Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Like it or Not...Rape Culture Exists

April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and yet it took the recent school shooting at the University of Southern California, Santa Barbara to bring the subject to light.  Never have I been prouder to be a part of a social media platform than on May 23rd, when thousands of women on Twitter poured their fears and experiences into the hashtag #YesAllWomen.  The flood of tweets and Facebook convos that ensued made me realize how disillusioned we are about the culture which is raping us of our sexual freedoms.  Not all men are rapists, and not all women are victims, but until we have an open dialogue about the social issues plaguing this country…hell, the world…then this, like many social issues, will go by the wayside without eliciting a single change.  Sex is fun and exciting, but it can be terrifying and confusing as well.  And until we relinquish societal control over our genitals and what we do with them, then we as a people will never truly be free.


What surprised me most about the debate over #YesAllWomen is how defensive people were.  Men and women alike jumped to defend their position with excuses that ranged from “Not all men are rapists; I’m not a rapist,” to “These women are just big old whiners.”  In my own life, I watched my husband forced to defend himself on Facebook from his friends when apologizing for his own contribution to the rape culture—a brave sentiment, and one echoed by countless other men in the wake of #YesAllWomen.  It was frustrating watching the debate unfold, knowing what I know about sexual and gender inequality in this country.  And when the conversation inevitably turned to the NRA and mental illness, I had to laugh.  As if there is only enough righteous indignation for one societal injustice at a time.

Elliot Rodger’s rampage through Santa Barbara exposed the worse in our culture—a triple-faceted mirror that we have writhed from because it reflects all too honestly our own contribution to the problem.  And when backed in a corner, any animal’s first reaction is to fight, to lash out and defend ourselves, our actions, our words, even if they’re indefensible.  I do not defend Rodger’s actions, but I can pity him.  He was the product of a misogynistic society which places so much emphasis on gender performativity that he—like so many other people—didn’t realize that no man or woman can comfortably fit this invisible mold.  Elliot Rodger’s, like so many of us, was a product of rape culture—a term that has been hotly debated the last few days, but one I feel envelopes the problem at hand.





Rape culture goes deeper than the act of forcible sexual penetration.  It is a culture which perpetuates sexual violence, gender roles and misogyny, making all of the above part of our social norm.  It is the reason why a man in Texas got a lesser sentence after raping a 14-year-old girl because “she wasn’t the victim she claimed to be” and why trans-vaginal ultrasounds may soon be the norm for any female requesting an abortion.  It’s why five year old Billy isn't allowed to play with a pink bouncy ball, even though it’s his favorite color, or why there’s such stigma over the “effeminate male” or “butch female” even within the homosexual community.  And if you happen to be transgendered, you've broken all of society’s expectations for you, and your scrutiny is far and wide.  Rape culture isn't just about rape.  It’s about you and me.  Societal expectations versus our own.  It’s about a lack of empathy, of righting our wrongs, of teaching others tolerance and compassion.  

Over the past few days I’ve read A LOT of opinions—everything from gun control and mental health, feminism, and even semantics has been argued.  I’ve been angry by what I perceived as ignorance.  How can anyone live in this country and not see how rape culture has saturated everything since its puritanical foundation?  And then I remembered:  I was part of the problem too.  In many ways, I still am.  A gay, cisgendered male who has gone without kissing my husband because it might affect my tips at work.  A brother who couldn’t quite wrap his mind around it when his sister began talking about the ghosts of sexual abuse she had never mentioned before.  She was having a mental break down, so she had to be making it up…right?  A timid co-worker who walked away silent but outraged after watching three of my female friends accosted by an employee I knew made them feel uncomfortable.  They didn’t want to stir the pot, so why didn’t I pick up the spoon?



That is the cultural decision you and I face.  Do we stand idly by and watch, powerless as our individuality is raped?  Or do we fight and scream, and, in the words of Ghandi, “be the change we wish to see in the world”?  Like I said, I’ve read a lot of opinion pieces over the tragedy in USC, and the reactions of people who either agree or disagree with the misogyny prominent in this country, but blogger Neil Gaiman’s was probably the most profound.  In an article for Slate, Gaiman writes:

“Even though we may not be the direct problem, we still participate in the cultural problem.  If we’re quiet, we’re part of the problem.  If we don’t listen, if we don’t help, if we let things slide for whatever reason, then we’re part of the problem too. 

We men need to do better.”

I’m going to take it one step further—we as individuals need to do better.  The problem with rape culture isn’t about male vs. female.  It’s about the male/female dichotomy.  Gender roles that were assigned to us the moment someone else saw the tiny genitals between our legs.  Before we ever grasped on to our first tangible memory, we were boys and girls, football players or ballerinas.  And when asked, most of us naturally gravitated to that end of the spectrum we were told we fit on.  If we didn’t, then there was hell to be paid.  But as societal norms and expectations shift, we as a people are faced with the choice to either stay stagnant in those belief systems that can be so confining, or to expand our minds and realize that everything society teaches about sex, sexuality and gender is simply…misconstrued.

A few weeks ago I wrote about sexual abuse, a rushed piece, but a piece I felt I needed to write after Sexual Abuse Awareness Month in April.  In it, I discussed a 14-year old boy who faced being tried as an adult for the rape of his 8 year-old cousin.  While his actions were horrifying, I couldn’t help but wonder what in his young little life led him to commit such a violent act against a member of his own family.  I went on to talk about the need to educate children about sex and sexuality, a conversation many parents feel is uncomfortable to have with their child.  Uncomfortable as it may be, though, it is more important than ever to open that line of communication.  And not just about the physical act of sex.  Kids need to know there can be passion and tenderness, respect and trust.  Boys and girls of all genders need to know they have worth in this throw-away culture they find themselves in.  And above all, they need to trust that you’ll be there for them if it all goes wrong.

Rape culture, like gun control and civil rights—is a serious issue, and one we cannot continue to sweep under the rug.  Change is never won with silence.  Yet, in every social movement there are those blissfully unaware that they are just as affected as the movers and shakers making the most noise, those comfortable in their own oppression.  Does that make them any less deserving of the same respect and equality as the people who are fighting the good fight?  No.  If anything, they deserve it more.  After all, sometimes it takes seeing freedom to lust after it yourself. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Longest Kiss...


You see that kiss on ESPN?  If you didn’t, just turn to any media outlet and you’ll hear a maelstrom of commentary about it.  Like these ladies:        



Anyone who knows me knows that I loathe sports, so why the hell would I be watching ESPN?  But that’s all I’ve heard about for the past two days:  lots of little taglines celebrating or despising the occasion.  Talking heads walking off stage because they’re so offended.  So I’m going to concentrate my opinion into one three-syllable word:

Disgusting.

It is disgusting how Michael Sam’s love life is suddenly in the limelight.  Disgusting how, as a culture, we idolize our celebrities and everything in their lives.  Disgusting how Michael Sam had to make a choice between coming out or allowing the media to out him.  He chose his own path, a courageous move and one that should be celebrated.  Yet somehow, the gay community has embraced his coming out as if it were their own, as if Michael Sam is more important than the no-name queer down the road whose family has disowned him.

Disgusting.

It is disgusting that the media finds Michael Sam’s love life more important than other news:  climate change or world conflict; starving children or the growing gap between the rich and poor.  Disgusting how I can watch the news, and suddenly I’m listening to the opinions of uppity white people who take offense against something that is absolutely NONE of their business.  And that’s what it comes down to! 

It is none of our fucking business.

In my first blog post I discussed Christ’s sexuality, and how involved our culture seems to be in the bedroom of a man who lived 2,000 years ago.  As a culture we are voyeuristic.  That’s the whole reason I started a blog about sex, to point out those facts and ideas that are sometimes overlooked in the sexual spectrum.  But you will never hear me tell you you’re wrong in the sex you have.  For example, I don’t want to get pissed on, but I understand there are people who do and to them I say, “Go get em champ!”  Why?  Because it is none of my fucking business what you do in your bedroom. 

To Michael Sam I wish only good fortune in his career and love life, but that is as far as my opinion goes on the subject.  That kiss didn't dissuade me from watching football.  Never watched it in the first place, and I don’t plan on starting.  Wish I could say the same about the NEWS, which seems to have become a platform to see who can make the most bigoted comment to drum up those ratings.       

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Penis: A Cultural Anxiety




Penis size is something I think most men think about as some point in their lives.  Just because some dude looks at your junk at the urinal, or at the gym, doesn’t necessarily mean he wants what he’s seeing.  He’s probably just sizing you up.  I think it is something culturally engrained into guys, especially here in America where bigger is better.   Therefore, we tend to give special recognition to those people with the biggest cocks.  Or tits.  Or ass.  If you don’t believe me, just Google Jon Hamm or Beyonce.  With all this emphasis on size, it’s no wonder girls are self-conscious about their bodies, or why I never showered in gym class.

Culture influences every aspect of our sexuality.  That’s why you never see people walking on leashes down the street in form-fitting latex, or why that couple making out on the park bench doesn’t just get it over with already.  It has been engrained into us what is and is not socially acceptable to do with our genitals—even in the privacy of our own homes.  Remember anti-sodomy laws?  With all these rules and regulations telling us how to perform sexually, no wonder certain cultures have developed anxiety disorders around that most erogenous of zones.

In 1967, an epidemic of sorts hit Singapore.  Men were rushing to hospitals by the handfuls, holding their cocks with anything they could find—fingers, rubber bands, chopsticks—begging for help.  A rumor had swept the country that tainted meat caused a condition known as suk-yeong, or koro.  Koro is an anxiety disorder common to southern and eastern Asia in which the victims worry obsessively about what they consider “sexual access,” and are often consumed with thoughts that their penises are shrinking (Kring, 183; Yap, 2; Mun, 640).  Similarly, a condition in China known as shenkui is characterized by intense anxiety and even physical pain over the loss of semen, or yang (Kring, 183).  Can you imagine being so scared of losing your man seed that you abstain from anything that may cause you to spill your load? 

Of course, conditions like koro and shenkui are becoming increasingly rare as cultural and sexual attitudes shift.  Today, China still holds its country by the short and curlies.  Despite being one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sex toys, pornography is banned, and there are strict laws concerning the distribution and advertisement of condoms.  Studies have shown, however, that a westernized shift is occurring in China’s sexual attitudes.  According to an article on Huffington Post, more than 70% of Chinese men and women claim to have had premarital sex, compared to 40% in 1994 and 15% in 1989 (Huffington Post).  This is a huge leap!  It shows that Chinese men aren’t just sitting around waiting for their dicks to fall off anymore, but are finally defining their own sexuality on their terms.  And who knows?  Maybe one day porn will be legal in China, and men will feel comfortable releasing their yang in the comforts of their own homes, without the stigma of feeling they’re letting their culture down.


Until next time… 

Sources:
Kring, Ann.  Abnormal Psychology, 12th Edition.  Wiley, 2012.  Print.

Yap, P. M.  “Koro—A Culture-bound Depersonalization Syndrome”.  BJPsych.  The British
Journal of Psychiatry, 1965.  Web.

Mun, Chong Tong.  “Epidemic Koro in Singapore”.  NCBI.  British Medical Journal, 9 March
1968.  Web.       

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/12/02/sex-culture-in-china-_n_4372241.html
  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Carol of the Bate


My self-proclaimed Penis Week couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate time.  May is Masturbation Month, a time for us all to reflect and rediscover our first true love—ourselves.  So today, in honor of masturbators everywhere, we’re going on a journey through this ageless art form as we discuss the past, present, and future of masturbation.

A Masturbation Carol, if you will. 

So don’t Scrooge yourself out of what might be the best O you get this month.  Kick back, relax, and let’s celebrate Masturbation Month the way it was meant to be celebrated.  And please, no gifts.  I’ve already given myself the greatest gift of all…and I loved it!

The Ghost of Masturbation Past

When I was a teenager, I remember riding home from church one afternoon with my youth pastor and his wife.  I was fifteen years old.  Pubescent as shit.  And I was masturbating like some obsessive-compulsive monkey.  I knew what the Bible said about sex before marriage...that was a sentence to hell.  As for masturbation, though, the Bible was relatively quiet.  So that afternoon, riding with my hip, young youth pastor and his wife, listening to some Kirk Franklin on the radio—it seemed like a great time to ask the question every young church boy needed to know:

Is masturbation a sin?

The conversation was as awkward as you might expect.  Of course, the Bible in and of itself is not exactly clear on the issue of masturbation, so the discussion turned quickly to sexual purity.  And since masturbation was essentially sex with oneself, I decided I needed to cut it out.  I prayed and prayed, went days and sometimes weeks without so much as looking at that vile, sinful thing between my legs.  And then one morning…POP!  It was like I exploded in my sleep.  That was my first real lesson in masturbation—biology always finds a way.

Since then, I’ve learned masturbation is a natural, healthy, safe form of sexual expression in both boys and girls.  According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, masturbation is common throughout the lifespan, with men of all ages reporting masturbating at some point within the past year, while only 40% of women reported doing so (Carroll, 250).  Research indicates this may be because women are more likely to feel the stigma of masturbation.  And who can blame them?  For centuries, people have gone to some fucked up lengths to suppress their urge to masturbate.

The 19th and 20th Centuries saw a number of patents to help people prevent their “self-abuse” (Wabash).  Such innovative, fun contraptions like these were designed to keep idle hands idle:  





Imagine popping a boner with one of those on, or having to go to the bathroom.  It must have been some kind of special hell for people fighting the urge to masturbate back in the day.  Masturbation was such a problem that in 1837 the Reverend Sylvester Graham invented a cracker that was designed to ward off the lust that would have us expending our “vital fluids” throughout the day.  That’s right, every time you eat a graham cracker you are fighting off the carnality that is sending you to the fiery abyss of hell. 

Of course, time moves on and sexual attitudes change.  Chastity devises have since been adopted by sexual fetishists as a method of BDSM, and graham crackers are, well, delicious.  The important thing to remember is that we cannot know where we are going sexually until we understand where we’ve been.  Luckily, our attitudes are more progressive today...somewhat.


The Ghost of Masturbation Present

Pornography has existed since the beginning of time.  I remember sneaking off with my friends to look our dads’ Playboys before we even knew what masturbation was, when I discovered porn I fapped it so much it’s a miracle my dick didn’t fall off.  But today’s kids have something I couldn’t fathom when I was growing up:

Smartphones.

Because of the smartphone, porn is literally at the palm of our hands.  We can watch it whenever and where ever we want.  On the subway.  In a restaurant.  At work.  See that dude across the room looking at his phone?  Chances are he’s watching porn, giving himself a mental wank before rushing home to finish the job.  Studies show that an estimated 36% of Internet users visit one or more porn sites a month, but that the average user visits porn sites approximately 8 times a month (Carroll, 507).  But is all this porn fucking with our minds?  Are we—and I shudder to think—masturbating too much?

One group of people thinks we are, and have started a movement to control their raging libidos.  In her article Hands Off, Emily Witt writes about a few men who have taken masturbation into their own hands.  Henry, for example, was burnt out and physically exhausted from his job and decided to quit masturbating in order to “cultivate a masculine energy that I wanted to apply in other parts of my life (Witt, 1)”.  The article also discusses Alexander Rhodes, a 23-year old college student and actor, and founder of a NoFap forum on Reddit.  NoFap.org is an online forum in which participants challenge themselves to abstain from any PMO (porn, masturbation, orgasm) for as long as they’d like.  They even give trophies of achievement for reaching certain goals…a week, a month…a year? 

Really? 

A fucking year?

But according to the website, abstaining from masturbation has often resulted in recovery from sexual dysfunction, increased self-control, and more hard drive space…because porn takes A LOT of hard drive space.  On the other hand, some websites encourage masturbation as a way of life.  Bateworld.com, for example, is an online community where members can openly discuss masturbation, post pictures and video of their own self-gratification, and encourage others to do the same.  Some members of the community even consider themselves solo-sexuals—that is, masturbation is the only form of sexual stimulation they engage in—and to them I say, Cheers!  These are the people who truly understand the reason for the season. 


While it is clear masturbation has become more mainstream than it once was, what about the future?  What does the future hold for the next generation of jerk offs?

The Ghost of Masturbation yet to Cum

I cared for an old diabetic once.  A double amputee in his seventies, his cock had long since deflated.  But that didn’t stop this ol’ boy.  He had a stint implanted into penis that would stiffen it via some sort of control in his thigh.  Whenever we saw him working that button, we knew it was time to give the man some privacy.  Not that he necessarily wanted to be alone, mind you.  This guy was proud that he could still jerk it, and didn’t care who watched.  And who could blame him?  If I’d won the battle against age and erectile disorder, I’d be proud too!

Erectile disorder affects 18% of men aged 50-59 (Carroll, 384), but that doesn’t mean a death sentence for our cocks.  A number of treatments exist to combat ED:  Viagra and Cialis; prosthesis implantation, like my buddy’s stint; penis pumps, which are designed to aid blood flow to that special place in every guy’s heart.  As science advances, however, the possibilities are endless.   Scientists are already working on nano technology that has the potential to target cancer at the cellular level, so who’s to say they can’t do the same for ED.  Better yet, maybe they will build a robot that will do it for us.  I’d let a robot jerk me off.  But only sometimes.  Let’s face it, no one can ever quite do it the way we can.

 God Bless Us, Every One

While there is still a lot of stigma surrounding masturbation, particularly FEMALE masturbation, one group has taken steps to take back their O.  The first annual Masturbate-a-thon was held in 2000.  Developed by Doctor Carol Queen, participants gathered donations for From Our Streets With Dignity, a non-profit organization that provides health care and social services for one of the country’s most controversial sex industries—sex workers (Taormino, 1).  Since then, the event has been held annually and aims to educate the public about sexuality, as well as remove some of the stigma of masturbation.  This year’s event was hosted on May 3rd in Montreal.  But don’t worry if you missed the festivities.  There is literally a party in your pants, and YOU are the guest of honor.  After all, it’s Masturbation Month!  So reach down there, and start celebrating.  If not for yourself, then do it for all those poor men and women who couldn’t take matters into their own hands the way we can, who were denied that singular freedom we take for granted today.

Works Cited:


Carroll, Janell L. Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity. Belmont: Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
   

Taormino, Tristan. “The Female Hard-On.”   The Village Voice Columns, 6 June 2000.  Web.   http://www.villagevoice.com/2000-06-06/columns/the-female-hard-on/

Wabash, Robert.  “The Top 10 Most Brutal Anti-Masturbation Devices.”  Ranker.  Web.  http://www.ranker.com/list/top-10-most-brutal-anti-masturbation-devices/robert-wabash?format=SLIDESHOW&page=1



Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Phallic Festival





We missed it guys!  Kanamara Matsuri, otherwise known as Japan’s National Penis Day, was on April 6th, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue the celebration.  After all, America doesn’t have any kind of phallic celebration.  As far as we’re concerned, the cock doesn’t exist.  In movies and television we sure get an eyeful of the female body—however photo shopped it may be.  But whenever we see a penis it is usually a tiny, flaccid thing, laughable to behold. 


Not in Japan, where penis monsters and dick parades hold a dear place in peoples’ hearts.  The legend goes like this:

When a woman refused the advances of a demon, the demon got pissed and gave her vagina some sharp ass teeth.  Pretending her privates had not been transformed into a bear trap, she tried to marry, twice, and both times the poor saps got their junk bit off.  Unable to live with her snapping vagina, or Vagina Dentata, if you want to get technical, the girl went to a black smith who decided the only way to get the thing to stop biting is to break that mother fucker’s teeth off.  So he built her an iron dildo, and the next time her vagina bit down on a cock, the cock bit back.

The myth dates back between the 16th and 17th century, when Japanese prostitutes gathered at the Kanayama shrine to pray for business and protection from disease.  Today, people gather at this shrine for what can only be described as THE BEST DAY EVER!  There are penis sculpture, penis lollipops, penis art, penis…EVERYTHING.  And don’t think you have to leave your little ones at home to enjoy the festivities.  Hell, bring the whole family.  Pay homage at one of the three cock altars, or mikoshi, or get your picture taken with this guy:



Call me bias, but the Japanese have the right idea.  Here in America we've tucked our penises away without celebration.  Well, I won't stand for it.  I hereby declare the rest of this week penis week, and on my blog i'm the king of dicks.  For the next 7 days I am going to write about any and all dick related items.  And as always, feel free to erect your own penis-related stories, and let's celebrate the cock together

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