Monday, December 27, 2010


Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale
by Catherine Orenstein
Weight: 1 lb
Method of Disposal: Giving away to anyone who wants it. Just let me know.

I wrote a paper on the sexual connotations of Little Red Riding Hood when I was in high school. It was the most important paper of the year for that English class, and thus the most important paper to me overall. This book became my dictionary, my encyclopedia, my bible for that semester. I read many others about sex and adult themes in fairy tales, but I did not enjoy them like I did this one. I recognize now that it was probably because it was not as “heavy” or “scholarly” as some of the others.

I was able to use the paper as an excuse to watch ridiculous movies like FREEWAY and talk about sex in class-- my favorite topic but not that of the public school system. For years afterwards I was drawn to an odd assortment of Little Red Riding Hood paraphernalia, though I really do not own too much. My favorite Hood possession is a scantily clad action figure, which I kept in the box until 1-2 years ago. She still lingers, somewhere hidden, on my bookshelves. She may be tacky and or nerdy, but I like her and she fits in with all the literature. She was given to me by a very good friend. My most prized object is a hideous and old doll that is both Little Red and The Big Bad Wolf. You flip up Red’s dress and there he is. It was almost thrown out when I was a kid, but I found and salvaged it. I was drawn in by its sheer creepiness and now it almost seems like a relic. It presents to me the strange transition in understanding from childhood to adulthood, and the natural intuition of children.

I cannot tell you what I would think of the book if I read it now, but then it was the perfect mix of literature, fairy tale, media, sex, and feminism to hold my attention. I did fairly well on my paper, and I think I might even have that somewhere in the depths of my closet. I am finally ready to let this book go even though every time I see it I smile with the memory of having the most interesting topic of anyone in my class, at least it was to me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sex My Studies Up

Jane Sexes It Up: True Confessions of Feminist Desire Edited by Merri Lisa Johnson
Weight: 15 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving to my friend Tracy

Feminism and Sexuality are two topics that I believe cannot be discussed separately. They come up a lot in conversation. People struggle to grapple with the two together, but there is no other option. I feel comfortable in the many layers of possibility enveloped in the blanket terms, feminism and sexuality. I consider myself pro-sex, whatever that really means. I love talking about sex, reading about it, discovering new things, enjoying new experiences. I am a huge fan of sex toys, sex talks, porn, and people having the right to provide sex work while maintaining their safety and respect.

I often have to think and then re-think my defense of porn and/or sex work. It is a strange and blurry area. The Feminist Sex Wars have been written about a lot, and I have respected women on both sides of the pro/anti-porn debate. I spent a good deal of my college-life studying Catherine MacKinnon, loving her and disagreeing with her all the way (she did convince me to become a vegetarian). I am fluent in Pat Califia. Dworkin holds a special place in a crevice of my heart. I cannot possibly forget my past desire to follow in the footsteps of Susie Bright or, hell, even Sue Johanson. I’m not picky. I just want to talk to people about how incredible and versatile sex can be.

Recently, discussion about porn, sex work, and human rights has been renewed in my life. I find myself with some of the same questions I thought I had already answered and some news answers that question the ideas I had once fully developed. I am uncomfortable in some of my beliefs again, and I am more confident than ever in others. I am confused. This is not an unusual feeling, but it has been awhile. I am excited to rake it all over again and give it another look-see. It is an ongoing conversation I am having with Tracy that has me re-reading a large stack of books on feminism and sexuality. I am going to pass the stack onto her when I am finished because I think she has her own confusion—different than my own in many ways, though there are overlaps. This is the first book in the stack.

As per usual, I had high hopes for Jane Sexes it Up, but I wasn’t overly impressed. I also don’t think it helped me work out any answers for all of my questions. I found myself periodically checking the publication date to make sure it was really written after the year 2000. If it had been in the late 80’s I might have been more enthused. I felt too young for the essays, but too uncomfortable with my potential ageism to admit it right away. It all felt so dated to me.

“Fuck You and Your Untouchable Face” consistently quotes one of my favorite Ani Difranco songs--when I was in high school. I still love me some Difranco, but it felt weird. I appreciate the author’s honesty and openness, and I respect a good conversation about queering heterosexuality. I just didn’t learn anything, and I don’t know what she meant when she used the words “queering heterosexuality.” There was too much reservation in “Of the Flesh and Fancy: Spanking and the Single Girl.” And who judges spanking anymore? I know people do, but I am not around those people much so I forget. And what is wrong with the word “flog” or “flogging?” I like a good flogging from time to time, and I like that it is not dainty.

I did like “Liquid Fire: Female Ejaculation and Fast Feminism.” That might have been the best essay. I wasn’t anxious to leave it. I wanted to follow her through the sex club, and she was a good leader. I liked her sexual openness and how she subtly showed how you can maintain control of your body and your consent in a building with many sexual partners with a simple word or sentence if everyone respects each other. It doesn’t have to “take you out of the moment,” and everyone can maintain their hunger. The lessons on ejaculating were enlightening, and the author seemed confident.

“Scrutiny and The Female Porn Scholar” and “Pearl Necklace” had so much potential, but they quickly became some of my least favorite portions of the book. “Pearl Necklace” had me. I was so onboard with the masturbation, the ejaculation, the bath tub water turning cold, the rape fantasies, but she lost me somewhere in all her rape language. She defended it with her so whats, I like its, and who cares. Are those even a defense? Could you try just a little? I am all about rape fantasy, forceful sex, role playing, BDSM, and so on and so forth, but consent is my #1. And I don’t mean just saying “no” if something is unwelcome. Where was the discussion about consent, safety, consideration, and respect? “A Cock of One’s Own: Getting a Firm Grip on Feminist Sexual Power” was an essay I could not relate to but could see vague outlines of in my memory. I cannot remember the last time I spoke with someone who was anti-dildo, but I have girlfriends of friends of friends who are anti-dildo. I know they are out there. I have read about them in letters and in this essay, but I don’t see a lot of it in my sexual partners.

Maybe I am just super-sexed. I mean, maybe I hoped something would shock me, compel me, maybe even turn me on but nothing did. Worst of all, I don’t think I learned anything and the book came nowhere near helping me with my new prostitution and porn dilemma. I guess I didn’t know what Vulvodynia was before, and I do now. I thank Kantinka for sharing her story with me and all of us. I am not sure it gave me a good pro-porn argument, but I am glad I read it. It gave a good reason for why one might watch porn, but I can think of 100 of those. I need more good reasons for why people make porn-- other than money. A subversion of the patriarchy, playing with the strict rules of society, promoting sexual fun and play, helping others in their exploration of sexuality, pure enjoyment, just a job, what? Where do all these reasons fit into the dominant porn industry? Is it fair to look at “mainstream” porn and judge all porn? It seems that (at least in a capitalist society) the big rigs always have some fucked up idea of morality and the small, little independents struggle to stay alive. I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe we just need to be more responsible about how we purchase sex. Is there a Conscience Consumer list out there for the sex industry? Can anyone help? Do you have any book recommendations? I have many more books to come, Whores and Other Feminists being the next.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tipping the Velvet

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Weight: 15 oz.
Method of Disposal: Leaving somewhere in the Metro-Atlanta area unless someone else wants it--UPDATE: GIVING TO SKYE WHO SAW IT WAS AVAILABLE ON SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE

I have such fond feelings for Tipping the Velvet. I am really not sure I am ready to let it go. This book fits into my running joke that if a piece of fiction is no good it is shelved in the gay/lesbian section of most major bookstores, and if it is good it goes straight to the fiction/literature section. I know it is not always true, but sometimes it really feels like it is—when you see Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters, and (sometimes) Rita Mae Brown elsewhere. I wrote about this same thing in regard to movies earlier in this blog. I am not really opposed to or in support of this way of shelving. It is just an observation. I love browsing the gay/lesbian section, the make-believe transgender section (It is labeled but never has enough books. I want more!), as it slides into the women’s (or gender) studies section. Dangerously close to Sociology, Cultural Studies, African American, Native American, and Everyone else all crammed in. Far far away from the Fiction or Fiction/Literature section.

But, (insert a heavy, lusty sigh here) Tipping the Velvet. I read it (once more)when I was fairly young. In one day. I could not put it down. I am not claiming that it is the type of book that will change the current trends in Contemporary American Fiction or that it will be taught in every first-year English course across the nation. It probably won’t change your life or your (non)relationship. It was just good fun. I loved reading it. I cared about Nancy Astley/Nan King, and I believed in her. I think I would have followed her anywhere. I too was intrigued by Kitty-- that Bitch. And even when I hated her, I felt like I didn’t really. I’d take her back if she’d have me. Read it if you are in the mood to get away for a little bit. It is beautiful, the imagery really pops, and it is sexy. At least, it is as I remember it, and I confess I don’t want to mess with a good thing by reading it again. I get so excited to even think of it.

I sought out her other novels after I finished this one, and I do have all but the most recent one. I enjoyed them too, but this one far surpasses the others. If you are looking for some lesbian fiction written by someone who has been in a workshop before, probably edited the piece before it was published, and does not pursue hilarity in situations that are just not funny then you should check out Tipping the Velvet. Let me know if you want me to send it to you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Will Always Think of MC Paul When I Hear "Sigourney Weaver"

Prayers for Bobby by Leroy Aarons
Weight: 3 oz
Method of Disposal: I am going to leave it somewhere in the Metro-Atlanta area unless anyone out there wants it. UPDATE: Sending to Jenn C.

I read Prayers for Bobby a long time ago, way before it ever became a Lifetime movie starring Sigourney Weaver. At least, it seems like a long time ago. I was a totally different person in 1996—a much younger person who had just realized that she was into women but had no idea how queer-fabulous she really was. At that time, I loved this book. It broke my heart and made me stronger at the same time (I use clichés because my feelings at the time were trite and overdone). I needed this book in order to understand the kids at school, my upbringing, what I would eventually go through at the hands of strangers. Bobby had a very different life than I did, but there were some small, important connections.

I wanted my father to read it, my mother, my friends, everyone. I gave it to my deeply Christian friend, Jacque, and told her that I would go to Church one time in exchange for her reading it. I really do not remember what happened around that. I am fairly certain I never went to Church with her though I had been many times in the past and would go again. I want to say she read the book, but I am not certain. I have it now so if she did borrow it she did not neglect to return it. We still talk, and she is still a Christian woman, and I am still a queer woman. The book came up one last time in some letters we wrote to each other during college about a boy who attended her Presbyterian (?) School.

The book is wrinkled, bent, used. There are just a few markings in it. I read the passages that are highlighted and cannot fathom what it was about those particular sections that made me feel so bold. I do know, even now, that this was an important, sad, and redeeming book about a mother who suffers greatly after the death of her son. She realizes that all the help she had tried to offer him in life was actually detrimental, painful, and tormenting to Bobby. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to realize that after someone you love commits suicide. I am glad she went on to be an advocate, and I hope she is able to find some peace. After all this time, I still recommend reading this book. I think I will even give in and watch the Lifetime movie. I hear Weaver won a Golden Globe when it was all said and done.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Absolute Man

Leonardo: The Artist and the Man by Serge Bramly
Weight: 2.5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Donating or giving it to you if you ask for it.

This paperback is showing its age. Most of the abuse it endured happened while I was reading it for a book report/ project in 6th or 7th grade. We were able to choose any biography we wanted within a certain historical period. I picked up Leonardo because he was the only artist in the handful of biographies I had grabbed. I loved painting and drawing. I was intrigued with anyone who could do those things for a living. I also tought my teacher would be impressed that I was reading a book with over 400 pages BY CHOICE. I don’t think she really noticed or cared if she did. Oh well.

The spine of the book is cracking and developing wrinkles. The cover is bent and folded. Acrylic paint has stained the self-portrait of Da Vinci on the front. The inside is marked with blue, orange, and red ink. This is a used book (a loved book).

I learned so much about Leonardo Da Vinci. Things I will never forget and things that have strongly shaped my opinions of him. I loved the book at that age. I had no idea how much trouble Leonardo had found himself in growing up. No teacher had ever told me about his possible homosexuality. I had not been warned about his bitterness towards women. I didn’t realize that there use to be a time when you could focus all of your attention, studies, and dreams on your one passion. I didn’t even know about all of his inventions! It was all here, in this book, and I was enthralled. I would be afraid to read it again. I don’t want to know if it is not as good as I remember.

I guess, all in all, it was a good school assignment, for me anyway. I was what they call, “riveted.” I won’t easily forget it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


The Lone Surfer of Montanta, Kansas By Davy Rothbart
Weight:4.8 oz
Method of Disposal: Do you want it? Cause otherwise it is going to be donated—if I can resist recycling it. UPDATE: Shipped to North Carolina to reside with Amanda

This book was a major disappointment. I don’t know what I expected, but it was something much better. These short stories were written by the guy who put together FOUND magazine, which I like a lot. I have several artist friends who tell me FOUND was less than intriguing, and I believe it, on a graphic arts level, but I enjoyed it. These short stories, however, were mundane. The opposite of life-changing. My previous experience with the magazine and his work with people in the prison system had me intrigued, but the word of JUDY BLUME and ARTHUR MILLER had me convinced. On the cover there is a quote from Miller, “Davy writes with his whole heart. These stories are crushing.” I write my stories with my whole heart, but it doesn’t mean that they are automatically worth reading! Judy Blume says, “It’s always exciting to discover a talented new writer. Davy Rothbart writes with such energy, wit, and heart.” What am I missing?!

Well, here I stand. I don’t get it. There is not one story that made me feel anything. But, who am I, right? I will stick to the magazine.

All My Countrymen

Vintage Baldwin James Baldwin
2004 (The Estate of James Baldwin)
Weight: 7 oz
Method of Disposal: Giving to my friend, Tracy

I am not a huge fan of anthologies because I hate it when I get very into a piece of work and realize that it is just a selection from a much larger piece of writing. I tend to avoid buying anthologies for this reason alone but, for whatever reason, at some point I bought this book anyway. It sat on my bookshelves for years, unread. I picked it up the other day. I was in the mood for Baldwin, a very confident and brazen author.

The majority of the book left me feeling riveted and active. I wanted to get out in the world and do something. I wanted to write something that mattered. I wanted to hide in a corner and worry about how slow progress seems. There were some parts of the book that left me sneering and unhappy. The excerpt from ANOTHER COUNTRY was particularly hard for me. I felt so much resentment for the lead character even though Bladwin did such a good job of creating a complex character who had been through so much and done so much. You were motivated to feel for him and tempted to understand him, but I guess I am just not there yet. His interactions with Leona, a girl he became involved with, were so revolting. In the sex scene, the blurred line between rape, force, and sex made me recoil. The job of writing is not to make me feel good about everything. I know that, but I did recoil. A lot. In fact, I found myself avoiding all of Baldwin’s descriptions of women in the book. It is always hard to hear such a progressive author write about women in such a gross and unappealing way. It is one of those fallacies of the activist world. You know better than to expect more out of people because they fight for something you believe in, but you do it anyway. And, of course, men do interact with women in a forceful and sometimes detrimental way. We cannot just avoid writing about. So, here we are. It’s complicated.

All that being said, I will definitely be reading more Baldwin. He has a powerful voice that is impossible to ignore. So, here is my recommendation, read Baldwin, but read complete works. I am sure Another Country would mean more in its entirety. I intend to find out, anyway. I will leave you with two quotes from the collection.

“…all my countrymen had been able to offer me during the twenty-four years that I tried to live here was death—and death, moreover, on their own terms.” p.153 (NOTES FOR The Amen Corner)

“It has to do with political power and it has to do with sex. And this is a nation which, most unluckily, knows very little about either.” P.82 (Nobody Knows My Name)