October, 2010

Bringing Sexy Back: The SPARK Summit Recap

The SPARK Summit in New York City was an amazing gathering of young minds, experienced and inspiring feminist figures, and thoughtful conversationalists. I was featured on a panel called “Girls Activists Speak Out” and had the opportunity to speak with Lexi St. John and Melissa Campbell, two other young activists tackling real issues and making real change. (And it was emcee’d by Shelby Knox!) Video of the panel can be found here.

After spending two days (or I guess three, if you count sleeping in the airport) in New York City talking about the issues we focus on here at THE LINE, I’ve come away with a few main points and things I wanted to share with all of you…

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He Shoots, he scores.

500_AlcoholConsent

Consent.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary consent is “Voluntary agreement to or acquiescence in what another proposes or desires; compliance, concurrence, permission,” permission.  Yeah, I gave him permission, there was no struggle, and I never said “no,” never said “stop.” So, I guess, I really wasn’t raped.  Of course, who can give consent when they are very nearly black out drunk, could you.  If you cannot even walk in a straight line on your own, if you will not remember every single part of the night, if you cannot speak without slurring your words, can you really give consent?  No.  I don’t think so.

Honestly, I don’t think that he is such a bad guy.  What do you expect when every voice he hears is saying, “yeah, go for it,” or “you’re both drunk so it’s okay.” Uhm no, it is not okay.  In what universe would you ever think that it would be okay to take a girl that is that drunk home with you, the girl who literally fell into your lap.  Lucky, damn right you got lucky.  Who tells these guys that this is okay, why the fuck do we put up with it.  Empowerment, my ass, Cosmo says you have better sex when you are sober, aren’t we all about having great sex; great consensual sex.  What I want to know is who the hell can look themselves in the mirror after correcting the level of drunkenness reported by their hookup:

So, how drunk were you last night?

Uhm, fairly drunk, slightly more than average…I guess.

Ha, really, really drunk.

Alright, and how the hell don’t you think that’s wrong.  But I guess it is my fault isn’t it? My fault for going out, for over indulging, I was asking for it right?  Uh uh.  Wrong.

You have a brain, you have a conscience, hell you’re fucking hot; you don’t need a girl to have had 5 or more drinks for you to get some.  So why did you do it?  Maybe you can explain it to me and I’ll understand.  Maybe you can explain it to me and I’ll stop feeling physically ill every time that I see you, every time that I dwell on this.

You see, sex isn’t just physical, sex is chemical, and as much as I want to slap you across the face, I still want to be near you.  I want to be close to you, to have you want me for the person that I am and that’s what makes me sick to my stomach, to the point that it is almost hard to breathe.  The fact that I can’t help it, I hate myself for wanting to be with you.  And the worst part?  You don’t even give a damn.  It’s just chemicals, and I gave consent.

Celebrations and Preparations for THE LINE!

Photo by Brandon Fick on flickr.

Photo by Brandon Fick on flickr.

THE LINE campaign has a lot to celebrate!

First, we were featured as one of the Top 50 Blogs for Women’s Rights, sharing the honor with folks like Feministing and BUST Magazine! We’re proud to have been included and we’re excited to continue our work. The list was posted at the Feminist Law Professors’ “Our Degrees” blog. They also had great things to say about us:

In association with the sex-positive film “The Line,” this blog facilitates dialogue between people regarding the establishment of individual boundaries and critical thinking about consent versus coercion.

Sounds exactly right!

And as if that wan’t enough, THE LINE is being included in the programming of the SPARK Summit! I’ve been asked to speak at the summit, which is being hosted in the hopes of raising awareness and increasing action taken regarding the sexualization of young girls in the media. (SPARK stands for Sexualization Protest: Action Resistance Knowledge.) Nancy and I will also be tabling there so if you’re in town, you should stop by! My panel, featuring four other girl activists, will be about effective activism, and even if you can’t come you will be able to stream it online.

The SPARK Summit is on Friday, October 22 at Hunter College in NYC. You can learn more and register here. (And if you come, you also get Geena Davis, Shelby Knox, Jaclyn Friedman, and MORE!)

I want to extend a special thanks to all of you – our readers and supporters – for making the work we do real, tangible, and personal. We’re doing a great job, everyone. This is only the beginning!

SPARK Summit Blogtour Begins with THE LINE

This article, originally published on Feministing, kicks off the SPARK summit blog tour! Check me out at the Summit on October 22!


How old were you when Britney Spears wore a midriff top and miniskirt to Catholic School? How old were you when Twilight was released and tweens everywhere discovered that sexy relationships were about control and abuse? How old were you when Hannah Montana became Miley Cyrus and took off her clothes? And how old were you when Lea Michele, from the family programming Glee, did the same?

Someone was a girl when all of that happened. And she was watching.

For young girls, the mainstream media is a minefield of blows to their self-esteem and self-development. The American Psychological Association (APA) found that ample technology has only resulted in ample sexualization for girls, and that it causes self-sexualization, body image anxiety, and depression. In May 2008, an Alternet story entitled “Sexpot Virgins”looked deeper into sexualization of girls and found:

Targeted by marketers at increasingly younger ages, girls are now being exposed to the kind of unhealthy messages about sexuality that have long dogged grown women. Girls are told that their worth hinges on being “hot,” which in mainstream media parlance translates into thin, white, makeupped and scantily clad. Meanwhile, acting on their sexual impulses earns them the epithet “slut.” Teen magazines advise girls on how to tailor their look and personality to please boys (in order to entrap them in relationships). Advertisements present violence toward women as sexy.

The sexualization of girls in the media is important. It is not old news. It is not a “minor” problem. It isn’t something that only happens to any one group of girls. Media sexualization is pervasive, and the impact of the media on the development of all people has been studied and confirmed widely. Every day, girls receive the following messages from the media and more: that they are only worth having as sex objects, that they have no value outside of sexual relationships, and that normal sexual behavior is not about their pleasure or their sexual health.

So what can you do about it? My work with THE LINE Campaign has shown that the voices of real people are different from those in the media. Real voices care about consent, ending sexual violence, and progressing the access to sexual information and health. The media has written a script for young people, just as they have for girls. And it’s incorrect.

This is important to remember, because girls who receive messages from the media usually take them seriously after they’re reinforced by the people in their lives. We may not notice that dressing our daughters as “sexy nurses” and letting our pre-teens watch MTV’s Spring Break without pause or discussion actually proves to them that those messages are truthful and real. In order to end the sexualization of girls in the media, we have to start speaking up and speaking out, and we have to start speaking to the girls in our lives.

Porn and Consent

Image via Frerieke on flickr.

Image via Frerieke on flickr.

I know porn is a controversial topic. But instead of getting caught up in should porn exist?, I’d like to take on porn as a cultural influence on sexuality.

Given the inevitable existence of porn, I try to promote positive messages of sexuality, safe sex and consent that exist in some films. We have rights as viewers to demand good porn supporting the ideals of sex-positivity and consent.

The bulk of porn that exists now doesn’t align with feminism. I want my porn not only to be hot, but to do this while working from a background and through a lens that I can appreciate and support. So instead of condemning porn, I venture to say that we should condemn bad porn.

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No Symbols – Only Fire.


Coming and Crying is an anthology published in 2010 by Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan OConnell.

Coming and Crying is an anthology published in 2010 by Melissa Gira Grant and Meaghan O'Connell.

I remember so very clearly the first time I asked someone to hit me in bed – I was sixteen, I was dreadfully in love, and it opened up strange realms of possibility that, in fact, took me years to unravel. Desire is a complex creature, and for self-identified young feminists, it can be difficult to reconcile bodily imperatives with strongly-held beliefs.

I recently read Alex Hoyt’s story ‘I Hit Her – And She Liked It’, from Melissa Gira Grant and Megan O’Connell’s self-published wonder Coming & Crying, and was surprised at the amount of controversy it raised. Personally, I found it extremely touching, and opened up an important dialogue about sexual violence, the eroticisation of male dominance and female submission, and consensual kink/BDSM. I’ll be the first to say that non-consensual sexual violence is terrifying – domestic abuse and sexual assault is a serious issue. However, it has to be set apart from sexual preference. I also know from personal experience that given the stigmatisation of BDSM, fetish and kink, it is the lack of education about consent in relation to alternative sexualities that leads to negative representations and views of these practices in the media, or perhaps, more importantly, in our own minds and hearts.

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