Recent posts

Intersections Of Folklore And Sex: My Mentor, Alan Dundes


Longtime MSP readers will know that I’ve written a lot on the connections between folklore and sex, sexuality, and gender, with topics including vaccines and public health, rites of passage, sexual slang, family meal practices, storytelling and sexual health, urban legends about sex, Little Red Riding Hood and sex, breasts in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and how the very idea of folklore connects to sex. Clearly, folklore and sex connect in a lot of ways. However, I didn’t reach this conclusion on my own: I have my mentor, Alan Dundes, to thank for it. Professor Dundes was one of the best-known scholars in the field of folklore, and he was my teacher and mentor while I did my undergraduate training at UC Berkeley. Sadly, he passed away in 2005, leaving those of us lucky enough to have studied with him to forge ahead in the field. Continue Reading →

Interview With Folklorist Andrea Kitta: Vaccines, Public Health, Risk Perception

Being a folklorist means that whenever I chat with my colleagues, I find that they are researching really fascinating things. Take, for instance, Andrea Kitta, assistant professor of English at East Carolina University. She specializes in in medicine, belief, and the supernatural (and she’s a dancer, like me!). I knew that her book on vaccine rumors had just come out, so I asked if I could interview her for MySexProfessor, and fortunately, she agreed! Jeana: How would you summarize the main ideas in your book for the general public? Continue Reading →

Henna As Celebration Of Identity

The ethnographic film Painted Bride follows a Pakistani henna artist in New York as she practices her art – temporary plant-based body painting – in the context of fellow immigrants’ wedding celebrations. Check out the video when you get a chance; it’s vibrant as well as informative! And see this older post by me for information on women’s dress in a similar cultural context (India). Continue Reading →

Folklore, Celebrations, And Rites Of Passage

I’ve written about the intersections of folklore and sexuality in the past. Now, with the upcoming holiday season, I’d like to focus on two aspects of folklore – celebrations and rites of passage – that are both relevant and interesting to discuss, especially in light of gender and sexuality. If we define folklore as expressive culture, then most holiday celebrations are informed by and can be categorized as folklore. Whether the holidays or festivals celebrated today are sacred or secular or some mix of both, when people gather in groups they display important aspects of their identities. To be sure, holidays in America are also influenced by pop culture and the mass media, not to mention capitalism and commercialism. Continue Reading →

More Erotic And Obscene Words

As a follow-up to my post explaining folk speech and sexual slang, I thought I would provide some examples of so-called “dirty” words in the English language: George Carlin’s Incomplete List of Impolite Words (link goes to Youtube video). This is, obviously, SO not safe for work due to the various taboo words being pronounced aloud with relish. Though I’m a folklorist and sex scholar, many words in the video were new to me. The endless creativity that goes into describing and naming sexual acts is quite astounding! Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor. Continue Reading →

Folk Speech And Sexual Slang

In my field, Folklore, we study not only fairy tales and community celebrations but also language itself. Like linguists, we’re interested in dialect and the regional and cultural variations between language uses and meanings. The term we use for this area is “folk speech.” A guide to teaching verbal folklore defines folk speech as including:

Regional accents, like “Hyde Pork”/”Hyde Park” or “warsh”/”wash”; local terms, specialized language, and other elements that make up the distinctive speech patterns of a region, folk group, or occupation. Children have elaborate specialized language, which includes personalized names for games, such as “butt ball” for dodgeball; distinctive phraseology, such as “let’s bust some moves” for “let’s dance”; and distinctive languages, such as piglatin. Continue Reading →

The Sexed-Up Fairy Tales Of The Past

With all the fairy tale retellings that are popular today, ranging from dark like Grimm and Snow White and the Huntsman to light-hearted like Mirror Mirror and Brave, now’s a great time to look at sex in fairy tales. As I discuss over at my personal blog, fairy tales have always been flexible in form and function. Since they tend to address humanity’s big questions – what is a family, what is the role of the individual in society, what is love – it makes sense that sex would figure in there somewhere. I’ve already written on sex in Little Red Riding Hood, so today I’ll talk about two beloved Grimms’ tales: Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel. Both have a much sexier history than most people know. Continue Reading →

Urban Legends About Travel And Sex

Dearest MSP readers, posts from me will be scarce for a while as I’ll be traveling through India for roughly three weeks. I’m incredibly excited because I’ve been interested in Indian cultures for a while (for example, I’ve researched women’s dress in India), and this will be my first time visiting. I’ll be presenting a paper at the International Society for Folk Narrative Research in Shillong, and also visiting friends of my aunt. Continue Reading →

Sex And Little Red Riding Hood

There is a movie called “Red Riding Hood” coming out in March of 2011 (trailer here), and it looks to be quite sexy. One blogger has already touched on some of the traditional aspects of the tale–visiting grandma’s house, the dangers of the forest–but I thought I would provide a folklorist’s view on how the tale has evolved over time, including its connections to sex and sexuality, so that readers can see the movie and evaluate how they feel about its departures from tradition. How old is the tale? Well, we don’t know, exactly. Part of the deal when you study folklore is that it’s frequently transmitted through oral tradition, or word-of-mouth tellings and retellings. Continue Reading →

What’s Folklore Got To Do With Sex?

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I’m getting my Ph.D. in folklore. Some of you may be wondering what folklore is, what a folklorist does, and what all this has to do with sex, sexuality, and sex education. I’ll start by defining folklore (touching both on what it is, and what it’s not), and from there I’ll discuss some folklore topics that are definitely relevant to the study of sex and sexuality. Continue Reading →