Monday, December 31, 2012

My Resolutions for 2013

I might be being overambitious.  We'll see.

1.  Get back in touch with the people I love.  Facebook is not enough, and I am terrible at being a friend.

2.  Read all of Les Miz, including the Battle of Waterloo.

3.  Focus my reading on books I already own, instead of constantly getting things out from the library.

4.  Plan my work outfits over the weekend!

5.  Put laundry away as soon as its dry.

6.  Keep a neat and organized closet.

7.  Plan menus over the weekend.

8.  Be conscious of my spending.

9.  Write daily.  Whether it's journaling or blogging, just write.  I spend most of my day talking to people and doing paperwork, so when I get home, writing is among the last things I want to do.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Santa is bad for society

Now that Christmas is over for most people (except for my Ruskie and orthodox friends and people who know about epiphany), its time for an unpopular opinion.

From my perhaps overly cynical point of view, Santa teaches kids two things:
1. Material possessions are what really matters in life, and
2. Some kids deserve better things than others.

The first point is pretty obvious-- as a culture, we tend to frame Christmas as a secular holiday about getting stuff.  Not even about giving stuff, but about getting stuff.  And even the hard core super Christians tend to shape their holiday around the stuff aspect.  Especially for kids, what you get is the most important part of Christmas-- they compare their gifts with their friends in great detail-- and that ties directly to the first point.

Because up to a certain age, kids believe in Santa.  They believe there is this magical man who evaluates how naughty and nice kids are, and who gives kids presents based on their niceness, which, since abstract concepts, even easy ones, tend to be difficult for very younguns, is often equated with worth.

So you get a classroom, and a bunch of kids who don't  really understand class differences start comparing presents and some major disparities are going to show up.  Santa brings one kid a bike, an iPad, the newest games, and some cool clothes.  Santa brings another kid some less cool clothes and some candy.  They both asked Santa for a bike and an iPad, so why did Santa bring them less things?  They don't  know that Santa is really mom and dad, so they go home feeling sad, and like they must secretly be "bad" kids after all.  That sucks.

The anticipation of Santa is great, and the joy kids get opening presents is great, but I know people who felt bad because Santa didn't deliver like he did for other kids.  And sure, there's probably an element of greed there, but the question of character, and worth lingers with kids too, and on the societal level, its pretty messed up.

I don't know whether we're going to tell our hypothetical future kids about Santa.  Based on our careers, we won't have to worry about our kids being in the sad group for financial reasons, and it kind of sucks for kids to get left out of the whole thing.  But I still really have come to dislike the whole Santa concept.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Job Satisfaction

Today has been one of those days when, overall, I feel a lot of job satisfaction.  The weird part is that I haven't really done much today-- but just thinking about the fact that I got some people out of jail today, I got to watch some Drug Court graduation speeches this week, and I argued motions and did a not too terrible job on them, for a case that was dismissed shortly after our motions arguments (though not as a result of motions arguments-- rather as a result of something that didn't happen during them, in a different place).  I have good coworkers who I both like and respect, and I'm busy, but not so busy that it leaves me empty when I get home.  After lunch, I have Drug Court again, where I should get to see some more speeches, and plea in a new participant-- keeping her out of prison and helping her to learn how to handle her addiction instead.  I know defense attorneys are among the most reviled people in the US, but I think we all do a lot of good.

Monday, November 26, 2012

because the media won't shut up about this

I find all the hysterical marriage-fear articles/books/posts telling women we will never be able to find good men unless we turn into Stepford Wives hilarious, because I am so far from their ideals, and yet I got married to a wonderful man, when my original life goals didn't even include marriage as young as it happened.

Eat it, MRAs and conservatives.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nancy Keenan For The Win

You all, women's rights matter so much to me, especially reproductive rights, and damn does it feel AMAZING to see the address that Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL, just gave.

The party reaffirmed its commitment to women with that.  It may be just politicking to invite her to speak, but  it matters.  

I can't believe we are still fighting about women's bodily autonomy.  I'm 27.  I did a paper in highschool on RU-486 and the history of birth control and abortion in the US and their legality (Yeah, in 10th grade, I didn't really know what a feminist was, but I clearly already was one, since we got to pick our own topics for our little historical analysis of a specific political issue).  At that time, even in my deeply evangelical, fairly fundie Christian community and school (public school, but still more overtly religious than many of the private religious schools my friends attended) the legality of abortion was accepted and people tended to be pro-choice even if they were morally opposed to it.

And now, it's a real issue in the Presidential election.  

So thank God for people speaking out in favor of reproductive justice.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thank you, Mom, for being pro-choice.

Mothers Day was last week, and even though I'm states away from my mom, I was thinking about her and missing her, and I was also thinking some about her views and the way she raised me, thanks to some posts I saw online that said things like "Thank your mother for being pro-life" and "You're here because your mom was pro-life".  Because... my mom isn't, and wasn't, pro-life.  She's pro-choice.  I'm glad she's pro-choice for a number of reasons.  For one, it means I know I was wanted.  It's reassuring.  If your mom is pro-choice then you know that she actually had the option to abort you, and she chose not to, whereas if your mom is anti-choice, then you never really get to know if you were wanted, a horrible devastating mistake, or something somewhere in the middle.  Even though we didn't talk about abortion at all until I went off to college (and then it was for the World's Shortest Sex-ed conversation of "If you get pregnant, you will get an abortion so fast your head will spin" which was mildly ironic since I was as pure as fresh-fallen snow at that point, and self-righteous enough to annoy the hell of out myself in retrospect), my mom's politics did affect parts of her upbringing.  I learned that children are awesome and that my mom was SUPER happy that she had my brother and I, but I also learned that it was important and good that she got to control when she had kids and how many kids she had.  My parents were married for 11 years or so before they had my brother, and when they got married my mom had no desire of ever having kids.  Because she always sent the message that the way to have kids is to plan them, I don't have any stress or internal pressure about the fact that I'm not ready for kids yet.  I'm controlling my reproduction, and when JD and I someday have kids, it will be because we're ready, not because we got surprised.

I'm also glad that my mom is pro-choice because she was a good example of the fact that a woman's value is in more than her baby-making abilities.  My mom not only taught me that children were a choice rather than a default stage of life, she taught me that who you are matters, and that women can work like men do.  My mom worked until my senior year of highschool, and when she quit working it was retirement.  When she first started teaching, she wasn't allowed to wear slacks to work and a pregnancy could mean being fired.  By the time she ended, maternity leave and protections against discrimination towards pregnant women were already in place across many industries.

I don't want to parent exactly like my mom did.  She did a great job, but I'm not her, and some of her style wouldn't work with me.  Plus, we all swear that there are some things we won't do like our parents and certain things that are almost necessary to change because of the ways society changes (when I have kids, they'll probably get communication chips implanted in their heads at age ten or something equally sci-fi silly; I didn't get a cell phone until I went off to college).  But I am thankful for my mom, and I am thankful for her example.

So thank you, Mom, for being pro-choice.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What it's actually like to experience a trans-vaginal ultrasound

There are all these ridiculous new movements, and in some cases actual laws, to force women to get a transvaginal ultrasound before an abortion, even when it's not medically required.  Some people have responded to it by saying that if women don't want to see the images, they can close their eyes, and others have said that if women don't want an ultrasound wand in their vagina, they shouldn't have put anything else (PENIS!) in their vagina.  These responses seem to be missing the point that, in situations where it isn't medically required, it basically exists to function as an additional uncomfortable, unpleasant punishment.  Equating the wand to a penis is especially odd, since dicks and hard plastic ultrasound wants don't actually have a lot in common.

But the main idea seems to be that women who have sex shouldn't mind having something else shoved up their vag.  I'm actually surprised I haven't seen it compared to a dildo yet, since they have similar general shapes, but that comparison would fail too, especially since the vast majority of women who use masturbation aids use external vibrators, rather than internal vibrators or dildos (their are actually statistics on this out there if someone wants to go hunt them up, but I'm not exactly in the mood to wade through the kind of search results that query would get).

The main thing is, though, that a transvaginal ultrasound is fundamentally different from sex.  During sex, if a "normally" functioning woman is interested, her vagina actually lengthens, lubes up some, and widens.  Penises are rigid, but also bendy.  Time and angles can be navigated to provide pleasure, or diminish discomfort.  In a transvaginal ultrasound, you're probably not aroused, so the vag is going to stay its typical, unwelcoming size.  The wand is going to be hard plastic with no bend and no give.  And rather than working for comfortable, pleasing angles, the thing gets purposefully moved around and held in positions that, well, can hurt an awful lot and be just plain uncomfortable when they don't hurt.

This isn't speculation.  I had to have a transvaginal ultrasound a couple of years back as part of a diagnostic procedure, because it really can see what's all up in your abdominal cavity business.  And it hurt and was unpleasant, and was basically way awful.  It helped that the technician was super kind and tried to be gentle, but still.  To get some of the pictures she was needed, it involved a lot of super unpleasant maneuvering and felt even more vulnerable than a regular gyno visit.  It wasn't the worse pain I've ever felt, and I wouldn't rank it up as one of the worst parts of my life, but if someone told me that I had to have one when it wasn't even medically necessary, to try and make me reconsider my previously made health decisions, when it wouldn't truly add any new information to my decision-- God, I'd be furious.  It is not a pleasant procedure, and it is not some little inconsequential thing.  It is painful and unpleasant and when it isn't medically necessary it's useless.  I can't see how requiring women to have a transvaginal ultrasound before an abortion is anything other than a punishment, meant to discomfort, shame, humiliate, and possibly hurt women.  She already knows what's in there. That's why she's getting the abortion.  What purpose does showing her a grainy image, indistinguishable from a stock image actually serve?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Reddit and misogyny

The was originally posted back in 2010, but I missed it when i was restoring posts to the blog.  Since it was one of the more popular posts, I'm letting it go up to the front, now, rather than posting it as its original date.  In that time, I've come to intensely dislike what Jezebel has become and have stopped using Reddit, but I'm still frustrated by people on the internet on a regular basis.

I spend a lot of time on the internet. More time than I should, really. And I visit a pretty wide range of sites-- feminism, sci-fi, cooking, design, fashion, and health are some of the categories I hit up the most. But one of the things I really love are sites where I can see a lot of user participation, where people talk back and forth in comments in a productive way and have conversations, rather than just posting a one-liner and leaving. It's one of the things I've found really awesome about Jezebel, and it's one of the things that's been getting me more and more into Reddit.

Except... the more time I spend in the comments on Reddit, the less I like what I see. There is a lot of reasonable, mature conversation. But there's also a ton of sexism and misogyny. Some of it is blatantly intended, but much more of it is casual-- a joke or an offhand comment that the poster probably thinks shouldn't be offensive because, gee, it doesn't offend him and he doesn't really think all women should go make him a sammich*, or that we're all sluts, that you can't trust some"thing" that bleeds for a week** and doesn't die. And like, we should all just get a sense of humor and get over it.

I'm fairly certain I have a sense of humor, even though I've been accused of not having one before. I'm just also fairly certain that repeating a bunch of misogynistic drivel is not actually funny.

But the main point is-- there is a lot of misogyny in the Reddit comments. And it begins to be tiring, after awhile. At first, I figured, well, whatever, it's just a few users, I can ignore it. And proportionally, it likely is a minority of the user base-- but it's a vocal minority that creates a fairly hostile environment. Part of it is the sexist, sexual insults that get used on women, but a lot of it just comes from the attitudes of users, showing up in their jokes or even in serious comments. Reddit is mostly known for its aggregator use, but there are also a ton of self posts, which tend to lead to lengthier comments sections-- and those often show the dichotomy between guys who think of women as sluts or cockteases, guys who think they are somehow entitled to sex by pretending to be a girl's friend, guys who feel their girl friends have used them by "stringing them along"-- which, after reading a description, often seems to read like any normal friendship-- except that the girl has either been oblivious to the guy lusting after her, or has turned down his advances in the past.

There're a whole lot of Nice Guys who aren't nice out there, basically.

So one of the things I've been wondering is how to deal with this. The other is why this happens.

Why it happens is a little easier. Reddit is a mostly male community. It is a mostly nerd/geek community. And it is a mostly young (late high school-college aged) community. Or at least-- those are the ones who are the most vocal. The age means a lot of them just may not get sexism yet, and my not understand why what they're doing is jerky. A lot of them are at the age where everything seems OMG SO IMPORTANT and where emotional wounds seem like they'll last forever. And a lot of them are the sort of awkward dude who doesn't have good luck with girls-- but who also ends up lusting after girls who are not dorky or nerdy or geeky and who won't really be interested in them. These guys want women to be perfect and get pissed when they aren't. That's just youthful stupidity and lack of experience.

But still, it's a problem. Especially since some of the dudes are in my age range, and should know better. So, how do we fix this? Both to get the attitude online more respectful, and to make them really internally realize that women are human and equal too, and yet still given a suckier place in American society than men? And how do we make them realize when they're being inappropriate?

I tend to be one of those annoying people who calls others out for stupid generalizations. I mainly see generalizations about men ore women-- I don't mind as much when people say "most" or "many"-- but I hate when that most becomes something like "Most women are dumb sluts" and I get even more irked when it's an all-- like "all guys want to sleep with their female friends". I sometimes comment that a joke is misogynistic and not funny, if I'm willing to deal with the anonymous online insult I'll get in return. But I don't know if this is actually doing any good, or if it just makes people who see it more resentful of some chick coming in and trying to ruin their fun.

It surprises me, because I see so little actual sexism from the people I spend most of my time with. So movies, tv, advertising-- they don't surprise me any more. But individuals? Even on the internet? I know that a lot of them only say the things they do because of the anonymity, but it still surprises me, and wears at me. And after awhile, makes me wonder just how many people out there really do think I'm less of a person, all because of what's underneath my clothes.

*I have a special hate in my heart again the "sammich" jokes because I endured an ex who seemed to think they were the most hilarious thing ever to say to me. Needless to say, I cook for my fiance-- who does not make stupid, sexist, lazy jokes at me-- a whole lot more than I cooked for the ex that did.
**Also, dudes? For most*** women I know, it's less than a week.
***This is the proper way to use most, since this is something that is an empirical fact and I am referring to the subset of women I know, rather than women as a whole.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Body Acceptance, The Gym, And Naked People

Before I started going to Healthworks in Boston, I'd never been to a gym with a naked-place culture.  From my first day at Healthworks though, I noticed that women of all shapes changed out in the open, wandered to the showers nude, and used the hot tub, dry sauna, and steam room naked.  It was the first time in real life I'd seen that much nudity, and even though I wasn't looking, I still managed to realize that there was a LOT of variability in what women were shaped like, and that what someone looks like naked has very little to do with what they look like clothed-- clothes can enhance or detract from someone's appearance, altering it in subtle and major ways, and while I knew that, it was never so obvious as when you see someone strip down in front of you outside of a sexual context.  The naked-place aspect of the locker room isn't something I'd seen a lot of before or since-- maybe it's that people in Boston care less about nudity than those in Ohio or Oklahoma, or maybe it had something to do with the spirit of Healthworks itself.

Healthworks was a lot more body positive in general than many gyms are.  Instead of targeting fat busting or weight loss, their class descriptions talked about strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health.  Their fitness trainers ranged from the typical hot young stereotype of what a female fitness instructor looks like to buff older women who looked like they'd do well in a fight.  And they put in the idea that that you go to the gym for health, but also for fun.

A lot of women--and some men, but more women-- I know have issues with body acceptance.  The ideas behind why people have body image issues are discussed ALL OVER the place, but I think one small thing that could go a long way towards getting people comfortable and happy in their own bodies is to just see the range of shapes others come in, and see that in a neutral, non-sexual context where the body is just there, valueless.  Even if a gym like Healthworks, you can't get completely away from value aspects, since there ARE issues of strength and weakness and muscle, but hell, it's a step in the right direction at least.  Plus, going to the gym generally involves some form of exercise, which tends to get people more in touch with their body and all the awesome things it can do-- whether its yoga, cardio, or lifting, it's hard to hate a body that produces awesome endorphins.

Even though I don't currently go to the gym on a regular basis, it inadvertently cemented a lot of ideas about body acceptance in my head.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Are sci-fi and fantasy fans more likely to be feminist?

Are sci-fi and fantasy fans more likely to be feminist?  I really don't know, but I've been wondering about it lately, and I'm thinking the answer miiight be yes, based solely on anecdotal experience and the themes that showed up in the books I read as a kid.  If anyone knows of any actual, real, hard core data on this, I'd love to know!  But... it's a topic worth thinking about, overlap and interplay between sff and feminism, because some books.movies/games in the sff genres are extremely supporting of feminism, but others really... are not, and lack female characters or at least female characters that are developed in the same way as men and have roles beyond sex object and mother.  Plus, fan culture revolving around certain extremely popular sff franchises can be actively hostile towards women-- so those fans certainly aren't getting any sort of feminism boost.

But my big thought right here is that girls who grow up reading sci fi and fantasy?  i think they're more likely to turn into feminist women than girls who don't.  And this is in large part because, even though it is very easy to find books with extremely harsh male characters and no real female characters of substance, it's also quite easy to find books that are gender neutral or that are directed at girls.  I got to thinking about this for a couple of reasons-- 1. I just read Octavia Butler's oeuvre-- she was a black feminist woman writing sci fi in the 70s and under her own name, 2. I found out about James Tiptree Jr., a popular Scfi author who wrote under an assumed name but who has since been honored with an award for female scifi authors in her name, and 3. a lot of chatter on feminist blogs in the past year or so discussing The Ten Thousand Kingdoms, the third book of which I am STILL trying to get around to reading.

In thinking about some of the formative sci fi and fantasy books of my youth, there are a lot that have female warriors or female characters with power-- The His Dark Materials trilogy, Patricia C. Wrede's The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet, Anne McCaffrey's Pern and Rowan books, and things by William Sleator.  While romance is often a factor in these books, it isn't usually the main focus-- instead, general character development and struggles on a kingdom or world level tend to take place.  Granted, a lot of modern fantasy and sci fi aimed at young adults are just romance novels in different wrapping (and I have to admit, The Vampire Diaries started when people my age were young, and I read them when I was a tween too), but I think that people my age who grew up reading some of these books sort of developed the idea that women are individuals in the same way that men are individuals, rather than just a simple stereotype.

But like I mentioned above, it's really easy to avoid the feministy stuff, especially if a reader doesn't want to follow a female protagonist (and traditionally, surveys have shown that girls are more likely to read stories about boys than boys are to read stories about girls), and a lot of men who grew up on the more male dominated sides of sci fi and fantasy have turned out to expect women to fall into only a few categories and get bitter when women don't follow a certain script of acquiescence.  So I honestly have no clue how things fall out, but I'd love to hear other folks' takes on this.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Valenti's The Purity Myth

A while ago I read Jessica Valenti's book The Purity Myth.  It's a good book!  It's really informative about some societal trends in hating on women's sexuality, which is even more relevant today than it was when it was published, given all the recent attacks on women's reproductive rights.  Buuuut, it has some major flaws.  One of the things it addresses is defining what sex actually is, which is an important thing to talk about since sex is so different for so many people-- most people thing penis-in-vagina is sex, period, but when both partners have penises or both partners have vaginas, or they aren't interested in penetrative sex of any kind, but they're still having sexual experiences together, and possibly even getting more sexual or exploring more kinks that straight up penis in vagina, you've got to think that more things that penis in vagina should count as sex.  So, like many other authors do in many other works, Valenti discusses definitions for sex.

From The Purity Myth, page 20-21, on what sex is: "My closest friend, Kate, a lesbian, has the best answer to date (a rule I've followed since she shared it with me): It isn't sex unless you've had an orgasm.  That's a pleasure-based, non-heteronormative was of marking intimacy if I've ever heard one.  Of course, this way of defining sex isn't likely to be popular among the straight-male sex, given that some would probably end up not counting for many of their partners.
But any way you cut it, virginity is just to subjective to pretend we can define it."

I totally agree that virginity is too subjective to just easily define (because otherwise, there are a gay men and lesbians who've had multiple partners, but who are still virgins), but I still think that defining it by orgasms is problematic and kind of insulting.  It's still framing things through a normative view, in which sex is about the finish rather than the overall experience, and it's framing it in a way that shuts out a lot of women who really like sex but who can't come from penetrative, or oral, or who are still trying to do social programming that makes them too tense to come when they have another person in the room.  These are real issues that you run into if you spend time on blogs or boards where women talk about sex, and framing things from an orgasmic point of view shuts out a very large swath of women who either don't value orgasms that much, or who don't experience them, but who still consider themselves to be having sex.  It ties into what I see as one of the larger problems of sex positivity-- that a lot of sex positive people end up being negative about those who aren't interested in sex, or kink, or multiple partners, possibly because a rejection of those things can feel like negative judgement.  But really, if you're sex positive, you should focus on other people getting joy out of sex, and having sex in the way they like-- whether it's a poly lifestyle with bdsm tones, or someone who waits for a monogamous marriage to do things beyond kiss.  As long as they're being true to themselves, and have thought about the issues and aren't trying to force anyone else into their lifestyle, neither is better than the other.  And for a lot of people, that idea that neither is better than the other also holds true for orgasms during sex.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Work Life Balance: I Don't Quite Understand It?

I've only been working for two months in my first Big Grownup Job, and I'm noooot entiiirely sure how people do this whole work life balance thing.  I get home, and I'm generally not in the mood to cook, so JD's either brought something home or we go out.  Then we come home, I collapse on the couch and read for a big, then I'm in bed by nine and asleep by ten.

My mom cooked dinner every night (granted, she got home at like, 4:30) and graded papers after dinner, but she and my dad still seemed to do more leisure things in the evenings than I did.  I remember my mom was in a bowling league for a while, and my dad would go skiing in the winter and ice skating at other times, and they always made it to my school plays and concerts and had time to pick me up from school every night and drive me to and from practices and competitions every weekend (literally EVERY weekend in high school).  And in highschool, I'd stay up until at least 10 every night, and I had practices and homework, but it never seemed as... stressful and tiring as having a job does?

I think part of the difference is pure age-- I physically have less energy than I did ten years ago-- and part of it is the change in scale of what I'm doing.  How you do in school really only effects you-- even in team competition, you don't have as big an impact on others as you do in a work place.  Now, I worry that messing up on something could really negatively effect someone else, not just myself.  And maybe I'm putting too much of myself into it (my mom says I always internalize everything which, hey, may be true) but I just don't know how to separate home from work.  Even when I'm at home on the weekend doing something unrelated, the thought that I should be researching one of the many work related questions I have is at the back of my mind, constantly.

I'm assuming that as I work longer, I may adapt better-- hopefully both becoming better at doing my job, and finding it easier to take on normal home-related tasks like cooking and cleaning.  I remember that a lot of people were worried JD and I would go crazy when we were spending all day, every day together, but I actually really miss him during the day.  I guess we're one of those weird couples that never get sick of each other, and we're not really out of the honeymoon stage, despite never actually going on a honeymoon.  Our first anniversary was a week ago, so we're still pretty close to being newlyweds.  But just how much time do most people spend with their spouses in those after work hours?  Do most couples spend all evening cuddling and talking, or separated on individual computers, or physically close but watching some tv show together?  I don't know what the normal balance is!  And it isn't like normal matters, as long as individuals are happy in their own lives, but it is something I'm curious about.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Birth Control Costs More Than a Few Cups of Coffee

If you don't have insurance, birth control costs a lot more than a couple cups of coffee. The generic of the pill I'm prescribed costs $60 a month. Sure, some generics may cost as little as $8 a month, but you can only buy what you have a prescription for, and different birthcontrols have different effects on different people. If your body doesn't react well to some of the cheaper ones, then they aren't an option.  Some people suggest that we all just switch to condoms, but birth control is more effective, and you easier for a woman to control.  Plus, non-latex condoms are more expensive and less effective than the regular kind, but if you have a sensitivity to latex, like I do, they're the type you'd have to use if you want to have sex more than once a week-- and I think it's safe to assume that a lot of young folk want to have sex more than once a week, and also not get pregnant.  

What's also interesting is that it seems like a lot of people who are opposed to birth control or to having birth control covered by insurance are conflating a need for birth control with "screw[ing] everything in sight".  I'm all for people sleeping around if that's what works for them and keeps them happy in life... but statements like that are ignoring the fact that a lot of people who use birth control are in monogamous relationships, and others may be single and having sex quite rarely.  I'm married.  I'm a newlywed.  My husband and I aren't ready for children yet.  Birth control is what keeps us, a monogamous married couple, from having an unwanted pregnancy that we aren't financially or emotionally ready to deal with.

After a lot of research, I decided hormonal birth control is a better fit for me than an IUD or condoms (though I am considering looking into the arm implant, after I get insurance).  I've decided it is a WAY better fit than trying to track my fertility, since so many women do not have consistent cycles based on changes in diet, stress, and exposure to other women.  As I don't have insurance, so I pay $720 a year on the generic of the birth control my doctor prescribed, and i consider myself lucky that I'm not paying $1080 a year for it, the way a friend of mine who was prescribed birth control for non-contraceptive reasons does.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lost knowledge

One of my friends burned herself cooking today. As we chatted online, debating ways to treat it, we eventually realized we didn't know what we were talking about, and turned to Google. It struck me how incredibly useless intelligent, educated people can be-- and how we have never had to know these things. I have a suspicion that in the past, children learned these basic things sometime before they left the home. Now though? We have adults (like myself, if I count as an adult) who have lost this knowledge. Its not a part of out basic back-of-the-brain hum at all.

Now, this knowledge isn't truly lost-- it's clearly available online, at the touch of a few buttons and clicks and search terms. But its not readily available, it isn't there in case of an emergency, and it isn't going to help you if the power or internet is out. And it isn't as if we'd stare at a burn in total confusion-- we each knew enough not to rub on a typical body lotion, full of irritants and possibly oils. But anything beyond the very basics? Just... gone.

In some part, this is surely a product of age-- the internet came about when I was still young enough that my mother would take care of my wounds, and by the time I left the house, even she was regularly using it as a refresher for recipes. So the knowledge that maybe would have normally passed to me... didn't need to. I could cook shrimp pad thai; the instructions were on the Internet! But i didn't have the intuitive sense of how to roast a chicken and veggies, or make a soup from scratch. I never learned the base elements that apply to cooking without needing a recipe-- or the base elements of cleaning a house, mending clothing, and fixing up wounds.

Of course, now I'm learning all these base elements on my own, by trial and error or instructional guide, but it still makes me wonder what's happening to our collective unconsciousness. The more information we have at our fingertips, the less we need to remember. But when we lose basic elements, it also seems like we lose some of the richness of experience, the ability to make connections and comparisons and see metaphors popping up out of daily life. But regardless of the value of remembering things we can look up, we definitely lose the ability to survive as a society after the zombie attack or Apocalypse destroys modern technology, that's for sure. And that's simply unacceptable.


One of the things I've been wondering about, and sort of almost struggling with, is what exactly I should be writing here. Or more accurately, what I shouldn't be writing about here. There are a lot of topics that I think "Oh, great, I have awesome anecdotes for that!" only to realize about two seconds later that my anecdotes are only partly mine... and are also partly someone else's. While telling even unpleasant truths about people is perfectly legal, I don't really think that even telling neutral truths is always perfectly moral.

I want to be honest and open in my reactions and experiences, but to be completely honest about my experiences requires me to say things that implicate the privacy of others, be they friends or my past boyfriend. If I can talk about someone completely anonymously, I don't feel as bad-- but while friends from law school can't identify stories about friends from undergrad and vice versa, the most illustrative stories are ones that still usually aren't mine to tell.

I've also been wondering how much is even appropriate to put up about my attitudes-- towards things like religion, relationship, and sex-- because even though this blog is about my attitudes, the context that has formed them sometimes seems necessary.

It's an interesting sea to swim through-- what level of detail about your life would you feel comfortable with in a non-anonymous setting, where you don't know WHO is reading?


Is Glee...mysoginist?

Man, I hope not. Or rather, I don't think it is-- yet-- at least, not blatantly. But I'll admit, I am worried about the direction it might go. I was thinking about the characters today, because I am loving the show for the entertainment, the small town Ohio, the music, and the whimsy... but all the female charecters are messed up. It got me angry until I realized most of the guys are messed up too... but not in the same ways, or to the same degrees as the girls.

Emma is a great person, but she's lusting after a married man, OCD for comic relief, and dating a guy she doesn't really like, purely because he's persistent. Rachel is up-tight, self-important, a little delusional, and willing to treat others unkindly if it'll help her have the spotlight. Terri is... possibly evil. She's FAKING A PREGNANCY to not lose her husband-- she's demanding, she works part time yet is pissed her husband isn't working more hours to give her more useless stuff. Tina is quiet, background, and not talented, and has been given a stutter for, again, seemingly no reason other than comedy. Mercedes is the sassy black stereotype token charecter, who is awesome in many ways, but who THREW A ROCK THROUGH A CAR WINDSHIELD. Quinn is a stereotypical cheerleader, who has some good traits but is still out to destroy the entire Glee Club in an effort to get her boyfriend's full attention... she's also president of the Chastity Club. Sue Sylvester is the villian of the show-- and deservedly so. She doesn't care about her cheerleaders, only her own self-promotion, being a "champion", and tearing others down.

Kurt is essentially a gay minstrel, but he also manages to give the football team their first win, raising their spirits and saving the day. Ken is a joke-- unattractive, down on his luck with the ladies, and only getting a girlfriend through persistence and reminding her that the community doesn't really have any better single options-- but he's a good friend, and seems like a good guy to keep coaching the joke of a football team. Artie is stuck in a wheelchair--and a nerd. THAT'S IT. He's a bit character with no flaws, though his disability is AGAIN something played for laughs. The principal is controlled by his staff, but again-- funamentally a good guy, working nights as a janitor to help keep the school afloat during the recession.

Finn and Will seem to be the main focus of the show-- They do both have their problems, true-- but Will's is that he's a bit of a wuss, and attracted to a woman who isn't his wife-- but he stays true to her, and will do anything to make life better for his family. He is a fundamentally good guy, who is very selfless, kind, caring, and willing to go the extra mile for his students, too (except for his brief interlude with Acafellas). Finn is, at first, nothing more than a dumb jock-- but he's also extremely caring, surprisingly insightful, and determined to stick by his girlfriend's side, even after he finds out she's pregnant (though they haven't had sex, he thinks its his due to a hot tub incident). Though Finn and Will both have flaws, they are good, and likable, and much less flawed than the rest of the cast.

The characters themselves are what made me think of this-- but it's there in a lot of other ways too. The extremely short skirts the cheerleaders ALWAYS wear (as opposed to just on Fridays!). The MILF jokes. The gay jokes. The cheerleader-bikini scene.the AWFUL sister of Terri, and stereotypes of marriage and child-raising.

But there is good, too. I do like that Rachel gave a speech about girls and sex. I like that abortion is treated by the guys on the show as an option for the teen girl, and that they don't question her choice to keep it. I like that the women do act independently and not subserviently to the men. Kicking out the choreographer who wanted the kids to change things about themselves. Glee has a lot of potential, and I'm really, really enjoying it. But there's also a lot of potential to seriously mess things up. I'm going to keep watching though! And... eventually... buy some of the songs off of iTunes.

(Also, psssst. Go see Jennifer's Body! Yeah, it has some super annoying Cody-speak, but its nowhere near Juno levels-- and the interactions between the girls ROCK. Don't believe me? Read the review on


We don't say "I love you" enough.
As a society, I mean.
We reserve it for romantic partners and family members, and yes, you want some way to show them they are special, they are above others-- but still. We don't say "I love you" enough.

Think about it. You're probably only in love with one person, tops, but you love others. The feeling we feel for our closest friends is love-- so why are we all so hesitant to express it? Why is there nearly a taboo against us telling the people that we love just that. I know I've only felt comfortable telling friends I love them they are very close, or if someone has died recently. When my friend Steve died two summers ago, I was hit by the fact that he mattered so much to so many people-- and so few of us, myself included, had actually let him know that. Even now, now that I've had peers die sudden unexpected deaths, now that I know I should let people know I love them-- I only tell a few people that I do.

I'd like to show my friends that I appreciate them, that I do love them-- or at least, show the ones that I feel deeper friendship than average. But outside the context of college and sororities and not being fully aware of social boundaries-- I just don't know how to, anymore, without feeling awkward.

Do you tell the people you love-- besides partners, parents, and siblings-- that you love? When do you tell them? How do you tell?

Planned Parenthood

Even though I'm a huge fan of Planned Parenthood, and would love to work for them or a similar organization some day, I had never actually been inside one till yesterday. One of my friends was getting a IUD, which most other doctors did not want to give her since she's never been pregnant-- she knows she does not want children in the next five years, though. I came along with her so she wouldn't have to go alone... in part because it's a new experience, but also largely in case there was anyone outside yelling that we'd go to hell for aborting the babies we aren't pregnant with. There's strength in numbers, and if holding her hand made it easier to go into the clinic, and then easier to walk out after a painful procedure, well, I'm always more than willing to help anyone in that situation.

The local Planned Parenthood looks like a fortress. It always makes me sad that it does, because, well, it's a place where people go to get their genital jabbed at, and get birth control, to get abortions, or to get prenatal care for wanted pregnancies. It offers so many services that are used when someone is at a vulnerable point, and I wish it could look more welcoming... and the fact that it isn't safe to look welcoming makes me incredibly sad. I'll never understand people who use violence, and I'll never understand protesters, especially considering that some of them get abortions after protesting, then go back to protesting.

We were in luck, though-- rain tends to decrease protesters, and it was so grey and gross that there weren't any there at all!

The inside of the Planned Parenthood is so different from the imposing outside! The waiting room is all warm and bright, with awesome colors on the walls and comfy couches. The employees were kind and efficient. Pop music was playing in the background, and a large TV screen was playing on the wall, cycling facts about sexual health and the services that Planned Parenthood offers. Interestingly, the waiting room was not all women. There were 4-5 guys there over the span of time I was there, which is awesome, really.

In contrast to most doctor's offices I've been to, my friend got called into her appointment right on time. She said it went very well-- they were all very respectful of her choice to get an IUD at age 24, and didn't try to talk down to her by telling her that she'd change her mind about kids, or that she was too young to be making this decision-- which is the reason she had to come to Planned Parenthood in the first place, she couldn't find anyone else willing to give an IUD to a woman without children. But she's a young single woman who is going to start her career as an attorney in a few months-- the chances of her wanting a child anytime soon are slim as slim. So now, after a quick and painful, but not too painful, procedure, she's protected against pregnancy for the next 12 years! And the best part? an IUD only cost her around 20 bucks (which is important, because, well, like me, she doesn't have a job and is interested in the ones that are more service oriented.)

I'm very glad that Planned Parenthood exists. It, and places like it, are doing so much to advance sexual knowledge and prevent unwanted pregnancies, and to help people at difficult times.


I have been accused, at different times, of being a commitment phobe, and of being very into commitment. Neither is exactly true, but both have a ton of truth to them.

I hate the idea of commitment for the sake of commitment, of being in a "relationship" so you won't be single. I hate the idea that being single is something to dread. But, I love being in a committed relationship. I love my boyfriend, and knowing we're faithful to each other brings me... joy, really.

I've had people think my casual attitude towards people having sex outside of relationships means that I don't value commitment. I think that instead, its a sign of how much I do value commitment. I definitely don't look down on friends who sleep around or engage in "slutty" behavior, because I don't think that sex, in itself, deserves to be put on the pedestal that society puts it on. I think that as long as people are being safe and consenting, what they do with their bodies shouldn't be the concern of anyone who isn't involved. If people want to have sex to express their love, to feel good about themselves, to have fun, or because they're bored, I really don't care. I know that sex can influence emotions-- oxytocin, anyone? But I think that, as long as we know the happiness of the afterglow is at least partly chemically derived, we should be able to keep from putting too much value on it.

Putting so much importance on sex and having it only inside a committed relationship makes me wonder if some people rush into relationships only so that they'll feel less shamed about the sex they're having. If, instead of basing their commitment on the idea that they're a person they respect and enjoy and appreciate and care about, they base their commitment on the idea that this is their best balance for regular sex and fun right now. Part of why I wonder this is because of the length of relationships I see-- and the length of the time they date before they commit. I know a lot of people who have had a "committed relationship" that has only lasted a few weeks, or a few months. It also seems like a lot of people don't really date very long before labelling themselves as "in a relationship"-- a few times hooking up, and bam, they either stop seeing each other, or make it official-- or, equally often, continue discretely and secretly hooking up. Secret hook-ups do make sense to me, though, as long as the gossip and awkwardness of friend groups is the concern-- but it sometimes seems that the sex itself is the reason people hide.

I'm not a fan of hiding. I'm also not a fan of rushing into things. What I am a fan of is knowing someone well before you commit to them, of being sure you want them, and not just the sex. Of figuring out what their big flaws are, and whether they're overpowered by everything else. I'm a fan of being patient, and cautious, and sure. How can you trust someone, if the only time you spend together is in bed?

To me, being in love and being in a committed relationship is one of the greatest things in the world. I absolutely adore JD, and I know that I don't want anyone but him, in any way. He's my best friend, my confidant, my partner. Sometime to love, play with, support, and trust. As fun as it can be to be single and dating, I wouldn't have that life for anything now. Nothing makes me happier than seeing him smile at me hearing his voice. And because I didn't rush into this relationship-- because we were involved for months before committing-- I can be certain my choice is based on who we are, and not based on the opinions of anyone else.

Misconceptions about feminism

I've noticed a lot of misconceptions about feminism out there-- and as I've educated myself more on the topic, it's started to bug me when I see people being all blithe about things. So this is part one in n ongoing series on the fact that not all feminists are the same.

When I say I'm a feminist, I mean I believe in the equality of men and women. To be specific, I'm a sex-positive liberal third wave feminist. I am not a radical feminist, even though I am radical in some ways, and I'm not a second-wave feminist. I'm not a formal equality feminist, I'm not a dominance theory feminist, and I'm not a relational feminist. All those different group have things that differentiate them from each other, and are not quite what I am. A lot of critiques of feminism seem to pick and choose bits from each different branch-- and since the branches wildly disagree on a lot of things, they end up painting feminism as a whole as being internally inconsistent and poorly structured.

The thing is, there are different groups that exist under the name feminism, and these individual groups are internally consistent even when they disagree with each other. Just put a dominance theory feminist in a room with a sex-positive feminist. Other than agreeing that women deserve rights, responsibilities, and to be treated as humans, they won't agree on much else. Some feminists think that women can never truly consent to sex with a man; others think that a life as a housewife who has sex with her husband every day is no more nor no less to be desired than a life as a single surgeon, or a lesbian artist in a cooperative living group. Some feminists are essentialists, who think that all women have X characteristic, and all men Y; some think that men and women are fundamentally the same except for societal socialization. Some focus on intersectionality and examining queer women and women of color while others stick to the stereotypical American woman who always seems to end up white and middle class.

Feminism is, fundamentally, the idea that women are people too. Feminism sees problems in the fabric of society and a historical mistreatment of women. Do not assume that just because you have read the works of MacKinnon or Dworkin that I, or any other feminist, must be like them. Listen to people when they tell you what they believe-- it leads to a richer conversation than assuming you know their beliefs and ignoring what they say in favor of continuing with your earlier prejudices.


I have never been a makeup girl.

But now, as much as I hate to admit it, one of my "new years resolutions" or whatever you want to call it-- includes wearing makeup. My goal is to, essentially, pretty myself up for school this semester. Put on some makeup, do my hair, make sure whatever I'm wearing isn't just a sweatshirt, and add some sort of accessory.

So why am I doing this?

A few reasons. It's a learning process for the working world. I actually kind of enjoy it. My usually awesome complexion has NOT been able to deal with the Boston winter this year.

I graduate law school in a few months. Ideally, that means someone will hire me, and I'll get a job to start a couple months after that. Part of being an adult and getting people to take you seriously seems to be looking the part-- and for a woman, it seems that in addition to a suit, I need some mascara and lip color. Is it sexist? Yes. That's obviously. But its the system, and it's people's unconscious perceptions. I feel a little guilty about playing into it, but I know that it will alter how people view me-- and as long as I don't go overboard, it will alter it favorable. I resent it, and I push against it internally... but at the end of the day, playing into that part of the system is a small price to pay in getting head. Yes, I'd argue that we should work on changing people's attitudes and the cultural messages we send about who to respect-- and I'd love to work on changing that. But if I want to have any effect in the world, I first have to be taken seriously. And sadly, even in law, I notice most of the powerful women are super put together.

So my issue is with the system that makeup plays into, but not the make up itself. Learning how to put it on, and making small adjustments to it each day is sort of interesting! I've learned my purpleypink eyeshadows make me look tired-- but the brown ones don't! And my god, there's eyebrow powder to hide my slight case of trichotillomania! And mascara! My eyes look awesome! Basically, I have fun with it, and I think it makes my face look a little bit better, actually. I look prettier. And I'm a vain enough creature to be pleased with the effect I see when I catch myself in the mirror, even outside the system.

Plus, the tinted moisturizer I'm using is actually kind of nice to my face. It's lighter and less greasy than the stuff I've been using, and it makes my complexion look more like what I'm used to-- and less like the dry, red mess that is Boston winter mocking me.

So yeah. I'm probably not going to wear it every day, but when I have class or a social event-- I think it might be here to stay. At least, as long as I don't hit snooze when the alarm goes off :-)

Sex Advice Columns, and the Altar of the Orgasm

There is no right way to have sex. The only wrong way to have sex is when there is a lack of consent or capacity to consent. And there is no right way to conclude sex, either. No result which must be present. No script which must be followed. No specific actions necessary.

Which is why I get so incredibly upset at the advice some sex columns give. I know I've read similarly dismissive, condescending, or just plain off-topic columns from other writers before, but the latest in the mother/daughter Susie and Aretha Bright series over at Jezebel has set me off afresh. In part because, as some commenters pointed out, they don't really seem to pay attention to the attitude of the writers, or give advice that addresses the actual question.

But mainly, its because their response to a woman who is having anorgasmic sex and who wants to know how to go about telling her partner she's been faking it is that she is mistaken about her own enjoyment of the sex. That's right-- these two women (or one girl and one woman-- I have a hard time considering a dependant 19 year old in college to really be a "Woman" since it implies a certain attitude and responsibility, not just a certain age) think they know more about her experiences of sex than she does herself. Based on one letter. From a woman they've never met.

I'm sorry, but what?

Aretha questions why the letter, and so many others, begin with the author saying she has " great, wonderful, passionate sex!" My guess would be that the author of the letter wants to make sure the columnists know that the sex itself isn't the problem-- she doesn't ask a direct question, but its clear from her letter that her concern is that the lying is undermining the relationship.

Instead, Susie Bright takes another angle, and talks about the woman's lack of orgasms during sex:
"You think you're going to be happy this way for the rest of your life? No. You've been rationalizing and trying to "make do.""

Um, what? Look, its great to consider other possible issues that could be affecting the relationship-- and if they addressed that she might possibly be unhappy not having orgasms during sex, that would be one thing. But they didn't. Susie Bright made a blanket statement that essentially says that, because this woman isn't coming, she cannot stay happy with her sex life.

One of my big pet peeves is people worshipping at the altar of the almighty orgasms. It's up there with people who think straight sex is the only right sex, or that anal is the only right sex, or that oral always has to be tit-for-tat, or that everyone should give polyamory a try or that no one should give polyamory a try. Wait a minute... those all have a common theme. Oh! I get it! I don't like when people talk about sex in absolutes, and say that one certain method/outcome/style of sex is the right way to have sex! And it seems pretty damn clear that Susie Bright is advocating that the right way to have sex, is sex that has an orgasm in it.

There's a problem in that. There's.... actually, a pretty big problem in that. Not all people are capable of orgasm. What was that? Not everyone can come? But surely that just means that the partner is doing it wrong, or they're too tense, or they aren't kinky enough, or the need more sleep, or--


Not everyone can come. Even when people can come, some people can only come from specific types of physical stimulations-- a vibrator, for example. Or some people can only come after a specific amount of time-- a half hour of focused stimulation, maybe. And for some people, even though orgasms are enjoyable, the effort that it takes to get there makes the enjoyment not worth the annoyance. There are plenty of people out there who find sex to be totally enjoyable without orgasm-- female and male, though its more common for a woman not to be able to come than it is a man-- something to do with the way our anatomy is arranged, I'd wager.

I absolutely hate when sex columnists tell their readers, essentially, that something is wrong with them-- and over something they can't really control, or don't want to change. Especially over something that is causing harm to no one, and something they might not have been troubled with before. If you have an enjoyable sex life, you shouldn't be ripped down because its missing some element that someone else finds essential for their sex life. You shouldn't be sending your readers the message that they, or their relationships, are defective-- they've probably gotten that from partners in the past. No matter how open you are, you should remember that this is a touchy area, and come at it with an attitude of openness, compassion, and a desire to really address the questions your reader asks, rather than giving them a lecture on something tangential.

The substance may be different, but the spirit seems the same as moralistic lectures that ask if if she really thinks she's going to be happy continuing to have sinful premarital sex.

If we wouldn't accept one from a sex columnist, why do we accept the other?

(((Some people might respond by asking if I think I could do better, or what I think they should have said, but I'd like to point out that my own abilities as a giver of sexual advice are completely irrelevant-- as someone who has only taken two courses on human sexuality (though I'm super excited about my sex and the law class this fall!), and someone who is only 24, I don't really think I'm qualified to give sex advice to stranger. But these women-- one of whom is 19 I remind you-- are holding themselves out as qualified. And yet, they come up terribly, terribly lacking.)))

[Edit-- the link to the column I'm discussing is here. I intended to link to it originally, but when I was making my edits Jezebel wasn't loading for me, one of my recurring problems. I figured it wasn't a big deal, since I normally have around 10 readers, most of whom I'd discussed the column with earlier in the day. I certainley had not expected to recieve a link from Susie Bright herself! a follow up post will be coming, addressing some of the responses to this post. Aug 9, 2009]

Sex Work?

Is being a sugar baby prostitution, or just extremely cynical dating?

I have a friend who, for a good part of our senior year of college, had a sugar daddy. She was 22, bright, but terminally lazy and incredibly underachieving. He was in his 30s, a consultant stationed near our college for 5 days a week, and incredibly bored and lonely. If they'd met at a bar, it would have been sketchy but eye-roll worthy. They didn't meet at a bar though; there was nothing innocent and coincidental about it-- because they met on, a site where people post classifieds looking for sugar daddies or sugar babies. The ads-- my friend's included-- often say that they aren't offering for sex, but that its a possibility like in any normal relationship.

Once a week, my friend drove out to the suburban hotel her sugar daddy stayed in, and they went to a fancy dinner followed up by sex. She told me she wouldn't have slept with him if he hadn't been funny, nice, and moderately attractive. But she also told me that she probably wouldn't have slept with him if there hadn't been some sort of monetary incentive involved.

At the time, her casual attitude towards sex work bothered me-- but it bothered me even more that she refused to accept it as sex work. It still bothers me that she refused to accept it as sex work-- and yet, I see many other women who don't think this arrangement is sex work either, because it does mirror a more traditional dating scheme. But the difference between a prostitute who specializes in "the girlfriend experience" and a sugar baby seems very small to me-- and as if it mainly consists of smugness that she isn't a prostitute.

I can't deny that the thought of having a sugar daddy would be incredibly appealing if I were single-- I'm a broke grad student who would love some free meals and pricey clothing-- but as checkered as my dating past might be, I don't know that I could bring myself to enter a "relationship" where I'd be basically getting paid to flatter someone. I don't have a problem with sex work (though my future legal career does mean there's no chance in hell I'd do it), or people who do sex work, but the fact is, entering into a sugar relationship is not the same as entering into a regular relationship. In normal dating, you can be fairly sure that both parties genuinely like each other and want to spend time with each other-- or at least, you can pretend that's true. In a sugar relationship, it seems that compatibility standards lower considerably. He might not actually like you-- but if he flatters you over dinner and gives you money, you'll sleep with him. You might not actually like him, but if you flatter him over dinner, and sleep with him, you can pay rent, or buy a nice new dress. Its using each other and, while some would say that the pleasure we get out of regular dating is still using each other, this seems more... heartless, more mercenary, more of a lie.

I like truth. Genuine people. Honesty. And romance.
And the romantic in me just... can not accept that sex and money should be more important in a relationship than a true meeting of mind and heart. Yet, I totally get casual sex. Contradiction, yes, but one I'm willing to own up to.

ghosts of Valentine's past

When I was a junior in college and Valentine's Day hit, I was single and with no real prospects. Barbie-- one of my best friends and roommates-- was also single.

It would have been very easy for the two of us to stay in, watch chick flicks in the sorority house, and eat a ridiculous amount of chocolate while feeling sorry for ourselves.

It would also have been incredibly lame.

And besides, we didn't feel sorry for ourselves. We were single, but we were also both happy-- dating people casually, but without any dude in the picture who we were into committing to. And so, we we decided to go out on the most coupley themed day of the year to one of the most romantic places within walking distance-- a wine bar.

It was awesome. Dark lighting, tons of couples happily cozying up to each other, and Barbie and I splitting the cheese, fruit, and wine plate all washed down with red wine. It felt so classy to me then-- and we had also both just turned 21, so we were feeling grown up and cool for legally drinking at a nice bar. We gossiped and giggled and watched the couples there, and we were both so happy to see how in love they all looked. I have no clue if any of those couples actually were happy, but imagining the stories of their lives gave me such a quiet pleasure-- and even though I was, at that time, super happy being single-- I was excited by thinking of the possibilities of a real, "grown-up" relationship with a deep level of understanding, passion, affection, loyalty, and care.

But I was also happy, because though I wasn't in a romantic relationship at the point, I was getting to celebrate the holiday with someone I loved, I lived in a sorority house full of women I had come to love, and I was growing to understand who I was and begin to love myself.

It was celebratory, but it was also thoughtful. It was a fantastically fun night. And it was just what I needed that Valentine's Day to be.

Self Esteem

Self-esteem is a tricky thing. I generally think I have pretty good self-esteem-- I'm reasonably intelligent, reasonably attractive, generally kind, very well read, and curious about the world. I like to think I'm turning into a competent adult-- I keep my apartment relatively clean, make myself healthy meals at least half the time, and actually get up for work even though I set my own hours.

But money... oh, money pulls me down. Not that I don't have a lot-- I'm in law school, no one in law school is anything but poor-- but that what little money I do have, I'm terrible at managing. Looking at my finances today, I discovered that I am once again broke as broke can be. And honestly, there is no reason for me to be this broke. Its purely a case of mismanaging my funds, of not keeping track of my spending, or being irresponsible.

And that? makes me feel like a child. A terrible, worthless, irredeemable child. Consciously, I know that feeling this way is silly, that I will (eventually, at least!) resolve my financial issues, and that once my loan checks come in in-- what? A little over a month? I will be financially clear until at least the end of next school year. But for now? Even if this problem is fixable with time and, in the grand scheme of things, not very significant-- it is sending me into myself in questioning and doubt and sadness. I'm angry at myself, annoyed at myself, and almost worst of all not even that surprised at myself.

This kind of proof of irresponsibility is damaging, at least short term, to my self esteem. Because despite all the traits I listed up above, and while my self esteem is surely influenced by my looks and accomplishments and intelligence, whatever they all may be-- its most largely based on whether or not I feel I am a competent person. Whether I am able to handle the everyday tasks that everyone has to face. And when I mess up on things that are so everyday, so basic, so necessary-- well, that's a much larger blow to myself esteem than a series of unflattering photos or a bad score on a test could ever be.

Shame on you

Shame does not work as a way to reduce kids having sex. I don't care if it's religion, parents, or society, shame doesn't work. The only time shame does work on people, is when its someone you're trying to impress-- a boss, or peers. And those motivations aren't present at the age we worry about kids having sex.

Even more important-- shaming kids into not having sex is terrible in itself. The way sex is portrayed in society and media is this strange whirling mess of exposition and shame, all mixed together. We tell kids not to have sex, and at the same time, the main things society throws at them for entertainment are tv shows and movies full of teenage sexy times. It's ridiculous, and its shocking that anyone comes out of adolescence with a healthy attitude towards sex and sexuality.

I do think that kids should be taught that sex is something to be respected, and that it is something not to be done too terribly lightly-- but not because of moral reasons. Teach kids to wait to have sex, but tell them accurate information on STDs, pregnancy, and the hormones that crop up after sex. Teach kids about self-respect. Teach kids to respect sex-- for the closeness it can bring in a relationship, for the power dynamics it can create and the ways it can effect pre-existing power dynamics, for the consequences it can have.

But do not teach kids that sex is inherently wrong or shameful.

It isn't.

I come from a Christian background, and consider myself to be Christian-- shocking, I know, to some of my friends who associate Christianity with fundamentalists. But even within a religious setting, sex does not have to be shameful. It can be an expression of love, of enjoyment of our bodies and their capability for pleasure, given to us by a creator. Most people can agree that sexual enjoyment is pretty awesome-- so why feel shame in it? And why pick that, out of all the things in the Bible, to obsess over? I'd probably be more in the spirit of things to feel shame for judging people, than to feel shame for having sex, after all. Just look at the people Christ hung out with!

If you're not coming from a religious background, there's even less reason for sex to be considered shameful. Sure, its one of our more animal impulses-- one of the big F's (fight, flight, feed, fornicate). But simply connecting it to our animal nature doesn't make it any more shameful than sleep, or exercise, or eating. Like anything, it shouldn't be done to excess. But something natural, done for mutual enjoyment, and especially when done as an expression of love? I just don't see the shame in it.

Ok, yes. Sometimes sex is completely unrelated to emotions. And sometimes its all about physical enjoyment. And sometimes people are sluts and have sex indiscriminately. But even that shouldn't be shamed. Slut shaming is just another way for people to feel superior to others-- based on some arbitrary societal rules. I'd like to believe that the shame is purely some animal reaction to fear of STDs-- but even when people know a promiscuous person is practicing safe sex and has no STDs, they still get all judgey. So whatever it stemmed from in the past, its clearly something more now. But what good does this shaming do?


Oh wait.

It doesn't do any good.

It isn't going to encourage someone to stop sleeping around-- it just encourages them to lie about it. It might change the way someone feels about having sex-- but probably not for the better. If anything, the shame might make them feel that their only worth is in their sexuality, or that they're used up and worthless, or that they don't deserve someone who treats them right.

When we teach kids all these negative connotations for sex and relationships--which is what we are, in fact, teaching them when we shame them-- we are teaching them to accept and to expect to be treated poorly. We are teaching them to undervalue other aspects of their personality and achievements. And we are crippling their future sex lives, and giving them an unhealthy attitude towards sex to take into whatever future permanent relationships they have.

Part of me finds it hilarious that, on a wedding day, people are supposed to magically transition from a mentality of sex-is-bad-and-wrong to one of sex-is-good-must-satisfy-partner-and-make-babies. But as hilarious as it is in concept, in reality? It's just sad.

The cooking issue

I am not a great cook.  I wouldn't even call myself a good cook.  What I am, is a learning cook.  I enjoy it-- there's something almost magical about throwing boring plain ingredients together and coming up with something that smells, tastes, and maybe even looks, awesome.

I love cooking for people I love.  Part of it is, Oh hey!  cooking for just one seems like a waste of time!  But another part of it is that I like DOING things for people I care about.  I liek caring for them, I like the nurture aspect of things.  And hey, I love being taken care of too.  I like give and take, and feel that feeding people-- one of our most basic needs-- is a fantastic way to show appreciation for them as a person and appreciation for them in my life.  

A follow up: Sex Advice Columns, and the Altar of the Orgasm

I was completely taken aback by the amount of attention my post on Susie and Aretha Bright's sex column got. Some of the responses were interesting, some were provocative, and some were just plain uncalled for. But I'm going to be addressing some of them head on, both responses to my entry, and responses to Susie's link to my entry. Responses that essentially agree with me-- well, they agree with me, there's not much point in addressing them!

"I thought I'd point out that the Bright women didn't find this woman's story on a blog or run into someone on the street and give her their advice, un-asked-for. She wrote in to a sex advice column."

Right. And... my issue with the column wasn't that it gave advice, but the way the advice was given, and what advice was given. I think it was pretty clear from my post that I knew I was talking about a sex advice column.

"Sounds like sour grapes to me. Once you've had one then you recognize that sex without orgasms may be pleasurable, but it's all foreplay to me."
"You have to wonder if Amanda turns off movies before they are over. Or skips the last chapter or two of the books she reads. Hmmmm. Does she herself purposefully avoid orgasm?
A-ha! There's the question! Those women who have no difficulty achieving orgasm, do you ever stop just before an orgasm? Saying to yourself or your partner, "No, that's fine. I think I'll pass on orgasm this time around."
A show of hands?"

Speculations about the sex life of someone you don't know, awesome! For the record, I'm not going to discuss my sex life. What i discuss here is based on women I know(which may or may not include things that affect me), trends I see in culture, and things I've learned in classes or independent research. I was completely taken aback that not one, but two individuals felt it was appropriate to speculate on my sex life in a public forum that I did initially not have access to. My own experiences are irrelevant to the greater point, I think. Besides, I respect the privacy of my boyfriend, and plan to not horrify my parents or give future employers too much information. Plus, the second part of the second quote misses the point-- the woman who wrote in to Susie had difficulty reaching orgasm-- the experiences of a woman who has difficulty reaching orgasm are likely to be inherently different than that of a woman who has no difficulty.

"The only times I've been satisfied with sex without orgasm is when I have had an orgasm earlier in the day. I typically have trouble getting to another one.
Certainly, I am male and there are differences, but I think that there would be a level frustration building in anyone who had orgasm-less sex for two years or more.
A female friend of mine says this, "I feel that an orgasm isn't always necessary. But it would be disappointing to go that way repeatedly.""

This quote explains a matter of personal preference, and is an example of what I think is harmful in this discussion-- assuming that anyone who does not experience sex in the way you do must, by default, become frustrated with it. In answers like this, I see a lack of empathy for the people involved, and a side order of intolerance. There are plenty of people out there willing to talk about their pleasurable history of, and lack of frustration with, anorgasmic sex. If you, personally, need an orgasm to enjoy sex-- by all means, have your orgasm! But don't insist that other people need the same result to feel good.

To everyone who said anything about faking orgasms: I'm a big fan of honesty, and would never recommend someone fake an orgasm. I do think that the fact the writer had been faking for two years is a problem, a BIG one in that relationship. But I do think that, given an understanding enough partner, that hurdle could be overcome, and they could have a dialogue on how to have an honest sex life that fulfills them both, without her feeling the need to fake something she doesn't even care about.

"In the specific case at hand, if the woman had been ok with the situation, she wouldn't have written the letter. Something or other in the situation bothers her. It's not theoretical, it's individual. ((I wonder how Dan Savage would have replied.))"

Well, yeah. Something WAS bothering her. She wanted to talk to her guy about the faking. That's pretty clear. From what I can tell, the lack of orgasms wasn't bothering her, which is why I took issue with the focus on it.

"Actually, I like them there orgasms, and I'm curious as to why someone wouldn't WANT one. Can anyone enlighten, me? Ok maybe it's hard for her to get to that point, but then shouldn't the important thing be trying to get her to that point... not hiding it from someone or faking it to make your partner/yourself feel better? There's so little reliable having-sex-for-pleasure info out there, no wonder there's this compensatory "no-rgasm is ok" attitude. Look, I'm not saying there's something desperately wrong with you if you haven't had one. I'm just saying "What have you tried?!"
Because I don't understand why anyone would avoid one... If you haven't had one, I understand it's a touchy *snicker* subject, but wouldn't you at least be curious?! I'm assuming you've heard good things about the mysterious and legendary orgasm. (I haven't heard any bad things.) Go seek it out! And when you find one, a good one, and you can tell me "meh" then fine.
Worshipping at the orgasm altar? You betcha!"

There are multiple reasons someone might not want one. The most common explanation I've heard is that the activities that get the individual too orgasm are too time consuming, annoying, or boring for them to want to do on a regular basis. They might enjoy sex itself a lot, but sex isn't the right kind of stimulation to get them to come-- and the stimulation that does get them to come might detract from the enjoyment of sex. The orgasm itself may be pleasurable, but that pleasure might not be enough to make it worthwhile to go through all the steps to get there. I don't think the important thing should be getting to orgasm-- I think the important thing should be that both partners have a great time. And if sex without orgasm is more pleasurable than going through the motions to get to the orgasm, then I'm going to advocate that couples have sex for their mutual pleasure.

"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo -- H. G. Wells
The ranter overlooking a very wide practice in hetrosexuality:
Women who provide and never get orgasms (or pleasure in general) unless they speak up/demand it.
That's like being the f-ing designated driver at every party, even though you enjoy drinking too -- or helping someone paint their house while they watch tv.
Men manage to have their orgasm every time. Women can too, and should, every chance they can ... and stop lying and faking."

Nice quote, but it doesn't apply here. Neither do the analogies. This isn't about women who want an orgasm being deprived of it, its about women getting what they want, and not being judged for it simply because what they want is unconventional. Yes, I ignored women who don't get pleasure unless the speak up-- that's because I was specifically addressing women who get pleasure without an orgasm, and are perfectly happy with their lack of orgasm. To fix the analogy, instead of being the DD at the party, they skipped the party entirely, and went out for a steak dinner and luscious cocktails, taking a cab home. Different kind of evening, different kind of pleasure, but you can't really argue that one is better than the other.
Oh, and as to men? Not all men have orgasms every time. Its certainly easier for them to have orgasms than women, due to how things are set up, but men don't always come-- and some men even fake it. (easily done if they're using a condom) Though faking, of course, isn't good for either party to do.

"it's one thing if a woman sometimes does not have an orgasm but has otherwise fulfilling sex, but if a woman is mostly non-orgasmic, i think it IS a problem. and to dismiss it as a matter of lifestyle choice appears to be denial to me."

But whose problem is it? It isn't a problem to the woman who is having an enjoyable fulfilling sex life-- so is it a problem to you? If so, why? And what is it denial of? Is it better for a woman to feel frustrated and broken, as if something is wrong with her, because she can only occasionally achieve orgasm, and then after much effort that reduces the pleasure of sex? Is it better for a woman to have a lower sex drive because she doesn't want to have sex only to discover that she has "failed" again? Is it better for a woman to think she is defective because she enjoys sex, but can't get off? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if someone is enjoying sex, then that's good. Regardless of whether or not their sex practices fit into the norm.

this one is from Susie herself: "I have tried to think what the hard consequences would be of indifference to orgasm over the long haul. It seems to me it would be difficult in a long term relationship... after years and years, the interest in pleasing the other all the time would wane, and if affection sufficed, you wouldn't even want to put on a show. I'd think it be hard to find a match. "

It taps into what I think one of the issues of misunderstanding is: the idea that a woman who doesn't orgasm is just focused on pleasing the other person all the time, and not pleasing herself. An anorgasmic woman can put just as much focus on pleasing herself as she does her partner, if not more, and simply because she does not have an orgasm does not mean she is not being fulfilled.

"This sort of critique would make more sense in a world where there wasn't strong pressure on women to "perform" sex for men in a way that made it unpleasurable for women, mostly because we're too busy checking to make sure our ass is attractive to ask, "What feels good?" God forbid that we have equality in the bedroom! I just don't buy this mentality. Sex that's all about the man's pleasure is so limited. /rant"

I guess one of the other issues is that I came into my post with the presumption that men and women are equal in the bedroom, and that women aren't performing sex for the men, but that they are instead intent on pleasure-- for both parties. Maybe this is a generational issue-- regardless of ability to orgasm, none of the chicks I know have sex that is all about the man's pleasure. The girls I know are all about getting whatever enjoyment they want out of sex.

"I think that for some of us, the ability to have an orgasm is directly linked to how much trust & intimacy we feel with our partners.
Sex without orgasm can, indeed be very pleasurable...but sex with the level of trust & intimacy required to allow an orgasm is astonishing - and it's the kind of thing that, once experienced, most people will seek out again and again.
It seems clear to me that someone who has been lying to their partner for years about orgasm does not have very much trust or intimacy in their relationship. And maybe they have never been in a relationship that has that, and so believes that's just the way the world is.
I can see, with this set of circumstances, how someone would want to normalize the view of orgasmless sex as a lifestyle, but I think that they are hiding some deeper issues from themselves, and that this wish for normalization is just a part of that."

I think this response just displays a lack of understanding and empathy for people with other outlooks. Orgasms do not magically come from trust an intimacy. If they did, a lot more anorgasmic women would be having them, as well as a lot more orgasmic women not having them. Trust and intimacy play into it, sure, but so do physical sensation and biology. There's actually a genetic influence on orgasmic experience-- thanks, London researchers (Dunn, Kate M., Cherkas, Lynn F., and Spector, Tim D.)! From the abstract to their study: "A significant genetic influence was seen with an estimated heritability for difficulty reaching orgasm during intercourse of 34% (95% confidence interval 27–40%) and 45% (95% confidence interval 38–52%) for orgasm during masturbation." So, its not all in the mood, or the moment, or the trust. There is some biological basis here too.

And finally, there were a number of comments implying that if she had been lying about orgasms to her partner, then she was probably lying about her ability to orgasm to the Brights/herself, or didn't really know what an orgasm was. She said she orgasms. She probably knows what an orgasm is. She also has no motive to lie to the Brights about it-- she's coming clean about her past lying, trying to lay everything out, what possible motivation would she have to keep one lie in place? I'm inclined to believe her on that point-- and also inclined to believe that she does know what an orgasm is, and can tell when she is and is not having one.

I hate, hate, hate when people go on about privilege, but-- well-- I'm about to be one of them. Take your orgasm privilege and shove it. Having orgasms doesn't mean your sex is better.

My original entry is here, The Brights' original column is here, and the majority of the response comments are from this thread of facebook.