Condoms, Anyone?

Earlier this week, I overheard a rather disappointing conversation as I was sitting in the waiting room of my gynecologist’s office. It went something like this: A young woman—I’d say, early twenties—enters the waiting room to discuss an issue she has with the secretary. The twenty-something is extremely upset because—due to changes in her health insurance—she’s no longer going to be able to receive the NuvaRing (for free, I assume?), and now has to switch to an alternate form of birth control that will now cost her upwards of $50 a month. As the secretary was trying to calm her down, she was mentioning cheaper forms of protection. And when she brought up condoms, the younger woman cut her off and said she’s looking for “protection that will actually work.”

Sigh. Continue Reading →

Systemic Racism, Systemic Sexism

The consequences of racism, sexism, and other intolerant attitudes are far-reaching and deep in America, and yet they also result in everyday acts that wear us down, battering at our sense of self-worth and value as a human being. Many of these acts are systemic, meaning that they are the results of a social system that has been in place for a long time and goes largely unquestioned. These daily acts of racism and sexism mirror each other in strange ways, and yet each brings with it unique circumstances. When I read Michael Twittty’s open letter to Paula Deen (regarding the accusations of her racist speech and acts), it resonated with me. Not because I am African-American; no, my ancestors were largely European, and I recognize that I come from a place of privilege. Continue Reading →

The Pill Vs. The Pullout

Hormonal birth control is something that works for some women, and not for others, which is okay. Yet as Jill discusses in this Feministe article, the author of a new book called Sweetening the Pill takes her own awful experience on the pill as evidence “that the Pill is terrible for all women.” Generalizing from one person’s experience to everyone’s is, of course, a bad idea. As Jill writes: “And most of my friends who are on the Pill don’t have the same side effects that I had, and are perfectly happy relying on it as their primary means of contraception. Also, one friend feels like she gets in her best shape by running, another by doing Barre classes and Pilates, whereas I prefer yoga. Continue Reading →

The “F*ck Yes” Attitude To Courtship

In the realm of dating and courtship advice, there’s tons of material out there on how to convince someone they want to be with you. However, as Mark Manson advocates in his blog post Fuck Yes Or No, maybe you should only pursue people who respond to you with enthusiasm (the titular “fuck yes”). As he puts it: Why would you ever be excited to be with someone who is not excited to be with you? If they’re not happy with you now, what makes you think they’ll be happy to be with you later? Why do you make an effort to convince someone to date you when they make no effort to convince you? Continue Reading →

Gender Studies Via The Powerpuff Girls

A friend pointed me toward this amusing link: The Powerpuff Girls Could Have Replaced Your Gender Studies Class. In it, the author describes the show’s subversiveness, thinly veiled under a cutesy cartoon. Cross-dressing and questioning normative gender roles abound, and the show even makes a critique of the cult of manhood. Pretty advanced gender studies ideas for a children’s show, eh? Continue Reading →

Gender Roles And Sexual Roles

In one of my posts in the informed consent series I wrote, I explained the idea behind the Zimbardo prison experiment: that in a normal population of college students, roles were randomly assigned so that some students became prison guards, and others became prisoners. The guards quickly began acting abusive, as though the roles became their identities. I was discussing this experiment with a friend in the BDSM scene, and she pointed out that maybe the same thing is happening with American gender roles and sexuality. That is, because so many men are conditioned to become aggressive and forceful, this could be one reason why there is both anecdotal evidence and statistical evidence for there being many more men than women who prefer the dominant role in sexual encounters. If mainstream society is molding men to express their sexuality (indeed, their overall identities) in terms of acquisition, conquest, and violence, then perhaps that also accounts for the sexual roles that many men prefer. Continue Reading →

The Wallet Metaphor

Humans communicate in metaphors. They’re useful for expressing abstract concepts in concrete terms, even if the metaphor doesn’t 100% map to the concept being expressed (the point is that they’re not supposed to be literal representations). My post on the puzzle box model of sex shows one example of this, and this blog post using a lost wallet metaphor demonstrates another. According to the wallet metaphor, “just because you left your wallet someplace doesn’t make it right that someone took your money” and, similarly, “We set the stage for ‘date’/'acquaintance’ rape when we imply that when a woman’s body is ‘left out in the open’ in some way — because of a short skirt, or too many drinks — it’s in any way acceptable to engage in any type of sexual contact without her explicit consent.” Think about it. Continue Reading →

On Being A Sex Educator When You’re Not

A funny thing has been happening to me lately. People have started treating me like a sex educator, even though I’m not. I work in adjacent fields, certainly (such as folklore and gender studies), but I wouldn’t claim the title of sex educator for a number of reasons. What’s a well-intentioned scholar/blogger to do? First, while I frequently can and do educate people about sex, there’s a reason I’m not calling myself a sex educator. Continue Reading →

Should Strong Be The New Skinny?

The slogan “strong is the new skinny” has been making the rounds this summer, with mixed results. One blogger embraces this attitude, wishing she’d learned it sooner and saved herself a lot of grief, while another blogger thinks that idealizing strong bodies is the same as idealizing skinny bodies, just with a different image being idolized. I would advise proceeding with caution, as we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that being strong carries with it all these positive character traits when in actuality, different people experience strength differently. Some people put on muscle quickly, while others don’t; some people feel pride in their strength, while for others it’s a reflection of a career or hobby (such as mountaineering or rock climbing). And finally, “strength” means different things to different people: to some it might be the ability to crank out push-ups or pull-ups, while for others it might be the ability to go through one’s daily tasks, from opening pickle jars to carrying babies, without fatigue or pain. Continue Reading →

The “Dating Rules” Idea

What’s up with the spate of rules that fathers make about dating their daughters? I’m sure you’ve all heard some variation of the whole “oh, so you’re dating my daughter, have I mentioned that I have a shotgun?” dating rules. Maybe they’re meant to be jokes, but they also communicate something very specific about what dating and sex are about: that boys will try to “take” sex from girls, and it’s the father’s job to lock up his daughter in order to protect her. Ugh, right? In this excellent blog post, TheFerrett deconstructs the notion that fathers should be overprotective of their daughters. Continue Reading →