Beverly Akerman MSc

Beverly Akerman MSc
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
April 26
Beverly Akerman's award winning short story collection, 'The Meaning of Children,' was released in 2011 and in cyberspace the next year. Find it at After over two decades in molecular genetics research, Beverly realized she'd been learning more and more about less and less. Skittish at the prospect of knowing everything about nothing, she turned, for solace, to writing, winning myriad awards for her efforts. She recently received her third Pushcart nomination. Her writing has appeared in Maclean’s Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, The National Post, The Montreal Gazette and on CBC Radio One (Canada’s NPR-equivalent), as well as in numerous lay publications and learned journals. It pleases her strangely to believe she’s the only Canadian fiction writer ever to have sequenced her own DNA. TV & Radio Interviews:;; Twitter: Beverly_Akerman

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MARCH 31, 2012 12:47AM

On Edward Shorter, feminism, and '50 Shades of Grey'

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[We interrupt the regularly scheduled, unrelenting promotion of the blog author's book, The Meaning Of Children, for something completely different...and altogether serious.]


Okay, I know I must have better things to do--and probably, so do you!!--but I must tell you I practically blew a gasket over today's Glob and Pail article by Edward Shorter, "Who's on top? You'd be surprised."


Edward Shorter (give him enough rope &...)

He starts off ostensibly considering the massive interest of women in the E.L. James’s novel of sadomasochism, Fifty Shades of Grey, "about how much women like subordinating themselves to men in bed...Who knew women had such a longing to be bottoms," he writes.


To quote Rose Castorini, Olympia Dukakis' character in Moonstruck, Dr. Shorter, "what you don't know about women is a lot."


Of course, the article has little to do with the novel; the novel is just a jumping off point for a man who comes across as one of those artful mixers of pop cult & "research," someone impressed with the sound of his own voice. Shorter is, apparement, a professor of the history of medicine and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Among his books is Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire, which is probably the real reason he wrote this article.


A writer myself--a feminist one to boot--I recognize a promotional opportunity when I see one. And I recognize an ahistorical diatribe when it's thrust down my throat, too.


Still, one hardly expects to read sexploitation like this on the oped page of The Globe, Canada's newspaper of record, so cadaverously thin this week I fear the end must be nigh. 

Lest I be taken (dear me, one can hardly stop oneself) for one of those Real Women types, it isn't a discussion of sex or sadomasochism that has me objecting to Shorter's piece (oops). It's the way this man twists the history of feminism--probably the history of anything to do with women--that I take issue with, that offends and infuriates.

If you’ll remember, the feminist message in the ’70s was about sex and power. Sex wasn’t really supposed to be fun and joyous. It was an exercise in power relations between men and women. So the idea of bottoming* for some guy was about as appealing as gouging out an eyeball.

Feminists didn't want people to enjoy penetrative sex, is THAT what you've gleaned from your decades of probing the female psyche, Dr. Shorter**??


As a woman who came of age in the '70s, I'm distressed to say Shorter gravely misconstrues what he calls "the feminist relationship" between sex and power: it was RAPE, feminists vehemently argued, that was about power rather than sex.


What kind of sexual historian thinks of feminists as the ultimate sexual buzz kill?


Shorter sounds like the worst sort of misogynist (as if there's a good sort!!).


It is a...words fail me, but, forgive me, perversion is the only one that fits here--to posit that the feminist ideal of sex is that it be joyless.


I know there were feminists who equated heterosex with rape--there probably still are, but they aren't mainstream now, and they probably weren't then, either, though I'm sure they grabbed a lot of air time.


What Shorter posits about feminism in this article is nothing short of hateful. I suppose there's an outside chance he's trying to be funny...but hateful it is, all the same.


And when he goes on to say turns out that all these independent, high-powered women out there long for this erotic frisson of briefly, and revocably if need be, surrendering control over their own bodies. This really represents the definitive burial of ’70s-style feminism.


And that

For me, as a historian, what’s so interesting is that it’s new. These are not age-old themes in the history of sexuality but recent increments to the sensuality palette. For centuries, sex was about the man-on-top missionary position and rutting in the gloom of the cottage on the straw mattress. It was behaviour that was biologically driven but not necessarily sensual.

all I can say is that I hope he IS joking...he must be joking, though for this hetero feminist, the joke is neither joyful nor fun.


Because the idea that a professor of the history of medicine and the history of psychiatry at the University of Toronto could get up on his hind legs in public and make such hateful, ignorant, and surely--SURELY!!--ahistorical remarks about women, sex, the history of feminism, the history of heterosexuality, and how wonderful it is that we are all 

expanding the sensuality palette dramatically...[coming] home from work, kick[ing] off [our] boots ...and...experimenting with fetish/S&M





I was relieved to discover Shorter has a PhD in history and isn't--thank anything that might still be considered holy in this heartbreaking age of ours--an actual, hands-on-patients psychiatrist...


According to an online biography I found that he probably wrote himself, Shorter "has worked for many years on the history of the family (!) and the history of emotionality (!!) and although he has written widely about medicine’s past, he has remained interested in the ever-evolving social history of sexuality(!!!)"


Pity the poor medical students and residents, suffering through this man's presentations on the "history of the family," "history of emotionality" and the "ever-evolving social history of sexuality." (Like anything isn't "ever-evolving." Has evolution stopped??)


Has no one ever complained about this man? How few goddamn women do they have in the history of medicine and the history of psychiatry at the U of  T, anyway? Surely hundreds have been exposed to this drivel from a man whose ideas about feminism remind me of Philippe Rushton's thoughts on race and intellect.


All I can say is good luck, Dr. Shorter, on your trips to the bank.


You mountebank.


You perverter of scholarship and of history.


And good luck, Globe and Mail...I have read you for a decade and enjoyed it immensely, but you must surely be circling the drain to have included, under some mistaken attempt at being--I dunno, hip, is it?--such an article on the oped page.


God, I miss Edward Greenspon.




*Note to self: pls. research whether heterosexuals generally refer to 'tops' and 'bottoms' or if this is BDSM lexicon?


**An aside: Montreal has a famous ornithologist name of Bird, and there are many whose choice of career appears somehow influenced by their name. Without wishing to attack ad hominem, Shorter, by the way, is an absolute laugher of a monicker that might provide some sort of unconscious explanation for the work he has plunged into, as it were, lo these many least it would in a novel.

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As a dominatrix for about 10 years, and involved in the BDSM scene in personal life the terms "top and "bottom" are universal but do not necessarily imply BDSM activities. The D/s part of BDSM is an interest in Dominant/submissive roles, B/D is bondage and discipline, and S/M is sadomasochism or enjoying either or both giving and receiving pain which can or cannot involve power play or D/s. Top and bottom can imply dominance or simply giver and receiver... but not specific, depending on activities. I'm not a straight chick nor am I vanilla so I wouldn't be able to represent if most hetero folks in general use those terms,
I am a retired dominatrix, after 30 years I still find it amazing that males want to explain why women choose to submit. Women walk in power, males long for it. It is our choice as to how we share that power that males do not naturally have.

As a lifestyle dominant I have males falling over themselves vying for that power exchange. I find males hungry for power simply because they do not have any, they can pretend however that is all they do; pretend.
I believe Shorter went to medical school before he got his PhD in history, according to the introduction to Doctors and their Patients. Just nitpicking...