Take a Walk on the Slutty Side

My mother, who is formidably proper in most other things, is a staunch believer of "showing a bit of legs," and urges me to do so, although she is extremely averse to cleavage flashing to the degree that she manages to find fault even with wedding gowns. To give you some insightful background information, my cleavage hardly exists and my thighs are too robust, shall we say, bordering on offensive. Mother, however, jealously guards my most innocuous cleavage while urges me to suffer the general public with my offending thighs. I am not quite sure if this is due to our generation gap, or simply my own mother's idiosyncrasy, but every time she gives me once-over with accompanying advice before I go out, it always strikes me that mothers are incomprehensible creatures with their own sense of propriety and dress codes.

The world, too, seems to have some strong ideas about what girls should wear. In sharp contrast to my mother's belief, it seems to think that girls should not expose too much of their limbs (though they are in perfect accord when it comes to neckline). Apparently, women are still to blame for exciting men's base desire, causing them to attack us forcibly: the ancient biological truth since the days of our simian ancestors. I believe that is what a Canadian police officer meant when he offered kindly advice to female students: "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this - however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised."

Well, the force of argument is self-apparent. No doubt the British MP, Nadine Dorries, who proposed a bill for teaching young girls how to say No to their over-sexed boyfriends, would agree with this well-meaning policeman. Society is "saturated in sex," she said, and girls aged 13 to 16 should be taught abstinence, in order to empower them, really. Though boys are OK, they are free to go on just being boys, pestering girls for sex, because boys are like that, aren't they, at that age?

I do not understand why she did not see the obvious solution of giving them the snip. After all, if boys are the sole offenders as no doubt they are, when poor girls simply don't know how to say No, why not go to the source? And this environmentally-friendly solution has the extra advantage of solving the bursting world population problem too.

Just possibly, Kenneth Clarke with his subtle shades of rape-and-not-so-offensive-rape, may have had exposed midriffs and come-on boots in his mind when he suggested that date rapes "vary extraordinarily one from another," though I am sure he was merely thinking of the overflowing British jails in drawing up his plan for sentence discounts for early guilty pleas in rape cases.

Some women (and men, let it be said), however, took issue with this universal understanding that rape victims were asking for it; they have taken to the street to claim girls' right to tart up. The movement known as SlutWalks has now spread throughout the US, and to Argentina, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the UK, apparently. This may have raised some eyebrows among ranks of decent citizens, who never dream of even verbally abusing women or commodifying their bodies (the male half) and never wear anything that cannot be worn in the presence of their mother-in-laws (the female half). It may simply be bad taste and silliness as it appears to be.

I ask for understanding and generosity here, however. When you look at young girls in scanty clothes, arrogantly exhibiting their fearless youth, you may only see young girls in scanty clothes, arrogantly exhibiting their fearless youth. Yet, only too soon, their bodies will succumb to gravity and passage of time. Their limbs will not stay so supple, nor their hair so shiny for long.

So please overlook their proud crowning of their youth; it will not be there for long to bother you. Rather, why not admire the beauty of it all, the amazing vitality of radiant health, of youth that is yet to learn fear? Sadly, I do not possess ample bosom to present, or lithe limbs to exhibit; but if I did, I'd put on the tartiest of the clothes in my wardrobe and join them in a heartbeat on the SlutWalks. The only complaint I have with the SlutWalks is that participants do not seem to be dressed provocatively enough. What is the point of SlutWalk if it is merely a well-behaved march of demure-looking, well-dressed, well-meaning men and women?

One last thing on this matter; please do not be unduly offended when women, who are practically begging for sex for all intents and purposes, do inexplicably and stubbornly refuse to cooperate, because their assets are not meant for your consumption, however unbelievable that may be. When they put on tarty skirts, they are showing the world that this is what they are, what they are made of; that they have nothing to hide; that they are young, beautiful, and alive. Gentlemen, have you got the guts to be so alive?

PS. I accidentally went on one-woman SlutWalk, going to work today. Complete with aggressive makeup that was most inappropriate for a Monday morning. I tried to make my presence very scarce before leaving home, but mother was not to be defeated; she even overtook me as I was hurrying out the door, to take stock of my appearance. I braced myself for the usual "Isn't that showing too much?" (this always means cleavage, never legs) but got "Cool" instead. I'll never understand mother's sense of propriety.

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The Porn Question

Recently, I heard a very concise objection to pornography while listening to BBC's podcast programme, which went, as far as I remember, that pornography is wrong because it commodifies women. I found that argument very forcible. I do not know how extensive your knowledge of pornography is, but if you have seen what I've glimpsed, believe me, you'll know what I mean. Let me explain.

I once took on a very educational job of writing up short synopses and catch phrases for rental videos, believing it to be a meaningful and useful step in my career as an aspiring translator. The videos unfortunately included porn films. I was usually given copies of their jackets, but sometimes I had to look them up on the internet to gather any available information about their "plots."

It was OK as long as I could laugh about kinky stuff, but it got quite disturbing when I came across some seriously sick ones involving homeless people and rape, to give you some idea. I had to get out of there quickly before I was mentally scarred for life, but sometimes I do wonder if a regular guy, appearing to be completely normal and decent to all intents, may secretly harbour a colourful collection featuring high school girls in tights or much older women in bondage. Or rape-snuff films. I'm sure we're all entitled to our own fetishes and sexual fantasies in private, but these films do appear to treat women not as live human beings with feelings and pain, but as nothing more than pieces of meat.

What should we do about such extreme cases? Ban porns? There's always that argument that atrocious films are the cause of actual crimes. Banning pornography is not likely to eradicate violence against women, but these films certainly seem to abet diseased desire and promote the mindset that women are simply sex toys at your disposal to release your sexual frustration with. But sex is part of our nature; banning pornography, suppressing such a large part of our nature - after all, sexual desire is up there with the need for sleep and the need to eat - seems rather a myopic solution.

Then what are we to do? Should we embrace sexuality and make all-out porns for women? Shall we try and subjugate men to "female gaze," instead? Commodify male bodies? Say, just as men seem to think it their birthright to undress women in their minds while having a conversation with them (who said women are better at multi-tasking?), shall we stare at men's crotches intently until they squirm?

I happened to air that idea to a group of intoxicated women recently, in the course of a conversation on a completely different topic. They were quick to reject it; they insisted that that is not what grabs their attention about men, and that sizes do not matter. It is a widely-accepted pseudo-scientific fact that men are more visual, whereas women are more tactile. Therefore, I guess very explicit porn films catered for female audience would not be box-office smash hits.

So, hard-core porn films that portray men as nothing more than limbs and muscles and sticks and balls wouldn't work for female audience. We need stories. The whole point of it (well, not the whole, but large part of it anyway) is the "leading up to it." That's why most romance novels normally don't start in steamy bed scenes.

Here again, I must admit to some meagre professional knowledge. At one point during my past career struggles, I studied Harlequin romance. It was strictly for work, not for pleasure; however, if you need any pointer, I'd recommend Margaret Moore if you're into historical romance. "The Dark Duke" was quite good though not a Burney or an Austen, of course.

At any rate, as I was saying, the whole building-up to the final culmination is the life and meat of romance novels or chick lit, usually. Unless you want something saucier. Then I'd suggest you try Cheryl Holt. She's in the school of "sex first, talk later," with heroines passionately humping heroes after they barely met, oh and reaching soul-embracing supreme love through carnal knowledge in the process, naturally.

Either way, what is important for female readers is this connection of "souls"; romance has to satisfy their hunger for this ultimate, eternal love, not just bodily desire. Porns may have "plots" too; yet I believe that they are not much more than just settings to suit male audience's fantasy and to arouse their interest. At least, there wouldn't be much danger of the many protagonists finding their soul mate in the victim of rape in the above-mentioned example.

Does this mean that women are made of finer stuff than men? But that is too weak as a conclusion; if anyone happens to be reading this, the reader, of either sex, will immediately raise an objection that that is too obvious. So, let us explore the issue a bit more.

Should we, then, try to elevate men to our standards by promoting porn films of higher quality, whose plots are not mere props for quickly setting the scenes for twisted, potentially criminal fantasies? Is it a matter of creating "female porns"; porn films in which protagonists spend a lot of time being attracted to each other but crossing wires, before they inevitably find the love of their life in each other? Without too much raw visual but with lots of talks of souls, possibly even of reincarnation? In which every casual seductive maneuver on the hero's part is interpreted as a manifestation of his deep, uncontrollable passion and love for the heroine, every careless and meaningless action or lack of it as purposeful rejection ... or do we do that already in real life?

As of this writing, I'm yet to come to a decisive opinion on the matter. As a woman, I cannot swallow the idea of porn films that portray women purely as objects, carved out to your desire. But are we, women, also subjugating men to our desire, commodifying them and moulding them to suit our fantasy as these soulful lovers of our dreams?

The question is, I'm thinking, should men watch more romantic porns in which the hero and the heroine (whether in singular or plural) spend the first hour and a half getting to know each other, only getting down to business in the climax of the final five minutes? Or, should women give more impassioned appraisal of men's crotches, while also paying more attention to their buttocks, biceps and other manly curves? I'm rather inclined to think so. Come to think of it, we have been rather rude, to be so remiss about such male assets, haven't we, ladies?

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Girls just wanna have fun, wine, and all things nice

One night, on the way home from work ("work" proved to be a rather short-lived experience for me but that's another story), I heard some professor talking about happiness on podcast. It was rather an unlikely topic for a business school professor. He briefly explained what he calls "if then" model: happiness is a state of emotional well-being, so our happiness should not be dependent on external factors like money and success. It is a totally wrong way of going about life to say, "If I get promoted, then I'll be happy," "If I can get that lovely wallet, then I'll be happy," he said.

(For more info on his philosophy, his name is Dr. Srikumar S. Rao, Columbia Business School professor, author of "Are You Ready to Succeed?")

Yes, yes. Happiness is knowing that you're happy. You want to get on in life and stuff, but once you realise you've actually all you need to be happy, the idea of struggling to make something of yourself seems even more of a wild-goose chase. Surely things like making a living and establishing your career cannot be so consequential as they are cracked up to be, when you're surrounded by a loving family that happens to include two dogs and a cat, and two lovely nieces even.

I found that idea very congenial. Let's just be happy. Mother says I'm a good girl. No need to think yourself somehow unqualified just because you don't earn a regular income to support yourself or because you don't have a boyfriend even though most of your friends are married with kids and homes and mortgages. Happiness is all there if you care to look.

These ideas, however, somehow left me uncomfortable and confused. Am I making myself dissatisfied with life because I fail to accept myself and my life? Am I being acquisitive, misled in pursuing objectives such as career, independence and love? Is self-realisation a bogus dream of an overly ambitious, material person overindulged by a modern affluent society?

My "career struggles" may well be complaints of the fortunate when I don't have to toil to keep food on the table. It may well be greediness to want more when I am blessed in so many ways in life. After all, I have my family, health, (comparative) youth, and a roof over my head.

Still, it does take some fortitude not to be affected by the bleak prospects of getting nowhere with career and of life-long loneliness. What makes it even more trying is that trials don't come all at once; it takes iron will not to feel defeated by life's little disappointments. You think you've made a small headway with your career, then you find you're still solidly at the bottom of the ladder. You think you've met that special someone that you hear so much about, but it all comes to nothing.

It's not all that easy to be a thirty-something single woman, though our tribulations may seem so trivial to impartial onlookers. You see it everywhere in those books and films, "Bridget Jones," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Confessions of a Shopaholic" to name a few (though the heroines in the latter two may be twenty-something - hence the relative lack of poignancy in their romantic struggles). They're all true, probably minus the obligatory happy-ending. We may appear comical, at best, always going on about our same old woes (men that never reply and career-breakthroughs that never happen), but underneath it all, there is our genuine, heartfelt desire for happiness.

We want to become happy, and somehow, it seems to hinge on these extraneous things like men and career, probably undeservedly and disproportionately. It's our serious cry for happiness. It is true that we are fortunate; after all, we're not living on the street, and our countries are not in war. So accept it, be content with your lot in life, find your inner peace?

Well, no thank you. I need to be able to make a living, to make something of my career, if only to have even a shred of self-respect. I need to be in a happy, loving relationship. I need these things to be happy.

So, with due respect to Dr. Rao, I beg to differ. Happiness may be a state of being, but I choose to go obstinately after my will-o'-the-wisp.

And, just to be clear,  I won't let further adversities life may deign to place in my path foil my plan of happiness. Even if I end up a single forty-something who's still nowhere near being a "respectable citizen," I'll be at least a happy, laughing underdog. I'll amuse myself any way I can, having night-outs with friends, going to concerts or theater or whatever quality entertainment our society has to offer, buying whatever treats - bags, clothes, shoes, all these pretty things - when on sale.

In short, I'm determined to be as flippantly happy as possible, if denied of more profound happiness. That's the answer to the conundrum, I've found. Happiness is neither about being at peace with your life nor about achieving self-realisation; it's about doggedly refusing to be beaten down. It's the stubborn will to be happy, no matter what.

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Anonymousness of Being Foreign

I quite often receive kind offers from various foreign companies (I say "foreign," because the offer is written in English. Also, "various" because there are multiple senders. In fact, the sender is always different. However, it could also be a single company with a large number of employees, as the emails are always identical to the letter), to thicken my penis. As unfortunately I do not possess one, I've never replied. The correspondence sadly remains somewhat one-sided to this day.

My email address is practically an invitation to these kind people to jump in with offers of help, as it is not a long sequence of random letters and numbers, but simply my name (how clever). It must be circulated abroad too, as I started receiving the aforementioned English emails about the thickness of my penis, however non-existent that may be. If they offered to slim down my waist or enlarge my breasts, which do exist (to some extent), it could be the beginning of a beautiful business relationship. Their marketing failure is mutually unprofitable.

I do understand that foreign names are very hard to speculate on sexes with. I'd hardly know, for example, if a Dick Smith was a male, looking for service of the sizing up nature, or a female, in need of sizing down. Or up, as the case may be. It cannot be denied, however, that these companies (or company singular) are not very customer-oriented.

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Powdering My Nose

日本語 

In this refined, civilised society, we do our very best to pretend we have no bodily functions. Ladies do not sweat, we perspire. We only use the facilities to powder our noses. People pass away to a better world. Only animals copulate; we make love and storks bring us babies. God forbid anyone should point out some funny smell accompanied by the characteristic noise.

In short, we do not fart, burp, pee nor poo. That’s for the lowly beasts; we live on inspirational conversations, interesting thoughts and transcending beauty alone. Such being the case, it is a wonder how we choose to socialise over meals. Surely eating should be a big taboo, along with the obvious accompanying embarrassments of all sorts: namely, mastication, digestion, eructation caused by indigestion, flatulence, and elimination.

Eating is fraught with such menace that I wonder we insist on having meals together on social occasions at all. Especially on dates. How could we eat and drink daintily, without chewing, champing, biting, scuffing, gulping, and swallowing, without ever exposing our raw desire and animal nature? I’m sure even the most liberated of women would have at least one youthful memory of a disastrous dinner date where she could hardly taste what she was eating. We court danger thus, confident that we’ve come so far removed from our furry ancestors that social decorum would be maintained even in the face of such base desire as appetite.

Take clothing, then. You could see that the history of human race is one straight line of putting on more layers. Presumably, we started out with nothing but a conveniently shaped leaf; from there, we progressed to a single big cloth, finally to a set of undergarments, inner clothes, and outer clothes, up to the nineteenth century. The utmost refinement of our society showed in just how perfectly our bodies were covered by various pieces of clothing; which is understandable after all, if refinement means hiding sexual organs and body parts so that our beastly nature would not be excited.

Yet towards the end of the previous century, this phenomenon seems to have started to reverse. We started shedding off clothes, to the point where undergarments of yore are now worn as top layers. In fact, it is not surprising if we see top models walk down the catwalk entirely naked soon. What is happening here? Have we found the roots, are we going back to nature, finally having done with this nonsense of human society?

Not so. Close attention should be paid to the fact that while we are getting closer and closer to the naked state of our sturdy ancestors, we are also increasingly obsessed with shedding off our fur. I do not know about other countries, but at least in Japan, laser hair removal is not just for women. We may expose more of our bodies now, but those exposed bits are a far cry from the hairy beasts that we were. (I imagine the top models will have perfectly manicured pubic hair, as artificial as possible, when they do flaunt their nudity in public.)

So we are still playing that game, pretending that we have no beastly instincts while trying our refinement on risqué situations. What’s a taboo after all, but willingly imposed restrictions to spice up our insipid society?

日本語 

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Maniacs

日本語 

The Japanese language is supposedly one of the more complex languages, with its three different sets of scripts, which makes it hard to learn for people who had not the good fortune or otherwise to be born into it. Contrary to the popular and somewhat nationalistic perception that it is impossibly hard to learn for foreign people, I have known many who are as fluent in Japanese as they are adroit in using chopsticks, another inconceivable accomplishment. (Incidentally, those types tend to have the audacity to actually savour the hitherto sacred national food, natto.)

Roughly speaking, there are two types among these miraculous linguists: anime fans and martial art enthusiasts, and hapless JETs who found too much time on their hands alone at home during cold winter. Three. Three types. Of the three types, martial art enthusiasts tend to be the most devoted Japanophiles, presumably because of their intense nature, which thrives on adverse circumstances and self-torture.

When I first started college in Dublin, I joined the Aikido Club, no doubt temporarily overcame by homesickness. Much to my surprise, our instructor, a huge Irish man, turned out to be more radically Japanese than most Japanese men. He maintained strict order in his dojo; when it was near the time for lessons, without anyone uttering a command, we would sit down in a neat line in silence, from left to right in the order of our grades, awaiting the instructor’s arrival. No idle chatter during classes, as we took fall after fall in a graceful dance of ki.

Which means, in reality, a gentle grabbing of your opponent’s wrist, who would then gently urge you to take a careful roll on the tatami mats. I always thought of Aikido as a martial art for the softies; none of our club members was a stoically aggressive, martial artist type. That is to say, they did not strike me as macho men/women, not necessarily in physique, though that too, but in mentality. I cannot imagine any of us shouting “I’ll bust your face” in a brawl.

In my final year, our club was led by a girl who was so gentle and slim that you would not expect her to inflict any more violence on others than …well, with her sharp wit. Much to my alarm, however, this delicate flower has turned into a dangerously devout Aikido practitioner lately. She even “fondly” remembers our training weekend, when our instructor made us practice taking rolls endlessly. She bemoans the lack of vigorous treatment by the male population of the dojo.

If I’m honest, however, I do sympathise with her sentiments to some extent. I had toyed with the idea of going back to Aikido myself since I came back to Japan, and the one time I went to a local dojo, the abominable lack of order and discipline entirely disgusted me. Order and discipline. This has to be my inner ultra-right speaking.

What is it about martial arts that turns the laziest of us ever so slightly aggressive to yearn for vigorous training? Is it because of our savage past that we never had? Or is it because martial arts work on our instinct to submerge ourselves in something larger than our individual beings? Can it be that it is akin to religion in that sense? Maybe it is not coincidence that martial art practitioners come across as “devout” about their art. Religious people have their faith; North Koreans have their songs to march along to. Hippies have their marijuana and each other. Japan may not have the backbone of religion or nationalism; but we have martial arts. For hardcore maniacs, and for dyed-in-the-wool softies.

*Disclaimer: I do adore martial arts; just that I cannot personally muster enough ardour to devote myself to them. Also, I firmly believe natto is for everybody, not just for Japanese people.

日本語 

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