Monday, January 17, 2011

Feminaissance Blog Project

I asked five writers to respond to Les Figues title Feminaissance without placing any limitations on the content, length, or form. Throughout the week, read responses from Allison Carter, Evelyn Hampton, Claire Donato, Amy King, and Tisa Bryant. My introduction has some fun clit facts.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

excerpts from Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth

August 28, 1996

Moving my bowels at home I feel a great recognition arising: good old me. Today I had to shit at Wendy’s. As I let it go, I felt zero recognition—the good old me was nowhere to be found. To my surprise, I felt somewhat relieved, even joyful, to sense anew the careful absence of where I’ve come from. To be alive is to shit into a strange place.

September 12, 1996

I seek respite from tolerance, in every sense. Stop giving me what I want! Say to me, “This has gone far enough!” Put me under arrest, take me to the other side of the register! Take me back into the manager’s tiny office and explain to me the gross error of my design! Mange me! To manage—what is that? To not let be.

September 18, 1996

I don’t think Wendy’s coffee has such a good taste. This is not to say I don’t like it. I like it very much. Its poor taste keeps my intentions clear; I drink coffee for the enthusiasm-prod, not for the taste. The taste, then, when it is too pleasant, can distract one from what matters most — the deep writhing jolt. Of course, some taste is necessary so that the jolt seems, at bottom, inadvertent.

September 20, 1996

Today I had a Biggie. Usually I just have a small, and refill. Why pay more? But today I needed a Biggie inside me. Some days, I guess, are like that. Only a Biggie will do. You wake up and you know: today I will get a Biggie and I will put it inside me and I will feel better. One time I saw a guy with three Biggies at once. One wonders not about him but about what it is that holds us back.

September 23, 1996

Gangbang weather for the first time in weeks. Makes me want to behave. Just go out and behave in the stinky sunlight. In my biography, they’ll say that I never behaved at all, and that the sunlight was no stinkier than usual. But that is the business of biography; biography is the dream of misbehavior that is able not only to endure the stinky sunlight, but to forget it. Its incalculable insistence.

September 24, 1996

I love to watch a dick slamming in and out of a cunt or an asshole. The only way t.v. could enhance Wendy’s is if it was confined to showing nonstop hardcore pornography without sound. No ridiculous assertion of plot or personality. Just the real pleasure of lacking language. Just a reassuring view of the signifier itself as it finds its way to its ancient hiding place in broad daylight.

September 25, 1996

A woman with twins today, aged five or six. Almost perfect replicas. They sit eating, starring off now and then into the mid-air realm. The not-eating realm. They stare out knowing that their mother is there. They stare out from the good of eating. I want to ask them: is that good already not good enough? And do you understand already that there is something more original than a mother?

Friday, January 7, 2011

notes: the hite report

rejecting the very idea of penetration as the sole definition of “real sex,” shere hite’s The Hite Report on Female Sexuality (1976) sought to understand how individuals regard sexual experience and the meaning it holds for them, using the clitoris as her critical lens. “its not specifically just orgasms we are talking about here,” she wrote, “we are talking about a complete redefinition, or un-definition, of what sex is.”

collected from long essay-style questionnaires, the hite report uses the personal stories of women themselves as the main text. its very success lies in this glut of personal know that women are sexually frustrated is one thing, but to read page after page of “long foreplay makes me uncomfortable because i worry that i ’m putting my man through too much work, when i know that he could come so much sooner if he let himself" is quite another. in response to the question, how have most men had sex with you?:

“Most of them start kissing, petting, really getting off on the breasts—then the fingers in the vagina a bit, love talk, when we’re ready, cunnilingus and fellatio simultaneously, then I get on top, then he does. This is fairly standard with a lot of guys.”

“I hate the usual pattern—kiss—feel—eat—fuck, simply because it’s usual. I like people to talk to me and moan a lot. I like when people are expressive and creative with me.”

“Foreplay with constant pressure to have intercourse.”

all but 5% of heterosexual couples, hite discovered, followed the “reproductive” model: foreplay (touching, kissing, oral), followed by penetration, and intercourse (thrusting) followed by orgasm (especially male orgasm), usually defined as the “end” of sex. “this is a sexist definition of sex, oriented around male orgasm, and the needs of reproduction,” hite wrote. “this definition is cultural, not biological.”

hite also found that 70% of women did not orgasm from intercourse alone. although she stressed that orgasm was not the sole, or even necessarily, the main pleasure of sex, she asked her readers “why do women so habitually satisfy men’s needs during sex and ignore their own?”

for the majority of women clitoral stimulation is used for arousal purposes but not orgasm. a point hite returns to again and again: through the reproductive model of sex, male orgasm is given a standardized time and place that is prearranged and preagreed during which both people know what to expect and how to make it possible. this places women in the position of having to ask for “extra” stimulation, something “special."

while the 1960’s may well have been, as sex researcher bill masters quipped, “the decade of orgasmic preoccupation,” hite showed that this did not, and still does not, necessarily carry over into women’s actual sexual experiences. that is—an awareness of the mechanics, ease, and potency of female orgasm did not appear to have much effect on the way 70% of women fucked.

“if women couldn’t ask for clitoral stimulation to orgasm, or do it themselves, they were unlikely to get it from the man they were with," wrote hite. “is the answer to the oppression and neglect of female sexuality and especially orgasm that men should lean to give (better) clitoral stimulation? yes and no. of course men should learn these things, but even more important, we [women] should find the freedom to take control over whether or not we get this stimulation.”

Monday, January 3, 2011

“This is not the tired moralist claim that only a native can know the scene. The point I am trying to make is that in order to learn enough about Third World women and to develop a different readership, the immense heterogeneity of the field must be appreciated and the First World feminist must learn to stop feeling privileged as a woman.”

--Gayatri Spivak, French Feminism in an International Frame

Sunday, January 2, 2011

bogart: notes


the maltese falcon (1941), humphrey bogart plays sam spade, a private detective whose sense of knowingness is forever suspect. what unfolds is a brilliant, complex tale: three men and one woman on a ruthless search for a jeweled falcon, all seemingly unaware of the other’s connections to spade, all equally dangerous.

the film opens when a new client, ms. brigid o’shaughnessy (mary astor), tells her story to spade. Iit does not involve the falcon, but rather, her sister’s dangerous fiancĂ©, thursby, who must be tracked. for spade’s services, she offers a large sum of cash. bogart nods, rolls a cigarette. ms. o’shaughnessy figures him her idiot—he believed! not until their next meeting does it become clear that not only did he not believe her, he understood the exact extent of her fibbing: “you paid us more than if you had been telling the truth and more than enough to make it alright.” when Spade mentions that his partner, archer, was killed while tailing thursby, she says something to the effect “how sad.” without pause bogart replies, “stop it. he knew what he was getting into. those are the chances we take.” spade already knows that a perceived sense of control is perhaps most dangerous of all.

although the film was made twice prior, neither version achieved critical or box office success. the 1941 john huston production excelled for two main reasons: the script’s adherence to dashiell hammett’s original text and humphrey bogart. bogart was not warner’s first pick; studio politics had already selected george raft. when raft refused, huston hired bogart. after viewing early footage, warner head hal wallis urged huston to re-shoot. the problem: bogart was playing spade with a “leisurely, suave form of delivery.” wallis’ advice: let bogart be bogart.

a similar situation had occurred during the casting of Bogart’s breakout role in The Petrified Forest (1936) as unhinged outlaw Duke Manatee. Primarily a character actor, Bogart often played the violent sidekick of stars like Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, and James Cagney. “The audience was trained to dislike him,” writes David Thompson, “...a guy you could not trust to trust.” Leslie Howard, the star of The Petrified Forrest, wanted Bogart specifically for the role of the volatile Manatee: “No Bogart, No deal?”

in 1941 bogart hardly resembled hammet’s description of spade: blonde hair, over six feet tall, widow’s peak, shifty as the devil incarnate. Instead, he was in his early forties, balding, face puffy with drink. unlike the uber-manly james bond of the future with his impeccable, phlegmatic cool, when bogart gets hurt, he really gets hurt. and, more importantly, he is aware that there is not always a way not to get hurt. in the maltese falcon, bogart, or the he pioneered, realizes that to be smart requires a degree of fallibility: you never know what the other person in the room is thinking, will do; to be triumphant often requires degradation.

my favorite moment: when spade says to joel cairo—a gun-toting, immaculately coifed, gunsel for the villainous Fat Man—“i’ll slap you and you’ll like it.” bogart smacks cairo (peter lorre) almost playfully then takes his gun, shuts him up. gun fights aside, the pair agrees that spade will find the falcon, no questions asked, for a steep fee. however, this will not be their last confrontation. in fact, it is through bogart’s dealings with the fat man, and his hired help, that the viewer understands the extent to which bogart outsmarts nearly everyone he encounters.

directly after his visit with cairo, bogart meets the fat man’s second, still green, lackey wilmer (elisha cook jr.) on his way to ms. o’shaughnessy’s apartment. assigned by the fat man to follow spade, it takes spade only a minute or two to lose him. after hoping inside a taxi, bogart instructs the driver to stop at a random apartment. once inside the building, bogart presses every number on the call box then waltzes out the back door only to watch from the street a befuddled wilmer toiling over the call box. spade equally outwits the master himself, the fat man (sydney greenstreet). during the pair’s first meeting, the fat man pours spade a drink, asks, “are you a closed-mouthed man?” “no, I like to talk,” says spade. the fat man raises his glass: “i distrust a closed mouth’s to plain speaking and clear understanding.” despite his colloquialisms, the Fat Man rarely speaks clearly or directly, and the pleasantries dissolve when a raging bogart stands to his feet, smashes his glass, and delivers the Fat Man an ultimatum: if you are interested in my services, get me the money and details by 5:00 pm the following evening. here, as elsewhere, bogart’s upperhand relies on a plausible bluff: if the fat man believes spade knows the falcon’s whereabouts, he will not kill him or intimidate him too brutally. his sense of control, his “smartness” is only an appearance, an educated guess, a gamble. as soon as he shuts the door to the fat man’s apartment, he grins as he walks insouciant down the hall. the viewer is led to believe that his rage was merely an act, that spade played the fat man, and played him hard, which was his plan all along. But this is wrong. waiting for the elevator, bogart looks down at his hand, which is shaking violently, and when he smiles at his own hand, it is not a gesture of smug self-approval, but rather, a kind of stupefied disbelief that he actually pulled it off, nerves and all.

the maltese falcon is one of hollywood’s greatest films, not only because of the fantastic dialogue, lifted more or less directly from hammett’s original text, or its pared down, harshly lit, direct cinematography, but for the questions it raises: are knowledge and power the same thing? and if not, what is the nature of their relationship?

towards the end of the film, the fat man invites spade to his office and mixes him a drink. spade is aware that the drink is probably spiked. unwilling to blow his cover, the entire case, to avoid a single moment of degradation, bogart swallows the drink, falls to the floor. wilmer, still roiling from spade’s merciless taunts and evasions, kicks him not once but twice in the face. bogart knew this would happen. but to be sprawled on the floor, kicked in the face, to be drugged does not make him weak or stupid or any less triumphant: it happens to him—is out of his control, a natural occurrence if one is to venture into the wild. while it is logical to assume that the fat man will not kill or otherwise physically maim him while drugged, it is only an assumption, an educated guess, gamble taken under the false assurance of “facts” and “logic.”

if the fat man had murdered him, it would not have made spade any less suave or shrewd. knowledge is invaluable insofar as it can help lessen, if not always prevent, the brunt of the wild instant. spade’s greatest strength is his awareness, and acceptance of, personal fallibility. you can never know what someone will do to you. you never possess full control. bogart takes the kick in the face, but he does not forget it.

the misfortunes of virtue

here's a video of economist milton friedman, excerpted from a 1979 interview with phil donahue. if you were to condense the most basic political message of the sade's justine you’d get friedman: “and what does reward virtue?"