Category Archives: sexuality

S-E-X (Americans are stunted adolescents)

This country has a sex problem. Our culture doesn’t have a healthy relationship with sex. We are obsessed with it, but ashamed of it, and only certain people (white men) are allowed to express their sexuality without an array of consequences. In the name of ‘decency’ we censor, and for the children we slut shame (meanwhile we leave our kids in the dark with abstinence only education that leaves them completely unprepared to deal with sex or intimacy.) We are not honest  about the realities of human sexuality in the 21st century.

liar-harrypotter-gif

Unfortuately while we are all yelling about how shocked and offended we are, we are also watching an unbelievable amount of porn and demanding that celebrities give us salacious details about their sex lives. The latest example of this is a story that just broke: Nick Jonas ‘I’m no Virgin’.

 OMGjanice

Stop the presses! This 22 year old dude with a rocking body and lots of money is sexually active?! How can this be?! Why do we cccccaaaarrrrreeee?

OMGproducers

We care because we forced him and his bandmate brothers to say they had purity rings when they were The Jonas Brothers because of the widespread assumption that Christian morality is the best/only morality. We really do love to sexualize teenagers as much as we love to make them tell us they aren’t having sex (Brit Brit, Timberlake, Miley, etc.) So now that (obviously) that purity ring nonsense is over, we feel entitled to an update. But we aren’t entitled to an update. The sex life of Nick Jonas does not belong to us, it is not ours to know or comment on. I know that sex is exciting and fun, and I don’t think we should never discuss it. But we discuss it in such adolescent, immature ways. The very idea that this is news reveals how very middle school our cultural conversations about sex truly are.

Now, lest we think this issue is too straightforward, it is also worth pointing out that we don’t talk about sex in the same ways when we talk about male and female celebrities. Nick Jonas is having a sex symbol moment right now (remember these), and this news will not result in any back lash (maybe some religious nuts, but his career won’t be damaged in any lasting way.) Let’s contrast that with another star who is having a pretty successful moment: Tay Tay. Ms Swift has the only platinum album of 2014, and just became the first women ever to replace herself at #1 on the Billboard charts.

taytaywerk

But Taylor’s career has consistently been undermined by a media who is obsessed with her love life. She draws from her life to write songs, as most folks do, but in Tay Tay’s case this results in constant speculation about who she wrote about and who’s she is with. She has even been ridiculed, called a man-eater. And most disturbingly, some religious conservative a-holes have denounced her as a slut and a harlot, saying she is a bad example for young girls.

tayew

First of all, Taylor is an adult that can do whatever the fuck she wants with her body. So keep your slut shaming judgements to yourself. But what is even worse is that these out spoken fanatics are assuming that they know intimate details of her sex life. Being linked to someone in the tabloids doesn’t mean you are sleeping with them. Dating someone doesn’t mean you’re sleeping with them. Kissing someone doesn’t mean you are sleeping with them. Hell, even sleeping with someone doesn’t mean you are sleeping with them. So I wish these folks would actually get their minds outta the gutter (isn’t it ironic that those who rail against something the loudest are usually also doing that thing behind closed doors?) and stop assuming that they know Tay Tay’s life.

tayabsurd

I’m just over the media prying into the sex lives of stars and reporting all the salacious details. It’s like trying to peep through a locker room window. It’s not shocking or surprising that grown ass really beautiful people have sex. It’s not a surprise that underneath their clothes, celebrities are naked. They have bodies. Whoa! There is no way that we are going to be able to teach ourselves and the next generation how to have a healthy and positive relationship with our bodies and sexuality if we don’t cool it with this kind of journalism. It may be fun to watch Nick go from curly-headed boy band teen to uber-hottie, but we don’t need to pry into his love life to enjoy his music (or his abs.) Taylor’s romantic life may inform her music, but the real story is her catchy songs and her record breaking new album, not her past paramours. Luckily, she knows how to one up that haters and make an amazing video for her record breaking single that shows you exactly what you want. Enjoy, and stop being such a perv.

 

Advertisements

Celebrity Nude Photo Leak: Scandal or SEX CRIME OBVIOUSLY UGH

Some low life leaked photos of female celebrities this weekend, notably the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Ariana Grande. And it’s being covered as a ‘scandal’.

Jennifer-Lawrence-Wait-a-Minute-GIF

It’s not a scandal. It’s a sex crime.

Lena Duhnam succinctely sums up my feelings about the most oft used excuse for viewing the leaked shots:

lenatweet

You shouldn’t be viewing these photos because you don’t have permission. They were not taken for you. These actresses have not chosen to share the images, they were not shot in a professional setting, no one was compensated. They are not ‘for sale’. They are private. Say it with me: PRIVATE.

notyobidness

Listen, real talk: obviously I would love to see Jennifer Lawrence naked. I think she is beautiful, and bodies are beautiful, and that would be dope. But I won’t go find those pics, and I won’t link to where to find them, because this incident is a part of a clear pattern of misogyny and the policing of female sexuality and bodies. Celebrities give up a lot of privacy to have a career. Some of that I believe is part of their job, but some of it is a clear invasion. Women in particular, models and actresses and pop stars, are policed at a very high level. We speculate about their romantic lives ad nauseum (Jennifer Aniston etc) and we obsess over their bodies, circling supposed problem areas if they get too large (Jessica Simpson etc) or speculating about their health if they become too skinny (Nicole Richie, Angelina Jolie etc). This level of scrutiny is cruel, and it serves no one. We expect these women to hold to the standards we’ve all set for them, otherwise they face the wrath of tabloids and fans who will withhold their adoration until the standards are once again achieved. We hold them up as goddesses, but are quick to snatch them back down to earth if they ‘let themselves go.’

goddess

But talent is not linked with a particular body type. This is why Christina Aguilera can belt at any size, and why Adele is effing glorious. The same applies to actresses, who needn’t be under 120 lbs to give a performance that is moving, convincing, funny or deep. Our adoration should be about performance, about the ability to consistently BRING IT. And yet instead of pledging our alegiance to those that move us, we worship goddesses of beauty and glamour. And I get it, because beauty and glamour are extremely appealing and alluring. But the standards are too rigid. The definitions of beauty of too strict and too immobilizing. The demands can never be maintained. And we are all just waiting for the slip up, so we can point out the flaws and I suppose feel some kind of catharsis or redemption because they are like us? Because perfection is an illusion, and we need them to prove it to us?

notperfect

This instance, though, can be spun as part of that worship. Which is gross. Because the naked body is private. It is for sharing only with those that you wish to share it with. This is not the same thing as to say it is shameful. It’s not shameful. Bodies are beautiful. The difference between what is private and what is shameful is not well articulated in our culture, and so we mostly teach girls that their bodies and their sexuality and their periods and their desires are shameful, when really those things are just private. Shaping them as private things has a much different connotation, because it is up to you to decide the boundaries of your personal privacy. Things are are private are under the purview of your own agency, subject to decisions that you are empowered to make for yourself. Shameful things have already been decided on for you, by someone else (your mother, your peers, the culture at large.) These photos were stolen and released without consent to shame these women. And the most common response is ‘Well if they don’t want them seen, then they shouldn’t take them’ which is indeed victim blaming akin to the ‘she was dressed provocatively’ or ‘don’t drink so much’ defense hurled at rape victims. The assumption is that if you take naked photos you are acting as a sexual being and if you are a woman that makes you a slut and you deserve to be exposed for what you are. She was asking for it. The only people responsible for crimes are those that commit them. In what realm of reality would it be unreasonable for a person to take intimate photos for themselves or a partner, and expect that only the person intended to see those photos would see them? Why wouldn’t a person imagine that their privacy be respected? If you believe that celebrities owe us even this, even their most intimate moments, then I think you are a delusional and unreasonable and not nice and unclear about what consent is and means. (Also: What are you hoping to find in those photos? Cause I’m pretty sure the fact that celebrities are naked under their clothes is not exactly revelatory information….)

notcool1

Women do not owe anyone access to their bodies. Famous women don’t owe you access to their nudity. Women in public don’t owe you access to touch them, to comment on their appearance, and they don’t owe you a smile. This incident highlights the way in which our culture functions to remind women that their bodies are not their own. It’s all connected friends, from street harassment to reproductive rights to the constant scrutiny and hunger for ever more provocative and revealing images. Don’t look at those pictures. They don’t belong to us.

jennifer-lawrence-12

My Totally Not Serious Pregnancy Scare (and the overblown feelings that followed)

There was never an actual moment where I might have been pregnant.

Juno_Test2

I was basically 24 hours late. My body was doing kind of pre-period stuff, but it wasn’t happening in full force. I know that your body changes over time and reacts to what’s happening in your life now and that one day late isn’t cause for alarm. The thing is, I haven’t been late since I started the pill, years ago. So I just had the briefest of thoughts yesterday morning: man, it’d be real crazy if I were pregnant. I didn’t panic, or obsess. It wasn’t a real possibility.

NAHgif

But once I thought it, I couldn’t un-think it.

I didn’t tell my partner because it wasn’t a situation, it was just a thought. And probably also because we are both excited to make a new human one day in the future and I didn’t wanna burden him with this brief and crazy and unfeasible notion. So I didn’t say anything.

JUNOSHRUG

I called one of my very best-est friends on my way home from work and said ‘This isn’t a real situation but like can you just remind me that it’s not possible’ and she did because she is wonderful and that’s what friends do. And we talked about all the reasons I couldn’t be (I’m on the pill, I almost always use condoms, periods can change as we get older so this isn’t a reliable sign) and also the reasons that now would be not the best time (I’m applying to go to grad school and PhDs take like 5 years, I have very little money and lots of student debt, I’m going to move in a few months to go to aforementioned school, I’m really just a pseud-adult and not a real grown up so caring for another human would be a stretch.) She is a good friend for dealing with the craziness of a ‘situation’ that is really just a crazy thought/wish, and for telling me what I already know.

besties

 

Now you may be thinking: Alex, you needn’t have a baby right now if you don’t wanna have one, even if you did find yourself pregnant. And you’d be right. I am lucky enough to live in a state where I could become not-pregnant fairly easily. And I believe with every fiber of my being that a woman should be able to make that choice if it’s right for her, and I detest the men (and yes, it’s men) who are attempting to strip women of that right using furtive, deceptive measures. But if we’re being honest here (and I’d like to think that we are), I would have a baby this minute if I became pregnant. Because I very much want to be a mom. And because I am lucky enough to have a partner that I think would make an incredible dad, and we are both excited for that journey. And I very much want my own mother to be a part of my pregnancy, and then my child’s life. And so if it happened, I wouldn’t have the heart to un-do it.

scarlett

So, not to bury the lead (already did that in the title I guess) but I’m not pregnant. Proof appeared last night, at which time I informed my partner that even though I hadn’t ever really thought I was or been worried, I wasn’t. And then I felt something weird: disappointment, and relief.

Neither of those feelings really seemed appropriate given the parameters of the situation. I was never really scared about it, because I haven’t ovulated in almost a decade so it was never a thing that was really happening. So why would I feel relieved? Except that we put much of the burden of sexually responsibility on girls, and I’ve always felt that it was my job to be responsible with my body. And along with this responsibility we instill a great amount of fear. And so even though I knew the facts, I was scared that somehow I had messed up, that I had slipped, that somehow my body had betrayed me because it knows how badly I want to have a baby someday and maybe it decided to take matters into it’s own hands. Maybe my uterus staged a coup.

vive la revolution!
vive la revolution!

So yea, I was relieved that I was still responsible, that my life was still going the way I’ve been planning. But then, I was also palpably disappointed. And I told my friend later ‘I’d never get pregnant right now on purpose because that would be an insane choice, but if it happened on accident I could justify the choice. I could get away with it.’ So I felt simultaneously like I’d dodged a bullet, and missed the chance to use an accident to get away with starting a journey I really do want to take.

Which is why I take what amounts to all the possible precautions to ensure this doesn’t happen. Because, while there may never be a perfect time to have a kid, there are better and less good times. And this time would be less good. And I want to feel like I am capable, like I have the resources, like I am ready to focus on a small human and not myself for the foreseeable future. And I am not ready to do that now. I need to focus on school, on my own path, on my own relationships. And as much as I am amped to get pregnant and create new life one day and would like to start immediately, I can’t make time go faster and I can’t deny that the best decision is to wait.

onedayZgif

I’m pretty surprised by the intensity of my feelings about this not actual scare. I’m totally aware of my own desire to be a mom, but I didn’t know I’d react so strongly to such a none-situation. I know everyone has complicated thoughts and feelings about being a parent. It’s not for everyone (although we assume that all women are nurturing and want to be moms and are probably bad/wrong if they don’t) and it doesn’t always work out and sometimes the timing is off and also sometimes it’s great and kids are a joy and fun and add a wild new dimension to your life. I have a bestie who never wants kids and that’s fine and I don’t tell her ‘you’ll change your mind’ because maybe she won’t and she is still wonderful, obviously. Another bestie just had a precious nugget 7 weeks ago and she adores her but also it’s hard and there are lots of conflicting emotions and very little sleep, for her and her hubby, and that family is officially a work in progress for basically ever. Getting pregnant is a big deal, for your body and your relationships and your future. It’s not a solution to a problem or a babysitting job or a vacation. Becoming a parent is a choice, and if you choose yes that choice lasts forever (God knows Ken & Patricia are still parenting me, also they’re awesome/supportive/loving/hip/the best.)

the.best.
the best parents a girl could ask for ❤

 

For now, I’ll just be over here feeling the feels and continuing to make moves towards the blurry future. One day I’ll have the thought ‘What if I’m pregnant?’ and I will feel joy and I will tell my partner right away and I hope that day is right after school is finished and we aren’t moving and we have jobs and my parents will be excited and they’ll help and….

feelsgif

Who knows really. But I’m not pregnant. Not today.

Sex Spreadsheets are Bullshit. Grow Up.

So recently this spreadsheet went viral. A spreadsheet.

chelseaeyeroll

I’m already annoyed.

spreadsheet

First of all, what kind of passive aggressive bull shit is this? Are we 12?

shamecornerGIF

Here’s a newsflash: if there is something going on in your relationship, the quickest way to make it worse is to place the blame entirely on your partner and then EMAIL them a document you made specifically to shame them. How about being an adult and having an actual conversation with your partner about why you’ve been going through a dry spell? Because here’s another newsflash: your partner doesn’t owe you regular sex. Sex is a collaborative, cooperative experience. Your sex life is not static and it is not guaranteed. Just like other aspects of your relationship, it changes and evolves  and will require effort to be maintained. It’s an important aspect of any relationship, sure, but it’s not the only one. And given that the sex is dwindling and their communication obviously stinks, I’d venture to say that this couple has lots of other issues. I’m just so freakin’ annoyed by this guy I can hardly stand it! Have a conversation! Think seriously about why this may be occurring, including how you yourself may be contributing. Grow the fuck up. (Note: this goes for all people creating sex spreadsheets, cause apparently it’s a trend happening now ew gross come on guys, seriously.)

one more eye roll. cause ugh.
one more eye roll. cause ugh.

Speaking of how you may be contributing: some responses to this story have tried to maintain the pernicious myth that women are less interested in sex than men. I’m here to tell you that this is nonsense. Many have pointed to the orgasm gap to help explain women’s perceived disinterest. The orgasm gap, according to a recent study, is the fact that women are having 1 orgasm for every 3 that men have. Which just makes me so sad. And before you start with me, let’s clear some things up. Women are not ‘more complicated’ than men, anatomically speaking. Women are able to achieve orgasm at the same rate as men when they masturbate, and indeed women in same sex relationships have orgasms at the same rate as heterosexual men. It’s also not true that it takes women longer to achieve orgasm, because when masturbating it takes women and men the same time on average: 4 minutes. All it takes to make a woman cum is willingness, and basic understanding of female anatomy (because the clit isn’t hard to find, but it is absolutely necessary.)

francais
translation

Alright so we’ve cleared up the myth that women are harder to please sexually. So the orgasm gap isn’t natural and it’s not acceptable (or is shouldn’t be!)  As it stands, this gap can explain part of why women may seem less interested in sex than men. But another important factor is how we raise men and women differently when it comes to sexual self expression. Boys are allowed to be outward in their expressions of sexuality, and in fact expressing sexual desire is seen as a sign of a healthy young man. Men can brag about their sexual encounters, and their orgasms are an assumed part of ‘sex’ in the accepted cultural narrative. Girls, on the other hand, are raised knowing that for them, sexuality is shameful. Not only is too much desire or too many partners evidence that they are slutty, it can also be used to justify sexual violence. For women, one of the first ways they learn about sex is to fear rape. And it is crystal clear that they are partly responsible for preventing rape, by controlling their own behavior; not dressing too provocatively or getting drunk or “leading men on”.  All of this adds up to confusion, because we also teach girls that their worth can be measured by their perceived ‘fuck-ability.’ They must be available to give pleasure, but they must not want or seek pleasure too obviously. And there is not a single piece of sex education that teaches about women’s pleasure, so we don’t learn to make our pleasure a real priority. Add that to the lack of value we place on women’s bodies overall, and the picture is bleak.

howitturnsoutrulpaul

Listen guys. Sex doesn’t happen like in the movies. Two people, even if the chemistry is great, don’t always hit a home run the first time. Or the second, third, etc. And sometimes, if you’ve had the same partner for awhile, your sex life can hit a slump or a drought or whatever. Because sex is about more than just orgasms, it’s also about intimacy and communication and closeness. And your sex life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and real life can get crazy. Awhile back I was working 2 retail jobs and my schedule was insane. I was working 6 or 7 days a week, often 10 or 12 hour days. And indeed, my sex life with my partner took a hit. I was exhausted, and I also didn’t feel good about myself (no yoga, crappy eating, no sleep, you get it.)

sotired

How did my partner respond? (HINT: it wasn’t by blaming me passive aggressively with a spread sheet of entitled anger.) He asked a simple question, over drinks: What’s up with our sex life? And I’m not saying that was an easy conversation, but we kept drinking and throwing out ideas, we laughed a lot, and we were willing and honest. We didn’t yell, or blame each other, we didn’t take ourselves to seriously and we never for one moment assumed that it should be easier. It meant a great deal to me that he was able to be vulnerable about how he was feeling, and that he wanted to work together to keep this part of our relationship vital. That conversation was the first big one we had about sex, but it wasn’t the last, and we will need to keep talking and laughing over drinks from time to time so we can keep the spark alive. And hopefully we won’t only check in when things get rough, because even when things are good there is room for improvement (*wink*), and when times are good the pressure is off. It shouldn’t feel like torture. Communication can even be sexy! Take a deep breath, retain your sense of humor, and remember that you’re on the same team.

highfive

It’s true there should be magic, but the magic can’t be taken for granted. You need to work to maintain it. And nothing kills the magic like taking your partners body for granted, or feeling like they ‘owe’ you more than they’re giving. Sexual pleasure isn’t a right you automatically have in a relationship. It’s a gift that partners give to one another, through practice and empathy and consideration and enthusiasm and vulnerability and creativity and collaboration. If you aren’t getting it, you might wanna reflect on whether or not you are giving it.

beyass

peaches
it takes effort. nick names. lingerie. whatever works for you, plus enthusiasm. get ’em Bey.

Real Talk: I’m having an existential crisis about hatred for women’s bodies, and it’s storming, and the struggle is too real

I know that a lot of what is written in the feminist blogosphere is done with a certain amount of humor, and snark. Sarcasm. Because we want to believe that what we are writing about is so obvious, that sarcasm is the perfect tool to reveal it for what is truly is. But honestly, I’m not sure I have a lot of snark left after this week, so I hope you will forgive this rather sincere and earnest post.

forgiveme

I’m disheartened this week, by the recent Supreme Court rulings, but more so by the lack of outrage I feel. I know there is a lot written in anger, and that lots of my peers are upset. But outside of that rage bubble there is a collective shrug. An overall ambivalence, that this decision isn’t a big deal. The limitations aren’t very strong. Sincere religious beliefs are a fair enough claim for exception. This is about insurance, not about women.

SMHkatniss

I don’t understand how people cannot see with certainty that this is about hatred for women’s bodies. How the very fact that contraception is controversial is irrefutable evidence that we live in a toxic, misogynist culture that values any life (hypothetical, corporate) over the life of a woman. And with other marginalized groups making strides, the rights of women are being legally thwarted at every turn. The law of the land was just altered so that folks who believe that women’s bodies belong to something or someone else can assert their beliefs at the expense of real people. And now the floor is open for companies to use their ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ to discriminate against women. And it is discrimination, which is made even more obvious by the fact that no other religious exemptions were granted. If you believe the blood transfusions, vaccines, or anti-depressants are immoral or sinful or whatever, well tough cookies. It’s only women’s bodies that can be sacrificed in the name of ‘Christian’ values. (Unless of course they allow this ruling to set a precedent for discrimination against LGBTQ folks, which is already trying to happen, FYI.)

Contraception isn’t magic, and it isn’t evil. And it shouldn’t just be liberals or self-proclaimed feminists getting upset about this ruling. Corporations being granted the rights of people should, frankly, upset everyone. And folks who are anti-abortion should be outraged as well, for indeed the best way to bring down the abortion rate is by providing comprehensive sex education and unfettered access to birth control. And yet, they’ve managed to trick many into believing that to be against one should automatically make you against both. Such a clever tactic. I believe that women’s health choices regarding her body should be her own, whether that choice be in avoiding a pregnancy or ending one. But for those who oppose the elective ending of pregnancy, this birth control exemption should feel like a huge disappointment.

dorothyheadshakeGIF

I want to know why they hate our bodies so much. Why, everywhere I look, control of our bodies is being taken from women and put in the hands of others. Into the hands of the Supreme Court, those 5 men who ruled that corporations have more rights as people under the law then women. Into in the hands of employers, who can now decide which kind of contraception, basic care in the eyes of the medical establishment and federal government, are acceptable for coverage. It’s in the hands of advertisers, the media, and internet trolls, who decide and proclaim which of us is beautiful, appropriate, feminine, and worthy. It’s in the hands of men on the street, who can comment and harass without fear because they are just complimenting you. It’s in the hands of rapists, who will claim that you were asking for it, and be justified when the police and the judge and even your friends and family ask ‘what were you wearing’ and ‘were you flirting’ and ‘how much were you drinking’. All these ways, the insidious and the obvious, are part of the reality of this culture. They are overt and subtle, they are accepted and sometimes frowned upon, but mostly they are tolerated. For now, we would rather uphold the power system of patriarchy that truly dismantle it.

merylsigh

Ok ok, I’m using ‘we’ there loosely. In fact, I myself would really really like to dismantle the patriarchy, and I know many other capable adults who would as well. I don’t know why these things aren’t more obvious. I don’t know why folks can’t see the hate that is at work in this ruling, and indeed that is at work every day in large and small ways. I sincerely hope that all of the marginalized groups, all those that feel the weight of a culture that wants to keep them in a certain box (or cage), will come together. We have a black president, half of all states have legalized gay marriage, and women are over 1/2 the population. Let’s rally the troops and tell the establishment, the folks in power, the old white guys and all their allies, that their reign is over. That there is room for everyone’s voice, for everyone’s unique gifts, and for everyone’s love. So long as you are speaking about inclusion, empathy, true democracy and community. Equality. Creation instead of war. Love in the place of fear. ‘Yes we can’ instead of ‘No you can’t.’ True justice. Right now, I do not see justice for women. Only manipulation and control passed off as controversy and the protection of some freedoms at the expense of others. But maybe I’m the crazy one. Maybe it’s just about paying for some medicines, and not others.

Here is something that will make you smile instead of sigh, just so we don’t end on a note of despair: 18 Empowering Illustrations, to remind us that our bodies are our own to create and control in whatever image we choose. Namaste. Have a good weekend.

Sebelius v Hobby Lobby UPDATE: It’s worse than you think

“It’s not that bad!” you might wanna believe. “It’s only a few kinds of birth control, and if they don’t want to pay for it they shouldn’t have to, and women can probably still get it covered from the government, and not paying for it isn’t really restricting access!!”

wrong

Lets address these one by one:

First of all, I maintain that corporations shouldn’t be able to have sincerely held religious beliefs in the eyes of the law. They should not be able to get around the law of the land in this manner. And this whole ‘not wanting to pay for things’ argument is really just tough shit. Because there are lots of things we all pay for that we could reasonably object to, particularly with regards to health insurance. For example, I sincerely believe that the American diet causes heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer. So I don’t want to cover treatment for any of those issues. People should eat more kale and less hamburgers, or pay for their drugs themselves (Sound familiar? Be less slutty, or pony up for your slut medication yourself? Yea, that’s a real thing people argue.) Or the classic Viagra argument. That shit isn’t strictly necessary, and men should deal with their own penis/heart disease issues, why should I subsidize their erections? But also, what is the real difference between paying for it via insurance coverage and paying wages with which employees purchase contraception? Both are technically benefits earned by working. So to me, not including contraception in a benefits package is akin to an employer deciding what you can buy with your hard earned wages. Which is scary, and wrong.

But Alex, you say, it’s only some BC they don’t wanna cover. There are still lots of options!

1) If the options are legal and FDA approved, there shouldn’t be limits imposed by your employer because they aren’t a doctor and their ‘sincerely held beliefs’ aren’t backed by science and they don’t know what’s best for your body and health. Full Stop.

2) This ruling is limited to only contraception, however it is not limited to only the 4 kinds that Hobby Lobby opposes. I repeat: Companies that wish to are able to stop covering any type of contraception they have a ‘sincerely held religious’ objection to. Here are the 82 companies that currently have cases pending. Not all object only to EC and IUDs.

babyfrown

Additionally, I’d like to point out that not covering something is indeed restricting access for many many families. Contraception isn’t cheap. The reason that coverage was mandated when the ACA was passed is because the medical community widely recognized that contraception comprises basic care for women and families, and that it should be universally covered like other forms of necessary and preventative care. When it isn’t covered, women and families are forced to make tough decisions. It’s like if health insurance didn’t cover mammograms or prostate exams. These kinds of procedures are covered because they save lives, and often prevent more expensive and harmful issues from occurring. Contraception has the same effect on the lives of women and families.

Finally, the work around. Remember, this work around currently only applies to non-profits that are exempt, so they will need to extend it to for-profit closely held companies. They most likely will, but as of now it’s hypothetical. Regardless of the fact that women shouldn’t have to endure extra steps to get the basic care they need, the federal work around isn’t working smoothly for the non-profit employees. Because companies are assholes. In order for employees to seek coverage from the government, the employer must put in writing that they object to providing coverage. But employers don’t want to put it in writing, because that would allow access which obviously they are against. Erin over at Jezebel explains, complete with sass:

If your company objects, the workaround as it exists as of yesterday requires them to register their objection in writing. This will allow employees of said companies to obtain BC through the government rather than through their employers. Problem is, nonprofits that have been offered that workaround have said that signing a slip of paper objecting to birth control, thus enabling their employees to obtain birth control via other means, violates their religious freedom because it’s a tacit endorsement of birth control/murder/sluts/slutmurder.

It’s a real clusterfuck.

So then, what does this really mean. Is it about upholding your own values? Or forcing your values onto those around you? Is it about personal integrity, or controlling women’s bodies?

eyebrow

Nope. I call bullshit. We cannot live in a religiously diverse nation if part of what it means to act religiously is to impose your beliefs on others. That’s a catch 22. And it’s really insidious and toxic that this ruling encourages the parts of religious exercise that seek to control women. Only contraception is covered under the exemption. Only the kinds of medicine that help empower women to have control over their bodies and their sex lives. Some women need this medicine for reasons other than preventing pregnancy, and some women cannot safely become pregnant, and those are really compelling points. But the real issue is that women should be able to not get pregnant if that’s what they choose, and they should have access to the medicine needed to safely have sex with their chosen partner(s). That is not radical, and it’s not anyone else’s business. We have all kinds of medicine that, it could be argued, allow people to act recklessly without consequences. People are allowed to smoke cigarettes despite the myriad health risks, and their eventual treatment is covered. We have drugs for constipation, gas, weight loss, diabetes, and heart disease, despite the fact that those issues are largely caused by poor diet and could be remedied with the proper nutrition shift. But controlling what people eat is crazy! They can eat what they want, and how much. Fine. So why is sex different?

why

Employers who find contraception morally reprehensible should figure out how to make money without female employees, or perhaps it would be easier if they accepted the full humanity of all women and all people and worried about the state of their own soul instead of forcing their will on other folks who are just trying to live life. I can’t help but think a lot of this would be a non issue if folks learned how to mind their own fucking business.

mindyabusiness

Yea but, they don’t. And the justices are whack. And lots of companies could potentially stop coverage and refuse the work around, legally. I hope Obams is working furiously to figure this out, hopefully maybe by mandating that if you don’t provide coverage you MUST put your objection in writing, thus allowing employees to seek full coverage else where. But it shouldn’t require this much thought or effort. Women shouldn’t be forced to work this hard to get basic care coverage.

 

The Supreme Court and their Supremely Disappointing Recent Decisions: Why Don’t They Think Women Matter?

The three branches of our government are supposed to keep each other in check. But our supposedly balanced arms are broken. Probably equally so, but this past week, the Supreme Court has been the most disappointing (and being more disappointing than Congress, even temporarily, is a pretty big accomplishment.)

disappointed

The first disappointing decision was especially disappointing because it was unanimous.  Ruth Bader Ginsberg, where the fuck were you on this day? And Justice Sotomayor? Et tu? McCullen v Coakley dealt with buffer zones around abortion clinics, in this case in the city of Boston. The Justices decided that these zones were a strain on the free speech of protesters. Justice Roberts even went so far as to imply that abortion clinic protestors aren’t protestors. From his ruling:

While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petitioners are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives.

 

But to characterize these interactions as personal, caring or consensual is a joke. These people do not care if women wish to engage with them, and they are often violent and disruptive to the health care that women are seeking. They harass and threaten patients and employees. They are not small quiet grad ma’s with Bibles. The laws are in place because employees and patients have been assaulted and killed. And furthermore, free speech isn’t unlimited. You can’t throw a ticker tape parade down 5th Ave without clearance, you can’t block sidewalks, and the very Justices who handed down this decision rule from behind their very own buffer zone.

SCBufferZone

 

They just decided that women’s right to get health care, which is basic, isn’t as serious as the rights of anti-choice protestors to ‘speak out.’ They ignored the evidence that the violence is a real threat. And FYI, these clinics are often providing a wide array of health care such as cancer screenings, STD tests, and even pre and post natal care. NOT THAT IS MATTERS BECAUSE ABORTION IS LEGAL AND ITS A PRIVATE MEDICAL MATTER. I urge you, if you are able and live in an area where clinics are unsafe, consider being a clinic escort. And my deepest thanks to the brave folks already providing this care in the face of danger, and the volunteers who try to make the experience less terrible. These folks deserve better from the justice system.

thankyou

Secondly, in Sebelius v Hobby Lobby, the court decided yesterday that corporations that are closely held can deny women coverage for certain types of birth control, based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. Now, to me, the first issue here is that CORPORATIONS AREN’T HUMANS. Is that not obvious? Companies cannot have sincerely held religious beliefs, because that’s fucking silly. But the courts say they do, and that contraception is the only kind of coverage that religious beliefs can be used to deny. So right off the bat, the decision limits the scope by privileging some types of religious beliefs over others (the beliefs against blood transfusions or anti depressants, for example. [All 5 dudes who ruled this way are Catholic, just an FYI fun fact.]) The exemption only applies to companies that want to limit health care options for it’s female employees. Stellar. But even more disturbingly, the decision elevates these sincerely held beliefs over science. The corporations in question believe that IUD’s and emergency contraception cause abortions. According to the medical and legal definitions, that is categorically untrue. These methods do not end pregnancies, they prevent them. So the law says that even when religious beliefs fly in the face of accepted science, we should honor those beliefs over the actual facts, and at the expense of millions of women. Religious beliefs shouldn’t be used as a weapon to police the behavior of others, and freedom of religion shouldn’t trump the right of millions to life, liberty, and the pursuit of fucking happiness (fucking here being both literal and emphatic!)

ragegif

Here’s the lynch pin guys: birth control is basic health care for women. It isn’t frivolous. It’s not just for sluts, as the right would have us believe. 99% of sexually active women will use BC in their lifetime, and the education and access to this basic health care should indeed be as universal as other care. It should be covered. Remember, men’s sexual needs are universally covered and deferred to, and I doubt those 5 men would have ruled in favor of companies whose sincerely held religious beliefs oppose Viagra. If erections and other penis issues count as basic care, then so should family planning and vagina needs. I’ve read comments that claim this isn’t a big deal, that companies will still provide coverage for some birth control and if they believe this other stuff is morally wrong it’s not a problem. This is categorically false. Employers shouldn’t get to decide what method of basic care you seek. And they shouldn’t get to limit the health care decisions of workers. They don’t wanna pay for it? Well you know what, I don’t want my taxes going to the industrial military complex, and I’d like it to go only to fixing potholes in the bike lanes and public education. But that’s not how the system works. You don’t get to pick and choose.

tough-shit-orange-is-the-new-black

This decision elevates the accepted patriarchal reality of “closely held corporations” (UGH) and the needs of it’s religious owners over the real lives of women.  5 men decided that corporate personhood was more viable than the rights of actual human women. So they don’t have to pay for women’s choices. But we all pay for each other’s choices everyday, that’s how taxes and also insurance works. It’s fine if you disagree with that system and work to change or dismantle it, but these kinds of exceptions undermine the norm and elevate patriarchy. They do not serve justice or the needs of most citizens. And it’s wildly important that this is only about contraception, because that means it’s really about women’s bodies and women’s sex lives. It’s about control.

control

Yesterday, I was disheartened. It felt, in a really tangible way, like a personal attack. And it is personal. Because this ruling upholds the idea that women mustn’t make their own choices, that their bodies aren’t their own, and that they don’t have a right to the sex life of their choosing. This exemption validates the needs of men while undermining the existence of women as full humans. It’s personal because who and how we choose to love and fuck is personal, and our sexual health isn’t incidental or a second class issue. It’s central to our health and our lives.

lucky

I’m not sure what to do about these rulings. A murderous rampage crossed my mind. I’d like to say we should all vote, and that is important, but we don’t vote directly on these judges so that feels like a round about solution (but obviously vote, duh.) So I say we just get loud, keep shouting until they take us seriously. Add your name to the Planned Parenthood dissent, join the Lady Parts Justice protest, and have conversations about why this matters. We must stay loud, that’s how these issues gain critical mass. Like the investigations on how colleges handle sexual assault. Slowly but surely, those violations on Title IV are being handled. Because we screamed about it. And we need to scream about this. We need to keep saying, over and over, that our right to bodily autonomy and safety is real, and basic, and paramount. We can’t stop until they stop calling us sluts, until offenders are punished, until our health care is provided no matter what we do or who we work for. We can’t stop until our personhood is upheld and valued. We can’t stop until justice is actually serve.

Summa Summa Summa-time!

Guys! It’s practically summer! The weather is warming up, the city is clearing out on weekends, and bare legs and shoulders are popping up on streets and bikes and buses near you. I don’t know about where you reside, but in New York City we are all getting high on the sunshine. It was a long and brutal winter, we are all Vitamin D deprived, and this summer we will all bask in the heat and have adult beverages outside and barbecue on rooftops and pump our AC’s up cause ain’t nobody got time to sweat through balmy nights! Woo!

classic
classic

A few reminders this summer: First and foremost -> Wear Sunscreen!! Melanoma is no joke. I myself have to wear long sleeves when I bike and walk on the shady side of the street because I am so very, very fair. SPF is where it’s at!

palegif

Also, please remember that it will be hot. And you will want to wear less fabric. And you can. You can wear whatever you want. Don’t worry about dressing for your body type or what not. Put on what feels good! There will probably be comments because we don’t teach men that women are more than just objects for their consumption, but hey, that’s life right? One day the onset of summer won’t fill women’s souls with dread at the knowledge that their bare legs are just to much for the average dude to handle (#YesAllWomen), right? A girl can dream.

whateveryouwant

And in case you are in need of a rocking swimsuit for a fuller figure, check out Swimwear Shops, the geniuses behind this gorgeous cover (reenacting a different SI cover, ov):

coverswim

Just sayin’, all bodies are awesome. Werk.

Additionally, if you see a creepy guy taking photos of women without their permission at the beach, PLEASE REPORT THAT SHIT! A man in Virginia was recently banned from Yorktown beach after he was noticed lurking in the beach bushes and taking pictures of women in bikinis.

peopleWORSTgif
So classy

So ladies, call out this kind of nonsense if you see it. In this age of camera phones and internet creep sites, the stakes are high. And guys, call this crap out if you see it! And don’t do it! Taking a photo of someone without their permission is very disrespectful and wrong, and sharing it is illegal! (I don’t know that for sure, but it should be.) If you need images for your spank bank use your memory or your imagination, that seems to have worked fine for the last couple thousand years.

bravo

So go forth friends, and enjoy this season of outdoor margaritas and late sunsets and summer love. All too soon the chill in the air will be back and the leaves will be falling and we will be bundled up against the harsh winter winds again. But for now, it’s sunscreen and short shorts and sun kissed cheeks. Raise your glass and just cruise…

#YesAllWomen

I wasn’t sure I wanted to share a story to add to the conversation started by yet another terrible act of gun violence. I don’t really want to talk about the tragedy, except to send out my deepest condolences and love to those who lost someone last week. You can read about what happened here, here, here, and my personal favorite, here.

But I do want to talk about the hash tag, and why I think this is one of the most important conversations needed between feminism and the culture at large. I think this issue, the issue of violence against women in our culture, is an issue that every single person should care about. It’s something each of us should try to understand, and fix. Because the fear that women walk around with everyday (and yes, it is indeed all women) is a burden that our culture creates. Out of thin air. And not only do we expect women to carry around this fear, we also expect them to mitigate the violence by dressing appropriately, and watching their drinks, and traveling in groups. We put the onus on them to protect themselves, instead of teaching our boys and men to lead compassionate and non violent lives.

Jennifer-Lawrence-Wait-a-Minute-GIF

Before you start in with the ‘but wait! not all men are like that’, read that paragraph again. I did not claim that all men were violent, or that all men are rapists. I said that women are afraid, and I said that we don’t teach men and boys to have enough compassion. We stunt their emotional growth. This affects everyone differently, the same way that women deal with their internalized fear and shame differently. Not all men are violent, and not all women are victims. But each and everyone one of us is affected by the saturation of gendered violence that the culture perpetuates. (Here are some enlightening stats, facts, and numbers.)

please-listen-to-me

My #YesAllWomen story is not unique. It’s not, in fact, the only personal story I could tell about experiencing gendered aggression or violence. I’m not going to tell it to you because I think it’s particularly special. The reason to tell it is because it is all too typical, because we need to add as many drops as possible to the bucket of our voices, so that people start to understand. I was out one night with friends, mostly guys, at a crappy bar on Bleeker street to which I will never go back. We were all playing beer pong, and when my game was over I went to the bar to get myself a drink. On the way through the crowd and back I was groped a couple of times, but since this is something that happens frequently I pushed my way through the crowd only mildly irritated. Back at the beer pong tables I was approached by a man who began chatting me up. No big deal. The conversation escalated quickly, and he started saying really nasty things to me. Things like ‘Have you ever been with a black guy before?’ (none of your business) and ‘I bet I know just how you’d like it.’ (nope, not true, also not relevant) and ‘I’d like to…’ (not worth repeating.) Not polite conversation for a complete stranger. He asked to dance with me and I tried to demurely deny but he pulled me towards him and began to grind against me. He put his hands all over me, even on my thighs under my dress. I tried to make eye contact with my friends, but I wasn’t able to non-verbally convey that I was completely uncomfortable and intimidated. Finally I stepped back and excused myself to the bathroom. He’d been asking for my number, saying he wanted to take me and my friends out to clubs he promoted, bottle service, blah blah ew. He asked for my number again, and when I said ‘I don’t think so, not tonight.’ he spit one final word at me as I turned away. ‘Bitch.’

shockedgif

So then I went to the bathroom and cried. I was angry, and ashamed. I knew that he was a jerk, but I also felt that I should have stopped him. I should have been more aggressive, and talked back. I should have known better. I mean, I’ve done the reading! I’ve done the writing! I’m a bona-fide self proclaimed feminist! How could I let him treat me this way? Why did I get this drunk? Why did I wear this dress? Why did I let him say those things, and touch me like that? Why was I letting him make me feel so worthless?

whygif

I tried in vain to get my friends to leave with me. They were also pretty drunk, and still playing beer pong and having fun, and again they couldn’t understand what had happened. I left the bar and walked home alone (dangerous) and crying (pathetic.) To their credit, the next morning my friends asked what had happened. In the light of day we had a conversation about men and masculinity, about hitting on girls in bars, about crossing the line, about why I’d needed them to come with me. I’ll always be grateful that they cared enough to ask, even if they hadn’t been able to understand in the moment.

THANKYOU

So that’s it. My story happens hundreds of times a night. That guy, whoever he was, he is a scum bag, but he’s not importantly or uncommonly scummy. Every woman I know has a story about being cat called, hit on, or groped, only to be insulted once they rebuffed the man’s advances. It’s a particularly hateful and breath-taking bait and switch, and it reveals the person for what they truly were all along: a person who doesn’t respect you or deserve your body or your attention for a single second longer. Wanting control over your own body, or simply not being attracted to someone, does not make any of us worthless. It doesn’t make us bitches or sluts. You don’t owe anyone gratitude or sex. But sometimes, the voice inside me that knows that this is true is drowned out by the overwhelming messages of misogyny and violence that I absorb on the streets everyday.

shessomeone

The thing about this conversation is that it isn’t about this kid who had guns. His viewpoints really aren’t that extreme, and you can see that if you care to explore the heinous online communities he was apart of. The important thing to remember is that every woman you know walks around wondering if the next guy they don’t smile at when prompted, the next guy at a bar they ask not to touch them, the next stranger on the street or the next date they decide they don’t want to sleep with, will hurt them. Will take what they feel entitled to. And so we don’t always speak up, we don’t fight back. We try to protect ourselves and avoid the violence all around us, and no one suggests that maybe we should try to heal some wounds and take steps to teach empathy and respect so that violence isn’t an option.

NoMorePSACampaign-FrontPageBanner

And one last thing. If you’re first reaction to these stories and tweets is to go on the defensive, to quickly mention that some guys are great and innocent and respectful, then I’d ask you to stop for one moment, take a breath, and listen. It’s not about the fact that not all men rape or hit. It’s about allowing women the space to express themselves regarding a phenomenon that affects us, it’s about remembering that even if you are not violent or if you’ve never had this type of experience, it doesn’t negate the overwhelmingly universal experiences of others. Sadly, I think that the issue of violence against women is a thread that connects womankind, across race and class and sexuality and nations, in a way that other feminist issues do not. If you already know how to treat the people around you with respect and consideration, then this conversation isn’t about you. And the best way you can help is to listen, and to speak up when you see or hear people expressing misogyny in any way. Use your knowledge, use your voice, to enlighten others. The more voices, the more drops in that bucket, then the more folks will be able to see that the bucket is really an ocean, and that ocean is an ocean of tears, and that we are all affected by and responsible for it’s depth and breadth.

Bill O’Reilly on Beyonce: He’s an idiot

I usually try to ignore the comments of folks who troll for a living. Especially if those folks are also narcissistic ego-maniacal assholes on Fox.

billOgif

Be forewarned, his own sense of self importance will induce vomiting.  Any how, he is taking a shot at Beyonce and I can’t just stand by because his whole viewpoint is one that silences female sexuality and locates the source of a problem he claims to be concerned about in the wrong place.

bey-partition

Bill takes particular issue with the song Partition, which describes a consensual sex romp in a limo. With her husband. It’s hot. But Bill thinks that this grown woman expressing her sexual self in the context of a monogamous relationship is part of the problem young black women face. He even got into an argument with Russel Simmons about it (seriously?) He thinks she is to blame for the teen pregnancy epidemic, and he’s at it again claiming that she doesn’t care about young black women.

She knows, this woman knows that young girls getting pregnant in the African-American community now, it’s about 70% out of wedlock. She knows, and doesn’t seem to care… that’s my problem with her.

Hm, I wonder if Bill has considered actually asking her about how she feels about this issue… nah, making assumptions is better for rating. FYI, teen pregnancy rates are actually on the decline, although racial disparity does still exist. He also mentions that young people with out parents are particularly at risk when exposed to the content of her music and videos.

beyoncesideeyeGIF

Let me start with the obvious: artists do not have a responsibility to raise anyone’s kids. Absent parents cause their kids to be vulnerable to outside influences, not pop stars. She made an album that was true to herself and where she is in her life: she is a WOMAN, over 30, married and a mother. Many have pointed out that she is pop cultures biggest advertisement for marriage, and that is certainly true. But the fact that she is married and still criticized for being too sexual is extremely telling. Because what it really means it that no woman, anywhere, at any time in her life, is allowed to be in control of and vocal about her sexuality. The virgin/whore dichotomy is in full effect. Bill claims there is nothing empowering happening here, but he is both ignorant and not listening. First of all, how the fuck would he know what is empowering to young women? He’s so personally involved in the lives of young black girls that he can speak for them?

doubt it.
doubt it.

But his focus on this one song/video, the most sexual on the album arguably, are very telling. He is reducing her work as an artist to this one aspect of her expression, when in fact there are other less sexualized elements that are also deeply empowering for her fans. Like featuring a prominent Nigerian/author feminist on her track (***Flawless). Or writing songs that laud female empowerment outright(Grown Woman/Who Run the World).

grown-woman

All of this nonsense is meant to distract us from one important fact: the teen pregnancy epidemic actually has nothing to do with Beyonce. It’s about access, to education and health care. And young black girls don’t have a lot of access to either. In fact, if Bill and his friends had their way, no young women would. Beyonce and her hubby just announced a summer tour, and $1 from every ticket sold is going to his foundation to help underprivileged kids access higher education. What is Bill doing for the youth? Particularly the young black females he is claiming to care so much about?

haterz

Yonce hasn’t responded to Bill. And why would she? She is aware of the reach and impact that she has. She is aware that as a black woman this kind of criticism is going to be leveled at her. She went ahead and made her record anyway, on her own terms and with her own take no prisoners release plan. She explored her personal, intimate relationships, knowing that women will always be criticized when their sexuality is deemed as threatening. Bill’s comments show a fundamental denial to acknowledge how culture is actually working, and at it’s heart it’s misogynist and mean. Which isn’t surprising. I just can’t stand by and let people hate on Bey! This album is, still, everything.