Archive for the ‘sex’ Category

12 Going on 21??

August 31, 2012

Thylane Rose Blondeau

The other day I was being amused by my dog, Oscar, who has taught himself to maneuver his ball around with his nose while simultaneously chasing after it, a skill that provides him with hours of entertainment and exercise and requires no effort on my part. A young girl approached whom I didn’t recognize, along with a friend. She called Oscar by name, explaining that her mother had dogsitted for us before. On second glance I did recognize her as the 12 year-old daughter of our regular sitter, however the last and only time I had seen her she had been about to go to bed, fresh and clean and wearing a long cotton night dress that would have been perfect for a purity pledge sleepover. The girl before me looked like she had walked out of a poorly styled rap video. Her shorts, while already short enough to make me question if there was a manufacturer defect, were rolled up one more time to ensure there was no question of the fact she was indeed wearing underpants. Her shirt was slightly cropped although not as much so as her friend’s which may actually have been an undergarment. Both girls had dyed the tips of their hair purple, a fad among young Hollywood celebrities these days (I’m hip to the trends). After both girls had said their hellos to Oscar, they went back to their I-phone 4Gs and resumed what I assumed to be texting their friends while I continued to stare at them with a mixture of shock, disbelief, sadness and fear.

Pinpointing why seeing these young girls in clothing that would be only questionably appropriate on even an adult woman bothered me so much was difficult. Of course I thought these girls were much too young to be dressing so provocatively. However, I kept thinking that although these outfits were unquestionable “sexy” in nature, no one in their right mind could look at these 12 year-old girls and have a sexual thought about them. It seemed apparent that neither of them had gone through puberty yet. Although both had bra straps visible, there was no evidence that such underwear was for anything but show as both girls still had the reed-like figures of children, lacking any curves which would distinguish then from their male counterparts save their long hair and 5 pounds of make-up. These girls are simply not sexual beings yet. But deep down I fear that they could be and that they will be. These girls represent thousands and millions of other young, vulnerable 12 year-old girls today who are subject to exposures and pressures that their parents and older siblings couldn’t even imagine. Are these girls covering themselves less in response to current trends, or are they finding themselves in an increasingly hyper-sexualized environment and setting out to appear desirable in the way that they have been taught by society to do so (by wearing little clothing)? Or both?

It seems as though girls are becoming aware of the concept of sexuality at a very young age. A study performed by Jennifer Abbasi and published online July 6th in Sex Roles showed that girls as young as 6 were beginning to think of themselves as sex objects. In the study, 60 girls 6-9 years old were each shown two dolls, one wearing “sexy” clothes and the other a trendy but conservative outfit. The girls were then asked to choose the doll that looked like herself, looked how she wanted to look, was the popular girl in school, and who she wanted to play with. In all categories the girls chose the “sexy” doll, with 68% wanting to look like her and 72% saying she was the more popular.

Where would a six year old get this perception? Well if you are watching Toddlers and Tiaras with her, or worse if she is ON Toddlers and Tiaras, look no further for your answer. Otherwise she is likely sensitive to the same media images that all women, teens and tweens are bombarded with day after day. The images that tell us what sexy is and how we can achieve it. I can think of no other reason I turn over to allow a perfect stranger to pour hot wax on my most private part during a Brazilian wax I derive no pleasure from. In the article ‘Teenage Girls Report Pressure To Live up to Sexual Ideals’ by Alexandra Topping published on July 14 2008 in The Guardian UK results from a study by Girlguiding UK and the Mental Health Foundation were published. The study showed that two in five teen girls felt worse about themselves after looking at pictures of models, pop stars and actresses in magazines. Furthermore “the girls questioned described being put under sexual pressure from boys at school or feeling obliged to wear clothes that made them look older.” Many of the girls felt bad about how they looked and their weight. Of the 10-14 year-old, 32% had a friend who had an eating disorder, 42% knew someone who had harmed themselves, and half knew someone who had suffered from depression.

Lottie Moss, 13 years old

These numbers are similar to those reported in a May 2010 article on Macleans.ca by Kate Fillion titled “Inside the Dangerously Empty Lives of Teenage Girls where she interviews Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Girls on the Edge, about today’s teen and tween girls. He has also written two books about the gender differences between girls and boys. He reports that 1 in 5 girls in the US is cutting or burning herself. 1 in 4 high-school girls is binge drinking. I in 8 takes antidepressants.

Social media is also playing a big part in the image young girls are able to present of themselves to their peers and the general public in cyberspace. Girls become fixated on presenting the perfect image of themselves on social media sites, and can lose sight of who they are and who they really want to be. They don’t derive any real value or positive reinforcement of themselves as a human being through this type of networking as any type of interaction is strictly superficial. According to Dr. Sax “Girls spend a lot of time photoshopping their pictures, making themselves look a little bit thinner than they are and getting rid of the pimples, because they know boys are interested in the photos on these sites. So you’ve got 14-year-old girls essentially presenting themselves as a brand, trying to create a public persona, polishing an image of themselves that’s all surface: how you look and what you did yesterday, not who you are and what you want to be. And that leads to a sense of disconnection from themselves, because in most cases, these girls don’t even realize that their persona is not who they are. They’re just focused on striving to please their market and presenting the brand they think will sell.” And unfortunately as we all know, sex sells.

When I was 12, I was in 7th grade. I wore Guess jeans and corduroy pants to school. I wore turtlenecks and teased my bangs into this ridiculous style I now call “the rainbow”. It wasn’t pretty. My mother bought all of my clothes, and while I once cried until she broke down and bought me a pair of white Sorel boots I absolutely NEEDED or I would DIE, it would have been a cold day in hell before she ever bought me bootie shorts, a crop top or thong underwear in junior high. Or now come to think of it. Furthermore, many of these young girls look too small to be shopping in the adult section. However, according to Jean Twenge from San Diego University in the same Macleans article  “Forty years ago, if you went into a department store and looked at clothes for seven-year-olds, they’d be quite different than the clothes on sale for 17-year-olds. Today there’s no longer any distinction; the same short skirts are sold to girls in Grade 2 and girls in Grade 12. T-shirts that say, “Yes, but not with you” are now sold to eight-year-olds.
Girls understand what these T-shirts are about: pretending to be sexually aware.” Furthermore, because such clothing is sold in children’s clothing stores and in children’s sizes, parents are less resistant to buying it for their daughters. They think it is normal and appropriate. Suddenly this is popular culture. On slate.com Emily Yoffe wrote about back-to-school clothes shopping with her daughter in a piece called Lolita’s Closet. “A few years ago, Abercrombie, the ‘tween division of Abercrombie & Fitch, got in trouble for marketing thong underpants—with phrases such as “eye candy” printed on them—to prepubescent girls. Now scanty panties for girls are standard. At Limited Too there were pairs with rhinestone hearts or printed with cheeky sayings such as “Buy It Now! Tell Dad Later!” My dad was upset when my mother let me get my ears pierced at 12. He thought he caught a boy looking at me, as if mesmerized by the shining 10 karat gold-plated gems in my awkward tween ears and not just a horny hormone-filled adolescent pimple canvas. Thong panties? I would not have wanted to be around for that conversation.

Kaia Gerber, 10 years old

The more overtly style of dress young girls seem to have adopted is not surprising in our culture today. But are today’s youth being more sexual than those of prior decades? The answer is yes and no. Jean Twenge says “kids may be sexually intimate—the term as I use it includes both oral sex and intercourse—a little earlier and certainly they are much more likely to be having oral sex than they were 20 years ago. There are some troubling new issues. You find a lot of 12- and 13-year-old girls who are providing sexual favours to 16- and 17-year-old boys.” According to the July 2008 Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study 47% of tweens  (11-14 year-olds) and 37% of 11 and 12 year-olds say they been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. 37% of tweens say touching and “feeling up” is part of tween dating relationships. 27% say so is oral sex. 28% say sex is a part of tween relationships. 31% of tweens know a friend or peer who have had oral sex and 33% know one who has had sexual intercourse. Another difference according to an April 2009 article in Macleans magazine “Teen Girls in Charge” is that “nearly half of female adolescents now say it’s acceptable to have sex after a few times out together, up from 35 per cent in 1984. “Making out” is okay after being with someone a few times has rocketed up from 79 to 94 per cent, which almost puts them on par with the guys, who are at 96 per cent.” Teen girls appear to be becoming more sexually aggressive, taking charge of their sexuality.

These numbers seem high, and it does appear that tweens are experimenting with sexual activity such as oral sex earlier. But one positive is that overall the numbers of teens who are sexually active is not increasing. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, the percentage of youth virgins is increasing, as is condom use, and as a result teen pregnancy is decreasing. In the US 2011 and 2008 data are very similar showing that there also does not seem to be an increase in the number of teenagers having sex. There is also good evidence that parents and role models can play a big role in their children’s sexual health. The National Survey of Family Growth conducted from 2006 to 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute and reported by Stephanie Pappas  on March 8 2012 on Livescience.com (Sex Education Delays Teen Sex) showed that teens young men and women 15-24 who received any sort of sex education were more likely to delay sex, and use contraception during their first sexual encounter. Another study in the June 15 2011 issue of the Montreal Gazette by Laura Baziuk reported that 45% of teens look to their parents as their sexual role models. (Over their friends, celebrities, or no one at all). So with girls being sexually aware at a younger age parents should prepare themselves to talk to their daughters about sex earlier than ever. And read up before you do. She probably already knows a lot more than you think.

What does it mean to walk the walk? Were you there for SlutWalk 2012?

July 26, 2012

Over the last few months various “SlutWalks” have taken place across Canada, with some still on the agenda for the immediate future. These events have gained popularity since last year when they began over a flippant sexist comment made by an ignorant police officer, and organizers hope to make the marches annual events. The disgusting and offensive comment was made in Toronto by Constable Jackass Michael Sanguinetti who stated the following:
“women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Shockingly, this did not go over well with the public the good Constable was assigned to serve and protect. Many were outraged at the blatant attitude of victim blaming within police services this statement represented. Two Toronto women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized an event that brought thousands of women and men to protest in the streets of Toronto and in front of police headquarters to demand accountability for their attitudes towards women and victims of sexual assault. They called it SlutWalk. Since then, SlutWalks have been organized in many other cities in Canada, the US and around the world. Some cities, such as the one I live in (Vancouver), have already had the pleasure experiencing round 2, SlutWalk 2012. These events are carefully planned, with organizers regularly updating websites, twitter feeds, facebook sites etc. Some websites even allow supporters to donate money through the site to cover organizational costs. Many of the websites outline their own mission statements, values and goals which are generally congruent with each other and adapted from the “original” SlutWalk Toronto website.

The SlutWalk Toronto website, (www.slutwalktoronto.com), lists among their main goals advocacy against “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”. From the website: “Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation……so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated…….We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault…..We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise…….Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come……Join us in our mission to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.”

On May 25 in Toronto about 1000 people took to the streets for SlutWalk 2012. The theme was “My Body is not an Insult”, however without any background information, a casual observer would be hard pressed to decipher a clear message from the diverse group of protesters who participated in the event/spectacle. Both women and men attended and were dressed in attire that ranged from the conservative (think business attire and even nuns habits) to lingerie. Some left most of their clothing at home choosing instead to go topless. Protesters displayed slogans everywhere from man made signs to t-shirts to bare flesh. Some phrases were clever and original while remaining moderate, relevantly bringing attention to the need for all of society to realize that the sexually victimized are never to blame under any circumstances.
“A dress is not a yes!”

“My dress doesn’t have a mouth but I do and I said  NO!”

“There is no Y-E-S in NO!”

Other statements were just crude with some making one wonder which side of the debate these people were really on.

“Sluts say yes” (Yes, this is for real. No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.)

“There’s no shaming this slut!”

“We’re taking slut back!” (Did we ever have it?)

“I’ll f**k just about anything, but only with consent.”

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Listen, I get the spirit of these protests. I was angry too when I heard Constable Sanguinetti’s statements. I agree that society has a way to go in the way that we view the victims of sexual assault. Sadly, opinions such as Sanguinetti’s are all too common. Women are often thought to have “asked for it” based on their style of dress, current or prior sexual escapades, line of work or attitude. Women get the message they should watch what they wear for fear of inciting rape when we should really be sending the message to men instead that raping a woman is never OK. It is especially unfortunate that those perfectly positioned to enable them to provide protection to those who have been victimized or who are most vulnerable would hold such misogynistic ideas. And it’s not just the police. In 2011 Manitoba Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar gave Kenneth Rhodes a conditional sentence instead of any jail time for a 2006 rape because he felt the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air” since she wore a tube top with no bra, high heels and lots of makeup, and flirted with Mr. Dewar before he forced himself on her on a dark highway. Justice Dewar said “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.” From his ridiculous sentencing it is unclear whether he meant he felt Mr. Rhodes (whom he referred to as a “clumsy Don Juan”) was inconsiderate for raping the victim or the victim was inconsiderate for being such a cock tease. But don’t worry, the judge redeemed himself by adding “I’m sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” Well at least he realizes the woman   didn’t MEAN to ask to get raped. The mentality behind this type of injustice is infuriating. But I still can’t bring myself to back the SlutWalk movement.

I support the SlutWalk mission to bring attention to the mentality of victim blaming wholeheartedly and to try to change this. But ending slut shaming? Taking the word slut back? Calling myself a slut? You see, this is where the whole movement loses momentum with me. I don’t want to be called a slut, or any other derogatory term used to degrade and belittle women. The participants in SlutWalk seem to believe that by reclaiming the word ‘slut’ for themselves they are embracing and owning their sexual independence. I call bullshit. Regardless of whether you call yourself a slut or a prude or any other term used to sexually oppress women, you are really just giving more power and validity to these misogynistic words which have been used for decades or centuries in some cases to attack, shame, and demoralize women. It is not feminism to conform exactly to the chauvinist idea of “sluttish” and to do it of your own accord in an effort to show the world that you are in control of your body and your sexuality.  Why would a woman want to proudly march in her skivvies with the word SLUT emblazened across her chest and be proud to bear this title which for so long has been used as a weapon thrown at women to punish them for their sexuality? Is this not the exact opposite of what the SlutWalk is trying to accomplish?

I’m going to be staying at home for SlutWalk 2013 in Vancouver. This will be my own silent protest. You should think about joining me.

Fifty Shades of Assault and Battery: There’s Heat in the Beat

June 15, 2012

I became curious about the book “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James while in London where it was the subject of billboard advertisements everywhere. Londoners seem to place more importance on reading than us here in North America, although as it turns out they are no less seduced by smut as this work of “literature” proves. On return to Canada I spotted women everywhere with this book in hand, and started to hear snippets about it in eavesdropped conversations and even in the news, where it has been dubbed “mommy porn” due to it’s graphic sex scenes and popularity among middle aged women.

I enjoy reading. While I have varied taste in books, I like to think that a common thread between my favorites is that they are all at least somewhat thought-provoking, serve to conjur up emotion in the reader, and are well written. But I will admit I have read and even enjoyed my fair share of  fluff. Sometimes you just have to rest your mind, and get out of your head a little bit. A cheesy, tasteless or tawdry novel is like the literary version of reality TV but better. The characters look however you imagine them to, they don’t all speak at once, and you don’t need to wait until next week to tune in. Also like reality TV, you are often embarrassed to admit you are a fan. I borrowed the Twilight trilogy from a friend, thus avoiding that embarrassing purchase. Unfortunately I was not so lucky with The Hunger Games. Although I muttered something about the books (the last 2 of which I bought at the same time to avoid humiliation three times) “being for my niece”, I’m sure it was pretty clear by my “Team Peeta” button this was not the case. “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic” were ebook purchases, the greatest invention ever for concealing kitschy novels. And the “Gossip Girl” novel? Stolen from my fiancee. He purchased it from an airport bookstore to read on a plane. Sorry honey, the cat’s out of the bag. But I digress. The point is, my curiosity as well as my desire for a mindless and entertaining book to read on the plane back to Vancouver after my sister’s wedding trumped the potential mortification that would ensue had anyone I knew seen me buy the book in question, and I finally purchased and read “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Now, I have never read a romance novel before, and I wouldn’t call this a romance novel in the same sense that I imagine the books I see older blue-haired women reading, with Fabio on the cover kissing beautiful women in flowing dresses surrounded by gardens of roses. The books with names like “Stolen Kisses” or A Midnight Adventure”. I wouldn’t exactly call it “porn” either, but there is a lot of sex in the book. I don’t want to rehash the whole plot, but basically girl (Anastasia) meets boy (Christian). She’s a virgin, he’s into S&M. He wants her to be his little pet, or submissive as they call it in the book. He even wants her to sign some contract to the same effect. She isn’t so sure. They have sex. About a million times. She’s uncomfortable with his sadistic sexual tendencies. She tries to get to know him but he won’t let her because he’s had a bad childhood. Because of his dominant tendancies he tries to control her. She resists. Eventually it doesn’t work, they break up and in the end they are both heartbroken. Cliffhanger which makes reader want to read second book of trilogy. Which I of course do. And then the third.

I have read several reviews of this trilogy. Most focus on the sex. Apparently sex in books is very controversial. You can turn on HBO and basically watch two people having intercourse, but god forbid we read about it in a book. I have gathered that one of the main issues is that some libraries are carrying the book and the concern is that children could get a hold of it. First of all, wouldn’t the libraries have some type of policy that adult materials be checked out by adults only? Secondly, shouldn’t parents have at least some involvement in their children’s lives here? When I was a young child, I wasn’t fleeting off to the library on my own. Furthermore, my parents were aware of what I was reading, watching on TV, listening to on my ghetto blaster (ah, the old days), and who I was talking to on the phone. When I was old enough to go to the library by myself, I was a teenager. And believe me, teenagers today have seen a lot more shocking things than they could read about in this book, no matter what Sarah Palin tells you. Other critics claim the book is “unrealistic” in terms of the amount and, ahem, ‘quality’ of her sexual encounters. While unlike some, I have not counted the number of orgasms in the trilogy (in fact by the end I was skipping the repetitive sex scenes altogether) I agree the numbers are outstanding. But it is a work of fiction. Furthermore, how interesting would a book be that read: (Spoiler alert! Excerpt from book:)”How he’s making me feel that familiar pull deep in my belly, tightening, quickening. NO…and my traitorous body explodes in an intense, body shattering…” (my alternate ending) “Shit!!! Baby, are you done already?” Many women love the book. They claim it is erotic, and that it is empowering to women because it was written by a woman. Uh huh. Never mind the fact that the protagonist is a young virgin who is being controlled by a dominating man who likes to spank her and “punish her” when she doesn’t “obey” him. She talks a lot to her “inner goddess” and refuses to quit her job so clearly she’s a strong woman. While it would seem men would enjoy the book, apparently not so. While Christian Grey is clearly dominant within the relationship, he is still extremely attentive and aims to please in the bedroom, and this doesn’t sit well with the men out there. It places undue pressure on them from the scores of female readers who want their own Christian Grey, sexual god and orgasm wizard.

These are all valid criticisms. But I can’t help but but be puzzled that people seem to be missing the biggest elephant in the room when appraising this book. Sure it is often noted (as it is in the book) that Christian Grey is ‘a little obsessive’ or ‘stalkerish’. But as I read the book, all I could think was “Get out! Get out now!!” This is an abusive relationship if I have ever seen one. All the red flags are there, and this girl, while being portrayed as intelligent and strong, just isn’t seeing them. Or worse, she is, but she is choosing to ignore them. Is there a worse message that a female writer could send to a predominantly female target audience? Anastasia continually forgives and excuses Christian’s bad behavior because of his troubled past. She allows him to avoid facing his past, his temper and his control issues by using sex to pacify and distract her. She makes excuses for him to others and herself, explaining his abusive behavior away as a need to protect her. If you disagree with me, look at the criteria.

You may be in an abusive relationship if he or she:

1) Is jealous or possessive toward you.  Check.
2)Tries to control you by being very bossy or demanding.  Double check.
3)Tries to isolate you by demanding you cut off social contacts and friendships.  Yup. Got angry when she didn’t tell him she was going to visit mom. Doesn’t like her going out with friends.
4)Is violent and / or loses his or her temper quickly.  Yes
5)Pressures you sexually, demands sexual activities you are not comfortable with.  I believe this is premise of book.
6)Abuses drugs or alcohol.  This may be a stretch, but seems to glurp wine/champagne entire book.
7)Claims you are responsible for his or her emotional state. (This is a core diagnostic criteria for Codependency.)  A favorite phrase is “Oh Anastasia, what are you doing to me?”
8)Blames you when he or she mistreats you.  See above
9)Has a history of bad relationships.  Yes
10)Your family and friends have warned you about the person or told you that they are concerned for your safety or emotional well being.  Best friend Kate warns her.
11)You frequently worry about how he or she will react to things you say or do.  She constantly worries about how mad he will be.
12)Makes “jokes” that shame, humiliate, demean or embarrass you, weather privately or around family and friends.  Not applicable. He never makes jokes.
13)Your partner grew up witnessing an abusive parental relationship, and/or was abused as a child.  Yes.
14)Your partner “rages” when they feel hurt, shame, fear or loss of control.  Yes.
15)Both parties in abusive relationships may develop or progress in drug or alcohol dependence in a (dysfunctional) attempt to cope with the pain.  4th book??
16)You leave and then return to your partner repeatedly, against the advice of your friends, family and loved ones.  Once so far.
17)You have trouble ending the relationship, even though you know inside it’s the right thing to do.  She’s too dumb to know it’s the right thing to do. She’s 21. And she thinks they’re soul mates.
(Courtesy of http://www.recovery-man.com)

Well there we have it. I once watched a movie called Boxing Helena. It was about a surgeon who was so obsessed with a woman that when he couldn’t have her he amputated her limbs and literally put her in a box in his gigantic house. I once dated a man who made me feel like I was living in a box. At first I found his attentiveness flattering. Then his constant questioning of where I was going and who I was going with, his checking up on me and jealous outbursts were smothering. When he followed me out for dinner with a good male friend it was over the top. When I finally broke up with him and he locked me in his car, drove 100 miles an hour to a deserted location and threatened to kill me it was downright terrifying. I’m lucky I’m here. Many women are not. So when I read a book like this that casually dismisses dangerous behavior I find it frightening. There is no shame in enjoying the book for what it is. Overlook all the other flaws. But keep this one in the back of your mind. This book is a work of fiction. In the book, the characters live happily ever after. In reality, they would not. So if you or anyone you know is in a relationship like this, please help them get out. Even if the man is gorgeous and rich and gives her an orgasm every time he touches her.