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On Darren Young, An Openly Gay WWE Superstar

Site things: This blog hasn’t been updated in a long period of time because I kind of burnt myself out on serious writing over the summer. I planned a lot of entries, even recently with the bullshit about Hugo Schwyzer (and the ensuing lessons taught to Big Feminism by women of color), and the Harriet Tubman sex tape comedy video debacle. But that just didn’t happen. I’ll hopefully explain why in the future, but instead, let’s praise the present.

 

Photo credit: WWE.com

Photo credit: WWE.com

Even as a pro wrestling fan, I didn’t really think much of Darren Young for a long time. He was a competent talent in an entertaining tag team, but not much of what he did inspired me past a certain level. He is different from Jason Collins in that I knew who he was before the announcement, but in much the same way, what I knew about him became irrelevant immediately after today. Darren Young becomes the first person in professional wrestling’s biggest company to come out as openly gay while under contract with them.

This is not the first time a gay performer has been under contract with WWE, but it may be the first time WWE is forced to become serious about an issue that has all but dominated mainstream culture in the past year. Unfortunately, past examples of gay performers don’t have positive endings in WWE. Orlando Jordan, a bisexual performer, was fired for his sexual escapades with an underaged boy. He subsequently was hired by the competing Total Nonstop Action (which yes, has the fucking stupid initials of TNA). And, well, this sort of thing happened on a weekly basis:

Another performer, Chris Kanyon, revealed that he was homosexual after his time with WWE was finished and said that he was harassed and bullied for his homosexuality during his time with the company. Kanyon committed suicide in April 2010.

Ultimately, the question lies in what WWE does with Young as a performer. They cannot afford to do to him what others have had done to them in the past. WWE is at a high in terms of casual cultural acceptance. They will never reach the level of legitimate sport in terms of common popularity, but their audience aim is also different. The success of a reality show like Total Divas has allowed the sort of cache that the NFL can barely touch with a show like Hard Knocks. More to the point, though, is that WWE is suddenly at a place which often is their most dangerous. They are at a place where they are holding the ball and have to do everything to avoid dropping it.

We’re likely to see a change in how WWE perceives Young, as his role as a bad guy simply will not cut it. But then it leaves a tougher question on if they try too hard to make Young’s sexuality into foreground, not good territory for pro wrestling to say the least and certainly not the territory that would label athletes like Collins, were he to be signed by another NBA team this fall. Even MMA star Liz Carmouche, whose fanbase has significantly grown upon her revelation as a lesbian, has also avoided being overly stereotyped by her sexuality, and is simply billed as a hero.

But all of this is speculative. For right now, in this moment, Darren Young is a hero. He’s broken open a taboo that wrestling always hid and hinted at, but never acknowledged. He’s also done it in a manner that suggests that this time, things just might be different. Let’s hope the era of wrestlers being bad guys for their choice of lifestyle is a bygone time.

EVERY DAY A STAR IS BORN: Wendy Davis Edition

A few days ago, when the whole situation with SB5 happened in the Texas House, I was immediately discouraged. It was cool that there was a definite public presence, but I couldn’t help but realize that the government was going to do what they can to subvert thousands of women protesting in their chambers. It also was the most basic thing that people could not get right. Protecting women’s bodies was a thing that somehow the government could not get right. That in itself is deeply saddening.

I wasn’t in on the ground floor on Wendy Davis’ filibuster. I didn’t hear about it until late last night, as I napped away almost the entirety of the day. I didn’t even tune in to the stream of her efforts until 11:30 PM Central. I’m not even certain I’ve ever heard her voice. And yet, she is immediately the biggest inspiration that I can remember in a long time.

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to feel energized as a feminist. It is the small things, like when Ellen Page uses an AMA on Reddit to discuss the positives of feminist pornography or when a state senator uses her means to fight for what is right, time and bodily functions be damned. Applaud ’em. Thanks for being badass in levels I cannot even comprehend at 1:17 AM Central time. It doesn’t matter how fucking dumb the legislature is, or how easily they’ve violated a set rule. What matters is that there are still badasses out there.

CLAP FOR ‘EM CLAP FOR ‘EM CLAP FOR ‘EM

Don Cherry Says Some Shit

“I don’t believe women should be in the male dressing room.”

— Don Cherry, April 27, 2013, Hockey Night in Canada

File this under the obvious shit is obvious camp that Don Cherry, noted old institution in Canadian hockey lore, more or less doesn’t want female reporters to do their job because of some myth about dude testosterone or some archaic belief. This is a dumb belief to have and certainly being 79 years old is no excuse but this type of offhand idiocy is almost expected from the older set of commentators.

So I’m going to give Don Cherry some important things to add to his assessment:

— If women are allowed to use the internet, how will men be able to function? We will simply be too distracted by women to ever work on important things again.
— Why are women allowed to report? What if men accidentally give a quote they didn’t mean because they were simply too turned on at the time? What an inconvenience!
— If the pinkos are allowed to take over, then herp derp communism. (Shoutout for Don Cherry Wiki fans.)

I could go on, but here’s the real breaks: Cherry, while known for his rash of ridiculous as hell statements, will barely get touched for this opinion. It doesn’t even compare in the mainstream eye to his use of “pinko” or his ethnic comments in the eyes of a Wikipedia page or elsewhere. This will not suddenly break him as an employee. Yet this comment, or at least the implications therein, is baffling and stupid. Female journalists are essentially left out in the cold because of the “boys will be boys” mindset. I don’t need to tell you that this is a tacit fortification of rape culture. In fact, I don’t need to tell you that this is anything other than incredible stupidity from an old fella. So let’s leave it at that.

Double Dare Ya: An American Studies-Esque Examination

I do want to resume content coming at a more frequent pace, but I’m going to put up some work in the stead that I’m proud of from past school work. I feel it is solid enough to be worth reading, and Kathleen Hanna always has relevance in discussions of the third wave. I also will post the song above.

“We’re Bikini Kill and we want revolution girl style now!” opens the work of the Bikini Kill song “Double Dare Ya.” With this proclamation, the punk band led by Kathleen Hanna immediately sought to grab the attention of any person that listened through taking the punk process of provocation and filtering it through a new radical form of feminist politics, later referred to as third-wave feminism.

Hanna and crew did this by adopting a new punk rock ethos known as “riot grrrl.” Riot grrrl was more than about punk rock or the DIY methods made popular by DC punk bands like Minor Threat. It sought to be a full-on movement, with zine publishing seeking to appeal to young women with anything from personal stories to semi-ironic containments of what is referred to as “bedroom culture.” As described by Ryan Moore in his piece “Young, Gifted, and Slack,” “Riot grrrl brought a sense of urgency to zine publishing, as young women used zines to write about their own experiences and communicate with a network of others regarding the social and personal problems they faced.”

If this sounds familiar or like a natural evolution of past thought, then zine culture reads a lot like how Susan Douglas felt women related to the Shirelles and girl groups. Bikini Kill is even literally a “girl group” as all four of the band’s members are women. Yet feminism in that time went from Steinem’s highly public sentiments to an underground movement by the early 1990s. Feminism, like punk rock, was forcefully marginalized and needed to regroup for modern times.

With this in mind, the blunt immediacy of Hanna’s demands for “revolution girl style now” reigns through the run of “Double Dare Ya.” Hanna can either coo a line like “Hey girlfriend / I got an idea” or she can ferociously shout, like in the chorus where she demands the listener to join in, “I double dare ya, girl.” Like the use of the term “riot grrrl,” the ‘ir’ being replaced with a three-r bark, Hanna’s yelling about girls is a form of negation. She uses “girl” with a slight irony to comment on the marginalization of women but also as a term of affection.

This can be a takeoff of what Poly Styrene did with X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage, Up Yours.” Hanna opens “Double Dare Ya” with cries of revolution like Styrene talks about the corporate tyranny of “little girls.” This is all a nebulous form of punk. Yet in taking from punk, Hanna’s group escalated their provocations in the world of 1990s alternative rock culture. As Moore notes, Hanna would perform with purposefully loaded terms strewn on her belly, such as “whore” or “slut.”

Hanna herself is full of contradictions, as Moore points out that the first few seconds of “Double Dare Ya” are ripe with uncomfortable feedback noises and Hanna sort of confusingly asking, “Is that supposed to do that?” And almost in a millisecond, Hanna’s tone changes from confused and awkward to complete brimming confidence. Moore says of Hanna that she “could shriek to the heavens, but she did it with a mall-rat accent.”

These contradictions and comments on Hanna’s potential irony can bleed into a discussion on a friend of Hanna’s in Nirvana vocalist Kurt Cobain and in the motives of alternative rock in general. “Double Dare Ya” shows snippets of Hanna’s behavior as a rock vocalist with a sort of schizophrenic change in behavior mid-song while Cobain’s work in the era’s defining track “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a nascent mix of fiery nihilism and tender vulnerability. Cobain saw people his age had this tone and similarly Hanna felt that women had this same sort of feeling.

Yet unlike Cobain, Hanna is entirely willing to undoubtedly piss off the listener. The first ten seconds of the song, the aforementioned “is this supposed to do that” sequence, has a painful feedback loop. Presumably, it is unintentional since Hanna doesn’t know how to respond, but it is not only kept in the finished recording, but because “Double Dare Ya” is the first track on Bikini Kill’s first label release, it is the first noise the audience hears.

If Gloria Steinem wanted to piss people off and place second-wave feminist discussion points to the national forefront by proxy, Hanna takes this model and uses layers and layers of rudimentary punk rock sounds to prove her point. After all, if something pisses a person off, that person cannot help but discuss it. It is human nature. Hanna doesn’t mind using her stage presence as a provocation of a culture of privilege as well as commenting on a rock world that, while shifted, needs the work of a blasting female provocateur. “Double Dare Ya” sought and claimed this goal and Hanna confidently delivered her messages with the conviction only the riot grrrl movement could make.

A Preview of Adam Morrow Interviewing Me

A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure to be interviewed by one of my favorite people in the world, musician Adam Morrow of Callooh! Callay! fame. Due to some site troubles, we’ll put up a little chunk of that interview on here and then I will direct you to go to WellThatsCool.com for the whole thing. Good times.

I met Trey Irby for the first time at some point in the fall of 2010. He paced around the mostly empty upstairs bar of Mellow Mushroom. It was definitely a Thursday, and probably 9pm, long before the first band would start, but there he was, PBR tallboy in hand, ready for music. He talked to folks with gusto, he absorbed all of the music that was played with an attentiveness that would thrill most bar bands hoping someone “gets it,” and he laughed loudly and genuinely. And that’s Trey. Since then, he has amassed a body of work that speaks to that spirit, and conveys just how much he is thinking about not only music, but how it fits in a larger cultural landscape. Where are we right now? He’s perpetually grasping to figure that out, whether it be in this column, at the shows he frequents, or in 140 characters on Twitter. It was high time someone asked him about himself.

What was the last thing you listened to?

Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones (Part II),” out of all things. Just before that it was Wye Oak’s “Holy, Holy.” I think I’m only doing that because I have to be like “I listen to everything, I’m not just into hip-hop!”

Where were you born?

I was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana. Very, very small town in the northeast Louisiana area. Thats why, if anytime you pay attention to my Facebook posts, because I know everyone does, thats why I have a sudden, random liking of the University of Louisiana-Monroe, ’cause I would have actually ended up going there if we had stayed in Louisiana and not moved here.

So where did you grow up?

I grew up here, basically.

When did you move to Tuscaloosa?

About 5. I would have been about 5. In Oak Grove, you really could not get a job anywhere. Its one of those, its a classic small town situation. You would either be working at the gas station or you’d be working at, I don’t know, the Merle Norman or whatever.

So by the age of 16, Trey Irby is living in Tuscaloosa. Where’d you go to school?

Hillcrest.

Introduce me to 16 year old Trey Irby.

He was…kind of a dork. There’s a lot of other layers to this. The famous picture of me now, in the Eagles (basketball) jersey and all that, that was from my Christian school days, when I went to Open Door Christian School. But when I went to 10th grade, I went to public school, and obviously I didn’t know a damn thing about public school. But it was probably the best decision I ever made. I was probably going to have all this resentment if I didn’t leave Christian school.

16 year old Trey Irby, he started to pay attention to the Internet a lot. Like, go on an online forum, and they’d be like, “You should listen to this band…they’re called the New Pornographers!” and I was like, “Huh, ok, I’ll listen to a couple songs.” I kind of grew into this indie hipster…there was part of me that was like, “I’m getting really into these bands that I found on this site called Pitchfork!”

The rest will obviously be seen in due time. And if you are in Tuscaloosa, come out to Green Bar tonight to see Callooh! Callay! perform. You’ll enjoy it.

Masculinity, Women, and Sports Games: Why Representation Matters

We didn’t do any coverage on the Steubenville rape case because truth be told, I felt that capable writers, bloggers, and twitterers covered the hell out of the sad bullshit throughout that case, namely the accusatory nature of “she was drunk, so of course she deserved it” logic and how fucking dumb it is. Through it, there was some fiery discussion on institutionalized rape and rape culture. So naturally, I’m going to very loosely tie it in with what I’ve thought about a lot. The connection isn’t completely loose: a lot of the criticism on how CNN covers Steubenville is in the American idolatry of athletics and ultimately the masculine athlete. This idolatry is buoyed by the popularity of sports games.

Still, I’m going to delve more brightly on a top that I feel a little more qualified to discuss in sports video games. I may have mentioned on either this blog or the blogs I’ve posted on noted wonderful site WellThatsCool.com that last year, I attempted a book on the Madden NFL franchise, the leading franchise in sports video gaming. This project, through my own laziness, has basically went on the backburner for now, but the game franchise obviously has not. In Madden’s success, the EA Sports division of mega company Electronic Arts has generated many of the examples we will talk about.

This is once again where we note the unfortunate attitudes about women in sports before we even remotely discuss women in video games. Despite the phenomenal work of talents like Baylor basketball star Brittany Griner, the US women’s national soccer team, et al, there is no representative from these sectors represented in the very sports games I love. I state this to not immediately blame game companies, but lament these sort of circumstances. Griner is not out of college yet, and EA no longer even puts out basketball games related to college basketball, ending the last franchise to do so in NCAA Basketball in 2009. As far as I’m aware, there have not been video games about women’s softball or women’s gymnastics (bar a token playable sequence in one of the many Olympics games).

And unfortunately, that is more of a sigh about commodities than about the cultural implications. If college basketball video games, a simulation of one of the biggest tournaments in North American sports, are not financially feasible for a major company, then women’s softball isn’t exactly going to be a big seller. Yet there is one thing that throws me off on the subject. EA themselves have been very selective in what sports will portray women. In FIFA, a sport represented by two US women’s World Cup teams, there have been zero female representations. All this despite the abilities and tactics that are closer to the men’s game than one would think. (I think a Bill Simmons podcast from the era of the 2011 Women’s World Cup gives surprising credence to this last point as well. And yes, Bill fucking Simmons proves a point about female athletes. I’m shocked, too.)

EA has put women in two of their major sports titles as athletes, the NHL series and the Tiger Woods series, both in only the past two years. And again, it is funny as hell that some of the most progressive portrayals of female athletes come from the Tiger Woods games. Yet one of these makes sense. The Tiger Woods games have a responsibility to properly simulate a world where Michelle Wie has a very real possibility to reach to men’s ranks of the PGA tour. And before I researched this, I assumed there had never been a woman that participated in an NHL game. I was wrong, however, as Canadian women’s national hockey team goalie Manon Rhéaume did play in preseason NHL games in the 1990s. However, there are zero active women in the rosters of NHL teams. Yet the recent NHL games allow a player to create women, reportedly in response to a young girl’s letter to EA asking for women to be put into the game.

This is where representation becomes important. It seems very small to have women as playable characters in sports where the top leagues hold zero women athletes, but this is also very complex. Women do compete in admittedly segregated forms of sport from the WNBA to the (now closed) Women’s Professional Soccer league and, yes, the Lingerie Football League. Though the last one is a cheesecake take on real sports, it is not out of the realm of possibility to have women in professional leagues. It is as a friend of mine would put it in that this is a very small thing, but small things actually hold important beacons on representation. It is still scary to me that sports culture is viewed as a masculine affair. More men compete in this, but women participating in sports known for male competition have a higher lens of examination.

But more accurately, if these simulations are slight blends of reality and fantasy, why not represent everyone? Why can’t someone make an athlete built like She-Hulk that destroys the NBA game by game? Why not have a tough running back who is also able to tell her story through sports games’ increasing “reality in fiction” social media modes? Hell, who says a person can’t just make a great bit player because that’s something they always wanted to do? This isn’t very hard. The technology is there. Put women in sports games, 2K and EA.

First Drafts

Much of this site is obviously devoted to issues (with a z or something), but I feel like I want to look inward to why I do this. During the time this blog has been active, I have been in a creative writing class. I find this probably too interesting and don’t expect people to get personally attached to that. But my writing has evolved with how I feel. I think about being a flawed person, at points. A lot of the pieces on Boner Lulz come from first drafts and they might read like stream of consciousness. I don’t know any other way to respond than to just vent or gush, context be damned. This is informal stuff. This is the first draft of the manifesto I’ve written for this class, but moreover, I’m going to be revising this. I’m curious to see where the final product ends up.

I always have a difficult time writing about why I write without sounding like a colossal asshole. So I apologize if I come off like that. I don’t think I ever started writing because of any great impetus, only that athletics and other general school things were always out of the question. My favorite writer is Chuck Klosterman because he has this weird tendency to change his point from something about say football to a discussion on culture within an essay. This has gotten me in trouble during actual academic writing, but it inspires the hell out of me.

I tend to place my manifesto as telling people that I “do writing.” Obviously, this is grammatically incorrect. No one, according to the sentence structure of English language, “does” writing. They write. But I don’t think there’s another way I really think about writing as a whole. And this isn’t to say I dislike writing, by the way, but that I feel that I avoid things that would clearly make me a better writer but also too much of a worker.

I detest revision. This draft is my first draft of this piece and it will be the last. Revision would make my work better, obviously. I think I trick myself into thinking that typing the last word is completion. I don’t recommend this style. I see that people come off way better by editing. But I can’t prove this. I’ve never seen where I feel my thoughts would be more succinct. It’s a weird complex, very much like writing in the first place.

I was a silent kid, very much of the introverted world. I dug into video games and doing things like organizing a videotape collection when everything else around me was on the floor. This is how I write. I feel a bit guilty when someone tells me that I have a wonderful concept for a piece, but that the actual execution is all over the place. I procrastinate and I’m very guilty of creating my own problems in a college environment. I am a contradiction. I need deadlines to finish a thing, but I detest those deadlines all the same.

Feminist Porn: Explaining

So to begin, we offer a broad definition of feminist porn, which will be fleshed out, debated, and examined in the pieces that follow. As both an established and emerging genre of pornography, feminist porn uses sexually explicit imagery to contest and complicate dominant representations of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, ability, age, body type, and other identity markers. It explores concepts of desire, agency, power, beauty, and pleasure at their most confounding and difficult, including pleasure within and across inequality, in the face of injustice, and against the limits of gender hierarchy and both heteronormativity and homonormativity. It seeks to unsettle conventional definitions of sex, and expand the language of sex as an erotic activity, an expression of identity, a power exchange, a cultural commodity, and even a new politics.

Taken from The Feminist Porn Book (pp. 9-10).

Next month is a ceremony that tends to go unheralded in even feminist circles. The Feminist Porn Awards are run every April to define the delicate balance between films that are erotic and pleasurable vs. fair and honest depictions of multiple types of sexuality. I support discussing this and not solely because my site is named after erections. And while the introductory quote above suffices for an explanation as to what feminist porn is, there has to be more explanation about why feminist porn is important.

But first, we have to start from the emergence.

Almost as an echo for the Sexual Revolution, pornography began to receive mainstream attention in the 1970s, buoyed by the success of Deep Throat and Debbie Does Dallas among other features. These films, designed with a male audience in mind, gained this attention as a curiosity. While nudity and pornography had always been around, the 1970s was the first major period where pornography was more than a passing fad. Business saw an enterprise in people having sex and the similar emergence of the grindhouse scene gave low-budget pornography a home.

At this point, radical feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Gail Dines began protesting pornography on the platform that these films were about violent acts committed towards women. These arguments are expanded through more general feminist lenses on objectification of women, since women are portrayed in pornography through their abilities to have sex rather than to be a three-dimensional person. In a 2010 interview with the Guardian, Gail Dines says of porn, “‘[p]ornography is the perfect propaganda piece for patriarchy. In nothing else is their hatred of us quite as clear.'”

With all of this in mind (and please look at the Wikipedia for feminist views of pornography, there is a lot of denseness to unpack), the question gets murkier when third-wave feminism rises in the 1990s. I think Kathleen Hanna puts it best in a Bikini Kill song I posted last week, the amazing “I Like Fucking.” In it, Hanna says, “Just ’cause my world, sweet sister, is so fucking // Goddamn full of rape–Does that mean // My body must always be a source of pain? // No. No. No.” The question is complex now, muddled even further by antiporn feminists often finding themselves as strange bedfellows with rote conservative politics.

And that question ultimately is, “Can porn be feminist?”

The answer, obviously, is yes. And here’s why. The third-wave’s effects and the internet’s realization of just how many “turn ons” there really are in the world may have made the realization that porn is a multi-faceted field. Yes, I just wrote that sentence. There’s some gross porn out there. The recent revenge porn craze is fucking horrifying and I can’t exactly shed a tear upon hearing that Joe Francis’s “here’s a t-shirt in exchange for your body to be on DVDs” enterprise Girls Gone Wild is going bankrupt. But that is something sites like GoodForHer.com opt to change.

The most annoying term for porn is the tagged “porn for women.” While it makes completely clear that these tales are about a different sort of arousal (female orgasms), it sort of casts aside the idea that men can appreciate this. This is why I prefer “feminist porn” and why that label has been co-opted by wonderful filmmakers like Madison Young and Tristan Taormino. I will talk about the worth of their films at a later time.

Instead, I’m going to bring up the diversity of the types of porn films nominated for the Feminist Porn Awards. There are movies about straight, lesbian, trans, and complex romance in the nominations. Madison Young has a 50 Shades of Grey porn takeoff on the list. Even mainstream porn companies have films among the nominations, showing everything the mainstream companies put out isn’t just BangBus level creepiness. Body types are similarly numerous here. And even if the argument is that sex immediately equates the women into objects, who is to say that sex doesn’t have its own complexities? These films are actually about the complexities of sex. And that is why they deserve discussion that I hope will bring to attention some cool stuff.

Porn is complex, more than you can even imagine. As Kathleen Hanna says, “I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe.

I do. I do. I do.”