What rejuvenates my vagina?!?! Not Lasers!!!

As if I didn't already have enough social pressure to look perfect... now my dearest body part... my body part that I myself can't even see without a mirror, that I share with one who loves and respects me... is to be gauged, analyzed, dissected according to the following "designer" surgeries:

"Laser detailed fat sculpturing"
"Laser wrinkle elimination"
This must be what doctors think my wrinkled and fat vagina looks like. 

The people at the center have provided extensive before and after photos, and even illustrations to make sure we understand the power of laser surgery.

I guess they will also bleach it pink with "Designer Laser Vaginoplasty" - in that case can I get mine in Louis Vuitton print?!?! Pink isn't really my favorite color. Can I order my vagina in purple or neon green?

Wow, my "damaged" vagina can get a "World class hymen recovery" via a 'systemized' procedure to 'increase sexual sensation' uh... I guess re-breaking the hymen would be a 'sensation' but for whose benefit? ***Note that the procedure is effective "when there was no bleeding at the first intercourse" so I guess there is new recourse to avoid slut shaming... now I don't have to prepare a water balloon of chicken blood for my honeymoon in order to uphold my modest virtue.

I am ever so grateful that I can now "plan for remarriage" thanks to the genius of MISS Rejuvenation, I am so glad that this isn't a procedure only for old, fat and wrinkled vaginas but that even young vaginas are damaged and recommended for surgery.

Sarcasm aside, what do you, dear readers, think about these surgeries? 
What do you think about the marketing messages?

*I am aware that this is by no means a uniquely Korean issue, but I came across the advertisements on a website and needed to write away some of the frustration and shock I felt at the rhetoric and images.


Comparing Marriage in the Middle Ages and Korea’s Choson Dynasty: 서양의 중세 초기와 조선의 결혼비교

          Recently I have been studying gender structures in the Choson Dynasty in Korea. Although the Choson Dynasty ended with the colonization of Korea by Japan, even in the post-colonial period and after the Korean War, the Choson period can be said to have an influential role in shaping contemporary Korean thought and society. Many customs and laws affecting gender roles are justified by (if not directly influenced by) Confucian thought or re-imaginings of the Choson Dynasty.

서양의 중세 초기와 조선시대의 젠더체계를 살펴보면(비교해 보면) 많은 비슷한 면(유사점)을 발견할 수 있다. 유럽의 “중세 초기에 가톨릭 교회는 점진적으로 결론에 대한 법적 권한을 장악해 나갔”고 한국에서 조선시대 유교학자들은 새로운 사회법체제를 선립했다 (옐롬, 96).    

If we compare the Middle Ages in Europe with the Choson Dynasty in Korea we can find many similar gender hierarchies to analyze. We can also find differences, for example according to Yalom, in the Middle Ages the Catholic church, much like the Confucian elites redefined marriage customs, and  in the Catholic case these emphasized the consent of the couple, no longer requiring the consent of their parents. Thus, unlike Confucian thought, which still holds that parental consent should play a part in marriage, Catholics required a marriage at the church but also downplayed the consent of parents (Yalom, 45-46).

기혼여성의 인권에 대해 비교할때 옐롬에 따르면 “남편은 아내의 재산, 의복, 보석과 심지어 침대시트까지 처분할 수 있었다. 그리고 아내가 자신의 요구에 응하지 않을 경우, 남편은 아내를 때릴  수 있는 법적인 권한를 가지고 있었다. 대부분의 나라에서 [19세기까지] 남편들은 일단 마음만 먹으면 살인죄를 적용받지 않고 아내를 체벌할  있었다 (옐롬, 97).” 마찬가지로 한국에서도 비슷한 인식이 생겨났다 “여자는 사흘을 안 때리면 여우가 된다 (Tieszen, 50).” 그리고 유교와 비슷하게 “아내는 – 그녀의 사회적 지위와는 상관없이 – 자기 남편보다 아랫사람이다 (옐롬, 97).” 한국가장이 생각했던 것 처럼 루터도 “성 행위는 다른 육체적 활동과 다름없이 ‘자연스러운’ 것으로 것으로 간주되고 있다고 생각하다 (옐롬, 177).

If we compare the rights of married women, in the Middle Ages women lost the right to their own property, even jewelry and other goods that they carried into their marital homes (Yalom, 97). Furthermore, the wife was imagined as a person subservient to her husband, and she could be punished beatings so long as she was not murdered, laws protecting these rights of the husband to beat his wife persisted in some European nations into the 19th century (Yalom, 46). In another argument for the subservience of wives to their husbands, and women to men in general, Reformer Martin Luther justified the marriage of clergymen according to the need for men’s sexual satisfaction and for housekeeping (Yalom, 177). Similarly there were common attitudes toward married women in Choson Korea, epitomized by Korean folk sayings such as “If you don’t beat your wife for three days, she turns into a fox (Tieszen, 50).” Prior to the redefinition of marital and property laws by Choson elites, women had enjoyed inheritance rights and some property rights during the Koryo Dynasty, but these eroded over time until women lost all rights to inheritance or property-ownership.

더구나 상급 양반사회의  남자의 생활에 대해 생각하면 남자들의 도덕에 모순이 있었다. 조선시대 유교학자들은 여성도덕을 요구하며 (때로는 기생집에서) 성노동자의 신분제를 확립하고 결혼한 유교학자들은 첩(정부)이나 일부다처제 하에 있는 부인의 인권을 제한했다. 비슷하게 루터시대에 “많은 목사(성직자)들이 첩들과 함께 살고 있었으며 그들 가운데 많은 수의가 자식을 낳았기 때문에 그는 동거하느니 결혼을 하는 것이 낫다고 판단했”고 루터는  “여성이 남성의 성적 욕구와 가정을 이루려는 욕구를 만족시키기 위해 필요하다고 생각했다 (옐롬, 177).

          Furthermore, although the Confucian elites were preoccupied with social morality, a contradiction emerged in their attitudes toward men’s lifestyles. In order to entertain elite men, a select group of women were trained in literature and other arts, to serve as entertainers, and in some cases trained in sex work. During the Choson period, men were permitted to have multiple wives and concubines, but the class status of wives was rigidly recorded and regulated by law in order to ensure a ‘primary son’ who could inherit ancestral lands and properties, while ‘secondary sons’ and sisters were eventually disinherited (Deuchler, 236). Similarly, in Martin Luther’s day many clergymen had concubines and illegitimate children, so he argued for the rights of the clergy to marry and to have sex.

 하지만 유교과 달리 “교회는 합법적인 결혼을 성사시키는 데 부모의 동의보다 약혼한 배우자들의 의지를 주요한 기준으로 내세운 것이다 (옐롬, 96).
이처럼 서양의 중세 초기에 의식의 변화가 있었던 반면, 한국사회에서는 왜 여전히 부모의 동의를 중요하게 생각하고 됬을까?

          However, unlike Confucian elites European churches, particularly in the Catholic tradition, emphasized the consent of marriage partners, rather than their parent’s consent. Why did this shift occur while Confucianists continued to place emphasis on parental consent?

한편 파워는 팜므 솔르들의 좋은 예외를 통해 여성의 인권과 공적 생활를 재평가하고 있다.:
“무엇보다도 12세기부터 무역이 늘고 도시가 성장하면서, 도시 중산층 계급의 상류 계층 사람들이 점차 목소리를 내기 시작하였다. 중산층의 여성관은 교회나 귀족의 그것에 비해 여성들의 실제적 위상을 더 잘 이해하고 있었다. 도시의 법률은 특정 직종에 종사하는 여성들, 특히 독자적인 사업을 하는 결혼한 여성들 (femmes soles: 과부들)의 지위를 반영했다. 팜므 솔르 (femmes soles)에 대해 규정은 당초 그 여자들의 남편을 보호하기 위한 것이었지만, 결과적으로 여성의 지위가 높아졌다 (파워, 35). 
사실상남편을 보호하는 법체제를 유지하면서 여성들의 인권을 보장하고 상당한 자립을 보장했던 것이다. 조선 시대에서도 여성들의 인권과 관련하여 (연관지어) 예외를 볼 수 있을까? 유교체제가 가져온 인식과 함께 한국사회의 예외를 평가한다면 당시 한국 사회를 다르게 이해할 수 있지 않을까

          Power also presents an interesting example for comparison of women’s rights and social position. In medieval Europe the wealthy middle classes pushed back against the trends depriving women of rights, and particularly Town Laws emphasized the rights of women to participate in trade (Power, 2). Although Power points out that these laws were also designed to protect the economic interests of husbands, the right to commerce and the possibility of some economic self-sufficiency and public work may have been quite different from Choson society that emphasized women’s role in the home. The example also begs a question: Would societies have been quite different if the middle classes had more widespread influence than the church and elite with their downward imposition of what came to be ‘official’ ideas about women and marriage?  

파워, 아일린. 2010(1920) «중세의 여인들» 이종인 옮김. 즐거운 상상. 
옐롬, 매릴린. 2003. «아내: 순종 혹은 반항의 역» 이호영 옮김. 시공사. [2장, 3장]. 
도이힐러, 마르티나. 2005. «한국사회의 유교적 변환» 이훈상 옮김. 아카넷. 

Yalom, Marilyn, 2001. A history of the wife. London : Pandora.
Edna, Eileen, 1975. Medieval Women. Cambridge [Eng.] ; New York : Cambridge University Press. 
Deuchler, Martina. 1995. The Confucian Transformation of Korea. Harvard University Press.

Tieszen , Helen Rose. “Proverbs” in Virtues in Conflict: Tradition and the Korean Woman Today, ed. Mattielli, Sandra, 1977, p. 50.


Queer Corner: Violence in a Label - 마짜, 때짜, 올

When I first began to venture out into the "old city" and began meeting some of the local boys, I was immediately awash in all sorts of culture shock and language barrier on two completely separate dimensions- first, there was still my foreignness and the difference between my white skin and local culture, and second, there was moving into the minority realm of homosexual culture in Korea (and therefore Korean language, too).
While of crossing both of those hills, I was introduced to two terms that I mentioned in my previous post - 마짜  [ma.jja] and 때짜 [ddae.jja]. They, respectively, mean 'bottom' and 'top', as we call the sexual positions between gay men engaging in anal intercourse in English. 'Top' typically refers to the man on top and therefore the one who penetrates, and 'bottom' to the man on bottom and who is penetrated.

Now, even in English, the names represent their own bias. Tops are typically viewed as more of a 'man' and bottoms as more feminine. Many people call the top 'the man' in the relationship, relegating a weaker position to the penetrated partner. This is a direct reflection of power discrepancies between men and women in sex and society- again, the penetrated partner is viewed as weaker and less important. Frankly, it all seems silly- in order to f*** at all, you need both people and I wish the best of luck to any top who desires sex without a man willing to bottom.

Moving on:
As is common in general Korean language, they often adopt English words in slang and pop culture, and 'top' () and 'bottom' (바텀) are no different. However, there still arose native Korean words to describe the two sexual positions (or 성향, 'tendency', as described in an earlier post). Their derivation, though, is a little worrisome, because instead of just implying a power difference between the two roles, but they actually contain significant violence.
때짜 is derived from the Korean verb 때리다, or 'to hit'. 마짜 is derived from 맞다 , or 'to be hit'. That's right- a top, simply by his name in Korean, is described as 'hitting' or 'striking' his partner who, by his very name, receives the strike or beating. They are both, by nature, violent words, and the implications for violence in sex is worrisome.

            Note: There is a direct reflection of similar naming in Japanese in which the top is called seme and bottom uke, terms derived from martial arts meaning "to attack" and "to be attacked". 

To provide one more comparison, looking at Spanish, the words for top and bottom are actually activio and passivo, phrases that are  remnants of old views on the sexual relations between men and women.

If I speak honestly, there's a certain wry humor that can be taken from the terms. It is a bit funny that sexual partners are described as hitting and being hit in sex- frankly, there's a certain truth in it. We are humans, after all, and sex in real life (IRL) is rarely as neat and clean as it is on TV or in the movies. Perhaps it is just the puritanical upbringing from my American background that causes me to balk at such an honest admission, and maybe Korea is actually more progressive for being open about it- maybe it's just a sign of frank sexual positivity.

While that may be a possible explanation, every fiber in my being is leaning pretty far away from it. A conversation with a former sexual partner comes to mind and forgive me for the frankness, but hey- welcome to the queer corner.
  (Me): 내가 버텀할땐 너무 아프면 바로 그만해주라고 하는거야. 고통이 싫다. "If I bottom and it hurts, I tell him to stop right away. I don't like pain."           
이놈: 여기 한국이잖아. 마짜가  버텨야겠다. 아파도 때짜를 따라해야지뭐. “Hey this is Korea. You have to bear it. Even if it hurts, it is the bottom’s role." 
(Me): ? 씨발. 둘이함께 즐거워야지, 안그러면 재미없어. “"What? Bullshit. We should enjoy it together, if not then it's boring." 
이놈: 글쎄. 문화차이. "Meh. It's a cultural difference."
 While I agree that not everyone may feel that way or be quite so frank about the situation, I have found over the course of my time here that that truly is the prevailing attitude. It's the bottoms job to just take it, regardless of how they feel, and the top's enjoyment is all that really matters. That disparity is coded into the very names of the two positions, something I find very troubling.

Even describing the positions in Korean can be difficult. In my previous post, my lovely cowriters here struggled with a translation- and I'll include a bit of the thinking behind them:

"I tried to come up with a definition but it was really odd sounding to Korean friends, I used words that translate like 'inserter' or 'receiver' so you may have noticed in the post that they were explained as 남성성형 (male position) or 여성성형 (female position) by Jenderole/젠더롤 when he edited (for the sake of clarity in Korean)... which on reflection actually really bothered me bc it seems we reaffirm binary thinking (meaning: even though sexuality is diverse, our thinking and description conforms to man/woman reflecting a heteronormative attitude), if that makes sense?" – Chelle B. Mille
 Personally, when I find myself discussing the finer points of gay sex, in Korean, to people outside of the loop, I go with 받는사람 for bottom ('person that receives') and 해주는사람 for top ('person that gives'). While perhaps not perfectly, I do believe them to be respectful and honest to men of both types. Also, notice how I used verbs- that describes the role in terms of an action, not a description of personhood. I find it important to recognize topping and bottom as an act, an event- just like sex itself is. After all, there are plenty of people who are versatile and enjoy both- a rising popularity in Korea known as the , or 'all.'
What do you think, community? Is Korean language more sexually positive in its nomenclature than English? Do you agree with my concern that the Korean words used to describe sexual roles between gay men reflect violence? Or do you have another idea?
-Enzo Cho'Gath

Note: Apparently, there are also tops and bottoms in relationships between two women in Korea, I learned after speaking with a local lesbian. I don't know much about how that works- any one able to elaborate on that?