Archive for April, 2012

Sext me, baby

Posted from Recombu:

Y’all need to be a little more careful with your sext messages.  Because they’re goin’ every-which-way.  I won’t lie, I’ve done it too, but I’m pretty darn careful about who is in the send to: line.

sexting infographic


shorts kinda like theseI thought I was just making a healthy, positive decision to bike to my pole dancing class in Cleveland Park.  It was easier and faster than taking the bus, and it would get my muscles warmed up for a good pre-workout stretch.  It was finally warm outside, sun shining bright, pleasant heat but no humidity.  To me, it just made sense to wear my pole shorts for my bike ride (why dirty another pair of clothes?).

What I didn’t expect was the barrage of catcalls, whistles, hooting, and ogling that I got on my two mile ide to the studio.  The first time, I thought it was an anomaly.  When I walk down the street, I try to smile at people and be friendly, so occasionally I will get a leer or whistle from a guy who took my smile as an invitation (This, also, is rape culture, btw).  But after the second and third guy hung their smug heads out the window to holler at me, I realized that it had to do with my shorts.

Ugh.  “Fuck them,” I thought.   I know many women who face street harassment of this variety on a daily basis, because of how much makeup they wear, the attractiveness of their figure, the tightness of their clothes, etc.  Intellectually, I understand that it happens.  Intellectually, I knew it could happen to me too.  Which is why I was angry, but not surprised when it finally happened.

For those of you not familiar with the term rape culture, street harassment is a prime example of it.  My short shorts were seen as an invitation by many men to objectify me and treat me with less courtesy as a normal person.  If I had been a man in bike shorts, this would not have happened.  If I was a woman in capris, this would probably not have happened.  It was specifically the combination of my gender and my outfit that made it acceptable for these men to treat me like I was an object of their spectacle.

A lot of people justify this reaction by saying that I made the choice to wear those shorts, knowing that it invited people to look at the skin they exposed.  This is, in a way, true.  I have a good body.  I don’t blame anyone for looking.  To suggest otherwise would be prudish and absurd.   HOWEVER, to make a connection between gaze and the inherent disrespect of a catcall or wolf-whistle is what constitutes rape culture.

In essence, look all you want, but do not treat me with any less respect as a human being because of the clothes I wear.  You wouldn’t cat-call at your cousin, even if you knew she looked very attractive.  Why?  Because there is a level of respect and distance between you and your cousin, no matter what she is wearing or doing.  That same courtesy should extend to me.  Even if you’ve never met me.  Even if you don’t give a damn about me.

Does this skirt make me look slutty?What really surprised me about this whole incident, however, was the reaction I received from my fellow pole dancers once I arrived at the studio.  None of them were outraged, or even mildly annoyed, by the story I presented.  Most of them shrugged, and my instructor said, “Yeah, you really shouldn’t wear your pole shorts out in public.”

Wait WHAT?  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the most insidious side of rape culture.  It has infiltrated the minds of the people who suffer from it, legitimizing itself and its world order.  My fellow pole dancers, who undoubtedly have suffered street harassment themselves, see my experience as ordinary and acceptable, simply “the way the world is.”  Rather than critique the systems that make it socially acceptable for men to whistle and cat-call at us, they blame their friends for life choices that leave them vulnerable to the system.

I’m sure my pole dancing friends didn’t intentionally blame me for wearing my shorts.  It was meant as a friendly reminder, a suggestion for next time to avoid the hassle.  But in doing so, they reinforce the way that society operates, affirming that men are allowed this indulgence of street harassment.

And that, my friends, is just bullshit.

Because I must end these posts in a prescriptive manner, PLEASE, please with everything you do, think not about how the world does work, but how it should work.  Don’t blame women for the choices they make about their bodies.  Think critically about how society has given men the privilege to demean and objectify us, and make sure your men-folk know that this behavior is NOT OK.


****Note to any trans readers out there, I know this was a very gender-binary article.  I beg your patience in that regard, as I know trans people experience severe street harassment, which deserves equal treatment and attention.  It is, however, a much more complex topic and I felt I could not do it justice.  If someone else is interested in guest blogging about it, I would more than welcome such a submission.  Thank you!

I Feel Good!

I’ve talked a lot in this blog about a pleasure-centered and consent-centered approach to sex: that whatever feels good and is done with the consent of all parties is a good thing for us sexually.  But that becomes a trickier message to convey when we start talking about sex to our kids, our nieces and nephews, and other young adults that “we” are not comfortable thinking about as sexual beings.  And that ends up being unfortunate for everyone, in my opinion.

On one end, I totally sympathize.  It’s awkward and uncomfortable to have a 10 year old kid ask you about sex.  Sex is a complicated topic that a 10 year old is not ready to handle in its entirety.  Even if you’re an open-minded adult who been prepping “The Talk” for your child, you’ll still get thrown off-guard when those questions comes up from someone younger, older, gayer, more emotionally distant, or just different than you were expecting.  How much is too much information?

I think this article from “The Good Men Project” does an amazing job tackling the issue:

So many adults are fearful that telling kids that sex is pleasurable will simply encourage young people to have it before they are physically and emotionally ready for the consequences. Better, they imagine, to emphasize that it’s important to wait and to stress the risks. But as it turns out, centering pleasure is a great way to minimize the chances that a teen will be pressured into doing something that they don’t want to do.

BINGO!  A five year old that asks you about sex is not going to run out an boink the next prepubescent he/she/ze sees if you tell them that sex is about feeling good.  They are just looking for a straight-forward answer, and will probably leave the conversation at that.  But long-term, the messages you send to children about sexuality will stay with them, and help them develop a sexual sense of self thatpostsecret: virginity is centered in what they want and feel, rather than the fear, guilt, and self-sacrifice that can be instilled by other messages.

So let’s break it down.

WHEN YOU SAY…. The implicit messages are…
Wait until marriage. There’s something wrong with sex.  Something about the covenant of marriage makes it ok, but in general, it’s a dirty thing.
You have sex when you love each other. Sex for pleasure is wrong.  It is something you do to show commitment to your partner, and you do it on behalf of them, not for your own enjoyment.
Getting sex will get you pregnant, so you shouldn’t do it. Having sex is irresponsible.
Save yourself for your husband/wife If you “give up” your virginity, you’re worthless to your partner.  Your only value is in your chastity.
You’re not old enough to make that decision; you’re not ready for it.


Having sex is only for adults
Boys won’t respect you if they know you’re easy Sex is inherently shameful; a girl who has sex is worth less than one who is a virgin
There’s only one step between having sex and selling your body. Prostitution is bad.  Sex is bad.  If you enjoy sex, you’re on your way to become a prostitute, and filling the world with moral decay.
Your first time should be special Pressure to save the experience for the “right person,” sex will only be good and ok if you do it with the person you’re going to stay with.


Now let’s try this with a pleasure and consent-focused approach

WHEN YOU SAY…. The implicit messages are…
Sex is something you do because it feels good Sex is generally a good thing; it has the power to make you feel good.  It’s not shameful- we can talk about it.
He (she/ze) doesn’t have to love you, but he should respect you. You may not be with this person forever, but the experience of sex with them should still be positive.  You should be in charge of the decision to have sex.
You’ll know when you’re ready. You know your body better than anyone else.  Your sexual desire is relevant and important.
It’s never perfect the first time. Having good sex take practice.  It’s ok to keep having sex, to ask for different things, to work towards sex that is enjoyable.


See how different that is?

Come on lurkers, I want to hear from you.  How would your adolescence have been different if you had heard some of the latter messages, rather than the former?  Do you have any messages that you would add to either list?

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