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For the men re #metoo – learn about, discuss, and model good consent

October 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Seen lots of posts from men saying yes they want to be good allies to women and trans people re #metoo but don’t know what to do. Maybe something men could do is to learn about, discuss and model good consent?

For the past few years I’ve made a habit of making the first move – I realised that if I didn’t the only lovers I would have, out of the total pool of “we find each other mutually attractive” would be the ones that were also confident enough to make the first move and knew that I was interested. Even as someone who’s not particularly attractive, its been going super well. Of course I get rejections – but I take them as a positive – that means that people feel safe to say no to me. And there’s not been a single instance where a yes or a no has damaged our friendship.

In wanting to be more confident in making the first move I was also very concerned that nobody would feel harassed in any way by me.* Also it is super important that whoever I am engaging in shenanigans with actively wants it too. So instead of asking “Can I kiss you?” I ask some version of “Would you like a kiss?” For me as someone socialised as a girl/woman in this society I will say yes unless there is a clear reason for me not to. My desire is secondary to someone else’s. If you’re in my house and you ask if you can do something (eg smoke), I would have equally found it challenging to say no! You’re a guest! Of course you can do that. If you ask me instead “Would you like me to smoke in your house or would you rather I went outside?”, then my brain will actually think that through and I will admit that yes, I’d rather you went outside. The first option would have led me to just suck up the discomfort and let you smoke and deal with the nasty smell afterwards.

So since I thought about this I resolved that I would always ask someone if they wanted physical intimacy with me, not just if I can do it. And its actually quite sexy to do this. I enjoy the buildup of physical tension and vocalising this just makes it feel hotter. Plus I can be reasonably confident that the interest is mutual.

Secondly, I want to make it clear to anyone I am interested in physically, that there are no repercussions for saying no, now or in the future. Our friendship does not require my access to your body. If at any point you’re not in the mood for shenanigans, or want cuddles and kissing but no below waist interaction, or whatever, that is all fine. You will not face any physical or emotional pressure from me. Your body autonomy is important. I want whoever I am with to want me too. I have had all the shitty ways that men are socialised to respond to rejection. The sudden lack of interest in friendship. The moody responses. I’ve been yelled at and physically assaulted. I refuse to do this to anyone else, and I want them to know that their “no” has no repercussions.

Thirdly, I will not have any physically intimate interactions with someone who is in any way compromised in their ability to consent. This could be because of a power differential. But most often because they are not sober. If you have had alcohol, weed or any other drug to the point where you are more likely to have sex than when sober, than I would be taking advantage of you to go along with that. I’ve seen men circle around drunk women like moths round a flickering flame – and this is purely because they know she is more likely to agree to sex with them at this time. That’s not active consent, that’s gross. I would rather wait til you are sober and know that you have actively, mindfully, desired to become intimate with me. Having had someone get me stoned and then have sex with me (we hadn’t even kissed before) when I was too high to talk means I will always be super careful with other people around substances.

Also relevant is the context for making an advance. I will endeavour that you will always have an easy out. That you won’t feel reliant on my continuing good will for a place to sleep, or introductions into social circles etc. That I will explicitly say that my good will does not require you being interested in intimacy with me.

Fourthly, I will be honest with you about me. You will know I am non monogamous and my sexual health status, such as when I was most recently tested. In terms of the former, it is important to me that you make an informed decision to have sex with me, and don’t assume that this means we will have, ever, an exclusive monogamous relationship. We will also have a discussion about safer sex, and we will go with the highest common denominator – you want barriers for everything, fine.

***

But its one thing me doing (or aspiring) to do all this in private. I know from personal experience that many people do not have this base level of consent practice. And what I’ve developed as my personal ethical standards around this has mostly been because of fuckups – my own or other peoples. We just don’t get taught what consent really means. We don’t talk about it or share our own practices.

One thing I really appreciate in the polyamory community is that there is a lot of modelling of safer sex practices. Regular testing and communication of results and risks is normal and expected. I don’t even think twice about bringing sexual health up with other people because I’m so used to it being a regular conversation.

I want the same around consent. I especially want men to be talking to each other about it. It might feel awkward, but you all say you want to do something in response to #metoo, and that might involve some initial discomfort. But I’m betting there is a lot of lack of knowledge and awareness. Nobody wants to admit to ignorance. “of course I always get consent” – because the alternative, in our binary world, is that you are a rapist. Well this thinking helps no-one. It stops people being able to ask questions, express doubts and concerns, work through scenarios, develop nuanced ethics.

So that’s my personal response to the many men who are asking “what can we do to help?” – educate yourself, think deeply and discuss with other men what good consent really means. I’m definitely not saying that my personally developed standards are the best in the world. I’m just trying to practice what I’m preaching and open up conversations about what good consent should mean.

 

* When I was a teenager I did not do this. I barely even asked for consent. At least one person I had sexual intimacy with, whilst she didn’t say no, I later found out did not want more than kissing with me. When, years later, I found this out I was obviously super shooken up and hence have put a lot of thought into ensuring I don’t make same mistake again.

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Does your partner sometimes scare you? (TRIGGER WARNING : domestic abuse)

March 2, 2015 Leave a comment

 

How to read webpages without it being very easy for someone else to see what you’ve been looking at. ]

 

Bride beaten by new husband on their wedding night because he couldn’t get her dress off

Divorce: Amy has now filed to separate from Gavin

Divorce: Amy has now filed to separate from Gavin

Back in August, Amy was brutally assaulted by her new husband after he refused to take her advice on how to take off her wedding dress. Subsequently he’s got a pathetic community order and she’s filed for divorce and has moved on.

I stumbled across this story but something really stuck out to me :

In talking about their wedding day she states “It was a huge celebration full of friends and family, and I thought it would have been the fresh start we needed.” Fresh start … that seems an odd way to describe a celebration of finding a life partner. So why did they need this fresh start? Turns out that initially “[h]e was caring and loving, and when we found we were having baby, we were delighted.” But then she got pregnant and “almost straight away, Gavin became controlling and manipulative. It was like walking on eggshells.”

A midwife friend told me that pregnancy is a very common time for a relationship to begin to get abusive. I don’t know why, though I guess maybe its the increased vulnerability of the pregnant person that gives the abusive partner a feeling of safety in letting loose with their arseholery, feeling that now their pregnant partner is less able to do anything about it.

How do you know if your relationship is on the abusive spectrum? Here’s a list of some of the signs of abuse. If folks reading this have any additional thoughts or resources, maybe you could add them as a comment to this post?

Partner abuse is prevalent in all types of relationships, gay or straight, polyamorous or monogamous, vanilla or kinky, and with partners who might profess leftwing or feminist views. I’ve seen so many friends and acquaintances survive abusive relationships, and often before I knew, the relationship seemed perfectly normal from the outside. So, if I know you, and you have any feelings that your relationship is in any way abusive, please know that if you feel able to confide in me, I will take your words at face value. Even if I am friends with your partner, and they have always been super nice to me, I know that people act differently in different contexts and with different people. Please feel free to tell me that you need to talk with me about something and we can arrange a safe time and place to do that.

I’m aware that its easy to sit on the sidelines and observe a relationship that is abusive, but that part of the trap is to belittle and undermine you until the abuse is normalised into behaviour that you might even feel is what you deserve. Like Amy, maybe you feel that your partner will change. And maybe they will. But in the meantime maybe you should try talking it over with a helpline?

Are you worried about someone you know? I like these resources: love is respect which even includes a section at the bottom for if your friend is the one that’s being abusive and a surprise entry from Glamour magazine “The Exact Words That Could Help a Friend in an Abusive Relationship

Big love to everyone out there. x

My input on sex work and queer issues during last night’s #LSEanarchism panel

December 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Hey. This feels a bit weird/egotistical to write, as I don’t feel I’m the best at speaking and especially not writing (I’m not just being modest – there are things I kickass at! ;p ) and I’ve not come up with anything groundbreaking. I felt compelled to speak last night at LSE’s discussion on “Anarchism and Sexuality” because the panelists gave really interesting talks on historical Anarchists perspectives on sexuality, but a lot of views, particularly around sex work (looking at you Mujeres Libras!) are very dated and oppressive. Also questions came up around what contemporary Anarchists thought about campaigns for same sex marriage. Anyway, I gave a kind of nervous rant but folks seemed to like it and as the majority of those there last night (as least who spoke from the audience and who I spoke to afterwards) aren’t Anarchists and are interested in Anarchist ideas, I’m just writing roughly what I said.

On sex work, as was said during the talks, as Anarchists we believe struggles should be led by those affected, and so we have learned, especially from the sex workers within our own movements, that sex work is work, and not a unique case where “prostitutes” must be rescued from their degradation.

All work is degrading under capitalism. Why single out sex work, and ignore call centre workers, or those working in McDonalds or sweat shops? Under capitalism nobody really has freedom of choice, and our working conditions and the way we are treated is degrading. Those with truly socially important roles such as cleaning or care-work are looked down upon and undervalued.

Patriarchal views on sex are that, in hetero relations, the man (or top during same gender pairings) gains something, whilst the woman (or “bottom”) loses. This sexist garbage really colours social outlooks on sex work – whore shaming and rapes/other violent assaults on sex workers are the inevitable result. How much of our perception that sex work is inherently degrading comes from this? Do we view female sex workers, or rentboys in the same way as we think of gigolos? And there’s the ongoing double standard regarding males and females and the acceptability of casual sex.

To learn more I strongly recommend the Sex Workers Open University

The other thing I wanted to talk about was Anarchism and queer politics. We critique mainstream LGBTq obsessions with the pink pound and same-sex marriage as in large part being about sanitising queerness – “don’t be afraid, we’re not going to change social norms – we just want to be consumers and get married like the rest of you!” Apart from how this privileges certain LGTBTq folks over others – those who have money to spend and those who want monogamous relationships – its also irrelevant. Basic Anarchist principles are that you are free to do what you like, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. Why should we try to gain the acceptance of some mythical mainstream, when what we are doing doesn’t affect anyone else? Homophobia is not wrong because “look, we’re just like you”. We fight for freedom for all to live and love as they wish, straight or queer, monogamous or poly, kinky or vanilla, asexual, aromantic or celibate. As the panelists mentioned often same-sex marriage campaigns are driven even by those critical of bringing the state into the bedroom, because of how access to housing, pensions and insurance are dependent on marriage certificates – whereas actually housing etc should be available to all.

I think there’s another reason people, even Anarchists, choose to get married, and that’s as a marker of a life event. Celebrating stages in life, “hatches, matches and dispatches”, coming of age, and the changing seasons and years are meaningful to people. But the default ways of socially recognise such events, particularly important romantic/sexual relationships, is through a legal or religious marriage. Instead of criticising those who go down that route, we should find new ways of celebrating life events. We should evolve and create our own rituals and commemorations that recognise and honour relationships, rather than just the default of a state sanctioned wedding.

Anyway, that was pretty much what I said last night, I think. Afterwards folks wanted to know what groups I was involved with, where I’d learned so much and who was the “we” I referred to. The easy answer is that I’m in the Anarchist Federation, and in both the gender oppressed (women, trans*, nonbinary and anyone else who feels oppressed because of gender) and queer caucuses within that. But that’s just the formal answer. The real answer is that I have learned from living my life, and from doing so within communities that are also just getting on and doing it, trying things out, reflecting, chatting, listening and supporting. I guess I’m really lucky. We have formal meetings and discussions, but we also have long informal times, for example during the 7 month Free Hetherington occupation, or just whilst socialising with friends, and I feel that these are the most constructive. In a meeting, or worse at a “debate”, the goal is to win people over and sell a particular viewpoint. That doesn’t lead (imo) to learning or creating new ideas or philosophies together. For instance often we learn because of our fuckups – and its hard to share and collectively learn from those in a public meeting. Or getting pulled up on our shit, which we all have from our ongoing socialisation in a patriarchal, white supremacist culture. In informal settings we can play with ideas. The shy people find their voices. Those who feel they’re too new to contribute, ask questions and share their opinions, and blow the minds of the wise elders!

One reason I felt sheepish speaking last night and writing this today is because nothing I’ve said is cutting edge in the communities I inhabit. So I guess that’s the most important insight perhaps from Anarchism on sexuality; by prefiguring the society we want to live in, we learn and grow and develop as individuals and communities far more than any amount of theorising or formal lessons can do. Direct action means those who are oppressed taking initiatives that change the immediate conditions of their oppression. By creating queer spaces and communities we challenge heteronormativity by trying out queer ways of being in safe environments – these can include pride marches or more confrontational taking of spaces such as queer occupations of sites of homophobia. We don’t try to appeal to the Daily Mail with exhortations of how we were just born this way so please don’t blame us, but instead we boldly state that yes we reject patriarchal, heteronormative gender roles and relations. That our bodies, sexualities and gender presentations are ours to do with what we will. I think in doing this we also offer liberation to those who might still choose heterosexual, monogamous, vanilla life partnerships because at least know that that is your choice, that you are not compelled to do so, but followed rather what suited you and your partner best, and actually had those awesome conversations with them, and made it explicit. Just like vanilla people can learn from kinky people about consent, and monogamous people can learn from polyamory about talking through boundaries and working through jealousy. In the end, in an ideal Anarchist society, none of this would be remarkable. There will be no “queer Anarchism” just like we have no need for “blond haired Anarchism” – without oppression there is no need to develop specific organising around identity and we can all get on with our awesomely diverse and meaningful lives together.

Interstellar – sexist, poorly made, though at least got to lol bad at its climax (SPOILERS)

November 22, 2014 7 comments
The hero of the movie, and its human supporting actor

The hero of the movie, and its human supporting actor

First spoiler – the people that from the start you think are going to get killed, do get killed, in the order that you think they will. Or at least that’s how it worked out for my flatmates and I. ymmv – I guess depending on how much credibility you give the film makers to start with.

The human characters were so unsympathetic and one dimensional caricatures that I didn’t care if they lived or not. Scratch that, at times I just wanted the whole sorry thing over so much I wanted them to just get on and die!

And the sexism. Omg, what was up with Brand (Anne Hathaway’s character)? What was even the point in her? Apart from to fuck up missions and to look up at Cooper with big adoring eyes and look after the embryos (coz obv that’s what chicks are good for, especially ones that have doctorates and are astronauts…) And not forgetting letting her emotions get in the way of her scientific reasoning. Thank goodness alpha male Cooper was there to put her right on track and rescue her (repeatedly)!

TARS being awesome

TARS being awesome

There was one redeeming character – I speak of course of the robot TARS. It alone brought my rating up from 1/10 to 3/10 I liked its physical manifestations, the humour and it almost brought in an interesting question regarding AIs as slaves, except that the film makers fluffed that at the last minute and anyway Star Trek did that better.

The climactic scenes showing the split with Murphy on earth and Cooper and gang were so terrible that I did manage to find humour in them. Like, the fire?! Yeah throw on some tension and maybe the audience will be so overwhelmed that they don’t notice how bad these scenes are? But even then, there was still nothing that exciting with the fire. The brother – does he have any emotional depth or feeling? Again – what is the point of him? And suddenly, inexplicably he’s hugging and trusting his sister and long gone father, just as the farm he’s poured so much effort into is up in flames and an uncertain future is facing his severely ill wife and surviving child?

But Cooper. Like a cowboy from an outdated Western, he’s a comic book hero. Of course he can do these crazy feats of flight, and save everyone repeatedly, and then sacrifice himself for the chick who cries tears as she finally realised she was supposed to be his all along, because he’s the alpha male, goddammit. Even the robot recognised Coop’s authority early on, and hence was addressing all its “FYI we’re about to crash” at him.

And Mann. I have to admit, that whole rolling around on the ice was another lol moment for me. Particularly the weird monologue he has with himself as he watches what he assumes is Coop’s death roll. I don’t think even the actor knew what he was supposed to do with that terrible dialogue, and so just deadpans it. But of course our Coop, partially blinded by the ammonia in the atmosphere from his cracked visor (whereas Mann’s was completely unscathed despite repeated cracks of glass on glass), found that his transmitter that Mann had thrown out onto the ice, was conveniently close by!

And Mann woke up from being in cryo in what, 5 seconds! I liked his reactions early on though. That was one of the few bits that had realism. Until they decided to comic book villain him, and then kill him off without Coop having to dirty his hands or make difficult decisions. TARS to the rescue again. Not sure what happened at that point to the preceding rules which seemed to be that humans could always override robot instructions… but then if we’re counting plot inconsistencies, we’ll be here a lot longer.

Murphy was, I suppose, meant to balance out Brand’s awfulness. Maybe if we’d had a bit more from her, if she’d shone in the film, apart from just it being commented on that she’d been super smart and solved the gravity equation, I’d have felt a bit more engaged by that bit of the narrative. It just felt a bit like it had been tacked on to justify the alpha male cowboy story tbh. She was mostly just onscreen to (quite rightly) bemoan that her sole remaining parent was abandoning her. And to be assistant to Michael Caine’s professor. Tagging on that suddenly she’d solved physics, but not giving us any exposure to that beyond fade shots of her at a blackboard backgrounded that whole arc, and so lost out on an opportunity to show the *only other female character in the whole blooming movie* being the true hero who saved humanity. She was edited down to nothing. Yes, of course it failed the Bechdel test – and no, I’m not going to count Murphy informing Brand her father had died – again, that seemed mostly because the female characters were burdened with all the emotional work. And that Murphy, though apparently being a genius physicist, even after at least a decade of being Caine’s assistant, hadn’t cottoned on that he’d already solved the equation and was bluffing.

I liked the worm hole being a sphere. And that bit was kinda pretty. I guess I’ll end on that positive. I wasn’t expecting a world altering movie, but I was expecting it to look nice and have decent special effects. I was mostly disappointed with that, but the worm hole bit was ok on those fronts. And TARS again. TARS was super cool.

3/10 – and most of that’s for the robot.

Reproductive rights globally – crackdowns on bodily autonomy -> inspiring, brave & creative feminist responses #AFem

October 21, 2014 Leave a comment

This is from my notes at the excellent reproductive rights workshop at AFem 2014. The session was scheduled in for 3 hours, and I thought I’d attend for a bit, and then leave to go to one of the other workshops and discussions starting an hour later. As it turned out, I was getting so much out of it that I stayed to the end, and couldn’t believe how fast it went! This is a write up of notes I started taking as I listened to one after another of incredible speakers talking about the situation in their country, and what they were doing to challenge that. I didn’t manage to write most of it, as it was so in depth, and mostly I was just listening and absorbing and thinking. But here are my notes anyway :) They’re from a variety of speakers / contributors from the floor. In all I counted 9 countries represented; Poland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, France and UK. Notes are not necessarily in that order, and I didn’t write down the countries contributions were from most of the time. Errors are my own. If you see any, please comment so that I can make amendments.

Abortion contravenes ideas of women as natural mothers. It has been common for centuries but became problematised/criminalised in 19th century Europe. Due to colonialism, Victorian era attitudes on it then infected the rest of the world – there are still many countries using the 1861 “offences against a person” anti choice law.

There are about 40 million abortions globally a year. One in three women in UK will have an abortion at some point in their life. Half of all abortions around the world are unsafe, leading to 50 000 deaths per year. Richer women can often escape the worst of this, as they can pay or travel to places with better laws and resources.

There have been a number of international conventions that state that countries should make abortions legal and available, but these aren’t legally binding, purely symbolic.

No contraception method is 100%, and not everybody has the power to negotiate contraception.

In Spain right wing Christian organisations such as “Legions of Christ” and “Opus Dei” have a lot of power as also includes politicians and business people. (An Italian said this is true in her country too.) The church has a lot of say, for example in education where religion is a compulsory subject. The far right movement has made it acceptable to now say publicly sexist things about women’s place as mother, such as on businesswoman who urged that “fertile age women shouldn’t be hired”. That this is now part of public discourse further reinforces and gives confidence and credence to traditional, conservative views.

Even ostensibly public, non-religious schools are often controlled by Opus Dei behind the scenes. Also in private healthcare, the church is behind it. There were attempts this year to make abortion even more restrictive, but this was defeated. There is now a new movement of feminists mobilised “us and our grandmothers are feminists, but there was a whole generation missed”. They did lots of actions against the new law and are continuing to organise now.

There were other speakers now, including from the floor, but I didn’t make notes from them all :(

In Italy, 80% of gynaecologists and lots of nurses and anaesthetists are refusing to perform abortions, so that even though it is legal, it is very difficult to access. DIY, or otherwise unsafe, abortions are therefore common, with the woman often then presenting at A&E with profuse bleeding, and being recorded as a “spontaneous miscarriage”. 20 000 legal abortions are carried out per year, but about 40 000 are refused due to “conscientious objection”. There are 75000 recorded “miscarriages” – 1/3 of which are probably unsafe abortions. Miscarriage rates have dramatically increased since the 1980s, particularly in minors. Conscientious objectors are becoming more common, especially in the south, and they say that if they do carry out abortions they face discrimination at work.

missed out a load more of the interventions here as was just listening.

In Chile abortion has been illegal since 1989 (was one of Pinochet’s final acts as dictator) – prior to this it was legal to save the women’s life. In 2008 there were moves to criminalise the morning after pill (MAP). This led to a wave of activism and upswing in feminism – older feminists from the time of the dictatorship together with new/younger ones. They took direct action, distributing leaflets and posters with info on how to make the MAP from a certain combination of contraceptive pills, which were available. Those who had been baptised as children made a public “aposte” where they renounced religion. A hotline and solidarity network were set up to provide support and advise to those seeking abortions, and put them in touch with doctors who would perform abortions. Despite it being illegal, “just” 300 people – those both performing and receiving abortions – have been imprisoned and most people get away with it. There were also legal challenges against the new law. There was public outcry after and 11 year old who was raped by her step father was forced to have the baby.

Speaking of I.M.E.L.D.A. (Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion) do awesome performance activism, as abortion is illegal in Ireland. Their current campaign, “Knickers for Choice“, asks folks to post pictures of knickers in iconic places with pro choice messages. Taking something private, such as our smalls, and making them public echoes what the government has done to women’s bodies. Someone else suggested that if you’re holidaying in Ireland, its worth just casually asking in a shocked voice “is it true that abortion is still illegal here?” to denormalise it in shops etc.

USA style clinic harrassment is now happening in UK, financed by groups in the states. “Abort 67” are active in Brighton and abortion clinic pickets are happening in London and Manchester and probably other places too. The clinics themselves have requested that there should not be counter pickets to these as it just makes more of an unpleasant scene for those trying to access the services.

In Brazil abortion is also illegal. Also in Argentina. In France there are difficulties with access.

Need to act now in UK, to prepare for the attacks that will come. The right is already on the move.

Abortion Support Network is set up to assist Irish women travel to mainland Britain for abortions. They are the sticking plaster responding to the urgent need, but it is vital to address the cause of this, and get the law changed in ROI and provision in NI.

A video was made about Irish women and for many it was their first time speaking to *anyone* about the fact they’d had an abortion. Common to feel shame, fear and even personal opposition to abortion, even though they’ve had one. Its difficult for women in UK to admit they’ve had an abortion; in Ireland its even just to say they know someone who’s had one.

Resources :

https://www.womenonweb.org/

http://womenhelp.org/

Typing practice – on contraception

July 17, 2014 Leave a comment

So, I’ve been a one finger typist forever. I’m really fast though, so was really hard to force myself to touch type, as even though I know it will be better in the end, I’ve had too much time pressure during eg my degree or masters to force myself to do it. However I decided to finally force myself to about a month ago. I’m now averaging 35wpm. Which is not bad, but still way slower than I am with one finger. So in an effort to bring it up to something reasonable before my diploma (in tropical nursing) starts in September, I’m going to be practising daily. So I decided to restart my blog. This means any of you following it, are going to be subjected to a lot more posts than before, and more random stuff. I am literally/literarily going to be writing whatever’s on my mind for at least half an hour a day. You’ve been warned! I’m going to be ranting on whatever, with the primary goal of it keeping my fingers tapping, no matter the quality or how researched or well read or thoughful I am on a topic. It will, therefore likely be very egocentric and all about me, as that is easiest to spraff on about without worrying about misrepresenting situations or people.

Today I’m going to start with contraception. I went for an appointment today to start process of getting sterilised.

Read more…

Categories: feminism, personal