Monday, May 31, 2010
"There are those who love to get dirty and fix things. They drink coffee at dawn, beer after work. And those who stay clean, just appreciate things. At breakfast they have milk and juice at night. There are those who do both, they drink tea."
~Gary Snyder (american poet)
Backside of the postcard:
"I paint postcards and then send them to anonymous people named Parkinson. I have Parkinson's disease and this small exercise helps."
Front side of the postcard:
"When commuters drive crazy and piss me off I laugh (as I stroke the barrel of my .44 in the door)"
I had been wanting to venture over to the Museum of Death for a while. A willing friend and I headed over to Hollywood for a visit.
The museum was founded in San Diego June 1, 1995. It was originally located in San Diego, California's first mortuary in a building once owned by Wyatt Earp. It is not located in Hollywood. It is currently run by curators J.D. Healy and Cathee Schultz. The two felt that there was a lack of death education in the country and decided to make the effort their life's work.
The Museum of Death contains a collection of serial murderer artwork, photos of the Charles Manson crime scenes, the Guillotined Severed Head of the Blue Beard of Paris, Henri Landru, original crime scene and morgue Photos from the Black Dahlia Murders, a Body Bag and Coffin collection, replicas of execution devices, mortician and autopsy Instruments, pet death taxidermy, and videos of autopsies and serial killers. Videos include, the Heaven's Gate Cult recruiting video.
The museum is a self toured museum. My friend and I stepped inside the gate and were greeted by a "ding dong" as if we were entering a convenience store. We were then greeted by J.D. Healy. He was as friendly as can be and warned us that what we were about to witness was quite graphic. We paid $15 each to get in and were given a ticket.
We walked inside and immediately were greeted by a video on embalming bodies. We watched for a while and witnessed the embalming tools in various cases. We then went on to see various body bags and burial and mourning cloaks from different cultures.
There was a lot of reading material hung on the walls. What struck me as odd was that a lot of the reading material seemed fragile and was not encased but rather nailed or fastened to the walls. Old newspaper articles were simply clipped and hung on walls.
As we moved through the museum we saw gruesome crime scene photos along with videos that just ran over and over.
We also saw random photos of murder that didn't seem to have much correlation other than they were of the subject of death. For example one disturbing display is a wall of snapshots, all taken by a woman and her new boyfriend after killing the old boyfriend. The murderers are naked, happily smiling, and posing with body parts they've just sawed off.
Some of what I saw was impressive and some was not. For instance, the Charles Manson section was small and the room was outlined with various books written about the Manson murders. I was not impressed by a collection of books against a wall.
A painting of made by John Wayne Gacy Jr. marked a wall dedicated to him. Other serial murderes such as Ted Bundy were acknowledged.
My friend and I separated here and there to see what we wanted. The owner's dog "Buddy" walked around as we toured. My friend and I called him "Door Doggie" until we learned his name as he would just sit in doorways and allow patrons to step over him as he lay.
Photo: A visitor looks at the display on the Heaven's Gate cult suicide.
Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times
I passed by a taxidermy...nook of sorts. What made me laugh out loud was the site of a sea urchin amongst the sea animals. I suppose it's just so common that I never really connected it to the dead.
Jayne Mansfield's chihuahua
One room seemed to have no significance. A dark room which chairs and a random coffin, a random boar figurine and screen viewing bombings in various countries. It was this section that I found unnecessary. It seemed as if this portion was almost glorifying death and destruction
JFK assassination exhibit
The museum ended with no particular finale. My friend and I exited the beaded drapeway and was greeted by Cathee Schultz. She had a big smile on her face and asked us if we had any questions. I asked her how long they've been doing this and if they are continuing to collect various items for their museum. She said that they are explanding and are indeed collecting more items.
I might want to return once the museum has expanded. I'm glad that I visited the museum however I admit I was expecting more. I think it could be organized a bit better and I felt as though I didn't learn much. I suppose it's in the museum's best interest to allow its audience to make up their own minds.
Death is a concept that intrigues me as I cannot quite wrap my brain around it. It's something that most of us avoid and some run towards. Some approach death with grace and readiness and others fear it like nothing else. Being that I lost someone dear to me recently I had hoped to gain some perspective. I suppose I'm looking everywhere and anywhere to gain some perspective.
I think the Museum of Death does have something to offer. It's not just a carnival spectacle. I do question it it takes a toll on the those who run it or if they have become jaded.
Before my venture to the museum I had checked out the website. I had learned that next door to the museum is the Chaos Gallery which Cathee informed me is currently closed. I had hoped to take a gander as the exhibits I hear are quite creative and different.
We waved goodbye and patted Buddy the door doggie on the way out. We spent about 45 minutes in the museum, it felt pretty quick.
To learn more visit Museum of Death.
I have been posting pieces from Breslin's collections as I think it is brings forth a glimpse into a world of patriarchy that is so common. As an anti-pornography feminist I am quite aware that there is a sect of feminists that believe that pornography can be healthy and positive. My view is that porn is porn whether it is made by women for women, or brings in various races and individuals of various sexual orientations. Exploitation is exploitation, porn is porn.
As a woman I can tell you that I have been involved with men who watch porn. I will no longer take on a partner who advocates for pornography. Pornography, particularly straight porn, is aimed towards the male gaze. It's purpose is for men to feel that they are control at home with their remote and able to pause, rewind and fast forward to get to what they want. They can avoid rejection and real human interaction and feel as though they too are dominating the women on screen. The purpose of heterosexual pornography is to allow men to view women loving whatever is being done TO them not WITH them. A man can feel his ego inflating and along with that comes a sense of control and dominance. Sex becomes fucking in porn. The man creates the pleasure in the woman rather than the woman being part of the process. To think that men do not consciously or subconsciously take this idea to the bedroom is non-sensical.
Below are excerpts from the blog Letters From Men Who Watch Pornography.
Disclaimer: The below excerpts are sexually explicit
I began to feel abnormal...
I watch porn to further the mood, to help engage my brain, during those times when I need it. I watch porn with my SO, as a prelude - a sort of mental lubrication - to further sexual activity; I watch porn when I masturbate to keep my mind occupied. The biggest problem I have, sexually speaking, is keeping focus: my mind wanders, especially when there is no other involved to engage more senses. By myself, there is nothing to taste, nothing to smell, nothing to explore, nothing to touch, nothing to press my tongue against, both enjoying the sensation of my tongue, and delighting in the reaction I provoke in the other: there is just me, alone, with all my normal stressors. A mountain of debt, a lifetime of insecurity, obligations to be met, dreams to be dashed, problems to be solved: no amount of Viagra can overcome all this. There is nothing so quite disheartening as to feel the need for an orgasm, to have the time to pleasure oneself, to get started in the act, only to discover mid-stroke that I'm now thinking about my mother's impending death from brain tumors raging inside her skull. Porn helps to engage my brain, to quell those thoughts of my existence which rob my erection of its life. Porn enables me to relax, to enjoy the sensations I'm provoking in myself, to reach that point where I am one with my cock, that ultimate Zen of existence in which each wave of pleasure moving from the head of my cock through my body defines me wholly.
27 year old virgin...
By this time, finding porn had become an obsession, I needed to find as much and the best porn available. I had started a collection. I would cut up the magazines I bought and pasted the pictures that turned me on the most and made a scrapbook. I also kept the very best digital pics I found and load them up to a slideshow viewer, you know, for easier masturbation. Now I must mention what my sexual and romantic life is like. In a word, nonexistant. As I am writing this I am 27 years old. Virgin, never had a girlfriend, have been on a total of two dates, never even been kissed. I absolutely love women, find them fascinating, intringuing and stimulating. Yet I am a complete failure in social skills. I am incredibly shy, have very few friends, spend most of my time alone and freeze to a standstill when someone tries to socialize with me. Is consuming porn the cause or a sympton of this problem? If I had a girlfriend and a healthy sex life, would I not need to watch porn anymore? I don't know, and it's these kind of questions that are always in the back of my mind. To be sure, porn has had it's benefits. Thru amassing and sorting the collection I've learned first hand lots of skills that are useful in my career, as I am a librarian. Simply by searching for porn I've become a better librarian and able to find stuff for my users in ways that otherwise I wouldn't consider. Porn has been a distraction and a company thru all the lonely nights. And it's also brought me an unxpected and pleasant connection. About two years ago I started blogging my porn, just to see if there was anyone out there that liked what I liked. Imagine my surprise when not only did I find someone, but it was also a woman. A middle-aged mom in a completely different country and with a taste for porn, started to comment on what I posted and it slowly evolved into an online friendship. Then we started e-mailing and sending each other semi-nude photos. She is now one of my very best friends and we still connect thru porn. I send her pics that I come across which I think are stimulating or that I think she'll like and she answers me back with her thoughts and sometimes a question or two. My life is not fascinating or exciting, but it's also far from miserable. I walk thru the street and fell jealous of the couples I see kissing or holding hands. I want to experience that, but in the meantime I am happy with what I have and I enjoy porn as a means of entertainment and self-discovery. Am I addicted? Yes, probably. But I would rather say that I'm addicted to the world and to beauty. And while not all porn is beautiful (believe me, I know), sometimes a glimmer shines thru it and that is what I'm looking for.
I watched porn for the same reasons any other guy watched porn (full story)
Why does any guy watch porn? Seriously though, without getting into the beginnings of the internet, I watched porn for the same reason every other guy watched porn. Though, the internet brought forth a little more curiosity in me and I eventually found myself searching out the sick things people do to each other to get off. It changed me for a time. I would like to tell you that i've come away quite a bit more cynical towards humanity, but in reality, i've come full circle. I was blissfully unaware before, and i'm blissfully uncaring now. Back in the early days of porn, watching a golden shower video was a good laugh as you and your buddies tried not to puke. I had more than my share of jeering as I saved images of women getting bound with elaborate knots because i've always been a fan of rope work (as in knots used in construction, not in sex). Why I watch porn today is because I have fantasies just like every other person. To see them on screen is a plus.
It was my friend...
I delved deeper and deeper and as my connection got faster and faster i became more and more hooked, until i was only looking for the most perverse and often degrading forms of porn i could find. I came to rely on porn, it was my friend, it made me feel good through the actions of others. Although i was still socially quite active, my friends were racking up notches on their bed posts whilst i stood in the side lines getting drunk and never really meeting any girls. I had lost my virginity at 14, and although i did have a string of - very - short term relationships in the mean time, i didn't have penetrative sex again until i was 21, and i largely put this down to a mix of confidence issues and the growing porn obsession. I feel, looking back on it, porn stopped me understanding what 'real sex' was like, and put the act in a very weird place in my mind, it made it something sex is most definitely not, and almost made me think that it was a terrible, degrading act. Porn was my solace and nemesis at the same time. I loved it and if affected me from growing sexually. Today, i still revert back to my old friend and still have a large digital collection of all sorts dating back from over the years that i keep saying to myself 'i'll delete it soon' but never do. I came out of my 'porn shell' through the love of a good, sexually active and knowledgeable girlfriend, without which, i feel i'd still hold sex as a strange, difficult entity in my head. I'm so happy that i have come to understand and enjoy sex more than looking at porn, i thought for a long time that i might never get over it, and i feel for the men that never do - i'm sure they're out there. although now i'm dating and it doesn't matter so much, i think i know and realise that when i do eventually meet a girl i would like to settle down with, my life partner, that they will have to appreciate the fact porn and i are in it for the duration, i don't think i could every fully give it up, it's just something i need every now and again off the back of my youth. I think convincing her that it means nothing other than a quick release, however, might be more difficult than i imagine. life takes funny turns.
To read more stories go to Letters From Men Who Watch Pornography.
In my last post I posted several excerpts from various letters from Johns. As a feminist I am not in favor of prostitution however I do feel it is necessary to examine both sides of any argument.
I've been fascinated with sex workers for many years as I feel they go through war zones. Street workers, high priced hookers, brothel prostitutes, rent boys etc. All make for interesting story tellers I'm sure. My heart goes out to sex workers. I do not shame the sex worker I am saddened by patriarchy.
Women who feel they are powerful or in control of their sexuality by selling it to another are influenced by patriarchy. Men who feel that controlling and dominating another through sex acts is an example of patriarchy. Women and men alike who compromise themselves in anyway through sex is an example of skewed logic.
Disclaimer: Stories contain sexually explicit material.
35 year old single mom....
I was a 35 yr old single mom who did not receive child support payments the court had ordered. I made money as a personal trainer, a yoga instructor, a bikini bar dancer and a stripper. After being injured and out of work long enough to go through my savings, I found my self in a desperate position. While placing my perishables in my neighbor’s refrigerator and freezer (the power was cut off in my apt. ) I felt desperate & ashamed, but thank goodness, I was pretty. That night, I left my son with my neighbor and dragged myself into the bikini bar. Once there I got dressed, hit the floor and immediately ran into a good looking, lighter haired, younger version of Richard Gere. He was my age, happily married to a beautiful woman who graduated from the university I dreamed of attending. He was a successful, upper middle class businessman. We had instant chemistry and an ease you usually reserve for close friends. I told him point blank, “I need $300 to get my electricity turned back on”. He made some silly joking response and told me he would cover it, I went further with him in the VIP than I’d ever gone before, allowing him to touch my breast through my clothing and feeling him up as well. By the end of the night, I had the $300 and his phone number. He left with the knowledge that I enjoyed sex and needed help financially. We started seeing each other about once a week, at my apt. when he was supposed to be on his way to work. He didn’t like to have a set amount, so I would let him know what I needed and for what and he would give me the money. In his mind, I guess that made me a girlfriend or mistress instead of a whore. His wife got pregnant and had a child during our time together. I moved to a better neighborhood and he helped with the move and rent. We talked like really good friends, but, toward the end, I was rude and mean just to get rid of him.
I figured what the hell (full story)
My introduction to the biz went down like this: I was boning this guy who would come up from Montreal every weekend and eventually I started seeing someone more local and so the last time that he came to see me I told him I didn't want to see him any more and he asked me if I'd considered ever doing it for money. At the time I figured, what the hell, I've already slept with this guy and now he wants to pay me. Works for me. It was such an ego trip. I branched out after that and started posting ads online whenever I needed money for anything. I discovered that I both enjoyed it and it was not what I had expected at all (sometimes it is exactly what I expected). Most of my johns are middle-aged men with beer bellies who are unhappy with their wives, or are out-of-town on business. They are, on the whole, pretty boring to talk to, but that is what they all want. To talk and then be seduced by a sexy twenty-something. And I am exceptionally good at making them believe that I am genuinely interested, that I'm not faking it (sometimes I'm not), that I really love it when you call me "sweetie" (this is probably my least favourite thing to be called during a session, my Dad calls me sweetie, not good associations). I really shouldn't complain, at $200 an hour you can call me whatever you want. My story isn't full of horribly degrading acts done in the desperation of drug addiction. I'm not from a broken home and my parents are still married. I take pride in doing my job well and leaving my clients satisfied. When I was reviewed the first time, for an online escort review forum, I remember being nervous knowing that the guy was going to write one and was thinking of all the possibly negative things he might mention, like that ingrown hair, or my calloused feet. I was totally obsessing over it. But the review was glowing, as were all the ones that came after it. It isn't a great feeling knowing that you are being evaluated sexually and that your looks, hygiene and even your location (of the incall) are up for criticism. I'm not sure my how my ego would react if I was ever reviewed negatively. It'd be a blow to my self-esteem to be sure. But my reviews speak of me as I wish I was (without acting). I often have trouble seeing what others see as positive in me (even in my personal life) and while the reviews do boast of my carnal skills and my good-looks, they also discuss my fun-loving personality and intelligence. Part of me does this to boost a self-esteem that isn't always there and the other part of me enjoys the power in it all. That is, having something that men want and then making them pay for it. Or alternatively, throwing their money in their face. Figuratively-speaking. I call the shots and if you don't like it, go elsewhere. That and I could never bring myself to work a legit, 9-5 job. I'm 25, I figure I'll do it for a few more years, prove to people that it should be decriminalized here, make some bank (so that I have something to show for it, if my parents ever found out) and get out before it eats me up inside.
19 year old...
About me: I am nineteen years old, good-looking, with a great figure, enough to do modelling now and again when I feel like it. Guys buy my drinks, drive me home and light my cigarettes. So why oh why, you might wonder, did a girl like me turn to being an escort? The reason is simple: money. I have a student loan and an overdraft to pay off, along with rather large phone bills (what being a sociable person gets you), and a miserable part-time job in a bar that has, up until now, paid minimum wage. Full-time work is near impossible to find, and there is no way that I can drink, smoke and get around on sixty a week; the taxi home from work costs ten alone. I know that might contradict the previous paragraph, but I do like to be independent sometimes. Another thing is that since becoming sexually active, I have become somewhat cynical of men and their motives. I’m good in bed, I instinctively know what to do and how to do it, and men love it. And after being used in the past, I have decided that I’m going to use them as well; might as well get something out of it, rather than waiting for the phone to ring!
Writer felt like she was born to whore...
Eventually, the glamor wore off and the stress of the job, the weirdo tricks, and the fear and shame took over and I had to stay mildly drunk just to get through the day. I got mugged by another pimp when I broke a cardinal rule about not getting in another pimp’s car. I talked my way out of it and started hiding out in hotel lounges instead of working. Woody threatened to drown me in the Pacific Ocean. By the end of the year, I had had enough, returned home, enrolled in college and got married. Flash-forward twenty-some years later. Divorced, mid-40s, single mom with two kids in a good career that just didn’t pay the bills. I started going to open mics with my poetry about my days as a hooker and met P. there. She, too, was an ex-hooker, and we became friends. In three years after my divorce, I fucked fifty-seven guys (almost all one-night stands), and it felt like the most natural thing in the world. P. and I started doing a lot of sex worker activism together, and pretty soon all my girlfriends were either former or current hookers, strippers and porn actors. P. decided to start escorting again, even though she was in her 40s like me. She was making money hand over fist, and it took a few more years, but I decided to give it a shot. I made a contract for myself that included such things as, "I will stay sober," "I will process my experience with others," and "I will never sacrifice my safety for money." I’ve been an internet escort now for almost three years. I’m approaching fifty, am forty pounds overweight, attractive, and am still somewhat surprised by how much money I make. I charge as much as the younger, "hotter" girls do, and I have a total niche. While the young chicks and I share a lot of the same clients, I tend to get the ones who aren’t comfortable with the younger girls, or who want a mature woman with sexual experience. When I’m in bed with a client, I often get a sense of total bliss. I feel so incredibly blessed and lucky. I was born for whoring, it’s my true life’s calling. Working as a whore has been an incredibly empowering experience for me, the money of which is not the least of that, and my only regret is that I struggled financially for so long as a single mom until I started escorting. I’m currently dating a former client who pays my bills, gives me a steady flow of cash and just bought me a car. He loves the fact that I’m a whore. It’s a turn-on for him. I’ll probably always work to some degree, whether I need the money or not. I just can’t imagine ever being chained to one penis for the rest of my life. It just wouldn’t seem fair.
To read more stories visit Letters From Working Girls.
As a feminist I feel that pornography is a business that hurts all who are involved. If a person decides to sleep with a prostitute there are most likely going to be physical or emotional consequences if not immediately, then later down the road.
One of the issues that strikes me is that the physical and emotional well being of the willing prostitute is not always considered. A customer may or may not debate the reasons as to why or if he should use such sexual services before engaging with the prostitute. I'm curious as to how often the customer may think about the well being of the person he or she is about to become entangled with. Perhaps that's the point for some. Some individuals may not care about the personal background of the person whom they are about to have sex with. Some may not care if one is choosing prostituting themselves because they do not know how else to support themselves. Some may not care if a prostitute is willing to perform sexual acts despite shame, guilt, and sorrow. Some may not care if a willing prostitute is only willing because they believe that prostitution brings forth a sense of power and control.
Despite whatever reasons a man or woman decides to engage with another male or female prostitute, it is harmful because it is an act that takes advantage of another fellow human being. The excuse of "well, she was willing" is no longer an excuse. The argument that sex workers may enjoy what they do has never held weight with me. A prostitute may feel that they are in control and may enjoy the ego trip of assisting in offering other pleasure but the person being pleasured may feel that he or she is in fact the dominant one. So round and round goes a circle of oblivion.
When sex becomes about dominance from either side it is not about sharing, it is not about giving and receiving it is about power. This for some may be exactly what is desired. If so, I wonder how many explore the reasons as to why this is desired.
While I feel confident in my stance that prostitution is harmful I have been curious about the voices from those who sell themselves and those who buy. Letters From Johns offers a glimpse into the mindset of those who wish to buy sex.
Disclaimer: The below excerpts are explicit in nature.
Writer is 30 years old and considering returning to a sex worker:
I couldn't do most of what I had in mind: couldn't undress her, couldn't kiss her, couldn't perform cunnilingus. She was also weirded out by my penis, I have a phimosis. Still, I was enjoying myself until she got on top of me. She immediately started to moan, and it hit me as incredibly fake. I lost my erection. We spent the rest of our time together lying on the bed, me holding her… For the next few weeks what I had done would hit me: sometimes it would make me happy, sometimes sad. Now it's just another memory.
This was the first time I touched a woman in a sexual manner. I felt like a human being, and almost cried. We moved on to the bed, but she laughed at me. She positioned her body so that it was difficult for me to have intercourse and eventually she told me to stop when I began to do it with feeling…
…The experience was not pleasurable at all, but rather very nerve racking and riddled with guilt throughout the whole act. It was something to simply do it and get it out of the way, so that I would be just like other non-virgin men.
…having sex with her (even if I had to pay for it) made up for a lifetime of rejection.
It was the most enjoyable experience I have ever had in my life […] For once I had gained control over my body, and it felt like I was in control of my life. The worst thing about having a physical disability is the lack of control I have in life.
Second, it was the first time I felt like I was being treated like a sexual being with desires and needs that were important. All my life I have been viewed as an asexual being whose desires should be avoided or neglected.
The first time I paid for sex I was twenty-four years old at a business convention in New Orleans. After finding out that my wife had slept with one of her co-workers while I was away, I had gone on a bender through the French Quarter. The last place I ended up at was a real dive, and I bought a "champagne room dance" from a woman working the bar. The champagne room was the antithesis of glamor; it was just an empty room with a couple of chairs, a red light bulb, and a blue plastic tarp that covered the doorway. When she seated me in the chair she noticed my wedding ring and asked if I'd ever cheated on my wife before. I hadn't realized until then what I had purchased, but I decided to go ahead with it. I can remember it vividly; what she was wearing, the songs on the jukebox, and mostly talking to her afterward. She had a story about losing her husband in a car wreck and ending up in New Orleans. Even though the bartender had delivered the two splits of champagne, neither of us touched it; she was drinking peach schnapps from a bottle out of her purse. I didn't really feel anything about the experience, and to this day I still don't know what to make of it. There was a five year interlude before I paid for sex again. By then, it was a lot easier to find "erotic services" online, and I saw perhaps a dozen providers over a few year period. Some I saw repeatedly; one I ended up dating for a few months. She was still working while we were together and it didn't bother me. It's been over a year now and I don't really miss it. The sex itself ranged from at best okay to downright mediocre, and the experience didn't give me what I really wanted. It never really cut through the lonely feeling in my life, and I stopped trying to fill that with sex, paid or otherwise.
Writer is a 34 year old virgin..
It was still nearly a year before my first experience. I finally selected a woman in a town miles from home, about ten years older than me. I chose a more mature woman, as I felt it would be easier, somehow, to confess my inexperience to her than it would be to a younger girl. The experience itself was mixed. My performance was as you might expect from a first timer, but she was sympathetic and understanding. She didn't clock watch, and I enjoyed her company as much as the sexual activity. I left with a feeling of relief that I'd got it over with, that I was no longer a virgin. After that, I found other girls local to me. I've had some fantastic experiences and none of the girls have fitted the media mould, here in the UK at least, of trafficked Eastern Europeans or drug addicts. There was the single mum of 19, who was saving to put herself through a college course to get a professional qualification (and she did, successfully, and gave up the escorting to take a less well paid job in her chosen field). There was the recent graduate, making some extra cash while deciding what career path to take. There was the swinger, who had decided that if she was going to do it anyway, she might as well get paid for it. There have been several students, who will leave college without the debt that weighs down their peers. Overall, more of the experiences have been good than bad. I accept that I'm working at the middle to upper end of the market, but most of the girls I've seen have been intelligent and good company and I put that down to the amount of effort I put in to selection. I'm generally very careful in who I choose, and the less successful experiences have always come when I let myself make a rushed decision. My plan was for it to be a short term fix, a start towards a normal life and a way of catching up with experiences I should have had ten years ago. It's worked so well, that it's becoming a lifestyle choice. I think I prefer it this way.
Writer felt he demeaned himself by haggling over the price...
I understand with sudden clarity why many women and some men are against the practice, much like I understand people’s objections towards drug use. In particular, the charge that prostitution demeans women but I must admit, that I felt like I demeaned myself, bartering with this woman like I would over a cloth shirt. In essence, if I demean another person what does that act imply about my own character? And I don’t mean, “what do people think about what I did?”, I’m referring to my own self-image, I feel like I lowered my standards for myself, not by paying for the services of a prostitute but by haggling over the price of the service. As it stands, I don’t regret utilizing the service of a prostitute, as I’ve learnt more than a single lesson, through just one act but I can honestly admit that I sincerely doubt I’d procure such services again.
To read more stories go to Letters From Johns. Remember the project is closed but the stories still remain on the blog site.
From these stories above you see that some have no issue with paying for sex and feel the experience was well worth it. As I read those stories I thought that their logic was skewed. For example the man with cerebral palsy. I cannot being to imagine what it is like to have a condition such as cerebral palsy and I do not know what this man's life has been like. He stated that he felt like he was in control of his body for the first time and his life. He further stated that he felt like he was being treated like a sexual being. While these all seem like positives there are a couple issues that are being neglected.
One is that this man felt control of his own being through another person rather than himself.
The second is that this man did not give thought to how prostitution may have affected the person he was sleeping with.
My heart goes out to all the Johns who felt the need to turn to sex workers to fulfill their own specific voids. My heart also goes out to all the sex workers who engage in such acts to feed their families, to feel in control, to fill their own voids.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
~The Dalai Lama
I am in favor of this quote by Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama. However, I must say that this concept (like most things) is easier said than done. We do indeed build barriers between other individuals. We build walls in attempt to present ourselves as appealing, or as professional, or intelligent, attractive, lovable, etc.
When we go to work for example, we present ourselves in a way that hopefully maintains our employment and our value. At my place of work we wear casual business attire. However, I can't tell you how often I cringe when I catch the occasional business suit. There is technically nothing wrong with wearing a business suit however, it reminds me, just as with my own casual business attire that we are all conforming and therefore putting up a barrier.
My point is that I believe that the way we present ourselves physically and verbally is often unbalanced. We finesse what we say, and we are often not straightforward with what we feel and what we intend.
So, how do we break this barrier? How do we break it even when others around us maintain a level of professionalism that hides who we are as people?
Let us keep in mind that we are all indeed human beings. To understand that even the most "professional" spewing individual in the stiffest business suit has fears, desires, goals, vulnerabilities, vices, and struggles. Each person we encounter has a beating heart just like us.
Allowing barriers to come down may seem dangerous at times. But let us look for the ways in which we can be ourselves even amongst the professionals. We are not any less professional simply because we wish to allow our personalities to shine through. Easier said than done? Yep. Worth a try? I'd say so.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
How many times a day do we offer a "bless you" to someone who sneezes? To be honest on most occasions I would rather stay quiet. When someone sneezes repeatedly, no doubt there will be someone in the room who will offer a one obligated "bless you" after the other only to be met with an exhausted "thank you" from the sneezer.
Why do we offer a "bless you" after a sneeze? "God bless you" has seemed to fallen out of fashion. Perhaps because not all believe in God. However, we maintain tradition because otherwise we'd feel ackward and impolite.
There have been occasions in which I've been in a room with several individuals and I would allow the others to announce the "bless you" towards the sneezer. But if I were alone with someone who sneezed you can bet I would feel pressured to utter "bless you".
History states that stating "God bless you" after a sneeze was meant to protect the person who sneezed as the belief was that a person's soul may be temporarily expelled and therefore vulnerable to Satan.
Some felt a sneeze was the explusion of Satan within a person and "bless you" was stated in attempt to keep the devil from re-entering.
Others felt that that the heart would temporarily stop when one sneezed and "bless you" was uttered in attempts to protect the person.
I'm sure there are many other explanation out there. The above explanations are obviously ludicrous and yet to this day we continue to offer blessings upon someone who sneezes.
Dare we start a revolutions against the "bless yous?" I don't know if I'm that brave.
An article on the topic of name changes when one marries was brought to my attention. The article is entitled Against the Name Change: A Polemic by M. Leblanc and is posted on Bitch Phd (although the blog is a feminist blog I must say that embracing the word Bitch is a sexist act).
I wrote a post of my own long ago entitled Musings on Marriage where amongst other things I address the topic of name changes. If you're interested click on the grey boldfaced link above.
In the post Leblanc lists her own arguments against name changing. She sets her arguments against many popular arguments in favor of name changing.
Within this post I'd like to restate my reasons for not wishing to change my last name if I chose to marry and and also list a few of Leblanc's arguments which made a lot of sense to me.
First I'd like to state that if I marry my choice will be carried out simply because I wish to be considered "next of kin" to my husband. I feel it is an important decision to make as a couple ages.
1) My Name: I believe that my last name is my own. Yes, it may also be my fathers last name but it is the name I was born with and therefore a part of my specific culture. Whether a future husband may share a similar culture with me or not is beside the issue. I wish to keep my birth name.
2) Tradition: I think it's important for individuals to take the time to think about why women change their last names to begin with. The act stems from tradition. In earlier times a last name change was meant to assist in maintaining family wealth. Some argue that taking on a new name is honoring the union of marriage and honoring God.
I would say that a strategic move to protect wealth is one thing but actually succumbing to the idea that one must abandon their last name entirely is another. As far as honoring God I've got to say that my choice to honor God does not have to entail abandoning who I am in attempts to unite with a loved one.
3) He Can Change it or I Can Hyphenate it: Yes, there are some men who choose to change their last names to their wife's last name. I'm not sure what this accomplishes. It may seem like a hip, alternative move but really it is the same act of changing a person's background by name. In an attempt to be different or even feminist these individuals are actually wrapping up the same box in a different bow.
Hyphenating a last name keeps the husbands name and therefore defeats the purpose of remaining solely who you are. Keeping one's last name is not a form of rejecting a husband. It does not mean that the two are any less of a union.
A few from M. Leblanc's list:
2. I'm not that attached to my name. That's because you were born into a culture where women are expected to change their names upon getting married, where an unmarried woman is regarded as an incomplete person who hasn't really grown up yet. Ever heard a man say "I'm not that attached to my name"? Maybe, but you don't see them saying that and then deciding to just give it up. No, what you are doing is you are using this as a justification for a default rule which, as we all know, is bogus.
3b. I want to have the same name as my children. I actually don't think this is a valid reason. Why is it necessary to have the same name as your kids? No one has ever been able to give me a straight answer. Where I come from, which is a culture way more patriarchal than this one, kids don't have the same name as their fathers OR their mothers. A child takes his dad's first name as his last name. And yet! There is no family destruction! Somehow, everyone knows who is related to who. The schools do not implode because they can't figure out which parents and which kids go together. I think this need is an excellent demonstration of burgeoning American anxiety about the new cultural reality: there are many different kinds of families, lots of step-parents and divorces and legal guardians. Thus, people want to have the same names to reassure themselves that they belong together. No, unlike all those other things, this is real. It's a way of signaling that your bond with your kids is biological or "real" in a world with a lot of fluid families. But when you support the notion that biology is the most important factor in forming a family, you are supporting a harmful status quo that privileges heterosexual, married, biological families. I want all kinds of families to get social, political, and economic support and validation. Don't you?
There also seems to be this bizarre aversion to answering questions. "People will be confused," the name changers say. So what? It's a confusion that is really easy to clear up. If you are named Mary Smith and your daughter is named Candice Jones, and someone cocks an eye at you, you just say "I kept my name when I got married." EASY. Or whatever short explanation applies to whatever you decided to do. See how easy that was? The world did not fall apart. You are going to get questions that are way more annoying that that from the kid that you just had. Frankly, I think that a lot of the reason that women who changed or are planning to change their names get angry at people who are anti-name-change, like me, is because they picked the choice that they thought they would never have to defend, and not having to defend it was a major draw. It seems like the easy choice. I get that. But that doesn't make it the right one.
4. I want to change my name to show my husband that I love him. I don't even know what to say about this one. I don't understand why you need to change part of your identity, the name you are known by, how you think of yourself, for love. Aren't you showing him you love him by getting married, by agreeing that you want to spend a non-insubstantial part of your time, energy, and money for your entire life on him?
5. I want the world to know that we're a unit. Great! I don't see why you're going to need to change your name for this. Once again, him changing his name would accomplish the exact same thing, and I don't see this argument being used to support men changing their names. But, to be honest, I think having the same name is kind of a ridiculous litmus test for people being a unit. People are going to know you're a unit, no matter what you are named. Because you are going to show up at a party, or a family reunion, or at the parent teacher conference, and you are going to say "This is my husband, Joe." Done! Everyone knows. How you act, what you do together, and the fact that you love each other is going to be way more important than what you're named. As I explained about, the notion that you need to have the same name to be regarded as a unit is an improper, illiberal, unjust privileging of married heterosexual families and partnerships over all other kinds of families and partnerships, a privilege I reject.
6. It reminds me of my commitment. This is another one I don't get. Do you really need a reminder? Are you going to forget that you are married? Are you that worried about your ability to stay monogamous (if, indeed, monogamy is your goal. It isn't mine, but I realize a lot of people prefer it)? No, again, this is another bogus reason that is used to support the default. Men do not need to change their names to remember that they are married. Why do you need to?
To read the rest of Leblanc's list click here. Her tone is a little more aggressive than my style but I agree most of her opinions none the less.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The below images are Dove body washes for women. I highly doubt there is much of a difference between the male and female cleansers other than packaging and perhaps scent.
Specifying certain products according to gender is another example of patriarchy. Companies make money off this concept and many end up believing it is necessary to purchase products that are assigned to gender simply because separate products exist.
Just what are these marketing companies saying to us? Would it be the end of the world if men and women used the same type of body wash? Is a floral or fruit scent appealing to women but unappealing to all men? Would a man become less clean if he were to use a body wash marketed for women?
The concept of marketing general products towards specific genders is ridiculous but oh so common. Men, I dare you to purchase a "womens" body wash. I dare you! Show us how tough you are. If your skin begins to itch or burn then it is because you are allergic to the body wash not because it is a "female" product.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Message from Sanrio website:
Sanrio celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2010. Founded by Mr. Shintaro Tsuji in 1960, Sanrio began in Japan where customary greetings are accompanied by an exchange of small gifts. Sanrio turned this gift-giving tradition into the company's "small gift, big smile" mission to help people express their heart-felt feelings. Since then, spreading smiles through small gifts has become universal and over 400 unique Sanrio characters have been introduced to share global messages of happiness, friendship and fun. Please join us in celebrating the legacy of Sanrio and its family of beloved characters that have helped nurture friendships around the world.
Thank you for 50 years of fun and friendship!I don't know the exact date of the anniversary but I know that it hit this year. I'm excited to announce it to the rest of you late comers who may not have known about the anniversary either.
I spent many a childhood recess trading Sanrio products with schoolmates and to this day I still have a love of Hello Kitty and purchase Hello Kitty items whenever I can. Congratz Sanrio on 5o adorable years!
Brief musings and review of Michael Kimmel's essay Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity
by black magic markers
Often I am reminded through sheer witness that there are many men who are constantly attempting to prove their masculinity by avoiding the feminine and the gay. I cringe whenever I hear a "that's so gay" comment or when the word "bitch" is thrown like a dagger. I hear this language spew from the adults whom I consider friends and children whom I wish I could lecture right in front of their parents.
Just when I was feeling that no one understood this frustration I was greeted by the pages of an essay by Michael S. Kimmel entitled Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity.
Early in the essay Kimmel states, "Manhood is neither static nor timeless; it is historical. Manhood is not the manifestation of an inner essence; it is socially constructed. Manhood does not bubble up to consciousness from our biological makeup; it is created in culture. Manhood means different things at different times to different people. We come to know what it means to be a man in our culture by setting out definitions in opposition to a set of 'others' - racial minorities, sexual minorities, and, above all, women."
In this essay Kimmel speaks about how masculinity has been constructed over time and throughout history. He speaks about how masculinity has become about power, bravdo, control and avoiding anything that appears to be feminine or homosexual.
Kimmel starts off by bringing forth the point that Sigmund Freud's masculinity model was tied to sexuality. According to Freud's widely known oedipal phase; young boys desire sex with their mothers, however, they are jealous of their fathers as he stands in the way of his desires. As the story goes, the young boy is fearful of castration. The boy seeks to identify with his father who he is afraid of and then seeks a substitute for his mother which is another woman. It is at this point and time that masculinity is developed according to Freud. The boy is afraid of his more powerful father yet he wants to be just like him. Once he realizes he cannot have his mother he will carry out the dominant prowess of his father with another woman and then will feel like a man.
Whether you believe in the oedipal complex or not (I do not) the concept of masculinity within the theory seems to leak out elsewhere.
Men are under the microscope of other men. Men are judged by their level of "manliness". Many men size each other up, compete with, and evaluate based on status, power, money, sexual gain and more.
Although, women scrutinize and evaluate other women as well; our culture presently and historically places more pressure on men to garner money and attempt sexual gain.
The fear among many men is that they will appear inadequate in the eyes of other men. The effort to maintain a level of maculinity seems like enormous pressure placed on oneself and much energy lost.
To drop these attitudes of machismo would be to go against the grain. It could be considered social suicide but perhaps if one finds machismo worth dumping, one might wish to surround himself with like minded people.
Kimmel says it well when he writes, "This, is then, the great secret of American manhood: We are afraid of other men."
Kimmel goes on to say that homophobia is more than fear of homosexual men and women but a fear that one will be deemed unmanly. On top of the fear of emasculation there is a shame surrounding that fear.
"Shame leads to silence - the silences that keep other people believing that we actually approve of the things that are done to women, to minorities, to gays and lesbians in our culture. The frighteneed silence as we scurry past a woman being hassled by men on the street. That furtive silence when men make sexist or racist jokes in a bar. That clammy handed silence when guys in the office make gay bashing jokes. Our fears are the sources of our silences, and men's silence is what keeps the system running. This might help to explain why women often complain that their male friends or partners are often so understanding when they are alone yet laugh at sexist jokes or even make those jokes themselves when they are out with a group."
Kimmel points out that if men do not feel powerful it is because they are attempting to keep up with other men. Some may feel entitled to feeling powerful but yet do not feel it. Who can live up to the status that men have continued to hold on high?
Lastly Kimmel states that; "Others still rehearse the politices of exclusion, as if by clearing away the playing field of secure gender identity of any that we deem less than manly - women, gay men, non-native born men, men of color - middle class, straight, white men can reground their sense of themselves without those haunting fears that deep shame that they are unmanly and will be exposed by other men. This is the manhood of racism, of sexism, of homophobia. It is the manhood that is so chornically insecure that it trembles at the idea of lifting the ban on gays in the military, that is so threatened by women in the workplace that women become the targets of sexual harassment, that is so deeply frightened of equality that it must ensure that the playing field of male competition remains stacked against all newcomers to the game."
My wish is for peace among men. My wish is for men to put down the weapons and armor. My dear men, you are hurting us (women) and your are hurting yourselves -- you are hurting everyone around you when you insist on proclaiming masculinity.
From whipped bakeshop
By Tracey Cataldo from slog.thestranger
From Zaheera badat
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Johnny Cupcakes Piping
Super Mario Brothers
A Meteor Bite
Gold and Delicious
To Dive For
Hello Kitty Cupcakes
Crumb n' Miranda
Crumbs and Doilies official website
Crumbs and Doilies cupcakes blog
Crumbs and Doilies Flickr page
McIntosh points out that often we are taught that racism and sexism are concepts that place others at a disadvantage however we are rarely taught that they place many who are not of color or of the female gender at an advantage.
McIntosh speaks from her own experience when she says, "Only rarely will a man go beyond acknowledging that women are disadvantaged to acknowledging that men have unearned advantage or that unearned privilege has not been good for men's development as human beings, or for society's development, or that privilege systems might ever be challenged and changed."
I found these sentiments to be true in my own life. Men are important facets in my life and when I read this I think, what is a woman who loves men to do when this rings so true?
McIntosh later in her essay speaks about race when she relays that at one point in her life she decided to make a list of the effects of white privilege in her own life. Here are a few samples from her 46 point list.
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my own race most of the time.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
She goes on to say "The word 'privilege" carries the connotation of being something everyone must want. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work to systematically overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance, gives permission to control, because of one's race or sex. The kind of privilege which gives license to some people to be, at best, thoughtless, and at worst, murderous should not continue to be referred to as a desirable attribute. Such 'privilege' may be widely desired without being in any way beneficial to the whole society. More over, thought 'privilege' may confer power, it does not confer moral strength. Those who do not depend on conferred dominance have traits and qualities which may never develop in those who do."
Reading this essay took me back to college when I read Allan Johnson's Privilege, Power and Difference. In that book Johnson made a list similar to McIntosh's list in which he described ways in which white privilege affects white individuals and people of color.
McIntosh made her list as a white woman however I believe that all races can make lists of their own. Being that we live in a very white washed society I think that there are indeed people of color who have internalized racism and women who have internalized sexism.
We have been saturated as a society by racist and sexist ideals. Being that our schools may not have brought this to light I suggest that we all take on some homework. Let us make our own lists. I think if we take pen to paper we can come up with a long list of how our privilege has benefited and hurt us and how it has hurt others. Notice what you feel as you write, as you read, and as you ruminate. Then take action.