Showing posts with label sex. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sex. Show all posts

Friday, August 14, 2015

Relationships that end ≠ relationships that fail

I don't like how we say that any relationship that ends is one that failed. 

Because, seriously, if you helped each other be less alone and lonely for a while, or if you helped each other love more deeply or meaningfully, or if you helped each other become stronger, kinder, more thoughtful people — I mean, it sucks when a relationship ends because you couldn't make a long distance thing work, or you just didn't have a lot in common anymore, or someone was stunningly mediocre in bed1, but it's hard to characterize a relationship like that as, all things considered, a failure.

The relationships that fail are the ones that leave its members more thoughtless, more jaded, more isolated, more cynical, and crueler to themselves and others. Or, in other words, the relationships that fail are the ones that leave its members worse than if the relationship never happened.

We often don't have any control over whether a relationship ends, but we do have a lot of control over whether it fails. We should all try harder. 


1TOTES HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE, LADIES, I SWEAR. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

No, you don’t understand! It’s a consumer protest! I swear I’m not a terrible boyfriend!


I mean, it makes sense from the retailer’s point of view: the store advertises an item at a discounted price, but you need a reward card to get that price. It’s free, the retailer assures you, and you can earn points! So you sign up, get some discounts, and maybe even get a coupon worth a few bucks after you’ve accumulated enough points.

In exchange, you’re letting the retailer compile a very specific (and creepily accurate) consumer profile on you. By analyzing your spending patterns—what you buy, when you buy it, how often you buy it—companies can figure out a lot about you: your relationship status (frozen dinner for one tonight?), your income (do you buy the store brand or the name brand?), your family situation (how many diapers do you buy?), your health issues (picking up another Abbreva and a home HIV test?), your sex life (stocking up on condoms and Plan B?), your sexual orientation (you’re a girl and you’ve purchased the last five issues of Maxim?), and who knows what else.

Better still, all that information is attached to a specific name, phone number, and address—and all this information is easily exportable to an Excel spreadsheet for the retailer to sell to another company for the right price.

In response, many people sign up with “dummy” accounts with fake names and phone numbers. Or, since many retailers let you use your card by punching in your phone number, some type in their area code plus “867-5309” (and claim that they’re named Jenny), which has almost certainly been registered by someone.

My (admittedly ineffectual) protest has been to buy products that I don’t need whenever I have coupons that make such products free or nearly free, just to screw with the profile they’ve made for me. It’s completely futile, I know, but it makes me feel a little better.

Sometimes, though, it leads to awkward, dissonant purchases. I guess what I’m getting at is, I’m pretty sure the cashier at Walgreens now thinks I’m a terrible boyfriend who’s planning the Worst Valentine’s Day Ever.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, KY Ultragel

Guys, they were free. Don’t be judgey.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to be reflexively dismissive of a woman who says she was raped, in a flow chart

With the allegations of Bill Cosby being a serial rapist propelled into public consciousness due in no small part to a devastating Hannibal Buress bit that went viral recently, it's fascinating -- in a horrible way -- to see how reflexively some people dismiss women who say that they've been raped.



Obviously, we should take women who say that they've been raped seriously. Rape is underreported, false accusations are rare, and given the skepticism and abuse that's often thrown at women who do come forward, how we react to any particular allegation affects whether women in the future feel safe reporting rape. The way we treat a rape victim in the present redounds to countless more rape victims in the future, and it's important to create a future where rape victims aren't afraid or ashamed to stand up for themselves and seek justice.

Similarly, we should take those who are accused of rape seriously when they say they didn't commit the crime. Although false accusations are rare, they're not unheard of, and if a man is the (statistically unfortunate) victim of a lie, it can destroy his life -- a cloud of suspicion can follow him, even if there's an official exoneration. Though it's not at all comparable to being a victim of rape, being a victim of a false accusation of rape is still terrible and its own sort of tragedy.

Saying "take the accusers and the accused seriously," of course, is nice and pat and somewhat unrealistic. Everybody has their own experiences and gut instincts, and jurors in the court of public opinion aren't bound by any legal standard on which to base a verdict. ("Presumed innocent until proven guilty" doesn't apply out of a courtroom, after all.)

So when some people recoil at the idea of a beloved figure like Bill Cosby being a rapist, it's not exactly surprising. (Look at a supposedly progressive MSNBC host named Joy Reid and her guest discuss the allegations -- not with concern for the alleged victims or the problem of rape, but by fretting over how Cosby's legacy is on the line and how he can manage the crisis, because, you know, journalism.) What's decidedly not okay is when the recoiling takes the form of automatic, knee-jerk dismissals.



Women who come forward with rape allegations are often put in a no-win situation, where every action or inaction is "proof" that they're lying or crazy or greedy or attention-hungry. Nobody is saying we have to automatically believe every rape accusation with complete certitude irrespective of the evidence and circumstances, but we shouldn't automatically disbelieve every one, either.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The poignancy of Dillion Harper



Here’s what Dillion Harper said was the best thing about her job.

Best thing about being a porn star, I would say, is my fans and being able to write them back, and, like, know that, even though it is porn, like, I’m helping people, and, like, in a weird way—in a different way. But—I mean, a lot of my fans, like, they have struggles, and, like, they look up to me, and I’ve been able to somehow help them out of their struggles. So, it’s pretty cool. I like it.

It’s easy to laugh at this answer, I know. Hell, Harper herself is pretty much laughing at her own answer while she’s giving it. And in her defense, what exactly was she supposed to say other than “I enjoy having sex and subsequently getting paid for it”?

But I find Harper’s answer strangely poignant because I think it speaks to the weird relationship we have with work. Work, after all, is how most people spend more than a third of their waking lives, and despite all the talk of how our personal lives should take precedence over our professional lives, we make many of life’s major decisions—what to major in, what city to live in, whom we spend time with—based at least in part on what will help us at work.

With all the time and energy we invest in our jobs, it’s natural to want to feel like what we do is meaningful. And some people are fortunate enough to have jobs that are legitimately meaningful—the jobs that save lives, help people who are hurting, and make the world a more beautiful, vibrant place.

But those are relatively rare, and many of us, particularly those in the corporate world, are working more or less meaningless jobs. They may be interesting jobs, lucrative jobs, or jobs that play to our skill sets—all of which can help make a job seem enjoyable or even fulfilling—but I can’t imagine it’s uncommon to have a brief, sudden moment where your soul silently screams, YOU ARE USING YOUR PRECIOUS, RAPIDLY DEPLETING TIME AND YOUR CAREFULLY CULTIVATED TALENT AND CREATIVITY TO COMPLETE USELESS TASKS JUST TO MAKE SOME GUY AND HIS INVESTORS RICHER. And then you go back to your Excel spreadsheet and crunch a few more numbers, because your manager wants this shit done by lunch time.

I don’t necessarily think Dillion Harper’s soul was silently screaming when she tried to give her job more meaning by saying she helps people with their struggles. And I’m certainly not in a position to make assumptions about Harper’s career decisions and what she thinks of her decisions; I’m sure she’s good at what she does1 and she’s obviously pretty successful in her chosen field, while I’m not even sure what I want my chosen field to be anymore. Plus, she’s been nominated for multiple AVN Awards, and to date, I have received zero such nominations, so: advantage Harper.

Her answer, however, did remind me of the meaning we try to assign jobs we know in our hearts are meaningless. I don’t intend to sound judgmental of people who do this; sometimes, when there aren’t any other readily available career options and you just need to get through the damn day, it helps to pretend that there’s a greater purpose to your job—that you’re Helping the World Connect With the Ones They Love when you’re really just writing ad copy for Verizon.

And I certainly don’t mean to be dismissive of everybody who has decided that “meaningfulness” simply doesn’t matter. If you’ve decided that your job having meaning is less important than making sure your family has food and health insurance, that’s completely reasonable. If you’ve decided that you’ll draw meaning from the things you do outside of work and accept your job as merely a way of financing the things that do matter, I totally get that. And if you’ve decided that trying to find any meaning in your employment is probably a fool’s errand, that fretting about this sort of thing is a luxury, that you’re already incredibly fortunate if you have a job that you don’t hate and don’t suck at—well, I can’t say I agree, but a part of me wishes I did.

But for everybody else, our impulse is to ignore our souls when they’re screaming, and to try to refute their screams—what I do really is important, or this job really is what I’m meant to do, or I was just immature when I was younger. And hey, sometimes this is necessary; every day can’t be filled with ponderous existential angst.

Every once in a while, though, I think it’s worth resisting the impulse to refute and quiet our souls when they’re screaming, and instead listen to them.

It’s… easier said than done.


1I would like to point out that by saying “I’m sure she’s good at what she does,” I’m both implying that I haven’t seen any of Harper’s work while assuming she’s a good porn actress and explicitly saying that I’m certain that she’s a good porn actress. Personally, I think this is a masterstroke2—if I have indeed enjoyed Harper’s work and if I’m ashamed of enjoying porn, I get to tell the explicit truth while avoiding the shame of people thinking I’m a porn watcher. This is all hypothetical, of course.

2Heh, masterstroke.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

“The women, all educated and employed...”

Jian Ghomeshi, a popular Canadian radio host on the CBC, was fired following allegations of sexual violence from three different women and one instance of sexual harassment of a coworker (he allegedly told her that he wants to “hate fuck” her).

Ghomeshi, in turn, posted a lengthy Facebook post denying the accusations as “false allegations pursued by a jilted ex-girlfriend and a freelance writer” and suggests that the CBC fired him simply because they were uncomfortable with him enjoying BDSM in his private life. He’s suing the CBC for $55 million.

Not knowing anything about Ghomeshi or his work, I don’t really have much to say about whether he’s right or wrong (although—speaking purely from a PR perspective—he seriously did himself no favors with that lame, self-martyring Facebook post, which almost sounds like he’s humblebragging about how crazy his sex life is). But I did want to point out this line in the Toronto Star’s story, published on Oct. 26, emphasis mine:

The Star’s interviews of the women were lengthy. The women, all educated and employed, said Ghomeshi’s actions shocked them.

Many people have pointed out how unsettling it is that the Toronto Star decided that the education and employment status of the women is germane to the discussion of possible sexual violence committed against them.

It’s easy to understand why the reporters decided to include it (and why their editor decided to keep it in): it was a way to preemptively answer questions about the women’s credibility. By mentioning that they’re educated and employed, it signals that these women have less reason to lie—they have careers that they presumably wouldn’t jeopardize with dishonesty. And because they have educations, their careers are likely ones that pay reasonably well, so these women probably aren’t necessarily planning to profit off their allegations. “All educated and employed” was the Star’s way of saying, in essence, “It’s not what you’re thinking—take them seriously!”

If that is indeed the reasoning, it’s still incredibly depressing that the Star reporters figured enough of their readers would instinctively cast mental aspersions on the women that they felt compelled to head that off. It’s even more depressing to think that the reporters were right; I don’t doubt that there were some readers who were skeptical, came to that line, and subsequently gave the women’s stories a little more credence. And needless to say, the unspoken corollary—if these women weren’t educated or weren’t employed, then maybe it’d be okay to shrug them off—is pretty repugnant.

I don’t mean to bag on the Star reporters too much here; this sort of thing happens, in one form or another, all the time. A girl or a woman is the victim of sexual harassment, assault, or violence, and as a way of bolstering her credibility, we’re told why we should afford her, unlike some other victims, the benefit of the doubt:

  • She’s educated and employed.
  • She comes from a good family.
  • She doesn’t sleep around.
  • She didn’t wear slutty clothes.
  • She wasn’t drunk or high.
  • She never made these sorts of accusations before.
  • She doesn’t have any sort of troubled past or mental health issues.

If we keep codifying which women deserve the benefit of the doubt, what we’re really doing is helping potential rapists put together a profile of an ideal victim—that is, a victim who will have the hardest time getting people to take her seriously, or, more bluntly, a victim whom the rapist will have the greatest chance of getting away with raping. The notion of a woman being targeted specifically because she’s poor, uneducated, and unemployed, or specifically because she likes having sex, wearing sexy clothes, and drinking, or specifically because she’s been raped in her past or because she has a history of mental health issues is both horrifying and horrifying plausible.