Notes on The Feminist Porn Book | Take 3

Continuing with my series of notes on The Feminist Porn Book, I am taking this next one from Candida Royalle’s essay, “What’s a Nice Girl Like You…”

This quote is about porn but really it’s about every aspect of sexuality, IMHO.

“If women don’t create their own erotic visions, their own sexual language, men will continue to do it for us and we’ll never fully understand our own unique sexual nature.” Candida Royalle

Candida Royale was one of the first women to make “porn for women” – a term that, although now problematic, spoke in its beginnings (and still does today to an extent) to a need for porn that was not so into money shots, not so lacking in foreplay and in female orgasms, porn with a little more conversation to go with the action, please (geddit?).

This quote – or rather, how I think about it – is about much more than that, though.

Of course, having women (or anyone that is not cis, hetero, able-bodied, male & white) direct & call the shots in porn allows for others fantasies to be explored, other bodies to be shown, other types of sex to be represented. And that is awesome. That is not the start, or the end of it, though.

Across the board, it is primarily men deciding what our bodies should look like, how we should feel about them, what they should mean to us, and how it is acceptable to use our own bodies and sexuality. Mass media, the “medical community”, mainstream porn, the beauty industry: they are by and large owned by white cis-het able-bodied rich men who get to tell everyone what sexy looks like, what normal looks like, what acceptable, healthy sexuality should look like.

[Oddly enough, if you ask me, enthusiastic consent is the only “should” that has a place when it comes to sexuality, and yet it is the one thing that none of these industries seem to care about.]

We could be the ones calling the shots on what our bodies feel like and what we want them to look like. We could be the ones calling the shots on what our fantasies are, what our sex looks & tastes & sounds & feels like, and if and when we choose to even have it.

This is something we can all learn from feminist pornographers: we get to decide what we think is sexy, acceptable, desirable, healthy for us & our bodies. And your sexy, acceptable, desirable & healthy will not necessarily (or likely) look like my sexy, acceptable, desirable & healthy, and that’s okay. That’s friggin’ awesome, in fact, because choice is at the heart of feminism & sex-positivity, and should be at the heart of just basic human decency, to be honest.

We don’t have to make our own porn for this to be the case – although if you feel so inclined, please do make your own porn, and tell me all about it afterwards! Everytime we are thinking about our own body and sexuality & feel a “should” question coming to our brain (should I ask them to take out the whips? should I lose a few pounds? should I wear this tight glittery dress?), we could replace the should with a want. Do we want to ask them to take out the whips? Do we want to lose a few pounds? Do we want to wear the tight glittery dress?

As long as we ask and get the consent of everyone involved in whatever is going on – and no, your judgmental fatphobic aunt is not INVOLVED in your weight – then you should feel free to do whatever you want to do.

Going back to the quote, moreover, if we don’t start (or continue) pushing back against what the media, the beauty industry, most of mainstream porn, & the patriarchy at large tells us to look, feel & fuck like, the powers that be will continue to do it for us. And how do we fight back? Sometimes it is one outfit choice at a time, or one sexy session, or one meal, or one heartfelt conversation. Hell, even a selfie at a time. One shame-induced should at a time.

 

This is not to say of course that we are at fault if we are unable, unwilling or too exhausted to push back & fight the oppressive systems that tell us we don’t look the part, we don’t fuck right, we don’t do as we should. It’s okay to be tired of fighting back; it is okay if you don’t feel emotionally or physically safe doing so.

The corporations, the media, the government should be the one changing to become better at representing its costumers, its consumers, its people. Some brave folks work everyday from within these systems & structures & institutions to try to shift gears towards more humane capitalism (is that even a real thing, I ask?) It is not enough though, and it will never be.

Empowerment & resistance start at home, because body- & sex-negative capitalism – or sketchy, sexist, racist porn, for that matter – isn’t going to hand over the power. We gotta take it ourselves.

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If you are looking for this mighty book on your local (buy local pretty plz) bookstore or library, here is the bibliography:

Taormino, Tristan; Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young (eds). The Feminist Porn Book: The politics of producing pleasure. The Feminist Press: New York, 2013.

 

Related bits (re: shame, empowerment, sex-positivity)

What Revenge Porn Tells Us About Sex and Humilliation | Charlie Glickman

The cost of sexual shame | The Salon

Megan Falley – “Fat Girl” (poem)

Notes on The Feminist Porn Book | Take 2

I am continuing my series of entries on quotes from one of the sex-posi favorites in my bookshelf, The Feminist Porn Book.

“You see, erotic filmmakers were the original indie filmmakers. The fact that their films turned you on was no different from a different genre scaring the daylights out of you, or making you cry. Films are great vehicles to elicit strong emotion. When they touch you on multiple levels simultaneously, we call them ‘masterpieces'” Susie Bright

This quote speaks to the movie lover in me. I don’t know a lot (actually, nothing at all) about film, so my reaction to movies is very simple: I like it the most when it makes me feel something – anything.

I appreciate the quote because it attempts – as I and many sexuality educators do as well – to normalize porn and porn consumption. Just like sex work is still work but is treated very differently (and sometimes violently) because sex is taboo in our society, porn flicks are still flicks that are treated very differently , often because the emotions and sensations (arousal, pleasure) it can produce are taboo in our society. The taboo gives us a story about the society it lives in, but it is not a valid reason to judge the work itself, the porn movie itself.

We sometimes think of or perceive pleasure as unacceptable, inappropriate, shameful. But really, fear, excitement, anger: they’re all ways in which our bodies and brains are aroused. It’s the same thing with sexual arousal.

This quote also says a lot about how pornographic films – I don’t mean PornHub four-minute videos here – are looked down upon when they take their own set of skills and they are their own genre, within film and media. Both mainstream and feminist porn have certain conventions, standards, particular practices to the genre. Same with actors – just like not every average Joe can pull off what Tom Hiddleston (and his stunt doubles, I guess) can, not a lot of gals can do flexibility, grace & endurance like Stoya can.

Susie Bright’s quote reminds me, moreover, of the fact that pornography (as is clasified by whoever classifies pornography) is not the only type of film, or media, that can sexually arouse. I don’t know about my readers, but seeing Loki making everyone kneel is a pretty intense experience.

All jokes aside, different images and mediums and formats arouse different people, but they are not all treated the same way. To mark as pornographic the media that has sexual arousal as a purpose makes sense, I guess, but it is also alienating. A shoe fetishist can enjoy watching Sex & The City more than they enjoy YouPorn, for all I know. And THAT IS OKAY. Pleasure as one of many sensations and emotions that film, or TV, brings out in us, is okay.

Now you may think, “Well yes, but isn’t it calling some porn film a masterpiece a bit of a stretch?” I don’t really know. I don’t think so. A porno, within its genre & era & budget & goals, CAN be a masterpiece. Just like you can’t (or would probably be mistaken to) compare an Action movie to a Documentary – because the skills, the required talents, the money going into them, etc are not comparable – I would not ask anyone to compare, I don’t know, No Country for Old Men to Much More Pussy.

(Even the criticism of porn as being racist, sexist, with sometimes sketchy work conditions. I hate to say it but most industries have varying degrees of racism, sexism, & it is always the case that the more an employee needs a job, the more an employer feels like they can abuse their power. Sexism, classism, violence, racism, ablesim: they are society issues, not pornography issues.)

I guess what I am trying to say is, don’t be so quick to judge or look down on the porn flicks, or the porn performers, or the porn consumers. Their art is not all that different & neither are their struggles.

——————-

If you are looking for this mighty book on your local (buy local pretty plz) bookstore or library, here is the bibliography:

Taormino, Tristan; Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young (eds). The Feminist Porn Book: The politics of producing pleasure. The Feminist Press: New York, 2013.

Notes on The Feminist Porn Book | Take 1

I recently read The Feminist Porn Book by Tristan Taormino. It is such a great book, and Taormino, as well as all the other authors who contributed essays to it, have amazing brains.

I love talking about porn with people and listening to their opinions. This book definitely helped me in polishing and re-conceptualizing my own, and has equipped me with more information and perspectives to be able to help and guide others in their journey through porn & porn critique.

I decided to write a series of (shorter than usual) blog posts about different quotes from the book that are thought-provoking, fun, and/or great to talk about. Please comment, add to, disagree with, and share through the comments, on social media or wherever you feel like bringing up porn (hey, Easter is coming up!). Communication is what keeps us learning and growing!

I will start with a quote from the Introduction which I think is VERY relatable to many, and I think speaks to one of the reasons I love feminist porn.

“Feminist porn does not shy away from the darker shades of women’s fantasies. It creates space for realizing the contradictory ways in which our fantasies do not always line up with our politics or ideas of who we think we are.”  – Constance Penley, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Mireille Miller-Young, Tristan Taormino

It is very simply put here, which I love about the quote, but really it speaks to a complex, ongoing process of deconstruction, critique and mindfullness that feminism has always dealt with in different ways with different phenomena.

The internal battle between desire & politics, fantasy & activism, the personal as political, is not exclusive to porn, of course. For decades certain currents within and outside of feminism have criticized femme identity of being internalized misogyny, sex work of being a weapon and a victim of the patriarchy, fetishism as being just another form of female objectification, to name a few instances. Hell, even being attracted to cis men is sometimes subject to feminist, queer criticism. Ask bisexual communities.

The thing about porn, and about sex & sexuality at large, is that we do not pick and choose what turns us on. Sure, desire is to an extent malleable, but it is hardly voluntary. Either something has orgasmic potential or it doesn’t. What we protest against during the day may very well be what we ask our partners to (consensually!!) act out with us at night.

Think about BDSM, abduction fantasies or rape (role)play, D/s relationships, maid/slave/schoolgirl role-play. These are all things for which (primarily people raised as) women who enjoy them, in particular when these women want to play out the submissive role, often face external and/or internal criticism, shame, accusations of betrayal to the movement. “Am I perpetuating rape culture?” “Why do I want a man to be physically/verbally violent with me in bed?” “Am I furthering the stereotype that (all) women WANT to be submissive (outside of bed too)?”

My answer would be NO, people whose desires take them to submissive roles, feminine attitudes, and/or ANYTHING ELSE for that matter, are not perpetuating anything. They are (consensually, duh) enjoying their sex lives, which is awesome, healthy and empowering. And they are acting upon their own bodies as they please. Isn’t choice and self-determination what feminism is all about?

Now, we – the book & I both, I mean – aren’t saying that fantasies, BDSM, porn, etc should be exempted from intersectional feminist critique. Feminist porn is about allowing that critique to happen – in front and behind the camera, as well as in the audience & under the sheets, there should be discussion & reflection of why and how and when these things are happening, ways to be ethical & humane about them, etc.

But feminist porn – and sex-positivity in general, I would say – is about acknowledging that our politics are no less valid because we don’t get off on them. It is also about being mindful that our desires are just as big a part of us as our ideologies, and that paying attention to both is not an impossible contradiction but rather a useful tool in knowing ourselves and others better.

Feminist porn does not pretend these “darker shades of women’s fantasies” don’t exist, nor does it judge & police them. It exposes them, is highly aware of them, comments on them, and ultimately allows them to be. This is something to love and admire and try to bring to our lives: feminist porn allows (or tries its best to allow) all shades of human emotion & sexuality to just be.

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If you are looking for this mighty book on your local (buy local pretty plz) bookstore or library, here is the bibliography:

Taormino, Tristan; Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young (eds). The Feminist Porn Book: The politics of producing pleasure. The Feminist Press: New York, 2013.

Related bits (re: fantasy, feminism, BDSM):

Laci Green’s vid on Female Sexual Fantasies

The Pervocracy: “How can you be a feminist and do BDSM?”

Feminist Halestorm: Consensual Non-Consent. Trigger warning for discussion of rape.

————–

What do YOU think about fantasies, feminist porn & the politics of desire?

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.

You want a blog post on consent? Yeah?!

I have talked – and heard, and read – a lot about consent in the past few months. I am starting to give workshops on it, too, which is great experience. One thing that I have noticed most people struggle with is the practical part.

I will explain myself. Although a lot of people still have the concept of consent itself still a bit fuzzy, many people know what it is, textbook-definition-wise.

For those of you a bit unsure, or if you think you know but you really don’t, here are some characteristics of consent:

– Mutual: That means everyone involved in whatever is going on is giving it.

– Continuous: That means that it is not a yes at the beginning and then you are good to go forever and ever. It also means the people involved are responsible for checking in with the other and making sure everyone is enthusiastically into whatever is happening. AND it also means that it can be withdrawn at any point.

– Act-specific: This goes without saying if one truly understands the previous point, but consent to one thing does not mean consent to every (or any) other thing that follows. Consent to one thing now does not mean consent for that one same thing forever. This also means that relationship status does not mean consent: just because you are married does not mean both people consent to everything the other person wants.

– Freely given: This means that if a “no” carries with it negative consequences (of any kind – blackmail, emotional or physical violence, financial trouble, getting fired), then a “yes” means nothing. The space has to be a safe one in which a “no” can be said and received. (We’ll get more into this later.)

– Enthusiastic: This means many things: that a lack of a “no”, or silence, do not mean “yes”. That “not sure”, “not tonight”, “I am tired”, “could you not?”, “stop”, “I feel weird about this”, etc should be checked in and discussed and anything that is going on should STOP.

– Explicit: That means that, although non-verbal cues help, and the body should definitely (ideally) match the words, explicit verbal consent should happen. If not verbal, how can one be sure? (Hint: You can’t.)

 

Now, many people will say this list, or a variation of this list, but when it comes down to it, they will object that explicit consent is kind of unrealistic or boring or awkward or unnecessary even. I think it is in that last point, the point about being explicit and verbal, that many people get stuck and scream IMPOSSIBLE! and leave me broken-hearted.

Many people will say it is boring to explicitly ask and give consent. I find this kind of funny because I have thought this way too, until I realized what explicit, enthusiastic, consent can actually look like: dirty talk. I think people who see it as boring think of a very dry police-questioning kind of interaction: “Would you agree that now is a good time to perform manual stimulation on each other?” “I agree, certainly. But perhaps we could start by osculating for 5 to 15 minutes before proceeding” OF COURSE THAT THIS WOULD BE BORING AND UNREALISTIC.

Other people still will argue that it is often unnecessary. The “c’mon, dudebroman, I’ve got mad game! I know when a chick wants the D, y’know?” argument. Well, dudebroman, and any other person reading this: you don’t “just” know if another folk wants the D or any other letter you might want to give at that point in time. No one does. You gotta ask. The one initiating any sexual contact should always check in with the other person. Of course I don’t mean a ridiculous play-by-play “can I touch your left butt-cheek? Can I touch your right one? Can I touch both simultaneously?” so don’t be the jackass who makes that joke when someone is explaining consent to you, okay?

Many other people will argue that it is awkward and therefore unrealistic because you’d kill the mood or scare the person away.

First of all, as I like saying about any other situation that certain people see as awkward: it is only so if you make it or think it so. Furthermore, it is only awkward the first couple of times you do it – like anything else. We get this idea from the media and other people that sex “just happens”, and that there is no need for verbal communication. People are not born with this knowledge of what goes where and how fast or slow and how every D and P and A likes it and what to do with your genitals to help them become the very best they can be. People aren’t – usually, anyway – born good at sex (whatever that even means). You get good at your own, and you get good at communicating in such a way that the other person gets good at doing you and you at doing them. Same with consent, people aren’t born good at it. People are often raised to be bad at it, actually (not because they are raised to sexually abuse – although that point is arguable -, but because they are taught that you don’t need to ask, because “game” means you just intuitively know stuff). You have to learn consent, and practice it, though.

Now, let’s go back to the dirty talk. I love talking about dirty talk because it is literally what sex ed activists mean when they say this clichéd “Consent Is Sexy” line. “Do you want my dick in your mouth?” Giggle all you want, and take your time to blush and do a backflip if you need to, but that shit’s hot.

Dirty talk, furthermore, works for both questions and checking-in (“Do you like it when I do this? how much do you like it, huh? or this?”) or initiatives (“You know what drives me nuts? When you do this”). Initiatives are great because you can use them to both state what you want but also check in (“I would love to kiss you right now”). And, call me crazy, but there is no sexier thing than having someone saying to you that they really want you. As one of my faves sex educator /magic person, Megan Andelloux says, you want someone pulling towards you, not pushing and stopping you every step of the way (which is the kind of rapey “playing hard to get” model, btw. Let’s save that convo for Christmastime, though).

Now, of course dirty talk and consent (beware, I am not saying they are the same thing, and dirty talk should be consensual and checked-in for too) take some time to get used to and good at. Hell, I am speaking from no high horse of ultimate-consent-power (can that be a superhero? one that jumps into bed – or wherever consent is needed – and hits offenders with a sparkly dildo-hammer?) here. But anyone can get up there.

It takes a lot of unlearning, for sure:

Unlearning our shame with wording body parts (if you can’t say the word for it, how can you ask if someone wants something in/around/on it?) and with verbalizing desire (especially those raised as women, who are most often taught that wanting something sexual, or to show it, is slutty and shameful). Unlearning that to tell someone (or hear someone tell us) what they want means they (or we) have failed as lovers. Unlearning that “kinky” (whatever that means to every and any one of my readers) is a bad thing and that certain behaviours are inherently bad, or of this and that kind of people or orientation or gender. Yes, I am talking about guys that are still scared of their butts because “homo!” or whatever. You don’t know what you are missing (or so would a prostate-owner say).

It takes a lot of learning: about our own bodies (how are we supposed to instruct the other/s if we don’t know ourselves?), about communication, about the body (do you know that a penis-owner can have an orgasm without an erection? – if you did, a cookie for you! If you didn’t, well, there you go. Something I know (and you didn’t) about your gens.

More often than not, too, I hear arguments towards it being awkward to explicitly ask/give consent when you are starting off with someone, and arguments towards it being unnecessary when you have been with that person/people for ages. It seems then that it is never truly a good time to explicitly ask for consent, when it is ALWAYS  a good time to do so. Not only because it makes you an actually decent human being (which should be enough of a reason), but it can also make you a better partner in crime.

When you are starting off with someone, asking if they want something or other can give you a better sense of what makes them go nuts in a good way, and what is a definite OFF switch. If you have been with someone/s for ages, it spices things up a bit: you can see if they are willing to try X or Y, you can tease them about things. And c’mon, dirty talk is fun, and surprisingly new for a lot of “old” (time together-wise, not necessarily age-related) couples.

I guess what I want to say is, learn and practice consent. I would say “it’s not that hard, for fucks sakes”, but for many of us it is, because of what we’ve known all our lives, and because it takes time and willingness and thought. But hey, on the plus side, it makes you a non-rapist. And it can make sex much better. And it can make your relationships (both the one-night-stand and the lifelong partnership) much better too. Is it awkward at the beginning? Sure, but so is sex, and yet you did it anyway (that time with the sweaty palms and the parked car that was way too small and uncomfortable and the is-this-supposed-to-go-here’s ), didn’t you?

Hopefully not ON the car?

Or maybe you did do it on top of a car in January, in the Yukon. And with practice you learned that that was shitty and now you do things in ways that are better? In ways that are sexier in a way you thought that maybe on top of a car was sexy but was really just a bad idea? Right?! Okay not the best example, but there ya go.

FYI: to my one-day-to-be teenage nephews

Today I read this one article that pretty much forced me to throw away all responsibilities and get to writing on this blog again (which is great!). The first thing I thought was “those poor boys”, quickly followed by “OH MY GOD WHAT IF MY NEPHEWS GOT THESE HORRIBLE IDEAS FROM SOMEONE?”, and, while I would like to think they are being and will continue to be raised better than that, I also wanted to write a letter to their future teenage selves.

Granted, I am not a parent. I may or may not become a parent. But I swear to Jimi, my intentions towards those gorgeous, amazing little boys are parent-like. Plus, anyone with half a sense of what is actually wrong with the world can tell what was wrong with that article, with or without having given birth.

 

Now, for the sake of this letter (and how heteronormative the original one was) I am going to assume my nephews are heterosexual. They are 1 and 3 now, so I have no idea and I don’t really care who or what they do in that respect. I am also being quite sarcastic in how I mimic the original letter’s structure and content. But all in all, it is pretty much what I would say to them.

 

Dear boys,

I have some information that might interest you. I don’t creep on your social media – and really hope your parents don’t either, because that shit’s creepy and wrong and not even beneficial to anyone – but I know we trust each other and so I have seen some of your pictures with your teenage gal friends.

You are teenage boys, and you may or may not have a lot of lady friends – you don’t have to in order to be a man’s man, and there is no “naturally” in how you define your own masculinity and boys will not be “boys” if they don’t want to, I hope you know that. If you do like having a lot of gal friends, though, that is cool too. You own your own body and mind and goddamn Facebook profile.

Anyhoo, back to the pictures. They have cute bedrooms, don’t they? I noticed and you noticed too because I really hope we are past stupid stereotypes of boys have dirty rooms and don’t even see color and “girls have pink everything and basically smell pink” by the time you are in your teens. They are also really clean rooms, like yours. I don’t even need to say this to you, that hygiene is not a girly thing, it is just good sense, and that having somewhat dirty rooms is not a guy thing, it is a teenager thing.

Look at all the interesting books and magazines and fun things they have, though! I know you notice because, contrary to what media often portrays, men are capable of seeing beyond bra-less breasts. Perhaps she could recommend you a book? She seems really smart and wonderful and I know you know this as well.

Now, you may notice other things – I am not assuming that because you are a boy (hell, I notice breasts too from time to time, although I don’t really look at that in teenage girls’ photos), but because you are into girls (not all girls, of course, like all human beings you have preferences and choices) and there are girls in those pictures. Some pictures have girls posing in their pj’s, some pictures have boys and girls hanging out in their swim suits, some pictures have people dancing at a party.

 

Now, you may have heard an unhealthy amount of talk about teenage girls and women and how they should act and dress and talk.

So, here’s the bit that I think is important for you to realize: those pictures are not about you. The poses they make and the clothes they wear are completely independent of you, and me, and everyone other than themselves for that matter. As such, they are not yours to judge or try to dictate over. Women are not yours to judge or dictate over.

What you do own and dictate over is your own behavior towards those pictures and towards those women. It is fairly normal that you notice their lack of bra or their curves or their pretty eyes or their pose. You have eyes – we all do. What is not okay is for you to reduce them to their bodies and their poses and choice of attire, because just like you and your parents and me and everyone else, they are complex and whole people and you should respect them and treat them as such.

Speaking of complex and whole people – you are such complex and whole individuals. You have the ability to see someone dressed one or another way and know that that means nothing about their personality, their intentions, their character, their intellect, their sexuality, etc. You have the ability to be attracted to someone – sexually or not – and act or not act on it depending on how appropriate, consensual, convenient (or whatever) it would be. You – as any other human being – have will, reasoning, and self control. To sum this up, and to clarify – given all the ideas that the media and crazy mothers around the internet will have you think – WHAT YOU SAY OR DO OR THINK IN REGARDS TO A WOMAN AND A WOMAN’S BODY IS ON YOU, NOT ON HER. And before another crazy person on the internet says anything: unless a girl/woman comes up to you and verbally, explicitly asks you “can you please view me sexually?”, nothing else she ever does is asking for you to do so. So, I am sorry to break it to you, buddies, but it is on you.

Please know that I genuinely get what you see in those pictures and all of that. We are sexual beings, and you boys are raised (hopefully not too much) to think that sexualizing and objectifying women is what boys do, and that it is a woman’s fault when you do it. I believe in you, though, because you are insightful, smart, and very, very funny. It is a unique lens you have, that of a teenage boy, because your hormones are all over the place and you think of things you don’t know much about yet. It is okay, it is even fun! But that does not mean that your teenage gal friends are responsible for your erection.

Which is what makes this such an important topic to discuss.

Those messages in the media don’t reflect who you are at all, though! I think you guys are lovely and interesting and usually very smart. I cringe and wonder what the people saying these things are trying to do or who you are trying to reach by blaming women for men’s behavior. What are they trying to say? That you are incapable of discerning between clothing and character? That you lack self-restraint? That you are a primitive monkey who is governed by his boners and who cannot unsee nakedness? I know you would be insulted by this, and I know you are more than that.

And now – big bummer – we have to sit here and talk about crappy messages being said to you. Because, the reason we have these (hopefully not too awkard) family conversations around the table is that we are not sex-negative slut-shaming assholes (assholes are actually very smart organs, but that is another subject for another future time) like so many people all over the world. I would never block any of those messages from you though, because that is a violation of your right to information (as false and ridiculous as it may be) and because I trust you to make your own decisions regarding the messages you get. I can only hope you continue to trust me enough to bring those messages to the table to discuss openly about.

I care about you deeply, just as I know that teenage girls’ families care about them and would like their friends to be decent human beings who take responsibility for their own behaviours.

I know their family would not be thrilled at the thought of you teenage boys making inappropriate jokes or comments about these girls’ bodies. Did you know that once you see a role model slut-shaming or making horrible jokes about women, you start thinking it is okay? And that once you say one such thing and no one calls you on it, they start rolling off your tongue? You don’t want people you care deeply for to see you as an ignorant, sexist, dudebro, do you?

Neither do I. I know you are much more than that.

And so, in this house, in our relationship with each other, there are always second chances, even if you say something you’ve heard somewhere that is kind of sexist or demeaning of other people in any way. But we would talk about it, and talk about it a lot. I know, so lame. But, if you want to be a decent and respectable human being, you will listen and keep an open mind. Or maybe you won’t, but I will say these things anyway, because I care. I also hope you grow up to know your privilege as a guy and know that with great power comes great responsibility – is that still a reference for you? I hope it is – so, yeah.

I know this sounds weird because I might (hopefull not) be the first one to tell you these things, but I am hoping to help you guys be great men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger endlessly over pictures of women, and if they do, they take responsibility for it.

Every day I pray  – nah, I don’t pray, who are we kidding – think about the women or men or whomever (because love is not just romantic love) that you will love and who will love you. I hope you are drawn to people who are beautiful and who know beauty is everywhere, not only on the outside and especially not only in clothing. I hope that you complement each other and make each other the best each of you wants to be. I don’t like the term “worthy” because it assumes some people aren’t , but I hope that you inspire respect because you give it too.

Guys, it is not too late to unlearn shitty messages! If you think you’ve made an online mistake – telling a girl she is a slut or that she looks fat or joking with your friends that her ass looked a certain way and that she is better/worse for that – you don’t have to run and take it down “before I see it”. I am not the CIA, a creepy mother, or the boss of you. Just acknowledge that it was wrong and apologize if necessary, and learn about ways you can become a better man in those respects. You don’t want to make comments or remarks that make it easy for people to assume you are a disrespectful human being, and see you in that dimension alone.

Will you trust me? There are girls out there waiting and hoping for men of character. Plenty of young men and women are fighting the daily uphill battle to keep their minds free of sexist, slut-shaming BS, and their thoughts praiseworthy – just like you.

You are growing into a real beauty, inside and out.

Act like that, speak like that, post like that.

 

Your loving aunt Lui

“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.