Intact hymens and the fetishization of virginity

14 07 2009

Via Sociological Images, an older ad marketing a tampon:


The beginning text of the ad goes like:

I really wanted to use tampons but I heard that you had to be, you know, ‘experienced’. So I asked my friend Lisa. Her mom is a nurse so I figured she’d know. Lisa told me she’d been using Petal Soft Plastic Applicator Tampax tampons since her very first period and she’s a virgin. In fact, you can use them at any age and still be a virgin.

It’s laughable that this is the actual text of the ad. It’s also ridiculous that people used to fear that girls could lose their virginity by using tampons. “In fact, you can use them at any age and still be a virgin” – OMG Yay! What a relief! Oh gee, society and its fetishization of virginity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Palin may be gone but her anti-choice legacy remains

7 07 2009

Via Clara Jeffrey at Mother Jones, one of the last things that Sarah Palin did in office was to further a proposal that would mandate girls under the age of 18 seeking abortions to get parental consent first.  This proposal was certified last Thursday, July 2nd and now, backers just need to obtain 32,734 signatures from Alaskans for it to go on a statewide ballot to be voted on next year.

This proposal would require parental notification and consent except in the following situations: 1) the young woman submits a notarized statement saying that she is a victim of abuse by a parent or guardian, 2) the young woman manages to persuade a court to allow her to bypass notification, or 3) a doctor declares a medical emergency.

This proposal is ageist and anti-choice bullshit masking as paternalistic “protection”.   Not only is Palin shaming young women for having sex (OMG!!!  Gasp!!  The thought of teenage girls having sex?!!!  Completely unheard of!!) but she is also crafting an anti-choice legacy to remain in her absence.  It is a fundamental right for women to have complete autonomy of their own bodies.  If we can’t even make our own choices about our own own bodies, what can we do?

Vice President of Alaska’s Planned Parenthood Clover Simon said, “We believe there are several legal problems with this initiative, including the setting of court rules, and our lawyers are now taking a close look at our options.”  Planned Parenthood is preparing to counter this initiative because in reality, laws like these further jeopardize young women.

Before Palin’s resignation, two of Alaska’s public health experts, Beverly Wooley and Jay Butler, were canned for intervening in Palin’s anti-choice initiatives.  Writes Jeffrey, “Both made the critical mistake of wanting to present scientific evidence on the impact of parental consent laws to the state Senate.  They never got the chance; the Senate ‘ran out of time'”.  This is outrageous – firing competent staff members for presenting sound scientific evidence!

Wooley meant to cite research from states that had already passed similar legislation.  Some of the research demonstrated that with parents involved, young women tend to get abortions later on in their pregnancy which is not only more of a health risk but also more expensive.  Meanwhile other findings showed that with parental involvement fewer young women get abortions.  The latter result is what an anti-choice crusader like Palin would iterate and reiterate.

Sigh.  So while Palin may have resigned, her anti-choice legacy remains behind.

Friday Blogaround

19 06 2009

Sorry posting has been slow lately, but here are some interesting reads.  Enjoy and happy Friday everyone!

Happy Juneteenth, Peeps!

Trigger Warning: A young trans woman in New York was tortured to death yesterday, via A.E. Brain

New College Alcohol/Assault Stats – What seems to be still missing from the discussion is prevention

This is depressing – UK Officials Assigned to Fight Rape Actually Promote Rape Myths

Racism Review has a round-up of links to stories on Race, Racism and White Supremacy

Fat and Fashionable AND happy? Impossible!

How the Recession Impacts Women: More Women Forced to Reduce Maternity Leave Under Stress of the Economy

Two great pieces from MoJo: Bush Officials Cash In as More Americans Lose Out and Obamanomics: The Good, the Bad, the Weak

I’ve heard a lot about the new movie, The Hangover and how it’s super hilarious and a must-see.  Here’s a more critical review of it, More White Men Behaving Badly: A “Brain-on” Look at The Hangover

Safer Sex PSAs Conflate the Penis with a Firearm (NSFW)

Wealth-Care Reform: Fixing our health-care system will make us more economically secure.  It won’t make us much healthier.

Jessica Valenti on The Virginity Movement, Rebranded

Depression in Action, or Why I’m Still a Radical Feminist Despite it All

A Study in Ableism

Advocate’s (And the Gayosphere’s) Jacked Up Reporting on Black Transwoman’s Marriages

Monday Blogaround

8 06 2009

Here’s what my feminist radar picked up today:

Harvard to Endow Chair in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies

Republicans Regain Control of New York State Senate

Back to the Future in Torture Policy

15-Year-Old Victim Will Not See Her Rapists Prosecuted

Can a Speech Change the World?

More Bellyachin’ about Sluts!

Pink Sheep Of The Family

To Whom You Are Accountable

Model Choi Jin-Sil sued – for being beaten

Frat Boy Culture, Gender Identity, and Rape

Systemic Racism in Banking: The Wells-Fargo Case

EW!, OUCH!, and seriously fucked up!

20 05 2009

A 75-year old woman in Russia, Nina M, got a “designer vagina” to help herself get a husband:

Dr Anna Uzunova said: “Usually such requests are from much younger women.
“But she wanted to have an active sex life despite her age so we agreed to do the operation and help her.”
After the operation, Nina delighting said: “I feel like a young woman again.”

It is disturbing that Nina M underwent vaginoplasty, intrusive surgery performed on female genitals to tighten vaginal muscles, just to make her vagina more appealing to and desirable for men and to help her snag a husband. Why do we live in a society where women consider male sexual pleasure a large factor in the decisions they make about themselves and their bodies? It’s my vagina, if you don’t like it, don’t go near it! And my vagina is for me and my pleasure, not for male sexual conquest.

What the press is focusing on is her age – yes, she is 75 years old – but the real issue is the pervasiveness of ageist and misogynist standards of beauty/standards of femininity and the extremes to which women venture in order to fulfill those unrealistic and unhealthy standards. This is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Furthermore, vaginoplasty is not a cheap surgery. The fact that Nina M had that much money and chose to spend it on this is unsettling.

Beauty is a commodity that decreases in value as time goes along. And since beauty is everything – women are taught that our value is based on our appearances alone, not our intelligence, sense of humor, compassion, or any other personality traits – many women fear aging. The anti-aging industry is booming. From anti-wrinkle creams in drug stores to Botox and plastic surgery (nose jobs, boob jobs, etc.), women will do whatever it takes to not appear old. Because old = ugly = non-sexual = undesirable. And no one wants to be a discarded good.

What this case also reaffirms is society’s male-centric view of sex. Sex is thought of in a highly heteronormative way in which female pleasure is missing from the equation. It’s all about male pleasure, and making sure that the man enjoys sex. Reconstructing the vagina for male consumption to enhance male sexual pleasure reflects heteronormative ideology that ascribes the vagina as solely the site for penile penetration.

There is a lot of dialogue in the feminist community about female genital mutilation and the health risks, pain, and trauma that it puts women through. However, licensed surgeons practice genital mutilation in the west as well. Just because it’s super expensive and performed by a licensed medical practitioner in a clean hospital bed does not take away from the fact that it too is harmful and another form of patriarchal colonization of female bodies.

How does race play into hook-up culture?

27 03 2009

PACT (Prevention, Awareness and Community at Tufts) is in the process of filming a documentary about hook-up culture at Tufts. We heard from many different people and their thoughts on various issues related to hook-up culture: whether hook-up culture exists here at Tufts, the advantages and disadvantages of hooking up, how race/racism factors into hook-up culture, how to be an active bystander, how technology enables/facilitates hook-up culture, where sexual assault plays into hook-up culture, etc.

What interested me the most was the whole race/racism issue. People may think that we are beyond race and racism now, that we are “color-blind”, but that is not necessarily true. People spoke about their experiences and thoughts on hooking up with or dating people who exclusively hook up or date people of a certain ethnicity. Like white males who only hook up with or date black women, or Asian women, etc.

Exclusively hooking up with or dating people of a certain ethnicity (like only Latinos/Latinas, or Asians, or blacks, etc.) is problematic and racist because in these scenarios, that ethnicity is being eroticized, fetishized and otherized. People project ideas and assumptions about the behavior of certain ethnicities based on racist stereotypes about that ethnic group. It further groups the people of that ethnicity together and tokenizes people – that one person is representative of the whole ethnic group.

But is it racist to hook up with or date only within your own ethnicity or to purposely avoid hooking up with and dating people of your own ethnicity? Some people mentioned having friends or knowing people who refuse to date within their ethnicity because they don’t want to be seen as people who only date within their race. Like how some Asian men make it a point to NOT hook up with or date Asian women because they don’t want to be that stereotypical Asian who only dates Asians. Or how some black women never hook up with or date black men.

I can understand why some people may choose to date exclusively within their own ethnicity – some parents may be very intolerant of interracial dating. Therefore it may be easier to date within your own ethnicity to avoid any parental/family drama. Parental pressure can be a strong force factoring into people’s decisions of who they date or become romantically involved with. Then again, some people just don’t give a damn what their parents think and date whoever they want to regardless of ethnicity.

I have a hard time believing people who say that they only date certain ethnicities because they are simply attracted to certain features. Like if they find blond hair and blue eyes extremely attractive. Or if they find dark skin and dark hair sexy and attractive. What lies behind the attraction? I feel like there’s got to be a lot more than just really liking blue eyes.

I am also slightly skeptical of the argument that it’s better to date within your own ethnicity because “people like you understand you better”. This relates back to the whole why do all the black kids sit together in the cafeteria question. People are conditioned to believe that it’s a personal issue, that people of your skin color just get you in ways that other people can’t. This ignores the underlying structural forces that come into play that shape these relations. It is no coincidence that wealthier suburbs and neighborhoods tend to be predominantly white while housing developments and projects tend to consist of people of color.

It’s easier to convince yourself and accept that it’s a personal, individual thing where people from your ethnic background get you better, but it’s never that simple. It’s also problematic because it lumps all people of a certain ethnicity together. Since you guys are all black, Asian, Hispanic, etc., obviously you are all the same and get each other.

The whole issue of race and romance, how race and racism influence who you choose to hook up with and/or date, is part of an ongoing dialogue that I have with my friends. Despite the many number of times I’ve talked about this and the many number of people I’ve discussed this with, I still haven’t come to any concrete conclusion. What are people’s thoughts and feelings on this?

Why are we so obsessed with virginity?

27 03 2009

Why is this relevant?


I don’t understand why this matters.  Why do people care about how many students at Wellesley College are virgins?  And why is it necessary to break it down by major?  This just goes to show how America is so obsessed with virginity, that we need to know EXACTLY how many women are virgins and the percentage of women per major that are virgins.

Furthermore, virginity is nothing more than a social construct.  How did the people who conducted this survey define virginity?  As heterosexual penis-in-vagina intercourse?  Virginity can mean a lot of different things for different people – some women consider themselves virgins even after they’ve had intercourse, and their “first time” may be the first time they orgasm while having intercourse with a partner.  Meanwhile, others may believe that after having oral sex one is no longer a virgin.

But still, my question remains, what is the point of this study/graph?  What is it supposed to show or prove?

Virginity is not all that

20 02 2009

On Thursday, February 19th the Tufts Daily had an article called “Young woman in San Diego sells virginity to pay her way through graduate school”. 22-year old Natalie Dylan put her virginity on sale online in order to pay for her grad school tuition.

The article quotes a Tufts senior Amanda Harris in saying “What I think is particularly sad about this is that I know girls at Tufts who are escorts and things like that to pay their college tuition, and why is it only getting press attention when it’s one person selling her virginity?”

This touches on the extremely high premium that the United States places on virginity. From education to the media to the government, the United States is obsessed with virginity. In a way it is fetishized. Girls and women are overvalued for their virginity and their sexuality, and purity balls and chastity vows are just more ways to control and police female sexuality. All the fixation on virginity makes girls become sexual objects such early on, even before they know what sex actually is!

Institutions have also constructed the image of the ideal virgin, what a virgin should look and be like: she should be a “good” girl: clean, pure, innocent, not sexual but sexy. If she is sexy she should perform it for public consumption. She is also heterosexual, white, thin, and upper class. Thus virginity becomes racialized as well as defined by class – women of color are negatively hypersexualized in American culture, and low income poorer women are never positioned as virgins. All this combines to suggest that non-wealthy white women are dirty.

Those of us who are “un-pure”, not virgins, get that somehow held against us. For instance, in rape cases prior sexual conduct is not supposed to factor in, but often it does. Women who come forward will often get asked about their previous sexual behavior because of course once a woman has been “de-flowered” she cannot be “re-flowered” and therefore she cannot be raped.

This country’s obsession with virginity is unhealthy and damaging to girls and women. We get such mixed messages, ranging from abstinence only sex education in school to Girls Gone Wild videos that base a female’s worth on her sexuality. Sex is simultaneously overvalued and devalued – it’s what sells and every time there’s a sex scandal involving a politician or some high profile person it’s all over the media, but at the same time young people are just taught not to have sex.

I’m excited and will be looking out for Jessica Valenti’s (of Feministing) new book called The Purity Myth which will be released soon.