Little somethin’ about agency

4/18/13

Reposted without permission from: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/04/17/1883121/west-virginia-abstinence-assembly/?mobile=nc

 

High Schooler Protests ‘Slut-Shaming’ Abstinence Assembly Despite Alleged Threats From Her Principal

By Tara Culp-Ressler on Apr 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm

High school senior Katelyn Campbell

A West Virginia high school student is filing an injunction against her principal, who she claims is threatening to punish her for speaking out against a factually inaccurate abstinence assembly at her school. Katelyn Campbell, who is the student body vice president at George Washington High School, alleges her principal threatened to call the college where she’s been accepted to report that she has “bad character.”

George Washington High School recently hosted a conservative speaker,Pam Stenzel, who travels around the country to advocate an abstinence-only approach to teen sexuality. Stenzel has a long history of using inflammatory rhetoric to convince young people that they will face dire consequences for becoming sexually active. At GW’s assembly, Stenzel allegedly told students that “if you take birth control, your mother probably hates you” and “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous.” She also asserted that condoms aren’t safe, and every instance of sexual contact will lead to a sexually transmitted infection.

Campbell refused to attend the assembly, which was funded by a conservative religious organization called “Believe in West Virginia” and advertised with fliers that proclaimed “God’s plan for sexual purity.” Instead, she filed a complaint with the ACLU and began to speak out about her objections to this type of school-sponsored event. Campbell called Stenzel’s presentation “slut shaming” and said that it made many students uncomfortable.

GW Principal George Aulenbacher, on the other hand, didn’t see anything wrong with hosting Stenzel. “The only way to guarantee safety is abstinence. Sometimes, that can be a touchy topic, but I was not offended by her,” he told the West Virginia Gazettelast week.

But it didn’t end with a simple difference of opinion among Campbell and her principal. The high school senior alleges that Aulenbacher threatened to call Wellesley College, where Campbell has been accepted to study in the fall, after she spoke to the press about her objections to the assembly. According to Campbell, her principal said, “How would you feel if I called your college and told them what bad character you have and what a backstabber you are?” Campbell alleges that Aulenbacher continued to berate her in his office, eventually driving her to tears. “He threatened me and my future in order to put forth his own personal agenda and make teachers and students feel they cant speak up because of fear of retaliation,” she said of the incident.

 

Despite being threatened, Campbell is not backing down. She hopes that filing this injunction will protect her freedom of speech to continue advocating for comprehensive sexual health resources for West Virginia’s youth. “West Virginia has the ninth highest pregnancy rate in the U.S.,” Campbell told the Gazette. “I should be able to be informed in my school what birth control is and how I can get it. With the policy at GW, under George Aulenbacher, information about birth control and sex education has been suppressed. Our nurse wasn’t allowed to talk about where you can get birth control for free in the city of Charleston.”

Campbell’s complaints about her high school reflect a problematic trend across the country. There are serious consequences when figures like Stenzel repeatedly tell young Americans that contraception isn’t safe. Partly because of the scientific misinformation that often pervades abstinence-only curricula, an estimated 60 percent of young adults are misinformed about birth control’s effectiveness — and some of those teens choose not to use it because they assume it won’t make any difference. Predictably, the states that lack adequate sex ed requirements are also the states that have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.

Some of Campbell’s fellow students at GW High School are also rallying for her cause. They plan to take up the issue at a local board of education meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday evening.

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B: “I am a mirage, I am thirst-quenching, I am brief, I am physically attractive which registers as a meal to men”

4/11/13

1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in?  Emotional  spaces?  How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation,  background, class, etc?
#1) and a little #3): I feel unsafe walking to my car after work,  walking from my car to my house, walking at night…I suppose its  because I live in G-town and Im white, while most of my  neighbors are black, and Im usually dressed up in a skirt that feels  beautiful when I look in the mirror, but suddenly feels like bad  idea when I step outside. I usually regret my clothing choice when  Im walking to my front door at 3am. I wish there was a softer way to  close my car door. I wish I wasnt so aware of my fear because it Im  afraid its palpable. I sometimes think my over-awareness and fear  wakes thieves up at night….its blood in the water. Bad men sense  it and know how to find me…sniff me out.
My uncle says to walk with confidence…walk like I have power. So  I do that now.
I must appear wealthy walking out of my great big mansion with my  multiple coats and scarves dressed to the nines.
I want to yell: “NO! am very poor! these clothes were purchased by  my parents! and not even they can really afford them! they should be  saving for retirement, but I think they still feel guilty about  divorcing so I get a lot of gifts! These headphones were an impulse  buy! Im sorry! Please dont break into my home! I collect vintage  things! its all I have, my things!

2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of  other women?  How do you think others perceive you physically?  What  elements contribute to these perceptions?
#2) I am a pretty girl. My family tells me. My friends tell me.  Strangers tell me. Men who have no business talking to a young girl,  tell me. Married men wink at me while their wives backs are turned.  My boss likes my shirts and tells me so, more often than he should.  Old men tell dirty jokes after I help them to their cab. Police men  roll down their windows and ask if I need a ride (cue wink and hat  tip) Old boyfriends want “one more night” before they commit to  meaningful relationships.
After 3rd and forth dates I am pushed up against closed storefronts  on Passyunk and kissed violently. My breasts are ravaged and sore  for days. My hair is pulled on dark porches. I am ran-sacked. I let  it happen because im sexy. I provide an outlet for the beast in men.  I am fantasy and kink and things you do while you’re young…before  the mortgage payments come….before you wed that woman that will  solider through your marriage and always take the kids to school. I  am a last stop on the way to regualr sex, 9-5 jobs, or a mid-life  break from all that.
Men don’t want to marry me, they want to fuck me in soccer nets on  the fields of their high schools in the middle of the night because  they never made the team.
Men want me to give them blow jobs in their new cars because it’s  the first thing they’ve ever really owned.
Men want to take me to Japanese fan exhibits and take me back to  their apartments and dress me like a geisha and spank me.
Men want me to keep my glasses on, take my bra off, leave my high  heels on, turn around, apologize, say thank you, slap them, keep  quiet for three months and do it all over again.
I am a mirage.
I am thirst-quenching.
I am brief.
I am physically attractive which registers as a meal to men.  Sometimes I think Im expected to know how to be on top during sex,  give great head and talk dirty. S actually said to me, “I  thought you would have loved being on top”     ….    What the fuck  does that mean? what about me registers as loving being on top?! I  hate it, actually. WHich turned him off. I KNOW it turned him off  because when I decided to suck it up and try being on top, he lost  his erection. I climbed down like I had lost…utter defeat. “no no  its me…i had too much to drink”  he says…..not an acceptable  excuse. I know it was me. He was expecting some crazy red-head to  rock his world and I failed. Humiliating.
It will all end when my looks fade.
Other girls are jealous because their boyfriends think about me  naked. They want to have three-somes and tuck me in on the couch  after giving me too much wine. They want to give me the spare room  and they peek through the crack in the door while im undressing.
Some women are pretty and travel in attractive circles and dress  well and never pay tabs and dont know their boyfriends over-tipped  me because they paid me for my beauty (as Ani says)
I have been those other women, and sometimes, for a night, they  become me, but we are not alike.
Some women will have backyards.
Some women will never have dates to weddings.

*I think this answers #3….or its a ramble…I AM longwinded, after-all.

Some days I want to hide. I blame it on my profession which is kinda  like a prostitute. The sexier I am, the more likely you will buy  alcohol and get drunk and tip me money. I feel good on Mondays….I  meet my friend for coffee in the morning at a local cafe and we have  gorgeous conversaton with gorgeous women who offer insight from  their classes up the road. I feel filled with ideas and  confidence. I am excited and relaxed and feel like a million bucks.  I call it my girl factory. I need it, because every week, something  or something(s) happen where I want to crawl into a sleeping bag  while at work and change my clothes and put a patch over my eye. Its  a feeling that gives me the start of an anxiety attack. I feel  trapped. I feel powerless. Maybe I overhear my boss talking about a  co-workers breasts to a bunch of regulars, maybe Im at a table, and  this jerk with a sick southern drawl tells me he’ll only tip me if I  can name the republican members of congress. “Dont know that one?  I’ll give ya an easier one” he smirks….his dumpy wife looks  uncomfortable….I imagine very little pleasure in their sexual  life…I am unable to answer his questions about politics. I provide  some sass, and a smile and clear the table to find a “conservative  tip” and all of a sudden I am trapped again. cant go to my girl  factory, cant catch a break, cant name the rebuplicann members of  congress…fuck fuck fuck. I feel a gender gap widening. “we’ll have  two pale ales sweetheart, and make it quick cause my friend here is  thirsy”      “before you say anything, we want napkins because your  table is dirty” They dont speak this way to male servers….i know  it for a fact. Im out of responses that wont get me fired. Frankly,  im out of energy. I cant WAAIT for girl factory on Monday….I may  go Thursday too…just to get a boost.

4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other  elements mean to you?  I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity,  sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.

4) Age plays a crucial role for women and how they define themselves  in society. I do feel pressure to procreate and marry. No direct  pressure, but there is a lingering feeling of a race to win, a rush  of sorts to complete this selfish goal of taking more space,  breeding and ruining the planet. The other day I overheard two young  Indian girls talking about their friend who had gone astray. This   woman had married a non-hindu man and was living in sin somewhere in  Philadelphia so her parents cut her off. Instead of sympathy, the  two girls criticized their friend for choosing love over financial  stability, suggesting that she would have been much happier marrying  a hindu man and staying in her parents good graces. I was appaled.  Not only because they were drinking white zinfandel which is the  lowest of the low on my wine scale, but because I was raised with  the go-ahead to fuck, marry, elope, and procreate with whomever I  chose. When I brought K home to meet my mother she didnt say  “get that philandering Jew out of my house”,  she bought him a  sweater for Christmas and told me to have sex somewhere else besides  my bedroom because we were waking her up. If I brought home a woman  to meet my mother, she might have a fit, but she’d soften when we  had children. My woman-ness mirrors what my mother and grandmother  taught me, and some things Ive learned on my own from books and  movies. I wanted to be Gigi the outspoken french girl, Nancy Drew  the daring sleuth, and my grandmother all rolled into one. I still do.
I still feel my intelligence is sub-par. That in order to be taken  seriously, I have to be smarter or I will be that wise-ass WAITRESS  forever. I feel stronger for having slept with women….like we  exchanged some feminine power that refueled me. I feel marginalized  without a degree, however. Maybe that’s on my end…in my own head.  What do you say when you introduce yourself though? My name is  B. I am working, I live here, I read these books, I listen to  this music, I went to school briefly here, maybe I give my age, my  relationship status…..It’s strange. Withiin minutes Ive been  compartmentalized to a group “no degree” “single” “almost 30” gulp  gulp gulp.
When people compliment me on carrying multiple plates I want to slap  them. “I can do so much more”! I register this overreaction as  insecurity, but I never get the chance to describe myself with the  details that make me an individual. Its seems unfair.
On the upside, I am a white girl from the suburbs. No one in my  family has ever been incarcerated or killed. I have pride in that.  We managed to keep it fairly scandel-less throughout my familys  history save for some substance abuse and mental illness. I don’t  feel alone, is what im trying to say. Even when Bipolar hits, and I  want to end my life, there is a part of me that has stability within  my family. In the end it makes me feel like I have something to  offer. My family provides a sense of security that in essence helps  me become a woman with values and love. They provide confidence and  care above all. Perhaps thats why I would be unable to live far away  from them. Perhaps Ive been nurtured too much and have lost some  independence.
Essentially I am a caregiver. I am a direct product of the love I  was given. I cherish history and continuity and tradition. I am my  mother, but with fresh ideas. I am my grandmother, but stronger.

J: “It’s like I don’t have the right to feel a certain way about my own body because I’m loaning it out at the moment.”

4/9/13

1) What physical spaces do you feel safe or unsafe in? Emotional spaces? How does this relate to your race, age, sexual orientation, background, class, etc?

I tend to feel unsafe in certain public spaces when I’m alone. I didn’t always feel this way, but it’s fairly recent that since I’ve been pregnant (currently in my 7th month), I tend to feel more vulnerable. This is especially true here in the south (living in SC – if you can believe it). I actually don’t feel that way as much when I’m visiting back in the Philly/Jersey area. I think it has more to do with the culture down here. It’s very conservative and women are more obviously objectified or ignored (one or the other).

Before I was pregnant, I worked as a waitress for over 16 years. I felt incredibly unsafe in the restaurant environment. A lot of it has to do with class, but it was mostly about being a woman that led me to feel this way. In fact, the more that I learned about power dynamics, oppression, and sexism, the worse I felt about my position as a server. I felt kind of like a whore because my income was based on whether people liked me or not (although it was really based on what kind of a tipper they were to begin with). Because restaurant owners only pay 2.13 per hour, it felt to me like I was nothing more than a charity case – even though I worked in some pretty high end places and learned how to provide excellent service. It’s just an internal feeling I always had.

2) How do you perceive your own physical appearance and those of other women? How do you think others perceive you physically? What elements contribute to these perceptions?

I used to perceive myself as attractive, but had some minor things that I would have changed about myself if I could have – although nothing too drastic. I tend to think that most humans feel that way. Before I got pregnant, I had gained 25 pounds fairly quickly and felt like I was inhabiting a different person’s body. Now that I’m pregnant and have gained another 25 pounds on top of that, I feel disgusted with my appearance. I get really annoyed when I express how I feel about myself and someone tries to talk me out of it. That seems a bit insensitive and unsupportive to me. It’s like I don’t have the right to feel a certain way about my own body because I’m loaning it out at the moment. I do, however, keep that in perspective – because I have made the commitment to have this child and therefore my personal feelings about how I look are sort of silly right now…since I know it’s only temporary. I feel a bit worried that I might be stuck this way, but I’m extremely motivated to get back into shape after he’s born.

I don’t really measure myself up to other women because I was raised by a crazy woman who always told me I was ugly and I learned how to ignore a lot of the opinions of other women. I really don’t know how other people, in general, perceive me – except from what they say directly. Pre-pregnancy, not many people would comment (besides sexual/romantic partners). Now that I’m carrying a baby, it feels like everyone (including strangers) feels like they have permission to comment on my body. A lady at the bank insisted that I must be having twins and was very quick to tell me how “huge” I am.

I find certain women incredibly attractive. I think I have a “type” that I’m specifically drawn to when it comes to sexual attraction. I have no idea where that comes from, but all I can say is that petite women with small boobs that have a certain style, certain features, and a certain personality really turn me on. Although I don’t really label my sexual orientation as anything, I’d have to say that on the KInsey scale I’m leaning a bit towards the middle, although I’m mostly hetero-identified.

Aside from sexually attractive women, there are plenty of other women I find physically attractive because I appreciate the diversity of beauty in general. I don’t really follow a lot of the typical standards of beauty because I’m not usually a fan of the barbie doll look. I think that understanding media literacy helps me to say, “fuck that.”

3) How do you feel walking outside as a woman? Does this change depending on where you are, how you are dressed, who you are with, who else is around?

It does depend on where I am, who I’m with, and who else is around. Mostly I feel vulnerable though, unfortunately. I really don’t want to feel that way – especially being a feminist. I want to feel empowered and strong (which I’d like to think I’m still empowered and strong, despite vulnerability at times). It’s just that once my eyes had been opened to sexism, there was no going back. I learned that at a young age instinctively, but then I studied about these things as an adult and it only added more to what I was already feeling inside.
I’m happy that I’m a woman. I enjoy being a woman very much and I love women, but I don’t like feeling like I have to prove my intelligence or worth (outside of what my body may be worth) constantly.

4) What does the intersection of your woman-ness with other elements mean to you? I.E. race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I’m sure I’m missing some.

For me, personally, it’s always been my woman-ness and my class placement in society. I suppose there’s also a mental health component that is very much a part of me. I grew up in an abusive and highly dysfunctional household. So much of who I have become is in response to being female, growing up blue collar, and being raised by a woman who has many serious pathological issues.
I think that I’m lucky to have had a rebellious spirit. My family looks down on women (which is one reason why they are SO happy that I’m having a boy – and that grosses me out to no end that they have this preference). And I ended up a feminist. My family doesn’t understand why I’m still in school, but I am working on a second master’s (and racking up student loans that would make a doctor have a heart attack). And, lastly, my mother’s pathologies continue to haunt me and affect me, but I have differentiated myself enough to understand that I will never be like her in those ways.

Ugh. This kind…

3/20/13

Ugh. This kind of thing makes me feel really weird. I’ve never been raped, thank heavens. But, I’ve uh, had sex I wasn’t crazy about. I thought of it as “duty sex,” and when I felt ikky or off about it I figured I was just dealing with slutshame and then spent years trying to figure out why it still felt guilty and gross even after I’d already decided girls are allowed to have sex lives and I didn’t buy the “slut” label on anyone. Now I read things like this and I think I know. And it makes me wanna throw up. If HE doesn’t want to then geez what’s the matter with ME, but if I’M not into it I need “convincing.”

Anonymous/Unknown

Please, No More Dating Guides

3/21/13

Reposted without permission from: http://www.shakesville.com/2013/03/please-no-more-dating-guides.html

Please, No More Dating Guides

Posted by Ana Mardoll at Thursday, March 21, 2013 
[Content Note: Rape, Sexual Harassment]It happens every time there’s a rape trial given national attention or an incident of sexual harassment highly publicized within a community: people start churning out dating guides purporting to teach men how to find sex without resorting to rape. And these “dating guides” have always bothered me, but it took an in-depth conversation with Liss for me to really understand why they irk me so much. This post is a product of that conversation and her collaboration, and is posted here with her permission.I understand the good intentions behind these guides, I really do. More often than not, the authors reference the idea that we need to teach men not to rape (rather than disseminate “rape avoidance tips” centering on victim behavior and victim-blaming narratives) and feel like a post on how to date and/or hook-up without raping would be a positive contribution to that effort. But I also think that such guides, published in direct response to a very public incident of rape or sexual harassment, stand to do more harm than good. Allied persons inclined to speak to men about the value of consent-seeking need to be aware of the harm of writing them in explicit response to specific acts of sexual violence.The guides ignore the actual current narrative in favor of a fictional one. The posts I’ve seen in the wake of the Steubenville rape case have largely centered around not sleeping with women who are awake-but-drunk — a narrative that obscures the fact that the Steubenville rape victim was unconscious. The posts I saw in the wake of Rebecca Watson’s elevator encounter largely focused on how and when and where to pick up women — a narrative that ignored the fact that Rebecca Watson had explicitly and publicly stated that she didn’t want to be picked up at all. These guides are wrenching real narratives away from women in order to tell a different story with a completely different context, and that’s appropriation.

The guides reinforce the narrative that rapists don’t know what they are doing. Some rapists are not aware that what they are doing legally constitutes rape. But most do. When we talk about “teaching men not to rape”, we are not saying that rapists do not understand consent, but rather that rapists are not taught to respect consent — as well as to respect the humanity of the women they might otherwise choose to rape. The framing that rapists are cultivated to deliberately dehumanize their victims and override their consent in a way that needs to be systematically addressed by comprehensive socialization and education is fundamentally different from the framing that rapists are just “clueless dudez” who need instructions on how to get laid in a safe and satisfying manner.

The guides reinforce the narrative that rape is a misunderstanding. Similar to the above, when these “how to get laid, rape-free” guides lay out in painstaking detail how to not ‘accidentally’ rape someone, the narrative that rape is one big misunderstanding is reinforced. The Steubenville rapists knew they were raping an unconscious woman, even if they didn’t choose to apply the word ‘rape’ to the situation — and guides which elide that fact in order to present rape as this exceedingly confusing and “gray area” situation where reasonably people can be completely baffled about consent and active participation is harmful to rape victims by suggesting that reasonable people can disagree about the validity of her rape.

The guides elide the reality that for most rapists, rape is not a bug, but a feature of sexual interaction. Again: teaching men not to rape is more than just teaching them what rape is. Teaching men not to rape means teaching them to see women as fully human and entitled to their bodies and boundaries, and teaching them that masculinity isn’t about force and sexual gratification isn’t about power. These are things that can be taught, but they are rarely things that will be taught in a dating guide. What can be taught in a dating guide is the false narrative that men are solely motivated by sex and that the rapist will give up his raping ways once he finds a sure-fire method for getting consensual sex.

Almost all rapists have access to consensual sex. Some rapists have access to consensual sex from their victims. The availability of consensual sex has nothing to do with the rate of rape, and these guides obscure that reality. The Steubenville football star rapists didn’t rape an unconscious girl because they literally could not find any consensual sex and had to resort to rape instead, and it’s terribly wrong to pretend otherwise.

The guides invisible women with prior intimate relationships with their rapists. Framing rape prevention within the narrative of a dating guide elides the fact that many rape victims have existing intimate relationships with their rapists. I had prior sexual interactions (including, in one case, a long-standing established sexual relationship) with my rapists. My rapists were not confused about my consent or about my boundaries; instead they allowed me my consent when it was convenient for them so that they could maneuver me into a position where they could override my consent without repercussions. Teaching these men to respect my boundaries might have prevented my rape; teaching them how to have consensual sex with me would not have prevented my rape because they already had that.

The guides entrench patriarchal entitlement to women’s bodies. Too many of these “how to win consensual sex so you don’t need to rape!” guides read like pick-up artist instructions. If we frame rape as something that happens only when consensual sex is unavailable, then we enter the misogyny-laden twilight zone where shirts like “Stop Rape. Say Yes.” are made. Not all women want to be picked up. Not all women want to be flirted with. Not all women want to have sex with the specific man reading the dating guide du jour.

When these guides read like an encouragement that the man on the other side of the computer screen can have anything he wants and without having to resort to rape, it ignores the fact that he can’t have “anything” he wants because sex with me is not on the table. He almost certainly can have sex with someone, but he equally certainly cannot have sex with anyone. Yet because these guides implicitly suggest that all women are available, and that all women are attainable, they entrench patriarchal entitlement to women’s bodies. “You are available; therefore you must be available to me” is actually in fact a very common rape justification — it simply cannot be salvaged for use in rape prevention.

The guides imply that Not Being A Rapist isn’t a good enough reward. When we teach men not to rape because women deserve bodily autonomy and boundaries, then men learn not to rape because rape is wrong and it makes them a bad person. When we teach men not to rape because it’s not necessary and there are lots of other, more valid ways to get sexual gratification, then men learn not to rape because they’ll be rewarded if they don’t. You don’t get cookies for not being a rapist. Nor should you. The dating guides that dwell on the male author’s experience and how awesome they were for not giving in to the temptation to rape are particularly guilty of this, because too often they seem to be suggesting that there’s something laudable about choosing not to rape.

Choosing not to rape isn’t a laudable act. It is a necessary-but-not-sufficient part of the bare minimum needed in order to qualify as a decent person. And yet dating guides which suggest that men questing for love on a nightly basis are brave and courageous and awesome for not raping women with alcohol, drugs, coercion, and/or fear are a major part of the rape culture problem by normalizing rape and elevating not-rape as something unusual and special and going-the-extra-mile. And this, too, entrenches the idea that men are entitled to womens’ bodies: this idea that men are owed “reward sex” on the grounds that they haven’t raped anyone lately.

The next time a rape trial is given national attention, or sexual harassment splashes across the headlines, or sexual violence is publicized long enough and loud enough and sensationally enough for everyone to weigh in on the issue for a few short days, please do not write a how-to-get-laid-without-raping guide. Please. Do teach men not to rape by teaching them that all women are people, that consent is crucial, that boundaries are a human right, that active participation is sexy, and that rape of any kind and for any reason is not condoned by you. But don’t “teach” them how to avoid raping women by getting consensual sex from them instead, because you’re not only missing the point, you’re part of the problem.