Women

On outnumbering and being Outnumbered

Unearnt privilege is real.  Unearnt privilege is also invisible.

Because privilege is invisible, those of us who have it (hi, straight white male here) can often be unaware of it, even when we’re actively exercising it; and this can lead us to think it isn’t real.  This can lead us to insist it isn’t real, particularly when we’re being called out for having (unwittingly or otherwise) profited by it.

But it is real.  If you’re in America and society perceives you as male, or white, or straight, or rich, or Christian (to name just a few big ones), then society affords you a latitude, society caters to your preferences and to your comfort, in ways that it simply doesn’t do for people it perceives as not belonging to those privileged groups.  It makes life for you easier and makes sure you feel more important.  That isn’t to say it makes life easy or makes you feel important, simply easier and more important than would be the case if you belonged to one of the non-privileged groups.

Gear change. I really love this piece in Cosmopolitan calling out Fox News’s Outnumbered for their paternalistic attempt to tell Cosmo to stay in their place and cover issues women should be reading about (fashion and pleasing men in bed, obvs) while leaving politics with the men, where it belongs.  In its tone, in its substance, in its perception, the essay is perfect from start to end.

And it got me thinking about the title of the show.  Outnumbered.  I’m already predisposed to dislike that title, because I don’t appreciate a cable news show appropriating the name of the most hilarious parenting sitcom ever televised.

But if you’re someone who I’ve claimed, up above, that our society gives you unearnt privilege, just for being you, and you’re sitting there thinking that’s a load of bullshit, that what you have, you’ve earnt, and it’s patent liberal hypocrisy of me to use claims of equality in order to give women or racial minorities or LGBTs special treatment, then think about the title of Outnumbered.

This is Fox News’s attempt to get women watching them in the middle of the day, since, after all, the daytime TV market is predominantly female.  And yet it’s not called Outnumbering or In the Majority or anything to emphasise the women who comprise most of its panel.  Instead it’s called Outnumbered.  The producers of this show, in their quest to appeal to women viewers, still take it totally for granted that even in something so fundamental as the show’s title, their audience are by default going to share the perspective of the one male panelist rather than his female colleagues.

That’s not the most pernicious, or pervasive, or harmful manifestation of privilege I could think of, not by a long shot.  It’s not even the worst instance of it just in the criticisms of Outnumbered cited in the Cosmopolitan essay.  But it’s a tremendously clear one.

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Show them this

A friend on Facebook linked to Next Time Someone Says Women Aren’t Victims of Harassment, Show Them This, and I’m a big fan.

My first big takeaway is that my very presence as a man means that the women I know are less likely to get harassed while I’m around. Therefore, by definition, I only see them during their most harassment-free times, so it’s inevitable that the picture I have of a woman’s life involves her being subject to far less harassment than she in reality is.

It is therefore important that when a woman tells me she’s being harassed, I believe her. This falls under the basic principle that when a woman tells me something is sexist, I believe her; there are few things more prima-facie sexist than a man explaining to a woman how something isn’t actually an instance of sexism.

(See also: few things more prima-facie racist than a white person explaining to blacks or Hispanics or any other racial minority how something isn’t actually an instance of racism.)

My second big takeaway is that “Not all men” is a perfectly valid way to start off a sentence, as long as you’re not saying it to women, but instead to the men who are the problem. One of the special privileges I get as a male in Western society is that my voice is naturally treated with more authority than a woman’s. There are plenty of men who, when told that what they’re saying is sexist or creepy by a woman, would have no problem dismissing anything she says and concluding that their own behaviour is perfectly fine; but they’d have a much harder time doing that if it were a man who told them.  Sure, they’d most likely get defensive and angry, but being called out for their sexism by a man would stick with them far more than being called out by a woman.

It’s wrong that my voice gets that privilege, but unfortunately it’s true. I can’t change that, but what I can do is use my voice to try and build a world for my kids to live in where my daughter will be heard with just the same weight as my son.

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Red Dead Redemption and women

That’s an episode of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, the spinoff of Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women web series, dealing with the phenomenon of the generic female sex worker NPCs who are so ubiquitous in the background of open-world video games.  It’s thirty minutes, which is a huge time commitment on the Internet, but if you like these sorts of games, it’s well worth it.

Let me start off by making it clear: I love open-world games. I love Grand Theft Auto.  I love Assassin’s Creed.  I love Red Dead Redemption.  I love Sleeping Dogs.  I’m one of the few GTA fans who was around for the original Grand Theft Auto game in the 90s, and I own every GTA game released for console from GTA3 onward.  I own every Assassin’s Creed game released for console.  I replay Red Dead Redemption in the same way that people regularly reread their favourite book.  In fact I’m in the middle of an RDR replay right now, which I started after I finished replaying GTA5 last week; I started GTA5 right after I’d finished replaying Sleeping Dogs.  The games in this video can be divided, fairly evenly, into games I own and love, and games I haven’t played.

(The exception is Just Cause II, which I own and have played but abandoned about halfway through because I just didn’t enjoy it.  It was too much of a shooter and not enough of an action-adventure game for me.)

And yet I can still acknowledge that every criticism Sarkeesian makes in the video—of the games I’ve played specifically and of the culture of M-rated open-world games in general—is valid and deplorable.

I came across the video in Kotaku’s short article linking to it, and then I skimmed through the first few dozen comments.  The level of discourse was a lot higher than I’ve seen in other online posts confronting misogyny in video games, and there were plenty of commenters who recognised the truth of what Sarkeesian is saying.  But of course, there were also plenty who tried to refute her argument, either by being the guy who thinks he’s “living proof that any supposed correlation between ‘long-term exposure to hypersexualized images’ and ‘higher tolerance of sexual harassment of women’ is complete bullshit” because he watches “loads of porn.  I mean, crazy amounts”, but doesn’t think of himself as a misogynist; or by dismissing Sarkeesian’s legitimacy as a critic of video games (apparently because she funded Tropes vs. Women in Video Games through Kickstarter?  I couldn’t really follow the logic.); or by attempting to argue that the misogyny in these games is actually A-OK.

I’m going to assume that it’s pretty self evident what the problems are with the first two of those—the dude with too much porn and too little self-awareness, and the guys who would find a way to dismiss anyone who criticised the boobs in their video games—and instead address the last, the guys who acknowledge the misogyny on display here but who have arguments to legitimise it.  I’m mostly going to concentrate on Red Dead Redemption, for three reasons:

(1) It’s the game I’m seeing these commenters cite most often with their arguments;

(2) It’s one of my favourite games of all time; definitely my favourite console game;

(3) It actually is really progressive as far as these things go.  It has multiple strong female characters, one for every act of the game.  Apart from the single instance of the Dastardly trophy (discussed in the video), the player’s interactions with the prostituted women are always either polite or heroic, and the player is not allowed to avail himself of their services.  And again apart from the Dastardly trophy, every instance of violence against women in the game is depicted as making its perpetrator a horrible human being.  I ask myself with every narrative game I play, “Just how bad is the misogyny here?”, because I want to know if this is a game that I can discuss with or recommend to the women with whom I discuss games, and with Red Dead Redemption I come closer to saying, “Not that bad at all,” than I do with pretty much any other open-world game besides Assassin’s Creed: Liberation.  But it’s the very fact that Red Dead is actually one of the least offensively misogynistic games of its genre but is still such low-hanging fruit for a feminist critique that shows just how pervasive a problem this is.

(And yes, I do have to consciously ask myself about the misogyny, because I’m a straight male, and I’m aware that just being a straight male gives me the male privilege of ignoring that misogyny if I don’t make the effort to look for it.  Having male privilege doesn’t make us, as men, bad people; it just makes us men.  It’s only if we use that male privilege to pretend our blindness to misogyny means that the misogyny isn’t there that we make ourselves bad people.)

(Also, it should come at no surprise at this point when I warn that there will probably be spoilers for Red Dead Redemption ahead.)

The counterarguments seem to fall into two general categories: relegating women to sexually titillating background decoration is all right because it’s just realism or historical accuracy; or relegating women to sexually titillating background decoration is all right because it’s counterbalanced by the presence of three well-developed female characters.

The first argument is easy to refute: it’s just flat out not true.  Even if the situation were simply that Red Dead Redemption depicts women as passive and irrelevant while it’s the men who actively drive events (which of isn’t what’s being criticised, but the commenter would like to pretend that it is), it still wouldn’t be accurate.  You only assume it’s accurate precisely because you’ve been exposed to so much media that pretends it is.  Women have always been active in our public life; women have always been present in fields we think of as traditionally belonging to men.  Anyone who tells you that all the women characters being relegated to passive, supporting roles and kept away from the real action is legitimate storytelling because history isn’t qualified to tell you anything about history.

And besides, that’s not even how Red Dead Redemption presents its world.  It’s not that women don’t get much say in the course of events; it’s that most of the women who appear onscreen are sex workers. I mean, the game allows the character to roam across the American southwest and the Mexican northwest, and about half the women he sees are prostitutes.  Prostitutes who only ever appear in public wearing nothing more than their underwear.  Are you really going to argue that that’s valid in the name of accuracy?  The town of Armadillo is, in the game, the only urban settlement in the state of New Austin.  Its population apparently consists of one general storekeep, one gunsmith, one doctor, one telegrapher, one marshal and two deputies, a staff of three or four at the train station, that weird dude who runs the cinema, a dozen or so pedestrians, a dozen or so customers at the saloon (as well as the saloon keeper and the piano player), and two or three dozen prostituted women.  Does that really seem like an accurate portrayal of a frontier town’s economy to you?  Even accounting for the ranchers in the surrounding counties, there must be one prostituted woman for every two men west of Hennigan’s Stead.  This is no more “accurate” than is GTA5’s depiction of strippers as a demographic who really really want you to grope and fondle them in the champagne room, if only it wasn’t for that mean bouncer putting a stop to their fun, and who will happily take you home with them if you can manage to fondle them enough without the bouncer seeing.

As for the idea that the presence of a strong female character balances out the purely male-gaze prostituted women who are so visible in Red Dead Redemption and, indeed, in so many other open-world games.  Red Dead does indeed have three really solid female characters with a lot of depth to them, and that’s (sadly) a lot for a game like this.  In fact, let’s take a look at all the main characters in Red Dead Redemption to see just how overrepresented women are.  I’ll even highlight them so it’s easier to see their prevalence in the game world:

(I’m defining a “major character” here as someone who either (1) is John Marston, (2) gives Marston a main-storyline mission, (3) is one of the major villains Marston has to hunt down in the climactic missions of each act of the game, or (4) doesn’t give Marston a mission per se, but who is a frequent companion of a mission-giver and accompanies or leads Marston on multiple missions, like Nastas the Indian or Captain Espinoza.)

CHARACTERS IN RED DEAD REDEMPTION

John Marston, male

Characters in the New Austin act

Bill Williamson, male (Williamson also appears in one mission in the Mexico act.)

Bonnie McFarlane, female (Bonnie also appears in two missions in the final act.)

Marshal Johnson, male

Jonah, male

Eli, male

Nigel West-Dickens, male (West-Dickens also appears in one mission in the final act.)

Drew McFarlane, male (Drew also appears in one mission in the final act.)

Seth, male

Irish, male

Characters in the Mexico act

Landon Ricketts, male

Captain de Santa, male

Colonel Allende, male

Luisa, female

Captain Espinoza, male

Abraham Reyes, male

Javier Escuella, male

Characters in the final act

Edgar Ross, male (Agent Ross also appears in one mission in the Mexico act)

Agent Fordham, male (Agent Fordham also appears in one mission in the Mexico act)

Dutch van der Linde, male

Professor MacDougal, male

Nastas, male

Abigail Marston, female

Jack Marston, male

Uncle, male

I mean, yeah, right?  It’s ridiculous how overrepresented women are in Red Dead Redemption.  It’s clear as day in that list.  Twelve per cent of the characters in the game who speak, have personalities, interact with the player and move the game forward are women.  That’s a ridiculously high proportion for a game with pretensions to “historical accuracy”.

(Seriously who can immerse themselves in a huge, deep game world like Red Dead Redemption but where only three out of twenty-five actual active human beings are female, and somehow come away with the idea that they’ve been playing a “historically accurate” rendition of how Western society works?  I guess the same guy who can play a game in which you can lasso and hogtie a prostituted woman, then place her on the train tracks, and she continues to sassily flirt with you while you both wait for the train to come run her over, and still describe the game he’s been playing as “historically accurate”.)

Like I said, Red Dead Redemption does have more—and more fully developed—major female characters than its peers such as most of the Grand Theft Auto games and most of the Assassin’s Creed games and Sleeping Dogs.  But that just highlights how low the standard is; it doesn’t make Red Dead some sort of bastion of egalitarian storytelling for giving John Marston literally one woman per act to interact with.  Pointing to Bonnie, Luisa and Abigail as if they somehow insulate the game from being called out on the objectification of the sex worker NPCs does much more to confirm accusations of misogyny in video gaming than it does to refute it.

But let’s say that three strong female characters really was impressive.  Let’s say Red Dead Redemption really did have a historically accurate, representative gender balance in its main narrative and cast of characters.  That still doesn’t change that the bordellos in towns throughout the game are creepy, male-gazey bits of window dressing that encourage the players to treat these women as being there just for their own entertainment.  Quite simply, the presence of the one element doesn’t erase the presence of the other.

(This works just as well in the opposite direction.  A lot of the commenters seem to take Sarkeesian’s criticism of Red Dead Redemption’s sex worker NPCs as her somehow saying that the presence of Bonnie, Luisa and Abigail doesn’t count.  Sarkeesian doesn’t ignore the major female characters or pretend they don’t exist; they simply aren’t relevant to a discussion of Red Dead being yet another instance of games that use sexualised images of women as objectified window dressing for the presumed straight male player.)

I started out by saying that I love open-world games in general, and I love Red Dead Redemption in particular.  I’m reiterating that now.  It’s important always to remember that finding some elements of a piece of media problematic doesn’t mean that other elements of it can’t be very satisfying and rewarding; it’s also important to remember that it is okay to like even the problematic elements.  But that doesn’t mean the problematic elements aren’t problematic, and it doesn’t mean we can wave away or dismiss the very real issues they raise.

Read Dead Redemption would be just as compelling and immersive a game without its three towns full of women walking around wearing only corsets, bloomers and stockings.  The gameplay experience would be just as satisfying. And yet someone still seems to think they need to be there.  And not just in Red Dead, but over and over again, in GTA, in Assassin’s Creed, you name it.  Why?

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Quoted

I’m currently reading A Woman in Berlin, a diary kept by an anonymous Berliner as she lived through the city’s conquest and occupation by the Red Army in April through June, 1945.  There’s a lot in here to catch the attention, but one passage in particular that’s struck me:

I often find myself thinking about the fuss I used to make over the men on leave, how I pampered them, how much respect I showed them.  And some of them had come from cities like Paris or Oslo, which were farther from the front than Berlin, where we were under constant bombardment.  Or else they’d been in places where there was absolutely peace, like Prague or Luxemburg.  But even when they were coming from the front, until 1943 they always looked neat and well fed, unlike most of us today.  And they loved to tell their stories, which always involved exploits that showed them in a good light.  We, on the other hand, will have to keep politely mum; each one of us will have to act as if she in particular was spared.  Otherwise no man is going to want to touch us anymore.

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Bloke Response Friday

Today I’m partaking of the response this week’s Girl Talk Thursday. Our topic for the day, therefore, is a List of Five, but this time, it’s five six seven fictional characters.

Though, this turned out to be a much wordier post than I anticipated. If anybody would rather just see pictures of gorgeous women, going back to that original List of Five post would probably do you better.

(Though there’s no reason you can’t do both.)

Lady Marion of Leaford (Judi Trott), Robin of Sherwood

Judi Trott as Maid Marion

For four-year-old Ian and for present-day Ian, Judi Trott’s Maid Marion is a huge part of what makes ITV’s Robin of Sherwood one of my favourite ever TV shows (and, for my money, the best TV or film Robin Hood retelling ever–the Washington Post says so, too). Some of you have had the opportunity to read stuff I’ve written about the character Corinne–Corinne is Judi Trott, at least physically. (Well, except that Corinne has green eyes, because I can’t resist green eyes.)

Emily and Katie Fitch (Kathryn and Megan Prescott), Skins

Kathryn and Megan Prescott as, respectively, Emily and Katie Fitch

Redhead identical twins. Don’t think I really need to say anything more.

Chiana (Gigi Edgely), Farscape

Gigi Edgely as Chiana

It was the way she moved–so alien, and so sensual. Well, also the smoking hot body and painstaking grey makeup. But Gigi Edgely deserves such credit for the job she does portraying Chiana every single second she’s on the screen, in a way most actors don’t have to. Well, either that, or it’s Gigi Edgely who has a way of moving and walking that can only be described by combining the terms reptilian and incredibly sexy.

Toda Mariko, Shogun

Mariko from Shogun

Just beats out Lady Jessica Atreides as the book character on the list. With Mariko existing on the page rather than the screen, her sexiness lies more in the idea of her than in any actuality (though Yôko Shimada makes a plenty attractive Mariko in the miniseries). Mariko is samurai; she is a woman who lives in a society where infidelity on the part of a married woman is punishable by instant death. And yet she falls in love with an Englishman and has a secret affair with him. Having a beautiful woman show you the wild sexual side she always keeps hidden, while the rest of the world has no idea and sees only someone serene and demure? Very hot.

Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury), Doctor Who

Wendy Padbury as Zoe

Zoe from the side Zoe from behind

(Zoe is someone who I really feel should be appreciated from all angles.)

It was a close-run thing between which Doctor Who companion made it onto my list–Zoe or Nyssa. Zoe wins on cuteness, but Nyssa totally wins on girls-I-had-a-crush-on-when-I-was-four. You know what? Doctor Who is a time travel show. What is the point of a time machine if not to create awesome threesome pairings? No reason we can’t also have

Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Doctor Who

Sarah Sutton as Nyssa

They’ve got a lot in common, thinking about it. They’re both from advanced societies–Nyssa from the distant planet Traken, Zoe from a human space colony in a distant time known as “the year 2000”. They’re both innocent and sheltered from the ways of the world–a huge turn-on for me. And they’re both precocious, brilliant geniuses–mathematical in Zoe’s case, scientific in Nyssa’s. Women who are smarter than me? Very very hot. Super-smart girls who are into maths & science? Very very hot.

Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), From Russia With Love

Well I guess I do have a second book character here, though I’ve never read From Russia With Love, only seen the movie. The Italian Russian accent. The choker and stockings. (Dude. The choker and stockings.) The scene where she seduces Bond in his hotel room that is still the scene being used to audition Bond girls. What about any of that is it possible to resist? And then there’s the fact that she presents herself as an eminently competent Soviet intelligence official, but when events sweep her up, she ends up in over her head, needing to be rescued. A woman who looks confident and independent to the rest of the world, but still needs you to protect her? That gets some primal urges going, right there.

Don’t forget to head over to the main site to do your own list.

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Virginia Vice

As seems to be the prelude to these things, it started with Diane saying, “I think you should write a vices post.” So here we go with my vices:

Women. I’m an aspiring writer, and I always said–mostly in jest–that I couldn’t be a writer without a good, solid vice. I’d throw out cigarettes or drugs or alcohol as suggestions, but Lisa never seemed terribly enamored of any of these.

Then one day at a shopping mall in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, as I was waxing poetic about the appeal of tobacco or hard liquor, Lisa said, “Women, honey. Women are your vice.” And Nikki was totally there to see it.

So I have taken her decision to heart. I do love the company of a beautiful woman, and I’m an incorrigible flirt. Thank goodness I have a British accent, and two small children (protip: nothing attracts the attention of a beautiful woman like a small child). And a wife who rolls her eyes and laughs at me making a fool of myself.

Video games. I’ve talked before about how, as soon as I pick up a video game, it consumes my life. There are three types of games I really love: strategy games, American football games and soccer management games (where you manage the team, buy and sell players, but don’t actually play the matches). Every time I get over one, I completely swear off video games, because I do nothing else when I’m really into one. I abandon this blog and Twitter and everything else online, and worst of all, my writing comes to a screeching halt.

Books. I love books. I’ve always loved books. I daydream about getting lost in the long, winding stacks of books in an endless library. My own library has around sixteen hundred volumes right now. I’m a compulsive collector of books, with an especial weakness for history and biography; if I come across a biography of someone I don’t already have a life of, I’ll usually buy it.

Sprite. It’s what I drink. Almost never on its own, though; it gets mixed with other stuff. That might be Crystal Lite, apple juice, red wine, or pretty much any liquor. If it’s not carbonated, not milk and doesn’t require dilution, obviously it’s meant to be mixed with Sprite before consumption. I tried to give up soda a while back. Why did that not work? Because it meant giving up Sprite.

Blackcurrant. Okay, there’s one thing I drink besides Sprite. In Britain, blackcurrant is exceptionally common; in America, it’s almost unheard of, with the common flavour “purple” being grape rather than blackcurrant. I found out recently that’s because the American timber industry had blackcurrant cultivation outlawed in most states in the 1930s, because blackcurrant is a huge predator of timber.

But anyway. For years I was able to keep my blackcurrant addiction under control, with just the occasional bottle of Ribena from the British section of the supermarket. But during our trip to England this summer, with Ribena cheap and plentiful, I drank the stuff like water, and now I can’t go back. It’s been a part of my life for a long time, but since this summer it’s become a constant presence. Even though it’s $8 for a single one-litre bottle. Now I don’t think I could give up the Ribena if I wanted to, but why would I want to? It fills my life with such joy.

And so there we have it. Five bad habits–five instances of me surrendering to my senses. Anyone else care to share a vice?

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Dude Response Friday

ETA: So I guess I’m not the only one who likes the idea of guys responding to what their ladies have to say on Girl Talk Thursday. I’ve never been the catalyst for something someone designed an Internet badge for before. I feel pretty cool right now:

Yesterday Lisa participated in Girl Talk Thursday with her List of Five. Turnabout is, as always, fair play, so here I’m offering my own list. It’s a list of the moment, of course–a list that evolves continually. I think back to the (gorgeous) women who were on it five or so years ago, and they’ve done things like party so hard that they had the face of a thirty-year-old when they were still nineteen, or done something really creepy like marry Tom Cruise.

So just to sum up? The list remains totally fluid.

Oh, and also–because I’m a giver, Lisa can totally consider herself welcome to my list as well as hers. If she has the opportunity to get it on with anyone on this list, she doesn’t need to feel guilty at all about taking it.

So here they are, alphabetically by first name (because you can’t have a list like this without some sort of order):

Georgia

Georgia Moffett

Georgia Moffet played the title character in “The Doctor’s Daughter” episode of Doctor Who, and man, cute–as–a–button. Just look at that smile. And those eyes. She’s the sort of girl you’re scrambling to help fix whatever problem she’s having.

Mila

Mila Kunis

Long, long ago, an Internet test picked out That ’70s Show’s Mila Kunis as my physically perfect girl. And who am I to argue with Internet tests?

Millie

I’ve already talked–probably with a touch too much specificity–about my crush on Millie Clode, my favourite Sky Sports News presenter. But as I was searching for pictures of her, I couldn’t find any I was really happy with. (I’ve had this problem with several of the women on this list, and Lisa had the same problem for her post, but with Millie it was particularly pronounced.) I came to the conclusion that this is because her sexiness lies in her onscreen attitude, in the way you feel like she’s flirting just with you as she addresses the camera, and a still image can’t capture that. Diane proposed the solution, a video. This is the best one I could find on youtube; I do recommend watching the HQ version. (If you’re reading on Facebook, you can see the embedded video at the original post.)

Morena

Morena Baccarin

I don’t know what there is to say about Morena Baccarin except … wow. Loved her ever since Firefly. I’m a bit leery about the upcoming remake of V, though, given the haircut she’s wearing.

Natalie

Natalie Dormer

I first saw Natalie Dormer in the Heath Ledger Casanova movie a few years ago, and instantly fell in love. Since then, of course, she’s become far more famous playing Anne Boleyn in The Tudors. For that role she went brunette, and while this didn’t dampen my ardour nearly as much as Jessica Alba’s move in the opposite direction, I still think she’s at her most indefensibly bewitching as a blonde.

Vanessa

Vanessa Carlton

Vanessa Carlton is one of my favourite singers, and it’s a lucky thing. It would really suck being complete putty in her hands if her music sucked.

Honorable mention

Jessica Alba. A few years ago would have been the first name on the list. The thing about Jessica Alba is, as a brunette I think she’s stunningly hot. But when she went blonde for Fantastic Four, all of a sudden she just … didn’t capture my interest in the same way before. Not that I’d be able to resist for a heartbeat (or even string a sentence together) if I walked into my bedroom and found this waiting for me (link verges on the NSFW), but she just wasn’t quite in the same place as her fellows on this list. Also, we share a birthday (though she’s two years younger than me).

Anyone I’ve missed? It’s a question asked of the gents, of course, but you ladies are strongly encouraged to weigh in, too.

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The turnoff

A woman's tattooed torsoLast week, at Diane’s instigation I talked about my turn-ons, a post that was a fair deal of fun to write (and which left me with half a dozen photos of women dressed in Catholic schoolgirl uniforms saved me to hard drive, from the search for a suitable image to adorn the post).

But that sort of discussion wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t also mention what’s probably my number one turnoff in a woman, at least in appearance: the tattoo.

The small tattoos–a flower on the inside of the wrist, or Celtic knot on the small of the back or around the ankle, are one thing. They’re still a turnoff, but they’re ignorable.

But now the tattoos are getting bigger. One day when Boy and I went swimming, there were three attractive women under thirty at the pool. This in itself, considering that they were all there separately, is rather unusual; Boy and I go swimming on weekday mornings, so as often as not we’re alone there with the lifeguard.

And every one of them had massive tattoos across their body, like the one in the picture at the top of this post.* One over her arms, another across the bottom half of her back, and the third across her back and thighs. And it killed it for me.

Now, I’m not sitting in judgement over tattoos, and I’m not criticising any readers who might have them, so I hope they don’t take it as such. I just … don’t like them. To me, I see the female form as a beautiful, pure thing.** And a tattoo mars that purity–permanently.

Anyone else have a turnoff like that, that just kills the moment for them?

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*In the past couple of weeks Facebook seems to have stopped importing the images on my posts. I don’t know if this is Facebook or the RSS feed off the blog. At any rate, if you’re just really interested in seeming some picture of a girl’s torso with her pants pulled down and sports bra pulled up to expose her full tattoo, and you’re reading this without an image on it, head on over to the original post to see.

**Please no one think that because I’m bringing purity into the discussion, I’m referring at all to virginity. Virginity and physical purity are, as far as I’m concerned, unrelated, and it annoys me greatly when they get equated.

Re: Girl Talk Thursday (NSFW)

Catholic schoolgirlAnd to make a long story short, then Diane said, “Maybe it’s time you post about your turn ons.”

To which notion Lisa responded, “Any such post needs to first be vetted by me and at least one other female. And I don’t know who that would be. Because you know what you like? Having girl friends who don’t think you’re creepy.”

So now you know what this post is going to be about. No one who reads beyond this point gets to complain or be weirded out. So here they are, presented in no particular order. They run the gamut from pretty vanilla This-Is-What-Of-the-Common-Turn-Ons-Particularly-Excite-Me to rather more white chocolate raspberry swirl ones. You can probably estimate where each one falls on the scale by how much screen space gets devoted to it.

1. Catholic schoolgirl uniforms. The little touches are important. Knee socks. Mary Janes (see Footwear below). The skirt should be pleated.

2. Redheads/gingers. The redder the better.

3. When a girl’s bra and panties match. (No, it doesn’t count when your old lady bra matches your white cotton panties.) For extra points, when they match the girl’s high heels and garter & stockings. This is a major turn on because it means the girl planned on someone seeing her with her clothes off tonight.

4. The hourglass–there’s just something about the sudden flair of that curve.

5. Footwear and stockings. Shoes are one of the first things I look at on a woman. As mentioned above I’m a fan of Mary Janes, and also of go-go boots. With high heels, I like them to be strappy, and the higher the better. The best part of high heels is what they do to a woman’s calves.

I really like stockings, with or without a garter belt. I know that I’m almost always wrong, but as far as I’m concerned, when a woman has sexy hose on, she’s wearing stockings.

6. Seeing what I’m not supposed to see. This comes in two ways. The first is what I’ll call private–there are few things sexier than being able to see partway down the top of a girl who’s, say, sat in front of you at the football game, or at the next table in the restaurant. It’s … intimate. The second is public–when a woman falls victim to a fortuitous gust of wind or a stumble. The sort of thing that a lot 1940s of pinup art is based on.

7. Watching a girl at the beach or the pool strip off to her bikini. Something else that’s both voyeuristic and intimate–a woman willingly disrobing in public.

8. Laces. Anything piece of clothing that unties.

9. Power. I guess, the kinkiest thing on the list. I’ve always been fascinated with power relationships. Probably my biggest turn on is the idea of getting women to do things in public they don’t want to do. The American version of the gameshow Dog Eat Dog had a round where an attractive female contestant would have to throw a certain number of, say, footballs through a hole, and she could buy one throw for each item of clothing she was willing to remove. I found it incredibly erotic, because obviously each episode’s contestant never wanted to disrobe piece by piece on a stage in front of hundreds of people, but every episode that’s exactly what she chose to do.

Also under power I’d file the idea of women being tricked into doing things they don’t realise. When Lisa and I were at Versailles we at one point were behind an attractive young woman in a black cotton dress. After a moment of looking, you realised the dress was actually completely transparent, and you could see every detail of her lacy black panties.*

So there you go–nine turn ons that I figured wouldn’t freak anyone out too much (so long as too much detail was avoided). And the only one I had to leave off is the order a woman takes her clothes off.

I

*Just as an aside, if Paris still sets the fashion for the rest of the world, then the coming fashion for young women is going to be clothing that’s see-through, at least from the waist down. In 32 hours in the City of Light we saw three different girls dressed that way–the one in the black dress, plus two sets of white Capri’s.

Two days in Paris

Ian,Lisa and the Eiffel TowerParis Syndrome is a real, documented phenomenon, especially amongst the Japanese, of tourists who, upon arrival in the world’s centre of fashion and sophistication, find the reality so disappointing that they have a nervous breakdown and have to be very expensively repatriated back to their home countries.

Now, neither Lisa nor I had any sort of incidence of Paris Syndrome during our 32 hours in the French capital, but I can understand where it comes from. One of the things I immediately noticed about Paris is how dirty a city it is–to the touch, to the nose, full of an organised syndicate of gypsy beggars and of men who happily stand behind a waist-high bush and relieve themselves whilst still making eye contact with you.

That said, we also had a great time. Our first afternoon was spent at Versailles. Two days later, we went to Hampton Court in West London, the palace that William and Mary apparently attempted to rebuild in an effort to eclipse Louis XIV’s achievement at Versailles–and, having seen the original the day before yesterday, I’ve got to say they failled. Versailles was a stunningly beautiful place, not just the palace itself but the hugely expansive grounds. And Versailles is also the location of the McDonald’s where Lisa and I ordered a Royale with cheese (actually, a “Royal Cheese”, paired on the menu with a Royal Bacon).

Getting to our hotel was an adventure. It was located on the Boulevard de Grenelle, a few streets south of the Eiffel Tower. The Bd de Grenelle has three Metro stops, and I had no idea which one was closest to our hotel. One of those stops lay on the line we were riding back into the city from Versailles, so we chose that one.

It disgorged us at No. 1 Bd de Grenelle; our hotel was at No. 140. So we decided to walk. Turned out to be a mile. In the 85-degree Parisian summer, with a six-month pregnant woman.

Then when we arrived, we were informed our room had been subject to massive water damage, but they’d booked us a room at another, nicer hotel. Fair enough. The desk clerk whipped out a map and told us our new hotel was on the Rue de Vaugirard. He Xed the intersection of the Bd de Grenelle and the Rue de Vaugirard and said, “Is a five-meenut walk. Maybe seven.”

The gardens at VersaillesSo we decided to walk. Turned out to be another mile. But then we arrived at the intersection of Rue de Vaugirard and what had been the Boulevard de Grenelle, though by that point was the Boulevard Pasteur. And it turns out the intersection was at No. 185 Rue de Vaugirard, but our hotel was at No. 403. At that point we hailed a taxi.

The following day was spent on trips to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame, where we attended Mass and Lisa took Communion.

Lisa mentioned how the girls in England always go to such trouble to make themselves attractive–seemingly always very stylishly dressed and nicely put together. I can’t comment on that for Parisian girls, because honestly, any individual person you pass on the streets in Paris is apparently more likely to be foreign than they are to be French. But I can say that French girls are, simply put, pretty–they just all seem to be beautiful girls.

Lisa would like me to add to that, that Parisian men, on the other hand, are always sleek and well-groomed, and that they know just how to dress to accentuate that.

I

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