Gender Bias in Statutory Rape

When I was in my senior year of high school, my physics teacher was arrested for sexual assault. Turned out he had been having sex with a 17-year old student and sexting a few more. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 10 years probation.

This is Molly Shattuck. She was a cheerleader for the Baltimore Ravens and now does fitness or something. She's 47 years old. On Friday she received her sentence after pleading guilty to statutory rape of a 15 year old boy. Statutory rape is sexual activity where one person is below the age of consent. It is illegal. In Delaware, the age of consent is 16, but statutory rape also applies when the victim is under 18 if the perpetrator is over 30. A minor cannot consent to sex. This should not surprise anyone.

Shattuck faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The victim's parents pressed for jail time. His mom argued, "Ms. Shattuck is a criminal. She stole his innocence. He is changed," and "any adult who rapes a child deserves to be in prison." The impact has been undeniably devastating on the family.

But Shattuck didn't get the maximum. Instead, she was sentenced to 48 weekends in jail, which she will serve over the next 2 years. So, every other weekend she just has to visit a Violation of Probation Center. The DA didn't want to "punish her three kids." She gets to still raise her son after assaulting his friend. Her ex-husband, the children's father is one of the wealthiest men in America, but apparently being raised by your father is worse than being raised by a rapist and pedophile.

Every single article I've found about this has mentioned her crying. She "spoke through sobs" or was "incredibly tearful." Some attribute it to the breakup of her marriage, and claim she was "emotionally distraught" after her husband "abruptly left her for a younger woman." They actually separated back in 2013 and have been remarkably friendly, but whatever. Maurer (Shattuck's attorney) even claimed Shattuck and the boy were mutually interested in each other. "When you read the text messages, it almost looks like there's a romantic relationship going on between two adults," he said. Except a 15-year-old is not an adult. Rape is not romantic.

You want to know how sexism hurts? Look at this. Why are we talking about statutory rape differently when it happens to a boy? Why, when my teacher has Skype sex with my classmate, who has stated it was "exciting" and "went along with it," was it reported as "he repeatedly pressured her" and "forced her," but when a woman drove a FIFTEEN YEAR OLD to an empty parking lot, gave him a beer, and forced him to kiss her, it's described as a romantic relationship?

Why are we having a hard time labeling a woman as a pedophile or a rapist? Why is her being with her children more important than their safety, or the safety of other children in the community? Why is there an endless string of comments along the lines of "I wish she would rape me" or "What a lucky kid" or "Where where moms like that when I was a kid?"

Statutory rape wasn't even believed to be possible between a young boy and an older woman until the late 70s. It was just ignored, because people interpreted it as "sexual initiation" for the boy. This is how sexism hurts. Statutory rape involving a male victim is equally as criminal and damaging as when it occurs with a female victim. The rapist is equally as responsible and should be punished equally. We need to stop pretending that this is funny, or lucky, or ok. Because it's not.


You Can't Make a Whore a Housewife

Nothing gets me hotter than a properly cited argument. I've had many a dream about a well thought out, thoroughly fact checked, calm and clear debate partner. I wish I could share some of that with you. Instead, here's the stupidest slut-shaming I found this week.

"You can't make a whore a housewife. Girls who are sluts make terrible wives. "

The "whore/housewife" alliteration has a pretty nice ring to it, and actually has some sort of citation. This report is from the National Marriage Project, and claims that women who have had more sexual partners report lower levels of marital happiness. Other sources have criticized the confusion between correlation and causation already, but I'm just going to tear the whole thing apart.

It starts by talking about Bradgelina (I'm serious) and makes no subtle hints about their main point: "[F]or women, having had fewer sexual partners before marriage was also related to higher marital quality... [S]ex with many different partners may be risky if you’re looking for a high-quality marriage." (For the record, at no point throughout their study do they acknowledge or compare differences found between men and women).

Let's look at the actual data. They defined "high quality marriage" as a marriage that scored in the top 40% of their sample, which is weirdly arbitrary. They used a four-item version of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. That scale usually has 32 items, but this study asked four questions. On a one to five (sometimes six) scale, they asked participants to rate relationship happiness, thoughts about dissolution, frequency of confiding in one another, and in general, how well things are going between the partners (which added to a total of 21 points). By their cutoff, scoring 19 or above was "happy" and any less was "unhappy". Their sample included 418 marriages and used telephone surveying though targeted sampling by a private company.  TD;LR: the reliability is sketchy at best.

The study states, "Many in Generation YOLO (you only live once) believe that what happens while you’re young won’t affect your future. But our research paints a different picture. " It briefly mentions a study from the 90s that said women who were abstinent were less likely to divorce, and then claims, "We further found that the more sexual partners a woman had had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be," but at no point in the study do they report their actual findings. Seriously, not a percentage, not even the raw data. They just say that and move on.

As for that old study? The conclusion was "These results suggest that neither premarital sex nor premarital cohabitation by itself indicate either preexisting characteristics or subsequent relationship environments that weaken marriages." The data they're using to back up their claims doesn't support their point. 

Anyway, let's look at data they did find. They talk a lot about people that have cohabited before marriage and couples that "slid" into living together instead of having a "defined talk" about it, but there's no reported gender difference.  Let's be very clear, their focus is on living with different partners prior to marriage, not sex.

You might have already asked yourself, "Well doesn't that make sense? Wouldn't someone with more experience be better at identifying issues in their relationship, especially compared to someone who's never known anything else?" The study acknowledges that irony but shuts it down, claiming that happy marriages come from not being aware of other options and "[a] history of multiple breakups may make people take a more jaundiced view of love and relationships." Damn, bet you didn't think all that teenage angst was going to ruin your adult love life, huh?

The study also asks if a good marriage can come from a hookup. Out of the couples who had reached marital bliss, 36% began as a hookup, while 42% did not. Firstly, what happened to the remaining 22%? Secondly, the study did not give a definition of hooking up. They literally just asked, "Did you two start by hooking up?" Thirdly, what does this have to do with having multiple partners?

Weirdly, when analyzing their data, they coded "previous sexual partners" as either 0 (sex with more than one person) or 1 (only had sex with their spouse). So, for this study, there's no difference between someone who had sex with 50 people or 2. There's also no difference between someone who had sex with their future spouse before or after marriage, so long as they didn't have any other partners.

When you look at all their findings together, after controlling for race and religion, the most influential factors on marital quality (in order of decreasing importance) are the following:
  • having kids from a prior relationship
  • feeling like you're more committed than your partner
  • getting pregnant with your spouse before marriage
  • having a wedding (the more traditional and the bigger, the happier)
  • having prior marriages
  • having an education
  • having moved in with previous partners
And THEN, after ALL THAT, with a p-value of GREATER THAN 0.5 (which anyone who knows anything about statistics can tell you is statistically insignificant) comes premarital relations with someone other than your spouse.

So why does this study even exist? Their main point isn't proven, and they gloss right over the part of their findings where by their definition, 35% of happy marriages have some physical violence. Well, let's look at the organization it's from.  This study wasn't peer-reveiwed or published in a journal. Furthermore, the president of the National Marriage Project came came under criticism over a 2012 study about gay parenting when he anonymously reviewed his own study and it was found to be influenced by conservative organizations that had funded it.

Is it possible this study was subject to the same bias? It was funded by the William E. Simon Foundation, a foundation that is based on "moral and spiritual values," including "thrift, self-discipline, and faith in God." Which may explain why they've forced a conclusion that they can't defend.

Please cite your sources. And please make sure your sources are reliable, because this is bullshit. Go ahead and marry a whore, there's no reason they wouldn't make a great partner.

Regulating Sex: The New York Times and Consent

Judith Schulevitz knows what's best for your sex life. At least, she claims she does. She wrote a mind-boggling opinion piece criticizing the regulation of sex in the New York Times. (Want some context? Read the article here.)

Can we talk first about the image that accompanied the full page article? I can't tell you the amount of times a partner of mine has gotten confused because my pink and index finger were saying "no" while the twitch of my palm was screaming "yes." Oh wait, yes I can, zero. Zero times. Consent is not nearly that complicated.

Shulevitz sums up the article in the last sentence, and that's where I'll start. "Sex may become safer for some, but it will be a whole lot more anxiety-producing for others." And hell, what's "safe sex" to a few people when others might face anxiety? Heaven forbid we make anyone anxious, even at the cost of rape. Getting consent, being comfortable talking to your partner, should not be a conversation marked by nerves and anxiety. If you're not comfortable talking to your partner about sex, you probably aren't comfortable enough with them to have sex.

Let's give Judith the benefit of the doubt for a second, and assume that the anxiety she's referring to isn't coming from talking to a partner about consent, but rather, the fear of what might happen if that partner changes their mind later. After all, with the "yes means yes" rule (if you don't get a clear, freely given 'yes', sex can be considered rape) it would be theoretically easy for someone to regret sex and claim something like, "Well, I never actually said 'yes'," right?

Wrong. False reports happen, they do, I'm not denying that. But not often. First of all, it's HARD to prove someone guilty of sexual assault. Very few rapists ever serve jail time, and most people (in my experience) will dismiss and scoff at a case of "he said, she said" without any definitive evidence. And if there is any evidence (a rape kit was done, emails/texts/messages are found admitting what happened, etc), well then odds are it's more than just regret at play. Even when people do lie, the estimated rate of false or unsupported reports is only around 2%. Which, compared to other statistics, isn't unexpected at all, that's about the same number of people falsely claiming they were robbed or carjacked or something.

The redefinition of consent (if you can even call it that) won't change anything within your relationship, as Judith seems to think it will. If you and your partner normally kiss each other hello, for instance, neither one of you is going to suddenly decide that's assault. Asking for consent doesn't have to be clinical and awkward. Hell, that'd be awful. Just check in with your partner. Make sure they want what you want. Seriously. Discuss things before hand, and check in every now and then; you can ever work it into your dirty talk. Things like, "Do you like that?" or "How's this feel?" or "Is it ok if I do this?" or "Wanna try this again?" Things will vary from relationship to relationship, from person to person. Some people might LOVE waking up to head in the morning, while others might feel violated by it. So just ask your partner if thats a thing they'd like. That's all.

Obviously, it's a little harder to establish general rules like that if you're in a one-night stand situation. I've heard dozens of stories from guys terrified that the girl they take home might wake up and cry rape. Firstly, nobody just "cries rape". Secondly, don't have sex with someone who's too drunk to consent. Thirdly, if you're initiating or escalating any sort of sexual interaction or contact, just ask if it's ok. Even if you feel like you're both contributing, check in and make sure.

Consent isn't difficult. It's not a million different signals that you have to sift through, it's not a minefield that could go off when you least expect it. It's just a yes. So get that "yes", or "oh yeah" or "abso-fuckin-lutely", or "I'd love to", or "let's!". 

You might be hard, but consent isn't.

Best Quotes From Scalia's Same-Sex Marriage Dissent

In 1986, Reagan appointed Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court. Today, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right. Judge Scalia has been described as "sarcastic", "a total dick", and a "homophobe". He knows it too, admitting, "It’s fun to push buttons." Unsurprisingly, he authored a snarky dissent to today's decision.

This is all in good humor,  I'm thrilled by today's decision, and I wanted to blog about it, but there's not much I can add to a success already so momentous and widespread. I was amused by Scalia's dissent, so I figured I'd share some of it.

About the Justices who supported the decision, he's scathingly sarcastic.

"These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. "

Can you feel the mockery? The italics are dripping with it. He goes on to describe the majority opinion as "couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic."

"It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so."

Because "justice for all" and "equal marriage" are silly extravagances.

"If ... I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: 'The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,' I would hide my head in a bag."

Because the Constitution should have nothing to do with liberty or expression. 

"The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie." 

It's even more ironic that he later uses aphorisms of his own, when cautioning that the hubris of the other judges is "o'erweening pride, and pride, we know, goeth before a fall."

“The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.” (Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie..."

I did not alter this or paraphrase it in any way. This quote is directly from the Supreme Court document, punctuation and all, Scalia is responding to the majority opinion. You hear that, people? Marriage is limiting our freedoms. Let's all be polyamorous hippies.

"Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say."

Hey, he's been married for over 50 years, maybe he knows what he's talking about. 

"Rights, we are told, can 'rise . . . from a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era.' (Huh? How can a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives [whatever that means] define [whatever that means] an urgent liberty [never mind], give birth to a right?)"

The full opinions of the court can be found here. Scalia is fun to mock, but in all seriousness, today's ruling marked an incredible victory for equal rights. Let's flipping celebrate.

Fact Check Your Anti-Caitlyn Posts

Caitlyn Jenner has officially made her debut, but that's probably old news now, since it's all anyone is talking about. The reaction has been surprisingly positive. I love Laverne Cox's response, and I'm glad that people are already calling out the emerging sexism.

Of course, not everyone is supportive. Let's start with why this is important, so we're all on the same page, yeah? Transgender individuals are more likely to commit suicide. They are more likely to be homeless, and they are more likely to murdered or attacked. If I may sum it up in an understatement, this is a pretty big deal, so to come out as transgender is pretty damn brave. Was the transition probably easier for someone with the money and means to? Of course. Is it being sensationalized? Of course. But that doesn't mean that Caitlyn's transition isn't important, or that we shouldn't talk about it. Caitlyn's transition helps bring attention to the issues that transgender individuals are facing.

One of my Facebook friends shared this. Not only is it blatantly transphobic in its attempt to marginalize the progress and attention that a transgender individual is getting, it's just not true. It's never been true. That award has never had a runner up.

As I see post after post about Bruce Jenner's transition to a woman, and I hear words like, bravery, heroism, and...

Another friend shared this. Again, same issues. And again, fake source. It's not even a picture of real people. It's staged with army men, as part of an art project by (are you ready for this?) a man who was nearly beaten to death for cross-dressing. The original poster addressed this in a follow up post the next day.

Let me be very, very clear that I have the utmost respect for our soldiers. But these aren't competing issues, both deserve attention. Please stop trying to use it as an excuse to put down Jenner. You don't have to like her, but you owe her the same respect you'd give to any other human being. If you're going to post crap, fact check your sources. Or not, it just makes it clearer who I should unfriend.

1 in 5: Rape Statistics

By now, you've probably heard the statistic that 1 in 5 women in college will be raped. You've probably also heard that's false. I've heard a lot of backlash against feminists recently for "falsifying statistics."

So where did the 1 in 5 number come from? Well, feminists didn't make it up, it's a real number that got misconstrued. It was a survey done among senior undergraduates at two universities, not a national study. The survey found that 1 in 5 (19.8%) women has experienced rape or unwanted sexual contact, like forced kissing or groping (things that constitute assault). If we ignore the sexual assault, the number of women that've been raped drops to 1 in 7 (14.3%), and only counts completed incidents (not attempted). Before you jump all over that number, let's remember that this is a survey, it had a mediocre response rate and it's possible people weren't truthful. (1)

So what are the actual statistics? Let's look at the 2013 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The rate of rape or sexual assault for female students between 18-24 years in 2013 was only 4.4 out of 1000 (compared to 4.3 for non-students of the same demographic). That's a HUGE difference from the 1 in 5 claim. That study also found that on college campuses, the rapist was more likely to be a male (in 97% of cases, compared 91% for non-students), and victims were much less likely to report it (only 20% did,  compared to 32% of non-students). Now let's say these numbers are perfectly, flawlessly true (they aren't), and let's say we can generalize these numbers to an entire population (we can't). Even though it's significantly less than 1 in 5, is it acceptable that 10,416 female students were raped or sexually assaulted on college campuses in 2013? Absolutely fucking not. (2)

If we just focus on women in college, we're ignoring a much bigger picture. So let's broaden our focus a bit and consider the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey from the CDC in 2010. Now we're getting closer to the 1 in 5 number again. Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) of women have been raped (including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, and drug facilitated forced penetration) at some point in their lives. Nearly 1 in 2 (44.6%) have experienced some form of sexual assault (including sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and unwanted sexual experiences). (3) That's fucking horrifying. 

Let's just review that one more time. The CDC found in 2010 that nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%). That's almost 22 million women. THAT'S HORRIFYING.

Look, the prevalence of sexual assault is decreasing (to be specific, sexual assault has fallen by 49% in recent years). That's awesome. But it's not enough. There are 293,066 victims (age 12 or older, male and female) of rape and sexual assault each year. 98% of rapists will never get jail time. Victims of sexual assault are more likely to suffer from depression, PTSD, abuse alcohol and drugs, and contemplate suicide. (4) None of this is ok.

So will 1 in 5 girls be raped during their time at college? No, probably not. Does that mean that rape isn't a problem? Absolutely not. Do not use the 1 in 5 statistic to end a conversation about rape. Because firstly, if you're honestly more bothered by inaccurate statistics than rape, you need to reevaluate, and secondly, it's not as far off as you think.


Dear Future Husband

Alright, alright. So Meghan Trainor released this music video and people have very strong feelings about it. As someone with very strong feelings, I was surprised that mine differed.

Trainor explains, "I want to make sure guys take me on a date and treat me right because I didn't do that in the past," but critics have blamed her for "basing her self-worth on male acceptance." I really don't think that's true, she's not desperate for any approval. She knows she's awesome (remember last summer's body-loving anthem?), and she won't settle for someone who doesn't recognize that.

The video creates an an interesting role reversal (it's not necessarily good, but it's certainly refreshing) to see a 50s style throwback without the women being submissive. Rather, it's the men being objectified.

Yes, work it, you sexy red headed backup dancer.
Trainor makes it clear that she's turning the 50s stereotype around: "You got that 9 to 5/ But, baby, so do I/ So don't be thinking I'll be home and baking apple pies/ I never learned to cook." She's independent. It's nice to see a song where the woman gets to call the shots in her perfect relationship. 

Admittedly, there are a lot of lyrics I don't like as well. It's a little concerning that she's marginalizing her partner's needs. She promises to buy groceries and kiss him, but will she tell him he's handsome as often as she demands he call her beautiful? Will she support him and respect him as much as he'll do for her? We may never know.

The lyrics may be all about her, but honestly, for this song, that's ok. Trainor has every right to look for specific things in a relationship. She's not claiming that all relationships should be like this, or that every woman should get married. By accusing this video of being so wrong, I worry that people step uncomfortably close to the very sexism they think they're criticizing; implying that women should be docile, submissive, and accept whatever their man gives them. Trainor refuses to settle, and there's nothing wrong with fighting to get what you want and deserve. 

Again, would I want the type of relationship she's describing? No. I don't want a partner to tell me I'm always right. I won't do all the grocery shopping, and I'm not really a flowers-every-anniversary-girl. But I would want to be with someone who respects me and treats me well, and I think that's the point. 

So let's talk about the actual video. The plot is pretty simple, she meets four different guys who fail to impress her in a variety of ways. A lot of the blowback has been about how she's being sexist with all these heteronormative stereotypes (men should be strong, etc), so let's meet the suitors.

1. The Cook 

Maybe she's just not a seafood person. Back off, man.

This guy shows up with a giant box of chocolates, creepily eyeing the peephole. He makes her a super fancy, gourmet style single scallop (That's what that is, right? A scallop? Is that what I'm looking at?), but she shakes her head and pushes it away. He insists, puts it on a fork and literally tries to feed her as she makes gross faces. The guy can't take a "no", and yet, he's surprised when she leaves.

2. The Strong Man

This one brings flowers and then tries to impress her at a carnival. He keeps trying the strength tester but landing on "sad sack". Eventually, she just walks away. This one is admittedly the most questionable, and I think it can go two ways, based on how you interpret her reaction.

Option 1: He's not strong enough for her. I don't totally buy this, the song isn't about finding a "strong man" as much as it is finding someone to treat her well. But alright, let's say it is. It's pretty shallow, and a sexist way to measure worth, but she's allowed to have preferences. If she wants a strong man, he's not the guy for her. She's doesn't insult him, question his worth, or shame him, she just leaves, and that's fine.

Dude, seriously, you're gonna do this? Ugh, we were having such a good time.
Option 2: Like the first guy, this one just isn't listening. Her "disappointed" reaction comes right after he takes off his jacket to try to show off. She's not making him do this, he's the one who won't stop. He keeps trying to prove to her, over and over, that he's strong. It's like a guy that brags about how much he can bench, all the babes he can get, or how much money he has.

3. The Sailor

Sit the fuck down. 
He brings her a little blue gift box and takes her out on a boat. It seems fun, until he tries to stand up. She tells him to sit down, she gets sea-sick, and he doesn't listen. They capsize. She leaves.

4. The winner!

What a cutie.
He just brings her pizza. Thats it. He didnt cook for her, didn't try to woo her, and isn't muscular, but he comes off as casual and comfortable, like he just wants to get to know her and have a good time, and she immediately pulls him inside. Ding ding ding. We have a winner.

The first three guys all embodied some "typical, idealized, romantic quality". A gourmet chef, a romantic sailor, a wannabe macho strong man. But none of them suited her. They didn't listen to what she wanted, they just kept trying to impress her. She's well within her rights to turn them all down, they're not entitled to anything. 

That's why I think this song is so much more about being able to ask for what you want and say no to what you don't, instead of being about finding a "perfect man" to marry and be subservient to.

Being treated the way you deserve? I can totally get behind that.

Obscenity and F*cking Censorship

A few weeks ago, Google announced that it was going to ban sexually explicit blogs, and I was gearing up to write an angry blog post about it. However, since then, Google received a ton of negative feedback from bloggers (here's an article from a blogger whose blog, Gross Nudes, was up for deletion) and they changed their minds.

These are the basic rules they've decided to stick to instead:
  • adult content is allowed, but must have an "adult content" warning
  • you can't make money on adult content 
  • no illegal content (like child porn) 
  • no posting/distributing images or videos without the subject's consent 

The proposed ban would have continued to allow nudity, but only if "the content offer[ed] a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts". Basically, so long as it wasn't obscene.

The idea of "obscenity" has been around for awhile, but a lot of people aren't aware of it. In short, obscenity isn't protected by free speech. The Miller test is generally used to determine what's obscene and consists of three conditions that must be met:
  • Would the average person think it may be sexual?
  • Does it explicitly show sexual content?
  • Does it lack literary, artistic, political, or scientific value?

Usually, the sale and distribution of obscene materials isn't protected, but the right to own it is (thanks to privacy laws). Immediately, pornography comes to mind, much of which is, of course, obscene. But sometimes, a story line can be considered to add "literary value". Surprise, those terrible plots have a purpose. And trust me, there's a lot of them.

One of the most popular X rated films of all time,  Deep Throat (1972) was one of the first pornographic films to have a real plot and production value. The movie follows young Linda Lovelace, who discovers her clitoris is in her throat, and spends the movie deep throating various men while fireworks and bells go off whenever she orgasms.  People disagreed on whether or not it was obscene, so it was banned in some locations but allowed in others. A film critic claimed that the comedy of the plot gave it enough merit to be legal. However, a year after it came out, judge Joel Tyler ruled it obscene, claiming:

"The alleged story lines are the facade, the sheer negligee through which 
clearly shines the producer’s and the defendant’s true and only purpose, that is, 
the presentation of unmistakably hard-core pornography."

Obscenity laws aren't a thing of the past. Many states have put bans on sex toys because of their "obscene nature". Thankfully, many of these bans were found to be unconstitutional, the most recent overturn was in Texas in 2008. However, that still leaves Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia.

Apparently, state officials believe there's "no fundamental right to purchase a product to use in pursuit of having an orgasm." Firstly, sex toys aren't just for sex. Secondly, these laws unfairly target women. Thirdly, and I'll borrow the words of Dr. Marty Klein for this, banning sex toys is an "extraordinary erosion of personal liberty, coupled with the massive disrespect of and fear of sexuality." While sex toys may not be for everyone, a lot of people enjoy them, and you can't prevent other people from using them because you think human sexuality is obscene.

(Since the release of Deep Throat, actress Linda Boreman has made statements about not consenting to the acts in the film. Though the film is one of cultural significance, I'd advise you not to watch it, and remind you that RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) is an available resource if you ever need it.)

Bratz (Guest Post)

One of my very cool friends and fellow bloggers Lex Vex posted some really interesting thoughts about the new trend in Bratz dolls, and I shamelessly decided to share it here as well. An artist has been redesigning some of the fashion dolls, which you can find articles about here and here, as well as the artist's tumblr here. Bratz dolls have taken a lot of criticism for sexualizing girl's toys because of their excessive makeup and risqué clothing, so the redesigns are a dramatic change. The new "Tree Change" dolls have "swapp[ed] high-maintenance glitz 'n' glamour for down-to-earth style," according to the artist. There's been an outpouring of positive feedback, things like, "it's a welcome attempt to desexualise the glamorous fashion dolls" and "now they look like real girls". This "natural doll" movement has been gaining momentum, especially with the release of Lammily, a fashion doll with realistic proportions.


As some people may have seen the Bratz dolls from our wee years have been all over twitter and the internet this week because someone in Tasmania ave the dolls make-unders. This woman has been praised for 'desexualizing' the dolls and turning them into little innocent forest children, instead of bad influences.

1. What's wrong with options? 

As someone who likes to put on make up most days, it's rude and dumb to make snap judgements about intelligence based on their outer appearance. People have been saying these dolls have 'inner beauty' because they look 'natural.'

Um... No they don't, they're dolls- and having the option of natural looking dolls is great but believe me I have met some real assholes who didn't wear makeup while knowing many lovely women who do. Dolls however, have no personalities and unless there are rainbows in that inner husk of theirs, they have about as much inner beauty as an empty Pringles can.

2. De-sexualization? Really?

I think my biggest problem with the desexualization fight is the ignorant question of who is sexualizing these dolls. Speaking from the perspective of someone who played with said dolls at a young age, I don't think I eroticized them in the same way that adults do. The bold colors and patterns of the clothes may have stimulated emulation but it was because the aesthetic was interesting, vivid, and not constantly 'pretty in pink.' Do girls explore sexual discovery through playing with dolls? Honestly yes- but that can be done with any set of dolls- and to blame the clothes is preposterous- all I know is that when we played with the dolls and someone wanted to have a baby, doll clothes would hit the ground faster than you could say 'lack of genitalia' - and reenacting 'sex' with the dolls was so incredibly inaccurate that instead of sex positions that made sense we'd just make the dolls scissor, regardless of gender, and boom a baby happened. Children don't sexualize the dolls. They don't look at the clothing the dolls wear and think, "this is sexy and all the boy dolls will want to fuck her." Parents do. Saying the natural dolls are better is a form of slut shaming so ingrained that we are forcing it on inanimate objects. That is one slutty hunk of plastic. The problem isn't so much that we treat the dolls as pariahs of bad influence- it's that we treat women the way we treat these dolls. 

3. Just Look at this Diversity

Can we quickly discuss how diverse Bratz dolls were for their time? Even now they lead the doll market as far as diversity is concerned with tons of varying race, ethnicity and even social groups represented. They have no single 'token' person of color doll but many who are given equal weight in advertising. And, unlike Barbie, all dolls have their own, equally cool, style, individual face shape, makeup pallet and fashion sense.


One of the biggest butt-hurts people have had with the franchise is that the bratz dolls don't promote any type of non-traditionally-feminine interest. I wonder though, does Barbie, who has a wide array of forms and jobs, actually promote play within those ranges? When I was a child, I would choose the coolest looking bratz or Barbie doll and, regardless of clothing, made them paleontologists, veterinarians, marine biologists myself. The commercials may show bratz dolls going on trips to the mall for fashion, but mine was most certainly a prosthetic limb engineer.

Long and the short, I'm not saying the refurbished dolls are bad or stupid, but I do think they are an alternative option that should be available without vilifying the dolls already out there. The girls and boys who play with them should not be scolded for enjoying a vibrant aesthetic or praised for proffering a woodsy one. Just get the kid the doll they'll like, and as long as you don't see signs of anorexia as a result, let it be. Adults, please stop sexualizing your children's toys. That's what you have your own for.

Want more Lex? Check out The Full Scope, a blog about gender identity in video games.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world. Despite mixed reviews, the "mommy porn" erotica has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. At the very least, it's interesting.  I've read the whole trilogy, I readily admit that. (I read Twilight too, doesn't mean I think either series is "good"). As far as Fifty goes, the writing makes me cringe, the sex scenes were terrible, and there's a lot of questionable power dynamics.

I'll get this out of the way now. Fifty Shades is NOT a guide to BDSM. It is NOT a healthy representation of BDSM. Anna and Christian are FICTIONAL CHARACTERS. If you recognize any of the same controlling patterns in your own relationship, please call the Domestic Abuse Hotline immediately.

Alright, ready? Moving on.

I'm glad people are reading it. Frankly, I'm just glad people are talking about it. It's a stupid, easy, read, but I think it got popular because we didn't stigmatize it for being sexual. For the first time, people could talk about reading erotica. Granted, a lot of people just talked about how ridiculously dumb it was, but still, our culture began to openly acknowledge porn, erotica, and sexuality.

Before Fifty Shades, I didn't see anything about bondage on my Facebook newsfeed, but in response to the inaccurate portrayals in the book, people have been talking more, sharing more links and information, that sort of thing. And that's fantastic. I don't care what started the conversation, I care that it's happening. Instead of shaming someone who reads the book and thinks spanking might be sexy, let's just use it as a springboard to start talking about spanking healthily (because yes, there is a right and wrong way to do it). Check out 50 Shades of Curious or 50 Shades of Kink.

If you want to act out an Anastasia/Christian romp, go for it, just be sure to use a safe word, start slow, communicate, and be ready to learn. Again, let's all just say it again, Fifty Shades it not a guide to BDSM.

Obviously, some of the things that happen in the book would be rape if they happened in real life. (Again, let's acknowledge that Fifty Shades is not real life). Rape doesn't actually work the way it does in the book. I hesitate to even call it rape, because I don't want to imply that it would be remotely ok to think that a victim wanted it, or that it was hot "because that's how it was in the book". Fantasy is not real life.

If Fifty Shades isn't your thing, don't sweat it. But please, don't stigmatize or shame people who found it sexy.  It wasn't a good book, but I'm not going to boycott the movie. I hold out hope, that maybe if we support erotica and sexual expression and push for better writing, someday we'll get it. Someday, I'll get off on a better plot point than, "but I didn't order a pizza" and read better writing than "my inner goddess is doing the merengue".

Side note, does "Anastasia and Christian" sounds like "Anna and Kristof" to anyone else? Just me?

Slapping Girls

I've seen this video shared on Facebook a few times now, and I wanted to address it in a bit more detail. So here we go. Basically, it's a social experiment where young boys are introduced to a girl named Martina, and then told to caress her, make faces at her, and slap her. The boys refuse to hit her, saying that it's wrong to hit girls. How sweet. It's been pulling heartstrings for the last few days.

I think it's really sexist. 

It's a sweet video, the kids are all adorable. And yes, it's nice to see kids saying they're against violence. That's good. But it's for the wrong reasons.

When the boys are introduced to pretty Martina, they're awestruck. We know how old the boys are, we know what careers they want, but we know absolutely nothing about Martina. They like her eyes, her hair, one claims immediately he'd like to be her boyfriend. Bear in mind, they've never met this girl, they've never said a word to her. They just know she's pretty. Done.

They're told to caress her, and without even questioning it, they all reach out to touch her. Some stroke her arm, or her cheek. This part is where I start to get uncomfortable. None of them ask her. She hasn't said a single word. It's as though Martina doesn't have any control over her own body or what happens to her. Nobody has control over anybody else's body. It doesn't matter who tells you to touch someone, unless that someone says it's ok, it's not.

Look, I know they're kids. But it's so, so important for kids to learn and actively practice consent. That sounds weird, I know, because we tend to talk about consent in a sexual context. There are some really interesting articles out there about raising children with a strong sense of control over their own bodies, and I think that's really healthy. Consent is waiting for an answer. Even for a caress on the cheek.

Anyway, the video goes on. The kids all refuse to slap her when they're told to. Not because they've realized that Martina is a human being. There are only two answers that aren't gender specific: "I'm against violence" and "Jesus doesn't want us to hit others". Good job, you two, gold stars for you. Here are some of the others:

  • "Cause she's a girl"
  • "Because you're not supposed to hit girls"
  • "I can't hit her because she's pretty and she's a girl"
  • "Girls shouldn't be hit, not even with a flower"

Not hitting someone just because they're a girl is sexist. Think of it in terms of race. Imagine if one of those boys had said "Because she's white". Would you think it was wrong?

Look, do I want to get slapped? No, of course not. But if the only thing stopping you is my gender, I'd rather you hit me than not treat me like a human being. Also, apparently, if Martina had been ugly, she would've been hit anyway. Slapping a human being, no matter what their gender or what they look like, is not ok. Don't hit people. 

At the very end, one boy is told to kiss her. And without questioning it, he asks the director if he can kiss her on the mouth or the cheek. Think about that for a second. He doesn't ask Martina. He asks the director. Martina still hasn't said a word, but that's just as well, since she doesn't seem to have any say anyway.

SkyMall Shopping

What is SkyMall's target market? Seriously, I've never been able to figure it out.  They seem to be aiming at the very small cross section of people that fly commercial but have three thousand dollars to blow on a Bigfoot lawn ornament. Either way, it's the shit, and it's how I spent an hour of my flight today.

However, casual sexism creeps in everywhere, especially in advertisements. I decided to rank some of the products based on how many people should have been fired for designing their respective ads. My seatmate didn't judge me too hard when I took out my phone to take pictures of the catalogue, so let's get started, from best to worst.

1. Rugged Animal Shot Glasses ($19.99)

This is just cool as shit and I want it.

2. Assorted Spandex

It's a shallow product, but I was surprised to see an equal ratio of female/male options available.

I don't want to overlook the "Padded Butt Enhancer". That's new. And special. And only $35.00.

3. EPIC Airbrush Makeup System ($399.00)

"Blur away your imperfections"? There aren't any men in this catalogue with imperfections. Ads tend to target women by convincing them they're not good enough. Also, who the fudge can afford makeup like this. Bad move, advertising people.

4. e-RACE Screen Protector ($19.99 - $29.99)

The screen protector is more resistant to makeup/fingerprints/smudges what have you, which is cool, I guess. But apparently, girls only care about makeup and talking on the phone, while boys are smart. Also, I've never gotten low test scores because of a dirty screen protector, but maybe that's just me?

5. Compact Vibration Trainer ($299.95)

Bear with me for a second. Either she has really weird shoulder-blades, a weirdly padded sports bra, or they've photoshopped her to make her waist/lower ribcage thinner and forgot about her shoulder blades. That last one seems the most likely.

6. Mademoiselle Floor Lamp ($549.00)

This is literally just a female body. As a lamp. Without a head. With "accentuated curves". Referred to as "her". Weird, man.

(If you actually love that lamp but want a male option as well, I found a designer who can make your dreams come true here).

Schlongs of Skyrim

I'll be honest, I haven't blogged much over break because I've spent a lot of time playing Skyrim. I got to borrow a PC and  experience the wonder of PC mods for the first time. Some are pretty basic; enhancing landscapes or armor, more detailed maps, that sort of thing. Some, however, are extremely sexual.

Jesus Christ. 
Unsurprisingly, there are dozens of options for nudity. If fighting dragons isn't exciting enough for you, you can choose to control a disproportionate female do it in the nude.

Skyrim doesn't follow your "laws of physics" 
Need more sexy? The Victoria's High Heel Walk makes your character toddle around like she's in high heels and her breasts are elastic, which seems pretty useless in first person. Personally, I find it frustrating that my character can't sprint effectively and I'd like to give her running shoes, but hey, to each their own.

I can't think of many instances where this would be useful.
Still not enough? Do you need sweaty glistening wet skin to get off? Why are you even playing skyrim? Actually, maybe you're only aroused by glistening nudity in a Norwegian-esque landscape, frolicking with dragons, in which case, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make assumptions.

Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this is a world of misogynists and only females are being objectified, know that it's actually pretty equal. The wet-skin applies to both boobies and biceps (excuse me while I drool over sweaty bulging muscles), and there's a decent number of sexy male armor retextures as well.

Work it. 

Sorry, I laugh every time I see this. I can't stop laughing. Still. Sorry. Hang on. Alright, I'm good.

As happy as I am with equal opportunity eye candy, I'm disappointed by the lack of strong females in the base game. The default bodies have little diversity; all girls are super slim and have no muscle tone. There's a weight slider in character creation, but it takes men from "muscles" to "HOLYFUCKMUSCLES", while women just go from "boobies" to "big boobies". They fall victim to a "pretty first, function second" mentally that's disappointingly common in video games.

Admittedly, this is a mod, not the base game, but it's not entirely inaccurate.
Skyrim is a fantasy world. And that means fancified bodies. And sometimes, that can be a fun fantasy to live. But just remember that's not how real people look (Thank god. I still can't get over how ridiculous/terrifying that giant schlong is). And if you feel the need, like I did, and you want a realistically strong female, there's a ton of mods for that too. 

Now if this could just be available in the base game with the male muscles, I'd be happy. But hey, we're getting there.