Interesting conversation about hook up culture, social media, apps, sex, sexuality, shame, agency, performance (lots of kinds!). Cringed at word “coed” but how can you pass up a conversation with Jaclyn F!
For the American women who believed the future was imminently female, Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday marks the end of mourning and the beginning of resistance. One day later, after the transfer of power is complete, more than 200,000 women and men are expected to unite for the Women’s March on Washington, offering the nation its first glimpse into what feminism will look like under President Trump.
“A lot of women are going to literally die because of this administration,” Jaclyn Friedman, a feminist activist and co-editor of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, said about threats to the Affordable Care Act. Trump and Republicans want to repeal it, while feminists fight to preserve the law that made it impossible for women to be denied coverage because of their gender.
It is one of many battles ahead in what promises to be another challenging chapter for the women’s movement. If America had elected its first female president, feminists say they would have continued to fight deeply entrenched sexism. But under Trump, who won the presidency after accusations of serial sexual assault and bragging he groped women’s genitals, they worry about a more permissible culture of misogyny, as well as the potential loss of federal protections. Women’s advocates say now more than ever, feminism needs to stop being seen as a dispensable fad and start being understood as fundamental to democracy.
Hey! I was wondering what books you enjoyed reading in 2015. Can you recommend some? Thanks.
I highly recommend the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. I read books 4,5, and 6 this year. Book one is called The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It’s set in England in the 1950s and it’s about an 11 year old girl who is an awesomely smart scientist. She solves mystery in her small town.
For nonfiction, I recommend: Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis.
For books I’ve read prior to this year:
First of all, anything and everything by Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.
Mistress of the Art of Death (series), by Ariana Franklin. It’s set in the 12th century and the main character is a female doctor.
Beneath a Marble Sky, by John Shors. This is set in India during the building of the Taj Mahal. It’s a romance.
Almost Like Being in Love, by Steve Kluger
The Davinci Code, by Dan Brown. So many twists and turns! Kept me excited and surprised the whole time.
White Oleander, by Janet Fitch.
Which Brings Me to You, by Steve Almond
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. A fantastic book!
The Stranger, by Albert Camus
Last Summer, by Michael Thomas Ford
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Luis Zafon. Truly excellent!
Cleopatra’s Daughter, by Michelle Moran
Hope Leslie, by Catherine Maria Sedgwick. One of my favorite books I’ve had to read for school.
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, by Chris Hayes. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you want to understand today’s political and economic climate, read this book!
We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity, by bell hooks.
Virgin: The Untouched History, by Hanne Blank
Safe, Legal, and Unavailable? Abortion Politics in the United States, by Melody Rose
Transgender History, by Susan Stryker
America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls. Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, by Gail Collins. This covers the 1600s to 1970.
Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America, by Rickie Solinger.
Sexuality and Socialism, by Sherry Wolf.
How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, by Cristina Page
Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. A series of really wonderful and powerful essays.
History of the Breast, by Marilyn Yalom
History of the Wife, by Marilyn Yalom
The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade, by Ann Fessler. This really opened my eyes and informed my opinions on the subject.
The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, by Jessica Valenti. This is one of the early books I read on feminism and it was very informative!
Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance, by Rachel Moran
I want a future where women and girls get to be the subject of their own sexuality, not the object of somebody else’s. That we are the main characters in our own play, not props in somebody else’s—which is how women’s sexuality is treated now. Whatever the outside attitudes about sexuality it’s always about somebody’s agenda for us, and I want a world where we can have our own.
Yesterday Jaclyn Friedman came to my campus to speak. She talked about rape culture, virginity as a commodity, and enthusiastic consent.
I enjoyed her talk and liked most of what she had to say. Some of it, specifically talking about boundaries and what finding and obeying your own boundaries means, made me uncomfortable but I liked that. Sometimes when I go see a feminist speaker, it gets boring because I just agree with everything they are saying. That wasn’t the case with Jaclyn.
I got the chance to ask her about the concept of enthusiastic consent when it comes to sex work, and I really appreciated her answer since it’s something I struggle with as a feminist. She talked about enthusiastic consent being an overarching theme in sex work. She said that she struggled with if sex work could ever be truly consensual because of power dynamics and economic coercion. I appreciated her honestly, because this is something I struggle with and I am intimidated to talk about it because I think most feminists have “figured it out”. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one who was conflicted.
How many times have you said or heard some version of this: “I don’t know. One minute we were dancing, and then the next thing I knew we had just had sex. It kind of just happened.” “We woke up together, and she was like, ‘So, when can I see you again?’ And now I guess we’re in a relationship? It just happened.”
“It just happened” is incredibly common when it comes to sexual relationships. It’s also the enemy of what you really really want. When we say “it just happened” (and we don’t mean “I was incredibly drunk or high or asleep and therefore not aware enough of my surroundings to have actively participated,” which is sexual assault, not sex), what we’re doing is denying responsibility for our sexual and romantic decisions. That can feel pretty appealing, especially if you’re not comfortable with your sexuality or don’t believe you deserve pleasure and safety. If we imagine that sex and relationships “just happen” to us, that they’re really beyond our control, then we can’t be blamed for anything that goes wrong, or shamed for being the sexual people we are, or feel embarrassed for wanting satisfaction.
Trouble is, “it just happened” also denies us the opportunity to be active in pursuit of our own pleasure. There’s no room in “it just happened” to know what you really really want, so there can’t be any room to pursue it. Letting things “just happen” can also be risky. If you’re refusing responsibility for decision making, you’re also probably paying less attention to your intuition. And you’re less likely to speak up if something feels off, or if you want your partner to practice safer sex, or if something starts to hurt or freak you out and you want to stop.
It’s not even always high-stakes negotiations where this winds up mattering. Take pity sex, for example. I slept with a guy out of pity once. It was horrible. We were on a first date, and he was funny and charming and smart and handsome, and basically let him know I was interested in sleeping with him before we even kissed. (Please take my advice and never do this: The way someone kisses can tell you a lot about how they’ll do other things.) So we went back to his room, and as we’re leaning in for that first kiss, he makes a stiff “O” with his lips and pokes his tongue out of it — before our lips even touch. I can still see it, coming at me in slow motion, and in my brain a thought flashed up as though on a screen: I’ve made a serious miscalculation. Abort! Abort! But did I? No, I felt too bad. It felt too impossibly awkward for me to stop him midkiss and say, “Actually, I’ve changed my mind.” So I slept with him. And it was terrible. I was just checked out the whole time, wondering when it would be over, and he was like an overenthusiastic, unhousebroken puppy. He had no idea how miserable I was, but that wasn’t his fault — I was actively lying. Through my actions and my affect, I was doing my best to convince him I was having a great time, too.
Did anything horrible happen? Unless you count the hives I had at the end of the evening (his dog? His scratchy wool blanket? I still don’t know), not really. I felt icky about it for a day or two (and still do when I think about it, including now), and I had to awkwardly tell him I just wasn’t that into him when he followed up for a second date. Which must’ve been confusing for him, since I’d given him no sign the night before that I wasn’t into him.
But it was also confusing for me, in dangerous ways — the same ways it’s always confusing and dangerous when you ignore your instincts and violate your own boundaries. Which is why, if I ever find myself in a similar situation again, I hope my emotional muscles will be strong enough to allow me to speak up sooner.
It can be really tempting to leave these decisions up to other people. When you let someone else lead, you’re not required to put yourself out there as much. If rejection feels scary to you, that can be awfully appealing. You can also avoid rejecting other people by going with their flow, at least in the short term. (Though trust that I speak from experience when I tell you that not telling someone you’re not that into them when you’re not that into them only leads to bad things for both of you down the road.)
But here’s the thing: You can’t have sexual relationships without messy, awkward, emotionally risky interactions. You just can’t. You can deal with the messy, awkward, emotionally risky stuff up front and honestly and increase your chances of having fulfilling mutual interactions, or you can wait and hope it doesn’t blow up in your face. But you can’t engage on such an intimate level with another human being without it sometimes being weird. The sooner you make peace with that and stop imagining this stuff is easy for everyone but you (because it’s not: It’s messy, risky, and emotionally awkward for everyone), the sooner you’ll stop letting things “just happen” and take control of your sexual and romantic life.
Do you know of any literature (ANYTHIIIING) that I could read about slut-shaming?
Well if you mean literature that critically shits on slut-shamers/a culture which encourages slut-shaming (I assume), then you can’t go wrong with the feminist A-Team atm, aka:
Jessica Valenti (especially He’s A Stud, She’s a Slut and Purity Myth, the latter is much more academic/historical/sociological, a great read)
Jaclyn Friedman’s Yes Means Yes (with Jessica Valenti) is probably THE manifesto on feminist sex positivy and breaking down slut-shaming.
Other notable friends are Amanda Marcotte, Heather Corinna (more education/health-based, she runs a great blog called Scarleteen), Roxanne Gay over at Racialicious, honestly anything by bell hooks because helloooo, the same goes for Andrea Dworkin, more creative folks like Karley Sciortino over at Slutever who is sucessfully living the kind of life feminists are fighting to mainstream. If you’re thinking “what does slut-shaming look like outside of the straight cis girl-world” I’m actually in the process of reading “Why are Faggots so Afraid of Faggots?” queerness and sex and politics and shame. Great essays.
If women were just as free as men to go a little crazy
on their own terms, things would fall apart. Entire segments of the corporate porn and entertainment industries would crumble because it would no longer be taboo (and therefore thrilling) to see girls “going wild.” Society would have to rethink its indulgence of ”boys will be boys” behavior, if “girls could be girls,” too. Homophobia would lose some of its grip , because it would no longer be a scary, vulnerable thing to be “like a girl.” No wonder it’s easier to just tell women to “be careful” and create safe-ride programs. But there are costs to asking women to police our own safety, beyond the basic and profound unfairness of the thing. The first is pleasure. Because I gotta tell you: Indulging your wild side can be pretty fun. That’s why we do it. For the ecstasy of merging our bodies with the sweaty, throbbing crowd on the dance floor. For the thrill of meeting someone’s eye for the first time and indulging our desire to find out right now what their skin feels like. … Sure, there are plenty of ways drinking and/or sexing can be bad for you - any pleasure can be manipulated or abused for any number of reasons. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with either, and when you force women to choose safety over pleasure in ways men never have to (and when you shame them for choosing “wrong”), you teach women that their pleasure is not as important as men’s. And that’s a slippery slope we all need to stop sliding down.