Archives for posts with tag: relationships

While doing internet research yesterday, I found my way to the website of Washington state nonprofit Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN). Curious, I clicked on the link “Is my relationship abusive?” The page presented the following questions:

Do you feel…

  • Confused about your relationship?
  • Like you are going crazy?
  • That you are “walking on eggshells”?
  • It is hard for you to spend time with family or friends?
  • As if you can’t do anything right?
  • That your partner decides when and where you have sex?
  • Like you are in a relationship with two completely different people?
  • That you need to justify everything you do?
  • Drained?

Does your partner…

  • Call you names or put you down?
  • Want to know what you’re doing and who you’re with all the time?
  • Act extremely jealous?
  • Find excuses to keep you from getting enough sleep?
  • Push, shove, or grab you?
  • Keep you from leaving when you want to leave?
  • Force you to do things sexually you don’t feel comfortable doing?
  • Promise to change (get counseling, go to AA, etc.)?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, when considering my last serious relationship. I didn’t even need to think twice before I wholeheartedly agreed with every single statement on the page, except for one (which was more of a half-truth).

Just as I have been many times since I was attacked by my ex-boyfriend (and subsequently came to the devastating realization that I was a victim of domestic violence, emotional abuse, and manipulation to the highest degree), I am dumbfounded by how stereotypical my DV experience was.

And as always, I wonder why I didn’t realize what was going on sooner. But that’s all part of being with an abusive person – it’s a constant battle between listening to your own logic and what you know is right in your heart of hearts, and listening the things that your partner tells you. The reality presented to me by my ex was one in which I was the most selfish, foolish, shameful, and undeserving person. He was “trying so hard to forgive me” for all of my many “sins,” but he just didn’t know if he could be strong enough to do so. I’ve always struggled with my self-confidence and self-worth, so it was easy to believe these things coming from the person who I was deeply in love with (not to mention living with).

Would I have left earlier if I had known what I know now? There’s no way to know for sure, but I’d like to think that the answer is yes. That’s why I challenge every person reading this post to consider their relationship with their partner. If you have any question in your mind whether it is abusive, please do yourself the incredible, possibly lifesaving, favor of learning more about what domestic abuse looks like.

If you are pondering whether or not you are involved in an abusive relationship, I suggest that you read the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. This book is an incredible investigation of the mind of abusive and controlling men (please note: people who are in relationships with abusive women, as well as folks who are in same-sex relationships, can also gain a lot of valuable information from the book, but it is written primarily for cisgender women who are in abusive romantic relationships with cisgender men).

The incredibly strong and brave women that I met at my first DV support group meeting suggested this book to me. It changed my perspective on everything. It made me realize that I wasn’t crazy – that the horrible feelings of self-doubt, self-loathing, and isolation – along with the attachment I was feeling towards my abuser – were all normal things. More than normal in fact – they were the standard.

The more I read about domestic violence and abusive partners, the clearer the pattern becomes. I only wish that I could have recognized it earlier. But maybe, just maybe, sharing my story will help someone else do just that.

If you have any question in your mind about whether or not you are being controlled or abused – or you answered “yes” to any of the questions listed above – please take a harder look at your relationship. Read Bancroft’s book. If you can’t read it at home for fear of your partner, read it at the library or at work. Seek help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) to get your questions answered by a real human being who understands what you are going through.

Whatever you choose to do, remember first and foremost that you are worthy of true, unconditional love and you do not deserve to be abused (physically, mentally, emotionally, sexual, or in any other way) – no matter what your partner would have you believe.

For immediate assistance, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
1-800-799-SAFE
TTY: 1-800-787-3224

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.

***

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.

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.

NYP2

This is me and I want you to stop telling me what to wear!

Yesterday I ran into a guy that I used to go out with. I ended things with him because, frankly, I wasn’t very interested and he seemed to be primarily interested in one thing and one thing only (I’m sure you can guess). He’s a men’s barber at a fancy salon that caters to K Street types and politicians, and he never seemed to feel any hesitation about telling me his opinions on my looks.

After attempting to ask me out for about the millionth time yesterday, he decided it was an appropriate time to tell me that I looked great, but that he thinks I need to dye my hair brown. He said that with such “pretty dark eyes, dark eyebrows and a nice complexion,” I shouldn’t have “Ke$ha hair.”

Okay, dude.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but guess what? It’s not his choice and I didn’t ask for his opinion. And that’s what I told him.  I’ve become increasingly tired of the men I date telling me how to dress or how to present myself. I’m no one’s property and I don’t appreciate being treated as such.

In the past, ex-boyfriends have told me to do a lot of things. I know they probably didn’t realize how douchey they sounded, so I wrote a little poem to explain it to them. Enjoy! (If you read it with the right cadence, it should rhyme.)

Men like to tell me
to do things their way;
it’s super annoying –
just listen to what they say:

“Cut your hair short;
no, keep it super long;
dye your hair dark;
no, go platinum blonde.

Wear some short shorts;
no, you gotta rock a skirt;
take out your piercing;
do you have a less revealing shirt?

Throw on some high heels;
c’mon, why don’t you wear flats?
Don’t wear any makeup;
You don’t look that great in hats.

Don’t straighten your hair;
just shave your legs twice a day;
don’t smile or you’ll get wrinkles.”
What more can they say?

Men, I’m asking you to stop
telling me exactly what to do;
I’m not your Barbie doll;

So please get a clue!

Disclaimer: I’m sure at times I’ve been overly critical of exes myself, so this poem is somewhat tongue and cheek. Both men and women should try to accept their partners the way they are and support their healthy and safe choices.