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« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

Panty Power?

I tried to resist posting this, really I did. It seemed a little obvious...but people keep sending me this story and I keep thinking about it, so I may as well give in to temptation.

A group of activists has begun sending women's panties to Burmese embassies in the UK, Thailand, Australia, and Singapore, the Guardian reports. The deliveries apparently are some sort of insult and symbolize political protest.
I'm highly skeptical.

The premise is this:

The manoeuvre is a calculated insult to the junta and its leader, General Than Shwe. Superstitious junta members believe that any contact with female undergarments - clean or dirty - will sap them of their power, said Jackie Pollack, a member of the Lanna Action for Burma Committee.

"Not only are they brutal, but they are also very superstitious. They believe that touching a woman's pants or sarong will make them lose their strength," Ms Pollack told Guardian Unlimited.

Now, I know a lot of things women do which supposedly cause men to "lose their strength" and "sap them of power." Men don't usually protest to these things.

Protesting to an abusive regime accused of persecuting women and perpetrating sex crimes by sending sexually exciting items through the mail seems a peculiar tactic. Maybe I'm missing something...maybe Burmese men are different enough from Western men that this protest really does achieve its objective. Or maybe the objective is in fact to, uh, distract the junta from their horrific acts?

I don't mean to minimize the gravity of the situation in Burma...just want to cite one example of how not to stage a political protest. Unless I'm missing something...'

The Fall of Jan

While the Office (US version) has declined in recent seasons, I still try to watch from time to time. Upon tuning in to this season's premier, I was surprised to see what they've done with the character of Jan Levinson, the hard-ass big city corporate foil to Michael's dysfunctional small-town middle-manager.


Since I last saw Jan, she apparently has fallen for Michael (I won't even get into the utter unbelievability of this), he has rejected her (...or this), and so she has undergone a breast augmentation in the hopes of winning him back.


Where do I even start? I've always loved Jan's character...she was feminine but strong...the embodiment, I'd bet, of the show's writers' and viewers' greatest fear. Jan kicked ass. She shot the dopey Michael Scott down time and time again, both professionally and personally, though she did find him charming at times which added depth to her character.

But as is so often the case with strong women in entertainment, she couldn't sail high for long. She falls for an idiot who rejects her and gets laid off. She becomes a desperate, dysfunctional mess like the rest of the characters.

Not to be humorless about it (after all, I'm fine with being offended as long as it's in the service of comedy),  but I'm really disappointed in the show. Jan was a great character, both in terms of the composition of the show and in exposing the more adolescent-minded audience to a dignified professional woman.* Could the writers just not stand her character any longer? Did they really have to take their adolescent rejections and self esteem issues out on her?

While I appreciate the references to fake-boobed Kitty in Arrested Development, the decimation of Jan's character is just not that funny.

*In further disappointments, the New York Times did a fluff piece today on the actress who plays Jan, Melora Hardin. The shift in her character is great for the actress, the article notes, as she now will begin appearing as more of a regular on the show. The Times did not mention the feminist implications of Hardin's new character and instead congratulated her on the step up.

Sex Toy Ban Upheld

I tell ya, it's two steps forward, one step back. And you can't get much more backwards than Alabama, whose ban on sex toys will continue due to the US Supreme Court's declination to hear a challenge to the law.


The AP reports on the nine-year battle to challenge the anti-obscenity law, enacted in 1998 (no, not 1958) which bans the distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs for anything of pecuniary value." Interestingly, the law doesn't ban the possession of sex toys, so residents may purchase sex toys out of state for use in Alabama. They won't have much luck doing so online, as many online sex toy retailers will not ship to "bible belt" zip codes for fear of prosecution down the line.

I am of course outraged at this law, which disproportionately impacts the main beneficiaries of sex toys--women. Indeed, sex toy retail comprises the one segment of the adult industry where women constitute a majority of the market (makes sense, given that vibrators are a requirement for some women to orgasm--men would be all over that shit too if their right hands weren't so effective!). Alabama apparently doesn't like women taking charge of their own pleasure, never mind the fact that many couples' sex lives (even those of the cherished heteros) hinge upon sex toys.

True to form, the sex industry crusaders are spunky as ever. Sherri Williams, owner of Pleasures stores in Huntsville and Decatur and central challenger of the law, said she was disappointed, but plans to sue again on First Amendment free speech grounds.

Says Williams: "My motto has been they are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand. I refuse to give up."


Jenna the Entrepreneur

I really have to give Jenna Jameson credit. Her movies aren't so much my style--they're not terribly interesting, provocative, or progressive, but Jenna herself is conducting her career like my dream woman.

After an incredibly successful career as an actress, she has parlayed her fame (and fortune) into a number of enterprises, including an affiliate program under the umbrella of her Club Jenna site which offers unknown starlets consumer access and visibility so difficult to acquire online.

And now she's moving away from her acting career altogether, towards her business pursuits. As she reports in the latest issue of AVN, she has not turned her back on the industry; in fact, she is embracing its fertile entrepreneurial landscape. In the process, she is creating a brand new archetype the industry is only starting to recognize--female tycoon. I'm so proud of her!

Oprah has Evolved!

I nearly choked on my tongue upon seeing this month's issue of O magazine (a fabulous mag, by the by). A regular feature is Cindy Chupack's advice column, and this month the question is about porn.

Sheila from Illinois writes, "Am I the only woman in the world who likes watching porn with her husband?" and instead of shutting this woman down, Cindy gets down with porn. She says this reader's question inspired her to start asking women friends whether they watched porn, and also to start researching methods of obtaining it.

I, Cindy Chupack, used to be slightly pornophobic myself. I thought porn was something a man watched alone in a dark room and then stashed away so his girlfriend wouldn't find it....

Okay, I admit it. Until Sheila challenged my thinking, I'd only watched porn surreptitiously, in the name of research. (You know; meet his parents, meet his pals, meet his porn.) But most women I recently asked admitted to watching porn with a boyfriend or husband. I began to wonder if I should be writing Sheila for advice rather than the other way around.

Cindy does her research and determines that reader Sheila is "enlightened and cool." She goes on to mention Blowfish.com ("as user friendly as Amazon.com") and the glory of On Demand (a great friend of the housewife).

This is a HUGE jump forward for Oprah, whose talk show enraged me two years ago when addressing purported porn addiction. In the November 2005 episode, Oprah spouts misleading and unfounded statistics about the "growing epidemic" of porn addiction, effectively perpetuating marital alienation around sex and porn consumption. Rather than encouraging women to talk to their spouses to understand the role of pornography in their husbands' lives, she armed women with misinformation. If your husband watches porn, he must be addicted. If he's addicted, he is psychologically ill and the only means of recovery is absolute abstention from pornography.

Oprah is so incredibly redeemed...between her magazine's two-page feature on women-friendly porn penned by Violet Blue, another show encouraging consumption of erotic material, and the aforementioned feature, she is finally doing what I'd always hoped she would--use her position of extreme influence over American women to further sex positivity and communication about sex between men and women. This is no small thing.

Arse Elektronika

Heads up for San Francisco residents--this weekend marks the first annual Arse Elektronika conference on the subject of sex & technology ("pr0nnovation"), hosted by Kink.com. I hope it is the first of many such events...the high tech segment of the industry is where all the action is, and smart participants will get hip with technology and align themselves with innovative new products and delivery media.

The schedule looks amazing, and I highly recommend that locals attend (then report back to me as I am unable to go). Tickets (cheap!) here.