Archive for the Current Events Category

In which California really hits home

Posted in Current Events, Gender, Orientation, Real Life, Sexuality on December 18, 2008 by alterisego

Although I’ve of course been outraged about the passage of California’s Proposition 8 since November 4, Saturday was the first day that I realized the decision could affect me personally. I’m from California originally, and I was home visiting and talking to a friend about how the woman I was sitting next to on a plane for almost five hours thought, even as we landed, that I was male. She had asked me what I do, I said I was in college, she asked me my major, I said I’m undecided but I’m leaning towards sociology, and she said (rather strangely, actually), “That’s great! You can come home every day and tell your wife about all the interesting people you’ve met!”

Of course, this woman had failed to grasp the basic concept of sociology, but many people don’t know what it is; what I told my friend was that it puzzled me that she had sat next to me for five hours and she’d still come out with the oh-so-gendered “your wife.” My friend joked, “Well, you know, maybe she did mean ‘your wife.'” I shook my head. “Not in this state,” I said. “Not in this fucking state.”

And that was the point when I realized that Prop. 8 isn’t just about all the gay moms and dads out there, or even young couples who are still ten years older than me. It became clear to me that when I decided to take this fight seriously, I’m fighting for my own self-preservation just as much as that of a random jumble of letters (L, G, B, T, etc.) that somehow come together to signify a disenfranchised community.

I’m fighting for the right for a woman to say that to me on the plane, see what I am, and still mean “your wife.”

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On pedophilia

Posted in Current Events, Kink, Porn/Erotica, Sexuality on August 11, 2008 by alterisego

Trinity wrote about a Supreme Court case that would render illegal the distribution of simulated child porn (i.e. very well photoshopped) that’s passed off as real child porn. While I have a sort of kneejerk reaction to making things illegal, I don’t have a huge problem with this. Real child porn is illegal for obvious reasons, and if someone buys or sells a photoshopped image that they believe to be real, it’s supporting the same sorts of ideas that are problematic with regard to child porn. If you believe the image to be real, you’re condoning statutory rape and exploitation and muddled notions of consent or complete lack thereof in just as dangerous a way as if the image is in fact real. So I see the logic there.

There are two things that make me concerned, though. One is the slippery slope of legislation like this. As Trinity said, “while it doesn’t seem horrific on its face, I do worry that it may be the beginning of a slide where ‘something that looks real’ becomes ‘and fake things too’ and ‘fake’ slides from ‘shoppery’ to ‘drawings’ to ‘stories about consensual adult ageplay.'” For sure. And obviously there’s a huge difference between adults pretending to be kids and, well, kids themselves. The history of government restrictions involving sexuality (see UK and that “simulated harm” thing) indicates that such a slippery slope is possible.

But the other (possibly far more controversial) thing is, a pedophile isn’t a child molester. A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children, but that doesn’t mean that a pedophile necessarily acts on those urges. I don’t have pedophilic tendencies myself, so I can’t say what that’s like, but I imagine it’s very much like having another fetish, one that society condones a bit more. I’d imagine that, essentially, there’s not a whole lot you can do about what turns you on, whether that’s a morally objectionable thing or not. I’d imagine that many people with that fetish are very aware that actually having sex with a child is a morally reprehensible act, and they would never consider doing such a thing. I’d imagine that some people repress that part of their sexuality, and focus on other things instead, while I’d imagine that others achieve their release in safe ways, like ageplay with other adults or like the photoshoppery and drawings Trinity mentioned. And see (here’s where I get myself into deep politically incorrect shit), I don’t think there’s a whole lot wrong with that. Jacking off to a drawing of a child is a much better alternative to going out and raping a child. And if you know it’s a fantasy, and you know it’s never going to be a reality, what exactly is the harm in that?

I know that I certainly share the experience of having sexual thoughts that would be morally reprehensible if acted upon literally. I suspect people reading this might feel the same. I’ve talked about my rape fantasies before. I get tied in knots about their relationship to my feminism and my support of the values of the BDSM community, but I still know that I kink on notions of abusive sexual behavior. Whatever the moral outcome of that, and for whatever reason, it’s part of who I am. I can repress it, I can focus on other things, but that doesn’t change how I feel, and that doesn’t change how central these notions are to my innate conception of sexuality. I have no desire to harm women. I have no desire to rape or be raped. News stories about rape or assault or abuse are just as horrifying to me as they might be to someone who doesn’t share my perversions. I’m a mentally balanced person who understands what needs to stay fantasy, and what the difference is between fantasy and reality. But if I got off to porn, or even to my own fantasies, I think I might choose to get off to something that simulates nonconsensuality. With the knowledge that no one was being harmed, I could use that fantasy for my sexual release, because my entire sexuality hinges on it.

And so I think that must be what it would be like to be pedophilic. I think people who are attracted to prepubescent children might feel as repulsed and yet fascinated by their fetish as I sometimes do by mine, that they might repress it and yet accept it as an integral part of who they are, that they might seek an outlet in fantasy and simulation and sex play in order that their desires not bleed into “real life” and moral reprehensibility. I don’t understand what it is to have pedophilic tendencies, but there is no question that I understand what it is like to feel that way. And so I can’t condemn anyone for it, or have any desire to outlaw their instruments of release—unless, of course, they cross that very solid and unmissable line between fantasy and reality.

Oh Yale.

Posted in Current Events, Kink, Porn/Erotica on February 18, 2008 by alterisego

The pro-porn and kink-friendly and whatnot blogs I read seem to be rather upset about certain happenings at Yale University’s “Sex Week”, and I really have to say I agree. According to the Yale Daily News, one of Sex Week’s events was a screening of a porn film that the Week’s organizers hadn’t previewed prior to the screening. Now I would say that it’s their own damn fault that a bunch of kids are happily watching a movie “which depicted fantasy rape, bondage and piercing”. They should suck it up and deal with the fallout, and let the audience get on with it. According to the Yale paper, there were certainly no objections from the audience as to the content. However, the event organizers stopped the film midway (to audience protests), because I guess the phrase “consenting adults” means nothing to them?

I feel like there’s really no point to my going on a rant about this, because Yale kids are more or less like the mainstream everywhere else, and I’m not going to start blaming folks for being uninformed. It’s not like you come out of the womb knowing about kinky porn. The only thing I can really say is, “Stupid kids should have previewed the movie before showing it, if they were going to object.”

Both the article and the Sex Week organizers definitely seem to have the wrong end of the stick, though, as I’m sure I don’t need to repeat. They’re going on about how this is a great opportunity to speak out about violence against women and whatnot — but, um, have these people ever seen a movie? Never mind a porno, just a film in a theater, or on DVD? Do they get the idea that in films (unless they’re documentaries), things are not real? Did they (for example) go to see Lord of the Rings and think that Middle Earth really exists? I’m dubious, because clearly they don’t understand that “fantasy rape” is not real rape, and that perfectly non-alarming BDSM practices are not equal to violence against women.

Excuse me, I’m feeling particularly intolerant towards the uninformed tonight.

EDIT: I spent about an hour doing research. D’you think The New Devil in Miss Jones (IMDB link) might have been the film referred to? I’m not totally sure it meets the Yale Daily News‘s description, but since it seems to have won several awards, it makes sense for the director, Thomas, and the production company, Vivid, to have chosen to showcase it.

Valentine’s Day and college applications

Posted in Current Events, Feminism, Orientation, Real Life, Romance on February 14, 2008 by alterisego

I hate Valentine’s Day. Loathe it. Detest it. Revile it. Abhor it. Et cetera. This vitriol has been born of several years of external pressure to “have a valentine”, I suppose. Even if you aren’t “together” with someone on February 14, it seems like you’re expected to express your affection in other ways. My school ran a “Valentine Gram” thing and we were presented with various opportunities to send messages to our secret crushes. Folks ask other folks out. And of course all the established couples have to do the whole roses/chocolates/dinner ew stereotypical clichéd expensive sexist materialist version of romance thing. And I can’t stand the industry, and I resent the pressure that I need to be with someone or pursuing someone. It’s sort of like how in junior high and early high school, the reason I completely stopped hanging out with girls for a time was because they were always asking me, “Who do you like?” and I usually felt ashamed of my crushes, either because they were other girls or because they were unpopular or conventionally unattractive (male or female) kids, and I hated the invasion of privacy. It’s just the same on Valentine’s Day. We’re asked to publicly declare our love, make a holiday and an occasion out of it — that’s not so much my style.

I mentioned the materialism, and I guess that’s the easiest element of Valentine’s Day to pinpoint as unpleasant. One of my major annoyances in life, that I’m not nearly as vocal about as I’d like to be, is the popular assumption that maintaining a romantic and/or sexual relationship with someone entails buying them off: with dinners, movies and other entertainment, tokens of affection like flowers or jewelry or other presents. I have never been able to understand the way that to so many of my peers, the people who they say “I love you” to become prostitutes: folks date people they don’t even like personally, trying to win them over with these material gifts just because they’re attractive, good in bed, etc. I know that it works this way slightly less in the real world, but in the world of not-quite-adults, this is what I see. This is how Valentine’s Day looks to my eyes: a passing period that’s an unusual sea of red and pink, heart-shaped balloons floating above the seething mass of teenagers and your risk of bumping into someone carrying a tray of cupcakes increased exponentially.

And don’t even get me started on the subjugation, theory terms. Sexism, of course, and heteronormativity. Valentine’s Day promotes everything that is “acceptable” to the mainstream. And I know that loads of “unacceptable” folks are expressing their love on Valentine’s Day — the event was touched on at the lesbian parenting blog Mombian, for example, and Valentine’s Day productions of The Vagina Monologues have happened across the country. But ask the proverbial, er, person on the street, and they’re hardly going to call Valentine’s Day a celebration of sex-positivism and love having no boundaries and all that good stuff. No, it’s candy hearts and pink paper decorations and mainstream, mainstream, mainstream.

So enough of that, and now we’ll transition neatly into another rant, also having to do with heteronormativity. In the process of figuring out what corner of North America I’ll be in come September, I also have to find some funds to get me there. Doing so requires filling out quite a few forms, such as the Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Board company’s CSS/Profile, in addition to various schools’ individual forms. Now, my family is of the one-mom, one-dad, still-married variety, but I’ve paid close attention to the wordings on the forms asking for copious details on every aspect of yours and your parents’ finances. Of everything I’ve filled out to date, only one form — the CSS/Profile — contains spaces for “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”, then asking you to further specify whether each parent is a mother, father, stepfather, stepmother, legal guardian, etc. You could conceivably complete the form with two mothers, two fathers, a mother and a stepmother, etc. However, no other form is so forgiving, restricting your options to just one mother and one father. It’s mind-boggling: I mean, I expect this sort of thing from the government, so wasn’t too surprised to see it on the FAFSA. But then you have these private universities who are supposedly so enlightened as to have gender identity listed in their non-discrimination statements, and can’t manage to account for families with LGBT parents. I wrote an email to one school, since they asked for feedback on their online financial aid application, protesting this set-up. Somewhat predictably, I didn’t receive a reply.

I also have to wonder how parents with any more complicated family configuration deal with the intricacies of the financial aid forms. I have friends whose parents (of the one mother-one father configuration) are divorced, and these require that the non-custodial parent fill out an independent form, in addition to the standard form being filed by the custodial parent and the child. But what about families where the parents live together, but one was unable to secure second-parent adoption? What about families where one parent is not the biological mother or father? There are also, I am sure, even less traditional parenting arrangements, not limited to sets of parents less than or equal to two, that sort of thing, though I don’t suppose anyone can expect them to be accounted for anytime soon.

Anyway. So I know we can pretty much expect discrimination everywhere, but I was honestly surprised by the situation of financial aid.

And that was your set of rants for this evening.

Search terms

Posted in Kink, Responses on February 11, 2008 by alterisego

I’m endlessly fascinated with what my stats turn up. (Of course, now that I’m discussing this, it’s gonna skew my stats some more by reiterating the terms I get already.)

Interestingly enough, I think my most popular overall search term is “victorian porn” or some variation thereof, which has actually surprised me: I thought I was the only one with the more-than-passing interest in really vintage erotica.

I get a lot of searches for “non-consensual”, and that makes me feel a bit guilty. I’m obviously not promoting non-consensual activity at all, I just wrote this one post a while back that had the phrase “non-consensual” in the title. But I guess it makes me feel awkward that there are people searching for that. When I was first becoming aware of my, erm, sexual preferences, the discovery of the “safe, sane, consensual” maxim became very important to me. It meant that I was more normal and wholesome than, say, the Marquis de Sade. I guess connection of my preferences with any form of non-consensuality still kind of makes me shiver.

I’ve gotten a fair number of searches involving some variation on “bondage”, and even a couple for my own “alterisego” name — which certainly swells my ego a bit.

And here are some other funny ones, for your entertainment:

“women with cloth off showing pee hole”
“porn is boring”
“plural of dominatrix” <– that was very satisfying given this post.

And today I got “how to stop being masochist”, which made me sad and reminded me what I need to keep remembering, that I’m lucky in terms of my ability to deal with my identity.

Blogging for choice!

Posted in Current Events, Feminism on January 22, 2008 by alterisego

Blog for Choice Day

Today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the American Supreme Court’s decision that legalized abortion in this country. NARAL has declared today “Blog For Choice Day”: they want bloggers to discuss why it’s important to vote pro-choice.

The answer to that is reasonably simple: the word choice. The pro-choice movement should not be characterized as a “pro-abortion” movement, and should not be cast in contrast to anti-abortion agitators. By definition, “pro-choice” means that every woman should have the right to choose what happens to her body. If a woman becomes pregnant, she could choose to have an abortion or carry the fetus to term, and then she could choose whether she would like to keep it or give it up for abortion. It is her body, and her final right to decide.

I’ve been reading quite a bit of late about these movements of men who are claiming to suffer post-traumatic stress because their wives or girlfriends chose to have abortions. I have a couple questions for these men. What post-traumatic stress would you suffer if you were suddenly drafted into the role of fatherhood? And what post-traumatic stress would your partner suffer if you pressured her into keeping a fetus for nine months and then raising a child for life? Yes, abortion is an important decision — there’s no reason to leave out the man to whom the sperm belonged, or other parties for whom the decision is important. But ultimately it is the pregnant woman who would carry the fetus for nine months, give birth to an infant, and most likely (because that’s how these things tend to go) care for it for the duration of childhood. Who else could such a life-changing decision possibly rest with but the woman herself? She deserves to make such a decision free of outside influences, and determine whether to abort the fetus or carry it to term regardless of what others might think best for her body and her life.

I live in America in the 21st century, that mythical time and place of the future when our bodies are our own. We have no more slavery or indentured servitude; in 2008 America no one owns our bodies but us. And yet, 35 years after Roe v. Wade, the right of a woman to choose what happens to her own body is as perilously under threat as it has ever been. I ask my 15-person readership to vote pro-choice because, regardless of one’s own beliefs about abortion, and what one would do in an individual situation, a pro-choice person stands for freedom and self-empowerment.

Now that’s what I mean by rights for women.

Safe Space

Posted in Current Events, Orientation, Real Life, Sexuality on December 11, 2007 by alterisego

Today my LGBT group had a guest speaker from PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). He was interesting because he was an evangelical Christian (Jesus fish tie and all), but who spoke openly and tolerantly about his gay son. He left behind some pamphlets about safe schools and how to determine if yours is safe. I apologize to PFLAG for quoting too liberally from their pamphlet while I analyze my own learning environment.

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