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Last week, all the buzz was about vaginas. This week, I’m wondering about penises. Maybe that’s because my friend, Lissa Rankin, recently posed the question on her Facebook: Does size matter?

Immediately, I thought of this clip from Sex & the City, in which Samantha is crying to Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda that the man she’s dating is too small. Remember?

When I shared the clip with Lissa, she pointed out that it was sponsored by ProExtend, “a penile enlargement device and adjustable traction apparatus,” which she noted, feeds off the insecurities of men. It’s true that there’s an entire industry of gadgets, pills, supplements, exercise regimens, etc. aimed at guys who are self-conscious about their size.

I started to think about how there are so many double-standards between the sexes when it comes to what’s attractive. We all know how screwed up it is that chubby Seth Rogan is considered geeky-sexy and gets cast as the endearing lead in a rom-com. And in Superbad, gorgeous Emma Stone fawns all over tubby-as-Hell Jonah Hill. Doubtful we’d ever see hot guys going after a similarly overweight actress. (With the exception of John Waters’s nutty Hairspray, of course.)

But there’s one case in which big is in. When it comes to what’s in our pants, it’s true that men have to put up with more pressure to conform to some unrealistic Boogie Nights size standard. Granted, we women have to confront other absurd ideals having to do with Brazilian waxes and odor, etc. But these issues don’t get nearly as much screen time as the penis size meme.

I do feel bad for guys who feel like they have to measure up (pun intended) to what they see in movies or porn. They should feel confident and happy with their packages. (Because women usually are!) But, honestly, I kinda don’t feel like spending too much time boo-hoo’ing for them. We ladies are targeted with images that aim to chip away at our body confidence just about all day every day—from cover lines that scream, “How One C-List Celeb Dropped Her Baby Weight in 5 Seconds!” to Facebook ads that tout breast implants, lipo or even wrinkle cream. From the time that we’re able to dress ourselves, we’re almost on autopilot, trying to amend what isn’t up to pop culture par about our outward appearance. At least guys can keep a VIP (Very Insecure Penis) under wraps in public.

What do you think—am I being too harsh? Maybe we should start a campaign for Penis Confidence? :)

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From The Daily Beast to Blisstree.com, Second City‘s viral video, “The Little Mermaid’s Advice for Young Girls” has been making the Internet rounds. In it, actress Danielle Uhlarik brings to our attention a slew of lessons that girls are taught while sopping up the Disney princess story.

I was about 7 when The Little Mermaid came out. I worshipped the water that Ariel swam in. I’d daydream and (much to my parents’ chagrin) sing about finding my own Prince Eric someday. So, it’s not too crazy to think that the animated pic had some influence on my a.) becoming a hopeless romantic, b.) exhibiting of pack rat tendencies and c.) acceptance—through most of my teens and into my early 20s—of the idea that to score your dream guy, you may have to compromise who you are. One saving grace: It’s highly doubtful that I could have passed off that whole “mute” thing. See more troubling (while smirk-inducing) Mermaid lessons below:

Seems like even if she was the most “headstrong” of Disney princesses, Ariel didn’t seem to have much in the way of positive self-esteem and body image (even if half of her “body” was actually scaled tail). Sadly, neither Hans Christian Andersen’s nor Disney’s leading fish-lady was much of a powerful heroine. Oh well, as far as sassy chicks from ’90s flicks go, I guess we’ll always have the manipulative, materialistic but ever-charming Cher Horowitz to look up to!

Do you think that Disney flicks screwed up your delicate little girl psyche?

The other day, HollywoodLife.com asked its readers, “Do You Wish Angelina Jolie Got More Glam For Her Big ‘Salt’ Premiere?” The post goes onto lament Angie’s failure to craft a “dramatic cat eye…smoky eye or…stunning hairdo” for the red carpet.

When it comes to a big blockbuster premiere or award ceremony, we expect our celebs to put on a show 24/7. For women, that typically means haute couture, red lipstick, false eyelashes or hey, if it’s 2001, even a vial of your husband’s blood will cut it. When the snaps make their way onto the gossip blogs, we’ll be damned if we spend our precious time-wasting time clicking through anything short of certifiable eye candy.

But, uh, doesn’t just about everyone agree that Angelina is visually delectable without any cosmetic bells and whistles? In fact, in photos taken of her at the Salt premiere, her minimalist makeup looks fresh, dewy, summery while still formal. Especially in the shots where she’s laughing, the combo is pretty breathtaking.

Below, The Los Angeles Times got up close in HD with the star:

But it wouldn’t satisfy the blogosphere for the ethereal beauty to simply pile on the MAC. The Snarkmeistering Powers That Be also want us to consider the fact that Angie may be, well, starting to look old! Yep, “The Stir” says she is aging and it shows. While the writer has a point about Angie being so darn skinny, the rest of it makes me think, “Give me a break.” She’s 35. She’s a mother of SIX children! And she’s a world traveling movie star. If she was anyone else, she’d have bags under her eyes the size of the Beverly Center. Interestingly, this writer seems to think that the movie star is wearing too much makeup!

Oy, so which one is it? I mean, really, if Angelina is a dud, then I guess none of us has a fighting chance.

By the way, I’m definitely not one of those gals who falls all over herself when it comes to Angelina. But to many, she’s the holy grail of beautiful. Even though I personally think she could stand to eat more, I acknowledge that she’s still a gorgeous woman who doesn’t need a speck of makeup to look anything less than spectacular. So, Hollywood Life, maybe try nitpicking someone who actually screwed up their makeup or plastic surgery. I hear that the tanorexic cast of Jersey Shore is an easy target these days.

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Circa 2001, I began a personal love affair with the life and times of Carrie Bradshaw & Co. (Thanks for the ripped DVDs, Hemant!) Even though I dreamed of working as a writer at a magazine one day, my idealistic 17 year-old self knew that an Upper East Side walk-in closet filled with Manolos and DVF wrap dresses on a freelancer’s budget was fairy tale and legend. Fantasy aside, the show was woven with glistening truthful threads on relationships, men, dating, love, female sexuality, self-image, self-esteem, oh yeah, and sex. I would credit the show for encouraging me to own and assert my needs and desires: a gratifying sex life, a meaningful, successful career and true love. Oh yeah, and to someday also be a mom. Thanks to SATC, women nation-wide discovered or were reminded that these needs didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.  

Word on the street is that the Sex & the City franchise has lost its “sparkle.” That with the big screen sequel that hit theaters last week, it’s no longer empowering—

it’s just saggy, sad and filled with wrinkly, menopausal women “pumped full of Botox and hormones.” One friend told me that it was a monumental fail. Another said that she wished for those two hours of her life back.

It appears that many of these haters fall into several categories. (Warning: A few spoilers ahead.)

-They are menopause-misogynists, set out to bash the film if only because it is carried (no, no pun intended here) by successful, sexy women who happen to be well over 35. These critics are having a field day picking apart how the cast looks so friggin’ old and by default, of course, unattractive. When they make Oceans 113, no one’s going to say anything about George Clooney looking like the Cryptkeeper, but SATC2 is fair game. As Jezebel puts it, “It’s rare to see a writer attack a male lead with this kind of vitriol. Does the “leatheriness” of her skin really make the movie that much more unbearable?” Oh yeah, bear in mind that the Men-Hate-SJP factor also plays a role in this catty free-for-all.

-They jumped on the hater bandwagon and drew the conclusion that the film sucked well before the credits rolled. Case in point: Newsweek‘s review decided to go with the popular argument that the flick turned the original series’ the feminist vibe totally backasswards: “The characters go from trailblazers to conformists, suddenly telling us that work and child-rearing actually don’

t mix…” False. Yes, in the beginning, we see Miranda quit her job…and leave behind a boss who is chauvinistic and abusive. I was completely empowered by that plot point, because being a feminist means being able to say, “I deserve better!” in the work place. That’s exactly what happens here. At the end of the film, our favorite attorney is working for an employer who appreciates her, and she’s incredibly happy.

This, to me, is the biggest fail. A PhotoShop disaster, courtesy of New Line Cinema. Guess what? We like how they REALLY look.

 

-They weren’t fans in the first place. I’ve always been ahead of myself in the maturity department, but I’m starting to feel like I can relate more to 52 year-old Samantha, shown slathering estrogenic yams on her inner arm, than to some of the tween, teen and even college-aged viewers who are flocking to the theaters to see the big screen versions of Sex. Yep, some of them (like my 21 year-old sister) watched the series on DVD or TBS. And they get it. (Well, the TBS viewers get like 85% of it.) But, there are a ton of them who have only seen the films… Of course, lots o’ critics for big media outlets are straight, likely old, white men, who never cared for the show in the first place either. In other words, if you haven’t been aboard the Sex ship for 12 years, you aren’t emotionally invested in the plights of Carrie/Charlotte/Miranda/Samantha and simply do not get it. Much like Twilight, this is a flick made for fans.

A flashback that only a fan could love. (Photo via focusonstyle.com)

 

-They’re mistaking SATC2 for a documentary about women in NYC. Like this great review on Women & Hollywood says: “This movie is not a hard look at reality. It’s a summer escape movie just like all the movies that blow shit up.  You don’t think that guys who go see Iron Man have any expectation of becoming like Iron Man (except in their fantasies), just like I don’t expect to ever be able to fit in or wear a Versace skirt. Women know this is not real, in fact 76% of the people (mostly women) who took a survey on fandango.com look at the film as a “great escape.”

It’s true. The beauty of the series and its audience was that we loved the friendship among the four leading ladies, and we loved the web of whimsy and reality that the show wove. Yes, there’s escapism and fantasy galore: a first-class “magic carpet ride” to Abu Dhabi (as played by Morocco), a romantic run-in with an ex halfway around the globe, as always over-the-top fashion, a gay wedding featuring Liza Minelli… (All brought to you via creator Michael Patrick King, who said he wanted to take his audience on a vacation you maybe can’t afford right now.) OK, OK, and there are also somewhat cringe-inducing antics, puns and questionable stereotypes. But there were threads of truth, too. Carrie recalls, “I was this girl running around New York City like a crazy person, looking for love…” and I actually teared up. That was me too! When Miranda and Charlotte talk about how hard it is to be a mom, I’ll bet plenty of my pals-who-are-also-mamas can relate! (At least that’s the impression I get from their sleepy Facebook statuses.) When, in the middle of a crowded marketplace in the Middle East, Samantha scrambles to pick up a spilled purse full of condoms, and screams, “YES, I have sex!” the audience I was sitting in leapt up, roared and applauded. Seems to me that a flick that brings women together to celebrate their sexuality and friendships will never really fail. In fact, sign me up for round 3.

Further reading that falls in the non-haters camp here.

Last night, Jezebel posted a story about Therese Shechter’s new documentary-in-progress called How to Lose Your Virginity. Not only did the topic strike a personal chord with me (in college, I put my ‘still-a-virgin-at-21′ history out there and actually won an award for it), but it’s a hot button social/feminist topic. As Jezebel points out, we’re living in a world of debate on abstinence-only education, obsession with weddings and marriage culture (think Say Yes to the Dress marathons?), pop culture-turned-porn, Disney stars sporting purity rings and the most popular teen book-to-film franchise, Twilightputting the big V-word on a pedestal. And last year, author and Feministing.com exec ed Jessica Valenti wrote a book called The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women. Shechter is taking the discussion to the big screen.

From the film’s website:

The true target is idealized, fetishized virginity: its historical role in U.S. culture, its power to mold and damage a girl’s self-image and self-worth; its commodification as something manufactured, sold, given away, taken. On [her] quest [Shechter] engages abstinence ideologues, hymen specialists, sex educators, porn producers and teenage girls, to dig beneath the no-win double-message of our hook-up culture that cynically encourages virginity but sells promiscuity.

"If you say you haven't, you're a prude. If you say you have you're a slut."

 

 This is a film that needs to be seen. There’s a huge danger in placing so much value on virginity, as it directly pushes young women into “the trap” that Ally Sheedy’s character describes in The Breakfast Club (basically, you can’t win: you’re a virgin and you’re pure or you do it and you’re a slut). It worries me that young women who “save themselves for marriage” for whatever reason (likely their religion) are putting their emotional, physical and mental well-being directly in the hands of one man…but not until after they have vowed, “’til death do us part.” Even more eerily, how about these girls who attend Purity Balls in order to pledge to their fathers that they’ll remain innocent until another guy is in the picture? For them, “Girl Power,” must be a thing of the distant Spice Girls and Sex & the City-when-it-was-on-TV past.

You can check out the trailer for How to Lose Your Virginity here and below, a clip, featuring Susan Schulz, the former editor-in-chief of CosmoGirl!, as well as high school students, a sex educator and a doctor. 

The project needs support to make it off the ground, so I encourage you to do what you can to help the filmmakers. For more info, you can visit the site.  It would be pretty sweet to let Hollywood execs know that there’s a new chick flick in town, one that really has something to say.

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