The system is broken if it doesn’t leave people whole – Part 2

Previously: Part 1: I maunder on about my experiences as a doula

I’m making this all sound a little grim, that’s because it is a grim business and the statistics bear that out. In British Columbia, where I live, the current c-section rate is over 30%. It’s not a stretch to suggest that for every three women who give birth in this province, one will end up with major abdominal surgery. This is not a supportable rate. The World Health Organization recommends that a reasonable c-section rate should be no more than 5-10%, and this rate has been shown repeatedly to produce the best outcomes for mothers and babies.

Now if a reasonable rate with the best outcomes is 5-10% and our current rate is over 30% then 20-25% of birthing women are having unnecessary surgery.

Let me repeat that.

The medical model of birth as practiced in British Columbia (and the rest of Canada and much of the United States) results in 20-25% of all birthing women, perhaps as many as 1 in 4, having unnecessary surgery. 2/3rds or more of the c-sections performed do not improve outcomes for mothers and babies.

And of course, it’s not as though the women who are giving birth vaginally are getting off scott free in this system. They’re birthing under the ever present threat of major abdominal surgery, for one thing. Forceps and Vacuum extractor are used 3.4% and 6.3% of the time, so that means another 10% of women at the very least are having episiotomies and having their babies pulled out with varying degrees of skill. 45% of women have epidural anesthesia, which is certainly successful, most of the time, at blocking sensation, but also makes far more likely the perceived need for “augmentation” of labour, including artificial rupture of membranes and pitocin augmentation – I couldn’t find a rate for pitocin usage, but it tends to be fairly high, often as much as twice as high as the c-section rate. 21% of women in BC also have their labour artificially “induced”.

Women are having pretty awful birth experiences. Not universally, of course. But a lot of them.

I used to explain to people how the cascade of interventions worked, how one intervention would lead to another and then another, and how one simple bad decision on the decision tree could lead to a seemingly necessary (but really unnecessary) c-section. And in my explanation, I’d pile them on a little. My hypothetical birthing women experienced as much intervention as I could believably throw at them in order to demonstrate the point.

And people were a little disbelieving. Who could blame them? It does seem a little outrageous that doctors, who are in the main probably well-meaning people, could end up performing unnecessary major abdominal surgery on one fifth to a quarter of their healthy birthing patients.

But the problem with my hypothetical is I saw it played out or heard about it played out in almost exactly the ways I’d described far too many times. It wasn’t just an illustrative fiction, it was a common reality.

Next: Part 3: Illustrative Non-Fiction
Part 4: The more things don’t change
Part 5: The system is broken. What next?

Comments off

The system is broken if it doesn’t leave people whole – Part 1

The medical model of childbirth. Don’t doubt that it is broken, perhaps from the very beginning, right to the core.

When I was just getting started with this birthing thing I was pretty enthusiastic. I did a lot of reading. I wrote optimistic essays about birthing choices for my shockingly bad website. I tried to be a doula, though I’m not sure I was ever a particularly good one. I went to conferences and training days by the dozen. I believed that I could make a difference. I believed that positive change was inevitable, that the facts were lining up and soon everyone would have to agree on the appropriate approach. All we had to do was be firm, keep tabulating research, and make it available. Wait the change out and it would happen.

But as I say, I was a perhaps not very good doula, and in the main the births I ended up attending were those of strangers, often strangers that I hadn’t met before I found them in the labour and delivery room at a local hospital (ah, the free referral service of the local doula organization), and by the time I got there things were already on their downward spiral. The induction was on and it was only a matter of time before someone became exhausted and bored and suggested a c-section. Hapless women of colour with poor english and their equally hapless husbands and partners were funnelled through to the operating room and for all my enthusiastic soothing and panting and rocking and walking and changing positions there was nothing I could do to change it.

In all the births I attended at that time, there were only two decent ones, one a homebirth, the other a hospital birth, older white mothers full of determination. They knew what they wanted. They fought for it, and they were very clear about what they wanted from me. So, it worked, you see. They had the education, experience, determination and white privilege to get what they wanted, a birth that wasn’t abusive or horrible. It certainly helped that they were women having second babies, as second babies are always more responsive to the arbitrary timelines of the medical model. It was a gift to be their doula, it really was.

In between births I did postpartum doula work, some volunteer, some for a pretty good wage. Here too I could see how damaging the medical model was. One young woman I was helping for free was in Canada alone, her husband in Malaysia waiting on his visa application. She’d given birth alone, a young non-white woman with no apparent partner and poor english. She’d had a good nurse, she felt, but the doctor, a woman, was rough and impatient with her, and had performed an episiotomy that resulted in a fourth degree tear, very painful and with a difficult and perhaps surgical recovery.

Another woman I served for a few weeks, helping out through the nights, had been pregnant with twins. Her babies were delivered via c-section, for no other reason than that they were twins. She was struggling with the continuing pain of her incision, not being able to breastfeed her son, who wouldn’t latch and would only take a bottle, and pumping around the clock to supply them both with breastmilk. She was exhausted.

Another woman was in Canada from England, but was not yet covered by MSP. The doctor she saw would not permit her to attempt a trial of labour after her previous c-section, so she was forced to undergo another surgery and pay for the entire thing out of pocket as well.

I was called to help with breastfeeding with another older couple, who gave birth at home with registered midwives. She had a tear which required stitching and while the midwives were stitching it up they kept the baby in another room away from her. For an hour and a half. The first time she tried to breastfeed after her birth her baby was already through its wide awake period and slept instead. Two days later, still not nursing.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that after a few months of thinking about birth! and babies! with stars in my eyes! and then attending a weekend workshop in which women imagined awesome births and inspirational stories were told by the doula instructors of how they had saved women’s births and so on, I somehow plunged headfirst into the deep end of how awful and how broken the medical model of birth really is.

Next: Part 2: Statistics
Part 3: Illustrative Non-Fiction
Part 4: The more things don’t change
Part 5: The system is broken. What next?

Comments (2)

Let’s not forget who actually delivered the baby

Saw coverage on the news of a super fast unintended homebirth (17 minutes post-911 call), attended at the last moment by a police officer who lived in the neighborhood. The coverage took the tack that this sort of coverage always seems to take: Police Officer Delivers Baby! It is her first delivery! The police officer was even heard to utter that she’d helped the father out, that it was a “Two-Man Job”.

Notice whose work and contribution is completely erased here? The mother.

The woman who pushed a baby out of her body with a muscle that, at full-term pregnancy, is the largest and strongest muscle in the human body. The woman whose body incredibly stretched enough to carry a baby inside, and to allow passage of a baby out, and which will now heal and return to its orignal shape. The woman who experienced whatever pain or intensity there was to experience in the delivery. The woman who had already been carrying and nourishing this baby for nine months and experiencing whatever physical discomfort (and/or pleasure) might have been involved in that for her. That woman.

Let’s be absolutely clear here: this mother DELIVERED her baby. If both the police officer and the father had not been present, the baby would still have been born. That’s the truth.

Comments off

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.

Comments (1)

2 out of ~350

It just occurred to me that one of the odder anecdotes about my life that I don’t think I’ve commonly recounted is that when I was a “troubled teen” with self-harming issues I was, out of the blue, given the opportunity to go to feminist girl camp (for girls 13-17, I think).

It was a couple of days with a bunch of other teenaged girls at a local camp with only a few women mentors. There was a self-defense workshop; the specific methods I remember learning there are actually clearer in my mind than the ones I learned in four years of karate training. There were all sorts of workshops on topics related to self esteem, self confidence, overcoming eating disorders, depression, suicide. There were job and career counselling sessions.

There was some kind of workshop for coming up with a message or greeting to send to the upcoming 4th World Conference of Women, and encouragement was huge to find some way to attend the conference in person – recommendations on finding sponsorship in your community, and so on. It was absolutely assumed that wonderful things would come out of that conference and that it was a given that anyone would want to be there.

There were movies in the evening, a choice of Fried Green Tomatoes and Joy Luck Club, and just lots of sitting around chatting with other girls in a context where our experiences as people were important, were valued, where we were assumed to have interesting thoughts ourselves, where we weren’t assumed to have value based only on what we brought to the table in performed femininity.

All of the girls wandered around in what seemed to be the uniform for the event – loose flannel or cotton knit pyjama pants and loose t-shirts – I can’t remember if this was a recommended ensemble, but I think it was. It gave a pyjama party feeling to the whole thing. There was very little supervision, but there was this strangely earnest quality to the whole event. This was a refreshing break from our day to day lives, and I had the feeling that we, in general, knew how precious that was.

If this sounds a little bit too good to be true, I assure you it felt that way at the time. I wandered through the event shy but strangely outgoing at the same time. I was comfortable in the uniform, comfortable with the company, intrigued by the messaging. Surrounded by young women like myself I felt very free – it was a huge relief from the sexual bullying I was experiencing in school at that time.

And I won’t say that this one weekend changed my life profoundly. How could it, when I had to leave this and go back to my same old life, called a dyke by people who clearly thought that was an insult, threatened with sexually explicit violence in notes taped to my back or my locker or slipped into my binder, verbally and physically bullied in the hallways at school, groped by the asshole whose locker was near mine (and who, strangely, is one of the very few of my graduating class who was dead by our ten-year reunion – I’m still processing that one).

But it was a gift. It was a start. It was a moment. And it was important.

And that’s where we get to the two out of approximately 350, because that’s how many teenaged girls in my school got to go to this event that year. And everyone who didn’t go didn’t get told that there was a women’s conference in China, and that they should go, and that if they went they could make a difference in the world, that they were agents of powerful change in their communities. And that’s too bad.

Comments (2)

Days late, but still pertinent

Hey, did you know that the latest resurrected Carnival of Feminists is up? True ’nuff, it is! Birthcycle got a nod, and there are other interestin’ posts, so go check it out.

Comments off

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.

Comments (16)

Babies and the Cultural Performance of Femininity

Babies. I recently birthed one. A boy, which surprised me far more than I thought it would, but nonetheless a welcome and planned little bundle.

On the whole, parenting a new baby has been pretty much exactly the way I thought it would be. And I’m growing to like his little self very well. He loves to laugh, loves to smile, loves to just sit back and watch the world and and he seems to find each and every moment and individual to be utterly delightful. He has no inhibitions.

But here’s the thing I’ve been thinking a lot about babies: boy or girl, babies “perform femininity” with ease. Think about it; the cultural performance of feminity involves conforming to and producing the following markers, among others:

  • hairlessness,
  • softness,
  • vulnerability,
  • lack of obvious muscularity,
  • helplessness,
  • higher voices,
  • emotional lability,
  • dependence,
  • confusion regarding complex issues,
  • physical weakness, and
  • to a certain extent, paleness of skin relative to other individuals of the same ethnic background (this is an intersection of performed femininity, racist assumptions re: beauty, and classism).

Babies are, according to our assumptions regarding what feminine is, remarkable feminine, and without even trying.

Now, on the one hand that says a lot about what women are expected to perform when they’re expected to perform femininity. Feminine performance is, to a certain extent, infantilizing for women.

But, on the other hand, it helps to explain to me why folks are so very caught up in making sure little baby boys are dressed up and recognizable as boys. Their essential  femininity must be masked.

This is absolutely essential for some folks, and I can’t help but wonder if the sheer obviousness of their femininity isn’t part of why it sometimes seems like people need to go so far in the violently oppressively masculine direction with boys – not just blue as a neutral and value-less identifier of gender, but blue with sharks (killers in the ocean), blue with depictions of violent sport (war games, with many real life injuries), camoflage for calling up images of war – people killing each other, with guns, often at close range, to be clear about what that imagery is about. On baby clothes.

Comments (3)

A post that never got posted, June 13, 2006: Fat

(I’ve been writing this entry, off and on, for most of a month now.)I have tried to rejoice in the body I had. I’ve tried very hard. But in the end I fell into the same trap, that of excusing my fatness by comparing it to the fatness of others. You know that one, the “I’m chubby, but I’m not as fat as/fat in the same way as so-and-so. And, you know, I exercise, and eat healthy… so…”All of which really means, “I’m fat, but I have a good attitude, and it’s not like I’m *trying* to be fat, so you should all forgive me and treat me in the privileged way you treat skinny people.”I’ve never dieted, officially. There are a lot of reasons why that’s pointless and punishing. I can honestly say that I have no real idea what I weigh right now. Something over 200 lbs, I think, but beyond that I don’t know.Of course, having said that, I’ve had days where I secretly rejoiced in the fact that I had eaten less, or nothing, or forgotten to eat until evening, as though that made me virtuous. Conversely, on days when I’ve been very snacky, I try to hide this fact from myself (and certainly from others), and felt ashamed, because if I say that I’m eating healthy I can’t possibly slip like that. Whenever I go to someone’s house with a scale, I do weigh myself, but then discount it as unimportant and pat myself on the back for not caring. The process leaves me feeling shaky and uncomfortable, but I do it anyway.

I equated “not dieting” with having a healthy attitude about my weight. I equated not obsessively weighing myself and worrying over any ounce gained or lost with having a healthy attitude about my weight. I equated being comfortable telling people my weight with having a healthy attitude about my weight.

But in revelling in the idea that I was being “good” (not dieting, not being obsessive), and of course revelling in the praise I did receive when I told people my weight (usually along the lines of “Wow! You’d never know you weight that much! You carry it so well!”) I forgot that I really was focusing a lot of energy and concern on exactly the issue I prided myself in not caring about.

And also, in so doing, I still managed to put myself in a place of judgment around other people and their fat. I was “good” because: I wasn’t as fat as they were (some kind of invisible line I always stayed just this side of); I didn’t care about being fat the way they did (not caring is “enlightened”); I wasn’t succumbing to some kind of brainwashing about needing to diet the way they were (I was smarter); etc.

Issues of weight and fat make me feel angry. There are days when I just wish that absolutely would just SHUT UP ABOUT IT ALL ALREADY. I don’t want to hear about your Atkins diet progress or the list of things you’re permitted to eat today. I don’t want to hear anyone say they just want to lose 10 pounds when they’re already beanpole skinny.

I especially don’t want you to tell me that you think I’ve lost weight, and so I look good (this happened just yesterday, actually). On the other hand, sometimes I do. And then I feel guilty for feeling good.

I moved past some of this, but some of it is still current. I’m more confident about my weight (right now probably a bit above 270, including those pounds put on for baby) , and my right to weigh what I weigh and be in the world and take up space. And I’m more and more convinced that our obsession with weight loss as a society has a lot to do with shutting women up (and down) and making sure their focus isn’t on anything important or radical. I still don’t always know how to talk to other people about weight, about their weight, about issues to do with weight, and I managed to get into a huge fight with my sister on the topic of weight over the summer – she was trying to play devil’s advocate to my HAES, who are we to judge, etc., screed. I really wanted to say, “Look, you *can’t* play devil’s advocate by parroting back everything that the mainstream says. I’m the bleedin’ devil’s advocate here!” but instead we just yelled at each other and cried a lot and I wish it hadn’t gone that way.

And I’m trying to find that balance between empathizing with folks re: their unhappiness about weight – “You’re right, it sucks when you don’t have clothes that fit. That feels very frustrating.” – so that they feel heard, and yet not compromising on the basics – “If your clothes don’t fit, it’s time to get clothes that do fit.” rather than “If your clothes don’t fit, it’s totally reasonable to try dieting until they do.” This stuff feels especially hard with family, because these are the folks who I love, and who I know love me and have actually never criticized me for being fat or encouraged me to diet except in the backhanded “You look great, have you lost weight?” way. So I can’t be quite as flippant as I am with some other folks: “I just want to lose 10 pounds.” “Really? *looks them up and down* Your leg below the knee should do it.”

And pregnancy, by heck, is a full-on adventure in body acceptance every day. As a pregnant fat person I’ve been struggling with finding comfortable clothes that fit, struggling with finding representations of my body in pregnancy illustrations (all pregnant women apparently start out slightly underweight and have no discernible fat layer, aside from breasts), and struggling with my own body image not quite being what my current reality is.

And every pregnancy site on the web is full of exhortations not to gain too much weight or it’ll be hard to drop those pounds later. I find myself completely unworried on the topic of the weight I’m gaining (it’s clearly going to a good purpose), almost completely unworried on the topic of my exciting new collection of stretch marks (a good purpose, again, has clearly been served, despite the actual physical discomfort of popping new stretch marks), and yet strangely weirded out and uncomfortable with my entirely benign and non-painful little wobbly belly underneath my firm pregnancy belly. It’s the same old wobbly belly pooch I had when I was just a non-pregnant fatty, and I was fine with it then, but somehow it’s different in its current position, and I’m not sure I could explain why. Ah well.

This post = much rambling, and I’m not sure if there’s a point. But does there really need to be?

Comments (3)

A post that never got posted, August 16, 2006: “Yes”

Yes. I want to have a baby, to have a child. I want to be pregnant, put all my attention and care into my health and diet and connecting with a new life. I want to invite a soul in and watch it grow. I want to feel and watch my body change. I want to give birth exultantly, however that happens, whether painfully or pain-free, whether a short labour or long. I want to catch a baby with my own hands and look into its eyes soon after it is borne, to nurse it when it is ready and to birth a placenta still attached.I want to nurse and carry and snuggle that baby, to sleep beside it at night and hold it in my arms during the day, to keep it clean and dry and warm and comfortable and respect its needs and timetable.I want to do all of these things. And I will.

And now, I am.

Comments (1)

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.

Comments off

Jumping on the Technorati bandwagon

Although considering the frequency of my posting, that’s probably fairly silly.

Still, here’s the requisite link to my Technorati Profile.

Comments off

They search for “utopia sex normal” and end up here.

So I was looking through my site statistics for this blog. Certainly at the rate I post I don’t deserve to get any traffic whatsoever. Nonetheless I get a fair bit considering I haven’t posted since October. But some of the search phrases are heartbreaking. It makes me wonder if anything I’ve written here helps in any way, or if it changes anything. I guess that’s one of the things I just can’t know, but it’s interesting. The internet so changes our potential reach as human beings. The world is no longer bounded by location and distance.

Of course, there are many which have very direct and obvious connections to specific posts. Others seem a little less related, but somehow someone got here anyway. These also range from the tenderly young and honest, to the profound, to the pedestrian and ordinary, to the benignly bizarre, and thence of course (because it is the internet after all) to the kinda twisted and distressing.

Here they are, listed by my best guess at connected posts:

Yesterday I felt entirely right in my body, and
If you’re reading my blog I’m assuming that I’m the fat person you like

  • i didnt feel good yesterday
  • what to say when people say you ve lost weight
  • why fatness (Because.)
  • fatness – what could be done (Both so little and so much. We could all work to be a little less fat-phobic as a society. Then we could, as a society, try to heal our injurred relationship with body, sexuality, food and love. That would be a start.)
  • pleasurable person.
  • how to gain pleasure plumpness and be happy (I want to write this book now.)
  • softness plumpness and curves
  • shape description fatness
  • inviting curves
  • loving fatness
  • love plump belly (Plump belly is by far the most common search term for the site, which rather amuses me.)
  • belly fatness
  • fatness belly
  • i love plump round bellies
  • my plump belly
  • love plump belly
  • round tummy
  • yesterday belly mirror
  • you have become so fat tummy plump
  • ways to plump up your girlfriend in the belly (Is this a euphemism for pregnancy? Or just what it sounds?)
  • love a plump belly
  • cuddling boyfriend s tummy belly
  • boyfriend i love his belly tummy
  • plump belly breasts love
  • i went to touch her belly and it was fat
  • cuddle up behind smooth bottom
  • my girlfriend doesn t like me to touch her breasts (Then it would be a good idea to not touch her breasts.)
  • where my girlfriend would like to be touched on her body (I’m going to parrot Dan Savage at this point and say “Ask her. Then respect what she says.”)
  • why do my breasts became soft after my boyfriend touched it
  • i love my breasts
  • soft plump girlfriend
  • love-my-breasts health
  • i love my breasts
  • her breast in my hand
  • why arent my breasts fully round (Because breasts, in general, aren’t.)
  • touching girlfriend breasts
  • my breasts change shape when my nipples are erect
  • is less erect breast nipples a sign of menopause (I don’t honestly know the answer to this one.)
  • he likes me more than i like him (I feel for you, that’s a hard place to be.)
  • diets for plumpness
  • how to be a confident androgynous person
  • fatness attractiveness
  • i feel uncomfortable in clothes because of my fatness
  • she eats like a pig (I wonder what this person was really looking for?)
  • how do you know if you re fat? (Oh, if you’re very lucky, people will tell you when haven’t even asked them. Alternatively, you’ll know because they’re assuring you earnestly that you aren’t. It’s okay, though, fat’s just a word and someone’s gotta claim it.)
  • i m the fat person in the family
  • im 20 years old and im 160 pounds how much is my fat (Not enough data. Do you identify as fat?)
  • fatness reasons

Access to Plan B

  • my breasts started drooping after morning after pill
  • contraception – is it really three days?
  • plan b and menstrual cycle
  • my condom slipped off and my girlfriend took plan b within 24 hours
  • gravol abortion
  • abortion and gravol
  • prescription
  • plan b-taking both pills at the same time
  • plan b changed my cycle
  • during sexual intercourse with my boyfriend how was high..the condom came off am i pregnant? (Only time will. However, if you don’t want to be and the sex was recent (within the last three days), I would encourage you to seek out Plan B. I’m not saying that’s likely to be easy, of course.)
  • canada pictures of walkin clinic
  • morning after pill condom slipped
  • gastric bypass and plan b contraceptive
  • taking plan b at the time you ovulate
  • negatives of plan b over the counter

It happened then, why is it still happening now?

This is the post that seems to come up for the most heartbreaking searches, to whit:

  • how do i make this boy at school stop tpuching me i dont want to tell the teacher
  • how do you stop a boy from touching you inappropriately
  • does sexual harassment still happen nowadays? (I have to tell you it does.)
  • why is sexual harassment still happening (Because of this crazy thing called the Patriarchy which many of us Blame.)
  • work sexual harrass
  • teacher sexually harrassing boy
  • bullying in college
  • made a sexual comment of my body also
  • 5 years old boy sexual harrassed my daughter at school
  • 7 year olds touching private parts (Somehow I have the oogie feeling that this googler doesn’t have the best intentions.)
  • avoiding sexual harrassment at school
  • sexual harrassement breast touching
  • touching inappropriately sexual harrassment
  • sexual harrassment second grade
  • teenage sexual harrassment
  • sexual harrassment in high school
  • my daughter is being teased by boys
  • harrassment at work canada
  • emotionally immature 12 yo boy
  • sexual touching in order to humiliate
  • it happened then it happens now

Choice and Gender

  • how long does post-ejaculation stay in penis (Interesting you should ask, the best medical guess I’ve been able to find is that three days seems to be general time span – so using the withdrawal method if the male partner hasn’t ejaculated within three days is actually much safer pregnancy-wise than otherwise, when there is a far greater chance that there will be live and viable sperm in pre-ejaculate. However, I can’t even find a source for this piece of info (I think I learned that at the SMCR conference), so I wouldn’t base your birth control choices on what some random person says on a blog)
  • post-ejaculation sex
  • is it possible to get pregnant with post-ejaculation
  • show picture of largesr male ejaculation on record (Yeah, I bet they were disappointed to end up here)
  • fertility awareness withdrawal
  • ejaculation inside a woman
  • how many times can a man ejaculate in a three hour time period? (Depends on the man.)
  • post-sex precautions
  • if no conception for years under withdrawal method should I worry (So much of conception depends on when you’re having sex, after all. If you’re wanting to have children now, then now is the time to start planning to have sex at the appropriate fertile times. If you’re not pregnant in six months, but everything on your fertility chart suggests that you are ovulatory, then get your boy’s swimmers tested first. But timing intercourse to coincide with fertility is the biggest thing.
  • contraception near period
  • menstruation ejaculate inside
  • barrier withdrawal conception
  • fertility awareness blog
  • fertility awareness method
  • fertility cycle
  • can women still get pregnant four days after their menstrual

And then there’s the category of weirdness. How did these searches bring people here? I do not know.

  • thought something mattered… it didn t and thought it didn t matter and it did (I’ve been there.)
  • annoyed with people who don t leave comments on blog (If I got annoyed at those people, they’d have every reason to get annoyed at me as a Blogger Who Blogs Irregularly. Can’t have that.)
  • about people who know that what happen now (I don’t even understand the question, sorry.)
  • because happened
  • what is meant to happen is happening (Is that good?)
  • how do you know what you re reading (often because I’m reading it)
  • click
  • something happening now that is bad that people accept (I feel your pain, anonymous googler.)
  • who said still they gaze and still they wonder (I don’t know, but now I wonder too.)
  • what happened on june 7 2007
  • utopia sex normal (I almost want to go google this myself.)
  • my nipples are erect (Okey doke then.)
  • stop shaking when your hungry
  • feminist rage
  • i had intercourse with my mother (I don’t think the internet is going to be the biggest help to you on this one.)
  • bullied women are not attractive (Isn’t this just one of the ultimate antifeminist statements?)
  • airline
  • what happened to the characters from degrassi high (Now you’re making me wonder.)
  • furniture (Seriously, furniture?)
  • toyota
  • medical madness
  • feel the way i felt
  • meaning of threw me for a loop
  • blog (I cannot imagine how many pages of results you had to go through to get here.)

Comments (1)

My discovery of the day, and what you can do about it

Goods 4 Girls.

When I first heard about Tampax and Always donating disposable menstrual supplies to girls in africa who were otherwise using very unsuitable materials or missing school entirely because of their periods my first thought was, “But that doesn’t solve the problem! If anyone’s giving them anything it should be well-sewn reusable cloth pads!”

After all, giving them a tampon or pad here or there doesn’t solve the long-term problem (it’s the old teach a man to fish/give a man a fish problem… kinda), because once used that particular gift cannot be used again. Disposable one-use products keep people dependent on the giver as long as the giver deigns to give, and then back where they started afterwards. They are a problem of disposal in areas without the kind of trash collection that happens here, and even here they’re a problem because they decompose, if at all, only very slowly, and contain chemicals and plastics which are environmentally very problematic. So that seemed to me to be at best only slightly better than no help at all.

Cloth pads seemed like a superior solution, in areas with a dependable water supply for washing anyway. They can last years and years (I’ve been using the same cloth pads for six or seven years now, and I used them travelling in Australia, India, and Japan, soaking and hand-washing as I went and it worked well. It certainly felt more convenient to carry my 6 cloth pads and keeper/diva cup than it did to either carry a pack of disposables (more needed because they’re *not* as absorbent and certainly not reusable) or try to purchase them wherever I was, and then to dispose of them, especially in areas where I knew that the main method of trash disposal was burning.

Well, that’s what Goods 4 Girls is all about – supplying girls with cloth pads. The cloth pads will be collected here in North America (Seattle, WA, actually) and then will be distributed by aid agencies working on the ground in Africa. Check out their frequently asked questions to answer all those nagging questions you have, and then just do it.

There’s a list of pad makers on the site who are eager to help with donations, and a bunch of links to patterns for making them from scratch. After looking through the list, it seems the best bang for your buck for donating is from Dianne’s Diapers. She is local to the main group and will throw in a fifth pad if you buy four for $5.50. That means you can donate 5 pads for only $21 US, no shipping needed. That’s a decent donation!

All of the rest have pads starting at closer to $10-$12, so it costs more for less. Party in my Pants Pads (which name, by the way, I adore for sheer unself-conscious goofiness) will throw in a freebie if you donate two, but with their base price of $12 that means you’re only sending 3 for $24, not quite as good a deal.

Making them yourself would be even cheaper, if you have the time and a good serger and machine.

What I’ve done:

What I’d like you to do:

  • tell other folks
  • donate, some way or another, if you can ($21 for 5, seriously! How can you go wrong?)
  • comment and let me know if you’ve donated or passed it along

Comments (1)

Choice and Gender

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


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.

Comments off

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »