On the idea of foreplay

I want to start this blog post with an assertion some might consider controversial (and therein lies the problem): THERE IS NO SUCH ACTUAL THING AS FOREPLAY.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now. I think it’s time.

Foreplay is the thing that comes before play, right? For it to be a universally understood thing, “play” would have to be not only a universally understood thing, but a universal standard for what needs to happen for an event to be valid or real.

So let’s imagine a world without foreplay, “only” “sex”. This imaginary world brings up a couple of important questions: Which types of play are valid and therefore considered “actual sex”? Which types of sex are left out? Who’s sex is left out? Who’s pleasure is left out?

What does it mean to say that foreplay is not a universal category?

To me, it means that sex (the play in foreplay) does not necessarily or exclusively involve penis-in-vagina sex. It may involve two penises, or two vaginas, or a penis and a vagina that interact in ways that don’t involve penetration, or that other body parts mingle with each other and the genitals aren’t even invited to the party. It may involve Skype, or a phone, it may involve less or more than two people. It may involve clothes or no clothes. It may involve toys. It may involve nothing but dirty talk.

It means that sex is had by people of more sexual orientations, gender identities, and body configurations & combinations than a person with a penis and another with a vagina, and that even when that is the combination, people’s sexuality go way beyond (and often without) penetration. It means that all the various types of sex are no less valid than cisgender heterosexual able-bodied sex.

It means that everything before, after, during and outside of penetration is no less real or important, and doesn’t have to lead up to anything for it to be worth having.

It means that when someone tells you ‘I just had sex’, you know virtually nothing about what actually happened. And maybe that’s on purpose, because it may be none of your business.

Furthermore,

The idea of foreplay is scary.

It is scary because it makes sense almost exclusively if you are a cisgender dude. A cis dude with no imagination, too. Let’s be real.

It is scary that so many magazines, online media, and everyday conversations treat foreplay with a question mark, dating sites ask the question “Do you think foreplay is necessary?” and a gross amount of people answer ‘No’. It’s not scary because I think it is not valid to just drop your pants, go in and out and then leave. If people want to do that and negotiate so beforehand, that’s great. It is scary because when someone asks how much foreplay is normal or necessary, what I hear is “what is the very bare minimum of caring about the other person’s pleasure that I have to do to get what I want?” And I mean, a guy who thinks my pleasure and comfort is an obstacle course on his way to stick his dick wherever he pleases does not only make me sad, and grossed out, but also scared.
It is also scary (terrifying, actually) because if some sort of foreplay isn’t necessary and it’s only optional, there is little room for consent to be freely given. There is a pressure inherent in the term that if you agree to the fore it’s because you are leading up to the play. If you don’t ‘deliver’ (EWWW, intimacy isn’t pizza), you were leading them on, you are a tease.

There are more layers to the idea of “leading someone on” (namely this idea that women are evil manipulators out to trick men into being attracted to us only to not give “any” in return, which is fucked up and deserves its own blog post), but initially there is definitely a number of assumptions being made. The biggest assumption I have identified is that every seemingly sexual or romantic behaviour or action we engage in is with the purpose of, at the end of the obstacle course, have intercourse. There is an assumption that everything before penetration is a promise that penetration will happen, and that is not how consent works.

The idea of foreplay is also sad.

Why sad, you ask? It leaves much less room for imagination and creativity and understanding and pleasure. I understand it is easier to think of activities and things in life as having a beginning, a middle and an end: foreplay, intercourse, orgasm. But you know what that is besides easier? Boring. Not only is it completely not inclusive or validating of folks who can’t and/or don’t want to have penetrative sex, but it makes many of us lazy. If foreplay is just a necessary thing to get to the “main event”, we don’t explore. We rush through it like we rush through our veggies to get to the dessert. And some veggies are delicious. Sometimes you want to go for seconds, cook something you’ve never cooked before, have a nice conversation while you’re at it. Sometimes the chef spent a great amount of effort on a meal and there you are thinking about the cupcakes you’ll get later.

Finally, the idea of foreplay is infuriating. 

It is infuriating because it prioritizes cis men and their pleasure and their orgasm, since included in the category of foreplay are all the things that, statistically, are more likely than penetration to be pleasurable and potentially orgasmic for everyone who’s not a cis dude.

It is infuriating because it makes many men feel entitled enough to get upset at women for not “delivering”. As if sex was something to be given, and as if “foreplay” was a contract signed without any need to talk it out. The only reason men can think someone led them on is if they didn’t ask or communicate or negotiate beforehand. We as women don’t owe men a disclaimer or an apology every time we don’t want penetration, but may want something else. But the heterosexual, cisgender expectations of what foreplay means has conditioned us to think everything that isn’t penetration should head in that direction, so much so that women often feel compelled to apologize for stopping and/or switching gears along the way.

It is difficult to deconstruct and unlearn our ideas about foreplay, but it is crucial in having better conversations and understanding of consent, communication, and pleasure.

Foreplay is not a thing. Destroy the idea that foreplay is a thing. Or at the very least question it: what things qualify as foreplay to you? what about play, or sex? Does that change how you view/do these activities and/or the people you do them with? Do you talk about these expectations with partners?

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The one where I talk about why I talk about toys.

“Why do you talk about sex toys so much?” I have heard this question in some form or another more times than I’ve cared to answer it, but I will. Again. [I won’t even address for now the slut-shamey tone this question is often accompanied by. Or rather, the “are you a perv or something?” question behind it. Because DUH, goes without saying.] Now. My first instinct is to answer: “Because I can.” I know my shit decently well, for one. I also try to flutter about in social circles in which I am safe and accepted enough regardless, or at least in spite of, talking nonstop about brands and materials and how to clean them properly and “that new adorable thing that just came out”. Not every social circle or situation makes me feel equally safe and okay with talking about sex toys, of course *insert mental image of me putting the Leaf line as centerpieces for Christmas dinner*, but I know how to filter, most of the time. But really, why are you asking me that question? You’re probably asking because you’re not used to hearing much about sex toys, except for jokes and hush-hush anecdotes of friends going into sex shops and looking at dildos (because every sex toy is a dildo, DUH). You’re probably even less used to a woman talking so freely about sex. And there is part of your answer. I talk about sex toys because people joke about them out of shame-y feelings, out of guilt for being actually interested underneath that nervous laughter.I talk about them, too, because a lot of people want to and yet most people don’t. You might also associate sexuality education with some powerpoint presentation featuring pictures of genital warts, or at the very least a silver-bullet Cosmo article by an “expert” who is there to tell you the single best tecnhique to please your person. That’s another reason. I talk about sex toys because pleasure should be a part of conversations about health and a part of sex as much (or more, I would argue) as STI prevention & contraception. Sexuality education often fails to acknowledge or discuss the most common sense thing about sex, which is that IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.  I talk about sex in general because there is no silver bullet to pleasure, we have to find it ourselves, and what better way than to play and flick around stuff? I talk about toys because they can help people have more fun, alone or with others. They can help with body image, with technique, with confidence, with dysfunctions, with disability, with intimacy, with libido. Hell, they can even help those teenagers that some adults SO want to deter from having sex “too young” by giving them a fun gadget to hump instead of each other. I also talk about sex toys because sometimes someone has to. People often don’t know about all the possibilities, the variety of aides and positioning devices and applications for them, or where to get them, or how to distinguish safe from unsafe toys, or how to clean & store them. And people often don’t know these things because we won’t talk about them. We are scared to ask, or don’t know who to go to, or even what to ask. Not only that though. It isn’t even about the toys. They’re often expensive and sometimes tricky to get (if you live with and depend on your parents for money, for example) and some people don’t like them. All of these things are legit and I don’t just talk about my undying platonic love for the Stronic to make you all want to run to your local (please, buy local) sex shop and spend a third of your month’s rent on a pulsating product of sexy wizardry. I like bringing up stuff that is good to say but people feel uneasy or shame-y or guilty about. I like helping provide the space for conversations about toys, sure, but more importantly about pleasure, about ways to make our (sex) lives better, about what works and doesn’t work for us and why. I have had a woman tell me that after I brought up anal beads in a random conversation – that’s how I make friends at parties – , her girlfriend told her she would like to give butt play a shot. That’s awesome! Communication – and having the tools and the will and the space for it – is awesome. Like Megan says, our hands are our free, first sex toys that Jimi gave us, and they are wonderful. We don’t NEED sex toys (but then again, I also don’t NEED Nutella, but want it most days anyway), but we do need better communication skills and tools. We need to be able to say the words for things. We need better sexuality education, we need more conversations about pleasure and how important it is. We need to talk about shame in order to be able to deconstruct it. Why do some people still think that sex toys are just for pervs, or for single women (thanks a lot, Carrie Bradshaw)? Or that they replace your partner? Or that strap-ons are just for lesbians, or that butt play is not for straight men? Or that BDSM is for “dysfunctional people”? Or that there are no toys for penises? Or that certain bodies can’t have certain kinds of sex? Or that porn is just for men? I know I am getting into a lot of questions (and a lot of inaccurate ideas), but they all come from the same problem: we are not talking about these things enough.

So tell me, why AREN’T we talking about sex toys enough?

Do you have a question about sexuality? Where to find particular information/how-to guides/porn/ toys/ workshops? About feminism, gender, sex-positivity? Ask here on the comments and I will try my best to answer! Or ask me on my Tumblr! (Or if you know me and feel comfortable, ask me on Facebook or in person. I love talking about sex toys, hence this entire blog post.)  

OH HEI HERE ARE SOME (NOT ALL) ONLINE STORES THAT ARE SEX-POSI AND FANTASTIC: Canada: Ohhh Canada, Joy Toyz, DNA Toys, Good for Her, Come As You Are The US: Smitten Kitten, Good VibesBabeland Mexico: Erotika Lovestore *I don’t feel comfortable recommending stores from other places but if you have a strong recommendation for your country, let me know and I will check it out & add it.

“Ladies should respect themselves”

I have always been very confused by this or any variation of this statement.

For me, respecting myself means appointing myself as the boss of me and recognizing that no one else owns my body or my life choices. For me, respecting myself is listening to my body and what it wants and needs. For me, respecting myself is loving myself enough to know that weight, gender, sexual orientation, ability, sexual status, relationship status, race, religion do not condition my worth. For me, respecting myself is knowing that only I can press the play, pause, forward or rewind in my life. For me, respecting myself is saying no when I mean no (and asserting my right to have my “no” respected), and saying yes when I mean yes. As many fucking times as I want with as many people as I want, in as many situations as I want. And that means yes to sex, but it also means yes to education, to health care, to a dignified living.

What you mean is “ladies should respect what men want of them”. Which is a bunch of contradictory, non realistic, objectifying BS.

How is it possible for people to be so willing to interpret “respect authority”, for example, as “listen to authority”, and “respect yourself” as “listen to everyone but yourself”? 


It is only possible, if you think about it, when you compare that statement to one that is said when something belongs to someone. If you say “hey, respect that car”, it doesn’t mean “listen to that car” (the car has no will). It means “don’t scratch it or use it or misuse it (in accordance to the rules of the owner) in any way for it belongs to someone that is not you”.

And so “respect yourself” means “don’t scratch or use or misuse yourself (in accordance to the rules of the patriarchy) in any way for you belong to someone that is not you.”

And, damn, I will scratch (I am giggling on the inside) and use and misuse myself in any way for I belong to myself and I am abiding by my own rules.

So yes. I am always respecting myself. And if I decide to be a sex worker by my own will, I will also be respecting myself. If I decide to go on a sexual rampage (HAHA) I will still be respecting myself. If I decide I want to not have any sexual contact with anyone at all for the rest of my life, I will be respecting myself as well. If I decide to join a convent or the church of scientology or the friggin westboro baptist (I almost wrote baptits, fyi) church, as long as it is my choice, I will still be respecting myself.

The day that I do or stop doing or being something because someone else says I should, that day you can say that I am not respecting myself.

The end.

Self-love and what relationships should be about.

Hang in there, I am still in finals. I wanted to write something relating to this blog post on relationships that I saw a while back. I appreciated it a lot, largely because it came before my eyes right when I needed it. Back then I still thought my entire worth and sense of self was about someone else, when the way I looked at the mirror depended on someone else. I want to talk about how we are taught a very unhealthy version of romance and relationships.

First, read this: The Whole Point of Every Relationship (is probably not what you think it is), from the blog Elephant Journal.

It is a pretty nice piece with a few thoughts on what relationships should be like. It is by no means exhaustive or a rulebook, but I found it to be very neat.

I want to address a couple of these thoughts because although I tend to talk mostly about sexual politics and feminism here, a great deal of what feminism is (at least to me) is about accepting oneself in all of our worth, refusing to accept others’ definitions of what we ought to be, questioning what we are taught, and realising our own potential as human beings. It is true that relationships can help us in that direction, but only healthy ones. And it is up to us – this is important to remember and SO easy to forget – and not up to them to make relationships healthy for ourselves.

 

Holding each other accountable.

We forget we are not their journey, or their goal, or their gift. They have their own journey and goals and gifts to give to the world, and we are there to support each other in making the most of them. Understanding that their life does not revolve around us: we are part of it, and we are there to try our best to make it better and more enjoyable, in whatever their journey is about. Blaming is not what it is about, but understanding where both come from and where they want to go, and cheering them in that direction.

 

Let go.

Again, their life is not about you. When journeys go separate ways, it is important to let that happen. They should not change their journey because of you. Understand that loving is also about wanting them to reach their potential, in whatever way they need to. Do not change your journey either: a person who loves you will understand that you should not have to.

 

Remember that your job is not to make him happy (but to allow him/her the space to find their own happiness).

Cheesus, how I wish someone had told me this (not because it is rocket science, but I could have used a reminder) a couple of months ago. What this means is that you are not responsible for her, and she is not responsible for you. Supporting each other and being able to count on each other is one thing, but the relationship should be about two people who can walk on their own two feet, but decide to walk alongside each other, not two people limping and holding the other’s arms because if not they’ll fall.

We are taught that it is romantic to say or think “I depend on you” or “my heart is in your hands” or “you hold the keys to my happiness” (I have been studying a lot, so my grasp on what people actually say is a bit off right now, but you get my point I think). There is a difference between being able to depend on someone and actually depending on someone, between trusting someone with your heart and actually making it their responsibility, between being happier thanks to her and being happier because of her. It should not be romantic to engage in codependent relationship in which the world absolutely shatters when the other is not there. Relationships (any kind, not just romantic) should be about encouraging the best in the other, allowing the space for them to be their own happy person, being happy for the other’s journey being realized. Again, a cheer-leader, not a coach. The hand that is there in case you need it, not an arm into which you always lean.

With this, another lesson I have learned comes to mind as well. We must work on ourselves before going into a relationship, we must be whole on our own. The notion of “your other half” bothers me because to me it sounds like such an unhealthy thing. You are literally making up for your insecurities by leaning on someone else, by filling up that space with someone else. As I have talked about before, we are taught to search for that special person to complete our journey, and I feel like that logic is all wrong. Our journey should include many people, not just the couple (insert my video on coupledom here). Moreover, our journey should be first about ourselves and our own sense of self being where it belongs and then comes whoever else, and we should not be shamed for thinking we come first. We should come first, it is our own life. And we should take care of ourselves, because if we cannot do that, how can we help someone else take care of themselves too?

 

Be honest.

I was completely dishonest once. Not to someone else, but to myself. Even today, I keep catching myself starting to be dishonest, and I have to correct it. And this has to do with thinking that the 100% of who we are could never find a partner or a friend or a lover or a whatever, which is a very flawed way to think. If we are all being dishonest, of course we are never going to find it, because we are looking in the wrong places. The only way is to throw ourselves out there with all of who we are, and trusting that we are worth it, that our personal journey is worth it, because we fucking are.

 

Fight well.

Oh how everyone I know needs to remember this. We need to think of problems and obstacles and misunderstandings and bad feelings as something external to us, because they are. They are the space between us and our partners. I like to think of them as a fire that is standing between the two (or three, or however many partners there are), a fire that everyone involved is responsible for grabbing an extinguisher and fight it. The fire, not each other over who started it, who fueled it, who was the last person to do something to it. Once the problem, the fire, is gone, you can talk about it to make sure it does not light up again.

 

Embrace attraction to others.

Why do people not understand that it is a fact of life? We have eyes, we have body parts that tingle when we see something good looking, and we have hormones that run rampant when we find something attractive (hormones that actually make us happy, a micro-teeny-tiny orgasm kind of happy). This has everything to do with jealousy, which has everything to do with insecurity, within ourselves (but we’ll get to that in the following point). I find people attractive all the time – I live in Montreal, so literally all the time – which does not mean I jump on people all the time, and this is true whether I am with someone or not. Jeez, I find every dessert incredibly attractive and I do not eat them all, now, do I? Attraction is a natural thing to have for humans, which does not obey the social construct and laws of monogamy which are not natural (not saying they are necessarily wrong or any less real, but they are not natural). The more you embrace it and communicate clearly and honestly about it, the more trust you’ll have.

Personally, I love it when the person I am with tells me about someone they see that is attractive. It means they are comfortable saying that, it means they know I trust them. The same way, when I say I find someone attractive, it means I am comfortable doing so, it means I feel like they trust me. We can communicate about it freely because it means nothing more than “hey, my serotonin levels just had a bit of a boost with that passing stranger over there”. Serotonin is good, and we should feel good about what makes our partner feel good, whether it is for a split second or for a day or for three years. Bitching about jealousy issues increases stress, attraction decreases stress. So really, what is healthier?

 

Do your work.

This has a lot to do with the previous one sometimes. If you are jealous, it is first and foremost about you, not him. If you are stressed out, it is first and foremost about you, not her. What I mean by this is that what YOU are feeling, YOU should work on. Communicating about jealousy is good, blaming because of jealousy is not good.

We are often taught, informally, that jealousy means they love you. To me, jealousy means they do not trust me, which itself means they don’t love me enough to trust me and to not try to control me. We are also taught that we are responsible of making sure the other is not feeling hurt, or jealous, or unheard, or whatever. It isn’t. Can we help them in not feeling that way? Sure. But through communication, not through not doing certain things or not acting certain ways. This has a lot to do with being honest about who we are and what we want and recognizing when our journey does not fit another’s. It isn’t true that love is about becoming one, but about becoming two stronger separate ones. Not about belonging to one another (I hate all those songs that allude to partners as property like “I’m Your Man”, “Sweet Child O’Mine”, “Are you gonna be my girl?”, “Be Mine”, “The boy is mine”), but about wanting to be with each other, and in case of monogamous relationships, wanting to be with each other – as opposed to only being with each other because you’re “taken” (insert imagery of a butt imprinted on a seat, signifying that it is taken).

There are healthy ways to communicate feelings of jealousy. “Hey, I felt a bit weird with the way you talked to that person. I just wanted to let you know so you can help me figure the root of this feeling of insecurity.” Not “Hey, I feel jealous about the way you talk to this person so YOU figure out how to make me feel better about it”.

 

Remember that you’re a mirror too.

I find it is so much better and more effective to actively seek to compliment the other and let them know what you see in them. I find asking “do you think I am smart/good looking/sexy/good in bed” so problematic and inherently unhealthy. It is much nicer to go up and say “I think you are gorgeous/super smart/sexy as heck/such a turn-on” first. They obviously find you smart and interesting and attractive, hence the being with you, silly. But reassuring that as opposed to asking for it makes everything more enjoyable.

 

Enjoy the ride, man!

Yes, yes, ABSOLUTELY YES. Just like a road trip, when the ride is no longer enjoyable, one must be willing to admit it and stop. Maybe it is just a pause to talk about  why we feel dizzy and wrong, maybe it is a stop to get some fresh air, walk around a bit and perhaps come back if it feels right, perhaps the destination is just not the same anymore for the both of you, and you should get into separate cars. Either way, it is better to stop when we feel queasy than to get into a car crash later on.

 

 

Anyway, like the writer of the original post, I am no expert, not even close. But I am constantly learning, and that blog entry definitely helped. So I thought I’d share.

 

Our self-worth, body image, sense of self and identity, should not depend on someone else. If someone else (anyone: friend, partner, family member, mentor) has a positive impact on our journey, on our happiness, then great, keep them in your life. If they stop making you grow and start making you shrink, if they stop making you shine and start making your light dim, know you have every right to want something better for yourself.

 

Something cheesy, but indubitably true :)

Something cheesy, but indubitably true 🙂

 

El slut-shaming (o “Un día en la vida de una zorra”)

Con el título no quiero decir que yo soy una zorra. O talvez sí. Talvez no importa, o no debería de importar. Les cuento porqué no importa si me (o te, o nos) dicen zorra o mojigata o cualquiera de las mil palabras que tenemos para definir el grado o tipo de expresión sexual. Esas que todos conocemos.

Primero, les definiré el término slut-shaming – para el cual no hay traducción al español, lo cual es en sí interesante y bien diciente. Slut-shaming es un verbo creado (relativamente reciente, y es usado sobretodo en discusiones acerca de justicia social y sexismo) para describir la acción de atacar o avergonzar a una mujer en base a su expresión o actividad sexual: en base a cómo se viste, qué tan directos son sus avances cuando coquetea, “qué tipo de gente” frecuenta, qué tan tarde en la noche sale, qué tan frecuentemente/con qué tanta gente/cómo tiene/dónde tiene relaciones sexuales, qué tanto toma o fuma, cómo/qué se expresa acerca de temas sexuales, etc.

Todos lo hemos visto, lo hemos oído, hemos sido partícipes. TODOS nos hemos referido a alguien como una zorra, una puta, una fácil, una mujer de “moral flexible”, mujer de “útero alegre” (me da risa y pena éste término), etc. Todos hemos dicho cosas como “ay ya viste a ______, ¿qué no ve la imagen que da?”, “de una vez que cobre, ¿no?”, “..y luego se queja de que no tiene novio”. Tenemos tantos chistes, frases, eufemismos, que deberíamos de enterrarnos la cabeza en una maceta de la vergüenza. A mí me avergüenza al menos, muchísimo.

Pero bueno, a lo que iba. El que alguien pensara que soy una fácil o no, que soy una mojigata o no, me dejó de importar cuando me di cuenta que no importaba lo que hiciera, alguien iba a decir algo, lo que sea.

Primero, todos nos sentimos con derecho de criticar y vigilar la expresión sexual de todos, más aún de mujeres. ¿Por qué? Porque desde que somos pequeños, nuestra familia nos vigila constantemente, nos dice qué ropa no usar, qué no tomar, qué no hacer, qué no decir. Absorbemos esos juicios que pueden emitir sobre nosotros y como respuesta los utilizamos con otras personas, para colocarnos a nosotras mismas en el punto neutro – desde un aspecto psicológico, es totalmente lógico, como mecanismo para preservar el autoestima nos colocamos en el cero de la escala. Y pues siempre va a haber alguien más “zorra” que nosotras, siempre va a haber alguien más “mojigata” que nosotras. Y es por eso mismo que siempre vamos a ser una de dos en la mente y juicios de alguien más. Todas somos zorras. Para alguien.

Siempre va a haber alguien que nos considere demasiado “algo”. Alguien que considere nuestra falda demasiado corta, nuestros hábitos de fiesta demasiado locos, nuestra elección de compañía demasiado riesgosa, nuestro lenguaje demasiado vulgar. O al revés, nuestras elecciones demasiado cautelosas, nuestra falda demasiado conservadora, nuestros “No”s demasiado claros para los avances de alguien más.

Y en mujeres, esta constante vigilancia, esta constante paranoia de no ser juzgada como la “mala mujer” nos hace ejercer esa misma vigilancia y control social en forma de slut-shaming. Lo hacemos sin darnos cuenta que educándonos entre nosotras, cambiando nuestro lenguaje todas juntas, podemos dejarnos de criticar, entre todas. Tenemos ese poder, pues ser “zorra” es un constructo social para el cual no hay términos absolutos, solamente relativos a alguien más, y están en el lenguaje que usamos para referirnos a alguien cuya sexualidad es más abierta que la nuestra. Es como cuando manejas el auto: todo el que maneja más rápido que tú es un imprudente suicida, todo el que maneja más lento es un idiota lento que bien podría estar caminando. La diferencia es que en la sexualidad, hay diferencias, pero siempre y cuando sea consensuado, no hay formas “buenas” o “malas” de manejar.

El slut-shaming, como he mencionado brevemente en entradas anteriores, viene de una ideología sexista de controlar y vigilar nuestra sexualidad. ¿Por qué sexista? Porque se usan criterios completamente distintos para juzgar la expresión sexual de un hombre y de una mujer. El hombre que pierde la virginidad antes que otros es un héroe, la mujer que pierde la virginidad primero es o una fácil o una promiscua. El hombre que tiene sexo con más de una chica en un espacio corto de tiempo es un campeón, la mujer que hace lo mismo es una zorra. El hombre que habla de sexo es… un hombre, la mujer que hace lo mismo es una vulgar. El hombre que quiere algo casual es un hombre que “sí sabe”, una mujer que sólo quiere algo casual es una perra y una promiscua.

Por otro lado, el hombre que dice “no” de manera asertiva (no un “perdón, tengo novio”) es un hombre que sabe lo que quiere, la mujer que dice “no” de manera asertiva es una grosera o mojigata. Y si bien existen varios controles que avergüenzan al hombre que prefiere algo formal que algo casual, que no quiere sexo, que no le gusta el porno, etc., no son comparables en frecuencia o magnitud.

El slut-shaming, igualmente, es una forma en la que se nos mantiene “en línea”, por miedo a ser llamadas malas mujeres. Porque nos enseñan que nadie quiere a una mala mujer, que nadie la respeta. Y cuidado con esto último, pues esa frase que dice que “una dama se hace respetar” viene con muchas advertencias. Viene con una lista de instrucciones de vestimenta, comportamiento, vocabulario, compañía, horarios apropiados, en primera. Pero también viene con la idea ofensivísima y peligrosísima de que la mujer es la responsable de hacer todas esas cositas que vienen en el instructivo para que la respeten, pues si no las hace, no es digna de ese respeto. Porque si no lo hace, el hombre no tiene porque respetarla. ¿Qué se entiende por respetarla? No acosarla verbal o físicamente si ella no está de acuerdo, no abusar de estados de ebriedad u otro tipo de intoxicación, no hacer bromas y comentarios ofensivos, no tocarla si ella no lo pide, NO FORZARLA A HACER ALGO QUE ELLA NO QUIERE. Eso es lo que nos espera si llevamos la frasesita de “darse a respetar” a sus últimas consecuencias.

Esto me lleva, con toda confianza en lo que digo, a decir que el slut-shaming es una advertencia bien fuerte y clara: si una persona te considera una zorra, varias personas lo pueden hacer, y no te van a respetar en distintas maneras (burlas, acoso verbal, aislamiento social, acoso virtual, difamación), y alguna de esas personas que no te considera digna de respeto – porque pues eres menos humana cuando expresas algo tan pinche humano como es la sexualidad – puede violarte. Así que cuidadito con ser considerada zorra.

Y, ¿qué hacemos para que no nos consideren zorras? Encontrar a alguien cuya sexualidad sea “más criticable” según nosotras y nuestro círculo, encontrar alguien más a quién perderle respeto. Es lo que hacemos, pasarnos la bolita etiquetada “zorra” a alguien más, para que la pérdida de respeto sea a alguien más. Pero es que diciéndole zorra a una mujer, le estamos diciendo a un hombre “está mejor no respetarla (acosarla, ofenderla.. violarla) a ella que a mí. Si vas a violar a alguien – porque eso hacen los hombres, obvio (inserten sarcasmo aquí), pero de eso hablaré luego – ella se lo merece más que yo.”

 

En vez de promover, todas juntas, más respeto a nuestras decisiones y nuestros cuerpos, DE TODAS NOSOTRAS. El poder de decisión es algo que subestimamos, chicas, en serio. El mismo poder de decidir qué falda ponernos sin tener que considerar por qué construcciones vamos a caminar o quién va a pensar que somos fáciles es el poder de decidir que peleamos en las cortes para casarnos con quien queramos sin importar el sexo de la otra persona, es el poder de decidir si tenemos a un bebé o no (de forma higiénica y legal), es el poder de decidir si tenemos sexo o no y que se respete cuando decimos “NO”. Cuando no respetamos una decisión, estamos promoviendo que no se respete ninguna. Y si luchamos por una, tenemos que luchar por todas.

Y eso empieza dejándonos de decir zorras las unas a las otras. Empieza con dejar de juzgar desde nuestro “cero en la escala”, desde nuestra supuesta neutralidad. Diría que nadie es perfecto, pero en cuanto a sexualidad y cuerpo y espíritu, creo que todos los somos. Nuestra forma de expresar nuestra sexualidad, siempre y cuando sea consensuada, ES PERFECTA.

Hay muchas fuerzas y muchas cosas en el mundo que nos van a joder igual, que no seamos nosotras mismas las que lo hacemos, ¿no creen?

I show you mine, you show me yours.

I want to share a deep, dark, secret with you guys: I am privileged. Another deep dark secret? You are very likely privileged too.

privilege-and-prejudice

Neverrrrrrrr

I am also oppressed and non-privileged in more than one way, and probably so are you.

I want to address a couple of conversations I have had and comments I have received (thanks you guys! you make me love my blog and feel obligated to write in here even though I have finals coming up, and I like the feeling), most of them relating, directly or indirectly, to privilege. I have mentioned it but, true enough, haven’t really explained it or said too much about it. The point of this blog (or part of it) is making information accessible, and I haven’t been doing that all too well.

So, first of all, what is meant by privilege?

For those not too familiar with social justice or feminist blogs or literature in general, privilege is a set of unearned benefits society bestows you due solely to one fraction of your identity, whether it be race, gender, sex, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc. What does this mean, in reality? That there are things that I don’t have to think about, daily nuissances that I will not be target of, worries that I will not have, and disadvantages that I do not need to consider because I am a person with no physical disability or impairment of any kind, for example. Privilege makes our lives easier in ways that we tend to take for granted, and so checking our privilege is, for one, realising how good we have it in many ways. Privilege also makes us think, say and do things that may offend others simply because, in our position of privilege, we do not “have to” think about others, as the default way of thinking in that area in which we are privileged supports our own.

This is too broad and abstract though, I believe. Most talk about privilege is fairly abstract because it intends to apply to as many people as possible. I will talk about it in more concrete terms. Big, huge, monumental disclaimer, though: I am not speaking for anyone other than myself. I do not know or pretend to know everything. That is another thing about privilege: even if you’re oppressed in some other way, no two oppressions are the same, so do not pretend you empathize, because you cannot possibly know what anything other than your own experience is like. That said, here is an attempt to further explain what privilege is.

For example, I am a ciswoman (as in, my gender identity happens to match the sex assigned to me at birth; this, as opposed to transgender, which is when the gender identity you’re comfortable with does not match the sex assigned to you at birth). Based on that one little fraction among all the complexities of human beings, I have certain benefits – ranging from relatively small nuissances that I don’t have to deal with, to relatively big ones like not having to choose between a birth certificate that reflects my identity (and save myself from more nuissances, confusion and harassment) and having children. I am not harassed and stared at and whispered about when I go to public restrooms, I am not constantly asked really invasive and STRAIGHT UP NONE-OF-THEIR-BUSINESS questions like what my genitals look like or how I have sex, my gender identity is plenty represented in mainstream media (without it being only as the punchline of a joke). If I am in need of medical care, my gender identity will not grant me an unnecessary psychological examination; if I am in need of a shelter I do not have to fear for physical abuse in there. People don’t ask what my real sex is, as if I was lying or as if my gender identity was not valid, as if they were entitled to decide who I am for me. [I am taking these examples from this blog post, but the list goes on and on.]

Now, another thing I have heard and have read is pretty common (and fairly understandable) is that whole defensive ‘ttude of “but I am not like that!” or, “what do you mean I am privileged? I have had it bad in life!”

Here’s the thing, when someone (for example me, through this blog) tells you to check your privilege, they (or we) are not blaming you. Privilege is not about individual behavior or douche-baggery. It is not about you.

Privilege is not about blame, but it is about responsibility. Of course I know you cannot help but being white, or male, or cisgender, or able-bodied, or economically well-off, or heterosexual. I know, also, that you are probably a nice, well-intentioned fella. Most people are, I truly believe that. Thing is, we are part of a patriarchal society which values and reinforces and benefits some groups of people while oppressing, discriminating against, dehumanizing and invalidating the experiences and identities of other groups of people. That is a fact [If you are unwilling to accept this fact, I am sorry we’ve wasted each other’s time. Go about your business now].

Furthermore, society is built in such a way that dominant discourse, mainstream media, formal education, law, medical discourse is meant to represent and reinfornce the views and interests and needs of the privileged and ignore or reject or misrepresent those of the non-privileged. For a quick example, see what is meant by “flesh-tone” in most products: whose flesh tone is that? It sure as hell is not mine, it sure as hell is not the majority of my hometown’s flesh tone, it sure as hell is not the majority of most countries’ flesh tone. And YET…

Now, as I was saying, privilege IS about responsibility. Sure, as much as you read a checklist on male privilege and you think to yourself “yes, that’s right, how have I never thought about this”, you’re still a guy. And that is okay. Don’t do like I did the first time I read that I was privileged in so and so ways and be paralized by liberal guilt and by “omg I have been such an asshole!” thoughts. I mean yes, reflect on the fact that you may have been an asshole enough time so that you try not to be an asshole ever again, but accept that you probably will. Move on, though: we all make mistakes and will continue making them, just hopefully not the same ones.

A friend, reasonably, asked me, what the hell do I do with that, though? What do we do with that privilege?

Be extra aware of it. Be aware that you are already over-represented everywhere else, so you should allow non-privileged groups to have the chance and the space and the voice: help them create those spaces, those times.

Be humble. The rest of the world thinks you are more entitled to talk on behalf of others already, so don’t. No matter how much you read about their history, their needs, their interests, their concerns, their oppression (which you should, by all means); no matter how active of an ally you are. You are not them, you cannot explain their suffering for them, you cannot answer for them. So shut up, listen, and learn.

Learn their terms. They should not be the ones teaching you how not to be offensive, you should be able to do that yourself. It is valid to ask questions, of course (RESPECTFUL questions). Just do not feel like you can correct us on how you can refer to us (if I personally find you calling me ‘baby’ offensive, dude, drop it). Short confession: I once thought I was entitled to judge if I were to call a transwoman a woman or a man based on how much she “passed” as a woman. I cannot even begin to say how ashamed I am of that mentality right now, how sorry I am for it. Completely unacceptable.

Learn their history, their oppression, their concerns. We learn the white, heterosexual, able-bodied male history since we are kids, even if it does not represent most of us or OUR history. Now it is time for you to do the same.

Be an active ally. Do not try to lead the way, but try to walk with them, supporting their struggles. Call bullshit on the guys for catcalling, intervene when someone is bullying a person on a wheelchair, correct a person who you know got your friend’s pronoun wrong [See: Trans Etiquette for Non-Trans People | Matt Kailey]. To be an active ally you have to be an active listener, willing to accept your own mistakes, willing to take the heat of being an ally of an oppressed group, willing to shut up when you have to and speak up when you must.

And, honestly, why not? Use your privilege for good. Respectfully, carefully, checking yourself closely.

While cismen speaking up against violence against women might be seen as problematic because it should not take a cisman’s voice for other men to listen to it and pay attention (a woman saying “stop raping us” should be just as effective and respected of a claim as a man saying “let’s stop raping women”), today’s world works in such a way, unfortunately. Cismen speaking up against violence against women or against sexism in general, provide men with a role model they can relate to (on the basis of genitalia similarity, which I find quite odd and arbitrary), and they can listen up. They cannot say the guy is speaking to his own benefit or personal interest, and human brains work in such a way that we think that fact makes their claim more valid – whereas, as Tim Wise speaks about in his ‘Pathology of White Privilege’, who is more of an expert on oppression than the victim of that same oppression?! – and it may be more effective. An ally is an ally. If I am talking to a friend about sex work, about transgender issues, about disability, I will use my privilege in those categories to speak of what I know, with as much care and tact and humility as possible, and I will try to change someone’s prejudices and misunderstandings. I will point out when they say something offensive, even if it is not specifically offensive to me.

Why? Firstly, because I would like a guy to do the same thing about rape culture and about slut shaming and about wage gaps, I in fact love it when I see it happening. It does not make them or me a better person, or more entitled to friendship, a relationship, sex or ANYTHING with the group we are an ally of, needless to say. But I love it. Secondly, because part of knowing you’re privileged in some way is knowing that people are more likely to listen to you (unfortunately, and we must of course fight to change that fact as well: referencing non-privileged authors or sources of knowledge, explicitly noting that your word is not any more valid, etc). People are less likely to dismiss you, or get defensive, or offend you with their denial. It sucks, but it is true, and an ally is an ally (again, a respectful, non-entitled, humble one). I don’t know about you, but I’d take it as it is.

So yeah, that sums it up I think. Checking your privilege is 1) realizing you haven’t got it so bad after all, so stop bitchin’, 2) taking into account that what you say might come from that place of privilege and ignorance and you may need to apologize, correct yourself, do your homework, etc, 3) taking responsibility for your words and actions, and owning that privilege by becoming an active and supportive ally, 4) realizing some spaces are not for you to take over with your privilege-splaining (I think I just made that up, but see mansplaining to check out what I mean) or your over-representativeness: you have the rest of the world to have role models, topics relevant to your needs and interests, categories and terms that are consistent with how you see and like the world, etc., so back off when, for once, it isn’t about you.

That is all, for now. If you have any thoughts or things to add, please tell me. I love knowing more and more and more. And sharing it all 🙂

If you feel like talking about privilege to others and are not sure how to start, or are not all convinced by what I said just now, check out How To Talk To Someone About Privilege Who Doesn’t Know What That Is, and An Anthology of Privilege Checklists.

Words that matter.

I have said before how I love language. I love it because it can empower or disempower, create or destroy. It frames issues, gives them direction. It is part of your identity, of how others see you and how you see yourself.

It can be incredibly intimate – with secret codes and made-up words to have with someone, with words of encouragment every morning in front of the mirror – and it can be incredibly political. It IS always political, in that it includes and excludes, offends or supports, ALWAYS. Even when we are not paying attention, language comes up behind us and stabs us in the back, letting everyone know our true sentiments, our deepest-held prejudices, our privilege, our ignorance. I believe that we ought to pay more attention, as our choice of wordscan make a great deal of difference in which conversations happen, who we include instead of excluding, who we stop hurting.

Language (not just English, although the literature I have encountered has been vast on this particular one) as an inherently racist, inherently sexist, inherently homophobic, inherently classist thing is too broad and too complex and too damn long a topic to speak of right now. For now, I just wanted to share some terms I have been trying to use or stop using and why. I of course, invite you to also check yourself – as a privileged ally, that is the least you can do really – and evaluate your language use and do your homework about it and change some habits too.

Some of the terms, dichotomies, standard-versus-other stuffs that we should all be changing:

– First of all, that whole “my gay friend/cousin/teacher” when sexual orientation is not relevant to the conversation (which if you ask me, is almost all the time). It makes me and others think 1) the gold standard is being heterosexual and that one person is the weird one in your world, 2) our (and your) judgment of the rest of what you’ll say should take the ‘gay’ bit into account (for some bizarre and homophobic reason) and 3)  that – sorry, I gotta say it – having a friend who happens to be gay somehow makes you a better or cooler or special person and we should take notice of that fact.

Also, some funny kind-of-true stuff

– Same thing goes with “my black friend”, “my trans friend’, ‘my disabled friend’, ‘my midget friend’. Unless that part of their complex, full, awesome being is relevant, saying it only marks it as a difference. And yes, differences do exist, but I do not hear you saying “my white friend”, “my straight friend”, “my cisgender (I’ll come back to this one) friend”, “my fully-physically-abled friend”.

– Start using cisgender to refer to people who are not transgender, who are privileged in this society for identifying with the same sex they were born with, when differentiating from transgender people. Do not mark the difference by saying “men and transmen”, as if the normal thing was to be cisgender and the other, the alien, the abnormal was to be transgender.

“Oh, but I only mean normal in the statistically-normal kind of way”, you say? We humans do not talk in statistically-literate terms, in case you have not noticed. In a hypothetical situation, almost anyone would be more likely to say it is more normal to run into an English-speaking person in Argentina (or almost any country) than it is to run into someone who speaks Chinese, even if Chinese is more statistically normal. Because language is about politics, about visibility, about access. I know the analogy is not perfect, but you get the point.

“Oh, I don’t know anyone trans so I’m not offending anyone”, you say? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t (what makes you assume you know, anyway?). Even if you don’t, language works like a forest fire. If you say cisgender, someone might ask you what cisgender is, maybe they’ll too be convinced and use it, and so on: somewhere (if not everywhere) along the line, you just stopped someone (and yourself) from – possibly unintentionally – hurting, discriminating against, and offending some one else.

While we’re on the subject of cisgenders and cisgender privilege, it is time for a check-list. I know I have been guilty of more than one horribly offensive, transphobic thing, and some of them stem from not fully acknowledging cisgender privilege, so check it out and stop being a twat 😉

– Saying something/someone is “so gay” as a way of saying silly/dumb/ridiculous/flamboyant/cowardly/boring/cheesy/over-dramatic. You are literally equating those negative or at the very least stereotyping adjectives to being homosexual, and an = sign goes both ways. It is as simple as not being lazy and use any of the above adjectives or any other instead of saying “gay”. Even Hilary Duff agrees with me on this one.

– The same thing goes for “stop being such a girl”, “you’re such a pussy” (for an anatomically-accurate word for ‘sensitive’, try “glans”, as in the tip of your penis), “he plays like a chick” or the like.

run like a girl

You are saying, first of all, that whatever attitude the person displayed was a feminine (girly/womanly/chick-y) thing to do which is 1) stereotyping and further reinforcing gender roles that block both men and women from being however the fudge they want to be without fear of ridicule; and 2) saying, literally saying, that being equated to a woman is wrong or undesirable or humilliating or inferior. Actually, all of those things. It goes like this: “playing like a chick” is saying (most commonly) that that person is playing badly or poorly or too delicately, right? So you’re saying that a girl plays badly and poorly and too delicately, and because you are saying it to demean a person, it is saying that being called or compared to a girl is supposed to be demeaning. It is very easy: say they are playing poorly. Say they are being over-dramatic, say they are being too high-maintenance. Don’t equate those bad attributes and offensive stereotypes to women and do not equate “woman”/”girl”/”chick” to an insult.

– Using the word ‘retarded’ or retard. Something is not retarded: something is either ridiculous, or dumb, or bad, or annoying, none of which describes or equates to intellectually challenged or disabled individuals. Do not use that word to describe people who are not intellectually disabled as a way to insult them: it should not be an insult because intellectually disabled people are not inferior or wrong or less worthy than non-disabled people like yourself. Do not use that word to describe intellectually disabled individuals either, it is offensive. You are not charged by the vowel, so I am sure you can use intellectually disabled instead.

– Oh, OH. Please, stop using the word ‘rape’ for anything else than rape itself. Ohhh this makes my blood boil. You did not “rape that exam”, you ‘rocked’ it or you finished it no-problem. The football team did not “rape that tournament”, they embarrassingly outperformed the other teams.

Using the word minimizes the actual pain, suffering and trauma of survivors. It hurts them, and it can bring back the pain of the actual rape that happened to them. It makes survivors feel unsafe and rapists feel safer in a world that trivializes and jokes about what they do. Here’s another more elaborate take on this.

– Relevant to recent events, debates and blog posts: gay marriage vs marriage. I am guilty-as-friggin-charged. I think this is not cool because it makes it as if marriage between heterosexuals is the whole deal and the other one is an alternative version. So I will start saying “straight marriage” or “heterosexual marriage”. This is a pledge.

So yeah. These are some easy ways in which we can change our habits to be better and to make others feel better and safer. By recognizing the prejudices that we carry with us and by correcting the language that promote these same prejudices, we make it less okay for people to say racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist things whether it is on purpose or not.

THIS. If you have to start the sentence with "I'm not racist, but", YOU ARE BEING RACIST.

THIS. If you have to start the sentence with “I’m not racist, but”, YOU ARE BEING RACIST.

I also invite you to check out this test. It is related to my blog post in that our word choice is one of the ways our prejudices leak out, but there is so much more to look at inside our socialization. The test was created by Harvard researchers in order to assess some of the unconcious associations we make and makes us reflect upon them in order to make our concious attitudes meaningful ones. It is also super simple and interesting and enlightening [I got some scores that embarrass me, honestly, but that make me think and try to tackle internalized ideas I hold].

Any other terms/phrases you think we should change in our vocabulary?