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I have always been a deeply emotional person. I was a quiet child who was frightened and intimidated by my loud family, and much preferred to be alone and read or play with my dolls. After my parents divorced when I was a toddler, I lived with my father, step-mother, and sister five hours away from the rest of the family. I had friends in elementary school, only a few mild cases of bullying bitchy girls, but felt completely invisible. Unspecial. Bland. Boring. Unworthy.
However, as I watched my father, mother, and sister interact with the world, I discovered that I could emulate their flamboyant, outgoing, and outrageous behavior, and people loved it! Not boring at all!!! People would listen and people liked me! I was good at it and it came naturally.
Usually this behavior was tempered with the other aspects of my personality – kindness, thoughtfulness, attention to others, talent at making people feel loved and special themselves, and other qualities that helped balance my egotism and need for attention.
But since my father died, I have done everything in my power to create drama. Not just in my own life, but in the lives of the people who loved me and whom I loved. I protested that “I did not want this” or “How do these things keep happening to me” but as my sister said recently, I am not as naive as I pretend.
So why? Why would someone do this? Why would a fairly average attention whore turn into a a gaping maw of need and energy from others? Why did I keep doing things that were clearly driving people away? Why did I want to stir up the drama that hurt others and myself?
And once again, the wise words of my sister showed my why – because the opposite of drama, emotion, and feeling is numbness. Feeling dead inside. Feeling completely drained and empty.
I have been doing everything in my power to keep feeling. Anything. Positive OR negative. Just feeling instead of dealing with the boring, monotonous work of grieving.
Death is not as exciting as it is in the movies, where someone dies in front of you in a dramatic fashion and you drop to the ground screaming and yelling “Dear GOD!! NO!! NO!! Don’t take them from me!!!” And then you attend the funeral, hug your family, and feel grounded that at least he was loved, and life goes on, and metaphorically hold your cub up in the air and sing “The Circle of Life”.
Sometimes death is boring. Sometimes death is waiting . . . waiting for days for the person to die. Feeling guilty that you are waiting for the person to die. Watching someone be unable to get comfortable standing because they are so tired and unable to lie down because their lungs fill up with fluid and then for the first time in your life following your instincts and climbing into bed with him so that he can nap and breathe for hours while propped up on your chest despite the pain it causes in your back. Feeling that time spent with him in the past hating him for not “getting you” was wasted because not understanding someone does not mean you don’t love them. And then watching the man who raised you go from being incoherent and forgetting who you are to bedridden and absent from his body. Hearing the “death rattle” and then mentally placing bets on how long it will be. Then discussing these horrible thoughts with your siblings and finding out they are doing the same thing in their heads as well. Sitting beside your sister, both of you on your laptops, chatting with each other on gchat about how the grim reaper better “bring it” because he has not had a man like Ray Ray before.
When my brother came and woke me up at 4am on Sunday, March 7, 2010 to tell me dad was about to die, I put on my glasses ( I guess to see the event better??) and ran downstairs. When I got down there, he was exhaling his last breathe. It was not dramatic, it was not beautiful, it was not an event. Death had been a process, not an act. There was no light exiting his body, no peaceful look on his face, no feeling of his “spirit” in the room. He was gone, and what was left was the shell of the man he had been.
But I loved that shell, and so did my family. We sat in his room with his body for a couple of hours until first the hospice nurse and then the funeral home people came. We did not close his eyes, because it was not like he looked alive with them open. He was dead. Gone. Elvis had left the building and a big Cadillac* was coming to take him to the sky.
Since that day, I have been numb inside. What is worse than feeling pain? Feeling nothing. Fearing that you will never be able to feel again. Knowing that despite the love, and joy, and time we have here on Earth, that Cadillac* will roll up for all of us, and we have to live as if that does not scare the shit out of us.
I remember when my grandmother Agnes died in 1993. One of my first thoughts at her funeral was “The rest of my life is going to be spent watching the people I love die.” And it has been. I have seen my friends and family die, and in horribly cruel situations, children of friends die. It is not fair and it sucks. I don’t like it and it brings me to my knees emotionally.
So to the people who have gotten to know me in the past 8 months, I am so sorry that this is who you think I am. I am normally a joyful, loving, arrogant, fun, dramatic, friendly, selfish person.
But right now I just miss my dad and feel numb.
*It was technically a minivan – and I think that is bullshit. I want a big black Cadillac. FYI
Susie Bright is one of my personal heroes. Always has been, from the first time I saw her on TV as a young teen.
Now she has written about the attack on Craigslist to get it to remove the sex ads from its site:
Craig’s List has removed its Adult Services section from their bulletin board, under pressure from a McCarthyist collection of “non-profits” (cough cough) and ambitious law enforcement magistrates.
I think their decision was a tactical retreat— with the swipe of a claw. I have no professional interest or investment in CL, nor am I privy to their private discussions. But I have a sense of “deju vu” from previous witchhunts, and a clear memory of CL’s origins.
There was one piece of her post that in particular spoke to me, as a lifelong feminist who has spent her entire career working with domestic violence and sexual assault victims:
You won’t find the anti-Porn, anti-Trafficking Activists in the domestic abuse shelter, the rape crisis hotline, the emergency room, the orphanage, the refugee camps. Heavens, no. They have no interest or knowledge of what goes on in the trenches. They are actively fighting sex workers all over the world who have articulated their needs and rights. They don’t want anyone to have any kind of sex they don’t sanction. They are FRAUDS.
Thank you Susie, for continuing to inspire me to this day! Read the entire fantastic post here.
People generally think I am a nice person. I am chubby (like Santa!), I smile a lot, and I try to make friends wherever I go. I am an extremely loyal friend, and almost pathologically helpful. Give me a uniform and a box of cookies, and you might mistake me for a Girl Scout.But churning beneath my bubbly exterior beats the heart of a bitch.
To find out exactly HOW I am a bitch, go read the rest of the post!!!
Sometimes the light captures my evil (and the evil of Cheri Cloninger)
The September issue of The Humanist contains an interview with a woman who is witty, intelligent, a humanist, lover of science, former nurse, a feminist, and just happens to be a porn star.
Marie Hartman graduated with honors from San Francisco State University and is the author or coauthor of several books published by major publishing houses under her stage name, Nina Hartley. She is also the star of more than 600 adult films spanning three decades. In addition, Hartley is a humanist, a proud atheist, and a vocal feminist. . .
The Humanist: I’m curious about your hobbies and education growing up. You mentioned that your grandfather had a PhD in Physics. Were science and medicine an important part of your life?NH: Both of my parents are science folks. My mother was a chemist and statistician for the State Department of Public Health and my dad has a good layman’s understanding of science and biology. I loved all natural science as a child and wanted to be Jane Goodall when I grew up. I especially liked human biology and anatomy. I’m an RN with a BS in nursing and I love science to this day. I keep up with the latest advances in science and enjoy physics, biology, psychology, brain science, and more.
The Humanist: You weren’t raised in a religious home, but one full of values. For the religious, values and religion are synonymous. Could you explain the difference?
NH: We were taught social justice at home. My maternal grandparents were early supporters of civil rights in Alabama, where my mother is from. As secular Jews (my grandfather refused Bar Mitzvah) they were already a minority, but when my grandfather turned to socialism for its sense of social justice it put the family in jeopardy and they were subject to harassment by the Ku Klux Klan. My grandfather almost lost his life to goons.
This sense of social justice carried over into my parents’ marriage, and I grew up participating in civil rights marches and anti-war demonstrations. There was never any mention of God as a reason to do right. It was just the right thing to do. I feel strongly to this day that right and religion don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
As a believer in evolution, we can “take the best” from religion and “leave the rest.” We no longer need the story of “God” to explain why the rain falls, or the wind blows, or spring comes again each year. I’m comfortable with there being things about people or the world that I can’t know, or that we don’t know yet. I’m fine with life as we know it being random or an “accidental” result of chemical and physical processes.
For the full text of this truly delightful article, go to The Humanist website.
A friend of mine (who wishes to remain anonymous) recently responded to a blurb I posted about Gail Dine’s book, “Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality”. Being a scientist, and a man well schooled in porn, he quickly decided that the best way to see just how HORRIBLE porn is would be to look at what videos were getting the most views.
“The most popular acts depicted in internet porn include vaginal, oral and anal penetration by three or more men at the same time,” (Gail Dines)
Really? That sets my skeptical alarm bells off…
Lucky for me (although not for the research I SHOULD be doing), the Internet also provides a site for a simple and sorta scientific test of this claim: YouPorn.com (the most popular pornography website on the internet, and the 49th most popular of any kind, according to Wikipedia.) Youporn, like YouTube, hosts user uploaded material, and is user rated (with total views tabulated) and categorized. It provides a fascinating portal into the real world interests of actual internet porn consumers.
There are a total of 783 videos in the ‘double penetration’ category and 3,285 in the ‘facial’ category. The most watched video in each category was watched ~8 and 14 million times, respectively (although the facial category is a little misleading, since, judging by video titles, the act in question seems to be incidental in at least the top few–a video may be slotted into multiple categories).
How does this compare to videos in “traditional” categories? Well, ‘couples’ has 2,097 videos, with the highest viewed gaining a whopping
38 million views. (It should be noted, that it is possible that ‘couples’ videos ALSO contain facial scenes, but the number of participants excludes DP.) So, judging from the data, it seems straight up sex is many times more prevalent and popular than Dines’ dreaded multiple penetrative sex.
And facials? Well, they are a genuinely popular contemporary sexual meme. (Although, I note that there are 8,509 videos in the ‘blowjob’ category, so facials make up a minority–38%–of the blowjob content on the site). Perhaps, like peeing, the newness of the act in popular pornography makes it attractive, and it will cycle through, like all trends. I don’t know. I do know that precisely because the act is inherently mildly degrading, it can be incorporated into empowering, consensual hetero or homosexual sex that involves an element of powerplay (as many relationships do). (See Dan Savage for a more thorough unpacking of this topic.)
Now some editorializing:
I think there is real reason (and sociological data) to be cautious at the effect that pervasive, unrealistic sexual and body-shape imagery is having on our culture, and on the expectations of those in the “porn generation” in particular. But at least the YouPorn data suggest that much of the explosion of pornography is simply channeling age- old, vanilla fantasy, e.g., ‘masturbation’ has 4,747 videos. There is also evidence for a continuing mainstreaming of women’s sexual pleasure: ‘cunnilingus’ has 2,086 videos, with, surprisingly and happily, a straight-up instructional video in this category logging more views (8.13 million) as the most popular double penetration video.
I have been on an ADHD medicine for about three months now, and one of the side effects is decreased appetite. Funny how amphetamines do that to you. Even though people have told me that I looked thinner, I was not sure about it until I tried on a pair of jeans that had not fit in two years, and they fit beautifully. I should be happy, right?
The last time I was at a doctor, I weighed 250. The weight of a football player. Generally when I tell people this, they rush to tell me how I do not LOOK like I weight 250, which only shows me that their friends lie about their weight. I KNOW what women weigh, because I have been all of those weights in my life. I never play the “Guess My Weight” game with women, because I am generally pretty damn close, and it pisses them off. In real life, most women weight over 150.
I started my life as a small baby. I was so small that my mother claimed she was actually frightened of me; afraid of me being so delicate. I stayed petite and pretty all through my toddlerhood, and was also incredibly gorgeous, if I do say so myself :)
My father and I, when I was about 2.
I am not sure at what point the warnings about getting fat began. but I do know that my father struggled with his own weight for his entire life. His father was big, his mother was big, and his brother was big, so thin was not something that came naturally. I remember seeing my father at all weights throughout his life, and much like my obese grandmother, he was most thin and gaunt immediately prior to death.
My father, uncle, and grandmother shortly prior to her death.
I remember my first encounters with the sex positivity/sex positive movement, especially through the internet. I remember loving the basic principle of the thing: “Sex is awesome! No one should be ashamed of their sexuality or wanting sex! Let’s bring it out into the open so we can all enjoy a healthy, happy relationship with sex!”
Yeah! Rock on. Sex positive is awesome!!!! And then . . .
But there was this lie in the whole thing, and the lie was told by blog after blog, webpage after webpage that talked a great game about how we can be open about sex, but seemed to equate sex with the nude bodies of thin, conventionally attractive, blonde white women in male-gaze centric pornography, as though if I really pushed myself to enjoy such titles as Biker Bitches 5 and clinically lit photoshoots of a woman with her legs in improbably acrobatic positions, I’d be making the world a better place.
Oh yeah. That part.
People have been celebrating the sexualities of attractive white people for centuries. In fact, I’d say if there were ever a time when people’s discomfort towards sex dissipates and they’re willing to accept, tolerate, and engage with sexual content is WHEN it comes in the form of these bodies, these pre-approved forms.
But what about the queer porn?
Worse yet, so many queer oriented blogs are so white, able, and cis that it hurts. I’m a pansexual/cisgender/cissexual person, and when I see these blogs I see the white, Western version of queerdom splattered across the screen.
Oh god. She is right. Jesus.
If you’re sex positive and you’re not making an active effort to include and celebrate all kinds of sexuality from all kinds of people? You’re a fucking liar. There it is. You’re a liar.
Because sex positivity and body positivity and anti-racism and fat acceptance and the disability movement and queer positivity and womanism are part of the same thing.
So I say FUCK sex positivity. I want sex inclusivity.
I think we just got schooled. I know I’m taking notes.
Having described myself as a sex-positive feminist in many places, I am often asked what that means. Rather than strain my own overworked brain on describing it, I have found a remarkable resource on the internet that has already done it. According to Wikipedia, the resource of choice for scholars such as myself, the sex positive movement as described by sexologist Carol Queen is as follows:
Sex-positive, a term that’s coming into cultural awareness, isn’t a dippy love-child celebration of orgone – it’s a simple yet radical affirmation that we each grow our own passions on a different medium, that instead of having two or three or even half a dozen sexual orientations, we should be thinking in terms of millions. “Sex-positive” respects each of our unique sexual profiles, even as we acknowledge that some of us have been damaged by a culture that tries to eradicate sexual difference and possibility.
It’s the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.
Professor Wikipedia then describes how this relates to feminism:
It is no secret that there is dissent within the skeptical ranks, both in terms of philosophy and method. What may be less known is that there is even drama within the micro sub-cultures of this “movement”, some of which I am less than proud to be a part of. When James Randi split from CSICOP in the 90′s, or more recently when Paul Kurtz left CFI, no one assumed their disagreements were based in gender.
However, when the disagreements are between women, certain people like to paint them as “catfights”, which lessens the seriousness of ALL involved (full disclosure – I, Heidi Anderson, am certain people). Women are not a monolithic group, and although many of us call ourselves skeptics AND feminists, we often can not agree on whether skepticism needs feminism, or feminism needs skepticism. Others shun the term feminist completely.
Some disagree with sexy behavior at cons, and others think it is good light-hearted fun that brings in people who may normally think skeptics are stodgy old white dudes. Or ONLY stodgy old white dudes. We have disagreements on sexuality, pornography, prostitution, and even things that do not specifically involve women at all (imagine that!) We are labeled too confrontational or too gentle depending on our methods of outreach.
So, as TAM8 approaches, and friends gather, and we have panels on women in skepticism, and skepticism and feminism, and all sorts of things that we as Westerners have the luxury of thinking about, is it too much to ask the skeptical community and blogosphere to investigate this story, and see what REAL DIFFERENCES we can make? Can we step outside, as my friend Will Phillips said, “our tiny little mind boxes” and remember that as we wage these petty wars on each other, a war against reason continues to rage across the globe, with a 42 year old mother of two poised to become the next victim.