Singaporean student Agatha Tan wrote an open letter to her principal after noticing major flaws with a sex ed program at her junior college. Specifically, the Focus on the Family-created program posited relationship advice for "guys" and "gals" and what they really think that seem to be directly cribbed from a joke book. Focus on the Family claimed that it wasn't designed as sex ed but as a "relationship education" program (here's Singapore's actual sex ed curriculum) and that it was supposedly based on research studies about the neurological differences between men and women. The principal says that the facilitators were "ineffective", and the Ministry of Education says that they will cease their working relationship with FotF soon.
Whether it's the constant fretting over Miley Cyrus' influence on school girls or the growing (and troubling) tradition of Purity Balls, it's clear that society has a fascination with young women's sexuality — especially when it comes to controlling it. But what are we actually teaching today's girls about sex? Fueled by outdated ideals of gender roles and the sense that female sexuality is somehow shameful, there seem to be certain pernicious myths about girls and sex that just won't die. That sex education in America has gaping holes in its curriculum hasn't helped much, either; in a recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report just 6 out of 10 girls said that their schools' sex ed program included information on how to say no to sex. This lack of personal agency was reflected in a forthcoming study by sociologist Heather Hlavka at Marquette University as well, which found that many young girls think of sex simply as something that is "done to them." Knowledge is power, and we can promote a healthier relationship with sex by encouraging a more open dialogue, teaching girls to feel comfortable with their sexuality and, most importantly, emphasizing that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. [more inside]
Scholars often speak of ancient Greek masculinity and manhood as if there was a single, monolithic, simple conception. I will show that the ancient Greeks, like us today, had competing models or constructions of gender and that what it meant to be a man was different in different contexts. I will focus on three constructions of the masculine gender in ancient (classical and post-classical) Greece: the Athenian civic model, the Spartan martial model, and the Stoic philosophical model. I will focus on how these share certain commonalities, how they differ in significant ways, how each makes sense in terms of larger ideological contexts and needs, and, finally how constructions of masculinities today draw from all three. (10 page PDF) [more inside]
"We can go to science fiction for its sense of wonder, its power to take us to far-off places and future times. We can go to political fiction to understand injustice in our own time, to see what should change. We may go to poetry — epic or lyric, old or new — for what cannot change, for a sense of human limits, as well as for the music in its words. And if we want all those things at once — a sense of escape, a sense of injustice, a sense of mortality and an ear for language — we can read the stories of James Tiptree, Jr.," the reclusive, award-winning author whose vague biography started out in the Congo, routed through a period as a painter, then service as a photo intelligence officer in WWII, and finally a researcher and teacher of "soft" sciences before getting to writing science fiction. There was another facet that was only guessed at by some, dismissed by others: the fact that "Uncle Tip," and his reclusive friend, the former school teacher Racoona Sheldon, were the same person. And they were Alice Bradley Sheldon. [more inside]
David Gaider, senior writer at Bioware, delivers a talk on sex, sexuality, and sexism in video games and the gaming industry at the 2013 Game Developers Conference. (single-link 49-minute video)
The Test Shot is an online visual project that aims to document and celebrate the variety and strength of transmasculine style. Ballet dancing "princess boys", dapper transmen fresh out of a golden age musical, hipstery trans* boys, preppy boy dykes, and video journalists in traditional Pakistani menswear showcase the diversity in how people interpret and express their gender through their favorite clothing. Original Plumbing [warning: non-explicit ad for porn site] is the premier print magazine dedicated to the sexuality and culture of FTM trans guys. OP documents diversity within trans male lifestyles through photographic portraits and essays, personal narratives and interviews. Read an interview with the creators, Dr. T's medical advice column, or check out blog entries on living in an all-male dorm,, how to get into queer porn as a trans guy,, and deciding to carry a baby after transition.. [more inside]
The Trans 100 is a list curated by We Happy Trans based on nominations of 100 key trans people breaking ground in American culture, arts, social justice, and politics. [more inside]
The idea that men are naturally more interested in sex than women is ubiquitous that it’s difficult to imagine that people ever believed differently. And yet for most of Western history, from ancient Greece to beginning of the nineteenth century, women were assumed to be the sex-crazed porn fiends of their day.
Natalie Reed, who often writes about gender politics and social justice, calls out "born this way" (especially in a gender/trans* context) as its own form of gender essentialism:
“Gender identity” is still gender-essentialism. It’s just a gender-essentialism where we get to continue thinking men are men, and women are women, and these are inherent parts of who you are, but we also get to ignore the uncomfortable demand of DEFINING “man” and “woman” and what we mean by that, and thereby dodge the uncomfortable fact that any such definition within any essentialist framework necessarily invalidates, undermines, insults or excludes at least some trans or intersex people. It’s a way to go right on believing that our womanhood, or our manhood, or whatever “gender identity” we have, is an immutable and intrinsic quality of ourselves, and thereby maintain the comforting belief that it’s concrete and stable and unassailable, but without having to deal with any of the difficult implications of that, without having to interrogate our definitions, without having to worry about what we mean, and without having to really think about gender beyond the generally received notions. It’s a way to be transgender but still think of our genders the way cis people do.
The New York Times asks seven 'experts': Does makeup ultimately damage a woman’s self-esteem, or elevate it? [more inside]
All I remember about it was that I was having sex with Pierce Brosnan in a hot tub. Except that he had a vagina.
"Emma Stone was my dream best friend for a number of weeks. We'd see movies together. Get drinks and gossip. I remember one dream where we just texted. She resurfaced as my best friend last fall after I saw The Help. An actual friend of mine once told me a story about meeting Andrew Garfield's best friend, which meant Andrew Garfield and I were dream best friends for the following few nights. Again, there was texting." The Awl asks people: What Was Your Weirdest Celebrity Sex Dream?
Right now Baltimore, MD plays host to FemmeCon, a biannual gathering for those who "seek to explore, discuss, dissect, and support Queer Femme as a transgressive, gender-queer, stand-alone, and empowered identity and provide a space for organizing and activism within Queer communities". Some of the issues faced by queer femme culture include femme invisibility in larger queer culture, the lack of non-stereotypical role models, being classed 'femme' by default, dismissal as "too much", as well as intersectional issues of femme with race, gender, and disability. In the meantime, femme subcultures such as tomboy femme, hard femme, and FEMME SHARKS as well as femmes in specific regions come together for inspiration, expression, power, creativity and support from each other - as well as from appreciative butches.
"...he has been fairly clear that he is simply a boy who sometimes likes to dress and play in conventionally feminine ways."
We Happy Trans is a place to share positive trans experiences. The site features a project called 7 Questions, where trans folk discuss their lives. Notable contributors include site owners Jen and Noah, as well as "glittery hot pink polyamorous unicorn" Ira, Moose, who just started testosterone treatment, and Stephen, whose charm proves that not all celebrities' kids are screw ups. [more inside]
On Sunday, April 13th, Tokyo illustrator Mao Sugiyama publicly seasoned and braised his own genitals on a portable gas cartridge burner and then served them to five eager diners who each paid about $250 for the meal. Sugiyama self-identifies as asexual and appears to fall into the gender classification of male-to-eunuchs called "smoothies". (Warning: Consider all links in this post to be NSFW) [more inside]
"We get a very clear and detailed shot of her butt in black latex before we ever see what her face looks like."
Miss Gender — A Video Podcast About my Transition From One Gender to Another [via mefi projects] [more inside]
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth
Style Like U features an exhaustive video archive of people talking about their clothes and history and what personal style means to them and the power of self transformation. [more inside]
The New Republic examines what they're calling "America's Next Great Civil Rights Struggle" and asks, "What will it take for America to accept transgender people for who they really are?" [more inside]
Are we born gay? And if we were, how would we know it? Sociologist Lisa Wade asks the question in response to the blog Born This Way, a collection of images of LGBT adults as children. Perusing the photographs tells an interesting story: being gay — that is, being sexually or romantically attracted to members of the same sex — is conflated with being gender non-conformist — adopting the mannerisms and interests of the other sex. (Previously)
Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, an exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, "is the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture." [more inside]
We are princesses in a land of machos. "They drink beer, they are part of local governement and they are symbol of good luck for their family: they are Muxes, homosexuals of the “pueblo oaxacaqueno de Juchitan”, more than 3000 homosexuals who enjoy respect and admiration in all the country... they walk proudly in the streets, dressed as women with huipiles and enaguas, typical dress of the Tehuantepec Isthmus." Photo essay by Nicola Okin Frioli. More at Flickr. [more inside]
"We know it's a little clichéd – but here's what we want to tell the census: We're here. We're queer. And we want you to ask us about it."
The 2010 United States Census will be able to count gay marriages and partnerships. George Takei and his husband tell you how. Even with the restrictions placed on that data by the Defense of Marriage Act, that's good news for the LGB part of the spectrum, but what about T? If you're transgender, despite what the Census might tell you, it's not so simple to be counted. (hat tip to nadawi) [more inside]
Shuttlecock burqas to fetish wear. Some snapshots of Pakistan's struggles with its sexual identities. [more inside]
"In Loveland, Colorado -- population 61,000, 92 percent white and heavily evangelical Christian -- Michelle didn't know what to expect when she began to work with the school to facilitate her daughter's transition from a boy to a girl. At first, it was difficult. The school 'freaked out when I told them,' Michelle says. 'When we started with M.J.'s transition, I was envisioning riots.' And so Michelle became an advocate for transgender people -- those who identify as a gender different from the one assigned at birth. Michelle organized trainings for the faculty and staff and prepared 'cheat sheets' in case any of their students asked prying questions. But on the first day of school, nothing happened." - Trans in the Red States by Jeremy Bearer-Friend and Daniel Redman. [via Obsidian Wings]
Mercedes Allen looks at who's in charge of deciding the fate of Gender Identity Disorder in the DSM-IV. The APA (American Psychological Association) has announced it's intention to revise the DSMV (Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The expert they've named to chair revisions on sexuality and gender is Kenneth Zucker. Zucker is the major remaining proponent of Reparative Therapy for LGBT folks. [more inside]
Labor of Love : when a married couple wanted to start a family and the wife was unable to conceive or carry because of previous surgeries, her husband, who is transgendered and legally male, stopped taking his testosterone and was inseminated.
[NSFW] Much of contemporary liberal thought rests on the idea of the Social Contract. In this scheme, we agree to give up a certain amount of freedom in exchange for the protection and opportunity that society provides. Our individual lives mirror this. We defer to others when politeness requires it. We assert ourselves and our needs with pleases and thank yous. Most of daily life has some power dynamic to it, expressed with the subtlety that civilization demands. And what is implicit in daily life is made explicit in the role-playing of BDSM, based on the idea of a Power Exchange, where one party explicitly agrees to give up a certain amount of power to another. For most people who are into this, the “scenes” are circumscribed by rules, usually discussed beforehand, such as appropriate safewords, time limits, etc. For a small subset of this group, the typical safeguards are cast aside and the slave surrenders all aspects of his or her life to the master. The female submissive Polly Peachum has written about this lifestyle in her essay “Violence in the Garden” about her life as a 24-7 slave and the sexual dimensions of that relationship.
Hijra, demi femmes du Pakistan, the Hijras of Pakistan, Eunuchs in Mumbai, and the stories of Neela and Laxmi: Various portraits of the third sex in the third world. (some NSFW) [more]
Test your Hidden Bias. Tolerance.org has a set of Java-based tests designed to shed light on personal hidden biases w.r.t. race, gender, sexuality, and body image. Your results may surprise you. See also this New York Times article mentioning these tests and more rigorous studies.
M. is a girl living as a boy and his school is helping to keep his secret. Is that just asking for trouble? And should a 13 year old be considered for gender-reassignment therapy or is this just an extreme case of tomboy-ism that s/he'll grow out of? [NYT mefi/mefi]