culture


In this video, sociologist Andrew Cherlin describes how marriage is still here, and still embraced, but much less stable and compulsory.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

An NPR photo essay by Hugh Holland offers a fun glimpse into the evolution of skateboarding. Holland explains that a drought in mid-1970s Southern California led to the mass draining of swimming pools. Kids with skateboards took one look at the empty pools and invented vertically-driven trick skateboarding as we know it today. According to Wikipedia:

This started the vert trend in skateboarding.  With increased control, vert skaters could skate faster and perform more dangerous tricks, such as slash grinds and frontside/backside airs.

Ah the serendipity of cultural innovation.

 

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


Lest you think that rape culture is confined to simply excellent institutions of higher education, Salon reports that Yale students pledging the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity were marched by women’s dorms marching “no means yes, yes means anal.”  Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory writes:

Now, DKE President Jordan Forney has been forced to apologize for this blatant sexual intimidation by calling it “a serious lapse in judgment by the fraternity and in very poor taste.” But this sort of hateful crap isn’t a “lapse in judgment.” It doesn’t innocently happen that you’re guiding male pledges by young women’s dorms in the dark of night chanting about anal rape. It isn’t a forehead-slapping slip-up, it’s a sign that you need major reprogramming as a human being.

UPDATE: Sociologist Michael Kimmel has a fantastic analysis of the second half of the chant:

This chant assumes that anal sex is not pleasurable for women; that if she says yes to intercourse, you have to go further to an activity that you experience as degrading to her, dominating to her, not pleasurable to her. This second chant is a necessary corollary to the first.

Thanks to feminism, women have claimed the ability to say both “no” and “yes.” Not only have women come to believe that “No Means No,” that they have a right to not be assaulted and raped, but also that they have a right to say “yes” to their own desires, their own sexual agency. Feminism enabled women to find their own sexual voice.

This is confusing to many men, who see sex not as mutual pleasuring, but about the “girl hunt,” a chase, a conquest. She says no, he breaks down her resistance. Sex is a zero-sum game. He wins if she puts out; she loses.

That women can like sex, and especially like good sex, and are capable of evaluating their partners changes the landscape. If women say “yes,” where’s the conquest, where’s the chase, where’s the pleasure? And where’s the feeling that your victory is her defeat? What if she is doing the scoring, not you?

Thus the “Yes Means Anal” part of the chant. Sex has become unsafe for men–women are agentic and evaluate our performances. So if “No Means Yes” attempts to make what is safe for women unsafe, then “Yes Means Anal” makes what is experienced as unsafe for men again safe–back in that comfort zone of conquest and victory. Back to something that is assumed could not possibly be pleasurable for her. It makes the unsafe safe–for men.

In this way, we can see the men of DKE at Yale not as a bunch of angry predators, asserting their dominance, but as a more pathetic bunch of guys who see themselves as powerless losers, trying to re-establish a sexual landscape which they feel has been thrown terribly off its axis.

For more indications that we live in a rape culture, see our posts on media coverage of a rape video game and the George Sodini murders, rapists as hyperconformists to ideal masculinity, the rape scene in Observe and Report, t-shirts endorsing sex with “drunk girls”, and, of course, the Purdue Exponent’s sex position of the week.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

V. sent in a delightful video by Levni Yilmaz illustrating how detailed social rules of behavior can be, how others can create consequences for us if we don’t conform, and how some people are targets of others almost no matter what they do. The people at the top of the hierarchy, remember, must maintain the hierarchy, lest they end up no better than anyone else.

See also our post featuring Yilmaz discussing how to sit on a bus.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

In Afghanistan, girls are not supposed to obtain an extensive education, be in public without a male chaperone, or work outside the home.  This is typically discussed as a burden for girls and women but, as an article in the New York Times sent in by Dmitriy T.M. explains, it can also be a burden on families.  Families with sons can send all of their children out in public with the boy as a chaperone.  This is useful for the whole family: the girls get more freedom and the parents can send their children on errands, to school, or on social visits without their supervision.  Since boys can also work outside the home, boys can be a source in extra income for a family.  Families with all girls, then, are not only pitied from a social perspective (because girls are devalued compared to boys), but from a practical perspective (because gendered rules make daily life more difficult).

One solution is to bend the rules.  Journalist Jenny Nordberg explains that some families without sons pick a girl-child to be a boy.  One day they cut her hair, change her name, and put her in boy clothes.  They then send her out into the world as a boy.  er mother explains:

People came into our home feeling pity for us that we don’t have a son… And the girls — we can’t send them outside. And if we changed Mehran to a boy we would get more space and freedom in society for her.  And we can send her outside for shopping and to help the father.

Her father concurs:

It’s a privilege for me, that she is in boys’ clothing… It’s a help for me, with the shopping. And she can go in and out of the house without a problem.

The practice isn’t new, but long-standing.

Nordberg is unsure how many families do this, but it is common enough that most people are unsurprised when a biological girl suddenly becomes a social boy before their very eyes.  Teachers have become accustomed to such sudden shifts.  Relatives, friends, and acquaintances accept and participate in the farce. There is even a name for this kind of child, “bacha posh,” which translates into “dressed up as a boy.”  Later, when the child reaches puberty, she typically becomes a girl again.  Meanwhile, the family might choose a younger sibling to take over her role.

One of the interesting things about this, from a sociological perspective, is how easy it turns out to be to break these extremely rigid gender rules.  If the family simply decided that their daughter should be able to go outside without supervision, get higher education, work outside the home, and interact as an equal with men, it would be a slap in the face of the gender regime.  By dressing her a boy, however, they are effectively nodding to the rules, even as they break them.  They are saying, “Yes, it is true that girls should not be able to do these thing,” but we need a boy in the household for social and practical reasons.  And, because other Afghanis understand, they are willing to look the other way.

These sorts of adaptations are often lost when we hear about the cultural rules in places we deem oppressive.  People in these narratives often seem unbelievably oppressed.  Often they are living under extreme conditions, but it’s important to also be exposed to the ways in which individuals find ways to wrest autonomy from rigid rules through ingenuity and creativity.  This wresting of autonomy, further, is often part and parcel of the culture, allowing for far more flexibility than outside observers are sometimes capable of seeing.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Right?

Or, at least, we’re constantly told that men hate shopping.

Ben K. pointed us to a new Lee Jeans ad campaign revolving around a fictional “epidemic among the male population” called “shop phobia” (website):

These ads argue that men don’t shop or are even afraid of shopping.  They tell us what men are like.  Ben begs to differ, but feels the pressure to be the man they insist he is:

As a man in my mid-twenties who actually does enjoy clothes shopping from time to time, I am, nevertheless, totally complicit in propelling the stereotype that clothes shopping is for women and not men – a stereotype reinforced out by mass culture and my experiences growing up with two younger sisters and a dad who taught me well the ways to keep myself from “losing my manhood” when going shopping with my mom (bring a book, find the chairs near the dressing rooms).

Ben’s confession illustrates how cultural rules about behavior actually create that behavior, thereby making the behavior seem natural instead of rule-driven.  Men hate shopping, we learn, and so it appears they do.  (See also our post on the self-fulfilling stereotype.)

On a different note, Ben had a really interesting thought about what is so scary about shopping:

I wonder if it has to do with anything about men being seen as in positions of authority or that their work necessitates certain types of clothes (police officers, construction workers), and, so clothing becomes a matter, in the cultural mind, of pure function related entirely to the public work of men. Thus shopping for extra clothes is irrelevant, even dangerous… perhaps because any indication of leaving that world of authority, and public work is also an indication of loss of “manhood.”

See also: Women Love Shoes.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

As Anthropologist Peggy Sanday has shown, societies can be more or less rape-free or rape-prone.  A rape-prone society is characterized by a rape culture, one in which women’s desires are unimportant and emotional, psychological, and physical sexual coercion is normative.   In the U.S., pressuring or convincing women into sex is, in fact, well-tolerated.  So goes the saying, ” ‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘no’; it’s just the beginning of negotiations.”

Claire B. and Sylvia M. sent in matching sartorial testaments to the dismissal of the requirement that women consent to sex.  The first, on a website called teesbox (trigger warning), is a t-shirt that reads “I heart drunk girls.”  In case you don’t get the point, along with the shirt are photos of drunken or incapacitated women and captions like, “She’ll let you do anything you want to her, any hole, any time (as long as it’s while she’s still wasted).”

This second t-shirt (text below) is sold on Amazon.com:

Text:

two beers $7
three margaritas $15
four jello shots $20
Taking home the girl who
drank all of the above…
Priceless

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


In this ten-minute talk, super-famous psychologist Philip Zimbardo talks about cultural differences in the perception and orientation towards time… and  how that translates into boys dropping out of high school and underperforming in college.  How does he make the link?  Watch:

Via BoingBoing.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.