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Cross post from Everyday Feminism.

Hookup culture. Everybody’s doing it.

Most of you have already heard – or used – this term many times. But for those left in the dark, Urban Dictionary describes hookup culture as “the era that began in the early 1990s and has since prevailed on college campuses and elsewhere when hooking up has replaced traditional dating as the preferred method of heterosexual liaison.”

The American Psychological Association offers a more clinical description of “brief uncommitted sexual encounters between individuals who are not romantic partners or dating each other.”

But for the sake of brevity, hookup culture can be defined as “casual sex.”

And it’s on the rise91% of college students say that hookup culture dominates their lives.

But let’s take a step back and think about how – and who – this upward trend in casual hookups is affecting: Is it healthy? Is it fostering equality between the sexes? Is it mutually beneficial for all sexes? Or does it continue to uphold patriarchal memes?

There are two main schools of thought – one says that hookup culture supports women’s sexual empowerment by giving them the ability to have casual sex on their own terms; the other states that it helps sustain sexist double standards and disempowers women by depriving them of emotional connection.

By looking at both sides, we may be able to shed more light on the matter – or at least work towards a better understanding of each point of view.

Casual Sex in History

Historically, men who engage in casual sex or extramarital affairs have not been ostracized from society – rather, it has been almost (if not entirely) expected of them.

Women, on the other hand, have suffered punishments ranging from banishment to stoning to death for any sexual activity outside of the marriage bed.

Hell, just look at the Tudors.

King Henry VIII kept at least 12 mistresses during his married years and was decidedly sexually active before he was wed, while two of his six wives were beheaded because they wereaccused of sexual activity – including activity that took place before their betrothal to the King.

See the contrast between the sexes? One got to sleep around all he pleased while ruling a powerful world empire, while the other lost their heads for youthful sexual exploration.

Henry VIII is a common and well-known example of historical sexual discrimination, but these values used to be commonplace and routine in society.

And not much has changed.

The Dreaded Double Standard

We’ve come a long way since the 16th century in terms of gender equality and the way we view sex, particularly in the Western world. But there’s no question that most of Western society still gives men a “free pass” when it comes to sex outside of relationships, while women are much more likely to be judged, disliked, or called sluts for having noncommittal sex.

Studies show that this double standard leads to more hookup-related depression and anxiety in women than in men, and my personal experience supports this.

While there are anomalies, my female friends (and myself) invariably have a harder time dealing with the repercussions of casual sex than the dudes I know because they are more worried about what other people will think.

And why wouldn’t they be, considering how detrimental casual sex can be to a woman’s reputation? (Thanks, society!)

Hooking Up Today

While there is no question that Western society maintains an unfair double standard for men and women when it comes to casual sex, there are many individuals of all sexes who choose to engage in hookup culture on a regular basis – and enjoy it.

A lot of women say that casual hookups relieve them of the pressure that comes with trying to balance a career or educational path with a committed, time-consuming relationship.

In Kate Taylor’s New York Times article “Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game Too,” one young woman talks plainly about the “low risk and low investment costs” of casually hooking up.

In another defense of hookup culture, author Hanna Rosin argues that casual hookups actually benefit women, giving them the opportunity to focus completely on their career goals without having to sacrifice having their sexual needs met.

And that’s just the question, isn’t it? Do casual hookups actually meet women’s needs? Let’s explore.

Are Hookups ‘Good’ for Women, Too?

That might all depend on what you think the end goal of casual sex is.

If it’s an orgasm and an orgasm only, then we have a problem. Simply put, women are just less likely than men to climax during a casual sexual encounter.

According to research conducted over a five-year period involving 24,000 students at 21 different colleges, twice as many men as women reached orgasm during their last experience with casual intercourse (80% of men versus 40% of women).

However, this same survey yielded very different results for women in committed relationships, about 75% of whom said that they had orgasmed the last time they had sex.

These numbers seem to lend credibility to the Masters and Johnson theory, which states that women need an intimate emotional connection with someone in order to reach orgasm.

However, most modern human sexuality experts believe that the real answer is more complex than this. In fact, many of the possible reasons why women don’t have as many orgasms during casual sex have little to do with emotions.

Investigating ‘Plain’ Sex and Orgasms

For starters, let’s get something out of the way. Guys, good old-fashioned penile thrusting simply doesn’t get a lot of women off.

A compilation of studies conducted over three-quarters of a century and compiled by Dr. Elizabeth Lloyd indicate that only about 25% of all women reliably reach their climax during “plain” sex (vaginal intercourse with no “extras”), while about one-third rarely or never have orgasms from intercourse at all.

Many women are, however, more likely to climax if they engage in other sexual activity with their partner, such as oral sex or manual clitoral stimulation.

So how does this relate to hookup culture? Simple. Casual hookups usually consist of vaginal intercourse and a focus less on other activities that help women reach orgasm.

Add what we already know, that women are more likely to orgasm from oral sex or an oral/vaginal combo than vaginal sex alone, to this fun fact: women are much less likely to get oral sex during casual sex. During casual hookups, men get it about 80% of the time, while women are on the receiving end of oral less than 50% of the time.

Benefits of Casual Sex Outside of the Big O

So we’ve already established that there are some roadblocks on the road to orgasm for women who have sex casually. But does having an orgasm have to be the goal of a hookup? Absolutely not.

Indiana University scientist Dr. Debra Hebernick believes that many women get sexual satisfaction and emotional benefits from intercourse that doesn’t lead to orgasm. Sometimes, according to her research, casual sex works wonders merely by providing a sense of intimacy for both partners involved.

Self-Centered Sexual Tendencies

What else is it about casual hookups that even further lessen a woman’s chance at climaxing?

Perhaps another answer lies in the interaction between the men and women who are participating in hookup culture, and in the indoctrinated societal messages that women absorb throughout their early lives.

Casual sex is usually more spontaneous, less emotionally-charged, and often experienced by partners who don’t know each other extremely well. Because of this, there is a much lower chance that women will ask their partner for what they want.

Not only this, but studies demonstrate that most men will admit to not trying as hard to please a partner that they do not have a deep emotional connection with. Some men say that it is awkward to ask a new partner what they like, and many even admit to being focused primarily on their own satisfaction.

Just Another Reason Why the Patriarchy Sucks

The cherry on top of the proverbial bad sex sundae is that despite how far we’ve come with gender equality and sexual liberation, society still judges women more harshly for being sexually promiscuous.

It’s not uncommon for women to express feelings of guilt or shame for hooking up casually – talk about a mood killer!

When women grow up being told to keep their number of sexual partners as low as possible, to only have sex inside the context of a relationship, and to stay virgins as long as they can, we end up with a problem: the difficulty of balancing a healthy casual sex life with a lifetime’s worth of slut-shaming.

It may very well be that this fucked-up socialization prevents many women from reaching orgasm in casual sex due to an underlying fear of disgrace.

***

In conclusion, I don’t think we can’t say that hookup culture is strictly bad or good.

Hookup culture can be, in my opinion, both harmful and helpful to women’s empowerment. Casual sex is an individual decision, and has individualized results for different people. There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer for this debate.

But I’m damn well sure of one thing: Patriarchal views that look down on women who participate in casual sex are hurting us. They are just another vestige of a long-gone time, like Henry VIII-era sexual discrimination and injustice, watered down and tied up in a pretty package that pretends to be equality.

Casual sex should be only a personal choice, free from society’s judgment and condemnation– whether you are man or woman, black or white, straight or gay, young or old.

Only when this is true for everyone – and I mean everyone – will I be able to answer the question of “Was it good for you?” with a resounding yes.

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Originally posted in Everyday Feminism. Photo of me, circa 1989.

 

I didn’t have a “normal” childhood.

I didn’t play video games, or ride the bus, or have recess. I never rode my bike around the block or played with neighboring kids. I didn’t have a functioning television, let alone cable.

In fact, I spent the greater part of my childhood exploring an eleven-acre plot of farm land and forest and reading books about strong women from history, while tucked into the corner of a sagging red couch in our 100-year-old farmhouse.

I was homeschooled.

And up until I entered public school in sixth grade, the people I spent by far the most time with were my younger sister and my parents.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have friends – both girls and boys – or that I didn’t get a wonderful education. In fact, my third grade educational assessment showed me at tenth grade levels in many subjects.

But my early years certainly didn’t fit the mold of the typical American childhood.

My birthday parties always had historical themes about struggle and hardship; my feet were covered in calluses from walking barefoot through the rocky forest paths.

Homeschooling is certainly not for everyone.

It is also only available to those privileged enough to have a parent who is able – and willing – to stay home from work to teach their children. But it is a valid and wonderful option for some families.

This article is not a critique of homeschooling.

Rather, this is an investigative journey into discovering how being homeschooled affected some of my relationships – in particular, my relationships with men – and what this says about growing up in America, even without an average introduction to society through public school.

The conclusions drawn will certainly not be universal; if anything, they are personal. But I hope that by investigating together, some light may be shed on how the young female mind develops with (and without) societal norms.

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Also

Unlike some young women, I didn’t grow up buying into the notion that women can only do certain types of jobs, that women are less capable in science, math, and construction – or anything, for that matter.

With the only other student to compare myself to being my sister three years my junior, I was not exposed to gender stereotypes in the same way that many kids are. I was not interacting with a large group of kids, so I didn’t see people breaking off into interest groups based on gender.

When I got together with friends, it wasn’t girls versus boys. My most gender-biased activity, in fact, was a club that my sister and I started called the “Brave Women’s Club,” which essentially entailed taking adventures and spying on the neighboring farms.

All of my Barbies had professional jobs. They were pilots, professors, farmers, or business people. They had career aspirations beyond looking pretty. I was indignant when I received a doll that spouted out lines like “Let’s go shopping again!” and “Let’s make cookies for Ken.” I couldn’t understand why in the world this chick didn’t have better things to do with her time.

And when the evil mastermind Barbie caught some of the others in one of her diabolical schemes, it wasn’t Prince Charming who came to save the day. It was a collaborative group of friends who thwarted the evil plan that was endangering their pals.

Maybe this was because I wasn’t so constantly exposed to the rhetoric of princesses necessitating handsome princes to save them.

I think the semi-isolation of farm life and homeschooling made these themes less constant in my life. Additionally, I didn’t have cable programming drilling these falsehoods into my forming brain.

In this way, I believe I dodged the societal mindfuck that women can only do certain types of jobs well, and that they can’t be the saviors. I saw myself as an open book with career possibilities ranging from oceanographer to firefighter to historian.

But it wasn’t all positive.

Men as the Ones to Impress

Because of my limited contact with men (besides my family members and a handful of wonderful male friends), the male species was something of a mystery to me.

And because I didn’t have a brother and spent most of my time in the company of females, I grew to view men as elusive and special – as the ones to impress.

Yes, I knew that I could do anything I wanted in my life, but I also felt a deep sense of need to be the Perfect Girl. I felt that it was utterly crucial to impress the men that I came into contact with – to please them so that I was well-liked, despite my alternative upbringing.

Sadly, this grew into a deep-seated fear of confronting men in later life.

For years, I struggled to understand why I couldn’t stand up for myself when strange men groped me or tried to take advantage of me. Most of my female friends, almost all of whom had much more varied contact with males in their early lives and more traditional childhoods, would become exceedingly frustrated with me for just these reasons.

They didn’t understand why I couldn’t give the asshole who slapped my ass at the bar whatfor. To be honest, I couldn’t explain it either. I just felt an innate need not to create a scene – not to be a problem, to be good, and to impress. Even if it left me feeling used, hollow, and twisted.

I don’t know if this is a common problem among young women that have been homeschooled. I only know about my own experience. But when I finally realized what was going on in my mid-twenties, I was shocked.

How could I – someone who believed so deeply in the power, independence, and equality of womankind – have been playing into entrenched gender roles so deeply?

I don’t think I’ll ever fully know the reason.

But I think that without enough early contact with the boys who would become my peers as adults (causing me to search endlessly for their approval), and because I took social cues from what I knew of “classic” behavior for women, I fell into the trap of submission and docility. And it took decades to crawl back out.

It was clear: Despite spending my formative years outside of the public education system and eschewing standard norms, patriarchal views of women’s inferiority had somehow managed to seep into my consciousness.

Society Plays Its Hand

Whether or not my theories about homeschooling’s role in the matter are correct, I am certain of one thing: American society messed me up early, even though I was cut off from it in many ways.

It only took one year in public school for me to start despising my body, to start feeling the intense pull of pressure to be thin and beautiful. And I hung onto those ideals as the way to make men like me.

Despite being at the top of my class in high school, many people thought I was a complete ditz. I know, because when people found out what classes I took or my GPA, they would say, “No way! I didn’t know you were smart.”

And I am beyond certain that most of this was due to the way that I presented myself.

When you feel like looks and “being fun” are the things you have to give, they become a huge part of your identity – and the part that you play up. Instead of talking about my interests, goals, or passions to guys that I liked, I’d just wear a low-cut shirt and talk about the crazy shit that happened at last week’s party.

I’m still guilty of this today at times. I still catch myself avoiding intellectual conversation and sticking to what I came to believe early on was “my selling point.”

The Patriarchy Is Nobody’s Friend

The patriarchy affects more than just women.

It affects men when it tells them they need to like football, lift weights, hook up casually without feelings, and eat red meat – and that if they don’t do these things, they are weaklings. It rejects men who cry when they are sad, like watching ballet, or care about fashion.

The patriarchy is nobody’s friend.

It serves no helpful purpose in our society. And yet many of us are still beholden to it.

But that’s one of the reasons why feminism exists – to help everyone become more tolerant and to look at the differences among us as assets to be valued instead of shameful secrets to be hidden.

Fighting societal gender bullshit is no easy task – which I’m sure you know yourself.

Whether you are male or female, and whether you had a conventional education or not, cutting through the mess of lies and hypocrisy that our society presents us with on a daily basis is downright tough.

But it can be done.

***

If I do anything in my life, I hope I can help some other girl struggling like me realize that she has more to offer the world than her beauty and her body – that the people she really wants to associate with will value her for quirkiness, kindness, passion, and talent. Or for her mad Frisbee skills. Or simply because she speaks her mind.

We can all be part of dismantling the patriarchy. But we need more people to become educated about why it is hurting us.

We need more people to read Everyday Feminism, more people to teach their kids to defy classic gender roles, and more legislators to pay attention to gender pay inequality.

It’s for all of these reasons, and so many more, that we all fight the patriarchy every day.

I envision a better tomorrow, in which a young girl who is struggling with self-acceptance and self-worth won’t have to fight tooth and nail to be respected for more than her appearance.

Because each and every one of us is more than just a pretty face, despite what society wants us to believe.

Farmworkers Harvest First Spring Crops In Southern California

 

Originally posted in Everyday Feminism. Photo credit: NBC Latino.

Ever wonder who harvested the berries in your smoothie? Or who took the effort to pick that big, juicy apple that you’re about to bite into?

Probably not.

And chances are, it was a farmworker. There are currently approximately one million farmworkers employed across the United States.

So how come we never hear about them? And who are these farmworkers exactly?

Most are immigrants working at low-paying agricultural jobs on big farms that sell produce to our supermarkets and restaurant chains: apples, tomatoes, cherries, avocadoes, potatoes, strawberries, pears – you name it.

They harvest the food that we eat. And yet they are one of the most hidden and underrepresented population subgroups in the nation.

The public knows very little about the conditions under which farmworkers work or the injustices that they face. But some of us know – and it’s not easy to forget once you learn the truth.

Farmworker advocates believe that we should all be aware of how our food is getting to us – and who is being hurt along the way.

Farmworkers Are Being Mistreated in America

Many farmworkers in America have their basic human rights violated every day.

Whether due to unsafe housing provided for them while they harvest, unethically low pay, unsanitary and hazardous work conditions, illegal child labor, rampant abuse of power, the pervasiveness of sexual assault, or a slew of other alarming problems, there is no doubt that farmworkers do not receive the same treatment and legal standing as most American workers.

This fact from the Bureau of Labor Statistics takes my breath away: Every day, at least one farm worker dies on the job, and hundreds more are injured.

The lack of basic knowledge about farmworker conditions in our country may be one of the reasons why these injustices are allowed to continue.

So just how bad are things? Let’s take a look at some of the issues that farmworkers face on a daily basis.

Farmworker Living Conditions Often Lead to Sickness

Some farmworkers are able to live in shared housing with other families offsite of their farms. But many others have to live where they work – on the farms themselves.

The circumstances in farm labor camps vary by location across the nation. Some camps are merely crowded. Others suffer from moldy walls and dilapidated or deteriorating construction.

In some cases, conditions are far inferior.

Reports show multiple families live cramped next to one another with little privacy even for bathing or using the toilet, vermin and cockroach infestations, employer surveillance and intimidation, toxic residue in dwellings, and contaminated drinking water.

These living conditions not only make maintaining a clean and secure lifestyle difficult; they can also cause serious health problems for the workers who experience them.

Overcrowded living quarters contribute to the rapid spread of disease, as does the lack of adequate sewage or garbage removal.

Pesticides carried in on the clothes of workers, sprayed by the landlords for pest control purposes or blown in on the wind from fields and orchards surrounding farmworker housing have been shown to cause serious neurological complications in workers, and especially in their children.

It’s common for adult farm workers to suffer from tuberculosis, skin infections, respiratory illnesses, or intestinal parasites as well. Because of the lack of sanitation and the extremely crowded living situations in their housing, these illnesses are passed from one family to the next in rapid succession.

Migrant farmworkers travel long distances to make money working in the harvest, and living in a farm-provided labor camp will boost their meager earnings.

And despite their hard work, they rarely make enough to move out of labor camps into private apartments with better accommodations.

And while farmworkers earn money during harvest, the seasonal nature of their employment demands that they save every dime for the months they will be without work.

They are financially bound to living in substandard conditions and dealing with the dangerous practices of their employers.

Farm Work Affects Entire Families

Despite the stereotype, farmworkers are not all able-bodied adult men. They are grandparents, women, infants, and growing children as well.

Entire families who come to farms in hopes of finding employment often work and suffer together under miserable conditions.

Farmworker children may suffer the most from the poor conditions in many farmworker camps.

Because of the pesticides that their mothers ingest day in and day out in the fields, many babies are born with mental and physical disabilities.

And if not encountered in utero, kids growing up in camps are still subjected to these same toxins as their brains and bodies develop during childhood.

Some children, whose parents’ farms do not provide housing, are forced to sleep in the beds of trucks or on hard dirt floors under tarps for entire harvests seasons.

Federal child labor laws forbid farm owners from employing children under 12 years of age, and yet there are constantly reports of underage kids in the fields on some of America’s top agriculture farms.

Such backbreaking work is fundamentally dangerous for growing children. Instead of attending school or being able to socialize with friends, farmworker kids often work alongside their parents, spending long hours harvesting in the blistering heat, operating heavy machinery and being exposed to pesticides.

Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, and LGBTQIA+ Discrimination Are Prevalent Among Farmworkers

Tragically, farmworker women are more than likely to be victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. Most live and work in a patriarchal system with traditional gender roles and an entrenched social acceptance of sexual violence.

A 2010 survey of 150 farmworker women in the California Central Valley reported that 80% of the women had been sexually harassed at work.

It is not uncommon for female farm employees to be preyed upon by their supervisors, who spend long days in the fields with them and who have the power to order them into isolating situations on a whim.

Advocates also report that LGBTQIA+ farmworkers are subjected to extreme amounts of workplace violence and discrimination – not only from their peers, but also from the management in some cases.

Most frightening of all, says Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regional attorney William Tamayo, is the staggering amount of victims who do not even come forward in the first place.

Fear of Retribution

We know that many farmworkers suffer abuse by their employers, supervisors, and landlords who take advantage of farmworkers’ poverty, cultural structures, gender roles, housing situations, immigration status, language deficiencies, or fear of law enforcement to wield dominance over them.

But why don’t they speak out against the abuse?

Most commonly, because they are afraid of retribution from their bosses.

Government officials and police are more likely to investigate work camps and agricultural employers if they receive an official complaint.

However, because many workers fear that speaking out about problems at work will result in their eviction, deportation, or firing, most farmworkers keep silent.

Maricruz Ladino, a farmworker who was bullied and raped by her supervisor in 2006, told NPR why she did not come forward for seven months after her attack:  “I saw my choices,” she said.“I lose my job, I can’t feed my family.”

After finally speaking up, Ladino was expeditiously fired by the management at her farm. Even after winning the civil suit she eventually filed against them (with the help of a legal assistance organization), her former employers were never punished nor identified, and her rapist faced no criminal charges.

Immigration status is a huge player in the equation as well.

With over 50-60% of farmworkers being undocumented, sometimes all it takes is a threat to call immigration enforcement officials to put workers at an egregious power imbalance with their employers or landlords.

These are harsh realities.

Although both state and federal laws do exist to protect workers whose contracts have been violated, who are being intimidated, or who are subject to dangerous working or living conditions, there are many barriers that prevent farmworkers from discovering their rights in the first place.

Moreover, the existence of these laws does little to stop them from being broken by many agricultural employers.

The Language Divide

To make matters even more difficult, the majority of farmworkers also have to contend with a language barrier.

Most do not speak English as their first language. Some do not even speak Spanish as their primary language, but are instead fluent in any number of indigenous languages common in Mexico or other nations in Central and South America.

To be specific, 81% of farmworkers speak Spanish, 18% speak English, and 2% speak other languages, including Tagalog, Creole, and Thai. A stunning 60% of farmworkers not born in the United States cannot speak or read English at all. And only 35% are able to speak a minimal amount of English.

This lack of basic language ability makes it unquestionably hard for farmworkers to get legal help when they face poor treatment from employers. It makes receiving the necessary medical care for injury or illness near impossible. And it isolates victims of domestic violence and sexual assault from community services that can help.

Purchasing for Change

Now that we know a bit more about the injustices in farmworker employment, is there any way that we as consumers can change the market by purchasing strategically?

Animal advocates have fought to set high standards for what food can be labeled as humanely raised. And there are strict rules for which food products can be called certified organic.

The only equivalent for worker treatment in America is the fair trade movement.

Organizations such as Fair Trade USA and the Fair Trade Federation have created standards for companies to qualify as fair trade. Products that earn the organizations’ logos must come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. Income from sales of Fair Trade USA products go to teaching disadvantaged communities how to use their free market advantage.

Check out the Fair Trade USA website for a list of certified fair trade products and partners and to learn more.

However, unlike the organic label, there is not a huge call for fair trade products from the general populace, in part because farmworkers are such an underrepresented population.

Awareness must increase for Americans to realize that purchasing fair trade matters – and why it does.

Farmworkers Need a Voice

American farmworkers are undoubtedly a marginalized population who lack proper legal and social representation.

National organizations like the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, the National Center for Farmworker Health, Farmworker Justice, and the National Employment Law Project advocate to get farmworkers the representation that they need.

By providing well-trained legal staff that speaks Spanish and other languages, they bridge the looming linguistic divide in order to represent workers in legal cases against abusive employers.

By presenting opportunities for farmworkers to get basic healthcare needs met, they mitigate the dangerous conditions in which these workers live and toil.

Not only this, but farmworker advocacy groups offer farmworker education, as well as information about and access to job training and safety programs for workers.

Overcoming the lack of awareness among the actual farmworker community about these resources is a huge struggle. Most farmworkers don’t have access to the Internet. Most don’t have a great deal of education, and many haven’t even graduated from high school. In fact, studies conducted by the National Agricultural Workers Survey indicate that the average completed educational level for farmworkers is seventh grade.

Without ways to access information about programs and organizations that can help, farmworkers remain stuck.

***

Take a moment to reflect on how you might react to this article if it were your own family getting up at five o’clock in the morning to pick berries for twelve hours at a substandard wage, to suffer from supervisor intimidation and manipulation, to live in crumbling homes with no privacy, and to fear for their safety every day at work.

The situation won’t get better if no one knows about the injustices that farmworkers suffer.

Encourage your friends to think about where their food comes from. Hopefully in doing so, they will be inspired to help us bring farmworker exploitation out of the darkness.

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JohnMayerDerpy

Like everyone else in Seattle, I’m still riding the Seahawks Super Bowl high. Our long-awaited football superiority was pretty much the only thing that anyone talked about for months prior to the game; green and blue were the only colors worn as far as the eye could see; Richard Sherman became a local hero much to the chagrin of the rest of the world; and I’m pretty sure I started murmuring “kakaw” and “beast mode” in my sleep.

So naturally, I was super hyped after the crushing total domination that the Hawks dealt the Broncos on February 2. I felt so much pride for our massively talented players and our state. It was a pretty amazing way for a team to win their first Bowl, even if I did feel kinda awful for Manning after all those sad puppydog looks he was giving…but hey, the dude’s already got one ring.

Everyone in the city was positively bouncing off the walls and going crazy – at least for Seattleites (see this hilarious twitterstorm of #HowSeattleRiots tweets making fun of the city’s polite raging). And like so many others, my friends and I rushed out into the streets, honking our horns, high-fiving strangers and chanting Sea! Hawks! between every sip of craft beer.

That night was a blast. Except for one thing.

At the only bar I went to, I was groped three separate times by three complete strangers.

The first (obviously wasted) guy put his arms around me, told me that I was beautiful, and then (as I attempted to push him off) proceeded to stick his hand into my jeans back pocket while simultaneously licking the inside of my ear. What. The. Funk.

Escaping from him, I eventually made my way outside the bar, where my friend and I chanted along with the crowd and sang We Are the Champions – right up until Creeper #2 walked up and grabbed me around the waist from behind. I turned around expecting to see one of my dude friends standing there and found instead a total stranger leering down at my chest.

NO – I told him.

Why? He asked, with an incredulous look of privilege and feigned innocence in his eyes.

Extremely aggravated but determined not to “make a scene,” I reentered the bar. A little while later, I saw two of my friends posing for a picture, and asked the cameraman (another unknown bar-goer) if I could jump in their picture. Sure honey, he cooed, as he reached his non-camera hand down and grabbed my ass and pinched hard.

Let’s just say, this all gets old fast, dudes. I never – or should I say we never, because I believe I’m speaking for a lot of my friends out there – asked you to touch us. We didn’t invite you to invade our space. We didn’t run around screaming “please grope me, I beg of you” or wear a sign saying “ATTN: I want you to innappropriately fondle my behind.”

John Mayor once sang a famous song that went a little like this:

Your body is a wonderland
Your body is a wonder (I’ll use my hands)
Your body is a wonderland

Well Johnny, that’s all good and well when it’s your consenting partner, spouse, friend with benefits, or one night stand. But groper dudes of the earth, please just listen to me. My body is actually NOT your wonderland. I am actually NOT here for your tactile pleasure. No, really!

I can’t think of a single woman who can honestly say that she enjoys random strangers touching her in this aggressive, sexual way.

It’s time to wake up and smell the mace people, because I think we are all goddamn sick of this bullshit.

 

*Disclaimer: I have nothing against John Mayer. But this picture is quite derptastic and relevant so I had to include it.

workingparents

Originally posted on Everyday Feminism

Life is unpredictable. You never know what’s coming. But you can usually count getting some curveballs thrown your way.

Maybe your grandmother falls ill and you’re the only person in the family who’s in a position to take care of her. Maybe you are diagnosed with a serious illness and need to take time off work to get treatment. Or maybe you and your partner decide to adopt – but you both work full-time and can’t take unpaid leave.

At some point in our lives, most people will need to take off an extended period of time to deal with a family or medical issue.

Despite this, only 12% of workers in America receive paid family leave through their jobs. And the lucky ones that do are disproportionately well-educated, high-earning, and male.

But what about the rest of us? What if we fall ill, have a child, or need to take care of a loved one in need?

Unless we have another breadwinner who can support the family, our choices are generally few: a) keep working to the detriment of ourselves and/or others, or b) take unpaid leave (or quit our jobs) and face financial hardship.

Current U.S. Law Makes Taking Time Off Available Only to the Few

Presently, 1993’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) sets the precedent for workers’ leave policies. FMLA guarantees twelve weeks of unpaid leave to employees at companies employing more than fifty people. Unpaid leave, mind you, and nothing at all for employees of smaller businesses.

Unfortunately, a lot of us cannot afford to go for twelve weeks (or even three, for that matter!), without pay.

Low-income parents to a newborn are a classic example. In this situation, at least one parent is generally forced to leave work (and lose money) in order to care for their child.

But this phenomenon goes far beyond new parenthood – the same financial limitations are placed on caretakers tending to sick or injured family members. And women often feel the brunt of this state of affairs.

Paid Family Leave is More Important than Ever for Women

Research shows that four in ten households with children are headed by women who are the main or only breadwinner for their family – numbers that have risen considerably since 1960, when women made up just 11 percent of our nation’s familial wage earners.

But while the demographics of the American workforce have drastically changed, American paid leave policies have not.

And because women are statistically more likely to become caretakers – making up an estimated 59 to 75% of family or informal caregivers – they urgently need laws that guarantee paid family leave.

Paid Parental Leave in the U.S. and Abroad

In Sweden, new moms and dads are allotted 480 paid days of leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child (to be split between them and used at any time before their child hits eight years old).

In the United Kingdom, new parents are granted 280 days of parental leave at a 90% pay rate. And in Indonesia, parents get 84 days of fully-paid parental leave.

Compare these numbers to those of American leave policies, under which new moms receive a whopping zero days of paid time off per child. And don’t even think about mentioning time off for new dads over here.

There is no other industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee working mothers paid time off after giving birth to or adopting a child.

In fact, America joins Papua New Guinea as the only other country on the globe that doesn’t mandate some amount of paid time off for new mothers.

But here in the land of Stars and Stripes, an astounding 33% of all new moms take no formal time off after giving birth – because they can’t afford to.

And mothers aren’t the only ones who will benefit from paid time off legislation. Working fathers are becoming increasingly vocal about needing time off to spend with their new children. In fact, 50% of working dads say that it is hard for them to balance their family responsibilities with their work life.

The Big Picture on Caretaking

Currently, less than 40% of American workers are eligible for an employer-provided temporary disability program.

Due to this, as well as the fact that so few American workers are eligible for employer-paid family leave, many people are forced to make an impossible choice: take unpaid leave to care for a sick loved one (or see to their own care) or continue to work to earn the money they need to keep their families afloat.

But advocacy groups like the National Partnership for Women and Families believe that they’ve found a better option for working families in the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act).

The FAMILY Act, Congressional legislation sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, would provide all eligible employees with as much as twelve weeks of paid family leave.

So just what does this paid time off entail? Let’s debunk some of the bogus ideas out there.

Paid Family Leave Is Not a Vacation

The FAMILY Act ensures that the paid leave it guarantees can only be used for its intended purposes, such as the individual’s need to deal with their own serious illness or health condition; the illness of a spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child; the birth or adoption of a child; or the injury of a military family member or other crisis stemming from their service.

The law is not written to allow families to take sabbatical or vacation. It is written to deal strictly with health-related issues.

Paid Family Leave Is Not Welfare

Critics of welfare don’t have agency to condemn paid time off legislation.

Paid leave is not an entitlement; in fact, it’s an earned benefit that works similarly to other benefit systems like Social Security.

Employees must have paid into the system and worked for an established period of time before they are able to collect benefits.

Paid Family Leave Is Cost-Effective for Workers

Paid family leave actually ends up saving workers money.

The FAMILY Act’s insurance program is paid for through payroll contributions from both employers and their workers, with an extremely low premium of two cents for every $10 in income. For most workers, this equals less than two dollars per week.

So what do the numbers boil down to? The gratifying truth that your paycheck won’t take a hit if this legislation is passed.

And luckily, the paid family leave model works in practice, not only in theory. When a similar program was put in place in California, two-thirds of employees that benefitted didn’t even see a change in their wages.

On the other hand, when workers who don’t have access to paid leave are forced to take time off because of family issues or illness, they are much more likely to fall into poverty and turn to public assistance.

How Businesses Deal with Paid Time Off Policies

On the business end, some companies have seen the value of retaining their staff that needs time off by offering comprehensive family leave time.

Google, for example, cut their new-mother attrition by half when they implemented a five-month maternity leave policy. But not every employer is as generous as Google – which is why we need a national policy that makes sure all businesses treat their workers right.

Although feared and criticized by some members of the business community, many business owners nationwide – ranging from the founder of Kinko’s to the CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council – openly support the FAMILY Act. And in a real life example, California’s paid family leave law has actually had a positive effect on business in the state.

Equally impressive, more small business owners stand in favor of a national paid family leave program than against it.

Society Benefits from Paid Family Leave

Access to paid family leave benefits many different groups in society, sometimes in unexpected ways:

  • Children and infants whose parents have access to paid family leave are much more likely do have better health outcomes and do better in school.
  • Their parents are less likely to need the help of government safety net programs and less like to declare bankruptcy.
  • Women are more likely to continue work after being caretakers, and less likely to need welfare.
  • New mothers who are able to take time off after giving birth or adopting a child are much less likely to suffer from depression.
  • Infants whose parents were able to stay home with them during their first year are more likely to do well in school and the job market.

How many of those situations might apply to your life?

The FAMILY Act and You: How to Get Involved

There are a lot of ways that the FAMILY Act might be able to help you or someone you know, as illustrated in the examples throughout this article. If you want to get involved in helping paid family leave become a nationwide reality, don’t hesitate to jump in.

People are organizing nationwide behind the FAMILY Act. To send a message to your representative asking him or her to support the Act, use this handy tool from the Association of American University Women.

However, given the current gridlock in Congress over this issue, working to change state policy may be one of your best options. Check out local coalitions in your state that are working on family leave issues or Paid Sick Days campaigns.

Alternately, visit websites of organizations like the Labor Project for Working Families, Family Values @ Work, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, or the National Partnership for Women and Families for more ways to take action.

***

Simply put, paid family leave leads to a more successful America – an America with smarter children, happier parents, less poverty, and a stronger workforce. An America that supports its working women.

There are many women and men already dedicating their lives to this fight – and it makes total sense, because baby, we deserve it!

 

EastFamilyPhoto

The beautiful, kind, loving East family. And a special friend 🙂

Running, almost tripping, practically flying down the twisty-turning path through green leafy branches and moss-covered logs with the sun sparkling off of the lake.

The fragrant, spicy aroma of Santosh Indian cuisine wafting up the steps to an old attic filled with mysteries waiting to be unraveled, broken into and taken apart.

Movie nights with way too much candy, movie days with scene-by-scene reenactments and Richard Simmons dance-offs.

There are certain moments that remain so fresh in your memory that you can barely believe they occurred more than 15 years ago. And so many of those memories involved John East, the wonderfully kooky, creative and kind, young and wild father of one of my best friends, Mickey.

John became a father at a young age, but he was about as unselfish as they come during our childhoods. He was an inspiration in the way he cared for his family and encouraged his daughters to follow their passions. He never held them back from anything because they were girls. He was a man who truly and firmly believed in the individual’s right to express themselves – and touched many lives because of it.

As a child, going to Mickey’s home was pure magic. There was Laura, her beautiful older sister to look up to. There was Teresa, one of the most loving, soft-spoken, bright-hearted, nurturing and warm mothers that I have met. And there was John, full of life and adventure.

I think my deep love of photography grew ten-fold because John let us use his SLR camera to do magical photo shoots in the woods below their house. Sometimes we put on red lipstick and dresses and twirled around the living room, snapping shots that are forever etched in my childhood.

I learned so much in that house – from watching films old and new, films that opened my eyes to things yet undiscovered. From listening to music and playing semi-crude, semi-educational computer games that I would never have known of otherwise.

And so importantly, John and Teresa welcomed everyone into their home. They were generous and open, the utter depiction of the more the merrier.

John has left us far too soon. He most definitely had more to teach us, and he will be sorely missed by SO MANY people. It’s hard to express the void that has been left by his departure, but I know one thing for certain – his inquisitive, seeking soul is still with us. He’ll always be there in Teresa’s poems and the love that she shares, in Mickey’s fantastical artwork and unique kindness, in Laura’s generosity of spirit and work.

One more memory comes to mind as I prepare to attend a celebration of his life at Timberline High School today. Last Christmas, my family and I ran into the Easts at the movie theater that we had both attended to watch Les Misérables. There we were – two families blessed and loved, both strong survivors of divorce and change, each with their struggles but lucky enough to be the type of families that could still come together to watch a three-hour musical on a cold December night. To me, that’s love.

I’ll never forget it. It was the last time I saw John, and the twinkle in his eye was just as bright as it had been when we were children. He will be forever and ever missed.

I asked just a few people to say something about John – and found an overwhelming fountain of love in return.

Lizeta Walker: Being a part of my formative years, John had a powerful influence on bringing about the happiness of life for me. I didn’t realize the degree to which he was consciously present and unconditionally loving, until I sought to demonstrate these qualities myself as an adult. I am grateful to the Easts for being a family to me and unselfishly sharing their father with me. He was a very special person and I know he is dancing like Tevye in the realm of the Spirit.

Evan Brodoff Grotsky: Growing up with Mickey, I always looked forward to having family dinners at her house. I vividly recall spending hours at the table, telling stories, doing weird impressions, and reenacting the best Monty Python bits. John, especially, would laugh his ass off at our jokes, which would only encourage us more! As kids (and through adulthood, too), John and Teresa always supported us and encouraged our creative self-expression. I always felt so accepted by him and his family and like I could always be myself with them. John was kind, gentle, and accepting of everyone. I love him and miss him dearly.

Lynn Grotsky & Lisa Brodoff: John was one of several important men in ours and our children’s lives. He was funny, creative, and so caring and kind and a goof-ball to boot. We spent many years laughing, worrying and sometimes crying, as we raised our children together watching them grow into the amazing adults they are today.

Tina Simcich: A memory: John rushing down the trail to the lake, jumping in the water like a crazy man, bursting up out of the lake – exuberant, with eyes shining with joy and life. Thank you, John, for sharing your heart, life and spirit with us.

Mykal Mantyla: John East was a welcoming and kind soul, nurturing the artistic in his daughters and myself, as their home was became my second home as a teenager. He is gone too soon, as there are so many more he has yet to reach with his great kindness. He will be truly missed.

John, we love you. My heart is with Mickey, Laura, Teresa, his wife Deanna and her children, and his many family and friends today.

To read John’s obituary, please visit the Woodlawn Forest Funeral Home site.

sunset

I haven’t written in a long time. I haven’t been able to.

Every time I considered starting an article or researching a new topic, I stopped myself. Instead of the intrigue and passion that I usually feel, all I found was a stinging, bitter pain.

Because I was hurting; because I was afraid.

Writing is usually like therapy for me – it allows me to vent to the world and at the same time to no one at all. If I end up writing something worthwhile, fantastic. If all I get is a sore back from hunching over my laptop and a sappy piece of nonsense that no one would ever want to read, so be it.

But for the last month, I have avoided my laptop like the plague.

Where did this pain come from? And why was it so hard to get past?

It originated with the very act of writing an article about something I care about. About something that I am so sure of that I could never have imagined the backlash that I received from expressing my beliefs – or that they could even have been interpreted the way that they were.

But as I was once told, intent is not always the same thing as effect.

The topic of the article that started it all? Self-protection through assault prevention techniques and self-defense.

The aftermath of a sexual assault is so complicated – the range of emotions  can jump from guilt to shame to anger to confusion and beyond; the reality of self-blame can be crippling; and the effect on a victim’s life is unquantifiable. Not only this, but every victim deals with and recovers from sexual assault in their own way. What is true for one person might be unthinkable for another. And no one – whether a survivor themselves or not – has the right to tell another person how they should feel in the wake of this horrendous crime.

Keeping this in mind, I tried to write my article in a way that would place blame solely on the perpetrator. I wanted to present ideas for self-protection and self-defense as possibilities for those who might find them worthwhile. Nowhere did I hint that if you eschew taking a self-defense class or find no use in my ideas it would be your fault if you were assaulted. I would never – could never – say, think or believe anything even close to that.

Others took my article differently. In fact, on the day of its publication, it caused a veritable scandal in the feminist community. I was harassed on Twitter, called a failure and a victim blamer, told that I epitomized the Patriarchy, and watched as my article was smashed to smithereens. In the opinion of the individuals making these comments, I was placing blame on victims of rape by offering ideas about prevention.

The piece was far from perfect. In fact, if I were to write it again, I would make an absolutely rigid point of trying to look at what I wrote from eyes different from my own. To read every last word from a completely different perspective. Maybe then I would have seen what these people saw.

And yet, I was also commended by the women’s self-defense community for writing it. I received emails, tweets, posts and texts from people who were as dismayed as I was about the reaction. A well-known, deeply respected self-defense instructor even wrote an article in The Hairpin about the whole mess (note: opinions in The Hairpin piece are strictly those expressed by Susan Schorn).

The thing is, it really was a huge, ugly mess. No one was to blame. It just kind of happened – and then exploded in a nasty way. But I am about as sensitive as they come (great quality in a writer, right? ha!). I was shattered. I cried for an entire day and went into bouts of depression every time I thought about it for a month afterward.

Not that I can’t take being criticized or called names. People criticize my opinions all the time, and I have been called some verrrry interesting things (especially by Men’s Rights Activists)! Generally, I welcome or endure it – to a point. I suppose the deeply reactive subject matter made everything different this time.

I felt…invalidated. Silenced. As if my experiences and beliefs could be overturned and expelled with a gust of wind.

The thing is, they can’t. Others don’t have to agree with me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t hold true to my ideals. And more appropriate to this situation, others may not always see the intended message in my writing. There isn’t much that I can do about this except to keep moving forward, carefully, while trying to be sensitive to the feelings of the world around me.

This has been a huge lesson. And from where I stand today, it won’t stop me from writing in the future. My sadness and frustration are still there; I’ve just learned how to move beyond them and try to turn them into something more positive and healing. And that’s why I’m sitting at home writing a blog post on this rainy Friday night.

Because really – hiding my laptop behind the couch isn’t helping anyone, especially not myself.

PNWBay

As all who know me are well aware, my time in DC (4+ years in total) was completely life-altering. It was a grand, terrifying, fun, miserable, gut-wrenching and soul-searching period of my life. But it was also a period that I knew would end.

And that it has. I write to you from my cozy corner of the big red couch in my mother’s house in western Washington State, fire blazing in the hearth and a light dusting of snow outside.

It’s after midnight here and I just finished reading about 100 pages of Game of Thrones book 5, bookworm that I am. I’m thinking about my friends back on the east coast – some tucked in their beds with their lovers and some eating Jumbo Slice after a rowdy night at the bars. I miss them. A lot.

And yet I feel this sense of ease and calm that I barely remembered existed until I moved back here a few weeks ago. I feel fear too – fear that this is all too good to be true; fear that the rug is going to be pulled out from under me and that this peace will disappear.

It’s not as if you can’t find that same peace in the District. It just wasn’t there for me.

It wasn’t just the constant sound of ambulances careening by my apartment, or the everlasting bruises on my shoulders from carrying far too heavy and far too many bags of groceries home for miles. It wasn’t just the way people don’t look at you or smile when you pass on the street.

It was everything, and it was nothing. I had ceased to feel the way I wanted to feel. I’d stopped seeing the upside of things, or the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t get me wrong – DC is amazing in so many ways. I love the city’s energy and the constant rush of so many things to do and people to meet. I love the educated, fascinating, varied individuals that inhabit it. And the friends I made there…they’ll never be replaced.

I suppose I’m just not the type of person who thrives in the District long-term. Many extraordinarily smart and fantastic people do – and I applaud them. But not this girl.

This girl feels comforted sitting outside the bar in the freezing winter air while her friends drink Rainier and chain smoke. This girl lives to see the mountain on a clear day, breathtaking in all its ethereal glory. This girl likes to run on paths surrounded by evergreens with the light northwest rain messing up her way too long hair. This girl missed her family.

I guess it’s simple. I’m home.

revengepornarticle

Originally posted on Everyday Feminism under the name “Taking a Stand against Revenge Porn and Internet Exploitation in the Digital Age”

Revenge porn. Never heard of it? You probably will soon.

This new Internet craze, specifically focused on women, occurs when a person shares a sexual or nude photo or video with a partner or hookup who later decides to make the private photo public.

Promises that the photo will be kept private often disintegrate with time, especially after a breakup or falling out. But the lasting negative effects on a victim of revenge porn– not to mention the extreme difficulties of removing photos once they have hit the net – make this phenomenon a horrifying prospect for anyone who has ever taken sexy pictures for a significant other.

And in most places, it’s perfectly legal.

You read that right. Revenge porn (also known as non-consensual pornography or cyber rape) is legal in every state except California and New Jersey.

University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks is trying to change this by helping states write laws against revenge porn.

To naysayers who prefer to victim blame, Franks compares sharing pornographic material to making a business transaction.

“If you give your credit card to a waiter, you aren’t giving him permission to buy a yacht,” says Franks.

Sending sexual or nude photos to another person does not give them the right to share what they’ve received on a public forum such as the Internet – especially within the context of trust and under an agreement that the photos will be kept private.

Now, profiteers have even discovered a way to make revenge porn profitable. Many popular revenge porn sites, such as MyEx.Com – a website that boasts the tagline “Get Revenge! Naked Pics of Your Ex” – offers victims with a “take-down” option.

Pay up, and the site will remove your photos.

And prices are steep.

MyEx.Com has an option to “Remove My Name” which takes you to the payment site “Reputation Guard” and demands $500 for the deletion of photos and personal information from MyEx.

Simply put, this is blackmail. MyEx.Com is working along with Reputation Guard to extort money from victims of internet exploitation – and no one is stopping them.

Moreover, paying $500 will only ensure that the photos are removed from the MyEx site. Everyone knows that once a picture is on the Internet, it is there to stay.

Reputation Guard has no authority to remove the exact same photos and personal information from the possibly hundreds of other low-life websites or personal blogs on which they have ended up.

Sometimes revenge porn doesn’t include personal information or naked photos – but it can still be damaging. I know – from personal experience.

A few summers ago, on the way home from a fantastic beach vacation with a group of close friends, I got a call that broke my heart.

It was my best friend calling to tell me that pictures of me had surfaced on AutoAdmit.com, a site for Internet trolls working in the law profession or attending law school with the laughable motto “The most prestigious law school discussion board in the world.”

The pictures were all taken directly from my Facebook albums. My name wasn’t included, and the photo locations ranged from formal events to cab rides to mini golf.

We quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only victim – my friend had a page of her own. This man, whoever he was, had pilfered about thirty photos of us from our Facebook profiles and written dehumanizing and scary descriptions of the sexual things he planned to do to us.

He even claimed to be close to having a threesome with us – an utterly inexplicable lie. About eighty of his site cronies then chimed in with comments so vile that I have spent years trying to forget them.

No nudity, no personal contact info, and no names were shared. And yet I felt utterly and completely violated. I wanted the photos down, and I wanted them down now.

However, AutoAdmit (like many revenge porn sites) is unmonitored and unstaffed. It is a forum for women-bashing and body-shaming by faceless trolls sitting behind computer screens.

So what can be done in these types of situations?

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many options – yet. But let’s look at the ones that do we have.

Contact the Photo Hosting Service

First, get your photos taken down if you can.

In my case, my friend and I realized that our photos were being hosted on imgur.com, so we wrote to the photo editor of imgur through their Removal Request option and demanded their deletion.

It worked. The photos were down within forty-eight hours.

Photo hosting websites like imgur are looking to avoid lawsuits. They are not as interested in protecting the creeps who post revenge pictures as they are of not being sued.

Be firm, be forceful, and threaten legal action. This is the easiest way to get your photos removed from a public image hosting site.

But what about sites like MyEx where the photos are hosted internally?

Although revenge porn itself is not yet illegal in most places, there are legal guidelines concerning ownership of photos.

A recent survey discloses that 80% of revenge porn victims took the pictures in question themselves – giving them the legal rights to those photos.

Under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 (DCMA), victims can submit a DMCA take-down request to offending websites that are using their photos without consent.

Rights protection group DMCA Defender provides relatively low-cost services to victims who want help submitting a claim.

While these are viable options, they are only marginally successful at removing images, and do nothing to punish the criminals behind online sexual harassment. So what more can we do?

We need to go further. We need to change the law.

Making Revenge Porn Illegal

When Annmarie Chiarini, a Maryland college professor and victim of an immense revenge porn battle that nearly ended her career and brought her close to taking her own life, went to the police with evidence that her ex-boyfriend had posted and sold naked photos of her online, the police shrugged her away.

There was nothing they could do because no crime had been committed, they said.

Similarly, advocacy group End Revenge Porn creator Dr. Holly Jacobs suffered three-and-a-half years of unrelenting fallout when police failed to prosecute her ex-boyfriend for posting her personal data and photos online.

Now women like Jacobs and Chiarini are fighting back hard to make revenge porn unlawful. They are working around the clock to get bills passed in states nationwide that will make this type of online sexual harassment illegal and create real consequences for perpetrators.

The fact that revenge porn can have deadly consequences also lends great credibility to the idea of making it a crime. Releasing a victim’s image, hometown, full name, age, and occupation can lead to stalking and physical endangerment. It can also lead to deep emotional distress and even victim suicide.

Other groups leading the fight in the US include the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Without My Consent, Army of She, Women Against Revenge Porn, and Bullyville. These sites provide fantastic resources that help victims join the fight to make revenge porn illegal.

Seek Mental and Emotional Support

The number of suicides linked to online sexual exploitation and revenge porn has skyrocketed in recent years.

Many arise from online harassment following a sexual assault, such as in the case of California teen Audrie Potts, who hung herself after photos of her rape were distributed online.

Others come from shame brought on by revenge porn.

Such is the case of Amanda Todd, who committed suicide after facing unending torment from school bullies over topless photos that she was pressured to send to an older man. She was in the seventh grade when she sent the photos and fifteen when she ended her life.

Revenge porn and Internet sexual harassment seek to demoralize, debase, and shame women on social, sexual, and professional levels. They are deeply painful and effective ways of making victims feel alienated, unloved, and even worthless.

Finding a psychologist or therapist who can help you navigate through the negativity is a key step to overcoming the pain induced by internet sexual harassment.

If you or someone you know begins to feel suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides a 24-hour hotline (1-800-273-TALK) and a therapy finder by geographical region. Using the therapy finder, you can search for licensed mental health professionals, support groups, government services, and more.

Reach out to your family and friends as well. They can provide you with a strong backbone of support in times of need.

If you don’t feel like you have anyone to turn to, a support/survivor group can also provide you with comfort and understanding. Check the websites of local sexual abuse agencies for more resources, or visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) site to search for other options.

Remember: This is Rape Culture, Not Normality

Our culture prefers to blame the victim in situations like these, saying “Why did she send this photo?” or “She got what was coming to her for being careless/slutty/sexual.”

As should be painfully obvious, and as Professor Franks demonstrates in a recent Cosmopolitan article, this is rape culture at work:

“When we say, ‘What was she doing giving out this picture?’ what we’re really saying is if you’re sexual with one person, society is entitled to treat you as sexual for all purposes,” Franks states.

“We’re telling women and girls that revenge porn is justified punishment for giving a sexy picture to a trusted partner, and that’s exactly the same thing as telling women and girls that rape is justified punishment for drinking or wearing a short skirt.”

So before you start apologizing about sending a sexy photo, think.

You are an adult. You are free to do what you want with your body (within legal boundaries). No one can tell you that you deserve to be publicly humiliated and have your trust violated because you are a sexual person. Remember that.

That said, there are undeniable risks involved with sending sexual photos to another person. Once a picture is given to someone else – whether your spouse, a friend, or a casual hookup – it is out of your immediate control.

Even if made illegal everywhere, the Internet is a big place. People will still find ways to get away with online sexual harassment and revenge porn.

But hopefully making it a crime will make it harder for them.

With prospective bills to make revenge porn and other forms of sexual Internet harassment illegal in New York and other places nationwide, the future looks a little bit brighter.

In the meantime, education about revenge porn is crucial.

***

The more people that know about this phenomenon and how to stop it, the harder it will be for creeps to get away with. And hopefully, it will become less common and accepted as people realize that it has dangerous results.

It’s just one more battle in the war against rape culture, but it’s one that we can all take part in by calling this exploitation out, educating people about why it’s not okay, and working towards making it illegal. Claim your rights.

Protect yourself. You are worth it.