Tag Archives: sex

Word to the Mother

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Baby Storm, posted with vodpod
 
Kathy Witterick, mother of “gender-neutral” Storm speaks out about being a mother, their family’s decision to keep the baby’s sex a secret, and the hoopla it has caused.  (Posted from Men Stopping Violence)

The bus driver smiled at me, my three children, the snacks that were rolling in all directions and the grocery bags hung too heavy on the back of the stroller. As always, he said, “You got everyone?” Then he added, “I haven’t seen you this week!” I was so relieved. “I’m glad to hear that,” I said.

We went to soccer class, played in the park with friends, read books at the library, learned a little bit about dinosaurs and observed the butterflies that only yesterday hatched from chrysalises in our kitchen. Jazz and Kio drew pictures. Jazz wanted to go to badminton at a local gym. An ordinary day.

My name is Kathy Witterick. I’m shy and idealistic, and all my life I’ve worked in the field of abuse and violence prevention. I married a teacher named David Stocker and we have three children.

Jazz is five years old. Since he was a young baby, he’s enjoyed colour, texture and vibrancy. When he was 18 months, he loved to wear layers of wildly striped and mismatched clothing and when his grandparents took him to get his very first pair of shoes, he chose the ones with orange toes and pink flowers on the side. When his brother was born, I joked I’d grow old as woman in a man’s world.

As Jazz grew, his love of bright colours (especially pink) and lots of fabric (especially dresses) continued, and he wanted to grow his hair. The older he became, the more he met with pressure from peers and adults to adjust his image and “act more like a boy.” Jazz remained committed to his own style.

I re-read the research and approaches of Alfie Kohn, Barbara Coloroso and Adele Faber to find ways to support him. The firm rule around self image became: it has to be clean and healthy, but you can choose the colours and the lengths.

When Storm was near arrival, Jazz was listening to Free to Be You and Me on repeat (it was a gift from a friend). He wondered if people would respond differently if they didn’t know the baby’s sex. What gifts would they bring? If Storm were a boy, would he be allowed to wear dresses? Pink?

There are these moments as a parent when you wish your child could bring a different issue to the table — but there it is, plop! And if you really mean what you say about being kind, honouring difference, having an open mind and placing limits thoughtfully where they help children develop competencies and be safe, then you better walk the talk.

We agreed to keep the sex of our new baby private.

It is true that an infant, at four or five months is still learning to recognize themselves — to look in the mirror and think, “Hey, that’s me!” — and is not ready developmentally to find a place in a gender binary. It is true and demonstrated in research and in the day to day world that strict gender stereotyping causes suffering to both men and women. So surely, we thought, people would understand our five-year-old’s curiosity about why people need to know the baby’s sex.

The events of the last week suggest otherwise.

More accurately, we have received many letters that include intelligent, heartfelt, research and experience based support for the idea. We’ve also heard some articulate and meaningful concerns expressed. We’ve witnessed a discussion erupt that could be transformative. It is important to challenge orthodoxies and raise questions, because the discussion that emerges not only “outs” issues (in a rush to pass judgment, people articulate prevailing views, prejudices, and misconceptions), but also has the effect of helping people examine whether they truly do believe the status quo to be the best that we can do. Will these norms grow healthy, happy, kind, well adjusted children?

The strong, lighting-fast, vitriolic response was a shock. These voices demonstrate how much parents are in the world’s critical eye — in particular mothers, who are judged based on little (mis)information and not offered opportunities to share, grow, learn and be supported and celebrated by the community to raise children.

The psychologist on the Today Show for example, was willing to make strong, unqualified conclusions about a family (and children) he had never met, based on (generously) one per cent of what there is to know about said family. Will that behaviour help grow healthy, happy, kind, well adjusted children? Ironically, the idea to keep the baby’s sex private was a tribute to authentically trying to get to know a person, listening carefully and responding to meaningful cues given by the person themselves.

This short letter won’t help you to know my family. And to protect our children from the media frenzy that we did not anticipate, we have declined over 100 requests for interviews from all over the world, including offers to fly to New York all expenses paid and to appear on almost every American morning show.

We have learning to do, parks to visit and butterflies to care for. But we do feel it’s important to correct clear factual errors in the media, who incidentally have been reporting false information.

Having spent many years facilitating on the topic of abuse and violence prevention, particularly as it pertains to children, I would never tell my children (or anyone) to keep a secret.

Secrets are not safe and healthy. I, like many parents, have taught my children that some things are private matters, and when you want to share them, you need to do so honestly with sensitivity and consideration. If I had to convince my children not to share Storm’s sex (which I don’t because my children simply are not interested at this point) — I would teach them that someone else’s genitals and sense of how they relate to their gender is their private business, to be shared by them or in a context where safety, acceptance and sensitivity are paramount. Storm will certainly need to understand his/her own sex and gender to navigate this world (the outcry has confirmed this clearly!), but there has never been any question that within our family, the issues of sex and gender and the decisions relating to it are open for age appropriate discussion and action.

In my heart of hearts, I squirm when my son picks a dress from the rack (won’t people tease him?), even though I know from experience and research that the argument that children need a binary gender orthodoxy taught to them in order to feel safe is simply incorrect. My children know who they are, through supported and facilitated experience with their world, and I avoid hypocrisy, inaccuracy and exhaustion by saving my energy for non-negotiable limit-setting related to safety, kindness, self respect, health, fulfilment and fairness.

None of my children are gender-free or genderless (and neither am I). It is true that my oldest son Jazz does not have a traditional notion of what boys should wear, look like or do. It is also true that we believe our children should have the right to choose their clothes and hairstyle. Jazz has a strong sense of being a boy, and he understands that his choices to wear pink and have long hair are not always acceptable to his community. He chooses freely to do them anyway, because he also has been taught to respect difference, love himself and navigate the world in a way that is true to his own voice. Kio also strongly self identifies as a boy, and his choices around behaviours and image are different but have an equal amount of two-year-old integrity.

Storm has a sex which those closest to him/her know and acknowledge. We don’t know yet about colour preferences or dress inclinations, but the idea that the whole world must know our baby’s sex strikes me as unhealthy, unsafe and voyeuristic.

Storm is my third child and this is what I know — some day soon, Storm will have something to say about it, so in the meantime, I’m just listening carefully.

— Kathy Witterick is the mother of Jazz, Kio and Storm. They live in Toronto.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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CNN – Egyptian general admits ‘virginity checks’ conducted on protesters

Sexual assault as justice for protest has been around forever, but when I heard this story I was reminded of Chana Kai Lee’s biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, For Freedom’s Sake

After protesting for African American civil rights alongside other SNCC members, Hamer and others were taken into jail and brutally beaten and sexually assaulted by police and prison staff.  Hamer’s beatings in jail left her with a limp, blind in her left eye, with her kidneys permanently damaged (listen to her speech before the Credentials Committee at the ’64 Democratic National Convention here). 

Here, however, the tactic was presented as a “precautionary” measure rather than the demeaning and sexually objectifyng act it truly was.

And think Egypt is the only one doing virginity tests?  Think again.  Try Britain and India.  And really idiotic young American boys.

___________________________________

From Shahira Amin at CNN > Read the whole story there.

Cairo (CNN) — A senior Egyptian general admits that “virginity checks” were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or “virginity tests.”

But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

“The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” the general said. “These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs).”

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn’t later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general said. “None of them were (virgins).”

Read about Salwa Hosseini’s experience undergoing stun-gun-enduced virginity-testing here.

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Sex and Sexism and “Skins”

Sex, Sexism, and “Skins” by Mia Fontaine at the Ms. blog

MTV, you’ve come a long way baby.

In six short years you’ve gone from pimpin’ rides to pimpin’ girls, starting with the recent premiere of Skins, a remake of the hit British program by the same name. Immediately labeled “the most dangerous show for teens,” by the Parents Television Counsel and lambasted for gratuitous sex and drug use, what was seen as most controversial was the employment of underage actors. Given that the show includes implied fellatio and sexual assault, simulated masturbation and half-naked teens having sex, MTV potentially violated child-pornography laws.

Without minimizing the above accusations, what shocked me, however–and should shock everyone–was the show’s flagrant and unaddressed sexism. And I’m not talking garden-variety sexism, I’m talking a show that’s glaringly sexist in truly alarming ways.

Episode One, for instance, centers around Tony’s efforts to get his best friend, the virgin Stanley, laid. His brilliant plan? Borderline date rape. In MTV teen lingo, “get some girl ‘recaucusly spliffed. In her confused state she comes to believe how–momentarily of course–you’re [Stanley] attractive and then … she bangs your brains out!” For the lucky girl, Tony’s girlfriend Michelle nominates Cadie, recently released from a psych ward and described on the Skins’ website as “the most dysfunctional girl ever to attend a high school.”

Not that Cadie minds. Using sex like wampum, she accepts the plan for Stanley to, “dope me into outer space and then bang my brains out.” Is it me, or does this smack of prostitution? Sleeping with someone for drugs cuts the cash out of the equation but not the principle. And if Cadie plays the prostitute, Tony and Michelle play her pimps. Worse, because Michelle is another girl, MTV promotes sexism by all genders. By treating Cadie in a stereotypically male way–a sex object–the message is sent to girls to objectify other girls for male gratification.

Perhaps Michelle’s willingness to devalue Cadie as a human being shouldn’t surprise us, given her utter subservience to Tony. Despite his belittling nicknaming for her–Nips, because of her “funny nipples”–she continues to see him, and when she does weakly protest the name he patronizingly tells her to “get used to it kid.” As if someone appointed him both nipple expert and sage, able to predict a lifetime of nipple shame. Forget worrying over breast size: Now girls are being taught to scrutinize their nipples as well. (It’s worth noting that the Skins website describes Michelle as gorgeous and clever. Note to self: MTV defines clever as someone who sleeps with a partner who continuously degrades her).

Another example of the show commodifying young women and encouraging them to use sex to curry favors comes in the second episode, in which the character Tea is asked by her father to go on a date with the son of a prospective business partner.

What is this, the Middle Ages? Aren’t we beyond children-as-chattel eras in which daughters do their father’s bidding? True, he asks her twice if she’s comfortable with it, and reminds her she doesn’t have to fool around with the boy (albeit saying “have to” implies the possibility for it). Nonetheless, he tells her not to mention the date to her mother, possibly because Mom would have found it problematic that he used their daughter like a pawn to facilitate a business transaction.

I doubt many people took note of this, however, because Tea’s father is the only remotely sympathetic parent on the show. Tony and Stanley’s fathers are crass and irate, and the show’s mothers, aside from serving food and babysitting, are without real roles or voices. Had Tea’s father been a jerk, his request might have raised eyebrows; instead, his affability disguised the fact that, like Cadie being used for Stanley’s sexual gain, Tea was used for Daddy’s professional gain.

If MTV’s looking for edgy, edgy can be done responsibly and respectably. Pierced, tattooed and chain-smoking, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander is as edgy and sexual as they come, yet she’s subservient to no one and stands up for her beliefs. Given Lisbeth’s propensity for justice, I’d love to see what she’d do to the brains behind a show like Skins.

If you want to see this show, be quick about it: Skins might not be around for long. The New York Post reported that it’s in danger of cancellation because of low ratings and fleeing advertisers. I just hope the fleeing viewers are as disturbed about the sexism as the underage sex.

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Race and Gender in Diesel Ads

Sociological Images just posted an interesting article on race and gender in Diesel ads.  Check these out.  Notice any pattern?

How ’bout now?

Check here for the answer from Lisa Wade!

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HIV-positive porn performer speaks out – latimes

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The Weirdest Video You’ll See Ever

So I was about to do a post on preying mantises, specifically about the myth about female preying mantises having sex with their mates and then biting their heads off.  Since Leland Howard “discovered” this fact in 1886, this myth has lent a hand to a wealth of femme fatale stereotypes, including the penis-envy or man-hating feminist.  Lisa Wade from Sociological Images further explains this myth and the ensuing unfair characterizations of women as villains here.

One commenter on Wade’s post included a link to Seduce Me with Isabella Rosselini – a series of online sorts about the sexual habits of animals, often using costumes and cardboard cutouts.  YES.

My sister is the queen of finding awkward things online, and she really should’ve beat me to this.

Here’s a clip from the episode on snails:

Here’s an equally awkward excerpt from her interview with Eric Spitznagel at Vanity Fair:

Thanksgiving is next week, so we should probably talk about turkeys. What can you tell us about turkey sex?

I don’t know much about turkeys. Birds are not so interesting generally. In terms of sexual organs, birds have a cloaca, which is an opening where everything happens, from feces and urine and also sperm. I imagine turkeys also have a cloaca, but I’m not absolutely sure. I think maybe it would be interesting to know about their method of courtship. I’m sure it would be very colorful and very strange.

I’ve heard that a lot of turkeys have virgin births.

Really? No, that cannot be right.

I swear that’s what I read. It’s called parthenogenesis, and the percentage of virgin turkey births is something like 40 percent.

I don’t think so, I don’t think so. Birds are not like aphids, where an animal can reproduce by cloning itself. You can segment the worm and the worm can become two worms. Or you can segment a starfish. But I’ve never heard of that happening in a higher animal such as birds.

If it’s true…

No, no, I don’t think it is.

But let’s assume for a moment that it is. If we eat turkey for Thanksgiving, is it possible that we could be eating the Son of God?

[Laughs. Long pause.] I don’t really want to go there, I’m sorry.

I’ve also heard that many of the turkeys sold at grocery stores are physically incapable of having sex. They’re genetically bred to be so fat that they have to be artificially inseminated.

And believe me, it gets better (really, more like worse).  Read on!

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Sex Re-Education

Have you seen Bristol Palin’s recent tv commercial on sex education?  Don’t waste your time, here’s the scoop: it’s kind of boring and awkward, and she promotes abstinence-only education.  Palin’s a born-again virgin.

I remember sitting in sex ed class (I had to take it as a senior with freshmen) and being told that every time I have sex I will get an incurable STD and get pregnant.  While I don’t have a problem with stressing the high risks of pregnancy and STDs without the use of condoms, I do have a problem with abhorrence of teen sexuality.

Let’s face it – they’re young and hormonal, and good god, let’s try and prevent them from procreating at this age!

Due to this shortage in valuable knowledge about sex (since there’s so much crap coming from churches and porn), here’s a few sites with great information about sex education.

1) Midwest Teen Sex Show

This is one of the most hilarious damn shows on the whole damn planet.  Although the MTSS team is currently not producing any new sex ed shows, you can find all of their own episodes here.

My favorite episode of all time is on vaginas.

2) Scarleteen

This site is full of handy information, like “What Disability Can Teach Us About Sex” or “Sexual Anatomy for Everybody,” but it’s most invaluable service is sex ed texting.

To ask Scarleteen a question via text, text the keyword ASKST to 66746, followed by your question.  You can literally be mid-coitus between the hours of 6 am and 11 pm and text a sex question.  Pretty neat.

3) Shelby Knox

You might also check out the blog of Shelby Knox, a 24 year-old sex education activist (I am 23 and have done nothing as cool with my life), who has come a long way from her virginity-pledging roots.  Knox first came onto the scene at age 15 when she starred in a PBS documentary about her experiences growing up in the highly conservative and religious town of Lubbock, Texas.

Here’s a synopsis from the PBS website:

Into the culture wars steps 15-year-old Shelby Knox of Lubbock, Texas. A self-described “good Southern Baptist girl,” Knox herself has pledged abstinence until marriage.

When she finds that Lubbock has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the state, and her county’s high schools teach abstinence as the only safe sex, she becomes an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex education, profoundly changing her political and spiritual views along the way.

“I think that God wants you to question,” Shelby says, “to do more than just blindly be a follower, because he can’t use blind followers. He can use people like me who realize there’s more in the world that can be done.”

Here is a story for our times, where the combustible mix of politics, family and faith aren’t as predictable as the red state/blue state divide would suggest.

Here’s the trailer for the documentary The Education of Shelby Knox:

And on that note, go  a) become informed about safe sex and  b) have fun with your new knowledge!

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