Rape: A Year in Review

 hatoum

It’s been said that every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. In past years maybe this bit of statistical information would have been unbelievable but lately it’s become more obviously so. Maybe it’s because every five minutes there’s a new post, article, tweet, or controversy regarding rape. Honestly, between “comedian” Daniel Tosh’s less than hilarious rape jokes to the Steubenville teens who raped and urinated on an unconscious sixteen-year old girl, 2012 has definitely been the rapiest year yet. And it’s not because there have been substantially more rapes this year than the last. Quite the contrary, it’s because rape is finally emerging as a real issue. No more hiding it behind closed doors or stuffing it under our beds with the rest of our dirty laundry. We are talking about rape while challenging those who perpetuate it and I believe that’s something to celebrate.

Earlier this spring Daniel Tosh made some rape jokes. Of all of the things to chuckle at he chose something that directly affects 1 in 5 American women not to mention the countless men and children who have been sexually assaulted. Did he really think that would go over well? I never got a chance to properly address the witless comments left on my Facebook status which read, “Hey Tosh, rape jokes aren’t funny!” So, to respond to those who believe standup comedy is an art and rape jokes are just artistic expression, I say this: No, some things aren’t funny. It wasn’t funny when I lost my sense of self. It wasn’t funny when I’d cry myself to sleep thinking that somehow I was responsible for my own rape. By laughing at atrocities like rape we clearly continuing it. When we laugh at something we get comfortable with it. We allow it to come into our homes and sit down with us on the couch. Laughing only separates it from its own ugliness because after all if something makes us laugh than it can’t be that bad. Ending rape culture is more important than five minutes of half-assed standup.

Right wing politicians sure had a lot to say about rape this year. They even went so far as to take personal experiences and divide them into different “types” of rape. There was forcible rape, rape-rape, Legitimate rape, and of course emergency rape! Like, um excuse me but when isn’t rape a fucking emergency? Listen, anyone with half of a brain will tell you that categorizing rape is completely asinine but just in case you’re not sure, rape is when a person has sex with you without your consent. This can happen out of force, unconsciousness, inebriation, intimidation, or manipulation. I hope this simple definition cleared it up for everybody but if you forget just try and remember that rape is rape is rape is rape.

In December a 23 year old Indian woman was out with her boyfriend after 10pm and was raped. Some will try and argue that this is the very reason why she was raped. “What was she doing?” “Why was she out so late?” and the victim blaming will go on and on like this. Victim blaming is prevalent all over the world and India is no exception. However, this case was so undeniably horrific that it got people talking. Jyoti Singh Pandey was attacked by five men who gang raped her with pipes, leaving her completely disemboweled. She survived the encounter but died some days later in the hospital. India, a country where sex is so stigmatized that victims of rape are often shamed into marrying their rapists, is pissed. They are finally getting angry at rape and demanding that the perpetrators of this crime be brought to justice. From this ghastly incident rose a voice that is insisting rape be taken seriously. What happened to Jyoti was nothing short of tragic but if a conservative country like India can stand up against rape than why can’t we?

Oh, Steubenville just a little town with a big problem. Steubenville, like most of the United States, glorifies its high school athletes to the point that they are sure they can’t be rapists. Just like they’re sure these rising football stars didn’t rape an unconscious girl and then urinate on her at a party. You’re right coach. That little tart was just trying to bring down your team for her own selfish reasons! Err wrong. That’s most definitely not how that works. Sadly, this story is constantly repeating itself. For some reason Americans can’t come to terms with the fact that standing up for a rape victim is considerably more important than standing by the athlete who raped her, go figure. This time things turned out differently for the small town story. It made the national news and it’s still being talked about. Of course that little video of Steubenville teens referring to themselves as “the rape crew” Anonymous leaked last month sure didn’t help keep it out of the headlines.

So, there it is. We’re finally talking about it. The conversation has started without any intention of stopping. Rape is a truly insidious action and the fact that we can’t turn on our computers or pick up a newspaper without seeing it on a headline doesn’t mean the world is getting worse. It means that instead of pretending it doesn’t happen we’re finally addressing it and holding perpetrators accountable.  This year we’ve seen politicians, entertainers, athletes, and entire countries face this controversial topic. Finally, it’s the majority who’s standing up against rape. As advocates we are no longer the minority. In 2013 my only hope is that we can continue the conversation so that rape and rape culture can meet an ultimate end.

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Pubes; Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Ah, pubic hair what a wonderfully uncomfortable topic! So uncomfortable in fact that I can guarantee that at least one person scrolled past this post and let out a big “EW!” in annoyance. But regardless we’re talking about this, it’s happening.

Tragically, I realized that everyone in my circle of friends had decided to liberate themselves from the shackles of pubic hair before a pool party. It was the summer going into my freshmen year. We were all changing when a snarky blonde and my worst frenemie cried out, “Oh my God, you don’t shave?!” Wait, what? I just got these though. I looked down at what puberty had thrown my way and felt completely humiliated. However ashamed I may have felt I also remember being unutterably pissed. I had waited for womanhood and now that it had arrived I had to go back to being twelve? That’s like going out and buying spike heels and the second you put them on everyone around you is shaking their heads and saying, “No. Take them off; flats are totally in this year.” So I picked up a razor and bid womanhood adieu because I’m a spineless lemming.

Okay, so yes it may seem awkward or ridiculous to discuss these things but they actually carry quite a significant role in women’s lives. Doctors in the 1960’s used to shave women’s vaginas before they gave birth because women’s (not men’s) pubic hair was seen as unclean. Excuse me, but what the fuck does that even mean? This naturally occurring hair on my body is somehow dirtier than a man’s? So dirty in fact that my child can’t pass through it? This is just one example of how the medical field has medicalized women’s bodies leaving them “othered”. A term used most often when a dominant culture or group looks at another and says, “you’re different than me therefore you must be wrong and we must fix you.” So there it is, white-male OB/GYNs were tired of looking at bushes all day so they made up a reason why they didn’t have to. Perfect, as if it’s not already agonizing enough to heal from giving birth, let’s throw razor burn into the mix!

The 1970’s brought with it disco, cocaine, and of course an explosion of pornographic films. It’s as if everyone was just tired of fighting after the civil rights movement and made a unanimous decision to just say “Screw it” and start a party. More pornography meant a greater visual of the vagina which it was decided had to be altered to be more ascetically pleasing. Throughout the decades as the popularity of pornography grew so did the notion that hairless vaginas were beautiful and more desirable than ones covered short and curlies. This phenomenon expanded so much so that now it even affects men. Ever slept with someone and feel like there was something missing that you couldn’t quite put your finger on? Yeah, it’s because like anorexia more men are adapting this catching trend as well!

So what does it all mean? Well, whether we like it or not rejecting pubic hair posts two problems. One being, that we are altering our genitalia to resemble that of a pre-pubescent child and two, that we accepting that our bodies must be changed in order for us to be beautiful or presentable. When we make the claim that being bald is brilliantly sexy, what we’re actually doing is sexualizing children. Seriously, I’m sure Nabokov’s character Humber Humbert would have been absolutely enthused by the idea of grown women running around with baby vaginas. Sexualizing children doesn’t stop at Holister or Abercrombie, where young girls are being prompted to buy miniskirts or bikinis in order to impress their male counterparts; it stays with us into adulthood. Women are constantly being forced to adopt trends that may seem harmless now but actually began under some very degrading circumstances. Patriarchy has medicalized our bodies countless times throughout history but the fact that this practice has roots in pornographic film making makes it even worse. That’s right ladies, when has porn helped us out? I mean really. Is anybody else tired of hearing “Can I cum on your face??” Um, no and you just completely ruined the moment.

Now, I get it. Letting it grow poses some problems too. The number one problem being that it is seriously uncomfortable. Or perhaps you’re afraid to be categorized by your partner as “that weird art girl” or the ever popular “feminazi” I get it. At least get educated about your body before you decide to alter it. Know exactly what it means before you pick up your razor, and above all else if you choose to shave, shave it for yourself not for your partner, because I’m sorry ladies but if you’re man has a serious problem with hair then it’s time to accept that he’s probably a pedophile.

Voices To Vote For

She gasped for breath and sat up in bed. Startled by her own unconscious screaming she awoke with shaking legs and stared at the clock which hung crookedly on her bedroom wall. The paint around it was peeling and the state of her dilapidated apartment reminded her of a post-apolocolyptic movie she had seen some years earlier. You get what you pay for, she’d always think, even in the south Bronx your money won’t get you very far. Beads of sweat sat still on her forehead. She wiped them with her hands and laid back down. Biting her blanket and pressing her eyes tightly together until hot little tears appeared on her face and dripped off of her nose, she tried to fall back to sleep. Cassie was haunted by a memory that didn’t exist. Her dreams were plagued with the body of a person that had never come into being. The formation of her newborn baby wasn’t real, but the guilt she carried was. For weeks after her abortion every night was the same. She would dream of holding her baby in her arms, rocking it gently back and forth. Her dreams were so vivid that she could feel its soft, warm body pressing into her chest. She felt save and loved in a way that she never had before. Hearing its cry sent her stirring restlessly into waking. Then the dream was distant, fleeting too fast to catch it, she was stuck with the harsh reality that none of it was real, and she was alone.

The meetings helped. Every other Wednesday she sought refuge from her sadness by attending a support group for girls and women who had become pregnant and “taken care of it.” The group was put together by a social worker as part of some community outreach program. The women’s health clinic had recommended she go as a way to “alleviate the pain of having an abortion”. The nurse had handed her a box Kotex along with their card. “Every little bit helps sweetie.” She said gently, looking over the desk through tiny reading glasses, probably purchased from the Dwayne Reade around the corner. Still in shock and nauseas from the anesthesia, Cassie brushed it off. She hadn’t once considered actually going to group until the nightmares began.

“So how is everyone feeling today?” Janice, the social worker on hand that day said, as she smiled and looked around the small, lifeless room. The meetings were held in the basement of a women’s healthcare building in Spanish Harlem. The room was dark and the smell was a combination of feet and Lemon Pledge. The walls were pretty much bare aside  from a diagram of a cervix plastered on the wall. Besides a few groans and mumbled “Fine”‘s no one really responded, but no one ever did.

“Lola, I’d like to hear from you today, how is everything going? Are you still in recovery?”

Lola was a dancer for The New York Ballet and she was beautiful. She even sat like a dancer, with her back straight and her tiny feet splayed out to each side. Lola had planned to keep her baby. She was engaged to a young surgeon named Luke, and when she found out about her pregnancy the two were overjoyed. That is, until Lola started getting sick. Nausea hit her like a gust of wind pushing her into the bathroom until it threw her over the toilet. It came at all hours of the day and night. Her OB/GYN had told her it was normal, and it probably was, but what Lola was feeling wasn’t. She liked throwing up. She liked it ever since she was eight years old, when she would lean over the toilet, emptying her stomach of meals. Then in a poised manner she would gracefully stretch her long, lean leg into the air, rest her foot upon the toilet handle and flush it gently. She would dance around her Upper East Side apartment loving her thin body, catching glances of rib cage in the hallway mirror. Lola stopped when she met Luke. She was devoted to staying healthy and dreamed of enjoying cake on her wedding day like other “normal” brides. Morning sickness had caused her monster to resurface. Knowing she wasn’t ready, she made the appointment.

“I’m fine. Just worried, I guess.” Lola looked at the floor as she spoke.

“Why is that, dear? What are you worried about?”

“Sometimes I wonder if I’m gonna get a second chance, you know? Maybe that was my one shot and I blew it. Everyone thinks that I can help it, wanting to be skinny. But I can’t. If I’m not fit to be a mother yet, what if I never will be?”

“Recovery is a process Lola. It takes time and everyone’s different. There is no expiration date on grief or recovery. When you’re ready, really ready, you’ll have what you’re looking for.”

Lola bit her lip and nodded her head as she began to cry.

“I’ve got something to say.” Tanya called out from the group.

Tanya was finishing her junior year at Columbia when he took it. He didn’t take it in an alley, behind a bar, or in a parking garage. He took it in her home with the doors locked. He worked with her at the diner down the street from her building. They spent most nights talking and laughing with one another, flirting with each other and teasing the patrons behind their backs. Tanya was ecstatic when he finally made the first move and asked her out for drinks. He told her that he was working on his law degree, which wasn’t true, he also told her that his name was Allen, which wasn’t true either. His real name was Tom and he was facing three counts of sexual assault and battery in his home state of New Mexico, another fact that he forgot to mention. He had lead Tanya to believe he was from Rhode Island. Tanya was drugged, carried back to her apartment and raped in her own bed. Several people passed them on the street that night but none of them stepped in to investigate. One eye witness told police that, “Girls go out and get drunk. How was I supposed to know she didn’t have too much to drink? I thought it was her boyfriend.” The next morning Tanya awoke huddled at the edge of her bed. Her body was sore and she had no recollection of what had happened. When she looked down to see where the throbbing was coming from her heart felt like stopping. Dried semen covered the inside of her legs. She screamed into her hands. As tears flooded her face she realized that her lips were burning. Tanya stumbled wearily to her dresser and didn’t recognize the girl looking back at her. Her bottom lip was split open in a way that made it look like another set of lips. Her nose was broken and just above her brow laid a gash in the shape of a crescent moon, crusted with dried blood the color of merlot. Five weeks later Tanya found out she was pregnant.

“Yes, okay go ahead.”

“Yeah, well I was passing a church yesterday on my way to class and I saw all these little crosses in the front yard so I stopped to read what the sign next to them said.” She paused, turning red with anger.

“Go on dear, this is a safe place.”

“It said they were graves for aborted babies. Like, what the fuck? Are you kidding me with that bull shit? Where’s the grave for my fucking dignity? It wasn’t even a real person. It made me so angry!” Tanya began to cry, so much so that she couldn’t catch her breath. Every part of her seemed alive in that moment and she was pulsating with rage.

“Just breathe Tanya. I know it hurts but you’re doing okay. If those people who put up the signs and the markers knew how it felt to be you, if they even had a glimpse into your life then maybe they would’ve gone about things a little differently. Let’s hear from someone else in the group now.”

“But they don’t know what it’s like to be me…to be us. How could they? How could a man know what it feels like in woman’s body? How could a woman know if they’ve never had to go through it?” Laura looked up and around at the faces that stared back at her as she spoke.

Cassie hated the sound of Laura’s voice. She hated her story, hated that she was left behind by a man that didn’t want her. She felt sick when she thought about how weak Laura must have been to throw herself at a married man and toss out the product of their affair like garbage. The only lasting memory of their love and what they had made together. Cassie hated it, because it sounded all too familiar. They shared a similar experience and it was too close to her own. Laura represented something bigger to Cassie than a woman scorned. She was living presentation of Cassie’s unwavering guilt.

In an effort to distract herself from the lump that was forming in her throat Cassie directed her attention to Nikki who was kicking her feet back and forth and chewing on the zipper of her oversized coat. Like Cassie, Nikki usually didn’t say much. Mostly, Cassie guessed, because her English wasn’t very good. She lived close to Cassie and sometimes they would exchange glances on the subway but would never say anything even though they both knew they were going to the same place. One of Cassie’s friends once lived in the same building as Nikki and used to catch her and her boyfriend kissing passionately under the stairwell, which Cassie figured was probably how she found herself in group. Nikki was seventeen and her family had immigrated from Honduras some years earlier.

“She probably doesn’t even care.” Bella whispered to Cassie once, “I heard that in Honduras they’re so poor and Catholic that they have babies and just lay them down in rooms to die because they have no food to feed them and they’re going to die anyway.”

“No way!” Cassie shot back.

“Yes way! it’s the reason why the pope got rid of purgatory…”

Nikki could understand what the girls were talking about. Contrary to popular believe, her English was just fine. She chose not to speak because she was nervous and embarrassed. Her parents didn’t know about the meetings. She would tell them that she was going to the library to study and would instead take the long subway ride into Manhattan. She felt different and alone there but not as alone as she felt at home when her father ignored her at dinner and her three brothers and sisters would call her a slut and a murderer behind her back.

Taylor was fifteen when she got pregnant. She didn’t have any family members to sign the consent forms for her. Her family believed in Jesus Christ and the power of the holy ghost, who they praised rigorously and feared with the same sort of intensity. They believed that every life was a blessing, but Taylor didn’t see it that way. To Taylor, any baby born to a dirt poor, teenage mother in an already crowded Brooklyn apartment was more of a burden than anything else. Taylor had big dreams. She was smart, and wanted to be the first person in her family to go to college. Her math teacher, Mrs. Wilson accompanied her to her appointment, signed the papers, and let her spend the rest of the day watching soap operas in her bed. Taylor loved Mrs. Wilson and envied her soft blood locks. Sometimes she would look in the mirror and tug at her dry hair half heartedly. Taylor was bigger than most girls her age and had been fully developed since she was eleven. The boys at school always noticed her, which made her feel strange and embarrassed. Eddie was different than them. At nineteen was a man and his love made Taylor feel beautiful. He would hang around outside in the school yard and wait for her to get out of class then he would take her behind the laundromat and kiss her. He would start with her lips then slowly move to her neck, all the while caressing her smooth brown skin, whispering to her that it was “sweeter than chocolate.”

“I thought we were in love.” Taylor’s voice was small and shaking. “He was the only boy I ever had sex with but when I told him I was pregnant he called me a hoe and accused me of running around with all the guys in my neighborhood. I can’t tell my parents. They’d throw me out…does God hate me now?”

“No, honey, God doesn’t hate you.” Janice softened her gaze as she attempted to comfort Taylor with her words. “Nobody knows more about God, or religion than anybody else. God doesn’t hate or hurt, only people can do that. It only forgives and loves. Cassie, what about you, would you like to share something?”

“Like what?” Cassie turned red.

“Anything dear, anything you have to say is important.”

“I just wasn’t ready to be a mother…so I took care of it. That’s all.”

“I don’t understand what you mean about ‘taking care of it’. Could you explain further?”

“I was in love with a man…well, no. Let me start over, a boy. I was in love with a boy who didn’t love me back. He didn’t like condoms, so I didn’t make him wear one. I found out I was pregnant and that’s it. Accidents happen.”

Cassie looked around the room and could see that no one was really satisfied with her answer. Everyone seemed to be waiting for her to confess that her boyfriend beat her or her uncle raped her or something truly tragic but Cassie didn’t have any of those stories.

“Cassie, I think it would be beneficial for you to really reach down and make contact with your suffering. Can you do that for me?”

She paused for a moment and thought about yesterday. She had come home to an empty apartment filled with roaches and sour smells from the surrounding units. She sat down, unsatisfied with her new life. The life that was supposed to be truly amazing, the one she left her family and friends for, and began to cry. She cried harder than she did when the doctor laid her down on the plastic, wax paper covered table, and told her to stay still. She was more terrified than when he inserted the plastic probe covered in blue gel into her body. She was more furious than when she locked herself in the bathroom stall and saw red and blue striped throughout her white underwear. Cassie had been running for months and for the first time realized that she was alone in a city that didn’t know her.

“I can’t touch it. I don’t want to. There are entire populations and groups of people who hate me for what I’ve done, for a choice that made and they don’t even know me! You know, I want to be a mother? I do…but I wasn’t going to have somebody’s baby who didn’t want me.” Cassie’s body was buzzing with energy as her voice grew strength.  “Why? So his whole family could look down on me and my child? I wasn’t going to have his shamed baby! Every man who has ever come into my life has left me and that’s fine but I will be damned if they leave my child!” She took a deep breath and thought for a moment. “My body is a warzone. It’s hurt and it’s angry. It’s no place for somebody to grow. I let the little soul go because I wasn’t ready for it. I loved it so much that I just let it go.” Cassie’s voice was calm as she gazed at her knees. They had stopped shaking and she felt a great sense of relief come over her.

Cassie took a seat on the train and pulled her red curly hair up over her head and exhaled. Her eyes were closed for a slow moment when she felt someone sit down next to her. She quickly snapped back into the present, letting her hair fall down around her shoulders, when she looked over to her right. It was Nikki. She smiled up at her and placed her head on Cassie’s shoulder, saying nothing. Cassie responded with a weak smile and allowed herself to gently wrap her arm around Nikki’s shoulders, bringing her in close. The two walked in silence to Nikki’s building. Sometimes silence says it all and words lose their meaning at time when things felt become more powerful than things said. Cassie drifted off to sleep that night knowing in her heart she would wake up twisted with pain and guilt, but she didn’t. The guilt had faded along with her isolating silence. The next morning brought with it new hope as she smiled, admiring the newly fallen snow.

This is a fictional story meant to remind those who choose to vote what they may or may not be supporting. For millions of women throughout The United States our right to choose is being ripped from our hands while our bodies are being put on display. No matter what political party you primarily support or religion you choose to affiliate yourself with, remember that their are two sides to every story and to judge someone is to lack understanding and empathy. Your choice in this election will directly effect the health and wellbeing of women and girls. Please stand with women and reproductive rights by voting for Barrack Obama in the 2012 election. This may be a work of fiction but it was inspired by various articles, first hand accounts, and testimonies of women and girls.

The Divided States of America

I sat on a bench that ran along the north side of Ohio State’s legendary oval while I sipped my coffee and stared out across the green. It was a beautiful morning which was sure to turn into an idyllic spring day. But then suddenly something caught my eye. It was a sign, and after further concentration I noticed that there were more. Big, with blaring reds and pinks. I strained my eyes to see what they were displaying and then it hit me. The antiabortion crusaders had found their way back to our cheery campus to spread their hellfire and blame. They come every year to swarm the paths we women use to walk to class. Glaring and staring they shove their brutally vicious signs in our faces. Signs which carry grotesque images of aborted fetuses, as if that’s anyway to respect the dead. I wanted to scream loud enough for them to hear me. I wanted to run over to them and kick down their signs and make them see that I was right there and they wouldn’t scare me away. But I didn’t, instead I just watched. I let the blood boil up inside me and the tears well up in my eyes, and I sat.

I fumed silently the whole way home. I pressed my face to the Cota Bus window and closed my eyes. What are they still protesting against? Aren’t they winning? My inbox is constantly flooded with news about the attack on women’s health. Email after email telling me that my rights are slipping from my grasp. They scream at me and I scream back in protest, furiously signing every petition I can then throwing it out to a community that doesn’t care.

I got home and threw my keys on the counter. Digging frantically through my cupboard I found my tea and put the kettle on the stove. My phone buzzed from within my jacket pocket, “God, now what?” I read the received message and my mouth fell open. The Ethnic Studies building, Hale hall, had been defaced. This morning had brought with it more than a cool spring chill, it brought the realization of racism on our campus. At some point early this morning it was discovered that someone had spray painted “Long Live Zimmerman” on the side of the building.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Trayvon Martin case, get familiar, because it is quickly dividing our nation. Martin was a 17 year old black male who was shot and killed on his return to a gated community in Sanford FL, by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman described Trayvon as being “suspicious” because he was wearing a hoodie. Well, and he was black. After all there are no black families living in gated communities in this country. It’s a tragic case of racial profiling, a case that in this day and age shouldn’t be tolerated.

All politics and arguments aside, there was wrongful death. A young boy died because of his race and unfortunately that’s the reality of the situation. His grieving family, friends, and community must carry on his name as they strive for justice. I do not believe that George Zimmerman is an evil man, nor do I believe that his rash decision was completely his fault. Our society is a racist institution that sets both parties up for failure. Zimmerman was conditioned by the media and perpetual racist notions to believe that all young black men are criminals. This has got to stop. This separation of human beings based on their gender, race, and class. We are all people deserving of a community which loves, connects, and protects us, and quite frankly The United States isn’t it.

These battles being fought against marginalized races and ethnic groups as well as the ones being fought against women are tearing this country apart. Everyone has a side, or an agenda. We’re all seeking the benefit of one, but what ever happened to one for all? In this constant uphill march for equality and social justice are we losing our footing? When I stared at the picture of the defaced Hale hall I found myself lost in fear and confusion. In the same way I would respond to an adult bullying another, I want to step away from America and ask “Aren’t we too old for this?”

I’m sick of my own government attacking my rights as a woman, and even sicker of my brothers not standing up with me. I am sick racism and profiling, and overall ignorant behavior. No one loses in a society that is built upon equality. This is my country and I want it to be a safe place for everyone in it. I refuse to let oppression run my life and rip my community apart, I am standing up and demanding justice. It’s time for the Divided States of America to once again become United.

Let’s Talk, Girl Talk: Vaginas

Essentially, The Vagina Monologues is about different women and their relationships with their vaginas. It’s creator Eve Ensler interviewed hundreds of women and asked them questions like, “If your vagina could talk what would it say?” and even “What would it wear?” Of these testimonies some were chosen, blended, or rewritten to represent the differing views between society and women about their “down there’s”. After seeing this performance at Ohio State the other night I felt inspired to investigate my own relationship with my down there.

To me, vagina was never a dirty word, and it certainly didn’t sound like some shameful disease. Although I have always reserved a quiet disdain for the words “pussy” and “cunt” I always thought that vagina sounded beautiful and even exotic, rather than medically necessary. To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that I had  a vagina until I was forced into sex education in fifth grade. I can still recall our science teacher’s shaky explanation of intercourse. She stood uneasily beside the projector with her left pointer finger and thumb forming an “O” shape while she slowly jabbed her right finger through it. “See class, the penis goes inside the vagina just like this” All of the girls in the class just sat there with a confused look on their faces. I leaned over and whispered into my friend’s ear, “Where’s that hole supposed to be?” she whispered back and said, “The middle one.” We both stuck out our tongues in childish disgust. Until that shocking revelation I believed that all my vagina was, was a chubby, hairless triangle between my legs. I stayed away from my fat little pouch until I was forced to deal with it. I had started my period for the fist time in the eighth grade and it was now time to woman-up and learn how to use a tampon. I sat on the toilet for almost an hour listening to my friends cheering me on and shouting out directions from outside the bathroom, as I tried desperately to understand why that damn thing wouldn’t go up my vagina. It took three hours to figure out that it was because my vagina was not up but back. 

I really never understood the concept of hating the look of one’s vagina. A young man had exposed himself to me in the park by my house the fall of my seventh grade year so I knew what a penis looked like, and after seeing how gross they were I thought vaginas might as well be masterpieces. In the story, Because He Liked to Look at it, the character explained that she was so disgusted by the sight of her own vagina that she imagined there was furniture between her legs. Who taught us to hate the aesthetics of our perfectly personalized vaginas?  It’s yours, and it’s the only one you’ve got so you should love and honor it.

I was still pondering what my vagina would wear when I was shaken back to reality by the words of the next character. She was a Bosnian woman who had been captured by four soldiers who had raped and tortured her for six days. As she told her gruesome tale I squeezed my legs tightly together as an effort to protect mine from invaders. It was then when the burning started between my legs and I realized that I was mourning for her, and what she had lost. I swallowed hard and shifted uncomfortably in my chair as I listened to her explain that the soldiers raped her with a rifle and that on the sixth day of  being raped part of her labia fell off in her hand. Her vagina was destroyed and so then, her heart was as well. This wasn’t even the most horrific rape story I’ve ever heard. Indigenous Guatemalan women raped with machetes as a response to their political upheaval, Women in Eastern Europe who have been kidnapped and forced into prostitution in other countries, and the gang rapes of young girls IN THIS COUNTRY are among the one billion tragic stories of the nameless and voiceless victims of sexual violence.

I know my vagina. I know how she looks, and what she likes, I know how to take care of her. I never feel a disconnection to my vagina, that is of course when I’m alone. When a man comes into the situation that’s when I lose her, abandon her, and hand her over because she no longer belongs to me, she is his. I don’t even notice it’s happening, really. I always enjoy the beginning but then the fear sets in, and it grows and gets loud. It screams inside my head until I start panicking, that is not my partner…he’s in me and I don’t know him…I’m not safe here…I’m not safe…and then I tell him to stop, and he does and it’s over and I’m embarrassed and ashamed and he feels like he did something wrong when he didn’t. I used to block all of this out, but since I finally acknowledged my trauma my thoughts have become more powerful.

That’s the thing about vaginas, they’ll hold inside whatever it is you place in them. That is to say, they will hold shame, pain, and sadness, just as much pleasure or desire. This is why they must be taken care of, respected, and loved. If my vagina could talk she’d say, “STOP, take me on a date, like me and love me before you touch me”, “Don’t call me pussy, I’m no pussy…I’m more powerful than you think!”, and of course, “I am not a whole that was created for your penis, I am my own proud, perfect, separate entity and your bullshit is drying me out like a desert.”

I Believe in Change

(Inspired by Eve Ensler’s article: Over It)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eve-ensler/over-it_b_1089013.html

 

I believe in a world where people understand rape, and not just when it’s forceable.

I believe in a world where children can play outside with out their parents watching every move, and not fear being kidnapped.

I believe in a world where women are no longer afraid to walk home alone at night, or to their cars by themselves, simply because they’re women.

I believe in a world where young girls aren’t taken advantage of at parties just so that it can be blamed on the fact that, “they were drunk”

I believe in a world with out ruffies.

I believe in a world where no one justifies rape as “Well she was asking for it”

I believe in a world where women can wear whatever they want and won’t be attacked for it.

I believe in a world where women don’t have to sell their bodies for money.

I believe in a world with out forced prostitution or human trafficking.

I believe in a world where women can trust men, and there bodies won’t be broken.

I believe in a world where women and children are safe.

I believe in a world where little girls and boys can grow up with out being molested.

I believe in a world with harsher punishment for rapists and child molesters.

I believe in a world where harmful rape kits aren’t necessary because a victim’s statement is valid evidence.

I believe in a world with out gang rapes.

I believe in a world with out brutal rape videos and child pornography.

I believe in a where women are allowed to be powerful and own their birthrights.

I believe in a world where women and homosexuals are no longer held down by sexual violence.

I believe in a world where women in the military aren’t raped.

I believe in a world with out South African rape camps for lesbians.

I believe in a world where men and women aren’t raped for being gay.

I believe in a world where women can negotiate condom use, regardless of the country or situation.

I believe in a world where women can negotiate when and who they have sex with.

I believe in a world where women have choice.

I believe in a world where sexual assault is considered a hate crime.

I believe in a world with safe homes for victims of sexual violence.

I believe in a world where women can establish community and a voice for themselves.

I believe in a world where that voice will be heard.

I believe in a world where women and victims no longer live in shame.

I believe in a world where women are free and accepted as leaders.

I believe in a world with out sexual violence.

I believe that it can happen, and that we together can make a positive change for our community, wherever it may be.

I believe we can start a social movement and finally end sexual assault. Everyday move forward towards a more positive future and walk for these victims. If you also believe in a world with out rape, speak up, act out, and pass this message of hope along to whoever you can. Retweet it, “like” it or share it on facebook, e-mail it, Re-post it, do whatever you can. Get the word out that we’re seeking justice and we won’t give up until we get it!

Your Boyfriend’s Dirty Little Secret

We’re all guilty of sneaking a little peak at the virtual world of pornography. What was once considered wicked or unheard of is fast becoming a bankable commodity directed mostly towards men. Sex sells, and thanks to capitalism it is definitely selling. When sex becomes a hot market item, who is really paying the price?

I have talked to many different women about their feelings on pornography and their answers have varied. Some women have been extremely outspoken about their moral disgust for pornographic material on the basis that it seriously degrades women and provides men with false sexual fantasies that many women (who aren’t being paid) would never fulfill. Others have taken a more relaxed stance by regarding porn as generally harmless and just a part of human sexuality. After hearing these equal but opposite arguments I decided to poke around one of these sites, (no pun intended) and make a decision for myself.

In all honesty, what I saw was rather disturbing. I found it quite obvious that these sites are dominated by masculine ideals of lust and domineering sexual fantasies. I mean, even the titles to these videos were outrageous. Dirty, seedy words were thrown in randomly and were completely unnecessary. Call me old fashioned but I’ve always preferred candles to “XXX COCK PUSSY CREAMPIE” Really? You practically need a decoder to figure out what that even means. Is this the kind of language that romantic “sweet nothings” have been reduced to? Even the picture previews made sex look extremely unappetizing. Even worse were the sidebar advertisements which read “Barely 18” with images of young girls that were certainly younger than 18 or even 16. Perfect! It’s a pedophile’s playground, I’m so glad there is a free mainstream website that caters to these individuals, because after all that’s not illegal or anything.

Am I missing something here? In my book, the act of buying and selling sex violates some deep inner laws but I would be less inclined to argue against it, if the sex that was being exchanged was completely consensual. However, some of the ads and pop-ups that bombarded my computer with titles like, “Punish Her” and “Brutal” leads me to believe that these women are not consenting. Even if they are, but they’re “acting” like they’re not, doesn’t this also pose a serious problem? It’s obvious to me that there is fan base of men who enjoy climaxing to the degradation and humiliation of young women. That is a sexual disorder that is being facilitated by the online porn community. Disturbed men are buying and so an even more disturbed, money hungry market is selling.

I have often been considered an over-analyst but this is a very serious issue. It goes far beyond the private use of a lusty visual, or catching your boyfriend, husband or God forbid teenage son with his pants down at the keyboard. These rough and tumble videos are perpetuating rape culture and turning sex from an act of unity on the physical and emotional to a power struggle in which the man comes out the valor. Even “soft core” videos further negative female stereotypes. I know that I sure haven’t ever considered “Whore” and “slut” to be flattering terms. I’m also sure that male actors rarely wear condoms, (since one would make it that much harder to ejaculate on a woman’s face, which seems to be extremely popular.) which only tells the viewer that it’s okay for them not to wear them, making condom negotiation even harder for women. It is, in fact obvious to me that even though more men may be whipping out their credit cards in exchange for a little skin, women are the ones who actually pay. In a society where everything can be bought and sold to the highest bidder, the pornography industry is taking sexuality to an entire new level, which leads me to ask, is nothing sacred?