In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

The “redistribution of sex” is rape

The redistribution of sex is rape.

That’s because sex isn’t a commodity. Even commercial sex isn’t a commodity. Sex, of both the amateur and the professional variety, is an activity performed by people, and the only way to “redistribute” it is to compel someone to perform it when they otherwise wouldn’t. And compelling a person to perform sex when they don’t want to is…

Quick Hit: The biological realities of bad sex and really bad sex

A famous quote from Margaret Atwood lays out one of the big divides that stands between women’s and men’s life experiences: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” At The Week, Lili Loofbourow presents a bad-sex corollary: Men think sex is bad when she’s just lying there, and women think it’s bad when we come away bleeding.

Posted in Sex

Birth control pills are for healthcare. And other stuff.

Passage of the Affordable Care Act provided a major benefit to women of reproductive age: Employers with religious or moral objections to birth control weren’t allowed to exclude those benefits from health plans just because they thought birth control was wrong. When Trump rolled back that mandate — effective immediately — he removed that protection, meaning that women whose prescriptions had been covered could now have to pay out of pocket for medication crucial to their lives. And it can be crucial — hormonal birth control is essential to treatment of conditions like endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, fibroids, and debilitating periods.

It’s also good for other stuff.

Amnesty International, CATW, a bunch of celebrities, and decriminalization

[Content note: sex trafficking and sexual abuse]

Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Lena Dunham, Emily Blunt, and numerous other celebrities, along with former sex workers and victims of sex trafficking and women’s rights advocates, have signed a letter from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) criticizing a policy currently under discussion within Amnesty International. The policy, which Amnesty plans to introduce at a meeting in Dublin in August, promotes decriminalization of sex work to protect sex workers’ rights, health, and safety.

Look at them ladies, trying to do science: 2 of 2

Moving on! Just a couple of weeks ago, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Tim Hunt let the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea, in on the secret of successful science, and it’s get them skirts out of the lab. Not out of research entirely of course — just into their own, segregated lab, because of the possibility for hot lab bench lovin’. “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he reportedly said (in a speech that was tragically unrecorded, but which took place in front of a big crowd of people who agree that yeah, he totally said that). “You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry!”

Bitches, amiright?

But again, he doesn’t want to stand in the way of their research — that’s why he wants them to have their own labs, so everyone can get their work done without worrying about the romance. And the crying.

Lest you think that poor Dr. Hunt is being slandered, and that his remarks are being mischaracterized, he assured BBC Radio 4 that while he was “really sorry that [he] said what [he] said,” but that he “did mean” part of his remarks and that he was “just trying to be honest.” Again: You try to be honest, and bitches cry. (This, and their lack of male co-authors on their research manuscripts, is why women will never truly succeed in scientific fields.) He told the interviewer that he had, in fact, fallen in love with people in his lab, and that people had fallen in love with him (primo catch that he is), and that it’s “disruptive to science.”

Hunt resigned his teaching position at University College London and his position on the European Research Council. In the meantime, female scientists took to Twitter to express their displeasure. Astrophysicist Sarah Tuttle gave ‘er in a series of tweets criticizing his “backwards, draconian, and inappropriate” attitudes.

Every one of her tweets on the subject is worth reading. Possibly out loud, as a monologue, with swelling music and applause afterward, if you can arrange it.

Also readable, although slightly less monologuable, are the female scientists who tweeted pictures of themselves on the job, apologizing for being #distractinglysexy. (And yes, before your boner starts writing any notes, I’m sure that a woman in a Hazmat bunny suit can, in fact, be desperately sexy. They’re just going for an effect here.)

(Whatever you do, don’t check out the SkyNews debate between Dr. Emily Grossman and smug bastard Milo Yiannopoulos in which he says that “the science is very much still out” on the question of whether men’s brains are better suited to science than women’s; argues that women are actually “structurally advantaged,” not disadvantaged, in science; argues that if Hunt’s comments discouraged you from a career in science, “um, how committed were you really in the first place…?”; throws in some bizarre comment about how gay people can “basically get away with murder” and can be “bitchy” and “nobody complains”; and says that none of this is a big deal because if Hunt was your granddad at dinner, no one would even notice what he said; and then commenters deluge Dr. Grossman with sexism, antisemitism, bad science, and suggestions that she get back in the kitchen, the existence of which Yiannopoulos denies, saying it’s “right out of the damsel in distress playbook.” Don’t watch that. Just stop after the #distractinglysexy tweets.)

Look at them ladies, trying to do science: 1 of 2

This isn’t particularly new, but I couldn’t let it go un-commented-upon because… I guess because I’m a masochist?

Cranking it back to April: Two female scientists had a manuscript (about, interestingly enough, the effect of gender bias on job prospects in scientific fields) rejected by the journal PLOS ONE. The anonymous peer reviewer’s suggestion to bring their manuscript up to par?

It would probably also be beneficial to find one or two male biologists to work with (or at least obtain internal peer review from, but better yet as active co-authors), in order to serve as a possible check against interpretations that may sometimes be drifting too far away from empirical evidence into ideologically biased assumptions.

Authors Dr. Fiona Ingleby, a research fellow at the University of Sussex, and Dr. Megan Head, an evolutionary biologist doing postdoc research at the Australian National University, are not, in fact, men. Either of them. And because of that, the conclusions drawn in their study — that men have better job prospects moving into postdoctoral jobs in science — are automatically questionable. i mean, imagine all of the holes a male colleague could have poked in their methodology! Dr. Ingleby helpfully tweeted excerpts from the rejection letter, I’m guessing to spare other female researchers the trouble she encountered:

… perhaps it is not so surprising that on average male doctoral students co-author one more paper than female doctoral students, just as, on average, male doctoral students can probably run a mile race a bit faster than female doctoral students.

… …

As unappealing as this may be to consider, another possible explanation would be that on average the first-authored papers of men are published in better journals than those of women, either because of bias at the journal or because the papers are indeed of a better quality, on average … And it might well be that on average men publish in better journals … simply because men, perhaps, on average work more hours per week, due to marginally better health and stamina.

Well, if Drs. Ingleby and Head hadn’t, on average, appreciated the way bias may, on average, prevent women’s work from being included, on average, in better journals, they sure as hell get it now. On average. PLOS ONE apologized shortly after the offense came to light and later announced that the peer reviewer in question had been removed from their database, that the researchers’ paper would be given a fresh review from a fresh editor, and that the academic editor who handled the manuscript has been asked to step down from the board. No news yet on the outcome of the re-review, but I bet they have some good ideas for the subject of their next paper.

Bad Sex

Content note: bad sexual experiences, like it says on the box.


There’s something I’ve wanted to discuss in a feminist context for a while, and I guess now I have the platform, right?  I find myself nervous, though, because discussing it involves talking about some personal experiences that I usually prefer not to publicize.

I’ve mentioned in the past, I think, an impatience with what I have experienced as sex-positive feminists being unwilling to discuss negative experiences of sex, to dismiss them as not having “full consent” and therefore not being really sex, or something of that nature.  Sometimes I can feel quite alone in having had many experiences of sex that were really very bad.  And no, they weren’t rape.  They were experiences to which I fully and freely consented.  They were also experiences that were horrible, in some cases traumatic–but with one exception, I really don’t think they were rape (the exception I try not to think about).  I do think they are heavily inflected and dependent on a misogynist culture that keeps women from trusting themselves, feeling good about themselves, feeling good about their bodies, feeling confidence.  And maybe men have experiences like these too?  And just don’t talk about them?  I honestly don’t know.

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time hanging around a given bar scene in NYC.  Giuliani had just come to power, and it was hard to get into places if you were under 21, which I was, so if you were a teenager and you found a friendly bar that would pour out for you, you tended to stay.  This scene had a number of bands circulating through it, as scenes do, and I had a crush on a big man in one of those bands.  He was–and is–significantly older than me and married.  Like, my father’s age.  (It’s probably not irrelevant that my father had just left my family and he and I were not on speaking terms.)  Dude was cute–insofar as my quirky definition of cuteness goes.  He was very smart, which was important to me, because I’m very smart (no false modesty here, I don’t have time), I was at the time, and I don’t have a lot of patience.  And he was very, very political in a way that I have a hard time finding outside of my immediate family, in a radical-left, know-your-history kind of way.  I still find that deeply alluring (one of the reasons my current favorite band is my favorite is because when I first heard them a few years ago, one of their songs referred to the police as “the pigs” and I hadn’t heard that since I was a little girl, so I fell immediately in love).

And at first, he was rather sweet to me, in a flirtatious sort of way, but in a way that indicated that he knew I was underage and had a crush on him.  Then two things happened.  One was that I turned 18; the other was that his girlfriend moved away (this is a whole other kettle of fish not worth going into right now).  I guess he had some spare time because he moved in on me hard.  There was a lot of buying me drinks and taking my hand going to secluded parts of the bar and staring deeply into my eyes and telling me that age didn’t matter, what mattered was how two people felt about each other.  You can tell that age does matter and that I was 18 because I fell for this crap.  And then there was a lot of making out in taxis and the hallways of the various buildings where I was living and once in my apartment.  And then I think the reality of what it meant to get a teenage virgin who’d never been kissed before to fall for you crashed in on him and he…stopped.  Just cut me dead.  The first time he saw me after going to bed with me for the first time.

Even before that, though, something had started to go wrong.  I’d stopped feeling anything when we were fooling around–not excitement or arousal or anything.  I just felt…detached from the whole thing, like I wasn’t really there.  That’s a feature of depression, certainly, but it scared the shit out of me–had I lost the ability to enjoy sex?  I can look back and say poor baby, a middle-aged married man fingering you in a taxi is not conducive to a kid’s sexual flowering, but that wasn’t my perspective at the time.  And understand this–he checked in with me every step of the way.  Did I want to be here?  Did I want to be doing this?  I always said yes.  But in a very real way, I wasn’t there at all.  My therapist at the time told me it was dissociation.  But it terrified me.  It was like I couldn’t feel anything.

So why did I keep saying yes?  I didn’t want him to stop liking me (fat chance).  I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t cool.  Nobody else had ever found me attractive.  And while I knew I was smart–I had all kinds of support and validation for that–the idea that somebody thought I was pretty?  Attractive?  Beautiful?  It was powerful.  It was important.  I really, really needed it.  But understand: he never said anything like that.  He never put any pressure on me.  But I still ended up doing things I didn’t want to do and didn’t enjoy.  My decisions were no doubt the result of a misogynist culture that taught me to value myself and my sexuality poorly; they were no doubt the result of rape culture that taught me to prioritize his experiences over my own.  But there were mine.  I was of age.  I consented, repeatedly.  This wasn’t rape.

I don’t mean to exempt this dude from blame.  He was an asshole, no doubt.  He should have known better–hell, he probably did know better.  It wouldn’t have taken a genius to realize that I was uncomfortable and unhappy.  It wouldn’t have taken a genius to realize that there was no way this situation was work out well for me.  It wouldn’t have taken a genius to think that a schoolgirl’s first sexual experiences should not have included giving a married man a blow job in a hallway that smelled like urine.  It’s just that he wasn’t a rapist.  And that’s a low bar to set.  He’s still scum.  (We actually have enough interests in common and NYC is a small enough city that I run into mentions of him from time to time, interviews, that kind of thing.  I have no idea if he runs into mentions of me, or, if he does, what he thinks.)  And for years I had several symptoms of PTSD related to these experiences–intrusive thoughts I couldn’t control, for instance.  I couldn’t talk about this in detail in therapy without dissociating–when I tried, I became literally nauseated.

The thing about dissociating during sex is that once you learn how, it’s pretty easy to do, and doing it–counting ceiling tiles until it’s over–often becomes easier than saying “this isn’t working for me,” so I’ve done it a lot, though not for a few years.  And the thing about what happened to me is that I lost all faith in my desire.  My gut reaction to feeling attracted to someone was to stay as far from them as I could, on the grounds that nothing good could come of that.  When you combine those two things, well, I ended up making myself sleep with men I wasn’t attracted to because I really liked them and they treated me well and it would be a great relationship, women I wasn’t attracted to because I started out being attracted to them but then they started being really nasty to me when it seemed too late to turn back, men I started out being attracted to and whose technique turned out to lack a certain je ne sais quoi.  And that’s a lot of lousy sex too.  A lot of wondering what was wrong with me that I wasn’t enjoying sex, like I was supposed to.  It really did a number on my head.  And my body.

And none of that was rape either.  It was all stuff I did to myself.  I made those decisions.  I consented.  I often initiated, because I could think of a good reason not to have sex and “I just don’t really feel like it” didn’t seem like a good enough reason to me.  I’ve been to bed with men because it just seemed easier to get it over with than deal with me not wanting to.

I will never do any of that again.  But it lasted for a long time, years, years of therapy.  I was really fucked up, and I have never found a good feminist analysis of the situations I kept finding/putting myself in.  For so many years feminists have had to keep hammering home that rape isn’t “just” bad sex.  That’s so important.  But I’d like to talk about bad sex now.  Is it gendered?  I feel like my experiences have got to be gendered.  I’ve never heard a man talk about anything like this, but of course my experience does not have to be universal.


The Good2Go sexual consent app: Oversimplifying consent so you don’t have to

In all the discussion of sex and consent — and there’s been a lot of it, and it’s not all recent, and unfortunately it doesn’t change all that much for all that the debate is pretty much constant — a recurring theme is the idea of somehow recording consent and negotiating it in an official context to avoid any confusion. Now, a smartphone app is available to address that. Available for iPhone and Android, the Good2Go app encourages prospective sexual partners to assess consent — electronically — before embarking on their sexual adventures.

Banned Books Week: Your banned-kids’-book reading list (updated)

It’s Banned Books Week, celebrating books that are absolutely, objectively horrible and mustn’t be read by anyone. They’re books that need to be blocked from school libraries, ejected from public libraries, struck from publisher’s lists and set on damn fire every time they’re encountered. Which means that most of them (although by no means all of them) are worth reading, particularly when it comes to books for school-age kids who shan’t be exposed to naughty language or mentions of sex. Because if there’s one thing that abstinence-only education has taught us is that if you never, ever mention it, kids will never do it.

So here are six banned and/or challenged children’s and young adult books to read to a kid this week in honor of Banned Books Week.

Hobby Lobby = The Worst

I’ve been writing about it over at Here’s the basic summary of the case. Here are 13 of the biggest misconceptions about the case (this one is especially helpful for Twitter / Facebook / family dinner table fights). And, finally, how the right-wing reaction to women with opinions on Hobby Lobby is a pretty good illustration of how this is all about misogyny and hostility toward female sexuality, not religious beliefs.