What Got Us Into Feminism
In March, 2013, Haley MLotek asked me to write a small piece for her regular feature in Hazlitt, an on-line division of Penguin/RandomHouse. The subject was feminism and she asked a “new generation” of feminists to explain what inspired their beliefs. Here is my contribution along with the others.
In 1969 I took a year off from college and worked in a few Manhattan offices. There I learned firsthand about sexual harassment at a time when no one acknowledged it and there were no laws to discourage it. Across the street from my Bronx apartment was a storefront displaying the iconic women’s lib symbol of a fist embedded in the woman’s sign that was emblazoned on the cover of Sisterhood is Powerful, edited by Robin Morgan.
For a young woman confronted with the sense of powerlessness that comes with sexual harassment and a host of other daily insults in the work place, this symbol resonated with me; I picked up the book, joined the Bronx Women’s Coalition, and my life was forever changed by the sense of empowerment and the joy of sisterhood I shared in those heady days of Women’s Liberation.
Pornography Can Be Good for Consumers
This piece appeared as part of the larger feature in the New York Times’ Opinion Pages section in November 2012. The debate was in response to the question “Does Pornography Deserve Its Bad Rap?”. The opinion piece also featured articles written by the other debaters below.
Watching pornography is not inherently harmful to men or women. But I would offer some caveats. There are people who probably shouldn’t view porn, like those with poor body image or those who have been sexually victimized. Depending on your choice in viewing, you can develop unrealistic expectations about sex or what people like or how you’ll be expected to “perform.” And watching with someone requires true consent.
When none of these red flags are up, pornography can certainly have benefits. Counselors sometimes suggest it to help people become comfortable with a particular fantasy they or their partner may have. Pornography can reboot a couple’s sex life. It can give you ideas, or help you get in touch with what turns you on.
Pornography can reboot a couple’s sex life. It can give you ideas, or help you get in touch with what turns you on.
Porn can deliver you there at best, or disgust you at worst. It all depends on what you choose to watch. With the availability of porn online, it’s possible to sample enough porn quickly that you don’t have to find yourself watching wall-to-wall hard-core sex if it’s plot driven erotica that appeals to you. You’re only a victim of bad porn if you let yourself be.
And a word about sex or porn addiction. I don’t believe in it. Unlike a chemical substance, like opiates, you can’t become “addicted” to sex or porn; you can become a compulsive viewer. In this case, it’s not the porn that’s the problem; it’s the compulsive personality. If it weren’t porn being used to act out one’s compulsive nature, it might be food or some other behavior.
As for whether it’s harmful or beneficial to the performers, let’s take women first. There are some who choose to perform because they like sex a lot and they consider it a great way to earn a living. Then there are those who are drawn to porn as a way of acting out subconscious psychological issues – looking for daddy’s love or punishment for being a bad girl. For many, it’s probably a little of each. Even women with the best mental health will face some downsides from this work. Our culture consumes porn at record numbers, but the women who perform are still judged harshly.
I’m not sure the male performers get out completely unscathed either. While they may not be judged as harshly as the women, ultimately they’re viewed as freaks who make their living with their anatomy. John Holmes’s fate is the ultimate cautionary tale.
Perhaps if we weren’t still so consumed with guilt and shame about sex, neither watching nor performing in these films would carry the weight it does. But then, perhaps we wouldn’t be so interested in them, either. If the fruit were not forbidden, would anyone care to take a bite?
What do Women Want?
My response to “What Women Want: A Primer”, Jill Hamilton’s blog on Daniel Bergner’s book, “What do Women Want?”
Apparently Daniel Bergner’s book has caused a lot of “ruckus”. According to Jill Hamilton, “he’s not afraid to muck about in sacred areas of monogamy and women’s sexuality”; and she goes on to bring you some of the “good bits”. (I suggest that you go ahead and read Hamilton’s brief piece and then come back and read my response….which begins with the next paragraph.)
The truth about women is finally getting out! Having dealt with the age-old question, “what do women want?” through my work creating women’s erotic cinema, I’ve had to weigh how much I really wanted to put out there with how much I felt people were ready to take in. Yes, Betty, (one of the commenters) this is exactly – in my humble opinion – why “patriarchies have tried to limit/control women’s sexuality.” Fear that should women’s true lusty nature be allowed to flourish we shall go running wild in the streets, abandoning our families and turning society in to an out-of-control non-stop global orgy! (Hmmmm….sounds a lot better than what we have now: an out-of-control non-stop global reign of war and terror!)
Years ago I had the good fortune of hearing Dr. Masters (of pioneering sex-researchers team, Masters & Johnson) speak at a conference, and he said that one of the first things they learned through their research was that “women’s capacity for pleasure would put any man to shame”. Biological Anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher has been deconstructing long-held myths about women and monogamy for years in her research. She’s the first one who I heard talk about the fact that it’s actually women who grow bored after an average of 4 years. (Turns out it’s the ‘4 year itch’, not the ‘7 year itch’, as described in her book, “Anatomy of Love”.) And before you start taking anything promising to be a “woman’s viagra” – says, Hamilton, “Drug companies are desperately working on a pill to make women want to have sex with their husbands” – do check out Leonore Tiefer’s important new movement to expose big pharma’s efforts to “medicalize women’s sexuality”. How ’bout we girls just keep trying to get out the truth and fight continued efforts to “keep us in our place”. Just today the news is abuzz about the increase in divorce here in the states. Is that really so terrible? Maybe it’s time to ….just ask why!
Knowing full well that my last comment may inflame those who hold on to marriage as the sacrosanct sacrament that all love affairs must inevitably lead to, is there no room for the possibility that maybe there’s another way to consummate our mutual love and raise the next generation of little ones?
OUT AND ABOUT: My Trip to Berlin
My recent trip to Berlin began with the first European Feminist Porn Awards, ‘PorYes’, where I was honored for pioneering the concept of woman-centered erotic film and paving the way for other women directors. Also honored for her work was Petra Joy, whose award winning feature, “Feeling It!” will be released under my Femme label this month.
What year is this?
From “Levine Breaking News:
“UC CHANCELLOR SORRY FOR PEPPER SPRAY :UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi apologized to students Monday for the campus pepper-spraying incident Friday that became a rallying cry for the Occupy movement, while students once again set up encampments. “I am here to apologize,” Katehi told a crowd of about 1,000 students. “I feel horrible for what happened.” She spoke shortly after some of the students who were sprayed had just described their ordeal. Katehi has put the campus police chief on administrative leave. Two officers involved in the spraying have also been put on paid leave.”
This is the most offensive thing yet. Fox news continues to shock me with their disgusting …ulgh I don’t even know how to describe it. I saw images of the cops, so blasé as they sprayed all these seated peaceful people. It was shocking and so disturbing. Then I saw a clip of Newt Gingrich saying the OWS protesters should ‘cut their hair and get a job’…OMG this is the man who’s currently leading in the GOP race!!! I felt like it was 1968 again and we were listening to Nixon describing the anti-war protesters. Talk about an anachronism! I feel sick and I wasn’t even pepper sprayed!
A Case for Legalizing Medical Marijuana
Last year I was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. I had to undergo radical surgery and endure six months of debilitating chemotherapy. Medical Marijuana, what I prefer to call my “ol’ hippy remedy”, provided incredible relief from pain and nausea where traditional medical options only made me feel worse. It also gave me an appetite, which I desperately needed after ascites, and surgery stripped 20 pounds off of my small 5’2″ frame. Thanks to my ‘ol hippie remedy’ and a loving sister who prepared what ever I wanted I was able to eat through out my treatments and put most of my weight back on by the time I was done with them.
I recently received an email from a group working to legalize medical marijuana. Even though a number of states have succeeded in legalizing the sale of marijuana for medical use, the federal government continues to go after the growers and sellers. Anyone who’s been interested in knowing more about the history of – let’s call it pot so I don’t have to keep writing out the formal name for it, OK? …the history of pot, knows that making pot illegal was all about politics and money. What in America isn’t? Nowhere has real proof been found that pot is dangerous to our health. And as for being addictive, I don’t believe it is. There are drugs that can turn anyone in to addict because of their chemical properties and the feelings of euphoria they produce, most notably, opioids. But for other benign substances, like pot, or practices, like eating or sex, it takes an addictive personality to become addicted. In other words, if you have an addictive personality, anything can become addictive, because it’s not the thing you’re addicted to. It’s the fact that you can turn anything in to an addiction. And frankly, I can think of worse choices than pot!
So I signed a petition that went to my congressman, and he wrote back saying that “generally” he supports “the rights of individual states to implement medical marijuana programs within their borders”. Then he goes on to state his concerns: the medical community hasn’t reached a final consensus about its value; (well that won’t happen until they find a way to make money from it!) He’s concerned that the laws will be exploited by those who want to sell it “outside of medical purview”; and finally, that “young people will be more eager to use it if it’s designated as safe”, and that it “can have negative effects on the productivity, well-being and health of users”. Really? Wake-up call, congressman: young people are already using marijuana and have been for decades, and I hardly think something being “designated as safe” would lead “young people” to use it. More likely, they’d find that terribly boring and look for another way to act out their independence. As for the health and well being of users, if people weren’t frightened to admit to using it you’d find out that countless Americans of all ages regularly use marijuana while leading extremely healthy and productive lives.
I remember hearing a few years ago that some of the big tobacco companies bought the rights to names such as Indica and Acapulco Gold; and more recently, that the federal government is harassing medical marijuana growers and sellers in order to make it impossible for them to do business and pave the way for big pharma to take over that industry themselves.
Marijuana was unbelievably helpful during the most challenging fight for my life. It brought me strength and relief where FDA approved pharmaceuticals could not. It is inhumane to deny people a harmless herb that has so many medicinal benefits, and it’s all politics. And money. Lots of money. It stinks. And it’s got to stop.
Will staying fit really help us avoid the big C?
I recently responded to a query from an on-line PR service looking for information on what women can do in terms of diet and exercise to help avoid getting breast cancer. This being October, the official breast cancer awareness month, the media is full of information about the big C, not to mention a growing number of often ridiculous pink products. (A pink KFC bucket of greasy fried chicken? Give me a break!) As someone who just last year won a major battle with stage 3 ovarian cancer, I have to take issue with the plethora of well-meaning articles instructing women on how to eat and how much to exercise in order to avoid getting cancer. Not that I don’t believe in a healthy lifestyle. I’ve exercised regularly since beginning dance training at the age of ten, and having come of age during the hippie revolution, I was part of the first wave of health-food enthusiasts, eating brown rice and veges since my early ‘20’s. I remain vigilant in terms of what I ingest as well as put on my skin, what I use to clean my house and put in my garden. Even my cats get only the most wholesome raw food diet sans mysterious additives and icky meat by-products. But that’s the point. Even with all the clean living and dedicated regimen of dance, yoga and exercise, I still fell victim to what’s horribly called the “killer cancer” for women.
Now, I’m not advocating a sedentary lifestyle filled with fast food and mystery meals in front of the TV. My doctors have told me that being slim and fit is what helped me get through and recover from the radical surgery and the tough treatments as well as I did. Your level of health and fitness has all to do with how you endure and emerge from this brutal assault on the body. However, I do not believe that fitness alone will necessarily prevent women from getting cancer. Unfortunately we live in an environment thick with toxic chemicals, and we are constantly using products that contain carcinogens, such as parabens found in many lotions and cosmetics, and bisphenol A, found in plastics and on sales receipts. As Breast Cancer Action® (BCAction.org) states, while we continuously tell women to do this and do that to prevent cancer, there is so much we are not being told about the carcinogenic chemicals that we are constantly breathing, eating and putting on our skin. What we really need is for the media to report on this issue and let women and the public know that we are being force-fed a toxic soup of chemicals every day that has the power to negate all our earnest efforts to remain healthy and cancer-free. (BCAction.org also reports on a study that found bisphenol A and methylparaben, both used in many consumer products, interfere with the effectiveness of Tamoxifen, a drug used widely in the treatment of breast cancer.) It’s still important and helpful to remain fit, but it’s crucial for women to learn about these toxins and how to avoid them, and to let our voices be heard.
I urge all of you, women and men alike, to visit BCAction.org and learn about the amazing work they’re doing. Check out their ‘Think Before you Pink’ program where they expose “pink washers” who focus attention on themselves by producing pink products at the same time that they’re using ingredients that contribute to cancer. Then type ‘ridiculous pink products’ in to your google search engine and check out some of the stuff that comes up. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so infuriating. Incidentally, I became aware of BCAction.org when I was searching for a company to donate a portion of the sales proceeds from my Natural Contours® Petite Pink Ribbon™ vibe. Not content to get on board with just any pink organization happy to take our money, I wanted someone who really made a difference. Check them out, they’re really the best. And the next time someone from the media comes knocking on your door asking for your opinion on how to remain cancer-free, send them to BCAction.org, too, so they’ll tell us something we really need to hear.
OUT AND ABOUT: Screening of “Meet Monica Velour”
Candida celebrates Kim Cattrall’s new movie with cast & crew
I hadn’t seen director Keith Beardon since editing Eyes of Desire at the edit house he managed some years ago, but to my delight I received an invite to the premier screening of his first feature-film, “Meet Monica Velour”, starring Kim Cattrall, most famous for her role as sexy Samantha in Sex and the City. It’s a delightful film about an awkward young guy, played by Dustin Ingram, who goes on a road trip to find his favorite ‘80’s porn star, played by Cattrall, who’s now a 49 year old single mom living in rural Indiana, struggling to make ends meet by appearing in a local strip club. An unlikely friendship develops between them, leading to a bittersweet romance. Produced by Jordan Horowitz, Gary Gilbert and Shauna Bogetz, the team behind the award-winning The Kids are All Right, it’s a funny and heartwarming film that should not be missed!
An added bonus for me that night was getting to talk to Liza Minelli who also attended the screening. I just had to tell her how stunning she looked…and she did…absolutely radiant!
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