Saturday, January 21, 2012

Adventures in Women's Studies: Purity-Mongers Strike Again

Earlier this week, I guest lectured in a Gender and Pop Culture class using the research I did for my honors thesis--the Duggars, Quiverfull, purity movements, and the like. It went quite well as usual, and we ended the class by watching the new 45 minute documentary of Jessica Valenti's The Purity Myth. She analyzes the obsession with a woman's purity and how this in fact sexualizes women and girls even more by placing their entire worth between their legs. Excellent watching. Find a way to view it.

In any case, it just so happens that Valenti was also just on Anderson Cooper debating with Randy Wilson, who is the male half of the couple that created the infamous Purity Balls, ample footage of which can be found on you tube. The usual arguments were made (brilliantly on Valenti's part, weak and insane on Wilson's in my humble opinion), and much merriment was had by all the feminists. Then they discussed a you tube vlog that went viral at the end of last year, posted by a 13-year-old Canadian girl about slut shaming.

Slut Shaming: the act of shaming a woman as a slut for her actual or perceived sexual activity based on rumor, attire, or knowledge of her personal life; most important to note is that it is solely aimed at women

She should be explaining this to a majority of the grown women I know. She breaks down how it contributes to sexism and rape culture and basically does the universe a service by putting this out there for her audience. The after-show "continued discussion" featured several audience members quietly losing their shit over how this 13-year-old was discussing sex and sluts. "She's so young." "She's advocating sex at 13." "She's too young to know anything about this." Okay, I usually have some issues with the current youth movement's insistence on supporting youth rights as extensively as they do. Don't get me wrong. I do think that young adults should be taken seriously, but they are still young adults, which means they do still need guidance and not all of them are as capable and mature as the movement would have you think. However, this girl is obviously quite knowledgeable, and the fact of the matter is that she never advocated sex for 13-year-olds. Not once. She never said she was having sex. Not once. She never even said that all her friends were having sex. Again, not once. What she advocated was well-informed, consensual, safe sex for those who are mentally and physically prepared to deal with the act and its possible consequences--an excellent thing to stump for as far as I can see. These women (and notice that it was only women) who basically attacked her mentally blocked everything she said except "have sex," instantaneously morphing a mature, well-thought-out, brilliant message that should be standard fare in any household into a blanket endorsement of child sex. In the process, they absolutely lost the message, one that they would have done well to absorb. There are kids having sex at 13 (and younger in some cases), and they have internalized the larger culture's ideals that a woman having sex at any age is a slut but a man is a stud. This is not new, but it is still a problem and needs to be addressed as such by women of all ages.

Valenti's main argument is that by focusing our attention completely on whether or not a girl or woman has had sex or not is painting her as nothing more than a sexual creature, which is exactly what the purity movements claim that larger society does and what they claim to be fighting by shoving the purity ideal down the throats of people at every turn. What they need to understand is that no one is attacking the idea of not having sex. That's fine. But they also need to understand that they need to stop attacking the idea of having it, which is also fine. A woman is not only the area between her legs, not just the number of times she's been intimate, and not solely the length of time she remains celibate; she is a complex creature with wants and needs every bit as important as her sexual activity or lack thereof. In short, can we please start telling our daughters and sons that the body is an amazing thing that houses the wonders of the mind and soul, which are truly the markers of a person's worth, and that there are better things to worry about than how many times the kid in the next row has or has not done the deed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's a Small, Disordered World

My entire life I have fought to conceal my OCD and its weirdness, the oddball compulsions, and general insanity accompanying it. I never wanted people to notice me checking the door locks over and over, the way I have to walk on sidewalks with cracks, and the way I can't function properly on brick or cobblestone walkways. Now I find myself expounding and expatiating on every bit of minutiae associated with it--in blogs, essays, and (at least attempting) poetry. On the one hand, this makes me vulnerable to comments I would otherwise be able to avoid, and on the other I'm making myself part of a community. So, what's the point? Earlier this evening, I read some comments on another OCD blog asking for help. The person was dealing with a particular type of obsessive thought and was trying to find out whether he was alone. While it is true that every person experiences their disorder in different ways, obsessions and compulsions repeat themselves over and over. I used to have the very kind of intrusive thought the commenter was worried about, and I was able to reassure him he is not alone.

Honestly, I have no other real point here...just that I am constantly amazed at how freakin' small the world gets everyday.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Scary Numbers, or What is Wrong with These People: A Brief Discussion of Rape Stats

While driving home today, I saw a billboard posted by a group called FSU Measure Up. In short, it's a "social norms initiative" which aims to "correct misconceptions about male students in regards to promiscuity and sexual violence" (from their "About" page). Anyway, the text read something like "FSU Men understand the importance of getting consent before sexual intimacy." First of all, let me say that I certainly support the idea that the men at FSU have figured out this apparently esoteric piece of knowledge, I went and poked around the Measure Up website and found the following bits of info:

"88% of FSU men have gotten consent before sexual intimacy."
"97% of FSU men would do something to help a woman if they Saw her being mistreated."
"93% of FSU men would respect someone who intervened to prevent abuse or sexual assault."

Again, good, but...Since when did the notion that one needs consent before sex become such a revolutionary idea? And who are these 12% that did not get consent? Because, hello, that's rape and a crime, and my first inclination is expulsion. Except of course, these were, I assume, anonymous surveys, and so the people conducting them don't know which ones were the miscreants. Who are these 3% who would ignore the mistreatment, and why did so many of the 97% lie on this question? I'm sorry, but it's a valid question here. And the 7% who would not respect someone who intervened need their asses beaten. Here's one more thing to ponder: Why don't these numbers add up? These appear to be all from the same survey, so in theory, the men who got consent would have answered positively on other questions.

I'm just absolutely floored by the need for this campaign. As my friend Eric said, "What ought to be basic human decency is now award-winning behavior: 'Don't I get pie for not raping you?'"