Archive for February, 2012

Some notes on seeing A Dangerous Method:

I hate Keira Knight­ley usu­ally but I thought she acted quite well in this.

I liked how her con­tor­tions of emo­tional pain were exactly the same expres­sions in tone, as when she was approach­ing orgasm due to the beat­ings from Jung.

The por­trayal of female masochism as a result of child­hood ‘abuse’ was pre­dictably lame, though I thought. Isn’t sado-masochism really a NORMAL part of sexuality?

Also Fassbender/Jung just was not believ­able as a ‘dom­i­nant’ man but is any man?

I also thought that she ‘recov­ered’ rather too straight­for­wardly with her recov­ery being sig­ni­fied by mar­riage and pregnancy.

The actor who played Freud made it for me he was very con­vinc­ing. He had a pres­ence I imag­ine Freud would have had. He also showed that Freud may have been a dif­fi­cult man.

As I said to you before, my favourite scene was on the boat where Freud refused to tell Jung his dream because it would under­mine his ‘author­ity’. How apt.

 

http://www.towleroad.com/2012/02/a-marine-comes-home.html

This photo has gone viral recently. It was first posted on a ‘Gay Marines’ FB page and has since been sent round the internet, with the tagline ‘Gay Marine Comes Home’.

You know me. I am an out and proud ‘homophile’. I am bordering on being a homo myself.  My blog archives are full of pictures of men in clinches, from the sacred to the profane. But when I saw this image I was caught short. I will admit it to you, Roland. I felt a bit queasy. And I think you will understand why.

The photograph is a graphic illustration of the end of DADT, the edict that kept gay, lesbian AND BISEXUAL army personnel from being open about their sexuality. In some ways, the military was, until very recently, the last bastion of ‘pre-gay’ times. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been the unspoken motto of men who have sex with men for eons. And now it is over.

But it is not just the repression of homosexuality that is over here. I fear some other things may be on their way out too. What about all those soldiers ‘acting gay’ on video? Will they be doing that so much, when their gay colleagues are on site? Or, a story you know intimately, those plucky GIS who went gay for pay a few years back. Would that happen when being gay in the army is normalised?

I know that you and your ‘accomplice’ in homo-anthropology Steven Zeeland, have had a range of feelings about the ‘coming home’ of gayness in the military. In Male Impersonators and Barrack Buddies, you both seemed to be opposed to DADT, even though you were nostalgic for a time when homosexuality was even more hidden than it was in the army in the 1990s. You of all people are aware of the complexities and contradictions here. And you, of all people, would be unlikely to begrudge a passionate embrace between a marine and his lover, especially if it is caught on camera.

But something is well and truly lost isn’t it?

Perhaps our only consolation is that in coming home, the gay identity is also quickening its own demise. You have predicted we are nearing the end of gay. Judging by the defensive reactions mainly gay men give to me when I even dare to critique their precious identity position, I am inclined to think you are right.

A Gay Marine Comes Home. We know it’s over, Roland.

It’s over.

P.s. I am going to be honest with you, one of the things that made me feel a bit ‘queasy’ was the gender dynamics of the photo. The marine, supposedly one of those macho masculine types, has a garland round his neck and is being lifted off the floor by his big strong civilian boyfriend (who he termes ‘the giant’ on his facebook page). But I am an old-fashioned girl.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2105472/Crying-films-cuddling-sofa-enjoying-bubble-baths-Its-end-macho-man-era-women-prefer-way.html

Lately I have noticed the Daily Mail becoming a bit more pro-metrosexual than in previous years, and MUCH less metro-phobic than most other papers including the ‘liberal’ broadsheet, The Guardian.

So I was not surprised to read an upbeat DM article this week, about how men are changing and becoming ‘softer’ and more open about their feelings, and their moisturising routines.

The headline of the piece reads:

‘Crying over films, cuddling on the sofa and enjoying bubble baths….It’s the end of the macho man era (and most women prefer it that way)’.

It is illustrated with this fetching photo of a man blowing bubbles in the bath.

The caption underneath the pic reads:

‘Rise and rise of the metrosexual: Men like to soak in the tub as much as women do’

On one hand I am delighted to see the world’s most popular online publication even mention the ‘m’ word, and in a not-negative way, too. The ‘rise and rise’ of the metrosexual is so unstoppable that even ‘macho’ papers such as the Mail cannot ignore it. And, unlike the snobby Graun, the Daily Mail is actually interested in popular culture and sports culture, so it has been unable to turn a blind eye to the increasing tartiness of men sports and TV stars.

The article goes on to say:

‘The modern man is a big softy who cries over films, likes cuddling on the sofa and enjoys a bubble bath, according to a study.

‘The research provided by Häagen-Dazs revealed that millions of men listen to soppy love songs, become choked up if someone gets booted off X Factor and enjoy watching the latest rom-com.”

Now I can’t help but feel that despite showing early promise, the DM is actually putting down men here.

This is confirmed by the next sentence:

‘But while 77 percent of women are in favour of the change, nearly a quarter complained there are times they wish their other half would ‘man-up’.’

As I have written before:

‘at the Good Men Project we discussed whether or not metrosexuality does indeed include men becoming more able to show emotion. I agreed that along with narcissism and body consciousness, men these days are changing and expectations on them are changing. BUT this doesn’t mean that being ‘metrosexual’ means being ‘soft’. There are still plenty of perfectly turned out metrosexual men who are as repressed and determined to be seen to be ‘tough’ as their fathers and grandfathers were. And those who show some emotion are not necessarily ‘weak’ in any way at all, let alone ‘mincing’!

The Mail article seems to be suggesting that as soon as a man applies moisturiser he is in danger of bursting out crying.

I am also not happy that the article seems to be supporting the theories of Eric Anderson about how masculinity is ‘softening’ these days. I think it is quite a lame-ass way of looking at masculinity as if it was ever really ‘hard’ in the first place. As Mark Simpson has shown us time and time again, the more macho men are, the more determined they are to show they are ‘hard’, the more camp they become.

Then the article loses all my respect. It states:

‘The survey of 1,000 women found that more than three quarters appreciate how in touch with their feelings the men in their lives are and women are in agreement that the demise of the old-fashioned ‘blokey bloke’ was a good thing – with nine in ten always opting for a big softie over a tough guy.’

SO an article about MEN and their habits and behaviours is based on research which only interviewed WOMEN! This is exactly the same as a survey that Simpson reported on, about men and facial hair. As Simpson said, apart from denying men a voice about their own lives, it is very heteronormative. Because it assumes men and women are in relationships to even know each other’s moisturising habits. What about single men? Gay men?

It is possible and tempting to look at this total erasure of men’s voices and men’s perspectives as a conspiracy by feminist academics and female columnists  against men. The author of this article is called ‘Maysa’ which I think is a woman’s name.

But I think that is misleading and unhelpful. It just reverses feminists’ version of a ‘patriarchal’ society where men dominate women. The reality is of course more complex. Traditionally men have been very reticent about talking  about their bodies and their emotions. Whilst this is changing, as the survey does show despite its major faults, the ‘discourse’ is slow to catch up. Media outlets still have ‘beauty’ columns, meaning women’s beauty, and ‘diet’ information meaning women’s diets, ‘health’ sections meaning women’s health etc.

And, as the recent misandry fest article in the Guardian by Stuart Jeffries proved, there are some pretty hostile men journalists about when it comes to men and masculinity. The men who DO write about men and masculinity positively – including whether  I agree with them or not, Eric Anderson and Mark Simpson, tend to be gay.

Their work gets marginalised for a number of reasons which I explored in my review of Simpson’s book, Male Impersonators.

And me, a woman who writes about men and masculinity, I am blcoked by Eric Anderson and his colleagues on twitter, and I am banned from even viewing ‘Metrodaddy’ s blog. If even the ‘experts’ can’t work together or even acknowledge each other’s work on this subject, it is no wonder the feminist orthodoxy and the Daily Mail machismo has its way.

So what gives?

Going Anonymous

Posted: February 22, 2012 in Blogging, Freedom of Speech

 

Coming up in London this week is an exhibition called The Naked Muse.  Pictures of naked men are usually of interest to me, so I thought I’d find out a bit more about it.

Full details of the exhibition, featuring black and white photos of men poets in the nuddy, and the calendar to go with it are available here:

http://www.wildwomenpress.com/

As regular QRG -ites will know, I am a bit sceptical about projects that seek to ‘reverse’ the  objectification of women and men. Mainly because, influenced by the work of [redacted], I am aware that men, to use the technical term, are just as tarty as women these days, if not more so!

I have argued against the myth of the female gaze and taken the perspective,  that really, in metrosexual times, the gaze, (including the ‘gayze’) is polymorphously perverse. It will fix on anything or anyone, so long as they are hot.

HOWEVER! after recently previewing the American Man As Object  exhibition, quite critically I may add, I got talking to one of the women who runs it. Conversations with her  have persuaded me that in these metrosexy times, whilst men are the objects of many a picture, it is probably worth examining this subject matter closely. Because metrosexual imagery is often very bland and samey. To be considered ‘objects of desire’ men have to have big tits and nice hair and svelt figures – oh, pretty much like women then.

And, even in the 21st century, there are still not enough women working as photographers and film directors, making the images of men and women and people who identify as neither, that saturate our culture.

So back to the Naked Muse project.

The thing I like about it most is how it is questioning the gendered relationship between the ‘poet’ or ‘artist’  and the ‘muse’.  Historically, women have been muses, and sometimes quite famously, for artists and poets. Elizabeth Siddal is one of the most famous muses I know of. Here she poses as Ophelia for Millais:

Victoria Bennett, whose brainchild The Naked Muse is, commented on this complex dynamic. She said:
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‘As a female poet, I have noticed over the years that male poets are often described in terms of being the romantic hero, dark, handsome, wild, notoriously philandering and accompanied by beautiful (young) female muses to “inspire” his creativity; the same “rule” does not apply to women. So, what if one is a female creator? If desire, and the object of desire and beauty are creative catalysts, then why do we not see that same poetic stereotype?
*
Instead, the woman poet tends to just have the “mad” bit stuck to her rather than bad or dangerous to know! What is the relationship between creator and muse? And what is the relationship between the observer and the object?’
*
*
This reminded me of a post by Elise Moore where she explored the construction of the woman artist figure as ‘witch’. It also made me think of the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy, especially her series ‘The World’s Wife’. These poems take the artist/muse dynamic one step further and conjur up the inner lives of women who might, with a bit of imagination, have been connected to (in)famous men in history and mythology.
*
The Naked Muse then, is not just an exhibition and a calendar; it is also some real relationships between men and women which focus on art, creation, and objectification. As Victoria puts it:
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‘I wanted to explore it I guess through a collaborative process, subvert that idea of the male poet, or artist and female muse. So, I approached women poets and photographers whom I respected and admired in terms of their creative work, with the loose theme of the male muse, to which they responded (some with poems already published, some with specially written ones for the calendar), and I approached women photographers whose work I felt explored the territory of the portrait, in all guises, and I approached male poets that I regarded as being quality poets, engaged in inspiring creative work and possessing “beauty”, and I partnered up these collaborations.
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1 photographer, 1 poem, 1 male poet and let them have free expression within that response. I wanted to make sure that the male poets showed as deep and wide a range of beauty and the male body as the poems themselves, which is why they range in ages from 21 to 67. I also wanted to include a range of poets and photographers in terms of the writing and approaches, background and experience.’

http://lawandsexuality.blogspot.com/2012/02/sexy-boy-and-treasure-island-media.html

Law and Sexuality Blog has an interesting article about a M/m porn company, TIM which has been marketing its wares with images of young boys.

You can read the whole article here.

In it Chris, an academic, writes:

‘there is the less radical, but perhaps no less controversial idea that children can be sexual beings.  This is the revelation that social media already offers to anyone willing to see it, and raising difficult social and legal questions about consent and contemporary domesticity.’

I agree. But I think as an expert in law and sexuality, who writes and blogs in part for an academic audience, he might have acknowledged where the ‘controversial idea that children can be sexual beings’ comes from: Freud.

Here is an extract from Freud’s ‘Autobiographical Study’ on the subject:

‘I have already mentioned that my investigation of the precipitating and underlying causes of the neuroses led me more and more frequently to conflicts between the subject’s sexual impulses and his resistances to sexuality. In my search for the pathogenic situations in which the repressions of sexuality had set in and which the symptoms, as substitutes for what was repressed, had had their origin, I was carried further and further back into the patient’s life and ended by reaching the first years of his childhood. What poets and students of human nature had always asserted turned out to be true: the impressions of that early period of life, though they were for the most part buried in amnesia, left eradicable traces on the individual’s growth and in particular laid down the disposition to any nervous disorder that was to follow. But since these experiences of childhood were always concerned with sexual excitations and the reactions against them, I found myself faced by the fact of infantile sexuality – once again a novelty and a contradiction of one of the strongest human prejudices. Childhood was looked upon as ‘innocent’ and free from the lusts of sex, and the fight with the demon of ‘sensuality’ was not thought to begin until the troubled age of puberty. Such occasional sexual activities as it had been impossible to overlook in children were put down as signs of degeneracy or premature depravity or as a curious freak of nature. Few of the findings of psychoanalysis have met with such universal contradiction or have aroused such an outburst of indignation as the assertion that the sexual function starts at the beginning of life and reveals its presence by important signs even in childhood. And yet no other finding of analysis can be demonstrated so easily and so completely.’

 

Full disclosure: I am a full-blown, perverse, emotional and sometimes physical masochist.

To be honest, I – and  Freud – think masochism is actually an aspect of all of our psyches and sexualities. Maybe to a greater or lesser degree depending on the person, but on some level or another we can all relate to the lyric ‘it hurts so good’.

Despite (or because of?) its ubiquity,  ‘masochism’ is often presented in our culture in the negative; it is pathologised. The recent reactions to some tweets from young women Chris Brown fans that had been collected together and circulated round the net are a good example of this pathologisation of masochism.

Responses ranged from the succinct:

to the ideological:

But the one I found the most insulting was from a journalist writing in Slate Magazine . He wrote:

“Dude, Chris Brown can punch me in the face as much as he wants to, just as long as he kisses it. (:”

‘The line above is just one of many similarly disturbing tweets that female fans of Chris Brown posted in response to his controversial inclusion in Sunday night’s Grammy Awards performance lineup. Apparently, the fact that Brown violently attacked his then-girlfriend Rihanna on the eve of the Grammy’s just three years ago does not give these women pause—the singer’s attractiveness overrides all that.

‘… others have alreadyastutely pointed out how it exposes our society’s willingness to downplay domestic violence in favor of our fetish for a good redemption narrative…as we puzzle over the psychological misfiring necessary to produce these statements…consider…this kind of dangerous masochism….’

‘Dangerous masochism’ is a telling phrase. It suggests that masochistic urges and fantasies, as expressed by those young women, is a Bad Thing. The article, along with countless other commentators, not only condemn Chris Brown, but also people who show a desire to be dominated and hurt – masochists.

I do not defend the actions of Mr Brown. I do not think he should be committed to a life of isolation as a result of his crime though. And I have no interest in his ‘redemption’ or otherwise. But I do defend the right of people to express their sexual desires without judgement. And, I thought gay men (the journalist is I think gay and he likens women’s masochism to that of gay men) of all people would too.

A gay man who I have a lot of respect for, who runs a cracking tumblr blog, How Upsetting, had this to say about Chris Brown back in Spring 2011:

‘The willingness of people to ignore Chris Brown’s violence is a sad indictment of our society’s attitude towards domestic violence. I wrote on Twitter previously – society will have reached a good place when domestic violence is viewed in the same light as paedophilia. Completely beyond the pale.’

Whilst I agree that domestic violence should not be hidden and treated as a trivial issue, I do not think it should be viewed in the same light as paedophilia. In fact, I do not even think paedophilia should even be seen in quite such a dim light as it is.

This demonising of people’s sexual urges as well as their acts, and making monsters out of men, is precisely the process whereby homosexuality has been presented as a disease and a ‘sin’. Of course, I differentiate between consensual sexual activity and non-consent, but I do not think turning people who are involved in sexual and domestic ‘abuse’ should be turned into a ‘type’. A type that is worthy of judgement and damnation.

And, again, Freud (and Foucault) agrees with me. His work on infantile sexuality has shown that whilst the power dynamics between adults and children are obvious, children do have their own autonomous sexual urges and desires. And, the fact the age of consent is different in different countries and different time periods shows that the very concept of ‘childhood’ is not fixed but changeable.

http://howupsetting.tumblr.com/post/3781644541/the-redemption-of-chris-brown-that-wasnt

But I am not here to defend paedophiles or people who beat up their partners non-consensually. I am here to defend masochism.

Somebody else who defended masochism was Anita Phillips. In a review of her book, In Defence Of Masochism, Mark Simpson wrote that masochism has been elevated

‘to a kind of super-heroism; how long before we hear lit­tle boys whin­ing: ‘Mum, can I have a leather har­ness and cling-film cape for Xmas, please?’.

Which almost begs the point of a book with the name In Defence of Masochism. How­ever, a recent Euro­pean Court rul­ing asserted that assault can­not be con­sented to (which means, of course, an end to box­ing, surgery and sup­port­ing Arse­nal) sug­gests that there is still an argu­ment to be made. And, even if most peo­ple who don’t wear wigs and sus­penders for a liv­ing are more laid back about the issue, there are still a num­ber of com­mon mis­con­cep­tions and prej­u­dices about masochism — most of which Anita Phillips dis­patches here with aplomb. Most notably, the idea that masochism is always some­one else’s per­ver­sion. Phillips inves­ti­gates, via Freud and Amer­i­can aca­d­e­mic Leo Bersani the uni­ver­sal­ity of masochis­tic impulses, the thin line between plea­sure and pain, and shows how the cur­dling of these impulses into a con­di­tion and a type changed what it means to be human.’

I think those young women saying they wanted to be beaten by Chris Brown were simply being ‘human’ and the reactions to their comments were presenting them as ‘inhuman’. I have had a similar experience of being ‘dehumanised’ as a result of being the ‘victim’ of domestic violence. Once I was stood in the magistrates court, trying to secure an injunction against my ex who had previously stalked me and broken into my house to beat me up, I could not explain that actually, at one point in our relationship, it ‘hurt so good’. That would have lost me my case. So I had to deny an aspect of myself in order to ensure my own safety.

Now I am no longer in the courtroom I still feel judged about my sexuality. When I tried to explain this to people on twitter who were condemning Chris Brown, and the women who tweeted in support of him, I was told my personal experience is ‘irrelevant’. Well, it is relevant to me. And it is relevant in forming my views on those young women, on Rihanna’s relationship with Chris Brown, and on feminism in general.

As Simpson wrote in response to Philips’ book:

‘Masochism’ is one of the inven­tions of late nine­teenth cen­tury sex­ol­ogy in the Gothic shape of Baron Dr Richard Von Kraft-Ebing. It was only ever intended to apply to men; women were ‘nat­u­rally’ masochis­tic, so plea­sure in pain on their part was not ‘per­verse’ and there­fore not a prob­lem to be explained or pathol­o­gised. This was part of a shift in gen­der roles in the West in the Nine­teenth Cen­tury which was con­cerned with, we are told, insti­tu­tion­al­is­ing women’s sub­ju­ga­tion. As Phillips points out, ‘Dante’s ordeal in the Inferno to be reunited with Beat­rice, to John Donne’s love poetry, sac­ri­fi­cial mas­cu­line love has been a cru­cial theme, only in this [20th] cen­tury has what for many cen­turies seemed the nat­ural, desir­able form of male love been rede­fined as effem­i­nate per­ver­sity, masochism.’

Phillips believes that this refor­mu­la­tion of male iden­tity that excluded masochism made mas­culin­ity ‘bla­tantly misog­y­nisitc, emo­tion­ally inept and homo­pho­bic’. She also believes that it was this new mas­culin­ity which led in part to the ‘cor­rec­tive’ of fem­i­nism. Iron­i­cally, the exclu­sion of masochism from the male psy­che has pro­duced a pub­lic sce­nario of their pun­ish­ment and chas­tise­ment by women which con­tin­ues today. The fem­i­nist is Ms Whiplash.’

So I think presenting ‘dangerous masochism’ as a problem confined to ‘oppressed’ women reinforces the gender binary, and the culture in which men are presented as sadists to victimised women.

Whilst I am sure people reading this might say, ‘yes, but this was a crime, not the consensual actions of a couple engaging in S and M’ I don’t remember seeing those people celebrating consensual S and M relationships. The only time this topic gets raised in most circles seems to be when someone gets badly hurt against their will (usually a woman), or when it results in a court case.

The people who have rushed to pass judgement on those young women, I do not think are helping those or other young people be open about their sexual feelings, which, if Freud, Simpson and I are to be believed, inevitably will include masochism.

And in their crusade against Brown, which, incidentally does not seem to take into account the feelings or voice of Rihanna, they are, in my view, on a hiding to nothing.

http://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/rude-boyrude-girl-2/