It’s no secret that anxiety has affected my sex life in a major way. It’s hard going at times, but I get by with a little help from my friends. My good pal, Natalie Joy also lives with an anxiety disorder. She dropped by the Adorkabode and we had some great girl-chat about living and loving with a mental illness.

 

Some things – like the dang flippin’ cold this summer – are out of our control. That’s okay. Because we can be all self-determined like with things like managing our sexual risk factors.

Actor Michael Douglas recently revealed that his oral cancer has been linked to the presence of HPV. Since everyone was talking about it, I figured I would too.

BTW, in the video I mention that there is no cure for HPV. I should clarify that there’s no medical cure; however, in some cases a person’s immune system can fight the infection on its own.

 

Time to get my head on straight!

Time to get my head on straight!

After twenty-three years of chemical straightening I’ve returned to my natural hair texture. HUZZAH!

If you have the time and the patience, bear with me. Those of you who’ve read my previous post on the subject, know that I’ve got some major feelings tied up in this hair bid’ness. My shrink already has her hands full with all my other neuroses so this long, rambling blog post serves as stand-in therapy on this issue.

After years of ambivalence, I was motivated to make the change once and for all, when The Man of Mans and I began planning our move to California. One of the first things we had to figure out was we how would afford life in a pricey state on a single income while carrying the cost of my return to school.  We had some major trimming to do budget-wise,  so we began by making a spreadsheet of all our current expenses. When we added up the cost of all of my salon appointments, including taxes and tips, I was spending close to $1500 per year to relax my hair!

DAAAAAG!

Fifteen hundred dollars could cover our moving expenses. It would pay for my books. Fifteen hundred dollars would take of all my long-distance bills to friends and family. For fifteen hundred dollars, I could attend three national conference. I could buy the family a new computer. I could take my son to a major league baseball game every weekend,  enroll him in an amazing summer camp or we could take a family trip together. There were so many other uses for the money I was spending on relaxers.

It wasn’t worth it.

I’m happy to spend money on my personal care and grooming. But having straight hair hadn’t felt like an investment for quite sometime. It didn’t make me feel good, figuratively or literally. The terrible sting of chemicals on my scalp left me feeling ashamed and resentful. I was straightening my hair, not because I because it made me feel beautiful but because it made me feel safe, inconspicuous. Relaxers made my head uncontroversial. Appeasing others at my own expense is not the person I want to be. But the memory of hurtful things people used to say about my natural hair still loomed large. I was scared.

I realized that this was probably one of those situations where I’d have to face my fears in order to get past them. It was time to invest my money and my energy into better things. I cancelled my next standing appointment at the salon. I was going natural! I felt strong and empowered…for almost ten whole minutes.

Then I panicked.

It had been so long! I didn’t really remember my natural texture. I didn’t know what to do!  Did I just let it grow? Did I need a weave or wigs? Special products? New shampoo? OMG, what?!

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that my head wasn’t going to break out in nappy curls that second. With the exception of some faint kinking at the roots, my hair was still straight. I literally had to grow into this change, which meant I had time to figure stuff out.

I went to the Internet and Googled something like “RELAXED TO NATURAL OMGHAIRFLAIL!”  Bam!  A myriad of websites, blogs and vlogs about the wonderful world of natural black-people hair.

I knew of women who went natural by doing what’s know as The Big Chop. Essentially it means cutting off all your relaxed hair at once and re-growing it from scratch. That scared the crap out of me. My hair wasn’t spectacular…but I needed it. Otherwise, I’d just be a head and face which…ACK and…I couldn’t and…NO!

A second Google search revealed that going natural without a Big Chop is totally a thing. I could let the natural texture grow in while doing “mini-chops” every few weeks to gradually remove my relaxed hair. It would take a long time – a year, maybe two – to rid myself of all the processed hair. It would also be far more challenging to maintain the health of two radically different hair textures. But the alternative was super-short and that was NOT EVER HAPPENING. So I got myself a pair of trimming scissors and settled in for the long transition.

It took about ten weeks before I really started to notice a substantial change in my hair. My new growth was dense, extremely curly and kind of coarse. Managing my naps while the rest of my hair was straight was tough. My hair started snapping off at the place where the two textures met (typical during transition). I started styling my hair in flat twists and up dos. The styles keep my fragile hair reasonably protected and help conceal some of the transitional awkwardness.

Something I heard time and again from women in the natural hair community was that changing my hair was an emotional journey and I might be surprised by what came out of the experience. That was totally true. I would vacillate from one emotional state to another: fear, excitement, fear, joy, fear, fear, pride, fear, absolute terror, fear, wonderment, fear.

One day, I was in the shower, washing my emerging coils and I thought ‘I like these.’ It was nice and very new not to feel at odds with the kink. Suddenly I was overcome by curiosity. I really wanted to see what that hair would looked like all on it’s own. I got out of the shower, found my scissors and cut the relaxer off a discreet lock of hair near the nape of my neck. Once they were free, my natural strands popped back toward my scalp like a tightly wound spring. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘that’s my hair.’

I wanted that hair and only that hair. But I was still terrified of The Big Chop. It was too drastic. Yes, it would grow out eventually but it would take months, years even to regain any significant length. What if I looked awful in the meantime?

Yet every time I put my hands in my hair my curiosity grew. What was going on up there? The darn relaxer was in my way, distorting my texture and altering my curl pattern. I began trimming more aggressively. I cut off more near my neck. I went back to YouTube and watched videos of other women who had big chopped. Many had been afraid going into it, but they all seemed so happy once it was done. I began to think maybe, just maybe I could do it too.

Of course I’d have to find someone to do the chopping. It was one thing to self-cut small sections of my hair but no way could I shear the my entire head without making a hash of it. I didn’t want to see my old stylist for fear they would try to talk me out of my natural plans. After careful consideration, I asked my mom if she would do it during my next visit to her place. She instantly agreed to help, because my mom is lovely that way.

But even after I made the decision, I still had a great deal of anxiety about having super-short hair. (This is where I get a little heavy. I appreciate that you’ve stayed with me this long. Hang in a little longer, ‘kay?)

I was worried about what others would think. But when I told people my plans, I received an outpouring of enthusiastic support. My partner was uber-excited for me. My friends sent me pictures of women rocking short, stylish afros. I certainly didn’t have to worry about being shunned by my loved ones.

I was very concerned about the fact I didn’t know what I’d look like. A super-short style would change the dynamics of my face, even my body and who knew what the results would be. I might be less attractive. And then it struck me, in a super-clear moment of disempowering shame that thought of being unattractive, scares the crap out of me.

I legit love clothes and make-up and all that look-y look dress up stuff. I adored styling my dolls as a little girl and now that I’m grown, I’m like my own doll, except way better because I’m not plastic. I’m a real person with thoughts, a heart, a soul and a life. Score!

But even though I enjoy clothing and grooming myself (in ways that are very much line with conventional notions of femininity) I also feel I’m expected, if not to attain, to at least strive toward certain beauty standards. I should want to be pretty and if I can’t be, I should feel badly about it. There are times when I really do feel that my right to be seen, to be heard and to take up space in a room is proportional to my perceived level of attractiveness.

I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. I constantly hear people, especially women apologize and castigate themselves because they’re the “wrong” size/shape, because they lack the expected adornments or because they’ve committed some other perceived offense, which basically amounts to “I Had The Audacity To Be Out In The World Looking Like What I Actually Look Like”. I want to tell them to stop saying those things. Sometimes I do. Which might be helpful but I realize it’s also hypocritical. The truth is I struggle with those same feelings and I know I’ve buckled under the weight of those expectations more than once. I do feel, at times, that beauty is my obligation and making myself attractive is a major clause in my contract with the rest of society. I feel like I’m always expected to care about how I look or that being pretty is something I’m supposed to want.

Except it isn’t true. It’s pervasive and I feel it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a big pile of toxic bullshit crapping all over my self worth. It gives me feelings; feelings that are very strong and very real. But the truth is, I can choose to take beauty off my list of priorities and that is totally okay.

I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago and sat down to have a serious talk with myself. I said to myself, Self…

That is some toxic nonsense! Don’t make choices based on toxic nonsense. You know you have value, no matter what you look like. This is your body and your hair and you’re allowed to do whatever you want to do with it. If you don’t love the way short hair looks on you, that’s okay. You can still love who you are. So get over yourself, Nadine. It’s just hair.’

My real self-talk wasn’t nearly that Hallmark-ish,  but the gist was there. I felt more courageous about The Big Chop. And even though I’m kind of embarrassed that I needed courage to get a haircut, that’s honestly what it took. Don’t judge me too harshly, okay?

It took two decades of hair trauma and six month of transition but I’m finally learning embrace my hair, as is. I’m becoming reacquainted with my kinky, nappy head and you know what? I really am happy I did this! I’m newly minted naturalista and I’m happy to report that so far life post-relaxer is great and not so scary.

Not so scary at all.

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This is a reboot of a entry I wrote for my old blog back in September of 2010. It’s not about sex but it is very personal. I’m reposting it here as it’s directly related to a new entry coming later in the week.

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Yesterday…I got my hair did.

I have a standing appointment every eight weeks to have my hair washed, trimmed and relaxed.  If you’re unfamiliar with the intricacies of black people hair, relaxing is a chemical process that breaks down the bonds of my super-kinky, naturally nappy hair, leaving it straight.

If I had a recent picture of myself with my hair au naturel, I would post it.  But such a photo does not exist. I’ve been processing my hair for well over twenty years now.

Left to it’s own devices, not only is my hair intensely curly, it’s impossibly thick, has a coarse texture similar to that of synthetic furniture stuffing and left unbraided, prefers to point up rather than down.

As a child, I hated everything about my hair.  I hated the thickness that could obliterate lesser combs.  I hated the ordeal of having my head scrubbed every Saturday morning with the special “for-black-people” shampoo that smelled terrible, followed by two hours of pain while my mom combed out the extensive net of knots that had formed.

Young and nap-tural!

But most of all, I hated that my head was topped by stiff plaits when my friends had long, soft, easy hair that actually moved as they did.  Back then I would have gladly traded a limb in exchange for a long, swingy ponytail.

Because I’m female, because I’m black and because I live in the part of the world that I do, having healthy hair-esteem is a challenge. When we very little my cousins and I would put yellow blankets on our heads to simulate the free-flowing blondness we saw in commercials and re-runs of Charlie’s Angels. I was in my twenties, before I saw ad for hair products that included a woman of colour shaking her glorious mane with slow-motion vigour.  And even then, her hair was as straight and silken as her Caucasian compatriots.  The marketing mantra of desirable female hair has been basically then same my entire life: Long. Shiny. Bouncy. In it’s natural state, my hair is exactly the opposite of this.

When I was a girl, white people were baffled and fascinated by my hair.  I remember a woman, a stranger,  actually fingering one of my nappy braids and saying, “It doesn’t even feel like hair.”  That sucked.

It also sucked that while white women regarded my hair with insensitive astonishment, black women – primarily members of my own family – perpetuated “good hair” myths with a vengeance.  Once I hit about ten, the pressure to tame my fuzz and do “something” about my hair was ON!

“You can’t run around looking like some African wild-child,” one aunt-admonished me.   (Side note: Try-Not-To-Seem-Too-African was a driving force amongst my grandparents’ generation of Black West Indians).

I also got, “You’d be pretty if you did something with your hair.”  And the most direct criticism from a family friend, “Your hair makes you look ugly.”

My mom tried her best to counter all the hair negativity.  But my mother’s natural hair texture is a lot looser than mine and much more in line with conventional standards of beauty.  So every time she tried to instill me with a sense of pride in my nappy head, I’d look at her wavy, long, bouncy, shiny hair and think, ‘What the hell to you know?’

Fro-licious!

By the time I was eleven, I succumbed.  I began badgering my parents until they conceded to let me have my hair relaxed.  My mom took me to a salon on a Friday after school.   I was so excited when we arrived, I ran inside and practically jumped into the beautician’s chair.

Relaxer is a cream made of standard conditioning agents, fragrance and an assload of sodium hydroxide.  When the stylist  first applied to my head it felt goopy and kind of cold.  After a few minutes it started to tingle.  Then it kind of started itching.  And then…it began to burn.

I didn’t cry that first time, but I came close.  I was chanting the f-word very, very quietly (Mom within in earshot) and contemplating running to the bathroom and putting my head in the toilet. Finally the stylist ushered me over to the sink, hosed my head down with cold water and put me out of my misery.

 

Why would anyone do this to themselves? I wondered.  I decided that had been my first and last relaxer, because only an idiot would willing subject themselves to that type of pain of a regular basis. Then the stylist turned me around to face the mirror.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.  For the first time in my life, I had “normal” hair.  It was loose and straight and shiny and it moved! It was some sort of hair miracle!  I could not stop touching it.  The minute we got home, I tied it back and started shaking my head around like a pony-tailed fool.  The kids at school went crazy for it.  White people left me alone!  Black people nodded approvingly!   Pain? Who cared? What was 20 minutes of scalp torture when compared with unprecedented social acceptance?

Like so many black women before me, I came to fully embrace relaxer or, “the creamy crack”, as it’s wryly referred to.  Relaxer gave me the ability to experience ponytails and approval.  But there were negatives. You can’t really get relaxed hair wet, which meant wearing covering my hair in various plastic caps in the shower, when I swam and on rainy days. I had to go back to the salon every few weeks to get my roots touched up. At best it was a very painful process. Much worse were the few times I sustained chemical burns on my scalp.

I briefly broke my addiction to the creamy crack the summer after eight grade.  I wanted to swim without having to wear my granny-looking bathing cap.  So I had my hair cut short and let my ‘fro return. I was actually kind of okay with the whole thing for about five minutes. Then high school began.

I went into ninth grade full frizzy fro and NO ONE was having that!   Within a week, the popular black kids were calling me “Buckwheat”.  The popular white kids picked it up. By October, I’m pretty sure most people thought that was actually my name.  One day during art, two of my classmates decided to dump an entire tin of blue powder paint on my head.  Another kid cried out, “Hey! Buckwheat’s black and blue!”  Everyone laughed.  Even the teacher kind of chuckled for a second before he remembered that he had to pretend this wasn’t cool. (After sentencing the paint-bombers to detention, he pulled me aside and kindly suggested that perhaps I could avoid such incidences in the future, if I tried harder to fit in and look like the other students).

That was it. I felt isolated and traumatized.  My hair was not my crowning glory.  It was the bane of my existence.  Not long after, I was back on the creamy crack.  I have been ever since.

I lived many, many years, well into adulthood, simply accepting that my

natural hair was bad.  I’m not sure when I began to rethink that.  I do know that it took a long time before I decided  that my hair is just my hair.  It’s not bad.  It’s not good.  It’s just a bunch of dead protein strands coming out of my head.   The marketing, the gawking, the names, the pressure…it’s all just a remnant of a bunch of oppressive, Euro-normative crap.  I know this.

Because I know this, I have to ask myself, “Self, why do you still relax your hair?”  The answer…because generally speaking, that Euro-normative crap is still the basis for our standards of beauty.  And the truth is, I’m afraid of what it means to defy those standards…at least when it comes to my hair. I don’t want people gawking at my head and fondling my strands like I’m one woman petting zoo. I don’t want to constantly defend my tresses to family members. I don’t want to be mocked or painted blue again. There is a part of me that wants to go back to my natural texture, I’m afraid that I can’t do it in a non-provacative way.

My straight hair is a total concession to The Man. It pretty much violates my feminist and anti-oppressive beliefs.  I imagine there are those who see my hair and judge me as lacking the courage of my convictions.   I certainly judge myself that way, at times.  Casting directors have occasionally cited my hair as a barrier to getting film and TV work.  American producers prefer relaxed hair; however they prefer the long, luxurious look of a weave.  Canadian producers, like a little kink; however, it’s typically a longer, looser curl than I can achieve.

The thought of fighting the fight of race and gender on a part of my body I can’t even see unless I look in the mirror is wearying.  I hope someday I’ll find the resolve to ignore the ignorant but I have to admit that I’m not there yet. If relaxed is what it takes for people to relax for the time being I’ll do it and hope that eventually, I’ll it myself straightened out.

Earlier this week, The Bean discovered a bunch condoms in my office, which led to the inevitable question, “What are these for?”

His question was a prime opportunity for me to hone my parenting and sex educatin’ skills. And to make a new video. Check it out here:


 

What unexpected questions have you had to answer about sex? How did it go? Do you have a practice kid? Feel free to share your experience in the comments.

I spent a delightful evening at the thea-tuh earlier this week. My friend Paul invited me to be his date for the opening night of Plosive Production’s In The Next Room: The Vibrator Play. As a former thespian with an ongoing fascination with things that go buzz in the night, I eagerly accepted.

Check out my review below!

 

Hey, peeps!

I’m taking a crack at video blogging (or vlogging as the kids call it). I’m still fumbling my way around the YouTubes, but once I get the hang of things this could work out well. Making videos may be a good fit in the new flow of my impending academic life.  And you guys get to see me in all of my early-morning, un-makeuped glory.

Keepin’ it real, folks…keepin’ it, real.

 

If you want to keep up with all the video fun, boogie on over to YouTube where you can subscribe to my channel and watch this rad video about how hard candy is made!

 

Before I get into stuff, I want to apologize to y’all for my unannounced extended absence. I won’t bore you with the dull details, but sufficed to say life stuff got in the way of blog stuff.

I also apologize, because I’m about to go on a rant. I know it’s kind of shitty when you haven’t seen someone in awhile and then the first thing they do is start complaining. But I’ve got some thoughts that are making my brain itch, so please indulge me while I purge them. I promise to hit you with some fun stuff (and new developments!) super soon, ‘kay?

Let’s get down to brass tacks…

This morning I read an article by Yummy Mummy Club contributor Kat Armstrong. She writes about Jessica Alba’s recent admission that she wore a corset for three months in order to regain her pre-pregnancy figure after her second child was born. In the wake of this revelation, apparel companies are now developing post-partum corsets so that women everywhere can pretend they never gave birth.

Kat’s take is that this is some straight up bullshit. And Yummy Mummy Club founder/editor/all around cool person Erica Ehm agrees.

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I get it. It pissed me off when I read about it too.  The idea that women’s bodies should quickly – or in many cases – ever return to a pre-pregnancy state is awful, body-shaming nonsense. Companies are taking advantage of Alba’s statement to hawk their postpartum corset thingies,  makes me seethe! But it also makes me sad. I tweeted that to Erica Ehm, which led to a brief but interesting discussion:

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I gotta pause for sec here ’cause my inner 12-year-old is having a moment.

 

OMG ERICA EHM TOTALLY TALKED TO ME ON TWITTER!!!

 

As I was saying…

I couldn’t adequately express my thoughts in 140 characters, so I’ll expand on them here. I understand and largely agree with Erica and Kat. As a Hollywood celebrity Jessica Alba is a high-profile woman with a great deal of influence and ultimately she does bear responsibility for her message and her choices. I also wish that Jessica Alba and her privileged Hollywood cohorts would use their power to promote kinder, gentler image standards for their fellow women. But also feel like that’s a lot to expect because despite their wealth and sky-high profiles I suspect that   body-positivity is especially difficult for celebrity women.

I worked as an actor for a good part of my life, including a wee bit of film and television work when I was growing up in Toronto. Even with limited exposure, it became very obvious very quickly that what I looked like mattered as much as – if not more so – than my ability. I was told that in order to work I’d have to “fix” things. My hair was too wild and frizzy. My skin had spots. I once had a casting director tell me that I should lost ten pounds because I was a bit too chunky. “Not for real life. Just for television,” was how she qualified it.

That was my experience as a super, small-time actor and it did a little damage. So I can only imagine the messages someone like Jessica Alba has been receiving about her body as a high-stakes player in billion-dollar image industry.  According to Wikipedia Jessica Alba began working in film and television at thirteen. Imagine that.

 

Like really imagine it.

Imagine being a thirteen-year-old girl going to auditions and being told by casting people, agents, directors and other influential adults that being thin and pretty is part of your job.

Imagine being a teenage girl observing the fucked up reality that in Hollywood getting fat is grounds for being fired.

Imagine being twenty years old and working your ass off as the lead of a television series, but instead of talking about your acting everyone is focused on how hot you look in your costume.

Imagine being a very young woman who’s suddenly very successful, with an agent, a manger and probably a host of other people who are personally invested in keeping you looking a certain way, because their livelihood depends on your ability to get work.

Imagine that every acting job you get come with a big side of mandatory promotional work that is largely about being “hot” and skinny on the cover of various magazines.

Imagine living with the knowledge that if your body changes in any significant way, it will be broadcast worldwide in magazines and on entertainment news shows. Especially if you gain weight.

Imagine feeling that all your money and power is conditional on your ability to look a certain way. And that if you don’t look like that, it would probably get taken away.

Imagine you’ve just had a baby and knowing that the media will be monitoring your “post-baby body”. If you get thin again, you’ll be congratulated. If you don’t, you’ll be crucified. But either way your body is matter of public record and discussion.

So yes, I am angry about Alba’s admission. But the mere fact that she felt this was necessary also makes me feel sad for her. She’s spent more than half of her young life working in an industry that has some pretty fucked up attitudes people’s bodies. It’s not entirely surprising that she places such a high value on regaining a thin figure so soon after having a baby.

Many of us have felt the negative influence of Hollywood and mainstream media standards of beauty. But the people we see in those images have are also being subjected to the same standards, often from a young impressionable age and on a very intense level. It’s no wonder women like Alba resort to extremes in these matter. So while I do share  the rage, I can’t help but feel some bit of compassion as well.

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!