Category Archives: Sex

A Story Like Mine

We highly recommended watching Halsey’s incredible performance. If you are unable to listen, you can read the transcript full transcript below via Billboard.

It’s 2009 and I’m 14 and I’m crying
Not really sure where I am but I’m holding the hand of my best friend Sam
In the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood
The air is sterile and clean, and the walls are that not grey, but green
And the lights are so bright they could burn a whole through the seam of my jeans
My phone is buzzing in the pocket
My mom is asking me if I remembered my keys ’cause she’s closing the door and she needs to lock it
But I can’t tell my mom where I’ve gone
I can’t tell anyone at all
You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew ’cause he worked in the after-school program
And he held her down with her textbook beside her
And he covered her mouth and he came inside her
So now I’m with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam
And she’s praying she doesn’t need an abortion, she couldn’t afford it
And her parents would, like, totally kill her

It’s 2002 and my family just moved and the only people I know are my mom’s friends, too, and her son
He’s got a case of Matchbox cars and he says that he’ll teach me to play the guitar if I just keep quiet
And the stairwell beside apartment 1245 will haunt me in my sleep for as long as I am alive
And I’m too young to know why it aches in my thighs, but I must lie, I must lie

It’s 2012 and I’m dating a guy and I sleep in his bed and I just learned how to drive
And he’s older than me and he drinks whiskey neat and he’s paying for everything
This adult thing is not cheap
We’ve been fighting a lot, almost 10 times a week
And he wants to have sex, and I just want to sleep
He says I can’t say no to him
This much I owe to him
He buys my dinner, so I have to blow him
He’s taken to forcing me down on my knees
And I’m confused ’cause he’s hurting me while he says please
And he’s only a man, and these things he just needs
He’s my boyfriend, so why am I filled with unease?

It’s 2017 and I live like a queen
And I’ve followed damn near every one of my dreams
I’m invincible and I’m so fucking naive
I believe I’m protected ’cause I live on a screen
Nobody would dare act that way around me
I’ve earned my protection, eternally clean
Until a man that I trust gets his hands in my pants
But I don’t want none of that, I just wanted to dance
And I wake up the next morning like I’m in a trance and there’s blood
Is that my blood?
Hold on a minute

You see I’ve worked every day since I was 18
I’ve toured everywhere from Japan to Mar-a-Lago
I even went on stage that night in Chicago when I was having a miscarriage
I mean, I pied the piper, I put on a diaper
And sang out my spleen to a room full of teens
What do you mean this happened to me?
You can’t put your hands on me
You don’t know what my body has been through
I’m supposed to be safe now
I earned it

It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that’s why we’re here
And that’s why we rally
It’s Olympians and a medical resident and not one fucking word from the man who is President
It’s about closed doors and secrets and legs and stilletos from the Hollywood hills to the projects in ghettos
When babies are ripped from the arms of teen mothers and child brides cry globally under the covers
Who don’t have a voice on the magazine covers
They tell us take cover

But we are not free until all of us are free
So love your neighbor, please treat her kindly
Ask her story and then shut up and listen
Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian 
Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs
Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues
For the people who had to grow up way too young
There is work to be done
There are songs to be sung
Lord knows there’s a war to be won

Her Body and Other Parties

Stories by Carmen Maria Machado
Reviewed by Anna Bottrell

Immersing myself in this book took a sharp adjustment of expectations, as at first I almost slipped into mistaking Carmen Maria Machado’s surreal style for a play on the absurd, a beautiful and precise craft where the meaning lies more in the sensation of the sentences than in their larger sum. However, almost violently, at the end of every story a clear vision sets itself into place. Additionally, the stories build throughout the book with their shared theme: women’s bodies. Who has them, who wants them, and what is it like to live in such prime real estate?

The stories cover topics such as dehumanization, objectification, sexual assault, queer and lesbian relationships, and body shame.

Instead of writing women’s experiences through dialogue, Machado paints a vivid portrait with her imaginative descriptions of a world that seems inside out. Its beating heart lies in scenery. Significance is revealed through physical manifestations, and so the body and mind express themselves as one — open to the senses for observation.

It struck me as interesting that few of these stories have an exact setting, in time or in space. They seem to emanate from an archive of common culture, rather than from the manifest world. The stories take familiar elements and setups, and they bind them into Machado’s psychologically thrilling surrealism. However, this borrowing does not make them predictable. When Machado manipulates a familiar scenario, she makes it her own. She does this with a folktale in her story “The Husband Stitch”, post-apocalyptic survival in “Inventory’, and even Law & Order: SVU in “Especially Heinous”. Machado’s voice feels like something that is filling gaps in perspective, something that was always necessary to add.

After reading Her Body and Other Parties , I can re-examine the bits and pieces of common culture that Maghado wove into her stories. As they were untouched, they seem off. Stale, surface level. When Machado writes, she sees her subject matter with a sense of refreshing clarity. A folktale I heard in my childhood may appear to me through her warped vision with a new grain of truth, and suddenly feel urgent and contemporary. It may suddenly feel important.

This book is important. Machado appears to agree. She writes as if to say, “This is the world underneath your world, the world you’ve been told to ignore; but, it exists”.

She drives this point home in the book’s first passage, with a wake-up slap of reverse psychology:

(If you read this story out loud, please use the following voices:
Me: as a child, high-pitched, forgettable; as a woman, the same.
The boy who will grow into a man, and be my spouse: robust with serendipity.

My father: kind, booming; like your father, or the man you wish was your father.
My son: as a small child, gentle, sounding with the faintest of lisps; as a man, like my husband. All other women: interchangeable with my own.)

She has my attention.

See this post in the Clarion magazine as well at bu.edu/clarion

In search for the undivided whole.

by Inès Ouedraogo

For my first blog post I wanted to discuss a topic that is taboo in the US culture and even more so in an academic context: pornography. As a PhD student focusing on porn studies I wanted this post to be read as an invitation for a dialogue on the way porn, especially online porn, affects, moves, inspires or confuses people. I will save here the polemical and never-ending debate on pro and anti-porn feminists. My stance is to discuss topics that are taboo specifically because of that, challenge myself and not approach them with a bias.
For today’s entry I thought of combining porn and relationships and how the former affects the latter and vice-versa. Thinking of current day relationships and porn consumption, there are many ways these two interact. Two possibilities are as follows: for some, porn is an opportunity to let go of frustrations and stress and focus on one’s bodily pleasure without being judged. For others, porn can be a way of coping with loneliness and self-experiment.
What follows is a short story that a very close friend of mine shared with me and that raises a number of questions about the dissatisfaction of relationships with men and pornography.

My Relationship with Porn

At least once a month my mother asks me when I am going to give her grandchildren, but she doesn’t understand modern relationships. I go on dates, but half of the time the men are on their phones. I can bring them home and do what people do when they go home together, we can maybe even call that a relationship, but that’s not what my mother wants from me. I am just as close to porn as I am to those men. Porn doesn’t ask me how my day was, and neither do those men. Porn doesn’t call me before they go to sleep— the last man I saw didn’t call me at any time of the day. My mother has this idea of a relationship that I’m not sure exists anymore. Maybe it does. Maybe if I couldn’t satisfy myself through porn I’d be able to “make it work” with men that I’m seeing. What I’m cheating on these men with pornography before I even meet them— hedging my bets. I’m unwilling or unable to stake my satisfaction on one person, so I get a little satisfaction here and a little there. But it doesn’t add up. Maybe four quarters don’t make a whole. Maybe I need one, undivided whole.

Men Do It

By Madison Frilot

Center stage, there is a stool.
Beside it, Chelsea stands under a single fluorescent light bulb with a pull chain,
wearing all black:
a loose shirt that falls sloppily off her shoulder, black jeans,
and tall black stiletto heels.
On the other side of the stool there is a small table.
Lying on top the table is a pack of cigarettes and a crystal ashtray.
The stage is pitch black.
We hear a lighter strike and we watch a cigarette be lit, unable to see anything else.
She then pulls the bulb’s pull chain and stands under it for a moment,
scanning the audience.
She walks to the stool and takes a seat, legs crossed, takes a few short puffs and puts out the cigarette in the ashtray on the table. She returns to her position.

CHELSEA: I have a prophecy. A motto. A golden rule I’d call it. Everyone has one. Or maybe a few. It’s something you live by- values, morals, what have you. Maybe it’s religious, maybe it’s not. Ha. Mine sure isn’t. (beat) But I’ll get to that.

{She takes out another cigarette, lights it, takes a luxurious drag,
dramatically puts it out, and continues.}

Charles? Charles was a stunner- at least top 12 in the looks category, I’d say. A total stunner. He had the lightest blue eyes, they sparked. I swear I could even see my own reflection in them. Muscular, tan skin, and golden locks. I even called him Goldilocks once. (beat) He didn’t like that. He came and went.

{She takes out another cigarette, takes a drag, puts it out.}

Steve wasn’t as… charismatic. But he was cute, and he was there. He was there a couple times actually. Longer than most… But he had this horrible anxious vibe and grew out a weird mustache so I stopped returning his calls.

{She takes out another cigarette, takes a drag,
changes her seating position to something more casual, knees apart,
puts out the cigarette.}

Oh, don’t forget about Jonathan. First black man I’d ever been with.

{She stands up, lights another cigarette, takes a drag and puts it out.
Then she walks across the stage.}

Charlie. He was older. Much older. He moved slower and constantly nagged me- (mocking) “Honey can you hand me my Rogaine?” and I had to repeat myself over and over. I felt as though I was constantly startling him too, and God knows I can’t possibly tone this down so I blocked his number.

{She turns to the table, hastily walks to it,
quickly lights a cigarette, takes a quick drag, puts it out.}

Nicolas had this… this hardness about him. I was attracted to his decisiveness and agency. But then he hit me.

{After a moment of silence
she picks up the pack and takes out a cigarette for every name she mentions,
dropping it to the floor and moving on to the next.}

Tom. Zander. Marcus. Another Tom. Thor. Jenna… I was curious ok? Cameron. Jack- or was it Zack? Billy. Sebastian. Claire- (defensive) Look, I’m no lesbo I just had to make sure. Wyatt. Asian John. White John.

{She holds up the last cigarette left in the pack and walks downstage with it.}

I’ve been called things, sure. Many things. Some men stay longer than others. I prefer a weekend fling to a one-night-stand after all. But that’s only so I can have the time to figure out something wrong with them to avoid wondering. But I’m not looking for love, not me. Men do it. So why can’t I? Are they given shit? Tom #2 told me I was his seventh girl of the week. Because of that, I don’t ask many questions, nor do I answer them. Would you? (rest) They’re like puppies- the more attached you get, the harder it is to ignore their calls.

{Chelsea then walks to the light bulb and swivels back towards the audience.}

I’ll quit smoking the moment I meet a decent fucking man.

{Standing under the bulb, Chelsea lights the last cigarette.
She then pulls the pull chain and lights go out.
She takes a puff and we watch the warm light intensify,
then she walks offstage with the lit cigarette, heels clacking.}

The Importance of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

By Kelsie Merrick

In 1973, Roe v. Wade was, and still is, a controversial case that passed through the Supreme Court. The ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationally unless a woman was in the third trimester then the state had a right to enact abortion regulations to protect the fetus. The only exception to this rule was if the pregnancy was a threat to the mother’s life. Then in 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey reintroduced the controversy around abortion this time about whether consent from a spouse or parent and a 24 hour waiting period is necessary before an abortion. In this case, the court ruled that “states may not impose an ‘undue burden’ on access to abortion: a law is invalid ‘if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.'” Now, abortion has reentered our court system with the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case.

In previous abortion cases, there has been a clear argument with two clear sides: pro-life and pro-choice. That is, the concern has generally been about the baby not about the mother, but with the introduction of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the conversation is shifting from the baby to the safety of the mother. This case began in 2013 when Texas created a law requiring “doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away, and set clinic standards that are similar to those of surgical centers.” Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider, argues, “the law isn’t medically necessary, is demanding and expensive, and interferes with women’s health care.”

Since 2011, “at least 162 abortion providers have shut or stopped offering the procedure” with at least 30 of those closures coming from Texas alone. One of the main reasons behind the closures was the new state regulations that have made these facilities too expensive to remain in operation. Texas is the primary case study of these new regulations and the repercussions of stricter regulations are already noticeable. According to certain providers, “full implementation of the law would leave almost a fifth of Texas women 150 miles or more from a facility.” Texas has already dropped from 42 to 19 clinics since 2013 and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the new law, Texas would be left with nine abortion clinics. This is a problem for women who need an abortion, whether it is for personal or health reason, and are incapable of traveling that far. A more serious problem caused by the extreme distances of abortion clinics is that “more women would now die of complications from self-induced abortions.”

Another issue facing the abortion world is the discriminating views that then lead to the vandalism of buildings and clinics. Susan Cahill from Kalispell, Montana was unable to rebuild her practice after it was vandalized due to the cost of repairs. Planned Parenthood, one of the leading abortion clinics, has had their fair share of tormenting and vandalism from people protesting outside to fires being started at their facilities. About a third of the facilities that closed or stopped performing terminations were operated by Planned Parenthood. This is detrimental to Planned Parenthood’s operation as a whole since their main goal is not to give abortions but to education society, mainly young adults, about safe sex and contraceptives available to the public.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were “210 abortions for every 1,000 births in the United States.” Even with abortions being almost one-fifth of the births that year, abortions are decreasing without implemented regulations. Since 2010, the Associated Press estimates abortions have decreased 12 percent. Possible explanations for this could be that teen pregnancy rates are decreasing which leads to the reason for more access to birth control. If abortion rates are already decreasing, is it necessary to regulate the clinics? On the other hand, verifying that clinics are safe and healthy and that properly trained doctors are performing the surgeries is also highly beneficial to women that need and want an abortion. Hopefully, the Supreme Court can figure out how to ensure women’s safety without the closure of abortion clinics.

Terms You Should Know #5: Heteronormativity

By Nicole Rizzo

 Here’s a brief definition of heteronormativity from Cathy J. Cohen’s insightful article “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?”

“By ‘heteronormativity’ I mean both those localized practices and those centralized institutions which legitimize and privilege heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships as fundamental and ‘natural’ within society” (Cohen, 440).

Why this term is relevant:

Any sort of “prescriptive ideal paradigm” has the potential to be exclusive. In the case of heteronormativity, the institutional and local practices that Cohen describes enact a type of violence against the “other” who does not conform to this hegemonic ideology. Assuming that heterosexuality is somehow the natural or essential mode of sexuality ultimately engages with Judith Butler’s critique of the “copy/origin argument” (See Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, edited by Henry Abelove et al., Routledge, 1993, pp. 307-20). If heterosexuality is “fundamental and ‘natural’” (Cohen 440), then non-normative forms of sexuality seemingly become “copies” of an ideal paradigm. This is a dangerous notion that replicates a series of violent and exclusionary acts against various groups of people.

This is not to say that heterosexuality is inherently bad, but rather the act of upholding one form of sexuality as the morally correct, ideal, or “natural” mode becomes incredibly problematic and does not capture the wide range of sexuality. As a dominant ideology, heteronormativity also promotes the “heterosexual nuclear family” as the ideal model for society. As a result, this restrictive notion devalues other family structures that are equally valid and supportive.

Here’s an example of heteronormative thinking:
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Photo Courtesy: http://www.hamburgersnheroin.com/what-is-heronormativity/

The author of this post would like to acknowledge that the implications of heteronormativity are vastly complex and have not been covered entirely in this short blog post, which is not to say that they do not exist, since they clearly do.

Sources:
Cohen, Cathy J. “Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential Queer Politics?” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 3, no. 4, 1997, pp. 437-65.

Terms You Should Know #4: Sex Positivity

By Nicole Rizzo

Here’s a brief definition of sex positivity from the Women and Gender Advocacy Center at Colorado State University at http://www.wgac.colostate.edu/sex-positivity:

“Like many terms within feminism, sex positivity means different things to different people. As a broad ideology and world view, sex positivity is simply the idea that all sex, as long as it is healthy and explicitly consensual, is a positive thing.”

Sex positivity resonates with the message of various social and philosophical movements (i.e. body positivity) that aim to critique and deconstruct (hetero)normative social mores that exclude and marginalize different groups of people. As an increasingly inclusive notion, sex positivity is a means to celebrating the complex, diverse, and expansive nature of sexuality. Its strict focus on consent serves as an ideological tool for combating issues related to sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of gender-based violence.

Sex positivity is not something that endorses the idea that “if someone really loves sex” (an idea which this term does not necessarily connote either) then that allows an individual to judge others for their sexual activity or orientation. It is not about judging others. It is not about exclusion. Sex positivity promotes people, pleasure, and people giving/receiving pleasure.

See Dr. Carol Queen, educator, writer, sociologist, sexologist, and sex-positive feminist, at http://goodvibesblog.com/sex-positivity/ for more on what sex positivity is and is not!

 

*Content above based on lecture by Dr. Carol Queen at BU CGSA and from her blog: http://goodvibesblog.com/sex-positivity/

Why is this term relevant:

The message of sex positivity is one of inclusion that encourages healthy and consensual sex!

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Photo courtesy: http://venusplusx.org/want-teens-to-have-positive-sexual-health-sex-positivity-can-help-with-that-2/

Watch this video about sex positivity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVwQdE7wIQA

Changing the Conversation on Sex

“I’m not the guard who locks you in the tower. Ideally, I am my daughter’s safe space, a garden to return to when the world has proved a little too cruel, a place where she can recuperate and reflect upon past mistakes and know that here, there is someone who loves her wholeheartedly and will hug her until the tears dry.” – Ferrett Steinmetz in Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex

This father is a role model for parents of adolescents and of daughters, especially. Talking to your children about sex and sexuality isn’t easy, but it’s important. Sex is going to occur whether you talk to your kids about it or not, so prepare them the best you possibly can. Make sure they have every resource available. Be open to this conversation, when the time is right. You wouldn’t want them going into a snowstorm without boots on, would you?