Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Fashion Statement (and much more)

Some feminists are of the opinion that you can't be a "true" feminist unless you're a woman (otherwise, at best, you can be an "ally"). And some people (some of whom may be feminists) hold the belief that "transwomen" don't qualify as "true" women. On the contrary, I believe that persons who have had some transgender experience are in the best position to be feminists (if they so choose). After all, they've experienced, to some extent, what it's like both to be a woman and to be a man, and are thus uniquely capable of noting the differences. But then again, I am not a "traditional" feminist - I am a post-feminist and a trans-feminist and a member of the Male-Female Alliance.

Switching gears a little bit into the realm of fashion, I feel I ought to temper the following discussion with a little disclaimer. Obviously, regardless of what's common or how it's expected for the different sexes to dress, people do generally have the option of wearing what they like. There are, however, certain situations where that freedom of choice is reduced in one way or another, such as the one that has caused me no end of anxiety: the one regarding acceptable public swimming pool attire.

As I lamented last year, and then again earlier this season, the local swimming pool where I live has somewhat sexist rules regarding proper swim attire for men and for women (and I have a strong suspicion that this is endemic to the culture as a whole). Whereas the women are allowed to wear very skimpy bikinis (so long as they are not thongs), men are prohibited from wearing "speedo" or brief-type swimsuits. Well, now, I have finally had a chance to visit the swimming pool, and I'm happy to report that I was not kicked out for wearing "the black suit" (my most modest compromise) - at least not the first time - although I did get several looks and a few offhand comments, which were probably as much due to my femininity (and the fact that I was not wearing a "top", as most men do not) as to the rarity of a man wearing a small, form-fitting swimsuit (the novelty of which must not be downplayed).

The experience did, however, open my eyes to the sheer splendor of sights on display. Far more girls than I expected - and much of them of the younger variety - were preening in very skimpy swimsuits (and many of them skimpier than I would have imagined), as I had but unrealistically (I thought!) hoped for. It raised many questions in my mind, of the sociological and sexological variety, about the sexual attitudes of the people in this community, which are, on the whole, of a lower educational stratum than the one in which I myself was raised.

Now, if it were true (and I'm not certain that it is, however I may suspect it), that these people are generally more conservative and less progressive on social issues - such as feminism, gay rights, and things of that sort - then their more relaxed attitudes toward human sexuality (as would be predicted by Kinsey's research) more than make up for it! I would not trade anything in the world for the kind of stuck-up, prudish, ultra-modest, abstinence-positive, "holy purity" views that seem stereotypically to be more common among the higher educated groups (ironically), if it means more censorship and less of a chance to appreciate the erotic beauty of the human body.

On a semi-related note, I was thinking recently how ridiculous it sounds when feminists of a certain stripe go on about "sexualized" portrayals of women. Like, as if "sexualization" wasn't a natural process that every woman (and man) undergoes during adolescence. It's called puberty. You have to be really out of touch with your own sexuality and the sexuality of the human organism in general to think that the way different people (and the different sexes, in particular) relate to each other sexually is some unnatural and abhorrent side-effect (or main effect) of the patriarchal oppression of women. We can talk about the different ways that men relate to women sexually, and how some of them may be problematic, but if your platform is that men depicting or considering women in a way that emphasizes their sexual desirability is problematic, then you're on your own.

And another thing. I know this approaches the realm of the taboo - though it really should not, and the fact that it does says much about our neurotic and diseased attitudes on sexuality - but it is as clear as day to me that young women in their teenage years are not one iota less attractive than women in their twenties or thirties or older. Which is not to disparage the sexual value of an older (and often more experienced) woman - and I know very well that different people have different tastes when it comes to sexual partners, not to mention the importance of other qualities than the purely superficial (I say) - but if a man (or any person, really) is sexually attracted to the human female, and dares to say (whether for political correctness or to save his own ass or what) that teenage girls (generally speaking) are not exceptionally beautiful and attractive creatures, I fully believe that his tongue should be cut out for lying, and his eyes should be gouged with a hot knife, because they obviously aren't functioning properly. Usually I'm for the freedom of speech, but on this case there is so much insidious speech touting the opposite, that I'm just plain fed up.

In any case, the kind of sexual "license" that the lower classes may express is not itself unproblematic. There are issues such as teenage pregnancy and transmission of disease - which I suspect were strong motivators for the upper classes to push abstinence and sexual purity - and then there is also the matter of moral conservatism. As Kinsey found, the lower classes' freer approach to sexual intercourse is often accompanied by a fear and paranoia of less "traditional" sex acts such as masturbation, or nontraditional couplings (a glaringly obvious example being homosexuality). But this demonstrates, to me, that neither end of the spectrum has grasped a holistic and sex-positive approach. It is possible to be sexually liberated and sexually responsible (I offer my own life experience as evidence of that), but it requires the intelligence of the higher educational classes and the frank acceptance of human sexual behavior exhibited in the lower classes. I don't know what hope there is for raising the intelligence of the poor, but I'd think the better educated groups would be in a better position to reject the dogma of sex negative feminism and religion, but that remains to be seen.

I apologize, but I am prone to run off on tangents. (And this weekend's "stimulating" experience has got my brain running a mile a minute). Let's get back to the real point of this post - the fashion statement I wanted to make. I really wanted to use my photography to make the following point, but models are a bit beyond my reach right now, and I didn't feel confident doing another lame clone shot. So I used eLouai's doll maker instead. The point I wanted to make was the glaringly obvious difference between men and women's fashion at the swimming pool. True, I've gone on about this at length in the past, but it really is startling when it's staring you in the face - and so I wanted to use some images to demonstrate that. Meet Jack and Jill:


Can you see where this is going?


Reiterating what I implied in my disclaimer above, women have a lot more options for swimwear than men - and they don't have to wear a body-baring bikini if they don't want to. Fact is, a lot of women (and girls) do, and many seem to be pretty happy about it. I think that's great. I'm not in with the "sexualization" crowd. I don't think it's evidence of women being oppressed, I think it's evidence of women being the sexual organisms they were meant to be. But there is some very real sexism going on here, and it's the fact that men are not similarly expected to be haunches of meat for the objectifying gaze of women (or gay men).

But the most infuriating detail is not simply that men wearing skimpy swimsuits is not as common as women wearing skimpy swimsuits, but the fact that, while women are expected to wear skimpy swimsuits, men who choose to wear skimpy swimsuits are not simply accepted as outliers, but are mocked and ridiculed - and in many places actually restricted from doing exactly as the women are expected to do. You think the above picture is in any way, shape, or form balanced? I think this next picture represents a much better vision of sexual equality:


And I'm prepared to do what it takes (if I can figure out what that is) to make it the new reality. Because I tell you, living in this fucked up world is slowly driving me insane.

"Insanity is the only sane reaction to an insane world."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Gender, and Attraction

As I have stated before (and I guess it's significant that I still feel this way), I have mixed feelings about the value and purpose of "gender" in our social interactions as a society. To begin with - like many black and white concepts that people take for granted (like art, or porn) - gender is incredibly difficult to define. It is my hope that progressive attitudes re: feminism and gay rights is evolving society's understanding of gender and demonstrating how nebulous a concept it is. And as a person with experience and an identity that could be considered to be under the umbrella of "transgender", I think that gender stereotypes and expectations are toxic and damaging, and I support growing acceptance for people who flout the gendered conventions of our society (especially men, whose gender experimentations are usually less tolerated than women's, due to prevailing attitudes of sexism in our culture, that are directed toward women and anything they're associated with).

Truthfully, the very nebulous nature of the concept of gender is evidence to support its abolishment. We make a distinction between males and females in our species because there is a very real and scientific difference between the two. But that is sex, which is independent of gender. So what, then, is gender? I think that it is more psychological, but also more cultural. Indeed, there are countless gendered qualities that are nothing short of arbitrary, and if you poll different cultures in different time periods, you'll find that what is considered to be "masculine" or "feminine" varies wildly. A lot of it depends on cultural traditions - women are expected to be one way (the caretakers and homemakers), and men another (the soldiers and breadwinners). But what value do these traditions have in a "post-gendered" world where women are allowed to be soldiers, and men are allowed to be homemakers?

I don't know to what extent these differences were inspired by real biological differences in the sexes. Certainly, there are some qualities that suggest - whether or not this is indeed the case - a biological trigger, such as aggression or sensitivity. But even if that turned out to be true (and I'm not sure that it is), there are still exceptions, even biologically, and they deserve acceptance as much as anyone who fits the stereotype. But then you have these gendered attributes that are so totally arbitrary that it's obvious. Why should girls like the color pink, and boys blue? Why should it be verboten for a man to wear a skirt and paint his face when men have traditionally done so in other cultures throughout history? Except that this is just the way we're used to it being.

The reason I have mixed feelings about gender is because, as much as I want to break down the barrier between the genders, I also find that I am very strongly attracted to the notion of femininity. Of course, that begs a number of questions. Am I attracted to femininity simply because it's associated with the sex I'm attracted to? Would I be attracted to different qualities if I lived in a different culture where different things were associated with women? The truth is, I am not very attracted to women who express masculine characteristics. And while I find men with feminine characteristics to be far more attractive than those with masculine characteristics (because they are closer to the feminine women I am attracted to), I am still not especially attracted to them in any strong way because they are, physically speaking, men and not women.

But the thing is, there is something about femininity that I find very appealing. It's like the icing on the cake. Put icing on a loaf of bread, and you can make it more superficially appealing to my sensibilities, even if it is ultimately still a loaf of bread. And a cake without icing is lacking some of its significant charm. But a cake with icing is just divine. Now, the question is, if we abolished expectations of each gender's attributes, what effect will that have on my attraction to the gender female? If short skirts and shaved legs, for example, were as common on men as on women, would that change the way I feel about them at all? I wasn't sure, but thinking about it now, I don't know that it would. But that's a quality that emphasizes the body, and the body is something physical that I am attracted to. What about more arbitrary gendered qualities?

I like the color pink, for example, partly because it's pretty, but largely because it's associated with girls. If it became "just another color", I might be less enthusiastic about it. I think that's part of the conditioned nature of sexual response. If girls stereotypically started liking a different color in its place, I'd probably become more attracted to it as a result of its psychological association with girls. But what if we abolished any and all gendered associations with colors? What if there were no "girly" colors? What if individual people were simply free to pick whatever color they like free from such expectations? I imagine I would be drawn more to the colors I like for their non-gendered attributes (the ones I think are pretty), and perhaps the ones I associate with individual females I am attracted to rather than the illusory concept of "the female" that exists largely as a result of stereotypes and expectations.

But that's the thing that I'm a little bit concerned about. I'm attracted to "the feminine". And I can't say that I would be better or worse off if I got rid of that "fetish", but being that it's something I like, I'm not real eager to get rid of it. "Masculine" and "feminine" are archetypes. I actually don't have a problem that they exist. The problem, in my mind, is that people are expected to adhere to one or the other role model based on an arbitrary designation - their sex - and not on which model they associate or identify with more. Because we assume that sex and gender are one, when they are not.

It's like a girl and a boy entering a costume gallery, and the girl being forced to dress like a princess, and the boy like a wrestler. I don't have a problem with the princess being considered feminine, and the wrestler being considered masculine, so long as the girl and the boy are free to choose either the feminine or masculine costume depending on their interest, and not because of the anatomy God (or the Divine Random Number Generator) saw fit to put between their legs. I celebrate the girl who wants to be a wrestler, because why not? And I celebrate the boy who wants to be a princess, because I can relate - I think princesses are awesome. I still like girls who are princesses more than girls who are wrestlers, and more than boys who are princesses, but that's just my personal preference, and there's room for all kinds in this world.

But then, I'm not against initiatives to change what is considered masculine and feminine in our culture - and I imagine that my own preferences will evolve as that happens. Plus, I've kind of ignored the fact that very few if any people in the entire population strictly adhere to one or the other gender in all things. Gender is too splintered and fragmented among too many qualities for that. You don't have to be either masculine or feminine; indeed, most people wander between the two throughout their life, they just tend to avoid (or hide) the more obvious and glaring transgressions from their peers. Just because you put on the princess dress, for example, doesn't mean you can't still play with trucks. And I think that is the ideal. Whether feminine, or masculine, who cares? People should be allowed to pick and choose and just be themselves. It's the policing of gender, more than the construction of it, that is a problem.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Male-Female Alliance

The sexes are like the two parties in a bipartisan political system. Feminism falters insofar as it attempts to shift the balance of power from one party to the other, when what's truly needed is a non-partisan solution that will benefit everyone.

You see, patriarchy is not something that men do to women. It is something the culture does, through men AND women, that hurts both men and women, though often in different ways.

Equality and common decency will be arrived at only through a marriage of the parties and their interloping, overlapping issues and concerns, and not by pitting one party against the other in a fight to the death.

Join the Male-Female Alliance today!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The XTube Debacle

To put the following rant in perspective, this is something I've just noticed today, and I'm still hoping it's a glitch that will be fixed, or otherwise an extremely misguided update that will quickly be righted amidst public uproar (though somehow, I doubt it). I'm nearing the end of a process that's been spread out over the past year or so, of uploading many nude, erotic, and sometimes downright pornographic short videos I recorded over the course of a year (in "daily nude video" fashion) on the website XTube, where I can actually make a little pocket change off of them if people decide they're worth paying a few cents a title to view.

Now, when you upload a video, you have a choice of designating it one of two types: straight, or gay. Most of my audience is constituted of gay (or bi) male fans, but I a) do not consider my own sexuality to be accurately described by the label "gay" or "homosexual", and b) do not understand how a video of one person engaged in a sexual act (or not even a sexual act) can be considered either gay or straight. But, I am made to understand that the video type is more for categorical purposes. Still, in the ideal world, being attracted to women and not men, it is women that I would prefer to have appreciating my erotic videos. I don't have a problem with men appreciating them, but that is not my raison d'etre. Therefore, I categorize my videos (that never involve more than a single person) as straight.

Well, today, it seems to me that the option where you have to select who is in your video (namely whether a single person or more, and of what sex), is now limited by whether it's in the straight or gay category. For me to upload a video with a "single man", it has to be marked "gay". How does that even make sense? Apparently, to XTube, masturbation is now intrinsically a homosexual act. What's even crazier is that lesbian videos of women on women action must now be considered straight! Are you fucking kidding me?

I understand that the category is not meant to necessarily describe the video, but to direct it to its intended audience, but this basically negates the existence of females, except as objects of men's sexual desire. I know that porn is not that popular among women (yet, I hope), and it's always been my impression that XTube was more popular among gay men (and, ironically, women who like gay porn) than straight men or women, but it was never, to my knowledge, billed as such, and I never felt that it actually excluded straight men as performers for the entertainment of straight women...until now. (Did you ever think you'd see the day when straight men were in the minority, and gay men were the majority?). I tried ticking the site-wide filter to "female liking females" out of curiosity, and instead of lesbian porn, the ads that dominated the sidebars featured exclusively gay male content! In other words, according to XTube, there is no such thing as a woman who likes porn! Talk about regressive, conservative values...

I've always had issues with XTube. I didn't like it from the start because it's way too "porn-y". But it was the only place I knew of where I could easily make a little money from the effort I put into my erotic art. (Although I do sometimes feel that I am discriminated against for being interested in the erotic art of the human body more than the all-important "money shot"). And I think that their categories are poorly chosen. There's a category for "fursuits", but not "crossdressing"... I really wish there were more options out there. I'd like to boycott, but I don't feel as though I have that privilege. The marginalization of the sex trade has a tendency to do that to you. And the pundits who advocate for prohibition have the gall to claim concern for the sex workers. Hypocritical douchebags.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Outfit of the Day (#ootd)

Perhaps I should do this more often. :3


I found this t-shirt at a secondhand store on clearance. The drawing of Ariel is incredibly beautiful, and it fits me perfectly. It was worth a lot more than the three bucks I paid for it. (Well, my roommate bought it for me, because she's awesome). The shorts are a really flattering pair I found at Kohl's a while back. They're my new favorites. Nail polish is a pretty shade of teal called Blue Visionary, by Wet N Wild.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sex-Negativity is Anti-Feminist

"How dare a straight male depict a female as sexually appealing!"

This is one of those things that you would file under "doing feminism wrong". Unfortunately, there are a lot of people doing feminism wrong, and it's having a very powerful negative impact on the image of feminism as a whole, which undermines the feminist goals of seeking equality and reducing sexual discrimination, by instead fostering derision and opposition between the sexes, by telling women that it's in men's basic and subconscious nature to oppress women, and thereby giving men the impression that feminists hate them, and that the success of feminism depends on the subjugation of men, rather than true equality.

It occurred to me recently, while pondering the preponderance of sexualized depictions of females in the creative arts - books, film, video games - that the mere fact of female characters being depicted solely for their sexual characteristics may not, as is often assumed, be a necessary indication of the belief (usually in the creator) that sex appeal is the only quality of value a woman has going for her. While it's true that the male voice may be overrepresented in society, and that this is a feminist issue worth addressing, it's still only a matter of balance. Considering the [straight] male creator in his own domain, I would like to propose the hypothesis that the creation of sexualized female characters is not at all in conflict with a belief in the essential equality of the sexes.

Imagine the creator who believes that men and women are equal. Ideally, he would include something of a balance between the sexes in the characters of his fictional works. To do otherwise may represent something of a failure of equal opportunity, but does not necessarily indicate a discriminatory mindset. Now, if this creator happens to be a heterosexual male (which, I think, most feminists would agree is the most common case), then one of the primary differences between the sexes - otherwise being equal - he would see is the far greater sexual appeal of the female. Thus, believing both sexes to be equal, the only place where it would matter for the character's sex to be female is where she possesses considerable sex appeal. It's the only thing that sets her apart as a female from the males. The fact that all the other characters are male could simply be a symptom (albeit not a very notable demonstration) of the creator's belief that men and women are equally capable of any task, except that women are far superior where sex appeal is concerned.

Don't get me wrong, this approach is not unproblematic. I agree, as most feminists argue, that there should be a greater balance of male and female characters, and that there should exist admirable female characters who do not possess obvious sex appeal, or whose sex appeal is not the sum total of their worth. (On the flip side, which is not so often discussed, I believe there should be more depictions of "sexualized" and "objectified" men, whose emphasis is on their sex appeal - because sexuality itself is not a symptom of discrimination, only the lack of a proper balance is). But at the same time, I think we should temper the faux-feminist impulse to decry every sexy female character (whether or not she was designed by a man) as evidence of a sexist, patriarchal, objectifying cultural mindset.

There is nothing feminist about that. It is purely sex-negative, and, as I have said, it fosters derision and opposition between the sexes, which can only hurt feminism's true cause. Nothing productive is accomplished by shaming men's sexual attraction to women: it irresponsibly fails to provide women with a proper understanding of the way that men are going to view them (no amount of faux-feminist brainwashing is going to stop men from drooling over women's bodies), and teaches men that feminism is about castrating men - which is a goal extremely few if any men are going to be willing to aid and support.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fine Art Erotica

I've never formally studied art, so my opinions may be plebeian, but I like to think that I'm fairly intelligent, and I do have some experience making art. The question on my mind today deals with the concept of "fine art erotica". Not that I've ever really heard the term before. I can't claim to be the first person to think of it, but - especially in light of the art vs. porn debate - it seems like it could use some consideration. The first question to ask is, what is fine art?

Much as I hate to boil down a complicated concept to its most simple essence (aw, who am I kidding, I love doing it), the quickest explanation that has stuck in my head over the years is that "fine" art is art for art's sake. Which is kind of a nebulous definition, but then, art is a nebulous concept. There is some difficulty with this definition, however.

Very much like in the debate between art and porn, where porn is used to denigrate media that does not rise to the quality of "art", "fine art" is often considered to be art of a particular quality, above that of pop art and other kinds of "applied" art. Think of the different values that are awarded opera versus dance music. However, my opinion is that "pop", or "applied", art can be just as "fine" as "fine art" (very much like how pornography can, if rarely, be just as artistic as the best examples of art).

If you're considering "fine art" by the definition of "art for art's sake", then even if the art is being commissioned for some other sake, the "artsiness" of it can still approach "fine art" quality - it all depends on the intentions (and skill) of the artist. I bring this up because it seems to me that if "fine art" must aspire to no other purpose than aesthetics, then erotic art, of the type that I like to create, can never reach this standard since it has the dual purpose of being beautiful and being sexually appealing.

Take a bowl of fruit, for example. Why would anyone draw a bowl of fruit, other than to demonstrate its natural beauty, and the artist's own proficiency? It is not being drawn to inspire hunger in the viewer - that would be called advertising. But then, there is this thing called the "fine art nude". It seems to me that, at least in some cases, the artist is primarily (if not exclusively) concerned with the aesthetic beauty of the human body. Is it simply not possible to depict, artistically, matters of human sexuality in a way that does not pander to the erotic impulse? And how much of that responsibility lies in the artist, and how much in the viewer?

I'm not particularly concerned with the "badge" of "fine art", and whatever prestige it may bring the bearer. I think too much dedication to "purity" - in this case as to the intention of creating art - can render a piece stale, and devoid of humanity. Of greater concern to me is the aesthetic quality of a piece of art, and it is firmly my opinion that erotic art can achieve the quality of the greatest fine art. Certainly, the right piece, taken in comparison to a similar fine art nude, can be every bit its equal in terms of artistic and aesthetic quality. And some fine art nudes - whatever the artists' alleged intent - can certainly be interpreted to be just as erotically compelling as a comparable piece of so-called "fine art erotica".

And if this is not an example of that, then I don't know what is:


I'm not claiming it to be the equal of Michelangelo's David, necessarily, but considering the vast array of nudes (of variable quality) that claim the title of "fine art", I see it as nothing more than prejudice to believe that erotic art cannot aspire to the same goals. Especially considering the honored treatment this image would receive if all you changed was - not anything about the light or composition, but - the tumescence of the male organ...