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Feminist Book Recommendations

I’ve just written a post over on my book blog with three feminist book recommendations.  Check it out if you’re interested!

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Equating Confidence with Sexy Clothing

I recently read Ariel Levy’s fabulous Female Chauvinist Pigs for the first time, and highly recommend it.  One point that really stuck out for me is that women often subtly put down other women for not dressing in a sexy, revealing manner and in doing so cite lack of self-confidence.  Some women who show a lot of skin for whatever reason feel that this not only makes them feel confident or is a product of their confidence, but that others who don’t dress the same way must not be confident, or must be disparaging of their looks.  I have no problem with women feeling sexy when they put on a short skirt or a low-cut top, but I do think something’s going on when a woman’s assumption is that this is the only way to show self-confidence.  Levy does a great job at pointing out how this kind of argument can be used to draw women towards everything from Girls Gone Wild cameos to unwanted sexual experiences.  

Surely, women can hide behind baggy or “unattractive” clothing.  I did that a lot as a kid and as a teenager, and in fact I was not self confident.  One of the ways I showed my self-confidence and comfort with boys, in turn, was to start dressing “sexier,” to start showing off my breasts and legs.  But I eventually found that for me, that clothing actually didn’t really make me feel sexy.  It did in a way, but at the same time I was often self-conscious, because I kept having to tug at a strapless bra or make sure my skirt was covering my rear.  Those clothes required a lot of effort, and they weren’t comfortable.  Now the clothes that make me feel sexy vary – one of my “sexier” outfits is a pair of cargo pants and a very butch black muscle top, while another is a thin v-neck yellow and brown artsy tank with wide straps and a pair of stretchy black gaucho pants.  I feel sexy when I’m put together, when my clothes fit well and feel good, and I’m smiling.  Sure, other girls may feel the same in clothes that made me uncomfortable, but if anyone pities me and tells me that I need to get some self confidence and dress the part, I’ll laugh.  I invite you to join me.

Book Reviews: Two Lesbian Sex Guides

The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us

by Felice Newman

I can’t rave enough about this book, really.  It’s extremely informative, with an excellent resource section, and best of all it’s inclusive.  You finish this sex manual feeling that there is no “wrong” way to go about lesbian sex, and that says a lot for the book in my opinion.  It’s trans and kink inclusive, and addresses issues such as sex with a disability, sex during depression, and safer sex in a comprehensive way that few guides tackle.  I thought that there was really nothing new to learn about lesbian sex, despite my very limited experience.  It seemed fairly straightforward to me, but this book gave me some ideas I’d never really considered.  I especially like how some of the anatomical myths are debunked – I had no idea that I was so confused about my own anatomy until I read the first couple of chapters.  I ended up grabbing a flashlight and mirror for the first time and was a bit amazed about how confused I’d been.  I highly recommend this guide for anyone looking for a comprehensive, straightforward, unapologetic look at lesbian sex.  Also, I wanted to note that Newman has asked me to help spread the word about a study she’s doing in preparing for a new sex guide that looks very interesting.  The message itself is a bit long to repost, but if you’re interested just e-mail me at judithavory@gmail.com and I’ll send you the whole thing.  She’s looking for female couples who have been together five or more years and have a satisfying sex life on the whole.  It’s very inclusive – poly, trans, bisexual, etc, are welcome to participate.  Let me know if you want the details.

On Our Backs Guide to Lesbian Sex

edited by Diana Cage

I have mixed feelings about this book.  I found some of the articles really interesting – it’s basically a compendium of articles from old issues of the magazine, arranged by topic – but I also found that some of them could be a bit too strongly opinionated for my taste.  One article, for example, on shaving, speaks in a way that makes me feel guilty or embarrassed for being a hairy girl who has no interest in shaving.  There isn’t a whole lot of “whatever you want is fine” in this book.  That said, there are a wide range of perspectives and some of the interviews, especially, are quite fascinating.  I found the roundtable discussion on class particularly interesting.  I do think that the book, the images, and probably the magazine in general, are very butch-femme centric.  Someone noted in one of the articles that butch-butch spreads are the least popular in the magazine – most pictures are butch-femme or occasionally femme-femme.  That had a weirdly heterosexual connotation to it in my mind.  Does it really matter whether we’re butch or femme?  Aren’t we past that.  Apparently not, and I found that a little disconcerting.  I also found a lot of talk about butch-femme fantasies that seemed to me very much like the types of heterosexual relationships that irk me.  That said, if this is your cup of tea, I’m sure you’ll love the book.  There’s just something about prolonged discussion of cocksucking that makes me feel a little queasy.