Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rape is assault, not sexuality

Washinton Post story on rape
Cleveland Rape case
East Coast rapist

What do all these stories have in common? Besides being disturbing to read, they all classify rape as a sexual act. Why is this an issue? I think that when we label an assault as "sexual", we change how we consider it and prosecute it. The real problem is that rape is not about fulfilling a healthy sexual need. It is not about desire, lust, or love. It is about power, humiliation, and sadism.

Consider this: If I accused a man of poking my eye out with a knife, and there was medical evidence to back this accusation up, would anyone say I wanted that to happen? Would anyone ask what I was wearing? But if the same man poked my vagina with a knife, my clothes would suddenly have relevance. If the tool was a penis, my intentions and desires would suddenly have relevance.

Rape is assault with a sexual organ. The term "sexual assault" is, in fact, accurate. But I think it does damage our ability to understand the full impact of the crime. And I think it adds an element of sexism to the discussion. Consider priests who sexually assault altar boys. Does anyone say "Well, that boy looked like he was 18 at the time." I don't think so. But if the priest assaulted a middle school girl who had finished puberty, then that's exactly what would be said by someone. Just read the articles about the Cleveland gang rape of an 11 year old, who by all reports, "looked" older than 11.

Mixing up sexuality with rape, sodomy, forced fellatio, and other acts of abuse bring sexism and victim blaming to the table. What's the answer? I'm not sure. Let me know your thoughts!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Permission to do what?

I love my gynecologist. One reason I love her is that she allows me to insert the speculum during my Pap smear. Yeah, you heard that right. I get to insert the speculum.
Now, setting aside the question of why I would want to do that (short answer: control freak), this is something I've shared with other women. Almost universally, they react with astonishment. "You're allowed to do that?" Well, sure, why not? It doesn't take a medical degree to insert something into one's own body. It's not like I'm doing the actual Pap smear: once the speculum is in place, the gynecologist takes over. But it seems like I'm doing something forbidden, something that not all doctors would allow. Why? Why should a doctor object? After all, I'm a lot more familiar with my vagina than any medical expert - I know best how to insert items, to be blunt.
Why don't we feel empowered to take charge of our medical care? I think part of it stems from women's general discomfort with our genitalia. (Obviously that's a generalization that doesn't apply to all women). We go to the gynecologist and try to pretend that nothing is going on. Most of us hide our underwear in the middle of our other clothes (don't you? be honest!). We hate the whole procedure, worrying about our appearance, what the smell is, etc. I have yet to meet a women who truly enjoys looking at or interacting with her own genitalia. Even masturbation is cloaked in shame and secrecy - something that "nice girls" don't do.
I think the other piece is that people tend to defer to doctors as authority figures who know everything. It goes without saying that they would be better at inserting anything anywhere. I mean, we're not allowed to take our own temperature at the doctor's office. We forget that we are the consumer: we can refuse treatment, fire our doctors, etc.
So I say, take back your power! Remember that while a gynecologist may know more about vaginas in general, s/he doesn't know more about your vagina than you do.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Give Me Back...

Last week my memoir class (courtesy of Alice Osborn) had an exercise. The beginning phrase was "give me back" and the exercise was to expand that to 3 pages. I thought it sounded intriguing, so I got going on it, and boy, was I surprised at what came out!
My memoir deals with the very personal topic of dyspareunia (painful sex), and my own struggles with that. I've journaled a lot of very emotional stuff, but it's not quality writing. It's mostly just emotional vomit. This exercise gave me the structure I needed to put some of that passion on the page in a literary way. I was able to go into some of my journals and incorporate some of those raw feelings and thoughts.
Writing about my feelings during that journey is the hardest challenge I've faced as a writer. Part of me just doesn't want to go back and think about those tough times. Yet that's where the real heart of my memoir will be found.
I want to share my struggle in order to help others, and I know that sharing my feelings, as ugly and raw as they were, is part of that.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I love to procrastinate. Maybe. I feel stressed out by the fact that I'm currently procrastinating, yet I do it over and over. My actions indicate a conflict with my emotions. Interesting concept. Perhaps I should dwell on this concept and write a lovely essay piece on it all morning. Which would nicely fit into the things I'm procrastinating.
1. I need to review the latest contract from Booklocker, my book publisher.
2. I need to respond to the author of a blog who wants to publish my guest post.
3. I need to edit the story of a member of my writing group.
4. I need to clean out my email Inbox.
5. I need to get ready to have this baby.
Actually, number 5 is currently just another procrastination method, since I still have 4.5 months to prep for baby...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writing Memoir

In addition to my novel, I'm also working on a memoir. Yeah, I know, I tend to bite off more than I can chew...
Anyway, I'm currently taking Alice Osborn's Memoir class, and it's great! It's really helping me think through the memoir format and start generating content. I recommend all of her classes and activities - learn more here.