Kate’s breasts, Pussy Riot, virginity tests and our attitude on women’s bodies

Story highlightsAuthor Naomi Wolf says recent controversies reveal biased views toward women’s bodiesThe Pussy Riot trial and Arab Spring protests showed women stripped of autonomyWomen’s bodies are battlegrounds used to wage culture wars, Wolf saysIt’s scandalous when women take ownership of their own bodies, Wolf contendsIt seems as if we are in a time of unprecedented struggle over the meaning of women’s bodies and sexuality. Controversy is swirling about an American University professor who breast-fed a baby in class; topless photos of Kate Middleton have been released; and a Time magazine cover showing a mother breast-feeding her toddler sparked even more tittering in May.It is not just the breast that is contested: Pussy Riot, the punk band, was sentenced to two years in a Russian prison after a staged performance in which they did high kicks that showed too much of their bodies. They tried, from prison, to explain “what pussy meant” and “what riot meant.” Michigan representative http://busty-blonde-cams968.easyxblogs.com Lisa Brown got into hot water — and fought back — for using the words ‘my vagina’ in the Michigan statehouse. Michigan women supported her by standing in front of the statehouse with a giant “V” symbol and spelling out the words ‘VAGINA’ in pink letters. Young women in Tahrir Square protesting in the Arab Spring were punished by imprisonment — and vaginal exams by armed strangers for “virginity tests.” This is not so surprising when you understand the delicate brain-vagina connection that my new book documents — female sexuality around the world is targeted because through traumatizing the vagina, you can intimidate women on multiple other levels.

What is going on?

We are at an important crossroads in which it is becoming clearer to women around the world that, as one feminist artist put it, “your body is a battleground.”

In a hypersexualized culture, in which porn is available 24-7, it is not female nudity — or discussion about vaginas or breasts or “pussy riots” — that is scandalous. Indeed, the female body has never been so commodified before, and female sexuality has never been so readily consumable in sanitized, corporatized formats such as pornography.

Rather, what is still scandalous to our culture is when women take ownership of their own bodies. Staging a strip performance is not disruptive to social order in Moscow, but three punk poets using their sexuality to make a satirical comment about Russian leader Vladimir Putin is destabilizing and must be punished.

Legislating the most intimate aspects of women’s reproductive lives, all the way to imposing transvaginal probes on them — as states are doing across the country — isn’t shocking or obscene, because it is about taking away sexual control from women of their own bodies. What is shocking and obscene is when a serious person — a legislator — dares to take back ownership of her own self, with the scandalous words “my vagina.” The issue is not the vagina, but who gets to say what becomes of it and who owns it.

Porn 24-7 doesn’t threaten social control. Indeed, its addictive effects, in terms of new neuroscientific discoveries, actually turns out to be a kind of drug or sedative. This turns a potentially liberating sexual revolution into yet another marketable consumer product that hypnotizes people and is creating new health and sexual problems around libido, rather than setting them free.

In the struggle over sex, these choices are where the struggle lies: Who decides reproductive rights; who decides when and how breasts might be exposed; who decides who can say vagina and where; who decides who is a slut; and who must be punished with hard labor for asserting their right to define their own sexual and artistic identities.

The sexual revolution came and went, and yet women are still not as truly sexually free as they deserve to be — here or around the world. They are not yet, as these struggles show, fully free to define the meanings of their bodies and their desire, to assert their sexual wishes without punishment — including punishment by the state. And they are not yet fully free to claim the right to sexual pleasure and autonomy without enduring public shaming.

Until that real freedom arrives, we can honor the pioneers such as Lisa Brown, Pussy Riot and the young women of Tahrir Square — and keep up the fight to be free to name our bodies and ourselves.

As gender and representation expert Dr. Emma Rees notes of the struggle over how one may speak about female sexuality: “For until we have a language and a platform for talking honestly about women’s bodies and sexual drives, we’re doomed into a cycle of objectification and silence.”

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DIARY OF A SWINGER; It used to be called wife-swapping. Now, thanks to the internet, swinging is a huge sexual subculture that at least 1.5million British couples admit to having tried. Scots author Ewan Morrison has written a novel about the scene, entitled Swung, which is out on Thursday. To research the book, Ewan became a swinger himself for a year. Here’s what he learned from his experiences.

Byline: Ewan Morrison

1. Getting started is easy

ALL you need is a modem, curiosity and a major life-change. I

certainly had that.

I’d been living in New York with a scriptwriting job. The job

fell through and I found myself back in Glasgow, without work, without a

partner, with only this city I’d left staring me back in the face.

It started with online dating. Three months of success. So many

women wanting only a one-night stand. But the whole game ultimately

repetitive – the processes of chatting-up, your potted personal history,

the same jokes working again and again.

Wouldn’t it be better to agree in advance that sex was all it

was about? Disillusioned, I noticed that almost every dating website had

a link to a swinging site. The two main UK sites claim to have around

700,000 users each.

2. You can only swing with a partner you really trust

AFTER three months and 30 dates I met Joanne. Her story was similar

to mine. She’d just come back to the UK after living in Spain, had

been through a traumatic separation with her fiance and been online

dating for six months.

Within an hour of meeting we were in bed. Laughing, comparing

histories. Like me, she was wary of commitment. She had a temp job in

IT.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d stay in Glasgow. She was

38. “Life is too short” and “You only live once,”

she said. She just wanted to have fun. We had fun. Seeing each other

once a week. Sex games and stories.

But after a time, the stagnation started. We both needed something

more but were distrusting of sinking back into couple mode. Two

escapees, we didn’t want to end up shackled to each other.

So the erotic fantasies started. Checking out swinging sites. The

questions – had she ever done it with a woman? No. Was she curious?

Yes. Had I ever been with a couple? No but I was curious.

We talked about it. It could be cathartic. Could help us break the

mould we’d both found so damaging in the past. We agreed –

we’d join the scene and she would have her first woman.

3. You have to learn a lot of terminology

IT was maybe the fascination with that that pulled us through. So

many abbreviations to learn:

NUMP – no ugly men please,

SPARK – single parent raising kid,

HWP – height-weight proportional,

FA – fat admirer,

BBW- big beautiful woman,

MBA – married but available.

We emailed and chatted with dozens of couples. Took our first sex

pictures. Posted the mon our ad. Swapped them online. Made up fake names

as the sites recommended. We were Dave and Sheila. Our first couple

called themselves Tony and Joan.

4. You’ll need to prove who you are

AFTER swapping emails and pics with Tony and Joan we moved to the

next stage – proving you are real.

This was done with webcams and a swap of phone numbers. This is

crucial because many people post pictures online of better looking, more

well endowed people and when they show up, they are revealed as liars.

5. There are specific rituals to learn

YOU call on mobile phones, not landlines. You arrange to meet in a

public place. For safety reasons. As a get-out, you have a secret

“safety word” – if you don’t fancy the couple you drop

“pizza” or “shopping” into the conversation and your

partner knows to call it a day.

We had our safety word prepared and agreed to meet in a bar. It was

exactly like a first teenage date. The nervousness, the adrenalin, the

sense of daring – the anxiety over whether you’d see it through.

6. Swingers are very ‘safe’

WHETHER it be over sexually transmitted diseases or personal space.

Everything commences only from a point of trust and consent within a

group. If one person dissents then it’s a “no”.

We told ourselves that at any moment either of us could call it

off. But Tony and Joan had us laughing from minute one. This surreal

scenario of being with a couple of strangers in a pub, openly discussing

terms and conditions.

Condoms? Of course. Will the two men be having sex? No. The two

women? Yes. Full partner swap? Yes – but Tony didn’t like other men

looking at his penis.

All this in a public bar surrounded by 50 people who talked about

“normal” things – Big Brother, nightclubs, Posh & Becks.

No safety words said, we were invited to their house.

7. The old cliche – seventies suburbia, bored middle-class,

middle-aged wife-swapping key parties – is no longer true

IN my year, I must have encounterd every social type apart from

that – a stand-up comedian, a call-centre girl and her partner, a male

model, two professors, two heavy-metal heads. No hint of the suburbs –

and mostly everyone under 40. Tony worked in insurance, Joan worked at

Tesco.

Once we’d had a drink, they revealed their real names – Steve

and Sally.

8. Swinging is surreal

THE feeling is of an almost-socialist utopia of open-mindedness and

tolerance. You get invited into the homes of people you wouldn’t

normally socialise with. It’s like being in a hobby club – stamp

collectors, or model-aeroplane makers.

There’s the foreign-ness of their decor, their taste in music.

And in an hour, you’re having sex together.

9. Swingers love to philosophise

BEFORE we got down to business, Sally and Steve talked about how

long they’d been doing it – how it had brought them closer, how so

many couples strayed after the seven-year mark, how it contained the

threat of infidelity and how it made them love each other more.

They wanted to know all about us. How long we’d been together?

How often had we done it before?

We confessed it was our first time and they were thrilled to have

“newbies” – they talked excitedly about this whole world that

would open up for us. Very strange, very unlike the usual processes of

seduction. There was a lot of laughter.

10. Swinging is not just about sex

STEVE and Sally made it clear that they were not in this just to

have one-night flings – they wanted to develop friendships. They knew

many other swinging couples and sometimes they just hung out.

We didn’t need to have sex tonight if we didn’t want to.

They liked us, they’d love to see us again. And it was us two who

came across as pushy, wanting to get the deal done.

Still, it was a relief and a release to talk with a couple so

openly about love http://bbw-cam-shows968.easyxblogs.com and sex and relationships, shedding so much baggage.

Sitting in their lounge surrounded by pictures of their family.

At some point, it was agreed that we’d all get naked. And

Joanne had her first lesbian experience.

I watched, for the first time, my girlfriend having sex first with

a woman, then with a man. Then I took my turn with Sally.

I made the mistake of watching Steve having sex with Joanne. He

covered his penis with his shirt. Me and Sally sat watching, sipping

warm Liebfraumilch.

Joanne felt awkward after that, she seemed to have enjoyed it all

more than me – although the lesbian thing had not turned her on as much

as she thought.

She said touching another woman’s breasts was a bit like

putting on your own bra. She was glad, though, that she could now go to

the Pearly Gates and say: “I did it!”

11. Swinging is addictive

OVER the next six months, we had five different encounters – and

constantly wanted more.

The list of erotic possibilities had to be seen through. There is a

sense of accumulation within swinging. She wanted to have a well endowed

black man. So just like shopping on eBay, I found her one.

Twelve miles away on the outskirts. He was 5ft 11in tall, aged 23,

did a bit of modelling, was very good-looking.

Again a bar meet and we trusted him. He drove back to his, we

followed.

He and I took turns having sex with Joanne. She said she had never

been happier.

12. You start to become a theorist

AFTER a few encounters, we started to analyse the scene, compare

observations, draw up theories.

For example, the debate on whether threesomes are better than

fours. In a threesome as a couple, you have one toy (boy or girl)

between you. With fours, and chat-rooms talk a lot about this, there

tends to be complications, as it’s almost impossible for all four

to find each other attractive. One person will always be left out.

And people have complex reasons, too, for swinging. Perhaps a man

doesn’t find his wife attractive any more. He’s doing it just

to get some action. Or she’s doing it to test the boundaries of

their love or to push it to breaking point.

Then again, there are those so strong in their commitment that they

love to watch their partners having pleasure with others and are not

threatened by it ormade jealous.

There are a great number of couples with “bi-curious

fems” looking for a woman – so it’s more than just every

man’s fantasy of having two women in bed.

Swingers often travel great distances to meet. One couple travelled

up from Manchester to stay with us.

13. After a while, you need to get some distance on exactly what it

is you’re doing

ONE moment, perhaps on our sixth encounter, when I’d been

watching Joanne having sex, very complex emotions began running through

me.

Did I care for her? Did watching other people having sex turn me

on? Could I live like this with a female partner?

It was about this time that I started writing about swinging. To

try to put these emotions into place. A novel took shape – about a

couple so much in love, but still they needed more.

I didn’t think at the time that I was being a “naked

anthropologist”. I wasn’t doing research for the book. So many

couples saying it made their love stronger. Did I want to love Joanne? I

realised we had started from the wrong premise. The love has to be there

from the start. You can’t find it through swinging.

Joanne found my detachment frustrating. I encouraged her to see

other people without me. As far as I know, she didn’t swing with

others – I was her swinging partner – but she did start seeing other

guys.

I, too, had started seeing other women. And strangely, the

confidence that swinging had given me seemed to bring women to me who

wanted to explore their sexuality.

Over the next six months, with three different women, I swung, with

couples, with single men and women. And each time it was the same

feeling: I am missing something.

The process fascinated me – breaking the cliche that it is men who

want to screw around and women who want stability. Of course, many would

think this was coercion on my behalf – that these women were only doing

this to please me. But in each case, it was the woman who had the guts

to see things through.

14. One of the joys is in not having sex

AT times, I interviewed men myself, just like in a job interview –

assessing whether they could put my new partners Samor Julie at ease,

make them laugh, whether they could be trusted.

A 6ft 5in New Zealander with a ponytail and no sense of humour, a

nervous young man whose ad said he was VWE (very well endowed) but

who’d lied about his age and sat trembling as I interviewed him in

a bar. He ran out when I went to the toilet.

The kid no doubt thought he was so unattractive that it would be

easier to score with a couple than go through the process of

nightclubbing and dancing and chatting up only to face rejection.

15. There is a dubious side to swinging

IT does attract people who are escapees or have the wrong motives.

Some do it to try to save a failing marriage; some do it to cheat

and get away with it; some couples are married but not to each other and

swing behind their partners’ backs once a month in other cities, in

hotel rooms.

There are some single men, too, who hire prostitutes for the night

so they can swing with a couple. They are usually found out, as part of

the process is the chat, the building of trust on the basis of a

couple’s past.

The fact remains, however, that the great majority of swinging ads

say, “No single men” – and swinging clubs also have a

no-single-men policy.

Single men are generally only brought on to the scene when a couple

have a bi-curious male. Or when a couple wants multiple men.

To be picked as a single male you generally have to be

“WE” or “VWE”. Or to be young – another ad from a

retirement-age bisexual couple from Cornwall was calling for an

“Adonis” to go with the mon their second honeymoon to Greece.

16. Swinging does a lot for your self-confidence and your intuition

YOU start to see beyond people’s appearances. You feel a bit

like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, analysing everyone around you to work

out if they’re part of your revolutionary subculture.

You develop what is called “playdar” – a bit like gaydar.

Swingers can spot each other in public. A couple once picked me up in a

regular bar.

17. Swinging is a question, not an answer

MY year of swinging ended before I completed my book.

I felt I had to stop and take stock and that a novel would be the

vehicle for that. The year ended with a prior stage of escalation – an

invitation to an orgy at which I realised I’d get much more from it

if I was really in love with a partner.

My partners had been explorers, not lovers. I was not in love – but

I think in that year I learned to love people more, to be more

compassionate, more accepting of difference.

My year of swinging ended with many new friends who were no longer

lovers. Each of us, generally, moved on. Joanne now has a partner and a

child. Sally has an ongoing relationship with a couple.

Which leads me to believe that swinging is, for the committed core,

a lifestyle that they live day in, day out.

But, for the majority who pass through the websites, it is a stage

gone through for a year or so, a volatile one filled with questions

about boundaries. Who am I? How will I live? Can I be happy? Can I love?

What is love?

Swinging is not so much an answer as a question asked deeply – for,

as many philosophers say, the only questions worth asking should place

your life, and your body, at the heart of the question.

YThe Independent March 31,2007

Ewan Morrison graduated from Glasgow School of Art with a degree in

fine art and went on to become a successful TV director. He has directed

more than 200 hours of drama, arts and entertainment programmes for

Channel 4, BBC, Sky and STV, been nominated for four BAFTAs and was

winner of a Royal Television Society Award in 2001. Since 2003, he has

heldwriter in residence posts in France, Australia and New York. His

first collection of short stories, The Last Book You Read, was published

in 2005. Swung, a novel based on his year as a swinger, is published by

Jonathan Cape on Thursday, price pounds 11.99.

CAPTION(S):

CURIOUS: Ewan was on the swinging scene for a year

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