"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, November 24, 2013

speak now #31: racism & sexuality

“Fetishes, on their own, aren’t harmful, wrong, or shameful things. Whatever floats your boat is fine—as long as it harms no one. The important element to fetishes that don’t harm people, though, is that they all involve a degree of performance and the ability to move in and out of fetish space. If you have a thing for people wearing ostrich-feather tails, your partner is free to prance around the house in hot pants and a tail as often as she likes; and when she’s not into it, she can put the tail away. 

Racial fetishes, however, are based on objectifying someone because of her race, which isn’t something she can control. An Asian woman can’t choose to take her Asianness off for the day, a Black woman can’t decide to not be Black while she walks down the street. These are lived, inhabited identities that cannot be turned on and off; there is no safeword for race. You live these identities throughout your life, experiencing the good and bad things associated with them, interacting with your community through and around this identity. 

Someone who says he (and it is usually a he) ‘prefers’ women of a specific race isn’t exercising a preference based on orientation or experience. He’s viewing certain kinds of women as dateable material on the basis of racial discrimination; and it’s telling that most men with racial ‘preferences’—which are really racial fetishes—use very racist, stereotypical descriptions when talking about why they ‘prefer’ women of specific races. Asian women are meek, say, or Latinas are fiery, or Black women are exotic and know how to deliver in bed.”

I explain non-heterosexuality to people by saying that my body does not define the bodies of those I am attracted to - having a female body is not a prerequisite to loving someone with a male one. So when I'm tumbling around with a tall pretty white boy and he says - probably well meaningly - 'so you do like white boys!' I can't help but feel a little...used.

What has my Asianness and his whiteness have to do with anything? Because I am Asian, am I expected to only be attracted to other Asians? Does he consider himself somehow special, because he is so different to what I am supposed to be attracted to - so attractive that I have broken out of my race rut? Why isn't he confined to just white women? 

It is a running joke that I have 'racist hormones', in that I have not been particularly forward with Asians as I am with men of other races. Allow me to clarify - my experiences of attraction are my own and it is not my obligation to justify them. But I have had many experiences of attraction towards many Asian people, which is the grounds of my dislike. In my experience Asian men take part in this racial fetishism more than white men; instead of cultural concord on which to build a steady relationship I've only found a series of cliches and stereotypes, and someone hellbent on making me conform to them. I've long mused that I would perhaps end up with someone like me - a second generation immigrant, faced with discrimination not only from Anglo-Australians but people from our motherland, too. But my experience of being turned into a tragic fetish extends above and beyond my encounters with white people, and I'll not excuse Asian men of their implicity in the racial fetishisation of Asian women. 

In our multicultural Australian society there are people of all races and backgrounds, and you will have to learn to see them as people and not as colours. If you judge me by the racial stereotypes held by our society you're in for a bit of a nasty shock - and you're in for a nasty shock whether someone is 'fresh off the boat' or a fifth generation Australian who just happens to be - shock horror - brown. Stereotypes are derogatory and one dimentional and idealistic and people are complicated and multi-faceted and imperfect. In our society of 90% white people, we've learned to not have too much faith in racial stereotypes of white people - white people are seen as people, people almost without race. Do the same for other people. Meet, love, fuck, marry, create people. Ethnicities are not fetishes. 
I think a lot of people don't realize the harm of racial fetishisation, which starts with 'I prefer Asians/Blacks/Latinas/etc.'. It is above and beyond liking a specific hair colour or body type. It is even above and beyond preferring a specific personality or character trait. It is imposing racial stereotypes on someone and expecting them to conform to your fantasies, purely based on race. And as the quote above says, other fetishes are not permanent identities that one must embody 24/7 - race is. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

Dollar Shave Club

Now Playing: Buzzcut Season by Lorde (I remember when your head caught flame, it kissed your scalp and caressed your brain)

So, I don't know about you, but buying razors is annoying. I hate how only one type of cartridge fits with your razor and it's never the ones on sale. I hate how grooming products are priced as if pink dye is a rare and priceless resource and marketed as if your ovaries will explode if you buy anything that isn't lady-branded.

Enter: The Dollar Shave Club.

My colleague introduced me to this thing where you can buy really high quality razors online - for cheap! - and they get shipped to you every month; you just pick the type of razor you want and how often you want them delivered and then never worry about running out of razors again!

Ladies - I know this is a kind of ladsy company with ladsy products but the 4X is called the 'lover's blade' for a reason. - they're the best razors I've ever used to shave my legs.

Blades start at $4 per month (including postage and handling) and click here (affiliate link) and use the coupon code UNIDSC1 to get your first month free!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Now Playing: White Teeth Teens by Lorde (I know you love it when the hairpins start to drop)

My first real relationship wasn't a relationship at all - there was another girl, it was messy and complicated, abusive and manipulative and addictive and, at the end of the day, physically unfulfilling and emotionally draining. We were reckless and wild and it was very intense, for a pair of sixteen year old fools. I thought it was love.

I thought it was love because I get attached to people, easily. I thought it was love because I'd never had that kind of chemistry with anyone else, before - it was a relationship that went from zero to a hundred miles per hour and then hit a wall and exploded. We disagreed on basically everything but there was a powerful intellectual connection, a bond between two people who loved and admired intelligence and intelligent conversation. I thought it was love because in between the neglect and cruelty and drama there were glimmers of kindness, and when you are young and lonely and vulnerable that's all you really want, really.

He left because I am a difficult sort of person and he had less complicated people with less complicated demands to attend to. And when he left, it felt like the world was falling apart. I missed the intensity of our relationship. Everything we did was intense - our conversation, our fights and, in stolen moments, other things, too. It was a destructive relationship and we were slowly destroying each other but I didn't care, because it was all I had. And for two years I had a pair of arms to run to, to hold me tight, to shield me from the world when the world got too dark and scary. For two years I had a shoulder to cry on, a friend who was always there come hell or high water. 

But now, nothing. I see pictures of him and there's nothing - no rush of affection, no surge of hate. When I see him in person I irrationally panic and it's very scary - almost as scary as the cognitive dissonance of being afraid of the one person who used to make me feel safe. But after that, nothing. It is as if two years of hugging and kissing and fighting and loving never happened. It is as if five years ago I never laid eyes on a beautiful laughing boy and sighed with longing. 

A month or so after that ended it happened all over again. I thought two years was a whirlwind; this was a blisteringly intense two weeks. The first time I met him there was that instant attraction, all over again; and for two weeks chemistry simmered. We were reckless and ran wild, and he was ferociously intelligent; verbal sparring is when I feel most at home, because I have become so comfortable with manipulating words. I felt alive again, after a month of lying in bed, feeling dead. There's nothing in the world like having eyes and hands and lips on you. 

And then I felt it, again; that rush, that thing I used to think of as love. We were lying in bed, all tangled up, talking. It was crazy, getting that rush that had slowly built up over two years after just two weeks. And that's when I realized I'd never really been in love.

I am addicted to physical contact. I have never been on any kind of medication for my depression, so oxytocin is my only antidepressant. I have never been able to form a close bond in relationships that didn't involve a lot of physical contact; and my strongest relationships have always been ones that have had some kind of sexual element to them. When R left, he accused me of never loving him, and perhaps that is true. Perhaps all I have known of love is the rush of oxytocin that comes when a boy you have a crush on hugs you hard, and often, and kisses you on a park bench on a sunny winter's day. Perhaps all I have known of love is that feeling that bubbles up when you're lying in bed with someone who has their arm around you and their lips in your hair. I was attracted to these boys above and beyond the rush; they were both charming, charismatic, loveable; but we were rreconcilably different and I was always aware that a relationship was neither achievable nor desirable. I loved them as friends and valued their company, their conversation, those moments of kindness when they swept in and defended me or swept me away from my demons. But most of it is oxytocin, I think - that rush of irrational content and happiness that sates my unfortunate predisposition towards melancholia. I know that seems harsh and clinical, as if I use sex and people like a drug but in that hopeless, vulnerable dependency I think there is something real and visceral in these oxytocin relationships. I literally depended on you, for my survival. You were literally the glue holding me together, and I would have done anything to keep you with me, because I literally cannot live without you. But evidently my best effort to keep you good and safe just isn't good enough. And evidently you did not love me enough to keep me alive. 

I am doing well enough, for now, without my oxytocin. I know now that I am not ready for love. But I know that I need to feel that warm glow of contentment, soon. The first time I found it it was in something ugly and addictive and all-consuming - the second time looks worse on paper but was all in all a much healthier, if much less long-lived, affair. I know something as sinister as an oxytocin addiction can be sated in someone good and wholesome and sincere, and that you can make them happy. But I am not stupid enough to think it is love, not anymore. Love is something more than that.  

Monday, November 04, 2013

Speak Now #30: navigating hook up culture

Now Playing: Lies (Acoustic) by Marina and the Diamonds (you're never going to love me, so what's the use? What's the point in playing a game you're going to lose?)

This semester I've been heavily involved in university guild politics which is a crazy perverted backstabbing madhouse, to tell the truth. It's a place where hormones a surging, tensions simmer constantly and alcohol flows freely.

So, sex.

Here is some advice and thoughts on people new to hook up culture like I was:

1. Shit's going to happen.

You will drink too much. You will find yourself in situations that repulse you. You will hang out with the wrong people and do the wrong thing and trust the wrong information to the wrong ears. People will do things and say things to hurt and humiliate you. But you will pick yourself back up, brush yourself off, put your clothes back on and begin again, with your head held high.  

2. Forever isn't a thing, for now. 

The people who truly love you, body and soul, irrevocably and unconditionally, are very, very rare. What you will come across more often is a mixture of affection and attraction and friendship in weird combinations; the love you will experience, most of the time, is a very imperfect love between very imperfect people. You will lust after people who are just bad news. You will love people as friends but do things that are decidedly not platonic. Not all wanting is permanent. Not every guy who tumbles you into bed will eventually pop the question. That's okay. Embrace it. We come to love and other animals with this expectation of forever - anything worthwhile will endure eternity, and everything else are just false starts and fuckups. But what you get with people like that are standards and expectations of perfection; and that's when the emotional abuse and the blackmail and feeling obligated and self-conscious and insecure and all the lovely stuff pops up. Some of the most beautiful experiences you will have are in relationships that are completely overwhelming and whimsically ethereal, the relationships with use by dates; but that is because neither person expects the other to be perfect, or for something to be perfect. Perfection is really overrated - just go out there, get some new experiences, learn, grow, and enjoy good company.

3. Stand your ground. 

Think about what you do and don't want to do - emotionally, physically, whatever - and constantly re-think and re-evaluate those lists. It's okay to mix them around; to be open to something you were initially opposed to, or to suddenly be repulsed by something you were dying to try out. You figure out what types of sex you want in certain situations; what you'll do in a one-off hookup, what you'll do in a casual relationship, what you'll do in a more serious committed relationship, etc. Don't let anyone pressure you into doing anything you don't want to do. Once you have decided your lists, or change them in any way, think about what you'd need to make sure you can do what you like safely and responsibly - think protection, contraception, having somewhere you can crash for the night after a party, someone sober to drive you home or access to money for a taxi, numbers to call to let people know where you're going if you're going home with someone.

4. Be prepared for fuck ups. 

I think it's important to have a good idea what you will and won't do sexually before you dive into the big bad world of sex, drugs and alcohol, but be prepared for fuck ups. When you drink your inhibitions fly out the window, as do the inhibitions of people around you. Know your options if you forget to use protection, or your contraception fucks up, or you are raped or assaulted. Prevention is key, but be educated for last resorts.

5. Find your crowd.

University campus culture and night life is chaotic - nobody's quite sure where they're going, who they'll end up with, what they'll end up doing, where they'll end up. Make sure you only hang out with people you trust, and keep as many people as you can - both at the party and out of the party - in the loop of where you are and what you're doing. This is something of a double edged sword; most people get into campus culture (at least at my university) by joining a club or a faculty society or, like me, getting involved in Guild politics and those people will keep you safe, but they also hurt you.

6. Explore.

For me, the biggest learning experience is learning about the many different ways I can experience attraction. Learning that there are so many people that I love that I had previously denied myself, because I was too worried about the low possibility of us extending into eternity when that is a ridiculous thing to worry about when you're at my stage of life. Learning that there are so many things to do that I love, and so many things that I wanted to do that are an utter disappointment. Learning that no one should be able to convince you that this is it, this is your happy ending, when it is neither happy nor an ending. Learning the hard way out of bitter regret and disappointment at stupid mistakes and bad decisions. Sexuality is the original sin; knowledge. Go learn something.


Friday, November 01, 2013


In truth, I feel quite bereft without you.
I have replaced you, to be sure
I have had my night with clothes strewn on the floor
I slept in someone's arms
And those arms were not yours

In one night I had more than you ever gave in half a decade
I have found a new set of eyes
To smile at me, warm and kind
A new set of eyes that rake across my body
Then hands, then lips
Hard and hot and determined

I have loyalty to heal the wounds of your treachery
But I have no love yet to replace what I have lost
No friend to console me in the early hours
Arms hold me together, as you once did
Arms shield me from you, but are not mine to have
Words never fail me, yet I am still wanting
I took and was taken by delicious desire
But love is a little less constant

And in this, I miss you.
I miss depending on you,
Loving you, trusting you with everything

And you were always there,
Always there for me, come hell or high water
Until you slipped away like a barrel under a noose