Not only is this poster simply cool, but the 3rd Montreal AmérAsia Film Festival it advertises will playing during my birthday too. So why does it bug me so?
I think, because I’m so used to seeing women in such mildly Orientalist imagery, that for the life of me I can’t imagine an East-Asian guy with the same expression and pose. Or is that just me?
Either way, see the end of this post for some Occidentalist imagery to compare (and of course, I wish nothing but the best for the festival!). Meanwhile, here are this week’s links, and one long discussion:
1) The Photoshop issue
Paula, a professional model, responds to last week’s post on excessive and unnecessary photoshopping in Korea at Noona Blog: Seoul. Like she says, photoshopping is the photographer’s or client’s prerogative, but still: what’s usually done to her pictures can hardly be considered an improvement!
2) How Nicki Minaj kicked open the door for 2NE1
I confess, I never heard of Nicki Minaj before reading this post of Latoya Paterson’s at Racialicous. But now that I have, then I’m not going to forget anytime soon. I’m also convinced that there’s a genuine opportunity for 2NE1 (투애니원) to succeed in the US market where so many other K-pop acts have failed. As she explains (source, right):
After watching good artists try and fail to make it in the US market, I began trying to find a pattern. Why was this happening? The reasons vary – particularly because artists often use their entry to the US as a kind of reinvention, which can be risky – but a big component is that American marketers/listeners had no idea what to do with them.
But, luckily for 2NE1, they have a secret weapon: Nicki Minaj.
It may seem strange to look at Nicki Minaj as the the person who put a crack in the Billboard ceiling big enough for 2NE1 to break through to the top spot, but it is her inherent strangeness and genrelessness that is opening the door for other women artists to bend the rules.
And a little later:
Both Minaj and 2NE1 are also combatting societal scripts about what women of color can be. While Minaj occupies a space defined by feminist contradictions, she still actively defies the proper “place” for a black woman in the broader pop music space. Considering the limited spaces where black women are allowed to appear, it’s remarkable how Minaj has carved out a space for herself in both urban markets and the fashion industry. 2NE1 is facing off against stereotypes around Asian American women – particularly the submissive stereotypes that would push them out of the more aggressive sides of the pop and hip-hop scenes.
Read the rest there. Also, for anyone further interested in why BoA (보아) and Rain (Bi; 비) failed in the US, email me for a copy of “Playing the Race and Sexuality Cards in the Transnational Pop Game: Korean Music Videos for the US Market” by Eun-Young Jung in Journal of Popular Music Studies Volume 22, Issue 2, pages 219–236, June 2010, which covers both in some detail. Or, for something less academic, you may like this recent post on Girls’ Generation (소녀시대) by Natalie at Seoulbeats, which gave me a renewed appreciation of how different 2NE1 really are compared to most Korean girl-groups.
3) There really is no difference between men’s and women’s maths abilities
For those of you that didn’t already know, the notion that there was any innate biological differences in maths ability between the sexes has long since been thoroughly debunked. But, as io9 explains:
Until now, there was [still] maybe a sliver of statistical data to support the existence of this gender gap — nothing remotely convincing, mind you, but just enough that the idea couldn’t be entirely dismissed out of hand. While most who studied the issue pointed for cultural or social reasons why girls might lag behind boys in math performance, there was still room for biological theories to be proposed.
Now though, a new study has debunked even that data too, as you can read about here.
Related, also consider this post of mine from 2008 about how gender differences in maths ability show a direct relationship with a countries level of sexual equality (i.e. the more egalitarian the less – if any – difference there is), and #4 here on a recent, albeit very limited survey that suggests that men’s greater spatial ability similarly decreases the more power women have in a society.
4) Obligatory post about that sex survey (or, sexuality and parenthood in Korea)
For those of you that have been living in a cave for the last week:
South Koreans are the least sexually active among people in 13 countries surveyed in an international online poll, a global pharmaceutical company said Monday.
Eli Lilly and Co.’s Seoul office said Korean couples over 34 have sex an average of 1.04 times a week, citing the survey based on data collected from 12,063 people worldwide including 1,005 South Koreans.
Read the rest at the Korea Herald, and some discussion of it at the Marmot’s Hole. Personally though, I’m extremely wary of surveys like these, especially if I know nothing about their methodology. What’s more, when just a 5 minute search of my books – let alone Google – reveals dozens of figures ranging between 1 and 2-3 times a week for US married couples, then “news” articles like this, poring over differences of national differences of less than 0.1% a week, is clearly only good for headlines.
Another problem is that the term “married couples” doesn’t take their ages into account, whereas – however politically incorrect it sounds – it’s well known that women’s libidos generally decline in their 30s, whereas men’s stay the same. Also, it doesn’t take into account whether the couple has had children or not, which is a huge deal in Korea.
Why? Well, with the proviso that I haven’t studied sexuality in specifically Korean marriages as much as I should have by now, and that of course the Koreans I’ve spoken to about it aren’t a representative sample, I and especially my wife have spoken candidly about it with many (she’s worked from home for 5 years, and has known many couples in the 3 apartment buildings we’ve lived in), and I don’t think it’s just confirmation bias on our part when they consistently speak of having sex more like once per month or even year, and consider that perfectly normal.
But to be sure, it’s difficult for any married couple to get back into the swing of things after having a child. As explained on p. 362 of Our Sexuality (2002), by Robert Crooks and Karla Baur for instance (source, right):
In the first three months after delivery, over 80% of new mothers experienced one or more sexual problems, and at six months 64% were still having difficulty. The most common concerns were decreased sexual interest, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse. An author of a book about pregnancy warns women to be prepared for their sex lives to be “downright crummy” for up to a year. “Mother Nature” is using her entire arsenal of tricks, from hormones to humility, to keep you focused on your baby and not on getting pregnant again”.
Things like breastfeeding can be a bit of a turn-off too, as Jenny at Geek in Heels is finding:
I also now have tremendous difficulty seeing my breasts as sexual objects. Yes, I know that women’s breasts are designed to feed and nourish the young, and any sexual uses should be considered secondary functions. But the sudden transition from years and years — from the moment I donned my first bra — of their being sexual objects to asexual tools that spend hours each day dangling from the mouth of a babe (or from the ends of a breast pump) is pretty brutal. Whenever my husband looks at them with *that look*, all I can think is, “These floppy things? Can we lay off of them because you’re only reminding me of the kids and that does little to turn me on.”
Yes, the boobies will be expelled from all sexual acts — by my request — until I can start disassociating them from my children.
Just as, and maybe even more important are the lifestyle changes, especially the lack of sleep. Factor in Korean men working such long hours too, to the extent that the Ministry of Health and Welfare notoriously told them to go home at 7pm on Wednesdays to, well, fuck their wives, and the fact that there’s a huge prostitution industry in Korea (see here for the ensuing effect on marriages), then it’s easy to appreciate why Korean marriages in particular might be relatively sexless after the birth of a child.
Having said that, Korean marriages shouldn’t invariably be doomed to sexlessness though. Consider the following from p. 361 of Our Sexuality (my emphasis):
Couples are commonly advised that intercourse can resume after the flow of the reddish uterine discharge, called lochia, has stopped and after episiotomy incisions or vaginal tears have healed, usually about three to four weeks. However, most couples wait to resume intercourse after six to eight weeks following birth.
Typically, women and men with more positive attitudes about sex in general show more sexual interest and earlier resumption of intercourse than do others with more negative attitudes about sexuality.
In other words, US couples at least generally expect to and want to resume regularly having sex again after the birth of a child, whereas Korean couples expect to have it much less often, if at all. In saying that, I hate to perpetuate a “US/West = Good, Korea = Bad” dichotomy beloved of expat blogs, but when very similar lifestyles and attitudes produce the same result even in “sex-crazed” Japan too, then it’s time to call a spade a spade:
While Japan has an enormous sex-related industry, married couples don’t seem to do it that often (According to a Durex Survey, Japan ranks last internationally in terms of sexual activity.) And this would be the case in many modern societies as well. So for the last two years, author Sumie Kawakami gathered interviews of various Japanese women to depict this one aspect of society: Her latest book, Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman by the superb Chin Music Press portrays eleven sex lives in painstaking detail.
Moreover, even the physiological difficulties may not be as great as they may appear. As commenter Jo recently mentioned on another post for instance, and which is confirmed by similar anecdotes in my books:
I remember watching a documentary about breast feeding, an interview was shown with a wet nurse, she said that she gains great pleasure from breast feeding, even breast feeding other people’s babies. She was asked if the pleasure was at all sexual, and she replied that it was a mildly sexual experience for her. – touch, sexual feelings, pleasure are extremely complicated, the feeling toward a family member and a sexual feeling are not necessarily dichotomous, this may be a construction, there may be some, very un-sinister, overlap, in this case allowing for ‘uncle fans’ to deny the sexual element of their affection, and for touch between father and daughter to be slightly confusing. Maybe we should try not to separate ‘sexual feelings’ from all other feelings.
Also, I can’t find the source sorry, but distinctly remember reading somewhere that many mothers and fathers actually get incredibly turned on at the fact, which is quite logical when you think about it. But don’t get me wrong: I absolutely don’t intend for the above quote to be an indirect critique or comment on Jenny’s experience and feelings about breastfeeding. Rather, just again to stress that nothing is set sexuality-wise, and how crucial societal and personal attitudes are.
And on that note, again I can’t stress enough that of course there will be many exceptions to all the above, and that it’s overwhelmingly based on just what my wife and I have personally heard from Korean couples. So, please let me know how that matches – or doesn’t match! – your own experiences and/or what you’ve heard, and, now that my winter vacation has started (메롱~), I promise not to be so reticent in the comments if you do!
5) White female academics suggest minority women with white men are sluts and gold-diggers
From Shanghai Shiok:
A reader, frustrated with how I constantly deny that my white male/Asian female relationship follows certain “societal streams,” pointed me to an article which he believed would enlighten me on the nature of my relationship and others like mine.
The article summarizes a new study which is flat out absurd, insensitive, bigoted, and racist — but since it’s conducted under the dignified umbrella of academic research, it’s perfectly acceptable to put these ideas out there.
Two privileged white female academics get together and make powerful statements about women who they deem unprivileged. These nuggets of wisdom include the suggestion that unprivileged women exchange their bodies for the material benefits and social status associated with the privileged white men whom these academics feel are most suited to their own caste. At a minimum, their study “proves” that privileged white women (like themselves) wouldn’t jump into those white guys’ beds as quickly as those coloured hussies. After all, they have statistics to prove it.
Read the rest there, and you may also find my “Real & Presumed Causes of Racism Against Interracial Couples in Korea” post interesting.
Finally, I can understand wanting to make a university more “international”-looking, but this Korean homepage probably overdoes it:
In contrast, the English and Chinese websites both feature the same 10 Caucasian guys, and 1 Southeast-Asian(?) one!