Tag Archives: mothers

Game of Thrones and “Sex” on TV

cerseiIf you are all up in the guts of the Internet where TV and commentary collide, you have already read a novel and a half of haterade about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. For long, articulate, backed-by-evidence arguments, see Margaret Lyons at NYMag and Sonia Soraiya at AV Club

Before I tell you why I’m pissed, let’s back up:

Mother daughter conversations about sex can are awkward enough even if one of them, ahem, doesn’t write about it on the Internet. My mom and I are what you might describe as a classic second wave/third wave duo. We agree about 85% of the time, and usually differ, if only slightly, on sex-related topics like pornography and prostitution. In short, I usually err on the side of who-am-I-to-tell-her-what-to-do-with-her-body? and my mother usually errs on the side of contributes-to-a-culture-of-oppression-and-objectification. We’re both right, obviously, and one day we’ll find the middle ground.

So anyway, last week, my mom emails to complain about “sex on TV.” She lists House of Cards and House of Lies as two prime examples of shows that only feature what she describes as “I don’t even know what to call it, but sex from what I call a degrading position.” I often approach other people’s sex lives–even fictional other people–from a to-each-her-own, doesn’t-look-fun-to-me-but-who-am-I, anything-goes-between-consenting-adults angle, wary of condemning someone else’s good time lest someone try to rain on mine.

The problem as I see it is not that this specific type of sex is what we see on TV, it’s that this is the only type of sex we see on TV. Specifically, it is the only type of sex men see on TV. They aren’t watching Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Wife, or Nashville, where sex is sometimes “animalistic” to use my mother’s word, but is also sometimes gentle, sometimes kind, sometimes romantic, sometimes spontaneous, sometimes between strangers, sometimes between lovers, and sometimes even features sex acts that most women enjoy.

But that is not what we get on TV that men watch. We get mostly rough sex. We get mostly condom-less sex. We get very little cunnilingus, very little foreplay, very few indications that female characters are enjoying themselves in the least. And while I do not in any way want to shit on the the specific kind of sex that any particular person is consensually enjoying (if that is your thing, knock yourself the fuuuuuck out), I do find it highly problematic that we get such a narrow sliver delivered to us with our HBO Go accounts and “prestige” TV.

[Spoiler Alert]

So. Game of Thrones.  In last night’s episode, after Joffrey’s gruesome wedding death, Cersei’s private moment of mourning was interrupted by Jaime, who, angry that she’d been cold-shouldering him, raped her on the floor of the temple where their dead son was displayed. As many others have said, I’m not outraged that a rape was depicted, if that’s what was intended for legitimate storytelling purposes, but I am very much outraged that some people, director included, don’t seem to think this was a rape scene.

What the fucking fuck do you think is a rape scene? To these not-a-rape-scene advocates, was that supposed to look like sex? Because it didn’t; it looked like rape. Kicking. Crying. Begging. Verbal “Nos”. Requests to stop…. Clue me in to which part of that looks like consensual sex…

And therein lies the problem. When depicted “sex” looks too much like rape, it makes some people–young people, dumb people, angry people–think that rape looks like sex. It makes them think that an initial “no” or “stop” or “I don’t want to,” will, with enough pressure, become a “fine, okay, I guess this is happening.” But that is not a yes, that is not consent. Are there non-verbal ways of giving consent? Absolutely. But “No, stop, stop, it’s not right,” as Cersei said, is not one of them.

This shit is all related. The American University Epsilon Iota emails that were released this week. Darren Sharp’s admission of “non-consensual sex”. The joke of a process that female soldiers have to endure to report assault. The fact that teenaged girls think that unwanted groping is just part of dating. The abhorrent Mixology joke about finding girls drunk enough to “smash out.”

It’s not all Game of Thrones’ fault, obviously, but as of 24 hours ago they are the latest guilty party. Rough sex and rape are not part of some gray area where we throw our hands in the air and yell “IT’S JUST SO HARD TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE.” Rough sex is something adults agree to and reinforce with positive words like “yes,” and “I like that.” Or they agree on safe words. Or they have conversations prior to getting busy about what they like and dislike. Though the play might be physically rough, they approach with a mutual respect.

Rape is where one person has sex with another person who does not want them to.

Why is this so hard?

Which is all to say, sometimes my mom is right.

Related PostGame of Thrones vs. The Wire

Related Post: Strong Female Characters? No thanks.



Filed under Gender, Hollywood, Sex

How to Accidentally Raise a Feminist Daughter

My piece this week for Role/Reboot is about my dad. I’ve written about him before, but this is the first time I ever directly asked him if he had intended to have a feminist daughter.

The conversation started because I found a postcard he had sent from a business trip in 1998. On the front, Rosie the Riveter (You see? It all started so young!) with Hillary Clinton’s face, and on the back, well, just look right →

Here’s the essay:

Related Post: Massachusetts reconsiders custody bias.

Related Post: On joint custody


Filed under Family, Gender, Republished!

Morning Mika

Brzezinkski burning the Paris Hilton story on Morning Joe (see link below)

I really like Morning Joe cohost Mika Brzezinski. I liked her book, All Things at Once, though it was criticized for a woe-is-me-pretty-blonde-girl slant. The writing was uninspired, but I found her to be frank, honest and solidly grounded despite her worldly upbringing (her father was former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski).

I liked her when, on Morning Joe, she burned, then shredded, the Paris Hilton “news item” that kept reappearing on her script.

I like her even more after watching this clip of Brzezinki talking about women, finance and negotiations. She reveals that at one point, she made fourteen times less than cohost Joe Scarborough.

I once got in an argument with mother when she kept asking me how much money my newly-graduated peers were making at their entry level jobs. I was satisfied with my paycheck, and I found her dumping all over my first-job parade unnecessary and insulting.

My mother is a supremely capable, business-savvy, highly-educated woman who’s been working in the professional world for decades. I sent her the clip and she wrote back: “Keep this in your brain forever!” Then she spent a paragraph hectoring me again to demand what I’m worth and added:  “Now that I’m lecturing you, I need to lecture myself because I have always made less than I deserve to make… as Mika says, I want to be liked, I don’t like ruffled feathers.” Does it get easier? Apparently not.

Related Post: More wisdom from my mom on how to deflect pushy hairstylists.

Related Post: When is the act of “asking” an empowering thing, and when does it become pushy and entitled? A guest post I wrote on Smart Girls, Stupid Things.


Filed under Family, Gender, Media, Politics

Round 412: Why-Oh-Why-Do-Teenage-Girls-Dress-Like-Prostitutes??

In one corner, representing slut-shaming, fear-mongering, guilt-tripping and maternal narcissism, Wall Street Journal writer Jennifer Moses. In the other, a calm understanding that sexuality (both adolescent and adult) is neither good nor bad in nature, but complex and highly individual.

Moses’ piece hinges on the hypothesis that modern moms are deeply conflicted about their own sexual histories. Wary of hypocrisy, they refrain from reigning in their daughters’ desires to dress like Julia Roberts circa Pretty Woman:

We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that’s certainly the norm among my peers.”

There may be women (most of Moses’ circle of girlfriends, apparently), who felt that the “sexual freedom” of the ’70s manifested as unwanted sexual pressure from peers to “find true womanhood in the bedroom.” I am sad for these women. Pressure to be sexually adventurous is as harmful as pressure to be sexually chaste. But whoa… Sara and I have some initial reactions to the good-time-girl/good-girl dichotomy:You are either a “good-time girl” who regrets your sexual history, or you waited for marriage. I think we’re missing another possibility. If one bothered to look behind Door #3, one might find at least a few women who did not wait for marriage and don’t regret their pasts. Shocker, right? Women can have pre-marital sex and also avoid crippling guilt! Who knew?

What teenage girl doesn’t want to be attractive, sought-after and popular? And what mom doesn’t want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.” Ugh. Here we go again with the beauty myth.

The real question, the one we ought to be asking ourselves, is why do teenage girls feel that their sexuality is the best thing about themselves, the thing they need to share with the world? Why not their smarts, their humor, their kindness, athleticism, or artistic skills? Does Moses experience that “thrill” when her daughter brings home an “A,” scores a goal on the soccer field, earns a genuine compliment from a peer, or articulates herself eloquently? Or are those thrills reserved for “drop dead gorgeous mode?”

Girls dress like prostitutes because it’s a quick path to compliments and praise. Everywhere they look, they see  positive energy and admiration directed like laser beams at the “hot” girls. Who wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of all that?

Sidenote: Moses seems to think that sex is deadly:

Related Post: Checkout an article I wrote for The Good Men Project called “Talking to Your Daughter About Beauty”

Related Post: Moses isn’t the only one who got it wrong… Caitlin Flanagan at the Atlantic strikes again.


Filed under Body Image, Family, Gender, Media, Sex

Pictureless Friday

“Her age was hard to determine from our vantage point, a point in our lives when we could not bring older bodies into focus.” ~ Miranda July in “Something that Needs Nothing” from No One Belongs Here More Than You

*   *   *   *   *   *

“That great lie of contemporary culture, that women are at their most beautiful between the ages of 16 and 25.” – Zadie Smith in “Hepburn and Garbo” from Changing My Mind

I started this post with a bunch of pictures of women that I love who are over 50. As I looked through the pictures, I thought to myself each and every time “damn, she looks goooood.” But what I meant, and I wish this weren’t so, was “damn… she doesn’t look old.” Looking old is apparently antithetical to looking good, just ask my mom every time she comes back from the hair salon.

When I look at pictures of Susan Sarandon and Helen Mirren and think they look good because they don’t look their age, I’m condoning the idea that the only kind of beautiful is young. This is not a game I want to play. Just as I think that thin is not the only way to look healthy, I think that smooth is not the only way to look beautiful. Who do I pick, an actress that packs her forehead full of botox, or one with crow’s feet? Do I pick a big woman who can run 5 miles or a rail-thin girl who hasn’t eaten a real meal in days?

So I opted against pictures. Instead, I put the quotes from Miranda July and Zadie Smith up top, in place of where an image would be. I will probably return to my youth-obsessed, image-oriented judgmental self tomorrow, but I thought it would be nice to take a break for a bit. For the record, the women I wanted to talk about were: Susan Sarandon, Helen Mirren, Desiree Rogers, Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep, Jamie Lee Curtis and Vanessa Williams (who is only 48, but I couldn’t resist because she’s just so fucking badass.)

Related Post: A practical guide for buying toys for girls… toys that don’t involve booty shorts, that is.

Related Post: How to Grow Gray Hairs and Handle Your Bitchy Hairdresser

Related Post: Zadie Smith on Obama and a place called Dream City.



Filed under Family, Gender, Hollywood

Moms are Wise

For the record, my mom has a few grays. BUT, this hair is beautiful too and no one should tell her to dye it!

My mom sends me things to read, like the police log from our local paper:

Example: 4:20 Friday – Workers at the United Methodist Church on Massachusetts Avenue turned in a small amount of Marijuana found in a bag left on the playground of the property. (You read that correctly… at 4:20)

or notes from the empty nest:

Example: Day 6 in our empty nest – made some furniture changes in the house which you’ll see when you are home for Thanksgiving. Shopped at Trader Joes and spent the day reading and hanging out. Joe worked at the drum store. Photos are from our happy hour on the deck!

Yesterday, she responded to the blog post I wrote about my thighs with this very insightful comment:

Just as you don’t like someone in the gym to assume you want slimmer thighs, I don’t go back to a hairdresser who looks at my hair and asks me if I’ve considered covering the gray.  I should be the one to tell them I’m thinking about it and they shouldn’t assume I want to, because I don’t!!!!! You tell her mom!

On one hand, I love the instant camaraderie that women sometimes create in the most banal moments–offering to zip up a stranger’s dress in the locker room after yoga–, on the other hand, I detest that false familiarity that enables the kind of “constructive” criticism we level against one another. The same assumptions that prompted my gym bitch to comment on my workout regimen are behind the hairstylist’s comments to my mom. And I guarantee you that neither my father (gray since 35, white in the last few years) nor my stepfather (also graying) have faced pressure to dye. Aging, in the most natural (and beautiful ways), is considered so fundamentally unattractive that women don’t think twice about assuming other women view it as a curse to be avoided, delayed, tricked and banished. Similarly, the implication of “weight,” in any excess of zero, is assumed to be a horrendous insult (tits and ass excluded for a whole slew of complicated and corrosive reasons).

These are assumptions we need to undermine. The next time you find yourself in a dressing room at a lunch hour (just me?) and a woman asks you what you think of the pants she’s trying on, don’t tell her she looks skinny. Instead, take a moment and ask her what look she’s going for, because for all you know, she’d like to amp up the junk in the trunk, flesh out those thighs or create a little curve of the hip. You just never know.

Related Post: See? This lady has gray hair and she’s a bigger badass than I’ll ever be!


Filed under Body Image, Chicago, Family, Gender