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November 11, 2007

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Hil: it gets worse:

Identical in appearance to the original Jingle Jugs, Jingle Jugs for Life contain a blank recordable chip that allows the user to customize the Jugs by recording any song or message, as many times over, as desired. Jingle Jugs for Life also come embedded with a brief breast cancer awareness message as a portion of the proceeds of each sale is being donated to your local breast cancer awareness organization.

h/t Lucinda Marshall @ Feminist Peace Network, who also points to this on point quote from chemorox (proprietress of 'the original bitter cancer blog'): "Misogyny as a fundraiser! Let's help out breast cancer victims by reminding them that they had to get their TITS CUT OFF"

Maybe Graydon Carter was right.

I can never decide how to react to such things. How would men react to the proliferation of male body parts being displayed like this? You're right that it's not just a matter of a few isolated incidents that can be shrugged off as a tasteless joke, but on the other hand, is there any viable way to critique this? Obviously the boys that enjoy these things are the ones that are still mad at mommy and want to piss women off, so what's the point of lecturing them? It's just playing into the dynamic. Maybe it's best just to view these things as symptoms of inadequacy, sneer at them, and refuse to have anything to do with the boys that display them. In other words, react as if they were wearing T-shirts that said "I'm an insecure jerk who's really bad in bed." It's not like we can teach people not to be idiots if they don't want to learn.

I can never decide how to react to such things. How would men react to the proliferation of male body parts being displayed like this? You're right that it's not just a matter of a few isolated incidents that can be shrugged off as a tasteless joke, but on the other hand, is there any viable way to critique this? Obviously the boys that enjoy these things are the ones that are still mad at mommy and want to piss women off, so what's the point of lecturing them? It's just playing into the dynamic. Maybe it's best just to view these things as symptoms of inadequacy, sneer at them, and refuse to have anything to do with the boys that display them. In other words, react as if they were wearing T-shirts that said "I'm an insecure jerk who's really bad in bed." It's not like we can teach people not to be idiots if they don't want to learn.

I have no idea why it posted my comment twice--sorry about that!

This male reacts to it by at least immediately thinking of vibrators and dildos. Of which there are a lot. And many that most men couldn't reasonably live up to in terms of size, girth, and/or "stamina."

Not saying that this isn't disturbing. I recognize that there's a difference between a sex toy and a toilet, and that the fact that one can view ads and buy the jingle boobs in the same states where dildos are illegal says something.

Don't really have a deeper point aside from that, I guess. I think Jess is right on in terms of how to deal with it. It is pretty pathetic to want one of these things...

Jess is right - the best reaction is disdain. But of course there exist "novelty toys" on penis themes, and many seem aimed at sales to women. I well remember an ironing board that had a big naked man on it except for a strategically placed burn mark in the shape of an iron. Worthy of similar disdain.

And have you ever noticed how soap, etc ads these days always portray the male as really dumb and the woman as wise? I dunno if that's any progress from the car ads of my youth where the girl was generally portrayed as an airhead.

Another thought... how popular are these things? Seriously?

I don't know a man that owns one of the items on Shakes' list. Not one. I'm also a guy and I wouldn't buy one.

I'm not saying sexism is over, nor am I defending the stuff... It's sort of like finding a wingnut in open comments, right? These are examples of some behavior that may or may not be typical of most males. I'm not sure how many people actually buy these things.

If the Jingle Jugs are actually getting advertised on TV, then that crosses a certain line but the existence of the products doesn't in and of itself say anything bigger than, there are some f'd up people out there?

Sujal

"I can never decide how to react to such things. How would men react to the proliferation of male body parts being displayed like this?"

Since I would imagine that there is substantial overlap between men who would buy these "boob" products and men who buy castings of bull testicles to hang off their trucks (along with plenty of other penis/testicle-themed products), I bet they would be perfectly fine with it. See examples of such products here: http://www.bullsballs.com/index.html

Not to minimize the problems of patriarchy, etc., but I must opine:

Jackasses come in all sizes and genders. And some of them have realized that P.T. Barnum had a money-making point when he remarked that a sucker is born every day.

I mean, really, how many men (aside from a few drunken 19-year-old TKE brothers) are going to view that wall decoration and at the very least fail to murmur: "Dude, that's kind of lame, are you joking? Why is it on your wall?"

To echo sujal, I just don't think that feminists get to complain about disembodied boobies until we stop talking up masturbating with disembodied penises (ie dildos/vibrators). I also think there's a clear dividing line between women as toilets (misogyny!) and anus-themed fleshlights. For that matter, I kind of think that these sorts of products do a reasonable job of satirizing lust. If we'll set lameness aside (of course these things are in bad taste - that's the point), I'm happy to set most of these things in the category of "just a joke even if it's a really really lame joke."

I don't think there's anything wrong with using models of a person's anatomy as a masturbation aid. It's only having disaggregated body parts out in public, used as urinals or wall trophies forgodsake, that's creepy. Because that sends a message, whereas masturbating with a dildo doesn't make any kind of public statement about gender or whatever.

I can accept the boob bong as amusingly ironic, though.

Walk into a sex store recently? There are walls and walls of dicks. More dicks than you can shake a stick at. Every single size and shape that you can think of. Dick pencils, dick heads, and even dicks in party hats. You can literally walk out of the store with a bag of dicks, some so large you can beat someone to death with, much less bruise a man's ego. Using the power of the interwebs I can also find you plushie stomache, influenza viruses, and even a plushie companion cube.

The sanrio catalog has so much hello kitty stuff that you could drown an army in it. This includes the hello kitty vibrator.

Does this mean that the dildo shops of the world are oppressing men, that the blow up dalls are oppressing women, or that sanrio is oppressing all of our feline friends?

I think it just says that people like to make models of things they like. Humans like boobs. They are life-giving when you are an infant. Humans like dicks. Where do you think those babies came from? Humans like kitties and "hello". Not touching that one.

At any rate modeling something is human nature. Wether making an effigy to burn or a statue to honor, making representations of things is the essence of abstract thought. Words are representations of ideas, and of every thing you can possibly describe.

Now, feel free to question the taste of someone with a boobie soap dispenser, or a hello kitty vibrator, sure. But don't view it as an assault on all women to be "Objectified". George Washington is "Objectified" on the one dollar bill, and I don't think that's a sign of disrespect.

People like tits. People like dicks. And it's ok to have portable versions that don't come with the baggage of carrying the whole thing along. We're grown ups. We can deal. We have much bigger problems to worry about than fake tits and dicks.

You personally might find them distasteful and that's fine. That's a personal problem. But someone railing about how these things are horrible and demean all women are just as bad and as prudish as the people that outlaw dildos in Georgia. It's infantile and sanctimonious to try and deny other people access to their fake tits and or dildos.

It's not sexism. If anything it's lack of sexism.

My screen was scrolled down somehow when I reached Obsidian Wings a few minutes ago and there was the title "Happy Veterans' Day" underneath the Jingle Jugs advert ..... and that was it.

Thanksgiving is coming up soon.

I can't explain any of this. It seems Henry Miller had some pretty good images regarding disembodied female body parts (living on their own, renting an apartment, going to ballgames), but the crazy plasticized sexual fetishism is a source of wondrous banality or banal wonder to me (I like my female body parts connected to the actual female).

I expect that centuries from now our crypto-religious cultural artifacts will be excavated by future archaeologists and displayed in museums. I can envision a reliquary unearthed from the tomb of Bob Jones or Larry Craig containing the second and fourth volumes of the Left Behind Series, an array of flexible plastic G-spot gizmos, batteries included, and a newspaper article detailing the beginning of the end times when Pat Robertson gave over his plastic dashboard Jesus to the campaign of the beast Rudy Guiliani, despite the former's opinion that 9/11 was punishment for America's iniquities and the latter's regret that his iniquitous treasure trove of sex toy collectibles was turned to dust in the calamity.

I'm just worried about the guys who purchase the plastic blow up doll through the mail with the "vagina dentata" included.

Now THAT is loneliness.

P.S. Didn't I read a review of a movie recently about a guy who falls in love with his plastic blow up doll and the relationship is touchingly accepted by his family and friends and coworkers?

"DILDOS in Georgia"

yet another great band name.

"And it's O.K. to have portable versions that don't come with the baggage of carrying the whole thing along."

I think it's good, too, that we've gone to wireless technology and we don't have to lug the extension cords and the generators around.

Did I mention that I feel kind of badly for all of the plastic humans who have been dismembered and have had their body parts sold over the counter by a surly, faintly disapproving guy whose own body parts are covered in tattoos of the 12 Apostles at the Last Supper.


John: Over the counter is so last century. Today's plastic human body body parts are traficked over the internets.

"Walk into a sex store recently?"

Um, no. -- Maybe I was put off by the fact that when I was a kid, I was going somewhere with my family, and we drove through Boston's red light district, such as it was. I remember all the signs saying "Adult Books!", which I assumed was analogous to Children's Books; and wondering why all the shops seemed so dingy and sad, since all the adults I knew loved books.

It was a mystery.

However, if there are "walls and walls of dicks", I'll probably give it a pass, since I follow Thullen in preferring (in my case) male body parts attached to the original guy. Plus, I have never wanted them in quantity. One usually does just fine.

True story.

Among other things, my wife consults with a marketing agency based in NOLA. Part of their deal is that, every Mardi Gras, they host lots of their clients for a week of parties and shmoozing.

This generally turns into a bit of a boy's club, where the men go off, ride the float, and look at nekkid women, while the ladies eat lunch and get bored. So, my wife and a couple of the other women decided to make another plan.

They got themselves some fake rubber boobs, which apparently are not hard to come by in NOLA, especially at Mardi Gras, put them on above their blouses but below their jackets, and hied themselves to one of the parade routes.

An eager fellow with beads to spend asked them to show him something, and one of my wife's companions obliged. The gentleman, realizing even in his drunken haze that what he was seeing was not fair dinkum, cried out "Hey, those aren't real!!".

My wife's friend replied, "Neither are your beads!".

Thanks -

I don't think sextoys are comparable, but I think that for instance the manneken pis corkscrew is. My mother thought it was great fun and bought one for my husband, which me managed to loose ;)

There are quite some examples of penis shaped sweeties, guest soap, cake tins and candles and I know that there are many similar things in the gift shops here.

I just don't think that feminists get to complain about disembodied boobies until we stop talking up masturbating with disembodied penises (ie dildos/vibrators).

I don't think you can compare sex toys (which need not be made shaped like a "disembodied penis") with something that's meant to be hung on the wall on public display in the buyer's home.

OTOH, in the UK, whenever I've seen silly "boob" items for sale, I've always seen them paired with equally silly "dick" items.

The boob things are in my view for the most part just lame jokes and therefore harmless (while the toilets are simply disgusting and could do with a visit from a sledgehammer).
Sexual body parts can make respectable art (A certain sculpture in A Clockwork Orange comes to mind for example*).
The pillows are, I think, the least objectionable, although I think embracing arm pillows are more suitable for the lonely of both sexes.
Btw, I simply don't understand the boob obsession and from statistics I read only about 50% of men (at least over here) are interested in size at all (of those again only 50% think that large is beautiful).

*not the chairs in the milk bar, that's borderline.

At a science-fiction convention, a fan who won a dark chocolate penis filled with vanilla creme (yes, you can buy this in UK sex shops, though I've never had any desire to find out how good the chocolate is) said happily "Oh, thank you! But I've already got one!"

I'm fairly sure her husband wasn't blushing.

"Walk into a sex store recently?"

You’ve also probably never witnessed a bachelorette party in action in the bars around here. I assume that most of the items you mentioned are most often found in the privacy of someone’s home.

At the busier times of the year my wife and I can’t enjoy an evening out without being subjected to the spectacle of a half dozen young ladies walking around with penis shaped lollipops, penis shaped drink straws, and many other creative representations of male genitalia.

Thanks muchly for the link Hilzoy.

I should note, re: comments above, that the disembodied penis novelties thing is addressed in my post.

Melissa: I should note, re: comments above, that the disembodied penis novelties thing is addressed in my post.

I commented above before I looked at your post.

Um... no, you're right: not funny, and the disembodied dick thing - not equivalent.

I'd point out that, at least in this case, 'Western' needs to be appended to patriarchy. In pre war Japan, there was apparently no fetish concerning breasts, and women often worked beside their husbands in the fields bare-breasted, a practice which stopped when occupation troops would drive thru the countryside to view the sights. In this article, the author discusses the changes in perceptions of breasts in Japan. While there is now a fetishistic relation to breasts here frex, take this movie 'oppai seijin or 'aliens from the Planet Breast' and there is stuff like this and this, though it is always hard to figure out is it is fetishistic or post modern irony (or both).

Also, while the absence of modern consumer goods in the shape of phalli might be taken as indicative (no pun intended), traditional Japanese culture had no problem displaying them for various festivals, though it is again difficult to understand the original impulses versus the recasting of the festival for young people showing how hip they are.

Well then you really should walk into a decent sex shop at least once, if not only for the aforementioned graphic images, then at least to enjoy the vast amount of puns. Just reading aloud the names of the different lunes should be good for a laugh.

Some years ago, I ended up on a mailing list for a catalog of dragon-themed products. Some of them were pretty cool, really. But you know what would have been an unconvincing argument? If I counted each and every one of the items in that catalog to try to conclude that society at large has a dragon appreciation issue (look! 6500 items and collectibles featuring our fetishized industrial greed-complexes!) (Certainly, one could argue dracophilia is alarmingly present in our society, but the sheer count of collectibles is itself meaningless).

Sex sells, bad jokes about sex are common, and there's a lot of opportunities to give gifts in the US. Penes are probably under-represented; if I were to interpret that, I'd say they represent an escalation in the sexual games. (Much like faux lesbian antics are "less serious" than faux-gay antics). Which is probably a discussion in and of itself, but entirely different than what it seems McEwan was saying.

De Gustibus non est Disputandem

"There's no accounting for taste." (especially when it comes to sex)

People do all sorts of objectively strange things in regard to sex. Some people like to have sex with animals. Some like children. Some like to have sex with others of their own gender. Some think it's exciting to have private sex in a public location. Many cultures have Dionysian festivals celebrating wild sex. Phallic symbols are everywhere -- and many things that aren't phallic are interpreted as such. And if you extend your range of consideration even further, you get tattoos and body piercing, which I'm sure an appropriately stuffy person could find lots of reasons to condemn.

Condemning other people for harmless actions that seem strange is narrow-minded, self-righteous, and parochial.

Yeah, the number of different available items hardly suggests to me a permeation of the ether. These things may be objectionable, but their purported ubiquity is lost on me. I don't really see much of this stuff, so I would assume you still have to look for it to find it.

I personally think things shaped like sexually significant body parts are cheap, boring and stupid. I think most of the people who buy this stuff agree about the cheap and stupid part, but think there is some marginal humor to be found in these items in certain contexts. I would also imagine these are mostly throw-away items that tend to go quickly from production to the trash heap. And the world has gotten good at very cheap and varied production.

Some people think about things and the (possible) meaning behind them more than others. When thinking people look at the things that unthinking people sometimes do, there may likely be some problems found. How real those problems are may require futher research.

If there were a correlation found between, say, purchasers of booby items and rapists, I'd say "bingo!" Right now, I say, "hmmm...maybe."

I certainly don't fault anyone for being offended by this stuff, but I'm not sure that I necessarily see some deep-rooted misogyny behind much of it. I got bored looking at the pictures and skipped to the text in Melissa's post, but the toilet stuff does sound really bad. But a lot of it seems, if not harmless, not all that harmful. Bigger fish to fry, I guess.

Oh, and I blame Queen Victoria and the Puritans.

As for the cheap and varied production: I recall an article on those presidential bobble-head dolls where the people who started making them said they got a line for something on the order of $5 or $10k to start making it. And I suspect that bobbleheads are comparatively complicated compared to breast keychains.

To put more of a point on it, I'd say that cheap and varied production capability means that the number of booby items available doesn't necessarily lead to the conclusion that society is significantly invested in them.

I once saw a boy in my class have one of those boob things inside his locker. Didn't bother me, plus he was quiet and if anything polite to everyone.
Having said that, how many people who'd stand up for the right of guys to own things like this will also stand up for the right of women to breastfeed their babies in public? I know most of the commentators here will, that goes without saying, but what about those with no commitment to antisexism?

Yeah, sorry, can't get too exercised about something as stupidly trivial as the mammary equivalent of the Singing Bass, or a restroom where the architecture reflects the theme of the establishment, however tastelessly. Can't say as how I'd find it particularly offensive to see a women's restroom with dicks for faucet handles, or a well-hung plastic man straddling the back of the toilet. I'd just snicker and shake my head.

This just strikes me as a perfect example of someone going out of their way to find something to be offended by, detracting from their larger narrative in an attempt to shoehorn everything into the realm of patriarchy and misogyny. In a day and age where women still do not have parity with men in their salaries, have to fight for birth control to be paid for by insurance the way men can get Viagra, and are still subject to a sea of laws aimed at controlling their lives and sexual choices, I can feel nothing but contempt for someone who wastes their time getting up in arms about stupid kitsch like this.

A thought that occurs to me, as I head off to work: the policy on ObWi is to avoid words that may stop people from being able to read the blog at work; but a picture of breasts is much more an issue (pictures being much more visible across the room, and so much more prominently involved in "hostile environment" lawsuits).

I'm just glad I happened to read this entry on my home computer first, so I know to avoid checking on this entry.

I don't know what college art departments are like now, but back in the year dot when I was an art student all of the men, students and faculty alike, thought that good art meant protraying, in some media, dismembered women. This was back when De Kooning's exploding women were still considered cool, even though, by the seventies, he'd been painting the same painting over and over for years. But that's a digression. I don't find these boob fetish things offensive. On the other hand I do remember feeling uneasy, almost scared, while attending a faculty show---almost every piece in the room was composed of pieces of a woman put together in a nonliteral manner. It was like being in the basement of an ax murderer's house.

Catsy: I can feel nothing but contempt for someone who wastes their time getting up in arms about stupid kitsch like this.

Someone who claims to feel "nothing but contempt" for Melissa McEwan (or any other feminist blogger, including Hilzoy) what she may or may not "waste her time" writing about, is clearly not playing with a full deck.

The notion that because some issues are more important than others, anyone who writes about issues which are less important is somehow wasting their time is... just basically anti-blog. Also, a typical means of attempting to control feminist discussion. ("You girls shouldn't be talking about men fondling plastic boobs! That's not important! You should be talking about this!")

My only exposure to novelty breasts was in an episode of Blackadder, where Queen Elizabeth wants to see what the boys are up to at their booze-up. Much comedy ensues from the presence of Blackadder's Puritan relatives at the same time. So I have to say, they all seem kind of goofy and innocuous to me, but I've never met a real life person who would own anything like those, so I can't really put it into a real life context.
But I've never been bugged by dildoes or vibrators either, so I'm not really concerned about obviously fake parts out of context.

is clearly not playing with a full deck.

I'm pretty sure this is a posting rules violation, Jes, as calling someone insane seems to not be 'reasonably civil'. I have no objection to your disputing Catsy's argument, but personal attacks have no place here, or shouldn't. Please restrict your ripostes to arguments and not people.

True, though Catsy's "nothing but contempt" comment was also a posting rules violation. Still, one doesn't justify the other.

Well, saying you have "nothing but contempt" for the poster and some other commenters is pretty uncivil too.

Show of hands, b/c I can't tell how many of the commenters who think this is no big deal are female, how many of the women on this thread agree it's just harmless kitsch? If none of the women here are at ease, that might clue us men off that we're missing the point. So to speak.

As a Jew, I'm trying to imagine how I would feel about a circumcised-dick trophy (singing!), or toilets modeled after a Hasid or a Torah scroll. I would be sure that the makers and consumers were rabid anti-Semites, not just over-ebullient jokesters. Granted, the step from standard porno objectification (which I consider harmless & healthy in moderation) to body parts as household objects is much smaller than the step from most people's normal interaction with Jews, but I'm not sure that makes the final step any less disturbing.

That said, I don't know that there is a problem that can be addressed in any practical way. I cannot jump to the conclusion that buying or using these items will provoke violence towards women, any more than the use of S&M porn does (no, it doesn't). The use of these jokes seems to my layman's eye to indicate a profound anxiety about sex and/or the desire to abuse women -- but a) that's their problem, b) I'm no psychologist so I could be wrong, and c) it's no great surprise to me that some men have that sort of problem, anyway. Remember, if you're one in a million, then in the modern world, there are enough of you that you would need to rent a hall to meet. The number of men who are dumb, tasteless, and disturbed about women does not have to be very great to justify 65 products for sale. So, yes, this is unpleasant, but not terribly significant IMO.

I was amused to note that the boob-themed computer mouse was left-handed. Anyone that serious about his internet browsing habits probably doesn't need to worry about what women will think of his apartment.

Catsy,

Feeling nothing but contempt for someone simply because you disagree with what she chooses to write about is equally inappropriate. If you feel Melissa should write about other subjects, that's fine, but it doesn't require you to attack her personally.

Ah...lots of cross posts while I was fixing my earlier error. My apologies for not pointing out both violations at the same time.

The number of men who are dumb, tasteless, and disturbed about women does not have to be very great to justify 65 products for sale. So, yes, this is unpleasant, but not terribly significant IMO.

I'd also add that the cost to make this stuff is phenomenally small. In fact, the things that I have seen have been pretty shoddily made, which acts as a built in excuse, if someone is going to buy one of these things, you'd dismiss it if it was a cheap polymer mold but you might look in askance if it were a hand crafted, ultra realistic, one of a kind.

And yet, as a market develops, people then start creating a higher end market of those products. I assume this because when I was a kid, I did modeling, and while it is still possible to get those cheap models, I recently saw some in a specialty modeling shop and was flabbergasted by the prices and envious of the amount of effort that people were able to put into them (I think Catsy is a modeller iirc) The low end models of when I was a kid who dreamed of getting enough money to buy a cheap airbrush and figure out a way to make it work with out a compressor (I think there was something about using a fully inflated tire as a substitute though this may have been the hairbrained idea of a kid who couldn't imagine spending the kind of money needed to bet a full set up) basically set up the space for people to invest more seriously in the art. I'm wondering if it is the same way for these kinds of things.

Well I'm female and I will put a hand up for harmlessness. That is, I don't think this stuff is harmful to me or other women. I do think it is indicative of a certain pathology on the part of some of the purchasers-- like Hilzoy, I doubt the abiity of the purchasers to have healthy relations, sexual or otherwise, with real women.

But I don't feel threatened by it. I don't sseriously feel threatened by the fad for painting dismembered women either, although I never had quite as much respect for my art profs who painted that way after seeing their work. For one thing it was crappy art. Banal. I do wonder sometimes why that particlualr kind of banality is so widely accepted.

Thullen: "P.S. Didn't I read a review of a movie recently about a guy who falls in love with his plastic blow up doll and the relationship is touchingly accepted by his family and friends and coworkers?"

Lars And The Real Girl. Currently in release (it's playing a few blocks away here). 77% excellent, mostly rave, reviews on the Tomatometer. Ebert liked it.

How do you make a film about a life-sized love doll, ordered through the Internet, into a life-affirming statement of hope? In "Lars and the Real Girl," you do it with faith in human nature, and with a performance by Ryan Gosling that says things that cannot be said. And you surround him with actors who express the instinctive kindness we show to those we love.

[...]

As we watch this process, we glimpse Lars' inner world, one of hurt but also hidden hope. Nine actors out of 10 would have (rightly) turned down this role, suspecting it to be a minefield of bad laughs. Gosling's work here is a study in control of tone. He isn't too morose, too strange, too opaque, too earnest. The word for his behavior, so strange to the world, is serene. He loves his new friend, treats her courteously and expects everyone else to give her the respect he does.

How this all finally works out is deeply satisfying. Only after the movie is over do you realize what a balancing act it was, what risks it took, what rewards it contains. A character says at one point that she has grown to like Bianca. So, heaven help us, have we.

I still have to get around to Half Nelson, in which Gosling also got fantastic reviews.

"I don't sseriously feel threatened by the fad for painting dismembered women either"

I swear that I pondered for a couple of seconds, after reading this, "there are artists who dismember women and paint them?"

Because finding them that way fresh would seem unusually difficult to make a practice of.

And knowing little of the art world, or trends, the notion that people would want to paint realistic illustrations of dismembered women, as a regular practice, or whatever it is you're referring to, only struck me as even less likely, apparently. (Besides, painting on canvas is so old school.)

"there are artists who dismember women and paint them?"

...and then photograph them, yes.

how many of the women on this thread agree it's just harmless kitsch?

I do. But I don't call myself a feminist just because the overload of anger on trivia combined with the evangelical attitude towards how one should lead ones life grated too much.

Knowing Jes that probabely puts me in the mysogenists corner for her ;)

"...and then photograph them, yes."

The couple I sampled via the links were of men, actually, but more to the point, Witkin's art seems to be (I could have a misapprehension from such a tiny sampling) photography, not painting dead body parts, and presenting them as an installation.

Not that I actually want to find anyone doing that, nor would it surprise me if someone does that.

And if there's a club of such artists, I'd rather not have a fellow New Yorker point to me when listing dis and dat member.

Sorry -- but boobs are fun, and some objects that exploit that are harmless gags.

According to Melissa, is there any acceptable form of art, kitsch or other depiction that utilizes women's body parts? Is this statement by her:

The objectification and exploitation of women's bodies is one of the most basic expressions of misogyny...

true as to any object?

Without question, tasteless kitsch can be evidence of a degrading attitude, and some of the items are clearly evidence of it (the toilets and washbowls are gross).

But the thesis here is that it is all subjugation. And it simply is not.

For example, is penis pasta ("it gets bigger when cooked") evidence of women's loathing for men just as boob pasta allegedly is of misogyny?

Or how about the penis pinata - Whack It!?

The couple I sampled via the links were of men, actually, but more to the point, Witkin's art seems to be (I could have a misapprehension from such a tiny sampling) photography, not painting dead body parts, and presenting them as an installation.

yes, he's a photographer, but his photographs are of carefully-assembled scenes (as opposed to say, landscapes or candid portraits where the image is something anyone could stumble upon). and he often uses disassembled corpses as subjects. i'm not sure if he favors men or women, but he definitely uses each. and yep, sometimes the body parts are painted (or sliced, chopped, impaled, used as flower pots, etc.).

no it's not an installation - didn't know you were looking for that particular medium. IMHO, though, that's a minor difference: many of his scenes are quite elaborate, as complex as any diorama or setup you're likely to find. he just disassembles things after he takes the photograph instead of shipping the whole mess around like some extra-ghastly Bodies exhibit.

As an obligatory non-token upper-middle-class white male, I have to say that while I find the Singing Breastasses (or whatever) to be no more stupidly revolting than the usual Singing Bass -- which I find a crime against art, culture, the human race and the idea of a better tomorrow, but that's neither here nor there -- the women-as-bathroom-installations are pretty creepy. I'm not offended by them per se, they're too kitsch for that, but you'd have to be pretty demented to find that kind of thing funny, let alone arousing, in ways that even jocks and fratboys are unlikely to be.

dmbeaster: The British Museum now has a couple of rooms on Roman Life that are quite wonderful. Each display case focuses on one aspect of everyday domestic life, like cooking or propitiation of the household gods. My favorite case by far, though, was the entire display devoted to penises. No grandiose phalli or anything, just simple penis rings and bracelets and charms designed to grant the wearer good fortune, virility or any of a dozen humdrum wishes.

Well, apparently I got Melissa rather annoyed commenting at her site. I said I thought they were wrestling with pigs rather than slaying dragons; while sometimes stupidity is a threat to civilized order, sometimes it's just stupidity and it causes more damage to try to stomp it out than to let it be. (She does seem to be very touchy about dissent...)

Anyway, now that I'm over my initial befuddlement at the sheer stupidity and crassness of the novelty boobs, I'm firmly convinced that derision, not outrage, is the best response. But if we're going to insist that the religious right stay out of people's sex lives, shouldn't we do the same? If we're going to argue that gay marriage doesn't threaten straight marriage, and that women buying sex toys isn't going to lead to the Decline of Western Civilization, shouldn't we lighten up about a few plastic boobs?

The toilets are disgusting, true, but that's what boycotts are for--it's the best those who object to certain museum exhibits or music lyrics can do, and, unless we want to grant them more censorship power, we need to limit ourselves to the same tools of protest.

Tasteless, sure. Kitschy, sure. Worthy of derision, definitively. Harmless? I'm not quite certain of that. At minimum, I would get a "you're not welcome here" message. And the mounted "rack" is tasteless in a way that belongs to a different category than, say, garden gnomes. Perhaps they belong in the same category of tastelessness that lawn jockeys do.

"no it's not an installation - didn't know you were looking for that particular medium."

The point of my joke, such as it was, was the notion of bodies having paint applied to them, as opposed to the creation of images of bodies.

But I guess you didn't laugh in the first place, which is ok. Some jokes are just dead on arrival.

Put me down for mostly harmless (Douglas Adams, RIP), though the toilets are really creepy. And I am definitely a boob man (reminds me of Seinfeld when Elaine says she thought Jerry was a leg man and he says, "Why would I be a leg man? I have legs.") but I wouldn't own any of those products.

But speaking of guys falling in love with dolls, this video was fascinating and sad.

Personally, my view of these things is roughly Jackmormon's and Anarch's: this would not be at the tippy-top of my list of things to get outraged about (I mean, the various things this administration alone has done ensure that 's probably not in the top 100, and when you add in things like rape in the Congo and Darfur and so on, it falls even farther), and I definitely think derision is in order, but I don't think it's harmless either.

Random thoughts on the initial post and comments in this thread:

Only ones that creep me out are the toilets.

I'd feel kind of vaguely sorry for someone with the girlfriend lap pillow.

Most of the others I just find tasteless.

Large varieties of products do not automatically correlate with high sales volumes.

Cultures with common female toplessness do not automatically lack breast fetishization. This should be obvious, but if its not, consider- women now commonly wear pants. The female shape has not become de-fetishized.

I don't really think that the comparison of breast kitsch with dildos is apt. A better comparison would be with penis kitsch, of which there is a fair amount.

Isn't it odd that, in states where sales of dildos are legal, the upscale "shop for lovers" type shops don't sell pornography? They're basically just vibrator stores. I can come up with reasons why this is so, but it does seem a bit counterintuitive.

There's some odd mismatch between declaring dildos acceptable but breast kitsch unacceptable. Shouldn't the fact that the dildo is a masturbatory aid make it *more* objectifying? Or does this reflect a judgment that its ok to masturbate, but not to leer?

Sometimes I feel like people like Melissa are being willfully obtuse. Witness her comments about the insult, "c***s***er," which I have handily edited to match OB policy. She claims that it has a demeaning connotation because its a female activity. Is she kidding? That's a "hate on gays" thing, not a "hate on women" thing. I'm not saying that there are no stigmatizing insults directed at women that relate to oral sex, but that isn't one of them.

I really don't get why people think dildos and vibrators are an example of penis fetishism. They're a similar shape because some women like to insert them, and penises are a reasonably good shape for stimulating the g-spot. It's functional. I just-- I mean, I hate to disillusion you all, but women aren't necessarily thinking about cock when they use a dildo, you know. In fact, I bet gay women are slightly more likely than straight women to use dildos, and they are much less likely than straight women, gay men or straight men to have a penis fetish.

(yeah, I know you get a few vibrators with veins on, and the like. I'd agree with anyone who thought those are really creepy. But they're a pretty small minority of sex toys.)

I love that we have political blog sites where we can discuss the proper use of dildos and vibrators (although I doubt we'll ever top the thread over at Balloon Juice a few weeks ago that devolved into a discussion of baby jesus butt plugs!).

re Patrick's of 5:04 pm--

I recall a few years ago a friend of mine used that term (that begins with co- and ends with -cksucker) in talking about someone he loathed (IIRC it was Rush Limbaugh) in the presence of a gay friend of ours, and this gay friend was deeply upset by its use. It was in fact the only time I ever saw him get really angry. It is no doubt a patriarchalist term, with the connotations of sexual domination and contempt it has, but it isn't essentially misogynistic in the same way that, say, c**t is now (at least in the US). At the same time, I don't think it's right to claim it's just a homophobic term. I suspect, for instance, that even if you were a man with a homophobic girlfriend, you'd be wise to avoid using that term unless you had no interest in receiving blow jobs at all.

As for the various items shown on Ms. McEwan's site, aesthetics alone would keep me away from all the boob stuff. If I saw one of those washstands or urinals, though, I'd be tempted to try to find the owner and piss on his leg instead.

At the same time, I don't think it's right to claim it's just a homophobic term.

i don't think i've ever heard it applied to a woman. maybe i'm sheltered.

the only time i can imagine it being applied is if the woman in question was either a, umm, professional, or an adulteress - and in either of those cases it would be a (nearly) literal insult. calling a woman a 'c-sucker' doesn't really seem like an insult, in the general case... maybe it's crude, but it's not like the action so-described is so far out of the realm of normal behavior that you'd get much of a response. there are a dozen more offensive words to go with, if you want to insult a woman...

Witness her comments about the insult, "c***s***er," which I have handily edited to match OB policy. She claims that it has a demeaning connotation because its a female activity. Is she kidding? That's a "hate on gays" thing, not a "hate on women" thing. I'm not saying that there are no stigmatizing insults directed at women that relate to oral sex, but that isn't one of them.

I always understood the contempt attached to that particular word/concept as a twofer -- gays are despicable because effeminate. YMMV.

As long as I'm posting, some further thoughts: I found most of the boob-joke items harmless though not especially funny. Like, say, South Park. Only a very few, and especially the toilet thing, struck me as unhealthy and cruel. So does about the same percentage of South Park. I don't have to watch or approve of either one, but I doubt either one warps the minds of those who like them. I see at Feministas that a recent study may show that misogynist humor reduces sympathy for women. Then again, it may not. And I doubt that the boobie novelties are worse in that regard than Hillary Clinton jokes. Change the channel and walk away.

Once upon a time, someone called me -- I am not making this up -- "you c*cky c*nt". Only without the asterisks. It was a complete stranger who had asked what I was writing about. I said ethics. He said, oh, just your opinion? I don't think so, I said; I think it's a sound argument for a true conclusion. He took offense at the idea that I, or anyone, might claim to know that any moral claim was true, and called me that, right before emptying a pitcher of beer over my head.

He wasn't a philosopher, or for that matter in any obvious way intellectual. Just a guy in a bar. Who took exception to the idea of moral objectivity.

Sometimes, I find my life really odd.

re: c**ks**cker...I think that Melissa is closer to the historical origin of the underlying insult here. In Roman and Norse cultures there was no stigma attached to the active, 'masculine' partner in homosexual activity. One's manliness was not compromised by who one penetrated, but rather by "playing the woman' and being penetrated by a man. They didn't have a concept of homosexuality per se, but did have terms (e.g. ergi in the Norse) to describe men who took on womanly roles in sex.

The cultural stigma has carried over. It's just been extended to include the pitcher as well as the catcher for homosexuals.

He took offense at the idea that I, or anyone, might claim to know that any moral claim was true, and called me that, right before emptying a pitcher of beer over my head.

There are some people in this world who really just need a punch in the face.

There comes a point at which the cultivation of moral indignation passes into the realm of obsessive behavior.

He took offense at the idea that I, or anyone, might claim to know that any moral claim was true

The Violent Moral Relativists' first album was great. it's too bad that they just couldn't sustain the quirky charm.

Can we please put the pictures below the fold? Otherwise, I don't think I am going to be able to access this site at work until this post gets off the front page.

"He wasn't a philosopher, or for that matter in any way intellectual. Just a guy in a bar. Who took exception to the idea of moral objectivity."

If that was the opening of a novel, I would keep reading.

re "c**k%*&@+=: It has never occurred to me to use that term in reference to a woman.

However, as some of you know, I will use that term (in reference to Rush Limbaugh once here), but it doesn't mean what you think when I use it. When you are talking to a homophobic, machismo tough guy who thinks maybe war and so on and so forth is fun, and they go on to insult your mother, your patriotism, and perhaps accuse you of being politically correct, I will call them that name just to see if they can handle the political incorrectness of it.

Not one of them can, not because I'm insulting gays, but because they are homophobes and they can't handle an insult (in their walnut-sized minds) thrown their way that equals their demagoguery.

In the recent New Yorker magazine, Sam Zell, the real estate mogul, is profiled. Interesting guy, has built a lot of businesses. But part way through he refers to Hillary Clinton by what is referred to as four-letter word and I think we know what that is: c**T., a term I find highly offensive when used against a woman.

It's low bullying.

This because she might raise taxes, etc, blah-blah-blah, blah blah.

It occurs to me that Zell should have been asked immediately and brightly: "In that case, does that make you a c4443377er or a p$s%y?"

He might want to fight, and in Hillary's case, he would lose.

Then again, he might be intimidated for once, which is a good thing for bastids, albeit productive, like him to experience.

The coercive get coerced.

If I ever meet Glenn Beck, I will refer to him as Benito, and if I ever meet Rudy, I will refer to him as Duce, and if I ever meet Rush Limbaugh, well, you know what's coming his way.

Grover Norquist may require more than name-calling.


Well, apparently this stuff really is prevalent, though I don't recall seeing any of it. I certainly have seen penis ashtrays, though. You can google it!

"Once upon a time, someone called me -- I am not making this up -- 'you c*cky c*nt'."

It's rare that one is actually called an oxymoron.

Alternatively, this intersects with the ENDA thread.

Less fake-breast and penis-clawing female condom blogging please.

I blame the Y chromosome. What, it's news that the sexes find the outward physical manifestations of their opposites facinating? Fat chance there'd be a next generation, otherwise.

I'm with Ugh; Fewer NWS posts, please.

He wasn't a philosopher, or for that matter in any obvious way intellectual. Just a guy in a bar. Who took exception to the idea of moral objectivity.

His rhetorical style may have been unpolished but I think he had the sounder position...

Brett: What, it's news that the sexes find the outward physical manifestations of their opposites facinating? Fat chance there'd be a next generation, otherwise.

Hate to break it to you, Brett, but a man who tries to have sex with a woman's breasts is not actively "trying to produce a next generation".

Further, the notion that sexual desire and the desire to have children are somehow positively connected has been long since disproved.

That said: I'd agree that pics and text that might make a blog NSFW should go under the fold.

Witness her comments about the insult, "c***s***er," which I have handily edited to match OB policy. She claims that it has a demeaning connotation because its a female activity. Is she kidding? That's a "hate on gays" thing, not a "hate on women" thing.

When I use it, it's a "hate on John From Cincinnati" thing. (And, no, its having been canceled doesn't help a bit.)

He took offense at the idea that I, or anyone, might claim to know that any moral claim was true, and called me that, right before emptying a pitcher of beer over my head.

Calling you names and drenching you with beer was indisputably a morally incorrect act, and thus a convincing argument for your position. I expect that wasn't much consolation at the time.

I find it offensive.
maybe other posters on here are younger and don't have kids-but I do. A daughter-14.
Even for those that have male kids-for your parents to have shit like this at thier house-what kind of role model/sterotype are you sending to them?
As women who've grown up "just used to it"_having a daughter has cured me of that self-imposed silence.
While you can say wheres' the harm?
Look at where we are today in terrm of womens' movement? I think we've moved BACKWARDS (especially since the GOP has been in power).
This is the result of women everywhere mistakenly thinking "it's just harmless".
Collectively-it does damage.

Gotta say, Jes, you have a remarkably unsophisticated understanding of the interactions involved in human sexuality. Having sex with breasts won't result in children, but men being attracted to people with breasts certainly helps them end up having sex with the right gender to produce kids.

"Further, the notion that sexual desire and the desire to have children are somehow positively connected has been long since disproved."

No, but absent birth control, (Most of our evolutionary history!) sexual desire and having chidren whether or not you wanted them were certainly connected.

Having sex with breasts won't result in children, but men being attracted to people with breasts certainly helps them end up having sex with the right gender to produce kids.

And still you cling to the notion that sexual desire = the desire to have kids.

No, Brett, it doesn't. Men "being attracted to people with breasts" may be gay chubbychasers or straight breast fanciers, but either way, it won't help them produce kids.

No, but absent birth control, (Most of our evolutionary history!) sexual desire and having chidren whether or not you wanted them were certainly connected.

No, Brett, it wasn't. A woman doesn't have to feel sexual desire for anyone to get pregnant: a man may have to get hard/shoot to get a woman pregnant, but he doesn't have to feel sexual desire for the woman he is impregnating.

beth in cary: Even for those that have male kids-for your parents to have shit like this at thier house-what kind of role model/sterotype are you sending to them?
As women who've grown up "just used to it"_having a daughter has cured me of that self-imposed silence.

I agree, needless to say.

I do wonder who the hell buys these things, though?

"And still you cling to the notion that sexual desire = the desire to have kids."

No, I don't, and you're being remarkably obtuse here.

Sexual desire leads to... sex.

Most people are heterosexuals.

Heterosexual sex leads to babies, even among people who don't want to have kids. Wanting to have kids not being a necessary step in eggs being fertilized, in case you were unclear about this...

Therefore, sexual desire leads to babies. Indirectly, but not so indirectly that you should have trouble with the connection, given that I was quite explicit about it.

Heterosexual sex leads to babies, even among people who don't want to have kids.

Sometimes, yes - sex during the period when a woman is either just about to or has already dropped an egg, and bearing in mind that about 50% of fertilized eggs miscarry before birth.

But, again - sexual desire doesn't affect this. A woman can feel no sexual desire for a man she has sex with, and still get pregnant. A man need not feel sexual desire for a woman and still manage to get her pregnant. This is basic biology. (And you accuse me of being "obtuse"?)

Feeling nothing but contempt for someone simply because you disagree with what she chooses to write about is equally inappropriate. If you feel Melissa should write about other subjects, that's fine, but it doesn't require you to attack her personally.

I disagree one hundred percent. I didn't call her any names, I didn't describe her in any unflattering way, disparage her lineage or mental state or any other personal aspect of her being. I didn't use any profanity. I expressed that I feel a certain way about the writer--contemptuous--when I read a certain thing. In this case, that "thing" is manufacturing outrage about harmless trivia.

If things around here have really degenerated to the point where /that/ is a posting rules violation, then you people need to grow a thicker skin and rethink what the point of the posting rules was in the first place, because you've thoroughly lost the plot on that count.

Someone who claims to feel "nothing but contempt" for Melissa McEwan (or any other feminist blogger, including Hilzoy) what she may or may not "waste her time" writing about, is clearly not playing with a full deck.

And let me tell you, I can't possibly express how little weight your analysis of my mental state carries with me.

I'm not deriding Melissa McEwan as a feminist. I don't know who she is, and frankly I don't care. I'm neither invested in hero worship nor have anything personal against her.

I'm responding, at face value, to her breathless hysteria over tasteless interior design and Spencer's boob kitsch. It's the sort of overblown, overreactive nonsense that tends to causes folk in Peoria to roll their eyes at activist feminism. For that matter, it gets /me/ to roll my eyes, and I give as much of a damn about women's rights as you do, albeit from a different perspective.

The notion that because some issues are more important than others, anyone who writes about issues which are less important is somehow wasting their time is... just basically anti-blog.

No, it's really not. I happen to like blogs. I happen to like the philosophy behind them. But that doesn't prohibit me from having an opinion about whether or not someone's making much ado about nothing, or making a stink that actually hurts a cause I believe in.

Also, a typical means of attempting to control feminist discussion.

Help, help, I'm being oppressed!

Seriously though, I have no idea how people type words like this while keeping a straight face. Or whether they do, in fact. Regardless, the bottom line is that I think making an uproar over harmless silliness like this actually hurts progressive feminism rather than helping it, by relegating the argument to "crank" status in the eyes of the people who most need their minds changed.

But hey, feel free to keep jousting those windmills. There's a reason why the words "politically correct" have become a term of derision even among most liberals. Think about it for a minute.

Yes, Jes, I'm calling you obtuse, for persisting in denying the obvious connection between sexual desire and little babies showing up 9 months later.

If our species didn't like to have sex, we'd have gone extinct. Women don't get fertilized by pollen drifting on the breeze, they get fertilized as a result of sex, and sex happens, mostly, as a result of sexual desire.

It's hard to be a proper feminist these days. In one area you are supposed to see all breastshaped objects as demeaning, in an other area you are supposed to go bare breasted in the name of true feminism.

allow me to Nth the call for a new post (to push this one down) or adding a fold to this post.

breasts are great and all... but i hate worrying that my boss is going to walk over to my cube and give me a talking-to, every time he strolls down the aisle.

Catsy: I expressed that I feel a certain way about the writer--contemptuous--when I read a certain thing. In this case, that "thing" is manufacturing outrage about harmless trivia.

You feel contemptuous about Hilzoy? Wow. I don't know how you manage it, and I don't really want to know.

Regardless, the bottom line is that I think making an uproar over harmless silliness like this actually hurts progressive feminism rather than helping it

It is precisely the point under discussion whether plastic/rubber models of disembodied breasts are "harmless silliness".

And I have no idea how someone can manage in one sentence to argue that it's ludicrous to say they're trying to control feminist discussion, and in the next sentence try to argue that this is not something "progressive feminists" should be talking about, without suffering an irony overload and burning out.

I think part of the point here is that we were discussing the sexual desire on the part of men for women, as brought about by the way women's bodies look. So whether a woman needs to feel sexual desire to conceive or not is not relevent to that particular discussion. Though a woman who fancies a man and makes that known to said (otherwise preoccupied) man can start a process of procreation which otherwise might not have occurred. It happens.

Marbel: It's hard to be a proper feminist these days. In one area you are supposed to see all breastshaped objects as demeaning, in an other area you are supposed to go bare breasted in the name of true feminism.

How is it "hard"? If men are allowed to run around topless, so should women be. What does this have to do with objecting to the proliferation of fake plastic boobs?

What always seems ludicrous to me is people who say that the proliferation of fake plastic boobs, or topless, airbrushed "models" displaying impossibly perfect breasts, or indeed any use of female body parts to "sell" anything from airtime to cars, is all just harmless silliness that no one should object to... yet find it objectionable when women breastfeed in public.

Not that I'm saying any of the people arguing that plastic boobs are harmless silliness have argued against public breastfeeding. But I'm prepared to bet (say, two plastic chrysanthemums) that at least one of them will, and most likely, very shortly after I post this.

I vote for penis ashtray photos! Over the fold!

Sorry, I am incapable of being serious about this topic. Though I am quite serious about my vote.

hairshirt: I think part of the point here is that we were discussing the sexual desire on the part of men for women, as brought about by the way women's bodies look.

Women's bodies do not look like disembodied plastic boobs.

Really. We don't.

If our species didn't like to have sex, we'd have gone extinct.

Correction: if our species didn't have the desire to have children, we'd have gone extinct.

An unwanted human baby abandoned without a human adult to provide food, affection, and shelter, will die.

Fortunately for our species, we have an inbuilt desire to have children, which is completely disconnected from our desire to have sex.

Correction: if our species didn't have the desire to have children, we'd have gone extinct.

That's not really a correction. It's a addendum. The desire for sex and the desire to have children are both required.

And, Jes, I'd guess you probably don't actually believe that I think that women's bodies look like disembodied plastic boobs. But plastic boobs do look something like boobs, which is why we are all calling them plastic BOOBS. I don't find plastic boobs arousing. There are probably very few people who do find them truly arousing on their own, but they suggest something that is arousing for many men - boobs. That sort of arousal, brought on by the way women's bodies, including certain prominent parts, is what Brett was talking about. It's a simple thing really. In fact, human breasts look the way they do because of upright walking. Breast cleavage simulates rump cleavage. It's a gloriously simple evolutionary adaptation.

You feel contemptuous about Hilzoy? Wow. I don't know how you manage it, and I don't really want to know.

Apparently you also don't want to know what people actually write, since ignoring it helps you maintain your well-honed outrage. No, in point of fact I feel contempt for Melissa, for raising such a stink about this in the first place. I believe I've said in more than one place in this thread that the brunt of my ire is directed at her. That you persist in ignoring this and attempting to claim that I blasted Hilzoy I can only chalk up to an attempt to draw people to your argument by playing on everyone's (well-earned) respect for Hilzoy. Knock it off already. I don't know if it's deliberate or not, but if it is, it's extremely dishonest.

And I have no idea how someone can manage in one sentence to argue that it's ludicrous to say they're trying to control feminist discussion, and in the next sentence try to argue that this is not something "progressive feminists" should be talking about, without suffering an irony overload and burning out.

It's a question of using loaded terms combined with a practiced indifference to nuance when it suits you. You know perfectly well that using terminology like "controlling feminist discussion" casts the other person in a bad light, implying that they are part of the oppressive patriarchy et al ad nauseum, thus rendering their argument suspect in the eyes of anyone else keyed in to that kind of language. Disagree with me? You're trying to control women! See how easy it is?

If you can't tell the difference between my actual actions and your mischaracterization--expressing annoyance at a tedious topic and concern that the raising of this kind of stink hurts a cause I care about, versus trying to control women and what they can and can't say like some mouth-breathing /man/--then you really need to take a step back from this until you figure it out. Because as it stands, you don't seem to be able to distinguish between the expression of opinions and genuine oppression, and that is honestly your problem to sort out, not mine.

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