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Me sunbathing at Suryalila

It’s been a long time, friends. A lot has happened. Ups and downs, adventures and joyful moments, sorrows and anxious nights. There’s much too much to write it all down in one sitting.

But to quickly summarize – I took a giant leap and traveled to Andalucia, Spain to take an incredible yoga teacher training course with Frog Lotus Yoga on an olive orchard/retreat center called Suryalila. I had the time of my life, worked my yoga butt off, wept tears of frustration, made incredible friends, pushed my boundaries, and learned more than I thought possible in 20 days.

I left the experience with a whole new approach to yoga, a deep passion of mine, and continued on to travel more in Spain, Germany, and Austria. I’ll upload pictures another day, but suffice to say, it was the experience of a lifetime. I will always be so thankful that I worked so hard to get there (working odd jobs all summer and getting donations from wonderful friends enabled me to pay the tuition), and that I succeeded in reaching my goal of becoming a yoga teacher.

I am now teaching yoga at multiple esteemed studios in Seattle (and have been since two months after I returned from Europe). I love the freedom and joy that this job gives me. When my students come to me after class and tell me how much they enjoyed their practice, my heart fills.

Striving to uplift my students while working out their minds and bodies can be a lofty task. There are days when I just don’t feel like teaching. Days when I feel like I’d rather pull my mat to the side of the room and just flow through the asanas (movements) while someone else leads the practice. But once I actually get to the front of the class and see those radiant faces, I am so grateful for the ability to guide them.

Other than teaching, I’m also working as the PR Manager of a growing vegan protein powder company, Sprout Living. This awesome group of twenty-somethings is dedicated to creating the very best organic, raw, non-GMO, cruelty-free protein on the market, and I’m proud to be part of the team.

That’s the very briefest of updates of course. There is a lot more to tell – not all of it happy. In fact, some of it is so devastating that I am still reeling as I write these words. But those tales are for another day.

For now I am simply happy to say that I feel ready to write again. I look forward to sharing stories, opinions, pictures, and much more with you all. ❤

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Cross-posted from my article in Everyday Feminism.

Morning: a man shuffles out of a cab in last night’s rumpled suit, holding a pair of dress shoes in his hands that have begun to pinch. The neighbors stare. This is the walk of shame.

Afternoon: a man skips lunch and pops three aspirin before heading into the waxing salon, preparing to endure searing pain for a clean, hairless nether region. This is the beauty routine.

Evening: a man leaves work to attend his kid’s school play; his all-female management team judges him for “putting parenting before work” (even though many of them have kids too). This is the double standard.

…Just kidding.

In reality, the man gets a high five from his doorman, drinks a beer while enjoying his lunch break, and rests easy because he knows his coworkers won’t criticize his work ethic just because he’s a dad.

From unrealistic beauty standards to slut shaming for promiscuity, there are a lot of things that women think about every day that men have never once had to consider. From the workplace to relationships, simple by being male, men experience privilege that makes their lives easier –and that they (usually) don’t even notice.

So we call out that privilege.

Not to castigate men for being born into it, and not to shame them for benefiting from this privilege—but to make them aware of how it affects their everyday lives and the lives of the women with whom they interact.

Because it’s not their fault that they aren’t conscious of it. Our patriarchal society works extra hard, day-in and day-out, to make sure that men aren’t aware of their privilege.

Let’s look at some examples of questions men don’t need to ask themselves – and how they make a difference in our lives.

1. Why am I expected to spend exorbitant amounts of money and time on my looks? And why do I get condemned as vain and superficial for doing so?

“Now every girl is expected to have: Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.”

While this quote is satirical and full of stereotypes, Tina Fey has a point. Women are held to ridiculous beauty standards that are impossible to meet.

And if she spends all that money, works out relentlessly, shuns fattening food, and achieves something akin to the patriarchy’s idea of “perfection?” Well, then she’s just vain and self-obsessed.

On the other hand, if she doesn’t choose to meet these standards, she’s a slob and doesn’t care about herself or her appearance.

There’s really no way to win, is there?

2. If I smile at people, will they interpret my friendliness as a sexual invitation? If I don’t, will they tell me to lighten up?

On a regular basis, many women have to deal with catcalls and degrading sexual offers from men as they walk to a meeting, the grocery store, the gym, the mailbox—you name it.

If she smiles or appears friendly, these offers and salutations will usually become more pronounced and gratuitous – almost as if she is expected to follow up on a simple smile with a blowjob.

But if she walks with her eyes forward and no smile on her lips? Then men will tell her “smile, sweetheart,” or “you’d be so much prettier if you smiled.”

How many men are told on a regular basis that they should smile? Especially by perfect strangers?

Not many, that’s for sure. In our patriarchal society, men are allowed the choice of how to portray themselves to the world – without the same level of judgment that women receive.

3. If I wear something that shows skin, will I get harassed?

From an early age women are taught to be ashamed of their bodies—men, not so much. Therefore, men don’t grow up believing that in order to be virtuous, they must cover up – or pay for it with degrading comments and behavior from others.

And although some men get criticized for their style of dress, it is much less likely that they will be sexually harassed for what they are wearing – I mean, men can walk around without even wearing a shirt and no one blinks an eye.

Conversely, women who choose to reveal skin are consistently sexually harassed, slut-shamed, or fat-shamed for showing off their bodies.

Simply put, society does not police men for how much skin they show. Unlike with women, the decision of what to wear is left up to them, not considered fodder for public discussion.

4. If I wear sexy clothing and enjoy partying, will people accuse me of provoking sexual harassment and/or assault?

“Why was she wearing such a short dress?” “Why was she out so late?” “How much did she drink that night?” “Why didn’t she know better than to hang out with those people?”

When we discuss a burglary, we never assign blame to the victim by saying that the beautiful garden in front of her house “tempted the robbers in.” Obviously, that would be ridiculous. But in the case of a woman being sexually harassed or raped, people often justify the crime by putting the onus on her provocative appearance, level of intoxication, or “improper” behavior.

Men aren’t held to these same standards (although sadly, they deal with an entirely different degrading patriarchal construct involving sex and consent).

As mentioned above, men aren’t criticized for showing off their bodies –and conversely are encouraged to drink to excess by the ingrained fraternity culture of our society.

5. If I have sex with him, will everyone think I’m a slut?

No one calls a man a slut for having sex. But women run the risk of being called sluts just for kissing a guy.

It’s simple: the sexual double standard still rules in America. Men can have promiscuous sex and be congratulated for it. Women who are sexually promiscuous are rarely viewed in a positive light.

6. If the condom breaks, will I get pregnant? If so, what then?

This is a no-brainer. No cis man has ever wondered this – and barring some very intense scientific advances, no cis man will ever have to. They will never have to worry about having to choose between aborting the child or having their whole world change as their body accommodates a new life.

Before anyone gets up in arms, let me state: this is biology, and no one would ever blame cis men for not being able to conceive. But it’s just one more example of how sexual choices affect cis men and cis women very differently.

7. If I reveal my gender, will I receive the same level of respect?

In an experimental Yale study, a group of scientists were given the same application to review for a lab position. Half of the scientists received the application under a female name, while the other half received the exact same application with a male name attached.

Across the board, the scientists rated the “male” applicants higher in competence and hireability, and offered them higher starting salaries than the “female” applicants.

For the exact same application.

And that’s just one small example.

Because of the myriad ways that women are discriminated against in professional, academic, and social circles, some women take to hiding their gender in order to be accepted into the “boy’s club” and to receive more respect from male counterparts.

Especially in the professional world and academics, but also in other online forums, women often have to work twice as hard to earn the same respect as men, because of society’s gendered expectations.

8. If I become upset at work, will they blame it on PMS?

We’ve all heard it a million times: “We can’t have a [cis] female President because she might go bomb Russia when she has PMS!

As ludicrous as this idea is, it’s still talked about.

Here’s a little dose of reality: Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) does not make us irrational.

Can PMS make a woman feel more moody? Sure. Physically uncomfortable? Hell yes. But hands down, PMS does not change a woman’s brain chemistry enough to make her irrational or less competent.

Because cis men don’t menstruate, they don’t have a recognized equivalent syndrome that their rash behavior can conveniently be blamed on. On the contrary: when men display anger or intensity at work, they are often thought of as “strong,” “alpha,” or “dominant.”

9. Will I have less of a chance of being hired or promoted because of my gender?

The good news is that sex discriminationwhich involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because of that person’s sex – is illegal in the US.

The bad news is that it happens all the time anyway.

Studies show that the majority of industry managers (especially in male-dominated industries like Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and STEM fields) tend to look for masculine stereotypes when hiring and awarding promotions.

Because of these male-biased hiring and promoting practices – which spring partly from a lack of diversity in the industries themselves – it is often extremely difficult for women to excel and move up in the company.

10. If I don’t do well at my job, will people take it as a sign that people of my gender shouldn’t be doing this line of work?

Sometimes the system keeps women from succeeding at their jobs.

For example, women working in male-dominated industries are often subjected to huge amounts of pressure to conform to the same masculine traits exhibited by their male counterparts. If they don’t, they are usually viewed negatively and kept from advancing in the company. And as we already know, the system – from hiring, to awarding raises and bonuses, to achieving managerial status – is stacked against women, making it much harder for them to rise to the top.

Sure, there are certainly individual women – just like there are individual men – whose particular talents aren’t suited for these jobs.

But using a couple of examples as reason to write off an entire gender is foolish, uneducated, and sexist – and fails to acknowledge the success of female leaders everywhere.

11. If I do well in my company, will people say that I slept my way to the top?

When men in high-power jobs succeed, it is generally presumed that they worked their asses off to get there. But women who reach the same level of success are often accused of sleeping their way to the top, despite the falsity of the claims.

This is because society often dismisses a woman’s hard work and perseverance, and reduces her to an object only valuable for bringing sexual pleasure to others.

12. If I have kids, will people assume I don’t care about my career anymore?

For years, studies have shown that working moms are discriminated against in ways as small as being left out of meetings, to as substantial as losing promotions – or even their jobs.

In September 2014, the federal government reached a $5 million settlement with Wells Fargo over allegations that the banking giant discriminated against pregnant women, new mothers, and women on maternity leave.

Studies also show that working fathers simply do not deal with this level of discrimination. But because many people still believe that a woman’s place is “in the home,” they pigeonhole working mothers and discriminate against them unfairly.

13. If I don’t want a family, will people assume there’s something wrong with me?

Barren. Cold. Unloving. The crazy cat lady.

People make a lot of judgments about women who decide not to have children or get married. This is probably because the belief that women exist to be mothers lives on to this day in the assumption that a childless woman must be lonely, or unhappy, or that she should be pitied for not having been able to find “the right man.”

When a man decides to do the same, there may be some similar pity – but he is also likely to be venerated as a successful bachelor who “can’t be tamed” (think George Clooney).

In reality, having a family is entirely a personal choice – and there is no reason why men and women should be judged differently in relation to that decision.

***

These are a few examples of male privilege at its most insidious – patriarchal norms working below the surface to uphold sexist double standards in society.

Yes, everyone has a different life experience, and some men may, at some point in their lives, ask themselves some version of these questions. But that does not negate their male privilege.

We can all learn more about how patriarchal structures perpetuate this privilege. And the more we know, the better we can change how people respond.

Because even though men don’t generally have to think about all the things on this list – and so many others – they should.

Just by acknowledging their male privilege, men can start chipping away at it. And that’s a damn beautiful thing.

Source: CBS Charlotte

Cross-posted from Everyday Feminism

Angry Americans have a lot to say about welfare.

Some of it’s questionable, most of it’s derogatory, and almost all of it is incorrect.

There are millions of people who currently receive government assistance in our country. To some Americans, this rings alarm bells.

But how much do they really know about what welfare actually is, or about the people who need it?

First of all, many people would be surprised to discover that there is no one program called “welfare.”

The word “welfare” refers to a number of different government assistance programs that provide help to Americans struggling with poverty in distinct ways. SNAP/food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), tax credits for working families, and Social Security are just a few programs under the welfare umbrella.

Despite how commonly used these programs are, most people are unaware of how their daily lives are affected by government assistance.

In fact, many people who complain the most about the “evils” of welfare are actually receiving it themselves – in some form or another. They just don’t realize it, because they don’t know what welfare really entails.

Confusion about welfare is not a new thing. Stereotypes about recipients have played a crucial part in politics and propaganda for decades, fueled by class warfare and racist ideology. And the only real way to get folks to stop spreading misinformation is to educate them.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular welfare stereotypes and discover just how wrong they are.

Myth #1: Welfare Payments Are Too High

In reality, welfare benefits are modest at best, despite the continual attacks by conservative politicians who try, year after year, to reduce them.

Take the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps: The average benefit per person is $1.50 per meal.

Can you imagine trying to feed yourself adequately – not to mention healthily – on such an small amount of money?

Similar to SNAP, most other government assistance programs seek to provide only the barest minimum amount of help that an individual or family needs to survive.

Myth #2: Welfare Recipients Are Lazy

The idea that most people on welfare are able-bodied adults who are just too lazy to get a job and make an honest living is utterly false.

Most benefit programs require recipients to work in order to collect. Take Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), for example. Single parents receiving this grant must work at least 30 hours per week in order to be eligible, and two-parent families must work between 35 and 50 hours a week.

The fact is, blue-collar wages in America are simply not high enough to support workers in today’s economy. The wages paid by many large employers (including giants like Wal-Mart) are so low that their full-time employees are eligible for welfare.

You heard that right: People are working full-time to support their families, paying their fair share of taxes, but are so underpaid that they can’t get by without relying on government assistance.

This is partly due to the disturbing fact that the federal minimum wage has not been increased in over five years (despite the incessantly rising cost of living in our country) and partly due to voracious corporate greed.

And furthermore, half of all food stamp recipients are children. More than 82% of all food stamp money goes to households that include children, elderly people, or people with disabilities. These are people who legally or physically cannot work and live at the mercy of the system.

So where are all of these able-bodied lazy adults who are luxuriating off of their benefits? They are a fabrication.

Most people on welfare are hardworking, taxpaying citizens, just like the rest of us. Or they are impoverished children, elders, or folks with disabilities.

But it’s a lot easier for welfare critics to take help away from people that they imagine are lazy and deceitful, so that false image lives on.

Myth #3: Undocumented Immigrants Are All on Welfare

Nope. Absolutely not.

In fact, undocumented immigrants in the US are not eligible for any benefits except emergency Medicaid (in the case that they are severely injured or sick).

According to the Social Security Administration, about half to three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes, including billions in Social Security taxes for benefits that they will never see a penny of.

Yes, their kids can attend public schools for free, but undocumented immigrants are actually contributing more to the American economy than they take away – and they have no access to food stamps or other welfare programs, despite being one of the lowest-paid groups in the nation.

Myth #4: People Use Welfare to Support Their Drug Habits

Federal government research tells us that the population of welfare receivers on drugs is basically the same as that of the American population in general – in some cases, even lower.

Recent drug testing results from individual states also prove the falseness of this widely accepted myth.

In July 2014, Tennessee began testing their welfare applicants, resulting in a whopping 1-in-800 people testing positive for illegal drugs. That’s less than 1%.

In Florida, four months of drug testing revealed that only 2.6% of applicants tested positive (in contrast, 8% of Florida’s non-welfare receiving population regularly test positive for drugs).

Research proves time and time again that mandated drug testing costs taxpayers much more money than it saves. And since welfare naysayers never get the results that they want from the tests, you would think they would give up with this tired tactic already.  

Myth #5: The ‘Welfare Queen Is Hoodwinking Us All

Ronald Reagan once made a speech in which he claimed “There’s a woman in Chicago. She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards… She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income alone is over $150,000.″

“Who is this woman and how dare she steal the money of innocent, hardworking people?” cried the voices of people across the nation.

Thus was born the infamous and still widely discussed “Welfare Queen.”

She stands for all welfare recipients that are (supposedly) lazily drinking the day away, popping out babies in order to “rake in” more welfare money, and fooling the system by getting more than their share of benefits and then using them to buy iPhones and lobster dinners.

Oh, and she’s obviously Black. Although Reagan didn’t specifically mention her race, he played upon white America’s racial fears to ensure that people assumed she was Black.

What’s more, she is the perfect scapegoat for us to blame for the problems of our nation, the perfect reason to not feel bad about voting for politicians who want to cut meager welfare benefits to struggling families.

There’s just one catch.

She doesn’t exist. Good old President Reagan made her up.

What’s much more important than the falsehood of that single example is the fact that this stereotype doesn’t hold up in general. As we’ve already discovered, most welfare recipients are people just like us – hard workers struggling to support themselves and their families in the wake of the Great Recession.

My advice? Speak out when people bring up the tired Welfare Queen and her 12 babies. A future in which people don’t begrudge struggling families their humble benefits based on a racist myth is possible.

Spread knowledge and knowledge will overcome.

Myth #6: Welfare Is Not Effective

Government assistance is extremely effective at helping people get out of – and stay out of – poverty.

Conservative groups like the Cato Institute try to convince the public that because of increasing demand for programs such as food stamps, welfare has failed. In fact, the economic damage done by the Great Recession is the cause of rising food stamp participants.

The question we should be asking is, where would we be without these programs?

Well, in 2013, for example:

  • Food stamps helped lessen the burden of poverty for 4.8 million people.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit kept 8 million hardworking families from falling under the poverty line.
  • If Social Security didn’t exist, 27 million more people would be poor.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Every year, Census Bureau data proves that welfare programs are instrumental in helping people get back on their feet – and quickly.

This is exactly why these programs are necessary. And precisely why cutting their funding doesn’t make any sense.

In contrast, increasing funding to welfare programs would help alleviate poverty to an even greater extent, which would in turn help the economy grow and protect the middle class.

This brings us to the greatest myth of all – the myth that you or I will never, under no circumstance, need government assistance.

Myth #7: You’ll Never Need Welfare

Welfare, in some form, touches most people at some point during their life.

Maybe it was that few months of unemployment benefits that the war vet received when she was laid off. Maybe it was childcare resources that saved the single dad’s ass when he needed to go to work and leave the kids at home. Or perhaps it was the tax credits that got that working family through their roughest time.

No one can truthfully know that life will not throw them a curveball that severely impacts their financial situation. It’s crucial to understand that many of the welfare recipients people pity – or disdain – started out in a much more stable position.

And no matter what our current circumstances are, things change. Wealth, health, and good luck do not always last. Not one of us can know for sure that we won’t need to rely on welfare at some point in our lives.

Realizing this is just one important step towards cultivating empathy for those who are less fortunate than us.

***

Providing a safety net through government assistance makes our country stronger – and it’s time for Americans to stop spreading untrue and damaging rumors decrying the very programs that are creating a brighter future for our nation’s most vulnerable. It’s time for politicians to stop trying to cut meager benefits to struggling families.

Because there are millions of people out there who truly need these programs to help them get back on their feet. And you never know – someday, you might be one of them.

Source: She Knows

Cross-posted from Everyday Feminism (originally posted on November 18, 2014)

Character assassination. Stalking. Rape and death threats – all directed at women in the video game industry.

Over the last few months, violent bullying of female gamers has absolutely exploded in the public eye, creating a media storm and spreading alarm among women who play video games worldwide.

Game designer and feminist vlogger Anita Sarkeesian is one of many women who have borne the burden of this explosive anger – and perhaps the most well-known.

Sarkeesian is the author of Feminist Frequency, a popular video series commenting on women’s roles in various media outlets, including gaming. In her much-discussed series “Tropes vs. Women,” Sarkeesian suggests that gaming could be vastly improved by including more positive and strong female characters – and eliminating the negative portrayal of women as sexual objects to be saved or destroyed.

Seem like a valid argument to you? Not to some.

Although to you and me, this may seem like a reasonable and well-thought out request, she has subsequently been the recipient of terrifying death threats.

Just recently, she was forced to cancel a university speaking engagement about the portrayal of women in video games at because of an Internet threat of a mass shooting on campus, should the college allow her to speak.

So where is this deep hatred coming from? Who does it affect? How long has it existed in gaming? And what can be done about it?

These are questions that many people are asking – questions that deserve answers.

Because instead of ignoring the problem, as it has been ignored before, we have a duty to try to get to the bottom of this war on women in gaming.

Controversial from the Start

Video games and Internet gaming have long been a source of controversy in our society.

From worries that they increase a player’s tendency towards physical aggression to fears that they promote dangerous behavior and risk-taking, there are a lot of harsh critics of the gaming community out there already.

On the other hand, many tech-friendly educators of our digital age take advantage of the popularity of video games to create educational materials that kids will actually want to play. Other proponents argue that gaming creates a social, interactive environment that can actually aide socialization in players.

So is gaming good or bad?

Well, it’s not quite that simple. Nothing is. And no 2000 word essay can justly find a definitive answer to that question.

But regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is worth discussing the more sinister side of gaming that has come to the media’s attention over the last few months in the form of pure, unadulterated misogyny. Because that’s always bad news.

The Nice Boy Nerd Fallacy

It’s hard to talk about misogyny in gaming without discussing the Nice Guy™ concept, which is based on the idea that men who are nice to women should be entitled to romantic and/or sexual access to her.

Men who consider themselves “nerds” – as is often the case in video gaming culture – are frequently stereotyped as nice guys who respect women. In movies, they are generally depicted as sweet, loyal, culturally sensitive, great to women, and hyper smart – a challenge to hegemonic masculinity.

But let’s be honest: “Nerds” are not all nice. Just like “jocks” are not all drunk, chauvinistic, idiotic frat boys. These typecasts don’t often ring true when compared to real life.

And not to mention: Anyone who thinks that their niceness makes them somehow deserving of sex – rather than just, ya know, a decent human being – aren’t very nice. In fact, they’re reinforcing toxic masculinity with their entitlement complex.

Many male-dominated industries – like professional sports, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street – foster a culture of entitlement and sexism. What some people don’t realize, though, is that the gaming industry falls into this category as well.

Sexism in gaming is nothing new. It’s existed since the first games hit the shelves. However, these most recent, very public outbursts of violence and hatred towards women is the first time that activists have been able to bring it into the public eye and keep it there long enough to cause a (legitimate) fuss.

Entitlement in Gaming

Not every gamer hates women – far from it, actually. In fact, a new report shows that women make up about 48% of the gaming population. That’s right – almost half! This number has risen by a dramatic 40% in the last four years. But despite the shockingly high number of female gamers, there still exists a deeply sexist tone in many of the most popular games. It is clear that these games are created for men, by men.

Video games are stereotypically headed up with a male hero with only some games, like Mass Effect 3, allowing the player to customize as a male or female lead. And as the number of women in gaming grows, more female protagonists are appearing in games worldwide: Uncharted’s Elena Fisher and Chloe Frazier or The Walking Dead’s Clementine, for example – which is a huge step in the right direction.

However, women’s roles in video games are much more often subsidiary, subservient, and even frighteningly demeaning.

Whether the goal of a game is to save a beautiful and desirable princess from an evil villain in Super Mario Bros or an option in a game is to have sex with, punch, and then kill a female sex worker, like in Grand Theft Auto, there are innumerable portrayals of women in video games that grossly do not support women’s equality. And in doing so, they also fail to engender respect for women in the people that play them.

This lack of respect isn’t entirely surprising considering that the primary representations of women in gaming are either as sex objects or victims of male violence.

These tropes in video games perpetuate an attitude of entitlement and sexism among many male gamers – an attitude that is culturally imparted on them at birth and then fostered through a variety of means. These tropes help to ensure that gaming remains a “Boy’s Club,” despite the high number of female players and the many non-chauvinistic gaming advocates.

The Double Standard for Female Developers

Video game developer Zoe Quinn is no stranger to Internet harassment. One of the creators of Depression Quest, a free interactive fiction game that focuses on a young adult suffering from depression, she has been receiving threats of violence ever since the game’s release in 2013.

The reasons why are complicated. It seems that people are angry that a game has been created that pinpoints so accurately the fog that depression casts over a person’s life. The player must navigate through everyday life choices while dealing with clinical depression, thus making many options that a “happy” person might choose unavailable to them. Because stigma around mental health issues abounds, it’s unsurprising that a game that accurately depicts depression is receiving backlash.

But no matter what the reason, Quinn has suffered the brunt of this anger. The other creators of Depression Quest, writer Patrick Lindsey and musician Isaac Schankler, have not been subjected to anything as harsh as what Zoe has endured. As men involved in the gaming industry, it seems that they have received a “free pass” on an unpopular game that a woman was condemned for.

This double standard permeates the industry, making it much harder for female developers to reach the same level of respect as their male counterparts.

The Beginning of GamerGate

But there are other reasons why gamers have been threatening Quinn to the extent that she has to fear for her life.

Eron Gjoni, Quinn’s 24-year-old ex-boyfriend, is the man who lit the fuse on the explosive Internet war that is now called GamerGate.

After their breakup last summer, Gjoni wrote a blog post entitled thezoepost, lambasting Quinn and explicitly detailing the problems in their romantic relationship, which he attributes entirely to her.

In culmination, Gjoni accused Quinn of essentially exchanging sex for a positive review of Depression Quest. These claims have not been substantiated, as the reviewer, Nathan Grayson, never actually reviewed the game (let alone gave it a positive review), and only mentioned Quinn briefly in a blog post. Furthermore, the romantic relationship in question allegedly began after the publication of this blog post.

Still, the damage had been done.

And thus was born GamerGate, a disturbing battle against women in gaming.

Anonymous threats of violence and rape flooded Quinn’s e-mail inbox, and in August, all of her personal details (including her address) were exposed, forcing her to flee her house in fear.

The very fact that it is Quinn, not the male reviewer who supposedly violated ethical codes of reviewing, who is receiving death threats and has had to leave her own home, paints a clear picture of the double standard at work.

This is about threatening women in gaming; it’s not really about ethical standards, as has been claimed.

Whatever happened in their personal relationship, and no matter what we may think about either Gjoni or Quinn’s personal failings, there is absolutely no justification for the deeply misogynist backlash against Quinn and other female gamers and designers from the gaming community, culminating in such terrifying calls for physical violence.

GamerGate Is Misogyny at Work

GamerGate has morphed into an all-out war against women in the gaming community, reaching further than just Quinn, out to other female gamers like Brianna Wu (also forced into hiding due to threats of rape and murder) and Anita Sarkeesian, the author of Feminist Frequency and the victim of the mass shooting threat previously mentioned. Says Sarkeesian, “There’s this huge drive to silence us, and if they can’t silence us, they try to discredit us in an effort to push us out.”

And the intimidation is only becoming more pronounced.

The person who threatened to enact “the deadliest school shooting in American history” at Sarkeesian’s speech at Utah State University purportedly stated in an e-mail that “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they’ve wronged.” Sarkeesian asked police to search lecture attendees for firearms, but was told that state law allows the carrying of concealed weapons.

Pause. Do we really think that if any male politician or public figure were to have their life threatened in such a way, that some preventative measures wouldn’t have been taken by police? Talk about a culture steeped in misogyny. Resume.

But after the media attention on GamerGate and violence towards female gamers, there’s no denying what is happening.

According to Sarkeesian “[I]f you’re involved in gaming in any capacity, you can’t help but see what’s happening in terms of women being driven out, women being attacked, being silenced, having horrific harassment and assault done to them.”

Although admittedly a simplification and not portraying the true severity of the threats involved, Sarkeesian’s statement that “GamerGate is really a sexist temper tantrum” rings true in many ways.

Everyday Female Gamers Suffer, Too

It’s not just the high-profile female developers that suffer from sexism in gaming. Everyday female gamers experience it, too, although usually to a less pronounced degree of violence.

In order to avoid sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and gender-related mistreatment, many female game players actually mute their microphones and avoid revealing their gender to their fellow players.

In “Playing with Privilege,” Josh McIntosh of Polygon, a gaming news site, explains how his male privilege affects his gaming experience. Says McIntosh, “I will never be asked or expected to speak for all other gamers who share my gender… When purchasing most major video games in a store, chances are I will not be asked if (or assumed to be) buying it for a wife, daughter, or girlfriend… Complete strangers generally do not send me unsolicited images of their genitalia or demand to see me naked on the basis of being a male gamer.”

These are just a few everyday examples of what some female gamers experience when they make the simple choice to play a game.

Of course, not all female gamers are harassed or condescended to. Many women experience friendship and camaraderie in gaming. But the fact that they even have to worry about these issues is indicative of the staggering double standard that exists in casual gaming.

Change Will Come – If We Keep Pushing

This is a fight against the patriarchal hold of a Boy’s Club mentality in gaming – and it can be overturned. Like any social justice advocate, I have to believe in the power of positive social change through action and intention.

Here are a few suggestions on how to fight back against misogynist gamers and GamerGate.

1. Speak out when you witness misogyny in gaming.

If you see people making sexist and/or violent statements while playing games, in chat rooms, or on gaming forums, call them out.

The Internet allows for something called the “online disinhibition effect,” which essentially means that hiding behind a computer screen enables people to do and say terrible things without feeling the true repercussions of them or having to feel guilty for their nastiness. This is something that comes from habit, but the more these assholes get called out for their sexism, the less they will be able to hide.

The Internet is not a closed book or a private journal. It is a public record of indiscretions. Simply reminding people that “we see you and your despicable hatred of women” is a step towards making these cowards stop in their tracks.

2. Share this open letter to the gaming community with everyone you know.

Although now closed to further signatures, the message is simple and clear: “We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, or disability has the right to play games, criticize games, and make games without getting harassed or threatened. It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish.”

The letter also encourages gamers to take action when they witness sexist or violent commentary or interactions in their community.

3. Spread awareness about male gaming privilege.

Ask your male gamer friends to read McIntosh’s entire post chronicling daily examples of male privilege in gaming. Hell, everyone should read it (it’s brilliant)!

If more male gamers learn about their own privilege, it will be much easier for them to recognize it and fight against it while playing.

***

Ultimately, this is not just a gaming problem, but a societal one.

The more that feminist and equal rights activists speak out against atrocities such as those committed against Sarkeesian, Quinn, and Wu, the more that people will pay attention and stop sweeping the issue under the rug.

The more that developers include strong female characters in their games, the more women will feel integrated into the gaming community.

The more that smart, introspective male gamers like McIntosh take steps to realize their privilege in gaming – and expose it to the rest of us – the less power that privilege will hold.

The gaming community by no means needs to remain an unsafe space for women. With cooperation from game designers, activists, and more education of the public, there is a bright future for an inclusive, respectful gaming community.

Because when my future daughters play video games, I hope they will be able to reveal their gender without fear of harassment – and that the games they are playing will include dignified representations of women. I’d like them to damn well know that they have other options besides “sex object” and “victim of male violence.”

Gaming is supposed to be fun, after all.

https://i1.wp.com/images.elephantjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/smashing-patriarchy-feminism-comic-hammer.gif

Cross-posted from Everyday Feminism (originally posted on September 4, 2014)

Lately, I’ve noticed a frightening Internet trend. It’s the #WomenAgainstFeminism movement.

And it’s essentially exactly what it sounds like: women blogging and tweeting about things that they believe are in line with the feminist movement and then proclaiming that they are not feminists.

Then there are celebrities like Shailene Woodley, the young female lead in movies like Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, who have publicly decried feminism in the media.

Of course, it is completely valid for someone not to identify as a feminist. That’s their own personal choice.

But an important question remains: Do these anti-feminists really know what they’re talking about? Do they understand what feminism is, or are they ascribing their beliefs to antiquated or invented stereotypes about the movement?

And more importantly, how can we talk to non-feminists and anti-feminists about feminism in a non-confrontational, healthy way?

The ‘F’ Word

Feminism can be a scary word for some people.

There are a lot of myths about what it means to be a feminist – that feminists hate men, eschew “girly” things like dresses and heels, look down on stay-at-home moms, and want to take all the world’s power out of men’s hands.

And none of them are true – at least not universally.

Sure, there are outliers that fit the stereotype of every group. Some people who call themselves feminists certainly hate men. And yes, some feminists do not want to wear four-inch heels that make their toes bleed. But man-hating, power-hungry, totalitarian nastiness is not what feminism is about.

Personally, I like Sam Killerman’s definition: “to create a society in which individuals’ genders don’t restrict them from an equitable shot at success and happiness.”

What people often get confused with feminism is misandry, which means the hatred of men. Like I mentioned earlier, there are some misandrists who also identify as feminists. But they are the minority.

I know that. You probably know that. But how do we explain that to non-feminists without coming off as defensive or insulting?

To be honest, it’s not easy. But we have to try.

Real change will not come unless we engage the opponents of our ideals in meaningful, centered, and realistic discussion.

So how do we do that when it seems like the very people we are trying to reach have been completely brainwashed by the patriarchy and society?

Maybe, before we can answer that question, we need to look at our audience.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Back to the question of whether anti-feminists are educated about what the movement really stands for.

Based on my research and experience, it appears that the answer is no. Most anti-feminists seem to be gravely uneducated about what feminism actually is.

Instead of despairing upon this realization, I look at it as a positive. Instead of shaming uneducated anti-feminists for not agreeing with us, we should make educating them and clearing up misconceptions a top priority.

So, how do we do this without alienating or antagonizing the very people we are trying to have a discourse with?

Using tweets and posts from the Women Against Feminism movement as a sample, I have divided common anti-feminist responses into a few key themes (all quotes below are taken word for word from the Women Against Feminism blog and Twitter feed).

Let’s look at each of these themes and discover how best to approach them from a feminist standpoint – without being condescending and without scaring off our audience.

Theme #1: Utter Confusion

Many anti-feminists claim that they are in search of values that are already clearly in line with feminist ideals. Take equality, for instance: “I don’t need feminism because I believe in what they stand for, like equality and respect for all people.”

Instinctually, my initial reaction would be to roll my eyes and say, “Wait, what? So you are saying that you don’t believe in feminism because you already believe in what it stands for? Think that over one more time…”

However, this response will inevitably lead to the recipient becoming defensive.

A better way to approach this situation is explain exactly how feminism does encompass their beliefs.

This way, even if they still don’t want to identify as a feminist, they will at least come to the realization that they have some common thread with the movement.

It’s a step in the right direction.

Theme #2: Misinterpretation Based on Imaginary Ideas of Feminism

Some anti-feminist women have obviously heard misconceptions about feminism before, but probably have never taken the time to find out what it really means, such as the woman who proclaimed, “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”

Another common theme were comments such as “I like my husband” or “I’m not a lesbian, so I don’t hate men.”

Even Time Magazine quoted Shailene Woodley saying, “I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”

Okay, let’s take a step back. Take a moment to breathe. And remember just to state the facts.

Go back to the core definition of feminism, and take it from there.

You might try:

“The feminist movement does not, and has not ever, acted as a mechanism to depose men of all power. This is simply incorrect. Feminists fight to divide the power more equally.”

“Enjoying the company of men, having male friends, or loving men does not make you any less of a feminist.”

Speak calmly, but firmly, and suggest that they take a look at Jessica Valenti’s book Full Frontal Feminism or one of your favorite Everyday Feminism articles.

Theme #3: Jokesters 

Others choose to make the whole concept into a joke.

For example, one woman tweeted, “I don’t want men to treat me like equals. Have you seen how men treat each other?”

In these types of situations, it’s good to have some key facts in your back pocket – and try to jumpstart a discussion.

In response to the woman above, I would say, “Why yes, I have seen how they treat each other. They award 23 cents more on the dollar to their male coworkers over females, for exactly the same work. I’d like to get in on that extra cash! Wouldn’t you?”

If nothing else, this might start a conversation, instead of letting the topic die off with a joke.

Theme #4: Combative Language

Many others espouse incorrect – and sometimes extremely strange – versions of feminism that are so whacky, I can barely believe they are real.

One woman on the Tumblr site says, “I don’t need feminism because…feminists think that sex workers like me deserve to be raped and murdered for collaborating with ‘the patriarchy.’ They fight to pass laws that put sex workers in danger to punish us.”

Or there is this skewed logic: “I am a permanently disabled veteran — because of what feminists did to the U.S. Military. We can’t do all what men do.”

And some assertions are downright crude, like the following statement mocking feminist affirmations: “I need feminism because I need an excuse to be a drunk slut and cheat on my boyfriend.”

Sometimes, people say things that are so off-base, so outlandish, and so offensive that they make you want to tear your hair out. But don’t. You have better things to do with your time.

So what can you do when confronted with someone who is just spewing untruths at you without remorse or consideration for the truth?

This one is particularly hard.

The thing that I take issue with is not only the ignorance, but the lack of attempt at educating oneself. When abusively putting down a worldwide movement that stretches across all nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and religions, at least know what you are talking about.

As fellow Everyday Feminism writer Melissa A. Fabello explains in her article “The Pain of Being Feminist in an Anti-Feminist World,” sometimes the best option is just to walk away.

There are some people who you are just never, ever going to get through to. In these cases, your energy is simply better spent elsewhere.

Not to mention that you shouldn’t have to endure ridicule and disrespect from someone who is not willing to even consider your point of view. It’s okay to practice self-care and just walk away from an antagonist to save yourself the time and effort.

Everyone Has the Right Not to Be a Feminist

Look: Everyone has the right to be who they are and to believe the things they want to believe. This is a core value of feminism itself.

And especially because of the history of racism in the movement, many Women of Color choose to eschew the feminist label in favor of another descriptor for the gender equality movement.

Furthermore, as hard as it may be for some of us to believe, there are women out there who are educated – who understand perfectly what feminism is about – and still don’t agree with it. So if someone really, truly does not ascribe to the principles of the movement – provided they actually know what those are – then they have every right to proudly proclaim “I am not a feminist!”

And guess what? We should all respect their right to do so.

That, I believe, is one key to helping anti-feminists understand the openness and beauty of the movement. By allowing compassion for those who do not believe the same way that we do, we can demonstrate what feminism truly means.

It’s hard. Believe me, I’ve struggled with it. But the plain truth is that some people are raised in a way that simply gives them a different mindset than you – and nothing you can say will change that.

On occasion, you can say all the right things, introduce all the right literature, and have them meet all the right people – and you still won’t change their minds. And that means that it is time to let go and concentrate on making a change where you can be more helpful.

***

The common ailment that we, as feminists, must fight against is a deep ignorance about what feminism actually stands for – especially how feminism is rooted in equality for all people. And because so many people out there are uneducated on the subject, there’s a lot of work to be done.

If you had asked me if I was a feminist ten years ago, I’m honestly not sure how I would have answered. But I’ve learned so much from my peers, from studying feminist texts, and from learning the history of the gender equality movement. And for me, it’s been transformative.

You can all make that same difference in someone’s life.

I want to use this platform to challenge each and every one of you to have a meaningful discussion with just one person who is conflicted about, or even dead-set against, feminism in the next month.

You never know – you could change someone’s life forever.

slut-a-woman-with-the-morals-of-a-man

Originally posted in Everyday Feminism

How would you describe that low-cut, tight dress you just bought for your best friend’s party? Would you call it sexy? daring? fun? Or would you use a more negative term like “slutty?”

And that fun one-night stand your neighbor had last weekend – would you describe her actions as adventurous or “skanky?”

The word slut is a common slur in our modern day vernacular. No doubt, it still carries weight if said with malicious intent.

But in recent years, the word has become deeply ingrained into our culture to the point where people say it too easily and too casually.

As innocuous as using pejorative terms may seem when used in reference to clothing or the activities of others, they undoubtedly still imply negativity surrounding female sexuality.

And using them just validates the societal standard of a perfect, virginal-until-marriage, demure woman as an ideal.

I’ve often asked myself “What can we do about this nasty, negative word choice that is so standard in our culture?” Maybe learning more about the word itself – and more empowering words we can use instead – is a good start.

What Are We Really Saying?

Many of us have been called a slut at some point in our lives — or have thrown the epithet at someone else. But what does it really mean?

The word “slut” originates in Old English, meaning a “messy, dirty, or untidy” woman or girl. Because of this, it was frequently used as a term for kitchen maids and servant girls. By the 15th century, the word took on the meaning of a “promiscuous woman” as well.

Think about it: Have you ever called someone a slut, whether in jest or seriously? What did it mean to you? And what do you think it meant to the person it was directed toward?

Slut-Shaming: Are You Guilty, Too?

To slut-shame means to “degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity.”

Most of us, whether we realize it or not, have judged or degraded someone (usually a woman) for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings outside of marriage.

It happens all the time. That young celebrity who wears something more daring than her usual attire is automatically described in terms of “her slutty side.” We see a beautiful woman who is wearing heavy makeup and comment on how she is lovely, but she looks like a stripper. We condemn our sexual thoughts as slutty instead of explorative.

As a culture, we are quick to use words that paint female sexuality as disgraceful – even if we don’t realize that we are doing it.

Think: Have you ever called yourself (or someone else) a slut when your true feelings weren’t ones of disgust or disapproval?

Did you even consider using an alternative word? Or was slut the first thing – almost the natural thing – that came to mind?

And more importantly, what consequences do your words really have?

Slut-Shaming Can Have Serious Repercussions

For some young women, the stigma of “slut” is so hurtful that it leaves their lives in ruins.

Take Rehtaeh Parsons of Canada, who was allegedly raped by four boys who distributed photos of the attack online. She was afterwards bullied and slut-shamed mercilessly by her peers to the point where she decided to take her own life at 17 years of age.

Her mother, Leah Parsons, told Canadian news source CBC, “She was never left alone. She had to leave the community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her. Boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking her, asking her to have sex with them. It just never stopped. People texted her all the time, saying ‘Will you have sex with me?’ Girls texting, saying, ‘You’re such a slut.’”

This story is a modern tragedy, fueled by cyber-bullying and slut-shaming. The girls and boys who taunted Rehtaeh so cruelly probably had no idea how deep their words cut until it was too late.

Why did so many of her peers turn on her? Why did other girls – some of whom conceivably had endured similar experiences (because hell, they live in this messed-up society, too) – call her a slut and disown her as a friend?

While the blame for the crime rests on the shoulders of the alleged rapists, it is possible that if Rehtaeh hadn’t been labeled a “slut” and endured the cruel bullying that she did, she might be alive today.

Tragically, this type of cyber-slut-shaming is not uncommon among the younger generations.

Imagine how it would feel to be that teenage girl who everyone is whispering about in the halls. To have hurtful names like “slut,” “whore,” and “skank” assigned to you by people who barely know you. To be judged harshly and without caution for engaging in sexual activity, as most curious teens do.

These young women were intensely slut-shamed, and had their very traumatic experiences invalidated by judgment from their peers. Their very worth was brought into question because people chose to side with the rapists instead of the victims.

Slut-shaming is rape culture, plain and simple. And for some people, it is utterly life-destroying.

Slut-Shaming Doesn’t End Just Because We Grow Up

Whether in the dating world, the professional arena, education, or in friendships, adult females are not immune to slut-shaming either.

Women are not only the favored targets of slut-shaming, but very often the perpetrators as well. Due to generations of internalized sexism, women often reject their sexually promiscuous peers as worthy companions or friends – even as adults.

A Cornell University study puts this theory to the test, revealing that college-aged women are much less likely to form deep friendships with promiscuous women.

When most of us have spent our childhoods being taught that gaining male validation is the route to power, and even happiness, it is not surprising that many women will view their sexually explorative peers as threats. This may cause women to lash out against other women in an attempt to rise above the competition.

And this isn’t the case only in heterosexual dating either. Many bisexual women are considered “greedy” or “slutty” for the mere fact of their bisexuality.

Is any of this fair? No.

Is it valid? Hell no.

Does it hurt women of all races, ages, and sexual orientations? Yes.

Internalized sexism is a disease, and by carelessly throwing around sexist, hurtful epithets like “slut” and “skank,” we all act as the carriers.

Sluts Versus Studs

The double standard remains: Why is it that a girl who has sex is a whore/slut, but a boy who has sex is a stud/player?

In movies, on television, in magazines, and in our communities, people throw around the term “slut” willy-nilly when talking about women. But men are held to a very different standard.

As a society, what are we teaching our children? that a girl or woman is a dirty, unclean, and unworthy because she has sexual desire? that because she is female, she should save herself for marriage or she is a whore? that women should ignore or otherwise not act upon sexual desires even though men should and do?

Why do we accept sexual exploration from our sons but not our daughters?

It’s simple: The word slut is a decidedly female insult, and using it enhances gender discrimination.

Dumping the Word Itself

We may not be able to change the way that others talk to each other right away, but we can start by presenting an example with our own behavior.

This is why I encourage everyone to eliminate the word slut from their vocabulary.

I have spent the last few years working on this: if I catch myself about to describe myself, one if my choices, or even my outfit, as slutty or skanky, I make a concerted effort to replace that language with something more empowering.

For example: The other night, my friends and I were talking about one of our favorite TV shows and discussing how the characters have changed over the seasons.

One of my friends mentioned a female character who started out as a virgin, and has embraced her sexual side throughout the show by having various partners and experiences. Unsurprisingly, my friend simply said: “She’s gotten really slutty.”

I refuse to accept that ideology, even in casual conversation. There are so many sex-positive alternatives that we can use.

  • She was exploring her newfound sexual desire.
  • She was experimenting with what she likes and doesn’t like.
  • She was taking a defined step into adulthood.
  • She was opening herself up to new possibilities.
  • She was – simply – trying something new.

I stand by my next statement: No harm can come from being more sex-positive and less chauvinistic in our speech patterns. I dare each and every one of you to give it a try.

***

Next time you want to call a girl a slut, rethink your choice and start chipping away at the double standard by using positive descriptive language.

Try to remember that everyone has a personal choice. While you may not lead a similar life to someone else, it is unfair and unjust to ascribe your values to their character.

And moreover, it sets a terrible example for future generations.

Some women wear sexy dresses and choose to have multiple partners. Others wait until marriage and dress demurely. And some are in the middle.

That doesn’t mean that Group A are sluts, Group B are prudes, and Group C have hit the perfect moral high ground. All choices are both fabulous and individual.

Let’s take the word slut out of our vocabulary – not as a solution to a social epidemic, but as one small step towards eradicating patriarchal double standards.

CS

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.

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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.