[originally published July 27, 2009.
When I'm good I'm very, very good but when I'm bad I'm better.
- Mae West
Maybe this is a booty call. Do females do that? Do I care? I think many women are worried about seeming desperate or as being perceived as a slut. Do males worry about those things? Dictionary.com defines double standard as "[a] set of principles permitting greater opportunity or liberty to one than to another, especially the granting of greater sexual freedom to men than to women."
In an article entitled, "Does the Sexual Double Standard Still Exist? Perceptions of University Women," we find that "[t]he sexual double standard has been the focus of considerable research since the 1960s. Ira Reiss (1960), the pioneer researcher, defined the orthodox double standard as prohibiting premarital sexual intercourse for women but allowing it for men. This standard evolved into the conditional double standard in which women were permitted to engage in sexual relations only within a committed love relationship, whereas men were permitted to have as many sexual partners as they wanted without condition. In studying the double standard, researchers have generally focused on one of three main issues: sexual behavior, evaluations of men and women who engage in certain sexual behaviors, and personal preferences regarding' the sexual background of hypothetical partners."
The bottom-line is that research has found that a double standard still exists.
I was thinking, who would fall for a disabled feminist? For one, there is a misperception that feminists hate men or are anti-men. We are just pro-women. My many disabilities mean I cannot rely upon image to help out. Cosmetic botox and liposuction are meaningless to me. I cannot, like many people, wish I were younger or curvier as if those changes would make a difference. I love that those things do not apply to me - they never did - but it might be nice to fantasize an option. I might have to re-configure. For example, I adore male eye-candy which is as realistic as looking at Playboy. (I was watching the film The House Bunny where it is claimed that to be 27 years of age is really 59 in bunny years. Ha!)
I have been single now for the longest period since I was 16. Yes, I have had to deal with loads. [I had non-malignant brain tumour surgeries and I was in a coma for five months]. I do crave a relationship though. I have major hope. My friend inspired me. She lost her husband more than a year ago and goes on dates now. She has been out of the "scene" for a while but she challenges herself to try. I know she will always love her husband but she is moving on. Amazing.
David Cook sings about being kissed on the neck - dreaming is good... So, what do I want? Sex and a relationship. Both. With someone who rocks my world. I have so much to offer but my physicality...I honestly believe that how I look now is problematic for many men. That sucks, eh? I enable "the gaze" for women in most of my articles. Women are sexual, play with gender-roles and inhabit various subject positions. Women are free. The big fat irony is that I feel constrained. If "come and get it" were an option, swell, but it is not.
A kind man I know said, "Intimacy is about getting past obstacles, to various kinds of truth, communicating without obstacles or fear...Relationships are difficult enough when you're a shiny new 20 year old who can take their beauty and intelligence for granted."
Julia Pearlman wrote an internet article; "Sex when you're disabled - Being disabled doesn't mean you can't have a good sex life, but you may need to make a few adjustments to make things as enjoyable as possible. " (TheSite.org) Le oh.
There is something very intimidating about having sex in a different body and for someone extremely liberal to say that is something, I assure you. On the one hand it's an amazing opportunity to start anew, to explore my comprehension of "lessons." On the other hand it's incredibly scary. Imagine.
An article entitled, "Avatars for the wheelchair-bound: The value of inclusion in digital spaces," (Theory and Research in HCI.) explains what "Avatars" are; "Avatars are the representation of the user within digital spaces, and can range from flat, non-animated pictures to pseudo-3D models that explore virtual worlds."
I am currently writing a novel where a sexy young woman makes love to her very hot boyfriend (sounds much too Harlequin® ). I can be any character I want and while being virtual is amazing, there are real limitations. Ayn Rand said, "Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice." (Thinkexist.com)
I adore the dream-world but it's like the film The Matrix, (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, 1999) eh? In an article by Nancy Shute: "Girls With Sexy Avatars Face Greater Risks Online"(May 26, 2009) she says, "Do you know what your daughter's online avatar looks like? If it's sexually provocative--more Bratz than American Girl doll--it's time for a chat. "I'm amazed at the grotesqueness of some of these avatars," says Jennie Noll, a developmental psychologist and associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center who asked 173 teenage girls ages 14 to 17 to make avatars, then rated their provocativeness--skimpy clothing, body piercings, exaggerated curves. Girls who created provocative avatars were more likely to get sexual come-ons online, not surprisingly, and also more apt to agree to an in-person encounter with someone they met online. Noll's study is published in the current issue of Pediatrics. The girls who chose provocative avatars were also more likely to be preoccupied with sex--and, Noll speculates, they might be more likely to try on the role." (usnews.com)
Okay, I won't speculate on the meanings associated with "provocativness." I do want kids to be careful even though I might question the ideology here. A famous Macbeth quote remarks, "Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't." (Act 1, Scene V)
My "Bratz doll," that Shute refers to, is hardly "offensive." I use it on various internet sites. I think it is kinda cute.
I say that "identity is drag." (Facebook) I'll often post my profile picture on Facebook as a glamorous Hollywood actress. My author picture is of a way I used to look.
Most pictures we choose to represent ourselves are inaccurate, right? Most of us cannot stand our driver's license or passport pictures. May as well be a movie-star or look like the old me. Drag-identity is liberating. As I will often explain, to me "drag" is not "cross-dressing." "Drag" is about layers of difference. I find "otherness" preferable to sameness. If my disabilities put me on the fringe - great. If the way I think belies convention, so be it. I am glad that I have a Ph.D but I do not fit or follow a conventional model of that at all. My "difference" permeates many aspects of my being. The ways in which I present identities now are not false, they are drag.
I watched the trailer for the film Surrogates (Jonathan Mostow, 2009) and it got me thinking...if I had a "surrogate" not only could I be able-bodied but be blonde, have straight hair, good eye-sight, be super thin etc. The promo states that you feel everything your surrogate feels. Hmmm. Yet, it feels like an evolution of The Stepford Wives (Bryan Forbes,1975) to me. I understand that the film Surrogates problematizes a substitute self which is great. I'm all for cyborgs but an idea of using one as a replacement is anti-responsibility.
In my book, You Never Know: A Memoir I say, "I never felt slim enough or beautiful enough. What a wake-up call, what a friggin' realization! I know these are issues that many women struggle with, but what a major lesson for me. I used to be good friends with a model. Talk about always feeling like you just do not measure up. She would never make me feel inadequate overtly, but what a standard. Not because of her, I felt fat and ugly most of the time. I still deal with feelings of inadequacy. It is a huge paradox because I was in an industry (performance) that valued looks. She was also married to a model. Getting together with them was so full of meaning. What a stunning family they were to me. Of course, they also had a "gorgeous" baby. Oy. I used to be an actor, so I did have a version of what I looked like beyond my perspective. You do not need to act in order to know what your "reflection" is. I still held on to the belief that I was less than acceptable physically.
Even though I had lovers and people were attracted to me, it was difficult to accept that I was all right. And I knew better on several levels, yet this was incredibly challenging for me. A friend once told me to avoid beauty magazines because of my issues with body image. I knew they airbrushed everything, including bodies to make them even thinner, but they were so compelling. Even if it is all ideology, it's a bugger." (You Never Know: A Memoir pp. 35-36)
I like that one can inhabit a fantasy being via an Avatar; there appears to be an awareness that it's not real, eh? Also the world is virtual. So while the access here is phenomenal it is a construct - which is not good or bad it just is. It is not like in the film The Matrix: "the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." There is no hidden world - Avatars are virtual drag. If I want to be an able-bodied Avatar so be it. It is not like a representation of self here (or most places) is accurate. I wonder if people who have plastic surgery consider themselves "real?" The flexibility of identity is truly interesting. Do driver's license photos accurately identify a person? Do you like your photo? Does it look like you? What about your passport photo? Ugh.
There is a "double standard" separate from the sex of a person. There is a double standard of identity. On the one hand photos are supposed to identify us - but we alter, we change. If I stayed the same I'd look like my author picture but I no longer do. That WAS me at a certain point in time. Even then it was hardly accurate. A make-up artist was used, lighting was dramatic and I hired a professional photographer (Helen Tansey). Manipulation of my "look" occurred.
Ugly or gorgeous we're looking at mis-identity. I know that my eye-candy is false. My disabilities veil aspects of who I am. I think I have always been "veiled." In Who Knew? I say, "I truly believe I have been underestimated intellectually my entire life. Because of my investment in image, fashion, camp etc. I have been labeled as superficial or less than intelligent or deep. Someone I know from graduate school was apparently "surprised" by me when he read You Never Know: A Memoir. I still get comments from people whom, I think, relegate me as "vapid." Someone compared me to Jane Austen's Emma. I am a big fan of Jane Austen but the character of Emma lacks a gravitas and is often mistaken in her own perceptions of the world around her. That is not me but is the perceived me. I am far from clueless." (Emma, Jane Austen's novel is modernized in a film, and given the title Clueless.)
In the television series Battlestar Galactica (Michael Rymer, 2003) there is an entire "race" of cybernetic beings (cyborgs: part person and part machine). An emphasis is if they have "humanity." There are "lines" which look identical but which have certain anomalies in behavior. One "line" is nicknamed the Sharon's. One Sharon is in love with a human and has a child with him. A Sharon called Boomer by those in the human Battlestar Galactica fleet to which she belongs, thinks that she is human until she is "activated." So, even though they look identical to one another their identities differ. Taking it further, the distinction between human and machine is blurred. What we can know by "looking" is put into question. I saw the film Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009.). Talk about questioning identity. Our appearance does not define who we are.
Layers of unexpected identity are my thing. My doctoral dissertation, "A Critical Exploration of Cross-Dressing and Drag in Gender Performance and Camp in Contemporary North American Drama and Film" addressed that. It is my strong belief that we need to examine the world around us. Donna Haraway's 1985 essay, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" in her ground-breaking book Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, develops a political myth around the image of the cyborg, "a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction" (149)
An extremely bright man said, "That interconnection you allude to in passing seems particularly rich, between human and machine, between our minds and the various extensions we now can attach. We have phones and keyboards for sending, various devices for receiving, to say nothing of the many ways our memories and senses are augmented. While on the one hand, you walk and dance slower than you used to, you have other tools that allow you to take giant strides and speak with a fantastically amplified voice, reaching many, many people. In your publishing career and its interconnections through blogs and social networking sites, you're another sort of cyborg (as are we all after a fashion)."
I do now call part of what I am experiencing cyborg-drag because I have a permanent shunt in my head to drain excess fluid off my brain. In my article Ogre-Drag I say, "Drag intervenes with identity. Gender seems to be a focus. Many identities would be effective tools for discussion and exploration. For instance, I have a permanent shunt in my head to drain excess fluid off my brain. I am taken out of the realm of being human into a new world, occupying cyber territory. I am now a cyborg. To me this is cyborg-drag. "Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess" (Haraway 181).
As before, I did not ask for a shunt, but I do have it. I am not making light of my situation by calling it drag. The confusion arises because "drag" is often considered silly. It is serious to me. The idea of foregrounding identities by practical means is substantial. It is critical."
The cyber or virtual world provides a freeing universe within which one might explore difference or the unknown. In my book Again I say, "Exploring the unfamiliar might invoke a host of emotions like fear. We obviously try to avoid fear, yet haunted houses and roller coasters are pretty popular. The unfamiliar can be thrilling and entertaining. Fear can be enticing. Scary movies make huge profits. Funny, I do not watch horror films or engage in any fearful activities, yet I am more than willing to explore the unknown. My friend Lisa said that she explores the known and I, the unknown. She says, "In school I always loved math, science and history - because it was a known." She says that I am the yin to her yang: "I need more yin!" (Again pp. 119-120).
What is this virtual world? "The computer accesses a computer-simulated world and presents perceptual stimuli to the user, who in turn can manipulate elements of the modeled world and thus experiences telepresence to a certain degree. Such modeled worlds may appear similar to the real world or instead depict fantasy worlds. The model world may simulate rules based on the real world or some hybrid fantasy world. Example rules are gravity, topography, locomotion, real-time actions, and communication. Communication between users has ranged from text, graphical icons, visual gesture, sound, and rarely, forms using touch, voice command, and balance senses." (Biocca 1995, p. 41,47. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)
In an article entitled, "Avatars! Exploring and Building Virtual Worlds on the Internet" Bruce Damer says, "When you don your avatar and join thousands of other people who are trying out life in virtual worlds you are joining in a great new experiment in human contact." (Damer) Human/not human...interesting.
I was invited by a lovely gay man to participate in a site that included virtual sex. I couldn't do it. Participating would be great for my status as an academic, 3rd wave feminist etc. but my preferences seem to outweigh all of that. Am I simply enacting prescribed ideology, a double standard? I am very aware of the limitations for women and I think that I'm on the outer edge of that. So, there appears to be a dichotomy. In my book Again I say, "Keep one foot firmly planted in your personal beliefs and one foot in the pool of Ideology. You might get a little wet, but it is only water. Water evaporates. It is like a bridge between worlds." (p. 86) So, that is what I'll do - bridge worlds.
Predators do exist so watch out, "Young adolescents are the most vulnerable age group and are at high risk of being approached by online predators. They are exploring their sexuality, moving away from parental control and looking for new relationships outside the family. Under the guise of anonymity, they are more likely to take risks online without fully understanding the possible implications." (webAWARE)
There are standards for much that are false.
Battlestar Galactica, the television series. Dir. Michael Rymer, R&D TV . 2003.
Biocca, Frank; Mark R. Levy. Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.1995.
Damer, Bruce. "Avatars! Exploring and Building Virtual Worlds on the Internet". Copyright Bruce Damer 1997-1998.
Famous Macbeth Quotes by William Shakespeare
Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and
Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." Simians, Cyborgs,
and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.
Herold, Edward S., Milhausen Robin R. Journal of Sex Research. Nov, 1999.
"Does the Sexual Double Standard Still Exist? Perceptions of University Women."
Moon. Dir, Duncan Jones. Liberty Films UK. 2009.
Shiller, Romy. A Critical Exploration of Cross-dressing and Drag in Gender Performance and Camp in Contemporary North American Drama and Film." PhD diss., University of Toronto, 1999,
-----------------. Again. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2009.
-----------------. Who Knew? Forthcoming.
-----------------. You Never Know: A Memoir. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2008.
Surrogates. Dir. Jonathan Mostow. Touchstone Pictures. 2009.
The Stepford Wives. Bryan Forbes. Fadsin Cinema Associates.1975.
The House Bunny. Dir. Fred Wolf. Columbia Pictures. 2008.
The Matrix Transcript
Dialogue from the Movie
The Matrix. Dirs. Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski. Groucho II Film Partnership. 1999.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
Romy Shiller is a 3rd Wave Feminist according to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women's studies at South-Carolina U.
Books are available online.