On Friday night, I went out with the Troll, and some of his friends. Because I’m a masochist that way. And, more accurately, he invited me out, saying that I’d meet new people and promising, when asked, that he wouldn’t come on to me. So. I met up with him, and he bought most of the drinks, because he is rich at the moment, and I am relatively poor. We talked about silly things, inoccuous subjects, and managed, for once, not to argue. And I talked to his friends, at least two of whom were nice, and, around about midnight, said my goodbyes, because I turn into a pumpkin if I stay out too late. Five minutes later, he called, saying that the person whose floor he’d wanted to sleep on had bailed on him, and could he sleep on mine.
On the way back, we talked about more serious things. Things like consent. He started it; he reassured me that he would be “a perfect gentleman”. I told him I didn’t give a fuck about that, I just didn’t want to be assaulted. Which is pretty reasonable, I feel.
I also explained to him that while he can think of consent in abstract terms, I don’t have that luxury. I told him that, although I didn’t think that he would assault me, if he did, there would be fuck all I could do about it. I pointed out that nobody would believe me; I’d met up with him, I’d had drinks that he’d bought me, and I’d agreed that he could come back to mine. Given that, if I went to the police, odds are, they wouldn’t even investigate. And I told him that that kind of knowledge colours the way you see the world. And that what seems like a perfectly reasonable and innocuous request to him (asking to sleep on my floor) is actually not a small thing at all, for me.
I told him that there are different kinds of coercion, and that even if he didn’t use violence against me, there was nothing stopping him waiting until I was asleep, or nearly asleep, and climbing into bed next to me. And that anything that happened then would be just as much assault or rape as if he’d beaten me and forcibly restrained me.
Then I told him about having my drink spiked. Not in much detail, but enough. I don’t think anybody has ever told him anything like that before.
After I told him about it, he was quiet for a few minutes.
I asked him if he was ok (because women are not the only ones to have their drinks spiked, and if you have and only realise later, it can hit you hard) and he replied that he was fine, but that he was “thinking back through all my girlfriends to make sure I’d never done anything like what you’ve said.” He paused. “No, I haven’t.”
If he had, I wouldn’t have expected him to tell me, necessarily. I’d like to say that I believed him wholeheartedly – after all, he did stay on my floor, and I remained unmolested – but in all honesty, I’m not sure that I can. He had an awareness that there are some things you shouldn’t do – hence the “gentleman” comment – but I suspect that he’d never considered things like nagging for sex to be wrong. What I would say is that if he has done any of those things in the past, I highly doubt that he’d do them again. Because doing them with a knowledge that they’re wrong would make him, in his own eyes, a Very Bad Person. And while pandering to one’s ego is not a particularly good reason not to rape, if it means that one less woman has to deal with the fact that her otherwise charming boyfriend has done less than charming things to her, it’s a good enough reason for me.
On a list of Things Which Are Not A Good Idea To Say:
Me: It’s strange, because it’s Monday now and I don’t have any signs of an impending period. And I normally get it on Tuesdays.
Me: I shouldn’t have said that. That just means I’ll get the pain, the excess emotions and the blood, all at once.
Me: Tomorrow is not going to be a good day.
Tuesday, of course, was yesterday. True to my prediction, I had everything, all at once, including ravenous hunger. Today is better, but this week is going to be pretty damned tiring.
In related news, I’ve been reading The Woman In The Body. It has some incredibly interesting things to say on the subject of periods, like the way that medical “wisdom” treats them as a form of “failed production”.
To paraphrase Emily Martin’s work, her point is that metaphors have been developed that treat the human body as a kind of factory system – the brain “sends signals” to other parts of the body, like a manager, and those other parts respond, as workers. In terms of the uterus, the “product” is seen to be a sucessful pregnancy, and periods are therefore seen as a failure to produce. She quotes from medical textbooks to underline this idea:
“Given this teleological interpretation of the increased amount of endometrial tissue, it should be no surprise that when a fertilized egg does not implant, these texts describe the next event in very negative terms. The fall in blood progesteron and estrogen “deprives” the “highly developed endometrial lining of its hormonal support,” “constriction” of blood vessels leads to a “diminished” supply of oxygen and nutrients, and finally, “disintegration starts, the entire lining begins to slough, and the menstrual flow begins”. Blood vessels in the endometrium “hemorrhage” and the menstrual flow “consists of this blood mixed with endometrial debris.””
Looking back over the descriptions – “deprive”, “constriction”, “diminish”, “disintegration”, “slough”, “hemorrhage”,”debris” – actually makes me angry.
Now, speaking personally, my period, frustrating though it is, is nevertheless a good thing, signifying as it does that I am not pregnant.
Actually, I’d go further, and say that even if every woman, at some point in her life, actively tried to get pregnant, she would be unlikely to do so for over half of her reproductive years, and therefore, it is likely that, for the most part, women in general will see the arrival of their period as a good thing.
So where is that, in medical descriptions?
Where is the idea that, far from being a “failure”, the occurence of a period is actually more likely, generally speaking, to be seen as a “sucess”?
I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to have my ideas about periods challenged in that way when I read the book.And I’m finding it quite hard now to wrap my head around the idea that what I have been led to believe to be objectively true, is in fact extremely negative and unhelpful.
But having been challenged, there’s only one description of a period that I think I now want to embrace, which is something that one of the women in the study said; asked to explain why women bleed, she replied, “to clean out your insides”.
Last night, J said something so mind-bogglingly mad that I immediately retorted, “I’m blogging that!”
Unfortunately, my memory is shite, and I can’t for the life of me work out what he might have said. It was probably about the female reproductive system, since I’m on my period and grumpy with it, but more than that, I cannot say.
This, sadly, means that the only thing I have to entertain you with is the exchange that shows me in a pretty foolish light:
Me: *tells half of a story I’d read about a tampon getting lost*
J: *goes off on tangent*
Me: Shit, I’ve completely lost my thread, damn you…
J: *laughs hysterically*
Me: *glares over the phone, tries not to laugh*
On a somewhat related note, I keep trying to get J blogging. I’ve come to the conclusion that I just want to live online vicariously through him, because my offerings at the altar of Blogland have been distinctly fluffy of late. In my defense, not only am I posting at least twice a week for the Sheffield Fems, but ordinary life leaves me with precious little time, and the stress of ordinary life leaves me with precious little inclination to put my feminist glasses on. It all just gets too depressing, and gives me headaches. Or bouts of murderous rage. Still, at least my weekend news-surfing means I do have some inclination of what is going on in the country. This is probably a good thing.
Through Fourth Wave Feminism, I found this article, which leads with the question, “why are men still twice as likely to climax as women?”
Well, there are several things I could say.
I could say something insufferably smug, because I’m a feminist, and we all know that feminists have better sex.
I could point out that, as long as women masturbating is seen as somehow dirty or wrong, and men masturbating is seen as normal and healthy, it would not be surprising to discover that the number of women who don’t know how to have orgasms by themselves is less than the number of men who don’t know, and that, as a corollary, it would also not be surprising if those women did not orgasm through sex.
I could say something about the way porn has invaded every aspect of daily life, and go on to say something about the complete lack of any realistic female sexual pleasure within mainstream porn.
I could say that sex education, at least as I knew it, had fuck all to say on the subject of female orgasm. Male, yes, because how else would you make babiez?!11!!eleventy!1!! But female orgasms? Well, they don’t have an obvious procreative function, so clearly they don’t matter.
I could say all of that in a longer and perhaps more coherent way.
But the thing that I want most to say is this: that I could not read past the first few comments on that article, because they were just that fucking stupid. The third comment down says – in all seriousness – “who wants fair sex? Boring, repressed people.”
I’m not even going to start ripping into that. On a level of total stupidity, it rivals that guy I found out about via Crimitism, who wanted to Be A MAN!!! and move to Siberia from America to show the Brilliant Not Feminst At All, Knowing Their Place Type Ladiez just how much of a Big Manly Man he was. He failed, because his parents wouldn’t let him.
(I’m not linking to that guy’s site, on the grounds that he’s an idiot, but Richie – 4th in comments – gives the address.)
In other news, the student bar is hosting a traffic-light themed Valentines’ Day evening. Wear red, you’re “taken” (and oh, how I hate that phrase), yellow and you’re terminally non-commital, green and you fancy a fuck. Charming. As you might expect, I’m giving that one a miss. Still, on the plus side, they’re not making anybody wear pink for any reason.
Valentine’s Day: raises money for Clinton Cards and jewellery companies.
Vagina Monologues: raises money for women’s organisations. Spawned the V-Day movement.
Which is why I’ve persuaded Lee that we needed to get tickets to see Jenny Eclair et al shouting “cunt”, having orgasms and generally pissing about. Yay for friends that you can go to the theatre with! Especially now that the Fems isn’t a weekly thing for him anymore.
I shall of course report in later, probably with a somewhat garbled account involving frequent mentions of the name “Bob”. This will be the second time I’ve seen it. And Sam, who was with me the first time, bought me the script for my birthday. One day, maybe I shall perform it, astounding my old drama teacher, who told me – harshly but fairly – that although I could possibly be a director in a group of my choosing, I was not a good actor. Of course, that was back in the days when a group of sixth-formers performed The Vagina Monologues, which students in our all-girls school were banned from going to if they were under sixteen. Now I’ve seen it, I understand that some of the monologues could be pretty unnerving for a sheltered middle-class thirteen year-old. But at the time, I remember being very indignant, on the grounds that I had a vagina, so why the hell couldn’t I see a play about it?!
Perhaps it is this kind of thing that makes me so enthusiastic about a) decent sex education and b) The Vagina Monologues!
I saw a comment recently online to the effect that US President Obama’s daughters are rapidly approaching adolescence, “faster than Dad would like”.
So I thought I’d say a couple of things.
Firstly, that it’s always annoyed me when people call somebody “Mum” or “Dad” – or any variation on the theme – if they clearly do not have that kind of relationship with them. My paternal grandmother, for example, always refered to my mother (her daughter-in-law) as “Mummy”. For quite some time, Mum didn’t realise that my grandmother was addressing her, since not even my siblings or I call my mother “Mummy”! Of course, my gran was convinced that Mum was not answering just to be rude to her, and made our visits a little hellish. Joys.
Secondly, I really, really hate those horrible “Dad” stereotypes.
In short, because they’re just another nasty offshoot of the patriarchal stereotypes of men generally.
In long, because not only are they just another nasty offshoot of the patriarchal stereotypes of men generally, but because I feel that they are an insult to just about every good father out there. Including my own.
The two most pervasive stereotypes that I’ve found are:
A: “Daddy” doesn’t want “his precious little girl(s)” to grow up.
For the record, my father has no interest in the state of my hymen. He does want me to be healthy and happy, and to that end, we did indeed once have a conversation to the effect of “have fun, just don’t get pregnant or infected with anything”. Now that that’s done, I don’t expect to ever have that kind of a conversation with him again. He knows I’ll take care of myself, he knows I know what I’m doing, and I talk openly with my mother about being on the pill. So I’m sure he’s been informed – in general, at least – that I’m not likely to get pregnant any time soon.
B: “Daddy” secretly always wanted a boy.
When my mother was pregnant for the third time, nearly eight years ago (and possibly also when she was pregnant the second time round – but I wouldn’t know about that, as I was 1 at the time), my dad got a lot of well-meaning comments which strongly implied this. You know the type: “Oh, I bet you’re hoping for a boy this time!” or, “wouldn’t it be nice to have a son to play football with?!” – that kind of thing.
And you know what? Seriously, my dad never cared. He just wanted a healthy baby. And you know what else? It’s really, really fucking insulting to his two daughters, to say, when they’re standing right next to him, “oh, I bet you’re hoping for a boy!”.
What, are two daughters not good enough? Seriously? Am I, by virtue of the fact that my gonads are inside my body instead of outside, worth less to you? Does a tiny little floppy thing inside a nappy mean that much to you? If so, you’ll make a shitty, shitty parent. And I’m glad I’ve got my dad and not you.
I don’t think that the commenter I picked up on was saying what they did in a malicious way. I do think that perhaps what they said was not as thought out as it could have been. And I do think that stereotypes should be challenged. Because they are rarely true, and rarely complimentary.
Well, it’s that time of year again. We in England can ignore the specific date (it’s the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, which is of course American) but if it’s still something you believe in, why not blog about it? And why not blog about it, if you’re going to, when many other people will also be blogging about it. Perhaps studies will be conducted on this kind of thing one day. Who knows?
On the subject of abortion, what can I say that I haven’t already said eleventy billion times before?
I think this year, I’m going to go with short and sour. If you are anti-abortion*, and actually believe that simply by making abortions illegal you will stop them happening, you live in a delusional little dreamworld that I want no part of.
For those people who are a little more pragmatic and reasonable in their outlook for all things sexual, I can think of a few sites, off the top of my head, that might come in handy. Abortion Rights works to improve the current UK abortion law for women, and their links are well worth taking a look at. For more general or advice-based services, Brook (for under-25s), Scarleteen (online only, mostly geared towards young adults – but this post on rape is something everybody should read) and FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) are all helpful.
*I’ll be damned if I’ll call them “pro-life” when I can see no respect for the lives of women in their arguments. Of course, they’d say that I’m damned already.