Doctor’s Speculum, or “How I Learned to Love Getting Bombed”

“Not that I’d ever get with someone who’d be like that… I mean, who I thought was… had a… std. Or something.”

My doctor gives a damn about my sex life. A damn. She does not care who or what goes into my body (much like you, dear reader, she gives not a damn). I am just a patient. A young patient who for some reason feels the need to make sure that she knows that I am not an “irresponsible floozy” as some staunch conservative would say. Point is: my doctor, luckily, is a good doctor because she doesn’t care who or what I am having (or not having) sex with. What she’s concerned about is what the chart is going to tell her.

“That’s nice” she mutters. Blasé, I’m sure she tells this to everyone who comes into her office. Why do I feel compelled to make sure my doctor, whose job it is to tell me if I am healthy, accept me without judge me and answer my questions “knows” that I am (for lack of a better word) cautious with my sex life? But it’s not even that- it’s making sure that my doctor knows that I have:
1. A litmus test– I select my partner based on facsimile and superficial readings and qualities, that in turn creates some sort of illusory “standard” that translates as “I am good, I am responsible, I am worthy of medical attention”
2. Guilt. I have maybe done something that I think has violated these “standards” and in turn, need her to tell me, to prove to me that I am still worthy. And that I can be shocked.

That’s right: I reserve the right to be shocked by any diagnosis that might render me “unworthy,” “irresponsible”… a floozy.

This is the opposite of why my doctor is there to begin with. But then if I think about it enough I realize that’s actually not true.
My doctor’s specialization was the result of a culture that needed to make, classify, understand the female body as an inherently separate entity. It needs a special doctor, with a special eye and special tools. Tools that look like something used by aliens that are going to auction my clitoris at the space equivalent of Christie’s or Sotheby’s no less. My point here is that although I’m grateful that there is an acknowledgment of the female reproductive system, the rhetoric of a visit to the doctor’s office is infused with shame and the procedures are often equipped with images associated with debasement and fear and abject horror. My sexuality and my body will in some way be commodified, despite whether or not the participant (patient here) is unwilling or if the doctor is intending.

And it became a much larger health issue. I went through and burned through many a binge drink and wasn’t really concerned about the relationships I was having with myself and my partner. I always felt so nervous before an appointment and so devastated afterward.I was constantly freaked out by it… and “being” what I was afraid my doctor was thinking.

Thing is, my doctor wasn’t thinking it. I was. I was telling myself that I was a drunken floozy and I was the one wrecking my mental, physical and sexual health because I was too afraid to admit that I’d invested so much of how I value myself into things and people I knew I probably didn’t want to.My doctor was there to do her job and I refused to accept that I had to revaluate the way I thought about my health. There’s a lot of “I”s in here and please forgive it. But, let me make it clear that in no way do I regret this experience. I learned what I like and what I don’t like,and what I want to change. And, in no way do I consider myself a slut, so if you’re feeling judgey you can take it somewhere else because you’ve been reading something else. Here is my idea on why we need to change it: health is important and we need a healthy way to educate people about health.

1. The concept of sluthood is destructive in more that the obvious ways. Since I’m talking about health here, I’m not going to repeat what everyone else on this blog has already masterfully pinpointed. Calling or categorizing people as sluts damages mental and physical health. It contributes to feels that are icky and make people feel like they desrve to be abused.

2. Slut and victim blaming severely cripple the relationships you can forge with your doctor. They also contribute to patients not disclosing needed information which, in the case of rape,disease exposure, pregnancy and you name it are time sensitive. Oh, and you have the right to experience shock at anything. Or disappointment or relief. You get to feel.

3. Your doctor is this person who can help you and you can help you and your partner. That relationship needs to be well established, respected and maintained. But how can they help me, you asK? Ex: information about safe practices, STDs and STIs, medications, home remedies for swelling, figuring out what exactly is going on with your body, responses, things that may seem odd, pregnancy and OPTIONS for a variety of things.

4. Know what legal rights you have when it deals with your health:
You’ve discounted hysteria as a diagnosis. Good.
You’ve got Roe v. Wade. And Casey v. Planned Parenthood (which is somewhat dicey depending on how you look at it but helped reinforce the basic provisions of Roe) Good.
You’ve got Griswold v. Connecticut. Good.
And don’t forget Eisenstadt v. Baird. Really good.

And! Doctor- patient confidentiality. AND, and, and…even counseling for domestic violence.

All of these things are good. But they’re really not good enough. If we’re really serious about health, in particular here Women’s Health, we’ve got to be active about passing the legislation to protect it. Being afraid that a landmark case, or worse, becoming comfortable in the idea that there’s just no way someone’s going to overrule the provisions of Roe v.Wade for example are really dangerous, lazy and bad ideas.

Las Cruces Public School Dismisses Student Teacher for Protesting Slut Shaming

Here’s the article in the NMSU Round Up:  http://roundupdaily.com/news/article_4bca4a92-b6a4-11e2-99d2-0019bb30f31a.html#user-comment-area

Edit: Also the article as the Las Cruces Sun-News, where the original photo ran: http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_23200476/student-teacher-asked-stay-home-after-slutwalk-photo

Basically, a student teacher graduating from NMSU participated in a SlutWalk, which seeks to raise awareness of slut shaming, sexism, and victim blaming. A picture of her in a bra and skirt ran on the front page of the local Las Cruces paper, and the next day she was dismissed from her teaching position. Luckily, the Round Up reports that she will still be able to graduate this week. But let’s remember, all she did was take off her shirt, on her own time, off school grounds, to make a political statement, and then they dismissed her for it.

Is it just me, or did that school just slut shame her?

This Conversation is Important

News organizations are reporting that a Canadian teenager, Rehtaeh Parsons, died Sunday from complications after she attempted to commit suicide last week. She reported being raped last year, and was subsequently bullied, which her mother cites as contributing factors to her depression and death. More information here and here and here.

This is why this conversation is important.

This conversation is important because we live in a culture that treats rape as a fate worse than death.

This conversation is important because we live in a culture that puts more shame on the victim of a rape than it does on the perpetrator.

This conversation is important because we live in a culture that sends the message that the victim of rape will be defined by that rape, that the victim is ruined, that the victim’s future has been taken away.

This conversation is important as long as victims of rape believe, are even told, that there is no life after rape.

This conversation is important because young men and women, like Rehtaeh Parsons, need to be told, and be able to believe, that they have other choices. That this isn’t the way the world has to be.

This conversation is important.

Hollaback! : Fighting Back Against Street Harassment

I’ve been interested in finding out more about this Hollaback! movement, linked below. To sum up, Hollaback! is about talking back to people who harass, bully, or objectify others in public based on their group status, such as gender, sexual orientation, body size, race, mental capabilities, religion, or others.

This is what Linda Christensen talks about in Teaching for Joy and Justice: the idea of consciously choosing what part you play in an exchange between those of unequal power – I’m probably messing up her terminology here, but the basic break down is that everyone present is either the one in power (the bully, for lack of a better term), the target, or an ally of either the former or the latter. Not speaking up makes someone an ally of the bully, so Hollaback! is about allying with the target. Standing up to the bully, or directing the bully away, or supporting the target, are all ways to be an ally of the target, not the bully.

So, what does that have to do with rape culture? Bullies on the street are mean, but they’re not raping anybody. However, this behavior reflects and reinforces an attitude that contributes to lax, permissive, or excusing attitudes toward rape or other sexual assault.

I’m focusing on gender here, but Hollaback! has lots to say on all kinds of people who face street harassment, so do explore the site.

Calling out to a woman from a car, whistling at her, or making lewd gestures, whether to compliment or to insult her looks, is harassment. While I can’t speak for everyone, I can safely say that many women find this behavior threatening, rather than complimentary or flattering. These words and actions frame her as a sexual object and nothing more. The stranger doesn’t know anything about her other than what her body looks like, so speaking, calling, or otherwise acknowledging her solely on those terms makes her a sexual object.

While we often don’t consider this behavior to be “as bad as” rape, it’s functioning in the same way – this behavior treats a woman’s body as public property that is available for sexual pleasuring and gratification. While that gratification may be imaginary, a fantasy, in the case of the street harasser, the attitude behind the behavior lends itself toward escalation from fantasy to fulfillment.

Do I think that most, or even many, street harassers are rapists? Of course not. But the keys to remember are that 1. a woman being treated in such a manner can’t be sure if or when the verbal harassment could become physical, and 2. this is an attitude that contributes to making rape more acceptable. This behavior reinforces and relies on the idea that it is socially acceptable to treat public female bodies as sources of sexual gratification, whether they are willing or not.

No street harasser asks a woman if she’s ok with being cat-called or propositioned. She has no chance to give consent – it just happens, without her agreement, and puts her in a place where she doesn’t know what else may happen without her consent. This is particularly true when we keep in mind that, as other bloggers have written here, rape culture teaches us that men cannot control their sexual urges, which is a lesson that adds to women’s fear of rape, particularly toward men who pay them unwanted sexual attention of any kind.

So please, check out the Hollaback! movement. It’s not enough to simply avoid harassing others on the street – we need to learn to be allies of those who are the targets of it and, if we ourselves become a target, ways in which we can stand up for ourselves or seek help from others.

http://www.ihollaback.org/

Catalyst in a Horse-less Carriage

i’ll be a sparrow. you see me like i am and how it is. this is nothing
like before, not just a game. i ask it again and again – the sphinx
spits back at me in glyphs that i can’t read.
you only skim along my surface. this is no fault of yours. i’ve drawn no maps, no legend for you.

the compass is out of commission. and baby if it bleeds, it’s cool, it’ll be all right, i’ll be just fine. i take to colour easily, not for nothing. if you feel around inside, it’s just the ice learning to melt. haven’t tears enough to let it all out. i let it spill out just enough to draw a line.the gravity machine threatens to dissolve my silk cathedrals. clever spider that i am spins more, works harder.it gets harder and harder to resist the ritual.

my tea-cup is full-up.

i have a tale for you, soldier, blinding like the wars you have survived. an experiment in clouds over country. i’ll speak of this invasion as i know it, as i get my hands on it, turn it upside-around.

Amorpha is my name. you call it like it is after all this time, after all that time in the barracks, behind the lines. what will you do with all of this, with all this fruit particle-knowledge?

you have bitten deep.

keep your eyes on me.

m – 2005

m’ is a dude from the desert, a man out of time, a lost boy, a dreamer, a fire-starter. a story for which the world is not yet prepared.

Pearl

pearl birth

distance is deceptive in it’s entirety.

like a book without it’s cover, is a lie, is a treachery,

and you take it without question.

i fumble with the letters that make the words

that make the sum of my experience, my days, my

whisperings.

this is such a farce, is a nuisance, to watch the hostile

monotony of the free-flowing dips and curses of a child

who can’t remember, can’t do anything right.

and you can’t do anything right.

but it isn’t burning like you thought it would, forever, anymore.

it’s a quiet wound with scars pink, to remember. you remember their names, every one,

like a catalogue, names names names, and

they

waltz

right

off

the page.

and you keep calling them up.

it’s nothing new, with you – you and your baths in old water

trying to reach for the sea. and you can swim, mind you. i’ve seen it.

you just fall short of the boat.

are you remembering? are you crying? is it my fault?

did i destroy you, every last bit of your future, is that what it was?

i don’t have the answers anymore.

but it reaches me

into the shell.

i hide

i collect

i watch,

and that’s the tragedy, if there is one, don’t you see it?

i see you for what you are,

and i have loved it, every second.

and you hide,

you collect,

i watch,

for all these years,

and i’m sorry, god-damnit, i’m sorry.

and it’s not enough, though you say it is.

it’s never enough.

m – 2005

m’ is a dude from the desert, a man out of time, a lost boy, a dreamer, a fire-starter. a story for which the world is not yet prepared.

get comfortable with getting uncomfortable

3q9nm4

we’re sitting outside, soaking in a particularly beautiful day. it’s one of those infrequent occasions when grad life allows for us to be in the sun and fresh air-we’re sitting contentedly in silence, we don’t need to talk to communicate.

i check my facebook. it’s a perverse little habit, checking up on people’s lives with a push of a button, but i contribute to it with my own going-on’s in an even more perverse hope that someone reads, nay comments, NAY “likes” my status.

i notice three, nope four, uh-huh, seven status updates all regarding what i gather is being called “the Steubenville rape case.”

truth: i avoid the news. i avoid the news like the plague, because all the depravity, all the conflict, all the ceaseless debate fills me with doubt and dread, to the point where my hands get cold and clammy and i have to work really hard to pull myself out of my selfish little nihilistic moment and back into the “real world” where i can shrug the news off and pretend like the depravity, the conflict, and the debate doesn’t exist.

but it does. it’s there, and it got my attention that perfectly sunny afternoon when i was enjoying the company of my friend and a moments respite.

me (breaks silence like a hammer): “hey, what’s this Steubenville rape case that’s blowing up facebook?”
m (looks at me like i’m ruining a moment with my hammer): “you sure you wanna know? it’s crazy.”

and then i got it, all of it-all that he knew of it. and i went back to facebook and i read what other people knew about it. then i went on google and read what everyone else and their mom thought they knew about it.

and my hands got clammy and cold.

so this symptom, this damp clammy symptom is a reaction against the dryness in my throat and the wet in my eyes as i try and absorb information like this. and i can feel my symptom turning to symptoms and i feel anger and i feel rage and i feel sad and i feel….scared.

and when i get angry, and sad, and scared i lose control of my tongue- i can’t tame it. my words and my voice go dark, my thoughts get messy, and i get tangled in that mess.

and in this case, i tangled m into my mess. and it then turned into our mess.

we had a heated, complicated, juxtaposing, and frustrating conversation on rape and rape culture. we talked about our own experiences, about the experiences of others, about accountability, about responsibility, about social construction, and about how we were mad and made mad by how this case was being talked about.

we spent thirty minutes talking at and past one another, showing obvious discomfort and frustration-the tension palpable even in the midst of being in the outdoors. our body language said more than our words, each of us unable to meet the others gaze, unable to sit facing each other in the usual, amicable way we normally do.

m and i don’t fight. we don’t get mad at each other. we get annoyed, because we’re human, but word is bond between us, and neither of us has a problem being straight with the either.

but we were mad at that moment, mad at each other in fact, at not being able to have that safe space in which to communicate; mad and irritated by the others inability to listen and hear the other without already thinking of what to say next. it was awful.

but then we reached a threshold-and i couldn’t tell you how i know we reached it, or how we even reached it in the first place, but the debate gave, and suddenly, we were having a conversation again. somehow, the air cleared, and we were able to look one another in the eye (not the stink eye, mind you) and talk. but more importantly, to listen. we finally found a way to hear one another-but it was necessary that we both be made vulnerable. we both had to come to that mutual receptiveness to being vulnerable in order for us to begin having the conversation we could have been having the whole time.

the conversation was like a gauntlet, filled with uncomfortable obstacles, awkward silences, and ego. but once we pushed past that, once we got the hard bits over, we came through better, more aware, more compassionate. we re-positioned our voices and emphasized our ears over our tongues, and opened ourselves up to learning from one another. we ended up having a generative and productive conversation, and, that conversation is in part why we’re here. why we’re all here.

because having these kind of hard conversations on beautiful days with friends you love in a life that doesn’t leave much room for naps or breaks makes it unappealing, unwarranted, obtrusive.

but you see, there aren’t good times to have hard conversations. there isn’t an opportune moment to open a difficult discourse, to raise questions, or challenge the status quo. but we must. we must, or we’ll end up where we currently are: in a mess.

i challenge you. i challenge you to have a hard conversation and turn it into something that generates new discussion in a safe space. i challenge you to do this and then tell us about it. to record and share it. it’s really that important.
Speak Up, Speak Out.
EE