Dec. 14th, 2009

joreth: (polyamory)
Here is what the PolyDragon Towels will look like:







Ordering information found here: http://joreth.livejournal.com/206707.html
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So, a friend made the following LJ post. I was originally going to just reproduce it here, since it's a locked LJ and I wanted people to read it & I think this pretty much covers it, but I have a few things of my own I want to say at the end.



A local thirteen-year-old girl committed suicide last month because of the treatment she received from peers, family, and authorities after she sent a boy a picture of her breasts. The picture leaked, and instead of protecting her from the bullying she received at school, administrators punished her. Her parents punished her by grounding her for the entire Summer, cutting her off from the support of her friends who had rallied to shield her from the bullying. Her school counselor knew that she was in danger of harming herself, but never told her parents.

Things like this are the reason that propagating sex-negativity is *so* harmful and damaging. Things like this are the reason why people like us, people who don't equate sex with sin or evil, need to speak out. It's a depressing story, but I encourage you to check it out.

Here is the St. Pete Times article, which broke the story (which gives the known facts of the case):
http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/article1054895.ece

Here is the Today show article, in which everyone blames the victim (which will piss you off):
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34236377/ns/today-today_people/

Here is a fabulous response (please read this!):
http://sylviasproblem.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/what-happened-to-hope-witsell/

Excerpt from the above:
It wasn’t the bullying of other students that put her in danger. (“Friends told the St. Petersburg Times, which originally chronicled Hope’s story, that they literally surrounded Hope as she walked the hallways while other students shouted ‘whore’ and ’slut’ at her.)

It wasn’t the school administrators who responded to this abuse by punishing and further publicly shaming HER. (“Shortly after the school year ended, school officials caught wind of the hubbub surrounding Hope’s cell phone photo. They contacted the Witsells and told them Hope would be suspended for the first week of the next school year.”)

It wasn’t the parents who punished her even more, taking her away from her support network and the things she loved to do, after the school administrators informed them of what had been happening to their daughter and how they were planning to make it worse for her. (“Donna Witsell told Vieira that she and her husband practiced tough love on Hope, grounding her for the summer and suspending her cell phone and computer privileges.”)

It wasn’t the adults at the school again who were more interested in covering their asses against litigation with a written record than actually supporting a suicidally depressed child. (“On Sept. 11, Hope met with school counselors, who noticed cuts on Hope’s leg they believed to be self-inflicted. They had her sign a ‘no-harm contract,’ in which she promised to talk to an adult if she felt the urge to hurt herself. But [...] the school didn’t inform Hope’s parents of the contract.”)

Of course it wasn’t a slut-shaming, woman-hating, sex-hating culture that divides young women into “good” (virginal) and “bad” (fallen) and allowed a 13-year-old girl to believe that she had ruined her life forever by showing a boy her tits.

No, it was her “impetuous move” and somehow also the dangers of the INTERNET (even though the internet was not involved, except in that her internet access, probably one of her major sources of social support, was taken away by her “churchgoing family” as a punishment for an act that they had no goddamn fucking idea what it even was or what technology it used).




This just pisses me off. I hear it all the time, from all different sources - a woman's worth is dependent upon her sexuality. It's not even a Far Right Wingnut assertion, it's pervasive and comes from all corners. Just the other day I was accused of using polyamory as a way to hide my inability to love by collecting more and more sexual partners BY ANOTHER ATHEIST TRANSHUMANIST ANTI-MARRIAGE PRO-GAY-RIGHTS NON-MONOGAMIST. He very specifically tied in an active sex life with low-self worth as being "typical" and didn't even consider the possibilities that 1) I don't have a large number of partners & the ones I do have are also emotionally intimate partners and 2) maybe I just like sex. These accusations weren't made until he discovered I was female. There was much humorous speculation as to his opinion of my sexuality had he not known my gender.

But the point is that everywhere we turn, women are slammed with constant reminders that our worth is in our sexuality. We are worthless without a man, we are worthless unless we look attractive, but we are worthless if we have sex, yet we are worthless if we can't attract a sex partner. If a woman does ANYTHING to upset someone, her sexuality is immediately called into question as if it has any relevance at all. Recently, the anti-vaxxer quacks took a cheap shot at the pro-vaccination side by creating a badly Photoshopped image of noteworthy pro-vaccination activists dining on roasted babies. One female activist was conspicuously absent from the image, and when her absence was noted, it was immediately suggested that, no, she was in the image, she was just out of sight below the table, servicing the males in the image. They eventually deleted the comment, but not before someone else took a screen capture.

This is a lose-lose situation. If a woman has something to say that someone doesn't like, she is alternately accused of being "a whore" or frigid & unattractive (or a lesbian, as if that's an insult all on its own). Palin had a mountain of legitimate reasons to be considered a poor candidate for the Vice Presidency, but she got an awful lot of comments on her being attractive, including a Photoshopped image of her head on a bikini-clad woman's body holding a rifle. I've even heard, with my own ears, some men joking that they would vote for Palin just to have more spank material since being elected would keep her in the public eye. Hilary Clinton, on the other hand, is often attacked for her lack of sex appeal, particularly if she gets riled up about something political.

If a woman enjoys sex, even if it is within the confines of a committed, loving relationship, she is also called a slut and a whore, but it is still expected as her role in the relationship to provide sexual enjoyment (according to every fucking magazine at the checkout stands anyway). If she doesn't provide sexual enjoyment or satisfaction, it is often viewed as an acceptable reason for her male partner to cheat, and he is looked on with pity and sympathy for being denied his due benefits. Even while people condemn the act of cheating itself, excuses are usually made if the reason for cheating is because she stopped having sex with him. Staying with her "for the good of the relationship" or "for the children" makes him the martyr while she's the horrible bitch who cut him off and then condemned him to a life of celibacy. This is how many women justify getting involved with a cheating, married man - oh, his wife is a bitch and won't have sex with him, but he cares about her and the kids so he can't divorce her right now blah blah blah.

The slut-shaming in the middle article wants to imply that teenagers are ill-prepared to deal with sexuality and that it was the consequences of this display of sexuality that killed this girl. First of all, I'd probably agree that teenagers are ill-prepared to deal with sexuality, but I most vehemently maintain that the REASON they are ill-prepared is because all you fucking adults out there continue to not prepare them.

As a society, we insist on keeping children in the dark about the realities of adulthood. We don't teach them how to balance a checkbook, we don't include a class on interest rates or understanding mortgages, we don't encourage them to read literature from other religions and cultures nor do we encourage critical thinking about our own religions and cultures, and we don't prepare them for the realities of sex and relationships. And then we wonder why our kids move back in with us after college because they can't keep up with their car payments or pay the rent and why they have sex and make bad decisions about partners.

It particularly pisses me off when I see comments like "kids grow up so much faster than they did when we were that age". No, they don't. In our day, in our parents' day, in our grandparents' day, kids grow up pretty much the same. There are precocious kids and there are reclusive kids, there are extroverted and introverted kids, there are outgoing, popular kids and there are unpopular, picked-on kids. Some of these kids will explore sexuality younger than others. There are all sorts of books and accounts and personal journals that detail sexual exploits of past eras. Children growing up on farms know exactly where babies come from and farmlife made up a significant portion of previous generations' experiences. The only difference between then and now is the means by which kids teach themselves. Today it's the internet, yesterday it was my father's Playboys in the garage, the day before it was peephole in the neighbor kid's bedroom next to his sister's room or grandpa giving his 16 year old son a prostitute for his birthday to "make him a man".

In my junior high, I have very distinct memories a girl who was rumored to have lost her virginity in 8th grade. It was the talk of the school yard. They called her a slut and a whore. I knew her. She was nice and friendly, although not a particularly good student. She also had a boyfriend and they used to make out wherever they thought they wouldn't get caught. Just like every other teenager who had a boyfriend or girlfriend who attended the same school but who WASN'T accused of being a slut. From the outside, you couldn't tell which of these couples had sex and which hadn't, since they were all sucking face in the hallways. Oh, and she was called a slut, but her boyfriend wasn't.

It was not her act of sexuality that killed the girl in the article. It was the fact that everyone hated her for her sexuality, even though she was PRESSURED to behave sexually.

I matured sexually very early on. I had BDSM fantasies as early as first grade that I distinctly remember. I can place them at that age because they centered around a boy I knew in first grade who moved the following year. I'm not sure when I began masturbating, but I know I was already doing it by 6th grade. By 8th grade, I had already given my first blowjob. By age 15, I had consciously and deliberately lost my virginity, not by any pressure, as I went out and sought just the right guy for the deed. I had several sexual partners (even more if you count make-out partners) before I graduated high school, some of them concurrently and some of them were intentionally casual relationships.

I did not die from my actions.

Why? For several reasons. One is that I have always had a very comprehensive sex education provided by my public AND my private high school, so a bit of luck combined with mostly safe decisions kept me from being killed in the most obvious sex-related manner. And another is because I just happened to naturally have a very high sense of self-esteem. Considering what I went through as a teenager, had my self-esteem been anything remotely resembling my peers, I probably would have killed myself too.

But I never thought of myself as "bad" for enjoying sex. So, for all of the insults I got as a kid, the sex-related ones do not stick out in my memory. I'm sure it hurt my feelings to be called a whore or a slut, whether I was having sex or not, but since I didn't consider myself a whore or a slut, I'm also sure it hurt worse when I wasn't having sex with anyone. But because I did not personally attach my self-worth to my sexuality, those insults did not have the devastating effect on me that they did on this girl and on others like her.

I remember being 12. I remember liking boys and not having the social skills to handle this change in status from "friends" to "more than friends" that the respective genders were moving into. I remember the crushing disappointment of being rejected. I remember the hopeless longing of someone out of my reach. I remember the abject despair of being taunted and teased and unwanted. I remember the hateful, hurtful words hurled by kids for something that, not only couldn't I change about myself, but I wasn't really sure why it was supposed to be bad in the first place.

I wasn't picked on for being a slut, I was picked on for being smart and thin, both of which, I was told, would prevent me from ever getting laid in the first place. I wasn't only just insulted, I got the crap beat out of me. I had stuff stolen from me and was forced to either perform some vaguely sexually degrading act or suffer losing the item (putting my housekeys down a guy's pants and making me reach in to retrieve them, for instance - this only lasted until I discovered I could cause damage in the process of retrieval - then they looked for other ways less personally harmful to torment me). I distinctly remember being quizzed about my best friend's sexual status by one bully who was interested in her. As her friend, I refused to answer. I remember him picking up a metal pipe from a nearby construction pile and swinging at me. I don't remember the rest of that day.

I had plenty of sexual encounters and sexuality in abundance during those same turbulent years, where hormones are redefining who we are and who we will be is affected by how those around us deal with our hormonal changes. The sex and the sexuality did not kill me directly, nor do I feel any particular regret or upset about my decisions from that time period. I have very few regrets and all but one were decisions made after age 18. No, what nearly drove me to suicide was the bullying, the shaming, the rejection of my peers who didn't understand me and didn't want to understand me, and the lack of support network like this girl had but was cruelly taken from her.

The sex didn't screw up my life. I remain physically healthy and make much safer decisions about my body than most people. I remain confident and happy with myself in general. I regret very little of my past and my current relationships are happy and healthy precisely because of my sex-positive attitude which includes honest communication and open intimacy in addition to the enjoyment of physical activity.

The part that did screw up my life was the bullying and the shaming. Same behaviour, different subject. The insults about my weight prompted me to, first, binge eat and then become anorexic as they switched from being too skinny to being a little chubby. The double-dog-dare insults prompted me to do some really unsafe antics to defend my "honor", one of which resulted in me rolling my car down a hill in an effort to prove that I was just as brave as some guy who held the neighborhood record for speed down that same hill. Being punished for crying or showing any emotion at all refined this introvert's natural tendencies to create an adult whose most common insult to date is about being "cold" (ironically, usually hurled in the midst of a heated argument, often while I'm crying). I have trouble trusting people, I fall back on condescension as the only weapon I had as a teenager because I was smarter but much smaller than my aggressors, and at the time, I, too, alternately considered suicide & mass killings.

But I had teachers who cared about me and who saw a troubled teenager. I'm sure my parents cared too, but like this girl, Hope, I kept my troubles to myself and they really didn't know what was going on. My teachers encouraged learning and promised me a bright future. My teachers praised me for the very things the bullies picked on. My high school counselor talked to me like an adult, we had conversations, and she didn't make me sign any stupid No-Harm contract which would have meant shit to anyone who really did want to harm themselves. To paraphrase [livejournal.com profile] tacit from an unrelated situation - if someone is bent on doing harm, the contract won't stop them and if someone doesn't want to do harm, they don't need the contract.

I was surrounded by adults who cared even as I was surrounded by kids who didn't. I was told I was worthwhile and I was showed I was worthwhile. And then later I met partners who did not hold the double standard for sexuality, who valued me for my sexuality in addition to the rest of me - not instead of the rest of me and not valuing me in spite of my sexuality.

This girl was removed from the only people who truly saw her as a worthwhile person - those classmates who physically imposed their own bodies between her and her aggressors. She has been told, as we all have by society and our parents, that a woman's worth is in her body. Once she exposed herself, she was forever tainted. Those pictures will be around forever, you know. Her ability to be a class leader hinges not on her scholastic work or the work in the FFA that she's done her whole life to date, but in whether or not she once (or twice) took a picture of her boobs and dared to show someone else what she looked like under her clothes.

She was bombarded with images and beliefs that what she did was WRONG. Not that wanting to attract the attention of a boy when you're 13 and hormonal is a natural desire. Not that being appreciative of her own body is a good thing. Not that sex feels good. Not even that spreading private images without consent was wrong, or name-calling was wrong, or making assumptions about people is wrong. She had no adults stand up for her, no adults to tell her that, even in this slut-shaming climate where she should have thought more carefully about the consequences (likely another failing of the adults around her for not teaching her how), it was EVERYONE ELSE who was wrong.

Anyone who has ever called another person a slut or a whore as a derogatory term should feel ashamed right now. Anyone who has ever held women up to a different standard than men for sexuality should feel ashamed right now. Anyone who has ever thought less of another human being for their sexuality when that person otherwise has similarly high (or better) standards of treatment for others should feel ashamed right now.

And anyone who continues to do so today should feel responsible for creating an atmosphere that makes a 13 year old girl with good grades, a bright career ahead of her, and a circle of friends willing to defend her against teenagers and adults alike, feel as though she has nothing to live for just because she once took a picture of her breasts and showed them to a boy she liked. Because it's YOUR fault she died.

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