By Summer Skyes 11 (OMG Ikr lolUploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Summer Skyes 11 via Wikimedia Commons

An interesting article  from Daily Mail Online popped up in my Facebook’s stream a while back, called Experiment That Convinced Me That Porn Is The Most Pernicious Threat Facing Children Today. The subject porn and youth, something that illicits strong opinions among caregivers and educators. The idea that porn can have negative effects for younger viewers is a common perspective. It’s also one that I don’t entirely disagree with, although I certainly don’t think it’s the worst thing to ever could ever happen to a kid EVER.

At any rate the title sounded ominous/sensationalist enough that I was curious about the nature of the “experiment”. What was the methodology? Who was conducting the experiment? And what was the outcome that had convinced author, Martin Daubney – a former skin mag editor – about the unequivocal danger posed by pornography? But by the end of the introductory my curiosity was replaced by big time skepticism:

The moment I knew internet pornography had cast its dark shadow over the lives of millions of ordinary British teenagers will live with me for ever….Before me were a group of 20 boys and girls, aged 13-14. Largely white, working class children, they were well turned-out, polite, giggly and shy. 

I had trouble with the way the issue was framed. “Good” kids vs. sex. Goodness in this case being demonstrated by the students’ general whiteness and not-being poor. I guess it’s okay, or at least expected that ethnic kids from low-income families be exposed to pornography?  Only when it infiltrates the sweet ranks of society’s most valuable children should we sound the alarm bells.

Right under this paragraph is a picture of the author, his wife and his very young son who looks three, maybe four years old. The grown-ups look concerned verging on frightened. The kid is nine kinds of adorable, with blond curls and a pursed-lipped smile. And I can’t think it’s a coincidence that the editors chose this photo to lead the article. You have the words “Children” and “Porn” looming over the head of this cutey-cute little person and whoa! Suddenly, porn does seem pretty threatening!

The subjects of the actual experiment are a group of 13 to 14 year-old students. Teenagers. I do think that it’s necessary for adults to be aware that youth today have unprecedented access to sexually explicit material. A kid has with a smartphone they can see porn. And not just the commercially available stuff. Snapchat and other apps have made sending sexy selfies super-easy. I don’t think it’s necessary for us parent-types to panic. But I think we need to be aware that there’s a high likelihood our kids will be exposed to more sexual content at an earlier age than most of us were.

Under instruction from a sex-educator, the youth are asked to write down the terminology they’ve picked up from porn. The lists are pinned on the board and according to the article, there are words that none of the adults know. This shocks the grown-ups. One of the terms is “nugget”. (Full-disclosure: I heard the term for the first time very recently and it did shock me. It’s slang for a porn performer – typically a woman – who doesn’t have arms or legs).

Daubry goes on to report:

But the more mundane answers were just as shocking. For example, the first word every single boy and girl in the group put on their list was ‘anal’.

Daubry explains that he hadn’t heard of sodomy at that young age and he’s deeply troubled by the thought that some of these  youth may have a) seen it, b) may want to try it.

I was still annoyed by the sensationalism, but I can understand the alarm.  It seems to be pretty common for adults to feel thrown when they discover that the kids in their life are more sexually knowledgable than they assumed. I was a pre-teen when my peers and I started flipping through romance novels to find the sex scenes. I heard guys talk about a stash of Playboy or Penthouse they’d unearthed from the basement or their parents bedroom. We started hearing terms like “blow job” and giggled when someone explained what it was. This started when were ten, eleven, twelve. I don’t think any of us were ready to have sex yet  – I certainly wasn’t –  but we were old enough to be curious.

Now that I’m a parent, I look at my son. He seems so very young. It’s hard to fathom that the talks about sex – not just “these are your body parts/this is how babies are made” talks – might start happening in just a few years. I think it’s totally understandable for us grown-ups to have an initial freak-out. THE KIDS ARE WATCHING WHAT?!! But I think the next step is to get it together and figure out what to do next. If my kid does find himself amongst a group like the one in the article, here are some things I hope I remember to bring up:

  • What do you think about the fact that amputees are being referred to here as “nuggets”? How might it make that person feel? What message does that send about people with disabilities? What do you think about the fact that people with different bodies can and do have sex?
  • Do you know the differences between having anal sex in real life and the way it’s shown in porn? Do you know why it’s important to use lubricant? Do you know reducing your risk of infection with barriers? Do you know why communication with your sex partner is super-important here.
  • Let’s talk about why you’re watching this. How did you find it? Airial Clark a.k.a. The Sex Positive Parent had some great advice around kids discovering porn. Ask them if *they* think this is material is appropriate for their age. Remind them that the performers are real people, adults doing adult things. How do they think the people in the movie might feel if they knew kids were watching? How would they feel if a grown-up was naked or tried to have sex in front of them?
  • It’s also an opportunity to find out from kids what they find compelling about the material. Because it may not be what you think. It’s an opportunity to talk about the difference between porn sex and sex-in-real life.

Daubrey does have some follow-up conversation with some of the youth after the class. He finds the ensuing conversation “horrifying”, saddened that these kid’s expectations around sex have been shaped almost entirely by pornography and shocked by some of the content the teens have been consuming.

These kids were balanced, smart and savvy. They were the most academically gifted and sporting in the school. They came from ordinary, hard-working households. This was not ‘Broken Britain’.

Once again, folks – sex is for bad people. Who’s bad? Kids who struggle in school. The one’s who come from weird, poor households. The ones who are “broken”.

Most of us become curious about sex long before we feel ready to engage in partnered sexual activity. Sexuality isn’t something that suddenly kicks in on our 18th birthday. It’s with us all of our lives and it develops over time. When I was a kid, my friends and I didn’t look at novels, or Playboy and unscrambled pay-per-view because we wanted to run out and do those things. We just wanted to know what it was about. We were trying to understand.

Youth today are curious too. They’re seeing more because there’s more material and easier access to explicit content than we had at that age. Unfortunately, that isn’t something that we can change. I knew more about sex at a younger age than my parents had…and they probably knew more than their parents. Depending on our kids’ ages and situations, we can limit their exposure to porn for a time. But at some point they’re going to get on the Internet. And if they want to find porn they will. And I think the best tool we can give them is a whack-ton of real-world information about sex, so that porn isn’t the only influence.

Daubrey does conclude with cursory call for parents to teach their kids that  that real sex “is not about lust, it’s about love.

So, I agree with the spirit but I don’t love the phrasing.Lust and love aren’t mutually exclusive. And personally I’m not interested in judging the rightness or realness of  people’s sex based on how much of either is involved. I want to teach my child to  honour his own ethics when it comes to sex. I want him to understand their options when it comes to safer sex and if it applies, contraception. I want him  to understand why respect, consent and care for our sexual partners is essential. I want them to know that sex isn’t about being normal and doing what everyone else is doing, it’s about doing what feels good, what feels right for the people involved. And yes I will try to teach him about love and lust, just not as an either/or proposition. And finally, I will try my best to teach him to look at media with a critical eye, so hopefully he can distinguish between reality and a carefully crafted performance.

The very last sentence of Daubrey’s article tells us to communicate with our children.  “By talking to them, they stand a chance”.

At least we agree on something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trigger Warning for discussions of sexual assault/abuse, bullying and Rethaeh Parson’s suicide. Please skip this post if you need to.

Today is meant to be the question of the week. I’m sorry but I can’t. Like many of you, I’ve been reading about Rehtaeh Parsons, a young girl who died at only 17 years old. I’m sure a lot of you have read the statement her father posted yeseterday. It’s beautiful and devastating. I know I’m not the only who read it, cried and wondered why this happened.

I’m looking for answers. I’m hearing stories, reading articles that point the finger squarely at bullying. Rehtaeh was harassed at school and her classmates called her a slut. Someone took a picture of the assault and students posted it all over Facebook. There are some really cruel kids out there today and easy access to social media and technology makes them ruthless. Rethaeh took her own life because she was mocked and humiliated. Bullying caused this.

Or so the story goes. And I’m seriously disturbed by the glaring omission in that story. Rehtaeh Parsons wasn’t just bullied by her peers. She was sexually assaulted by her peers. When she sought the support from community, she was essentially told “Sorry. Nothing we can do.” The bullying was undoubtedly rough salt being rubbed in, but that’s not what caused the wound. We’re telling the story wrong. And in doing so, I feel like Rehtaeh Parsons’ experiences are being dismissed all over again.

(Aside: I’m going to use the words “we” and “us” lot in this post. I mean it in the general “we as a society” sense and not the “you and I as specific individuals” way).

When we turn this into a story about a girl who committed suicide because she was bullied, we’re spinning a convenient truth that absolves us – the adults who are largely in charge of things around here – of our responsibility. We agree that Rehteah Parsons’ death is tragic. We offer her pothumus sympathy. We empathize with her loved ones. And we tell ourselves that we didn’t do anything. It’s the kids who were wrong. They bullied her. We reassert our determination to vanquish the scourge of bullies from our school and restrict online access (because the Internet is kind of wrong too).

Yes bullying is a thing. It’s a real problem that can absolutely break people’s spirits and drive them to desperate acts like suicide.  It’s not okay that people harassed this girl or called her names. And finding ways to end bullying is important, necessary work. But the taunts and social media slander are only symptoms of what for me is a much bigger problem. Retheah Parsons was raped and we – the adults who are largely in charge around here – don’t take sexual violence seriously enough.

We don’t like people who are raped. And we really, really don’t like people who are raped and then tell us they were raped. If we know about it, we’re supposed to do something about it. We have to think about it and that’s really unpleasant. I’m not certain of the reasons for our reticence. I do have some theories but I’ll leave for those for another post.

When people like Rethaeh Parsons tell us – the adults who are largely in charge around here – that they’ve been sexually assaulted, what do we do? We turn them into defendants. We ask them why they got raped? Haven’t we told you over and over again not to let yourself get raped? We concede that sexual violence is terrible, we’re not saying that anyone deserves it. We just want to know, what did you think would happen when you put on that oufit, went to that place, drank all of those drinks?

Yet we don’t understand why Rathaeh Parsons classmates called her a slut.

When people like Rethaeh Parsons tell us that they’ve been raped, we don’t want them to be “victims”. We don’t want to know how deeply sexual violence can hurt or see the raw, messy parts of their pain. We like people who endure rape and sexual abuse in a quiet, dignified way We’re supportive of counselling, therapy and other coping methods that involve going away and dealing with it discreetly. We just can’t get too involved – not the school, not the police. Adults in positions of power and authority but we can’t help.

Yet we wonder why Rethaeh Parsons peers didn’t say anything?

We talk about people who have been raped as though they aren’t human. After Stubenville, CNN lamented the fate of two young men by describing, their scholastic acheivements, their extra curricular activities and their histories. They were portrayed as people. People who’s futures had been tragically thwarted when some girl thoughtlessly left herself vulnerable to raping. In Rethaeh Parsons’ case her father, a man gutted by grief, who tells us that she was a person. She was a living, breathing, thinking, feeling, valuable person with a past and future that was tragically altered into something she couldn’t live through. His letter was stands in heartbreaking contrast to our habit of describing people as dehumanized cautionary tales.

We ask ourselves- how students could circulate a picture of a peer being raped?

Prime Minister Harper has said we need to “call out bullying”. As usual, he’s missed the point. Yes, Rethaeh Parsons was bullied. And that is absolutely not okay. But it’s not fair for us – the adults who are largely in charge around here – to say “Hey, kids, what you did was wrong,” when we created the environment that supports this type of bullying.  This story we’re telling – the one where Rethaeh Parsons died because of bullying – obscures the issue of sexual violence. That act of pushing it into the background is what promotes the type of bullying we say we need to stop.

The youth who slut-shamed and dehumanized Rethaeh Parsons need to understand that what they did was wrong. It was destructive and almost certainly caused harm to someone who couldn’t endure more pain. But bullying isn’t just cruel actions disconnected from thoughts or emotions. The belief that Rethaeh Parsons deserved to be treated so poorly came from somewhere.

I’m pretty sure, it’s coming from us.

A few weeks ago, a dude known by the Twitter handle Grawly, gained the dubious distinction of being the first person to live tweet his visit to the emergency room after getting a vibrator stuck in his rectum. The Internets labelled Grawly an oversharer, but I disagree. Grawly a.k.a Rude Ass Robot (apt!) did us a solid. In my opinion we don’t chat about anal sex nearly enough. Fact is, lots of people  from all walks of life enjoy doing it bumwise. But in order to have safe, healthy anal experience there are special considerations, not the least of which is the design of the tools you’re using.

A brief anatomy lesson

There are two anal sphincters. The outer one – that puckery sweet spot between the bum cheeks – is pretty much under our control and can be contracted or relaxed at will. The second, internal sphincter lies just inside the body. That buddy is more of an independent thinker. You can coax it into opening up for you during anal penetration, but generally speaking it’s a strong little sucker that likes to grab hold of objects and can close up tight.

Also? The anus and rectum are one end of the digestive tract – a long, open system. If an object goes too far up the ass, there isn’t a natural barrier to stop it. So shape matters. If you want to avoid Grawly’s fate, make sure the anal object of your choice shaped in such a way that it won’t get pulled up into your body because once it’s in there, you’re only option is to go the @Grawly route and head to the hospital.

Red Light!

Generally speaking, putting anything up your bum that has uniform width is risky business. Long, tube-y shaped things are great for sex play but not in the back yard.

Once these are in the rectum, it’s very difficult to stop them from sliding in further. If sphincter number two gets grabby or lube (which you should absolutely have back there) makes things extra slippery, these type of toys can very easily get stuck in your body.

Green Light!

Fortunately there are many anal-friendly options that provide great stimulation without needing a search party on standby. Toys with a retrival device such as a ring or an external battery pack give you a literal lifeline, should things go a bit too far up there.

 

 

Dual stem vibes (think of the famous Rabbit Pearl) are a pretty good option as long as one the shafts stay outside the body. Also, toys with a pronounced curve are unlikely to stray to far too far a field.

By BMS Factory, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Dildos and vibes with a flared base are classic, go-to anal toys. If your plaything of choice has a big, pancake-style circle on the bottom it’s specially designed to go safely inside your bottom.

 

And course when it comes to bum sex, our bodies or those of our partners are stellar combination of form and function. No matter how intense you’re unlikely unlike to lose an entire person in your ass…unless it’s metaphorically!

So props to Grawly for sharing his pain and remind the rest of us that when it comes to anal sex, it pays to play safe!

 

 

 

“I do multiple intrinsically non- and/or anti-feminist things a day. It doesn’t change who I am or what I stand for – but those things also don’t become feminist just because I’m the one doing them.”

The following is a quote by feminist author and body image activist extrodinaire, Kate Harding. I’ve been a long time fan of Ms. Harding. She frequently writes things that blow my mind and alter my thinking on issues regarding women, bodies and general life stuff. Now she’s done it again.

This particular statement was taken from a recent article entitled ‘Why I Lose My Mind Every Time We Have The Name Conversation’. The piece is about women’s who take their husband’s names at marriage. Kate fully acknowledges that:

a) becoming Ms. HisLastName is a choice that women have a right to make.

b) it can be thoughtful, meaningful, positive option for many women.

c) you can be Ms. HisLastName and a feminist and that’s totally cool.

Harding explains that women who take their husband’s names are still awesome, feminist gals making a valid life choice. But the fact that it’s a choice doesn’t magically separate the convention from it’s roots in patriarchal ownership. And being a feminist does not negate the fact that, generally speaking, our society tends to regard men’s identities as fixed and women’s as fluid.

Harding’s specific thoughts on married names were all kinds of interesting. But it’s the passage I quoted that resonated. I identify strongly as feminist, sex-positive, a queer-ally and bunch of other things. While reading the article, I realized that part of me does feel like everything I do, should fall in line with my belief that social oppression is for suck and it needs to go away now. And I will try to rationalize all of my actions within the context of those beliefs.

Case in point. I recently wrote a piece for Already Pretty about burlesque. I wrote my own experiences doing burlesque and tied that to a larger point about performers using the art form to challenge conventional perceptions of what sexy body looks like. Body image politics + personal experience = Instant Awesome Blogpost.

I thought it would be an easy assignment. Instead it was a frustrating struggling that went on for days. Eventually I finished the article and even though I wasn’t entirely satisfied, I submitted it. I figured this was just one of those crappy, writer’s block kind of weeks, nothing more.

But after reading Kate Harding’s piece I can see why I had a hard time. I was writing about burlesque subverting body image norms and I was trying to say that my participation was part of that subversion. But it’s not.

I’ve done burlesque with all sorts of people who fall outside the young, thin, able-bodied, cis-gendered, heteronormative ideal our society tends to uphold as “sexy”. I think how awesomely cool it is to see people broadening the standards of beauty and sexuality, while being hella hot and talented. I support the shit out of that kind of thing. But here’s things:

I am a younger-looking, slender, able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual woman. Pretty much everything about the way I look and the way I present myself  falls in line with conventional ideas about what sexy is supposed to look like. Some might say that being as a person of colour takes me a bit outside the “norms” of sexiness. But even then I find that there’s a trend toward glamourizing/idealizing POCs – especially if they have European-esque features, which I pretty much do.

I love performing. I love dressing up and wearing costumes and being a big, exhibitionist show-off with my body. I also believe, passtionately that we need to make more room in this world for the many, may types of sexy that are out there. But that’s not what I’m doing when I do burlesque. I can’t do that when I do burlesque because our society has already made lots of room for my type of sexy and it has done so at the expense of other people.

None of this means that I shouldn’t be doing burlesque or that I can’t derive joy from the experience. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t support or believe that we need more sexy diversity (and maybe a better term).

I’m going to change over time. I will get older. The shape and likely the size of my body will change. There’s no guarantee that I will remain able-bodied throughout my life. If I still choose to twirll my tassles while rockin’ the wrinkles and low boobs, I WILL be sticking to the patriarchy and ageism and bunch of other sex-negative, body-negative bullshit. But I’m not now, so I probably shouldn’t pretend that I am.

Like everyone else, I make choices. Many are informed by desire to work towards a less oppressive, more inclusive society. But they’re also about what’s right for me and sometimes that’s the status quo. Instead of trying to rationalize those choices, it feels I can say, “This system/convetion/idea unfairly penalizes or excludes others. I don’t like that, but I am choosing to work within this system because there are still benefits for me as an individual.”

To put it another way, not everything I do is about fighting a social battle. And I realize after reading Kate Harding’s words, that I don’t have to rationalize it or get defensive. I’m a person, a part of this society. There’s some messed up shit happening but that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes it works for me.

 

The other night my pal stepc brought my attention to the following news item via Twitter. It’s a quick read but if you’re pressed for time, the gist is this:

Cathy Sanders, the mother of a 13-year-old Nanaimo boy objects to the distribution of an animated flip book in her son’s grade 8 class room. The book, produced by Catie.ca and distributed by AIDS Vancouver Island features an explicit demonstration of a woman putting a condom on her erect partner’s penis and having sex with him.  According to the article, Ms. Sanders is pissed about the graphic nature of the pamphlet and the fact that it apparently upset her kid quite a bit.

(If you’d like to see for yourself, check out Ian A Martin’s latest blog post.  He turned the flipbook in to a pretty nifty animated gif. As I said, it’s graphic, so exercise necessary discretion when clicking through.)

I have to admit that when I first read the article, my initial reaction was ‘Bah! It’s not that big a deal. Cathy Sanders is uptight, overprotective and blowing this thing WAY out of proportion!‘.  I even composed a tweet to that effect. But as I looked over my 140 characters snark, I thought, ‘Hold up there, Judgey!‘ . Sanders may be affronted by flip-book sex but I have my own set of biases…

  • I am building a career predicated on the belief that frank, open and explicit communication about sexual health and pleasure are a good thing. Not everyone shares that belief.
  • I’ve worked in the sexual health/pleasure field for several years. Graphic depictions of sexstuffs have become normal and commonplace for me. This isn’t the case for most people.
  • I’ve spent the last three years of my sex education career working with youth. I know that many teenagers are sexually aware. I’ve become extremely comfortable with the reality that teens may be sexually active and may have sexual partners. But sexual readiness comes at different times for different people. Just because many of the youth I’ve encountered have been interested in sex that doesn’t mean this woman’s son felt the same way.

I’m also biased because I’ve spent a lot of my career advocating in favour of sex education for youth that goes beyond the telling them how sex will get them pregnant or sick. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy defending against the type of inflammatory rhetoric that calls a museum exhibit pornographic or claims that comprehensive sex ed curriculum will “teach kids how to have anal sex”.

So I read the article and because of my biases, my first impulse was to get defensive. But then I thought a little more. I thought, ‘This woman probably loves her son and wants what she feels is best for him.‘ I thought about how it might feel to be confronted by your troubled child and a cartoon erection if you weren’t expecting either of those things. I thought about parents and the type of messages we’re given about the role we’re supposed to play in our children’s sexual education.

I don’t feel the pamphlet was pornographic nor would I say that it was categorically age-inappropriate for 13-year-olds. But it may have been age-inappropriate for this particular 13-year-old, or at least unsettling. And when I stop to consider his mother’s position I do feel some sympathy for her. ‘Cause in my experience, parents are primed on exactly three types of sex talks: The Birds, The Bees and The BasicsYour Body Is Going Through Some Changes; and finally Only Have Sex When You Are Ready (You Are NOT Ready!) Son, Let’s Talk About This Naked Flip Book And Why It’s Bothering You, isn’t in the parents’ sex talk playbook. For the most part, we’re told it’s our job to dissuade our kids from having sex. So while I disagree with Ms. Sanders’ characterization of the book, I can sympathize a bit too.

As I was discussing this article on Twitter and later with The MoMs, I realized that as much as I talk and teach about sex, I rarely talk about sex education as part of parenting. And I think I need to change that. Yes, I have a certain level of factual knowledge. But how to convey that information to my son? I know my role when I walk into a classroom or workshop. What is my role as a parent?

Like most parents, ultimately I want my son to grow into a healthy, happy, decent human being. I know that as an adult his sexuality will most likely affect that health and happiness. But what do I say? How do I impart my ethical belief that everyone has the right to make their own choices about their own bodies, when my parental instincts are already hollering at me to MAKE HIM WEAR A CONDOM!?

If he chooses to be sexuality active, long-term I want him to enjoy those experiences without shame or fear. But if it turns out he’s straight, there’s a reasonable chance I’m going to ruin is early dating life by screaming “DON’T GET ANYONE PREGNANT!” every time he’s with a girl.

I want to tell him that he should have sex when he feels ready? But if he asks me, “Mum, how do I know when I’m ready?”, I don’t know what to say. I don’t even know if that’s my question to answer.

All of this to say, that it’s hard. Parenting means flying blind most of the time, especially when it comes to sex. I guess this blog post is my way of sending out a signal. Tell me, fellow parents, how do you feel about sex-educating your kids? Do you have fears, issues you feel ill-equipped to deal with? Do your emotions and the instinct to protect your young ever clash with your general belief system?

It’s sobering to realize how quick to judgement I can be. It can be far too easy to position myself as the enlightened sex expert in these situations. But while our boundaries may differ, Cathy Sanders is probably a loving, well-intentioned parent who found herself in a situation she probably didn’t know how to handle. I can sympathize with that, because I’ve been there…and I will be again.

photo by Harrywad

Early this year mini mega-star, Willow Smith chopped off her hair-whipping locks in favour of a super-short ‘do.  A whole ‘lot of people got all kinds of upset because OH NOES, SHE’S ONLY ELEVEN and ACK SHORT HAIRS R 4 BOYZ and HER EXCEPTIONALLY TALENTED, GOOD LOOKING PARENTS MUST BE REALLY PARENTS!!!!

Last week, the exceptionally talented Jada Pinkett-Smith confirmed that she’s exceptionally rad at being a parent. She took to Facebook to share the lessons she wants to teach her daughter about her hair, her body and her choices.

 

This past weekend I hopped the train for Toronto and Blissdom, Canada’s marquis social media conference for women.

Stepping and repeating with fellow blogger, Julie Harrison.

I expected a lot from the event.  Industry experts sharing tips and tricks of trade. Lots of chatty time with interesting people doing interesting things. Scads of swag. And the weekend didn’t disappoint. Blissdom gave me everything I’d been expecting…and something I wasn’t.

I was not expecting the sexy.

That’s right. Blissdom gave me warm, tingly conference feels thanks to a couple of  outstanding famous people encounters! Though techincally my first encounter wasn’t with a person; it was with several! A magnificent team in hot pink representing my favourite menstrual product: Diva Cup!

I had no idea Diva Cup was one of the conference sponsors, so when I happened upon their booth I went full-fledged fangirl, gushing and squeeing to everyone within earshot about how ZOMG! DIVA CUPS ARE THE BEST EVAR and EEEEE! I LURVE THEM THE MOST!

What can I say?  Diva Cups warrant unbridled enthusiasm.

This is what a fangirl looks like!

Later the same day, I joined my fellow conferencees for some post-lunch guest speaking. The first person to grace the stage was none other than Q host and secret celebrity crush, Jian Ghomeshi!

He spoke to us about growing up as the lone Iranian kid in Thornhill, a decidedly non-Iranian suburb of Toronto. The memories he shared were the inspiration for his recently released memoir, 1982. His stories and the excerpts he read delighted the audience and propelled my crush to new soaring heights!

After the speaking, Ghomeshi The Witty And Handsome stuck around for meeting, greeting and book signing. Of course, I nabbed a copy and got my smitten ass in line. Not wanting a repeat of my Diva Cup flail, I tried to think of clever things I would say when my turn came up.

Hi, Jian. What a coincidence! You grew up in Thornhill. My name is Thornhill!  What?! No!.

Hi, Jian. Do you know that you and my partner went to the same high school? Which would be interesting if The Man of Mans were here instead of me.

Hi, Jian. Remember that time you were in Moxy Fruvous and did that bitchin’ cover of ‘Green Eggs And Ham’? For the love of pants, brain, I said clever! Think of clever things to say!

But thinking time was over. I was at the front of line, face to face with the man who’s interviewing genius makes me weak in the knees.

“Hello, Nadine,” he said warmly, before I had a chance to speak.

Holy balls!  I thought, Jian Ghomeshi knows who I am!

A  moment later I realized that Jian Ghomeshi knows how to read name tags. I was wearing a big one clipped on the breast pocket of my jacket. But it felt like he knew who I was. And that friendly familiar greeting brought me frantic fan to feeling relaxed and comfortable.

He asked what I did and what had brought me to Blissdom. When I told him I was sex educator, he eagerly insisted I tune in on Monday to hear his conversation with Junot Diaz, who’s most recent short-story collection is about love, relationships and sexy stuffs. I also mentioned the interview he had done with Dr. Ruth earlier this summer.

“Yeah. I still have to go on my date with her,” he told me. I didn’t know which one I envied more, Jian or the good doctor.

He asked if I’d like to take a picture together. “Sure,” I replied in my best I-have-my-picture-taken-with-brilliant-good-looking-people-all-the-time voice.

A moment of bliss!

 

I said thank you and good-bye. A few minutes later, I sat down to check out my 100% authentic Jian Ghomeshi signature. I thought I’d only see the scrawl of his name on the inside cover. Instead I read this:

For Nadine,

Please understand it’s critical but loving words on Thornhill

Yours (with a smile),

Jian Ghomeshi

Thornhill represent!

Yep. Blissdom definitely exceeded my expectations. :-)

 

 

Give a little. Get a little.

It’s that time again!

On September 15th sexy, sassy team from Planned Parenthood Ottawa will be lacing up and taking part in The Scotiabank AIDS Walk For Life. The walk is a fundraiser for Ottawa organizations that provide education, care and support related to HIV/AIDS in Ottawa. And once again my part to collect some cash.  If you’re inclined to give a little money to great cause, I’ve got something special for you.

Just like last year your donation gets you an electronic tax receipt and...a Sexy Shout Out!  

In exchange for your generous contribution, I will write a one paragraph personalized blog post, extolling your alluring virtues. I also spread word of your enticing charms via Facebook and Twitter.  I can also send you your own copy of your sexy endorsement to use as you see fit.

You know you’re hawt! Now you’ll have it in writing.

Don’t delay!  Click here to support Team PPO and get your Sexy Shout Out today! 😉

Trigger warning. This entry contains discussions of rape and miscarriage. Please exercise self care when reading this post or skip it altogether if you prefer.

Dear Todd Akin. Every time you lie about sex, a pony gets punched in the face.

 

On Sunday an interview with Todd Akin, the Republican senate candidate from Missouri, went to air. Like many on the right-end of the political spectrum, Akin is anti-abortion. When asked about abortion in the case of rape, Akin replied thusly:


Sweet. Lord.

Like most of the Internet, I was agog at Akin’s tale of reproductive lockdown. The arrogance, condescension and concentrated levels of wrong in his statement were so extreme that I wanted to respond the way a toddler might. I wanted to smash things and let loose with ear-piercing screams because LEGITIMATE RAPE WTF!!? and shutting down conception IS TOTALLY NOT A THING!!! and who the eff gave this a MASTERS DEGREE and let him sit on a SCIENCE COMMITTEE!!! The world has gone crazysauce and I WANT MY MOMMY!!!

Subsequent to the interview, Akin claimed to have “misspoken”,  that he has “deep empathy … for the thousands of women who are raped every year”.  Let’s add “meaning of the word ’empathy'” to the list of things that Todd Akin is making up. Insinuating there’s rape but there’s also the not-rape that people call rape? That’s not empathy. That’s stone-cold douchebaggery!

But back to the idiocy about rape-as-contraception. It’s not true. Which I’m sure you know, but Akin went there, so now I have to put it into print. Rape does not reduce one’s risk of unintended pregnancy. Physicians and statistics tell us that rape survivors are just as likely to conceive as people who engage in consensual sex.

It’s no secret that I’m pro-choice. I do support access to the full gambit of reproductive health options, including safe, legal abortion.  But for me, pro-choice means more than that.  I believe that people have the right to choose how they care for their own bodies. I believe that people have the right to choose how to live their lives. And I believe that people have a right to live according to their own ethics and morals.

I’ve been on the choice side of the abortion debate for a long time. I’m passionate about my beliefs and I can be zealous in my advocacy. Over the years, I’ve been challenged by opponents and by my fellow supporters to consider my position on this issue and what it means to be pro-choice. Once upon a time, I would have told you it was only about ensuring a person’s right to safe, legal abortion. But now it’s more than that. It’s about defending a person’s right to self-agency. I believe in a person’s right to choose what they do with and to themselves and to act in accordance with their own needs, desires, morals and ethics.*  For me, being pro-choice puts me in the super-awkward position of accepting that abortion is not okay with some people. And even though I personally disagree with the anti-choice position, I feel I have to respect that many of the folks on the other side of the debate are as sincere in their beliefs as I am in mine and that they are acting/speaking according to their own set of ethics.

So it isn’t Todd Akin’s opposition to abortion that makes me angry.  If he believes that life and all the inalienable rights that accompany said life begin at conception, okay.  If he had said, “I don’t support abortion in cases of rape because I still consider that fetus a person who has the same right to life as we all do,” I wouldn’t like it, but I wouldn’t be all twitchy with rage.  No. What’s pissed me off is the way Todd Akin tried to defend his anti-abortion position by straight up lying about  “the female body” and its magical rape defending abilities.

It’s not easy having morals. They’re so comforting in the abstract – shiny, guiding principles that help us navigate life’s dilemmas. But morality is a tricky beast and living according to our principles is rarely as easy as we hope it will be. I can see why rape is an ethical sticky spot for people on the anti side of the abortion debate. I think it’s especially difficult for people who, unlike a certain Senator-wannabe, have legitimate empathy/sympathy for rape survivors. I think they do understand that having no choice but to carry to term in that situation is horrendously unfair.

There are instances where being pro-choice is equally challenging. I respect a person’s right to choose. That doesn’t mean I’m always comfortable with the choices people make. There are times when being pro-choice clashes in a yucky way with my feminist principles or even my sex-positive ones. The problem with ideals is that in practice, they’re rarely ideal.

Meanwhile, Todd Akin wanted to pretend that his anti-abortion beliefs are ideal, beyond reproach. Instead of accepting the inconvenient truth – that pregnancy as the result of rape is unjust – he spun a tale about how people who are raped can’t get pregnant. But some tales are just too tall. Akin perpetuating rape-myths to serve his own self-entitled sense of “rightness” doesn’t speak to his passion about preserving life. Instead it displays epic arrogance and acallous insensitivity toward rape survivors and what they’ve experienced.

Shame on you, Todd Akin! I call foul on your back-handed victim-blaming and junk science. No matter how strongly you feel about access to abortion, it does not give you the right to lie.

 

 

 

* Assuming that when those actions involve other people, there is consent.

Trigger Warning. This post contains discussion of rape “humour” and threats of sexual violence. Please exercise self-care when reading this post or skip it altogether if you prefer.

The debate about rape jokes has resurfaced. Le sigh.

A friend of the blogger at Cookies For Breakfast posted her account of a run-in with comedian Daniel Tosh this past weekend at The Laugh Factory in L.A. By her account she was part of the audience when Daniel Tosh started a bit about rape jokes being funny. She did not agree.  She interrupted the comic’s flow by shouting out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!” To which Tosh reportedly replied, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”

The blog post went live on Cookies For Breakfast on Tuesday. In the hours since, social media has been blowing up with outrage against both Tosh and his accuser. Some people have come out in defense of rape humour, while others denounce it entirely. Other’s still take a more moderate approach. Then there are the lowest breed of mouth-breathing troglodytes who have responded to the accusation of rape threats by making rape threats!

As I said…Le Sigh.

I really don’t want to get into the debate about whether or not rape jokes are funny or not. Sufficed to say that personally, I don’t like them. I doubt I’d be sad if I never heard one again. But the larger issue for me stems from Daniel Tosh’s so called “apology” on Twitter and subsequent justification for “raped by five guys” comments.

First Tosh tweeted:

“all of the out of context misquotes aside, I like to sincerely apologize [shortlink to Cookies post]”.

followed immediately by:

“the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies.

First of all, the apology? Not really an apology. An apology is saying “I screwed up. I’m sorry.” Tosh is basically saying, “Other people screwed up and they don’t get me. I’m sorry…THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE SCREWED UP.” So low points on the weaksauce facsimile of  remorse, Daniel Tosh. Then there’s his follow-up explaination that he was trying to say something and then he was cut off and this is where I get super-agitated.

I don’t really agree with with Tosh’s statement about making jokes about awful things.  But let me try to walk a mile in Daniel Tosh’s shoes for a moment…

I’m on stage doing my stand up thing. I’m presenting a pithy and well-constructed argument about how there is comedic merit in poking fun at terrible things, like dead babies and being raped. I’m on stage, trying to work, to entertain, to earn my living. And in the middle of all this, an anonymous woman from the audience disrupts the whole scene by shouting “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”  Not only is this woman being rude by interrupting me, I also disagree with her entirely. The nerve! I’m gonna…

And the shoes are off! Because up until this point, I can relate and accept Tosh’s actions, even if I disagree with his statement. What I cannot abide is the implication that his retort about gang-rape is justifiable, because she upset/disagreed with him.

It is exactly that response that makes me wary of rape humour in the first place. Yes, I understand it’s standard practice to get heckled a comedy shows, especially if you draw attention to yourself. But telling a woman it would be hilarious if she were gang-raped isn’t funny! It’s mean. If some dude said that to me in a room full of strangers I’d feel scared and humiliated. Not embarrassed, but really ashamed and gross.

I’ve read several counter-arguments along the lines of, “It wasn’t a real threat. No one was actually going to rape her.” Unfortunately, that’s not an assumption many women feel they can make. As a woman, I don’t get to move through life secure in the knowledge that my sexual safety is all but assured. When people say things like “wouldn’t it by funny if that girl got raped?” I kind of have to take that seriously, because there’s no way for me to discern between the dudes who say it would be funny and the dudes who actually think it would be funny.

Tosh’s rationalization, in essence, that “Yeah, I said rape stuff to her but she upset me,” ironically illustrates why his response was awful. Rape is sexual violence used to control/subjugated another person. This woman said and did something that Tosh disagreed with. Rather than offering a response to her statement or her behaviour, Tosh invoked the specter of rape to shut her up.

This is similar to the recent backlash Anita Sarkeesian experienced from members of the gaming community when she launched a Kickstarter campaign to create a series of critical videos about female tropes in video games*. Sarkeesian’s campaign message was little more than “I have some thoughts and I would like to explore them” and the floodates of ire opened up. This poor woman has been bombarded with evil messages, drawings and even a game telling her she deserves to have terrible violence inflicted upon her…simply for having expressing an idea!

Hey if you’re going to be a woman and get all visible and vocal with your opinions, you gotta expect that people are going to want to rape you.

So in the end, I don’t care if rape humour is funny or not and I don’t care what Daniel Tosh was saying before he was interrupted. What he said afterward was unjustified, awful and completely unfunny.

*Thanks and hugs to Trevor for bringing this to my attention!