Thursday, September 27, 2012

Another image: What are they selling?

Okay, not exactly a challenge. They are selling sex. But, hey, the Lemon Girl and I are on vacation so I'm going with the easy-to-analyze stuff.

That said, that is an odd way to ride a horse and why a rocking horse instead of a real one? Is this "just for play". Well, if that is what a girl wants, yes! (There is also a not terribly subtle masturbation suggestion going on here but only for the girl who wants to see it; and there are a variety of different reasons why a girl might not want to see it.)

The image in question is a logo for Passionata, which is a line of lingerie produced by the Chantelle company. It's a slightly less expensive line than the flagship brand but still more expensive than most.

The intention, I think, is to be a bit girlier and more playful than the main line. There is less emphasis on seduction and more emphasis on the wearer's identity.We can see this in the text we find on their website:

Passionata, the gentle stimulation of the danger that comes from loving

Emphasizing sensual curves, making hearts beat wildly and kindling joie de vivre: Passionata ignites passion and unlocks the unexpected and improves the everyday life of all heroines. Passionata’s pink logo expresses the ambition of «Passion Maker»: a tiny pink heart that beats (very strongly!), a lucky charm or a mascot affixed on each label. Like a talisman to be worn close, very close to one’s heart…
Most virgins could legitimately claim aspire to be a Passionata or "passion maker" on those terms. In fact, the language and logo sort of suggests that this is more about being/becoming a  woman than about having sex. The sales pitch is more about being the [female] sex than having sex. Look at the language used here "a tiny pink heart", "lucky charm" and "mascot". There is almost a sense of high school here. At the very least, this stuff is probably aimed at young women who don't have a lot of sexual experience and are not looking for a serious partner just yet. (Which, by the way, is most of them.) It's aimed at women whose sexual identity is not that of a wife or even a girlfriend and who may just still have a stuffed animal on her bed. Sex is something that may or may not happen this time or any time soon. This is about who she wants to be and her underwear "expresses the ambition" and "unlocks the unexpected".

The various Passionata collections all have names that carry on this theme such as, "So Pretty", "Casual Sexy", "Charm", "Sexy Ruffles", "Love Me", "Promise" and, my favourite "Poupouido" (clearly meant to recall Betty Boop "Poo Poo ee do"). No one is going to expect you to be Lola Montes in this stuff and that is comforting. A girl buys this stuff to challenge herself a little but she is very careful about what she wants the challenge to be.

Compare and contrast with another Chantelle line, "Chantal Thomass":
Her universe could be defined by these words: fashion, boldness, humour, sophistication, glamour and impertinence, as found in her collections of lingerie.
The woman who reads that copy and buys feels pretty certain that she knows what she is doing.

Or, yet another Chantelle line, "Femilet":
Femilet offers a large range of confortable and quality products: lingerie, beachwear, warm underwear and accessories.
 The woman who buys that is over thirty and married, the key word being "warm".

Then there is Chantelle's biggest competitor in the Oh-so-French lingerie business:
The Aubade woman is at ease with her body, asserts her sensuality, and plays on her natural femininity. She is romantic, provocative, delicate, naughty, gentle, discreet, audacious, and elegant as well as knowing… She is the mistress of her seductive power, wanting to play with and Share it with her man, a willing victim to this game full of humour and seduction.
Putting their stuff on would be like showing up at the ski hill with all the best and newest equipment. People expect you to be good and really know what you are doing.

Here is the final thought: there isn't really that much difference between the actual lingerie. The Aubade stuff, as you would expect, is a bit more radio-active than the Chantelle, which is more romantic, and that romantic quality in the Chantelle is a tiny bit more adult than the more playful Passionata. One of my sisters the other day said, "We are romantics hemmed in by life's practicality." Well, by the time you are down to your bra and panties, life's practicality is some distance away; it is at least banished to the other room. All this stuff screams sex. Just knowing it was there, even though you can't see it, will do something to your brain whether you are the man wondering about or the woman wearing this lingerie.

The most important difference is what is going on between the ears of the woman who is wearing it. This stuff matters and that playful quality—somewhere between the nursery and the dorm room—is a good place to go to if your are preparing to be a lover. It is a way of expressing your ambition.

 (You never get this in Victoria's Secret or La Senza ads. There it is only the physical image that matters. There is an old line in music criticism that a really good composer makes as good use of the silence between the notes—of the time you spend anticipating the next note—as they do of the actually sounded notes. You'd think that would be even more obvious with sex where the silences between notes run so long. One of the reasons that France still has the cultural power it does so many years after its decline is that they get this while the Brits, Americans and Canadians do not.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A nautilus of nautiluses

A good day yesterday. Beautiful sunshine and wind. Saw a bald eagle working the bay. Then, yesterday evening, I said the evening Angelus, poured a champagne cocktail and got silly, resulting in this:

Days like that always make me think of this song, for reasons that have nothing to do with what Joni Mitchell meant by writing it, I have a lifetime of happy memories that go with it:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

City thoughts

Sitting here by the seashore, I keep remembering two recent experiences from the city.

The first was a conversation between a couple. As they walked by, I heard him say to her, "You wouldn't want to see a picture of you naked?" He said this with the same incredulous tone that he might have said, "You wouldn't want a thousand dollars?"

I was stuck by the amazing lack of empathy. The only thing this guy could grasp was his own feelings. For some reason he wanted this woman to have a nude photo taken of herself. He couldn't see why a woman wouldn't be just as thrilled at that prospect as he was.

The second experience was of walking through a city park with five high school girls out during their lunch hour. They were listening to a song on one of the girl's smartphones. This through the tiny speaker so they weren't doing this for the musical experience. The song was a hip hop tune and the guy was rapping two lines over and over again. The first line never changed. The rapper discussed two aspects of some woman's anatomy in it. One of these as "big" and "fat" and the other was "really juicy". The next line varied a little. It discussed what the guy was going to do to her. "I'm going to ... and then I'm going to ...." The things he was going to do were aggressive and even violent and he sang as if the consent of the woman he was singing mattered not at all.

What made it interesting was that the girls, who clearly knew every line of the song off by heart, were taking turns singing couplets to one another. One of the more extroverted girls started by turning to another and singing, declaiming really, a couplet to another who responded by doing the same right back and then, between, them they singled out the others.

There was one girl who. clearly shier than the rest, moved away as if she didn't want to be part of this. Eventually, one of the more extroverted girls noticed this and went after her, singing two of the vilest suggestions at her very loud. Every man in the park was already paying attention so it didn't change anything as far as he audience to this was concerned but it had a big effect on the girl. She smiled, very clearly pleased to be included.

What I'd suggest about all this behaviour is that it is completely normal. In the city anyway. Not here where my life is directed by the flow of the tide and fog (which come in together). This morning I woke up to a rooster for only the second time of my life.

Anyway, if we take the time to think about it, it should be quite obvious why some types of exhibitionism appeal to some kinds of women whereas others don't. The girls in the park knew exactly what they were doing even though none of them would have been able to articulate why if they had been asked. The woman who didn't want a nude photo take of herself probably couldn't articulate her reasons either but she, too, was doing exactly what she wanted, or, more precisely, not doing exactly what she didn't want.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Romantic liberalism

Who knows when I'll be able to post again. As I said, the internet is really spotty here and could crap out before I can click "post". We're having a wonderful vacation here. I'll be back in town and posting regularly again next week.

Here's the the thing I keep thinking about: human nature. If there is one thing that defines modern liberalism it is the notion that human nature is malleable and this is taken to be a source of freedom. The romantic strain of liberalism that sprung up through Rousseau and Kant in response to the Enlightenment saw human nature as a sort straitjacket. The notion that human morality should be subject only to the dictates of human reason was seen as liberating. Thus Kant's odd claim that the right thing to do is the right thing to do even if it is impossible for us to actually do it.

In practice, however, "the dictates of human reason" tend to be a far more severe straitjacket than human nature ever could be. Consider this if you don't believe me: lots of people say human beings should be free to reach their own conclusions but don't you suspect that they all believe that, if everyone decides honestly and freely according to the "dictates of human reason" that they ought to reach the same conclusion?

The notion that we all have a human nature is really quite liberating by comparison it seems to me. "Dictates" of reason has the same root as "dictator" after all.

Friday, September 21, 2012


We're at a little seaside town with spotty Internet. There may be posts and there may not.

Here is the view off our deck.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What can you do?

One of life's little lessons is that you can't really comment behaviour. We use the express "I'm going to call her on that" but you can't.

Suppose you are dealing with someone who pulls some classic passive-aggressive trick on you. She says, "I suppose you won't be able to come over for a visit." You bristle because you feel manipulated and you feel manipulated because you are in fact being manipulated. If she did this sort of thing once—then you could both treat it as a light-hearted remark—but she does this every time.

But the problem if you try "to call her on it" is that she thinks she is behaving normally. In fact, she she's you as the aggressor. That is why she pulls the passive-aggressive tricks in the first place.

ADDED: Talking about something else altogether, Ann Althouse pulls out a beautiful sentence that applies here:
And when I say the argument was stupid, I mean that I was stupid not to see the nature of the argument and bow out quickly.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Two videos

I'm sure you can do your own analysis here. I'll ask the really obvious question anyway: Which of the following do you think most women feel speaks to them?

Friday, September 14, 2012

A little light culture: Gena the hooker

Gena doesn't think of herself as a hooker. She thinks she is a normal enough girl who is taking advantage of an online service that exists to connect attractive young women up with a "Sugar Daddy". I only know about her because La Presse did a piece on these online services the other day and they used her as an example.

I noticed her in particular because in every respect but one I am her target audience. I am in the right income bracket and age group and I love women and sex and I love buying presents and treating women. The big strike against me is that I am a faithful husband and would never consider an offer like hers. Which, in case you are wondering, was to shower gifts on her in exchange for her company and kindness, by which she means sex but, as she is very careful to specify, not just sex.

Hookers who, unlike Gena, know they are hookers, call what she is offering the "complete girlfriend experience".

I felt rather sorry for Gena as I read about her and not just because she is in such a state of self-denial. For any guy who answers her ad will almost certainly be lying to her about who and what he is. He'll be a guy buying sex and lying to himself about what he is doing just as she is. What she doesn't realize is that he'll be in it for the short term. Most likely he'll pretend to offer her something long term, with lots of gifts, but he'll be in and out as fast as he can manage. He'll see her hot body and appreciate it at first but as soon as he's had her, her value will plunge.

What poor Gena doesn't realize is just how easy sex is for men with money and status. She thinks she is offering us something hard to get but it isn't and she isn't. What she'll get is some guy pretending to be what she advertised for but actually having far less status than she set out. She'll get that because it's very easy to fake status in the short run.

The other thing she doesn't see is that she has no status herself. She's just a hooker and that is about as low on the status pole as you can get.

How did our culture get to the point that girls find it so easy to lie to themselves about this?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Neo Noir: Mulholland Drive

There are, as I've been going on about, two recurring themes you can't help but notice if you watch a lot of neo noir:
  1. A dream-like and nostalgic atmosphere that enhances our sense of the protagonist's attempt to regain something "lost" they feel they were entitled to.
  2. The protagonist's pursuit of a dream-like femme fatale as an outward symbol of their inward compulsion to get the something "lost" they feel they were entitled to.
But suppose you took the "dream-like" quality of the film and replaced it with actual dream sequences? What would you have then? The answer is, you'd have a David Lynch movie and the movie in question is called Mulholland Drive.

Watching a David Lynch movie is a lot like drinking Chartreuse, people either like it or hate it. You'll note, I don't say they either "love it or hate it" but "like it or hate it". I am in the like category. I get Lynch enough to like him.WARNING: the spoilers start here.

Anyway, the key scene in this movie is a dream sequence within a dream sequence. Yes, you read that correctly. The movie opens with a dream sequence only we don't know it's a dream sequence. We think it's real and then there is this dream sequence where two women get up in the middle of the night and catch a cab to a theatre where the MC tells us, speaking at times in in Spanish, at times in in French and at times in in English tells us that there is no band, that it it is all an illusion. Everything up until now has been a dream. Which is most emphatically not to say that everything from now on is real.

Lynch has given us at least one hint that this is the case at the start of the movie. The very opening shot is a weird nostalgic shot of a bunch of people jitterbugging. When, where, why and how is never adequately explained. Immediately after this, we see a bed and the camera pans down towards in a way that unmistakeably suggests someone's head coming down on the pillow. And the very next shot we see is the street sign for Mulholland Drive. We're in a dream.

That we come out of a dream through a dream within the dream is either going to strike you as fun and clever or it's going to strike you as not only ludicrous but irritatingly pretentious. It happens, by the way, one hour and forty-five minutes into a roughly two hour and twenty-five minute film and that launches a little game whereby you the viewer have exactly forty minutes to figure out what really happened and what was our protagonist's dream. This prospect will either strike you as fun and clever or it's going to strike you as not only ludicrous but irritatingly pretentious.

At the theatre, the protagonist finds a blue key in her purse that is obviously key to a  mysterious blue box that came up earlier. Opening this blue box seems to make the dream end.

The rough outlines are easy enough to figure out. A young woman came to Hollywood hoping to make it big and she fell in love with another young woman who has now left her.  In response she has a multi-layered dream. The layers, in order of appearance are:
  • A woman about to be murdered on Mulholland Drive is saved by a horrific car crash that kills those who intended to kill her but leaves her in a state of amnesia.
  • A Winkie's on Sunset Boulevard where a guy goes to confront his nightmare hoping to overcome it but is instead overcome by his nightmare.
  • A young woman named Betty from Deep River, Ontario arrives in Los Angeles planning to make it and stays in her Aunt's apartment while her Aunt is away.
  • A movie maker casting a movie is threatened by mob-like figures who want him to pick a woman named Camilla Rhodes for the lead role.
  • A strange hired killer/pimp in a leather jacket for whom everything goes wrong.
  • A weird figure called "the cowboy" who like the mob-like characters, seemed to be secretly driving the plot of the dream only  he seems to have this power solely as a teller of a narrative and not through violence.
The various dreams all overlap to greater or lesser degrees. The largest overlap is between the woman with amnesia and the woman from Deep River. They end up together trying to figure out who the first woman really is. They also end up as lovers. Except that she is just a dream. (Again, the layers of unreality will either strike you ....)

I think that deciding what is real here is less important than seeing that there is a familiar Hollywood motif at work here. We have a character investigating a mystery that seems to have nothing to do with them only to find out something evil about themselves in the process.  That, it seems to me, is the real take-away point in the movie. The dreams are a way of confronting heartbreak and we start off entirely focused on the one who broke our heart only to discover through this dream analysis that we ourselves are culpable of ... something. And the woman protagonist here symbolizes the whole city of Los Angeles.

A brief digression, if "the cowboy" sounds familiar, he ought to. We find a similar character in The Big Lebowski made just three years before this movie. We also have a strange, wheelchair confined man in a big house who seems to be the one running the shadowy mob operations. I don't think that similarity is a coincidence but is rather an homage. On that subject, the obvious question about Lynch is the same one I once asked about the Coen Brothers: He can do surreal and postmodern but could he, if required, tell a  straight story?

Part deux
Anyway, the dream within a dream sequence ends with a woman singing the song "Crying" in Spanish, a powerful hint that the movie is really about our protagonist dealing with heartbreak. But what parts of the last forty minutes of the movie are really real? That's where it gets tricky.

But I think the what is real question is just a distraction from what really matters. What is more important is that all the elements from the overlapping dreams from the first part reapear in the following order:
  • The cowboy shows up in a seedy apartment and tells a girl we thought dead on a bed to wake up. Again, his ability to "narrate" the story we are watching seems to give him power in this dream.
  • She gets up and we are, briefly, in "the real". We see that she is the same protagonist we have known as Betty until now is actually one and the same with a mysterious figure we have known as Diane. A woman from a few doors down shows up. Diane has switched apartments with this other woman for reasons that remain mysterious. This other woman wants the last of her stuff to move to her new place. This moment seems real but we quickly see (or should see as most people seem to miss this point)  that what is real or not doesn't matter because our heroine is herself inacapable of making clear distinctions between reality and dreams. 
  • At this point our movie director shows up again only he isn't choosing between two women for his movie lead but rather is choosing Camilla Rhodes, who has now merged with the the dream girl with amesia from part one to become one character where there used to be two, as his wife thereby dealing our protagonist a blow for she is also in love with Camilla.
  • Diane gets a call from "Camilla" who tells here their is a limo to take her to a place on Mulholland Drive which sets up a scene that recalls the dream where the woman who was to be murdered is saved by the car accident. This new scene even features some of the same dialogue from the first. The difference is that what happens in this dream is that Diane goes to the party and his humilated by her lack opf success as compared to Camila and her loss of Camilla to the director as he seems to be about to announce their marriage only he never quite says it because we are wrenched out of that dream into
  • The Winkie's where Diane is talking to a hit man so she can take out a contract on Camilla. The hit man tells Diane that she will receive a blue key as a sign that the job is done. It's not the same blue key as the first one. And when she asks what it opens we are wrenched out of this scene and ...
  • Back to the apartment where Diane haunted by her dreams .... I think I'll leave that spoiler unspoiled. Suffice to say, the movie is now over.

Okay, you still want to know what is real? You can push your own interpretaion, but here is what I think is real.
  • Diane is real. She may or may not come from Deep River for reasons I'll come to in a special bonus Canadian section below. 
  • She came to LA, young and innocent and hoping to make it. 
  • She switches apartments with another woman because she is hiding from "the two detectives" who are actually her pimps. She is trying to stop being a prostitute.
  • She has spent the last few days hiding in her apartment, perhaps stoned. Faced with the failure of her hopes, she slowly lose her grip on reality leading to the thing I won't spoil.
  • Camilla/Rita is unreal. The name Camilla obviously recalls the La Dame aux Camelias and she represents the life as as hooker that she is struggling to prevent herself from falling back into. 
  • I'm not sure the hit that Diane seems to contract for at Winkie's is real. First of all because I don't think Camilla is real and second because of the sense we got in the first part that Winkie's is where people go to confront their nightmares. 
 Two magnificent moments
 I find all Lynch's movies flawed but they have some wonderful moments. I may be partly biased in his favour because the greatest erotic adventure in my life began when I went to see his Wild at Heart with a certain someone.

In any case, the first great moment here involves a part that "Betty" tries out for in a Soap Opera. It involves a girl who is being pursued sexually by a friend of her parents. We see her do her lines twice. Once while practicing with Camilla and then again when she tries out for the part. In the two scenes, the exact same words are used to achieve completely different effects. In the first our protagonist plays the part of a sexual victim and in the second she is the sexual aggressor.

A brief digression, one of the great things about Lynch is his willingness to be trashy. There is a lovely moment in the audition where a bad guy trying to exploit the young girl sexually turns out to be named "Woody" an obvious slap in the face (if not a kick in the testicles) to Woody Allen.

The second is a beautifully cheesy moment. Our protagonist, now known to us as Diane, is on the couch and we think she is crying as she thinks of her loss of Camilla. The camera pans down and we see, to our shock, that she is actually masturbating. What we took to be tears of bereavement was actually her frustration at being unable to reach orgasm. The phone rings and we are wrenched out of that scene and ...

Into a conversation with Camilla who tells Diane that there is a car waiting for. But there is also a wonderfully trashy moment here. Camilla says, "Are you okay? You coming?" And yes, the joke is intentional. It plays on that old seventies classic that sounds of distress and sounds of sexual excitement are very similar.

But again, there is a deeper point here. Lynch has gone a good way to solving the problem of how to use a woman's sexuality in a neo noir. As I've said before, with male leads, his sexual desires are symbolic of his desire to regain what he has lost. That is not plausible with female leads but this ambiguity between pain and pleasure, that is something worth exploring further someday and somewhere.

Special bonus Canadian section
When Betty says she is from Deep River, do you think innocent girl from small hick town somewhere in Canada?  Well, that's a problem. You see, Deep River is not your ordinary small town. The primary industry in Deep River is a nearby nuclear research facility. Deep River probably has a higher number of PhDs per capita than 99.999 percent of the towns on earth. It's not a place where naive, unsophisticated girls come from.

The big question is, "Whose mistake is this?" Did Lynch make the mistake or did Diane make it when she created Betty?

Only one person in the entire world will understand the significance of this video here:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The centre of her universe

For those familiar with Wolf’s career as a polemicist and memoirist, it will not come as a complete surprise to find her attributing occult properties to the female anatomy.
No they won't. The Wolf in question here is Naomi, just in case you haven't guessed.

The quote above comes from the New York Review of Books which is pretty much the ne plus ultra of conventional, unthinking, knee-jerk liberalism.

I'll be honest, Naomi Wolf strikes me as, to quote Zoe Heller writing in the New York Review of Books, a bit of a snowflake. The difference between Heller and me being that I have a certain amount of fondness for snowflakes.

There is a lot of legitimate criticism to be directed at Wolf and Heller gets at most of it in her review, but there is also something fundamentally right about what Wolf says and that something is something so scary that .... well, let me point out something rather funny about the Heller article. Heller starts off by quoting Germaine Greer:
Lady, love your c___.
And goes on to say,
Forty-one years after Germaine Greer issued her infamous directive, the ladies seem to have complied.
And you might think then, that the problem with recent cultural phenomena such as Naomi Wolf's book is that it's all about loving your c___. Let me humbly suggest that you have that wrong. What has serious feminists and others worked up is that Wolf, like so many other women these days, believes three things that the high priestesses and priests of modern liberalism don't want them to believe.
  1. She believes that the key to happiness is not so much to love your c___ but to find someone else to love it for you. And not just any someone else but, gasp, a man! Really. She writes: “A happy heterosexual vagina requires, to state the obvious, a virile man.”
  2. And she believes that the way to make this happen is a certain emotional context for the sex that follows (think emotional intimacy, trust, bubble baths, silk et cetera) that works for women as women. 
  3. Finally, she believes that the fundamental solution here is physical not emotional. Yes, sex that is going to work for women is different from what works for men in some familiar girly ways, but ultimately it is the sex that matters. You can't just have the sense of womanly satisfaction by itself and that means that women, the vast majority of them anyway, need a good time in bed to be happy.
So although there is a lot of flakiness in Naomi Wolf's pastry, there is also something that shakes modern liberal thought to it's very foundations here as well. Just imagine how different feminism would be if it accepted those three propositions as true.

Wolf gets to the point of believing those three radical propositions by drawing on the controversial field of evolutionary biology. And it should be controversial. However controversial evolutionary biology might be in some aspects, it's important to remember that the most solid aspect of the field is this: only those who have offspring pass on their traits. That means that sexual traits are the place where the otherwise controversial field is most likely to be on the solidest ground. And it shouldn't come as a surprise, although it apparently does, that the field is going to tend to confirm the things that are most conventional about human attitudes about sex roles. This, obviously, is going to be a be a big problem for people who believe that everyone should be allowed to reinvent their sexuality.

(Lady Gaga may take great comfort in saying she was "born this way" but with that comes the inescapable truth that the overwhelming majority of human beings were and will continue to be born as marriage-seeking heterosexuals. Same-sex attraction and no-sex attraction are contingent byproducts of the main current of evolution.)

And the thought that conventional sex roles have biological foundations is one that conventional liberalism must dismiss and that conventional liberals therefore invest a lot of effort in dismissing the possibility (this, even though the vast majority of them live out utterly conventional sex roles in their own lives). A while ago, for example, there was a study that suggested that semen might have a positive effect on women's state of mind. The study didn't conclude this as a proved, it only suggested that it might be the case. The rush to keyboards to decry this was deafening. And that is always the response to science that appears to support conventional woman-man sexual roles, it must be immediately dismissed as not significant or important. Thus we get Heller saying things such as the following:
The discovery that vaginal sensations—or the lack of them—are capable of producing states of mind does not seem by itself a very startling one.
As Tom Wolfe once coyly observed, when people make an effort to establish that something isn't important, the net effect of their efforts is always just the opposite of what they intended. If they really didn't think it was important, they'd be able to just ignore it.

In conclusion, let me tell you of one of my favourite terribly incorrect moments from my college days. There was a Czech girl whose name I can't remember anymore, which is a pity because I remember that it was a beautiful name. For a while, she was famous for her beautiful name and her distinctly not beautiful temperament. She was unpleasant and then some for the first three months that I knew her. And then she suddenly turned sweetness and light.

The deliciously incorrect moment came when someone asked her roommate Christine why she thought this was so. Christine said that the reason was that this formerly unpleasant girl now had a boyfriend and that, "She was really getting it good". When the snickering calmed down, Christine added, "Most women just need it sometimes and if they don't get it they turn into nasty little bitches and then no one wants to f___ them then because they are such nasty little bitches."

Christine got away with saying that in a very public way because she is a lesbian but that year all sorts of women told me privately that they agreed with her.

I have to say, though, that I don't think that Christine's claim is quite right. No matter how bad she gets, there will always be some guy ready to have sex with a woman. What happens is rather that when women don't get good sex, they turn sour in ways that lead them to sabotage their chances of having good sex. They get into a mood where they believe nothing can or will please them and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 When human beings get depressed, we often block the very thing that could help us get out of our depression. Not every single woman needs a satisfying sexual relationship with a man to be happy but the vast majority do. And, not being men, as Wolf notes in her snowflakey way, they need this within a particular emotional context. Yes, Wolf says a lot of crazy stuff along the way but her central points are as rock solid as can be.

As crazy as she sometimes gets, Wolf is right to remind us that we need to see the causal chain clearly. Women, although not just women, tend to get the causal chain exactly backwards when it comes to good sex. They tend to take the sex as a measure of the love and happiness. They tend to think, "The sex is good because I am happily in love." The exact reverse is usually the case: the love gets better when she puts more effort into making the sex good. When a woman is unhappy, one of the first things she should do is to make her sex life better. And that often means covering some pretty basic territory. You have to keep the physical plant in good running order and you have to make the effort to seduce the other person and to seduce yourself.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sorta political: the ancien regime

Update: Terry Mattingly makes a similar point at Get Religion today.

You may have heard that Dave Weigel has made a fool of himself again. He got all upset that a number of what he considered distracting stories from the recent Democratic convention attracted a large interest. He calls what happened, that some small web-based publications published the story and that started a firestorm, "trolling".

And then it gets really weird, Weigel insists he means "trolling" in a non-pejorative way and even says he agrees with one source who said it should be just described as "reporting". So why use the word "trolling" at all?

The answer is because Weigel doesn't consider the stories—they concerned the Democrats dropping "God" and any mention of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel from their platform—to be important. He can't deny that they are news because these things did happen he just wishes that people wouldn't pay so much attention to them.

He doesn't admit it, but Weigel is a Tory. He believes certain institutions, such as the Democratic party, are suited to lead and others are not. He isn't stupid, he knows that both God and Israel are big news for a lot of people and that they will be controversial if reported. Which is why he doesn't want them reported. He doesn't hate people who believe in God or who care deeply about Israel either. He just thinks they aren't the people who are naturally suited to lead.

That's worth keeping in mind as you follow the news these days.

Notice anything interesting about the following story?

DND to pay $100 million to private firm to replace laid-off workers

Unions angry as downsizing begins to look like outsourcing

Just months after issuing notices to public servants that their jobs were being eliminated to save money the Defence Department is looking at paying a private firm $100 million to provide those same services, according to DND documents obtained by the Citizen.

The contract would cover management services, maintenance and repair and janitorial services for army installations in western Canada, including 10 training areas and 17 armouries.

But the proposed contract, to run from 2013 to 2018, has union leaders angry and accusing the Conservative government and DND of using the public service layoffs as a guise for privatizing more federal jobs.

You can read the rest of it here if you are so inclined.The thing I find interesting about it is something the person who wrote it, a guy named David Pugliese, would probably not find interesting or puzzling. For what I find interesting is that it is news at all.

He, on the other hand, obviously thinks it is news and his employers at The Ottawa Citizen think it is important enough to put on the front page. But why? Surely it is obvious to anyone that janitorial services have to be done by someone so some outsourcing will happen. Is there some weird God-given law whereby only permanent and unionized employees can do these jobs? Obviously the union thinks so but notice how the union's perspective is quietly taken as legitimate by the story.

"Downsizing is beginning to look like outsourcing"? Well, duh. Is David Pugliese stupid or something that he couldn't figure that if you eliminate the job of janitor you will have to outsource cleaning? Why is this being reported as something worth getting excited about? (This is the reverse of what Dave Weigel considers trolling; giving significant prominence to a story most readers don't care about in the hopes that they will start caring because it's getting such prominent press attention.)

If you read the whole thing you'll notice that the story takes this tone throughout. This tone being to take the union's world view as the norm. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the union was the source for this story in the first place. They are the source for a lot of stories critical of the government in Canada and other western nations.

Unions are well placed to do this. There members are everywhere and they can tell someone who can tell someone. The journalist who is the end of the chain obtains the necessary documents to research the story but that gets a lot easier if you know which documents to request doesn't it?

Journalists never disclose this but huge amounts of what they consider news comes from a very small set of sources whom they regularly consult. Unions tend to rate way up the scale in these consultations because reporters assume that unions should exist because they have faith in these institutions the same way Weigel does in the Democratic party.

David Pugliese has no trouble seeing that unions have problems. He knows that they are corrupt and that they add billions of dollars to the public debt. He probably wishes that the unions would smarten but he and his colleagues tend not to report these because they are Tories and the unions are one of the established institutions that their Toryism rests on.

Was this what it was like in the days before the ancien regime finally collapsed. In a sense, journalists, like the old nobility, know that they and the public service unions are in decline but there is another sense in which they obviously just don't get it. Dave Weigel considers a story that inflamed millions of readers to be a distraction and not news. David Pugliese is so certain of his narrative that he cannot imagine doing even the most basic critical thinking about a story he is writing. They just don't see it coming.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hana Rosin revisited

I promised to come back to her and never did.

Anyway, I think it is pretty well established that Rosin's argument is neither logically sound nor terribly well backed up. Before leaving her, though,  we need to see that Rosin's arguments are not just wrong but detached from reality. Her writing is fantasy journalism and not reporting.

For example, read the following anecdote, which opens her piece:
The porn pic being passed around on the students’ cellphones at an Ivy League business-­school party last fall was more prank than smut: a woman in a wool pom-pom hat giving a snowman with a snow penis a blow job. Snowblowing, it’s called, or snowman fellatio, terms everyone at this midweek happy hour seemed to know (except me). The men at the party flashed the snapshot at the women, and the women barely bothered to roll their eyes. These were not women’s-studies types, for sure; they were already several years out of college and proud veterans of the much maligned hookup culture that, over the past 15 years or so, has largely replaced dating on college campuses and beyond.

One of the women had already seen the photo five times before her boyfriend showed it to her, so she just moved her pitcher of beer in front of his phone and kept on talking. He’d already suggested twice that night that they go to a strip club, and when their mutual friend asked if the two of them were getting married, he gave the friend the finger and made sure his girlfriend could see it, so she wouldn’t get any ideas about a forthcoming ring. She remained unfazed. She was used to his “juvenile thing,” she told me.
Now the business of proving things with anecdotes is a complicated one at the best of time. That said, I think that most people would read the story above and see a pretty typical story of college-aged boys behaving like college-aged boys and college-aged girls grudgingly tolerating it. Notice, however, the way Rosin frames the anecdote:
I had gone to visit the business school because a friend had described the women there as the most sexually aggressive he had ever met.
Seriously, do you see anything in the above paragraph that speaks to the sexual aggressiveness of women?

Again, the ground here is fairly well tread and other feminist writers are bewailing that men, especially young men, have gotten the upper hand in the sex game. That may or may not be true but the more interesting thing here is that college boys have not changed. That Rosin doesn't see this is a function of her not wanting to see it.

Now Rosin does have one solid point to make and she makes it well: girls are not the tender little flowers they are so often made out to be. Faced with this frat-boy world where boys seem to have all the power, a lot of girls are coping just fine, for now anyway. That said, I'm sure there are scarred victims out there too and a writer keen to prove that girls are suffering horribly could easily come home with anecdotes to "prove" her point too.

Rosin is keen to prove that something different is happening and so she keeps missing the evidence that some things haven't changed at all. To return to the anecdote at the top, is it news that boys will act like pigs. There were guys at my college in the 1980s who liked to do things like flashing pornographic images at girls too. I surprising number of them also had girlfriends too.

Another thing that Rosin does not seem to be interested in seeing is  how obsessed women are with sexual status. There is no evidence that girls are having more sex than they used to. The best evidence suggests the exact opposite, but there is plenty of evidence that they are dressing in ways that display their sexuality far more aggressively than used to be the case.

Look at the following quotes pulled from various parts of Rosin's article, and I think you will notice something else that hasn't changed much:
“I want to get secure in a city and in a job … I’m not in any hurry at all. As long as I’m married by 30, I’m good.”

“He fits my needs now, because I don’t want to get married now,” one said. “I don’t want anyone else to influence what I do after I graduate.”

“Now I’m like, I don’t even need to be getting married yet [or] have kids,” one of the less privileged women told the researchers in her senior year.
She doesn't want to get married "now" or "yet". Whatever their short-term goals, these women all see themselves as married in the long run. 

Now one issue Rosin doesn't raise is what the prognosis for marriage is like for these women in the long term. And that is surprising because the answer, so far anyway, is that it's pretty good. Upper middle class women who get college degrees and marry later have the best record, collectively, for getting married and staying married. They also tend to do better at life by most other measures as well.

Now let's take a look at something that has changed that Rosin does acknowledge but, again, she frames the issue rather oddly. I mentioned last time that Rosin cites a rather dubious on-line survey to back up some of her argument but she also cites some good data sources as well:
And in fact, the broad inference that young people are having more sex—and not just coarser sex—is just wrong; teenagers today, for instance, are far less likely than their parents were to have sex or get pregnant. Between 1988 and 2010, the percentage of teenage girls having sex dropped from 37 to 27, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By many measures, the behavior of young people can even look like a return to a more innocent age.
As I said last time, the obvious conclusion is that the whole hook-up culture is a myth. But notice Rosin's word choice, "... can even look like ...". How about "it does look like" Hanna? Because it does.

What Rosin is missing is that there are winners and losers here. She wants to believe that our cruder sex culture has been good for women so she went looking for evidence of that. And things are going well for some women. Other evidence, not examined by Rosin, suggests that class divisions are becoming more pronounced as a result of the changes we see.

What will actually happen in the future is anybody's guess. Right now, what we are seeing is a youth and young adult culture where no one is putting any restrictions on young people's behaviours. As a consequence, we've seen an explosion of  poor risk assessment such as getting tattoos but, and this should fascinate us, we've seen sexual behaviour get more controlled. The real point of Rosin's won research is this:
You could even say that what defines this era is an unusual amount of sexual control and planning.
Again, the reticent word choice is telling: "... you could even say ...." Why not just say it then?

All I see evidence of here is that human nature hasn't changed. Boys are still behaving like boys and girls are still behaving like girls. It's still the same old story ....  But I'll tell you what is missing here: an honest discussion of what makes for success.  It's no great surprise these girls talk about getting married later, the most successful people in our society are the ones who get married and stay married. What are those people like? And what kinds of behaviour in your college years are most and least conducive to that sort of success later in life?

I don't think the problem is that Hanna Rosin doesn't know what the answers to those questions are.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Another image: What are they selling?

Here are two wine labels for your consideration.

You can do your own analysis on this one. Have a great weekend all.

A little light culture: be a middlebrow!

A long time ago now I was drawn into an effort to promote a minority ethnic culture. I say "drawn in" because I didn't want to do it but I felt like I couldn't refuse because that might come across as racist. It was no accident that I felt that. The woman who drew me into the thing, not herself a member of the minority ethnic group, spent a lot of time driving home the notion that it would be racist to refuse.

As I went along I noticed two things. The first was that the members of the ethnic minority in question didn't live their culture. They were like hypocritical Christians who are fully Christian for the duration of Sunday services and then maybe an hour or so afterwards and then purely secular the rest of the week. They showed up for events but tuned right back out the second the events were over. The second thing I notices was that they were quite right to do so. For their culture was boring.

And it's not just their culture, all ethnic minority cultures are boring. If it was all you had, it would do but it's not all we have.

Most of us live with the culture we pretend to hate, which is to say commercial culture. It's not nearly as bad as it is made out to be. With all its faults,  commercial culture beats any ethnic minority culture in the world. Any ethnic minority given the chance to vote with their feet will rapidly abandon their traditional culture in favour of commercial culture.

We may think we like some minority cultures but that is because we only have to visit them. The subculture of black Americans, for example, has a huge appeal to those of us who are not black Americans but only as a source of variety. Having only it would be like being forced to eat Thai food three meals a day, 365 days a year; no matter how much you like Thai food, you'd hate having it all the time.

And yet commercial culture not enough. It's not that we want to reject commercial culture, although, as I say, we all pretend we want to, but we want something better. If you trust the culture mavens, we have only two choices. One is authenticity, which is to say some sort of ethnic culture, and the other is high culture.

I don't buy that. I think middlebrow is just fine.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Manly Thor's Day Special: Holding doors for women?

The movie I was planning to write about today arrived this morning so I'll put it off. Now that summer is over, I may go to one film a month.

A while ago Dr. Helen had a piece up about a guy who got laughed at for holding the door open for a woman. He sent her this account:
This morning we happened to be on the elevator together as we arrived at work. When arrived at our floor, I pushed the button to hold the elevator doors open as she walked out. She walked to the card reader that unlocks the entrance and swiped her card. I opened the door when I heard it unlock and held it for her as she stepped through. She actually laughed at me. And not in a good way.
I have to tell you, I am skeptical about the whole story. Not that it happened, I am quite sure it did happen. What I have doubts about is the writer's interpretation of his own motives and of why the woman responded the way she did.

I always hold doors for women. I also step back to let them get on the bus first. I have done this for decades now and I could count the number of times it was not well received on the fingers of one hand.

What makes me suspicious of the account above is the introductory paragraph:
I work for a small software company in Austin, Texas. I am 58. We have a young intern, perhaps 25, from Germany. I was introduced to her once two weeks ago, but we have not worked together and so I have not really spoken with her since.
Maybe the guy really was just being chivalrous but you can see how a twenty-five year old woman surrounded by mostly older geeks just might become just a  little wary of guys doing nice things for her. I don't know this guy or what specifically happened but anything at all about a chivalrous act that suggests that part of your intention in doing it is create an opportunity to begin talking to the woman you do it for will put her off and quite rightly so. 

In any case, there is an easy-to-find charitable explanation of the young woman's admittedly poor behaviour and any gentleman should have been able to find it; that is that she is surrounded by and outnumbered by the sort of nerdy guys who work at small software companies and a few weeks' exposure to them has made her cynical about older guys paying her attention.

Context matters. If I let a woman I have never seen before get on the bus before me and then leave her alone that is one thing. If I start doing favours for a woman I am in a professional relationship with that is another thing. If the woman in question is a hot young German babe of 25 years who is doing an internship, then it is really something else altogether. Interns are only one step above janitor in terms of power relations at the office so they are going to be very insecure in how they respond to you.

And you have to look the part to play the part. The woman you open a door for has only a second to interpret your intentions as whether they are benevolent or not. If you are wearing a jacket and tie and make eye contact only long enough to signal your intention that she go first, you will get a better response than if you are dressed casually and keep looking at her face as if you expect her to want to be your friend now. And don't take this opportunity to check out her breasts!

It's also a very bad idea to give her the impression that you think that big mean old door is too much for her to handle.  And I've seen guys leave elderly men and women to struggle with a big heavy door only to lunge across the room to yank it open for some young woman who obviously hits the gym six days a week.

And don't be rigid about how you do it. If a building has an air lock with two sets of doors you can only get the first one gracefully. Don't even try to get the second and if she responds to your getting the first for her by getting the second for you, give her a warm smile, say, "Thank you", and then just keep walking.

I do it because I like women and for no other reason. When we both arrive at the same place at the same time I give her precedence because she is a woman and I am grateful to her for just being there. I practice it. I work at making the gesture seem natural and effortless as if I didn't have to think about it, as if it was instinctual on my part. I make it a point of honour to treat the middle aged woman exactly the same way I treat the twenty-five year old. I never treat the incident as an opportunity to begin a conversation with a woman I've never met before. And that has paid off. I get a lot of smiles and thank yous.

It helps that I know my intentions are erotic. I'm not trying to pick anyone up but I do want to signal to women that I think they are special and beautiful and that they bring joy to my life simply by being women. 
By the way, the last few years I've noticed that younger women, which is to say between the ages of 19 to 25,  have started reacting very positively to minor chivalrous acts. It's pretty plain they have never had anyone do anything like this before and they can't help but be pleased.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

This month's uncool quote

I'll repeat it first because it will be gone next month from the side of the page and this post would no longer make sense:
There is no fashion without panties. Christian Dior
I think some context is necessary here. Dior died the year before I was born. When I found the reference to what he had said, at the Chantelle website, my first thought was that maybe I am he reincarnated. An insane thought since I don't believe in reincarnation.  I felt a real sense of kindred spirit.

More important than my vanities, however, is this: Dior said it at a time when panties were an intimate secret. No one knew what a woman had chosen. Her panties did not show through her clothes or above the waistband of her skirt or pants. And the women whom Dior designed clothes for dressed in separate rooms so that their husbands would not know which panties their wife chose to wear most days. (That said, then as now, men do a lot of detective work to try and figure these things out and sometimes succeed far beyond what women realize. There was a time just recently when ....)

To come back to the point, and there is one, we could easily make a mistake and think that Christian Dior meant that women should pick their panties with an eye to pleasing others; that every woman should dress as if she was going to have sex later that day and that some man would undress her and see her lingerie choice.

He didn't mean that. He meant that fashion consists of what is seen and unseen. Fashion runs all the way down.

We might dismiss that as narcissism but it is the exact opposite of narcissism. The narcissist is motivated by shame and shame only comes from what is seen. The narcissist having no guilt worries not if her panties are ugly or boring so long as what can be seen passes muster. She may anticipate shame if she has a wardrobe malfunction but that isn't guilt but is only anticipatory shame.

The non-narcissist, on the other hand, feels guilty because, while her outward appearance passes muster, she knows it is just for show. For her the problem is not that today's unseen items disappoint a man she might have sex with but that they reveal, if only to her who chose them, that the outward dress is just vanity. She feels guilt because her actions prove that she is vain and concerned only with the public impression she might make even if no one else ever finds out.

There are, of course, two directions out of this. One is to stop caring about even the outward appearance and choose her clothes with only the three Cs in mind: Comfort, Convenience and Conformity. And it's a free country, any woman can do that if she so wishes. An awful lot of women do although they are rarely noticed, another consequence of living in a free country.

But, and this is Dior's rather profound point, if a woman chooses to be beautiful, she has to do it all the way to the very center of her being for the sort of fashion the greats like Dior sought is a way of being, it is about becoming something and not just about doing something. The kind of fashion Dior cared about—which has almost nothing to do with the crass thing fashion is today—was about virtue.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Two paintings

I have been thinking about these two paintings a lot lately.

The Beloved by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Virgin by Gustav Klimt

Sorta political: Charity and poverty

Back when I was in my early twenties I spent several years coaching in kids in the projects. One of supervisors enraged me by saying one day, "Poverty is not caused by lack of money." I thought, as I have said before, it was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. What else could cause poverty? It took me a decade to realize that he knew what he was talking about and I didn't.

But that presents us with a huge problem. For we should love and care for the disadvantaged but the easiest, and therefore our favourite, response, which is to say giving them money, doesn't actually do much good. In a lot of cases, giving money makes things worse.

So what do you do? Rather, What should I do? I'll be honest, I don't know.

Here is an image of poverty.

The people responsible for that mess might not strike you as poor if you met. And they aren't in the conventional sense of the word. They are among the most privileged and pampered class of people in the history of the world. They are university students.

That is the third pile of crap that has shown up in front of that house in the last three days. This load originally featured  another gas barbecue besides the one you can see. The first, with partially full propane tank attached, still worked. They also threw out a working cooler in the shape of a Red Bull can, a whole lot of Ikea furniture, including a chair that was brand new and another child's pool (that green thing on the top is the second such pool). It was a much bigger pile yesterday but scavengers have picked off the stuff with obvious resale value such as the working gas barbecue and propane tank.

The pools were used to put beer on ice during the parties they hosted. They didn't host a lot of parties but when they did the whole neighbourhood knew about it, as did the police who were inevitably called to break them up.

The first two piles were created by the students themselves as they dumped stuff it was too much trouble to move by the curbside as they headed out.  Those piles were also picked over by scavengers as much of the stuff still had monetary value. This third pile was the work of the crew the landlord had to hire to clean up the mess after they had gone.

There are, by the way, two charities that regularly swing through the neighbourhood with trucks who will pick up stuff like this. It never seems to occur to the university students who rent here to call them. Some students make a lot of noise about community and caring for the poor but you see very little evidence of concern for others in their actions. University students give less money to charities and do less volunteer work than just about any other group in our society even though they have more discretionary income and more free time than just about any other group in our society.

Students also still make a lot of noise about how poor and disadvantaged they are if you can believe it.

They all had cars. One of the kids was given a luxury SUV to go to school with. They drove too fast even though they were lousy drivers; one of them couldn't back out of the driveway without hitting another car and ended up having to park on the street all the time as a consequence..

Their parents looked very unhappy when they came to pick them up. Some of the students left quite early in the summer because they had not done well at school. The remaining students had to move at the end of summer because their landlord refused to renew the lease. The last few, to their credit, looked quite chastened as they left.

I find it particularly interesting because my church is sponsoring a refugee family who left a warn-torn country with nothing but what they could put in a suitcase. By any conventional definition of poverty, they should be poor. And yet they are not. They have hit the ground running and are well on their way. The students responsible for the mess above, on the other hand, strike me as very poor indeed. They don't need money, they need direction. They need adults with authority to step in and impose order and rules on them. Bot their parents and the universities have abrogated their responsibilities in that regard.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Nothing is ever women's fault, Part ?

Catch this teaser:
With the rise of procedures like vaginoplasty and labiaplasty to enhance the appearance of their genitalia or achieve some sort of sexual ideal, women are being "misled or confused about what is 'normal'," experts have revealed.
Well, it's a good thing this has been revealed by "experts" otherwise we might become skeptical.
If you read the article that comes from, you may want to take notice how utterly passive women seem to be. Notice for example, this paragraph:
She said that Internet pornography and removing pubic hair through Brazilian waxing or shaving give women unrealistic expectations about their bodies or what they believe men like and goes as far as to compare vaginal rejuvenation procedures to "new age female circumcision".
"She" in this case is Dr. Cheryl B. Iglesia. She says that "Internet pornography" and "removing pubic hair" give women unrealistic expectations. They give women a false impression. Women don't "take" this onto themselves, they don't "reach" the wrong conclusions, they haven't "make a mistake" about the relative importance of some minor issue of personal appearance, or anything else that suggests intentionality or active participation on their part. No, once again, every stupid thing that some group of women do somewhere is something that has happened to them and, therefore, not their fault.

 Iglesia believes women have been "duped" by an entire culture that is oversexualized.

"Everyone sees 'Sex in the City' and are getting their public hair removed and looking down there," she said.

"They are watching Internet porn and looking at Playboy and Penthouse with a lot of touched up and airbrushed pictures," she said.

She said that with pubic waxing and grooming, younger women are "comparing".

"They feel like they are abnormal," she added.
Read that critically and you just might start thinking that there is something about women that is really at work here. Iglesia starts off blaming the culture but pretty soon she reveals something she, and everyone else, knows about the situation that isn't polite to talk about in our post-feminist culture. With all the waxing and grooming, "women are comparing". Here at last we get some confirmation that women are capable of active thought, although the active thought seems like something men are supposed to grow out of before leaving high school. Why can't women be held to the same standard?

How shocking it is to find that women are assessing the appearance of their genitals in comparison to other women. Because women never do that about anything else? It's not like there isn't a billion dollar industry that has grown up in response to women's desire to compare their faces, their hair, their clothes, their bodies, their speech patterns and the way they move to other women? It's not like there aren't websites where women can go and cheerfully dissect ever detail of any female public figure's appearance and self presentation?

And given that this stuff all exists, is anyone surprised that now that the pubic has become public, some women are obsessing about competing with other women on the basis of the appearance of their genitals? This isn't a man-driven issue. Guys aren't thinking, "Of all the women I might have a relationship with, I think I'll pick Lucy because she has a better looking Za Za."Rather, women are comparing with other women and, as they often do, putting far too much emphasis on sexual status.

Final question, wouldn't a society that is "oversexualized" be more concerned with actually having sex than with concerns about sexual appearance? Yes, sexual appearance would matter in such a society but don't you sometimes think that women are far more concerned with their sexual status than with actually having sex? Yes, those are rhetorical questions. But why do we forget this? Why say it's an overly sexual culture in the first place? Isn't that a distraction from the real issue which is the extraordinary lengths women will go to to get sexual status.

Is there any comparable male tendency that could pass by and attract so little critical attention?