Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Heavy Sigh

So I’m at a party last Saturday night, and this reoccurring thing happens.  I’m mingling and talking about dating girls, and the person I’m talking to is like, “Oh, you’re queer?!  What’s your type?  (I start to stammer, and said person doesn’t actually let me think about this long enough to answer the question.)  He asks if I have an age preference; yes, I tell him.  I don’t want to date anyone under 27 or 28.  He completely ignores this and says, “What if it’s not dating?  She’s 25, but she really just wants to have a lot of sex.”  He whips out his phone and starts showing me pictures of his best friend, who admittedly is cute, but I know nothing about this girl, and this guy knows nothing about me.  He leaps gaily (see what I did there?) forward and says, “I’m going to give you her number.”  “No,” I say, confidently.  “I’d be pissed if someone gave out my number without my permission.”  “Okay!” he says, and calls her to ask her permission.  After a minute of talking to her, he hands the phone to me so I have to have an awkward conversation with a stranger on the phone in the middle of a party.  No pressure or anything. 

What makes me so frustrated about this scenario isn’t the fact that he didn’t give me time to answer him or that he basically set us up without really waiting for my consent OR her consent; it’s that he just assumed that I would be a good match for this girl just because we both happen to be into women.  What the fuck is that?  Can you imagine if you were at a party and someone said to you, “Oh, hey -- you’re straight!  I know this other straight person!  You guys would be PERFECT together!”

What the actual fuck?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

An Introduction to Sex: Flowers in the Attic

“Christmas wears me out because of the incest.”
    -My mom circa 2001

What she’d actually meant was that her eyes get tired in church on Christmas Eve because of the incense, but it’s hilarious, no? 

It’s Christmas in the US right now, and as I so often do at this time of year, I’m thinking of a hot (and vaguely troubling) scene in a book series that I loved as an adolescent.  The first books I ever read that mentioned sex, sexuality, and sensuality were those in the Dollanganger series (Flowers in the Attic et. al.) by V.C. Andrews.  When I found them (in my attic, of course) at the age of twelve, they opened up a whole new world to me -- and to several thousand other adolescent girls, I imagine.  A damaging, fucked-up world. 

If you’re not familiar with the series, it begins with the tragic and accidental death of a father of four children (a teenage boy and girl and young twins).  In a state of shock, their mother whisks them away to live with her parents in Virginia and promptly locks them in the attic for years while trying to score a rich husband.  Their super crazy fundamentalist grandmother tries to kill them all because she considers them the spawn of Satan (their father is their mother's half-uncle), but in the end, three of them escape (one of the twins dies) after three and a half years of being imprisoned.  During this time, the eldest son, who is a boy genius studying medicine, falls in love with his sister, who practices ballet in the attic, and sorta kinda rapes her.  Aaaaand that’s just the first book. 

When I was a twelve year-old girl reading these books, I of course never stopped to analyze the nature of the relationships or the gender roles in the book… I just reacted to the fact that all the male-identified characters seem to be mesmerized by Catherine and her magical feminine powers.  They all desperately crave her and can never imagine loving another woman after meeting her.  As a middle school student, I was like, “Hell, yes -- I want the power to captivate men!”  It was my first introduction (to be continued by several books, television shows, movies...) to the incredibly destructive and ridiculous narrative that if the person a woman gives her attention to doesn’t have this reaction to her, she’s failing as a woman.  Never mind the fact that the first romantic relationship this character has is with her brother, the second is with an abusive and manipulative husband, the third is with her adopted father, and the fourth is with her mother’s ex-husband.  Seriously.  V.C. Andrews’s characters and plots are the zenith of clusterfuckery.  Also, the writing.  Oh, god, the writing:

Where was that fragile, golden-fair Dresden doll I used to be?  Gone.  Gone like porcelain turned into steel.

So. Awful.  She also uses the phrase “rigid male sex part” at some point. 

This book series is a revenge fantasy, and much like male-centered revenge stories propagate harmful gender narratives by focusing on a heroic and hyper-masculine protagonist who lives by a code and uses his dark cunning, grit, and brutal strength to leave a trail of bodies behind him on his quest to extract a morally unambiguous revenge, Andrews does the same in this female-centered revenge story by creating a femme fatale character who uses her body and her sexuality to seduce men and emotionally destroy them on her quest to get a horrifying revenge on her mother (who was willing to kill her own children for inheritance) and her grandmother (who was willing to kill her own grandchildren to maintain the family reputation).  And you thought your family was dysfunctional. 

Anyway, back to the steamy Christmas scene.  Cathy and Chris are laying with their heads underneath a Christmas tree, looking up at the lights like they used to do when they were children, and then they have a super hot three page-long makeout session wherein they want to have sex, but they know they shouldn’t because they’re related, but they’re both so completely overwhelmed by their desire for each other that they just can’t help it.  I know it’s wrong on so many levels (the abominable writing being more disturbing than the incest: “We melded in a hot blend of unsatisfied desire -- before I suddenly cried out, “No -- it would be sinful!”  “Then let us sin!”), but twenty years later, reading this scene still turns me on.  Something about the taboo of wanting someone you’re not supposed to want or can’t have a physical relationship with, the sexual tension that builds from that desire over time, and the release of said tension is crazy hot.

This was supposed to be a funny one-paragraph post about this one scene. Oops!  I think that the second book in the series that contains this scene was just made into a TV movie, so if you’re up for a few laughs, I’d suggest watching it with friends and a bottle of bourbon.  Take a shot for every time something inappropriate happens.   

Monday, December 15, 2014

#FuckYes

Someone sent me an article a month ago that focuses on doing things in your life that you are enthusiastic about (take five minutes to read it); the thesis of the text is that if you’re not saying “Fuck, yes!” to something, then you should just say no -- especially in relationships (sexual relationships, romantic relationships, friendships; all the ships).  The piece begins with the question: Why would you ever choose to be with someone who is not excited to be with you? 

People sometimes stay with partners they're not that into for reasons of financial or emotional security, sex, a boost in self-esteem, or out of habit.  Or because they don't want to hurt their partner's feelings.  Most people have experienced power imbalances in their relationships, and many of us have been hurt by people who have held onto us while only having lukewarm or ambivalent feelings toward us.  

Someone recently said to me that this is a bullshit binary (not in those exact words), which is a fair point.  There is a lot of grey area between being stoked to be with someone and feeling "meh" about a partner, and it's hard to be in a state of excitement all the time because, realistically, we have lives outside of our relationships that need tending to.  The ways we feel about people can't be shoved into a binary, and peoples' feelings and relationships change and grow over time. That being said, as Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert say in More Than Two, "ambivalence has little place in romance" -- it can be and often is incredibly painful.  Which is exactly why "Fuck yes or no" IS a binary (hence the or); emotional purgatory is the worst place to be.

A few important things I took away from this article:
1) Know thyself.  Know what you want in a partnership.
2) If you're not sure how someone feels about you, ask, and really be ready to hear their answer.  If you're not sure how you feel about someone else, then tell them so they can make informed choices. If your feelings shift while dating someone or fucking someone or mid-relationship, say something. 
3) When you really feel excited to be with someone, tell them you are, because maybe they don't know it!  Conversely, if you know someone is really into you and you're not feeling it, even if you think it will hurt their feelings, be honest about it. 

Basically, just communicate more often, more honestly, and more compassionately.






**A note about the “Fuck, Yes or No” article: I like the premise, but it’s problematic.  It’s heteronormative and it uses war imagery to describe relationships, sex, and love (happiness is not a war).  The author claims that the law of fuck yes or no “instantly resolve[s]” consent issues.  What the what?  Consent is an ongoing conversation that can’t be “solved.”  He says if someone is “pressuring you into doing something you’re unsure about, your answer is now easy.”  No, it’s not.  It’s never easy to say no, especially while being pressured.  Finally, this article (this blog as well) is situated in a framework of privilege.  I have the privilege of entering into and exiting from relationships freely without the threat of violence or coercion, in a community and culture where sexual activity and relationships are choices.  I don’t have financial obligations that require me to stay with someone I don’t want to be with, or children to take into consideration.  This is certainly not representative of everyone, and it’s important to acknowledge that there are people who don’t have the choice to say, “Fuck, yes or no.”       


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Last Week's News



So all kinds of shit happened in terms of sexual health reporting last week; these issues have gained enough traction to pop up on NPR.

Terry Gross interviewed two authors on “Fresh Air” on their latest book on the rapidly lowering age of onset puberty for girls.  Take away: Soy isn’t causing your nine year-old daughter to develop breasts, but antibiotics given to the animals we eat might be.  I brought up this article to a younger friend of mine last week, and she told me that she started her period at eight.  Eight.  I can’t imagine how confusing and strange it would have been to start bleeding every month while I was still playing with Barbie dolls.

The Food and Drug Administration is considering lifting a ban on blood donations from MSM (men who have sex with men).  Just - what?  The FDA doesn’t already allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood?  This was the case fifteen years ago when I used to volunteer at a blood donation center, and I thought it was ridiculous then.  The article states that “one suggested solution… would permit donations from men who have gone a year or more without having sex with another man.”  So… all those celibate queer guys out there, congratulations!  Today’s your lucky day!   Basically, you can only give blood if you don’t put out.  But aren’t hospitals in large metropolitan areas  -- the very same large metropolitan areas where there happens to be a large LGBTQQILMNOP population -- in desperate need for a larger blood supply?  So why the fuck, especially in light of the fact that HIV has been screened for in blood donations since 1985, are we still discriminating against people who want to help save lives?

And then there’s this bullshit about circumcision
From the article:  “The CDC's proposal opens the door to circumcision becoming a topic of conversation any time an uncircumcised male goes to a medical appointment.”
40 year-old male patient: “So, Doctor so-and-so, I seem to be having an allergic reaction to eating fruit with pits and tree nuts, and --”
Doctor: “I see that you’re uncircumcised.”
Patient: Blank stare.
Doctor: “Ever think about changing that?”
Patient: Continues blank stare.
Babies can’t give consent to being circumcised, a procedure that’s irreversible and unnecessary.  Has the CDC considered talking to parents about the sexual benefits of keeping their male children’s penises intact?  Because let me tell you, there are sexual benefits.

And last, but certainly not least, expect a mass exodus of the entirety of the UK’s porn industry out of the UK and into LA.  The UK says that it’s still okay to make porn, but only heteronormative, vanilla, male-gaze porn.  So basically a half-step above an NC-17 movie.  No fisting?  No kink?  No squirting?  That’s almost like no porn at all. 




Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Benefits of Having a Smart Phone

My phone rang at 9:30 pm last Sunday night, which is quite unusual (just the act of calling someone is unusual these days).  When I answered, I heard a lot of giggling coming from the other end of the line.  [Can you say “line” with wireless technology?]  It was a good friend who, once she was finished laughing, managed to squeak out, “Hey, Jo!  I have a friend over, and… I’m cooking.”  (At this point I’m sure she’s going to ask me a cooking question.)  “Okay,” I say, distracted by Game of Thrones.  She continues:         “… and I’m naked.  Well, sort of.  I’m wearing one article of clothing.”  “Great!” I exclaim, as an enthusiast of both cooking and being naked.  And sometimes naked cooking, depending on what I’m making.  I stop paying attention to the show.  Then she says, “I know this is really weird, but, um… my friend wants to take pictures of me, and I really want to share them with someone, but I don’t want it to be creepy or sexual, and so I was wondering if I can share them with you.  Can I -- ” “YES!” I interrupt her, super excited that my friends want to share naked photos with me.  Platonic naked photos.  That she trusts me to look at her body, not judge her, not see her as a sexual object, compliment her on how good she looks naked, and then erase the pictures from my phone makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Like a baby panda.  This happened a day after a different friend sent me a photo of himself wearing a lacy ladies thong in front of a sink full of dildos and anal beads (hot, right?!).  Thanksgiving was this past week, and I’m thankful for trusting friends and the beauty of the human form.  By the way, the one article of clothing my friend was wearing was a baseball cap.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Office hours just got interesting!

I had a student come to my office hours yesterday for a chat.  As he was talking to me about his girlfriend and whether or not he wanted to marry her (I’m sure you can imagine my reaction to that… we had a whole conversation about marriage and monogamy), he abruptly stopped and asked, “Jo -- have you ever been in a relationship?”  “Of course,” I replied, laughing.  “Lots of them.”  “Then… why are you alone?” he asked.  I told him that I’ve been with people who wanted to spend their lives with me and I didn’t feel the same at that time, and that I’ve been with people who I’ve wanted to build a life with, but they didn’t.  That it’s just never worked out.  That being with someone I really want to be with is more important than being in a relationship just to be in a relationship. 

He then said: “Well… aren’t you lonely?”  “No,” I said (the answer is more complicated, of course, but I didn't think it would be appropriate to turn my student into a therapist).  “I mean, I date people.  Actually, I was supposed to go on a date this weekend, but it was canceled.”  “Why?”  he asked.  After hesitating for a long time and thinking, Can I say this? I answered slowly, “She’s not feeling very well and wants to stay home.  She lives in another city.”  “Oh,” he said.  “So you date men and women?”  “Yup!” I answered.  “I’m not shocked,” he said (which I find hilarious).  And then: “I understand how men and women are sexual, but I don’t really understand about men and men and women and women.”  “Well…” I started, reminding myself that we are in a school setting and he’s my student, so I have to tread carefully.  “A lot of people think that there’s only one definition of sex, and that’s penis in vagina sex… but there are lots of different kinds of sex.”  “Oh,” he said.  “I didn’t know that.”  (Oof, I thought. I feel sorry for your girlfriend.)  I went on: “I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to say any more on the subject, but you have the entire internet at your fingertips.” 

We chatted a bit more and he left to meet a friend; I felt lucky that I have students who feel comfortable talking to me about relationships and sexuality, and I feel very lucky that I have students with whom I can be honest with about my relationships.  Straight teachers post pictures of their families on the walls of their classrooms and talk about their husbands, wives, and children, and that’s sanctioned because it fits into the narrative about what relationships and families are “supposed” to look like.  It’s exciting to be alive during a time when that narrative is changing. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I walked into my 12:30 class yesterday and found a former student sitting there, in the dark, with one of my current students.  “Hi!” I exclaimed in a lively manner.  “It’s so great to see you!  What are you doing here?  Did you just want to sit in on class today?”  She smiled and said she was happy to see me too, but her eyes looked sad.  I looked over to the student who was actually enrolled in this class and asked how she was; in a tiny voice, she replied, “GM isn’t coming.  She died.”  Thinking I’d misheard her -- that one of GM’s family members had passed, probably a grandparent, I said, “I don’t think I got that -- someone in GM’s family died?”  “No,” she said, now starting to cry.  “GM died.” 

I sat down.  When you hear something so shocking, your first reaction is to just not believe it because it seems so impossible.  I asked how.  She was hit by a car.  Walking home from school.  To be more precise, walking home from my class.  I started crying.  I asked when the funeral was so I could go; they said that her family had already held it, less than twenty-four hours after her death.  I asked if they could get her parent’s address for me.  They said they would try. 

More students filtered in, and as time for class came, I told them that we wouldn’t have class today; that if anyone wanted to share something about GM, they could.  That if they wanted to go, that was okay.  That if they wanted to stay in class and just be together, that was okay.  That feeling and expressing sorrow and grief was okay.  I told them the things that I thought were wonderful about GM, and there were a lot of them.  She was not only the brightest student in the class, but would be the first to volunteer to help anyone with anything without being asked.  She radiated grace, confidence, and joy.  She was an effervescent young woman who held everyone’s attention and gave her attention fully.  She was absolutely charming.  She was twenty-two years old.  

We sat in silence and cried together for a long time; no one said a word.  After class, some of the students came to my office to talk about GM; they were pretty shaken up.  They cross the street several times a day, eyes glued to their phones, ear buds plugged in, completely unaware of their surroundings.  Traffic laws are pretty much the same in Korea as they are in the US and Canada, but go largely unenforced and unpenalized.  They told me that after exams, we could all go visit her grave together. 

When I got home from school, I immediately emailed former students whom I still keep in touch with just to tell them that I love them and to be careful.  Since I’m a teacher, I’m giving you all an assignment: Right now, tell someone who’s important to you that (s)he is important to you.  Like, right now.  Don’t wait.  I know this seems cheesy and like something you’d read in an email forwarded to you by your aunt who only sends you forwards, but do it anyway. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One of the Boys

The popular western-style bars in my city in Korea happen to be sports bars; I visit them at least once a week, so I know all the barflies.  I was sitting in one of these bars last week, talking with a sports-loving acquaintance, and Lorde came up in conversation.  He started talking about how he finds her unattractive (he said it in MUCH harsher words), and I went off on him about how talented she is and how he shouldn’t give a fuck how she looks because it’s not important -- and besides, she’s super beautiful!  I then laughed at myself and said, “I’m feministing you.”  “I realize that,” he replied.  Then he continued: “But you objectify women at least as much as I do, Jo.”  “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said.  He laughed because he thought I was kidding, but in my head, I was thinking Fuck.  Fuckfuckfuck.  Is he right?  DO I objectify women as much as this guy?  He constantly talks about women’s appearances, and when he asks me questions about whether or not I’d have sex with any given woman in the bar, I actually answer him.  It was one of those instances where you realize you’ve done something wrong, feel horrified, feel ashamed, and then want to deny it but can’t.


I had complained to his girlfriend recently about how he talks about women and asked her how she could be with a guy who seems to respect the individual but not the gender.  I told her that he has said some really fucked up shit to me about women, and he has -- but what I didn’t say is that when he was saying those fucked up things, I said nothing.  I did nothing.  And in my silence, I was complicit in his words and behavior.  She mentioned to him that maybe I don’t want to be treated as one of the guys, and he said to her, “What are you talking about?  Jo loves being one of the boys!  She takes it as a compliment!”  And the thing is -- he’s right.  I’ve always taken it as a compliment when my male friends tell me that “I’m just one of the guys.”

But I’m starting to think that the price of being in the boy’s club is too high.  Thanks to conversations happening in the sex positive world (and on the internet in general) around consent, toxic masculinity, and entitlement, I’ve been reflecting a lot about how we propagate misogyny in some really subtle and insidious ways that we might not even recognize because we’re not talking about them.  I don’t want to be a part of reinforcing the negative ways that men talk about women’s bodies... but right now, I am.  Ideally, I'd like to be a part of changing gender narratives.  This means two things: One, I have a lot of uncomfortable conversations coming my way.  Two, I get away with saying a LOT of inappropriate things to women I don't know ("Hey -- you have fabulous cleavage!") just because I'm a woman.  Probably a good idea to make a conscious effort to stop making those comments. 

I cherish my friendships with the men in my life, and I’m friends with some really great feminist men.  I’m also friends with some pretty misogynistic guys, and I don’t want to be one of them.  Before I can have a conversation with them about the way they see women, though, I think I have some internal work to do regarding how I think and talk about women.   

Sunday, November 9, 2014

WTF, HBO?

I realize I’m super late on this, but here goes.  I just finished reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series (well, at least the books that have thus far been published), so I was SO FUCKING EXCITED to see this television show that everyone’s been raving about for the past four years. 

There are a lot of memorable scenes from the books; the first one that indelibly burned into my brain was Daenerys and Khal Drogo having sex on their wedding night.  GRRM describes how Daenerys is crying at first, but Drogo takes hours to comfort her, undress her, and then basically get her into a full stage of arousal by caressing her everywhere until she’s wet before asking her consent to have sex.  She replies with an enthusiastic yes, and it’s super hot.  Sexual agency!  It's the best.  Reading that scene, I was like “Fuck YES.  GRRM knows how to write sex scenes for women!” 

So then WHY IN GODS’ NAMES (see what I did there, GoT fans?) does HBO turn this scene into a rape?!?  Drogo looks angry as he fucks her from behind, Daenerys is sobbing, and there is definitely no verbal or implied consent (via body language) given.  You’d think that after Sex and the City, HBO would be comfortable with women’s desire, but apparently rape is more palatable to viewers in the minds of HBO executives and / or the show’s writers than a teenage female expressing sexual desire.  Just.  Ugh. 

I guess this was a big deal when the show first aired…


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Not Yet a Cougar

A couple of months ago, I was at a dance club, and I started dancing with an attractive woman who was new to South Korea.  The dance followed a familiar pattern (you know what I'm talking about): We started out by facing each other and moving our bodies together, then holding hands and doing some partner dancing with footwork and turns, then hands slid up to waists and we had our hands on each others' backs, and then our foreheads were touching, and then we were kissing and grinding to the music, completely oblivious to all the people around us.  After the loooongest time, we finally managed to break apart and decided to get some fresh air.  While outside, I asked her to come home with me; she made some witty comment, we grabbed our bags, and we were off.  I don’t remember how it came up, but on the way home, she mentioned that she was twenty-four.  I was shocked because she looked and seemed older; I had assumed she was at least thirty (I’m in my mid-thirties).  It really threw me.  

.................................

When I was twenty-four, I had a thirty-seven year-old pseudo-boyfriend for about a year.  At the time, I remember thinking how cool it was that I was dating someone with real furniture (the kind that doesn’t come in a box) and a full-time job with benefits.  I had just graduated from university, and it made me feel like a grown-up.  I didn’t have romantic feelings for him (nor he for me; we were both still in love with our exes), but I thought he was hot, and the sex was good.  I always felt inadequate when I was with him, though.  I hadn’t done the traveling he’d done; I hadn’t read the books he’d read; I wasn’t familiar with the music he listened to, and I for sure didn’t understand his job (he was an oceanographer).  Considering we were so off personality-wise, I never really understood why he wanted to date me.  He eventually ended up marrying a woman who was two years younger than me.

When I entered my thirties and looked back on it, I thought, “What was wrong with that guy?  Why didn’t he date people his own age?”  I’ve come to the realization that nothing was wrong with him.  Maybe dating younger women made him feel more youthful.  Maybe being an older, protective man turned him on.  Maybe he just thought younger women are hotter (in which case, he’s got a LOT of company).  Or maybe all the women his own age were partnered.  As we get older, the dating pool inevitably gets smaller as people pair off, move in together, get married, and have kids, which makes dating someone your own age more difficult.                 

That being said -- I can’t seem to get past it.  Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher and the idea of dating someone who could have been my student at some point in my career squicks me.  When I tell this to people in their early twenties, they get offended.  “It’s really not that big of a deal,” they say.  “It’s only a decade.”  I felt the same way when I was in my early twenties.  I ask them if they would date someone who was ten years younger than them.  “NO!” they say, horrified.  “That’s illegal!”  “What if it were legal?”  I ask.  “Would you date someone ten years younger than you?”  “Of course not,” they inevitably reply -- “they’re children.”  

Aaliyah said that age ain’t nothin’ but a number, but it’s so much more -- it’s a whole lifetime of relationships, experiences, education, and cultural references.  When I say to someone, “Hey, do you remember when the Challenger exploded?” and they don’t because they weren’t born yet, it makes me feel old.  I realize that age gaps in relationships aren't a big deal for a lot of people, and my younger friends are probably laughing at this post and rolling their eyes.  I have loads of friends in relationships with people who are 5-10 years older or younger than them, and they’re truly and beautifully happy.  My parents were thirteen years apart (which is probably why my friends all thought that my dad was my grandpa).  And I would (have) absolutely date(d) people who are older than me… but I’m starting to think hard about the fact that the median age of single people is going to stay the same while I age.

I am not calling twenty-somethings children; however, I teach students in their early twenties.  I officially recognize them as autonomous adults, but I also call them “my kids,” just as parents call their adult children their kids.  I realize there is a HUGE range of maturity in young people; when I was young, older people always thought I was older than I was.  Nor am I criticizing folks who choose to date people who are much younger than they are.  I’m just kind of freaking out because I think I’ve finally hit a point where I realize that it’s going to be tough from here on out to find people my own age to date.  Also, I’m starting to think that maybe it’s time I got out of the club.        

Thursday, October 23, 2014

English: The Anti-Passion Major

Last semester, I had the good fortune to teach mostly third and fourth year students in my English conversation classes.  While some of them were pretty low-level students, most of them had a really good grasp of vocabulary and syntax and spoke with ease and confidence.  Some of them had studied or lived abroad, and they all enjoyed learning about the cultures of various English-speaking countries. 

This semester isn’t so easy.  One of my coworkers had a class of sixty students (a conversation-based class, mind you, not a lecture), so he asked if I’d split the class with him.  Gladly, I said.  He kept the third and fourth year students (various majors) and gave me the first and second year students, who were all English majors.  English majors! I thought.  Piece of cake.  Imagine my surprise on the first day of class when I find that at least 50% of my students don’t understand most of what I’m saying (I speak slowly and clearly in class) and have a really difficult time producing a sentence.  Furthermore, they seem pretty apathetic toward participating in discussion. 

Curious as to why someone would major in English when (s)he doesn’t really seem to care about the subject, I pulled a couple of students aside last week and asked them: “Why are you majoring in English?”  One student told me that the other majors had program requirements, and English had none.  It was where students were put if they didn’t fit anywhere else.  One student told me that he was interested in American culture.  One student told me that she just really liked the sounds and the structure of the language. 

“So…” I continued.  “What are you planning to do after graduation?  How will your job connect to English?”  “It won’t,” one student said.  He continued: “I can just get any job.  Even a hard job.”  I realized at that point that maybe a lot of my students don’t want to be in university at all -- they’re there because their parents are paying for them to be there, and it’s expected of them. 

In the US, we have fields of study that are built on passion, but don’t often result in an actual career for most people who major in them -- art history, philosophy, and yes, English.  Maybe in Korea, English is the anti-passion major. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Spectaclephilia?

As we were on our way into a bar last night, an acquaintance of mine told me that he'd fulfilled a fantasy that he had long had; he said he would normally never tell anyone something like this, "but this is just the kind of relationship" we (he and I) have.  He went on to tell me that he had recently bought his girlfriend a beautiful, brand-new pair of prescription glasses, and then put them on her face and came allllll over them.

I am so glad that even though I sometimes share too much, I inspire others to tell me their dirty secrets.

Also, glasses are fucking hot. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

No Filter

My apologies if this is a bit rambly; I’m writing in a post-Nyquil haze.

I was out to birthday dinner with a good friend recently, and we were joking about how our friends call me “Sharing Jo” or “No Filter Constance” due to my eager enthusiasm to share the most intimate details of my sex life with my buddies (and / or strangers). 

Suddenly my friend’s laughter came down a notch to a wry smile as she said, “You know that sometimes we’re not kidding, right?  Like, you actually have no filter.”  “What?” I asked, alarmed.  “Yeah,” she continued.  “Like, sometimes, you actually make people really uncomfortable.  And when you’re talking about sex and we’re laughing, sometimes it’s uncomfortable laughter.”  This was news to me.  “Why didn’t anyone say anything before?!”  I asked.  “They didn’t really know what to say,” she said. 

My face grew very solemn, and I sincerely apologized -- so much so that she started backtracking and telling me that it wasn’t a big deal… but it is a big deal.  Talking about sex, especially in an explicit way, to people who aren’t comfortable hearing about it can be a form of sexual harassment, and I don’t want to be that person.  There have been a lot of conversations as of late on blogs and podcasts about consent, and perhaps I should ask for consent before dropping my sex stories on people. 

Then she said something else that made me see all of this in a different light.  A couple of months ago, I was sitting at a bonfire with this friend and a mutual acquaintance of ours who lives a d/s lifestyle. The acquaintance and I were having a friendly discussion about service dommes, which to us was an everyday, banal conversation.  We were sitting away from most of the other people at the bonfire and it was a private conversation.  Fast forward to said birthday dinner; my friend says to me, “When you and [our mutual friend] were talking about kink at the bonfire, it was obviously making people uncomfortable because they’re not used to hearing about it.”  That’s when I realized that maybe we weren’t making those other people uncomfortable; perhaps my friend was uncomfortable with us talking about it in front of her friends whom she doesn’t talk about the kinky aspects of her life with. 

That’s fair.  She felt vulnerable and outed via association.  I don’t have the desire to out someone as kinky who’s not comfortable being outed.  I do, however, have the desire to demystify and normalize kink by talking about it as a regular part of my life.  Part of social change is discomfort; I think most of the people I talk about kink with are more curious than they are uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just my perception / bias as a kink-positive person.  That being said, this conversation made me reflect on whether or not I am saying too much at times. 

And the thing is -- I actually do have a filter.  When I’m teaching or at work, I don’t speak about my personal life to my students or the school administration.  I swear like a sailor in my personal life, but I worked with children for years without once dropping a curse word in their presence.  I never talk to my extended family about my sex life, and when I’m in a professional environment I act like a professional.  I have a filter. 

I choose to talk about sex as a way of helping to change our social landscape around issues of sexuality, relationships, and gender.  I want to give people a safe space to talk about their sex lives and relationships.  I want to contribute to normalizing sexual practices, feelings, and behaviors that people are curious about but afraid of talking about.  My sexual politics are radical in some ways, and I want to make my voice heard.  But maaaaybe I don’t need to talk about prostate milking over dinner.                       

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mean Mommy

I’m the only female staff member among the English teachers at my university; I’m also the only English lecturer who has a university degree in education.  Or English.  So when my male coworkers decide to take our students on a field trip to the film festival (to see a movie that’s not even an English-language film), or to hold my students ten minutes into my class because they’re playing Apples to Apples, or to go to lunch with the students  instead of having class, or to cancel my class time so that they can sit back and let the students do a scavenger hunt, or to tell me that if I want I can show videos in my class because that’s what they do to kill time, I kind of feel like a divorced parent.  More specifically, a divorced mom who makes her kids eat their vegetables and do their homework and help with the chores.  I’m the mean mom, and my male coworkers are the cool dads who buy their kids presents and show up once a month to take them skating or to an amusement park. 





I don’t have time for that shit.  I have actual content to teach them, carefully planned and scaffolded projects where they come to learn things on their own, confidence to help build, papers to score, meaningful shared learning experiences and conversations to be had. 

I know that someday my students will appreciate the effort they put into my classes because I make them work hard, and the effort I put into planning and adapting my curriculum with their educational needs in mind.  But it feels like today is not that day.    

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

First Kisses

*The awkward one:  You really like him, but you don’t know quite how to go about telling him, and you really want to kiss him, and you’re waiting for the right moment, but it never comes, so you just end up in this weird place where you feel like it’s probably the best moment you’re going to get, but then you feel like you should say something just to let him know it’s coming, and you blurt out, “I like you,” or “I’d like to kiss you,” or (in my case), “I think you’re really attractive” before going in.  The kiss is good, but it would have been better if you’d have kept your trap shut. 

*The one with the super hot girl in the club who looks like a great kisser because she’s so hot, but then ends up being an absolutely awful kisser: Self-explanatory.

*The one that wasn’t: You try to kiss someone you’re really into, but he backs away, and you wish you could crawl into a hole or a tauntaun. 

*The face rape: When someone attacks your face with his / her mouth, and you think, “HOLYSHITWHYAMIKISSINGADEMENTOR?!?!?!?!?!”

*The one with the teasing: She puts her lips just an inch from yours, and just stays there for a moment, breathing, then lightly grazes your lips with her lips and slides her hands into your hair, and it’s like you can feel her lips everywhere on your body, and then she really kisses you with firm (but gentle) pressure and lets her lips linger there.  And you tremble. 

*The one with all the biting: Seriously, what’s with all the biting?  I mean, do it once, and it’s hot.  Do it all the time and it’s just annoying.  You’re not a vampire, not matter how many young adult novels you read. 

*The one with WAY too much tongue: Just. Ugh. Tongue is like salt -- some people (myself included) think that it’s delicious, but should be used in moderation; too much salt totally ruins a dish.  Then there are people who pour that shit all over everything, and they’re going to get heart disease.

*All the ones you don't remember because honestly, they're just not that memorable.

*The one with the person you’ve wanted to kiss for a year:  You’ve held back for a million reasons, but one day you’re alone and you’ve finally allowed yourself to touch him, and you’re sitting there in the dark, in his bed, just caressing his arm, and you don’t even stop to think.  Your body takes control, and suddenly his face is in your hands and your mouth is so hungry for his that you don’t care that you’re supposed to be a lesbian or that this could potentially ruin your friendship.  All that matters is that your heart is beating a mile a minute and your knickers are so wet you could wring them out and you can barely breathe and you just want to breathe into him and you just do it, and he kisses you back with just as much need and passion and everything feels right.  That’s the one you remember.

I wish I could get The Oatmeal to draw this post.  I wanted to do this as a comic, but everything I draw looks like someone gave an eighteen month-old a crayon and a piece of paper and said, “Go to town, kid!”

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Reflections

As it’s bisexual awareness week, I wanted to share something I wrote six or seven years ago about figuring out that I was bisexual as a high school student and then attempting to find somewhere to fit in.

    When I sat next to K on the swim lineup -- I was number twenty-nine, she was number thirty -- and her goose-pimpled leg would graze mine, I shivered in my scratchy poly-cotton maroon boy-cut swim suit.  Coach was always coming at us for talking too much, but in a playful way.  He knew we were best friends -- at least in that moment.

    K had a cabbage patch kind of face -- sweetly innocent, slightly plump and with a toothy grin, complete with dimples.  Freckles splayed her face and her blue eyes would peep out at me from underneath her deep brown bangs and long lashes, twinkling with non-malicious mischief.  We would sit there, twittering about boys and what we’d wear to school the next day.  One day we wore matching vinyl knee-length boots and short skirts, and people called us sluts, but we didn’t care.  We felt grown. 

    I had really close female friends in middle school.  We were a powerful clique, roaming the halls in search of new boyfriends and attempting to maintain control of the school’s social scene.  I had sleepovers with them; I’d seen them change clothes, listened to them talk about sex.  Yet I never felt sexual when I was with them.  K was different; she was exciting, and being in the same room with her made my heart pound.  Her mom lived in a fancy hotel downtown and was never home, so we did a lot of stupid things and never got caught.  We smoked pot and took pills in the living room; we strolled through downtown, laughing our asses off, ripped to the tits.  We swam in our panties late at night in the swimming pool in her drug dealer’s apartment building; I even made out with her older military brother in the freight elevator.  I thought she was the most exhilarating person I’d ever met.

    Maybe that was part of my attraction to her -- or maybe it was just good, old-fashioned hormones.  Whatever it was, I had it bad.  Whenever we passed notes in the hallway, the feeling of her fingers against mine was enough to set me on edge for the rest of the day.  She would often grab my cheeks and press them together, asking me to say “pudgy bunny,” and my heart would pause momentarily.

    I went through my freshman year of high school never speaking this secret to anyone, lest they think I was even weirder than they already thought I was -- I had transferred to the school six weeks into the school year, and as the new kid with pink hair, I stuck out.  I spent the year obsessing over a boy who I was madly in love with, and K was right by my side -- my co-conspirator, my wingman.  I would call her to tell her every little interaction I had with him so we could spend hours analyzing it.  I never got to tell anyone about my interactions with her -- the knowing smiles, the lasting hugs, the feeling of dread if I thought I’d hurt her feelings.

    In my yearbook at the end of our freshman year, she wrote to me: “You are my idol, my music box, my mentor, (my fiancéé?), my best friend.”  She was always telling me how beautiful and special I was, and how the boy that I was in love with was such a fool for not loving me back.  She made me feel like the old cliché about being the world to one person.  She stuck by me when my world was falling apart.  Looking back, I know that I could attribute my attraction to her to these bonding feelings.  But it wasn’t just that.  I knew it wasn’t just that.
 
       I grew up with a lot of gay “uncles“ who helped raise me, and so I was raised to inherently understand that it’s perfectly normal for two people of the same sex to love each other, live in the same house, be a couple.  I was very lucky in that respect.  Profoundly so.  And so I never thought that my feelings for K were wrong, or that they were weird.  I had just never felt them before.

    When I heard about our city’s gay pride festival, I jumped at the chance to volunteer.  I was fifteen years old and had at that point been volunteering at an STD / HIV testing clinic, teaching HIV awareness and prevention after school in the lobby, and handing out condoms across the streets from high schools for the past year.  I mean, it just seemed to fit into my young but sexually progressive world.  I remember that my very first volunteer shift, I worked at a burger joint called the Pride Grill with a lot of men in kilts and moustaches.  And we had a fantastic time.  They would make sexual innuendos, and I would laugh with them, and they would look at me uncomfortably like, “Why do you get that?”

    I spent the next three days waving a rainbow flag, buying bracelets and necklaces, working my little heart out for a feeling of belonging… and mostly failing, because as much as my feelings and my attraction for K were genuine, I wasn’t gay.  At that festival I admitted to myself that I liked girls just like I liked boys.  Girls made me tingle, made me shudder, made my stomach flutter.  But so did boys.  And so I found myself in limbo.  Too deviant for the straight kids and too vanilla for the gay kids.  I went to queer events throughout high school (including every Monday night at an LGBT youth night at a gay bar my senior year), but I never felt like I belonged there.  I dated boys.  I had long hair.  I wore skirts.

    I thought that once I was grown-up and out of high school, things would change.  I thought that once I entered the world of adulthood, where people are supposed to be mature and non-judgmental (ha!), everything would be different.  Boy, was I wrong.  When I got to college -- even though I attended a super progressive university -- I still felt no peace, no acceptance.  When I told girls that I dated boys, they would frown and move on.  I looked at the seedy ads on gay.com, and even they loudly proclaimed, “No bisexuals!”  I felt lost.

    Straight boys accepted that I was bisexual because they thought it meant that I wanted to have a threesome with them and another girl.  They still do.  But even though I bristled at every guy who said, “So, like, have you ever done it with a guy and a girl?” I still felt welcome in the straight community (is that a thing?).  I gave up hope on ever having a girlfriend and settled into a mostly straight life, until I moved to Chicago in my mid-twenties and discovered lesbian bars. 

    Twelve years have passed since I first felt my skin prickle when K’s leg brushed mine.  I would always ask to be her partner during rescue lessons so that I could wrap my arms around her.  We would sit after class with our legs dangling in the water, looking at our reflections in the pool.  I would look at my face and wonder if this would pass.  Eventually, we both got serious boyfriends; after some time, I told her that I had had a crush on her, and she told me that she already knew.  She never said that it bothered her, and maybe it truly didn’t -- but we drifted apart.  She’s married now and has kids, and I hope I’m never married with kids. 

    In those twelve years, I’ve gone through all kinds of phases.  I’ve done the abstinence thing, the slut thing, the boy only thing, the girl only thing, the frustrated out of my mind and never, ever want to date anyone ever again thing, the I love being in love thing, the post-breakup doormat thing.  I have gone through all these changes and growth, but sometimes it feels like so little has changed.  I am a bisexual woman.  I do feel more accepted in queer communities now, but most of that I attribute to being more confident and more critical of those who tell me I don’t belong there.  And I still get crushes on straight girls.       

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Do a good deed and send a book to a library.

Specifically, John Green's Looking for Alaska to the Waukesha Public Library in Waukesha, WI.  It seems some parents have freaked out there recently after finding the book on their children's recommended reading lists from school and then discovering that -- gasp! -- the book dares to mention sex.  Said parents are trying to get the book put behind the library counter in school libraries so that children have to get their parents' permission to read. 

Read about it here, then do a good deed and send the WPL a copy, because apparently, they're all checked out.

Spread the word!  Reading is, after all, fundamental. 

Wha-wha-whaaaaat?

I gave my students an assignment this week to design their own utopia.  They had to come up with the type of society and government their utopia would have, what some of their laws would be, what the consequences for breaking those laws would be, etc.  My final question asked what the gender roles in their society would be. 

The last group in my first class got up to present their utopia, and when it came time to talk about gender roles, the speaker (a woman) said that the women would stay at home for the first twenty years after their children were born while the men worked, and then they would switch, with the men coming home to take care of the house and the women going off to work (we didn’t even have a conversation about heteronormativity or what happens to people who don’t get married; baby steps, you know?). 

“Wait,” I said.  “You mean that women have to do alllll the hard work of raising their children at home, and then just before retirement age (assuming these fictional married couples have their children between the ages of 25 - 35), the men get to come home and not participate in child care whatsoever while the women have to go off and join the workforce?”  The young woman who was presenting looked flustered, so she asked one of her partners to help her explain.

I looked behind me at her male partner, who looked me in the eye and said, “Teacher, it is because when we are young, men are strong and women are wea-”

Before he could finish the word “weak,” I laid into him with a tirade of how women are NOT weak, we’re socialized to believe that we’re weak and then we internalize it, and how there is nothing weak about bearing and raising children, etc. etc.

All the female students in my class were nodding, but this guy just stared at me blankly as if to say, “Does not compute.”  I can’t wait to do a gender workshop with this class. 

Sometimes you need to let students come to their own realizations about the world, and sometimes you just have to throw down. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Long Before Grey - NSFR (Not Safe for Relatives)

New Orleans is a city made for trouble -- all kinds -- and I got into a lot of it there.  I was out dancing at the Rock N’ Bowl (a musical venue - slash - bowling alley, and a classy joint if ever there was one) on a school night, and I mentioned to my dance partner that I’d recently seen a pro-domme at Colette, a swinger’s club in the central business district.  He kept dancing and said, “Reaaallllly?” in a Cheshire Cat voice.  “Are you into kink?”  I told him that I really liked the experience and would be interested in experimenting more (though to be honest, I’d been playing since high school).  A few days later, I received a text from him asking if I’d like to come over because he “had a few things to show me.”  Intrigued, I told him I was free the next night. 

I knocked on his door and was invited in.  The lighting was dim and he welcomed me warmly, then showed me around his apartment.  We finally got to his bedroom, where he made a dramatic pause before flinging the door open to reveal a whole plethora of toys spread out on his bed.  Paddles, ropes, gags, floggers… it was a beautiful array, carefully laid out for my eyes to wonder at.  I picked up several items, just touching them to get a feel for the different texture and intensity of each toy.  I’m sure I looked like a kid in a candy shop.  “Wanna play?” he asked with a mischievous grin.  HELL YES, I wanted to play.  He told me that he was a lifestyle dom and he’d been doing this for a long time.  I had little idea what to expect, but I was So. Excited. 

He told me to strip down to my underwear; I willingly complied.  There was no negotiation, no safe words mentioned, no asking for consent.  I now know that it was shitty on his part as the experienced one not to ask about limits or discuss safety with me, just as it was poor judgment on my part not to ask about safety, and if I knew then what I know now, I would have had a conversation with him first.  But it was also fucking hot that he just told me what to do.*

He put a blindfold around my head and told me to get on my knees.  Once there, he tied my arms together behind my back (my forearms overlapping each other horizontally behind me), looped the rope through a ring in the ceiling, and brought it down to tie my ankles together in kind of a modified hogtie.

Once I was (almost) immobile, he began to alternate between sensual teasing and light impact play, making me ask for more.  He pulled my hair and called me foul names, and I was so turned on.  I hadn’t been physically attracted to him before that night, but as he slid his hands over me and hit me in all the right places with conviction, I was desperate to have him inside of me.  “Fuck me,” I whispered.  “I didn’t hear you,” he said in a commanding tone.  “Speak up.”  “Please fuck me,” I repeated.  “What did you say?” he asked.  “God, please fuck me,” I begged.  “Not tonight,” he said, and started undoing the ropes.     

I got dressed in an elated daze, wondering what the fuck just happened.  We hugged goodbye, and I left his apartment flushed and buoyant.  He moved to Texas shortly thereafter, so I never did get a chance to play with him again, but he left me with a fierce desire for the intense combination of pain and pleasure that I’ve been enjoying ever since.    


*Dear Dominants:  This story is not meant to encourage you to play without negotiation; while nothing bad happened in this case, it could have.  PLEASE discuss safety with your subs before playing!  

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Baby Fever = CURED.


      Beginning in my mid-twenties, my older friends started asking me if I wanted children.  “No,” I assured them, “I most certainly do NOT want a giant parasite inside my body.”  They would chuckle and say, “Okay -- for now.”  Which was so infuriating.  They didn’t know what I wanted!  How dare they assume they knew me better than I knew myself!  When I hit my late twenties, my friends in their thirties and forties told me that the dreaded baby fever would be coming my way soon.  “You won’t be able to help it,” they said.  “It’s biology.”  One friend in particular gave me a specific age: thirty-two.  That’s when he claimed his sister and all of his female friends went bananas for babies.  I insisted that they were all crazy.  Why would I -- someone who values personal freedom above all things and plans to travel the world -- want to raise a child?  The idea was sheer nonsense to me.* 

I turned thirty here in Korea and was happy to have this incredible life of easy work and lots of free time.  I could travel!  I had time to exercise every day!  I could have hobbies!  I turned thirty-one and got a university job and MORE free time.  And then it happened.  Somewhere in between thirty-one and thirty-two, I started seeing babies and toddlers everywhere.  What was happening? I wondered.  Was Korea experiencing a baby surge?  That couldn’t be it… the papers were reporting a steady decline in birthrate.  And then I noticed a change in my behavior: upon seeing these tiny humans, instead of thinking, “Blech,” I would think, “Ohmygodit’ssocuuuuuuuuuute!  I want to take it home with me!”  I would pause in the middle of whatever I was doing to stare at said children and smile like an idiot.  I stopped just short of grabbing mothers in the street to smell their babies’ heads.  Somewhere between thirty-two and thirty-three, it peaked -- full-on baby fever.  When I saw any child under the age of three, my immediate reaction would be, “I WANT A BABY IN MY UTERUS RIGHT NOOOOOOOOOOW!”  It freaked me the fuck out.  At first, the fever only infected my uterus and not my brain, but eventually, it started getting so bad that I actually started questioning my choices and my path in life.  For real.

Then last week, I invited a couple of the elementary school teachers I taught last semester over for dinner.  I got a text from one of them: “Yes, Thursday is great!  B can join us, and we’ll bring our children!”  Oh, I thought warily.  I didn’t expect that (I should have, in retrospect -- babysitters aren’t really a thing here).  I told them that I was looking forward to having all of them and decided on a child-friendly meal for eight.  Yes, that’s right: five children were coming to my tiny apartment.  Five children between the ages of four and ten.  I child-proofed the apartment (or at least thought I child-proofed the apartment) and braced myself.  The doorbell rang; as soon as the first two boys were in the door, they raced inside, immediately started climbing all over the furniture, running up and down the stairs, throwing things over my balcony (I live in a loft), and yelling at the top of their lungs, while their mom just watched, smiling.  I quickly ran around the house and started shoving anything breakable or potentially embarrassing into cabinets when the door rang.  Instead of answering the door while I was putting things away so her wildling children wouldn’t destroy them, my former teacher-student said, “Jo!  The doorbell!  B is expecting you!”  I stopped, perplexed, and went downstairs to answer the door.  Three more children rushed in and started to wreak havoc on my apartment.  At one point in the night, one of them threw a rubber toy that I’d gotten as a gift off of the balcony, and it hit me in the head (I promptly put it in a drawer).  I never got a chance to talk to the mothers, because the entire time we were either playing with the kids or watching them to make sure they didn’t suffocate or seriously injure themselves or each other. 

My first reaction was one of irritation -- when I was a kid and we went to a stranger’s house, we would never in a million years touch that person’s stuff without permission, let alone climb on his or her furniture!  My mom wasn’t the type to spank us (I sure like to be spanked now, but that’s another story), but I have friends whose folks would have beat the stuffing out of them had they acted like this in a stranger’s house.  I started relaxing once I started playing with the kids instead of freaking out about the way they were playing.  It took me an hour to clean the place and put everything back after they left.  The next morning, I tried to put a cultural perspective on it: In the US, we’re all about private property and private ownership.  You don’t touch my shit.  It’s an individualistic culture.  Korea has a collectivist culture, so people share things.  Everyone here is family.  When I thought about it like that, I felt honored that the kids and their moms treated me like family… but still a bit rankled.  Finally, I realized that the kids actually got to play and how valuable that it to them.  In Korea, children study all the damn time.  They never have the space or time to just be kids, and they got to be free for a couple of hours in my apartment, which is great.  As they were leaving, their moms told me that all of their kids wanted to have their birthday parties in my house.  “You couldn’t pay me enough,” I said, smiling.

Playing with kids generally makes me happy.  I was a camp counselor for a long time, and actually enjoy running around with children -- as long as it’s not in my house.  They were pretty cute kids, and it was fun, but the best part of it all is that I no longer have baby fever.  So, readers, if you’re experiencing this bizarre malady and wish to rid yourself of it, I recommend inviting five unruly children into your personal space.


                                         

*Actually, when I was a high school student, I fully planned on having kids some day… and then I became a teacher, and that ruined that.      

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Teaching Sexism

I found this horrifying gem a couple of days ago while perusing EFL websites.  Jokes!  What a great teaching tool!  I mean, nothing teaches us more about culture than its humor, right?  So let’s read some North American jokes about love and marriage to teach us about the culture of relationships in the US and Canada:

*A man inserted an ad in the classifieds: "Wife wanted."
The next day he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing: "You can have mine."

Oh, I get it.  It’s because having a wife is such a burden!  I mean, if the bitch didn’t cook and clean, we wouldn’t even put up with her, amiright?

*Q: Why are men with pierced ears better suited for marriage?
A: Because they have suffered and bought jewelry.

Those gold-digging wives!  All they care about is getting their greedy little hands on some bling and making their poor husbands suffer, presumably by working long and hard hours in order to buy wife said jewelry. 

Who thought this was an appropriate lesson for anyone, let alone ESL students?

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Magic in the Moonlight" and "Begin Again" ***spoilers***

If you’re planning on seeing either of these films and don't want them entirely ruined for you, please don’t read this post. 

Magic in the Moonlight

I’m not a Woody Allen aficionado; I find his films hit or miss.  He seems more concerned with quantity than quality.  When his movies are good, they’re great, and when they’re not, they’re pretty fucking awful (cough, cough, “Melinda and Melinda,” cough, cough). 

A quick set up: Colin Firth plays Stanley Crawford, an arrogant, condescending, and abrasive magician who is thoroughly convinced that there must be a scientific, logical explanation for everything and leads a joyless life in which he mocks almost everyone he interacts with.  Oh, and by the way, he takes a sort of sadistic delight in defrauding spiritualists.

Enter a young and beautiful spiritualist: Sophie Baker, played by Emma Stone.

Classic rom com tropes ensue.  Witty dialogue, romantic leads taking the piss out of each other, a montage of said leads spending time together (even getting caught in the rain after their car breaks down).  Of course, they’re both involved with someone else; Stanley has a fiancée who’s perfect match for him on paper, and Sophie is being courted by a young, bronzed blueblood who serenades her with a ukulele.   

Stanley finally admits his belief in Sophie’s ability after she tells him a series of secrets she couldn’t have possibly known.  Now that he believes there’s something truly magical in the universe, he gets a new lease on life and actually starts enjoying it.  After spending a week together, Sophie starts developing romantic feelings for Stanley; when she tells him this, he shuts her down.  There’s no big, sweeping music or reciprocal declarations of love; he’s basically just like, “Wait, what?  You like like me?  That’s madness, you silly girl.”  This is true to his character; he’s insensitive and socially inept, and her feelings don’t make sense to him.     

But at the end of the film, Stanley suddenly realizes that he does have romantic feelings for Sophie, and that even though his fiancée is compatible with him in many ways, he doesn’t feel any passion for her.  The problem with this is that throughout the movie, Stanley has been a TOTAL DOUCHE to Sophie.  In almost all of their interactions, he’s patronizing, insulting, and demeaning.  Even as he’s proposing marriage to her, he tells her that he’s doing it as a favor to her and she is an ingrate (actual word used in the film) if she doesn’t take him up on it.  She doesn’t.  And that’s where the movie should have ended. 

Instead, Woody Allen totally ruins it by having her sweep in at the last minute and accept Colin Firth’s proposal before he kisses her, aaaaaand cut.  The end.  There you have it!  Perfect, instant love.  The words, “Oh, COME on!” expectorated themselves forcefully from my mouth as I watched, horrified.   

So why am I writing about a Woody Allen film -- a film that’s really more about faith and the desire to believe in something than it is about relationships -- in a sex/education blog?  Because I think the movie, despite its charm (and it is entertaining in the way that most romantic comedies are; even Stanley’s condescending quips are delightfully cynical and snarky), conveys some seriously harmful messages about relationships (as most romantic comedies do). 

For one thing, Sophie’s choice between Brice (the young, rich stock character) and Stanley is presented as a binary choice, and one that she must make now.  All of the characters assume she will marry Brice because even though she obviously doesn’t care for him, he’s rich.  I just kept thinking, “Run!  Run, Sophie!  There are more options in the world!”    

Secondly, the whole reason Brice says he wants to marry her is because she “knows him better than he knows himself.”  It doesn’t actually seem like he loves Sophie, but rather her supernatural ability.  It doesn’t seem like Stanley loves her either, for that matter -- he likes that she makes him feel... something, but he doesn’t really love her.  Both of them see her only in the capacity of what she can do for them. 

The worst of the lot, though, is that Sophie decides, in the end, to marry Stanley -- even though he repeatedly degrades her throughout the short time (less than a month!) they know each other.  This confirms for all the self-proclaimed “nice guys” in the world that women really do want to be with men who treat them like shit.

Sigh.  At least the setting, costumes, and cinematography are lush and inspiring.


Begin Again

It was like drinking a cold beer after hiking all day long.  It is so refreshing to see a movie where the (presumably) heterosexual male and female lead characters have a deep and fucking meaningful connection that is neither romantic nor sexual.  It does get a bit cheesy at times (of course it’s unrealistic; it’s a musical), but it’s so lovely and endearing that you forgive John Carney for those moments.  There’s no huge, dramatic, artificial conflict in the middle to move the plot along; the film doesn’t need that. 

Keira Knightly doesn’t end up with the guy who broke her heart; she doesn’t get up on stage with him and she doesn’t forgive him.  Nor does she have any obnoxious “You go, girl!” moment where she gets to publicly leave him as you might see in a romantic comedy.  She simply rides off into the summer evening, alone and perhaps grieving her lost relationship, but knowing that things will get better.  To that I say, Hell Yes.       

Also, the songs are catchy.  This movie is delightful and will make you feel good about life.  Go see it… but not for Adam Levine’s acting or KK’s singing. 

One last thing: I just kept thinking throughout the film, “Haven’t any of these characters heard of ethical non-monogamy?  I mean, maybe they should pick up a copy of The Ethical Slut.” 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Actual responses I got from a recent CL post...

... in women for women, the last sentence of which was, "If you are a man, please respect my boundaries and yourself by not replying."

Hello
Im from Sweden....35 years old, fit, friendly and open minded.
Im interested being a guy in the room watching you and your gf....
Im attractive (hope you think so....) and not pushy [italics mine] so Im fine not participating. Im free the whole day so if you want to invite me just let me know :)  Also, I have some toys that you might be interested in using!!

Hi. H r u?
Im from middle east krn citizen ..I live here about 15 yrs ..I can speak krn well ..can we meet on Saturday?

Hi, How are you doing? I am a cute, handsome and tall guy. I am a PhD student at Korean university. I would love to hangout with you :). I like to watch movies, traveling; hang out with friends and learning new things in life to broaden my horizons. I would love to read, writing scientific articles, gym, sports and walking round the beach and city for fun. I am 5'11", athletic, brown-skinned, dark hair. I am friendly, easy going and love meeting new people.
Thanks
(At least this one contains complete sentences.)

Hey i saw ur ad on cl. Seem pretty cool. Wanted to chat and see whats good. If ur ibterested i can send a pic so let me know. Kakao ------------ or email me bak

And my favorite: 
Are u still looking?

I fear for humanity.  





Thursday, August 14, 2014

Another Ranty Rant About Sex Education

Near the end of this school year in San Marcos, CA (San Diego County), a middle school health teacher did an activity in class from a school board-approved abstinence-plus curriculum which involved papers posted on the wall describing different sexual activities, such as hugging, kissing, “above the waist,” “below the waist,” and “all the way” (whatever that means - not exactly descriptive language).  Students were supposed to stand near the paper that described what level they thought was most appropriate for middle school students.  I wouldn’t necessarily do this activity in my classroom (partially because of the use of antiquated euphemisms and partially because I think the discussion would be better done in small groups), but I don’t see it as particularly harmful.  It opens a dialogue among peers about what they think is right for them, which validates and gives them ownership of their feelings, and hopefully gets them talking to their parents about it. 

However, one student thought that the teacher was asking her to stand under the sign appropriate to what she’d already done; she felt pressured to self-report and told her parents, who then proceeded to vomit a shit storm of sex negativity on the school.

So, first of all, NO MIDDLE SCHOOL SEX ED CURRICULUM -- especially one that’s only abstinence-plus and not comprehensive -- would ever ask students to publicly, in front of alllll their classmates, discuss what they’d done sexually.  That’s ridiculous.  Furthermore, parents at this particular school have to sign permission slips in order for their children to take the class AND the curriculum is available to parents in this district to pursue at their leisure.

Second of all, until recently, these students followed an abstinence-only program; having done thorough content analysis on a few of these programs, I can say unflinchingly that they are reductive, harmful, glaringly sex negative, objectifying, and shame students if they fall anywhere outside of mainstream sexual or gender norms.  Abstinence-plus is barely a step up. 

The parents said in an interview that  “For the children to get that confused is just another reason why it [sexuality education] shouldn’t even be in the schools.” (ABC10 News, June 4th, 2014)  Wh-wh-whaaaat?  Middle school students were confused about something?  If we removed any curriculum that is remotely confusing to students who are in the middle of a hormonal coup d’etat, there wouldn’t be any curriculum to teach.  

So, parents continue to lose their shit over their children talking about sex.  Not news, but still frustrating.

Here's something fun that's totally unrelated to take the edge off!  It's my favorite weekly feature on a blog.