Sixteen people to not hang out with in 2016

Sixteen people to not hang out with in 2016

Happy New Year!

I’ve been accused of being “too negative” around the blogosphere lately. “Cheer up, Natalia,” a bunch of you are saying. “Stop using indelicate words and hating on people quite as much.” I’m sure most of you have a point. But since none of you will read me if I’m going to go all zen and peace-love-and-incense-sticks on you this year (admit it. It’s true), here’s a definitive list of people you should resolve to avoid in 2016 (and all subsequent years too).  Continue reading “Sixteen people to not hang out with in 2016”

I just read gay Strelkov porn so you wouldn’t have to

Note: After I wrote this post, I made the decision to insert a bunch of gifs with hot men in them. It’s not for you – it’s for me. To preserve my soul.

When Heather McRobie alerted me to the fact that erotic gay fan fiction featuring Igor Strelkov (Girkin), former (?) separatist leader in eastern Ukraine (and he’s actually from Russia, btw), was for sale on Amazon, I knew I had to take one for the team. Kind of like Batman – if Batman sat at home in a bathrobe and wrote about porn.

bale is amused

So here are some essential facts about “Sucking Strelkov”:

– Great title!

– It’s all downhill from the moment you read that great title!

– And it’s almost as if this story, which is 5,7k words long, was written specifically for a journalist to discover it and start shrieking about it on the internet. Immediately, from the way it is written, you start to suspect that it was written by a journalist as well. Or, at the very least, someone who has done a lot of traveling in Ukraine in recent months. HMMMMMM.

daario winks

– The narrator is a lady. It makes me think the author is a lady.

– I’m not the main target audience for hot dude-on-dude action, but I can still recognize something hot when I see it (or read it). “Sucking Strelkov” is NOT hot. It’s not because the writing is bad, mind you. The author knows her subject matter. She knows, for example, that gay sex is a touchy (sorry) subject in Russia right now. She knows the Russian obsession with bureaucracy. She knows a whole lot, in fact.

jon snow knows

– Strelkov is tired, emotionless, and has a small dick. That, combined with the fact that Strelkov rapes a dude in this story, makes me think that a bunch of Novorossiya fans – who are generally all about manliness and glory, among other things – would get VERY pissed off if they read this. And maybe that’s the point?

– The Russian cult of heterosexual masculinity has been getting a lot of pushback in Europe in recent months. Everyone’s tired of Russians being all MANLIER THAN THOU all the time. This story appears to tap into that – whether consciously or unconsciously.

– This story is really all about rape, but the word “rape” is never mentioned. That also makes it realistic. Rape is often a tool of war – and in war zones, it frequently takes on an almost casual quality.

– The author doesn’t like Strelkov, but her brief descriptions of him make me believe that she has watched a fair bit of footage of him, at the very least. She taps into the ambivalence of his public persona really well.

– Did I mention that this is really, honestly, completely not hot?

– Paying nearly two dollars for this is a rip-off – but it also makes me think as though the whole “east Ukraine separatists” thing could be its own genre. If PTERODACTYL PORN exists, why not?

– I feel icky now.

loki is all like um

Oh my God, Becky – look at Pornhub’s statistics on Russia and anal sex videos

Someone who reads this blog has suggested that I write an overwrought essay about the latest Pornhub study, which has found that anal sex porn is “more popular in Russia than any other country.”

Naturally, I am very offended by the suggestion that my writing is overwrought, and I am stomping my foot as I let the eye-watering Moscow sunset bathe my form in amber-esque light, or whatever.

I also looked at the study and realized that there is quite a bit that needs to be said about anal sex and Russia, especially in light of recent events.

Some disclaimers:

By itself, the Pornhub study doesn’t provide concrete facts about Russia itself – no matter how many punchlines we can get out of citing it.

I really wish the Pornhub study came with dates attached. Are they tracking user data for the whole history of the site?

Finally, the plural of anecdote is not data, and so this isn’t going to be one of those posts where I use a porn site’s statistics to talk about Russian men and what they’re like in bed.

Moving on:

References to anal sex occupy an interesting niche in Russian culture. Because plenty of noise has already been made about Russia’s seeming anal sex obsession in light of its controversial law against homosexual propaganda to minors/general issues of homophobia, it’s worth pointing out some context.

For example, as political expert Pavel Svyatenkov brilliantly argued last year, a lot of Russia’s issues surrounding gay rights actually stem from the fact that anal sex is associated with humiliation in Gulag culture.

As Svyatenkov wrote:

“The philosophy of Soviet-developed homosexuality penetrated [translator note: pun not mine] even those social classes which, by definition, should not have harbored it. What does a manager mean when he says that his ‘bosses fucked [him] in the ass?’ He obviously means that he received a ‘severe reprimand from management.’ To put it in other words, the relationship between the powerful and the subordinate is interpreted via a homosexual sex act.”

Svyatenkov is specifically talking about attitudes surrounding homosexuality, of course. And his comments make even more sense in light of the Pornhub study. A taboo wouldn’t be a taboo if it didn’t have cultural roots/causes.

The Pornhub study, meanwhile, suggests that more people in general search for straight anal sex – though not by that much.

Prominent Russian sexologist Yevgeny Kulgavchyuk recently gave an interview to The Village, where he talked about how, in his view, very few women actually enjoy anal sex.

Quote:

 “I’m tired already of saving poor women from [anal sex]. Men who have watched too much porn are trying to conquer all of their women via the backyard. If the gentleman’s size is small, a woman’s erogenous zones are positioned a certain way, then some couples do get pleasure out of it. But for the majority of women, anal sex only creates painful sensations and anal fissures. And we’ve already talked about how sexual relations shouldn’t harm our health.”

Now, if you’re reading this in the West and you’re pretty liberal, there is a good chance that you are kind of surprised right now.

Obviously, our medical establishment does talk about the risks of anal – but then again, our prominent sexologists often focus on the fact that it doesn’t HAVE to be all that risky (or, for that matter, painful).

In general, I’ve found that Western sex columnists/therapists/whatever take the following view:

People should do what they want to do as long as they are being responsible and respectful of each other.

And that’s different from Russian sexologist Kulgavchyuk’s approach: He doesn’t trust his clients to figure out, and uses his position of authority to “save” a woman from unwanted anal sex.

And it’s not as if Kulgavchyuk is ZOMG in the wrong. He’s operating within a different matrix, where a) doctors are vested with more authority than their Western counterparts (look at the history of Soviet medicine to understand why) and b) women in heterosexual relationships are traditionally understood to be more vulnerable parties.

(For example, when I was pregnant, my doctor went out of her way to offer to sit down for a “chat” with my husband and explain to him that he shouldn’t be too demanding as far as sex goes. I hadn’t at all indicated to her that his attention was unwanted. But within the context of relationships in Russia, where people are much more frank about power differentials and abuse is sometimes understood as practically a given, it made perfect sense for my doctor to offer to “save” me.)

**So does all of that have to do with that Pornhub study?**

Well, we can infer that in this environment, one where mutual exploration/communication isn’t necessarily understood as the default, anal sex is considered way more of a taboo. If both men and women are being denied a middle ground where anal sex is something they can work on and even enjoy – even as they live in a culture that is relatively permissive and where porn is readily accessible – it becomes that much more of a forbidden fruit.

I also want to bring your attention back to Gulag culture. It would be a mistake to assume that it hasn’t found its way into heterosexual relationships as well. If anal sex is understood as the ultimate expression of dominance over a passive “victim,” as Gulag culture dictates, it’s going to be a phenomenon that will continue to generate both anxiety and fascination (it is my contention that Gulag culture hasn’t been done away with – it’s been sublimated). And why shouldn’t people search for that which fascinates them online?

Kulgavchyuk thinks that his patients want to screw their wives “in the backdoor” because they’ve watched too much porn. He might be right, but it’s a chicken-or-the-egg type question, actually.

Russia still lacks comprehensive sex education. In this environment, porn isn’t used merely for pleasure and entertainment – it’s also a way to satisfy curiosity and try to make up your own mind about certain kinds of practies.

you will get pregnant and die

You’re waiting for me to mention politics, and I will. Well, kind of.

Back in the spring, Mark Galeotti criticized Washington’s “aggressively cerebral” approach to the Kremlin.

I’m not nearly as thoughtful as Mark, so in the unlikely event that Obama asked me for my opinion, I would say something like:

“LOOK. RUSSIANS KNOW THAT POWER IS POWER. THEY HAVE FIGURED OUT A TERRITORY WITHIN WHICH THEY CAN BEND YOU GUYS OVER. THEY ARE BENDING YOU GUYS OVER. JUST PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS CRUCIAL FACT. THIS IS HOW THEY THINK. THIS IS HOW THEY THINK!”

Once again, I refer to Pavel Svyatenkov’s assertion that power and subordination in Russia are often illustrated via the metaphor of anal sex.

Also, it is useful to remember that power occupies a different place in Russia than it does, say, in the States. In the U.S. we have a set-up that roughly translates to:

State –> Social/Political Institutions –> Individual

In Russia, it’s more like:

State –> Individual

There is no buffer.

And that lack of a buffer is expressed in Russia’s street culture (or kitchen culture, or, generally speaking, the private sphere), as the state bending you over and giving it to you.

I’ve said this is before and I’ll say it again: the best pop culture metaphor for Russian domestic policy is probably “Blurred Lines.”

“Well, that’s gloomy,” you’re probably saying. It can be. Russians are also quite funny about it.

And in that context, the Russian fascination with anal sex, as exposed by Pornhub, is also pretty damn funny.

Finally, and it really sucks that I have to point this out, but I will: desire is also just desire.

Maybe nothing that I’ve said here has ANY real, statistical bearing on Pornhub’s Russian fans.

It’s all just conjecture.

I haven’t heard of a single comprehensive study on the subject in Russia (Levada Center, I’m looking at you).

All I did was take some statistics and try to paint a picture that will fit them.

I am working backwards here.

😉

More EuroMaidan stupidity: concerned helicopter mom doesn’t like my tone

Ever since writing that post about stupid things people have been saying about the EuroMaidan protests in Ukraine, I felt like moving on from discussing stupidity – at least for a while. It’s not good for your blood pressure, for one thing.

But then the post started getting passed around – and some friends have e-mailed it to their friends – and as a byproduct of that, I ended up being very humbled. You see, I had arrogantly assumed that my anger at some people’s cluelessness wrt the situation in Ukraine would warn anyone off from trying to push more cluelessness on me.

Ha ha. Ha ha ha.

Dear Natalia, [name withheld to protect the guilty] gave me your e-mail address. I hope you don’t mind.

Well, I didn’t at first, but then…

I wanted to respond to you about the tone in which your post on Stupid Things Said About Euromaidan was written. I’m sure by now you are wondering “What does this strange woman have to tell me that I don’t already know?” And that’s fine. I completely understand that this is where you might be coming from. But the truth is, we don’t always know how our thoughts and writings can impact other human beings, do we?

Actually, when strange people write me in order to discuss my “tone,” my initial thoughts tend to be way less polite, but whatever.

Because he is her older brother’s best friend, my daughter really looks up to [redacted]. He on the other hand looks up to you. In fact, this isn’t the first time [redacted] recommends your writing to us. We have always found it inspirational, until you lashed out against some of the misconceptions people have about the Ukraine.

simon cowell blinks at you

Also: “the Ukraine.”

I understand that misconceptions can be frustrating. But not everyone who is not completely informed is acting in bad faith. My daughter, for example, has been thinking about volunteering in the Ukraine. for a while Thankfully, your post did not deter her.

THANK GOD.

Also: “the Ukraine.”

But you may want to think about others your post might have affected. There are a lot of idealistic kids out there who may not get every single nuance of the situation in Ukraine. But they are enthusiastic and want to help. Would you really want to discourage them?

Why yes, I do think that people coming to an unstable country with a bunch of dangerous assumptions should be discouraged. Vigorously so. Sometimes, with yelling and screaming – and unladylike language and tone.

But at least she didn’t use “the Ukraine” in this paragraph.

From what I have read in the news, the Ukraine needs all the help it can get.

Nope, here it is again! “The Ukraine”!

And since you clearly happen to be a good writer, you may want to think about the impact your particular side of the story may have on others.

“I don’t think you bow and scrape enough in your posts. Think about that.”

I’m sure that should you ever become a mother…

You mean like that time in 2011 when I gave birth to my son?

…you will understand the importance of inspiring others first, rather than discouraging them right away.

YES. In fact, when my son wants to overturn a fruit stand at the supermarket, I don’t stop him or anything. Sure, what he’s doing may be dangerous to himself and to all of the people who will probably take a tumble after stepping in some slippery mango or whatever – BUT DISCOURAGING CHILDREN IS BAD.

That’s really all I wanted to say. Best of luck to you and to the Ukraine.

But seriously, with friends like there, why would “the Ukraine” require any luck?

… OK, you guys will have to give me some credit – I DID think this was a parody at first. I was convinced that someone read my original post and decided to REALLY make steam come out of my ears. But then I forwarded this to [redacted], and it turns out this lady is for real.

After everything that has happened in my neck of the woods lately (if you scroll down, you’ll know what I mean), my initial desire was to immediately reach for a beer. Then I thought better of it. Why let the idiots win? And so, with a smile on my face, I demanded the vintage cognac instead.

10 spectacularly stupid things that people have said to me since EuroMaidan started

EuroMaidan is the general name given to mass protests that erupted in Ukraine when the government backtracked on signing an EU association agreement. According to some folks, the government did this purely to appease Russia. According to other folks, association terms were not favorable enough. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle – as it usually is. I could be wrong, though.

Anyway, protests tend to bring out the stupid in people who are observing said protests from far away. Here is some of that stupid, for your reading (dis)pleasure. A lot of these comments are translated, some are paraphrases, but I’m not changing the meaning of anything here:

1. “Yeah, the Ukrainians are out there on the streets because being out on the streets is fun.” 

Here comes the clue train, last stop you: Ukrainians are ANGRY. Ukraine has basically been stuck in the 1990s for two decades now. There is lack of basic governance, social institutions barely exist, health care is a grim joke, corruption is so bad that it is unnoticeable, it’s as much a part of daily life as the weather. Now, Ukrainians act out their anger in different ways. Some Ukrainians are quietly angry, others are loudly angry. Some are resigned. Some are active. But to say that they are out there out of the desire to have “fun” is contemptible. Obviously, any kind of street protest inspires a feeling of community – which in itself is a warning sign. Ukraine so thoroughly lacks community today, that people must go out into the streets en masse to find it.

Let’s also not forget that protest was violently dispersed just last week. There is danger that the situation could get worse. This is about bigger things than “fun.”

go fuck yourself

2. “Oh, so you’re questioning the merits of the EU association agreement? Who’s paying you?”

Oh yeah, THE KREMLIN is showering me with cocaine and hundred-dollar bills right now, so that I specifically point out a very simple fact: the eurozone is in trouble – and Ukraine’s economy is in WORSE trouble – and while there are long-term prospects for this relationship, there are little short-term solutions for what Ukraine is going through. And all of the platitudes in the world about human rights and democracy won’t help right now.

3. “Russia wants to offer Ukraine brotherhood – and ungrateful Ukrainians are rejecting that!!!”

So when Gazprom sits down at the negotiations table with Ukraine, what is on Gazprom’s mind? Brotherhood? Or business? Don’t get me wrong, Ukraine and Russia are close, they have always been close, even the disdain for Russia in Western Ukraine is a kind of symptom of that closeness (we tend to actively despise that which, on some fundamental level, greatly affects us) – but politically speaking, Russia quite obviously looks out for itself. Of course, there are moments of grace in that relationship. Under Yeltsin, in the early days of chaos, there WERE discussions about attacking Ukraine. It was brotherhood that prevailed then – perhaps brotherhood will, in the future, spare these two countries more trouble (I hope).

4. “Please don’t try to smear the Ukrainian protest movement. It is a progressive movement. The Ukrainian right is tolerant of gays, for example. It’s not like the Russian right.”

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Look, pointing out that the protest movement is DIVERSE and full of DIFFERENT people with DIFFERENT interests is not the same as smearing it. Instead, it’s called “being in touch with reality.”

I’m sorry, but there are some really unpleasant people in the protest movement. There are unpleasant people in EVERY protest movement. That’s just the way the world works.

5. [I quote some sad fact from Ukrainian history] [Some idiot who’s never even been to Ukraine does not believe said historic fact – and FREAKS RIGHT OUT, accusing me of using Ukraine’s messy past to somehow paint Ukraine as a “bad” country]

Look, I enjoy talking about Ukrainian history, because it is also, in part, my history. I prefer to do it with people who are also from Ukraine/have some cursory knowledge of Ukraine/are not brain-dead. This should be simple enough. It never is, for some reason.

6. “Stop trying to spread disinformation. We KNOW you can’t speak Russian in Kiev. Not even on the streets.”

I love this. This is great. This is beautiful. This is random people trying to tell me, a Russian-speaker who’s originally from Kiev, whose relatives still live there, how things REALLY are.

7. “Oh, so you’re sympathetic to the protesters? You must be a fan of the Ukrainian neo-Nazis!” vs. “Oh, so you have serious reservations about the protest? You must be a fan of Russian imperialism!”

superman is done

I realize that times of trouble force some people to abandon nuance, while many others don’t even know what the word “nuance” means. But some really have no excuse.

8. “These Ukrainians who are protesting HATE the Russians.”

No, most of them are simply fed up with the Kremlin’s policies (particularly the gas issue) – and even more fed up with chaos and corruption at home. It’s not ALL ABOUT RUSSIA ALL THE TIME, you know. And it must be said that the Ukrainian protest class has even welcomed Russian opposition activists who have come down to Kiev to see what’s happening for themselves. Once again, as I already mentioned, there ARE some scary people in this protest. And as history has repeatedly taught us, even a small group of scary people can unleash hell. And some of those scary people are also provocateurs, which further complicates things. But of course, accepting the notion that the Ukrainian protest is actually kinda complicated is too much for people who have the intellectual capacity of a catatonic hamster. 

What stands out at EuroMaidan right now are not messages of hate – it’s messages of love and hope. It’s the kind of love and hope that makes you wonder if the phrase “candle in the wind” was wasted on famous blond women.

9. “Ukrainians are UNITED.”

Ukrainians are divided. No point in trying to ignore this. In fact, ignoring this is downright dangerous. Also, Ukrainians themselves know about the division in their country. People are aware of it. They talk about it and try to bridge it. Whether they’ll succeed remains to be seen.

10. “Lenin’s statue being destroyed is a great thing for democracy.”

I don’t like Lenin and I’m glad his statue is gone. HOWEVER, even I can admit that statues being smashed to bits is not a sign of a healthy society. In a healthy society, there would have been a referendum on the thing. We’re far from referendums and debates, however. We are in a different territory altogether. A lot of people were sick of that statue – but destruction and removal are fundamentally different things. Think about it.

In a functioning democracy, people aim for consensus. Taking up hammers is a last resort.

I can say “fuck Lenin and his statue” and mean it – but can still wish for a better way.