Year: 2012 Page 1 of 2

Sexcetera - Fall 2012

Sexcetera: The Fall 2012 grand list

I write an opinion column in my school’s newspaper, The Pioneer, called “Sexcetera.” It’s a column on relationships, sex, and sexuality, from a perspective I’m trying to keep sex-positive, feminist, and inclusive. I’ve been doing it for months, but (perhaps unsurprisingly, given my tendency to get busy and neglect the blog), I haven’t mentioned it at all here.

Since it would be silly to post each individual column now, I figured I’d post a general directory of what I’ve written this semester.

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Brief post: Why the Salvation Army’s not getting my money this year

It’s the holiday season, which means that along with the nonstop Christmas music in grocery stores, we’re also about to be bombarded with opportunities to give to those in need. Those iconic bell-ringers, the Salvation Army, are going to be out–and I’m not giving them a cent.

I’m not a Scrooge. I’m all for giving and helping people less fortunate than you. But the Salvation Army is not an organization I wish to support, because the good they might do is offset by a lot of less savory facts.

From autumnyte on Tumblr:

Well, here’s the deal, anon. The Salvation Army is an evangelical Christian group, and they impose those beliefs on the people that they employ and the communities they serve. Here are a few examples:

They are so opposed to LGBT rights that they have lobbied multiple times for exemptions from Federal and Local anti-discrimination laws, and threatened to withdraw their services.

They refused to provide shelter to a homeless gay couple, unless they broke up and renounced their homosexuality.

They refused to provide a transgender woman with shelter that was congruent with her gender presentation, instead insisting she house with men. She chose instead to sleep on the sidewalk and died from the cold.

Speaking of gender, there was also this charming incident where one of their hostels refused to open the door for a 17-year-old victim who had just been brutally raped (or even call the police for her) because that particular hostel had a strict “men only” policy.

Children who can’t prove their immigration status are turned away.

The organization also disposes of any Harry Potter or Twilight related donations (rather than giving them to other charities), because they claim the toys are “incompatible with the charity’s Christian beliefs”.

During the Bush Administration (thanks to “faith-based initiatives”) they fired about 20 long-time employees (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Gay), simply for refusing to sign the organization’s statement of Christian belief.

So, that–in a nutshell–is what’s wrong with it.

I’m sure there are some exceptions on local bases, and certainly, I don’t encourage harassing or abusing the volunteers who are out collecting donations–they’re just doing their jobs, which have got to be hard, especially when things get colder. But if you’re looking to give to a charitable organization, I highly recommend looking elsewhere for a group with a better track record.

A breakfast sandwich made of golden, flaky biscuits, melted cheese, eggs, sausage, and bacon. A glass of orange juice is visible in the background.

Breakfast today

A breakfast sandwich made of golden, flaky biscuits, melted cheese, eggs, sausage, and bacon. A glass of orange juice is visible in the background.

Reminder: Why we need sex-positivity

I talk a lot about sex and sex-positivity, especially in person. (There’s a big post about what that all means and why I find it so important coming up at some point–it’s long overdue.) There’s a lot of cultural weight stacked against sex that I, as a humanist and a feminist, simply can’t accept, and so I’ve worked over the past few years to free myself of that stigmatical burden. But as a student at a small liberal arts college in eastern Washington, and one who calls Portland, Oregon “home” to boot, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the sex-positive spheres I inhabit are not what many people across the country recognize.

This post on reddit caught my eye today and gave me a really unpleasant reminder of what a sex-negative culture can do:

I’m a 17 year old female, and I think I have an over active sex drive.?

Or maybe a hormone imbalance. I’m not very sure. First of all i’d like to say I am not trolling, although it may sound like it. I’m a virgin. But I think about sex, frequently. I masturbate like about 4 times per week and think about sex everytime I go to sleep. I think about it way to much to where I’m at the point of seeing someone sexy on tv and wanting to have sex with them. I don’t know if this is normal, and I wasnt sure where to post this. Please help:(

This is what happens when a culture tells people, especially women, that enjoying sex is abnormal, that it’s wrong, that it’s something to be ashamed of. A girl exploring her sexuality in a perfectly natural, healthy way, harming nobody in the process, is led to believe that she’s physiologically abnormal for seeking pleasure. She feels guilt and grief when she has done nothing wrong. And she feels like even when she’s doing something that only affects her, she needs to be “normal”, as if there’s something inherently wrong with an abundance of sexual thoughts and behaviors.

We need to fight this. We need to tell people of all genders, sexes, and orientations that they can and should love their bodies and all they can do, if they so choose. We need to broadcast a better idea of what is “wrong” based on consent and harm, rather than puritanical anti-pleasure maxims. We need to create a culture that celebrates consensual sex and sexuality (including the choice not to be sexual)–rather than one that makes 17-year-old girls afraid that there’s something wrong with them for being sexual.

My summer 2012 reading list

As I alluded to a few posts ago, I’m aiming to educate myself this summer on a lot of issues, particularly issues of social justice and privilege. With some help, especially that of Rachel, I’ve come up with the following rough list, affectionately dubbed the “Just How Fucked Are We?” reading list. It’s in no particular order, and I may be adding to it or deviating from it as the summer goes on, but these are the books I’m diving into this summer. Since I’m still slowly working through this reading list, most of my synopses are based on publishers’ summaries or the reviews of people who’ve read them.

I link to Powell’s because it’s my favorite local independent bookstore, but, of course, you can check them out from your library or buy them at your personally preferred bookstore.

  • You Are Not a Gadget, by Jaron Lanier: A philosophical manifesto examining the growing role of internet technology in our daily lives, and how it’s changing our understanding of humanity and personhood.
  • The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein: An in-depth examination of the “shock doctrine” used to push neoliberal economic policies across the world, wherein governments seize the opportunity created by crisis in order to implement policies that would otherwise face stiff resistance.
  • Yes Means Yes!: Visions of a Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti: An anthology from various authors on dismantling rape culture and educating people to value and embrace female sexuality.
  • Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser: In what I’ve heard described as a modern-day take on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Schlosser investigates the many tendrils of the fast food industry in our society–not only the disgusting truths of fast food production, but also the cultural impacts of fast food, the industry’s exploitation of minorities, and much more.
  • Reefer Madness, by Eric Schlosser: An investigation of America’s underground economy, particularly focusing on marijuana, porn, and undocumented immigrants.
  • Broke, USA, by Gary Rivlin: A look into the recent development of the “poverty industry” in the last five years, an industry making big bucks on the backs of the working poor.
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich: A classic piece of ethnographic literature. In the late 90’s, Ehrenreich attempted to see what life was actually like in the trenches of working poverty by experiencing it herself, moving from job to job, state to state, trying to keep herself fed and sheltered on near-minimum wage levels–and found that the”minimum” wage is hardly sufficient.
  • The Working Poor: Invisible in America, by David K. Shipler: A study of the invisible poor, courageous and working hard yet trapped in a web of problems.
  • Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields, by Charles Bowden: A “devastating chronicle of a city in collapse” composed of individual stories of those living in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a hotspot for drug-related violence.

Also not on the”Just How Fucked Are We” list:

  • In Praise of Shadows, by Junichir? Tanizaki: A classic essay on the Japanese aesthetic.
  • Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal: A look into real-world applications of positive psychology, seen through the lens of an award-winning game designer.
  • Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá: A journey through human history, evolution, and psychology to suggest that sexual monogamy is not the default for human behavior that we all think it is.

These are the thousands of pages I’m going to try to put into my brain this summer. Wish me luck!

The Imaginary Commencement Address

My high school’s class of 2012 just graduated today. Damn, I feel old.

My friend Michael Jarmer, who teaches English at my high school, wrote this impressive imaginary commencement address to the seniors. It’s full of great advice derived from his experiences teaching and learning literature with his students, and reflects a healthy humanist appreciation for each other and for our lives that I always find so refreshing to read:

And once we’re in college or unemployed we wait for a job, a family, a kid, and then we wait for the kid to go through grade school, middle school, high school, college, job, marriage, grandkids, and…  Good grief. Stop waiting for life to begin. Your life has already begun. You’re in it. Live it. Be here now. Tomorrow will come, I guarantee it.

It’ll only take a few minutes of your time, and the inspiration you’ll get from it is totally worth it. Go read it.

Behind the Scenes

Refining my image

I just went through my old archives and hid about 70 blog posts that I felt were either embarrassing or just not worth keeping up anymore. Most of them were posts from middle school and high school, so for a lot of my friends, from before they even knew me. This is part of an effort this summer to change the scope and audience of my blog, which is something I’d rather just do than talk much about.

Along the way, I also made a few changes to previous posts:

  • For accessibility purposes, almost all images have been given alternative text.
  • Some typos were corrected.
  • A post from February 11, previously entitled “Astronomers got gypped,” has been renamed, “Astronomers got screwed,“ with an accompanying editor’s note at the bottom. While I generally don’t care to modify old content, I don’t feel comfortable using “gypped,” a racist term, in the title of a post.

The posts that are left are those that I would feel comfortable with anyone reading, although hopefully with the understanding that the earlier ones were written in the early days of both my own blogging and blogging as a medium in general, and thus I was still figuring out what I wanted to say. It should go without saying, but although they present a glimpse of who I was, they certainly don’t necessarily represent who I am now. Feel free to read and enjoy them (or cringe at them), but keep it in mind that a long time has passed between their publishing date and today.

Hopefully, this will pave the way for a more interesting blog in the future.

My mind is burning

My mind is burning.

I’ve decided that this summer, it’s time to stop being ignorant. I’ve had the privilege, as a white, straight, middle-class American male, to live a life fairly unburdened by worries of social inequality or injustice, but it’s time that I stepped outside that privilege and learned something.

I’ve hardly even begun thinking about making a reading list for the summer, and already, it feels like my head is on fire with all of it. Racism. Sexism. Capitalism.

It feels right now like the world is fucked up in so many ways. I recognize that might be a bit of an overreaction, but I also can predict I’ll be going further into a slump of that hopelessness the more I research and learn, until I can accept it and start figuring out what the hell to do about it.

Learning about this isn’t going to be easy. It’ll be tempting to just back out and retreat to my privileged position, where I don’t have to deal with the painful reality of what’s going on.

It’ll be my challenge to stick with it and make a worthwhile change in my life.

It’s going to be an interesting summer, that’s for damn sure.

Header image: “Sparks” by Daniel Dionne (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Communication is sexy

Formula: "# of things that get them off" over "# of possible sexual acts"
Let’s overlook the blatant mathematical problems here, like my use of a fraction with infinity in the denominator. You know what I mean.

Privilege: It’s a Thing

In my senior year of high school, faced with an otherwise empty slot in my schedule, I, on a whim, registered for an elective course entitled, simply, “Diversity.” Most of the other students I talked to about it–usually white males–scoffed at the subject matter. To a typical jaded high school senior, “diversity” is a word saddled with images of saccharine kids’ TV shows and painfully-contrived story problems in math textbooks that go out of their way to establish the non-white identity of their characters. After all, by high school, especially in a blue state like Oregon, nobody’s really racist anymore. Or sexist.1This, by the by, is total sarcasm. Maybe there are some homophobes, but really, is it worth taking a class about?

Well, yeah.

Under Bobby Cowles’ instruction, that simple elective opened my eyes to a world of injustice. Without being labeled as such, it was the first sociology class I ever took, exposing how ideas such as”race” are arbitrarily defined social constructs–still very real in their consequences, but entirely construed by society. It showed me the first-hand accounts of members of social minority groups in a way that I likely wouldn’t have encountered elsewhere during high school. But most importantly, it taught me about the concept of privilege.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. This, by the by, is total sarcasm.

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