Tag Archives: sex

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.

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? 

Down With Cosmo!

Everyday Feminism published “10 Things Cosmo Doesn’t Teach Women About Great Sex”. Attention readers, Cosmopolitan magazine is not the sex manual!

Cosmo

The articles and advice that Cosmo features regarding sex are heteronormative (a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the norm or preferred sexual orientation), sexist, and cissexist (“a cis person is one for whom assigned sex, internal sense of sex, and assigned gender and internal sense of gender all match up”, so cissexism is the discrimination or prejudice of individuals who do not fall into the “cis” category).

Cosmo promulgates advice and “crazy hot sex tips” that are disadvantageous for readers. Articles and tips almost always discuss pleasing “your guy” (ugh), but give no mention to pleasing yourself – not to mention, you would have to change your body to experience true pleasure. The sexual experience illustrated by Cosmo is laced with harmful power dynamics and fails to give their primarily female reader-base factual, unbiased, and inclusive information about anatomy, sexual psychology and the factors that influence it, sexually transmitted infections, and safer sex measures including consent. Next time you’re tempted to crack open a fresh issue of Cosmo with a retouched celebrity on the cover alongside a headline such as “75 Sex Moves Men Crave”, consider the personal implications and read it through a critical lens.

Additional reading:

Everday Feminism
Bitch Magazine
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health
Definitions of cissexism and binarism
10 Reasons Why I Hate Cosmopolitan Magainze

Support My Rack (Because the Rest Doesn’t Matter?)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone knows that. October is also Halloween. Everyone knows that, too. Some lesser known holidays that occur in October include Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, National Popcorn Popping Month, Clergy Appreciation Month, and Sarcastic Month, just to name a few.

Slogans such as “Save the Ta-Tas”, “I love boobies!”, and “Support My Rack” are used all year-long to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research, and have proven to be successful marketing strategies for various foundations. But how do these slogans affect us, and what do they mean?

During October it seems like we can’t escape phrases that sexualize breast cancer and breasts in general. Using euphemisms like “rack”, “boobies”, or “ta-tas” reduces women to one aspect of their bodies. Breasts are not neutral territory in our culture, but rather a part of the human body that is already highly-charged. Breasts have a long history of being fetishized by some, revered by others, or used as a mechanism of oppression. Who are we “Saving the Ta-Tas” for– the patriarchy or ourselves?

Pink Everything!

The color pink has become synonymous with breast cancer, but pink also represents love, romance, nurturing, and understanding. This non-threatening color has been completely co-opted by corporations to represent breast cancer and breast cancer awareness. Susan G. Komen has an entire online store dedicated to the sale of pink objects. And 5-Hour Energy, the 4-calorie, caffeinated energy shot, has a “Pink Lemonade” flavor, whose proceeds support the Avon Foundation for Women Breast Cancer Crusade. These foundations are capitalizing upon a medical illness that affects real people with real experiences, whom we know and love. Supporting breast cancer awareness and research is trendy.

Breast cancer is most commonly found in women, but also occurs in non-female-bodied individuals. It can occur regardless of your biological sex, but you wouldn’t know that from the marketing campaigns. The rhetoric surrounding breast cancer is pink, frilly, welcoming, and inherently feminine, alienating “non-traditional” breast cancer survivors as well as survivors of other types of cancers, who may feel unsupported as breast cancer takes up so much public space and discourse.

This month, try to be cognizant of the sexualization of breast cancer. Try to alter your language to honor the experiences of survivors, and to internalize that breast cancer affects everyone. Think about the notion that breasts are a powerful symbol in our culture, but that they are also just a part of the human body. Organizations using slogans such as “I love boobies!” have made great strides for breast cancer awareness and research, but a little attention paid to rhetoric surrounding this cause can go a long way in making Breast Cancer Awareness less of a seasonal trend and more of a socially-responsible, feminist statement.

*Many thanks to the Feminist Collective at Boston University for the discussion and thoughts that contributed to and inspired this post.

Sexual Fluidity in Women

Fluidity
Credit: QCMississippiMud.com via EverydayFeminism.com

In certain circles I have found myself in recently, I have felt a pressure to be so self-aware and self-reflective at such a young age that it seems as though you have to fully know your entire sexuality. While the individuals in these circles certainly recognize sexual fluidity in an academic sense, sexual fluidity in the practical application comes across as naiveté and even ignorant. I have noticed a pressure to define the self –“I’m trans*, I’m pansexual, I’m gay”–granted, there are more boxes to fit into, but a box nonetheless. The vulnerability that accompanies sexual fluidity is real and frightening, and it is not readily acceptable to say “I’m still figuring it out” in regards to your sexuality even among enlightened, educated, seemingly-accepting groups.

Seeing homosexuality as a “phase” is an opinion that has bothered me in the past, but an analysis entitled “Gender Differences in Erotic Plasticity: The Female Sex Drive as Socially Flexible and Responsive” by Roy Baumeister may have transformed my thinking. Although it does trivialize and insult the experiences of lifelong lesbians, the “just a phase” notion may have some value. The concept of sexual plasticity indirectly endorses the idea of lesbianism as a phase, but instead of thinking of it as one singular phase, we should think in a more pluralistic sense that our sexualities consist of multiple, intertwined phases.

Ideally, we could restructure our understanding of female sexuality so there is less pressure to define the self and cramp our fascinating, complex, surprising sexualities into little boxes. The concept of bisexuality, especially in regards to long-term relationships, leads to an interesting question. Is bisexuality a phase? It is rare to encounter an individual who identifies as bisexual and who has been in a monogamous relationship for several years or even decades. At what point does a bisexual woman start identifying themselves as gay or straight, depending on their chosen partner? It has been suggested that female erotic plasticity evolved as an evolutionary adaptation. Sexual fluidity is advantageous through periods of life transition such as a romantic separation, having a child, the death of a partner, getting a new job, or general aging, and can help women adjust their sexual needs and expectations depending upon circumstances. A study indicated that from puberty onward, men tend to keep their rate of orgasms relatively constant throughout the lifespan, either through masturbation or partnered sex, while women’s frequency of orgasms tends to reflect her fluctuating sexual desire and expectations and thus erotic plasticity.

Sexual fluidity is even displayed in popular television such as Orange Is the New Black, which is based on the story of Piper Kerman, a middle-class woman sentenced to prison after transporting drug money. In prison, Piper reunites with her drug-dealing girlfriend, despite being affianced to her male partner, out of sheer desperation for human contact and warmth. Piper’s return to lesbianism because of her situation may be termed “gay behind bars”, but other new language has been created to reflect women’s sexual flexibility. Words such as “has-bian”, “heteroflexibility”, and “LUG–lesbian until graduation” are all coming into our current vernacular. A term I heard recently used in relation to a man, but could also be applied to women, is “GIFFY,” meaning “gay in five (fucking) years”. This acronym can be used to describe an individual who identifies as straight but acts otherwise, who the speaker believes will finally come out years later. This language may be seen as degrading or useful. While it only perpetuates stereotypes, reinforces the idea that timing is intimately tied to lesbianism, and forces people into boxes, this language is frequently created and used by the queer community.


Editors’ suggestions for additional reading: