"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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

I was sixteen
I said, 'I love you'
He said, 'thank you'

Saturday, July 27, 2013

speak now #27: australia's war on labia

Now Playing: Comforting Sounds by Birdy (nobody has gained or accomplished anything)

Did you know?

Under Australian law, labia minora are too obscene for pornographic images, and must be 'healed to a single crease', either digitally or surgically.

Info:

The labia are two sets of lips that surround the clitoris, meatus and vaginal opening. The inner lips are closer to the vagina and are called the labia minora. The outer lips are next to the labia minora and are called the labia majora. The labia majora are typically bigger and fleshier than the labia minora, and in some women they can cover the labia minora. In other women the labia minora is longer and protrudes from the labia majora. The labia are a normal, functional part of the vulva, are highly sensitive and made of erectile tissue. The appearance, size and shape of the labia vary between people and can tell you pretty much nothing about whether or not a person has had sex or not, is having lots of sex or none at all, or has had children.

Labia and porn:

Under Australian law, softcore porn magazines are widely available under an M15+ rating, and allow full frontal nudity if they do not have too much 'genital detail'. Because pubic hair is rarely a feature in contemporary pornography, the labia minora is visible in the genital slit of some porn stars - this means that the majority of the vulvas depicted in these kinds of publications are edited, because our law denies the existence of an entire body part, or at least thinks that a normal, natural part of the biofemale body is 'obscene'. The Classification Board denies that they have much say in how magazines choose to edit their images, but magazine publishers claim that 'the only acceptable vagina as far as the Classification Board is concerned is one that is 'neat and tidy' in their eyes. They basically consider labia minora to be 'too offensive' for soft porn'.

Male interference and entitlement:

This information comes largely from a documentary that was released a few years ago called Labiaplasty, which looks into Australia's unique and uniquely offensive pornography laws. Everyone involved in this disturbing notion that genitals are too offensive for a form of entertainment pretty much focused on genitalia were...men - the plastic surgeon, the photo editor, the magazine publishers, the member of the Classification Board. The only women involved in the debate of whether or not labia are offensive was the reporter and, well, the hundreds of nameless and sometimes faceless women who grace the pages of these magazines, altered beyond recognition and  beyond the realms of reality.

The influence of pornography:

In an age where it is virtually impossible to get access to realistic images of bodies and genitalia without social stigma, and in a society in which knowing your own anatomy and having even the vaguest idea of what is and isn't normal is still taboo, porn is not only an outlet and a form of entertainment, but also a sinisterly biased and confusingly misinforming educational medium. The only vulvas we see are the vulvas shown in these magazines that are extremely accessible and widely viewed; pornography is informing our ideas of what is and isn't right, and like all mass media consumption we often fail to analyse the imagery critically, to see that the images presented to us aren't real, and aren't normal. The target demographic of these magazines; young, straight men - are also our society's sexual abusers, rapists, sexists and the most intolerant of the diversity of human bodies and sexualities, and part of this attitude is because we've edited out of their masturbatory fantasies essential body parts and facts of life.

More than just a touch up:

The kind of editing in softcore porn is more than just deleting a few pimples or shaving a few centimetres off a waistline. This is editing out an entire body part - a body part that no biofemale doesn't have. It's like editing a nose off a face; the labia minora is there for a reason, and it takes invasive surgery and crippling insecurities to get rid of it. There is nothing wrong with any of these women who are constantly getting edited; the Classification Board is saying that there is a part of every single woman that is too obscene for people to even know of its existence.

'Neat and tidy':

The kind of vulvas seen in porn - hairless and 'healed to a single crease'...quite frankly, only infants have those kinds of vulvas naturally. This trend for neat and tidy vulvas with no hair, no wobbly bits, nothing that would suggest any kind of growth or sexual maturity is...really quite disturbing and almost pedophilic. And to hear men say that vuvlas that aren't 'neat and tidy' are obscene says a lot about attitudes towards female bodies - the constant pressure to lose weight, get rid of hairs, make this bigger, make that smaller, make this disappear entirely - the internalized sexism of our society means that we will never be content with what women look like in the way that we've settled for what men look like. Laws like these send a clear message to the women of Australia that they must alter themselves and put themselves through an ordeal of insecurity and even surgery before they are good enough to be fantasized about.

Silent laws and quiet taboos:

The tragedy of laws like these is that people are almost totally unaware of them; whilst many porn consumers are vaguely aware that most people don't look like porn stars, it is still embedded into the subconscious that bodies are meant to look a certain way - the way they look in porn. Everyone has their own sexual preferences, and these preferences will inevitably be influenced by society and the media we consume as a society - but when the media is telling us to worship silicone breasts and to totally forget about the existence of whole body parts, or to think of any part of the human body 'obscene'...you have to wonder of the impact this has on gendered interaction in our society.

Sex positivity, feminism and pornography:

Sex positivity and feminism are broad churches, and there are many different feminist and sex positive stances on pornography. As a sex positive feminist I believe pornography has the potential to be a healthy outlet and expression of sexuality, and a useful tool to facilitate a broader conversation of human sexuality and a greater knowledge of the diversity of human anatomy and sexuality. At the moment, however, pornography is the antithesis of what it could be - it perpetuates harmful, derogatory and even violent ideas of what sexual interaction looks like, consistently promotes unrealistic, altered bodies and ignores the great diversity of healthy human bodies, and instills paranoia, insecurity, intolerance and entitlement into the gendered interaction of our society. For pornography to become a legitimate part of the sex positive movement we really have to pull away from our obsession with digital editing, with unhealthy and unrealistic bodies, and our fear of diversity; there's nothing wrong with the concept of pornography, but the way in which this concept is executed has become tragically exploitative, derogatory and removed from reality.




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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

speak now #26: vulva love

Now Playing: Young & Beautiful by Lana Del Rey (Will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful? Will you still love me when I've got nothing but my aching soul?)

So...I'm going to put it out there that, unless you're blind or extremely brainwashed by some crazy culty religion, most biomales have seen, and touched, their genitalia. They know what they look like, downstairs - most guys I know have a pretty good idea of how everything male works.

A lot of biofemales, however, haven't seen or touched their genitalia; I'd even say that a good number of biofemales regardless of sexual experience or exposure to sexual images have seen more penises than vulvas. And really...nobody knows what a vulva looks like, what it does, what is and isn't normal. And that is not a good thing, because I really don't think we should be adding 'irrational anxiety over labia' to the growing list of Shit Girls Must Care About.

I think this general ignorance of basic biofemale anatomy largely comes from the fact that most of the female genitalia is hard to see - for starters, the vagina is an internal muscular passage and you can only see the opening from outside of the body, and the vulva is not exactly positioned for easy viewing, unlike biomale anatomy. There is a highly dangerous stigma of women touching or even looking at their genitalia, which means that a lot of biofemales are too embarassed or uncomfortable to take a look.  

Anatomy Lesson. 

The bikini area, or the lower abdomen that is normally covered by underwear, is called the mons pubis. This is the part of the genitalia that you can see if someone is standing up and facing front on. At the bottom of the mons pubis there is the genital slit, which may or may not be visible on a person standing normally.

Below the mons pubis is the vulva, which is the labia, clitoris and clitoral hood, meatus, vaginal opening and perineum. The labia are two sets of lips around the meatus, which is the urethral opening from which urine passes, and the entrance to the vagina. Above the meatus is the clitoris and clitoral hood, which is the female equivalent to the head of the penis, and below the vaginal opening is the perineum and then the anus.

Pubic hair grows on the mons pubis, the labia majora and the perineum. It can also grow on the inner thighs and in a line from the mons pubis up to the navel. The texture, colour and thickness of pubic hair varies from person to person, between different ethnicities, and is also dependent on age and grooming habits.

The vulva is a very sensitive and delicate part of the anatomy, for obvious reasons, and it's also very different to any other part of the human body. The skin can be a different colour to other body parts - usually darker - and have a different texture. There is a huge diversity in the size, shape and colour of the vulva that is totally underepresented by porn and sexual images in the mainstream media.

The meatus in biofemales passes urine and, in some people, female ejaculate. The vagina passes menses, cervical mucus, and vaginal discharge.

...And babies, by the way.

What's a vulva?

The vulva is the correct term for the external female genitalia. It is sometimes incorrectly called the vagina, which really only refers to the internal muscular passage that is the birth canal.

I can almost guarantee you are fine. 

Unless something is painful, itchy or has an excessively unpleasant odour, whatever your parts look like is probably fine. We are not supposed to look the same, and we are definitely not all meant to look like porn stars. Porn stars don't even look like porn stars.

Vulvas and sex.

During sexual arousal the genital area becomes engorged with blood, so the vulva may swell and become darker in colour. The labia are made of erectile tissue and will also change shape and size during sexual arousal. Internally, the vagina lubricates itself and also becomes erect, although you can't really see that from the outside. The entire vulva is an erogenous zone but the clitoris - the only human organ solely for pleasure - has lots of nerve endings.  

Vulva care:  

1. Get accustomed to what you look like. 

Part of becoming comfortable and aware of your body is to look and touch every single inch of it. Get used to what things feel like and look like and how they respond to touch, and take note of any changes to tell your doctor. The first time you actually see your anatomy might weird you out a little bit, in the same way that elbows probably look bizarre if you'd never seen one before. If you are really insecure about your vulva, get it looked at by your doctor who will tell you if there is anything wrong or out of the ordinary.

2. If you don't have one, don't fucking judge.

There is this horrible sense of male entitlement in which a growing number of arrogant fuckwits expect women to shave, wax, bleach, or even cut bits off of themselves just to make a more appealing hole for them to stick their penis in. If that's your attitude...you're going to be going a long time with nothing to stick your penis in. When I first saw a picture of a penis when I was...probably too young...it was the scariest, grossest thing I'd ever seen. Human bodies aren't always the most aesthetically pleasing. Deal with it.

3. Hygiene. 

If you have a vulva the best way to maintain hygiene is to rinse the outside gently with warm water. Something that is marketed as purely a male thing - because it's perfectly fine for guys to have gross body secretions, but not girls - is that vulvas can collect smegma, which is a mixture of sebum and dead skin cells; it's important to wash that away before it can build up and cause an infection or irritation. Genital skin is very sensitive so don't use any soap or perfume of any kind.

Vaginas self-cleanse by passing discharge. You don't need to do anything to your vagina. Leave it alone.

4. Hair removal.

There is this huge pressure on people, especially women, to get rid of their pubic hair; which doesn't make a lot of sense, as pubic hair protects the genitalia from bacteria, harbours pheremones and isn't bad or unclean if one maintains basic hygiene; there is really nothing wrong with leaving hair as is. Hair removal can irritate the sensitive skin, and cuts and ingrown hairs are very common. Whatever you choose to do with your pubic hair, it is entirely up to you; don't let anyone pressure you into doing anything about any part of your body.

Surgery

There is a disturbing increase in the number of 'labiaplasty', 'vaginal rejuvination' and 'anal bleaching' and it is...freaking the shit out of me, to be honest. All of these surgeries are purely cosmetic and only serve to fuel insecurities, increase the pressure on biofemales to look like porn stars, and to make normal human anatomy seem somehow gross or undesirable. I'm always very saddened to hear of stories of women so insecure about their bodies that they mutilate themselves for no legitimate medical reason; but I don't blame them. I know what it's like to feel shit about how you look, even about a body part that most people don't see and, if they do see it...they shouldn't make you feel like shit about yourself.

Vulvas and porn 

The reality of vulvas is that that they are bumpy, wrinkly, hairy, imperfect, and each vulva is totally unique. I really think that people are more accepting of the diversity of penises than the diversity of vulva, when in all honesty we should get over this obsession over what our genitals should and shouldn't look like. Seriously.

The vulvas in porn are almost always totally devoid of pubic hair and can look very different to your vulva or the vulvas of normal biofemales that you have seen. Under Australian obscenity law vulvas must be altered to be 'healed to a single crease' - and whilst some vulvas are like that most are digitally or surgically altered. In reality the labia are different shapes and sizes - one side might be larger, or the labia minora can peek out underneath the labia majora - and there is nothing medically wrong with that at all. As a sex positive feminist I really have no problem with porn, but I do have a problem with the way in which porn is produced and regulated. Porn should be a healthy outlet and expression of human sexuality, which is by definition diverse and beautiful in its diversity. Instead, porn perpetuates highly unrealistic bodies that are only achievable through surgery and the miracle of Photoshop.

Vulva shame.

There are a lot of rumours that vulvas look different if you've had sex or you haven't, or if you've had lots of sex, or that they have to look a certain way. This kind of shame is not really associated with penises...aside from insecurities over size you don't see the kind of obsession over male genitalia. I know a lot of biofemales who are terrified of their anatomy - scared that someone will shame them for what they look like, or smell like, or whatever. This problem is exacerbated when nobody ever sees a normal vulva and only see the vulvas in porn, and then male entitlement puts this idea in some people's heads that they are entitled to a tiny, surgically-altered, depilated vulva and that everything else is 'gross'. Internalized vulva shame is just caused by everyone having this ridiculous idea of what vulvas should look like and then being mortified when you don't look like a freaking Barbie doll down there. If you only see your vulva once or twice of course it's going to look pretty darn freaky; anything unfamiliar looks freaky, and it's ridiculous that we're so body negative that we're not even allowed to take a good look at our own body parts.

I think the only way to get over this ridiculous obsession with uniform vulvas is to put the mysteriously alien vulva into the context of the human body - everyone looks different. Some people are tall, some people are short. Some people are hairy, some people have removed some or all of that hair. Some people have full lips, some people have thin lips, some people are dark, some people are fair, some people are big-boned, some people are slender. THE SAME WITH VULVAS.

Vulva shamers. 

When I was younger body shamers made me feel really insecure about what I looked like, and it wasn't until I had met people who...weren't assholes that I began to really feel more confident about my body. The trick to feeling confident about all of your body, including your genitalia, is to avoid people who live in this la la land of porn bodies and have this massive douchebag sense of entitelement to expect bodies that have been through invasive, painful procedures. The kinds of people to avoid are:

- Obsessive body police. Someone who constantly comments on what people look like or how they dress, especially if they do this to strangers, aren't likely to be sympathetic if your vulva doesn't look like a fleshlight.

- People who can't handle a sensible, mature discussion of menstruation, contraception, pregnancy, or can't say 'boobs' or 'vaginas' without hyena laughing

- Someone who tells you you should dress a different way, or change the way you do your hair, are more likely to pressure you into altering your pubic hair or genitalia

The problem is really with other people, not with you - it's not your responsibility to alter your body to please everybody, it's their responsibility to decide for themselves what they do or do not like, and realize that the world does not revolve around them or their masturbatory fantasies. I figured this out when I was younger and people, mostly girls, were constantly pointing out that one of my breasts is larger than the other - as if I didn't know what my own fucking breasts look like. This was just one of the many things that made me feel crap about my body and I was really insecure about something that most people didn't notice, or if they did notice didn't really care or point it out. It was only later when I had met people who were so stoked that I even had breasts that I realized that my boobs are awesome, my body is awesome, and you can either listen to the haters and feel crap about your body or find people to appreciate who you are and what you look like.

I'm having surgery this week and will be taking some time off from the speak now project to rest and prepare for next semester of uni. I will be back soon :)
















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Sunday, July 21, 2013

하얀 사랑

My love for you was pastel pink
It was you who brought a blush to virgin cheeks
A kiss to virgin lips
Every day we moved with tender touch
We moved with awkward touch

Hate, my dear
Is sinister green
Jealous fury and twisted, bitter joy
Traffic lights through my bedroom window
As I cry myself to sleep

My love for you is fiery red
Violent delights have violent ends
And thus, with a kiss, I consume
The tempest of rage and greed
Warm hearts and cold hands

And you are the sun
Golden and shining
Without you the world is black and cold
It is only from your company
That I have known the misery of your absence

I am not the girl of daybreak hues anymore
I am no longer your sunrise paramour
The sun still rises but I close my eyes
I live in the memory of our soft, beautiful dawn
I must learn to not regret what could not be

Love is pure and blinding
The sun shines pink through the clouds and gold in the rain
Glows green through the cool shade of the trees
Fire burns red, then white
Love is white, and we are not.

Click here for a discussion of 하얀 사랑

speak now #25: feministish analysis

Now Playing: Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert (glad to do me friends a favour, doesn't cost me to be nice, but nothing gets you nothing, everything has got a little price)

What is feminist analysis? What is the point?

Feminist analysis is a discussion of the treatment of women in media, and whether or not the ideas reinforce or challenge ideas in society, and whether or not the depiction of women is degrading or empowering. Here are some things I consider when I'm reading a text from a feminist perspective:

1. Why is this character female?

The Smurfette Principle is a trope that dictates that characters are by default male, unless it is necessary for the plot for a character to be female. This has led to not only a distinct lack of representation of women in popular culture, but also the need to make very shallow, stereotypical representations of women that do not offer much by way of discussion or critique of how women are treated in society. Characters are normally female because they are a love interest or a mother of a male character; the hero, the brains, the nerd...they're all typically male by default.

2. Is this character a person or just a thing?

Characters in a text serve four purposes. Firstly, they are representations of a person or a group of people that exist in our society. Secondly, a character and his/her actions serve as social commentary or criticism. Thirdly, characters are plot devices - catalysts of action or drama, or the cause of some plot twist. And finally, characters are supposed to be representations of humanity, inspire empathy in us. We should empathise with their decisions, see the good in ourselves in them, and also the bad. Because characters are deliberately female or by default male they usually don't fulfill all of the above criteria. Usually they only fulfil the third, as plot devices - a woman is kidnapped and a man has to go rescue her, or a woman seduces a man into all sorts of fucked up shit.

3. The Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is a test of representation of women in a film, with three rules - there must be at least two female characters, they must have names, and they must talk to each other about something other than a man. This test doesn't even gauge if a film is feminist, or not misogynistic, or not dominated by men, yet so many films fail it.

Just a note:

A lot of people attempt to do feminist criticism and just end up nitpicking. Oh, she cried, she's so weak. Oh, she's wearing a pink dress, how anti-feminist. Oh, look at that, she's gone and kissed him. She's letting down the sisterhood.

We have got to get over our love affair with 'strong women' in popular culture. Often these 'strong women' get all their 'strength' from pretending to be men, and then immediately abandon the heroics when they stop the cross dressing thing. Vulnerable women, weak women, morally corrupt women...they all exist, in society, and popular culture is about reflecting society. If done right, a vulnerable female character can often be a very clever criticism of how women are victimized by patriarchy. What matters is the breadth and scope of representation, what's missing, why women are victimized or glorified and what that says about society.

Another thing to note is that feminist criticism doesn't take away from the quality or entertainment factor of a particular movie or TV series or book, and not every female character can be Germaine Greer reincarnated. But it is important to understand feminist criticism, and to acknowledge the feminist lens on popular culture, and to acknowledge that the way in which women are treated in popular culture can be stereotypical, degrading, harmful and, most importantly, hugely influential on our personal values and the psychology of our society.

Stay tuned and stay beautiful for some feministish analyses :)

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

speak now #24: period talk

Now Playing: Les Miserables: Highlights from the Motion Picture Soundtrack (watering the wine, making up the weight, picking up their knick knacks when they can't see straight) 

Everything everyone needs to know about periods.

1. What is period bleeding?

In the menstrual cycle the uterus creates a bloody lining for a fertilized egg to implant itself in. If the egg isn't fertilized, or if it fails to implant, the egg and the lining falls away from the uterine wall and is passed through the vagina and a fresh lining begins to form. Period bleeding is normally composed of about 3 tablespoons of blood per month, plus 3-6 tablespoons of tissue, blood clots and mucus. The consistency and quantity varies by age, from person to person, and between the different days, and can be pink, bright red, dull red, dark red, brown or even black. The menstrual cycle is judged from the first day of bleeding until the next first day of bleeding, and is typically 20-40 days long, although in younger women it can be very unpredictable. A period normally lasts between 2-8 days

2. Menarche 

Menarche is the first menstrual bleeding in biofemales, and typically occurs around the age of 12 or 13, but can happen anytime between 9 and 15. Although the blood lining has already started to form and fall away from the body each month, ovulation doesn't normally occur until 18 months after menarche.

3. PMS and period pain 

If someone tells you that they don't get any pain or discomfort with their period at all, believe them. Because not everyone suffers from PMS or period pain. If someone tells you it's utter hell and they become a nervous wreck, believe them, because PMS and period pain can be very severe. Typical symptoms include

- Headache
- Stomach ache or cramps
- Vaginal contractions
- Weak legs
- Fatigue or nausea
- Mood swings, depression, anxiety or increased irritability
- Bloating or temporary weight gain
- Changes in acne

4. Managing PMS and period pain 

- Stretching and mild exercise
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol
- Heat packs
- Ibuprofen

5. Contraception

Some biofemales use contraception to regulate periods, make them lighter, or decrease the severity of symptoms. Some contraception methods, like the implant, can make periods go away completely, and the hormonal IUD is used to either stop period bleeding or make them very light. Other contraception methods, like the copper IUD, can make periods heavier and more painful.

7. Feminine hygiene products 

Disposable pads - pads made of plastic, paper pulp, cotton and/or absorbent gel that stick onto the underwear with adhesive and are thrown away after use. Pads are useful if it is uncomfortable to use internal protection and come in lots of lengths and absorbencies. They can be used overnight, but not for swimming and may be uncomfortable to wear during exercise. Disposable pads are not ideal for sensitive skin as they can cause rashes. Disposable pads can be worn through the night, but during the day should be changed every 2-4 hours to prevent leakage or odour.

Reusable pads - pads made of cloth that are washed and reused. Reusable pads are more cost-effective than disposable pads and are more suitable for sensitive skin. Reusable pads can be worn through the night, and changed as necessary throughout the day to prevent leakage.

Tampons - a mass of cotton or rayon that is worn internally to absorb menstrual flow and thrown away after use. Tampons can be used whilst swimming or exercising, but should not be worn for more than eight hours or overnight and tampon use is associated with TSS. Tampons should be changed every 4-6 hours and not worn longer than 8 hours.

Sponge or soft tampons - a synthetic sponge worn against the cervix to absorb menstrual flow. Easier to insert than tampons and can be used during swimming or exercise, but should not be worn for more than eight hours or overnight and sponge use is associated with TSS. They can also be used during sex. The sponge should be changed every 4-6 hours and not worn longer than 8 hours.

Sea sponge - a natural sea sponge that has been processed and cut specifically for use as menstrual protection, worn against the cervix. The sea sponge is rinsed between uses and sterilized at the end of each cycle. They can be used during swimming, exercise, overnight and during sex, although they should not be used by someone who has previously had TSS. The sea sponge should be changed every 12 hours.

Reusable menstrual cup - a rubber or silicone cup inserted into the vagina to catch menstrual flow. The cup is emptied and rinsed between each use and sterilized after each cycle.The menstrual cup can be worn overnight and during swimming or exercise, and is not associated with TSS. There is a learning curve to learning how to insert and remove the menstrual cup but it is suitable for heavy flow as it has a larger capacity than pads or tampons, and tampons or sponges can be put inside the cup to increase absorbency. The reusable menstrual cup should be changed every 12 hours.

Disposable menstrual cup - a plastic cup inserted into the vagina to catch menstrual flow and thrown away after use. The cup can be used overnight, during swimming or exercise, and during sex. The disposable menstrual cup should be changed every 12 hours.

Semi-reusable menstrual cup - a plastic cup inserted into the vagina to catch menstrual flow. It is emptied and rinsed between uses and thrown away at the end of each cycle. The cup can be used overnight, during swimming or exercise, and during sex. The semi-reusable menstrual cup should be changed every 12 hours.

8. Periods and sex

You can have sex during your period, although not everyone is comfortable or interested in that. Sex can relieve symptoms of PMS, and sometimes the influx of hormones can make some women horny during their period. In most women the menstrual flow stops or slows down during sexual excitement. The disposable and semi-reusable (but not reusable) menstrual cup, sea sponge and soft tampons can all be used during sex. Whilst pregnancy risk is reduced during a biofemale's period (although pregnancy is not completely impossible), the cervix is much more vulnerable to infection during a period.

9. TSS

Toxic shock syndrome, or TSS, is a potentially fatal illness caused by a bacterial toxin. This bacterial toxin can be introduced to the cervix by using tampons. To avoid TSS, wash your hands before and after inserting tampons or internal menstrual protection, and don't wear tampons or soft tampons for longer than eight hours or sea sponges and menstrual cups for longer than twelve hours. Symptoms of TSS include high fever, low blood pressure, malaise and a characteristic rash that resembles sunburn. If you get any of these symptoms remove and internal menstrual protection and go to the hospital immediately. Anyone who has previously had TSS should not use internal menstrual protection.

10. Period stigma

I had my menarche when I was quite young, and so I've received lots of period hate - mostly from boys and girls who hadn't started yet. I think the period stigma in men comes from a place of ignorance; a lot of men, especially men who haven't been with a lot of women, don't understand menstruation and everything it entails. When I was in primary school the sex education was particularly vague, and so many people had the wrong idea about periods and just assumed that periods were connected to pregnancy or promiscuity. Period stigma can also be seen as a result of male entitlement - a woman's right to exist is based purely on her attractiveness and accessibility to men, and, well...periods aren't sexy. But you know what? Women do not exist for the sole purpose of being sexy. Periods are crap enough as they are without being mocked or demonized.

I had my menarche when I was eleven, and for the first year or so it was fine - fairly regular, fairly light, and not too uncomfortable. Then after that it took a turn for the sucky and my periods became very heavy, irregular and painful. The symptoms have varied through the years but at the moment I get really bad contractions, cramps, and the most unbelievable mood swings. Before my menarche I had a very traumatic bullying experience involving little fuckwits being morons about menstruation, and when I was fourteen a boy grabbed a pad out of my bag, tore it open and then dropped it on the ground for everyone to see. The hardest part about having my period is the total lack of sympathy - many boys think period pain doesn't exist, or shouldn't be acknowledged, or that we're just being wimps about it. But believe me - I have lived through major open heart surgery and countless medical scares. I have been in so much pain that I screamed that I wanted to die, and I meant it. And period pain, when it gets very intense...it's almost up there, with that.





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Friday, July 19, 2013

speak now #23: the sex talk - periods

Now Playing: Comforting Sounds by Birdy (nothing is pure anymore but solitude)

So here's something new.

Every week I'm going to be collecting a bunch of quotes from my friends in facebook, tumblr, famous dead people quotes...all on one topic. There will be personal stories and anecdotes and embarassing momements and fun facts and lots of rants and opinions :). If you would like to participate in next week's sex talk, next week's topic is BREASTS AND BRAS. Email, comment here, send me a message on tumblr - all quotes are anonymous.

"Unless you physically see me opening a pad, don't just assume that because I'm angry, I'm on my period. Because that is just annoying, and tonight, when you're sleeping, I will JUST ASSUME that you are dead and bury you in the backyard" 

"I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome so basically three of four weeks of my cycle is agony. Ovulation, PMS and my period are hilariously painful and sometimes it just makes me too depressed to get out of bed. A lot of people don't understand though, because menstruating isn't an "illness" so it's not an excuse"

"Few normal bodily functions have been treated quite so disdainfully as one of the most basic and earthly cycles known to humanity - menstruation"

"People who shame people who bleed through their clothes: sometimes you just can't remember, and sometimes your body likes to surprise the fuck out of you. It's embarassing enough as it is. You don't have to make it worse by making the person feel even more humiliated"

"Throughout Western history the overwhelming message has been that when you are menstruating you are dirty, impure, and that you need to hide it"

"My periods are extremely unpredictable, heavy and painful - I get cramps, contractions, jelly legs, mood swings, the whole lot. It was especially bad when I was younger, but I suffered in silence even when I could barely walk and I was leaking through overnight pads in an hour. We were supposed to pretend that nobody ever bled, ever, and we were meant to deny that bleeding might be unpleasant or inconvenient for some people." 

"One time I sneezed in Woolies and even though I was wearing a tampon it somehow legitimately exploded down my legs"

"Okay. Period pains. It is like someone has reached into your gut and is just twisting everything and just moving their hands around inside you, and is then  coupled with a headache. It honestly just feels like someone is stabbing you in the gut, just as many times as they like"

"I've had a lot of trouble acquiring medication for my period pain. Before I got my Implanon [a plastic rod containing hormonal contraception inserted into the arm] I was just on the pill, and each month I'd load up on the maximum dose of non-prescription pain killers I could get my hands on. No GP wanted to prescribe me anything effective - one GP even told me it was 'all part of being a woman'. It made it very hard to love my body and celebrate my sacred lady moon times when it felt like my body was attacking itself"

"I started taking the pill as I generally get my period anywhere between 20 days and 3 months apart, and it's also incredibly painful. I then stopped taking it about a year later because I forgot to take it when I went away, and I decided it was an unecessary expense. The doctor did NOT tell me that my periods would be fucked from taking it; 9 months later and I still hadn't gotten one. Not even spotting, just menstrual cramps - YAY. I asked about it and got told that I might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and would have to come in the next week for a blood test. I spent a week freaking out that I would never have kids and that my life was fucked, only to be told no, I didn't have it, and it was just the after effects of the pill. I was told to come back in a year if I still hadn't gotten my period. I did eventually get it, but I'm still annoyed that I wasn't told how long the pill's effects can last"

"I got my period before some of my friends' older sisters, so I have had 9 years with it and far from hating it I freakout if I miss it, even though I'm on the Pill and not sexually active. It might be anoying but it's part of me and will allow me, if I so choose, to have a child. I know not everyone will have that opertunity so I refuse to be annoyed or ashamed by something like that. I happily proclaim when I have it and walk around with tampons in shopping centres and have them in obvious pockets in my bag where people often see them. I don't see shame in it or the need to hide"









Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

speak now #22: sexuality & shame in society part II - virgin shaming

Now Playing: I Come Apart by A$AP Rocky ft. Florence Welch (I just hope you put me back together when I come apart)

We have a really fucked up attitude when it comes to sex, in that both having sex and not having sex are both things to feel guilty over and shame other people about. I've often felt like an outsider to this society and the increasingly bizarre and hypocritical ways in which we treat the most basic and human of things, and to an outsider...it's just strange that two polar opposites with no middle ground can both be bad.

What is virgin shaming?

Virgin shaming is the perpetuation of stereotypes, assumptions and judgement of a person based on their lack of or limited sexual experience, or the perception that they may not be sexually active. Virgin shaming can also be seen in the pressure on people of all sexes and genders to become sexually active. Unlike slut shaming, which is predominantly associated with women, virgin shaming is gender neutral; or even perhaps slightly more focused on men.

Virgin shaming includes:
- pointed or inappropriate questions to gauge a person's sexual experience
- making assumptions that someone is anti social, ugly, unattractive or difficult to be in a relationship with because they are a virgin
- pressuring someone into participating in sexual activity, especially if they have little sexual experience and/or haven't taken part in that particular sexual activity before
- shaming a person's opinions on sexuality and abstinence
- shaming someone for involuntary celibacy
- using virginity as an excuse for homophobic, sexist or racist bullying
- accusing someone of not loving/respecting/valuing a person or a relationship because they refuse to consent to sexual activity

...the list goes on.

Gendered differences in virgin shaming 

Although the stigma of virginity is a gender-neutral phenomenon, I would argue that it effects the different genders in different ways, and that this difference reflects social conventions and values on gender roles. I've noticed that virgin-shaming for women is about criticising women for not 'giving in' to someone, or not being sufficiently attractive enough to make someone want to get you to give in, or being arrogant enough to refuse someone who finds you attractive enough to want you to give in. Virgin shaming is often manifested in accusation of unattractiveness, stubbornness, or a failure to care for the needs of a partner. In contrast, I've found that virgin-shaming for men criticises men for being weak, effeminate, unwilling to push for what they want, or not wanting what they're supposed to want; a lot of men who haven't been with a lot of women are accused of being gay and are the subject of homophobic discrimination. From this virgin shaming appears to be society's means of reinforcing gender roles; submissive female sexuality and dominant male sexuality.

The stigma of virginity in our society

Despite the sex negativity in our society we have an unhealthy preoccupation with sex; it is the validation of relationships and who we are as people. We are such a materialistic society obsessed with physical beauty, and intimacy is seen to be the solid proof of attractiveness; this has resulted in a lot of weird ideas of 'ugly' people not getting or not being allowed to be intimate, and the idea that attractive people must be open to any kind of attention from anyone. Having sex validates women as sex objects in the eyes of society; submitting to male desire, doing it 'because you love him' and 'because he wanted to', because you were sufficiently attractive enough to make him want to and you were compliant enough to let him. Having sex also reaffirms men as the hegemons of society, and this is seen in the rhetoric surrounding sexuality now and in the past - 'deflowering', 'taking virginity', 'claiming maidenhead'...it's all about conquering, asserting dominance and reaffirming masculine strength.  Men are expected to have disposable women at their disposal; if they can't get that or don't want that, there's something wrong with them.

Involuntary celibacy 

Involuntary celibacy is a state that we've all been in, and a state that is feared and held in contempt by most of society. The shaming of involuntary celibacy assumes that the only factor in facilitating sexual interaction is attractiveness, and that there is something wrong with you if you're not attractive enough to attract someone. In reality, involuntary celibacy is much more complicated than that; attractiveness does not necessarily mean that you want to have sex with someone or that you can have sex with them; it doesn't mean that that person is suitable or willing to be in the kind of relationship that would result in sexual interaction, and not having sex or being unable to find a sexual partner at this very moment has more to do with circumstance and chance, and not attractiveness. Because attractiveness is not universal, and it is not the sole factor in whether or not you're getting fucked or not. At any rate, I can't think of a single attractive person who hasn't been on their own when they want a partner. Involuntary celibacy is a universal phenomenon, and is nothing to shame anyone over.

Sex as an achievement and as validation. 

Virgin shaming implies that someone is inadequate; it asserts that if you can't find someone who wants to fuck you, or you refuse someone who wants to fuck you, that there's something wrong with you. Virgin shaming makes private lives public, and assumes that you are not an attractive person, or even a full person at all, if you haven't had sex. The reality is that there are thousands and thousands of reason why somebody doesn't want to have sex, or wants to have sex but isn't having sex right now. And it's really none of our business, and nothing to be ashamed of.

Virgin shaming & harmful ideas surrounding sexuality.

Sex is supposed to be something that 'just happens' - this was something I believed for a long time. There aren't meant to be any problems or hiccups. You're not supposed to say yes and you're definitely not supposed to say no. Sex is the only thing in which we expect to be fantastic the first time around, with no practice or research or equipment. Sex is the only thing in which we expect to know exactly what we're doing, and we expect our partners to know exactly what they're doing, exactly how you like it. Anything...deliberate, to either encourage or inhibit sexual interaction, is severely stigmatised, and when sex doesn't 'just happen', we fail to realise that virginity is the default, until something deliberate happens, and we fail to see sex as the result of deliberate decisions and relationships.

The psychological pressure of virgin shaming.

Virgin shaming is less about sex, or the absence of sex, and more about an excuse to shame people and really hit at the psychological weak spots of the different genders. Virgin shaming for women is all about making a woman feel undesirable, unwanted, unable or unwilling to make other people happy; these are all important attributes of Women in our culture, and failure to adhere to this not only contributes to a personal sense of failure and inadequacy, but also opens someone up to a broad range of discrimination and ostracisation. In a society in which the dominance of men is vital to maintaining the status quo of society and the hegemony of patriarchy, virgin shaming emasculates men, making them feel impotent and unable to get what they want; this is in stark contrast to the message of society, which is that this is a man's world, and men are expected to take what they can. We're told that pretty girls give sex, strong men get sex, and if you fail any of the above people have the right to pick on you.

Virgin shaming and rape culture.

A sinister and often tragic side effect of virgin shaming is the perpetuation of rape culture; just as slut shaming robs women of the right to say yes, virgin shaming also robs women of the right to say no. Wanting someone is sometimes considered such an honour, and refusing that honour comes with...a lot of scary consequences. I would know.

The emasculation of virgin men, or even men who refuse to 'take what they want', has led to a dangerous rise in extremely problematic attitudes towards sexuality and consent, especially amongst young men. Sexual prowess is such a fundamental pillar of patriarchal masculinity that men often have an alarming, and alarmingly subconcious, sense of entitlement; men are by default entitled to any woman, and if they don't want a woman it's not because of circumstance or personal preference or lack of chemistry or opportunity, it's because there is something wrong with that woman. The other sense of entitlement is that men have been conditioned to not see consent as the right of others, but rejection as an intolerable insult, an offence that must be punished - sometimes even punished with rape.

I said that virgin shaming is a gender-neutral phenomenon, in that it victimises women but also forces men to play the villain or risk being the victim as well. Virgin shaming has reconstructed the highly individual and extremely complicated realm of human sexuality into two rigid, uncompromising categories; female sexuality as passive, coy, for the benefit of men but ultimately a matter of little consequence to the actual woman in question; male sexuality is constantly distorted and exaggerated into something uncontrollable, irrational, violent but ultimately forgivable, even when it manifests in crime. This has had disasterous consequences on the gendered interaction in our society and has put an overwhelming pressure on the demographic that has become our society's sexual predators and rapists to do something, or to want to do something, that needs forgiving; failure to do so is unforgivable.

My take on virgin shaming

Virgin shaming is based on the glorification of virginity, the idea that virginity is this real, tangible thing, that virgin is a universally-understood identity, and that there is a single act, a single moment, in which you lose the stigma and glory of being a virgin for the stigma and glory of being a slut. But when you think of the immense scope and diversity of human sexuality, how hard it is to define labels and how badly labels fail to define us...virginity is a myth. There are no virgins, and there are no sluts, there's nothing that will make me either; there's just me, all the things I have done, all the things I will do, and all the things I won't do. In our beauty-obsessed, materialistic, capitalist society, something as beautiful and highly personal as sexual relationships is reduced to living up to hypocritical standards set by society, and virgin shaming is a cheap excuse to pick on others.

My experiences with virgin shaming.

I'm one of the many people who has experienced slut shaming and virgin shaming and, to be perfectly honest, it really does your head in when you have two equal but totally opposite pressures and no middle ground. I definitely felt a lot of pressure to have my first kiss, to have sex and all of that, and that pressure started way before I had wanted to do any of that, or had met anyone who wanted to do any of that. And because I had been taught that sexual attention was a natural consequence of being beautiful, or even of not being ugly, the fact that I was something of a late bloomer made me incredibly insecure and unsure of myself, and gave plenty of fuel for the bullies. Virgin shaming made me feel like there was something wrong with me, that I had missed some kind of deadline, that I had somehow invited criticism because I hadn't been able to coerce someone into coercing me. People were very condescending towards me, and also lorded anything they claimed to have done over everyone else, and there was a definite intent and expectation that we should be jealous. It's very strange, to be with people you know to be just as innocent as you are implying that they have done a lot more; it's stranger still when you find yourself doing that. The thing about virgin shaming is that you feel like if you can just do something, if you can just get someone to do anything to you, the haters will shut up, but it does not work like that; the virgin shaming ends and the slut shaming starts, if it hasn't started already.

This is part 2 of a three part series on sexuality & shame in our society. Click here for part 1 and stay tuned for part 3, coming soon.

PREVIOUS SPEAK NOW



Monday, July 15, 2013

sorry for the hiatus

Now Playing: The District Sleeps Alone Tonight by Birdy (I am a visitor here, I am not permanent, and the only thing keeping me dry is where I am)

I apologise for being on hiatus for the Speak Now project. I have been working very hard at this project, but nothing has really come into fruition for the last few days.

When I first started blogging, it was an escape. I'd come home, eat far too much, watch really crap TV, and then waddle off to rant at the internet. That was my life, for so long.

I have been struggling with anxiety for the last week and it has been really, really exhausting. A lot of people make assumptions about people with anxiety, and the biggest one of all is that we want to be left alone. Perhaps some people do. I don't. It wouldn't hurt to ask.

As you can see, I've been writing - writing for therapy, writing for release. I'm not quite myself yet, but I will try. Because unlike some people, I was taught to honour my promises, even if nobody cares whether I take responsibility for my actions or not.

The second part of the Sexuality & Shame in Society series coming tomorrow.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I am tired.

I am tired of waiting for you to be there for me.
I am tired of excuses, and I am tired of fighting.
I am tired of you saying things to take back and making promises to break;
I am tired of not trusting you.
I am tired of settling and then having the carpet pulled up from under my feet.
I am tired of people picking on you, I am tired of having nothing left to defend.
I am tired of looking back and realizing all of the horrible things you said.
I am tired of you hurting me, I am tired of crying,
I am tired of you denying everything, I am tired of your apologies.
I am tired of saying 'he is my very best friend' and still being alone when I break down.
I am tired of caring, and I am tired of wondering if you care at all for me.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

speak now #21: privilege, dudebros & the patriarchy

Now Playing: Tennis Court by Lorde (be the class clown, I'll be the beauty queen in tears, it's a new art form showing people how little we care)


***TRIGGER WARNING***


Trinity: Genderqueer. Pansexual. Feminist. Drop dead smashingly gorgeous.  

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I'm a genderqueer pansexual feminist who's dating a transwoman with a history of mental illness going in deep.

How would you define genderqueer to someone who might not be familiar with the term?

Genderqueer is basically assuming the gender binary of female and male don't exist. It's more of a spectrum rather than two categories. I'm of both the male and female gender and as a consequence of that, I prefer using 'they' as my pronouns as opposed to 'she'. Genderqueer is an umbrella term for a mix of female and male.

Are you familiar with the sex positive movement's distinction between male/female/intersex (biological sex) and man/woman/genderqueer (gender identity)? What are your thoughts on this kind of ideology?

I'm not really familiar with it, but the fact they have a distinction in place between sex and gender identity is excellent. People should really be educated about this difference in my opinion because most people think that sex = gender/gender identity and that's just not the case.

How would you define pansexuality and when did you realise/come out as pansexual?

Pansexuality goes along with the idea of non gender binary, that is to say the gender spectrum. Bisexuality is more attracted to male/female whereas pansexuality is attracted to the entire spectrum. I first realised I was attracted to girls as well as boys when I was about 5 but it was seen as taboo because I live in a rural town. When I was 13 and moved to Perth for school, everyone coined on that I was attracted to girls and guys but I didn't really realise until I was 15 and had a few major crushes on a few different girls. I then started investigating into trans* and such and realised that I was attracted to trans* and other genders and now I have a beautiful trans* girlfriend.

As the partner of a transwoman can you discuss any issues in our society concerning transgender individuals?

Everyone has been really supportive of her which is great. My dad is being a douche about it, comparing her to one of our desexed lambs and I've been knocked around a bit at my job because one of my co-workers had found out I'm dating a transwoman, but besides that, the support is all there from our friends, teachers, and her family.

I've been at the receiving end of a lot of hate and mockery for being 'out' as a feminist; has you had any experience of that?

Oh definitely, which feminist hasn't? There's the dudebros and fedorable mras who claim that men's 'problems' are so much more important than women's oppression. Comments like "feminazis have gone too far" and the whole friendzoning epidemic is plain ridiculous. Like as soon as women want to be treated like people, men have to try and shout them down because God forbid we treat women and men with equal standing.

I think what people fail to see that feminists aren't fighting men; we're fighting patriarchy, which oppresses pretty much everyone of all sexes and genders.

Yeah exactly, but the bad thing is internalised misogyny because we don't realise it's further oppressing women but it does on a daily basis.

Yeah, like rape culture and slut shaming - people seem to think I make it all up, but these things really do exist - as seen in Steubenville and other cases.

Oh I've been coined as a slut so many times even though I didn't even want to become sexually active; like it wasn't my choice at all. But hey "kids are cruel" and "sticks and stones will break my bones" but words will cause permanent psychological damage.

I'm bisexual and like pretty much any non-binary sexual orientation people like to think it doesn't exist, or I'm just confused...do you get those kinds of reactions to pansexuality, which i know isn't really well known in our society's discourse on sexual orientation?

Yeah I get all these reactions like "it's just a phase" "it's just for attention" and "that doesn't even exist". People can't comprehend that I can be attracted to trans* people and find it really disgusting. It's strange because I can't comprehend that they can only be attracted to one certain set of people, like where's your choice with that? Everyone is drop dead smashingly gorgeous.

Especially you, my dear :) 

Aw, thank you.

There have been lots of cases popping up in the news about trans discrimination, like children being forced to use the 'right' bathrooms or blocked from gendered sporting teams and things like that. What do you think we can do to encourage greater awareness about trans individuals in our society?

Get more education on transgender and the gender spectrum on the media, so popular television shows and radio. Also incorporate it in the education system because we don't need to spend so much time devising anti drug campaigns and healthy eating because there's already enough coverage about those issues on TV and in society already.

You live in the country at the moment but you have spent some time in the city; are there any major differences in the treatment of sexuality between rural and urban areas?

I was honestly expecting a massive difference in treatment, but people at my school are more mature than the rest of Bunbury due to it being a senior college. So Bunbury in general isn't that accepting of people who step outside the societal 'norms' of sexuality and expression. In the city I've found you can basically do anything and you'll be accepted for it.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about? About anything really, I don't mind.

Well I was raped when I was 15 so there's that.... my English class is studying The Lovely Bones in class but I have to do The Great Gatsby instead.

Would you like to talk about that? You seriously don't have to if you don't want to.

It's fine, like some people say it wasn't rape because I didn't say no, but I was way too scared to say no, I was just lying there like "Oh God why is this happening could you stop this" and it was unprotected and yeah I was terrified I was pregnant. And now people use the term rape as a common verb (i.e. "I raped you in that game" etc) and it just upsets me because it trivialises the act of it.

It really drives me insane that people don't have the basic understanding of what consent is, or what rape is, and they don't understand how inappropriate rape jokes are.

I've asked the dudebros I come into contact with to not use rape jokes, or say any slurs that could be taken offensively (homophobic, sexist, racist, transphobic etc)

What are dudebros?

Dudebros are basically males who are straight, white and cis who don't realise that they are in the wrong when they tell sexist/homophobic/racist/rape jokes and who complain about the friendzone. Basically the demographic with the most rights who just abuse the fuck out of it

People don't like to denounce systems that put them at the top, even if they see the flaws in them.

I guess people do like to be privileged but there comes a time when they need to stop shitting on anyone who's below them.


Trinity is a former classmate of mine from high school who now lives in Bunbury and raises awareness for sexual and gender equality. Stay tuned for more guest posts and interviews that are in the pipeline, and please contact me if you would like to be interviewed, interview me or write a guest post. Stay tuned and stay beautiful!  

PREVIOUS SPEAK NOW
Now Playing: People Help the People by Cherry Ghost (God knows what is hiding in those weak and drunken hearts, guess he kissed the girls and made them cry, those hard-faced queens of misadventure)

Let me tell you what it's like.

They call it a spiral out of control for a reason. One thing leads to another and it all just...escalates. You think of everything anyone has ever said and done, searching for any sign that they don't want you, any sign that they're about to leave, any sign that what they say doesn't match with what they're going to do. But you know the truth is that it will happen when you least expect it, from the people you didn't suspect at all.

Let me tell you what it's like.

Being friends is like trying to run one of those three legged races. It's so hard to step in someone else's pace - and they're always the one setting the pace, calling the shots. They always...call you out for being cold and withdrawn, but the second you say something that suggests you're in deeper than they are, they run for the hills. Why? Is it such an insult that I love you, that I would be hurt if you were hurt, that you are someone who can inspire some kind of empathy when I am so selfish?

Let me tell you what it's like.

You have to constantly check yourself, for being irrational. Whatever the paranoia does to you is made ten times worse by the guilt. You try and hide it from other people, pretend it doesn't matter but it does, it matters more than anything. You can't shake the feeling that someone is angry at you, someone doesn't want to hear from you anymore, someone who once cared doesn't anymore. You think about what they might have heard, who might have said what. It could be anything. The strongest friendships fail at the tiniest things.

It's so much...worse when people call you out for it. I know most of it is just paranoia but it...it feels real.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

speak now #20: everything that porn won't teach you

Now Playing: Terrible Love by Birdy (it takes an ocean not to break)

So if you're a teenager and you haven't made your sexual debut, your knowledge of sexuality comes from two main sources - school, if you're lucky enough to avoid the wrath of abstinence bullshit, and porn. School teachers are freakishly squeamish and porn is freakishly inaccurate, so here is what the above sources don't tell you:

1. The average erect penis length is between 4-6 inches, or 10-15cm. Pornstars are either naturally extremely well endowed, use prosthetics or surgery, or various camera tricks to make themselves appear larger.

2. Most biofemales before their sexual debut don't know much about penises. Most biofemales who have made their sexual debut will tell you that size doesn't matter. LIKE IT REALLY DOESN'T MATTER. 

3. The hymen does not break. It stretches through lots of different things - exercise, masturbation, inserting tampons, sponges, diaphragms, menstrual cups, sex toys, fingers, penises, etc... If someone is very tense, not aroused enough, if you go to rough or don't use enough lube the hymen may tear slightly and it can bleed.

4. Vaginas become erect during arousal in much the same way penises do, lengthening from about 2-3 inches or 5-7cm to about 10 cm. If your maths is at least as good as mine (and I can barely count) you'll notice that even when aroused the vagina is only as big as the average erection; so nobody really needs ten inch cocks except for insecure vain liars. The vagina will also lubricate itself ('getting wet'), although some biofemales suffer from vaginal dryness and extra lube is almost always needed.

5. Lube is the forgotten essential for almost all sexual activity, either solo or with partners. Biomales can use almost anything as lube (as long as it isn't, you know, damaging or painful) but biofemales should avoid getting oil-based lubricants in the vaginal canal as it is hard to flush out and can harbour harmful bacteria; although straight-up natural oils like olive or coconut oil is okay. Oil based lubricants of any kind can also damage latex condoms and make them more likely to split. Silicone based lubes shouldn't be used on sex toys made of silicone. Water based lube is safe for pretty much anything with anything or anyone.    

6. Anything that is used for anal play shouldn't be brought anywhere near the vulva or the mouth without washing first

7. If there is anything you shouldn't do porn-style, it's anything anal-related. Like seriously. Somebody is going to end up injured or catching something. 

8. Most girls haven't got a full brazilian wax. Putting boiling hot wax on your genitals and then ripping out hair from the root is an expensive, messy, painful business. I'm just saying, hair is kind of the default. Incidentally, female pubic hair naturally grows on the mons pubis, the labia majora, and the perineum up to the anus - with some girls having hair on their inner thighs and some having a line from the mons pubis to the navel. If someone is maintaining good hygiene there's nothing dirty about pubic hair and if you think somebody should be obligated to do anything painful to make a more appealing hole for you to stick your penis in...you're going to be going a long time with nothing to stick your penis in. 

9. Boobs in porn? Plastic surgery and really good bras. Not real. Australian obscenity law also claims that the labia minora is 'too obscene' for...porn...(yeah, I don't get it either) and so most softcore porn images have female genitalia 'healed' to a single crease either digitally or surgically. Unmodified women don't look like that. Actually, nobody looks like porn stars; porn stars don't even look like porn stars. 

10. The way in which people interact in porn, especially the treatment of women, is just...not okay. Most of it is rape and sexual assault. The porn industry comes from the film industry and not the sex industry and so its primary purpose is to entertain - often to appeal to the male gaze and to perpetuate the glorification of sexual violence as erotic.

11. Just keep in mind that depictions of sex, not just in porn but also in mainstream media...it's a scene. It's just acting. Whether it's just a simulation or if they're actually getting it on, they're not making love, they're not having sex it's just...some body parts going into other body parts. People probably aren't enjoying themselves, probably wouldn't do their costars in real life and there's more to human sexuality than what goes where.   

'we are all differently broken, semi-functional, rusted out love machines'

Now Playing: Terrible Love by The Nationals (it takes an ocean not to break) 

A lot of people ask me why I'm so open about...well, a lot of things. Problems. People. Et cetera.

I myself have never found a way around being open; I have always found that people are obsessed with creating their own reasons to why things are, and, well, some of the things they say are breathtakingly insulting, heartbreakingly painful or just ludicrously stupid.

I'm open about who I am, what I've been through, the problems I have and my thousand deviations from 'normal' because I feel like people demand this openness of me. I have to explain why I am what I am, constantly defend my actions, legitimise things that shouldn't even be things.

We live in a world where we think that this 'normal ideal' exists, that most parts of most people are the same. We live in a world where you're not allowed to be sad unless something universally accepted as terrible has happened, and we live in a world where you are obligated to be happy in the absence of something universally accepted as terrible. We allow social norms and public opinion to fabricate fake emotions and dismiss real ones. We live in a world where everything we do is only validated by what is 'normal'.

I'm not normal. How I feel is almost totally detached yet all at once deeply connected with the world around me. People don't understand why I do the things I do; I don't understand the things I do. People are obsessed with reason, with why, with the problem of why I'm not normal. I'm not normal because normal doesn't exist. It's this lie we tell ourselves, that everyone cries at this and everyone laughs at that and when people can't, or don't, we just can't cope. Never has anyone thought of me as an individual; never has it occurred to people that I don't see the world the way someone normal would; the world affects me in ways it probably never occurred to you, and big deals to you are nothing to me.

But I am not the exception to the rule; the only rule there is, really, when it comes to people, is that everyone is an exception. Everyone has their own reasons, their own motivations, their own way of being and it is maliciously cruel and heartbreakingly selfish that we try and impose what should be on people who cannot...cannot be as they should be.

I talk about why things are the way they are with me because I am constantly stung by the lack of empathy. I was always taught to not talk about what you don't know and, well, I can count on one hand all the people who have bothered to get to know me. People have told me that I'm obsessively, unhealthily attached to people purely based on a few subtle things I do when people leave; they don't know what it's like, to be hit in the stomach by this feeling of dread, to have the tears come and have no idea why - and it happens, every time, totally detached from who I meet or what happened. I don't know why I get so stressed and anxious and I don't know why the release from that feels terrible and not good. I just want someone - anyone - to stay, to put that off for as long as possible. Forgive me for being human.

I have no idea why emotional stability is considered a good or normal thing. People who are emotionally stable are by definition pretty emotionless, and the only thing worse than fighting with someone you love is fighting with a brick wall. I'm not going to pretend to be emotionally stable because you're so fucking terrified of what you don't understand. Is that why people are so terrified of science? Is that why people are so terrified of a godless world? There are so many things we don't understand, starting with every single person you've ever met and judged and hated without getting to know. I can't do what people expect me to do; I can't be the person people think I'm supposed to be. I can't let myself down like that, and even if I could, I can't. I can't do it. I don't like being this randomly crying, volatile person but it is exhaustingly empty to pretend to be what people want me to be, which is essentially nothing. People want me to smile and cry on demand and I can't do that. Nobody can.

That's the thing, you know. Nobody is normal; we all know that about ourselves, and we're terrified of it - so terrified that we will actively persecute and ostracise people who are broken in a different way as if to say 'I'm not crazy, she's the crazy'. When people are done making me feel shit about the things about me that I can't control they move on to my friends; and sometimes, I can't defend them. I don't know why they do the things they do. But I love them all the same because, you know, they love me in spite of everything. And people like that are few and far between.

I've been hurt. The things that have hurt me might not have hurt you, but you're not me. I did not realise how badly I have been hurt until now, when the smallest things are daunting and I am afraid. I will find some kind of equilibrium in time, although I will never be normal. That might bother you, but I'm not in the business of making everyone happy. But...I know the power of words and whispers. I am afraid that people will see me and judge, and that judgement will spread like poison and take those I love away from me. I'm afraid that people will be afraid to be seen with me, to associate with me, when I am blatantly incapable of maintaining an appropriate facade. I have many flaws, as a person and as a friend, but I have never failed anybody on this account: we are all differently broken, semi-functional, rusted out love machines. Everyone is a volatile element and there is no guessing who will react to what in what way. People by nature are dangerous and uncontrollable and unpredictable but I have never held that against anyone, and I never will. I only hope I will find people to return the favour.


Wordless Wednesday: Fear


Battlelines.

Do I still love you?
I cannot bear the thought of you getting hurt
I wish you would look after yourself
A little better, for me
Anything for me
I am only at peace when I know in my heart you are safe and sound 
If you were to break down I would fix you
Put you back together brick by boring brick
Do I still love you?
I hate it when you do that
I have hated you so much I would have smiled if you were dead at my feet
Sometimes
For every smile you have put on my face I can count a thousand thousand tears
Do I still love you?
Sometimes you disgust me
Sometimes I can smell you on me
Lingering long after you leave too early
You do things and say things
That would shatter any childish illusions
Is love unconditional or just stupid?
Do I still love you?
Your face always falls when I agree with you
I am not someone who will tell you what you want to hear
But I'm not your honest friend, either 
I don't know what I am to you
Everything you give you take back
Everything you give you take back
Everything you give you take back
And I'm breaking down
I'm breaking down
Breaking down
Breaking
Down
Do I still love you?
It doesn't feel good or right
Blood pouring freely from an opened vein
I live on memories and vague touch
And you bleed me dry 
If you were to live on blood and tears you would survive
If you're homesick give me your hand and I'll hold it
Do I still love you?
I hate it 
I HATE IT WHEN YOU TALK OF
No
I will smile for you
How are we friends when I hide so much from you?
How am I to move on?
I'm trapped as you are and your cage is more gilded than mine
Who will want me now?
Who will want me when I'm yours and not yours and
And
And
Me?
That's the problem
It's not you, it's me
Your predecessor said that
I cut him down and cried and cried
But something stays my hand
And I cannot abandon you even if you abandon me
It is not honour
There is no honour left
Do I still love you?
Sometimes you are my dearest friend
You stand with me and hold my hand through anything
You are the last man standing, the last man smiling 
But sometimes you're just one of them
The straw that broke the camel's back
Why have I found no one like you?
Nobody as good as you
Nobody as bad as you
Is that why we stay?
Are we exotic?
The prince and the freak
What an odd couple we are
I don't need a tiger on a gold leash
I just need you to hold me
I just need you to be there and smile
Tell me everything will be okay
You do that sometimes, but not all the time
Ghostly rings with no reply
In my mind you are so different to what you really are
This was your idea, you know
Whatever this is, this is your arson
Your creation
Your fault 

Did I ever love you?
Did you ever love me back?
I don't speak of
I don't mean
When I say that I
I hope you understand
We have walked forbidden roads before
But it is no crime to say it now
But if you don't want to well then
Well then
That
I guess
Would be alright 
I don't feel alright because you make promises that you break
Did I ever love you?
Actions speak louder than words
We are what we do, not what we say
And that is a lot, from me

Do I still love you?
Did I ever love you?
I know you don't love me
You said it once, but 
I have learned not to believe what you say.  



Tuesday, July 09, 2013

speak now #19: my experiences with anxiety

Now Playing: Terrible Love by Birdy (I can't fall asleep without a little help, it takes a while to settle down my shivered bones, wait til the panic's out)

I have another secret.

A lot of people wonder why I sometimes actively avoid social gatherings. I have been known to cancel on parties for no apparent reason, even though I generally have a good time at parties if everything goes well. Conversely, I am either rushing off to meet someone else straight after meeting up with a friend, or kind of...clingy when people leave.

Just saying, I know about all this stuff.

Everyone has a different experience of anxiety, and it shows in different ways in different people; it can also be triggered by many different things and reduced by many other different things.

In my younger and more vulnerable years I didn't really have what you'd call a busy social life. I spent a lot of time at home because, you know, I'm an introvert - I blogged, I read, I researched (incidentally, I do a lot of non-school, non-uni related research; which is why my general knowledge is somewhat impressive for my age). So there was that, and the fact that I didn't really have that many friends growing up and...I won't lie. It was lonely. Sometimes heartbreakingly lonely.

But, you know, you get used to it. I'm definitely used to spending a lot of time alone, to the extent that most of the absurd amount of time I spend essentially doing nothing at uni I really don't mind; I like being alone, I like my space, and I like doing things like blogging or listening to music or reading that isn't really conducive to productive social interaction.

That being said, I do love people. I've really found my crowd in uni - but when I say that I don't mean a circle of friends, but more like a list of individual relationships that are unique and separate from each other. Each relationship has its own flaws, its own benefits, its own dynamics and power struggles but it's not too hard to keep up with because I don't really have that many friends. I'm not complaining. I had too many friends in year eleven and that resulted in too many people to stab me in the back. But they really are individual relationships and the only thing my friends have in common is, well, me...occasionally one of them will run into the other but there's no real cohesion.

Another thing I've found about uni is that it is a real pain in the ass to make time for people. Uni people invariably have more "free time" than high schoolers, but when you factor in partners and part time jobs and partners and "study" and partners and travel time and having other friends and partners and partners (I'm highlighting this because all my friends randomly got partnered up and it is very annoying), plus the fact that every single person has a unique timetable, it is kind of hard to find mutually available time to do friend stuff. A bonus is that you really get to pick and choose your friends as individuals instead of trying to ram yourself into a clique, and if you have a problem with someone or a relationship isn't working out you aren't really obligated to spend much time with them like you are in high school. And, if you're like me with lots of two-people relationships and not a network of intersecting relationships, the time you spend with friends is very one on one and intimate - which I love, because I'm a sucker for attention. But those interactions are not very frequent (when you compare the obligatory socialising of recess and lunch at high school) and kind of unreliable.

So from these three things.

I'm still not fully used to having friends who aren't obscenely fake or about to stab me in the back. I'm not used to having people who want to spend time with me and will actively go out of their way to see me. To be brutally honest I'm not used to leaving the house for anything other than school. So that can be kind of...overwhelming, sometimes. If I'm meeting up with someone or going to a gathering I'm normally stressed out the night before. I probably don't get much sleep. I am almost always grumpy and nervous when I'm getting ready. And I really, really, really hate being late.

I am extremely socially awkward; I hate talking on phones, waitresses freak me out, and if I'm shopping I will actively avoid sales assistants because I will embarass myself by getting extremely tongue tied. So meeting up with people is also kind of stressful.

Also, apparently I have a lisp or some kind of accent that is apparently hard to understand - I know I stutter occasionally but I smell a rat with this whole lisp thing. I also have kind of bad hearing when people speak - sometimes I hear words but they just don't register, and sometimes voices are just really hard to hear; especially male voices. So that doesn't help the social incompetence thing much, because I can't hear anybody and nobody can understand me.

...this is why I love Facebook chat.

These kinds of things, I guess, are explainable - I didn't have much of a social life growing up, I'm very socially awkward and friends are a pretty rare and precious thing for me. I don't really know why I get so stressed out, but you remember one bad incident more than you remember a thousand good ones and there are certain times...and certain people... that have fucked me up a bit. But the thing that is harder to explain are my mood swings.

I get pretty bad mood swings; it's one of the remnants of depression. In the extreme I have had depressive episodes that last for days and pretty intense panic attacks, but in between are these really unexplainable mood swings; how I feel isn't really tied to what is happening to me anymore, which is kind of freaky. There are some patterns; the weather, my menstrual cycle, and my mood is generally more stable if I spend a lot of time really busy and active and social - seeing lots of people and doing lots of stuff - or if I spend a lot of time by myself, sleeping and surfing the net and being a slob. I've also noticed that I am much more sensitive, and much more likely to pick fights or throw tantrums with people if we are texting or emailing or chatting on facebook; when I'm talking to people in person I'm usually a bit more stable. But because social environments and socialising is so stressful, the second people leave I usually feel...terrible. Even if everything went well, even if the conversation was fun and I get lots of hugs (hugs, incidentally, are amazing mood stabilisers; gotta love oxytocin) and we didn't manage to piss each other off or kill each other...when a meeting ends I usually end up feeling miserable for no apparent reason and crying over nothing which is embarassing and just not fun. You'd think I'd be happy that I'd met a friend, or relieved that the stress of social things is over, but it doesn't really work out that way.

I've noticed that if I've spent at least four or five hours with someone - which I know sounds like a long ass time, but I'm smart and all my friends are smart and we have lots to say (and at any rate, a four hour date is not a long time when you see someone like once a fortnight, if that) - I don't get that sudden mood swing, or it's a lot less noticable. It's also a lot better if I rush off to something else afterwards, which is why I often try to cram a lot of different meetings into one day. It's also not so bad if I coincidentally meet up with someone, or if a catchup is kind of spontaneous and spur of the moment. It's worst when I only see someone for one or two hours, I don't know when I'm going to see them next, and meeting up had been planned for a while.

So that's the very long convoluted story on why I get clingy when people leave. It's because I know what's coming, I don't exactly know how to stop it, and it would be so much better if I could waste more time that you don't have. It's also the story of why I sometimes don't bother, with this whole 'friends' thing - I know I've lost too many friends through mutual neglect and drifting apart. I get bullied, a lot, for being 'clingy' or 'obsessive', or for being a loner but anxiety has really impacted how I associate with people and the effect people have on me.

Anxiety and relationships

Anxiety has obviously impacted on my relationships in lots of different ways. When I'm very stressed out I can sometimes, unbelievably, come off as easygoing - I often let other people choose where we're going and what we're eating and what we're talking about. In reality I am easygoing about some things with some people but I am by no stretch of the imagination a pushover; there have been fireworks when people make that mistake. People also think I'm shy or coy, and more than one person has gotten angry when they realise that I enjoy lots of physical contact with my friends but they had assumed I was one of those look-but-don't-touch girls. That's the problem with having anxiety; people assume lots of things. People assume you're quiet, or shy, or sensitive, or clingy. They assume you're okay, when sometimes you're not.

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