January 23, 2010 § 1 Comment
January 4, 2010 § Leave a comment
When Sex is Normal, Normal People Will Have Sex, by the ever-awesome Jaclyn Friedman — one of my most passionate feminist crushes.
Think about tattoos. It used to be that a tattoo meant that you were low-class and possibly dangerous. Part of a fringe element. Nowadays, over 35% of Americans age 18-40 have at least one tattoo. You can’t write off people because they have a tattoo anymore — there are just too many people involved. It’s too normal.
What if public acknowledgments of sexuality became like tattoos? What if, due to Facebook and Twitter and blogs and all the other ways we have to communicate with each other online, and the number of young people posting personal things about themselves through these media — what if it became normal for there to be some publicly available information about a person’s current or former sex life? What if too many people were in that situation for it to mean anything about your authority, or anything about your character at all? What if kids knew, via Google or whatever comes after Google, that their teachers — heck, their parents — are or have been sexual beings, and that there’s nothing wrong with that? What if the web made sexuality normal?
This is an issue I think about a lot. I’ve skirted the topic of my own sexuality here on Women’s Glib, for many reasons. Though I don’t print my last name or my school, many of my friends and acquaintances — people who know me already — read this blog, and anyone who is friends with me on Facebook knows I’m the author of many posts here. I don’t want just anyone knowing details that might shame me in another context.
And part of it is exactly what Jaclyn describes — I don’t want to limit my professional opportunities now or later in life. Talking explicitly and personally about sex, unfortunately, is unprofessional.
November 24, 2009 § 1 Comment
Exciting news! Remember Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the American hero pilot who safely landed a commercial airplane on the Hudson River earlier this year? Did you ever think to yourself, “Man, that guy Sully was incredible. I wonder what he’s up to now that all the media coverage has died down.”
Then you’ll want to read AM New York’s front page article to find out that Sully’s been having great sex!
While I am indeed happy for Sully (and his wife), and while I appreciate that this article rejects the no-hot-sex-after-35 stereotype, I really don’t want to walk out of the subway at 7:30 in the morning and be confronted with this “news.” Believe it or not, there were a few important world events today.
November 13, 2009 § 1 Comment
We talk a lot about sex here at Women’s Glib, and also about sex education: how many students don’t get it at all, and how if they do, it’s generally shitty (though we have had some positive experiences). Scarleteen is a website that provides, as phrased in their byline, “sex ed for the real world,” and they’re damn good at it. I’ve visited the site many times for my own sexual queries.
Scarleteen consistently and accurately answers real teens’ questions about sex and sexuality. And they don’t just write about the easy, fact-based stuff (HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy prevention, menstrual cycles) — they are boldly confronting socially uncomfortable issues of consent, masturbation, queer sexualities, body image, rape and sexual abuse. The site is directed by Heather Corinna, whose essay in Yes Means Yes, an “immodest proposal” of a young woman’s first sexual encounter that’s brimming with desire and enthusiasm as opposed to shame, brought me to joyful tears.
It’s a badass site, and it needs your help.
You might not know is that Scarleteen is the highest ranked online young adult sexuality resource but also the least funded and that the youth who need us most are also the least able to donate. You might not know that we have done all we have with a budget lower than the median annual household income in the U.S. You might not know we have provided the services we have to millions without any federal, state or local funding and that we are fully independent media which depends on public support to survive and grow.
You also might not know Scarleteen is primarily funded by people who care deeply about teens having this kind of vital and valuable service; individuals like you who want better for young people than what they get in schools, on the street or from initiatives whose aim is to intentionally use fearmongering, bias and misinformation about sexuality to try to scare or intimidate young people into serving their own personal, political or religious agendas.
I highly encourage you to donate if you can.
October 11, 2009 § 6 Comments
Did you know that the makers of Kellogg cereals (we’re talking about the original makers here), were super anti-masturbation and actively campaigned against it? The first Kellogg cereals were actually designed specifically to be super bland because J. H. Kellogg thought that a bland breakfast would decrease sexual arousal throughout the day (huh?). Kellogg and his buddy Graham (of Graham crackers, yes) wrote lots of books on the evils of masturbation, even suggesting that carbolic acid be placed on the clitoris to keep girls from touching themselves.
I never liked those Kellogg cereals anyway….
Source: Abnormal Psychology, Hansell and Damour.
September 9, 2009 § Leave a comment
HAPPY 200th POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was going to save this one for Miranda but I’m in the library right now and thought I’d take a little study break.
Hi everyone! My new obsession at Grinnell is becoming a peer counselor at the Sexual Health Information Center. I’ve been working really hard on my application, so I figured I might share it with you all. That way if I don’t get it (ewwwww) I will have SOMETHING to show for it:
(I’m not posting the questions, but most of them you can figure out.)
1.As a result of having experienced several badly-executed sexual health classes in high school, I am familiar with examples of how not to approach sexual health education For instance, the classes I attended have all been centered on heterosexual issues, usually skirting the topic of gay sex entirely. Classes were entirely fact based, with homework assignments requiring students only to fill in the blank with one or two word answers. The lack of discussion was counter-productive. My goal, should I become a peer counselor, would be to foster as much open discussion as possible. Students can be educated about sexual health only when they’re asked to think about the issues and consider them in personal terms. I think this is in line with Grinnell’s approach to education (both academic and social) in general.
Although I have never participated in a program as a counselor or peer educator I have some experience communicating ideas of sexual health education reform through my contributions to the blog Women’s Glib (http://www.womensglib.wordpress.com). This experience has proven quite useful in forcing to me to think about how best to communicate about sexual topics.
The blog, started by my good friend, has become quite successful in a short time. It has received attention from feminist authors (such as Jessica Valenti, and the bloggers for “Feministe”) The blog was also recently featured in Mother Jones magazine. Connections to these resources could be extremely beneficial to SHIC.
2.I am interested in becoming a peer counselor because I have become interested in exploring the field of public health as a career. I firmly believe that health and medicine are important social issues, and that everyone should have access to information on these subjects. My interest is partly due to an eye-opening experience this summer, attending an amazingly successful sexual health class which took a very different approach than classes I had attended previously. Student participation made all the difference. When teenagers opened up to each other the fear and the stigma of “the sex talk” disappeared. We even got to a point, as a class, when we were debating heavy ethical issues passionately and quite comfortably. I think that peer counseling helps create a much more laid back atmosphere in an otherwise notoriously uncomfortable (though it mustn’t be) situation.
Before I found out about SHIC, I had been planning my own sexual health education club for Grinnell. It was my intention to partner with a local hospital and high school and have Grinnell college students teach sexual health classes to teenagers in the community. When I heard about SHIC, it seemed like an obvious choice for me. I would love to gain experience as a peer counselor, helping students at Grinnell first and then to taking my knowledge to the community. Perhaps at some point later on SHIC can expand to the community level.
Another project I would like to pursue is to create an SHIC blog, with as much sexual health information on it as possible, as well as discussions about health education reform, etc. This could be in conjunction with Women’s Glib, or stand on its own. The internet is too good of a resource to neglect, and SHIC could probably benefit from utilizing it if it has not already.
(Skipping 3 because it’s about my schedule. Boring.)
4.Confidentiality is obviously of the utmost importance for an organization like SHIC. Without the promise of confidentiality, no one would come for help. Confidentiality is the basis of trust and respect between counselors and students, values which SHIC could not exist without. I see confidentiality as somewhat black and white. Anything that is said in the SHIC stays in the SHIC. Obviously, I will adhere to any SHIC or Grinnell College rules about reporting violence or any other kind of sexual misconduct, but ultimately I believe that as adults, we are all entitled to make our own decisions.
5.I think I am a strong candidate for a peer counselor position because I am a very open and talkative person. I would imagine that my primary role as a counselor is to listen and assess, but I think I can make people very comfortable with talking about whatever they need to discuss. I welcome new people quite well, and really love to discuss sexual health. This, I think, shows in most of my conversations on the topic. I think my biggest weakness is the fact that I wouldn’t ever want to give people advice or information that they don’t want to hear. This is obviously something I would have to do, and I’m fully prepared to deal with that. With time it may get easier, but it can be pretty heart breaking sometimes to be the bearer of bad news. My only method of compensating for this is to grit my teeth and deal with it in as sensitive a manner as possible. This weakness should really only affect my comfort level, not whomever I am counseling.
6.I think the hardest counseling session would be with someone who is unwilling to make their own decisions, and unwilling to divulge important information. A counseling session should, in my opinion, be a dialogue. When it is one sided it is impossible to tell how effective a counselor you are. A counselor’s job is not to make decisions for their peers, but to talk things through, listen, and aid the student being counseled in his or her decision making. I would assume that that as a counselor, my primary goal would be to aid my peer in the whatever way he or she needs, within reason. If that means, talking about stuff other than sexual health to break the ice a little, or listening to them vent about their relationships, so be it. I would also try to stimulate the conversation by asking the student to come in with a list of possible solutions, or questions he or she might have to get things moving.
7.I think that the most important thing to learn about sexual health is that it should in no way be a taboo topic! Obviously all the facts about STIs and birth control methods etc. should be available. However, I think discussing the societal aspects of sexual health is equally important. Lastly, I think it is absolutely necessary to convey the idea that sex is fun, and you are supposed to feel good when engaging in any sort of sexual behavior. Sex should not be a commodity under any circumstances. These values are absolutely necessary to pass on to anyone who is willing to listen.
August 3, 2009 § 11 Comments
The other day I was on the playground with my campers, who are going into third grade, and the topic of pregnancy came up. Several of the kids were adopted, as was one of my co-counselors, so conversations about different kinds of families and how they are made had come up before, but never in this much detail.
I suddenly remembered that it is difficult to answer kids’ questions: they are blunt and persistent, having yet to be hushed by what society deems acceptable to discuss in polite company. How do we talk to children about immensely complicated issues, in language that’s simple enough to understand but doesn’t shed necessary intricacies and ambiguities?
When they asked, “Why would someone give up their baby to be adopted?” I replied, “Sometimes people don’t have enough money to take care of a baby, or they are too young, or they are too busy, or they don’t want a family. So adoption is great because it means that kids can have a family that loves them and takes care of them, even if their birth parents couldn’t.”
When they asked, “So, where do babies even come from?” I replied, “They grow inside a woman’s body until they’re big enough to be born.”
When they asked, “But how do you make a baby?” I replied, “That’s a question you should ask your parents when you get home. They probably have a specific answer for you.” (This one was hard: I know the technical answer, of course, but not the social one. Who knows what these kids will go home and tell their parents I said? Who knows what their parents want to say themselves?)
Then they asked, “But what about the pregnant man?” Instantly I remembered I’d just said that babies grow inside women’s bodies — a little ignorance check. I chose my words carefully: “The pregnant man’s name is Thomas, and he used to be a woman. That means that he was born as a girl, with what we call ‘girl parts,’ but when he got older he felt like he wanted to be a man so he asked people to call him a boy and changed the way he looked a little bit. So he is a man, but he still has the parts that make him able to grow a baby.”
“What do you mean he felt like he wanted to be a man?”
“Well, I don’t know exactly. I don’t really know what that feels like. But I think it must be a bad feeling, right? Can you imagine feeling a certain way about yourself, but the whole world felt a different way about you? It would be confusing and frustrating. So it’s great that he got to become what he wanted to be.”
Conveniently, my head counselor popped into the conversation at just that moment to say, in an amused tone, “Well, from what I’ve read, the pregnant man is really a woman.”
Thanks for the playground transphobia and identity denial.
August 2, 2009 § 1 Comment
Hey, so it’s been like 3 years since I have posted anything, but here it goes. SO, my job this summer is to research and map out the community of Inwood in terms of alcohol availability as well as the prominence of alcohol advertising. I am creating a Google Map that will compile all if this on one handy map, which I will definitely post here once I’m done. First of all, you would not believe how many ads there are, second of all, if anyone ever actually stopped to look at these ads (like I did), you would be SHOCKED. The way women are portrayed was so scary that I didn’t know what to do. Every deli, corner store, and bodega is covered in ads; most depicting women nearly naked, and often bent over, not facing the camera. I would show you a picture, but it is SO not appropriate, and I do not want to promote anything like that. This is not some magazine, where you can just turn the page; this is on every block, on every corner, basically everywhere you look. Also, Inwood is a young neighborhood, most of the population is very young, many under 18. The thing is, you would think “wow, that’s not subtle.” But really, it is. You don’t notice it unless you stop to look at it, and I am sure many elementary school-age boys and girls do see these every day.
What do you do though? These stores cannot and will not survive without alcohol advertisements, and who could POSSIBLY make alcohol advertisements without demoralizing women?
July 24, 2009 § 4 Comments
It’s summer, and though I’m busy working my tail patience off as a camp counselor, I also have quite a bit of downtime. I’ve seen a bunch of movies lately: some silly ones with my family (The Proposal and Year One) as well as films that I actually wanted to see (Away We Go and, last night, 500 Days of Summer — both excellent, the latter mostly because of my enormous crush on Zooey Deschanel). But one movie that I’m certain I won’t spend $12.50 on is The Ugly Truth, starring part-time feminist Katherine Heigl as a “romantically challenged morning show producer” and Gerard Butler as a professional douche. I’ve seen some previews that warned me of its knee-slappin’ “humor,” and then this morning I read the excellently scathing New York Times review by Manohla Dargis, fabulously titled Girl Meets Ape, and Complications Ensue.
When it comes to the old straight-boy-meets-straight-girl configuration with big-studio production values…the romantic comedy is nearly as dead as Meg Ryan’s career. In the best of these films, the women aren’t romantic foils, much less equals: they’re either (nice) sluts or (nicer) wives, and essentially as mysterious and unknowable as the dark side of the moon.
Which leads to “The Ugly Truth,” a cynical, clumsy, aptly titled attempt to cross the female-oriented romantic comedy with the male-oriented gross-out comedy that is interesting on several levels, none having to do with cinema. Katherine Heigl plays Abby, a producer for a ratings-challenged Sacramento morning television show, the kind that specializes in empty smiles, cooking tips and weather updates. She’s single and therefore, in the moral economy of modern Hollywood, unhappy. Her life goes into a tailspin when her boss hires a professional ape, Mike (Gerard Butler), who delivers loutish maxims on camera about the sexes that basically all boil down to this: Men have penises, and women should accommodate them any which way they can, preferably in push-up bras and remote-controlled vibrating panties.
…Ms. Heigl doesn’t do perky all that persuasively, but she does keep her smile and relative dignity even in scenes in which Abby is forced to play the fool, which is often, as when she’s hanging upside down from a tree in her skivvies. She even survives the scene that finds Abby writhing spasmodically during a dinner with her corporate masters, because, well, she’s wearing those pulsating panties, the boy at the next table has the remote, and there’s nothing funnier (or, really, scarier) than the spectacle of female pleasure.
I am SO. TIRED. of media that portrays women’s minds as murky, our bodies as property, and our desires as hilarious. A woman’s sexuality is not so damn difficult to understand — if you talk to and listen to her, which society is apparently loath to do.
And another thing: no one seems to get that these movies are as offensive to men as they are to women. Commenters on IMDB rave that it’s a “comedy for both sexes,” one you can “bring your boyfriend” to. Men should not be like Butler’s skeevy character; and what’s more, they aren’t. But movies like this convince the public that guys are practically children, and we shouldn’t expect to hold them accountable for atrocious sexist behavior.
“The Ugly Truth” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian).
The language is consistently crude and includes the apparently now requisite antigay slurs.
Yeah. Because straight = manly, manly = asshole, and asshole = sexy.
July 15, 2009 § 4 Comments
Via Tracy Clark-Flory’s excellent takedown of yet more conservative fear-mongering, news of a sex education pamphlet published by the National Health Service of the United Kingdom titled “Pleasure.” The word doesn’t quite inspire hives for me, but for some, it sure seems to: conservatives are calling it “deplorable” and — wait for it — “nothing less than encouraging child abuse.” Because apparently safe, consensual experiences that make us feel good are somehow akin to abuse. From Clark-Flory at Salon’s Broadsheet:
Beyond having the audacity to suggest that educators tell students that sex can feel pleasurable, the booklet says that teenagers have “a right” to sexual satisfaction, so long as it is in a safe and consensual situation. It also advises honesty about masturbation being perfectly healthy — it winkingly says that “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away,” which strikes me as a cheesy attempt to be cool — and that sex isn’t always about procreation.
The guide also celebrates enthusiastic consent. Instead of promoting sex as something that you must resist “giving up,” if you’re a girl, it’s framed as something that you do because it feels right and you actively want to — it isn’t a bargaining chip, an operatic act that is performed to keep a guy around. “Far from promoting teenage sex,” says Steve Slack, director of the Sheffield Centre for HIV and Sexual Health, which published the handout for NHS, “it is designed to encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are sure they will enjoy the experience.”
Promoting the idea that teens should respect their partners and enjoy sexual experiences? Just like adults?! I’M APALLED.
Young people are certainly not the only group whose bodies are subject to public scrutiny and moral debate, but this backlash against the use of appropriate protection and enthusiastic consent to seek pleasure is an almost laughable example of the “keep your legs closed, you silly youngsters!” mentality. Is there a magical button, somehow pressed when a person turns 18, that suddenly allows them to experience sexual desire, pleasure, and satisfaction? Of course not; you and I know this is a ridiculous idea. But conservatives are all caught up in it when they act as though teenagers are across-the-board immature and utterly devoid of agency.
It’s not a secret: we know — because we’re doing it — that sex feels good.
This makers of this pamphlet, in my humble opinion, should create a curriculum and get it taught in middle and high schools everywhere. I know it’s not easy to convince school boards to actually mention S-E-X in their sex education courses; for crying out loud, there’s no mandated sex ed — beyond a brief discussion of HIV/AIDS — for public schools in New York City. But I would love to see it happen.