Category Archives: Feminism

Yes Means Yes: The First Time


Warning: This post contains discussion of sexual subjects

Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my third of these review/though posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the first here and the second here

An Immodest Proposal

-Heather Corinna

In ‘An Immodest Proposal’ Corinna tells the story of a stereotypical loss of virginity. Two teenagers, a boy and a girl. They have been dating for some time and are becoming gradually more sexually involved. The boy has made it be known that he would like to have sex, but has not been pushy. The girl decides that she is ready and when an appropriate time comes they lose their virginities together. There is some bleeding for her but it is not painful, he orgasms, she doesn’t.

It is what would often be described as a ‘good’ first time for her. She didn’t feel forced or unprepared, he was nice to her and waited for her to be ready.

Initially you think what is the issue here? Then Corinna reveals that this story- a perfectly believable- and for many associatable- story is about the boy. He wants sex, she is merely ready. For her the experience is not unpleasant, but she gets no real pleasure from it. So is it really fair to call it a good first time? Should she not hope for more? The whole way the language is used to describe a first time makes it seem very passive. Maybe she does want sex, maybe she does want it to feel good, but she has been always told that for a girl’s first time to be good she only has to be willing. When you really think about it that isn’t fair. A boy is expected to want sex, she is expected to wait for love, or at least someone special.

On the other hand a first time should maybe not be expected to be actually good. The participants are inexperienced, they might not even fully know what they themselves like, let alone what their partner wants. They know the mechanics, but maybe not specifics. As they do more and see more what they like, and get to find what makes the other person feel good, as they become more confident, thing should (hopefully) get better. The girl may feel she can get more involved, and be a participant, rather than just someone who had something happening to them.

In an ideal world everytime should be good, but it’s a bit far to actually expect every time to be good. I think women should be able to feel that they can seek pleasure (even the first time), and that they can initiate sex, but for them to expect it, maybe not.

What do you think of this? Are women at a disadvantage when it comes to sexual pleasure from the onset?

 

 

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Yes Means Yes: Killing Misogyny


Trigger Warning: Rape and (sexual and physical) violence

Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

This is my second of these review/though posts for Yes Means Yes, you can read the first here

Killing Misogyny: A Personal Story of Love, Violence, and Strategies for Survival

-Cristina Meztli Tzintzún

Cristina grew up in a family which seemed stuck in a loop of misogyny. Her father cheated repeatedly on her mother, he was violent, on their first date he raped her, not even the first time she had been raped. Her aunt faced a similar fate, beaten by her father for being raped and later forced to marry her rapist.

Cristina vowed to break the chain, she would never let a man treat her as her family members had been treated. She started reading feminist literature, and became a self-proclaimed feminist. In her late teens she even wrote and had published an article about how she planned to break the chain of misogyny.

Then she met Alan. Alan seemed like the perfect man from first glance. He was a male feminist, and would get into discussions about feminism with Cristina. When their relationship became sexual he agreed to get tested for STIs before they had sex for the first time.

But things were not as they seemed. Cristina developed herpes from oral sex. Initially she refused to see Alan, but she believed that he would be the only one to give her attention knowing that she had an STI and she returned to him.

Over the next few years Alan and Cristina had an on again off again relationship. He would cheat on her, or give her and STI and she would leave him, but she couldn’t resist him and kept returning. She even went to a group for women like her, but they didn’t know about feminism and she didn’t feel a connection to them. Alan knew about feminism and she believed that he wanted to change, despite all the evidence to the contrary she thought she could be the one to change him.

Cristina has left Alan now, for good. She helps support women who are in the situation she was in. She says that she needed to experience that misogyny for herself to be able to understand it, to understand those who are trapped by it, and to do her best to defeat it.

That she has turned her life around is a hopeful message. It says you can change your life. You can get yourself out that hole. You might fall, but you can get up again. Or at least that is how it should be.

Somehow I find that hope hard to see. She kept returning, how can she be sure that this is it? Even her mother was disappointed with Cristina for leaving Alan, but she is stuck in the same life herself. I get that she doesn’t want that life for her daughter, but I find it hard to see why she stays. I know there probably is not one simple reason, but it seems to diminish the hope from Cristina’s own escape.

I have said before that I feel I’m privileged when it comes to my experiences as a woman, so maybe this is why I can’t see the hope in this story, because I have never experienced anything close to it (and I am thankful for that)?

 

What do you think? Am I missing the hope in this story? Does it have more power than I realise for the right people?

 

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Yes Means Yes: Touch and Consent


Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.

Reclaiming Touch: Rape Culture, Explicit Verbal Consent, and Body Sovereignty.

-Hazel/Cedar Troost

Reclaiming Touch is the first article which really got into my head because it made me look at consent in a whole different light, but I’m still debating with myself over it. In the essay Hazel/Cedar Troost talks about the idea of a sort of expanded consent. The idea is that you should seek consent, and be asked for consent for any type of physical contact, be it a simple hug or something that already requires consent.

Initially I did think that the idea was a bit extreme, that was my sort of gut reaction. I couldn’t really imagine the idea of asking my friends if I could hug them, or my partner if I could hold his hand, because it’s just something that we do. I’m a quite physically affectionate person, I probably wouldn’t just go ahead and hug someone I’d never hugged before without asking, but I guess I would presume consent from having done it before.

It came to a point though where I realised that actually some of that sort of talk is used to justify rape where someone has had sex with the rapist before. In those situations we talk of saying yes once as being consent for that one time, we shouldn’t presume that another time the person may not want it.

It could be the same for any sort of physical contact, just because I have hugged my friend in the past it doesn’t mean that they want a hug now, plus there are times when different types of physical contact might not be appropriate.

Another point Troost made is that seeking consent for small things made seeking consent for bigger things easier. It sets a sort of precedent which means that you wouldn’t even think twice to ask about big things, because you ask for everything else. To me this means that teaching people to ask for consent for everything would mean that they grow to respect other boundaries and makes ‘grey’ rape less likely.

Troost also says that this type of consent actually improves a person’s sex life. I don’t know, it somehow to me makes it seem that things would be less spontaneous, and when you know someone well you can probably read the signs that they aren’t into it (or they would tell you). However I can see it being liberating knowing exactly what each other wants, and knowing that you are both getting enjoyment from the situation. It makes sure you are both on the same level.

 

 

What do you think? Is it extreme to seek consent for everything, or does it create a good habit?

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Filed under essays, Feminism, non-fiction review

Nasty Women- 404 Inc.


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis

‘Nasty Women’ is a series of essays written by nasty women, that is women who apart from being marginalised because of being women are also marginalised for other reasons e.g. being gay. being of non-white descent. The essays talk of life for women in the world today.

Review

I’ve really been into feminist books recently (apart from this I have recently read Moranifesto and Animal, and I’ve started Yes Means Yes), so when I saw this on netgalley it instantly caught my eye.

Nasty Women is inspired by Donald Trump’s comment about Hillary Clinton being a “Nasty woman” and the following twitter trend, because of that I sort of presumed that the book would be written by American women. I was wrong, it doesn’t matter to me, just a comment. 404 Inc. are based in Scotland so, understandably, a lot of the writers were British, and many of those Scottish. In a way I maybe prefered this being British myself because that made a lot of the essays easier for me to relate too.

Having said that I do think I’m a privileged woman. My everyday sexism stories are few and far between, I’m straight, I’m white, I’m educated. Some of the people in these essays aren’t as lucky as I am, and those essays were eye opening. I don’t want to go into too much detail, there were elements I recognised and connected to, and those I didn’t so much but which I could understand.

As far as readability goes it was quite variable. Most of the essays were easy to read, I’d say the conversational types, it doesn’t mean the ones I had to concentrate on more weren’t good, just harder going.

The fact that Donald Trump won though really makes me angry. Partly as a woman, mainly as a human being.

4/5

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Delusions of Gender- Cordelia Fine


Synopsis (from amazon)

This is a vehement attack on the latest pseudo-scientific claims about the differences between the sexes – with the scientific evidence to back it up. Sex discrimination is supposedly a distant memory. Yet popular books, magazines and even scientific articles increasingly defend inequalities by citing immutable biological differences between the male and female brain. Why are there so few women in science and engineering, so few men in the laundry room? Well, they say, it’s our brains. Drawing on the latest research in developmental psychology, neuroscience, and social psychology, “Delusions of Gender” rebuts these claims, showing how old myths, dressed up in new scientific finery, help perpetuate the status quo. Cordelia Fine reveals the mind’s remarkable plasticity, shows the substantial influence of culture on identity, and, ultimately, exposes just how much of what we consider ‘hardwired’ is actually malleable. This startling, original and witty book shows the surprising extent to which boys and girls, men and women are made – and not born.

Review

This book has been on my kindle since 2014 (according amazon anyway), which makes me wonder how long some of my ‘real’ books have been on the shelves unread.

I kind of wish I had read it sooner, but I’ve been on a bit of a roll when it comes to non-fiction recently, so maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind before.

It was a while ago so more exact details are lost to me, but there are certain things which still stand out, and in a way doesn’t that make for a better review? I was helped a little to remember by reading Ruth’s review (which I recommend).

Delusions of Gender did take a little getting into, in terms of a ‘sciencey’ book it was easy to read, and it was interesting, but not necessarily immediately engaging.

I did find some of the arguments a bit repetitive, which makes sense when you’re talking about different but similar studies, but not so much when you are talking about the same one. It is difficult though if you are referring to something said earlier to know how much to say to make sure the person you are writing to knows what you are referring to.

The main thing I got out of it really is about how much difference small things might be able to make, especially when a child is still trying to work out their identity. Would not gendering a child change this? I’m not so sure, at some point the child themselves would want to know what they are, and I’m sure they could work it out.

In a way those little things seem hopeless, because they’re the type of things that you don’t even think about, so how can you hope to have a gender neutral environment.

4/5

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Filed under Feminism, Fiction review, non-fiction review, psychology (non-fiction)

We Should All Be Feminists- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Synopsis (from amazon)

A personal and powerful essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, based on her 2013 TEDx Talk of the same name.

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay – adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. With humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century – one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviours that marginalise women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences – in the U.S., in her native Nigeria – offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a best-selling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today – and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Review

I wanted to read this little book, or essay if you want after seeing it around on a few blogs.

For me despite it being so short it still seemed to have things which longer feminist writings have. It said a lot of the same things that Everyday Sexism says, but I didn’t review that because it made me angry for the wrong reasons. We should All Be Feminists talks of some of the same sort of level of sexism, a sort of thing which seems so ingrained that it’s almost seen as normal and therefore acceptable.

She also talks of the sort of attitudes towards feminists which makes feminism into some sort of bad words. I know women who would say that they aren’t feminists, but that’s like saying men are better, that they should get better chances and opportunities. How can you be a woman but not be a feminist?

She talked widely of her experiences in Nigeria- her native country, and made it seem that sexism is worse there, maybe it s, maybe not, it could just be what she is sharing.

It’s a good book for people who wouldn’t really consider themselves as being feminists, women and men alike.

I feel my own review is lacking something, I wish I hadn’t left it so long. Bex’s review is what convinced me, and is much better than mine.

4/5

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Other Reviews:

An Armchair By the Sea

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here.

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How to be a Heroine (Or What I’ve Learned From Reading Too Much)- Samantha Ellis


Synopsis (by me)

In ‘How To Be a Heroine’ Ellis revisits her bookish heroines from the past and evaluates whether they really deserved to be heroines, and why they were her heroines to begin with.

Review

I mentioned in my review of Texts From Jane Eyre that this book has probably overtaken it in terms of book I am most likely to recommend. That’s probably true, although Texts from Jane Eyre may hold a wider appeal.

How to Be a Heroine is part memoir, part literary analysis, part feminist, part religious discussion. I didn’t expect all that. I expected a book simply about books.

It was interesting to see what Ellis got from her re-reads, and what her younger self had got from her initial reads. Sometimes she couldn’t see any heroism in the characters she had once wanted to emulate, sometimes she saw that the real heroines in the books were not the ones you would expect. Of course it all came together. Even if she couldn’t see someone as a heroine now they had helped shape her.

Ellis’ storytelling was what really drew me in. I really got a sense of what life was like for her, maybe because I saw some similarities with myself (whilst also having tons of differences).  I often wanted to read the books she had described when she wrote about reading them for the first time. Sometimes her more recent images made me change my mind, which was a shame in a way, but then maybe that means I’m not in the right stage of life or frame of mind to appreciate the books as she did first time. At other times her changes of mind made me want to read things more, or just the same, but maybe for different reasons.

I thoroughly recommend it, especially for female book readers (although there is no reason a man couldn’t enjoy it).

5/5

Buy it from amazon:

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Other Reviews:

Lit Nerd

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

 

 

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Filed under Biography, Feminism, Memoir, non-fiction review, Politics, Reading/reviews