Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sexuality in the World [Aggregate]

Things are going well for me these days. Though I fly home in less than a week, I'm reminding myself that the adventure never ends. I'm gearing up for excitement that the summer brings, such as presenting at San Francisco's polyamory conference Open SF, as well as wrapping up here in Istanbul and reflecting on my experiences over the last three months. My mind is buzzing.

In the meantime as I collect my thoughts, there are a number of fascinating reads I've come across that I find to be worth sharing: some of them illustrate more objectively what I've already written about quite experientially, and others bring to light phenomena of sexuality in a world view that shouldn't go unconsidered. Context is everything!

Articles are arranged loosely by these categories:
Gay Rights in Military, Perverse World History, Women in North America, and International Gender-fuck.


Proving you're gay to the Turkish army, by Emre Azizlerli
In my post Enterprising on Bigotry, I wrote about the transvestite prostitution racket in Istanbul and how it survives, flourishes even, due to the Turkish conception of homosexuality -- a strict definition requiring that one be the sexually "receiving" partner to be considered gay, and perhaps additionally have a preference for women's cosmetics. I also mused on the strong presence of a lesbian community in this very unique part of the Muslim world and mentioned the process of avoiding mandatory military service if one is gay. Well, here you have it, put forth by BBC News Magazine, accounts of the humiliation and weird procedure one must face to avoid being put forth on the front lines or potentially bludgeoned to death by fellow soldiers behind closed doors. But classifying this issue as gay "rights" is a little misleading: homosexual exemption from serving in the military is not to the end of protecting a gay citizen from prejudicial violence and attack, rather he looses his right to serve once he proves that he has what is considered in Turkey to be a psychosexual disorder.  Doctors are forcing themselves to pathologize sexuality and empirically prove preference to please the government, using such evidence as photographs of the "patient" wearing a women's clothes and notes of his favorite perfume. If that fails, one must conduct the most awkward photo-shoot ever, of which the resulting captions would seem to read:
"Who has two thumbs, loves some anal sphincter-ramming butt sex, and lives in fear of violence and disownment? THIS GUY."


The Silk Rope and the Golden Cage, by Curious Expeditions
"Bring me the fattest woman in the world!"
Though I'm not usually one for history lessons, this account of unbridled lust, filthy luxury, and brutal blood baths in the Ottoman Empire is truly a fascinating read. The post Bisexual Women and Cattle Fetish quotes Sparky relaying a morsel of this fascinating history, and this is a source she later provided.
The take away lessons are that men in power can be children, the women in their lives will then naturally but secretly rule, and also, beware of eunuchs.


Schrödinger's Rapist: or a guy's guide to approaching strange women without being maced, by Phaedra Starling
The other night I found myself out dancing with a male friend. We had a good time, and at the end of the night, he kindly walked me home. We shared a smootch or two, after which I said, "Good night, see you later." Having had a different idea in mind, the man didn't take the hint that I wanted to be alone and hung around dopily trying to paw me. He was then hurt and shocked when I flat-out but kindly asked him to leave. His tactic for increasing his sex appeal? Complaining like a child told to go to his room.
"But why don't you let me sleep with you? I want you, I'm attracted to you, and you are making me feel rejected!" 
English is not his first language, so he actually said these awkward, stilted words. It would seem that I am painting him to be a caricature simply to serve my feminine indignation, but I promise you, I am not.
I replied to these pathetic whines without pity.
"Because I'm not your mother. It's not my job to make you feel good about yourself. I'm also not your whore, so it's not my job to fuck you."
Some might say that I overreacted a bit. I was incensed when he resisted my request for privacy, and although I knew I was in the right, I couldn't quite articulate exactly why other than in this insulted reactionary tone. However, Starling's Schrödinger's Rapist hits the nail on the head, and gently at that. Addressed to the good natured, if perhaps clueless, man who wishes to find love and/or companionship in the realm of the unknown, it highlights several issues that may explain to him why his attentions aren't always reciprocated or immediately applauded. To some of us these considerations may seem obvious, but unfortunately, as has been demonstrated, this kind of awareness is not universal.

Though my personal example was with an acquaintance and not a stranger, the ideas still apply, especially when one considers that many women are raped by men they already know and don't see as a threat.

Will Activist Law Student Group That Backed Fluke Condemn Chapter's 'Slut-Pride' Celebration, by Snips
No need to read this one, here is a SUMMARY:
Respectable Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke, who I've written about in my post Slut Shaming, and her stance on contraception and insurance coverage is backed by nationwide organization LSRJ. Harvard's chapter of LSRJ will sponsor (in part) workshops at the school's Sex Week, an event based on education and positivity training. One such workshop, presented by Good Vibrations, has the words "Slut Pride" in the title. The question posed by the article is: will this language stand with the organization as a whole?

While I think this particular article is snarky, sex/sex-education negative, and written with mediocracy at best, I find the question of language for insult vs. empowerment to be an interesting consideration. Progressively "reclaiming" a word, as in the Vagina Monologues' treatment of the word "cunt" or as in many "Slut-Pride" events and slut walks, is successful when target audiences (read: everyone, everywhere) understand the context of the protest against the word's use as degradation and its newly spun meaning of empowerment for all women, regardless of style of dress or behavior. However, in the attempt to de-escalate the meaning of these words, there is an issue in that taken out of context, these attempts may preemptively familiarize the words in society as an acceptable label for women -- especially as long as that society is neo-puritanical, regressive, and contains personalities such as Rush Limbaugh who is too dense to understand that, similar to the treatment of the "n-word," these are things that he is not allowed to call women. In short, many people are simply missing the point.

Can we expect people to know the difference between what we may call ourselves in jubilation and what they may call us in degradation? Should we popularize events named "Slut-Pride," thus popularizing the language in society, perhaps before its time? These are questions better worth pondering.

Cleavage Shaming, by Virgie Tovar
Virgie Tovar is fat positivity activist with a MA in Human Sexuality and a fellow presenter at Open SF. Though I don't share her enthusiasm for fashion, I enjoy her writings, particularly Love, Sex & Mental Illness, which was originally published by Good Vibrations Magazine.
More immediately relevant is her post Cleavage Shaming. I was tickled upon its discovery for the contrast it provides: shamed for displaying a certain amount of cleavage (measured in inches) and ignored as a legitimate sexual being, Tovar's experiences are one extreme in the slut-shame spectrum at which the other end is Sandra Fluke and her battle for reproductive rights. The simultaneous contrast and similarity of their situations at first seem ridiculous, but the bottom line is that they are all legitimate examples of sexism, and additionally in Tovar's case, sizeism -- which is something that I (admittedly) had rarely considered before reading her work.


The Afghan girls who live as boys, by Tahir Qadiry
Another by BBC News Magazine, examining families in Afghanistan who dress and raise young girls as boys. Reasons for doing so include appearing to live up to the pressure of social expectation to produce male offspring, bringing luck to the family, or having the children work in the street selling wares with relatively increased safety. The children live this cross-gendered life until they become "of age," at which time they must cover their hair. Some of them, however, resent this game of musical genders:
"If my parents force me to get married, I will compensate for the sorrows of Afghan women and beat my husband so badly that he will take me to court every day."
Sworn Virgins - Albania (video)
Kosovo is a small, young, Balkan country born out of what was formerly southern Serbia's cultural Albanian community declaring its independence as a nation in a bloody war of identity after the collapse of Yugoslavia. As I have mentioned before, and will likely someday tell about in greater, juicier, detail, I moved there for some time for the same reason most people do anything stupid: for love. During this time, I became acquainted with certain aspects of Albanian culture, the least of which are not blood feuds that last for generations and a predilection for nightly alcohol consumption of impressive volume and morose tenor.

Most interesting to me was the phenomena of "sworn virgins" -- women who swear celibacy, take on the male gender and all of its performative aspects such as clothing, social interaction, and mannerisms. In doing so, they may live and work with the respect and freedom usually only afforded to men in northern Albanian culture. Motivations for making this social sex-change (sans operation) are generally related to providing support for their family, who may be missing a male care-taker figure as a result of illness or blood-feud killings. It is important to note that sworn virginity is strictly about gender and not about sexuality. As the video points out, gender is a sticky issue in Albania, usually a thick dividing wall between binaries, which makes sworn virginity even more fascinating.

It's a long video, so here are some highlights:
0:00 - 2:00 - Introduction to Albania's blood feuds
2:00 - 2:55 - "There are still a few living relics of blood feuds past" - introduction to sworn virginity
2:55 - 5:22 -  Interview with Qamile, a sworn virgin
4:59 - A photograph is shown of the 90 year old sworn virgin and her young female relative in a wedding dress that illustrates a chasm between a gender's performance in a striking way
5:06 - On Albanian women and vengeance:
"Although women appear to be the innocent victims here, the country's leading blood-fued expert says that it is in fact Albanian women that keep revenge culture alive: 'Women don't forgive.'"
Ain't that the goddamned truth.

For more link-TASTIC aggregation, check out Slut Shaming.
Find the latest from Seduce and Confuse HERE. You know you want to. 

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