Daily Archives: Friday 22 February 2008

Friday Feminist – Carole Vance (2)

The hallmark of sexuality is its complexity: its multiple meanings, sensations and connections. It is all too easy to cast sexual experience as either wholly pleasurable or dangerous; our culture encourages us to do so. Women are encouraged to assent that all male sexuality done to them is pleasurable and liberatory: women really enjoy being raped but can’t admit it, and the often horrid cartoons in Hustler are just a lighthearted joke. In a countermove, the feminist critique emphasized the ubiquity of sexual danger and humiliation in a patriarchal surround. Initially useful as an ideological interruption, this critique now shares the same undialectical and simplistic focus as its opposition. Women’s actual sexual experience is more complicated, more difficult to grasp, more unsettling. Just as agreeing not to mention danger requires that one’s sexual autobiography be recast, agreeing not to speak about pleasure requires a similar dishonest alchemy, the transmutation of sexuality into unmitigated danger and unremitting victimization.

Carol Vance, “Pleasure and Danger: Towards a Politics of Sexuality”, in Carol S Vance (ed.) Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, Pandora: 1992, extracts reprinted in Feminisms, Sandra Kemp and Judith Squires (eds), Oxford University Press: 1997

Crisis of belief

We have toothless children at present – both the Misses Six have one front tooth missing. So the tooth fairy has been visiting. Like our treatment of Santa Claus, we have not told the children that there is a tooth fairy, but when they came home from school with the belief, we played along with it. The girls put their lost tooth in a glass of water beside their beds, and in the morning, mysteriously, there is money in it, as well as the tooth. Our household tooth fairy doesn’t take the tooth. The going rate for a tooth is $2, plus 10c if the tooth is clean. Back in the old country, it was 5c if the tooth was clean, but then 5c coins were removed from circulation, which resulted in a bit of tooth price inflation. The girls have always been most careful to clean their teeth – every little penny counts, apparently. They have always been very anxious not to lose teeth when they are visiting their grandparents. My father once told our eldest daughter that the New Plymouth fairy only pays 5c per tooth, clean or not.

But this morning, a crisis struck. The 20-minutes older Miss Six lost a tooth yesterday, a couple of weeks after her 20-minutes younger sister, provoking a worry about precedence in the household. So the tooth was cleaned and put in a glass of water, which was carefully placed on Miss Six’s bookcase. But in the morning, no money.

Miss Six came weeping into the kitchen. “She forgot me!”

Immediate parental crisis. On the one hand, I’m not all that keen on encouraging belief in teeth fairies, for much the same reason as not encouraging belief in the Easter Bunny. Just too much. On the other, my lovely, trusting little girl was upset.

We gave in to the tears. The girls’ Daddy led a hunt around the house, in case the tooth fairy had put the money somewhere else, while I grabbed the coins and sneaked them into the glass. Miss Six was so relieved when she looked in the glass a second time.

But alas, tooth price inflation has struck again. I couldn’t find a 10c piece, and the only extra coin we had was a $1. So now the going price for a tooth is up to $3. Ouch. Each child’s milk teeth are now worth $60 in total. Luckily, we only have to pay that in $3 instalments.

I don’t think we will ever forget the tooth fairy again.