Friday, September 27, 2013

The Romeo Rose Trainwreck

Actual photo from Rose's website
By now you've likely seen Romeo Rose's website. If you haven't, go take a look. (It's often under too much traffic to work, so check the mirror if you get an error.)

TL;DR version: this guy apparently sucks at finding his own girlfriends, so he wants to pay you $2500 to find one for him. Bonus $1000 if they get married!

(Let's stop for a moment to snicker about his outrage that a pimp contacted him. Because paying someone to find you a girl? Why would that EVER imply a pimp would be involved?!)

So, we'll leave aside the racist and general douchey stuff because mocking racism is just too easy to really be fun.

What I want to know is this: when did it become okay to sell women?

I realize this isn't trafficking. Far from it. However, what Rose proposes is a financial transaction between himself and another person in which he offers money in exchange for a woman. The woman, presumably, gets only the pleasure (torture?) of being his girlfriend.

I'm gonna go out on a very short limb and suggest that, if a woman were to present herself to him as a dating option, he probably wouldn't pay her the 2500 bucks.

How in the holy hell did he ever decide this was okay?

"Wait," you may be thinking, "sites like eHarmony and charge fees. How is this different?"

True, some dating sites do charge fees. But both people involved agree to those terms. Matchmaking, in which a neutral third-party acts as a go-between for potential mates, is a fair way to look for a partner.

That's not what's happening here. This is two parties, Rose and Person X, deciding to send a woman with no vested interest in the situation to date Rose. She may not even know what's going on. Nowhere does he stipulate that his dates must know about his site or the transaction.

In fact, he explicitly condemns the idea of someone finding him a girl and splitting the money with her after payment is received. Again, to him, this is prostitution. If only the pimp gets paid though, apparently it's okay. But let's not say "pimp" because that's gross!

The only good thing about this website? Now I know what this guy looks like, so I can be sure to avoid interactions with him.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Consent--No is Less Important than Yes

Photo courtesy of Doug Wheller
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been an internet brouhaha over rape culture and slut-shaming, inspired by Kim Hall's open letter to teenage girls. Many folks have sounded off with incredibly good stuff (like this post from a father to his son, this post showing another mother's reaction, and this post detailing the way another mother handles teenage sexuality). I've posted twice in response: once in direct response, and again regarding what rape culture doesn't look like.

And that brings me to consent. We hear all the time about how "no means no," and it's true, but the fact is, it's rare that anybody says "no." Maybe eventually they do, but things have already gone too far at that point, and the rapist probably already knew that person didn't want to have sex with them.

So let's stop this nonsense rhetoric about "no means no" and start talking about "yes means yes."

This is not a new concept. People who have really awesome sex, especially those who speak or write publicly about it, just can't shut up about enthusiastic consent. Why? Because it's totally clear and unambiguous, and leads to really awesome sex.

The "no means no" line implies that a lack of "no" is the same as consent. If a woman just lies back and takes it, she must be consenting. Never mind that she might be unconscious or afraid to make things stop. Never mind that she might have been threatened, coerced, or otherwise forced into letting things happen. She's not flailing at you with her fists and screaming, so she must have consented.

"Yes means yes" turns this on its head. It means that, if your partner doesn't outright state their desire to have sex with you, you don't have their consent. No more "it wasn't rape because she wasn't awake to say no." No more "it wasn't rape because, after I held her down so she couldn't leave, she let me have sex with her."

People don't say "no" for all kinds of reasons. They don't want to hurt your feelings. They're nervous. They're afraid of what might happen if they turn you down. They're unsure of what they want. Regardless, silence isn't taken for consent in most situations, so why should sex be different?

If you asked your girlfriend, "Do you want a Hawaiian vacation for your birthday?" and she didn't say anything, would you buy plane tickets? If you asked someone at the grocery store, "I only have one item, do you mind if I check out ahead of you?" and they stared determinedly into space, would you cut in front of them? Why is it that "you didn't say no" applies only to sex?

There's some misconception about asking for consent and getting a yes that it somehow makes things less sexy. This, friends, is total bullshit. What could be sexier than whispering in your partner's ear all the things you want to do, and asking if they're ready to do them? Or hearing them tell you exactly how they want to fuck you, then responding enthusiastically? Enthusiastic consent makes sex better, both in that you'll get turned on by your partner's sexy "yes, oh please, yes!" and by knowing what to do to please them. You simply cannot go wrong.

Also remember, you are not asking for permission, you are investigating desire. It's far, far sexier to say, "Do you want me to fuck you now?" than it is to say, "May I fuck you now?" It also opens better communication. Maybe your partner's answer will be, "No, I want you to give me a blowjob, then I want to give you one." Maybe it will be, "I want it, but not just yet, warm me up with your fingers first." Or possibly, "No, baby, let me fuck you." No matter what, you'll know exactly how to proceed, and you won't have killed the mood in the process.

It's important to point out that getting consent never goes away. No matter how long you've been together, no matter if you're married or living together or just had sex a minute ago, you need to get consent every time. Consent for previous sex doesn't count for current sex, and consent for one act doesn't count for another.

So tell me, do you want to have sex with someone who lets you fuck them, or with someone who wants you to fuck them?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Men I Know Who Aren't Rapists

Photo courtesy of Paul Bica
I posted last week about rape culture and how it's buoyed by telling girls to be ashamed of their sexuality and telling boys they can't help themselves when it comes to sex.

Let's talk now about adults. I'm an adult, and I only have sex with adults, and, really, I almost exclusively interact with adults. And all of us grew up hearing the "boys will be boys" and "good girls are virgins" lines. Yet some of us learned to think differently. I want to tell you what can happen when, as a community, we empower all people to control their own bodies and sexualities.

I have been a member of microcommunities that place a high value on autonomy, respect, and responsibility. The principles on which they operate state that each person is solely responsible for their experience of the world. The only way someone can force you to do something is through physical force, coercion, or extortion, all of which are illegal and rightly should be punished. Thus, people in these communities don't believe the myth that girls should be pure or that boys are lustful, uncontrollable animals.

Within these communities, at some events, I have been naked. Sometimes it was for art, or self expression, but mostly it was just because I like being naked. I understand that it may have aroused some people. Hell, sometimes, that was the point. Sometimes, when I was naked, I was also having sex. In front of people. Men, even. Some of whom I didn't even know.

And do you know what? None of them raped me. Not even close. I never even felt as though it was a possibility. Some of these men have seen me like this on multiple occasions, and, far from lusting after me uncontrollably, they treat me with respect and dignity.

I'll give you a second to consider that. I have had hot, wild, animalistic sex in front of men I barely knew and, afterward, they treated me with the respect that should be afforded to all human beings.

I have been a giant slutty slut in all my slutty glory right there where these guys could see it, and it didn't make them think any awful things about my character (that I know of) or treat me as less of a person or violate me in any way.

Sure, some of them may simply not find me attractive. But, based on statistics alone, probably some of them do, and they still have managed to behave as the rational, thinking, empathetic people they are, rather than vagina-seeking missiles with no control over what happens when they get a boner.

They are great guys, and I don't mean to undermine their character in any way, but they are also normal guys. They have jobs and families and like beer and sports and, well, yes, sex. But they don't think that their penises give them excuse to treat other people badly, and they don't see sex as something they are entitled to if they want it. Not because they are great thinkers with amazing self-control. Because they simply learned to think of people as people and not toys.

If this is possible with these totally normal guys, then it's possible with other totally normal guys who aren't part of microcommunities like ours. Clearly, men can be aroused by other people and still not demean, harass, or abuse them. They can see women as desirable yet still also see them as people and treat them with respect and dignity. They can control their sexual urges, and, if they wish to act on them, make sure they get consent first. (More on consent in a later post!)

If they can do this when a woman is having sex right in front of them, they can do this in any circumstance. There is simply nothing at all a woman can do to cause a man to rape her, and anything you've heard to the contrary is untrue.

I know it's possible some of you are reading this and thinking that I am engaging in very dangerous behavior. Some of you think if I get raped I will have had it coming to me. I desperately want to hear from you. Please comment so that we can have a conversation. I want to know why you think these things.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why This Well-Meaning Christian Mother is a Symptom of Rape Culture

Photo courtesy of Oteo
I recently came across this article, which I'd love for you to take a few minutes to read. In short, a woman who is the mother of several teenage boys gives advice to the girls they are friends with on Facebook: stop posting sexy photos of yourselves or she will block your accounts so her sons can't see them.

This may seem harmless enough. She's protecting her sons, ensuring what's best for them, right?

Wrong. This attitude is representative of rape culture. Let's examine why.

It presupposes the idea of "good girls" and "bad girls." "Good girls" aren't interested in sex. They keep their virginities intact, to one day be given, like gifts, to the men they marry, or at least men with whom they have meaningful, long-term relationships. When they do have sex, they do so to make babies and to please their men, but never because they really like it. If they happen to like it, they keep quiet about that. "Bad girls," however, are casual and nonchalant about sex, throwing away their purity on whoever is close by. They are dirty and full of disease, and nice boys should avoid them at all costs.

The author says, "We think you are lovely and interesting, and usually very smart." But she determines that posing with "the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout" and "not wearing a bra" betray that these girls actually are not lovely, interesting, or smart. In her mind, a girl can only possess these good qualities, qualities that every girl hopes to have, by not being sexual, and not displaying any sexuality.

In reality, none of this is the case. Young women, like young men, discover their sexualities in their teens, typically. As they begin to understand their attraction to other people, they realize that some people are attracted to them. This is a brand new thing for them, and of course they want to experiment with it. They discover how to show off body parts they've only recently grown into: breasts, hips, waists. They play up their facial features with makeup. They learn to flirt, and to be flirted with in response. They find the pleasure we all find in kissing deeply, in fondling, in sexual play. They begin to have orgasms, and consider whether those can come from intercourse.

The second disturbing assumption the post makes is that boys will be boys, and the only thing we can do is to limit their exposure to temptresses. Says the author, "Once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it." She asks, "You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?"

This woman, who clearly loves her sons dearly, gives them no credit at all for being thinking, reasonable humans. She assumes that their sexual desire is so out of control, so beyond their capacity to manage, that posing for a sexy photo means they can't help but have sex with you.

What kind of message does this send to young people? To this woman's sons? That they can have no control of their sexual behavior? That seeing a girl "in a state of undress" gives boys excuse to objectify her? That once a woman becomes an object of sexual desirability, she loses all value and is thus no longer worthy of being anything but a fuck toy?

Why is it okay for boys to have rampant sex drives that can barely be held in check, but girls are not allowed to want sex? Why is a boy who wants sex just a boy, but a girl who wants sex is a stupid, uninteresting slut?

Further, if a boy has been told his sex drive is beyond his control, and he can't help wanting to have sex with girls in sexy poses, how is he to respond when one of those girls actually wants sex? This assumption gives him no ability to say no. She's naked, he's hard; the only conclusion he can reach is that he must fuck her, even if he actually has reservations.

All of this is pure nonsense, and incredibly harmful. Sexual exploration and discovery is a normal part of being a teenager, for both boys and girls. Both genders think they know far more than they actually do about it, and both tend to make lots of mistakes. Both desperately want to be desired and accepted.

But perpetuating this idea that all boys want sex to the point of having no ability to hold themselves back, while only slutty, unworthy girls want sex, creates the environment in which rape happens. If he's been told he can't help himself, why should he try? How can a young woman not think it was her fault if a boy forces himself on her, if she was so terribly tempting?

We must change the way we talk to young people about sex. More than that, we must change the way we think about sex. Sex is normal, healthy, and the reason all of us exist. It isn't a gift to be hoarded by women and clamored over by men. It isn't a commodity women trade for security and safety. It is a basic activity that is fundamental to human nature, and, like eating and sleeping, we control when and how we do it.

We must expand the conversation from telling girls how to say no. Girls and boys alike should know how to say no, but they should also know how to say yes. They should know how to tell someone what they want and what they aren't comfortable with. They should be able to define their own limits, and respect limits others set.

Most importantly, we must teach them that they are the only ones who control their bodies. No amount of sultry poses can force a boy to have sex with a girl. No lack of clothing can relinquish a girl's right to say no.

Let's change the conversation we have with our kids about sex, and see if we can put an end to tragedies like Steubenville.