Princeton: where slut-shaming is still just “logic”

Tehila Wegner’s article from The Daily Princetonian,“When slut becomes the new normal”, is a personal take on the problem of slut-shaming, which is not exactly a new issue.

But comments on the article have been hilariously bad. So trollishly bad, I’ve decided to feed some of them as quickly and dismissively as I can.

Posted by “A Woman”:

1. Girl sleeps with lots of guys

2. Men discuss this fact

3. Men’s speech qualifies as verbal abuse?

Oy vey your PCness has clouded your logic. I don’t see men complaining about all the insults generally reserved distinctly for them – dick, jackass, sleeze, creeper, needs to grow a pair, etc. All of them are usually used in relation to their sexual conduct and are much more sexual than something like bitch. If you want to show men that women are equal, please just grow a pair yourself and stop complaining about name-calling. Acting like a whiny little girl hurts us all more than some girl being called a slut (and there’s a good chance she’s okay with the title as most girls, myself included, would just laugh it off)

Answer: Yes, you don’t see men complaining about all the words directed at them, except when you totally do. The key difference is, the terms these men are complaining about–“creep”, “nice guy”–are ones that relate to their (oh so unfortunate) lack of access/inability to do with women as they please. The terms that women object to– “slut”, “whore”– are ones that relate to denigrating their consensual choices, or in some cases, the non-consensual experiences that affect their bodies.

Posted by “pu”:

Tehila, so what would be your politically correct way of describing a girl who sleeps with a lot of guys?

Whether there exists a word describing guys is beside the point. Seriously, they cannot call her a slut? To you, how is her behavior to be dubbed?

Answer: The “politically correct” way of describing a girl who sleeps with a lot of guys is “sexually active.”

Also, can we please stop using the word “politically correct” to denote our derision of people’s attempts to check our privileges?

Edit: If I had to choose a derogatory term for a sexually promiscuous female, I’d personally prefer the term “strumpet” over “slut”. Less slut-shaming, more strumpet!

Posted by Explanation:

A Key that opens many locks is a master key.
A lock opened by mans [sic] keys is just a pitiful lock.

Answer: I’ve heard this one before, and every time I wonder why people assume my ladybits are some magical treasure box that needs to be locked up.

Better analogies:

If you have a pencil that can be sharpened by any sharpener, you have a normal pencil; if you have a sharpener that will only sharpen certain pencils, you have a shitty sharpener.

A man who can ride any horse is a cowboy; a horse anyone can ride is a good horse.

A man who’ll dance with anyone is fun at a party; A woman who’ll dance with anyone is fun at a party.

And for the record, if anyone cares to respond, please note my own comment in the Prince that my preferred gender-neutral insult is “asshole.” Although I sometimes accept “asshat,” which has also been used to describe me.

On [Rich, White] Republican Women: Not A Paradox

Margaret Fortney (author of “What Princeton Women Want”) wrote an op-ed for the Tory about Republican Women. Mark Fillmore asked me for my response to it. I decided to keep my response to the main aspect of her op-ed (otherwise, this article would turn into a book.)

The preliminary argument seems to be that the terms “woman” and “Republican” are not mutually exclusive.

This is correct.

You CAN, in fact, be female (more accurate on the sex-gender distinction) and a Republican. I agree: They do exist.

You can even be a “woman” and Republican. I am a feminist that believes that there is more than one concept of “womanhood” (some don’t). Not just two types as Fortney says—many. I believe there as many concepts of womanhood as there are women in the world. And some of these concepts of womanhood and feminism are indeed at odds with each other. (#feministpornwars)

So yes, I agree, “Republican Woman” is not an oxymoron. But that’s not what really Fortney seems to be arguing.

Instead, it appears the real question is not “Is it impossible to be a Republican female?” (no, of course not) but rather “By being a Republican female, are you acting against your interests ‘as a woman?'”

Many feminists would say “yes.”

I say no.

Surprise! I don’t think that a Republican woman is standing against her interests when she opposes abortion, contraception, or equal pay. But that’s because I don’t think these are really her interests.

That is to say: the issues of access to abortion, funding for contraception, and economic equality are NOT ones that affect the demographic of upper-class, predominantly white conservative women who voted against Obama. These are not the interests of a “Republican Woman” who Fortney constructs when she talks about the 2012 election.

Then whose interests are these? Those of poor/working class (possibly trans/queer) women of color.

That is one reason why these women voted in droves for Obama and basically made the gender gap that everyone is talking about. The New Yorker does a fabulous deconstruction of said gender gap in the 2012 election, and explains why Fortney’s analysis of Obama’s exit polls is misleading to say that “fewer women voted for Obama” (TL;DR: fewer white women voted for Obama).

Thus, when a Republican woman opposes abortion, contraception, and equal pay, I’d argue that she is not acting against her own interests, but against the interests of women with less privilege than her. 

Fortney mentions “coverture” in her abortion argument, which leads me to think we’ve been taking the same GSS History classes. If so, Fortney should know that historically, a rich, upper class (white) woman could always and will always be able to access these privileges—abortion, childcare, contraception, and a comfortable socioeconomic status (by marrying rich and being a stay-at-home mom or gasp, even having her own career)—if she absolutely needs them.

See abortion: Fortney says it herself– 64% of women having abortions are minorities and 42% are poor. Abortion is an issue that predominantly affects poor, ethnic women. (She then goes on to argue that this is why abortion is not empowering—misleading and an absolutely insulting misunderstanding of why people are pro-choice. Let me go on this tangent: Pro-choicers do not think abortion is empowering. Pro-choicers would rather we prevented abortions with proper sex education and contraception. But we fight to keep abortion legal because, barring the above (and in cases of rape/incest), the system of oppression that the child would be born into is a fucking nightmare for the child, the mother, and society, [and Republicans are doing their best to make sure that system goes nowhere.] I’ll save the rest of this rant for a later post.)

Let’s face it:

In other words, a rich, white woman can AFFORD to have Republican ideals, because the consequences of the Republican platform do not really affect women like her.

That said, I, like Fortney, wasn’t too keen on the hyperbolic rhetoric of the “Republican War on Women” that proliferated this summer. Fortney says she is “concerned that this distorted dialogue obscures arguments and elicits emotional responses rather than encourages productive discussions.” As was I.

I am also concerned when someone’s ideological perspective fails to take into consideration the privileges that prevent them from fully understanding how their positions affect other people’s lives. This is what upper class, white, conservative women risk doing when they subscribe to the totality of the Republican party’s platforms on abortion, contraception, equal pay, healthcare, childcare, gay adoption (and other LGBT rights), etc.

I’m not suggesting Fortney herself or any/all Republican women agree with the entirety of the Republican platform. They probably don’t. Taken in isolation, one can have perfectly sound and consistent reasons to oppose abortion/contraception/equal pay that have nothing to do with opposing women’s rights. If Fortney had been consistent in her message that she is not a ‘feminist’ (or at least, definitely not a Third World feminist) and is a Republican because, say, she greatly values economic free-market principles/religious rights/private property/limited goverment at the cost of the welfare of women, children (not just the unborn ones), and poor people, then that’s totally fine.

(Side note: Perhaps a more accurate narrative for Log Cabin, non-white, or female Repubs is that their decision is a sacrifice of some personal interests/rights for an entrenched ideology they one day hope to benefit from.)

But until a queer black transwoman or working-class Asian feminist becomes the forerunner in the Republican party primary, anything other than a wealthy, white/straight/cisgender person in the Republican party will have to defend their decision by themselves, and incur the wrath of my very skeptically raised eyebrows.

TL;DR: Being a [rich, white] Republican woman is not a paradox; it’s a privilege.

Quick hit: porn actresses aren’t “damaged goods”

Actresses in the porn industry have more self-esteem, feel more supported, and are no more likely to come from a background of childhood sexual abuse than otherwise employed women of the same age, ethnicity and marital status, according to a study from Shippensburg University. These results challenge the “damaged goods” hypothesis, which argues that sex workers are “driven” into the industry by deep-rooted psychological trauma. However, the study also showed that porn actresses are more likely to have a history of drug and alcohol use.

A debate has simmered between feminists as to whether porn is a positive or negative force in achieving gender equality, so it should be helpful to have more hard evidence moving forward.

For a nice visualization of the study’s results, check out BuzzFeed’s infographic.

Enough, Already: Deconstructing the “Hookup Culture”

Does it count as a “hookup” once his socks are off?

by Vivienne Chen 

I am sick of hearing about “Princeton’s hookup culture.” I don’t like talking about it, mostly because these conversations are plagued with sex-negativity, heterosexism, and normative assumptions about sexuality.

But after the Daily Princetonian article, “Love and Lust in the Bubble: Falling out of Hooking Up”, I’m convinced “the hookup culture” needs to be talked about.

Because too often, these conversations around “the hookup culture” jump to the question of whether it is good or bad. These discussions fail to address the most glaringly problematic part about the hookup culture which is, “wait, what the HELL is a hookup culture?”

“When You Say Hook-Up, You Mean…”

First, I commend the writer of the Prince editorial for talking honestly, albeit anonymously, about her* experiences “hooking up” at Princeton. (*I am being normative and assuming from context the writer is a “her.”) It’s not easy to admit your regrets and empathize with those who don’t share your experiences. This is perhaps the least vitriol-inspiring article on the hookup culture that the Prince has ever run.

But what does this writer mean when she says “hookup”? She assumes we know what she’s talking about when she discusses her gold-star studded “Accomplishment” Chart, “remembering the awful, drunken hookup that each star symbolized.” (emphasis mine)

But, humor me for a second, say I want to make my own Accomplishment Chart.

  • Do I get a gold star if I make-out with a stranger and fall asleep in their bed, wake up, and leave with no further sexual activity pursued?
  • Do I get a gold star if the person only touched my boobs?
  • Do I get a star even if I wasn’t drunk?
  • Do I get a star even if it wasn’t awful?

For something as wildly and widely talked about as the hookup culture, people’s definitions of “hookup” come loaded with a vast number of unspoken assumptions (for instance, of alcohol and the low quality).

Yet no one I’ve ever talked to has completely agreed with me on what “hooking up” is. 

Some people say hooking up begins with making out. Others say it must include sex. Others say it doesn’t matter the level of sexual activity, just as long as there are “no intentions” for the encounter to lead to something “serious.” Yet if someone says, “I hooked up with my boyfriend in the shower,” that’s okay. It appears “hook up” the verb and “hookup” the noun have different connotations.

Now see what sort of confusion this causes:

Someone looking at a bunch of drunken people making out on the dance floor of Tower can say, “wow, Princeton has a big hookup culture.”

Meanwhile, someone else looking at the facts will find that in the last survey (2009) by USG, a ~43% plurality of students reported zero sexual activity.

That definition of sexual activity, by the way, includes oral, anal, and vaginal sex.

This means of those Princeton students surveyed, the largest chunk of them haven’t made it over halfway around the bases that year. Not with a long-term partner. Not with a “hookup.” Not drunk. Not sober. Nothing.

(The data, again, for the lazy are:)

Sexual partners (vaginal, oral, anal) in the past year:

Spring 2000,Princeton: 0 (41.6%), 1 (37.8%), 2+ (20.6%)
Spring 2009, Princeton: 0 (43%), 1 (33.3%), 2+ (23.8%)
Fall 2008, Nationally: 0 (33.7%), 1 (42.1%), 2+ (24.3%)

But do a majority of the students have to BE having sex with more than one person in order for there to be a “hookup culture”? This brings me to my big question…

Continue reading Enough, Already: Deconstructing the “Hookup Culture”

What If Love Is Only Approximately Equal To Love? Objectùm-Sexuality and the Definition of Love

by Richard Gadsden

Early this month, a British morning show did an interview with Amanda, a young woman who had recently ended a 10-year relationship with a drum kit and was now in a long-distance relationship with the Statue of Liberty. I found out about the story—as well as the sexual orientation it represented, objectùm-sexuality—from a Jezebel post. The brief post wittily wrapped the story up as “a non-traditional twist on a very common story: High school girl falls in love with drummer because she likes his shape and recklessness, comes to her senses and ends up in a relationship with a solid woman.” I thought the whole thing sounded pretty funny, so I watched the video. And I had some thoughts.

My first impression was intense shock at the poise of the hosts. Maybe things are different across the pond, but the first thing I expect when I hear “talk show” and “anything even remotely outside normative behavior” is: cringe-worthy disrespect. So the fact that the hosts were able to introduce Amanda’s relationship with the drum kit without any jokes about beating or tapping was astounding to me.

The interview started with Amanda explaining that she was attracted to objects based on their different geometrical shapes. As far as the drum kit went, she didn’t anthropomorphize or name it. She did take it to bed, but, she said, “I just like to cuddle” and the drum was “just like a teddy bear.”

The Statue of Liberty was different. Amanda did think of the statue as feminine, even nicknaming it Libby. And her attraction seemed to go beyond the geometric. Of her feelings for Lady Liberty, Amanda said, “I just love the way that she looks and I love what she stands for. I love her history. I love everything about her!”

Overall, I found the segment a surprisingly balanced look at a type of non-normative sexuality that I, personally, had never heard of. Even the psychiatrist seemed hesitant to pathologize objectùm-sexuality. The first thing she said was “It’s not really a medical condition, it’s an orientation.” But what stood out to me the most about this segment was how resistant Amanda’s experience seemed from normative ideas about love and sex. To clarify, I don’t mean that Amanda herself resisted norms. What I mean is that it seemed nearly impossible to talk about Amanda’s sexuality in the ways we usually talk about sexuality.

Continue reading What If Love Is Only Approximately Equal To Love? Objectùm-Sexuality and the Definition of Love

College: An Option?

by Janet Umenta

Recently, there has been growing public sentiment that college is not always the best plan after high school, and in fact can damage a person’s creative and financial progress in the long run. Just look at the New York Times article titled, “Why Go to College at All?” to see a long list of reasons why college does not adequately prepare students for the ‘real world’ and how college stifles a person’s innovative ability in handling life’s questions.

The purpose of college and who is able to attend such institutions have changed with the progression of American society. When the first American college was founded 1636 in Massachusetts, college was restricted to only wealthy young white men and were affiliated with a certain Christian denomination. Now, with greater resources and a wide variety of disciplines to choose from, virtually all people who want to go to college, whether public or private, can do so. Yes, the rising cost of college is a big issue, and colleges across the country as well as the government should look to ease the burden on families who wish to send their children to college. But to discount college entirely goes beyond the financial debate and reflects growing American pessimism and anger toward a traditional avenue of success that has seemingly failed to do what its promised: to help you land a well-paying career and to help you accomplish the American Dream- the white picket fence and the shiny car in the driveway.

College is not a perfect institution; there will be failures and disappointments, and the path after college may not be as straightforward as we would like. However, the greatest advantage of college is not necessarily the diploma, but the people we encounter, the relationships that we build, and the self-confidence that comes with setting one’s schedule and goals without the help of one’s parents. College shouldn’t be about the size of your paycheck, and I believe the real underlying issue behind this attack on college is a growing sense of selfishness and a “Me First” attitude that makes taking the four years to get a degree seem counterproductive and pointless.

The beauty of a liberal arts education is that one is able to explore different fields in a classroom setting without worrying yet what our ‘boss’ thinks and how our performance will affect the company. Our success is not reflected by how much we earn, but how well we ourselves choose to use the knowledge we gain to better the world. The fact that in your average politics class you could be sitting next to people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds offers a great way to engage in conversations that can truly change one’s perspective on issues, maybe even for the better. College offers a unique forum for progress because everyone who goes there already admits that they lack knowledge and are willing to learn and to help each other grow in enlightenment, which creates wiser and better people. As a junior in college, the best lesson I have learned is that interacting with people and making the effort to speak to professors is the best way to succeed, and college is the great place to learn those social skills that you will need later in life.

We can’t all be the Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerbergs. College offers us the opportunity to drop all pretenses and to truly engage in vigorous learning without fretting about making a living. Of course there are brilliant people from all walks of life who succeed without college. However, no one can succeed on his or her own, and college is the best place to find mentorship and camaraderie in one’s quest to build confidence and knowledge in facing life’s challenges and creating a better future. College should be encouraged and made affordable to all people in the United States, because at the end of the day, it is the people around you who determine your quality of life in society.

Matt Bomer is Gay, I Guess

by Richard Gadsden

So, Matt Bomer came out, I guess…

As some of you may know, on February 11, 2012, Matthew Bomer, star of White Collar (a USA Network television series), received a Steve Chase Humanitarian award for his work with charities helping in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In his acceptance speech, Bomer thanked his “family: Simon, Kit, Walker, Henry.” Kit, Walker, and Henry are Bomer’s children. Simon Halls is the man with whom Bomer has been rumored to be romantically partnered. Hence, in openly recognizing “Simon” as part of his “family,” Matt Bomer, effectively, came out as gay.

At least, that’s how most of the reactions took it. E! Online’s report on this story is titled, “Matt Bomer Comes Out as Gay Man,” directly stating this conclusion, right off the bat. Huffington Post expanded that a little bit in their article “Matt Bomer Comes Out As Gay: ‘White Collar’ Actor Thanks Partner Simon Halls, Kids At Awards Ceremony.” Now, I’m not going to attempt to argue that Bomer is not gay; as far as I can tell, all the evidence suggests that he is. I’m also not trying to get into the argument about whether or not non-straight stars have a responsibility to come out and help break down the widespread assumptions of heteronormativity. (Though, I think those could be great discussions to have in the comments or elsewhere.) Rather, I’d like to take some time to problematize a couple assumptions I’ve seen in the discourse about Bomer’s coming-out and that I think pop up in discussions about sexual/gender minorities too often.

In the speech, Bomer did not explicitly state that he and Halls were romantic/sexual/domestic partners of any sort. If we know that Kit, Walker, and Henry are Bomer’s children (which isn’t entirely clear from the speech, but can be verified elsewhere), we only know that Simon Halls is someone else Bomer considers part of his family. It’s not even entirely clear that Halls lives with Bomer, let alone has anything to do with the raising of Bomer’s children. From this much information, the two men could be relatives or close friends. Immediately concluding that they’re together in some intimate way and parenting the three kids together actually involves a number of assumptions.

Even knowing that Bomer and Halls are raising children together tells us nothing definite about the nature of their relationship. As rarely as it’s discussed, it is, in fact, possible for two people who are not romantically involved to raise children together. We often think of a family as a man and a woman, in love, with babies. Opening that up to non-heterosexuals, we can conceptualize a family as two people, in love, with babies. But there are more, different types of families than those. What about grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins who live in the same household? What about intimate relationships between more than two people? What about parents who aren’t together?

Continue reading Matt Bomer is Gay, I Guess

Feminism and Gender Issues at Princeton University

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