June, 2010

What Are Sexual Rights?

This post is cross-posted from the IWHC AKIMBO blog here. It was written by Audacia Ray.

A lot of policy language around “population,” “reproductive health,” and “family planning” does it’s share of hoop jumping to avoid talking plainly about sexuality. There are definitely strategic moments when it is important and valuable to use very comprehensive and non-threatening language. However, sometimes it’s as important to be direct. This is what the phrase “sexual rights,” and the work behind it, aims to do.

Sexual rights are the right to say NO
To violence
To rape
To harassment
To discrimination
To trafficking
To forced marriage
To abuse

…and the right to say YES
To the intimate partner of your choice
To the husband or wife of your choice
To pleasure
To self-expression
To bodily integrity
To a life free from violence
To self-determination
To contraceptive options
To safe abortion
To full, frank information about your body, your rights, and your responsibilities

Sexual rights, like human rights, are universal and inalienable. They belong to everyone: women and men, young people and adults, rich and poor, rural and urban, gay and straight, immigrant and indigenous—to mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, husbands, and wives from every country of every region in the world.

Sexual rights, like human rights, transcend nationalities, religions, and cultures. The basis for sexual rights can be found in countless cultural traditions, religious texts, and international agreements. Sexual rights are not a Western concept. They are broad, far-reaching, and life-affirming.

Sexual rights, like human rights, are often violated. All over the world, women experience alarming rates of physical abuse and sexual violence. They face entrenched discrimination in the workplace, in schools, in government, and within their families. National laws often fail to protect women and young people, and global and national health policies rarely reflect the realities of their lives. In an era of HIV/AIDS, young people are denied access to full and accurate information about their bodies and their rights. Tens of millions of girls in the developing world are married before their eighteenth birthdays—many to much older men, and many against their will. Worldwide, tens of thousands of women die every year because restrictive abortion laws force them to resort to unsafe procedures. These are all violations of sexual rights.

What can you do? Click here to read more about IWHC’s work on sexual rights.

All Oppression is Connected, You Dick!

Food justice
These past few weeks have been a sticky whirlpool of emotions, ideas and improvements. I left New York City a few weeks for New Orleans to work on a youth-led consensus-based food justice project, and to (finally) get out of the city. I lived and worked at Our School at Blair Grocery, an urban farm/school, in the lower ninth ward. I was in the second brigade of the summer, and the first co-ed group (the first group were all womyn, power to them!). The idea behind Food Justice Summer, was to learn first-hand about sustainability and the injustices of food in our society, while incorporating organizing methods and empowering our voices as youth.

To even begin to explain all that went wrong is the all-too-familiar prejudices based on what’s between our legs and the color of our skin. Understanding power dynamics amongst ourselves within the circle was crucial in order to function as a powerful group but we never achieved that altogether. To get an idea of what exactly was going down, let me explain what Staceyann Chin’s hair had to do with all this: A fellow organizer and I created a curriculum to open up a conversation on gender by showing powerful videos of Marjora Carter (Green the Ghetto) and Staceyann Chin (A Question of Impeachment). During the go-around after the showings, the entire half of the group, majority white and male, were uncomfortable by Chin’s free-flowing ‘fro and didn’t understand who would pay money to be yelled at.

Those comments began to ignite sparks among the other half of the group, majority womyn of color, to rain down on the ignorance and privilege that was prevalent among the white males. A young black womyn branded one of the white males a ‘slavemaster’ and that his comments were like ‘whippings on her back’. Then, going against our structure of consensus and facilitation, the white male started talking above everybody else and out of turn. The argument escalated with two womyn calling each other ‘dumb bitches’ and our model for a safe space obliterated.

Currently, I’m staying with a friend of mine who is going through personal matters involving the ‘white male syndrome’ (as I like to call it). As an organizer and as a womyn, how do we work around these issues without losing the bigger picture and breaking unity? How can a youth-led movement grow if we are met with internal barriers that butt heads with our beliefs? How can we break the molds of race, sex, class and everything else that separates us in order to work together without falling into the same perils like prior youth movements? How, what, when, who and why’s swirl around in the air around my mind every single day and minute, questioning my motives as a young organizer. Why is that our voices are only heard after we become the victim?

These are just a few scattered thoughts brought up in conversations after that night. However, before some professor of Sociology at a big-name school or the director of a prestigious social justice organization begins to write out answers to these questions, stop. Leave these (and all the others) to be answered and figured out by us, the youth, without any biased-adult interferences. Thank you for your academic texts and hefty lectures, but your politics is old and boring as fuck.

Make way for the new minds and souls to recreate what a revolution truly looks like. Now.

The Chosen Few: Lesbian Footballers in South Africa


The World Cup has officially begun in South Africa. Recently BBC news featured a segment about the all-lesbian football club, The Chosen Few, in Johanasburg. Andrew Harding spoke with striker, Tumi Mkhuma about the football club and its importance as a support group for these lesbian athletes who are harassed constantly because of their sexuality. Tumi refers to her football teammates as family and Harding concludes that football is making a real difference for these women in South Africa.

As South Africa’s excitement for hosting the World Cup reaches its peak, these women remember Eudy Simelane, a member of the South African Women’s National team, who had been raped and murdered in 2008.

Eudy was murdered in what is called a “corrective rape.” They are targeted at lesbians, are horrifying, brutal, and continue to go on. Tumi told Harding,

Homophobia is rising, really rising. I’ve been through a lot in this community. I even have wounds in my body from being attacked for being lesbian.

Tumi knows who her rapist is and sees him in her neighborhood, yet justice has yet to be served. She is forced to see this man who brought trauma into her life, and nothing is being done to put him in jail. With the rise of homophobia, the team sticks together.

Take Action! Show your support and sign the petition to end corrective rapes.

Was it my fault?

500_being fully conscious

It was my 30th birthday. I was/am a single mom who never parties. I made sure I had cab fare, I didn’t drive. I asked three friends to make sure I got home safely. And then, I got obliterated. When they piled me into the cab I was half-conscious. The first stop was a friend’s apartment. We had dated briefly the previous winter. We’d had sex, but it had been more than 6 months. He convinced my other friends to let me get out with him and stay at his place. He’d “take care of me”.

I remember stumbling up the stairs. I remember walking in his apartment and flopping fully clothed on top of his bed and then, I passed out.

When I woke up, he was having sex with me. It took me a minute or two to even know what was happening. In my mind, all I remember is the way the corner of the walls met the ceiling and I didn’t even know where I was. Then I realized what was happening. I said NO. He stopped. He said “I was dreaming we were having sex and when I woke up, we were”.

But, I was STILL asleep. In fact, I was intoxicated and unconscious. I never consented to even going to his home never mind the sex.

I got myself dressed, in a cab and home. The next day I felt awful but didn’t remember anything about the rape. I didn’t even think about it until weeks later when I got my period and a condom…HIS used condom, fell out of me! Then, it all came flooding back.
I told my therapist, and she said maybe it was a misunderstanding, I should talk to him.
NO I thought, this is rape. There was no misunderstanding.

I never spoke to him again, I never went back to therapy–to that therapist. The few people who know what happened ask me why I got so drunk. I guess, it was my “fault”.

Or, was it?

Is Sex Blogging Consensual?

500_Porque no hablamosIt’s an average Thursday night at American University. I’m the only fully straight (and fully sober) person in this room, I hear Lady Gaga blasting from a few rooms down, and I’m blogging about sex.

Blogging about sex, like sex itself, is dependent on interaction with other people. They both hinge almost entirely on open communication, and without the ability to communicate, you’re not gonna write a good post (or have a good sex life). My feelings about blogging about sex relate to my feelings of sex in general – the contradictions regarding consent and privacy, emotion and openness, that are inherent in communicating such personal things, possibly some of the most personal things, to other people. Sex is THE most socially constructed element of society, and we put a massive emphasis on its privacy, which is why we don’t see more people openly fucking in the streets.

Destroying rape culture and promoting openness and consent is a worthy fight that can be done on a grassroots level, by speaking out, telling personal stories and behaving with respect in all sexual interactions. As a straight feminist cisgender man, I want to be able to use my personal life to help the cause. I believe in open sexuality, nonmonogamy, and communication at all times – I don’t identify as queer, or polyamorous, or most sex labels, mostly because I don’t want to leech onto a label to define myself or my sexuality.

But how could I write on a blog, about consent of all things, personal details about MY sex life, which of course involve other people? That I’d share without their knowledge or consent? Or course I won’t use their names, but a hookup is (or should be) built on a foundation of trust and communication. Part of that is the assumption (and hope) that one party won’t share private details with everyone they know or go bragging to a vast amount of people – which is essentially what I would be doing by sharing it here. Outside of writing on a blog, in my real life, I want to be open with the people around me – especially the ones I’m sleeping with.

How can I talk about my sexual experiences and not cross the line?

All Posts from June, 2010