Around the Web: Sex and Gender Edition

Non-scandal at Northwestern

  • Psychology Prof. John Michael Bailey organized a optional outside of class lecture for his Human Sexuality class that concluded with a live sex act using a toy to demonstrate female ejaculation. This generated a bit of media attention, both the NYT and the BBC picked it up, prompting bloggers to leave first hand accounts of what really took place. The President of Northwestern was embarrassed. Prof. Bailey stood by the educational value of the demonstration but also apologized and said he would never do it again.

Women and Islam

  • Max Forte starts off this post critiquing the Western imaginary of non-Western women, in particular “the liberation of women” discourse that has circulated around the current American wars, with a brilliant quote by anthropologists Cathy Lutz and Jane Collins. More links follow about representations of Muslim women in popular culture, sexual assault in Tahrir Square, and the culture of rape in the U.S. military.

Marriage in India and the United States

  • The payment of dowries was banned in 1961 but remains a commonplace practice in contemporary India. The Independent reports that the dowry is at the heart of what in the U.S. would be termed “culture wars” as the Indian government contemplates amending the legislation.
  • According to a recent Time/ Pew poll, marriage has become a prestige commodity, “the relationship equivalent of a luxury yacht” and thus an unrealistic goal for many people. A savvy post at Brainstrom matched links from the mainstream media reacting to the poll – many read it as a about the “decline” of marriage – with commentary that recognizes the massive and ongoing structural change that has reshaped how Americans do work and friendship.

It Gets Better

  • Dan Savage made a name for himself with his kinky, political, and frequently hilarious sex advice column, Savage Love, which has spawned a bevvy of internet memes and catchy acronyms like GGG, DTMFA, and, of course, Santorum. Now there is the “It Gets Better Project” which has quickly evolved into something of a movement in which adults address video messages to queer youth that the struggles of growing up can be overcome! Dan and his husband-in-Canada/ boyfriend-in-the-United-States Terry Miller gave a fantastic interview on NPR’s Fresh Air promoting “It Gets Better,” which has now come out as a book.
  • Also on the LGBT front, Two Spirits, is a PBS documentary about the hate-crime death of Navajo teen Fred Martinez.
  • Enjoy this absolutely incredible performance from Thailand’s Got Talent (I love the big hug at the end):


  • Meet Sandra Dubose-Gibson, Mrs. Black North Carolina who, diagnosed with alopecia from age 25, is totally bald. Hat tip to Racialicious, from whom I steal links all the time.
  • Book review – Pretty Modern, an ethnography of beauty, race, and plastic surgery in Brazil.
  • Oprah talks to Lea T, a transgender supermodel for Givenchy who has appeared in French Vogue and is becoming one of the most sought after models in the industry.

Sex and Performance

  • In Quebec an administrative assistant at a local high school was suspended when it was discovered (by a male student) that she was also a porn star. A harsher fate for a psych professor who was fired for appearing in burlesque act. Thank you Gawker, this is why you exist!
  • A contributor to the Ms. Magazine blog remembers a short-lived career stripping on Bourbon Street. The transformative experience wasn’t shaving her legs or wearing pasties, it coming off the stage to serve drinks to the customers.
  • The NYT reports that on the popularity of Japanese porn stars in Indonesian domestic films. Even though the performers leave their clothes on their very presence in the country brings negative attention from Islamists and production companies must operate under secrecy or else be subject to protest or vigilante action.

Representing Women in Popular Culture


  • Another from Sociological Images:

Seen something around the web that you’d like to share with the Savage Minds community? Email me at mdthomps AT

Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is Project Cataloger at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, and currently working on a CLIR 'hidden collections' grant to describe the museum's collection of early 20th Century photography. He has a doctorate in anthropology from the University of North Carolina and a Masters in information science from the University of Tennessee.

19 thoughts on “Around the Web: Sex and Gender Edition

  1. I was recently offered a job teaching the course “Gender in a Cross-Cultural Perspective”. Something outside my area of focus but then I’m very keen to expand my repertoire. This class will be for juniors and seniors, mostly sociology and criminology majors as there’s no anthropology program at my school.

    Any advice for readings or assignments?

  2. Reading suggestions:

    Abu-Lughod, Lila. 2000. Veiled sentiments: honour and poetry in Bedouin society. Updated edn. with a new preface. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Bell, Amelia Rector. 1990. “Separate people: speaking of Creek men and women.” American Anthropologist, n.s. 92 (2) (June): 332–45. doi:10.1525/aa.1990.92.2.02a00050.

    Brumbach, Hetty Jo, and Robert Jarvenpa. 1997. “Ethnoarchaeology of subsistence space and gender: a Subarctic Dene case.” American Antiquity 62 (3): 414–36.

    Coontz, Stephanie. 1992. The way we never were: American families and the nostalgia trap. New York: BasicBooks.

    Hill, Sarah H. 1997. Weaving new worlds: Southeastern Cherokee women and their basketry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    Millender, Ellen, ed. 2011. Unveiling Spartan women. Swansea: Classical Press of Wales.

    Strathern, Marilyn. 2001. Same-sex and cross-sex relations: some internal comparisons. In Gender in Amazonia and Melanesia: an exploration of the comparative method, ed. Thomas A. Gregor and Donald F. Tuzin, 221–44 [volume References, 345–76]. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    The women of Hezbollah. 2000. Directed by Maher Abi-Samra. [New York]: First Run/Icarus Films.

    Tooker, Elisabeth. 1984. Women in Iroqouis society. In Extending the rafters: interdisciplinary approaches to Iroquoian Studies, ed. Michael K. Foster, Jack Campisi, and Marianne Mithun, 109–23 [volume References, 373–99]. Albany: State University of New York Press.

    Yanagisako, Sylvia Junko, and Jane Fishburne Collier, eds. 1987. Gender and kinship: essays toward a unified analysis. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  3. Thanks Matt! I’d thought of Perdue’s “Cherokee Women” but Hill is an inspired choice.

    And yeah, everybody says “Veiled Sentiments” so I’ll have to take a serious look at that as well. I was also considering Shostak’s “Nisa”.

  4. About that Northwestern psych prof — SavageMinders may wish to know that this rather overblown ‘fucksaw’ episode is probably the least problematic thing about this guy. Jezebel ran a profile on Dr. Bailey’s research agenda, which appears to be based around “debunking” trans-sexuality and non-standard gender identity. Apparently transwomen are just gay men with a fetish, and bisexual men are just lying. There were pieces in The New York Times and the Chronicle as well — sounds like Bailey was a jerk and proud of it. I’m guessing that there had been problems with him already and the university was just looking for a good excuse to get rid of him.

  5. Well, not to get all snobby or anything, but we are talking about psychology here. A field that until recently pathologized homosexuality and still pathologizes sexual practices like BDSM. Is it really so surprising that a representative of this field has an axe to grind when it comes to other people’s sexualities?

    Personally, its impossible to think of the educational value of live sex acts in a campus lecture hall and not be reminded of the sex ed scene in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life!

  6. @Matt Thompson’s attack on the discipline of psychology.

    I detest disciplinary elitism in all its forms. I particularly detest anthropology’s snide self-regard, and its disdain for all other disciplines. Anthropological exceptionalism anyone? I have seen comments like this come out of the mouths of anthropologists over and over and over again; not so much from folks in other disciplines. Having slept around with a lot of different academic disciplines, I have had the chance to compare. So stop it.

    Furthermore, it is not clear that BDSM is *not* pathological, or any less pathological than any other number of fetishes that involve the real or “simulated” degradation of human beings. I very much doubt that this sort of sexual/power play is common in hunter gatherer societies, or wherever people have not lived in violent fucked up pathological societies like our own. What happens in the basement, stays in the basement, heh? Reminds me when very smart and enlightened academics defend porn as potentially a part of a healthy sex life. The argument usually takes as its motivating example reputable porn, not the kinds of porn that makes women into toilets that populates the internet.

    In any case, I suppose all the neighbors in that vid from sociological images just thought the couple were having some nice BSMD role play…

  7. Furthermore, it is not clear that BDSM is not pathological, or any less pathological than any other number of fetishes that involve the real or “simulated” degradation of human beings.

    Pathology is the study of disease. BDSM is neither pathogenic, a deficit, hereditary, nor physiological in nature, ergo not a disease, ergo not pathological. IMHO the term pathological should not be used as a metaphor for “not healthy” because that which is a disease is a disease to all individual human beings but that which is healthy varies on an individual-by-individual basis. Anthropologists can indeed be pretty snide, but do give them some credit. They can also pick out a bad metaphor.

  8. The research background of Prof. Bailey-eugenic preference for heterosexuality, non-existence of bisexuality, and transsexuality as self-image fetishism-is enough to question the soundness of his scholarship. This professor has a fetish for media attention. That Thai transsexual singer is enough to debunk the professor’s theory about transsexualism. How can that Thai singer, for example, fetishizes her “femaleness” when she views herself a female every second of her existence. If transsexualism is a sexual fetish for a transsexual, that girl will be in perpetual orgasm and singing with a distracting arousal underneath her pants.

  9. Where’s the edit button?

    *How can that Thai singer, for example, fetishize her “femaleness” when she views herself a female every second of her existence?

    Also, questioning pyschology and behavioral studies that exclude culture and socioculturally-influenced behavior and sexuality is not a wrong assessment or along the line of academic elitism.

    The cases of hijras in India and berdaches among Native Americans show that sexualities can also be influenced by spirituality, belief, and ritual. Treating sex only as anatomical, physiological, psychological, and biological is incomplete.

  10. @MTBradley, you are quite right regarding ‘pathological’, at least in formal conversation. Excuse me.

    Regarding the anthropology’s ridiculous disciplinary elitism, I’m gonna stand my ground, though I certainly will not attack anthropologists like our M_Izabel is wont to do. Ninja!

  11. I hope “our M_Izabel” is not a condescending, sarcastic phrase that aims to push me out as an outsider.

    I don’t think I attacked psychology. I had 30 units of psychology in college. Ethnopsychology and transcultural psychiatry are some of my interests. What my response intended was to show that anthropology can complete psychology. I see no academic elitism in that.

    If I attacked something, it was Prof. Bailey’s psychology– his research methods and methodologies. It was funny how he let a group of men watch gay and straight porn videos and checked their erections to arrive at the final conclusion that there was no bisexuality without considering that bisexuality is also an emotional attraction and mental connection not just sex and penetration.

    Another research method he had was to interview ten Latina transsexual prostitutes he met in a Chicago gay bar and wrote that Latina transsexuals, because of their homosexual desires and fantasies, are psychologically predisposed for sex work without considering that most of his respondents/informants were Illegal immigrants who could not find legitimate jobs in the US. Yes, I did attack Bailey’s psychology. I wasted money on his book when I explored sex and culture in America years ago.

  12. Apologies, MIzabel. I shouldn’t have brought up your history of attacking the anthropological discipline here and elsewhere. It was gratuitous and unfair.

    Bailey sounds like a fool, and I do not think that he is representative of psychology. Ergo my irritation at Matt Thompson’s bit of disciplinary snobbery toward psychology.

  13. LOL. I attack anthropology that is heavy on symbolism and interpretation and peddles its methods and methodologies as logical, empirical, and scientific. I even attack the mathematical models used by some pseudo-scientists who prove that there are aliens. I attack anything unscientific that promotes bad science. It’s not out of arrogance but of frustration. We have had enough problems caused by ignorance.

  14. This piece from Inside higher Ed would have made a good addition to this sex/gender-themed Around the Web:
    There were posts by anthropologist as the issues raised is not limited to just philosophy. Case in point, and certainly worth thinking about:

    * Posted by Judith Shapiro , President and Professor of Anthropology Emerita at Barnard College on March 30, 2011 at 10:45am EDT
    * All societies have informal means of social control. These can be highly effective in cases when a problem is not addressed by a formal, legal system.

    In the case of sexual harassment, offenders must be made to feel like social pariahs. Those in a position of power that enables them to express their disgust openly must feel an obligation to do so, whenever the opportunity arises (that is, if they know such behavior is taking place); the less powerful should be sure to share their experiences with those in a position to have an impact on the perps.

    While it is probably not a good idea to have some official “hit list”, informal shunning is a perfectly respectable approach and can be quite effective. If the culture of the profession becomes sufficiently hostile to sexual harassment, those who engage in it will come to understand that they merit the contempt of their peers.

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