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Urban Fantasy’s Hammer

While the high fantasy and sci-fi genres still seem to be dominated by male authors (with a few notable exceptions, of course), in the urban fantasy world, there are some interesting things going on in that age old gender war. People sometimes underestimate the power and social influence that books and television exert over the world. For instance, before Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the idea of a female hero (not a heroine, not someone who seemed strong until they needed to beef up a macho man and have him swoop in to save her) was unfathomable in the mainstream media. Buffy Summers paved the way for protagonists like Veronica Mars and others who flooded in after her.

I was reading my Twitter feed yesterday, and there was a little trend of hashtags inspired by Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, entitled Things Anita Blake Taught Me. Here are some that stood out to me:

“It’s okay to have wild monkey sex with more than one man at one time. Rawr!”

“Being a woman — and a petite one at that — doesn’t mean shit. Stand up for yourself!”

“Loving two men is okay.”

“A woman can be tough, carry a gun, be beautiful, smart — can be herself and still have lots of men want her.”

“It’s okay to date men who are prettier than you are.”

“Being a bad ass and being a woman are not mutually exclusive.”

“It’s easier to live in a man’s world if they secretly suspect you can kick their asses.”

“It’s too much of a burden to saddle men with always being the strong ones, just as it’s too much to saddle women with being the weak ones.”

Some people might argue that Anita Blake is oversexualized, but I am going to step out on the edge of the sword and say that she is an empowering figure. How many millions of times have we seen the man with his gaggle of women? How many references to men being more bad ass, more sexy, stronger, more manly for having more sexual partners, yet women are sluts and whores?

The power comes in because writers like Laurell Hamilton and Charlaine Harris are lending a hammer to the glass divider between the sides of that double standard, blurring the Madonna-Whore complex and showing that women can be sexual, can have multiple partners, and still be strong, confident, intelligent, and competent. It’s not the shattering blow yet, but there are cracks appearing, and that gives me hope.

 

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Connect the Dots

I couldn’t think of anything creative for the title of this post; forgive me.

I also cannot think of a better way to start the day after a workout than a shower in the rain.  Yep.  I have been trying to get into some actual workouts after pretty much just counting on my job to keep me losing weight — and it started pouring right as I finished.

It was the first chill rain of the autumn season.  I let nature wash off the sweat and cool me off.  I love rain water.  I honestly believe it’s one of the cleanest feeling kinds of water in the world.  It makes my skin silky and smooth.  It’s lovely.  And out of sheer curiosity — okay, I got caught up in the moment a little — I put a bowl outside to collect some of this water and I tasted it.  Yeah, I know, I know, pollution-blah-blah-acid rain-blah-various sounds of horror-blah, but it tasted fresh and earthy, sort of the way mist smells.  It tasted like a cloud.  Or at least how I would imagine a cloud to taste.

Please don’t judge me.  I realize my coworkers have informally voted me the most likely to do something no one else would do, or be different.  Which is a pleasant way of saying I’m weird.  I’m okay with that.  I self-actualized with my weirdness long ago, so stuff it.

Besides, not many people can say they’ve tasted the rain.  So there.

I’m going to ungracefully segue into the other topic that has been on my mind for a while now.  It has to do with love and relationships (surprise!).  What I’ve been pondering is the whole Big Picture thing.  The Big Picture gets a lot of good press.  Forest through the trees and all that.  Being able to see the Big Picture is a usually touted as a good thing.  But is it always?

I think of a successful relationship as a giant connect-the-dots picture.  Sure, you can look at the Big Picture, imagine how everything is going to turn out, and it might be beautiful.  But as with all connect-the-dots, the picture doesn’t fully emerge until you’ve drawn all the lines.  Each dot could represent something for you, something special.  That first electric glance.  The first kiss.  The day you confess your love.  When you exchange your keys.  When you move in together.  When the answer to the question is yes.  The wedding.  The additions to the family.  First home.  All of those special, magical moments are dots.

But here’s the thing.  Those dots are part of the big picture, but you know what takes up more of it?  The lines you draw between them.  The days when nothing really “special” happens.  It’s the daily grind, the waking up each morning, the nights you just hang in your pajamas and watch movies, the days you’re exhausted after work.  It’s showing your love in hundreds of tiny ways, in late night texts or just stopping by because you can.  It’s finding vibrancy and joy every day. It’s every goodnight kiss and every whiff of morning breath.

And that’s the good stuff.  That’s the foundation you build for those pinnacle moments.  If you don’t have the foundation, the pinnacles will crumble away and fall, and your beautiful Big Picture will just…fade into nothing, incomplete.

The true beauty of a Big Picture for me is knowing that together we made it.  That we painstakingly drew each line from dot to dot, hand in hand, together.  As a couple, as friends, as lovers, as companions. The true beauty of the Big Picture can only be seen because of the brush strokes that made it.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Crazy Pills

I have been doing a lot of thinking today.  This thinking was catalyzed by the fact that I pretty much have had two major freakouts in the past week, both of which, disturbingly, possess no real basis or logic to them.  Yes, I have been under a lot of stress this year.  Yes, my life is kind of a mess.  However, people have noted — and i agree — that lately, i have had the majorly unattractive tendency to zoom in on small things, which magnifies them to the point that they completely take over my entire field of vision, and then i panic and freak.  That’s not normal for me, and it’s kind of disturbing.

I also think I know what’s causing it, or at least what is exacerbating what, under normal circumstances, is a rather benign tendency that I am perfectly capable of talking myself down from.  I think I am actually taking crazy pills.  By crazy pills, I mean Ortho-Cept, which is a form of hormonal birth control.  It’s pretty high in estrogen, which can cause moodiness, and I really think there is a good chance that this is what is causing the massive apocalyptic freakouts.

The reason I think it’s this is simply because I went off the Ortho-Cept for about 6-8 weeks due to the fact that I thought it could be causing me to have high blood pressure and abdominal pain, and my doctor recommended I stop taking it.  During those weeks, I didn’t have a single unexplained tearfest, no blowouts, no inconsolable black moods.  I went back on it 3 weeks ago because the blood pressure and pain stuff turned out to be from my job (whee), and since then my moods have been insane.  I actually feel crazy.

So I’m going to ask my doctor for a prescription pill that contains significantly less estrogen.  I’ve gotten a couple recommendations from people, and I think that it’s worth a shot.

If you read this, what do you think?  What has your experience been with hormonal birth control?  If you’re a dude, but know women who have dealt with this stuff, what’s your take?

I gotta say, being a chick kind of sucks in terms of reproduction.  Not only are we the ones who get to go through labor pains, but we spend about half our lives actively trying not to get pregnant, which involves the use of crazy-making hormones, stuff stuck in our uterus, and/or surgery.  Torture.  I wish there was an off switch.  I do not want to be nuts — it freaks out my boyfriend, and then I feel worse, because he deserves a happier me.

beltane

and may dawns, yet again.

the celts revered balance, transformation, in-between states.  samhain, known to most of the 21st century folk as halloween or all hallow’s eve, is the transformation from summer’s bounty to the dormant earth of winter, a time when the dead are near and the veil between worlds thins.  its mirror, beltane, celebrates the dawning of spring and the renewal of life in the earth.  the symbols of beltane are fire, sensuality, flowers, colorful ribbons, youth, and a maypole.  the renewal of life requires acknowledgment and celebration of sexuality — the tradition of the maypole is an unveiled symbol of this union.  a sapling (being a phallic object) was brought forth from the forest and then placed into a hole in the earth, which, aside from that overtly feminine image, also carries the sense of the earth as a bringer of life.  the youth would then dance around this symbol with colored ribbons to celebrate the dawning of new life as seasons turn again.

beltane has often been known as a celebration of sexuality; in fact, the old tradition of gathering wildflowers on may’s eve was known for turning into an unbridled time of sex, which in my opinion is a celebration of life in and of itself.  sex is a sacred thing, a holy thing.  something to be enjoyed and celebrated.  and what better time for it than spring?

i’ve always been drawn to celtic spirituality, perhaps because of the sheer practicality of the symbolism and the simple beauty of celebrating and acknowledging the seasons of life and death and the harmony that exists there.  the celts were a people full of vitality and reverence for pleasure and life, as well as respectful of the natural passing of death.

this beltane, i’m watching for new life and celebrating my own.  it is a season of renewal, of cleansing fire, and the joy of bounty.  it is a time of love and growth.

this beltane, i’m watching as the sky begins to lighten and thinking about the power of creating life.  i’ve been noticing babies lately; my sister is also pregnant with her 6th child.  i was talking about babies and pregnancy enough that my boyfriend asked me if i was pregnant (i’m not).  i’m not ready to have children, but lately i’ve been dwelling on the marvel of creating new life.  i’ve been struck by the honest truth that in my body, there are bits of me that will someday result in my children.  in a way, i already have them in me — the potential is there.  i find myself thinking about them, wondering who they will be.  wondering if they’ll know me when i first look into their eyes.  knowing that they will be perfect.  there is an inherent beauty in the simplicity of this…new life.  all the complexities of existence and the trials and heartaches of living go hushed when i think how simple it is, how wondrous a thing it is that one cell can meet one other cell and cause life to blossom.  what an amazing thing.

right now my skin is clean and soft, scrubbed with salts and mint and rosemary oils.  birds sing outside my window, and there is warmth on the breeze.  i’m ready to celebrate life today.

joyous beltane, everyone.

Protected: a question for the womenfolk

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or maybe we could go somewhere and eat a bunch of caramels

after the post-modernist revelation that was my blog from last night, i figured i would maybe write something ever-so-slightly more concrete.

i have a lot of friends expressing various degrees of angst about the dating world lately.  i have my own general gripes as well, but in recent days, i’ve had a lot of people coming to me, teeth gritted, slightly growly, going off on how they don’t understand this, that, or the other,  so i thought i would maybe try to boil some of that down into word soup.  better yet, a nice, reduced stock word demi-glace.   some of this is my own confusion, but most of that is just barely sprinkled in amongst the recent traumas of my social circle.  so on that lovely note, chew on some parsley, and bon apetit.

oddly enough, the main complaint i’ve heard recently (sometimes from my own mouth) is that no one seems to have a clue what it all means.  are we alone in this confusion?  is there some dating handbook that explains all this ridiculous terminology to the uneducated masses?  if so, i think a lot of us missed the sign-up sheet for the mailing list.  what does it mean to be dating someone versus seeing someone?  when does that magically transform into coupledom?  if the point of dating is to get to know someone, what do you do if you already know that person?

it’s all very confusing.

another major gripe i’ve heard recently has been about games.  and not the tiddlywinks sorts of games, either.   a friend told me earlier today that the guy she likes has been “claimed” by a girl at church.  that word alone made me perk up my ears and twitch an eyebrow.   last weekend, this girl (who is actually a 27-year-old woman, for shame) turned around and informed my friend that she was going to the upcoming dance, and this guy was “taken” — and that my friend would have to “find her own date.”  (the irony of the locale of this exchange shouldn’t escape you)

i sat there in startled shock for a moment before composing my elegant reaction of “?!?!?!?!?!”  followed by  “WHAT.”

really?  she said that?  who says that?  i mean, who beyond the hordes or hormone-induced cattiness that are made up of pubescent pre-teens.  but a 27-year-old woman?  really?  my head is reeling.  are human beings musical chairs now?  “sorry, this one’s taken.”  *smug smile*  it’s about as emotionally mature as saying, “i got there first,” with a “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” thrown in for good measure.

it’s a game.  a nasty game, at that.  she obviously went out of her way to try to get my friend to back off — something rather funny, considering my friend is hardly the type to throw herself at someone.  in addition to this one incident, apparently this girl has also “fake-married” this guy to stake her claim (again, musical chairs…apparently).  to use an internet meme…wtf.  actually, all that merits having it spelled out.  what.  the.  fuck.

maybe the subtleties of the female species elude me.  odd, because, you know.  i am one.  maybe i’m just more direct than most.  i personally think it’s better to just lay my cards on the table rather than slip poison into someone’s martini or bare my claws at the slightest sign of competition.  a lot of my friends are the same way as i am.

are the women who act like that really that insecure?   because to me, that’s what it says.  they see a threat, so they bare their claws and try to make the threat go away, hoping to get a rise out of the competition.  i think it’s probably because they know, on some deeper level, that they’re not going to get what they want.  i suppose sometimes they do get it, but even if the men in question are spared the barbs of these little exchanges, they’re not stupid, and they’ll probably see glimpses of cattiness through the facade.

i think it says an awful lot about the women willing to say something like that to someone, beyond insecurity even.  they obviously don’t feel confident.  but beyond that, they need to win.  farther, it seems to me that they need to put someone else down to feel better about themselves.  no one could tell me words like that wouldn’t sting — so they have to know damn well what they’re doing.

personally, if you have to resort to telling someone to back off like that for absolutely no reason, completely out of the blue, it shows you think the other person is a threat — probably because they sense the other person isn’t that into them.  for me, i don’t want to date anyone who doesn’t want to date me.  which is a mind-bending concept, i know.  but really.  when it becomes only about “winning,” people really start missing the point.  the point being finding someone you connect with who you want to have as a part of your life and be a part of theirs as well.

i’ll be the first to admit i’m not perfect.  i have my hang-ups like everyone else does.  i might be too blunt.  i tend to just blurt things out and then feel really awkward half the time.  but in my memory, i’ve never done anything like that to someone else.  and i wouldn’t.  it’s rather beyond catty and into mean-spirited, i think.  and in my book, that’s just really not okay.

i think it all boils down to communication.  a while back, i wrote a long post on honesty.  i think people are afraid to say what they think, because they’re afraid of getting hurt.  there’s a certain vague comfort in the agony of not knowing.  if you take that step out there on that limb and actually ask for what you want (god forbid) or say how you feel (the horror!), you risk rejection.  which is painful.  and scary.  but ask yourself this — if you like this person that much, first of all, one would hope that they’re worth the risk; second, if they don’t feel the same way, don’t you want to know so you can move on?

all of that said, i just don’t get it. the whole dating world is full of mysterious games and odd rituals.  you go out five times and you’re a couple — or something — at some point it’s “exclusive,” there’s probably sex in there somewhere, and you spend more time asking your friends what the hell is happening or how it’s gonna go than you do talking to the person you’re trying to smush your life together with.  it’s that pesky communication thing again.  no wonder we’re all messy.  there’s a reason we euphemize talking things out as “clearing the air.”

the people who have been coming to me with these stories lately are pretty straightforward people themselves — they’re doing their best to communicate and are running into brick walls right and left.  or, in one case, just minding her own business only to have someone stab her with a salad fork.  like i said, it’s all very confusing.  and apparently violent.  and, as will says in good will hunting, really pretty arbitrary.  it might be a necessary sort of arbitrary; i don’t know.  but to me, all the bizarre and inane dating concepts rather elude my grasp.

so that kind of brings me to say fuck it.  i just want somebody i can go somewhere and eat a bunch of caramels with.

Skylar: Maybe we could go out for coffee sometime?
Will: Great, or maybe we could go somewhere and just eat a bunch of caramels.
Skylar: What?
Will: When you think about it, it’s just as arbitrary as drinking coffee.
Skylar: [laughs] Okay, sounds good.

(quotes from good will hunting)

EDIT:  apparently my friends and i are not alone in our confusion due to dating nomenclature — a quick google search comes up with several confused forums trying to suss it out.  it seems like most people have their own ideas of what the hell everything means.  makes my caramel idea sound pretty good, doesn’t it?  screw the terminology.  i’m just along for the ride.

and just for all of your giggling pleasure, here’s some dating terminology humor.

sex: abstinence only “education”

after a lot of thought last night, i decided that maybe i won’t wait till a later date to address my thoughts on abstinence-only.  in fact, my blog might be taken over by sex for a week or so while i get all this stuff out of my system.  🙂

let’s get started, shall we?

abstinence-only sex education.  this is the practice of teaching children to wait until marriage to have sex.  and…that’s about it.

on paper, that sounds okay.  sound enough for government work (which, especially under bush, it has been).  there’s one problem.  it doesn’t work.

i’m going to say that again.  it.  doesn’t.  work.

i’m going to expand that thesis to the following:  abstinence-only sex education is an irresponsible failure to our adolescents.  and now i’m going to tell you why.

abstinence-only sex ed fails — consistently. a recent study showed that 95% of Americans have sex before marriage.(1)  waiting until marriage is simply not the societal norm — and moreover, it hasn’t been for decades.  in fact, even before the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s, most people had sex before marriage.  research shows that these numbers are relatively unchanged since the 1940s — a full two decades before the onset of satan’s music (rock and roll, haha) and free love.  and back when abstaining was the norm?  people got married at much earlier ages — people are waiting longer to get married now, and puberty, when most people begin developing sexual urges and curiosity beyond their own personal exploration of themselves, waits for no man or woman.

proponents of abstinence-only sex ed will insist that heterosexual procreative intercourse within the confines of marriage is the societal ideal to which we all ought to aspire.  that’s fine — but it’s unrealistic.

to break it down for you, by age 20, 77% of men and women have had premarital sex.  by the age of 44, that number jumps to 95%.  97% of all people who have had sex did it before marriage.  that’s nearly everyone.

you are perfectly welcome to believe the world is flat, but don’t be surprised when your boat starts going round in circles — and in the case of abstinence-only sex ed, not only does this blatant disregard for facts send you spinning, it flat out sinks people’s boats.

abstinence-only sex ed is irresponsible to our youth. that might sound like an odd blanket statement to make — and i’ve no doubt it will make some people bristle.  but it’s true.  here’s why.

first of all, read back up a few paragraphs where you see that abstinence until marriage is not and has not been the societal norm — trying to get people to not have sex is like trying to stop the sun in its tracks.  a:  good luck with that, and b:  you’re gonna get burned.

next, abstinence-only (the entire point of this mindset) tries to keep adolescents and young adults from having sex until marriage.  this leaves no room for any other kind of information, because they operate on the premise that young people just don’t need it if they’re not going to have sex.

my head always starts spinning a little bit when i think about that.  first of all, young people are having sex.  and they’re going to keep doing it.  period.  secondly, by refusing to give them information about what they’re already doing and almost certainly will do before marriage, we are putting them in danger.

that bears repeating.  by refusing to inform adolescents comprehensively about sex, we are putting them in harm’s way.  i’m really not sure why the people who teach abstinence-only have such blinders on to this obvious, scientifically supported truth, but there it is.  they’re ready to doom our youth to teen pregnancy (on the rise for the first time in a decade and a half!), sexually transmitted infections (also rising like a tide — mostly in abstinence-only zones), and the more subtle issues of psychological problems that come with enforcing strict adherence to traditional gender roles, ignoring homosexuals entirely, and laying on guilt trips right and left to discourage sexual behavior.

you think i’m kidding? let’s take teen pregnancy as a for instance.  america’s teen pregnancy rate for every 1000 teen women is 5.  oh, wait.  that’s holland.  america’s is 53.  yes, i typed that correctly.  america’s teen pregnancy rate is 53 live births for every 1000 teenage women. in case the shock value of that is lost on you — well.  it just shouldn’t be lost on you.  take that in for a second.  then understand this:  the teen pregnancy rate in america dwarfs every other western nation in the world. the closest country on the list to us in terms of numbers?  indonesia.  at 55 live births per 1000 population.  it’s dismal.  it’s appalling.  and quite frankly, it has nothing to do with how much or little teens have sex–they have sex in europe, too, just more responsibly and beginning later in life.

what does this have to do with abstinence-only?  well, for starters, the teen pregnancy rate is much higher in states that use predominantly abstinence-only sex ed.  states like texas and mississippi, who use this form of “education” statewide have the highest rates — well above the national average.

notice anything about this?

notice anything about this?

that’s an old table (2) — but the trends are the same, and also, the pregnancy rate in the very red states is rising.  thank bush and his millions of dollars of funds for abstinence-only for that.  most blue states refused this funding.

let’s talk for a moment about this funding.  in the ages of the bush administration, huge amounts of taxpayer dollars were spent — upwards of $100 million per year at the beginning of his term and close to $200 million toward the end — on funding abstinence-only “education” curricula.  in a report done by the us house of representatives committee on government reform and headed up by representative henry waxman (d-california), it was shown that out of the 13 curricula funded through federal money — your tax dollars — 11 of them (over 80%) contain gross factual errors, blatant falsehoods, and distorted information.  worse, the only two to escape this definition were the least commonly used.  among the errors and distortions were the following:  false information about the effectiveness of contraceptives,  the risks of abortion, and the transmission of sexual infections; blurring science and religion; perpetuating gender stereotypes; gross scientific errors. (3)

the biggest errors perpetrated by these curricula are in regards to the effectiveness of contraceptives against pregnancy and sti transmission.  for instance, that condoms allow for the transmission of HIV 31% of the time, which is not at all true.  these programs are only allowed to discuss contraceptives in this context — failure rates — but this doesn’t excuse them from their utter disregard for fact.  the correct rates for condom failure are 15% for typical use and 2-3% for perfect use.  just doesn’t have the same punch as the 31% number they got from using fake information, does it?  the center of disease control states that condoms are highly effective at preventing the spread of HIV when used correctly and consistently — something abstinence-only preachers (i can’t call them educators with any kind of honesty) want to keep adolescents from knowing.  in addition to that, they spread absurdly incorrect information — one study went so far as to assert that HIV can be transmitted via sweat.

on top of all that, many of these curricula perpetuate gender stereotyping as fact — that all women just want to be princesses rescued by some strong, dashing knight type.  these programs also try to tout their religious ideals as societal normalcy — something we’ve already seen to be completely wrong.  SPRANS, one of the largest abstinence-only organizations receiving funding, mandates that its curricula  teach that waiting till marriage to have sex is the expected standard for all people, which, when taken into account that 95% of all people have premarital sex is so dead wrong, they might as well assert that not eating is the preferred method to stave off starvation.  it’s that backward.

abstinence-only sex ed is counterintuitive when you take into account the other social ideals of those who tout it. think about what i just said about america’s teen pregnancy rate.  now consider this one:  america’s abortion rate is 30.2 per 1000 population.  compare that with holland, at 4.

the reason this is relevant is because the people who state abstinence until marriage as the societal ideal are almost always hailing from the religious right — the same people who bring us the anti-abortion tirades.

take a deep breath before you read this one.  because it’s a shocker.  the best way to stop abortions is to stop unplanned pregnancies in the first place.

i know, right?  who’d think of that one?  bask for a moment in my utter genius.  consider what we know so far:  95% of all people have sex before marriage.  abstinence-only sex ed only tells kids to not have sex — by stipulation, abstinence-only curricula are forbidden from mentioning contraceptives except to mention failure rates.  america has a shocking teen pregnancy rate compared to other western nations.  america has a much higher abortion rate than other western nations.

countries that employ comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education boast low numbers of teen and unplanned pregnancies and much, much lower abortion rates.  instead of purposely blindfolding ourselves, we need to see what we can learn from people who are saving their teens from unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and having to make that choice that no woman ever wants to have to make.  they’re doing something right.  and i can tell you what it is.

comprehensive sex education saves our youth. let’s get something absolutely clear.  there is no magical age where adolescents become adults.  they don’t hit 18 and mystically glean the ability to make responsible choices.  it’s a process.  they’re not fully responsible about making choices when they’re in their teens — but then again, a lot of people still make really bad choices on into adulthood.  and adolescents also are not stupid.

if you treat them like children, they will respond in kind.  tell them “just don’t do it,” and they’re probably going to say, “hmmmm….maybe i’ll do it.”  and if you couple that with keeping them ignorant about how to protect themselves, you get america’s blossoming teen pregnancy rates — and a lot of those young women will go off and end said pregnancies.  remember that the figure of 53 per 1000 population is live births.  add to that the abortion rate, and you get amuch higher ballpark figure of teen pregnancies in total.

in countries that have more open attitudes about sex, where they teach age appropriate comprehensive sex information, they have much lower instances of teen pregnancy and disease.  in addition to that, adolescents in these countries are more likely to delay first intercourse than their american counterparts.  i believe the average age in america is around 16 — in holland, it’s nearly 18.

comprehensive sex ed is not about encouraging students to go off and go at it.  it’s not about touting how good it feels or trying to convince adolescents to have sex — comprehensive sex ed maintains firmly that abstinence is the only 100% effective way to ensure that one will not get pregnant, diseased, etc.  but it does this within the framework that all of these adolescents will have sex in their lifetime, and that the overwhelming majority (i hesitate to even say majority, because it implies a less definite number than 9.5/10) will do it before marriage.  it is responsible to adolescents to give them valuable information.  whether they wait or not, they need to know it.  it’s relevant to everyone. and failing to teach them is irresponsible at best, reckless and dangerous at worst.

the socially conservative argument that telling students the facts about sex will encourage them to go out and do it like bunnies is a blatant falsehood.  fact is, the more correct information students have, the less likely they are to go out and bang everyone in sight, the more likely they are to use contraception consistently and correctly, and the more likely they are to wait longer to have sex.

there is a great comic by big fat whale that illustrates the absurdity of such a claim.

watch out for the elephants

watch out for the elephants

here’s the bottom line. if we lived in a world where there was even a question about abstinence being a competitor for the title of “societal norm,” abstinence-only sex ed….would still be irresponsible and damaging to our nation’s youth.  regardless of how long a person intends to wait to have sex, having correct, open, and honest information about human sexuality is relevant to his or her life.  it’s a part of who we are.  human beings are sexual creatures. and that sexuality comes in many different forms — it is a beautiful part of our existence here.

abstinence-only sex “education” also completely ignores the homosexual minority of students — it fails to address their needs, mainly because the creators of abstinence-only curricula do not recognize homosexuality as a valid, natural form of sexual expression.  the creators of these curricula completely ignore gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth, because they flat out think that homosexuality is a deviant, sinful aberration, and therefore do not merit notice…except maybe to tell them to just be straight and wait.

it’s important for everyone to understand how our bodies work, how our reproductive cycles work, how the mechanics of sex work, the psychological aspects of sex and the emotional aspects.  the physical pleasure and the possible consequences.  because even once people get married, they might not want to have kids right away (or, god forbid, at all).  it’s important that all people have that information so they can make informed decisions and treat their partners with the respect and dignity they deserve.

adolescents are people.  they are young adults.  and they are making choices, whether you agree with them or not.  some of these choices are responsible, some are not.  they deserve to know what they’re getting into.  they deserve candid discussion about sexuality — how it affects them and their lives.  they deserve the best protection and power that we can put in their hands — the power of knowledge.  they will never learn responsibility under a rock.  and if they don’t get good information, they will get wrong information.  virginity pledges break easier than condoms.  failure to educate our youth sets them up for failure that can cost them their time, their teen years, and their lives.

make the right choice.  don’t turn a blind eye to the reality of our society — work within its parameters.  be honest with our youth.  teach them to respect their bodies and each other.  because they are more capable then you give them credit for.  give them a chance.  i think they’ll surprise you.

(1)http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/news/20061220/premarital-sex-the-norm-in-america

(2) http://amelia.campustap.com/blog/entry/view.aspx?Iid=157948&redirectUrl=%2fHome.aspx%3fcomponentTypeId%3d3

(3)http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20041201102153-50247.pdf

sex: taboo?

in my internet wanderings today, i discovered a post on a discussion board questioning whether or not sex[uality] in america is treated as a taboo subject.  i have a lot of thoughts on this subject, so this blog will probably be my word vomit in terms of discourse.  pardon any incoherence or subject skipping.

first of all, i find that sexuality in american culture is subject to a dichotomy.  it’s hard to throw a stick without hitting an innuendo or a scantily clad human bean, but at the same time, sexuality is viewed as a source of controversy–which, in my eyes, indicates that there is at least some level of taboo that goes with it.

for instance–teen sexuality.  during the bush years, millions of dollars were poured into abstinence-only sex ed programs on the very basis of making sexuality a taboo subject for teens.  after all, the point of those programs is to simply tell teens not to do it.  that they don’t have to know about it because they’re just supposed to say no.  i could get into a whole long thing here about the morality of teenagers having sex, but i’m gonna save that for a later date.

onto adults (ie: people past the arbitrary 18-year disambiguation mark).  i feel like american adult sexuality is getting more open, more progressive, etc., but at the same time, there are a lot of conflicting attitudes.  i think that part of this is because of america’s very religious roots–primarily the puritan influence, which could explain why europe is different.  they dumped all their puritans here.  nudity in this remaining vestiges of the puritan mindset is dirty and inherently sexual.  the naked body is not a sexual image in and of itself.

for instance, take janet jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction at the super bowl a few years ago.  her breast was shown across america for a split second.  and instant uproar ensued.  why?

breasts are secondary sex characteristics.  their primary physiological function is to fulfill mammary capabilities, not to titillate (pardon the pun) anyone with a y chromosome or double-x inclined females.  the first experience people have with breasts is feeding.  nurturing.  mother association.  so why the fuss?  because nudity has been so sexualized in american culture, and because sex has been portrayed in the context of immorality for so long that nudity is almost automatically put directly into the “immoral”* column.

i think this is unhealthy.  our bodies are beautiful and are nothing to be ashamed of.  men, women–we’re beautiful beings.  sex is something natural, pleasurable, and ultimately not shameful.  i believe that sex itself is morally neutral–it’s what you do with it that determines the connotation.  consensual sex between adults is perfectly permissable in my eyes.  i know that many people disagree, but whatever.  to each their own.  act according to your own moral inclinations.

i will say, however, that i think the extreme emphasis in religious cultures upon sexual “purity” (which is an odd choice of word, i think) is the source of a lot of unhealthy actions and mindsets, as well as a troubling dichotomy.  before marriage, sex is deemed as a sin (the biblical basis of this is highly debatable, and the premise that fornication is a sin is tremulous at best–but again, that’s a subject for a later date), but sex after marriage is deemed to be good.  the act itself does not change–it is the same on either side of the arbitrary line (marriage).  this complete 180 in mindset causes a lot of problems for newlyweds who have waited.  in my human sexuality course at my christian university, all of the married students (without exception) and many of the engaged/committed students expressed that they had a very hard time with this switch in mindset.  the married students said unequivocably that they felt horribly guilty, and that it took them months to stop feeling like they were doing something dirty by having sex with their spouse.

in committed relationships, this can cause problems as well.  a friend recently told me that her ex was so afraid they might have sex that he would stop touching her entirely whenever he got scared, causing her to feel rejected.  the subconscious patriarchal message here is that she was seen as the source of temptation, something to be avoided when he felt like he might give in.  instead of confronting his lust, he pushed her away.  that’s worrying.  there are many other ways he could have dealt with his fear.  in other situations, couples try to get around the “virginity” clause by taking that to the very letter of the widely accepted definition of the word–that “virginity” applies only to heterosexual vaginal intercourse.  this means that many couples perform oral, manual, and anal sex in an attempt to remain “pure.”

and i’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.

i really do think that it’s unhealthy to perceive premarital sex as sinful if that thinking leads to harming your partner, whether that is coercing him or her into sexual acts aside from vaginal intercourse or causing psychological pain by treating your partner like a leper when you feel tempted.  and i think that this basis of “morality” is more harmful in the long run.  but that’s me.  i’m sure a lot of people disagree with that, too.

i think that sex is definitely a taboo subject for the underlying religious reasons.  it’s not like that in europe–something which the religious types often cite as evidence of europeans being wanton sex fiends.  i find it fascinating that it’s usually religious people who insist that abstinence-only sex ed is the way to go and that their ideal of sex being only within heterosexual marriage is what is best for people.

america’s teen pregnancy rate is outrageously higher than europe’s–and, strange coincidence, it is highest by far in states where abstinence only sex ed is the primary form of sexual education. america’s abortion rate also takes the cake in terms of astronomically high numbers.  and americans generally report that they are less satisfied with their lives than their european counterparts.

i think america needs a new sexual revolution.

i’m not saying that we should go back to the free love ideals of the 60s and 70s–merely that we ought to foster a sense of openness about sexuality that treats human sexuality with the dignity and respect it deserves, whether we choose to have multiple partners or one, regardless of their sex.  i believe that sexuality is beautiful, and a vital, vivid part of the human experience.  as such, i believe that it is worthy of our frank attention and honesty–as adults and for what we teach our children.

a note on women’s sexuality before i’m done–in terms of taboo, women’s sexuality is second only to the sexuality of minors (and actually, probably to the sexuality of homosexuals as well–their sexuality is shunted aside or deemed immoral by definition).  there are still huge amounts of double standards.  a man with multiple partners is a player, while a woman is a slut or a whore.  women in religious subculture are expected to be “pure,” while men are told to be “pure,” but they’re expected to “mess up.”  i can’t count the number of times i heard people ramble on about how men were sexual/visual creatures, while women were emotional.  and it was just taken in stride.  as a very visual, sexual female, i take offense to that.  it’s an impossible battle to win–the madonna/whore complex is still fairly rampant in society, though i grant it’s gotten heaps better in the last few decades.

part of this is the emphasis on how women dress–and always in relation to how men act when women dress a certain way.  a recent study in scotland showed that an astounding one in five people said a woman was partially to blame for her rape if she was wearing skimpy clothes, or if she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  let me say this once:  if you look at someone and treat her (or him) differently because her/his appearance triggers something in your brain, you are still responsible for your own thoughts, words, and actions. period.

women are no more responsible for ensuring men stay away from lustful thoughts than jewelry stores are responsible for ensuring that no one is tempted to steal that diamond ring.  that’s about the level of ridiculousness that this mindset holds.  it would be absolutely laughable if someone were to blame a jeweler for his or her thieving impulses.  can you imagine?  “but all those jewels were so shiny and sparkly and pretty…i couldn’t help myself.”

okay, i lied.  one more thing on the topic of sexism.  sexism is by no means relegated to only anti-female bullshit–men suffer because of it as well.  the patriarchal traditional mindset that men are the big strong protectors is damaging to men as well as women.  men who find themselves in situations where they are abused–be it physically, emotionally, or psychologically–are extremely unlikely to report it.  rape cases in which the victims are men are almost never reported or prosecuted.  the concepts that men “always want sex” play into the rape issues–many people don’t think it’s even possible for men to be raped.

sexual taboo comes into play here, as well.  while sex is splashed about in the media, what is generally seen is the portrayal of studly men and women who are often either the madonna or the whore.  while there are other genres of “media men,” such as the chaste nerds, men who fit the “studly” description are glorified, whereas women who are sexual are demeaned.

the bottom line is that i really think sexuality does need a revolution–a revolution of openness, authenticity, and candor, in which men and women are partners, with neither sex being subordinate.  this holds true in homosexual relationships as well–i stand by my previous statement that homesexual sexuality is often marginalized at best, outright condemned at worst.  i think that our society needs to be given the information it requires to make healthy choices–whether that means staying abstinent until marriage or having informed, responsible sex before marriage.  regardless of your personal beliefs, i think most of us can agree that right now, that’s not the case.

*some notes on quotes:  i used quotes around “purity” and “morality” because these are relative terms that are defined by one’s own personal belief system–often, but not always, this pertains to religion, and in this post specifically, i used those words in religious context almost exclusively.

my own personal belief on the matter is that purity is not a matter of how much sexual activity one has had.  i consider myself a secular humanist.  my morality is based upon the premise that we only get one life here–all of us–so i want to live my life in a way that i can pursue my own happiness and better the lives of others.  if my actions damage another human being, they therefore go against my code of ethics.  i think it’s our job to improve the lot of others when we have the chance.

“i’m looking for a new love…”

“…not just someone who loves when she’s drunk and fucked up…”

words by parachute musical, quite possibly butchered by me, on account of the fact that i’ve only heard that song a couple of times played live.  i’d definitely like to track it down.  but that’s digressing before i even get started.

this blog might get down and dirty a bit, in terms of personal.  i’m often willing to get personal on here–i’m a pretty open person.  but just…be warned.  i’m feeling a bit melancholy today, at a loss.  unsure of myself.  this is me at my not so hot.

“i’m looking for a new love.”
i don’t know if that’s true in a literal sense–meaning i’m not actively looking.  searching, maybe, on a philosophical level.  i’m someone who is pretty afraid of commitment.  if i think someone is more interested in me than i am in him, i get panicky.  i think it’s at least partly because i’m always afraid that if i’m interested in someone, he’ll be scared off.

i know where that comes from.  everyone has hang-ups–that’s one of the cool prizes for being human and interacting with other hung-up humans.  that’s one of mine.   and i know the source.  i waited seven months to tell my ex i loved him.  i waited until i was sure.  and he wasn’t.  sure, that is.  he left me a month later.  well, officially–he left me a lot sooner than that.  there was a lot more to it than that, but that image pretty much sums it up.  i told him how i felt, and he bolted.

i was filling out one of those stupid myspace surveys the other day, and one of the questions was, “do you think relationships are ever really worth it?”  my answer was an unequivocable yes.  i do think they’re worth it.  but it requires a lot of self-awareness and a willingness to battle with whatever baggage we have from previous encounters.  that’s what i’m doing right now.  battling.

everyone has issues.  the important thing is to recognize them and try to work them out–and to be open about them.  you can’t expect others to understand what you’re thinking if you don’t tell them.  i’m working on mine.  unfortunately (albeit as per usual), circumstance isn’t making it easy.

“…not just someone who loves when she’s drunk and fucked up…”
chemical intoxication aside, my thing here is that i want something mutual.  i’ve wasted far too much time in the past on people who just weren’t quite sure.  it’s exhausting, and i’m weary of it.

people are fickle critters.  emotions are seldom constant.  and it’s impossible to interpret silence.  relationships are such a mess.  and yet.

“will i have to spend this life alone?  where is my companion?
words by catherine maclellan.  it’s been a long, long time since i’ve wanted a relationship.  i’m very gunshy.  i’ve fled relationships for the last year and a half.  but now…there’s a longing here.  i miss waking up in the morning and finding someone there.  sleepy smiles and starting the day together.  i miss hearing someone’s breathing as i go to sleep at night.  i miss sharing this life with another person.  sharing struggles, memories, present.  laughter.  i’m tired of the dating world.  i don’t even understand how it works.  the terminology is confounding to me.  when are you dating?  seeing someone?  where do other people fit in and how?  or do they?  when is it exclusive?  i don’t understand what the fuck all of it means.  it’s too much for my head, and i’m sick of trying to understand it.  i’m also semi-convinced it’s a crock.  dating is supposed to be, at its root, a way to get to know someone, right?  what if you already know them?  do you skip that part?  call me cynical, but i almost think it’s just an endless distraction.  when people find something special, they usually just go for it.  it works because it works, without the mind-numbing confusion.  dating’s just a way to pass the time till that comes along.

now i’m just ranting.  i suppose i’m lonely.  that’s the common word for wishing there was someone there.  i miss the companionship, the intimacy, the sex.  all of it.

“love never finds you when you want it to, it waits till you’ve stopped waiting.”
i know this is true.  and so i suppose i’ll just chill out.  i made the mistake once of trying to be with someone i knew wasn’t right for me.  biggest dating mistake of my life.  i know two things.  one, i don’t want to settle for someone who just isn’t sure if he wants me.  two, i don’t want to settle for someone anything less than extraordinary.  the trick is to find those things at once. and when you do find that, knowing enough not to let it slip away.  to be brave enough to take that risk.

waiting is hard.  hoping at all on some flickering spark of a chance is hard.  it hurts.  it’s messy.  wondering what will happen–or if anything will happen.  that is where i am right now.  stranded in the realm of “we’ll see,” where anything is possible.  i don’t even know what to think.  maybe i’m stupid to hope for this.  i don’t want to let it slip away, but i’m only half of it.  it’s not all up to me.  and i guess, at the end of the day, i’m afraid that he’ll let me slip away.  i don’t want to get away.  i want him to keep me.  but right now, i just have to wait and see.  be happy if something happens and if it doesn’t, be sad and then go on with my life.

lonely.  yeah, that’s it.  i don’t just want anyone, either.  i want the chance for something really special.

“all these things i can’t figure out alone; they don’t matter with someone.  maybe i should learn to let it all go and just have some fun.”
catherine maclellan is probably right.

secrets.

postsecret is a bit of a volatile sort of website.  some people love it, because they can relate.  some hate it, because they think it’s internet voyeurism.  which it is, of course.  i wanted to share some of this week’s secrets and my thoughts about them.

i think we all feel this way sometimes.

i think we all feel this way sometimes.

today my smile is real.  i found cake on my desk this morning, the coffee machine started churning out coffee when it wasn’t supposed to, and i sent out a mass email about the cake, questioning its origins.  in response, i’ve gotten several emails saying that i made people’s day.  my email was as follows:

Hello Everyone,

This morning, I came in to discover two tupperware containers of cake on my desk, along with a clear plastic fork.  I’m not sure if someone lost their cake (which would be very sad) or if I am meant to have this cake, as it was rather ambiguously situated.

If you lost some cake or were attempting to donate it to me (or to someone else in the office), please let me know.  Cake is a terrible thing to waste in these troubled economic times.

Thanks!

ah, internet.

ah, internet.

this makes me wonder how many people out there are getting to know others solely by reading what they post online, living vicariously, creating a fantasy world in which they know these people.  you can google someone and find out huge amounts of information if that person has a myspace, facebook, blog, or other online profile.  are we ever going to go back to getting to know one another face to face?  or are we really just that lazy?

timing's a bitch.

timing's a bitch.

how often does this happen?  how often do we let something great slip through our fingers when we should speak up?  how often is the timing just plain wrong?  i’ll never know the answers to those questions, but one thing’s for sure–i’ll never stop lamenting how this happens.

this makes me sad.

this makes me sad.

sometimes i can’t help but fear this.  women want sex a lot more than guys give us credit for.  we want you to want us.  we don’t want you to choose a breakfast food over making love to us.

i may not be marilyn, but it's still  hot.

i may not be marilyn, but it's still hot.

to end on a happy note…go about the rest of your day and smile like you’ve got a secret, whether you’re not wearing underwear or have just realized that you can empower yourself to just be you.