"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Sunday, June 30, 2013

speak now #11: how to be sexually correct

Now Playing: Royals by Lorde (but everybody's like crystal, maybach, diamonds on your timepiece, jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash, we don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair)

So we like to think of men and male/women and female as being relatively clear and static but um...nooooo. Here is how to talk about people in the context of gender and sex - or at least my understanding of it. It's not cut and dry and I'm still a bit shaky, but here are the basics of How To Not Piss People Off. It is important to note that these terms are NOT RELATED TO SEXUAL ORIENTATION.

  • Male-bodied men are referred to as cismen or cisgender men. 
  • Female-bodied women are referred to as ciswomen or cisgender women. 
  • Male-bodied women are referred to as transwomen 
  • Female-bodied men are referred to as transmen 
  • Male-bodied individuals are referred to as biomale. Biomales can be either cisgender men or transgender women. 
  • Female-bodied individuals are referred to as biofemale. Biofemales can be either cisgender women or transgender men. 
  • In the context of sex positivity 'men' and 'women' refer to gender identity and not biological sex. Therefore, when I say 'men', I mean cismen & transmen, and when I say 'women' I mean ciswomen & transwomen. When I am referring to anatomy I will refer to the male and female as 'male bodied individuals' (or biomale) or 'female bodied individuals' (or biofemale) 
  • Intersex individuals can identify as male, female or genderqueer; as can anyone. The gender-neutral pronoun is 'they', or less commonly 'ze'. If you are unsure about which pronouns to use, just ask, and if you use the wrong one and you're corrected, don't argue. 


Saturday, June 29, 2013

speak now #10: sexuality & society part II - the cult of purity

Now Playing: I Come Apart by A$AP ft. Florence Welch (I come apart and you keep it together, I come apart, I can't stand the pressure, in all your grace and favour for me that I cannot compare I come apart, this can't last forever)

So in Part I we've established that virginity is not really a thing; the virginity myth is a social construction to reinforce patriarchal gender roles. There is no way to physically determine virginity, there is no single act through which everyone can lose their virginity, and you can't say anything about a person's worth or character based on virginity.

But people still think that. People are obsessive over purity; especially female purity. This is seen in almost all patriarchal societies in the world in various disturbing ways; from purity balls in the US to punishing women for 'adultery' (rape) in the Middle East to honour killings in parts of Asia. We are obsessed with this idea that not having sex - whatever your definition of sex may be - somehow keeps a woman 'pure' - she's innocent and beautiful and wholesome and trustworthy or she's a vicious maneating bitch, just based on whether or not she's had vaginal intercourse.

To a normal rational person this doesn't make a lot of sense. Anyone who has survived grade school will tell you that sometimes it's the virgin who can reduce you to tears in a heartbeat and the slut who is there for you. To people who don't live in this alternative univerise of cherry picking biblical morality and patriarchy doing any good for anyone, sex doesn't define a woman - or anyone, really - and it shouldn't. But, unfortunately, there are a lot of fuckwits in this world, morons who don't believe in valuing women as individuals, much less sexual beings, dickheads who think that you can judge a person based on what objects have been in which body orifice.

What is the cult of purity?

The cult of purity in our culture draws on the Madonna-whore complex, which dictates that 'good' women are chaste and sexless, and that denying your sexuality is somehow a good thing. Sexuality is defined as a predominantly male thing, with sexual desire being 'natural' in a man but 'evil' in a woman. It's this idea that abstinence is an achievement, and that failing to remain abstinent results in you becoming a 'fallen woman'. It's all very archaic and sex negative and only maintains its grip on society through a toxic blend of lies deceits and untruths, which is ironic considering this is a cult of purity.

The most extreme examples of the cult of purity are in America, but America being the massive cultural influence that it is the ideas behind the cult of purity can be seen in almost all Western societies; through rape culture, through slut shaming, and in the simultaneous glorification and stigmatisation of virginity.

Many proponents of the cult of purity will argue that they think that this 'aspirin between your knees' approach to sexuality should apply to both men and women, but that's a total pile of crap. Time and time again we see proof that the Christian right don't care about male purity, at all, and that abstinence and adultery and all that other 'sin' just isn't a big deal for the white hetero male darlings of society. Trying to preach uncompromising denial of sexuality to any gender is a bad idea, but this obsession with female purity is a disturbing by-product of patriarchy constantly trying to reduce women to their sexual histories, and removing her sexuality so that her sexual function is purely biological, or to service the needs of men.

Examples of the cult of purity:

Purity Balls 

Purity balls are formal events conducted across America in which girls pledge to be virgins until marriage and then their dads pledge to 'guard their daughter's chastity'. Through the extremely creepy rhetoric of these occasions the father is reaffirmed as the protector of all the 'moral' judgements of his household and to be their daughters' 'authority and protection of purity'.

CAN SOMEONE SAY EWWWW?

The daughters of this gay parade are anywhere between FOUR YEARS OLD or college age, but the recommended age is the age of menarche. Indoctrinating abstinence is bad for anyone, but I think they picked the three worst groups of girls. Ever. And there's a reason for that; get them when they're young, vulnerable, or just at a time when they are old enough to make their own decisions but young enough for you to convince them otherwise. At four years old most children don't even know what sex is, so it is grossly irresponsible to swear them off something they cannot even begin to comprehend; this is done in the same way everything is done to children; through fear and manipulation of obedience. At menarche girls are pubescent, raging with hormones, and incredibly young and naive; it's pretty much child abuse to feed them lies about their evolution into sexual beings and to with-hold information about sexuality and contraception under the pretense of keeping them 'pure'. But it's so easy, to turn the disgust of you know, the blood and vagina aspect of menstruation into redefining all of sexuality as something disgusting. And college age? Seriously? It's just creepy when a father has control over any part of his college aged daughter, much less her, you know...lady bits.

The purpose of the purity ball is to bring a creepily romantic element into the father daughter relationship, in which the father takes the daughter out for a nice night with fancy dinner and pretty dresses and tells her that she's beautiful and loved...which is all well and good, I suppose, but it feeds on this myth that only desperate women sell their souls for sex, and that this 'neediness' (i.e. healthy sexual attraction) can be fulfilled by shallow materialism.

Abstinence "Education"

Abstinence "education" is basically this semi-religious conservative indoctrination that preaches that sex will kill you if you do it without a wedding ring. This mix of dangerous lies and dogmatic bullshit is taught in schools across the globe in place of, you know, actual information about how to be safe and horny. Abstinence education doesn't remove the 'horny' from human sexuality; but it does remove the 'safe'.

The idea behind abstinence education is idealistic to the point of ridiculous; if you preach that there is some kind of connection between not getting frisky and being a good person all unmarried clitorises and penises will magically commit suicide and will only pull a resurection when one walks down the aisle of a (preferably anti-gay) church. The reality is is that young people have always been sexual beings and will always be sexual beings, and the responsible, adult, moral thing to do is to make sure they navigate this dangerous, exciting element of the dangerous, exciting process of growing up and emerge relatively unscathed. And you do that with condoms, not Bibles. Sorry.

Abstinence based education glorifies 'waiting', 'holding on', and that true love is this fairytale story of perfect sexual compatibility with 'The One'. And although abstinence is whacked over the heads of people of all genders, men are marketed to girls as these these sex-addicted corrupters who have the potential to be your loving protector and breadwinner if you're a 'good girl' - and then girls are set the challenge of 'getting a man' without 'getting laid'. How's that for a nice steaming serve of offensive sexual stereotypes?

Virginity pledges 

Virginity pledges are notorious for being...pretty useless. 6 out of 10 people who make these True Love Waits and Silver Ring Thing pledges admit to breaking them before marriage, and of the 40% who still consider themselves 'abstinent', 55% have engaged in oral sex (which we have previously established is still sex). Young people who take abstinence pledges have the highest rates of unwanted pregnancies and sexually tansmitted diseases because they have a little silver ring of, um, willful ignorance. Virginity pledges encourage a dangerous trend of risky sexual behaviour in a desperate attempt to remain 'pure'; it should also be noted that virginity pledges and their pretty little jewellery pieces are marketed almost exclusively to women. Virginity pledges see the cult of purity embodied by jewellery and creepy pledges to people who really should have no say in what goes on behind closed doors in the here and now - your parents, your parents, your politicised schizophrenic delusions and your future, possibly nonexistent partner. The True Love Waits movement has had three different virginity pledges, all of which emphasis the 'purity' of sexual abstinence, and people proudly boast of 'keeping my body and my thoughts pure as I trust in God's perfect plan for my life'. This reinforices a primary message of the cult of purity; that sex is dirty and people who are sexually active are this immoral other, and the only way for a woman to have the moral highground over her peers is to be a virgin (who may or may not have given head).

The effects of the cult of purity on our society

It must be noted that the cult of purity hasn't got an enormous impact on Australian society, although abstinence is preached very widely in religious communities and schools. The cult of purity really effects us when badly trained, poorly-informed sex educators tell us that abstinence is the norm, that abstinence for whatever reason - even religiously enforced, morally questionable, sexist, patriarchal reasons - is a good thing, and talk about sex and contraception as part of some abstract adult life instead of being relevant to the here and now, where hands start to go places and hormones start surging. The cult of purity contributes to the guilt, shame and stigma surrounding sexuality, particularly female sexuality, which in turn leads to unhealthy attitudes towards sexuality, misconceptions about what sex is and what is and isn't okay, and ultimately widespread engagement in risky sexual behaviour, because normal, healthy expressions of sexuality aren't 'pure'.

The cult of purity is trying to indoctrinate us into thinking that there is something wrong with sexuality, something wrong with being sexual beings, and that 'purity' will give us legitimacy and moral highground and a shot at some nonexistent fairytale happily ever after. The cult of purity is a creepy, dangerous religious sect which encourages really questionable father daughter relationships, encourages a misogynistic and hypocritically judgemental way of viewing women and female sexual behaviour, and reduces women to these shallow, materialistic creatures who can fill their libidos up on ballgowns and glamour. The cult of purity teaches us that sexuality is disgusting and complicated and freakishly dangerous, something only pursued by the morally debased or the criminally insane; and that the 'easy' and 'right' answer is to just turn it off, like a switch. But we're not robots; we're not machines, in which sexuality can be turned on and off at will. The cult of purity impacts our society by perpetuating harmful ideas about sexuality that ultimately leads to sex being a silent taboo; and that is the worst thing that anything can be.

This is Part II of a three part series on sexuality & society. Click here to see Part I and stay tuned for Part III (coming soon). Stay tuned and stay beautiful!

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Friday, June 28, 2013

speak now #9: 'like colour bursting onto a world of black and white'

Now Playing: How It Ends by DeVotchKa (no longer shall you need, you always wanted to believe, just ask and you'll receive beyond your wildest dreams)

Solomon*: UWA student. Atheist. Gay Cismale. Shameless Nerd. Bookworm. Wearer of Bow Ties. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Solomon?

Hmm. Well. I'm eighteen years old but people often think I look older because of the facial hair. I'm cismale and gay and read The Backlot (formerly AfterElton) and the Huffington Post Gay Voices site and a few other things regularly. I like reading a lot and I'm especially happy when I get to do it often. Books, I mean. And short stories, and poems.

What is your opinion on attitudes towards homosexuality and GSD individuals in our society?

Do you mean in Australia, or in Western society, or globally?

Let's stick to Australia.

Hmmm, okay. Well, if I may begin with an anecdote?

Sure :)

Well, I was reading a very brief article on the Senate debate about recognising same-sex marriages performed abroad, and there were some quotes from certain senators who said some very unkind things; such as the Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis, for example, who attacked both the bill and Greens Senator Sarah Hansen-Young quite viciously.

And Cory Bernardi's lovely enlightened view on gays and bestiality?

Eurgh, Bernardi. What really gets me about him is how he's all up in arms about how polygamy is somehow a bad thing. I mean, bestiality I can understand, because animals probably can't give the informed consent that I think is a rather good thing to have with sex. But I can't see the problem with consensual polygamy where all the partners agree. Then again, I don't see the problem with consensual incest either.

I know the sex positive movement in general is opposed to polygyny but not to polyamory, because of the child brides and institutionalised sexual assault and all that baggage associated with polygyny. And I guess incest has all the problems of abuse with authority, especially with inter-generational relationships - I think Game of Thrones has established that incest creates people who are pretty looney tunes (*cough* JOFFREY). 

I understand precisely what you mean. About the polygamy-and-incest thing, though...I think it all really depends on that issue of consent. If people aren't consenting or aren't able to, then there's so much scope for abuse. Just like with so many other things. Lack of consent can lead to people being very hurt, and that makes me truly sad. But if people know what they're doing then...they know what they're doing.

What do you think about the discrepancy between the current political climate surrounding GSD issues and actual public opinion? 

If you read some of the senators' comments, there's some fairly idiotic stuff about putting it to a referendum, as though changing the Constitution is the right way to do this. But then again, there are some comments - attributed to a Liberal senator! - which are saying that since around 1 in 200 people are intersex or otherwise not cisgender, we need to get beyond the gender binary. Which, in her view, was a reason why a constitutional amendment was really not a good idea. It got me thinking how far we've come and how far we have to go; on things like gender binary, for example, and asexuality and polygamy and other things that people have been doing and talking about, and for which they have been working towards an equitable solution, for thousands and thousands of years. It's kind of thrilling knowing that I could be at the point where it all starts to become recognised and accepted and enjoyed for what it is - a very pleasurable part of human experience. As long as everyone is consenting, of course.

Have really come that far, though? There are lots of cultures that recognise various third genders, for example, and Australia is really lagging on this freaking gay marriage issue.

Hmm. Well, if I may express it mathematically, I feel that the world today is close to the central point in a sigmoid or a Gompertz curve. What I mean is, we could be closing in on a point where things start to happen very quickly on this issue. I mean, this year same-sex marriage has been legalised in Uruguay, New Zealand, France and a little bit in Brazil, as well as in a few US states. ENDA is sitting in the US Congress again and the Supreme Court is due to make a ruling on two very big GSD rights issues at the end of the week. Meanwhile Canada is figuring out how to make same-sex divorces work, and the UK is getting close to realising same-sex marriage as well.

Meanwhile in Australia: people still seem to think that fucking someone of the same gender and fucking a donkey is the same thing. 

Alas. And of course GSD rights all go far, far beyond the same-sex marriage issue. But we could be at a point where thinking about it becomes a natural thing to do. If we are approaching a turning point, then there's a possibility that I'm thinking of the wrong type of curve - it could be a parabola that curves up and then just curves straight back down again. Look at Russia, for example, or Nigeria or Uganda; the Ugandan view on GSD rights makes me sick, I have to say.

Could you discuss growing up as a gay person, coming out, bullying...?

Well it's funny when I think about my childhood, really, in that I see all these signs pointing to me being gay - but they're obviously much clearer in hindsight. At the time, they were just part of living, and it's not like I'd ever gone through childhood before to compare it to. So there are a few things, some very early crushes and predilections and things, that showed up quite early on - say, when I was ten or eleven and still fairly unsure about what sexuality was. Or rather, I knew what it was but I had an at best vague idea of how it related to me. Then I went to high school and fell in love with someone who I first saw in my maths class, and...well, there's a phrase someone used in the biography of the gay cryptographer Alan Turing, who was quite a fascinating chap and who fell in love with his best friend at school; the author described it as being like colour bursting onto a world of black and white. And it was a little like that for me, in that I went from being black and white to rainbow-coloured, as it were - not necessarily in a burst, but more of a fade in. But that did a few things, namely 1) show me that gay attraction was not necessarily a bad thing (some days it was good; some days it was really, really bad); 2) it showed me that sexual attraction is both quite fun and really, really fucked up, and 3) it allowed me to make sense of myself, I suppose, for the first time. But yeah, I had a fairly painful unrequited love throughout high school, so to be honest it was a bit of a relief to get out just for that reason.

Ah, unrequited love. I think everyone can sympathise with that. 

Oh, of course, but as I had unrequited love *plus* the realising-I-was-gay thing at the same time and for the same reason, I feel I may have had it a little worse than most. Then again, I'm certain that there are many, many people who had it far worse than me. I came out to my mum when I was in Year 11; she took it very well, I have to say. I'm not sure how well she understands the whole gay thing, but I'm pretty sure I can rely on her. By that time a few of my closest friends knew. Then again, the reason I had friends who were so close was precisely because I had come out to them, and that kind of helped, in a way. My sisters are younger than me and I only came out to them last year, the day before my birthday. I decided I didn't want to turn eighteen and become an adult without them knowing. So I think it's fair to say that I began my adulthood being out to all the people who really matter to me.

Better than me, most people don't even think bi is a thing. 

Damn bisexual erasure.

Have you had any issues with bullying about sexuality or gender?  

Not really. Gender is a non-starter, since male privilege is a thing. But people at high school didn't really know about me being gay. It kind of progressed to rumour status by the end of year 12, but by that point people had more pressing things to worry about.

But then this is always the pressure to conform to super-macho capital-M MASCULINITY. 

I suppose the thing is, I've never been super-macho. I've been a nerd from a very young age and I love it, of course. But machismo has always struck me as a little ugly at the best of times, and downright repellent at worst. And then, of course, I arrived at UWA, which I've always found to be a very tolerant and comforting environment.

I think there is a kind of fallacy amongst men that they have to be super macho and they have the right to pick on other men who aren't super macho. And seriously, I think lynx deodorant was designed so that women could clearly identify asshats :P

Um. Er. I use Lynx.

BAHAHA. Well. Don't?

Oh sweetie, I can't be bothered thinking about which deodorant to buy. Not that responsible consumption isn't a thing, it's just way down on my list of things to think about.

It's more like those guys who just spend hours standing there topless and spraying themselves with lynx and they're like HEY BABY DO YOU LIKE MY ABS AND ALSO I SMELL LIKE AN ENTIRE CAN OF PRESSURISED CARCINOGENS DO YOU LOVE ME NOW????

Yeah, I don't go in for any of that. The abs or the women or the toplessness. Anyway, I don't necessarily turn down the designation of 'asshat'; although personally I prefer the term 'dickhead'. Perhaps it's just because I've never found buttocks very interesting.

My current favourite is 'fuckwit'.

That's also quite appropriate. I read a book once where the main character's partner calls him a cunt rag while drunk, and the main character responds 'A tampon? I'm a tampon for not letting you drive?' Possibly relevant. May I turn this interview around and ask you a question for a moment here?

Sure. 

How much do you spend on tampons a month?

Hmm. Geez. I really don't know. Well, I don't use tampons to start with. A box of pads is about seven dollars and you go through about two boxes a month. But all sanitary products are taxed as luxury goods, which is a bitch.

Hence the Axe the Tampon Tax Campaign.

Yeah. There are other options too, which are more cost effective, and also much more stigmatised. Actually, menstruation as a whole is stigmatised. Something you will never have to deal with, my dear. 

Hence my curiosity. Back to you as the interviewer :)

What is the weirdest myth or misconception you've heard about gay people?

I suppose for me the one that springs to mind is the idea that all gay men are massively promiscuous. I mean, I'm gay, and very happy about it, and having sex with nobody at all. And I'm not sure how I'd deal with being promiscuous emotionally or health-wise, so it's certainly not something I'm just drawn to because I'm gay. On the contrary, it's something I've thought carefully about. And will probably continue to think  carefully about up until the point where it actually becomes an option.

My sex education was pretty cissexist and didn't really cover homosexuality and stuff. Can you talk about your experience with sex education at school in the context of your sexual orientation?

Ooh. Well, I have to say, sex education at school was at best pretty uninteresting. I mean, the most interesting thing that happened was that we sat in a circle one time and read out all the stages of a man and a woman having vaginal intercourse. Other than that it didn't really teach me much; I mean, I've learned a lot more about sex, including safer sex, from Wikipedia than I ever did from school. The nice thing about Wikipedia is that it's all factual, it doesn't judge you, and if you ever feel awkward you can always delete your browser history.

Did sex education feel judgemental or not factual?

Probably not. In terms of time spent though, it was probably almost useless. I don't think it gave me any information that was remotely related to non-heterosexuality. The best sex education class I've ever heard about is one in Kazuo Ishiguro's novel 'Never Let Me Go'. From the way he describes it, it actually sounded kind of useful.

I think it is really important for this project to accurately purvey the diversity of human sexuality through different perspectives from people of all sexes, genders, expressions and orientations. GSD, a term that we have used throughout this interview, is Solomon's preferred term for non-binary individuals and means 'Gender and Sexual Diversities'. Solomon is a friend of mine from university who has kindly done volunteered to do this interview, plus we have a guest article in the pipeline. Solomon has asked for his identity to be protected and so we're using my nickname for him, which is an in-joke and something of an atheist mockery of religious arguments against gay marriage. If you would like to be interviewed/interview me and/or write a guest article, please contact me! Stay tuned and stay beautiful! 





Thursday, June 27, 2013

speak now #8: sexuality and society part I - the virginity myth

Now Playing: Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri (who do you think you are, running around leaving scars?)

So let me ask you a question.

What the FREAKING HELL IS VIRGINITY?

If you ask most people they'll give the standard penis-in-vagina answer, also known as 'having sex'.

Boy, I don't even know where to begin telling you how problematic that is.

Virginity, or 'loss of virginity', is normally defined as the first time someone has sex. But, um...what's sex?

The current generic discourse of 'sex' - i.e. vaginal intercourse, is pretty problematic. For starters, vaginal intercourse is not normally someone's first experience with expressing sexuality; I'm sure I don't need to warn my predominantly university and high schooler readership what young people get up to. Many couples don't even have the bits necessary for the standard penis in vagina thing - this definition of 'sex' is very heteronormative, because obviously vaginal intercourse is not really going to feature in homosexual or some types of relationships involving transgender or intersex individuals. To accomodate for the vast scope of how humans express sexuality, the sex positive movement defines sex as 'any activity with the intent of giving and/or receiving sexual pleasure with another person or persons'.

I know, I know, that's not the most sexy definition for sex. But it is the most accurate. Because our current definition of virginity is so problematic you have people engaging in what can be some pretty intense and risky sexual behaviours with NO KNOWLEDGE WHATSOEVER ABOUT PROTECTION OR CONSENT because, apparently, oral sex/anal sex/mutual masturbation is apparently not sex. Which is total bullshit.

So that's my main issue with our definition of sex; it encourages a culture of stigma and ignorance regarding human sexuality. And given that your odds of getting very sick or very pregnant are quite high when you are sexually active and not doing it right - and my definition of sexually active, not society's - that is bad. Bad bad bad.

So, I suppose you think I think that 'losing your virginity' is when you first get frisky with someone. Well...no, not exactly.

First things first WHAT THE FUCK IS THERE TO LOSE? Your hymen? Yeah well, for starters only female-bodied individuals have those, so that's sexist. The hymen doesn't even break - just stretches slightly or maybe tears a little if you're not doing it right. If you think you lose some kind of moral highground or some illusion of purity then I hate to break it to you, but YOUR GRANDMOTHER IS NOT A VIRGIN AND IS THEREFORE A MASS MURDERER BY THAT LOGIC. Sexuality and becoming sexually active and having sexual partners isn't about losing innocence, but gaining experience - and it's a journey that we all start whether we like it or not, whether we have a partner or not, and whether we have sex or not. It's not one momentous occasion of BAM you are no longer a virgin.

Incidentally, the English language has no word for people who are not virgins. Some other languages do.

The real problems with virginity.

1. Virginity is a social construct.

So we've established that there is no clear definitive activity or event that constitutes 'sex', and therefore 'losing your virginity', as well as no real way to physically determine whether one is a virgin or not. So we can pretty much safely say that virginity is a social construct, designed to make this false distinction between the value/character/attractiveness/etc. of people who are or aren't sexually active. This virginity myth is then used for both slut shaming and virgin shaming, which I will get to later in the series.

2. Virginity perpetuates sexism and reinforces patriarchal gender roles. 

When I was younger I didn't even know that male virginity was a thing; it just never occurred to me that men could be virgins. The cult of purity is pretty much exclusively focused on women, which reinforces this idea that women are sexual objects but not sexual beings, that promiscuous women are 'dirty' or 'slutty', and that you can judge a woman not by who she is or what she does, but by her sexual history. Conversely, it puts this pressure on men to be promiscuous and sexually aggressive and shames men who might not be as sexually experienced as societal standards demand.

My experiences with virginity:

For a long time virginity was a very strong part of how I identified as a sexual being, which confused people; I am young and pretty inexperienced, sure, but I don't act how virgins are supposed to behave, which bugs people. When I wanted to start this series I was a bit intimidated, because I still had this crown of thorns of 'virgin' hanging around, but I don't really believe in the virginity myth anymore, or that one can 'lose' something you never had in the first place. That's not to say that sex isn't intimidating and the first experiences aren't important; I'm just saying that they say less about people than society likes to think. I don't consider people in terms of virginity anymore, even in the context of relationships; and I don't consider myself a virgin. I'm a person. My worth is determined by more than what I may or may not have done behind closed doors.










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This is Part I of a three-part series about sexuality and society. Stay tuned for Part II and Part III (coming soon). Click here for a discussion of sexuality and abstinence based education that I wrote a couple months ago (and yes, I will be discussing abstinence based education sooooon). Stay tuned and stay beautiful!

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

speak now #7: becoming bisexual

Now Playing: Sweet Nothing by Calvin Harris ft. Florence Welch (I put my faith in something unknown, I'm living on such sweet nothing) 

So, for most of my life I have identified as heterosexual and so when I came out earlier this year a lot of people were like 'say what?'

I identified as heterosexual because I thought that being bisexual was kind of like being heterosexual and homosexual in equal measure, at the same time - and that you would want women the same way you wanted men and that relationships with women wouldn't be any different to relationships with men. Bisexuality...doesn't necessarily work like that; actually, I think the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality is that bisexuals are capable of two distinct forms of attraction to two distinct groups of people. My crushes on girls are very different to my crushes on guys, and what I want out of the two genders are totally different. All that being said, when I tried identifying as heterosexual there was a lot of me that I was trying to ignore or suppress and that...kind of...fucked me up a bit.

When I was younger I didn't really understand my attraction to women. It never occurred to me that I could be gay and I didn't even know what bisexuality was. So I thought that all the women I were attracted to were just exceptionally beautiful and what I should look like, but all the women who I thought were attractive had very different bodies to mine - in the same way that my body is very different to the bodies of all the men I've been attracted to. So instead of enjoying having crushes and falling in love I just became massively insecure about how I looked like and how I thought people perceived me as a woman.

It was really confusing for me to sort out my feelings because I live in such a heteronormative society where even though we accept the existence of non heterosexual individuals it never really occurs to us that the people around us might not be heterosexual, or that you yourself might not be heterosexual. I had always categorised LGBT individuals as the 'other' - not in a bad way, but I really had to rethink my attitude when I realised that hey, I'm LGBT too.

There are some people who don't get it, of course - every time I'm swooning over one guy or another they'll say something like 'but aren't you bi?' YES. But last time I checked being bisexual means being attracted to men AND women, not just women. I think the hardest part for the haters is that you can hate on me all you want, but I'm really not that much different. For all intents and purposes I'm a boy-crazy little girl just like the rest of you, quite a lot of the time. I'm not the gay other they love to hate on. I think the most intimidating thing about the bisexual community to homophobes is that the existence of bisexuality makes it impossible to make any specific gender or sex or sexual orientation 'the other'. We're all human. It's all love.

This revelation that I might not be 'as straight as they come' really started last year, in high school, but coming out in high school is just downright terrifying; it's such a claustrophobic cut-throat society where you can get cut down for holding eye contact for half a heartbeat too long. University isn't nirvana, but it's definitely an upgrade from the clique wars and petty playground politics of grade school, and I came out to my best friend earlier this year and now it's more or less public knowledge. I really feel like bisexuality is misunderstood and certainly something that people will consider to be one more thing they can give me hell over, but I'm not ashamed or embarassed about who I am anymore. I'm human, and love is human. However and whoever you love.

Stay tuned and stay beautiful!




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Wordless Wednesday: Never change. Grow.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

speak now #6: biology, identity, orientation & expression

Now Playing: Royals by Lorde (we'll never be royals, it don't run in our blood, that kind of luxe just ain't for us, we crave a different kind of buzz)

We like to think of sexuality as binary - black and white. Male and female. Males are men. Females are women. Women like men. Men like women.

Yeah, well...no. It's more complicated than that. Everything is. All dichotomies are fales dichotomies.

I know a lot of the terminology used by the sex-positive movement is a little complicated and confusing, and it seems counter-intuitive to use such long and fancy words to describe something so innate and primal. But, sexuality is complicated, and never in the history of the world have we come close to understanding it. These words really do help to...simplify things. I promise.

BIOLOGICAL SEX (male/female/intersex)

I try not to use the word sex in its typical usage, which is short for 'sexual intercourse' or 'sexuality'. Sex in sex-positive terminology refers to biological sex, which can be either male, female or intersex.

IDENTITY (man/woman/genderqueer)

Gender identity is how a person feels and identifies in the context of sexuality, and is a totally separate concept to biological sex. The majority of men are male-bodied and the majority of women are female-bodied, but there are transgender individuals (male-bodied women and female-bodied men) as well as a  variety of 'third genders' which are cultural recognitions of intersexuality, transgender individuals, individuals who do not conform to societal expectations of gender identity and gender expression, homosexuality, bisexuality and other non-binary individuals. Genderqueer individuals identify as being both man and woman, neither man nor woman, moving between gender identities or as a third gender.

Are sex and gender interchangable?

No. I hate it when people use the word 'gender' to apply to sex because they think the s-word is 'vulgar' (it's not) or that it's more polite. Biological sex and gender identity are two radically different things; being male doesn't necessarily make you a man, and being female doesn't necessarily make you a woman. Sex is purely anatomy; gender is an identity.

There are certain medical conditions that can result in intersex individuals - these people aren't 'confused', their anatomies just don't match the traditional binary. the chromosones, gonads and/or genitalia of intersex individuals are not distinctly male or female. Some intersex individuals are comfortable with being intersex and/or do not feel the desire for their biological sex and gender identity to match cisgender ideals, but intersex individuals can undergo genital surgery to become male or female. In Australia infants born with ambiguous genitalia are 'made' into males or females, but this is problematic - firstly, this is non-consensual and is genital mutilation and secondly, a baby doesn't know if ze is a man or a woman! If the baby is intersex, ze also has the additional decision of deciding if ze is male or female! Why do doctors insist on making these decisions for us?

What is cisgender and transgender?

Cisgender individuals are individuals who are either male-bodied men or female-bodied women. Transgender individuals are either female-bodied men or male-bodied women.

What's the difference between transgender and transsexual?

Transsexual individuals have normally undergone hormone therapy and genital surgery to alter their bodies to match the cis relationship between gender identity and biological sex.

What about hermaphrodites/drag queens/cross dressers?

Hermaphrodites are animals where all members of that species have both male and female reproductive organs - this is very different to intersexuality in the context of human sexuality, and calling an intersex individual a hermaphrodite is anachronistic and offensive. Drag queens and cross dressers may be transsexual/transgender/intersex individuals, but many of them are also cisgender entertainers and it's a massive stereotype that all transgender individuals are oversexed flamboyant entertainers.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION (heterosexual/bisexual/polysexual/pansexual//homosexual/asexual)

Have you noticed the parenthesis are getting longer? It's because the concepts are getting more complicated. But keep up, it's not that hard.

These are going to be brief and for every word in the above parenthesis I will write a whole new article. I just want to get some quick definitions down first. And yes, there are more, and I will try and write about as many as I can. These are just the ones that I am most familiar with. It is also worth noting that these are by no means authoritative definitions - they are very simplistic and there are many nuances and disagreements within the sex-positive community about these definitions.

Heterosexuality - being attracted to the people who are either the opposite GENDER or the opposite SEX. Examples of heterosexual relationships are:
- Male-bodied man and female-bodied woman
- Male bodied woman and female-bodied man

Bisexuality - bisexuality is defined as an attraction to two different sexes or genders, such as being attracted to:
- male-bodied men AND female-bodied women
- female-bodied men AND male-bodied women
- male-bodied men AND women
- female-bodied men AND women

Polysexuality - polysexuality is defined as an attraction to multiple sexes or genders. Polysexual individuals experience attraction towards many, but not all, genders and sexes.

Pansexuality - pansexuality is defined as attraction to people of all sexes and genders - this is also known as being 'gender-blind'. Pansexual individuals can be cisgender or transgender and can be attracted to cisgender and/or transgender individuals.

Homosexuality - being attracted to people of the same biological sex and gender identity.

Asexuality - Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction and limited or no interest in sexual activity. It is important in the context of discussing asexuality to discuss the difference between sexual orientation and romantic orientation - asexuality does not necessarily mean that someone is an introvert who loathes company and is terrified of being touched, which is something of a rather poisonous stereotype. Asexual individuals have the capacity to love and an interest in romantic relationships, just minus the sexual component.

What is the difference between bisexuality, polysexuality and pansexuality? 

Bisexuality can be differentiated from pansexuality in that bisexuality is an attraction to two distinct sexes/genders (and one of these attractions can be stronger than the other). Polysexuality is similar to bisexuality and bisexuality can be considered a type of polysexuality. In contrast, pansexuality is an attraction to people regardless of sex or gender, in that attractiveness is not specifically tied to particular sexes or genders. All that being said, we define labels. Labels do not define us. Nobody gets to tell you if you're bi or poly or pan. You chose.

EXPRESSION (masculinity/femininity) 

Masculinity and femininity are social constructs that are falsely attributed to sex and/or gender that is our way of expressing ourselves in a sexual context - i.e. through conforming to traditional 'male' or 'manly' characteristics or traditional 'female' or 'womanly' characteristics. Again, this is not really as connected to sex and gender or even orientation as people like to think - there are the stereotypes of 'masculine' lesbians and 'effeminate' gays but really, that's all just coincidence.

In the end it is important to recognise that these elements of sexuality, sexual orientation and sexual expression are all kind of...independent of each other. We like to think that male, man, masculine and liking women all go together and female, woman, feminine and liking men all go together but the reality is that a lot of people don't fit these binaries - there's nothing wrong with them. There's nothing unusual or unnatural or sinful about them and the sexual activities associated with non-binary relationships.

Yeah. I think that's it. I will be pulling apart a lot of this terminology - especially the orientation ones - and be talking about my own personal experiences, as well as trying to convince people to write shit for me. Until then, stay tuned and stay beautiful!









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Monday, June 24, 2013

speak now #5: consent, morality & safety

Now Playing: How to Save a Life by The Fray (lay down a list of what is wrong, the things you've told him all along and pray to God he hears you) 

Sooo...what is sex positivity?

Sex positivity is a new way of looking at sexuality and sexual behaviour - with the emphasis not on 'morality' (i.e. stone-age logic and patriarchal, homophobic bullshit) but on consent. It is the promotion of sexual education and knowledge with the message that any sexual behaviour that is safe and consensual is FINE. OKAY. SERIOUSLY. DO IT. HAVE FUN. Sex positivity is also the acceptance of all people regardless of anatomy, identity, expression and orientation, and the recognition that sexuality isn't binary, that all dichotomies are false dichotomies, and there is nothing immoral or sinful about...being human, really.

Consent

Consent is the free and informed decision to participate in any sexual activity, with the right to withdraw that consent at any time. Consent, also known as 'enthusiastic consent' doesn't mean that there was no 'no' - it means that there was a 'yes'. Instead of looking to religious texts or outdated social norms about what is and isn't okay when it comes to expressing sexuality, the sex positive movement encourages consent to be the moral guideline for sexual behaviour.

Examples of Consent:

A lot of people claim that legalising gay marriage will lead to a 'slippery slope' that will end up with people marrying multiple people, their relatives, animals...etc. This is because our sex negative society fails to see the importance of consent in the context of sexuality, and the irrelevance of religiously-imposed morality and social convention on the private activities of freely-consenting adults. Bestiality and incest will never be endorsed by the sex positive movement not only because, you know...the scientific evidence that suggets that might be a bad idea - but because incestuous relationships can often involve pressure from people in positions of authority and animals can't give consent. Legalising gay marriage and encouraging sex positivity will lead to nothing but a lot of happy gays and a massive reduction in unwanted pregnancies and diseases.

The sex positive movement is opposed to polygyny and child brides because in the cultures that encourage these marital practices there is often resistance from either party, especially from the bride. Resistance to marriage and forced arranged marriage is not consent. Sexual activity within unwanted marriages constitutes marital rape. 

Although there is some dispute as to whether current ages of consent in some parts of the world are realistic reflections of sexual development, the sex positive movement opposes children engaging in sexual activity, especially with adults. Children cannot give consent to sexual activity. 

But consent also matters in our day-to-day interactions with people, as well. The sex positive movement encourages people to not categorise sexual activities into 'good' and 'bad' and then expect their partners to be up for whatever you think is okay. Instead, the sex positive movement emphasises the importance of making sure there is communication - what people like and don't like, are or aren't comfortable with, etc. If you want to do something, ask, and then respect whatever the other person says. It really is that simple. Consent doesn't count if someone is pressured or threatened into giving consent. This includes emotional abuse, physical intimidation or the perception of threat.

One other thing - consent is situation-specific and can be withdrawn at any time. If someone refused to be kissed yesterday and then says they want you to kiss them today, that is consent. If someone slept with you last week and then doesn't want to sleep with you today, last week's consent doesn't count. You can't use someones' history, either with you or with anyone else, to substitute consent - it doesn't work on precedent. Consent can also be withdrawn at any time - everyone has the right to say yes and then change their mind, and the right to expect their partners to cease and desist. Sexuality is confusing. People get confused about what they do and don't want. And that's okay.

I know the idea of consent can be intimidating, especially for people who find it appealing to take what they want and are afraid of being rejected. Refusing to give consent isn't...rejection, per se, and shouldn't be taken personally. A lot of people feel like sexual attention is an honour and people don't have the right to turn it down - I've seen these poisonous attitudes especially towards people who are perceived as being fat, ugly, or otherwise unnattractive. Which is total bullshit; sexual agency is a human right and isn't tied to what you look like or whether or not some fuckhead thinks that you're fuckable. Sexuality is something personal and convoluted and confusing and not something all people are willing to be all gung ho and adventurous with. And, you know, if you want to do stuff and the other person doesn't, that's not your fault - and the other person has no right to make you feel dirty or gross for wanting something that they just might not be into. If you're in a relationship where another person is consistently refusing to consent to things you might want to do, then maybe that's a sign for a conversation about what you want and where things are heading or, maybe, to find someone who is more sexually compatible. Consent also shouldn't be considered a...mood killer, and it doesn't mean you can't do anything spontaneous - asking 'is this okay?' takes three seconds, it's not like you're presenting a thesis.

The importance of consent (and why morality can go suck it)

Morality seems like the easy way out. Black and white rules. You can't do this, you can do this. If you do that you're a slut, if you don't do this you're a prude. It means that you can approach a sexual relationship and know exactly what to expect.

But that's just really not a realistic way to approach sexuality. Everyone is different - everyone has different preferences, different attitudes, and because sexuality can be so intense and intimidating some people can have crazy powerful desires or extreme aversions. Consent empowers the individual to make their own choices about their sexuality - choices that can change and evolve as we grow as sexual beings. Using consent as a sexual guideline is the only way to not only respect different cultures and social attitudes that might reflect in our personal choices, but also to transcend them - many of the incidences of sexual violence, forced sexual relations, slut shaming, etc are caused by a clash between personal interests and the oppression of society.

The sex positive movement believes that no safe and consensual sexual activity is wrong, which is the basis of religious sexual morality - that gay sex is a sin, that premarital sex is a sin, period sex is a sin, pretty much anything fun and not for the purposes of making babies or asserting patriarchal authority is a sin...pfft. This has evolved into our semi-secular society into a force used to pressure people into doing things they don't want to do and to not do things they do want to do. Consent works by empowering people to set their own boundaries, and to force people to have some fucking human decency and respect those boundaries, with or without some kind of moral superiority. There is nothing wrong with a safe and consensual BDSM relationship, if all parties are freely consenting adults. On the other hand, even an 'innocent' kiss is wrong if the other person isn't interested. If that's too complicated a concept for you to grasp, then seriously, don't have sex. You are evidently not mature enough or good enough for anybody.

It is also important to note that morality has its base in religion, and in times and places where we didn't know what we now know about sexuality and reproduction, a time and place where sex and marriage and babies were very tied up with gendered politics and a war between the sexes. We can't let ideas that are drenched in superstition and ignorance dictate the sexual behaviours of modern relationships in the modern world. In the age of globalisation we live in societies where not everyone comes from the same place, believes the same thing, worships the same gods. Consent is universal. Morality is not.

Morality really has no place in sexuality. It makes public what should be private, and holds people accountable for things that are really none of our business. By using false ideas of morality, the idea that you can judge the moral worth of someone based on who they do what with, when and how often, encourages this dangerous idea that we can use someone's sexuality against them.

Safety 

I'll discuss safer sex and protection methods later, and find some awesome sauce resources that I have stumbled across, but I just want to discuss safety in the context of sex positivity. Sex negativity argues that abstinence, or only expressing sexuality in certain situations with certain people lowers the risk of sexual behaviour, but that is just totally not accurate. People are going to do weird and wacky and, yes, dangerous things in the context of sexuality and there's nothing wrong with that. The sex positive movement is all about educating people to feel good about themselves, and also to be safe whilst doing that.

If you're not grown up to discuss protection methods and options with your partner, or your partner reacts negatively to the concept, then a sexual relationship is a baaaaad idea. Sexual behaviours all have their risks, but nothing and no one is worth your safety or your future. If you or your partner want to do something it is very important to do your research - work out the risks involved, be that pregnancy or STIs, work out the best method for you to manage that risk and then always make sure you understand that no matter what you do every sexual activity has its risks, and every protection method - even abstinence - has its pros and cons. There's no foolproof, totally safe way to be human. Sorry.

Another part about staying safe is making sure that consent is part of the sexual dialogue of any relationship - even if it's just a "friendship" or "casual". You don't need to be going out with someone to demand consent, and consent isn't just associated with sexual intercourse - any physical or emotional thing that you want to do with someone, you have to get consent first. Pour exemple: I am a very cuddly person and I love hugs. My friends know that and we can get pretty touchy feely. All that being said, I can and have refused hugs and that has - and hasn't - been respected by some people. And I also know that not everyone is as comfortable (or as addicted) to skinship as I am and I respect that too.

Lack of consent isn't just about being respectful to peoples feelings and values; consent is the difference between sexual activity and sexual assault. Witnesses of the Steubenville incident, even the Steubenville rapists themselves, had no idea that what was occurring was rape because it wasn't violent and there were no protests - the entire defence for the perpetrators is that the victim never said 'no'. And no, perhaps she wasn't battered and bruised and didn't die screaming. That doesn't make it acceptable or consensual. Lack of consent and the wrongness of nonconsensual sexual congress isn't just about violence - it's about people not obtaining permission, and it is every person's right to give or deny permission before things are done to them.

My experiences with sex positivity/sex negativity

When I was very young there was this extreme pressure to be very disinterested in sexuality - during those health classes everyone would complain loudly and watch carefully for anyone who showed the slightest bit of interest or seriousness in the subject. But at the same time I watched as everyone was transfixed by all those outdated 'What is Happening To Me?' animations and realised that we can pretend all we like, but we're all fascinated with sexuality.

When I got a little older I definitely felt the pressure of the contradiction between being sexy and attractive, but at the same time not being interested in sex. We all wanted boyfriends but we weren't allowed to want boyfriends, which was really doing my head in. I never had much patience with social convention and that tightrope between slut and prude was a line I walked very badly, and often ended straying too far either way just to make things a little easier.

I couldn't get over the fact that the way my body was changing and all the multitudes of ways I could feel towards people were natural, and yet somehow bad. I also struggled with the fact that no matter how much I tried to ignore or deny it, things happened anyway and I was still bullied. When I started menstruating my periods were extremely heavy and intensely painful but people were horrified when I complained - the very idea that one would speak openly about the inconvenience of bleeding was unthinkable amongst most of my peers, so I suffered in silence through what I now suspect to be a hormonal imbalance of some kind. Primary school and high school, in my experience, were very sex negative in that people were very hung up about the morality of sex and obsessed with how people presented themselves as sexual beings. I also noticed a massive hypocrisy when all my male friends were very comfortable with talking openly about things like porn or masturbation, especially in senior year, but that same openness didn't apply to girls.

I know it didn't really occur to people that I, like most other human beings, have a sexuality throught most of grade school; I would show up to school dances all dolled up in party dresses and absurd amounts of makeup and all the boys would be like 'oh yeah...she's a girl...' - the reaction when I arrived at my Year 12 Ball in white embroidered silk, a sparkly tiara and about a foot of makeup was particularly hilarious. And I guess that made my acceptance and interest in sexuality a lot weirder, to most people - I personally find sexual experience and openness attractive and I fail to see what is so attractive about someone who is totally disinterested and utterly ignorant about sex, but that genuinely seemed to be the general consensus. I know that I wasn't really considered attractive, which was another thing I found weird - people only seemed to think that people only had desires if they were desirable, when it really doesn't work like that, and I saw a lot of 'ugly' people being ridiculed for just being, you know...human.

Going to uni has definitely helped me find my crowd - a lot of people here are sexually active and open about sexuality, and if you find the right people sex is no longer that gross taboo that only desperate sluts do to keep down boyfriends. It has really helped me grow as a person and to figure out what I do and don't want to have people I can talk to without being judged, and I think it's really important to have this open dialogue about sexuality. Growing up there was all this shame and stigma about sexuality, even about normal natural body processes and it can get really hard. One of my main motivations for starting this series is that when I was in grade school and didn't really have a lot of support or resources I turned to the internet, and it was in sex-positive webspaces like Laci Green's YouTube channels and Tumblr page that I really began to grow comfortable with sexuality, to educate myself enough about sexuality to feel comfortable with sex without worrying about the (mostly made-up or misunderstood) risks, and to better understand other sexual taboos, like LGBT issues.

My experiences with consent

I'll be honest with you - I didn't really understand consent, or the importance of consent, until very recently. We live in this society where we don't want fat ugly girls thinking that they're fuckable, much less having the right to refuse to be fucked, and that was really drilled into me in my younger and more vulnerable days. I was kind of reckless, as a younger teen - I would flirt a lot, even with people I wasn't very interested in, just to provoke a response without really understanding that that is somewhat problematic. I always thought that I wasn't good enough for the people I liked and that anything they did was something of an honour, and so I didn't really think about consent.

I very much took for granted consent at first - in retrospect I was very lucky that I was with someone who always respected my boundaries and always asked if I was okay. I got a bit impatient, actually, but in retrospect I am very glad - those first experiences took their toll, emotionally, but it would have been a lot worse if consent wasn't such a huge part of it. Those first experiences taught me the importance of consent, but also that consent can't always protect you from getting hurt. I got hurt, badly, but nothing would have changed that. That's part of growing up. But I would have been much more worse for wear if consent had ever been in doubt.

My second experience with consent is when I got involved with one of those 'nice guys finish last' losers, attempted to 'friendzone' him and then he decided that I was a vending machine in which you put in coins of 'being nice' and 'lets be best friends' in exchange for nonconsensual intimacy. You can't buy consent, and consent can't be earned via brownie points. The irony is that he told me to tell him if I was uncomfortable - which in itself is not how consent works. Saying 'stop' is part of establishing that you withdraw your consent. But it is not for the other partner to say 'I'm going to do stuff until you realise that this is nonconsensual, and then you can say 'stop'. Consent is yes and no. Not 'I'm going to do this, so try and stop me'.

So I hope that has taught you a little bit about sex positivity and introduced you to the sex-positive approach to consent, morality & safety. I will be posting more about the sex positive movement itself, as well as exploring sex positive feminism, sex positive atheism and looking at issues such as abortion, prostitution and pornography from a sex positive perspective. I will also be talking about other issues related to consent & morality such as rape culture and exploring the impact of religion on human sexuality. If you would like to read a more personal discussion of consent and what happens when you're not quite sure what consent is all about, click here. Stay tuned and stay beautiful!







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Sunday, June 23, 2013

speak now #4: the list

Now Playing: Cut by Plumb (I may seem crazy or painfully shy but these scars wouldn't be so hidden if you would just look me in the eye)

So I have a list. Of things. I want to talk about.

I have at least 20 post ideas at a time on this list and I keep adding to it as things pop up and, yes, as people suggest things. Anything you suggest that I think is appropriate for this blog will be added to the list. So if you have any topics you'd like discussed, questions you want answered or anything that you're confused about, contact me!

HOW TO CONTACT ME:
  1. If we are friends on Facebook, you can inbox me or post on my Wall. I may consider creating a Facebook page for this project at some point in the future
  2. You can buzz me an email at geesycheesydarita(at)gmail.com
  3. You can comment on any speak now post, but be aware that all comments are read and moderated prior to publishing
TOPICS OF RELEVANCE:
  1. Human Sexuality, including orientation, expression and identity
  2. Anatomy, as long as you keep in mind that I am not by any stretch of the imagination a particularly scientific person
  3. Anything about sex positivity, atheism, feminism, atheist feminism
  4. Any queries about terminology you might have come across, like 'heteronormative' or 'pansexual'
  5. My opinions of current affairs related to sexuality or sexual violence/abuse, especially Australian matters
  6. Suggestions for any songs/music videos/movies/TV series/books for me to critique from a feminist/sex positive angle
  7. 'Controversial' topics like abortion, gender selection, prostitution, etc. 
  8. You can ask me to discuss my personal experiences but I may choose not to answer them and please be respectful
  9. If you have a business selling sex-positive and/or LGBT stuff (jewellery etc) let me know and we can do a giveaway! 
BEING A GUEST WRITER
  1. If you would like to be a guest writer, please INBOX ME ON FACEBOOK or EMAIL ME a brief introduction to who you are and what you would like to write about
  2. It is preferable that I know you, or know of you - so if I don't know you personally but you have your own sex positive webspace please link me
  3. The article must be your own work and/or properly referenced as necessary
  4. I will make edits if necessary, but I will always send you a final copy prior to publication
  5. You will be recognised as the author of the guest post using any name/username you prefer (or as 'Anonymous'), and you may republish the post with permission
  6. If you like, you can moderate the comments on your guest post (as in, I will email all comments that are posted on that post and you can tell me whether to publish them or not)
I will tell you whether I like your suggestions and ideas for a guest post, but to give you some ideas, you can talk about:
  1. Having a sexual anatomy/identity/expression/orientation that is different from the cisgender/heteronormative ideal, or knowing someone who differs from the cisgender/heteronormative ideal 
  2. Any LGBT issue, whether you are an LGBT individual or not 
  3. Any issue relating to sexuality/atheism/feminism/atheist feminism/sex positivity 
  4. A response to any of the posts I make (whether you agree or disagree with my argument)
  5. Dealing with body image issues or mental/eating disorders related to body image or sexuality
  6. If you are a medical professional or student, you can discuss anatomy and biology and contraception and reproduction and all that jazz (I mean, I will too, but very badly)
  7. If you have your own established sex positive webspace you can talk about being a peer sex educator and promote your sex positive webspace
  8. Any experience with sexual assault, domestic violence, or bullying associated with sexuality or gender 
  9. If you would like to interview me or let me interview you, that can also be organised 
Oh, one more thing: I will be linking every Speak Now post onto an index page in the toolbar (next to 'Playlist') so to access these posts you can either click on the tag under the title or head to that page :) ...I think that's it. More tomorrow! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

speak now #3: c'est moi

Now Playing: Skinny Love by Birdy (I'm breaking at the bridges and at the end of all your lies)

So...I'm an English and Gender Studies student at university. About half of of my 24 units for my degree have the word 'sex' or 'gender' or 'women' in it. The study of human sexuality was introduced to me in high school English, where we were taught gendered readings and analysis of representations of sexuality in literature and popular culture. Through my time as a student and a blogger and a YouTube fiend and just a person I have learned to become comfortable in facilitating conversation about sexuality in an academic and social context and I think it's very important.

My sex education started when I was eleven, which was also when I experienced a pretty traumatic bullying experience involving little fuckwits being morons about menstruation. In high school the emphasis of sex education was very much focused on anatomy and contraception, and the discussion of sexual relationships and all that other stuff was very brief and limited. I was struck by how outdated and sparse the teaching resources were and how hapharzard the curriculum was, especially in comparison to all the fancy technology and flashy new textbooks that were being dished out by the other departments. All that being said, though, my sex education was lacking but not...damaging, in any sense of the term. In contrast my cousins in Singapore were fed abstinence-based education and remain largely ignorant of and disgusted by sexuality.

At the moment I identify as a cisgender bisexual woman. Bisexuality is a weird thing, in the sense that no label will totally describe your sexuality in a single term. I used to identify as hetero but that's changed and, you know, that's fine. Bisexuality especially is quite a fluid and ambiguous concept, and everyone's experience of bisexuality is different. My experience of bisexuality is that my attraction to people is that I am attracted to men and women, but not in the same way, not to the same degree, and I don't want the same things from both genders.

I am very open about sexuality and comfortable with talking about it and exploring it and understanding and respecting other peoples orientations and identifications and all that jazz. I have friends who are like that and I really appreciate having people to talk to about these things, because I am inexperienced but also very versed in the terminology and ideology of atheist feminism and the sex positive movement, and as you know I'm small and not very strong so I can sometimes get a bit intimidated by the physical side of things. I have some friends who are not so open, which is fine, because this stuff can get pretty personal. But then I also know other people who are excessively secretive about sexuality to the point where they don't know basic anatomy or sexuality-related concepts, they buy in to the lies and fear of sex negative propoganda and openly engage in slut shaming, homophobia and sexism.

Being open about my sexuality has really made me open up not just about myself, but about other people, and is really the key to understanding people who might be different to you and to the societal norm. It has its downsides; people think I'm 'weird', for sure, and I do get bullied a lot. But that's really nothing new.

Am I worried about how my friends will perceive me? Not really. I have learned the hard way that friends don't judge you for what you are, and you shouldn't compromise who you are or what you believe in for social status or a huge crowd of fake friends. This is especially true at university, where you really have to pick and choose and value your friends as individuals; and you really do have to love them, because trying to make time to meet up and maintain a relationship can become a real pain in the ass. Even my more conservative friends respect who I am and what I stand for, and I have actually learned a lot of what people think of as 'that fucked up shit she blogs about' (my blog, incidentally, is somewhat infamous amongst my high school chums) from my friends.

Am I worried about my opinions relationship wise? Definitely no. Firstly, I'm the kind of person who has strong opinions on everything - although I am careful not to have opinions on things I don't really understand or haven't gotten around to researching, which is why I really have nothing to say about economics or the Palestine/Israel thing. It is very important in any relationship of any kind that friends and partners understand and value your opinions and boundaries and that is kind of fucked up when you try and hide what you think or blur the lines between what is and isn't okay for you. Whether I hide it or not my opinions of sexuality are what they are and if you can't handle that then you really can't handle me. Have my opinions made me unpopular? Yes. Definitely. But that's just a by-product of being me in a society where nonconformity is suicide. And in the wise words of Amy March 'you don't need scores of suitors, you just need one. If he's the right one'.

I have a kind of love hate relationship with my body. A severe case of depression and an eating disorder later I am much more confident with my body than I was when I was in my younger and more vulnerable days, but I still have my fair share if insecurities. Learning to love my body is a painfully slow, extremely complicated work in process, but it would not be possible if I wasn't sex positive and dedicated to surrounding myself with sex positive people.

So now you know a little bit about me, let's fall down the rabbit hole of the weird and wonderful world of...being human.

Stay tuned and stay beautiful.

PREVIOUS SPEAK NOW

Friday, June 21, 2013

speak now #2: comments and commentary

Now Playing: Over the Love by Florence + the Machine (ever since I was a child I've turned it over in my mind)

So as you all know I have a pretty strict commenting policy, which really hasn't been put to much use now since NOBODY FUCKING COMMENTS.

I mean seriously, people, I know you're there and I don't bite. Much. Well. You'll like it, I promise ;).

I know commenting has been slower since I started moderating comments, which is part of the reason why for the first couple of years of blogging I didn't moderate comments: that and the fact that I am a muppet and didn't know how to. I think people are intimidated by that, or feel like I'm monopolising conversation, but I'm really not. I'm just protecting myself and all of you.

My moderation policy is as follows for this series - it is slightly more extensive than my moderation policy for my other posts:

1. I will not publish comments that include names, addresses or other personal information

2. I will not publish anything I consider to be malicious or abusive towards anyone or any group of people.

3. I will not publish incomprehensible banana pecan lollipops GENGHIS KHAN.

4. I will not publish any comments that I consider to be irrelevant and excessively personal, such as:
   - How many people have you had ... with?
   - Would you ever do...?
   - What does your (body part/person/object/etc) look like?
I won't publish these questions because they are inappropriate and don't really contribute anything to the discussion.

5. This isn't an advice column so you can ask questions like 'could you please discuss polyamory?' or 'can you include more articles about body image?' but I'm not going to give situation-specific relationship advice. Mostly because my relationships are either nonexistent or disasterous so I am probably not the best person to give advice on that.

6. I am not a doctor, or a qualified teacher, or a counselor, or a detective. I can't give you medical advice, medication or psychological therapy, or track down your loser ex boyfriend

7. I reserve the right to refuse to publish any comment.

All that being said, I don't want you to be...afraid of commenting. Like seriously. Comment. Even I sometimes run out of things to say.
 
Stay tuned and stay beautiful!

PREVIOUS SPEAK NOW


Thursday, June 20, 2013

poetry makes nothing happen.

Now Playing: Love the Way You Lie  by Eminem ft. Rihanna (your temper's just as bad as mine is, you're the same as me, when it comes to love you're just as blinded)

"For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its own saying where executives
Would never want to tamper; it flows south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth"

A running joke amongst my friends, most of which are either working or doing a science major, is that I am 'unemployable and loving it'. I made that joke up, because sometimes the only way to stop people laughing at you is the laugh with them. I know they think I am a useless dreamer. Unemployable. So what? I love what I do and I am very, very good at what I do. How many people can genuinely say that? Not many that I know of.

The biggest accusation that is laid at my door is that my work doesn't do anything. It's pointless and useless and a waste of time. Reading literature and analysing film and writing poetry doesn't save lives or change the world. 

This is, of course, a total lie. It's a lie because we live in a world where the cause and effect of robotic factory lines is our only measure of productivity - a means to an ends, something that creates something that can be measured numerically and has material value. We live in a world where we value people who make things happen that, in turn, makes more things happen. The act of creation is no longer something we are in awe of. 

Poetry makes nothing happen. I cannot write you a poem and cure your disease or bring back the dead or send you to the moon or make you a millionaire. Maybe that's why my work is constantly discredited when compared to the work of doctors and scientists and businessmen. But my work is still important.

Poetry was a love that crept up on me - in my younger and more vulnerable days I read poetry in the same way I read Shakespeare; because it was highbrow and an annoyingly pretentious but alarmingly effective way of getting attention. But under the guidance of my dear teachers and the wisdom of summers withering in my pride I really began to appreciate poetry, what the poets were saying and what the words were singing and what each and every piece meant to me. My love of poetry is like my love of coffee - I kept at it for less than honourable reasons but now I am a connoisseur, a snob, if you will - but a devoted lover nonetheless. 

Poetry is a way of happening; a mouth. It is a way of saying something that can't or shouldn't be said - a way for me to empower myself, to bring voice to times when I am reduced to tears or stammers or heartbreaking silence. It is a way of saying something bold in a way that is eloquent and daring but at the same time too broad to point fingers of blame at; it is a way of subverting generic discourse and being challenging and controversial. It is analysis and critique of the most potent kind; enough to see poets burned and persecuted, their names written with blood in the annals of history. Poetry makes nothing happen, but it is a way of making things happen; it is not a manual on how to save a life but it is a language to write everything and everyone. I started writing poetry because I had - and still have - a bad habit of extremely long and complicated sentences and very irrelevant and not very interesting digressions when I write prose. Poetry was my way of learning how to speak succinctly without losing my love of the abstract. Poetry survives and thrives in the idiosyncrasies and paradoxes of life that nothing else can ever think of decoding; it is the way in which we remember, record, bring meaning to the things we build, the fights we win and the people we love.

speak now #1: introduction

Now Playing: Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons (it was not your fault but mine, and it was your heart on the line, I really fucked it up this time, didn't I, my dear?)

Sooooooo regular readers of the crazy space known as my blog will know that I write a lot about sexuality - my own experiences with sexuality, feminism, LGBT issues, atheism in relation to religiously-informed societal attitudes towards sexuality...the whole shebang.

I have wanted to be a peer sex educator since I heard about Laci Green, who has an amazing Youtube channel called Sex+ and a super cool tumblr page. But, like all things I feel like...Australia really doesn't that much an internet presence in the conversations on sexuality and, well, I'd like to change that.

We live in such a heteronormative sex-negative society that sex is defined by silence - outside of extremely awkward and strictly anatomical high school health classes sex is just not talked about. Which makes no fucking sense, if you think about it - sex is the elephant in the room in all of us. Most of us want to have sex, we have all had sexual experiences, we are all sexual beings, we were all brought into this world by sex, so...it makes sense to me that something that can potentially be physically and emotionally damaging if not done right should be, you know, talked about. Sexuality, like life and other animals, doesn't come with a fucking instruction manual. You have to learn, and to learn, you have to talk.

Behind every silence is a stigma, and stigma is a toxic blend of two parts ignorance and three parts oppression with a whole lot of bullshit and propoganda thrown in to fill the gaps. If we talk about it, sex becomes normal - not any less beautiful or any less exciting, but a lot less intimidating and dangerous.

I'll be hijacking post scheduling and I hope to post a speak now post every day - they won't necessarily written on the same day like most of my other posts, but at least there will always be something interesting and not a poem/video/picture when you pop around and I cbf writing some long winded dissection of why this person/place/thing/ideology/religion/etc is a fuckwit. I was considering making this a separate blog but I have tried to manage more than one blog before and it doesn't work besides this blog is already established and because I'm not twelve and reckless anymore I don't like the idea of writing on an 'open forum' that is really only read by my mother. I'll be talking about my experiences with sexuality, sex positivity, sex positive terminology, depictions of sexuality and gendered interaction in popular culture as well as discussions of different sexual orientations and all that kind of stuff. I'll also be posting, like I have been, lots of links and videos of my favourite sex-positive spaces on the internet. You can ask me questions and make suggestions and get the conversation started in comments, although they will all be moderated and I reserve the right to ignore questions even if they are published - because, you know, I have my limits and boundaries and part of the sex positive conversation is about respecting that. This series will be numbered in the title and tagged with 'speak now'.

Stay tuned and stay beautiful.

NEXT SPEAK NOW


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Scraps of Time

I live my life in scraps of time
A life of tepid baths and cold tea, of 
Coffee drunk alone
In the noisy silence of solitude

And my knight errant, come too late to save me 
From swallowing my bitterness of a life too short
Yet already so long

You made a warrior of a worrier
But I still have the wearied nostalgia
Of ransomed squires
And demoiselles en d├ętresse

You hear the nightingale
And claim it for a lark 
You have only ever given me your scraps of time

But caught in your arms
Without permission, without volition
In your scraps of time we are almost one
Jagged breath and warm blood
Scattered staccato hearts

It is the only time you are ever mine
With eyes meeting
Lips almost touching

I see her everywhere
Always ready to remind me
Not of your love
But the love of all those 
You told me, in secret, you detest

It is no secret that they detest me

If only I could see you in worthy arms
If only those arms were mine

I am first and last
Of the thousand things on your mind
First and last in your heart 

I live my life in scraps of time
Yours, and hers, and mine. 

Wordless Wednesday: Hillary Clinton


Friday, June 14, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

confessions.

Now Playing: Thistle & Weeds by Mumford & Sons (spare me your judgements and spare me your dreams, because recently mine have been tearing my seams)

I have a confession.

I love cuddles. It's my most favourite thing in the whole wide world - I love the skinship of intimate relationships. I am probably the most socially retarded person you'll ever meet and I don't make friends easily, but I can get close to someone relatively easily, if that makes sense. The only time I will refuse to cuddle is if you smell funny or I hate you. Seriously. If you see me in real life odds are I will probably be cuddling someone.

That's not my confession.

I'm very comfortable with touch - you'd think that someone as socially awkward as me wouldn't be, but I'm very fine with it. I'd have to be really pissed at you if you try and touch me and I shake you off; when I need 'space' I don't mean that I need what other people would call 'personal space'; my idea of 'space' is being totally alone and if I have company, well, one of them better have their arm around me (it is June, after all).

I wasn't always like this - I've spent a lot of time alone, being lonely, not really associating with many people. It's only in the last year or so that I've begun to, you know, learn how to interact with human beings and navigate my way through the sexual politics of high school and now uni - at school we're taught how to use our brains and our strength and socially high school is a bloodbath, but there's a whole other level of playground society that we like to pretend isn't there, but it is interesting and very important to learn how to use your body and your sexuality and the kind of intelligence and conversation you won't learn in class and I have grown very comfortable with that.

But we don't talk about that. And because we don't talk about that, none of us really knows what we are doing. I certainly didn't, and for the most part I still don't. Making it up as you go along is entertaining, for sure, and kind of quintessential to growing up, but also very, very, dangerous. I took for granted the knowledge, the absolute trust, that people wouldn't hurt me; and even if I thought they might they never did. Letting people touch you requires an incredible amount of trust and faith, and it's always a state of vulnerability no matter what you're doing or who you're doing it with, especially because I'm not very big or very strong - it wouldn't take much for a hug to become a fight I wouldn't win or a touch to become something scary and scarily unwelcome. And emotionally, emotionally it's very daunting and can take you to some very vulnerable places, especially when you don't know what you're doing.

I always thought that whatever I did with people that felt good, or exciting, or overwhelmingly intense, or whatever response that could be provoked from some physical act...I related it more to the actual thing we were doing instead of who and what and where and why and all the many thousands of elements that contribute to the mise en scene of every moment of our lives. And then such is the way that we treat women, all this sexism that I had internalised despite being such a passionate women's rights activist...everything you do that has any faint sexual undertone that's it, you've passed the point of no return, the ram has touched the wall and that is now something that you do, it's part of who you are. I cannot quite explain the guilt and shame of disliking something that you're doing with someone that you've done with someone else, the guilt and shame of pushing people away when, in another time and place, you were pulling other people closer. I just felt so guilty that I would run to other people for my cuddles but there was always this nagging feeling that stopped me from getting closer to this person. This reluctance is excused, perhaps, if someone is grotesquely ugly or abusive or violent or repulsive in any other way, but when you're supposed to like them, when they're supposed to be a friend, when they're supposed to be the start of something new and you're just not feeling it and you want to run away but guilt and shame stop you...it's horrible.

I like dominant personalities in the same way that most women like dominant personalities but some strange strands of feminism have somehow shamed that. I like it because relationships move at a blisteringly fast pace, which I like - it's nice to have someone to carry the burden of a relationship sometimes, for them to make the decisions in situations when you're easygoing. It makes what you have to say have more weight; these people learn to be grateful for your peacefulness and accept when you want things your way. I really do like the kind of people who are almost cruelly condescending if you're too dumb or not strong enough to keep up; if you can win them over they give you an unbelievable amount of love and respect and trust, and the warmest people are often the most hurt people and so they hide behind the coldest masks. You can't change a man and it's a fool who tries, but you can see who they really are if you look hard enough.

Being friends with someone dominant or condescending doesn't mean you have to be submissive - if anything, it makes you more assertive than before, which I like. All relationships are power struggles, and egalitarianism is nonexistent in the closest friendships, or at the very least merely a facade; there's always that push and pull of power, and I think the real test of any connection between two people is whether conflict can bring you together or force you apart. There are always boundaries pushed and lines crossed and prides that are wounded, but at the same time there is also sympathy and empathy and favours that are done without question or request or any expectations of reward; there is understanding and acceptance and apologies and forgiveness and, sometimes, having to swallow one's pride and beg forgiveness. But no matter what, respect is a vital part of any relationship; and I know my friends respect me as much as I respect them. There are hurts, but they are apologised for and forgiven. That's how relationships are supposed to work - trust, love, respect and lots of cuddles. I like dominant personalities because when you finally establish that friendship they will show you more respect and commitment than any nice guy ever will. People tell me I create the worst kinds of relationships with the worst kinds of people, but that's simply not accurate. I have never been unsympathetic of humanity - we are all human, and that is okay. Men are flawed creatures and that is a reality I accepted long ago. But if we all must have our flaws, I prefer them to be out in the open, so I can assess for myself if they are things I can handle and tolerate and forgive. The truth is my friends are no worse than yours; it's just that I am very aware of their shortcomings, and they are very aware of mine, and we are all okay with it. If anything I have the healthiest relationships, or at least the most honest ones.

When I'm whinging about being single and blah blah blah I know there is a small but bitterly resentful group of boys who are like 'well, she could have chosen me', and then start on their emo rants of 'nice guys finish last' and frienzoning and all that other crap. But they're not nice guys, none of the boys I've left behind have been in the least bit nice; they're all snivelling messes of emotional blackmail and violent jealousy and total lack of tact. You are not a nice guy if you tell a girl she's not pretty enough to do any better than you. You are not a nice guy if you think 'being nice' should be rewarded with getting your way with someone. And you are definitely not a nice guy if you blackmail people into doing things they don't want to do.  

It all sounds very innocent, you know - it always does, even when it creeps you out. You tell other people and the gravity, the urgency of your panic, isn't quite relayed properly. You tell them to stop and they just smile at you like you're an idiot. You're stupid enough to tell them that you've been there, done that and then they pressure you into thinking that if you've been there you'll go there again, with them. You've done it all before - you've done a lot worse, actually - but it doesn't feel the same, it doesn't feel right, and there's a hard knot where the butterflies should be. There are the endless speeches about how they'll always be your best friend and when you try and step back they take a step towards you and ask in that horrible wounded voice why you're not caring for them the way they're caring for you. And I believed it, for a second, for a second I thought that because I've done this all before I had to do it all again. And when you do pull away the guilt stays, and I really did feel like I was letting him down. But the last straw comes to knock some sense into you when they ask why you're treating them so badly and jealously sulk that you've obviously let others do so much more and then you finally have the wisdom to think 'Yes. I did. Because I wanted to.'

You have to have the vanity to believe that you deserve the world or you end up with people like that. That's a lesson I learnt the hard way. I want other people to know that - I want people to know that no matter what you've done you always, always have the right to say no. I knew that, really, I did, but only in principle. The reason why I keep crapping on about Old Man isn't because he did anything to hurt me physically, but a mere week of his emotional blackmail cut very deep. I wanted to be that girl, that girl who did what she wanted and said no when she'd had enough but I never have  been - when I took what I wanted I was slut shamed and when I wanted out I was under so much pressure to give in. It's easy to believe these girl power attitudes in theory but sometimes it's hard to put them into practice, especially when...well, when you're afraid. I didn't really know him and I didn't know what he might do and it was then that I realised how grateful I am to have friends who realise that even though relationships are power struggles blackmail is never acceptable.

I am not as stupid as people think I am - I know that is a rather idiotic thing to say after confessing to being so incredibly naive, but it's true. People think I am in bad relationships but trust me, I know a bad relationship when I see one and for all my naivety that fiasco didn't last any longer than a week - that at least I am proud of. I know exactly what is good and bad about all my relationships, about all the people I love. Nobody is perfect, and I think it is stupid to think I should run from anyone should they show the slightest flaws. The gravest faults show up in the most perfect people, and very early on. Perfection is a facade one can only keep up for so long - especially if there is rot at the root of perfection.