Whether it is the Beatles, New Kids on the Block, the Backstreet Boys, or the current teenage heartthrobs One Direction, young women have been obsessing over boy bands for decades now. For me, it was Hanson. Three boys with long blonde hair MMMBopped into my life when I was 14, and they’ve never left. I’m actually attending one of their concerts later this month! [Side note: I am LOVING this new song of theirs!]
For at least a couple of years, I was obsessed. I collected pictures of them, listened to their music non-stop, read every article about them that I could get my hands on and I fantasized about situations where I would meet Isaac, the oldest of the three brothers, and we would fall in love and live happily ever after. I am not kidding when I say that these were elaborate fantasies. Had I known what fan fiction was at that point, I would have been writing it. Had I met him in person at that time, I probably would have fainted after screaming like a banshee in his face. Of course, I am aware (now) that there was almost zero chance of those daydreams ever coming true.
The vast majority of these bands, especially the bands of the last 30 years, have been manufactured to appeal to the broadest spectrum of teenagers. There’s the heartthrob, the “bad boy”, the smart one, the older one, the pretty one, the young one; all calculated to make as many teenage girl hearts go pitter-pat as possible. Every media interaction is scripted, nothing is said that is too extreme, or would show that the band member is anything more than his role in the band. There is crazy amounts of merchandise that is marketed towards these girls, and a lot of them will push to buy the more expensive version of something, because it has the band’s logo on it. Heck, Hanson still does that today!
Right around the same time that I was getting over this obsession, I watched, baffled, as other Hanson fans who liked Taylor (the middle brother) threw tantrums and posted threats against his wife. The wedding came as a surprise to the fans, and a lot of girls were angry that their favorite guy was no longer on the market.
The same thing has happened in previous decades – just think of the hate that still pervades with Yoko Ono – and it happens today still. The sheer volume of screeds targeting Taylor Swift when she was dating the One Direction band member Harry Styles, and against Selena Gomez (who is Justin Bieber’s on-again-off-again girlfriend), are alarming. It is as though these girls can’t stomach the thought of their favorite singer being in a relationship with anyone except themselves. Even today, in the Hanson fandom, there are girls who feel the need to create drama between the band members and their wives in their heads, and then post it on the internet.
Why? What is it about these musical celebrities that produces such obsession?
One could posit that it is the fault of the media. When I was a teenage girl, I could go to the supermarket and buy weekly issues of Teen Bop (is that even still around?) or other teen magazines, and read ridiculous articles about “What color is <insert band member’s name here>’s toothbrush and what does it say about HIM?”. I would carefully cut out pictures of my favorite band, and buy two copies if they had back-to-back pictures. (There is certainly a comparison that can be drawn between the pictures that girls post of their favorite band member in their locker, and the stereotypical nude pictures of women in a guy’s garage.) Today, there are the celebrity gossip websites that post every single paparazzi picture possible. I’m looking at you, TMZ and ONTD. It can feed into that obsession.
I think it goes deeper than that. I think that young women are encouraged – through the same media mentioned above – to objectify these young men. I know I certainly did! I had no idea what my crush was like, at all, as a person. Everything I knew about him was extrapolated from reading the aforementioned stupid articles, yet my young teenage mind was convinced that he was the perfect man, my soulmate, and that if we could only meet just once, he would know that too.
It was a way for me to have fantasies about a relationship without actually being in a relationship (and sexual fantasies too!). While I do think that an active imagination is healthy, I know that I and some of my friends took it to extremes. I know that there are girls who do that today. The cult of celebrity remains strong, and new members are added with each new boy band.
My teenage self would be mortified that when I did finally meet Isaac Hanson, he didn’t immediately fall in love with me, and that instead, we talked about social media strategies for their charity. My adult self is very satisfied with that exchange. I have the experience and the wisdom to know that there’s no way he could have lived up to the imaginary person I created in my head, and I am happy that he was a kind, intelligent, and thoughtful person. I’m also happy I didn’t scream like a banshee and faint.
Why do you think that teenage girls have such obsessions with boy band members, and teenage boys don’t? Who was your boy band crush?
I’ve been thinking a lot about “traditional” femininity, and I’ve come to one conclusion: I really suck at a lot of the things girls are “supposed” to do, and that’s kind of awesome.
I have more colors of eyeshadow and nail polish than anyone really should, but I am hopeless with things like makeup or doing my nails. I keep thinking “oh, well, maybe if I have the right things, I will magically be able to look all pretty and feminine and girly!” I subscribe to multiple versions of makeup grab bags, and I have at least 50 different makeup brushes. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with most of them. I can’t do those cool smoky eye looks (or anything that goes beyond wearing one shade of eyeshadow, really, and even then it ends up looking uneven), I end up looking like a clown when I attempt to use powdered blush, and my at-home mani-pedis generally look like a 5 year old went crazy with the nail polish.
I also can’t do anything with my hair that goes beyond a ponytail, half ponytail, braid, or messy bun. I am adept at washing and drying it, and my at-home touch ups on my hair color are passable. I have been known to use Pinterest to find cute hairstyles, and then I spend two hours trying to get my thick, straight-as-a-pin hair into a cascading braid, or some other adorable up-do, before I ragequit in utter frustration. Attempting to curl my hair is just a way for me to completely waste time. Within 15 minutes that perfect curl is flat again, no matter if I use a curling iron, styling products, or hot rollers.
I am, however, a professional at walking in high heels without looking like I’m about to fall over.
As an adolescent, when I imagine most girls were figuring these things out, I was more interested in figuring out a cure for the profuse sweat that would pour out of my armpits whenever I was talking to a cute boy. Thank god I was in middle school and high school when it was still acceptable to wear a flannel over your t-shirt, because I would stand there, horrified, as I felt the growing patch of wetness travel down my torso to my waist. It was like my deodorant would magically evaporate in the presence of a cute boy. It still does, sometimes. Now I just carry a spare stick of deodorant in my purse and reapply as needed.
I hate cleaning and doing the laundry. Right now, there are at least twelve coffee cups in my room, and I can’t be bothered to take them to the kitchen and wash them (sorry, housemates!). I never make my bed. I actually hate doing the laundry SO MUCH that I take it all to a wash-and-fold, and pay at least $40 once a month for someone else to do it for me. Even then, I forget to put it away at least every other month. I love to cook and bake, but I am terrifically lazy about purchasing ingredients for dinner before the local grocery stores close.
I have realized that the time I could spend on learning these things is better spent doing things like writing my blog or working on my book, reading, or spending time with friends (who could probably teach me about the makeup/nail/hair stuff).
I am fortunate that I live in a place and a forward-thinking culture where I am encouraged to better myself, instead of just looking pretty. I am so thankful that Fiance doesn’t think my worth as a woman is directly tied to how clean I keep our living space, or having dinner on the table when he comes home from work. My brain matters more than how I live up to the cultural standards of femininity. And that’s pretty awesome.
Thanks, feminism, for creating that culture!
Her name was Susan Cox Powell.
We went to high school together. Though we didn’t know one another very well, we had a lot of mutual friends. I remember her as someone who was gracious, intelligent, and kind. Susan had a beautiful smile. She disappeared in 2009. Interviews with Susan’s friends have shown that her relationship with her husband was abusive. He shoved her, slapped her, wouldn’t allow her to buy groceries for the family, and locked her out of the house. Her father-in-law had a disturbing obsession with her, and took voyeuristic photographs of her. Susan left a will in a safe deposit box that said if she disappeared it “wouldn’t be an accident”.
Her sons’ names were Charlie and Braden.
They were taken on an impromptu “camping” trip at 12:30am, in the middle of a snowstorm, by their father, the night that Susan disappeared. Three years later, Charlie and Braden had started talking about that night. Braden drew a picture of a car with three occupants, and when he was asked about his drawing, he said “Mommy’s in the trunk”. One year ago today, they were killed by their father, who took a hatchet to their tiny bodies before setting a fire that would ultimately kill all three.
I am convinced that Susan’s husband killed her. I am convinced that we will likely never find her, her friends and family will probably never have closure. I am convinced that we should learn from this, that we should be tireless advocates for those who are abused by their partners.
- Intimate partner homicides account for 30% of all deaths of women.
- Everyday, in the US, three women are murdered by their partner.
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
- Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes.
It is easy to think that you are smarter than a woman in an abusive relationship. It is easy, to look at the situation, and think “she should have left him”. In reality, it is incredibly difficult to leave an abusive relationship, especially when you have children. It is common for abusive partners to use children as a way to get their partner to stay in the abusive relationship. According to her will, Susan’s husband told her that he would “destroy” her if she tried to leave him.
It is hard to be the friend or family member of someone who is in an abusive relationship. It is hard not to have those thoughts. It is hard to watch someone’s personality deteriorate in the face of abuse. It is hard to be supportive, to lend an ear, to watch your friend or family member walk back into the home they share with their abusive partner. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has some very helpful tips on how to help a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship.
Since the National Domestic Violence Hotline was established, domestic violence and intimate partner homicide has taken a drastic downward turn. The Hotline is funded by the Violence Against Women Act. The VAWA is currently being debated by our nation’s elected leaders, and it may not be re-authorized. This would be an unspeakable tragedy. Please, write to your senator, write to your congressional representative. Tell them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Her name was Susan Cox Powell.
Her sons were Charlie and Braden.
I am burning a candle in their memory today.
I am also emailing my representatives, in their memory, to try and make sure that other women in her situation have the resources necessary to leave abusive relationships.
Edit: For those of you who would like a form letter, please see the one I have drafted below.
Dear Senator/Representative/Congresswoman/Congressman ,
I am writing you today in memory of Susan Cox Powell, and her sons, Charlie and Braden, to urge you to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
This act provides the funding necessary to assist women who are in domestic violence situations, and since its inception in 1994, the number of domestic violence incidences have decreased dramatically.
Decreasing domestic violence is not a partisan issue.
My emotions today have reached a heretofore unprecedented level of sappiness. I kid you not, as of 1:30pm Pacific time, I have cried over three different things I have seen online. I’ve decided to share them with you here.
First up is Anita Sarkeesian’s TEDx talk, where she discusses the potential psychology behind the cybermob that attacked her so viciously over her Tropes vs. Women kickstarter project.
I teared up at the end. Male and female video game characters pander so excessively to the heterosexual male fantasies that it leaves little room for those of alternate genders or sexual orientations to also indulge in the fantasy. I love playing video games. Love it. But just once, I’d like to see a female character that isn’t weak, or aggressively sexualized. Am I really asking too much when I ask to play a female character who isn’t wearing a chainmail bikini over the balloons on her chest?
And then there’s this picture.
That is Dan Savage (one of my personal heroes, though we disagree from time to time) and his longtime partner Terry, getting their marriage certificate signed in Washington state. I wept like a baby. I am so happy that my home state has made same sex marriage legal.
Finally, the fact that this is an actual film that will be shown at SXSW 2013 did me in.
I am so very excited for this film. Wonder Woman is a personal favorite superhero of mine (and really, she should be for anyone else too!). I recently read The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, and the entire premise of this movie ratcheted my geekcitement up to 11. I’m interested to see how the filmmakers will compare with the author of The Supergirls.
Has anything touched your heart today? Maybe made you squee a little? Share your excitement with me in the comments below!
There is a lot of misinformation about Plan B, also known as the Morning After pill. I’ve found that a lot of this is spewed by the same people who fail at basic chemistry (I’m looking at you, people who believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old!), and this video does a pretty fantastic job at explaining exactly how Plan B works. Contrary to what those protesting Planned Parenthood would have you believe, Plan B is not an abortifacient, in fact, if the fertilized egg has already implanted, it cannot harm the zygote. I know so many people who actually believe that Plan B is the same as RU486, the abortion pill. This is patently untrue. Plan B prevents unintended pregnancies, and RU486 aborts unintended pregnancies.
Another cool video from AsapSCIENCE explains some of the biological responses that men and women experience during orgasm. I’m sure that little in that video will be surprising to readers of this blog (savvy smart people that you are). I did find it both interesting and slightly vindicating that there is actual research to prove what many men and women in the BDSM scene have been saying for ages: that pain and pleasure are linked.
I’m really looking forward to more videos explaining the science behind sex. What did you think of these videos?
Yesterday, I reported a Facebook group that I found incredibly offensive. It was portraying young girls (possibly some that were under the age of 18), calling them sluts, and advocating their rape. I reported them under the “hate speech” section of the “report page” function.
I was horrified to receive the following response email from Facebook:
Thanks for your recent report of a potential violation on Facebook. After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
Learn more about what we do and don’t allow by reviewing the Facebook Community Standards:
So, I went to the Facebook Community Standards. The only thing I could find that would have excluded this particular page from suspension falls under this part of the criteria:
Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.
Huh. So, you think it is okay to suspend or remove posts from pages like A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World, which challenges gender constructs and other feminist issues, but pages like Slut Memes (choice quote: “What did the left leg say to the right leg? Nothing, they’ve never met. Get it. Cause you’re a slut.), Sluts Embarrassing Themselves, I Kill Bitches, My Whore Wife, and the cleverly titled Whores are allowed to remain because they are somehow satire? I just found those through searching “slut” “bitches” and “whore” on Facebook.
Come on Facebook, get it together, and make sure that the people you have checking these things are versed in feminism, misogyny, misandry, and other forms of societal marginalization or oppression.
Because I am a terrible procrastinator, and I am desperately trying to stop doing so many “This thing makes me so ANGRY! HULKSMASH!” kind of posts, I was browsing Tumblr earlier for some post ideas. I found a few really awesome things, like the Hawkeye Initiative, where a talented artist has taken to re-drawing the poses of female comic book characters as Hawkeye. If you need to giggle a bit, and then weep when you realize how ridiculous female comic book characters are drawn, take a look. But that wasn’t enough for a whole blog post.
But this? This is seriously cool.
DrinkSavvy is the brainchild of Mike Abramson, and his invention could save lives. How many times have you heard to “never leave a drink unattended”, or “watch your drink, you might get drugged”? I know that I have definitely had my drink spiked by someone that I trusted, while I was dating him. Normally, this sort of advice is directed towards young women, but the creator was inspired after being drugged himself.
DrinkSavvy is a series of products (cups, glasses, straws and stirrers) that actually change color in the presence of GHB, a common “date rape” drug. Although it has a slightly salty taste, GHB is colorless and odorless, and can be difficult to detect in a flavored drink. Here’s what GHB can do to a person, according to Wikipedia:
Its effects have been described anecdotally as comparable with alcohol and ecstasy use, such as euphoria, disinhibition, enhanced sensuality and empathogenic states. At higher doses, GHB may induce nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, agitation, visual disturbances, depressed breathing, amnesia, unconsciousness, and death. The effects of GHB can last from 1.5 to 3 hours, or even longer if large doses have been consumed. Consuming GHB with alcohol is dangerous as it can lead to vomiting in combination with unrouseable sleep, a potentially lethal combination.
If these products become widespread, then we can effectively eliminate one tool in the date rapist’s arsenal. Do me a favor, share this indiegogo campaign on every social media platform you currently use. I want to see these used in every bar in the US.
I donated to the campaign, will you?
Jezebel’s new sex advice columnist is still absolute crap at giving advice. Here’s my responses to the questions directed at “Slutever”.
Dear Slutever, I do not engage in any sexual activity unless my prospective partner and I both get full STD testing. In the past five years, not one woman that I dated agreed to this. Why are so many women against getting tested prior to sex?
While I agree with Slutever’s assertion that you should probably start presenting this in a different light to your dates (and using condoms!), I’m more concerned with your reasons behind this request. Would you stop seeing someone if they tested positive for an STI?
As someone who has struggled with germ phobias, I would suggest that you engage the services of a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy so that you can get past this particular quirk. Condoms and dental dams, when used correctly, are extremely effective at preventing transmission of most STIs, and I suspect that you know this already. So, before jumping into the sack with someone, even if they’ve shown you a clean bill of health, take care of yourself first and talk with a trained professional about your concerns.
I’ve been at war for the past three years but I’m coming back next week, and I really need to take my mind off things and want to lose myself in some self-love. I’m in a small town with little access to sex shops, so I was wondering if you had any unique ideas for sex toys I could fashion out of household items, or any tips that would help achieve a great orgasm experience. I really need something to get excited about!
First of all, congratulations on finishing your tour of duty! I really wouldn’t recommend fashioning your own sex toys or using things from your kitchen. There are intricacies of the human anatomy that are better left to the experts. Fortunately, although you live in a small town, you can easily order masturbatory aids online that will be shipped to you in discreet packaging. Smitten Kitten comes to mind immediately! As for interesting sex toys, there are a plethora that you can choose from! If you are interested in penatrative objects, there are items like the NJoy butt plugs, or vibrating butt plugs/perenium massagers. If it tickles your fancy, you could also experiment a bit with sounding, though I can’t find any online retailers that I would wholeheartedly recommend. For other masturbatory aids, there’s the ever popular fleshlight, and along the same lines, you can purchase a Tenga egg masturbation sleeve, or the slightly more elaborate Tenga 3D masturbation sleeves.
Just make sure you eat and drink plenty of fluids, use lubrication, and go out of the house every once in awhile during your “me time”. It would be tragic to see a headline like “Soldier Starves to Death During Marathon Masturbation Session.”
I am a 31-year-old woman who has been married for 5 years. We still have frequent and awesome sex, but I have an issue that (oddly) seems to be getting worse with age. I orgasm way too quickly! And then I’m basically over sex. I’ve never had multiple orgasms, ever. I have one gigantic, eye-popping orgasm after about 3-5 minutes of intercourse and then I’m ready for sex to be over. I’m constantly telling my husband to slow down or stop totally during sex so I can prolong it enough for him to get off too, but it’s getting to the point where he’s a little hurt that I can’t “hang on.”
Much like last week’s column, I would recommend that you spend a lot more time on foreplay, concentrating on getting your husband close to orgasm. It would also help if you talked about this outside of the bedroom, and make sure that he knows you are asking him to slow down or stop because you want him to enjoy sex too! The numbing agents that Slutever recommended can help, but you also might have an adverse reaction to them. I know a lot of women, personally, who find that creams or lubricants that are supposed to numb their genitals give them a burning sensation instead.
It is uncommon for a woman to orgasm that quickly, especially if there isn’t some sort of direct clitoral stimulation during intercourse! A little more communication between you and your husband can really go a long way here.
I think this is going to be a regular post for Nice Girls, at least until Jezebel hires a better sex advice columnist. Some of Slutever’s recommendations are downright dangerous or unhealthy, and I hope my responses provide a needed balance. Let me know what you think in the comments!
It looks like medical professionals are getting on the sex-positive bandwagon, and it’s about time.
Yesterday, the American Association of Pediatrics recommended that pediatricians give their young female patients advance prescriptions for Plan B. For those of you outside the US, if you are under 18, you cannot get Plan B over the counter, and need a prescription. Plan B has been available over the counter for those 18 and over for about a year now.
The FDA originally decided that it should be available over the counter to everyone, regardless of age, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s decision because of her doubts that young women under 18 would use it properly. This is despite Plan B being safer to use than aspirin or ibuprofen, especially since it is impossible to overdose on Plan B.
This comes one week after the American College of OB/GYNs has recommended that hormonal birth control pills be available for everyone over the counter, just like condoms. I can’t tell you how excited this makes me. It is so important that young women have access to things like this, so they can engage in healthy sexual activity without fear of parental judgement, pregnancy, or the heartbreaking choice of abortion.
With studies showing that teenagers in the US have less sex than teenagers in other first world countries, but are getting pregnant more often, access to emergency birth control in conjunction with comprehensive sex education could help that pregnancy rate continue to decline.
In a somewhat sad turn of events, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has voted to ban public nudity.
Yeah, I can understand the sentiment behind the ban. The number of people who are grossed out or who find public nudity disturbing far outweigh people like myself, who find it mildly amusing at best. I always giggled a little when I saw our resident nudists in the Castro, and I found it outright hilarious when one of the gentlemen decided to go to Fisherman’s Wharf and give the tourists an eyeful. There were three women who were running from him and screaming while laughing. I’m sure they will be regaling their friends back home with the story of “that weird naked guy” they saw in San Francisco for years to come.
San Francisco has always been the place to go to push the envelope and challenge the status quo. From the Summer of Love in 1969, to Harvey Milk, to the Pride Parade, to Folsom Street Fair (don’t google that at work, please), we are a haven for those who don’t fit in with mainstream society. The nudists were part of that push against normalcy.
As a part of our mainstream society, it seems that people automatically equate nudity with sexuality. Naked bodies mean sex in popular culture. If you are a parent taking an adorable picture of your child in the bathtub, you’re suspected of child pornography, not thinking your child’s chubby thighs are cute.
If you want to sit outside and sip your coffee while naked, then you’re assumed to find the idea that someone is looking at you arousing. But that’s not what nudity is about. Just like any other subculture there are cultural rules, like putting down a towel before you sit down somewhere, and becoming visibly aroused is explicitly within the realm of Not Okay for nudists. It is about being free from clothing, not exhibitionism or voyeurism. It has absolutely nothing to do with sex, and I really think that is what the general population doesn’t understand.
I find it sad that the Board of Supervisors have banned public nudity. It seems like a cultural step backwards for San Francisco, especially considering the city’s rich history of being socially progressive. No one was being harmed by the city’s nudists. In fact, it forced me to re-think my attitude about nudity, and come to the conclusion that my initial feelings of “ewwww” were due to cultural conditioning.
There is nothing gross about the human body. It’s a pity that we can’t all just grow up and say, “If you don’t like it, don’t look!”