Despite the fact that all I want in life is a daemon familiar and a wand and a sarcastic dappled mare who really gets me and violet eyes and a tower, in actuality I'm forever harping on the fact that magic isn't real. There are no magic Spanx that will turn you into Cindy Crawford. There is no magic begoggled top hat that will transport you out of the "friend zone," and there is no magic vision board that will manifest a sarcastic talking Lamborghini (that really gets you!) in your driveway while you sleep. It's just not real. Nothing is easy and nothing is free. But...what if it was? Not magic, precisely, but a workaround—a shortcut from one side of one of life's seemingly insurmountable challenges to the other. What if you could take a pill and fix your broken relationship?
There was a fascinating piece in the New York Times yesterday about the search for a sort of "female Viagra"—which is a bit of a misnomer, as it's a pill to mend not women's sexual function (as Viagra does for men) but women's sexual desire. As women age, research suggests, our libidos wane much more rapidly and drastically than men's: it's estimated that 10-15% of women suffer from hypoactive sexual-desire disorder, or HSDD. Daniel Bergner's descriptions of women (and, in heterosexual relationships, men by extension) suffering from HSDD are heartbreaking:
When they were dating and out with other couples, Linneah would think, “I just want to get home with him, I just want to get home with him,” she recalled. But that lust had dwindled. Around the arrival of their second child in 2004, something insidious crept in, partly fatigue but partly something else that she couldn’t name. She talked about her to-do lists, the demands of the kids, “but let’s face it,” she said, “sex doesn’t take that much time.” Rather than feeling as if she still wanted to grab her husband’s hand and hurry him up the stairs in their small brick house, on many nights she waited in bed, somewhat like prey, though the predator was tender, though he was cherished.
Around once a week, her husband tried to reach through the invisible barriers she built — the going up to bed early, the intense concentration on a book, the hoping he was too tired to want anything but sleep. “He’ll move closer to me in bed, or put his arm around me, or rub my back.” She willed herself not to refuse him. And mostly, she didn’t. Usually they had sex about four times each month. But it upset her that she had to force herself and that she put up those barriers to deter him from reaching more often.
As the old evo-psych tropes would have it, this is all because of biology. Women aren't meant to want sex once we're done plopping out young and lapping up our placentas—we're nesters. We nest. We find a mate, we cling to him, we nest, our eggs drop and rot and run out and we die. Men, meanwhile, are all sex-hungry Johnny Applesemens with no expiration date, biologically programmed to stride around the prairie with a pot for a hat, fore'er frosting the world with the seed of life. You know, HOW HUMANS DO.
Unfortunately, Bergner argues (cordially!), evo-psych looks to be a bunch of bullshit—willfully misconstruing regressive cultural conditioning as biological fact in an effort to uphold those same pillars of regressive cultural conditioning. We've long assumed that HSDD was just a natural process concomitant with age in certain women, but Bergner's reading of the body of research on women's libidos points to a much different conclusion: boredom.
Studies conducted recently are beginning to hint that female eros isn’t in the least programmed for fidelity. These range from close focus on the sexual habits of our primate ancestors to research exploring women’s wish for casual sex. An experiment led by Samantha Dawson, a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario, and another by Stephanie Both, a psychologist and assistant professor at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, looked at the issue in another way. Heterosexual women and men watched pornographic film clips while their vaginas and penises were monitored. The subjects watched a one-minute sex scene repeatedly, with breaks in between to let genital blood flow return to a baseline state. Dawson’s and Both’s results show women’s responses leaping at first, then, in Dawson’s study, tracking the rapid downturn of the men, and in Both’s, plummeting while the men’s reactions stayed surprisingly constant. When the researchers introduced what are called “novel stimuli,” in this case new clips of pornography, “vaginal pulse amplitude,” like penile engorgement, spiked immediately.
The implication, of course, is that non-monogamous relationships might be the cure for HSDD. Heterosexual women are conditioned to believe that our purpose in life is to find one man, settle down forever, weather any and all storms, and then die. That expectation is loosening up, but it's still the underpinning of the majority of modern relationships. And that hurts women and men. People stay in terrible relationships for their entire lives, or they stay in good relationships despite complete sexual dysfunction. Women, especially, are conditioned not to take control over our sex lives—not to demand what we need or investigate what's wrong. If opening up some monogamous relationships might help women rediscover their sexual desire, then that's a good thing, right?
Um, NOT REALLY! I mean, not for me personally. However fashionable non-monogamy might be among the sex-positive set right now, and however much I might support it in principle, I just don't want it for myself. At all. I'm a pretty radical left-wing harpy, but my dumb American heart still tugs me toward bullshit like the idea of a wedding-wedding. Napkin rings. Flowers. A "venue" instead of just "party at my house." Caterers instead of just "pile of Cadbury Mini-Eggs." Randy being scandalized because I said the word "boobs." Negative fifty thousand dollars. I hate all that shit, and yet part of me is programmed to want it desperately.
I'm totally supportive of all of the different [consensual] ways to love [that don't hurt anyone], and utterly delighted by all of the different shapes of families that are starting to gain mainstream visibility and acceptance. Woooo! GET IT, other people! But personally, as much as I fear becoming that frigid-old-wife-putting-up-invisible-walls cliche, I just really love being with one person. My boyfriend is the best, and I don't like most people, and I don't like talking to people, and my boyfriend is THE BEST. I know monogamy isn't perfect, but in my life (circumscribed, granted, by the same cultural conditioning I'm criticizing), it feels the least worst system. The worst form of joining messily and vulnerably with another person, except for all the others. That attitude in no way applies to all women, but I know I can't be the only confused progressive lady who feels that way.
So what do you do? What do you do if you're a gal who thinks cultural conditioning is bullshit but you feel biologically monogamous and then suddenly you find yourself avoiding sex a decade into your relationship with your awesome husband or wife or partner but the only thing worse than bed-death, to you, is the idea of bringing other people into that bed? Well, that's where lady Viagra—the magic pill—would come in.
Lybrido and Lybridos, the drugs profiled in Bergner's article, haven't seen much measurable success yet. But they could be just the workaround that some couples need to save their monogamous relationships—or, to allow monogamy and longterm sexual satisfaction to coexist for couples grappling with HSDD.
That's not to say that monogamy + magic pill = the "right" way to love. It's just one pathway that might become much less rocky in the coming decades. Human relationships are infinitely complex. But one thing is starkly obvious—our entire narrative of how women "should" think about sex and sexual desire and relationships is actively harming us all. This might be the most fascinating paragraph in Bergner's whole piece:
This interplay of experience and neural pathways is widely known as neuroplasticity. The brain is ever altering. And it is neuroplasticity that may help explain why hypoactive sexual desire disorder is a mostly female condition, why it seems that women, more than men, lose interest in having sex with their long-term partners. If boys and men tend to take in messages that manhood is defined by sex and power, and those messages encourage them to think about sex often, then those neural networks associated with desire will be regularly activated and will become stronger over time. If women, generally speaking, learn other lessons, that sexual desire and expression are not necessarily positive, and if therefore they don’t think as much about sex, then those same neural networks will be less stimulated and comparatively weak. The more robust the neural pathways of eros, the more prone you are to feel lust at home, even as stimuli dissipate with familiarity and habit.
Look. Here's the thing. You're born and then you're going to die. And in between you get to be alive. How exciting is that? Why would you want to stifle any part of that? Everything you do in life is a balancing act, prioritizing longterm satisfaction and security while feeding your desire for instant gratification. Right now, our model stigmatizes everything that isn't a "normal" monogamous relationship, effectively conditioning women away from every possible alternative, no matter how effectively it might foster longterm happiness. The idea that you should spend your life unhappy and unfulfilled and then die, because you made a promise to some outdated notion of fidelity, is regarded as an honorable and ideal way to live your life. That's bananas. Lybrido and Lybridos would be a convenient escape hatch for people caught in that system, or people (like me) who desire a monogamous structure despite its flaws.
But what we really need isn't just a pill—it's a new paradigm altogether. A new way of thinking about sex and gender and love, and we need it to permeate our culture and change our brains for the better and stop teaching us to cling to dissatisfaction because having something is better than the unknown. So...somebody get on that. That would be the real magic trick.
Image by Jim Cooke and Shutterstock.
HBO's Girls is somewhat notorious for featuring lots of sexually explicit content: nipples! money shots! Lena Dunham peeing on the train tracks while an elderly couple looks on! If you're an aspiring pornographic film director or producer, you've probably noticed that the only thing Girls is missing is actual penetration. (And NO, the q-tip in the eardrum scene does NOT count, because my daily mental well-being hinges on pretending I never witnessed that).
Thankfully, the enterprising men and women at Hustler have put an end to this egregious oversight. They've just wrapped their very own Girls porn parody, which is titled "This Ain't Girls XXX." It stars Richie Calhoun, who is apparently Ryan Gosling's porn doppelganger, as Adam, and Alex Chance as Hannah. It promises to be as off-kilter as the TV show. In the promotional photo, porn-Hannah is eating a red velvet cake on the toilet.
“I tried to make it as weird as possible,” Calhoun told XBIZ, the porn industry business news magazine. “I tried to say really weird things and do really weird positions.
“Well, not that weird,” he quickly added, probably thinking of the scene in the TV show where Adam talks about fucking Hannah's Cabbage Patch lunch box or whatever.
The plot of "This Ain't Girls XXX" is as follows:
Hannah (Alex Chance) decides to forsake men, and boyfriend Adam, to experiment with lesbianism. After a few satisfying jaunts [probably shaving Jessa's legs using her vagina] she returns to Adam — and mankind.
Adam accepts her back into the fold, but, true to the original show, adds a dominant and quirky dimension to the scene... The ensuing sex involves mild BDSM with a sprinkling of strange: In addition to dirty talk and rough sex, Adam uses a candy ballgag attached to a stretchy cord to direct Hannah’s face towards him.
If there is no masturbation scene set to "Dancing On My Own," I'm suing.
Seriously, though, Girls is a show that's been lauded as groundbreaking because of its frank portrayal of all of the awkward and uncomfortable intricacies of sex. The sex in Girls is often rather unsexy, and for a good reason — it's doing the important work of that demystifying the imperative of the liberated woman to "go forth and have great sex." Intercourse (and everything that leads up to it) is often much more fraught with complications than it's made out to be in the media. That's especially true of the S&M power dynamics in a lot of the sex that Adam has — the second-to-last episode of last season memorably had an incident that may have been rape. Therefore, there's something fairly confounding about turning Girls into a porn, since porn is by definition meant to be sexy, enjoyable, entertaining, arousing, etc. It's not meant to invite critical thinking or open up a discourse.
According to Calhoun, due to the show’s frequent sexual themes, “they didn’t have to do much” but roll with the original script and extend the intercourse scenes. I find this hard to believe — making all of the sex "sexy" probably changes a lot.
Here is Lena Dunham's understandably annoyed reaction:
I wish I had a better attitude about the Girls porn parody. I really can never predict what will trouble me and it's simply exhausting.— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) May 23, 2013
Dishwasher-turned-folk hero Charles Ramsey, who was eating a burger when he heard the cries of the Cleveland kidnapping victims and came to their rescue, is being honored not only with a burger named after him at the restaurant where he works, but free burgers for life.
That dress! Walks in beauty like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies and shit.
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 22: Actress Milla Jovovich attends the 'All Is Lost' Premiere during the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 22, 2013 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Fact: Greek yogurt is so hot right now. You know it, Jamie Lee Curtis knows it, John Stamos knows it. But Greek yogurt has a dark side: Making it produces acid whey, and acid whey is a huge fucking problem.
Acid whey is, as Modern Farmer reports, "a thin, runny waste product that can’t simply be dumped." Um, ew. Why?
Not only would that be illegal, but whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. That could turn a waterway into what one expert calls a “dead sea,” destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas. Spills of cheese whey, a cousin of Greek yogurt whey, have killed tens of thousands of fish around the country in recent years.
Yikes. To be clear, this is not a yogurt problem, this is a Greek yogurt problem.
Unlike traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt is strained after cultures have been added to milk. In home kitchens, this can be done with a cloth. Greek yogurt companies still throw around the term “strained,” but in reality industrial operations typically remove the whey with mechanical separators that use centrifugal force.
The resulting whey is roughly as acidic as orange juice. It’s almost entirely made up of water, but scientists studying the whey say it contains five to eight percent other materials: mostly lactose, or milk sugar; some minerals; and a very small amount of proteins.
Some companies — including Chobani — are so desperate to get rid of acid whey that they'll pay farmers to take it. One farmer, Neil Rejman, mixes the acid whey in with his cow feed, but he can't use too much or everything turns liquidy and gross; "like dropping water on your pizza,” he says.
The good news is that there has been a yogurt summit (!) and our nation's finest Dairy Experts are hoping to solve the acid whey issue. Some options (besides cow feed) include extracting the protein for infant formula and converting the whey's lactose into methane that can generate electricity.
But we'd better come up with something quick: Greek yogurt is a $2 billion market and total yogurt production in New York has tripled since 2007. Picture acid whey spreading from town to town, eating everything in its path, like The Blob. As Modern Farmer's Justin Elliot writes, "the tidal wave of acid whey is not slowing down."
Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt's Dark Side [Modern Farmer]
The Oldest Living American is an awesome 114-year-old lady named Jeralean Talley. She stays up 'til midnight and eats McDonald’s chicken nuggets. Click here to see her epic sunglasses and a catfish she caught last year.
I've always remembered Amanda Seyfried as Karen Smith from Mean Girls, namely because of Karen's "gift" of being able to predict weather with her breasts. Maybe not as complicated a character as Cosette in Les Mis, but we've all got our favorites.
Yesterday on Ellen, Seyfriend, who was on the cover of Allure's "Look Better Naked" issue in April (though she didn't actually go naked for any of the photos), talked about how she's happy with her naked body, though she feels a certain longing for her buxom breasts of yore:
I looked way better when I was fifteen. I had beautiful, huge breasts and then I came to Hollywood and I was like, "I've got to lose weight! I've got to look thin, and fit!" and then I lost them, a little bit.
On whether she'd want her D-cup back:
I don't miss them because they were quite uncomfortable. But they looked beautiful— I was feminine, I had some nice curves, and I think we should really appreciate that as opposed to trying to get rid of everything.
Word. Hopefully, her breasts can still tell whether its currently raining or not.
Homophobes have a branding problem. Most Americans now think gay sex is "acceptable" (how gracious of them) and thus are turned off by politicians and pundits who, say, compare homosexuality to pedophilia or generally think gay people are icky. Former National Organization for Marriage leader Maggie Gallagher has a genius solution: bring on the "Pro-Straight" Movement!
Gallagher recently penned a National Review op-ed regarding a growing societal problem: around six in ten Americans consider gay sex morally acceptable. Meanwhile, it's considered "scandalous" for an ESPN reporter to say that gay people "are walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ," or for a neurosurgeon to compare homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality. Man, do Americans have their priorities out of whack!
After grudgingly admitting that fewer and fewer people consider gay people inferior to straight people, Gallagher envisions a brave world in which "we can as a society eliminate cruel homophobia without jettisoning heteronormativity — which is the need for social norms and institutions to be oriented strongly around the problem and the blessing that sex between men and women makes babies." Think Progress wittily called her philosophy "Pro-Straight."
Nope, sorry. You can't wax nostalgic about the good ol' days when a man didn't have to be afraid to publicly compare a gay person to a pedophile. Although the MRAs and "White Power" folks will certainly welcome the Pro-Straight movement with open arms.
Image via Marriage Debate.
Abercrombie & Fitch has an entire Web series dedicated to its most famous naked torsos — the store greeters. The job interview is a series of one-armed push-ups, and the best greeters get flown around the world to greet at high-profile store openings. "It's like a traveling frat," boasts one.
Meanwhile, executives at the chain met for two hours with some of the teenagers and organizers who have recently criticized its restrictive size policies and the "cool kids only" attitude espoused by C.E.O. Mike Jeffries. After the meeting, Abercrombie released the following statement:
We look forward to continuing this dialogue and taking concrete steps to demonstrate our commitment to anti-bullying in addition to our ongoing support of diversity and inclusion. We want to reiterate that we sincerely regret and apologize for any offense caused by comments we have made in the past which are contrary to these values.
Carine Roitfeld styled, and cast herself and her daughter Julia Restoin-Roitfeld in, Givenchy's fall campaign. Oh, and there's also Amanda Seyfried. [Telegraph]
Lets go running fashion bunnies!!! Beautiful evening in London x vb twitter.com/victoriabeckha…— Victoria Beckham (@victoriabeckham) May 21, 2013
Biting Mel C's steez, Victoria Beckham Tweeted a photo of her custom Nike sneakers. [@VictoriaBeckham]
• The U.S. State Department is sending a delegation to Bangladesh to meet with representatives of the Bangladeshi government to press for progress on worker rights and safety standards in the wake of the disaster at the Tazreen factory fire, the Rana Plaza factory collapse, and other industrial disasters that have claimed thousands of garment workers' lives in recent years. [WWD]
• Bloomberg points out that 20% of the world's 100 richest people come from the world of retail. Together, they hold some $523 billion of the world's wealth. While not all of these retailers are in fashion — Ikea's Ingvar Kamprad and Karl Albrecht of the supermarket chain Aldi are on the list — most of the world's richest retailers are the heads of fast-fashion companies that manufacture heavily in low-wage economies such as Bangladesh. Zara's Amancio Ortega, four members of the Walton family that runs Wal-Mart, H&M's Stefan Persson, Uniqlo's Tadashi Yanai, and Joe Fresh owner Galen Weston are all on the list. (H&M, Wal-Mart, and Joe Fresh were all among the clients of either Tazreen or the garment factories housed in the Rana Plaza building.) At the luxury end, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy head Bernard Arnault, PPR/Kering chief François-Henri Pinault, and Luxottica's Leonardo Del Vecchio also count as some of the world's richest retailers. [Bloomberg]
• Before it opens its first London store later this year, J. Crew is doing a two-day pop-up shop at the Western Transit Shed in King’s Cross. [WWD]
• Daniela Helayel has left the label she founded, Issa London. The label is best known for making the blue jersey wrap dress that Kate Middleton wore for her official engagement portrait. Helayel is said to have been "unhappy" for some time; Camilla Al Fayed bought a majority stake in the company in 2011. Al Fayed has previously criticized Helayel in public, famously saying she "had no business model" when the Middleton event happened. [Vogue UK]
• More than 13 products and an $85 blowout are among the techniques the Times recommends for women who want to achieve the look of "beach hair." Alternatively, you could presumably go to the beach. [NYTimes]
• Rue21 has been acquired by the private-equity fund Apax Partners for $1.1 billion. Apax recently also bought Cole Haan from Nike. [WWD]
• More and more cosmetics companies are taking the "all-natural" product fad to its, er, natural conclusion — and making beauty products out of actual food:
“Just as you eat food to nourish your body on the inside, we use the same food to nourish the skin on the outside,” said Susie Wang, the founder of 100% Pure, a beauty brand in California that offers a Cocoa Kona Coffee Body Scrub made of organic Kona coffee beans and chocolate extract.
Ms. Wang said her co-workers have been known to dip pretzels in the scrub and eat it, with one employee sprinkling the exfoliator on ice cream.
• And now, a moment with Joseph Abboud. Joseph, you have some strong words on the subject of men's suits these days:
Recently, as I strolled up Madison Avenue to get a sense of what the stylish man on the street was wearing these days, a young thirtysomething model-type approached me sporting what appeared to be the latest, and supposedly the most fashionable, trend in men’s clothing: the skinny suit.
What a disaster! A true sartorial nightmare.
The suit, although it appeared to be expensive and well made, fit him terribly. The shoulders were much too small for his muscular frame, the chest bowed dramatically, the jacket length was so short that it looked disproportionate for his physique, and the trousers were so skimpy — barely reaching his ankles — that they gave the appearance of too much shrinkage from a bad dry-cleaning job. It might as well have been his Bar Mitzvah suit.
Also, Joseph Abboud would like you kids to get off his lawn. [WWD]
You know when you're walking with your dog and you get to the dog park and he's barking at another dog's owner and you feel super embarrassed because you're just trying to take a fucking walk in the park? And then you realize that...oh...that dude/woman he's barking at is not Caucasian and it slowly dawns on you that your dog might be just a little bit racist? Well, one dog owner has had this experience and she wants to know how to deal with you and your racist dog.
"Needing a Doggie Olive Branch" wrote in to Jenée Desmond-Harris' "Race Matters" column at The Root to ask how to handle dogs that are racist to her husband:
"We live in a diverse urban city. I am white and my husband is Filipino and white, but he's often mistaken for Indian or black/mixed because of his dark complexion. He is great with animals in general and is a supersweet, calm, gentle person; we foster rescue dogs that are really sensitive, and they love him! But on several occasions when we're meeting with co-workers and friends, their dogs will bark and act aggressively toward him, yet not toward the other white people who are also present.
...Is there a polite thing that we can do or say to alleviate this socially?"
NDOB (not a Dan Savage-worthy acronym, but it'll do in a pinch) clarifies that once the dog spends a little time with her husband, it gets used to him. Sort of like with human animals and other human animals who are gay.
Okay so this is a real thing? Desmond-Harris explains that dogs, like babies, can develop aversions to people because of the way they were trained or because they're dogs and they don't know how to deal with things that aren't regularly on their schedule, like food or walks or playing or a black person.
To handle this situation and not make you the pariah of the dog park, she suggests a joke like the following:
"Whoa! OK, Muffin — I know you don't see that many brown people, but I'm not dangerous. Don't pull a George Zimmerman and attack me! I don't even have Skittles!"
"OK, I know I'm the only Filipino guy here, but Dan is the only one in salmon-colored shorts. He deserves to be attacked!"
Maybe the second one would be better; everyone can rally around salmon-colored shorts but it's not clear whether George Zimmerman/Skittles jokes will be funny anytime soon. Desmond-Harris suggests that actually, Fido might have given you the opportunity to have some fruitful conversations with your friends about race, because "small nods to race and identity can strip away shame and secrecy":
"Maybe the dogs are doing you a favor by setting this up. Becoming comfortable with talking about race might not be the easiest thing, but tiptoeing around it and suppressing it in an effort to be polite is about as unproductive as collectively trying to ignore a barking dog."
If you don't want to get all Real Talk over a dog, there's an easier solution to NDOB's problem. She says that she and her husband mostly hang out with "dog people." Get some cat friends! Those animals don't give a shit about anybody.
Doggie Racism Is Real! Here's How to Deal [The Root]
Image via Lilane Polak/Flickr
Attention whores are the Rodney Dangerfields of the world: They get no respect. It's not hard to see why. They hurl themselves at the spotlight and writhe pathetically in its ethereal glow, all but begging us — and sometimes outright begging us — to look at them, no matter how awkward, how painful, how sad, how pitiful. We get to have it both ways, too: We look, we linger, and then we play judge and jury. Then they get all invaded-feeling and just want some normal peace and quiet. I didn't ask for this! HA, we say, HA! Because they always come back. BTW, the people we label this way are also mostly women.
Teen Moms like Farrah Abraham, or Lindsay Lohan, or Britney Spears, or the Kardashians, or Courtney Stodden, AKA, "Attention Whore Barbie." They are all celebrity women who openly sought the limelight. Sometimes, as in the case with reality stars like the Real Housewives, they have seemingly directly offered up their hot messes of a life for us to excavate. When we appear only interested in their self-destruct button, they sometimes seem genuinely befuddled or hurt, as if the spotlight wasn't quite the warm, fuzzy embrace they thought it would be, like when Lohan asked the media to point its spotlight on something more important after her no contest plea to theft in 2011. Or when Kim and Kanye set a wedding date and demand NO MEDIA!
There they go again, mistaking the spotlight for a reading lamp when it's obviously always been a fire hose. But here I am doing it: Admonishing them for not knowing better, for not taking what they have coming to them and skipping the pious pose. Obviously they want us to look, right? So they don't get to turn it off. They invite criticism. Judgment. Celebrities and public figures are, of course, our punching bags. This is nothing new.
What's worth revisiting, though, in an era where we have never been more invested in a more progressive, tolerant take on the secret lives of porn stars, sex workers, and other people who were formerly shunned and condemned — people we actually called whores — is why we can't seem to muster that compassionate curiosity for a less literal form of whoring, the attention-seeking kind. Or admit it's wrapped up in our own weird systems of fame, our own prejudices about how women should conduct themselves.
No matter that Charlie Sheen, James Franco and Scott Disick litter the landscape — those are "bad boys." Attention whore is a term mostly reserved for women — sad, fucked up women who deserve every last little fleck of spit we project their way.
And it's not just female celebrities. Everyday women are labeled as attention whores when they seek out male attention in a too-obvious way. Girls who flirt too much. Women who seem to never shut up. Women who, for whatever reason, value attention from men over women, and will do anything to get it, ruining friendships, threatening relationships and mucking things up along the way. And it is women who are advised on how not to become an attention whore, not men.
In a RookieMag piece that gives attention whores a second look, a writer who goes by Nova breaks it down:
This term is applied to anyone (but so often women) who attracts more attention than we feel they deserve. It continues a long, misogynistic tradition of mean phrases invented to admonish ladies for being too visible, too shameless. And it’s ironic, because every time we call someone an attention whore, we are paying attention to them!
She goes on to examine the roots of her disdain for attention whores, turning the spotlight directly onto herself, her conservative Christian upbringing, and the envy she felt toward women who broke the rules:
Imagine what someone like me would have thought of a “real-life” Rihanna? When I was a teen, I couldn’t stand sexually liberated and opinionated young women, and I often confused their confidence with narcissism, because I had been socialized to believe that those girls ended up being trouble. But secretly, I was jealous of their ability to do their own thing (sneaking out, having sex, cutting class) and also of the attention they got (from boys, from other girls, from teachers) while doing it. (An interesting but unpleasant bitterness can be aroused when it seems as though doing the “wrong” thing is actually more fun than obeying the rules.) Basically, I learned that shaming those who craved attention and acted on their impulses was a necessary part of upholding my self-esteem as a woman, and the wider the distinction between myself and them, the better.
Think about it: We all grow up wanting attention and validation. But as girls, we are taught to not beg for it. To not attract unwanted attention. To not draw unnecessary (read: sexual) attention to ourselves. So in order to be good girls, we couldn't like sexually liberated and opinionated young women. We couldn't like confused or damaged women who seemed to want to form their alliances with men first, and us second. Or we couldn't like women who didn't concern themselves with the rules of female bonding at all, who chose instead to pursue their own kicks, their own adventures, sometimes at great risk to themselves. Oddly, we consider this kind of recklessness or disregard for others, and sexual and adventure-seeking as part and parcel of the rites of passage of becoming a man.
And while we are willing to reclaim slut and bitch for positive rebranding, maybe there's something in attention whore that is not so different from these once-pejorative terms that we've come to see as merely synonyms for difficult, sad, or complicated women who don't play by our rules.
What is an attention whore anyway?
In short, it's a highly gendered term for a desperate woman. Someone (usually a woman) who will DO ANYTHING to be in the spotlight. But just like slut, also basically a gendered term for a desperate woman, there is no one definition for how many guys you have to bone to be one.
Exactly how much attention do you have to want to be an attention whore? Do you have to be famous for nothing? Is just being famous for being attractive a good enough reason? Do you have to be sad and fucked up to want the attention? Or is there a culturally approved "healthy" version of wanting to be looked at that excludes you from the label? Does a good actress who likes being looked at and being paid to be pretty count? Or is an attention whore only a talentless hack? And so on.
We don't do this to men
Why, for instance, do we call Lindsay Lohan a fame whore and not Charlie Sheen? Courtney Love but not Kurt Cobain? (He allegedly didn't want any part of fame, but his journals tell another story: namely, that he practiced witty answers to the interviews he imagined having in the future, when he was famous, years in advance.) There are some examples of male attention whores — O.J. Simpson murder trial witness Kato Kaelin, and White House party crashers the Salahis, but this is rare.
What about the men of Jackass — aping completely for attention, or the guys at the table who won't shut up or who have to always be the funniest? Blowhards? Class clowns?
We can hold the contradiction in our minds that men embrace attention, but their fucked-up exploits are just a product of their fucked-upness or maleness, or their inability to be tamed. We don't afford most women such a depth of character, much less intrigue. We just call it sad.
Isn't this just another way to police female aggression?
We like aggressive men — they go after what they want. Pursuing fame/attention requires the ultimate in proactive behavior. When men do this, we grin/snicker. When women do this nakedly, we shudder.
Or is this about a culturally acceptable way to express narcissism?
Men can be egomaniacs, but women can't be narcissistic. Never forget: A large part of femininity is predicated upon looking good, but not drawing overt attention to how good you look or acting like you know you look good. This is why for a long time, the stripper was the ultimate taboo in terms of so-called femininity: she met the male gaze, she controlled where it landed, and she liked it. Her message was: Look at me, I get off on you looking at me, and I want something for it. Only in the last decade or so has this become an acceptable expression of female power.
But the woman whoring for attention, who might post pictures on Facebook saying how fat she is or unattractive, all seemingly designed to garner muchos likes and a slew of affirmations of her prettiness, is pathetically needy. But in a world where we don't give women permission to brag, is it so unexpected?
Is the more "compassionate" response to "attention whoring" — pity — actually any more compassionate?
Back at RookieMag, Nova wonders if it isn't a basic unhappiness that drives people to attention-whoring fame:
There is no doubt something inside of some people (an unhappiness, I suspect) that leads them to relish our morbid fascination with their bad behavior, knowing that we are silently daring them to do something crazier and crazier while being equally repulsed by how easily they do these things that we—or at least I—would never do. Maybe they know, too, that some hypocrisy will be revealed at the moment of inevitable tragedy, when everybody chastises themselves—or, more likely, others—for watching giddily from the sidelines the whole time.
There may very well be an element of sadness in every bid for attention. It may be as simple as not having been loved enough by your family of origin. Or perhaps it's more calculated than that. Perhaps it's a genuine desire to be validated gone haywire. Pity, though, implies it is wrong to want the world's — or the room's — eyes on you, unless we say you deserve it. And that by pitying you, we are allowing for you to be the sad mess you are, and forgive your exhibitionism.
In a way, it's a mindfuck: We create this sad narrative out of the seemingly erratic lives of these women — a gender we burden so much more heavily with being NICE TO LOOK AT. The message is: Look good, but don't openly act like you want the whole world worshipping you or anything. Unless you can make it seem sad-tinged in a non-threatening way so we can forgive you (see: Marilyn Monroe).
Perhaps it's really about us.
As Nova points out succinctly, the whole thing is perhaps really about our need to put a term to a thing we can't make sense of — a woman who embodies all the pressures of what it means to be female in this culture, but who, instead of hiding it, makes plain the rewards she seeks from it.
It rattles our sensibilities when people do things that we don’t understand, when they seem to need more than we do, and even the Lindsays and the Courtneys and the Kanyes—people whose very job it is to be in the public eye—cause us to distance ourselves with labels, certain that with the same fame and riches we would conduct ourselves more sensibly. But a slur says more about the user than it does about the target. Craving attention isn’t a crime, even if some of the things people do to get it are. Sometimes it’s a publicity stunt. Other times it’s a cry for help. And sometimes people are just doing their own thing, and they can’t escape the gaze of everybody else.
Her advice: Remember that you can just look away. But it's also important to remember that the entertainment media doesn't do nuance, and looking away doesn't teach us anything. So if you're looking for the real story, try locking eyes every now and then, looking past the up-shot camera angles and the slick edit of trainwreck-isms waiting to be memed, and reading between the lines.
Image by Jim Cooke, silhouette by Shutterstock.
Mellow yellow. Yellow belly?
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 22: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends a Garden Party in the grounds of Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth II on May 22, 2013. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Good news for those of you who've spent the last 15-years sitting on piles of Newsies fan fiction that you don't know what to do with (in other words, good news, me). Amazon is now launching a fan fiction platform that will allow you to publish and actually get paid for your work.
Writers may submit to Kindle Worlds, the online retailer's new digital fan fiction hub, and once approved, they will have their work published by Amazon Publishing. The company will cover the cost of royalties and writers will make a share of the profit. Works of over 10,000 words will yield 35% of net revenue and stories between 5,000 and 10,000 words will yield 20% of net revenue. They will retail on Kindle for 99 cents to $3.99.
Get ready for Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties. Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, with licenses for more Worlds on the way.
While I've been kicking around an idea for a fic about the secret lives of Elena Gilbert's countless leather jackets for some time now, Kindle Worlds' copyright limitations seem like they could be a major hinderance, especially when such a broad selection of fan fiction is available for free across the internet.
So how am I are you supposed to make money off your Spot Conlon/Jack Kelly slash fic featuring the two newsies spooning naked beneath a pile of papes after making sweet, earth shattering love (along to song!)? Sadly, sexually explicit content will never have its day in the Amazon sun even if the company does obtain the rights to whatever it is that you're writing porn about — Kindle Worlds will not be publishing mature fan fiction.
A word of warning for if you somehow manage to write fan fiction that doesn't include a scene where one character "spills their seed" into another: Amazon will own the copyright to any and all published text.
Image via AP.
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A study of the barium levels in a Neanderthal child's fossilized molar suggests that the child had been breastfed exclusively for seven months, and completely weaned by 14 months—way earlier than the attachment-parented kids in last year's Time cover story.
The findings—the first to document diet transitions in Neanderthals and reported in the journal Nature—of the Neanderthal weaning schedule are in line with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggests exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and supplemental breastfeeding for another six months. But they also fly in the face of lactation enthusiasts and the World Health Organization who often point to the delayed weaning of humans in modern, nonindustrial societies as evidence that breastfeeding well into toddlerhood is "natural."
While the study doesn't suggest that this is typical Neanderthal behavior, the lactation extremist community—who seem to be against information they perceive as harmful to their cause, however scientific, and who apparently think that women aren't smart enough to make their own informed choices—are already coming out in full force in the comments section of The New York Times article. Many believe that the mother died, and that's why the child was weaned at 14 months; or that being weaned early is what killed this particular child. Others, however, are actually interpreting the study as evidence that not breastfeeding a child for three years is what caused the extinction of Neanderthals.
Image via Cherry-Merry/Shutterstock
Following trends from the past several years, a report released Thursday by the Center for Disease Control indicates that all those crazy anti-teen pregnancy ads might be working, because the rate of teen births dropped 25 percent between 2007 and 2011. In case you'd like to go visit those teenagers and give them a high-five, the Susies and Brads who should be getting a special shout-out for their ability to put a bag on it live in what are deemed The Mountain States (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah). They're also Hispanic!
This recent data is part of a larger trajectory of lower numbers that have been dropping since 1991, but study leaders indicate that "much of the decline" they've seen has been focused in the last several years. The places that should feel left out of all this non-stop, no-baby partying? North Dakota and West Virginia, which saw little to no change in teen birth rates. This is pretty unsurprising, given the really stellar laws and programs they've got in those states concerning abortion and birth control.
The CDC's Brady Hamilton told the Associated Press that the lowered rates for Hispanic teens were "just amazing." The AP wants to make perfectly clear, though, that there's no real understanding of what exactly is provoking these steep declines in numbers, stating that, "Experts believe the explanation is complicated and probably varies a bit from state to state." With Hispanic teens, they're willing to speculate that tightening immigration regulations play a part, but the bit about state to state rings as more solid; we've seen in states that are successfully implementing teen pregnancy prevention programs that it doesn't just take one approach – it takes a lot of them.
Because of this, the CDC notes that the discrepancies between states is probably due to the discrepancies between state policies about teen pregnancy:
"Recent data from the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance Survey also show wide variation across states in the extent to which sexually active teenagers are using the most effective methods of contraception."
They also note that (SURPRISE!) "strong teen pregnancy prevention messages" and "increased use of contraception at first sex and the use of dual methods of contraception" have helped.
Before you get too excited about the recent five year drop, it could also very well be associated with the lower birth rate across the country that often occurs during periods when there's an economic downturn. You know, like how people want to make babies when there's a blackout but definitely not when their life might be a blackout...or something.
But yeah, let's have a party for all those teens, who maybe aren't as dumb as they look! The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy's Bill Albert will be bringing the dip:
"Geography, politics, or policy alone simply cannot explain the widespread declines. Credit goes to teens themselves who are clearly making better decisions about sex, contraception, and their future."
Who's bringing the chips?
Image via Facebook/Chart via CDC
After last week's hellish scandal week, President Barack Obama could use a little PR break. What's this? Photos of a young Barry at his prom have unearthed and Michelle was not his date? Is that infidelity? Does this mean impeachment? IS HE WEARING MARIJUANA AROUND HIS NECK? Nope, this photo is just sweet and innocent.
Oh Mr. President, look how happy you were at such a simple time when the greatest concern that could possibly bother you was the size of your fro, the breasts on your date and the awkwardness of the slow dance.
One of Barry's high school friends, Kelli Allman (second to the left) just shared this gem from senior prom with Time, and it's beyond adorable. It features Barry's BFF, Greg Orme (the other dude in the photo) and Barry's date that night, Megan Hughes. Apparently the double date duo sipped on some champagne before prom, did a Socialist ritual at prom (I kid, I kid) and attended an after-party like any other high school kids.
Allman also shared a photo of her yearbook, which has an even sweeter note from the future President. If you want to get the full experience, just let your eyes wonder at this picture. But if Barry's handwriting is too handsome for you to handle, here's what he says:
It has been so nice getting to know you this year. You are extremely sweet and foxy, I don't know why Greg would want to spend any time with me at all! You really deserve better than clowns like us; you even laugh at my jokes! I hope we can keep in touch this summer, even though Greg will be gone. Call me up, and I'll buy you lunch sometimes ###-####. Anyways, good luck in everything you do, and stay happy.
Excuse me while I have a heart attack from 1. the perfect grammar (and great use of a semicolon); 2. his gentleman ways; 3. how cool he was/is.
Image via Time.
Cartoon characters can perform lots of physics-defying sight gags. Sometimes, they can even cross over from Toon Town into the real-person world and cause portly private detectives no end of trouble. Or help Michael Jordan save Earth from aliens. Or scoop out large chunks of a child’s brain with all the practiced tenacity of a professional pumpkin-carver. They’re also capable of driving demand for merchandise so high that a factory embroidering Hello Kitty baby blankets can keep churning out goods in the middle of a civil war.
Before the Syrian civil war, Aleppo’s factories beat to the steady drum of global consumption. Now that the (mostly) opposition-controlled city has been shellacked with scud missiles, artillery bombardments, and air strikes, many of the city’s businesses that haven’t been reduced to rubble have been forced to suspend operations. Not so for a small, off-brand embroidery factory that, after a brief two-month hiatus, manages to keep making baby blankets featuring the (unlicensed) likenesses of Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the factory’s owner lives in a section of Aleppo that is still under government control, so he’s delegated most of the blanket-making oversight to his factory foreman. Though not all of Aleppo’s factories have been destroyed amid the civil strife, the blanket factory has been able to remain in operation due to high demand for knock-off Disney merchandise from, of all places, Iraq.
I’d like to think the fact that Mickey Mouse is, with just one of his gloved mouse-hands, keeping a factory open in a war-torn country would bring a smile to the cryogenically frozen head of Walt Disney, but I think we all know that he’d be really pissed that the factory was appropriating the image of his beloved rodent without his permission. Clearly, Walt Disney’s head is a humorless grump.
Image via AP
Haven’t you always wanted a body scrub that would wash away your belly button filth and make a serviceable dip for your pretzel sticks? Because that’s the direction the odiferous beauty industry is sloshing in right now — edible lotions, salves, oils, and scrubs that you can use to get into a guilt-free 9 ½ Weeks Situation, or smell so you can get that full feeling without the inconvenient ingestion of actual calories.
The New York Times makes note of the beauty industry’s scratch-and-sniff-sticker marketing trend over the last few years, during which time we’ve all witnessed the proliferation of cloying body butters and lotions that smell just like food. “But,” asked some sharp-witted young star at Bed, Bath & Beyond during one of the corporate weed-smoking retreats, “why smell like food when you can be food?” Now, not only are lotions reminiscent of food — they are food.
Explains a dismayed Times article:
And now the beauty industry is going even further, marketing what it calls “food based” products like coconut shampoo, grapefruit body scrub, mushroom anti-aging cream, pomegranate-pigmented lipstick and cucumber eye-makeup remover.
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the term “food based,” but companies claim that these products are organic, natural and, in many cases, safe to chew on. It’s an understandable strategy in an era of juice detoxes, hand-wringing over added chemicals and fears about unseen contaminants.
Okay, so just because you can eat shampoo doesn’t mean you should eat it, right? Wrong, you hopelessly delineated drone! We have entered the era of multi-purpose foodstuffs. In just a few years, you’ll be using the same spackle to repair holes in your drywall and frost a cake for your fifth-favorite cousin. As for the present moment, this is how people are repurposing their formerly single-use beauty products:
“Just as you eat food to nourish your body on the inside, we use the same food to nourish the skin on the outside,” said Susie Wang, the founder of 100% Pure, a beauty brand in California that offers a Cocoa Kona Coffee Body Scrub made of organic Kona coffee beans and chocolate extract.
Ms. Wang said her co-workers have been known to dip pretzels in the scrub and eat it, with one employee sprinkling the exfoliator on ice cream.
It sounds gross, doesn’t it? Although, it really shouldn’t, if you consider the fact that such scrubs are now being made strictly out of truly edible plant matter. It just seems like there ought to be some sort of line between meal-time and bathing-time, otherwise, we’ll all end up jamming garbage disposals into our showers like Kramer so we can prepare food while we wash ourselves. Maybe that won’t happen, since these scrubs, though technically edible, don’t exactly receive a rousing endorsement from Kimberly Cornwell, the founder and chief executive of eco-friendly beauty product peddler Celadon Road: “Our sugar and salt scrubs are literally edible. We don’t recommend it, but they are.”
Sounds good, I guess? The other bonus with such products is, according to psychologist and certified nutritionist Amanda Baten, that their delicious odor may satisfy one’s craving for snack foods all by itself:
Substituting scents for actual food can be a good alternative to bingeing on those foods that we are most tempted by. Chocolate-flavored scents can induce some of the same responses in the brain which can result in feeling pleasure, in a similar way that eating can.
Somebody really ought to write the Chocolate Bath Diet. It smells like a best-seller.
That’s Not My Lunch, It’s My Body Lotion [NY Times]
Image via AP, Adam Lau
Good news, lovers of furry domestic mammals! The House of Representatives introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require Amtrak (the government-subsidized rail system that brings so much joy to so many commuters along the Northeastern corridor) to let passengers bring their dogs or cats on specially-designated trains, thus introducing the possibility for an adorable, all-puppy remake of Strangers on a Train.
According to the HuffPo, the Pets on Trains Act of 2013 — a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) — would reverse Amtrak’s current policy of no puppies or kittens allowed unless they are traveling with people with disabilities. Everyone can get behind a bill that allows people to bring their pets more places, and a few more pets to brighten up the Trenton to Manhattan train ride would probably keep dead-eyed, half-sleeping commuters from fantasizing about the dramatic ways they’re going to quit their jobs, dye their hair, leave their families, and start a goat farm in France. Really, pets on trains is just a clever trick that THE MAN is using to keep all the working drones from awakening to the hell that is their daily routine.
Also, dogs (generally) love going on adventures. Just ask the badass subway dogs in Moscow, who bypassed the legislative process in order to go on train rides.
Image via AP, Anna Shevelyova