Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rethinking a Thin Privilege Checklist

A while ago I happened upon this thin privilege check list, probably via twitter or something like that, I can't remember. While most of the list was pretty on point, I was kinda bothered by pieces of it. I have a number of friends who live in various non-fat bodies. I live in a death fat body, and we frequently talk about what the experience of living in these different bodies is like. My understanding of the experience of living in some non-fat bodies is that some of the things on the list are just as true for people living in other non-ideal body types as they are for people living in fat bodies.

The problem I had the most with the list was that it's called a thin privilege checklist and I take thin to mean something similar to skinny rather than "average". The dictionary seems to agree with me. That general problem mentioned, I have some more specific things to say about specific items on the list.

People won’t ask me why I don’t change the size of my body.
A close friend (and ex-boyfriend, if it matters) of mine is naturally what many people would call "very skinny". The number of times I've heard people ask him why he doesn't gain weight is not insignificant. The number of times he's been asked that is probably similar to the number of times I've been asked why I don't lose weight. I somehow doubt that this is unusual for people on the "very skinny" end of things, and as such have trouble accepting this as a marker of thin privilege. Beyond that we live in a society that seems to believe that unless you poses the ideal body (and no one does) you will be asked why you don't change this that or the other thing about your body, so I'm not sure anyone gets away from this regardless of their size.

I am not identified by the size of my body.
Anyone whose body is non-average in any way at all gets identified by the size or shape of their body. The friend mentioned above is generally described as "skinny with a beard", another male friend who is 7 feet tall is "the really tall guy", and some of my female friends are described by people who don't know them based on the fact that they have rather large cup sizes and not so large anything else. This is a somewhat obnoxious thing, and I'm not sure that "skinny guy" is the same sort of identifier as "fat girl", but it's certainly not an experience that is unique or even significantly more common among fat people.

I am not grouped because of the size of my body.
I'm pretty sure everyone is grouped because of the size of their body. That's the sort of category that we're used to grouping people by. Again, obnoxious but not just something fat people deal with. I would suggest that maybe fat people get a negative connotation along with their group that is unique to that grouping, and that there being less value judgement given to members of other groups is a mark of privilege for those other groups, but the grouping itself isn't.

I will not be accused of being emotionally troubled or in psychological denial because of the size of my body.
Women who are naturally very thin get called anorexic with very irritating frequency. Perhaps if you fit in the window of "average" this isn't a problem you face, but people who are fat and people who are thin both get this sort of accusation. It is wrong and a very bad thing, but not a marker of thin privilege but a marker of average size privilege.

My masculinity or femininity will not be challenged because of the size of my body.
Men who are very thin are often considered "too feminine".

While I definitely am bothered the "but skinny people have it bad too!!!" argument that comes up pretty much any time you try to have a discussion about being fat in any forum on the internet, I felt that if we were making a list about thin privilege we should probably make sure the problems being discussed aren't problems that thin people also have. Much of this issue would be fixed by simply calling it an "average sized person privilege" list, as was done here, and perhaps some of my issues here are really just me being pedantic. However there is one item on the list that list that I strongly believe doesn't belong on any size privilege list.

I can go for months without thinking about or being spoken to about the size of my body.
If you can do that, then I'm pretty sure you live in an entirely different world than I do. Sure, people who are "average size" are probably spoken to about the size of their bodies less often than thin people who are probably spoken to about the size of their bodies less often than fat people, but I get the feeling everyone is spoken to about the size of their body occasionally, especially if they're a woman. Beyond that, I'm unsure how anyone (especially women, and at least in modern American society) can possibly go for month singular much less months plural without thinking about the size of their body. We are constantly bombarded with images of excessively photoshoped "perfect" people, magazines that tell us how to make our bodies look like whatever they aren't, and ads for diet products that suggest that everything would be better if you just lost 10 lbs. You don't have to be fat for these things to make you think about the size of your body. Beyond that, you have to put on clothes sometimes, sit in chairs sometimes, exist around different sizes of people sometimes, and generally live inside your body. Maybe it's the eating disorder thing, but all of those things sometimes make me think about the size of my body. Sure, it's likely that not everyone thinks about the size of their body with the frequency that I do, but going for months without thinking about the size of your body seems to be in the realm of hyperbole to me.

Basically, my suggestion here is that we maybe talk less about "thin privilege" and more about "average size privilege" and remember that the whole society we live in lends itself to an obsession with body size regardless of what size your body happens to be.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Adventures in Gynecology: Part 1

So, I have this problem. The problem is that being penetrated hurts. Not just like a little moment of ouch and then everything is fine. It hurts badly and, though it does dissipate after a bit, it's really difficult to get through the pain and in to the fun part. I seem to remember partnered sex being less consistently painful, but it's been a while so I'm not really sure anymore. I do think that part of that was a position thing, and possibly an arousal thing. I'm not sure.

In any event, one day I got a diva cup and attempted to put it in and was prevented from doing so by the pain. I've lived with this pain for as long as I can remember and my GP told me that it was just because I don't relax enough, but I couldn't help but think that there was something very wrong with not being able to get a diva cup in, and that this was something that could be made better, so I made an appointment with a GYN. Besides, I thought, I'd really like to get on a different form of birth control anyway, so I'll just get it out of the way.

I was nervous about the appointment, basically a combination of the general nervous feeling that new doctors cause (I'm fat, I've had some doctors be jerks, it's a scary experience) and of the general nervous feeling that knowing you're going to have a pelvic exam causes. I went in and things seemed like they were going to be ok. When I told the nurse that I'd prefer not to see or be told my weight she went along with it without comment, then the doctor came in and began to ask questions. First, she suggested that I try nuva-ring and kinda scoffed at me when I said that I was unsure of how that would work for me because of the pain that I was also there to see her about. Then, somewhere in the conversation she asked me how many partners I've had in my lifetime and when I became sexually active (7 and 16 respectively) and suddenly the conversation became very much "oh, well you probably have an STD" specifically gonorrhea or chlamydia. Now, this is a reasonable thing to ask about and I understood that, so I said something to the effect of "that seems really unlikely, I get the screening for that done every year when I get my pap done, I also never have sex without condoms and know the general sexual history of everyone I've ever had sex with, and this has been this way since before I started having sex." This statement apparently didn't stick, because I spent the rest of the appointment being told about the importance of condoms and how I should make sure to be in a committed monogamous relationship before having sex.

The pelvic exam was painful, probably more painful than it could have been because by this point I was rather uneasy, and seemed useless. She seemed to blame me for her difficulty seeing my cervix (because clearly I can do something about the fact that it hurts a lot and I can't stop clenching my muscles because of the pain) and in the end suggested that some sort of trauma had happened to the opening area of my vagina. She said that she still thought it might be an STD and was going to do the test again just to see, I suggested that it may have something to do with the number of yeast infections I had one summer when I was about 15 and taking antibiotics for acne. In response to my comment about the yeast infections, she informed me that I need to lose weight so that I won't get those so much, I said that it had really mostly happened when I was 15 and that I almost never get yeast infections unless I'm on antibiotics. She continued to tell me that being fat causes yeast infections and that if I could just lose weight maybe this would go away. I told her that I have an eating disorder. She told me to try to lose weight without "going overboard." She wrote me a prescription for a steroid cream to try, and I left rather shocked by what had just happened.

After talking with some people, I decided that there was no way in hell I was going to go back to that doctor. The problem is that now I'm scared to try to go to another GYN, but I'd really like to fix this problem. I never tried the steroid cream, but I did get the test results. As I suspected, I don't have an STI. What I do have now is an increased fear of trying to figure this out, and much less trust that women who are GYNs will be nice and/or open minded.

The point of writing this, for me, is to get it out in to the world, to let other women know that these sort of appointments do happen to people other than them, and hopefully to find some help myself. So, does anyone out there in internet world know of any ways to find a GYN who isn't a jerk other than trial and error? Alternately, do you have any idea what could be causing this pain?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amanda Palmer Gets It Wrong

First, let me just say that I listen to a lot of music by artists who either hold views that I strongly disagree with, or who at least occasionally say really really stupid things. For example, I happily count myself as a fan of Ke$ha, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and a number of other pop music types. I also, in general, like Amanda Palmer's music.

The thing about Amanda Palmer is that she so often comes so close to at least appearing to "get it" but then adds something to the thought that makes me wonder why I ever hoped she'd get it. It seems that it hurts me more when someone almost gets it, or generally seems like a person who gets it and then proves that no, I was wrong, they don't actually get it at all. That hurt is the basis of this post.

I do not follow Amanda Palmer on twitter because I prefer to not read the things that go through her head, but today someone I do follow retweeted something she had said, and, well, how about I just show you what it is.

I read the first sentence and was happy...and then...yep. You're fine the way you are, unless you happen to be fat, in which case you'd better fix that shit. If you happen to be fat you clearly don't exercise. If you happen to be fat you probably don't love yourself.

And I'm just left wondering why that middle sentence was necessary. And why I ever thought Amanda Palmer might possibly get it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My self-worth and how it has nothing to do with anyones genitalia

So, I have this problem that resurfaces every now and then...I, like many other women and men in the world, find myself thinking that my value is dependent on what other people think of me. More than just what other people think of me, but how much other people want to sleep with me. And that is a problem. It is often specifically a problem if I've been in a little bit of a funk and then get drunk, because the end result is almost always throwing myself at someone and either being rejected and crying, or waking up the next day wondering why the hell I did that.

Here's the thing, I'm fat. Not like "chubby" or anything like "plus size model"...just fat. Death fat, if you will. And I'm mostly okay with it. Yeah, there's some stuff I wish was different. I wish there were more cute clothes that fit me, preferably less expensive and better made ones, but in general I don't think it's my fault that those clothes don't exist. And yes, I could stand to be healthier, but if I've learned anything about my body in my 22 years it is that in this body, healthy and thin aren't really the same thing.

The other thing is that I've got some serious food issues. I don't want to get in to the back story of that just now, but let me give you some examples. At 16, I made my boyfriend ration cheese cubes to me and worked out at two separate fitness centers so no one would notice that I went twice a day...my family was so proud of how disciplined I was being. When I was 18 I got put on adderall for ADHD and was seriously thrilled by the fact that when I took that medication it was super easy to not eat. And then I spent an entire day throwing up because my stomach did not like not having anything in it when I was taking said medication. That didn't change my mind about it though, I just ate before I took it and then very little after that. I remember a number of occasions when friends forced me to eat, and I remember the somewhat panicked look on my roommate's face when she noticed that I was binging with the intention of purging. When I was 19, I only ate more than 1000 calories a day if someone caught me, or if the guy who was the object of my affection wanted to cook dinner for me, and if that happened I always had to eat less than them. Through all this, in moments of clarity I'd tell friends what to look for so someone could maybe stop me when I got out of control...some times I was too good at hiding it though. It never worked, maybe because I'd get scared of the vomiting or whatever else was happening and try to eat sensibly for a while, maybe because sometimes I'd get stressed and decide to eat everything instead, maybe because my body just refuses to be smaller than a size 12, I don't know and it doesn't matter. It was fucked up. And saying was isn't exactly correct.

The one constant through these food issues was that they would generally calm down if someone seemed to be physically interested in me. The problem of course was that I'd only trust someone's statements of physical attraction for so long...I only even trust people actually wanting to have sex with me for a while. When I was 20 I started dating someone who was wonderful for me, I got comfortable and I also think something weird happened in my digestive system, and by a year in to our relationship I was a good 80lbs heavier than I had been when it started. A bunch of things happened, a lot of death in my life, a serious bout of depression, and some issues of his as well...and somewhere in there I stopped believing that he thought I was sexy, and I stopped believing that I was. Needless to say, that fell apart for a variety of reasons, and true to form one of my first responses in my head was to try to find someone else who might be attracted to me and want to have sex with me. That was also kind of a disaster. And as obnoxious as it is, to me and everyone else as well I suppose, that's sort of how I've been living my life...looking for someone to validate me, someone to want to sleep with me so I can feel okay. And when people don't want to sleep with me, I'm deeply hurt, as if they've just confirmed every mean thing ever said to me and possibly a number of things that have only been said to me by myself.

How I got here is a whole other story, but the point is that this idea I have that someone else can fix me, or more accurately that if someone else's genitals are somehow stirred by me that means I'm ok, is profoundly fucked. What started this post is in part, a kind of messy alcohol fulled trip to "I hate myself" last night, and in part a post on reddit about why reddit hates fat chicks so much. Somewhere in that reddit post someone says that his problem with fat chicks is that his penis doesn't like them, and you know what, it's totally fine if his penis doesn't like me or any number of other fat women, as someone (possibly the fantastic Lesley of Fatshionista or Marianne of The Rotund) once wrote, I can't possibly sleep with everyone. But there's this idea that as a woman your whole point in life is to be considered sufficiently fuckable by men you may not have any desire to fuck anyway, and I think that's the heart of this problem. I also think that this is exceptionally difficult for me, because in my world I feel like I'm considered to be like, about sex, because I love to talk about sex, think about sex, and have sex...so, if I'm failing to be actually having sex I feel like I've somehow failed to be successfully myself. The fact however is that I am not about sex, well, not just about sex. There's a lot to me, and what I'm worth has nothing to do with anyone's genitals.

Wall of text said, I'm hoping to explore some thoughts I've been having about a wide variety of things, sex and otherwise. I have time now, so, hopefully posts will come with some regularity. I'm sorry if this post didn't make the most sense, I needed to get it out in to the world instead of thinking about it endlessly, so, here you have it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Natural Contours Superbe

I love vibrators, I love them a lot, with all of my heart and soul, and I'm not at all sure what I would do without them. When vibrator.com offered to let me review the Natural Contours Superbe, I was pretty much ecstatic. I've lusted after the pretty shapes and colors of all the Natural Contours toys for a while, and given that I'm super in love with clitoral stimulators in general, I figured this would be a wonderful choice for me. I wasn't wrong, and though it won't be replacing the Lelo Lily as my go-to toy, it's certainly a wonderful addition to my toy box.

To start out, I'm entirely in love with the sunny, lemony color of the toy. The day it came in the mail I was wearing a bright yellow shirt, and having yet another yellow thing in my life just made everything wonderful. Most of the toys I own are black or some shade of purple, and while those colors are all fine and dandy, it's really nice to see a different color when I look in my drawer for a toy. Another thing that was really awesome was that it came with batteries, something that in my experience most toys don't do, so I didn't have to run out to the store and get some or take them out of anything else. Plus, the batteries say "power for pleasure" on them, and how cute is that?

The shape of this toy was really what got me interested in trying it, it's curved so that it can kind of rest on your mons while the end stimulates the clitoris. I really enjoy this sort of shape, and it was really wonderful to have something a bit bigger to hold on to and move the toy around with, especially since holding on to small things (like the afore mentioned Lily) sometimes makes my hands go numb, which is really not desirable in a toy. Another wonderful thing is that it is light weight, so using it doesn't wear my arm out. Plus it's made of hard plastic, so it cleans up pretty easily and doesn't have pores in which bacteria can live, something I'm always in favor of. My only quibble with the design is the seam that goes around the entire toy, which though totally understandable from a construction standpoint, I feel takes away from the beautiful shape of the toy.

Now, down to what using it was actually like. By myself, I found the Superbe quite pleasant, and fully capable of getting me off. The shape and lightness of the toy made it easy to move around as I saw fit, and though I would personally prefer a slightly narrower point for more directed sensations, the toy delivered vibrations wonderfully. I was initially slightly confused by the controls since the first setting is the highest, but after a few uses that started to make sense since it was nice to be able to turn directly to off from the highest setting without having to go through all the others first. I did find it a little difficult to differentiate between the lower settings, and a couple of times accidentally turned the toy off while I was on my way to orgasm because my finger slipped. The controls however are pretty conveniently located and rather easy to use.

The motor in the Superbe must be different from the motors in toys I'm more used to, I'm used to a sort of rumbly feeling in my vibes - as if the motor is shaking the entire toy - this felt more like something was just shaking around inside. Power wise, on the highest setting the Superbe is similar to a not fully charged Lily, and slightly stronger than my old slimline style vibrator. It is however much louder, and when I was first using it I was convinced my roommates could hear it from the kitchen, though I didn't get any complaints so I may have been wrong about that.

As a solo toy, I thought the Superbe was just okay, but during intercourse with my (male) partner it was fantastic. Because of the curved shape, the Superbe is able to rest on my mons and vibrate on my clit in any position where I'm on my back. With the toy like this every thrust pushes the vibe down on my clit, and I'm able to move it around to get a better angle or the exact spot I want. This arrangement made it very easy for me to orgasm during intercourse, something that is otherwise a bit difficult for me and for that I have to give the Superbe some serious love. We have tried this set up with other toys, particularly with the Lily which shares a bit of the Superbe's shape, but never with this degree of success. It's almost like I was the Goldilocks of orgasms during intercourse and found that some toys are too big, some are too small, but this...this is just right.

Thanks so much vibrator.com

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sex Blogging Ethics: Consent

So, today I read this article at Jezebel which asks if sex blogging is consensual, particularly when you write about specific encounters you have had. Now my brain is stuck on this concept, and I'm realizing that I have a number of posts that are still hiding in editing because they are enough about someone that I worry that I may be breaking someone's trust to publish them. Everyone I'm currently at all involved with knows that I have this blog and that I write about whatever thoughts I'm having about sex, but I wonder if that's implicit consent to being written about even in the vaguest of ways. I have no real desire to write explicitly about my encounters, but sometimes things come up because of what happened during said encounter. Is it wrong to write about those things if someone could read what I've written and say "oh, hey, that's about me."? Or does that just come with the territory of messing around with me? If I don't ever explicitly identify anyone, is that okay? Or should I be asking if it's okay to write about anything that has to do with sexual experiences that involve someone else? On top of that, do I have to go back and ask everyone I've ever messed around with if it's okay to share some of the experiences I had with them? Even if it's been years and we only hooked up once?

What do you think, internet?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why you cannot hide behind "free speech"

I appear to have a very hard time keeping my nose out of some of the more dramatic things that go on in the sex blogging community, I love to follow along as people better known than I tell others what they did wrong and so greatly admire what others in the community do to make it as safe of a space as possible and hold companies accountable for their actions. Mostly, I don't comment because mostly I'm on the outside of these things. There is one thing however, one thing that I am in fact late to the party on, that I don't think I can refrain from commenting on because a big part of it is something that bothers me on a very deep level.

I just read furry girl's post about why she dropped out of the Sex 2.0 convention this year, and as someone who is rather invested in sex worker's rights, I have to say that in the same position as she was in, I likely would have done the same thing. My major academic work so far has been related to sex work, and one of the things I believe sex workers need most is a place where they can come together and freely discuss their lives and their work. Perhaps if we had more of such spaces through out the world there would be a chance of properly unionizing sex workers (particularly in those countries where prostitution is legal), making it possible to more successfully agitate for what sex workers need, and giving sex workers more of a voice in the political process rather than letting other people decide what is best for them. But I digress. What actually bothered me most about this situation is the way in which Carnal Nation chose to defend themselves when they were called out for allowing someone to put sex workers in danger.

What they said amounts to "we have freedom of speech in this country" and that is basically my least favorite defense of anything. For one thing, freedom of speech does not in fact mean "freedom to be an unrepentant asshole" and it certainly doesn't mean freedom to say things that endanger other people's lives. You cannot yell fire in a crowded theater without getting in trouble, you cannot incite a riot without getting in trouble, you cannot speak in ways that incite people to kill other people without getting in trouble (well, at least in theory, in practice...well, we're a bit shaky on that) etc. etc. Now, the fact is that what was said by this creep of a person on Carnal Nation probably doesn't constitute speech that the government would decide is worthy of suppressing, but a lot of that depends on the state that the case would be looked at in, the specific judge, etc. etc. I can certainly see ways in which what was said (though I have not read it) could constitute hate speech, and I can see many ways in which it could count as potentially causing violence against another person.

Regardless of all of this, the fact that we have freedom of speech in this country still doesn't mean that anyone gets to say anything they want and we have to put up with it because of "free speech", idiots on the internet hide behind this all the time when you attempt to tell them that what they said was in some way morally reprehensible. Free speech, as a legal concept, mostly just means that the government cannot restrict your speech, and last I checked Carnal Nation is not the government and as such can actually restrict the speech that occurs on their website. While I understand and largely agree with their statement about how content hosted on other sites sometimes gets taken down simply because enough people say they don't like it, there is a really significant difference between someone saying something unpopular and someone saying something potentially dangerous. As a company that wishes to be viewed as sex-positive and/or sex worker friendly, allowing posts that are dangerous to sex workers to be posted on their website is frankly stupid. It shows a serious lack of commitment to the cause they claim to believe in, and simply saying that they think what this guy is posting is repugnant is not doing anywhere near enough.

Further, their comparison of what this guy is doing with sex workers to what Larry Flint has done with Republican politicians is largely idiotic. First of all, when one becomes a politician one knowingly enters the public eye and can reasonably suspect that their private business may well become public knowledge at some point. When one becomes a sex worker, one does not in the same instant decide to be in the public eye, and many sex workers work very hard to make sure that their involvement in sex work does not become a matter of public record. Second, sure, a Republican politician may lose his job if s/he is found to be cheating on his/her spouse, but in the current political climate that doesn't actually happen all that often and generally exposing them does little but to show their hypocrisy, if anything they leave office and find some other sort of work. Alternately, if an individual is found to be a sex worker s/he may not only lose her/his job but may not be able to find work after that, particularly because being involved in some types of sex work (prostitution specifically) can result in a criminal record that will follow that individual for the rest of her/his life. These things are not the same.

In summary:
1) That's not what freedom of speech means.
2) If Carnal Nation wants people to believe that they are sex-positive/a safe space for sex workers to have honest discussion this is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing.
3) This is nothing like people trying to catch Republican politicians doing things contrary to their stated morals.
4) That's really not what freedom of speech means. Stop hiding behind it.