All the Barbies Look Like Me

For as long as I have been alive, in this vessel, I have looked like a doll. I probably will continue to look like a doll until my skin starts to wrinkle. I have a round face, no cheekbones, big green/grey eyes, lots of blonde hair and petite porcelain doll lips (leave, the button nose-not present on this chick).
At no point have I ever thought about my relation to dolls and what dolls represent until recently. Naturally one of the first lessons you learn in womens studies class is about toys and how toys are used to oppress people by teaching children societal rights and wrongs-and racial rights and wrongs. I can’t necessarily remember owning or seeing any directly racist toys as a child but I did see many many many white blonde dolls. I never thought anything about it. My mom was a blonde beauty with a body like a young Pamela Anderson, my sisters were both beautiful blonde little girls with blue/green eyes. Not only that, but I grew up in Littleton, Colorado as a kid. I honestly can’t even remember seeing any nonwhite kids. Not to mention (and I don’t know how it is today) but “history” class in the 90s was one hundred percent shameless white washed bullshit. 
A few weeks go my friends and I were at Target shopping for the High Priestess show. We wanted to buy dolls that represent ourselves for the altar. So, Sara-a brunette and Sarah-a redhead combed the aisles looking for our little self reflective tokens. I had mermaids, princesses, fairies, doctors, babies, shop-a-holics-all blonde, all blue eyes, all of them literally did look like me. As for my friends, nothing. There was maybe one or two crappy brunette dolls. At this level we were just trying to find anything that isn’t blonde and white. Anything! Of course, by obligation, there were some black barbie options but scarcely. This is Chicago, not Scottsdale, little girls have dolls to remind them that they are being hidden and oppressed.
That experience disturbed me. It’s not like I don’t know about oppression and racism in America (or, as world view)-I’m an educated aware young woman. But, to see it in such a tactile way, that made me reflect on my own childhood and my own upbringing as a woman who for all intents and purposes is good-to-go in terms of appearance by societal standards. 
I really never had to think about the fact that as a child I was constantly seeing myself reflected back at me. My image was perpetually affirmed by everything I saw on TV, in magazines, in toy stores, Disney cartoons and then directly-in my family. Dolls are disturbing. The need to use an icon of a human being to show children what to be and what not to be is horrifying. There would be no other purpose for dolls except that. If there weren’t dolls children would play with something else, kids are smart and they are more imaginative the less they are given to work with. I never liked dolls as a kid because being a woman wasn’t something I was interested in, I didn’t really care for humans or babies in general. I liked dogs. I pretty much only liked dogs and I wanted to be a dog. Hey, I was a white kid, you want to be a dog? The sky is the limit. No one ever told me I couldn’t be a dog and I never felt like there was anything barring me or holding me back. 
And furthermore-my only relation to Barbies later on in life was hateful and destructive as a young punk kid. Even though I found feminism at the age of 10 I didn’t get how beheading Barbie dolls among other things is directly representative of violence against women…a strange sort of internalized misogyny, if Barbie is the enemy and I look like Barbie, then what the fuck am I doing? What’s more is I was at least with it enough as a kid to refute dumb blonde jokes. That’s the closest I can get to image oppression that directly targets me. Dumb blonde jokes hurt my feelings and upset me…yet, with my internalized misogyny it was still a “me vs. them.” And then I dye my hair pink. Boom. I am not like “you” girls. How backwards and pointless is all of that? Making a huge fuss out of nothing, that is being white, looking for something to take issue with, some way to separate ones self rather than being self actualized. 
In terms of my relation with race as a kid, like any young girl in the late 90s TLC was my fucking JAM. I loved Left Eye the most, I was straight up obsessed with her. I never thought I couldn’t be Left Eye. I saw her as different than me, but never unattainable. It sickens me to know that this is a symptom of serious white ignorance. I can want to be black because a.) I don’t know what that entails in terms of actual lived experience and b.) Because I’m white and other people’s things can be mine. If I was a woman of color the idea of wanting to be white would be loaded with oppression-and after a few months in cosmetology school, I got even more acquainted with this upsetting concept. I get it, Miley Cyrus. You want to be black and you don’t understand what that means or what white dominion is. 
I had a few moments of potential self actualization, but honestly I wouldn’t even say I was reflecting on myself-I was seeing racial oppression outwards, as something that exists outside of myself and although it’s the most natural human thing to reflect things back onto yourself, I never really did this about racism. I don’t think most white people do, because it’s damned near impossible to understand something you have no lived experience of. It’s the trouble with misogyny too. 
When I was 10 I had a best friend who is Persian. I spent a lot of time with her family and I used to obsess over how beautiful her older sister was. She was a woman in my eyes. She wore black eyeliner all around her eyes to emphasize their shape and darkness. Again, I longed to look like her, but not in a self actualizing way. A few years later my same friend would be victimized and humiliated in an airport by a male TSA employee after 9-11. She was 13 and apparently a potential terrorist. I was there for my friend during this, but I never reflected about being white.
Empathy is understanding that there are other perceptions of reality and other lived realities. Seeing that they are different from your own and having a respect and appreciation for that-and being humbled by the suffering of others. Not seeing the oppression of others as a threat to your own identity. 
The resolution and end product of this piece is not me hating myself for being white. I don’t. I don’t feel guilty for being born into privilege. I am not taking responsibility for the actions of others. I do not see myself as other people throughout history-but I acknowledge that I easily could be. I can feel my leg room and my comfy chair. I don’t feel the need to condescend to women of color about making someone more beautiful or important than someone else. I don’t feel the need to immerse myself or not immerse myself in the cultures of other people. I love myself and my beauty and I will continue to idolize other white blonde women throughout history who I find beautiful-and who I see myself in. That isn’t inherently wrong-but yes, the original incarnation of this concept was for the sake of racial oppression. Social and cultural self awareness is the key. I can’t apologize on behalf of my race, it’s stupid and counterproductive, but I can listen and be aware of other realities and my place in the WORLD not just America. A lil humble pie.
My reaction is to be humble about my privilege, to be self actualizing and to be empathetic to my fullest capacity. It’s like what we always say about rape culture-don’t teach women not to get raped, tell men not to rape. As a white person, you quite simply need to not stomp out, dehumanize, oppress, exploit and exterminate non-white people. 


It’s a tall order. 

All the Barbies Look Like Me

For as long as I have been alive, in this vessel, I have looked like a doll. I probably will continue to look like a doll until my skin starts to wrinkle. I have a round face, no cheekbones, big green/grey eyes, lots of blonde hair and petite porcelain doll lips (leave, the button nose-not present on this chick).

At no point have I ever thought about my relation to dolls and what dolls represent until recently. Naturally one of the first lessons you learn in womens studies class is about toys and how toys are used to oppress people by teaching children societal rights and wrongs-and racial rights and wrongs. I can’t necessarily remember owning or seeing any directly racist toys as a child but I did see many many many white blonde dolls. I never thought anything about it. My mom was a blonde beauty with a body like a young Pamela Anderson, my sisters were both beautiful blonde little girls with blue/green eyes. Not only that, but I grew up in Littleton, Colorado as a kid. I honestly can’t even remember seeing any nonwhite kids. Not to mention (and I don’t know how it is today) but “history” class in the 90s was one hundred percent shameless white washed bullshit. 

A few weeks go my friends and I were at Target shopping for the High Priestess show. We wanted to buy dolls that represent ourselves for the altar. So, Sara-a brunette and Sarah-a redhead combed the aisles looking for our little self reflective tokens. I had mermaids, princesses, fairies, doctors, babies, shop-a-holics-all blonde, all blue eyes, all of them literally did look like me. As for my friends, nothing. There was maybe one or two crappy brunette dolls. At this level we were just trying to find anything that isn’t blonde and white. Anything! Of course, by obligation, there were some black barbie options but scarcely. This is Chicago, not Scottsdale, little girls have dolls to remind them that they are being hidden and oppressed.

That experience disturbed me. It’s not like I don’t know about oppression and racism in America (or, as world view)-I’m an educated aware young woman. But, to see it in such a tactile way, that made me reflect on my own childhood and my own upbringing as a woman who for all intents and purposes is good-to-go in terms of appearance by societal standards. 

I really never had to think about the fact that as a child I was constantly seeing myself reflected back at me. My image was perpetually affirmed by everything I saw on TV, in magazines, in toy stores, Disney cartoons and then directly-in my family. Dolls are disturbing. The need to use an icon of a human being to show children what to be and what not to be is horrifying. There would be no other purpose for dolls except that. If there weren’t dolls children would play with something else, kids are smart and they are more imaginative the less they are given to work with. I never liked dolls as a kid because being a woman wasn’t something I was interested in, I didn’t really care for humans or babies in general. I liked dogs. I pretty much only liked dogs and I wanted to be a dog. Hey, I was a white kid, you want to be a dog? The sky is the limit. No one ever told me I couldn’t be a dog and I never felt like there was anything barring me or holding me back. 

And furthermore-my only relation to Barbies later on in life was hateful and destructive as a young punk kid. Even though I found feminism at the age of 10 I didn’t get how beheading Barbie dolls among other things is directly representative of violence against women…a strange sort of internalized misogyny, if Barbie is the enemy and I look like Barbie, then what the fuck am I doing? What’s more is I was at least with it enough as a kid to refute dumb blonde jokes. That’s the closest I can get to image oppression that directly targets me. Dumb blonde jokes hurt my feelings and upset me…yet, with my internalized misogyny it was still a “me vs. them.” And then I dye my hair pink. Boom. I am not like “you” girls. How backwards and pointless is all of that? Making a huge fuss out of nothing, that is being white, looking for something to take issue with, some way to separate ones self rather than being self actualized. 

In terms of my relation with race as a kid, like any young girl in the late 90s TLC was my fucking JAM. I loved Left Eye the most, I was straight up obsessed with her. I never thought I couldn’t be Left Eye. I saw her as different than me, but never unattainable. It sickens me to know that this is a symptom of serious white ignorance. I can want to be black because a.) I don’t know what that entails in terms of actual lived experience and b.) Because I’m white and other people’s things can be mine. If I was a woman of color the idea of wanting to be white would be loaded with oppression-and after a few months in cosmetology school, I got even more acquainted with this upsetting concept. I get it, Miley Cyrus. You want to be black and you don’t understand what that means or what white dominion is. 

I had a few moments of potential self actualization, but honestly I wouldn’t even say I was reflecting on myself-I was seeing racial oppression outwards, as something that exists outside of myself and although it’s the most natural human thing to reflect things back onto yourself, I never really did this about racism. I don’t think most white people do, because it’s damned near impossible to understand something you have no lived experience of. It’s the trouble with misogyny too. 

When I was 10 I had a best friend who is Persian. I spent a lot of time with her family and I used to obsess over how beautiful her older sister was. She was a woman in my eyes. She wore black eyeliner all around her eyes to emphasize their shape and darkness. Again, I longed to look like her, but not in a self actualizing way. A few years later my same friend would be victimized and humiliated in an airport by a male TSA employee after 9-11. She was 13 and apparently a potential terrorist. I was there for my friend during this, but I never reflected about being white.

Empathy is understanding that there are other perceptions of reality and other lived realities. Seeing that they are different from your own and having a respect and appreciation for that-and being humbled by the suffering of others. Not seeing the oppression of others as a threat to your own identity. 

The resolution and end product of this piece is not me hating myself for being white. I don’t. I don’t feel guilty for being born into privilege. I am not taking responsibility for the actions of others. I do not see myself as other people throughout history-but I acknowledge that I easily could be. I can feel my leg room and my comfy chair. I don’t feel the need to condescend to women of color about making someone more beautiful or important than someone else. I don’t feel the need to immerse myself or not immerse myself in the cultures of other people. I love myself and my beauty and I will continue to idolize other white blonde women throughout history who I find beautiful-and who I see myself in. That isn’t inherently wrong-but yes, the original incarnation of this concept was for the sake of racial oppression. Social and cultural self awareness is the key. I can’t apologize on behalf of my race, it’s stupid and counterproductive, but I can listen and be aware of other realities and my place in the WORLD not just America. A lil humble pie.

My reaction is to be humble about my privilege, to be self actualizing and to be empathetic to my fullest capacity. It’s like what we always say about rape culture-don’t teach women not to get raped, tell men not to rape. As a white person, you quite simply need to not stomp out, dehumanize, oppress, exploit and exterminate non-white people. 

It’s a tall order. 

If you live in Chicago and you love my tumblr-I highly suggest you come out for my art show this week on July 25th!
The theme is Tarot, more specifically the High Priestess. I am curating and hosting and my business partner/soul mate Sarah Lorraine (Esoteria) will be reading Tarot. 
There will also my visual art by some of my favorite local artists: Amanda Joy Calobrisi, Sara Jones, Rik Garrett, Olivia Rogers, Charles Ernest Roberts III and  Meagan Fredette. and performances by Heather Lynn (as Technopagan), Heather Marie and Darling as well as a performance by Meagan Fredette as the Sword Suit. Oh and video by Sara Crow of No Future Films!
Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/240704622789574/?notif_t=plan_user_joined
Hope to see you all there!

If you live in Chicago and you love my tumblr-I highly suggest you come out for my art show this week on July 25th!

The theme is Tarot, more specifically the High Priestess. I am curating and hosting and my business partner/soul mate Sarah Lorraine (Esoteria) will be reading Tarot. 

There will also my visual art by some of my favorite local artists: Amanda Joy Calobrisi, Sara Jones, Rik Garrett, Olivia Rogers, Charles Ernest Roberts III and  Meagan Fredette. and performances by Heather Lynn (as Technopagan), Heather Marie and Darling as well as a performance by Meagan Fredette as the Sword Suit. Oh and video by Sara Crow of No Future Films!

Facebook event page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/240704622789574/?notif_t=plan_user_joined

Hope to see you all there!

Lydia (Lunch),In the event that I don’t hand this to you in person, I was the mermaid in the audience. I’m a freak. An alien. I think from another dimension, I’m a lost mythology. A sailor caught me and threw me back in the ocean with the rest of the trash and dead fish a long time ago. But, I’m a survivor. I believe in my own magick. I will thrive on Earth.Your work-Paradoxia, Memory and Madness in particular, changed my life. I saw you in 2008 (or 2009?) at the Empty Bottle. I was a little goth girl with bobbed hair and a bat shaped backpack. You said, “you wish you had done it, but I did it first.” I cried. Because I thought it was true for me. I was 21.I’m 26 now and I found myself, my own way, I idolize you, but I no longer want to be my idols. I want to be one-and I will be.I love you and I honor your majestic place in this world.-Morgan

Lydia (Lunch),

In the event that I don’t hand this to you in person, I was the mermaid in the audience. I’m a freak. An alien. I think from another dimension, I’m a lost mythology. A sailor caught me and threw me back in the ocean with the rest of the trash and dead fish a long time ago. But, I’m a survivor. I believe in my own magick. I will thrive on Earth.

Your work-Paradoxia, Memory and Madness in particular, changed my life. I saw you in 2008 (or 2009?) at the Empty Bottle. I was a little goth girl with bobbed hair and a bat shaped backpack. You said, “you wish you had done it, but I did it first.” I cried. Because I thought it was true for me. I was 21.

I’m 26 now and I found myself, my own way, I idolize you, but I no longer want to be my idols. I want to be one-and I will be.

I love you and I honor your majestic place in this world.
-Morgan

Were all the Goddesses man-made? Was Pagan history written by man, like all the history books?

When we stop looking backwards, when we stop idealizing creations outside of our own realm of given consciousness we can look forward, we can create from our own personal wells. 

Sarah asked a question last night. A question that skewed my recently skewed perspective, it was a question that brought years of studying ancient art flooding back to the forefront of my critical mind-it was a question and an answer. An answer to my question: Why is Aphrodite so cruel to women?

She asked, do you think Goddesses were figures created by men, for the sake of objectification? Were they fetishized ideals of women? Unrealistic standards to hold Earth women to? (Was the Venus of Willendorf a buttplug? I’m kidding…kind of)

Yes.

I think of Venus in Furs, the statue of Aphrodite, donned with Wanda’s fur coat, Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch would long for. He created Wanda in her image, an impossible image that lead to ultimate dissatisfaction and role reversal. Physically, that is. 

Aphrodite is so cruel to women because she was created by men, to remind women that they will never be made “right.”

Studying the High Priestess has been disheartening in many ways. In realizing she is yet another impossible archetype for women-virginal, motherly, loyal, untouchable-yet she is the archetype for the ideal women in most readings, historically. What about her lower emotions? 

Lower emotions are not “low,” they are carnal, they are of the Earth, they are female and male. Sexual.

The Empress, a sexual being, takes the burden. 

We create our own Goddesses, in the women we are, in the women we know, in the Earth women we have followed and admired. 

I was afraid of equality because I thought my magick would disappear, or it would become a male magick. Men hold their magick within-in the upper chambers of the mind, they are intellectual and logical. Women have their magick in their bodies, we are sensual, we feel. I say men and women as male and female-which is a non-commitment to biological sex. Souls don’t care about your genitals. Like the High Priestess, we cannot access our true powers without the balance of masculine and feminine. It is our Divine unity. Polarities-s a d o m a s o c h i s m



Goddesses live within us, among us, and through creativity we connect with the higher power that makes us whole. 

(High Priestess illustration by yours truly) 

Were all the Goddesses man-made? Was Pagan history written by man, like all the history books?

When we stop looking backwards, when we stop idealizing creations outside of our own realm of given consciousness we can look forward, we can create from our own personal wells. 

Sarah asked a question last night. A question that skewed my recently skewed perspective, it was a question that brought years of studying ancient art flooding back to the forefront of my critical mind-it was a question and an answer. An answer to my question: Why is Aphrodite so cruel to women?

She asked, do you think Goddesses were figures created by men, for the sake of objectification? Were they fetishized ideals of women? Unrealistic standards to hold Earth women to? (Was the Venus of Willendorf a buttplug? I’m kidding…kind of)

Yes.

I think of Venus in Furs, the statue of Aphrodite, donned with Wanda’s fur coat, Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch would long for. He created Wanda in her image, an impossible image that lead to ultimate dissatisfaction and role reversal. Physically, that is. 

Aphrodite is so cruel to women because she was created by men, to remind women that they will never be made “right.”

Studying the High Priestess has been disheartening in many ways. In realizing she is yet another impossible archetype for women-virginal, motherly, loyal, untouchable-yet she is the archetype for the ideal women in most readings, historically. What about her lower emotions? 

Lower emotions are not “low,” they are carnal, they are of the Earth, they are female and male. Sexual.

The Empress, a sexual being, takes the burden. 

We create our own Goddesses, in the women we are, in the women we know, in the Earth women we have followed and admired. 

I was afraid of equality because I thought my magick would disappear, or it would become a male magick. Men hold their magick within-in the upper chambers of the mind, they are intellectual and logical. Women have their magick in their bodies, we are sensual, we feel. I say men and women as male and female-which is a non-commitment to biological sex. Souls don’t care about your genitals. Like the High Priestess, we cannot access our true powers without the balance of masculine and feminine. It is our Divine unity. Polarities-s a d o m a s o c h i s m

Goddesses live within us, among us, and through creativity we connect with the higher power that makes us whole. 

(High Priestess illustration by yours truly) 

I put on this bra and red lipstick for the first time in over a year. I wanted to take a private photo for a lover.

I used to wear this bra, and these lips, every day. 

I think about the plastic woman, the fetish object, the patent leather goddess. I never felt so disconnected from her in my life. When I did, I was disconnected from my self.

When I looked at myself in the mirror my eyes welled up with tears. My eyes are filled with tears while I write this and I think about myself, looking this way, because it is not me. It isn’t anyone-she isn’t anyone, and she never was. She was an object, she was for sale.

I never think about my time as a dominatrix as a time I regret. But I do often think about how I was viewed by men. As a means to an end. Not human, and that followed through with my connections with other men. 

This image of women makes me feel uneasy sometimes, though I aesthetically love it. The plastic princess wasn’t viewed as a being with a soul. I struggle to connect Goddess with such a notion of emptiness and availability. 

I have a lot to say about this, about experiences I’ve had in this bra, I have a lot to say about how it feels to be an object. But I don’t want to ruin the beauty of simple aesthetics, the appreciation of such an artistic expression, so genuine-and in it’s original incarnation, she was so pure. The first time I put on fake leather and painted lips I was 12. 

I wanted to be viewed this way, and after so many years of experience I want to cover myself in fresh flowers and I want to be drenched in water. 

I put on this bra and red lipstick for the first time in over a year. I wanted to take a private photo for a lover.

I used to wear this bra, and these lips, every day. 

I think about the plastic woman, the fetish object, the patent leather goddess. I never felt so disconnected from her in my life. When I did, I was disconnected from my self.

When I looked at myself in the mirror my eyes welled up with tears. My eyes are filled with tears while I write this and I think about myself, looking this way, because it is not me. It isn’t anyone-she isn’t anyone, and she never was. She was an object, she was for sale.

I never think about my time as a dominatrix as a time I regret. But I do often think about how I was viewed by men. As a means to an end. Not human, and that followed through with my connections with other men. 

This image of women makes me feel uneasy sometimes, though I aesthetically love it. The plastic princess wasn’t viewed as a being with a soul. I struggle to connect Goddess with such a notion of emptiness and availability. 

I have a lot to say about this, about experiences I’ve had in this bra, I have a lot to say about how it feels to be an object. But I don’t want to ruin the beauty of simple aesthetics, the appreciation of such an artistic expression, so genuine-and in it’s original incarnation, she was so pure. The first time I put on fake leather and painted lips I was 12. 

I wanted to be viewed this way, and after so many years of experience I want to cover myself in fresh flowers and I want to be drenched in water. 

Hysteria, Androcentrism and the Obnoxious History of Female Sexuality (in theory)

Last night I had a conversation with a friend, in which the topic of children’s masturbation habits came up (of course). He suggested, by way of a friend’s education, that when little girls masturbate openly it’s a sign of sexual abuse. His friend is apparently a psychologist. In my time of reading about all kinds of fucked up ways to deny female sexuality I have never learned this theory. I mentioned it to another friend who was familiar with the theory. She responded, on point, “it’s because they believe that girls can only know about their sexuality if someone shows them.” Immediately I remembered this word: androcentrism. The theory that sex is about male pleasure exclusively. A theory heavily implied in psychoanalysis. I decided to dig up my thesis from college on rape fantasies. I made some botched attempts to re-present this chapter on Androcentrism as it relates to the theory of female sexuality throughout history. Poorly written, but hey, I was 22. There are some fun facts to enjoy!

———————————————————————————————————————

An androcentric model for sex, as eloquently paraphrased by Terri Kapsalis, starts with penetration and ends in male ejaculation. Essentially, androcentric sex involves male pleasure and disregards female pleasure. This model was used to analyze sexuality by the fathers of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. This antiquated way of looking at sex still plagues current representations of female sexuality.

To begin, it is important to recognize crucial moments in history where female sexuality was shamed, punished or blatantly denied. Both Anne McClintock and Rachel P. Maines develop some scathing criticisms of Lacan and Freud in particular. I will begin with Maines in order to offer a historical perspective of female sexuality as it relates to hysteria. Followed by an analysis of McClintock’s book Imperial Leather[1] as her analysis of female sexuality, SM and fetishes illuminates the possibility and the importance of female sexual expression.

Hysteria, a fabricated disease used by physicians most popularly in the Victorian era, was used to control women who rebelled against the expectations of marriage and motherhood. Hysteria described anything from physical ailments to mental instability and insanity; a majority of hysterics were given the rest cure and/or the controversial orgasm performed by a midwife or physician.[2] In the historical analysis of hysteria, female sexuality was at different times described as an issue of both hyper-sexuality and “frigidity” in women.

Maines writes of female sexuality and the orgasm as it relates to hysteria throughout history in her book The Technology of the Orgasm, ‘Hysteria’ the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction. She notes several moments throughout history where the female orgasm and female ejaculation are confirmed. The actual historical and medical evidence that proves the female orgasm to exist shows the intentional ignorance of the physicians who chose to deny it.

Contrary to more recent beliefs and disagreements about female sexuality, female ejaculation was actually documented in medieval times[3] and since then has gone from myth to reality and back again. In fact, it was also believed at times that women could release their “evilness” through ejaculation.[4] Additionally, Giovanni Matteo Ferrari da Gradi (d. 1472) noted that women could enjoy sex and described the female orgasm as a mix of pain and pleasure.[5] In 1660 Nathaniel Highmore recognized and labeled the orgasm a “hysterical paroxysm,” which was a symptom of hysteria. Over time his account was lost or ignored by future hysteria physicians who went on to deny the female orgasm, or separate it from sex.[6]  Although cures for hysteria in the Middle Ages prescribed sex and orgasm, later treatments suggested penetration exclusively and condemned masturbation, thus reinforcing the androcentric sex model.

 As suspected, the female orgasm as well as the function and existence of the clitoris fail to be addressed within the androcentric sex model. In this model it is believed that male penetration will satisfy the woman enough.[7] Even in more recent history, when the film Deep Throat (1972)[8] was banned and director Gerard Damiano was charged with obscenity, the judge trying the case had to ask what a clitoris was.[9] The film emerged close to the publication of the groundbreaking feminist essay by Anne Koedt The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm (1970) in which she confirms that the clitoral orgasm does exist, and suggests that it is necessary for female satisfaction. She confronts the issue of “frigidity” which she explains; “frigidity has generally been defined by men as the failure of women to have vaginal orgasms.”[10] Koedt makes a radical proposition that penetration is not necessary for the female orgasm, but she only comes to terms with a portion of the myth. In A New View of a Woman’s Body from the Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers (1981), the myth of the vaginal and clitoral orgasm reaches new enlightenment. Chapter three of the book reveals that the clitoris and the female prostate (or, the Skene’s gland, Gräfenberg spot, also known as the G-spot) are in fact one in the same. The clitoris has a sensitive point beneath the hood located in the vulva and extends up into the vaginal cavity in a spongy gland (Skene’s gland).[11] Indeed, as the earliest suspicions of what the vagina looks like had suggested, the clitoris is quite like the penis but it exists within the body instead of outside of it. Even in the past ten to twenty years the vaginal orgasm, the clitoral orgasm and female ejaculation have been questioned and mythologized in popular media, literature and theory.

Freud and Lacan went through quite a bit of trouble to make sure that the female libido was adequately denied, not only by reinforcing the existence of hysteria as a sexual disorder, but also by denying that women were capable of being fetishists and by suggesting that female fantasies were dangerous.[12] If a woman can be a fetishist, then she has a libido, she has a specific interest in sex, she has fantasies and she has specific standards for her sexual interactions. Anne McClintock expands on the history of fetishism and the role of the female fetishist, which has shifted over time,

"As Pietz shows, the earliest European discourse on fetishism concerned witchcraft and the clerical denunciation of illicit popular rites and illicit female sexuality. In the late Middle Ages, the Catholic priesthood used the term [fetish] to condemn the charms and magical arts practiced by the restive populace and to discipline wayward female sexuality. At the outset, then, the term was associated with the excess of illicit female agency over natural and bodily authority, unlike the Freudian inscription of fetishism as association with female lack. While beginnings are never absolute, reading the fetish as a historical phenomenon upsets the assumption of universality.”[13]

Richard von Krafft-Ebing believed that a healthy and educated woman was naturally disinterested in sex and had no libido, yet labeled the disinterest in sex of his patients as pathological[14] insinuating that women do not enjoy sex but must enjoy sex during marriage. All other pleasure seeking opportunities were considered immoral, including masturbation with the exception of being masturbated by a midwife or a physician as a treatment for hysteria. This is a further testament to the confusion and hypocrisy in recognizing the female orgasm, denying the female orgasm, listing the orgasm as a cure for hysteria, describing masturbation as immoral, pathologizing overly sexual women, pathologizing asexual women, prescribing sex as a cure for hysteria and prescribing no sexual activity as the cure for hysteria. Female sexuality was heavily controlled, torn apart, denied and applied when useful. European writer and natural healer Friedrich Bilz even went so far as to call the erotic fantasies of women self-abusive. In addition, women’s interest in exciting literature and seductive behavior was considered immoral and dangerous.[15] 

In her conclusion, Maines cites Peter Gay who states, “to deny women native erotic desires was to safeguard man’s sexual inadequacy. However he performed it would be good enough. She would not ask-would she?-ask for more.”[16] A poignant thought which suggests that perhaps keeping a woman’s pleasure out of the picture would relieve men from the pressures of pleasing her, and allow him to shamelessly use her as a sex object, because she is unappeasable one way or another. Either way Maines directly states that the disease paradigm was put into place to mask uncomfortable truths about female sexuality, also citing Foucault who suggested, “women’s sexuality was thought to require medical intervention.”[17] Cleverly, Maine’s muses about Freud’s inadequacy “…but it hardly seems surprising that the man who, notoriously, did not know what women wanted was less than successful as a gynecological masseur.”[18] Perhaps it was Freud’s own sexual shortcomings and fixation with the phallus that made his understanding of the female psyche so convoluted?

In Imperial Leather, Anne McClintock not only exposes the fallacy of Freud’s theory of female sexuality but also discusses early theories on why fetishes are developed. Not surprising, like most accounts of female sexuality throughout non-Pagan history, women have been excluded from the harboring of fetishes. Freud begins his analysis of the fetishist by stating that to develop a fetish is to replace the missing phallus of the mother (or the female) with another object. Only men can be fetishists because they are substituting the female “lack” with an imaginary phallus (i.e. a pair of shoes, lingerie, female body parts other than the genitalia) and women cannot be fetishists because there is no phallus to imagine on the male, being that he has a penis already. 

"Women in Lacan’s schema are assigned the position of victim, cipher, empty set-disempowered, tongueless, unsexed. Identified inevitably with the real of the Other, women are the bearers and custodians of distance and difference but are never the agents and inventors of social possibility. For precisely this reason, we can be the objects of fetishism but never the subjects.”[23]

It would be easy to say that Freud and Lacan are misogynists whose primary interest is in reinforcing male power and protecting the androcentric model, but what about the feminist theories that have absorbed Freud and Lacan’s misogyny? McClintock suggests that the Freud/Lacan fetish theory has had the “deepest influence on feminist theories.”[24] In feminist theories where fetish and BDSM are described as harmful to women, the theorists who have cited Freud and Lacan’s explanation of the fetish as being male-oriented are perhaps not understanding the implication of the androcentric model. Liz Stanley is one example. She seems to assume Freud’s theory that fetish is for men exclusively and in doing so she sees BDSM culture as objectifying to women, regardless of the female participant’s consent.[25] She argues that fetishes degrade and objectify women because she believes that only the man benefits. A theory I believe (from personal experience) to be wholly incorrect.

The analysis of fetish and SM role-playing in terms of female consent may alleviate the worries of feminists who have bought into the androcentrism of Freud and Lacan. McClintock cites Stanley arguing, “at any one time whoever is the ‘master’ has power and whoever is the ‘slave’ has not.”[26] Again, this argument makes assumptions about the sub’s consent and interest in the scenario. The argument fails to explain why there are so many women who feel empowered by submission and who believe that the submissive has the most control. McClintock supports my argument in stating that Stanley’s argument is “to read theater for reality; it is to play the world forward.” Additionally, she states that SM is “shaped around the ritual exercise of social risk and social transformation. As a theatre of conversion, S/M reverses and transforms the social meaning it borrows.”[27] Sadomasochism indeed is a performance. Players perform for fun, to create deeper meanings in power exchanges and sometimes for healing.

In the chapter “Race, Cross-Dressing and the Cult of Domesticity,” McClintock describes in great detail a Victorian love affair in which an upper-class gentleman named Arthur Munby took a lower class servant woman by the name of Hannah Cullwick as his wife after a nineteen year long secret relationship.[28] In the relationship, Cullwick lived as a servant and play different roles of power, gender and race (cross-dressing and role playing as an upper-class lady, a man, an African slave, a nurse, a mother) for Munby who could live out his own fantasies of owning the woman he loves. Although the male in the situation may have benefited more because of his status, and the woman’s actual status of servant would give her little relief, the diaries of the lovers tell a story of mutual passion and lust. In both, Munby and Cullwick describe the relationship as passionate and incredibly stimulating, and the actual role-playing as gratifying and empowering for both.[29] Specifically, Cullwick is cited describing the relationship and sexual scenarios as pleasurable and powerful.[30] I maintain that the consent and pleasure of both partners is what truly matters, not the assumptions that could be made about power relationships. Munby wanted to own Cullwick, and Cullwick wanted to be owned by Munby. 

One must wonder, how is it possible to be a voluntary slave? Indeed we recognize that it is an act and a play on reality. One cannot be willingly enslaved in the historical sense; the two actions are a contradiction. One can, however, choose to serve a master and he or she may consider him or herself to be a slave, but in the end that person still has the choice to break the bonds. Unlike in the reality of Cullwick’s Victorian life where she is a servant without choice, in her relationship with Munby she is dedicated and voluntarily involved.

McClintock notes feminist arguments against Cullwick’s role-which disregard her desire and agency, “I wish to question one feminist tendency to see women as unambiguous victims, a tendency that equates agency with context, body with situation, and thus annuls possibilities for strategic refusal.” In this situation, Cullwick is living within the confines of her own reality. She lives not only as a Victorian woman, but also as a servant, and in a life where there is little escape or alternatives. Additionally, it is against Victorian standards for a woman to receive payment for her work, so Cullwick is quite literally a slave in reality. To support this thought, McClintock also writes, “I am interested, rather, in the more difficult question of what kind of agency is possible in situations of extreme social inequality.[31] Fantasy, role-play and SM can offer the oppressed freedom, choice and the liberty of consent.

McClintock also cites Weinberg and Kamel “S&M scenarios are willingly and co-operatively produced; more often than not it is the masochist’s fantasies that are acted out.”[32] One must consider that in an SM situation, the bottom/masochist/submissive often, but not always, dictates the fantasy and the role-play, and defines the terms and the limitations of the interaction. 

Additionally, McClintock argues, “S/M, as Foucault puts it, ‘constitutes one of the greatest conversions of Western imagination: unreason transformed into delirium of the heart’ S/M is a theater of transformation; it ‘plays the world backward’.”[33] McClintock continues, “S/M reveals that social order is unnatural, scripted and invented.”[34] SM becomes a parody of power dynamics; it uses history and trauma to create fantasy and to explore the exchange of power in inventive ways. In Cullwick’s case, she would not have been able to experience life as a free woman regardless of her sexual choices. Through her sex life she was able to play with different roles and exercise consent. In short, SM explores control, consent and the actual modes of oppression that rule our every day lives.

McClintock elaborates on the cultural complexities of SM and fetish, “S/M is haunted by memory. By reinventing the memory of trauma and staging loss of control in what is really a situation of excessive control, the player gains symbolic power over perilous memory.”[35] Fantasies and fetish serve not only as alternatives to reality and parodies of power, but may function as therapeutic self-reflections. Fetishes and BDSM are complex and paradoxical. McClintock explains,

 ”Fetishes may take myriad guises and erupt from a variety of social contradictions. They do not resolve conflicts in value but rather embody in one object the failure of resolution. Fetishes are thus haunted by personal and historical memory and may be seen to be structured by recurring, though not necessarily universal features: a social contradiction onto an object or person, which becomes the embodiment of the crisis in value…As composite symbolic objects, fetishes thus embody the traumatic coincidence not only of individual but also of historical memories held in contradiction.”[36]

While attempting to find the origins or the reasoning behind the harboring of a fetish or a sexual fantasy, one might consider McClintock’s suggestion that the fetish is in itself the contradiction, both the rejection and embracement of memory and trauma, the embodying and exercising of a problem and a way of finding freedom within limitations. Additionally, some fetishes may have no origin; fetishes may be tied to lust exclusively and have no apparent social or political motivations. Desire itself is something so complicated and so difficult to marginalize that one could not say that there is normalcy or consistency in any one person’s fantasies with another’s.

 McClintock wraps up her criticisms of Freud and Lacan in the chapter “Psychoanalysis, Race and Female Fetishism.” She elaborates on a point made by Jonathan Dollimore that perversion and fetish actually challenge the foundations of psychoanalysis and contradict the theories that oppress sexual experimentation.[37] To some extent, I would argue that there is no room for fetish and perversion in ordinary understandings of the human psyche. Fetish, SM and perversion are often inconsistent, uncanny and unrealistic. They exist in the realm of fantasy and pleasure, where the rules of every day life fall apart and power and morality are turned upside down, defied and challenged with the free will of consenting adults.