Culture

Recent posts

Making Sense Of Sex Work

In previous posts here on MSP, I’ve struggled to make sense of sex work as a feminist and as a scholar. I’ve discussed why legislating sex work is problematic, and that post sparked a further rumination on how my position as someone who doesn’t have sex work experience means I have to check my privilege when talking about these issues. Because this continues to be a hotly debated topic, I thought I’d share some resources that have been helpful for me in making sense of sex work. First, have a look at the sex worker flow chart here, which encourages viewers to reflect on their reasons for being against sex work, providing a list of consequences of taking those stances. This Feministe post, The War on Sex Workers, emphasizes that we should view sex worker rights within the larger issue of women’s rights (though I’d urge people to keep in mind that men sell sex too, as do people not identifying within a binaristic gender). Continue Reading →

Changing Her Name to “Sexy”

I live (and love) Ohio, and have written about some issues that have happened in my beloved state before. On my commute home, I heard a local radio show talking about someone Sexy. Well, she isn’t Sexy yet, but she is hoping to be. There is a woman named Sheila Crabtreewho lives in Licking (of course) county who is petitioning the court to legally change her name from “Sheila” to “Sexy.” Have you ever gone through a point where you disliked your first name? Continue Reading →

Sex As A Universal Human Right

If you haven’t already perused the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it’s worth a look. You might be surprised at the things you find there… as well as the things you don’t find. See, I’m beginning to think that sex should be added to the list. It’s already somewhat implied, between the articles about everyone having the right to life, liberty, and the security of personhood and the ones about having the right to have a family and take part in the artistic, moral, and intellectual cultures that surround them. Continue Reading →

Booth Babes: Bad For Business?

For those not familiar with booth babes, they are attractive women hired to draw a crowd at technology conferences, gaming conventions, and other tech- or geek-oriented events where there’s money to be made. Many people decry this practice as another instance of misogyny in the predominantly masculine tech cultures of contemporary times. However, a recent industry test determined that booth babes aren’t ultimately that great for business. They don’t generate more foot traffic or more revenue at tech conventions than more experienced, more covered-up female vendors. Perhaps tech/geek culture is changing, or perhaps the stereotype leveled against it that geeky guys prefer their women objectified is an oversimplification. Continue Reading →

Promiscuity As Strategy

One of the topics that kept coming up in the class I taught on non-monogamy this fall semester was slut-shaming. We had many a fruitful discussion about how rape culture and slut-shaming intersect to create an environment full of sex-negativity, virgin/whore complexes, and misogyny. Research on female promiscuity tends to whole-heartedly condemn it or ignore it. This is not, as you might imagine, a useful approach to sexual behavior that often happens regardless of whether it is stigmatized. Hence I’m a big fan of evolutionary anthropologist Eric M. Johnson’s new Slate post on female promiscuity in humans and other primates. Continue Reading →

Obstacles To Teaching About Racism And Sexism

Discussing structural racism in the classroom recently made news when a professor who lectured on this topic was reprimanded for making white students feel uncomfortable. The Slate article reporting on this makes a number of excellent points, which I’ll summarize here and apply to other educational situations. Article author Tressie McMillan Cottom points out that “When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it.” We know that gendered and racist micro-inequalities and micro-aggressions persist in academia, which is ironic because the ivory tower is supposed to be a place of free thinkers and intellectual inquiry. Continue Reading →

And Then I Brought Up Flesh Hooks.

One of the topics I discussed with my fall college-level class on non-monogamy is BDSM and kink. I deliberately introduced the topic at the end of the semester, when we’d already studied sexual and gender configurations around the world, past and present, with an eye toward how gender, sexuality, and relationship models inform one another’s construction. Our purpose was to critically evaluate how these things work, not to judge them. My goal was to give my students a vocabulary for discussing various sexual practices, and then to have them turn that critical gaze on subjects closer to home and happening in contemporary America: swinging, polygamy, polyamory, and kink. But there I was, on Day 1 of discussing BDSM, mentioning extreme examples of kinky play like flesh hooks and blood play. Continue Reading →

Academia’s Hostility To Women

The Guardian documents a new study reporting on why women in the sciences are leaving academia at much greater rates than men. According to the study’s results, the number of women in science PhD programs who report wanting to remain in academia plummets the longer they spend working on their degrees. Women learn, by observation and experience, that their gender will be an impediment to their progress, and they reported more than men did that the great sacrifices demanded of them were too large. While this study focused on the sciences, I think it might apply in the social sciences and humanities as well. Academia is full of gendered micro-inequalities, though women have largely made progress over time. Continue Reading →

If I Can’t Change My Conditioning, How Can I Expect Others To?

I’m fascinated by what makes people change their minds, as demonstrated in this post about a self-identified misogynist who ultimately became sympathetic to women’s positions. I like to see this process happening when people’s beliefs become more tolerant rather than going in the opposite direction, even though I recognize that these are subjective values. In my ideal world, everyone who holds beliefs that are misogynist, transphobic, racist, homophpobic, and so on would realize, eventually, that they’ve been wrong this whole time. We’re all human, and we shouldn’t discriminate against anyone for who they are, right? But then I had a sobering realization. Continue Reading →