Tag Archives: gender issues

Sex Spreadsheets are Bullshit. Grow Up.

So recently this spreadsheet went viral. A spreadsheet.

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I’m already annoyed.

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

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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.)

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.
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Street Harassment: Biking Edition

I’m pretty rattled about this incident, so bear with me.

I was coming north on Ave B, just passing the Williamsburg bridge. A fellow cyclist went ahead of me in the bike lane. For about a block we did this awkward thing where we were sort of going the same speed, but then he’d slow down and I’d go outside to pass him, but then he’d speed up again so I’d back off. This happened 3 or 4 times. At the intersection I made a move to pass him and he yelled at me ‘Watch it, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?!’ I hadn’t passed him closely at all, everyone had plenty of safe space. Now we were sort of next to one another so I said ‘I’m just trying to maintain my speed.’ He replied ‘Why the fuck are you trying to pass me?’ This sounded arrogant and completely illogical and I was starting to feel angry so I said ‘Just mind your own fucking business and keep your eyes on the road.’ I tried to speed up. He sped up next to me and unleashed a torrent of hateful language. I remember fucking bitch and who the fuck do you think you are and something about what a slut I was for biking around in a skirt and how I should cover up my filthy cunt. I tried to slow down to let him go ahead, but he slowed down and wouldn’t proceed without me. He even insulted my bike, and her fucking sparkles.

sparkle
this is my sparkly bike, sparkle pony.

I was starting to feel threatened, and unsafe. His tone was not joking, he was purposely staying with me, and he’d noticed my totally noticeable and not at all commonplace bike, which he could certainly see again in the future and remember. I wondered if I should try and get my phone to take a picture, but my phone wasn’t accessible and I’m always at yelling people holding their phones while riding. I wished I could magically manifest some of the cards this dope chick has been making, so I could throw up a whole handful and make it rain on him and hopefully distract him long enough to pedal to safety.  As we were approaching Houston Street I sped up like I was going to fly through the intersection, and so did he. Just before getting 1/2 way across I abruptly stopped, which PS was probably super dangerous, and I turned my bike to head east towards Ave C. He was ahead of me and didn’t see me right away so he was through the intersection and he didn’t turn around. His rants faded as I pedaled east, looking behind me every few minutes and hoping he didn’t turn east ahead of me to meet back up. He didn’t.

this is my awesome dad, ken dill, instilling a love of bikes in me at a tender young age
this is my awesome dad, ken dill, instilling a love of bikes in me at a tender young age

So, what is it, I wondered, that set him off? I pedaled all the way home, unsteady, turning over in my head what had occurred. Was it that I deigned to pass him? Because dudes are always stronger and faster than girls? Does he have something against lady riders in general? Too much freedom and autonomy? Too much joy? Too much leg? I couldn’t figure it out.

house-of-cards-but-why

But it doesn’t matter. Not one bit. Because I’m allowed to ride a bike. It’s fun, it’s economical, and it’s good for the environment. And I’m allowed to bike in dresses. If my thighs offend you, look at something else. And I’m allowed to pass you. I’m allowed to ride at whatever speed I judge to be appropriate, so long as I am not putting other riders/cars/pedestrians in danger. But isn’t it fascinating how quickly this conversation went from urban cycling to what a bitch/slut/cunt I am? I mean, he could have insulted my riding skills, or continued to claim I wasn’t practicing good bike safety etiquette. He could have just called me a jerk or a butt head. Alas, it was straight to bitch. That ubiquitous insult with no male equivalent (except for bitch, which is insulting because it implies you are acting like a woman.) How quickly he leapt to assume that I was a wanton harlot due to the fact that I had a bike seat between my legs and there was skin visible above my knees.

sparkle with one of her friends, my besties claire bear's bike from back in the day
sparkle with one of her friends, my besties claire bear’s bike from back in the day

Also: if you are reading this and thinking in horror ‘god that dude is an asshole and terrible and I wish things like that never happened’, but you don’t get why women complain about cat calling, please take my hand and allow me to show you the connection. In this case, the original exchange between us was unpleasant, however the scariest moment was when he escalated. It took a turn from a cycling disagreement to what a bitch/slut I was, and then he physically wouldn’t leave. This pattern also happens when the conversation starts with a ‘hey baby’ or ‘damn girl you look good’ etc. You can never tell when an innocuous compliment is going to to turn lewd, vulgar, or aggressive depending on how you do or do not react. This is why ‘compliments’ are not fun to receive, because they feel like ticking time bombs. So spread the word about how it really feels to be cat called or harassed on the street, and don’t do it yourself (unless there is an obvious vibe and eye contact and you’re a grown up I know you can figure it out on your own) and also check out these great folks and their work: SSH & Hollaback!

hollaback

I was coming home with a small token of celebration for my partner last night. Nothing extravagant, just wanted to take a moment to point out an accomplishment I think is pretty cool. And instead I came home upset, shaken, and thoroughly un-joyful. I showered and shook off the encounter. But I will never forget his face, or the feeling in the pit of my stomach, or the fact that our interaction is part of a web of similar interactions between men and the women they harass (#YesAllWomen). These interactions create a ubiquitous feeling of danger in public places. And instead of jumping to protect the right of women to do whatever the fuck they want to the same degree as men, as a culture we say things like ‘well maybe you shouldn’t bike in that skirt‘ and ‘what do you expect when you dress that way‘ and ‘you shouldn’t be going out alone at night‘ and ‘are you sure you didn’t do anything to lead him on‘ and ‘gosh, can’t you just take a compliment.’

no gif

And I said the same thing to myself. You shouldn’t have engaged with him, you shouldn’t have cursed at him. But fuck that. I did what any reasonable person would have done when they were shouted at. I’m not going to stay quiet because you have some ego-maniacle malfunction. Fuck you bro. I am still gonna bike and sing up and down the east side of this island. I’m gonna go to yoga, run errands, meet up with friends and commute to my fucking big girl job. And I’m going to always wear a helmet because fucking safety. More and more women are biking, so you’ll have to get used to us, or relinquish the road. Sparkle and I aren’t going anywhere. And neither are my thighs. Grow up. Shut up. Get a helmet, and while you’re at it try seeing women as actual human beings. Maybe then we can all get where we are going a little more safely.

What’s Actually Annoying About ‘Women Against Feminism’

Maybe you’ve seen it by now. There is a tumblr happening with women holding up signs about why they don’t need feminism. A lot of the signs talk about not hating men. And a lot are about opening jars. But most importantly, the majority of the signs are confused. Confused about what feminism is and what feminism does. And I am just so frustrated.

katnissareyouserious

My initial response is to make a counter list about what I don’t need, and make up confusing reasons why. Here are some fun examples:

I don’t need water because it can be a liquid, gas, or solid and that means it’s tricky and can’t be trusted!

I don’t wanna go to school because you know who went to school?! The person who is responsible for making the atomic bomb (whose name I don’t know because school is for destroyers of the world!)

I don’t watch TV because they have TV in prison and prison is for reflection and reform, not free cable!

I don’t ride bikes because bikes are slutty and also they are for hipsters and cars are way safer!

I could go on. But being snarky is only half the battle. Because what is happening here is both a profound disconnect, as well as a deeply embedded self-hatred resulting from being born and raised in a culture that profoundly controls, disrespects, and abuses women’s bodies. Let’s look at just a few examples.

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I almost can’t even start with this one. First of all, feminism doesn’t look down at women who choose to stay at home. Feminism advocates for choices, and support for all those choices. At one point, not staying at home was not a choice for some* (*white, middle/upper class) women, and thus expanding those choices was the goal. If something is already an option, you don’t need to fight for it. This particular argument is a little tired at this point, and yet it persists. This woman has been a victim of abuse and assault not once, but twice, and yet cannot see how her abuse is part of a pattern, indeed a crisis, happening worldwide. Violence against women is not random, it is systematic, and pervasive, and one of the greatest clues to how patriarchy functions. Feminism doesn’t set out to vilify men, who in fact also experience sexual assault and abuse. Also some feminists really like penises. And some don’t. But I don’t really think that’s a ground breaking truth.

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Em k, well that’s cool. Compliments are nice. Feminism isn’t anti-compliments. It’s anti-harassment. And not all people feel appreciative or happy when they’re being ‘complimented’ by strangers. So their feelings are also valid, and everyone should respect the right of everyone else to walk to work/the store/a party etc without feeling like they are on display. Cause not everyone wants to be only display all the time. And also sometimes ‘compliments’ are actually about a pervasive system of violence and control. And also not everyone is nailing lipstick the way you are so maybe they’d rather just go on about their day?

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This is another weird trend. That people want to take responsibility for their own actions. That sounds super honorable. But we don’t live our lives in a vacuum. All of us are affected by culture, and by each other, each and every day we are alive. And sometimes, we make big mistakes and we need to own up. But sometimes, actions have root causes that are out of our control. (For example: the only people responsible for rapes are rapists.) This picture makes me kinda sad because this person is choosing to be vulnerable and own up to some insecurities, which is brave. And we all have insecurities. But to claim that some of those insecurities aren’t fed/encouraged/created by the patriarchal capitalist monster machine that is the beauty industry, and also celebrity culture at large, is just silly.

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This is another interesting point of logic for these folks. Feminism doesn’t believe that all women are victims, and it doesn’t believe that all men are rapists. At no time does it attempt to paint all women one way and all men one way. Feminism does shed light on the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault happening nation wide (and indeed world wide), and it names this epidemic a political problem. Women make up the majority of the victims (1 in 6 will be assaulted in their lifetime), but not all women are victims and not all victims are women. Feminism advocates for those that are raped, so that their rights are guaranteed and their attackers brought to justice. Victims did not always have a voice, nor was justice often found (and actually, I’d hesitate to use the word often now…) Not all men perpetrate violence, but most women who experience violence experience it at the hands of a man. But this itself is a feminist issue! Indeed, we do live in a culture that conditions boys to suppress their emotions, unless those emotions are aggressive. Our culture does glorify violence, especially as an essential part of masculinity. This is bad for men and women, and it is the fault of patriarchy, not feminists.

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Ah yes, this one is a real gem. Check out how she ‘subtly’ slut shames women she has never even met while defending the entire male population but also talking about ‘real feminism’ which is really just, well, feminism. It’s quite a feat. First of all, I would argue that respect and equal opportunity for women does actually involve access to safe abortion, contraception, and sexual empowerment/autonomy. Just saying. Additionally, and this is important: feminism doesn’t damn men. It points out systematic oppression. It highlights how issues that were once deemed ‘personal’ are actually political. It advocates for women to have a full breadth of choices about their bodies and their life paths.

Plus men can also be feminists! See below for one of my fav examples:

JGLFEMINIST

Look, if you don’t want to claim the feminist label, that’s fine. Labels can be a real bummer. But please don’t disavow what you don’t understand.  At it’s heart, feminism is about equality and justice. It’s not perfect. We have a lot of work to do to make sure that the movement is inclusive of all issues across the lines of race, class, and sexuality. We’ve gotten better as the journey has continued, but feminism is a group of humans and humans are not perfect. It will take diligent work within the feminist community, and with our allies, to ensure that the movement continues to grow along an inclusive, empathetic and justice driven path. But you could be helping! Instead of holding these weird signs that mostly promote outdated or plain old incorrect misconceptions about feminism. Considering it, but still skeptical? Allow me to help clear things up:

Not all feminists choose to grow their natural body hair. Some do. If you don’t wanna grow your body hair, you can still be a feminist. Not all feminists think being a stay at home mom is wrong (most, I’d argue, don’t.) You can be a stay at home mom and be a feminist, although you should also advocate for mom’s that work because all mom’s are great and because not all mom’s have the option to stay home and because women’s work both in and out of the home has been undervalued for a really long time and that should stop. Not all feminists are humorless bitches. I’m sure some are. But some are wildly hilarious. If you have a sense of humor, you can still be a feminist. And not all feminists hate men. Some might. And maybe you are uncomfortable with their anger. But if some folks have been harassed and abused and assaulted, is their anger not warranted? Just because you would, or have, responded differently, does that mean that their voices should not be heard? Frankly, feminists are angry because by no fault of their own they live in a culture that values their humanity less than the humanity of men. This isn’t all men’s fault. It’s patriarchy’s fault. But sometimes men take advantage of their advantages and sometimes the appropriate response is righteous anger. I don’t advocate that we come from a place of righteous anger all the time, because it is exhausting and because I think that love and inclusion and empathy will bring us closer to our goals. But if you don’t hate men, congratulations, I don’t either, and we can still be  feminists.

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I’ll just leave this here at the end and say that feminism is responsible for the fact that women vote, for the fact that marital rape is illegal, for equal rights regarding access to school and the resources there-in, for birth control, and for Beyonce. Any young woman living in this moment in America is a product of feminists efforts in some way. You may think you don’t need it, but it has already positively shaped your life in one way or another. And maybe you aren’t down with the complete agenda, but denying it entirely is ungrateful and disingenuous, and ultimately it hurts us all.

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Mad Men: Seas 7 Premiere, Time Zones *SPOILERS DUH*

Friends, readers, loves of my life, let’s talk about Mad Men.

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I decided to take the plunge and re-cap all the juicy gender issues this show serves up as a way to ease the pain caused by the show’s impending end. I started binge watching this show with Claire Bear back on 96th street, and it continues to be the best show on TV (in my humble opinion). I love that watching it is more like the experience of reading a novel than a short story, and I love that the details make the show feel historic while the writing makes it accessible and contemporary. I think it perfectly reflects how much progress we have made, and how little, often in the same exact scene.

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Alright, enough love professions, let’s talk about this premiere. I want to talk about Joan, which won’t shock you if you’ve ever engaged me in a conversation about Mad Men before. I think Christina Hendricks is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and her character and her beauty stand out in a show full of beautiful and complex women. This episode was fun because seeing her spread her account wings is truly thrilling for me. Back in the day, Joan was a secretary waiting for a husband. She first advises Peggy that the right moves will land her in the country, and also to stop dressing like a little girl if she wants to be taken seriously. Oh season 1, you were so retro! She eventually found a doctor to marry,  but he was a bum, and she started to realize that the things she’d thought she wanted weren’t making her happy.

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So she kicked him out, confident she could raise her son on her own. Of course that is Roger’s kid and not Greg’s, but as far as she is concerned Roger is unreliable and she is a single parent. She knows she will need to focus on work to keep her family afloat. One of my favorite moments on the show is when her and Peggy chat after Don announces his engagement. Both women have traveled a pretty windy road to get to where they are, but being focused on their careers allows them a unique bond. They understand that their accomplishments are overshadowed by the men they work for, even when those men are recklessly getting engaged to their secretaries. Second marriage cliches not withstanding, they get each other.

And Joan get’s herself a partnership, in an episode that truly showcases this actress’s talents. But she still isn’t satisfied, and last season we watch her land her first account: Avon. She was ruthless, and frankly insubordinate, but she got it. This episode Ken sends her on a meeting with the head of marketing at a shoe account. Right away their meeting is awkward, due in large part to his not subtle condescension. He doesn’t bother to hide the fact that he’s disappointed, but makes it a point to imply that this is silly because any man would be an idiot to be disappointed to be meeting with her. He also references her perceived availability by commenting that ‘It must have been hard for you to keep this seat empty.’ He basically dismisses her, leaving after only a few moments without allowing her to engage with him.

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Not one to give up, Joan heads to a university to get some help from a professor in what I assume is business. She has a weird moment in the professor’s office, because she is always very guarded about perceived advances (especially with business associates, especially since Jaguar.) Which is totally understandable since she spent most of her life being coached to believe that her desirability was her most valuable trait. Moments like this stem from her own insecurities, indicating that she still believes that other people don’t take her seriously. And who can blame her, when schmucks like the shoe guy are so dismissive! But she rebounds, impresses the professor, and buys the company more time with the shoe account.

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And the reason we should all be rooting for Joanie? Because her struggle is still happening today, every day, for women everywhere. I can site multiple instances of being dismissed or not taken seriously by someone while at work, usually by customers. In fact, I’ve had customers specifically ask if a man is available (while working at a store that sells technology, FYI.) And women still aren’t getting paid as much as men, and the Senate just blocked passage of The Fair Pay Act, because some folks don’t think equal pay is a real issue. Balancing a family and a career continues to be an issue and a discussion mostly centered around women, because women continue to complete the majority of household and child care tasks. Joan breaks my heart a little because she had to face extreme and total disappointment before realizing how great she was at her job. She truly came from a time and place where college and/or work were just stepping stones to your real life. I admire her so because instead of staying unhappy and clinging to the vision of the life she’d wanted, she kicked out her no-good husband and kept right on moving. She accepted that work made her happy, and she changed courses. Her ascension, for me, is even more riveting than Peggy’s because Peggy was always a little weird and I don’t think she was ever truly hoping to marry quick. Joan is strong but vulnerable, she is hard working and even ruthless, she is gorgeous and ethereal and I just can’t wait to watch her wiggle her way into accounts.

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Victim Blaming- *Rape Culture

I have just finished reading an article in the Wall Street Journal, by James Taranto, which has left me feeling nauseous and sad. Not a cute combination. Taranto is a member of the editorial board at WSJ, as well as the ‘author of its popular Best of the Web Today column’, so he is not just random dude.  The article is entitled ‘Drunkennes and Double Standards: A Balanced Look at College Sex Offenses.

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Right off the bat, I know I’m in for it. Sex offenses aren’t balanced. There is a perpetrator and a victim. Rapists are to blame for rape. So, yea, what’s his overriding argument?

What is called the problem of “sexual assault” on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike… If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn’t determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver’s sex. But when two drunken college students “collide,” the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault. His diminished capacity owing to alcohol is not a mitigating factor, but her diminished capacity is an aggravating factor for him.

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He also mentions false accusations, which as I’ve stated before make up around 2% of all accusations on a generous day. Women are not getting drunk and consenting to sex, then making false accusations fueled by their regret and resentment. “Had she awakened the next day feeling regretful and violated, she could have brought him up on charges and severely disrupted his life.” This almost never happens. Women are not slinging accusations willy nilly, especially given the nature of an investigation, the toll it takes, and how often victims are harassed and shamed when their stories are actually true. He goes on, “What is called the problem of “sexual assault” on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike.” And this, this is an interesting sentence.

I do not disagree that alcohol consumption, in excess, is dangerous for both men and women. I also don’t disagree that having sex while black out drunk is a bad idea for both men and women. For one, drunk people are usually measurably less responsible, so contraception is likely disregarded. Boundaries can also be crossed due to diminished communication, and usually drunk = sloppy which can result in a sub par experience for all. But the most important issue here is who can give consent. If neither party is capable of making rational decisions, then what follows is a messy grey area. Which can be emotionally damaging, or just awkward.

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HOWEVER.

There are a whole lot of assumptions when you make the claim that BOTH PARTIES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT. You assume that everyone is the same amount of drunk. You assume everyone has positive intent. You assume that men are victims at the same rate as women. You assume we live in a world where sexual assault is an accidental oops, where men are just confused by ladies who claim to be liberated but are really pretending and then want to save their own reputations by destroying someone else.

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Again. Cause none of those things are true. What is true is that rape happens at an alarming rate, everyday, to all kinds of people. It happens to men and women. It happens to college students and to high school students, to children, and to adults of all ages. It happens across race and class lines.  And the only way to prevent it from happening is to teach people how not to rape. It’s to teach everyone that violence and aggression are not linked to ‘real masculinity’. It means teaching everyone what true consent means, and it means decoupling sex from shame. Women should not have to stay sober to avoid being raped, because that doesn’t work anyway. Are there good reasons to help college age kids learn to control their levels of intoxication? Absolutely. Is one of those so they don’t get raped, or accidentally rape someone? No.

The author also sites a widely circulated article from Slate last year to boost his argument, quoting the author:

…she offered the same advice to college men: “If I had a son, I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.”

Tell me how sad that quote makes you.

this one?
this one?
or this one?
or this one?
nope, this one. definitely.
nope, this one. definitely.

The author of that piece, Emily Yaffe, would tell her son that it’s not in his self interest to find himself accused of rape. Not that he should respect women. Not that he should be sure to only engage in consensual sex. Just that it would be bad news bears FOR HIM, for his life, if he were in a situation that allowed him to be accused of raping a drunk girl. The lack of empathy and compassion in that line of thinking is truly astounding.

The end point of Taranto’s piece is that chivalry should make a come back, because men and women are different, despite feminists instance of equality, and the balance of power in sexual encounters is uneven. He is only 1/2 right. The balance of power is still often tilted in the direction of men. This does not mean, however, that women are naturally more prudish or inclined towards monogamy. It means that we live in a culture that perpetuates base misunderstandings about gender and that de-values the bodies and well being of women at an alarming rate. It means that we all must strive to be more honest with ourselves and with our partners, and to treat our sexual partners as actual humans and not as a different species that we must apply different rules to and ‘figure out’. Yes means yes. You do not have the right to ever touch another human intimately without their expressed approval. And sure, I’m down for giving out basic safety advice like 1) learn to control your consumption 2) travel in groups 3)be aware of your surroundings. But that advice isn’t limited to just young women, and it applies to violence prevention in all forms.

Because the only advice we need to give on rape prevention is: Don’t rape anyone.

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The Personal Is Political

Ok, well, I’ve been holed up in this alphabet apartment for the better part of this week, putting the finishing touches on my thesis. My advisor gave me some pretty intense edits, pushed me rul’ hard. I think I pushed back. In fact, I was sort of annoyed and over this whole process, and I think I let that anger motivate me. In any case, the point is I feel pretty great, pretty capable, pretty powerful.

Powerful. What an important word. I stumbled across a quote during my edits that really captured something I’ve been feeling a lot lately. The first part I was able to use in my paper, and I’m going to share that with you first. It’s an explanation of the phrase ‘The Personal is Political’, a phrase which basically encompasses why I sit at this computer and write this blog. The quote is by my scholarly idol, Bettina Aptheker, from her memoir Intimate Politics:

… when I was growing up, issues such as rape, sexual harassment (for which there was no language), sexual abuse of children, domestic violence, reproductive rights (referred to only as abortion), childbirth (assumed to be best left in the hands of the doctor), childcare (needed only by women who were derelict in their maternal duties), and sexuality (even between men and women) were spoken of in the hushed tones of shame and guilt. All were considered personal issues having absolutely nothing to do with politics. These issues became political as a result of the women’s movement… we came to understand that the personal is political- or, more precisely, that the personal reveals the political.

~ Aptheker

I believe really strongly that gender issues flow through our lives in really complex, sometimes unrecognizable ways. Especially in personal relationships, which is why I’m so often writing about that. And issues of power and intimacy are political, as Aptheker describes above, and we should try to recognize them in our day to day relations in order to better understand how we are working as part of a system. For women, in large and small ways, this can be scary, as this next quote touches on.

However, for women and children, especially girls, relations of power are often enacted in moments of intimacy, when we are the most vulnerable, in our families, with our parents or lovers, when we should experience the greatest sense of safety. Relations of power between women and men are likewise enacted in public places, when we are at work, or walking the streets, or riding public transportation. These instances also can take on an intimate quality because we experience them as a violation of personal space, or violence against our own person. What I am describing are widely shared experiences affecting the lives of millions of women virtually everywhere in the word…

~ Aptheker

This passage hit a nerve in me, because lately I have had a few encounters with men, strangers, that were unsettling. I find that guys, without a second thought, are apt to touch women without invitation. Especially in a nighttime setting, especially if its dimly lit and a crowd creates a buffer. I have also met people who assume that I will want, automatically, to hang out with them. I suppose this is based on ego, on their success in life in general. But success in life doesn’t mean you’ve put the work in to know me, and when I’m not immediately compliant I get accused of having trust issues. But men forget how unbalanced power can be in these situations. Physically, emotionally, culturally. It is all too easy to make a person feel small, especially when gender dynamics support it. Body language, invasion of personal space, pushy or aggressive language, these are all tools that can have a really detrimental effect if you’re not careful. I think even guys with good intentions can cross those lines without realizing it.

Ok well I suppose this post is really at the heart of why I write this thing. If you are out and about, and find yourself creeped out or feeling violated by a guy, this is not a unique experience and it’s not just your personal emotion. You are actually experiencing a shared phenomenon, and performing in a dynamic that other women have already performed. The degrees of violence and danger vary, as do the specific details. But if you can recognize this commonality, maybe you will feel better about pushing back, speaking up, leaving, or whatever appropriate response you come up with, instead of allowing yourself to feel small or defeated. I find that, when I remember how gender dynamics are working and how I’m not alone, it’s much easy to bite back.

(Side note: typing in ‘the personal is political’ to google images is pretty hilarious. Obama and Beyonce both make random appearances, as do Hermoine and Bristol Palin. Lots of buttons. Who knew?)