Month: June 2012

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.

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