Archive for sex

In which I avoid my NaNoWriMo commitments by blogging

In particular, I kind of felt like I needed to respond to a comment that’s been sitting in my moderation queue for far too long. As could have been predicted, posting critically about the topic of pornography in my Utopian Promise of Porn post induced at least one dude to feel the need to hugely overshare about his masturbation habits in a defensive way. Who could have called that development? Aside from everyone I mean.

Said dude, who goes by the handle “Chris”, had a heck of a lot to say, and I don’t really feel like having descriptions of his masturbatory behaviour up on the blog permanently, but here’s a few quotes. He starts off strong, not able or willing to speak directly to me, the writer, but still wanting The World In General to know how he feels about what I’ve written:

I think the author is making a leap of faith on this article. The release of Oxytocin during orgasm has just recently begun to be studied. The kind of reactions that the release of oxytocin combined with degrading or abusive images cause on our psyche is completely speculative and would be difficult to impossible to prove.

Thanks, Chris. The author was positing a theory, not quite the same thing as a leap of faith. I can see you’re hoping to out-intellect* me with your quasi-academic style of writing here, which is fine. I have a tendency to want to come across all academic-y myself. It’s a distancing technique for me, a way of hopefully putting my words up above dispute, because once I’m convinced of something I’m admittedly a bit impatient with dispute, especially from people I perceive (rightly or wrongly) as uninformed. We all need hobbies I guess. Nonetheless, I thought I’d respond to a couple of points.

It’s true that oxytocin and orgasm have only been studied for a short period of time. Are you suggesting that nobody should ever write about things that haven’t been thoroughly studied by lots and lots of scientists who have come to consensus? Or does this standard only apply to to things like pornography?

However, sociological and anthropological studies on human behaviour have been going on for a long time and will likely continue, and it seems to me that those would be better avenues for testing my theories. As for impossible to prove, I don’t think that my original supposition would fall into that category. We have science! We can design studies!

In fact, off the top of my head I could think of some pretty basic experiments which would suggest whether orgasms produced while consuming “good”** porn vs. those produced while consuming “bad” porn vs. those produced while fantasizing with no visual stimuli vs. merely viewing any of these sans orgasm had any effect on attitudes expressed in, for instance, subsequent interviews or questionnaires. A study of this type would not “prove” or “disprove” my original hypothesis, but it could offer some interesting insights regarding the effects of porn viewing on, perhaps, attitudes. Heck, I’m sure some studies have already been done. More studies along these lines including ones with a longer term focus or measurement of hormone levels would provide an aggregate of data and would likely eventually suggest certain conclusions.

I’m afraid, of course, that the only people likely to get the funding to do this kind of research would be Evolutionary Psychologists (i.e., people like this irritating misogynist), and they would undoubtedly find some way to use their results to forward their own wacky aims, but what can you do. If I won the lottery I’d squander my  millions doing research on all my pet theories and interests, such is my enthusiasm.

I think the opposite is true that people that have a degrading view of women to begin with enjoy watching degrading porn. Treating women like that has been something they’ve picked up from their parents and friends growing up.

The chicken or egg argument. You’re suggesting that it is not the isolated Chicken of bad porn affecting the way people treat women, but the Egg of environmental factors that makes such porn enjoyable. I would suggest to you that it might well be both chicken and egg at the same time. Let’s agree that the Patriarchy exists and that we are all swimming in it. I would suggest to you that people, not just men, who have been raised in a non-patriarchy-questioning way are probably more likely to be unconcerned by pornographic depictions of unwilling or degraded or victimized women and disaffected and detached or abusive men. However, we are all raised in a patriarchy. We are all surrounded by problematic imagery all the time, and it often takes an added effort to recognize how problematic a specific image is.

I also feel like I need to point out, again, what was in essence the main (though poorly articulated) thrust of my original post: people talk about pornography as though there is a “good” kind and a “bad” kind, but in my experience, there is very little at all that could be classed as “good” in the ways that people mean. Most porn, almost all porn probably, contains problematic images and portrayals. You speak of “degrading porn” as though there was in actual fact another kind that was common and readily available and that this awesome non-degrading porn was the kind that most people sought out to watch, with only the nasty deviants damaged by their upbringing wanting to watch the degrading kind. This is the Utopian Promise of Porn again!

From here on I got to learn a lot more about Chris’ sexuality and masturbatory practices than I ever wanted to know, so without the explicit bits, here’s his next point:

… It certainly does relax me and calm me afterwords [sic]. It relaxes my physiological drive to procreate and it calms my natural mental obsession to have that connection on a regular basis.

Maybe I am a sex addict, or orgasm addict. But, I can control it. I can control doing it on just myself, instead of cheating. I can control it if there is no privacy.

Porn contains men’s sexualities? I guess this is your point? Porn stops men from becoming Cheaty McCheatersons? Porn saves relationships? Porn prevents overpopulation? Although, again, we’re conflating porn and masturbation and they’re not the same thing.

When you use phrases like “natural mental obsession”, “sex addict”, and “orgasm addict”, there’s something a bit false feeling about that, as though you’re declaiming responsibility for your own sexuality. Indeed, the suggestion that without masturbation you would be cheating, that’s a cop out. I’m unconvinced that most people who cheat do so because they’re just not getting enough sex at home and can’t masturbate. That’s nonsense. It’s refusing to take responsibility for your own choices. Not a scientific observation by any means, but in my experience (and I know this is shared by many of my friends) the more you think about having sex or have sex, the more sex you want to have within certain limits – a positive feedback loop. The reverse is also true, within certain limits. Times when you’re not thinking about or having a great deal of sex, your interest also wanes.

Here’s a proposal for an experiment for anyone to do on their own. Stop consuming porn for a finite period of time. Only you know what would be an appropriate time period for you. If you look at it daily, then start with a week maybe. If you ordinarily don’t look at it but once a week, stopping for a week wouldn’t be terribly meaningful, so maybe try three weeks or a month. Do you feel your attitudes to sex, men and women change? What if you stop for longer, what then? I don’t know what these answers will be for you.

Astonishing as this may be for some folks to hear, it’s okay to not always be interested in sex. Yes, even for men. Sex is important for many people, and I don’t mean to say that it isn’t. But there is a rhythm to our interest in it, just as there is with everything else. Sometimes it’s the only game in town, it’s the cat’s meow, it’s everything good in life. And other times, it’s a total take it or leave it kinda thing. And this is totally okay, not pathological, not a problem. I think there’s a fair bit of societal pressure on everyone, but especially on men, to have a constant minimum interest in sex and that this, in part, is one of the things that drives the demand for pornography.

Okay, so absolutely my favourite line:

I don’t think there is anything that is going to seriously affect my real life watching bare chested girls jumping on trampolines, or the “perfect? start to finish sexual encounter (like we ever watch the whole thing).

Bare chested “girls” jumping on trampolines: an ordinary background for an ordinary life with no effects at all on the watchers. How the girls themselves feel about the matter: not important to Chris.

*Learn to logic!

**If there is such a thing as “good” porn, which is really part of what the original Utopian Promise of Porn post was about. I am undecided on this point, but often lean no-wards.

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Utopian Promise of Porn

Nursing a cosleeping baby and lying next to a partner who snores sometime combine to leave a person lying awake with a spinning brain at 5 in the morning.

It occurs to me that part of the problem with porn is that all of that icky emotional negotiation stuff takes place off screen (if it is assumed to take place at all). In porn it is absolutely INCONCEIVABLE that anyone would change their mind halfway through, would decide to withdraw from the encounter, or take a pause in the encounter, or renegotiate their intentions for the encounter – “I’ve changed my mind, let’s not do penetration tonight.” No. Porn is not about fluid expression of sexuality between real thoughtful people with bodies that tire, or get sore, or simply stop feeling like sex.*

And since “sex” isn’t a monolithic concept free from the complications of people, the fact that it is portrayed that way in pornography is quite possibly a contributor to some of the major problems that we have, sexually, in our society. As a society, we actually tend to equate pornography with sex, when perhaps it is something entirely different. This feels like an important idea.

I came of age in the era of the internet. That means that like a lot of folks my age some of my first sexual explorations came online, with folks in chat rooms, or with downloaded sexual stories or pornographic pictures or (extremely short, fuzzy) videos. And when you’re 17, interested in exploring this sex thing, but certainly scared of having to be involved with real people who could potentially hurt you, pornography certainly seems like it could have its pluses. And certainly, many folks were very enthusiastic about it. I was so inexperienced and, up till then, sheltered that as regards sexuality I felt like an alien dropping into an entirely new world. I took it on faith that the idea of pornography I saw online was the truth.

There was this concept that I now think of as the Utopian Promise of Porn. Oh my, yes. I recall being told by many people that porn was a good thing because it could be a teaching tool for people who didn’t know how to please each other in bed, or who wanted to learn new ways to please each other. I remember being told that porn was just “hot” or arousing, or pleasurable to watch, or funny. I recall being told that there was good woman-centered porn that was respectful of women, even orchestrated by women. I seem to recall a lot of claims like these that added up to the Utopian Promise of Porn. But I never actually saw pornography that lived up to this Promise.

After all, as I started off by saying, if you’re using porn as a teaching or learning tool of some kind for real people having real sex together, surely it would be important to include real negotiations, real situations where real people change their mind about sex, and that’s okay, and even still a part of an enjoyable encounter. And although I haven’t seen All Porn Everywhere (thank goodness), I certainly explored enough porn in my late teens and early twenties to know that for all the claims that porn could be a teaching and learning tool, I never saw any that actually taught anything worth learning.

And after a while I started to wonder if I was just somehow always seeing the wrong porn (obviously they were hiding this “good” stuff somewhere I wasn’t seeing). My porn-friendly friends tended to indicate that I was just missing the good stuff, but recommendations always fell just as flat. And so my willingness to be porn-friendly  became a bit strained.

After all, pretty much all the porn I ever saw** showed people in uncomfortable-looking sexual positions, performing sex acts which seemed unlikely to be pleasurable, with poses with camera-friendly, but very much person-unfriendly qualities. Men commonly seemed disdainful, uncomfortable, not particularly aroused (except physically), disconnected. Women were commonly called unpleasant names, or spoken to in disrespectful ways, or dominated unpleasantly, or coerced, or tricked. Or women acted obviously bored, uncomfortable or were actively in discomfort at various points but all without renegotiating, pausing, stopping, changing their minds – a major problem, because it perpetuates the idea that sexual discomfort is unimportant, that women need to “suck it up”, grin and bear it, that it will get better or the pain will pass and pleasure will come, such damaging ideas!

So pornography may well be a teaching or learning tool, but I think the lessons are not as advertised. And I think pornography is powerful because of the ways in which it is used. I think a lot of very well-meaning folks use pornography (where use means masturbate to), see some of the problems inherent in it, but discount the effect of those problems, because after all it’s just something they’re doing by themselves and it doesn’t affect anyone else.

But masturbation is such a powerful thing, too often discounted it seems to me. We are producing in ourselves surges of powerful hormones.

Oxytocin is know as the love hormone. Mothers and babies both have extraordinarily high levels of this hormone in the period just after birth, when they are experiencing a period of powerful bonding, falling in love, and mothers produce oxytocin at lower levels when nursing, reinforcing that bonding, and when they hold their babies skin to skin. Oxytocin is one of nature’s answers to getting babies through the difficult period of dependent infancy – it has to be powerful to counteract all the work that babies take (remember that it isn’t just humans that have babies). It’s also the hormone we produce when we hug, when we kiss, that wonderful warm feeling we get at those times, and it’s the biggie that we produce when we orgasm.

And so it seems to me that we are fooling ourselves if we think we can repeatedly orgasm, producing high levels of a powerful bonding, falling-in-love hormone, in response to portrayals of sex including disrespect, coercion, lack of connection, possibly even pain, and not have that affect us, perhaps profoundly.

This is such an uncomfortable idea.

In part that is because of course we’re societally also very used to the idea that masturbation is somehow difficult or impossible without pornography, combined with the idea that masturbation is necessary and/or good for you. And I guess, right now, I don’t have an answer or even much to say about that, except what I’ve already said. I don’t know that difficult problems have easy solutions, since if they did they wouldn’t be difficult, or uncomfortable, or problems (assuming this is a problem – I’m not sure).

There’s a whole lot more I could say about pornography, about the problematic aspects of the production of pornography (there are many), or more about the portrayals (lots of problems there too), or my own use of pornography, but this post is already rather long.

What do you think? Due to spam problems, all comments are moderated, but I’m busy with my 6-month-old baby, so give me a couple hours to respond – sorry about that!

* If your first response is something along the lines of “but it’s a fantasy” or “it’s an ideal”, well, isn’t that just the point? Wouldn’t sex ideally include people being free to change their minds? And wouldn’t sex where people changed their minds and negotiated different ways of being together than they first intended ideally still have the potential to be awesome?

** A lot, primarily heterosexual in focus, but not entirely. Let me state for the record, if it’s not clear, the fact that I am not looking for recommendations for porn that fulfills the Utopian Promise of Porn. Hey, maybe you found the perfect portrayal of consensual sex between two (or more) people. I don’t know. Perhaps its possible. But a) I think, based on what I’ve seen, that it’s very very unlikely, and b) this theatre is no longer screening films or images of this type, thankyouanyway. Besides which, the existence of one or more films or images fulfilling the Utopian Promise of Porn doesn’t eradicate the vast majority of porn which don’t. Exceptions don’t prove rules.

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Yet another post about keywords, sort of

In which I answer the many questions posed on search engines that lead folks here. ‘Cause hey, it’s better than no post at all. Perhaps we’ll make this a regular feature? Because after all, I need to be even further up in the search engine results for “ejaculation” than I already am.

“can you get pregnant from post-ejaculation”

Yes, technically you can. Post-ejaculate can contain sperm, and as everyone keeps on saying, it only takes one. This is technically true, but realistically the reason there are so many sperm involved in an ejaculation is that it takes a lot more than one in most situations. Sperm are fragile little critters, and ova don’t succumb to the first sperm to show up in their neighbourhood in most situations – it takes the combined efforts of many sperm to produce enzymes to break down the proteins around the ovum so that conception can take place. And of course, no amount of ejaculate, including pre- or post- will get a woman pregnant if she isn’t in or near the fertile time in her cycle, which doesn’t help if she doesn’t know when that is, or if her cycle is irregular or unpredictable.

Still, I can only assume from the question that pregnancy is an unwanted consequence, in which case, it’s better to be ridiculously careful than cavalier.

“i’m 8 week pregnent can i have sex with my patner”

If you do not have a history of early miscarriage (more than a couple) then there’s no reason why you can’t have sex with your partner.  Enjoy!

But for any partner-folk who show up here to get ammunition in their strange “battle” to have sex with partners who don’t want to have sex and are claiming pregnancy as an excuse, just because you can have sex doesn’t mean that you have to. Let’s be absolutely clear that absolutely everybody can refuse to have sex at absolutely any time for absolutely any reason, and nobody has any obligation to have sex or continue sex, ever. If either partner is feeling squoogy on the topic of sex during pregnancy for any reason, that’s okay. We’re all complicated folks with complicated internal worlds, and pregnancy is an odd time – full of upheaval and change. Sex can become less of a priority or more of a priority for both or either or any partner during that time and kindness and communication should always be a primary response. Coercion is a poor sexual response.

“can a woman get pregnant after her cycle”

What does “after her cycle” mean?  Women can get pregnant if they have intercourse during or slightly before the fertile time in their cycle. This fertile time varies from woman to woman, and even from cycle to cycle for, so more information is needed to evaluate this question.

“can you get pregnant if his ejaculation is inserted in you with your fingers”

Yes. In fact, I’d say that this is a better chance than the scenario above with post-ejaculate. Look folks, if you don’t want a pregnancy to happen, the best bet is to keep male ejaculate away from female genitalia. It’s just that simple. There’s lots of ways to do that, including condoms both male and female, celibacy, and lots and lots of kinds of non-penis-in-vagina (PIV) sexual acts.

“i had sex on the 8th day of my cycle and the condom burst but there was no ejaculation is there a high chance i could be pregnant?”

This timing depends on you and your cycle, so there’s no hard and fast answer here. Every woman’s cycle is different, and if you don’t believe me join Fertility Friend (it’s free for the basic services) and check out their excellent Chart Gallery. If you’re like me with a longer cycle and later ovulation (day 19 or thereabouts) then there isn’t a high chance of pregnancy from even ejaculatory sex on day 8. If you’re the stereotypical average woman who ovulates on day 14, there’s still little risk, even from ejaculatory sex, since most sperm live no longer than 5 days (and 5 days is only likely if there is fertile cervical mucous). If you ovulate on day 10, however, ejaculatory sex would not be your pregnancy-avoiding friend.

Of course, if there was no ejaculation, then it depends on how likely it is that there was sperm in your partner’s pre-ejaculate. If he hasn’t ejaculated in at least three days, then the chance of there being live and viable sperm in his pre-ejaculate is very slim (not none, but pretty darn low). If he has ejaculated within three days, then there is a greater likelihood of their being viable sperm.

Combine these two factors – your own cycle and your partner’s ejaculatory history – and you get your answer.

None of which answers the question of STDs, just pregnancy. It’s a lot easier to pick up an STD from unintentionally unprotected sex, so if your partner isn’t someone you regularly have sex with, and/or if you are not currently monogamous, testing is a good idea, as well as letting any other current sexual partners know about the situation, before you have unprotected sex with them.

“will my breasts go droopy after an abortion?”

An abortion will not cause your breasts to change.

However, a pregnancy will. Breast changes are one of the earliest signs of pregnancy for many women, including breast growth and increased breast fullness. Pregnancy also causes relaxation of the ligaments that support your breasts – though this is more pronounced later in pregnancy.

When your pregnancy ends those changes will reverse, which can mean feelings of less fullness, smaller breasts and a bit of, yes, breast droopage or sag. Some women will notice changes like these and some women won’t. It’s a very individual thing.

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Choice and Gender

This is an older post that I’m reposting from my personal blog.

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I spent some of my break-time reading this post over on Alas, a Blog, ostensibly on the concept of “Choice for Men” (i.e., the choice of men to decide post-conception not to support children they participate in creating). I’d be more in favour of something like this if they were asking for the ability to officially declare this preference prior to having sex, and back it up with sterilization, and then not pay child support, but hey, that’s me. Regardless, the vitriole and fuzzy logic can be interesting and instructive.

Here’s how choice regarding conception and birth go for men and for women, ‘kay? And I dig that I’m talking about ideal human relationships where neither party is being coherced into sexual activity, people actually think about this stuff instead of just rut like bunnies, and both parties are respectful of each other.

First off there’s the near infinite time period prior to engaging in sexual activity for both parties to decide a) whether or not they want to have sex with someone of the opposite sex, b) what sorts of sex (vaginal vs. non-vaginal to have) and c) what sorts of contraception to utilize. They can also meet each other and talk about these issues together.

Men and Women have equal potential ability (in a relatively perfect world without abusive relationships/etc.) to choose not to be responsible to a child during this time period. Men and Women do have different options for contraception which is caused caused by both biology and politics. However, they do have three options to choose from in common which virtually guarantee a lack of responsibility to possible future children in this time period: not having sex, not having vaginal sex, and being permanently surgically sterilized (tubal ligation and vasectomy).

Then there’s the time period of the sex act itself. Men and Women have different choices that they can make during this time. Women get to choose whether to have vaginal sex, whether to have vaginal sex during what may be a more fertile time for them, whether to have vaginal sex with a fertile man (vs. a provably sterile one), whether to use condoms or a diaphragm or another barrier method, whether to use spermicides, whether to have the male ejaculate in her vagina or not, and so on. Men get to choose whether to have vaginal sex, whether to have vaginal sex with a fertile woman (vs. a probably sterile one), whether to use condoms or another barrier method, whether to use spermicides, whether to ejaculate inside the woman’s vagina, and so on.

Of course, all of these choices have varying degrees of risk for pregnancy, and the people involved in the act choose their own level of risk. Obviously, a man and a woman relying on the withdrawal method alone for contraception have a higher acceptable level of risk than does a couple relying on oral contraception, condoms and withdrawal together. Ostensibly, this means that one couple is demonstrating greater reluctance to support a child.

Post-ejaculation/sex, the man no longer has any options for whether or not he’s willing to create a new life. Sorry, it sucks, but hey, that’s how biology works. Pregnancy is a thing that occurs in a woman’s body. Men don’t get to say what happens in/to women’s bodies.

Post-sex, women have the choice (at least in Canada) to use at least two varieties of morning-after pill, if they feel their precautions weren’t sufficient or broke down at some point in the process.

They can also, should they end up pregnant, choose one of several methods of abortion (if it’s accessible/affordable/safe in their area) should they not wish to carry the pregnancy through to term for any reason. I’m not sure when their legal right to do this ends in all areas, but in North America it’s usually somewhere between three months and just pre-birth.

Yup, this is a choice that women have that men don’t, but then, men don’t get pregnant. This doesn’t mean that in this ideal and respectful situation men can’t talk to women about what choices are and so on. But as one man said, men can only really be pro-support, not pro-choice. This means they can only choose to either support a woman’s decisions either way, or not, because the choice isn’t theirs to make.

This means that women have a longer period of time to make a choice about whether or not to support a possible child. Please note that this longer period of time is really only three to nine months longer. Considering that both parties have the near-infinite period of time prior to having sex in common to make that choice, and that this longer period of time is based in the reality of biology – women get pregnant and men don’t – this isn’t really unfair.

And yes, women can choose to give babies up for adoption post-birth (which requires the father to also give consent for this, if he can be found, usually). Realistically, this doesn’t often happen, just as abortion doesn’t often happen. Most unexpected pregnancies become births and babies, not abortions.

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My Journey to Feminism, part 1

When I was young I was brought up with the general idea that that whole sexism thing was over and done with and we didn’t need to worry about it anymore. This left me pretty unprepared for and ill-equipped to deal with the misogyny inherent in North American popular culture. Every time I ran up against sexism I just chalked it up to some kind of bizarre holdover from a previous era, and thought that likely the person just didn’t realize what they were saying or hadn’t meant it or that they were isolated in their sexist beliefs.

Like many young women of my generation I was indoctrinated by my peers and by the social atmosphere of schooling into believing that “feminist” was practically a dirty word and an insult. This wasn’t entirely conscious, but I do remember being tauntingly asked if I was one of those feminists and defensively declaiming the possibility; “Me? No! Of course not… I just believe that… *insert blatantly feminist belief here*.”

I was raised by two parents who took a mostly egalitarian (and in fact feminist, though they wouldn’t have called it that) view of gender relationships.

In our household and on the farm we lived on, my mother did the things she was good at and enjoyed, like gardening, cooking, mowing, irrigation, fruit picking, canning, preserving, childrearing, sewing, and knitting (she’s an incredibly talented knitter and sewer).

My father did the things he was good at and enjoyed, like chopping firewood, fruit picking, cooking, car repair, vacuuming, dusting, childrearing, pruning, and plumbing.

The necessary tasks that nobody enjoyed, like dishes, were split relatively evenly (though perhaps a little heavily on my mother’s side, because hey I’m not trying to pretend I lived in a feminist utopia). The most important thing in all of this is that I never got the idea from them that things were divided up the way they were because that was the way it had to be. While it’s true that many of my parents tasks were divided along traditionally gendered lines, they never communicated to me that this was why they were divided that way.

Then I went out into the so-called “real” world.

And you know, it wasn’t quite the egalitarian utopia I’d been brought up to expect. I met people with such complicated ideas of gender relations that I felt completely out of place and confused. Why on earth should this or that be true of me just because I am biologically female? It made no sense. But because I wasn’t brought up with the language of feminism I didn’t even have the tools to express what I was experiencing.

For example, when I was in a relationship with a man who insisted that having sex at a certain frequency (defined by him) was pretty much his right and my responsibility, I couldn’t figure out how to express what was so wrong about that. The thing is, when he wasn’t bullying me about his sexual needs and actually acted in ways more in keeping with his ideals (which were definitely proto-feminist, though he preferred the term “egalitarian”), neither could he. Yet, at some level, we both knew that it there was something wrong with that dynamic, even if we couldn’t express it or figure it out.

No amount of discomfort stopped the bullying from going on, of course, though only for a couple of months because I broke up with him soon after that began. It occurs to me now that the hardest bits of privilege for men to let go of sometimes seem to be the ones related to being able to treat sex with women as an inherent manly right. Frankly, coerced sex with a less-than-willing partner certainly seems pretty unattractive to me. Perhaps it is only in comparison to the perceived possibility of no sex at all that this sounds good.

I’ll leave the journey here at the point of confused non-comprehension, because after all, it’s late, and I do have work tomorrow. But I promise promise promise (mainly to myself) to continue this very soon indeed.

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It happened then, why is it still happening now?

So I was catching up on my blog reading after a couple of busy weeks when I ran across this post: Lord of the flies, over at I blame the patriarchy. Yeah, too true.

I remember all too well the near constant sexual harrassment that I and others endured at high school. In the course of my grade 8 and grade 9 years (I was aged 12-14 at this time) I endured the following:

  • being touched and grabbed on the bum and the breast by boys I hadn’t invited to touch me there, who were touching me only to humiliate me and make me feel bad and to assert their own power;
  • having signs posted on my back in classes and in the hallways, the most memorable of which read, “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw!”;
  • general rude unsolicited comments about my body to do with the fact that by god I had *breasts* (A-cup, fer gawd’s sakes) and my breasts *moved* when I walked or ran (like any other normal part of my body), also, if I wore a bra, that I was wearing a *bra* and this meant that I was all ready for sex (hmm, might this have something to do with my dislike of bras? other than the uncomfortableness, of course);
  • general rude unsolicited comments about my body to do with the fact that I was wearing a menstrual pad and they could see that through my clothing and did I like having something touching me “down there”;
  • general rude unsolicited suggestions that what I really needed was a good fuck, or to suck them, and that would make me happy; and so on.

At the time I walked around in a state of near-constant baffled suppressed rage, ignoring everybody and jumping down everybody’s throat (whether they were nice or not) if they tried to talk to me, because they might just be pretending to be nice so they could get close enough to harrass me some more, as happened when I started receiving “love notes” from a boy, and then a phone call at home which quickly turned to “You have great tits.” and similar not particularly complimentary comments. However true that might have been (and fer gawd’s sakes, I was 13 and had not much in the way of breasts one way or another), it was still unwelcome, and the choice of language used didn’t portend respect or hope for a relationship. I just hung up, and then endured being teased about how so-and-so “liked” me and I was mean not to go out with him for the next two weeks.

I didn’t tell my parents about much of this because I knew that even though they loved me fiercely they were ineffectual on the topic of bullying, having both been bullied as kids themselves, and knowing about my bullying just brought that back for them. Their saddened advice was always just to ignore them and not give them the satisfaction and eventually they’d go away. But this didn’t address the fact that a) it was impossible to really ignore them when they were touching me without somehow giving them tacit permission to do so, b) I didn’t really know and neither, I think, did they what ignoring them really meant (not reacting outwardly? not hearing them at all? walking right past them when they’re taunting you? avoiding the places where they would be and where the harrassment would occur?) and c) ignoring them didn’t work and they didn’t go away. They just tried harder and harder to get a reaction to know that they’d won.

In fact, in putting the pieces together now from a more educated feminist perspective, my weirdness and antisociality in high school is pretty understandable. And you know? I wasn’t over-reacting, or making much of something that didn’t matter. It mattered. It matters now and it’s still happening. The more I learn the more I get actually seriously angry. But it’s a very freeing anger. The anger of my teenage years was often anger at myself for doing something wrong that made the harrassment happen, or for not being able to make it stop, which is a very hard anger to live with.

I just want to add to all of this, perhaps defensively (I acknowledge), please don’t comment with some dismissive comment about how you would have done this or that or the other and the situation would have disappeared *poof* and that’s what I should have done. You know, when I was a shy, lonely, harassed 12-14-year-old. I get that there are reasons I was harrassed more than some people and was more sensitive to it (or perhaps the word is “conscious”) but that doesn’t make it my fault, or okay. The idea that every young woman has to have superior harrassment-evasion techniques mastered by the age of 12 or she deserves what she gets is ridiculous and only comes out of the fact that we take it for granted that young men will sexually harrass them, as unpredictably but inevitably as the rain. This attitude releases them from all responsibility.

*deep breath*

Also, boys, I would just like to give you this gift when wading into feminist arenas/debates/spaces. It will serve you well. Just remember the following: If it’s not about you, it’s not about you.

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