Awakening Sexuality & Activism for Women's Rights

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OpEd: British Art Installation Piece Celebrates ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’


Jamie McCartney's 'Great Wall of Vagina'Jamie McCartney is a British artist who created an art installation piece of plaster casts called “The Great Wall of Vagina”.  On his website are images of the entire installation along with the motto, “Changing female body image through art”.

His website explains the art piece:

The 9 metre long polyptych consists of four hundred plaster casts of vulvas, all of them unique, arranged into ten large panels. McCartney set out to make this project as broad and inclusive as possible. The age range of the women is from 18 to 76. Included are mothers and daughters, identical twins, transgendered men and women as well as a woman pre and post natal and another one pre and post labiaplasty.

One of the many reasons I love this piece is because when I directed/ produced a production of The Vagina Monologues in 2006, one of the comments repeatedly mentioned by women who auditioned was how much they hate what their vagina looks like.  Of course, they were actually referring to the vulva — as does this art piece (hint: the vagina is the inside part).  Only one female at the auditions, a 24 year old girl who had not yet had kids, said she loved how her vulva looked like a beautiful flower.  One woman said her “vagina” was ugly because she’d had 4 kids.  Frankly, I don’t think most women know what our genitals are supposed to look like because our perception is skewed by porn and skin mags.

The month that I turned 40, I took pictures of my vulva and saw my vulva for the very first time ever (not counting when I was in labor and saw my daughter’s head crowning in the mirror up on the wall of the delivery room — I’m nearsighted so I couldn’t really see it).  Turning 40, I wanted to love my body visually the way I adore my body sensually.  But seeing my vulva pics, I burst into tears because she looked so different than what I envisioned. My fair-skinned legs and rosy labia were not what I’m accustomed to seeing because most of the women I’ve seen in erotic photos are tan.  Then there was my clitoral hood and the shape of my inner labia…. I thought, “WHY would a man like this?!  I look so different….”

I deleted the pics immediately.  But I took some more pictures the next day, and this time I didn’t cry.  I guess I was getting accustomed to seeing what I look like.  I sent the pics to 3 guy friends I could trust to tell me the truth, and each one said my vulva was beautiful.  I was really annoyed with myself that I felt I needed that kind of validation, especially from men, but men know vulvas, and they know what men like in a juicy yoni.  And frankly, if I’d sent my pics to other women, would the women have been grossed out because they likewise have little clue what “vaginas” are supposed to look like?

As I continued to look at my vulva pictures (and even took some more), it was amazingly empowering to know and love my genitals and not compare mine to women in porn or magazines.  Aside from the genital grooming that is prolific in erotic photography, many people don’t realize that porn performers often have cosmetic surgery to alter their genitals, including labioplasty to make the labia smaller or conform to some ridiculous notion of what labia are “supposed” to look like.

This brings me to my point and yet another aspect of healing women’s body image.  There is NO one way a vulva is supposed to look.  Every vulva is different.  Comparing vulvas is like comparing snowflakes — each one is unique and beautiful in her own way.

I think McCartney’s work is very important for a few reasons.  One, he cast all sorts of women when making his plaster art, and you see all sorts of labia shapes and sizes (and piercings!) represented.  Also, because the work is in plaster as opposed to photography or paint, race is not an issue, and all the vulvas can be appreciated without an ingrained idea that “white chick” vulvas are more pleasing to the eye.

Check out McCartney’s website to see the many other panels in this art installation.

trish

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OpEd: Sex and Pain


Woman with Real Breasts Looking Off into DistanceIf you judged the average person’s sex habits by what you see online, you’d think everyone is into pain, BDSM, and hog-tying their sex partners into elaborate rope configurations.  A while back, I was “roped” into a brief Twitter war with a guy who was trying to justify putting duct tape over a woman’s mouth during sex.  You can well imagine I went Irish war queen on his ass.

Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would want to associate pleasure with pain, even though I’ve heard some pretty wild concepts.  And I’m not talking about the fur-lined handcuffs, blindfolds, and feathers — although I’d never do the handcuffs or the blindfold.  Even without a fetish being involved, women put up with painful sex for a variety of reasons, and we don’t have to.  Ever.

One reason I did not go the official “sex educator” route was because I would not have been allowed to speak my mind on the sex habits I personally find to be dangerous or just plain stupid.  (Yes, I know…. two consenting adults, blah, blah, blah….)  Since the rise of 50 Shades of Grey, it has become politically incorrect to say anything critical about BDSM or bondage or a woman not being a doormat for an abusive man.  And plain ol’ sex is considered “vanilla” sex, not exciting or amazing, just vanilla.  However, I feel the need to speak out for those of us who like our sex to be solely pleasurable between partners who are on an equal basis, not one person in control nor one person made to be a slave or subservient caricature.

From my own holistic, Tantric perspective, I would never enter a sexual experience with any attitude other than love, equality, and respect.

And yet, pain is apparently all over modern sex.  Personally, I believe the association of sex and pain is due to this patriarchal society that is based on hierarchy and competition at any cost.  The need for control or recognizing we are being controlled is incorporated into every aspect of our lives, our work, our economic status, our cultural/class status; and then hierarchy and the need for control or to relinquish all control crosses over into sex.

Pain is pain, not pleasure.  Women should not put up with painful sex, but often times, we do so as not to hurt the man’s feelings.  We endure all sorts of emotional pain throughout our lives, but sex should be 110% pleasure.  Women, you do not have to tolerate painful, unfulfilling sex.  Ever.

Sex should never hurt.  Except for some slight pain when the hymen is broken, sex should never be painful.  Even for an experienced woman, penetration can be painful if she is not lubricated enough.  Whether it’s your first time with a man or the hundredth, sex may need to be slow to take him in.  Just because you’ve been with him before doesn’t mean your body is automatically ready to be penetrated.  Being penetrated too quickly or without enough lube can be very, VERY painful.

Remember that the vulva needs to be massaged and stretched as part of the preparation for sex.  Another reason for spending time arousing the woman is that the vagina is only 3 to 3.5 inches long, but she expands up to 50% during arousal.  So if the man wants to get 5+ inches of his penis inside instead of just 3 inches, fully arousing a woman is time well spent.

The difference in penis size to vagina size can make for thrilling orgasms or a painful experience.  If the man has a large penis, extra time may need to be taken to avoid hurting the woman.  How much time?  This depends on the woman.  In this way, yes, the woman is always in control of the sex.  That’s just the way it goes, guys.

Once aroused, the woman’s erectile tissue will be fully infused with blood (just as the man’s erectile tissue fills with blood), and for the woman, when the man slowly slides inside the vagina, it is exquisite pressure and a sense of being absolutely full, as if he’s touched her soul.  Again, any man not willing to patiently await a woman’s full arousal doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near a vagina.

Encouraging pain to feel pleasure is just stupid — or even dangerous if your partner wants to try something like erotic axphxiation (choking to make orgasm “stronger”).  If you actually know the “how” of orgasm, you’d know that oxygen feeds orgasm intensity and duration, so cutting off your oxygen supply is actually not a good idea.  And about 1,000 people die per year from erotic axphyxiation.

Pain in the vagina, anus, or even in the pelvic floor or legs could be a sign of something very wrong.  If you experience pain or numbness in the legs during or after sex, this may be not only a neurological issue but also a respiratory issue.  Getting enough oxygen into your lungs, and ergo your body, is crucial for proper function of the body and especially for orgasm.  During sex, focus breathing down into your pelvic floor.  As you inhale, bring the air all the way down toward your genitals.  This will ensure that you are belly breathing and not breathing only in the upper chest.  Upper chest breathing doesn’t allow the body to get rid of as much carbon dioxide, so the body is not being fully oxygenated.  This can contribute to the tingling or numbness in the legs.  Also, being sedentary in your daily life or job can affect the nerves and bloodflow in the legs.

Moving around to the backside, anal sex should NEVER hurt.  Ever.  Whether fingers, a toy, or a penis, anal sex should only ever be pleasurable.  Men, please know, that male prostate stimulation is very healthy for you, and any anal stimulation should always be pleasurable.

With the possible exception of breaking the hymen, no part of sex should ever hurt.  Ever.  Never.

Yes, I know that fetishes like spanking and rope-tying have hit the mainstream, but it is still a power-play of control and inflicting pain on someone you supposedly care about.  Just because you interpret both pain and pleasure in the same area of the brain doesn’t mean you need to inflict pain to experience pleasure.  In fact, if you are, then you only experience sex on a physical level, and orgasm is a response of the subtle body, not just a “release” of the physical anatomy.

The rise of pain as a means of pleasure is more patriarchal bullshit that women are supposed to adopt as “normal” sex play.  Women are throttled by the neck, their breasts are slapped, their vulvas punched with a partner’s fist, and it makes me ill.  What’s worse is that young people see the images, gifs, videos, etc., online and think that abusive sex is normal, and it is not.

Once you understand the mechanism and response of orgasm, you will know that pain should never be anywhere near sex.  Any desire for pain during sex is a sign of other psychological and/or emotional issues that need to be resolved outside the bedroom.  I know this is not a popular sentiment, and that’s okay.  I want to be a voice for all those women (and men) who instinctively do not want pain-fetishized sex but feel pressured into accepting it because of this society that regularly features victimized women and abusive men as part of the mainstream culture.

Having lived in a patriarchal world and been affected by its brutality more times than I care to acknowledge, I will never allow an abusive person into my sex life.  Ever.

trish

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OpEd: FotoShop by Adobe` – Fixing Flaws Real Women Aren’t Supposed to Have


In my Social Activism class, my professor posted this video, and it’s so fabulous, I have to share it with all of you.

Introducing FotoShop by Adobe`.  Dramatic results on wrinkles, cellulite, & all sorts of other flaws real women aren’t allowed to have.  Enjoy!

trish

NEWS: Another All-Male House Judiciary Subcommittee Wants to Legislate American Uteruses


Rep. Trent Franks (Arizona) - House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil JusticeOn Thursday, January 9, 2014, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice met to gather information on bill H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.  The problem with this subcommittee?  It is yet another all-male panel set to determine policy that affects women.  Another problem with this bill is that it isn’t just about taxpayer funded abortion but also abortions provided via private insurance — insurance the woman pays for via her premiums.

If you recall the all-male birth control panel that propelled Sandra Fluke to unwanted fame and started the infamous slut-shaming by GOP windbag Rush Limbaugh, this new subcommittee is yet another misogynist attempt to harm women and violate our natural rights to body autonomy and self-determination.  These men have no idea what it is like to be a poor woman, a woman with a pre-existing health condition, a woman who is scared, or a woman who simply cannot afford to have a child.

This latest all-male subcommittee heard from three witnesses, only two of whom were female.  These women were Susan Wood, Associate Professor of Health Policy and of Environmental & Occupational Health in the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University, and Helen Alvare, a Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law.  The third witness was a man, Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director, Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Yes, a religious figurehead getting a say in secular, governmental matters that do not affect him as a religious person OR as a man.

Wood had this to say in her testimony:

The Bill Would Ban Abortion Coverage for Virtually All Women in this Country, Including Those in the Private Insurance Market.

Those who oppose abortion have tried and failed to make it illegal, so instead they have worked to make it almost impossible to obtain. Indeed, some object even to insurance coverage of contraception, the most effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion.  One of the ways they have accomplished this goal of limiting access to abortion is to make it unaffordable. This bill is their most recent attempt to place affordable abortion care out of reach for even more women.

The need for access to abortion to protect the health of women, not just when they are in danger of imminent death, is critical….. Health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy or others would not necessarily fit the definition of placing a woman in “danger of death,” but could have potentially serious consequences for her health. Health insurance currently routinely covers the range of pregnancy care and other health services that may be needed by any individual woman. By denying abortion coverage, this would not only change the current insurance women have, but would put some women’s health at risk.

In conclusion, this bill would impose a sweeping and unprecedented ban on abortion coverage, with far-reaching and harmful consequences for women’s health and economic security. When it comes to the most important decisions in life, such as whether to become a parent, it is vital that a woman be able to consider all her options–including an abortion– no matter what her income or source of insurance. It makes sense that health programs cover the whole spectrum of women’s reproductive health needs, including birth control, abortion, and childbirth, because when people can plan if and when to have children, it’s good for them and for society as a whole.

Here’s a link to the Judiciary page where you can read all three statements.

Part of Deorflinger’s complaint is that he, and some others, do not want tax-payer dollars going to pay for elective abortions.  As a pacifist, I don’t want my tax-payer dollars going to build bombs and fund wars based on lies.  And yet, my wishes aren’t granted.  For women who might get a teeny bit of tax-payer money to help them get an abortion if they need or elect to have one, these women are tax-payers, too.   If they’re adult women, they pay taxes in some form or another, whether it’s sales tax at the grocery store, gasoline tax at the gas pump, property taxes on their house or apartment, or income tax.

Do we even need to go over how hypocritical it is that Viagra is covered by insurance but abortion may not be?

STOP MAKING WOMEN OUT TO BE MOOCHING SLUTS.  Women get pregnant.  By MEN.  We’re in this together.  Drop the misogyny and look at the facts as presented by Wood.

Guttmacher Institute-more-abortion-restrictions-2011-2013This subcommittee and this bill are yet another step backwards for American women and American politics.  According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of 2013, 56% of women live in one of the 27 states considered hostile to abortion.  Guttmacher also crunched the numbers on anti-abortion laws:

Twenty-two states enacted 70 abortion restrictions during 2013. This makes 2013 second only to 2011 in the number of new abortion restrictions enacted in a single year…. 205 abortion restrictions were enacted over the past three years (2011–2013), but just 189 were enacted during the entire previous decade (2001–2010).

Let’s review some of the other misogynist highlights that happened in the USA in the past couple of years that I covered here on ArousedWomanBlog.com:

What does this mean for women in the United States?  We MUST stand up and speak up for our rights as American citizens and human beings with basic human rights.  And we MUST vote more pro-choice women in Congress.

trish

OpEd: When a Woman Says “No,” But the Man Won’t Stop


When a Woman Says NoTo start the New Year off right, the universe sent me an experience to remind me the work here is not yet done.  Thankfully, it was not violent, but it was annoying to see how far women still have to go on the path of being respected.

A few days ago, I needed to go to the store, but I realized I was going to miss the bus at the time I wanted to go, so I made sure I caught the next pick-up.  Had I caught the bus I wanted, I would not have witnessed the interchange that occurred on the bus I got on.

I sat in the only available seat, the one behind the driver.  I like this driver; she’s very nice and tolerates the annoying passengers well.  As we ambled along, I could hear a woman four rows behind me tell someone, “No. Stop touching me.”  Then she giggled.  I assumed it was a man doing the unwanted touching.  A few seconds later, again, “No.  Stop touching me there.”  I heard him murmur something as she sort of laughed.  Again, she said the same words, but more insistently, “No. Stop touching me.”  The half-hearted laugh was faint.  Again, the guy murmured something to her, his tone obviously trying to convince her that she should let him continue to do what he was doing.

As I sat, facing the front, my ears were piqued.  The bus passengers were quiet, each one keeping to himself or herself.  No one seemed to be bothered by this interchange.  She was giving off little giggles at first, but my ears heard something else.  I heard a woman who is saying “No” and then apologizing by laughing, so as not to offend him even though this man was violating her personal space and her right to body autonomy.

Even for myself, I thought, If it’s actually a problem, wouldn’t someone who’s closer to them speak up?  Wouldn’t someone who can see what’s going on stop this guy?  Were they confused by her laughter?  Could they not hear that the giggle was a mask of her true feelings?

I kept listening.  Their interchange continued, but it was different.  Her refutations grew more loud and more insistent.  “NO.  STOP touching me.”  No giggling.  He murmured, laughing to himself.  “NO!  STOP touching me THERE.”  No giggling.  He laughed again.  “NO!  STOP touching me!”

I whisked around in my seat, sitting slightly taller to make sure they could see me over the two rows between us, and I said very loudly where everyone can hear, “Do you need the bus driver to call the police for you?”  Stunned, she looked at me.  So did he.  They were both in their 30′s.  He had one arm around her shoulders and the other on her torso.  She was by the window.  She was pinned in.  I know that feeling of being trapped by a man with no way to get out.  Now, I was really pissed off.

I continued, “We’ve all heard you tell him five or six times to stop touching you and he hasn’t.  That’s assault,” then I looked at him but talked to her, “And he can go to jail.”  She looked at him, her eyebrows arched, yet said nothing.  But he did.  “We were just playing,” he smiled.  Clearly, he still thought it was a game.

I responded,”‘No’ and ‘Stop’ are not playing a game.  We all heard her tell you five or six times to stop touching her.  When a woman says ‘No,’ she means ‘No.‘”

He replied, “Yes, ma’am,” almost sheepishly.

I turned back around in my seat, still pissed off at the situation, pissed off at her for not giving him an elbow to his nose, pissed off at every other passenger who had said nothing.

The bus driver pulled up to the local grocery story, and this couple was the first to exit the bus.  Then someone else exited, while I debated continuing with my plan to shop at this store or continue on the route to Wal-mart.  I loathe Wal-mart.  More importantly, I wanted to make sure she was okay — that he wouldn’t do something to her once they were away from people.  So I got off the bus there.  As I did, he sort of glared at me, and she sort of tried not to look at me.  It was a very strange moment, but I walked by with my head held high and continued on inside the store.

It so happened that they almost crossed paths with me a couple of times in the store.  She was looking around at what she wanted.  When he saw me, his eyes darted away.  But I did notice that she kept about a foot of distance between them.  Every time he tried to get close to her, she moved away.  I could only hope that she was okay.

I finished my shopping, and got the bus the next time it came by.  The bus was empty except for one passenger and the bus driver.  As I put my $1.25 in the machine, the bus driver exclaimed, “Okay, tell me what happened!”

She had been unaware of what was going on until the woman had said “STOP touching me THERE.”  This was about the time I spoke up, so she heard my comment about calling the police.  The bus driver told me, “I couldn’t see what was going on, but the bus has cameras, and I was ready to call the police after I heard you.  But you turned around, so I figured I’d check on it when we came to a stop, but they got off.”

Ironically, the bus driver was worried about me. “He didn’t say anything to you did he?  Are you all right?”  I assured her I was fine, and I had been concerned about the woman.  She replied, “Yeah, you always worry about that — what happens when they get home.”

Exactly.  This is the same reason some people are afraid to correct a parent for being mean or even abusive to their kids in a public place — you worry what the parents will do to the kids at home.  (I have also spoken out on these certain occasions, the most recent being a woman who came back at me with her fist raised ready to punch me in the face for telling her grandmother not to yell at her infant.)

At the next stop, a couple of the passengers from the last trip got back on the bus.  As they saw me, sitting on the front seat on the right side of the bus, they laughed a knowing laugh, and the entire bus ride centered around the incident.  I’ve seen these people many times before on the bus, and they had been closer to the man and woman.  So I was curious, “What was he doing?  Why didn’t anyone speak up?”

One woman said, “She was laughing.  I thought she was okay.  He was just playing.”  I said, “No, her laugh wasn’t a real laugh.  It was a nervous giggle and a fake laugh.”  I wasn’t imagining this.  I could tell.

The bus driver even had insight to the matter.  “When you said that to them, she didn’t speak up in his defense.  If he really had been playing and she didn’t mind what he was doing, she would have defended him.  But she didn’t say a word.  Not a word.”

Without seeing the incident, I could only go by what I could hear.  It sounded like a woman being harassed or assaulted and giving a nervous laugh, as women do when they’re trying to maneuver their body away from a man they don’t want touching them.  The bus driver couldn’t see the incident, but she knew something was amiss by what she didn’t hear — the woman defending him.  The woman was silent.  As so many of us are.

I made the comment, “She may have felt she had to put up with it becaasue she’s in a relationsghip with him.  The reason I felt I had to speak up wasn’t just for him to leave her alone, but so she could hear from another woman that what he was doing was wrong.  In case she needed permission to speak up.”

I made the point then in talking with the bus driver, and I’ll make it here now.  When a woman says, “No,” she means, “No.”  When a woman says, “Stop,” you stop.

Even if you’re in a relationship or legally married, he does not own you or your body.  You are your own, autonomous human being with rights to self-determination.  Just because you’re in a relationship with a man does not mean you give up your rights to yourself.

Any questions?

trish

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