Tag Archives: sexism

Promises I Didn’t Know I Made

YouNeverOweSexI was out late with friends. I was 19-years-old and lit up with enough alcohol to make me silly, energetic, and flirtatious. I was flirting without aim – with female friends and male friends, and without thinking through intentions. I didn’t have any real design, I was just feeling good. We went from bar to bar. I was spinning and heady. At one point I remember grabbing a guy’s hand and running off, speeding the group along.

Later that night, I went back to my friend’s apartment. I was sleeping on her couch, or that was my plan. That is, until her upstairs neighbor, who was the boy whose hand I had grabbed, led me off to his bedroom. I was pliant and thoughtless; young and inexperienced.

In his bed, he kissed me. His hands started roving over my body. That sobered me up somewhat. Finally, I was thinking about where I was and what I was doing. And I didn’t want to be doing it. I pulled away and told him as much. To his credit, he did stop touching me. Not as much to his credit, he then preceded to beg. “Please,” he said. “You held my hand.” He waited. “Please, have sex with me. You held my hand.” I again told him no. He continued, “Please have sex with me!”

I’ve never felt so stone-cold and turned off. He wouldn’t relent. He pleaded, begged, and I finally realized I had to remove myself from the situation because he was not going to stop or accept my “no.” I left his room and went down to the couch at my friend’s place.

In the morning, I brought it up with her. She was not impressed – with me. Like him, she said, “But you held his hand. You flirted.”

And so I did. I wouldn’t say it was my most responsible night. I wasn’t thinking through my actions, their consequences, or what they might communicate to others. Some growing up has helped that sort of thing. But he was also not responding to me. Would he really want to have sex with a girl whom he badgered into it? Was the sex more important to him than my desire for it? I was lucky, in that my indiscretion led me to the bed of a rather sad, wheedling boy, and not an outright aggressive one. He wouldn’t let my “no” be, but other than attempting to force me with words, he didn’t force me. I left annoyed with him, sobered that he was so much more interested in having sex than whether or not I wanted to have sex- but otherwise unharmed.

I also left shocked at my friend, and that she would assert that any sort of flirtation amounts to a promise for sex; that the so-called promise obligates a woman to later deliver on that sex, no matter how she feels or what she wants; and also that flirtation justifies men to be pushy as they make their claim for what they feel they deserve, impervious to what the woman might want herself.

It was not the first time, or the last, that a boy would beg me to have sex with him, or tell me that I had effectively already made a promise of sex to him through my behavior.

In many of those cases, my behavior was far less promising and flirtatious than it had been on that night. For instance, one evening I watched a movie alone with a male friend. We talked, enjoyed the film, and he made a move. It was unwelcome, and I told him I wasn’t really into it. He wouldn’t accept my no, either. He grew increasingly belligerent about it as I continued to assert myself, saying that I was obligated to have sex with him since I’d watched the film with him. The night ended with me kicking him out of my house.

There are no promises in sex or love. Consent has to happen all along the way. And men’s desires don’t get to trump women’s desires. Unless both people are into it, and both people are saying yes, the situation sucks.

Monologues are independent stories and the opinions shared are the author’s own. Do you relate to this story? Share in the comments.

Kickstart Slut: A Documentary Film

The grassroots-funded documentary film, Slut, all began with middle school diary entries shared on Tumblr.

I had teachers not only laugh when I was called a “slut” or a “whore”, but also had teachers join in. I also had a teacher hit on me because of my “title.” The worst experience was when a kid would grope me every day in class, and my teacher would yell at me for yelling at him or smacking him. The teacher who hit on me has been since fired, but the rest are still teaching there. – Anonymous, The UnSlut Project (cross-posted with permission).

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, intersections of sexual education and storytelling can be powerful. Story opens the imagination. It draws connections between people and deepens understanding of ourselves and each other. The UnSlut Project shows that story can unsilence the ill-effects that certain tropes and attitudes have on us all.

The “slut” experience shared above is one of hundreds by girls and women submitted to the UnSlut Project. This collaborative space of story sharing and support (see their community advice page) all started by co-founder Emily Lindin posting on Tumblr her very personal diary entries of being sexually bullied as the middle school skank. The response has been enormous and now hundreds of girls and women have voiced their own experiences of sexual bullying that, in some cases, have led to isolation, depression, cutting, and suicide attempts. Read the stories for yourself.

 

Image from their Kickstarter Campaign

Image from their Kickstarter Campaign

There are many entries like the one above that testify to the extent to which slut-shaming permeates our school systems and communities. It is not simply lack of sex education in public schools (although this is a very important aspect to consider in debates about what constitutes “comprehensive” sex ed). Teachers, counselors, parents, and peers are all implicated.

It leads to a few important questions: Who in North America hasn’t been exposed to slut shame? How much does the “skanky” stereotype influence the way we censor and manage our own desires and sexuality? How are our schools (and sex education curricula) complacent and, in many cases, actively supporting sexist values and behaviors?

These are questions that Slut: A Documentary Film will explore. Emily Lindin and Jessica Caimi want to convey to a wider public how normalized sexual bullying is in our schools, communities and media, and what we can all do to eradicate it. They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the filmmaking. During the next 11 days (as of writing) people are having an ongoing discussion about the film production and what voices should be featured in Slut.

Consider supporting this cause to raise public awareness. Maybe you have an experience with slut shaming to share, as well.

http://www.unslutproject.com/

http://www.unslutproject.com/

‘V-Gals’: The other WWII enemy

The Daily Mail and MSN Now published an exhibit of 1940s sexual health posters raising awareness about the spread of gonorrhea and syphilis.  What’s striking is the way these images packaged moral stigma.  Women, particularly sex workers, “loose” women and “victory gals” were portrayed as the sinful source of venereal disease.  Copying war-style propaganda, some posters depicted sexualized women as the enemy for comrades to brave against.  Like this one displaying an assembly line of blonde temptresses- all the same; all out to fuck you and your country.

WWII Public Service Announcement.  After condoms are finally made legal in the USA Army. Image from the DailyMail.co.uk

WWII Public Service Announcement. After condoms are finally made legal in the USA Army. Image from the DailyMail.co.uk

Loose equals Loaded with disease!  Read STI stigma.  Image sourced from the DailyMail.co.uk

Loose equals Loaded with disease! Read STI stigma. Image sourced from the DailyMail.co.uk

Many campaigns, like this one, used fear tactics and warned soldiers not to be fooled by the attraction of “loose” women- for they are not what they seem.

And, of course, we won’t mention the risks of unprotected sex for men who have sex with men, because that doesn’t exist in the armed forces (sarcasm).

Another aspect to put into perspective is the history of condom stigma, especially in the United States during the first World War.  These PSAs were made just after condoms became legalized and issued to the Armed Forces.

But during the First World War, the reality of STIs dealt with differently.  It was widely believed that venereal disease was the price one paid for sinful choices.

Condom Censorship

Thus, the American Social Hygiene Association objected to issuing condoms to soldiers- so during the First World War, they weren’t. In fact, since 1873, the U.S. government illegalized any advertisement of contraceptives. That same set of laws also banned the sale of condoms and allowed for condoms to be confiscation from personal mail in up to thirty states (Collier, 2007).

quote boxIt wasn’t until World War II that the use of condom became prominent among both European and American soldiers.  Keep in mind that condom technology at the time was not regulated and the pleasure factor was close to nil.  Lubricant wasn’t invented until 1957.  Defective latex and breakage rates were high.  It wasn’t until the 1960s that North America and most of Europe established a quality standard controls for manufacturers to follow (Perera 2004).

Read here for more on the foible history of condoms and other contraceptives.

Visit the Daily Mail and MSN to view more WWII sexual disease propaganda.