exactly that

Posts tagged ‘shaming’

Some Moralizing Advice to Set You On the Path to Safe Sex

Dear Prudie over at Slate Magazine has some very jacked up opinions on pre-marital sex (why are we still using marriage as a litmus?). Her answer to a person (who in the letter printed¬†neither disclosed ¬†ou’s gender or age) who wrote in for advice on whether or not to engage in sex with ou’s boyfriend leaves me wondering if Prudie should give advice to people on matters involving sex. (Last question on the first page.)

The letter writer asks: My boyfriend and I are in a loving relationship and we have been dating for eight months already. He has been wanting to have sex, but since my parents are very against pre-marital sex, I have been really hesitant. Personally I want to, and am telling him that once I get a chance, to we can do it. I feel nothing wrong with having sex before marriage at all, but I feel morally conflicted by having to lie to my parents.

This, to me, is an all-too-common situation for teenagers exploring their sexuality, something that is healthy according to many developmental experts on child and teen development. Sex is a part of growing up, and teenagers are sexual beings (as are, surprise! children). It doesn’t mean they are raging balls of hormones running around sexing it up with anything that moves; rather they are curious about the way they feel with their bodies doing the things that bodies do.

Here, this letter writer describes a situation of a committed relationship in which ou feels safe. Ou wants to have sex. Both parties are consenting. The only problem I see here is that the letter writer doesn’t seem to have a trusted resource to turn to to make sure ou can be safe when making this decision.

Like it or not, parents really aren’t the ones who ultimately get to make the decisions about teens bodies, or at least that is how it works in a perfect world. They are not property. Rather, they should be trusted guides and not arbiters.

Prudie’s answer, it should go without saying, leaves a lot of room for the “are you effing kidding me” reaction.

Now that’s some shocking news: Your boyfriend would really, really like to have sex.

Wow, Prudie! Way to perpetuate a harmful myth about young men, without really knowing anything about him except that he is willing to engage in consensual sex with a partner. We put this pressure on young men to be sexual creatures, and Prudie is already implying that the letter writer, whom I gathered she has assumed is a girl, is the gatekeeper.

Are you 16 or 26?I It makes a difference. I’m against premarital sex by high-school students. I’m not against pre-marital sex by responsible college-age people.

So, a little ageism here. Prudie has decided that there is no way that a 16 year old could possibly be prepared to make the decision to have sex with ou’s partner. The simple act of being in college (did Prudie set a threshold? Does the magic of responsibility begin the day you walk onto campus or do you have to reach a milestone?) suddenly makes one a better judge of whether or not sex is right for that person.

I don’t think so.

There are plenty of teenagers who have the resources available (though not as many as I would like) to engage in sex responsibly, and even the ones who don’t have the access to things like doctors and birth control still have the reasoning to weigh the pros and consequences of having sex. There are still plenty of college age people (as if college-aged people and teenagers are mutually exclusive groups!) who lack the reasoning to make this decision.

I know many adults who should probably just watch television.

But the point is that we don’t and shouldn’t have control over the bodies of other people, and just because Prudie feels icky about the idea of teens having sex, it doesn’t give her the pass to imply that a teen is by default ill-prepared. Instead, here, she could have advised this letter writer on ways to ensure that ou was making a safe choice.

(In fact, I can’t imagine marrying someone one hasn’t had sex with.)

Oh, well, then. I guess that married 15 year-olds are just fine? Wait…Prudie…make up your mind? What are the bounds of your moralizing?

However, if you are making this decision based on how your parents would react, that tells me you aren’t really old enough to start engaging in sex.

True or not true. You don’t really know, do you, Prudie? Because, we don’t know anything about this letter writer’s home life. This person could have abusive parents who would really not take the idea of a sex talk well. This person could really have good reason to be afraid to approach the topic of sex with ou’s parents. They could be ultra-conservative and extremely religious, and ou could have been exposed to intense slut-shaming all of ou’s life, and only now is ou beginning to make an independent decision based on what ou wants.

Needless to say, I completely feel that Prudie is falling flat on her advice to this person. I find it incredibly moralizing and condescending, as well as incredibly privileged and presumptive. Feel free to read the rest of her advice, but it pretty much follows this same vein of shame.

Prudie had an opportunity here to advise this person to be sure that the sex was consensual, to find good channels for safe people to talk to about this decision, and for good educational resources (like Scarleteen) and places to access birth control if it is needed and contraceptives to protect against STIs.

But she failed to do that in the name of finger wagging.

What say you?

Buffy is So Whiny…

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Michelle Trachtenberg as Buffy and Dawn SummersExcept, anyone who has spent five minutes speaking to me knows that I don’t really think that at all.

And yet, I find that is a really popular opinion, and it begs the question, why that is?

Because I just don’t see the fly in the ointment logic, at least not in the sense by which people are trying to sell it to me.

Sure, I have had my fair share of “SHUT UP BUFFY” moments (*coughs* Angel Season 01 “Sanctuary” *coughs*), but I think that most of us could use a nice resounding STFU when we are behaving badly every now and again by our friends. But usually, this whole “Buffy is whiny” nonsense comes with a whole mess of evidence that would get Batman a hug and another comic book spin off. (What? Your parents were gunned down in an alley? I bet that really hurt and gave you a lot of emotional stuff to work through!)(But NOOOO! Buffy! You can’t be upset about YOUR MOM DYING!) (Or YOU DYING!)

During our recent Summer of Buffy re watch, we got to round-about Season Five, where people tend to start thinking that Buffy “just isn’t growing as a person” or that she “isn’t written well anymore”. I hear that is where the writing took a crap (I beg to differ), and that it must be because Joss was just stretched too thin with too many shows on his plate (once again, differ). I’ve also heard that it was because he let too many chicks to too much of the writing, but it didn’t seem to be any more than usual. In fact, any changes that were made seemed to be things I found favorable. We had the introduction of Glory, my favorite Big Bad of the series. We had Season 2 of Angel working hard, spinning into the deep dark recesses of Angel’s history with Darla. We saw the introduction of Jane Espenson to the mix. Production-wise, life was great! (Except that it was ALL MARTI’S FAULT!)

Buffy has been doing the dance for five years. She has been taking the strides and getting about as many kicks as she has given in the game of Life as thanks for carrying on her Duty as Chosen One. She got nice big death traps for her 16th and 18th birthdays, when most girls her age and demographic were going through regular milestones like tampons and Prom dates. She carried the lives of most of her graduating class through to adulthood and was thanked with a nifty toy surprise.

She was tricked and bossed around by a Watchers’ Council out of touch with the job she stuck her neck out for every day and yet whom expected her to continue putting herself and her family at risk to continue doing.

In Buffy’s world, life was starting to come apart at the seams. Buffy finds that she suddenly has an adolescent sister, and as added fun, that sister is a mystical key given to her to care for. That key is coveted and hunted by a timeless and greatly worshiped goddess hell-bent on using it to open a portal to a world that will suck this one into oblivion, killing her unknowing sister in the process.

Buffy’s mother also becomes ill, getting incredible headaches, and it turns out she has a brain tumor. Buffy moves home to care for her and her sister. Suddenly, she is thrown into the adult situation of answering medical questions, and insurance questions and making sure that Dawn is fed and tucked in. And also not scared that their mother is dying. Like the adult that she isn’t sure she is ready to be.

And then their mother does die.

Suddenly Buffy is the mother-figure. And the Slayer. And still protecting Dawn because the world just doesn’t stop trying to find your kid sister who is a mystical key just because you are grieving the loss of your mother while carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Even her dad is in Spain with his secretary.

So who do you turn to if you are Buffy?

Your Watcher? Who just opened his magic shop?

Your boyfriend, who has become an emotional black hole after losing his superpowers? He can’t deal with your brick wall of needing to be strong for everyone else, so he becomes a risk addict, seeing out blood-sucking vampires for fun while you are mopping up your mother’s vomit. He never got over his jealousy of your vampy ex-boyfriend, so since he can’t use his words and talk about he feels, he has to be sucked on or give ultimatums. It’s now, or deep-undercover military ops.

Your friends, who are also caught up in worry about your mother, and helping you take care of your sister so you can care for your mom? Nice Guy Xander who is there to tell Buffy what she wants and badger her about every bad decision she has ever made (…you’re about to let him go because you don’t like ultimatums…)?

It seems to me, that if we had someone, say Spiderman, Batman, Wolverine…who started going through the same thing, they would have legitimate pain. Their need to always be on top of things, their need to stay strong is admirable, and when they crumble under the agony of emotional pain… well it is understood as the regular pain of being a misunderstood superhero.

But this girl?

She’s whiny.

She literally gives her life to protect the people she loves (twice); she trades hers for Dawn’s. Her friends pull her back from the dead, from a place where she was at peace after all the fighting.

But she’s whiny.

Being alive hurts her, and her friends give her shit about it, wanting her to bounce right back to happy-go-lucky life. A life where she has to take up the fight again instead of letting someone else do it. A life where the crushing world of responsibility comes crashing down on her again.

But she’s whiny.

She has to back-burner college and get a crappy minimum-wage job to take care of her sister and home, while Dawn rebels by shop-lifting, and all the while everyone is watching her as if she is going to break.

But she’s whiny.

She is shamed for seeking solace in a less-than-savory relationship with Spike, despite the fact that it seems to give her what she wants. It gives her comfort, and then it is used against her as if it should be a means to discredit her.

But she is whiny.

I find it telling the way that we are willing to hold Buffy to a different standard. She is a different sort of superhero than we are used to. She is young, and a woman, and was the longest superhero of her kind on the telly. But it just doesn’t seem that we are willing to give her the human space of emotion to hurt the way we do some of our other superheroes.

Why is that?

Medical Autonomy Chronicles: The Virgin Pap Smear

ETA: 18 Sept. 2010 After this post was linked at FWD/Forward in the RR, it was brought to my attention that this post possibly could be triggering to some people. This post should have a trigger warning for a graphic description of a medical procedure done on a young virgin girl. The procedure was upsetting to her, and the description could be potentially upsetting to readers who have had similar experiences or who have been sexually assaulted, or medically raped/assaulted. My most sincere apologies for not having the forethought to include this warning sooner, and to anyone whom this lack of thought may have hurt. ~OYD

Where did it come from?

A conversation starts about shaming in OB/GYN care, which is an important one.

Suddenly all of these people have flown out of the wood work to make sure that all of we lady folk know that getting our pap smears and pelvic exams is Just! So! Important! Medical and non-medical alike.

They need not even all be lady folk themselves, but experts who have lady relatives who have had their lives saved by paps, so they must impart to us the urgency to spread our thighs and allow ourselves to have invasive medical procedures that we do not want. Medical procedures that can be painful, traumatizing, and even, as has been show, unnecessary.

But there is a whole slew of thing that keep we peeps, and I say “peeps” because I am certain that there are people who do receive pelvic exams and paps who do not identify as women who may also feel bullied or forced into these medical procedures that they do not want as frequently as people feel the need to force us into them.

Why with all the pressure? Even when most of the information I found says every 2-3 years (I think it is worth noting that the Australia site is the only one that has information specifically for people with disabilities)? Even that information is varied. It seems that people, even medical providers pressure people to get paps every year. Especially if you want birth control. There seems to be this habit of holding birth control hostage if you are unwilling to submit to having a metal or plastic instrument shoved into your vagina and having bits of your cervix dug out.

Even on virgins. Oh, yes. In the U.S., for I can not speak to other nations, there is this fixation with making sure that doctors or other practitioners are the first ones to shove things into the genitals of virgins girls seeking birth control, whether or not she is seeking it for sex. Even though there are several good medical reasons why she could want birth control that don’t involve wanting to partake in heterosexual intercourse.

When I was fourteen, I was having period cramps from hell. I was bleeding like a stuck pig for three days straight out of ten. I would need to miss at least one day of school a month due to period cramps because I couldn’t get out of bed from the pain. Sometimes I would vomit from the pain.

Eventually, the cramping started coming when I wasn’t having my period. I was having cramping so bad that I was begging to miss school during this time as well. I remember my mother thinking I was a hypochondriac around this time of my life. She would sometimes groan, and often joke to her friends that I always thought something was wrong with me. I would often try to hide pain from her because I didn’t want her to laugh or make fun of me. She even had our doctor convinced that I was making things up. When I finally got in to see him, he chucked, and without really examining me, told me I had Mittelschmerz, and that what I needed was to stop coddling my body during my cramps and to get up and start being active during my cramps. This would not be the first doctor my mother convinced to laugh at my pain in my life.

So, I tried following his advice, and I would damn near pass out during gym class or band. The pain was so bad that I couldn’t eat and it would bring me to tears, dizziness, and I would dry heave. Finally my mother took me to the doctor again, who finally did an ultrasound and determined that I had large ovarian cysts that were causing me to have painful periods. I needed to see a gynecologist for a consult.

On top of being worried that anyone at church would think that I was having sex (because I knew so little about sex education at the time that I thought that the GYN was only for people having sex or babies), I was nervous. Incredibly nervous. I thought for sure that everyone thought that I had done something already and was lying about it. The gynecologist was the brother of my science teacher, and we were in a relatively small town. I was so worried that someone would KNOW WHERE I WAS. Also, that I was A LYING SEX HAVING SLUT!

Yes, I had cysts, and the doctor said that the best treatment was going to be to put me on the birth control pill (OH THE MORTIFICATION!) because it would help reduce them and ease my period. It was supposed to reduce my period and help them be shorter and lighter (let’s get this clear, for me this was a lie! I still have 8-9 day periods that are reminiscent of a butcher shop). He wanted to know if I was sexually active (OH MY GOD DID HE JUST SAY THAT WAS HE TALKING TO ME *FACE FLUSHING SCARLET*), and even though I said no, I had to have a pelvic exam and pap smear anyway, because that was routine procedure for prescribing birth control. (Wait. What?)

My mother had dropped me off and signed all the consent forms. How nice of her. I had no idea what was going on. What? OK. I guess so. What did that mean? You want to put WHAT? WHERE?

Suddenly this doctor, this man, whom I didn’t really know but looked an awful lot like my eighth grade science teacher, which made me really uncomfortable, was feeling my breasts, telling me that I needed to do the same thing in the shower (Uh-huh, OK, keep looking at the ceiling. That was nice of them to put a poster up there…). I had to put my feet in stirrups, which reminded me of riding horses as our friend’s farm, and certainly didn’t put me at ease. I was naked, and I had never been naked in front of any man who was not may Daddy trying to help me dress for bed, and that hadn’t been since I was about ten, and it wasn’t like this.

I was asked to slide down until I was squatting. There was cold jelly, and a metal thing, and even though he was talking to me through most of it, I remember the poster of the wooded lake on the ceiling, with the bridge over it, with one of those quasi-religious inspirational sayings on it. Suddenly I was being penetrated by metal objects and fingers…and it felt wrong and awful and I just was always told that this shouldn’t happen… not like this. Hot tears ran down my face. He asked if I was OK as he felt around inside me while pressing down on the outside of me at the same time. I could only nod, afraid of what my voice would sound like if I gave in to it. I don’t even know why they bother with gowns. They are laid open, and my whole being, my essence felt exposed on the cold crunchy paper. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I shoved them into my hair, and pulled tight.

I didn’t know that doctors ever did this.

(The poster has a lake…are those birch trees?)

And it hurt. And he felt my ovaries to check for the cysts. And he took his sample…and it felt like a sample of my soul left me.

For all the talk of how having sex outside of marriage or whatever message had been pounded on me for however long, and how it would leave me hollow and leave me feeling worthless and damaged, and for all the ways I had been told that casual sex would leave me reeling and feeling depressed and with a hole of missing self-esteem, nothing I did in my consensual sex life has ever compared to the way that pelvic exam and pap smear felt to me, a fourteen year old girl. A person rising on the crest of womanhood, not yet there but ready to fly, and having had myself violated before I took my first steps.

I left that doctor’s office with a script in my hand and a hole in the depths of my soul and a hollow in my heart. I walked to my friend’s house, because I remember that my mother was on second shift. A long and lonely walk toting my French horn, the plastic molding of the case banging against my shin. They were the kind of friends that had become a second family to me, who kind of took me in as the kid who needed looking after sometimes and loved me intensely. I remember the mother, telling her where I had been and what had happened. And while I have never experienced what I consider sexual assault outright, I can imagine that this must be an ember of that fire. I cried, feeling dirty and awful and ashamed, as she held me.

My friend’s mother looked me in the face and leaned against the carved post dividing the kitchen, holding my face in her hands, as I looked into her angular face, with her short wavy hair, and her kind, almost smirkish smile that always had a way of washing comfort over me.

“Being a woman is Hell”, she said, which surprised me a bit, this being back in my church days. “Going to the gynecologist can feel as embarrassing as Hell, but it won’t always be so awful”. She hugged me against her shoulder, and brought me some Texas Sheet Cake, because it seems that chocolate could always help me calm down sometimes. Or maybe is was a combination thing.

I wonder if maybe it is a combination thing. If maybe I had been informed a little more and had an iota of a clue about women’s health care, and what a pelvic exam and pap smear is all about.

Or, maybe if things like pap smears aren’t forced upon young people who are not sexually active, or upon people who don’t want them. If we don’t hold birth control hostage. If we don’t do things like force people to the outside of their own health care, we might be more prepared. We need to set clear guidelines (OH WAIT! ACOG!) to make sure that folks know what doctors are expecting and what is actually needed, so they can be aware of what is suggested to keep them healthy. This “maybe every year, but it is really only needed every so-and-so years, but, hrmmm…we feel like doing it every two years stuff” isn’t cutting it. We have a right to know the guidelines, and to insist that we only have invasive medical procedures as often as needed. Not as often as someone else who is not us feels like it. Even Scarleteen, a site I love, is vague on the expectations of the requirements for paps and pelvics. We need our medical professionals to stick to what ACOG has laid out (or, in my case, I would like them to just be aware of what ACOG has put out before I am), so we can get a standard measure of care. ACOG has said the risk of being treated for a false positive is not worth testing every year.

Really.

When I see articles like this, I realize it is more about making sure we control women, who just can’t be left to their own medical decisions! They are all so silly! This isn’t about shaming women for being nervous or embarrassed (for very good reason). This is about understanding that people have a right to autonomy over their own bodies. Yes, even teenagers! (I know, I am so silly, thinking they might be people who have thoughts about their medical care!) And health care is a part of that autonomy. An important part.

Education, consistency, and plain ol’ listening to patients might help. Listening to women and people in general who have to have these procedures might be a step. Re-evaluating the reasons for insisting on them for simple things like birth control, especially for non-sexual reasons in virgin teenagers might be a step. Being more compassionate to people experiencing GYN care for the first time — or even in general — might be a step. Including women in conversations about their reproductive care might be a step.

But demanding, shaming, controlling, hostage taking of parts of care? That is not helping.

It could kill, and I venture to say it will do the opposite of what all of your concern-trolling of reproductive health is intending to do.

Kid had it right, learned it in Pre-school even: My face, my space. My body, my business.

The Cautionary Sex Ed Tale From Season 2 of Buffy

One of my friends, the Red Queen from Elizabitchez, told me once that she uses the story arc from Season 2 of Buffy beginning with “Surprise” to teach about sex ed and teen relationships. Or something to that effect. It makes more sense when she tells it, but the gist of it was that this particular story arc of this particular season is biting (no pun…OK I can’t even type that because I totally intend that pun).

s.e. smith from this ain’t livin’ and also from FWD/Forward has already done a nice evaluation of this story arc, that I encourage you to read, and the fact that I found it enlightening and that it may influence what I have to say here should sit with you while you read what I am about to go on about, possibly at great length as I am wont to do. Ou also mentioned to me one day in a chat conversation that Joss himself denies that this story arc was meant to send a message about shaming a teen girl about sexuality. I encourage any of you with the ability to do so to watch the episode “Innocence” and deny that this message is there. Intentional or not, Joss has once again fallen into that trap of writing that trope.

But before I leave your head spinning with a bunch of references to things that I haven’t explained, I suppose I should get into the story arc of Buffy and Angel, the lost soul, and of course, the loss of Buffy’s virginity.

This is the story that starts with a girl who gives her virginity to her loving boyfriend and ends when she sends him to a Hell Dimension with a giant sword through his chest after he turns evil and goes on a murderous rampage through her town, killing all of her friends because he has lost his soul.

In “Surprise”, Buffy has one of the famed prophetic dreams bestowed to a Slayer where she witnesses a few events leading up to Drusilla killing Angel. Given the “wiggins” by the whole thing, Buffy rushes to see Angel who both reassures her, (read: dismisses her fears which could be genuine concerns) and confesses that he has been feeling deeper feelings for her, that she returns (TV speak for “I really want to get it on”).

We also learn that Jenny Calendar is a descendant of the particular tribe of Gypsies fabled to have cursed Angel with his soul restorative. Turns out she was sent to Sunnydale not just to wow us all with her computer prowess (because as we will learn we have Willow for all of that) but to keep an eye on Angel and Buffy, but not ever to clue them into why. Folks, I have watched enough tee vee to know that denying principal characters vital information about their character never bodes well for anyone. This hardly proves the exception.

In a plot line that leaves me wondering if it is some odd coincidence that Buffy and Drusilla seem to have something akin to Birthdays on the same day, and keeping with the longstanding tradition of birthdays that suck (also steeped in punnage) for Buffy, our Slayer and her undead beaux fail to keep Drusilla and Spike from getting their hands on most of the pieces of a demon who was so powerful that he couldn’t be killed by any weapon forged during his time (this point is important!). Just as Angel is prepared to take off for Asia on a boat to hide the last piece in an attempt by Ms. Calendar to pry the would be lovers apart, they are thwarted. Soaking wet and battle-wounded, Buffy and Angel wind up back at Angel’s not-so-secret and well-decorated hideaway and become a little less would-be.

This becomes the precipitating event for the releasing of Angel’s soul back into the ether, turning him back into the evil, cruel, infamous vampire that he once was, catching everyone unawares.

This is the part in the story where the boyfriend, after getting the Nice Girl to give up her virginity to him becomes the World League Asshole.

Except, when I remember being warned to protect my sacred flower from boys like that, the ones who are just Wired! To Need! Sex! I was never told that they would become blood sucking demons who would hunt and stalk all of my friends, slowly torturing them to death while sending me immolate-o-grams in the form of my friends-turned-new vampires.

It isn’t too far of a conclusion to draw that Buffy is being punished for having sex. That was the message I took away from this. In fact, since in parenting we have discussed with Kid about good and poor choices I asked her what she thought of what happened to Angel, and unprompted she said “Well, Buffy made a poor choice, and now Angel is evil”. It took a bit of discussion before we corrected why this was the wrong message to get, but that why, yes, I could see why she gleaned that from what we had just seen. It is important that while she might get messages like these from pop culture (and pop culture is full of these slut-shaming innuendos aimed at young women, teens, and young girls), that she understand that the message is wrong. And intentional or not, again, Joss, this is the message you are sending to young girls!

The act of sex itself is without morality. Positive or negative. Sex can just be sex between consenting people.

The intent of the people involved are what makes the experience a healthy one or an unhealthy one for either person.

When people care about each other, or when people are consenting enthusiastically, like Buffy and Angel both were (as we understand that at this point that Angel didn’t realize that his actions would have this effect) that this was a positive portrayal of sexuality. This was something they both decided they wanted together. There was nothing wrong going on here, aside from that curse, which in a way violated both of their autonomy, but that is deeper than this conversation right now. And metaphysical. I am not going there.

When either party isn’t consenting, such as when one person coerced the other, or is emotionally manipulative, or if for any reason it isn’t entered into freely, then we have a problem. But that isn’t what happened here.

Usually, as I understand it, one partner is not a soulless demon, or about to become one. Though, experiences from my past would tempt me to believe otherwise, I understand that what happened to Angel is make-believe

Sometimes, when sex occurs between two people, sometimes one person who hasn’t been honest about who they are, changes. The sex can become a tool to perpetuate abuse, and that is what we are witnessing displayed here, an attempt to convert Angel from role one to role two without a logical connection to make that make sense, unless you are to presume that Buffy is being punished.

For what?

Well, being a big old teen slut of course!

Even breaking it down into parts, we understand that Angel, via his curse, is being punished for the crimes of his past. But even Jenny Calendar can’t say what Buffy is supposed to be punished for when confronted with all of the facts. We are left to draw our own conclusions. Surely, if she had just kept her legs closed…

This remains a theme for a long time in Buffy’s love life. Her next sexual encounter is a one-night stand, and the other participant, while not unleashing a murderous rampage on her loved ones, does indeed treat her cruelly all the same.

Then, I hesitate to even address the awfulness who is the emotionally demanding Riley, who is in need of more than he is capable of giving, and who is also unwilling to accept being in a relationship with a woman who is more dominant and also stronger than him. After Riley loses his artificial abilities he betrays Buffy by seeking out risk-taking behaviour. Here, Buffy is punished for being emotionally unavailable while trying to cope with myriad Bid Effing Deals, and Riley just can’t deal with being the second seat to anything. Carrying over into Angel, Buffy goes to L.A. to confront Angel over a crossover story arc, which leads to them getting everything they want. Only, this carries the heavy price of Angel becoming human, her almost dying trying to protect him. She is punished again, having to trade in her memories (Joss loves messing with memories) and her day of happiness for her life, and effectually, Angels as well all really without her knowing or having a say. After returning from the dead (again), Buffy has a sexual relationship with Spike that she is ashamed of, because she has already figured out that having sex is wrong, even if it is to help her fill a need when her world is spiraling out of control and she just needs one thing to hold on to, even if it is a physical burst.

Not until Buffy chooses work (being the Slayer) and family (devoting all her time to Dawn) over love and personal life for herself does this theme of punishment let up, even for a moment. And never is it ever happy for her. The message I glean from this? A woman can’t really have it all. You have to choose, or something, namely yourself, will surely suffer.

The Cautionary Sex Ed Tale From Season 2 of Buffy

One of my friends, the Red Queen from Elizabitchez, told me once that she uses the story arc from Season 2 of Buffy beginning with “Surprise” to teach about sex ed and teen relationships. Or something to that effect. It makes more sense when she tells it, but the gist of it was that this particular story arc of this particular season is biting (no pun…OK I can’t even type that because I totally intend that pun).

s.e. smith from this ain’t livin’ and also from FWD/Forward has already done a nice evaluation of this story arc, that I encourage you to read, and the fact that I found it enlightening and that it may influence what I have to say here should sit with you while you read what I am about to go on about, possibly at great length as I am wont to do. Ou also mentioned to me one day in a chat conversation that Joss himself denies that this story arc was meant to send a message about shaming a teen girl about sexuality. I encourage any of you with the ability to do so to watch the episode “Innocence” and deny that this message is there. Intentional or not, Joss has once again fallen into that trap of writing that trope.

But before I leave your head spinning with a bunch of references to things that I haven’t explained, I suppose I should get into the story arc of Buffy and Angel, the lost soul, and of course, the loss of Buffy’s virginity.

This is the story that starts with a girl who gives her virginity to her loving boyfriend and ends when she sends him to a Hell Dimension with a giant sword through his chest after he turns evil and goes on a murderous rampage through her town, killing all of her friends because he has lost his soul.

In “Surprise”, Buffy has one of the famed prophetic dreams bestowed to a Slayer where she witnesses a few events leading up to Drusilla killing Angel. Given the “wiggins” by the whole thing, Buffy rushes to see Angel who both reassures her, (read: dismisses her fears which could be genuine concerns) and confesses that he has been feeling deeper feelings for her, that she returns (TV speak for “I really want to get it on”).

We also learn that Jenny Calendar is a descendant of the particular tribe of Gypsies fabled to have cursed Angel with his soul restorative. Turns out she was sent to Sunnydale not just to wow us all with her computer prowess (because as we will learn we have Willow for all of that) but to keep an eye on Angel and Buffy, but not ever to clue them into why. Folks, I have watched enough tee vee to know that denying principal characters vital information about their character never bodes well for anyone. This hardly proves the exception.

In a plot line that leaves me wondering if it is some odd coincidence that Buffy and Drusilla seem to have something akin to Birthdays on the same day, and keeping with the longstanding tradition of birthdays that suck (also steeped in punnage) for Buffy, our Slayer and her undead beaux fail to keep Drusilla and Spike from getting their hands on most of the pieces of a demon who was so powerful that he couldn’t be killed by any weapon forged during his time (this point is important!). Just as Angel is prepared to take off for Asia on a boat to hide the last piece in an attempt by Ms. Calendar to pry the would be lovers apart, they are thwarted. Soaking wet and battle-wounded, Buffy and Angel wind up back at Angel’s not-so-secret and well-decorated hideaway and become a little less would-be.

This becomes the precipitating event for the releasing of Angel’s soul back into the ether, turning him back into the evil, cruel, infamous vampire that he once was, catching everyone unawares.

This is the part in the story where the boyfriend, after getting the Nice Girl to give up her virginity to him becomes the World League Asshole.

Except, when I remember being warned to protect my sacred flower from boys like that, the ones who are just Wired! To Need! Sex! I was never told that they would become blood sucking demons who would hunt and stalk all of my friends, slowly torturing them to death while sending me immolate-o-grams in the form of my friends-turned-new vampires.

It isn’t too far of a conclusion to draw that Buffy is being punished for having sex. That was the message I took away from this. In fact, since in parenting we have discussed with Kid about good and poor choices I asked her what she thought of what happened to Angel, and unprompted she said “Well, Buffy made a poor choice, and now Angel is evil”. It took a bit of discussion before we corrected why this was the wrong message to get, but that why, yes, I could see why she gleaned that from what we had just seen. It is important that while she might get messages like these from pop culture (and pop culture is full of these slut-shaming innuendos aimed at young women, teens, and young girls), that she understand that the message is wrong. And intentional or not, again, Joss, this is the message you are sending to young girls!

The act of sex itself is without morality. Positive or negative. Sex can just be sex between consenting people.

The intent of the people involved are what makes the experience a healthy one or an unhealthy one for either person.

When people care about each other, or when people are consenting enthusiastically, like Buffy and Angel both were (as we understand that at this point that Angel didn’t realize that his actions would have this effect) that this was a positive portrayal of sexuality. This was something they both decided they wanted together. There was nothing wrong going on here, aside from that curse, which in a way violated both of their autonomy, but that is deeper than this conversation right now. And metaphysical. I am not going there.

When either party isn’t consenting, such as when one person coerced the other, or is emotionally manipulative, or if for any reason it isn’t entered into freely, then we have a problem. But that isn’t what happened here.

Usually, as I understand it, one partner is not a soulless demon, or about to become one. Though, experiences from my past would tempt me to believe otherwise, I understand that what happened to Angel is make-believe

Sometimes, when sex occurs between two people, sometimes one person who hasn’t been honest about who they are, changes. The sex can become a tool to perpetuate abuse, and that is what we are witnessing displayed here, an attempt to convert Angel from role one to role two without a logical connection to make that make sense, unless you are to presume that Buffy is being punished.

For what?

Well, being a big old teen slut of course!

Even breaking it down into parts, we understand that Angel, via his curse, is being punished for the crimes of his past. But even Jenny Calendar can’t say what Buffy is supposed to be punished for when confronted with all of the facts. We are left to draw our own conclusions. Surely, if she had just kept her legs closed…

This remains a theme for a long time in Buffy’s love life. Her next sexual encounter is a one-night stand, and the other participant, while not unleashing a murderous rampage on her loved ones, does indeed treat her cruelly all the same.

Then, I hesitate to even address the awfulness who is the emotionally demanding Riley, who is in need of more than he is capable of giving, and who is also unwilling to accept being in a relationship with a woman who is more dominant and also stronger than him. After Riley loses his artificial abilities he betrays Buffy by seeking out risk-taking behaviour. Here, Buffy is punished for being emotionally unavailable while trying to cope with myriad Bid Effing Deals, and Riley just can’t deal with being the second seat to anything. Carrying over into Angel, Buffy goes to L.A. to confront Angel over a crossover story arc, which leads to them getting everything they want. Only, this carries the heavy price of Angel becoming human, her almost dying trying to protect him. She is punished again, having to trade in her memories (Joss loves messing with memories) and her day of happiness for her life, and effectually, Angels as well all really without her knowing or having a say. After returning from the dead (again), Buffy has a sexual relationship with Spike that she is ashamed of, because she has already figured out that having sex is wrong, even if it is to help her fill a need when her world is spiraling out of control and she just needs one thing to hold on to, even if it is a physical burst.

Not until Buffy chooses work (being the Slayer) and family (devoting all her time to Dawn) over love and personal life for herself does this theme of punishment let up, even for a moment. And never is it ever happy for her. The message I glean from this? A woman can’t really have it all. You have to choose, or something, namely yourself, will surely suffer.

How I Deserve…

We were at the pool today, as we are wont to do after school since we are apparently living on the Surface of the Sun these days. The sky has been that foreboding shade of I Can’t Decide If I Will Rain Or Shine for the last two or so days, but throwing caution to the wind, or rather, deciding that we were sick and tired of sweating like it was going out of style, we took a chance and went off to the pool.

Now, the base policy that I have been handed personally when signing Kid up for swimming lessons states that the pool is to be evacuated if lightning is seen w/in a ten mile radius of the area. Lightning. Seen. This I can understand. This has been the common sense rule since I was a kid living on the lake and in a fishing community. So, I was a little taken aback when the tiniest rumble was heard today (there were so many helios and jets flying around that I am still not convinced that anyone heard anything) and the lifeguards immediately blew all of their whistles and made everyone get out of the pool. We had just settled in and were applying The Kid’s SPF 70 when this went down, so The Guy asked a man who was directing a group of teens out of the deep end if he could come over and answer a question.

He asked the khaki-clad white man why they had evac-ed the pool, and he said because of thunder. I looked up at him from my chair , shielding my eyes from the sun, and explained my confusion, because of the base policy on lightning that I had read. He said to me “Yes, and what causes lighting?” in a very “you must be in kindergarten and have never heard of this thing we call science” voice. “Thunder!” he said w/o giving me a chance to answer and walked away as if I was too much of a drop-out to know the answer. I get this a lot. Young mom of enlisted husband with child older than kindergarten equals uneducated woman whose only qualifications are vacuuming (and way too stupid to home school, lest I get too full of myself). I’ve seen that face. I also get it online when I reveal that I grew up on a reservation or when I admit to being disabled. I get people chasing me down on my very own blog in comments treating me this way. It is not a new sentiment.

Sure, basically he was right (let’s forget that whole thing about charged ions and the speed of sound and light and that given that we didn’t actually see the damned lightning he was still wrong…), but being right did not give him the right to talk down to me. What I was asking for was a clarification of the base and pool policy. If someone had simply said “yes ma’am, well the pool’s policy is that if we hear the tiniest rumble or anything we think might be a rumble or if your stomach growls too loudly then we pretty much make all swimmers get out for thirty minutes or until we ascertain that there is in fact no threat of actual lightning”, then perhaps that would have been just fine.

But, no. This guy had to mansplain to me as if I had never taken a high school science course with a text book written later than Ancient Greece. Or perhaps it is because we are not white (even though I am oft read that way, but The Guy is VERY much not). Or whatever his reasoning, this dude just decided that my question was not worth a courteous response.

I sat there, stunned. Did that happen? The Guy told me it was no big deal.

Sure.

But it ate at me.

I wanted to go and ask this guy who he thought he was that he could talk to me like that when I was asking him a question, or better yet who he thought I was that he could talk to me like that and tell him how wrong he was. It made me think back to Chally’s post from the other day, about the way that her teacher spoke to her, and the way the department head immediately sided with that teacher, and how I wished in this moment that I had a fraction of that courage. I wanted to stand up strong and not be quietly marginalized by someone who decided I was less-than. Because that is sure how he made me feel in the three seconds he wasted on me.

But I was not raised that way.

I was raised to not make a fuss. I was raised to just let it go if no one (other than me) was hurt. I was raised to be more polite than that and be respectful of anyone with perceived authority, so much so that it has taken me several years to realize that “Fuck that, I have equal footing here”, because this man does not actually have the authority to dismiss me. Not just because he decides I do not deserve the time of day.

It took me a long time to realize that I am a parent too, I am an adult too, and other parents and adults don’t get to dictate what my actions should be. If I am abiding by rules and not harming anyone, I get to dictate my actions and have a say in what happens too.

I deserve to have misunderstandings cleared up.

I deserve to have base policies made clear to me so that I understand them and can abide by them

I deserve to be treated in a respectful manner, especially when my family and I are leading with respectful behavior.

I wish I had the courage to stand up and demand to be treated the way I know I deserve to be treated. I am working on it. I can recognize it now, so I guess that is a step.

But knowing and doing something about it are seldom the same thing.

They don’t go away…

I had a high school bully. He followed me around, yelled things at me, made lewd comments about me and what my then-boyfriend were or were not doing, threw things in my hair, and made my life kind of a living hell for quite some time of my Senior year of high school. To add insult to injury, I was, of course, a Senior and he was a Freshman, so I was additionally humiliated. I attempted to ignore him, because I had been long taught that if someone is bothering you a la your little brother then you should just ignore them and they would go away. This idea did not work with my little brother, and it didn’t work with Andrew, my high school bully, either*.

I did, of course, tell people. The lunch monitor in our cafeteria, who only had to see him flash his charm, and then I was the one who got the talking to for swearing at him when I would finally break under the stress, or told to, of course, ignore him, or to move tables, ignoring the fact that I had sat at that table for quite some time before he settled in to start bothering me. I told several teachers, and eventually the principal. The principal decided the best course of action was to pull us both in his office and talk to us, and I am certain it was necessary to bring up Andrew’s father’s golf game or whatever relevant nicety was offered to him. Me, I had no local businessman father to smchooze with the principal, so I didn’t stand a chance. With a smirk and a wink I kid-you-not Andrew was told to knock it off, and we were let go, and not two feet outside the principal’s door I was told that I was “in for it now”.

The last day of school for Senior’s couldn’t arrive fast enough, and I dreaded that cafeteria every day. The set of emotional issues that I was harboring in my childhood weren’t helped by the fact that Andrew had set his sights on me for whatever reason. Before he decided that I, and my then boyfriend who bore a lot of the abuse as well, was a viable target for his bile and vitriol I didn’t know who he was, other than the twin of a girl who played in the marching band with me.

Much like Phoebe Prince, and others like her that we have read and heard about this year, the people whom I begged for help and then gave up on, knowing they would do nothing, did exactly that. Nothing. The last day of school for Seniors rolled around and I kissed my school and most of my town good-bye. Were that I could have done some things better or more nicely, but a lot of years of therapy later and I know that I just had too much baggage from too many layers of abuse and disappointment that I was hauling around with me.

And sadly today things don’t fare much better for our children in schools. But even more surprising to me, is that those of us working in social justice is that things are hardly better online. Internet bullying is hardly a concept that is new to any of our eyes and ears. Many of us are familiar with the concept of the internet stalker, and at this time when Facebook is under criticism for its horrendous disregard for user privacy the thought of internet bullying is even more worrisome.

But heartbreaking to me is the way that we as social justice advocates are willing to stand around and allow this to happen to each other. I am not even talking about how big sites, like Feministing allow their writers and commenters to disenfranchise and abuse marginalized voices. I am talking about how people will sharply criticize in dishonest ways, and then stand in faux surprise when their critiques are taken to task. To the point that they become down right condescending, and don’t even bother to mask their insults. Or, how people offer intentionally dishonest criticisms of others in an effort to further personal agendas against someone again, and again, and again to the point that some of those people have not had to shut their blogs, or as in the case of my friend s.e. smith, close it to comments in order to avoid the constant abuse.

Bullying is real. It is hurtful. It is awful. It kills people. Let me repeat that. IT KILLS PEOPLE. And if I may use the recent vocab lesson that I so graciously received to my drug addled brain from Feminist Review recently (no, I am not linking there, if they thought Google was enough to go on, then so do I) as a jumping point, I will offer that if in fact more feminists or social justice activists, not just those speaking from the marginalized “contingent”** spoke up then I think that people might feel disinclined to abuse and bully us as often. I think that we were less tolerant to allow the bullshit we see happening to these marginalized voices when we are able to step in and say something then maybe we wouldn’t find the loss of spaces where marginalized voices are centered, because contrary to some self-important opinion not all safe spaces are echo chambers. Spaces that advocate for the listening to of the voices oft ignored are not in fact circle jerks. They are rather an attempt to bring to light the voice that is lost in that atta-boy pat you on the back meeting between that high school principal who plays golf with your abuser’s father. You needn’t be worried about centering the voices of people who might possible be racist or transphobic or homobigoted or ableist because the net is completely full of that voice. If you are actually interested in this discourse that everyone is crying so loudly about then how about S-ing TFU and L-ing to the voices that everyone keeps trampling over? Huh?

But not everyone can safely speak up in these spaces, because obviously it has repercussions. My high school bully found his second wind after I went to the principal, and believe me I never tried anything so foolish ever again. When people tried to tell me there must surely be two sides to that story, I can assure you there was not. I never knew Andrew before the first time he cat called me and told everyone at his lunch table that I was giving my boyfriend blow jobs in my car. Sometimes to speak up is to set yourself up for more abuse. Like Anna said, ignoring it doesn’t work. Launching the contingent isn’t ideal (even when that isn’t what we are doing), because that will inevitably cause us our own personal backlashes, so what do we do now?

Some of the best learning experiences and most meaningful friendships I have found in a long time have sprouted out of places like Shakesville and FWD, safe spaces, those so-called echo chambers. FWD/Forward has been one of the most positive experiences of my online life. What people don’t see are the things that happen behind the scenes (and admittedly due to my 13 hours of time zone difference I don’t see a lot of it) and a lot of that is the bullying that takes place, the shit storm of people who are all up in arms over our attempt to make it a safe space, not only for the community there but for us as well. No space is ever entirely safe, and people will never be fully pleased with the results. Those people have become as important to me as any real life friend I have ever made, as some of you who read my blog and have formed similar friendships with me know, Bloglandia friendships have a way of being just as important as Meat World friendships, and then some. I am fiercely loyal to them, my co-contributors. To hurt them is to hurt me. I will not tolerate people who openly bully or hurt them. I will not participate in work with you if you foster an unsafe space with a bully to them. If you hurt them, do not come to me for harbor.

*No, as a matter of fact I don’t feel the slightest bit bad for using his real name. This kid made my life a living hell. I was AFRAID to go to lunch. School bullying is A REAL THING. It isn’t just “kids pick on kids”. It hurts. It causes real pain with real scars that takes real time get over. Ass wipes who feel no remorse over causing that pain for shits and giggles do not deserve pseudonymous privilege at my blog. I might reconsider if the jerk seeks me out and apologizes after all these years. I am easy to Google, as I can see by the hate Google hits I get to my blog.

**I would like to note, as lauredhel pointed out, that at the same time the “Evelyn/Evelyn” review went up at FR, Mandy contacted some of the FWD/Forward staff about providing content for FR, ensuring that many of us would see that review. Her position that we engaged in some kind of “organized brigade” is dishonest at best. I also have heard that other contributors to FR have received final versions of their pieces from editorial staff before it was published, so Natalie’s claim that “I didn’t know those links were there” is disingenuous, I believe. Apparently they don’t need the readers or the writers having “over 150 contributors”. The whole gig seems suspect to me. At this point with all the shit sandwiches being handed out I don’t know if anyone over there can be believed or if I am about to be handed a smallpox blanket if I comment again.

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