June 24, 2010

Dead Body Warning

A Field Guide for Female Interrogators by Coco Fusco (interview here) is a disturbing book. I heard about the torture at Abu Graib, but I never heard about this.

The military decided to use their women soldiers to inflict sexualized torture on their Islamic POWs because they had decided that Muslim men were more likely too break under those sorts of conditions.

Let us examine what is wrong with this situation:
  1. Torture. The obvious one.
  2. Racism. The military assumed that the Islamic men would be more susceptible to sexualized torture because of ideas held by the radical sects.
  3. Sexual assault/abuse of the Islamic men by the US Military women.
  4. Degradation of the women involved in the sexual torture.
  5. Perpetration of sexist stereotypes.
  6. Military secrecy and lack of media coverage.

I shall assume that most, if not everyone, reading this agrees with the statement 'torture under any circumstances is wrong'.

Who else is tired of the military and the government in general profiling (IE stereotyping) Islamic/Middle Eastern people? First off, it assumes the fact that every Middle Eastern POW holds the idea that women's bodies are unclean in some way, as well as other sexist notions. The military believed this so much that they decided to use a special form of torture to get information. This of course discounts the fact that there are people who are able to lie under torture. Mostly, this is another example of how good the military is as epic fail. Time for a quote: "Much speculation has taken place over the last three years about whether the intelligence community developed these sexual tactics because of sexual stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs that have achieved the status of truisms in military circles. Veterans of military intelligence who received training in the early stages of the war have noted they received lectures on the so-called "Arab mind", in which it was argued that when it comes to sexuality, Muslim men are more vulnerable than Westerners. Outdated anthropological arguments become the basis for the development of tactics..."

The author of the book, Coco Fusco, is fond of saying that "when male interrogators perform such acts on non-consenting subjects it is understood as sexual assault, but when women do it, it can be authorized as invasion of space". Talk about a double-standard in reverse. The whole argument reminds me of the old idea that women are somehow paragons of virtue (so logically, they couldn't be let outside the home or given room to think for fear of spoiling them). When someone sexual insults another, "force them to engage in humiliating acts", force them to look at their exposed bodies, and perform sexual acts on them without their consent; it is generally understood as sexual abuse and assault (except the first, which is merely sexual harassment). Apparently, though, none of this applies when it is a women preforming them on an unconsenting man. Another quote: "...women interrogators use sexual insults, force them to engage in humiliating acts, and also preform sexually for them. Their most infamous antics include gyrating half-clothed atop seated prisoners and smearing them with fake menstrual blood in an attempt to break them by invoking cultural taboo."

Having talked of the problems of and with the Muslim prisoners, it is time to switch the focus to the US Military female interrogators. First off: it matters not to me that the interrogators agreed to use the sexual tactics. The point is that it is wrong and sexist. The very idea that women's bodies are again to be used as objects towards an end (never mind that its not social scoring this time) is exactly part of the problem with society today. Part of the tactic is sexual performance, which in this case sounds quite a bit like sexual exploitation of the women interrogators by the largely-male military command structure. All this is even neglecting to mention the "email responses to news stories about sexual abuse of detainees in which readers said they wished they could be "harassed" that way by female soldiers". Why yes, people regarded this more as some sort of pornography instead of as a crime against humanity. As Coco Fusco pointed out: "Detainees don't get to ask for what they get and don't know when it will stop. They don't get to say 'No means no'.

Then there's the fact that the military went and perpetrated stereotypes of women in the act of the torture. There is one interrogator that was very helpful: he said that the tactics included "using women as bait" and assuming the roles of "the bimbo who can't do her job" and "the sympathetic mother who wipes your tears". One of the interrogators at the interrogation camp that the author attended said that female interrogators could "elicit confessions best by pretending not to be interrogators at all, posing instead as nurses or even girlfriends". The military already has a history of sexist behavior towards women. This helps them none.

Part of the scandal with Abu Graib and also Gauntanamo is that the government did a cover-up of the torture. The part that could be constructed as marginally worse is the fact that the media did something similar. There was the coverage, and the debates about whether or not torture is acceptable. No one, as far as I remember, mentioned anything about sexualized torture or women being involved in any way. As the media is a terribly important source of information for many, many people, this too, could be constituted as a cover-up.

I am sorely disappointed that this was my hundredth post.

A picture of a dead man for your viewing pleasure.

June 16, 2010

I resent these remarks

Who has heard of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder? It affects millions of women around the globe, mostly from raising children, having careers, cleaning, cooking, working, and "several other things".

I shall assume these several other things involve everyday activities.

Mostly, the only discernible cause of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder that I can find is living. Seeing as how this affects women of "any age, race, or overall health", and is a "serious and damaging condition"; I can only conclude that there is something wrong with you if you don't feel the need to have sex with someone.

Especially given the existence of asexual people.

I take great offense to this, myself identifying as asexual. I resent being told something is wrong with me when I lead a perfectly healthy life with just friends and family. I have never had a boyfriend, girlfriend, or any other sort of partner you care to imagine. This has not affected me adversely in any way. In fact, I consider myself to live a rather better life than my peers. They are always having problems upon problems about dating and sex and emotional attachment. I do not.

Let's take a look at the definition of an asexual person as given by The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network:
"An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or any better, we just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently."

I would especially note the sections on arousal and attraction:
"Attraction: Many asexual people experience attraction, but we feel no need to act out that attraction sexually. Instead we feel a desire to get to know someone, to get close to them in whatever way works best for us. Asexual people who experience attraction will often be attracted to a particular gender, and will identify as lesbian, gay, bi, or straight.
Arousal: For some sexual arousal is a fairly regular occurrence, though it is not associated with a desire to find a sexual partner or partners. Some will occasionally masturbate, but feel no desire for partnered sexuality. Other asexual people experience little or no arousal. Because we don’t care about sex, asexual people generally do not see a lack of sexual arousal as a problem to be corrected, and focus their energy on enjoying other types of arousal and pleasure."

I find it especially telling that it specifically says that "people do not need sexual arousal to be healthy" right after that.

So, therefore, this posited Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder is either a) idiocy or b) a ploy for pharmaceutical companies to make money. I would choose c) both.


I find this whole idea offensive in other ways, as well. It again confirms society's fixation with sexuality (specifically female) and the still-lurking assumption that women should have sex, no matter what their body tells them. The fact of life is that it is much easier for a woman to not be interested in sex than it is for a man. Things like working and holding a job take up energy, energy that may have been used for sex but most likely would have gone toward things like organizing the house in activities like cleaning and cooking after work. Women's sexuality works differently from a man's, as well. For men, it takes only about three minutes before coital acts to become sufficiently aroused to reach orgasm; for women, the period is something in the order of a full twenty-four hours. The system is much more complex. Various emotional states need to met and certain neurochemicals, like oxycontin and serotonin, need to be released. With women who are taking care of children, especially babies and toddlers, these neurochemical and emotional needs may already have been satisfied by basic biological prompting. This, along with general exhaustion, explains why many new mothers feel no desire for sex of any kind.

Aside from difference in the system of sexuality, there is an underlying societal idea here too. Women are to have sex. That is what they are there for. This does not even address, of course, the double standard towards sex for the genders. With that note, I would like to address the fallacy that is "Low T".

One, just come out and say that it is low levels of testosterone. Two, admit that this is a natural thing in older men known as andropause, more popularly male menopause. Testosterone levels drop and estrogen goes up. Older men are more likely to enjoy cuddling, hugging, and intimate touch at this point in their lives. The sex drive decreases. This is naturally, yet these commercials that I see popping up all over the place seem to try and bill it as a life crisis. The website does concede the point that levels naturally rise and fall over the course of a man's life, but do the commercials say anything of this? No. How many people really look at the medical commercial's websites and how many just take the marketing ploys at face value?


I protest at both these so-called conditions. How many people already have socialized issues with their sexuality? How many people now, after seeing the advertisements for this, feel even worse about themselves and will suggest to their doctor that they begin taking unnecessary medication? How many doctors will prescribe unnecessary medication because the pharmaceutical companies pay them to get business?

How many people will develop actual problems from this idiocy, and how many people will never bother to try and take control of their sexuality and own their bodies because their "problems" can be medicated away?

June 7, 2010

'Tis the season

Its that time of year again. The National American Miss people are sending out flyers. Last year's I really didn't like, and this year's I found more issues with, after a year of paying attention to feminist blogs. Lets examine this:

First, the cover

Typical Euro-centric ideal of beauty? Check. Airbrushing? Check. "Fashionable"? Check. Vaguely pained look? Check. "Sexy" Posing? Check. Looks old enough to be the mother of the audience targeted? Why is she even on this thing?

The inside

EVEN MORE European girls? Check. Posing? Check. Now onto the highlighted stuff. That's were it gets really insidious.
  • "Makeup is not allowed on our participants ages 4-12 during the event." Well, that sure didn't stop you from airbrushing their pictures, did it?

  • "The National American Miss pageants are dedicated to celebrating America's greatness and encouraging its future leaders." Apparently "America's greatness" is little pretty white girls. Also: to be a leader and a girl, you must be pretty. No two ways about it.

  • "You'll gain... self-confidence...You'll feel good about yourself." Yes, I'm sure it will help boost the Hispanic girl from my old hometown who also received this flyer's self-confidence that the only girls pictured on the sides are clearly European and the overweight girl down the street will feel better about herself when all the girls there are thin.

  • "If not accepted into the pageant..." Way to judge a girl on her looks when she's supposed to be a "future leader".

  • "The total fee for the pageant is $440." Well, my goodness, that sure explains why there's pretty much just white girls on this! You only want people with half a thousand dollars lying around! Poor people, obviously, are ugly; and unfit to associate with you until they can cut food or utilities bills to pay for this.

And the back

Finally, some token racial diversity! Posing? Check. Airbrushing? Check. Ridiculously happy smiles? Check. People who are clearly models with their perfectly white teeth and shaped eyebrows who are surely not the sort of people who would actually be at this? Check.

One last highlighted thing:
"All you'll need is:
  • A prom dress or evening gown
  • A suit or dress for interview
  • Official production number t-shirt outfit (available on pageant weekend for a nominal charge)"
Say it with me people: Hidden Costs! So lets say you manage to scrape up half a thousand dollars to go to this thing. Now they want you to buy a prom dress! And a suit! And a t-shirt for "a nominal charge"! Turns out you need more like another $430 there!

Total cost: $870. Way to raise the bar. Now they only want you if you've got about a thousand dollars lying around! Now I know why the popular pretty girls on TV are always rich whites! They're the only ones with enough money to be official.

Congratulations, National American Miss pageants. You have now officially sent the most racist and classist bit of mail I have ever seen.

Q: What People Should Really Learn From Student Government Elections?

A: How to learn when a politician is saying a whole lot of nothing.

My class's election for sophomore year officers could be a case study. Most of the speeches were uninteresting; but gave a good overview of what the person's goals and qualifications were. Then the speeches got to the presidential candidates and the only guy running for an office (significant or not?) got up. There was lots of cheering (he was a popular guy). But when he opened his mouth he had nothing to say. The summary of his speech is as follows:

"The other school thinks we suck! I don't think we do! We should show them we're not! I had fun doing this job in eighth grade! The other school thinks we suck!"

See? A whole lotta nothin'. There is a term for this sort of persuasion: pathos. This guy was trying to play off emotions and his popularity. Student government elections being as they are (popularity over competence), that was the guy who won.

Here's an idea: maybe if the SG elections actually matched what people learned in their government classes about how real elections work (and if the SG actually meant anything), people would be more invested in voting throughout their lives.