Say Hi to Hello Kitty this Time on the Big Screen: And Our Childhood Dreams Come True
Repost from NYLON Magazine Online
Given The LEGO Movie‘s box-office success early last year, it seems fitting for another childhood favorite to make her silver-screen debut. Hello Kitty, the iconic Japanese hybrid of bobtail cat and little girl—named Kitty White—is set to star in her own film adaptation, which will be released sometime in 2019.
The famous character, known for her symmetrical whiskers and bright-red bow, has made herself a household name throughout the United States. Originally marketed in 1974 to cater to young girls, Hello Kitty has since found herself a popular symbol with a larger demographic, becoming a well-known image for toys, fashion, and accessories.
Although there is no news yet as to the plot line of her upcoming film, her life story can be found on her Facebook page, along with the short-lived TV series Hello Kitty and Friends, which aired 13 episodes in the United States back in the ’90s.
According to her official profile, Kitty has a twin sister named Mimmy and currently lives in London with her parents. There is no telling of whether the script will follow this backstory or if our other favorite Sanrio characters will make an appearance, but we can’t wait to see what this cute cat has in store. Until then, all we can do is follow her on Facebook to see what adventures she gets into next and hope that more news of her big-screen debut drops soon.
My paper will explore the growing trope of the “BroBabe” (Definition: a whiskey drinking, sport game watching, casual sex having hottie, who can hang with the “bros” but still maintains an appealing allure – i.e. “the ideal woman”), in the context of heterosexual “Hook-Up Culture” among young adults. It will examine the “exceptionalism” these women have in terms of being viewed as both desirable but not demanding, and easy going but not “easy.” It will focus on the roles, women specifically, play in interactions with men, and the “performance” they utilize to engage in “BroBabe” activities. It will look into how, through language, women perform these roles; through swearing (or not), talking dirty (or not), and through sex talk with their friends. Finally, it will demonstrate how the growing trope of the “BroBabe” is influencing how young adults view sex and relationships today.
Casual Sex, FWB, BroBabe, performativity, sexual relationships, hooking up.
In recent years, the millennial dating culture has established a new category of women. No longer are women forced into seeing themselves as “the rule” and/ or as opposed to “the exception,” but now can mosey their way into male dominated circles by altering the stereotypical gender of their performance. Through interactions with both their male counterparts and their female friends, this generation has constructed a category of women who are equal parts; male personality and female attractiveness. The women who have adopted this stereotype have acquired an essence of idealism for both men and women alike, and hold a specific kind of exceptionalism in the eyes of their potential male partners and female competitors. We’ve coined this role the “BroBabe” (Wallace, 2011).
Like in any role, there are contrasting highlights and hardships that go along with being a BroBabe, and like in any culture, there are a set of expectations that women in this position must adhere to. This paper will discuss those expectations as well as the standards involved in youth hook-up culture – as the two concepts seem to go hand in hand – today. It will also explain the criteria women follow to acquire the title “BroBabe,” and how that title colours their relationships with male “love” interests and their female friends. Finally, this paper will pose the question of whether or not the role of the BroBabe is a position of power, success, and sexual equality for women, or if it is actually hegemonic masculinity masquerading as contemporary feminism.
Who is the BroBabe?
The BroBabe criteria has not been explicitly set in stone. However, all working definitions utilize similar aspects of the following:
1. a woman who can be considered “one of the guys”
2. a whiskey drinking, sport watching, car-oil changing, beer belching, poker playing, casual sex having hottie who understands that “boys will be boys” and is happy to act like one too
3. a woman who is desirable and comfortable with “no strings attached” relationships, is devoid of stereotypical “female” emotions, and is interested in the undefined nature of hook-up culture
4. a woman who is not offended, and even sometimes engages, in casual derogation of women – in terms of critiquing their sexual availability (or lack there of) – swearing, and dirty talk
5. an easy going woman who is happy to be a wing(wo)man to her guy friends, and might hook up with them once or twice, usually when inebriated.
The concept of this role is ever present in our pop culture today. In the popular TV series How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014), Cobie Smulders plays Robin Scherbatsky; a career driven Canadian who can down double the shots as her three male friends and then call a penalty for the Vancouver Canucks or shoot a caribou in the forehead. Likewise, in hit movies we have Mila Kunis in Friends With Benefits (Gluck, 2011), Imogen Poots and Mackenzie Davis in That Awkward Moment (Gormican, 2014), Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached (Reitman, 2011), and Olivia Wilde in Drinking Buddies (Swanberg, 2013), all of whom portray young, flirty, independent, successful, and incredibly sexy women, actively taking on the role of the BroBabe and encouraging young women to believe that by taking on this role, they too, can “have it all.” Not only that, but these roles also set a bad president for men who, by watching these films seek out women who emulate this fantasy character. To understand this character in greater detail, we must dissect each of her components individually:
The BroBabe is smart, successful, and sexy. She knows what she wants and often acquires the means needed to get it. She is independent and opinionated, but not introverted, or demanding. In terms of her mindset, she has investigated the aspects of “male culture” and can pull out her knowledge of such things when needed. For example: She doesn’t just like whiskey, she likes Jameson or Johnny Walker Black. She not only knows the difference between ales, lagers, and IPAs, but knows which one she prefers. She’s knowledgeable about cars, sports, and poker, but does not feel the need to educate or promote her knowledge unto the minds of her male friends. Not only does she keep up in male dominated environments, but she is also an active contributor in the conversation.
The BroBabe is conventionally attractive. She was often born with a womanly physique, but also works out to maintain it. What makes her exceptional, is that she doesn’t just “workout,” she lifts. The BroBabe knows her way around the weight room and has been known to accept (and even sometimes win) push up competitions with her male friends. She has curves in all the right places, and always looks surprisingly fit even considering the number of beers she shotguns and burgers she eats. She is comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, but also can stun a crowd in a little black dress at one moment and pull off the “sweat pants and sports bra” look with “exceptional perfection” the next. She is aware of her “hotness,” but does not rely on it. However, the BroBabe has been known to get out of a sticky situation, unscathed, simply with a wink, a smile, or a belch from drinking her beer.
The BroBabe is well educated and can hold her own in any conversation. What makes her different, or “exceptional,” from the “regular” woman (McEwan, 2011) however, is that she never undermines her male counterparts intelligence, eradicates his position, or asserts her own ideas in a forceful or “bitchy” manner. This is not to say she silences herself, but instead she advocates her own opinion through wit, humor, or passive male speak. Her language is more active than suggesting, but more passive than instructing. She has found a way to engage in “equal” conversation with men, by manipulating the system. To do this, she often refers to her male counterparts as “bro,” “dude,” or “man.” When critical of their position, she will resort to male insults such as; “stop being a pussy,” or “you’re such a little bitch sometimes.”
In situations where her “coolness” is vulnerable (ex: when she asks a love interest/ sexual partner on a date), she’ll employ passive male speak such as; “wanna hook up later?”, “let’s hang out sometime”, or “hit me up tonight” – ambiguous suggestions – as not to compromise her “detached” position (Gordon, 2014). In sexual situations she is not only well educated and often comfortable with experimentation, but has also been known to use “dirty talk.” In these instances, she does not use language to emasculate her male partner or criticize his knowledge and experience, nor is she demanding about her needs. Instead, she employs “dirty talk” as a means of playful suggestion and sexual stimulation (Bland & Barrett, 2009). Outside of the bedroom, she is often comfortable engaging in conversation about her own sexual prowess and experiences, with both her male and female friends alike (Pichler, 2009). Furthermore, the BroBabe regularly utilizes profanity and insults; “bitch,” “dick,” “asshole,” “fuck,” and “pussy” without fear of sounding “un-ladylike” or diminishing her female allure (Bean & Johnstone, 1991).
One of the main reasons the BroBabe is so appealing is that she often identifies her own emotional complexity with that of her male friends. In terms of single sex friendships, BroBabes often have a handful of female friends with whom they interact. However, these female friends are often BroBabes themselves who have a separate male friend group of their own. BroBabes are success driven singles and have acquired a maturity around other women. The reason BroBabes don’t see other BroBabes as inferior is because they have a mutual understanding and respect for each other, that other women, whom they consider “catty,” don’t understand (Rae, 2015). Another appealing attribute of the BroBabe, is that they can offer their female friends to their male friends, and have their female friends offer them to her male friend group (Messado, n.d.). BroBabe girlfriends applaud each other’s success, congratulate each other on their sexual conquests (as men do), and get along by motivating each other through tales of their sexcapades. In terms of BroBabe-male relationships, BroBabes willingly play the part of the wing(wo)man, often assisting their male friends in scoring with attractive women. However, as depicted in the definition above, BroBabes can also be caught hooking up with their fellow “bros.” For this, we turn to the next section “The Hook-Up Habitat.”
The Hook-Up Habitat
Hooking up fosters a community of poser hippies: young adults who are supposedly eager to engage in “free love,” yet are so adamant about not labeling their sexual encounters that they are permanently unclear of the status of their relationships. When we engage in this culture we are perpetually summoned into an abyss where Fifty Shades of Grey is not just a really bad movie, but also a contract that commits the BroBabe to a constant lack of clarity. There are very few concepts as obscure or indecisive as hook-up culture among young adults today. The criteria for what defines a “hook-up” alone is one which has been debated over many times and has yet to come to any clear settlement. For the purpose of this paper, I will use the loose definition given by Donna Freitas in her book; The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, which asserts these three rules: “1. A hookup involves some form of sexual intimacy. 2. A hookup is brief—it can last a few minutes or, at the most, a few hours. And, 3. (This is the most important part) A hookup is intended to be purely physical in nature and involves both parties shutting down any communication or connection that might lead to emotional attachment” (Masciotra, 2013). With this definition in mind, we look to the BroBabe to understand her place in hook up culture today.
The millennial generation, predominantly women, have been taught to assert their independence in all facets of their lives. While this has allowed them to make great leaps and gains in many areas, in the context of hook-up culture, it may be one of the most detrimental components to their emotional health. Like young men, BroBabes oppose “labeling.” The idea of having a “boyfriend,” or being in a monogamous “relationship” makes the BroBabe cringe. The archaic practices of courting are the antithesis of everything the BroBabe stands for. It is for this reason that BroBabes and Hook Up Culture are each others soulmate. The BroBabe is meant to engage in and enjoy the uncertainty and non-definitive nature of the hook-up. On the positive side, hooking up allows BroBabes the benefit of releasing their sexual tension without losing face or having to “show their hand”… or their heart. However, when contrasted with the negatives; a potentially bad hook up, the lack of consistency, the questionable aftermath, and the worst of the worst, the potential of emotional attachment, the BroBabe is put in a position of constant limbo. If it is a one time thing, the dominant issue is the potential of a bad hook up, but when the hooking up (with the same partner) persists – potentially developing into a FWB situation – there are many other complications that get thrown into the mix (Masciotra, 2013 & Hamilton, Armstrong & England, 2010). For example, what happens when a hook-up turns into “hooking up?” Or further more, what happens when your “bro” becomes your “friends with benefits?” You can see how things can get a bit sticky.
The BroBabe Looks for Love: The Heartless Unearths the Hopeless Romantic
BroBabes are expected to engage in casual sexual relationships without becoming emotionally invested. However, no matter how easily she may take a shot of Jameson, win a game of beer pong, or call a foul play, the BroBabe’s biggest shortcoming is that eventually, and inevitably, her “idealism” is shattered by feelings (Messado, n.d. & Hamilton, Armstrong & England, 2010). Often times, the BroBabe will deny these feelings, or “discount” her intentions (more on this in “Kiss and Tell”), but that does not make them seize to exist. In the spirit of maintaining their independence, BroBabes are conditioned to “play it cool” and believe that not caring or emotionally investing themselves in a relationship is attractive. After all, sex without the feelings is what all men – and so, BroBabes by extension – want. Right? In her article Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy argues that “it seems legitimate to wonder if feminism has unwittingly equalized the sexual playing field to allow women the freedom to behave with as much recklessness as men” (Masciotra, 2013). By maintaining a somewhat “heartless” exterior the essential exceptionalism of the BroBabe is captured. However, in the inevitable occurrence that a BroBabe finds a deeper compatibility, in addition to the sexual competence with her bro, the BroBabe becomes an illusion, her veil of “coolness” vanishes, and she unearths a “hopeless romantic.”
Kiss and Tell
Aside from playing the role of motivational competition, the reason BroBabes have female friends is so that when instances such as the one stated above occur they have someone to turn to. BroBabes love to kiss and tell. With their fellow bros they carry themselves with an air of sexual freedom, competence, and prowess. The BroBabe not only “gets laid” but also does the laying. As previously discussed, the BroBabe exercises her sexual freedom and often times vocalizes her sexual desires. However, when the BroBabe encounters emotional compatibility she often turns to her girlfriends to analyze the situation (Pichler, 2009). Even with this single sex outlet however, the BroBabe still works to maintain her effortless and casual allure. To do this, when she’s not ignoring her feelings all together, she often “discounts” them by not holding herself accountable for the feelings she has, letting herself “off the hook,” and insisting on having alternative intentions. For example, in some single sex talk a BroBabe may begin by telling her girlfriend about all the wonderful sex she had this weekend with the FWB she’s begun to develop feelings for. After her girlfriend applauds her sexcapades, the BroBabe might casually segue into specifics of what he said, or little things he did. The two will then question and analyze his motives, a form of female gossiping. When the girlfriend inevitably asserts that the BroBabe might be starting to develop feelings, instead of acknowledging them, she will discount them by saying things like; “no, but it’s just casual… I don’t even like him like that;” “yeah, but all I care about is getting laid, I’m too busy to be emotionally invested;” or “I mean, yeah, you might be right, but it was also probably because we had been drinking so I was probably just more vulnerable than usual.” By making excuses for her uprising feelings of attachment, the BroBabe is able to convince herself that she is still “in the clear.”
Thank You for Playing
Through discounting her feelings and engaging in the perpetual gray of hook up culture, the BroBabe constantly reaffirms to her male counterparts the misconception of what women want in a relationship. The problem with this “BroBabe” ideal is that by engaging in “low risk” relationships, women expect to be handed a reward in the form of the fairytale endings we see in our pop culture movies (Gordon, 2014 & Hamilton, Armstrong, & England). In all the film examples above; Friends with Benefits (Gluck, 2011), That Awkward Moment (Gormican, 2014), and No Strings Attached (Reitman, 2011), with the exception of Drinking Buddies (Swanberg, 2013), the bro eventually sees the error of his bachelor like ways and falls for the BroBabe, who consequently abandons her independence for the safety of love. This is not to say that BroBabe-like women don’t exist. Can women enjoy sex as much and as often as men? Yes. Is is possible for a woman to enjoy a glass of JW on the rocks as opposed to Sangria? Absolutely. And, is it common for a woman to slap on her Yankees cap and watch the game over beer and a cheesesteak instead of reading the latest Nicholas Sparks book? Definitely. But does all that mean that women who engage in or prefer such activities are devoid of the need for emotional stimulation and support? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, and inescapably, BroBabes are human too (Messado, n.d.). The problem with the BroBabe is the disconnect. Where men see a friend who is smart, sexy, and carefree, women think that their casual sex having tendencies will lead their undefined sexual partner to fall in love with them, and when he doesn’t, the motion picture illusion is shattered, and BroBabes are left wondering, “why?”
In conclusion, like most aspects of millennial culture, there is no definitive answer to whether or not the BroBabe exists without caveats and discrepancies, and furthermore if this role is a positive or negative contribution to women and relationships today. When considering Levy’s assertion that the sexual playing filed has been equalized, it is also good to question whether the uprising of the BroBabe is less a gain in sexual equality for women and more actually a loss on the women’s part – who, by adopting an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach, have allowed hegemonic masculinity to masquerade as contemporary feminism.
Perhaps we’ll never agree on whether the BroBabe was a progressive or detrimental addition to our culture. But lack of agreement does not mean that the BroBabe has not found her place in our society and social, and sexual relationships. Although she may not fulfill every criteria set above, the BroBabe does exist and manifests herself in different ways in many young women today. In order to have a BroBabe maximize her full potential, we must not pigeon hole her into the stereotype set out for us in pop culture entertainment. We should abandon the specificities of her trope and recognize her role as an evolving character in mainstream culture. Furthermore, we must also recognize the disadvantages perpetual hook-ups can do to young adults, and notice how the infiltration of such encounters has demolished millennial dating standards. In order to understand the BroBabe and her place in our society we must accept her constant flux and notice how her performance alters the circles she interacts in. Most importantly, we must allow her to play by her own rules and say what’s on her mind, for it is the BroBabe that – regardless of her shortcomings – may be the first reliable bridge connecting the minds, attitudes, and performances of men and women today.
Bean, J. M. & Johnstone, B. (1991). “Gender, Identity, and “Strong Language” in Professional Women’s Talk.” Language and Women’s Place. Ed. Mary Bucholz. Part 5, 17. 237-242.
Bland, I., & Barrett, R. (2009). “Stick your (adj.) (noun) in my (adj.) (noun)!”: Teaching women to “talk dirty.” In Suzanne Wertheim et al. Engendering Communication. Proceedings of the Fifth Berkley Women and Language Conference. Berkley: Berkley Women & Language Group: 83-90.
Gordon, E. (2014). 5 Reasons Women Can’t Stand Passive Men. Plenty of Fish. Retrieved April 17, 2015, from http://blog.pof.com/2014/01/5-reasons-women-cant-stand-passive-men/
Gordon, E. (2014). How Accepting The Hook – Up Culture Is Getting 20 – Somethings Nowhere. Elite Daily. Retrieved April 17, 2015 from http://elitedaily.com/dating/hookup-culture-non-relationship-generation-getting-nowhere/664654/
Hamilton, L., & Armstrong, E. A. (2009). Gendered Sexuality in Young Adulthood: Double Binds and Flawed Options. Gender and Society, 23; 589-613.
Hamilton, L., Armstrong, E. A., & England, P. (2010). Is Hooking Up Bad for Young Women. Contexts. 9, No. 3, 22-27.
Masciotra, D. (2013, April 1). The Real Problem With Hooking Up: Bad Sex. Retrieved March 26, 2015, from http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/04/the-real-problem-with-hooking-up-bad-sex/274543/
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All too often does the media portray the female orgasm¹ as an instantaneous and infallible occurrence. A thrust here, a flick there, a couple of “oooh’s” and “ahhh’s,” and you’re off. However, as most women can attest, that method comes with a trialed and failed track record that leaves little to be desired.
A study in the Journal of Sex Research showed that the majority (up to 70%) of women do not reach orgasm during intercourse² (Salisbury & Fisher, 2014), while another study showed that between 53-65% of women “fake it” during sex (Kershnar, 2012) – often employing the method described above. In addition, the inundation of false advertising in entertainment media and pornographic presentations lead us to believe that intercourse is an absolute means for accomplishing orgasm.
While I would argue the most common cause of this occurrence is lack of anatomical education on the male’s part, the reasons for faking it are vast, differed, and are normally due to a lack of assertion from the female to articulate what she desires.
However, there is hope for us yet. While failure to orgasm is a common occurrence, other studies have suggested that in some cases, “faking it” and the linguistic practices, in the form of “dirty talk,”employed during creation of climax, can lead to more stimulating and successful arousal (Cooper, Fenigstein & Fauber, 2013, Bland & Barrett, 2009).
In the Media
While I’m sure practiced by our predecessors, the act of “faking it” was brought to our attention – and surely widened the eyes of men everywhere – when Sally Albright (played by actress Meg Ryan), proving a point to her male counterpart, Harry Burns (played by Billy Crystal), “got off” all on her own at Katz’s Delicatessen, in the 1989 film, “When Harry Met Sally.”
The subject was then mentioned again, in the popular HBO series “Sex and the City,” when Miranda Hobbs (M) and Charlotte York (C) debated over the concept³, arguing how important a “real” orgasm is in a relationship:
-Carrie: Who’s that?
-M: An ophthalmologist I once faked orgasms with….I only slept with him twice. The first time I faked it because it was never gonna happen. The second time I had to fake it because I did the first time….I didn’t wanna fake it again, so I just forgot to return his last call.
-C: You broke up with an ophthalmologist over that?
-M: Orgasm, major thing in a relationship?
-C: But not the only thing. Orgasms don’t send you Valentine’s cards and don’t hold your hand in a sad movie.
-M: You’re seriously advocating faking?
-C: No, but if you really like the guy, what’s one little moment of ooh, ahh, versus spending the whole night in bed alone?
With these and the numerous other portrayals of orgasm in media today, the topic of faking it is gaining more and more attention. However, even still the myths to attain an orgasm greatly outweigh the more accurate suggestions.
Men (and most women), have been conditioned to believe that there is a formula for reaching climax. While it is true that certain sexual positions or components of foreplay⁴ can increase stimulation, every woman is different and there is no exact science. In addition there is the overwhelming fact that an estimated 10-15% percent of women have never experienced an orgasm at all (Dr. Phil, n.d.), and might not be able to.
This issue is only heightened by the lack of knowledge of both parties (women knowing what they want, and men knowing how to give it to them) during intercourse. An article on Cosmopolitan.com stated “until the conversation about sex shifts from what men like to what women like, a lot of women aren’t going to know how to ask for — and get — what they want in bed” (Breslaw, 2013).
A 2013 research study reported the six main reasons women are likely to fake an orgasm are: “(1) Altruistic Deceit – concern for a partner’s feelings; (2) Fear and Insecurity – to avoid negative emotions associated with the sexual experience; (3) Elevated Arousal – to increase her own arousal through faking orgasm; (4) Sexual Adjournment – to end sex; (5) Insecure Avoidance – to avoid feelings of insecurity and; (6) Fear of Dysfunction – to cope with concerns of being abnormal,” all of which are equally employed (Cooper, Fenigstein & Fauber, 2013). Number (3), “Elevated Arousal,” carries along with it the linguistic aspects of how we verbally articulate climax and how by doing so we could potentially increase stimulation.
Talk Dirty to Me
According to a study published in the International Journal of Applied Philosophy, vocal and verbal acknowledgement make up for 79% of how fictitious “orgasming” is communicated⁵. Vocal indications involve moaning, screaming, and other sounds of pleasure, while verbal communication includes explicitly saying the orgasm is happening (Kershnar, 2012). With this idea one could argue that the linguistic practices during intercourse are equal to or even surpass the importance of the act itself.
However, what does this say about the female role in heterosexual intercourse? Firstly, it implies the “passive” or “submissive” role women play during sex, demonstrating how the genitalia used for intercourse equates to their dictionary definitions. In most dictionary entries⁶ the ‘vagina’ or ‘clitoris’ are defined by their location where as the male equivalent ‘penis’ is defined by its function (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001) – thus insinuating women are merely the places men play on. In this vain, that same passive attitude is expressed when women don’t actively assert what it is they want the man to do during intercourse, consequently making the experience about fulfilling the males needs and desires.
In an article that analyzes five books on sex, titled “Teaching Women to Talk Dirty,” the authors, Isa Bland and Rusty Barrett, assert that some of the authors of the books consider “dirty talk” a “means of arousal” (Bland & Barrett, 2009). This is to say that by “talking dirty” a woman can heighten her level of pleasure. Likewise, in the act of faking orgasms, sometimes women are turned on by the thought of the reality they are expressing and therefore stimulate themselves to climax.
Secondly, it encourages women to perform a task equivalent to a sex phone operator, whose sole purpose is to “ooh” and “ahh” for male satisfaction (Hall, 1995). This demotion of women – from human to Bop It! (“twist it,” “pull it,” “spin it,” “bop it”), an object whose success depends on quick and abrupt manipulations – allows men to think of women as toys to play with, who need nothing in return.
Tell It Like It Is
Although “faking it ‘till you make it” or “talking to turn you on” are two individual options women have to achieve climax, another way successful satisfaction can be met is through articulating ones desires (a la Mila Kunis in Friends With Benefits) – this of course comes with the additional complication of having the male counterpart a) listen and b) know how (and want) to follow the directions. If this method of communication is employed, the awkward but all too familiar scenarios of:
Male: Did you come?
Female: Yeah… *sigh*
Male: Oh my god, that was amazing!⁷
Male: I want you to come!
Female (in head): Yeah…I’d like that also
Female (in reality) …5 seconds later: Ahh, I’m coming! I’m coming!
are luckily and likely to be avoided.
In conclusion, the practice of “faking it” is more common than not among women who engage in sexual intercourse. The many reasons, which range from fear of disappointing your partner to the fear of feeling abnormal are generously utilized in intimate settings. Acquiring an orgasm has become an expected result for both men and women during intercourse, so when it doesn’t happen we have been conditioned to believe there is something wrong with us.
However, because accomplishing climax is an intricate task, and all too easy to impersonate, it is often overlooked and under-discussed. Furthermore, education on arousal will not become any more informative if the media continues to leave men – and women – with the impression that kiss-kiss-bang-bang is all a woman needs to climax.
Perhaps more technical conversations of where and what a woman wants, between her and her partner could lead to more successful satisfaction. Likewise, maybe including verbal cues, suggestions, and “dirty talk,” could lead her to her tipping point. However, if all else fails, as it turns out, faking it might be just what you need to actually make it happen.
¹ the ”female orgasm” described is one attained from heterosexual, penetrative intercourse
² “intercourse” defined as penile-vaginal penetration
³ “Sex and The City” Season 2, Episode 4: They Shoot Single People, Don’t They?”
⁴ common suggested examples include the woman getting on top or engaging in oral sex prior to penetration
⁵ simultaneously 55% of fake orgasm are articulated through body expression, i.e.: breathing faster or harder, clenching or pausing breath, facial indications, and pulling partner closer (Kershnar, 2012)
⁶ in English Language Dictionaries (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001)
⁷or any variation of male success, including but not limited to screaming, cheering, thrusting a fist up in the air, or feeling the need to announce to you that he just “rocked your world”
Bland, I., & Barrett, R. (2009). “Stick your (adj.) (noun) in my (adj.) (noun)!”: Teaching women to “talk dirty.”
Braun, V., & Kitzinger, C. (2001). Telling it straight? Dictionary definitions of women’s genitals. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 5/2, 214-232.
Breslaw, A. (2013, November). 7 Sad But True Reasons Women Fake Orgasms. Cosmopolitan. Retrieved from www.cosmopolitan.com.
Cooper, E. B., Fenigstein, A., & Fauber, R. L. (2013). The Faking Orgasm Scale for Women: Psychometric Properties. Arch Sex Behav (2014) 43:423–435.
Hall, K. (1995). Lip Service in the Fantasy Lines. Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self. New York. Routledge. 183-216.
Kershnar, S. (2012). The Morality of Faking Orgasms: Deception in a Dishonest World. International Journal of Applied Philosophy. 26:1. 85-104.
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It is the midst of autumn and the crisp breeze of the impending Minnesota winter chills the air. Just outside of St. Cloud, Minnesota, in an even smaller city called Waite Park sits Rainbow Quarry, a dug out, oblong section of granite that falls 150 feet below the earth surface.
Although artistic in its natural form, Rainbow Quarry is certainly not the most common space for performance art. However, for modern dance mogul Merce Cunningham, it was the ideal destination for the 2008 re-staging of his piece, Ocean, a work featuring 14 dancers and 150 musicians, orbiting the stage as the audience observes seated in a circle around them.
Among the 14 dancers was Rashaun Mitchell. “It was all lit up and was just the most unbelievable, most beautiful thing ever” he said. “It was really cold. You could see your breath on stage as you were dancing, so it was a little dangerous…but it was worth it.”
This performance of Ocean, is just one of the many risks artist Rashaun Mitchell,36, has taken in his still thriving career. He is a connoisseur of creation, and cannot be singularly placed into a box labeled with a specific art form, as his many crafts and facets of interest, intermingle and are displayed through “messy magic” in the form of movement.
He has been consumed by a passion for movement. Even in simple gestures, like walking down the street or sipping from a mug of herbal tea, you can see the eloquence in his mobility, the willingness in his effortless grace.
For most dancers, the studio is a safety net and a sanctuary, a laboratory for invention. For Mitchell, it is a place that is calling to him now more than ever before as he refocuses his talents on teaching and choreography and speaks about his choice to gravitate from stage to studio.
After leaving the Cunningham Company in 2011, he currently teaches at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and is also a working choreographer. He has performed on stages throughout the world, including the Palais Garnier in Paris, and as his boss, Sean Curran, Chair of the dance department at NYU, puts it is; “a crowned prince of modern dance royalty.”
Mitchell has spent countless hours both on the stage and in the studio and his attention to detail has allowed him to cultivate a vast vocabulary for movement and an intuition for creation. “ I think my interest in dance is not so much in seeing exactitude or perfection but in seeing something that I don’t understand, something more ambiguous,” he explains. By knowing all the rules, he allows himself the freedom to break them, and the results are exquisite.
A descendant from Cunningham, who was a descendant of Martha Graham, the mother of modern dance, Mitchell is expertly versed in his technique and also tenacious and innovative in his invention. In attendance at his latest Dancespace piece was Curran who described Mitchell’s evening length work as “idea driven,” “high concept,” and “a real mind at work.”
“It was work that was hard to penetrate, but work that made you lean forward. Hard to figure out, but wonderfully so,” Curran explains. At one point in the piece the dancers navigated the stage in a wide set, second position gallop, the “Rashaun Gallop,” as Curran has coined it. Mitchell has cultivated his own form of movement invention, and through it has developed a unique artistic voice. “I left the theater and I looked around as I was walking home, and there was nobody looking and I tried to do it [the Rashaun Gallop] down the street,” Curran laughed. “It’s like when you leave the theatre humming the tune, Rashaun made me do his dance.”
As an artist constantly discovering, Mitchell turns to improvisation to unearth new material. “I try and locate something I haven’t discovered yet,” he said. “I think when you’re performing you’re fully in that moment and not thinking about what is going to come, or what has come before and you’re just in that place where things are growing and changing,” he explains.
In his teaching, Mitchell leads by example. “He is an extremely humble human being who is willing to give himself and his practices,” said Alexandra Wood, third year B.F.A. at Tisch. It is not singularly due to his stardom that Mitchell demands respect in the classroom. You can tell through careful observation that although there is a strong admiration for Mitchell and his legacy there is also a mutual respect and transfer of energy between him and his students. “Everything inspires me. My students are inspiring to me,” he said. “I don’t always remember that, until I’m in the moment, and then I’m there and they’re giving me something and there is an exchange and energy between us.”
Along with teaching modern technique in the dance department at NYU he has also been granted the license to re-stage Cunningham works, which he recently did with the students in NYU’s Second Avenue Dance Company (SADC). “ His subtle ecstasy for his craft is contagious,” Wood explains. “ I have written everything down in my journal that he has ever said to me.”
Dance is very much a social ritual, a way of communicating with others, but it is also a way to understand yourself. “The ritual of the everyday,” as Mitchell describes it, allows you to return to your practice and check in with yourself, a necessity for any artist, or person working on the daily grind.
Mitchell’s ability to simultaneously reflect and refocus allows him an advantage in the studio. His experience with Cunningham was overwhelmed by the intricacies of Cunningham’s work, but also rewarded him with a foundation of endurance, and a curiosity to understand complexity. “I admire his ability to roll with the punches, and to work on projects with the upmost flexibility shaping the outcome. He’s very resourceful,” said Silas Riener, Mitchell’s partner, fellow dancer, and collaborator in an e-mail interview.
As a teacher and choreographer, Mitchell now focuses on transferring his ideas on to other artists bodies. Although he does still get urged into performing, he is primarily working on creating. “I’m at a point now where I don’t dance for anyone else. I do my own work, and I can do the things that I feel comfortable doing for my body,” he said.
As he speaks, there are moments when his whole body expresses the words, as if the eloquent sentences he is relaying are merely an extension of the answers inside him. He speaks with his hands and his arms, trying to make the feelings he describes almost tangible. You can see the glimmer in his eye as he describes one of his most memorable choreographic experiences, something difficult to find in a person who has already successfully completed all of the goals he has set for himself thus far.
He describes his first choreographing experience where him and his dancers were in a glass walled studio in the middle of the woods. “I had never worked with everyone together, so I wanted to foster a bonding experience,” he said. They went for a walk in the woods and the conditions were that each person had to lead at least once and that the walk must be completed in complete silence. “Of course we got lost,” he said. Once they found their way back to the studio the energy was electric. “ There were just tears,” he said. “It brought up all these feelings for people about loss of control and about being lost and made everyone really raw, and then I was like, “ok, let’s dance.””
Mitchell is a natural born leader and creator. From performing inside Rainbow Quarry to facilitating the means needed for vulnerable collaboration, he is a risk taker. In his skill and technique he certainly is “modern dance royalty,” however in his choreographic endeavors he has also become a master of movement. With his constantly evolving and authentic voice, he is sure to defy boundaries, blur the lines, and set new standards for the dance world. He truly is “a mind at work.”