Category Archives: Ramblings

A change . . .

[Just a note: This post will have nothing to do with books or movies or my various intellectual pursuits, but I needed post something as today marked a fairly big milestone in my life.]

Today was my last day working for the Department of Residential Housing here at Ohio University.  It’s not time for me to leave OU altogether. I have taken another role on campus and will be finishing my dissertation over the upcoming year.

In 1997, I came to Ohio University as a first year student.  Frankly, I didn’t want to be here.  I had dreams of a big city school with all sorts of prestige–I won’t name the school but some of you know the story.  My first week on campus left me a confused mess because I thought college would be this intellectual paradise in which students sat around talking about poetry and philosophy.  I had seen Dead Poet’s Society one too many times and thought that college surely must be more like that boarding school than my high school had been.  Much to my chagrin that was not the case and while I made some wonderful friends on campus during my freshman year, it was becoming a Resident Assistant in my sophomore year that helped me find a home at OU but also changed the course of my life.  Becoming an RA was one of the best decision of my undergraduate life here (the other best decision was studying abroad in Ireland). It was through my role as an RA that I made some of my lifelong friends.

Christy Amy and Amanda 2005

(L to R) Amy Lott Rupert, me, Christy Frank Bursby in 2004

I made the decision to stick around for graduate school. Because what do you really do with a B.A. in English and Political Science and a certificate in women’s studies?  It was during graduate school, while being an assistant hall director, that I realized that my true calling was working with college students and that made all of the difference.  That was 2001, and in so many ways, I’ve never looked back, even though my dad still thinks I should go to law school–I think in my mid-thirties and nearing completion on a PhD that ship has sailed.

Over the years, I  have had oversight for a lot of students (I can’t even count as I have had between 250 and 650 residents each year for twelve years of running halls). While the residents have offered a great amount of joy and challenge, it has been my work with the RAs that has made my time so truly phenomenal.  I have had the joy of supervising amazing RAs–over 175 (I think the number is actually 202) young leaders in my time here. Over the years, I got to witness their triumphs and their hardships.  I have been able to offer them support when things were difficult.  Each staff became a family–sometimes utterly dysfunctional but always amazing. I got to see these young people step up in a role that is as challenging as it is rewarding.  Each one of them made me a better person.  They challenged me to think about the world differently.  They made me learn new things from how to communicate with each of them differently to chess to video games to science and math.  Every one of them taught me about what they were passionate about.  We laughed together, and we cried together over the years.  We struggled through incredibly difficult times dealing with some of the hardest things that can happen in college.  I’ve gotten to celebrate many of your accomplishments with you from internships, to graduations, and with some of you weddings and even births of children now. To all of my RAs: you made the difference in my life just as you did for your residents.  I got the opportunity to see such grace and strength in you all. Thank you for sharing your lives with me.  From my first staff to my last, I’m proud to say that I’ve known each and every one of you.

Marked, Mated, Owned

First, I’m going to state that this isn’t a fully formed thought yet, but it’s been rattling around in my brain for a while.

I’ve been spending sometime thinking about the concept of being owned, marked, and mated that is prominent within romance plots.  This runs the gamut from “you’re mine” possessiveness to being “owned” in a 24/7 Master/Mistress and slave dynamic.  In paranormal romances, it generally manifest as being mated for life in a way that means one dies without the other or can never have sexual pleasure again without their mate.  In many, physical marking of one body by the other partner carries meaning for all who see it and is a necessary part of the ownership.

I have to acknowledge all of the problematic historical contexts and issues of racism and sexism bound within this idea of being “owned.”  We cannot get away from the ways in which women and people of color have been treated as property in the eyes of the law throughout time and across many cultures.  All of these cultural institutions from coverature to slavery have economic bases.

Even with that problematic historical context, the concept of being owned is popular–not simply in BDSM erotica as many might argue–but throughout many romance plots.  The popularity of BDSM erotic romances indicate a desire to at least on a fantasy level to engage in the dynamic of gifting one’s submission to another. I want to be clear I’m not talking about the false choices to enact BDSM relationship that are sometimes present in romance novels…yes, I’m looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey. Why is this idea so compelling?  Why do these narratives thrive and entice?  I ask myself these questions frequently as I read and enjoy a lot of these novels.

I can’t help but wonder if the appeal is the intensity of attention and emotionality that goes with being marked, mated, or owned within the universes of the stories but also traditionally in committed and/or collared relationships within BDSM in real life. It evokes an incredibly strong sense of belonging. In these relationships real and fictional it is also a two-way street. The people involved are both owned by the other person–they are bonded together though this approach. They are bound up in each other.

And yet as a feminist scholar, I’m constantly asked: shouldn’t we reject wholesale the notion of submission and therefore BDSM? The answer to that is absolutely not, remembering that the motto here is safe, sane, and consensual. But also that for many in the lifestyle Dominance and submission are not choices but an aspect that is ingrained in the person. I would recommend the great column Fucking with Feministing and also work by Clarisse Thorn. If you are looking for a great introduction to BDSM, I’d recommend Jay Wiseman’s SM 101: A Realistic Introduction.

Ok back to my original question though: why are stories that centralize the “you’re mine” moment and the “I own you” moment so terribly and wonderfully compelling? And more compelling not just to those predisposed to BDSM but to a widespread audience?

Stories, theories, etc. on this theme are welcome here.


I’m working my way back to blogging here because it has been on my mind quite a bit lately, and I swear my next posts will actually be about film, television, and books.

What I’ve been thinking about a great deal is how do we frame our lives in ways that don’t leave us wanting?  How do we do the things that nourish ourselves while also staying on top of all the responsibilities that essentially bind our lives?  So many people say it’s all about making time and setting priorities. In the higher education/student affairs world (field) that I spend most of my professional time in, people talk about “work life balance.”  Frankly that concept frustrates and annoys me.  The various roles of our lives cannot be weigh on a type of scaling system in which they all “balance out” in the end like the scales of measure or balancing a check book.  It is not a zero sum game.  So how then do we integrate all of those roles into one person’s life?

For the past few years, I have been working full-time on a Ph.D. program and working my full-time professional position as a student affairs professional (a hall director to be precise).  I have told myself that once I finished my coursework it would be better.  I’ve hit that marker., and yet . . . I feel no less like I’m dropping the balls that I’m juggling (By the way, let’s hear it for tons of metaphors throughout this post).  Actually in some ways I’m feeling that far more than the previous two years.  

I’ve also been having conversations with other people (authors, faculty, administrators, student affairs folks, classified staff, etc.) about this topic.  Many people say that something’s got to give and usually from what they are sharing it is the things that they do for their own joy and pleasure–such as reading and watching films and television.  Some report periods in which they are hyperfocused on work (their writing, their publishing, their teaching, their fill-in-the-blank job) and neglect the relational aspects of their lives–sacrificing time with their families, friends, partners.  Very few people I’ve talked to feel like they are making all the pieces of their lives work smoothly.  So for those who are making it work, what are your strategies and methods? Does it always boil down to “taking off” one of our hats?  And what if that’s not an option?  How do we reframe this conversation in a way that feels more productive and more helpful?

It’s more than just time and priorities as such.  How do we not get buried under the things around us that impact our emotional, spiritual, physical well-being: our pasts, the traumas in our lives, and  the world around us (from mid-term elections and to work),  and the hot social issues that really push our buttons (from #GamerGate to Sexual and Gender Violence issues, etc.)

My project here

Just a quick thoughts for now about my project.

Having just returned from the Popular Culture Association and American Cultural Association (PCA/ACA) annual national conference in Washington D.C. this year, I have been inspired to do more writing about my engagement with paranormal literature, television, film, and culture.  I am often seeking recommendations about what to look at next and use blogs and the like to do that.  More importantly though, I have been feeling a need to share my thoughts on these things.

As a feminist academic who is deeply embedded in examining popular culture, I find myself frequently at odds with my own tastes and intellectual life.  The thing I frequently find strange in is the need to label or define self, reading habit, intellectual prowess, titles held, etc.  I mean I did it just a sentence ago.  The difficult piece of this tendency arises from the fact that those labels divide, usually arbitrarily.  If I consider myself a feminist or an academic or an administrator, or . . ., do those things exclude each other?  While all the diverging pieces make up who I am, I cannot every fully be all those things at once.  Working on a college campus, being in graduate programs over the years, even going to that bastion of theoretical openness of PCA has taught me that often we must chose which self to prioritize in the situation.

Yes, this was a moment of rambling, and yet I am building up to the following: in examining the concept of the paranormal in literature, television, film, and culture, I hope to be all over the proverbial place.  Even something as seemingly general as “paranormal” means diving into a multiplicity of genres and formats that will sometimes compliment and sometimes conflict.  As someone who reads for pleasure, I love romance, science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror; well, honestly, I just lover to immerse myself into other worlds–real, imagined, largely impossible, or just around the corner.  As an academic with degrees (or near-degrees–yes sadly even those) in English, political science, education, history, women’s and gender studies, and interdisciplinary arts (which is in and of itself a complicated issue), I also cannot avoid theory and postulation.

My goal is to create and engage in an already existing conversation about reading, watching, listening, participating in the world of paranormal literature and culture.  I will write my thoughts about the things I’m reading and writing and hope that others will engage me in a conversation.  For we most learn through challenge and support (that’s the student affairs professional in me)!