Sampling of Recent Academic Works

"The Nature of Order in the Twilight Series” is based on a paper I gave at the 2010 Community College Humanities Association conference where the theme of the conference was “The Idea of Order/The Order of Ideas.”  In the paper, I argue that there are five sets of order overtly present in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn ):  a religious sense of order, a human sense of order, a vampire sense of order, the Cullen sense of order, and the Quileute sense of order.  Despite these senses of order, Bella Swan is not protected from the lies, coercion, and manipulation that Edward Cullen and Jacob Black employ to try to get her to choose them, and Bella, herself, refuses to see what is done to her as wrong or abusive, perpetuating ideas that it is romantic for men to bully, stalk, and abuse women and that women want to be bullied, stalked, and abused.

Female Victimization in Popular Culture:  Bella Swan to Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry” is based on a paper I gave at the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association conference.  I look at images of female victimization in both popular literature and song lyrics.  I look at both Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife and discuss the ways that the female protagonists in these stories are stalked by men who they willingly marry.  I also look at popular song lyrics where the female singers associate female sexual pleasure and love with pain and/or tolerate or expect to feel pain in a loving relationship with a man and even invite men to hurt them.  For example, in “Bleeding Love,” Leona Lewis sings “My heart’s crippled by the vein/That I keep on closing/You cut me open and I/Keep bleeding” and Katy Perry sings in “E.T.” “Take me, ta-ta-take me/Wanna be a victim/Ready for abduction.”

The Porning of High Medieval Fantasy:  George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series” is based on a paper I gave at the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association conference.  To date, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series consists of five books:  A Game of Thrones (1996), A Clash of Kings (1999), A Storm of Swords (2000), A Feast for Crows (2005), and A Dance with Dragons (2011).  At least two more books are envisioned in the series, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, and perhaps an eighth.  The series is a fantasy, set in the medieval settings of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and southern Free Cities of Essos beyond the narrow sea.  In this fantasy medieval world, kings, usurpers, and queens fight for the Iron Throne which unites the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  Though there seem to be cultures in Martin’s series where women have status and female sexuality is view positively (like the Summer Isles), the world Martin focuses on is one in which women are dominated men, often brutally, rape is normed as a de facto form of sexual relations between men and women, women have sex like men, women, even queens and high born women, are repeatedly referred to as cunts, a woman’s “no” really means “yes,” and some sexual violence is grotesque and sadistic.  While Martin claims that he just trying to capture the realities of medieval sex, culture, and war, his “humilitainment” of women, in particular, seems to reflect the worst trends in contemporary porn rather medieval culture.  Further, many of his “realistic” depictions of sexual activity are historically inaccurate for medieval people dominated by the Catholic Church’s teachings and doctrines about acceptable sexual relations and only make sense in terms of catering to current trends in porn.

Fifty Shades of Creep:  Yet Another Masculinization of Female Sexuality” is based on a paper I gave at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association conference.  Despite feminist calls for an empowered vision of female sexuality, I argue that E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey series (Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed) does not offer an empowered vision of female sexuality.  Instead it offers another masculinization of female sexuality.  The masculinization of female sexuality can manifests itself in different ways.  It can be girls and women having sex like boys and men, but it can also simply re-enforce notions of the sexual double-standard which privilege male sexuality and see it as normal or demonize female sexuality and see it as either sick or dangerous.  In E.L. James’ series, she attempts to depict Anastasia (Ana) Steele’s sexual awakening and desires under the tutelage of BDSM (Bondage, Dominant, Submissive/Sadist, Masochist) Dominant Christian Grey.  However, the portrait that she paints is not about female sexual empowerment.  Instead, it is yet another manifestation of the masculinization of female sexuality and the story of a seemingly bright, educated woman tolerating and even basking in a disturbingly abusive relationship. 


About Kathleen

Kathleen is an Associate Professor at Community College of Philadelphia, an author, a mother to three beautiful girls, and a wife for over 22 years.