Screenshot_1Earlier on SocImages, Lisa Wade drew attention to the tourism industry’s commodification of Polynesian women and their dancing. She mentioned, briefly, how the hula was made more tourist-friendly (what most tourists see when they attend one of the many hotel-based luaus throughout the islands is not traditional hula).  In this post, I want to offer more details on the history and the differences between the tourist and the traditional hula.

First, Wade states that, while female dancers take center stage for tourists, the traditional hula was “mostly” a men’s dance.  While it has not been determined for certain if women were ever proscribed from performing the hula during the time of the Ali’i (chiefs), it seems unlikely that women would have been prevented from performing the hula when the deity associated with the hula is Pele, a goddess. Furthermore, there is evidence that women were performing the dance at the time of Captain James Cook’s arrival in Hawai’i.

Second, while the traditional dances were not necessarily sexualized, they were very sensual.  The movement of hips and legs that are seen as sexual by some visitors, and showcased as such by the tourism industry, certainly existed in early practices.

In fact, the supposedly lascivious and blasphemous nature of the hula prompted missionaries to censure the public practice of hula, and in 1830 Queen Ka’ahumanu enacted a law prohibiting the public performance of the hula. This law was highly ineffective, however, and when King Kalakaua ascended the throne he actively encouraged public hula performances and other expressions of Native Hawaiian culture, earning him the moniker “Merrie Monarch.”

Eventually, a modernized dance emerged that did not incorporate much religiosity and employed modern music rather than chants. This is closer to what you would find at a hotel luau, but differs drastically in costuming and lacks the uncomfortable cloud of objectification associated with hotel-style hula (that is, the focus is on the dance rather than the dancers).  Below are some examples of the evolution.

Hula (men’s dance, traditional):

Hula (contemporary):

These examples of hula, and other Polynesian dances, are vastly different from what one finds in a hotel’s “Polynesian Revue” luau.

Hula (hotel):

In conclusion, it is true that the hula dances, and other dances of Polynesia, have been usurped by the tourism industry and commodified.  The culturally authentic forms, however, still thrive. Native dances are impressive enough without the ridiculous costuming and disrespectful bending of the islands’ histories seen at hotel luaus; unfortunately, it is difficult to find any culturally sensitive displays of Polynesian culture due to the huge influence of tourism over these locations.

*The information in this post was gleaned from various courses I’ve taken at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. For more information on hula and the commodification of the Hawaiian culture, see Haunani-Kay Trask’s From A Native Daughter.

Sarah Neal is currently working on obtaining her M.A. in English at North Carolina State University.

Cross-posted at Girl w/ Pen.

Having written about sexually transmitted HPV (human papillomavirus) for 13 years, I’ve been waiting for the day when a celebrity would lend his or her fame to spotlight the realities of HPV infection, especially of HPV-related oral cancers.  That day has come: this week Michael Douglas has announced that his cancer was caused by an HPV infection that was likely transmitted through oral sex.  The mucus membrane tissue of mouth and throat are similar to those of genital skin, so researchers have known for some time that, like herpes, HPV could be transmitted oral to genital, as well as genital to oral.

My hopes are that big news can be a long-needed catalyst for change.  Back in 2009, the research findings were already clear: oral transmission of cancer-causing HPV means that almost all of us are more likely at risk than we are safe from risk.  For my 2010 feature article in Ms. Magazine, I focused on the importance of not only educating the public about HPV-related cancers in men but also about the HPV-oral cancer link. In addition, I advocated for the need to destigmatize all STDs: my research and book have shown that STD stigma makes it more likely for at-risk/infected  individuals to put off getting tested and treated. STD stigma also makes it less likely for individuals to disclose their sexual health status to partners, placing those partners at greater risk for infection.  In addition, negative stereotypes about the “types” of women and men likely to be infected distort our ideas of who is at risk.

I’ll wrap up this post with a call: for us to come together, to learn the facts and not be swayed by incomplete media coverage and confusing pharmaceutical claims.  We must support significant funding increases to investigate exactly how we can prevent HPV-related oral/throat cancers, which research shows to be steadily on the rise and more fatal than cervical cancers in the U.S.

Adina Nack is the author of Damaged Goods? and a professor of Sociology at California Lutheran University.  She specializes in medical sociology, gender inequality, and sexual health and writes for Girl w/ Pen.

This week Michael Douglas’ announced that his oral cancer was caused by a virus (human papillomavirus) likely transmitted through oral sex.  Media coverage, however, has been conflating the virus and the sexual activity with headlines like this:

ABC News:


FOX News:


San Francisco Chronicle:


The day after the story broke, Douglas’ representatives clarified that his cancer wasn’t caused by cunnilingus, but by the virus itself.

This is an interesting example of the way that a practice can be falsely conflated with a disease.  It brings back the fantastical stories of the 1800s that masturbation was the cause of  liver, kidney, and lung disease; arthritis; headache, memory loss, epilepsy, and neurological problems; back pain; impotence; cancer; and death.

Like masturbation was (and maybe still is), cunnilingus is taboo enough that it can be made into the villain in a story about cancer.  Imagine, as a counterfactual, a headline that said that syphilis was caused by sexual intercourse.  This is clearly wrong.  We all know that syphilis is transmitted by unprotected sexual intercourse.  As Douglas’ confession reveals, and the data demands, it’s about time we were as comfortable talking about the risks and rewards of cunnilingus.

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.

Cross-posted at VitaminW.

In 2006, The Walt Disney Company bought the computer-animated feature film powerhouse Pixar.  This makes the lead of their most recent movie, Brave (2012), not just a princess, but a Disney Princess.  Merida is having a royal coronation at the Magic Kingdom this morning.

For her coronation, the princess has gotten a good ol’ Disney makeover. On the left is the new Merida (“after”) and on the right is the old Merida (“before”).  Notice any differences?


Here are the ones that I see:

  • Sleeker, longer hair with more body
  • Larger eyes and more arched eyebrows
  • Plumper lips
  • A thinner waist
  • More obvious breasts
  • An overall more adult and less adolescent appearance
  • Lighter colored and more ornate gown
  • A lower cut neckline that also shows more shoulder
  • Perhaps most symbolically, her bow and arrows have disappeared in favor of a fashionable belt

We’ll add the new Merida to our always-growing collection of toys and logos that have received sexy make-overs.  You’ll love this Pinterest page, featuring a surprising set of newly sexy characters, including Care Bears, Polly Pockets, Holly Hobbie, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, Cabbage Patch Kids, Dora the Explorer, and the Trollz.

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.

Cross-posted at The Ethical Adman.

So it turns out there’s this company that makes “zombie” targets for gun enthusiasts. They have clown zombies, nazi zombies, “terrorist” zombies, dog zombies and even a green zombie named “Rocky” that has Barack Obama’s ears.

And one woman.


Here’s their explanation:

The Zombie virus does not discriminate and neither does Zombie Industries.  We take preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse seriously, which is why we strive to have all groups of undead monsters represented in our product selection.  In addition to the Ex Girlfriend Zombie, we currently sell 15 male zombies, 5 animal zombies & 2 aliens… to discriminate against Women by not having them represented in our product selection would be just plain sexist.

Each of the zombie targets has a story.  Here is the story of “The Ex”:

Be warned, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned but a man scorned is nothing to mess with! A young gent from Louisiana, we’ll call him André to protect his identity, was deeply committed to his one true love and her to him, or so he thought. While partying with her friends during one particular Mardi Gras, she took several suitors over the course of the festivities. André felt something odd indeed, so he paid a visit to his great aunt, Marie, who helped him see the truth. With a few eggs, candles lit and kiss upon his forehead, her voodoo curse was set in motion. Late each night while lying in bed, a smile would appear across his face, for a slight breeze would travel through a cracked window bringing with it, a faint whiff of decay and a unnatural cry of regret.

That’s right. In this narrative, a man kills a woman for cheating on him, and has her turned into a zombie. Which you, bro, are now invited to blow to bits.


Despite the game-like zombie theme, it is notable that the single human female representation has been created specifically as a target of violent male anger towards a woman’s ownership of her own sexuality.  And “The Ex” is portrayed in a highly sexual way, with what seems to be a bare lower torso and busting out chest.

Policymic writes, “Every day, at least three women are killed by an intimate partner in the US alone.  Let’s make sure those numbers go down, not up. Let’s make sure companies like Zombies Industries know that we’re not buying it.”

Some people, however, are buying it. And this is what’s most troubling.

From the product reviews:

This Zombie Bitch is awesome, reminds me of a girl I knew in High School, My LMT LM308MWS should put a stop to the undead bring them on !!! Later Party till you drop Corvette forever !!!!!


I love that this target looks like Britney Spears and it bleeds when I shot it.

And from YouTube:1

Tom Megginson is a Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. He is a specialist in social marketing, cause marketing, and corporate social responsibility. You can follow Tom at

1Research has shown that college students largely think that asking for sexual consent — “Do you want to have sex?” — “ruins the mood.”  This is partly because it violates their sexual script, the norms and expectations that guide sexual encounters.

If explicit consent violates the sexual script, then students are left trying to discern consent from more subtle and implicit verbal and non-verbal cues.  I did a research project to determine how they do this, interviewing 19 college students about their perceptions of sexual consent in popular television programs. 

I discovered that students often interpreted the same scenes dramatically differently. For example, I showed them this scene from The Vampire Diaries:

Eleven of my 19 respondents brought up the issue of verbal consent.  Five said the verbal interchange in the scene indicated consent; six said it did not.  Their contrasting perceptions focused on the male character’s statement, “Let’s get out of here.”  The five students who saw the scene as consensual were inclined to classify the declaration, “Let’s get out of here” as the moment where verbal consent is given.  For example, Hannah said:

…like I mean he doesn’t outright say “do you wanna have sex” but he says “do you want to get out of here” and she’s like “yes.”  That’s like the only one where there’s like an actual yes! [giggling] I mean like a verbal yes.

Hannah said the scene indicated consent because she equated “getting out of here” with sex.

In contrast, Natalie and five others disagreed with Hannah and those who considered the verbal exchange between Tyler and Caroline to be a form of verbal consent:

No, I would say, there was like no talk of consent, really… In the Vampire Diaries one, by him saying like, “let’s get out of here,” there might be an assumption associated with that and then her saying, “Okay,” like could be consent, quote, unquote.  But, I don’t really think that qualifies, either.

Natalie believed there was a correct way to obtain verbal consent.  When I asked her what would make this scene consensual, Natalie replied, “Basically saying ‘Do you want to, do you want to go through with this?’—something like that.”  Obviously, Natalie viewed consent as a different kind of verbal question.

The differences in these responses to The Vampire Diaries scene are striking. While verbal consent is often held up as the gold standard, I found disagreement as to exactly which statements constitute consent.  This disagreement sets the stage for serious miscommunication about students’ sexual intentions.  Some students interpret a phrase such as “Do you want to leave?” as “Do you want to leave this party and have sex at my house?” while other students believe that only a phrase such as “Do you agree to have sex with me?” communicates sexual consent.

Nona Gronert will graduate from Occidental College this May with a degree in Sociology and Spanish Literary Studies.  She aspires to become a professor of Sociology.

Clearly depicting a sexual encounter between two women, this billboard — posted on Doheny Drive in Los Angeles — looks like it would undermine heteronormativity: an invisibility of same-sex sexual and romantic relationships.


In fact, I don’t think it does.  For one, the aim of the advertisement is to appeal to male consumers. The women’s appearance is in conformity with the demands of the hypothetical heterosexual male gaze.  They have long groomed hair and are wearing sexy lingerie and make-up. They are arching their backs and sticking out their busts and butts. The performance of male gaze-compliant femininity is clear, making the male viewer an implicit part of the advertisement.  This enforces heterosexuality and promotes heternormativity instead of undermining it.

Moreover – and stay with me here – that implicit male manifests himself symbolically in the shaft of the champagne bottle.  The woman’s hand gripping the bottle turns this image into a depiction of a threesome rather than a lesbian encounter. This billboard, then, reinforces heterosexuality instead of disrupting it.

Sianni Rosenstock is a freshman at Occidental College. She is an intended Sociology major and Studio Art minor. 

I first posted these posters on SocImages in 2008. They are designed to scare teenagers into taking precautions against pregnancy by demonizing teenagers who get (someone) pregnant. The way in which teens are portrayed in these images — labeled cheap, dirty, rejects, pricks, and nobodys — suggests that the organization, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, doesn’t care about teenagers, only in controlling their behavior.

This is the sentence that runs along the left vertical with the word “reject” extracted in bold: “I had sex so my boyfriend wouldn’t REJECT me. Now, I have a baby. And no boyfriends.”

“Now that I’m home with a baby, NOBODY calls me anymore.”

“All it took was one PRICK to get my girlfriend pregnant. At least that’s what her friends say.”

“Condoms are CHEAP. If we’d used one, I wouldn’t have to tell my parents I’m pregnant.”

“I want to be out with my friends. Instead, I’m changing DIRTY diapers at home.”

In response to ads like these, sociologist Gretchen Sisson has started a tumblr of examples of anti-teen pregnancy PSAs that use fear, shame, and threats as motivators, sent to me by @annajobin.  Here’s the one I found most stunning; I think it goes something like don’t-drink-and-party-or-you’ll-get-raped-and-pregnant-and-your-life-will-be-horrible-and-oh-your-child-will-become-a-rapist-too:

Here are a set of ads that try to convince women not have (unprotected) sex with their male peers by suggesting that the men showing interest in them are bad guys who will inevitably abandon them:

1 2 3And here are a set that use simple threats to get across their message:

1 2 3About her tumblr, Sisson writes:

Public service announcements that claim to be about “preventing teen pregnancy” are more frequently about shaming and stigmatizing young parents. This is not a way to encourage young people to take control of their reproductive lives, and it’s certainly not a way to support young families.

Nor is it a way to support teenagers who are negotiating complicated interpersonal terrain and making difficult decisions.  These ads are about getting teenagers to do what we want, not helping them figure out what’s best for them.  They caricature the actual lives of teenagers and make early parenthood into a comical boogeyman.  Moreover, they send a clear message to the teenagers that do get pregnant: “you’re a slut/idiot and your life is over.”  This is not good for young parents and it sets them up to fail.

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.