A few weeks ago, I attended a friend’s bachelorette party. In the days preceding, my kitchen morphed into a workshop dedicated to constructing penis-shaped objects to eat and to hit. Resting atop my kitchen table like a prize pig at a state fair was a large pink papier-mâché penis piñata stuffed with condoms, chocolates, and individually wrapped packets of lube. Meanwhile, a large, thickly frosted phallic cake occupied the lower half of my refrigerator.
The last several years have seen an explosion in urban homesteading. According to the American Community Gardening Association, there are currently more than 18,000 community gardens throughout the United States and Canada.
When I was 6 years old, my mother and I were robbed at gunpoint by two men looking for cash. One of them placed the gun at my head until she gave them her mink coat, which looked real but wasn’t, and the bus fare she had in her pocket. Because of that experience, I grew up associating random violence with the crack-addled neighborhoods of 1980s New York City. But the incident was the first thing that came to mind when, more than 20 years later, I started the application process for a concealed handgun license.
For decades, self-help literature and an obsession with wellness have captivated the imaginations of countless liberal Americans. Even now, as some of the hardest economic times in decades pinch our budgets, our spirits, we’re told, can still be rich. Books, blogs, and articles saturated with fantastical wellness schemes for women seem to have multiplied, in fact, featuring journeys (existential or geographical) that offer the sacred for a hefty investment of time, money, or both. There’s no end to the luxurious options a woman has these days—if she’s willing to risk everything for enlightenment. And from Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Gilbert to everyday women siphoning their savings to downward dog in Bali, the enlightenment industry has taken on a decidedly feminine sheen.
Ivy doesn’t look like most performers in mainstream pornography. Then again, the thousands of viewers who have logged on to watch her YouTube videos or look at her photo sets aren’t seeking mainstream adult entertainment. While most porn stars and pinups show off their tits and ass, Ivy shows off her big belly, the body part fetishized in the niche genre of feeding porn.
From the pages of every mainstream women’s magazine—between the list of 43 things every confident woman knows and the six-week ab-blasting plan—the ads beckon. Conditioners enriched with vitamins vow to make each strand 10 times stronger. Undereye concealers containing white-tea antioxidants claim to combat the cellular damage that deepens those oh-so-unsightly dark circles. Pricey foundations promise to rejuvenate the face at the molecular level with the new Pro-Xylane compound, carefully extracted from Eastern European beech trees.
“When I started out, gaming was a geek thing,” says Sean (not his real name), a 38-year-old senior director of product development for a major electronic game publisher. “Now, it’s totally mainstream. It’s clear there’s money to be made.”
It’s not like there’s any nostalgia in his voice. With a six-figure salary and a generous bonus, Sean is one of those making the money. Electronic games—which encompass both computer games and console-based games—generated nearly $10 billion in revenue last year, thanks in part to top-selling titles like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Madden NFL 2005, ESPN NFL 2K5, and NBA Live 2005.
Given the fact that electronic games have their roots in geekdom, the sheer jock/thug appeal of the above-listed games is striking. You’d think that geek boys, having been a) persecuted by jocks and bullies and b) heavily involved in the production of electronic games, might take advantage of the latter to redress the former. But somewhere between Pong and Madden, those geeks began spending their days and nights creating universes in which testosterone rules, in the process reinforcing the gender roles that made their young lives hell.
The first thing you see is food. a breastlike dome of cake towers at the top of the ad, frosted pink with a raspberry on top. “It’s like dessert for your legs,” declares the text, and just in case this copy wasn’t clear, below it a pair of cellulite-free gams balances a bottle of Skintimate After-Shave Gel in lieu of icing.
From the ancient Greeks to the current Queer Eyes, the cocktail of knowledge, ideals, aesthetics, and manners that makes up the concept of taste has served as a tireless organizing principle for a class-based society (and really, is there any other kind?). Like all organizing principles, taste is a construction rather than a law of nature: It’s almost impossible to say why, for instance, we believe it’s in good taste to put flatware in a certain order, or in bad taste to wear vinyl pants to your cousin’s wedding.