears, and Christina Aguilera all locked lips in displays of faux-lesbianism. More recently, Perry is joined by the oft ridiculed and perpetually scrutinized Lindsay Lohan, who has made tabloid and gossip rag covers over her recent alleged relationship with Samantha Ronson.

Now, I will be the first to be critical of Perry’s brazen capitalization of queer women’s identities and lives for her own personal gain, and without getting truly lumped with any of those pesky social disadvantages to actually being queer, like homophobia and discrimination. Perry carefully navigates the subtle line between queer transgression and pandering to heterosexual male voyeurism which I have always found oddly aroused by gratuitous displays of lesbianism. However, for all her vices, could Perry’s one-hit-lesbo-wonder be a benchmark in queer inclusion in popular culture?

The rise in the acceptability or, as some have begun to view, inevitability of heteroflexibility and same-sex experimentation in women has long been a trend easily tracked through the landscape of America’s popular culture. From Sex and the City, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ally McBeal, The L Word, and The Cashmere Mafia, women-on-women action has become more and more commonplace. Granted, the majority of these women tend to be feminine, attractive, young and white (Lucy Liu and Jennifer Beals being obvious exceptions). But with all this acceptance of female heteroflexibility, the examples of bi or heteroflexible male characters is incredibly sparse.

The lone character I can come up with is potentially Bree Van de Camp’s son from Desperate Housewives. And that is quite a stretch, considering how he spent a good deal of time being a sociopathic teen nut job (not that kind of nut job). When venturing into the real world (or as real as the “real world” of entertainment can be) the field becomes much more sparse. Certain headway has definitely been made by the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger, god rest his soul (whose circumstances were eerily preceded by Keanu Reeves and River Pheonix in Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho) for some queering of the straight Hollywood actor.

We’re seeing more male actors stepping up and playing gay roles, not because the roles are gay or to be sensational. But simply because they are good roles. Van Sant’s new film, Milk, a biopic of the legendary first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, stars Sean Penn and James Franco as lovers. As expected the usual obnoxious press circuit questions probing on how gross it must have been to kiss another guy are abundant, but Franco, at least, seems none too shy about discuss his involvement with the work.

In addition to the gay-for-pay actors (i.e. Eric McCormack of Will & Grace) a veritable menagerie of straight-for-pay actors seem to be coming out of the woodwork (i.e. T.R. Knight, Neil Patrick Harris, David Hyde Pierce, and… even Lance Bass). But even with all this headway, we still have yet to see a cultural movement to match the heteroflexible female’s general liberation.

And this brings us back to Lindsay Lohan. Many will be quick to criticize or doubt the validity of any kind of romantic or sexual relationship she might have with Ronson. But I say live and let live. While Lohan is a bit of a hot mess and is fond of stirring the controversy pot, I am glad to see the media’s generally benevolent treatment of their relationship. I’d much rather her swap spit with a girl for publicity than snort coke.

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Social discourse is suffused with claims about gender. People all around the world seem to be addicted to making statements about what men and women are really like. Their gist is familiar: “men are doers/women are talkers; men are domineering/women are passive.” And the list goes on ad nauseam...What is the validity of these claims? Can we really know everything about the lived experience of gender? Can the statements cited above describe something that actually exists?

Gender allegedly governs everything we do: the way we walk, talk, and eat, how we dress, the friends we choose, our sexual partners, and our occupations. Following this logic, we can ‘know’ what all ‘men and women’ really are and we can safely predict their actions and life-choices based on gender identification. Fortunately, this insufferably totalitarian knowledge claim is untenable in light of the polymorphous democracy of lived experience.

There are over 7 billion people on this planet, thousands of different cultures and languages, and hundreds of countries and religions. When we purport to speak on behalf of ‘men’ or ‘women’, we are in fact claiming to speak for at least 4.5 billion exceptionally diverse people that we know next to nothing about. Truly ‘knowing’ someone’s gender would require knowing what they do at all times in their life (since gender allegedly governs everything we do), and since our knowledge of other people is extremely limited (nobody can really know a thousand, let alone a million or a billion people), it is empirically indefensible to claim actual knowledge of what all ‘men’ and ‘women’ really do, think, and want. We simply cannot know this information. And even if we were to do massive, ‘statistically representative’ surveys in which we asked people about their lives, this could never amount to truly ‘knowing’ others because there is much about their thoughts and behavior that people may not reveal, especially in light of the negative sanctions that almost inevitably come with breaking gender norms.

So, if the two gender categories that we use cannot really describe people’s lived realities, what is gender and how can we ‘know it’? How should it be studied, understood, and talked about?

Gender is discourse. While we cannot know gender as people live it, we can know it as an organized system of thought that exists in society and is disseminated through popular culture, conversations, family structure, folklore, art, the media, and literature. We can know the particular gender expectations that people have to live with by studying the culture that they are a part of and the discourses that they encounter in their daily lives. Gender, thus, should not be conceptualized as a grounded identity that necessarily emerges from a person’s experience. Rather, it should be viewed as an expectation and a directive that a person must live up to. Thus, knowledge claims about how men and women really are do not describe anything – rather, they exist as part of a gender discourse that sets expectations for people, telling them how they should live their lives.

The evident gap between ‘lived experience’ and discourse means that knowledge about gender is open to heavy politicization. Indeed, while popular talk about gender purports to describe, it has a primarily prescriptive function, directing people to work towards ‘the right’ kinds of gendered behaviors. Thus, it represents knowledge functioning as power; knowledge that is directed towards forming people’s identities, lives and behaviors in a particular direction. It would be wrong to interpret assertions about what men and women really are as empirically-false-but-innocuous prattle. Instead, these assertions are highly political and work carefully to define the nexus of oppressive ‘gender appropriate’ identities and behaviors that people must work so strenuously to uphold and which they are punished (both mildly and brutally) for not adhering to.

Overall, while claims about all ‘men’ and ‘women’ are obviously empirically indefensible, they exercise a hegemonic and dangerously prescriptive role. When confronted with such totalitarian knowledge claims, the most we can do is to ‘deconstruct’ them by pointing out the (endless) stream of counter-examples and by showing that generalizations about men and women have the effect of erasing, invalidating and denigrating the experiences of countless numbers of people. Yes, there are men who do interior decoration, women who fuck their husbands with strapons, and people who do not accept the gender binary. A simple, but effective, example of this method is provided in the book Deconstructing Tyrone. Its authors, Hopkinson and Moore, debunk dominant stereotypes of black men by simply providing counter-examples. This is a useful and easy way of contributing to gender-freedom and progress.

***For More Information***
Arguments about the discursive aspect of gender have become commonplace in feminist circles. For the most convincing ones, check out Gender Trouble or Undoing Gender by Judith Butler. If you would like to view the opposite argument, see Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, by ‘Doctor’ John Gray. For a direct rebuke of Gray’s arguments, have a look at Deborah Cameron’s The Myth of Mars and Venus. But if you’re looking for an especially derisive critique, see ‘The Rebuttal from Uranus’. More on the knowledge-power nexus can be found in all the works of Michel Foucault.

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My husband and I were recently discussing why among our group of (straight) friends, it's fine when all of us go to a (straight) (female) strip club, yet we would never dream to go to a gay or male strip club. So why is it OK for everyone to get lap dances from women, but not men? When did it become so acceptable for women to appreciate other women in that way? And why hasn't the equivalent from straight men caught on?

Andy Newman in the New York Times reports on a study about women's sexuality. (I'm a little late on this as I only saw the coverage yesterday on Basically, women's sexuality exists on a continuum. Most women appreciate naked females over naked males. But really, it's about what they are doing. Naked active people are more arousing that naked non-active people. What?

Regardless of the research (because you know it'll just be disproved next month), what is the deal with this acceptable sometimes-I'm-bi trend going on with women?

I'm no scientist, or sociologist, but I don't think it's too hard to see why. American culture treats the female form like an object. That's nothing new. But why are we surprised that after years of seeing women's bodies as objects in the media through commercials, advertising, television, film, and other forms of marketing, and being told that women's bodies are these beautiful, amazing objects .... why are we surprised that everyone, male or female, is turned on by the female form? I see the same commercials that are aimed at men, and lots of advertising directed at both men and women uses this so-beautiful-they-must-be-airbrushed women. After seeing image after image of that, and the constant association of that being "beautiful" and "sexy", is it any wonder that it starts to seep in, regardless of gender?

Interstingly, today on, is an article titled "Why I Hate Beauty." The premise being "Men are barraged by images of unobtainable women in the media, making it difficult for them to desire the ordinarily beautiful." Interesting. Even men are getting fed up with these impossible beauty standards.

Frankly, I'd like all this creative energy that goes into marketing to come up with something else. Every time I see advertising with some impossibly beautiful woman, it almost goes unnoticed, because it's nothing new. Seriously, what else do they have? Is that the only idea these thousands of ad agencies can come up with?

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I’m a nerd. Always have been, always will be. Some of my earliest memories are of playing video games, Magic: The Gathering, MUDs, and Dungeons and Dragons between bouts of ing to rape you”. I’ve seen people with user names such as “TheRapist” and “I_Rape” act as if nothing was the matter. The majority of these people are younger than myself – they are children. So what is wrong? What is happening on the internet? Society at large is totally unaware of the breeding ground for prejudice that online gaming is. It is the dark underbelly of years of socialized hate. For every news report blaming the country’s economic state on “illegal” Mexican women having too many children there is a 12 year old white boy on the internet making a joke about raping those same women.

As all forms of prejudice the use of rape is highly pervasive. It’s gained an almost revered status in the modern hall of online prejudice along with the term gay. Apparently, when approaching a certain level of usage a word can totally lose its actual meaning and change definition. This can actually happen as language develops, but when based off of prejudice these are not developments at all: they are denials of reality. Gay means homosexual, it does not mean stupid or annoying just as rape means to sexually assault someone against their will and not to win a game.

From outside looking in it makes total sense: the people using this word are almost all boys, they are the same boys who think gay jokes are funny, who make sexist jokes, and most of them are white racists. They hate immigrants, arabs, and black people. A lot of them are Christians or are ex-Christians who are nihilistic and apathetic. They are, simply, a scarily large portion of the youth of America . However, the use of the word rape in this context has become so commonplace that it is going beyond the minds of the average American degenerate. Will it become as main stream as gay? Will junior high kids be walking around saying they raped their test? It already happens a small amount but I can only hope it doesn't spread.

I recently found a friend of mine using it repeatedly while in games. Over the months of him occasionally using it I repeatedly asked him not to. The other night we got into another argument about it after he said that he had been raped the previous game. We stopped playing because of the arguing and soon after I received an e-mail from him. Here is the e-mail:

“I understand that some things were said and done tonight during *******. I
just wanted you to know that you're 100% wrong.

Raped, as defined by, and as used for as long as it's been
a word, and probably longer than it's been used to describe the crime of
forcibly having sex with someone, means:

an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the
rape of the countryside
the act of seizing and carrying off by force,
to plunder (a place); despoil,
to seize, take, or carry off by force.

So to clarify, during our game, I was repeatedly raped by the [other players]
and our team was raped by the [other players] and ultimately we lost the game as
[our team] was raped into disrepair.

Hopefully that clears up any misunderstandings on your end, say, your misunderstanding that I was actually saying that I was forced either physically or through duress to have sexual intercourse with someone.”

He said later after we talked more that the e-mail was meant to be over the top. Of course, he still agrees with everything he said, which in of itself is laughably idiotic and ignorant. Frankly, I didn’t know how to respond to him. That someone in their mid 20s, who is well educated and in graduate school could be so ignorant of language, sociology, psychology, feminism, gender, history, and of how we as human beings work is unbelievable. His e-mail is a fictional explanation that allows him to justify using patriarchal language to himself. It has no basis in reality whatsoever – it’s just an excuse. I told him to tell his girlfriend, the next time he beat her in a board game or a card game, that he raped her and see how she responds. He doesn’t plan on doing it.

And that speaks to the role of the internet – what lurks in our minds that can be said in anonymity? What do white people only say to other white people? Men to other men? When in online games the subconscious assumption is that all players are white heterosexual men and so anything goes. The internet truly is a window into the subconscious hate that American society thrives on. We hate ourselves and we hate all of you.

The fact that millions of times a day people – mainly young boys – on the internet are making light of the term rape speaks to something truly wrong with the deep down essence of who we are as men in America. It all boils down to gender and patriarchy. Online gaming is one more notch in man’s belt of hatred along with the boy’s locker room, the military, men’s clubs, etc. All people can be a victim of rape, it is one of the most consistently under-addressed, under-treated, and wholly ignored problems of the world. It is fitting that it would be mocked incessantly in our most anonymous sphere of society.

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When we figured out, sometime after 2:30am, that your car had gotten towed, I didn’t hesitate at all: I would help you get your car back that night if it were possible. In retrospect, it may have seemed like I was just being polite or nice, but I think I was being purposeful—I have a habit of trying to impress people I like with favors or, at times (albeit unproudly), with materialism. I hate it because it reminds me of the way I understood my parents’ love for me—through unconditional favors and obligatory payments in goods. I want to believe that there are more genuine and personal ways of showing people that you care.

I suppose, however, that staying out until 4:30am to unsuccessfully get your car back from a tow lot demonstrates some sort of care… though I’m pretty sure your interpretation of “I’m a nice guy who you should take an interest in” might’ve been “Gee, he’s being really nice about this.” And that’s that.

Over the next few days, at least two of my friends noticed, at the very least, the appearance of something going on. We were seen together a lot—chatting, having drinks, etc. I think had we been anyone else, this would’ve read to others that we were simply two friends. The context clues that pushed their suspicions to the next level: we barely knew each other and all of the sudden we were hanging out; there was a lot of giggling; and we were the only two gay guys left at our summer work. 1+1= too obvious, according to them.

And their flags raised my own; things didn’t quite add up to me. It was as if you were vibing with my attempts to be impress you—and you were returning the attention: you were touchy. You called. You found ways for it to be just you and me. Though you hadn’t really known me too well, you always seemed open—even eager for some time—to hang out. I knew you were dating someone, but why, then, would he make up such a small part of your time during the last part of the summer? (A projection of mine, I’m sure: if I were dating someone, I’d be wanting to see them as much as possible.) Whether this extra attention was flirtatious or simply friendly, though, I couldn’t tell. I really couldn’t tell what your intentions were when, after seeing him for a bit, you called me at 11:45pm to call you when I got back to the hotel… and when I called you at 12:30am expecting you to want to hang out in a more public common space, you invited me to meet you in your room.

You’ve got to understand how that might’ve read to me. Especially in the moments afterward, when tipsily, I took the elevator to your floor, knocked on your door, you said hey, and then motioned me to sit on your bed. And influenced by too many mojitos, jack and cokes, and beers, I decided to get touchy-feely myself and lean on your leg as we talked. And you didn’t shake me off or even attempt to create distance. For almost an hour. Maybe this was a projection on your part—people get touchy-feely when they’ve had a few to drink, and it means nothing. The projection on my part: I only get close if I want to be close. It’s possible that we were both reading the situation two completely different ways. It’s also possible that we were both in the same page but didn’t do anything about it. It was all so uncertain.

Eventually, closer to 2:30am again, I went to my own room, half-kicking myself that nothing happened, half-lauding myself for respecting your boundaries.

And no sooner than I had signed online to check my email did I receive a g-chat message from you. I, apparently, in some pure coincidence (I swear), had left my phone in your room. You were going to bring it to my room. It was as if I were granted some sort of second opportunity to redeem myself, assert my control over the situation, get my balls in check, and make a move.

You knocked on my door. You closed the door behind you. (You could’ve just handed me the phone at the door.) You came inside for a bit. We chatted. You handed me my phone. We chatted. You left.

Nothing. And again, I found myself half-kicking myself that nothing happened, half-lauding myself for respecting your boundaries.

And the next morning, we said goodbye. Just as uncertainly—almost as unceremoniously—as things began.

Only you left an opening. You said you had never been to the Bay Area before. And I was moving there. You had some time before your next big venture. You would come visit.

Yes! I offered. That would be so much fun, I thought, half-knowing that promises to visit were riddled with the hassle and unpredictability of planning and expenses.

But you pulled through. About two weeks ago, you booked your tickets. You’re staying for six nights. And I’m going to be excited to see you.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m going to pretend nothing ever happened; I’m going to start from scratch. Because who am I to say I even really knew you in those last few days of summer? Because what else can I expect from a little visit? Because, last I heard, you were still very much interested in your other male friend. Because I was, at the most, on the periphery of the picture to begin with, and over the course of the month and a half between our goodbye and your visit, I could—heck, you could—fade out past the picture frame and into, really, nothingness. You were a great new friend accelerating your way to new labels, but time and distance have put the brakes on. When we see each other in a month, maybe the propellant will resurface; maybe there will be no chemistry at all.

In the end, I’ve decided that sparks—uncertain as they may be—are exactly as they are in science— in-the-moment flashes, completely temporary and minute in the scheme of things. Though I still think fondly of past flirtations because they’re fun and they’re with fun people and they’re definitely worth writing about, the moment has passed. And that, thank goodness, is something I can be certain about.

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A way belated (but much celebrated) welcome to gendergypsy, and big cheers for new writers thatspiritualguide and ambisextrous!


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I just got back from a workshop entitled, "Indigenous Solidarity 101". The description promised a safe space where non-indigenous allies could begin to open up a discussion regarding decolonization. While it wasn't clear in the description who would be facilitating the workshop, I figured I'd go anyway, but go with an open mind (and a few grains of salt, just in case).

To be frank, I have had little to no experience working on indigenous issues. However, I have been peripherally involved in this work. It's difficult to talk too much about this without compromising my anonymity so I won't go into much detail, but I do want to mention that I'm not new to the practice of debunking whiteness and understanding my position as a colonizer/white settler in "canada", a nation-state whose borders seem to be more and more arbitrary as I continue this process.

Being that I often enter these kinds of conversations with my back up, I can only imagine what it must have been like for the people of colour who were present, and in particular, the single individual who self-identified as indigenous (and, importantly, as an indigenous-setter; that is, she explained, one who is indigenous but not to the territory she was currently on).

I'm not sure at what point the atmosphere in the room became tense. The tone was definitely set for awkward/difficult interaction when our facilitator self-identified as a white ally (also notably able-bodied and male). I think it must have thickened when the remark was made by a white woman of Italian ancestry that while she didn't feel the recent apology made by Stephen Harper regarding the residential school system in canada was sufficient, she also sensed that she was supposed to feel blame for "...a system [she] didn't create as a second generation immigrant".

Not surprisingly, many of the people of colour in the room (and white people, though admittedly, not until after the issue was raised by POC first) reacted negatively to this. The space, which was supposed to be anti-racist (and anti-oppressive in general) started to become hostile. My friend, who identifies as South Asian-canadian , commented that she was starting to feel extremely unsafe and that she was not going to "yet again teach white people about their guilt". I completely and totally empathize with her position (I too was feeling upset/uncomfortable with this woman's comments). And it also got me thinking. This was a workshop about indigenous solidarity run by a white man, without any indigenous people helping to run it, and up until this point, was deemed pretty "okay" by the participants in the group. However, once my friend brought up the fact that she was feeling unsafe and that this wasn't the place for white people to work through their guilt, I started to wonder whether it was possible to "do" solidarity without also doing harm.

Let me clarify -- I am completely sympathetic to my friend's position, and really, REALLY don't ascribe to the belief that it's anyone but the person in the position of power's job to do any kind of educating about privilege. However, I am wondering how as a white person it is possible to unpack my privilege in a way that doesn't recreate an imbalance of power. This is a tricky subject, one that to a certain extent I even feel uncomfortable delving into in this forum, despite the fact that I am writing under a pseudonym. Still, I think it's a conversation that needs to happen in any community that claims to be anti-racist (and in all communities, really).

It's a conversation that's brewing in the feminist blogosphere recently. Something I have noticed, however, is that it seems to be only happening in a reactionary way. Over at the Livejournal community "feminist", (which has a reputation for being more than a little unfriendly to POC) "solidarity" -- or, what white people believe to be acting in solidarity -- is something that seems to be almost a weekly struggle that even the community moderators have been implicated in. How and where do white allies unlearn privilege? Is there merit to having ally-only spaces for this unlearning so that broader communities don't become dangerous for POC? Is it imperative that people of colour are part of white people working through the process of building anti-racist solidarity, or is there some unlearning that needs to happen within communities of white people first? Is this unlearning impossible without "minority consultation", so to speak, and the missteps that may, although painful, be productive results of these interactions? Does characterizing this as a "misstep" trivialize the very real racism happening in these spaces? And what of the idea of "consultation"? Does it simply serve to recreate an uneven power dynamic where people of colour must put themselves in difficult and potentially painful situations for the sake of educating white people about shit they should already know? Or is it actually an empowering thing, where whites are put in their places? Is it both?

When I was writing this, after that last paragraph I wrote a note to myself in the margin that said, "FACE MELT/BRAIN EXPLODE". I guess in other words that means, "Am I looking for answers where there are none?". I'm not sure I have any yet and clearly this is not something that will be solved overnight. But I do feel that it's vital that in opening up these kinds of dialogues, we do it in such a way that doesn't a) alienate or do violence to people of colour and/or b) alienate white people that really do want to unpack their privilege, or as was discussed in the indigenous solidarity workshop, "use it wisely" -- that is, to recognize when to step back, and when to step up.

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