America’s Next Bill Clinton!


Why we have sex …
No, really. I am not crazy, or at least I’ve not yet gone crazy. It’s a legitimate question, based on my reading and research. So, again I ask: what is sex for and why do we have it?

Often, our conversations around sex consist of what we like, the things we are into, and our experiences with it. But rarely is the question asked, “Is our children learning …” no wait, I mean, rarely do we question the purpose of sex. The first question, many of you will recognize, is a Bush question.

In a culture where sex is framed by mass media and pornography, it’s important to ask that question, mainly because popular culture still frames sex as something men earn and women give. In said culture, where the purpose of sex is framed in a sense of pleasure, we see women as the source of pleasure whereas men are the takers of such pleasure. When framed in said mentality, we no longer see women’s roles in sex as one of humans, but rather humans who serve a specific purpose.

As such, said mentality takes away the idea of human connections. We simply see sex as mechanical, and not as an expression between two people. To be absolutely sure, there can be sex without love, and we have all experienced it, but when human connections are taken out of sex, it merely becomes a biological act, and has nothing to do with humanity. Further, it makes us see others as mere vehicles to our attainment of pleasure, rather than human beings with whom we can connect.

Whether we like it or not, sex involves emotions. Yet, within the pornography industry, it’s treated as a mere act. In the end, it teaches us to detach from our human beings. I am not saying every sex act ought to come with love. I am merely saying we need to see others as human beings. Once we see others as merely sex providers, whether paid or not, any feelings or empathy we have for a person is gone. I say this to merely argue the point that until we can see others as humans, with feelings, needs and emotions, the act of prostitution will still be one that views women as providers of pleasure, and not humans. Sex may be great on its own, but we need to recognize that the person from whom we are getting it has feelings and is a human being.

 
With such acknowledgment, we will be kinder and more in touch of that person. In such cases, date rape can certain be prevented. After all, no does not mean no if we do not respect the other person’s feelings as a human being. To be sure, I can be pretty dirty and kinky, but without sounding too cheesy, sex isn’t about just getting yourself off. There is a piece of oneself, a human connection, left in the other person. Despite of what pornography tells us, sex isn’t just sex. That other person is the body parts we like, is a human.

Again, I ask: why do you have sex? What’s it for? Is it merely a way to achieve pleasure, is it a show of mutual adoration, is it to create babies (who am I kidding) is it to show love and reward, or is it a way to attain mutual pleasure with someone you like and respect? By re-defining to purpose for sex, we too re-define how society sees homosexuality. After all, if it’s about mutual respect and culture, then why does it matter what is natural?



America’s rape culture

As many of you know, I’ve been feverishly working on a “gray rape” project for class this semester, and the more research I do, the more I get disappointed with human beings.

Let’s suppose a web-site or company advocates and eroticizes murdering people, you’d have a problem with it, right? Even if it advocated the murders of animals, I am sure you’d all have a problem with it.

There are no web-sites of such …a google search for “murder pictures” shows the first website is an anti-choice website that shows abortion pictures. That’s pathetic, but that’s another story on its own.

But let’s do this: a quick search of “rape pictures” turn up this: http://rapeu.com/ (trigger warnings of all kinds. Please use caution.)

Now, in the US, child pornography is illegal. Even “cyber child pornography,” which denotes photoshopped pictures of legal adults onto the faces of children, is illegal. The law is this way to protect children from being exploited and their lives from being ruined.

Yet, web-sites like these are legal? I absolutely don’t get it. By that logic, a woman is only protected under the law (by this, I mean protection as people and not merely “women”) until she’s 18, and then she’s thrown to the wolves, no longer owns her bodies, and can be the subject of rape? If it makes sense that fake child pornography is illegal because while it does not hurt anyone, it promotes a culture of children exploitation, then why is it that we are okay with promoting a culture of rape?

It’s no wonder people think of rape as a violent act that happens only in the night, committed by some stranger. Rape does not have to involve violence. Just because he says “I love you” after sex without consent does not mean it’s not rape. Just because dude bought you dinner does not mean it’s not rape if you say no.

These websites not only promote violent rape, but they also, at the same time, presuppose the idea of what “rape” actually means. Not only does it decriminalizes non-violent rape, it also eroticizes violent rape.

What does this mean? It means if you’re a woman living in America, your body and sexuality aren’t owned by you. It’s owned by a culture that’s making money promoting your rape, the violations of your bodies, and telling everyone that these are perfectly okay because, after all, they are fantasies.

The more I spend researching and in academia, the more I angry I become. Feminism is supposed to make us more compassionate and loving, but the more of this shit I see, the more pissed off I get.

Maybe I am doing something wrong.



“Are you a feminist?”

I am a journalist for the military – that’s how I make my living. Telling people’s stories is how I earn the money for feminist conferences – and to go to school.

My career has taken me places – both while I was in the military and now – where I’d written stories of young women and men being brought to a dark and hopeless place – war – that many, sadly, never returned.

I’ve written stories that touched lives and made people cry. I’ve written “fluff,” a term used in our circle to describe stories that raise morale and make people happy.

Today, perhaps, I asked the one question that made me proudest – a question that, when I was given the answer, touched me as none other ever did.

March is Women’s History Month – and in keeping with the Department of Defense’s guidelines to celebrate various months of diversity, my employers put together a panel of “successful women,” and in front of their hundreds of collogues, told the stories of how they became successful in a male dominated society.

The one-hour event culminated with a question-and-answer session from the audience. I am in the front row, studiously taking notes. Yet, to my disappointment, not a single soul mentioned the F-word in the one-hour session.

I was appalled because one woman related the following story when asked to relate a “funny” story about a woman living in a male-dominated organization.

“After I was hired, I was told that I was hired because I had the nicest legs out of all 15 candidates,” she said. The audience laughed. I was disgusted.

I raised my hand – it was, after all, a Women’s History Month panel – and to let it go by without addressing feminism – a major, if not single, contributor to the empowerment of women would be a travesty.

“How much do you think your successes are a result of feminism – and would you consider yourself a feminist?” I screamed from my front row seat.

I’ve asked a lot of tough questions in my career – and I didn’t consider this question to be tough. It should have been an easy answer.

Yet, the panel members sat there and stared back. One could almost hear a pin drop were it not for the murmurs of the audience. Apparently, I asked a controversial question.

“I’ll take the question,” said a kind woman on the panel. She is a doctor and a librarian – and we have a certain connection in that she is friends with my professors – and a member and major contributor to the Friends of Women’s Studies program at my school.

She continued: “When I went to the University of Michigan, it was at the height of the Vietnam War. I was raised at home to believe I can do anything I wanted to. I got the same things at Michigan. This was when feminism was at its early stages.

“I believe the actions, writings, commitment and passion of the early feminists opened many fields. I owe my life to feminism, and yes, I am a feminist. But I want you to know feminism isn’t just for women. Not only women should be feminists – but anyone who cares about the betterment of the world and give people opportunity can be a feminist,” she concluded.

It was beautiful. I grinned. In front of the hundreds and hundreds of military personnel, this woman had the courage to stand up and identify herself as a feminist. In front of a patriarchal society in which the word “feminism” is frowned on more than the other F word, she told the world she is a feminist.

Perhaps with her answer, the kind librarian – one who I’ve looked up to for guidance and conversations, changed a few minds. Perhaps she’s made people see that feminism isn’t about men-hating, it isn’t about not shaving your legs, and it isn’t about women taking over in a society.

It’s about women empowerment. It’s about the deconstruction of masculinity. It’s about creating a level playing field so that we may all have the same opportunity.

After the panel, I walked up to her and shook her hand. “Thank you for that answer – you made my day,” I told her.

Perhaps more than making my day, she also made history – in changing the minds of some people – those, who, for too long have had a misconception about feminism.



Elliot Spitzer, prostitutes and feminism.

Yet another politician caught red-handed; yet another media circus talking about infidelity, with “relationship experts” who give women advice of how to “keep their men”; yet, another case of a high-profiled sex worker being harassed day and night because of “weakness” of a politician. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that in cases like these, sex workers are treated like freak shows. Their personal lives at probed; the media camps outside of their homes for days at a time; their pictures splattered all over the Internet. Yet, the focus of the issue, the talk of the town, isn’t about her. It’s not about her plight. It’s about the impact this has on politics.

The issues the matter to people are not Kristen, whose service Elliot Spitzer sought, but rather, Spitzer himself. 

There will be discussions about Spitzer’s hypocrisies; there will be dialogue but how this has an effect on progressive politics; and Republicans and back-stabbing Democrats alike will ask for his resignation. The Republicans will call for Spitzer’s resignation because having sex outside of marriage, with a sex worker, at that, is “immoral.”

Yet, they don’t realize the immoral thing here is to ignore the dialogue about sex workers, and what brought them to become high-priced prostitutes. There is a victim to every story. In this case, Kristen is the victim – someone who, because of the failures of an andro-centric society, became just a part of the system.

She left home at 17, became a dancer, and eventually turned into a sex worker.  Yet, her story isn’t told. The lives of sex workers aren’t explored. That politicians are exploiting the plights of the very people they’re supposed to be fighting for isn’t talked about.  

Yes, her face will be splashed across your newspapers and internet sites. She will receive millions of hits on her myspace page. She will become an instant celebrity overnight – but no matter how you slice it, the media’s treatment of her is similar to the treatment of an object – a show. She’s something to be taken pictures of, examined and probed. Her story will never be told. Her voice will more than likely not be heard. What questions she is asked by the media won’t be about what brought her to doing sex work, or the lives and conditions of sex workers, but rather, her interactions with Spitzer. Unimportant questions to unimportant issues.
 

Isn’t it time we change the dialogue? Isn’t it time we put women’s issues first? Isn’t it time we give voices to women – even if said woman is “just a 22-year-old prostitute?” 

When we give something a voice, we give it power; we give its stories values; we bring forth the experiences from the viewpoints of the subjugated. Let’s give this woman a voice.

Let’s tell stories from her experiences. Let’s focus on the real victim here. Until we do, until we bring her story to light, it’ll be the same old shit again. Patriarchy. Aren’t we sick and tired of that?



Pet names, women and feminism …

I bring this up because I’ve noticed that it happens a lot – and also, because I find it very annoying and just plain …rude and stupid.

Not only at bars, but I’ve noticed this in just day-to-day life, too. One can blame it on being from the South, and thus there is a certain vernacular that one follows. I am sorry, for your so-called “culture” is not an excuse for putting women down.

What I am talking about is when men refer to women – and often times the more good-looking ones, as “sugar,” “baby,” “honey,” “hottie,” or whatever. Every one of those terms, with the exception of maybe “honey,” is not acceptable, not even in a relationship.

People have names and ought to be recognized as such. When we give name to something, we give it power. Men who refer to these women in said terms are engaging and recognize them not based on their individuality, but rather, the characteristics that they value women for. Yet, without those characteristics, women are devalued, and reduced to less than a human being.

I find it offensive because it takes away the individuality of women. Rather than seeing women as human beings, those people strip to women down to just their bodies, and nothing else.

Just as it’s politically incorrect to refer to one as “the black dude,” or “the fat chick,” it’s also inappropriate for one to refer to a woman or man (but this often times happens to women) based on their sexualities and their “goodies.” This, essentially makes women look like objects, and vehicles for men’s pleasures, rather than as people. It’s as if to say, “the only reason I am addressing you because you are hot.”

If anyone can appreciate a woman’s body, it’s me. But to be truthful, one can appreciate that without being the owner of it. One can do that without reducing women down to a piece of meat. One can do so without taking away the identities of women.

If it’s true that it’s a matter of convenience for some of these people, why is it that a woman is never referred to as “beautiful mind,” or “smart girl,” or whatever else? Why is it that when women are addressed, it always comes down to their bodies?

It bothers me, and I feel like addressing the issue every time I hear it, especially when it’s a stranger talking to a woman. Although “hottie” and such bother me, “baby” bothers me even more. She is not a baby. She is a grown woman with her own thoughts, dreams and mind.

I remember one time, when I was younger and much more tempermental, I was at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport and a steak stand, and some old guy called the woman serving her “baby.”

I was in uniform then, but turned around and gave him a stern warning – anymore of that shit and I’d shove my fist down his throat. He looked at me, said something about the younger generation being rude, and walked away.

There is more to a woman than her body, and she should be referenced as such – preferably by her name. I remember once, when I was briefly seeing a someone who had really big breasts, a friend referred to her as the “big-titted girl.” I almost punched him. Not out of jealousy, but because there was more to her than her breasts.



If I were a woman …

I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter if I had fuller breasts and long, golden hair that ran out my head, I wouldn’t make a very nice woman.

It doesn’t matter if you give me a uterus, or different sets of chromosomes, or even if you made me smell nicer, or stay cleaner, I wouldn’t make a nice woman.

Hell, give me my own vagina, with its own well-built system of reproduction and centers of pleasure, and I’d still wouldn’t make a very nice woman.

I know this because I know that by the time I am 12 or 13, I will hate men.

I wouldn’t hate them for their biology; I’d hate them for their ways to looking at me.

I’d hate them for their leery eyes and roaming hands – and the way they refer to me, not by my name, but as “hottie,” “sexy,” “babe,” or a myriad of other nicknames used to objectify me.

I would hate them for blaming my anger and attitude on my being “on the rag,” when in fact it is their ways of treating me that makes me angry.

I would hate that they holler at me as I walk down the street. What, should I come over there, drop my pants and jump their bone?

I would hate that if I bring up anything that makes me upset about them, I am being a whiny bitch.

I would hate them for treating me like a princess, but instantly call me a bitch if I were to turn down their sexual advances.

I would hate them for looking at me at a vehicle for their pleasure, and not as my own complete person.

Even in their compliments, I’d hate them for pre-supposing that just because I am a smart girl, that I am unique.

I’d most definitely have trouble trusting them – for I would never knew if one was genuine, or came from a long line of those trying to get in my pants

I would hate them for not knowing what the word “no” means. It doesn’t mean continuing to pursuit me. It doesn’t mean I am playing coy. It means you’re probably a dumbass and I am not interested in you.

I would hate them for roaming at bars, even when I am talking to my friends, trying to break in to our conversations. Leave me alone! I am here with friends!

I would hate the drinks they offer as a way to “break the ice,” as if somehow I am a prostitute and they are buying my time with drinks

I hate them because they control the media and images of me are distorted to be the way THEY see it

I would hate them because images of my body are spread everywhere – some of which are mutilated, as a way to promote their products

I would hate the porn industry. I would hate the pressure they put on me to act “accordingly.”

I would hate that I cannot be myself, but have to compare myself to unrealistic standards.

I would hate the make-up, the shoes and everything else that I need for a job interview just to be successful.

I would hate that I must always be perfect, but perfection is not good enough. I am encouraged to diet more, look better, lose more weight.

I would hate that I am robbed of all that is me – that I am made out to be what the patriarchy wants me to be. I would hate not being my own person.

But, thankfully, I am not a woman. I am a man, full of privileges and free to live my life as I see fit. I am still raging mad.

I am mad that my friends, sisters, loved ones, potential lovers and future daughters are subjected to shit they’d never think of doing to a man.

I am piss-hot the people I love are viewed as objects and not people.

I am upset that most people don’t empathize with the people I love.

But thankfully, I am a man. If a were a woman, I wouldn’t make a very nice one. By 14, I think I’d be in jail for murder.



Of love and masculinity

For the last few weeks, I’ve become more interested in exploring the theories of masculinity in feminism. This came after charges were brought up that I was still hanging on to male privilege – and that my tendency to compete, be violent and even my ambition to grab power and go into politics are signs of male privilege. Because of that, I will be exploring male privilege and masculinity a lot in my notes.

 

One thing I’ve noticed a lot – sometimes in my own life, but in other men’s lives, is their reaction to a rejection of love – and how, no matter how genuine they were in wanting to get to know someone, a rejection drives them into showing their masculinity.

It is, as if, a rejection of love is a challenge to their “manhood” and masculinity – speaking volumes of their maleness when they are rejected. More over, it also says something – coming from a male perspective, that they’re not manly enough and that they don’t have what it takes.

The rejected man, his ego and self emasculated, takes it upon himself then, to re-energize his manhood. How does he do this? He does this by being a womanizer. This does not always have to be about sex – but sometimes does include it. He has to prove to himself (not to others because the rest of the world probably doesn’t know or doesn’t give a damn) that, much like Stacy’s Mom, he still has it going on.

He has to prove to his close circle of friends that he still has it. That he can still get women – even if it just means them falling for him, and him rejecting them. This reinforces his masculinity and ability to attract women. I am not a fan of evolutionary psychology, but I think that there’s some truths hidden in that idea when mixed with masculinity.

This brings up a paradox: if women are seen as less than men, and if what is “feminine” – or belonging to women – is considered negativity, then why does a man, in his manhood, need a woman to elevate his status and to make him feel good about himself?

The reason I bring this up is that I am beginning to realize that masculinity can hurt us all. It hurts us in that our relationships and interactions aren’t defined by who we truly love or care for, but rather, how does our interaction with that person make us feel? Further, it also opens doors to less-than-desirable relationships, in which the purpose isn’t to nurture and to share and to love, but to boost one’s ego.Also – in such cases, the victims are also the women who fall for men who feel like they need to be with these women to feel boost their masculinity. When come to find out that they’re not in it for the love, but rather, their status, women are hurt.

Moreover – it does make one wonder: did this man want to get into the relationship with the original and supposedly true object of his affection because he truly felt something for her, or was it just to boost his masculinity?

Love, after all, isn’t defined by how you react if your romantic advances are welcomed. It’s how you react if your romantic gestures have been turned down.



I am not a feminist, but …

Really, why are some young women so reluctant to identify themselves as feminists?

We met in a women’s bathroom at a gay club. A few friends and I had gone to an AIDS fundraiser earlier that night, and decided to drop by the Wave for drinks. Having to go to the bathroom and a bit sloshed, I announced that I had to pee. Someone suggested that I used the women bathroom instead, because I was considered “fresh meat” for one reason or another in the men’s bathroom.

A friend was nice enough to walk me into the women’s bathroom, and there I met and shook hands (after we both washed of course) with a nice young woman from VCU. After about an hour of meeting and talking to her in the bathroom, I ran into her again. She was extremely attractive, so I continued our conversation.

Upon minding out I am a women’s studies major and feminist, she said, “I am not a feminist, but …” and started listing a long list of reasons for women’s rights.

In my extremely fogged up mind, I recalled an article I’d read as a freshman in my women’s studies class called, “Feminism: Why Young Women Get the Willies.”

If I can recall correctly, the reason for it is that young women are afraid of the stigma that comes with feminism – the image of bra-burning, man-hating, armpit-non-shaving, head-shaving, dyke. They were, as the article said, also afraid that they had to give up their sexuality for feminism – that, somehow, calling oneself a feminist means that one could no longer love a member of the opposite sex.

So, why is it, I still wonder, that so many young college women are afraid of being labelled as feminists? I contend that it’s because of the above false image of feminists – that somehow feminists are strange creatures; we hate sex; we hate men (I do, anyway); and we hate anything that’s normal.

While I hold these beliefs to be false, my question is this: even if they were true, so what?

Take away those actions and behaviors and feminism is left with love, compassion, empathy, equality and a sense of responsibility, in making the world a better place. What’s so bad about it?

Yet, time and time again, I run across women (and men) who take feminist positions, but never want to describe themselves as feminists for fear of shame.

The truth is you should never be ashamed of your work in trying to make the world a better place. You should never have to apologize for the desire to work toward equality and social justice. In fact, you ought to be very proud of it. I am proud of you for it.

The next time the conversation comes up, proudly and emphatically claim yourself as a feminist – and answer with a loud and resounding “Yes,” if anyone ever asked you whether you are a feminist.

Bill Clinton was right when he said, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what’s right with America.” You are everything that’s right with America.

On that note – I want a “This Is What A I-Am-Not-A-Feminist But looks like” t-shirt. 😀



Feminist relationships.

Over at feministing.com, Jessiva Valenti posted the results of a study that suggested feminists, more often than not, are in more meaningful and satisfying relationships. My first reaction was: no shit – for us, the political is personal, and so our empathy, compassion and love in the political sense can translate into a person sense, thus we often treat our partners with with those traits.

But allow me to bring up another point. Sometimes, in a relationship in which we are both feminists, things can also be extremely frustrating, because we are aware of the political oppressions all around us. As feminists, we thrive to take personal actions that are consistent with our political beliefs, and as such, it can be frustrating sometimes. Because the personal is political and our world is still extremely gendered and patriarchy, and are based on gender roles and sexuality, most of our personal struggles are about relationships and sexuality.

But by no way am I bitching. The personal struggles we face and the questions we ask ourselves are nothing compared to the political struggles many have – especially the women of the Global South.

The following, then, are a list of question I’ve come up with when it comes to relationships and feminism; please feel free to add yours.
1) Is it for me to feel a sexual desire for a woman at the moment of meeting her, without first knowing her as a person? I actually thought of this last night while meeting with a woman at a bar and talking a lot about — nothing. I still felt strangely sexually attracted to her, caught myself and scolded myself.

2) Is it okay for me to buy flowers for a woman-of-interest, knowing the kinds of message flowers might send, and the reinforcement of gender roles and chivalry that it carries? Also – is it really the romantic and genuine gesture, knowing the plights of flower growers in South America (mostly women) where these flowers are shipped? Am I wrong for buying flowers?

3) At a pick-up joint, is it okay to feel like “the man” in having won the attention and affection of a beautiful woman, knowing that she is highly sought after, but is with me? I feel like it’s almost a trophy pick-up – and that is wrong.

4) Is it okay to fall deeply and dangerously in love with someone, knowing the implications of gender roles we might have to give in to, being so in love?

5) Just how adventuous and kinky can we afford to be in our sexual practices? What of roleplaying? Is it wrong to be turned on or to participate in consentual sexual practices, if said practices, in real life, are oppressive to women?

6) Whose names shall we take after the wedding? How do we go about doing this without appearing abnormal to families and friends? How do we remain true to our feminist values, yet remain “real” to the world at the same time?

7) Of diamonds, shall we even consider it for our wedding? Blood diamonds?

8) How do we juggle how much to fall in love, yet remain true to the feminist cause? How do we balance our devotion to each other and feminism at the same time?

9) How do we show our love and affection to each other, yet at the same, show the world that we are equals – and be the shining examples of what healthy relationships should be all about?

A book that doesn’t have all the answers – but rather highlights the struggles between the personal and the political of feminism is called, “To Be Real,” by Rebecca Walker. I highly recommend it to all feminists!



Sex toys for $10,000????!?!?

Over at Jessica Valenti’s feministing.com, a discussion regarding Charlie Sheen and Real Life dolls are taking place – and I couldn’t help but do it as well. 

I found this both amusing and a little creepy – so I thought I’d share it, since it is Friday and things ought to be lighthearted.

Now, I am all for sex aide or sex toys or whatever you want to use to enhance your sex lives, but this is pretty weird (www.realdoll.com). It’s a life-size doll made of silicon and latex and crap that feels real, and is used as sex partners for (mostly men) who otherwise wouldn’t be getting any action.

It comes with a built-in skeleton as to allow the owner to put it into any position desired. There’s also an MP3 player that’ll make the doll moan and such …I guess in this case, the only “button” to push to turn her on is …well, the “on” button. It also comes with a heating system that’ll bring the doll’s temperature up to 98.6 degrees.

The intent of this, for many men, of course is to get the perfect partner without having to do the leg work. It’s all the “sex” you want without ever hearing no, or having to hear her talk or negotiate mutually pleasurable activities.

Nevermind the fact that every person has some sort of a short-coming and no one is perfect. In this fantasy world for these men, women will behave whoever they want, look as good as they want, without any of the reality of what a woman really is.

As one man says of the dolls: “For the most part, it’s just like sex with an organic woman…who doesn’t say anything and is brimful of Quaaludes.” I don’t know what the rest of the quote meant, but one can stop after the word “anything” and know what kinds of people these men are.

But it gets worst! Some of these dolls are made into the shapes of teenagers or sometimes even younger. What’s going to be included in the MP3 player, a soundbite of the doll singing the Barney song?

From a feminist perspective, it’s probably a good thing, because so long as they have their robotic lovers, these men won’t be going out and trying to mate with women. Results? No babies! Honestly, because people like these shouldn’t be raising kids.

Another point, too, is that this quite effectively ends the debate of whether women are golddiggers and will only have sex with rich men. If these guys are shelling out $10,000 for a doll, they’re pretty rich, okay? So, why are they having to buy a doll instead of just courting one of those “golddiggers?” Oh, yeah, because golddigers don’t exist – only men using that idea as an excuse for not getting laid.

Thoughts?