Thursday, February 24, 2011

'Scared Straight': South African "Corrective Rape" brutally attempts to reprogram Lesbians

Corrective rape is based on the notion that lesbians can be cured of their homosexuality by forced sex with a man, but this often also includes extreme violence like beating and prolonged imprisonment.

This extremely violent form of sexual assault occurs all over the world, but the South African black lesbian community seems to have become the epicenter of the activist struggle against corrective rape.

Since South Africa's first democratic election in 1994, lesbians have come out and embraced the rights granted to them by the country's constitution. But with that added exposure comes the risk of more cases of "corrective rape."

According to Aljazeera, about 500 lesbians are victims of "corrective rape" some of which can and have escalated to murder.

  Ndumie Funda, who is responsible for an online campaign against corrective rape in South Africa, runs a shelter  in Cape Town for victims of corrective rape. Funda lost her fiancĂ©e (a woman) to cryptoccal meningitis (an infection of the brain and spinal column) which was the direct result of a five-man gang rape and beating she sustained.

You only have to look into the weepy, swollen-shut eyes of Millicent Gaika, voice hoarse, describing why she believes these men attacked her, and know that this is a problem. A problem larger than the gay community and larger than South Africa.

This, like hunger and poverty, is a global issue. For anywhere, where there are women, there are rape victims.

By singling out a specific group, be it lesbians or young girls or the elderly, rapists are attacking the point of least resistant, the voiceless.

Finally, men have some socially sanctioned justification for rape. Even the most mediocre of human beings would agree that rape (and for the Republicans in the room, I do mean rape-rape) is wrong, but attach to it the notion that you are curing women of their unnatural disposition to same-sex interaction and you have a mission. And in some twisted sort of way, you are doing God's work.

The same men who are raping lesbians to cure them of homosexuality are more likely to be of the same breed of men who rape virgins to cure themselves of HIV.

These men claim that  lesbians "steal their girlfriends" and "should not be dating women because they are women", and they become sexual vigilantes.

It's easy to forget, as we battle for marriage equality, adoption rights, etc., that we are truly privileged in the Western world to be able to express who we are without a constant threat of violence lingering over our heads. Awareness is only a first step, but it may just be the most important.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"The P Word" : A Case for Planned Parenthood

When I was 16, after a long night of social drinking and general debauchery, I vomited in my friend's kitchen sink. As she stroke my back, I repeatedly apologized between heaves of bile, she cooed " It's alright babe, don't worry about it."

The next morning, sans cellphone, I realized that besides the vomiting in the sink my only other memory was making out with some guy in the living room and then moving to my friend's sister's  bedroom.

As is the case with binge drinking, it wasn't what I remembered that frightened me, but instead it was what I didn't remember that seemed truly frightening.

Planned Parenthood Condom

Needless to say, "Thank God for Planned Parenthood." Whom I looked up online later that day, and drove to get my Plan B the day after that. They weren't judgmental, but they were stern that Plan B is not the best option when preventing pregnancy and that regular birth control ( and general consciousness) were the better way to go.

I don't tell this story because I feel the need to relive my fabulous youth, but instead to offer some insight for people who don't understand how important Planned Parenthood is for women.

Last week, the United State House of Representatives voted to cut funding ( $327 million worth) to the Title X program. Title X is federal funding specifically allocated to services related to contraception, cervical cancer screening, sex education, mammograms, HIV testing and diagnosis, and pregnancy testing and counseling. 

The organization that would be hardest hit by the cut would be Planned Parenthood, which receives a third of its funding from the Title X program, and provides nationwide family planning services to women and teenagers.

"Title X is the only federal program solely dedicated to family planning and preventative health services, particularly for low-income families," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
About 5 million people used services funded by Title X last year. 

It is also important to note that since Title X was created in 1970, it was not and has not been used to provide free abortion services. 

The New Republican spending plan has been slowly slicing away at services to women, adolescent girls, and low-income populations. Their anti-abortion, pro-choice rhetoric has even gone so far as to propose federally funded abortion for victims of rape and incest. Foolishly distinguishing between rape and "rape-rape."

The cuts to the Title X program are apart of an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) apart of the Continuing Resolution (H.R.1) which will help fund the government for the last seven months of the fiscal year. The cuts being made in this amendment will slice $100 billion off President Obama's proposed budget for FY 2011. 

The final decision regarding the future of the the Title X program and the Continuing Resolution is on deadline of March 4. Once all the elements of the resolution are finalized it will move to the Senate for consideration on Feb. 28.

Courtesy: Seattle Walk for Choice
Seattle's Walk for Choice, a nationwide women's rights rally on Saturday, Feb. 26 from 12pm to 3pm will be held on Capitol Hill. Come out and show your support for Planned Parenthood and women's rights along with the rest of the nation.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Taking One for the Team": How sexual assault affects women in the workplace

 Are women safe in the workplace?

Short answer: Depends on where you work.

Reports of sexual assault on female soldiers while deployed in war zones, and most recently the beating and sexual assault of Lara Logan while reporting from the protests in Egypt, must be seen as a reminder and a call-to-action.

Photo of Lara Logan reportedly taken minutes before her assault. CBS News.

Despite disturbing the glass ceiling of hostile and typically gendered work environments women are not viewed as sexual equals. This is evidenced largely by the media response to news of Lara Logan’s attack.

Most disturbing are the blogs asking: "Why was Lara Logan raped?" Was it her killer good looks or her  "gutsy" journalistic attitude?"

Why are people murdered?  Good question, but no where close to being an appropriate one. 

Lara Logan has built her journalistic career on a solid belief that media coverage of overseas events are whitewashed and that the Western audience is only getting half the story. As a long time fan of the work that Logan has done as chief foreign correspondent for CBS News, I'm appalled and disillusioned by the way we have objectified her. 

In a disgustingly ironic show of true American mindfulness, we have not assumed that she chose to report her attack because she holds a biting belief in the whole truth. 
2008 Cover of New York Post in which details of Lara Logan's sex life are "investigated".

This isn’t the first time that Logan has been subjected to the fodder that comes with female success and rumors regarding her sex life. In 2008, the  New York Post made it a priority to delve into the correspondent's sex life as if it were a matter of national security, reporting on the "beaus" she courted while working in Baghdad.

It is behavior like this that keeps women from reporting sexual assaults for fear that they will appear promiscuous and therefore deserving. Add to that the possibility of career loss, and women are reduced to taking one for the team. 

Lara Logan is just one example of the glass ceiling women, specifically those regarded by the mainstream as attractive, face when entering a male dominated world such as foreign reporting or the military.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Female Orgasm

What better place to start a blog about female sexuality than by addressing the biggest white elephant there is? The female orgasm. A hybrid of fact and fiction surround the nature of the female orgasm, and today's post will be one of several attempts to unpack the subject.

Not taking for granted that things can go without being said, I will say this female orgasms are real and women do have them. I'll repeat, Women have orgasms.

Notice I didn't say all women, all the time. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association, 43 percent  of American women -- of all ages -- suffer from some sexual dysfunctions.

75 percent of  women report never experiencing an orgasm through intercourse only (without the help of toys, oral and/or digital stimulation), and 10 to 15 percent of women never climax under any circumstance.
Getty Images

These numbers are alarming considering that expression of female sexuality in popular culture has grown exponentially over the past two decades, while the reasons behind the female orgasm remain a mystery.

Many in the scientific community struggle with the fact that unlike the male orgasm, which purpose is rather straightforward, the female orgasm is not as easy to peg. More specifically, the female orgasm, according to some in the scientific community, has no known purpose.

In her book "The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution," Elisabeth Lloyd posits that the female orgasm has no evolutionary or biological function and is merely the "byproduct of the role that male orgasm plays in reproduction and the sharing of early embryonic tissue by the male and female genitalia."

This notion fits well with sexual research that has proven that more women reach orgasm through masturbation than through heterosexual sex. 

The Clitoral vs. G-Spot Orgasm

I personally love this debate because it seems like one more way we can get women to envy each other and duke it out for best orgasm. Ask any woman, and they will tell you if they had to choose either or none, they would probably say either.

But for the sake of controversy, let's break down the differences between a clitoral and G-spot orgasm.
Getty Images

The clitoris, made up of the same material as the male penis, has over 8,000 nerve endings making it a variable landmine of fun once you've figured out that you have orgasmic potential. ( I would argue that every woman does given the right circumstances, but I'm just a feminist not a doctor/scientist.)

These type of orgasms are far more common than G-spot or vaginal orgasms for a plethora of reasons, but what's important is that they are achieved through direct stimulation of the clitoris. This express lane to female orgasm exploded as a reality in the 1960's as Alfred Kinsey and feminists alike worked to combat year's of Freudian logic.

Freud asserted that the female orgasm should be centered in the reproductive tract i.e., the vagina while any orgasm reached through clitoral stimulation was "infantile". Any woman unable to or unwilling to transfer her orgasmic center to her vagina was labeled frigid.

The G-spot, unlike unicorns and the tooth fairy, is not a myth. The Gräfenberg spot is made up of a collection of nerve endings located about 3-5 centimeters along the roof of vagina. Stimulation of this erogenous zone can result in intense arousal, orgasm, and female ejaculation. 

Words of Wisdom

I believe Toys in Babeland's Claire Cavanah said it best in her blog, "Orgasms range in intensity from a sweet ripple of pleasure around the genitals to a roaring, curling wave of energy through the entire body. Every orgasm is a duet of tension and relaxation: a combination of striving and letting go, of making it happen and letting it happen."