Comments from September 2007
From you to us: this month's comment-fest.
Irina Lester, author of the article, replies
Thank you very much for kind words for my review, your response is very reassuring as it is my first ever (I think) piece written in English and first for The F Word as well. When I was reading the book while on holiday, I remember feeling disappointed because I always want to read about positive sexual experience from a woman, something which can inspire us all to be more assertive and more in control, not some stories that make you wince. (In that case Abby Lee’s book “A Girl with one-track mind” is superb.)
But then I thought that I don’t want to sound patronizing towards Melissa Panarello on The F Word, and I do have lots of sympathy for her.
If things go well, maybe I should try to become The F Word’s “drooling feminist auntie” who reviews books about sex.
Chloe Emmott, author of the article, replies
I agree that is a lazy stereotype and I apologise. However that image of a strip club pervades in popular culture and is tied up within how we see women’s sexuality. I was using it as an example , although I admit it was perhaps not the best one and rather poorly researched, to make a wider point.
Samara Ginsberg, author of the article, replies
At what point did I state that the Vagina Institute was run by men? There is
absolutely no evidence anywhere on the site that reveals the gender of
anyone involved, apart from the fact that their press officer signs him- or
herself “Jennifer” at the bottom of emails.
The creators of the site focus
on male “preferences” because they feel that this is the most effective way
of persuading readers to part with their money. The quotes on the site are
from men who have filled in the surveys where, as I stated, visitors are
heavily encouraged to make such comments.
It’s merely the odd misogynistic
remark made by the odd Neanderthal visitor to the site – I shouldn’t think
that they air the (hopefully) hundreds of comments they receive from men and
women who see it as the pile of wank that it is. It’s not in any way a
representation of what men want: it’s a representation of what the VI want
readers to think that men want. I apologise if you feel that this is an
unfair comment, but I get the impression that you are seeing “man-bashing”
that just isn’t there. It would be ludicrous to blame this site on men and I
have done nothing of the kind.
I have looked at a lot of porn and have to disagree with your statement that
there are a wide variety of female representations. Sure there are, but they
are sidelined into fetish sites. I have yet to see a woman in 21st century
mainstream porn whose pubic hair is more extensive than a little Hitler
moustache above her clit. If you Google “hairy pussy”, the vast majority of links are to hair fetish sites. “Shaved pussy” produces 5.2 million results, all of which seem to be from
mainstream sites. In the world of pornography, hairlessness is normalised
and a liking for a natural bush is considered a fetish. I’m glad that you
see that tastes are different, but pornographers seem to have a very limited
view of what is “normal”.
I also have to disagree that it is “not worth the feminist anger”. It is,
because it’s a representation of how pathetic and suggestible some people
think that women are, because it touches upon so many wider issues (somebody
already commented last month on the concept of “femininity”), and more
importantly because some women are likely to be negatively affected by it.
I’m glad that I took the time to uncover what a scam it is, because those
click ads really do look as if they are for unrelated organisations. And
anyway, it was just so easy to make fun of, my “feminist anger” didn’t cost
me much effort.
Regarding your comment, “I am afraid that women often think that certain
ideals come from men while they really are mostly nurtured by the fashion
industry (gay men) and women themselves” – this is a really good point, and
if you were talking about the “size zero phenomenon” I would wholeheartedly
agree with you.
Right. I’m off to clear my internet history :)
Abby O’Reilly, author of the article, replies
I think Abby’s comment
about women needing to get ‘more active in the bedroom’ was not an order,
but rather providing support for those women who would like to and feel that
they cannot owing to social stereotyping and prejudice. Of course, not all
women want to be sexually vociferous, some may be more passive, and others
may not want nor enjoy sex at all. But on the other had some women really
enjoy sex and want to be more adventurous, and more than that they want to
feel that they can talk about this openly without being criticised for doing
so. Abby Lee falls into the latter cateogory, and I believe her comments
reflect this attitude rather than telling woment the way they should behave
– if anything I think she actually resists the tendency to place women in a
box of any sort, offering a new way, not the way.
I would disagree that she advocates ‘compulsory heterosexuality,’ I think if
anything she shows that sexuality can be fluid, that women can be attracted
to men and women. A lot of her experiences have been based on superficial
attractions resulting in one-night stands, and so I think that it’s
difficult to look to her writing to show a balanced representation of a
meaningful lesbian relationship, as Abby is predominantly attracted to men,
and pursues relationships with men. Maybe she does have specific physical
criteria she likes a sexual partner to meet, but so do a lot of women. She
should not have to conform to political correct modes of sexual expression
as people generally don’t think that way when assessing the eligibility of a
sexual partner. As I said in the feature, I think what Abby’s work
demonstrates is that both men and women can be subject to objectification-it
is part of the human condition, meaning that both commit the crime and are
the victims of it. I also think it’s worth remembering that when Abby first
wrote the blog it was an an outlet for her personal thoughts and feelings,
she did not anticipate her identity being made public knowledge, so she was
not attempting to offer a utopian view of female sexualit, which is part of
the effectiveness of it. It is sincere and real, and whatever criticism that
is levied against it, the support she has received from a number of women
indicates that she has written something that represents the thoughts of a
portion of the female population.
I think that the ‘straight woman who isn’t interested in sex’ is something
that has already been done – I think this is the way women were
predominantly seen (think Queen Victoria and the lie back and think of
England line). In the Victorian era there wasn’t even a term to describe
sexual attraction between women as authorities believed that lesbianism
didn’t exist. What we have done over the decades is move away from this
oppression, so women are able to articulate their own sexual desires, and
what Abby Lee’s book has done is shown how we have moved a step forward
again as women can admit to having sex outside of relationships and not feel
ashamed about it. They can enjoy sex and talk about it explicitly. The
reaction to her book and the media surrounding the release show the extent
to which this is still something society finds difficult to swallow.
There is a market for lesbians as part of the male masturbatory fantasy, but
I think this is largely the ‘she’s straight but she’s kissing her friend
because she’s turned bad and she’s so horny’ idea. Abby Lee is genuinely
attracted to women, and indulges in sexual relations with them for her own
gratification. I also think we need to move away from the idea that a
person’s sexuality can be determined by their appearance.
Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies
See Amnesty International’s explanation of the statistic of one in four women experiencing domestic violence:
“An analysis of 10 separate domestic violence prevalence studies by the Council of Europe in 2002 showed consistent findings: one in four women experience domestic violence over their lifetimes and between 6-10% of women suffer domestic violence in a given year.”