Consent is NOT Sexy

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Photo by ctrouper, via Flickr

“Consent Is Sexy.”

That’s what the t shirt said. And clearly, the woman wearing thought it was a good slogan.

I do not.

First of all, I have to preface my comments by saying: I get it. The state of relations between men and women sucks. The way we talk to each other sucks. The way we talk about each other sucks. The humor about sex and relationships sucks. The idea that women even have to worry about being violated? Sucks.

But really? “Consent is sexy”? That’s the standard we’re shooting for? As long as they get permission, that’s enough?

Just how low are we going to set the bar?

There’s a truism about expectations. I’ve mostly heard it in the context of education: that people will live up to your expectations, or down to them. If that t shirt is any indicator, the bar we’ve set for how we expect to be treated is so low, it might as well not exist. As long as a guy doesn’t rape us, we’ll flatter their ego and call them sexy.

Really?

On the scale of sexual attractiveness, consent doesn’t even register. Consent is a prerequisite for claiming to be a man. If we women, in the name of sexual liberation, have chosen to fling ourselves at the feet of men for nothing more than “consent,” then we have brought ourselves very, very low indeed.

Consider this:

Among men who are part of a couple, 75% say they always have an orgasm, as opposed to 26% of the women. And not only is there a difference in reality, there’s one in perception, too. While the men’s female partners reported their rate of orgasm accurately, the women’s male partners said they believed their female partners had orgasms 45% of the time. (From WebMD)

So not only do the men get more out of sex, they’re also clueless about how little their partners get out of it.

And this is okay because…?

If a man wants to claim the moniker “sexy,” he needs to do way, way more than just ask permission. I realize this is a radical concept in the modern world, but sex is the capstone of a relationship, not an audition for it. Relationships between men and women have always been troubled because we’ve failed to make the effort to understand and respect each other for what makes us different from each other. But in the modern world we’ve taken it to a whole new level by making sex the end-all-be-all of existence.

And if WebMD is right, women haven’t gotten much out of the deal. Why are we so concerned about our God-given right to have sex with as many people as possible? What are we getting out of it? Has no one else ever stopped to ask this question?

Women were more likely than men to show inconsistency between their expressed values about sexual activities such as premarital sex and their actual behavior.

I can’t say for sure, but I think that means women say they recognize that sex is the capstone, not the audition, but their behavior says they’re willing to let men dictate the terms of the relationship.

So much for women’s liberation.

Down deep, I don’t think any woman really thinks this is okay. The focus on romance in fiction aimed at women indicates that we are all seeking authenticity, understanding, and dare I say it, something holy in a romantic relationship. Or perhaps a better word would be transcendence: something in our partner that gives us a glimpse of a reality beyond what we ever thought was possible.

To my fellow mothers–and fathers, too–I say this: we are the ones who form the next generation of men to view women with respect…or not. And too often we shirk our responsibility to point out what is wrong in the world, simply because it’s awkward. We’re so uncomfortable with our own brokenness where sexual matters are concerned, we feel unable to address the subject with our children.

But we have to get over it. We have to confront the ugliness within, look for healing within ourselves, and summon the courage to tell our children–beginning at a very young age–how the world is supposed to look.

Because they deserve better. And so do we.

 

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When Advent Is Not Peaceful

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Photo by DonkeyHotey, via Flickr

We are approaching the midpoint of a season meant to focus on peace and preparation, yet the moment my children get in the van in the school pickup line, they are at each other’s throats. I lose my temper quickly these days, thanks in part to cyclic hormones, in part to the busy-ness of the season, in which every single day brings another note or email from one school, class, or room mother asking for more X, Y, or Z, and in part to flying down the hall five or six times a night to soothe the preschooler for whom a cold signifies the eternal annihilation of all mortal existence.

The news greets me every morning and every hour on the hour with news of how much we proved ourselves not to be “the good guys” in the way we treated our prisoners, with news of protests and violence and name-calling on both sides of every issue, of further proof that none of us, myself or anyone else, is sufficiently well-informed to be certain that our opinion on the issues at hand is undisputably and irrevocably “right”…although we all treat them as if they are. My Facebook feed fills up with tirades and rhetoric that denies all possible rational disagreement. People go on national TV and call others “stupid,” and elected officials return the favor with pleasure.

And it feels to me that this Advent, no one is even making an effort to pull back, to breathe, to seek the cool breath of the Spirit that could guide us through this mine field of real problems. We have this bizarre parallel existence going on: the one filled with shopping lists and office/school parties and the one in which we edit our intake of the news in order to confirm what we already believe–to ensure that we will never, ever have to consider that the other side might have a rational argument, too.

I have no pithy wisdom to wrap up this litany. If I say I grieve over it, I sound holier-than-thou, and it’s eminently clear to me from my own short fuse that while I stay out of the public debates, I am as culpable as anyone else.

I suppose, then, that this is my call into the darkness, a call for self-examination, and for change. For conversion, as we ostensibly prepare for the coming of God made human.

Exercising My Civic Duty With Kids In Tow

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Photo by ElDave, via Flickr

Election day, I have a house full of kids: the toddler who’s always at home, the kindergartener who is waiting to reach the 24-hour mark on his antibiotic regimen so he can return to school, and First Grader who doesn’t have school. November is looking even less friendly to a NaNoWriMo run than I had expected. I spend the morning trying to write while negotiating battles over Lego blocks and the iPad.

At noon, I load the troops and rush Kindergartener off to school. I have two presentations to make this afternoon–a Down Syndrome presentation to the third year medical students and a musical presentation to a group of developmentally disabled adults. I don’t remember about voting until I’m reloading Toddler and First Grader after dropping off Kindergartener. We have twenty-five minutes until my first presentation–just enough time to detour to the polls.

It is way busier at 12:50 p.m. than it is at 6:02 a.m. As I get my ballot, Kindergartener and Toddler decide to explore the church hallway. The poll worker lures them back with stickers, only Julianna is playing shy. “Come on!” I say, heading over to a cardboard “booth” as far from everyone else as I can manage.

It’s a long ballot, and the pen is low on ink, so it takes extra time to blacken the ovals. I keep turning around to my children, who are still hanging out by the election judges, and hissing, “Julianna! Michael! Get over here!”

“I need sticker!” protests Julianna in an injured tone, but they both come. Slowly.

Toddler sees what I have in my hand. He grabs the pen, nearly causing me to draw a long line across my ballot, and says, “I, need, pen! I! Need! Pen!”

I shake his hand off. “No, as a matter of fact, you don’t. I need the pen.”

They turn to the brochures on the adjacent table and start plotting ways to make messes. Fortunately, I’m finished, so I get up and call them to follow me.

I can’t remember where I’m supposed to return the pen, so I turn to the check-in judges, who look panicked–I guess you’re not supposed to talk to them after you get your ballot?–and point me to the far end of the church atrium, where another judge is guarding the ballot box. I hand her the pen. “I’ll take your ballot cover,” she says.

This is new. I’ve always taken the ballot cover off at the collection machine. I’ve never been asked to walk the ten feet to the machine without a cover on my ballot.

But what the hey, I don’t care if anybody sees my ballot. I hand her the sleeve and walk over to the machine.

Only the end of my ballot is a teeny bit bent, and the machine won’t take it. I’m starting to feel the time crunch. I fight the machine for a minute, and then I realize I don’t see any instructions for which direction, or even which side, has to go in first. So I flip it end over end and it goes in.

I turn to look for my children and meet instead the eyes of Ballot Box Judge. “Sticker!” she says, and I swear she’s scowling at me. I turn back to the box and see the stickers hanging off the side. I grab one for myself and turn around again.

Julianna is standing on the far side of the ballot box judge, the wrong way from the door. “Julianna! Do you want a sticker? Here!”

Election judge scowls bigger. “Ma’am! I need you to leave!”

What is she all bent out of shape about? She says something else and I register the line of three people standing waiting to insert their ballots. Then I see the box of blue tape on the floor, the one I’m standing inside, and I realize no one can come in until I leave it. Only my daughter is on the wrong side of the blue tape box from the door. I cannot get to my daughter without walking away from the exit. “Julianna! Come! Here!”

Julianna whimpers, crosses her arms in front of her body, and in her habitual Down-Syndrome-slow way, waits two seconds to take her first step.

Ma’am!” Election Judge is really getting p.o.’d now.

Okay, enough already. “I have two children!” I say, in a light-but-pointed tone of voice. “I am working on it!

At that moment, Julianna passes in front of Election Judge, who apparently realizes I’m not just being a diva. Or maybe pushing back was what made the difference. “You’re fine, you’re fine!” she says, with exaggerated friendliness, and Julianna crosses the blue line. I grab her hand and Michael’s and haul them both out of the Sacred Blue Box and over to the doors without looking back. I don’t really want to know who is or isn’t p.o.’d at me, and I don’t have time anyway.

Mental note: next time, revert to 6:05 a.m. voting time.

News Flash: It’s All Junk

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How I feel living in a house with 4 kids who get party bags and swag wherever they go. Thank God for Flickr and the Storm Trooper guys. They never fail to have a good image for me. Photo by Jim Bauer, via Flickr.

I think I’m going to have to swear off parades.

For one thing, people are so rude. We get there 40 minutes before parade start time, which is over an hour before the parade reaches us, in order to make sure we have the kids in the front. Five minutes before the parade shows up, other, bigger kids come in and weave through the crowd and plop down in the front. They stand up, pushing the rope forward and crowding the parade to make sure they can see everything, which means my kids cannot, and get as much candy as possible, which means my kids get almost none, because they’re, yanno, polite. What a concept. And when my husband says something to the offenders–very politely, I might add–they go running to their parents, who light into my husband for being so presumptuous as to think that their children should have any consideration for anyone other than themselves.

And then there’s the sheer volume of trash left on the streets afterward. What is the matter with people? I made my kids go up and down the street picking up candy wrappers after the parade, in the hopes that people would see kids cleaning up their mess and feel shamed into better behavior in the future. A slim hope, but worth a try.

Plus, the parades are just not that interesting anymore. Why bother putting time and energy into a float that’s interesting to look at when you can stick a sign on the side of a truck and play really, really loud music? And surely everyone is breathless from waiting to be handed yet another plastic cup with your business name on the side. Better yet, a three-inch foam football! Hurrah! I just love having more useless junk around my house, destined to strain the earth’s resources both in its unnecessary production and at the inevitable “File 13” end. Because God forbid you at least make your useless junk recyclable!

Oh, look! I’m so glad this business decided to stick an air cannon in the back of their undecorated truck and shoot T shirts instead. Because no one in America has enough t shirts in their drawers, and we are all dying to be walking advertisements for car dealerships and beer distributors.

Not.

While we’re on the t shirt topic, what is it with the compulsion to hand out a t shirt for every event on the planet? T shirts for charity runs. T shirts for school read-a-thons and summer camps and Bible school. T shirts for summer school. T shirts for every home game. T shirts for freebies at the ballpark.

Who wears these things? Surely I’m not the only person whose house is overflowing with t shirts that never, ever get worn because the kids have their favorite “Creepers gonna creep” t shirt that they wear every single day. But that must be the case even for the people who fly straight to the T shirt makers and order t shirts for the next occasion. Why?

And then there are those stupid party bags that people hand out at birthday parties and school Halloween parties. The bags filled with absolute, complete junk like “pinball” machines and “mazes” that no human being can manipulate successfully, let alone a child. Plus, they break in about one second anyway. Key chains meant to last for one day before they snap. Plastic clappers. Paddleball toys that break with one good tug on the bouncy ball.

Why?

Why, why, why?

Are we really this addicted to Stuff, that we feel this compulsion to have gimme gimmes at every possible opportunity? Why do we buy into this, people? It’s time to stand up and do something about it. Say no to the t shirts, no to the junk bags, no to the useless swag. It’s time we do our celebrating with an eye to the parts of the world where the money spent on this crap (pardon my French), which is destined only for the landfill, could feed people for a week. Maybe then our celebrations could actually do some good in the world, instead of feeding our own vices.

Birth Control Really Isn’t Health Care In The First Place

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It is no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I am a not a fan of birth control.  I think it’s unconscionable that women have been expected to suppress or perhaps even damage a healthy, normal part of who they are in the interest of unrestricted sex. Contraception has led to an expectation that women must be sexually available at all times. And it has facilitated relational dysfunctions like the hookup culture, which could not possibly exist without it.

I don’t normally comment on things political, but given this passion, I do want to make one observation in the wake of the supreme court decision earlier this week.

Birth control occupies an unusual, perhaps even unique, place in medicine. The purpose of medicine is to fix what is wrong with a human body, and birth control does not fix a woman’s health. In fact, it inhibits the normal, healthy function of her body. I am hard pressed to think of any other comparable situation in medicine (aside from vasectomy, which is part of the same topic).

Yes, the pill is slapped like a band-aid on any number of conditions, and I’m willing to concede that in some cases it can be useful to treat symptoms (although not the conditions underlying them). But birth control as a family planning method–which is what we’re talking about–is not treating a health problem. In fact, you could argue that it’s creating one by shutting down the way the body was designed to work.

For this reason, birth control’s presence in the health care law has always bothered me. I get why birth control must be administered by medical professionals: it’s a pharmaceutical, and where else in the regulatory hierarchy are you going to classify a pharmaceutical? But still–family planning is not health care.

12 Years A Slave

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Photo by Michael Rosenquest, via Flickr

There are times when you walk through the world filled with awe and joy and gratitude, aware of the wonder, the beauty, the innate goodness of all that exists on earth.

Other times it’s like a veil is ripped from your eyes, revealing the brokenness of the world in all its heartbreaking clarity. A brokenness so deep, so profound, so widespread, you realize it’s beyond the possibility of healing by any human effort.

And sometimes, being aware of one sensitizes you to the other.

I had another post planned for today, a post about joy and the search for the beautiful and the holy. But as I watched the passing moments in preparation for that post, the brokenness made itself clear, too. It came out most clearly in the news that a shelter for abused and neglected children in my town got muscled out of its planned location by residents saying “not in my back yard.”

Then last night, Christian and I started watching 12 Years A Slave. I expected it to be disturbing, but I wasn’t prepared for how deep it pierced, how mercilessly it convicted. It’s not just about the past, you see. What I realized, watching that movie, was that the state of our world, the problems that plague our nation today, began there, with the dehumanization of an entire race of people.

When I write it out like that, it’s a clear “well, duh” moment. But I had never seen the connection before–or at least, not in a way that transcended the theoretical. Like many people, perhaps most, I’ve always placed a dividing line between the past and the present. Our nation has done so much to work toward equality; what good is there in lashing ourselves for slavery and reconstruction and Jim Crow? It’s past. It’s done. The world isn’t perfect, but the real problems have been addressed.

Watching that movie unfold in all its shattering ugliness, I realized they haven’t.

A friend of mine told me once told me a story that I’ve spent a lot of time puzzling over. In a teacher training they were told that they had to understand the culture their students inhabited: a culture in which kids thought it was normal to receive their Christmas gifts from the Voluntary Action Center, and in which parents paid for a Lexus with spinning hubcaps before putting food on the table for their kids–because that was what was considered important in the circles in which they moved.

I thought: There is no way. It sounded like a lesson told by bigots, not by educators. To this day I have trouble believing it.

And yet if, indeed, a mindset like that exists, it’s because for hundreds of years one group of people–mine, I’m sorry to say–systematically dehumanized another, suppressing the expression of intelligence and the desire to achieve in order to keep them safely under control. Whites literally tried to beat it out of them.

We don’t do that anymore. But we do blame people for not breaking out of the cycle of poverty and poor education. There’s a less obvious and more plausibly denied racism that we cling to–the underlying assumptions that poverty and poor choices are a person’s own fault, because they just didn’t try hard enough. Ignoring the history that created the culture of poverty. Acting like it’s in the past, and thus not a real problem at all.

It makes me wonder: if I had lived a hundred fifty years ago, would I have been a participant? A collaborator? Would I have had the clarity of vision to recognize the abomination for what it was?

These are the times when I see the world and I want to weep for it. For myself. So broken. So far beyond helping ourselves. I move in my privileged middle class circles and rage at the super rich like the real battle is between me and those higher on the socioeconomic ladder, when the reality is I’m just as much to blame.

But I’m grateful for the clarity of vision, however painful, because it strips another layer of sanctimonious pride off my soul. And if somewhere there is a solution, I’ll be more likely to see it.

Itching For A Fight (a 7QT post)

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___1___

It began Tuesday morning, when I pulled into a spot at the public library twenty minutes before it opened. I let Michael get in the driver’s seat and play with all those fun controls while we waited. We were not the only people killing time between school dropoff and library opening time. There were half a dozen other cars in the lot. In the white sedan beside us, a blond college-age girl sat navigating her a smart phone…with the car running. For over fifteen minutes.

Now, it was not a hot day. Nor was it a cold day. My blood pressure rose every minute she sat there spewing pollutants into the air unnecessarily. I wanted to get out and knock on her window and suggest that she shut her car off. When we all got out to walk into the library  at the same time, I sent a little prayer winging skyward: Do I speak, or do I keep my big mouth shut?

The compulsion to speak was nearly beyond control. But I could not for the life of me come up with any way to address it that sounded anything other than  nose-in-your-business.

And so I didn’t say a word.

___2___

This is not an easy dilemma to solve. On the one hand, it seems clear that life in this world will be much better if we stay the heck out of each other’s business. I may not agree with your choices, but it’s wrong to stick my nose in and give you the third degree about it. Our personal choices are our own.

A friend articulated it this way later that afternoon: “I kind of think whether people run their car for half an hour is their prerogative.”

___3___

Not so fast.

Photo by Rachel Knickmeyer, via Flickr

Because it’s not your prerogative to do things that screw up the world for everyone else. We all have to live on the same planet, and that means we all have to think about how our actions impact others. That’s the reason we have rules at all. Nicholas has been asking questions lately like, “Why does green always mean go?”

“Because that’s the rule they made, honey.”

“But why?”

There is no why, it’s just a rule someone came up with so we could all coexist peacefully.

This issue–unnecessary consumption–is a global issue. It impacts all of us.

___4___

Christian has tried for years to convince me that arguing with people is useless, that no one changes their mind because you engage them in flame wars or even spirited debate. All that happens is everybody leaves with bad feelings. This philosophy wars with my nature–I come from an extensive, widespread net of extremely opinionated people  dating back at least two generations, and probably further, only I was too young to know them. But in the past decade and a half I’ve come to recognize the truth of what my husband says. More often than not, I take deep breaths and abstain from pointless argument.

___5___

But then again, evangelization can’t be limited to people who already agree with us. And if I feel convicted on an  issue because of my faith–in this case, that we have a responsibility to take care of the earth we’ve been given, and that there are dire consequences if we thumb our nose at that responsibility–then I’m not really living out my call to discipleship at all, am I?

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Dawn on Cloud Nine, by Krasnickaja Katya, via Wiki Commons

So…I’m opening a can of worms I’ve been avoiding all week. I’m just going to say it.

I believe in global warming.

I know that a good number of my readers probably don’t, but there it is. I don’t see how you can look at the explosion of devastating storms and years-long drought in recent history and not think, “Gee, isn’t it just possible that something we’re doing is having an impact on this?” These weather events are not judgment from God, and they are not just oh-well-it’s-a-fallen-world-after-all. If they’re getting more severe and more common, we need to take a hard look in the mirror and think about this quote from Fitzgerald:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

___7___

I don’t see how we can close our eyes and pretend this isn’t happening, and say “it’s nobody’s business but my own if I burn fuel for fifteen minutes, or half an hour, in a parking lot.” I don’t see how we can say “it’s nobody’s business but my own if I don’t recycle.” Actions have consequences. How can we call ourselves Christians if we put “it’s-my-own-business” ahead of “the good of the whole world and everyone in it”?

End rant.

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about winners, 100th birthdays, blue blocking glasses, and my desperate need for Youtube recommendations