Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Werewolves, Vampires, Sexuality, and Menarche

This post has been inspired by two things I'm currently reading.  Daughters of Darkness: Lesbian Vampire Stories, collected by Pam Keesey, and Alicorn's re-imaging of Twilight, in which Bella is a rationalist thinker.

I feel that I should mention, at this point, that I don't like Twilight.  I do love Alicorn's take on it.  Her take on Bella is fantastic, and someone I feel I can relate to, as a person and a feminist, far more than to Meyer's original.  I highly recommend checking it out, especially if reading Twilight made you feel dirty.

Finally, this post was inspired by a thread on GoodReads, which began with the assumption that Jacob was the 'nice guy' who 'finished last', while Edward was the 'bad boy'.  I disagree, both with that idea and with the entire concept of nice guys, bad boys, and women preferring one over the other.  This is, at least in part, because every person I've ever seen whining about how nice they are, and how women don't appreciate them, has been a whiny selfish jerk, who thinks the world owes them something.  But, I digress.

Daughters of Darkness (which I've yet to finish) has a very interesting introduction.  Keesey talks about how, before Bram Stoker's Dracula became the vampire story, stories of lesbian vampires were very common.  (Incidentally, I also highly recommend Angela Carter's The Lady of the House of Love, which as published in The Flying Sorcerers and The Bloody Chamber).

In our society, as in most, if not all, others, the young female virgin is the ultimate symbol of sexual innocence.  She is rarely allowed control of her sexuality; she is a prize, to be taken.  She is someone who something is done to, not someone who does.  L. Sigel does an excellent job of describing this idea in her essay, which discusses reactions to her study of pornography.

Before quoting a short extract from her essay, I should explain that the 'Bella' she refers to is not Bella Swan; rather, she is Bella of the Victorian erotica story, The Autobiography of a Flea, a character who is seduced by several characters, including her own uncle.

As a woman who studies sexuality, I find myself understood as part of my work. My intellectual work gets positioned where it doesn't belong--on my body. The idea that women are so finely tuned sexual creature that the contagion of sexuality must be kept from them or they will be polluted remains central to our understanding of gender. As a woman I find myself continuously positioned as Bella or against Bella. I can either be deviant or I can be against deviance. I cannot just think about the process or the performance of deviance. The process by which I have been disciplined is voyeurism overlaid with threat, intimidation, and shame. Here are two examples of the process: When I was in London for a number of months doing my research I met an interesting man. I went out for coffee with him and told me he didn't want to get involved (with me) because he had a girlfriend in California. We agreed to that. We talked, went to a movie, and drank coffee. He propositioned me and I said "No." And I said "No". And I said "No." He told me that he only wanted to sleep with me because of my research. He thought I would be adventurous in bed. I had to say "no" a number of times because at some level, perhaps on the surface, perhaps unconsciously, he couldn't believe that I was unaccessible as a sexual partner. As a woman who studied sexuality, I was sexually accessible and sexually voracious. He made that clear when he referred to my research. By referring to my research, he also meant to insult me. The sum of my worth as a sexual partner came from my "adventurousness" predicated upon my intellectual leanings. I had teased him as a woman because of my studies and he could retaliate by denigrating my worth with an "only." As a woman I did not deserve attention, my value "only" came from my deviant sexuality.

Normative discipline works as the flip side of deviant discipline. Women are to be protected from sexuality, or scorning that, women become sexualized and accessible. Consider this: Customs, by pre-arrangement, met me when I came home. Both Customs and I wanted to make sure that I didn't bring home any illegal materials. The Customs agent, who was generally very nice, said "What does your mother think? Isn't she ashamed of what you're doing?"

Customs, in searching for child pornography and/or bestiality which are illegal in this country, has a right to decide boundaries of normative and deviant sexual representation. Behind the practice of search, seizure, and arrest is the theory that children should not be sexual objects for adults. Representations that picture sexualized children 1) encourage adults to sexualize children and 2) provide lasting testimony to the children's shame which adults can continue to take pleasure in. The belief that the state should protect the weak is implicit in its stance towards child pornography. However, bestiality is usually just seen as wrong. When it gets considered at all, it is generally seen as degrading towards the humans involved and not the animals. Instead of protecting animals, restrictions against bestiality protect humans from the contagion of deviant sexuality by discouraging thinking about such acts and from advertising the degradation in such acts.
In the cases of bestiality and child pornography, humans-- children and adults-- need to be protected by the state from the thought of deviancy. Voyeuristic moralism cannot be strong enough to overcome titillation or excitement. The state can only stop them in tandem, by stopping the trade in articles. However, in my experience with Customs, it was neither bestiality nor child pornography which constituted deviance. The agent hadn't seen my research materials at all and couldn't know if were deviant according to the legal definition of restricted materials. The problem was that I had pornography, that I looked at pornography, and that I thought about pornography. I broke a boundary situated in gender through which normative behavior gets defined. I thought about bad things. To demonstrate that he re-positioned me as a child by referring to my mother to place me under the protective umbrella of family and state. I was re-positioned in the materials, as one who needs protection, rather than out of them as one who studies them.

Lesbian vampires stories were common because vampires were, and are, the most sexual of all supernatural creatures (except, possibly, the succubus/incubus, who would appear to have missed out on fame due to a lack of subtlety.  There's no slow burn with succubi or incubi; they are fucking.  That's it.).  The fact that they were lesbian vampires adds a layer of deviance; not so deviant that they cannot be discussed in public (unlike, say paedophilia), but deviant enough to be interesting).  Vampires are, traditionally, creatures who prey on female innocence (incidentally, Daughters of Darkness is not a book of erotica, despite the description; it contains stories of sexuality, few of which are explicit.  It seems that it is classed as erotica purely by virtue of focusing on lesbian sexuality).

Edward Cullen displays none of the normal seduction of a traditional vampire.  He is not dark and interesting; he sparkles.  He does not want to seduce Bella; he wants to marry her.  He does not come alone, in the night - he brings an entire family, with parents who approve.  Meyer has effectively neutered the raw sexuality of a vampire, trapped him in marriage and a cosy homelife.  Not just Edward - the plot point of the mate bond means that all vampires are loyal husbands and wives waiting to happen.

Instead it is Bella who is mysterious; he cannot read her mind.  It is Bella who attempts to seduce him, who would prefer not to wait till marriage.  It is Bella who has the choice to leave him, as, when she is human, she is not tied by the mate bond.

Werewolves have been used to symbolise female sexuality, or, at the very least, contain links to menarche and menstruation, due to their mimicry of the monthly cycle  (though, sadly, not nearly often enough).  The moon, after all, is female.  Tanith Lee's Wolfland, in Red as Blood, makes the symbolism very clear.

Again, Meyer has twisted this.  Female werewolves lose their ability to menstruate entirely, something a character describes as making her feel less of a woman, as if the whole point of being a woman is to be a mother and a wife.  The fact that (only) male werewolves imprint on (female) children also has the effect of robbing them of their sexuality; these children are explicitly groomed, in Meyer's stories, growing up with an enormous pressure for their sexuality to grow in a set, pre-defined way.

Give me womanist female werewolves, growing into their power and sexuality.  Give me vampires who won't be caught, who won't go willingly to domesticity, who are as hard to tame as tigers.

Put the blood back in my myths, menstrual and otherwise.


Saturday, 19 November 2011

My Transsexual Summer

There has been much discussion of the show My Transsexual Summer on the blogosphere, so I won't repeat it here. What I do want to talk about is the blog of Maxwell Zachs, who appeared on the show.

Here, Max reveals that no one on the show was paid, along with the fact that he has suffered great financial hardship due to the time devoted to filming, and to the pressures of being publicly outed. Max mentions that he was okay with this, as he felt he and the others were helping people to understand transgenderism, but, since seeing the show, and feeling misrepresented, this is no longer the case (I paraphrase). Max has started a petition, asking for compensation from Channel 4 for damages suffered.

This is an awful situation to be in. I don't begrudge Max seeking a share of the profits after being used, although I don't think that twentytwenty or C4 have a legal or moral requirement to provide them. It would be awesome if they did, and great for their PR, but they don't become awful people if they don't (they already were, for other reasons).

That said, I do think that the manipulative way Max has gone about this is appalling. I posted this comment on the post, though it has since been deleted (again, I don't begrudge him doing this; it's his blog, he can allow or disallow whatever comments he likes);

I wrote this comment on that post, but it's since been deleted;

Let's take your points in order;

1. You mention that you agreed not to be paid, and that you were okay with that as long as the editing reflected the idea you had of the story that was being told. This, presumably was not specified on the contract, and instead, editing rights were granted solely to twentytwenty and C4 (otherwise you'd have recourse other than a petition).

Please note that this is not intended as a criticism, just a summary. Naivety is not a crime.

2. Your personal life was affected by appearing in the show. Presumably, you were aware that appearing on national television would effectively out you. That said, one would presume that twentytwenty would ensure that you were not left in a worse position by appearing in the show, financially speaking. I admit, I always had the impression that businesses received compensation in some form, in exchange for allowing their employees time off to appear in these shows. However, again, surely this would have been on the initial contract you signed?

3. Scenes were 'set up'. Were you complicit in this? Did you refuse to take part? Again, presumably, you agreed to this in the original contract, and/or by taking part in it as they were filmed.

4. You return to the point of being misrepresented. See point 1. You signed over editing rights. Again, naivety and trusting people is not a crime, and it is unfortunate that this happened to you. I highly recommend reading Chart Throb, and reading over contracts in depth, perhaps with recourse to legal advice, before signing.

5. Twentytwenty and C4 earned lots of money. And? You knew that. You agreed that you didn't want any of it, as did Fox and everyone else. You don't get to decide to tear up the contract 'because they were dicks'.

It would be kind of twentytwenty and C4 to give you and the others involved monetary compensation. It might even be good for them PR-wise. However, they have no moral or legal obligation to do so, and none of your points give you the moral high ground, as you seem to imply.

Of course, I may be totally wrong, and twentytwenty may have totally ignored whatever contract was originally signed. In which case, a lawsuit would be a far better idea than a petition (which, in all honesty, seems to be more about blackmailing them with embarrassment as you go back on your word, rather than appealing to their better nature).

To clarify point 5; Max knew that the companies involved would be making money. This hasn't changed since the beginning. He was okay with this.

This is in contrast to the difference between how he expected to be portrayed, and how he was portrayed, in which he has more genuine grounds for grievance.

In short, the profits were not a problem until Max began digging up every thing that could possibly be construed as a problem to add emotional weight to his post and petition.

I did also suggest that Max use his blog (which appears to have been set up purely in response to the show) in order to tell the story he wanted to tell.  That comment was also deleted.

In a second post, here, Max mentions that he and the others involved 'deserve' and 'need' money because one of them was living with a stalker during filming.

This isn't relevant. The person in question didn't live with that person because of the show. She's already escaped from the situation and moved on, without the help of the show.

I'm not claiming that she is in a perfect situation now, or that she wouldn't appreciate a share of the profits. What I am saying is that Max used a totally irrelevant situation as emotional fuel to inspire people to support his own monetary gain.  He portrayed a survivor of abuse as an eternal victim for his own greed.

That is appalling.

I've been a victim of abuse. So have many other women I know, trans or otherswise. We've been raped, emotionally abused, and attacked. Claiming that, because this once happened to us, it's the fault of whoever we choose to point at and demand money from, is sick.

I would like to add that I have no idea whether or not the person in question gave permission for her quote to be used in this way.  I in no way intend to attack her for this.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Vegan Dating

So, today, in my bed of sickness, I have been gorging myself on posts from the hathor legacy (which is fantastic; pick a random post, read it, pick whatever you like from the links at the bottom, rinse, repeat.  Hours of fun).  On this post, about who pays for dates in an equal world, I felt moved to add this comment;

I’ve always been of the opinion, in any social invitation, that the one who asks should expect to pay. Of course, the person invited shouldn’t assume this to be the case, and should be prepared to pick up their own tab.

Specifically regarding dating, I prefer a 50-50 over time split, ie, he picks up some things, I pick up others. This is very important to me, because I’m a vegan. I don’t want to pay for his animal products, so, if we split 50-50, I can justify this as my share going only towards vegan items. other words, I have bought my Anthony cheeseburgers in the past (though he does prefer falafel burgers, bless his little gremlin feet), but I consider the fact that he buys me Pearl Tea to be like I paid for the tea, he paid for his burgers.  If that makes sense.

In other news, I really like this advert campaign.

So, what do you guys think about who pays for dates?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Pauper's Pasta

...because some days, you just cannot be arsed.

I'm sick this week. My Anthony brought flu from Telford. Not even good Brummie germs, grumblegrumble.

So, anyway, I cannot be arsed to do anything that involves any of that fancy cookin' or whatnot. That said, I don't feel like living on crisps and bananas either, so I had the brainwave of inventing this. Quick and easy, tasty, tomato pasta (my go-to lazy pasta dish used to be pasta with melted cheese; this is better).

As a bonus, all of the ingredients are easy to carry and store, so I'll be eating this a lot while volunteering with Crisis at Christmas.


  • 75g Spaghetti (Tesco Value, 18p for 500g) - 3p
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Olive Oil (Tesco Olice Oil, £1.84 for 500ml) - 1p
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Tomato Puree (49p for 200g, Tesco) - 2p
  • 1 Tablespoon of Garlic Italian Spice (Scwartz Garlic Italian Sauce Seasoning, £1.65 for 43g) - 20p

Total - 26p for one person, or 52p for two people.

  1. Snap the spaghetti in half. Leave it in a saucepan of water, on medium heat, for about 15 minutes.
  2. Mix everything else in.


  • Most of a packet of spaghetti.
  • Most of a tube of tomato puree.
  • Most of a bottle of olive oil.
  • Most of a bottle of Garlic Italian seasoning.

Make it Cheaper/Better

Make garlic bread by mixing some non-dairy margarine with garlic powder and dried parsley.  Spread it on any kind of bread you have lying around, and grill till melty.
Chop up a cooked vegan sausage, and throw that in there for protein.
Add some chopped tomato.
Roast a tin of chickpeas in soy sauce, and throw them in there.
Add some freshly ground sea salt.

No pictures.  Fever says use your imagination.  Going back to my cave of sickness now.
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