Emma Holten’s Consent

Here’s a smart piece about consent and revenge porn, in which a woman who was a victim of it decided to get new photos taken & publish them herself in order to establish her own agency & autonomy.

She doesn’t advise it for everyone, but she does say some smart things about the nature of sexualization and objectification. Such as:

Then, suddenly, I noticed that this dynamic – sexualisation against her will – was everywhere. Take ‘creepshots’, a global phenomenon which entails photographing women without their knowledge or consent, in order to share them in a sexual context online. On similar sites, people link to Facebook pages asking if anyone can hack or find more pictures of the girl. Here, again, women are used as objects whose lack of consent, of participation, provides the reason and allure of their sexualisation.

This dynamic is a commonplace online and is a concrete manifestation of a larger discourse around the female body, the notion that it is erotic to sexualise someone who is unaware. We all know the tropes: the sexy teacher/student/nurse/waiter/bartender/doctor. All jobs, if staffed by women, can be sexualised. What is sexy is not the job, not even the woman, but the fact that while the woman is just doing her job you are secretly sexualising her. She has become public property by simply being?

Do go read the whole thing. She is straightforward, pro sex, and thoughtful. It won’t solve the problem, but it feels empowered — dignity in the face of a shitty, sexist world.

Lab-grown Vaginas

For real, folks. Not only can they grow them but they can implant them.

A tissue sample and a biodegradable scaffold were used to grow vaginas in the right size and shape for each woman as well as being a tissue match.

They all reported normal levels of “desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction” and painless intercourse.

Experts said the study, published in the Lancet, was the latest example of the power of regenerative medicine.

So awesome.

Mirror Images

My friend Miriam Hall recently wrote about her experience seeing herself in a mirror when she wasn’t expecting to. She didn’t like what she saw:

The mirror showed me my body—stout, short and plump. But what the mirror really showed me is something far deeper. It showed me how much I try and pretend that I don’t look like I do. The mirror showed me I am not who I think I am.

The whole article she’s written for Elephant – a guide to mindful life, as it calls itself – is, to my mind, more about seeing than feeling, seeing what is and not with a critical eye, just with a seeing one.

It made me think even more about my boobs post the other day and the ways we contextualize our own naked selves in ways that make us not right, less attractive, less whole.

There is a problem here, but it’s greater than the commodification of women’s bodies, or bodies in general. It’s more than seeing skinniness as health (when it often isn’t, at all, & is so often the opposite). It’s more than equating fatness to unhealthiness.

It’s more about the way we want to see bodies as objects, as things outside ourselves, not at the vessels we carry our souls in. I saw a few naked photos of myself, taken recently, and like Miriam, actually saw something I was pretending wasn’t there – all of the sadness of the past few years, the losses you all know about, & some you don’t, reflected in my posture and my body – in my everything, in my gestalt, for lack of a better word. And like a woman who might see her post pregnancy belly and post nursing breasts as what they are – vastly perfect because of what they’ve been and done and not because of how they look – I saw a body that had eaten so much emotion I couldn’t otherwise express.

So look at yourself, at your body. Not in the mirror, to see what needs fixing. Just glance at yourself in a mirror, in a shop window’s reflection, to see what’s there that you’re pretending isn’t. We only ever distract ourselves with weight loss and gain, muscle tone and beauty. There is so much more a body is and says than the stupidly limited vocabulary we choose for it.



The other day I was poking around the internet for the answer to a particular question: whether or not wearing a bra at night keeps boobs safe from the forces of gravity. I started doing that very thing a few years ago with my older bras that are a little stretched out & so pretty comfy to sleep in.

The answer: the jury is out. There are very strong opinions on both sides. Some say bras in general are bad for boobs & actually cause them to sag. Others that bras are vital. Breastfeeding has been viewed as a culprit. It’s not. It’s actually the thickening and then thinning of milk ducts that causes women who have been pregnant and/or nursed to have less “bouncy” breasts. Weight loss and gain isn’t good for them either, if you needed yet another reason not to yo-yo diet.

So it’s pretty much surgery if you want higher boobs post pregnancy or weight loss/gain or just because you do. Of course you can and should work out your pecs, stand up straight, get fitted for the right bra (if you don’t believe the pervy French researcher) and – get this – squeeze your own breasts to potentially prevent both sagging and breast cancer.

But in the meantime, look at these breasts of regular people. I have to say that I looked at these photos more than once while I kept thinking about the breasts I am used to seeing – say the absurdly perfect rack of the brunette in the Robin Thicke video, for instance – and wondered about how often ANY of us see regular breasts.

Nudists do. Kinky folks in play spaces. Doctors. But most of us don’t really see the breasts of regular women on a day to day basis ,& that fact blew me away. Theoretically, it’s entirely possible for young women never to see anything but (1) their own breasts and (2) “famous” breasts (of movie stars, porn stars, etc.) That’s kinda fucked up.

Moreso, read what the women themselves say about their breasts: one woman with a really lovely pair wants them to face forward more. Another wishes she didn’t have stretch marks. Women with small breasts want bigger ones; women with larger breasts worry about sag. Asymmetry seems pretty routine. I kind of love that this one young woman lists everything that is “wrong” with them but still loves her own:

“I’m eighteen and have never been pregnant, but I come fully equipped with real flesh-and-blood breasts – my right is larger than my left, I have one inverted nipple, visible veins, stretchmarks from rapid adolescent development, even light downy fuzz covering the entire breasts. Whatever. I love them. They don’t belong to men, they don’t belong to society: they belong to me.” (bold added by me)

So the next time you think yours are imperfect, go look at some real women’s breasts – these are ones of women who have been pregnant – and remind yourself once again that we are, in fact, an uptight prudish culture – which means we don’t see other people naked casually – and that commodifies women’s bodies in ways that suck – which means we only see breasts that are selling products or entertainment.

Naked Trans Women

It’s embarrassing to hear that my fellow feminists are shaming trans women for their bodies. It breaks my heart, really. I’ve probably seen more trans women naked than the average person, and there’s nothing scary about their bodies.

They’re beautiful bodies, like all women’s bodies are.

But when Red Durkin writes this:

Specifically speaking to the issue of sexual assault survivors: Especially in a queer/lesbian space, I find it incredibly dangerous to equate penises with sexual violence. This erases MUCH of the assault/abuse/violence that happens within lesbian communities. It also erases the women who experience that violence. As I mentioned in my initial reply, I am a sexual assault survivor myself. I feel completely ignored/unseen when trans women and sexual assault survivors are spoken of as though they’re mutually exclusive. I am the cross section of those identities. So, so, SO many trans women are. Do we not deserve healing?

How much more violence can we really do to trans women’s bodies at this point? Recognizing the deep ways we shame and blame trans women does not erase or eliminate anyone’s concern for women’s bodies.

Barbie Vagina

No, really: you can get surgery – called “The Barbie” – to remove your labia minora so you can have a ‘tidy’ seam of a vagina instead of – well, a regular one. For those of you who don’t know, pussies are like snowflakes: no two are the same, with variations in color, size, texture, hairiness, size of clitoris, position of the vagina (the actual opening) and shape of the minor and major labia.

It’s one of the things that people who really love female genitals seem to find endlessly fascinating. (Note: not all women have female genitals, and some men do.)

I’d like to propose that any man who does these surgeries considering getting “the Ken” – where a man’s penis and testicles are melted down and smoothed into a tidy lump.

Treated Like a Woman (Or a Young Black Man)

My friend Lena pointed out this short article on Think Progress by Alyssa Rosenberg about the return of D’Angelo to me, which talks about how D’Angelo was undone by the pressure to strip – and maintain an exacting and desired physique for his fans – and Rosenberg talks about how he was, effectively, treated like a woman.

Which, well of course: women have to be beautiful to be considered talented, but if beautiful have to work against type to be considered smart, or artistic.

Yet there is this long, long history of treating young black men as a stereotype too, of the young black buck: known for their bodies, and brawn; assumed to be hung, sexually provocative and yet also sexually and physically objectified. In a culture where well hung or athletic or both is often also assumed to mean small brained, or non/anti-intellectual, young black men are up against a lot of stereotypes women are up against as well. Both too are demonized for their apparent sexuality: women for having any, and black men for having their assumed and expected expertise “threaten” white men’s power and self-image.

So in a sense he wasn’t treated like a woman at all; he was treated as many young black men are treated, and have been: expected to be nothing more than their physical, sexualized, and objectified bodies.

Andrej Pejic in Push-Up Bra Ads

Oh, I love the gender deconstructing that’s going on in the wake of Andrej Pejic’s career. Now, he’s in ads for a “super push up” bra.

The most common plastic surgery for men is for gynecomastia – that is, to remove breast tissue.  That said, if most guys with gynecomastia looked like Pejic, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t bother.

Wow is he the Hotness.

(via Jezebel)