Category Archives: Empowerment versus Objectification

Birth of Venus: The Story Behind Venus in Heels

 

I always had a subversive take on love—so why not write about it?

As glamorous as it sounds, back in 2009 when I started Venus in Heels, I was a freelance music and entertainment writer hungrily navigating the supersaturated city of New York, trying to scrap together my next high-paying gig. Yes, I made my living giving good convo to rock n’ roll stars, but for some reason making small talk with famous strangers didn’t fulfill me in the slightest. Sure, I had an enviable job and access to the musical and cultural geniuses of our time, but I was always left wanting more. I desired to help and connect to people through my writing—digging deeper than the surfaced pieces I was churning out about fashion trends and the next “big” thing sonically. There had to be more, right? So, in my quest for fulfillment—bodily, emotionally, and spiritually—I began my Venus in Heels journey. That, and I needed something productive and creative to occupy those never-ending idle hours between my dwindling freelance jobs.

My aim was to put my unconventional views about love, romance, dating, and the major misconceptions about “proper” ways to engage with the opposite sex to paper. I wanted to help expose the fallacy of happy endings, to help women find empowerment through sex, and help to turn the old school rule of romance on its head. Modern women deserve modern rules, and I saw far too many of my contemporaries caught in the dichotomy of dating within the confines of an old system. Those notions of relationships just don’t apply, but up until this point, there was no definitive source for information on contemporary courtships or how to date on your own terms.

You may be asking yourself why I am qualified to write about romance. I might not have fancy degrees hanging from the walls of my office (nope, instead I have photographs of Iggy Pop and Rod Stewart), but I have notches on my bedpost, keen insight derived from years of playing the field, guiding my friends on their romantic journeys, and a solid understanding of both the male and female psyche. Venus in Heels isn’t a clinical look at love and romance, a debauched tale of my bedroom conquests, or a self-help blog. Instead, I want to position Venus in Heels as a forum for curious men and women to be thoughtfully provoked to look deeper into the realms of love and dating, and to question the old school conception of romance so many people still seem to live by.

Venus in Heels is a Subversive Guide to Romance because we must challenge the norm to achieve our own truth and understanding about what makes us happy—and what makes us feel truly empowered when it comes to love, courtship, and sexual exploration. I never played by the rules. I openly pursued men when all my friends accused me of being brash, I made the first move when others warned me I was too forward or would be viewed as a slut, and I always tried to follow my heart wherever it took me. I made mistakes, which I have learned from. My quest for love was fearless.  It is an endless pursuit.

Teen Sex: Not Suitable for TV

Sex is an important part of life, but for impressionable teens, the explicit nature of modern television could be adding fuel to the peer pressure-laden fire.

Hey, I am all for sex, romance, dating, wild trysts, and whatnot. This is part of growing up, experimenting, and trying out different types of lovers and relationships to see what fits for you. We all have a list of youthful exploits, and while some of us have longer lists and more bedpost notches than others, these unique experiences have helped to form the adults (or almost-adults) that we are today. They are also choices we made out of curiosity or out of a deep-seeded passion we were always looking to explore. Perhaps it’s because we currently live in an age of extreme narcissism, where social media-obsessed kids plaster their every conquest and boozy night out for all the world to see, and reality TV “stars” hookup with wild abandon in front of American audiences, but I have to admit that these NSFW displays of sexual behavior make me uncomfortable. Even worse, I hate how adolescents are outwardly flaunting their budding sexuality, which I feel is a response to the unsavory images found on television and in the media. I am far from a prude, but I think a line should be drawn. Teenagers need strong masculine and feminine archetypes to pull and learn from, not attention-seeking drunks on cable television copping feels and exposing their breast implants.

I am guilty of watching these same television shows that promote this type of reckless behavior—my ultimate guilty pleasure is reality TV dating shows, the dirtier the better! But the difference is, I am an adult who has already formed a concrete sense of self and a firm (though always morphing) sexual identity that I have created for myself through trial, error, and healthy experimentation. Kids today are watching these debaucherous scenes play out on the small screen, and sadly, they think this is the social norm. Casual sex at age fifteen? Why, not? That’s what I saw on MTV this weekend. And, all my friends must be doing this, right? Think about the new Brit-imported phenom Skins, which, while fictional, is supposed to be a mirror image of what teenage life is like in its most extreme form. Pill-popping, panty dropping, and rebellious, the kids depicted on this program put me and my late-twenty-something friends to shame with their lascivious antics.

Peer pressure is a dangerous thing, and something that I felt when I was a young teen looking to make my mark and find a way to channel my self-expression. This is a hard time for young women especially, because we are discovering the power of our sexuality—something you can choose to use either for good or for bad, for empowerment or for submission. We quickly learn that our attraction is loaded. To possess such a weighty responsibility is sometimes too much of a burden to bear, and mistakes are expected. Ultimately, it’s your decision to own up to these mistakes and grow from them. But as these young women watch floosies on television, and in the tabloids, making mistakes and being reinforced positively for them, it skews this sense of what is acceptable behavior.

While I am far from conservative, I do believe that many television shows, and B-list celebrities, are conveying the wrong message to the impressionable youth of today. Instead of wanting to be successful, career-minded professionals applauded for their incredible work ethic, teens put more emphasis on the quick road to fame and stardom, complete with sex tapes, drugs, and free-flowing bedroom romps. It greatly troubles me that the people on TV and in magazines—fame whores prancing around in spandex, flaunting their barely-there attire and loose morals—are sadly considered role models for teens and tweens everywhere. While you might be shaking your collective heads thinking that kids can easily see past the slut-tastic behavior that’s prevalent in the media, it’s a fact that young people—whether they have a good head on their little shoulders or are impressionable and easily swayed—emulate behavior and social mannerisms that they see before them.

I grew up in the ’90s with my less-than-perfect role models being Kurt Cobain, Kate Moss, and Courtney Love. I didn’t choose to emulate their questionable behind-the-scenes behavior; instead I tried to channel their art, their unique craft, and the revolutionary movement they stood for. Kurt Cobain gave a voice to the underdogs of awkward youth, Kate Moss proved that cookie-cuter beauty was bullshit, and Courtney Love fused femininity, sexual power, and rock n’ roll in a way that had never existed until that moment. Like other angst-ridden teens, I was enamored with their talents and what they stood for as cultural arbiters shaking up the established norms. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like growing up in this age of tech-obsessed instant gratification and social media. Kids are exposed daily to things that were taboo during my youth. Perhaps parents should institute a “slow life” movement, to help teens learn crucial life lessons from guided experience rather than on TV or online.

In my teens, I also experimented with my sexuality and found myself in more than a few scary situations because, at that age, I was letting my Lolita-esque libido do the talking. After many troubling experiences I realized that being an oversexed disco dolly was the furthest thing from empowerment. I wanted to be taken seriously, and going underage to clubs wearing micro-minis and tattered slip dresses was not earning me the respect from the opposite sex. It became clear that the power I possessed came directly from me and how I carried myself, which is a crucial lesson that has helped to inform my thoughts on female sexuality. We, as women, can’t expect to get treated like equals if we are always playing into the misogynistic notion of what’s sexy that’s promoted in popular media. Those images picture women as sexualized playthings not the powerful sensual beings that we are. I just really hope that these young women will wake up and realize that you don’t have to look like one of those barely legal babes on the trashy American Apparel ads to be sexy, desirable, or attractive. The real allure of a woman is in her mystery and what she chooses to reveal.

The Love Below: The Power of Going Down

The Love Below, image courtesy of S Magazine.

A very wise man-friend of mine once told me that a good blow job should be like a very wet and messy hand job, and not the gag-defying cock Olympics most men and women think. While the notion of a wet and wild hand job might sound unappetizing, I have a feeling that this statement alone will make many women sleep better at night. There are a lot of unrealistic expectations put on the ladies when it comes to oral sex—this is mainly caused by the hyperbolized depictions of women that the porn industry creates and reinforces—and I think it’s time to set the record straight. We, as women, should want to please our male counterparts without feeling disempowered or afraid of not being able to deep throat with the best of the porn set. There is also a societal stigma placed on the act of fellatio. While well-practiced sexual prowess in men is celebrated, a woman who is happily pleasing her man on her knees is seen as debased, degraded, and subservient. It wasn’t until recently that giving head was seen as a power play, a way to literally grab a man by the balls. But for many women, going down still feels like something that’s unclean, disempowering, and unpleasant. Gender politics aside, I wish that more of us knew that the very act of handling a man’s member, putting it casually in your mouth, and enjoying it, is the ultimate joy for your lover. It’s time for women to take back the blow job and own it— doing so will allow us to subvert society’s sexual double standard while simultaneously getting our men off. Think of it as getting back your power, one blow job at a time.

Free Your Mind and the Rest Will Follow
One of the many misconceptions about blow jobs is that ladies need to be a deep throat champ to please their partner. While I do know a handful of talented men and women who have mastered the art of this advanced form of cock-teasing, most mere mortals like myself are not able to avoid the dreaded gag reflex. Early attempts at such seasoned lip love left me dry heaving, which is never sexy. Therefore, many women are deeply afraid—pardon the pun—of performing oral sex because they are so intimidated by what is perpetuated by the practiced porn starlets taking monster-sized cocks in their dainty lip gloss-frosted mouths. Most women are programmed to think that this is the only way to give a blow job, or if not the only way, we believe it’s what men expect. Instead of fixating on how they do it in the movies, try to form a technique that you’re comfortable with. Start off slow—believe me, he’ll just be happy to get the attention. Try to hone in on how your partner reacts to your every touch, lick, suck, and don’t forget to make as much eye contact as possible. Once you up your game on (and open your mind about) going down you’ll wonder why you ever had a complex in the first place. Want more info? Check out the selection of educational books, videos, and even classes at Good Vibrations and Babeland.

Go Down and Be Proud
Another major hang up that women have about performing oral is a feeling of being slutty or degraded. This was always a big issue for me. I take female equality seriously and for a long time I was under the impression that not giving into the blow job fascination would empower me and raise me above men’s latent desires of keeping a woman down, on her knees. I thought that receiving pleasure while not returning the favor was a way of turning the paradigm on its head—by playing the game the way men had for so many years I felt like I was subverting the system and making a huge step for womenkind. Regrettably, I realized that instead of making a difference I was merely emulating the selfish men that I loathed. By withholding oral pleasure from my partners I wasn’t beating them at their sick, sexist game. On the contrary, each blow job I denied made me miss out on an opportunity to experience great excitement and pleasure with my partners. It’s so easy to get stuck on reversing established gender roles, but make sure that your strong ideals don’t get in the way of your sex life. Once I stopped being a taker and made sure that the foreplay in my life was reciprocal, I felt an inherent strength in being able to please. A good blow job can render even the strongest man defenseless—talk about gaining back your power.

Men, Say No to Porn
Want to make your lady-friend a bona fide cock lover? Then stop expecting her to recreate your favorite adult movie and stop taking your cues from webcam girls. So many men—mainly from the inexperienced end of the sexual spectrum—think that the sexual acts in movies and porn should be played out in real life, no matter how visceral or unrealistic they are. Sure, if you watch a steamy movie sex scene with a Kama Sutra-inspired position that you know will be a winner, try it out! But if you think that pushing your girlfriend’s head “down there” or blasting her face with your man-juice is going to get her hot, nine times out of ten you’re dead wrong. While there’s plenty of cum-loving misses out there, in the general scheme of things women don’t want your love lotion all over their face, hair, and especially not in their eyes. Ouch! Men, if getting head is something you want more of, be sure to make the experience as pleasant for her as possible. If you create this safe environment for her to experiment with pleasing you, she will respond positively, which will result in more frequent penis worshiping sessions. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Quote of the Week: Rachel Shukert

photo courtesy of Guy Bourdin

Where do we draw the line between empowerment and objectification? It’s a wonderful feeling to be validated for our beauty and sex appeal, but it’s easy for men (and women) to take advantage and exploit this inherent need we have to be adored and admired. Writer Rachel Shukert wrote a great piece about this very subject on Salon.com, in which she shares her own questioning of whether vanity is really worth the emotional and possibly harmful repercussions. Here’s a great quote from the piece. Enjoy!

“[T]he moment I put my very human craving for admiration in someone else’s hands is the moment I lost what was worth admiring.” –Rachel Shukert

Please read her interesting take on female objectification on Salon.com