Philip Cohen, at Family Unequal, used FBI crime reports to put together this telling graph:


We need to remember that Steubenville is us and we are Steubenville.

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.

Originally posted in 2008. Re-posted in honor of Women’s History MonthCross-posted at Racialicious.

The marketing for beach-related vacation destinations often capitalizes on the association of foreign beaches with (partly) naked bathing beauties. This intersection of race, gender, and sexuality that positions the “ethnic” woman as particularly sexually accessible have deep roots in our colonial past in which foreign lands “open” to conquest by the Western world were conflated with foreign women “open” to conquest by Western men.

The “Hula Girl” is a case in point.

Hawaii was colonized by the U.S. and, when the islands became a tourism destination, Polynesian women were transformed into Hawaiian babes ready and waiting to please tourists from the mainland.

One transformation was the hula. Widely understood to be an “authentic” Polynesian tradition, the hula was actually originally mostly a man’s dance. It was religious. It involved chanting and no music. There were no hip movements, just gestures. Basically, it was story-telling.

Today, the men take a back seat to women, who are scantily clad in grass skirts (not authentic, by the way), and perform exaggerated hip movements to music. So the hula is an invention, designed by colonizers and capitalists, to highlight the appeal of “foreign” women.

Despite the constructed nature of the hula girl, she’s been used to market Hawaii for over 100 years.  Here is an image of hula girls sent back to the mainland way back in 1890:

And from the 1940s (from IslandArtCards):


1965, via Jassy-50:


This picture was snapped by my friend Jason at a Trader Vic’s restaurant in 2008:

A Google Image search for “Hawaii postcard” in 2013 reveals that about half include the figure of a woman:


The phenomenon is a common one: women are treated as objects of beauty and aesthetic pleasure — exotified, in the case of “foreign” or darker-skinned women — and used to embellish a place or experience.  While lots of things have changed for women since the beginning of this particular example in the late 1800s, their role as decoration resists retirement.

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 short video, Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown of AsapSCIENCE discuss the neurological processes behind porn addiction. High levels of porn consumption, they argue, can create a feedback loop that molds sexual desires and behaviors.

Looking at porn, then, doesn’t just reflect a person’s existing desires and preferences; it’s a mechanism for creating new ones or channeling them in particular directions. This is the problem critics such as Cindy Gallop see with the narrow, unrealistic (and often violently misogynistic) set of messages about sexuality that porn offers us.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

The representation of sexuality and safer sex in public health campaigns is fascinating given our simultaneous cultural obsession with yet pathologization of sexual behavior.  Safer sex campaigns and materials not only seek to increase prevention behaviors but also produce a range of social meanings surrounding gender, bodies, and desire.  Most are produced by organizations that fall well within the mainstream; others are not.  This post is about one of the latter (warning: sexual explicitness).

The following resource, titled “Top 5 Reasons to Fuck a Transguy” was produced and distributed by a collaborative project of the San Francisco-based Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center.  tm4m is a group for transgender men whose goal is to “provide information, education and support to transmen who have sex with men (both other transguys and cisguys).”


This material is interesting for two main reasons.  First, it combines traditional health education with an erotic, sex-positive context that is missing from most public health campaigns.  For the most part, public health approaches to HIV prevention and sexual health promotion utilize a “sex-negative” approach to sexual behavior; in other words, sex is represented as potentially dangerous or problematic and focus narrowly focused on its negative aspects, such as disease transmission.  Even more progressive “comprehensive” approaches to sexual health education (that is, approaches that do not focus solely on abstinence) tend to center on the potentially dangerous outcomes of sex and how to prevent them while ignoring the pleasurable and fun aspects of sexuality.

In contrast, “5 Reasons to Fuck a Transguy” depicts a naked transman with safer sex barriers (condom and a glove) and uses explicit language (“fuck” instead of “sex” and “cock” instead of “penis”) and imagery.  For example, in reason #2 we see two people about to engage in strap-on play and in #5 we see a guy that appears to be receiving oral sex or relaxing in a state of post-sex ecstasy.  This sort of language and imagery is absent from the vast majority of sexual health promotion materials aimed at a wide variety of populations.  Thus, in “5 Reasons to Fuck a Transguy,” safer sex is not presented as distinct and separate from sexual pleasure.

Second, the material uses an embodied approach to highlight differences between trans and cisgender men while at the same time eroticizing that difference.  Starting with reason #1 (“trans guys are hot”) we are invited to see the transmale body as the object of desire.  Reasons #2, #3, and #4 call attention to the physical differences between cisgender and transgender male bodies and eroticizes the latter by emphasizing interchangeable cock sizes, more holes to penetrate, and smaller hands for fisting (or using the whole hand for penetration).  Finally, reason #5 alludes to a fetishization of transmen: the transgender body incites curiosity that will ultimately pay off in enhanced pleasure.

Not everyone agrees this is good.  Some posts on Tumblr challenged the idea that transgender men are a sort of erotic “other” or that they will necessarily consent to the activities depicted in the pamphlet:

You better not assume I’m comfortable using the one that “other” guys don’t have and you better not assume that being a guy means I’d be up for being fucked in the ass, either. Go fuck yourself and make your own goddamn third hole.

The “your dick can be any size you want!” argument is like telling a female-identified survivor of breast cancer who’s had a mastectomy “your tits can be any size you want!”

Just because I don’t have my own natural cock doesn’t make me this insane sex toy thing that’s such an anomaly and such a fetish object and so very very strange and different.

So, despite the disclaimer that “every transguy is unique,” some viewers saw the material’s approach as a problemtic eroticization of their bodies and gender.

In sum, “5 Reasons to Fuck a Transguy” moves beyond typical sexual health promotion approaches to include desire and pleasure, but doesn’t avoid the problem of sending its own cultural messages about gender, bodies, and desire, ones that may be problematic from an entirely different point of view.

Christie Barcelos is a doctoral candidate in Public Health/Community Health Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Originally posted in 2009. Re-posted in honor of Women’s History Month; cross-posted at Mental Floss.

Several factors were in play in the 1920s for the emergence of what came to be known as flappers, teenagers and young women who flaunted convention and spent their time pursuing fun instead of settling down to raise children in the prime of their lives. Many entered college or the workforce and felt entitled to make their own decisions about how to live their lives.


A lot of young men did not return home from World War I, which left an entire cohort of women without enough husbands to go around. The horror of the war (and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918) also impressed young people with the knowledge that life is short and could end at any moment. Instead of staying home preparing to marry a man who might never come, young women wanted to spend what time they had enjoying all that life had to offer.


Movies popularized the image of the fun-loving and free-thinking woman throughout the US and Europe. The 1920 movie The Flapper introduced the term in the United States. The title character, Ginger, was a wayward girl who flouted the rules of society. Played by Olive Thomas, a former Ziegfeld Girl (left), Ginger had so much fun that a generation of lonely young women wanted to be like her. Another role model was stage and screen actress Louise Brooks (right), who also modeled for artists and fashion designers. She was the inspiration for the flapper comic strip Dixie Dugan.



Clara Bow wasn’t the first flapper on screen, but she was certainly a role model for young women of the era. She didn’t play by the rules, and was tabloid fodder for years for her sexual escapades with the biggest movie stars of the time. Bow’s first film was in 1922 and her career peaked in 1927 with the film It. “It” was defined as the sexual allure some girls have and others don’t. Bow’s fans wanted “it”, so they copied her look and behavior.


The rise of the automobile was another factor in the rise of flapper culture. Cars meant a woman could come and go as she pleased, travel to speakeasys and other entertainment venues, and use the large vehicles of the day for heavy petting or even sex.


These young women had plenty of opportunities for fun. Although Prohibition drove alcohol underground, that only added to its allure. Postwar prosperity allowed for leisure time and the means to spend that time drinking, dancing, and hanging out with free thinkers.


Being a flapper wasn’t all about fashion. It was about rebellion. In this article from 1922, a would-be flapper (but still a “nice girl”) explains her lifestyle choices to her parents. Flappers did what society did not expect from young women. They danced to Jazz Age music, they smoked, they wore makeup, they spoke their own language, and they lived for the moment. Flapper fashion followed the lifestyle. Skirts became shorter to make dancing easier. Corsets were discarded in favor of brassieres that bound their breasts, again to make dancing easier. The straight shapeless dresses were easy to make and blurred the line between the rich and everyone else. The look became fashionable because of the lifestyle. The short hair? That was pure rebellion against the older generation’s veneration of long feminine locks.


The party stopped when the economy crashed and the Great Depression curtailed the night life. Although the flapper lifestyle died along with the Roaring Twenties, the freedoms women tasted in that era weren’t easily given up. They may have gone back to marriage and long hours of toil for little pay, but hemlines stayed above the ankle, and the corset never went back to everyday status. And we’ve been driving cars ever since.

Miss Cellania is a newlywed mother of four, full-time blogger, former radio announcer, and worst of all, a Baby Boomer. In addition to mental_floss, she posts at Neatorama, YesButNoButYes, Geeks Are Sexy, and Miss Cellania. Miss C considers herself an expert on no particular subject at all.

Re-posted to add to the discussion about sexual assault and rape culture in the aftermath of the Steubenville verdict.

On the heels of yesterday’s cartoon making light of lynching published in Eastern Michigan University’s newspaper, Michaela N. submitted an intended-to-be-humorous visual making light of rape in The Purdue Exponent, the Purdue University student newspaper.  Part of a “sex position of the week” series, this one suggests that one man should pass a female partner off to another man without her knowledge.

This is another piece of evidence that suggests that we live in a rape culture: a society that, at best, trivializes and, at worst endorses, sexual assault.

UPDATE: Zoe Hayes, editor-in-chief of The Purdue Exponent, sent along a note asking that we link to their apology.  To their credit, unlike the non-apology issues in the case of the lynching cartoon linked to above, they express genuine empathy, remorse, and responsiveness.

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, and t-shirts endorsing sex with “drunk girls”.

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.

Re-posted to add to the discussion about sexual assault in the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial, the Senate hearing on rape and harassment in the military, and the controversy at Occidental College.

This screenshot of the front page of The Sun is an excellent example of the eroticization of violence against women and our insistent denial of it:


The article is a condemnation of a video game in which the goal is to rape a mother and her two daughters (and force them to have abortions if they get pregnant).   They call the game “sick” and “shocking,” but also include a huge picture of the virtual rape victim sexily stripping down to her underwear.  Twisty, at I Blame the Patriarchy, observes that “…in terms of screen real estate, titillating images take up more space on the Sun’s web page than actual copy…”

Notice, also, the “related story” about a girl murdered who had reported rape threats and then, to the right of that, a dating advertisement featuring a couple of girls making bedroom eyes at the viewer.

This is what rape culture looks like: a story about a video game that encourages players to rape and otherwise torture women and girls, alongside titillating images from that very game; a story about a “girl” who had actually been murdered, alongside a photo of her looking invitingly into the camera; and a dating website.  With this material like this, we learn that sex, violence, and women aren’t separate concepts.  Instead of learning to think about sex, violence, and women, we learn to think about, and fantasize about, sexviolencewomen.

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.

Chilling video taken at a high school party in Steubenville, Ohio in which attendees laugh and joke about an unconscious 16-year-old allegedly raped and sodomized by members of the football team, propelled the case into the national spotlight earlier this winter.

The deeply disturbing video focuses on Steubenville High School alum Michael Nodianos as he holds court with a grim comedy show, cracking up to quips such as, “They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson!” and “They raped her more than the Duke lacrosse team!” Those with the stomach to endure the entire 12-minute video hear the victim repeatedly referred to as “dead,” offering ugly details including, “They peed on her! That’s how you know she’s dead because someone pissed on her.” The death motif is so amusing to those involved that it leads to a litany of references to her being “deader than” everyone from Caylee Anthony to Trayvon Martin.

Trigger warning:

The video combined with other digital remains of the attack mined from Twitter and Instagram stirred public outrage at the accused perpetrators, at the bystanders who failed to intervene, and at adults — coaches, police, prosecutor, and parents — perceived as having been complicit in covering up the assault, preferring to sweep the violence under the rug to protect the football team and the young men on it. Protests sprouted around the courthouse and are expected to resume on Wednesday as the trial begins.

This video and other digital souvenirs of violence, such as the photos taken and circulated of Savannah Deitrich while she was sexually assaulted, may or may not have significant legal consequences. Yet their cultural legacy — the opportunity they have to undermine our most resilient rape myths — has the potential to be even weightier.

Read the rest of this article at WBUR’s Cognoscenti.