Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters; Puritans & Perverts by Joanna Russ . literary criticism . N8


An excellent collection of rather personal essays about literature from a liberal feminist perspective by a great writer. I am not a fan of Russ' fiction but the moment I started reading her non-fiction I was hooked. She's direct, easy to understand and profoundly coherent throughout.

Includes essays: 'Not From Years but For Decades’, 'News From The Front', ‘Pornography and the doubleness of sex for women’, 'Power and helplessness in the women’s movement’

'Being Against Pornography' focuses on how obsessing over one aspect of oppression makes us lose sight of the underlying oppression in every other aspect of our lives.

If pornography is bad because it tells lies about women, is it any worse than - or even different - from the rest of the culture? Patriarchal culture and ideology are nothing but lies about women. 12

‘Pornography by Women For Women; with Love’ is seminal essay about slash fandom in which Russ theorizes about the motives of slash readers and writers. It being 40 years old and fandom evolving faster than most things, it has details that don't work anymore but I find the overall thesis convincing.

Perhaps the worst result of isolating discussions of pornography from basic feminist theory is that what happens when we try to decide if a particular piece of material is or is not acceptable. Much material is perfectly clear - women being cut by chainsaws, for example - but what about recent feminist authored code which listed under women being degraded or humiliated “women inviting penetration”? This is the sort of detail that can keep us going for months; I myself can’t see “inviting penetration” as in any way degrading or humiliating per se - except of course that we still live in a culture taht believes coitus to be symbolic of male dominance and that talks about penetration rather than “the capture of the penis”. 12-13

[Quotes]Looking for personal confrontations and extreme cases of violence and coercion leaves us without theory and therefore helpless in the fame of male dominated institutions, some fo which look relatively benign and most of which are run not by open violence or coercion but by “normal” or even “polite”, “tactful”, even “pleasant” men.

There are many subtle ways of giving one’s time and energy to the patriarchy... and one is to become over-occupied with male psychology.... Even those who detest the patriarchy still find it difficult to become morally free of male power, of the massive and constant pull of men’s centrality, men’s importance, and the supposed ‘profound’ causes of men’s behaviour.


From ‘Introduction’.

Love Comics... they demanded things of me (looks, clothes, behavior) that I disliked, and they insisted on the superiority and importance of men in a way I detested and couldn’t connect with the little boys at camp. But they offered a great promise: that if only I would sacrifice my ambitions and most of my personality, I would be given a reward - they called it “love”. I knew it was somehow “sexual”. … I also knew those hearts and flowers and flashing lights when the characters kissed didn’t have anything to do with sex; they were supersex or ultrasex; they were some kind of transcendental ecstasy beyond ordinary life. they certainly didn’t have anything to do with masturbation or with what Carol Ellen and I were doing together.

I think now that the most attractive reward promised by Love Comics and later other fiction was freedom from responsibility and hence freedom from the burdens of being an individual... the love comics told me that i was no different than any other woman and when love came, i would no longer have to worry about being imprisoned in my lonely, eccentric selfhood..... I would be in love and I would never have to think again.


...that only if he would love me I could submerge my individuality in his, that he was a “real man” and that if i could only marry him I could give up “penis envy” and be a “real woman” 25

There’s immense social pressure in our culture to imagine a Lesbian as someone who never under any circumstances feels any attraction to any man, in fantasy or otherwise.....This idea of what a Lesbian is is a wonderful way of preventing anyone from ever becoming one; and when we adopt it, we’re simply doing the culture’s dirty work for it. There are no “real” Lesbians.... 29

...because i had spent so much time on the ohter end of it and I knew what that detachable parts business does to a woman’s sense of self. 30

Oddly enough, I don’t think I have ever felt guilty for sleeping with women, only that my real crime was not sleeping with men.

Unfortunately, there is something we all do that perpetuates the whole business, and that is treating fantasy as direct guide to action. Ie. what you can’t act out, you daydream. I don’t believe this. For years I did. I think now that fantasy, like any other language, must be interpreted, that it does not simply “translate” into behaviour, that what it’s most important about it is the compromise it shows and the underlying subject-matter at work in it. Fantasies about sex might not be about sex at all. 30-31

By the age of fifteen i was having two kinds of fantasies: either i was an effeminate, beautiful, passive man bbeing made love by another man or i was a strong, independent, able, active, handsome woman desguised as a man  who rescued another woman from misery. 31

Also, I was uneasy about wanting anybody else to be “the girl” since i knew what a rotten deal it was; i couldn’t imagine anyone choosing it voluntarily. 33

I think now the heterosexual masochistic fantasy was a way of sexualizing the situation i was in fact in, and that one of the things it “means” (in translation) is that i was being hurt and i knew i was being hurt because i was a woman, that it was not sexual at all (as i had been promised) ut that i wished to goodness it would be; then at least I would get sometihng out of it. I also suspect sadomasochism is a way of preventing genuine involvement, either he wasn’t emotionally there and present or I wasn’t. 34

I did want to sleep with men but only in my head and only under very specialized circumstances. 37

From ‘Not From Years but For Decades’

A strong woman is a woman in whose head

a voice is repeating, I told you so,

ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,

ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,

why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t

you soft, why aren’t you quiet,

why aren’t you dead?

Marge Piercey - “For Strong Women” from the moon is always female.

All oppressed people must be controlled. Since open force and economic coercion are practical only part of the time, ideology, that is, internalized oppression, the voice in the head - is brought in to fill the gap. When people discover their own power, governments tremble.

But the Feminine Imperative allows no self-help at all.

We exist for others.

But women are also terrified by female strength, women judge success in women to be the worst sin, women force women to be “unselfish”, women would rather be dead than strong, rather helpless than happy.

Feminist women, too.


Magic mommas take care of everybody, while Trembling Sisters accept their helpless as females. Both are angry, the ones because they can’t never provide enough and the others because they can never get enough from others.

For being taken care of is exactly what she deos not need. It reinforces her helplessness, while what she really needs is access to her own effectiveness - and that is something no one can give another person.

Our society runs on self-aggrandizement for men and self-abasement for women; talk of self-love terrifies men (for whom it means admitting interdependence and emotionality) while women can only expect that I’m recommending brutality and callousness.

To insist that women challenge their own fear of effectiveness and their own guilty for behaving effectively, to insist we both behave honestly and responsibly and risk hurting others’ feelings (which is hardly the worse thing in the world) is emphatically to disobey the FEminine Imperative, I’ts selfish. it isn’t sisterly. it isn’t “nice”.

But it is, I’m beginning to suspect, the feminist act..


To risk failure is bad enough. To risk success is even worse. After all, women have been burnt alive for claimining power which was, paradoxically, not enough to save them. 53

The complaint, “You are so strong and I am so helpless” hides the far worse one, “I am strong enough that my strength will get me into terrible trouble, and you are too weark to protect me if that happens.” 54

From ‘Power and helplessness in the women’s movement’

...Nobody validated our (perfectly correct) perceptions that sex, even without pregnancy, was far more dangerous for us, socially and psychologically, than it was for them, we had no rebuttal for this rather nasty kind of egotism... we couldn’t be feminine and also human.... but if we wanted to throw away the protection (and suffocation) of the double standard), we faced the obligation (which nobody doubted) of being sexually “free”...

the choice was either to admit that they were inferior beings (which was intolerable9or to take the most appalling risks to prove that we could play the male games in the male way (likewise).

Since at least 19th century women in our position had been trading off sexuality for humanity.


From “Being Against Pornography”

What Freud actually proposed was not the idea that sexuality determines personality or even that sexual behaviour is continuous with other behaviour – he emphatically did not (for example) posit that sexual sadists are cruel or sexual masochists self-hating, or that fetishists dehumanize their relations with others. What he did maintain was that the etiology (“causal history” might be the best paragraphase) of neurosis lay in the repression (not suppression) of infant and childhood sexuality while perverts, spared neurosis, remained sexuality fixated at one fo the early way-station of sexual development. It’s all quite complicated. The much simpler idea, that one’s style of sexual behvior indicated the state of one’s personality and that a good healthy sexual style indicates a good, healthy personality while other sexual styles are unhealthy and bad, is a very different creation.

Europe and England in the 1880s and 1890s were experiencing intense agitation over “the woman question”. It was in this atmosphere that the idea of sexuality being an indicator of healthy and unhealthy personalities began. And it began with the creation of… The Homosexual. 67

Over here are the doctors, maintaining that homosexual behavior is one result of a diseased personality which also produces a whole lot of other behavioral symptoms (mostly unconventional gender behavior).68

To believe that these activities (cultural) are the primary cause of society’s institutions (of which sexism is one) is simply to assert that what we can’t do (which includes almost all the money and power, and all the places in which big decisions are actually made) doesn’t matter. I have felt the helplessness that prompts such thinking, the utter rage at so-called “radical” movements which act as if we didn’t exist [ie communism], and the fear that we can’t really enter the (still alien) public world. But to assert that the Women’s and Ladies’ Ghetto is – somehow – The Cause Of It All – will not stand up.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear – now- that women will make a feminist revolution by practicing good personal relations and the arts. There’s good sense in doing both if one needs and loves these things. To do these things because they will bring about the revolution does nothing but put an unbearable burden on them. It is also, to put it mildly, rather dumb. It is also true that most of the movement´s professional activity has been in the women’s professions (library work, nursing, teaching and the arts). But why on earth should these evidences of ghettoization lead to valuing the ghettoized activities as determiners of Western Culture? It is likely that the things we are allowed to do are primary determinants of our society? We’re not supposed to have power, remember. 71

Prolonged nursing, which will work as an anticonceptive only in conjunction with a high-protein diet may work in hunting-gathering societies but, in agrarian ones, with carbohydrates as the major food source, it is just not effective. 73

When you use the biologistic theory to explain sexuality the results become really mischievous female sexuality is declared to be all that sexism says it is… intimacy is the only permissible cue to passion everything else is declared corrupt, and the true feminist goal becomes a Great Love…

Is it too late in the day to point out that sex is an impersonal appetite, that it-s not identical with love (or politics), that there’s no reason to think it should be…74

Women have very often dealt with the bitterness of our sexual situation by idealizing our presumed difference from men, our supposed gentleness, our ‘incapacity’ for sex without love, our (justified) fears, our massive ignorance and our enraged bitterness at hearing men preach a ‘freedom’ we know isn’t meant for us. We’ve never advanced an inch, doing this, but have only created further rage and further restriction. Paralysis is a high price to pay for avoiding the knowledge that we are not so very different from men, that feminism doesn’t explain everything, and that, in our capacity as middle-class women, as white women, we are oppressors as well as oppressed. 75

Those who want to avoid class analysis must continue to look for ever new “fundamental” causes of sexism, although this route leads right to the idea of biological causation, and that is to my mind, the counsel of despair. If men are plain evil and always have been, and women have always been good, why on earth should anything change now?

The feminism I know began as politics, not rules for living. To call x a feminist issue did not mean there was a good way to do X and a bad way, and that we were tryiong to replace the bad way with the good way. X was a feminist issue because it was the locus of various social pressures (which it made visible)àgenderfuck and those social pressures were what feminism was all about. Makeup is a feminist issue not because using makeup is anti-feminist and scrubbing your face is feminist but because makeup is compulsory. 77

From “News From The Front”

Oh yes, they caught me playing doctor with friends at the age of five and solemnly gave me the same warning. And, my word, I've forgotten the psychoanalyst I saw in (for symptoms of a chronic physical disease diagnosed fifteen years later) who told me that I envied the male penis. (I was willing to believe this, but hadn't the faintest notion of what to do about it.)

Perhaps the worst thing about our sexual training as women (if I've been citing heterosexual incidents it’s majority of women, Lesbian or not, are brought up in heterosexual families and learn their lessons about sex from heterosexual standards and situations) is the enormous social pressure not to see or name the kinds of incidents I've  been describing: to view them as trivial, to discount them, to accept them tolerantly, to pretend to enjoy them or find them funny or simply to deny that they existed or, worst of all, to deny that they are painful and out of our control.

Take a woman raised like this (and We are all raised like this, moreor less) and expose her to arguments about “sexual liberation” and her response is likely to be that men are taking too many liberties with women as it is. What I need (she is likely to say) is safety and respect, not any more "liberation." Expose such a woman to pictures of women meant to turn men on, and she will—quite simply-become enraged. Show her anything designed to titillate men sexually, whether violent or not, and you will rouse the envy and rage of a whole lifetime - and it is utterly enraging, although the envy is not at all the envy of concrete sexual acts. Rather it's the envy of men’s freedom, the envy of those who've been battered into choicelessness and silence for those who are entitled to speak and make choices.

Sexuality for men, (including gay men, as far as I can see) is by and large a realm of free choice, limited to be sure by practical considerations, limited by the very fact of being male. Men are "entitled to" sex.

Sexuality for Women is a realm of helplessness and unpleasantness, in which bad and painful things are done to you that you cant control, in which you must "go along" with male behavior even when you dislike it, in which you are not entitled to your own wishes and your own enjoyment, and haven’t even the privilege of seeing or naming the above facts. In the light of this truth, the anti-pornography movement is not only understandable; it’s absolutely necessary.

A society that claims that women’s real trouble is “sexual repression” (whatever that is) badly needs to be enlightened. We aren’t sexually repressed; we’ve been sexually battered and sexually brutalized. It’s about time this particular vileness were exposed for what it is, once and for all.

But that’s not the whole truth. 105-106

outlaw statements about women in general and any judgement of particular women's practicaes and everybody's political position about everything. 110

I also think-and here I do disagree with a good many Women—that psychoanalysing somebody else’s experience or fantasies (especially

listening to their account of it) is necessarily ineffective, however passionately you may feel about the subject. The only people capable of analyzing what fantasies mean are those to whom the fantasies appeal most.

Any message our sexuality or feelings about it give us is bound to be about         us and our soicety; if there's any piece of crucial feminist knowledge, this is it. 112

As Virginia Woolf says, a battle that wastes time and energy is as ill-advised as one that wastes lives. 113

But to attack

pornography seems to be going in the wrong direction. Sexual fantasies—to judge from women’s—don’t make much sense if taken at face value.

It’s not pornography but the mainstream

culture which delivers violence as a substitute for sexual pleasure.

Scwral essays On pornography have stressed that the Nazis used it to flood occupied countries in order to corrupt the population thereof, but the fact that they did it doesn't mean that it worked or that they knew what they were doing. They allowed no such stuff in Germany itself; instead, the kind of propaganda made for home consumption was very much like what we're getting now from the right: For women, motherhood and "femininity" glorified, and for German youth, in general, the Virgin Mary as an ideal. For young men the ideal was the fervent love of comrades (some of these artifacts look very homosexual today) along with rigid sexual purity. The classic union of sexual repression with violence can‘t occur in pornography, which has sexual expression as its raison d’etre; it’s, as far as my experience goes, in supposedly non-sexual material that the viciousness gets really bad. Nothing in Hard Knocks for Honey or ‘The

Sadistic Sisters of Saxony (honest, I'm not making up these titles) comes close in vividness, realism, or loving attention to detail of the commercial for Hitchcock's TV program which was made up of a montage of different women screaming in terror.

That's the sort of stuff we should be attacking. I've tried to find an inspirational ending to this essay and can't. The doubleness of sexuality will certainly continue. For years I hated myself for still having any affection for my father (who had become ill when I was about eight, and used to assuage his own fear by bullying my mother, and later, me). I thought I must be crazy to keep on feeling anything positive about someone who had so obviously hurt me, It took a long time to decide that I had not been defeated and that his misbehavior was far less humane than my continuing affection. 115

How to stop Uncle Max? I think an anecdote a friend told me lately is instructive. She has a 14 year old son whose friends have taken to hanging around house, in part because she's willing to give them straightforward information about sex and smoking and so on and accepts the fact that they are sexually active without accepting dishonesty or coercion or manipulativeness as OK because “anything goes." Recently one of the girls, at the age of twelve, decided to have intercourse (for the first time) with her thirteen-year-old boyfriend. “She said that it hurt at first but after that she liked it a lot.” This same little girl (she's under five feet tall) was recently grabbed from behind by a neighborhood rapist who’d already made attempts on two other pubescent girls; Lily (not her name) stamped backwards on the rapist’s instep, crunching it heavily, and then screamed as she ran away. What was

striking to both me and my friend was what Lily did NOT do: She didn’t panic, wasn’t helpless, and above all (says my friend) was enraged but without feeling the slightest guilt. When something like that happened to me at the same age, I felt that I must have invited it or colluded with it, or liked it somehow. I suspect that the two incidents are related and the more open and autonomously chosen sexual pleasure a woman has, the better she’s equipped to deal with this culture’s substitution of violence for sexuality and the sexual repression that makes such very bad things possible. 117

The best cure for pornography is sex - I mean autonomously chosen activity, freely engaged in for the sake of real pleasure, intense and unmistakeably the real thing. The more we have experiences like this, the less we will be taken in by the confusions and lies and messes all around us. --> Not sure about this. 119

when classic forms of sexual suppression - the Nazis’ in their own country-first begin to disappear, what you get is not freedom but a lot of very nasty behavior in which the preexisting violence begins to be visible, along with some genuinely progressive behavior and events. 118

Unfortunately we are today caught between two lies, not one: the still powerful beliefs of the right and the "you MUST be sexual and any way is O.K." which involves the utter unreality of, say, Playboy pictures. 118

The strength and freedom came directly from expressing the things that made us feel hopeless and crazy. 119

From ‘Pornography and the doubleness of sex for women’

In short, the stories, over and over, set up situations in which the two are not responsible. Other (R and G-rated) stories present various beatings, blindings, and mutilations which necessitate not only intense emotional intimacy, but also one character’s touching and holding the other with an eroticism only lightly veiled in the story (arid probably not veiled at all in the readers). So far the material sounds like the irreverent description by two of my friends; “Barbara Cartland in drag.” But if that’s all K/S stories arc, why don’t the women who read them simply read romances and be done with it? Why the “drag"'? Why project the whole process on two male science fiction characters?

First of all, K/S is not about two men. Kirk is a man, to be sure, but Spock isn't, he's half human alien. Susan Gubar has speculated in a recent essay that when women s.f. writers write aliens they are very often writing about women. Patricia Frazer Lamb and Diana Veith also suggest (brilliantly, I think) that although Spock is not literally female, his alienness is a way of “coding” into the K/S fantasies that their subject is not a homosexual love affair between two men, but love and sex as women want them, whether with a man or with another woman. Lamb and Veith cite many more details which support this view: briefly, that Spock‘s reproductive biology is cyclical and uncontrollable, that although “a prince among his own people," Spock is just another Fleet officer in a Federation led by Human men, that he is isolated both from Vulcans and from Humans (as nontraditional women are alienated from both traditional women and from men), that he has no command ambitions, that he often gets Kirk out of difficulties caused by Kirk’s impulsiveness and rashness (qualities Spock does not and cannot afford to display), that his Vulcan and human sides are at war, that Vulcan is matrilineal, that he must be self-controlled and guarded, and so on. (The argument is much more detailed and convincing than I can mention here.) I would add that the lovers come from literally different worlds (the stories constantly emphasize the difference in their natures and backgrounds), and that the sexuality in the stories is only nominally male. (There are betraying details: the characters leap into anal intercourse with a blithe lack of lubrication that makes it clear that the authors are thinking of vaginal penetration, both approach orgasm with a speeded-up intensity of pelvic thrusting and in many stories there is multiple orgasm.)

Although Spock encodes many female characteristics, what is striking in these stories (again I agree With Lamb and Veith) is the androgyny of both characters, the way responsibility, initiative, activity, passivity, strength and weakness shift constantly from one to the other. Spock, for  example, is the “female” alien, but he is also physically stronger than Kirk, and is unemotional and an expert in scientific logic, all characteristics we associate with masculinity, while Kirk, his superior in the Federation hierarchy of command, and also the “tomcat” many-times-lover, has the emotionality and impulsivity we consider “feminine.” And so on.

As Lamb and Veith point out, the marriage of these two is in many ways ideal: neither has to give up “his” work in the world; both have adventure and love; telepathy provides lifelong commitment and the means of making such a union unbreakable and extremely intimate; and While both partners are “masculine” in the sense of being active in the world, they yet provide tenderness and nurturance for each other in a very “feminine” way. And the sex is marvelous.‘

Lamb and Veith simply state that no one (including themselves) can imagine a man and woman having the same multiple, worthy, androgynous relationship or the same completely intimate commitment.

Decarnin's explanation of the motive for this behavior is almost identical with my explanation of K/S; “the woman recognizes in the faggot a socio-erotic position she herself would like to hold, as the recognized Peer and the lover of a male, a position impossible for women in sexist culture to secure."5

One of K/S‘s best writers[1] says, “The problem is {women who} don't like their own bodies enough, they can’t see themselves saving the universe once a week, they can’t let their own sexuality out without becoming dependents or victims. So Kirk and Spock do it for them.” She notes also, “the sex in Trek fiction (written by women for women) is female sexuality. . . . The readers . . . want to be strong, beautiful, complete adults who choose to love without limits, to trust utterly and never have their trust betrayed. . . .”'

For example, women wait. Women are (quite realistically) wary of heterosexual activity. Thus the endless analyses of motives and scruples for pages and pages, a delay that is in itself erotically arousing, since it’s a sexualization of what is or was presented to us as “the real thing" for women. (Decarnin has suggested, in correspondence, that this waiting be taken metaphorically, as related to women’s need for long “foreplay” in order to achieve orgasm.) Women must not initiate sexual activity. Thus the enormous plot conventions which finally free the lovers to be sexual, in which that lack of responsibility is itself exciting, an intensifier of arousal, vulnerability, and emotion made out of condition. Thus the “hurt-comfort” material, which pictures nurturance as a lot of open sexual touching and strong emotional intimacy (generally in the stories which lack explicit sex) is (again) something that has become a sexual cue, not anything resembling real help or real illness. Thus also the material about the death of one or the other or both (so ubiquitous, l'm told, that editors now refuse to accept it!), the meditations at the graveside, the grief that is somehow beautiful and exciting, not painful, all of it delicious. And let’s not pride ourselves on the monogamy, either; this is another patriarchal imposition which women have sexualized—in fact, I believe it can be seen in the K/S material (as in the romances) as a metaphor for intensity. The telepathic union can also be read as a way of expressing intensity and completeness, not duration, but here too sexual expression waits on "love" while desire, by itself, is not enough. Again I think we're dealing with a sexualization of the feminine condition. What was, historically, the female terror of unmarried pregnancy, the main enforcer of women's anti-sexual training, has here been made into something sexually arousing in itself. That is, in the K/S World, the myth of romantic love works. But that's not all that’s in the material. In many ways the K/S world is a great advance over the standard romances. For one thing, there is explicitly sexuality instead of the old Romances’ one-kiss-in-the-moonlight. And I believe Lamb and Veith see rightly when they describe the androgyny of the relationship, the impossibility‘ (despite the coding into the Spock character of so many female traits) of assigning gender roles to either partner, ever-obviously this is very different from the romances in which a woman’s problems in life are solved for her by a dominant male. The K/ S insistence that the characters be first class human beings is inevitably compromised by the social necessity of awarding that V.I.P. status only to men.

. What they do want is sexual intensity, sexual enjoyment, the freedom to choose, a love that is entirely free of the culture’s whole discourse of gender and sex roles, and a situation in which it is safe to let go and allow oneself to become emotionally and sexually vulnerable. The literal conditions and cues of the K/ S world, far from being impeccably moral, are sexualizations of situations and behavior K/ S fans did not choose and quite likely wouldn’t want in reality. Moreover they are situations and behavior that are absolutely antithetical to getting sexual and emotional satisfaction in the real world, which fact at least some of the K/ S readers and writers know perfectly well.

I'm convinced, after reading through more than fifty volumes of K/S material (most of it “X-rated”) that only those for whom a sexual fantasy “works,” that is, those who are aroused by it, have a chance of telling us to What particular set of conditions that fantasy speaks, and can analyze how and why it works and for whom. Sexual fantasy materials are like icebergs; the one-tenth that shows above the surface is no reliable indicator of the size or significance of the whole thing.

that if you lift sexual inhibitions part-way (which is certainly the situation today, with the mass media force feeding us plastic sex which is not only limited as to color, age, gender, and “flawless” personal appearance, but which is still very rigid about tactility and the real nature of real human sexuality and emotionally), you get sadism—by which Reich did not mean S & M (he did not discuss it at all in The Sexual Revolution) but rape, violence, brutality, and callousness.

. From the viewpoint of the female situation, I think we sometimes see men’s sexual freedom as greater than it is, because it is in fact greater than our own.

If you see male freedom as absolute, or close to absolute, then male fantasies of sexual violence will look, in a sense, Worse than they are. We know that women don’t want to be raped; episodes in female fantasies that look like rapes really are something else, i.e., Will somebody, something, for heaven’s sake, enable me to act?

. Yet men must penetrate and ejaculate if there are to be any babies—and so the problem for patriarchy (whether you think of this as a one time invention or a constant process) is to construct a male sexuality which can function in the face of a woman's non-cooperation or outright fear and hostility.

It sounds odd to say that men’s fantasies of rape have their roots in a desire to be overwhelmed and acted on, but I think this may be at least part of the truth. Women, after all, fantasize “rape” as the solution to issues of permission and forced passivity; why shouldn't men (who must deal with the issues of forced activity) use the other side of the same fantasy?

What frightens me is not those sleazies on my desk (in one of which a woman puts needles through a man's nipples). It‘s the mainstream American habit of substituting violence for sex and presenting the result as “real life“ and, even. Heaven help us!, “decency.”

What is so striking in K/ S is the raw sexual and emotional starvation the writers are expressing so openly—and the attempt to picture a totally androgynous situation, not “Brigitte Bardot scotch-taped to John Wayne" (as I once called “androgyny") but a situation in which questions about who is the man and who is the woman, who's active and who's passive, even who’s who, cannot even be asked.

  From ‘Pornography with Love’

Fanfic: "Cross our bridges when we come to them" by RemainNameless . )Sterek( . )N6(


Somehow I read a 100,000 words novel that I don’t really thing quite makes it in terms of characterisation. I just kept wincing when Derek called the Sheriff dad and when the Sheriff encouraged Derek to date his teenage son and protected Derek instead of Stiles (supposedly because Derek is more fucked up and vulnerable). I understand him liking the kid and taking him under his wing but the strong protective instincts he displays in canon towards Stiles and all other kids seem in direct contradiction to the way he behaves here. Still, can’t denying its readability… although I run out of steam for the last 15 pages and finished it 3 days later.

‘Let's get this undead show on the road’ by Sarah Rees Brennan . [short-story] . [N7]

‘Let's get this undead show on the road’  by  Sarah Rees Brennan [short-story] [N7]  


Really enjoyed this one, UNLIKE the other band with vampire story, 'Undead is very hot right now'. It has the best of Sarah Rees Brennan's treatment of family and friendship, as well as her characteristic humour.   

Then faced with a dilemma:


she was a vampire preying on his bandmates and had to be eliminated, and yet she was also a lady in distress. 213

They let him in, of course. Home was the place where when you came, they had to let you in. That didn't mean they wanted him there. 217

Christian was far enough away then, something to admire and to be proud of, but not take home. That might be what Faye had meant. Nobody wanted the vampire for real. Someone had invented the myth that vampires had to be invited in, because people wanted them to stay out. 218

Josh looked despairing, but it made Bradley laugh, and once Bradley had laughed, apparently he thought he was in control of the universe again. 221

‘Troubles in Women’s Country’ in Aliens and Others… by Jenny Wolmark . [essay]


[Quotes to be added]Wolmark, Jenny, 1994c. ‘Troubles in Women’s Country’ in Aliens and Others: Science fiction, feminism and postmodernism (Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf)

‘Desestabilising Gender and Genre’ in Aliens and Others by Jenny Wolmark . [essay]

‘Desestabilising Gender and Genre’ in Aliens and Others: Science fiction, feminism and postmodernism


[Quotes to be added]Wolmark, Jenny, 1994b. ‘Desestabilising Gender and Genre’ in Aliens and Others: Science fiction, feminism and postmodernism (Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf)

Quotes TBA

‘Unpredictable Aliens’ in Aliens and Others by Jenny Wolmark . essay . N7


Really good essay (N7), used a lot of the ideas for my dissertation and I still want to read the rest of the book.


Bibliographical information: Wolmark, Jenny, 1994a. ‘Unpredictable Aliens’ in Aliens and Others: Science fiction, feminism and postmodernism (Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf)

Quotes from Chapter 2: Unpredictable Aliens

Those who are different are objectified and are denied the capacity to be active agents in the creation of their own subjectivity; in taking on a sense of their own otherness, they are disempowered.  PP. 27

…As Ursula Le Guin has pointed out:

If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it wholly different from yourself – as mean have done to women, as class has done to class, as nation has done to nation, you may hate it or deify it; but in either case you  have denied its spiritual equality and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship.

The limits of social and cultural identity are tested when those who are different are depicted as active subjects who resist both the hierarchical relation between centre and margins and unitary definitions of difference. PP 28

Her fiction (Octavia Butler’s) is centrally concerned with the exploration of transitional states in which the boundaries between self and other become fluid, and in which the search for homogeneity is resisted. (Check out Xenogenesis trilogy)

What the Xenogenesis trilogy clearly indicates is that the process of demolishing existing boundaries in order to begin any kind of reconstructing is accompanied by equal measures of pleasure and pain.

This shift enables Butler to explore the possibilities of those partial and fluid cyborg identities and subject positions proposed by Donna Haraway, in which the ‘permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints’ of the cyborg have the potential to enable one to ‘see from both perspectives at once because each reveals both dominations and possibilities unimaginable from the other vantage point.


Mutation allows for the development of a new kind of selfhood in which difference is not seen to diminish but to fulfil. It implies connection rather than severance by suggesting that sameness and difference are integral parts of a whole rather than binary opposites.

‘I probably loved him in self-defense. Hating him was too dangerous (34)

The science fiction convention of the alien attempts to present otherness in unitary terms, so that ‘humanity’ is uncomplicatedly opposed to the ‘alien’: both Jones and Butler focus on the way in which that opposition seeks to suppress the others of both gender and race by subsuming them within a common-sense notion of what it is to be human. 46

The narrative does not suggest that the other is unknowable but it does indicate that assumptions or impositions of sameness represent refusals to recognise difference, and that within such refusals lies the terror of the other.

…because she fears that the presence of aliens would mean the inevitable end of ‘Everything we ever did, everything we ever made: dead or worse than dead, meaningless’ (287, from ‘White Queen’)  50-51

Fanfic: "Switch" by Montrose . /Hockey RPS Au Dom/sub verse: Jonathan/Patrick/ . /N7/


is a story in the line of A Light Handed Approach to Regulation, that is, a story that goes into Dominance and submission issues and asks a lot of uncomfortable questions about how ingrained this tendencies are and how dependant on biology. It’s a good story and it’s hot but it just does not have enough world-building to work on its own. Of course, Hazel’s story also works as part of a tradition, and I would have loved more world-building there, too, but here it is not handed as deftly and coming from that story it is all the more obvious. I also have to admit that I read through this like I was on fire and[Spoiler (click to open)]that it was really hot despite the fact that it is as much about sexual confusion as about anything else. My biggest issue is that this Patrick is happy with being a sub and it is only Jon, in a position of power, who will question the system. Of course, it readily becomes apparent that Jon is not truly normal (in translation ‘he is not a heterosexual man in patriarchy’) BUT he is still a man and being ambidextrous (ie bisexual in our society, I’d say) still means he looks, acts and appears as someone in a dominant position. The fact that people who are dominant might not want to dominate, that men are as oppressed in patriarchy as women in the way they are brainwashed to be unemotional and in control even when they do not feel, personally, like being that way, is interesting to see explored. Jon’s desire to be able to move between top and bottom positions is a desire to human beyond the expectations of gender (or, although hard to read onto this, things like ‘race’ and other biological traits given unusual social relevance), something women understand profoundly through their own experience and most men do not have the chance to question. An non-traditional sexual orientation sometimes triggers this questioning, just that in the world of Switch sexual orientation is not defined by sex of partner choice but by position and attitude in the bedroom.

Still, Jon can pass as a ‘man’ and is ready to take offense when a teammate questions his masculinity and even when Patrick accuses him of being a sub in disguise. He isn’t a sub, he refuses that identity as inferior even in front of someone that is defined that way. Nobody ever questions that being a dom is better than being a sub (The way in our society being a ‘woman’ is preferred by some people for a multitude of reasons, true or not, there are always conflicting myths and narratives, here dom = good, sub = bad.) Both Patrick and Jonathan are sure of this, Patrick is simply resigned to his fate, even as he is ashamed of his inappropriate behaviour (while Jonathan in Approach believes that biology indeed does not define his whole self and he can act as he pleases and Patrick does not just find this hot but fair and is willing to put his money where his mouth is, too). The fuzzy legal system in which adult subs can be beat up not simply by their partners but by their employers just blew my mind and was left unexplained and untouched, it seemed unnecessarily over the top but I could have bought into it if it had been explained instead of assumed (Is Patrick allowed to make legal decisions for himself, for example? Is his mom in charge of him? The situation would be parallel to women being allowed into the same jobs as men but getting openly beat up by their employers. It just doesn’t correlate to the rest of the system as described).

All that said, I did like it! I just enjoy my thinky thoughts and well, it will be very hard to find me a fic that uses this trope better than Approach, which I have read 3 times and started to podfic.


"He's a sub," Keith says quietly. "He needs to know he's not in charge. It's good for him."

It's a lie. Jon's never been more sure of that in his life. What a person likes to do in bed should have fuckall to do with the rest of their life. "He needs to be able to skate," Jon says. --> Too heavy-handed. And where is the follow through? Nothing really changes by the end except that Jon feels better about himself.

Fanfic: "a light-handed approach to regulation" by hazel . [Hockey: Patrick/Jonathan] . N8

a light-handed approach to regulation by hazel . [Hockey RPS: Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews] . [N8]


17.04.2013 (total coincidence, i swear)

02.05.2013 (couldn’t resist and started recording podfic) <.<
01.11.2013 (at least I stopped rereading monthly?)

There’s a lot of gender in this fic. In the way most alphas that show up are women (if their gender is specified, and how it is always a shock somehow, to me, of course), in the way homophobia gets waived for alphas and omegas but is still very much present for betas (there’s a lesbian couple but most are heterosexual, I’d be very curious to know how reproduction works for a female alpha and female omega, though). In the way it is Jonathan, who is bigger and the captain, who is the omega because it must be very clear from the first line that a sexual position is not a personality trait and that his masculinity remains unchanged (except of course it doesn’t and it’s questioned at every turn by everybody because he belongs to a social class as constructed but more rigid than ‘woman’, that of ‘omega’). And there is a lot about love, too, how slowly Jonathan learns to shout at Patrick because Patrick needs to be shouted at. And how Patrick knows is cool to shout back, that Jonathan doesn’t need or want him to pull back.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

It is from that honestly that their intimacy sparks and while their issues are far from over (and a sequel would be gladly welcomed) when they have figured out that they can trust the other to have their back when any issues come up.

Summing up, scorchingly hot and heartbreaking and amazing. Check the warnings in case any of the kinks are a dealbreaker for you, the specifics that didn’t quite work for me were by far overshadowed by the love and intimacy. Now to the quotes (and more comments, but there’s serious SPOILERS)

Patrick’s wanted the NHL more than he’s wanted anything since he was old enough to know what the NHL was, and he’s not going to let something fucking stupid like biology and thousands of years of cultural tradition keep him away from his dream.

The interviewers—a beat reporter who regularly covers hockey and one of the political editors—show up a few minutes later and settle down with a tape recorder and notepads. It starts out okay at first, but the political editor makes the mistake of asking Toews whether he’s thought about getting bonded and having kids, and Toews shuts down completely.

His next five answers are one-word, terse as fuck, and there’s this look on his face like he wants to murder someone. Patrick thinks that’s really fair enough—like, nobody’s asking him how many kids he wants to have—so he tries to pick up the slack. That works well for a couple of questions, and then the inevitable comes up: whether there’s anything between them. Toews’ scent changes, sharp and acrid, and he sits up.

“No, thanks, we’re good,” Tazer says, and she grins before walking to her next table.

It’s a good lunch, a good time; Patrick’s laughing a lot at Tazer’s stupid puns and dry jokes about the weather. He wonders if this is what betas are like when they’re dating, all easy conversation and nobody trained to look down. But it doesn’t matter, because neither of them are one.

They get their clothes off quickly, a side-effect of having spent a lifetime stripping naked in front of people, and Patrick walks Tazer back to the bed, pushes him down and climbs on top. It’s kind of weird how silent and passive Tazer is, just letting Patrick lay biting kisses down his neck, until Patrick remembers that Tazer spent just as much time in omega class as Patrick did in alpha class, and that protocol goes both ways.

He switches to tiny delicate butterfly kisses, pressed along Tazer’s cheekbones and along the ridge of his jaw; Tazer’s panting underneath him, desperate for it, and Patrick’s holding out because—because he wants. “Fuck you, you fucking fuck,” Tazer groans, grabbing hold of Patrick and flipping them over.

“I guess,” Patrick says reluctantly. “But I still want to, I don’t know, just tell them all that they’re assholes, because you’re not what they say.”

Jonathan looks at him evenly. “You still don’t speak for me,” he says; he smells determined.

Patrick looks back. “I know,” he says. “But I just—it’s so fucking stupid. You’re not just some dumb omega.”

Jonathan’s quiet for a really long time. There’s a faint smell at the edges of the room, like burnt hair, and Patrick doesn’t have the faintest idea what it means. “I am an omega,” he says eventually.

“Yeah?” Patrick says. He knows that; they wouldn’t be bonded if Jonathan wasn’t.

Jonathan shakes his head a little. “Just stop fucking reading this shit, Patrick,” he says. “You know it’s bullshit.”

“I don’t hate being an omega,” Jonathan says. “And I like being bonded to you—and, hey, at least nobody’s saying to my face that I’m too bossy to ever get claimed anymore. But I fucking hate how everything I do is always like—I don’t know, Jonathan’s not a good captain because omegas are too weak to be leadership material.”

“I don’t think you’re weak,” Patrick says.

Jonathan grimaces. “I don’t think omegas are weak,” he replies.

“I don’t—” Patrick says.

Jonathan sighs. “We’re taught to shut up,” he says. “And to accept what we get given.”

“Well, you’re shit at all that,” Patrick says on reflex, and the scent in the room lightens somehow.

Patrick shrugs. “I always wanted hockey,” he says, and then closes his eyes, shaking his head. When he opens them, Jonathan’s still staring at him. “Not just that,” he admits. “I wanted—I wanted someone, I guess. I wanted to claim someone. But the rest of it—it was pretty obvious I wasn’t into it, at school, and our teacher used to tell me it would be different when it was my omega, that I’d want—I don’t know.”

“To be an alpha?” Jonathan asks.

Patrick shakes his head again. “I’m always an alpha,” he says. “That I’d want to be that responsible for someone else’s choices, I guess.”

The bouncer is this tall, built, collarless omega who straight-up glares at them when they get to the door. “Yeah?” he says roughly.

“Yeah,” Jonathan says, a sneer in his voice, and the bouncer double-takes.

After staring at Jonathan for a few seconds—Patrick thinks at his collar, but he’s not sure—he grins broadly. “Hey, guys, go on through.”

Inside is kind of shitty—a bunch of wooden tables and cheap seats, power ballads playing quietly over crackly speakers, and a long bar with a mix of cakes and bottles behind the counter. A tiny alpha wearing deep red lipstick and a pair of cat ears takes them over to their table. “I’ll bring you guys the menus,” she smiles.

The Open Cage apparently does a bunch of platters to share, a wide range of cakes and cookies, two dozen listed cocktails, and a whole lot of imported beers. All of it looks okay—Patrick basically wants carbs and beer right now, and he can have both—and Jonathan’s tapping at the menu.

“You guys ready to order?” the waitress asks when she comes back a few minutes later.

Jonathan looks up. “Bread and meat platter to share, 2 Heineken—Staal?” he says.

“Uh,” Staal says. “Heineken for me too.”

[This place is so much like the old underground GLTB bars, like the one in Stonewall that the police broke into and pissed people off that bit too much in 69]

“They’re wrong,” Jonathan replies.

“Huh?” Patrick says.

“About you not needing to do it again,” Jonathan says. “You do, and you should, and that’s why I didn’t stop you.”

“I—what?” Patrick asks.

“You’re not ashamed of me,” Jonathan says. He smells certain.

“No,” Patrick says slowly. “Why the fuck would I be?”

Jonathan shrugs. “I’m not exactly your typical omega. And that’s what I mean—people think—they think we’re the way we are because you’re weak, or I’m too bossy, or whatever. So you need to show them that that’s not it, that we’re the way we are because we want to be.”

“You’re not too bossy,” Patrick says. “Like, fuck—you’re bossy as fuck, but you’re not too bossy. And, I mean, fuck. I don’t care if people think I suck at being an alpha.”

“Yeah,” Jonathan says. “But, what I mean is, you need to show people that you’re not ashamed of me, because that’s what—that’s what makes it okay for me to be the way I am. Why didn’t you come over earlier, that night? You knew I was angry.”

Patrick looks at him. “I knew you had it under control,” he says eventually. “You can handle shit.”

Jonathan nods. “And then you came over,” he says.

“In case you needed backup, I guess,” Patrick says. “You smelled like he was really getting to you. And you know I have your back.”

“Yeah, I know,” Jonathan says. “I—I guess what I’m saying is, there’s only you and me in this relationship. And if you don’t think I should be quieter, whatever, be more subservient, then nobody else has any fucking right.”

Patrick remembers what the bartender in that alpha/omega bar had said to him, weeks ago, about omegas wanting their alpha to stand between them and the world. Maybe this is what he meant. “So you just—want me to show everyone I’m not ashamed of you?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Jonathan says.

Patrick grins at him, feeling buoyant. “Easy as pie,” he says.

“Yeah,” Jonathan says, nodding. “But—you don’t ever wish I was more submissive?”

“Fuck no,” Patrick says sharply. “What the hell, Jonathan?” He really doesn’t. He likes all the things about Jonathan that omegas aren’t supposed to be: the way he always fights, the way he expects to win, the way he won’t back down for anyone. Even when he’s in heat, begging to be fucked, he’s not asking to be taken; and Patrick doesn’t want to take.

Jonathan looks at him evenly. “I didn’t think so—you never smell unhappy, or like you wanted me to—I don’t know.”

He’s about to say so when Jonathan starts speaking. “Sometimes you smell like—like you want to put me on my knees,” Jonathan says, conversational like they’re eating dinner, like he’s not balls-deep in Patrick.

Patrick forces his eyes open. “Yeah,” he admits. “But I never want to keep you there. Do you ever want to kneel?” he asks; sometimes Jonathan smells like it, but that doesn’t mean he wants to let his instincts win.

Jonathan presses Patrick’s thighs further apart and leans forward until he’s speaking right into Patrick’s ear, low and sure. “Why don’t you try it and see?” he asks, before pulling back and starting to fuck.

And this bit is perfect, with them saying, YEAH, I HAVE THOSE FEELINGS. I love how the whole fic  is an affirmation of both body and mind. How it keeps saying ‘your instincts and your biology are not the whole of who you are, but they ARE important and they are FANTASTIC and you should not let other people’s mistaken fantasies that they are the center of your very self fuck that up for you, take that part of yourself that is illogical and emotional and out of control and make you feel like if you enjoy it then it does define you.

@read in english, fanfic: read3, *fanfic that could be a book, hockey rps: recs, hockey rps: patrick/Jonathan, rps fic, 2013: hockey rps fic, fanfiction, [quotes], [quotes] fanfiction, [quotes] rps, +gender issues, author: hazel

Introduction to 'Signs and Humours: The Poetry of Medicine' by Lavinia Greenlaw

Some interesting points. Quotes illustrate them best.


Yet when our own boundaries are ruptured, we become more aware of them rather than less.

....illness, it would feature expressions such as 'I'm not quite myself' and 'feeling out of sorts'. In illness we are not ourselves and yet trapped in ourselves. As James Wright puts it: 'I have lain alien in myself so long'. Poetry activates all that is liminal and residual in language and so perhaps can best express this condition.

There is a further breakage in illness - that between ourselves and others. It is most obvious in the awkwardness and sensitivity which enters language.

When contemplating another's mortality, we can experience a tense combination of empathy and self-preservation.

   #essay#non-fiction, *author: female, +medicine, +sexuality, +sociology, 2013, 2013: essay, @read in english, [quotes] book/non-fiction