At last! It’s March and I’ve finally managed to read another of the books from my list for the Women Unbound Challenge! I’m having to make substitutions to the list because my library does not have Bluestockings (which, oh, I really wanted! but never mind, life is pain), and although it claims to have Foreign Correspondence, it has not been shelved where they claim that it is shelved (in Biography).
Yes Means Yes, ed. Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman
The subtitle of this collection is Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape. Wouldn’t that be nice? It’s a collection of essays about feminism and rape culture, addressing these issues in the context of immigration, transsexualism, army training, virginity, etc. I thought the editors did brilliantly at getting a wide variety of authors and perspectives. I was particularly struck by the essay about rape of illegal immigrant women, as it highlighted an issue of which I was previously unaware and explored the ramifications of leaving such women without any legal recourse.
IT WAS ALL VERY UPSETTING.
Oh, except for the one by Hanne Blank, she of Virgin: An Untouched History. Her essay, “The Process-Oriented Virgin”, began by narrating a “good” virginity-loss story from a girl she interviewed for her book. The girl was in her late teens and in a loving relationship with a guy who was not pressuring her for sex; eventually she decided to have sex with him, and although she didn’t really enjoy it, it didn’t hurt that much. (That’s not the undepressing part.) Blank said that although this was a fairly typical “good” virginity-loss story, she frequently had women tell two stories: the story of when they think other people would consider they had lost their virginity (e.g., first instance of vaginal sex), and another story, of the first time they had sex and wanted it and enjoyed it. “The sex that counts,” Blank writes, “is sex in which they are involved and invested.” That was pleasing to read.
Another essay, “Why Nice Guys Finish Last”, by male-to-female transsexual Julia Serano, talked about the value of transgendered people in exploring the ways that males experience the world vs. the way females do, on the basis that such people have often navigated the world as both. Serano says:
When I was male-bodied, it was not uncommon for women to cross the street if I was walking behind them at night, or to have female strangers misinterpret innocent things that I said as unsolicited sexual advances. It is telling, I think, that I had to deal with the sexual predator stereotype despite the fact that my appearance was about as unthreatening as it gets….While the predator stereotype affects men’s interactions with women, it probably has an even greater impact on their interactions with children. When I was male-bodied, I found that if I interacted enthusiastically with children, women would often give me dirty looks….Obviously, men make up the overwhelming majority of sexual predators. But that does not mean that all men are necessarily sexual predators.
The point of which, I suppose, is that rape culture is hurting everyone. (But women are the ones who can’t walk alone at night.) (That really pisses me off.) Anyway it’s food for thought. Yes Means Yes! is full of well-written and thought-provoking essays that will inevitably make you angry with society and how it handles gender. Enjoy!
things mean a lot (thanks for the recommendation!)
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Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, Ariel Levy
I don’t have much to say here. Female Chauvinist Pigs deals with the kind of supposed “feminism” that encourages women to get naked and rejoice in displaying as much of their bodies as they can, as often as they can. It was a quick read partly because it was short, and partly because it wasn’t very insightful. I agree with Levy, but I did before she started, and I didn’t feel at the end that my understanding of what she calls “raunch culture” was any deeper or more complex.
Other (better) reviews:
Adventures in Reading
(Tell me if I missed yours!)