September, 2009

Going back to find THE LINE again

I’m somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean trying to sleep, but my mind is racing. After flying through deadlines to finish THE LINE and launch this blog (!), here I am on Continental flight #687, headed to the International Women’s Film Festival of Israel, but for now alone with my thoughts.

I am going back.

nancy in the desert

It was exactly this time ten years ago that I moved to Jerusalem. With a duffel bag and a video camera I showed up leaving my American post-college, broken-up heart scattered like glass all over Brooklyn. In Jerusalem I found something of a home, exotic but eventually familiar. I experimented with covering my body (shoulders, elbows and knees mostly), and tried on religious sexual codes for some long and lonely months. Beyond clothing, young religious women in Jerusalem waited for marriage before having sex, and beyond chastity, they were forbidden to touch men at all. Touching was sacred, your body a gift, and this present was to be revealed to the man of your dreams, aka your “soul mate” on your wedding night.  Eroticized and heightened to such a degree, eye contact on a bus, or hands brushing at the cash register could be truly electrifying.

This new paradigm made my body felt calloused, desensitized and worn, but by wrapping myself in layers of baggy cotton, I was disguised. The not-sexual-me, in a body of indistinguishable proportions. My secret female powers stashed away, sometimes I felt safe, powerful and in control. Choosing to cover helped me fit in and left me free from blame. Divorcing my power from my sexuality released me from old patterns, and gave me agency to choose between guarding it or giving it away. However, the idea that “innocence trumps experience” left little room for those of us women who had already fallen. Dressing up started to feel like a charade, and I craved the sexual me and my tight jeans again.

My yearlong adventure ended abruptly (with a sexual assault, detailed in full in my film). Back in New York, I didn’t know how to measure what had changed. How could I compare myself now to the person I was before?


“Listen for it in my breath.”


Over the summer we had a load of conversations while planning this group blog for THE LINE about hot ways to communicate during sex, that don’t take you out of the moment, that keep you connected to your partner in a way that’s still all about both of you, not about “rejecting” someone’s touch or technique so much as asking for what you want. I can’t remember where in my “formal” sex education (or what passed for it in public school) we discussed physical, non-verbal ways to really, really ask for it. I know how to be stiff in my body and break eye contact and turn my shoulder to someone to signal when I’m not interested. But what’s the gesture or look in my eyes that means Keep going or How did you know? or Yes or Please put a condom on now? (The last is easier, I admit. Hooray for being a child of the 80’s and 90’s.)



meet carmen! carmen, meet your sexuality.

I wanted to start off my blog at whereisyourline with an explanation of whyiamattheline:

Saying I came home from college “changed” would be an understatement. I came home from college distanced from the nostalgia and naivete that had filled my prior life, a newborn revolutionary with internship and advocacy experience under her belt. This was, however, also a façade. I was more than a professional and a respectable student: I had a salient taste for nightlife, a never-silenced mouth built for feminist rhetoric and queer theory, and opinions that were controversial, as well as a lifestyle marked by experiences quite different from the cookie-baking, girl-scout-loving, D.A.R.E. enclave I had once belonged to. I couldn’t adjust back to the suburban modes of conformity and silence after being vocal, active, and observational in college.

College is an empowering time for young people, especially young women. It is an awesome time for them to learn about themselves, grow to become independent, and form their own beliefs. It was that newfound persynhood that brought me to THE LINE. I am passionate about empowering female sexuality because I know that, ironically, even our partners often are not. I am working to increase the equality of women- in court, at work, and in bed. I see feminism as a way of life, not a movement limited to legislation, and I know that the impact of consensual sex as a standard is one that will come to fruition in a world without rape and a world respectful of women’s desires and needs.

So, I went to college a homebody from middle-of-nowhere, New Jersey and came back an opinionated, un-shutup-able young woman with a mission to empower womyn with their own sexualities and safety. The results? Well, just keep in touch.

“Still Finding Out”

So Nancy asked some friends to talk about their lines at a bar in New York the other night. This is a really sweet one.

"I Always Do Whatever We Agree On."

Alexis, a prostitute at the Bunny Ranch outside Reno, Nevada, talks about setting and keeping her boundaries with a client. There is no room for ambiguity in her business.

"It Was Cooperative."

Listen to a conversation I had with a hidden camera when I try to capture and understand why things went horribly wrong during a night of sex.

Where Is Your Line? TELL US!

Think about it. Find it. Communicate it. Respect it. Get creative.

All Posts from September, 2009