An Open Letter to My Beloved College Freshman Brother Regarding Consent, Illustrated with Personal Examples

by Kyla Jamieson.

Kyla is a writer in her fourth year at UBC. She is working on a memoir about modeling and can be followed on Twitter @kyjamieson. Kyla originally presented this piece at the March to Reclaim Consent at UBC Campus, unceded Musqueam territory, on November 22, 2013. 

Bro,

I know how you’re going to react to this—you don’t want to hear about your sister’s sex life. You don’t even want to know I have sex, as you made clear that time you threatened to kick me out of your car for mentioning a sexual partner. But don’t worry, this isn’t just about my sex life, this is about yours too.

You practice safe sex—of this I’m fairly certain, given the condoms I found in the console when I searched your car for parking change. So, at the very least, I know you know about safe sex, which is great. Keep wrapping it up. But do you know about consent?

I’m not here to point fingers or assume. For all I know, you give, ask for, and receive, enthusiastic consent throughout every sexual encounter. But while mom’s “birds and the bees” talk taught me she’s boss at drawing ovaries, it skipped over consent. So a little review seems prudent, especially as recent events in my own bed have shown that there are still some people in the dark about this essential aspect of safe, happy sex.

For example: the basketball player you almost kicked me out of your car for mentioning. He’d unwrapped a condom and was putting it on when I asked, “Aren’t you going to ask me?” He looked up at me, dumbfounded. He thought it was obvious I wanted to have sex, and I thought it was obvious that it is never obvious. It seems problematic that the basics of consent have flown over a few heads, given how essential consent is to not committing sexual assault.

At the very least, failing to ask will reveal you to have poor manners. At the very worst, it will make you a rapist.

“If a girl doesn’t say ‘No,’ I don’t understand how it can be rape.” A kind, gentle, well-intentioned man spoke that sentence in my bed. I found myself at a loss for words. But eventually I was able to explain: not saying “No” is not the same thing as consent. Because as you might imagine, the shock of being sexually assaulted can render one quite speechless.

One more example: my new boyfriend, a geography student. The first time we had sex, we were both a bit tipsy. We both wanted to get into bed, and we both wanted to have sex—the first time. Then he put another condom on, and before I could tell him that I didn’t want to do it again, he was inside me.

If we weren’t already friends, I would have written him off. Instead, I later told him that I’d wanted to have sex—but not the second time, not like that. His face fell; he hadn’t realized. 

The first few times he asked me, “Do you want to have sex?” were a little awkward. You might experience the same feeling, but don’t let it get to you. Keep checking in for consent the same way you keep wrapping it up. If they’re like me, your partners will say, “Yes, oh, please fuck me,” or, “No. Want some ice cream?” and in every case you’ll have established your fine manners and respectful nature.

You might think this is too much information, but until kids learn to ask “Do you want to have sex?” before they practice putting condoms on bananas, it looks like I’ll be teaching Consent 101, one person at a time. And who better than your big sister to offer examples from her own life? Just some things I thought you should know. See you at Christmas.

Love always,
Your sis.

 

(image courtesy of www.michaelkaufman.com)

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Navigating contradictions of progress in hip hop and pop culture.

“We would know far more about life’s complexities if we applied ourselves to the close study of its contradictions instead of wasting so much time on similarities and connections, which should, anyway, be self-explanatory”
-The Cave by José Saramago 

Last week, a wonderful string of news was catalyzed by 24 year old hip hop artist Frank Ocean’s open letter which revealed, in beautifully written words, a past romance he had with another man. His mother responded to the news saying he’s the “most incredible human she knows” and powerful hip hop mogul Russell Simmons even wrote a letter of support. A big day for hip hop.

Ocean is attached to hip hop collective Odd Future. I was interested in the buzz around Odd Future about a year ago but I promptly stopped seeking them out once I discovered that the collective is led by Tyler, The Creator a lyricist who is known for excessive use of the word ‘faggot’ and the graphic description of rape scenarios. One of the lone voices of public criticism was Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara who rightfully called out the industry’s refusal to condemn such lyrics.  Tyler responded with the following tweet, “If Tegan and Sara Need Some Hard Dick, Hit Me Up!” Can’t speak for T&S but nothing displays thoughtfulness to me more than use of the phrases “hard dick” and “hit me up.” It would be more funny if he didn’t have over one million followers. Despite this hateful rhetoric, Tyler, perhaps surprisingly, came out in strong support of Ocean in the wake of this announcement.

While this support may seem incompatible on a personal level, it does serve to provide an illuminating window into the current confusing and contradicting climate of hip hop, a fact not lost on long time writer and hip hop insider dream hampton. In her thank you letter to Ocean she writes:

You fulfill hip-hop’s early promise to not give a fuck about what others think of you. The 200 times Tyler says “faggot” and the wonderful way he held you up and down on Twitter today, Syd the Kid’s sexy stud profile and her confusing, misogynistic videos speak to the many contradictions and posturing your generation inherited from the hip-hop generation before you.

Syd tha Kid is the only female member of Odd Future and if you’re wondering what misogynistic videos dream hampton is talking about this would be one of them. It starts out cute and queer and ends with Syd pulling her coked out date out of her car and leaving her passed out the gravel road while Syd drives away. Again, the critique around this video seems to be fairly quiet save for this piece at Afterellen.com (granted this is old news by internet standards). I was pissed when I saw this video. The last thing we need is one of the lone queer women in popular hip hop normalizing the degradation of women. This, though, was obviously not Syd tha Kid’s intent as she stated, “I decided to do [the video] because I wish I had someone like that [an openly gay female artist] while I was coming up. People write on my Tumblr just thanking me for making the video, saying that I really inspire them, and they want to be like me.” I thought about it and realized if my 18 year old (then closeted) self saw this video I would have found it exciting to see two queer girls flirting and kissing on screen. I was so used to misogynist music at that age that the last scene probably wouldn’t have even phased me then. In fact, though it absolutely pains me to admit, my younger self thought The Prodigy’s video for Smack My Bitch Up was edgy and provocative. I’m not even going to link to it because it so fully disgusts me now at age 27.

When I start to get into this rabbit’s hole of discerning meaningful progress from warped misogyny in hip hop and pop culture at large I often come back to dream hampton again. Last fall I saw her speak on a panel about “feminism and hip hop.” I have to admit from the get go I was highly skeptical of her. After all, she co-wrote Jay-Z’s biography and was close friends with Notorious B.I.G. for a number of years. I danced to their songs all throughout junior high but I would never say that either of them are feminist champions or close to it. On the panel dream hampton was the last to introduce herself after each of the other panelists had, right off the bat, confirmed that “I’m not actually a feminist” (if my recorder wasn’t stuck on the table I would have walked out at that point). I figured that hampton, surrounded by the major players (mostly straight, rich men) in hip hop for many years would also try and dance around the title of feminist or calling out misogyny in the industry. Fortunately I was entirely wrong. This is a 3 minute clip of dream hampton talking during that panel about how she keeps herself and her politics in check:

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Is it all about balance? Can you really ingest misogynist music one day and then lead an anti-violence against women’s march the next day without being a hypocrite? I think more than the balance issue is the importance of fighting the urge to be dogmatic. That is, adhering strictly to a set of cultural beliefs. More and more studies show that people from all ends of the political spectrum seek out self serving information to further entrench their beliefs and in many situations will ignore or justify away facts that counter their beliefs. In the NPR interview I linked one researcher was asked if this was more of a problem with religious fundamentalists and he answered, ” I don’t think so. There are people who have made that case in the psychological and political science literatures, but I think the jury is still out. And, you know, the conclusion that my co-author and I came to is that this is really a human problem.”  This is what I enjoy about people like dream hampton―she has no willful ignorance. As a hip hop insider and a cultural critic she’s not afraid to call bullshit on what she loves. This idea reminds me of a discussion in Barbara Kingsolver’s book The Lacuna where two characters disagree on the role of the artist (including writers like hampton).

- Well, but suppose the artist’s job is just to keep everyone amused? Maybe get their minds off the stink, by calling it a meadow. Where’s the harm?
- Nobody will climb out of the pile. There’s the harm. They’ll keep where they are, deep to the knees in dung, trying to outdo each other remarking on the buttercups.

So maybe the problem isn’t feminists and progressives ingesting pop culture in the first place but our likelihood to defend our favourite pet TV show to the death or to dismiss an entire genre of music  as being anti-women. While I still don’t agree with everything dream hampton represents I felt myself move over the week from being horrified at Syd The Kid’s video and therefore this young artist herself to thinking about how confusing and contradicting her environment must be. I still think the video’s message is terrible but you can see her working her way through some important youth outsider issues in her lyrics ”She shaved off all of her hair…cause she don’t give a fuck…some people seem to think she needs changing but they don’t know the struggles that she was raised with so shut the fuck up…Stop thinking that you know everything.”

She’s not worth writing off and neither is the movement of this music either. It just takes one look at d’bi young and Invincible to realize that we have lots of positive growth worth spreading.

Follow Ellie Gordon-Moershel: @EllieGordonMoe

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Rush Limbaugh’s slander of Sandra Fluke

So, it’s Saturday morning.  Here I sit, drinking a cup tea in my fleece pajamas, cozy on the couch with my laptop, surfing the ‘net, when all of a sudden…  Are you in the mood to get riled up?  zOMG me too!

I know it’s bad to read any piece of news related to Rush Limbaugh.  It is guaranteed to raise your blood pressure significantly (“urge to kill rising…”).  On Friday, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke received a telephone call from President Obama, telling her not to take Limbaugh’s calling her a prostitute to heart.  Oh yes, get ready.

At a hearing at Georgetown about health care coverage of contraception at religious institutions, Fluke spoke about the high cost of contraception and about their importance to women’s health.  Limbaugh made these comments about Fluke’s testimony:

What does it say about the college coed Susan [sic] Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.

The johns, that’s right. We would be the johns—no! We’re not the johns. Well—yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word.

Can you believe it?  Can you fucking believe it!  Then, after a public outcry against these comments, he responds with:

So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.

…. I’m not questioning her virtue. I know what her virtue is. She’s having so much sex that she’s going broke!

This is jaw-dropping, shocking stuff.   This is hate-speech.  How is he still allowed to voice an opinion about anything?  Oh wait, I forgot.  He’s actually aligned with Republican politics.  Reproductive rights belong only to those who can afford them.  ”‘She’s going broke!’ — that’s what makes [Fluke] attackable,”  says Amy Davidson in The New Yorker.  ”The real target here is poor women — poor families.”    So, while Limbaugh’s bullshit might seem extreme, this sort of slander really isn’t anything new.

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Men know how to ejaculate. Why don’t we?

How much has the history of male-centred sex affected women’s relationships to their own bodies? We think that female ejaculation is a myth, but we sure don’t question the existence of male ejaculation. So… why the difference?

It’s easier for men to ejaculate

It is? Yeah, I guess it is, since what most people consider ‘sex’ (hetero penis-in-vagina sex) seems to be designed for male ejaculation. But, once women know how to ejaculate, many can do it 5, 10, 15 times to a man’s single ejaculation. So, no, I don’t think it’s easier for men to do it… maybe just easier to learn how.

Very few women ejaculate

For now. I think that, really, the issue is that very few women know what to do in order to learn how. Many women think they simply can’t because it hasn’t already happened, or if it did, it was only once or twice – or with a certain lover. It may not be easy for you to learn how, it may take lots of practice… but believe me, it’ll be worth it!

Male ejaculation has a purpose

It’s all about procreation, right? In bed with the religious and cultural suppression of both women’s sexuality and sex for pleasure, this idea has done us such a disservice. We could set aside the ideas about female ejaculation preventing bladder infections or providing wonderfully copious amounts of lubrication, and just go with this: The purpose of female ejaculation is… pleasure!

Female ejaculation is only seen in sex industries

Sex industries, which cater to men’s voyeurism and desires, provide the only significant source of information on, or evidence of, female ejaculation. So, how do women who don’t watch porn or go to sex industry events (most women) learn about ejaculation?

Listen to my show, for a start. Then give it a try :)

You can hear the show here: Women’s Sexuality and Female Ejaculation

 

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