Friday, July 31, 2009

Performing gender

It's hot during the summer. (Duh.) Since I spend a good portion of the day in a "professional" office environment and shorts are considered too casual (so far), that means I wear a lot of skirts. I don't mind this at all - skirts can be very comfortable, and a nice breeze in the crotch region can be very refreshing!

Anyway, one thing I've noticed is that, in conjunction with wearing traditionally feminine clothes more, I also perform other aspects of femininity more - specifically wearing makeup - when I'm dressed for my internship. (When I'm just doing whatever, I don't bother.) Normally I don't wear any makeup at all, save for a couple dots of concealer if I've got blemishes. However, over the summer I've fallen in love with eyeshadow. I've got several different palettes now in varying colors - some subdued, others more outré - and one of my most enjoyable parts of my morning routine is picking my eyeshadow for the day and applying it.

I think some of it has to do with the fact that I bought actual brushes for applying it - instead of just the little sponge wand that comes with the compact. Something about using brushes makes it all seem more theatrical, which I think is a lot of the appeal. I love acting and performing, taking on different roles, and makeup can be a part of that; when I put it on, I'm playing the role of Young Professional - or perhaps Funky Clubber, if I'm going out to the bar. These are characters written by society, but I can take these roles, examine them, adopt them, and play with my own interpretation of them.

No doubt this also has to do with why I love drag - again, I'm playing with gender performance, just with the gender I usually don't identify with. I get a thrill out of adopting an appearance and mannerisms that are relatively foreign to me and seeing if I can perform them to others' satisfaction. Do I make a convincing guy? (I've been told I make an attractive guy, which is a start.) Do I want to pass completely, or do I want to just confuse people because it's fun? It depends on my mood, really; again, I adopt the masculine roles to suit my fancy in that particular instance.

Later I'll make a post about drag kings vs. drag queens vs. cross-dressers, if I remember.

Friday, July 24, 2009


So. We've got this comic, which I'm guessing (from the language used) was made by an anti-BDSM radfem. Hm. Two reactions:

1) That third panel makes me cringe. If there's one thing that I've learned from intersectionalist analysis, it's that comparing one form of oppression to another (as in, "X oppression is just like Y!") is almost always problematic. And this particular example strikes me as less satirical and more... straight-up racist. I dunno - there's something about the use of a blackface character (in front of a black background, no less) with a "U.S.S. Kinky" hat talking in a stereotypical "darkie" accent that... it seems as though the creator of this comic doesn't really care about fighting racism and instead is just using provocative imagery to vilify BDSM. Because comparing kink to blackface? Really? Really?!

2) In the very next panel, the first sailor points out he can't help that he's turned on by women in bondage, while the second sailor (i.e. the mouthpiece for the creator) pontificates at length about how "this stuff" (I'm assuming he/the author means bondage porn) promotes violence against women at the expense of love and intimacy ("though there's nothing wrong with erotica," of course*). Meanwhile, Wonder Woman, who's hog-tied, says, "Hey guys! I think my feet are falling asleep!" But, of course, she's ignored.

I think this particular panel neatly encapsulates a lot of debate over BDSM (and porn, and basically any type of sex work, too). On the one hand, you've got the average consumer, who says, "I like what I like! Besides, I love women!" On the other hand, you've got the mostly radfem types who pontificate at length about how BDSM/porn/sex work/all of the above degrades all women, full stop. And the women actually involved in BDSM/porn/sex work/all of the above, who have the most to contribute to the conversation, are ignored by both sides.

But I don't think that's the point the author wanted to make.


*How does that old saying, go again? Something along the lines of, "What I like is erotica and is beautiful; what you like is pornography and is disgusting."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Public Enemies

I saw Public Enemies this weekend, and I have two main reactions to it (relevant to this blog, anyway):

1) I found John Dillinger and Billie Frechette's relationship to be really... problematic at first. The one scene I'm thinking of in particular is when he visits her at her job as a coat checker; he's mad at her for leaving without him the night (or maybe a few nights; can't remember) before, and wants to convince her to come with him.

Now, remember that they've only met once before. But he explicitly says that she's his girl and she's coming with him. She protests of course, saying she's not anyone's girl. Meanwhile, a customer is getting irritated that Billie is arguing with John instead of doing her job and starts making snarky remarks to that effect. John gets annoyed with the customer, beats him upside the head, and grabs Billie's coat, ordering her to come with him.

Okay. She knows that he's a criminal who's killed several people. She just saw him assault a random stranger just because he got annoyed. And now he's ordering her to come with him. Shit, I wouldn't be surprised if she was too scared to protest! Given his actions toward her, it's very reasonable to think he'd hurt or kill her if she didn't do what he said!

But we're supposed to believe that no, no, she truly deeply loves him (and he truly deeply loves her) and they're a match made in heaven. :/

2) After Billie is arrested, she's tortured by one of the police in an attempt to learn where Dillinger is. She's handcuffed to a chair, verbally abused and threatened, slapped, and even hit with (what looks like) a phone book at one point. They leave her chained to the chair for so long that she wets herself, and when Melvin Purvis finally rescues her, she so weak that she can't walk; he has to carry her through the crowd of people to the bathroom so she can clean herself up.

As I watched that scene, her dress soaked as she clung to Purvis's neck, all I could think was, She must be so embarrassed. And I felt my heart beat faster and my body tense up, and I realized that I wanted to feel that embarrassment... kind of.

I imagined the intense conflict running through Billie's mind. On the one hand, I imagined, she was grateful that someone was finally helping her. On the other hand, she was ashamed that she was caught in such a powerless condition - that she even needed help walking down the hall. And then there'd be her pride; she wouldn't want everyone to see her reduced in this way, but there was no way she could avoid having all those people see her.

It's that conflict that I wanted - to know that something needs to be done but one's sense of pride or whatever screams "no."

But if Master and I work with this in future play sessions, we'll have to be really careful. How do we avoid going over the edge into genuine nonconsent? How can we make sure that we both truly enjoy the event, while still capturing that pull of wills, pride against pragmatism, that grabs my guts and makes me gasp?

What activities could we do? Perhaps a role-play of a similar scenario, where Master interrogates me for information. I enjoyed the mild embarrassment and sense of helplessness when we used an enema; that might be worth pursuing. Obviously nothing as extreme as what was depicted in the movies; I don't actually want to be beaten until my face is swollen, and I'm ambivalent about wetting myself. It'll all have to be carefully negotiated before we try anything.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm all alone...

I looked up bisexual and lesbian groups in my area... they all seem to be defunct.

Le sad. :(

Saturday, July 11, 2009

King of the World

Lately I've been thinking a lot about gender play. I've participated in my college's drag show a couple times and have played male roles in theater, and I've always had a blast doing so. Recently I've been getting the itch to grab some ace bandages and do it again.

I think part of it is because I'm apart from Master - in fact, I know it is. Master makes me feel very feminine; the heterosexuality of our relationship is undeniable, even though I'm not straight and we're far from a normal couple. I feel strange - uncomfortable - whenever I interact with Master while I'm in drag; kitten is not masculine, and it seems dishonest to act so around Master even in an non-sexual context. (Though, interestingly, the one time I've seen Master in drag (he was Nurse Joker for Halloween) I thought he looked absolutely incredible.)

But left to my own devices, I tend to be more androgynous. I've been mistaken for a man before (though that's rare), and - as mentioned above - I love cross-dressing in non-sexual contexts. I've also had male/masculine sexual fantasies before, too. They were mostly when I was first realizing my bisexual identity - I'd have fantasies of fucking my female crushes as a man - and once I became secure in my sexual identity they fell by the wayside.

So maybe this is an upside to Master being gone this next year - I can explore my masculine/androgynous side more easily. I'll be in the drag show again, of course, and maybe I'll look into performing drag after college too. When I told a friend of mine that I'd counter the girliness of my townhouse (it'll be all-women next year instead of the usual 50/50 split) by cross-dressing, I was only half-joking. Maybe I'll talk to Lupa about doing some gender-play with her.

We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I'm out-of-state for the summer, living with extended family. I only see them once every handful of years, so we're not terribly close. To be very blunt, I don't have any friends here.

It's like I was floating around in a little bubble of isolation - serene, calm, content with the everyday, superficial interaction with people at work, on the train, whatever. At home I had the forced familiarity of roommates, mixed with the forced familiarity of family relation.

Then I met this guy during a Fourth of July festival. We started talking and walked around the main drag after the fireworks before exchanging numbers and going our separate ways. I told Master about it, and he seemed amused more than anything.

But I've been all out of sorts. Having been faced with the possibility of an actual friend - the first one in over a month - I'm all a-fluster. I don't know what to do! I've never made friends outside of an academic context. I don't know how this whole "calling back" thing works. Add to this that I have a boyfriend I should tell the person about, which I also don't know how to do politely/effectively and don't even have the resources of mainstream society to learn from.

But I do really want a friend. My bubble's been popped; I'm no longer insulated against the sting of loneliness. Nggggh.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Well, I know what I won't be watching this summer

The most recent Gerard Butler "romantic" "comedy" is called The Ugly Truth.

At one point in the trailer, while giving advice to Katherine Heigl's character, Butler's character says, "You have to be two people: the librarian and the stripper."


Librarian: connotations of primness, propriety, "bookishness," intellectualism, prudishness, etc.

Stripper: connotations of sexiness, promiscuity, sexual experience, etc.

So you have to be... both a virgin... and a whore!



You know, watching the trailer for this movie, I can honestly say I've never seen a mainstream movie that more explicitly moralizes against feminist ideas. I mean, it literally says that men are nothing but sex-hungry, ravenous beasts (wow... who knew that anti-feminism was also so anti-male) and that any career woman who demands such outlandish things as a man who respects her for her intelligence and success should just shut up because that's not gonna happen anytime soon, amirite? And would it kill them to show more cleavage once in a while? GAWD.

Excuse me for a moment. *grabs a case of dynamite and a bus ticket to Hollywood*

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Off-the-cuff response to a recent "scientific" study

A local news station did a segment on a study conducted recently on what men and women perceive as "attractive" in the opposite sex. To their credit, they included a wide range of ages for both sexes - I think it was from mid-twenties to late sixties.

Ignoring the heteronormativity of the study for a moment (did they ensure that those surveyed were actually attracted to the opposite sex, or did they just assume it?), there were several things problematic with it.

First, it found that men were attracted to women who are young and "beautiful." As the news anchor said, "duh." But wait a minute - what do they mean by "beautiful"? Are we going by the scientists' standard, or the standard of society at large or what?

This fuzzy terminology is made more problematic because the study claims that men have a narrower perception of attractiveness than women, who were all over the place (cuz who knows what women want, amirite?). But depending on how you're defining "beautiful," you could include a very large or very small portion of the population.

Could it be that hetero men are afforded a wider definition of "beautiful" than women because of their priveleged position in society? A narrow definition of "beautiful" is one more way to control women - you must adhere to this unreasonable standard to be accepted in society, and since few to no women can meet that standard, society is justified in giving them the shaft, etc etc. This is a pretty basic idea in feminism.

Conversely - could it be that, because women are assumed to be "non-visually" stimulated, society has focused less on what women find visually attractive and therefore women have been given more freedom to develop their tastes without societal pressure? Think about it - there's really only one type of woman that's portrayed as "attractive" in mass media: thin, white, young, large-breasted, etc. If that's the only option that men are given, then of course that's what they're going to find attractive; to be attracted to (or admit being attracted to, at least) anything else is to be labeled a deviant, a weirdo, a freak, what have you.

The study concluded that men (the poor dears) would have a harder time finding a "mate" (their word) because there would be higher competition for fewer women.

And yet it seems that hetero and bisexual men across America have no problem falling deeply, passionately, head-over-heels in love with all types of women - large, small, black, white, brown, able-bodied, disabled, you name it. Isn't that something to be considered?