Category Archives: sexuality

Who’s a Pretty Burlesque Princess Now

By Guest Contributor Tiara the Merch Girl, originally published at The Merch Girl

I wrote this for AO (Adults Only) Magazine in mid-October last year, for Issue 3 that was meant to come out…now. I haven’t heard anything beyond “yes we got it”, and since some people have asked, I figure I’ll post my original article here. There weren’t pictures in the original submission, mainly due to copyright issues, but I’ll see if I can add some pics here.

Thank you to everyone who helped with research and quotes.  Feel free to share!

No one is jerkin’ while looking at my merkin, my skin is cracked like a shoddy creme brulee; not even a Prozac milkshake can shake my blues away – oh no, no no, it’s not a pretty princess day!

Kitten on the Keys

My first taste of burlesque and pinup style was on my 21st birthday in Melbourne. A close friend had brought me to the Royal Melbourne Show (a massive carnival and agricultural show) as his present to me, and while there I spotted a tent advertising Old-Style Photos. I ducked in, put on a saloon girl costume – red bustier with white “boning”, a poofy red and black skirt, fishnets and a garter holding up a set of cards – and hammed up for a set of sepia photos that placed me in the Wild Wild West. I loved the outfit (which was surprising as I don’t normally like many things girly) and ever since then I had been hunting out for anything reminiscent of saloon-girl style.

My foray into burlesque as an apprentice performer and enthusiast meant many hours of looking up photos and art of burlesque performers, many echoing the pin up art of people like Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vagras. Around this time rockabilly and alternative modelling also came in vogue, with many pinups sporting cherry A-line dresses and full-sleeve tattoos. Hollywood and mainstream pop culture also caught on to the cheesecake, with Vanity Fair continuing the tradition of casting upcoming movie starlets in classic poses as part of their annual Vanities Girls series.

While quite a number of the photos and performers were eye-catching, and often inspiring (that dress! that fascinator! THOSE PASTIES!), after a while they started to all look the same. The same poses, the same tropes – naughty teacher, just out of bed, exotic princess – the same look. The same tattoos on the same curvy bodies. The same buxom blondes, devillish redheads, sultry brunettes. Hardly anyone darker than milk chocolate – though if they were they either fit the same poses or had animal print thrown onto them.

Burlesque and pinup has been celebrated lately for its acceptance of diverse body images, and for its openness towards amateurs and hobbyists. There’s no need to look like the models in those magazines, no need for trim bellies and thin thighs; anyone can be beautiful. But does the current scene have standards of its own? What happens if you’d rather not be in a cherry A-line dress or have a tattoo, would prefer your waist be set free than wrapped in a corset, can’t stand a couquettish smile and would rather hold a sneaky sneer?

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Disney, Twilight and Bollywood: Reinforcing the Purity Myth or Fantasy of Safe Sexual Exploration for Young Girls (and Their Mothers)?

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

The other day, I was surfing aimlessly online and happened upon Jessica Valenti’s most recent book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity is Hurting Young Women. Ms. Valenti is the founder and Executive Editor of

Here is the first paragraph:

There is a moral panic in America over young women’s sexuality–and it’s entirely misplaced. Girls ‘going wild’ aren’t damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity–the idea that such a thing even exists–is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active.

And then this:

More than 1,400 purity balls, where young girls pledge their virginity to their fathers at a promlike event, were held in 2006 (the balls are federally funded) [Emphasis mine]. Facebook is peppered with purity groups that exist to support girls trying to ‘save it.’…So while young girls are subject to overt sexual messages every day, they’re simultaneously being taught — by the people who are supposed to care for their personal and moral development, no less–that their only real worth is their virginity and ability to remain “pure.”

I thought about these quotes for days after reading them. For one, the fact that purity balls are federally funded, if indeed they are, blew me away (so that–and new sports stadiums–is where all the education and health care money is!). Valenti’s premise kind of made sense when I thought about Bollywood films and the “no kissing” rule — how some of the most successful Bollywood romances are all about sexual longing and tension within the context of safe, non-sexual relationships. And how the concept of safeguarded virginity seems to be a giant moral marker for young girls around the globe. I can’t remember how often I saw a Bollywood film about the men in a family viciously guarding a young woman’s virginity because the honour and reputation of the entire family rested on the moral purity of that young woman. And if, as in some films, she happened to be raped, the only honourable thing left was for her to take her own life.

I compared this to a DVD I recently succumbed to watching–despite my best intentions. I had tried twice to push through the novel, but did not get past the first 30 pages each time. I know that Twilight has been examined and analyzed on this site and others in terms of its racial content, but that was not the reason I was so disturbed by the film. I was prepared for the racial issues since I read various blog entries on that particular topic. What I was not prepared for was how thoroughly the film capitalized on young female sexuality and the concept of innocence, or as Ms. Valenti might refer to it, purity. Continue reading

Toward A More Colorful Queer Future

by Guest Contributor Alex Niculescu

Over the last few years mainstream gay advocacy groups have focused their efforts on one issue, a panacea to seemingly solve all forms of inequality that gays are faced with: marriage rights.

With the passage of Proposition 8 this summer in California, many people’s hopes that gays would achieve full equality in this country were dashed. What was even more distressing, however, was the wave of racist backlash against people of color in California, who were accused of being the cause of Prop 8’s passage (this is a completely unfounded claim, as studies have shown). When I look at the actions of HRC, GLAAD, and other mainstream gay advocacy groups from the past years, they make me sad to call myself queer. In particular, their perpetual focus on marriage rights as the most pressing issue facing queers, the only obstacle blocking the road to full equality, is an awfully myopic and misguided claim. To assume that marriage is the main issue all queers should be organizing around automatically constructs an essentialized version of a gay person, when the very existence of queer people should enough to  contradict and confront any attempts to standardize our lives.

As anarchists say that “our dreams won’t fit in your ballot boxes,” queer bodies and experiences are too, well, queer, to fit in the state’s centuries-old definition of marriage. For queers to appeal for marriage is to desire assimilation into a heteronormative conception of sexuality, gender, and relationships, things which the government should have no business regulating or legislating in the first place. What scares me even more about assimilation is that it compels us to ignore the structures of power and interaction of power dynamics in this country.  Supporting marriage is supporting a means of institutional oppression. Historically, marriage was never rooted in religion, but rather it was a way for the state to regulate the transfer of property from a womyn’s family to her husband. This effectively bound the wife into a slaveholding document – she too became part and parcel of the man’s life possessions.  Consider the language that we use to describe when a womyn weds –  Mrs. is a possessive form of Mr.  For queers to appeal to an institution that has historically oppressed womyn (as well as non-whites – through miscegenation laws and the inability of slaves to exercise the so-called ‘human’ right of marriage, because, of course, it would humanize them in the face of their oppressors) baffles me. Continue reading

Et tu, Amy Poehler? What’s so funny about desiring a big, black woman?

By Guest Contributor Tami, originally posted at What Tami Said

Fat, black woman. Big, black chick. Those descriptors are lazy comedy shorthand in a racist, sexist and sizist society. Want to bring on the cheap laughs? Then trot out an over-sized, brown-skinned lady. Even better, despite her fatness and blackness, give her a more than healthy opnion of herself. See, that makes it doubly funny, see, cause even though everyone knows neither black women or fat women are hot, this character doesn’t seem to know this and actually behaves as if she is attractive and worthy of amorous attention.

See how it works? I’ve come to expect black women, especially plus-sized ones, to be the butt of the joke in low-brow comedy films–the sort of flicks commonly associated with Eddie Murphy, Rob Scheider or Tyler Perry. But usually your benign, weekday sitcoms eschew hateful comedy. I’ve been watching NBC’s Amy Poehler vehicle “Parks & Recreation” off and on this season. I want to like it. I’m a fan of “The Office” and generally find Poehler charming. Each time I tune in to the show I hope it will be better. But last night, “Parks & Recreation” lost me for good. Because I can’t relax and laugh in the face of the dehumanization of women.

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Vogue Evolution Forever Part 2: The Racialicious Roundtable on America’s Best Dance Crew

Compiled by Special Correspondent Thea Lim, with Guest Contributors Robin Akimbo, Alaska B, Michelle Cho and Elisha Lim

…continued from Part 1!

Vogue Evolution is all about getting folks to recognise that queer culture is responsible for sooo much of contemporary dance.  So it’s a radical history lesson – what’s VE’s relationship to Paris is Burning?

Michelle: I love what Pony from VE said in an interview.

Elisha: This is Pony’s quote:

The difference between us and all the other crews is that you can tell a crew by their team, not the individual. The left girl looks like the right girl. You don’t know the difference. Cindy looks just like Cassie. With us and our community, we’re all leaders. It’s like an All-Star cast, a league of extraordinary gentlemen, as we like to say.

My clips have a hundred thousand views, Leyomi’s clips have a hundred thousand views, our MySpace is packed. We’re already legends in our community. That’s why this is big for us. Our community is like, “Wow. The big ones are getting bigger.” It’s not like, “Oh, we’re survivors.”

The problem with voguing is that it’s always been portrayed as coming from a sad place, and that’s not really what it is. We’re here to show the beauty of the scene, and the art, and the happiness and the joy. We’re the good news. It’s not like Paris is Burning where at the end of it you go, “Aww…that’s sad.” This is like, “Work! It’s over!” That’s where we’re at with it.

Thea:  What does that mean, “vogueing comes from a sad place?”

Robin: A.I.D.S., racism, rejection from families, hate-crimes, poverty… so many of the issues that that community was dealing with in the early “80’s in NYC.  They created voguing to express themselves and to celebrate fabulousness, creativity, and survival.

Michelle:  The latter part of the quote references Paris is Burning and the sadness that is felt throughout the film.  A big criticism of Paris is Burning has been that it was sensationalized by a white director who did little to financially reimburse the people interviewed.

Thea: ugh

Michelle:  They all stayed poor while the director got the accolades.

Thea: ugh ugh

Michelle: Many of the Mothers in the film have since died of AIDS.

Alaska: Nevermind a transwoman being murdered during shooting with no analysis.

Michelle: Most definitely.

Elisha: That’s true.

Alaska: A central character at that.

Robin: Really really really really really sad.

It’s depressing how much cultural appropriation – from queer culture, from cultures of colour… – is a part of dance. How does America’s Best Dance Crew fare on the cultural appropriation scale?

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Vogue Evolution Forever Part 1: The Racialicious Roundtable on America’s Best Dance Crew

Compiled by Special Correspondent Thea Lim, with Guest Contributors Robin Akimbo, Alaska B, Michelle Cho and Elisha Lim


For a show that’s had us raising our eyebrows over their representations of race, gender and sexuality for over a year, Season 4 of America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC) kicked things up a notch by showcasing Vogue Evolution, an openly gay crew featuring a trans woman – on mainstream TV nonetheless. Yet representations on ABDC are often fraught with racism, homophobia and transphobia.  And then Vogue Evolution (VE) got kicked off ABDC  on Week 5, after judge Lil’ Mama attacked VE’s anchor (vogueing god and trans woman Leoimy Maldonado) for not being enough of a “lady” on Week 4 saying:

Leiomy, come on. Your behavior… it’s unacceptable…I just feel that you always have to remember your truth. You were born a man and you are becoming a woman. If you’re going to become a woman, act like a lady. Don’t be a bird, like ‘Oh my god, I’m not doing this!’ You know what I’m saying? It gets too crazy and it gets confusing. You’re doing this for America. Even though you’re the face for transgenders, you’re the face of America right now with this group and it’s not about anybody else. It’s about y’all. You know what I’m saying? So do it for the team. Do it for the team.

So I decided to get some of my queer community of colour together to figure out why ABDC works — and why it fails.

So why do you think Vogue Evolution decided to go on ABDC – considering how queer and trans folks are treated on TV?

Elisha: Leiomy from Vogue Evolution said three times that for her it wasn’t about winning, but about breaking barriers. So I went to check out their bio on MTV and here’s what they said:

This year, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a new wave of revolutionaries is born. The historic House/ Ballroom scene, which dates back to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, has been on the cutting edge of pop culture since its commencement. Its ever present influence has been observed in American fashion, culture, and entertainment, yet mainstream audiences have yet to accredit the origins of this influence.

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Diversity Is the Spice of Life…Unless You’re the Spice

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

When my wife and I started LoveVoodoo 6 years ago, we wanted the site to bring people together.  Many of the other adult dating or ‘Swingers’ sites are very segregated. There are “Black” swinger sites, “Hispanic” swinger sites and very little diversity on the larger sites. This never made any sense to us. Why not have a site where everyone is welcome and could feel comfortable?  I think we have achieved this goal on; however, we wanted to take it to the next level. It is funny that we are calling this event “Colorful Fantasies”, but I think the exciting part of the trip is not, that you meet someone different than yourself. The exciting part is to learn how similar we actually are. and Colorful Fantasies are businesses that reflect our personal beliefs.

~~Todd Crawford, co-founder,

So said the press release for a race-inclusive swinging website.

I didn’t have enough hands to facepalm, to brow massage, to clasp in prayer.

I went to the site.  This is what I found:

I need more hands. Continue reading

Introducing The Racialicious Read Along! Kenji Yoshino’s Covering

by Latoya Peterson

I’m starting to love air travel. It is really the only time where I actually have to disengage from the internet, which becomes time to read actual books.

On this trip, I packed Kenji Yoshino’s Covering, a book I had been intending to read for quite some time. In Yoshino’s gut-wrenching combination of memoir and legal study, he brings a lost concept back into the lexicon to allow us to use new language when discussing issues of race and assimilation. The term he uses is called covering.

“Covering” is sociologist Erving Goffman’s term for how we try to “tone down” stigmatized identities, even when those identities are known to the world. In my work, I describe four axes along which individuals can cover: appearance, affiliation, activism, and association. Continue reading