On Women Who Like Sex

Guest post by feminist singer and songwriter, Carsie Blanton. Check her out on Facebook, Twitter and Blog.

Tomorrow, I am releasing a music video for “Backseat”, which is a song I wrote about wanting to have sex with a hot tattooed guy who unfortunately had a girlfriend. In said video, I will be dancing around in lingerie, drooling over my dear (hot tattooed guy) friend Dan, and singing some pretty thinly veiled sexual innuendo. (Update: see the video here.)

So, this seems like the time to make my confession. Confession might not be the right word, actually, considering my last album, Idiot Heart, was more or less an epic poem on the topic. But, for those of you who don’t know me, or who aren’t big on lyrics, or who are still nursing your vision of me as an innocent young folksinger, here goes:

I like sex. A lot. I don’t like it because it’s all about love, or because it’s some kind of spiritual journey for me. I like it, mostly, because it’s just so dang fun. Because it makes me feel alive, and it allows me to share that aliveness with other people. Because it helps me to learn things about my body and mind and heart that I otherwise wouldn’t. In other words, I like sex for the same reasons I like music and dance: it is a joyful, playful, fun, surprising way to connect with people, and to explore the human experience.

So why, when I’ve written and talked extensively about music and dance, haven’t I gotten around to writing about sex? Because I am afraid of what it will mean. I’m afraid of being judged, shamed, belittled, or reprimanded. I’m afraid my fans will either run screaming into the hills, hiding their children, or become creepy stalking phone-breathers. It’s only recently occurred to me that these fears don’t belong to me; they belong to a culture with a long history of wrongheaded, destructive views about sex, especially as it pertains to women.

In my own interest, and the interest of sex-liking women everywhere, let’s get a few things straight.

1. Sex ≠ love. I think the idea that sex and love are the same thing (perpetuated throughout the world for much of recent history by religion, art, literature and advertising) is responsible for many of our misconceptions about both, so let’s get this one out of the way first.

Clearly, on occasion, people who aren’t in love have sex. Clearly, also, people love other people and don’t have sex with them. I’m not saying they’re mutually exclusive, but neither are they inextricably linked. Love and sex, like milk and cookies, pair well; but neither is required for the enjoyment of the other.

2. Women like sex just as much as men. Countless theories have been put forth over the past few centuries about why women don’t like sex. Without going into the tedious details, let me state my own opinion on the matter: they do.

If you don’t buy it, let’s do an experiment. Let’s start a new culture where women, from their girlhood, are told that sexual pleasure is a natural, fun part of being female. They are never told that sex is dangerous, dirty or weird. They are never badgered, shamed, pressured or forced into any sexual experience. When they become interested in sex with other people, they are encouraged to explore it in a consensual, safe, fun way, with whomever they find themselves attracted to. All of their sexual partners are caring, communicative, generous, and happy to take direction.

That will be our control group.

3. It is not “dangerous” to like sex. All people are vulnerable to rape and sexual assault. All sexually active people are vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections. I don’t believe there is anything about liking sex, or acknowledging it, that puts me in a more vulnerable position.

That’s not to say that there are no risks to having sex, but those risks are not higher than, say, driving a car. Driving a car is generally considered a justifiable risk, whereas having sex – colored by its cultural legacy of shame – is not.

4. Women who like sex will not necessarily have sex with you. This, my friends, is the clincher.

When I find myself in a conversation about sex, and mention that I am a fan of the activity, the men in the room tend to get very nervous, very handsy, or very surly. I think this is due to a common misconception: that women who like sex will “give it up” to anybody. Like, our brains will be so flooded with arousal endorphins that we’ll transform into some kind of pansexual nymph.

Women who like sex still have all our wits about us. Like most people, we only want to have sex with people who we think are attractive, and trustworthy, and with whom we have chemistry.

In conclusion: I just made a music video that is sexy, based on a song that is about sex. Why? Because I like sex. I like sex that is loving and profound, and I like sex that is fun and casual. I like sex as much as any man I know. I am not a weirdo and I am not in any excessive danger. I like sex, but that doesn’t mean I want to have sex with you.

Probably.

Recommended reading:

Please Keep Giving That Guy Shit: Why I like the idea of partnering with a feminist

Guest post by Jake Albright

Unless I’m mistaken, some feminists like guys romantically, they’d just rather not deal with a certain amount of our bullshit.

This I get. This I understand.

For anyone who has ever been to a movie on a Saturday night in Anytown, USA you can recall this scene with ease. An over-emasculated jock drags along an allowing, doe-eyed and loving girlfriend to be arm candy while he jokes and plays with his buddy. She dawdles and feigns interest in hopes that he returns courtship. He might briefly and she once again goes into a supportive role, tending needs and allowing herself to be ignored.

As early as I can remember I saw this dynamic developing among my friends and it drove me insane. In high school I partnered with a dynamic and vibrant thinker who I knew could beat me in a battle of wits and even when my most masculine (and hormonal) tendencies took hold, could slam me back to earth with razor sharp barbs. We bantered and laughed. And though we broke up after high school, she became the mold for all my future romantic relationships.

Was she a feminist? I don’t know that she ever referred to herself as one, but I do know that I never looked at her and thought she’d mindlessly answer to the demands of a man, or knee jerk into doing what was commonly assumed a woman “should do”.

I’m older now, in my thirties and single, not entirely by choice, but it’s my reality. Increasingly, I’ve become intrigued by the relationships I saw in the movie theater in my hometown and the ones I now see in bars in the city where I live. Many men seem to be answering more respectfully and equally to female partners. This is certainly not absolute, but I can see there is an increased balance compared to my earlier days and I enjoy it.

A feminist on a date.

I’ll be looking for a partner again soon. No rush, really, just hope that putting myself in interesting cultural situations or with friends that I know can be open and honest leads to a new and exciting friendship and future partnership. I certainly am not looking to drag around a woman to do my bidding, or looking for someone who wants me to do hers. I want someone willing to go in 50/50. When the going gets tough for one of us, the other picks up the slack. Teamwork. A helping hand.

To the feminists out there, keep on showing men that you want to be equal partners and that under no circumstance are you going to be their lap dog, or their trophy wife. Know, for whatever this is worth, that there ARE guys out there willing to be in such a partnership and stay committed.

 

Jake Albright 

After spending his post-collegiate years living like a bachelor in NYC, Jake spent his late twenties in LA in a loving and committed relationship. Now bi-coastal, and once-again single, Jake has used his experiences to become the lead writer for DatingWebsites.com. A former college athlete, he now spends his extra time traveling to visit friends and take new adventures.

For the Fellas

Guest Post by Alicia Sowisdral of pop!goesalicia

Ugh, I hate dating. Really, I just hate the beginning. Not all of it, of course. When you are newly starting out with someone all you have is possibility and that’s exciting!  Plus, the making out is awesome. But, you also haven’t developed trust yet and that shit makes me CRAZY! You don’t know the person at all and no matter how deep you may have gotten into it during your brief (or not so brief) OKC messaging – all bets are off when you are doing actual face time. You are relying on indictors, clues, your own past experiences, feelings, emotions, signals all to give you some idea of whether you like this person and if they like you.  You are trying to learn about someone while also navigating your emotions not to mention trying to create space in your life for another person to fit.  Of course that doesn’t happen over night. It takes some compromising, probably some discomfort but it’s worth it in the end, right?

Personally, I can tell within the first 5 minutes if I want to see someone again and within the first few weeks I know if I am interested in giving it a go with him. I’m a one at a time guy kinda girl so casual dating doesn’t really appeal to me. And, honestly, this ain’t my first rodeo. After a solid 20 years of dating, I’m getting pretty good at picking them, even if most of my relationships don’t surpass the 90 day probation period that should accompany any long term commitment. I’m single because at the end of the day it is all one big fat fucking maybe.  That and the fact that the guys in my dating pool have still not quite figured out how to face all the REAL SHIT that goes along with trying to be with someone.  What’s with y’all?

Here’s the thing: There are always going to be issues in relationships – especially in the beginning.  In the beginning, we get all hopped up on possibility and allow the smallest commonalities to speak to someone’s entire personality.  OMG, he likes coke in a can! I mean, who doesn’t? It’s obviously the best way to drink it. OH! He thinks David Byrne is a genius. All that proves is he’s not a complete idiot.  Matter of fact, it really only proves that he has some valuable intelligence around music. Us ladies, we tend to let that one random piece of information speak for other facets of his personality and we allow this idea of possibility, or potential, lead us to believe that all we’ve ever wanted from relationship will be fulfilled by this person who has just entered our life. The fact that we (all of us who date) know very little about them is probably the single thing that keeps us doing it over and over again. All of us are allured by the maybe… Maybe this one will stick around or stick it out or just, ya know, stick. Because love requires all those things. And if dating isn’t about love then what the fuck is the point?

The unfortunate part about all of this is that most guys are idiots when it comes to dating.  This idiotic behavior usually presents itself around the same couple of issues most of which are culturally engrained and accepted “male” behavior.  I have also come to realize, after a brief stint with online dating, that lots of guys are happy just having the attention and affection of a girl from a distance but get all fucking weird as soon as the relationship moves offline.  But, I have to believe, that there are just as many guys out there who like girls but are just unpracticed, unaware, uncertain about what to do about it. I love men too much, especially the men in my life, to watch them make the same stupid mistakes in order to avoid their fears and feelings while loving, honest relationships slip right between their fingers

So fellas, this is my advice to you with the help of my favorite male musicians. The kind of guys I think I’d like to date – if only they were real.  See that’s the thing about me. As messy, hard, hurtful, confusing and scary as it is, or as appealing as the fantasy is, however alluring the idea…I want something and someone real. Always.

Watch out. You might get what you’re after.

Embrace vulnerability. It’s not easy but, honestly, enough is enough. Too many times have I had a guy act like he wants a relationship (calling, texting, taking me out, making out, sleeping over) only to back away when it becomes more stable…more “real.” This culture of masculinity that allows and encourages men to ignore emotions and puts the sole responsibility of relationship a female desire is bullshit.  It’s inevitable you’re going to experience hurt, fear, embarrassment – all the horrible things you have to face in order to be close to someone. We are all worried that we are going to choose to love someone and they are going to leave. If love is what you want, it requires risk. Be brave.

*Side note* this is my biggest issue with online dating. I got onto a website to help me weed out the players, the scammers, the I-don’t-know-what-I-want-ers. I didn’t sign up to be pen pals with someone who lives a mile away. If you don’t have the desire, availability, or interest in exploring a potential relationship then why are you on this website. Trust me, its way easier to meet girls who want to fuck at a bar.

Oh tell me please, that I don’t have to read between the lines.

Just say what you mean, already. Or at least try to. Don’t leave things unsaid or think that I already know. We just met! I don’t know. Keep me in the loop and share a little about how you’re feeling about me. This is really important for cultivating trust. Let me know that we are on the same page. If we are not on the same page, and you know it, but you are still letting me hang on: STOP IT.

You can’t start a fire without a spark.

A girl needs to know you’re interested. How you say it or show it is irrelevant. A girl needs to feel like spending time with her is something special, something you want to do. Even an assertive girl who is comfortable doing most of the initiating needs to know there is some intention on your end, that you’re not just saying yes because she asked or because you have nothing better to do. If you are doing either of those things: STOP IT. This is extremely important for developing trust, which is a HUGE factor for women to feel safe in relationship, both physically and emotionally.

A kiss from the window tells me she loves me and how she’s sending letters and drawings. But the letters never came. So I waited by the phone.

Relationships are made, not born. It’s something you create with someone. It doesn’t work if one person is more invested then the other.  It cannot work if one person doesn’t care. I know a lot of guys get freaked out by labels (see #1). I don’t think labels are as important to girls as the security of knowing someone is into you and, usually, a label represents that. However, when I’m confident that a guy likes me, I could care less what you want to call it.

I travel from Maine down to Mexico, to find that girl that loves me so. No matter where I’ll be I’ll find that girl and she satisfy me.

Step up or step off: Yes, I am saying this (revisit #2). No girl is waiting at home for you. Even if a girl is really into you, while you are messing around not making a move somebody else will. If you are reading this thinking “Oh well, then somebody else gets the girl” – why did you even take her out in the first place?

Noted: Richard Berry wrote this song and The Sonics made it popular but these boys made me love it:

Part Two: For the Ladies…coming soon!

*I also feel compelled to mention, while I am mostly opposed to online dating, I am not opposed to respectful and articulate fan mail.

Sugar Daddies: Sour or Sweet?

While pursuing a sugar daddy is something I would never personally feel comfortable doing or find very sugary-sweet, I don’t think it’s helpful to bash those that chose to do so.  There is no doubt that the popularity of sugar daddy relationships is a modern manifestation of our society’s patriarchal nature—and this I despise.  On a theoretical level, I denounce sugar daddy dating websites and relationships as one of our culture’s many practices that celebrates male power and economic clout in a way that simultaneously works to reduce women to purely physical and sexual worth.  Any feminist would be outraged by this, but I think that third wave feminists also recognize the lived hardships of women and want to be careful not to police the choices of other women in a slut-shaming manner.  (Slut-shaming is the practice by which women are criticized and shamed for engaging in sexual relations outside a traditional marriage).  Considering the economic recession, the steep cost of higher education, healthcare needs, or the necessity to provide for children, it is relatively easy for each of us to imagine why and how women could choose to pursue a relationship with a sugar daddy.  As a woman of educational, race and class privilege, I don’t think it’s right for me to negatively judge women that are the beneficiaries of these relationships with men—you never know, in different circumstances, I could be in such a relationship for reasons of pure survival.

I would also like to challenge readers to consider the possibility of sugar daddy relationships being more nuanced than they may first appear.  The feminist theorist Judith Butler has written at length about subverting dominant culture—patriarchy included—from spaces and situations intimately bound up with dominant culture.  Butler argues that because these spaces and situations are molded by the hands of social construction, like traditional gender roles, it is very easy to highlight such a nature as superficial and essentially invented to maintain inequality.  The example that Butler uses in her writing is drag queens because their exaggerated display of “femininity” highlights the fact that gender is highly performative and in no way engrained in our genes, which destabilizes everything we think to be true about gender roles. Thus, perhaps it is possible to take part in a sugar daddy relationship in a feminist manner that subverts the patriarchal norms that brought it into existence in the first place.  One possible example of this would be using the money one receives from a sugar daddy to finance a PhD in a field underrepresented by women.  I’m not completely convinced myself that this is an adequate subversion of patriarchy from within a relationship brought into existence by the very devil we speak of, but I still believe strongly in refraining from bashing a group of fellow women for how they choose to lead their personal lives.  Isn’t woman-hate at large what we’re trying to combat?  At the very least, I think it’s best to try to have an open mind about these types of things.  After all, Olivia, a 25-year-old graduate student and former “sugar baby” shared with Role/Reboot that her relationship with a sugar daddy made her feel powerful: “It’s made me feel more powerful. I definitely feel like I am the one with the power in this situation.”

What’s your opinion on the matter?  Is it possible to be a feminist sugar baby or does the premise of these relationships denigrate any possibility for a feminist agenda to emerge? How does your approach to the phenomenon change when it’s a “sugar mama” in question?

More About the Sugar Daddy/Sugar Baby Phenomenon:

Portrait of a Sugar Baby (Part I)

A Sugar Baby Leaves The Business

The Patriarchy Hurts Us All

Guest post by Sarah McAlpine of thesazzajay

Even Feminists. Ha! Got you, didn’t I? Bet you thought this was going to be a post all teh menz! And about how isn’t-it-terrible-how-patriarchy-hurts-men-as well. Well it is and it does, but this isn’t about that. This instead is an article about how when we talk about women internalising patriarchy, this can, and often does, include Feminists. Or at least me.

Basically, we don’t have to be perfect all the time. There is no need to beat yourself up for feeling shit about your body after seeing some bullshit crap magazine about the perfect bikini body when you’re halfway through a McChicken Sandwich. It’s okay for you to cry in a changing room because your body type isn’t the regulatory shape and size demanded of high fashion. You’re allowed to feel intimidated when some utter twat thinks it’s hilarious to sexually harass you, rather than reeling off some splendidly witty speech, referencing the perceived size of his penis. It’s okay for you to buy a shit ton of make up even though you know that we are only conforming to society’s standards of beauty which we tear down on a regular basis. Society is already causing us enough grief, if you get down on yourself for every non-feminist thought you have your brain might explode.

It’s okay for these things to get to you, as long as we remember who the real enemy is. It is not our own bodies, it is not ourselves and it is not each other. It is the bullshit, patriarchal system that we live in. We are not immune to it. Look, I know we would all love to be bad ass patriarchy-smashers for every single moment of our living, breathing lives, who never let it get to us. I know I would. I’d love to get in the face of every arsewipe who thinks my time is theirs when I’m trying to get on with my day. I’d love to tell the fashion industry to go take a running jump when they make me feel like my body is the problem. I know I’d probably be a lot happier for it. I think we all would. But it is our experiences that bind us together. It connects us with other brilliant, amazing women who have experienced the same feelings of worthlessness. We can talk about it, get angry about it, do something about it. It allows us to get involved with smashing patriarchy, because patriarchy has made this shit personal.

If it didn’t hit us where it hurts now and again, if it didn’t affect us on a personal level, we would not be fighting so bloody hard.

Do you remember that moment, when you’re little, and whining to your parent about the umpteenth product on a TV advert that you want? And they say, “Sweetie, you know they’re just trying to make you want it so that we’ll have to buy it for you?” And then you realise exactly how they’re trying to manipulate you, and you hate it. And every time for the rest of your life when an advert may entice you, you might re-examine that thought. You get a little stronger. A little more resistant.

This is what patriarchy does. It tries to manipulate us into thinking we’re worthless in order to sell us shit we don’t need, or to go on crappy and unnecessary diets or to generally remind us that we should sit down and shut up. But as long as we force ourselves to keep examining and questioning it, it will lose a little more power. We’ll get a little stronger. A little more resistant. And eventually, together, we might even take the bugger out.

Follow Sarah on twitter @sazza_jay

The Hypersexualization of Breast Health & Breast Cancer

Have you noticed that breast cancer is highly sexualized? Have you noticed that products, including those that cause cancer, are pink-washed up the wazoo and don’t even contribute a significant amount of their profits to cancer research or

prevention education?  Don’t get me wrong, I am in support of raising awareness about cancer prevention and detection, but that which surrounds breast cancer has crossed the line into capitalistic objectification of women’s breasts.  Now I also can’t help but consider the droves of product sales that benefit the anti-choice, Planned Parenthood-defunding Susan G. Komen Foundation.

I recently came across this YouTube video about an app that enables women to have “hot men” remind them to perform self breast exams and provide instruction on how to do so.

This is an interesting gender reversal of the sexualization surrounding breast cancer, but disturbs me no differently.  You may have also noticed that it brings heteronormativity to the forefront of breast cancer detection.  To me, this video and app subtly, or not so subtly, encourage women to hand over at least part of agency and initiative to maintain healthy breasts to men.  And stereotypically masculine, straight men at that.  Do gay women not also suffer from breast cancer?  The fact that men can also develop breast cancer seems to remain fairly invisible, but I guess their breast tissue just isn’t as sexy as women’s.

Part of dating as a feminist and self-love is maintaining one’s sexual and overall health.  Mainstream breast cancer prevention and detection education is steeped in the desire to appeal to the heart and mind of sexist culture–and it’s working.  How many teenage boys have you seen sporting “I love boobies” breast cancer awareness bracelets?  Exactly.

So as feminists with or without breasts, keep your eyes peeled for pink-washing and don’t buy into it if you can help it.  And develop a habit of giving yourself breast exams, even if you’re male, with a reminder system that empowers you to maintain agency over your physical health and well being.  Femin-ITS seem to do the trick for me.

Dating Women: The U-Haul

Guest Post by Nikki B of Women Are From Mars: The Would-Be Sexual Escapades of Liberal Females in Modern America

DISCLAIMER: I don’t want to make generalizations about anyone, and I know I am about to. However, nothing I’m about to say has to do with inherent gender characteristics, or biologically-based gender differences. Everything I have to say, I believe, comes from societal norms and learned gender performance. Therein is a key distinction.

When someone asks you the difference between dating women and dating men, there’s one thing that’s bound to eventually come up.

The U-Haul.

Sorry. No. Not the DIY moving company that rents trucks and vans. Here, let me explain it to you. The U-Haul is considered, in my experience, to be the classic case of girl-meets-girl.  The intense, immediate relationship that results in about 2.5 dates – the OHMYGODYOUAREMYSOULMATE honeymoon thing, the mutual we-we-we-ing, and the loss of desire for personal space. The U-Haul, with all ya stuff in it, is in your new life partner’s driveway by the third date. Or could be in terms of a specific person. As in, the lesbian who drives around with the proverbial U-Haul hitched up, all ready for The One to come along.

A lot of people who wax philosophical about the U-Haul want you to believe that it’s just because, well, it’s two women. We just be all emotional and needy and shit. Duh.

Which is, of course, in my humble opinion, utter bullshit. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ok, ok. In my experience, there is some truth to the U-Haul when ladies form relationships with other ladies. I’ve seen it happen. And, to be honest, it is typically to a more intense degree within lesbian relationships and more quickly and on a more regular basis than it is outside of lesbian relationships.

***Please note I did not just say this only happens to lesbians. Lawd knows I’ve seen people of all different gender identities and sexual preferences U-Haul all over the place… But, in general? Yeah.

I’ve also experience it – to some degree. While I do not, practically by definition, U-Haul, my second girlfriend had the thing parked in my driveway about two weeks in. Everyone else could see it, I just choose to stick my fingers in my ears and loudly proclaim LA LA LA with my eyes shut tight every time I had to walk past it. That is, I choose to still believe that she was still holding to our agreement that we were explicitly NSA (not strings attached), despite all evidence to the contrary (actions over words, kids, always).

But yeah. Even though I see U-Hauling with lesbians more than anyone else, I don’t actually believe it’s because us ladies are inherently some different breed of person. Instead, I believe it fundamentally stems from our training in gender performance and the social pressures we’re under, pretty much from Day Number Uno.

As women, we are trained to confirm those around us, to provide reinforcement to other egos, and make other people feel good. After all, women should be nurturing and accommodating, right? In addition, I think we also do it because we crave that confirmation and reinforcement for ourselves. We are bombarded, from a very young age, with the messages that we should second-guess ourselves, and that undercuts our self-esteem. On one hand, we are told all of our worth comes from our physical attractiveness, while on the other, that we will never be attractive enough. Therefore, not only do we reinforce the self-esteem of others because we’re supposed to be all nurturing n’ shiz, but also because our own egos can be pretty fragile, and it’s be nice to have some of that given back to us in return.

Additionally, as women, we are trained to look outside ourselves for validation, that we need someone else to establish our worth for us. Romantically, it’s in every story about successful relationships we’ve ever heard, from every Disney cartoon we saw as children to every rom-com we see as adolescents and adults.

Finally, as women, we are trained to not only be able to speak about our feelings, to embrace our feelings, but also to delve right into them. I mean really get all up in that shit and indulge the crap out of it. That, fundamentally, we are emotional. Emotions are inherent to our character, and being emotional is our natural state of being. Hell, even our bodies tell us that once a month, right? PMS and all, right? Can’t fight nature, people!

Typically, I’d say women have all the same training – while men typically are provided a different pressures to conform to the gender binary. As such, women know explicitly how to treat the other women in a way that men may not quite get. Women inherently know exactly what the other women needs, because it’s what she has been told, every day of her life, that she needs. Women know how they are supposed to act and treat one another and behave. And, hence, OHMYGODYOUAREMYSOULMATEism.

So, yeah. The U-Haul is based in some reality – but it is the reality of our social training in the gender binary far far more than it is something about women that is different from men. Lesbians are not just big relationship whores because they’re needy or irrational or emotional as some inherent trait of woman-ness.

In addition, a final few points beyond those specific to socially-instructed gender roles. I do believe that women can create very meaningful relationships. Very strong and lasting bonds. However, these bonds have little to do with women bein’ needy, and more to do with people inherently wanting to form strong social bonds with one another. Moreover, in this day and age, we’re all so competitive, yet also so in need of those tangible, real, physical, social connections that cannot and will never be recreated by social media. Yet, due to social training, women are more apt to follow through with establishing and maintaining those bonds, to be allowed to feel those emotions and pursue them, than men. Again, that isn’t to say men don’t or can’t do those things – I just think they may have some social training of their own to overcome.

So, the short answer? Yes, dating women can be a different beast – but never judge a U-Haul by the state painted on the side. It’s deeper than what it appears on the surface, there’s some serious shit inside.

The Body Love Timeline

I believe that learning to love your body is vital.

I believe that learning to love your body – no matter what that body looks like, feels like, has done, will do, or won’t do – can help you lead a more fulfilling life.

I believe that learning to love your body through acceptance and patience, understanding and tenderness, can open you up to a world of opportunities and joy.

But I don’t believe that learning to love your body is easy or quick or a process that can be accelerated. It can take a long time. A really, frustratingly long time. It can take years or decades. It might even take most of your lifetime.

And there will be setbacks. You will meet people and have experiences that make your quest to love your body tougher and longer. You will lapse into loathing, you will have errant angry thoughts, you will struggle.

And that is perfectly, 100% fine. Learning to love your body is not a race. It is not a task that can be performed by two people in precisely the same way. And it is not a do-it-and-be-done kind of deal. It’s a constant curve, a continuum of experiences and feelings, a gradual process. It is utterly unreasonable to set yourself to the task and then beat yourself up for failing to meet arbitrary deadlines or hit imaginary benchmarks.

You don’t have to feel awesome every day. You don’t have to rid your brain of every negative thought. You don’t have to love every inch of your body every single moment, and you don’t have to hurry.

The body love timeline is different for every person. Allow yours to unfold as it will.

Originally posted on Already Pretty by Sally McGraw

Dating as a Feminist: What’s it like?

I was recently interviewed by a journalist in London about dating as a feminist. I’ll post the published article when that time comes, but I thought I’d share the interview transcript, as most of it won’t make it into the article because of a pesky word limit!

1) What do you think the common misconceptions of feminist dating are?

There is an incredible amount of misconceptions about feminism itself and it is a highly stigmatized and misunderstood identity. I would define feminism most simply as a collective effort of all and any gender identified people that works to achieve equality across the board, including but not limited to gender, racial, class, and disability issues. Because feminism is misunderstood by the majority of people, dating as a feminist can be quite a challenge. The most common (and most absurd) lines that dating feminists receive are probably: “Don’t feminists hate men?” and “So are you a lesbian?”. We don’t hate men, we just can’t stand it when male-identified people don’t understand or recognize their privilege and engage with patriarchal language or actions without thinking twice about it. And no, you don’t have to be a lesbian to be a feminist, but feminists generally have a good understanding of the fluidity of sexuality and that the normalization of heterosexuality is a product of patriarchy.

Here’s truth about dating a feminist: Whether it be a woman, man or gender non-conforming feminist that you are dating, they will probably be passionately aware of and educated about socio-political issues and how they play out in their personal lives; they will understand the nuances of sexuality and the absurd expectations and limits placed on it today. They will thus explore the bedroom with you in a freeing and progressive way. Rape culture and slut shaming will be locked out of your relationship if you’re dating a feminist. It takes a progressive and passionate person to date a feminist, but they will most likely find themselves as part of a fulfilling, learning-filled and inspiring partnership.

This isn’t to say that every feminist is part of a perfect relationship–feminists are not immune to dating violence, abuse, or dysfunctional relationships. I’ve been part of my fair share of dysfunctional, unhappy partnerships. Just like every person, it has taken time for me to establish healthy boundaries, expectations, and dating practices. Being a feminist isn’t a cure-all for dating problems, but when you are dating someone that respects, appreciates and engages happily with your feminist identity, one’s feminist identity can grow in amazing personal ways, as opposed to the ways in which they might grow politically in a more public realm.

2)How do men you’re dating react to you being a feminist?

I have only dated men that are comfortable with and accepting of me being a feminist or that identify as feminists themselves, save for a few men that I dated before I had fully come into and embraced my feminist identity. Some of my friends have advised me to be less forward with my feminist identity upon meeting someone in a bar or while on a first date, but I strongly disagree with this advice. My academic and professional careers are both centered around feminism, not to mention that much of my free time is spent reading feminist literature, blogging about feminism, or volunteering at Planned Parenthood and for a rape crisis hotline. Thus, I would never try to hide the huge role that it plays in my life. I don’t try to flaunt it aggressively either–it comes up very naturally when I’m asked about my job, interests, studies, etc. If I happen to be speaking to or on a date with someone that is not very familiar with feminism’s values, I will provide them with a little explanation of why I’m a feminist (that I believe in equality for all people, regardless of race, gender, class, ability, etc.) and they usually experience an ah-ha! moment. So it’s usually a great teaching moment that enables me to destigmatize feminism for someone and provide them with a glimpse into my value system.

3)Do you think it is difficult to balance feminist ideals and values with being in a relationship with a man?

Sometimes it is, depending on who you’re dating. Oftentimes, men have thought I was being “too uptight” when I made a fuss about things like street harassment or sexist advertising. There have been times that men certainly haven’t appreciated my feminist thoughts and actions, but that usually serves as a red flag for me and I will reconsider my relationship with them. I wish I could say that I have always stood my feminist ground and broken up with these guys, but that’s not true. As a feminist, I have struggled with dealing with my desire to be accepted by men, which I was taught by society to have and crave from the minute I was born. However, at the same time, feminism has greatly freed me from the grips of many aspects of our patriarchal society. Feminism has taught me to love my body, to be comfortable with my sexuality, and to value my intelligence (both emotional and intellectual) above all else. I am still working on freeing myself from the desire for male approval, but am generally happy with my ability to not give a crap about it anymore.

I am currently dating a woman seriously for the first time and have found it far easier to be in this relationship as a feminist than most I’ve been in with men. I’m sure this isn’t always the case when a woman-identified feminist is dating another woman, but I think our shared experience as women in a patriarchal society certainly doesn’t hurt my girlfriend’s support and understanding of my feminist identity.

4)Do you think being a feminist can be a benefit to healthy relationships/dating?

I absolutely think that feminism benefits a relationship because it espouses values of equality and respect. If both people in the relationship are invested in having a “feminist relationship,” I think it is certainly beneficial to the creation of a loving, equal and respectful partnership.

For those who think I rant about the patriarchy and misogyny too much

By Julia Maddera, Georgetown University ’13

To the first man, who I met by the Eiffel Tower my second week in Paris, when I didn’t know better. Who took me out four times, who waved little red flags that I tried to ignore. Like asking me outright if I was a virgin on the first date, like calling me five different pet names when I’d asked him not to throughout the second, like saying he’d heard that feminists were not real women during the third, like disappearing for a week and a half after the fourth. Who, as it turns out, was not the bullet, but the careening fourteen-wheeler that I narrowly managed to dodge. Who admitted that he hit the young woman that his mother was trying to force him to marry. Who didn’t want to marry her because he believes in romantic love. Who doesn’t see the contradiction in those two sentences.

To the guy in my medieval literature class, who lent me one of Camus’ plays and showed me around the library. Who wants to use his French education not to escape to the West, but to go back to his developing nation to teach at its eight-year-old university. Who I admired until he asked me what my American boyfriend had thought about me coming to Paris, until he demanded to know why I didn’t have one (a boyfriend, that is), until he asked if it was required that I marry an American. Who reached out and touched my earrings, without asking, the next time he saw me. Who won’t take a hint.

To the PhD student who tried to take me up to his apartment after a five minute conversation, when I had just wanted to get lunch, who said there’s a first time for everything. Who told me that we were university students, living in a 21st century democracy, and that relations between men and women were different now, so what was I so scared of? Who recoiled in shock when I told him that I had friends who’d been raped, and by other university students, at that. Who does not have to think about rape on a daily basis. Who insisted on paying for my lunch, because “it was a matter of honor.” Who then physically prevented me from handing my money to the cashier, when I was trying to make it clear that this was not a date. Who didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t want a boyfriend, five times. Whose number I blocked the moment I stepped on the metro. Who has called me three times since. Who told me he wants to go into Senegalese politics. Who, I can only hope, will listen to the women of his country better than he listened to me.

To the delivery guy on the red motorcycle idling outside of the apartments on Avenue de Porte de Vanves, the ones I walk past every day, who said bonsoir and who, because I said it in return to be polite, followed me to the metro as I walked, head twisted down, pretending that I didn’t understand the language I’ve studied for eight years.

To the two men Thursday night in le Marais, swaggering drunk toward me, ignoring the male friend standing by my side, who leered at my chest and slurred, “Bonsoir, comme tu es mignonne,” as I shoved past them, trying to sound angry, not afraid. Who left me feeling fidgety and panicked, so when I took the night bus in the wrong direction and found myself alone with two other strange men at a bus stop at 2:30 A.M., I let the cab driver fleece me out of 25 euro just to take a taxi home.

To the group of teenage boys loitering on the corner by my apartment, who decided to sound a siren at my approach because I was wearing a knee-length dress and a bulky sweater. Who made me regret forgoing tights because I had wanted to feel the spring air on my calves for once. Who will never have to wear an itchy pair of pantyhose in their entire lives. To whom I said nothing, because I still have to walk past that corner twice a day for the next three-and-a-half months, because there were five of them and one of me.

To the three men standing on the corner of the periphery five minutes later when I was crossing the street. To the one who motioned for his friends to turn and look at me, quick, and then left his wolf-whistle ringing in my ears, shame like sunburn covering my face. Who didn’t care that it was broad daylight. Who made me wish that I could swear a blue streak back in French, without my accent betraying that I am American, which is another word for “easy” here.

To the two men at sunset on the bridge by Saint Michel, in the middle of tourist central, who made skeeting noises at me, like a pair of sputtering mosquitoes, to get my attention. Who laughed when I flipped them off, and who kept hissing at me anyway. Who forced me to keep checking over my shoulder, all the way to the metro, to make sure that I wasn’t being followed.

But also to the French friend who blamed my problems with French men on my university in the northern suburbs, a Parisian synonym for emeutes, gang violence, and immigration. Who insisted that if he brought me to his upper-crust private (white) university—where the French elite reproduces itself into perpetuity—I would meet nicer French guys. Who forced me to defend the men who’d harassed me against his barely-veiled, racist critique.

And also to the American friend at home who nearly rolled his eyes as he half-listened to my stories, who said, “Oh god, it’s hard being so attractive, isn’t it?” as if I was being vain. Who laughs and does not understand why I always duck out of the frame of photographs, who knows nothing of what my body means to me.

And that’s just two months in Paris.

To all the Italian men who made me wish I had dyed my hair black before studying in Florence, who kept me from going out dancing because I got sick of feeling them creeping up behind me, sneaking their hands around my waist (and lower) when I’d already said NO three times.

To the six-foot-something Georgetown student who prided himself on protecting the girls from being groped on the dance floor. Who chose to write about the rape of the Sabine woman for that week’s assignment. Who described the way her breast slipped free of her tunic when she fell, as if he was writing a porno, not a rape scene, who had the woman fall in love with her Roman rapist the next morning, after he spun her a tale of the coming glory of his country. Who said “in a fit of passion, she thrust herself upon his member” and was not joking. Who ended the story with the titular character saying to her children that she had been raped, but only at first.

To the seventh-grade boy who told my younger sister that he could rape her, if he wanted to.

To the gang of twenty-five year-olds in the Jeep who hollered at her as they drove past, leering at her thirteen-year-old body dressed in sweat pants and a tank top. Who made my sister, fearless on the soccer field and in the classroom and in the karate studio, run home crying. Who were the reason she became afraid to walk the dog by herself in our “safe, suburban” neighborhood.

To my father, who said, “What white male privilege?” Who was not being ironic.

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