February, 2010

Make sure I'm awake!

500_Im awake

How can I possibly enjoy myself when I’m not even conscious? Please don’t be selfish. Make sure I’m awake. (via @HappyFeminist)

am I empowered, degraded, or both?


Two weeks ago, a friend told me that her boyfriend choked her while the two were having a fight. I was really upset for my friend, by this act of violence and violation, and also confused. This same friend has admitted to me that she enjoys being choked in bed. Her story prompted me to think harder about the way that an act like choking can oscillate between spaces of pain/pleasure, consent/force, play/violence, complicating these definitions and boundaries, while possibly challenging notions of feminism.

I’ve since recounted this story to others, listening to their opinions and reactions. Admittedly, I feel unequipped to negotiate and process this alone; my desire for closure is eclipsed by the value of showing people that my friend’s story is linked to larger issues of violence, abuse, pleasure, and ambivalence. This includes my own ambivalence; I consider myself a feminist while also enjoying what I define as rough sex. So am I empowered, degraded, or both? It’s damn hard to tell.


nehw yas ot nehw gniwonK


Wow, got totally confused with how to write the title and the letters backwards. Love the DIY nature of this submission. Keep them coming! Write about your line on your body, or download a card on our newly tweaked submit page!

Relax, I'm not a "ho"

500_Ingrid HO1

Sunday was the premiere of MTV’s Sexting in America special, but I didn’t get to catch it until this morning due to not having cable, homework galore and a 24 hour stomach virus that snuck up on me yesterday.

While the special was interesting, well-made and featured a bevy of professional folk (an internet lawyer, anyone?), I was disappointed in MTV for not embracing teenagers and their emerging sexuality. I feel that adults are not comfortable with acknowledging the growing curiosity with sex amongst young people. That’s one of the biggest issues here, adults want to ignore – the fact that we are experimenting with sex. They assume that they know everything and want to protect us from irresponsibility, but they don’t realize that if they just spoke to us on a ‘real’ level, we would be more comfortable with what we did with our own bodies. And by adults, I mean ALL adults, not just your parents. Just like what Jaclyn Friedman says in her article, “When Sex is Normal, Normal People Will Talk About Sex“, instead of changing our persona “to conform to cultural norms,” we changed “the norms to conform” to our reality.

My generation is the technology generation; when I was thirteen, I registered for my first MySpace account. Everybody had one and altered their page to represent who they are (or who they wanted to be) through layouts, graphics, music, photos, etc. Your e-world revolved around comments, friend requests and number of hits your page received. You knew you had a hot photo when you received 10+ comments on it, and for a young teen, it was definitely a confidence booster. Showing off your abs, flexing your muscles or flaunting your curves was virtually accepted, and if people had a problem with it, then they were considered haters.

Of course, it’s not a smart decision to send a provocative photo of yourself to anyone, particularly an ex-boyfriend (you’re not going out with him for a reason), because it can end up being seen by e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. However, we shouldn’t start victim-blaming; with each sexting case I come across, the problem starts with the person receiving the text who ends up forwarding it to all his contacts. Then she gets blamed, and the entire school calls her a “slut”, “whore” and “ho.” Here is where the issue of GENDER ROLES come into play. If a guy showed his junk to the entire school, people wouldn’t be calling him a “ho” or a “slut”. They would mostly likely give him props and all the girls would be trying to get with him. But when Ally’s topless photo circulated around the school, she was getting bashed by everyone. One of the name-callers even appeared on the special, claiming that she wanted to fight her because Ally’s boobs appeared on her man’s phone and she was jealous. Girl, don’t you think you man has a collection of playboys under his bed that he peeps every so often?

Not being in high school makes everyone forget how important your reputation meant to you, but once you graduate you realize how pointless all that bullshit was. We should think about why we call a girl a “ho” and “slut” for doing exactly what everyone else is doing. That’s natural… its the shaming that isn’t.

Send us Your Line!

Ever so slightly…


Had a blast on Valentine’s Day at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame with the feminist twitter crew: @JerinAlam, @ClinicEscort, @sassbutt, @trixiefilms, @melissagira, @K_Bridgeman, @AdjoaSankofia, and @HappyFeminist. And yes, even as I read this, I’m still saying the “at” –  whatevs.

@MelissaGira sums it up:
Feminist brunch. Mimosas. Every conversation you think it would be (gender nonconformity, fetuses, grits, sex work).

We missed those that couldn’t make it!

"ASK ME" an internet Valentine


Hello fellow travelers on the filmmaking/social media super highway!

Sending out some Valentine’s Day love, and I wanted to highlight something great that happened today, that took some Internet & twitter magic to come to fruition.

Since its launch, our team has been watching MTV’s “A Thin Line,” a campaign, dedicated to raising awareness of “Digital Abuse,” and helping teens untangle normal versus unhealthy relationship dynamics. They focus on how cell phones can amplify and exacerbate abusive behaviors. Some of my favorite slogans are: It’s a thin line between attentive/obsessive, curious/controlling, love/abuse. I was thinking that we over here at The Line Campaign, have a lot of  things in common such as: young people, sexuality, violence, web-based media, and activism.

I initiated a twitter back and forth about Beyonce’s “Video Phone” video (*ugh*) and then I asked our fab intern Ingrid to do some research and write a post about their campaign. It was a couple weeks before February, Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, so we took a look at Katie Couric’s piece on the topic, too. Ingrid spent a lot of time on both initiatives, picking apart what was authentic, realistic, what felt scripted, what related to her demographic, and what fell flat. She posted Corporation: FAIL! Teens, Sex & Violence. I tweeted to @a_thin_line that they were featured on the blog and -Internet magic!-  they responded. The takeaway here is your voice does matter.

MTV then invited us to a meeting at Viacom HQ to discuss their work and hear our feedback. Obviously, I let 18 year old Ingrid do the talking, her comments ranged from the show “16 & Pregnant” not showing struggles of lower income or homeless girls, “Jersey Shore” which entertains us with violence in every episode, and the PSA’s for “A Thin Line” not showing real kids going through the issues. I mediated, waxing the benefits of reaching a wide audience, raising awareness, and the reality of working within a Corporate Social Responsibility framework.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, me and the home team shot and edited a short video using candy and some of our favorite responses to “where is your line?” Our hope was that with the video would go viral on Valentine’s Day and drive more traffic to the site and generate interest in the film and campaign.  Ingrid followed up our meeting at MTV with an email and a link to our video “ASK ME” — and today they posted it!

What’s really exciting is that we developed The Line Campaign with support from The Fledgling Fund in June, and only went live in September 2009. The trailer for THE LINE has been on Vimeo for less than a year, and already has over 12,000 views. We are learning as we go, and the results have been really interesting.

Where will it lead next? A broadcast on MTV or streaming broadcast on MTV.com? We sure hope so!

Send us Your Line!

Respect, Ask & Listen – It all works out!

500_respect yankee

Calling Bullshit on “The New Math”

I was snowed in, stuck in a blizzard here in Washington, DC, when I got “the news.”  The New York Times? Talking to me about hookup culture? I was excited, but notably crushed by the article, a hopeless observation of a new “problem with no name.”

The New York Times has given up on hookup culture. They declared that we, as women, were desperate and lonely. We were stuck with other women (the horror!) and we were stuck searching for partners who treated us right. We were being cheated on, and treated like dirt. And the reason for all of this, they say, is not the men we’re dating, the culture we’re living in, or the assumption that we want to get married in the first place.

The problem the The New York Times identified was college admissions numbers.

The article, relying on gender stereotypes, said that the longer colleges admitted so many women, the longer men would have the power to shape the dating landscapes on campuses. Why? Well, because women need these men. Women need their approval, need to love them, to marry them; therefore, women have to choose between being The New York Times prude orThe New York Times slut. When men are in the majority, they control the culture. When men aren’t, they still do. And the problem?

The New York Times really thinks the problem is admissions numbers.

I wrote a letter to solve this problem, and submitted it via email from my couch. My goal wasn’t to be angry or upset, or to go on and on about all the boys that never call and the hookups that become heartaches. My goal was just to let them know that I have suffered at the hands of hookup culture, too, and that I didn’t do it because I went to college to get married or find anyone else’s approval. I am fulfilled just as I am, and that is why this culture hasn’t taken away anything more from me than some of my pride.

My goal was to make them think about how little admissions numbers have to do with hookup culture and partners who don’t respect us.

To whom it may concern,

Last semester, I found myself grief-stricken by college hookup culture. No longer a myth and instead an institution of most contemporary collegiate lives, it has taken its strongest sexually empowered soldiers through the dirt. When I read “The New Math on Campus,” I was struck by your observation that women were being treated badly by hookup culture, and people of all genders were frustrated with it. But I was even more struck by what the article chose to highlight: that these women were lonely and seemingly desperate to be a part of this.

I would like for your staff to do a piece on a hookup culture that does not accept it, but challenges the root causes and assumptions. The problem with hookup culture isn’t marriage, or sex, but the belief that single women are being hurt by their success and not their colleagues. These women are going places! And your staff has no idea.

Hopefully yours,

Carmen Rios.

"I wasn't raped" – what?


I lost my virginity junior year of High School, and compared to my friend’s first times, I was pretty late. When I would ask them about their first times, they would smile and proceed to tell me all the juicy details. I’ve always been a curious girl; I used to lie in bed when I was younger and touch myself, becoming acquainted with my pussy. Around fifth grade I discovered romance novels, via Danielle Steel, and reread steamy sex scenes and let them play out in my head. So naturally, I was very anxious to have sex. I ‘lost’ it to a guy five years older than my sixteen year-old self, but it was consensual and I was more than ready to get it over with. ‘Lost’ is a funny word to use since I didn’t lose it. I know where it went.

Fast-forward two years and a couple of months, and I’m lying on my bed in my dorm that I share with my roommate Vanessa (whose name I changed to protect her identity). Vanessa and I instantly became friends; we both have boyfriends, we’re both Latina, and we both love to eat. I don’t know if it was my array of women’s studies books or my reproductive system bandana hanging from my wall, but she felt comfortable talking to me about sex. Our conversation evolved from which positions we like best to what our first times were like. But instead of laughing it up, I started getting really pissed throughout her first time story. Vanessa couldn’t tell if her first time was consensual or if it was rape. She justified it, since at the time, he was her boyfriend.

Vanessa’s story goes like this: She met Jose (not his name) when she was seventeen through friends, and the first time they hung out, it was her first time getting really drunk. They started making out, which led to dry-humping, which led to them moving into a bedroom. He started to finger her and she told him to stop so he stopped, and told her he wanted to respect her since he grew up with women and his dad was always in jail. After that, they started going out, and after a month he told her he loved her. A month after that, she snuck out of her house (which was becoming routine) and went to Jose’s. They were drinking, and Vanessa felt drunk off a few beers. He drank the same amount as she did, said he was drunk too. They started making out on a couch in his living room. Vanessa realized later that he was faking drunk, since it normally took him about six times the amount he drank that night. He turned the couch into a bed and without her knowing, he got up to get a condom. He got naked, got on top of her and asked, “Are you sure?” All she could do was nod her head. She told me that she felt pressured into having sex, and once they started doing it, she couldn’t wait for him to get off cause it hurt so much. Afterward, he left her there crying so he could go to sleep in his room.

Months later, she started questioning him about that night, he would angrily ask her “what are you implying?” so she dropped it. When she asked her friends about it, they told her to not worry, because it’s “just sex”. But it’s not just sex. Sex doesn’t make you replay every action in your head, finding all the ways to blame yourself.  Even if he was your boyfriend and you wanted to please him; if he really loved you then he would respect you.

This semester, I moved to a different dorm and one of my roommates told me a similar story about her first time. He wasn’t her boyfriend, but he was a guy at school that she had a crush on.  She also couldn’t tell if it was rape, or if being forced the  first time was normal. Why were my friends scared to admit that it was rape, because their friends were telling them not to worry about it?

If we call these experiences what they are – rape, would that even be helpful? I think that it would be. Let’s not forget the definition of the word. By being silent, you are being violent towards yourself. You are denying yourself the right to speak up and be heard. It’s up to you if want to Phoolan-Devi-it or whatnot, but by letting those assholes off the hook, we all let them know that they can get away with anything. And we, as listeners, need to not minimize these stories when we hear them.

Vanessa is in a great relationship right now, with a man who loves and respects her. Everyone deserves both, or at least respect, especially for their first time.

Send us Your Line!

Freedom to choose (in Farsi)


All Posts from February, 2010