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Elizabeth Wollman, 42
Author of The Theater Will Rock: A History of the Rock Musical, from Hair to Hedwig
Assistant professor of music, Baruch College
Do you think your being a women's studies professor and a feminist leads to preconceptions of who you are or what your own sexuality is?
I'm sure that they do, but I don't care. We say "feminist" and people immediately think of a ball-busting, man-hating, hairy-legged bitch. That's the immediate reaction to "feminist," or at least it was in the '70s. Then, of course, we can talk about the stereotypes of female professors, which I always find hilarious. There's this idea of professors where the men are wearing tweed, smoking pipes, and fucking their students, and the women are sexless, friendless, crones who are devoted entirely to their work.
Do you think there's an increasing conservatism in our culture?
You know, I think it's going in different directions. The fact that people can't say "cunt" in mixed company really pisses me off. We can say "dick" and "cocksucker" all the time. I've heard people use that in front of their children, for god's sake. To call somebody a dick, nobody even blinks, but to demonize the vagina the way that people do is so upsetting to me. But, one of the things I argue in my book is that people weren't really as comfortable with out-there sexuality in the '70s as we like to think. I feel we like to romanticize that.
On that note, what is your favorite euphemism for the word "vagina?"
I think my favorite word for the vagina is "vagina." I do find myself fascinated with the word "cunt" because people get so unbelievably freaked out by it. I think from a cultural perspective that the reason people get so freaked out by it is because anything related to the vagina, we're taught to think that it's gross, bad, and vile, whereas anybody can be a "dick." But if you're going to talk about a vagina, I'm going to say the word "vagina." I really don't go in for the whole "let's make up cute little words for our genitalia" thing. I think that takes away any kind of mystique about them; they're a part of our bodies and we should embrace our bodies.
As a woman who's interested in music and sexuality, what do you think is the sexiest music?
A lot of people would listen to the music I grew up with and immediately think "There's nothing feminist about that," but I really like classic rock. I think Led Zeppelin is fantastic; I like The Who. I find Joni Mitchell endlessly fascinating, but maybe not sexy. K.D Lang just jumped into my head; she's got this glowing, rich voice and she sounds so incredibly self-assured and she's so open about who she is, you know? Led Zeppelin has been always kind of tainted, like, "Oh they're so sexist! They sing about having sex and that's so sexist!" But Susan Fast wrote a book about Zeppelin that was basically saying, "What the hell? Women like to have sex too! Why is that inherently sexist?"
My girlfriend wants me to stop watching porn because it makes her uncomfortable. I don't want to. What should I do?
You should start by reading Linda Williams' excellent book, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible." Then, have your girlfriend read it. Then, discuss it. Perhaps the book will sway one, the other, or both of you, and allow you to find a healthy, happy middle ground.
In regards to your own love/sex life, what's one class you wish you could take/could've taken? What's one class you wish you could teach all your former partners?
I regret not ever having taken a course on Shakespeare, but that has less to do with sex than the fact that I was an English major who never took a course on Shakespeare. And as for the class for my former partners? Easy: conflict resolution.