Thursday, April 9, 2009

Small Fortune

So what have I been doing instead of blogging? Schoolwork, mostly, but I've had time for some game design as well.

I've put together a brief rule sheet for Fortune, the RPG system I'm working on. It's a barebones document that doesn't offer much in the way of explanation, examples, or game worlds, but it's the major rules of the system in a nutshell. It's also a work in progress, so just about everything in the document is subject to change.

If you're interested in RPGs or game design, download a copy of "Small Fortune" here. And of course feedback is appreciated.

Eventually, I hope to draw up a few setting sourcebooks (the two I've brainstormed so far are a 1950s/60s SF setting a la The Twilight Zone, and an over-the-top reality television setting.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Seduction and consent

It's been a while since I've posted - I spent most of December finishing up projects for my library science classes, and then catching up on the holiday shopping I hadn't done, and finally just taking some time off.

There's been a discussion starting with radical feminist Maggie Hays and making its way to several other sex-positive blogs (see below for links) about expanding definitions of rape to include things like "seduction." While the debate seemed to start out as yet another "radical vs. sex-positive" argument, it's grown more nuanced (or more nitpicky), as the definition(s) of "seduction" get examined.

I think the central issue here is whether "seduction" is seen as a method to encourage enthusiastic consent, to obtain nominal consent, or to simply have sex. And I think that we live in a culture that typically doesn't distinguish among these, which is why there's so much confusion and argument going on in these discussions. Seduction is seen as anything from "flirting with intent" to the dubious lyrics of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear" to the now-obsolete seduction tort.

I also think that people are looking at this from different perspectives and that clouds the issue somewhat. From the "seducer's" perspective, doing things that might erode the "seducee's" ability to freely consent to sex is problematic, and not caring whether your partners freely and enthusiastically consent is the attitude of a rapist. From the "seducee's" perspective, though, treating things that only *potentially* compromise consent as *automatically* compromising consent can rob him/her of agency.

Because, when it comes down to it, the authority on whether consent existed has to be the person whose consent it was. (Yes, in a criminal case this is often something that's seen as needing more proof, but we're talking morals here, not trials.) Which means that telling the "seducee" that he/she was raped is wrong, but it also means that it's not legitimate to excuse behavior intended to compromise consent to sex on the grounds that they did or could have still consented. (Just as, for example, reckless disregard for someone's physical safety isn't excused by the fact that, in a particular instance, nobody was injured.)

Other posts on the topic:

Monday, November 17, 2008

16-year-old Japanese girl picked in pro baseball draft

This is pretty cool:

A 16-year-old schoolgirl is making a unique pitch to become the first woman to play professional baseball in Japan.

High school student Eri Yoshida was drafted by the Kobe 9 Cruise, a professional team in a new independent Japanese league that will start its first season in April.

"I always dreamed of becoming a professional," Yoshida, who is 5-feet tall and weighs 114 pounds, told a news conference Monday. "I have only just been picked by the team and haven't achieved anything yet."

Yoshida throws a side-arm knuckleball and says she wants to follow in the footsteps of Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, who has built a successful major league career throwing a knuckleball.

I've always cheered for the players who succeed based on skill without having favorable genetics to supplement that. I suppose it comes back from when I swam competitively, and at the higher levels of competition tended to be shorter and slighter than the other swimmers. And I've never seen a sidearm knuckleball before.

The comments are slightly more depressing; they're the sort you get every time there's a discussion of women in baseball: many supportive folks, but a few who insist that women will never succeed at the professional level, or if they do--well, imagine how much better she'd be if she were a man! And on top of that, this one has all kinds of sexist/racist "Japanese schoolgirl" comments as well. (On the other hand, there's the kind of fan who acknowledges that this is quite an accomplishment but really just wants to figure out the physics and kinesiology involved.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

National Men Make Dinner Day.

From figleaf comes a link to something called National Men Make Dinner Day.

Whoah! Put on the brakes! Stop right there! Freeze! Ask yourself THIS QUESTION: Are you a man who makes dinner on a regular or semi-regular basis? If the answer is ‘YES”, do not go any further!
National Men Make Dinner Day is NOT for you! May we suggest another website. Something like Its really funny.

No, it's not for me (and no, fark isn't all that funny); I can't remember the last time anyone made dinner for me at my apartment and I didn't at least help. (Probably happened at some point over the last year when I was sick or exhausted and Keri made me something.) But it's arguably for the 18-year-old me who hadn't learned to cook yet, and the 18-year-old me would be really put off by it:

Ok, now since you’ve continued reading, we assume that you are a man who NEVER cooks. And that you fit the profile of the ‘men’ who have inspired this once-a-year occasion. The ideal participant in ‘National Men Make Dinner Day’ is the man who:

helps with household chores
has a sense of humour and is a great all-around guy
loves his wife/girlfriend, kids and pets
…BUT NEVER LEARNED HOW TO COOK, and is somewhat afraid of the idea.

Officially celebrated on the FIRST THURSDAY OF EVERY NOVEMBER, ‘National Men Make Dinner Day’ is for you!!

One guaranteed meal cooked by the man of the house one day of the year!

Okay, maybe it's not exactly for my younger self; back then I was living in dorms and getting my meals through the university cafeteria. I didn't cook much at first because the dorm kitchens weren't very good, and later at St. A's because it was intimidating to share that kitchen with folks who knew a lot more than I did. I certainly wasn't in a live-in het relationship (gay men are born knowing how to cook, apparently) at the time, or anything resembling "the man of the house."

Figleaf argues that this is a good idea, as a way to get past the intimidation factor:

But here's the thing: if, as they say, the day's not for me I think it really is a great idea for men or for that matter *anybody* who's intimidated by cooking.

And here's the other thing: it's pretty clear *they're* not assuming one meal a year *makes up* for anything. They're certainly not saying cook one meal and you've done your part for the year.

Instead it looks like they're talking about helping people get over the intimidation hurdle. Because with even minimal help from partners, family, or friends (i.e. not complaining it's not like dad used to make or getting impatient and saying something like "oh men! Here let me do that") it's *waaay* easier to cook the second, and all subsequent meals, *after* you've cooked the first.

I'm not so sure it's not implying "you've done your part." There's way too large a helping of 50s-style stereotypes in there:

Rule #2: Man agrees to participate in national men make dinner day. Bonus points if he does so without seeking promise of night out with boys in return.

Rule #8: Following recipe carefully, man starts to cook dinner! Apron is optional, tool belt is not allowed. (bonus points if recipe includes one of the following: capers, saffron, or the word 'scallopini').

Rule #12: After meal, table is cleared by man, dishwasher is loaded. Man returns to table for stimulating after-dinner conversation. At this point, man is told how much his meal was appreciated. He, in turn, describes the joys and challenges of the experience. He is given a hug, and his TV remote is returned to him.

This is straight out of a bad sitcom--big strong man, probably played by Tim Allen or whoever's doing that sort of thing now, tries to make some effete dish! (Also, way to assume that they have a dishwasher as well as a spouse.) (Also also, it's probably a bad idea to give saffron to the sort of guy they're talking about.) Seriously, guy cooks one meal and gets lavished with praise (as part of the "rules" of the event, no less)?

If we really want an "intro to cooking" type event, I'd suggest the following:

1. Make it gender neutral. There's no basis for assuming that women are all familiar with the kitchen and men aren't. (Yes, socialization trends that way, but I've known plenty of men who are excellent cooks and plenty of women who live on takeout.)

2. Make it friendly. In their attempt to make things easy for the neophyte chef, the site's tone actually comes across as condescending--which itself can be intimidating.

3. Make it its own reward. The enjoyment should come from the experience and from the end product. (If you want a cookie, bake it yourself.)


[S]ince ancient antiquity, whenever those who seek power would want to control the human spirit, they have gone after libraries and books. Whether it’s the ransacking of the great library at Alexandria, controlling information during the Middle Ages, book burnings, or the imprisonment of writers in former communist block countries, the idea has been that if we can control the word, if we can control what people hear and what they read and what they comprehend, then we can control and imprison them, or at least imprison their minds.

That’s worth pondering at a time when truth and science are constantly being challenged by political agendas and ideologies, at a time when language is used not to illuminate but, rather, to obfuscate, at a time when there are those who would disallow the teaching of evolution in our schools, where fake science is used to beat back attempts to curb global warming or fund lifesaving research.

At a time when book banning is back in vogue, libraries remind us that truth isn’t about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information.

- Barack Obama, keynote speech at the 2005 ALA annual conference
Ya done good, voters.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stuff I randomly found out

Tim Burton is slated to direct a live-action/CGI adaptation of Alice In Wonderland, featuring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. As incredible as that has the potential to be, I don't think it has the scarring potential of the 1985 version and its creepy, creepy Jabberwock.

Some fly-by-night game company is claiming to have a Lovecraft CRPG in the works. I'll believe it when I see it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Envy and the Great Sex Columnist Layoff of '08

Over at Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory writes about all the sex writers whose columns are being cut, and she and her interviewees articulate some of the thoughts I've been having ever since I started to hear about this, and why I can't find myself feeling entirely sympathetic:

Susannah Breslin, a reporter who runs the blog Reverse Cowgirl, argues that sex writers have, for the most part, been held to a lower journalistic standard. “Sometimes people become sex writers because they screw a lot, not necessarily because they can write well,” she told me in an e-mail.

On a similar note, Broadsheet’s Sarah Hepola, formerly an editor for the smart sex mag Nerve, said the traditional shock-and-awe approach to sex columns doesn’t work. She finds “the frustrations of a real person grappling with sex — the lack of it, the absurdity of it, the frustrations of it” more compelling than reading about, say, being tied up in a dominatrix’s dungeon and being flogged with a cat o’ nine tails.

Often times, instead of learning about the emotional and intellectual facets of a stranger’s sex life — and, most interesting, those contradictory cross-currents — I have felt an unwilling participant in their exhibitionistic fantasy.

Most of the sex writers out there are (or play the role of) young conventionally attractive hipster women in large urban areas, who routinely get invited to partake in the sort of activities I never did/will. I've noticed for a while that lists of "best sex blogs" tend to feature young women almost exclusively, either as writers (if it's a writing-centric blog) or as models (if it's an image-centric blog). There's a lot of looks privilege and social privilege going on there, it seems. (And yes, I'm aware that it's a very relative and localized privilege that results from the whole "sex class"/"no-sex class" idea, that many folks are loath to call it privilege at all, that social interaction isn't perfect for anybody, that if I'm not careful I'm going to be indistinguishable from an MRA, etc.)

But what it comes down to is that I'm not all that outraged at the cancellation of all these writers' columns. Some of that is just that those columns don't connect with me, the way that a lot of writing about financial advice for the under-35 set doesn't work for me because I'm not a well-paid IT professional with more money than I know what to do with. And while that sort of thing (either writing about money I don't make, or sex I'm not going to have) can be interesting, it doesn't resonate very well. Some of it is simply the idea that nobody is owed a job, especially one as seemingly cushy as that.

But a lot of what it is, to be honest, is envy. (While I don't get all that jealous, I can be quite an envious person, and sex is one of the most reliable triggers for that; I can hear Lili Taylor's character from Say Anything... screaming "That'll never be me!" whenever I read about or hear about that sort of thing.)

It's not just that it's about comparing experiences; it's that the preponderance of that particular perspective crowds out everything else, and there's no acknowledgment that this sphere has room for folks like me. (Oddly enough, financial writing doesn't do this nearly as much; though the classism of it irritates me, I don't find myself wanting to be rich nearly as often as wanting to be desried.)

I know the whole thing is petty. I know I'm overstating the case, and that there are other perspectives out there on this topic. I know from a justice perspective it's less important right now to worry about how young women write all the sex columns and far more important to focus on the fact that they're excluded from the rest of the newspaper, and I know that the CEO who treats his/her job as an entitlement is far more deserving of my ire than the writer who does. I know that if I'm interested in making a change rather than whining, I'd provide an alternative voice or support those who do. And I know that it's especially shallow these days, when I have less reason than ever to feel ugly and undesirable. But dammit, sometimes I am shallow and envious and selfish and petty and just want what someone else has.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On Beauty Privilege

There's a couple discussions of beauty privilege in the comments at Pandagon here and here, as folks (myself included) take Amanda to task for comments like these:

Thanks to reader Winnifred who sent me this story about men who feel entitled to date out of their league, physical attractiveness-wise.

I think most reasonable people can agree that intelligence, good looks, and hand-eye coordination fit into this category---inborn traits that vary from person to person. Irrefutably privileges, but trying to take them away in the name of equality would make the human race poorer and violate the holders’ human rights.

The sentiments implicit in these kinds of statements bother me to no end. The dating one, I suspect, is relatively well-intentioned, and is most likely aimed at the folks who believe that they are owed a supermodel girlfriend. (The accompanying picture of Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl seems to confirm this.) However, the ambiguity of the verb "date" evokes another common complaint, where unattractive people are bashed for having the audacity to hit on someone who is "out of their league," absent other factors. (In other words, not being creepy or boorish, but just being ugly, or fat, or old.) If you're not pretty, know your place - it's of primary importance that you not inconvenience the actually attractive by thinking you have the right to be sexual too.

With respect to the second statement, putting "good looks" in a general category of privilege that we won't do anything about because it just wouldn't be fair to take it away seems to miss the point. Looks privilege isn't simply about people's reactions, but about how they act on those reactions. Nobody's advocating something out of "Harrison Bergeron," or "Eye of the Beholder," or Uglies. But it is possible to think about this privilege, about attractiveness bias, etc., rather than just write it off as something too unconscious to do anything about.

Some further thoughts, in convenient (i.e., lazy) bullet-point form:
  • Looks are a spectrum, not either-or. It's not just supermodels that have looks privilege, and sometimes folks will enjoy privilege in one context but not another.
  • Almost everyone thinks of themselves as "ordinary looking," the same way almost everyone thinks of themselves as "middle class." This may be especially true for straight folk, or for men; we don't get taught how to evaluate our own attractiveness very well, and so we think that aside from whoever is generally acknowledged as attractive, there's no attractiveness difference among men.
  • If you're talking to someone on the internet that you haven't seen, it's really condescending to (1) diagnose them with Body Dysmorphic Disorder; (2) tell them that you're sure they're just making it up; or (3) tell them that their real problem is their attitude.
  • "Everybody is beautiful in their own way" is a nice fluffy sentiment, but when you're saying it in a discussion about beauty privilege what you're saying is that such privilege doesn't exist. Sure, everyone may be beautiful, but some folks are more beautiful than others.  And that's the point, not whether the glass is half empty or half full.
  • If you're going to posit some standard of oppression that underprivileged folks must meet for privilege to exist, be aware that there are folks who want to do the same for those forms of privilege you accept. This is the "women are oppressed in Saudi Arabia, so you 'Western' feminists don't have anything to complain about!" argument.
And some things I'm not saying (because some folks seem unclear on the concept:
  • I'm not saying that attractive women "have it easier" than unattractive men. Beauty privilege doesn't trump other forms of privilege.
  • I'm not saying that attractive people don't get some flak for being attractive. Similarly, thin people often get snide comments made about their size. It doesn't negate the fact that most of the privilege goes the other direction, though.
  • I'm not saying that it's on a par with any other form of privilege. What not having it has meant for me was teasing as a child and adolescent, and being ignored in favor of better-looking people in situations where looks are paramount. It's not horrible in an absolute sense, even if it can sure feel that way at times.
  • I'm not saying anyone has to be attracted to someone they're not attracted to (though personally, I think a lot of people would be better off being more open-minded about such things).
For a less infuriating look at beauty privilege, see these posts from Feminist Gal and Jaded Hippy from a couple months back.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Red State, No Way!

Adam Cadre, who I don't read as often as I should (because his site doesn't have an RSS feed), writes that yes, blue states really are better.

I'm not sure I totally agree with it (I think Adam's too flip about people choosing where to live based on their politics), but any opinion piece that uses the phrase the incredible erratic adventures of Stiffy McCain can't be all bad.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BFG indeed.

Via Parenthetical comes this article about a side of Roald Dahl I never knew about:

He is known to the world as the author of bestselling children’s books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Yet before he became a successful writer, Roald Dahl had a very different reputation – as the sexiest British spy in America.

I agree with the commenter who said this screams for a film adaptation. Not sure who I'd cast, though.

A minor journalistic quibble: the author of the article never actually gives the title of Ms. Conant's book. (It's The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington.)