September, 2009

“Call Me”: Sleazy Men at the Yuppie Steak House

Tiffany Call Me

I started working in the restaurant industry three years ago to help pay for my undergraduate degree back home in California. It was a small family owned sushi place, no big deal—mostly college students sake-bombing and a few locals. Fast forward to NYC last fall, where I started working at a pricey steak house frequented by mid-level professionals in Union Square.

I once had the restaurant’s general manager direct me to the restroom so that I could “put on more makeup.” We called the GM several things behind his back, but the descriptions that come to mind are slimy and scumbag. He fancied himself a former boxer, actor, and all around player, but in reality, as a bartender once noted, “He’s a loser.” With enough grease in his hair to shine a shoe or two. He frequently touched the other hostess and me: a small hand on the back, rubbing on my shoulders, dancing around. The thing about touching your employees when you’re the boss, well, its not because you’re a touchy-feely person. Don’t play dumb. Touches aren’t the same for everyone and the power dynamic between the boss/employee is too great to be ignored.

So what do you do in these situations? It’s $12 an hour. I’m not exactly rolling in dough and it’s not like there aren’t new restaurant openings every other week in New York.  People—the staff, the owner— notice and talk when the general manager is a jerk. And I’ve got a mouthy-mouth. Jobs are replaceable. My dignity, less so. You’d be surprised the number of happily-married men who are eager to drop off business cards (in my cleavage) on a Tuesday night.

It’s funny how your line of comfort shifts according to situations. I expect yuppie Union Square bar frequenters to be scummy, sure, but I don’t have to take it from my work environment. In fact, I refuse to. It’s taken me a bit, but I learned where my lines are for work and I expect others to respect them, too.

Date Rape, Axe, and Being Loud (Again) on Trains

I turned the Xacti on to read this bit from an anonymous sex column in American University’s paper, The Eagle, that we came across on the way down to our screening there later that night. Also: Amanda Hess’s reaction in the Washington CityPaper‘s blog The Sexist. And what happens when you talk about sex real loud on the Amtrak.

Roman Polanski – Day of Atonement

Today is Yom Kippur, and I’m doing my yearly reckoning with my religion, culture and faith. This year, I’ve struck a bargain with the powers that be. I won’t eat, but I’ll work, and I’ll only work on things that are useful. And here we are. It has been an intense week on the news cycle where media, sexual assault and celebrity collide. We went from Tucker Max to Mackenzie Phillips and now to Roman Polanski.

First we have Whoopi Goldberg weighing in, saying what Roman Polanski did isn’t “rape-rape”, because…? It’s not clear exactly. He’s an artist?  Her mother was a stage mom? She was pretty? He is talented?  Polanski copped to his crime, but Whoopi Goldberg is a garbled disaster.

Kate Harding of Broadsheet piped up, serving to remind us in nearly every paragraph that Roman Polanski raped a child and is getting a free pass because he’s a beloved director and she was a Lolita-esque nymphet. The article breaks down the privilege afforded to him over the past 30 years, and states clearly that when a 44 year old man has sex with a 13 year old girl, who is repeatedly saying “no,” and who was plied with champagne and pills, that is rape.

The victim-blaming discourse is interesting to revisit (she’s a seductress, he’s a talent, her mom approved), however I’m not sure this arrest now does any service to the victim. She has clearly stated she wants to go on with her life.

When a case is polarizing and high profile, its easy to lose sight of what actually happened, and what is best for all parties. The best Roman Polanski can do is ask for forgiveness.  And we can love the art, and condemn the action of the artist.

Tucker Max, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Over here at where is your line?, we’re pretty tired of Tucker Max’s caricature of masculinity/male minstrel show. To “change the game” of sexual relations for the better, sometimes you have to state the obvious — in this case, Girls Enjoy Sex. Here’s a 30 second antidote to the ills of male chauvinism/ignorance.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was whipped up (by fabulous Isaac with a few tweaks from me) in the week between our first international premiere, and hopping Amtrak to a screening at American University. Tucker Max and his book were on the periphery of my radar, but he seemed like this year’s Joe Francis, a privileged white guy capitalizing on people’s desire to be famous, and making a lot of money from it. When I saw the marketing campaign advertising his movie, we knew we wanted to respond. The grossest thing about his message is the notion that you need to sneak up, trick or coerce girls into sex. We have so much evidence to prove the contrary, we decided to show you.

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On the Way to American University

Nancy and I had three hours on the train today with nothing to do but read blogs and point cameras at each other. (We’re dorks. I know.) Here’s what she said about our first college screening of the Fall, tonight at American University.

When Lines Get Smeared

What’s the “smeary line”? Writing on the situation at Hofstra this week — where a female student accused five men of raping her on campus, and then recanted within three days of bringing the charges — Emily Bazelon offers this as a way to make sense of things, maybe?

Some feminist voices began to admit that, yes, the hookup culture and dating in general had blurred into a charcoal smear their own line between consenting and being sexually assaulted.

Feminists may be working out their own rape doctrines, but these are still likely to be useless for police and prosecutors. Nonconsensual sex between two people who know each other, whatever you call it, is a terribly awkward fit for our adversarial criminal justice system.

This is an incredibly painful and tough case, especially as it fits into a long and drawn-out fight within feminism around how we address rape in the context of casual dating and hooking up. But the line around consent, I don’t think that’s all that smeary — it’s the way we talk about consent that’s almost always messy.

"Know How To Satisfy Moi"

Strolling down St. Marks Place, on one of the last of New York’s sticky Summer nights, I ran into this gal I know from Lower East Side youth activism. She was down to make some stickers, as long as I didn’t take a photo of her while she was smoking a cigarette.  At first she was stumped…  “be a genius with your penis” was her friend’s motto, but wasn’t quite right for her. She opted for something a little sexier. The “moi” in case you don’t know, is “me” in French.

Washington, DC: THE LINE at American University, September 24

poster: american university screening

On Thursday, Nancy and I are going to hop a train (which sounds a lot more romantic than racing to it with laptops and cameras will probably be) for THE LINE’s first Washington, DC screening at American University, also the home of our fabulous intern Carmen Rios. It’s going to be a total reunion for us, and my first time getting to see THE LINE play in front of a college crowd.

We’ve got an invite on Facebook that you can share, or RSVP to, if you can come. And if you can come, comment here and let us know and we’ll make sure to connect with you and shoot a sticker photo with you in our super high-tech Photo Booth. (It’s probably only slightly less amazing than what you can already do in your own room.)

Thanks, We Totally Get That We Should “Watch Our Drinks!” Already

Jaclyn Friedman, co-editor of the anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, takes on the sexism inherent in campus-based rape “prevention” programs:

At about this time every year, adult anxiety about sexual assault reaches a tipping point and gives way to an avalanche of advice to young women from campuses, commentators, and parents alike: Don’t hook up! Don’t dress provocatively! Watch your drink! Actually, don’t drink at all! Always stay with a friend! Don’t stay out too late! Don’t walk home alone! Etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam.

And every year, it fails to work. A 2007 Department of Justice-funded trend analysis of rape studies over time revealed that rates of rape haven’t declined in the past 15 years — in fact, they may be increasing.

Why hasn’t it worked? Perhaps it’s because making rape prevention the responsibility of young women teaches students that guys can’t be expected to be responsible for their own actions.

Is this the time to start collecting horror stories of our own worst experiences with college “rape prevention” tactics? I can start.

rape whistle

The rape whistle.

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“Ask Before You’re Mean.”

ask-before-youre-mean

What people consider “rough” in sex is so different, and can change so quickly — never mind the fact that women who ask for someone to be mean or dominating is still too complicated for some people (some partners, some feminists, some friends) to deal with. It’s like we can have lots of sex, so long as we’re “romantic” about it. Or, worse, if we want someone to pull our hair, it’s because we are “up for anything” and have “no boundaries,” not because it’s something we like to do: all the time, some times, just with them, just to try it.

Between chick flick cuddling and facial come shots, there’s a whole spectrum of things to do in bed, and the common denominator is, we can ask for any of them.

All Posts from September, 2009