Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Things: 2014

As I look back and reflect on 2014, I realize it was a great year for women's voices and stories, especially in entertainment. Feminism became cool this year and there were so many moments of inspiration. And by feminism I mean not only the movement, but also just the general equality of voices heard and stories told. Here were some of my favorite moments in entertainment...

Three Fave Films: 

Besides the fact that this is just a great human story and a beautifully written/directed/photographed/acted movie, I was particularly struck by how groundbreaking it felt. I suddenly realized how rare it is not only to see a female adventure story, but also to simply see a major movie with a wide release that is centered around a real, complicated, flawed woman character. Now that I've had a taste of this "genre," I want more.

Obvious Child
I love everything about this movie. I love Jenny Slate, I love seeing a hilarious woman tell fart jokes, I love the fact that it's a comedy about abortion where the main tension of the film is not will she or won't she get an abortion. She's getting one--that's just the set up. It also portrays a particularly beautiful and honest relationship between two people and has one of the most likable romantic lead male characters I've seen on film in quite some time.

As a child of the 90s, this movie feels particularly sentimental to me, in the best way. Even just the soundtrack, which traverses everything from old school Coldplay to contemporary Arcade Fire, sent me on a bittersweet trip down memory lane. This movie somehow captures the human condition so beautifully in its literal slice-of-life storytelling. The scenes have incredible tension but, like in life, most tension peters out and doesn't end in the big explosion I found myself expecting. And Patricia Arquette's performance is such a beautiful representation of all the complication of what it is to be a mother.

Fave Doc: The Empowerment Project
"What would you do if you weren't afraid to fail?" In 2013, Sarah Moshman asked herself this question. Her answer was, she would take an all-female crew across the country to interview "ordinary women doing extraordinary things"--from an astronaut to a mathematician to Miss USA 2012. This doc is truly empowering and should be required viewing for every young person everywhere, particularly young girls.

Fave New TV Show: Transparent
There are so many awesome things about this new Amazon show, created by Jill Soloway. What strikes me in particular is the representation of female sexuality, which is shown in all its wonderful complication in a totally unique way I've never seen before on television. The cast is perfect, the writing is hilarious and heartbreaking, LA looks beautiful. I just want to live with these characters awhile longer.

Fave Periodical: Bust Magazine
Bust is not a new magazine--it's been "BUSTing stereotypes about women since 1993." But I'm still shocked that not everyone I know reads it. I myself stumbled across Bust when I moved into a new apartment in New Orleans and the woman who lived there before me had a subscription. That was back in 2011; I've been hooked ever since. Bust always seems to be talking about exactly what I'm thinking and feeling at that particular moment in my life. It has its finger on the pulse of the coolest developments in feminism, pop culture, entertainment. I'm constantly introduced to new female voices that soon become my faves (like the Guys We Fucked podcast, see below).

Fave Podcast: Guys We Fucked: The Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast
Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson. I love these gals. Every week I tune in to their podcast to hear them candidly talk about my favorite subjects: sex, masturbation, porn, you get the idea. Their desire to unveil female sexuality is totally in line with everything I believe in. Not only that, but they are also fucking funny and I simply enjoy hanging out with them as they riff on everything from monogamy to butt plugs. They're my kinda gals.

Fave Fiction: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
There is nothing feminist about this book--it's just a great story with great characters and it happens to be written by a woman. The story unfolds gradually and surprisingly in an unexpected and compelling narrative. It reads like a young woman's memoir with an incredible twist, and through her telling of events, we gradually come to realize she may not be the most reliable narrator. I don't want to give anything away--you just have to read it for yourself.

Fave Non-Fiction: What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire by Daniel Bergner
I was convinced a woman wrote this book. The deep exploration of the many extraordinary facets of female sexuality is endlessly interesting. Some of the experiments Bergner writes about made me realize things I didn't even know about my own sexuality. If you've ever been curious about the inner workings of female desire, this is a must read.

Fave Epic Moment for Feminism: Emma Watson's UN Speech
I don't know what to say about this that hasn't already been said, but I just appreciate that this happened in 2014. I appreciate that one of the most popular 20-something actresses of the moment stood up for feminism this year. That was pretty fucking great. Especially in making "feminist" a cool thing to be, an identity younger generations of girls and boys can get behind.

Fave Male Feminist: Aziz Ansari
Thank you, hilarious man person, for clarifying the definition of feminism for those who are still unclear--that men and women should have equal rights--and for encouraging people who believe that to call themselves feminists. "Because that is how words work."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Full Disclosure

When you strive to share every personal experience about your body and sex life with the world at large, the response is inevitably mixed. My grandmother recently watched this short film I co-wrote/directed/produced which opens with three young women (me being one of them) talking about sex and masturbation in the kitchen while the men are outside by the grille talking about babies and fatherhood. My grandmother wanted to know if us girls really talk that openly about sex. Yes, I said. We do. This scene was based entirely on real things that my girlfriends and I actually said. My grandmother was amazed.
“In my day, my girlfriends and I just didn’t talk about that stuff,” she said.
But she wasn’t put off by it like I thought she might be. She was simply in awe.

When I was home recently, we had some of my parents’ friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. Our guests included the parents of my best friend growing up. They too had seen my film. The mother of my friend, after a couple glasses of wine, openly expressed that she found it to be a little shocking. That we would actually talk like that. She too wanted to know if it was based in reality. She mentioned that she also found Girls to be shocking in the way they talk about sex. I weighed my options: change the subject or engage. Obviously, I chose the latter.
“I personally love this new openness. I feel like sex has been cloaked in shame for so long, especially for women, and I think it’s good to talk about these things,” I said.
Two of the older women at the table piped up in unison: “We weren’t ashamed. We were just embarrassed.”
“I just feel like, sex is the most natural thing after, what, eating and peeing.” I couldn’t help myself. My parents laughed and shared a look between them, uncomfortable and embarrassed. “Why is something so natural still considered so shameful and like we shouldn’t talk about it?”
My friend’s mother asked her younger daughter (early 20s), also at the table, if she talked as candidly with her girlfriends about sex.
“Yeah.” She blinked, unfazed.
Her mom looked surprised. “Oh. Okay.”
Someone brought up the recent attack on Lena Dunham for being a “sexual predator” for looking into her little sister’s vagina when she was seven.
“I’m so sick of that name Lena Dunham,” said the father of my friend.
“That made me so mad,” I ramped up for my tirade but, looking around the table, realized I had lost my audience. They’re of a different generation, and no matter what I say, I won’t convince them that we should all be talking about sex and masturbation over Thanksgiving dinner. The topic changed to Ferguson and the decision to not indict the cop who shot Michael Brown, something we could all agree was fucked up.

When I first told my mom I was going to write this blog, she was concerned for my safety.
“You’re really going to write about your sex life on the Internet?”
I chose to make the blog anonymous. Not because I was ashamed, but because I wanted the freedom to write about the guys I fucked and if everyone knew I wrote the blog, I felt it would skew my subjects’ behavior towards me or I wouldn’t be comfortable being utterly candid about my experiences, knowing they might read it.

In the early days of the blog, Mom used to read it. Then she called me one day, outraged. She had just read about a particularly heinous interaction with Gaffer Guy that left me crying on the floor, covered in hot soup.
“Why are you sleeping with this asshole who treats you like shit?” She rightfully wanted to know. I didn’t know how to explain the animal magnetism between us, the fact that I couldn’t get enough of him, despite the fact (or maybe because of it) he was a complete asshole.
As I tried to justify myself, Mom started crying. “It’s really hard for me to read about this. I just don’t understand. I mean, do you have to write about this stuff?”
This made me mad and I exploded at her, “Yes, I do! This is my experience! And you know what, you just shouldn’t read it anymore.”
“Yes, I don’t think I will,” she sniffled into the phone.
And that was that. Mom stopped reading my blog. Which was good actually, because it allowed me a new level of freedom to be even more honest and uncensored and not worry about her getting upset. I actually admire the incredible self-control she exhibits in knowing her daughter writes a sex blog and choosing not to read it. From time to time, if I write one I think she will like and that is light on the sex-with-assholes factor, I will recommend it to her.

As for my dad, he too knows I write the blog and he too chooses not to read it. Actually, that second part was my mom’s idea. But one day, Dad called me out of the blue and said, “I read your last blog.”
“Oh, really?” I held for his reaction.
“It was hilarious. The writing is great, and I love the way the story unfolded. That guy is ridiculous.” He was referring to the Studio Exec who picked me up in the park, fresh off his trip to Burning Man.
Dad laughed and started quoting the blog. “I love when [your ex] says ‘rock the cleavage’.” I couldn’t believe Dad was repeating my lines back to me, and laughing about it. I felt so moved I almost cried.

I suddenly feel the powerful urge to “come out,” to put my face on the blog, to publicly become the Slutty Feminist. Because I don’t want to hide. And it’s a different time than when my parents were growing up. My generation is one of disclosure. Any and all information about everyone and everything is at our fingertips, and nothing is private anymore. This is a mixed blessing, but one thing I find wonderful about it is that there is a resource now for shared experiences, and I think people are realizing they’re not alone. There’s a community for everyone, no matter your kinks or weirdness, to be found on the Internet. This is a great thing for female sexuality in particular, which has been shrouded in mystery and ignorance for so many generations. There is finally an outlet for women to share their stories and realize what they thought was weird or unnatural is actually totally normal. God knows sex education isn’t doing a great job of teaching us about our bodies and our desires, so we gotta figure it out for ourselves, on the Internet.

I listen to this wonderful podcast called Guys We Fucked: The Anti-Slut Shaming Podcast and these gals are not hiding behind a pseudonym. They are Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson and they are loud and proud about it. Every week, they have a guest on the podcast—usually guys they’ve fucked. It seems from the comments they read in the beginning of each show that a lot of their audience consists of teenage girls, which at first seemed a little dubious because they talk so candidly and explicitly about sex. But then I was like, no, this is good that these young girls are getting this perspective on sex. Because most of their sex education is probably coming from the endless steam of porn on the internet, most of which is made for men by men. I’m glad they’re getting a female side to the story, from two smart funny 20-something NYC gals. At least if they’re being prematurely exposed to sex, they have a chance at a balanced perspective, which is more than I can say for previous generations.

The more I read memoirs like Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants by Jill Soloway and Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham, I realize there is a community out there for women like me. I think that Jill and Lena would relate to my weird musings. Like the fact that every time I’m on a public bus, I imagine everyone as giant genitalia and I can’t help but picture the bus filled with enormous penises and vaginas; the sheer amount of genitalia surrounding us at any given moment never ceases to amaze me. I think about how so many of our interactions in the world can be linked back to our genitals, and how it’s amusing to me that this is the one thing it’s most socially unacceptable to talk about.

Although I’m sure it would make my parents and their friends cringe, I look forward to a time when we can all talk openly about fucking at Thanksgiving dinner. There’s something amazing that happens when people come out of the closet about sex and really start to hash it out. People’s faces light up. They get excited. I get the sense that this is the one thing people have been waiting to talk about, but they’ve never had permission or they’ve always been too embarrassed. It’s amazing to me what happens when I talk to strangers about my blog, because my candidness seems to give them permission to open up and suddenly I’m hearing about the sex lives of people I don’t even know. There’s an instant connection because we’ve skipped through the bullshit small talk and gotten to something real. Sex is something we all do and we all think about a lot of the time—it’s something we literally all have in common. So let’s fucking talk about it! Every time I get together with my girlfriends, of course sex always comes up, and every time we talk about it, I feel like real progress is being made. Sex is a powerful force, and something that women haven’t had ownership of for far too long. Owning it will be the final frontier for women’s equality and liberation. That’s what I think. (mic drop)

Monday, December 1, 2014

PUBES: A Love Letter to My Mom

I was home for the holiday this past week and whenever I’m home I can’t help but think about… pubes. Because my mom has a lot of them. She’s got a big ol’ bush I’ve seen a lot throughout my life. And while her bush seemed oh so natural and normal when I was little and didn’t know any better, now that I’m older and out in the world, I’m constantly shocked by the surface area and sheer depth of Mom’s bush compared with most of what I’ve seen since I left home. I’ve been a little obsessed with pubes lately, because it occurs to me that I don’t necessarily know what my girlfriends are rocking in their nether regions. And I want to know. Call me crazy but I want to know what everyone’s got going on down there.

I guess I’m the only person who was surprised to find that Jennifer Lawrence is totally shaved in her nethers. I finally caved and looked at the leaked photos (who has the self-control not to look, I mean really).
“Are we surprised that J.Law is totally bald down there?” I ask my friend Heidi.
“No. Everyone is.”
Heidi isn’t. I know that for a fact. I was at the birth of her son.
I share with her my recent experience with the little Jewish Man who criticized my landing strip.
“You have a landing strip and he complained?!” Heidi looks shocked and appalled. I think this is a reasonable reaction. I too was shocked and appalled, thinking at the time that I probably had a lot less pubes than a lot of chicks out there, and he should be lucky. I, for one, thought that Gaby Hoffmann was single-handedly bringing back pubic hair with the flashing of her admirable bush in both Girls and Transparent. Apparently, I was wrong.
This realization makes me want to interview every single one of my girlfriends and find out, once and for all, what kind of bush (or not) they’re growing.

I text a nude photo of myself to my best friend Sadie because I recently sent the same pic to Bartender and had not received any response (validation) in return.
“Wow. This photo makes me feel like I have a lot of pubic hair,” she laughs on the other end of the phone.
“Really? What kind of bush are you rocking?” I ask, eager as always to talk about pubes.
“Oh I don’t really do anything to it anymore. I just let it do its thing.”
She explains to me that she used to wax and groom and all that shit, and then she read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, and there was that whole section about how women should just leave their bushes alone. How women are meant to have bush and we should stop trying to look like little girls:
“In fact, in recent years I have become more and more didactic about pubic hair—to the point where I now believe that there are only four things a grown, modern woman should have: a pair of yellow shoes (they unexpectedly go with everything), a friend who will come and post bail at 4 a.m., a fail-safe pie recipe, and a proper muff. A big, hairy minge. A lovely furry moof that looks—when she sits, naked—as if she has a marmoset sitting in her lap.” (Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman)

“That was a turning point for me. I was like fuck it. And now I basically act sort of like a dude. Keep it clean but expend as little energy as possible,” Sadie tells me.
Wow. I’m impressed. Especially since my friend is a single, on the market woman in her 20s. Actively going on OKCupid dates and having sex with relative strangers. In a similar situation myself, I can’t imagine not grooming. It’s one thing if you’ve already got a boyfriend and you get lazy about the upkeep. She does live in Brooklyn, however, and I feel the New York aesthetic might be a little less porn-y than in LA.
I ask if a guy has ever said anything about it.
"I've never gotten any complaints," she says. We agree that good guys don't care.
"Do they go down on you?" I pry further.
"Well, I don't really like that."
I laugh. "Oh, so it's a defense mechanism to keep them from going down there."
Then she asks, “Dude. Is that laser hair removal reversible? You should fucking grow a bush and just see what it feels like.”
I deflect this suggestion by explaining that I feel sexier when I’m groomed.
“You should just try it,” she encourages me.
A couple days later, Sadie admits that, “After we talked last time I did lots of shame grooming.” This upsets me—I tell her I love that she has a loud and proud bush and don’t want her to change the way she feels about it because of me. It sometimes feels like our womanly pride is too precarious and easily toppled. Maybe I should grow a Bush.

Truth be told, with the laser hair removal I’ve gotten on my bikini line, I’m not sure how substantial of a bush I could actually grow at this point. I remember reading an article about merkins in Hollywood and how Kate Winslet had to wear one in The Reader because she couldn’t grow a full period-appropriate bush due to years of waxing in her youth. (The Reader is set in the 1930s, when getting a Brazilian simply wasn't an option.)

“Maybe the reason I feel sexier shaved is because I associate big bushes with my mom,” I wonder aloud.

Then we start musing about whether we think pubes are still political. And whether choosing not to shave is still a meaningful act, or if it’s just a personal choice thing at this point. I’m not sure. I mean, I’m a feminist and I have a pretty groomed situation. I don’t know if it would make me more of a feminist if I let that shit grow. Just like I don’t believe that hair color defines who you are. I choose to be a blond and don’t think that makes me any less smart.

In the town where I grew up, and where I spent Thanksgiving with my parents, the women not only no doubt rock formidable bushes under their homemade hemp skirts, many of them also enjoy some pretty serious armpit hair. And that is something I NEVER SEE in LA.
My friend Heidi tells me she kinda wants to let her pits grow but that she always lets it get to a certain point and then shaves.
“People treat you differently when you have hairy armpits,” she shares with me.
“Really? Are you sure that’s not just your own self-consciousness?”
“No! I swear to God, they treat me differently. They’re not as friendly. They look at you a certain way.”
This surprises me because Heidi runs in a pretty Earth Mother crowd. She slings meat at the farmers market amongst a flock of sustainable, organic, Los Angeles hippies. Even these people judge armpit hair?

I remember seeing an Us Weekly with Julia Roberts on the cover. She was wearing a sleeveless shirt and had her arm raised, ostensibly waving to fans. Under her arm, there was a little flurry of reddish armpit hair. Obviously this was the reason she was on the cover of this magazine, and the public was going ballistic. America's Sweetheart has body hair?! I remember feeling a little inner sigh of relief. Ahh Julia Roberts is a human woman who grows hair under her arms. Furthermore, in my young eyes, this immediately made my mom seem instantly cooler. For she too had hairy armpits all throughout my childhood. Now she shaves.

When I’m home for Thanksgiving, Mom tells me a story I’ve heard before but I always enjoy hearing again. When she lived in NYC in her youth, one Valentine’s Day, she shaved her pubes into a heart and bleached one half of it blond and dyed the other half black. She presented this “gift” to her boyfriend at the time, who was a designer and told her that her little romantic effort “lacked definition.” I tell her if you did that to a guy in his 20s now, he would run out of the room screaming.

I know at least a couple of my girlfriends have a fully shaved/lasered situation going on down there. No hair at all to speak of. One of my girlfriends who usually goes totally bare is doing a full nude scene in a low-budget sci-fi film and wants to know my opinion on what kind of pubic look she should rock. I suggest she leave a little triangle of hair because we’ve got a responsibility to not publicly propagate this notion that women should be totally hairless down there. I suggest it as a political statement.
Best Guy Friend chimes in.
“You should leave a little hair on top because it’s more aesthetically pleasing.”
This surprises me coming from him, who is usually so verbally opposed to hairy pussy because he doesn’t want to get hair in his mouth when he’s going down there. He explains that he doesn’t mind hair on top, he just doesn’t want it inside the pussy. And to be fair, he too is very groomed. He and I then get online and start looking for examples of good and bad pubic hair. I show him Bianca Stone, who is a porn star known for having an incredibly hairy pussy. Best Guy Friend can’t even stand to look at the photo of her spread-eagle. He can’t deal with the hair between her vagina and asshole. He just can’t.

When I go to the Korean Spa, I always enjoy looking at the different pubic variations. It is Los Angeles after all, so many women are pretty well groomed. But I don’t see many totally hairless pussies. Most women have something comparable to what I have going on. I love seeing the different sizes, shapes, and colors of women walking around totally unselfconscious. Strolling from one hot pool to the next. It’s also amazing to see all the different varieties of breasts. No breast is alike. I always feel an incredible sense of calm at the Korean Spa—like this is what the world would be like with no men. Not that I want a world without men (that would be boring), but there is something so peaceful about a room full of just women. Also because everyone is just letting their bushes and business hang out for the world to see, and no one gives a fuck. I once glanced across the room and saw a woman lying on her back on the heated floor. Her blanket had slipped and I found myself staring right up her vagina. I thought, how great is it that this is acceptable behavior at the Korean spa? Can you imagine if you were at a restaurant and you saw up a woman’s skirt and into her vagina, how appalled you would be? Not here in this Paradise without men, known as the Korean Spa.

I took my Mom to the spa when she was visiting me in LA. As we moved from the incredibly hot mugwort tea pool into the cold dip, I was suddenly overcome with love and emotion and I almost started to cry as I looked over at this woman who birthed me and who has been with me since the beginning. As I opened my mouth to express myself in some cheesy and heartfelt way, trying to keep the potential tears at bay, Mom eyed the parade of women walking past us, their crotches at eye level.
“Women in LA don’t have much pubic hair do they?” She said. I smiled and followed her gaze. No, Mom, no they don’t.