Boobquake: One Step Forward in Overcoming Shame

May 1, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Posted in Shame | 1 Comment
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Okay, so it’s a new month, and therefore, I should try to update a bit.

So last Monday, a bunch of us on the Internets celebrated the much-renowned “Boobquake.” I wore a somewhat low-cut shirt to celebrate myself, but I had work all day, so the low-cut-ness had to be curbed a bit compared to what it would be had I not been in my office all day.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? How about checking it out, as well as some responses:

Original Post/ProposalFacebook EventA Clarification on BoobquakeThe Results Are InA Feminist Defense of Boobquake – Why Boobquake Isn’t Destroying Feminism

Now that I’ve given you a not-so-small novel to read (and that’s not even all I’d recommend reading on it, but I figured I’d get on with my rant), let me put this out there: I fully support the Boobquake event.

I agree with all of the feminist reasoning behind the event; feminism is about choice, and therefore, we ought to have the freedom to choose whether we show off our tits or cover ’em up, and regardless of our choice, we have the right not to encounter sexism, objectification, anger, suppression, oppression….

Or shame.

From a queer perspective, Boobquake is fantastic. As a community, LGBTQ people have been battling with shame for as long as our communal memory can remember. From Oscar Wilde with the “open secret” (i.e. those who knew to look for homosexuality in his works saw it, but those who didn’t know wouldn’t see it, and no one talked about it because then they’d be admitting to being “in on the secret,” and no “good” person even considered homosexuality in the world, so you don’t talk about it lest you be accused of sodomy) to transpeople who get arrested while using the restroom to young lesbians told they can’t go to prom in a tux because that’s a boy thing to do, shame has been a big part of the queer experience.  Shame regarding our orientations, our gender identities, our masculine or feminine external styling, our lifestyles, our proclivities, our politics, our relationships, our families… and our bodies.

As a person in Western culture, I have been taught to be ashamed of my body. Especially as a woman in American culture, I have been commanded to be ashamed of my body. I’m too short, I’m too fat, I’m too curvy, I’m too pale, I’m too freckle-y, I’m too imperfect.

And if I’m the only one who’d been made to feel this way, I’ll eat the wire plugged into my laptop.

Many of us respond to this shaming by shrinking away, trying to fit in to what would be less shameful: trying to lose or gain weight, wearing push-up or minimizing bras, getting plastic surgery, wearing makeup, or if we can’t make our bodies better, we cover them up with clothing.

You know what I say to that?

Fuck. That.

I’m not going to let them shame me about my body, and neither should you. Those so-called “feminists” who oppose Boobquake on the “men are pigs, and you’re just feeding the wolf-whistling machine” reasoning don’t get it. Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, the prayer leader in Iran who said,

Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes

What was he doing with that statement? Not only saying something hilarious for us to make fun of online (Increases earthquakes? I mean, really?), but he was shaming women who are comfortable showing their bodies in public. He was shaming women for having body parts which men find attractive. He was also shaming men who are attracted to women’s bodies.

These men and women who call themselves “feminists” and yet believe that Boobquake is a backwards step for feminism–they’re doing the exact same thing. They’re shaming women who want to show off their assets. They’re shaming those of us who appreciate the aesthetic value of boobs. They’re shaming boobs themselves.

Let’s get this straight: Boobs are awesome.

You know what’s not awesome?

Here’s what’s not awesome: Shame. A one-size-fits-all view for how women should show their bodies. Urging suppression of choice. Treating women as objects which happen to carry some tits on them. Treating men as animals who can’t control their actions when faced with the sight of some cleavage.

And I’ll say it again: Shame. Shame is not awesome. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of awesome. It does no one any good any any level. Those who are ashamed of their bodies are more likely to harm them. (Whether by crash-dieting which causes more harm than good, by binge-eating comfort foods, by going under the knife unnecessarily only to wake up from the anesthesia to realize the lipo didn’t suck away their self-doubt, by self-injury, by committing suicide… the list goes on.) People who are proud of and comfortable in their bodies are more likely to live healthy lifestyles. In my own struggle to lose weight, the pounds only started slipping away after I became comfortable in the skin I was in; when I was ashamed of my body, I’d “cheat” on my diet more and more and only ended up gaining weight. However, as soon as I started loving myself and realizing that I can feel beautiful even 40 pounds overweight, hey! Look at that! Six weeks later, I’m down 10 pounds. I loved myself, and instead of reaching for the chocolate to make myself feel better for a minute only to have that feeling slip away as soon as I swallowed, I wanted to eat a salad and take the long way to work so I could walk more. Instead of beating myself up because I didn’t look like the magazines told me I should look like, I gave myself a hug and a smile and a little bit of self-love which, in turn, made me healthier.

Telling me to hide my tits because oh noes, the big bad men could enjoy the sight and do something awful (*Gasp!*)… that’s only going to harm me. Don’t tell me to hide my body. Tell those who objectify women to get their heads out of their asses and treat women like human beings rather than walking pairs of tits. Tell whose who refuse to accept transpeople to wake up and enter the 21st century, where we recognize a person’s right to dress and identify however he/she/ze wants. Tell those who can’t get past the need to shame others for their bodies to grow up, because we’re not on the kindergarten playground anymore. Though even on the kindergarten playground, my teacher would have put me in time-out if I’d made fun of someone for dressing a certain way.

Don’t want to see my tits? Don’t look at them. If you do, I’m not ashamed of them, and here they are.

I'm not ashamed of my cleavage. And no Muslim cleric or anti-feminist blog-commenter will change that.

The queer community has a long way to go before we overcome the centuries of shame placed upon us. But light-hearted events which poke fun at those who put that shame on us can only help. And that, my friends, is why I support Boobquake.

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Sex and Entitlement

April 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Let's Get Personal, Sexual Assault | 5 Comments
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Oh man. I’ve been such a delinquent about updating. And there’s so much I want to write on. But with this new job… (apparently, on Capitol Hill, “40 hours a week” really means “well, 40, plus coming in early to prep for meetings, and staying late to wait for the UPS delivery guy who’s stuck in traffic, plus a weekend here and there, and waiting around for Congress to vote so you can update the Twitter feed in real-time, so uh, maybe 55? 60? Yeah, that’s more like it.” Don’t get me wrong; I love my job, and it’s giving me fantastic experience in what I want to go into (outreach & nonprofit management), but man. Free time is hard to come by.)

There is so much going on and I have so much to say about it. It’s ridonculous.

But let’s get to one thing that’s got me riled up at this very moment. Perhaps this is getting too much attention as it is. And perhaps I’ll have trouble relating it directly to the supposed topic of this blog. But it’s a bit personal for me.

The Alex Knepper Debacle.

(Don’t know what I’m talking about? Look at the original article in AU’s newspaper, the Eagle; the first article I happened to come across about it; and the Letters to the Editor written to the Eagle that have been posted online. If you want more, The Huffington Post has posted a bit more on it as well, including video.)

I’m not going to resort to calling Knepper names and bitching about as him as a person, but only because that has been done so much and so well already, so I’m going to move on to the more elemental problem at hand.

I’ll give you a hint: It’s not Knepper. He’s just one product of a trend on college campuses in particular, but also everywhere else across the country. This trend has many names and has been discussed at much length, but even those often don’t seem to get to the deeper problem at hand.

It’s been called Rape Culture, Predator Theory, the Commodity Model, among dozens of others. But at the root of all of these, there’s a little nugget of a belief that the rest grows out of.

A false sense of entitlement.

It all stems from an aggressor’s belief that that person “deserves” sex. I say aggressor, and not a gender-specific term, because men, women, and all those in between can, and have, both perpetrated and been victims of rape, sexual assault, molestation, and abuse of all kinds. If I believe that I deserve sex, then I will have few, if any, qualms about trying my darnedest to get it by any means necessary. If I see a girl drunk at a party, and lure her into my room, and start groping her even though she’s slurring her words… it’s not because I think she wants it. It’s because I think I want it and I think that I should have it, if for no other reason than the fact that I was slick enough to get her alone in a room where no one else could hear her if she protested.

Let’s get a few points out there.

  • It doesn’t matter what a person wears. If a girl is wearing a micro-mini and a halter top, that doesn’t mean she wants sex. It just means she’s comfortable showing off some skin. I’ve been to certain parties where more skin was showing than I would even dare show on a public beach, and yet no one there would have been brazen enough to assume that I wanted sex for it. I simply was comfortable being mostly nude in a group situation where such is acceptable. I could be wearing jeans, a loose sweater, and a scarf, and yet want sex more than I did during that clothing-optional party.
  • It doesn’t matter where you are. Showing up to a certain bar or party doesn’t mean a person signed a contract saying they agree to have sex with whomever approaches them. Or even with whomever they decide to make out with. It might mean they’re looking around to see who’s available. But it doesn’t mean they’re inherently going to decide to have sex with someone.
  • If a person is too drunk to say no, that doesn’t mean that person says yes.
  • Consent can be revoked at any time, and once it is, proceeding any further is assault. Period.
  • If someone asks for their partner to use protection, and that partner “pretends” to agree and removes protection partway through, that is also a form of assault.
  • Men, who are the perpetrators in the vast majority of sexual assault, do, in fact, have brains and are, in fact, capable of making moral decisions. In fact, they are even capable of doing so while drunk. Therefore, we can’t belittle men by saying they “can’t help it,” when that is such a gross underestimation of the capabilities of half of our species.
  • The relationship between two people makes no difference regarding the need for consent. A husband can rape a wife, a girlfriend can assault her boyfriend, and a person can molest their best friend… just as much as strangers are capable of such.
  • One night stands are not inherently bad, and drunken hookups aren’t necessarily going to lead to assault. I’ve had men I brought home for a drunken one-night stand ask me if I liked something, or if it was okay to proceed to something else. And no, it wasn’t awkward. Just whisper it riiiight next to my ear… and it could be sexy no matter what you’re saying. Even if it’s something like, “You want me inside you?” “Do you have protection?” “Do you like [insert sexual act you want to do next here]?” All of these are very simple ways of obtaining verbal consent from someone whose body language you don’t necessarily know well enough to read straight-out. Or of making someone even more hot and bothered. I know I get more worked up when someone teases me with a suggestion before proceeding. It’s hot.
  • Sex which respects women, often called “feminist sex,” is not boring. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite. I’ve had very liberating sexual experiences which involved ropes, leather, more than two people, voyeurism, exhibitionism, power play, feathers, whips, toys, and non-bedroom locations which allowed for respect of both myself and my partner(s). And I don’t even consider myself into kink. I just like sex… a lot. And I enjoy exploring new things with someone who I find myself being comfortable with. Not all of the aforementioned situations are ones which I have much interest in repeating (some I very much would–I’ll keep you guessing as to which are which), but I was free to explore such possibilities with a partner or two (or more) while being respected for what I did and didn’t like/want. And that, my friends, is “feminist sex.” Or, as I prefer to call it, “real sex.” Any sex that doesn’t respect all partners involved stops being sex and starts being assault.
  • Most importantly: sex is a joint venture and should be approached as such. And this is where we get to the entitlement bit.

Right vs. Privilege

Now, sex is both a right and a privilege. But the differentiation between the two is very important. I’m creating a theorem which goes as follows:

Part I:
You have the right to have sex without the interference from others outside of the participants in the sex.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have sex in X, Y, or Z ways and feel the need to listen to them unless you want to. Nobody can tell you that sleeping with someone of a certain gender is wrong, or that sex using toys is disgusting, or that consensual power play doesn’t belong in sex. Well, okay, they can tell you… but they don’t have the right to enforce that unless you’re breaking laws (i.e. someone underage) or conflicting with Part II, which is…

Part II:
However, having sex with your partner(s) is a privilege, not a right.

You don’t have a right to anyone else’s body. You have the right to your own. But access to another’s body is a privilege that only that person can grant you.

The problem of which Knepper is only one point of evidence is a faulty misconception of Part II; mainly, that it doesn’t exist. He, along with many others in our culture, have the misconception that if they “get” a partner to Point A, then they “deserve” to get to Point B with them.

This leads to various displays in faulty logic:

  • If I make out with you, I deserve to go farther with you.
  • If I get you alone in a room, I deserve to grope you.
  • If I get you naked in bed, I deserve to have sex with you.
  • If I buy you dinner, I deserve to have sex with you.
  • If I start having sex with you, I deserve to finish having sex with you.

All of the above are blatantly untrue. Better statements follow:

  • If I make out with you, I would like to go farther with you.
  • If I get you alone in a room, I would like to grope you.
  • If I get you naked in bed, I would like to have sex with you.
  • If I buy you dinner, I would like to have sex with you.
  • If I start having sex with you, I would like to finish having sex with you.

Why are these so, so much better? Because they place the responsibility for giving permission to proceed the next step not on some amorphous concept of what a person “deserves,” but rather they place that responsibility on the partner(s) to grant or withhold. (I emphasize again: or withhold.)

I believe I am entitled to enjoy sex. Just not necessarily with a specific person at a specific time. I am entitled to not being treated as an object or with disrespect by anyone whom I choose to hook up with, and I am entitled to say no to anyone whom I choose not to hook up with. However, any potential partners? They all have the exact same entitlement. And no more.

That ends my argument for now. I’d love your feedback, positive or negative, agreeable or not. I only ask a few things: respect, no name-calling, and no victim-blaming, please.

Want more on the topic? Head to one of my favorite blogs, “Yes Means Yes!” kept by the authors of a book by the same name:

(PS: I said this was personal. I have just recently begun the process of “coming out” as a survival of sexual assault. I would like to share my story, but feel it’s not the best forum to do so in this context. Why? Since I’m just beginning to find myself and come into my own and rebuild my personal strength after my ordeal, I would prefer not to experience attacks on my personal experience quite yet. I was diagnosed with PTSD a few months after the attack, and while I can handle attacks on my arguments above, I’m not quite ready to handle criticism of my personal experience. I’m still a bit emotionally fragile. I have dealt with intellectual debate for long enough to be able to discuss the topics I’ve posted thus far, even with intense opposition… but I’m not quite prepared to stave off the hurt that would come from degradations on my personal experience, which was relatively recent. Therefore, I will share my story in a different post.)

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