When girls are too strong

I left my home town when I was in my early 20s. I’m surprised it took me that long to leave.

Since then, I’ve lived in a different city in the same country, and in two other cities in other countries. But the crux of it all is I couldn’t stay in my home town. I was the cuckoo that had to leave the nest.

Our parents expectations of who we are and who we will be don’t stop when we become adults.

My parents wanted a daughter who would be pretty, feminine, traditional – and go on in life to do pretty, feminine, traditional things.

I was the exact opposite.

Born that way…

When a child arrives and they’re not who – and what – we expect and desperately want them to be, things get difficult. Especially for the child, if the parents insist on trying to mould them into becoming something they can never be.

There’s a reason why so many gay kids leave their home town, moving far away. I’m not gay, but in the same way as gay kids often do in traditional families, I didn’t meet expectations.

I was too strong to change who I was. The only way I could be true to who I am was to leave.

When a home is not a home

The best thing I ever did was leaving home. Looking back, I only wish I could have left before I even became an adult, had that been possible. My parents are good people, but my home was fiercely patriarchal.

Even now, when I go home to visit, I’m very much at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s expected that I’ll help with the household chores (together with my mother and brother’s wife), while my father and brother sit and drink whisky.

This isn’t a home in which I feel wanted, welcome or equal. I don’t feel loved there, or accepted for who and what I am. I feel like my parents try really hard, but that’s it – they’re just trying to love me.

My failure to accept my patriarchal roots was an expression of my own inner strength and who I truly am, which was only given a chance to develop once I left home and was no longer stifled.

Once I left home, I went on to become a community leader, a mentor to other women, an internationally-performed composer, a competitive athlete. A woman of strength. A person with purpose.

Why women are not equal yet

Again and again, I see articles in the media querying why women haven’t risen to equality across the board in society. After all, the articles argue, we achieved theoretical equality in the 1970s – surely it has been long enough since then?

Surely one generation should easily be able to erase the inequality of thousands of years of entrenched abuse and inequality? That’s not much! It can’t be that hard!

I know the answer: we’re still dealing with the legacy of inequality. We’re still unequal. We’re teaching what we knew ourselves to our daughters and sons.

I see it in the women who are spoken over in conversation, I see it in the absence of movies and media about women, I see it even in the programming club where I volunteer, and among the 9-12 year olds I teach only 1 of 15 is a girl, because it doesn’t occur to local parents that their daughters might like to learn how to program. Or be good at it.

We’re passing on a legacy of misogyny. It cuts to the core.

Strong-Woman-quote.-4jpg-300x300

Why strong girls leave home

Girls leave home when it ceases to support them. They don’t come back because there’s nothing to come back for. I moved cities because, away from home, I could finally be myself without my parents criticising everything I did. It felt like a breath of fresh air.

When I return home for visits, every two years or so, yet again I feel that stifling, patriarchal, controlling weight holding me down and crushing my spirit.

Family dynamics can be difficult, especially when you don’t fit in with your family’s expectations. In anyone else’s world I’d be a success: I’m a professional woman, I’ve achieved in my career and in my hobbies, I’ve made a positive difference for so many people.

But what I wanted to do and be just didn’t fit in with what my family wanted. I was never going to be subservient and feminine. I was never going to be the pretty girl. I was never going to be the perfect daughter – an exact copy of my mother, minus all her mistakes. I was always going to be my own person. I think that came as a shock.

Raising girls is just raising little humans

Our society has a real problem in raising girls, especially non-traditional girls. We’re fine with girls who want to follow traditional paths, and who are beautiful in traditional ways, but we struggle with women who want to be soldiers, or bodybuilders, or engineers, or programmers.

Or even with women who just want to speak their minds.

We do our best to push and shove our girls into a tiny box labelled “acceptable” and anything else we don’t know what to do with. It’s time we started accepting our daughters – especially our strong, unique, powerful daughters – as amazing human beings in their own right.

It’s time we honoured their strength.

It’s time we welcomed them home.

I’m not a partial human! Sidelined and disappeared…

I’ve always felt like a complete human. No matter whether you’re male or female, or what race or culture you’re from, I’m guessing you have too. Not a partial human.

So today I want to talk about this.

I'm sure there was *ANOTHER* Avenger...
I’m sure there was *ANOTHER* Avenger…

And this.

I seem to recall there being *FIVE* "Guardians"...
I seem to recall there being *FIVE* “Guardians”…

And this.

Something strange is going on here...ummm...do I remember an Avender in a black outfit called "Black" something...Black, black..it's clearly slipped everyone's mind...
Something strange is going on here…ummm…do I remember an Avenger in a black outfit called “Black” something…Black, black..it’s clearly slipped everyone’s mind…

And this.

Here's what to do. If you need to sideline or "disappear" a character, simply double over with more socially palatable characters.
Here’s what to do. If you need to sideline or “disappear” a character, simply double over with another white male character.

And this.

Looks like a bizarre racoon creature is more palatable than some genders of human...
Looks like a bizarre racoon creature is more palatable than some genders of human…

And I won’t even comment on this, which is so awful it just makes me furious.

The t-shirt in Disney girlswear on the left, and boyswear on the right.
The t-shirt in girlswear on the left, and boyswear on the right. This sucks.

Very occasionally, we won’t be “disappeared” but we’ll very definitely be sidelined…

Who is that character with the red hair in the far right? They couldn't possibly be a REAL Avenger! It's clear from their lack of space in the pic that they're a "helper", and "assistant" character, possibly only "eye candy" for the real stars, the males...
Who is that character with the red hair in the far right? They couldn’t possibly be a REAL Avenger! It’s clear from their lack of space in the pic that they’re a “helper”, and “assistant” character, possibly only “eye candy” for the real stars, the white males…(notice the other sidelined character on the extreme left)

Sidelined and disappeared…

I want to point out a few facts now.

We’re nearly 50% of the tickets. Women make up nearly 50% of movie sales at comic book movies (one recent survey suggested the figure of 44%). We’re a BIG market, not a tiny percentage of viewers and attendees and fans.

Women are attending ComicCons in large numbers. This year’s San Diego Comic-Con had 40% female attendance. These events aren’t all white male antisocial geeks from basements. The crowds have changed, if they ever were that stereotype to start with.

Women buy stuff. We want to buy merchandise, and we want that merchandise to feature our favourite characters. Not some of them. ALL of them.

We want fairness. Women are increasingly pissed at the way we’re being sidelined in comics. We want our female characters, and we’re pissed that they’re not appearing as the STARS of movies.

We want to be seen as real people. Women are also pissed at the way we’re being overly sexualized in comics and the movies that spring from them. We want accurate, diverse representation. We want to be seen as real, whole people, with real strengths and weaknesses, and real stories to tell. Because that is what we are.

Most of all, we don’t want to be seen as things. We want to be seen as people.

Speaking for myself and my daughter…and my daughter’s generation

It’s not hard to write real, strong women. Just write us as people, because that’s what we are. We screw up, we have frailties. We’re not governed by our relationships all the time. We are goal driven a lot of the time, especially if you’re writing a hero character.

Women can be heroes. Often we are.
Women can be leaders of men. Often we are.
Women can be strong, yet still completely feminine and powerful and amazing and uniquely beautiful. Often we are.

Even in real life, when I look at some of the strongest people I know, my mind often travels to the women I know rather than the men. We don’t typically hold higher career positions, because of the boundaries and limits that society has set us, but heck, we can be powerful.

So don’t sideline us. Don’t “disappear” us. It’s offensive and nasty and cheap and hurtful. It’s degrading and demeaning to some of the most incredible people I know.

Sure, these are superheroes I’m giving as examples, and you could claim it doesn’t matter. But it does. We all need our role models. We all need to believe we could be that hero on the screen. We all need to believe that we too can be the “chosen one”, the hero with a destiny greater than we thought possible.

We all need to dare to dream. Give us our dreams. We deserve them.

Tell her she’s okay

I just read a post online. By a 24 year old girl. Her post was a manifesto of self-loathing.

She was talking matter-of-factly about how she’s a bit overweight, and she has extra tummy fat, and she doesn’t have a “thigh gap” and never did even at her leanest.

I felt like I wanted to cry reading her words.

Because I remember being age 13 and having a BMI of just over 20 (which is on the light end of things, and well within the normal, healthy range), and feeling fat. My father used to call me “buffalo butt” and laugh at me, so the dieting began.

I haven’t had a normal relationship with food ever since.

I remember my mother asking me “should you be having that?” when I wanted to have dessert along with my brother and dad, and I remember being hungry a lot of the time, but wanting to lose weight so badly. Because I didn’t look like the girls in the magazines. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much weight I lost, I still didn’t look like the girls in the magazines.

Ever since then, I’ve never been able to eat a meal without guilt – without either “watching it” or, if I ate normally, then compensating the next day for actually eating my fill. It wasn’t long after I turned 13 that I started binging on chocolate and chips, and being unable to control my portions in some types of food.

I’d restrict my eating for days at a time, then have a blowout and break the reins a few days later. I couldn’t hold it in, and I thought something was wrong with me, because I wasn’t strict enough with myself. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t thin enough. I wasn’t good enough at denying myself the good things in life. I was a bad person. I was a failure at being a woman, because successful woman were thin, and you couldn’t be pretty and attractive if you weren’t thin.

When I talk to my friends about this, now we’re all grown women, I find that my experiences are really, really common. In fact, none of my friends seem to have what I would call a “normal” relationship with food. We see foods as “good” and “bad” – we associate eating with guilt and denial. We starve ourselves way too often, only to binge when we break the unattainable rules and goals we set ourselves later on. We all feel like failures, and we all hate our bodies.

When I think back on everything I’ve been through, and how disordered my relationship with food and my own body is, I can’t help thinking that we have severely damaged our femininity and sense of self with all of this. I don’t know why my dad thought it was appropriate to call his 13 year old daughter abusive names. Maybe he thought it was funny. Maybe he thought it would encourage me to diet and get skinny. But it stuck, and made me hate myself instead.

I looked at my body, and everything I saw was ugly. If my own father saw me as horrible and not worthy of love, what chance was there that any other man could ever find me appealing? Obviously I was truly horrible.

The truth, looking back on it, was I was a normal teenager. I wasn’t fat: I was lean and gangly, all arms and legs. I wasn’t hideous, although I felt that way.

But even if I had been fat, that’s exactly the time in my life that I would have needed support from my family, not words of abuse. I needed their love and acceptance when I couldn’t find it inside myself. Maybe I’d have felt different about myself my whole life if they’d treated me differently, and taught me a different relationship with food.

I don’t know, and it’s too late now.

But I’m a mother with a daughter of my own now. I have the power to change things. For her, there are no good foods or bad foods: there is just food. We don’t restrict food, and if she is hungry she can eat. We never force her to clear her plate. I tell her she is beautiful. And we believe it, all of us. She is beautiful. She’s amazing.

Getting back to the girl who posted, the 24 year old whose article I read, no wonder she hates her body. All she sees are photoshopped pictures of women who who are so manipulated by photoshop that they can’t physiologically exist.

This woman can't physiologically exist. Yay for photoshop!
This woman can’t physiologically exist. Yay for photoshop!

She sees images of models who are so skinny they literally risk death. Women who all fit just one mould, one shape, one age, one size. The women who she sees are so similar it’s hard to tell them apart. They’ve ceased to look real, and photoshop takes away any remaining humanity.

I don’t know the girl who posted in real life but I say she is beautiful. She is okay. We’re all okay. I’ve had enough of the one-size-alone-is-acceptable rubbish. I want moulds of a million different colours and shapes and heights and builds and musculatures. I want variety. I want to see role models for all of us. I want our young women to know that whether they’re a size zero or a size sixty, they’re okay.

If I could go back in time and talk to my 13 year old self, I would teach her so much. But most of all, I would tell her that she is beautiful, exactly as she is. She doesn’t have to look like a model to be beautiful. She just has to look like herself. And I’d tell her father to shut the fuck up. He has no right to call her names. No one has any right to call anyone names.

I never intended this to be a rant, but maybe we need more rants. There are too many women hurting here. Too many women who can’t eat a meal without feeling that they’ll need to diet the next day. Too many women who don’t want to look in the mirror because they hate what they see.

It all starts when we’re so young, and if we’re going to change our world, we need to start with our girls. Support them. Nurture them. Love them.

Tell them they’re beautiful. Tell them they’re okay.

They're all okay. Exactly as they are.
They’re all okay. Exactly as they are.

Being the object…

I remember the first few experiences that made me uncomfortable with being a woman.

They weren’t even anything to do with my body. Some women cite their first period (which was definitely embarrassing), or going bra shopping the first time (yes, definitely awkward!).

But for me, what made me uncomfortable was the realisation, for the first time, that the world wasn’t built for me. It was, instead, built for men. My place, as a woman, was to be the object.

“Out of bounds”

I must have been eleven or twelve when I garnered the attention of a local workman near the building I lived in, in Hong Kong. I was so naive, and I thought of him as my “friend”. I used to go down to the carparks in the basement below, and rollerskate there, and I’d often see him, working on construction.

He’d come on over, and despite his limited English and my even more limited Cantonese, we’d chat and he’d hold my hand while I skated. I never thought anything of it, until one day he started pressuring me for a kiss.

And then I got away as fast as I could, ashamed and guilty – although I’d done nothing wrong, and very red-faced, even though I’d said no and nothing had happened. But from then on I didn’t skate in the carparks any more. I got the feeling that they were an “out of bounds” place for me.

Avoidance strategies

That wasn’t the only “out of bounds” area. Not long after, I started avoiding a street I’d walk down to go to school, because of the catcalls from more building workers. They made me feel uncomfortable and helpless – powerless. I don’t know what their goal was in whistling to a pre-teen, but its effect was my discomfort.

I took a longer, different way to school from then on. My brother once asked me why, but I felt too awkward to tell him. Once again, I felt like I’d done something wrong, and like if I told him, I’d be admitting some type of weakness or defeat in myself for not having the strength to ignore the hecklers.

But I was only a kid.

You get 10%, they get 90%

There were countless other instances like this. When I moved back to school in Australia, I made the faux pas of going out on to the oval to play, and was immediately held in contempt by my new friends when I returned at lunch.

“We don’t play there,” I remember Kathryn telling me. “That’s for the guys. Girls stay on the asphalt. But only in the courtyards, and not near the transportables.”

I didn’t ask why the girls only played in about 10% of the school property, while the boys could go wherever they wanted. We had 10%, they had 90%. I was a young teenager, and you just didn’t ask questions like that: it was social suicide to do so, and even more suicidal to try to violate the unwritten rules.

Conform or die

My mother never got a straight answer when, on my second day at my new school in Australia, I took her dressmaking scissors to my yellow checked school uniform and hacked a full foot and half off the length of its skirt.

“What have you done that for!” she demanded in anger.

“It’s how we wear them,” I said snarkily, parading around in the dress whose skirt now barely covered my ass cheeks. “All the girls wear them like this. Nobody wears them long!”

And I was telling her the truth. But I never asked myself why.

I didn’t ask why. None of the girls did. We just wore our skirts as short as we could, and the shorter the better. Mum didn’t push it. Maybe she knew the unspoken reason better than I did.

Hypocrites and liars

All through my school years I used to sit with my friends and discuss boys and the soaps on TV, neither of which I was particularly interested in. But I had to keep the show up, and if I hadn’t at least pretended to be interested in the conversation, I’d have had no friends at all.

Everyone was talking about who had done what with whom. I hadn’t done anything – I’d kissed a few guys but that was it, but I lied and told outrageous stories of my sexploits with the best of them.

I don’t think anyone believed me but then, I didn’t really believe any of the stories my friends told me either. It was a bizarre competition of lies and one-upmanship, where the best bragging won the day. But at the same time, while we were sharing all our outrageous fabrications, we were slagging off the real “sluts” of the school who everyone just knew were really truly sexually active.

Because they were trash.

In other words, we were hypocrites and liars, and jealous ones at that, who hated the girls who were maybe actually doing what we secretly longed to do. Or longed to do, but were scared of doing. Or maybe were thinking about doing but weren’t ready for just yet.

Diets and magazines

Society makes objects of all women, and it certainly objectified me. I remember starting my first diet when I was in my early teens, even though I was underweight. My best friend ended up in hospital with bulimia – she got down to 27 kgs (59 pounds) and nearly died.

We were obsessed with looking like the girls in magazines, and distressed that we looked…well, like ourselves. Like normal young women.

Looking back, it wasn’t my body I was uncomfortable with, it was the objectifcation that came with being a woman. Being told I had to look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain way.

When you don’t fit

I didn’t fit the stereotype of small, delicate, weak, meek, quiet, gentle. No matter what I did or how I tried, I was big, tall, strong, powerful, intelligent, geeky, sporty, awkward…and the objectification that came with being a woman made me even more acutely aware that I didn’t fit the gender role I was supposed to submit to.

What it’s really about

I’m grown up now, and these things don’t affect me as much as they used to. But I still cringe when I get wolf-whistles – because that small, awkward girl inside of me remembers. They’re not a compliment. They never were a compliment.

They’re about control. And power.

And there are places in the city where I feel uncomfortable and unsafe, despite being nearly six feet tall and a weightlifter and probably well strong enough to defend myself. This is an experience common to all women – from the moment we learned that we can’t play on the playground any more, because “that’s where the boys play”, we’ve never felt like our world was our own any more.

An experience commonly shared…being the object. That’s what learning to be a woman is all about. That’s why strong girls grow up into awkward women, and take decades sometimes to reover themselves. Our society is cruel.

But I can’t help wondering, would I be a different person if I’d stood my ground, walked on past the hecklers, kept skating in the carpark despite the threat? And maybe we can teach our daughter to be strong too.

Just my thoughts. Because nobody should be forced to be an object.

Is monogamy dying? And did it ever really live?

Most of my friends are, publicly or not, in open relationships.

Most didn’t start out that way. Most started with the whole girlfriend-boyfriend dating thing, and moved on to marriage or permanent de facto status. Many even vowed to “forsake all others”, and probably meant it when they made those vows.

But times change, and when you’re in your twenties, or whatever, you don’t really comprehend, at a visceral level, what “forsaking all others” really means.

marriage

I couldn’t have imagined the person I am now, when I was in my twenties. I couldn’t have imagined everything I would go through, and suffer through, to get to this point in my life.

I had no idea of the changes that would happen in me, and in my partner. To say I was naive when I got married is an understatement.

My experiences weren’t typical – I had a harder lot than most – but everyone goes through some hard stuff in their life. And everyone’s relationships change, some for the better, some for the worse.

But now, talking privately with close friends the other night, it came out that not one of us was in the closed, monogamous relationship we’d envisaged when we’d made our vows and promises as our younger selves.

Some of my friends are cheating on their partners. Other have divorced, or are separating. Many are in open marriages, with regular partners on the side for one or other of them.

Some have had affairs. Others separated and got back together and separated again. And some are still with their partner, but just don’t have sex and are plain old miserable.

I’ve friends who have been so lonely in their marriages that they cried themselves to sleep at night while their partner snored on unknowingly beside them. Others who might as well be celibate, for all the sex they’re having. And others who have taken on same-sex lovers, after realising that the reason their marriage didn’t work is because they’re gay.

My friends aren’t unusual. They’re a pretty typical mix of 30 and 40-something middle class New Zealanders. Some better off, some worse off. Most in professional jobs, some in blue collar work. Some are stay at home mums.

But all of this got me thinking,

– Is monogamy dead? Is it something that only ever existed in name only, on a church register, while in reality it never actually worked for anyone outside of a Disney fairytale?

– Are we the first generation to experience this? Or did previous generations do the same? Are they doing the same?

– Why is society clinging to the idea of monogamy if it isn’t working for most of us, maybe for any of us? Is it time for a change? And, if so, what do we replace it with?

We’re no different to previous generations

I honestly think, looking at the evidence, that we’re no different to previous generations. With one major difference: women can leave miserable situations, whereas in the past they often couldn’t.

I look at my mother, who was the “love child” of an affair her mother had, in between two marriages.

I look at my paternal grandmother, who had (I think) five, maybe six, marriages in her life. Serial monogamy, maybe, but not exactly Disney. And one of the guys she married was a bigamist – there was scandal attached at the time!

I look at my distant family tree in the past, with relative after relative whose paternity was “under question”. My family was no different from any other. The world is full of bastard children and “young aunts” who were actually unwed mothers.

Looking at all of this, it seems monogamy was always something that people aimed for, rather than the standard everyone typically achieved.

And it shows me that we are no different to the generations that went before. Yes, single mothers get a lot of criticism – but there were always single mothers, and lots of them. It’s just that in the past their ‘sins” were hushed up and the children taken away.

I think the Disney fairytale, the “happily ever after” we’re led to believe in, is cruel and hurtful.
And it’s a fairytale – not true, nor likely to be true.

Why does society cling to monogamy, if it clearly doesn’t work?

I really don’t know the answer to this one. Maybe you do. The best I can do is wonder what would happen if monogamy didn’t exist.

Would people reform into tribes, or poly groups, rather than “nuclear” family units? Would the shape of housing change? Would children be better off with potentially more adults caring for them?

Or would women be left with the burden of supporting any children they gave birth to alone, as men moved from one partner to another without legal responsibility?

I don’t know.

In name only

What I do know is that monogamy doesn’t exist among my friends. It’s probably pretty rare everywhere, once marriages hit five years old or so.

I wonder at what point this will all become open and honest and people will start to discuss what’s actually going on in society?

Food for thought.

What do you think?

Same sex marriage laws change in the UK – and the Churches get all confused

With the change in laws allowing same sex marriages to take place in the United Kingdom, the first marriages have taken place.

gaymarriageuk

Not everyone is happy of course. The Churches are looking all confused – on the one hand preaching that “God is love” while on the other hand saying, “wee-eeeell, maybe God is love – but not quite for all people. Not for you gay people over in the corner, anyway.”

And the politicians who, in not too distant memory were all iffy and uffy about same sex marriage, now rush in their full acceptance of the cause, saying, “We were on your side all along! Yes, really!”

Then there are groups who claim that same-sex marriage will persecute traditional marriage types. I’m not sure how – and neither are they, as they don’t quite specify the details – but they’re vehement on the matter.

Vaguely familiar

The thing is, all this denying and delaying and complaing and whinging about being persecuted sounds eerily familiar. The same complaints were heard, and the same arguments, every time a persecuted minority (or majority) has gained rights.

The same arguments were used against the civil rights movement in the US (didn’t you know whites are discriminated against?), and the same against women rights (men are being persecuted now – didn’t you know?). It’s the same old line, used over and over.

It never held water then, and it doesn’t now.

Australia is a backwater

My home country of Australia is starting to look more and more like a backwater of human rights. I’m embarrassed. I’m living in New Zealand now, but I follow the Aussie news, and I feel ashamed that Australia hasn’t led the way on this issue. Especially when so much of the population is clearly in favour. It seems like the politicians have stopped listening to the people. Or maybe that happened a while back…

But you can’t stop change. The Churches in the UK are against this, but popular opinion is changing so swiftly in favour of this issue that they’ll soon be left behind, if they aren’t already. Just one more way in which mainstream religions are losing touch with popular culture.

These are interesting times we live in. I think there are some issues that are changing a little too fast for my liking, such as the amount of violence on TV and film. But other issues, such as rights for minorities, can’t change fast enough.

What do you think?

Aphrodite: the Goddess of sluts and whores

There’s been a lot of name calling going on in politics at the moment.

prudewhore

Apparently, women who have sex are sluts. Especially if we have sex outside of marriage. Even if we have sex inside of marriage sometimes.

But I want to ask – why? Why the emphasis on women? And if women who have sex are sluts and whores, surely men are too?

I guess that means that our mothers are sluts. And our grandmothers. And the Queen is a slut. And pretty much any women who didn’t remain a nun.

Name calling in the playground!

When I think back on primary school, I remember that kids used to call each other names a lot. And it was all about pecking order, and putting people into their social rank.

Names were used to make people feel bad about themselves. Names were used to put people down. Names were especially used by people in power to keep those who didn’t have the power from having any.

So you’d get the bullies name-calling the loser kids. And the jocks name-calling the nerds. And the popular kids name-calling the unpopular kids. Never the other way around.

So we had a nerdy kid who people labelled “Eugene” and gave him a hard time. And a girl we called “craterface” because she had bad skin. And a friend of mine used to get called “red pubes” by a group of guys because she had red hair and, well, they liked to make her feel uncomfortable.

Pleasant stuff. Real intelligent too. But it did it’s job: it made those without power feel worse, and those with power feel even more powerful. It kept those lower down the power hierarchy in their place.

And now we have grown up men calling women who have sex – and, let’s face it, the vast majority of women do have sex, so they’re by association name-calling all of ussluts and whores.

Then they act all surprised when this is the result:

slutwalk1

And this:

slutwalk2

And this:

SlutWalk March In London

I love sex! OMG I’m a slut! And a whore!

I love sex. I really enjoy it, and yes, I’ve had sex with a lot of men in some people’s estimation. And a fair number of women.

I’m a slut! OMG! Kill me now! LOL.

I suppose, if you stretch things a little, I might even technically be a whore, because some of the guys bought me dinner beforehand. So I was PAID (in food) for sex, if you want to get nitpicky.

OMG OMG!

I have no regrets (well, there was this one guy who was pretty awful and had no clue…lol), and am proud of everything I did. It was consenting, and fun, and I enjoyed most of it.

I’m an adult, and I have the right to do what I want with my body. I believe that others have the right to do what they want with their bodies too.

If Aphrodite is the Goddess of beauty and love, then She is also the Goddess of sluts and whores. Which in some peoples eyes is all women.

I don’t understand why or how some people can hate women that much. I suspect it’s a combination of bad sex and too little of it, or maybe just lots of rejection by women in their lives. I feel sorry for them for that, but they’re not going to improve matters by hating women for their miserable sex lives.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to stand proud, as a slut and a whore, along with all my friends who are also sluts and whores, and continue to fight for our rights to do with our own bodies as we wish.

Swings and roundabouts at Mabon

Have you ever noticed how history is cyclical?

I was at a Pagan meeting this afternoon.

The Pagan scene in Dunedin, New Zealand, where I live, has been very, very quiet for a long time. It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all died off for various reasons to do with a conservative element and a few nasty elements in the community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

greenman

Interestingly, I’ve also got a Munch (social gathering) tomorrow for the kinky community tomorrow. The kinky community in Dunedin has also been very. very quiet for a long time.

It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all keeled over for various reasons to do with a few nasty elements in the wider community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

At the Pagan meeting I went to, I heard how the University Women’s Officer used to do Womens Rituals. I just about died from shock when I heard that.

Imagine that! In conservative Dunedin! That all stopped of course, a few years ago. About the same time as everything else.

About that same time, the conservative city council of Dunedin began closing down student pubs, tightening up student behaviour they deemed inappropriate for various reasons, and generally restricting anything they considered to be not “suitable” for a staid and stodgy town.

To “clean it up”, was the excuse given, among a number of other excuses.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Pots boil over

The thing is, life goes in cycles. And as much as a conservative trend may try to close down stuff it doesn’t particularly like, pots will always boil over in the end.

You can’t bully whole communities into submission and expect things to last that way forever without dissent and uprising and change.

I think that’s what’s happening now. The wind is changing.

eclipse

Written in the wind…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the sub-communities are struggling to their feet again at the same time, afetr being all but killed off.

I don’t believe that you can close down pubs and venues for fun and letting off steam for students, and just expect that they’ll stop needing those outlets for fun and relaxation. Life doesn’t work that way.

Life is swings and roundabouts. Life is change. You can’t keep the Old Gods down.

ivyruins

Too conservative stifles our breath!

In Dunedin, there’s a really strong and powerful element, and it’s in charge, that would like to see Dunedin as nothing but a conservative, neat, polite, vanilla town full of suburbanites who wear suits and go to Church on Sundays and watch TV in the evenings and never, EVER would consider going to a Drumming-Trance-Pagan event or a play party.

Oh no, not ever.

That same element doesn’t approve of student pubs and student experimentation and kink and creativity and challenge and free thought, because those things are scary and uncontrolled and can’t be made a profit from easily.

But what it forgets is that we’re human. Not machines. We don’t come in little boxes, one size fits all. A fair number of us like to party. And drink. Some of us even like to do Pagan ritual, or kinky sex.

Or both.

The lid has been kept on the pot a little too long. All the while we’ve been here, quietly simmering away, but now we’re boiling over, and expanding out into the world again.

We're coming out of our closets again - but not quite like this! ;)
We’re coming out of our closets again – but not quite like this! 😉

Swings and roundabouts.

The more you restrict a subculture, the more it will grow and expand and thrive. Right under your nose. You just won’t see it happening until – bang! – suddenly it’s on your doorstep demanding rights.

Dunedin may seem a conservative town on the surface, but beneath that surface things are beginning to get really interesting.

I don’t know what will happen, but I’m sure looking forward to finding out.

And Happy Mabon! 🙂 May the Old Gods rise again!

mabon

So why the emphasis on “purity” anyway?

We all know that the churches of the Bible belt have been placing a massive emphasis on “purity” and virginity lately. Especially for women.

Actually, purity isn't a commandment at all. The nearest the Commandments get to talking about purity is Commandment No. 7, which says no adultery.
Actually, purity isn’t a commandment at all. The nearest the Commandments get to talking about purity is Commandment No. 7, which says no adultery.

Teens are taking “purity pledges” and being “re-virginized” (whatever THAT means!) and promising to “wait” until they get married.

But have you ever stopped to ask – why?

Why the emphasis on this one aspect of human behaviour?

Good works

Think about it for a moment. How is a “good person” or a “valued member of society” usually defined?

Think of the people in history you’d consider to be heroes. They might be Jesus, if you’re a Christian – but I bet his sex life was never a big issue for you (do you even know how many sex partners he had? is it even mentioned in the Bible?)

Or you might think of Nelson Mandela. Or you might be thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. Or Marie Curie, if you’re a scientist. Or Fred Hollows, who restored eyesight for countless people in the world.

What about Mozart and Beethoven, and the beautiful music they gifted the world? Or Van Gogh, for his stunning artwork?

The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh.
The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh.

Or modern composers like Eric Whitacre, and the gorgeous pieces he’s currently writing for us to enjoy?

Other heroes you might consider could include people like your family doctor. Or a favourite teacher. Or the physiotherapist who helped you to walk again after you had a terrible brain injury.

They’re all heroes. Every one of them. All doing good works. All worthy of admiration.

If you believe in Heaven, every one of them deserves a place, wouldn’t you think?

I sure would.

Were they virgins when they married? If they married? And does God even care?

Of all these people, do you know for certain if any of them were virgins when they married? Did it matter? Did it make a difference to them being good people?

Did it affect their being valuable people, of worth to the world and those they loved and that loved them?

I’ll answer the question for you: not one bit.

Their sexual status when they married didn’t affect their contributions as unique individuals. And neither does your sexual status affect your contribution as a unique individual.

Don’t think so little of God!

If you think the Divine is so petty as to care about your virginity, well then, you’ve got one really petty little God you’re worshipping.

If you think God will judge you based on whether you’ve had sex or not, you’re really underestimating God. Plus, you’re really overestimating your own self-importance. The Divine has better things to worry about.

So why do the Churches care?

Firstly, don’t get Church and God muddled up. They’re NOT one and the same. Churches are made up of people. People with all their human frailties and mistakes and bigotries and confusions.

Churches have been telling people what to do and what to think for a long, long time. And a lot of the time, they simply represented what society thought.

When society got it wrong, so too did the Churches.

For example, when society didn’t know better and thought the sun revolved around the earth, the Churches defended this belief to the death. Literally. Galileo was tried by the Inquisition for his challenge to this theory, his books were banned, and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Other scientists that challenged the same belief (such as Giordano Bruno) were burned at the stake by the Church.

Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake by the Church in 1600.
Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake by the Church in 1600.

This all happened a long time ago, but what I’m pointing out is that the churches are fallible. They make mistakes, because they’re controlled and made up of people. They reflect common beliefs of society at the time. And sometimes not so common!

Better believe it - this is what some creationists are teaching their kids: that dinosaurs existed with humans, and we *rode* them!
Better believe it – this is what some creationists are teaching their kids: that dinosaurs existed with humans, and we *rode* them!

What’s more, the Churches, due to their generally conservative nature, tend to lag behind society, and are slow to change and update as society changes.

Society has changed, but the Church is still playing catchup

This is what we have now. Reliable contraception is relatively new (the pill was first approved in 1960, very recently in historical terms) and was a massive change to how women could control their fertility.

ThePill

With that huge change, the status of women changed quickly. Women were suddenly no longer tied to house and children. We could choose to work and pursue careers, knowing that pregnancy wasn’t lying in wait for us unexpectedly.

Reliable laws supporting safe termination followed swiftly in 1973 with Roe v Wade, enabling women who did find themselves unexpectedly pregnant to end it with a safe termination. Terminations are very common – I’ve had one, as have about half of my friends. These days they’re safe and supported by public health insurance in most western countries – the days of backyard coathangers are thankfully over.

But all these changes, including other further advances such as the morning after pill (1997), are very new. Too new for the Churches to cope with. They’re still more than a century behind, back in the Victorian era, advocating abstinence until marriage.

But what’s wrong with abstinence?

Quite a lot, actually. But let’s start with numbers.

The average age of menarche (first period) for girls in the US is 12.5 years of age. Boys hit puberty on average at age 13.

The average age for first marriage in the United States is 28.9 years for men and 26.9 years for women.

So if they’re going to be abstinent, women are going to, on average, have to be abstinent for 14.4 years. Men are going to have to remain abstinent for 15.9 years.

Are you beginning to see a problem? I sure am! Can you imagine, as an adult, going without sex for about 15 years? It’s just not practical or reasonable to expect young people, at the height of their fertility, to not have sex for that long.

Furthermore, the same communities that are preaching the abstinence mantras are typically

a) not providing young people with full sex education, so they are more at risk of pregnancy, STIs and dangerous / abusive relationships should sex occur
b) not providing young people with access to contraception or teaching them how to use contraception properly
c) dumping guilt on young people when the inevitable does occur and they do have sex.

In other words, they’re preaching a virtually unachievable mode of behaviour for all but the most asexual of young people, then blaming those same young people when they cannot meet unrealistic expectations.

So why purity?

Purity has, and always will be until it finally suffers a permanent demise as a concept, been about control. It’s a way of making people feel: dirty, cheap, worthless, not good enough, not able enough. It’s a way of judging people and labelling people and keeping people (women) in their place that is hurtful and can be very cruel.

Decidly unChristian!

Yes, the pretty white dresses and “purity rings” are all very nice, but they’re a veil over a brutal attempt to control women.

A purity ball. Actually, I find the whole father-daughter emphasis a little incestuous and creepy.
A purity ball. Actually, I find the whole father-daughter emphasis a little incestuous and creepy.

What to do?

Don’t buy the lie. Don’t buy into the purity lie.

Instead, focus on being a good person. Do good works. Let your actions speak for who you are and what you believe is important and right. If you choose to wait until you find someone you love for sex, that’s only your business: no-one else’s.

It’s not the church’s. Or your minister’s. Or your parents. Or your friends.

Ignore the purity rings. And the purity balls. And the purity pledges. Be a good person because that’s who you choose to be, not to fit into someone else’s rules and regulations and guidelines and boundaries.

Have sex when you choose to. With who you want to. With as many or as few people as you choose.

Do it safely. Feel no guilt, because sex can be a beautiful, fun, pleasurable gift when you do it right.

But the only purity that you should ever concern yourself with is the purity of your food and drink. Because that’s the only purity that matters.

Aphrodite and men: the gifts of Aphrodite

I’ve talked a fair bit about Aphrodite and embracing our sexuality and sensuality as women. But what about men?

men

How Aphrodite is relevant to men

Aphrodite teaches us that our sexual, sensual nature is a part of us, not separate and closeted away. That it’s okay – more than okay – to be sexual, physical beings.

It’s okay to feel, to experience, to love, to enjoy our bodies, to lust, and to experience pleasure and revel in it. It’s okay to enjoy beauty and enjoy being beautiful.

Being sterile, celibate, unfeeling, uncaring – none of these is a natural state of being for humans. Sex is something we all do. It’s part of who we are. It’s fun, it’s positive, and it’s something to enjoy and explore without shame or fear.

These lessons are just as relevant to men as they are to women. Yet they are not where we are beginning from.

Although it’s rapidly breaking down, we still live in a largely puritanical society that tells us to fear sex, be ashamed of our bodies, hate our physical selves and the selves of other that do not conform to some mythical standard of perfection (whatever THAT is supposed to be) and, in the case of men, hide away our emotional and sensual selves and pretend they don’t exist.

That’s a whole lot of negatives.

The Man Box

Start with The Man Box – everything that Society tells men they should be in order to be a Real Man:

The Man Box. Be a Real Man, dammit. Or you're nothing but a pussy!
The Man Box. Be a Real Man, dammit. Or you’re nothing but a pussy!

According to the Man Box, and the dysfunctional patriarchy that created it, men are not supposed to express or feel emotion. They’re not supposed to receive pleasure – only to give, in a very assertive, Dominant, forceful, controlling kind of way.

They’re not supposed to see women as equals, but as chattel, objects, items to be used and bought and sold. This is why “purity” and the concept of virginity in women is so highly prized in patriarchy – because women are objects to be valued and owned, rather than individuals with their own agency.

Men are not supposed to feel, or to cry, or to express weakness, or humility, or need. Yet all of these emotions are part of what it means to be human: they’re all part of the complete human experience.

The Man Box is strong, its mythos still alive and kicking. Our world is full of men who have been sold the Man Box, sold the patriarchal model of behaviour, and been screwed up mightily by it.

Can you imagine this guy expressing love and tenderness? Nup, neither can I. But I'll bet he'd be lousy in bed, and clueless about how to satisfy a woman sexually and emotionally.
Can you imagine this guy expressing love and tenderness? Nup, neither can I. But I’ll bet he’d be lousy in bed, and clueless about how to satisfy a woman sexually and emotionally.

Men who have bought into the Man Box model often can no longer connect fully with their emotions, are unable to have fulfilling, satisfying relationships with women or other men. They feel a huge amount of anger and resentment at the world, yet are not quite sure why. They’re also often quite homophobic – because being gay is the antithesis of what a “real man” should be.

They’ve been damaged by a model of being that doesn’t fit with what real, whole, healthy humans are, and need to be.

The healing powers of Aphrodite

The power of Aphrodite – embracing our sexuality and sensuality, reconnecting with our emotional selves, accepting all mutually consenting acts of love and pleasure – is incredibly healing.

The puritanical society we live in, where sex has been hidden away and seen as something dirty and shameful, and where women have been scapegoated for millenia for society’s ills (remember Eve and the snake? Yeah, it goes back to that old yarn and possibly well before it), has been in need of healing and resolution for a long time.

Society needs Aphrodite. We need Aphrodite. And men need Aphrodite too, just as much as women.

Reconnecting

Just as women have been disconnected from our sexuality, so too have men.

Sex has been hidden away for men too. There has been an insane amount of pressure on them to perform, to achieve in sex – and you see this in men continually wondering and worrying about the size of their penises, where the truth is, most women couldn’t really care less.

Is it big enough? ;)
Is it big enough? 😉

Becoming whole

Aphrodite teaches us to become whole. Stop comparing ourselves with others. Opt out of patriarchy. Choose not to see sex as something dirty but instead as something precious, sacred, joyful. Our sexuality is the gift of Aphrodite: it is given to us for pleasure and enjoyment, not for shame or ridicule or insecurity.

Once men start understanding that they can be whole, sensual humans – not mechanical, unfeeling robots that must exert power over others in order to have value – that’s when the healing begins. Men can receive as well as give, be beneath as well as on top, penetrate as well as be penetrated, and enjoy their bodies instead of feeling shame or insecurity, creating a healthier, happier dynamic between the genders.