oyceter: (bleach sting like a bee)
Things I knew about the movie going in: 1) It was directed by the same guy who did Watchmen and 300, neither of which I had watched, but both of which had vids with amazing visuals. 2) Feminists were decrying it as misogynistic and exploitative. 3) The Disney Princess trailer mashup is awesome.

Captain Beautybeard had wanted to watch it despite its supposedly terrible politics, largely for the pretty, and after watching the Disney Princess trailer mashup, I decided that my expectations were low enough that I would go in and watch some girls kicking ass in exploitative outfits and probably while playing hookers (no, Sin City, I have not yet forgiven you). CB and I also joked about making out in the movie theater, since neither of us had done so before.

Alas and alack, by the first few minutes of the movie, we had both realized that any sort of making out during the movie would make us feel even grosser and more exploitative, as I personally don't really find violence against women, infantilizing outfits, or mental institutions sexy, even in a mocking, ironic sort of way.

Here's the thing: there was actually a movie in Sucker Punch that I wanted to see, corsets and fishnets and sailor suits and all. [personal profile] sohotrightnow pinpoints (spoilers in link) my frustration with automatically classifying the movie as misogynist because of what the women wear; like [personal profile] sohotrightnow, I grew up with numerous fantasy books in which tomboy girls defeated evil with swords and magic while the girls who liked dresses and embroidery stayed at home and were shallow and not worth knowing. I have no problem with tomboy girls or action heroines who aren't sexualized, particularly given the way feminine action heroines are so sexualized for the male gaze, but I do have a problem with the lack of variety. The kickass woman set in opposition to the useless girly girl or the kickass woman subject to panty shots and tiny bustiers should never be the limit of what we get, and both extremes are annoying precisely because they are extremes instead of being two points along a broad spectrum.

Here's the other thing: I was willing to give the movie just about anything as long as I got to see women kicking ass.

My disappointment, let me show it to you (spoilers) )

I don't actually agree with reviewers saying that anyone who liked this movie couldn't possibly be feminist; I think women have enough trouble as is finding role models and seeing themselves on screen that it's not surprising at all that people are taking the movie and subverting it. But I also don't think the movie is anywhere near a feminist narrative, even if you squint and futz around with it. That said, I think it's a pity that the movie bombing will basically be read by Hollywood execs as even more reason to make white guy action movies in which women still have no personalities and are still dressed in scanty outfits, only this time sans guns and swords and giant mecha.

Just... ARGH! It is particularly annoying because my expectations were so low, yet the movie still managed to slip underneath them. I am also prepared to read against the text quite often! I don't mind awesome heroines in shounen manga who are ogled at! (In fact, I am currently watching CB play through Bayonetta, and despite the cheesecake and the blatant male gaze and crotch shots, Bayonetta actually does kick ass and presumably triumphs, and does so with the other primary character in the narrative being... another woman!) But I do mind reading against the text and the male gaze and all the ways the heroines are still sexualized and taken advantage of AND THEN finding out that there's a limit to how much against the text I can read because the movie in my head very clearly isn't the movie in the director's. (Kubo Tite, I am still pissed off at you too.)

AWESOME WOMEN TRIUMPHING. Hollywood, why is this so hard?!
oyceter: (utena hush)
I have recently been extremely annoyed by the pervasive narrative of sex and sexuality in USian mainstream culture, particularly as represented by romance novels. Lest people think I am bashing romance novels, I suspect much of this narrative is in a lot of USian mainstream culture, particularly mainstream porn; I focus on romances since that's where I get the bulk of my sex narratives as of the past few years.

Thanks to the OKCupid experiment, I looked up dating advice on the Internet, which brought up site after site after site on how men can tell if a woman will hook up with him, how women can secretly signal their willingness to have sex without ever saying so, how having sex or not having sex after date #[x] means [y] about you or your partner, how to flirt, how to dress, and etc. All the advice basically seems aimed toward cis het monogamous 20- to 30-somethings, and the most annoying thing is that all the advice is the same. I'm not actually surprised by this; I've read enough Cosmopolitan and GQ magazine to have seen all the advice before, but it was disappointing to realize that despite all my qualms with romance novels, they actually model better sexual relationships than these stupid articles. At least in romances, there are different characters who like different things and do different things for different reasons.

Even so, I hate the dominant narrative of non-communication, the assumption that your perfect sex partner (or partners, although usually it's singular) will magically know exactly how to get you off and bring you to orgasm. I've seen very few examples of negotiation in the romances I've read, and very few examples of sex that deviate from the kissing -> touching breasts -> touching vagina/clitoris -> oral sex performed on the woman -> penis-in-vagina sex. Not only is there nearly no acknowledgement of trans people, gender fluidity, queerness, kink, poly, disabled people, people of different ages and orientations, or different levels of sexuality, there isn't even a lot of room for het cis couples to deviate. I've literally seen one heroine in a romance novel saying having her nipples touched did nil for her (Lydia Joyce, The Veil of Night, for the record).

I haven't read fic for a long time, so I don't know how much the narrative changes there. What I do remember from fic is a greater openness to OT#, male and female slash, some gender fluidity, and a fair amount of kink, but I still get frustrated that it often goes from kissing to touching to oral sex to some sort of penile penetration. I haven't read as much femslash, so I don't know if a lot of it ends with vaginal penetration? And the sex is almost always magically mind blowing, orgasms happen regularly, and people don't suddenly get hand cramps or lose their arousal or accidentally elbow someone or get hair stuck in awkward places. I think there is actually more of that in the fic I've read, but the focus on amazing sex and orgasms still annoys me. I do think the fantasy sex is a nice fantasy, where everything goes off perfectly and is awesome and there are spouting geysers and fireworks and whatnot, and believe me, I am especially grateful to have that type of narrative by and for the female gaze. So while I don't want to reduce that type of sexual narrative, I also want alternatives, because I've found that while sites like Scarleteen have great advice, it's still really hard to implement said advice unless you've seen and read and ingested many many many permutations of said advice. And a lot of how I personally do that is via fiction. (I could also talk about how taboos of talking about sex result in getting more of this from fiction than from friends and family.)

And even though I am feminist and firmly believe in consent and saying "no" and figuring out boundaries, it was scary realizing how difficult it was putting theory into practice. A friend linked me to No and no and no and yes (non-explicit descriptions of kink, consent boundaries, and restraints), and I was just, "YES. YES THAT."

So if anyone else has recommendations, either fictional or non-fictional, for sexual narratives that involve negotiating consent and boundaries and figuring out what you like and don't like and are kind of meh about but will try or hate the idea of and awkwardness during sex, I will love you forever! I've been going through The Pervocracy, but really, I'd love more to read, especially real-life applications of the above. As in, Scarleteen and Our Bodies Ourselves are helpful, but I think what I really want are ways to see theory put into practice, fictional or non-fictional, to get a better idea of ranges and methods and just... options. I am a cis het Asian woman in a monogamous relationship that isn't particularly kinky, but honestly, anything that has the negotiation and learning about sexuality especially would be great. Double plus bonus points for things that reference mental illness and dealing with heteronormative gender expectations and being girly and feminist. Also, normally in these cases, I am all "Who cares about the mens?!" but in this case, if there is stuff for cis het men who read as more stereotypically feminine than masculine, that would be awesome. (FWIW, aforementioned guy is Asian.)

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April 2017

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