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.