Renée Vivien 19th Century Poet

Renée Vivien was born in 1877 in England and shortly after moved to Paris where she and her sister attended school. When Renée was nine her father died and she was forced to move back to England until 1898 when she became of age and could return to Paris on her own. Renée published her first two books under a masculine pseudonym in 1901 and 1902 then published her third book, Evocations, under her own name in 1903. In all her writing Renée wrote unabashedly about being a lesbian. Many of her poems where about Natalie Barney a wealthy American who she had an on again off again relationship with. Another significant relationship was with Baroness Hélène de Zuylen de Nyevelt, whom Renée spent several years with until she got back together with Natalie Barney. Renée wrote many poems and stories over her lifetime, most revolving around her romances with other women and others featuring tragic heroines fighting against nature and oppressive men. Because of the homoerotic nature of her work it was unsellable in England and the United States and as such none of her poetry was translated in to English until the 1970s. To read more about Renée Vivien click here.

Roses Rising

My brunette with the golden eyes, your ivory body, your amber
Has left bright reflections in the room
Above the garden.

The clear midnight sky, under my closed lids,
Still shines….I am drunk from so many roses
Redder than wine.

Leaving their garden, the roses have followed me….
I drink their brief breath, I breathe their life.
All of them are here.

It’s a miracle….The stars have risen,
Hastily, across the wide windows
Where the melted gold pours.

Now, among the roses and the stars,
You, here in my room, loosening your robe,
And your nakedness glistens

Your unspeakable gaze rests on my eyes….
Without stars and without flowers, I dream the impossible
In the cold night.

Renée writes Roses Rising using nature and flower to represent the beauty of women. She starts out describing a particular women and then moves in to describing roses. Which I think represent all the women she has been with. She describes being drunk from many roses and how the roses follow her. She states, “I drink their brief breath, I breathe their life.” The rose is a common symbol for love, and in this poem Renée uses them to symbolize her past lovers, which is why she drinks their breath and breathes their life. All of her past lovers are in the garden of roses and that’s the miracle. The next few lines come back to the original girl and their interactions. The last line speaks to how Renée would feel without all her roses.
The Touch

The trees have kept some lingering sun in their branches,
Veiled like a woman, evoking another time,
The twilight passes, weeping. My fingers climb,
Trembling, provocative, the line of your haunches.

My ingenious fingers wait when they have found
The petal flesh beneath the robe they part.
How curious, complex, the touch, this subtle art–
As the dream of fragrance, the miracle of sound.

I follow slowly the graceful contours of your hips,
The curves of your shoulders, your neck, your upappeased breasts.
In your white voluptuousness my desire rests,
Swooning, refusing itself the kisses of your lips.

The Touch is a poem by Renée that is full of homoerotic text. The poem starts out with a tree and how it looks like a vailed women. Like her other poem Roses Rising the poem brings in nature to her description of an intimate relationship. Renée moves in to describing sex with her lover using the common symbol of petals to describe female anatomy. In the last part she describes the rest of her lover’s body.

Renée Vivien uses nature to help her describe the beauty of the female form much like Whitmen did to describe the beauty of the every human body. Vivien also compares to Whitmen in her use of the pronoun you to describe her lovers. Yes in Vivien’s poems she is unabashed about her lover’s sex and often puts in description indicators to show that she is talking about a women and not a man. She is also openly homosexual unlike Whitmen whose sexuality is still debated. In addition Vivien predates Whitmen and her poems are written in an even earlier style then what was popular in her time.

Read more of Renée Vivien here.

Dr. Doe’s Sexplanations

Dr. Lindsey Doe is a clinical sexologist who hosts the Youtube channel Sexplanations. Sexplanations co-created by Dr. Doe and Hank Green from the Vlogbrothers, a Youtube channel run by Hank and his brother John Green, to provide free sex education to the public. The first video titled “Meet Lindsey Doe!” went live on June 10th, 2013; since then there have been 63 total episodes of Sexplenations uploaded to Youtube. All of which discuse diffrent topecs of sex, sexuality, and gender. Sexplanations is crowd funded by its viewers and has a subscription count of 170,133 users.

Dr. Doe is all about being sex positive and educating people of safe, consensual ways to enjoy their bodies while also educating them about their bodies. This is a value she shares with the GSRM community, which also values consent, sex positivity, and sex education. Dr. Doe sees a lack of education in the public school systems in sex education and is using the platform of Youtube to educate the public about sex and their bodies. Not only does Sexplanations benefit normative individuals but also benefit those in the GSRM and Kink communities by provided information for all individuals. Dr. Doe also keeps her channel open to everyone by using inclusive non-heteronormative and non-cisnormative language. Sexplanations also makes efforts to education people not only about normative heterosexual sex but also other forms of sex and sexual, romantic, and gender identities.

In Sexplanations Dr. Doe treats sex as a normal activity that is done in many different ways by many different people. This relates to how sex is seen as taboo in heterosexual circles, which we talked about at the start of this unit. By normalizing her language in regard to sex Dr. Doe is normalizing sexual activity and attempting to erase this taboo. In the process she is also normalizing all the different kinds of sex people have, from masturbation to sex with one partner of the same sex to BDSM. Dr. Doe goes even farther in her discussion of sex by also normalizing education of the body and teaches her audience about their bodies without shame or withholding information. In addition to normalizing a subject our society normally views as taboo Dr. Doe is also providing an education to a wide audience as her videos have no age restriction and can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. This allows people of all ages to educate themselves about sex and their bodies from an early age. The lack of availability of sex education for young people is one of the many problems we talked about in class. Sexplanations offers an alternative way for people to educate themselves on sex outside of the public education system and their parents.

Little Game

Ben J. Pierce is a 16 year old Youtube star, who runs the Youtube channel “KidPOV” (Kid Point of View) which he started on August 28, 2011.  Pierce also runs a second channel for his music called “BENNY”, which is where he released his debut single “Little Game”. This music video focuses on how harmful gender roles can be to kids. Pierce has also released two other videos questioning gender roles on KidPOV, “Why Boys Can’t Wear Pink” and “Why Double Standards Are Great”. In the first video, Pierce relays to his audience the three negative reactions he got for going trick or treating as a pink loofah; in the second, he discusses the double standards in the reactions between a photo shoot Nick Jonas did and Miley Cyrus did. Pierce released “Little Game” on October 25, 2014, which soon went viral and currently has a million and a half views.

The music video uses color and gendered toys and clothes to visually contrast the two gender roles society forces children into from a young age. The video revolves around two main characters, a boy and a girl, who question the roles they are forced into. The boy tries to pick up and play with a pink doll while the girl opens a book instead of balancing it on her head like the other 3 girls, at 0:37 and 1:21 respectively. As the video progresses, we see how both children’s peers react threateningly to these displays of independence. The boy and the girl then get thrown into a room for “broken toys” where it seems that other children who have also broken from their gender roles were sent. The other kids in this room are still trying to conform to the gender norms despite already being ostracized from the group. Our two main kids find some blue and pink powder and shake hands after touching it at 3:02. This mixes the colors that represent the two genders and breaks the other kids from the “game” of gender, allowing everyone to be themselves. More colored powder is added to visually represent the mixing of the two “genders” and the children end up putting the opposite gender’s color on their faces to show that everyone is done playing the “little game” of gender.

The video visually represents Judith Butler’s idea that when the minority in the population queers gender or sexuality, they pave the way for the majority of the population to have more freedom. The two main kids break from their gender performativity, and stop performing as their assigned gender even though they are shunned for it. By breaking this performativity, they end up showing their own peers that it is okay to be themselves. At the end of the video, the boys and girls are interacting and sharing their genders with each other, visually represented with blue and pink powder being blown around. There is also a visual representation of the breaking of the genders through the breaking of blue and pink objects, which then mix together at 3:05. The minority group (the boy and girl) queer gender and allow for the majority group (the other kids) to explore their genders farther.

The lyrics of the song further the idea of Judith Butler’s Gender Performativity. The song starts out saying that the people are played “like pawns” with “absent minds”; the kids are dolls who have to perform to the expectations of their society based on what they were assigned at birth. The song goes on to say, “You’re raising suicidal with your predetermined titles” and “Gender roles impose control and deceive progressive time”. These lyrics show how gender is predetermined without the person’s say and how it serves more to control those people. It also stressed that, despite the idea that society should be progressive, this is not actually the case. The song ends with a repeat of, “Play our little game” and a question, “Won’t you play with me?” Society wants everyone to play the game of gender and perform their gender correctly, but each person has the ability to say no and reject their gender roles or performance, thereby queering gender.